While my family and I were in the Vendee on our family holiday at the May half-term, we decided to take a day trip to Nantes. To be honest, we had never heard of Nantes before the holiday but had read an interesting article in the Brittany Ferries magazine and wanted to visit Les Machines de L'ile. And yes, it was mainly because I wanted to ride on a giant mechanical elephant.
Les Machines is an art installation on a grand scale. You will see how sketches are brought to life with small models, which are then made on a large scale. The elephant is an amazing feature as it is 12m high (that's 40 feet!!), and made up of more than 48 tonnes of wood and steel. You can go for a walk along three different routes, which take about 30 minutes each. When you are at the top, you feel so high and it is such a strange sensation to be moving along. One of our favourite aspects of the elephant is that its trunk splashes water at people. So funny to see, whether you're near the elephant or riding on its back (have a look at my vlog below to see it in action).
Alas, I am not going on a transatlantic flight. On Monday, I attended a pop-up event for Air New Zealand. I was excited to try out their immersive flight experience, and see why they keep getting voted Airline of the Year. It turns out that Air New Zealand is full of style and comfort.
First of all, there are some seriously comfortable seats. Even the Economy seats were nice. And Air New Zealand offer Economy Skycouch - which means that one button turns your seat into a sofa (the footrest comes out to create a bigger area). My daughter has been on loads of long-haul flights and she always had trouble sleeping. Only when flights were empty and she was able to lie flat on her stomach was she able to sleep. Skycouch is basically the answer to every parent's flying problem.
Regular readers will know that Moozles and I often have mummy-daughter days. She has always needed a little bit of extra time with me. But then, don't all children benefit from one-on-one time with a parent? Moozles has been having some friendship issues at school recently and has been feeling quite down about it. I had planned to have a special day, but then the lovely people from Travelodge invited my family for a #LiteracyLegacy visit to London. So I thought that a mummy-daughter weekend would be just the thing to cheer up Moozles. So off to central London we went for a short break.
First stop was to check-in to the hotel and drop off our bags. Then we went to Leicester Square for our Harry Potter walking tour (one of many free walking tours offered by Strawberry Tours). London has a rich history of authors, as well as being the subject and backdrop of many a book. The Harry Potter tour was an example of the literacy legacy of London. The tour was due to last 2 1/2 hours but my girl got side-tracked by Hardy's Sweet Shop after an hour and a half, and we ran off for some jelly beans. Then we went back to Leicester Square to watch Beauty & The Beast (we both loved it).
I love a UK city break. And though I enjoy exploring new places with the children, I adore having a little getaway with Husband. In January, exhausted from Christmas and winter colds, the two of us were in desperate need of some time alone. So we called in some reinforcements (aka The Grandparents), and off to Bath we drove.
As we only had one night away, Bath is a great destination as it is only 2-2 1/2 hours away from London (by car). And as it isn't a big town, it is quite manageable to walk around in a day. We didn't see everything that Bath had to offer, but we did take in some of the best-known sites. So I thought I would share some of the fun we had during our four hours in Bath.
The Roman Baths
Every year, my family and I visit RHS Wisley to see the butterflies in their glasshouse. There is something so special about seeing more than 6,000 exotic butterflies fluttering around. And while the children enjoy it, I especially love it. It is so calming seeing all their beautiful colours and patterns. And there are such exotic flowers and plants in the glasshouse, coupled with the heat that is needed to keep the butterflies alive, that you feel like you're somewhere tropical.
Children can do more than walk through the glasshouse. Wisley have a spotter's guide (for which they ask for a £1 donation) so the little ones can looks for specific butterflies and find out their names. We have been going since 2014, and I love looking at photos from previous visits to see how much Moozles and Dubz have changed.
Husband and I try to have one or two mini-breaks each year, without the children. Even if it's just for one night, we both feel re-invigorated having uninterrupted couple time that lasts longer than two or three hours and which occurs far from our sofa. I can't believe I'm the only person who isn't that lively and interesting on a Friday night after a long week mothering my socks off.
For the past five years, we have kept the breaks to the UK as there are so many wonderful, nearby places I have yet to explore. I actually have a bucket list of UK cities that I would like to visit in the next few years. I guess there's no hurry, but I am a bit impatient. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago we visited Bath. The lovely people from eviivo had invited us try out one of their award-winning properties, so how could we say no?!
I know that I am juvenile. I know this because I sniggered when I first heard the name of this town. But Lacock is no dirty joke. The village, which is pronounced 'lay-cock', is located in Wiltshire. And it is utterly charming. This may seem like a random place to write about, but this is where Husband and I spent this morning visiting.
Husband and I have been in Bath for the past couple of days, and when we checked out of our B&B this morning, we were advised to visit picturesque Lacock. The village dates back to the 13th century, and looks like it has been frozen in time, except for the cars. If Lacock looks familiar, it is because it is often used in period dramas, including Remains of the Day, Downton Abbey, and 1995's Pride & Prejudice (it was the village of Meryton!). Lacock Abbey was featured in a couple of the Harry Potter films, which makes it even more popular as a tourist destination.
I love living in London, for so many reasons. But one reason is that is makes travelling around the UK extremely easy. Although my family and I often drive to many of our British holiday destinations, we sometimes prefer the ease of the trains. I had been wanting to visit York for ages, and when I discovered that there was a direct train from London, I knew that we should head there for a mini-break.
In August, Husband and I packed the kids off to their grandparents' house and we headed to York for a mid-week break to celebrate my 41st birthday. We had a glorious time. We ate lots of lovely meals, drank plenty of delightful cocktails and saw so many beautiful sights. I thought three days would be adequate for seeing this city. But I was mistaken. Husband and I have already discussed returning to York - next time with Moozles and Dubz. There's still so much more to see. But I thought I would share my top five favourite reasons to visit York.
1. Beautiful Architecture
If you live in London or Surrey, you will have heard of Chessington World of Adventures. It is a fab theme park that also has a zoo, aquarium and petting zoo. Last year we went for Howloween, their cool Halloween celebrations during the October half-term. As part of our visit, we spent the night at the Chessington Safari Hotel.
We wouldn't normally think to spend the night at a Chessington hotel (the park has two adjacent hotels: Safari and Azteca), as it is only a 20-25 minute drive away from our house. But as we were offered a room for our review of the theme park, we thought it would be a great idea to check out the amenities. My children love staying in hotels, but a hotel that is decorated in a spooky fashion is even more exciting. They also loved that they had a little nook for their beds AND A TV. Husband and I enjoyed our comfy double bed and the complimentary WI-FI.
My family and I love an outing. And there is always extra excitement when we go somewhere for the first time. After a few months of hearing how lovely The Magic Garden is at Hampton Court Palace, we finally went for a visit a few weeks ago. First of all, I should probably explain what a magic garden is. It's not really a garden, and there isn't technically any magic. It's not a proper playground, but it's more than just some artificial grass.
The Magic Garden is a play area tucked in the splendour of Hampton Court Palace's grounds. There is a big dragon for the children to climb on, a cute tree house to climb and sandpits for them to play in. Kids can climb, slide and roll around. Moozles and Dubz spent 90 minutes of non-stop activity. Their favourite bit was sliding down the grassy hills. They did this for ages, and even managed to get Husband and me in on the sliding fun. We only managed to drag Moozles and Dubz away with the promise of lunch in the cafe and a wander in The Maze.