Zecca - Amble

Amble is famous for it's fish n chips and indeed they are very good! However I wanted to tell you about a hidden gem we discovered last week. Zecca is an Italian and seafood restaurant situated just as you enter the town of Amble. We decided to visit for an early evening meal one night when we were staying at nearby Cresswell.

We were on a limited budget so specifically booked a table during happy hour when pizza and pasta is only £5.50. However as it turned out there is an even better value for money menu - the innovative 'Thrive at 5' menu. This menu is designed to show the customer what value they would enjoy if the government reduced VAT to 5% instead of the current 20%. You can choose 3 freshly prepared courses for £7 between 4-7pm Mon-Fri. What a great idea!

The atmosphere in Zecca is laid back contemporary. It feels a little more upmarket than most Italian restaurants but still has a warm welcoming feel thanks to the pizza oven in the centre of the restaurant and the friendly, helpful staff.

Our children were all made to feel very welcome. The children's menu offers great value - a pizza or pasta, sweet and a drink for £5.95 plus they received the obligatory colouring sheet and crayons.

If you choose a pizza from the children's menu, you get the chance to 'make your own' which our children thoroughly enjoyed. It is a great way to keep them entertained, get them interested in food and spend creative time together. Their pizza bases arrived on wooden boards with various toppings in little dishes for them to spread onto their pizza. I was impressed to see their pizza bases were handmade in house too.

Our starters (potato skins) arrived soon after the pizza creations were taken away to be popped in the oven. I was very impressed with the huge portion sizes and they were lovely.

I was pleased to see the children's drinks were automatically brought out in plastic beakers with straws. It causes much less stress for parents knowing that your child isn't at risk of smashing their glass every 2 minutes!

Our pizza's arrived and the children were very happy with their creations. The grown up's pizzas (prepared by the chef - not us) were also very nice! My only small complaint would be that my cheese and tomato pizza was a little on the bland side though and I think could have done with some herbs - I wish I had ordered the pepperoni and chilli pizza. Will remember to do that next time! This minor detail would certainly not deter me from visiting again.

For dessert we ordered 4 ice creams (which come from nearby Morwick dairy) and 1 coffee. They all arrived promptly and were devoured pretty quickly!

Our final bill for all of the above plus 2 alcoholic drinks was less than £40. We all had a lovely time and it is certainly a restaurant I will be re-visiting when in the area.


Ocean Beach pleasure park - South Shields

The Easter holidays just aren't the same without a visit to a fair. This Easter, we visited Ocean Beach Pleasure Park* in South Shields. There are always lots of good deals and offers available so make sure you check out their website where you will also find opening times. (The £1 per ride On Fri nights are always popular). You can buy tickets or unlimited wristbands. In my opinion wristbands work out better value for older children/teens whereas tickets are better value for little ones. Both are available to purchase at various points around the park.

South Shields Pleasure Park has so much to offer and we could easily spend a full day here. Our children had fun on lots of rides and were able to go on unaccompanied which was a relief for us!

There are a good mix of rides and they are spread out throughout the grounds. Harry's (7) favourite ride was the Caterpillar rollercoaster:-

Heidi's (4) was the Helter Skelter:-

Jack's (3) favourite ride were the planes which he could move up and down himself using the gearstick:-

What stood out for me on these rides were how long they lasted. The rides weren't over in the blink of an eye as can often be the case and the children enjoyed a very good length of time on each ride.

Our children had such a lovely day, in fact looking at them cuddling like this I think it is the happiest I have seen them all holidays!

We only tried out the younger rides but there were plenty of older children enjoying the thrill-seeker rides on offer too. Most teens were wearing wristbands and could go on rides as often as they would like making it very easy to budget for (and fund) if you are a parent.

The pleasure park has a lovely safe feel as you are walking around. I just love the smell of the fair and it evokes such happy memories for me. You simply can't beat it.

There are plenty of food options if you need to re-fuel. As we were next to the sea we decided on fish n chips. The prices were extremely reasonable and I liked that you could buy half portions (don't think I could face a full portion if I was going on rides!) of fish. We shared 3 half portions of fish and chips, an extra portion of chips and 5 drinks for £13 between the 5 of us which worked out very good value. They were lovely too!

I simply couldn't resist a bag of fresh donuts for pudding! I think this may be the first time the kids have tried freshly made donuts. They didn't last long!

After our break we were ready to enjoy even more rides.......

The kids honestly could not get enough! As we walked around the park we noticed they offered a whole lot more than just rides. There was 10 pin bowling, amusement arcades and even a laser quest! As we passed the laser quest we watched a party just getting started. The group of very excited kids looked like they were having a great time. Prices start at just £3 and it is suitable for all ages. We will definitely give it a go next time we visit.

After a quick turn on the amusements it was time to go home. We spent a good 5 hours at Ocean beach but could easily have spent all day here. The kids were very sad to leave and I had to resort to bribing them with a quick walk on the beach (which is right outside the park) before heading home. 

Next time you fancy a day at the fair I could not recommend Ocean beach highly enough. Stay local and give it a go!


Bamburgh Castle 2014

This Easter we enjoyed a fantastic day out at Bamburgh Castle* I truly believe that Bamburgh castle has something for everyone - there are ruins, an archaeological dig, decadent rooms and fantastic sea views.

The staff at the castle are so friendly and informative and all of them go out of their way to add something extra to your day. Whether it be the car park attendant welcoming you as dragon slayers or a guide in one of the rooms gathering the children together to tell them the myth of the well in the castle, every single member of staff clearly loves their job and welcomes you with a friendly smile (even when your toddler is a little on the over-excited side).

There are lots of parts of the castle to explore. Our first stop were the turrets and cannons. The children loved re-enacting battles and the views to the sea and Farne Islands were fantastic.

After our time exploring we decided to venture into the castle. The castle is an Aladdin's cave and contains many interesting pictures, pieces of furniture and beautifully designed china. I loved browsing the beautiful designs and the children enjoyed looking at the suits of armour and swords on display.

You exit the castle through the dungeon and we had lots of fun scaring the children as we walked through.

We had already spent a good few hours at the castle and decided it was time for a break. There are plenty of spots to enjoy a picnic but we decided to try out the tea room as after all, it's not everyday you get the chance to have lunch in a castle. The tearoom was very family friendly with a book corner for children, highchairs and children's meals available. Everything was homemade and looked delicious it was so hard to choose our order. 

We decided on a generous portion of homemade pate with crusty bread and salad, a fruit scone filled with Jam and cream, 2 hot drinks and 3 children's picnic bags (sandwich, crisps, fruit, biscuit and juice) for £25. The food was really lovely and we found it to be fantastic value. Service was very quick too which is always a plus!

We had more of the castle to explore after lunch and headed to the archaeological dig site. There wasn't much going on on the day of our visit but the children loved the sandpit where they could use tools to find their own artefacts. Here is Harry with a piece of pot he discovered.

We then headed to the small Armstrong museum which contains interesting facts and engines, aeroplanes and machines that were designed by Lord Armstrong. The kids loved learning about the different machines.

Back outside we headed to the castle walls and tried our luck and playing old fashioned 'hoop and stick'. Some of us were better at this than others! It was lots of fun to have a go though. Then we ventured over to the stables to watch a wood craftsman who was there for the day for a while.

The gift shop is fairly extensive and a quick browse was a must before heading home.

We had a lovely time at Bamburgh Castle, there is a good mix of parts to explore both indoor and out. The history is amazing and if you do visit then take the time to read the mini guide book you are given on entry. 

Check out Bamburgh Castle's website for up to date entry fee's, opening times  and special events.


Paulton's Park - A review

We were very lucky to win a free family ticket to Paulton's Park via a competition they were running on twitter this summer. A family ticket could cost up to £130 (although cheaper if booked in advance) so is not to be sniffed at. Southampton is however a loooooong way to drive from the North East. We had survived the drive before though and visited Paulton's Park solely to enjoy Peppa Pig world (read about that trip which goes into detail about Peppa Pig World here) when our children were just 9 months, 2 years and 4 years. I persuaded myself it was a good idea to make the journey again and now that our children were older (3.5 years, 5 years and 7 years) it would be good to see what the rest of the park had to offer.

This time, we decided to stay at Henley on Thames (read more here). It was the perfect place to break our journey up. Henley is situated approximately 1 hr 20 mins (in a car) North of the park so we left after breakfast and arrived at the park just after opening which was perfect. Children under 1 metres are admitted free of charge - our free ticket let four of us in and although our 3 year old is borderline 1 metre tall, they let him in for free too. I was also impressed that parking was free as this is not the case with most theme parks these days.

It was a glorious sunny day on the day of our visit and we decided to start our day on the double decker carousel and a train ride around the park. I was really happy that we could go on these rides together as a family of 5. Then we split up a little and I went on a few of the smaller rides with my youngest whilst hubby drew the short straw and got to go on the pirate ship with the older two. I was really pleased that we only queued for rides for a few minutes or were able to walk straight onto the rides without queuing - I think that fact that not all of the school's in the area had broken up for summer yet definitely helped so it is worth doing your research to find local term times before you visit.

After spending time on the rides we decided to walk through the zoo area and enjoyed looking at the various animals and birds (and it was in the shade which is a definite plus). There aren't lots of animals and the zoo is small but it is a nice to have something different than going on rides to do and does break up your time.

As I have mentioned, it was a hot sunny day. Temperatures peaked at 28 degrees! There was lots of shade available if needed and I was really pleased to see lots of bottled water machine's dispensing ice cold bottles for only £1.20.

After the zoo we went on to investigate The Land Of the Dinosaurs. This area of the park is set in marshland and there are 13 model dinosaurs for you to discover - including the infamous T-Rex. There were sound effects throughout and the atmosphere was very realistic - we really felt as though we were exploring a pre-historic jungle. My daughter in particular is dinosaur mad and they were her favourite topic at school last year - it was great to see our children all putting their knowledge into practice and naming all of the dinosaurs. See, theme parks can be educational!

As midday approached we all really needed to cool off. We had packed the children's swimsuits and towels and left them in a locker near the park entrance (locker's cost £1 - you need to add another £1 coin every time you open your locker. Change machines are located nearby). We quickly got them changed (we couldn't find any changing rooms so it was a quick change behind a towel job) and they ran into the water kingdom. I have never seen them all so excited. They worked as a team to move water, run from fountains, dive under water features and dodge water shoots. It all looked like great fun. They were in there for well over an hour and we enjoyed a cool drink at picnic tables overlooking the park.

We had to drag our children from the water kingdom to re-fuel. We had packed a picnic and again, left it in our locker. We were spoilt for choice of places to enjoy it - we ended up choosing a shaded spot under a tree by the lake in one of the park's gardens. It was a beautiful and peaceful place tp enjoy our lunch in peace.

Now although my children are older and Peppa Pig rarely graces our TV screens anymore, there is no doubt Peppa has been a big part of their lives! Everybody was really keen to return to Peppa Pig Land again.

As our children were still in their swimsuits, we paid the Muddy Puddle section a visit first of all - which is basically a small area with tamer water features where children can pretend to jump up and down in muddy puddles - just like Peppa and George. (Without the mess though - there is no actual mud).

Then it was onto Mr Potato's playground which the children loved. The thing with Peppa Pig World is you need to fully embrace it - expect to hear Peppa Pig music constantly and all of the little touches (such as a duck pond exactly as it is in the series) make you think you are actually walking around some sort of parallel Peppa Pig universe.

We left the rides of Peppa Pig land until near the end of our day and the queues were very short or again no queue at all. We managed to get on most rides with the boat ride being a favourite!

We again needed some respite from the shade and headed the Peppa Pig indoor softplay. I was disappointed that they wouldn't let my daughter in though as she didn't have any socks (she was wearing sandals). I think they should sell socks at the softplay entrance at cost price to avoid disappointment. In fairness, it does tell you on Paulton Park's website but I didn't think to read up about the Peppa Pig section as we had been before. The boys went into the softplay with daddy and I took Heidi to see the meerkats and we went on a few more rides.

A trip to Peppa Pig World is not complete without a visit to Miss.Rabbit's ice cream hut and Peppa Pig's house. This was a lovely way to wind down and finish our day.

We did pass the penguins on leaving the park and realised a talk was about to start. Our children soon got bored though as they couldn't really see and the talk was actually pre-recorded so not very engaging.

Overall, we had a lovely day in Paulton's park. There were some real highlights (water kingdom, land of the dinosaurs and Mr. Potato's playground) but there were some disappointments too (penguin show and not being allowed in soft play). We have now spent two full days at Paulton's park and I think that this is the optimum time needed to explore everywhere on the park (although there are some things we haven't tried such as the 4D cinema). We do love Paulton's as it has a nice family feel to it. If your family loves Peppa Pig it is certainly worth the trip. We were pleased to make the trip again but did say it was probably the last time we would visit as it is a long way to travel.

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