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Birmingham Sea Life Centre – mini review

Is the sea life centre really a whole day out? According to many TripAdvisor reviews it is not! We put it to the test.

We arrived later knowing it wouldn’t likely be a full day out and I tacked on a behind the scenes tour, which was fine but a bit short. My son seemed to enjoy it. He did get to hold a shark egg, see a giant shark tooth and name a baby sea creature.


We then started our tour around the centre. We played the stamping game on the way round (which gained him a medal at the end).

Our highlights of the centre were the guitar fish, no they don’t actually play guitar (anymore, they are retired)! Touching a star fish and an anemone. I was surprised by how brave Nate was. We found Dory (and Nemo), sharks, stingray, jelly fish, octopus and a large array of aquatic life.


The Octonauts 4D show was definitely a highlight. It was lovely to rest my weary feet for 12 minutes and it was a lot of fun. There were bubbles, movement and we got wet!


My favourite part was watching the giant sea turtle in the tunnel. The sea creatures swim below, above and around, it is so awe-inspiring. We found out in the behind the scenes tour that they rescued the turtle from a woman’s handbag! It was smuggled into the country in a handbag! Nate loved that story and told it to everyone.


After we completed an entire circuit of the centre we left for a late lunch at Eds Diner opposite (yum). Then came back for another go round, we saw things we didn’t see last time, the octopus wasn’t hiding second time around. We saw penguins under the water and Nate stared out a shark!


So we arrived at 11:45 and left at 4pm with a long lunch break in the middle. So technically it is not a day out but it is a wonderful way to spend a few hours and you can leave and return later to extend it further. It is not as good as the Weymouth Sea Life centre. But we did have a fabulous time.

 

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The Black Horse at Great Linford

Last night I had a truly scrumptious meal. I had forgotten how amazing the food was at this establishment because the service has always been slower than a child putting on their shoes and coat. Yes that slow! I think they may have improved on this now; which means that the Black Horse is now officially on my list of favourite eateries in Milton Keynes.

You could do worse than sitting by the canal, with a glass of Prosecco on a long, lazy summer evening, or sat by the fire in a large armchair on a dark winters’ night. I love that they have a multitude of seating options, both inside and out.

However, the most notable thing is the food. Imagine the M&S food lady reading this out slowly to you:

A 9oz 28-day aged Rib-eye steak with bone-marrow butter, twice cooked chips, crispy onions and beef dripping gravy.

If that doesn’t make you salivate, than I’m sorry, we cannot be friends! 😉

My heart was literally aching as I struggled to decide which desserts I would not be able to partake of. I painstakingly chose a warm chocolate brownie with bourbon vanilla icecream, the brownie was a delectable moist chocolate treat which was so good I didn’t even notice the icecream! So it was not a disappointment, but I was disappointed that I had to leave the, Dulce de Leche Profiteroles, Meltingly Golden Chocolate Bomb and the Home-made triple bakes cookies, to my imagination.

I cannot wait to return, let’s hope the service continues to be relatively speedy.

 

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Jamie’s Italian – Family Review

I have to admit that I haven’t been to Jamie’s Italian for a couple of years, mostly because I, stupidly, thought they didn’t have a kids menu, how wrong I was!

This was our first restaurant experience as a family of four, and it was such a lovely treat to get out of the house (which we have been cooped up in since my daughter’s birth). 10 day old Savannah happily slept through the entire experience, but not because she was bored by the food or the atmosphere!

baby girl sleeping

We decided to try out the super lunch deal, which is £10.95 for 2 courses or £12.95 for 3 courses, which is super reasonable considering we spent far more than that in a department store restaurant (a couple of weeks ago for far less interesting food). Plus they serve the “lunch” menu and pricing all the way from 12-6pm and in August the kids menu is absolutely free, which considering how great the kids menu was, I could not have been more impressed.

So let’s start with the kids menu; now being completely honest, I made a big faux-pas by letting my 4 year old choose something I knew he would never eat – why did I do that? Because I have a newborn and all the sleep deprivation that comes along with that! I wish that I had encouraged him to choose the hamburgers, because they looked so great (on the other table), and I know he would have eaten them, but never mind.

Nate ordered the “Jamie’s Proper Picnic Box” which consisted of a chicken wrap, a salad, some vegetable crisps and an apple. My 4 year old does not have a sophisticated palette enough to cope with a chicken wrap, though I wish he did, so he left that, but he did eat most of the salad, a few crisps and the apple. It was such a shame because it looked amazing, and the presentation was clever, with a real lunch box and pieces of comic book paper added a cute touch.

jamie's proper lunch box

The whole kids menu was amazing, from a parent’s point of view, it is the kind of food you want your children to eat, rather than the traditional fish fingers/pizza/chicken nuggets and chips that most restaurants offer. I think when Nate is a few years older he will really appreciate this rather mature menu.

For dessert Nate had the chocolate brownie and icecream, which I had the adult version of, and we can both categorically say it was sublime, though Nate can say this most confidently as he ate about a third of mine in addition to his own! This was my 4 year old’s assessment of the brownie:

It tasted like a chocolate sandwich and was my favouritist I have ever had.

4 year old eating brownieepic brownie

I have two suggestions for improvements to the kids menu though:

  1. Add some starters, they didn’t have any, and my son had to wait while we ate our starters – and no, kids are not patient!
  2. Include a couple of options for the younger audience that are smaller, cheaper and accessible to the fussy toddler/pre-schooler market. I am sure Jamie’s Italian could do a clever healthy twist on a pizza or some sausages, let’s face it, what toddler doesn’t love pizza? In terms of the pricing, it was free this time, but I would not have been happy to pay £6.50 for a meal for my 4 year old, at lunch time, mostly because (like this time) you never know if it will be eaten or not.

Super Lunch Menu

My husband and I both chose the Truffle Pasta for our starter – can anyone tell me if there is anything in this world more delicious than black truffles? No? I didn’t think so.  And as my husband said, it is not often that you find truffles on the menu of a high-street chain restaurant, it is a little touch of elegance. It was very simple, literally just the pasta and the truffles in butter, but wow what an impact. The only downside for me was that it was slightly more al dente than I prefer, but I tend to overcook my pasta so that is just personal preference really.

truffle tagliatelle pasta

My husband had the chicken club for his main meal, he said that it was succulent, the brioche bun was a nice touch. It was a big burger but didn’t come with any chips however he suggested chips were not necessary. Personally, if I had ordered the burger, I would have been disappointed that it did not come with chips, but I am a bit of a piggy!

gennaro's chicken club

The one disappointment for my husband, and his pet peeve whenever we eat out is that they ran out of the dessert he really wanted, so he ended up with just ice-cream. However, it was honeycomb ice-cream with cherry topping and it was gorgeous, simple and he loved it, he said it was special to be able to share with our son.

The prices were really good for the food you get and we cannot wait to go back as there were loads on the menu we wanted to try. The waitresses at the Milton Keynes restaurant cared, knew their stuff,  and they  even knocked up truffle chips for us, which is no longer on the menu. We will definitely be going back again, and soon.

*Our meals were provided for free for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts and images are my own, we genuinely loved it.

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Treetops Bed and Breakfast in Fort William

I cannot tell you how happy we were with our choice of bed and breakfast in Fort William. So I just had to review them because it was fabulous and you all need to know. I researched where to stay using Tripadvisor and their reviews were so exceptional, and the views looked spectacular, so we went for it and boy I am glad we did.

Treetops Bed and Breakfast is just outside of Fort William in a place called Banavie. It is high up on a hill so you are looking down on Fort William with an excellent prospect of the Mountains. And not just any mountains, but Ben Nevis!

view of ben nevis from bed and breakfast

We arrived after a long journey, as I am sure everyone does in the Highlands, to the friendly and welcoming JJ, the owner. He showed us to our room and announced that we had been upgraded to the best room in the place, and wow what a room. We stayed in the Great Glen room, which had the addition of a Balcony overlooking Ben Nevis. I have to say, that Balcony made me so happy, I could have just sat our there all day reading and staring at the mountains.

JJ then presented us with a warm pot of tea and homemade Scottish Shortbread, what a delight after 5 hours of driving. Not only that, he booked us dinner at the best restaurant in town, called the Ben Nevis Inn, what service! We did enjoy dinner there, but after spending 2 days in the Lake District the food was somewhat of a disappointment. It was perfectly nice, of course, just not exceptional. The atmosphere was very good, friendly service but served family-style (meaning that you just sit on a long bench with other people, not something I am used to though it was nice to experience something different.

In the morning we experienced the breakfast and I was blown away. The breakfast JJ served up was probably the biggest and best breakfast I have ever encountered in any hotel or B&B, there were so many options and each one was sublime:

  • A huge bowl full of fresh chopped fruit and a bowl of yoghurt
  • Juices and Cereals
  • A freshly handmade smoothie (I’m not the biggest fan of smoothie’s usually but it was delicious)
  • Toast
  • Home-made scottish porridge (absolutely enticing and my favourite part of the meal)
  • Choice of hot meal e.g. full scottish breakfast, salmon bagels, kippers etc.

That is a lot of food to eat for breakfast, we literally didn’t eat again until dinner, it was so filling, but I couldn’t say no to any of the course, they were too irrisistible.

homemade smoothie granola and yoghurthome-made scottish porridgescottish breakfast highlands

On our first day, the hubby decided to climb Ben Nevis, you know for fun, like you do. Well he never intended to climb the whole thing (because it takes on average 6 hours in total, depending on your fitness levels), but just wanted to see what the views would be like up there. So he got about half way and found a loch, actually on the mountain – who knew?!

loch on top of ben nevis

I spent a lazy morning recuperating from the long journey, reading out on the balcony, watching the clouds pass over Ben Nevis. It couldn’t have been more relaxing.

ben nevis images

The room was large and decorated beautifully with gorgeous little touches such as coasters of scottie dogs, beautiful lamps and Harris Tweed cushion covers. The bathroom was immense, had a bidet and a spa bath. We had an absolutely fabulous time.

harris tweed cusion covers

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Do you wanna read The Snowman? (Review and Competition)

A fantastic personalised book of the classic story “The Snowman” by Raymond Briggs, except this is an updated version called “The Snowman and the Snowdog”. The televised version was released in 2012 after the 30th Celebration of The Snowman.

the snowman book and sheep teddy

My 3 year old son is super lucky, he got an early Christmas present, a Christmas present in the summer. A fabulous company called Penwizard offered us a personalised book to review and share with my readers, and I can give one away to a lucky reader (scroll to the bottom to enter the competition). I have to admit, this is our first ever personalised book! Shock horror! I know they have been around for a while now and I am shocked that I am so behind the trend, I wish I had bought one sooner, especially after seeing Nate’s reaction to it.

I told Nate he had a special early Christmas present, but that once we had read it, I will be putting it away again until Christmas Day, he actually accepted that gracefully and I hope he will forget about it so that it becomes a surprise on Christmas Day.

When he opened the box he said “Ooooh its a flying snowman”. I asked him Continue reading