Saturday, 28 February 2015

A little trip away for half term

I'm making absolutely no excuses about this post, it is pure self indulgence about our few days away over half term in Manchester and Leicestershire.

The main purpose of our trip, as well as having some lovely family time together outside of the normal school and work routine, was to visit Great Grandad Roy in Ashdon Under Lyme. At 95, he's living independently , hugely interested in technology and has an eccentric collection of things in his back bedroom.  Although his sight and hearing are not what they used to be he's still revealing new and fascinating stories of his early life abroad.

We did however have to politely refuse his offer of a band saw from the back bedroom this time. Could you imagine me walking into our hotel in Manchester with that tucked under my arm?  Best not!

It was a decent trek from Wiltshire to Manchester but armed with our bag of car games we did well.  Miss M can't really do anything whilst travelling which doesn't include looking out the window as she can sometimes feel unwell.  On previous long journeys I have created paperchains which we've hung in the back of the car and the girls take it in turns to tear off a chain and reveal the task I've written on it. These can be things like "lead the car in a session of car aerobics" or "choose a song for the whole car to sing together" or "how many Mr Men can we all name in 1 minute"....you get the idea. We also have a "pick from the bag" where I have a bag of folded pieces of paper with further tasks, quizzes, activities or discussion questions to keep us going.  This time I didn't make the paperchains but we still had all the activities in our "pick from the bag" and amazingly only had three "are we nearly there" before reaching our destination!

Mr M had done us proud by finding us a very central hotel in Manchester so after dropping off our cases we set off for a wander.  Miss E was not too keen to come out again after discovering her hotel bed but soon changed her tune when she saw all the Chinese New Year decorations around the city as she'd been learning about this in her reception class. She became our little expert!


We found this huge Chinese Ram lantern in the window of The White Company in Kings Street and took a snap for Miss E to take into school after the hols.  I'm only in the photo as Miss E wasn't too keen to stand too close to the ram on her own...and not, you understand, because I wanted to be in the picture to be shown in her class!


We visited a favourite of ours, Tampopo in Albert Square for a delicious East Asian meal.  Mr M and I have visited this underground restaurant before on previous pre-children trips to Manchester but it was the first time for Miss M and Miss E and they loved it.

Miss E loved her child friendly chop sticks, being underground, the long tables and the noisey social dinning experience. 



And so did Miss M.  Both practiced before their meals arrived so they were ready to tuck in once their noodle dishes arrived; chicken and veggies for Miss E and chicken, prawns and muscles for Miss M.


The girls were given some lovely colouring and activity sheets as well.




When we left Tampopo we were treated to quite a sight, seeing the Town Hall building lit up in red for the Chinese celebrations.


The following day we set off in our waterproofs for the short walk to MOSI; Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry. Miss E decided to pose outside the main warehouse building, in the rain!



First stop, a quick pit stop at the very lovely Warehouse Cafe at the entrance to MOSI. Can you see the rain outside through the window? Mosi doesn't open till 10 and with two early risers we were up and out way before then.  With it being a wet day in the middle of half term at a mainly indoor attraction we knew it was going to be busy so wanted to get an early start to avoid some of the craziness!



A combo of it being wet and chilly and having a not so great hair day, (a stubborn tufty bit insisting on sticking up on top) resulted in me keeping my trusty and oh so cosy bobble hat on!


Now if you are eating whilst reading this blog, of even just having a snack, then please for your own sake, finish your food before scrolling down any further...don't even be tempted to sneak a peep....this post is about to take a turn for the worst and get quite frankly a little bit disgusting....a whole blinking bit gross if I'm completely honest....OK you've been sufficiently warned I think....

Let me introduce the Goo in the Loo workshop which Mr M and Miss M attended at MOSI!  At the same time Miss E and I attended a much less icky Pablo Fanque's Circus of Dreams Workshop for the under 8s where we met 3 mill children in Victorian Manchester and used our imagination and some great story telling to turn their dangerous and grim mill jobs into circus performances.  Perfectly pitched at this age group and I was having so much fun too I completely forgot to take any photos, sorry.  Any way back to the goo where we have several photos I'm afraid!


Basically they were learning about the sewers and water supplies, in a rather messy yet hugely appealing way if you're 9 years old!  Enough said!



MOSI is huge but well worth a visit and at a suggested donation of £3 per person, it's amazingly good value too.  These photos only capture a teeny tiny snippet of all the things in the 5 buildings they have on the site.  After our workshops we joined back together again for the Textile Mill demonstration.  Again the delivery by the staff was lively and fun and they were able to get several of the machines actually working explaining not only the cotton process but also the life of those adults and children working in the mills.



This is us having a go at twisting the cotton to make it stronger, obviously on a much smaller scale than the mill machines!.



We did lots more including Miss M doing a timed lap of the velodrome in the Pedal Power exhibition, making discoveries in the hands on Exploration Zone, getting into the cockpit of an aeroplane, seeing steam trains and engines in action and finally ending our visit with a trip down the sewer complete with authentic smells!!  Apologies for the rubbish photo but it was getting pretty busy by this point in the afternoon.


And just in case you're wondering, no the rain didn't stop all day and we had to put our PJs on when we got back to the hotel while we dried our clothes!

Our stay in Manchester was short but very enjoyable and we'll be back again as there's so much more we want to see and do.

The following morning we set off over the Pennine Hills on the Woodhead Pass into Derbyshire. It was brilliant to see the hill tops nestled in the clouds and the piles of snow at the sides of the roads at the higher points of the Peak District.  We were heading to my parent's house in Leicestershire and broke our journey at Hardwick Hall.  Again I forgot to get my camera out but we enjoyed a lovely lunch in the National Trust restaurant before looking around the house.  The only photo I took was Miss E getting to work in the kitchen polishing the shoes, folding napkins and making a rag rug.



Next stop Barrow-upon-Soar in Leicestershire, the village I grew up in.  It was my Dad's birthday and the Midlands as it's name suggests makes a pretty central meeting place for us coming from Wiltshire (obviously we normally take a more direct route than going via Manchester) and my sis and her family travelling down from Yorkshire.



On Saturday morning while everyone else was busy doing various things I took the girls for a walk in the village taking in a couple of playgrounds.  I forgot to take photos of the first part of our walk and playground number uno but this is along from where the canal meets the river Soar and after a few wet days, the canal was pretty full.


Miss E enjoying the muddy tow path and giving her best smile to send back to Daddy who was back at the house helping Grandad with all things computery!


Nobody was home at this canal boat but there were some lovely potted plants on the roof and at the back of the boat.


Looking back at where we joined the tow path at the lock and can you spot a couple of ducks?  A handsome drake and his lady friend decided to escort us along the canal.  I'm guessing they were expecting some food but we were unfortunately empty handed.


A quick group selfie to send back to Daddy....cheese!


Our duckie friends didn't give up on us...


...the drake even popped out of the water onto the path at one point, I think to just double check if were really were without treats for them both.


We spotted a field of beautifully woolly alpacas munching on the grass.


...and as much as we tried, we couldn't coax them to come any closer for their photo!


It wasn't the most sunny of days but we still managed to capture a few reflections in the water.


Often you can walk under this bridge along the tow path but not today with the water being so high.  As you can see our duckie friends popped out to say goodbye as we headed for playground number two.


We refer to this park as "the cow swings" which was the descriptive name we used when my sis and I were little.  We lived very close to the canal and would often walk along the other side of the canal from the walk we've just done, collect acorns and other treasures in our baskets on our way to "the cow swings".  The reason we called this playground "the cow swings" was that behind the swings was a field of cows.  Obviously that was a long time ago and things change, the new swings are still in the same place (just next to this roundabout) but the cows and field has gone I'm afraid to make way for these canal side houses.


This blue sky picture was taken minutes after the grey skied, slightly rainy one above.  Crazy British weather!


In the afternoon we all, us four, Grandma, Grandad, my sis, brother in-law and niece and nephew headed out to Rushcliffe Country Park which has a fabulous sensory play area as well as lake walks, adventure playgrounds, BMX track, exercise park, run routes and skate park to name a few...


We spent a long time having fun in the sensory park.  Miss E playing woodpeckers above and Miss M on the metal chimes below. 




Miss E make quite a racket on this Celtic Cymbal but the sun came out so we were very happy!


There were lots of puzzels to solve, tasks to complete, things to spot and music to make.


Well done if you managed to get through the whole of this post, it was quite a marathon!






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