Our first week on Tour: Manchester

Well this week certainly has been challenging… It’s been a lot of fun but I wasn’t anywhere near prepared for what being on tour with a baby would really be like. Trying to stick to some sort of nap schedule while still fitting in activities around Barney’s work schedule has been tricky but we managed quite a few mornings or days out!

We rented a great flat in the centre of town, which meant walking everywhere was no problem but I struggled to find many ‘baby-friendly’ activities for Isla. Certainly very few places where I could just let her run around. We visited Waterstones’ a few times as they had an amazing children’s section, fully equipped with a Wendy house that Isla was just thrilled with!

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She waited very patiently for some friends but the big kids didn’t want to play with her!! Haha!

Our new SmarTrike (full review coming soon!) was a saviour as Isla loved it so much she was perfectly happy to be pushed around Town & not get out… She didn’t want to get out when we got back to the flat either… Haha!

One of the best things we did was get the Combi Ticket for SeaLife & The Lego Discovery Centre, that we visited on two different days – it was £17.50 each (Isla went free!) if you book online in advance. They are both at the Intu Trafford CentreIntu Trafford Centre which is the biggest (and weirdest!) shopping centre I’ve ever been to. It’s almost modelled on the Venetian in Vegas but bigger & tackier… That said, it was easy to navigate, they have every shop, restaurant, and attraction you could want. The parking was easy & free and they even had a play beach, rides and carousel outside the SeaLife/Lego. We took Isla on the carousel which was so lovely!

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I can’t get enough of this gorgeous outfit!! All from Zara Baby, Top can be bought here & trousers here.

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The Lego Discovery Centre was brilliant even if Isla was a little too young to fully enjoy it. They recommend from 3years up but they do have a Duplo farm for the little ones too!

We loved the ride that she could go on, Barney definitely had to most fun out of all of us! There was plenty to see & do – you can even join in on a workshop with a master builder! The cafe is pricey, but what you’d expect & the baby duplo area was pretty dirty! Other than that a great afternoon with lots to discover and a special shout out to the incredible staff who couldn’t do enough to make sure our day was perfect!

Isla tried her first BBQ at Red’s True BBQ – as you can see… It’s a hit! Big thumbs up from us too – great food at an amazing price, absolutely brilliant service & so child friendly! Isla even got a balloon to take away! Plenty of high chairs & open floor space to bring a pram. (There are a few small steps on the way in!) The baby change is uni-sex but a little dingy! Overall a great place to grab lunch with the family! 

We visited SeaLife & it got off to a promising start with impressive projections & a great set up to introduce you to the Aquarium. Everything is very new & shiny, but a little underwhelming. We’ve been to London & Birmingham SeaLife so were expecting more for our money. It’s very small – but has a softplay in the middle that might make your visit last a little longer than ours did. It didn’t take us more than 30 minutes to walk through the whole thing as there are no sharks, penguins or otters in this one. Isla enjoyed herself & showed off her fishy ‘noise’ the whole way round as she pointed & laughed at them all – that made it more than worth the ticket price!

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We couldn’t resist the cheesy photo block as Isla actually ‘waved to the fishies’ when she was asked too! Haha! IMG_4538

Isla fell asleep just as we were leaving so we headed over to the adventure golf for a little almost adult fun!

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I also took Isla swimming to the Aquatics Centre which was great! They have a huge baby pool with different slides & water sprays! It was warm, pretty clean & had amazingly helpful staff. Make sure you call before you go to be sure that the baby pool is open as we tried a few times & it was broken. They run sessions so be sure to get there early to make the most of your hour in the pool and prepare for a busy changing room after as everyone gets kicked out at the same time!

Isla’s favourite part of Manchester was this rainbow art installation called ‘ Through No 3’ by Liz West! She ran through it at least 100 times & even stopped to take a selfie inside!

Not a bad start to the tour, home next week and then off to Birmingham – so please send any recommendations over to us or leave them in a comment below!

All of Isla’s outfits are from Zara Baby.

Isla’s First Adventure… Ruislip Lido Railway

Isla is already 6 weeks old so we thought it was about time to go on her first adventure! We were invited for a wonderful Sunday Roast at Mike & Natalie’s with lovely friends Bronia, Terrence & their gorgeous 18 month old, Freddy. After a truly delicious lunch we made our way over to Ruislip Lido Railway; pretending it was all for Freddy & Isla but secretly rather excited to ride the train ourselves!

The Ruislip Lido Railway is a 12 inch gauge railway operated entirely by volunteers. The line runs through the woodlands skirting the lake from Woody Bay Station beside the beach, all the way round to Willow Lawn Station which is close to the car park. Here you can watch the loco being turned on the turntable ready for the return journey.

Tickets are £3.00 for an Adult Return, £2.50 for Children & Under 3’s go free.

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

We piled into the carriages & eagerly awaited the word from the driver that we were about to begin our journey through the forest!

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

Passing another train that had stopped to refuel, naturally the whole train broke out into excited waves to the driver, who dutifully waved back to every child (and over excited adult!).

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

Pulling into the station we collected our pram – on the rather convenient buggy carriage – and made our way over to inspect the trains further. Luckily we had managed to visit on their open day so got to get up close and personal with these wonderful machines.

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

Beep Beep!

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

The youngest ever train driver…? (Don’t worry, Daddy was holding her safely in the chair!)

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

After we had pressed every button & explored every train, we went for a walk across the sand and over to the park so Freddy could try out some of the slides. Isla picked out her favourite for next time, when she’s a little bigger!

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

There really is something so magical about these trains & the golden leaves falling from the trees added to the whole glorious scene.

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

Back on the train & ready to go!

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

Choo Choo, Freddy!

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

This next picture is by far my favourite picture of Isla so far… Absolutely hilarious. And despite what it suggests the train really wasn’t going particularly fast!

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

Adventures With Isla Blog - Ruislip Lido Railway

A successful first adventure, and one I look forward to repeating when she’s old enough to explore the trains with the same adorable curiosity as Freddy!

If you are looking for a lovely outdoor adventure with your little ones this half term, I highly recommend it for all ages. There is a cafe by the beach & a little shop to buy drinks and snacks at the entrance. The toilet facilities are a bit bleak & I changed Isla in the back of the car instead of braving the nappy change.

Family Friendly – 10/10
Toilets – 1/10
Nappy Change – 1/10
Food – We didn’t try it but looked like they had lots of offer.

For more information on how to find them, timetables & their special rides with Santa just click here.

Carsten Höller: Decision

I was very kindly invited to come down & see the new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery last week, I’d heard such exciting things & knew I couldn’t miss it!

Carsten Höller: Decision is the artist’s largest survey show in the UK to date. Immersing visitors in a series of experimental environments, Höller’s interactive exhibition explores perception and decision making. You are invited to participate in and touch everything – so this exhibition is perfect for taking the whole family to explore!

You step into a dark tunnel and make your way through various twists and turns until you are eventually poured out to a giant mushroom contraption just begging to be pushed!

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

As you go through to the next room you are greeted by a giant pool of pills dripping from the ceiling – go on, sink your hands into them!

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Next you will find a line of Virtual Reality Headsets and Headphones to immerse yourself in an unknown world… As you wait two automated hospital beds make their way around the room… Naturally.

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

You then head up the stairs past a new friend, that was rather popular with all the children!

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Until you find the source of the dripping pills…

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

I feel like me and this guy had much in common…

If you are small enough (children only) you are invited to explore the inside of this giant dice. Certainly no room for me & bump in there!

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

When you step out onto one of the balconies you see the ‘flying contraption’ ready to hoist you over the edge. If you want to go on this, be prepared to wait at least an hour and book an early slot to avoid disappointment.

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Somehow, I don’t think my bump would fit under all the safety equipment you have to wear, so we moved on to a more tame aspect of the exhibition… Anyone for a game of ‘Snap!’?

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

This next one, I’m pretty sure the artist was just having a laugh at us… You had to put a vibrator under your arm, close your eyes and hold your nose to make it appear longer… or something… Yup…

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

There is so much more to explore including a film room and a corridor of twins talking to each other on opposite screens…

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

The grand finale is of course – the best way to exit a museum I’ve ever encountered… GIANT SLIDES! But being 7 months pregnant, I thought I better take the boring safe route and leave the fun to my partner.

On my exit, I did get to see the awesome tunnels that we made our way through on the way in and really appreciate the magnitude of them – as you have no clue how long you’ve been walking when you are inside!

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

I made it down just in time to see Barney’s grand exit…

Adventures With Isla Blog Carsten Höller: Decision

Tickets start at £13.50 for an adult & £10 for a child. The exhibition runs until Sunday 6th September. To book just click here.