A Shrek Adventure – WIN A Family Ticket

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Last Friday I headed on down to South Bank with my two monkeys for a day of fun culminating in DreamWork’s Shrek’s Adventure.

The interactive Shrek’s Adventure is based inside London’s County Hall, right next door to The London Dungeon. Shrek is one of the most popular films in our house and we couldn’t wait to see what treats were in store for us!

We arrived early for our slot and were greeted by an absolutely massive Princess Fiona. We joined the queue and waited as we were led through photographers and a queuing area. The experience is advertised as being suitable for children aged 6-12 and I have to admit that 3 year old Hux got a bit angsty at how long we waited – it was about an hour until we reached the first interactive experience. But it was a very warm day so he was a bit hot and bothered and when we go again (at half term!) I’d definitely visit in the morning when he’s generally a bit more amenable ;)

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As soon as we reached the first main attraction all was forgotten – and I was asked to put my phone away so no more behind-the-scenes snaps.

We boarded a bus driven by donkey then ‘flew’ out of London to a holiday in Far Far Away. The bus was actually a moving 4d simulator and wrap-around cinema, the likes of which I’ve never seen before in the UK. It was brilliant for us because as Hux is quite small I often find he doesn’t meet the height requirements of a lot of attractions we visit – he just reached the 0.9m for this ride and was visibly delighted to be with the big kids.

The bus was a really impressive ride that even cynical old me loved to bits. This was the children’s first ever 4d cinema/simulator experience – Elfie was especially amazed by the water splashing at us as we dove through the river Thames –  and it really did feel like we swooped up in the air out of England before crash landing through the woods in Far Far Away.

We were then taken through a variety of rooms and experiences as we met various characters and were chased by witches – we cast spells, sang songs and danced through 10 interactive shows. It was a totally immersive experience that we genuinely all loved.

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By the end of the experience we felt like we’d been on a really exciting adventure and there were smiles all round. Elfie’s still talking about it, asking questions about the story and wanting to watch the movies again.

IMG_6067 IMG_6073 IMG_6068You’re given the option at the end to buy a personalised book of your experience for £25; I usually poo-poo these extras as a way for the vendor to make an extra bit of cash but I’m glad I splashed out this time. Not only do the books contain photos of the day (which are always pretty awkward and hilarious, let’s be honest) but there’s a lovely story running through it. The photos of the children woven into the story of the book has made it a pleasure to read twice a day, which is about how often Elfie and Hux ask to read it.

IMG_5996And as the cherry on the cake we got to meet REAL LIFE SHREK! Which was just the best thing that I think had ever happened to my two.

Shrek’s Adventure have kindly provided a family ticket to give away to a reader of More Than Toast. All you have to do is comment with the name of your favourite Shrek character. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions: Competition closes at 12.00am (midnight) GMT on Tuesday 1st September 2015. Entries received after this time and date will not count. UK residents only. Entrants must be 18 +. Winner will be selected at random after the closing date and will be notified within 3 days of competition end. Only entrants received via the Rafflecopter widget will be considered valid. Exposure are responsible for provision of the prize, which is a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) to Shrek’s Adventure, London. Travel and accommodation not included. 

Huge thanks to Shrek’s Adventure for inviting us to spend time with our favourite DreamWorks characters! 

Three Do South Bank

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Is there anything more beautiful than London in the sunshine?

Yes there is – London in the sunshine when your children are behaving like little angels!

I used to be a bit scared of bringing my beasties into town. I never quite got the hang of using the pram on the tube’s network of escalators and relying on black cabs got to be quite expensive. So I saved the journeys into London for the times when I was working or flying solo, thinking it’d be altogether a more enjoyable experience.

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But now Hux is 3 and doesn’t really need a buggy we’re about to become way more adventurous, London-wise. Starting with last Friday when we caught the train into town for a day in the sunshine.  By the time we got there I was mum number one because not only had we been on AN OMG TRAIN but then we also got to go on an OMG UNDERGROUND TRAIN. All I can say is kids, wait til you’re commuting on the 6.48 from Milton Keynes to Old St every day and we’ll see who excited about all these trains.

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Once we arrive in town we shot down on the Northern line to Waterloo to South Bank: one of my favourite areas of London that had previously been unexplored en famille. We’d been invited to the new Shrek’s Adventure experience next to the London Eye (more of which tomorrow) and were all really excited for a bit of magic. But first… lunch!

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One of my favourite things to do with my two is eat out. Scrap that – one of my favourite things to do in life is eat out, and I naturally do this a lot with children as they are so often with me. Today was no exception and I was desperate to take a trip to Wahaca – the kids had never been and I wasn’t sure what their offering for smalls would be like but I’m a big believer in introducing the children to adult dishes if there’s no menu geared towards them.

Wahaca Southbank kids menu

I didn’t need to worry, the children’s menu was spectacular with a build-your-own taco option and drink available for £5 – great value. Elfie had a great time painstakingly building her steak taco whereas Hux took more of a deconstructed attitude to his fish version and ate it piece by piece.

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Meanwhile I feasted on chicken taquitos, steak tacos and grilled corn. HAPPY MUMMY. I love Wahaca.

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We topped off our dinner with frozen yoghurts in the sunshine on the top deck of the Snog bus overlooking the Thames. It was kind of heavenly.

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As we strolled towards Shrek for our 2.30pm booking there were all sorts of exciting things to see – starting with Jeppe Hein’s appearing rooms fountain. We had no towels or spare clothes with us but it was so tempting there was nothing for it but to strip down to our pants (them not me, I’d just washed my hair) and get stuck in. It was a bit chilly for Hux who bit a swift retreat but Elfie dove in and out of the jets for absolutely ages. After we dried off in the sunshine (London, you beauty) we wandered through the street entertainers laughing and marvelling at the fun and the downright weirdness of some of them.

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The strolling the sunshine, the relaxation and laughter… it really made me reflect on where we are right now as a band of three. I didn’t feel stressed out that I had to deal with two children alone, I didn’t feel conspicuous as a single parent in a sea of families with 2.4 children, I just thought we’ve got this. We, not I, because it’s a group effort, all of this. Though these two have never known any difference they must still get The Feels over having parents living split lives in households so far away from one another.  But they don’t act out or get upset, they just understand this is our way and they potter along being amazing.

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I am so proud of them. And I can’t wait to spend many more days with these special souls in the sunshine, in the cold, in the rain (because that’s more probable, let’s be honest). South Bank in the summer is grand and with my two it is even grander.

MTT Travel: The Town Hall Hotel, Bethnal Green

The Town Hall Hotel review

On occasion I’m one of those people who gets smug about no longer living in London. I noticed it when I went for lunch with my Sister-in-Law recently; I started waxing lyrical about the low crime rates, big houses, affordable living costs and good schools out here. And it’s only 30 minutes into Euston!!! Amazing!!!!

I do adore living out here, it’s true. I have a house with a big garden for less than my old Shoreditch studio flat, I can afford a car and a gym membership and live within a 10 minute drive of one of the best schools in the county (that I didn’t have to fight to get my children into). The train service into the city is quick, regular and as long as you’re not travelling in peak times, relatively inexpensive.

But I still have to live with the fact I reside in Milton Keynes ;) It’s not the sexiest town in the country, that’s for sure. I can’t pop to Columbia Road flower market for my peonies at the weekend, our most exotic restaurant is probably Yo! Sushi and I don’t think we’ll see cold press coffee until 2020. Swings and roundabouts, swings and roundabouts.

Because I save all that money by living outside of the big smoke I like to think I’m able to splurge on a hotel for the times I do need to travel in and stay. And we know how much I like a nice hotel, am I right? So when my blog pal Alice offered me a spontaneous ticket to see Blur at Hyde Park a couple of weeks ago I thought  it’s hotel time! and jumped on HotelTonight (a fab app for last minute hotel booking fans like me) to see what I could find.

The Town Hall Hotel review

The Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green was available, a place I’ve wanted to try for a while. I swiftly booked it for £128 (rates on their website start at around £217) and checked in at the allotted time of 3pm. That is, after a really quick diversion to Spitalfields Anthropologie and Office to buy jeans and trainers, having packed only dresses and heels for Britmums the day before that were most definitely not suitable for Blur-watching.

The Town Hall Hotel review

I was offered an upgrade to one of their apartments upon arrival and if you know me at all you’ll know that ‘upgrade’ is one of my most favoured words. THANK YOU!

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My room was lovely – on the ground floor it consisted of an entrance hall with wardrobe, a kitchen, living space, bedroom and wet room/loo. It was packed to the rafters with beautiful features; huge windows, fireplaces (x 2), antique furniture and a beautiful muted colour scheme.

IMG_0658 copyI sat down, made myself an espresso and got comfortable reading about the history of the beautiful Town Hall. Which I won’t ruin, you’ll just have to go and discover it for yourself ;) Basically it originally opened in 1910 and has been through many iterations (including a famous film locations) before being saved from ruin and becoming the gorgeous hotel it is today.

The kitchen had absolutely everything you might need (and lots of things you probably won’t) so for those who stay for an extended period of time on business it is perfect to rustle up a bit of dinner or breakfast if you get tired of restaurant or room service dining.

The Town Hall Hotel reviewThe lounge area was lovely with a huge L-shaped sofa and big television. I obvs made good use of this and blasted out Kisstory while I was getting ready for Blur that evening.

On to the bathroom – it featured L’Occitane products (+1 point) and one of those dinner plate shower heads that releases so much water it makes you feel like you’re drowning. The glass loo and shower room were separated from the bathroom only by a white curtain so you’d have to make sure you knew whoever you were sharing with pretty darn well. Luckily me myself and I are pretty well-acquainted so we were happy.

The in-room facilities were good; I’m always disappointed by hotel hairdryers but this one did the job well. There were your standard bits and bobs – safe, umbrella, phone etc etc. Everything you might need.

The location is a bit out of the way but it’s a four minute walk to Bethnal Green tube station and from there you can get the Central Line straight into town. Bethnal Green has so much to do and see, too – it’s a real up-and-coming area for restaurants and bars, two of which are in the hotel itself.

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And Blur, how were they? I hear you ask.

AMAZING. Damon Albarn does not get older, only better, and Song 2 will go down in history as a gig-going highlight for me. It rained the whole time and my £10 hotel umbrella was confiscated but it was SO worth it. My night ended in a gay club in Stoke Newington with my hairdresser (who isn’t gay). As you do.

The Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, London E2 9NF

www.townhallhotel.com

 

 

Modern Mexico In London: SelfridgesXMexico

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A little while ago I was invited to visit Mexico. Well, kind of.

I love Mexican food. The one terrible thing about living out here in Milton Keynes is that there’s literally no decent Mexican food to be had anywhere. We have a Las Iguanas, true, but if a ‘Latin’ restaurant doesn’t even make fresh guacamole as part of their offering then I don’t want to know.

A Wahaca would be the dream, but I’ll just keep dreaming. God, I love Wahaca.

So when Selfridges asked me along to sample their Taste of Mexico evening I almost bit their guacamole-flavoured hand off. 2015 is The Year of Mexico at Selfridges and along with the Mexican Tourist Board they have provided a veritable feast for the senses throughout the foodie parts of the store.

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I went the whole hog; had a lunchtime cut and blow dry with my absolute favourite Sam at Ena (I have never left that salon feeling less than a million dollars), invited my dad along for the evening and enjoyed pre-Mexican champs at the Dean Street Townhouse. V decadent for a Thursday (I’m worth it… yeah?).

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Our meal was held in the beautifully appointed Corner Champagne Bar at Selfridges which is now my new favourite place – the house Champagne is lovely and there’s nothing like raiding DVF and Roland Mouret when you’re half cut, am I right? Me and daddy-o were the first arrivals and used the opportunity to sit back and watch the sun set over Oxford Street.

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Our evening began with a sample of a Mexican IPA which was paired with the amuse bouche: a taste of avocado, salsa, crab and paprika on toast. This was lovely – the IPA was light and hoppy (just as I like it!) and the crab zingy with layers of flavour through the salsa and avocado. No sign of pre-made guacamole here, I’m pleased to report.

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Does anything make you happier than a table full of tasting glasses? No, it does not.

IMG_0261Our starter was a beautifully light dish of lobster with mole verde paired with a Mexican Sauvignon Blanc, which I would have said in a blind taste test could have come from Chile. It was beautifully fresh and complimented the flavours of the seafood to perfection. I always think mole verde is a weird one and not to everyone’s palate but this was gorgeous – not too heavy and bursting with the taste of the herbs, or Oaxaca’s ‘seven moles’.

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Next up was my favourite wine of the evening – a chilled red (I might have asked for seconds). I believe I’m right in saying that each wine this evening came from the Baja California region of Mexico which is apparently ‘the next Napa’ – watch out for this red one in particular, it’s a corker. It accompanied our main course of pork served Manzanilla style.

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This came on a bed of pureed beans (think refried beans but a million times tastier) and a garnish of pickeld veg. I’m not ashamed to admit that I tried to send my pork back for being undercooked before I was told this is ‘the mexican way’ – it was delicious. Different to what we’re used to but delicious.

IMG_0266 IMG_0269Pudding was the absolute pièce de résistance. A deconstructed rice pud pannacotta which was made by the traditional method of making rice pudding but with the liquid drained off and used to form the pannacotta. This was garnished with dried mango and ‘nitro churro’ – tiny little raisin flavoured balls of delight that popped in your mouth. In.Cred.I.Ble.

IMG_0241The talented chefs who’d joined us from Mexico for the evening happily circulated and answered our many slightly drunken questions about how they’d come to the menu and the cooking methods they’d used. For two foodies (and wine-os) my dad and I were in heaven, it really was a treat of an evening.

Having eaten a fair bit of Mexican food in London I was delighted to sample something a bit different. This truly is ‘modern Mexican’ cooking: a beautifully fresh and interesting approach. It’s sparked an interest in Mexico in me that I didn’t have before and I can’t wait to visit the Baja California region to discover more (and hunt down that gorgeous wine).

Thanks to Selfridges for sponsoring MTT and for inviting me along to such a wonderful event. 

 

 

 

 

Half Term Happenings: South Bank

Half Term at SouthbankIt’s half term: are you climbing the walls yet?

I took a trip to South Bank in London a couple of weeks ago to seek out the best of the holiday activities this February to help us chase the boredom away. If you’ve never been here with your children before you really should – there’s a wonderful programme of events with activities from children 0+, so there’s really something for everyone!

Here’s my pick of what’s going on at Southbank:

Children take over the Southbank Centre for two weeks in February for the spectacular Imagine Children’s Festival (9-22 February). Catch readings from authors like Russell Brand and Judith Kerr and celebrate Alice in Wonderland’s 150th Anniversary with dancing, dressing up and croquet. Under 5’s can join in with Baby Yoga, Move & Shake and two shows from Half Moon Young People’s Theatre.

See London like never before – from a duck, with London Duck Tours!Start on a road tour of the City of Westminster, taking in sights like the Houses of Parliament, Coca-Cola London Eye and Big Ben before slipping into the Thames to see the city from the water. All this on a historic vehicle used for the D-day landings in 1944.

Get involved at IWM London for a free family printing activity. Have a go at drawing your favourite piece of art from the current exhibition – Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War – and transfer your design into a print you can keep. Print it: Truth and Memory is on from 14-22 February.

Wallace and Gromit/Chicken Run fan? Take part in the Aardman Messy Time for the Very Young (17-19 February), a programme of workshops atBFI Southbank, that truly do offer something for everyone. With activities from age 0 to 14 you can choose from Claymation, film making, messy play or creative crafts.

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Gillray’s, London Marriott County Hall, achieved what I thought was almost impossible: it’s a wonderful lunch (or dinner) destination for both children and their discerning parents. Spotting three families dining on our last trip here, the kids will love the ream of colouring-in sheets they’re presented with, the special kids eat free menu (proper food only: not an orange fish finger in sight) and the wonderfully friendly staff. Adults won’t be able to get enough of the gorgeous steaks, exemplary wine list and riverside location. Gillray’s really is a star on the South Bank.

Have a budding Marine Biologist in your family? Dive in and be wowed by the fascinating creatures of the deep at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium.  Fun for all, get as close as you dare to Sand Tiger Sharks, Black Tips and Grey Reefs – without getting wet!

Thank you ever so much for everyone at Southbank for inviting me down – you can see the original article over on their website

MTT Does Shoreditch

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Even though it’s a good six years since I lived there, Shoreditch is still my favourite area of London. It’s not edgy anymore, it’s not particularly trendy (don’t you have to go to Putney to be trendy these days?), but I love it. I know the streets, the bars, the coffee shops, the people… it’s a vibrant and fun place and I just love to be there. In the last six months I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot more time in that area and now I’m working there too I thought it would be a great opportunity to tell you all about my favourite places. So without further ado, here it is; MTT does Shoreditch:

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