Family Favourite Attractions in Sydney

When I was a child, we studied a new topic every term, basing our learning around one central theme. My absolute, and to this day, favourite topic we ever studied was Australia. Everything I learnt about the country fascinated me and captured my imagination. It helped that a close family friend had grown up there and could give me a real glimpse into this land of colour and light and vibrancy. And of course like every child in the late ’80s I was obsessed with Australian soap operas. I swore back then, that one day I would make it across the world, to the country I had fallen in love with from afar.

Sixteen years on and I still haven’t made it. But my desire to go hasn’t left me. I can’t watch programmes such as ‘Wanted Down Under’ because I get so very jealous! And now I have friends living in Sydney I see the country I fell in love with as a child, through a mother’s eyes. I can see why families love Sydney. Its majestic golden beaches, beautiful architecture, exciting bushland and a diverse food culture are all huge draws to families, both for holidays and migration. It’s no wonder that land for sale in Sydney is a growing market, with people migrating from all around the world.

I would love to go and while first on my list to visit would of course be Sydney Harbour, the white sails, and the Sydney Opera House, I am amazed at how much else there is to experience in the city. If you plan to visit (or migrate) there soon, here are some of the less traditional, yet family favourite activities in Sydney.

  • Art Galleries. See the beautiful culture of Sydney, and Australia, with a visit to the Art Gallery of NSW, which is located next to Sydney’s Domain. It is considered Australia’s most detailed and comprehensive public gallery. Located on the appropriately-named Art Gallery Road, it’s open every day and visitors are provided with a mostly free look at a staggering array of art in every form. It consists of five different levels and covers everything from Aboriginal Art, the European period, Colonial and Asian masters and much more.
  • Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. The Australian version of the perennial London favourite, recently opened and has proved to be a rip-roaring success with its amazingly lifelike showcase of celebrities, historical faces and media figures. Encounter the likes of Hugh Jackman, Audrey Hepburn, The Dalai Lama, and even E.T. Just like the UK version you can’t help but notice how much detail goes into each model.
  • Quarantine Station. Known as “Q” Station by the locals, the station serves as a venue that merges the historical with the paranormal. It offers various ghost tours, leaving visitors with a chill running down their spine! Don’t worry though, they also have more family friendly options for the children. You can also explore the history of Quarantine Station with its passenger’s stories and of course, the historic building itself. If you or your family appreciate history, then this is real a treat.
  • Chinese Garden of Friendship. If you’re looking for a slice of serenity, right in the heart of Sydney, then the Chinese Garden of Friendship is a wonderful choice. With landscaping, greenery, and distinctly Asian-style architecture, the Garden are a beautiful place to explore on any day. An impressive array of horticultural displays can be found there, and the ponds are teeming with fish life ” particularly when the Koi are being fed. The blend of plant life and water features make for a peaceful atmosphere just a short walk from Darling Harbour where you can relax, and enjoy a cup of coffee from its charming café.

Of course these are just a few examples of the diversity of Sydney’s attractions. Life in this capital is both luxurious and exciting. I can quite understand why families choose to purchase land for sale in Sydney. It allows them to live a new life full of fun and daily new experiences.

And one day I will visit, fulfilling a promise I made to a 10 year old obsessed with Kylie!

 

This is a collaborative post.

 

Savage Christmas 2015

It’s January. How can it possibly be January? Already? We spent so long looking forward to the Christmas holiday and just like that it was over. Sad Face. Or rather that should be Happy Face, because our holiday was perfect! It was everything I had imagined and so much more and for that reason I can’t possibly be sad!

I wrote here about our Christmas plans to hire an apartment in our childhood home town of Plymouth. About how we wanted to spend Christmas with our family and friends, but how due to Oscar’s Autism, we all needed our own space. And I was right. All the planning and the organising meant the holiday, because this was so much more than just a Christmas celebration, was totally worth it!

The drive down to Plymouth was OK, with only minimal delays. The boy spent the whole four and half hours watching Thomas the Tank. God bless Apple! When we arrived at the Royal William Yard, the owner of the property was there to meet us. She even helped us carry our luggage up to the 2nd floor apartment, bless her. She showed us around, what turned out to be a much more spacious apartment than I had envisaged. I had spent some time in the weeks leading up our stay showing Oscar pictures of the flat, taken from the website, but you’re never sure how similar a place is going to be to a promotional photo. Well, I was thrilled to see it was identical, even down to the radio channel playing on the television. I could have hugged her just for that, never mind the milk, coffee, flowers and mince pies she’d bought for us! I knew then this was going to be a good holiday!

Taken from the website, the lounge looked exactly like this picture. I was so grateful!

Taken from the website, the lounge looked exactly like this picture. I was so grateful!

My first impression of the place was it is SHAMAZING!

My first impression of the place was ” This is SHAMAZING!”

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The view as we arrived. Breathtaking!

We settled in immediately. Oscar ran from room to room and we moved the few delicate looking objects (a beautiful model of a tall ship and some glass vases) out of the reach of curious hands. That done Ben collected the Christmas shopping, while I unpacked. Poor old hubs had to carry all the shopping from the car to the apartment alone as I had to stay with Oscar, but once it was done he was rewarded with a large beer, a child who settled down to sleep straight away and a feet up relax on the sofa with pizza. You couldn’t do that staying in someone else’s home 😉

Christmas Day itself was fairly quiet. We had present opening in the morning, in our Christmas jammies. Oscar was incredibly lucky again this year. He has such a generous family. And I breathed a sigh of relief to see no one had given him anything that wouldn’t fit in the car on the way home. ‘Tis always a worry 😉 While he played with his Tidmouth Shed playset, I cracked on with the lunch. One of the best things about the apartment was, without a doubt, the kitchen. It was an open plan layout but the kitchen was raised giving the feel of a bar, or in my case a stage! I loved it. It meant Ben could help from the other side of the worktop and not get in my way and I could talk to my mum as I prepared the veg. We drank, ate and generally relaxed all day. The boy wouldn’t sit with us at dinner, which was a shame, but wasn’t something I was going to force and cause a melt down over. Instead I plated him some food, which he moved around the room but didn’t touch. Until later when I heard him say something was ‘mmmm it’s elicious’ and realised he had wolfed the roast potatoes and later on some turkey 🙂 Good lad!

The big FC was tres generous this year!

The big FC was tres generous this year!

My candy cane boy

My candy cane boy opening his presents

Tidmouth Sheds was a hit!

Tidmouth Sheds was a hit!

Facetiming Aunty Laura

Facetiming Aunty Laura

Prosecco for Brekkie!

Prosecco for Brekkie!

The Maple Based Turkey was a hit. And not at all burnt (well a bit singed maybe!)

The Maple Based Turkey was a hit. And not at all burnt (well a bit singed maybe!)

Me in my 'cooking like I'm in a cookery show' element!

Me in my ‘cooking like I’m in a cookery show’ element!

Got to use my Christmas linen for only the second time since it was bought in 2010!

Got to use my Christmas linen for only the second time since it was bought in 2010!

Yeah Christmas day was a hit , but this holiday was so much more. Before we even started our holiday, we had worked out something of a schedule. What we were going to do and who we were going to see everyday, and do you know I’m so glad we did. It meant we knew and could prepare appropriately. It also stopped any dithering, messing about wasting time, trying to decide what to do and potentially missing something important out. It also meant I could prepare Oscar. I have no idea how much the pictures of the people I showed him or the explanations I gave helped, but he coped brilliantly all week and I can only surmise it helped a bit! We visited family, had family visit us, hosted parties, went for meals, went walking in the fog up on Dartmoor and the boy loved it all. He loved playing with his cousins. They are all a similar age, but the older two, Jessica and Lucas, were just amazing with him, including him and listening when I explained why he was or wasn’t doing this or that. Whenever Oscar got frustrated or upset his cousin Lucas would just say, ‘hey Oscar come on lets run’ and off they’d go, sadness forgotten. In fact the only melt down we had all week was after his cousin Lucas had to leave. And even that didn’t last long as he collapsed into bed, jiggered from such an amazing day!

Love this crazy. My oldest niece Jessica

Love this crazy. My oldest niece Jessica

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Partners in crime! Oscar with his cousin Lucas

We just had so much fun this Christmas. And the fact that Oscar coped so brilliantly, only made it all the better for Ben and I. We treated ourselves too this holiday with dinner at River Cottage on Christmas Eve (with babysitting provided by Nanna!) and a night out (for Ben) and in (for me) with our friends we miss terribly and don’t get to see nearly enough of.

River Cottage on Christmas Eve

River Cottage on Christmas Eve

Ben and Lee reliving their youth. Ben behind the 'bar' and Lee propping it up!

Ben and Lee reliving their youth. Ben behind the ‘bar’ and Lee propping it up!

But the best thing about this trip was undoubtedly the apartment. It was stunning and practical. It gave us everything we needed and was in a fantastic location. I knew the idea to hire somewhere was a good one. I just couldn’t have asked for more and none of us wanted to leave. Oscar loved watching the boats from the windows, I loved the kitchen and Ben loved the calm quiet of the place. One of my favourite memories of the place though was the lift. Within a day Oscar had learnt how to press for the lift, get us to the right floor and to hold our hands when we needed him to. Just watching him learning like that was worth staying there for alone.

Watching the boats

Watching the boats

Walking to the lift wearing his backpack for the first time!

Walking to the lift wearing his backpack for the first time!

Would we do it again?

Absolutely!

But do we really need to wait until Christmas??? 😉

 

 

 

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Mummascribbles

Our (Amazing) Summer Update

So we’re half way through the (pre)school holidays and I thought I’d update as to how it’s going. I won’t lie to you I was preeeety nervous as to how it would go. We don’t have a car and there are few clubs or activities going on locally that he’s a) old enough for b) likely to want to join in. Add to that the change in routine, well I was a touch concerned that we would be in for a world of pain.

As it happens, its been fine. In fact it’s been more than fine, it’s be great!

We’ve had a little over four weeks at home, but so far Oscar either hasn’t noticed or doesn’t care that we’re not going to preschool twice a week. Which is making things easier than I hoped. The weather’s been unpredictable to say the least, which makes going outside something of a lucky dip, but he’s thoroughly enjoyed playing in the garden when he can.

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Playing in the garden with friends

Other than that we’ve kept things pretty much the same as usual. We go to the Sure Start Centre on a Tuesday, our wonderful Home Start Volunteer comes on a Wednesday and we see his little buddy Cecily at least once a week. We’ve been to parks, met some animals, had play dates and visitors and parties to attend. It’s been pretty much the same as when he’s at preschool to be honest.

I think the biggest difference in routine has been for me. I don’t get my two, two hour sessions a week at the moment. And when you’ve gotten used to even such a small amount of time out, it’s hard to give that up. Thankfully our Home Start Volunteer or as I call her, in the nicest possible way, our ‘Rent a Gran’ (because she does things a grandma would if they were nearer) has been visiting long enough that I can now leave Oscar with her. So once a week, she’s been staying here with him while I head to my ‘office’ (read Dylan’s Milk Barn 😉 ) to work or write or just to take five. Gawd bless her! It’s making all the difference.

But in as much as everything has stayed the same, A LOT has changed in the last few weeks. Oscar’s language has EXPLODED! I’ve been nervous talking about it, lest it should disappear again (we’ve been burnt like that before), but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to celebrate his achievements regardless. So what if it disappears? The fact is it’s here today. And boy oh boy is it here! Where do I start? Colours, shapes, numbers, nouns and more excitingly adjectives. The boy who had a handful of words in January can suddenly count up to 28. He can read numbers. Hell, this morning he spelt out S.H.O.E.S, pointing to letters in the word! Every single day he’s blowing my mind. He can tell me when he’s ‘hungry’, when he ‘need help’, when he’s done ‘poos’, when he’s ‘sad’ or even ‘happy’! He can ask for any number of toys, food items (his new favourite being sandwich!) and even hugs, which he does often. He sings songs, totally unprompted, most of which I can make out. Favourites are Wheels on the Bus, Old McDonald and The Farmer in the Dell. It’s less than a year ago that he would slap me, hard, if ever I sang. He’s also following instructions and answering questions in a way I’ve never seen before. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking sentences and discourse here. But holy moly it’s soooo much more than even a month ago.

What else? Oh yeah, he calls me Mummy! Not Mama, which I’ve called myself every day since he was born, and I would have imagined is easier to say, but Mummy. No idea where he got it from (Cecily mainly calls Bethany Mama), but boy oh boy does it make my heart smile every single time I hear it. Particularly when I’ve been out and come home to an excited ‘Mummy!’

Honestly so much has changed in the last four weeks, I can’t even begin to imagine what he’ll do next!

Sod the weather, this has been an amazing summer 🙂

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My happy, talking, developing, boy

 

A Cornish Mum

Layered Flag Dip Recipe

We don’t have a summer holiday the way the Americans do. Our weather is so unpredictable, even in the summer, that BBQs tend to be last minute things, with no planning involved. So when my American friend Bethany suggested we have a Summer BBQ months ago it was actually really exciting to plan. Weather be damned! And when she suggested having it on 4th July, to celebrate Independance Day, well, I hit the Pinterest with a vengeance.

Having used Pinterest for Oscar’s birthday party recently, I was aware how bonkers they go for party theming stateside, so was unsurprised to see how many ideas there were for a 4th July shindig. I found a red, white and blue version of everything you could possibly need or want at your patriotic BBQ, some of it really awesome looking, some incredibly tacky. Then I saw this recipe for a layered dip. Designed to look like the American flag! It was just so, well, American. I knew straight away I had to make it as a centrepiece for my first all American cookout.

Tex Mex Layered Dip. Flag decoration optional!

Tex Mex Layered Dip. Flag decoration optional!

It was actually incredibly easy to make, but looked amazing and tasted fantastic.

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Ingredients

  • 1 can Refried Beans
  • 1 packet Taco Seasoning
  • 1 pot salsa
  • 1 pot olives (about 100g)
  • Half an iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 1 bag of grated cheese (I used Monterey Jack, but any mild cheddar would do)
  • 1 large tub of Philidelphia
  • 1 large pot of sour cream
  • 1 large/beef tomato

If you want to do the flag decoration then also:

  • Handful of Blue Tortilla chips
  • 2/3 slices of mozerella or other pale coloured cheese
Blue Tortilla Chips. Not dyed, but made from actual blue corn. I got these from Ocado but you can find them in many large supermarkets.

Blue Tortilla Chips. Not dyed, but made from actual blue corn. I got these from Ocado but you can find them in many large supermarkets.

Method

Mix the taco seasoning with the Refried beans and spread the mixture over the base of a large rectangular dish

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Cover the beans with the salsa, cut the olives in half and sprinkle over the salsa.

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Top with the shredded iceberg lettuce and the cheese

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Mix together the Philadelphia with the sour cream.

If you’re going to make this into a flag, then use a small amount of the cream cheese mix to make a small square in the the top left hand corner of the dish.

Blitz the blue corn chips in the food processor (or otherwise crush). Sprinkle the crumbs onto the square of cream cheese mix.

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Then put the rest of the cream cheese mix in a freezer bag or a piping bag (depending on how fancy you are 😉 ), snip the end off and pipe stripes across the dish.

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Chop the tomato finely and fill the gaps inbetween the cream cheese mix.

I had a tiny star cutter (thank you the boy’s playdoh box) but you could just use a straw a make dots in place of stars. Cut them out of the mozerella (the sheet slices, not the fresh stuff) and pop them on the blue chip crumbs.

Et voila!

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Serve with the remainder of the blue corn chips or any other tortilla chips you like. Or a fork. It’s that good!

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Bethany takes an inaugural dip!

Obviously, we would have less need for a dip that looks like an American flag, in the UK, but I totally urge you just to make a stripy one instead. Or if you’re the crafty type, how about a Union Flag?

Let me know if you have a go at this. I’d love to hear if you like it as much as I, and my guests, did.

xx

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Free From Farmhouse

Bluestone Resort Wales – A Review

If you’re a regular reader or follow me on any social media, you’ll know that a couple of weeks ago, we were lucky enough to spend the week as a family in the beautiful countryside of Pembrokeshire, West Wales. I couldn’t believe it when Bluestone National Park Resort asked me if I’d like to bring the family to visit. Ben and I lived in Swansea from 2009-2011 and Wales (and the Welsh), hold a very special place in my heart. In fact I didn’t realise how special, until I blubbed going over the bridge. What am I like? I’ve wanted to take Oscar to Wales since he was born, and despite looking into it a couple of times, we’d just never found anywhere we thought could work for him and for us. I won’t lie to you when I say I was a little nervous. Oscar’s Autism means he can be unpredictable and Pembrokeshire was a long way to go for him to react badly (4.5 hours from our home in Surrey), but I can’t explain just how well everything went. It was as if Bluestone sprinkled a little bit of Welsh magic over all of us.

So we arrived on Monday after a straightforward journey, made all the easier by the iPad and a couple of Thomas and Friends films. Believe me when I say you get no badges for getting your children to their destination by singing and reading with them, when neither of these things work and a iPad strapped to the back of the headrest does. Check in starts at 4.30pm, which allowed Oscar to go to preschool in the morning and for us to arrive in time for check-in to be in full flow, which meant queuing in the car.

TOP TOP #1: If you can arrive earlier in the day, do. Although you can’t get in to your accommodation until 4.30, you can check in and use the park’s facilities, meaning you avoid the queues when everyone else arrives. This may be particularly useful if you have children who don’t deal well with queues.

Everyone arriving at the same time means some queing

Everyone arriving at the same time means some queuing to get into the park

Despite the short time queuing, the iPad did sterling work until we were able to get into our accommodation with no fuss and a warm welcome. And when we did we were so impressed. All accommodation at Bluestone is self catering lodges ranging from studios to those that sleep 14 people. As we had originally planned to go with friends, who then couldn’t join us, we had one of the gorgeous Grassholm Lodges, which sleep 8 people in three twin and one double room. This all came with three bathrooms, one of which was a wet room and one an ensuite. Having so much space was a luxury in itself, especially as we’re used to a two bedroom terrace cottage!

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Just one of the twin bedrooms. The boy already making his mark!

I was probably most excited about having a decent size kitchen for a change!

I was probably most excited about having a decent size kitchen for a change!

The kitchen really was incredibly thoughtfully equipped (I cooked dinner for Oscar every night and for Ben and I twice with no bother) and we both noted how all the electronics were such good makes. It’s the little things no? It’s worth mentioning that the lodges do not come with washing machines and there’s no laundry on site, so be sure to bring enough clothes for the duration.

TOP TIP #2 Kitchens have everything you’d expect in a modern luxury lodge, including a dishwasher. Bluestone kindly provide a welcome pack of kitchen essentials including dishcloths, tea towels and 3 dishwasher tablets. You can also buy packets of three tablets in the park shop for 1. I really wish I’d realised this before, so I wouldn’t have fretted about taking cloths and washing up liquid and would have packed a few of my own dishwasher tabs.

A helpful welcome in the kitchen

A helpful welcome in the kitchen

The lodge was so light and airy and the temptation was to just stay in, enjoying the space, but there was so much else to do on the park. On the first night (and subsequent evenings) Oscar was thrilled to make great use of the park’s pub garden and adventure playground. As I’m sure Ben was!

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So spacious and airy. Wonderful!

A quick evening tipple at the Knights Tafern

A quick evening tipple at the Knights Tafern

The Treehouse, withy all its bridge and tunnels was a great hit with Oscar. Not sure Ben enjoyed it quite as much!

The Treehouse, with all its bridges and tunnels was a great hit with Oscar. Not sure Ben enjoyed it quite as much!

The park is built around a central ‘village’, which has a grocery store, bakery/coffee shop, off license, gift shop, pub, various restaurants and a Spa. Ben and I are both big spa fans (hey, who isn’t?!) so we knew we wanted to try out Bluestone’s WellSpa, but we knew we wanted to go together. I’m sure the ability to share childcare was the reason we saw quite a few extended family groups around the park. Although we didn’t go in a group, Bluestone is totally set up for this kind of holiday, with large lodges and even interconnected ones! So because we were ‘sans grandma’, we booked Oscar into the Mini Adventure session. This was a three hour creche session for 0-3 year olds held in the Adventure Centre (they also run similar age appropriate activities for 4-7 year old and 8-12 year olds). I booked the session in advance and explained about Oscar’s Autism. The staff weren’t phased in the slightest, and assured me that they’d looked after autistic children before. I was also reassured to hear the creche was in a locked room, with a maximum of 6 children, with two members of staff. The worst that could happen is that he’d hate it and wouldn’t stay (or they’d have to call us to come get him, which they promised to do). Three hours and no call later, we picked up a very happy little boy, who’d done crafting, baking and played with trains. Best 24 I spent all holiday!

The Mini Adventure session was Space themed. Oscar had an amazing time!

The Mini Adventure session was Space themed. Oscar had an amazing time making his Alien!

While the boy was aliening it up, Ben and I made full use of the time to check out the Spa. The treatment list was extensive, but we chose to just relax together in the Thermal Suite. I loved the Brick Sauna and Ben liked the Herbal Steam Room and we both loved the heated outdoor plunge pool. What a treat!

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I was rather taken with the changing rooms!

The chill out area had a very apt name. Pronounced cutch for those of you not down with the Welsh language.

The chill out area had a very apt name. Pronounced “kutch” for those not down with the Welsh language.

Time together as a couple can be rare, but we loved that Bluestone gave us the opportunity to make the most of it. We loved the creche and we also booked a babysitter for the Wednesday night, through the park’s very friendly and helpful customer service team. Oscar sleeps well anyway, but I’ve never seen him go down so easily as I did on holiday. This meant by the time the babysitter arrived, he was fast off and we could enjoy our meal out. We chose the recently updated Oak Tree Restaurant, which mixes Italian inspiration with Welsh produce. The sharing plate starter we had with baked Perl Wen Cheese was a revelation! So good in fact I forgot to get a picture of it!

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So good it’s gone!

The Oak Tree was one of several places to eat on the park. The choice was appreciated and we ate in many of them over the week with prices being reasonable across the board (not something you always find when you’re a captive audience. This was also the case in the Village Stores with a great range of groceries available at everyday prices). Although we bought a lot of food with us, having done a shop the day before we arrived, we also ate out several times. The food we had all over the park was good and I particularly enjoy my flame roast mackerel, down in the woodland restaurant Camp Smokey. Such a unique venue, it’s nestled deep in the middle of the woods and all food is cooked over open fires, just like a real All American cookout! Had Oscar not had the only melt down of the week as we sat down to eat, we so would have be finishing our meal by toasting our own marshmallows! It was such a shame it didn’t work for him as the food was delicious. But one melt down all week? I’ll take that!

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Camp Smokey, for the full outdoor camp fire eating experience

Our best eating experience of the week, had to be in the Wild Wood Cafe. We had been for a walk on the nature trail, after Oscar had woken that morning and still in his pyjamas declared he wanted to go for a walk by telling us ‘shoes’ and ‘buggy’. It was a beautiful day so we headed to the Nature Trail followed by a walk round the lake.

TOP TIP #3 The nature trail is beautiful and I highly recommend it. However be aware that it’s not a gentle stroll. Anyone with mobility issues would struggle and while we coped with our trusty 3 wheel Out n About 360, a lesser buggy (particularly the fold up umbrella style) would not make it. Slings or walking might be best.

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On the trail

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This was the easy bit!

After a super morning’s walk we headed over to the Adventure Centre, a building the size of a small leisure centre bursting at the seams with fun. We spent some time in the main room, playing on the bouncy castle, with the lego and in the soft play area but mainly having a good old explore. We also spent some time that afternoon in the Circus Room, an entire room devoted to the joy of Under 5s. They use the room for paid for Toddler Sensory sessions, but on the day we visited it was free to use all day. The boy found his new favourite toy in the ride on roller coaster – he’d have taken it home with him if he could!

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Jump!

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Lego Zone. Cool wall, but its missing something…

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Yeah that’s better

The AMAZING Circus Room. Soft Play and Sensory for the Under 5s. and we had the place to ourselves!

The AMAZING Circus Room. Soft Play and Sensory for the Under 5s. and we had the place to ourselves!

Oscar's favourite part of the week I think!

Oscar’s favourite part of the week I think!

When it came time to think about lunch we decided to try the Adventure Centre’s own restaurant, the Wild Wood Cafe. Oscar’s historically been good at eating out, but since he’s been too big for a high chair he struggles to sit and not want to get down for long enough. Add to the fact that this was all new to him, I had no high hopes for this lunch. However, I didn’t bargain on the wonderful atmosphere of the Wild Wood Cafe. As the name may suggest it’s made up to look like an enchanted wood. The lights are dimmed and the seating design really imaginative. Lunch in a bird’s nest anyone? We took Oscar in and let him have a run round exploring everything. As everyone else in there was also a parent of a small child no one batted an eyelid! The room was presided over by an enormous tree and Oscar was very taken with the throne. Yes they have a throne, which is used in the regular interactive dinner shows! They sound like awesome fun, just not for Oscar yet. Anyway after a look around he came and sat down, waited for his dinner and ate it whilst sitting the whole time! I make a big deal of this as it’s the first time he’s ever done this since outgrowing the highchair. The food was delicious (Ben was so impressed at how good his Steak Baguette was) and if you’re visiting with small children I urge you to take them at least once. It’s one of my favourite memories from the week 🙂

Have dinner in an Enchanted Forest

Have dinner in an Enchanted Forest

It sure enchanted my boy. Here he is, sitting and eating!

It sure enchanted my boy. Here he is, sitting and eating! Notice the throne in the background!

When I asked Ben what his favourite memory of the trip was, he said without a doubt the peace. Bluestone is set in 500 acres of beautiful Welsh National Park and the fact that cars are parked away from the lodges once they’re unloaded meant the pace of life on the park was a relaxed one. You can hire golf buggies to use during your stay. We decided not to this time, however if we’d been with a bigger group or anyone with mobility issues these would have been a life saver, as the park itself is rather hilly. The wildlife was everywhere and tame as you like, which thrilled Oscar as his new words that week were ‘bird’ and ‘animal’!

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View from our bedroom window the day we arrived

Ducks on the lake

Ducks on the lake

Our love of the Welsh countryside meant that we couldn’t go all that way and not explore the surrounding area, just a little. There were so many things to see and do close to Bluestone, but living in a landlocked county meant I desperately wanted to go to the beach. On recommendation from a friend back home, we broke with tradition and eschewed the popular Tenby, heading instead for Barafundle Bay, 30 minutes drive away. Now I wouldn’t recommend this beach for everyone. It’s sheltered and quiet, yes, but that’s partly because it’s only accessible via a half mile walk across the cliff tops and then down a long steep stone stair case.

TOP TIP #4 The guides say this beach is not accessible by buggies and to some extent they are right. However, if you really, really wanted to you could take your buggy most of the way and stash it in the bushes at the top of the steps, as we saw one couple do that day.

Oscar’s never really been to the beach and choosing Barafundle Bay was something of a risk. Not being able to take the buggy, being half a mile of difficult terrain away from the car, we could absolutely have chosen another location. But we would absolutely have missed out on the most amazing experience. Oscar walked/ran excitedly just ahead of us almost the whole way there. I think he appreciated the freedom, but not once did he make a dash for it (to be fair we were on high alert and had he shown any signs of bolting we would have scooped him up and high tailed it back to the car.) We thoroughly enjoyed the walk there and when we arrived? Well! No wonder it’s been voted Best Picnic Spot in the UK and in the Top 12 Beaches in the World before now.

With the wind at his heels! And in his hair!

With the wind at his heels! And in his hair!

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Me and my guy

Woah.

The BEAUTIFUL Barafundle Bay

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The steps down to the bay

No trip to the beach would be complete without a castle!

No trip to the beach would be complete without a castle!

What a day! And we totally chose the best day of the week for the weather too. The day we came to leave was dreary and reflected completely the way we were feeling. So sad to say goodbye to such a wonderful place. Although we had to check out at 10am, we were able to use the facilities until 3pm. This being the case we packed up the car with everything but our swim things and headed over to the Blue Lagoon. It’s everything you’d expect of a pleasure pool and had a great toddler/baby area. At least I thought it was great. Oscar enjoyed it but was tempted by the big pool soon enough. He’s quite confident in the water, but can’t swim and would not wear any kind of flotation device, which meant it was a very tiring experience for me. He LOVED the wave machine and the fountains and even went down the lazy river with me, but in the end I had to call time on the swimming. I just couldn’t keep up with him! I think if he’d been older he would have been in there every day. As it was I’m glad we tried it, but I’m not sorry we only went the once.

The Blue Lagoon Pool

The Blue Lagoon Pool

To be honest though there’s little we did more than once. The playground maybe, or getting ice creams from the Bakery. We were there Monday to Friday and we only got to sniff what Bluestone is about. But what we saw made us all happier than I could have imagined. The facilities were exactly what we needed as a family and the staff unremittingly helpful, friendly and good humoured (even the guy cutting the lawn on the ride on mower gave Oscar a big smile and a thumbs up when he saw him watching!) We couldn’t have asked for anything more. Would we go back. Yes. Definitely. Wales will always have a special place in my heart and Bluestone is a great place to visit what was once our adopted home.

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Heaven

We would like to say a massive thank you to Bluestone National Park Resort for generously providing us with accommodation in return for this review.

I was not paid to write this review and as always opinions are my own.

Please check out www.bluestonewales.com for more information.

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