Just for Grownups

Grown Up Getaway: London, UK

Well we’ve just returned from a Grown Up mini break in London and my goodness what a great time we’ve had! This trip was the very first time my partner and I had ever left our little one and, after the initial flood of tears from me when we departed, it was actually lovely to just be a couple again and for me to be me and not Mum for a few days.

We stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel which is a really great central location, perfectly suited to our weekend of exploration. The Hotel itself was lovely and check in was fast and simple. We made our way to our room (258) and were pleasantly surprised to find we had a small suit complete with a living room too! The décor was modern but cosy and the double bed I found really comfy. Despite the hotel being lovely and the staff all incredibly helpful I have to say breakfast was sadly a total let-down. The cooked breakfast buffet was tepid at best matching the coffee which along with being tepid smelled like cigarettes, YUCK!

Moving on, I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan and as the premier of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was on only a day prior to us visiting London, Wizarding Magic was obviously filling our minds. Whilst trawling over Facebook the day before our trip my partner had discovered a Magical Cocktail Experience Pop Up Bar called ‘The Cauldron’ not far from our hotel and after reading reviews decided to book us a place!

When it was time we opted to walk to the bar as I’m super nervous of the Tube and as we got closer and closer, I begun to seriously regret that decision. It looked like we were heading into a much ‘less salubrious’ part of town and every inch of my being was telling me to get the hell out of there. I stuck it out though and when the Sat Nav on my phone cheerfully stated ‘You have arrived at your destination’ my heart literally sank, it was a Shipping container with a tent roughly shoved on top! I was absolutely horrified!

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It goes to show though you should NEVER judge a book (or in this case a bar) by it’s cover!

Upon entering it really is like what I imagine walking into ‘The Leaky Cauldron’ would be like, it was amazing! Every ounce of doubt I’d had instantly disappeared and we became fully fledged Witches and Wizards for the afternoon! Capes and Wand included! It was EPIC! Cocktail making was just the best fun and I simply can’t recommend this place highly enough! It’s an absolute MUST if you’re into Harry Potter and Cocktails! We made the ‘Blood Boiling Curse’ and ‘Time Transfixed’ which was my favourite.

We were very lucky to catch up with family whilst in London and we arranged to meet up and go for an evening meal. Our venue choice was Madison, as we had wanted a London Skyline style meal with great views over the city! Madison filled that brief and proposed to serve a menu selection which was more suitable for us country bumpkins than some other restaurants we had considered as they did Burgers, Venison and other food we had actually heard of!
Madison is located on top of a shopping centre and, after the trauma of catching the tube, it is safe to say on arrival we felt more than a little lost! Thankfully our family spotted us and directed us to where we needed to be! The venue itself was what I can only describe as ‘Vibrant’, the views from the terrace were absolutely stunning, and from our table we had a lovely view of St. Pauls Cathedral all lit up in the London Skyline. Now as I said the ambience of the place was ‘vibrant’ which for us Country Bumpkins basically means you could barely hear yourself think over the ‘music’ if that’s what you can call it. Thankfully the ‘vibrancy’ could not cast a shadow over the deliciousness of the meal! I chose the Venison and I was definitely not disappointed, it was cooked beautifully and with the accompaniments was a real treat. My partner opted for the Burger which also looked fantastic, a real nice thick patty in a toasted cob with all the trimmings. The service was also excellent and despite struggling to hear the staff they were more than happy to recommend a nice Rosé wine for us which again was delicious! After our meal we opted to try and find somewhere a little less ‘vibrant’ so we could regain our hearing and maybe hold a conversation without having to shout!
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As the family we met live and work in central London and know the area far better than we could ever Sat Nav our way around we followed their lead and walked around taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the Big Smoke. It was a lovely evening and both myself and my partner thoroughly enjoyed it.

Our next London adventure was breakfast in the Sky Garden! Now this was very special and something I would highly recommend doing if you ever get the opportunity! The Sky Garden is located at the top of the Walkie Talkie building and boasts outstanding views over the city! Luckily the weather had begun to clear from the foggy day that we had arrived to the previous day. After the airport style security check in when made our way to the 35th floor and the sun was burning through glistening on the Thames and allowing us to see more and more the longer we were there. We had Croissants and Pan au Chocolat with Lattes which came to a very reasonable £14. Not bad for breakfast with a stunning view (although if like me you feel the cold you’ll need your big coat as it is a bit chilly that high up!) Now my partner is immensely terrified of heights and having gone a ghastly shade of green going up the Guinness Tower in Dublin I had my reservations about this being a good idea. He did however cope remarkably well and even mustered walking up to the top 37th Floor and with a little encouragement, stood looking over the highest balcony! A fantastic experience and one I would happily do again, I imagine an evening meal here is epic!

Hamleys was our next port of call, a firm favourite for both of us and we enjoyed looking around immensely, we obviously bought George a present, a Hamleys Marching bear and when we gave it to him when we got home his little face was an absolute picture!

For the rest of the morning we walked about London taking in the sights; Leicester Square, Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square etc etc and stopped at Pret a Manger for a bite to eat for lunch. I had a Hoisin duck salad wrap and a Latté and they were so good, the wrap really was delicious and the coffee far better than the hotels at about quarter of the price! It was here that my partner, having now ‘conquered’ his fear of heights suggested we go on the London Eye! (Now I’m not sure if he was delirious from the earlier trauma of the Sky Garden but nevertheless, I wasn’t going to say no!)
The London Eye is something I’ve always wanted to go on ever since it was built! My parents took my eldest on it and my Grandma and they both really enjoyed it but knowing how poorly heights usually make my partner it was something I thought we just wouldn’t do together. This time though he’d packed his bravery pants and we we’re going! EEEEEKKKKK I was so excited!!!!

We had booked our tickets online whilst sat in Pret and Fast Tracked them and thank god we did, when we arrived it was heaving with people, but we managed to get aboard the Pod within about 10-15 mins. I would certainly recommend Fast Track if you ever want to ride the Eye, worth every penny if you’re limited on time like we were. The experience was amazing, the views breath-taking and as we’d timed it the sun was just setting making the city transform beneath us as we gracefully glided round. I loved it and would highly recommend it, even with the little ones in tow!

All in all London was a fantastic grown up getaway, even for Country Bumpkins. It’ll certainly be somewhere I will go back to as there is just so much we’ve yet to discover and do. My next wish list will be to go up the Shard and Tower Bridge as friends have told us both these are very good!

Holiday Hell, Holidays

Holiday Hell: Best Tenerife Hotel, Playa de las Americas, Tenerife.

Now this might be a holiday hell review but Tenerife as a holiday destination is an amazing place.  I wouldn’t want to put anyone off visiting this gorgeous country, the volcanic scenery really is something special and I dare say you could have an absolutely fantastic holiday here. Sadly our Tenerife holiday was completely spoiled by the “Best” (aka WORST) Tenerife Hotel.  I would love to go back to Tenerife and give it a second chance but I would NEVER stay at this Hotel again!

Quite literally from the moment we walked into the reception to check in you could tell the 4* rating was a completely false representation of this hotel. It looked incredibly dated and not at all what we’d been sold! Our flight times meant we arrived at the hotel just after they had finished serving the evening meal and despite asking at the reception desk we were told there were no provisions for late arrival travellers, not even a sandwich or bottle of water!

After checking in we made our own way to our room and found it to be incredibly basic, dirty and generally not up to a 4* standard. The beds were so hard I may as well have been sleeping on the floor, although if I’d have done that I would have had to share with all the ants! Needless to say we barely slept a wink the whole time we were there.

Our first experience of the “food” was the following morning when we went down for “Breakfast”.  I use the term breakfast in the loosest sense of the word as what was provided was barely suitable for feeding to a stray dog! I settled on some miscellaneous cheese and a slice of what could possibly have been ham, who knows as nothing was labelled and if you suffered allergies it was pot luck! All meals thereafter were of equal repulsiveness and myself and my son lived on foul tasting chips, possibly Ham and cheese for the duration of our stay.

Now we had paid for all-inclusive and therefore on our first full day we went to go and get ourselves some drinks and an ice cream from the bar. We were very quickly informed that the “ALL” inclusive drinks were from a dispenser in the corner! Serve yourself! If I recall correctly you could have red or white wine (replace the word wine for vinegar!), some miscellaneous watered down “beer” that my partner said tasted ‘off’, a selection of “Spirits” which again were all miscellaneous bottles and the one I dared to try tasted like cough medicine. When it came to ice-creams they had a lovely poster displaying a large selection of Cornetto’s, Magnum’s and ice lollies etc, however the only one allowed for “all” inclusive customers was a nasty Choc Ice!

It was utterly disgraceful! I have NEVER been so appalled by a hotel in my life! I’d spent thousands of pounds on what was sold to us by our local travel agent to be this amazing luxury holiday and it was the polar opposite! (Needless to say we complained and took matters a lot further when we got back to the UK!)

So take note, when booking your holiday’s just check that all-inclusive actually means ALL inclusive! Having stayed all-inclusive in various hotels previously I didn’t expect it to mean anything else but ALL inclusive so be warned, it is not guaranteed!

Now appalling hotel aside, Tenerife IS amazing and during our time there we did have some great days, trips out and I would certainly recommend doing the following;

  •  Siam Park – OMG this place is out of this world! THE best water park EVER! We had an amazing time here. The organisation from the hotel was again shocking but once we were there it was fantastic! I would definitely go back if we returned to Tenerife. The rides were exhilarating and the Siam beach was amazing! The wave machine was huge and it was just the best fun, just what we needed on our holiday from hell!
  •  Mount Teide Jeep Safari Tour – This was again another fab day out, touring all around the island in the back of an open top jeep! All around these amazing tracks and up Mount Teide, then a stop off for a traditional Tenerife meal. Great fun, our tour guide was hilarious and I would certainly do it again. The views were spectacular and gave you a real sense of the islands history and special nature.
  • Crazy Golf at Mini Golf Santiago in Playa de las Americas – This was so much fun, it does get busy but we went just as it was getting dark and the lights and effects are great! Would highly recommend you do this if you visit.

Playa de las Americas is also a nice area, there are plenty of shops and entertainment. The musical fountain is especially nice of an evening.  The beach is nice (although MUCH further from our hotel than we were advised!) and there are parasols and loungers you can hire too but be warned my eldest was stung by a jelly fish whilst swimming here!

The only other activity my partner and eldest participated in was a Scuba diving excursion with Blue diving school.  First they went snorkelling which they both really enjoyed, it gave my eldest loads of confidence in the sea and he was beaming when they’d finished.  Then in the afternoon they were both to go scuba diving.  My more experienced partner completed and enjoyed his dive but my eldest was 11 at the time and didn’t manage to get down and dive at all.  The equipment was leaking air which scared him, they did replace the leaking regulator but then forced him to walk quite a distance carrying all the very heavy gear with no help in the heat of the day.    By the time he got to the sea he was exhausted and panicking.  The Blue dive school were very unhelpful, showed no sympathy to him whatsoever, they dragged him out of the sea and abandoned him on the beach in all his heavy kit as they all buggered off diving!  He was distraught and absolutely devastated he hadn’t managed to dive and I certainly would not recommend this trip for anyone under the age of 16.
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In hindsight we shouldn’t have gone abroad for his first scuba experience but he was a very confident swimmer and it was something he was more than capable of given the proper instruction.

He passed his PADI Open Water on returning to the UK thanks to the amazing instruction and training from the team at DIVE A LOT SCUBA who built his confidence back up. I can’t praise them highly enough!

Beside the Seaside

Beside the Seaside: Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire UK

Located on the East Coast of Lincolnshire, on the Humber Estuary, Cleethorpes was our surprise destination on Sunday.

It was only a fleeting visit as, spur of the moment, we decided to go to the beach after a Village Parenting – Village Showcase Collective event we attended in the nearby town of Grimsby. I’m so glad we decided to go though!

Cleethorpes is a lovely, what I would call ‘Old Fashioned’, seaside town. It has a lovely little pier which is really rather sweet with the traditional photo opportunity board and stamp a penny machine and at the end there is the very popular Papa’s fish and chip restaurant!

Having never been before and George needing his lunch we decided to give Papa’s a try and my goodness I had no idea what I was about to experience! When we entered there is such a lovely buzz about the place, it’s not at all what I had expected. The bar area is lovely with fantastic views of the beach and promenade and as you walk around to the restaurant area the view extends out to the sea to the right. To the left is what I can only describe as a scene from Strictly! The ballroom with huge chandeliers, gold pillars and a stage with a grand piano on it! WOW, like I say, totally unexpected! (Really wish I’d taken photos now! Novice Blogger mistake!)  Our table was in the centre of the Dancefloor, sadly no sea view, but plenty of room for us and the pushchair and they supplied a nice sturdy highchair. The newspaper style menus were a really lovely touch and the food was delicious! We both had Haddock & Chips and even George had a little try too. The staff were all very friendly and the facilities were nice and clean too with baby change in the disabled toilets (although you do have to ask at the desk for them to open them as they are kept locked). The only downside is its popularity as there was quite a wait for the table, 20 mins or so, but with a drink and nice views it didn’t put us off and I would certainly recommend a visit (maybe booking a table in advance)!

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After lunch we took a walk down the beach, which was lovely. The sands seemed really clean and for the kiddies it’s great as there are Donkey rides and a funfair. Also, for the avid beachcomber like me, it’s fantastic as there are loads of shells and goodies to scavenge! Looking out to sea you have a perfect view of all the huge ships and tankers going in and out of the Humber Estuary.  You can also see the large offshore wind farm so there’s certainly plenty to take in.

IMG_E7210A trip to the seaside just isn’t complete without a trip around the “tacky shops” and the arcades so George came home with a Cleethorpes Cuddly Starfish as a memento of our visit!

I will be doing a collection of Beside the Seaside Blogs featuring various places we’ve visited so keep an eye out for my next instalment!