Looking back at our Spring and Summer Bucket List

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Way back on the 25th March, I did a blog post about our Spring and Summer bucket list. I promised I would report back on how we did.  Looking through the list, there is alot of things which we didn’t get round to crossing off. Maybe I was a little too optimistic on some things, but hey the uncrossed things can always be carried over onto the Autumn and Winter list ! We certainly had a fantastic Summer, squeezing in 3 holidays in 3 weeks. Crazy but fun times for us all.

So here is my bucket list for Spring and Summer. Its mainly centered around the North West where we live, but we will be venturing down south too. So with a cup of coffee in hand, rain pouring down outside, lets look forward to Spring and Summer !

Places we want to visit

Thorpe Park – We did make it down south to visit Thorpe Park but thanks to a stomach bug we never made it

Chessington  

London

We have Merlin cards so we aim to travel down south for several nights and stay in a Premier Inn so we can do the above attractions

Blackpool Pleasure Beach (we visited in October and we loved it)

Blackpool Tower – Sea Life Centre – Madame Tussauds – Dungeon (all Merlin card attractions)

Legoland Discovery Center and Sea Life Manchester (again Merlin cards)

Alton Towers (yep you guessed it with Merlin cards)

Hire a beach hut for the day at Lytham St Annes

Monkey Forest at Trentham Gardens in Stoke

Chester Zoo

Knowsley Safari Park

Jodrell Bank

Make more use of Delamere Forest for walks and picnics

Go to an outdoor concert (am thinking posh picnic with champers sat on a rug in the glorious sunshine)

Go to the beach more often

Visit local National Trust properties – Tatton Park – Quarry Bank Mill – Dunham Massey

Things to do around the house

Tidy the garden

Paint the playroom

Get new storage units for the playroom from Ikea

Get sofa bed for the playroom from Ikea

I am sure will think of more things to do around the house which will please Mr Williams no end !!!!!

Whilst we didn’t do any work on the playroom, we did redecorate our living and dining room. This wasn’t even in our plans, but thanks to a nice bonus from Mr Williams work, we decided to do it. I love our new living room and was glad to see the back of the terracotta walls and dado rail !

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So there is plenty to carry forward for the next bucket list as we enter Autumn, and many days of fun and laughter with the kids.

Bye Bye Summer Holidays 2014

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I always get a little emotional at this time of year as we say goodbye to another Summer holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely craving the return of routines and the daily clock watching. But I must admit we have had a ball yet again during this Summer. I used to dread the long 6 week break when they were younger, wondering how I would fill each day with activities. But as they get older, they are pretty self sufficient, and the tween spends some time outside the house playing with hanging out with his friends. So what have we done to fill our time this past 6 weeks. Well in one word……. Holidays !!!! We have been lucky that we have managed to get away to 3 different locations during a 3 week period.

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First up at the end of July was our week holiday to Corfu. We had never taken the kids on an European beach holiday, and we knew it would be totally different to Florida where we have been for the past 3 years. We went to Corfu as our friend was getting married there. I knew I had to be there, and we chose to put Florida on hold for 2014, and head to somewhere new. Well we all loved Corfu and had an excellent holiday. There were 24 of us staying in the same hotel, and the kids always had someone to play with. As for us adults well….. we always had someone to chat with over an all inclusive Gin and Tonic. The wedding was perfect, complete with Greek dancers and much laughter till the small hours.

Gorgeous private beach in Scotland on the site

Gorgeous private beach in Scotland on the site

Home for a few days and then we headed to Scotland off to our favourite park near Dumfries. Scotland was slightly different from Corfu weather wise !!!!! Put it this way I had to pack for all 4 seasons. It was our sons 12th birthday when we were up there, and he went and did archery with his dad at a nearby activity centre. We had a really relaxing time up there, and the highlight was winning £90 on the bingo the first night…. Go me !!

Love feeding the birds at Chessington

Love feeding the birds at Chessington

Home again, this time for only 1 night. I was getting a whizz at unpacking and packing again by now. This time we headed down South to stay at the Chessington Hotel (which I have done a separate review for). Loved the hotel, and we spent 2 days doing the rides in Chessington. We have Merlin passes, and this was the last weekend before they expired. After having them for 3 years we are going to have a break from them, but they have been SO worth the money. The 2nd day we were booked into a Premier Inn in Cobham as were heading to do Thorpe Park. Unfortunately, my son got a terrible stomach bug and we ended up coming home after an ‘interesting’ night in a hotel room. Less said about that the better.

Inside the Chessington Hotel

Inside the Chessington Hotel

In between all the excitement of being away we have had plenty of PJ days and general just chilling at home. The past week has been catching up with friends (mine and the kids) before the routine takes over. Oh and hubby and I even got a night chilling in a nearby Spa. Totally relaxing after all the madness.

So there we have it. Goodbye to the Summer, and hello to central heating, comfy jumpers and school runs. Hope everyone else had a great Summer Holidays too.

Chessington Hotel

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Well after a 2 month break from blogging I think its about time I got back to it, and told you what us Williams have been doing recently. It has been a crazy 3 week start to the Summer holidays. The last 21 days have seen us holiday in such fantastic places as Corfu, Scotland and a ‘theme park visit’ down South. I thought I would start with the theme park visit and especially the Chessington Hotel which we stayed in on Saturday night.

I had booked the hotel as a surprise for our sons 12th birthday. We went and had a look round the hotel last year when we went to the theme park and I was very impressed. At the time I had mentally put it on the bucket list, and combining it with our sons birthday was a good idea. Especially as he had asked for an expensive ipod and I needed to ‘pad’ his presents at a little !! Win win eh.

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View of the Savannah from our Hotel room

We stayed in the original Chessington Hotel which has a safari theme. The brand new hotel, Azteca, had only opened a few days earlier, which is an add on to the existing hotel done in a Mexican theme. We checked in quickly and found our room on the 3rd floor. We had been upgraded to a savannah view, and I must say the room was excellent. It had the kids area when you first walked in with 2 single beds and a TV you can play interactive games on. Then the bathroom, and then into the grown up part.

I had made a reservation for dinner in the new Azteca Hotel (basically because I wanted a nosey round it). Dinner is served in the Temple Restaurant and we were all really impressed with the buffet selection on offer. It was also nice to see that soft drinks were included in the price. There was some entertainment going on in the bar area, which the younger kids seemed to be enjoying. Though to get to the restaurant you have to navigate a packed dance floor of kids. I think I took a few out on the way !

The Temple Restaurant in the new Azteca Hotel

The Temple Restaurant in the new Azteca Hotel

Overall I actually preferred the existing hotel rather than the new one. It was lovely to eat breakfast overlooking the reserve, and of course have our bedroom overlooking it too. Though when the husband opened the curtains, I don’t think he was expecting to see some Ostrich sexy time !

We also used the swimming pool, which now has the added attraction of a Splash area much the same as at the LEGOLAND hotel. Most kids seemed to be in the main swimming pool and the Splash area was fairly quiet. It was nice to sit in the hot tub on a Sunday afternoon and see animals sauntering past.

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We paid £141 for our stay which was bed and breakfast for 2 adults and 2 children. This was discounted as we have a Merlin card. I actually think this is a good price considering the quality of the hotel. I would definitely say it is veering to luxury, whilst also being really family friendly. We would definitely look at returning in the future. Thank you Chessington for a great stay.

The walk way through to the new Azteca Hotel

The walk way through to the new Azteca Hotel

Frankie and Benny’s new menu – June 2014

 

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Today (10th June 2014) sees the launch of Frankie and Benny’s new menu. I was really excited as my family and I got the chance to sample the new menu on Saturday. I love Frankie and Benny’s, and was only there last Monday with 2 of my friends. We love going there for great food and a girly gossip. This visit I took my husband and our 2 children who have been to Frankie and Benny’s LOTS and also love it.

We usually go to the Widnes branch, but this time we were heading to Warrington Gemini. We were seated quickly and we were handed our NEW menu’s and were told we were the only ones in the restaurant that had them. As we know the old menu inside out, we quickly spotted the new items and ordered. We also decided on a starter to share which was Double Dip Dough Balls. OH MY these were scrummy. Really light and fluffy and the 2 sauces you got with them were delicious. I was really surprised at how many you actually get. At £4.75 I think these are great value for a starter.

Double Dip Dough Balls

Double Dip Dough Balls

We ordered the following for our main courses

Chicken and Chorizo burger – Husband

Grilled Chicken Pitta – Me

Pulled Pork Pizza – Son

BBQ ribs – Daughter

New menu items Frankie and Benny's

New menu items Frankie and Benny’s

The starters were soon cleared away and we were tucking into our mains. I had swopped the chips with my Chicken pitta for a jacket potato. You also get the choice of 4 sauces to go on top of your chicken, and I opted for the chilli, garlic and lime. My meal was delicious, and as I am currently on Slimming World, this meal fitted in well (as long as you swop the chips) ! I went away having had a lovely meal and not feeling the ‘diet guilt’. Husband tried the Chicken and Chorizo burger and again he said this was delicious.

As son is nearly 12, gone are the days when I could feed him a kids meal. He opted for the pulled pork burger. I was really impressed with the amount of pork that was on the pizza. There is one new item on the kids menu which was the chicken pitta. My daughter did not fancy this and she opted for the BBQ ribs. This was a new choice for her, and she really enjoyed it. As you can see below, our plates were pretty empty by the time we had finished.

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Puddings were pancakes from the children’s menu (and WOW what a portion she got) and hubby and son opted for the new peanut cheesecake. I MAY have had a tiny teeny amount purely for tasting !!!! One word…… heaven.

Waffles from the children's menu

Waffles from the children’s menu

Peanut Cheesecake.... HEAVEN

Peanut Cheesecake…. HEAVEN

So overall we really enjoyed the new items on the menu. Frankie and Benny’s really does cater for everybody and they have a vast choice. We loved visiting the Warrington Gemini restaurant, and our server Chantelle was helpful and friendly. I am sure we will be back in the not so distant future, as I definitely have my eye on the new blackened steak skewers.

Also if you want to treat your Dad this Father’s Day, he will eat for FREE. He can choose from 2 courses from the specials menu which is a great excuse to head over to Frankie and Benny’s. (Term and Conditions apply)

Disclosure – we were given a £50.00 voucher to sample items from the new menu before it launched on the 10th June 2014.

Thank you Frankie and Benny’s    

 

Centerparcs Woburn Forest

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Centerparcs Woburn Forest

On Friday the 6th June 2014 Centerparcs will officially open its 5th holiday park in Woburn in Bedfordshire. I was one of the VERY LUCKY people who got the chance to visit Woburn on a trial break 2 weeks ago. I have to credit my best friend here, as she was the one who was offered a trial break, and invited me and my daughter to go with her. From the minute I got the text I was beyond excited. I LOVE Centerparcs and all it stands for, and have visited Whinfell over 10 times. But here I was getting the chance to go to Woburn before it opened. I have decided to review it as I am assuming there will not be many customer reviews online yet.

Woburn was really easy to find off the M1 (coming from the North) and its about 10 minutes away from the motorway. Check in was straight forward, and my daughter was given a bag of chocolate coins which I thought was a nice touch. I was given directions to our lodge, but as I had studied the map online for the past 2 weeks I knew exactly where our lodge would be. I could not believe we were actually at Woburn, and for the next 2 days I had to keep pinching myself.

The Lodges

Our accommodation was in an excellent location and we stayed in a 3 bedroom executive lodge, which was amazing. I loved the full wall picture of the forest in the living room. Each bedroom had an en suite, and the master bedroom also had a Jacuzzi bath. Outside there was a sauna, along with table and chairs for 6, and also a large BBQ. Also included in the executive lodges is maid service and also free wifi. We also had a blu ray player, and televisions in all bedrooms. The lodge was very well equipped and comfortable, though I felt they were a little smaller than the ones at Whinfell. There is a mixture of accommodation at Woburn. There are some fantastic 4 bedroom lodges dotted around the park, with some having balconies. As well as the lodges, you also have the hotel and also the Spa Suites.

3 Bedroom Exec Lodge

3 Bedroom Executive Lodge

 

Outside of Lodge 443 at Centerparcs Woburn

Outside of Lodge 443 at Centerparcs Woburn

The Plaza

This is where you will find most of the sports activities, the children’s club, pottery and craft rooms. There are also shops and eating places such as the Sports Bar, and outside you have a great play area. You will also find the Parc Market here. I loved The Plaza, especially sitting outside in the sunshine whilst the children played on the park. Further round from The Plaza is the hotel and also the Aqua Sana. We were given a tour round the spa and all I can say is WOW !!! The spa is over 2 floors, with an outside pool and sun loungers, and you can really tell Centerparcs has spent a lot of money creating a truly outstanding spa experience. I WILL have to return one day as it really did take your breath away.

Plaza at Centerparcs Woburn

The Swimming Pool

I was really looking forward to the swimming pool, and we spent a good few hours in there one evening. The changing rooms are very similar to Whinfell, and its good to have your accommodation wrist bands which act as your lodge key and also your locker key. You can also charge items to your wrist band when in the swimming pool. The pool has 2 areas for children. 1 for younger children and babies, and another section for older children. You also have the rapids which I loved. Whinfell do not have the rapids like the other parks do, so it was nice to hurtle down them. You also have several slides including the raft water slide which is similar to the one at Elvedon. Now I usually HATE water slides, but I went on and despite screaming the whole time, I LOVED it. Well if my 8 year old was going on, I suppose Mummy better had ! My friend had also hired a Cabana which are fantastic. I knew what to expect as we had hired one at Whinfell in January. There were around 6 cabanas at Woburn all in one area close to the changing rooms. We really enjoyed our time here, but felt it was missing an outside pool.

Swimming Pool at Centerparcs Woburn

Swimming Pool at Centerparcs Woburn

Eating places

There are many eating places at Woburn, and many of the restaurants you will find at other parks. We ate at The Pancake House which is overlooking the lake and beach area. We also dined at Hucks and also Dexters Kitchen when we were there. All the restaurants were fantastic with great service, and only wish we could have tried them all.

Pancake House and Dexters Kitchen Burger

Pancake House and Dexters Kitchen Burger

Activities

As with all Centerparcs there is a huge range of activities to book, and Woburn is no exception. Whilst we were there we did the pottery painting, which is in its own pottery studio in the Plaza. This was a great activity and the staff were very helpful. My daughter also had her hair braided, and the lady was fantastic and made my daughter feel very special. I also could not escape the Build a Bear type activity, and we came home with a purple unicorn !

Activities at Centerparcs Woburn

Activities at Centerparcs Woburn

 

 The pictures below are from walking around Woburn Forest

The Play Areas at Woburn

The Play Areas at Woburn

 

Area where the shops and restaurants are

The Village Square at Woburn

 

The amazing Aqua Sana at Centerparcs Woburn

The amazing Aqua Sana and hotel at Centerparcs Woburn

 

I truly had a wonderful time away and felt very lucky to have experienced Woburn on one of the trial breaks they were offering. I am a massive Centerparcs fan, and it was nice to visit another park other than Whinfell. I loved that Woburn has the village square, and there are more opportunities to sit out and have a meal in the sunshine. The spa looks amazing and I WILL be back to try it out. All the staff we came into contact with were very friendly and professional, and I wish them all the best of luck when Woburn opens up to the paying public. Thank you to Centerparcs for this wonderful opportunity, but more importantly a MASSIVE thank you to my best friend for inviting me. Woburn I will be back, and I am sure everyone who has booked will not be disappointed with this fantastic park.

If you would like any further information about our trip, please comment on this post or feel free to email me.

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The Rainforest Cafe london

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Following on from my post about our trip to London, I wanted to blog about the Rainforest Café in more detail. We went to the Rainforest Café when we were in Orlando a few years back and loved it. So when I was planning our trip to London, I just knew that a visit to Rainforest Café would be on the cards. I booked a table online a few weeks before as I knew it would be busy.

View from our table

View from our table

Rainforest Café is just around the corner from Piccadilly Circus tube stop. You enter into the shop and head towards the back where you book in. The actual restaurant is downstairs, and we were told to wait at the bar until we were called. After about a 3 minute wait we were introduced to our server and led to our table. I have to say I was really impressed with our table. We were right in front of the elephants which my daughter loved.  Though there were lots of funny moments when servers passed our table with new customers and introduced the ‘mummy and baby elephants’ and my son was convinced they were talking about me and his darling sister !

Gorgeous Lamb Shank

Gorgeous Lamb Shank

I had scrutinised the menu online at home, so I pretty much knew what I was having. I opted for the lamb shank, husband had a chicken sandwich and the children had a pizza and burger meal. The kids meals were priced at £12.50 (which included a main, pudding and a drink). Of course my 8 year old wanted an activity pack priced at £3.00. I figured it would be cheaper than the shop and I was pleasantly surprised with the contents. Good value for £3.00.

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The scrummy looking Volcano

All of our meals were extremely tasty, and there was not one bit of food left on the plate (well apart from my lamb shank bone). The children really wanted the ‘Volcano’ for pudding. Basically its a pudding to share which is covered in chocolate and cream. As I am on Slimming World I drooled at their pudding for around 10 minutes, and then tucked into my fruit salad. The fruit salad was from the kids menu, but as they were busy overdosing on chocolate I was happy to eat the fruit salad which was very nice (I say this through gritted teeth) !!! We have had the ‘Volcano’ in Orlando and the servers come out shouting and waving your pudding in the air for all to see. Thankfully this did not happen in London.

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The atmosphere is amazing in the restaurant. The elephants in front of us kept coming alive every so often. There is rainforest noises and even thunder and lightening. I had read reviews that it was very busy and very noisy but I have to say we did not find this. We actually enjoyed a lovely meal which was nice and chilled out. The service was very good with our server interacting well with our children.

Best Bar Stools !!!

Best Bar Stools !!!

Our meal came to just under £70.00. We would not normally pay this for a meal, but I think for a treat the Rainforest Café certainly ticks all of the boxes. You are definitely paying for the atmosphere which I think I loved just as much as the children. If you have a Merlin annual pass (which we do) you get 20% discount off your food. There is also a 12.5% service charge added to your bill. Next time we are in London, we would not hesitate to return to this fantastic restaurant.

The gift shop

The gift shop

 

 

 

 

Our trip to London 31.05.14

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Yesterday we went down to London for a day out with the kids. I booked the train tickets back in May (thanks to Virgin Trains sale) and paid £57.00 for the 4 of us return. This would be our third visit down to the capital, and my sons fourth visit as he went with school in April. The main reason we usually visit London is to go to the Merlin Attractions, thanks to our annual pass.

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Saturday morning was a VERY early start. We got up around 5.30am to ensure we were on the 7.00am train we had booked. Walking into the station I could not believe how busy it was !! Is this what normal people get up to when we are usually in bed at this hour on the weekend. Train journey was great, and in less than 2 hours we were pulling into London. We then purchased an all day tube ticket which cost £25.00 (children are free) and our first of many tube journeys began. The previous 2 times we have visited have been on a Sunday, and I must admit Saturday seemed so much busier. Thankfully the kids know the ‘tube etiquette’ getting on as fast as you can…. standing to the right on the escalators…. putting your ticket in quickly…. and no doubt many more that we are yet to learn !

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Our first stop was Madame Tuassards and we arrived at 9.30am. Could not believe the amount of people queuing even at this early time. We joined the Merlin Pass and Pre Booked queue, which to be honest was huge and took us about 25 minutes to get in. I like Madame Tuassards but it gets very busy, and taking pictures with the waxworks is tricky with the throngs of people. However we all enjoyed it, and the highlight is the Taxi Ride at the end and then the 4d Marvel Cinema which is excellent.

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Back out into the sunshine and back on another tube and onto the London Eye. Again we were met with half of London queuing for the Eye. We asked a member of staff where we go as we have passes, as last time we went straight on. Not this time as Merlin has changed the rules and he pointed at a queue which was around an hour long. Great…. so I spend over £300 on passes and Merlin expects me to wait in a huge queue for a ticket we do not need. The member of staff could sense my increasing anger, and what he did next went well beyond his job and I applaud him for this. Instead of saying well that is just how it is, he took us over to the very front of the London Eye queue and got us on the next capsule !!! I could have kissed him. What fantastic customer service. Merlin take note !!!

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After an enjoyable ride and lots of photos later, we were back on the ground and headed to the nearby park area where we had our picnic. It was lovely to sit down and enjoy the sunshine, and afterwards we had a wander around and watched the street entertainment by the South Bank. Husband and son then went to the London Dungeon, and me and daughter went back to the park.

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Soon it was 4pm and time for another tube journey over to the Rainforest Café. I was really excited about this. We have been to the Rainforest Café in Orlando and loved it. I am going to do a full review of our visit so will leave it there. After a wander around Piccadilly Circus, it was time for our final tube journey back to Euston in time for the 7.00pm train back home to the North.

Arrived home at 9.30pm and after a quick shower to wash the ‘tube grime’ away it was time for bed. What a great day we all had.