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.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Turnpike Gallery Leigh

The Turnpike Gallery situated in Leigh Library has been open since 1971 for exhibitions of local work and educational workshops. 

Up to recently artists were brought in on a regular basis to provide art sessions for children at the weekend and school holidays and helping schools fosters art skills and developing vital creativity skills. The type of art we used to do at school but which teachers dont have time to fit into the NC now. A member of staff was also available to provide information and help and the gallery hosted some fantastic exhibitions. My daughter used to love attending the junk modelling and craft sessions in the holidays from monsters to bugs and Victorian stamps and printing and the artists were fantastic. The centre was always a hive of artist work with exhibitions children could use and get hands on.

Sadly due to budget cuts this has all been removed, there are still occasional workshops including making art on an iPad (runs 28th August 10.30am and 12pm. ) but these sessions are few and far between. The workroom which used to continually have children's work drying lies empty and bare. No staff member was available on our visit and the place felt soulless and empty although a table was available for collage with some old newspapers and glue it felt like another loss for the community. I have heard there are talks in place to create more of the space and I hope this is the case as it seems a real shame. We were helped by a member of staff who was locking rooms who was very helpful.

Turnpike is open Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm and Saturday 10.30am to 3.30pm. 
Lift access is available.  Disabled and normal toilets are available but locked (ask a member of staff for access)

http://www.wlct.org/Arts-and-Festivals/turnpike-gallery/turnpike-gallery.htm



Sunday, 18 August 2013

Neilson Lemnos - Porta Myrina Palace



We have always seemed to go to the same couple of places on holiday while my daughter was smaller, small hotels providing a program of children's activities for a couple of hours a day and disco's and party dances at night however as she nears the upper end of junior school age we felt she needed something more.

We chose Porta Myrina in Lemnos as it looked a quieter hotel and we are years past the night club holiday scene.

Porta Myrina Palace is situated close to the capital of Myrina, a small fishing city with a small selection of tourist shops and cafes. In Myrina there is also a hillside castle, a fishing port and wild deer. The holiday cost just under £4000 for a week for three of us.

We landed at Lemnos Airport, a tiny military airport with one small shop selling snacks and drinks and a gift shop and a few seats. We were met by a rep for Neilson and taken to the coaches for the half an hour transport to the hotel. On one of the coaches there were not enough seats and children had to sit on parents knees meaning seatbelts could not be used, not a great start but not a disaster.

The hotel is situated on the sea edge and surrounded by mountains, it is a stunning setting, the resort is a water sport activities centre but caters according to the brochure for complete beginners too. There was plenty of equipment although more help to get on the water with the heavier equipment would be nice. There were many organised beginners sessions and instruction was good.

The hotel was spotlessly clean, free wifi was available in the lobby as well as table tennis an indoor pool and spa facilities and an unmanned gym.

The rooms where large containing the usual furniture plus a fridge and air conditioning. Our beds were made and rooms cleaned daily but the bedding was not changed during the week we were there but this was not a major issue. Interconnecting rooms are available for families and there are apartments in both the gardens and main hotel building. There are bars both in the main hotel and by the pool.

The hotel operates a cashless system where everything is charged to your room and you sign for it, be aware things can add up without you realising and be sure to check for mistakes, drinks are very expensive so be prepared (five euros for a milkshake, four euros for a cherry coke type drink!) water, tea and coffee are free with meal and juice is available at breakfast.

A photographer is on site continously and takes pictures while you/your children are taking part in activities, these are available to view and purchase by the pool bar. Its not cheap (think it was around £80 for your action shots burnt to a disk) but the photos were good. I believe you can also request family portrait shoots but we did not use this.

There is a small shop on site where you can purchase gifts, sun cream, costumes, goggles, sunglasses and a small amount of sweets but not much else, you can get water from reception but if you are looking for snacks/juice/bottles of pop you have to go into Myrina about half an hours walk. It is a pleasant walk but be aware there is no pavement.

Children under 5 can eat at 5pm for high tea and high chairs, children's knifes and forks and cups are available.

All meals are included bar three evening meals. The food was good although sometimes a bit samey and the flies drove us mad but not much they can do about that. It would have also been nice for younger children over the age of five to have had the choice to eat during the 5pm high tea as several of the 5 - 7 year olds were shattered by 7.30pm when the evening meal opens. The bar and meal staff were very good however. Children can eat with their clubs most lunches and some evenings.

There are several children's clubs, you pay for the Starfish age aged 4-23 months and for a supplement of £290 for one week or £465 for two weeks.

All other clubs are included, Sea Urchins for 2 - 4, Surf Busters for 5 - 7, Sharksters 8 - 11, Surf Squad 12 - 14 and Tag for 15 - 17. Although extra charges for boat trips, special meals and spa games are available. The nannies we saw with the younger children were very good. Children are given a rash vest, hat and bag. You could literally never see your children given the activity times if you so wished however we prefer to spend time together as a family.

The children take part in a variety of water and land based sports, the tennis instructor was fantastic and really very good with the children teaching them with a mixture of games and fun. The scuba instructor who took children in the swimming pool was patient and calm even with the children who were nervous and held on the them the whole time.

The children's club for my child's age had apparently been scaled down activity wise to give water access priority to the pay extra club Hotshots according to a regular. Despite this my daughter had a go at Windsurfing, sailing, wobble boarding and scuba diving which was more than enough.

The kids club also had evening socials where the children could be left to play while you ate dinner.

We had a couple of issues with the kids club while there. Firstly at the welcome meeting we filled in a form asking for any special needs and also swimming ability.
My daughter has additional needs and is also very quiet so will not always speak up if she needs help. I was not concerned as I had read two other reviews were children with additional needs were well looked after and in some cases given one to one (I saw this with a boy in an older group who the nanny was fantastic with) but I wrote these down and also spoke personally to the kids club leader verbally because she can swim quite strongly on her back but due to her additional needs not so good on her front and can panic sometimes if out of her depth in deep water and the Olympic size pool had no shallow end just a toddlers splash pool.

I was informed this was not a problem as they had confidence jackets and they would make sure she wore one. The club was not overly busy so I was not concerned. I did however walk down to the pool five minutes after this conversation as soon as kids club did just as the kids club staff were getting the whole group to jump in the deep water of the pool for the sharks cry and there on the end is m daughter with no confidence jacket. I went to get one and gave it to my daughter and was questioned by the other nanny and then found out the information of my daughters additional needs had not be passed on.

I also found on a couple of the days the paid for activity was half an hour after kids club started which meant either them missing that days session of picking them up after half an hour or shelling out 13 euros for the trip, I was told by another regular that there were meant to be free sessions on at the same time for those not doing the activity but sometimes this did not happen.

On the day of the boat trip which my daughter pulled out of for reasons below we were sent away after a tennis session (i had gone to watch) after being told they were going for a drink then to the boat trip and that was it, she was sent away without being allowed to join in the after activity drink at the bar.

When I took her down to the pool an hour later the Surfbusters leader was down there with children from my daughters age range too who had not gone on the boat trip but we had not been told about this and it was not on the information boards nor had she been told when being sent away from the tennis.

The other issue we had was a bit confusing and to be honest I was not sure if it was just our expectations were too much. My daughter had done wobble boarding and windsurfing and they had been in the swimming area in a shallow bit surrounded by nannies and very safe with lots of instruction of how to use it, I checked if the sailing was suitable for my daughter and was told yes it was fine. As the other activities had been done so safely I was not worried.

When they were taken onto the water three of them were put into a Pico boat and asked if they could sail, in the way children do one of the eight year olds said yes and so they were sent on the sea with no adult in the boat.

Within minutes they had span the boat round and capsized, not an issue and part of the fun! However several minutes later they went back out again and part of the sail which had not been fastened on properly by the adults had fell off meaning the children were stranded with no sail. They were hit by another boat of children (my daughter was hit in the face) the children were rescued by the rescue boat from the water (two of them crying) and taken back to shore.

I thought maybe sending the children out alone was just how it was done having limited experience of sailing however when back in the UK two sailing clubs we came across through other activities both were very suprised no adult had been in the boat with such young beginners or that they had put three beginners together on the sea at least and said unless it had been a small lake they would not have done that without the children being given proper instruction before hand.

We came back with a child terrified of the water and has had to have 1 - 1 swimming sessions to get past this.

I read before I went out that it was a bit like a posh Butlins, I would probably agree with that, most people love it, I would imagine children without special needs have a wonderful time and if you want a break from your kids its ideal but I felt after being let down on the first day by the pool I could not relax.

All in all we love Lemnos, the people in Myrina were fantastic and I would definately visit Lemnos again, the setting was as beautiful as the people. Whether we would use Neilson again remains to be seen sadly. It was a bit of a mixed bag for us.

Find out about Neilson holidays at http://www.neilson.co.uk/



Saturday, 17 August 2013

Harvesters Salford Quays

Harvesters Salford Quays is situated within the Lowry Outlet.

We prebooked as a group of four children and five adults following an event. When we arrived we were given small tables of four and one member of our party was seated alone but this was soon rectified and a group table was found without us having to comment.

Our order to be taken although we ended up with the wrong order of drinks.the staff member was polite and helpful but struggled to deal with our large order. He was however lovely and took the children to show them where to refill their drinks.

The food was lovely and the children's food looked very nice too , the steak and side orders were well cooked and the salad was fresh but it was rather a long time in between ordering and getting our meals. It was a weekday and relatively quiet however we were there three hours in all for two courses with a very long wait in between to order desert and it wasn't much fun with four tired, grumpy and hungry children and by the time they received their children's meals (after over an hour) they were too shattered to eat.

We would eat there again because despite the wait the food was good but not in an evening with tired children!

Manchester Art Gallery




Situated on Mosley Street Manchester minutes from Piccadilly Gardens lies the Art Gallery. I have lived in Manchester most of my life and visited countless museums and yet for some reason we have never visited here before.

The gallery contains a variety of both modern and historican artifacts across the decades.

There is both a cafe and a restaurant serving everything from snacks and coffee to chef cooked meals, children's sandwich packs and hot meals are available. Water and lemon and ice was freely available and free of charge. The meal we purchased Salmon and noodles with vegatables for me and children macaroni cheese for my child was beautiful.

There are accessible toilets on the ground level and baby changing facilities are available.

The museum has a variety of children's backpacks and belts available to borrow free of charge and these contain everything from torches and magnifying glasses for the older children to soft materials and toys in the story bags for younger children and their are 'stations' around the museum where children can draw or follow instructions.

The gallery is fully accessible with lift access to each floor.

During the holidays and on certain weekends the gallery runs free children's sessions and art clubs for both older children and babies which follow different topics and expose children to a variety of materials and textures. The mini art club is bookable in advance

We took part in a drop in session. Children were encouraged to think about instructions and lines. In the first session we entered a room full of wool suspending from the ceiling. Like a giant wool maze. Children were given words fine, angle, curved and had to connect wool to the maze in order to make these shapes

In the second room a pro dancer worked with families to interpret music and words through dance ecouraging children to think about the words and how you could make shapes with your body to represent these shapes. To finish families were encouraged to put a small dance together to demonstrate to the other families, this involved lots of rolling on the floor, spinning and whirling (who needs the gym!) It was great family fun!

In the third room children were encouraged to make shapes on the floors and walls with tape and make shapes on projector paper to be reflected on to the walls.These topics change regularly with different sessions each week.

We spent hours in the gallery both in the children's activities and also in the main exhibition and have been twice since.

The gallery is free to enter but donations are most welcome.

http://www.manchestergalleries.org