The Enchanted Village -Alton Towers

Every year I visit Alton Towers at least twice for Halloween, Bonfire Night, my son’s birthday or a summer trip. And at least once a year we stay in one of the hotels. This year we decided on The Enchanted Village or as my son called it the Shire.

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In the past we have stayed in the Splash Landings hotel and  it hasn’t lived up to our expectations. The walls are thin and you can hear everything happening in the hall and room next door. For the amount of money you pay for 1 night here I expect better.

After seeing the Enchanted Village I had to stay there just to see what it was all about. It was fantastic as soon as you enter there is music playing, games for the children and a wonderful atmosphere. We stayed in one of the lodges as the large tree houses were a little out of our price range.

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Taking a walk around the village was lovely and getting to it from the park wasn’t too bad either – just take the monorail. If you haven’t been to the park before this is located near Splash Landings. If you’re visiting the waterpark I would stay in the village and not Splash Landings- which we usually do in March for my son’s birthday as the park is closed. The waterpark is amazing and I would suggest you take a trip. My son was only 6 when he first went and could touch the floor nearly everywhere – even I can touch the floor and I’m only 5ft!

After a long day at the park we didn’t want to sit down in a busy restaurant so we decided to get a take out. We asked at reception and the prices were ridiculous so we went on just eat and ordered pizza from a place nearby. Even though Alton Towers seems to be in a remote location the take out came quicker than a Dominos at home! They even brought it to the Enchanted Village and just called us when they were there.

In the night time the village really lights up and it does feel like the Shire.

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Breakfast in the Crooked Spoon is fine, a buffet style and a good selection for all – even the fussy children and adults.

I’d love to hear about your experience so please leave a comment!

The does and don’ts of Christmas gifts

 

img_1733The last few Christmas’ have been brilliant the only downfall was the gifts. OK, as you get older the gifts become less extravagant and more practical (boring)! But when you write a very thorough list for your other half you expect a certain level of gift. Unfortunately that is not what happens.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh I did receive a couple of my listed items but it’s like they say on Friends “always stick to the list!” This does not mean; I want a Nikki Clark hairdryer and I get the cheapest one you can find that smells when turned on.

Sometimes the list is not even considered and instead I receive window wipers and clothing that is far too big for me – it’s like he’s never saw me before!

So, this year I thought I’d make a list of my Christmas gifts does and don’ts.

Do…

…read the list.
…ask close relatives and friends for advice if unsure.
…listen out for subtle hints or blatant ones!

Don’t…

…just Google ‘gifts for women’.
…move away from the list, it’s there for a reason.
…buy items if you don’t know their size – can cause arguments.

Remember – be open and honest about gift giving you don’t want people to waste their money.

 

A Works Trip to the South of France

So, a while ago I had a job marketing for a company that sold and rented luxury properties on the Cote d’Azur. It was a lovely job that had amazing benefits – like staying in a fabulous villa. I wrote this blog for the job but it was never used and I thought I’d share it with you here.

Having never visited the South of France before but knowing so much about the glamorous area and its many fabulous properties, I was eager to experience the coast for myself.

Flying into the Cote d’Azur at nightfall is a fantastic experience, as you’re fooled by the near miss of the plane as it just drifts across the Sea and lands in Nice. Once out of the airport, and the maze of a multi-storey car park you are free to view the open road and the picturesque alpine landscape. Although having worked for a Cote d’Azur luxury property group meant that my eyes were drawn more to the architecture, especially one such property that has stuck in my mind – the pyramids.

Travelling along the French Riviera I was on route to a Luxury Retreat nestled conveniently in the hills between Provence and the Cote d’Azur. Upon entrance to the private estate, I found myself surprised at the grand gates and friendly welcome I received. Driving to the Villa through the large domain, with golf cart leading the way I eventually reached the impressive property.

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The extravagant yet homely villa (that’s much larger than my home)met me with expansive windows offering a preview of the interiors, I was eager to experience the rest of this fabulous house.

Upon entrance, I discovered a glamorous setting with a large chandelier and open plan interior design with cascading staircases. In front of me stood large windows that displayed to all of its visitors the exterior grand swimming pool and outside living areas. 

The upside to arriving at this fine property at night was that I could instantly experience the incredible bedrooms that provide exceptional comfort. I awoke the next morning feeling fresh and rejuvenated ready to start the day with the prepared breakfast that awaited me if by magic in the untouched kitchen slash dining area. After a scrummy breakfast of whatever I wished I felt ready to explore the rest of the coast.

Starting with a little of Provence; Fayence is a pretty village in the French-Alpes-Cote d’Azur area of France that presented a splendid market with fresh food, drink and beautiful garments, quilts and pottery.

The brightly painted properties and cobbled streets – not providing the best environment of which to walk – allowed for a picturesque cultural village to be experienced.

Leaving Provence and heading closer to the coast we soon reached Cannes. Greeted by the amazing maritime and Palais de Festivals it was apparent we were in the land of the rich and famous.

La Croisette showed us the finest in designer apparel and the restaurants served tasty and lovely looking food! Compared to Provence Cannes is an extravagant open area which boasts its success.

Moving further up the coast we visited the Old town of Antibes; a discrete yet magical area with hidden gems around every brightly painted cobbled corner. One such gem to me was the mouthwateringly amazing chocolatiers, which presented the finest chocolate. Including a chocolate wall and chocolate scented cave, I was in heaven!

Travelling back to the villa I got the chance to view both areas of the South of France from coast to hillside I was interested to see what was hidden behind every turn. The greeting we received back at the villa was fantastic with butler ready and waiting the nights dining had begun, a fine three-course meal prepared by the in-house chef and a selection of wines to accompany was a welcome treat.

I’m now planning my next trip to the French Riveria when I shall visit Villefranche, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, and Monaco.

Cruising with the Family

So, for some reason I never hear many people say they want to cruise with children. I on the other hand, thought it would be a great experience for my son to sail the seas on a fantastic ship and discover new and interesting places.

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The next few years are going to be pretty much about saving for a house, so this would be our last holiday for a while. My son had only been abroad once before and I wanted him to see a bit of the world before we started saving. A cruise seemed perfect; we could visit lots of places on one holiday.

And I knew exactly who I wanted to cruise with – Royal Caribbean! They are the only brand of cruise liners that actively use children in their advertising and as a marketer I think this is important. Their ships have plenty for everyone to enjoy and children from 0-16 are catered for.

Eager, we booked the holiday a year in advance and saved ourselves some money by booking on the day next year’s cruise dates were released. The only decision we were unsure of was the itinerary. A Caribbean getaway would have been lovely but was way over budget so we settled on the Italian Med.

The Ports

  • Gibraltar
  • Villefranche
  • Provence
  • Rome
  • Florence/Pisa
  • Malaga
  • Lisbon

Next we booked some excursions, which was a little difficult as there are not many child friendly trips – unless your child doesn’t mind sitting on a coach for an hour, or visiting about 20 historical monuments! For this reason we only booked two excursions, not with Royal Caribbean (as they were overpriced) but with Cruising Excursions – which turned out to be a good decision.

Anyway, I feel I’m going into too much detail; basically we had a fantastic time and here’s what you can expect from a family cruise:

Top service

The service we experienced was fantastic, exactly what you’d expect from a cruise. Ok, it wasn’t like what you see on the Titanic (the film) but to be honest I don’t think I could handle that in the modern day.

The wine bar in particular was home to a really nice guy who never let your drink go down! A good thing only I’m not the biggest drinker.

In kids club the staff tried their hardest to always be upbeat but sometimes I felt they weren’t fun enough. My little boy loved it though and even though I’m not the biggest fan of using kids clubs too often he preferred to be their f an evening.

Meeting new friends

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Everyone was friendly and liked to talk, it was nice to meet people from all around the world although my partner somehow found three families who live around the corner from our home. He was excited about this, but me not so much.

You even meet lots of people in the ports whether on an excursion or just walking around taking the culture and surroundings of the destination.

The strange thing is every day you see people you’ve never seen before, maybe that just shows how big the ships really are.

Wondering how it floats

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One of the main conversations that took place virtually every day was how the ship floats. After googling several times and watching many YouTube videos my partner felt satisfied he understood how we were sailing.

Relaxing

Most of the time it was a really relaxing journey, come rain or shine and it did rain for a couple of days, in fact one evening whilst in Villefranche there was an amazing storm – this was probably one of my favourite memories!

Anyway we digress.  As you’ve probably heard many people say you generally forget you’re on a ship. But there was one day I felt really sick, this was whilst making the journey from Spain back to the UK. Thankfully it didn’t last long; I saw some dolphins jumping through the waves along the side of the ship which totally took my mind off it and made me feel so blessed and happy. I will never forget that moment.

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Whether looking out and being surrounded by the sea or waiting eagerly as you arrive at a port, every day is different. Each port has something different to offer and each time you make unforgettable memories. Obviously it will depend on where you cruise but if you like travelling and seeing new places a cruise is perfect.

Eating and drinking

Honestly this was my least favourite thing about cruising with Royal Caribbean. There were some really nice meals in the main dining room (we were in Romeo and Juliet) but the buffet area was a little too full for me, even though if the kids are fussy eaters it’s the perfect place.

There are plenty of places to drink although I’d strongly suggest getting a package; you’ll save yourself a fortune. Our package was included in the price and included beers, wines and soft drinks –plus most champagne but we didn’t realise this until the last night!

It was a holiday never to forget but there are few things you need to consider:

  • Organise your drinks package either before you go or on day one, find out what is included, and exactly where you can eat and drink.
  • Allow yourself to explore some destinations as a family instead of part of an excursion – just be wary of time changes.
  • Get off at every stop and experience the destination.
  • Pack well and take a variety of clothes as you’re visiting many places and it may not always be sunny. Plus there are those lovely formal evenings of which there were three of during our 14 nights.
  • Visit as many places on the ship as possible, including the very front where you may see some dolphins (my favourite memory)
  • Ensure the children don’t miss the themed nights; they’re a lot of fun.

 

What to Wear?

These last few months I have had a jammed packed calendar – great right? Well, yes but I want to dress well and always look good and that’s difficult when you’re plans are with the same people and you’re on a budget. I needed to restyle my existing wardrobe and spend as little as possible.

The Wedding

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One of the events I had to attend was my (to be) brother-in-law’s wedding. Now this came with its own challenges I didn’t want to wear anything too revealing but I didn’t want to dress older than my age either (26 by the way). Early this year I went on a cruise and had purchased a floral dress for the occasion but I just wanted some new shoes to jazz it up a little. However finding the shoe I wanted within my budget (£20) was not easy. I looked everywhere for my perfect shoe, which was black, heeled, ankle height, plain with plenty of detail in the design – I wasn’t asking for much. Eventually I found some from New Look – they always have great shoes.

The Party

blog-image-number-2A party with free food and drink is my kind of party but when it involves the in-laws and the partners work colleagues, it loses its appeal! Well, it isn’t that bad but deciding what to wear was made just a little more difficult by the fact that it was partly outside and its winter. I may sound like an old lady and fashion should come first but why can’t I be stylish and warm?

So, the conundrum began it was six o’clock, the taxi would be here by seven and I still hadn’t decided what to wear. I had the man friend rushing me, my son to take to take care of and what felt like the countdown clock pressurising me to HURRY UP! After rushing my make-up and hair (15 minutes – record) I was ready to choose my clothes; there were dresses, shirts, blouses all spread onto the floor. Eventually I settled on my favourite jumper from French Connection and some grey style jeans with my shoes from the wedding – what a purchase. I would urge everyone to invest in some black sandal style heels; they go with everything and can be worn day or night.

The Ball

Next I have an Alpine Ball to look forward to. Again I find myself in the same situation – going out with people who have already seen most of my wardrobe and I’m on a budget. There are a few outfits I’m considering but I don’t seem to have the shoes to go with them. But that’s not a big issue I will have fun finding some. I will keep you updated on how this goes and share some pictures with you once I’ve found the right outfit.

Welcome to Sister’s in a Pod

Hello, we’re glad you found us. We’d like to introduce ourselves and invite you to look around our new blog. On here you will see that we blog about our lives which means we could blog about anything. Also from time to time you may also find our mother chipping in, with her ‘motherly’ advice!

I’m Sophie

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I’m Kristi

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We’re both parents to children of various ages and have a lot going on from work to studying. We started this blog as a way of staying up to date with each others goings on no matter where we are.

Happy Reading!