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I am by no means a Gamer, but every once in a while I develop an addiction to one game or another, back in days of yore it was Prima Materia, and later Snood. Casual games, as my son sneeringly comments. Anyway, I can't say that I was desperate to play Plants Vs Zombies, as the concept sounded a bit silly to me, but when I was finally enticed it turned out to be the most addictive yet.
The Scene: You are defending your home against a seemingly never ending wave of ingenious zombies who are determined to make it across your lawn, into the house, and to eat your brains. Thankfully, you are aided by friendly and helpful plants in your garden. Each plant has a different usage - whether defence or attack, and your choice of which plants to use in the garden will determine whether or not you are successful in defending your brain.
The game play builds up very slowly, with a very shallow learning curve, making this game suitable for anyone with little experience in gaming. The plants are introduced one by one, as are different types of zombies with different skills of their own. There are occasional visits from your neighbour, Crazy Dave, who will provide tips, or introduce mini games.
Unlike most Zombie genre games and films, this is not in the least scary. It is cute and funny and although it has a 12 rating it would be hard to take the light hearted eating of brains seriously enough to want to ban a younger child from playing it.
This game is widely available for around a fiver and has hours and hours of play, once you finish the main game there are lots of extras to unlock, and some of these are life-threateningly addictive!
Update- I am still addicted to this game!
It's no secret that I'm a Lush addict, I love most Lush products and they very rarely do anything wrong in my eyes. However, for the purpose of reviewing I do try to approach each product afresh, and past glories an not be taken into account!
The So White bath ballistic was part of Lush's 'Christmas Present' gift box this year, which I was lucky enough to receive two of. (It was also available on it's own, at £1.75.) The name immediately appealed to me, suggesting fairy tales and pantomimes, and reminding me a little of one of my favourites - Ruby Slippers. So White could not look more different from Ruby Slippers though, being snowy white and without a hint of ostentatious glitter. It has an apple scent, inspired apparently by the apple gifted to Snow White by her marvellously evil step mother (Disney's highest point, in my opinion...). I also felt that the ballistic had a slight scent of marzipan, but that could have been due to having being stored with other Lush Christmas products.
So White promises 'a frothy blanket of apple scented snow', so I was expecting a subtle bath, no 'bits' or glitter but a little bubble, froth at least. Sadly, once in the bath the ballistic was altogether too subtle. It smelt great, and softened the water, but exhibited almost none of the ballistic's trademark fizzing. Instead it bobbed sadly about, trailing a tiny creamy stream but definitely no 'frothy blanket'! It seemed to take ages to dissolve, and by the time it did I was getting bored and ready to get out.
For me, this was a disappointing bath by Lush's (very high) standards. As I have said before, Lush's sense of fun and glamour is one of the attractions of their brand, and when paying so much for one bath, I expect it to be a special one. For me, this means plenty of fizz and ideally some 'bits' and glitter too, but I do think that even those preferring a more simple bath might regret their choice of So White.
Update - item now discontinued by Lush.
Porridge is my breakfast of choice, especially in this cold weather - it ticks all the boxes for me because it is low fat and healthy, warming and filling. Oh, and cheap too! I usually make my own, and I'm always on the look out for ways to ring the changes, with cinnamon, raisins, fresh fruit and so on. I tend to avoid pre packaged porridge mixes, as it is so easy to make your own, but I'm also a bit of a sucker for a special offer, and for pretty packaging!
As a result of these failings, a box of Dorset Cereals Fruity Porridge (as pictured above) found it's way into my shopping trolley last year. I enjoyed it but dismissed it as a bit of a waste of money, until coming across the same porridge but in a box of 8 individual sachets just before Christmas. (Looking very similar to the box above, but not as tall and with a coloured leaves design rather than a cut-out one.) At the time it was priced at an introductory £1.39, but is now a the normal price of £1.89 (at Tesco).
Dorset Cereals are a premium brand, based in Dorset (surprisingly enough!) and using only natural ingredients and flavourings. This is my favourite flavour, but the porridge is also available in Apple and Raisin and Plain Porridge varieties. Like ordinary porridge oats, this porridge can be cooked either on the hob or in a microwave. I tend to do mine in the microwave whilst hurrying to get ready for work, it takes about 2 minutes, with another couple of minutes to cool down to eating temperature. (If you're a bear, you may want to take a stroll during this time...)
I didn't find this porridge overly sweet (as I tend to find many cereals) but it was certainly sweet enough to eat on it's own. The pieces of cranberry and raspberry (freeze dried) are visible and can be tasted - nothing beats fresh fruit (or even frozen fruit heated through) but this is an acceptable compromise. The sachets are each 30g servings, and together with the recommended 125ml of semi skimmed milk each serving provides 157 kcal. This is a light breakfast, and I usually have a piece of toast as well, and have been known to have two sachets at a time on particularly hungry mornings.
I will continue to make my own porridge for the most part, but I would recommend these sachets for two reasons: they are perfect for taking to work for a snack or breakfast without the bother of larger packets; and they cut a small corner on a particularly rushed (or lazy!) morning when I just can't co-ordinate myself to put together my own porridge and fruit etc. Being calorie measured is a boon too, for those of us watching the calories. Ok so that was three reasons, not two!
Not one to do things by halves, my first foray into the world of Soap and Glory was the purchase of not one product but a substantial gift set, which I am now working my way gloriously though, whilst feeling not a little unfaithful to Lush. (I have masses of lush stuff too, so I needn't feel too ashamed.) As it was part of a gift set, my Girligo didn't come in the lovely packaging above, but rather just in the attractive bottle that is inside the box.
Soap and Glory's distinctive retro packaging is evident in this ivory coloured bottle with a pump action spray. It has an attractive shape and would look great on any boudoir dressing table or bathroom shelf. My bottle contains 100ml and is of a size that would be ideal to pack into an overnight bag.
I'm not a very girly girl, and I'm not high maintenance, and to be honest - moisturising is something that I rarely remember to do. I'm going to hit 40 this year (how, I mean HOW, did that happen??!) and one of my New Year resolutions is to take more care of myself, so I'm making an effort to moisturise my ageing skin! What often puts me off using a body moisturiser is that I usually use too much and end up all slippery (like Robert DeNiro first appearance as the monster in that appalling version of Frankenstein....). This is ok if I've had an evening bath and can put pyjamas on and relax till it all soaks up, but not so good if I've had a morning shower and am in a hurry to get some clothes on and start the day. The reason I'm telling you all this is because I think Girligo may be the answer to this perplexing problem!
Girligo is designed to be used after a shower, and it sprays on in a fine mist, so that you aren't obliged to have handfuls of the stuff squeezing between your fingers. Somewhere between a cream and a body spray, the lotion is runny but creamy in colour - actually it remind me most of spray on antiseptic lotion - but it smells much better! Once on the skin it runs a little, so you need to rub it in quickly, before spraying a little more to another area. The scent is delicious - light and feminine, it would co-ordinate perfectly with other Soap and Glory products. I used it after Clean on Me shower cream and there was no clash or perfumes! As for the moisturising properties, I think there is some compromise here. Slathering yourself with a body butter is probably more moisturising, Girligo offers a bit less moisture with less mess - so I'd be more inclined to use it more often - swings and roundabouts really!
The pump action body lotion spray is a simple idea but it works, and the efficiency of the product means a lack of waste (of both time and product) which may go some way to help you justify the expense of this moisturiser. Soap and Glory products come with a premium price tag, but having said that, actually this product seems on the reasonable side at £6 for a larger bottle than mine (250ml).
I received a smallish pot of Snow Showers Jelly as part of a Lush Christmas gift set, and today, as I'm off work due to being snowed in, it seemed a suitable opportunity to try it! Shower jellies are not part of my regular Lush purchases, so I was quite keen to see what this one would be like. I remember several years ago I bought one of the frozen shower gels that at the time came in individual portions, like ice cubes, and were designed to be kept in the freezer. I didn't get on too well with it at the time because I always seemed to forget to take it to the bathroom with me, meaning that I had to trail back down to the kitchen wrapped in a towel, and I was never all that thrilled with the contrast between the warm water and the freezing cold shower gel on my skin.
Snow Showers can be frozen, chilled or used at room temperature, and remembering my previous experiences, I opted to try the latter. As snowflakes fell outside the window, it was a struggle to persuade myself to take my slippers off before getting into the shower, let alone attempt to juggle with ice cubes! And I must say, there is an element of juggling involved... this shower jelly has a consistency of blancmange (or indeed, jelly) and when a small scoop is held in your wet hand, it attempts to get away from you and escape down the plug hole. Lush say that the jelly melts slowly in the warm water, and yes, if you rub the jelly against your skin it melt and produces a soft creamy lather, but keeping hold of the bit you have left in your hand is quite a challenge. In a good mood, this might be fun - think Carry On Film style hilarity, but whilst in a bit of a hurry to get showered and dressed, it is probably a bit of an irritation.
However, the Snow Showers shower jelly does feel nice and smooth on the skin, and the scent is just wonderful. It contains cognac and oranges, giving it a festive smell but with a freshness that is invigorating, partly due to the citrus and partly due to the addition of elderflowers. The fragrance is very similar to the Christmas Party bath ballistic, but more subtle.
I will use the rest of this shower jelly, but on occasions when I have time to spare so that I won't feel annoyed by the palaver of using it! Perhaps a frozen jelly would behave better, but it rarely gets hot enough in the UK for me to want to try this, and certainly not in the winter. As this is a festive product it won't be around during (what passes for) the summer to prove itself. No longer available at Lush now that Christmas is over, but look out for it next year if you fancy trying it!
Well, it's that time of year again. Leftover mince pies and Quality Street are banished in a wave of January good intentions! At work, where our diet has solidly consisted of cake and biscuits for what seems like months, I'm looking for healthy lunches, and something warming in this Arctic weather. In Sainsbury's last week I happened upon this ready meal in the chilled cabinet. A healthy option curry with an almost too good to be true calorie count! Cynically, I didn't have high hopes for the taste, but decided to give it a go anyway.
This meal is part of Sainsbury's 'Be Good To Yourself' range, and contains less than 3% fat. The box displays the calorie, fat and salt contents on the front, using the 'traffic lights' system of colour coding - all the colours are green! I don't think I've ever eaten anything with an all green go ahead before, unless it was a salad! This 400g pack contains a ridiculously low 263 calories and equates to 4 Weight Watchers Points. It contains 2 of your 5 a day vegetable portions, and is suitable for Vegetarians. The current price for this meal is £1.99 at my local Sainsbury's.
I cooked this curry by microwaving for 4 minutes. It may also be cooked in a conventional oven for 20 minutes, and may be frozen and cooked straight from the freezer too. I was impressed that the curry looked very similar to the picture on the box, as very often the photograph of a ready meal seems to be somewhat idealised! This box contains a portion of yellow basmati rice, and vegetables in a curry sauce. The vegetables included carrots, green beans and cauliflower, and were in largish, easily identifiable pieces. When cooked the meal smelt appetising, several colleagues commented on the good smell!
The box advertises this as a 'medium' curry, although I found it to be on the mild side of medium, only slightly spicier than a mild curry like a korma. The vegetables were not over-cooked and overall this was an enjoyable lunch. Despite the low calorie count I found it quite filling. It was especially good to notice authentic ingredients such as garam masala, garlic, ginger, corriander. Although this is a processed food I was able to identify all of the ingredients as 'real' foods! I think this is an excellent attempt at a healthy version of a favourite meal that is usually laden with fat and calories. It won't replace your curry takeaway, but if you do want a healthier option light meal this is one that doesn't disappoint.
I received this bubble bar in a gift box for Christmas (actually I received two of the same box... great minds obviously think alike in my family!) so I wasn't able to use it on Christmas Eve, but have just got round to trying it now. If you want to buy it on it's own rather than in a gift box, it costs £2.50, but is only available at Christmas (launched this year so hopefully a keeper for future years, fingers crossed). You may, if you're lucky, grab some in a left over Christmas box in the legendary Lush sale.
Like most Lush bubble bars, this one is about the size of a squashed orange, (I know that isn't a recognised measurement, but honestly, it is just that size) just fitting in the palm of your hand. I noticed one or two reviewers described it as beautiful, but really, it looks like it is made of play doh, it is clumsy and lumpy, but none of this matters! The bubble bar is darkish blue, as pictured, with a yellow moon which on mine looked like a slice of lemon. It is dusted with fine glitter, which I know from experience is the kind that is too fine to hang around for long and, unlike some Lush products, (sadly!) will not stay on my skin.
I usually use a third of a bubble bar, as this makes it (comparatively) economical, but hey, it's still (just about) the festive season, so this time I splashed out with half a bar - still economical, and plenty for a good soak. As expected, the water turns a lovely deep blue and snow white bubbles froth up. I have noticed that Lush bubbles are particularly white, and I thought that this must just be my imagination - surely all bubbles are white? But I've just read on the Lush website that they use their own magic formula (using titanium dioxide) to make the bubbles especially white and frothy. It works!
This bar is scented with Lush favourites ylang ylang and jasmine, which produces a gently relaxing fragrance. I felt so relaxed that I can see this would be an ideal bath to take on Christmas Eve, so promote a good night's sleep and soothe the stresses of Christmastime! Lush bath products tend to make the water very soft and moisturising, and this one was no exception. If I have any (tiny) criticism, it would be that the scent could've been a bit stronger...and, as ever, I'd like more glitter! It is Christmas, after all!
As a Lush devotee, I have often admired the quirky packaging of Soap and Glory products without purchasing, but only this Christmas, due to several special offers at Boots, was I lured into buying some as gifts. For the sake of quality control, obviously I had to buy myself some too!
Soap and Glory uses attractive packaging mostly in baby pinks and pastels, and gently lampoons 1950s advertising style with pictures of glamorous women, with pun-laden names and ideosynchratic phrases. It is therefore a range that appeals to women who like to think of themselves as unconventional. (And men too, as I discovered several gifts sets for men were available at Christmas, although I think it is most likely that women purchased them!)
Aside from the brand image, what appealed to me about this body wash was the fresh smell. This is apparently Soap and Glory's 'signature scent' and is sweet without being sickly, fresh and slightly fruity. It contains mandarin peel extract, which I guess accounts for the slight fruit scent. It is a feminine fragrance without being overpowering.
On using this product in the shower, I was very impressed with the consistency of it. It is a thick creamy gel, and the body lotion contained in it is very evident. On the skin it is very creamy and moisturing, creating a good lather. A little seems to go quite a long way. I had to deliberately rinse this off, which made me realise that a lot of shower gel disolves very quickly ion the warm water before it has chance to make much of an impact on your skin. My only small complaint would be that the bottle isn't squeezy, meaning that you have to give it a bit of a shake, and getting the last dregs out may prove to be a bit difficult! This is easily solved by buying the bigger bottle next time!
This small 75ml bottle is currently £2.25 at Boots, although look out for half price gift sets at this time of year, and the range is frequently on 3 for 2 offer. The 500ml shower cream is much better value at £5.00. Soap and Glory products are not tested on animals. A whole range of complementary toiletries are available, some of which I am looking forward to trying in the near future!
I'm probably still sworn to secrecy... but I'm going to tell you anyway. I was part of the trials for Pepsi Raw before it was officially launched. Well, that makes my role sound very grand, whereas in reality they just sent me a glass bottle in an enormous polysterene box (not very eco, Pepsi!) and I excitedly shared it with my children, before filling in copious questionaires about our opinions on it.
I'm not a big fan of fizzy drinks, and I especially loathe sweeteners. If I am going to give in to an occasional craving for a teeth rotting drink, it will usually be a 'full fat' cola (Coke, to be exact) that I'll have. I was actually quite excited about this product, because as an entirely additive-free and 'natural' cola, it is the sort of product usually only available from niche suppliers (Fentimans, for example) at high prices and with sporadic availability. Pepsi Raw contains no artificial additives of any kind. It does contains loads of sugar, of course, but then you can't have everything. In fact, it has slightly less calories than 'normal' Pepsi, coming at 117kcals for the 300ml bottle pictured above. (also available in 150ml and 250ml cans.)
I should really mention the taste... difficult to describe a taste. Well, it is like cola, but more subtle. It doesn't have the teeth-hurting sugar kick of ordinary cola, and I notice that someone else has described it as watery - it isn't, but it is refreshing in a way that most fizzy drinks aren't. It doesn't taste as if it is packed full of sugar (although it is, really) but it doesn't taste like fruit juice either. You'll either like it or you won't! If you don't like it - it is partly my fault for giving good feedback in the trial. Ooops.
Pepsi Raw doesn't look like other Pepsi products, the packaging is understated and tasteful rather than in your face colourful. The Pepsi logo features on the bottles and cans but you only notice it if you look carefully. I have see practically no advertising for the drink. This not-quite-but nearly-healthy cola seems completely out of character for a company like Pepsi, since when did they care about our health?
Well they don't, of course, but they care about profits lots and lots, and so this is an attempt to tap into the 'Curiosity Cola' market. It has worked on me, because I appear to be their target audience, and I love it, but I doubt that it will work on most confirmed fizzy drink lovers - and most of the preceeding reviews confirm this! Sadly, I suspect that Pepsi Raw won't be around all that long, so I'd better stock up on it! (Especially whilst a four pack is half price in Tesco at the moment!)
I once read somewhere, and I can't remember where, but I'm pretty sure that it wasn't The Times Literary Supplement, that perfumes containing either vanilla or cinnamon are most likely to make a man fall in love with the wearer. I guess that this assumption is based on the popular idea that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I have not had cause to prove or disprove this theory, but I have no objection to smelling delicious!
I think the problem with vanilla as a scent is that it is usually far too sweet and far too suggestive of sweeties and ice ream, so that it has a diminutive effect on anyone wearing it - definitely a perfume for little girls! It can also be a bit sickly. I feel that the Body Shop version falls into this category, unfortunately. However, Lush do just about get away with it with Vanillary, their second (liquid) perfume to grace their shelves and following in the very successful footsteps of Karma. As well as Vanilla, which naturally is the predominant scent, they have added a little sandalwood and 'a note of burnt caramel'. The sandalwood has a calming effect, taking the edge of the sugar rush of the vanilla and making this a more grown up scent. Don't get me wrong - this is no Chanel No. 5, but it is grown up enough that I don't feel too silly wearing it!
Unlike Karma, which is a love it or loathe it sort of fragrance (I love it!), Vanillary is fairly inoffensive. It won't make people wrinkle their noses like Karma sometimes can, nor is it likely to elicit gasps of delight. It is comfortable and familiar, but does manage to be luxurious too. It is for the days when you just want to be loved, rather than when you want to be challenging!
Speaking of Luxury, this perfume is actually fairly reasonably priced at £25 for the 30ml bottle pictured above. It contains vanilla absolute rather than the synthetic ingredients of many higher priced perfumes. A smaller bottle is also available. There are various complementary products in the Vanilla range from Lush, including dusting powder, body lotion and a massage bar. I acquired a fabulous gift set in the Lush sale so I will be reviewing all the Vanilla products as I work my way through them!
It wouldn't be Christmas without... a stack of stuff from Lush! You can keep the chestnuts, the snow, and that girl in her knickers in the M&S advert, just give me some roast potatoes and a pile of Lush bath bombs. Although not at the same time, of course.
The first Lush gift I received this year was from my lovely friend Mary and I cheekily opened it early for a luxurious pre-Christmas bath. Cinders is a bomb that I wasn't familiar with, in fact it is new this season, but I loved the smell straight away. It is one of the bath bombs that will scent the whole room - like most of them, to be honest. I had this in my bedroom for a few days before I used it and it is a very cheerful, uplifting smell. The primary fragrance is of oranges, but the bomb also contains gardenia. I think this gives it a more feminine scent, less fruity and more like a perfume.
The bath ball fizzes on impact with bath water, just as you'd expect. It produces creamy bright yellow foam and then settles down into bubble-free highly scented water - a lurid, almost acidic yellow which lasts the whole of the bath. Cinders promises to crackle in the bath, I assume that the space age technology used to make this happen is similar to that used in 'space dust' that we used to put on our tongues as kids. The crackling took a while to happen, but when it did there was a satisfying amount of popping. I do have to admit to being a bit bemused at this, it is a novelty of course, and perhaps a bit of nostalgia if it makes you think of semi-toxic childhood sweets, but it didn't really enhance my enjoyment of the bath.
Cinders is one of the smaller bath bombs, but packs plenty of scent and is good value (by Lush standards) at under £2. Try it for your pre-Panto bath!
I apologise for using this tired old phrase yet again, but "in the current climate" (sigh) I am surprised that this product hasn't already had more reviews. I'm guessing that for a lot of us, especially the real cosmetic fans, economising on make up is a step too far. Still, I'm pleased to say that I had no such qualms preventing me from grabbing this foundation off the shelf when I saw it for sale in Aldi for £2.59.
Yes - Aldi!
And yes - £2.59!
I'm not a committed Aldi shopper, but the stores seem to be springing up everywhere, and there are some things that they undeniably do very well. More of those things another time, but whenever I pop in I'm obliged to scan the shelves for a bargain or two, and recently it has been the toiletries aisle that has been catching my eye.
I believe that Lacura is discount supermarket Aldi's own brand of cosmetics, the packaging says that this product was made for Aldi, in Germany. The packaging doesn't belie it's origin though, there is nothing that shouts "cheap supermarket" at you. The hard plastic tube has a metal looking lid, as pictured above, but also comes in a cardboard box. This is completely unnecessary extra packaging and as such is an insult to our ailing planet, BUT it does serve to make the make up look more expensive, if that makes you happy!
For your two pounds and fifty nine new pence you receive not only the packaging but 30 ml of foundation in the usual selection of biscuits, beiges and ivories. The packaging claims that this product will leave your skin "silky smooth and shine-free while providing optimum coverage power".
Well, I think it is pretty good. It is not a miracle product, but I've tried quite a few foundations at twice or three times this price (and reviews several of them!) and none of them have been miraculous either! I've found this foundation to give a medium coverage - it wouldn't cover blemishes very well but does even skin tone and it blends to give a natural look. I'm quite happy with it (and previous readers will know that I'm not the easiest to please!) so I am likely to buy it again. Frankly, at this price I'd recommend trying it - you have little to lose and may well find that it is at least as good as your usual foundation.
First of all, I have to admit that I am a bit of a snob when it comes to theme parks. I don't like crowds, queuing, fast food or ball pools. Readers of some of my previous reviews will know that (whether by nature or nurture...) I'm lucky enough to have kids who aren't all that keen on these things either! I mention this because I think we are quite a tough audience when it comes to this type of entertainment. It also begs the question - why did we go?
Anyway, we did, for my son's 10th birthday in July, and it was great! The birthday fell on the last day of term, so I felt justified in letting him take a day off, meaning that we avoided the crowds that descended the following day. I think that this was key to the enjoyment of our visit, as (combined with quite a bit of rain on the day) meant that the queues and crowds were a lot less than they might have been.
Legoland isn't cheap, an adult ticket is £37 and a child's is £28 on the day, but it is cheaper to buy tickets on the website before you go, and there are often BOGOF offers, or passes for several days including accommodation. I opted to buy our tickets through Tesco deals, and because of having got a bargain that way I justified to myself the additional (optional) purchase of 'Qbots'.
The Legoland Qbot system costs an extra £10 per person and is designed to lessen the amount of time waiting in queues - you programme in your ride of choice and then the Qbot vibrated to tell you when it is your turn to ride. It doesn't mean that you get to jump the queue, only that you don't have to physically stand in it - you can look around, go to the loo, buy a coffee etc, and then stroll to the front of the queue when it is your turn. As I mentioned, on our visit I don't think it was busy enough to merit the price for this, but it was handy to be able to see how long the wait was for each ride on the Qbot machine, and on a busier day it would really have come into its own. The system is flawed though, as despite the charge being per person you are only issued with one Qbot per party, meaning that you all have to book the same ride, only one ride can be booked and another can't be programmed in until you have ridden the first, meaning that with queues of up to 2 hours, you'd still have long gaps between the rides on busy days. A £50 deposit is taken in case you wander off with it..... which I did. Ho hum. That is how I know how busy it was on the following morning - as I had to join the queue to return it!
I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the rides and the park itself. I think I was expecting more of the model village aspect - which is there, but we didn't spend much time looking at it as we were distracted by the rides. Although Legoland is no longer owned by the same company as the toys, the park fits the rather wholesome image of Lego perfectly. Our favourites were the ones involving water - the Viking River Splash and Pirate falls in particular. I won't spoil it for you by telling you all about the rides, but I would advise you to take waterproof coats, or even a change of clothes! I don't know why it didn't occur to me beforehand that we'd get so wet, but walking about in damp jeans wasn't much fun! (Of course, if the weather had been better we would have dried a lot faster!)
On the major rides your photograph is taken, and you can go and look at them on tv screens and laugh at your expression of horror or joy once the ride is over. The photos are available to purchase at a rather steep £6 each, but there is a discount for buying several. Ice cream, popcorn etc is also pretty over-priced, much as you'd expect, but not horrifyingly so. We took a picnic, but there were plenty of places to eat and some of these looked reasonably nice - there was more choice than just burgers and chips. Across the park there are several Lego shops with a huge range of Lego products. Here the prices were not inflated - of course, Lego is quite expensive anyway but several of the toys were cheaper than we'd seen them in other shops. If you buy a Legoland Annual Pass you get 10% off everything in the Lego stores, a bonus if you have Lego mad kids!
The rides range from sedate trains and balloon rides to scary roller coaster thrills (no jokes about 'bricking it' please.....) As there are rides to suit all ages, I would recommend Legoland as a good day out for all the family, although probably 8 - 12 year olds might get most out of it, as lots of the rides aren't suitable for younger children. As adults we found that we had fun too - and everyone left tired but happy, and damp.
A recent trip to Legoland (must review that soon!) necessitated an internet search for a cheap hotel nearby. Legoland have 'deals' with local hotels available through their website, to include entry tickets, but I was pretty sure that I could find a cheaper deal myself.
I came across this one through LateRooms, and although I hadn't heard of the chain I decided to give it a go. This is a 'Budget' hotel and although room pricess vary according to season and availability I don't think they go much above £60 per room per night. As it was, in July I managed to book a family room for £40, including breakfast, and free parking - bargain! The hotel is just off Junction 7 of the M4, and very easy to navigate to. As you can see in the picture above, it is not as picturesque as the name might suggest... in fact, it is downright ugly on the outside, but hey - it is budget, after all, so I wasn't expecting views and rose gardens.
After a long day of rollercoastering and some very British summer-time weather, we arrived at the hotel rather dishevelled, damp and exhausted, to be met by a friendly Scottish lady who was very chatty and told us everything we needed to know, including a run down of the evening menu. The bar and restaurant are open to the public, whilst the hotel rooms upstairs are reached via swipe-card operated doors.
The room was fairly basic but serviceable and clean, with a view(!) of the carpark and an en suite bath/shower room. The extra bed, for children, was a sofa bed, but (unlike the Travel Lodge in Brighton - see previous review!) it had been made up ready to use, which was very welcome.
We had planned to drive a few miles into Windsor to eat in the evening, but the early start and busy day got the better of us, so that the hotel restaurant seemed very attractive, especially the special offer that we'd been told about on arrival. Our visit was on a Friday, which meant that a self-serve carvery was available, which was only £5 per person if eating before 7pm (after 7pm the price increased to £7). As a party of vegetarians, I'm afraid I can't comment on the roast meats of the carvery, except that there were several choices available, and there was a queue! I was very impressed that there were 3 vegetarian options, with a choice of vegetables, yorkshires, gravy and so on from the carvery. The food was fine, of pub rather than restaurant quality, but excellent value. Four of us ate, including wine (for 2) and desserts, and the bill came to £40.
We passed a comfortable and quiet night. Breakfast was also served in the restaurant and consisted of self service cold buffet, a good choice of toast, pastries, cereal, fruit and yoghurts. You might be disappointed if you had your heart set on a full English, but this was perfectly acceptable to us.
I'd definitely recommend this hotel as a cheap place to stay while visiting the area, perhaps not for a romantic getaway, but certainly for families looking for a bargain. It is ideal for visiting Legoland and we are already planning our next visit!
(If you're a real bargain hunter, this hotel can be booked through Laterooms with cash back through Quidco, and Legoland tickets are available as Tesco Deals.)
When my daughter had a University interview in Brighton earlier this year, we weren't going to be hanging around for sight seeing so we were looking for a budget option hotel, just somewhere to get a night's sleep. There are two Travelodges in Brighton, the other one is on the seafront, but this one is about a mile out of the city centre, on Preston Street. I chose this one because I hoped that it would be a little quieter, famous as Brighton is for wild nights out! At £29 for a family room, the price couldn't be beaten.
Admittedly, for £29 you don't get any extras. The hotel car park was actually administered by another company and had to be paid for - it was £5 overnight, but for 24 hours parking it costs £15. Breakfast was also extra - at £6.50 a head, although children eat for free. As we had an early start, we went for the breakfast option, although in a different situation I would have preferred to find a cafe on the seafront.
To my relief, the hotel was easy to find. On entering Brighton we passed many streets and areas that included 'Preston' in the name, so we knew we were in the right area! The hotel is set on the right (as you drive towards the city centre) a little back from the road side. The car park is small but we got a space. I noticed that across the road there was a bus stop - the bus would take only a few minutes to reach the shops and seaside. The Brighton Travelodge is not a particularly attractive building, I'm sure it was modern and functional when it was first built, but now looks quite shabby and faded.
We were met at reception by a staff member who was polite but not really very welcoming, and given the key to our family room.
The room contained a double bed and a sofa bed. The sofa bed had clearly seen better days, it somehow managed to be both hard and sagging with age. I was disappointed to find that it hadn't been made up, instead a sheet, duvet and pillow were provided for us to do this ourselves. The hotel knew how many guests were staying, so I feel that they should have made up the bed. As it was, making it up proved difficult, as the sofa wasn't keen on becoming a bed, preferring it seems, to just be a broken sofa. We managed to cobble it together into something sleepable-on, but only just. This made the 'proper' bed look attractive in comparison, but in reality it was creaky and
the mattress felt as if it was a hundred years old.
The room itself was large, with an en suite shower room. The windows had been left open, making it very cold (our stay was in January), and they were difficult to close. Whilst the room was fairly clean, it was shabby in a way that makes it impossible to really look clean. We had a reasonably quiet, if not very comfortable, night. Breakfast was self service, with a small choice of cooked items, bacon, sausage and egg but no vegetarian option and not even any hash browns. There was a selection of cereals and toast. This was all ok, but I expected more for the price.
I should mention at this point that from a budget hotel I'm not expecting miracles, just somewhere clean and comfortable and good value. I don't think the Travelodge in Brighton lived up to Travelodge's good reputation. Very soon I'll be reviewing an Innkeepers Lodge in Windsor, which worked out cheaper and was far superior!