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Drayton Manor Theme Park, England

‘Go to Drayton Manor, instead’ I was told when I’d mentioned I was thinking of taking my kids to a major theme park for a day out. ‘You’ll love it, and it’s better for the kids too!’ I was sceptical at first. I’d heard of Drayton, but I knew little about it. I didn’t know much about the rides, how big was it, was there going to be enough to keep them occupied? I decided to take the chance, and one busy Monday morning in the middle of the school summer holidays, I found myself driving up the access road and parking in a large grass-covered parking lot next to the main entrance. The surrounding trees kept the delights of Drayton Manor Park hidden for a little longer, but every now and then a scream or two, and a quick glimpse of a bright blue rollercoaster rose above the tree-line, before disappearing just seconds later. If my kids weren’t excited before we arrived, they certainly were now.

Drayton Manor is a theme park unlike any other I’ve visited. Sure it has its rides and its amusements like every other, and yes they’re scary, exciting, and in some cases, wet, but here’s a park that has a lot more to offer than the usual adrenaline thrills. Especially if you’re travelling with younger kids.

Immediately as you enter through the gates you arrive at Thomas Land, a treasure trove of rides for the under 6’s (although adults are allowed on as well). We stepped inside and queued for the Troublesome Trucks ride, the first rollercoaster my 4 and 3 year old children would experience. And an hour and a half later we were still in Thomas Land, queueing to do every ride again.

When we finally persuaded them that Drayton Manor was somewhat larger than miniature Sodor-land, Thomas himself took us on a one-way ride to the far end of the park. And we started all over again. Dino Land, the Drayton Zoo, a driving school and a friendly goose captured the boys’ attention for the next hour as we wander back towards the main attractions. In fact, there’s a real element of eductation thrown in here, and most kids probably won’t even realise they’re learning as well as having fun. Subliminal teaching, I think that’s called!

There are plenty of rides here that are designed for older kids and adults, and they’re sensibly kept to an area all of their own. It means that families travelling with younger kids only don’t have to face the crush and the crowds that surround the main attractions.

Somewhere in the middle of the park, the Ben 10 ride looms in vivid green, and at its base, a 4D movie cinema showing a 15 minute feature film called The Little Prince, (I remember studying the book in French class, many years ago) was a welcome break from all that walking.

To be succinct about it all, Drayton Manor Park is most definitely a great, family-friendly day out. It’s fairly relaxed, or as relaxed as a theme park can be, anyway. But although it’s not as large in size as some of the bigger name parks are, it’s got everything a family needs for the perfect day of fun. This Christmas, Drayton Manor Park is giving its cinema over to a 4D version of The Polar Express, which is a firm family favourite, so I suspect November will see us travelling back down to watch it just after it opens.

Drayton Manor Park has a hotel on site for families who want to turn the trip into more than just a day away. Another great family hotel to book is the Village Urban Resort Dudley, which is a short drive from the park, and is within easy access to the motorway.

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Brothels and Bagels; A View into Secret Paris

Somewhere beneath the Parisian streets, in a secluded basement on Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, is the wonderfully historic Delaville Cafe.  With its rather dubious, and certainly notorious history as a popular brothel, it’s undoubtedly not the sort of place my mother would like to find me in; but it’s clearly proud of its past, clinging to its origins with worryingly dark decor and some traditional red lights, not to mention some exquisite early 19th century tapestries which still hang on its walls.

The Delaville is a local favourite, a trendy cafe by day and popular bar by night.  Frequented by mainly Parisian locals, you’ll certainly fit in if you speak fluent French, but you’ll still be welcomed if you don’t.

The menu for the cafe-come-restaurant is remarkably chic, yet unusually eclectic.  Scallops and salmon tartare, or panned fois gras with green tomato chutney, demonstrate a typically French flair with food.  But, these wonderful dishes sit on the same menu as Italian and Iberian antipasti dishes, a Brooklyn inspired bagel, and English fish and chips, which somehow seems strange.  But whilst the continuity of the menu choices may be in doubt, the dishes themselves are not.  The food is fresh and beautifully cooked and the service comes with a smile.  Definitely worth venturing in for.

Stay with the Delaville right through to evening and you’ll be in for a treat with regular live DJs and a calendar of special events that really pull in a crowd.  Sip a cocktail or two and enjoy the hyped up atmosphere as this bar, which is used to revelling in the night, really springs into life.

Written by:  Fiona Galloway, Editor

Coleman Standard Quad Chair

Although I may be right into the Great Outdoors, that doesn’t always mean that I’m prepared to leave all my creature comforts behind!  Any camping trip that runs longer than a night or two needs to be well prepared for, and so when I headed off on a recent trip to Fort William with the family for an extended break, I reckoned that comfort was in, and mere survival was unnecessary.  And it was with that thought in my head that I packed a variety of additional equipment that I wouldn’t normally strap to my back…like these fabulous Colemans Standard Quad Chairs.

While these easy to use and lightweight to carry chairs may not exactly fall into the concept of ‘glamping’ (glamourous camping for those of you not yet in the know…), they certainly elevated my trip to something of a more comfortable nature.  We had our megasized tent erected in a little under twelve hours (see image below…lol!) and settled down for an evening meal and a relaxing drink or two.

One of the features of this Colemans Chair that I really liked, was the drinks holder in the right arm, a very handy little pocket that meant I could sit comfortably without having to stretch too far to retrieve my beverage.  It’s also great for keeping drinks stable, rather than balancing them on the dubiously wobbly plastic camping table we had along as well.

The back rest on this folding Quad Chair seems higher than most camping chairs, and it was great to be able to sit back and relax properly.  Plus, the wider seat means that there’s no constant shuffling for comfort.

Just as an aside…when folded, these chairs come in a material carry case that sports a great shoulder strap and means carrying them is fairly easy.  I go to a lot of spectator events that don’t always have a lot of seating, so this chair has just become my new best friend!

We got our Coleman’s Chairs from Outdoorkit.co.uk, and you can click here to get one all of your very own.

Kids Animal Seat

I can’t get my kids to sit still.  They have what I like to call, the ‘bouncy’ gene.  And trying to get them to remain even semi-motionless for more than two nano seconds tends to leave me exhausted, exasperated and downright drained.  So, most occasions, I don’t bother.  But when we’re trying to have a nice family BBQ outside the tent on a weekend away, it can become a little more important to keep them close to hand.  It saves me having to split my time between flaming coals and errant children.

Kids Frog Foldaway Camping Seat

Now, it may sound silly, but it was only after I bought them both an animal seat from Go Outdoors that I finally got some semblance of control over them.  Clearly the novelty aspect of sitting on a brightly coloured animal chair was sufficient to keep them in check.  Of course, we do still have to mediate between the occasional fight over who gets the Frog seat and who’s turn it is to sit on the Tiger, but that’s a small price to pay for a few moments of relative calm.

Aside from the fact that these chairs are really cute (you can get a Tiger and a Pig as well), they are really light and fold away perfectly, making them easy to transport and carry.  Definitely a great buy, even if only for the sanity they provide.

This Frog chair, and it’s pals, get the nod of approval from the candidtraveller Team (and two little boys…)

Disposable BBQ Stand

So, you like to have a BBQ do you?  Yep, well so do I.  I’m not exactly a stranger to a burger or two, but in all my BBQ’ing years the one thing I have always hated is trying to find somewhere suitable to light a disposable BBQ.

Yes, I took the cellophane wrapper off before I lit it....!

Y’know what I mean…

There you are, happily rugged up on a nice piece of grass in the middle of a National Park somewhere, when a park ranger pops up from behind the only tree in a ten mile radius to shake his head and tut angrily at the charcoaled mess your flaming tinfoil BBQ is burning onto his nice grass.  But it wasn’t as if you hadn’t looked for a rock or something to put it onto though, was it??

Well, never fear picnickers, because here’s a fab little item I picked up from Go Outdoors recently.

This stand seems to hold most disposable BBQ’s which is great, and because it keeps it off the ground, you don’t have to worry about singeing anything inappropriate.  It also helps it cool down faster once it’s burned out.  The only downside I could discover is that it doesn’t exactly fold away.  It’s not a huge issue, because it’s fairly light and not exactly cumbersome, but I daresay that if you really wanted to you might be able to take the screws out and rebuild it wherever you stopped for lunch.  (Although knowing my luck, I’d lose the screws!)

Disposable BBQ

candidtraveller (and park rangers everywhere) give this a serious thumbs up!

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