Tuesday 25 August 2015

Blackpools Back!

A few weeks ago, I headed off for a weekend mini break to Blackpool with Jon and Tyne.
I was excited about our trip but nervous too - you see I had enjoyed many little holidays and day trips to Blackpool as a child and it holds such fond memories for me of days spent having donkey rides and ice creams on the beach, hours spent in the endless fun arcades, visits to the Blackpool tower and all the fun of the fair at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

But it had been at least 20 years since I had last visited, and I had heard some bad things about Blackpool since...I had assumed based on some of the negative things I'd heard over the years that Blackpool, like so many seaside resorts in the UK, had fallen into disrepute and had become more of a tacky hen-do haven full of drunk 20-somethings than the family holiday hotspot it had once been.

But we were offered the chance to enjoy an all expenses paid visit sampling the best of the many attractions Blackpool had to offer, and the more I researched the area online the more I seemed to be reading a lot of reports of how much it's improved in recent years and how hard the area was trying to shake off it's prior bad image and regain its crown as the UK's premier family holiday hotspot.


Sunday 2 August 2015

Our Trip To Newcastle with Park Resorts

A few weeks back, we received an e-mail kindly inviting us to try out a family break at a Park Resorts caravan site - we are huge fans of traditional British caravan holidays so we jumped at the chance!

With two very young children we are always tempted to opt for holidays close to home just to make travel easier, and with living in Devon we are pretty spoiled for great beaches and so tend to stick to Cornwall as it's so close by...but we thought we'd use this opportunity to go a little further afield.

Sunday 26 July 2015

The Headland Hotel, Cornwall

Following on from yesterday's post about the first part of our trip to Cornwall, today I'd like to tell you all about the second part of our stay.

We moved around 20 minutes along the coast to the beautiful seaside town of Newquay, which along with St Ives is probably the most well-known of Cornwall's beach towns, Fistral Beach is one of the UK's most famous and it's easy to see why as it's simply stunning - the perfect location for sunseekers & surfers alike!

Overlooking Fistral Beach is the magnificent Headland Hotel, the vision of which drawns you in on the approach to the beach.


Saturday 25 July 2015

Bedruthan Hotel, Cornwall

Last week we headed off to Cornwall for our first trip away as a family of four.

We were kindly invited along to the Bedruthan hotel in Mawgan Porth (Around a 20 minute drive from Newquay) to spend a couple of days trying out their Don't Forget Your Teddy break.

Friday 12 June 2015

Drayton Manor Theme Park & Hotel

Last weekend, my 2 year old son's dreams came true.

After months of asking every time we got into the car to go to the shops if we were going to Thomasland, we decided to take the plunge and book a little trip there.

Thomasland is based at Drayton Manor theme park in Staffordshire which is a good 3 and a half drive away from us, so it seems a bit out of reach with a newborn in tow - but we were visiting my parents in Liverpool and as it's only a 1 hour 40 minute drive from there we decided to just go for it!

Noah stayed with my parents, and on the Friday myself, Jon & Tyne headed off to Thomasland!

We didn't tell Tyne where we were going, so when we pulled up at Drayton Manor and he saw the Thomasland signs with Thomas' face smiling down at him he was squealing with delight!

We had booked into the Drayton Manor Hotel in one of their Thomas Themed bedrooms on a Stay & Play package which included one days park entry and a character breakfast.

As the rain seemed to be holding off, we decided to use our park tickets then so Jon nipped into the hotel to collect the entry tickets which were waiting behind reception for us.

We headed into the park and straight for Thomasland.

Tyne was absolutely delighted to see all of his favourite characters dotted around everywhere!

There were lots of Thomas songs playing through the park, and I thought they'd done a really good job of making it look very "Sodor-like"!

The first thing Tyne saw when we walked in was Percy rolling toward us at Knapford Station - what I loved was that the engines had moving eyes so they looked just like the characters! I've always thought it was a flaw that the Thomas trains at the Days Out With Thomas events don't have this feature, so it was lovely to see and made it much more realistic!

We queued up for a ride on Percy first of all - as it was Friday the queues were quite short, and we got onto the very next trip.

The ride took us to another part of Thomasland where Tyne enjoyed looking at the model railway.

We then made our way back to the main part of the park, and Tyne spent quite a while saying Hello and cuddling the engines...they have the engines faces coming out of what looks like the sheds in the centre of the park and he absolutely loved this!

We then had a go on the rides - he loved Harold's Helicopter rides, Bertie the bus, and Rocking Bulstrode - I thought the Bulstrode ride seemed pretty fast for toddlers but he laughed all the way through and seemed to love it!

There were a few rides that he was too short for - Terence's Driving School, Toby's Tram Express, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster and Cranky's Crane Lift - out of all of those the only one he wanted to go on was Cranky but, seeing what it did, I can totally understand why he's too little!!

He chose not to ride Sodor's Classic Cars (I guess they were a little boring compared to everything else!), Lady's Carousel, Jeremy Jet or Winston's Whistle Stop Tour Monorail (which I was gutted about as I so wanted to go on! But he was insistent that they were too high and I didn't want to force him!).

But he went on everything else in the park and really enjoyed all of them!

I do think that he actually enjoyed playing with the engines (In particular the "sleeping James"!) more than the actual rides though - he thought they were the real deal!

We had a go on some of the fairground games to try and win a stuffed toy but we suck at those games so of course we failed and came away £6 worse off! (£2 per game, pretty standard I guess but geez I remember when those things were 50p a go! How old do I sound right now...)

We also, of course, had to visit the Thomas Shop - we'd heard it was the biggest dedicated Thomas The Tank Engine shop in the world - I did contemplate just tipping the contents of my purse out into the shop keepers hand at the door and saving the formality of actually browsing but hey ho...we went in anyway.

Tyne was...well I would say like a kid in a candy shop but no, he was like Tyne in a Thomas shop!...delighted! Over excited! And in love with everything he laid eyes on.

After what felt like a year of browsing, he eventually decided he wanted Iron 'Arry and Iron Bert (identical bloody toy trains, but sold seperately..of course!! I'd like 5 minutes alone with whatever genius came up with that idea...) and a Talking Edward...so we bought those, and I impulse bought some ridiculous things like Thomas Toothpaste and some crap to put on boiled eggs to make them Thomas Themed....as you do!

After the shop visit all he wanted to do was play with his new trains, so he was actually asking to leave - so we headed out of the park and off to the hotel.

Check in was quick and efficient, and Tyne was delighted with the "people" figures in the reception area and the Thomas carousel

We were staying in a themed room so we were given a VIP gift bag for Tyne.

We headed to our bedroom, Tyne had no idea about the themed room so we were excited to see what he made of it - as soon as we came out of the lift there were two lifesize engine figures on the wall so of course Tyne was off squealing with glee again!

We eventually pulled him away and went to our bedroom, the room had a double bed and a decent sized bathroom with a large flat screen TV and tasteful decor in one part...and then on the other side had train track carpet, Thomas wallpaper and the coolest Thomas The Tank bunk bed ever with built in dvd players on the top and bottom.

Tyne's gift bag contained Thomas crayons, a Thomas toothbrush, a Thomas book, and a very cute teddy bear wearing a little Drayton Manor Park bathrobe - very fancy!

Our stay at the hotel was lovely - we went along to the childrens entertainment for a while (though that was probably the only let-down of our stay - it was basically a room with some balls and a colouring table, a movie playing and some music and bubbles on...the two members of staff in there were not at all engaged with the children and just stood in the corner talking between themselves for the entire session) - After this we had dinner in the hotel restaurant which was made very enjoyable by the presence of plenty of wooden train tables dotted about for the children to play with.

They could use their own trains or hire them from reception, which meant there was no fighting over "communal" toys - Tyne was kept well entertained with the trains which meant we were able to linger over dinner and really enjoy it! We stayed there until gone 10pm and Tyne was happily playing all that time, only having a break to eat his dinner and have his ice cream!

I really enjoyed my meal in the restaurant, I'm a pretty fussy eater so I don't usually find myself too impressed by hotel meals but this restaurant was to a pretty decent standard.

The next morning we had breakfast with the Fat Controller where each child got the chance to meet the man himself and was presented with a certificate.

After breakfast, we headed back to Thomasland - unfortunately the queues were much longer with it being a saturday and there did seem to be a different class of clientele around, I heard a bit too much swearing and saw too many people smoking in outdoor dining areas and by rides for my liking.
If the Saturday had been my only experience of the park my opinion would be very different, but it impressed me on the Friday.

All in all we had a fantastic time at Thomasland and have already decided to visit again at Christmas!

 How could we not want to recreate this priceless expression on his face?!

For more information on visiting the park, please go to www.draytonmanor.co.uk

We also filmed a family video at Thomasland - it was intended purely for us to watch so it's not exactly vlog style, but if you want to see what it was like on the rides etc please feel free to have a look!

Family Fever

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Let's Talk Mommy

Friday 15 May 2015

Sykes Cottages, Cornwall

Last week, the three of us (And Bump!) headed off for a little family holiday to Cornwall.

We were very kindly invited by the ever so lovely people at Sykes Cottages to experience one of their holidays, and with being so close to the end of my pregnancy we thought it was an ideal time to enjoy one last little break as a family of 3 before the newborn mayhem starts!

Sykes allowed us to choose whereabouts in the country we wanted to go, as they have cottages all over the UK!

We decided that we wanted to stay reasonably close to home (just incase baby decided to make an early appearance!) so we opted for good old Cornwall!

The Sykes Cottages website is really easy to use, and you can narrow your cottage search down to find exactly what you're looking for - they have cottages that cater for anything from 2 to 35 people, cottages with special extras such as hot tubs, and cottages that are pet friendly as well as ones that aren't.

For us personally, we wanted a family friendly cottage which was in a nice quiet location but not too far from the tourist attractions either - my personal preference is always to go for accommodation that doesn't allow pets as we don't have any and so therefore I really dislike being exposed to any lingering smells or hairs from other peoples pets, so I was pleased to be able to easily whittle out the pet friendly cottages.

We eventually decided on Wheal Honey - a charming barn conversion just 4.5 miles from central Newquay.

The stay was booked, and we received an email to inform us of how to check in - the email stated that we should call the owners 48 hours prior to our arrival to confirm the details, which we did - they were very helpful and we arranged our arrival time and how the keys would be collected (the owners lived in the house just around the corner, so this was very easy!)

Wheal Honey is part of a group of 3 barn conversions all grouped together, and is the only two storey one.

There is a large space outside for parking, and a lovely large field at the back of the cottages - there were guests in the other cottages while we were there but we only knew this because of the cars parked there, we never actually saw or heard anyone else for the duration of our stay so it was very peaceful.

The field at the back of the cottage joins on to some farmers fields, and Tyne was delighted to see the sheep and cows so close to the house!

He absolutely loved having such a huge space to run around in, and asked to go outside to run every single morning.

The cottage itself was absolutely beautiful.

Cleanliness in accommodation is always a worry for me as I'm pretty OCD about these sorts of things, but I needn't have worried as the cottage was PRISTINE - in fact I wondered if anyone had ever set foot inside before, it was seriously that clean and well kept!

The decor was very fitting for the surroundings, and the owners had really thought of EVERY little detail to make our stay comfortable.

The kitchen was equipped with everything we could possibly need and more, there was a little bookcase which was full of a variety of books and dvds and even board games and card games for children which I thought was a really lovely touch.

They provided a little book all about the history of the cottages and the process of restoring/converting them, and an information book which listed not only important emergency contacts such as local dentists and so on but also a list of recommended local restaurants, even including the menus for them which I found very handy indeed.

The cottage had a decent sized TV and dvd player in the living room, and the wifi worked perfectly throughout the cottage.

There was a seperate dining table area which was nice, and a downstairs toilet.

The owners knew that we were coming with a toddler so they fitted a safety gate on the stairs which again I thought was a very considerate touch - they had also offered us a highchair/booster seat and travel cot should we need them.

Upstairs, the decor was simple but lovely and everything felt very fresh.

There were lovely high beam ceilings, and lots of quirky little touches like the little door in the ceiling of our bedroom which intrigued us throughout our stay!

The owners had also very kindly left fresh milk in the fridge, toilet rolls and a bottle of wine out - again little touches like these really make a huge difference to welcome guests and I think its these little touches that matter and encourage guests to return.

Linen and towels were all provided.

The cottage had a large bathroom, under floor heating which kept it lovely and warm despite the very cold temperatures outside, and consisted of two bedrooms - one a double and one with twin beds which could be joined together if required.

The beds were very comfortable, everything in the cottage worked perfectly, and our stay could not have been more comfortable.

I usually like to include some points for improvement in my reviews where possible, but I simply cannot find any to mention! 

The location was absolutely perfect for us, as it was so very quiet and peaceful but such a short drive from the attractions of Newquay itself (and a stones throw from Dairyland farm, too!)

There are a couple of restaurants very close by too, if you fancied a meal out but didn't want to venture to Newquay itself.

So...what did we get up to on our holiday?!

(Our FAILED family selfie!)

After travelling on the first day, we pretty much just spent the day familiarising ourselves with the cottage, letting Tyne run wild in the field and then we popped into Newquay for a nice meal at an Indian restaurant.

The next day we got out and did more exploring!

We headed for Newquay zoo - it was quite small compared to the one we live by (Paignton zoo) but it was nice nonetheless and Tyne really enjoyed seeing the animals as he was too little when we last visited one to remember!

That evening we got a Pizza Express takeaway which we had back at the cottage, and once Tyne was settled in bed we sat down to watch a movie from the cottages dvd collection - I was delighted to see that they had The Help, so that's what we watched!

The next day, we headed to the Aquarium - I didn't take any photos in there as obviously flash photography isn't allowed but Tyne had a really good time!

Afterwards, we headed to The Headland Hotel as I really wanted to have a look at it - it's where one of my favourite childhood movies The Witches was filmed, so I was very excited to take a look being the movie nerd I am!

We decided to have a look inside and when we discovered that they offered gluten-free cream teas, we just HAD to stay and try one!

On our final day, we drove to Padstow to have a look around - this is a very picturesque little harbour town and was really delightful to stroll around!

There was a little shop dedicated entirely to Christmas ornaments which is my idea of heaven - and Tyne's too!! I loved the sign on the door counting down the number of days until Christmas! So kitsch!

We had a lovely lunch from Rick Stein's fish & chip shop (more on all of the dining we did in my Gluten Free Guide To Cornwall post next week!), and enjoyed some lovely ice creams while looking out at the boats too!

We then headed to Dairyland farm - unfortunately the farm itself was closed as it was out of season but the soft play centre was open and Tyne had a blast running wild around there!

We thoroughly enjoyed our week at Wheal Honey, and we are 100% certain that we will be returning to stay there again in the future - we really loved it!

A big thank you to Sykes Cottages for hosting us.

To take a look at the many cottages available throughout the UK, please visit www.sykescottages.co.uk or to visit Wheal Honey in particular please click HERE

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