Saturday, 29 April 2017

The London Dungeon - Merlin Entertainment.

Whilst planning our trip to London we showed the girls The London Dungeon website and they were intrigued but a little apprehensive. They decided to "face their fears" and we booked up for a visit.
Prices start from £30 per adult/£24 per child walk up (discounts if you book online or check out the multi attraction tickets. Full prices and packages information here.)
The London Dungeons are part of Merlin Entertainment, they first opened in 1974 and moved to their new location at County Hall, Westminster Bridge in 2013. Here it sits alongside several of Merlin's other popular attractions (including Sealife Centre, Shrek's Adventure and the Coca-Cola London Eye) which make the multi ticket a great and convenient purchase! 

We arrived at The London Dungeons around half an hour before our booked time and the place was heaving! You couldn't move outside and we kept a tight hold of the girls in the crowd. However, The London Dungeons had ample staffing outside to keep the queue flowing steadily and directing people to the right lines. There were several "Jesters" to interact with and entertain the crowds and we were kindly assisted by one as we were unsure of where we needed to be. We were moved swiftly along and before we knew it we were in the last queue before the attraction.
I won't tell you everything that happened so you'll have to visit yourself to find out all the glorious gory fun! 

As you move through to the attraction entrance, the decor inside becomes dramatically darker, damper and the addition of RATS in display tanks adds to the feeling that you are travelling back to a dirtier and more sinister time in London's history.

Then it was our turn to enter the Dungeons!

Emily took a tighter grip on to Daddy's hand as we were lead in by a character. This character, a woman in her scraggy clothes and grubby face, welcomed us and prepared us for some of the horrors we would encounter and we were shown into our "Descent!"
This was a short lift ride into the depths of the Dungeons and we soon heard "the lapping waters of the Thames."

As we made our way through into Henry VIII's reign and heard tales of this tyrant we boarded a boat ride along the "Thames to the Tower of London."
A dark ride in which we were being sent to execution. Screams and shouts from past-time Londoners shatter through the dark as you approach Traitors Gate to face your fate. 
Would we be beheaded alongside Anne Boleyn?
(Don't panic too much though, the ride itself is simply a boat ride with a short fast drop backwards, you'll most likely get a little splashed!)

From here we were ushered from our doom along a dank, rat infested tunnel and found ourselves under the Houses of Parliament, where we met Tom Bates. He tells us how Guy Fawkes was captured and tortured for 10 days! 

As the fuse was lit and the gunpowder threatened to explode we hurried through to find ourselves in the Torture Chamber.
Here the Torturer described with gusto how each of her malicious devices would be used to torture prisoners, she was keen to find "volunteers" for this, funnily enough no one was eager to put their hand up!
The Torturer had a "hacking cough" and told us that the Plague Doctor was doing his rounds and we made our way through a winding alley to the nastiness of a Pest House during the Black Plague. It seemed that the "caring nurses" were less concerned about the patients but more about how much money they could steal from their dead bodies! The Coroner followed, and he detailed how the post-mortem was carried out and Chris was called up as a victim  erm patient.

From here we were faced with the devastation caused by Thomas Farriner, a baker on Pudding Lane.
Here we were told of how the Great Fire of London raged for days on end and caused widespread destruction.
Meanwhile, thinking we were safe from the approaching flames that were savagely tearing through London, we began to notice the smoke billowing in through the woodwork. 

It was time to get out of there and  to grab a bite to eat, we luckily found Mrs Lovett's pie shop. Delicious homemade "meat" pies. Just what we needed - or was it? All was not as it seems.

 Mrs Lovett ushered us out of her shop so she could deal with her next delivery and her sister Flora decided it was time we went for a hair cut, or perhaps a shave for the men?
 Flora - a nervous and twitchy girl, told us of how Sweeney was a traditional barber, he could offer haircuts, shaves, teeth extraction and surgery! 
Blood and bandages she repeats as we were plunged into darkness and then....

.....a swift exit and we are greeted by a well spoken thespian who told us the dramatic true story of Richard Mansfield, the infamous actor who portrayed Jekyll and Hyde. 
A volunteer was asked to try a vial of water as used on stage, I won't go into detail here but things took a turn and we were rushed out quickly and found ourselves in Whitechapel.

Here Mary Jane Kelly, a working girl, told us about the terrors evoked by the mysterious murderer Jack the Ripper. To this day it is still unknown who he was and many theories still haunt London's history.
To escape the grip of Jack we took refuge in the Ten Bells Pub, this set features a raging storm and some lightening, I had the strangest feeling we were not alone!

Time for a little lighter relief as we were sent before The Judge! 
Here several of the visitors were put on trial, including Chris! 

Those sent to prison could have learnt a thing or two as we met Jack Shepherd, he famously escaped from FOUR prisons! 
To demonstrate one of his escape tricks he asked someone to "act" as the guard, yep - Chris!
Leaving him locked up, the girls and I made our way to the Drop Ride to Doom. 
This is a short drop ride, there are height restrictions on this, no one under 140cm permitted to ride so it was left to Chris to face the executioner alone.
Whilst we waited we were shown our group photos. These were available to purchase as a pack for £20 and included a picture book with your two photos added, plus keyring and fridge magnet.
We had also purchased the guide book when we arrived for £5 (2 for £8)

As we left here we presumed the tour was over and were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in the Tavern. Here we were each given a token to trade in for a free drink. There was a choice of ale, gin cocktail, juice or cola slush (this had actually run out as was a popular choice).
A nice touch at the end of the tour, the Tavern was set up as an old Victorian London pub, the decor was of dark heavy wood and pewter mugs. And as we sipped our drinks we enjoyed the music from the ghost piano!

The girls used some of their pocket money to buy themselves a "Misfortune Cookie" each! Just £1.50 and there were several other pocket money buys available too.

The London Dungeons are easily accessible by tube, foot or bus, the nearest tube stations are Waterloo or Westminster.  
To find out full details about the London Dungeon then checkout their website or find them on Facebook.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the London Dungeons and although the girls were worried about it beforehand, and were scared at times during the visit it wasn't anything unbearable for them, as Mollie said afterwards "it was a funny sort of scared!" and declared it one of her favourites.

The girls verdict:
Mollie - "it was a very enjoyable experience and I would love to go again!"
Emily - "it was scary but I felt safe. My best part was Jack the Ripper."

Be sure to check it out next time you are visiting London!

Checkout our other Merlin Entertainment features:

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Kim's Norfolk Kitchen

In a little village called Sustead, not far from Cromer in North Norfolk you will find Kim's Norfolk Kitchen. 
Cookery classes for everyone from the complete beginner to those budding Master chefs! Kim caters for adults and also runs children's classes. So whether you are looking for a one off session, children's after school club or something more specific then Kim can help you.

Emily was lucky enough to attend one of the "Cooks in the Making" sessions during the school break. Em's is a keen cook at home, often wanting to experiment with home baking.  So when we saw Kim's Norfolk Kitchen we knew she would love it.
Grandma and Grandad treated her for her birthday and when the day arrived she was very excited, she didn't even seem to mind the early wake up alarm!

The session she was booked into started at 9.30am and Emily was greeted cheerfully by Kim and her husband (whom also helps with the classes, according to Emily, he had to do all the cleaning up!) There was just Emily and one other little girl for this session, Kim likes to keep the classes small to create a relaxed environment and plenty of interaction.

Everything you need for the session is provided by Kim and she started off by showing the children the kitchen and talking through what they would be making.
The classes are held in her bright and airy purpose built kitchen which has spacious work stations and a large table for groups. It is well equipped and Kim is obviously a passionate chef herself.

Then it was time to get started. They would be making Mini Chocolate Cakes. 

The children do everything themselves and get to use all the utensils independently to develop their skills. Emily made some pretty comical faces when using the electric hand whisk!

Once the cakes were cooked, they had to trim the edges and level out the top, when this was done, a chocolate glaze was made and drizzled over the top. Then Emily set about decorating each individual cake with sugar fondant flowers that she had made whilst the cakes had been cooking.

Whatever you make during your session you get to take home (Kim provides containers for transporting the food.) And a copy of the recipe that you have followed, so that you can recreate it at home and share with your family and friends.

The session Emily attended lasted for 2.5 hours and cost £30 all inclusive.

The classes vary in price depending on what you are looking for and full details and calendar can be found on her website. For more information check out Kim's website or find her on Facebook.
Kim has a fully CRB check, up to date Food Hygiene certificate and holds a Food Rating Grade 5.

Emily Says:

"I really loved the cooking session and Kim was really fun. I liked the work table and how everything I needed was there. 
I thought the chocolate cakes were going to be hard to make but Kim helped us and I actually found it easy. They tasted really good and I was really happy to show them to Mum, Dad and Mollie when I got home.
Kim was nice and she didn't even tell us off when we got the giggles! 
It was good fun and I would love to go again one day."

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Coca Cola London Eye - Merlin Entertainment.

We recently enjoyed a trip to London to visit some of the most iconic landmarks and attractions. One of the first on our list was the Coca-Cola London Eye. Situated along London's South Bank, opposite the House of Parliament and Big Ben, you cannot miss this striking structure.

The Eye first arrived on the bank of the Thames for the Millennium and has continued to attract visitors in their millions ever since.
Merlin Entertainment took ownership of the attraction in 2007 and it has been sponsered by Coca-Cola since January 2015.

Booking is not essential but highly recommended as places tend to sell out quickly during peek times. Pre-purchase will also save you some queuing time!

The Coca-Cola London Eye is easily reached via London Underground - the nearest stations being Waterloo, Embankment, Charing Cross and Westminster. 

Standard entry tickets are priced at £26 adult/£21 child (there are discounts for online booking.) Check out the website for the various packages and ticketing prices
The attraction is open daily (with the exception of Christmas Day) times vary depending on the time of year so make sure you check out the information on their website.

Also to the Left hand side of the County Hall building Coca-Cola London Eye ticket holders can view the London Eye 4D Cinema Experience. This lasts just under 5 minutes and enhances your senses using bubbles, fog, wind and snow whilst you watch the development of the Eye and enjoy a bird's eye view swooping across the Thames.

We caught the tube to Waterloo and directions were clearly signposted from the moment we stepped off the tube. Chris is familiar with London and pretty confident in navigation but even I would have been able to find it. As we left the station and made our way through South Bank Centre we were instantly aware of how busy the crowds were. It was Easter weekend but peek times would all be similar.
As we walked though South Bank we happened upon The Food Market, tantalising our senses with smells and colour. We made a mental note to return there later!

As we turned the corner we caught the first glimpse of the Eye! 
Emily started to get giggly and both the girls hurried us along. 
Chris and I have been on the attraction before but for the girls it was a first.

We made our way to the County Hall building where ticket offices for several of the Merlin Entertainment attractions are housed and the crowds were heaving. However, visitors were quickly ushered to the correct desks and we were served relatively quickly. We then made our way to join the time slot queue in front of the Eye. Again, the crowds were crazily busy, we kept tight hold of the girls hands so that we didn't get separated. The security and staff here were amazingly efficient and friendly. 

There was a photo opportunity during the queue and these are available to view and purchase after your ride for £20. This comes presented beautifully in a hard back book full of information and iconic London photos. There was also another photo opportunity before the ride ended.

Although it was busy it was soon time for us to embark. The capsules move continuously unless wheelchair access is required and the staff ensure everyone moves fluently into the capsule. 
There is a brief recorded safety announcement and we were on our way.

Each capsule is loaded with no more than 28 passengers and has a wide bench in the centre for those who want to sit back and relax to enjoy the views.
The spacious capsule is air conditioned to keep the temperature comfortable, as you can imagine the capsule is essentially an oval greenhouse so without it things would get pretty hot!

The rotation takes approximately 25-30 minutes and offers passengers 360° views of London.
The views are quite stunning and we all just took our time staring out on the horizon. Emily found her way through to the end of the capsule and sat herself, cross legged and forehead pressed against the window, simply absorbing the views.

Emily was excited to spot Wembley Stadium (which our hotel was near) and Mollie loved seeing Buckingham Palace from the top of the Eye!
On board there are several interactive screens which help you to identify the sights. Being screen slaves the girls HAD to have a go on these!

The girls also spotted a children's play area just below us and guess where we headed after our ride.

Ultimately we made our descent and were soon approaching disembarkment. 

We loved the ride and it was a lovely opportunity to spend time enjoying the views and pointing landmarks out to one another.

We highly recommend this attraction. Merlin Entertainments offer package deals when you book multiple attractions - these offer considerable discounts. Also check out their annual passes, admission to Coca-Cola London Eye is included on this.

We would love to return and ride the Eye during dusk, I can only imagine how stunning and beautiful the Thames would look when lit up.

Check out our other Merlin Entertainment features:


Sunday, 16 April 2017

Waveney Gymnastics Party Package!

Emily recently turned 9! And our gymnastic crazy girl wanted a party at her Gymnastics club. 
She attends Waveney Gymnastics in Lowestoft each week. 

The centre offers a variety of party packages and are priced at £11.00 per child with a minimum of 10. a deposit of £30 will secure your party which are available at the weekends. you then confirm numbers and pay the balance a week prior to the party. Upon booking we were given a pack containing all the information, options, plus Health and Safety notes for the parents including a map to help party guests find the venue.
It is your own responsibility to supply invitations, cake and party bags.

We arrived approximately ten minutes before the party to get ourselves sorted (find a table!) and were very pleasantly surprised to find that party hire gives your exclusive use of the facilities!

The food table was already set up and this left plenty of other tables and space for the parents to sit whilst the children were in the party. 
During the party Cafe Rendezvous remained open for adults to purchase drinks. 

Then it was time for the kids to get in!

The party was overseen by three members of staff, including two of the younger leaders. These lads were a credit to the centre and really got involved in the party, helping the children and playing games.
Parents are invited to go in with the children (no shoes) but not permitted on the equipment.

Food options include:

Tots party food for preschoolers.
Cold buffet 
Hot buffet

We opted for the hot buffet; this included burgers, sausages, fish fingers, potato stars, fries and beans. Followed by ice cream. With plenty of squash provided throughout the party. Food is provided by Cafe Rendezvous. The ladies sorting the food were very friendly, chatty and helpful.


The kids had the use of pretty much everything in the gymnastics arena and they certainly had fun. We couldn't fault the food and there was so much that even the adults had a good feed!

Waveney Gymnastics Club runs a wide range of classes too. For more information about parties and classes visit their website or find them on Facebook.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Homemade Fizzy Bathbombs

The girls are completely OBSESSED with bath bombs at the moment and spending a fortune on them! So we decided to try making our own. We had difficulty in finding citric acid so I had to find an alternative recipe, we found that this one worked for us.

What you will need (makes 6 small/medium sized bath bombs.)

1 cup of Bicarbonate of Soda.
1/4 cup of Cream of Tartar.
1/2 cup of Bath Salts.
1 tbs of oil - coconut, sweet almond, olive oil.
10-15 drops of your favourite essential oil.
Food colouring (optional)

A large mixing bowl.
Wooden spoon.
Silicone mould.

Step One:

Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add the oil.

Step Two:

Add the essential oil and food colouring and combine. To check if the mixture is ready, scoop a small handful and squeeze together, if it sticks then you are ready. If the mixture is still crumbly then add some drops of oil or alternatively you can use a misting bottle to spray with water until the mixture sticks together.

Step Three:

Fill the silicone mould with the mixture and pack down firmly. It will take a lot more mixture than you think and you need to ensure that it is pushed down hard.

Step Four:

Leave to dry for at least 24 hours before carefully removing from the silicone mould. Store in an airtight container.

Step Five:

Pop in the bath and enjoy! 

The Verdict:
These were fun to make and relatively mess free. They don't fizz nearly as long as the shop bought bath bombs and by the time you purchase the ingredients you haven't made a huge saving. 
BUT we enjoyed making them and they worked well.
They would make cute little homemade gifts to. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Leaping lambs and chirpy chicks at Wroxham Barns

April, Spring is here. 
Daffodils, lambs and April showers, what images does Spring conjure up for you?
The clocks have gone forward, the days are getting longer and warmer and the signs of Spring are all around us. 

We decided to extend Emily's birthday celebrations by taking the girls on a trip to Wroxham Barns

Wroxham Barns opened back in 1983 and has established itself as a well-loved local attraction. 
It is situated in the heart of  North Norfolk, just 10 miles from Norwich. There is ample free parking available.
Visitors can browse the quaint shopping area and use the outdoor play area for free, next to this is the mini golf and fun fair. 

There are also several eateries and craft shops, including "Made by Me" which offers the opportunity for visitors to try out their creative skills. The many shops also include - Sew Creative, The Norfolk Cider Shop, The Scrummy Pig and Coastal Stained Glass to name just a few.

The main attraction for us is the Junior Farm. 

This is open daily (not including Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day and weekdays throughout January) from 10am-5pm. Tickets cost £6.50 per person with under 2's entering for free. (Some concession prices apply.) They also offer an annual pass.

We purchased some bags of animal feed as we entered the Junior Farm, priced as just 55p per bag, there is more than ample feed in each bag for the family to all have a go at feeding the animals.
As we entered the girls spotted that they were running a "Chick Hunt" so we headed over to the activity tent to sign up for this! 
A nice simple hunt which just required you to follow clues around the farm and count how many chicks you found.
At the end the children received a small prize - some bubbles or a small chocolate Easter treat.

The farm offers a range of animal interaction and feeding times throughout the day. The girls were eager to feed the lambs, hold the chicks and guinea pigs and to feed the Pygmy Goats. We made sure we checked out the times before we went so we could plan our visit and there was plenty of signs around the farm reminding visitors of the times. There's plenty of hand washing facilities around and you are encouraged to wash your hands each time you have had an animal encounter.

Our first stop was to feed the very excitable goats! These caused much hilarity as they clambered greedily for the food. Emily thought it was hilarious, whereas Mollie was a bit nervous to start with but she warmed up to it after a while.

Then we headed through to see the sheep and they trotted along the fence beside the girls as they ran up and down the walkway. Very friendly and placid animals, who certainly loved having a good back scratch against the fences! 

Just over from these we spotted a little lamb and its mother in their own pen, the lamb was leaping everywhere and drew quite a crowd. He had been born on Mother's Day.

We then took a look at the hens and turkeys. 

By the hen house you can open up the hutch and see whether they have laid any eggs, you can then purchase these for 20p, the farm operates an honesty policy and you just pay on the way out.

By now it was time to groom the ponies. The farm hands tethered the ponies to the fence and children were taken in, no more than 2 per pony and given instructions on how to groom. 

Then it was time to go and see the small animals - the chicks, guinea pigs and rabbits. We went over to the barn, this was edged with hay bale seating and the animal runs along one side. It got quite busy in here but the handlers made sure that all the children got to have a turn at holding the animals. Again instructions on how to handle then were given and parents were asked to support their children. 

I think this part was the girls favourite, it completely made their day!

After here we went to see the pigs and what a lovely smell they made! 
In the middle pigsty we got to see a new mummy pig with her cluster of piglets! They were enjoying a good feed when we saw them.

Now it was lamb feeding time. Again the barn had the pens down one side and a "bench" of hay bales along the other side, leaving a walkway either side of the hay bales so the parents could stand behind their children to help.

These lambs are all orphaned lambs, but it doesn't mean they have all lost their mother. Some sheep have multiple births but only two teats so cannot feed them all, so Wroxham Barns takes them in to rear.

The girls spent time petting the sleepy lambs for a while whilst we waited. Then the farm hands arrived with the bottles and the lambs went crazy! They certainly recognised feeding time!

The girls shared a feeding bottle and its a good job - they are very strong and greedy animals!
We then finished off looking at the other animals, using the last of the feed we had purchased and stopping off to see the cows again now they were a bit more active.

We caught the Pygmy Goat feeding as we headed out of the farm. These were having their vegetables for the day and as there was only our girls and one other family, all the children got lots of veggie strips to feed to the goats. 

Then it was time to leave. A quick stop in the fudge shop first - Yummy!

We had a fabulous time at Wroxham Barns. Be sure to pay them a visit this year. Lamb feeding runs through till June. 
You can also catch the Foolhardy Circus if you visit over the Easter break. This is at an additional cost of £6 per person, under 2's are free.
For more information check out the Wroxham Barns website or find them on Facebook.