Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Our Perfect Family Day Out at Ripleys Believe it or Not in London

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know how fond we are of our holidays and all important family days out! We had an amazing day in London last week at Ripleys Believe it or Not. We were fortunate enough to be given complimentary tickets as part of the MoneySupermarket Days Out Discounts promotion. My boys are huge fans of the Ripleys book which they always ask for on their Christmas lists so we were delighted to actually be able to see the museum (if that's what you'd call it!). Before we went we checked out some of the blurb on line:

"Home to over 700 weird and wonderful exhibits, the central London attraction showcases a painting by Mexican artist Enrique Ramos on a tortilla canvas. Visitors can also see some of Ramos’s other masterpieces including miniature bible scenes painted onto pumpkin seeds and a series of portraits of icons such as Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln, all painted onto quail egg shells.

Marvel at a version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ painted on a grain of rice – created using a microscope and a single human hair – as well as a portrait of Michael Jackson fashioned using Liquorice Allsorts sweets. While Robert Ripley himself – the man behind the attraction and who coined the phrase ‘Believe It or Not!” – is depicted using multi-coloured bubblegums."

If I'm honest I didn't really know what to expect, I definitely haven't been anywhere quite so, well - odd! - before.

Since this day was all about the children I'm going to hand this blog over to them! So, I'd like to introduce you to my newest reviewers - Bats (10), Boz (9), Spud (7) and Boo (5) *clearly not their real names!

What did you think of Ripleys Believe it or Not?

Bats - "Awesome!"
Boz - "It's been a really wicked afternoon, can we come again?"
Spud - "I really liked it, it's cool."
Boo - "I LOVED it"

What was your favourite thing about Ripleys Believe it or Not?

Bats - "Oh definitely the Jade palace, I thought it was amazing and I really liked the matchstick bridge too, it must have taken so long to make"
Boz - "The black hole tunnel, it made me feel dizzy" (Mum's note - we couldn't get him out of it!)
Spud - "I really liked the funny table that made me look like I had no legs, it was silly"
Boo - "I liked the cute little fox and the upside down table"

*Mums note - I loved touching the Berlin wall, even though the kids thought it was "boooooring".....

Was there anything you didn't like?

Bats - "I didn't like that you and daddy wouldn't walk quicker, it's so annoying when you stop all the time"
Boz - "Uhm, not really, the man pulling things with his eyeballs made me feel a bit sick actually"
Spud - "I didn't like the poor three legged animals at the beginning, they made me sad"
Boo - "The dungeon made me very scared" (mum's note - in hindsight we shouldn't have taken a 5yr old to this bit, it was too scary, but the older boys loved it and to be fair Ripleys did warn us, we just didn't listen!)

What about the Laser Race, You forgot that!

Bats - "Oh yeah, I won"
Boz - "no you didn't you cheated, I won"
Spud - "Daddy cheated, I loved it - it was so much fun"
Boo - "Oh that was so funny, daddy was really bad at it, I definitely beat him"
*mums note - I think they all cheated and daddy especially did!

Shall we come back again?

All - "YES!!!!!"

So that's that then! A pretty good day had by all and given the seal of approval from all four kids (a pretty rare thing indeed!) thank you Ripleys, I'm sure we'll be back!

About Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London:
With more than 700 amazing artefacts on display over six floors, the attraction celebrates the weird, wonderful and bizarre in all its forms. With everything you can imagine (and plenty more you can’t), Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London is a family day out that’s definitely out of the ordinary.

For additional information call +44 (0)20 3238 0022 or visit www.ripleyslondon.com

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Center Parcs Europe - De Vossemeren in Belgium - A Gluten Free Review

We spent the October half term at De Vossemeren Center Parcs in Belgium. We love Center Parcs breaks, but two years ago we decided that we weren't prepared to pay the high prices charged in the UK, for instance  a 5 day break at Elvedon (our closest village) in Suffolk would have cost around £1100 over October half term - crazy money! The exact same dates in Belgium cost us £450, or just under £550 if you include the ferry crossing.

That's not all though, we got 5 free 'toppings' with our booking. Toppings include free bike hire, free mini golf, free 'wannabe' (kids club) sessions, free villa location selection and free pony ride (1 topping = 3 free pony rides, what a bargain!). So £550 bought us 5 days in the villa (in a central location of our choosing), our ferry crossing *and* a free 1.5hr session in the kids club for all 4 children. We pre-booked another 2 sessions in the kids club for all of the children online when we went for the bargain price of 4 Euros each!

Not only are the villages and activities significantly cheaper (10 Euros for archery, zip wire or rock climbing and only 2.50 Euros for a pony ride!) we much prefer the villages themselves, they seem better looked after and cleaner and the staff are so much more friendly and helpful (and all speak perfect English). We have previously stayed at De Kempervennen in the Netherlands which has an amazing indoor snow centre and a (free) childrens' petting farm. Vossemeren in Belgium also has a farm and whilst it doesn't have a snow centre it does have an amazing (free) indoor play area centred around a shipwreck (see picture below). Both sites are less than a 3 hour drive from Dunkirk ferry port.

The only thing we were concerned about was gluten free food, so we packed lots of essentials before we left. We needn't have worried though. The shop had a comprehensive selection of gluten free items including rolls, cakes (brownies and coconut macaroons by Damhert, which I think is the European trading name of Mrs Crimbles as the cakes were identical) and pancake mix! The restaurants too were well trained in all things gluten free, even the snack bar were amazing and couldn't go out of their way enough to help, whilst we couldn't eat anything from there they telephone the main restaurant to bring us some fries cooked in a dedicated fryer. The pancake house also serves gluten free pancakes.

All in all we would strongly recommend European Center Parcs, we'll never return to a UK one again!