Family Day Out: The Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff Bay

Last weekend, we visited the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay. Being a geeky family of Whovians, this was not our first visit. It was our third. Plus it’s actually the second time we’ve been as part of my birthday celebrations.

We’re really lucky that it doesn’t take us very long at all to get the train to Cardiff Bay (trains from Cardiff Queen Street to the Bay run every 12 minutes and the journey is just 4 minutes!).

We were also lucky that the weather on Saturday was almost perfect: not too hot but a bit sunny and no rain at all! Even without a trip to the Doctor Who Experience, the Bay is one of my favourite places to visit in Cardiff.

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Having always booked tickets in advance, I’d advise doing the same to anyone planning to visit. It means no queuing to buy tickets and no chance of being told they’re fully booked (I don’t know if this regularly happens but wouldn’t want to risk it personally). You can book online then simply print off the tickets or have them sent to you and bring them along.

There is a short queue on the way into the experience but there’s plenty to look at in the foyer area – from character costumes to ancient Gallifreyan artefacts to a massive LEGO dalek!

The actual experience involves going on an adventure, guided by a member of staff and the Doctor himself! Even as an adult, this was really enjoyable and Penny and the other children there loved it, especially the interactive bits. I won’t say anymore as I wouldn’t want to spoil it. I would warn that the first time we went, Penny was about two and did get a bit scared so you might want to consider that when thinking about taking very small children. The experience has changed a few times, usually when there’s been a regeneration, so it’s been different each time we’ve gone.

After the adventure, you get the chance to look around a huge collection Doctor Who exhibit with costumes, props and monsters from the oldest classic episodes right up to the latest series. I really like that this allows you to see the evolution of some monsters like the daleks and cybermen.

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After the exhibit there is a gift shop. With birthday money to spend, I did treat myself to a couple of t shirts and a pin for my notice board.

 

My husband also bought a couple of framed prints which look brilliant in our living room.

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There is a good range in the gift shop, from lower priced souvenirs to some really amazing collectables.

Sadly, the Doctor Who Experience is closing this September, which was one of the reasons we wanted one last trip. If you’re a Whovian, or have any mini Whovians, I really recommend a visit if you can make it, it’s such a fun day out.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Summer Holidays 2017: Weeks 1 & 2

The last two weeks are not exactly how I pictured our summer holidays. I had visions of Penny and I spending long days outdoors, walking in parks and along seafronts and through woods. I had researched a whole catalogue of new picnic recipes to try.

So imagine my dismay when the forecast predicted clouds and rain just about every day.

Our holidays began as soon as Penny left school. We headed to Starbucks for our traditional end of term celebration. It was raining. Never mind, I thought, six weeks of school-free fun are ahead of us.

At the beginning of our first full week of holidays, Husband’s Mum and Nan arrived for a three day visit. We went to Cardiff Bay with them (a rare day of proper sunshine!) and took the Aquabus tour around the Bay, Penarth and the Barrage. Here’s a video I made of it:

We all went out for dinner together that evening. For their last day in Cardiff, we went for a shopping day in the city centre. It made for a good start to our holidays, even if the weather was mostly a bit grim.

Penny and I went to our local library in that first week too. Penny always takes part in the Summer Reading Challenge. This year the theme is Animal Agents and the reward for each book read is a set of clues to work out the mystery in the library. To complete the challenge, a child needs to read 6 books over the course of the summer holidays. As an overall reward, they’re presented with a medal at school when the new term begins. It’s a great scheme and I highly recommend it as a way to get the kids reading some new books over the holidays.

Last week, I was ill for several days. I’m rarely physically unwell, at least not more than a minor cold. This wasn’t serious but I ached all over and felt generally crap. By Thursday, Penny was clearly getting fed up with being indoors, however much I tried to occupy her with baking and crafts and DisneyLife. So we went back to the library as it’s close by. Just being out in the fresh air seemed to cheer her up and getting some new books and a set of stickers as reward for the ones she’d already read helped a great deal too.

On Friday, I was feeling quite a bit better and we had a bit of sunshine (along with the clouds and rain that never seem far away at the moment) so we went to Penarth for a walk along the beach and an ice cream on the pier. It did rain on us a bit but we both needed a proper day out. I felt just about entirely recovered by the weekend.

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Penarth Pier

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Penarth seafront, looking towards the Devon coastline

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Writing our names in the Sand

We had a bit of a lazy day at home on Saturday then I had to work on Sunday. Penny had a lovely day at home with Husband, playing board games.

I’m hoping for better weather and no more sickness for the next four weeks!

How’s your summer holiday going? Has the poor weather affected your plans?

Family Day Out: Caerphilly Castle

The first week of the Easter Holidays brought us some lovely Spring weather. Knowing that the sunshine can disappear as quickly as it arrives, we made the most of it with a trip to Caerphilly Castle.

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Sitting right in the middle of the town of Caerphilly and surrounded by an extensive moat, the castle is partly ruins with one ominously leaning tower, although in nice weather this makes for a pleasant walk.

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Pip was thrilled to find dragons in the castle grounds!

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These sculptures were amazing, such beautiful detail. The red dragon has apparently been at the castle for a long time, while the blue was added more recently.

Signs warned us not to approach the geese that waddled about, as they’re nesting at the moment.

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We walked up a winding narrow staircase to reach the top of the castle. If I’m honest, I’m not keen on spiral staircases, particularly ones with ancient slippery steps and even less so when my daughter happily bounds up them when I’d rather she take her time. There’s no stopping little adventurers! However, I’d say the view from the top is well worth the climb.

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I would say that this is not a suitable day out for pushchairs or wheelchairs. There’d be very little you could see and even navigating the grounds could be tricky.

The price of entry was perhaps a little expensive for what’s on offer. £7.95 for adults, £5.20 for students, senior citizens and under 16s or £23.70 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children). I understand that maintaining an ancient structure costs money and that’s probably reflected in the price but there wasn’t a lot to interact with. I suppose I’m comparing that with Cardiff Castle, which as Cardiff residents, we only have to pay £6 every 3 years for our Castle Keys for unlimited entries and reduced event prices.

After spending a couple of hours walking around the castle and the obligatory visit to the gift shop, we ended our day out with a drink in the visitor centre cafe.

Overall, we enjoyed this trip. It was a good learning experience and an enjoyable walk outdoors in the Spring sunshine!

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Top Five Items to pack for days out

For us, the summer holidays are very nearly here and I know that for many of you, they already are. I’ve got lots of fun days out planned and it should be a great summer.

Of course, especially with a small child, you always need to be prepared for every eventuality. I carry a backpack on days out. It’s much more convenient than a handbag as you’ve got hands free and it can carry much more comfortably. Here’s my list of things to keep in your bag on a day out:

1. Suncream and sun hats. So, so important. Even if it’s a cloudy day, I always keep suncream and hats with us so that if the sun does peek out later on, we’re ready for it and we don’t need to hide in the shade or, even worse, go home to avoid sunburn. I also try to dress Pip in clothes cover her shoulders. I know that I can burn really easily and, given that she has the same very pale skin as me, I imagine Pip would too – hopefully we’ll never find out!

2. Waterproof jackets. I’d recommend waterproofs that fold away into neat little bags, making them really easy to carry around without taking up much space in your bag. They come with us even on sunny days because the British weather is famously unpredictable. Just as with the sun cream & hats, it means that if the weather changes, the day out doesn’t have to end! Plus, it provides a clean and dry place to sit on grass in the park.

3. Water. In hot weather, it’s easy to get dehydrated, especially if having an energetic day outdoors. Keeping a bottle of water handy prevents this and also means that you won’t be spending money on extra drinks while you’re out!

4. Spare clothes. Food mess, travel sickness incident or jumping in muddy puddles (Peppa Pig has so much to answer for), clothes get ruined easily on a day out. I always at least take a spare top for Pip.

5. First Aid Kit. I keep a small kit just containing antiseptic wipes and plasters in my bag every day anyway but if we’re having a whole day out, especially for something like a walk in the woods where getting medical attention isn’t going to be quick or simple, I pack a slightly larger kit. Here’s an NHS guide to what should be in your first aid kit. You can also buy pre-prepared first aid kits but make sure they contain everything you need.

What else would you keep in your bag for a day out?

Ice cream with added geek

On Saturday, we all took the bus into town. It was a lovely sunny day. Husband had seen online that a new ice cream parlour, Science Cream, was due to open and we wanted to try it out – this is no ordinary ice cream parlour! If you’ve been reading this blog for long, then you’ll know that we regularly visit the Castle Arcade, as well as the other shopping arcades in Cardiff. We love the unique independent shops and cafes in there. This new business fits in perfectly there.

 

The ice cream is made with liquid nitrogen! As you can imagine, four year old Pip was fascinated and I was pretty interested to see the process. A thick plastic screen protects customers, while the staff are dressed as if in a lab with long white coats and safety goggles. They pour liquid unfrozen mixture into electric mixers, followed by the liquid nitrogen. It’s then mixed until the mixture has frozen, while white mist billows from the mixers. It’s then dished up and any sauces added.

I had vanilla ice cream with raspberry sauce. It was very creamy. As it melts in the mouth, it has the texture of clotted cream. I really enjoyed it. The raspberry sauce tasted freshly made and very tasty too.

 

Husband and Pip had chocolate. They report it was also very good.

After finishing our ice cream, we couldn’t resist a visit to our local games shop, Rules of Play. We added Star Trek Expeditions, My First Carcassonne and Mythic Battles to our games collection – reviews will be coming up in the future, of course!

We had a great family Saturday, I hope you did too. Thanks for reading!