Thursday, 29 August 2019

Our Visit to Marwell Zoo, Hampshire - A Review

Over the past few years we have been very fortunate to visit several zoos in numerous destinations around Europe. Whilst providing visitors the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful animals in the world up close, I believe that zoos also educate and inspire people to consider the part that they can play in conservation and learn more about animals that may be facing extinction.

I have heard and read great things about Marwell Zoo in the past, so whilst visiting the area recently we paid the zoo a visit and enjoyed a fantastic family day out together, amongst the beautiful surroundings. Located in Hampshire, the zoo is situated within the grounds of a 140 acre park, which is home to hundreds of different animals and birds. I have seen it described as being one of Hampshire's top attractions and following our recent visit, it was clear for me to understand why.


We arrived at approximately 11am after an early start from our home in North Wales. I had been slightly concerned that we may have had an issue with parking, but we were pleasantly surprised to find a very large FREE car park, with numerous attendants who guided all guests into their spaces. It was then a short walk from our vehicle to the entrance, which had several tills and lines to welcome visitors in a friendly and quick manner.

The admission prices are really reasonable and there is also an annual membership option available if you would like to visit more regularly. An adult day pass including donation is £21, whilst a child admission is £17. As you can see from the image above, there are also discounted prices available for seniors, students and family entry.


As we entered the zoo, Riley was excited to see some advertisements for the Brickosaurs event. Lego and Dinosaurs are two of his favourite things, so he was delighted at the thought of seeing some huge dinosaurs made completely out of Lego bricks. He was provided with a map and competition entry form so that he could locate all of the different dinosaurs throughout the zoo. This also had the option to enter a competition by guessing how many bricks were involved in the making of the spectacular Tyrannosaurus Rex.

As we began to make our way around the zoo we came across some beautiful penguins. They had a huge enclosure and it was fantastic to be able to see them so close. You have two options of being able to view the penguins and this can either be from above, or alternatively you can also see them swimming in the water below. My children loved being able to see them both walking and swimming around.


One thing that soon became apparent, was how well laid out the zoo is. It felt really spacious and well maintained, which meant that despite being really busy, it never felt too crowded or enclosed. We also really liked how many picnic and seating areas there were located around the site, so that families had plenty of places to enjoy a refreshing drink or a bite to eat.

As we continued to make our way around the zoo, we came across the Giraffe House. The giraffes were all inside feeding as we arrived and I could have quite literally stood there for hours just watching them. They were so beautiful and graceful as they walked around and Riley was fascinated to see just how tall they were up close. The Giraffe House was a large area which provided plenty of space, but there was also a fantastic outdoor enclosure that gave them plenty of space to roam and enjoy themselves. I was really pleased to see how much room they had and they all looked very happy and healthy.


As we left the Giraffe House, we went to visit the Lemur Loop, however although it was open for guests the lemurs had decided to go inside following a heavy downpour of rain, so a staff member advised us to come back later in the day. It was a very strange day for weather as one minute it was glorious sunshine and the next minute torrential rain. We therefore continued to make our way around the zoo and searched for some more animals and dinosaurs.

Riley soon spotted several more dinosaurs and after also spending some time watching the playful meerkats, we found a picnic bench to stop for a drink and a snack. The picnic benches had lovely views over a field that contained some zebras and there were also plenty of wild birds around us that my youngest son enjoyed spotting in the trees.


The kids then decided that it was time for a park stop, so my husband and I sat down nearby whilst the children spent half an hour playing. There were several parks located around the zoo, which I felt really helped to break up the day. It meant that in between seeing the animals or searching for dinosaurs, my husband and I could have a sit down and chat, whilst the children could enjoy a play.

We also really enjoyed the educational element of our day out and my children really enjoyed reading all the facts about each animal. Marwell Zoo displayed plenty of factual information and there was also details about how endangered they were. My 12 year old daughter found some of these very surprising and I think it helped her to realise the importance of zoos in preventing extinction.


Our next stop was the incredible Tropical House which spans across two floors and is home to a large variety of animals, insects, birds and 2500 fish. I had no prior knowledge of this part of the zoo prior to our visit, so I was quite taken aback by just how special it is.

It was amazing walking amongst beautiful butterflies and tropical birds as they flew freely around the building. We also saw turtles, frogs and lizards as we followed the route around, but our favourite certainly came towards the end, as we stood and observed the fascinating team work of the leaf-cutter ants. Watching them work together was fantastic and my youngest son Riley was absolutely mesmerized. My children also really enjoyed the aviary and seeing such a wide variety of different birds.

As we came towards the end of our visit, we were very excited to see some pygmy hippos, an animal that I don't ever recall seeing previously. I loved watching them in their large Aquatic Mammal house and they really were absolutely beautiful.


Overall we had an absolutely wonderful day at Marwell Zoo. It may have been our first time visiting, but it certainly won't be our last, as we were left extremely impressed by just how lovely it was. We spent approximately 5 hours there, which was just the right amount of time for my family, but we noticed that they also had a hotel on site, so we would definitely be tempted to spend longer there in the future. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Marwell Zoo to others looking for an enjoyable day out in beautiful surroundings.


Attraction Details

Address- Marwell Zoo, Thompson's Lane, Colden Common, Winchester, SO21 1JH

Opening Times - Marwell Zoo is open all year round from 10am apart from on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Please check the website for closing times as this can vary throughout the year.

Entry prices - Information regarding entry prices can be found on the Marwell Zoo website here.

If you would like to find out more about Marwell Zoo, then you can visit their website or social media pages on the following channels:

Instagram: @MarwellZoo


*Disclaimer - We were provided with complimentary admission, for the purpose of writing an honest review of our visit. All opinions are my own unless stated otherwise. Any prices, times or dates are believed to be correct at the time of writing, but are subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the attraction's own website in order to obtain the most up to date information.


Saturday, 24 August 2019

The Indoor Funfair Returns to Liverpool - A Review!

Back in April we visited the Indoor Funfair which was taking place in the Exhibition Centre, Liverpool. My children had a fantastic time and we thought that it was a great idea that offered excellent value for money.

We were therefore really excited to find out that it was returning to Liverpool for the summer holidays, opening on Friday 23rd August and remaining at the Exhibition Centre until the 1st September. Of course I didn't need to ask my children twice as to whether they would like to visit again, so we went along yesterday to the 10am til 1pm session to enjoy some family fun and see if there were any new rides on offer.


The week-long event, is set across almost 60,000 sq.ft of space and is packed full of a huge selection of rides that will be popular with families of all ages. Each visitor session lasts for three hours and offers unlimited access to rides during this time. There is a choice of session times which run daily from 10am til 1pm; 2pm til 5pm and 6pm til 9pm. The entry prices are very reasonable with rider wristbands costing only £10 per person, with spectator tickets priced at £2.

Usually we catch the train to Liverpool and then walk along the waterfront from James Street station, however with it being the school holidays and my husband being off, we decided to drive this time and parked right outside the venue at a cost of £7 for 5 hours parking. We thought that this was really reasonable based on the location and also meant that we could enjoy a walk around the nearby waterfront after visiting the fair.

We arrived right on 10 o'clock and was surprised to find no queue to get in. There was security at the main entrance conducting bag checks which was reassuring to see and we also saw security staff walking regularly around the venue throughout our visit. We collected our wristbands from the box office and then made our way into the exhibition hall.


On entering the hall, it appeared larger than our last visit and it felt as though there were more rides. When we visited in April, my 11 year old son had an amazing day, but was slightly disappointed that there were no dodgems. He was therefore delighted when he spotted them in the far corner and there are no prizes for guessing which ride he headed to first. In fact he actually ended up spending the first half hour of our session completely on the Dodgems, something which would have cost me a fortune at a normal travelling fair, so he was certainly ensuring that he was making the most of his unlimited rides.

Whilst Ben was busy working on his driving skills, both Riley and Emma enjoyed the Fun House and the large inflatable bouncy castle and slide. Once they had each finished doing their own thing for the first half hour we then regrouped and made our way round the hall together. My two older children also enjoy going on the smaller rides with their younger brother, so they were almost able to go on nearly every ride in the hall, apart from a couple where they were slightly too tall. Riley therefore loved that he could enjoy the rides with his siblings, especially the Monster Truck and Bumper Carz ride.


I definitely felt that the layout this time was much better and we really liked the fact that there was a lot of variety in the choice of rides. There also seemed to be more seating than on our previous visit, which was also a big bonus. I also strongly believe that they listened to customer feedback from April, as popular rides like the Miami, The Dodgems and Bumper Carz were all in attendance and had definitely been missed previously, so the selection and options available were perfect for both children and adults.

There was another brand new ride which caught Emma's attention and this was the Megaspin. As you enter the hall, this is located just to the right hand side and at first glance it simply looks like a wheel that spins you around. However, it does much more including full on upside down spins at both fast and slow speeds, with lots of twists and turns along the way too. It is certainly a ride for the thrillseekers and Emma was the only one brave enough out of our family to give it a go!


As well as the rides, there are some additional games stalls which do cost extra for the chance to win some prizes. Fortunately my children didn't ask to go on any of these, but it's worth taking some change with you if you think your family may want to try their luck. Some food and drink stalls are also available offering a variety of different snacks and drinks. We didn't use these so I am unsure of the costs.

Overall we had a fantastic morning and believe that the £10 wristband charge offers excellent value for money. The event felt well organised, secure and safe and every staff member that we interacted with seemed very friendly and polite. The range of rides was fantastic and we felt that there was a great choice available for all ages. Ultimately it is a very fun event to visit for a really reasonable price and we would not hesitate to return!

For full information on this event or to book tickets, you can visit the Indoor Funfair website or their social media pages on the following channels:

Website - https://indoorfunfair.org/liverpool
Twitter - @indoorfunfairuk
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/IndoorFunfair/
Instagram - @indoorfunfair


*Disclaimer - We were invited to this event and provided with complimentary wristbands for the purpose of writing an honest review of our experience.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Planning Our Trip to Brittany with Al Fresco Holidays - Preview

If you are a regular visitor to the blog, then you will know of our love for family holidays. For the past few years we have teamed up with Al Fresco Holidays to check out some of their fantastic holiday parks across Europe, creating many special memories along the way. So far we have visited Sanguli in Spain, La Croix du Vieux Pont in France and Portofelice in Italy, experiencing a wonderful fun-filled time at each destination.

This year we have already returned to Portofelice twice in both May and July after falling in love with the park last year, but we shall shortly be visiting somewhere new and travelling on an overnight ferry to stay at Domaine Des Ormes, located in Brittany. This will be a new adventure for all of us, having never travelled on an overnight ferry previously, so although we are a little nervous about what the cabins will be like, we are also really excited to be trying something a little out of our comfort zone in terms of transport.

One of my favourite things to do when visiting somewhere new, is to plan and research. I love finding out about the area, the must-see places to visit and finding affordable family restaurants. I like to be prepared as much as possible, so I will also try and find out the prices of any nearby activities so that we can also set a realistic budget for our holiday.

Image kindly provided by Al Fresco Holidays
Getting to Domaine Des Ormes is going to take us approximately one full day so we need to ensure that we have everything sorted for our journey. We are planning on setting off from our home at 5am to make the 4.5 hour journey to Portsmouth, planning to reach there for approximately 11am allowing for some rest breaks along the way. Our ferry crossing isn't until later that evening, so we are planning on visiting some tourist attractions throughout the day (though we are currently undecided on which ones) in order to tire us all out so that we can sleep on the boat.

Our overnight journey will then see us travel onboard an overnight ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo, arriving early at around 6am, with disembarkation commencing at 8am. It is our plan at the moment to drive straight to the site which is approximately 40 minutes away from the port, so that we can get our bearings and make use of the on-site facilities for our first day, before being able to check in to our accommodation at 4pm.

We are taking our own vehicle, so we need to ensure that we have everything that we need to comply with French regulations, this includes both documents and kit so I have began to get everything together. In terms of paperwork it is compulsory to have your driving licence, V5 document and vehicle insurance. Whilst breakdown cover isn't essential, I would never leave home without it especially when travelling abroad, so I have double checked that our existing policy covers us in France and would always recommend taking this out before starting your journey as it could save you a lot of hassle (and money) should you be unfortunate enough to break down.

There are other items of kit which are also compulsory and these include a GB sticker, warning triangle, reflective jacket (enough for all passengers in the vehicle), headlamp adjustment stickers and a breathalyser.

The site of Domaine Des Ormes looks absolutely incredible. They have recently released a new app called Les Ormes which provides so much information on all the activities available, along with a handy map, restaurant menus and entertainment times. I love handy tools like this as it really helps with the planning, especially when it comes to budgeting for activities.

Image kindly provided by Al Fresco Holidays
My children have already had a good look through the choices available and each of them have made a small list which details which activities they would like to try. Emma is really keen to have a go at wakeboarding, as well as a try on the zipline, whilst Riley is looking forward to having a pony ride and enjoying the kids disco. Ben has said that he would like to try the Escape game and archery, in addition to having some fun on the slip and slide. It certainly seems like there is going to be plenty to keep them occupied and it is great that they have already began to get excited about trying new things.

We also joined a facebook group which is packed full of handy tips and advice from previous guests. There have been numerous recommendations for the late evening sound and light show, which takes place on the Chateau of the Domaine. There is also a family fireworks show on selected dates, so we are hoping that one will be taking place during our visit.

One thing that the facebook group has been particularly useful for, is finding out more about places to visit in the area and family friendly attractions. It has been great to read about other people's experiences and learn more about the must-see sights in the area. We have been told that St Malo itself is a beautiful place, along with Mont St Michael which looks stunning in some of the photographs we have seen.

One of our favourite activities to do whilst on holiday is enjoy some swimming, so we were delighted to follow the progress of a new Dome which has been built over the existing swimming complex. We have watched this develop on the Domaine Des Ormes facebook page over the past few months and I will be honest when I say it looks absolutely incredible! As well as swimming pools, there is a wave pool, lazy river ride and water slides, so we are guaranteed to have an action-packed week of fun.

Image kindly provided by Al Fresco Holidays
In terms of accommodation, we will be staying in one of the Al Fresco Holidays Vivaldi Lounge Mobile Homes. These are three bedroomed mobile homes, which means that there will be plenty of space for all of us. They also have a nice decking area and outdoor seating, so we will be able to make the most of the Al Fresco experience. We have always found the Al Fresco mobile homes very clean, tidy and well equipped with everything we need for our stay, which is just what you need after a long journey.

Overall we are now beginning to get really excited for our upcoming holiday and we cannot wait to share our review of our Al Fresco Holiday to Domaine Des Ormes in a few weeks. Please be sure to follow us on our social media pages, as we will be posting plenty of images during our stay (wifi permitting). Our social media can be found on the following channels:

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/itsafamilyadventure/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/itsafamilyblog

You can also learn more about Al Fresco Holidays by visiting their website or social media pages which can be found on the following channels:

Website - https://www.alfresco-holidays.com/ where you can find some superb deals on family holidays.
Twitter - https://twitter.com/AlFrescoHols
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/alfrescoholidays
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/alfresco_hols/

Image kindly provided by Al Fresco Holidays
*Disclaimer - We will be visiting Domaine Des Ormes on a press trip, for the purpose of writing an honest review of the park and our experience. This means that our accommodation and transport has been arranged for us, however all food, attractions and activities will be paid for by ourselves.