Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Dates for your Diary - Warrington's FamFest 11th-12th August 2018 - Children's Programme Confirmed

A brand-new family festival, FamFest, comes to Warrington next month featuring a jam-packed programme on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th August, which is sure to keep the whole family entertained.

Orford Jubilee Park will be brimming with activity zones, rides and attractions, character shows, skills workshops, and a full music line-up, all guaranteeing a fun-filled weekend which runs from 11am to 10pm each day.

Head to the Kids Zone and enjoy spectacular live performances from kids' TV favourites Mister Maker and Basil Brush, along with live action shows from Beauty and the Beast, Frozen's Elsa & Anna, Moana, Rapunzel and Flynn, and The Minions.


Roll up, roll up. The circus is in town and they want you! Juggling, plate spinning, diablo throwing, stilt walking - have fun whilst learning all the skills required to be the next great circus performer in the Circus Skills Workshop.

Get crafty and put your creative skills to the test with Disney's Art Attack presenter Lloyd Warbey who will be hosting the Kids Craft Zone with lots of fun activities for everyone to join in with.

There will also be opportunities to meet a range of characters throughout the two-day family festival including Darth Vader and Stormtroopers, Ironman, The Incredible Hulk, The A-Team's Mr T and many more in the Kids Zone!

The Sports Zone will be host to a huge selection of sports activities to have a go at and get the adrenaline pumping. With everything on offer from SNAG golf and archery, to rugby, cricket and basketball. Try to be the last one standing on the Gladiator podium, or why not battle it out in the sumo wrestling ring. There will be plenty to try and suitable for all levels and abilities.

Music fans will be in for a treat with the Main Stage featuring an amazing selection of top tribute acts paying homage to stars like Ariana Grande, Bruno Mars, Little Mix, Taylor Swift, Jessie J, Katy Perry and many more! PLUS an extra special performance by Warringtonian  - and winner of BBC's The Voice 2017 - Mo Jamil.

FamFest Warrington is a ticketed event. Along with regular ticket prices, there are also upgrade options to VIP, family VIP or weekend tickets.

Ticket entry will give visitors access to Sports Zone, Kids Zone, and Circus Skills activities, the Basil Brush Show, Kids Craft Zone and Character Zone, as well as the main stage tribute artists and shows. Mister Maker & his live shows are also there, but only on the Saturday.

There will also be a pay and ride Fun Fair with lots of thrill rides and attractions to enjoy.

Visitors can also visit the Princess Pamper Pavilion where all young festival-goers can pay to have glitter hair and tattoos done by the Disney princesses.

There will also be food and drink available to purchase, including a full licensed bar, and a VIP marquee.

Founder Pete Pinnington said: "I really wanted to create an event that caters for everyone, offering the whole family a fun and memorable day out! FamFest really does have something on offer for everyone - the younger kids will love the live shows like Mister Maker and Basil Brush whilst the older ones can have fun in the Sports Zone. Plus, the Main Stage will have music that appeals to all ages and generations - with the likes of Ariana and Taylor for the kids and Lionel Ritchie George Michael and Coldplay for Mum and Dad". 

"It promises to be an action-packed weekend, tickets are selling fast so get yours now!"

So grab your deck chairs, pack a picnic and book tickets to Warrington's premier summer attraction that is the perfect day out for the whole family!

For further details please visit the FamFest website or their social media pages, which can be found on the following channels:

Website - www.famfestwarrington.co.uk
Facebook - facebook.com/famfestwarrington
Twitter - @famfestevents

Listing Details

Event - FamFest Warrington
Venue - Orford Jubilee Park
Dates - Saturday 11th August to Sunday 12th August

All under 3's go free

Day Tickets
  • Child (3-15 years) £15 (inc fees)
  • VIP Child (3-15 years) £25 (inc fees)
  • Adult £30 (inc fees)
  • VIP Adult £60 (inc fees)
  • Family (2 x adult/2 x child 3-15 years) £70 (inc fees)
  • VIP Family (2 x adult/2 x child 3-15 years) £100 (inc fees)

Weekend Tickets
  • Child (3-15 years) £25 (inc fees)
  • VIP Child (3-15 years) £35 (inc fees)
  • Adult £50 (inc fees)
  • VIP Adult £70 (inc fees)
  • Family (2 x adult/2 x child 3-15 years) £120 (inc fees)
  • VIP Family (2 x adult/2 x child 3-15 years) £150 (inc fees)
Please note: Parking is £11 for one day or £22 for the weekend. Parking should be booked in advance as there will be NO pay-on-the-day parking available.

Disclaimer: Details provided are correct at the time of writing, however I would always recommend visiting the events own website, in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Dates for your Diary - Beauty and the Beast October Pantomime at St Helens Theatre Royal - 20th to 28th October 2018

Regal Entertainments are bringing their enchanting panto Beauty and the Beast to St Helens audiences this October half term and producers have now also revealed the full cast.

Following the success of the production at Easter 2017, the classic fairytale will return to St Helens Theatre Royal from Saturday 20th to 28th October and will star Channel 5's Milkshake! presenter Kiera-Nicole Brennan.

She will be joined by Andrew Geater, Lewis Devine, Maddie Hope-Coelho, Philip McGuinness and Si Foster.

Get ready to go on an adventure in this family friendly pantomime that tells the timeless story of Belle - the beautiful young woman who falls in love with the most unexpected of princes, who has been cursed to look like a hideous beast.

Keira-Nicole Brennan leads the cast as Belle. Keira has recently graduated from the prestigious Brit School and is best known as the host of popular children's breakfast show Milkshake! She is currently the youngest presenter in Channel 5 history after landing the role at just 19 and proving herself a hit with little viewers.


Starring opposite Keira, Andrew Geater takes the role of Beast. Andrew returns to St Helens after a successful run as Dandini in the venues Easter panto, Cinderella. His impressive vocal talents have seen him perform across the globe, including as a member of world renowned group The 12 Tenors.

The hilarious Lewis Devine is also set to return to the Theatre Royal stage taking on the role of French Frank. After leaving audiences rolling in the theatre aisles laughing with his recent performance as Buttons in Cinderella earlier this year, and as Muddles in Snow White last Christmas, Lewis is guaranteed to bring the same hilarity this October.

Returning to the role of Gaston is Theatre Royal favourite Philip McGuinness. Philip is a hit with Theatre Royal audiences and has appeared in numerous productions including Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz and Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

BBC Pitch Battle star Maddie Hope-Coelho will bring lots of sparkle to the stage as Fairy Rose, Maddie returns after her mesmerising performance as Dorothy in February's Wizard of Oz.

Completing the cast is resident dame Simon Foster who returns to the role of Potty Polly guaranteeing hilarious gags that are sure to keep audiences laughing.

Will the beast learn to love and be loved? Will the spell be broken in time for all to live happily ever after? Come down to St Helens Theatre Royal this October and find out.

Theatre manager Chantelle Nolan said: "We are delighted to announce the cast for our upcoming panto. There is a huge array of talented performers with some familiar faces as well as some St Helen's Theatre Royal newcomers. It promises to be a fab show and will be a great treat for the whole family during October half-term".

Listing Details

Show: Regal Entertainments Ltd present: Beauty and the Beast
Venue: St Helens Theatre Royal, Corporation Street, St Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1LQ
Dates: 20th October to 28th October
Times: Daily 1pm / Fri - Sun 1pm & 5pm
Tickets: From £12* (*All prices are inclusive of a £1 per seat booking fee. On-line bookings are subject to an additional 50p per seat on-line processing fee.)
Website: www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/St-Helens-Theatre-Royal
Twitter: @TheatreRoyalStH

Bookings can be made in person at the Theatre Royal Box Office, Corporation Street, St Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1LQ (Mon-Sat 10am-5pm). Alternatively, call 01744 756000 or log on to www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com.

Disclaimer: Details provided are correct at time of writing but are of course subject to change. I would always recommend visiting the sites own website in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Dates for your Diary - A Whole Host of Family Fun at the Epstein Theatre, Liverpool

With the summer holidays fast approaching, The Epstein Theatre has a fantastic selection of exciting family entertainment with theatrical experiences that are certain to keep the whole family entertained throughout the school holidays and beyond!

On Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th July, the Liverpool based Theatre Company Cuckootales present an enchanting new play Pinocchio: The Boy Within. Set to an original musical underscore, the production is a modern retelling of a classic tale, which is not to be missed.

Join a tiny snail on an enormous adventure from Wednesday 25th to Friday 27th July as Olivier Award nominated Tall Stories presents their magical musical production, The Snail and the Whale.

Take a trip down the rabbit hole on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd August for an unforgettable retelling of Lewis Carroll's classic tale Alice in Wonderland. This panto-esque style show guarantees entertainment for the whole family.

Milkshake! Live "The Magic Storybook" takes audiences on a journey through the world's favourite fairytales on Sunday 5th August. Starring Milkshake! favourites; Bob the Builder, Little Princess, Noddy, Fireman Sam, Shimmer & Shine, Pip from Pip Ahoy!, Winnie and Wilbur, Wissper, Milkshake's very own Milkshake! Monkey and two Milkshake! presenters.


The family fun continues into the Autumn when critically acclaimed Scamp Theatre present Stick Man on Saturday 6th October. The award-winning production is packed full of puppetry, songs and live music.

How to Hide a Lion provides a magical adaptation of Helen Stephen's popular children's book on Sunday 14th October. See the story come to life with playful humour, dazzling puppets and jazz.

The timeless tale Guess How Much I Love You comes to the Epstein stage on Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th October. This family favourite is brought to life by Selladoor Family and guarantees feel good family theatre.

Heigh ho, heigh ho it's off to the Epstein we go this Christmas. It is never too early to grab your panto tickets, (oh no it isn't), and this year's festive offering from renowned LHK Productions is the fairest panto in all the land, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. With a star-studded cast to be announced very soon, it comes to the Epstein Theatre from Friday 7th December 2018 to Tuesday 1st January 2019.


Book your tickets in advance for this amazing array of family friendly theatre which is sure to sell out fast.

Listing Information

Pinocchio: The Boy Within
Date: Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th July.
Times: 23rd - 2pm & 6pm, 24th - 11am, 3pm & 7pm
Tickets: Standard £10, Concession £9, Family £35

The Snail and the Whale
Date: Wednesday 25th to Friday 27th July
Time: 25th at 4pm, 26th & 27th at 11am & 2pm
Tickets: Standard £14, Concession £12, Family £48

Alice in Wonderland
Date: Thursday 2nd & Friday 3rd August
Times: 2nd at 2:30pm, 3rd at 1pm & 5:30pm
Tickets: Standard £15, Concessions £13, Family £52

Milkshake! Live "The Magic Storybook"
Date: Sunday 5th August
Time: 12pm and 3:30pm
Tickets: Standard £15.50, Children £14, Family Ticket £56

Stick Man
Date: Saturday 6th October
Times: 1pm & 3:30pm
Tickets: Adult £14.50, Children £12.50, Family Ticket (2 adults & 2 children) £50

How to Hide a Lion
Date: Sunday 14th October
Time: 1pm
Tickets: Standard £14.50, Children £12.50, Family Ticket £50

Guess How Much I Love You
Date: Tuesday 16th & Wednesday 17th October
Time: 16th at 1:30pm & 4:30pm, 17th at 11am & 1:30pm
Tickets: Adults £13.50, Children £12.50, Family Ticket £45

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Date: Friday 7th December 2018 to Tuesday 1st January 2019
Times: Various
Tickets: From £11

To book tickets please call 0844 888 4411* or go online at www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk* or in person at The Epstein Theatre Box Office from 12pm - 6pm Monday to Saturday.

* Subject to booking fee. All prices include a £1 per ticket venue restoration levy.

For more details check out www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk and join their mailing list. Alternatively you can follow them on Facebook or Twitter using the following channels:

Facebook - www.facebook.com/EpsteinTheatre
Twitter - @EpsteinTheatre

Disclaimer: Details provided are correct at time of writing, however listings can be subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the venue's own website in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Mamma Mia! at Palace Theatre, Manchester - A Review

MAMMA MIA! has arrived in Manchester, whilst embarking on its current UK tour and what a fabulous feel-good musical it is! The show first opened at the Prince Edward Theatre some 19 years ago now and also recently celebrated its 17th anniversary in London's West End. Having achieved worldwide success MAMMA MIA! is everything you could hope for in a musical and more. After watching the show last night, I can now completely understand how it has gained such popularity around the globe.

Featuring an all round wonderful cast, the show tells the story of a young lady called Sophie, played by Lucy May Barker, who throughout her life has been unaware of who her father really is. Sophie finds her mother's diary and discovers that there are three men that could all potentially be her dad, so she reveals to her bridesmaids that she has invited each of them to her wedding.

Sophie believes that she will soon know which of them is her father, however on meeting them she soon realises that it will not be as simple as first imagined. Each man has their very own individual traits and personalities, with interests and mannerisms that could also be reflected in Sophie, making her quest appear an impossible task. In turn this also leads to Sophie's mum Donna (Shona White) having to face her past and we are led through a charming, delightful and funny story that is told through the songs of Abba.

Admittedly I have never seen this musical before, nor have I ever watched the film and I was therefore intrigued by the storyline and how the songs of Abba could collectively tell a tale. This soon become apparent though and the combination of drama and well known songs had the audience both captivated and singing along from start to finish.

Photo Credit: Brinkhoff/Mãgenburg

Sophie's chemistry with Sky (Phillip Ryan) was superb and they worked extremely well together on stage. Supported by a wonderful ensemble, all acts were delivered with slick professionalism and perfectly timed choreography that just made you want to get up and dance with them.

Donna's best friends Rosie (Nicky Swift) and Tanya (Helen Anker) provide plenty of laughter and when on stage together there was a genuine feel of friendship and sisterhood. Once we were also introduced to Sophie's three potential fathers, another comedic element was established. Tamlyn Henderson stars as Sam Carmichael, Daniel Crowder as Harry Bright and Matthew Rutherford as Bill Austin, and each actor exhibited both individuality and creativeness that brought a great deal of amusement to the audience.

There were certainly some stand out performances, with Helen Anker's rendition of 'Does Your Mother Know' proving to be very popular and rightly so. This scene not only possessed fantastic vocals and some very memorable dancing, but it was also packed full of fun that made you laugh out loud.

Shona White certainly shone like the star she is, with some breathtaking performances during the show. Her character as the mother Donna Sheridan seems well suited and I loved that through her fiesty and independent personality she also exhibited moments of insecurity and emotion, which made her portrayal completely believeable. My personal favourite though was when she sang 'The Winner Takes It All' and her vocals were absolutely superb. There is no doubt at all that she can certainly hold a note, and I looked forward to each time that she appeared on stage.

A special mention also has to be given to Matt Jordan-Pidgeon as Pepper whose cheeky and confident persona provided plenty of entertainment. His beaming smile and facial expressions, superbly complimented his enthusiastic performances and made him a very likeable character.

Photo Credit: Brinkhoff/Mãgenburg
Overall I highly recommend this show and the standing ovation at the end was very well deserved. Everyone was on their feet clapping and dancing along and the aisles were full of audience members having a great time and just loving life. If a production is capable of bringing a smile to so many faces then it has absolutely done it's job. Well done to all the cast and crew involved in Mamma Mia! for not only a wonderful performance, but for the happiness you created throughout the theatre. Bravo!

You can catch MAMMA MIA! at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until the 14th July with a signed performance and audio described performance also available. Full listing details below.

Listing Details

Show: MAMMA MIA!
Venue: Palace Theatre Manchester
Dates: Thursday 5th July 2018 to Saturday 14th July 2018
Time: Show times vary, so please visit the ATG Tickets Palace Theatre Website to obtain the most up to date information.
Signed performance: Wednesday 11th July 2018 at 19:30pm
Audio described performance: Thursday 12th July 2018 at 19:30pm
Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes including interval
Ticket prices: Prices vary but range from £15 to £61.50 (plus transaction fee). Please see website for pricing.
Website: ATG Tickets

Photo Credit: Brinkhoff/Mãgenburg
Disclaimer: I received press tickets for the purpose of writing an honest review of the show. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Dates for your Diary - Pinocchio: The Boy Within at the Epstein Theatre - 23rd to 24th July 2018

Liverpool based theatre company Cuckootales, are bringing a brand new and enchanting show to the Epstein Theatre on the 23rd and 24th July with Pinocchio: The Boy Within.

This original production is written and directed by Pauline Morris and Gemma Hurst with music arranged and recorded by Felix Hagan and is performed by a local Liverpool cast who are joined by the Helen O'Grady Drama Academy.

Characters from the shabby and sinister, to the pure and ethereal combine with a visually striking set. Puppets and costumes will capture the imagination of audiences of all ages, and the host of memorable songs are guaranteed to have everyone singing along.

 Photo by Andrew AB
Carlo Collodi's classic story tells of the impoverished carpenter who lovingly carves a puppet son, Pinocchio. Magically springing to life but struggling with the 'truth' he embarks on a journey facing moral temptation and mortal peril. Finding that his nose grows with every lie he tells, Pinocchio ultimately overcomes all obstacles to find 'the boy within.'

This adaptation packed with humour, focuses on the human bonds of friendship, family and compassion. The timeless setting seems an unlikely and somewhat 'grubby' backdrop for our heroes, but it is one capable of showing that 'magic truly is a wonderful thing.'

Tickets are on sale now.

The 11am show on the 24th July will be a Relaxed Performance, perfect for anyone that would benefit from a more relaxed performance environment - including those with an autism spectrum condition or learning disability. There will also be a 'Meet and Greet' with the cast after this performance.

Listing Details

Show - Pinocchio: The Boy Within
Date - Monday 23rd July and Tuesday 24th July
Time - Monday 2pm & 6pm / Tuesday 11am, 3pm & 7pm
Tickets - £10 Standard, £9 Concession, £35 Family
Website - www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk
Facebook - www.facebook.com/epsteintheatre
Twitter - @EpsteinTheatre

Relaxed Performance: 11am on 24th July

To book tickets please call 0844 888 4411* or go online at www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk* or in person at The Epstein Theatre Box Office from 12pm - 6pm Monday to Saturday.

*Subject to booking fee. All prices include a £1 per ticket restoration levy.

Photo by Andrew AB
*Disclaimer - Information provided is correct at time of writing, but is of course subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the venues own website in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Monday, 25 June 2018

A Day Trip to Venice from Portofelice Camping Village

If you are a regular visitor to the blog, you will have seen that we recently visited the Portofelice Camping Village with Al Fresco Holidays. The holiday park was situated in Eraclea Mare on the Venetian Riviera and was ideally situated for a day trip to Venice.

On arrival we asked at reception for the best way to visit Venice for a day trip. They kindly provided us with a bus timetable and explained that during our stay the buses would only run on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I had a quick look at the weather forecast for the week and we decided on choosing Wednesday for our family day out.

We opted for the Quickly bus and boat service which involves a bus journey to Punta Sabbioni and then a boat across the water to Venice. Tickets needed to be purchased from reception and so I visited the desk on Tuesday evening. However, I was informed on arrival that they were no longer selling tickets that evening as the weather forecast had changed and due to the tickets being non refundable, they asked me to come back the following morning to purchase them before we boarded the bus. Whilst I totally appreciate their reasoning for this and the fact that they are only thinking of their guests, my inner organised self did not like having to purchase the tickets last minute and I was worried that when we returned to buy them in the morning that they would be sold out. Luckily there was no problem and I simply set our alarm ten minutes earlier than planned and joined the short queue at reception on the Wednesday morning.

Our tickets cost a total of 107 euros for 2 adults and 3 children which I thought was reasonable considering that it also included a boat trip. Once we safely had our tickets, we made our way outside of the park, crossed the road and waited at the bus stop on the opposite side. Shortly after our scheduled pick up time, two buses arrived together and we began to board.

The buses were very busy, but we were lucky enough to get five seats together towards the back of the bus. Some guests who got on after us though did have to stand which isn't ideal given that it is an hour long journey to Punta Sabbioni, so I would advise getting to the bus stop early if you want to be one of the first to board. The bus journey itself was very straightforward and it was nice being able to relax and just observe our surroundings as we travelled.

We arrived in Punta Sabbioni just after 10am and it was extremely busy, I would imagine that this is probably peak time for crossings as there were lengthy queues in both the tourist and local entrances. We had to wait around half an hour before a boat arrived, but once on board it was a very pleasant and enjoyable journey across the water. My children enjoyed being able to spot things from a distance and waved at the other boats. Much to my youngest sons delight, a lifelike pirate galleon complete with pirates passed us and Riley could not believe his eyes!

The boat journey took approximately half an hour and we disembarked a short walk away from St Mark's Square. Just like Punta Sabbioni it was extremely busy and we noticed that there were also a large amount of tour groups walking around and taking in the sights. I had done some research beforehand and had planned to visit St Mark's Basilica and The Bell Tower so we began to head in their direction. I had also read about the Bridge of Sighs which connects Doge's Palace to the Jail. It is constructed of white limestone and looks really beautiful and unique.

I wasn't too sure as to whereabouts in Venice this was actually located, though fortunately for us, we passed it as we were walking to St Mark's Square. It would have been hard to miss as there was a large crowd of people all excitedly taking photos.


As we continued to St Mark's Square we took a moment to stop and take everything in. Venice is just so picturesque, but due to it being so busy, it would be easy to focus on making your way through the crowds as opposed to taking in the stunning views.

There were gondolas galore all neatly lined up waiting for passengers and my youngest son Riley found them a bit of a novelty as he had never seen one before. We were very tempted to go for a little journey on one of these, however Riley felt that the seats were too close to the water and so refused to even entertain the idea, which was a little disappointing.


Everywhere we turned there were little narrow streets or waterways and everything looked so beautiful and idyllic. Buildings looked grand and historic and the inquisitive side of me was intrigued as to how much property would even cost to buy in such a magnificent place. A quick look on google gave me the answer I was expecting - Very Expensive! I found a 2 bedroomed apartment a short distance away from St Marks Square that was really small and in need of decoration for an incredible 1.3 million euros!


We continued our journey past Doge's Palace which seemed to be a hive of activity for tour groups. Underneath the arches of the palace also seemed to be a popular place for people to have five minutes rest and get some shade from the sun. We noticed that there was very minimal seating for such a built up area and we thought that there would have been a lot more benches. Visitors were therefore finding any spot they could to have a sit down, which is a shame as there is plenty of space for public seating along the waterfront.


Once we had made our way past Doge's Palace we immediately noticed the absolutely stunning St Mark's Basilica and what an incredible building it is. I had read beforehand about the excessive queues so I had pre-booked Skip the Line tickets and I am so glad we did as the queue was enormous. Usually this attraction is free entry, but Skip the Line tickets cost 3 euros each and are well worth the money to be able to just walk straight in. I was also able to show our tickets on my phone, so this meant that we didn't need to print anything off to take with us, which is always handy when you are travelling and have no access to a printer.


There are several rules when visiting St Mark's Basilica which are no bags allowed, no filming or photography and also that shoulders and knees must be covered at all times. The boys in my family all wore over the knee shorts and my daughter and I wore lightweight trousers, though my daughter brought some shorts along with her to change into afterwards.

Due to the no photography rule, I don't have any pictures of the inside but I can honestly tell you that it is amazing inside and a must see place to visit when in Venice. You can also pay extra once inside to enter other areas of St Mark's Basilica including the balcony which overlooks the square, however we opted not to do this. At the exit there was a lovely little shop that sold numerous items at really reasonable prices. My children all attend a catholic primary school and so they purchased some presents for their teachers here, as well as a gift for their head of religious studies which I thought was very thoughtful of them.


The weather was extremely hot and so all the children were eager to cool down with some delicious Italian ice cream. We visited a nearby restaurant that also had an ice cream parlour at the entrance and purchased some lovely flavours. We noticed that a lot of the ice cream parlours operate a two scoop minimum policy, so Riley and I shared two scoops in a tub as it would have been too much for him on his own. We then found some steps to sit on in the square whilst we ate and took in the view of the Basilica and the Bell Tower. It had originally been our intention to climb to the top of the Bell Tower, however when you are stood at the bottom of it, it is definitely much taller than how it appears in photographs. As both Ben and I are scared of heights we decided to observe it from the ground instead and set about exploring the narrow streets surrounding the square.


Some of the shops sold such beautiful items and it was enjoyable just window shopping and viewing the products on sale. However, everything seemed very expensive including the use of the nearby public toilets! When the kids wanted to make a quick loo break it cost us 1.50 euros each. I even had to pay just to accompany Riley as I didn't want him to go on his own regardless of whether I was using them or not. Luckily I had brought plenty of change with us, so although costly it wasn't really a problem.

Before we knew it several hours had already passed and we were conscious that we only had a couple more hours until our return boat trip back to Punta Sabbioni. We therefore decided to stop exploring the narrow streets in case we became lost and make our way back to the waterfront. On the way we found a lovely little cafe that sold freshly made ciabatta sandwiches so we purchased some of these to eat along the way. We had originally planned to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe, but due to how busy everywhere was, we wouldn't have made it in time, so we had to settle with a light lunch instead.


We took a slow stroll along the waterfront, which gave us the opportunity to appreciate everything that was around us. We managed to find some steps to sit on whilst we ate our sandwiches and this gave us a lovely view of the passing gondolas. It was strange to be aware of how busy it was behind us, yet so peaceful in front. Certainly one of my most favourite lunch spots yet!


As we continued along the waterfront, the children enjoyed looking at some of the street stalls. A lot of these generally sold the same souvenirs, but the kids enjoyed browsing whilst also trying to bargain with the sellers for a good price. Emma managed to purchase a t-shirt and hat for 15 euros which should have been 20 euros originally and Riley bought a hat for 5 euros instead of 8. Ben was tempted by the football shirts, but ultimately decided to save his money to buy something he had seen in the shop at the campsite.


After taking in more of the views, we returned back to our boat station where we caught a slightly earlier boat back to Punta Sabbioni to wait for our return bus. As it had been so busy earlier in the morning, I didn't want to risk missing the boat back due to queues, so we felt that by leaving a bit sooner, this would be a safer option. This actually worked out extremely well as on arrival in Punta Sabbioni we found it to be extremely quiet and quite the contrast to our morning experience. This meant that we had plenty of time to sit outside one of the cafes and enjoy a refreshing cold drink and some snacks.

Once the bus arrived, it was an hour journey back to the campsite. Again it was full, but we all managed to get seats, although we were separated this time and Riley had to sit on my knee. A couple of families did decide to take a taxi back to the campsite as opposed to waiting for the bus and there is a large taxi office just opposite the boarding area. If you wanted to use a taxi instead, this would cost you in the region of 80 euros one way. Having already paid 107 euros for the bus & boat, we were quite happy to stick with this option.


Overall we had an absolutely wonderful day in Venice, it was very busy and did feel very crowded at times, but it is definitely a city worth experiencing. I would suggest taking advantage of the skip the line entry tickets for the most popular attractions as although it will cost you slightly more, it definitely beats lengthy queues, which in the heat of the summer can be very uncomfortable. I would also recommend sensible shoes such as trainers or pumps. I opted for sandals that matched my flowery trousers as I had completely underestimated the amount of walking we would do and subsequently my feet were really hurting by the time we caught the boat back. Lastly if you get the chance to visit, make sure you take the time to just simply stop and take everything in around you. It is truly a beautiful city and there is so much to see, so don't just follow the crowd, find a quiet spot and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

*Disclaimer: This review is based on our own experience and any prices quoted or details provided are subject to change. Opinions and photographs are my own unless stated otherwise. This post contains an affiliate link.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Our Experience of Renewing A UK Adult Passport Online - A Review

*This review is based on our own experience of the service only. All application processing times will vary dependent on individual circumstances and it is important to obtain the most up date information and eligibility requirements on the official government website.

A few weeks before our trip to Portofelice in Italy, I began to prepare our documentation and realised that my husband required a passport renewal. Luckily I always do this in plenty of time after a very close call seven years ago, when my daughters renewal took over six weeks to arrive. After a lot of phone calls to the passport office, they managed to get it to us on the day that we were travelling to Tenerife, but it was certainly a very stressful time that I don't wish to experience again. This is also why the government website specifically tells you NOT to book travel until you have a valid passport and it was certainly a lesson learnt in our case.

Photo Credit: Kyle Glenn on Unsplash.com
We used to be able to pick up the usual forms from the post office just down the road, but apparently in the last couple of years they have stopped providing these and request that you go to your nearest large branch instead, which in our case is a half an hour round trip. We would then need to make an appointment at this particular branch to use the check and send service. It all seemed a bit inconvenient and it was going to be a struggle to even collect the forms during working hours, but at the same time we do understand why these processes are in place.

My husband therefore went to get his passport photos taken, which I think are extremely expensive for what they are. Our nearest photo booth is £6, but a lot of photography stores have caught on to the idea that people want to be assured that their photo is correct. I got several quotes from shops in the area that offered a passport photo service and their prices ranged from £9.99 to £14.99!

Having had plenty of ID photos taken previously, my husband was quite confident that he could get it correct in the photo booth, so popped down to our local supermarket to have them done. He returned home shortly afterwards with some interesting news and told me that it was now possible to renew your passport online. I had heard of this previously, but when I had looked into it a few years ago "renewing online" literally just meant that you filled the forms in and then still had to print them off and submit everything by post......but not anymore! We also found out that you can also take your own photographs on your digital camera or smartphone as long as they adhere to the usual passport digital photograph rules.

Placed along the top of our digital photographs was a code and my husband explained that you could now apply online and by entering the code it would bring up the passport photo on the screen. Genius! Not only that, but if it is an adult renewal and your appearance hasn't significantly changed, then you also don't need to have the photographs countersigned. This can be a struggle in itself if you don't know anyone with a qualifying profession to sign it for you.

I therefore went on the Gov.uk website to find out how we could submit the application, how long it would take and also how much it would cost.  The charge for the online service is £75.50 in comparison to £85 for using the postal service (£94.75 if you also use the post office check and send service). I was therefore pleased to find that not only was this service much more convenient for us, but it was also cheaper.

The website stated that renewals online usually take three weeks to complete, which I thought was reasonable given that it is peak season and so my husband set about filling in the online form. This was a really simple process with no over complicated questions. He was then asked to upload his photograph and so he simply inserted the code from the top of his photos and it brought the image up online. Their system then checks the photograph to make sure it complies with the requirements and will bring up an error message if it detects anything wrong. In our case the image was fine, so he continued with the application.

Once it had all been completed, we made the payment and instantly received confirmation of the application along with a reference number that would allow us to track the progress of it online. An address was also provided for us to post back my husband's old passport. In order to prevent any delays, I paid for the old passport to be sent by next day special delivery, but you can send it via normal unregistered post if you wish.

Now that everything had been submitted, it was simply a case of waiting for updates and for the new passport to arrive. My husband received regular emails and text messages which kept him fully informed and he received his brand new passport only 14 days after applying. The full timeline was as follows:

Application submitted - 6.49pm on 26th April 2018
Application received - 6:49pm on 26th April 2018
Old Passport received - 9:28am on 2 May 2018
Joined processing queue - 8.33am on 3rd May 2018
Application approved - 9:36am on 7th May 2018
Passport printed and sent - 9:41pm on 8th May 2018
Passport received - 10th May 2018

The whole process was really quick, simple and most of all stress free. There are certain requirements that are needed to be able to do your renewal online and so it is important to read the full government guidelines on the official website here: www.gov.uk/renew-adult-passport. However, if you are eligible to use the online renewal application service, then I would definitely recommend it. We found the service to be great and we were really pleased with the speedy and efficient delivery of the new passport.

Disclaimer: This review is based on our own experience only and processing times can vary based on individual circumstances. It is important to check the full government guidelines on the passport renewal website in order to obtain the most up to date and accurate information.