You may remember that at the beginning of this month, it was my fifth wedding anniversary. Myself and my husband decided that we should treat ourselves to a truely relaxing day and with a lot of research we decided to have a Couples Retreat Spa Day at Rockliffe Hall. Before I say anything more I’ll just clarify that we paid the full price for this day and no freebies were received
Rockliffe Hall is a 5 Star Hotel and Spa situated just outside of Darlington in the North East. It’s very handily about a 45 minute drive away from us in Durham which worked out really well as we had time to drop MissB and MasterB off at nursery at 8am before arriving for our day at 9am. We then had a whole day at the spa before returning home to pick up the children at 5pm
Our day started with a nice relaxing swim in the beautiful swimming pool and the thermal bathing suite. The hydro-pool is huge and so relaxing, combining this with a tepidarium, caldarium, roman and heat saunas, tropicarium and ice fountain and I really felt like I was unwinding little by little. If I’d have been feeling the slightest bit active we, could have used the gym but this day was about relaxation and spending some rare time with my husband so any thoughts of exercise were forgotten.
At 11:30am we then went for a Rasul Mud ritual. This ritual lasts 45 minutes, on entering the mud ritual room, you are shown what to do and then left to it. The ritual starts with a sea salt scrub which you use before rinsing it off in the shower, you then enter the steam room where there is a bowl of mud (it doesn’t look like a lot of mud but believe me it goes a long long way!). You massage the mud all over each other and then relax and let the steam and mud do all the work. After what is probably about 15 minutes, a gentle “rain” starts falling which washes all the mud off. I absolutely loved this treatment and my skin felt fantastic afterwards. We just had time to get changed before heading up to the Brasserie for some lunch.
The Brasserie by Atkinson is situated just above the Spa, we could have eaten in our robes but I personally find it a little odd eating posh food in a dressing robe and much prefer to be dressed I had a marinated beetroot salad with goats cheese, pickering watercress and toasted walnuts to start, followed by a risotto of fresh peas, mint and parmesan cheese with slow roasted cherry tomatoes and pea shoots. The food was absolutely delicious and just what we needed after a hard mornings relaxation
After lunch we headed down to the relaxation room to relax on the sound wave therapy beds for an hour before our massages. Unfortunately the couples treatment was unavailable and so we had to have our massages separately. My massage was absolute bliss, I confess I may have fallen asleep for a few minutes but when you’re a mum of two toddlers it’s hardly surprising that the minute you get a chance to relax, you fall asleep I seriously don’t get enough massages in my life!
We had time to enjoy another hour down in the pool and thermal suite before having to return back to normality and go pick up the children from nursery. I’m not quite sure how we are going to better our wedding anniversary next year as this will take some beating
The Couples Retreat Spa Day is a full day experience and includes :
• Arrival welcome drink
• Rasul Mud ritual for two
• 45 minute Warm Oil Massage each (which may be taken in the couples treatment room)
• Glass of wine or delicious smoothie of the day each
• Two course lunch in the Brasserie by Atkinson
• Full access to all spa facilities
The spa days costs £250. We actually used our Tesco Clubcard Reward Vouchers to buy Wahanda vouchers which can be redeemed at Rockliffe Hall Spa, therefore it cost us about £130 in Clubcard vouchers which we had been saving for a special treat
Another fantastic day out that we had whilst on holiday to Derbyshire was a day at Gulliver’s in Matlock Bath, they very kindly gave me tickets for the family to visit I grew up only a few miles away from there but I’d never actually been before and I have heard so much about it from my sisters who still live in the area.
I admit reading the weather forecast the evening before almost had me in tears, heavy rain wasn’t what I really wanted but it takes more than a bit of rain to stop the Brown family going out and having fun. In actual fact over half of the rides at Gulliver’s are undercover and to be honest I think the rain actually helped as the park was quieter so we had absolutely no queuing for any rides, food, toilets or anything. We all had our raincoats, a raincover for the pushchair and a big umbrella and so we didn’t really get wet at all
I was warned that Gulliver’s in Matlock Bath is set on a hillside and so there are a lot of steep hills. I imagine if you start at the bottom of the park and work your way up you would be exhausted but I had a cunning plan which worked brilliantly. We entered the park at the bottom entrance and then caught the chair lift to the top of the park. They even send your folded pushchair up for you. Once at the top we then slowly worked our way back down over the day. The only uphill we had to do was up to the Western World but there is a travelator which takes the hard work out of the hill for you.
On entry to the park, MissB’s height was checked and she is over 90cm which meant she could go on all but 2 of the rides there. I loved that each ride had clear signage as to what height could ride solo or accompanied. MasterB could go on a lot of the rides too as he can sit beside me I could spend all day telling you about every ride we went on but seeing as we went on pretty much all of them I’m just going to share some of our highlights. Daddy rather bravely took MissB on the log flume, I think she enjoyed most of it but the big drop scared her a little, you can just about make out her little head in the photo below
One thing I was extremely impressed with was the facilities, on every level there are food options, toilets, baby changing facilities etc. I loved that they had veggie nugget meals for our vegetarian family (it is so hard finding places which cater for vegetarian children usually). The food was pretty reasonably priced, I think it was about £16 for lunch for all 4 of us and it tasted lovely. Another thing I have to mention is how absolutely lovely and helpful all the staff were. Whoever we spoke to in the park was always friendly, happy to chat and asking us if we were enjoying our day. I don’t think I’ve ever visited anywhere with such lovely staff! They really are a credit to Gulliver’s!
Luckily whilst the rain was at it’s worst we were near the Party House which was great fun, MissB and MasterB had a chance to run around and play. They loved the jungle play area and ball crawl. I loved that there were no hidden extra charges for the little rides around the park such as the mini carousel in the play house. I think MissB would have sat on it all day, though she did enjoy the big carousel further down the park too.
One of my favourite rides was the Balloons Ferris Wheel, we were all able to sit in it together and watch the world go by. The Dino Explorer Cars were also a big hit, it’s nice to be able to go on rides as a family and MissB even overcame her fear of dinosaurs a little Daddy even persuaded MissB to go on the Log Roller Coaster with him, I really expected tears from that but she absolutely loved it!
Myself and my husband both went on the Switchback ride (separately), my husband loved it but I’ve realised that maybe roller coasters aren’t for me any more lol. The great thing about there being no queues is that if you liked a ride and nobody was waiting you could stay on for another go if you wish. Unfortunately Lilliput Land was closed on the day of our visit which was a shame as it looked good but despite the weather everything else was open.
Our final ride of the day was Lazy Boat Ride which was lovely. We arrived at the park at 10:30am and by 4pm we were ready to leave. It’s a very long day for two toddlers in the rain but it flew by and unsurprisingly neither of them complained all day. Rather conveniently we had then reached the bottom of the park so it was a quick walk back to the car to load two very tired toddlers in their seats.
There really is so much to do at Gulliver’s, we will definitely be going back again. It was perfect for younger children, so child friendly and so much for them to do! A day visit ticket is £13.95 with babies under 90cm getting in free. I usually resent having to pay an entry fee for MissB but seeing as she was able to go on almost every ride I wouldn’t mind paying it. There are also Fully Inclusive Tickets available for £19.95 which include a meal, ice cream, drink and a retail voucher. We had an absolutely brilliant day out there, despite the rain and I’d recommend it to any family with young children! Gulliver’s also have parks at Warrington and Milton Keynes so I’ll be sure to pay them a visit if we are ever in the area
I’ve been dying to take MissB and MasterB to a zoo for ages and whilst we were on holiday in Derbyshire, we decided to visit Chester Zoo as it was within easy driving distance. The lovely people from Superbreak provided me with tickets for the day. Check out their website for great value cheap breaks and days out
We arrived around 11am and as we had prepaid tickets we were able to go straight through the fast track gate which was lucky as there was a long queue building up to buy tickets. We had taken my parents with us, who didn’t have prepaid tickets but we were still allowed through the fast track gates to buy tickets for them at guest services inside which was good. MissB is not yet 3 and we didn’t think she would manage to walk all around the zoo and as we didn’t have a double buggy on holiday with us, we hired one from the zoo for the day. It cost £10 but it was seriously the best £10 I spent on the entire holiday MissB and MasterB absolutely riding around in it and it made our day a thousand times easier If you have young children I’d highly recommend you consider one!
Chester Zoo has over 8000 animals, many of which are exotic and endangered. With a lot of animals to get around we set off on our zoo adventure, first stop of the day was the elephants. MasterB was mesmerised by them and MissB could only stare in awe. It must be strange suddenly seeing all these animals in real life for the first time, I don’t think she ever expected them to be so large bless her We found certain parts of the zoo were much busier than others, the elephants, the chimpanzees and the realm of the red ape were all very busy. We didn’t manage to go into the realm of the red ape unfortunately as it looked like they were queuing to get in and my two little monkeys were getting hungry.
The zoo is absolutely huge, you are provided with a map when you enter and it is a good idea to plan a route before you start to make sure you don’t miss any of your favourite animals, I think we saw pretty much everything and we were there for over 5 hours which is a long time for two toddlers, two parents and two pensioners Luckily there are frequent refreshment stops around the zoo which was very handy as it was a very hot day when we visited and constant supplies of drink were needed, followed by frequent toilet visits from a recently potty trained toddler lol. I was impressed with how clean the facilities were and how little time I had to spend queuing for toilets.
Up until the 4th November there is a Dinosaurs Bite Back! exhibit which features 19 lifelike robotic dinosaurs. I had a feeling MissB might not be too keen on them and I was right! They were really impressive and I wish I’d managed to take some photographs of them but MissB had a complete freak when the spitting dinosaur soaked mummy (I didn’t mind!) and our walk through the exhibition turned into a mad dash to get her past all the dinosaurs bless her. We’ve now explained to her that they are just big toys but there is no reasoning with a 2 year old. I can’t quite figure out how she thinks lions and tigers aren’t scary but robotic dinosaurs are lol. The photograph below was taken by my sister Sonia from This Mummy Loves when she visited the zoo.
The only other area we had an issue with was the Fruit Bat Forest, I loved it as I have previous experience of fruit bats from when I lived in Cairns but with it being dark and bats flying around, MissB wasn’t too impressed. She did however love the monkeys and the penguins. The lions and the tigers were very impressive, a little on the lazy side because of the heat but we did finally manage to find them lying down in the shade The butterfly house was a huge hit, there seemed like hundreds of beautiful butterflies everywhere and MissB loved watching them (as did I).
The giraffes were one of my favourites, they are so graceful and elegant I was impressed with how much space all the animals had, none of them seemed overcrowded and they all looked happy and healthy (well ok it’s hard to tell if an elephant is smiling so I can’t guarantee happy but they looked it in their own elephant way ). I’ve always had a bit of a doubt about zoos in the back of my mind but visiting now as an adult and seeing the lovely conditions that the animals live in and the work that the zoo does protecting animals and plants from extinction, I feel much happier about them.
The highlight of the day for MissB was the Zebras. She had been looking forward to these the most and they didn’t disappoint. There is something about Zebras which is just absolutely mesmerising I could have stood there and watched them all day. They are located right on the other side of the zoo from where we started and so by then we had walked a very long distance and were getting tired. We considered going for a ride on the monorail or on the water bus but after 5 hours we decided it was time to call it a day as we had two very hot and exhausted toddlers on our hands.
We had an absolutely fantastic day out at Chester Zoo and will definitely be going back in the future MissB has been telling everybody and anybody about her day there since we came back. We meant to call in at the shop and buy her a toy as a souvenir when we were leaving but we forgot which is a shame but I’m sure it won’t be long until our next visit.
Yesterday, we finally got to see Mickey’s Magic Show in Newcastle. We’d been sent the tickets by the lovely people at Disney ages ago so it seems like I’ve been waiting for ages for it to come around
“Abracadabra! It’s Disney Live! presents Mickey’s Magic Show!
Mickey, Minnie and a host of Disney friends come together in their very own magic show live on stage!
Witness the magic from legendary Disney films performed right before your eyes. See the Fairy Godmother transform Cinderella’s ragsinto a beautiful ball gown; the spectacular levitation of Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine; and the enchanted dancing brooms of Fantasia.
Join Donald and Goofy, Alice and the Mad Hatter, the Disney Princesses, plus many more for a one-of-a-kind stage show you’ll never forget – when Disney Magic takes on a whole new meaning!”
Now I admit I was expecting us to have to leave before the end of the show. You see, MissB is only 2 and she doesn’t have the longest attention span. I was actually amazed at how completely entranced with the performance she was. From the minute Mickey appeared on stage she was completely hooked bless her. Her favourite characters were Donald and Goofy and every time they left the stage she was shouting for them to come back. That’s the great thing about these shows though, the kids don’t have to sit quietly and they are encouraged to cheer, clap and join in
I don’t think MissB really understood the whole “magic” aspect of the show but she was happy with all the singing and dancing Disney characters. Myself and my husband thought the magic was good and I’m sure if MissB had been a little older she would have been amazed by it. I loved how the various Disney Princesses were involved in the magic, Cinderella was the first film I remember seeing as a child and so even I felt the magic of that particular scene
We were sent 4 tickets for the show, in reality we only needed 3 as MasterB could have come free if he sat on my knee as he is under 2. With MasterB being just under 18 months old, he didn’t really get what on earth was happening, to be honest he occasionally sat and watched the odd part but he was mostly entertained by me handing him snacks to eat to stop him trying to run off around the arena I’d say MissB’s age of 2.5 is probably about the youngest that I’d consider paying to take a child to the show as she is just reaching the stage where she can sit and watch happily.
One thing that I did find a little off putting was the merchandising. As soon as you entered the arena you were swamped with stalls and people waving toys, chocolates, popcorn etc in you and your child’s face. Normally I might have considered buying a bucket of popcorn but the prices were on the very expensive side, I think it was something like £7 for popcorn and candy floss. The toys etc were all equally expensive. Maybe I’m just a cheapskate though as they seemed to be selling like hotcakes, I’m just lucky my two didn’t understand or ask for anything. My top tip would be to take your own food and snacks, I had been told in advance about the prices and so I went prepared with drinks and food for my two. The only food I couldn’t resist buying there were 4 doughnuts for £3 lol.
The first half lasted approximately 45 minutes followed by an interval, followed by the second half which lasted about 35 minutes. The length was just about right, any longer and it would have gotten a little flat, any shorter and I would have felt short changed. MissB obviously enjoyed it as she spent the interval asking to go back in to see more Goofy
So would I go again? You see with these things it’s easy to say yes when you haven’t paid for your tickets but realistically tickets are quite expensive at around £18 each and so yes I would go but I’d buy tickets for just myself and MissB. I’m already keeping an eye out for other Disney shows coming to our area now I know that MissB will enjoy them MissB is now obsessed with Donald Duck and has been telling everybody about seeing him and Goofy so I guess it has a big seal of approval from her
Unfortunately the tour is almost at an end now but there is still Brighton and Liverpool to go so if you live nearby it’s definitely worth checking out. Now I’ve been to one Disney show I’d definitely go back to see more
We recently spent a really enjoyable day out at Seven Stories in Newcastle. This isn’t a paid review, we were fully expecting to pay an entrance fee on the day we visited but it just so happened that there was a local festival on that day and so entry was free anyway
Seven Stories is the national home of children’s books in Britain. There are seven fun packed floors full of creativity, books, dressing up, story telling and displays which bring children’s books to life. As a book loving family we thought it was well worth a day out, especially as they had a large gruffalo display and MissB loves him
Our first stop on arriving had to be the Gruffalo MasterB was all smiles when he saw him but MissB burst into tears and refused to go near him. It took quite a bit of explaining that he was really just a very big teddy but I guess when you are only two, an 8ft Gruffalo can be a little intimidating
There are dressing up boxes positioned near most of the displays so you can dress up as the characters in the books and loads of fun, interactive things for the kids to do. We sat for ages entertaining them both with glove puppets
For lunch we popped down to their cafe (we went early at 12 whilst it wasn’t too busy) and had some lovely sandwiches and cake, before heading up to the top floor to listen to some story telling. MissB sat with daddy listening to stories read by entertaining staff whilst I kept MasterB out of trouble. There were more dressing up clothes up on that floor and MissB enjoyed dressing up as a butterfly
After stories, we headed down to the bottom floor where crafting sessions are held. The day we went had an elephant theme so MissB and I sat and made some rather lovely elephant ears together whilst daddy kept MasterB entertained playing on the train set they had down there.
We had the single pushchair with us and the museum is pushchair friendly, you can opt to leave it in the buggy park if you wish or keep it with you. There is a lift but we did find this was sometimes busy.
We had a lovely day at Seven Stories, both kids really enjoyed themselves and there is loads to do. We will definitely be going back soon even if we have to pay It’s currently £6.50 per adult and under 4s are free. You can also buy an annual pass for £26.
It’s the summer holidays and most of us are no doubt thinking of ways to keep the kids entertained without breaking the bank. My two are still in nursery Monday – Friday but we are always looking for places to take them at the weekend. Smartsave is a fantastic website which has deals on hundreds of attractions throughout the UK. I’ve been having a look what there is around us and there are some great deals such as 20% off Bluereef Aquarium in Tynemouth which we love going to. MissB and MasterB love seeing all the fish and the seals there, we probably go at least twice a year so it’s good to find a way of saving us some money on our visits
There are also places such as York Dungeon, Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester, Cadbury World and many others. You simply search by area or by entering your postcode and then print out the voucher to use
As we are heading down to Derbyshire for our holidays in a couple of weeks I’ve been busy checking out what attractions are nearby and printing out vouchers for places such as Blackbrook Zoological Gardens. I might even take everyone to Cadbury World as it’s not too far away and it’s chocolate isn’t it It even handily tells me how far the attractions are from where we are staying!
It’s a shame we aren’t closer to London as they also have discounted theatre tickets, restaurant vouchers etc. It really is worth popping over to their site to see if you can save yourself some money
Reimbursement received for this post
Today we were invited to see My First Sleeping Beauty by the English National Ballet at The Grand Opera House in York.
“The My First…ballets by ENB2 bring your children their first taste of the fantastical and magical world of ballet.
My First Sleeping Beauty is an enchanted world of castles and curses, forests and fairies, created especially for children by award-winning choreographer Matthew Hart. Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous waltz-filled music includes the tune made famous as Once upon a Dream in Disney’s version.
ENB2 is a new touring company featuring graduating dancers of outstanding potential from English National Ballet School in performances produced by English National Ballet.
Children are welcome to dress up as a ballerina, an evil fairy or a Prince. We encourage them to clap and cheer, boo the evil Carabosse, laugh and even try some ballet moves for themselves.”
The production is aimed at children from aged 3 upwards and MissB is only 2 years 4 months at the moment and we’ve never taken her to any shows yet so I was a bit nervous and intrigued to see how we would get on. I needn’t have worried, from the moment we sat down she was entranced!
The great thing about this production is that the audience is encouraged to boo, clap and cheer so I didn’t have to worry about MissB sitting quietly for almost 2 hours. Admittedly her “I want a wee on the toilet mummy!” didn’t quite fit the storyline but she really got into the story. From the first dance MissB started clapping spontaneously and was eagerly stood up watching the dancing. She shouted “Go Away” at the evil fairy (Carabosse) and pointed and clapped with delight when the Lilac Fairy appeared.
I kept glancing at her face throughout the show and she looked awestruck bless her. I really didn’t think she’d manage to sit through it all as you can’t expect a two year old to have a long attention span but we made it almost to the end (we left 5 minutes before it ended as she started getting a bit restless).
My only issue with the day was that the theatre was far too hot and MissB was absolutely boiling bless her. My husband was silently melting next to me. Luckily ice cream in the 20 minute interval helped to cool us down. Maybe it’s a ploy by the theatre to sell more ice creams
The production is aimed perfectly at younger children, the dances aren’t too long, the story moves along swiftly and the narrator keeps the audience involved and helps the story unfold. As an adult watching the show, I found it beautiful, the costumes and dancing were amazing and to be honest I’d never opt to go to the ballet personally but I found this production absolutely brilliant. I’d recommend it to any parents of wannabe princesses or ballet dancers. I think it’s a great introduction to ballet. I’ve just been lying in bed with MissB before she went to sleep and she was telling me all about her lovely day and the dancing and the ice cream bless her. She really has enjoyed herself!
My First Sleeping Beauty is currently on a national tour and you can find details of where it is appearing and how to buy tickets on their website.
It’s taken me a while to get round to writing this post as it’s been a crazy month in the Brown household but I’ve finally got time to sit down and tell you about our trip. As those of you who follow me on twitter will know, we were lucky enough to win a day trip to Lapland for MissB and myself. Firstly, huges thanks to Spud and Spike for mentioning the competition on your blog – if you hadn’t mentioned it then I wouldn’t have entered
The prize that we won was a Lapland Day Break from Transun. I’ve always said that I wanted to take MissB and MasterB to Lapland at some point whilst they were young but I certainly hadn’t planned on taking MissB at this age, she had only just turned 2 and a little too young really but I entered the competition on the off chance and we won so off to Lapland we were going Expecting it to be a very long and tiring day we decided to pay for my husband to join us on the trip to make things a bit easier to manage and I didn’t want him to miss out on the experience. So it wasn’t an entirely free trip for us and by the time we’d bought a fast track passport for MissB, a one day passport for my husband (we realised his had expired), paid for my husbands place and then bought lots of warm clothes for MissB, we had spent quite a lot of money – whoops!
And so at 3:30am (yes 3:30) Thursday 22nd December, our day began…..Luckily I have a very good friend who was happy to come around and look after MasterB for us as he really was too young to come with us. We were due to fly from Doncaster airport at 7:30am and so needed to leave our house by 4:30 at the latest to get us down to the airport in time. MissB wasn’t overly impressed at being woken up at 4am, dressed and put in the car in the middle of the night bless her but we managed it and after a hasty goodbye to our babysitter we were off. When we left our house at 4am it was a rather mild 11 degrees centigrade! Warm for December and very warm compared to the predicted temperatures in Lapland.
After a 2 hour drive down to the airport, we checked in and made it through security. MissB was a little bewildered by everything bless her but charmed all the security people and we even managed to get her carton of toddler milk through security so she could have her evening bottle on the flight home.
Once on the flight we were relieved to have 3 seats together so MissB could sit between us and MissB loved the flight. She has never flown before so I was expecting it to be traumatic but she enjoyed it. She loved her in flight meals and looking out of the windows. Even now she says “airplane fly high though the sky, mummy on airplane, daddy on airplane, zara on airplane, oscar not on airplane” bless her
After a 3 hour flight we landed in Lapland and were quickly through security and loaded onto coaches. It was around 1pm and still light though it was just starting to get dark. It didn’t feel too cold but with darkness falling we were warned that the temperature would drop fast and it was predicted to be around -15 by the end of the day! MissB loved the coach (another first for her!) and as we zoomed across Lapland for around 25 minutes we were entertained by christmas music on the coach.
Our first destination was the “suiting and booting” building where we were all equiped with thermal snowboots and snowsuits. Luckily MissB had her own snowboots as they didn’t have any small enough for her but we found a snowsuit that fit her at least. Once we were all suited and booted we were back on the coach for a 5 minute trip to the activity area.
Once we arrived at the activity zone, MissB had her first experience of walking in the snow as we had a tour of the area and were shown where all the facilities were. I think MissB found walking a little bit too cold on her feet so after her first initial walk she opted for the preferred choice of being carried by Mummy or Daddy.
When we first arrived at the activity zone, there was a rush for the husky dog rides and the reindeer rides and quite long queues for them so we went and booked our timeslot to go visit Santa and then decided to go and have lunch in the restaurant in the hope the queues for the activities would die down a bit once the initial rush was over. Lunch was served in a cabin and was buffet style – vegetarian option was soup, pasta and a mushroom sauce, chips and bread which went down very nicely. After filling up on food we then decided it was time to brave the queues and try out some of the activities. Our first choice was the reindeer sleigh ride, there was no queue for this whatsoever by the time we got there so we bundled into the sleigh. MissB absolutely loved the reindeer ride and she snuggled up inbetween my legs and smiled the whole way. Daddy was in the sleigh in front of us.
Now with a two year old who doesn’t like the cold, we had to choose our tactics wisely as if we were outside for too long MissB got upset. Luckily there was another cabin which serves biscuits and hot drinks all day and this proved to be a valuable resource. It also had a roaring fire in there and so between rides this is where we hung out. We probably spent most of the day in here to be honest as playing in the snow and tobogganing weren’t really MissB’s thing – trying to keep gloves on a 2 year old is impossible and she really wasn’t impressed with getting her hands cold.
After warming up, we then ventured out for a husky dog ride. This was definitely MissB’s favourite activity of the day. She loved watching the dogs running past with the sleighs and when it was our time to get on a sleigh she was so excited bless her. We zoomed around the frozen lake and I was very surprised at just how fast they went. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of the dog ride, we have a video but I haven’t had chance to download it off the husband’s phone yet. After the dog ride we popped into the souvenir shop to warm up and we couldn’t leave without buying MissB a husky doggy of her own to take home.
Finally it was time for us to go and meet the big man himself! Now I wasn’t expecting a lot here – MissB has never met Santa before and she doesn’t really like strangers so I was expecting tears but it was a day for new experiences and we couldn’t go all the way to Lapland without trying to see him at least. In order to find Santa’s house in the forest we had to go on a snowmobile ride to get there.
On arrival at Santa’s house we were greeted by an elf who helped us off with our helmets and showed us in to see Santa himself. At this point MissB decided that she didn’t want to see Santa and she refused to acknowledge him. In fact she refused to go within 6 feet of him and so the lovely photo of her meeting the real Santa for the first time looked like this – lol
After another snowmobile ride back to the activity zone we headed back over to the hot drink hut to warm up. By this time it was extremely busy in there as pretty much everyone was now crowded in warming up whilst waiting for their coaches back to the airport. But we found a space and sat down to drink more hot chocolate and eat more gingerbread biscuits until it was time for our coach ride back to the airport.
Once back at the airport, we had an hours delay for our plane but we were very happy to be finally on board and on our way home. As soon as we sat down we gave MissB her evening bottle and within about 15 minutes of take off she was….
MissB slept pretty much the entire flight home but she did wake up just as started our descent into Doncaster and promptly threw up everywhere. Huge thanks to the flight stewards who came to our rescue and helped to get everything cleaned up so we could get fastened back in our seats for landing. I guess a long day, lots of biscuits and strange food and the cold took it’s toll on her. Though after throwing up she went back to sleep and pretty much slept all the way home We finally got back home at 1:30am – 22 hours since we had got up and all 3 of us collapsed into bed after sending home the best babysitter in the world!
Overall we had a lovely time. Ideally I wouldn’t have taken a 2 year old, it is cold and it’s a long day and they can’t really appreciate the whole Santa experience but we have some wonderful memories from our trip and MissB still tells everyone about the flying high in airplane and doggy ride. Will we go back? Yes I think we will when MissB and MasterB are both older and able to cope with the cold better.
Points to note if considering visiting yourself:
Take plenty of hats and gloves – handwarmers are essential!
There weren’t any baby changing facilities (not surprising as it’s not really designed for toddlers) so be prepared to change nappies on the cold floor!
Ideally wait until your children are old enough to handle the cold before taking them – I’d say aged 5-6 would be a good age to visit!
Where else could you find a statue of the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry on his horse turned into a giant snowglobe? Well Durham Lumiere of course! Between 17-20th November 2011, Durham turned into a magical place when Lumiere arrived for the second time since it first began in 2009. It is a biennial event and I’m already looking forward to it returning in 2013. We missed it in 2009 as I was 41 weeks pregnant with MissB so this year I was determined to go, despite the cold and damp weather and having a 9 month old and 23 month old with us!
Now I’d love to fill this post with loads of beautiful photos that I took but to be honest it was really misty and so although we saw lots of the installations, my photos are all full of “orbs” from the mist (well either that or the spirits of hundreds of ghosts were showing themselves )
In total there were 35 installations this year, we didn’t get to see them all but we managed to see most of the ones I really wanted to. A couple were rather disappointing and some where amazing. The crowds were insane and although they advise you to leave buggys at home, with 2 under 2 we didn’t really have an option to and so we braved the crowds with the Twin Techno. The lights come on at 6pm and so headed into town at 5:30pm after dressing the terrors in warm clothes and ensuring they had full stomachs. With their usual bedtime being at 7pm we knew we were risking it but it was an opportunity not to be missed!
I shall start with my favourite installation which was Les Voyageurs, as we walked around South Bailey you couldn’t help but notice the glowing figures soaring overhead or sitting on the rooves or in gardens. There was something really magical about it, almost Peter Pan like. MissB loved them.
Moving on from South Bailey, we came to Rainbow Bridge, which to be honest looked nothing like the website led us to believe it would and was hugely disappointing. It did however look better from down the river which I think was helped by the mist. I didn’t even bother getting the camera out for this installation.
The Cathedral looked amazing with The Crown of Light projected onto it, definitely one of the highlights. It was absolutely stunning. My camera let me down here but I’ve found a video clip on you tube which will give you an idea of how amazing it was:
by rather poor comparison my photo looked like this
Some people apparently thought the giant snowglobe was a monstrosity, I however loved it. Anyone in Durham is familiar with the man on a horse statue that stands proudly in Market Square (he’s the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry apparently!) but to see him encased in a giant snowglobe was just as surreal as it gets! You can’t help but stand and stare.
As we were fast approaching meltdown from a cold and tired MissB we didn’t get to visit too many of the installations and I’m sad that I missed some of the ones I really wanted to see but next time round we will have a 4yo and a 2yo so navigating the crowds and the cold will hopefully be a whole lot easier
Unfortunately by the time you read this, Lumiere will be over for 2011 and you will have to wait until 2013 for it to return but if you do come to visit, here are a few tips!
1) Plan ahead to decide which installations you want to see. The website has details and maps so you can research before you arrive in Durham
2) Parking is crazy so leave plenty of time and pack some patience
3) Wrap up warm, VERY warm!
4) Expect to queue for food, expect crowds, lots of crowds.
5) If possible leave the pushchairs at home, it is bloody hard work getting them through the crowds but if you have to take one you will manage