Saturday, 8 November 2014

Visit Jersey (We advise you do!)


We have never been to Jersey before and usually head to Menorca but for one reason or another we just didn’t want to face long passport queues, two hours flights and the inevitable long coach journey from the airport to resort. We can also be a challenging party as it can also be hard to meet the needs of a party which spans from 11 to 65 years and find something for everyone.

Travelling with a child with additional needs. an adult with medical problems and another terrified of flying, Jersey seemed the ideal destination. An hour plane journey meant I knew my journey would end soon, no need for passports (photo id needed) and no long queues at border control in either direction with tired/grumpy/bursting with excitement children, infact no queues at all! We landed got out luggage off the belt and where on our way, perfect! There is even a small soft play area and cafe to keep children entertained while you gather your things together.

We arrived to glorious sun with days to go until the start of November, jumped on the number 15 bus from straight outside the terminal which for a cost of just £1.80 each adult (less for children) took us into the centre of St Helier with its lovely harbour, beach and lifeboat house. The public transport system is fantastic and UK currency is accepted so no need to spend your time trying to work out currency conversions on purchase.

Jersey has a facinating and rich history especially for those with an interest in World War 2 having been occupied by the Germans however it is also full of its own history and there is a massive amount to do. For a small Island it is bursting with activities for all the family from Aqua Splash, adventure play lands, museums, cinemas shopping and food places galore including many of your favourite names plus a lovely selection of independent stores.

The Maritime Museum

After settling in our first step was the Maritime Museum. We decided that who ever designed the Maritime Museum either had kids of at least had brought children into the design room. It was perfect, with levers to pull, boats to design and build and water to sail them on plus a pirate ship which really does test your sea worthiness! It really was hands on with many shouts of Mum look at what this one does while at the same time teaching them without them even realising about tides and structure and floating! The staff were amazing, offering pirate costumes and interacting with the children. I had many requests from my daughter to go back the next day to play!

The Jersey Occupation Tapestry was stunning and well worth a visit on its own, they are rich in history. Made by the people of Jersey to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Island’s liberation the tapestries tell the story in rich detail of life under German occupation during World War Two with each area completing a different tapestry to mark their story and the hardship and trials they endured. They really are beautiful and informative and a very important representation of history for generations to come.

We travelled with a member of our party with mobility problems and everything had been thought of with either ramps, lifts or stair lifts in areas where a lift could not be fitted. In fact we found this the same in all the museums and it was such a help.

Jersey Castle

We decided to take the ferry across rather than wait for the causeway to uncover, my daughter has additional needs and was not at all sure of the amphibious vehicle which can run on land and sea but the staff were fantastic and allowed her to take a look and chatted to her to calm her fears before boarding to the point coming back she could not wait for the boat to come back so she could travel! The little safety video is a fantastic way to not only engage children but ensure they are listening to its very important message. It takes only a few minutes to get across but well worth the ride.

The castle which is more than 300 years old is breathtaking, with rooms children will love full of cannons and swords and steeped in history but most of all with perfect space and nooks for children to explore and climb. It is well worth going to the very top for the views alone, seriously it is so pretty with views across the bay and the little sandy shore at low tide around the castle. Do not miss the mid day parade and cannon firing either, very exciting!

There is a little tea room on site selling food, drinks and snacks and plenty of toilets.

The Jersey Museum

The museum tells over 250,000 years of history from Neolithic times to modern days with fantastic displays and hands on items documenting farming and life on the Island.

Most exciting was the coin hoard. 70,000 Celtic coins and pieces of jewellery were discovered in a field in Grouville in 2012. One by one each coin is being removed from the mound, documented, cleaned and preserved. It is a painstaking task but well worth it with preservation of the plants and insect parts found alongside too which will be able to tell us about what was happening at the time they were buried there. You can also watch the work as it is happening through special windows.

The gas lit merchants house is beautiful and a real step back in time with a flash of the future as hologram ghosts tell you their story and drama.

My daughter loved the nursery room with old fashioned rocking horses to ride, toys to play with and chalk and slate to make your mum do times table sums with!

St Helier itself reminds me of my town as a child before it was over commercialised. It is spotlessly clean and has everything you would need, there are several small gifts shops and independent shops, a cinema, an aqua centre and a perfect little centre with recognised shops.

There are many places to eat and everything you could ask for in terms of tastes and likes.

Our only complaint was we had not stopped longer, there is so much more for us to explore with many other castles and the Jersey War Tunnels and much more. The people of Jersey were wonderful, we did not recieve anything but a friendly welcome in any of the attractions, shops or food places we visited.

Departures at the airport must be one of the nicest I have ever been in, with shops to buy gifts and travel essentials and a lovely market type cafe selling all kinds of lovely food, alcohol and ice creams and a great big viewing gallery room where you can watch the airplanes take off while you wait. Security was very quick and I really did not feel the stress and rush you usually have at airports.

What is more when you arrive at Manchester again guess what? You do not have to stand in airport queues at passport control with tired and restless children waiting for your turn, a quick pass through customs and you are on your way! An easy end to a fantastic holiday.

On our last day my daughter refused to go home, we will be back Jersey, thank you for giving us such a welcome.

For more information about Jersey visit http://www.jerseyheritage.org/uk and http://www.jersey.com/english/Pages/default.aspx

Friday, 15 August 2014

Here's One We Made Earlier.




Are you sitting comfortably? Then we will begin.

Once upon a time over ninety years ago someone in BBC Birmingham stumbled upon an idea to fill an empty hour of radio with a children’s story the whole family could enjoy. This continued until 1964 and was a much loved favourite with families across Britain gathering together to listen shortly before bedtime.

With the progress of technology and the invention and increase in population of television the BBC wanted to make shows which did not talk down to children while at the same time not scaring them, which educated them and which provided them with new experiences and entertainment.

Ninety years later it is doing just that, with medical programs such as Operation Ouch, wild life show Deadly 60, My Life which educates on the lifes of other children across the UK living different lifestyles whether through disability, religion or lifestyle and the infamous Newsround which never fails to tackle the big news issues of the day in a way children can understand and process.

Who can forget Blue Peter? How many of you have insisted Mum empty the rest of the washing liquid into a cup or pot so you can have the bottle for some Blue Peter inspired invention or craft? Of course they too have tackled some tough issues and raised wonderful amounts of money for charities across the world using everything from scrap metal, stamps and aluminium cans.

The exhibition is childhood. It has something for everyone, you will find yourself screeching to the children about Gordon the Gopher, Basil Brush, Bagpuss and the epic for the time Grange Hill much to their amusement or even Watch With Mother characters such as Andy Pandy and Muffin the Mule for the older amongst us while the Teletubbies, Strange Hill High and Wolf Blood and the brand new Furchester Hotel with Elmo and the Cookie Monster will entertain the children.

Of course things have moved on and children these days have access to all kinds of technology, with this the BBC have adapted with online games, twitter feed and even apps, in fact a new big brother to the CBeebies app for CBBC app is coming very soon!

Children’s TV has also hit a new target, parents and preschoolers in their droves turn out to see live shows of their favourite character and special appearances of Mr Tumble and Mr Bloom are usually a mob of people.

It is not hard to see why despite the invention of many new children’s channels BBC channels CBBC and CBeebies are still the channel of choice.

Here’s One We Made Earlier

THE STORY OF BBC CHILDREN’S BROADCASTING; PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE.

Sat 19 July – Sun 12 October at The Lowry Theatre FREE. Open daily until 5pm.

http://www.thelowry.com/event/heres-one-we-made-earlier

Madame Tussauds Blackpool

Although smaller than the London attraction Madame Tussauds Blackpool still provides the chance to pass a couple of hours with a wide range of tv, music and sports stars, especially good on a rainy day of which we seem to have had many recently!

My daughter loved serving behind the bar in the Rovers Return and playing the drums with Freddie Mercury and there are many chances to join in with 'shows' taking a seat with Jeremy Kyle, Celebrity Juice and Jonathon Ross as well as games with Who wants to be a millionaire as well as a whole host of others including Ant and Dec, Ricky Hatton Torvil and Dean and the X Factor Panel. There are also many stars from the 70s and 80s and music stars from Michael Jackson, Peter Andre, Susan Boyle and Cheryl Cole.

There is a section narrated by Alan Carr which explains how the Waxworks are made and the length and complexity of the process.

Even for younger children who may not know who some of the celebrities are the attraction is set up in such a way that there are interactive games or activities on each level making it truly hands on and inclusive across the age ranges. There is also a new Children's Zone with Shrek and Bob the Builder. Children also have the chance to have a photo opportunity hanging from the building like spiderman.

Children eight and over can also take home a wax work of their very own hand for an additional price.

There are massies of photo opportunities and staff are situated in several key points with props to take family photographs (from £6).

In line with the seaside venue there is the crazy mirror hall, seaside entertainers wax models and props of giant sunglasses and rock. This is difficult to negotiate with wheelchairs but has an accessible route.

What made our visit here though was the staff. They went out of their way to help, explain how best to use the attraction and simply chat to the children making their experience a wonderful one. EVERY member of staff we dealt with delivered on customer service.

There are a small range of snacks and drinks available inside in addition to a well stocked merchandise store. Pushchairs must be left in a buggy park in the entrance although disabled access is available for children/parents and carers in wheelchairs. Toilets and baby change facilities were clean and readily available.

Check out the website for prices and information as many offers are available.

Horrible Histories Barmy Britain

It is no secret that I love Horrible Histories, after seeing the Horrible Science tour some years ago by the Birmingham Stage Company and witnessing small children shouting back chemical compounds and scientific answers within minutes because it had been made FUN I am of the firm opinion of marching on Gove and asking them to take over the science and history elements of the curriculum, so it was with much excitement in our house when we were invited to attend the new Horrible Histories Barmy Britain Tour.

Sometimes it is a risk to attempt to translate a television show to stage especially one so popular as the Horrible Histories tv series. It is also some feat to cover from Boudicca, the vikings and Henry the Eighth through to World War One in a two hour period and keep the attention of an audience from small children to adults but you know what Barmy Britain does it.

The show provides just enough of the gore, toilet humour and scares that children love without being too scary while bringing the stories of the old into the present through a modern take with presentations such as Who wants to blow up Parliment? A Guy Fawkes take on Who wants to be a millionaire, the hanging of the cast of ‘The Only Way is Essex’ and the no likey no lighty Take Me Out show for Edward 1. The Gory song of the Edinburgh body snatchers Burke and Hare will never allow me to listen to the Postman Pat song the same again!

With rapping and breakdancing Queens, Salford City Council traffic wardens and a smattering of jokes for the adult audience expect the excited screams of small children, much laughter and singing and audience participation from adults and children alike.

The falling of poppies was a sombre yet utterly beautiful moment magnified through the use of 3d and you could have heard a pin drop in an audience of mostly children who had been previously screaming and shouting throughout.

The show runs for almost two hours with a cast of four who are incredible.

Horrible Histories Barmy Britain continues its tour across the UK, Check the website for details.



http://www.barmybritain.com/tour/

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Blackpool Pleasure Beach - Nickelodeon Land

When we booked Blackpool Pleasure Beach we had no idea it would land on the day of the worst storms in a decade, there was some anxiety the night before when the amber warnings went up but we hit very lucky and the storm evaded much of the north, very lucky as tickets purchased online cannot be changed to another day.

We purchased tickets online at a cost of £23 a wristband although prices and available offers vary, it is always cheaper to pre purchase where possible as the gate price can work out much higher.

You now require a pass costing £6 to walk round the park which allows you to access the park , the maze, water show and Pleasure Beach Express train.

On arrival we were quickly attended to although while queuing entertainers were available to keep the children amused. You cannot bring your own food into the park although you can leave and be given a stamp to get back in. Bags are security checked on entering.

With your wristbands you are given vouchers for money off in park, including food, merchandise and on our visit free ice skating which sadly we did not have time for.

We arrived at the park on a windy and wet day but apart from a couple of the flying machines and the Big One everything was running. As my daughter is not a fan of the huge rides we spent most of our time in Nickelodeon Land and this is were I will review.

Nickelodeon Land is a series of 12 rides based on popular children's TV characters.

From mini log flumes, roller coasters, flying rides and boat and water rides Nickelodeon Land is a none scary and fun introduction to thrill rides.

There are several meet and greats with characters including Sponge Bob, Dora and the Mutant Turtles and picture opportunities are available.

The rides were clean and well maintained and operated smoothly, being in October we did not have to wait in long queues. Large toilets are available within Nickelodeon land including several disabled, baby change and Ladies/Mens. There are large step in dryers available for wet rides although it did not seem to do much.

The staff we spoke to were lovely, the lady on the photo booth attached to the log flume was approachable and welcoming and enthusiastic about the resort, she also was able to recommend somewhere to eat for us which turned out to be lovely and genuinely seemed keen to make the guest experience a good one.

The staff on the other rides were also very approachable and more than happy to help and even joked with my daughter about how many times she had been on the ride.

My daughter (10) loved Sponge Bob's Splash Bash in which you spin around on water soaking other guests in the water with on board water blasters. There are also water blasters on dry land so watch out! You will get very very wet.

Another big favourite was the Blue Flyer, a mini roller coaster for smaller children and a great introduction to the faster rides.

Dora's Voyage was wonderful for smaller children and a real magical journey.

Photo opportunities are available on several rides and deals are available.

There are also two traditional fairground type stalls including hook a duck although we payed £6 to guarantee a medium toy which was tiny so found this a bit disappointing.

We ate at the Big Pizza Kitchen which is situated by the stage area of Nickelodeon Land. I cannot remember the exact amount but it was around £15 for my daughter and myself for unlimited pizza, pasta and salad as well as a drink. The food was hot and fresh and very nice and service was good.

Be prepared to be pestered for much more than the entrance fee by your children, there are many shops selling gifts, toys, slush puppies and ice cream including a very large shop in Nickelodeon land selling themed toys and games.

We purchased a Pleasure Beach hoodie due to my daughter getting soaked on a ride and the weather being cold, this cost £20 but has washed well.

I would definitely recommend taking a change of clothes as you will get soaking wet. Lockers are available from £3 for the day.

We had a great day and will definitely go back!

See website for details or rides, shows and ticket prices.
http://www.blackpoolpleasurebeach.com/rides/nickelodeon-land/

Monday, 14 October 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2



We were very lucky this weekend to attend a preview of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 at the Trafford Centre Odeon Cinema.

We join Flint in the moments after he has saved the Island from the giant food falling from the sky created by his very own machine, now the clean up operation must begin and who better to help him than his all time hero Chester V who has been asked to clean up the Island with the Live Corp Company.

But is Chester who he says he is and what of the now live tacodiles and shrimpanzees now inhabiting the Island?

Can Flint save the world?

The animations of this film are simply breathtaking, it is a beautiful film to watch. While ocassionally slow moving as the story and plot build it is brilliant at its best.

The characters are heartwarming and engaging and draw you in to caring about the outcome, it is one of the rare films in which you could take all the family and know it would be suitable and entertaining to an eleven year old as much as a three year old with a smattering of adult jokes to soar over children's heads.

A real family film, the children are desperate to watch it again.

Rated 5/5 from me and 100/5 from my daughter.

In cinemas 25th October
http://www.cloudy-movie.com/site/

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Rice Shack, Trafford Centre

The Rice shack is a new eatery in the Orient food court at the Trafford Centre. It is in the quick service take away area of the food section and general seating near the big screen is available.

They sell a variety of meals from around the world with dishes from Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, Jamaica and much more.

We were greated by a member of staff before we got to the tills, this person knew EVERYTHING about the menu (other food places take note!) This was a huge help and was able to explain dishes, how spicy things were etc and lots of people were asking advice, she was able to answer all questions.

On reaching the tills staff were again polite and helpful, we order Korean Spicy Kimchi (a Korean shredded cabbage) with Ground Beef Fried Rice and Tokyo Spicy Soba Noodle with shredded chicken, one was for a child and the member of staff mentioned the spice and offered to ask the chef to tone the spices down.

There is a sign up saying that food is cooked to order and if you are in a rush to ask what the quicker dishes are, despite this our food was ready quite quickly, food was hot and fresh and very good! My daughter loved having a go with the chopsticks although normal knives and forks were availables.
The cost of these dishes was £6.99 and included a soft drink or water.

For those who like to try something a bit different definately worth a visit, we shall be returning!


Head over to http://riceshack.co.uk/ for details on menu.