Monday, 21 May 2018

Planning Our Family Holiday to Venice, Italy with Al Fresco Holidays

Europe features so many wonderful countries and for the past few years, we have enjoyed visiting numerous places including France, Germany, Spain and Ireland to name just a few. We have stayed in all kinds of accommodation ranging from tents to luxury hotels, but we have found that one of the most cost effective ways for us to stay abroad is through Al Fresco Holidays who have over 70 holidays parks in some of Europe's finest locations.

Their parks range from small and tranquil, to large and lively which offer the ultimate fun for families. We have previously stayed at Sanguli in Salou as well as La Croix du Vieux Pont in Berny Riviere and had a fantastic experience at both parks. However, my husband and I have both wanted to return to Italy for quite some time, having visited both Rome and Genoa as a couple quite a few years ago. I was therefore excited to see what parks Al Fresco Holidays had in Italy and whether there were any situated near one of my bucket list destinations of Venice!

Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

When we visited La Croix du Vieux Pont last year, we had a good chat with one of the Al Fresco representatives, who had previously worked on a site called Union Lido and highly recommended the area. I therefore knew that there was at least one park that may be suitable for us, but was pleasantly surprised to find that Al Fresco Holidays actually have five parks based along the Venetian Riviera. One of the parks that really stood out to us was Portofelice Camping Village in Eraclea Mare. This was because it is in a prime location with its own beach access, as well as offering plenty of activities for younger children. It is just over an hour away from Venice, which means that we can relax and enjoy the activities on the park, but also be within easy reach of one of my must-visit destinations. We therefore began to research the area and began planning for a family holiday to Italy. We are so excited to be visiting Portofelice in the very near future!

Getting to Portofelice

We are flying from our nearest main airport which is Manchester and we have an early morning flight booked for us all. Airlines can have different rules and regulations when it comes to seat allocation, luggage and checking in, so it is important to always check everything in plenty of time before you travel. Some airlines allow you to check in online up to 28 days before departure, where as others have much shorter time frames, so it is best to be aware of your airlines policies in advance of your travel dates. Our airline has already allowed us to check in, so we have confirmed our seating and baggage allowance and printed off our boarding passes ready for the journey. This means that it is simply a case of dropping off our suitcases on arrival at the airport which is usually quite straightforward.

The flight operator we are travelling with, also gave us the opportunity to use mobile boarding passes, however we have done this previously when returning from Dublin to Manchester and had a huge panic when the battery on my phone suddenly rapidly decreased. We managed to board the plane with only 1% battery remaining on my phone, so I have decided to stick to paper boarding passes for the foreseeable future.

On arrival in Venice airport we have a private transfer booked to get to Portofelice. We had debated hiring a car, but after reading reviews from previous guests, we discovered that a lot of people hired cars and then didn't use them for the remainder of the holiday, so we felt a transfer and using public transport would be more cost effective. Our transfer will take approximately 40 minutes by car, but I always find that this time goes quite quickly when you are excitedly taking in your new surroundings on the journey.

The Holiday Park of Portofelice

I love to do plenty of research before travelling and will read past reviews to help gain some valuable tips and advice. I will also make sure that there is public transport available nearby so that we can enjoy some off site visits as well as everything on the park. It is nice to get a change of scenery whilst on holiday, so it is important to us as a family that there is plenty to do both on site and also in the local area.

I was pleased to find many excellent reviews of the park, which reassures me that we have made a great decision in choosing to visit this site. One interesting point which came to light, was the fact that you have to pay for sun loungers at the pool. This was something completely new to us, that I haven't heard of before, however personally I actually think it is a great idea. I absolutely loathe having to get up extremely early whilst on holiday. just to join the masses in reserving sun loungers, so I am more than happy to pay to ensure we get a prime location by the pool without the need for any early morning starts. For seven days this has cost me approximately £35 for two sun loungers & a table and involves a quick and simple online booking process through Portofelice's own website. I believe that the sun loungers can also be booked on site in their reception area, but will be subject to availability.

 Photo courtesy of Al Fresco Holidays

A lot of reviews also mentioned that the prices in the supermarket are quite varied, with some items being very reasonably priced and others slightly expensive. This sounds very similar to most places we have visited in Europe and so we are planning on taking some basic store cupboard essentials out with us such as biscuits, pasta and snacks. We also usually take some cleaning items with us such as a travel sized bottle of washing up liquid, bin bags and dish cloths as these can quickly cut into your budget if you need to purchase them abroad.

The on site restaurant has received many recommendations and I was pleased to find a copy of their menu online. I try and budget as best I can when travelling, so it is always handy to find out the average cost of meals so that I can factor in a couple of meals out during our stay. Having looked at their menu, I think it offers a great deal of variety and I am definitely looking forward to trying out some of the pasta dishes. The prices seem to offer really good value, with childrens meals costing between 5-7 euros and my favourite pasta dish of Spaghetti alla Carbonara being only 6.90 euros. We are hoping to eat out on at least two occasions so it is great to have an idea of cost so that we can plan ahead.

There seems to be a wide variety of children's activities on offer as well as family entertainment in the evening, which my kids are already really looking forward to. I have found out that there are bouncy castles, go karts and trampolines also available, so this will give us plenty to enjoy at night.

The beach is a short distance away from the park and you can also reserve sun loungers on here too. I have decided not to do this at the moment as usually we would just place towels on the sand, however I believe these can be booked whilst on site, so may consider this at some point during our stay. Riley absolutely loves the beach, so again it is great to have choice of things to do for the days we stay on site at Portofelice.

Photo courtesy of Al Fresco Holidays

The Accommodation

We will be staying in one of Al Fresco Holidays newest accommodations which is the Da Vinci Lounge. This is a three bedroom mobile home with a nice outdoor decking area and dining furniture. It has one double room and two twin rooms which will provide us all with plenty of space. I love the fact that there is decking, as this will provide my husband and I somewhere to sit and have a drink in the evening once the children are in bed, meaning that we can also have some time as a couple as well as a family.

It will also give us the opportunity to eat outdoors or simply relax during the sites siesta time, which is in between 1pm & 3pm. I actually quite like the idea of returning to the accommodation during this period so that we can enjoy some lunch and drinks together, whilst also keeping the children out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. I am going to take some small games and activities with us such as dominoes, cards, colouring pencils and books, so that the kids can also have some fun together at this time.

We have pre-booked the linen packs for the duration our stay, which will give us a lot more suitcase space. When we visited both Sanguli and La Croix du Vieux Pont, we chose to take our own linen and towels with us, but it will be nice to know that everything is already there waiting for us on this occasion instead.

We have also pre-booked the air conditioning in the mobile home as we have found that during hot days, it is very refreshing to be able to have somewhere to cool down and relax. Temperatures are currently expected to be around 28 degrees celsius during our stay, so I am sure that the air conditioning will come in very useful.

I have also read carefully through the booking confirmation and found that we will need to pay a security deposit of 60 euros in cash on arrival. We have paid deposits previously by cheque which has meant that it doesn't affect our budget as the cheque isn't cashed, but our booking specifically states cash on this occasion. You get this returned to you on departure, providing that the accommodation is left to the same standard as it was on arrival. We always clean everything thoroughly before leaving, so I have no issue in providing a deposit. I actually think it is a very good idea that will encourage guests to leave the accommodation clean and tidy, ready for the next visitors.

Days Out

I have had a good look at the local area and for some ideas on where to visit. Venice is an absolute must, so we will be catching the bus from outside the park into Venice on at least one day during our stay. Whilst there we have decided to visit St Mark's Basilica, The Bell Tower and Doge's Palace, which all look absolutely incredible.

Both my husband and I would love to enjoy a ride on a Gondola, however none of the children seem very keen on this idea, so I think that this will be something we decide to do once there, depending on both price and availability.

One thing that did concern me, was how expensive it would be to eat out whilst in Venice. A lot of reviews online mentioned that prices could be quite extortionate in the main tourist areas such as St Mark's Square, however I have found that there is a Hard Rock Cafe located nearby, so we will be eating there during our day out. Although the menu prices weren't displayed on their website, I sent them a quick email and their sales manager very quickly responded with copies of both the main menu and the children's menu which both seem to offer some tasty dishes at great value. We know the Hard Rock Cafe brand well and have visited plenty of their establishments all around the world. We therefore know exactly what we will be getting for our money and the kids always enjoy the experience too, so I feel that this will be a geat decision, that will suit our family.

Another place we have decided to visit is the Aqualandia water park located approximately 40 minutes away. It looks so much fun and is also home to Europe's tallest waterslide, Captain Spacemaker. It stands at 42 metres high and can reach speeds of up to 100km/h. My husband is very keen to try this ride out and if action cameras are permitted then he will be sure to record this too!

We have also discovered that you can hire bikes from Portofelice, so we are looking at taking a bike ride through the woodland and into the nearby town of Eraclea Mare, where we can visit a local pizzeria for lunch. I also believe that there is an open air market in this town on a Tuesday evening, so this is something we will also consider visiting depending on the weather.

Photo Credit: AussieActive on Unsplash

Budget

At the moment I have budgeted approximately 350 euros for activities & excursions, 100 euros for a food shop on arrival and 300 euros for meals and drinks based on the research I have done so far. It will be interesting to see just how well we can stick to our budget of 750 euros which is approximately £656 based on the current exchange rate. The children also have 30 euros each to spend on the arcade and on gifts for friends.

I always think it is good to have a rough idea of your expenditure so that you can enjoy all the things that you have planned, whilst also being aware of what you are spending. We always take a credit card or a travel card with us as a back up just in case, but we try not to go over budget when possible.

Insurance 

I often get surprised by how often I hear friends and family say that they don't purchase travel insurance. To me this is a MUST especially when travelling as a family. An accident or illness can strike anyone at anytime and the financial implications of this when abroad can be huge. I find that travel insurance is a relatively small price to pay for that added reassurance that if something was to go wrong, then you would be covered. It is also important to ensure that you disclose any illnesses or existing condition and provide accurate information to the insurer. Usually we pay around £12-£15 for single trip family insurance, but on this occasion it has cost us £22 with the Post Office. This is because my husband is currently undergoing physiotheraphy treatment for achilles tendonitis and whilst I cannot see any reason why this would cause a problem on holiday, it is an ongoing issue that the insurers need to be made aware of just in case. I still think that £22 is very reasonable though and is certainly worth paying for that added piece of mind.

Clothing

Whilst it can be tempting to simply pack a bundle of shorts and t-shirts, it can be sensible to prepare for all weathers. We therefore usually take a lightweight coat for each of the children as well as some jeans and joggers, just for cooler evenings or rainy days. I always check the pool guidelines as well, as some European parks will only allow men to wear swimming trunks as opposed to shorts and similarly some sites require the use of swimming caps. I haven't found any information that suggests either of these are required at Portofelice, but I will check with them prior to travelling just in case.

Whilst researching places to visit, I also became aware that Basilica di San Marco has a dress code due to being a place of worship. Their guidelines require that guests have no shoulders or knees visible and so I will make sure that we dress respectfully during our visit and pack something suitable.

The Al Fresco Holidays Experience

The whole booking process and build up to our holiday with Al Fresco Holidays has been fantastic so far. They have kept me fully informed with all of our booking details and made me aware when we could check in for our flight. If I have had any questions about our stay then I have found their online support to be brilliant, with any queries answered really efficiently.

We are so excited for our trip to Portofelice and I look forward to updating you all on our adventure when we get back!

Photo courtesy of Al Fresco Holidays

Disclaimer: We are visiting Portofelice holiday park as guests of Al Fresco Holidays. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post does not contain affiliate links at present.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Paw Patrol Live! "The Great Pirate Adventure" Announces UK Tour Dates

My son Riley is a HUGE Paw Patrol fan and last year we had the opportunity to take him to see Paw Patrol Live! "Race to the Rescue" in Manchester. We all had a fantastic time at the show and the whole family found it really entertaining. Everything from the costumes to the music was brilliant and we all agreed that it was a wonderful production.

We were therefore really excited to learn that Paw Patrol Live! will be embarking on another UK tour called "The Great Pirate Adventure". I know that Riley will absolutely love watching the pups again live on stage in their superb costumes, along with their vehicles and packs in this new pup-tastic adventure.


In Paw Patrol Live! "The Great Pirate Adventure", Mayor Goodway is getting everything shipshape for a big Pirate Day celebration in Adventure Bay. However, when Cap'n Turbot falls into a dark and mysterious cavern, it's Paw Patrol to the rescue!

Audiences will join Chase, Marshall, Rubble, Skye, Rocky and Zuma as they save Cap'n Turbot and discover a secret pirate treasure map that will lead them on an epic adventure. The pups will need all paws on deck for this pirate adventure, including help from the newest pup who's all ears.....Tracker! Faced with challenges along the way, the pups will need to use their heroic rescue skills and work together as a team as the pups set sail to save the day. No job is too big, no pirate pup is too small!

Tickets are on sale now and are available to purchase from www.pawpatrollive.co.uk

The current tour dates are as follows:
  • Saturday 28th July - The Playhouse, Edinburgh
  • Thursday 2nd August - Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
  • Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th August - SECC, Glasgow
  • Wednesday 8th August - Echo Arena, Liverpool
  • Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th August - Manchester Arena, Manchester
  • Wednesday 15th August - Fly DSA Arena, Sheffield
  • Saturday 18th August - Arena Birmingham
  • Wednesday 22nd August - Motor Point Arena, Cardiff
  • Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th August - The SSE Arena, Wembley, London
  • Wednesday 29th August - First Direct Arena, Leeds
  • Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd September - Windsor Hall, Bournemouth International Centre
  • Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September - Brighton Centre, Brighton

Disclaimer: Details provided are believed to be correct at time of writing, but may be subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the companies own website in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Our Fun Family Adventure at Inflata Nation Cheshire - A Review

On Friday evening we were invited to a very special launch party, to celebrate the opening of the brand new Inflata Nation Cheshire. I had seen some advertising on social media during the past couple of weeks for the new attraction and thought it looked fantastic, though I was a little unsure as to how the concept would work or how big the inflatable park really was. We therefore jumped at the chance to enjoy a sneak preview of this fun filled venue and learn more about what Inflata Nation could offer for an enjoyable family experience.

Inflata Nation Cheshire is based in Runcorn and using the sat nav we found it with ease. It is ideally located within each reach of Cheshire, Merseyside and also North Wales, with our journey from Flintshire taking only 20 minutes down the M56. There is parking available outside for guests travelling by car, but it is also accessible by public transport, with both a train station and bus stops nearby.


We made our way into the building which had a large reception area, with plenty of room for guests. We were asked to fill in a waiver form prior to entering the arena, which you can also obtain online and print off, if you would rather fill it in beforehand.

Safety is of great importance to Inflata Nation and there are plenty of signs around the building giving guidance on the safe use of the equipment. There is also a safety briefing prior to bouncing and plenty of supervisors in the arena, who all work together to help create a safe environment.

As with any physical activity there is always a risk of injury, but having read the rules and the waiver, I was more than happy to sign and allow my children to participate. I could see that there were plenty of health and safety measures in place, which offered me lots of reassurance.

Anyone bouncing must wear socks and it is also recommended that you wear a long sleeve top and trousers to prevent any friction burns whilst using the slides. My daughter wore a short sleeved tshirt and a long sleeved lightweight shirt over the top that she could easily remove to keep cool when she wasn't using the slides. Ben wore a long sleeved tshirt, but we purposely picked one with loose sleeves, so that he could roll these up when just bouncing so that he didn't get too hot. We found that this worked well for us and ensured that the children stayed cool, but also had their arms and legs protected when needed.


As we entered the arena my children ran over to the inflatable theme park. I had seen some images online of the Manchester venue which opened last year, so I had some idea of what it would look like, though this far surpassed my expectations. Firstly the size was much bigger than what I was expecting and I was shocked at just how large the inflatable was. My children had never seen anything like this before and my youngest son Riley simply kept repeating "Wow,this is amazing!"

Before bouncing we also had the opportunity to speak to one of the owners Michelle Ball, whose enthusiasm and passion for Inflata Nation was clear to see. Both Michelle and her husband Matt are no strangers to creating fun family friendly attractions, having previously been responsible for the Jump Nation trampoline parks. However, the popularity of trampoline parks has soared in recent years and the amount of competition has also rapidly increased. They therefore decided that they wanted to develop something new and exciting for both kids and adults alike and Inflata Nation was created.


As more children arrived, the arena filled with excitement as everyone eagerly awaited to be told that they could begin to bounce. Everyone was waiting patiently on the mats and I think all the guests had an idea of where they were going to go first, because as soon as the signal was given, children ran off in all directions! Now I have mentioned the children at the attraction so far, but the best thing about this place is that it is suitable for the WHOLE family, not just the kids. The majority of adults soon followed the children and it was fantastic to see families having so much fun together, because lets face it, adults want to enjoy themselves too!

Due to there being numerous different areas on the inflatable, there wasn't one individual place that seemed too crowded and all guests appeared to distribute evenly across the arena. Activities included the Inflata Drop, Inflata Wall, Inflata Race and Inflata Duel to name just a few.


My youngest son's favourite was the Inflata Drop, which is Inflata Nation's signature slide that sends you speeding down into a giant ball pool. He absolutely loved this and must have gone down this slide at least twenty times. It was also a lovely moment for me, being able to watch him climb round each time, with such happiness on his face.

My daughter Emma really enjoyed the Inflata Wall, which is a giant multi-person inflatable climbing wall. She liked the fact that she didn't need to wear a harness and could climb both upwards, downwards and sideways to get around the whole wall.

Ben's favourite was the Inflata Challenge, which is where you harness yourself into a bungee and then race a competitor to the end. Once you reach the bottom though, you need to slam dunk a basketball into the hoop before the bungee pulls you back. Ben and his dad had a great time playing on this and it was so funny seeing them race and then flying backwards.


For children under four, there is also a separate inflatable play area which has its very own slide and ball pool on a smaller scale. There were also some bridges and tunnels to climb through and it was a lovely area for toddlers to enjoy.


One aspect of the attraction that I was really impressed with was the staff. Everyone was so chatty and friendly and it was nice to be made to feel so welcome. The supervisors on the equipment worked hard to ensure that the safety rules were being followed, whilst still wearing a smile and also having a good laugh with the guests. On one occasion my youngest son climbed to the larger 5-person slide and then changed his mind once he got to the top. Without hesitation the young lady supervising went to the top of the slide and helped my little boy back down, whilst reassuring him the whole time that it was absolutely fine and there was no problem at all. This was a situation where my five year old could have easily become upset and worried, but instead he was instantly put at ease. Once he was safely back to the bottom he said thank you and happily continued to bounce around in a different direction. Little things like this really matter to a small child (and their parents) so I was very pleased with how well this small problem was handled.


Whilst using the equipment we made use of the lockers which were available to store our shoes and valuables. These cost £1 which is refundable when you return the key to the locker. There were plenty available and we found this facility really useful to be able to keep our items safe.

Obviously all that bouncing can become very thirsty work, so I was pleased to see that there was a cafe on site selling a large range of both hot and cold drinks. In addition to this there was also a very nice menu offering a good choice of meals and snacks. I thought that the prices were reasonable and it was possible to create meal deals too, including a Family Hot Dog Meal Deal for only £12.50 which feeds a family of four.


The cafe and dining area was very clean and tidy and we loved the purple, blue and orange colour scheme that featured throughout. The bright colours helped to create really vibrant surroundings and made it a nice place to relax and enjoy some food. The staff members working on the refreshment area seemed well organised and in addition to serving customers quickly, they were always checking for anywhere that needed cleaning and making sure the area stayed tidy and presentable.


Overall we had an absolutely fantastic time at Inflata Nation Cheshire and it will certainly be a definite contender for my children's birthday parties, later in the year. Everything seemed well managed from the moment we arrived and all the staff worked tirelessly hard to ensure that all the guests had a great time. Inflata Nation is a wonderful idea and I am sure that many families will agree. There is plenty to do for all ages and the fact that adults can have just as much fun as the children, is just brilliant. I had been a little concerned that adults, teenagers and smaller children all playing on the same equipment at the same time could lead to some bumps or falls, but the presence of supervisors on the inflatable ensured that everyone kept to the rules and played safely. We will definitely be returning in the future and I look forward to seeing Inflata Nation expand to more centres during the next couple of years.

Attraction Details

Attraction: Inflata Nation Cheshire
Address: Inflata Nation Inflatable Theme Park Cheshire, Elite House, Shaw Street, Runcorn, WA7 5TZ
Booking line: 0161 710 2360 - Lines open Monday to Thursday 9:30am til 7:30pm and Friday to Sunday 9:30am til 5:30pm.
Events Department: 0161 710 2360 (option 2) - Lines open Monday to Friday 9.30am til 5pm
Opening Times & Entry Prices: Times & prices vary so please visit the attractions own website in order to obtain the most up to date information. Their website and social media channels can be found below.

Website: https://www.inflatanation.com/
Email: info@inflatanation.com
Facebook: /InflataNationCheshire
Twitter: @inflatanation
YouTube: Inflata Nation


Disclaimer: We were invited as guests to the pre-launch party of Inflata Nation Cheshire. All opinions and photographs are my own unless stated otherwise.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Dates for your Diary - The Snowman Tour with Carrot Productions

I know it is only May and Christmas is many months away, but as a parent I have found over the last few years, that the best festive events often sell out very early. I therefore wanted to share details of this wonderful tour with you straight away!

Tickets to Carrot Productions' presentation of the iconic film The Snowman accompanied by a live orchestra are on sale now, for venues throughout the country. It is the sixth annual tour by Carrot Productions, the most prolific performers of The Snowman film with live orchestra in the world. This years tour sees more venues being visited than ever before, including seven cathedrals in Blackburn, Chester, Durham, Gloucester, Lichfield, Liverpool and Winchester. There are 16 venues in total across the country that will be welcoming the production and it is sure to be a magical experience.

 Photo Credit: Tom Bangbala

The Snowman Experience is sure to delight audiences as the beloved movie is made extra vivid with the presence of a live orchestra, drawn from some of the top musicians in the country. Many of whom are members of such orchestras as The Halle and the BBC Philarmonic. In addition to this there will also be a young soloist performing the famous Walking in the Air song. This therefore not only provides a marvellous festive overture, but also acts as a wonderful introduction to the orchestra for children.

Photo Credit: Gareth Widdowson

The programme will also include a second animation that has been specially commissioned by Carrot Productions. This year some venues will be treated to a world exclusive in the form of 'A Donkey's Tale', which tells the heart-warming story of Dillon the Donkey.

Dillon is an ordinary donkey, with an extraordinary dream that takes him on a journey that will change his life. It has been specially written and composed by Daniel Whibley, who is also responsible for the musical score for The Bear and the Piano.

Watching The Snowman on television at Christmas, has been a family tradition for us for many years, so we cannot wait to see this magical delight be performed with a live orchestra later this year.

Tickets are now on sale and are expected to be very popular, so for further information or ticket details please visit: www.carrotproductions.com

A full list of tour dates and venues can also be found here: http://carrotproductions.com/tour-dates.html

If you would like to get a feeling of an evening with The Snowman, then please watch the video below:


Disclaimer: We are being given 4 complimentary tickets for the purpose of providing an honest review of the tour later this year. All opinions are my own. Details provided are believed to be correct at time of writing, but are subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the companies own website to obtain the most up to date information.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Letterbox Cakes by bakerdays - Review & Competition

My family and I have quite a few special occasions coming up over the next couple of months and it can be a bit of a struggle at times, to try and find the perfect gift for that special someone. I like to buy presents that are personal to the recipient, but also something that I know they will enjoy.

Thanks to the blog, I have been introduced to numerous brands over the last couple of years that offer some amazing gifts, so I know that there are some fabulous presents out there to suit all tastes. However there is one brand in particular that I often find myself returning to and that is....bakerdays.


The company bakerdays create personalised cakes for all occasions in a variety of different flavours. There is a huge selection to choose from in various sizes, which not only look fantastic, but taste absolutely delicious too! My favourite product that they offer is the innovative letterbox cake, which is a wonderful and unique gift idea for friends, family or even work colleagues that you may want to surprise. Measuring at approximately 5 inches in diameter (12cm x 2.5cm) they fit nicely through your letterbox and can provide 3-4 nice sized portions.

The bakerdays website is really user friendly with everything being clearly displayed in corresponding categories. I could literally spend all day browsing through the many different designs that are available and it is easy to navigate through the pages until you find the perfect one. Once you have decided on a design, then you simply need to select the size that you want, choose a flavour and then add a special message of your choice. Some cakes can even feature one of your very own photographs, for that added personalised touch.

My children and I had a little think about who we would like to get a cake for and Emma, Ben and Riley all had the same person in mind.....GRANDAD! My kids are all very close to their grandad and so it was a really easy decision for them all to make.

I initially suggested that we could get one as a Father's Day cake, but my son very rightly pointed out that it doesn't have to be a special occasion to eat cake and that it could simply be a gift to show how much they care about him. So with the recipient agreed, all we had to do now was choose a design.

We didn't want anything that was over complicated and Riley was quite specific in his request that it must have a teddy bear on it as well as lots of lovely colours. It didn't take long to find the ideal design which was exactly what the kids had imagined. We selected our choice and then chose a traditional sponge cake with jam and buttercream filling. There were lots of other flavours available though which included:

  • Traditional Sponge
  • Lovely Lemon Drizzle
  • Rich Chocolate Chip
  • Gluten Wheat Free Sponge
  • Dairy Free Sponge
  • Fabulous Fruit

I think it is great that bakerdays also provide a full list of ingredients for each flavouring, which is ideal if you are buying for someone with an allergy or an intolerance. This way you can be sure that the cake you buy is suitable for the recipient.

We were happy with the design exactly as it was, so we chose not to add personalised names as the example text suited us perfectly. The order was placed and we waited excitedly for our cake to arrive!



The website offers a range of delivery options and bakerdays assures customers that your cake will arrive fresh and in perfect condition. They have created special packaging to protect the cake which makes the product suitable for both national and even international delivery. Our cake arrived in a sturdy cardboard box, which had a lovely card enclosed, along with an advertising leaflet and discount code that could be used against future purchases. It was carefully contained within a miniature cake tin, which made the item look really presentable, which is exactly what you want when buying a gift for someone.


The image and text on the cake was great and we were all really pleased with how it looked. We knew that Grandad would absolutely love it and we weren't wrong. In addition to the presentation the quality of the cake was wonderful with a lovely taste that we all found delicious. The guide states that the cake is ideal for 3-4 slices, but we managed to get 5 decent sized portions between Grandad, Nana, Emma, Ben and Riley.

Overall we were extremely impressed with bakerdays, we have used them on several occasions now and have never been disappointed. The efficiency of the service and quality of the product is fantastic which is always reassuring when buying a gift for someone. My children now want to buy these for their teachers as an end of term gift which I think is a lovely idea, which also goes to show how much the kids enjoy the product too. I think the fact that you can choose the design yourself and personalise it, makes it all the more special and my children really enjoyed being involved. The ordering process isn't only simple, but also great fun too and we look forward to using the service again in the future.


If you would like to purchase your own bakerdays cake, then I have also been given an exclusive discount code for my readers. Simply enter code FAMILYADVENTURE15 to get 15% off your purchase. (Code expires 31st May 2018).

To find out more about the great range of cakes that bakerdays offer, then you can visit their website or social media channels on the links below:

Website - www.bakerdays.com/
Facebook - facebook.com/bakerdays/
Twitter -  @bakerdays
Instagram - @bakerdays

If you would like the chance to win your very own Letterbox Cake from bakerdays, then please read the terms and conditions and enter our competition using the gleam form below. Good Luck!

Win a Letterbox Cake from bakerdays

  • There is 1 (one) prize of a bakerdays Letterbox Cake
  • There is no cash alternative available.
  • Please allow up to 28 days for delivery
  • Competition is open to UK entrants aged 18 or over.
  • No bulk or third party entries.
  • Competition closes 20th May 2018 & the winner shall be drawn at random and contacted within 3 working days.
  • The winner will have 7 days to respond to the winning email to confirm their acceptance of the prize, before an alternative winner is drawn from the remaining eligible entrants.
  • The winners details will be shared with bakerdays, for the purpose of prize fulfilment and the winner's consent will be requested prior to any information being shared.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a complimentary letterbox cake for the purpose of providing an honest review of our experience. All opinions and photographs are my own, unless stated otherwise.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Cancer Research UK Flower Shop - A Review

Cancer is a subject that is close to many people's hearts. If not experienced personally, then it is likely that you know of somebody who has been affected by it, at some point in their lives. It can be an extremely worrying and daunting time for everyone involved and that is why Cancer Research UK are consistently working hard to fund research, that may one day help to find a cure.

In the past month alone, both of my parents have had to undergo medical procedures, operations and biopsies in order to rule out cancer and ensure that this was not the reason for their health problems. Luckily in both cases, they came back clear, but there are many others out there that are not so lucky. 

Cancer Research UK are the UK's biggest charity and rely on donations, fundraising and awareness to help them continue their work. There are many ways to get involved and help, whether that be by making a donation, volunteering in one of their shops, donating items or fundraising. There are loads of possibilities to help make a difference to the fantastic work that this charity does.

I recently found out that online florist Prestige Flowers have teamed up with Cancer Research UK to open the Cancer Research UK Flower Shop, where 25% of all purchases are donated to the charity. This means that when purchasing a beautiful bunch of flowers for a loved one, family member or friend, you can also be doing your bit for charity and supporting this wonderful cause.

I was therefore delighted to be offered the chance to review one of the bouquets in the range and help to raise awareness on the blog. 

The bouquet I received was called Luxury Delight, which was probably the most ideal name you could have chosen for it. The flowers were absolutely stunning and the arrangement consisted of Stargazer Lillies, Memory Lane Roses and Deep Water Roses. They didn't only look fantastic, but smelt absolutely wonderful too.


They were delivered in a large monochrome cardboard box by Royal Mail and were expertly packaged inside, wrapped in beautiful white paper and water padding around the stems. This ensured that the flowers still received water throughout transportation, whilst also keeping the box and surroundings dry.

There was a white inner box inside the main packaging which when you lifted the top handle, helped to remove the bouquet from the box. It was then that I found some added surprises in the form of a lovely gift card, super-soft teddy bear and a glass vase, which was the perfect size for the flowers. They looked so nice all wrapped up that initially I didn't want to take off the wrapping for fear of spoiling the arrangement, but they had all been secured together at the stems, so I needn't have worried.


My son Riley quickly took the teddy to add to his ever growing collection, whilst I set about removing the bouquet from the packaging and arranging them in a vase. Initially I placed them altogether in the vase provided, but as the selection was so large, I made the decision the following day to split them between two vases so that I could have one on my window frame and another on the table. 


After seeing how lovely the flowers were, I visited the Cancer Research UK Flower Shop website which can be found here: https://flowershop.cancerresearchuk.org/flowers to see what other bouquets and gifts were available in the range.

The website is really user friendly and products are sorted into a variety of different categories which ranged from Birthday Flowers to Fruit Hampers and Congratulations to New Baby Gifts. The bouquets and gifts available for purchase all have very clear images, to give you an excellent idea of what your gift will look like.

A large selection of the items are available for Next Day delivery and this is available 7 days a week. I thought that this was a huge bonus as so many online stores only offer next day delivery Monday to Thursday, so it was great to see a retailer being able to provide this service each and every single day.

The bouquet of flowers I received are actually listed under the Birthday category, but I am sure you would agree that they would actually be suitable for a whole range of occasions.

Overall, I was extremely impressed by both the service received and the bouquet of flowers. They were exactly as portrayed in the online image and looked wonderful. The bouquet I had delivered was much larger than I had expected and I think it was great that in the end I was able to split them between two different vases. This certainly made a lovely display in my living room. My favourite thing about this item though, is of course that a charitable donation goes to such a worthy cause. This means that not only would a gift recipient be receiving a lovely bouquet, but that a percentage of the purchase price would also be going to Cancer Research UK.

You can view the full range of flowers on their website here: Cancer Research UK Flower Shop

To find out more about Cancer Research UK you can also visit their site here: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary bouquet of flowers for the purpose of writing an honest review of the service and product I received. All opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated. The RRP value of the flowers I received is £40 and therefore I will also be making a donation of £10 towards the charity.

Monday, 30 April 2018

A Family Ski Lesson with Snozone in Castleford, West Yorkshire! - A Review

Last year we visited Snozone in Milton Keynes to experience a family sledging session. We saw some amazing skiing and snowboarding during our visit and we left extremely impressed with the facilities that were on offer. Before we had even left our sledging session, we had all agreed that we would love to return to Snozone in the future to enjoy a family skiing lesson.

This weekend the attraction launched their Snozone Summer of Snow Party, which provided us with the perfect opportunity to return and put our skiing skills to the test.  The party featured prizes, children's activities, freestyle demonstrations and special offers, as well as some FREE face painting and badge making. If that wasn't enough the restaurant was offering an amazing range of Tapas dishes, food and drink and Snozone had also teamed up with partners Andorra, Tog24 and Crystal Ski to provide both guests and members with some great deals.

Snozone is a family friendly attraction and snow sports facility. It currently has two venues in the UK with one being based in Castleford, West Yorkshire and the other in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. Each site provides real snow slopes for skiing and snowboarding as well as offering snow experiences such as sledging and family snow play sessions, making it the ideal place to learn, develop and have some fun. They were also voted the Best Sporting Venue 2017/2018 by the School Travel Awards, for excelling in learning outside the classroom for school children.

We couldn't wait to visit again, though this time we chose to visit their Castleford site instead, which was 1 hour 25 minutes away from our home in North Wales. It was a really easy drive along the M62 and as we got closer, there were plenty of signs to show us where to exit. As soon as we left the motorway, we could see the huge Xscape building in the distance and the kids started to get really excited as we drove nearer.

On arrival, we were surprised to find that it was free parking. The Xscape building also houses many other entertainment venues and restaurants, so we were quite shocked that there was no charge to park. We made our way through the main entrance and followed the overhead signs to Snozone, where we were then welcomed at the reception desk.


We provided our reference number and the Snozone representative brought up our booking details. She told us the name of our instructor and wrote down our clothing sizes so that she could go and get some appropriate warm ski wear for us. You can bring your own ski clothing or you can hire it for a cost of £9.99 per person. Due to hygiene reasons, you must provide your own socks and gloves, but should you forget these, then they are available to purchase from the Snozone shop. This can obviously increase the cost of your visit though, so its best to try and remember to bring them with you.


Once we had collected all our clothing, we made our way over to the changing rooms. There are numerous individual changing cubicles, along with a further two communal changing areas for males and females with toilets. We chose to use the individual cubicles which were located next to the lockers, where you could leave your possessions for safe keeping. These required a £1 coin, but this was refundable.

Now that we had our clothing on, we headed to the equipment hire desk where we were provided with boots. I would recommend going one size up to your usual shoe size for comfort as they are very tight fitting. You are advised to only wear one boot to begin with, as you then return to the desk with your other boot so that the skis can be adjusted to fit. I will be honest, I found the process of getting all my gear on quite a challenge and the instructor ended up helping me fasten my boots in the end. Luckily he was lovely and was more than happy to help.

The booking confirmation advises to arrive 45 minutes before a ski lesson and initially I thought that this was a very lengthy amount of time, but really it was actually extremely accurate. We arrived at 9:45 and were only just ready in time for our lesson start time of 10:30 so I would definitely say that you need to make sure you follow the information provided to ensure that you have plenty of time to get all kitted out.

Our instructor Adam, had already found us at the waiting benches whilst we were getting our boots on and our first impressions of him were great. He introduced himself to all the children and took note of everyones names. He asked a couple of questions about which members of our family had been skiing before and how confident we were. In turn I asked him a couple of questions too about how long he had been teaching for and when he first started skiing. I also explained to him that I had a fear of heights and of hurting myself, so was probably going to be a terrible student to teach. Adam was really reassuring though and rather than just laugh at me, he did his absolute best to encourage me right from start to finish. If I could have hand picked an instructor, he would definitely have been my choice. Great with the kids, patient, knowledgeable and friendly.


We waddled out to the nursery slope, I say waddled and that's because we all took a bit of time to adapt to the heavy boots, as well as carrying the skis. Once we were on the flat, we were shown how to clip into the skis and began with attaching just one ski to the boot. We then got used to them by going up and down on the flat imitating riding a scooter, to get used to the sensation of the skis gliding on the snow. My five year old son Riley had been very nervous prior to the start of the session, but he was absolutely loving it as he slid along the snow.


Our next step was to get clipped into both skis and then slide across the straight. Ben, Emma and Mr F have all been skiing before, but this was a completely new experience for Riley and I. It took a little bit of getting used to, though somehow I managed to maintain my balance. Once we had mastered the fine art of sliding, we were then shown how to open and close the skis in order to add some control to our movement. We were only approximately 20 minutes into the session when we went half way up the nursery slope and made a gentle slide down. The rest of my family found this super easy, but I will admit that I was so worried about taking a tumble.



Once everyone had accomplished that step, it was time to make our way to the top of the nursery slope. Again everyone but me found this remarkably easy, as you simply had to hold onto a rope which then pulled you to the top of the slope. I managed to hold the rope fine, but my release wasn't the most perfect and I needed the help of trusty Adam to get me to the flat section at the top.

Adam then explained that he would go down the slope with each of us one at time, so that we could get a feel for it first. I was amazed at how comfortable Riley was with Adam and was so proud when he made his first attempt to ski down the snow. The smile on his face once he had done this was fantastic and certainly a memory I will treasure.

As our family grew in confidence Ben, Emma and Mr F all made their way down the slope unaided numerous times gaining a little more speed and control on each occasion. Mr F did slightly misjudge one attempt though and ended up in a heap alongside the crash barrier, but this was all good fun and he was able to laugh it off and get straight back up to try again. Practice makes perfect as they say!


Towards the end of the session, Adam lay some cones out on the slope and my family took it in turns to steer around the cones with the skis and control the direction that they wanted to go. Ben in particular seemed to find this really easy and I was amazed when Riley also managed to do this too, with the added help of the instructor. I was so impressed with the skills that all my children showed during just a one hour session, it was definitely a proud mum moment.

The hour lesson had literally flown by and we all really enjoyed it. As we returned our ski equipment to the hire desk, Adam filled in some ski lesson cards and ticked off each skill that we had managed to achieve during the lesson. You can bring this card with you to any subsequent lessons and each time you complete a section it can be signed off by the instructor. I thought that this was a really good idea, as it makes it clear what you are capable of, but also what skills you need to achieve in the future.


We thanked Adam for his time and made our way back to the changing rooms to get back into our normal clothes. Despite the fact it is cold on the slopes, we were all really hot due to the amount of exercise we had just done, so it is clearly a great way to keep fit too! I later learnt that you can burn up to 400 calories an hour on skis or a snowboard. We were all thirsty so went to purchase some drinks before continuing to enjoy some of the other activities that were available.

We made our way up to the restaurant, where a lovely lady called Jill was offering free face painting for the children. She had some pictures available that you could choose from, but Riley had decided that he wanted to be Gecko from PJ Masks. Rather than just say no, Jill very kindly brought up a picture on her phone instead and used that for an idea to paint Riley's face. I thought that this was really kind of her and Riley was absolutely delighted. Emma then opted to have a snake and Ben chose a shark, both of which were fantastic.



Next to the face painting table, there was another area to make some badges. This was being ran by Louise who again was absolutely lovely with the children. Throughout the whole day, we were all made to feel so welcome and my kids really enjoyed doing this activity with Louise. There was a selection of pens, stamps and crayons to help create your chosen design and it was a really fun thing to do to end our day.



The restaurant had a great selection of food and drink on offer and in addition to the normal choices, there was also a fantastic tapas menu, that the chef had put together specifically for the Summer of Snow party. This was £16 for 6 dishes which were designed for two people to enjoy together. We had eaten a large breakfast that morning, so we were not hungry enough to sample this, which is a shame as the food smelt absolutely delicious and we would have loved to have tried this out.

Overall we had an absolutely fantastic day at the Snozone Summer of Snow Party and despite our lesson only being an hour long, we spent a total of four hours there enjoying the surroundings and activities. There is a large picture window in the upstairs restaurant so it was nice to observe some wonderful skiers making their way down the slopes. It is a really family friendly venue and all the staff that we met were brilliant with the children which is always reassuring. Our skiing lesson was really enjoyable and I couldn't have wished for a better instructor.

A lot of people may consider skiing or snowboarding to be a Winter activity only, but if anything Summer is the ideal time to learn, due to it being a quieter season. It is a great way to stay fit and active and due to the fact that Snozone are open 364 days a year, it makes it a great all year round activity to enjoy as a family or as an individual. My children are now keen to progress their skills, so there is no doubt that we will be returning to Snozone very very soon!

Important Information:

Milton Keynes address - Snozone Xscape, 602 Marlborough Gate, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 3XS

Castleford address - Snozone Xscape Castleford, Colorado Way, Glasshoughton, Castleford, West Yorkshire, WF10 4TA.

Telephone number - 0333 0030 520

Website - The Snozone website provides the most up to date information on pricing, lessons, courses, bookings and events. I would therefore always recommend visiting the attractions own website before visiting. Their website can be found here: https://www.snozoneuk.com/

Alternatively, you can follow Snozone on social media. Their social media channels are:

Twitter - @snozone_uk
Facebook - SnozoneUK
Instagram - @Snozone
YouTube - SnozoneVideos


Disclaimer: We were invited as guests to the Snozone Summer of Snow Party Weekend and received a complimentary family skiing lesson for the purpose of writing an honest review of our experience. All opinions and photographs are my own.