Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Our Stay at the Appartello Smarttime Living in Hamburg, Germany

It isn't often that we come across a hotel that offers continued excellence and quality from start to finish, however The Appartello Smarttime Living Hotel in Hamburg, managed to exceed our expectations and provide an outstanding service from the moment we arrived.

It is a modern apartment hotel that offers 76 rooms, which are suitable for both business travellers, as well as families looking for a relaxing stay. The hotel is conveniently situated close to the airport, but also within easy reach of public transport, which makes exploring the city extremely simple.

Our journey to Hamburg began with an early morning flight from Manchester, which meant that we had been up since 4am in the morning to get to the airport on time. I checked the bus schedule beforehand and knew that we needed to catch the number 39 bus from the airport terminal once we arrived. The bus stops are well signposted and it was simply a case of crossing the road and waiting for our bus, which ran every 20 minutes. After a short while, the bus arrived and we enjoyed a short ten minute journey to the hotels nearest bus stop which was Alsterdorfer Damm. The buses all have small screens that show the next stop, so it was easy to know when to disembark the bus, without worrying about missing our stop.

I had contacted the Appartello prior to our stay, to ask whether it would be ok to drop our bags off, before heading into the city to explore, as I knew that the check in time was 3pm. They had replied within a couple of hours, stating that they were more than happy to store our luggage, to save us carrying it around. As we walked into reception, we were immediately greeted with a smiling face, welcoming us to the hotel. I explained that we had come to drop off our bags, but the friendly receptionist, went one step further and offered to check whether our room was already available, in which case we could check in straight away! Luckily for us, our room was ready, so we were provided with our room keys, as well as directions and told to make ourselves feel at home and welcome in the Appartello hotel.

Our Room

Having being up since the early hours, it was great to be able to have an hours rest in the room & enjoy a nice hot shower & a cup of coffee to wake us up. As we entered the room, we were immediately impressed with both the size and layout of the room. It featured all the modern conveniences you could possibly need, including a beautiful white gloss kitchen with brushed steel appliances.

The kitchen area was really modern and clean, which featured a fridge freezer, oven, microwave, coffee machine, kettle and even a dishwasher. It really was immaculate and we were very impressed that this was available to us in our room. There was a Lidl supermarket, just a short walk away from the hotel, so it meant that we were able to stock up with drinks, snacks and fruit for the children and place them in the kitchen. Utensils, plates and cutlery were also provided, so it literally gave us everything we needed to prepare our own meals if we chose to.

Adjacent to the kitchen was a lovely desk and office area, which was an ideal place to catch up with my emails in the evening. There was a comfortable chair, a good wifi connection and also plenty of space for my laptop, papers and note pads.

The living area consisted of a double sofa bed, an additional single bed which had been added for Riley, as well as a comfortable chair, lighting and a 40" flat screen tv. We chose to leave the double sofa bed set up as the bed for the duration of our stay, but we could have also turned this back into a sofa had we wanted to.

The whole room was very tastefully decorated and we loved how fresh and modern the decor looked. This continued into the main bedroom, where there was a large king size bed, a modern wood wardrobe with ample storage space and a further 32" flat screen tv. This was great in the evenings, as it meant that the children could watch a film in the living room, when settling down for the night, whilst we could watch something else in our room.

The shower room was also ideal and featured a fantastic easy to control shower, as well as a very clean toilet and sink. It was quickly apparent that the rooms are kept to a very high standard and cleaned thoroughly and regularly, as we couldn't find a single fault with the room at all. Another aspect of the bathroom I  really liked, was that there was also a stool and childs toilet seat available for use, meaning that the hotel has thought of even their youngest of guests.

Reception & Service

After we had enjoyed a short rest, I made my way down to reception to ask for directions to the Miniatur Wunderland. Rather than just tell me where to go, the receptionist printed off full directions for me, as well as the local bus timetables and train times. I felt that this was excellent service and it was great that they were so willing to help their guests and provide as much information as possible. Once we were ready to go, we made our way to the bus stop and caught the bus to the train station where we headed into the city centre for an enjoyable day of sightseeing.

On our return, we were immediately greeted with the same cheerful welcome we had experienced earlier. We were asked if we had enjoyed our day out and whether we needed any further help or suggestions of places to go in the evening. As we were all so tired from the early start and our busy day in Hamburg, we decided to remain in the hotel on our first evening, so instead we made our way to the communal downstairs Living Room, which was available for all guests.

The excellent service from reception continued throughout our whole stay, and nothing was ever too much trouble for them. We were assisted on our second day with further directions to the Hagenbeck Tierpark, as well as being asked whether we would like a wake up call on our departure day. Everything was always done with a smile & everyone we dealt with, was always more than happy to help.

The Living Room

The Living Room, was literally home from home. There was a wide range of seating available both indoors and outdoors, some vending machines that offered food, soft drinks and alcohol at reasonable prices and a toy corner, where children could play with the train tracks & toys that were provided. Riley loves playing with his trains at home, so this was great for him and he spent a good hour with Emma setting up all the track and moving the trains through the tunnels.

It was a lovely area where you could just relax with your family, or enjoy drinks with your friends in the evening. Although there was no bar, both wine & beer were available to purchase from the machines, as well as tea and coffee. There was a choice of comfortable living room chairs, dining tables and bar stools and drinks tables. Everything was really clean and well cared for, just like we had noticed in our room earlier.

Everywhere we went in the hotel, just felt so comfortable and welcoming, that my husband and I found it very easy to relax and just enjoy spending time as a family in such lovely surroundings. The sunshine was also making a welcome appearance during our stay, so we also took advantage of the outdoor seating area, where we could enjoy a coffee under the sun.

One thing that didn't go unnoticed, was also their attention to detail. It is very easy for hotels to make things quite basic, but the Appartello had small subtle features everywhere to help make it feel very homely. This included planters outside, plant pots on the tables, ornaments and lovely art work on various walls. I always think that little touches like these really help with the overall experience and show that the owners have put a lot of thought into the style and appearance.

A Great Nights Sleep

After returning to our room in the evening, we had a comfy and really cosy nights sleep. The duvet and pillows were both soft and snug, which meant that the kids fell asleep really quickly and without any fuss. They all said that they had a fantastic nights sleep the following morning, which is a rare comment to hear from the children. Mr F & I, also experienced a peaceful sleep which made us feel energised in the morning and ready for the busy day ahead.


In the morning we returned to The Living Room, which was where breakfast also took place. This could be purchased on a "pay for what you eat" basis, where you simply fill in a form stating what you have chosen and then this gets added to your bill, to be paid on your departure. Alternatively you can choose the "Smart Breakfast" which for 7.90 euros each, you can help yourself to some freshly made sandwiches, rolls, croissants, boiled eggs, tea and coffee. We opted for the smart breakfast and enjoyed a really filling breakfast each morning.

My children enjoyed the selection and were big fans of the croissants that were available. Mr F and I enjoyed some of the freshly made sandwiches and although these weren't something that we would normally eat for breakfast, they simply looked too delicious to resist! There were no soft drinks suitable for children included in the Smart Breakfast, however there was a selection of fruit juices, milk drinks & soft drinks available for purchase.

The coffee and tea was also a really nice quality too, everything tasted just perfect and was a really welcome start to our day. The drinks machines were very easy to use and there was unlimited tea and coffee available with the Smart Breakfast which meant that I was able to get my caffeine boost in the morning.

Other Facilities

The Appartello also offers a fitness suite and free use of laundry facilities. We didn't use either of these during our stay, but it was great to know that they were available should we need them. When travelling with children, their clothes can get dirty on days out, so it was great to know that we could wash clothes prior to returning home if we wanted to.

Our Overall Stay

We had an absolutely fantastic stay from start to finish. We were very impressed with the excellent care and customer service consistently offered by the staff and really appreciated being made to feel so welcome. The rooms featured everything you could possibly need for a comfortable and relaxing stay, whilst also ensuring a great nights sleep. The pillows were incredibly soft and offered an idyllic place to rest your head after a busy day. The location of the Appartello Smarttime Living Hamburg was perfect with excellent public transport links. The airport and numerous attractions were all within easy reach and having the convenience of a supermarket next door, was also an added bonus. Overall we cannot recommend this hotel enough and shall definitely be returning again in the future. We have already been pricing up flights to return for the Christmas markets and the Appartello would definitely be our first choice for accommodation in the area. We would like to say a huge thank you to the Appartello Smarttime Living Hamburg for such a wonderful stay.

For the most up to date information, reservations and prices, you can visit their website here:
Appartello Smarttime Living Hamburg

Alternatively, you can find them on facebook here: Appartello Smarttime Living Hamburg Facebook

Address: Appartello - Smarttime Living Hamburg, Appartello GmbH, Sportallee 4, 22335 Hamburg, Germany.

Tel: +49 (0) 40 60 92 92 100

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary accommodation, in a premium apartment for the purpose of writing an honest review of our stay, during our recent trip to Hamburg. This was arranged with the help of the Come to Hamburg scheme. Opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated. For the most up to date information, I would always recommend visiting the hotels own website.

Monday, 21 August 2017

New Malt Loaf Bars from Soreen - The Ideal Travel Snack!

Earlier this year we were asked to share our opinion on Soreen Lunchbox Loaves, which shortly after, became a regular feature of our families lunchboxes. In keeping with busy family lifestyles, Soreen developed some individually wrapped lunchbox loaves, which are suitable for both kids & adults alike. As they are ready packaged, it makes preparing lunchboxes an easy task, as well as providing us with a great source of fibre & deliciously squidgy energy.

Since trying the lunchbox loaves a few months ago, Soreen have now introduced the Soreen Malt Loaf Bar. These are slightly larger than the lunchbox loaves, with each individual Malt Loaf Bar being 42g in size. This increase in proportion makes them great for adults, or children with a larger appetite.

The NEW Soreen Malt Loaf Bars are great for when we travel, as they fit into my handbag, glove box, or even pocket with ease. We found these to be a great alternative to the expensive snacks you find onboard planes and during our recent trip to Germany, they were a popular choice with the kids. I also really liked the fact that they weren't crumbly like cake and therefore didn't leave a mess behind once consumed. We have also kept these in the glove box when travelling in the car, as they are ideal for keeping the kids happy when they get hungry on long journeys.

Each 42g bar contains less than 3% fat. They are a great source of fibre and contain juicy raisins amongst the squidgy loaf bar. The NEW Soreen Malt Loaf Bars are suitable for vegetarians and despite being packed full of goodness, they contain less than 125 calories! The packaging stands out on the shelf, with the bright red writing against the vivid yellow background. Nutritional information is provided on the front, back and side of the packaging, so you can be sure of being fully informed before eating as to what the product contains.

We were firm fans of the lunchbox loaves, but now that we have been introduced to the NEW Malt Loaf Bars, we will definitely alternate between the two. I can also see them becoming a regular addition at my lunch time too, or a handy sized snack for when I am on the go! We have also noticed that the Soreen website, also features a few tasty looking recipes, so we are definitely going to give the Chocolate Soreen Flapjack Recipe here a try in the near future.

If you would like to give the NEW Soreen Malt Loaf Bar's a try, then these are available for purchase from The Co-op and WHSmith Travel stores.

Disclaimer: We were provided with this product on a complimentary basis for the purpose of providing our honest opinion on the product. Opinions and photographs are my own, unless stated otherwise.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Crash & Splash at Surf Snowdonia - A Review

Living in North Wales definitely comes with a host of benefits, such as beautiful countryside, breathtaking mountain views, numerous parks and coastal walks, in addition to some amazing family friendly attractions. Surf Snowdonia Adventure Parc is one of those fantastic attractions and we were delighted to be invited to try out one of their family crash and splash sessions, in their lagoon, last weekend.

Surf Snowdonia is a world-first inland surf lagoon that offers visitors the chance to experience their 300 metre long surf lagoon amongst the stunning Snowdonia scenery. The lagoon can create a powerful wave over several starting points (beginners, intermediate & advanced) which then eases slowly as it arrives at the shore. There is freesurfing available for those who are already capable surfers, in addition to lessons, courses and camps that are suitable for children from the age of 5.

As well as offering some wonderful surfing, there is also much more to enjoy on site. There is the Crash & Splash Lagoon, The Soft Play Shack, Surf Side Deli, Surf Side Cafe Bar and also, some on site glamping. This makes it the perfect venue to enjoy a day out or family weekend away, that will be fun packed from start to finish.

The attraction is situated in Dolgarrog, which is only 7 miles from the main A55 dual carriageaway that runs along the North Wales coast. It is also conveniently situated between Conwy and Betws-y-Coed which are also, lovely places to visit, if you are looking to extend your day even further. We found that Surf Snowdonia was well signposted from the main road and we were able to follow the signs easily, without needing to depend on the Sat Nav.

As we arrived, we could see the attraction from the main road and the kids began to get really excited as we drove past the Crash and Splash lagoon on the way to the car park. There was ample parking available which was also free of charge, so even if you don't fancy a surf, it is an ideal place to pop by and enjoy a coffee whilst overlooking the lagoon. We made our way to the entrance, where we then booked ourselves in at the reception area with a lovely gentleman called Ollie. He explained where everything was, how to get to the changing rooms and showed me where Riley could enjoy the soft play area. We were made to feel very welcome and this gave a great first impression.

As Riley was too young to participate, both Riley and I made our way over to the cafe and Soft Play Shack, whilst Mr F, Emma and Ben went and got changed into their wetsuits. On the way to the cafe we couldn't help but notice some other guests surfing. Therefore, we went and sat on a picnic bench for a short while and spent some time just watching the surf lagoon and observing what a clever design it was. A new wave would be created every couple of minutes, using the special machine which ran down the centre of the lagoon and it was really good fun to watch.

After some time outside we headed into the cafe and Soft Play Shack where Riley was able to burn off lots of energy, whilst I enjoyed a lovely cappucino. This was a fantastic facility that featured plenty for Riley to play on and enjoy. There were numerous slides, ball pits, climbing challenges and space to simply run around in so Riley absolutely loved it! There was a large window that directly overlooked the Crash and Splash Lagoon, so we were able to see when the rest of the family came out to enjoy their session. We stayed in the cafe for around half an hour, but as the weather was nice and sunny, we moved outside once the session began and sat on one of the picnic benches to watch the fun taking place.

The Surf Snowdonia Crash and Splash sessions are basically the chance to enjoy a water assault course that is full of challenges and plenty of splashes. Features include a large inflatable course that involves climbing, jumping, balancing and running, as well as a climbing wall, monkey bars, spinning balls and a rope bridge. The obstacle course is great for kids and family groups, in addition to being a fun activity to try with friends or work colleagues.

You need to wear a wetsuit, which you can hire from Surf Snowdonia for a charge of £5 per person. Alternatively you are welcome to bring and use your own wetsuit, to save the additional cost. You are also required to wear a buoyancy aid and helmet, but both of these are provided and included in the activity cost. All participants also receive a full briefing to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the health and safety aspect of the activity.

There were plenty of opportunities to work as a team and it was nice to see people helping one another along the way. Ben stopped on a couple of occasions to help another child back on to the course who had fell into the water, as well as pulling his sister up several times.

We attended the family splash and crash course which is a slightly extended version than the usual Crash and Splash sessions. This is because the normal Crash and Splash also includes The Blob which is a giant air filled cushion that launches you into the air, then sends you splashing back down into the water. The Blob is only suitable for children over the age of 12 and so it is important to make sure you book on the correct session to avoid any disappointment. The Family Crash and Splash is suitable for children from the age of 5, making it perfect for our family.

The assault course was so much fun and it was great being able to watch Emma and Ben try their hardest to complete the course without falling in. Ben is very agile and fast, so after a few attempts, he was able to complete the inflatable part of the course without splashing into the water. The course is well thought out and features a mixture of easy and hard elements which are designed to test your balance, speed and agility. There was plenty of room around the course for spectators and it was great to see so many people laughing and enjoying themselves. Watching the participants tackle the Crash and Splash assault course, certainly provided a lot of giggles.

Emma and Ben both said that they found the instructors very friendly and helpful. They were always on hand to assist when one of the children fell into the water and would help them get back on to the inflatable when needed. Mr F said that the water was very cold on first entry, but that you soon got used to it once you had fallen in a couple of times. It also helped that it was such a sunny day, as they could warm up quite quickly when out of the water.

Overall, we were very impressed from start to finish. The staff were fun, friendly and helpful, which is always a great sign of a good attraction. It is always nice to feel valued as visitors and Surf Snowdonia certainly made us feel welcome and made sure we had a great day out. The facilities are all very impressive and there is plenty to see and do. Although we only live 50 minutes away, we would definitely stay here for a weekend in one of their glamping pods and make the most of all that Surf Snowdonia offers. The restaurant offered a wide range of dishes that all looked delicious, whilst the cafe offered some fabulous looking cakes and sandwiches. The Crash and Splash session was well thought out and provided great family fun at a very reasonable price. We will definitely be back!

Important Information

Address: Surf Snowdonia, Conway Road, Dolgarrog, Conwy, LL32 8QE

Opening Times: The Wavegarden Surf Lagoon is open from 10am until sunset. The park itself is open from 8am for breakfast through to last orders in the bar at 11pm, 7 days a week. PLEASE NOTE: The Lagoon will be CLOSED for maintenance between the 4th-15th September 2017.

Prices: Costs can vary, dependent on activity and whether it is peak/off peak times. For the most up to date information, all the prices can be found here: Surf Snowdonia Prices

Booking: It is possible to turn up on the day, have a look round and book activities whilst there, BUT Surf Snowdonia is very popular and so the attraction recommends that you pre-book any activities or sessions to avoid disappointment.

Website: For the most up to date information then please visit the Surf Snowdonia website here: SurfSnowdonia.com

Alternatively you can find them on social media on the following channels -

Twitter: @surfsnowdonia
Instagram: @surfsnowdonia
Facebook: SurfSnowdonia

Disclaimer: We were provided with a complimentary Family Crash & Splash session for the purpose of providing and honest review of our experience. Photographs and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Our Family Day Out at Flip Out Chester & Clip 'n Climb

Earlier this week we were invited along to experience a fun filled and action packed day at Flip Out Chester. The attraction is described as being the world's biggest and best trampoline theme park and so we couldn't wait to see what exactly was on offer for family fun and adventure.

We arrived approximately half an hour before our session start time of 10am and the car park was practically empty, so there was no panic of finding somewhere to park. We made our way through to the reception area where we were asked to read some important safety information and complete some disclaimers that confirmed we agreed to the rules and also that we were happy with our children taking part. Obviously with any activity there is always an element of risk, but I found that Flip Out were very upfront about this and made sure we were happy to participate prior to issuing us with our tokens and special Flip Out socks. The lady who checked us in on reception was very friendly, helpful and informative. She was more than happy to answer any questions I had and once we had completed the booking in process, we joined a small queue and waited for our 10am start time.

Just before 10am the lady who had previously booked us in, opened some doors and invited us into a room with some television screens and benches. We were all asked to take a seat and to pay attention to the videos which were shown. We were told that we would be tested on what we had seen before being allowed through to the arena and so this definitely got the kids paying attention. The videos explained more about some of the rules of the arena, but it was done in a funny way which I think made it much easier for the children to relate to as opposed to someone just shouting a list of do's and don'ts. Once the safety briefing had ended, each row was asked to state one of the rules to make sure that everyone had listened and at that point, we were then allowed to exchange our tokens for a wristband. In effect this means you have two opportunities to decide that you are happy with the rules before taking part. If you are unhappy with any aspect, then this is the ideal time to make staff aware and return your tokens. We were more than happy with the briefing though and so we didn't hesitate to get our wristbands and make our way through to the arena.

The first area we came to was full of lockers and some vending machines. We could see the Clip'n'Climb area next to the lockers which we were due to participate on later in the day. We had a quick look over, before placing our belongings in a locker (£1 coin required) and travelling through the vortex tunnel towards the trampolines.

Once we reached the main arena I was actually quite taken aback. It was far larger than what I had expected and was definitely much more than just interconnected trampolines. The attraction actually consisted of the following:

  • Main Trampoline Arena
  • Under 7's Arena
  • Kids Stunt Box Zone
  • Adults Stunt Box Zone
  • Soft Play Area
  • Wall Runners
  • Battle Beams
  • Dodge Ball
  • Ninja Warrior Course
  • Total Wipeout Game
  • Foam Pit
  • Drop Slides
Riley and I headed over to the Under 7's area, whilst Mr F, Emma and Ben all went in various directions unsure of what to try first. In the end they opted to begin with a bit of normal bouncing in the main trampoline area, before heading over to the foam pit to try their hand at some flips.

Flip Out Chester have recently invested in some brand new slides as well, which were situated just next to the foam pit. This was the next port of call for all three of the kids, with Riley being able to go on the more gentle purple slide and Emma & Ben on the others. To ride on these slides you need to put a tshirt on and another pair of socks over your flip out socks. Both of these are provided in boxes at the end of the slides and are used to allow you to move freely down the slides. There was a member of staff at the top of the slides and then another at the bottom to ensure that they were being used safely.

About half way into our session we heard an announcement for guests to take part in a Total Wipeout competition. This involves standing on a small individual podium whilst two padded poles spin round and try to knock you off. The aim is to duck down and jump up as these go round and is very similar to the game that was featured on the popular TV Series Total Wipeout. There was a prize for the winner of this competition and so Emma and Ben took no time in joining the queue to participate. Ben was knocked out of the game quite quickly, but Emma managed to make it to the final three before being quite literally swept off her feet. They both thought this was hilarious!

Mr F had hoped to take part in the Ninja Warrior course, but unfortunately this was not open at the time we visited. I am unsure as to why it was closed, but can only assume that it was due to it being a very quiet period in the morning. There was still plenty of other things to do though, and there was no shortage of activities to try and take part in during our two hour session.

As the morning progressed the arena certainly started to get a lot busier, however at no point did it feel crowded. There was plenty of space for everyone to bounce and staff worked hard to ensure that rules were adhered to. On a couple of occasions some older children entered the under 7's arena, but the lady running the Total Wipeout game did keep looking over regularly and would ask people to leave over the microphone when necessary. This was very reassuring and helped to ensure a safe environment.

When Riley got a little tired from bouncing, he was also able to take advantage of the soft play area for younger children which is placed just above the foam pits. It is tucked out of the way which is great for little ones, but the platform that adults can stand on overlooks the whole arena. This means that you can supervise your smaller children, whilst also being able to watch over any other children you have with you.

There are numerous signs around Flip Out to also remind you not to attempt to do anything you aren't actually capable of. I am sure it can be very tempting for kids (and adults) to try and copy the double flip their friend just did, but for obvious reasons you do need to be very careful. I would therefore always recommend carefully supervising your children from the viewing platforms. Accompanying spectators are free!

Our first hour went really quickly, so we were pleased that we had a 2 hour session. This meant that we could enjoy everything without there being any rush and we could also take a little rest in between activities. I was so impressed with the whole set up and I couldn't believe we hadn't actually been here before.

Once our session had ended we made our way to The Kitchen to enjoy a meal and some drinks. It was lovely and cool in the restaurant and there were plenty of tables. It was quiet when we visited, but given the amount of tables I would imagine that it must get extremely busy at times. We chose our table and sat down, however we then found there to be no menus on the table. We then noticed that the menu was placed on screens above the counter and so we made our way over to make our choices. My vision isn't brilliant and so personally I would have preferred table menus, but I was able to make it all out and we all placed our orders.

The lady that took the order was very polite and professional. She showed a lot of patience when Riley changed his mind several times when choosing and remained smiling despite his indecisiveness. We asked a couple of questions about the dishes and these were responded to with friendly and knowledgable answers. The meals were very reasonably priced and there was a good amount of choice available.

Once seated we all enjoyed our drinks and the milkshakes were absolutely delicious. It took around 15 minutes from the time of ordering to receive our meals, which we were very happy with. When eating out I like to have time to be able to chat together and so this short wait was absolutely fine and also gave us time to get our breath back from all the bouncing!

When our meals did arrive, we were definitely not disappointed. The food was absolutely delicious and I felt that the children's portions were an excellent size. Emma and Riley had both opted for pizza and chips from the mini ninja's menu, with Ben choosing chicken bites and chips instead. Both Mr F and I had opted for the Cheeseburger which was well presented and great quality. We had also ordered a garlic bread for us to share, which again was really tasty. Once we had finished our main courses we waited a short while before ordering the children's desserts because we were all so full. However Riley was not about to go anywhere without his ice cream, so we sat and relaxed for a while before ordering some ice cream cones for the kids. These were brought over to the table really quickly and they were a lovely finish to our meal.

We found the service to be great, the food to be excellent and the surroundings really comfortable and stylish. We would quite happily come to The Kitchen at Flip Out just for a "treat" meal here after school one day or on the weekend.

Once we had finished our meal, we spent a few minutes in the arcade, before making our way over to the Clip n Climb reception area to get booked in for our afternoon session. My children love climbing and despite having a fear of heights, Ben is suprisingly comfortable on climbing walls. My husband is a qualified climbing instructor and so both Emma and Ben have been climbing from an early age. This was however a first for Riley and he was so excited looking at all the walls that he could climb.

My first huge positive that I have to mention about Clip n Climb is the staff member who booked us in. Joe was absolutely brilliant and great with both the kids and adults alike. He was very clear in his safety briefing and got us all kitted out with our harnesses. He made sure that everyone was comfortable before going to the walls and he showed a lot of patience when explaining to Riley what he had to do when he wanted to climb or come off a particular wall. This basically involved standing in front of your chosen wall and waving your hands in the air. I loved this as it meant that children who were a bit shy, or not confident in talking, could communicate with all the instructors non verbally.

There was an excellent range of walls to choose from which all varied in difficulty. Riley's favourite walls were "The Big Cheese" and "Amazing" both of which he really enjoyed. Ben and Emma both enjoyed the time challenge walls with Ben managing to get to the top in a fantastic 21 seconds much to Emma's annoyance as she is very competitive and just couldn't quite beat it.

It has been quite a while since I last went climbing, but Joe gave me lots of encouragement which is always a nice boost. There were approximately 12 people in our group altogether which meant that there was always plenty of space and enough climbing walls for everyone. There were also three members of staff who assisted with the clipping and unclipping.

We ended our climbing session slightly early as Riley was starting to get very tired having been at Flip Out for a total of 6 hours. However the day had flown by and we had all had so much fun, not just the kids!

When we left at 3pm the car park was completely full, which was a big contrast to when we had arrived earlier in the day. However, despite it being so busy, we hadn't actually noticed whilst inside and it never felt too crowded at any point. We were very impressed from start to finish with the whole attraction and all the staff members we came across were very helpful. There are plenty of facilities which all seemed to be in a well maintained and clean condition, with ample free parking available outside. Overall we had a fantastic time and feel very lucky to have such a great facility only ten minutes down the road from us. We will definitely be visiting again!

Important Information

Address: Flip Out, Chester Gates Business Park, Chester, CH1 6LT

Tel: 01244 956777

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 9am-10pm. I am unsure of holiday closures such as Christmas Day & Boxing Day, so would advise checking directly with Flip Out before visiting.

Entry prices - 1 hour jumping £10 & you can add a second hour for £5. Flip out socks must be worn if trampolining which carry an additional £2 charge.

Clip n Climb costs £10 with an additional charge of £2.50 for the Drop Slide and £2.50 for the Leap of Faith.

Website: http://www.flipout.co.uk/locations/chester/

Prices & details are subject to change, so I would always recommend checking Flip Out's own website prior to visiting, in order to obtain the most up to date information. You can also follow them on social media here:

Twitter - @FlipOutChester
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/flipoutchester/
Instagram - @flipoutchester

Disclaimer: We were invited to spend the day at Flip Out Chester as guests in order to provide an honest review of our experience. Photographs and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated. Attraction information is correct at time of writing, but is subject to change, so I would always recommend visiting the attraction's own website prior to attending in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Aquabeads Sylvanian Families Refill Set - Review & Competition

As you have probably seen on the blog, we have been very busy lately having some wonderful experiences and visiting some fantastic attractions. However, on the days that we have been at home, it is always great to have something to do with Riley to keep him busy and entertained. Over the last few months we have had the opportunity to try out some wonderful Aquabeads playsets and it has become one of Riley's favourite activities to do at home. This month we were sent a Sylvanian Families Refill Pack which we could use with our existing Aquabeads tools and so we picked a rainy day, to stay at home and have some Aquabeads fun.

Sylvanian Families isn't a brand that Riley is particularly familiar with, however he loves animals and Aquabeads in general. He was therefore delighted to be able to make some animal faces, a house, flowers, fruit and cakes which are all part of this refill set.

The box and packaging is a nice square compact size and costs around £5 from most good toy retailers. This makes it the ideal price for a gift for any Aquabeads fan! The front of the box shows what animals and designs can be made along with an image of a recognisable Sylvanian Family rabbit character. It also states in the top corner that the product is suitable for children aged 4+.

On the reverse of the box is some basic instructions, along with a contents list. This contents list includes:
  • Over 600 beads consisting of red, orange, yellow, light green, light blue,  pink, white, black, ivory and brown colours.
  • 4 x template sheets
  • 1 x instructions

There is also a small advertisement for the accessories that are available separately, which are a layout tray and a sprayer. You will need these to complete your Aquabeads creations, so if you don't already own them, then these will need to be purchased in addition to the set.

If you have never heard or used of Aquabeads before, then basically they are colourful beads that allow you to make beautiful creations. You simply arrange them on your chosen template in the specially designed layout tray, spray them with water and then the beads magically stick together. The templates can be used over and over again, or if you are feeling really creative then you can make up your own designs!

Inside the box everything was neatly packaged and we opened each of the bead bags and arranged them into one of our existing storage cases. Riley had a look through the templates and chose what he would like to create first. The set has a nice mixture of small, medium and large designs which was great for Riley. This meant he could pick and choose between quick and easy designs as well as others that would take more time and concentration such as the house.

Once we had arranged the beads and chosen our templates, we got to work making our designs. They each took between 5 to 15 minutes to make and once completed we gave them a spray with water to hold the beads into place. Riley was able to do all the designs he chose by himself and so he was very proud of his finished creations. We placed the template board on a slight angle in a warm part of the kitchen and left it for just over an hour.

After an hour had passed we removed it from the board and then left it for a further 20-30 minutes. We have found in the past that leaving it this little bit longer makes it slightly firmer and as Riley likes to play with them once they are dry, it makes good sense for us to do this.

Riley really enjoyed this set and just like all his other Aquabeads creations, he was really happy with the outcome. His favourite from this set was the house and the white rabbit and he has added these to his collection. As there were quite a few beads left over he also asked if he could attempt to make his own rainbow, which I agreed was a great idea!

This set is currently available to purchase on Amazon for only £4.99


We also have a great competition, for the chance to win an Aquabeads Sylvanian Families Refill Pack just like the one featured in this review. If you would like to enter, then please do so, using the gleam form below. Good Luck!

Win an Aquabeads Sylvanian Families Refill Set

Terms & Conditions

There is 1 (one) prize of an Aquabeads Sylvanian Families Refill Pack with an RRP of £4.99. Entry is open to UK residents aged 18 years or over. Competition closes 31st August 2017 at 23:59. A winner shall be drawn at random within 7 days of the closing date, who shall be notified via email. The winner will have 7 days to confirm their acceptance of the prize before an alternative winner is chosen. No bulk or third party entries. Parental supervision is recommended when using this product due to small parts.

Disclaimer: We were provided with an Aquabeads Sylvanian Families Refill Set on a complimentary basis, for the purpose of providing an honest review of the product. We also received an additional set to give away to one of our readers as a competition prize. This post also contains an affiliate link to Amazon. This means that I may receive a small commission should you choose to complete a purchase after clicking on the link. 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

It's Time to Play! at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo is well renowned for being one of the best conservation, animal and leisure attractions in the world. It's regular animal care programmes, vital conservation work and enhancements to the zoo have seen it's visitors grow to over 1.9 million guests a year which really is an incredible achievement. It is only a ten minute drive away from our family home and so we have seen the changes that have been made over the years and have watched the zoo grow with the addition of the Island's habitats that opened in 2015.

The zoo has now invested in a brand new Play! space as well as installing fun Play! challenges throughout the attraction which have all been designed to encourage families to have fun together. Families can be assured of enjoying a laughter filled day of exploring, that is packed full of fun and adventure. We were therefore very excited to be invited along to Chester Zoo last week to check out the new Play! Base Camp and try their fun Play! activities which include skipping, balancing, climbing and lots of laughing.

On arrival at the zoo we were provided with a play map which gave us an explorers guide to non-stop play. The activities we could enjoy were marked out on the map and the main Play! Base Camp was highlighted in the middle. We were also given one of the normal attraction maps, which my son Riley very quickly placed himself in charge of, as he began to march through the attraction towards his favourite animals. The first stop was the giraffes, which Riley couldn't wait to see up close.

Riley was amazed by how tall they were and he couldn't believe that even the baby giraffes were taller than him! Once we had walked through the giraffe enclosure and then through the tropical realm next door, we came to our first play activity which was the tortoise shells!

My children each took it in turns to be a tortoise and imagined what it must be like to carry a huge shell on your back every single day. The tortoise shells are a very simple idea but encourage imaginative play and they are large enough for adults to fit in and join in the fun too!

Next up was one of my favourite animals which is the Sloth. I absolutely love this picture that my husband took of one of the sloths travelling along the rope under the beautiful blue skies.

Mr F was on great form with the photographs and also managed to take this photo of one of the stunning jaguars in the Spirit of the Jaguar enclosure. The animals are just so beautiful and it was great to be able to see them in such close proximity.

As we continued to make our way around the zoo we came across two further activites which were "Follow the Line" and the "Flamingo Balance". Riley loved attempting the flamingo balance and although he didn't get it quite right, he was more than happy at just being able to stand on one leg. As you can see it isn't the perfect flamingo stance, but he had lots of fun trying all the same, which is what Play! is all about.

After attempting the flamingo balance, Riley took control of the Play! map once more and noticed that we weren't far away from the Play! Base Camp. We therefore made our way past the penguins and towards the lions, which the base camp is adjacent too. We could see the large slide housed in the 9m high Baobab tree in the distance. This really stood out and so the kids all excitedly made their way over to the play area ready to burn some energy, climb like a monkey and ultimately have some fun!

The play area was absolutely fantastic with so much to do for all ages. There was a large sand play area that provided a fun and safe environment to play in, as well as some more challenging play equipment for older children such as the spider web ropes and climbing nets. The whole area has been really well thought out and covers a large space. This means that despite it being really busy, it didn't feel too chaotic or dangerous in any part, as there was plenty of room for everyone.

In addition to the high energy play areas, there were also some quieter areas that offered you somewhere to go for a more chilled out play. There are also activities such as Tots Story Time and  Animal Game Shows that are held in these areas at certain times, as well as Play! dates events that are scheduled throughout the summer. You can find the most up to date information on these here: Play! Dates & Activities

There is a large cafe area opposite the Play! Base Camp and so this also gave us somewhere to enjoy a drink whilst watching our kids enjoy themselves. We stayed here for just over an hour, but I am sure my children would have happily played there much longer. After all that play, it was only fair that they had a little rest and enjoyed a delicious ice cream.

The Play! theme continued all around the zoo and we kept a look out for any challenges that we came across. Some of our favourites were the Monkeys Balance, Hot Lava Stepping Stones and the Skipping Lane. We also enjoyed making our way along this path by hopping like a frog. It was great to see so many parents & grandparents joining in with the fun too.

In addition to all the wonderful Play! that you can have at Chester Zoo, there are of course many other fun things to see and do. The Zoo is home to over 15,000 amazing animals as well as featuring some stunning gardens to enjoy. The Islands habitat which was introduced in 2015 is incredible and one of our favourite areas of the attraction. You could easily believe that you had been transported to South East Asia if it wasn't for the British climate reminding you of your real location.

The Islands also offer some great places to capture some memories with some lovely photo opportunities scattered throughout. I think that these are a great idea and provide you with the perfect background to remember your visit and look back on in the future.

As our visit came to an end, we made our way to one of the shops where Riley had earlier spotted an inflatable giraffe. These were only £5 and he thought it would be hilarious driving back home with a giant giraffe in the car window, so how could I refuse!

Overall, we had an absolutely fantastic day at Chester Zoo and I would like to thank them for inviting us along to Play! There is so much family fun to be had, with activities for guests of all ages. The animals are very well cared for and we were very lucky to see one of the new baby Rhino's that was recently welcomed to the zoo. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and well cared for, with the whole zoo appearing immaculate and tidy in appearance. We had a really enjoyable day and cannot wait to see Chester Zoo continue to achieve great things in the future.

Important Information

Address - Chester Zoo, Upton-by-Chester, Chester, CH2 1LH (Sat Nav CH2 1EU)

Opening Times - Opening times vary throughout the year and so I would always recommend visiting the Chester Zoo website for the most up to date information prior to visiting. Opening time information can be found here: Opening Times

Entry Price - Prices vary and the most up to date information can be found on the website here: Ticket Prices & Online Booking

Chester Zoo can also be followed on social media and there social media accounts are as follows:

Facebook - Chesterzoo1
Twitter - @ChesterZoo
Instagram - @ChesterZoo
YouTube - OfficialChesterZoo

Disclaimer: We were invited to Chester Zoo as guests to experience the new Play! at Chester Zoo, however we were not asked to write a review and have done this of our own accord due to having such a fantastic day. Opinions and photographs are my own unless stated otherwise. Thank you to Chester Zoo for inviting us.