Other UK / Ireland topics
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Butlins (Bognor Regis)
OK well this past year has been hard on our family so we started looking into going away for a mini-break. Something easy, not too expensive, child friendly ... etc. Friends of mine are always going on about Butlins Bognor Regis so one night I got my skates on and started looking into what exactly a Butlins break would be like. I have ... never been to Butlins or any other holiday camp. When I was a child I remember the holiday camps not having the best of reviews. I was left with the impression that it was a place for families on limited budgets and that they weren't very nice. I spent a good 30 minutes going through the website and various reviews. our plan was to have a long weekend away so in a moment of bravery I booked it!
I phoned ahead on the Thursday to check about flooding but thankfully Bognor Regis hadn't been hit too bad and the camp was reporting good to go.
The booking was for:
Arrival Friday afternoon
B-line passes for a show
Departure Monday morning
We traveled down on Valentines Day after school let-out. Little had we realized but the weather was the worst it has been for a little while. Horrendous traffic and bad winds but we arrived in one piece a couple hours after our expected arrival time. The first person we came across was being blown away by the wind but still had a great big smile on his face. He directed us around the corner to another entrance as we'd driven into the one for another hotel. Once at the right entrance we drove the car over to the hotel doors. The lady at the door said we could happily leave the car there until we were settled in so everyone grabbed a bag and marched inside. I must have looked a windswept mess! We approached the desk to get our room key. I think it was obvious that we hadn't been before and the lady walked us through every question we had. From the room to the kids clubs we were given the low down. Our room was on the 2nd floor which is great for me because I like to opt for the stairs if possible and it's not too high up :) The room was easy to find and i was pleasantly surprised with the space. We'd seen a photo online and I said to my husband that our room should be like the photo but maybe without the seating area as i thought ours would be the most basic of the rooms. I was wrong! Our room was an exact match the the online photo.
As you walk in the bathroom is to the right. Good size, clean and a powerful shower. Next is the kids bunk bed room. they were so happy with it. Built in shelving, individual bunk lighting and decoration making them feel like they are in a submarine. I had read online that each bunk had it's own DVD television so they'd brought their favourites with them. Typically my eldest couldn't get the player to work but all i did was press the source button on the remote to go all the way through to DVD again and it suddenly worked. No magic but sometimes our TV at home forgets what station it is on and needs a reminder and that's how I sort that one. It didn't play up again. On the wall close to the pillows is a earphone jack which my older child was happy about as he wanted to watch a film that if his little brother had heard then he would have had a visitor wanting to join in. One thing I noticed in the boys room was that someone before has used a crayon to draw a little scribble along the wall. The scribble was a bit faint now but a magic eraser could get that right off (slightly OCD sorry). The ladder to the top bunk is helping to the feel of being a submarine style and thus is rounded metal bars. i get the idea but slightly hard on the foot and also a little slippery for accident prone children (mine) ... Only one person slipped off though and that ended up being me.
Walking out from the bunk room there's the adult section. A large double bed, dressing area, table and chairs, television and built in wardrobe. Inside the wardrobe is great big shelves, a safe, ironing board and iron (not that I do that at home so not doing it at Butlins!) and lastly a kitchen cupboard. The kitchen cupboard is handy and houses a small fridge, kettle and bits like tea and coffee. I had read a review on the internet that said the bedside tables and dressing table were very small. The bedside tables are small but not anything that I would see as a negative and the dressing bit is big enough to hold the hairdryer and that's really all I need. I could perch paperwork and a charging Ipad on there too.
After moving the car into the overflow car park at the rear of the Butlins property we were resting in the room. I heard a loud bang so went to the window to see what the wind had done. A chair from one of the balconies above had blown off and broken when it landed in the front car park. I rang down to reception and told them. Only moments later i saw two ladies run out to collect the bits. To my amazement in the wind and rain they took the time to inspect the cars nearby to ensure there was no damage done.
Because of the bad weather and traffic we'd arrived quite late and the restaurants were closed. I got onto the phone and reception put me through to the Papa Johns on site. Very happy as they are my favourite and they delivered to our room.
In all honesty I didn't sleep very well Friday night. I worried about the car being on the seafront ... but it was only a few metres from the crazy waves really. Sounds silly being kept up by the cars safety. I finally got to sleep and woke to beautiful sunshine.
We went to The Deck for a buffet breakfast. Lots to chose from and the kids loved that they could serve themselves. A young lad near me dropped and broke his plate. I felt for him because he looked so upset with himself. i checked he hadn't hurt himself and moved him from the broken crockery. His mother and staff then took over cleaning and getting him a new plate. I overheard a staff member telling him that is made her feel better because she brakes at least one a day. Hopefully that's not the case :) but it made him smile. At one dinnertime my fussy eater demanded we find him toast and jam. He doesn't eat very well and normally I am happy just to see him eat anything. I found a member of staff and asked if she'd be able to do anything for me. Ridiculous as it is I was so happy when she came out of the kitchen with with toast and a vast choice of jams. Very child-friendly and understanding! only thing I would say is avoid the coffee. My son loved the hot chocolate but the coffee was just awful.
In the hotel my sons had noticed a huge games room so that was our first stop after breakfast. Video games, screens, dancing, racing and all round great fun. We left my eldest there whilst we returned to the room to get dressed for the day. I came back to find him playing with another boy his age and having a wonderful time. We left him to it and grabbed a coffee from the SOHO coffee bar at the front of the hotel. More friendly staff and a much better coffee.
Once we dragged the big boy from the gaming area we made our way to the Skyline Pavilion where lots of bits are located. Arcade bits are always fun for the kids. My little boy doesn't really understand a lot of the games normally but there was a lot that he could figure out as well as stuff for the older ones. One game in particular he fell in love with and wanted to visit daily. Lots of four player games available for family fun :)
For different age groups there are clubs for activities they can get involved in. My eldest falls into the Club Red age group (9-12 years). There is a small charge for these activities. He went off with them a few times and made shambala bracelets, a graffiti art t-shirt and had an archery outing. The staff were full of energy and when I popped in to see how he was getting on the children seemed to all be very happy. I have a rather large age gap between my children so having something for my eldest to get his teeth into without the little one trying to tag along is great.
Dick vs Dom was the stage show we got to see. We all enjoyed the show. It was great fun ... admittedly a bit messy! We used our B-line passes to get access to the seating early and chose to sit on the front row off to the left. Go team Dick! :) Very glad to have had the passes because it did get rather busy. The show was wonderful fun, interactive and had bits for both the adults and the children.
We booked in for a couple games of bowling. Bowling is one of the activities you have to pay for but it's much less expensive than the bowling near home and if you book 2 games you get the 3rd for 50p. The bowling was good fun but I wouldn't play to win. Many of the balls are damaged (deep chips). No need to ask why as we watched a family next to us allowing their children to literally throw the balls. It did make me stop in my tracks but thankfully they only played one game and then left.
Walking back we saw the Skyline Gang nightly performance. Skyline Gang is the kind of mascots for Butlins. My youngest got a Rainbow toy (the orange dog) and was so happy to see him on stage. He made us watch the nightly show 3 times. To be honest it was high energy and good fun. Plus there's a bar and coffee stand right there for refreshments while the kids go mad. On the same stage we watched Mike the Knight, Fireman Sam and Thomas the Tank Engine. We went to see Scooby Doo as well but the little one didn't expect him to be so big and ran away. Not sure what he expected but oh well.
With the weather on Friday I thought we'd not get any time on the Fairground but the rest of the weekend was sunny and fabulous so we went off and went on some rides. The Put Put golf is a small extra charge but very good fun.
We were getting ready to visit the beachfront and noticed a few empty parking spots in the front car park so set off to move the car. My car was perfectly safe and I had no reason to worry. We drove round to the gates and were greeted by the most happy security guard ever. He had music booming out from the gate hut. the spot in the front was still there so now my car was out front waiting for when the weekend was over. The guards music was still going when we'd made our way back to head for the ocean. He was having a boogie and it just makes you want to join in. We went to the beach a couple times over the weekend and each time he was there smiling and dancing away.
I can't say more about the staff really. Everyone we came across was friendly and full of energy. I know they are paid to be that way but so is the customer service lady at our local grocery store and she's a moody witch! I walked past some staff who were finishing their shifts and one was saying she was off out. A child approached them to say hi and instantly they were all playing with the children in the courtyard... lovely to see. At one point during our break we walked past a staff member helping a young boy find his parents. The boy seemed very calm and the staff member was telling him that if they couldn't find the parents at the stage area they wait at the hotel and he'd get him a slushy drink. I bet the boy was hoping his parents would be lost a bit longer.
Family night in the gaming room was our last night activity. It was great fun and the kids got to play on lots of different consoles. You'd think the room would be constantly full and that others would monopolize the machines but we could always get onto something.
With all the activities going on we nearly missed out on swimming. SplashWorld is a collection of slides, wave pool, swimming pool, tots area, hot tub and viewing deck. We spent a couple hours swimming and going on the slides.
Time to head home. Check out is very easy, probably because you pay ahead and there's nothing to settle up. Just hand over the keys and wave goodbye. Had a great time away but always nice to be going home.
We had a lovely little break. Great place for a long weekend with the family. If we were going for a week break might look into one of the self catering apartments as they look nice.
I kept a running tally in my head over the weekend and the hotel, dining package, extras like the B-line passes, Club Red activities and bowling etc we spent ruffly £550. Not bad for two Adults and 2 children on a 4 day weekend break.
BTW: If your kids play arcade games to collect tickets, don't leave it to the last minute to trade in for prizes. We didn't collect tickets but those that did formed quite a large line to cash in on Monday morning.
Totally forgot a point I wanted to make ... Most of the time family places seem to be sponsored by sweet companies and sodas. Overwhelmingly in your face is the norm. I mentioned it to my husband who had noticed it too. Butlins seemed to only have the odd few things like that and it wasn't in your face. The Deck restaurant didn't offer soda and had loads of healthy options. Quite nice not to have it soooo commercialized. There's still some but it's a good balance for sure.
(c) oioiyou 2014
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City Screen (York)
--- City Screen, York --- I tend to go to the cinema around once a month - I never go for the sake of it, but if a film really sounds up my street then I try and go and see it. In York there are three cinemas, there's a Vue cinema (formerly Warner Brothers), a Reel cinema (formerly ODEON) and there's also a City ... Screen cinema (part of the Picture House group).
Of the three cinemas City Screen in my favourite, as it is right in the centre of town unlike Vue, and less shabby and dated than Reel. The only reason I don't always go there is that they don't show all film releases. When a film comes out that I want to see I do always check whether City Screen is showing it first though.
The reason City Screen don't show all films is that they have a lot of alternative films and other entertainment which they show. For example, they show a lot of foreign films, and they also have live music performances and comedy acts. I've seen an art exhibition there before too. There is a cafe/bar inside the building which people do use even when they're not visiting the cinema.
It can be hired as a venue for conferences and events too.
---My last visit---
The last time I went to City Screen was to see Alpha Papa (The Alan Partridge film). We pre-booked our tickets on the website as the film had not long been released and we didn't want to risk not getting seats, plus there were eight of us going. Upon entering the cinema there is a counter to the right where you queue up for tickets and refreshments. We already had tickets so we queued for refreshments (which were overpriced as they always are in a cinema - £2.50 for a small bottle of Pepsi Max) and were served by really friendly members of staff. At City Screen you can purchase alcoholic drinks to take into the film with you, and in the past me and a friend have had a bottle wine which is a really nice way to spend a Friday evening, or maybe to start off a night out!
The seats were perfectly comfortable and the screen was nice and big. I've been put in little screens before at other cinemas where you feel like you may as well have just watched at home, but this actually felt like a trip to the cinema. The seats are laid out so that the further back you are sat the higher you are, so you are unlikely to have the screen blocked by the person sat in front of you.
The whole building, including the toilets seems to be very clean and well maintained. It doesn't have a particularly modern feel to it but it's well maintained and doesn't feel shabby or old.
As I said, City Screen is right in the middle of town. It's a great location as it's just off what I would class as the main high street in York. It's in a little alcove which comes off the street and there are a couple of bars in this alcove too. Whenever we go at the beginning of a night out, we come out of the cinema and are already right in town so it's great for that.
Peak Prices (Every day except Wednesday after 5pm)
Student / Retired: £8.00
Child : £6.00
Family of 4: £26.00
On Wednesday it costs £6.50 for an adult ticket which I guess is their equivalent of the Orange Wednesday promotion.
Yes it is pricey now compared to the cost of a DVD but all cinemas are now about this price and the added bonus of it being in a great location helps. It is cheaper if you go in the daytime but as a full time worker I haven't done this since I was a child.
I like City Screen a lot, it doesn't feel like your normal cinema, as I said it feels like it can be made part of a night out, and also the fact they have other entertainment and a bar means it actually is much more than just an average cinema.
Nice place, nice atmosphere, friendly staff and good selection of entertainment.
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Victoria Square (Belfast)
Introduction I have lived in Belfast all of my life and I always use to feel that it was lacking in places that people could hang out in and have fun. The kind of place with nice surroundings, plenty of things on offer and one that does not revolve around alcohol and other less than appealing things. Then they introduced this ... wonderful shopping complex and that changed. It is so much more than simply a spot to go shopping though. Victoria Square also has loads of lovely eating places to dine in and an Odeon cinema to see the latest movie releases. It quickly became my favorite place to go to. On any day that I had a bit of extra money, I found myself heading to here and now that I am with my wonderful fiancé it is our favorite place to go together. I have had many good nights and days here and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It was a TGI Fridays restaurant in Victoria Square that my fiancé and I went to on our first date, when we got back together. I spent a lovely day in Nando's with my little niece Becky and my sister Stacey. I have celebrated Birthdays, Anniversaries and Christmas's here and there is no place that I would of rather celebrated them in.
I remember when it was in the process of being built being quite excited at the prospect of a place so wonderful being built in Belfast. I was also quite fascinated on my first visit and amazed by how many different shops and restaurant's that there was because half of them I had never even heard of or seen before. I would like to add that Victoria Square is always stunning, but it looks especially beautiful at Christmas. I will now review to the best of my ability the places that we have personally been in enough to have an honest and helpful opinion of.
About the Building
Victoria Square opened on the sixth of March, 2008 and was built more than six years ago by Multi Development UK. Multi Development UK is a leading developer and manager of inner-city retail space in Europe and Turkey. This beautiful building cost quite a great deal of money to make, 400 million pounds to be precise and is one of the most expensive ever to be established in Northern Ireland. Victoria Square is a massive building. It stands at over 800,000 ft² and is home to the largest House of Frazer store that has been opened in the UK. It has an amazing dome that is lit up with lots of beautiful lights and I have only recently noticed a penny pool also. Victoria Square has 98 units, including shops, cafes, bars and the 8 Screen Cinema.
Accessibility and Facilities
Victoria Square has a car park with two levels and 1000 parking It is located close to apartments and is right in the heart of Belfast City Centre. There is a Value Cab within walking distance from Victoria Square, located on Chichester Street. There are plenty of restrooms and easy accessibility for people in wheelchairs to the Cinema, Shops, Restaurants and up and down from the different floors also.
I will begin with my opinion of The Dome as it is one of my favourite parts. The Dome is free to view and is
worth the trip up to do so. You can choose to go up the stairs or the elevator. I have done both, but often opt for the lift due to my disability causing pains in my legs and feet and because I have asthma also. When you get to the top of the dome you will notice that there is a stall with leaflets about attractions and things to do in Belfast. The way it is all lit up is just beautiful, I could stare at it for hours. I remember on that particular visit that Paul and I went up via the stairs. I was that tired by the time I climbed up them all just sitting down on the floor and looking up. I was completely mesmerized by how beautiful it was and the view over Belfast is just amazing. The bottom line is that if you choose to visit Victoria Square The Dome is not to be missed and in my opinion it is especially beautiful at night.
Reasons Why I Like It
The Odeon Cinema in Victoria Square is a magnificent one. They have a selection of Pick N Mix Sweets and a Ben and Jerry's (my favorite part) and you can also queue there to get your tickets and Ice cream at the same time. On our last visit we decided to just go home after dining at Pizza hut because the Cinema was completely packed to the point that we probably would of aged a few years by the time we got our tickets. That is a good thing though, and means people like that particular cinema. It usually is quite busy when we visit. We simply could not be bothered queuing and there was not anything that we genuinely wanted to watch at that particular time anyway. The staff are very friendly! On a particularly memorable visit, we went to see Ted and we decided to go VIP. I ordered an Ice Blast which I expected to be much like a slush puppy. When I ordered it the machine was not working perfectly. The employee who was serving at the time told us to go into the cinema, in case our movie began while we were waiting and about 5 or 10 minutes later bought it in the cinema and gave it to me. Great service!
What I did not count on is that the large Ice Blast is so.... Large. I was handed something that looked like a glass but maybe better described as a very long plastic flute that could of fitted in on the set of Mars Attacks and being weird as I am, this kind of made my night. I wanted to keep the plastic flute it was in but would of felt stupid walking about with it. The seats in VIP were very comfy and cost an extra £1.60 for both of us. Ticket prices for adults at peak times, are between £6.80 and £7 and at the cheapest are between £3 and £3.50 and I think this is quite reasonable
Reasons Why I Do Not Like it
There is only one reason that I do not like it and that is because more than a few times, different members of staff have charged me too many times for one or two items or charged me for more tickets than I actually asked for but I must add that each time I noticed and pointed this out and they were pleasant enough about it and promptly gave me a refund.
The Pizza hut in Victoria Square is the nicest one that we have ever been to. It is by far mine and Paul's favorite place to dine in. The food is always cooked to perfection and there has never been a visit in which we were even slightly disappointed. The servers and waitresses are constantly attentive and I can not think of one thing to sound off about. I was particularly impressed with our last visit as the server did not leave us wanting for anything and before we could even ask for a refill of Pepsi he had already topped our glasses up. The Garlic Prawns and Garlic Mushrooms are exquisite and our favourite Pizza is the BBQ Meat Feast. The atmosphere in this place is so chilled and always welcoming and the restaurant Is always spotless. The menu has options for all tastes and caters to vegetarians also. The menu also has Gluten free options and great deals that make dining at Pizza Hut more affordable. We always get the meal for two and the warm cookie dessert with either toffee or chocolate sauce and ice cream is lovely. The restaurant caters to young and old and there are also restrooms in it and they are always kept nice and clean.
Brief opinions on Other Restaurants
We have been to the McDonalds in Victoria Square and were happy with the meal we each got in it. The people who work in it are pleasant and the food is nice and the place is always kept nice and clean. We can say the same about every restaurant that we have been to in Victoria Square. The politeness, cleanliness and attentiveness in this place raises a standard for other places in Belfast to live up to. We have been to TGI Fridays several times and it holds special memories for me as that was the place my fiancé and I went on our first date, when we got back together. I love how the staff in TGI Fridays go out of the way to make you feel welcome and nothing is too much trouble. They also go all out to celebrate special occasions which is a nice touch.
The alcoholic drinks in TGI Fridays ) similar to most restaurants) are expensive but they are worth It because they taste lovely. If you are planning on going there, I recommend that you bring a good amount of money with you because if you plan on getting more than a few drinks it will cost a quite a bit. Last time I only got one Cocktail and Paul got a beer and on top of our food bill it was around 60 pounds and I expected 50 would more than cover it. Although Paul insisted on starters, which neither of us could eat because we were so stuffed after our burger and chips and this put the price of the bill up a bit and caused the food to go to waste. Nando's is another place I was impressed with after visiting with my Sister and my niece Becky.
Again all of the before mentioned can be said about Nando's. Friendly and attentive staff, great food, nice atmosphere and wide variety of menu choices to suit all tastes. China Buffet King is lovely and the selection of food is wide but Paul jokes about not going back again. They have a wastage fee of £5 and on our first and only visit to the restaurant. I filled up my plate and thought I could eat all of what was on it and could not and then Paul ended up offering to eat it to avoid the fee and left the place feeling very sick. . We have yet to have a bad experience in any of the restaurants that we visited and so I can only give glowing reviews. We visited more restaurants, but I feel I have said enough about the ones I have mentioned because the review is not solely about the restaurants, but Victoria Square itself. Overall the restaurants and staff in them are a credit to the shopping complex. Lastly O'Brien's have the most amazing hot chocolate ever with plenty of Marshmallows on top and is the perfect place to chill out and the seats in it are so comfy!
There are so many places to shop it is hard to decide where. You can purchase gift cards for the ones you love to spend in any of the stores that takes their fancy. My personal favourite's are H & M and River Island. In some stores the prices are ridiculous, but that is my opinion. My view has always been as follows. Why pay £100 quid for something you can get for £5 just because it has a designer label on it? I would possibly cry if I handed over so much money for something just because it has a brand name on it. Out of all of the shops that are listed below, some I have just wandered into, looked at the huge price tags and felt like fainting and almost ran back out like the Grim Reaper was behind me.
H & M have great sales and I visit virtually every time I am in Victoria Square. I think Build a bear is a lovely idea and I bet kids love it. In the few shops that I do frequent the people who work in them are all very pleasant. I have never had to return any items to any of the shops in Victoria Square and so cannot comment on that particular aspect of things. The shops I go to are always busy and this is even as it gets close to closing time. Although sadly at Christmas time, idiotic so called dissident's caused businesses in and around Victoria square to be affected by their stupidity and I was actually too frightened to visit until after Christmas as things had settled down again by then.
List of Shops
H & M, Build a Bear Work Shop, Apple, Art & Hobby, The Carphone Warehouse, Claire's accessories, Coast, 3 Store, Accessorize , All Saints, Crabtree and Evelyn, Calvin Klein, Bank, Dune, Everything Everywhere, Cruise , Exhibit ,Goldsmiths
Hobbs, Guess , Hollister, Fat Face, Fossil, House of Frazer, Hugo Boss , JD Sports
,Kiehl's, 02 , Lunn's, Mamas & Papas, Levi's, Lk Bennet ,Monsoon, Kurt Geiger, Pepe Jeans, Pretty Green , Phase Eight, Pull and Bear, Regis, Remis Uomo, Replay
Shop Mobility, River Island, Reiss, Rituals, Super Dry, USC, Vodafone, Top Shop, Tommy Hilfiger, Ted Baker, TM Lewin, Urban Outfitters
List of Restaurants. Cafes and Bars
China Buffet King, Costa Coffee, Nando's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, The Kitchen Bar, Chiquito, Frankie & Benny's O'Brien's, Prezzo, TGI Friday's, Wagamama, Cosmo McDonald's Pizza Express, Spurs Steak And Grill, The Ivory Restaurant & Bar
One of the best things about Victoria Square is how it embraces the different seasonal times of the year. At Halloween they had a great stall set up for Halloween outfits and there was so much to choose from. As Valentines day is just over they are giving free love heart sweets with you're meals. They have created a Love Zone running from 14th - 22nd February. The love zone is situated on the Lower Ground Floor and put there to encourage shoppers to relax whilst shopping, share a love seat for a chat, arrange to meet a date or take a pictures etc. This is just some of the events that take place and they add to the magic of the place.
I think that Victoria Square is one of the best things to ever come to Belfast and I will always be a regular visitor. I love the ambience of the place it is always buzzing with people who seem happy and lively. It is a place worth visiting time and time again,
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