I wish I could tell you half of the things. Alice used to say, beginning with her favourite phrase ‘Let’s pretend.‘
– Through the Looking-Glass, ch.1 ‘Looking-Glass house’
How can I sum up the ROH performance of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground? It was like a whirlwind of CRAZY! Just like Alice falling down the dizzying rabbit hole, the performance was a spiralling sensation. I really did not expect the performance to turn out the way it did, but am so happy I got to watch it.
I was invited to attend the press evening performance (Feb 4) with Little Man but unfortunately he was ill that week so I took Little Miss along with me instead. I wasn’t sure what to expect as she is only turning four so I thought it might be a little overwhelming for her but surprisingly she lasted well. You could hear the animated voices of other children in the auditorium who seemed to love it. What’s not to like about a chaotic performance from giant ‘eat me’ cakes, blue ‘drink me’ bottles, four giant crying baby heads and Humpty Dumpty?
A cheeky selfie before the show starts
The spectacular view of the ROH auditorium
We arrived slightly later than planned and the queue to collect tickets was much longer than expected – I was unfortunately not in the right queue! How was I to know?! LOL We made it to our seats in the auditorium stalls (row L) which had great views of the stage. We took a few selfies before settling down for the performance to start.
My thoughts on Alice’s Adventures Under Ground…
This opera is unlike any other; it breaks all the rules. Singers are pushed to the extremes with their vocal ranges (hitting over 30 top ‘C’ notes in the first five minutes of the performance!), Jabberwocky sung in English, Russian and German, and Humpty Dumpty recounts his tragic tale to a rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy… all thanks to Gerald Barry and his clever mish-mash of Alice in wonderland and Alice through the looking-glass.
Alice: Claudia Boyle
The Red Queen: Clare Presland
The White Queen: Hilary Summers
The White Rabbit: Sam Furness
The March Hare: Peter Tantsits
The Cheshire Cat: Mark Stone
Humpty Dumpty : Joshua Bloom
All of the cast above also played various other roles.
A big well done to the cast for their vibrant performance. The fifty-five minute show was a little too short for my liking but at the same time, it was just the right amount of time for families with younger children to enjoy. I really enjoyed it but for Little Miss, she just didn’t get it which was disappointing. I guess it was just too much going on at one time for her. It was her first time watching an opera performance and I’m sure if it was Little Man, he’d probably would’ve thought the same thing. However for him, he’d be able to get by from reading the surtitles – that’s what he did when we went to watch The Lost Thing.
There were also moments that made me burst into laughter. My favourite scene was after Alice went through the looking glass and witnessed the battle between the red knight and white knight. It was hilarious watching the two duelling then falling off their horses, only to apologetically help each other get back on to battle again. Little Miss’ favourite (and recognisable scene) Alice falling d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-down the endless rabbit hole that even she had to catch her breath before meeting the rabbit and the four ‘eat me’ cakes. The four baby heads which represented the four bottles totally threw us both off which was quite funny very weird! I really don’t remember that scene from Alice in Wonderland at all!
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son
The jaws that bit, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
“When Alice tumbles down into the Rabbit Hole into Wonderland… she meets a successions of strange characters in unusual situations… Following the trial of the Knave of Hearts – accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts – Alice finds herself in Looking Glass Land…
Here, Alice becomes a Queen herself.”
The story is told in a most peculiar yet enchanting way. Lewis Carroll would’ve been appreciative of this wonderful approach. There’s singing, shouting, speaking, growling and squealing alongside the orchestra accompaniment. With two performances a night for 6 nights, it’s pretty intense. The show itself was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of performance. It’s fast, it’s wild and it’s fantastic. If you missed it (it went by as quickly as its performance dates) then I hope the Royal Opera House will put this opera on again next year.
It’s definitely one not to be missed. 🙂
For a more formal take on the show, you can check out British Theatre Guide’s review from Vera Liber who I met at the last ROH performance I’d attended. Unfortunately I didn’t bump into her that night but if she’s reading this, I send my love and warm greetings!
So you want to hear a story? Yrots a raeh ot tnaw uoy os?
Last week we were invited along to attend a showing of The Lost Thing at the Royal Opera House. As the show was suitable for children aged 6+ I was allowed to bring a plus one and naturally, I took Little Man with me. We don’t go to the theatre regularly and normally when we do go, it’s usually to our local Greenwich Theatre (which is fantastic for families!) so going to a fancy one like the Royal Opera House, I had to make sure my little monster was going to be on his best behaviour.
We attended the evening performance (7.15PM) but there are days when a matinee performance is showing. We made our way from North Greenwich to Covent Garden easily and just missed the rush hour period as we set off around 5PM. When we arrived at the Royal Opera House, we were ‘greeted’ by the doorman (they just opened the door, no smiles and we were the first to initiate the actual greeting, but hey ho) who showed us the way to the reception desk. Looking around I could see why we were not as warmly welcomed as we would be at our little Greenwich Theatre. The majority of the ROH attendees are mostly older, mostly middle-class and attended without children. A totally different demographic than what we’re used to seeing.
As we headed downstairs to the Linbury Theatre, it was a little less intimidating as we saw more families and young children. Little Man didn’t notice anything but as a parent, I feel like the theatre should be a more welcoming place for those with young children. Perhaps if we had attended a matinee performance it would’ve probably felt less judging as we usually associate evening shows with adult guests rather than young families.
As we were a little early, we decided to head back up and have a look around the small gift shop. We bought a laser-light keyring and a ballet pump keyring for Little Miss. We then headed back downstairs to the cafe outside the Linbury Theatre and had a hot chocolate and a brownie which satisfied our sweet craving.
What is The Lost Thing?
The Lost Thing is a picture book written and illustrated by Shaun Tan. It became one of his bestselling books worldwide and well-recognised in the literature world. The story is about a boy who discovers ‘The Thing’ which doesn’t seem to belong to anything in particular, making it ‘lost’. In the book, The Thing looks very mechanical and is orange-red with greenish metal claws and legs whereas in the theatre production, it’s more organic and living with a green, moss-like body and ever-changing number of legs.
In this theatrical adaptation by Ben Wright and Jules Maxwell (from Candoco Dance Company, a world-leading professional dance company) we are treated to a different kind of storytelling; one that’s filled with not only music but also theatrical singing, opera and dance along the way. ‘Mixing it up’ is definitely a good way of exposing children of this new generation to a variety of performing arts.
Review: The Lost Thing at Royal Opera House
Despite the lukewarm review of the show being “too static and slow” from The Guardian online, I much agree with the reviews from Culture Whisper and British Theatre Guide. The performance was pleasantly executed, and provided both children and adults with some true thought-provoking moments. In the programme booklet they gave me, it mentions that The Thing in the performance is not meant to replicate Tan’s illustration but instead, represents something living and organic. The Thing can shape-shift changing from two legs to eight legs, growing larger or smaller depending on its mood.
“We wanted to take it in a completely different direction and build on the skeleton of the story, which is about celebrating difference, supporting what is lost, and potentially contemplating what we are losing. We decided to shift the nature of The Thing itself to be this odd, biodiverse, many-limbed organism…“ –Ben Wright, interviewed by Lyndsey Winship
I can understand why there may be some disappointment as to why the original story was never followed through completely but then again, adapting a picture book into an opera/theatrical performance is not ordinary neither. The story lines is minimal but I think that makes it easy for children to understand. There’s also surtitles and audio description for those hard of hearing. The diverse cast are fantastic – all extremely talents and a good mix of both disabled and non-disabled dancers, musicians, singers.
I thought the interpretation of The Thing as something organic and living, familiar yet somehow forgotten, was like a metaphorical example of the world we live in today. There is a scene where The Boy almost hands The Thing over to the odds and ends department, but then a janitor appears and strongly advises against it, saying that things left there get permanently forgotten. We then see the janitor being comforted by The Thing and feeling happy that it’s in his presence. It reminded me of how happy and content we once were to just enjoy simple things ie. nature but now we’re constantly fixated on our phones and devices.
“In the book, the denouement is that it finds a place where it belongs. In our version that place is a very saturated, green, mossy jungle…” –Ben Wright, interviewed by Lyndsey Winship
Summary: my thoughts on The Lost Thing
Little Man loved the performance and has asked to go back to watch The Thing come to life again. We will aim to go before the new year. He also lost his thing (a small toy) there at the theatre, which has now become his ‘lost thing’ – now isn’t that a story within a story for you?
I loved the story so much that I ordered the picture book online for Little Man, he instantly recognised the book from the ochre colour scheme and enjoyed reading it however he told me that he much prefers the ending that he saw in the opera adaptation.
The Lost Thing is showing until January 4th 2020 and tickets are between £7.00-£35.00 for a seat, how can you resist a familiar yet story?
You can watch the video of Shaun Tan’s story here:
P I N T H I S P O S T
[AD] We were given complimentary tickets to attend the performance of The Lost Thing at the Royal Opera House in exchange for this review post. All opinions and content are in my own words and photos that have been used are credited to their sources respectively.
This winter is the best time for us to get our skates on and unleash our inner figure skater vibes! I cannot skate but that doesn’t stop me getting on the ice. I try to go at least once every year and each year I tell myself that I will take up skating and get better… but like NY resolutions, the feeling and motivation disperses and I’m left saying the same thing year on year.
I’ve taken it upon myself to give myself a Christmas mission and visit 5 beautiful and magical ice rinks in London. Below are my favourite five rinks which are all outdoors so you can enjoy the stunning views of majestic surrounding buildings.
There are so many ice skating rinks in London to visit but here are a few a good places to start you off…
Somerset House is mainly known for hosting London Fashion Week/Weekend events but every winter they also put on a spectacular ice skating arena, especially if you visit late afternoon/evening time when the lights are on. There’s a big Christmas tree as the centrepiece, plus having the building as a backdrop for your skate is simply amazing.
A few days I went with one of my work girls to skate and we really enjoyed ourselves. It really is a stunning location but get ready to see a lot of couples skating together, a lot of newbies clinging onto the edge of the rink and more experienced skaters showing off their moves in the middle of the rink. There’s no skate aids here apart from for young children so I wouldn’t recommend skating here if you’ve never been on the ice as you will just be clinging onto the sides of the rink for the whole session. I am not great on the ice and found it quite challenging without any skate aids but managed to get by a little although I had to have lots of resting time in between because my legs got tired… Real quick. Also it gets quite busy on the ice but really feels festive and enjoyable.
They play good music on the ice and the lights change colour which creates a lovely skating atmosphere. Sessions are 45 mins which is a good amount of skate time. The skates for hire are really good quality and I’ve found lace-up skates to be extremely comfy compared to the standard clip-in ones.
Adult tickets are from £11 for the 45mins session which includes skate hire. Arrive at least 15mins early to drop off your bags at the hut (first bag/item is free, £2 per item thereafter). Then go into the other hut to collect your skates. There’s also Skate Lates from 8pm where you can enjoy skating listen to the latest hits and some classics from the venue’s DJ. Good vibes!
Based at the foot of a UNESCO Heritage site, voted as UK’s Top 10 visitors attraction the Queen’s House in Greenwich is one of the most beautiful places in London. The ice rink here is the only outdoor rink in South East London and is beautiful to skate around. This year, the rink at Canary Wharf has not been brought back so this is currently our closest ice skating rink.
We had the pleasure of skating here on its launch event (you can read our ice skating review here) which was fantastic. The kids had such a wonderful time and I am so glad to have an ice rink so local to us! For me, this rink comes in as a close second behind Somerset House because even though it is an amazing rink with really magical views, the skates let me down – they are the really cheap clip on ones which hurt my feet so bad. The good thing about this rink is that they have not one, but TWO types of skate aids for you to choose from. A penguin aid for less confident skaters and the banana aid (seen below) which is ideal for tiny skaters and complete first-timers. The banana aid is really fun but for those pushing the aid around, it’s hard work! Get ready to burn extra calories with that thing.
A night – or late afternoon skate here would be stunning. As you can see from the image above, the Queen’s House lit up at night is really something. It looks magical and so festive! The rink doesn’t get overly busy too which is great as it means more space on the ice to go round. Tickets are from £13.50 for adults and from £6.75 for kids, unfortunately there are no family tickets but if you’re a Royal Musuems Greenwich member, you can take advantage of their discounted tickets.
South Kensington is well known for their museums and now every winter, for their ice skating too! Passing here last winter with Little Man I thought about taking him on the ice but unfortunately he’s not a big fan as I am with ice skating so we gave it a miss. I’m planning to head out this year with Little Miss as the ice rink is small but good enough for parents with young families. There is a morning parent & toddler skating session which includes skating, skate hire and a free hot drink for both… of course we will opt for the hot chocolate option! 🙂
This rink is on my list to take the kids once we break up for Christmas holidays. It looks like it’ll be a good one and a skate by the NHM would be a delight! Naturally, we’ll head into the museum after for a little look around and lunch at their cafe or a nearby restaurant. Adult tickets are from £12.65 and tickets for children start from £8.80. There’s also a reduced family ticket for four cost from £39.60.
Every Friday evening from 7-8pm, fragrance brand Viktor&Rolf will be transforming the ice rink into a Flowerbomb fantasy. Join in as they turn the ice pink, hang sparkling baubles from the Christmas tree and the infuse the air with their new Flowerbomb fragrance.
Situated in the gardens of Henry VIII’s historic home, the Hampton Court Palace outdoor rink offers you the chance to glide across the ice whilst being surrounded by spectacular views of the amazing Tudor palace. This scenic skate is perfect for all skaters from complete beginners to the advanced. Skate aids are available, and just like at Queen’s House you can choose from the penguin or the banana.
Tickets are slightly pricier than the other rinks already mentioned (apart from Somerset House) from £15.00 per adult and £10.50 per child. This will have to be a solo skate for me or with friends as it’s slightly out of reach for us and to be frank, the prices are a little more dear. From the images on their website, I can see that people are wearing the blue clip-on skates… a big turn off for me however that view does look really appealing. There’s also a cafe bar by the rink so you can grab a hot drink and something to eat before or after your time on the ice. 🙂
Skating around an outdoor bandstand playing live music? What more could you ask for! This rink looks pretty amazing in the day time and at night, even more special. When I visited this rink with my girl friends, unfortunately it was a very wet evening and we all got caught in the rain. It was only a mist but so much water pooled onto the ice, it made me really nervous with skating on it. However it wasn’t all bad – the wet ice actually made it easier to glide and skate but it was certainly more slippery in some areas of the ice as the rain froze over.
There are penguin skate aids at this rink for hire £5 per aid which I bought but ended up not using. There were many families on the ice that couldn’t really skate but didn’t want to put money out to get an aid and were really struggling. I ended up giving my penguin to a young child who skated with his mum and sister who were also inexperienced skaters.
There was a professional photographer on the ice when we skated so be aware that staff will tell you that you can’t take photos on the ice – because they want you to obviously purchase theirs so if you must take a photo like we did, make it snappy and do it discreetly.There was also live music; we had a singer performing with her guitar. Her acoustic renditions of Christmas songs were mellow, festive and added perfect ambience to our wet skating session. We enjoyed our 45 minute skate and of course, my feet got blistered from the clip-on skates which were in really bad condition. They had the worst skates compared to the rinks at Somerset House and the Queen’s House.
Apparently Hyde Park’s rink prides itself as the largest outdoor rink in the UK I can’t tell you for certain. From photos, I thought the Hampton Court rink looks bigger but I won’t know until I go there myself. As soon as I can tell you, I’ll let you guys know. 😉
Okay, I know my post title says Top 5 but think of this as your bonus ice rink location because I couldn’t disregard it.
Tower of London is one of the Historic Royal Palaces in London (like Hampton Court Palace) and a very popular attraction for visitors in the UK and overseas. You can skate outside the fortress and admire the beautiful ambience as it’s lit up in the evening.
Prices are similar to Hampton Court; from £15 for adults and from £10.50 for children. For me, this one will be a miss but I’m sure it’ll be a great visit if you’re a History buff. Skate aids can also be hired here (must be booked in advance) but their website doesn’t specify what kind of skate aids are available.
I hope you enjoyed this little round-up posts of my top 5 magical outdoor ice rinks in London. Have you visited any ice skating rinks this year or perhaps you’re looking to go soon before Christmas? Leave me a comment if you have any other recommendations of open-air ice rinks in London too! x
When I was a young girl, my father decided that he wanted me to develop musical talent. Lucky for him, I wasn’t too bad at it and was able to pick up playing piano quite easily. Unfortunately, I stopped playing piano around the time I was doing my GCSEs because I felt like it was all too overwhelming for me. In hindsight I am a gutted I didn’t carry on but that’s life and my priorities were different to what my dad wanted/expected them to be. To this day however, I still enjoy listening to piano music and admire those who play it.
The Aurora Orchestra at King’s Place
The Aurora Orchestra create interactive, musical storytelling concerts aimed at under 5s. This was something unheard of to me but I thought the chance to exposing my little ones to classical music early on would be a great idea. The only other time the kids got close to hearing classical music was when they were still inside the womb and I’d occasionally put on classic.fm for them to listen to.
The Aurora Orchestra are currently performing their new storytelling concert, Beethoven and the Dinosaurs at King’s Place in Kings Cross and last week, I went along with Little Man. He’s six so older than the recommended age but I didn’t mind and neither did he! The Orchestra will be there until the end of this week then they’ll be back again in February to perform Chopin and the Dragonfly. You can also go on Youtube and have a little look at how the concerts are performed: https://youtu.be/GPjSTd-moZ4
A little bit of participation from the grown-ups is always good fun but the Aurora Orchestra team are really good at retaining the children’s attention. The concert was 45mins long was was definitely long enough. Each musician had their own solo part to play which was lovely; our musician trio was made up of the flute, the cello and the piano.
The following pieces by Beethoven had been specially arranged for the concert:
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 6
Bagatelle Op. 33 No. 2
Symphony No. 6
Piano Concerto No. 3
Moonlight Sonata pt. 1 & 2
Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major
Symphony No. 7 (adapted)
Piano trio Op. 1 No. 1
All of the children really loved the concert. They were all so attentive, there was only one outburst from a teary child but he soon settled after seeing some more dinosaurs appear. We had moments of dancing and laughter especially towards the end when the storyteller asked the children what dance move could the dinosaurs do and a little girl shouted out “pooing” it was refreshing to see the storyteller going along with it. 🙂
The concert is on show from December 1-8 so don’t miss out on booking your tickets for Sunday if you want to check it out. As it’s in King’s Cross you can make a day out of it with the family by heading over to the British Library. Check their website for timings and prices. A family ticket for 4 (2 adults 2 kids, or 1 adult 3 kids) cost just £23.50 which is great value.
I am really looking forward to the next concert, Chopin and the Dragonfly (in February) so I can take Little Miss with me to experience the concert. I think it’s brilliant how they can weave these classical pieces into stories and make it fun and immersive for the children. We’ll be going on a weekday as I’m at work on the weekends but hopefully that should mean less crowds for us to battle on our commute!
About: Far, Far Away series
Far, Far Awayis Aurora Orchestra’s series of immersive storytelling concerts for young children aged 0–5 and their families. These interactive musical adventures bring to life music by a particular composer or style of music, weaving together live performance, an original story by critically-acclaimed poet Kate Wakeling (Aurora Writer-in-Residence), and a set design built around the audience and musicians. Audiences are invited to step inside each story through guided listening, singing, dancing, holding props and much more, becoming immersed in a magical world of music, language, discovery and play. Some past Far, Far Away productions have been Beethoven and the Dinosaurs, Tchaikovsky and the Marvellous Kingdom, and Bach and the Noisy Night-time.
Queen’s House Greenwich Ice Rink
Dates: 29 November 2019 – 12 January 2020
(closed Dec 25)
Winter time is the only season where I need no excuses to drink my body weight in hot chocolate and look like a Michelin-man. I’m loving all of the fluffy layers, borg-lined jackets and teddy-fleece fabrics this year. It’s been a real long time since I’ve skated however this past week I have been going regularly to ice skating rinks around London. In an upcoming review, I’ll be sharing my favourite outdoor ice rinks in London with you so look out for that soon.
For the past few years living in the area, there’s always been an ice rink in Greenwich. Greenwich is a lovely little town that draws people from near and far to come and sample its culture and cuisine. The Queen’s House is a part of the Royal Museums Greenwich, one of the UK’s Top 10 visitor attractions. It’s also a UNESCO protected Heritage site and has been beautifully preserved.
The National Maritime Museum is next door and they have a wonderful under 5s play area that’s free to drop-in. Across the road is the Old Royal Naval College where you’ll find the newly renovated Painted Hall. Just behind the attraction is Greenwich Park and a short but steep climb up the hill, you’ll find The Royal Observatory. The last remaining tea-clipper, the Cutty Sark, is a short walk away and so is the popular Greenwich Market. On Wednesdays, there’s a toddlers soft-play session under the ship.
If you have a young child, you can really make a day out of your visit by combining a few things to do together. Check out this post of when we went along to the Toddler Time session at Cutty Sark. There’s also lots of interesting events going on at Greenwich market over the Christmas period so be sure to check out their website.
Ice skating in Greenwich
We were kindly invited along to the opening launch of the Queen’s House Ice Rink. Apparently this Greenwich outdoor ice rink is the only one in South London There wasn’t many of us there which made it a lovely first experience for the kids, despite the rainy weather. We will definitely be back in the next week or so for more skating!
We left school and arrived at the National Maritime Museum at 3.40pm, as we were a little early we popped into the museum for a little look around. We could see from the outside that the lighthouse beacon was on and like boats to a lighthouse, we were pulled in by the light. We had a little look around the souvenir shop before heading back out and across over to the Queen’s House. The weather was not too cold but I’d highly recommend dressing the kids up warm for the ice. We warmed up with delicious hot chocolates before or our session but you can also choose from teas, coffees and mulled wine. Snacks and sweet treats are also available.
Skating sessions can be booked in advance online. Prices are from £13.50 for adults and £6.75 for children. The skating sessions are 45 minutes which is pretty standard timing. The prices are also similar to other London outdoor ice rinks. If you add in the benefits of the rink being stunning and on the doorstep of two museums, it’s decent value-for-money. After checking in we went to change into our skates, children’s size starts from infant UK 9, if your child’s feet is smaller than this they offer bob skates which go over your child’s actual footwear.
Skate aids are also available to hire for £5. They have two types of skate aids to choose from; the penguin which is suitable for single beginner skaters and the banana skate aid which is a godsend if you have more than one child. Just pop your little ones on and push them around the ice but be aware, it’s tiring work especially if your kids are older as their weight makes it harder to push and steer if you are also a beginner skater.
Our best moments & highlights…
The stunning background views
When it comes to outdoor ice skating venues, the view has to be one of the highlights. I can confirm that the Queen’s House lit up after dark for our session was truly amazing. It really added to the magical experience. Even if you skated here during daylight hours, I think it would still look just as beautiful. I will be back very soon for a solo skate and will definitely opt for a morning session. During the daytime, the Queen’s House Greenwich is always open and free to enter so make sure you pop in and have a look around at the wonderful artwork and don’t forget to check out its stunning Tulip spiral staircase.
Unfortunately, I get blisters on my feet each time I skate because my feet are flat and over-pronated. If you have a similar condition, make sure you wear thick socks and/or bring some gel cushion pads to avoid excessive rubbing. For me it’s also self-inflicted as even though I can feel my feet are over-rubbing I never get off the ice. Quitting is for losers… haha!
The family-friendly size
The Greenwich ice rink is on the smaller side compared to the likes of Winter Wonderland and Somerset House however I personally think this is much better and safer especially if you have a young family and/or you’re not that confident on the ice. A smaller rink usually means staff can be more attentive and approachable for handy tips and help on the ice. As it’s a newly opened rink, there’s less of a crowd on the ice which gives you a better skating experience however I am yet to go here on a weekend so it might start getting busier as the days go by.
If it’s your first time on the ice, I’d recommend watching some Youtube videos on how to fall safely and how to skate. It’s always important to learn how to fall safely as a bad fall on the ice can really do some damage to your body especially your back and even head. If you’re an experienced skater you can still enjoy the beauty of the rink but may find yourself doing several laps pretty quickly. Not a problem as there’s also less people on the ice so you can practice those backward swizzles and turns. 🙂
A priceless first-time experience
Little Man and Little Miss thoroughly enjoyed their first time on the ice. The laughter and fun and giant smiles on their faces was priceless! For Little Man, it’s technically his second time on the ice but the first time he actually skated. As much as they loved Daddy P and I pushing them around, they were brave enough to get up on the ice and skate with one of us holding their hand. Little Miss seems a natural on the ice, Little Man needs a little more practice to find his feet and his balance.
A local attraction for us
Lucky for us, we now have an ice rink a short walk or bus ride away from us which is fantastic. There’s always so much on offer in Greenwich and I am more that grateful to live in such a wonderful area. I’ll be taking the kids to see Santa once December hits and we’ll surely be back for another skate and visit to the museums. Schools around here break up on December 19th so we’ll have the Friday free to get out and do things.
If you live further afield, Greenwich is only 10 minutes from London Bridge and is very well connected with public transport. I’d advise leaving your car at home as there’s hardly any parking spaces available. You’ve got the national rail close by as well as the DLR, the river boat (Thames Clipper), numerous buses and the underground (Jubilee line) at North Greenwich which is a bus ride away, approx. 2 miles away.
Perfect for intimate skate dates
A smaller, intimate rink also makes a great place to skate for couples wanting a skate date. Daddy P and I have said that we’d like to return to skate together, probably on a school day when both of the kids are still in school so we can have a little bonding time together.
This rink is a great venue for couples however, I wouldn’t recommend considering a skate date if it’s your first time on the ice as what happens is you’ll end up just clinging onto the side of the rink instead of actually skating and having a good time together. Although saying this, at least here you can hire a banana skate aid to help you move so if one of you can skate… you can push the non-skater. 🙂 The other romantic place to skate is Somerset House however they don’t offer any skate aids so avoid going there if you’ve both never skated.
NB. We were invited to the press launch and compensated for our time on the ice in exchange for this blog review. All words, opinions and content are my own and photos must not be used without my consent.
There are loads of places where you can take the kids to experience Santa’s Grotto no matter what part of London you’re from. I’ve mainly sourced out the ones most local to me but you can even find a grotto by heading to your closest shopping mall and maybe even department store.
Some of the big department stores experiences (Harrods, Hamley’s, Fortnum & Mason, and Selfridges) are all sold out already! It seems like every year when I look, I’m always too late however it’s not a bad thing as the tickets for these places are usually around £25+ which is extortionate in my opinion. Christmas should not be all about commercialising and keeping pockets fat for the big companies. Instead, head to your local events and support your local or small businesses.
There are also free Santa experiences at shopping centres so check those out too. I will carry on updating this post as we draw closer to Christmas in case I come across others. So without further ado, here’s a list of where you can find Santa in Greenwich and the surrounding areas:
Santa’s Grotto at Greenwich Market
Dates: November 30 – December 24
Price: £5 (proceeds going to the Greenwich & Bexley hospice)
The Grotto in Greenwich is a great little local spot. It’s right in the heart of the old covered market so you can enjoy the festivities around the area, grab something to eat before queuing up to see the Big Guy. Children also receive a small gift during their visit. If this is your child’s first experience or you just want a relatively short experience, I’d recommend seeing Santa here – it’s a no-frills visit but at least you can still get a photo with Santa and save your money for Christmas shopping!
Victorian Santa’s Grotto at the Museum of London Docklands
Dates: November 29 – December 23
For a Santa experience with a bit of a difference, I would recommend coming to see Santa at the Museum of London Docklands. It’s a great museum in general and will definitely keep the kids busy. There is even a play area for the under 5s called Mudlarks Gallery and is free however you will need to reserve your child’s space. You can do this online or on the day. I’d recommend online to avoid any disappointment as the Mudlarks gallery does get full very quickly. Tickets for this year’s Santa visit is £10 per child.
A few years ago we visited the Santa’s Grotto here and got some really nice photos however I remember the queue was extremely long! Staff are on hand to check on you every 30mins or so and to usher you into the room where Santa is. You can read our Victorian Santa’s Grotto experience review here
Santa’s Snowflake Grotto at Westfield Stratford City
Dates: November 21 – December 24
Price: £7.50(parents, children and infants all require a ticket)
I really loved the Santa experience we had at Westfield Stratford City years back when Little Man was a toddler. I don’t have any photos to share with you of the experience but I remember it was really immersive. It started off with families being ushered into a room to watch a short show about Christmas then we were slowly ushered into another room where we then waited to meet Santa. The price was only for the experience and the photoshoot but we had to buy the images. I think I bought a framed photo and a photo bauble.
This year, the experience has a North Pole theme where families will be “magically transported to the Snow Factory in the North Pole, where Santa’s elves make all the snow in the world. Children will create their own personalised christmas decoration and explore all the fun activities within the Grotto.” The kids will then receive a gift and have a photo opportunity with Santa. After that, you’ll be ‘magically transported’ back to London.
Last year, Lewisham Shopping Centre had a Santa meet & greet event and we were invited along. The Santa and elves from The Holly Jolly Co. were so lovely and really made the experience special for us. The team are entertainers and are also available for party hires so check them out if you want to host an event and in need of good friendly entertainers. This year, they are back again so make sure you pop along from Tuesday 17th December until Christmas Eve!
We also donated gifts to the giving tree. You pick the the tag that you want which has a child’s age and gender on there so you can pick a gift for them. Buy your gift(s) then come back and the staff will help you attach your tag. I let the kids pick a child each. If the tree is there again this year, we shall do the same. After all, Christmas is about the gift of giving and spreading joy to all.
A two day Christmas extravaganza at Lesnes Abbey. With over 30 different craft and gift stalls, a Christmas Scavenger Hunt and live festive music. On Saturday you’ll enjoy a Christmas Market, Grotto, stalls, mulled wine, minced pies and lots of kids activities. For Sunday there will be more new stalls and the kids can be entertained on the Frozen bouncy castle and indoor Christmas pop-up disco. Amazing!
This October half term has been a lot of fun for the kids this year. Normally I am not involved with Halloween activities as I’m not a big fan of the day (Vietnamese superstitions and all) but this year I wanted to put myself aside and let the kids have their fun.
Pumpkin Carving in Lewisham
Little Man had a lot of fun carving and decorating his pumpkin at the Lewisham Shopping Centre‘s Pumpkin Party. It was a free event and lots of people came by the stand to have a go at carving. Little Man and I had a team effort – we traced the stencil together then took turns to carve sections of the pumpkin. When it came to scooping out the fleshy bits (which he called “scooping the guts out”) he left that to me.
When it came to decorating it with glitter he was great at doing it himself. Of course, I had to join it – who can resist a bit of glitter fun?
Halloween shopping at Lewisham Centre
We also did a little bit of shopping after our pumpkin carving. We headed to H&M and I bought for Little Man the coolest reversible sequin ghost jumper which he has loads of fun flipping around. For Little Miss, I got her a glittery black tulle dress and alice cat veil as she wanted to be a cat for Halloween. We also went to M&S and picked up loads of treats including chocolates, jelly sweets and lots of Halloween snacks for a mini party at home. *update* the stores now have their Christmas range in stock. H&M also have a lovely collection of Frozen apparel, also in time for the movie launch.
Our last little shop was to Smiggle for some stationary fun. We had a good look around the little shop. At the moment, they’ve just launched a new range of Frozen stationary – in time for the Frozen 2 movie. The backpacks look amazing and kids can choose from the sparkly gold Anna accessories or the shimmery icy blue Elsa accessories. My preference would be the Anna collection as it’s such a beautiful gold colour but I know Little Miss would prefer the Elsa collection. We also picked up a handy all-in-one Smiggle dinosaur pencil case for Little Man. It’s got a section for pens and pencils, a special compartment for the eraser and the sharpener and even comes with a mini calculator. Perfect for secondary school kids but just as cool for primary school kids IMO. Also, Smiggle Lewisham currently has a 25% off everything promo in store (excludes Frozen 2 and Star Wars collections) so make sure you pop into your local store and check out the goods.
Lewisham Shopping Centre opening times
The centre is open 7 days a week. Times of the stores may vary during seasonal periods ie. Christmas, New Year and Bank Holidays.
On Wednesday we headed out to Stanhill Farm to pick some pumpkins. It was a first experience for all of us so it was really nice to be able to share that with each other.
It took us two buses to make the journey however as the buses take a longer route, it also took us around 1.5hrs when by car it would’ve been a decent 25-30mins journey. On our way back, we took an uber ride home as we had heavy pumpkins and I wasn’t ready for any restless tantrums on the buses for another 1.5 hours.
The pumpkin patch at Stanhill Farm is a good size with lots of pumpkins to choose from. There was even a little area where the farmers had put a load of pumpkins together so you can take some lovely photos if you wanted to. Only Little Man was cooperating with me for the photos but I did get some really nice shots of them around the patch. 🙂
I really can’t believe how quickly time flies. It’s also been a little while since I last posted on here and it’s simply because it’s been really busy at home. I currently have two part-time jobs which is making everything a little hard to juggle at home. It’s been so long since I last cooked a decent meal (the kids aren’t complaining – they are loving the amount of chicken nuggets and chips they can consume weekly.)
So between the two jobs, looking after the kids, lesson planning for kids yoga and self-studying yin yoga and keeping up with my own practice, I’ve found time to sit on the computer and type up this post. Simply because there’s SO many great things to do this October half-term and leading up to Halloween I wanted to share my favourite event with you guys. We will be attending most of these events – you can find a more comprehensive list on things to do on Time Out and Babes About Town so be sure to check them out too. I love reading the posts on Babes About Town because it’s very family-orientated.
So without further ado, here’s my list of fun things to do with the family this Halloween & half-term break:
Painting on a Pumpkin workshop
Where: V&A Childhood Museum
Dates: Monday 21 – Friday 25 October Times: 10.40, 12.30 & 14.40 (80 mins) Price: £7 per child
Use an unusual canvas to paint on… a pumpkin! Inspired by the Big Draw Festival’s theme, “Drawn to Life”, create a painting on a pumpkin with help from artist, Amy Brown to take home. Suitable for children aged 4+
Here’s a few photos of our pumpkin paintings from when we attended the event:
Paint your own Halloween Pottery workshop
Where: ARTFIX Cafe, Shewsbury House Date: Tuesday 22 October Time: 2.30pm – 4.30pm Price: £12.50
Come along for some half term fun!! There will be a choice of Halloween themed pottery pieces including pumpkins, monsters, or I can help turn your handprints on a plate into Dracula, a Witch, a Spider, the list is endless.
The workshop costs £12.50 and will include one pottery piece each, all paints etc and Daniella on hand for help. Booking is essential by email or DM. A £5 deposit will be requested.
Where: Stanhill Farm, Dartford
Dates: Tuesday 22 – Thursday 31 October Times: See website for more details Price: free entry, for the maize maze it’s £6 per person (free for under 4s) Forget BYOB, it’s all about PYOP (pick your own pumpkin!) Grab a wheelbarrow and head down to the patch where you will find a huge array of pumpkins in various different sizes. It is also a great chance for a photo opportunity, surrounded by a sea of autumnal, orange colour! There are two maize mazes – the main one which takes around 1.5hrs to complete or a mini-maze that takes around 20-30mins to complete.
Here are a few photos of our day out to the pumpkin patch:
2. Kid’s first time pumpkin picking!
Where: Foxes Farm – Basildon or Colchester
Dates: Tuesday 22 – Thursday 31 October Times: 10am til 5pm Price: free entry, optional £3pp for entry to the corn maze Head down to one of the two pumpkin patches owned by Foxes Farm – you can choose from Basildon or Colchester. Both patches have an 8-acre corn maze and loads of pumpkins to choose from. No need to book either, you simply just turn up! They accept both cash and card but do check their website for farm closures due to the weather. Be aware, they do not allow dogs onto their farms.
Where: The Jetty, Greenwich Peninsula Date: Thursday 24 October Time: 12-4pm Price: SOLD OUT – unfortunately this event has now sold out!
Come dressed in your Halloween best for witchy crafts and ghoulish games on Greenwich Peninsula. Get involved in some autumnal arts and crafts then head along The Tide in search of tricks or treats. Head back to the Jetty and spend the afternoon listening to a spooky story with a warm drink and snack from Hej – The Jetty’s resident café. All are welcome, but parents must accompany their children for the afternoon of fun.
Where: Lewisham Shopping Centre Dates: Thursday 24 – Saturday 26 October Times: 10.30am til 4pm Price: Free
This Half Term, head to Central Square at Lewisham Shopping Centre for some FREE spooky fun. From 24th to 26th October, we’re holding a Pumpkin Party in the centre. You’ll be able to carve pumpkins to take home, and don’t forget to have your picture taken in the stocks too.
Get your picture taken in the stocks and post it to @lewishamcentre on Twitter & @lewisham_shopping_centre on Instagram using the hashtag #snappedinthestocks to be in with a chance of winning £100 worth of spooky gifts from selected retailers – woop woop!
Here are some photos of our day out to the pumpkin carving at Lewisham Shopping Centre:
Go on a Witch Hunt at Cutty Sark Gardens
Where: Cutty Sark Gardens Date: Friday 25 October Time: 1-4pm Price: Free
Its a hunt for witches around Cutty Sark Gardens! With a clues sheet and small prize for each successful participant, enjoy this fun activity with the whole family. Suitable for children aged 7+
Where: cinemas nationwide Date: Friday 25 October Time: various
We are soooo looking forward to this movie release! We’re keeping an eye out on all cinema websites but it seems as though tickets are yet to be on sale so that means no pre-order which is a shame. We will most likely be watching at our local ODEON Greenwich cinema or at our favourite VUE Eltham cinema. It’s definitely going to be a big hit for all families looking for a spooky fun film to watch next week and running up to Halloween.
Go on a Petrifying Pumpkin Hunt
Where: Selfridges, Oxford Street Date: Tuesday 29 – Thursday 31 October Time: 11am – 4pm
Enjoy a spooktacular trip to our brand-new confectionary space on LG at Selfridges Oxford Street, London on either the 29, 30 or 31 October. Our ghoulish treats – including squishy body-parts sweeties and crunch skeleton biscuits (thanks Biscuiteers) – are sure to delight. Simply drop in and collect a map from our WOW Kiosk and you’re good to go.
Where: The Forum at Christ Church, East Greenwich Date: Tuesday 29 & Wednesday 30 October Time: 10am to 12pm / 2pm to 4 pm
Price: Free for under 6 months, £7.50 for 6-12 months, £15 for 1-5yrs
Toddlers and young children will have a fang-tastic time at this soft play party session. Complete with soft play, arts and crafts hosted by The Artful Toddler and refreshments. Parents/Carers go free which is an added bonus! Come in fancy dress or not, your choice. Book your tickets at The Forum’s reception.
Where: John Lewis Roof Garden, Oxford Street Date: Thursday 31 October Time: 10.30am – 12 noon Price: SOLD OUT – unfortunately this event has now sold out
Families and friends are invited to attend the annual Halloween Fancy Dress Party held on The John Lewis Oxford Street Roof garden. Children are encouraged to come along in fancy dress, don’t worry if you forget we will have a dress up area on hand to keep your little ones in character. There will be cookie decorating, face painting and much more.
Need some inspo on how to decorate your pumpkin? Take a look at this article from Good Housekeeping blog – it’s got some amazing ideas which you can easily replicate. We tried the balloon one, the ghost sweetie one and the nail varnish dripping.
We are back from Paris and our day trip to Disneyland Paris. It was an amazing experience, now looking back at it, but at the time it felt chaotic. In this Disneyland Paris 2019 review I’ll write about our overall experience so you can make up your own mind on what to expect, what to bring, and give you some helpful tips which I did’t know about before our trip that could help you.
Book Disneyland Park Tickets in advance
Booking your park tickets in advance will save you a lot of money. If you do plan to visit the park more than once in the year, an annual pass is worth a consideration as you get a better deal. We booked our tickets directly on the Disneyland Paris website however there are many online websites that offer Disneyland ticket deals. For example, after booking ours I found tickets for one day park, hotel and Eurostar for £99 per person. Much cheaper than what we paid however we did go during the SUPER MAGIC (super-peak) period. You can have a look for ticket deals on 365 Tickets which is great site for theme park ticket deals.
We departed from London St. Pancras Thursday evening at 6.01pm and arrived in Paris at 9.35pm local time so about 2.5hrs train journey ride. The children were a little restless by the end of the train ride but did good enough to stay seated. Children under 3 do not need a ticket as they can sit on your lap however if the train is empty you can be cheeky and place them on a sit next to you if no-one takes the seat. Eurostar staff are incredibly courteous and I have never had a bad experience on it – staff speak both French and English fluently and you can use card or cash (euros or pounds) at the refreshments cafe on board. There’s a toilet on every coach and air conditioning throughout the train. There’s also wifi on board but I couldn’t figure out how to connect on it as my phone would’t connect so can’t comment on that but free wifi – what’s not to like?
Save ££: purchase tickets when Eurostar are doing promotions on their tickets, you could book as cheap as £29 one way per person and under 3s are free.
Top Tip: Download a few movies or shows for the kids onto the tablet before hand and bring some books or activity packs to keep them entertained for the ride. That way you can minimise any tantrums and/or tears.
We arrived at Paris, Gare du Nord around 9.35pm local time. Leaving the station was very straightforward and easy. We got hungry and decided we wanted to eat before heading to the hotel so we stopped off at a restaurant opposite the station. Big mistake. I already knew in the back of my mind it would be a bad idea but I couldn’t bring myself to take us to McDonalds but in hindsight, I wish I did. At the restaurant we ordered, one margherita pizza, one salmon dish, one lamb confit, two glasses of orange juice and a hot chocolate… the bill came to 60 EUROS! WTF?! Note to self, food is expensive in Paris! Now, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal had the food been really tasty and value for money, the food was bland, not cooked well and seriously BASIC. I’m not expecting fine dining standards at a cafe/restaurant however I know the French like their food so I expect good quality food for that price. If we had gone to Mcdonalds, it would’ve tasted better and cost half that much.
The hotel: Renaissance La Défense hotel
We stayed at the Renaissace La Defense in the finance district of Paris. An urbanised area complete with its own shopping centre, restaurants, metro, train and bus station. It’s very easy to get around via public transport but man! It’s a different story via taxi – none of our taxi drivers were familiar with the area and one even said to us “c’est compliqué” – all of the hotels are built up a level above ground whilst the street level is below ground. What this means is that if you arrive by car you’ll need to head upstairs onto the upper level to get access to the hotels.
On our arrival night we weren’t aware and walked through a labyrinth to find our hotel. Lucky our driver spoke English and Daddy P spoke French fluently. I’m sure if I was alone with my minimal, broken French I may not have been able to navigate the way. Once we arrived, we felt much better – the hotel was stunning. The staircase was beautiful and the reception area was clean and bright.
Staff were very courteous even though it was past 10pm, we were greeted like we were the first people they had seen all day. Check-in was smooth and within 10 minutes we were given our room keys and on our way to enjoy our room. Our room was clean and spacious, we had tea/coffee making facilities, a good amount of toiletries and clean towels enough for all four of us. Blackout curtains to keep the light out let us sleep for longer which was great. The massive flat screen TV kept the kids occupied in the morning evening before bedtime. Morning shower was great but I wish the water pressure was a bit stronger.
Save ££: Have a look on Booking.com for hotel deals or if you prefer more privacy, check out Airbnb.com for great one or two bedroom apartments you can rent in Paris. Sometimes you’d get a better deal on these than the hotels. You can save more money by shopping at the local supermarkets to make home-cooked meals instead of eating out.
Top Tip: stay central if you want to visit the main landmarks or see more of the city. The further out into the suburbs you go, the more time you will spend travelling and you’ll also spend more on travelling costs buying train tickets.
Travel: getting to Disneyland by train
After a good night’s sleep we woke up around 9am to leave the hotel around 11am. We went to buy snacks and food at the local Monoprix before heading to Disneyland Paris. Unfortunately for us, there was no direct RER train to DLP in Paris due to train engineering works which was going on all day from August 10-18. This was something we didn’t know about until we got there so make sure you check the train schedules online a few days before leaving so you can plan your route effectively. Using the Metro and RER trains were very easy and buying a ticket was also very easy. Ticket machines are available at metro station and offer different languages so you don’t have to work it out in French. Our RER ticket cost us €30.00 one way (2 adults, 2 children) which covered our journey for zones 1-3. I’d definitely recommend travelling to Disneyland via train – it takes around 1-1.5hr normally and is the cheapest option compared to taxi, Uber or coach. Driving is another option but be aware it’s about 26 euros to park your car there.
We probably would’ve gotten away with buying just 1 child ticket as Little Miss was in her pram and I just pushed her through the gates with me. Unlike London, the metro staff do not frequently regulate the gates and you will see people jumping them or walking through without a ticket.
We started our journey at 12.00 and got to Marne-la-Vallée (Disneyland’s station) at 2pm. This is because part of our journey (from Auber to Vincennes) required us to exit the metro, walk 10mins to the next station (chateaux de vincennes) to resume our journey. During that walk we stopped off at a McDonalds for lunch. Children’s Happy Meals in Paris are great! The kids got a nugget happy meal each and it came with the toy, 4 nuggets, small chips, apple juice and a strawberry yoghurt drink. Amazing.
Park rides, parades and that ‘fast pass’ ticket
The main park was spectacular but man the crowds… soooo many people! I wasn’t ready for how busy it was. I should’ve known better as we arrived in the afternoon. We ended up only going on about 3-4 rides in total but for us, it wasn’t a bad thing. The kids just simply preferred the experience of being at DLP than concerned over going on the rides. Originally, I had wanted to arrive at the park as early as 10am but I am so glad we decided on a later afternoon time. I guess that’s because they are younger – I think if you have older children, they will want to queue up for as many rides as possible!
With our entry ticket, we were given ‘fast pass’ access – I think Disneyland will continue to offer this for a while yet. Simply head over to the rides that are available with the fast pass and print out your advance tickets. Unfortunately you can’t select the times but the ticket will allow you to skip the queue when it comes to the time for you to go on the ride. We printed out our Buzz Lightyear laser blast tickets at 2.30pm but was given fast pass for 7.30pm – we didn’t mind but just trying to give you an idea of the timings the tickets give you.
Save ££: Bring food, snacks, drinks and water with you. If you have younger children it’s not to bad but if you have big eaters or older children they will get very hungry and want to eat/snack constantly so stock up on these things by visiting a local Lidl, Auchan, Carrefour or Monoprix before entering the park. You’ll also save time queuing for food at the park’s restaurants.
Top Tip: If you’re not staying at the parks, travel to the park via train – it’s cheap and easy. The station is right outside the entrance and it’s hassle-free. Another tip, if you have young children, bring a stroller! Your feet, legs and sanity will thank you for it later.
I was extremely close to not bringing our stroller but a friend of mine who went a week before said don’t even think about not bringing one. The park is large and little legs will tire fast. Also they’re bound to fall asleep at least once during the day. You’ll also save around 30 euros not hiring one there!
We queued up for a mini boat cruise in Fantasyland which was enjoyable and relaxing once we got on the ride. The queue was about 30-40mins which was pretty long for one ride – some of the other rides had even longer wait times. The longest wait time I noticed was 90mins – my advice would be to check out the rides you want to go on online ahead of the visit. Anticipate long queues and wait times so plan to go on about 4-8 rides if you are there for a day visit. It’s impossible to complete the park in one day no matter what season you go.
After we finished our boat cruise, we went to check out Sleeping Beauty’s castle and the sleeping dragon underneath the castle. The boys went on the Pirate tree house and Phantom Manor ride whilst Little Miss and I went over to the town square to watch the street parade at 5.30pm which was fantastic.
If you think you’re not going to be able to see all the Disney characters or only have a day ticket like I did, I’d highly recommend watching the street parade – it is one of the best things you can do and you can easily get a good spot. You will be able to see all the Disney characters in one sitting. The parade is approx. 30 mins and you will be able to see all the characters clearly; Donald and Daisy duck, Mickey and Minnie mouse, all the princesses, the Lion King characters, Buzz Lightyear, Woody and friends, Anna and Elsa from Frozen.
Character Meets: Mickey Mouse
This was the only character meet that we queued for – we tried to look for Toy Story’s Jessie and friends in the Western World part of the park but we were too late. At the Princess Pavilion, it was Rapunzel from Tangled that we could see in the afternoon but the queue for her was even longer so Daddy P and I made the decision to go and see Mickey as we thought both of the kids will enjoy it more. We weren’t disappointed.
Even though the wait was 1.5-2hrs long and we even missed our fast pass entry for Buzz Lightyear’s laser blast ride, it was SO WORTH IT! The kids were kept entertained in Mickey’s theatre with short movie clips that were on a loop. I loved the concept they developed for it – like it was a special backstage meet with Mickey. Just before it was out turn to see Mickey, one of the animation team saw Little Man’s tshirt and noticed it was his birthday – they made a quick call and was able to get Mickey Mouse on the phone to him before our meet! Little Man said Mickey wished him Happy Birthday and just seeing his face lit up was an unforgettable moment.
We took our photos with Mickey – you are free to take your own photos using your phone of your Mickey meet but Daddy P and I were too filled with awe from seeing him with the kids we couldn’t move much haha! The photographer took the photos for us and gave us a little card so at the end of the meet we can purchase the photos if we wanted to. As we didn’t take any of our own photos, I bought them but they looked amazing so it was hard not to buy them. You can purchase just the images or with a photo frame. Of course they offer a deal for multi purchases and I bought two photos with frames for 25.99 euros which is around £23 – not bad for two beautiful photos but if you do want to save money, don’t forget to take your own photos at the meet! The staff will even help you take the photo on your phone if you want to get a full family shot, no charge.
Staff at Disneyland were incredibly friendly, smiley and very talented. They are able to switch seamlessly from one language to another; from what I gathered all staff speak French, English, Spanish and German. In that order. And I’m sure they can speak Italian and possibly Mandarin too as there was a lot of Asian people there. Just amazing! Language barrier is really the least of your concerns at DLP.
The Fireworks: Disney Illuminations
This has to be the real highlight of my Disneyland trip and I am so so glad we didn’t leave before it. Everyone gathers in the centre around 9pm onwards for a good spot and I don’t blame them. However we decided to head back to the Western World and go for our dinner. We dined at The Lucky Nugget Saloon which was affordable and tasty. A meal deal for dinner was 21.99 euros and for that you get a main dish, side, dessert and soft drink. The service was quick and super easy – we queue to order, pay and get seated shortly after. That took around 15mins and our food arrived at our table around 5mins after being seated. We took our time to enjoy our meal which was delicious – I had the rack of ribs and Daddy P and co had the fish with chips. We didn’t opt for dessert. We left the restaurant around 10.30pm and by then the park will filled with people waiting for the fireworks display. We walked all the way to the park entrance as we wanted to be one of the first to leave and had a decent spot watching the illuminations. We didn’t stay for the whole thing which is around 30mins but we watched the majority before running off to catch the train home. If we were staying at the park’s resort we wouldn’t be in a rush and take our time to find a good spot close to the Sleeping Beauty castle which is where they project the illuminations from. All I can say is whatever you do, stay for the show. Don’t miss it because it really does highlight your whole experience.
Top Tip: If you want to make it home before the crowd, leave the park slightly before the end of the illuminations. You can do this by choosing a good viewing spot close to the park entrance so you can make a quick escape.
Depature Day: back home to London
We decided to have another lie-in as we didn’t get home until 1am the night before from DLP so we woke up 9am and checked out by 11am. We stopped off at McDonalds for ‘brunch’ – I forgot to mention that McDs in Paris offers macarons as a dessert! They are delicious and quite cheap, around 95 cents per maracon but I’m sure you can get a pack of 6 or 8 for a discounted rate. It was pouring down with rain on Saturday so our plans for going to see the Eiffel tower and Montmartre was out of the question. Not when we hadn’t packed any weather-proof or warm coats with us, we didn’t want to risk getting wet and coming down with colds when we get back home. We managed to get the metro to the Louvre Museum and hid there most of the day. After here, we made it to the station where we waited until it was our time to go home.
Top Tip: there are no free toilet facilities at the Louvre – it cost between 1.10-2.00 euros to use the toilet here so make sure you have some change with you.
We got to Gare du Nord by catching the metro from Louvre to Gare d’lest then changing at the station for the train to Gare du Nord. After spending a few hours wandering around the station, we headed upstairs to check into our Eurostar journey. There is a small children’s corner on the platform for kids to burn off some of their energy. Little Man did some reading, some colouring in and Little Miss joined in every now and then. There’s also a Paul’s Bakery and Costa Coffee on the platform for you to enjoy – yay!
The highlights of Disneyland:
A chance to see all of the characters at the parades
No need to pay for additional rides
Fast-pass ticket with every admission ticket
Public transport nearby (train station is opposite the park)
Ample car parking spaces
The downside of Disneyland:
Very long queues and wait times
Expensive and limited food choices
Expensive car parking charges (around 26 euros)
Expensive buggy hire (around 30 euros)
In summary, I definitely recommend going if you’ve never been before. It really is a wonderful experience despite the negatives. Yes, it can cost a fortune but the magic is still there and you’d see it in your children’s eyes. Just make sure you take them at an age that they can actually enjoy it (3 years and above) otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it unless you can really afford to spend at least £800+ on a few days. Booking during off season is a very good idea – avoid UK and French school holidays and you should find cheaper park prices and low park capacity.
I hope you enjoyed this blog review. We are looking forward to going back but whether that’ll be next year or in a few year’s time we’re not sure yet. It was definitely a memorable experience and we all enjoyed it thoroughly. 🙂 You can watch a video of our day trip on Youtube:youtu.be/Kgxoc1K3_gc
9 days until my 30th birthday & our journey to Paris… 10 days until Little Man’s birthday & our day trip to Disneyland Paris!
We are all SUPER EXCITED!
It’ll be our whole family’s first time to Disneyland and we are so excited for it! We’ve started preparing what we’re going to bring and wear including those insta-worthy Mickey Mouse ears which we’ve bought from Ebay for £3 each! It’s so much cheaper online than buying on the day or at the Disney store but if you prefer to splash and go all out then definitely purchase your official Disney ears prior to DL to save yourself some cash.
Disneyland Paris via Eurostar
We’ll be travelling via the Eurostar from London St. Pancras. I managed to bag tickets during a summer sale promo for £29pp per way which was a bargain! The Eurostar will take us from London to Paris in just under two hours which works well for us as we’ve booked an evening journey so will arrive in time for dinner. We’ve decided that we will play it by ear and see how the kids feel on the day before deciding where we will eat. If the kids are super tired, we’ll have an early night instead.
One thing I really love about London is how well connected everything is. Sure our transportation has its good and bad days but no-one can fault how easily accessible it is to travel around the country and abroad from London.
My 30th Birthday Plan
I can’t believe how quickly the years fly by! Being an August baby means I get to see nearly all of my friends turn 30 before I do – not a bad thing – but it makes me feel slightly pressured to do something BIG. We’ll see how that’ll pan out as I don’t have anything planned right now with friends.
However, on the morning of my birthday I’ve managed to book free tickets to SKY GARDEN which is going to be amazing! Insta-worthy photos, here I come! I’ve also just treated myself to a Fenty Beauty bronzer and highlighter kit so let’s pray that does me some justice… now to just plan an outfit fit for the occasion… plus or minus a 30th birthday tiara! Then after my morning birthday breakfast treat, we’ll probably just wander around London with the kids then get back home for a quick afternoon nap before leaving for the Eurostar journey.
We will board our Eurostar to Paris around 6pm and arrive at Gare du Nord Paris. We will be staying at the Renaissance in La Defense – the financial district. As it’s summer, I’m hoping it won’t be too busy around the area but pray the weather will be nice enough for us to explore Paris on the Saturday before we depart as we’ll certainly be spending all day Friday at Disneyland Paris.
20.00 Arrival at Paris Gare du Nord (depart from London St. Pancras)
21.00 Hotel check-in and dinner at hotel or local restaurant
07.00 Breakfast at hotel, then straight out on RER to D’Land
FULL DAYDisneyland Paris + dinner at the resort 22.00 Night illuminations and park closing parade
23.00 Back to hotel for bedtime
08.00 Breakfast at hotel and pack bags for hotel check-out
12.00 Visit to Jardin D’acclimatation
15.00 Late lunch at a local restaurant
16.00 Eiffel Tower visit
18.00 Depart from Paris Gare du Nord (return to London St. Pancras)
I’m going to try and document our Disneyland family vacay as much as I can and will add to my instagram stories so if you’d like to check out our trip, follow me at @mannyngo_yogi
Can you believe it’s already been 18m (that’s 1 year and 6 months!) since I started my CGM journey and created my original Curly Girl post! So what are my thoughts on CGM after a year and a half of plopping, squish to condish-ing and scrunching?
Well what can I say really? I still see myself as a newbie; still learning every day and still finding it hard to work out my hair. Just when I think I’ve got the hang of it – BAM! Back to square one but then again it’s self-inflicted as I am to blame for that. I constant colour my hair and lighten it; just a last month I processed the hell out of it with bleach to lift it light enough to go pinky/peach.
I thought I’d create this post so you can see the highlights and the struggles of my wavy hair journey. It’s not always been rainbows and sparkles but can if you stick at it (unlike me and avoid chemical damage which is just as bad as heat damage) and really take the time to learn about your hair, you will yield much more. Now enough of the hair lecture, here are my progress/regress photos for you to feast your eyes on:
The photo below was taken pre-CGM by a week or two. WOW. As you can see it’s pretty much straight but there’s a few slight waves in the middle section at the back of my head.
A month into my Curly Girl Method hair journey…
Then 6 months post CGM, my waves are looking more stringy which could be due to the colour processing or could be because my hair seems to be curling a little bit more. My hair doesn’t seem to clump as much as when I started but the waves have more of a squiggly pattern than a loose S pattern.
I’ve gone pink! In this photo my hair is a little more undone but those are waves after being out all day. More clumping happened that day and I have a better curl pattern. The more frequent deep conditioning also helped.
Had my first wavy cut at Jones & Payne Shoreditch but a fellow wavy called Lisa. She cut my hair really well and my hair felt much lighter. Unfortunately because she had to comb and brush it so much the waves were almost gone and she styled it by twisting strands to encourage clumping. I actually love this technique and it helped my wavy hair look more defined.
Once the pink colour faded I threw on a teal (semi-permanent) colour followed by intense deep conditioning to save it as much as I could. Here’s a photo of my hair wet and dry so you can see how different it looks. When my hairs wet, my waves always look good but by the time it’s dried (usually air dry) it looks a little more fluffy and wavy with a curly twists.
The two photos below are from one of my best hair days; I had the most curl clumps this day and cannot for the life of me remembered what I used or what I did because I didn’t keep a record! Argh! It looked amazing from the back and there was so many chunky, twisty waves I loved it. I do remember applying the Cantu curl activating cream but that’s about it. :’-(
Colour has faded but waves are curling slightly more. The photo below is actually around day 2 refresh and it looks good. Slightly fluffy but overall, okay. I find that my hair always looks good on refresh days; days 2 and 3 are usually the best.
December 2018: 1 year post CGM
So I went back to dark hair and that marked a year since I went CGM. The condition is not bad and a slight change since I started. Not bad but a lot of other CGM wavies have had much better transformations than I but I’m not too sad about it. I put in as much effort, time and money as I could and this was the result. With two children, it’s not always easy to even spend 15mins on my hair let alone longer.
The photos below are from one of my rare best hair day. The waves looked amazing! It was one day post-wash day and I started off my wetting the hair with water, scrunching in mousse but then the waves were too hard but had beautiful definition so I did a light prayer hand over the top of the hair with some leave-in conditioner and lightly scrunched.
I decided to do a DIY chop at home to see if it would help my hair wave a little more and it did a little but not much. My hair did feel much healthier and all the dry ends were gone. I stopped deep conditioning regularly and only did it when I felt like my hair needed it and felt too dry.
If you like, I would say my wavy hair regression started from here – when I started to bleach my hair. Usually I would have my hair lightened in the salon but I was really broke so opted for a box job, which even though it looked nice, it really dried out my hair. I went back to deep conditioning my hair on a bi-monthly basis.
June 2019: 18 months post CGM
Then went blonde in May and kept the blonde from becoming brassy with a regular treatment of silver semi-colour and silver shampoo which unfortunately contains sulfates. It really dried out my hair so each time I used the silver shampoo I would always follow with a deep conditioner. Last month (June) I added a pink semi-colour to my hair which is fading to a lovely peach over the weeks. I continue to deep condition and used a protein pack for the first time which worked really well for my high porosity, chemically-damaged hair. It left my hair feel UBER soft!
Soo, to summarise…
Let’s just say my hair journey became LESS CGM and more about processing the F*** out of it but hey! I get bored of my hair so quickly and couldn’t help it. Because it’s been processed, the condition and texture of the hair is no longer the same as when I started. It’s now more drier and coarse due to the chemical processing and damaged (a lot of deep conditioning helps!) and the curl pattern is less wavy than before but I’m slowly getting it back on track. I recently used a protein pack hair treatment which my hair loved so much, I was surprised how well it worked. As my hair is highly porous due to the damage the protein is necessary to help the hair repair.
To get the best results from doing the Curly Girl Method;
Avoid chemical processes to your hair ie. bleaching, dyeing, colour stripping
Deep condition your hair at least once a month or once a week/two weeks if you have damaged hair with a suitable hair masque
Keep a record of ALL the products you used on your hair each time you wash it or style it and take a photo to make a visual note of how your hair looks and responded to the products
IF you need to change a product from your current routine, change one product at a time so you can pinpoint exactly whether that product works/doesn’t work for your hair
Be patient. Getting the best results from CGM takes time… I’m still learning and I’m 18 months post-CGM!
Like living a healthy lifestyle, following CGM is not about getting to the end, it’s about the journey and the processes in between – learning what works, what doesn’t and how you can do it better. I don’t think I will ever stop colouring my hair so I have to learn to adapt CGM to a way that suits my hair best. The only time I had been really strict with CGM IS when I first started but right now, my modified way works. So the take-away lesson here is to not be afraid to adapt CGM to make it work for your hair. There is so much information out there on the web that you’re sure to find another wavy/curly girl in a similar situation to you so don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Read the articles on NaturallyCurly.com and BritishCurlies.co.uk because they are so helpful and on BC you can even sign up and chat on the forum with other wavies and curlies.
On Saturday 8th June, a new (and free!) outdoor play space, Cator Park, had opened up at Kidbrooke Village. Unfortunately I work the weekends and was unable to attend the launch but judging from the images below, the opening turned out a big success with many families enjoying the space and the sun! Lucky bunch!
Children can jump, climb, swing and slide to their heart’s content. The park also incorporates a series of stepping stones designed by local children, dotted around the park alongside a number of brass rubbings as part of an educational ecology trail.
There was also a fete going on at the launch opening which offered craft sessions and learning sessions about the local animals and wildlife with London Wildlife Trust. Families and children learnt about “how the ‘rewilding’ of the green space is helping to increase biodiversity and encouraging birds, mammals, amphibians and insects to make their home among the plantlife.”
It’s really nice to see that the local authority and government are trying their best to utilise the green spaces we already have and create refreshing new ones for the local community to enjoy.
To find out more about Kidbrooke Village and the new play space visit the Kidbrooke Village Community Facebook page (@kidbrookevillage).
Father’s Day is this weekend already! I can’t believe how fast this year has flown by! Now officially in mid-June, summer is approaching and the warmer days we had a couple of weeks felt fantastic. I even tried out my Bondi Sands fake tan which was lovely – I need to write a review on that soon. Below are gift ideas I’ve got in mind for Daddy P but I hope they inspire you if you haven’t found anything just yet….
Father’s Day gift ideas
For the last few years, a Father’s Day mug has always on the list for Daddy P. I usually order a personalised 15oz photo mug from Snapfish (£12.99) which was always big hit. I’ve ordered one again this year too! I love adding our own photos to the mug, it gives a personal touch which I think is a little special (and cheesy) but the kids love it. They’ve also got a promo code for 30% off your total basket with no minimum spend so get purchasing. They also offer next day delivery.
My personalised photo mug has arrived! I love it, it’s so sweet. The only thing I forgot to add to the mug was some text to say “Happy Father’s Day 2019!” …oops!
I love simple yet stylish watches for men. With most of us constantly on our phones today I feel like sometimes we were slowly getting rid of functional accessories like watches. I found this beautiful stainless steel watch on Not On The High Street and best of all, it can be personalised and they have free standard delivery.
The silver colour stands out and is so stylish but they have a few other colours so have a look. For £69, it’s a good price too! There’s so much on websites like NOTHS and Etsy I love looking for special and unique items to buy. At the moment (for myself!) I’m obsessed with dainty necklaces and personalised bracelets. Check out NOTHS’s fathers day gifts for even more ideas.
It’s good to look after yourself; self-care is one of the things most people tend to overlook in themselves. Daddy P is lucky he has good skin (not oily, not dry) however he doesn’t do anything to look after it. Men usually like to keep their skincare simple so the basic essentials are key; to cleanse, tone, exfoliate and moisturise.
These two kits below are my favourite; the Look Fantastic Father’s Day collection which has a mix of face and body products from premium brands. And the Aromatherapy Associates The Refinery kit is a new favourite of mine which comes with a wash bag. I use this brand at my workplace and I’ve really fallen in love with it. I’ve already gotten Daddy P the face wash and shave oil which is fab and suitable for all skin types.
Cleansing clears the skin of dirt and debris build-up, preps the skin and leaves it fresh. Toner tones the skin and minimises large pores, and leaves the skin matte yet hydrated for the absorption of the moisturiser. Exfoliating (especially if they shave) helps to buff away dead skin cells and reduces ingrown hairs as the pores are clear, allowing the hair follicle to grow out of the skin instead of inwards (which happens when the pores are blocked with dirt or natural oils). I would also recommend a beard/shave oil for those growing a beard. The oil will help to nourish the skin but also condition the beard hair, keeping it soft. Moisturiser is the last step and works as a barrier against daily pollutants and keeps the skin hydrated and moisturised.
If your man prefers something a little more active, why not take him out for an evening of fun? I’ve picked outdoor cinema or a raving night out at Ballie Ballerson. The Rooftop Film Club hosting in Peckham is showing Schwarzenegger’s classic, The Terminator on Father’s Day. You can book tickets directly from the RFC’s website: https://rooftopfilmclub.com/london/bussey-building/film/the-terminator-1984/
Daddy P LOVES football and I’ve just found a deal TravelZoo for Behind-the-Scenes tour tickets to Wembley stadium… just £9! That’s almost 52% off the standard price. Best thing of all is tickets can be redeemed up until September so he can choose to use it now for Father’s Day or choose to wait for another day when he’s ready to use it. A behind-the-scenes tour is a guided and self-guided tour of the stadium including the footballer’s dressing rooms, the press room, the player’s tunnel, pitchside and the Royal Box. Imagine all those insta-worthy photo moments!
Daddy P’s been talking about going to Barcelona but hasn’t been able to get round to it. Between juggling parenting and job hunting it’s been a struggle. Weekend breaks work out really well because you can travel but still be back in time for parenting duties. I love looking for my holiday breaks from OnTheBeach.com so naturally I had a search for Father’s Day trips to Barcelona and found some good deals. You can either search for flights and hotel separately or let On The Beach’s deal finder search for you. I found the following deals for 2 adults; 2 nights in Barcelona (flights & hotel) flying out from London Stansted:
It’s not called The Mirror for nothing. Photos of the hotel show that the rooms are loaded with mirrors from the bedroom to bathroom but in a very playful and tasteful way. Great for us ladies to check out our outfits and makeup throughout the day. Th price is reasonable and the Tripadvisor ratings look good too. The hotel offers free WiFi, air conditioning, pool and close to local amenities.
This was the best low budget option I found on the site. Pretty decent price and the hotel looks really nice and modern. Their Tripadvisor rating looks good and they have free WiFi which is perfect for a short weekend break.
If you want to pull out all the stops this Father’s Day, this is the hotel for you. Hotel Meliá has a lot to offer in terms of room quality, style, and service. This 5 star hotel has a spa on-site so you can treat yourself (and hubby!) to a relaxing massage or spa day in the evening on your mini-break. Free WiFi, air conditioning and a gym are standard amenities and the location is a short car journey from the beach.
Have you already got other gift ideas for Father’s Day? Let me know what wonderful things you treated your loved ones to! X
Last week I let my hair go almost whole week without cleansing. OMG right? You’re probably thinking you’d NEVER go that long without washing but actually, I find it much better for my hair strength, condition and growth to wash less and brush less. When you first start it will feel odd and seriously greasy but over 3+ months you’ll adjust and your scalp will start producing less oil and only what it needs. That’s because switching to no-sulfates or a low use of sulfates avoids stripping your hair and as a result your hair and scalp feels happier and performs better.
So I eventually washed my hair Saturday night and there was some natural oil build up but not too major despite the warmer weather. Most days I wear my hair in a bun with a little bit of leave-in conditioner at the ends to keep it moisturised. I hardly do a refresh unless I have my hair down; in that case I’d go in with a dollop of leave-in, wet hands (water) and finish with gel to revive the waves. I also coloured my hair (semi-permanent) the same night as I wanted to have my pink hair back in time for The Ends Festival on Sunday which was amazing!
Here’s how my hair looked the next morning, post-wash day:
I wanted to bring out the curls more so I used flexi rods with a bit of gel, left them in for a few hours Sunday morning and this was the result. I still have a lot to practice with flexi rods because I can’t always get the technique right which affects the look of the curl. Hence why the right looks much more curly and defined than the left side lol – the right fringe/side fringe looks so pretty!
I also needed more rods. I had 4 for the crown, 9 for mid-section and 3 for the bottom which wasn’t enough – the mid sections were getting stretched out because they needed more rods and also I think because my hair doesn’t have a curl pattern, the chunks of hair being wrapped around the flexi rods need to be quite small/slim.
Stupidly, I had too much fun at the festival and didn’t take any photos of myself or my outfit when I was out but I went for the classic “festival look” of denim shorts, floral top and trainers. Simple yet practical as I had to walk a mile or so to the destination across some hilly roads (it was located at Lloyd Park in Croydon). Plus it was BOILING HOT so I’m glad I opted for the mesh top, it kept me cool.
So, back to all things hair… here’s the products I used for this wash day. My hair is starting to curl more in the shower again after giving up sulfates which is great but my blonde is starting to go brassy again so the pink hair helps! I’m loving the colour too – it’s light but I would want to go lighter. 🙂 I used Schwarzkopf Live Ultra Brights in Raspberry Rebel – it’s a 2 in 1 colourant so you can choose to have it as vibrant as you like or mix with conditioner to make it pastel. I add a large dollop of conditioner with a drop of colour to get my shade but some parts of my hair didn’t take to the colour as much as the others so it’s trial and error but I don’t mind. I don’t think this colourant is CG friendly but couldn’t see any sulfates or silicones but there are parabens so not great on the hair but more gentle than a permanent colourant.