The National Wallace Monument

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we decided to go and see the National Wallace monument in Stirling. We knew it was a huge tower monument erected for Sir William Wallace and overlooks the place where the Battle of Stirling was fought and won. (I didn’t even know there was a battle at Stirling). But we decided we couldn’t not see it and, not being quite sure whether we could even go up the tower, we thought we’d pop in anyway and see what happens.

It turns out its a huge tower situated on a hill. We took a bit of a steep walk through a little forest and I was already breathless by the time we got to the front door of the monument, I’m that unfit! There’s a bus you can take too if you’re not feeling up to it but seeing as even 5 year old was bouncing up the hill, I felt a bit of a wimp to take public transport! The monument has a huge spiral staircase and you can climb straight to the top. It reminded me a lot of the Scott monument in Edinburgh.

The William Wallace monument has 246 steps and you can stop off for little breaks (or to have a sleep / collapse on the floor) and view all the museum and historical pieces that are on display. We even saw William Wallace’s actual sword and it’s HUGE. I’m pretty sure it’s about my height, not that I’m that tall but he was apparently well over 6 feet in height. Even if you’re really unfit it’s well worth going to the top. It gets so narrow the further up you go but the views were beautiful once we’d clambered up there. It was really really windy though and the barriers are very safe but you still feel a bit like you’ll be blown off the top. There’s a beautifully carved dome feature at the tip of the tower and the views of Stirling are stunning, even if a little wet and windy.

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Photalife

Visiting Luss at Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond is about a 45 minute drive from Stirling (I still need to sort my Stirling pics and video out hence a bit out of order!) and we decided that we’d drive to Aberfoyle and drive all round it, stopping off at all the little towns and villages that are dotted around it. Thankfully, it had stopped raining for a bit and the blustery wind had eased up a bit after our ascent up the William Wallace monument so we were hoping for a bit of a dry day. We didn’t get blazing sunshine but Loch Lomond is just so beautiful that it didn’t really matter.

It ended up taking up about an hour and a half to drive round it as we kept stopping and starting to admire the views. It reminded me so much of the Lake District as its so luscious and green and huge. There’s so much to do including water sports and nature walks there are lots of very nice looking lodges and tiny quaint B&Bs you can stay in. I think you could easily spend a few days just exploring it all and really relaxing. I’ve greedily started checking out what the other lochs are like now for future trips.

We ended up at Luss pier, small village full of pretty cottages and packed with very beautiful views and walks. There’s lot of boats to admire (and ride) and lots of ducks and swans ignoring the tourists and going about their own way. It’s a lovely place to stop off and have a nice walk and sit down. Our sit down lasted as long as the kids allowed, which was about 15 minutes, before both started getting impatient to do more walking. After 5 days I think they’d gotten used to being on the go constantly. We couldn’t fit in any kind of water sports but it was just as good to do the nature trail and we found its really easy to find out as you just follow the crowd or ask at the tourist centre for some pointers. I even took my first ever close up bee at work photo. He was very busy doing his thing and really wasn’t bothered that I was stood there looking at him for ages. Must get pesky tourists taking photos all the time! The lodges there have stunning views and it must be so lovely to wake up to these views. I’m determined to stay in one now, one day. I ended up taking so many photos of people’s gardens and here’s a few. They really take pride in their gardening. I’m a complete plant murderer so I’m always impressed my flowers that have bloomed.

Here’s some our our photos……(I will now sort Stirling out!)

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You can read about our Edinburgh trip here and all about the Kelpies here.

Packing my Suitcase
My Petit Canard

A review of Thaikun in Manchester

We love noodles in our house. We spend way too much time at one of our favourite local noodle places and eat way too many prawn crackers. Even my very fussy Z loves it and so Thai food in general has become a cuisine we really like. So when we were asked if we’d like to review the new Thaikun kids menu we happily went along to it.

The first thing that hits you about Thaikun is the whole atmosphere and decor of the place. It’s so colourful and has some very funky outdoor seating. It’s sheltered nicely so still a good place to sit even on rainy days (which there’s a lot of!). The Manchester one is located in Spinningfields and is just opposite a huge outdoor space filled with benches. It’s always bustling full of people and the atmosphere spills over to Thaikun. It’s not a quiet place so ideal if you love the whole social scene. There’s quieter seating inside if you want a bit more peace and it’s just as decorative inside with a lot of Thai ornaments dotted about. You can spend a bit of time just looking at it all. There’s also a very cute Tuk Tuk outside and I bet every single person has either jumped into it for a photo or secretly wanted to.

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We’d originally booked for early evening but as our plans had suddenly changed that day we thought we’d try our luck for an earlier seating. The restaurant was lovely about it and found us a table straight away.

The kids menu comprises of vegetable sticks, one main meal, an ice lolly and a choice of juice or milk. You can choose one of three main meals and each one of those has varying options so it’s a good range for even fussy eaters to pick something they’d like. Z (5 year old) went for the Pad Thai as he likes noodles and didn’t want to eat chicken or rice. You also get bugs with it to test out. We didn’t go for that bit of the meal! I liked how they bring out the kids meals quickly. Slow service with kids food can be a bit stressful when you have two kids with you that don’t want to sit for very long.

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We opted from the main menu and got chicken satay, prawn crackers and fish cakes to start. I got a very nice beef noodles for my main, whilst the other half got a steak. The food was delicious and presented really nicely. All sauces come separately which, with my little fuss pots, is perfect as it stops the whole “I didn’t want my sauce on top, I wanted it to the side” whinge.

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The only downside is that service became a bit slow once the food was delivered. We had to keep getting the waiters attention if we wanted extra drinks or something else. Usually you find someone comes to check at least once if all is ok after the food arrives. It wasn’t a busy afternoon so not sure what had happened lbut hopefully it’s a one off. If you find yourself around Spinningfields or Deansgate in Manchester craving Thai food, then this is a very good place to try!

This is a review of Thaikun. All opinions are our own.

Family Fever

Visiting the Kelpies at Falkirk

When I found we would be able to see the huge Kelpies from the motorway, a part of me thought “ah that’ll do!”. I wasn’t actually that fussed seeing them “live” as they’re just a pair of horse heads aren’t they? A few people kept saying not to do that and to stop and take them in and we ended up deciding that we would stop for about 10 minutes and then rush off to Stirling castle. I’m pretty sure we ended up staying a whole hour in the end. Possibly a bit more as it took FOREVER to change screaming Baby E’s nappy in the changing room.

They are really really impressive. They were built by the artist Andy Scott as a tribute to all the working horses that pulled heavy workloads up the canals and the Kelpies are very aptly situated next to it at Falkirk; where Andy Scotts father came from. The name Kelpies comes from the mythological creatures that possess the strength of 100 horses. They stand at 30 metres tall (100 ft) and took 8 years to build. They’re a steel construction but the detail is just so amazing and you’ll find yourself staring at them from all angles for quite a while. If you like taking pictures then you’ll probably just keep circling them and taking all sorts of shots.

It was windy and rainy the day we visited and we were all wrapped up in coats and hats for the entire week. Weirdly, it wasn’t cold but its all so open around the Kelpies that it feels very blustery. There was a 45 minute tour that wasn’t going to happen for another half hour so we decided to skip it and do our own exploring. It’s probably worth doing if you have the time as you get to see the inside of it which has been described like having the same acoustics as a cathedral in the way your voice bounces off the walls. It’s a vast space inside and would have been interesting to see. I think the baby would have loved it immensely. He’s taken to screaming every 10 seconds, especially if he find his voice echoes. It would have been quite the treat for him. Probably not so much for the other visitors. If you do happen to be in the area then its a must see. I really wanted a Kelpies mug (these days I really just want a mug of everywhere!) but it was a tiny bit pricey so I’ve settled for a good old Scotland one. It’s worth checking out the gift shop too though!

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Photalife

A trip to Scotland – A few days in beautiful Edinburgh

I first went to Edinburgh a couple of years ago and I think I fell in love with it. It’s an amazing mixture of city life, stunning architecture and Royal history. Everything I love all in one place. If it was a tiny bit closer I would be popping there for weekends quite a lot more. As life would have it though, this is only my second trip up and we decided to during August, one of its busiest months with the fringe festival, school holidays and military tattoo on all at once. It really is crazy busy but so interesting to see such a melting pot of cultures and things all in one place. We stayed in a good old Premier inn on Princes street and it’s such an ideal spot for families. Close enough to a supermarket, the car park, the train station, a million eating places and the Royal mile. I would happily live there in a flash. Not in the premier inn. In a swanky apartment, I mean. On Princes street, overlooking the park with a clear view of the castle.

There are just so many shows to watch and you can join so many for free that we watched a mish mash of a lot of things. We would regularly walk past places that said things like “fringe venue number 465”. I’m not sure exactly how many fringe venues there were but it was definitely close to or over 500! At times, we had to steer Little Z away from the adult language of some of them but he was fascinated at all of them. It’s also Korean festival this month (see…SO much going on!) so there was a lot of martial arts related things happening on the streets as well as more delicate artistic performances. Oh and a pancake seller told me that the clubs stay open till 5am, which is about the time the baby wakes me for a feed! I nodded politely at that one and put more pancake in my mouth. The evenings were just as atmospheric and, with the military tattoo on at the castle, we were treated to nightly fireworks. I really really wanted to watch it but I doubt the baby would have sat through even 10 minutes of it. He’s now taken to shrieking every 30 seconds if he finds his voice echoes so it’s not the best time to confine him to a place where his screams will bounce off the walls and high ceilings.

One of my favourite bits of the city is the old town. You can spend hours just wandering about the Royal mile and, if you like historical buildings it’ll take you forever to make your down it as you’ll keep stopping to admire everything. It is SO old. It’s like a very clever architect and builder decided to build a city of impeccable quality. And hence, it’s still standing and functional today. Most of my photos of Edinburgh are of the old part.

This time, we dragged ourselves away from the city for a bit and explored Stirling, Falkirk and Loch Lomond. We wanted to do the Highlands too but found that the whole area is so vast it would need at least another week to see it all properly. Of course, this means that we’ll have to come back sometime and I may already have a few routes in my head for Easter.

Here’s some of our Edinburgh old town photos…

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My Random Musings

6 helpful things for a roadtrip – With George Asda

When it was just the 3 of us, we would pretty much throw everything we needed on the back seat and in the boot. My car was a total tip from driving about for work but it was a bearable kind of tip. These days though, with two boys and two car seats with their respective bases, there’s not much space anymore to throw things about. Throw in a clumsy 5 year old and a baby who loves to bathe himself with his milk bottle and you have a car that is an absolute disgrace most of the time. It was so bad a few weeks ago that I cleaned it for an hour before taking it for a valet and didn’t make eye contact as I handed the keys over to the guy who would be cleaning it. It came back sparkling thankfully!

George Asda asked if we’d like to choose some items from their range that would help with our travels. With our impending road trip, it was the perfect chance to get a lot more organised both in the car, and out and about when we’re exploring. I was surprised to find that George does quite a lot of branded products. It’s not really the first place I’d think to ordinarily look for travel related things but there’s a huge selection and it’s a really good place to look if you’re going on holidays this summer, whether it be by plane or car. Here are some of our tips and what we have picked for our road trip…

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1. Munchkin backseat organiser / Pushchair organiser

This is something we should have bought a few years ago. With little to no space on the backseat of our Golf, this backseat organiser is perfect to hold all those little vital things. Little Z is SO clumsy right now and drops anything he touches. This week, I’ve cleaned up spilled crisps, toast and fries from the floor because he got tired of holding it and ending up dropping it. I’m hoping having an organiser means he’s within arms reach of putting it somewhere other than the floor. It also doubles up as a pushchair organiser which means I don’t have to spend half my time on the floor on my hands and knees rummaging through my changing bag!

2. Go anywhere Gro -blind
I am absolutely desperate for some good sleep and usually hotels means a lovely big nice bed and a nice lie in. Post kids though…haha. We currently have blackout curtains and blinds through our entire house and it works. My worst nightmare would be to arrive at a hotel and be presented with flimsy paper thin curtains. No-one wants to arrive at a hotel with a baby and be presented with crap curtains. If you ever see an adult screaming in horror clutching hotel room curtains it’s probably because they know they’ll be up at dawn with their baby who is like a jack in the box when the sun pops up. The go anywhere Gro-blind has brilliant reviews and it’s something that will live in suitcase (and possibly our home windows too) forever more.

3. Russell Hobbs travel iron
We’ve stayed in countless hotels over the years with work and for family holidays. We’ve queued up for iron rooms and ordered irons over the phone. We’ve also, on the rare ocassion, been told that the hotel has no irons but that it does have a chargeable laundry service. We wore a lot of creased clothes that particular holiday. We now have a compact and lightweight travel iron and means we don’t have to cart a child down on one hip looking for ironing rooms or wait whilst someone comes to deliver the iron to our room. Take that chargeable laundry service!

4. Pushchair rain cover
Our trusted Quinny lives in our car but we’ve decided to take our little mothercare pushchair to Scotland as it’s easier to lift and cart up and down stairs. The baby loves it but we haven’t yet got a rain cover so this should help with the rainy weather that’s been forecast for the rest of this week. Hopefully we don’t need it but it’s small enough to store in the pushchair basket so ideal to carry about.

5. Chicco Baby driver
As it’s the baby’s first big road trip we need to keep him relatively entertained whilst he’s cooped up in his buggy for chunks of the day. He’s generally fine as long as you keep moving but as soon as you stop he will last about 5 minutes before trying to do a Houdini and attempt escape. This Chicco baby driver toy clips onto the pushchair and he’s had a test run already and loves it so should keep him occupied for a bit if we’re admiring fascinating things in museums.

6. ThermoCafe Matte Purple Travel Mug
It’s going to be an early start most days and lots and lots of tea will be needed.

Mooching about Manchester and planning a road trip to Scotland

We’ve had a much smoother second week off school. I think end of term-itis has hopefully come to an end and Little Z has been having plenty of lie ins, presumably recovering from end of term and not practicing for his teens. It’s all been very nice and we’ve been doing more pottering about most days, except for when he keeps leaving me to have a sleepover with my mum and dad. He is loving it there as all rules and bent and relaxed quite a lot and he gets one on one attention with no baby to butt in. I’m having to bribe him to come home to spend some time with me but it’s very much set the tone for our holidays. I think there will be many more sleepovers to come. I don’t mind so much as it means we get some quality time with Baby E who has started trying to climb things. This week he has managed all couches he has encountered and has made all the way up my parents stairs. His next challenge seems to be our coffee tables. He’s also loving slapping any gadget his gets his hands on. TVs, iPads, phones, anything at all. Make shift fortresses are being built around everything and I remember doing this with Z. We should probably get the baby gate down from he attic too as he can now open doors. It reminded me of that scene in Jurassic park when folk were horrified that the dinosaurs could now open DOORS! Of course, this is much cuter!

I think we’ve finally sorted our road trip to Scotland and I cannot wait. We will be doing a chunk of Perthsire, starting in Edinburgh and doing trips around Stirling, castle Doune, the Kelpies and then heading over to Loch Lomond. That’s the plan at least. We’ve never done a road trip with the baby before so it could all get changed but I’m hoping it all goes to plan. It’s meant to rain ALL week (boo!) but I’m starting to get very excited. For someone who loves castles, I had no idea Scotland had so many. I would have loved to just drive around for weeks but we do have to come home, I guess, so we’ll have to plan another once we get a flavour of it all this time.

We’ve meanwhile been enjoying the last of the forecasted sun today (please let there be more!). I love mooching about cities and Manchester is second home so always nice to pop to. Z is loving chasing pigeons right now and he tired himself out so much, he was asleep by about 6pm. And instead of packing, I’m watching the humongous Olympic opening ceremony waiting for Team GB to come on. Hope everyone else is having a lovely summer!

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Photalife

The first week of the summer holidays

We’ve had a surprisingly nice first week of the summer holidays. I have to admit, I was absolutely dreading it. I’ve not yet had quality time with both the boys at once for so long by myself and it felt a bit daunting. We’ve had a mixture of some bleak sun, as well as some torrential rain and it’s not been too bad. We’ve been out and about and visited family and friends and we’ve sat at home the odd day not doing very much and it’s been fine. We’ve also thanked our lucky stars for the little park opposite our house, known to us as “our park”. It’s given us somewhere to escape to when we’ve not got much else planned.

On the flip side we’ve had days where I could tear my hair out at times. Little Z is still learning how to have a sibling and, as much as he loves him, there is a streak of jealousy that he needs to journey through. It’s a mixed bag of lots of love and lots of “he’s taking my toys”. Sharing is still a bit of a learning curve and I’ve suddenly realised this week that these 6 weeks of holidays will mean more lessons in sharing and learning to be around each other. Baby E, on the other hand, is loving having his big brother home and continues to screech in Zs face with glee as well as slap him affectionately in the face. Thankfully, Z takes the slaps just as happily. It’s lovely watching that bit, the love between the two of them without the jealous and moany bits.

The week has ended with a girlie meal. I can’t remember the last time I went on one of those but it was a much enjoyed evening out and one I think should be repeated much more frequently. So, in the absence of kiddie pics this week, here are some lovely food pics that we took at Thaikun. Somewhere I’ll definitely be going back.

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Photalife