Le camp du drap d'or

Have you ever wondered what it was like back in the time of the Vikings? Or have you asked yourself what was it like to sit in a Roman amphitheatre and watch a gladiator show? Well, now you can experience these periods of history and many more at Puy du Fou in France, the internationally acclaimed and award-winning theme park.

Tucked away in the gentle green hills of La Vendee, Puy du Fou is France’s best-kept secret – that was until they invited a group of British bloggers out to discover for themselves what it’s like to step back in history in a fully immersive experience. We spent three nights and two days exploring the 55 hectares (140 acres) clocking up 16 – 17,000 steps a day on my Fitbit and being completely bowled over time and time again with every new village, show or immersive experience we visited. If you happened to be following my Instagram, Twitter or Facebook channels last week, you’ll have had a peek into the many wonders we encountered.

Le Bourg Puy du Fou

My first thoughts on Puy du Fou are – How come we haven’t heard of this place until now? The theme park attracted 2,260,000 visitors in 2017, won international awards in 2012 and 2014 for Best Park in the World and celebrated it’s 40th anniversary last year.

Cinéscénie

Cinescenie Puy du Fou

The signature show where it all started back in 1978, Cinéscénie, is a breathtaking, spectacular show. It begins as the sun sets on the horizon and you watch seated in a purpose built stand with up to 13,200 spectators. In front of you lies possibly the biggest stage in the world spread over 23 hectares. There is a real castle centre stage, a lake, a village and even the mill in the distance plays its part as 2400 actors, many volunteers, enact the symbolic destiny of a Vendeé family from the Middle Ages to the Second World War.

Cinescenie Puy du Fou

Our trip ended with this extraordinary production and writing about it one week later, I am still astounded by the detail, the work and the passion that has gone into creating this fascinating show. Cinéscénie uses all the latest technology to bring superb effects throughout the show including drones known as neopters, film projections with 3D mapping and a fantastic firework display.

Cinescenie Puy du Fou

What to expect at Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou is not your average theme park it is a whole lot more. If you are looking for thrills and excitement – you will be elated. If you are looking for culture and history – you will love the full immersion back in time. If it’s nature and the utmost care for the environment and its inhabitants that you care for then Puy du Fou will tick that box in the gentlest and most pleasing way that you can’t help but fall in love. What became immediately apparent to me as I spent my days wandering and enjoying everything that Puy du Fou has to offer, is the immense thought given to singular details. In every aspect of anything that you will come across on or in the park. The rubbish bins on site covered in wood to fit in with the environment. The animal conservatory programme for endangered species and the clear attention to small details.

Where to stay at Puy du Fou

Our first night was spent in the Medieval village – Les Îles de Clovis. A series of huts built on water that each has two family rooms within. Think thatched roofs and half-timbered walls and interior decor of granite, oak and textiles such as the faux fur throw and cushions on the bed. The feel is very medieval but of course with all the latest mod-cons: hair dryers, air con and a television too.

Les Iles de Clovis - Puy du Fou

The mini apartments consist of one main room with the double bed, television and a single bed if needed. The entrance has two large bunk beds on one side with curtains on each to provide darkness and privacy. The toilet is a separate room from the bathroom and there is cupboard space for clothes and suitcases. The mirrors are deliberately old to fit in with the surroundings and there isn’t a lot of light in the rooms but it is truly a magnificent and comfortable room.

The wow factor for me was stepping on to the balcony from the main room and embracing this spectacular view…

Les Iles de Clovis

Just a short walk to reception and the restaurant where breakfast and evening meals are served too.

Les Iles de Clovis Puy du fou

The rest of my stay was spent at another of the five onsite hotels, Le Camp du Drap d’Or. The colourful ‘tents’ will catch your eye and give you a feel for being thrown back into the times of King Francis I of France and King Henry VIII of England. I was thrilled to discover a four-poster bed in my quarters with turned solid oak columns, embroidered tapestries of the king and hammered metal basins in the bathroom.

Le Camp du Drap d'Or - Puy du Fou

Again each apartment has air con and television, once inside your room has everything the 20th-century traveller looks for.

Le Camp du Drap d'Or - Puy du Fou

Other options which I didn’t get to see include La Villa Gallo-Romaine for an ancient Rome vibe, La Citadelle which is a full immersion into the world of a medieval fortress and Le Logis de Lescure which has 4 duplex suites each offering a different experience.

Le Camp du Drap d'Or - Puy du Fou

Benefits of booking a hotel on site

Staying onsite has the obvious benefit of being close to the park and eliminating the need of a car to drive back and forth. You can be first in the queue in the morning and can nip back to the room throughout the day if needed.

Lunch at Le Bistro Puy du fou

The hotel food is excellent and varied and you can eat in any of the five hotels but some may need advance booking. You can also eat lunch and dinner in many of the park restaurants, we ate dinner one evening in Cafe de la Madelon which I would thoroughly recommend. A set menu which is served by waiters who in between courses take part in the cabaret show which is set in Belle-Epoque France.

Staying in one of the five hotels will also allow the family to have an exciting experience in your chosen period, medieval, Roman, Renaissance or 18th Century thrill.

This is the first of three posts on Puy du Fou I shall be writing as I have so much to tell you! Please find my fellow bloggers write-ups by clicking on the links below

Extraordinary Chaos

Juggle Mum

Are We Nearly There Yet?

POD Travels

Globetotting

Jenography

Disclosure: I was invited by BritMums and Puy du Fou to experience a weekend as part of a specially organised press trip to discover all the park has to offer. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The View from The Shard

This morning we were up at the crack of dawn and off to The Old Smoke for a special treat – a trip up The View from The Shard in the company of Ferdinand, the friendliest bull in town who is due out on DVD in a matter of days.

The View from The Shard

The View from The Shard have had an un-bull-ievable idea for a family activity this Easter break, they’ve teamed up with Ferdinand and created a family day out where you get to experience The View – which is gobsmackingly awesome and lots of other activities too …  like a virtual reality game called Vertigo which I had a go at this morning. Think of The Shard when it was being constructed and walking across the steel beams with nothing beneath you – scary but a lot of fun. The girls were most disappointed that they weren’t allowed to have a go (over 12) but were happy to video me doing it.

We were given activity sheets and had to go on a treasure hunt looking for Ferdinand’s flowers, we located them all and popped our sheets into a box with our fingers crossed at winning the prize of a return visit.

The View From The Shard

Families who decide to try this amazing experience out are given goody bags with their entrance tickets including all of the following items

  • Ferdinand activity sheet
  • Bouncy ball
  • Pencil case
  • Official Guidebook
  • Keyring
  • Colouring set
  • Selfie stick

and you simply must go up to the Sky Deck where there is this beautiful floral display waiting for the best photo opportunity ever.

The View from The Shard

There is another virtual reality experience called The Slide which I didn’t have a go at – although I wish I had now. You lay on a wooden curved surface which moves up and down and tips slightly forward and to the sides, as you swoop and slide around The Shard and through the city skyline. A kind of Shard helter-skelter.

For every family that visits The View from The Shard for the Ferdinand experience, there is the chance to enter a competition to win a two-night break to Barcelona. The prize is for 2 adults and 2 children under 15 and consists of return flights from London to Barcelona, return airport transfers in Barcelona, 2 nights in a four-star hotel and travel insurance.

The View From the Shard

If you need even more to convince you, how about drinking a glass of Moët & Chandon from London’s highest champagne bar? 800ft above the capital sipping bubbles whilst enjoying views of up to 40 miles, that’s got to seal the deal surely?

The View from The Shard

Find all the information or book tickets online at www.theviewfromtheshard.com/en/whats-on/events/2018/ferdinand-the-bull/

Before you leave, make sure you visit the toilets at the top for a loo with a view…

The View From The Shard loo

Disclosure: We were given tickets by The View from The Shard for the purpose of this post.

Yorkshire moors

Visiting Yorkshire has always been high on my bucket list for many reasons ranging from, longing to see the beautiful seaside town of Whitby and eat ‘proper’ fish and chips, to visiting the moors and dales which I pictured so vividly whilst reading Wuthering Heights.

I’ve been looking into where to go and what to do in Yorkshire more closely as I’m hoping to get up there very soon. In fact, my research tells me that now would be the perfect time to take in the glory that is Farndale! Imagine walking in a sea of daffodils that stretch as far as the eye can see. Apparently, the golden blooms were planted by the monks of Rievaulx Abbey, (another place to visit on my bucket list) the golden banks of the River Dove shine along the three and a half mile walk from Low Mill to Church Houses and back.

Bronte Country is said to be wild and dramatic, I’d love to climb the rugged moorlands and capture them on camera and pop into the Bronte Parsonage Museum where the family lived in Haworth.

I want to visit Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This beautiful Victorian model village with its cobbled streets and terraced cottages was built for the workers of the Salt Mills. It’s also close to David Hockney’s place of birth and as one of his longtime admirers, I’d like to see his work displayed in the Salt Mills. Whilst we’re on the subject of art, there is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield that looks really intriguing, I do love a good sculpture park!

Whitby

Whitby

I couldn’t possibly go all the way to Yorkshire and not see Whitby. I’ve heard so much about it and every time a photo come up on my Instagram feed of the town I find myself wishing to go and see it for myself.

Noted as one of the greatest sights in Britain, the Whitby Abbey is said to powerfully domineer the fishing harbour. There are 199 stone steps to climb to get the best view and luckily there are a few renowned pubs and eateries close by for refreshment. Fortune’s Kippers dates back to 1872!

The Yorkshire coastline is dotted with sandy bays, coves and centuries of maritime history to explore.

Scarborough is one that I’d like to explore in more detail. This original Victorian spa centre has a castle, an open-air theatre and is a well-known shopping centre too.

Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales

I’d like to think that my meanderings through the county would take me across the Dales. I’d love to walk Baxter and find some of the beautiful waterfalls that the area boasts. I didn’t know that each dale has its own name and its own character. I hadn’t realised that one of my favourite cheeses – Wensleydale is actually a dale in Yorkshire (I know!) In fact, Wensleydale is home to three most spectacular falls; Aysgarth Falls where the River Are washes down the broad limestone steps, the Hardraw Force – England’s highest single drop waterfall and the West Burton Falls.

The Forbidden Corner

The name alone makes me want to go there! If like me, you like the odd and quirky then this could be the attraction for you. Tucked away near Leyburn is a park of pathways to nowhere that lead into the most obscurer mazes where you bump into curious carved statues and even a pyramid! Apparently it is entrance on a first come first served basis so might be worth a telephone call beforehand. Also close by is the Jervaulx Abbey ruins said to be a great visit too.

Where to stay in Yorkshire

To make the most of my Yorkshire visit I’d like to stay in a cottage, a place to call my own during my stay where I can put the kettle on and sit back on a comfy sofa after a day out sightseeing. Plus, of course, there would be some spectacular views to take in. Ingrid Flute’s Yorkshire Holiday Cottages https://www.yorkshireholidaycottages.co.uk/ offer exactly what I am looking for and there are plenty of options to choose from to suit all budgets and tastes.

visiting Yorkshire

If you know Yorkshire better than me, please let me know of some places to add to my list.

keswick

Image credit: Stuart Hodgson from www.hikingphotographer.uk

The Lake District is in the north-west of England in the county of Cumbria and I have yet to go and visit, shocking I know. In fact, I am making it one of my 2018 goals to spend some time there next year as I have heard so many good things. If people have been returning here for centuries, there must be a very good reason, right?

The whole area is a National Park that is teeming with lakes, woodlands, wildlife and pretty towns and villages to explore. Of course, it’s a hikers paradise and many people come here quite simply to get out in the open and walk the fabulous landscape taking in some of the greatest views in the world. Many different outdoor lovers are drawn to the Lake District; cyclists, kayakers (is that a word?), canoeists even treetop trekkers – yes there is such a thing.

But, not all of us want to spend all of our time being active, luckily the Lake District has a host of other things to do that will keep you more than amused during your stay.

Things to do in the Lake District

Firstly, we can divide the things to do in the Lake District into areas, the north, the east, central, south-east and western areas. Each part has many things to do and I have cherry-picked a few that I would love to see with my family.

MILL RACE COTTAGE

Mill Race Cottage

Castlerigg Stone Circle – Northern Lake District

I am fascinated with stone circles. From our first visit to Stonehenge, the curiosity of these ancient monuments keeps drawing me in. The 38 large stones that stand 3 metres high of Castlerigg Stone Circle have the most dramatic mountain landscape as a backdrop. As one of Britain’s earliest stone circles, about 5000 years old, they are very popular with tourists and are now managed by the National Trust and the English heritage. If you are visiting the are in midwinter you’ll probably get one of the best views as the entrance seems to line up with the sunsets around that time of year.

Haweswater Dam – Eastern Lake District

Haweswater Dam was Britain’s first concrete buttress dam built back in the 1930’s by hundreds of unemployed workers from the Manchester area. The workers were homed in prefabricated houses that had state of the art community facilities in Burnbanks. The dam is the highest in our country and offers spectacular views of the surrounding area.

Shap Abbey – Eastern Lake District

Shap Abbey was built around 1200 and was the centre of a thriving monastic community. As you wander the ruins you can make out the church, chapter house and living areas that surround the square cloister. There are also traces of the guest rooms, stables and workshops. Henry VIII closed the Abbey in 1540 and some of its stone was used to build Shap Market Hall.

Copt Howe Rock Carvings – Central Lake District

Another fascinating find from 6000 years ago is the circles, lines and ‘cup’ marks found etched into the rocks at Copt Howe. Archaeologists believe they may have been a way of showing links between people and important places.

Meadow Bank

Meadow Bank

Brantwood Barkpeeler’s Hut – South Eastern Lake District

Once upon a time, you could have worked as a bark peeler. Your job would have been to remove the bark from oak trees before the trees were coppiced and sent to the local tanneries. Barkpeelers lived in huts in the woods with their families, the huts were made of a circular stone wall and a conical roof covered with earth and grass. There is a wonderful reconstructed example at Brantwood House.

Townend Statesman’s House – South Eastern Lake District

On the other end of the scale is the home of a well -off farming family. Townend Statesman’s House is a beautifully preserved 17th century farmhouse built in 1623 for George Browne and his family who lived there for over 300 years.

Muncaster Castle – Western Lake District

I do love to visit a castle and Muncaster has been in the Pennington family since 1208. What started out as a medieval fortified tower-house was added to through the years until the fine castle that can be visited today. An interesting fact that caught my eye was, Henry VI sought refuge here during the Wars of the Roses and left a glass drinking-bowl behind, saying if it remained unbroken the Penningtons would thrive. It’s still intact and is known as the ‘Luck of Muncaster’.

Ravenglass Roman Bathhouse – Western Lake District

Ravenglass is one of the best preserved Roman military bathhouses in Britain where a 1000 strong garrison would come to scrub up. Its walls are almost 4 metres high and two rooms with doorways and windows can still be seen today. As you explore you can find plumbing for hot and cold water a fort close by and many more interesting facts.

Brathay Loft

Brathay Loft

Where to stay in the Lake District

If you want to have the comfort of your own home whilst you explore the Lake District then I advise you to take a look at the Good Life Lake District Cottages as they cover all of the above-mentioned areas and have all types of accommodation available, even pet friendly homes where you can take your family pet along too. The images above are some examples of what you can find.

Following on from my recent post of Things to do in Suffolk, after our recent visit to the Airstream Glamping park. I thought I’d turn my attention to places closer to home. The autumn and winter are the perfect time to get out and about locally. We have Pocahontas on our doorstep, along with Shorne Country Park which is a huge family favourite, Jeskyns Park and of course, our beloved Thanet where we have our caravan.

Even with all of these opportunities, I still have an enormous bucket list of where I’d like to take the girls on day trips close to home.

Things to do in Kent

Leeds Castle

Leeds castle

We have been to visit Leeds Castle on a number of occasions and we shall certainly be returning soon as there is always something exciting to see. This is also where we find our local Go Ape centre which the twins adore and want to return to soon.

Dover

Dover is high on my list as I took Thomas and Megan there when they were children and we visited Dover Castle, the Tunnels in the cliffs with a fascinating wartime history and of course, the notorious White Cliffs of Dover. I suggest taking a picnic along and making a day of it.

Canterbury

I adore Canterbury and now my niece has moved there to study at the university I shall hopefully be going down more often. Canterbury city is a marvellous place to wander, it has a powerful history to take in, hundreds of shops, pubs and restaurants to choose from, a cathedral to visit and plenty more to keep you amused and the children too. One of my favourite bars is the old Pound which sits outside the town wall. You can sit and drink in one of the cells!

Margate

shell grotto margate

How can I not mention Margate? If you are still thinking of a run-down, dilapidated seaside town you are very wrong and I strongly suggest you visit to see just how far Margate has come over the past few years. With the rebirth of Dreamland and the addition of the Turner Contemporary, Margate has become the place to be both in summer and winter. Walk the streets of the Old Town, visit the Shell Grotto, eat some delicious fish and chips and visit one of the many trendy bars and pubs that are popping up all over the place.

Hever Castle

The perfect example of an item on my bucket list! I remember visiting Hever Castle with the school when I was in junior school and it is a place I would love to take the twins. A romantic 13th century moated castle that was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, it has magnificent interiors to walk through and wonder about the time Anne herself lived there plus, award-winning gardens. Of course, the Maze is a definite visit!

If you are looking for somewhere special to stay, take a look at Kent and Sussex Cottages as they have a wonderful selection of all budgets and preferences.

Things to do in Sussex

Royal Pavillion

My great grandma used to live in Hove, just along from Brighton and we would visit her in the summer. One summer we visited the Royal Pavilion and I was smitten with the beautiful rooms and decor of the palace. I want to take the twins there so they too can experience this historical landmark.

South Downs and the Seven Sisters

Friends of mine recently posted some fabulous pictures on social media after a day trip to the Seven Sisters. I think it would be a perfect day trip with a picnic in tow. Hopefully, the sun would shine and I could grab some great photos!

Rye Harbour and nature reserve

Rye beach hut

We visited Rye a long time ago when the twins were still sharing a cot! We had a wonderful few days there and visited the town plus the local beach where I took the photo of this gorgeous beach hut. I would love to return and thoroughly recommend it to friends and family.

There are plenty of places to stay in all of the above areas but if you are looking for a cottage, that offers that little bit more, then take a look at Suffolk Secrets.

This is a collaborative post – all opinions are my own.