Blackpool: A bit like Vegas, there’s a casino, a roller coaster or 2, loads of hotels, and a tower. Totally the same place.
Viva Las Blackpool.
I’m pretty vocal when it comes to the subject of holidays and kids. Our eldest is now 5, and toddlerMonster is smack in the middle of her twos. We have never, until this week, been away just as a family of 4. I’ll be honest: To me moving your family to a temporary alien location, kissing goodbye to normality, and undertaking this alone was a step too far. We have always gone on holiday with my parents and siblings – a bit like the Khardashians, but with Easyjet not the Learjet. In my book, this is by far the best way for everyone (except probably my parents and siblings…so just me then) to have a holiday.
Anyway, without banging on too much about the dear god merits of cross generational holidaying, I’ll get back on my Blackpool bandwagon:
We did it, we took the plunge, and scarpered to Blackpool as a family of 4, for 2 whole nights, and 3 whole days, amounting to a total of 12 hours of car time. I think I may have had a little too much Isla Negra the evening we booked.
Here’s a little summery of the trip, including our top tips, in case you fancy hot footing it up to January. Blackpool.
The Big Blue Hotel
It is literally big and blue. So it was pretty easy to spot. That and the fact that it backs onto the Pleasure Beach theme park, so has 3 sodding great rollercoasters for a back yard.
I couldn’t recommend this hotel enough, the location is great and has its own entrance to The Pleasure beach which is open between 10am-11.30am everyday. The hotel offers discounted tickets, AND more importantly 50% discount on speedy boarding. I’ll get onto this point later, but suffice to say it’s an essential add on if you value your marriage.
We opted for a family room (because we are mad) which consisted of bunk beds (aka climbing frame) which were tucked away by the door and buffered by the bathroom before reaching the main bedroom. Anyway, bla bla it had a bed, it had a bath. It was comfy… and clean. Big tick. Oh and room for our travel cot (which the 5 year old slept in. Don’t ask). The 2 year old slept in our bed and so actually it was a total waste of money paying for a family room after all. We may as well have opted for a sardine can.
The girls LOVED the hotel, although there taste is a little warped – they also loved being taken to PoundLand to spend their holiday money…
The Hotel’s Restaurant was a thumbs up – and another tinkle on the high chair. I fear this may be becoming somewhat of a signature move for ToddlerMonster, perhaps tablecloths make her nervous.The Kids were really well catered for, a really impressive full menu just for them. Most guests were staying with children, so I shrugged the Peepee incident off, as did I the red wine going all over the table and carpet; they just replenished my almost gone glass with a full one. FOR FREE. They totally get The Issue of Kid.
The Pleasure Beach
If you have really young children then this theme park is ideal. There are 19 rides which are considered ‘family friendly’ and as long as the Dinky is on board with an adult then there is no height restriction. We did have to purchase a speedy boarding pass pronto after waiting an hour for a truly shite racing car ride though. This was purely a move to save our marriage from the cursing pit of horrors into which it was falling after that queue.
As I said if you stay at the big blue then the speedy boarding, beat the queue, walk into the exits (feeling a bit of a tit for doing so) and ride with no wait, is half the price. Of course we only found the half price voucher AFTER we arrived back at the hotel. Law of the sod at work once more.
With an hours wait on most rides we would have only got a few in, with the passes we managed to ride everything. Every. Signle.one.
Yeh yeh I was getting my money’s worth and refused to leave before it closed, frog marching the fam from one Kiddie coaster to the next.
It’s raining its pouring, it’s actually January.
So what I thought to have been iffy weather the previous day was in actual fact the height of the Balckpool summer. Normality reigned for the rest of our stay in KissMeQuickLand, but actually that was ok because there is a tonne of stuff to do which is on the inside.
We bought a Blackpool Tower ticket which allows you access to all of the attractions which are inside the Tower building. I had no idea all of this was there – I assumed the tower was just that.
Anyway, this ticket got us access to the Blackpool Tower Experience which is a 4D film of Blackpool which strangely is all done to a background of sunshine and blue skies. Perhaps the makers were having an ironic moment. We also got to go and stand on the glass floor hundreds of feet up which totally freaked both girls out – and Dan. I don’t mind heights , just queues. It was alright, but let’s be honest, the view was just a grey town, with a sea.
Blackpool Tower Circus was also on this ticket and was one of the highlights of the trip – it was Darcie’s No.1. Set in a really ornate area at the base of the tower, it even had a sinking floor which flooded for the final act. I was impressed. ToddlerMonster slept through most of it. Bonus.
If you venture to Blackpool I really recommend this!
Blackpool Tower Ballroom was also included on our pass. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, I certainly hadn’t been expecting to step into THE BALLROOM, The Strictly final ballroom. It was stop-in-your-tracks stunning. You are allowed to just rock up and take to the floor, lots of oldies were being persuaded around the shit-you-might-slip shiny dance floor. It was a hard sight to process. I just stared on hoping there wasn’t about to be a hip op situation. Darcie did cartwheels, ToddlerMonster got YouTube out, Dan bought coffee.
Soft Play at the Tower who sanctioned this? I thought we would escape the foam rollers and contagious ball pits for a few days, but no. Some bright spark decided to put a fat soft play IN the Tower. Christ… it was included, so in we went. I cannot recommend a soft play, it’s against my beliefs. (kid’s loved it).
The Blackpool Dungeons – obviously we didn’t take our girls into the attraction which has a severed head on the poster. That would be asking for trouble. So I can’t comment – I’m just letting you know that if you want to take your kids into a living nightmare, then you can. It’s included!
We did this on the morning before we came home – the beach plan flopped due to January invading. That’s ok, we thought. We’ll go to that waterpark, the largest indoor waterpark in the UK.
So did EVERYBODY else in Blackpool. The queue was out of the door to go in. If you venture here then arrive for when it opens at 9am, and book on line, 24 hrs ahead. You’ll also get a 10% discount. Obviously we didn’t do any of those sensible for-sights.
Again, the kids loved it. I felt like I was taking part in a capsized boat epic and we were all the extras. Hundreds of bodies, all bobbing about, water cannons going off, buckets filled with the wet stuff coming down on you, a lazy river which was actually quite the opposite, squatting whist a 5 yr old tags on for dear life (even though they can touch the bottom).
It’s worth a visit – just be prepared for The Masses.
Blackpool was brilliant, I honestly do mean that, equally it was great to hang out as a 4. It’s totally geared for kids which is half of the battle when taking the fam away for a few days. I don’t want to see another chip for a while, but then, that’s not exactly a bad thing. If you are wondering about a few days away somewhere then there is plenty to keep a family occupied in Blackpool, come rain or rain.
Viva Las Blackpool!
1) Waitress – think Wimpy, not La Gavroche.
2) Uber cab driver, USP: Providing a 3 course meal whilst in transit. Will that be the crusts off marmite on white or the mini chedder’s sir?
3) Hostage negotiator: If I can talk a Toddler in arsehole mode down from throwing a cold cup of coffee over cream carpet…
4) Cleaner: speciality tool, wet wipes. Kitchens, bathrooms, walls, arses. I got this…
5) Community police officer: you really don’t want to be leaving your dog’s shit on the pavement or park in the Toddler / Muma spaces on my watch.
6) Laundrette skive, is that Dot Cotton or me? Blurred lines.
7) Teaching assistant, I haven’t suffered at the hands of an enthusiastic 4 year old armed with a Biff n Chip book for nothing, and don’t even get me started on the ‘Pen Licence.’
8) Risk assessor: Stairs, streams, fire pits, ovens, big dogs, small yappy dogs, busy roads, quiet roads, bees, spicy food… you name it, I’ve risk assessed it.
9) Red Coat: entertainment covered 12 hrs a day, special skill: leading a dance off whilst folding washing, singing just like Adele. No lies.
10) Chef, speciality diets: no beans for one, only carrots for the other, no courgettes peppers or spice on another. No carbs, low carbs, only ‘good’ carbs. Gluten free, meat free, extra meat. Only meat. No sauce meat balls, naked pasta… with ham sprinkled on top of everything.
Have I left any out girls? Let me know…
Have you ever taken part in a game of Tug-of-war? You know, the really rough kind, heels dug deep, desperately trying to pull the other team over to your side, at any cost… No? Me neither, rope burn isn’t my thing. However I do feel like I have complimentary front row tickets to the virtual Tug of war game to end all games: The EU Referendum.
Trying to get to grips and keep up to date with the latest scaremongering is a full time job. D-Cam’s latest has been to liken a Brexit outcome to putting a bomb under the British economy; that’s bloody scary, let’s be honest. We’ve been there done that just a few years back. I really don’t fancy seeing another P45 in our family. Turn the page and we see our floppy haired plummy friend claiming that actually a Brexit outcome would contribute an extra £2.4 billion a year to our economy… Maybe D-Cam was talking about a sparkly glitter bomb full of £50 notes going off under the economy then.
Untangling the web of words between the two camps has been harder than untangling my daughter’s hair on swimming night: Frustrating and time consuming, requiring a saint like amount of patience.
How does the girl next door make an educated decision on this? How do I, as a parent, make a decision that I can stand by; If, when my girls reach their 20’s and can’t get a job, unable to get onto the housing ladder and England has its begging bowl out, Greek style, I want to at least say I did try and foresee this shit storm. I voted for what I felt was the best option. I didn’t abstain, I didn’t glaze over when the conversation turned to the EU Referendum (chances of that in the playground are pretty slim yes I know…) I got amongst it and had my say!
I have simply decided to focus on which of the many issues raised by the big wigs would have the biggest impact on our family: and for us, that’s money. We don’t have much of it, and can’t really afford to risk shit hitting a sodding great British Isles sized fan.
So my vote will be to remain. * holds breath, hands over ears*
Risking my little girls childhoods being blighted by another recession is not an option for me– that’s the reason our first is here! We love to travel throughout Europe – well, go on a week’s holiday once a year, so not exactly throughout…but the ease of no visas, the reciprocal free healthcare and the promise of tariff free mobile phone calls being rolled out later this year is good news for those who love a bit of Eurocamp.
Let’s be honest, do we really know enough about how those campaigning for OUT really plan to plug the drain of international businesses sodding off to one of the more attractive Single Market countries (jargon I picked up… you like?!). The pound has been at its most turbulent as the OUT campaign gathers pace, evidence this circus is already pissing on our parade. I don’t believe that they would actually shore up the NHS with funds is desperately needs if the cool weekly sum of £350 mill was suddenly available, there would be some other need, some other trade agreement to fork out for. It’s like being a parent: at last your Toddlermonster qualifies for their 15 hours free nursery sessions after you have been paying for it for a year. Oh lovely, I think, that £120 I was paying out per month can now go towards Christmas. Christmas comes, money’s been spent on new tyres, replacing broken school shoes and a vet bill. Shit happens. Totally comparable scenarios right?!
Get involved, have you say, and VOTE. At least you will have earned the right to moan about the outcome if you do.
For the official IN campaign click HERE
For information from the Government’s official EU Referendum site click HERE
I couldn’t find an official BREXIT website so I have copied a few for you HERE and HERE
I have been following the story of the 17 year old Gorilla, Harambe’s tragic death with horror. Harambe was shot to save the life of a 4 year old boy who fell into the Gorilla enclosure at Cincinneti Zoo this weekend.
‘What if that was MY child’ – a line which seems to run through my head whenever tragic stories involving children hit the headlines.
I have also been paying attention to the barrage of abuse that the Muma of that 4 year old child has been facing, almost with more horror than the tale itself.
The daily Mail led with the story today claiming that the parents could face prosecution for their negligence, and ‘letting’ their child slip through the railings.
Excuse me? Prosecute a mother whose child was almost killed by an animal that has been described as “very dangerous” by Sharon Redrobe who is CEO of Twycross Zoo in the Midlands.
Surely the buck stops with the Owners and management of the Cincinetti Zoo for not having effective enough barriers between visitors and their dangerous animals. Surely the safety of their visitors is paramount, surely it should be the parents of this 4 year old adventurer that are prosecuting the zoo and not the other way around.
Children are naturally inquisitive, they are quick, and they love to play hide and seek: these basic instincts are not the fault of that mother.
When you visit a zoo or theme park you expect the correct safety measures to be in place. Tweets slagging off this Muma are totally uncalled for. Yes, it’s tragic, of course it is, not least because this Gorilla is so rare and endangered. But it is the job of the Zoo to keep its visitors safe, which is why their decision to shoot the Gorilla was 100% the only choice they could have made. Many have claimed that using tranquilisers would have been a better choice, but this could have taken up to 10 minutes to become effective and in that time the Gorilla would have almost certainly become very agitated, probably ending with lights out for the little boy.
So let’s not hate on this Muma. She probably has blamed herself and relived what she could have done differently, if anything, a hundred times and more already. That’s what I do when one of my girls has an accident.
The Zoo should have prevented this truly tragic event from ever happening.
The buck stops with them.
I used to be obsessed with my old self.
By Old self, I am of course talking about my pre-baby days. My twenties. Those care free days when weekends were one long party, social after social. My legs were cellulite free, my stomach wasn’t bearing the scar of 2 caesareans and I could squint in the sunlight without fear that my face had just concertinaed up. My Old self didn’t have to worry about anyone else. I thought this was great.
And it was great. But I got caught up in this gig called ‘Adulting’. I was cheated out of my twenties, by the thirties bug.
I was earwigging to a conversation a group of girls were having recently, one of them was saying that she couldn’t wait to have a bit of time off from parenting so she could ‘feel like her old self again’. Is that even possible? Is it that easy for us Mumas to revert back to those days? Is it possible to shake total responsibility and that dull ache of worry for our children, and, in its place, have a truly carefree head-in-the-clouds break?
I would love to find the ‘off’ switch sometimes. Pop the kids in the cupboard with my very adult ironing board and skip off to an all-day session.
I love a break, mini break, evening break, hell I’d take a coffee break. But it no longer makes me feel like my pre baby self, my old self. I can’t really remember who that person was anymore. Obviously the silly giggly gormless girl still lives inside of me but she grew some wrinkles, I think she found some morals and her head definitely won’t let her get away with buying the cheapest wine on the shelf anymore. Sigh.
The thing is I don’t mind. I’ve stopped looking for my old self. I’m growing really quite fond of this old bag instead. Life in the Thirties lane gets my vote. Over the past 5 years I have grown to love my Muma responsibilities, no I won’t get slushy, but it is pretty cool being someone’s ‘go-to’. However my wardrobe has taken a bit of a nose dive in the fashion stakes: I own a coat with a hood and wear it. Heels feel barbaric (how did I ever run up and down escalators in these) I now look like I need a wee when I walk in them. I love an elasticated waist – and still can’t part with my gigantic caesarean pants!
But I wonder if hankering after your twenties self is universal to all, kids or no kids? I don’t think my girls should shoulder all of the blame for the loss of my ‘old self’. Cellulite is not exclusive to us Mumas, likewise those long forgotten bikini pogo stick figures. Wrinkles don’t just target those who procreate – although I do claim the baggage under my eyes as being a direct result of 5 years of baby induced sleep deprivation.
Is it really entirely the fault of my children that I own a sewing kit, a ‘general cards’ basket, gift wrapping caddy, a steam mop and a sodding great hose?! Probably not…
That’ll be my old self playing at Adulting then.
Adulting with my new hose! Twenties self would be puking in the corner.
My quest to seek out the most child friendly eateries in Sussex has taken me to Baca’s Coffee Bar this week. Set just a few hundred yards from the seafront in the little town of Seaford, Baca’s stands proud to serve unique coffee and tea blends alongside locally sourced food. I have often found this organic approach to be exclusively accessible to those amongst us who are not steering their laden down buggies along the high street, complete with a demanding toddler in tow. I had heard that this was not the case at Baca’s…
Armed with my ToddlerMonster, we stepped into the very chic coffee bar. A cool grey is the back drop for a collection of vintage mirrors, with shelving crates from the local farm shop, and coffee pots from all corners of the world. A stripped back bar gives off a relaxed rustic feel, but, more importantly, is keeper of the most delicious looking homemade cakes and pastries. The vibe is effortlessly cool here. Not mumsey. Not one bit mumsey. Hurrah! You would be forgiven for momentarily forgetting you were in Seaford, and instead bang in the middle of the Brighton lanes.
The owners of Baca’s Coffee Bar are a husband and wife team who have small children of their own- so they get it. They get that children don’t sit still without a very good reason. They get that children can be fussy eaters. But most importantly they seem to appreciate, and not mind, that their pint sized clientele come with the loudest of voices!
The warm welcome immediately put me at ease – there were plenty of highchairs, and the buggy was stored without fuss. But the best surprise, the bit that had ToddlerMonster’s eyes on stalks was the toy bag tree! Let me explain… Here, was a giant pencil standing in the corner, with different coloured drawstring bags hanging from it- all for the taking. A different surprise in each one (yes Lila checked..!). Farm animals, a train set, books, stickle bricks, card games. What a frankly genius idea! I must mention too the well stocked big-enough-for-a-buggy, loo. Spotless, with a change matt, wet wipes & paper towels. All that a parent could wish for!
But let’s get to the crux of it. The coffee.
It’s quite clear that coffee is at the heart of Baca’s. Namier, the owner, explains that the Horsham Coffee Roaster supplies them with a unique Benchmark single origin Brazilian coffee – only available on a seasonal basis. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I understood exactly what that means, but what I did understand is that this is rare and makes Baca’s unique in this area. I was urged to try the coffee without my usual large dose of sugar, reluctantly I did. Smooth, rich, naturally sweet, not bitter. No, I’m not talking about my husband.
For 20 years I have been drinking coffee with sugar, until this day. The flavour of this coffee is so good I didn’t miss it, with double shots served as a standard. I’m assured that the drip coffee changes every 2-3 weeks too. For the tea connoisseurs amongst us there is a vast selection from the Bluebird Tea Company Mixologists. As for ToddlerMonster? She was quite happy playing with her zoo animals sipping her Montezuma’s hot chocolate thank you very much…
Not forgetting the food.
Great lengths have been gone to, to ensure that everything served at Baca’s has been locally sourced. The cakes are made by a fellow Muma in the town, the meat comes from a butchers a few miles down the road, as does the bread. Even the milk is bought directly from the dairy farmers rather than a wholesaler. This is a café with a conscience, and with such I can enjoy the crumbly almond croissant, or a slice of the delicious Bakewell cake (almost) guilt free. On this occasion I devoured the Portbello mushroom, gruyere cheese and thyme toasted on Norfolk multi grain bread. D-E-licious.
I’m getting caught up in the organic abyss here – ToddlerMonsters are of course catered for, or ‘Little Munchkins’ as the menu calls them. Offering kid-simple sandwiches, a soup and the much loved hummus / breadstick / cucumber combo. Great for keeping busy fingers occupied…
Hiding behind that rustic, urban decor is a café that has munchkins firmly at their heart. A great addition to the towns thriving café culture and a welcome new addition to my weekly routine!
Baca’s Coffee Bar
2 Dane Road
Monday – Friday: 7am – 5pm
Saturday: 9am – 3pm.
*Not a sponsored post*
We have just come back from our debut family weekend trip to CentreParcs. Here are my top hacks I’ll be referring back to for next time – and yes, there will be a next time: Toddlers are not aliens here.
- Arrive for 10am & head to the pool – Although you won’t have access to your lodge until 3pm (2pm if you pay the supplement) you can use the facilities on site from 10am. We were told at the CenterParcs check in point that we couldn’t use the pool until 2pm, we obeyed and instead dragged 2 kids around in the rain until it was time for us to check in. However, others in our party did use the pool from 10am with no problem at all, and this is what we would do next time for sure! (There wasn’t a Rottweiler guarding the entrance!)
- Hire Bikes: from 11am on day of arrival. It’s by far the quickest and easiest way to get around CenterParcs. There are brilliant cycle routes, and the fact that cars have to be in the main car park by 10pm on the day of your arrival means you are safe from traffic, apart from the odd service vehicle. Our girls are 2 & 5 so we hired a carriage for the back of Dan’s bike (lucky him!) The girls LOVED it. Even better is the serious amount of storage behind the seats for carting around all of the usual ‘under the buggy’ crap. You can hire balance bikes, bikes with stabilisers, traditional chick cycles and mountain bikes. They were all really good condition and came with locks.
- Pay to be central. Yes, it is extra – again. But the site is huge, and if like us you have 2 small children in tow the last thing we wanted was long hikes between the pool and our lodge. We figured this is where our girls would be most keen to hang out and so choose a lodge as close as possible. It minimised tantrums and cycling effort (I had no idea how unfit I am, CenterParcs is massive!) so worth the extra £ at the point of booking.
- Afternoons at the pool. The difference between the mornings and afternoons in the pool was unbelievable. The famous CenterParcs pool opens at 10am – Think Black Friday, with the amount of people waiting to get into the changing rooms on the dot of 10. The queues for the 4 big slides were seriously long, 20 minutes was the longest we waited for. The outside pool was so packed it was like watching pasta come to the boil! The afternoon was the opposite, especially on the day we arrived. We pretty much had the place to ourselves.
- Bring inflatables & Bucket n spades with you- and don’t get ripped off! We bought a beach ball in Morrisons for 99p. The exact same beach ball was being sold at CenterParcs for £5.99! We also took a bucket and spade each to the pool. There are sandpits in the toddler area. Yes, I was crouched over in my bikini making a Dinosaur nest: Because of course, we were at Jurrassic Park, not Center Parcs. Mild confusion for entire trip as Toddler Monster roared her way around the place in search of a T Rex. There is also a sandy beach around the lake for keen diggers… 6. BOOK BOOK BOOK! If you want to do it, Book it. The activities at CenterParcs get really booked up, especially things like the horse riding, children’s jet skis and the tree tops high wires. Although with the massive pool, the adventure playgrounds, & lake-beach you could get away without doing extras if you have under 5’s. Click here for the list of included activities. The Pancake house was seriously popular, we couldn’t get in without a booking on our first attempt to stuff ourselves stupid. We had more success when we arrived for when it opened at 11am. It has a lovely sunny terrace out the back, the pancakes were delicious – and almost guilt free thanks to the cycling! Next time I’d love to book into the Spa…
- 7. Take a BBQ & kitchen essentials. They do sell pretty much everything you need in the little shop at CenterParcs, but you’ll pay a premium for it, and you won’t have your car boot handy to pop it all in to take home… So it’s a good idea to plan out if you will be eating in or out and take your supplies with you. (Even down to the nitty gritty of washing up liquid, loo roll and bin bags! Oh the glamour!) The lodges all have outdoor tables and chairs with a BBQ area, we made use of it one evening and it was lovely amongst the trees!
- 8. Restaurants at Center Parcs: The sports bar is on the lake, in the big sports complex. It serves Weatherspoons style grub. Not particularly special BUT it serves wine, AND has a soft play area which our girls loved. Tick, tick. Café Rouge is in the Plaza and is one of only 2 places that serve breakfast. Again, it has a little soft play area. The only thing about Café Rouge is that it has a stream with no fences running in between the tables with fish in. If you have a wobbly toddler then you’ll be on your guard… But it is pretty! Hucks is the American restaurant and serves your burger / steak / chip classics. It does a children’s buffet which was basic kids food, but good value. It has a soft play for toddlers, an adventure play Castle for the older ones and an i-station for older kids. VERY child friendly and serve a mean Daiquiri. There are a couple of Starbucks (plaza & Sports complex) No soft play… but essential caffeine fix to get around all of the activities and pander to whinging kids.9. Take your joggers, some decent swimwear & get a Tan! There is absolutely no point taking anything nice to wear. Embrace the opportunity to leave your skinnys at home, cycling in them would be impossible and so uncomfortable! Pack wellies, trainers and hair bands: no heels needed! Same for the kids. I did however have a spray tan. Knowing I’d be spending more time standing out of the pool than submerged I decided it would be a good investment. Well, tanned cellulite always looks better doesn’t it… Same applies for the bikini. Get a tight one – those slides are fast. You know what I’m saying.
- 10. LONGLEAT SAFARI PARK is literally 3 minutes up the road from the main CenterParcs entrance. We did this on the Monday, our check out day. You can stay in the park and use all of the facilities as long as you are out of your lodge by 10am. But if you haven’t been to Longleat zoo then you just have to do it! There always seem to be a few deals online for booking tickets in advance. We arrived before 10am and had the safari in our car almost to ourselves. Lions, roamed around our car, we fed Deers out of the passenger window, saw Tigers a few meters away… It was incredible. RECOMMEND RECOMMEND RECOMMEND!