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Articles tagged with: Weekends Away

Stockholm with Kids- Part One!

on Tuesday, 21 July 2015.

Everyone has a travel bucket list, those far flung isles that you dream of flying away to, or those places slightly closer to home that you haven't yet got round to visiting. I have a fair few, some I doubt I'll ever visit unless there's a lottery win in my future and some I've been lucky enough to tick off over the years before having the girls. One of those places, in my Top 5 places that I have always wanted to visit is Sweden, more specifically Stockholm. I don't know what it was about this Nordic city that meant I was desperate to explore, but for a long time now I have dreamt of going, so imagine my excitement when we finally booked a weekend away there as a family. We decided that these weekend breaks won't be so easy when Mads starts school so it seemed like a perfect time.

I love a city break. I am a huge fan of sitting by a pool with a cocktail and feeling the sun on my shoulders, in fact when I'm on a 'beach' holiday that's pretty much all I like to do, (although that has changed a lot with the arrival of two little people!) but I do love a city break too, and I don't think that has to stop just because you have children. Yes the boozy lunches, long lay in's and late nights enjoying the not so ordinary food and drink a different city has to offer have stopped, but visiting a city and experiencing new culture's and exploring the sights with the girls is actually great fun.

And so a couple of weekends ago after a stressful check in at Ryanair at Stansted, we found ourselves on a short two hour flight to Stockholm Stavska airport. Then it was an 90 minute long bus ride to the city of Stockholm. We packed lots into our three days and according to the app on Mr E's phone walked 26 miles, the equivalent of a marathon- here's the first part of our trip to Stockholm in words, photos and a video...

THURSDAY

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We were really impressed when we arrived at our hotel, The Best Western Premier Hotell Kung Carl, a family run hotel situated by Stureplan Square, right in the middle of an upmarket shopping area in Stockholm. We were really impressed with our family room, (the girls loved the bunk beds) and the hotel in general- it was really eclectic in terms of it's interiors, mixing old with modern, and lots of Swedish art and antiques. 

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The quirky reception area and bar in the Hotell Kung Carl.

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Planning and plotting what we were going to do, Visit Stockholm kindly gave us a big pack full of information, but I also spent ages looking at the Visit Stockholm website before we left. I like to be prepared on a city break and know exactly what we are doing, so I spent a while before our trip sussing out where we should go. 

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We headed straight out to stretch our legs and get our bearings. Stockholm is full of green areas, more about that later, amazingly so in fact, and we sat in a little park and had some juice and shared an ice cream. Love this photo of my three.

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I think the key to a good city break is letting them loose every now and again. I know my two get fed up if they are constantly in the buggy, or being told to hold our hands. A little green space where they can run around does wonders.

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I love this photo of the two of them snuggling back at our hotel. They had bunk beds which they loved and because they were so worn out from all the walking and later nights, they slept soundly even though they were in the room with us.

FRIDAY

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First thing Friday after a yummy hotel breakfast we headed to Junibacken which is in the Djurgarden area of the city, a very green island (Stockholm is made up of islands) housing a lot of the cities museums and attractions. Junibacken is without a doubt the best family attraction we have been too since having the girls. It's based on the books of Astrid Lindgren who wrote Pippi Longstocking, but to be honest children don't need to know the books to have an amazing time. It's interactive, fun, full of play zones like slides, swings, things to climb on, and at the end you go on the Story Train which takes you on a magical fairy tale ride. There's also a Moomins play area there too which excited us all a little too much! 

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The restaurant at Junibacken was circus themed and we all loved it, the food was great too. The girls had pancakes finished off with Moomins chocolates, while myself and Mr E had meatballs. When in Sweden after all...

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We bought them each a little present from Junibacken, of course Moomin related. Mads got some collectors cards (she loves any sort of card) and LL got a little cuddly Moomin. 

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Super chuffed with her Moomin.

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The next stop of the day was to the Spirit Museum which Mr E wanted to quickly look at. Luckily even though it was obviously for adults, the girl's still had fun looking around at all the spirits and taking part in some of the interactive elements. There was a great Absolute Vodka exhibition on there.

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A photo of the amazing Grona Lund theme park as taken from the ferry we were on. We actually went here on Saturday so more on that later, but it's a fantastic small city theme park on the edge of the water. It's kitsch, retro and kind of reminded me what Coney Island in New York would be like, although I haven't been there myself. 

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As I mentioned above Stockholm is made up of fourteen islands meaning that the ideal way of getting around is by boat, it's as normal over there as hoping on a bus, and the ferry transport system is really easy to navigate as a tourist too. After visiting the Spirit Museum we hopped on the Slussen ferry to take us over to the Old Town part of the city. Here they are looking out the window at the Grona Lunc park above.

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Beautiful Stockholm taken from the boat. It really is this beautiful everywhere you go and it's so clean too.

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The 'Old Town' (Gamla Stan) part of the city houses a lot of the historic buildings in Stockholm and was the original city centre. It's a beautiful labyrinth of rust coloured houses, old stone buildings and cobbled streets. The Royal Palace is there plus a whole host of galleries and museums. We stopped off for an ice cream the size of our heads in a little tourist area of the Old Town.

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I absolutely love this photo of the two of them. I must admit out of all the areas of Stockholm, the Old Town wasn't our favourite. We appreciated the beauty of the cobbled streets, but we must have stumbled right into the tourist area and it was a little too busy for me as I am not keen on crowds. We did go back somewhere different on the Saturday and loved it, but I took this photo as we went down to the waters edge to escape the busy streets.

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When we decided to go to Stockholm, I must admit to being a little worried about eating there. After all everyone has heard the stories about how it's one of the most expensive places to live. And there's no denying it is expensive- BUT you have to know where to look. I stumbled across K25 on a Swedish blog before we left and it looked right up our street- it's basically a big, stylish food hall serving all different types of food, including Mexican, Sushi, street food, Italian etc. All these different businesses have little areas, but it's all kitted out with industrial and edgy interiors. We were pleased to find it was just down the road from our hotel and so we went to try it out. It was perfect and the food was really reasonably priced. (Top tip- always ask for child portions as even if they don't advertise them the Swedish are exceptionally child friendly- our meals were about 100 SEK each (about £7.50) whereas two kids meals were 60 SEK (about £5) for both.)

Here is a little video that I made of our time in Stockholm...

I took so many photos that I still have Saturday and Sunday to talk about, Saturday was our favourite day by far, so they will be up either later this week or early next week. We absolutely loved our time in Stockholm so can't wait to share some more...

 

NB: Visit Stockholm very kindly invited us to Stockholm and gave us Stockholm Cards which entitled us to free entry to a lot of attractions plus free transport around the city. They also gave us complimentary accomodation, all flights and other costs were paid for by us. 

 

 

 

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.

 

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