Category Archives: Travel

Learning Through Play With Orchard Toys

Orchard Toys games have always been a permanent fixture in our house since Oscar was 2 years old. Our games draw in the playroom is full of them, some are almost 6 or 7 years old that I saved from Oscar for Archie to now play with. When Archie gets a party invitation 9 times out of 10 the present we give is always a Orchard Toys game as they are educational and super fun to play at the same time, which is definitely a win win from a parents point of view!

A few weeks ago we were kindly asked to review some of their new games which I knew the boys would love and get hours and hours of play out of. We love to play games as a family and every Sunday when they see their grandparents we try to always take over a game to all sit and play together.

My most favourite thing about the games and puzzles are that they really promote learning through play. Archie is almost 5 and is really enjoying learning is letters and numbers at the moment and being the little Brother is eager to catch up to Oscar. Oscar is 9 and even though most of the games are for a slightly younger age group he has enjoyed playing them with Archie and you can see a great sense of pride when he helps Archie to learn new things.

Archie loves doing jigsaw puzzles and we were kindly gifted two from their range; Number Street and the Giant Road. Number Street has lovely chunky pieces which are perfect for little hands and is aimed at ages 2-5. You have to piece together the number line, recognising the numbers and then counting the correct number of animals to play above the number. This is great for number recognition as well as counting objects aloud. Obviously for 2 year old’s its great for recognising and naming colours and animals too. Now Archie is 5 and secure with 1-10 we tried maths, for example how many more butterflies are there than the giraffes. We had so much fun with this puzzle!

The Giant Road was a big hit as Archie is car crazy. He loves playing with cars and makes huge traffic jam lines. The Giant Road is a huge interchangeable floor puzzle where you can create lots of different road maps to drive your toy cars on. You can also purchase expansion packs to make your road as big as you would like it. I have actually purchased this to go in Archie’s stocking for Christmas. There are other similar jigsaws available like the Giant Town and the Giant Railway.

Archie’s favourite of the bits we were gifted has been Little Bus Lotto. He has played this literally everyday since it arrived. Its for up to 4 players so we have each had a bus and he has loved it. Its a game of memory and matching and over the last week he has become so good at it. It is easy for him to understand which is great and something the boys who have a 5 year age gap can play together and both get really involved. It is amazing how competitive they get!

Llamas in Pyjamas is a matching game from the mini games range. Each player starts with a pyjama bottom card. The aim of the game is to be the player with the most matching Llamas In Pyjamas. It can be quite a fast game when the players get competitive and the boys got really excited playing. The Mini Games range is fantastic, we have a few now and the boxes are small enough to put in your bag when travelling or to take to a friend’s house to play. At only £5 each they make great birthday party gifts and are the perfect price point for Christmas stocking fillers.

Giraffes In Scarves is a great game to boost colour matching skills and counting too. This was probably the first game for Archie using a dice, which admittedly took a couple of attempts for him to not turn it onto the colour he wanted, haha! Once he got it the actual game is really simple, you have to roll the dice, pick a card and build your giraffes neck taller and taller. The winner who is whoever collects the most scarves. This is for ages 4-7 so is perfect for Archie and his learning age. It is great to take around to his grandparents to play is for 2-6 players.

The Knights and Dragons game is again a game of collecting cards and matching them. There are 40 cards; 20 Knight tops and 20 bottoms and you need to match and collect as many as you can. Archie thoroughly enjoyed this game and loved the brightly coloured pieces. You have to watch out for the Dragon in the pack of cards and he found it very funny when someone else got them. These games are only £8 and are so well made, they are really chunky pieces that don’t bend or break easily. Once again the price point is perfect for a birthday or Christmas gift. The games really do last for years.

There is a great first games selection for children of 18 months and over. At this age children are super inquisitive and are learning all the time from everything around them. They also reach lots of different milestones between 18 months and 3 years and absorb so much information. This range from Orchard Toys is great way to introduce gameplay, turn-taking and other early learning skills with chunky, wipe-clean pieces which are ideal for little hands. We were sent Mummy and Baby and Farmyard Heads and Tails which are both 2 piece games. Mummy and Baby is a two piece puzzle, with 6 different puzzles in the box. They are all different animals and the perfect set of first puzzles. The two pieces slot together easily and are great for hand-eye coordination. Farmyard Heads and Tails is a matching activity games, matching the different halves of animals, a tractor and the farmer. There are 12 pairs to match and you can also use cards to play a game of pairs. As Archie is older he preferred to play this version of the game.

A brand new game from Orchard Toys is Rainbow Unicorns. This is for age 3-5 and for 2-4 players. It is one game but with two ways to play, so there is hours of fun! It is a fun and colourful matching game where players must gallop over the rainbow, match the Unicorn heads and tails along the way to reach the pot of gold at the end. Each player has a coloured Unicorn player piece and if you come across a sad cloud card the play passes to the next person. You can also go on the Orchard Toys where they have lots of free downloadable activities from crafts to recipes. To match this game you can download a Unicorn colouring sheet.

Talking of fun activities, their colouring and activity books are fantastic. Archie loves to sit down and colour and draw and these books have also been a must for us when travelling, they provide hours of entertainment on a plane. We have the Jungle sticker colouring book and the More Things To Do sticker activity book. The More Things To Do sticker activity book is full of colouring, puzzles, odd ones out, wordsearches, dot to dot’s, crosswords and much more. The books are £3 each.

Match and Spell is a great game for Archie at the moment as he is learning to read and is always sounding out his letters to blend them together to make the correct word. Match and Spell is a spelling and reading game. It helps Archie to recognise his letters and Orchard Toys also have the next level games available to really help along the reading learning journey. I really liked this game and without had so much fun without Archie even realising he was learning along the way. You can play the game in two different ways; you can either match the letter cards to the letters shown on their board in the correct order to build a word or in the more challenging version of the game, players can use the blank side of their boards and use the letter cards to build the word of the picture shown which really helps with spellings.

Last but not least and the biggest game of all with 300 hilarious challenges is What A Performance! The aim of the game is to be the first person or team around the board to win. Along the way there are tasks like making animal sounds, different actions and fun activities. Oscar and Archie loved the magic decoder which gives out hidden forfeits too. This is great for a family fun game for all ages so everyone can get involved. We will definitely be playing this on Christmas Day with the whole family!

Orchard Toys really do make amazing educational games that are full of fun! The Educational games, jigsaws and colouring books make the perfect Christmas gifts for children! I have brought a few mini games as stocking fillers and some of the games from their French range as Oscar and Archie both learn French in school.

 

*Disclaimer: We were gifted the above mentioned games and activities by Orchard Toys. All opinions are honest and my own and we love the brand and have used them ourselves for many years.

 

Our Holiday To Mexico & Stay At The Sensatori Resort Riviera Maya

I always get so excited when booking our Summer holiday, I love the Sun and exploring a new country! We have stayed at five Sensatori hotels now and on the whole have always been really happy and the rooms/service and food are always great. Last year we went to the one in Rhode’s which was my favourite so far. Instead of staying in Europe we wanted to go a bit further afield and explore somewhere new. I searched lots of destinations but we chose Mexico and luckily Oscar and Archie are great on flights, so the ten-hour flight time didn’t put us off. The only down side was you are advised to have Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhiod which cost around £380 for a family of four and you will need a booster in 6 months so they last for 10 years.

When picking a destination we always look at what there is to do locally as Greg goes mad sitting around a pool for two weeks. Also when flying across the World its nice to explore what different countries have to offer.

Hotel

So we booked the 5* TUI Sensatori Resort Riviera Maya which is situated only 25 minutes from Cancun airport and after a long flight a short transfer was great. The TUI Dreamliner also made the flight even easier, huge seats, plenty of leg room (even enough for Archie to stand up and play) 100’s of films to watch, games to play, activity packs and headphones for the kids and the meals were great too. The boys liked how the cabin had lights that changed different colours which apparently helps your body react to the time difference better. We flew from London Gatwick and I pre booked the Premium security lane which is only £5 each. You go to the designated area and we were through security in literally five minutes.

We booked a Luxury Suite with Limited Sea View, Balcony and Whirlpool Bath on an all-inclusive package. Our room was huge with two double beds in it, a Whirlpool Bath looking over the balcony and pool, large open planned bathroom and plenty of wardrobe space. Your mini bar in your room is included in your all-inclusive package so gets replenished every day when your room is cleaned. In an ideal World we would have opted for a room with a separate sleeping space for the boys but as we booked only 8 weeks before departure there wasn’t any Family Suites left. Also at this particular hotel they won’t let you book a swim up room if you have a child under 12 in your room. In Rhode’s last year we had a swim up room and the boys really enjoyed having it and if available I would recommend one of these rooms.

The staff at the hotel were amazing! They are super friendly and very attentive but be prepared and have Peso’s at the ready to tip everyone! Around the pools, there are four lagoon-like swimming pool and a small pool and sprayground for children. The children’s pool had sweet little miniature sunbeds for the kids, which was a nice touch. The hotel is also on a beach and to be honest the stretch right outside the hotel had a lot of seaweed in the sea and workers cleared what was on the beach throughout the day. We hired a Kayak on the beach which is again included in your package, you just have to pay $4 per adult for the whole of your holiday for sea tax. There are no jet skis or water sports near the hotel which was a bit disappointing as Oscar and Greg love to go on a jet ski. We walked further along the beach, about 100 metres and there are rock pools and the sea is clear and fish swim all around you. The beaches are the whitest sand I have ever seen.

One of the boys favourite things about the hotel is that there are Iguanas every where. After breakfast every morning whilst their sun cream was drying in we went on a lizard walk and would feed them bananas.

There are six restaurants within the hotel; Spoons which is your usual buffet style restaurant. We had breakfast there each morning and some lunches and dinner there when we didn’t have reservations at the other restaurants. The range of food was great for us and Oscar and Archie and they have themed evenings too. Tapaz is a Spanish restaurant that offers lite bites and tapas style food. We didn’t get to eat in here but people that did that we spoke to really loved it. Siena the Italian restaurant was our favourite and we ate there twice, the food was absolutely amazing and decorated beautifully.

We went to the Zocolo Mexican restaurant which is great fun. Lot’s of singing, dancing, sombrero hats and traditional Mexican food. We had a great evening here.

The BBQ Grill was our favourite lunch spot, tables on the beach looking over the sea and gorgeous salads and barbecued food. This only runs from 11-3. You can also get a fresh coconut to drink out of here too, this is $5 dollars. You can also get lunch at Pizza Dude’s, we didn’t actually eat there as it didn’t have any air conditioning and we didn’t fancy it in the heat.

Zavaz the Caribbean restaurant was also lovely and had lots to choose from on the menu as well as a fresh salad bar. You can also have breakfast in this restaurant too.

Le Chique is an adult only restaurant. You can book this and send children to an evening movie and book the 14 course taster meal which is included in your stay. You can pay extra for 22 courses. Each course is weird and wonderful and very creative. We didn’t book this as the boys have never been to a kids club on holiday.

There are other bars around the hotel and three swim up ones. There is also a Starbucks which you have to pay for.

There is a kids club that runs each day in the TUI Sensatori Playhouse. Our friend used the kids club and said it wasn’t very good. They had booked this hotel as they had been before and the kids club and children’s evening entertainment was fantastic. They had the Nickelodeon licence complete with all of the characters for the kids to meet. The evening entertainment compared to the other Sensatori’s is shockingly bad and after watching one ‘clown’ show didn’t bother going back. There are no kids disco’s or entertainment each night for them like the other hotels other leaving them to sit in front of a movie. What they had for children was pretty poor. The one glimmer was their fortnightly Beach Party which was fun with games, a disco and smores.

On our pool days we headed to the family lagoon pool as it had a shallower bit for Archie as well as a deeper part for Oscar. Oscar and Archie made lots of friends and played in the pool with then all day. Like I said above the pool had a swim up bar as well as waitress service who brought us drinks and snacks throughout the day.

There is a spa on site that offer a range of massages and treatments and a lovely air conditioned gym that Greg used. A 50 minute massage was around $140.

Each part of the hotel had its own concierge block and anything I asked for was always done immediately. You also book your dinner reservations here too which was simple and we always got the time and booking we wanted. I also used their laundry service to have some of our clothes cleaned as we extended our trip and flew to America instead of going home so I needed a few bits freshened up. The clothes were back hanging in our wardrobes the next morning. It wasn’t the cheapest and cost about £50 for 10 items and a few pairs of kids socks.

On one evening Archie felt unwell and I needed a specific medication. I went to the concierge and asked them if they could get it for me. It was 10pm at night so I expected to have to wait until the morning but for $60 it was delivered to our room within the hour. Such amazing service!

Overall we really enjoyed our stay here 5* TUI Sensatori Resort Riviera Maya and had an amazing holiday. The rooms are not as well decorated as some of the other Sensatori’s but are room was huge. The food at every restaurant was amazing and customer service top notch.

Excursions

Dolphin Discovery’s

Like I said before we didn’t want to travel 10 hours and not explore. I did a lot of research before we left and one thing I really wanted to do was swim with the Dolphin’s. With Archie being only four I had to look at which ones had age restrictions. One company that had a lot of great reviews online is Dolphin Discovery’s. Dolphin Discovery’s have locations in Italy, Argentina, America, The Caribbean and in Mexico and are rated the #1 Dolphin Company in the World. When I looked at their website it had a live chat option so I told the agent what package I wanted, location, date and time and it was all booked in ten minutes and they didn’t charge for Archie. For $250 we all swam with the Dolphins for 50 minutes, had lunch included, access to a beautiful beach club and were given all of our photos digitally and one each as a print. I paid $30 dollars on the day for a return transfer and $40 for all of Archie’s photos.

We had a really lovely experience and Oscar and Archie absolutely loved it. There are lockers on site to store your belongings whilst you are meeting the Dolphins, you will have to give a $5 deposit which you get back. I was really impressed with Dolphin Discovery’s and would definitely book with them again. Booking beforehand directly with Dolphin Discovery’s is absolutely worth it as another family that were there when we were had booked the same experience through an agent at their hotel and paid almost double what we did.

Coba Ruins

Through our Sensatori rep on site we booked a day trip to the Coba Ruins. It meant being picked up at 7am visiting the Coba Ruins in the Jungle, visiting a traditional Mayan Village having lunch then swimming in a cenote in the middle of the Jungle. It cost £322 for the four of us. When we arrived in the Jungle it is quite a walk to the main Coba Ruins but there are plenty of Tuc Tuc’s which cost $10 to go there and back and hold two people. Once we got to the ruins and saw it in the flesh it looks so unsafe to climb, especially for children. To be honest we couldn’t believe our rep had sold us this trip on the basis he knew the children are 4 and 9. I took the climb to the top and came back down on my bottom. We then looked around the rest of the ruins and learnt about their history.

The coach drove us to the traditional Mayan Village which was great to see. We then had a quick buffet style lunch and stopped at a gift shop with lots of Mayan souvenirs. We got into our swim wear and headed to the cenote.

We walked through the Jungle and when we got to the cenote I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. There are life jackets to use as it is quite deep and it actually made it easier to bob around. There are fishes swimming around you in the crystal clear waters. After being annoyed about the non child friendly Coba Ruins being at the cenote made me pleased we had come on this day trip.

Crococun Zoo

We drove past Crococun Zoo on the way to Coba and it is literally 5km from our hotel. Our friends had also told us about the zoo before we left as they had visited it on their trip to Mexico in May. It costs about $80 for the four of us and you get given a bag of animal feed and your own personal guide. He took us around all of the animals and we got to hold and feed parrots, snakes, crocodiles, hairless Mexican dogs, Monkeys and so much more.

Oscar and Archie were brave and held and fed all the animals and we also walked through an enclosure where the adult crocodiles are. Talk about adrenaline rush!

Swimming With Turtles

We booked this excursion ‘Underwater World’ with our Sensatori rep. This trip is only a half day trip and leaves at 7.45am. We were picked up in a mini bus by our guide for the day Valentin who was amazing. Firstly we went to the famous Akumal Beach and we snorkelled along the Caribbean reef. We were so unlucky that we didn’t get to see any of the giant turtles as the sea was quite choppy but Oscar saw a stingray and we saw hundreds of beautiful fishes during our 40 minute swim. Archie enjoyed it too and had a special ring he was in attached to the guide so was happy bobbing along in the water, using his snorkel to see beneath him. Afterwards we showered off, had a snack and drove into the Jungle to a cenote in an open cave.

To be honest I had no intention of going in the cave but when I saw that it was open above us I decided to give it a go and was so pleased that I did. The cave was beautiful with Cat fish swimming all around. Inside the cave you could see the roots from the trees above hanging from the roof. The water was super chilly and I am glad I made the boys wear their slip free water shoes which made it easier for them to stand on the sharp rocks. I loved this trip and it cost £248 for the four of us for the half day trip but we got 50% back as we didn’t see a turtle.

We absolutely loved our holiday in Mexico and it is such a beautiful country with so much history. We can’t wait to take the boys back when they are bit older as there are so many fantastic excursions for families with older children. Mexico is one of the best countries I have ever been to and in terns if exploring, the best yet!

 

 

 

AD: Oscar & Archie’s Alex And Alexa Holiday Wardrobe & 25% off Sale VIP Code

Today as I sit in my garden it’s 32 degrees, it is lovely to come home from our holiday to such lovely weather. It definitely lessens the blow. We spent two weeks in Mexico which is such a beautiful country and then flew to Washington DC and then stopped off in Philadelphia on the way to New York. Packing for the boys is always great fun and organising lovely outfits for them to wear in the evenings as well as swimwear and day wear. Oscar being nine now likes to choose his bits off of the Alex And Alexa website himself and when I can I try and get the boys matching pieces too.

I have shopped with Alex And Alexa for years and throughout the year when the seasons change their website is my go to shop to update the boys wardrobes and find really lovely pieces for special occasions. Often as sizing on most items is very generous plus the quality is amazing some bits last for two years and all of Oscar’s bits gets passed down to Archie. Some of the items in this post we kindly gifted to us, Any gifted pieces will be written under the photos, the rest I purchased myself.

Alex And Alexa have a huge sale running at the moment with thousands of gorgeous pieces at discounted pieces with more being added daily! They have kindly offered my readers a VIP code which will get you 25% of all sale items with an £80 spend! Please read full terms and conditions at the bottom of this post. Valid from 00.01 GMT 25th July 2019 through to 23.59 GMT 29th July 2019

Code: LAURAVIP25

Here are some of my favourite pieces in their sale. I will be grabbing lots of bits for the boys!

For both Oscar and Archie’s holiday/Summer wardrobes I always get polo shirts, t shirts, swim shorts, flip flops or slides, trainers and shorts.

One of my favourite matching outfits for the boys was this one. Tan coloured GANT chino shorts (£45)  which are a staple piece as they go with so many t shirts and polo shirts that they have. Teamed with this gorgeous Burberry Navy and Check Jeff Polo shirt (£85), Oscar and Archie looked very smart. In the evening they tended to wear their Tom’s slip on espadrilles (with socks, much to my dismay) which are great for holidays and again go with everything.

Polo shirts – Gifted

During the days the boys lived in swim shorts as other than breakfast, lunch and dinner they spent the rest of the time in the pool. Oscar choose these Moncler navy logo swim shorts (£100) himself as he loves the brand and along with his Winter coat has a few bits from this brand. He loves wearing slides during the Summer and last Summer he had a lovely Moschino pair which are now only £39.90 in the sale but this year choose a pair of Burberry Black Furley Slides instead. These are £120. Yes that’s a black Iguana on the grass behind him, they were all around our resort.

Swim shorts & Slides – Gifted

A more casual evening style was this one. A lovely Gucci Charcoal Tiger Logo Print T-Shirt (£135) teamed with Ralph Lauren mid washed Denim shorts. (These are in the sale for £48.30). On his feet he has a pair of Black Nike Huarache’s. (£65) Archie has the same shorts on, with this cute Moschino Grey Selfie Bear Print T-Shirt which is £43.40 in the sale. I always buy on size bigger in Moschino.

Moschino t-shirt – gifted

Here’s another evening outfit with Oscar and Archie wearing the same Tan coloured GANT chino shorts (£45). Oscar is wearing a Fendi Black Roma Stamp Pique Polo which was £190 but is in the sale for £133. He choose this polo himself as he liked the yellow Fendi stamp. Archie is wearing a Burberry Claret Hammond Polo with Dropped Back Check Hem (£85) which I love. I love the Burberry check detailing on the back hem of the shirt.

Polo Shirts – Gifted

I love the Gucci polo shirts and t shirts for boys this season. There are lots of different designs as well to choose from. My favourite polo shirt is the Gucci Pale Blue Logo Collar Polo Shirt (£145). The collar detailing is lovely! Matched with their  Ralph Lauren mid washed Denim shorts I think it’s a lovely outfit! Excuse Archie’s Ukulele as he had just brought it with his holiday money from his grandparents and hasn’t stopped playing it since.

I also got the Gucci White Branded Collar Pique Polo (£145) which he is wearing here with a pair of blue chino shorts from GAP (£18) Again these chino shorts go with everything and fit really well. I opted against getting the same shirt for Archie just in case he spilt something down it! Instead I chose this lovely BOSS Navy Contrast Hugo Boss Sleeve Logo Polo (£65) which he wore with his Ralph Lauren mid washed Denim shorts.

Polo Shirts & Navy Chino Shorts – Gifted

You can never have enough swimwear on holiday and I always take at least three or four pairs each. Oscar has a couple of pairs of these BOSS Navy Logo Swim Trunks which are in the sale for £31.50. He finds them really comfortable and they wash really well. In fact the pair in this photo were brought last Summer and have lasted really well. Archie has on Moschino striped Bear swim shorts and a Land’s End Rash vest which are also from last year.

Another pair of Oscar’s swim shorts are these from Dolce and Gabbana (£95) I love their bold and colourful designs and always pick a pair each year. You can often get matching      t shirts too that go with the swim shorts which look great together. Another of Oscar’s swim shorts are these Burberry ones from a past season but there are still other styles available.

When we were in America the boys mostly wore t-shirts and shorts as it was so hot as they had a heat wave and in the evenings they wore their smarter polo shirts and chinos. In this photo Oscar and Archie are in the larger than life World famous FAO Schwarz toy store. Oscar has a BOSS t-shirt on from a previous season but there are a huge variety of others online and Archie is wearing a Gucci Grey Retro Logo T-Shirt (£120).

Terms & Conditions
Use code   LAURAVIP25  
Extra 25% off all sale items with an £80 spend
Valid from 00.01 GMT 25th July 2019 through to 23.59 GMT 29th July 2019
Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or promotion
Only valid on sale items and min spend of £80
Excludes home, toys, Gucci, Hugo Loves Tiki and New Season collections  
Please contact customerservice@alexandalexa.com if you are having any issues 

Our Stay At Port Lympne Hotel & Animal Reserve

On Friday we drove to Kent to the Port Lympne hotel and animal reserve. It is somewhere we have wanted to go to for a while and booked it about six weeks ago but kept it a surprise for Oscar and Archie until we arrived. On arrival when they saw the signs they were so excited but couldn’t believe it when we told them we would be staying there and have the zoo to ourselves in the evening!

We arrived at midday, it took us and hour and a half to drive there and I had packed a picnic so as we couldn’t check in until 3pm we headed to one of the picnic table areas to have lunch. There are a few places to grab meals around the park during the day like the Meerkat shack and a burger place outside Baby Doll’s. We started walking around the reserve which is absolutely huge (600 acres to be precise) and very hilly, but don’t worry if the little ones get tired there are complimentary pushchairs dotted around the reserve to use.

There are two different areas to the reserve one which you can walk around and the other which is the safari route. There are complimentary safaris running all day from Base Camp but the queues are huge. There are other safaris you can book and we booked a Ranger Safari at 3.30pm so took the walking route to start with.

Firstly we walked along the primate trail past all sorts of Monkeys and the Palace of the Apes where the Gorillas are. With every enclosure around the reserve they are absolutely huge, some of the biggest in Europe so sometimes you can’t spot the animals at all. This is why it is great to stay over night as you get two days within the reserve and also once the park is closed to the day visitors you can still go around the reserve and see all of the animals. The evening time was amazing we got to see so many more animals as a lot of them come out more at night.

We then walked past all of the small cats, Cheetah’s and Painting Dogs. Around the reserve there are plenty of toilets and places to grab a drink and a snack which is great especially when the walk around is so long. Both still snack shacks have a children’s play area too. There is also a Dinosaur trail near the small cats which is great with lots of different types of dinosaurs hidden within the trees.

We carried on past the Byson, Lynx, deer and Red Panda’s and passed ‘Hog Deer Creek’ where our Shepherd’s hut was located where we were staying for the night. It looked beautiful, I couldn’t wait to check in!

Further up was the Rhino Walk where you can walk right past the Rhino, sometimes them only being a matter of metres away from you. They are such lovely animals. WE walked up past the baboons and back to guest services. We checked in and then waited for our Ranger Safari which was booked for 3.30pm. The Ranger safari costs £45 each but you get a discount code to use when booking if you are staying at the reserve.

We got on to the safari truck with another family and our Ranger Charlie and set off. We passed the Wolves and Wolf Lodge where you can stay and have your own window into their enclosure and tree top walk way to look down and watch them. There is also a Rhino lodge here too that looks over the huge fields they are in. We then entered into the safari only route and our first stop was by Rosie the Rhino. Charlie told us all about her and about the Black Rhino, he was great with the kids too as Oscar asked him so many questions throughout the safari and he was so patient and answered them all. Rosie the Rhino came right up to the truck, I had never seen one so close up before.

We went passed the bear enclosure but could only spot one from a distance. They are an old elephant enclosure which is ginormous. At Port Lympne they make the enclosures as fun as possible and hide the bears food and treats for them to find and are always installing new equipment to keep the animals stimulated and entertained. There are also Capybara here running around and Vicugna which are cousins of the Alpaca’s.

We carried on past the camels, deer and the Przewalski’s horses which is a really rare breed of horse. The African experience was my favourite part of the safari we firstly went past the Wildebeest, Ostrich, Zebra and the African Painting Dogs. My favourite part was seeing the Giraffe. They came right up to the safari truck within touching distance. There is Giraffe Lodge here too which are a few safari tents where you can stay with a view of the Giraffes. There is also a Giraffe Cottage. For prices, availability and to see the different types of accommodation online click HERE.

We then checked in and was driven to Hog Deer Creek back past a few of the animals on the safari route. The shepherds huts on Hog Deer Creek start at £409 a night and vary in price depending on what day you stay and what time of year. The nightly cost includes a golf buggy from your 3pm check in until 1pm the next day and the two day entry to Port Lympne and its sister park Howlett’s which is 15 miles down the road.

The Shepherds hut was beautiful inside with a lounge area, tea and coffee facilities, a mini bar, shower and toilet and sleeps 4 with a double bed and 2 single beds made into a bunk bed. My first and only criticism of our entire stay is that having the two boys in bunks above us wasn’t great as the wooden beds creaked every time they moved and we were constantly woken up and I kept jumping up to check that Archie wasn’t about to roll off the bunk. In the end at about 2am, I ended up sleeping on the top bunk with Archie and Oscar slept below with Greg. If we stay again I will be booking a treehouse instead to get a better nights sleep! The shepherds hut was lovely and clean and the shower was lovely! The treehouses start from £409 to £859 per suite, per night.

Before dinner we drove round to the treehouse hotel where you can a drink and roast marshmallows whilst looking over the fields where the Rhino’s are. It is a beautiful view with the sea a few miles away and you can even see France in the distance.

I booked our dinner and breakfast sittings a few weeks before as they get booked up quickly. We went to Babydoll’s for dinner which is wood fired pizza restaurant. The food was lovely, Greg and the boys had Pizza’s and I had a steak with Pollenta chips. For a meal with dessert and drinks for the four of us it was about £70.

If you are staying at the park once the day guests have left you have free reign. I would absolutely recommend staying as if you come for a day visit you may not get to see all of the animals as the enclosures are massive and the animals are well hidden. Being able to drive around at night and early on the way to breakfast we got to see so much more than during the day as a lot of the animals come out more at night. We drove around until about 10pm then went to bed.

We woke up to breath taking views and water buffalo grazing by the watering hole in front of Hog Deer creek. It was a beautiful start to the day.

I booked breakfast in the main hotel which is the most beautiful mansion-house with the dining rooms walls painted with different animal murals on them. In the centre of the hotel there is a Moroccan courtyard which is out of this World and the perfect spot for a cup of tea or a coffee. Outside there is a terrace looking over the manicured gardens, maze and pond. There were weddings on both days we were there, it would be a beautiful place to have your special day at!

After breakfast we drove our luggage back to the car by guest services and grabbed the listings for the day of animal feeds and talks. At 10am we went to the Tiger talk and got to see both of the Tigers, we had seen them in the evening but asleep. We also got to see the male Lion in the enclosure next door but not the lioness and she was in the hut with their two new cubs that are only a few weeks old.

We then headed to Gorilla Gardens to see the Gorillas and they were relaxing and eating. One of them gave us a real treat and climbed up the side of the enclosure and slid down the slide. The boys loved it and were so lucky to see it!

At midday we went to the Palace of the Apes to watch the Gorilla feed and talk. It was absolutely amazing! They all came outside to be fed and we even got to see a baby Gorilla clinging onto its Mother’s back less than a few metres in front of us.

We dropped our golf buggy back to Hog Deer Creek at 1pm (you have to check out of the hut by 11am) and on of the staff can either drive you back to the car park and guest services or you can walk around the reserve. We walked back to the Dinosaur Forest and it takes about 15 minutes to go around, went back for a last look at the Gorillas and then headed home.

Our stay at Port Lympne was absolutely amazing and we will definitely being going back. I would recommend staying in a accommodation that comes with a golf buggy as the reserve is huge (600 acres) and very hilly and just makes it easier to get around to the different enclosures and make the most of your time at Port Lympne.

There are different types of accommodation to suit all budgets;

Pinewood camping pods and one Shepherds hut – Pod prices start from £129 to £229 per night. Shepherds hut starts from £199 to £279 per night

Forest Hideaway (includes a golf buggy) – Start from £249 to £399 per night

Hog Deer Creek Shepherd’s hut (includes a golf buggy)  – From £269 to £479 per night

Treehouse (includes a golf buggy) – Start from £409 to £859 per suite, per night

Tiger Lodge (includes a golf buggy) – From £1000 per night

Lion Lodge (includes a golf buggy) – From £1000 per night

Wolf Lodge (includes a golf buggy) – Start from £409 per night to £859 per night

Rhino Lodge (includes a golf buggy) – Start from £409 per night to £859 per night

The Bubble (includes a golf buggy) –  Start from £359 to £699 per night

Giraffe Lodge glamping – From £455 to £595 per night. Based on 2 people sharing including dining

Bear Lodge glamping – From £350 to £475 per night

Giraffe Cottage (sleeps 8) – Prices start from £879 to £1,459

And in late 2020 there will be the opening of Giraffe Hall where you can stay in this gorgeous house with Giraffe’s walking freely in the grounds. I can’t wait to stay here!

You will be able to get closer than ever before and make friends with your giraffe neighbours, as the resident herd peer into the lofty ceilinged drawing room or amble up to the bedroom windows, where you can feed them.

AD. Our Trip Down Regents Canal With GoBoat London

Last Thursday we took the train into London to Paddington to go on our first ever GoBoat London self drive, powered boating experience. In Central London is Paddington Basin which is a beautiful place we had never visited before with lots of nice restaurants all on the canal. We picked the perfect day for it and the sun was shining, the boys even splashed around in the fountains on the canal side.

When we were kindly asked by GoBoat London to come along and set sail I knew the boys would absolutely love it! Crazy as it sounds I have obviously seen and walked down the Regent’s Canal lots of times before but never knew you could take a trip down it yourself without having a canal boat.

The GoBoat London experience is very easy to find and you are asked to arrive 15 minutes before your sail time so you can go through the safety briefing and the children can get their life jackets, balloon, sticker and Captain hats. The adult life jackets are on board under the seats if you need one and you are given a map to take along with you with all of the points of interest so you don’t miss anything on route. The staff were so lovely and friendly and showed us our route and then we were taken aboard our boat for a test run.

The boats themselves are lovely and clean and each have a picnic table in the middle with seating all around the boat. Each boat takes up to 8 passengers comfortably. The boats are really sturdy and I loved that 80% of the volume of the boat is made from recycled plastic and they are completely electric to ensure no noise or environmental pollution. It really is such a lovely, clean way of travelling through London.

We started off from the base location at Merchant Square and headed down the canal past Paddington Station, along the way searching for giant Easter Eggs that had been placed along the route. The boys loved spotting these and each one we found we had to take a photo of to claim a prize on our return. We sailed through Little Venice and then joined the Regent’s Canal which has so many beautiful canal boats all the way down it. Everyone is so friendly on their boats waving to everyone that sails by.

We got to Maida Hill Tunnel which is only big enough for one boat width so you have to wait if someone is coming the other way. The tunnel was very dark and cold and is 250 metres long and Oscar and Archie loved going through it and hearing their voices echo. Archie loved it and said it was like being in the film ‘Flushed Away’ which he loves!

We sailed on and then you go through a much shorter 48 metre tunnel called Eyre’s Tunnel which brings you out to a beautiful spot where lots of house boats are moored up and lots of Moorhens had their nests. Along the whole boat trip its amazing how much wildlife you see and just how peaceful everything is.

You then sail past nine breath taking villas in Regents Park that back onto the canal. They are ginormous houses with the most beautiful kept gardens, some of them are worth a eye watering £120 million pounds! You then continue through Regents Park and past the zoo where you can see the African Hunting Dogs and the giant bird aviary.

We then reached Cumberland Basin where the famous Chinese Restaurant boat is moored and then head up the canal towards Camden Lock. This area of the canal was much busier with lots of canal boats and people in canoes. There were lots of birds nest as well along the sides of the canal and we saw so many eggs and baby birds. When we got to Camden Lock we turned around and headed back on route we came on. Our boat ride this far took around an hour.

We had booked a 11.30-1.30 slot so that we could have a picnic lunch on board. You can’t stop the boat to eat lunch but we slowed the boat right down and enjoyed our lunch whilst sailing through Regent’s Park and The Villas. Oscar and Archie really enjoyed being able to steer the boat themselves with Greg’s assistance and I sat back and enjoyed the ride.

GoBoat is honestly one of my favourite days out in London. Normally we are in town in the midst of the hustle and bustle but on the boat it was so relaxing and such a beautiful way to travel through and see London in a completely different way. We spent two hours on the boat but to be honest I could have sailed up and down the canal all day. The whole journey from start to finish is so picturesque and full of wildlife.

For a boat which can hold 8 people for 2 hours costs £109 (weekends and bank holidays) and £89 during the week. I think this is great value for such a lovely experience and if you have the full 8 passengers on board it only works out just over £13 each on a weekend or £11 during the week. You can book the boats for 1-3 hours at a time.

The GoBoat base location in Merchant Square is well situated as it is a 5 minute walk to Paddington Station, there are coffee shops and restaurants right next door and also a M&S if you need to pick up any last minute picnic essentials. There are also toilets in the coffee shop to use before you set sail as you cannot stop the boat and get off of the boat throughout the duration of the boat ride.

Overall as you can probably tell we absolutely loved our GoBoat experience and we had one of the best family days out we’ve had in long time! It was lovely to have fun with the boys whilst relaxing in the sun taking in some of the most beautiful sights of London. To be honest when your on the boat sailing down the canal you feel a million miles away from the busy city that is all around you. We will definitely be back again soon! You can book your trip HERE! You can even buy a trip as a gift, which would be such a special present to give.

Disclaimer: We were gifted our two hour trip thanks to GoBoat London in exchange for a review. All opinions are honest and my own and we absolutely loved it!

 

 

Our Magical Trip To Lapland, Rovaniemi With Thomas Cook

Last Christmas we had looked into taking Oscar and Archie on a Family Trip To Lapland, Rovaniemi in Finland as we had read so many amazing reviews but were advised as Archie would have only been two at the time (two weeks off three) to leave it another year as A. He would enjoy it so much more and B. He would hold his heat better in the very cold temperatures. There are lots of companies that sell Lapland experiences whether it be a day trip or a slightly longer break.

After looking at several different websites we decided to book and travel with Thomas Cook. The booking process was quick and easy online and at the time they even had an online discount code like they do at the moment which gives you £150 off any booking over £1500. If you can use the code BOOKIT at the checkout you can claim this saving. Thomas Cook offer three different Lapland packages; The Santa Sleigh Day, The Sleigh Bell Sleepover which is for one night and Santa’s Festive Adventure which is for three nights.

After speaking with friends who had either been for the day or for a few days we picked The Santa Sleigh Day. For a family of four (two adults and two children) the total cost of the trip is £2,134. It works out to be £533 per person. This includes

  • Meet Santa (each child aged 2-12yrs receives a gift)
  • Meet Rudolph and friends
  • Sled dog/husky sled ride
  • Explore Santa’s Village and cross the Arctic Circle
  • Free time for family fun and sledging
  • Lunch with soft drinks, plus inflight meals
  • Thermal suits and boots

After the trip being booked back in January we managed to keep the secret from Oscar and Archie until the night before. I had packed in secret and then when we arrived at Gatwick Oscar did start to wonder where we were going. Once we got to our hotel room we gave the boys each a special ticket and a beautiful card that we had made by The Fox & The Paintbox with all the details inside. They were both so excited as was I!

The next morning we got up at 4.30am and went over to the terminal, checked in and got something to eat. At the check-in we were greeted by two Thomas Cook reps who were then with us throughout the whole trip. When we got on the plane everyone on board was excited and in a festive mood and throughout the flight the reps put on a Christmas quiz, we sang Christmas songs and watched the Snowman.

When we arrived at Rovaniemi airport which is tiny we were greeted by lots of elves who directed us to our coach. (I also asked the customs officer to stamp Oscar & Archie’s passport which they kindly did.) Once on board we drove to the changing area where you are given your thermal suit and boots. We brought our own coats, boots, thermal socks and under layer thermals, ski gloves and hats with us and got all the boys essentials from AlexAndAlexa.com who have a vast range of amazing ski wear. You are also given a bag with your family name labelled on it to put anything you don’t need to carry around with you and this stays under the coach as you stay with the same coach for the entirety on the trip. This was really handy and meant I just carried around the essentials in my backpack for the rest of the day.

We then drove on to the activity place where we were each given a lanyard with the four activities on them to get marked off as we did them so we didn’t miss anything out. As we walked in to the woodland area I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Snow everywhere, a dimly lit sky and trees everywhere, it was breathtaking. Firstly we went inside Father Christmas’ house and he looked absolutely fantastic. He chatted to the boys and then gave them each a present (for children aged 2-12 years) which was a lovely plush husky dog. We then had a photo taken with him.

We then explored and wherever you walked were little teepee tents where you could sit inside next to a warm fire. There was also an area where you could get a cup of warm berry juice and some gingerbread biscuits. There is nowhere to purchase food and drink here so I could recommend bringing lots of snacks and water as it is quite a long time between breakfast on the plane until you go for your lunch.

We were then greeted by the Reindeer. Here you could meet and stroke them as well as go on an amazing Reindeer ride. Each family has a sleigh to themselves and we were pulled through what looked like Narnia, it was so beautiful. The boys absolutely loved the ride and stroked the Reindeer afterwards. I am sure it is something they will remember forever.

We then spent some time having snow ball fights and sledging which was great fun and the Thomas Cook reps also put on games and kept the children entertained.

We walked to where the Husky rides were and every family has an individual ride. I underestimated how fast the Husky ran. It was a great ride and the boys loved being pulled through the snow at such speed! By this time it was about 4.30pm and was already dark here in Finland. The sky is beautiful but sadly it wasn’t cold enough to see the Northern Lights. We were told that the best time to see them is in October so that’s a trip we definitely want to take Oscar and Archie on.

We had some more free time and enjoyed a warm berry juice around the fire and then went back on the coach on a short ride to where we were having lunch. Lunch was at a traditional Finish restaurant and I had a lovely soup and warm bread and Greg had a chicken and rice dish. To be honest the boys weren’t to impressed with the food options, they tried the soup but mostly ate the bread. There could have been a couple of simpler options for the kids I thought. But the food we did have was delicious.

We then took a two-minute drive on the coach to Santa’s Village. This is a much more touristy place with more people around as at the activity place it wasn’t busy at all which felt nice and relaxed. Firstly as a group we all crossed the Arctic Circle together which was a fun experience.

I took about €200 with us and in Santa’s Village there are shops, places to eat and other things to spend money on. I went to Santa’s official post office and sent the boys a hard each back home as you get a Santa’s official post office and Arctic circle stamp on the card when it reaches home. I also brought a couple of souvenirs and Greg and the boys brought bags of chocolate in the chocolate shop. There are also mini snowmobiles for the kids to ride on which Oscar went on which was €20 each for ten laps. He really enjoyed this.

Once we had explored the village we headed back to the coach which took us back to the changing village where we got back into our coats and gave the thermal suits back and then headed back to the airport. The airport is tiny but had a little cafe and a shop and the Thomas Cook reps also gave all the kids a Snowman activity pack as we got off the coach which kept them entertained whilst we waited for our flight home.

The flight home included dinner and the boys slept most of the way back as they were exhausted from such a fun filled magical day.

We had the most amazing trip and if we do it again in a couple of years I would book the Santa’s Festive Adventure three night trip so we have more time to relax in Finland and explore a bit more and hopefully see the Northern Lights. If you are looking to book a similar trip I hope you have found this post useful. Also a big thank you to Thomas Cook who made our trip really special.

Our 2018 Adventures

January

January always starts slow, after all we are recovering from a hectic Christmas, Archie’s birthday and the New Year! Oscar went back to school on the 8th and straight away had Rugby and Cross-Country fixtures. At school he was learning about Egyptians so we took a trip into London to visit the British Museum.

February

Oscar took part in a lovely concert at the O2 called Young Voices. He spent the day there rehearsing and then we went up in the evening to watch him, it was great! We went to Woburn the following weekend as the boys love it there, driving through the animals. As a surprise for Oscar’s birthday we took him into London to see the Lion King. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen and can’t wait to go and see it again with Archie when he gets a bit older. Oscar had a great 8th Birthday, we had family around on his birthday to celebrate and he had a bowling party with his friends as well.

March

This month I turned 30! We celebrated in style with a lovely meal with my family at the Grove, A Willy Wonka themed afternoon tea at One Aldwych with my lovely friends and the little ones, a fabulous night out at MNKY HSE with even more birthday cake with the girls and a lovely dinner at our friends house. I was thoroughly spoilt and had the best birthday!

We also took another trip to Woburn with my friend Georgina who had never been before. Archie had lots of fun!

April

April was a seriously busy month. We did so much! We visited Willows Farm as they had their Easter programme running with our friends. The Easter holidays were in full swing and we went into London to the Shrek’s adventure which was great fun and then spent the rest of the day in town.

We had a lovely Easter surrounded by family and friends and the boys ate way to much chocolate!

We stayed a night at Alton Towers in the enchanted village and spent two days in the park. Archie loved Cbeebies land and the park was pretty quiet so we went on loads of the rides.

We visited Zippo’s Circus which was in London and we had never taken the boys to the circus before. They were so excited and loved all of the acts.

Paradise Wildlife park opened their new World of Dinosaurs feature. We went on quite a rainy day but that was fine as the park was quiet and we got to see all of the animals up close. Oscar loved the new Dinosaur park.

May

Oscar had his first ever one night residential with the school this month. To say I was anxious is an understatement but he had the best time and enjoyed himself so much!

We took the boys to Cardiff to watch Monster Jam which is a great show that comes over once a year from America and the Monster Trucks have races and do tricks. It was SO noisy!

Oscar went to Twickenham for the first time to watch the Rugby with his Godfather and his two boys. As he had started playing it at school he really enjoyed it and had a really special day out with Uncle Matt.

We went away for a few days to Lulworth Cove in Dorset. We went to Durdledoor beach was is beautiful and then to Monkey World as well. Greg and I went to Monkey World years ago but had never been with the boys. It is such a lovely place and we got to see all of the Monkey’s so close up.

June

In June we went to Go Ape with some friends and Greg went up with Oscar. Archie and I stayed firmly on the ground! We visited the Warner Bros Studio Tour with my friend Claire and her son. We are so lucky to have this only ten minutes from us. Oscar had sports day and won the high jump, relay and the 50m.

We took Daddy to Bond In Motion in London. Oscar loves the Bond films and seeing all of the cars, boats and bikes used in the films was great fun! Its such a great exhibition and if you are a Bond fan you must visit.

July

Schools out! Oscar broke up from school at the beginning of July. We went on holiday for a couple of weeks to Rhodes. We stayed at the brand new Sensatori hotel which was lovely. We have stayed at a few of these now and always have a lovely time.

We went to Westfield, London to KidZania with my friend Claire and her son. I couldn’t get over how big it was and it must be so magical being a kid going to somewhere like that. It is a fantastic day out.

On the last weekend of July my Brother got married. Oscar and Archie were both page boys and it was a lovely day.

August

We went back to Woburn safari park again with the boys Great Auntie Liz. They love it here, I think this is our 3rd trip this year so far.

We went to Regents Park open air theatre to watch the stage show ‘Dinosaur World Live’. Oscar and Archie love Dinosaurs and really enjoyed the show.

Oscar learnt to finally ride his bike this month. He briefly learnt last year but wasn’t very interested but gave it his all and picked it up in no time at all. We are so proud of him!

We went away for the night to Southampton and stayed at the Grand Harbour hotel and on the second day we went to Peppa Pig World/Paulton’s Park. We went a few years ago when Oscar was younger but as Archie loves Peppa Pig we knew he would love it. Oscar went on the bigger rides in Paulton’s Park and we had a great day.

We went to Henley-On-Thames with Oscar’s friends from school for a night glamping in a bell tent. Just Oscar and I went, Archie stayed at home with Daddy. The kids all had so much fun as did the Mummy’s.

To end off the Summer break we went to the London Aquarium with my parents. We went on a behind the scenes tour of the aquarium which was really educational and we all had a great day. Finishing off with our favourite restaurant for lunch; Honest Burger. I have lost count of how many times we have been to one of these over the last year!

September

Oscar went back to school into year 4 and Archie started Nursery at the same school. It was so emotional for me and my anxiety went through the roof. Archie only goes three mornings a week but settled in straight away and absolutely loves it!

We were invited by Subway to an amazing NFL event on Piccadilly. Oscar ended up in the NFL live show and we had such a fun day out. The NFL is such a fun, family based sport and the atmosphere was fantastic.

We spent the day at London Zoo where we hadn’t visited for a while. There were new attractions in the zoo which was nice for us to see and the Zoo is always a winner with the boys as they both love animals so much!

Oscar and Greg also took on Liquid Leisure which is a giant inflatable park on a lake near Windsor. It looked like great fun and I am going to have a go next time.

October

My Mum turned 60 and we had a lovely family get together at my Nanny’s house and then a meal out too.

I had booked Greg a car driving experience at Christmas so we headed to Loughborough where he got to drive a 1970’s Transam which is Oscar’s favourite car and a Mustang.

During half term we went to Go Ape Nets Kingdom which was fun and Archie could join in too. We went to Greenwich where we went on the Cutty Sark which is a really fun yet educational day out. We went to the theatre to see Baby Bum Live for Archie and went to the new Rock Up climbing place in Watford.

November

In November Oscar took part in a big Taekwondo competition which he did really well in. We went to a great event with Zoggs to Coral Reef in Bracknell where we had the pool and water slides to ourselves with some other bloggers. It is the best pool in the UK we’ve been to by far.

Excitingly for me I managed to get Spice Girl tickets for next year! I literally sat online with every device running until we managed to get four. I cannot wait! That afternoon we met our friends in St Albans and went to Prime for lunch and then to the theatre to watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was a fantastic show and the kids loved the flying car.

We went to the Warner Bros Studio Tour to its annual Hogwarts In The Snow event. It is such  magical experience and really kicked off the Christmas period for us.

I took Archie and my friend her little boy who is Archie’s bestie into London to see the Room On The Broom stage show which they both loved and we headed into Oxford Street and got our own personalised family Quality Street tin.

December

December was by far my favourite and most hectic month this year! The boys woke up on the 1st to their naughty elves returning with their advent calendars and the decorations up in the house.

Oscar took part in the annual TKD Taekwondo championships and got a silver medal in his patterns and a gold in sparring. He was over the moon!

Archie had his first little Christmas performance in his nursery class and I had fun wreath making with my friends.

We went into London for our annual Christmas tradition to visit Father Christmas at Harrods. We have done this for seven years now and I love getting our annual photograph. It shows how quickly the boys are growing up when you look back at the previous years.

We went to the Watersmeet Theatre In Rickmansworth to watch the pantomime; Snow White and we had never been before as Oscar had always gone with his school. Archie loved it and danced in the aisle from start to finish. It was a great production and something we will do every Christmas with them now.

I went to Willow’s Farm with Archie and my friend and her children to their Santa Spectacular. Willow’s is always a fantastic day out and they put so much on at Christmas!

The Coca-Cola Christmas lorry was touring the UK and was at an ASDA nearby so I took the boys after school to see it. The Coca-Cola Christmas lorry always reminds me of being a child and when you heard the advent on TV you knew it was Christmas time.

Oscar and Archie broke up from school on the 14th after a lovely carol service at the local Church.

On the Saturday we drove to Gatwick and the boys had no idea where we were going. That evening we told them we were flying to Lapland in Finland the next day to see Father Christmas. I have never seen them both so excited, they couldn’t believe it. It was the most magical trip ever! We went on a reindeer and a husky sledge ride, met the big man himself, went sledging and played in the snow, went on a snowmobile, crossed the arctic circle and visited Santa’s Village. It was a trip I am sure they will remember forever!

Last week we also drove over to Bruges on the Eurotunnel which was a lovely couple of days exploring such a beautiful city especially at Christmas time and eating way to much chocolate!

Then we came home to a wonderful Christmas with our family and friends and the boys had a fantastic time.

Last but not least Archie turned 4 on the 29th. We had a fun filled day with bowling, Prezzo’s and a Paddington bear tea party with family and friends.

It’s been a fantastic year and a big thank you to all of you who come back and read my blog posts! Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2019! Happy New Year!

A Trip To Bruges At Christmas With The Kids

A few months ago it was Greg’s birthday and I just had no idea what to get him so in the end I ended up booking a hotel in Bruges and the Eurotunnel for us to go over to see all the Christmassy bits and the market. Booking the Eurotunnel was so easy and such a cheap way of getting there. As I booked a few months in advance it was only £130 return for the car. Before your journey you enter your API information and your number plate and that’s it. We turned up at the Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal 50 minutes before the time slot I had picked when booking, drove up to the booth which picked up my pre booked number plate, printed us out a ticket to hang on the mirror in the car. We stopped off quickly for a toilet break and a cup of tea and then drove through customs and straight on to the train. I honestly couldn’t believe how quick and easy the whole process was. Within 35 minutes we were in Calais.

When we arrived in Calais you literally drive straight off of the train onto the A16 which we then stayed on all the way through the Belgium border to Bruges. It only took one and a half hours (it is 74 miles). I had booked the Radisson Blu hotel in Bruges which is a beautiful new hotel and only a ten minute walk into the city. It also has a car park out of the front of the hotel which is only €3.50 a day. We parked the car and checked in and took our luggage to the room then headed into the town.

Bruges is just such a beautiful city. Straight away when you walk into the city it is full of small cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and the canals. Instantly the smell of chocolate and beer hits you when you are walking down the main streets. There are so many chocolate shops with the most amazing Belgium chocolates everywhere. When we got to the main market square we took a horse and carriage ride which was a lovely way to see the city and learn all about its history, it was a bit pricey, €50 for about 20 minutes and then you had to tip the man and his horse as well. Afterwards we looked around the market and headed back to our hotel to get ready for dinner.

The Radisson Blu Hotel is brand new and the family rooms (for 4 people) are lovely. We had two double beds, a lounge area and lovely bathroom. We had already booked Ellis Gourmet burger during the day so we went there for dinner. I would highly recommend as the burgers were great. It was roughly €70 for 2 adults and 2 children. It is lovely to walk around Bruges in the evenings at Christmas time as all the buildings are lit up and look so festive.

Breakfast at the hotel the next morning was lovely and then we walked back into the city. I didn’t rate the Christmas market, there wasn’t many stalls but there are some lovely Christmas shops around the city which sell beautiful decorations. We ended up buying a nativity scene as it is something we can keep forever.

Oscar and Archie really wanted to go on a boat ride around the canals which we found near to the Church of our Lady. We also went into the church which was beautiful! The boat ride cost €20 for the four of us and lasted half an hour and I am so pleased we did at as its a beautiful way to see the city.

We then had lunch at Otomat heavenly pizza which was really nice and again about €70 for four of us to eat and then we walked around the shops one last time and then headed back to our hotel to get the car. I had booked the 5.50pm slot back from Calais on the Eurotunnel but we were a bit early so they let us go on the train before for no extra charge.

I absolutely loved our couple of days in Bruges, we all really enjoyed ourselves and it is very Christmassy. It is such an easy city to travel to and with the kids as well was smooth and easy. It has defiantly made me think that travelling to different cities in the World for mini breaks is a lovely way for us and the boys to see some amazing places. Where next?

Get Ski Season Ready At AlexAndAlexa.com

Last week we took Oscar and Archie on a surprise trip to Rovaniemi in Finland to visit Father Christmas in Lapland. The trip had been booked for about 9 months but we managed to keep it a secret and then told them the night before at the hotel at Gatwick before we flew. I had seen from my weather app that it was going to be about -5 and could go as low as -12 so made sure we had everything we needed to stay warm. And with so many people going off skiing after Christmas and in the February half term AlexAndAlexa.com have everything you need to keep your children warm and stylish on the slopes. Thanks to AlexAndAlexa.com it was so easy to pick the perfect pieces for the boys, so we didn’t have to worry about them feeling the cold.

Firstly I picked their base layers, which without a doubt for any cold trip is a number one priority for any outfit. I picked them matching pairs from Tenson who sell a huge range of fantastic ski wear at affordable prices. Oscar and Archie’s came as a set and the Tenson base layers are currently in the AlexAndAlexa sale and you can use the code SHOP20 for an extra 20% off all sale items! I also chose Oscar some Tenson Moss Boots which come in either black or blue and they kept his feet lovely and warm. The boots are made from a warm and water-resistant material, which was perfect in the deep snow and the velcro closure made it easy to get them on and off. I was advised to get a size up to make sure they fitted in thick socks and this was great advice as they fitted perfectly!

For Archie I picked the Adidas Performance Blue Terrex Snow Boots. I loved the way they looked and knew Archie would love them as he loves anything blue. The boots have a waterproof climaproof® protection, PrimaLoft® insulation for maximum warmth for little feet and the adjustable strap over the laces gives a secure fit, while the grippy outsole offers added traction on snowy trails or sidewalks. Archie played in the snow for hours and the boots kept his feet warm the whole time. Under his boots he wore some Bart’s Snake Merino ski socks which not only looked great, kept the cold anyway and kept his little feet lovely and snug. AlexAndAlexa have a great range of ski socks in lots of fun designs.

When playing in the snow or skiing your hands can get so cold. When I put my hands in the snow last week stupidly without gloves on to make a snowball my lands literally throbbed, they were frozen. The last thing as a parent with your children in cold climates is them to get upset because they are cold. I knew we would be sledging and that Oscar and Archie would want to play in the snow so I picked some fantastic gloves for them from Molo. Oscar has the Molo Very Black Mackenzie Pro Gloves. Inside the gloves the lining is super soft and keeps your hands lovely and warm and on the outside there is a PU leather non-slip palm. They were easy for Oscar to put on and off on his own and I had packed hand warmers to use but we didn’t need them as these gloves are so good. I also picked a Molo pair for Archie, the Black Active Mack Gloves which again like Oscar’s were perfect and kept Archie’s hands warm whilst he played in the snow. Archie also wore his Molo Evening Blue Kate Hat which kept him so warm when we had to wear the snowsuits that were provided in Lapland.

On top of his base layers Oscar wore a long-sleeved t-shirt and then his AI Riders On The Storm Navy tracksuit. Oscar gets so many comments on how cool he looks when he wears this tracksuit, it is his absolute favourite. The AI Riders range is just so cool and with the goggles in the hood which are protective eye patches everyone asked where it was from. The tracksuit comes as two separate pieces; the sweatpants and the hooded sweatshirt. The tracksuit is super soft and is made from soft cotton and kept Oscar warm the whole trip. The top has added details as well as the goggles, a yellow pom-pom on the top and breathable hole designs for when your hood is fully zipped up. The sweatshirt is £119 and the sweatpants are £89. Loving the AI Riders range as much as I do I also got Archie a Winter coat too. We picked the AI Riders On The Storm Blue Down Navy Lining Goggle Hood Coat. Archie absolutely loves it and finds it so funny when we are out to zip it right up and show everybody. Again it has the removable protective goggles and the yellow pom-pom and has two zip up pockets as well. All of the AI Riders items come with a protective bag to store your goggles in when they are not in use. The coat is lovely and padded and wherever Archie wears it whether its in the snow or watching Oscar play football in the wind in the rain he is always kept warm and protects himself from the wind and rain with his zip up hood.

Under his coat, on top of his base layers, Archie wore the most adorable long sleeved top and jumper from the Moschino Christmas collection. These are all in the AlexAndAlexa sale at the moment and I have even brought it in the next size up all ready for next Christmas. The jumper and top are so festive and he has worn them to see Father Christmas at Harrods and to the panto and will be wearing them tomorrow on Christmas Day. He loves them!

Oscar wanted to chose his own coat so sat on their website for ages and in the end decided to be matching with me and picked a Moncler Black Bady Down Hooded Coat. It is SO warm with thick, cosy padding and a detachable hood. It looks great with a tracksuit underneath or when your off out smart in jeans or chinos. On the arm it has the Moncler badge on top of a small pocket and has two zip up pockets as well. This seasons Moncler ski range is to die for. I love the new Abeville coats and matching Salopettes, they will look great on the slopes! Oscar also has the Moncler Grey Maglia Lupetto Fleece which he wears all the time with Jeans and it is a smart jumper but keeps him lovely and warm too.

If you are going Skiing or venturing off to somewhere cold AlexAndAlexa.com will make kitting your kids out so easy. With their amazing sale on at the moment you can pick up some stylish steals! And don’t forget to use the code SALE20 to get an extra 20% off all sale pieces, but be quick before the sale ends!

 

This post is in collaboration with AlexandAlexa.com

 

Our Review Of The TUI Sensatori Atlantica Rhodes Resort

Back In July we stayed at the TUI Sensatori Atlantica Rhodes Resort for two weeks. We booked it back in February and at the time the hotel itself was still being developed. It was due to open in May but ended up opening in June. To be honest I was worried as a new hotel can come with teething problems, but on the upside everything would be brand new! The photos I had seen posted online looked amazing and we couldn’t wait to get there.

Before I get into everything about our holiday on our return my iCloud had a glitch and lost over 2000 photos which about 400 of them were of our holiday. I have a few so will share those but am gutted that I can’t share with you the videos I made.

This was our fourth Sensatori resort, we had been to Crete, Tenerife and Ibiza previously and know when booking a Sensatori hotel you are getting a 5* hotel with ultimate luxury with lots for the children to do as well.

We flew out to Rhodes from Luton which was fairly easy. I booked the priority lane as always which is £3 a person if you pre book and slightly more expensive if you purchase on the day. It allowed us to fly through security and into the shops! We were lucky to be the first on the plane and the pilot invited the boys into the cockpit. Archie refused but Oscar couldn’t believe it! We arrived in Rhodes quite late and the transfer to the hotel was about 45 minutes. Once we arrived, we had welcome drinks and were offered to go to the restaurant but as the boys were tired we were taken to our room by golf buggy where our luggage was waiting for us, along with a fruit platter and dessert tray.

We booked a family suite with a swim up pool and when we got to our room it looked amazing! A large main bedroom for us with a TV, mini bar which is stocked up everyday and is included in your all-inclusive, a second bedroom for the boys with another TV, desk and wardrobe inside. Hidden between the wardrobes in our room was the entrance to the bathroom which had a large bath/shower, two sinks and a separate toilet cubicle. The sliding doors then opened out on to out terrace and swim up pool. The boys loved having this and we used it everyday. There is tons of storage in the room, two wardrobes in the main and one in the kids room which was great to keep everything organised and room nice and tidy.

Within the resort there is the main buffet restaurant ‘Mesogios’ where you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have different themed nights and the food was really good. I especially loved the fresh honeycomb at breakfast, that was so yummy! The other five restaurants you need to book for either using the screens in the hotel lobby or using the TUI Sensatori app. Caprice is a lovely Italian restaurant, Gaia is a healthy option restaurant, Kuzina is a greek restaurant and Liberty is an American restaurant. The last restaurant, Citrus is an adults only restaurant. Other than Citrus we ate at all of the other restaurants and the food was lovely. You can also eat lunch at Liberty or Kokumi cafe without booking. We were on an all inclusive package so you can eat and drink as much as you like. This is great with kids as they can eat and drink as much as they like and throughout the day waiters/waitresses came around to our sunbeds and took our drink orders and brought it to us.

In the evening there is a entertainment programme which you can view on the app two weeks in advance. For children they have Playhouse Live, movie nights and fun sleepovers. On the boardwalk each night there are different shows either from the Sensatori show team or acts that have been flown in to perform for you. During our stay we also had the World Cup and they showed the England games on the huge screen in the boardwalk, had a BBQ and brought beers around to everyone. The atmosphere was amazing and the Sensatori team made it really special and great fun!

During the day there are so many pools to choose from; the adult only pool (obviously not for us), the splash park and spray ground which was absolutely amazing for the boys with so many great flumes, the indoor pool, the ‘quiet pool’ which wasn’t that at all it was more like another family pool and this is where we spent most of our time, the main pool by the family rooms and the activity pool where they had lots of activities in that ran throughout the day. There was also the beach which is shingle but the sea was lovely and warm and there is also water sports you can do. Oscar and Greg went on the jet skis and Greg learnt to Water Ski, which was rather funny.

There is also a full activity programme for adults and children that run throughout the day as well. There is a kids club and stay and play sessions over in the nursery. I didn’t use this myself as the boys have never been in a club on holiday but other parent’s we spoke to said it was really good. Oscar did go with Greg to the sports hub to take part in a Nintendo DS racing competition which they loved.

An activity which Oscar wanted to do was learn to Scuba Dive. You can do this in the dive school which is located in the indoor pool. He had a lesson in the indoor pool for about 70 euros and then a few days later he got to do it in the sea which was amazing, this was about 100 euros for the hour. He absolutely loved it and can’t wait to do it again, he was a real natural and the instructors were lovely.

When they were building the hotel they came across ancient ruins from 5AD. They excavated it and have built a glass bridge above it so you can walk above and look at the archeological site. The main part was the village that had a church, two live presses and around 80 houses. You can even look down one of the wells. It is an amazing thing to see and we walked across it each night, its beautiful.

On site there is also a car hire office where we hired a car for the day, I think it was 140 euros and we drove to Rhodes Old Town. It was free to park and then you walk inside the medieval walls and there are so many lovely shops and restaurants. We spent the whole day here and also dove to see the Acropolis. I brought lots of bits in the town for the unique shops and we also had a man in the main square draw a picture of Oscar and Archie which he delivered to our hotel the next day. It’s absolutely amazing!

We also ventured to Lindos on one of the days. We got a taxi from the hotel as it’s not to far away. It’s a beautiful town full of little quaint streets, hidden away churches and at the top of the hill an ancient castle. Oscar and Archie had a donkey ride to the castle and back down again.

The rest of the time we spent at the hotel which was lovely and with so much to do you can you won’t get bored.

One thing the TUI reps sold to us was the VIP Lounge at Rhodes airport as it is a nightmare. It was around £150 for the four of us and yes it did get us through check-in much quicker but after that it’s a waste of money. The VIP lounge was small and cramped, the food was terrible and then it was so disorganised getting from the lounge to your boarding gate, at one point the stewardess just pushed us into the queue and everyone behind started moaning and it was a bit embarrassing to be honest. One man even missed his flight. I wouldn’t bother purchasing this if it’s offered to you, it’s a waste of money.

Overall apart from the journey home (Rhodes is famous for being a terrible airport) we had an amazing holiday and would go back and stay again. With all the Sensatori resorts you know you are getting luxury. It’s a beautiful hotel and obviously as it was brand new everything was sparkling clean. We had a fantastic holiday!

*This is a honest review of our holiday and I was not compensated in anyway for this post.