Anyone that follows me will know that we are huge fans of Mama Shelter. It is the perfect destination for families and we can’t wait to celebrate Halloween there this year!
On the 29th October from 11.30am – 3pm the hotel will be bringing a taste of Mexico to East London with their Dia De Los Muertos – Halloween Family Brunch.
Alongside a gorgeous brunch menu – which I can most definitely vouch for! There will be a whole host of fun from face painting to magic tricks, football tournaments to arcade games, karaoke and much more!
When you book this fun and interactive family brunch you get to enter our competition. On the day, share your Instagram stories and posts of enjoyment, tag us @thejoyoffive and @mamashelterlondon and you will enter the prize drawer to win a Family Stay at Mama.
T+C: The winner will be selected on Monday 31stOctober and the Family Stay includes a nights stay’ with two bedrooms (one for the parents and one for the kids) with complimentary breakfast. The stay will be valid to be booked to stay during the month of January 2023.
Although we are Londoners, being South of the river means going into central London is still always an exciting experience. The hustle and bustle, the towering buildings, the eclectic diversity of everyone there is always food for my sole and something I will never tire of – and it’s something I encourge my children to enjoy too.
What is even better than a day trip is an over night stay, and we were lucky enough to experience a night at Andaz London Liverpool Street. Andaz London Liverpool Street is a short walk from London Bridge station and a stones throw from the Shoreditch District, which is certainly one of my favourite parts of London.
Andaz London dates back to 1884 and was formally known as The Great Eastern. My Dad who is a born and breed East Ender, remembers the hotel from his childhood, and I’m glad to stay the original features have been mixed perfectly with a modern twist, giving it that feel wow factor.
Upon arrival a glass of very welcomed glass of Prosecco was placed in my hand after a slightly fraught journey with two over excited boys! We checked in with ease and made our made upstairs to check out our room. We had an interconecting room which allowed for plenty of space to chill out, infact the rooms were some of the most spacious I have stayed in. The soft, cosy beds were super inviting and the simplistic decor made for a very calming atmosphere.
The little notes back to the hotel’s East London roots with art from a local tattoo artist were the perefct touch, and the boys were even left some tattoos to try on themselves!
The black and white, clean lines of the bathrooms were beautiful and complemented the rest of the room perfectly.
We wanted for nothing inside the room as there was a fully stocked mini bar…much to the boys delight, tea and coffee facilities and of course robes and slippers that we slipped into as soon as we settled in.
The boys unloaded their toys and I sat back and relaxed until it was time to head down to dinner.
Every evening there are complimentary drinks in the lounge between 6 – 8pm. I was a little hesitant about going along with the boys, but they thoroughly enjoyed listening to the music and taking in the atmosphere.
Our room was located directly next to Liverpool Street Station and I was worried about the noise, but we didn’t hear a peep from outside and we all slept really well. The 12oclock check out allowed us to have a lay in and enjoy our room before heading down to breakfast.
Breakfast while we are away is always a highlight for the kids, and if it is a buffet style they are even happier. So their eyes lit up when the saw the plethora of food on offer. There was everything from cereals and fruit, continental style treats to a full english or there was the option to order from the menu with favourites such as pancakes and eggs Benedict – we really were spolit for choice!
Sometimes I find you are ushered out as there is a big turnover of people, but the kids were uncharacteristically relaxed and we sat for a good while, enjoying the delicious food and each others company.
Andaz London is perfect if you want a centeral location, a touch of luxury and good food with a quirky twist. A family friendly hotel with all the little touches to make it a great stay for the adults too!
After being restricted with travel for so long due to covid, having a trip planned was even more exciting- and it was actually the travelling there that I was getting most excited about!
Being able to travel by another means than just a car was such an exciting thought and something the boys hadn’t done until our trip on board the Red Funnel Ferry to the Isle Of Wight the other week.
It was an early start for us as we were only staying over night and I wanted to pack as much in as possible. This was easily done as the Red Funnel ferries run from early hours of the morning until late in the evening.
We had a priority booking slot that meant as we arrived at the port in Southampton we had plenty of time to get our car in line and pop to the on site shop for a toliet stop and to grab a few snacks.
I’m a pretty nervous driver to say the least and the thought of boarding the ferry was leaving me filled with a little dread to say the least! I needn’t have worried though as it was such a well run boarding I was on and parked before we knew it. The kids couldn’t wait to get out of the car and do some exploring; so we headed up to the lounge, found some comfy seats and I relaxed with a coffee in hand as we set sail.
There was an array of hot and cold food on offer, as well as plenty of snacks and even toys to keep the kids busy, although mine were too busy taking in the view as we sailed along. After a while they got itchy feet so we headed to the top deck where the sea breeze hit us and I honestly could have sat there taking it all in for the rest of the trip.
The hours journey flew by and before we knew it we were heading back down to the car where departing the ferry was just as pain free as the boarding.
We headed straight to our first destination of Robin Hill County Park when we arrived, which is only 15 mins from the port and comes hightly recommended from us.
Our return voyage was a night time booking and I’m really glad we got to experience this as the coasttime and the cruise liners we passed where so beautifully lit up it gave us a completely different kind of journey on the way home – and of course being dinner time the boys couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have some sausage and chips to fill their hungry bellies!
We have so much more to discover on the Isle Of Wight and we certainly wouldn’t want to get their any other way!
I actually can’t remember when we last had a hoilday without a trip to Hever Castle. Our love for it never falters and I would find it hard to tell you what season there I love the most…well actually that’s a little lie as it has to be Christmas. With that said though whatever time of year you visit you are in for a treat and for us the other day was no different.
As I’m sure you have noticed the weather this summer hasn’t exactly been the best, but there is always something to see and do at Hever. We headed straight for the playground as this is always one of the boys favourite areas. Frankie is reaching the age where is sometimes gets a little bored of playgrounds now, but we spent a huge amount of time in here with the boys playing chase and making new friends in a huge game of hide and seek.
Next up we plotted up by the water to feed the ducks and have something delicious from the BBQ. Hever is perfect for picnicing and we normally do a mixtutre of both. Taking snacks and drinks to keep us going and then treating ourselves to something nice – which always includes an ice-cream!
We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit as the children were keen to stay outside, but it is definetly a must if you are planning a visit. Instead we ignored the weather and went straight to the water maze. For me this is such a pretty feature to the already stunning grounds, and something I have never seen anywhere else quite like it.
There are still covid restrictions on this attraction, but the queue was short and we still had a heap of fun.
We sadly missed the times for the falconary exebitions that run twice a day, but we spent the rest of the day enjoying all the little hidden walks around the grounds whilst the boys tried to spot as many naked statues as they could – something else they never seem to get bored off and mananged to meet one of the birds of prey on our way round.
We had yet another fantastic day and can’t wait until our next trip.
Honolulu is the largest city in the state as well as the capital of Hawaii. It is located on the south shore of the Island of Oahu and is considered the gateway to the chain of islands that make up the Hawaiian Islands. With an average high temperature of 85 and an average low of 71, spending time on the beaches is popular in Honolulu.
Taking the family to Honolulu is a fantastic idea whatever time of year it is because the weather is warm and sunny all year. Even in December and January, the average temps are about 75 degrees. Wherever you decide to go with the family, be sure to drop off your backpacks and heavy bags at a luggage storage site in Honolulu first.
Check Out the Fishes at the Waikiki Aquarium
Founded in 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium is one of the most popular attractions on the island. What started with 35 fish tanks and 400 plants and animals has expanded to over 3,500 plants and animals in almost 500 species. In fact, in 1978, it had the first display of Pacific corals in the US.
The aquarium is divided into 15 sections. The Amazing Adaptations exhibit has a collection of pipefishes, sea dragons, and seahorses and is one of the most popular. The Giant Clams and Coral Farm exhibits are also pretty popular. But the 7,500-gallon Edge of the Reef outdoor aquarium is the main attraction.
Visit the Animals at the Zoo
If you want to see some land animals, take the family to the Honolulu Zoo at the 300-acre Kapiolani Park. The zoo boasts more than 1230 animals on the 42 acre s with numerous exhibits to explore. See them all from the huge Asian elephant to the zebras from the African Sahara and everything in between.
The zoo was opened in 1916 with several lion cubs, a sun bear, a monkey, and a handful of exotic birds and today houses a huge variety of creatures in several different sections. The African Savannah is the most popular, featuring lions, baboons, African painted dogs, black rhinos, chimps, and meerkats.
Swim with the Dolphins
At Kahala Resort, their Dolphin Quest program is more than just swimming with a few dolphins. They have their own group of six dolphins that you and the family can meet in person up close. The Dolphin Adventure lets you spend an hour with these beautiful creatures swimming and touching them. The Premier Experience offers a private session for just your family to swim and play with all six of the dolphins. These adventures are only for those five years and older though so if you have a younger child, try the Wee Family Fins and Fun where even the tiny tots get to meet, feed, and play with the dolphins.
Play for the Day at Sea Life Park
Another great place to hang out with the animals, Sea Life Park celebrates the local sea creatures by providing the public the chance to get up close and personal with some of them. First, visit the Hawaiian Reef Aquarium, which is a 300,000-gallon tank with 2,000 marine animals like sharks, turtles, and stingrays.
They also have the Hawaiian Ocean Theater, where the park staff hosts many shows displaying sea lions, penguins, and dolphins. You will get a chance to feed some of them at the Sea Turtle Pool and Stingray Lagoon. But do not miss the Hawaiian Monk Seal Habitat where you can see these amazing animals.
See the Bottom of the Ocean on the Atlantis Submarine
For those of you who want to go deeper and see more wildlife at the bottom of the ocean, check out the Atlantis Submarine. You and the family will take a shuttle ferry to the submarine location in Waikiki. The Undersea Adventure takes you down in a real submarine in the comfort of AC and cushy seats.
For approximately one hour, you will descend 100 feet where you will all get to see marine life up close in its native habitat. The coral reef was rebuilt in 1988 to revitalize the area and it has become a treasure trove of fishes, turtles, and vibrant corals. See two sunken airplanes and sunken ships teeming with wildlife.
Get Some Sun on Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach is the most well-known and popular beach on the island of Oahu, and you will know why when you see the gorgeous crystal-clear turquoise waters and two miles of white sand. In the 1800s, the beach was a private space for Hawaiian royalty but today it is a public adventureland.
But Waikiki has several beaches stretched out along a huge section of Waikiki Bay stretching for miles along the southern side of the island. One of the best sections of beach for kids is Prince Kuhio Beach, which is also known as The Ponds because there are two walls that offer calm and shallow water to play in.
Learn More About Hawaii at Bishop Museum
Teach the kids about the history of Hawaii while you are in Honolulu at the Bishop Museum. It’s the biggest museum in Hawaii with the largest collection of Polynesian artifacts in the world. The exhibits of Hawaiian life and culture are thanks to Charles Bishop, who founded it in 1889 to honor his wife, Princess Bernice. Some of the permanent exhibitions include the Kaimiloa Expedition of 1924, the Falls of Clyde from 1968, and the Jhamandas Watumull Planetarium, the oldest planetarium in Polynesia. With 25 million items, each with its own story, you could spend the whole day there and not see everything there is to see.
While you are in Honolulu, don’t miss out on trying the local foods like Poke bowls, Kalua pig, Lomi salmon, and of course, shaved ice. Some of the best places to eat with kids include Mac 24/7, the Honolulu Burger Company, Hula Grill, and Duke’s Waikiki. And for dessert, try Island Vintage Shaved Ice or Liliha Bakery.
Stepping out of the cab with the blistering sun burning down on us, we could have easily been on an LA strip and not in the centre on Hackney when we arrived at Mama Shelter.
The grand, black building and striking canopies gave the hotel that immediate ‘wow’ factor, which also fills me with dread when it comes to travelling with kids! Little did I know though my worries were soon to be quashed.
We made our way past young couples sipping cocktails in the sun and entered the entrance hall where we were greeted with a ecletic mix of clashing, colourful prints and luxurious fabrics that were a feast for the eyes; but I think the game changer for us all was the arcade game sitting right by the reception; which imedietly put my mind at ease about the children being there and gave them something to do whilst I checked in, in peace.
I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome. I was told everything I needed to know and the children were asked what they were looking forward to during thier stay.
Our stay was going to see us experience Mama Shelter’s ‘Kidzcation’ which means that when you book one room you get one half price which is interconecting if avaliable so the family are all still together.
Our rooms consisted of a double bed and two singles which worked perfectly for us. There was plenty of room to move around and all the little essentials you need such as an area to make drinks and gorgous own brand bathroom goodies.
Screen addict Frankie homed straight in on the TV and was over the moon with the huge array of free movies on offer…I think he would have been happy to stay there all weekend. Another lovely little extra were the sweets on the kids beds and the super cute Looney Tunes masks that the boys kept on for the majority of their stay .
All settled in we made our way down to dinner. The restaurant was buzzing and had a fantastic atmosphere. There was a heated debate over who was sitting on the sofa which resulted in a full on meltdown from Oscar. Normally this would make for a fraught evening, but thanks to our wonderful waiter the crisis was divered and his kinds words telling me what a fab job I was doing with the kids meant so much!
We feasted on the best burgers I have ever tasted and finshed off with a variety of puddings from cookies and milk to brulee’d pain perdu.
The children’s menu mirrored that of the adults which is always somthing I like, instead of the usual beige offerings. Mine all wolfed down their meals and I had the chance to sit and enjoy a G&T in peace while the boys played on the super cool football table.
A check out time of 12pm meant that we could have a really lazy morning which is always welcome when you have numerous little ones to get ready. A few coffees, a bit of TV watching and a long relaxing shower later we went to fill our bellies once more. Children under 12 eat free for breakfast and they get to choose from the main menu which has a great variety. We are definitely a pancake loving family and couldn’t turn down the fluffy panckes dripping with syrup and covered in crispy bacon.
Full to the brim the boys made full use of the arcade machines before we headed to the karaoke room. Tucked away at the bottom of the hotel are two karaoke rooms where Oscar was in his element. The disco lighting and iPads to select your favourite tunes were a fantastic addition to an already wonderful stay.
If you are looking for a stay that caters perfectly for the kids whilst still giving the parents something special then Mama Shleter is the place to be!
2020 will most certainly go down as a year to remember. Sadly this will be for all the heartache and loss it has brought to us all. But as with every bad situation you need to look for the good and for us there had certainly been some wonderful, simple moments that I will cherish forever, and as always I’m going to show you these in pictures as they convey the fun much more than my words ever could…
Lowdown has meant seeing a lot of our own four walls or taking trips to out local green spaces. I am extremely grateful that we have a lovely home and plenty of places to choose from when it comes to getting out and about, but after months of end not going to far afield and not seeing friends I was delighted when the lovely Hanna from The Savvy Mummy asked to meet up at her beautiful hut in Deal – Kent.
It’s only just over an hour from us and I was so happy to see a beautiful, smiling face greet us and the peaceful Kingsdown Holiday Park.
The park is home to a collection of stunning wooden huts, set in the middle of a beautiful green space just a stones throw away from the beach.
The park has so much to keep the children busy from mini golf to tennis, a well equipped play area to table tennis and the ability to allow you to let the kids roam free and find their own fun.
The Hut itself is a real home from home with a warm feeling as soon as you step in. The ground floor has a well equipment kitchen and a living space with a dining area which you sometimes don’t find in places such as this. There is also a good sized bathroom a double bedroom and a super cute children’s room complete with bunk beds and a disco ball light that kept the boys very amused!
My favourite part was the mezzanine floor that had bunting draped from each and every banister and had two good sized double beds. The cute triangular windows also have toy a gorgeous view of the grounds and the sea!
The Hut really is a tardis and is deceptively more spacious than than it looks. We are a big family and it could house us all with ease.
After exploring everything the park had to offer we jumped back in the car and took a short drive into Deal town centre to get some chips and have a dip in the sea before Hanna and the girls headed home.
If we had more time we could easily have made the walk into town as there is a wide a flat promenade that is perfect for the kids to scooter on and is definitely on our list for a return trip.
After a sad goodbye we headed back to the hut for the evening and the boys were eager to head out on their own around the park. This kind of thing always fills me with anxiety – not so much because I am worried about their safety as I felt completely space there, but I know how my youngest two have an extreme ability to annoy and I don’t want them to impose on others!
After a while and with regular checks from their big sister I relaxed a little and was able to have a cup of tea in peace whist they enjoyed their new found independence.
I’m not one to sit still for to long though and I was getting itchy feet, so I took Oscar on the few minute walk down to the sea front. This section of beach had a row of pretty cottages and two pubs which I have heard serve great food and have benches on the beach where people were enjoying a glass of wine whilst watching the sunset.
Me on Oscar however headed( pj’s on) down to the sea to see what we could find in the rock pools. My ever inquisitive youngest had a bit of a shock though when he got a sea urchin sucker onto his finger!
A little bit wet and weary we went back and enjoyed chocolate dipped marshmallows and got an early-ish night!
The next morning Frankie was up by the front door at the crack of dawn trying to spot his new found friends. For me lockdown has meant he has wanted to do very little aside from be stuck in front of a screen, so seeing him back to his old self and wanted to get out and about was amazing.
We brought a few of our own supplies for breakfast, but Hanna has left the kitchen well equipped with all the essential such as tea, coffee and cereal which was most unexpected and very welcome.
Toast, and a tidy up and it was time to say fair well to our over night home and head back into Deal to see what else there was to offer.
I had come across Deal Pier Kitchen whilst having a look online and had made it my mission to visit before we left.
I didn’t even realise Deal had a pier and unlike the usual fairground filled piers this was just home to the restaurant that sat right at the end.
The pier has a brutalist feel to it which I love and the restaurant has been built in keeping with this, keep the exterior dark, with plenty of glass to take in the stunning sea views.
There were lots of delicious choices on the menu, but being early we grabbed skinny fries and cake…great for the waistline!
Izzy was desperate to have mooch around the shops, I was not so much so with all the COVID regulations in place, but we window shopped and Deal had a good variety of your usual suspects as well as some pretty homeware and gifts shops in a pretty lame type setting.
I really felt we made the most of an overnight stay and packed in as much as we could with The Hut being the perfect place for us to do this.
The location was perfect to relax in and just let kids be kids and it allows you to do as little or as much as you want.
We had a wonderful stay and hope to be back very soon!
[AD] ‘Stop, look, listen, think before you cross the road.’
This is a road safely saying that was drummed into me as a child and I have passed this down to my own children over the years. Road safety of course is something of upmost importance and is taught to our children at home and in schools…but how many of you teach rail safety to your children?
As regular train users I am embarrassed to say that the limits of my teaching to the children have been to stand behind the yellow line on the platform and to move away from closing doors. I naively thought that this was all they really needed to know and never considered this of any great importance; and it looks like I’m not alone – a Mumsnet survey shows that only half of parents that were asked had spoken to their children about rail safety, compared to a wapping 94% that had spoken about road safety. 3 in 1 parents have never discussed rail safety with their children, even though 4 out of 5 of them think it should be spoken about and this seems to stem from parents not knowing how to start the conversation which resonated with a third of those asked.
If you really take time to think about this the dangers of the railway are just as great as those on the road and even if you do not live near a railway station or use a train regularly, teaching our little ones about rail safety is of upmost importance and the need for it to be taught at a very young age is so great as their learning can then be carried through into their teenage years.
As I said earlier a third of parents didn’t really know how to broach this subject and this is why Network Rail have got together with the lovable and familiar characters – Thomas And Friends to teach children how to stay safe.
For those of you familiar with Thomas And Friends he is a pretty cheeky character who is always up to mischief and my youngest two certainly have many of the same characteristics. Looking for fun rather than considering dangers that can be involved is something I always need to keep an eye on with them and I’m sure many of you have the same issues with your children.
‘Stay Safe With Thomas’ allows parents to approach the subject gently with their children, allowing them to learn in a fun an interactive way with their special book.
I turn to books to aid me in a whole host of subjects I find difficult to navigate, so having Thomas And Friends there showing children the dangers of not stopping at level crossing, standing to close to the platform and much more allowed me to broach these subjects where the children could put their self into Thomas and his friend’s shoes.
There is also a super handy checklist at the end of the book that can be referred back to time and time again to reinforce all those dangers they need to be keeping an eye out for.
As well as being able to purchase a paperback copy there is an easy to download electronic version which would be great to refer to when you are out and about and using the railway.
I would love to know how many of you already speak to your children about this or if it is something you will now consider engaging in.
[AD] Do you have a bucket list of destinations you’d like to travel to in your lifetime? Although our travel plans may be on hold for a little while, there is nothing to stop you from planning your next getaway as soon as you’re allowed to hop on that plan again! If you’ve seen and done Europe why not take a look at venturing further afield?
There are countless locations that could be on your must-see list, so to help to choose where to go next, here are a few of my favourite destinations.
With so much on offer – glorious weather, beautiful beaches and stunning skyscrapers to name just a few – there is no doubt that the glitzy UAE emirates will enable you to make memories to last a lifetime.
Experience The Hustle And Bustle In Bangkok
If you’re looking for a lively location, Bangkok if the place to be. Thailand’s capital is bustling, so be prepared to get involved in the chaos immediately!
From awe-inspiring temples to vibrant street food markets, there is something to keep everyone occupied here. If you’d like a little bit more peace and quiet there is always the option to hop on a boat to get to the idyllic islands such as Ko Samui or Ko Tao.
Search For Different Animals In Sri Lanka
From surfing to so worshiping there is not much you can do in Sri Lanka. If you have a particular interest in animals we know that you will love nothing more than being able to visit the elephants in Pinnawala, or volunteer with the sea turtle sanctuaries in Kosgoda. When you’re there you can climb sacred mountains, enjoy a cup of tea on a picturesque plantation or simply relax on the beach on the south-east coast when its time to unwind.
Once you’ve planned all the day trips you’d love to go on, sights you’d like to see and restaurants you can’t wait to experience, there’s still one thing you need to tick off your holiday checklist – the mode of transport to get you to and from the airport comfortably.
If you are departing from an airport such as Gatwick, opt to travel during less busy times and pic up and off-peak return ticket. Not only will you benefit from a quieter carriage, but your fare may be cheaper too!