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My little review on Basingstoke’s Festival Place Shopping Centre

Festival Place BasingstokeDear mummy, so the clue is in the title and I’m not talking about the shopping centre bit! Festival Place has only been opened for 12 years but already has its heart at the centre of the community. Festival in name and festival in nature, it really is a feast for the eyes! It’s a super modern, bright, clean (its toilets have won awards for best in the country!) family friendly centre, with large break-out areas inside and out. Festival Place is a massive shopping centre and opened on Tuesday, 22 October 2002 in Basingstoke, Hampshire. It is big competition to The Oracle in Reading and West Quay Shopping Centre in Southampton. It houses over 200 shops including large stores such as Zara, Top Shop, Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, Apple Store and HMV. There are also restaurants like Giraffe and ASK and bars like Lloyd’s No.1 located outside in the covered space next to Festival Square. But it’s not all about the big brands, Festival Place also supports the community by accommodating local talent and businesses in the shops such as All Our Own Work and All Our Own Crafts. It’s renowned for pop-up shops which is great as there always seems to be something new happening at Festival Place every couple of months.

The centre also incorporates a massive modern Vue Cinema, Basingstoke Sports Centre, which actually has a large swimming pool built under the shopping centre (cool eh?) and Basingstoke Discovery Centre and Library. It’s in the town centre and a 3 minute walk from Basingstoke Railway Station through another shopping precinct called The Malls – which hosts the largest Primark store I have ever seen! Festival Place has its own town bus station and a multi-storey car park. There is ample parking locally too with the train car parks, The Anvil theatre car park and the large multi-storey all linked together in one place which is handy. The shopping centre is only a 5 minutes drive off Junction 6 of the M3 and clearly signposted. We’ve never had an issue parking in Basingstoke, compared to the dreaded Oracle car park and the Swan Centre tight spaced multi-storey. Traffic links are good too with at least 2 ways you can enter and exit the car parks.  Lifts are speedy and can accommodate wheelchairs and multiple pushchairs which is great. It’s not too expensive to park at Festival Place and its cheaper than The Oracle in Reading.

Festival Place shopping Centre’s claim to fame happened the centre was used by BBC’s Top Gear (Series 12, Episode 6) by Jeremy Clarkson who was road testing a Ford Fiesta in 2008 whilst being chased by “Baddies” in a Chevrolet Corvette.

Series 12, Episode 6 (2008)

My mummy says its one of the best episodes ever – Jeremy does a ‘sensible’ road test of a Ford Fiesta, driving it through Festival Place Shopping centre. When it came onto the telly my mummy nearly choked on her tea, spluttering ‘I recognise that place’!! See Festival Place Shopping Centre has a great layout and lots of space, perfect for going shopping in a group or with a family and buggies. There are lots of benches to sit down on, great if you have weary feet or (as mummy found out) you wear heels to high for a full day of shopping! Dads can escape to the numerous Costa’s and Starbucks, Basingstoke has two of each – now that’s just greedy! But there are also independent quirky coffee shops outside the centre too, like The Tea Bar, greasy spoon cafes and the old family favourites Maccy D’s and Burger King. Festival Place shopping centre also plays host to events like Basingstoke Festival, supporting and promoting fund-raising for charities and community projects.

Festival Place Christmas LightsToday we’re here to report on the grand Christmas Light Switch on. Christmas lights… Bah Humbug! you may think. But this year Basingstoke’s Festival Place are doing something on a grander scheme, they have a large stage set up in the square, screaming girls are waiting in the rain for X-Factor’s Concept (such dedication) we are rightly informed that some of the band even work in Festival Place shopping center too! What a claim to fame, if they make it as big as One Direction can we put up a plaque outside?

We’ve spent the whole afternoon in a Festival Place visiting our local haunts, Costa, GAP, French Connection and some new independent art stores such as All Our Own Crafts (see my review here) and All Our Own Work (see my review here). It shows the diversity of Festival Place shopping centre. I lovely modern shopping centre filled with major brands and local talent. We’re so lucky to have such a fabulous and hidden treasure on our doorstep. See, Festival Place is challenging other major shopping centres in Hampshire as the number one destination for families. It’s not all about the shopping, did you know that Festival Place has a Sports Centre and that the swimming pool actually goes underneath the centre….wowwee mummy very James Bond! The Sports Centre has a great gym, courts and classes. Festival Place is connected to the older part of Basingstoke at the Top of Town which is filled full of ‘hunter-gather type’ quirky charity & vintage shops and the YMCA emporium is great. Behind Church Street is a great little antiques store called ‘The Squirrel Collectors Centre’ in Joices Yard. There are also loads of Hairdressers and beauty salons.

Festival Place is our nearest shopping centre, it’s provided me with clothes from Mamas & Papas and H&M kids, Daddy with endless joy from Ann Summers *cough* I mean GAME and Mummy the much deserved escapism at the Clinique counter in Debenhams and rifling through books at Waterstones. Talking of Waterstones did you know that Sir David Attenborough is at Waterstones Basingstoke on Thursday 27th November at 12:30pm, signing copies of his new book? Wow, all the stars head to Festival Place.

Festival Place Christmas Light Switch onStars is something we’ve come to see tonight, in the form of the unlit Christmas decorations hanging from the glass ceilings in Festival Place, they are twinkling in the dull LED lights and will hopefully be brought to life when Keith Chegwin hits that giant button, flooding light into Basingstoke. Commuters and office workers are filling the square in the restaurants, drinking and eating. Parents with school children are being tugged. Giggling teenagers are hanging on to the crowd barriers desperate to see X-Factor’s Concept. The place is filled with activity. The drizzle has not dampen spirits, it’s really busy here! Woweee mummy, security have done a really good job, we navigate the crowd barriers and find a good viewing platform in the Festival Place’s large square. The stage screen illuminates the square with a hazy light there are 5 microphones set up in the line and we are waiting for Concept.

First on are Basingstoke Rock Choir signing their hearts out and they are really good :) Next are local duo Common Ground with some slapstick comedy acts thrown in for good measure. It keeps the crowd buzzing for half an hour, the rain has stopped and people are bopping away. The square is filled with young families, small children on parents shoulders with large wooly hats and glow sticks frantically waving them around and hitting them over the heads. The police have a strong presence and are helpfully directing visitors to spaces in the square, everyone seems to have a smile on their face and the party atmosphere is in full swing. I think a lot of people are here to see Concept and the free firework display which is very generous of Festival Place to put on.

Festival Place Christmas FireworksWe’ve been informed that the entertainment continues on till 9:30pm which is way past my bedtime! It’s 6.30pm and the music is loud and fun, and people going out for the evening have now joined the crowds. Party reveallers in their fancy frocks and high heels, tottering on the cobbled pathways through the crowds of spectators, you wouldnt believe it was winter time looking at some of the short skirts ;) We find a quiet place to sit in Pizza Express in the sqaure, inside children are dressed up for kids parties and it feels like a celebration. My mummy has a quick coffee then heads back outside for the Christmas Light Count Down, after a quick stall from Keith Chegwin and some silly antics, it starts here’s my mummy’s video below! Apologies for the camera angle, my mummy’s a bit rubbish at filming…..shhhh don’t tell her I said that!

The lights are so pretty and are some of the best we’ve seen (trust us I’ve been hauled around West Quay in Southampton and The Swan Centre in Eastleigh) and they aren’t a patch on these beautiful twinkling fairy lights and giant balls! What follows next is a dazzling firework display which has people cranking their necks, wide-mouthed in awe. It’s a funny sight seeing everyone gawping at the sky. After the fireworks have finished the surrounding restaurants fill up with hungry families and the music continues, Concept are really good singing live. For me it’s home to bed, but not before I passed the friendly clown and his plate spinning on the way to the car park. A great and fun-filled day at Festival Place Shopping Centre and for once it wasn’t all about the shopping!

Keep an eye out for what cool events they are hosting – it’s Black Friday next week and if you are visiting the centre you are sure to pick up some massive savings! Here’s a brief snippet of stuff Festival Place are hosting :)

We can’t wait to see Santa at his Grotto and ride the choo choo train!

Love Bella and her mummy. x

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The Poppies at The Tower of London

Dear Mummy, you were so glad you had an opportunity to go up to London last weekend and see the Poppies at The Tower of London before they were all taken down. You visited the major art installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ at the Tower of London, which marked one hundred years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War.

The poppy installation progressively filled the Tower’s moat between 17 July and 11 November 2014. (extended until the end of November due to so many people wanting to see them) Famous people had visited the site too, including the The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, Prime Minister David Cameron, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry to name a few. They all planted a poppy and paid their respects. By the time it reached the 11th November the art installation was in full glory. Helicopters took pictures from the sky, it gained international coverage as the moat looked filled with blood, against the grey dull skies of London.

We started our adventure at London Bridge following the masses across The Thames, stopping to take quick photos as we’ve never been here before. It’s very crowded and we can see the Tower of London ahead, lots of people are looking over the railings to take photographs. People from all over the world have visited today to catch a glimpse of this historic art installation.

The Thames side of the Tower still has a sea of red filling its moat, however, on the city side, volunteers are busy at work carefully removing them, large wooden hoarding blocks the view from the city and queues of tourists fill the tube station and the roads.

 

Poppies at The Tower of London

We didn’t have time to see the installation in its full glory, all 888,246 ceramic poppies, created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins. It seems after Remembrance Day everyone is here to see them! It’s very busy and crowds are drawn to The Tower of London to see the splash of red. We saw the remnants of them, half of them had gone last weekend, but it was still an awe inspiration sight. Stage designer Tom Piper who designed the installation did a fantastic job! Creating a waterfall of poppies cascading down from one of the windows (The weeping window) and the big splash, as my mummy likes to call it (pictured). The potters at Paul’s Cummins studio used techniques which were utilised by potters during the First World War to hand-make (Yes HAND-MAKE!!!) every single one of them! Woweee Mummy that’s a lot of man hours to create all those poppies! A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into making those ceramic poppies, but it couldn’t even come close the sacrifices of the servicemen and women those poppies represented. You see each poppy represented a British military fatality during the war. Seeing them all in one place is truly shocking and sad, my mummy imagines the poppies as a sea of faces and gets scared to look at them for a time, brushing away her tears, while tourists were scrambling around her for a better view.

My mummy thinks it will be a sad day when the final one is taken out, however on the bright side these poppies have found loving homes with families across the world and they will be treasured like the people they represent. Berkshire cadet Harry Hayes, 13 “planted” the final poppy…She wonders who will be the person to remove the last one?

Tower-of-London

All of the poppies that made up the installation were sold, raising millions of pounds which were shared equally amongst six service charities. The BBC reported that it was thought the sales could raise in excess of £15m which is great news for the charities listed below.

Cobseo

Combat Stress

Coming Home

Help for Heroes

The Royal British Legion

SSAFA

The poppies encircled the iconic landmark and it was intended to reflect the magnitude of such an important centenary and create a powerful visual commemoration, even in all the hustle and bustle my mummy manages to bow her head in respect and take a time-out.

My mummy and Daddy are part of an estimated 5 million people who have seen the poppies so far..but don’t despair if you haven’t had the chance to see them! Thousands of poppies will go on tour before being permanently based at the Imperial War Museums in London and Manchester. So you may get a chance to glimpse and pay your respects.

For more information visit http://poppies.hrp.org.uk

A humbling day out.

Love Bella…..oh and Mummy & Daddy x

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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My #somum leafy love notes

For my Daddy…

Dear mummy, tonight we’re joining with Story of Mum and her ‘make date’ twitter party. It starts at eight so don’t be late, come and see the wonderful creations that mums and dads from all over the country have been making.

#Somum Leafy Love NoteAs the autumn leaves are falling, don’t be stalling…grab a leafy sheet and write a little love note to a friend, stranger or family member. Leave the leafy notes for them to find, in a bush, on a path or on a tree. It will really brighten someones day.

I’ve made some love notes for my daddy, see he’s not very well at the moment and is feeling down. So I hope this will put a smile on his face.

I love you daddy and me and mummy are very proud of you for going to work and struggling through your illness. We hope you get better soon.

All our love Bella and Mummy x

Leaf Love Note

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Going down the road to ‘Little Street’.

My review on this fabulous children’s role play centre in Surrey.

Little Street ReviewDear mummy, the weather’s been miserable recently and our long walks in the countryside have been put on hold. All the puddle jumping I’ve been doing recently has been on footpaths and in car parks visiting soft play centres ranging from Gambado, in Eastleigh and Active Tots in Bramley.

However today we’ve decided to go further afield to a little known place called Little Street. It’s says exactly what it does on the sign…it’s a little street for children. We hunt it down at Frimley Train Station just off the M3 near Camberley. Parking is good and mummy drives into the train station car park which charges £1 on weekdays, free at weekends. We’ve known about Little Street since it opened back in June this year, but have needed a good excuse to pop down and this wet and windy day is the perfect reason to go and explore this new type of children’s play center.

Little Street Review Fire EngineLittle Street is a realistic street designed for role play, to help little ones to reenact scenarios in the everyday world helping them to learn through play and is great fun. My mummy knows I love role play and Little Street is a scaled down version of Little Street Review Areasa typical high street with a supermarket, doctors surgery, beauty salon, a cafe and a construction site. My favourite area has to be the large dressing up box and stage with musical instruments called Starlets Theatre. I spend a lot of time dancing on the stage, while mummy and grandma sing and play on musical instruments. Another area I like is the large round-about with a fire engine in the middle…I do like to climb at the moment so I spend a great deal of time on this large wooden vehicle. There are murals and artwork on the walls with a post office, police station and fire station.

Little Street Review Role PlayLittle street operates an online booking system which allows parents to pre-book a particular session of the day. Child (Includes free entry for 1 adult) – £5.50 / £6.00 and Additional Adult – £3.50 / £3.75. We went off-peak on a Monday. They have 4 daily play sessions and are open 7 days a week! We choose the 13:30 to 15:00 session and even though it was busy, it wasn’t heaving. Adults do tend to get in the way, especially if they are nattering to other parents standing in the middle of the hair salon (True to form eh?), the best thing to do is to get down on the floor and engage/play with your little ones (if they haven’t already found a friend to play with) all children must be supervised by a responsible adult/guardian at all times, so keeping a beady little eye on them is recommended. My mummy and grandma sat in a corner to let me get on and do my thang.

Little Street also has a cafe which serves hot and cold drinks, snacks and gorgeous cakes! The staff are friendly and helpful. We spoke to another parent and they had mentioned that Little Street can get very busy on school holidays, so it is always worth booking online to check availability of time slots. You can just walk-in, but you may be disappointed, so always check their website first. Little Street also do parties, which is a great idea and maybe a thought for the future *hint hint mummy*

Would we go back? Yes, but not until I’ve stopped my climbing stage, as I wanted to climb up on everything…the shelves in the supermarket, the scales in the doctor’s surgery, the walls in the construction yard….the list goes on and it was a bit hairy for my mummy to keep an eye on me all the time. I wasn’t taken with Belle & Beau beauty salon area, however I might grow into this. Definitely a play centre to keep an eye on for a rainy day. Early Years Practitioners have helped design Little Street and they have incorporated other learning opportunities for children throughout the play areas, puzzles, languages, shape sorters and challenges. Little Street is most appealing to children from walking age to 7 years… or any adults that like role play… as my mummy found out pretending to be a police officer!

If you suffer from tidiness OCD, it might be worth relaxing your reins for a little while, as my mummy trailed after me putting prop cartons and boxes back onto shelves and turning them facing outwards, a bit like that strange creepy man from ‘Sleeping With The Enemie” However the place is immaculate and clean, you could eat your dinner off the floor it sparkled so much, so well done Little Street staff for keeping the play area beautiful.

It is truly an unique and inspirational play centre for young children and we would recommend taking your little ones down there for a couple of hours of play. You couldn’t spend the whole day down there, but with Frimley High Street (yes the adult version) on it’s doorstep with shops and cafes you could fill your day up visiting Frimley or Camberley.

We had a fab time and hope other families enjoy their time down there as much as we did. Shame the 90 min play session didn’t last longer…

Until next time Little Street!

Bella x

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My ‘Monty the Penguin’ Trendy Tot Tribute

Dear mummy, it’s that time in the week where I get down and fashionable linking up with TT_Thursday, that’s ‘trendy tots’ to me and you. (…yes we realise it’s friday – and somehow we lost a day!) We’re loving all the penguin inspired hype since the new release of the John Lewis Advert showcasing #Montythepenguin.

So in honour to him and his girlfriend…. I donned myself in some penguin wear.

Bonnie Baby Penguin DressThis beautiful knitted dress was bought last year from BonnieBabyUK in their sale and it’s taken me all year to grow into it! It’s super soft and very lightweight meaning I can team it with tights and a body underneath and not get too hot.

I’m wearing it with light pink tights from Mothercare, a pink and brown cardi from Green Little Radicals and my cherry Start-Rite shoes! We hope you like my ‘Monty the Penguin’ inspired outfit. Until next week folks!

Love Bella x

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My ‘Baaaaaaa” Animal Neck Pillow

Dear Mummy, you are always on the eternal quest for sleep. To find products to help all of us sleep better, ear plugs for yourself, nose plugs to stop Daddy from snoring, night lights to keep the scary monsters away and the list goes on. You’ve known about a company that can help, they are masters in ‘pillow’ talk… well pillows of the fluffy kind. The company is called Theraline and they make clouds of sleepy joy!

Theraline Animal Neck Pillow They are best known for producing top quality breastfeeding pillows in a multitude of patterns and colours.

When my mummy was pregnant with me she used their pillow to pop between her legs to make it more comfortable to sleep at night and take the pressure off her hips.

She also continued to use it as a breastfeeding pillow and a soft cushion to prop me up. So we know the quality and longevity of Theraline products already. No other supplier seems to have a more extensive product range of pillows for maternity in one place.

However, today it’s the new kids range that we are reviewing. If you haven’t heard about Theraline they’ve been established since 1993 with the aim of offering high-quality maternity and well-being products at great prices. They are climate aware too and actively look to balance they CO2 emissions by putting money into environmental projects. All and all a good reputable company which makes it more reassuring to buy from.

The Theraline Animal Neck Pillow arrived in a clear plastic zipped case which looked super cute, I’ve already decided that when I’m not storing my pillow in it I’m going to use it to carry around my toys on long car trips. I spend ages playing with the zip on the bag until I realise that the pillow has been neatly folded and put onto the table.

At first glance it looks like a cuddly toy, it’s super soft and brilliant white, not so sure it will remain white for much longer though! I unfold my new friend and see that he is a sheep! That’s so cool I think! I point out his stitched nose and eyes and proceed to give him a big squeeze.

I love the way he feels and the sand-like Theraline Animal Neck Pillow sheepmicro-bead filling moulds to my grip and makes me giggle. I swing him around as he’s not too heavy and wear him like a bag over my shoulder; I don’t think I’ve got to grips with this whole ‘neck’ thing.

I spent the next 20 minutesTheraline Animal Neck Pillow  2 talking to him and preparing him an imagery drink, mainly to make him feel more at home. I fill the clear zip bag with my toys and carry him to the car.

The high functionality of this super cute ‘Baaaaa’ animal neck pillow means that I can play with him and go to sleep on him.

He’s a great travel pillow and I use him briefly for a head support. Unfortunately I start to dribble on him and make him wet, which I don’t like and take him off to inspect the wet patches.

However he’s easy to wash and wipe clean, good thing too with a messy pup like me using him! Funnily enough I use him more outside the car to play with than to sleep on, but on longer car journeys my mummy will help me put him on, to save my head from lolling around the car seat. It would be good if Theraline introduced some more characters to their range like a pink pig and a green crocodile!

He would make a nice little Christmas present for any child that likes to ‘nod off’ in strange and unusual places!

Love Bella x

Family Fever
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My weekend in pictures

Dear mummy, last weekend was such a whirlwind and what better way to showcase it than through images! We’ve linked up for the first time with @snowingindoors (who knows a thing or two about photography) and @youbabymemummy for ‘Point and Click’. We love trying out new Linkys and it gives my mummy and I a great opportunity to virtually meet up and comment on other bloggers posts too :)

My weekend in pictures If you haven’t heard my mummy attended #Blogfest at the weekend in the big smoke.

London always lends itself to photo opportunities and mummy wasn’t disappointed when she reached Kings Cross and saw this giant poppy! She took my turtle on an adventure and he loved the tube.

She was overwhelmed by the response to her post about Blogfest and here are some of the photos which were taken during the day too.

She’s already used her #clearaplate in support of Project Sunlight and filtered through her Blogfest goodie bag which was amazing (she’s currently eating the chocolate while writing this post) My mummy has also reviewed her notes from Blogfest with the view to put into practice some of the wise tips shared on the day.

My weekend in pictures 1

Sunday was a complete contrast to the previous day, my mummy was no longer in the industrial capital but infact outdoors at The Vyne, National Trust, which is our home away from home and the best woodland playground a little kid like mMy weekend in pictures 3e could ask for.

It’s our local haunt and we’ve been many times as it’s just down the road from us. We loved finding all the ‘fire’ leaves as my mummy likes to call them, the gorgeous red and burnt orange leaves which are scattered on our walk. They are so beautiful and we couldn’t resist taking photos of them.

We’re at home in the outdoors as a family, it’s the one place where we are truly free, we love mud, puddles and mucking around and hope these photos capture that!

lots of love Bella x

My weekend in pictures 4

snowingindoors