20 October 2016

Paris, Day Three - The Eiffel Tower

Golly, I am behind - I was hoping to get all the Paris posts up before I vanished off to Prague for a few days last week but to no avail. Still, 'going on holiday too often' is really not the kind of problem I can complain about!

Back to Paris for now then, and the tales of a trip I took with my brother, my kids, and his kids. Three pairs of siblings in all! Travelling with all the kids was amazing because, not only are they all brilliant and funny, but it forces you to take things at a slower pace than I usually would. Hence, our day trip to the Eiffel Tower really did take pretty much all day!

Now, I know I'm not offering information on a really new, original, cutting-edge attraction here... a visit to the Eiffel Tower is probably the most obvious thing you can do in Paris - but there must be a reason for that, right? It was definitely high on the priority list for the kiddos anyway, who were eager to see this iconic monument in real life!

We headed in via the Trocedero metro station as we'd heard it gave the most dramatic approach and we really wanted to kids to have that 'wow' factor on first seeing the tower - and we weren't disappointed!

Progress over to the tower itself was slow of course - with numerous stops for photo-taking and climbing on things. My little niece was particularly taken with the beautiful carousel!

So far so good, right? Twas at the next stage we erred...

The lads were all determined to walk up the steps as much was possible, and this was initially the plan for all of us (my brother and myself carrying the littlest one and the pushchair between us). By the time we got to the bottom of the tower, however, the little lady had fallen fast asleep in her pushchair, making the whole carrying issue a little trickier.

No problem, we decided - the boys could go up the steps as planned with my bro, and I'd take the girls up in the lift so mademoiselle could snooze. We'd all meet at the first floor. Simple?

Well, not so much. We'd not counted on the queue for the lift taking over an hour (it looked deceptively short!), or the fact that the lift doesn't actually stop at the first floor on the way up. Oops. We'd avoided walking up so we didn't have to carry the baby and the pushchair between two adults, but now I found myself carrying them both, one under each arm, down the same amount of steps. Oh, and did I mention my crippling fear of heights?

(Of course, the lift does stop off at the first floor on the way back down, so I could have just stayed on to be safely delivered to the arranged meeting point,.. but did this occur to be before going down all the steps? No. No it didn't)

My brother and the boys will have been patiently waiting for us as planned though, right? Also a no. Turns out they'd gone wandering looking for us back up on the second floor. Cue panic.

Eventually though, we were reunited! I don't know if I was more relieved to be with the boys again, or to find that they had left us some of the picnic! It was a well earned drink that accompanied our feast of bread and cheese!

Once we were out of food and everyone had recovered from the stress of separation, it was time to head further up to view the city from the top of the tower. This time we all went together!

As I mentioned, I'm really not a fan of heights, and the lift wasn't my favourite thing in the world (it just. kept. going), but I was surprisingly okay-ish with being at the top. I don't know if it's because we were SO high up that it didn't seem real anymore? It was the second floor that freaked me out most!)

It's hard to be a coward around the kids so I did my best to be brave (badly, sure, but you gotta try!) - I was pretty happy to be back on the ground in the end though!

The next logical step was, of course, ice cream! Then a good long play in the park before making our way back to the hostel.

I think I'd originally counted aside a couple of hours for our Eiffel Tower visit, and we were out for closer to seven! Though we definitely made sure we'd left plenty of time for tea!

Our search for an evening meal took us to the rather brilliant BBOYZ - a hip-hop themed burger bar. This was right up my brother's street - he's always loved hip-hop way more than a ginger-haired white boy from West Yorkshire should.

I was more interested in the food though, and I loved my 'Le Cyprus Hill' burger - peppers, avocado, salsa and nachos along with cheese topped my big juicy burger! 

Stuffed and tired, it was time to roll on back to bed in the hopes of recovering enough energy for another day of exploring this beautiful city!

6 October 2016

Degustabox - September 2016

Degustabox delivery day is always one of my favourite days of the month - nothing gets you through a tough day at work like an awesome delivery of exciting foodstuffs!

Overall, September's wasn't my favourite box - few things had me truly excited on opening this one - but I think that just speaks for the usual stands of the subscription because it was still full of some tip-top quality items:

Metcalfe's Popcorn Thins (RRP £1.00) - I've had these popcorn thins before and think they're lovely! I do prefer the milk chocolate version, but the dark chocolate makes me feel more like a grown up!

Get Fruity Bars (RRP £1.00) - I usually try to pass the fruit bars off on the kids, who don't always realise I'm fobbing them off with a 'healthy' treat, but neither of them like pineapple so I thought I'd try this one myself : actually very tasty and the pineapple, coconut and lime flavour combo is a winner!

Cape Drinks (RRP £1.59 each) - You know that anything tea in it usually goes down a treat with me - and the Cape drinks are no exception! These fruity drinks with anti-oxidant packed rooibos tea have added vitamins, ginseng and botanical extracts, but most importantly, they're delicious!

Teisseire Sirop (RRP £2.99) - This is definitely a fancier version of the squash I usually buy! No added sugar and a lovely unique flavour means this is popular with everyone in the house!

Cirio Borlotti Beans (RRP £1.89 for a pack of three) - I'll admit that I don't really know what to do with beans that haven't already been canned in tomato sauce ready to be heated and poured over toast. My brother cooks proper food though, and he's got some good suggestions for me! 

Mrs Crimble's Fusilli (RRP £1.99) - I generally love pasta but sadly no one in the house likes mushrooms so this one is wasted on us a bit, but I'll pass it on to a good home where it can be appreciated!

Miso Tasty Soup (RRP £3.65) - The spicy soup is the perfect thing to have in my cupboard at work for emergency lunch options, especially now that it's getting cold!

Hartley's Jelly Pots (4 x RRP £0.50) - Who doesn't like jelly? Well, apparently my kids don't, but that's ok, means I get to keep these cute lil jelly pots to myself! My favourite is the tropical flavour!

Say Yes to No Bread Chips (RRP £1.49) - I wasn't particularly excited about these as I've had toasted bread snacks before that have just been really dry and tasteless, but these were actually pretty nice - thinner than ones I've had previously these tasted more like thick crisps. But breadier.

Chia Seed (2 x RRP £1.00) - I know Chia Seeds are all the rage with healthy types, as they're a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals. These are really easy to add to other foods for a non-intrusive nutritious boost!

The value of the goods inside the box always outweighs it's £12.99 per month subscription cost, but if that's not enough of a bargain you can save a whopping £7 off the cost of your first box if you enter the code BLDEG15 on checking out. It's a great way to discover new brands and products, and is always fun to open and see what each box contains!

4 October 2016

Paris, Day Two - The Louvre

After a fairly relaxed day of getting to Paris and settling into our accommodation, it was time to crack on with some of the bigger 'challenges' of the trip: getting all four kids around the city on the Metro without losing any of them, and keeping them all entertained in the world's largest museum.

Not before a good breakfast though, of course - continental breakfast was included in price we paid for our hostel accommodation, and there's nothing like a pile of baked goods with jam to start you off for the day!

When everyone had eaten their fill, it was time to tackle the metro! The adults on the trip (that's me and my brother) had used the underground transport system plenty before on previous trips so were confident we could get us about without too much trauma - the colour-coded system is a piece of cake to navigate. We were more concerned about getting everyone on and off all in one group!

One ticket will get you to any stop, we saved on tickets by buying them in bundles of ten. We even managed to keep track of all the kids (even on the couple of really busy trains later in the day!) who loved zipping around underneath the city!

The main reason for trip to Paris was that my nephew Corey (in the middle down there!) has been learning all about it at school. Visiting the Louvre was one of his top priorities on the holiday!

Entrance to the museum is free for those under 18, so it only ended up costing thirty euros for the six of us to get in - all those priceless artefacts and works of art for significantly less than it would have cost for us all to go to the cinema!

Due to some inexpert map reading, we did seem to get a little stuck in the French Sculpture section. These wonderful big open airy rooms full of magnificent statues really were awe inspiring though - if you are going to get stuck anywhere this was not a bad place to be!

It was also a great spot to play a (obviously quiet, well-behaved) game of hide and seek! (Though one of our party was a little too good at it, I genuinely thought we'd lost Harry for good a couple of times!)

The kids were really impressed with some of the things they saw, especially the giant sculptures in the 'Near Eastern Antiquities' section of the museum.

For them though, the main thing they wanted to see was of course the museum's most famous resident, the lovely Mona Lisa. We wound our way to the famous lady, through halls and halls of incredible artworks. There's really nothing scarier than medieval religious paintings!

I know a lot of people go specifically for this one painting but I would definitely recommend at least glancing at some of the other exhibitions on the way through or you'll miss some truly spectacular visions - and make sure you look up! Some of the paintings on the ceilings are

The Mona Lisa itself is a famously small painting, surrounded by crowds. There were a lot of people around! A bit of patience though and the kids managed to get through to the front of the barrier (in between the hordes of people trying to take a selfie with the painting!) to get a good look!

At that point we'd been in the museum for around four hours, so we figured it was time to head out for some fresh air, sunshine, and food. (It did still take us a good 20 minutes to get out, this place is huge, but plenty more to see on our way to the exit!)

An ice cream was a well-deserved treat for all the hard work art-appreciation we'd been doing, and a walk through the beautiful Jardin De Tuileries (with a playground stop off) was a lovely way to finish the expedition before heading back to the hostel for well needed showering-and-chilling time.

The rest of the day was spent running round the kids favourite holiday spot, the park next to the hostel. We'd spotted a local pizza place on our wanderings on the previous day, so all headed to 'Pizza Time' for tea for delicious pizza (even if a couple of menu-translation issues meant we didn't all get exactly the pizza toppings we were expecting!)

It was a long, hot day - but a great one, filled with incredible sights, good food and some of my favourite people!

26 September 2016

Paris, Day One - Settling In

Last month (I know, I'm getting further and further behind with posts, sorry!) a few last minute hiccups and unexpected events resulted in me spending a lovely few days in the beautiful city of Paris with my brother and all our kids.

(Not like 'our' kids, obv - my kids and his kids - four of the youngsters all in all aged between 2 and 10!)

It was my first flight in years from Leeds Bradford airport, and it's definitely looking much swankier these days! The grubby canteen-style eatery in my memory has been replaced with a number of new sports for pre-flight refreshments and we were pleased to find seat for us all at the Saltaire Bar. WE weren't sure if we'd have time for full meals but ordered a bunch of sharey bits between us (nachos, onion rings and the like) and were impressed with the speed, quality and cost of the food considering we were in an airport (where you sort of expect to be ripped off a wee bit!)

We'd all flown before apart from my little niece Mischa, who was terribly excited about her first time on an airplane! So obviously she got the window seat and sat next to her big cousin for safety! (Honestly, these two were pretty inseparable the whole trip!)

Having our hands full, we splashed out on a taxi from the airport to our accommodation, Le Regent Hostel in Montmartre.  Now, call me a snob if you like, but I've never actually stayed in a hostel before and was a little wary but the place was actually perfect for us! The staff were incredibly helpful before we arrived, accommodating last minute changes to the original booking, and brilliant while we were these too.

We were all in the same 6-bed room, and the kids loved sharing even though it wasn't very condusive to an early nights sleep! Access to the kitchen was really handy for putting together picnics for our days out, The boys in particular got a lot of use out of the games room, while my brother and I were pleased to be able to take advantage of the hostel's beery 'happy hour' once or twice!

As a hostel newbie, I was a little surprised by the variety of people who had chosen to stay at Le Regent - families, solo travellers of all ages, groups of friends and couples were among the guests, and I'd definitely now consider this type of accommodation for family trips in the future. The absolute best thing about the hostel for us though was it's close proximity to this lovely little park.

This was our first stop every morning and our last one every evening - a perfect place for the kids to run round burning off any excess energy and make up for any of the times they'd been expected to be relatively still and quiet at attractions and restaurants throughout the trip. Plus the free water fountains, found in abundance in Paris's parks actually, were a godsend in the hot August weather!

Despite clearly being in a very touristy area, it seemed most of the people we met in the park were locals - taking their kids to play, indulging in a leisurely game of boules or generally just relaxing in the sunshine.

Once we were all settled in, a wander around the neighbourhood and a search for food were the next priorities! Food options within a few minutes walk ranged from shady takeaways to elegant bistros and we headed to L'Ecrin based on a cheap menu, a friendly guy at the door and a short walk back to the hostel when we were done!

I know a lot of people look down on the cheap 'tourist' set menu places, but less than ten euros for a main meal and a drink in Paris sounded pretty good to me - the food was good too. Not amazing, but definitely good. It's only a small place but they were happy to shift tables around to make room for us all to sit together, and even offered us a free drink for the littlest one (who didn't have her own meal as she was more than happy to share everyone elses!)

They offered a limited dessert menu but by then the youngsters had been sat still long enough so we made a better, more Parisian plan: crepes in the park!

We'd walked past the crepe place on out earlier walk and I hadn't gotten that delicious aroma out of my head all throughout dinner - delicately thin and smothered in Nutella, they were absolutely amazing!

Stuffed to the gills, it was time to retreat back to the hostel to argue over who got the top bunks and get as much sleep as possible in the stifling heat - ready to start the real exploring the following morning!

11 September 2016

Cirque Du Soleil - Amaluna in Manchester

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to spend some time in Las Vegas - city of 24-hour gambling, all-day drinking, ill-thought out weddings, hotels that have their own rollercoasters,.. and of course a serious roster of world-class shows. When planning our show schedule for the week, we of course wanted to include on the Cirque Du Soleil shows as I'd heard so much about how great they were and I never expected to get to see one closer to home.

Just goes to show what I know though, because until the 9th October you can watch Amaluna at their special big top tent just next to the Trafford Centre in Manchester!

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see the show on its opening night, and I had my mind absolutely blown by some of the amazing things acts in Amaluna.

As a person that's never been able to do so much as a cartwheel, anyone that has full control over their body always amazes me - but the THINGS THESE PEOPLE CAN DO WITH THEIR BODIES! Seriously, I can't begin to explain it. You really need to see it yourself!

Narrative isn't the main thing you'd go to the circus for, but I liked that this one did have one - loosely based on The Tempest, we see Miranda's love story play out against a background of jugglers, acrobats and contortionists. I was happy to go along and see some amazing things, but having characters to root for really did make me so much more emotionally invested - I'm a big softie at heart and always appreciate a good love story!

The show was genuinely beautiful to behold - not just the fancy flying about, but the wonderful costumes, sets, lighting,.. everything worked together so wonderfully to transport an eager audience to the mysterious island.

I wouldn't like to play favourites, as everyone involved in the show is amazingly talented, but the water scenes in particular were absolutely mesmerizing!

I even preferred this show to the one we saw in Las Vegas. It may have just been show-fatigue, or the lingering remnants of jetlag, and I did really enjoy Zarkana, but Amaluna just completely enchanted me.

Amaluna is on at Manchester until the 9th October, and will be in London early next year - and is definitely worth seeing if you can!

* Tickets were provided, as were the photos from the show as it's strictly no photography/video during the performance!