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Since I became a mammy, I have tried to find lots of fun activities, days out, events and holidays for my family. I love being busy and visiting new places and I hope you will enjoy reading them. My blog is jam packed with reviews of places we have been, maybe I get help you with a little inspiration.  We are lucky enough to travel quite a bit so the blog features lots of places in the North East and beyond.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

An adventure back in time, Warwick Castle

After we had made the decision to take the long journey down to Southampton to visit Peppa Pig World, we thought about making a stop along the way to break up the journey.  Having been to Warwick Castle a few years previous with my mother and also armed with the knowledge that my family love castles, the choice had been made.  We booked our tickets online direct with Warwick Castle, they offer up to 30% discount for tickets booked in advance and even a Rainy Day promise! There is also the option to upgrade your day ticket to a two day ticket for only 70pence each, fabulous bargain which we took full advantage of.  

We arrived at the castle very late on our first day so were extra pleased that we had booked the 2 day option.  Upon entry we were directed to our destination Merlin :Dragon Tower, which is situated to the left of the main entrance in the Castle courtyard.  There were two squires to greet us and send us on our way to the Tower where we were entered and started our journey.  I won't spoil this too much for you should you decide to visit yourselves, what I will say is that it was fantastic!  A fully interactive story based on the TV series Merlin and full of magic and mystery.  My 3 year old son Luca completely surprised us by standing up and talking to the Dragon who amazed him by knighting him 'Sir Luca', fabulous and really made the children believe.  I thoroughly recommend booking this attraction, it can be booked in advance and time slots allocated to suit your visit.  After the Dragon Tower, we did not have much time until closing so just had a quick wander around and made some decisions what we would like to do the following day.

The following morning bright and early we arrived at the Castle ready to re-start our adventure.  We were given maps at the main entrance and also the children got a Horrible History trail each to complete. I was especially grateful to have pre-booked tickets as the queues on entrance were horrendous! We just scanned our ticket and in through the turnstile! Once inside you get to see just how magnificent this castle is.  2014 is the 1100th birthday of Warwick Castle and it has certainly seen its fair share of turmoil along with impressive visitors, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I to name but a few.  It's history is absolutely fascinating and worth reading up on before a visit. There is just so much to see and do here you do need the two days to be able to do it justice.  Having a 5 year old daughter in tow, it was inevitable that we had to visit The Princess Tower and learn about the tragic story of Princess Felice and her true love Guy.  Another fully interactive attraction where the children can get dressed up as princesses or kings and join in the story telling.  


We were very lucky to be visiting whilst the Horrible Histories trail is ongoing.  If you are not familiar with this, it is a wonderful series of books written by Terry Deary aimed firmly at making history fun for children. It is also an award-winning TV series.  Check them out, they are really good.  Warwick Castle has teamed up with Horrible Histories and come up with a wonderful array of activities for the children.  We had our trail and pencil and off we went.  There were five areas to explore, Smashing Saxons vs. Vicious Vikings, Gorgeous Georgians, Slimy Stuarts, Vile Victorians and The Measly Middle Ages.  We had a great time following the trail and joining in with some ghastly acts. There were characters at every station dressed in period costume and really getting into the spirit of the era. 

 
 

After completing our trail, we explored the inside of the Castle.  It is now under the ownership of the Merlin Group who also own Madame Tussauds and you could certainly tell.  Each grand room was dressed with waxwork characters and there was also a narrative in the rooms following Daisy, The Countess of Warwick's preparations for her Royal Weekend Party.  I liked the fact that we didn't have to keep telling the children not to touch, don't wander in there, keep away from that, there was a very relaxed feel to the Castle. 
 

Throughout the day there are many different shows to watch including archery, birds of prey and jousting.  We unfortunately only had time to see the archery show and it was excellent.  Our archer was very entertaining.

I could go on and on and on even more as there is so much to do and we didn't get to see it all.  We would most definitely go back and are hoping to visit again next year to cover the areas we missed this time.  I will leave you to hopefully make your own Warwick Castle discoveries and enjoy your time travelling.

Warwick Castle

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Peppa Pig Adventure

My son Luca is a massive Peppa Pig fan, for his 3rd birthday this year he decided he would like to go to Peppa Pig World.  We thought this was a perfect time for us to make the long 333 mile journey as next year he may have outgrown his obsession, also my 5 year old still watches it so they would both get a lot of enjoyment out of it.  It is a massive drive for us so we decided to split our journey, spending the night just outside of Solihill in a Premier Inn and visiting Warwick Castle.  I will write about that separately as it more than deserves it!. 

We, as a family, love Premier Inn's, we have travelled quite extensively and stayed in enough accommodation to know now that a Premier Inn family room is the best option for us.  If you book in advance you can get rooms from £29, amazing value.  The one we chose to stay at for this trip was literally a 5 minute drive from Paultons Park so was a perfect location Southampton West .  There was a service station just across the roundabout which had a well stocked co-op and also a McDonalds which we used on the 1st night as the wait for the restaurant was 40 minutes. I think they had a bunch of Peppa groupies staying the night!

The room was great, if a little hot, but that is no-one's fault.  The kids absolutely love being in a hotel room, it is a big part of the fun for them and they have great fun inventing games and playing with each other, they both have wonderful imaginations.

Bright and early next morning, after a lovely all you can eat Premier Breakfast, we made the extremely short drive to the park.  You could walk it but once in the park there is a huge car park so the journey would be quite long for little legs to make, especially on the way home.  We had purchased our tickets in advance, direct from the website (thanks Nana and Gramps) and made a saving of £10 which is not to be sniffed at.  Children under 1m in height go in free, which luckily is Luca, so a family ticket for the three of us cost £69.50 (including a booking fee). tickets Apart from the large saving, buying in advance also means you avoid the long queues at the entrance and just walk straight in.  

Upon entry we were given a map which detailed all the areas in the park.  Apart from Peppa Pig World, Paultons Park is a large theme park with lots of other attractions for all ages.  The thing I liked particularly, was that the rides around Peppa Pig World were all aimed at toddlers and small children, this meant that all the children in this bit were all of a similar age.  I would recommend going on a few rides near to the entrance when you first get in, this gives the crowds heading to see Peppa a chance to disburse a bit.  We went on the traditional carousel and had a bit of a wander around before going to see the main attraction.  


As soon as we got near to Peppa, we could hear the familiar music playing, be warned parents, that music is on constantly! The poor staff must be fed up! However they didn't show it at all, all the ride attendants and staff were fabulous, I have never experienced such constant good customer service as we did on this trip (including Warwick Castle) it was lovely and refreshing to see. The staff are indeed a credit to Paultons Park.  

The park is wonderful, everything is true to the programme and the details are fabulous. Even the trees and ducks on the duck pond are just as you have seen on the TV which is especially important to create the magic for the children.  

It is not particularly large but it is the perfect size and they have pitched it excellently at their target audience.  There are 7 rides, the biggest queue we found was for George's Dinosaur Adventure, it was about 10-15 minutes wait which wasn't too bad.  

The ride was great fun, little ones have to ride with a parent and it was a lot faster than I expected! As with all the rides, as you go along there are various characters from the show dotted around the place, adds to the fun and the children enjoy spotting their favourites.


Miss Rabbits Helicopter Ride

Peppa's Big Balloon Ride



We went on a few more rides here including Miss Rabbits Helicopter Ride and Peppa's Big Balloon Ride before deciding on a break for lunch.  There are a few eateries within Peppa Pig World but they were all very busy so we decided to pop back into the main park to find somewhere. There is also a very large 450 seat covered area where families can eat picnics if they have brought one.  Nice to see that accommodated for instead of discouraged.  But first we had to try out the big Wave Runner ride. This was a massive slide that you came down in little dinghys. A hit with my daughter who made her dad take her back on about 5 times. Not so much a hit with little Luca, too high and fast for him! 


For lunch we visited the Railroad Diner which was just outside Peppa Pig World. The prices I found were not too bad.  For 2 childrens chicken nugget lunch boxes and 2 adult hot dog meals all with drinks it came to just over £20.  It was very nice too!

After lunch we stayed in the main Paultons Park area for a while and took a trip on the railway which takes you quite far round the park and allows you to see some fabulous houses on your trip.  Eva and Daddy tried out a few more of the bigger rides and then we had a look through The World of Wind in the Willows which was lovely.

As time was drawing near for the big meet and greet with Peppa and George, we ventured back to Peppa Pig World and managed to squeeze in a couple more rides including Grandpa Pigs Boat ride.  Then it was time to meet the stars. Peppa and George make regular appearances outside the School House throughout the day.  We had wisely decided to wait until the last appearance of the day in the hope that it wasn't too busy, seemed we made the right choice as the kids got right to the front and got cuddles and high fives off both George and Peppa.  I was very impressed as each of the characters made sure to greet each child and there was a lot of them, 1D fans have nothing on Peppa fans! 


Sadly after meeting the heroes it was time for us to leave, we had spent the whole day at Paultons Park and there were areas that we had not covered including The Land of the Dinosaurs and the Water Kingdom but we had covered all of Peppa Pig World and that was our goal.  Exit, as usual, is through the obligatory huge gift shop and the kids chose a couple of toys as souvenirs.  There is something for everyone in the gift shop not just Peppa and friends.  Thankfully we had only a short journey back to our hotel for a well earned rest. We had a wonderful day at Paultons Park, it is well worth the trip.  There is a app you can download to your phone to help plan your visit. I would probably recommend a two day ticket to get the most out of the park, there is more than enough there to occupy two full days.  The children loved it and have asked to go back many times! maybe next year I have told them .....