This smile just makes my heart melt
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
On days when we don’t fancy venturing far from home, we occasionally pop along to Durham Botanic Gardens for a visit.
Situated not too far outside of Durham, the gardens are part of the University and cover 10 hectares. Now I’m one for gardening as a rule and all the different plants are a little mind boggling but as somewhere to go for a walk and take in a bit of wildlife, we find the gardens a great place to visit.
Now with a double buggy and 2 young children in tow, accessibility is always something we consider. There are baby changing facilities in the disabled toilet in the main entrance. We managed to fit the double buggy through all the doors we came across and around most of the site without much difficulty. There are some areas where the buggy won’t go such as in the cactus area of the greenhouse and the steps near the winter garden, but the map provided on arrival, clearly shows where steps, steep slopes and disabled access routes are.
We first visited the Botanic Gardens in June 2010 when MissB was around 7 months old and used our Snugbaby sling to carry her around most of the site.
It’s strange looking back at photos from that visit and comparing them to this time…
MissB loves the rainforest area in the greenhouses, you can press a button to get rain which always pleases her
And although we started off exploring the site with them both in the double buggy, MissB soon decided she wanted to walk instead.
No visit to the Botanic Gardens is complete without a quick visit to the bird hide to check out the birdies. I say quick because a) we like to check there are no other people in there that MissB might disturb with her excitement and b) we don’t like to disturb the birds and rabbits etc for too long.
After working up an appetite we stopped for lunch at the visitor centre. They have a limited range of food available but sandwiches and cakes are always available and very tasty along with a nice big mug of tea
We love the Botanic Gardens and think they are definitely worth at least one visit. We will no doubt be heading back in the autumn when all the leaves are changing colour as it will be gorgeously pretty then
Adventure Valley in Durham is only ten minutes drive from our house and so is somewhere we frequently visit. This is a relatively new attraction and since we started visiting there last year, the number of attractions available has grown considerably.
Prices for Adventure Valley are currently £7.45 (peak) and £5.95 (off peak) for a day ticket for Adults and Children (under 2’s are free!). You can buy an annual ticket for £39.95 which gives unlimited use which is what we have done as we go there so frequently. There are additional costs for some rides such as £2 for a pony ride, £1 for coin operated cars and £1 for a barrel ride but everything else is included in the price.
Adventure Valley is split into various zones with different activities in each area. There is plenty to do when it is raining so bad weather doesn’t necessarily mean a ruined visit
Indoor Activities include a large soft play area and a toddler play area. This is situated in a large building with a cafe and plenty of seating for parents to have a coffee. Now MissB is only little so the big soft play area is a little too much for her (she doesn’t think so!) so we try and confine her to the toddler area. This isn’t the hugest area but with a slide and various things to do, it will keep her occupied for a while. Of course mummy has to go play with her and you’ll frequently see me zooming down the slide with her (and sometimes MasterB).
Now I have to admit, the food from the cafe is a bit disappointing for vegetarians. We were pretty limited when it came to sandwich choice but to be honest most of the time we just get a coffee and a muffin which are perfectly fine
Also indoors is the cute animal barn with lots of cute (and some not so cute) animals to feed, cuddle and sometimes handle. MissB loves looking in here and she especially loves the giant rabbit
There is also the Busy Bees Barn which has a giant sand pit to play in which we love.
When the weather is nicer we love being outdoors as much as possible, there is absolutely loads to do for toddlers and older children.
Everytime we visit Adventure Valley we find more things that MissB is interested in, from bouncy castles to birds of prey displays. Throughout the day there are various events taking place from hamster racing to pig washing so there is always something to watch. We tend to only visit in afternoons as we are so close and as we have annual tickets there is no pressure to stay all day (and usually with 2 tiny tots a long visit is too tiring for them) but if you were to go for a whole day there would be plenty to keep you occupied. Adventure Valley is definitely recommended by the Brown family and I think it’s pretty much guaranteed that we will be renewing our annual passes next year