Chirk Castle

Another weekend and another new place to visit, the weather had been rainy most of the week but the forecast for the Saturday was looking ok. Originally we were going to Llandudno for the day but a late start meant a change of plan. I had promised a trip to Wales so that’s where we headed, I had a quick look at the National trust book and Google maps, and decided to give Chirk castle a try as it was only an hour away.¬†We may have arrived a little sooner if I hadn’t followed the sat-nav, which took us along lots of very narrow, twisty country lanes.

Oscar didn’t want to do any of the guided tours so we had a little wander around the gardens, which were very muddy, and then walked up to the castle for a self guided tour. Every National Trust place we’ve visited has had something for the children to look for, teddies dotted around the building to be counted, but this one was different. They had cards for each room with 3 or 4 questions on, things to find and count, what do you think an item was used for etc. It was really good as it kept us both entertained working them out and who could spot things first. Some of the answers were surprising too.

As usual the staff/volunteers were very friendly and knowledgeable, with lots of interesting little facts. The place was fairly busy so we made our way back outside and I took advantage of a babysitting device to get a few minutes quiet time …..

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After the main house we went into the dungeons, the stairs were terrifying, a spiral staircase with very worn, different sized steps, which led into a dimly lit circular room. It had a very creepy feel and we didn’t stay long. The climb back out was almost as bad as the one down.

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Then into the keep, time to become a knight in shining armour, well for a few minutes. It was very heavy and uncomfortable to wear.

After being indoors for a while it was time to explore outside, however a few things happened. First we had a shoe disaster, when the front of one of his trainers popped open and his toe was sticking out (thankfully they were old ones) then the rain started, just a drizzle. So we decided to head back and get a warm drink. We spotted some cattle in a field, not sure what type but they had big horns. We went to have a closer look but saw a dead sheep so left quickly to go and report it.

We did get a hot chocolate though and the ever faithful Victoria sponge for Oscar, his favourite.

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We decide to call it a day, new shoes were needed and some clean dry socks too. On the walk back to the car we found this…

So we did as asked, photograph, posted it and re-hid the rock (but not too hidden) A lovely little find. If you are round and about anywhere in the Shropshire area keep a look out for these apparently they’re hidden in plain sight everywhere.

A quick stop on the way home for new shoes, socks and some fish and chips. A great day

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The London photo challenge

Sometimes cities can seem a little ‘educational’ for children with all the museum and galleries, especially as they focus on learning and don’t always make it fun. So I decided to give Oscar a fun focus and a reason for us both to use our cameras.

This was the list …..

  1. Buckingham Palace
  2. Tower guard
  3. A duck on the street
  4. A street performer
  5. An underground sign
  6. A view from the sky
  7. A view from the water
  8. A shoe in the wall
  9. Street art
  10. The smallest police box
  11. A London Met police officer
  12. A Tardis
  13. Paddington bear
  14. Harry Potter
  15. Queen Victoria
  16. With a superhero
  17. Big Ben
  18. Nelsons column
  19. Tower Bridge
  20. The London Eye
  21. China town
  22. Wembley way
  23. Bobby Moore
  24. A shop or sign with your name.

And here are the results …

We had a good time and made some happy memories. Still plenty to see and do so tie to plan another visit.

Our London holiday – Part 1

A few years ago I took Oscar to London, he loved it and ever since has been asking to go back. So this is what we did.

We started off on a sunny Monday morning, travelling in style with Virgin trains.

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A lovely, laid-back relaxing journey to a very busy London Euston. Our accommodation was a short walk from the station, in the Garden Halls in the University of London. I was a little unsure about what it would be like, it was much cheaper than most hotels in the same area, but I wasn’t disappointed. The room was clean and comfortable with bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers and a desk/chair area. The Wi-fi was excellent and plenty of plugs in the room. The bathroom was spotless. Down the corridor from our room was a kitchen, which we had full use of, it included a fridge, microwave and kettle plus tables and chairs. The games room has old style arcade games, which Oscar loved. We never got chance to use the tennis courts but these were also included in the price !

The restaurant was lovely and breakfast was everything you could ever ask for, hot, cold, English, continental plus much more.

 

Our first afternoon we just wandered around, got our bearings and sorted out my oyster card for using the tube, (little tip children under 11 travel free on the tube with an adult using an oyster card).

Tuesday we were up and out early, after a hearty breakfast. Onto the tube and a reasonably short journey to Wembley stadium. The weather was beautiful and we arrived with plenty of time to look around the concourse, see the statues and read the plaques before our tour started. The tour took us all around the stadium, from players changing rooms and bathrooms, VIP area, different parts of the stadium seating, including the Royal box, press conference room and the technical area pitch side. We had a little rivalry going on as Oscar wore his Everton top and another family were Manchester United fans, the banter about the Rooney/Lukaku switch was fun and the two boys got to lead ‘their’ team out the players tunnel, after shaking hands like good team captains should.

 

 

 

From here we had a short walk and decided to try a different form of transport, the Emirates cable cars. I didn’t realise how high it went until we were on it but the view was amazing, even if Oscar didn’t appreciate it.

 

We decided to try a third transport option of the day and took the river shuttle back to the city.

As it was a lovely sunny day, so we decided to make to most of the sunshine and spent the afternoon at the Tower of London, it was a little expensive to get in (thankfully Oscar was free with his Blue Peter badge), it was interesting to see the torture devices in the tower, the Crown jewels and trying on some very heavy armour.

 

After a busy day we took a slow stroll back towards the hotel and 27,000 steps later we fell into bed for a much needed sleep.

Our day out

Oscar went away with school for a week so mum and I decided to have a day of sightseeing in London. Train tickets booked and a few ideas of things we would like to see and off we went.

We left Liverpool, in warm sunshine and arrived in a cold, windy London a little over two hours later.

Our first port of call was the British museum for a brief stop and look at the Egyptian collection and the Rosetta stone.

What an amazing shaped building too. I will be returning to explore more inside here.

Next was the National portrait gallery, a favourite place with stunning art work.

Simply beautiful, then a quick stop for coffee in the crypt at St Martins in the field church. A walk down through Covent Garden and the theatre district, then on to Chinatown for some Dim sum.

Then it was time to start making our way back towards the train station, with tired legs but it was a fun, busy day.

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Ballet and unexpected surprises.

I’m not a girly girl (at all), make-up, shopping and fashion are not my idea of fun in any shape or form. But put me in a theatre with ballet and I suddenly become ‘a girl’

I can’t really explain it, I never did ballet as a child or even saw one. I enjoy the gracefulness of it all and the story-telling without words only music and movement.

Last month I went to see Giselle, a new one for me. It was beautiful, and some of the music I recognised, which was surprising not knowing this ballet. It’s a very romantic, love story and didn’t seem as long as other ballet’s I have seen, however they do say time flies when you’re having fun.

Then we noticed Matthew Bourne was touring with his production of ‘The Red Shoes’ later in the year and this was one that we couldn’t miss. Matthew Bourne’s choreography is spectacular, quirky and always worth watching. His ‘Swan Lake’ with an all male cast is amazing. The morning the tickets went on sale we were on the phone and booked them immediately.

A few days later we noticed an advert on another theatre in Liverpool.

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Again we booked and got front row seats for opening night.

It’s was the craziest busy day and with a bus that never turned up we nearly didn’t make it at all, but I’m glad we did. It was one of the best performances I have ever seen, not just ballet but in general. It was superbly danced and acted. It was funny and sad (yes we laughed loudly). It is a walk-through of the pieces that have shaped his career and his life. Of artists that have impacted him through music or dance.

It wasn’t the longest ballet, each ‘act’ was around 40 minutes and we had two intervals but it was one of the best I’ve seen.

At the end as everyone was preparing to leave an announcement was made that a short question and answer session would follow with Matthew Bourne himself. That alone was worth the money we paid. He was a genuine, down-to-earth person. He refuses to be called Sir, even though he was knighted in 2016.

He explained how and why he’d put these pieces together and answered several audience questions about where his ideas came from, his inspiration and idols. He even gave some hints about his future plans and it would appear that we will be seeing more Matthew Bourne productions later this year and next, and thankfully they all seem to come through Liverpool.

So the future is looking good ……

Behind the scenes at Dunham Massey

Sometimes misreading a calendar has it’s advantages, and this was one of them. Dunham Massey is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a while, so whilst looking through the national trust book I ‘thought’ it said the house reopened to the public from February.

Off we set, a grey day with drizzly rain which got heavier and heavier the closer we got. Thankfully it was well signposted and easy to find as I forgot the trusty sat-nag (she drives me bonkers and causes more road-rage than any driver ever could)

So we arrived and made a quick dash inside, unfortunately the house wasn’t fully open but they had guided tours for certain areas. I was a little disappointed (at my mistake) but my mind was soon changed as we had a great time.

The first tour was all ‘below stairs’ the guide was beautifully dressed, very informative and hilarious. He told us all about what jobs we would be expected to do, conditions and even had the children getting involved. One boy (aged about 6) was perfectly dressed for his new role as a tiger in his orange and black coat. A tiger was a small stable boy who held the reins of a horse to keep it from moving around. Oscar and another boy were too young to be household boys, so they could have been scarecrows, running up and down the fields shouting to keep the birds away. At 12 they would/could have moved inside of the house for other duties. The first being silver polishing, which they both did very well.

Then we went into the kitchens and laundry rooms, time for us to get wet. The children had a go at washing using a tub and dolly, it lead to lots of splashing and laughing. They all agreed that washing machines made life a lot easier now. It was interesting to discover that gin was used for washing silk, I wonder at what point they decided to have a taste?

The next tour was the art of the house and the two tour guides made this tour something special, they were like a comedy double act. Even Oscar, who wasn’t looking forward to this one because it sounded boring, loved it. The half hour tour took 90 minutes and I’ve never laughed or enjoyed a ‘serious’ tour so much.

I learnt a lot from both of these tours and we are both looking forward to going back again to see the rest of the house and explore the beautiful grounds, weather permitting.

Getting home was an adventure in itself as following road signs for the motorway lead us round in a circle back to where we started ! At least we know for future reference which signs to follow and how to get home.

January

Where did it go ! The month seems to have flown by and quite a few things happened which kept it interesting.

We started the year with a broken boiler, thankfully it was replaced quickly and without us being without heating or hot water for very long.

The job hunting was still ongoing, applications being sent everywhere, every day and with very little in response. Then one of my old employers died and at the funeral a chance encounter led to a job offer. I met with my new employer and within a couple of hours I was registered for classroom training, online training and my work rota organised. I spent a good few hours doing the online training, thankfully my previous employment had prepared me well for this tedious task.

As well as my old employer we also lost my great uncle, a lovely man who is now reunited with the love of his life.

I spent an evening at the ballet – Giselle – with my mum. Not a ballet either us had seen before, it was very enjoyable. We also bought our tickets to Matthew Bourne’s production of the red shoes for later in the year, super excited !

A few good days out to some new places and some old favourites, mostly alone, the Lady Lever art gallery, Sudley house, World museum, St Georges hall and The Walker art gallery. Not bad for one month.

I’ve also been reading tons, watching films and updating all my challenge lists. more details to follow ….

I hope your January has been a good one x