A Great Day Out at Waddesdon Manor

Last Sunday, knowing the weather was going to be great, we wanted to have a day out as a family so I took the opportunity to suggest Waddesden Manor in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. It’s somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for ages as I’d heard fantastic things, but just hadn’t got round to going!

It looks absolutely, stunningly beautiful doesn’t it?

waddesdon manor

I’m fascinated by these old Country Mansions and the fact that they was once someone’s home blows my mind! Waddesdon Manor was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild between 1874 and 1883 to display his collection of arts and to entertain his family friends and the fashionable world.

Opened to the public in 1959, Waddesdon Manor is still managed by the Rothschild Foundation, a family charitable trust, on behalf of the National Trust, who took over ownership in 1957. It’s home to the Rothschild Collections of paintings, sculpture and decorative arts.

I hadn’t showed any photo’s of Waddesdon Manor to the children, so on the journey there they were trying to guess which house it was! I couldn’t wait to see their faces when they actually caught glimpse of it for real….. although, even when we turned into the driveway there was still no sign of the house!

Obviously to maintain the beauty of the enormous parkland surrounding Waddesdon Manor, the car park is situated a good 15 minute walk from the house. It can’t be seen. You can walk if you like but there’s also a very frequent FREE shuttle bus service that takes you all the way. We took the bus!

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Catching glimpse of the house for the very first time truly catches your breath. It’s the most stunning house I have ever seen, and I’ve been to lots of mansion houses before. It’s probably even more beautiful than any palace owned by the Royal family…. I haven’t seen them all so hazarding a guess there, but I think you get the picture!

After stepping off the bus at the house, we hovered around for a while, taking in the house and all it’s glory from the bottom of the path. My children liked the fountain, which they threw coins into to make a wish!

waddesdon manor

There’s lots to see and do at Waddeson Manor so my advice would be to plan your day. Their website is great and gives tips on what to do as a family or if you prefer some of the other attractions, like the special exhibitions!

You can walk around the grounds of Waddesdon Manor for free, but there is an entrance fee for the beautiful gardens, which also gives you access to most of the other attractions such as the Aviary, the Woodland play area, the Wine Cellars and the Restaurants and the Shops!

If you want to go inside the house itself, you will have to add on another ticket. I would wholeheartedly suggest doing this as it IS worth it. The house is vast, you could easily spend half your day slowly walking around. It holds so many of the Rothchilds’ extensive art and antique collection and every room is exquisite. Again, if you are thinking of visiting, you need to book a time slot, check the website to ensure the house is open on the day you want to go too. Sometimes it’s closed and only the gardens are accessible. Some people just prefer to look around the gardens anyway.

Seeing inside the house and all it’s treasures was top of my list, so after a slow walk up the long path and admiring the splendour of the French Renaissance châteaux style architecture, we ventured inside!

waddesdon manor house

waddesdon manor architecture

The below photo shows the outside of the beautiful spiral staircase that runs up inside the house. You can walk up this staircase, complete with rich red carpet, during the tour!

waddesdon manor architecture

You are free to wander around the house in your own time. There are certain routes you should take if you want to ensure you see all the rooms and don’t miss any. Guides are on hand to help you along and talk to you about the rooms and answer any questions, if you need them. You can also hire headsets for the audio guide, or you can download this from itunes before you visit.

The first room we entered literally took my breath away! A Dining Room fit for a princess! Honestly, mind blown at the beauty of this extravagant but ever so pretty room. Take a look for yourself on this little video….

I could’ve stood in this room for hours, just taking in it’s beauty and imaging myself sitting down for dinner at that gorgeous table!

The children were given a little view finder on the way in, a kind of game to spot things in the rooms. This is a great idea to keep them occupied, just in case they get a little bored! My children enjoyed this immensely and it really made the tour fun for them!

waddesdon manor

Walking around the rooms, each one as interesting and beautiful as the last, I found myself completely captivated. Trying to guess what each room was used for as there seemed to be endless drawing rooms! Luckily there are clever, informative cards that tells you exactly what the room’s purpose was and indeed what treasures it beholds!

Waddesdon is famous for its collection of French 18th-century decorative arts and 17th- and 18th-century paintings. This is still being updated to this day by the Rothchilds’. Includes world-class objects carefully chosen for their beauty, craftsmanship and historical interest.

waddesdon manor paintings

waddesdon manor art collections

There are interactive areas on the house tour too… my children loved tapping on the screens to find out more information and look at other interesting features of the rooms!

waddesdon manor

waddesdon manor

Loved the bedrooms! The height of the rooms to accommodate such extravagant furnishings!

waddesdon manor bedroom

There were also some contemporary furnishings. I fell in love with this chandelier…. if you look closely you will see it’s made up of broken crockery.. cups, plates, knives and forks! Fabulous isn’t it?

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At the moment there’s a couple of exhibitions going on inside the house too including the Power & Portraiture Queen Elizabeth 1 display of paintings. This is only on until the end of October though. But there are always so many different events and exhibitions showing at Waddesdon that there’s usually going to be something new for you to see. Keep checking the website to see what’s coming up!

This week it’s all about Horrible Halloween at Waddesdon, with lots of different activities for kiddies to enjoy from pumpkin carving, a creatures of the night trail, spooky afternoon tea and a fancy dress competition!

halloween at waddesdon manor

halloween waddesdon manor

halloween afternoon tea at waddesdon manor

On the Halloween weekend, Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th October it’s the Fete Worse then Death event whereby a two day Halloween party will take place filled with petrifying party games, live performances, frightening face painting, spooky stalls and much more. From 10am-4pm, is a fang-tastic finale to half-term. The Creatures of the Night trail will continue over this weekend.

After our tour of the house we headed out to the Woodland Play Area. It’s fantastic and kids can really let their hair down here. There’s the adventure playground on different levels, areas to climb trees and build dens, the kids were happy exploring the different levels and could’ve spent hours here!

waddesdon manor woodland play area

We headed to the Stables Courtyard afterwards which is just by the Woodland Play Area… so a perfect place to sit down and relax either outdoors, or inside in the Stables Cafe, the ice cream parlour and coffee shop! We headed inside to grab a snack and to get warm! Well, for me to get warm, the kids were all hot a sweaty from running around outside for so long!

There’s a good menu in here if you want something substantial to eat and the kids menu is great! We just opted for snacks and I ordered a cream tea… lovely!

stables cafe at waddesdon manor

cream tea at waddesdon manor

We stayed right until it was closing time and caught the last shuttle bus back to the car park! We had a great day out at Waddesdon Manor although we certainly didn’t get to see and do all that it has to offer! But then that gives us an excuse to go back very soon and finish where we left off! I want to see the beautiful gardens at the back of the house and visit the wine cellar and Aviary.

There will be lots of Christmassy events soon and I’ve heard it’s absolutely wonderful at Christmas. There will be markets and lights… can’t wait.

If you’re thinking if visiting, I must make you aware that the house is ‘put to bed’ for the Winter months from the beginning of November. This is to preserve and deep clean. So if it’s the house in particular you want to see from the inside, this won’t be possible until Spring. But there are so many more things to do at Waddesdon, you could still enjoy a whole day out here. Even if it’s just to appreciate the absolute charm and exquisiteness of this fascinating house.

The Lego Ninjago Movie Review and Spinjitsu Masterclass Event with Jade Jones

We love the Lego Movies in our house! That brilliant mix of kiddie and adult humour that ensures us parents are going to thoroughly enjoy it as much as the kids means they are films to watch over and over again as a family! So, as you can imagine, we were very excited about the brand new Warner Bros. film ‘Lego Ninjago’ that’s being released all over the UK this weekend and the fact that we’d been invited to a special event with double Olympic Champion Jade Jones!

Taking place against the iconic backdrop of London’s Tower Bridge, this promotional event was a thrilling morning for everyone and a fun way to whip everyone up into a frenzy ready for the film screening later! There were clips from the film being shown on big screens for all to see, Dick and Dom from childrens’ TV were hosts and the super lovely Jade Jones gave a Spinjitsu materclass and happily chatted to everyone afterwards!

Lego Ninjago event jade jones dick and dom

jade jones lego ninjago spinjitsu

lego ninjago spinjitsu masterclass

All the children had a fantastic time.. I mean, it’s not everyday you get to do something as amazing as this is it? Jade Jones is certainly an inspiration and one who so many of the children who were at the event aspired to be! Little Taekwondo champion wannabe’s meeting their idol and getting some fantastic hints and tips on how to achieve their dreams. This of course was relevant to all the children to remember for which ever path they want to take in life! Plus of course they were taught some impressive moves that they could go away and use in their next battle!

jade jones lego ninjago

Jade posed for this lovely photo with my daughter!

lego ninjago movie

My boys here admiring this amazing Lego construction!

Later on it was time to head over to the lovely Empire Cinema, Haymarket for the UK preview screening of the Lego Ninjago movie and my boys were beside themselves with excitement! They’d been looking forward to it for weeks knew… just knew, because they told me millions of times in the weeks leading up to this, that it was going to be AWESOME!

lego ninjago movie screening review

Film Synopsis: The battle for NINJAGO City calls to action young Master Builder Lloyd, aka the Green Ninja, along with his friends, also secret ninja warriors. Led by Master Wu, as wise-cracking as he is wise, they must defeat the evil warlord Garmadon, who also happens to be Lloyd’s dad. Pitting father against son, the epic showdown tests these fierce but undisciplined modern-day ninjas as they learn to check their egos and pull together to unleash the inner power of Spinjitzu.

Kids are familiar with the Ninjago TV show and the Lego sets that have been around in the shops for years, so this brand new feature film from Warner bros. has been highly anticipated! If your children have been waiting to see it, they won’t be disappointed, and neither will the adults in the family!

The film begins with a little real life scenario starring Jackie Chan, who voices two characters in the film, it then dives into the animation. We are introduced to the secret Ninja’s, who are all school friends, the main one being the ‘Green Ninja’ Lloyd, who is a bit of a loner normally. This is because everyone knows that the evil Lord Garmadon.. the ‘Baddie’ in the film, who is constantly attacking and trying to take over their city, is none other than Lloyds’ estranged Father. Lord Garmadon doesn’t know this though, not initially anyway!

Fast paced and full of action and the funny little one liners we’ve become accustomed to with the Lego movies, we were all hooked! My boys were laughing and jumping up and down in their seats at various parts, especially the action bits… simply loving it! I love admiring the actual Lego pieces, the bricks and tiny bits that make up the bigger picture. Even though it’s animation you can totally see that every single part of the scenes are made up of the actual pieces that you would find in the Lego toys! This fascinates me!

There’s a sentimental undertone to the film as Lloyd and his Father have moments where they try to reconcile. Even though this brings a softer side to break up the action, I did feel as though one part in particular towards the end dragged on a bit too long. I found my children to be losing interest a tad and this point and it was unnecessary. A bit too much. But then it was back to the fun which was all was forgotten!

We thoroughly enjoyed this movie and my boys have been raving about it ever since! It was a great day out for us and on the way home on the train my little O was practising some of the Ninja moves he learned at the Spinjitsu Materclass that morning! ;)

Fright Nights at Thorpe Park 2017

thorpe park fright nights

I’ve been going to Thorpe Park’s popular Halloween Fright Nights now with my eldest pretty much every year since he was old enough to go! First time was for his 13th birthday (the recommend age for this event) which happens to fall at this time of year. I took him and some friends and we were hooked from then on!

He will be 19 this year and for him/us it’s a definite must do in the yearly calendar!

As a Thorpe Park Ambassador, I was lucky to attend this years’ press/launch for Fright Nights 2017 and I took my Teen (of course) and his girlfriend along with me! Press nights at Thorpe Park are quite big in the celebrity calendar too so there’s lots of opportunity to spot a famous face! Not that I’m a groupie or anything, but Chris and Olivia from Love island were there and I did get a little bit excited! I know, it’s rather sad for a grown woman but hey, if you watched the smash hit summer TV programme then you’ll understand! If you didn’t, then you’ll probably think I’m mad! But Chris and Olivia were my faves and I just HAD to get a photo with them!

chris and olivia love island thorpe park fright nights 2017

It wasn’t easy though, I did have to stalk them for a while to get this one….. ;)

So what else did we do at the launch apart from chase celebrities round? Well, we soaked up the creepy atmosphere… macabre music is played into the park on Fright Nights and the lights (like this green in the photo above) really create the mood. It’s incredibly eerie.

Running throughout weekends during October, then all week in half term, Fright Nights are especially popular, growing in popularity each year as people get wind of how good it is. The park is open as usual in the morning then around 3pm (12pm midday during half term) as the sun starts going down, the scariness starts. Zombies infiltrate the crowds and the horror mazes open! The roller coasters light up and you can ride them in the dark, which is a whole new experience if you haven’t done that before! The park stays open till 10pm and it seems to get creepier and creepier the later it gets! Are you brave enough to stay?

thorpe park fright nights

First up we headed to one of the rides…. Nemesis! This is one of my favourites, not AS scary as some of the others but one I love going on… we did front row seats too! After that exhilaration we headed to our first maze. There are two brand new mazes this year from The Walking Dead TV series, to coincide with the launch of season 8 on FOX this October, as well as the landmark 100th episode.

We did The Living Nightmare first! I haven’t seen the programme but I’d heard that the inside of the maze looked exactly like The Walking Dead filming sets. You are taken in groups (survivors) around different, blood spattered rooms in the iconic scenes, where you will be on the brink of death at the mercy of the notorious Negan. Thorpe Park have gone all out to ensure fans of the series won’t be disappointed! There is no expense spared in all the mazes and it really does pay off!

There are moments of nervous giggling from the group as well as screams and the covering of eyes as we all huddle around almost clinging to each other as we walk from room to room. There was a little light in this maze, compared to some which are very dark, so we could hold on to the reality slightly that this wasn’t real! Sounds odd I know but the actors throughout the whole park, not just inside the mazes are brilliant and really know how to get under your skin…. with their erratic behaviour, the suspense, the speaking quietly before suddenly stamping and screaming, the hiding, moving suddenly to make you jump out of your skin!

I challenge anyone not to be slightly unnerved!

There are two mazes from The Walking Dead, the other being Sanctum! Guests can experience a live-action outdoor maze that pays tribute to Terminus, the safe-haven with a twist. Follow in the footsteps of survivors again, experiencing first-hand how to stay alive in the face of several obstacles placed in their paths. The aim is to navigate past the roaming walkers or risk being captured.

Next we went to the maze Platform No 15! I was a little reluctant to go for this one as it was there last year and I didn’t find it very scary. The sets were amazing, as always, but I think it dragged and there wasn’t enough fright factor! However, this has been improved massively for this year with a whole huge new addition towards the end which made it brilliant!

thorpe park fright night 2017 platform 15

Walking along a disused railway line in the woods… yes this maze is partly outside in the trees in the dark, with only a scary station master and the odd ghoul for company… we are led to a deserted, haunted train. From there, we are ushered into a tunnel… pitch black and very narrow, then, all in a line holding onto the shoulders of the person in from of you, we were told to keep walking. Believe me when I say this is pitch black, you literally can’t see the person in front of you. Teen was at the front of the line leading the way! My brave boy! Our line broke up somewhere along the way and I found myself at the back… not a place you want to be… the middle is best where you feel a tad safer…. because we then we had to CRAWL through a small tunnel and of course one of the scary characters crept in behind me and scared me to death!

I was so glad to get out of there I can tell you! It was really good!

I do recommend checking out your map which you’ll be handed upon entry to the park, because once it goes dark, some of the mazes are tucked away and not always obvious to spot. You don’t want to walk around aimlessly back and forth which is very easy to do!

And plan your visit. There are SIX horror mazes in total and the queues do get ridiculously long, so unless you have fast tracks (recommended) then you may want to find the mazes you definitely want to experience the most and queue for those first!

We decided to head to Derren Brown’s Ghost Train next. I know this is here all year long but there have been a lot of changes made to it since I went on it last and I thought, well it IS Fright Night and this IS a scary ride, I wanted to go on it!

ghost train thorpe park fright night

This is the virtual reality ride although there are some action parts to it too. I was nervous about this because in all fairness, I found the first edition scary so I wasn’t sure how I was going to take this! The verdict? It was brilliant! It’s definitely more chilling and realistic than before, needing me to lift the virtual reality headset up once or twice just to make sure I was where I should be haha! The only thing was, it was super hot inside the train carriage and when it was over I felt slightly disorientated. Weird…. maybe it was all part of the game…… The changes were well worth it though and I’m really glad I included this in my visit.

After a couple of roller coasters and the SAW maze, which is here all year round, so realistically it’s best to do this one before all the others open….we were running out of time.

Time certainly does fly…..

We decided we had to make a last ditch run for The Big Top! This was at Thorpe Park last year and by far I found it the most terrifying.

fright nights 2017 thorpe park

There’s complete darkness, there’s strobe lights which blind you and make you unable to adjust to the darkness. In fact these flashing strobes make you completely confused and delirious! The maze itself is made from cages of some sort and it’s VERY difficult to find your way out! Oh and there’s frightening clowns. Lots of them. Trying to get you!

Aargh!

I told my Teen to not let go of me in here as I got separated from him last year for a few moments and it was horrible! Of course this happened again because you literally don’t know where you’re heading at all, there’s left and right turns all over the place and you’re having to feel your way around…. think I grabbed some random couple nearby so I wasn’t alone till Teen located me ha!

That is one maze you really are glad to get out of! Utterly terrifying!

So that was it. Our night was over, unfortunately. We always feel as though we want to do more but we’re hoping to get back for another day before the event finishes on 31st October.

If you’re looking for a mega fun, seasonal day/night out with plenty of thrills, then look no further. I would recommend it to anyone!

You can book online here!

Cosy Coats for Autumn/Winter

I love Autumn, especially days like today as I’m sitting here with the sun streaming through the window. It’s not really cold but it’s getting that way. The mornings are a lot fresher so we do need coats or at least big cosy cardigans to throw on now.

I like to be warm. I’m not one to suffer the cold gladly. In the Winter I’m layered up… camisoles, long sleeved tops then a jumper, in fact this year I’m thinking of buying thermals! Yes I’m turning into a granny but I hate being cold. No shivering for me I’m afraid!

Right now I’m looking for those all important warmer clothes for the school run. Standing on a school playground or outside a classroom is no fun when the wind is howling, the rain is lashing and you’re not wearing the correct attire! I want a new coat. I have smarter coats but they’re more suited to days out, not the school run. What I need more than anything else right now is a nice warm coat that I can just throw on and off easily, but I don’t want something scruffy, I want it to look good too.

While looking online I came across website Esprit, a clothing brand I HAVE heard of but never shopped in. Not sure why really, I guess with so many clothing websites all fighting for our attention some can get lost. Or we tend to shop in the highly advertised stores, but Esprit had some lovely coats for all occasions, I was impressed… here are some of my favourites…

espirit coat

How cosy does this look? If this had a hood I’d be buying it immediately! I like it’s longer length.. I bet it’s like wearing a duvet!

coat espirit

Love this tweed coat, the shades of green and blue would look especially lovely with jeans. What you can’t see too well in this pic is the glittery thread running through. Although fab for dressing up, this is not what I’m looking for for the school run. Not cosy enough.

cosy winter coat espirit

I NEED cosy and warm and definitely need a hood as I don’t do umbrella’s…. not on the playground anyway! Considering all my requirements, I want to go for this one (above)… it’s pretty perfect and ticks all the boxes. It has some great features like the belt, which can give me a nice cinched in waistline. The all important hood.. this one is soft and furry which is what I want. I’m also loving the buckle on the collar, this will be perfect when it’s freezing, windy and I want to feel all snug! I love it. It is quite pricey at £125 but for me, I will wear a coat for years so it’s a good investment.

I have a coat which I go back to year after year that I’ve owned for about 16 years! That sounds crazy doesn’t it? There have been years when I haven’t worn it so I guess it’s had a rest here and there and I’ve bought loads of coats since, but nothing really compares. It’s the warmest coat I own, without a doubt. A classic black, smart, brushed suede style and I just love it so much. But it doesn’t have a hood.

I wonder if the above coat, if I buy it, will take over in the favouritism stakes? I think it could give it a good run for it’s money!

*Collaborative Post

Choosing the right car for Kids

Being a parent can be stressful at the best of times. You find yourself acting as a permanent taxi driver between school and ballet lessons, your car is now full of crisp and juice wrappers and you’ve also got to factor in the time it takes to wrestle with a baby seat. So is it time to say goodbye to your much-loved run around. In fact, choosing the right car for your kids doesn’t mean you have to wave goodbye to style and elegance, or even sex appeal. There are a range of vehicles on the market that offer practicality and sense at a price that won’t blow your budget out of the water.

You may have one child or be looking for something to use with your brood, don’t be daunted by the options available on the market. Choosing the right car for you, and the kids, need not cause you sleepless nights. Just be sure to take several factors into consideration before making your choice.

New versus Used

There might be nothing nicer than the smell of a brand new car, but do you realistically need to buy one when a used option will do? Even if you manage to get a great deal, consider how much of your monthly budget are you able to use on car loan repayments. Used cars, while a good option, should also be considered with care. Make sure you do your research online to find the best make and model for you. When going to look at your chosen vehicle, take time to go for a test drive and give the car a full inspection – you don’t want to miss any wear and tear that could cause future problems. You can take the risk out of buying used by visiting a dealership such as Mercedes Coldstream who approve the cars they offer in their range of used and new cars to help keep both you and the kids happy.

Running Costs

It might be the most beautiful car you’ve ever seen but how often will you need to keep filling up the tank? Running costs, such as fuel and part replacements can soon add up in larger models. Understand what journeys you need the car for, and be realistic about that you can expect your running costs to be.

Factor in the Family

Your little darlings are also your passengers, so taking their safety and comfort into consideration should be top of your list of priorities. Do you have space for that cumbersome child booster seat? Is the boot big enough for your weekly shop? Be practical and honest – after all this car is for your family, rather than just for you.

Before you start looking for a new car, identify what you need from the car. Your needs go beyond just needing transport. Consider comfort, safety and practicality to make sure that you buy a car that will take the kids into their teenage years.

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