Friday, 25 August 2017

History Mystery Game - The Queenmaker at Blickling Church

We were invited along on the launch day of a brand new mystery game at Blickling Church, Norfolk. Run by the crew at History Mystery Games who specialise in escape games which are linked to real historical events, this particular game called "The Queenmaker" is based on Anne Boleyn and is based in the church where she worshipped as a child, situated next door to the family home Blickling Hall.

The church was easy to find, just follow the directions to Blickling Hall and you can't miss it! There is limited roadside parking but you are able to use the paid parking at Blickling Hall which costs just £5.
You are just a few minutes walk from the church which is visible from the main road.

This is a world's first as its the only escape game that is held in a working church, it continues to be open to visitors during your game so bare this in mind, we didn't have anyone come into the church whilst we were there.

Upon arrival we were greeted by the "Verger" he would act as our guide during the game and gave us information when we crossed his palm with gold! Mollie took hold of the purse (uh oh! Daddy watch out she'll be after your wallet soon!)

 A quick briefing when we first arrived informed us that we needed to solve the clues to ensure that Anne would meet her groom - Henry VIII at the alter and save the Church of England!

We have never played one of these games before, neither had our friends who we took with us, but we are keen on Treasure Trails and Geocaching so we thought we would have a good problem solving basis. 

Without giving away too much information, the game involved solving cryptic clues, finding codes and keys to open locked boxes and following instructions, with each success Anne or Henry moved forward towards the alter.  Locks included traditional key padlocks, number/letter codes and a couple of "directional" padlocks, there was one of these to lock the cabinet where you can keep your personal possessions whilst your play.
(Just make sure you remember the instructions to get your things back at the end!) 

To be honest we started off a little erratic! All of us rushing about in different directions and randomly trying different things, but Chris and Juan decided to take control and pull us back into team and things run a lot smoother! Team work is definitely beneficial when playing one of these types of games.

At various points in the game we came across letters for the Verger which when handed to him he would read and give us further information or tell us we had successfully solved a clue and Anne or Henry could move closer to the alter. Sometimes these instructed us to pay the Verger some of our gold and silver coins.

Emily kept her eye on the clock, we only had 1 hour to complete the game and the time ticked by rapidly!

The setting of the game added to its intrigue and we heard that some of the profits from the games goes towards the upkeep of the church, which is a great way to raise money.

So did Anne and Henry marry at the alter?

Sadly not with us playing, we reached our time limit and hadn't quite completed the tasks. We were so close, just another 10 minutes and I think we would have had success. 
We could have paid the Verger some more of our coins to buy time but in our panic to get done all logic of this went out the window.

The "Queenmaker" History Mystery Game was great fun, having never done one of these before it was a new experience for all of us and we are keen to look into similar games in the future, these guys run two games in the Guildhall Norwich which look great fun too.

The "Queenmaker" runs on weekends only and you can book online
Prices start from £55 for 3 people and you can have a maximum of 10 players.
Recommended for ages 10yrs+ but Emily and our friends little boy were younger than this and understood the game well.

We thought that this was a great game, fun for the family and friends and would work great for Stag/Hen parties, team building activities for work colleagues, or perhaps a birthday party for older children.

After we had finished we took the short walk over to the local pub where we enjoyed lunch outside in the sun filled gardens.

To find out more about the History Mystery Games then checkout their website or find them on Facebook.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Yankee Candle Flower Pots

The end of the school year always brings up that big question - what present shall we give to the teacher/teaching 

Where possible I like the girls to make their gifts, something nice, useful perhaps as I feel that the thought and love that goes into the gifts has much more meaning (having said that I'm not adverse to shop bought gifts either.)

This year the girls decided on making Candle Melts Flower Pots.
A quick search on Amazon found these Yankee Candle Melts so a couple of lots of these bundles in my shopping basket (a few extra melts just for me!) and we headed out to the local high street to purchase pots and other materials needed.

Most of the materials I purchased from Poundland and The Works for just £1 per item, Grandma already had some oasis we could have, now we just needed to wait a few days until the candles arrived.

The girls had a great session unpacking the candles and having a good smell of each one, picking out their favourites and trying their best to "colour coordinate" for each gift (colour coordinating when your 9 and 10 isn't quite the same as when your a grown-up haha!)

We were ready to assemble.

I allow the girls to use the hot glue gun themselves under supervision, they are very sensible with it and have used it many times, but please ensure that you watch over your children if you use a hot glue gun!

Cut the oasis and fill your flower pot, a splodge of glue in the base will help to stop it from wobbling around.

(excuse the Brownies uniform and messy hair!)

Cut the hessian and fix to the top of the oasis, securing with hot glue. If you are using anything to edge the pot (in our case we used plastic vines in a couple of the pots) add this now and then set aside.

Hot glue a lollipop stick to the back of each candle melt, we used 5 candle melts per pot but its up to you how many you use.

Using green card cut out some leaves. You can add 1 or 2 per flower. Glue these to the stick and allow to dry.

Now its time to arrange the flowers in the pots. I used a sharp knife to push through the hessian to get the lollipop sticks through easier. Adjust the flowers to make the arrangement look good and then add a dollop of hot glue to the bottom of each stick to secure into place.

The girls then added their hand written messages of thanks and the flower pots were ready to gift. We added a wax melt burner to each gift bag to go with the present.

The costing per pot worked out to be approximately £7.50 per flower pot, with the accessories and gift bags.

We hope that their teachers and Teaching Assistants enjoyed these gifts as much as the girls loved having them teach them for the year.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Visit "Nelson and Norfolk" at Norwich Castle.

We were very excited this week to be invited to the Bloggers Brunch event at Norwich Castle for a guided tour of the new "Nelson and Norfolk" exhibition.

This exhibit brings together historical artefacts from Nelson's and his famous battles, some being brought together for the first time on over 100 years. And what better place to display them to the public than Norwich, the capital city of Nelson's birth place.

Nelson holds a special place in the heart of Norfolk and is remembered still for his inspirational leadership, his unconventional tactics and strategic moves, making him a distinguished Admiral.

Norwich Castle sits proudly upon Castle Meadow, a momentous building which overlooks the city.
In addition to the regular admission fees, Norwich Castle offer a "Special Exhibit only " ticket which is slightly cheaper.

Castle Ticket (inc Special Exhibitions and Regimental Collections)
Adult: £9.15

Concession (over 65s, students, visitors with disabilities): £8.70
Child (age 4-18 yrs): £7.30
Family (2 adults + all children): £31.10
Family (1 adult + all children): £23.30
Twilight Ticket (1 hour before closing): £2
*Park and Ride/Go 4Less/District Leisure Cards: £6.90

Museums Pass holders, Friends of Norwich Museums and under 4s free.
Visitors with disabilities may bring in one companion for free.
Admission to the shop, cafe and Rotunda information desk is free.
Access to the Battlements and Dungeons are by guided tours only, see the Tours page for additional charges.
Special Exhibitions Only Ticket Price
Adult: £6

Concession (over 65s): £5.70
Child (age 4-18): £4.80

For opening times please visit the Norwich Castle website.

We arrived at the castle shortly after it opened at 10am and there was a small queue waiting to go in. Once we entered we met with our guide in the Rotunda and a short time later we commenced our tour.

As we entered the special exhibit room we were faced by a partition wall, a momentary "veil" before we saw the immense Ensign of the Le Genereux! Captured in 1800 in one of Nelson's successful battles, The Battle of the Malta Convoy.
This display is so vast that I couldn't fit the entire thing into a photo so you'll just have to visit and see it for yourself!

Through from here there was further display rooms, inter-joined.
As you entered you found yourself stood in front of Nelson's portrait. A stunning picture in a grand gold frame. 

In the portrait you will see a Spanish sword to the left and Nelsons infamous hat to his right. The real life objects are displayed on the relative sides.

Adjectent to this is Nelson's jacket. Amazingly still stained around the neck from his sweat and hair grease! 

Nelson presented this jacket to Mrs Anne Seymour Damer in Naples. A sculpture for whom Nelson has done several sittings.

He told her that the jacket, which he had worn during the Battle of the Nile, had never been worn again and he hadn't allowed it to be brushed, the streaks of perspiration and hair dust still show the anxiety and stress he endured under battle.

Around the rest of the exhibit we learnt about his sheer tenacity during battles, imploring others "Are you doing your duty today?"
So much so was his influence that this quote was used over 100 years later when recruiting during the 1st World War.

The girls were interested in hearing how Nelson "lost his eye" infact he lost the sight in one of his eyes and later he lost his arm. 

One of the most poignant pieces is the bullet that fatally wounded Nelson in 1805. After he died, Hardy, his ship's captain arranged to have the bullet mounted into a pendant. This was presented to the surgeon who had treated Nelson on his death bed, Beatty. He wore this until his own death in 1842, the pendant was then given to Queen Victoria.
Ironically Nelson was victorious in the battle which saw his death, The Battle of Trafalgar.
I hadn't realised how young Nelson was when he died,  at just 47 years of age and yet proves to still be such a huge part of our history, both to England and our own local history.

The final part of the exhibition details Nelson's funeral. Upon arrival back in England, Nelson was laid in state and given a full honours funeral.
The drape which adorned his coffin can be viewed.

The exhibit contains so much information and artefacts that you would need to see it for yourself, allowing yourself a decent couple of hours in order to fully appreciate all that has been brought together.
The Nelson and Norfolk exhibit runs through until 1st October 2017, not to be missed.

As we left we visited the gift shop to view the Nelson range that they sell.
A well presented and reasonably price array was on offer, including many books and bottles of Nelson's Revenge, a bitter produced by one of the exhibits sponsors Woodford's Brewery. I many have bought a bottle of this to sample at home!

For more information then visit the Norfolk Museum Services website or find Norwich Castle on Facebook.

When we left the Castle, the queue was still building, I think this new special exhibit is certainly appealing to the public!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Aqua Natura Benidorm

During our holiday to Magic Natura, Benidorm with Jet2Holidays we were delighted to find that we had unlimited free access to the Aqua Natura water park for the entire week as part of our all inclusive booking.

The resort ran a free mini bus to the water park and back throughout the day (literally a constant loop!) However, the entrance to the water park is a 5 minute walk from the resort entrance so you needn't worry about the mini bus if you missed it and didn't fancy waiting. You also have free unlimited access to Terra Natura when you go all inclusive at this resort, all three are neighbours and have access links for guests.

Aqua Natura is also open to the general public and at just 10 minutes away from Benidorm and on a bus route it makes it very accessible.

Opening Times:

If you are not a guest at Magic Natura then Aqua Natura and Terra Natura tickets can be purchased as a 1 park or multi ticket and annual passes are also available. They also offer tickets which include meal deals and group deals.

You can also purchase tickets for both Aqua Natura and Terra Natura by using Tesco Clubcard vouchers! In fact just £5 in vouchers will get you a 1 day entry to the park.

We really weren't sure what to expect when we heard that we had an inclusive water park at the resort, on a previous holiday we had a similar facility and as great as it was it didn't prepare us for what we found at Aqua Natura.

The place is HUGE!!!

Aqua Natura has five large sections: the wave pool, the water slides, the kid’s pool, the lighthouse breakwater and the Spa-Sun Deck.

There are cafe and refreshment facilities for the general public and as part of our all inclusive booking this included food and drinks (alcoholic and soft) at Aqua Natura, this was situated upstairs (these could have done with a good sluice down to be honest as it wasn't pleasant walking up them!) The menu was a little limited, burger and chips, pizza and chips, chicken nuggets and chips (I believe there was a salad option) crisps, fruit and ice creams but they did the job and the drinks servings were very generous! The girls loved the slushies! All inclusive guest just need to show their room card.
Guests are also able to bring in their own picnic.

The main pool is a graduated beach style entry which makes the pool accessible to all, including those with mobility problems, there were some steeper slopes so bare this in mind. The water park also has water wheelchairs available free of charge to those who require them.

We visited during May Half Term and as you will see from the photos the whole place was very quiet!

There were hundreds of sun loungers around the perimeter of the wave pool and kids zone, general public could pay a small fee to hire these, all inclusive guests were able to use these for free. We never had a problem finding four sun loungers together, quite often getting the same ones on the edge of the wave pool. 

The landscaping was quite picturesque, especially with the mountains in the background and the beautiful foliage encompassing the water park, edging the walkways and dotted throughout the pool.

Chris and the girls never waited long to get on the water slides and the children's splash pool was a great enticement for little ones. The water was rather chilly but refreshing in the hot sun.

Over the far side of the water park we were so excited to find there was daily Sea Lion shows. 
We watched this each time we visited and on one occasion the girls were invited in to help with part of the show!

The guy running the show was hilarious, he reminded me of a Robin Williams character and he had a great relationship with the Sea Lions, the main star of the show "Charlie" was a 12 year old sea lion and the handler had been working with him ever since he was a pup! You could see their close relationship and respect for one another.

After the show guests were invited to have their photo taken with one of the sea lions, only a certain amount were allowed through during each session but as the water park was quiet whilst we were there this was never a problem. They had a photographer and you could buy photos but they didn't stop you from taking your own photos either.
The girls had an opportunity to see the sea lion and he just couldn't resist a cheeky kiss or two!

They also offer sea lion encounters, one of which was to swim with the animals and interact with them, priced at 35 euro. 
We didn't get a chance to do that this time but would definitely book up next time we visit (yes we are planning to go again!) 
We watched a group swimming with the sea lion and it looked great fun, swimmers are told to just allow the sea lion to approach you and he was certainly a playful character!

The various sea lion experiences were detailed and priced on a display board near to the sea lion enclosure.

The water park also has a small shop, just behind this you will find the photo shop where you can view any photos taken of you and your group during your visit. There was no pressure to buy but they were happy to tell you all their offers (these seemed to vary depending on what you had looked at, how many children were in your group, what experiences you had visited etc.) They were also open to bartering! 

Lastly I mention the Mermaid School!
This was priced at 20 Euros per child (or adult if you wished) and the experience was amazing. I won't tell you all the details, that can wait for another blog feature!
But just look at how beautiful the girls were as Mermaids.

We booked our holiday with Holiday Hamster, They were great and handled all parts of the booking for us. Make sure you check them out if you're looking for great service.
They can also be found on Facebook.

Enjoy your holidays!!!!