Posts Tagged ‘Bella Italia’

This time last year, Lilly’s obsession with Thomas the Tank engine and trains in general was at its peak.

Everywhere we went, Thomas had to come too. We were planning a Thomas filled birthday and Christmas – she got train sets, Thomas figurines, Thomas puzzle, Thomas scooter. Her birthday cake was Thomas. She has a Thomas duvet cover. When we dropped her off at nursery, she’d leave a Thomas in the car for when she was picked up – as soon as she went into nursery, she’d make a beeline for the two Thomas toys in there, and keep hold of them ALL DAY!

So, as you can see, she liked Thomas.

In the last year, we have been (numerous times) on the miniature railway at Southport. We’ve been to the model village in Southport, with the model railway. We’ve ridden on fairground trains. But we had never taken her on an actual, real life train. Until recently, when I decided to ask my mum to help me take the girls on a little train trip to Manchester.

It didn’t start too well – my mum was rather late arriving at our house, bearing in mind the train was only every hour and we had two children to organise when we got to the station. As soon as she parked her car, I bundled her into mine before she even had time to say “hello” to the grandchildren!

We had to park a few streets away from the station as parking is a nightmare on weekdays. Cue frantic scramble to assemble double buggy, decamp both children, gather the many required bags of baby and toddler paraphernalia and take up a light jog to the station. Which, I may say, is up a rather steep, cobbled hill.

Puffing and panting, we arrived at the station with a good five minutes to spare. Result, we made it! Oh, wait, there are no stairs to the platform. Get both girls out, take bags off the buggy, lug bags, babies and pram up two flights of stairs. More puffing and panting. Worry about making sure Lilly doesn’t break free and fall onto the tracks. Desperately start coordinating a plan with my mum about who will do precisely what when the train arrives – i.e who will carry what bags, who will supervise which child, and in what order we will do this. Train approaches platform… mad scramble to carry out aforementioned plan… and finally… we are on!!!

Luckily, once on board, Lilly was suitably impressed, watching the trees and fields wizz by and looking all around her at the carriage. As we drew into Manchester we pointed out all the tall buildings and other trains which could be seen on railway bridges etc.

I’d planned to take my mum and the girls to lunch at the Printworks, but unfortunately got mixed up between Manchester Victoria and Manchester Piccadily. (We wanted Victoria, we got off at Piccadily). Never mind, we went for a wander and discovered a Bella Italia, which wasn’t too busy and they found us a table where we could spread out our millions of bags and park up our double buggy without causing too much of a health and safety risk to other diners.

After a little bit of a grizzle while we finished our meal, Isla went off to sleep which meant we could even stretch to coffees and an ice cream for Lilly, who was being very well behaved.

Afterwards we went for a bit of an explore, saw a lovely fountain

Chased some pigeons…

And admired the water features…

(You know what she’s thinking, there, don’t you…)

Yep, that’s right…


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Last week we spent Monday to Friday at Center Parcs in Cumbria – Whinfell Forest.

We are big Center Parcs fans, and have been twice to Elveden Forest (East Anglia) and once to Sherwood Forest (Nottingham) since Lilly was 10 months old.

This was our first time at Whinfell – Elveden being our favourite so far, but also being a ridiculously long drive from where we live in the North West. Whinfell is a much more civilised 1 hour 45 minutes away, and even that felt long enough! In fact, we made our first parental error of the holiday on the journey there – waiting too long before stopping at the services meaning Lilly fell asleep in the car and napped for 40 minutes – which came back to haunt us later!

Arriving at a rainey Whinfell Forest Center Parcs

First impressions of Whinfell were very good – plenty of parking (unlike Sherwood) and we really enjoyed walking in the rain in our waterproofs through the trees to discover the  Village Centre for the first time.

The Village Centre is all undercover, unlike Elveden, and, as there was plenty of rain showers the week we were there, it was just as well. We spent our first afternoon enjoying a rather large (and expensive) beer in Bella Italia and admiring the indoor water fountain before having a wander to see the Sports Plaza and enjoy a Starbucks on our travels.

The villas are a little different at Whinfell – as they were built when the park was an Oasis – and ours was a two storey wooden house. It looked lovely from the outside – much more aesthetically pleasing than the standard issue Center Parcs bungalows – but inside it could have done with a bit of a revamp – the white goods were a good 10 years old and the decor a little bit tired. We didn’t really mind that though, but could’ve done without the super creaky staircase and no downstairs loo which meant we spent most of our evenings trying not to need a wee in case going upstairs would wake up a very light sleeping toddler….

Our first night was not to be a peaceful one, as that illegal in-car nap formed a lethal cocktail with ‘First-night-in a new bedroom syndrome and resulted in, yes, you’ve guessed it, “I’m NOT tired!!” “I don’t LIKE my new bedroom!” There’s a squirrel at my window!!” “I’m SCARED!!”. We ended up bringing Lilly downstairs with us, which wasn’t too bad as she was chatting away and making us laugh. When 10pm came around, Lilly still wouldn’t go to sleep in her own bedroom alone, so Tony had to sleep in with her before she would settle.

When she woke up the next morning, early, lack of sleep had transformed her into A MONSTER with absolutely zero tolerance for anything and with with her emotions balanced on a knife edge…

But, before we fully comprehended just how terrible a mood she was in, we took the two girls swimming first thing in the morning. It was the first time Isla has been swimming, and she remained very serious looking throughout her short experience – then promptly fell fast asleep!

Tony took charge of Lilly while I got out with snoozy baby. In a fit of unusual recklessness, he decided to take Lilly on a rather big waterslide, which she seemed to enjoy first time around, despite getting water in her face. Second time around I watched – only to see both of them go right under the water in the plunge pool. A screaming Lilly soon emerged from the water – Tony (who was frantically holding Lilly up above the water while trying to steady himself) took another five seconds – Lilly was terrified!! Not a very good second waterslide experience but quite funny for a spectator (bad mummy!)

It all started to go a little bit wrong after that. Lilly wanted to go for a wee, so I walked with her to the changing rooms. On the way there, she slipped and managed to take me down with her, so that I landed right on top of her foot! She was screaming and I was panicking because I thought I’d broken her foot. I managed to carry her to the disabled toilets where Lilly said she couldn’t stand on her foot and then, in all the upset, did a wee all over the floor, all over herself, all over me! I had visions of hospital visits and plaster casts, but luckily after a while she calmed down and was able to walk again… phew.

Soon afterwards we decided to get out and have lunch. Bad mistake at 11.30, as every other family decided to do the same, so there were no changing rooms available, and people queueing waiting for them to become free. Isla started wailing – she wanted her bottle. Lilly started whinging – “I’m hungry, I want a snack, I’m hungry, I want a snack, I’m cold, I want a snack…” on and on and on.

In the end, I took Isla into the disabled toilets to dress her while Tony and Lilly found a too-small cubicle to get dressed and I fed Isla her bottle standing up – not very comfy!

We thought the worst was over once we got out of the pool – oh, how wrong. Lilly’s mood was awful, we couldn’t go five minutes without a tantrum. We had screaming, lying on the floor, “NO! NO! NO!”, hysterical crying, refusal to walk anywhere, running off, you name it, we had it. We gamely attempted a coffee in Starbucks and some soft play near the bowling alley (they have an big open area in the bar where they play CBeebies on a big screen all day!) By about 3 O’Clock we couldn’t cope with anymore public tantrums so we all went back to the villa and prayed Lilly would go to bed ok later. Luckily, 7pm came and she went to bed fine, on her own, so we breathed a massive sigh of relief and poured a large glass of wine…

I’m happy to report that the rest of the week passed off much more harmoniously. Better sleep meant we got our good girl back, for the most part, and we had lots of fun in the playgrounds and back at the CBeebies bar (genius idea, Center Parcs!) One of the other highlights was shopping in the supermarket with the mini trolley – Lilly absolutely loved it, and looked just too cute pushing it around the aisles and loading all the items onto the checkout.

Back at the villa, we hung out three bags of peanuts on the tree outside our window and watched all kinds of birds feast on them for three days. We also had pheasants and a red suirrel come to visit – and spotted a rabbit emerging from a large rabbit hole outside once too. While we were there we had loads of fun spotting different plants and trees with Lilly on mini ‘nature walks’ – there were loads of different types of mushrooms growing everywhere. Typical though, that the main thing that Lilly remembers from these little walks was an old discarded baby dummy: “we saw a dummy, didn’t we mummy?!”

On Thursday, we had my pretend birthday (it was my 30th on the Friday, when we were travelling back), so we ate our lunch at Bella Italia (delicious) and had a takeaway for our evening meal.

We also learnt, while out and about during the week, that Lilly can do a wee in the bushes if neccessary!

All in all, we had a great time, bar an extremely stressful second day. Sleep is absolutely the MOST important factor in determining Lilly’s behaviour, and Lilly’s behaviour is the one and only key to whether or not we have a wonderful day, or the day from hell!

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