Modern Mummy

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Novotel, Paddington: A Review

As we often do in the school holidays, this half term we spent a couple of days in central London with our good friends, the RocknRollerBaby gang.

Ruth and I are both ex-Londoners. Although we're both happy with our new lives in the countryside, there's nothing we love more than heading back to the big smoke and revisiting all our favourite places every now and again.

On this occasion we lined up lots to do with the kids and, in order to make the most out of two days of adventures, we stayed overnight at the Novotel in Paddington.

The hotel's location was perfect; about 800m from Paddington station, which serviced by both trains and tubes so super easy to get to. Close by were a couple of chain restaurants (we had dinner at Zizzi, which we all loved) and a Sainsbury's Local, which is always useful when you have kids in case you need emergency supplies like nappies or calpol. The hotel was also on a mostly pedestrianised business park, which meant it was lovely and quiet in the evening.

The girls and I met Ruth and the kids in reception to check in. The first thing that impressed me, aside from the lovely staff, was that there were computer games for the children to play with while the grown ups did all the boring stuff. Check in took just a tiny bit longer than usual on this occasion because THIS PARTICULAR NOVOTEL HAS A POOL and, in order to be able to use it, we had to fill in an extra form. But it was no biggie, and we could have filled out ten forms as we had to tear the children away from the fun!

On heading up to our room, we were greeted by a huge plate of macaroons which couldn't have come at a better time as the girls were pretty peckish!

The room itself was lovely and spacious and, quite honestly, the best thought out design for families that I have ever come across in a hotel. The toilet was separate to the bathroom, which had a bath, a separate shower and double doors opening out onto the bedroom which was something I especially liked, as it meant I could keep an eye on the kids while I was in the shower. Between us we had a huge double bed and a sofa bed that converted into two singles.... of course it goes without saying that we all slept in the big bed together ;)

Add a huge TV, an Xbox and some lovely toiletries to the mix and you've got yourself a pretty decent set up, if you ask me!

We decided to spend the afternoon using the hotel's facilities, which firstly meant heading down for a swim! There's also a gym, a sauna and a steam room on site, although the kids just wanted to splash around (and who can blame them!).

After we'd been out for dinner we headed back to our room to settle down and watch a movie in our pyjamas (they had a selection to choose from at reception). I can't tell you how nice it was to have a relaxing evening and a good sleep in the middle of two jam packed days exploring London Town!

And then we woke up the following morning to a wonderful breakfast, which set us all up perfectly for another day in the city. There was so much choice at the breakfast buffet; I had a delicious fry up, and the kids had nutella pancakes, fruit and yoghurt.

I couldn't have been more impressed with the Novotel at Paddington and it's facilities - and we will 100% be visiting again in the future. With rooms starting at just £129, it really is an inexpensive way of extending a trip to London, and it's heaps of fun to boot.

We received a complimentary overnight stay at the Novotel Paddington in exchange for this honest review.

Friday, 17 February 2017

The Perfect Summer Holiday with @AlFrescoHols #AlFrescoFamily

Does anyone watch James Martin's French Adventure in the afternoon? (no? just me with a mega mum crush on him?) Well the other day they were filming in a place called Camargue in the south of France, which looked so lovely that I decided there and then the girls and I need to pay it a visit. Obviously, being the subject of a James Martin cookery programme, it's a massively foodie area (it's famous for its salt marshes and seafood) but it's also home to the beautiful Camargue horses which, as a pony obsessed child and teen, were my favourite breed. Plus FLAMINGOS!

Anyway, I digress. This particular episode set me thinking about our holiday plans for the summer. It always happens at this time of year. The weather has no idea what it's doing.... one minute it feels as if spring is in the air and then the next the temperature has dropped ten degrees and the heating is back on. I seem to find myself idly day dreaming about summer holidays pretty much all day long.

Our last family holiday in 2014
We haven't had a proper family holiday in a couple of years. As a single parent there has been the financial aspect to take into consideration and also, in my case, the fact that I'm outnumbered by the girls which has been known to make things a bit difficult in the past. Turns out theme parks are a no go, unless we can rope in another grown up to come with us, as there are very few rides for three and no one wants to be left on their own at the gate!

But now the girls are older, a little holiday abroad seems doable. Somewhere hot and exotic, but not too far from home. Inspired by James Martin, I've been looking at the south of France, and a break with Al Fresco Holidays is well and truly on my radar for this year.

More specifically, I've been looking at the Les Mediterranees Beach Garden resort, which is in a pretty darn perfect location; right on the beach, next to the nature reserve of Bagnas (and a day trip away from my beloved Camargue) plus it's just a short distance away from Beziers and Montpellier airports and the flight there, in turn, is less than two hours from London. I'd say that's an ideal amount of time to spend in the air when you're travelling with children.

Family holidays, for me, are all about the kids. When I asked Daisy and Evie how they'd spend their perfect holiday, Daisy said: "Every morning we'd go to the pool and after dinner we'd go to the pool!"  Evie agreed enthusiastically. Basically, my children enjoy spending time in the pool (can you tell?) so when picking out the perfect resort, this was a key factor. Les Mediterranees Beach Garden has a huuuuuuge outdoor pool complex with an amazing water play park for the kiddos and some absolutely brilliant water slides. Holiday makers here also have the use of additional pools and water slides at the Nouvelle Florida and Charlemagne resorts nearby. Plus, as I said, it's right on the beach for when you fancy something a little different.

All kids love a Kids Club and it goes without saying that Beach Garden has one of it's own offering a mix of creative and sporty activities for kids aged 4+. As a single parent, I would also benefit from the kids club as it would enable me to have a bit of down time too.

How nice do the mobile homes look? I can totally see myself enjoying the warm summer evenings out on the decking!

But that's not what a family holiday is all about for me. MY perfect holiday revolves around food ;) I love French cuisine, especially sea food, and The Bistro on this resort is famous for just that - with wonderful sea views to boot! There is also a mini-market on site and each mobile home comes with it's own barbecue, so some early evening burgers for the kids, followed by some delicious local vin rouge drinking on the decking once they're in bed for me, would most likely be a regular occurrence.

Although the majority of our holiday would most likely be spent on site at the resort, we all know I'm a big fan of a road trip, and there's no way I could be that close to Camargue without paying it a visit. This region of France also has pretty towns with cobbled streets (hello shopping at le Grand Marseillan market!) and ports a-plenty, as well as museums and sites of archaeological interest to drag the kids around (I was an archaeologist pre-children, much to their delight). I would definitely take the girls swimming in Lake Salagou, which is famous for its odd hills and red soil (perfect for Instagram, ha!) and would give the girls a change of scenery from the pool and beach.

The only thing that could make this holiday even better would be to go with friends or family. As a single parent, having that extra pair of eyes to help supervise the kids and some company in the evenings wouldn't go amiss, plus it would be great for the girls to have some friends to play with too.

Have you ever been on an Al Fresco holiday, or have you visited this part of France? What did you think? I'd love to hear all about your travels!

Written in collaboration with Al Fresco Holidays and Tots100.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Daily Outfit ♥ Bomber Jackets for the Girls

Last year the girls and I were invited to the preview of Nutmeg's SS17 collection and we all fell in love with pretty much everything. Now the collection has hit the shops!

The Nutmeg range from Morrisons is my absolute favourite brand of supermarket clothing for kids. Their clothes are by far the best quality, and are made with loads of thoughtful details that I love, like no itchy labels and waistbands that grow with your child. They take the seasons trends into account, whilst still dressing kids like kids - plus they have a 200 day no quibbles guarantee!

The girls' favourite pieces from the SS17 collection were the bomber jackets. Daisy loved the khaki bomber as I have one very similar from TopShop (and twinning is winning, don't you know) and Evie loved the floral version. Both are lovely and lightweight - perfect for spring - although the girls have been wearing theirs with hoodies underneath to keep them warm. And who can blame them? With clothes as cool as these, I wouldn't be able to wait until the weather warms up to wear them either!

Daisy wears khaki bomber with gold zip detail, £18
Evie wears cotton floral bomber, £10
both c/o Nutmeg

Daisy's jacket is only available in store up until the end of next week so 
if you'd like one, make sure you pay your local Morrisons a visit quick smartish!

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