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!
It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes…
Thanks Nelly but I think I’m good, I’ll just sit here at the park supervising the Toddler-Movement with my black skinnys on getting an increasingly sweaty crack, just in case little Gabriel’s Muma should notice my unshaven white luminous legs in the shorts I really wish I was wearing.
I would come and splash in the waves at the beach kids, but Muma hasn’t got herself ‘bikini ready’ and an off guard super fun wade-about is not what this hairy, non-bronzed non-svelte, Muma wants to take part in.Soz.
But here’s the thing, and this is actually quite a liberating thought:
NO ONE ELSE CARES!
- No one else cares that you have hairy knees, or the grey tinge of dry shampoo around your hair line.
- No one else cares that you have a serious muffin-top situation going on with the vest / shorts combo that you HAD to wear for fear of actually melting into the playground.
- No one else cares that you have a set of dodgy tan lines or cellulite craters which resemble the surface of the moon.
- No one else cares if you have a spotty chin that day following a satisfying chocolate binge, or the deepest darkest bags under your eyes thanks to a week of 5am wake up calls.
We are our own worst critics; I can often be found scanning for the onset of a wispy beard, assessing the severity of my tash or god forbid NEW LINES. I’m pretty sure those people I come into contact with are not busy scanning my face for excess stragglers. That would be verging on obsessive. So it’s just me then: Tweezers out, scanning. Obsessively.
My kids don’t care if I show off a bit of veiny ghost-leg when the temperature gauge soars off the scale. But they sure as hell will care if I don’t take them to the local Zoo for fear of a death-by-denim situation, in the scorching heat.
And my kids sure as hell don’t care if I look suspiciously pregnant in my bikini and my arse wobbles like a big whitish-blue jelly…(ewwww).
They just see their Muma splashing around with them in the wee-infested toddler pool. And I’m pretty sure that’s all they will remember.
Today is set to be one of the hottest days of the year so far. I shall don my DaisyDukes, which are inappropriately short and spend the day playing with my toddler in the sunshine, hopefully avoiding a sweaty crack moment. She won’t mind the ice cream gut I have been putting so much work into lately, or the dodgy tan lines that are all over my shoulders. I’m pretty sure the fellow Muma’s at the Zoo aren’t going to mind my get-up either. They will be too busy keeping eyes on their own charges to care about my hairy thigh situation.
Break out the bikinis and shorts, the flimsy dresses and the skirts. No one is actually looking at you the way you look at yourself in the mirror. (Picture the flab-grab, and the, suck it in-and-out, the, turn-around-and-strain-neck-to-check-butt-size-with-the-lock-jaw-look. These special ‘poses’ are fairly sacred. No one else need share in these moments, they are reserved just for us.)
Of course, I’ll have to remind my MumaSquad of this tomorrow before they raise their eyebrows at my tropical ensemble.
Loud n proud Mumas, loud n proud…
Because, you know what: No one else cares!
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.
*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!
Now, I don’t want to mislead you here. Let me define what I mean by Marriage break:
A whole week, well actually 8 days (yes that extra day makes all the difference in my holiday credits) is the amount of time The Hubs will be off duty for. Relinquishing Husband and parenting responsibilities. Lucky sod. He will in fact be skiing. I just about managed to type the word without displacing the keys. SKIING. His preparation for going on the trip was to cover his work commitments, and pack a bag. Can you even imagine the preparation involved if it was Muma who was up and leaving for a week. Co-ordinating the school runs, bed time routines, dinners, after school clubs, homework… you know the drill.
It just so happens that The Trip falls over Mother’s Day.
But this doesn’t bother me, not even a little bit. I’m sure the Guillian Sea Shell chocs are stashed in an accessible place for Darcie and Lila to TaDaaaaa them, at 6am on Sunday. Nice. I know there are several Mother’s Day cards floating around the house ‘Hapee Mudrs Dae’ blazon across them all. Good old phonics. I can barely read English anymore, I’m much better at deciphering PhonicTalk these days. So I won’t have the longed for Mother’s Day lie in, I’ll be up with the lark cooking up a feast of Nutella toast. But I’ll be feeling seriously lucky that I have my 2 gorgeous handfuls, happy and healthy by my side for the day. I might even get to watch 10 mins of a Saturday Kitchen episode if I play my cards right. (last count was 10 episodes on the Planner…ever hopeful.)
So there we have it, my marriage break; 8 whole days going it solo. I’ve got this. I’m actually looking forward to a little ‘time off’. A little bit of time to miss him. I think that’s a good thing, it’s been 8 years since I spent any time without him. He has been like an extension of me for so long that I’m keen to see if I CAN do it alone. I’m praying the girls are on my side with this and don’t spend the week pining for Daddy. I hate the whingeing, we all know toddlers and MiniMadams have A+’s when it comes to that. And mine can winge with the best of them. As long as I can keep that at bay without getting through too many boxes of Twister ice lollies…
Surely I can do this standing on my head?!
Toddlermonster proudly handed me her poo, as casually as if she was passing me her flannel or toothbrush. This was bath time last Thursday. Ordinarily I would have been a bit pee’d off that not only had I been handed an actual poo, but I had to then fish about for the extra bits in amongst the bubbles. Haul both girls out of the pooey contaminated bath water, before beginning the Getting Ready for Bed ritual. However last Thursday was not your average Thursday. It was the night before Hubster and I were escaping to Berlin together. Just together. For an entire 48 hours.
The trip was my birthday present. A present which would take very careful planning to co-ordinate one ToddlerMonster, our 4 year old young lady, an excitable Chocolate eating Cavapoo, (who was still recovering from having his stomach pumped after devouring a box of Dark Lindt) and an incontinent old cat.
Thanks to having very understanding and kind parents and willing Neighbour the plans were all in place. The bags were packed, school and nursery pick ups organised with Nanny. Cat food left, dog food and dog dropped off.
Blimey whatever happened to spontaneity?!
It’s just you, and it’s just me.
I had been so busy with the preparations for the trip that I hadn’t stopped and contemplated the fact that Hubster and I were going to have time. Just for us. We both love being parents, But we were a couple first and I strongly believe that taking a bit of time out to remember the reasons we became parents together in the first place is so bloody important!
I have to admit that I was a bit concerned we may end up doing nothing but chat-child and stare into the distance. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. We talked, with no interruptions. We talked about trivial things, things that don’t really matter. Things that we wouldn’t usually have time to natter about. We people watched, always entertaining. We ate our breakfast first; Before having to feed the girls and the animals. I used a small handbag – wet wipes wouldn’t have fitted. We laughed, a lot. Mostly because we were acting like loved up teenagers. We rode bikes! What the…
We put ourselves first for 48 hours and it was pure bliss.
Sure, we missed our brood, but the break from responsibility was like breathing really really fresh air.
I’ve come home really refreshed and really ready to be a Muma again. Meanwhile, our girls had a seriously fun weekend with their Nanny Chickens and Big Papa spoiling them with time and attention. Being granddaughters is a pretty big deal.
I’m really hoping the Bath-Poo incident isn’t going to be a phase. There’s no Berlin tomorrow to cushion that delight later.
If you are thinking of heading to Berlin below is a little directory of or trip…
Newly refurbishes, great cocktail bar, a spa and so central, surrounded by restaurants and bars.
Tip: Ask for a room with a view. We stayed on the 33rd floor and had the whole of berlin sprawled out in front of us. Its an extra 15E a night but well worth it. From the airport you can catch a direct train to within 100 yards of the hotel for 3.50E each. Bargain!
Checkpoint Charlie. There is a museum there called The Wall. It gives you a real life Snapshot of what it was like when the Berlin Wall was up during the ‘80’s. Cleverly done, it brings the history to life (essential for me!)
Topography of Terror http://www.topographie.de/en/ located at remains of The Berlin Wall, just a block from Check Point Charlie.
DDR museum – http://www.ddr-museum.de/en pretty small interactive museum. Beautiful location right on the river and below a great coffee / Crepe shop.
The Reichstag Building http://www.bundestag.de/htdocs_e/visits/kuppel/kupp/245686 we didn’t actually go inside but it’s pretty impressive to look at.
Brandenburg Gate Its super touristy, complete with entertainers (who aren’t hugely entertaining) but nonetheless it’s a pretty epic gate!
Block House Steak House http://www.block-house.de/block-house-restaurant-best-steaks-since-1968/?L=6 NOM NOM NOM! Gorgeous Steak! This place was packed with a queue out of the door by 8.30pm so maybe ask the hotel to book for you or get there nice and early.
There are lots of pizza and pasta places in the Alexander Platz area. We stayed clear of Schnitzels and Currywest! http://www.visitberlin.de/en/spot/alexanderplatz