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Articles tagged with: Weekends Away

A Weekend in Bristol- Part Two...

on Tuesday, 07 April 2015.

Last week I wrote all about our weekend in Bristol.   Here is the second part of our lovely (albeit very wet!) weekend in this fabulous city...

 

MONDAY

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Typically after awful weather all weekend, we finally woke up to some sunshine on Monday morning- just as we were due to be going home!   This was the gorgeous view from our hotel window.

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I have mentioned before, when we went to Amsterdam, that both myself and Mr E have a bit of a thing for street art.  Obviously Bristol is home to probably the most famous street artist of all time Banksy, but first thing Sunday morning we headed to the Stokes Croft area of the city for a walk around some of the street art.

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I love the colours in this one.

 

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Then we headed to Bristol Zoo for the morning.  We were really impressed with the amount of animals and things to do there, you could have easily spent a whole day there but unfortunately we could only spend a couple of hours due to the fact we had a long journey home.

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How grown up does she look?  She was in her element running round the zoo and it's grounds.

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Spring is definitely on it's way.

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When photos go wrong. ;)

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Love this one of myself and my little girly.

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We then headed for a ride over the Clifton Suspension bridge- a pretty iconic Bristol landmark- and so high!  The girls loved driving over the 'big bridge'.  I don't reckon we are the first people to spend a pound there and back to go over it just for the sake of it!

 

And in case you missed it, here is our little video from our time in Bristol...

 

All in all we had a fantastic family weekend- there is absolutely nothing I love more than a weekend away in a city, sometimes I think I actually prefer those kind of trips more than holidays.  There is something so exciting about discovering a new place, finding little places off the beaten track to explore, being a tourist and heading to the hot spots and of course eating out in restaurants or little cafes.  (our favourite pasttime!)  I knew of Bristol before from having been down there on business a few times, but this was the first time we had been with the girls, and we will definitely go again.  There are so many child friendly places to go, and even though the weather was rubbish we still had a great time.  That being said, we would love to go back in the Summer and explore some of the outdoors a bit more too.

 

A Weekend in Bristol- Part One....

on Thursday, 02 April 2015.

Before we had small people in our lives, I worked in the travel industry for many years as a Marketing Account Manager for the biggest online hotel website.  Basically to cut a really long and boring story short, this meant I was responsible for all the hotels within a designated area.  My area was the South West of the country and as part of my contract I was contracted to work away a week of the month and visit some of my hotels.  One of the areas I looked after was Bristol and so I often went down there for a visit.

It was always one of those places I really enjoyed visiting- it's a really diverse and cultural city, plus it's ridiculously colourful and stylish.  I hadn't been in a few years so when Visit Bristol invited us to stay for the weekend to see what the city had to offer for famillies, I couldn't wait to start planning.  

On Friday afternoon we excitedly packed up our Subaru XV (perfect boot space for all our bags!) and headed off with two hyper little ladies. Unfortunately we couldn't have picked a worse weekend to go- from the second we arrived it basically rained non stop.  It wasn't just rain however, it was full on gale force winds too.  I wouldn't say it put a dampner on our weekend as we still had an amazing time, but it definitely meant we didn't see as much of Bristol as we liked.  What we did find however, were some fantastic indoor activities for familiies- there is literally so much to do in all kinds of weather.

We actually started our weekend off on Friday evening when Mr E finished work (his last ever day at his job- eek!) and headed to Oxford which is half way between us and Bristol, just to stay in a Premier Inn for the evening.  We did that usual parent thing of hiding out in the bathroom eating chocolate while the girls slept!  Then it was up and off to Bristol first thing on Saturday morning.

I didn't think I had taken many photos due to the aforementioned weather, but in actual fact on inspection of my memory cards I found quite a few.  Here is the first part of our weekend in Bristol in photos and a little video...

 

SATURDAY

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On arrival in Bristol we headed over to Clifton, a cute little suburb, to have some brunch.  We found a cute little cafe called The Farm. (which just happened to be in front of us when it was torrential rain)

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We have a tradition of having pancakes when we eat breakfast out so we all shared this stack of pancakes with maple syrup, fresh fruit and natural yoghurt- they were delicious.

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While I had the chorizo eggs.  

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We checked into our room at the Marriott City Centre Hotel (where I actually had been to before as I had to give a presentation to over 70 people in my previous job- it bought back scary memories!) and the girls were really excited to be given some bags of popcorn by the hotel staff as there was a traditional old machine in the foyer.  The Saturday afternoon was mainly spent dodging the rain and mooching round the shops.

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After a quick change we headed out to dinner.

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We headed to Glassboat for dinner, which is exactly that- a glassboat serving European cuisine offering panoramic views of the river.  It was absolutely stunning inside and the girls were so excited to be eating dinner on a boat.

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Posing outside the restaurant.

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We had an early reservation meaning that we were able to watch the sun go down, which was gorgeous.  The restaurant was lovely, but I wouldn't say it was massively child focused- they didn't have a separate children's menu but they did kindly do us a smaller plate of the butternut squash risotto for the girls.  As it got later it became quite a romantic venue being that it was Saturday night, and they were the only little people in there.  It didn't bother us as our girls are used to eating out and don't get up from the table but it's worth bearing in mind.

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For my main I had the butternut squash en croute, roast chicory with a roquefort sauce, which was delicious.

 

SUNDAY

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On Sunday as the weather was dreadful we decided to head to At Bristol- an interactive science museum.  We weren't sure whether it was going to be too old for the girls, but it turns out they absolutely loved it. There's so many hands on things for them to do and they loved playing with all the experiments.  I love this photo of the wonder on their faces as they took turns in building a parachute and letting it fall to the ground.  Their other favourites were the giant bubbles and the way you could milk a cow.  You easily could spend a whole day there- it was brilliant. 

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After a morning at At Bristol we headed to a restaurant called Bordeaux Quay for lunch, which was a lovely deli, restaurant, bakery and cookery school on the harbourside.  I love this photo of LL and Mr E doing a spot of colouring!

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Testing her knowledge of all the Mr Men characters!

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I had the pulled pork bun which was so yummy.  

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Followed by the creme brulee for pudding.  I have this obsession for creme brulee at the moment which doesn't appear to be doing my fitness mission much good!

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After lunch we headed to the Bristol Aquarium to check out some fishies!

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LL was fascinated by the fish and learnt two new words while we there- 'fishies' and 'turtle'.  Her speech is still taking a while to come along but when she does say things it's the cutest thing ever.

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After a busy day we headed back to the hotel.  The girls and Mr E got room service while I went out for dinner with two of my favourite blogging friends Fritha and Lori, who live in Bristol.  It was lovely to be able to get the chance to see them while we were down here, and we laughed all night long.

 

Here is a little video of our time in Bristol....

Part Two of our weekend coming soon!

 

 

NB:  Visit Bristol invited us to stay for the weekend and gave us a media pass to enter some of the attractions.  Although they gave us lots of information about Bristol, what we chose to do was up to us, and all thoughts and opinions are our own.  

 

 

 

Our Stay At The Grove: A Luxury Family Friendly Hotel, Hertfordshire.

on Tuesday, 17 March 2015.

A couple of weekends ago we headed an hour down the M1 to a beautiful country hotel just outside of Watford in Hertfordshire.  It's pretty famous as hotels go, hosting all number of celebrities, sports stars, important public figures and even royalty over the years, so it doesn't need a huge introduction, but in case you haven't heard of it I am talking about The Grove Hotel.  

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On arrival you head down the longest, most rambling drive way I have ever seen, with golfers on one side of you (The Grove is famous for golf) and wildlife on the other.  Every car you pass makes you look twice- we spotted Ferrari's, Rolls Royce's and the odd Fiesta thrown in for good measure!

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When you first catch sight of The Grove in the distance it really does take your breath away- a beautiful country house set up on the hill.  You can just imagine being on the set of Downton Abbey if you pause for long enough to think.

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But when you get inside the hotel has done perfectly in mixing the traditional with modern touches.  This is the reception area you are greeted to when the concierge holds the door open for you.

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We headed off to our rooms and were greeted with beautiful views of the gardens- The Grove is set in 300 acres of sprawling English countryside.  And what a treat- interconnecting rooms.   This was the girls room. 

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And this was ours.  The bed was big, sumptiously soft and was just begging to be jumped on. (which we did if you watch this video!)

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Any hotel that greets you with macaroons is a winner in my eyes.  Although we had to share with the girls which I wasn't too impressed with.

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Especially when their room had some cookies waiting for them.

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The room was so bright and let in the most gorgeous light.

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I loved this bedside table and of course you can't beat a good coffee table book.

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We loved the roll top bath in both the rooms- once the girls were in bed we cracked open a bottle of prosecco to toast to my birthday the next day and relaxed in the bubbles.

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I loved the way the hotel was funished- if I could have picked this sofa up and put it in my handbag, I definitely would have tried.  I love the mustard yellow and retro vibe.

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Mini bar heaven.

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And you definitely can't beat a bit of indoor foliage.

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While Mr E and LL went off in search of a local shop to get forgotten supplies, Mads took the opportunity to walk hand in hand around the gardens.  She loved these little rabbits, each holding a different bit of sporting apparatus, including a cricket bat, golf club and tennis racket. 

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But our favourite was the secret walled garden that you could only get in to with your room keycard.  We told Mads it was magic and would only open with the words 'Open Sesame.'

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The secret garden was beautiful, with a vegetable patch, a gorgeous outdoor pool and a man made beach.  These daffodils made me feel very Spring like.

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Playing on the beach.  I can only imagine how gorgeous The Grove is in the summer when you can sit outside in your own bit of Miami style heaven in the English countryside.  Although that said I bet it is stunning in every season.  I want to visit at Christmas too!

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We played sandcastles in woolly hats while the sun began to set.

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Before heading home to freshen up for dinner.

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We had a meal booked at The Stables, which was supposed to be the most family friendly of the restaurants, although we were promised all would be happy for our little people to dine.  Over three restaurants, The Grove employs 70 chefs who are passionate about creating the most delicious food.   There is also Colettes, a more fine dining experience and The Glasshouse, where chef's prepare the food in the background while you watch on.

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We were really impressed with the childrens menu, there was lots of choice for our little people, plus as soon we sat down they bought crayons and pictures for them.

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I had the wild rocket and parmesan salad with balsamic-basil dressing to start- it was simple yet delicious.

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While Mr E had the Stilton fritters, green apple, celery, watercress and sour honey.  I may have had a few nibbles of his- just to report back of course!  

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 My main was the sugar baked ham hock, served with pickled red cabbage, creamed potatoes and charcuterie sauce- it was soft, tender, practically melted in your mouth and was one of the most delicious things I have eaten in ages.

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While Mr E had his usual staple- a good old burger.  (So predictable!)  The girls were busy devouring their pizzas too quite happily- they didn't pause for long enough for me to be able to get a photo of them.

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Even though I was so full I had to sample a pudding, I had the dark and stormy creme brulee with ginger snap biscuits, I could have eaten it twice.  Mr E had the hot chocolate fondant with salted caramel sauce, but it was gone before I could manage to take photographic evidence.  Our meal was perfect and it was made even better by the fact that our girls were so well behaved throughout the whole meal (as any parent knows eating out can go one of two ways!)  I asked for our waitresses name at the end because she was incredible and so friendly and lovely with the girls, but I have forgotten it.  She really went the extra mile and I even made sure I wrote that in the feedback form provided.

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Feeling full and fat we wandered back to our rooms to find a sweet surprise for LL- there were some friends joining her in her cot.

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And the turn down service had been.  Our two ladies fell fast asleep and we relaxed next door- no sitting in the bathroom all evening, it was a luxury having a room to ourselves. 

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We woke the next day feeling refreshed after a long sleep, although with slightly fuzzy heads.  I was also a year older.  We headed off to The Glasshouse for a birthday breakfast.  Of course it being my birthday I had to have a cooked breakfast.

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And a sweet treat.  Oops.  I can never resist the waffles or pancakes.  Breakfast was great, and as a family it's our favourite meal to out for, so we chatted about our plans for the day while people watching as well.  We spotted a few famous faces over the pastry table.

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There is a kids club at the hotel called Anoushka's and we decided to put the girls in there for an hour, just so we could have a chance to check out some of the other parts of the hotel.  The check in process was great and they put our girls at ease.  It cost us £8 per child per hour, which is pretty reasonable if you wanted to go and check out the spa for a few hours or go for a peaceful lunch.  As we only wanted to put them in for an hour, we decided to just go for a little wander around.  There are loads of little nooks and crannies where you can have afternoon tea or a quiet drink.  I loved this little library area.

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We walked hand in hand around the grounds, relishing just being the two of us for a few minutes.  The grounds are so beautiful and if we had time we would have hired bikes (free of charge) and gone on a family bike ride.

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We headed to the Sequoia spa to have a look- it looked absolutely amazing and we only wish we had time to visit.  The black mosaic tile pool looked blissful as did the quiet relaxation rooms.

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We did have time to chill out and have a quick juice and smoothie from the spa's juice bar though, which were both delicious.

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Before it was time to pick up two excited little girls who came running to greet us with some balloons.  We headed back to The Stables for a spot of lunch.  While we were there Mads burst her balloon and one of the members of staff headed all the way back to the Kids Club (a 20 minute walk there and back) to get her another balloon- the staff were so great with our girls.

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After lunch we went for a quick dip in the kiddies pool- it's completely separate from the spa pool, and we practically had it to ourselves which was lovely.  Young children aren't allowed in the spa pool understandably.

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Before it was time for one last walk around the grounds and a quick ride on a golf buggy from a kind member of staff (the girls so badly wanted to go on one!)  Then it was time to head home, feeling happy, relaxed and full of fond memories of our stay at The Grove.

Overall we couldn't fault our stay.  As a family who loves to travel, we don't want to leave the children at home, of course that's nice every now and again, but we want to make memories and enjoy these adventures with our girls.  We were so impressed with The Grove's family friendly policies- even though the hotel is definitely high end and luxury, we never once felt uncomfortable having Mads and LL there.  The staff really do go the extra mile to accomodate children and all the little touches for them definitely made our stay.

We loved our stay at The Grove and will definitely need to go back to try it in all the seasons- I bet it is beautiful in Summer and at Christmas time.  Oh and in Autumn too!

 

 

 

NB: Thanks to The Grove for inviting us to stay at their wonderful property- we are so grateful and had such a lovely time.  All words and opinions are completely my own.

 

A Busy Birthday Weekend...

on Tuesday, 10 March 2015.

I don't usually plan much of a shindig for my birthday these days.  Last year was a big birthday (21 I know!) so we had some lovely celebrations planned, but this year I was quite happy for it to pass me by pretty nonchalantly.  However it ended up being a rather lovely weekend, and one of our busiest for a while, so of course I had to bring my camera along for the ride.

We started off the weekend in style with an impromptu stay at The Grove.  In case you haven't heard of The Grove, it's a luxury five star hotel set in 300 acres of beautiful grounds in Hertfordshire- I took so many photos so will do a post dedicated to it soon, but it really is such a stunning place.  It's only about forty minutes from us, so really handy to get to as well.  We spent Friday and most of Saturday (my birthday) there, before heading home and going to my Mum's for a birthday celebration meal.  It was lovely to see my family as always.  

Sunday was spent running my third ever half marathon- I am still running, although I hit a bit of a blip around Christmas where I didn't run for a few weeks- this was my first real break since I started over a year ago, and I must admit to struggling with motivation. However the last couple of weeks I have been back training and being motivated again and I have really enjoyed getting back into the swing of things.  I do find half marathon's hard- especially on my legs, at mile twelve I really was struggling with knee pain, but I love to push myself and my body.  Then Sunday afternoon we headed over to my Grandma's for yet another little birthday meal and yet another cake!

Here is our weekend in iPhone and DSLR Photos and a little video too....

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Checking out their room- we had interconnecting rooms at The Grove, which is obviously every parent's dream!  No sitting in the bathroom at 7.30 in an attempt to get them to sleep!

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Chilling out in the room for a bit- I love this photo of my pair.  She is becoming such a Daddy's girl, which is both lovely and slightly annoying in equal measure- she was supposed to be my one! ;)

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Busy drawing with the hotel pencils- obviously.

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Mads and I headed off for a little walk around the grounds while Daddy and LL went to get something from the shop- the late afternoon sunshine was beautiful and I had such a lovely hour with my girl.

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Such a beautiful light- and yay for daffodils- Spring is definitely on it's way.

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Of course I am slightly biased- but she is just so lovely.  She is going through a funny stage at the moment again where she is testing the boundaries- some days she can make me worn out by the end of it and then some days she can just be delightful.

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The Grove has a man made beach and an outdoor swimming pool within a secret walled garden- I can imagine it's absolutely amazing in the Summer.  But we still managed a play on it and Mads loved building sandcastles!

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I can't remember what we were talking about here but I remember she was making me giggle- she has the wildest imagination.

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Mummy/Mads selfies.

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And another.

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Reunited with the other two member's of our team.

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The grounds were stunning- we spent ages walking around and taking them all in.  

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I love this photo of her- golden light how I love you.

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We headed over to 'The Stables'- one of the three restaurants at The Grove for dinner.  As any parent will know, you never know how a three course dinner out will go with little people- but our little ladies were on their best behaviour which was lovely.  We actually managed to relax and talk during our meal- although the iPad babysitter's did come out by the time pudding came!

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We woke on Saturday to my birthday!  I put this photo on instagram, but I was thoughtfully spoilt by Mr E- he is very thoughtful when it comes to gifts.  I got some lovely new running gear, some gorgeous Russian Dolls (I have a weird obsession for them) that I have wanted for ages but never told him about, some truffles, a book on salad, some sunglasses and a few other little bits and bobs.  

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Every birthday has to start with waffles right?

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The Grove organises a holiday club for little people where they play games, do arts and crafts and go out and about- we put the girls in there just for an hour to see what it was like.  We didn't have much time to ourselves but we grabbed a juice from the juice bar- my smoothie was delicious.

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We managed a little walk in the grounds together before it was time to go and pick up the girls- Saturday was the first day it really felt like Spring to me.

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Reunited with this terrible twosome and we headed back to The Stables for a light lunch- the kids menu was really good and LL was excited to see they had her favourite Peanut Butter sandwiches!

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Two little mermaids trying out the kids pool- the hotel has a lovely Spa pool and an outdoor pool, but there is also a dedicated pool for young children too.

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On Sunday I headed to my home city of Cambridge to take part in the Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon.  It was my third ever half marathon and I was incredibly nervous before- firstly because I am not good with crowds and there were over 4500 people there and secondly because I had only really been back training for about three weeks.  There was a great atmosphere though, with people high fiving you and shouting your name as you ran round.  

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I finished the race in a time of 1:50:04- I couldn't actually believe it and I did get tears in my eyes when I finished.  As I hadn't been training for very long I was aiming to get it in just under two hours so I was absolutely shocked and thrilled with my time- I was 270th female back out of 1587 competing.  I find them so tough, both physically and mentally, but as any runner will know the feeling you get when you cross the finish line is just so incredible and addictive.

A little video I made all about a lovely weekend...

 

All in all it was a great birthday weekend- it was just by chance that we happened to go to The Grove on that particular day, but I am glad we did as it made my birthday feel that little bit more special.  I was so tired on Sunday when I got into bed after the race and this wasn't made any easier by the fact we had a little person in our bed.  We are in the middle of decorating the girls new room and our new study so at the moment our house has been turned upside down, and as Mads doesn't currently have a bed she is in sleeping with us- she loves this and is so excited, but it's tiring for us as our bed is only small! This week is going to be a little crazy as we have so much to do in terms of their new room, plus we both have a lot on with work, so it was nice to have a real family weekend to enjoy together.

 

 

 

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