Afternoon tea at Llanerch Vineyard – excellent food, but lacking in service

Afternoon tea is something I really enjoy as a treat. Over the last few years, my family and I have started going for afternoon tea a few times a year as a way to get together and catch up in a relaxing setting.

So I recently booked afternoon tea as a gift for my grandmother for her 91st birthday. I decided to try Llanerch Vineyard for the first time. I’ve had an excellent evening meal with friends there before and know it’s a lovely location.

We were booked in for noon and were shown to a table in a light and airy room. The windows looked out into the vineyard and I loved the huge Welsh dresser and the vineyard wallpaper.

One of our party was running late so we explained that after sitting at the table. We were told that the table was needed at 2pm so we’d have to be finished by then. 

I was disappointed to hear this. What I love most about afternoon tea is whiling away the time while catching up with friends and loved ones. And, to me, two hours is cutting it fine. 

We asked for the portions for the three of us to be brought out and to save the last portion for our other guest. After we chose from a huge variety of teas, the team accommodated this and brought out a gorgeous selection of food.

This included a selection of delicate square sandwiches with fillings including chicken, salmon, ham and the traditional cucumber. 

On the second tier, we had a delicious scone, clotted cream and jam, a Welsh cake and a slice of banana bread.

The top tier then had a fabulous selection of cakes. A melt in your mouth macaroon; a delicious lemon meringue; a peanut butter and chocolate cookie and a perfect slice of raspberry cheesecake.

The food was everything I’d hoped it would be and the tea was delicious. But I was disappointed that the afternoon tea – which was £16.50 each – only included one pot of tea per person. Any additional tea was £2.50 a pot. I’ve had a fair few afternoon teas in my time and it’s the first time I’ve been anywhere that charges for tea top ups!

By 2pm, we were reminded that we needed to leave our table. We were told we could take our drinks elsewhere in the vineyard, but we didn’t. It certainly soured the experience and made me feel unwelcome.

Overall, the food and setting were lovely but the customer service wasn’t what I expected. It detracted from the lovely food and meant the experience didn’t feel as special as I’d have liked it to. 

I’ll be sticking to my regular places for afternoon tea in future.

Blogger note – We paid for our visit to Llanerch Vineyard and the venue was unaware I was writing a review.


Out of order – a review

What happens when a MP and his intended lover find a dead body in his hotel room? 

That’s the premise of Ray Cooney’s Out of Order, an Olivier award-winning comedy currently on stage at Cardiff’s New Theatre

It features well-known actors including EastEnders and Extras actor Shaun Williamson and Footballers’ Wives actress Susie Amy.

A brilliantly funny farce, Out of Order sees MP Richard Willey and his faithful parliamentary private secretary George Pigden’s evenings go from bad to worse as they try to conceal a dead body in Willey’s bedroom at the Westminster Hotel. 

Each lie leads to an increasingly entertaining web of deceit that comes perilously close to unravelling. The cast worked well together, using impeccable comic timing and delivery to keep the audience laughing.

I particularly enjoyed the political jokes, which were so current referring to Brexit, Corbyn, May and the forthcoming General Election.

The use of props was superb. Without giving too much away, the sliding window and bedroom cupboard are like cast members creating some of the funniest moments of the show. It was great to see the technical team in charge of the window on stage at the end as it became a key part of the show.

Excellently performed with a perfectly witty script, Out of Order is a brilliant night out. I left with aching cheeks from laughing so much, testament indeed to how funny I found the show to be.

Out of Order is at the New Theatre until Saturday 20 May. Tickets start at £11.

We paid for our tickets to see Out of Order and the venue was unaware we would be writing a review.

In defence of warts-and-all mum bloggers

Today you may well have seen this take down of some well-known bloggers/authors who write about their experiences of motherhood in all of its wonderful, exhausting and life-changing glory. 

As you’d expect, it’s sparked quite the reaction on social media and some brilliant responses from the writers it features, including this excellent post from The Unmumsy Mum. 

To me, it felt like a piece aimed at making mothers feel even more weighed down with guilt than they already are. 

Find Hurrah for Gin funny ✅? What a bad mother you are. Fed your children fish fingers tonight ✅? You should be ashamed.

I don’t drink gin (I’m an occasional prosecco/cocktail in a can drinker thank you very much) but I do, shock horror, feed my children fish fingers from time to time. And sausages and baked beans and chips of the frozen variety.  

On other days, I’ll lovingly make home made meals, which are often greeted with a melodramatic “yuck” and a refusal to eat, hence the occasional use of fish fingers.

There are days where we go bug hunting, on outdoor adventures, make cakes and have educational trips to farms. There are other days where they scoff Pom Bears and watch more TV than they probably should. 

Since I became a mum more than five years ago, not a day has passed without me feeling guilty. I always worry about being a bad mum. 

I wish I could be less tired, more patient and not flinch at the mere thought of messy play. I wish I was that smiling saintly mum I imagined I’d be, but then I am also a person and a rather knackered one at that.

Until these bloggers and others started writing about this stuff, I thought it was just me that found motherhood pretty hard at times. I love my children fiercely in ways I didn’t know possible, but my word it can be challenging sometimes. 

I blinked away happy and sad tears reading the Unmumsy Mum’s Diary, which I bloody loved. Eloquent and bitingly funny, I found it to be very relateable as well as brilliantly written. 

She and others put their experiences out there and got mothers talking about things they may not have spoken about before. They are shattering the illusions of the Instalives/lies we can all be guilty of presenting on our social media accounts.

Personally, I love how blogging has democratised writing and allowed people across the world to share their stories. It gives a platform to previously hidden voices, a place to share untold stories. 

I think we’re at a fantastic point in history where women’s voices and experiences are being documented and shared like never before. 

Sure, I might not like everything I read on blogs, but I don’t like everything I read in the media either.

So please, back off the parenting bloggers, and all bloggers for that matter. They are taking the time to write about their experiences and put their writing out into the often unforgiving internet.

After all, if you don’t like it, don’t read it.

Sleep, precious sleep…

It’s safe to say that when I was pregnant with our first child I was expecting a bit of sleep disruption.

Yes, there’d be sleepless nights but it would be manageable, I thought. After all, I was the kind of person who was up by 7am at weekends. I’d always been a morning person. It would be fine. And babies slept through at around six months, right?

Then I had a child and realised that the sleep deprivation thing was so much harder than I imagined. There was the day when an all-night feeding frenzy meant I had an hour’s sleep. That day is burned into my brain. It was so hard to function that I wanted to weep.

Our son woke at least five times a night until he was 17 months. I was exhausted and it felt as though I’d never get a good night’s sleep again. He’d also get up at 5.30am every day, something he still does at the age of five.

But then, as though by magic, he grew out of the frequent night waking. By two he was sleeping through pretty consistently and I felt human again. There were a few months of disruption when he moved from a cot to a bed but then he settled down.

When it came to having our daughter eight months later, I felt more equipped with what to expect. And although the early weeks were incredibly hard and exhausting, by 10 weeks she learned to suck her thumb and started to sleep through.

A baby who slept! Suddenly I realised why I’d get odd looks from other parents when I said our son was not sleeping because our daughter did it as if by magic. 

And, until a few months ago, we’d rarely hear anything from her when she’d gone to sleep at night. I’m not going to lie –  it was awesome. Having been through months of sleep deprivation with our son, I was very aware of how lucky we were.

Then, the dreaded thing happened. She learned to escape her cot. We had no choice to put her into a toddler bed instead. I worried it would disturb her sleep.

The early days were tough. We spent hours every evening sitting by her bedroom door and ferrying her back to her bed.

After a few weeks, I cracked and insisted on putting a stairgate on her bedroom door. That way she could play safely in her room without roaming around.

It worked a treat. Until she figured out how to climb over the stairgate and how to remove it from her bedroom door.

So we’re now a fortnight in to very late bedtimes. On a good night she’s sleeping by 9.15pm, on a bad night it’s 10.20pm. I usually crash out not long after. 

And she’s still up bright and early each morning.

We’ve tried putting her back to bed and trying to get her to fall asleep in ours. We have tried reward charts, new night lights and bedtime stories. We have tried taking her for a walk in her pram too.

Our latest approach is to bring her back downstairs after bath time and try to carry on with our evening as normally as we can. It meant she was watching Eurovision with us until 9.45pm last night.

Two weeks in, we’re exhausted. We look after her in shifts to make sure we each have a little bit of time to do what we want such as go to the gym, but we don’t get much down time together while we’re contending with this.

So, fellow parents of non-sleepers, you have my upmost sympathy.

And if you have any bright ideas for techniques and tactics to break this habit, I’d love to hear from you!

A mid week stay at Bluestone Wales – a review

Nestled in stunning surroundings in Pembrokeshire, Bluestone Wales has been a popular getaway for families for more than a decade. 

With hundreds of lodges, and a swimming pool, a spa, a park, a lake and indoor and outdoor activities in its 500 acres, the five-star resort offers plenty to keep its guests entertained. And partly falling into the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, it provides a comfortable base to explore the beautiful beaches and days out nearby.

We have been regular visitors to Bluestone since 2013, when we enjoyed our first family holiday there. We love its range of family-friendly activities, high quality accommodation and pretty setting and how close it is to home. It is just 90 minutes from where we live meaning the children are fairly comfortable with the journey.

Bluestone offers a good range of free activities for guests including swimming, soft play, mini golf, quizzes and shows. There are also bookable activities including messy play, interactive story times and craft workshops.

It has a range of places to eat from a coffee shop to a family-friendly restaurant and a pub. One of our favourite experiences in good weather is Camp Smokey, where you can enjoy food cooked on a campfire and roast marshmallows.  

The resort has updates and new additions fairly regularly including a chip shop van (perfect for that arrival day!). This year they have created a fabulous new play park in the centre of the resort’s village, which the children were thrilled to test out!

We were fortunate to get sunny weather so we could enjoy walks around the lake and the nature trail. 

The nature trail

We usually rely on prams, the children’s scooters and walking to get around Bluestone. But we opted to hire a golf buggy on this trip for the first time as I’m recovering from a nasty chest infection. At £92.50 for the duration of a mid week or weekend break, it isn’t cheap, but it made getting around the resort easier and the children enjoyed it!

Customer service on site is marvellous. For example, at home we have a stair gate on our toddler’s door as she’s a little explorer. On our first night, she was awake until 9.15pm after discovering she could just walk out of her room. I mentioned it to staff in passing when booking some activities the following morning and they arranged for a complimentary stair gate to be delivered to our lodge that day.

One of the things I enjoy about Bluestone is how environmentally-friendly the resort is. The swimming pool, for example, is heated by biomass and each lodge has recycling facilities. I was pleased to see a disposable nappy recycling service at the lodges, which was a new addition since our last stay.

Breaks vary in price according to your accommodation and when you stay. The resort features a range of accommodation aimed at sleeping between two and 12 people, including cottages, studio apartments and lodges. 

This time, we stayed in a three-bedroom Tenby lodge, which gave us plenty of space to relax and meant the children had separate rooms. Off peak, weekend or mid week breaks can be as little as £250 (sometimes less). 

However, like all holiday resorts, prices increase substantially during peak times, including the school holidays. For example, the cheapest 2-bedroom lodge would cost more than £1,000 for a mid week stay in the first week of August (prices checked on 3 May 2017).

Overall, we had another unforgettable family break at Bluestone. The accommodation and facilities are second to none and give you a great base to explore Pembrokeshire. So, yes, we’ll be coming back again!

Blogger note: We paid for our holiday to Bluestone Wales and all of our activities there. The resort was unaware I would be writing a review.

Where are your favourite places for family holidays? I’d love to hear your recommendations.

A trip to Folly Farm Wales – a review

Pembrokeshire’s Folly Farm is a popular day out for families in Wales and that includes us. 

Boasting both exotic and farmyard animals and a fantastic range of indoor and outdoor play, it was has won accolades from TripAdvisor for being a top family day out.

We do a family day out to Folly Farm at least once a year and it gets better with every visit with new animals and updated sections. 

Our first stop was the barn, where you can find traditional farm animals including goats, pigs, donkeys and a variety of chickens. The hatchery allows children to watch eggs hatch and the interactive cwtch corner enables them to cuddle smaller animals such as guinea pigs. 

The children then made their way to the vast outdoor play park starting with the sand diggers. They both loved digging mounds and steering the diggers. Then it was off to the different sections of the park to explore the pirate ships, castle and network of slides and tunnels.

After an hour of play, we made our way to see the more exotic animals including rhinos, meerkats, lions, zebra and the giraffes. 

One of the lovely things about Folly Farm is the interactive and educational element that accompanies each species meaning you learn along the way. Our five-year-old loved the measuring chart which showed him how tall he was in comparison to a baby giraffe. 

There is excellent information about conservation too, which is helpful to start talking to children about these issues.

Our highlights were seeing the the giraffes and the visit to penguin cove. Both of our children were thrilled to see the penguins swimming, especially through the glass viewing area. 

We ate lunch at the fast food diner at the soft play centre. It cost us £26 for two adult and children’s meals and drinks. The food was good and portions were very ample. There were other dining options including a cafe near the entrance, but we decided on a treat after two hours’ exploring. The children then burnt off some energy by racing around the vast soft play area before returning outside for more play and animals.

The facilities at Folly Farm are great for accessibility, including prams and wheelchairs. There are plentiful drinking water stations and toilets, which is vitally important when venturing out with a recently toilet-trained toddler! 

It cost around £45 for the four of us to get in, but we exchanged our Tesco Clubcard vouchers for four times the value in advance to pay towards the entrance cost. 

The entry fee covers the vast majority of activities at Folly Farm, but some cost a small fee such as the fairground rides.

Overall, we had another fantastic day out at Folly Farm. Fun, informative and interactive.

Blogger note: We paid for our visit to Folly Farm and the venue was unaware I was writing a review.

Colby Woodland Garden – a review

Tucked away in tranquil Amroth in Pembrokeshire, The National Trust’s Colby Woodland Garden is a stunning place to explore. 

It’s a hidden gem of walks, blooms, streams and a never-ending meadow filled with daisies and wild flowers.

After arrival, we headed straight to the walled garden. Walking through the metal gate, you are greeted by trees and gorgeous flowers of all colours. Statues are dotted around walkways and paths and a fountain babbles downstream from a summerhouse. 

As someone who loved The Secret Garden as a child, it felt lovely to look around this hidden place.

The Walled Garden

Our toddler was enchanted by the flowers and the ducks who were taking a swim in the fountains.

From the walled garden, our next step was to find the meadow and the network of paths and bridges around it. The children enjoyed discovering steps and walkways, picking up sticks and leaves and hunting for dandelion clocks. As it’s early May, the bluebells were also out in force.

The children loved the freedom of running through the huge meadow and climbing the fallen tree trunk.

Tired young legs meant we only explored part of this beautiful, expansive place. But what we saw was gorgeous.

There is ample car parking by the garden and a cafe on site serving a selection of meals and light bites for hungry walkers.

We paid £17.50 for a family ticket to the garden, which included access to the walled garden. 

Where are your favourite family days out in Wales? I’d love to know to add them to our to do list.