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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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Journey Across Europe With Eurostar

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Holiday, Product Reviews | Posted on 11-06-2012

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For me holidaying in the UK seems like the easy option now we have a child, especially whilst he is very little. The idea of travelling abroad with him and being stuck on board a plane for a few hours, combined with the three hour check-in time at most airports is my idea of hell to be honest. Even if it wasn’t punctuated by endless queries of “Are We Nearly There Yet?”, even I must admit to getting bored on flights that are longer than about an hour, so I can only imagine how long it would take a toddler to go stir crazy and want to get out. We have no plans to take Little Man abroad before he’s 3 or 4 and then we only plan on a trip to Disneyland Paris, and for that we’ll be using Eurostar.
Last weekend I headed to Amsterdam for a blogging conference and for that journey I also travelled via Eurostar. For travel into Europe, whether for business or pleasure, it strikes me as an altogether more civilised way to travel. St Pancras International is easy accessible from across the UK – I had a lovely journey up from Sussex with Starline Taxis, based in Chichester – and when you arrive the process couldn’t be simpler. Check-in is a mere 30 minutes before departure as opposed to the hours you could spend at an airport, and from the check-in desk through security and passport control took a little over 10 minutes. By the time you’ve got to the departure lounge your train is about to board, with this happening 20 minutes before departure. Once you’ve found your carriage and seat, stored your luggage in racks at either end or above your head – an allowance which is greater than any airline – and settled into your seat which has more legroom that a plane, you’re about to depart. Travel through the English countryside is swift, with the speed increasing greatly once you hit Europe. The journey is comfortable and the onboard services great – you have the freedom to move about the carriages and head one of the two catering areas where you can grab a coffee or bite to eat, or make use of the toilets or baby changing facilities. Select carriages provide power points for plugging in your laptops or mobile phone, and racks of magazines can also be located for your entertainment, but for me, you don’t need them. The beauty of travelling via Eurostar as opposed to your chosen airline is the fact you can look out the window and see something. In the air your have a lovely view of clouds and bits of country as you take off and before landing. On Eurostar you can see the great British countryside of Kent as you head towards the coast and after a brief trip through the Channel Tunnel you get to see the sights of France, and for me eventually Belgium and Holland.
My Little Man has yet to experience train travel of any kind – he has seen trains close to when we meet Daddy at the station sometimes and he marvels at them, but as yet we haven’t put him on one. I think he’d find the Eurostar experience from this respect fascinating. Apart from the fact he’d be waving at all the other passengers, he’d no doubt be stood on his seat glued to the window watching the world flash by. He would be mesmerised, and probably reluctant to get off when we arrived at our destination.
If you are a business traveller Eurostar is also a great way to travel. The fold-down tables that are provided are ample to set your laptop or tablet on allowing you to continue working as you travel. As I mentioned earlier some seats come with power points – though you have to request a seat with one if you required. As I speed towards Europe my carriage is filled with a mix of passengers – some business, and some pleasure – and there are numerous people tapping away at their laptops as they go, using their seat as a mini office.
Travel to Amsterdam using Eurostar is only possible thanks to their partnership with Thalys – a high speed train network operating in Europe. Travel via these two train companies could not be simpler as you print tickets for your whole journey – not just the Eurostar leg – at home, or at St Pancras. Fares are also kept low thanks to this partnership, with standard class travel starting at just £99 return to the heart of Amsterdam. Thalys trains were a joy to travel on as every seat came with ample leg room, a generous sized fold down table, a power socket – which was very handy for the charging of mobile phones and laptops, and on-board wifi.
Travelling by Eurostar is also the simplest way to get to your city destination. Upon arrival in Amsterdam I find myself in the city centre – not at an airport with another taxi ride ahead of me, which will no doubt be pricey. I am in the middle of the city a short tram journey – or walk – away from my hotel. It really does take you to the heart of things, and the same is true if you’re using the Eurostar service to take you to Paris, Disneyland Paris or Brussels.   You arrive feeling refreshed and relaxed having travelled in great comfort, and ready to start your holiday or business trip.

Christmas Shopping with P&O Ferries

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information, Sponsored Posts | Posted on 05-12-2011

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On Sunday I was lucky enough to get a free trip on board the Spirit Of Britain, P&O Ferries’ newest and biggest ferry travelling to France. I had been invited to take a look at their on board shopping experience, to coincide with their new stocking filler game on Facebook. Here you get the chance to win over £600 worth of goodies from their on-board shops – take a look here:

Our child-free day out began bright and early on Sunday morning with a 6am alarm and a two hour journey down to Dover. Upon arrival checking in was a breeze – hi-tech car registration recognition meant I was greeted by name immediately before being given our passes. We were very pleased to discover we’d been given priority boarding and complimentary access to the Club Lounge. Being the first car onto the ferry was a little daunting but it would ensure a speedy getaway upon arrival in Calais.

The ferry itself was incredibly impressive. The Spirit Of Britain is the biggest cross-channel ferry carrying 1000 cars on three parking levels and 2000 foot passengers. There is a large shop – more on that later – on board Costa Coffees, a restaurant, a gaming zone and plenty of seating all around. Our passes allowed us into the Club Lounge, and may I say “Wow.” I rather enjoyed being offered complimentary champagne as I walked in! Tea, coffee and a range of soft drinks were free so we settled down on some rather comfy seats to check out the menu. Being only 9.30am we were rather hungry and we weren’t disappointed by what arrived. I ordered a continental breakfast – thought I’d best get into the French mindset – and my husband went, rather predictably, for the waffles.

It was delicious, and despite being in the Club Lounge it was very reasonably priced. When this was all polished off and I’d made the most of my complimentary tea we decided we’d best go and investigate the on board shop – any excuse really! Now we’ve already done the bulk of our Christmas shopping – though I don’t seem to have bought my lovely husband anything as yet… – but I think we’d have managed to tick off most people if we’d been looking. A huge range of fragrances and beauty products were available, as were designer handbags and accessories – I stroked several Radley handbag before my husband suggested I backed away slowly – a range of electrical goods, confectionery in all shapes and sizes, toys for the children, and your traditional offerings of alcohol galore. There was even a selection of products from high-street store Accessorize. We picked up a few bottles for Christmas, some chocolate, some headphones for my husband and a gorgeous Radley umbrella for me! Little Man was even treated, getting a very festive rubber duck for his bath. Prices in the shop were incredibly reasonable as you’d expect and the choice and range of products was amazing.

The 90 minute sailing time flew by and we soon found ourselves being called down to the car deck to retrieve our vehicles. Whilst I was one of the first cars off the boat I did let a few vehicles go in front of me as I’d been inwardly panicking about driving on the “wrong” side of the road for most of the journey. I can confirm that whilst I did master roundabouts quickly it was at a T-junction that I scared some poor resident of Calais as I turned onto the wrong side of the road. Oops. We spent the few hours we had driving around a sadly closed Calais and then taking a trip up and down the Northern coast towards Dunkirk.

On our return journey we were on board the Pride Of Kent – a much smaller ferry but still brilliant. Once again we found ourselves in the Club Lounge, and I must say I thought this lounge was much better than on Spirit Of Britain. It was a lot larger and the floor to ceiling windows gave a great view of the busy Channel. The sofas were also much larger and more comfortable. The service was equally good on both though.

Now we did order lunch but photographing it was forgotten when it arrived – apparently we were rather hungry. Lots more tea followed and we relaxed our way back to England. My husband spent most of the return journey watching the other traffic in the Channel and getting rather excited – I went for another trip around the shop!

We had an amazing time, and would like to thank P&O for their incredible service and generous hospitality. I would highly recommend a day trip over to France with them, and I think the Club Lounge is something everyone should experience if only once.

Take a look at the P&O website now to book yourselves a getaway.

If you can’t make the trip before Christmas why not enter their stocking filler game now for a chance to win goodies from the on board shop!