Wednesday, 26 August 2015

5 Things To Do In London

We do love a trip into London town at least once a year and I'm lucky enough to live in Essex so not too far on the train. We usually go to Westfield Stratford for our Christmas shopping every year but we also like a day trip into London too for a show or to visit an attraction. If you are planning a trip into the city here are five ideas for things to do.

1. The ENO - The English National Opera is in Charing Cross and over the next few months they are offering some lovely Opera shows in London. I quite fancy going to see Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, running from 21st Nov - 6th Feb, tickets available from £12. There are now at least 500 tickets at every performance at £20 or under. 'Set in an ever-so English 1930s seaside hotel, Miller’s Marx Brothers-inspired song-and-dance Mikado is a popular hit with audiences of all ages. The combination of Gilbert’s virtuosic wit, Sullivan’s memorable melodies and Miller’s hilarious antics is irresistible.'

Other opera's this year are Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, The Barber of seville, La Boheme plus more.

2. The Tower of London - This is such a good day out for adults and the kids. It feels like you have literally stepped back into time as you enter the gates You can easily waste a whole day here. Ticket prices are Adult £24.50, Kids £11.00 or a family ticket (2 adults & 3 kids) £60.70. From here you can also visit Tower bridge and have a walk across the bridge over to the other side of the River Thames and Potters Field Park. Here you will find City Hall where you can visit The Mayor of London's Chambers.

3. The Royal Parks - London has some gorgeous parks and they are huge. Kensington Gardens is fantastic for the kids because here you will find the Diana Memorial Playground which is totally amazing (and free). Other parks include St James Park, Hyde Park, Richmond Park and many more. They are lovely for walking, picnics and sometimes even have entertainment provided.

4. The London Bridge Experience & Tombs - Fancy something a little more thrilling? Something to really creep you out? Well, The London Bridge Experience is the attraction for you. The London Bridge Experience is not only really creepy (great for the teenagers, probably too scary for little ones) but interesting too, as you learn all about the history of London Bridge and what life was like in London during the history of the bridge. Tickets priced at Adults £22.00 and Kids £18.00.

5. River Thames Cruise - Cruises along the River Thames depart every 30 minutes, every day of the week, all year round and they give you the freedom to explore the many sights of the River Thames from four piers close to popular attractions: Westminster, London Eye, Tower of London and Greenwich. Ticket prices for adults are £16.20 Under 16s travel half price and under 5s go free. Combination tickets are also available for cruises and nearby attractions.

Where is your favorite place to visit in London?

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Campaign To End Loneliness

I'm delighted to be working with Sunrise Senior Living on a campaign to raise awareness about loneliness in old age by hosting a meal and a game of cards with someone who could do with a bit of company. 

Research from the group Campaign to End Loneliness has shown how detrimental loneliness can be to a person’s health, especially for older people. One in five people aged 60 and over who experience loneliness say they have no one to turn to and It makes me feel so sad that someone, somewhere could be sitting all alone, desperate for company. All it takes is a phone call, a visit and a quick cuppa or you could even host a meal and a game of cards. It doesn't have to cost much money, but it could make all the difference to someone who lives alone and craves some social interaction.

I was shocked to discover that loneliness and isolation are as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That is so awful.  The Campaign to End Loneliness is calling on local authorities to take the lead on reducing and preventing loneliness in their local areas and the Campaign states that the support needed should include transport and technology – with 41 per cent of those who feel lonely say that transport is a barrier to seeing people, and 51% of older people polled believe the internet can help prevent loneliness.

In the UK, research estimates that: 
  • Around 1 million people aged over 65 report feeling lonely often or always. 
  • 12 per cent of older people feel trapped in their own home. 
  • Six per cent of older people leave their house once a week or less. 
  • 17 per cent of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbors less than once a week and 11 per cent are in contact less than once a month. 
  • Half of all older people (about 5 million) say the television is their main company.
I hosted a lunch for an elderly friend of mine who doesn't get out that much and it was so much fun. We had a light salad, a game of cards, then good old traditional 'Bread and Butter Pudding' for our afters. It was something I hadn't had for years and I forgot how yummy it is, and so easy to make.

Do you know someone who could do with a bit of company? Or maybe you would like to know how to get more involved with the campaign by creating change in your own area? Pop over to the campaign website here for all the info you need.

*For information about how you can get involved and free recipe cards visit A collaborative post with Sunrise who are working hard to to end loneliness.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Lulworth Cove in Dorset

Lulworth Cove in Dorset is one of those places that you have to visit to appreciate it's charm. Photo's simply do not do it justice. The scenery is stunning and the atmosphere is friendly. The perfect place for walking, a picnic, fudge, buckets & spades and proper fish and chips.

We visited with our kids who are in their twenties and our teenagers while we were down in Dorset for Camp Bestival 2015. The whole family enjoyed the cove so much that they want to return next year and stay longer. 

The shingle beach is a short walk from the car park park at the visitor center along a quaint narrow road, lined with charming cottages, a fudge shop, duck pond, pub and souvenir shops. Once you reach the bottom of the road you are blown away by the prettiness of the cove. We visited during the summer holidays on a scorching, hot day so it was really busy with tourists, but I can imagine on a quiet day the cove is the perfect spot for peace and tranquility.

If you take the tiny turning next to the visitors centre and walk up a small hill you will be greeted by a lovely view, and perfect for those who would struggle to climb the giant hill towards Durdle Door. The great colossal formation of rocks in this area is breathtaking as they stand deviant against the ocean as the waves gently tumble around their base.

If you do manage to climb the large hill at the car park you will be rewarded with the most breathtaking views. It is a hard walk, so make sure you have comfy shoes, sunscreen and a bottle of water. The view from the top can not be put into words. It is just too beautiful.

All that walking builds up quite the appetite so I recommend when you get back down to the bottom you enjoy a fish and chip lunch at Finleys. It is the best chippy you will ever visit. We tried the cod, fish cakes, pasties and battered sausage, all were cooked to perfection. Reasonably priced too!

Have you visited the area before? 
Do you have any local recommendations for us for when we return next summer?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Ask Italian Review and Giveaway

Last Friday we nipped down to our local Ask Italian restaurant in Billericay, Essex for a late lunch to try out the new kids menu #servingupsmiles that they have recently launched across all their restaurants. The new menu is exactly how kids like to eat and includes topping your own pizzas, strawberries, chocolate and ice cream. We had a great time and we can not wait to return.

The restaurant in Billericay is situated inside a really charming, old building with a gorgeous conservatory out the back where you can watch chef cooking your food fresh, right in front of you. There is also a pretty courtyard out the back where you can dine al fresco. The decor is warm, modern and inviting with a quirky Italian theme.

We were greeted with a smile at the front desk and shown to our table by the waitress, who was really lovely and bubbly. We instantly felt that the restaurant was very child friendly the staff chatted to our nine year old Granddaughter, explaining the new kids menu in detail, making it easy for her to choose what she would like. The kids menu is three courses plus a 'Babyccino' priced at £6.75 - Excellent value!

The Kids Menu - The first thing our Granddaughter ordered after devouring her starters of garlic bread, cucumber, carrot and (the tastiest dip ever which she thoroughly enjoyed) was the make your own pizza. The waitress presented her with a pizza base with little pots full of toppings and our Granddaughter put together her pizza. It was so much fun and she looked so delighted when her pizza was returned fully cooked. The waitress told me that kids usually love making their own pizza's at the restaurant and some parents even bring groups of kids in for a mini birthday party. Such a great idea! We love how the staff involve the kids with the preparation of their food, it made visiting a restaurant a really fun experience.

I decided that if I were to recommend the new kids menu to your family then really I should try it myself and instead of having pizza I had the 'Calzone' which is basically a big pastie stuffed full of fillings of your child's choice, served as a smiley face. It was just like a pizza in a light pastry and was totally delicious. For dessert it was chocolate pizza which again the kids can build themselves by adding their own toppings. Also, included in the price of the kids menu is a 'Babycinno' which is a cute little coffee cup filled with frothed up milk and dusted with chocolate (cappuccino style).

Grown Up's Menu -We were joined at the restaurant by my Daughter and her partner who both ordered the Lasagne and the 'Grand Gelata' which is hazelnut meringue with ice cream, strawberries, raspberries and fresh cream. Hubby ordered the 'Penne Al Pollo Della Casa' which is chicken breast,  mushrooms, pasta served in a creamy mushroom and white wine sauce and for dessert he thoroughly enjoyed the 'Apple Cinnamon Pizza Dolce' which he says tastes like 'Christmas'. All of the meals were delicious and cooked beautifully.

We also took home a takeaway for my Son and Daughter who were at home, of pizza, chicken salad, dough balls and 'Sicilian Arancini' which is rissotto balls made with spinach, goats cheese and mushrooms (freshly handmade), yum!

Before we left the restaurant the chef popped over to our table and introduced himself, telling us he was the assistant chef as it was head chefs day off. I must say we were so impressed with how well he managed on his own. His food was absolutely delicious and we all agree he deserved a massive pat on the back. All the staff were so lovely and we walked away from the restaurant feeling very happy and full. Big Thumbs Up From The Syders!

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*We were provided with an Ask Italian voucher for the purpose of this review. My views and opinions are always 100% honest and unbiased.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Camp Bestival 2015 Review

What an amazing time we had at Camp Bestival again this year. I thought it would be hard to top last years experience, but it turned out to be just as magical, in a different way. We had absolutely no sleep for four nights, survived on tinned curry, danced our comfy shoes off, sang our hearts out, laughed until our jaws ached and laughed and laughed some more, over and over until we could barely breathe. 

This is our second year as accredited Camp Bestival bloggers which means we get tickets for the family free of charge, however we loved last year so much that we recommended it to our older kids who paid full price for their tickets to join us this year. Our review is 100% honest and we are happy to share both the good and the bad.

Last year we took younger children and had an absolute blast, this year we took older kids 15 - 25 and it was a completely different experience all together. We still had an amazing time, it was just different, definitely more 'rock & roll' with teenagers in tow. I'll begin with the positives, and I must say they far outweigh any negatives which you will find further down.

Camping - We arrived on Thursday afternoon and set up camp as close as we could get to the start of the main arena. Pitching your tent this close is fine if you have older kids but I wouldn't recommend it if you have a baby or a toddler as it is very noisy here all night long. For a quieter nights sleep you should camp further away from the action. 

The nights can get very cold and for the first two nights we went to bed fully dressed and shivering, we were kicking ourselves for not taking an extra quilt. We ended up buying a blanket for £18. There are various water points dotted around the campsite and in the main festival area which was clean and lovely and cold.

The loo's were great this year and the toilet attendants were fantastic. I didn't experience one overflowing pan as you do at some other festivals. Attendants were checking each loo after almost every use. This made the whole festi-loo experience much more bearable and was a huge improvement on last year. 

As there were a few of us (3 x tents) we set our tents up around a gazebo, then closed the open side with a wind breaker (available from the Happy Camper shop for a tenner). This gave us a private communal area to cook, chat about the days events and to play cards during quiet times.

Camp Bestival Teenagers - Our teens really enjoyed their experience. They moaned about the camping side of things and said if they go again then they will make sure they take more bedding and a comfy airbed but after spending a few hours in the mornings getting themselves together they wandered off to catch some acts, often finding us later completely thrilled and excited about something they had seen or heard. You know how moody some teens can be, often loving to hate something parents endorse, well mine have come home full of the festival blues and wanting to return. Big thumbs up to Mum & Dad! I silently scream "Yes!" as I punch the air. A parent win!

Photo Credit - Camp Bestival
Security - It was our teens first experience of a festival and Camp B is a perfect introduction as it is so safe with lots of security/stewards on hand. We become separated from one of our teens during the Clean Bandit show in the evening and I went into a huge panic because she didn't know her way back to the tent in the dark, running to the first steward I could find, barely able to get my words out I blurted "We have lost a teen!". They were fantastic at calming me down, reassuring me that our teen will be fine and if they have to search every corner of the festival they will. Luckily, that wasn't necessary as our teen was sensible enough to make her way to the castle and was happily sitting there waiting for us. I was left feeling completely confident of the safety of teenagers at Camp Bestival.

Our Favorite Acts - We all agree that Professor Green was the highlight for us this year. The girls went weak at the knee's because he cried on stage, as one girl who was sitting on her Dads shoulders sang along to every word of all his songs and Pro Green got all emotional. My girls were not massive fans of Professor Green before we saw him at Camp Bestival, but now they want to see him concert. 

Only The Young were very good, as was Wretch32, Clean Bandit, Alison Moyet and Kaiser Chiefs. My fifteen year old fell in love with JoJo Macari who was playing at the bandstand and she managed to bag herself a free signed demo which really made her entire weekend. 

I totally loved the drummers (Batala Portsmouth, an authentic Brasilian Samba-Reggae troupe) who at various times over the weekend drummed their way around the festival, and every time I heard them I'd jump up from whatever I was doing to catch a glimpse. They were fabulous. 

Food - There is so much good food to choose from at Camp Bestival for all budgets and tastes. It can get very expensive to eat entirely from the stalls, but if you are on a budget like us you could buy a couple of trays of chips and cook some tinned food back at the tent to eat with it. 

Our ultimate favorite grub this year was Gourmet Grilled Cheese @UKGrilledCheese , the most delicious grilled cheese sarnies you will ever taste and they don't scrimp on the cheese either which was delightful. Chunky Chips and Wicked Dips, the smoothie stall and Nando's were also very popular with us. For us juicers there was also a juice bar in The Feast Collective who sold yummy fresh juices. The fishfinger sandwich stall was there again this year, as was the wonderful WI tent where you could get a lovely bacon roll and a cuppa at a very reasonable price. 

Negatives - Bollywood tent could do with being bigger next year as it is extremely popular in the evenings, our 20 year old Daughter and her 25 year old boyfriend were really disappointed that they struggled to get in. Bigger and/or more screens at the castle stage would be hugely appreciated for those at the back (I don't remember it being an issue last year, I'm sure the screens were bigger?). We did find it a little annoying that there was a huge merchandise shop smack bang in front of the castle stage. I appreciate that many people like to buy the festival T-shirts but I think it would be better viewing if it was placed elsewhere. 

Other than those very minor negatives we had an absolute blast and most definitely agree that this years Camp Bestival was excellent value for money. The entertainment provided all day, until late into the night was second to none.

Rob da Bank says: “What an incredible weekend, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much wild fun going on in one place. Sun, fun and a totally brilliant crowd who were up for the party made it the best year ever. Thanks to all the artists and crew but especially you lot for making it so special. We’ve already got plans under way for next year, so watch this space!”

You can guarantee your place at the UK’s official Best Family Festival next year, held at Lulworth Caste, from 28th-31st July 2016, when Early Bird tickets go on sale this Friday 7th August at10:00am. There are only a limited number available, so head to Ticketline or call 0844 888 4410 and book your Early Bird tickets before it’s too late!

*We are official Camp Bestival bloggers and were provided with tickets to attend the event for the purpose of this review. Our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.

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