Thursday, 30 May 2019

Cardiff Monster Trucks Monster Jam What you Need to Know

Getting there

We've never been to something like Monster Trucks before, so we were very badly prepared. Thank God we were aiming to arrive in time for the pit party (last admission strictly 12:30) as the roads in Cardiff near the stadium close at strictly 1pm and we weren't aware of this. The only reason we got into the city in time was in our endeavour to get to the pit party; had we been arriving just in time for the 15:00 hrs show itself we'd have been locked out of the inner city. There is a park and ride, so no doubt we'd have found a way, but it would have been last minute, hectic, rushed and no doubt we'd have missed half the show. Oh and all with a 3 year old in tow, eeek. Lots of people I met (I'm a chatterbox) had stayed the night before -  these are seasoned people who go year in year out and make a mini break of it. We drove from Bristol and didn't hit much traffic. We couldn't leave earlier as it was Aaron's awards day at his football club, so we had to drop him off at a friend's at 10:45 and then head off, which as it was was a favour as the awards didn't actually start till midday.

Rather embarrassingly the Web page I link to on the words Monster Trucks above, does link to all the information about parking and road closures I would have ever needed but I didn't think to do that type of prep as I was so focussed on getting everyone ready and worrying about whether it was okay for Aaron to go to his football awards without us, or us to Monster Trucks without him.

I digress, back to getting there, and specifically by car, from England...
... interesting fact I had NO IDEA that the Severn Bridge has been renamed the Prince of Wales bridge amongst much controversy! It seems they took the opportunity to do that once the tolls had fully repaid the cost of building it. It's now TOLL FREE TO ENTER WALES. It was built in 1996 at a cost of 100 million pounds.

Parking

I ended up going to the Pit Party by myself as the sat nav took us to a NCP carpark on Westgate Street and as we drove into it, I hopped out to collect our free Press tickets from the WRU shop - also on Westgate Street which I spotted (actually I think that was the destination I entered in the sat nav, so no surprise there LOL). I thought once parked, Lottie, Daddy and my Mum would catch me up but in the carpark they were told it wouldn't reopen till 1900 hours and Daddy was worried that'd make us late back for collecting Aaron. So he left the carpark and got trapped in inner city traffic as the road closure loomed closer. I rung my Mum (hello international charges she was here on holiday) and asked her to tell the hubby to dash back to the carpark before the road closure set in as I was assured by someone else in high vis, that the carpark would open at 1800 hrs.

I stood outside Prinicipality Stadium anxious, feeling like Aneka Rice, panicking as to whether they would park in time as it was very close to 12:30, the last admission for the Pit Party, and I knew they'd be on the top floor of the multistorey carpark, being Daddy always goes high.

As the clock approached 12:30, knowing I needed time to go through security, with a heavy heart I entered alone, having a yellow plastic cable tie strap placed on each of my checked bags, only to be rung by my famalam at 12:35 saying they were parked and ready to enter. I said I'll grab a few pics for the blog "wait for me"..... I rung the PR and asked "pppplllllleeeeeeaaaaasssse can you escort them through security" but it was a strict noooooooooooooooooo.

We parked in the NCP directly opposite Principality Stadium, but gulped a few hours later upon exit as it was a huge £25 for the day. I've now done some research and you can get it cheaper if you prebook, you can even get a parking season ticket if you are a regular. Clearly there's always the park and ride option too.

Booking the Pit Party

I'm told by people I met in the Pit Party, that you have to book it when you book your tickets (I was there as a blogger with complimentary press tickets so was unaware of this, as are some others it seems). So if you want to get up close and personal with the trucks and drivers themselves, do pre book the Pity Party when you book your Monster Jam Monster Trucks tickets.

I've just pretended to buy tickets for


Sat 8 Jun 2019 @ 3:00 pm
Ricoh Arena - Stadium, Coventry
and after choosing seats, there is an option to add a "Pit Pass" and it is £12 per person.

Please note, it does say LOW AVAILABILITY so book soon to secure a seat.

You must have a valid event ticket and Party in the Pits ticket to enter the venue. Monster Jam Party in the Pits is a significant part of the Monster Jam experience, where the drivers and vehicles are completely open to the fans, providing unprecedented access to the drivers, where fans can get their autographs, take photos and see the trucks up close.
Our NCP Carpark was PERFECT for the Pit Party as you can access it via gates 2 and 3 right opposite our Westgate Street carpark. However once we had lunch, we then went there again only to realise it said gate 7 on my ticket as the event is seated. Cue a long walk round the corner, which thankfully we had time for as I am always early for EVERYTHING.




The significance of attending the Pit Party came later when we were sat up in the Gods and my Mum thought the Trucks were so tiny (perspective) and I had to say to my Mum "noooo I have stood next to them they are huge". Given that people (who looked like ants in comparison) kept running up to them each time they stunted and turned over, I thought she may have guessed lol! But yes, attending the Pit Party is an integral part of the day and the excitement, so I wish when I hopped out to go to the WRU Shop to collect our tickets that my Mum and Lottie came with me, and left Daddy to park alone. Although he did admit later he'd love to have gone to it too. Had he stayed in the NCP carpark on arrival, I think they'd have JUST made it, but he left to investigate other options when he found out the carpark would be closed for exit until 1900 hrs as he knew we needed to get back to Aaron. Had we not had a double booking in our diary, it wouldn't have even been a concern.... hey ho!

Eating

Having left the pit party on Westgate Street it would have been so easy to eat there, but the 2 places we popped into didn't serve coffee and my Mum was desperate for one. We were advised to pop down a side road that lead to House of Fraser and that took us onto a main high street where we headed for McDonalds but the queue was literally out the door. We wandered down the street to find an empty Pie Minister and it had outdoor seating which we really enjoyed. The food was delicious too and gobbled up by us all. Yes it was triple the price of McDonald's but kept us full for way longer. 




Access to your gate

Note that your seat gate for event access (it's a seated event) may not be the same gate you access for the Pit Party. We had a long walk around the corner to gate 7 as stated on our ticket, which I only realised when we were already at gate 3 yikes. If only I had glanced at the tickets whilst we'd had an ever so leisurely relaxed lunch. No matter, I'd allowed plenty of time for queuing to get in, so this was used for walking instead. Thank God Lottie kept up and didn't ask to be carried. Amazing considering we had no wheels with us. As it was, when we arrived at gate 7 there was little to no queueing so we had time to go through security and be relaxed we'd be seated in time.

Ironically despite feeling as if we were going round the back, the riverside entrance our long walk to gate 7 took us to looked a lot more official, than the WRU side, which having felt on arrival like the main entrance now felt like a backstreet in comparison. The entrance we were  now at had a huge cinema and felt like a typical entertainment park, like you increasingly see all around the country now. I've even recently seen a new one at Weston Super Mare.




Mum telling security all about her experience at airport security!

Ear defenders

When I'd met my famalan crew after the Pit Party Daddy got pounced on by a street trader - okay not literally, he did show an interest in the ear defenders - and such was his sales patter Daddy bought TWO PAIRS!!! So Lottie already had these during lunch, as per the photograph at the top of this blog post.

A couple of funny things happened. Once at the event, where I had forewarned my husband that only children would need ear defenders, he took one listen to the volume and marched out to get a pair of his very own - Lottie and my Mum had grabbed the two red and black pairs.


However, the pair Daddy got, were bright yellow and themed for Monster Trucks so the second he arrived back at his seat Lottie grabbed them for hers. With big wheel ears she looked SUCH a cutie. The street trader red ones were £8 and these Principality Stadium official ones were £20 - gulps - the cost of the day was ever increasing. I nearly fainted when I saw how cheap ear defenders are online, so do buy them in advance if you ever plan on going or borrow some.

Oh and the other funny thing, the lady seated behind us, didn't want to have to see us buy TWO MORE pairs when she could see we'd already bought two, so she gave me brand new ear plugs that literally insert into the ears and expand. I loved them. She gets them from her husband who was also at the event as he is an aeronautical engineer.

What Did We Think of the Show

My Mum built up a rapport with the drivers in the sense that she watched all the large screen footage between performances and took note of all of their scores and the competitive side of it. She therefore knew her favourites and was very enthusiastic to wave at the drivers as they exited their trucks. Alas the stadium had largely emptied by this point so my Mum waved even more furiously as she felt sad for them that all the crowds had largely gone. I never in a million years expected her to get as engaged in the event as she did - I think she even surprised herself.

My Mum really kept her eye on the scores and here are the actual results: 
https://www.monsterjam.com/en-US/results/cardiff-wales-may-18-principality-stadium


Lottie was easy to mind during the show, as despite being 3 years of age, she was transfixed. In fact there were MANY younger viewers, so I wouldn't hesitate to bring little ones, be they girls or boys. Just make sure to have ear defenders.

I was very pleased after all the driving, expense, and hassle parking that Daddy truly loved it too.

All that remains is WHAT DID I THINK OF IT...? Well, I loved that there was some drama and theatre in it. The trucks quite frequently stunt over and end up on their backs. The theatre of seeing the rescue vehicles come out and turn them back over is all part of the spectacle. The 1st time it happens it is scary as you automatically think the worst and think the truck will explode or that the driver will get hurt. But the second it becomes clear that safety is paramount it is very interesting to see how quickly they get these big beasts back on their feet wheels.

I loved the bonus, that there is a motorbike stunts section too (I didn't get any great photos so do search for Monster Trucks Cardiff 2019 on youtube and you will see lots of great footage), something I wasn't at all expecting. It was high in the air, high risk, adrenaline filled, acrobatic, but here within comes a criticism. The bikes are straight after the interval. All we did was go to the loo get some drinks and by the time we came back hubby said we'd missed quite a bit of it. As the standard of it was SO HIGH I was gutted to hear this. As it was, I expected the event to be 2.5 hours not 2 so I think the interval could do with being 10 minutes longer.
EVENT CHAMPION  El Toro Loco Cardiff Monster Trucks 2019


As you can see below my Mum and my Lottie both gave Monster Trucks a huge thumbs up  and we were one of the last to leave.


It was a great adrenaline filled edge of your seat, thrilling day out seeing something we'd not seen before and going to a stadium. It was wonderful being able to show my Mum something different during her holiday with us. It was a very expensive day out though despite our free admission.



Getting home and queue to get out

So the big question did the carpark reopen at 1800 as I was advised or 1900 as hubby was advised.... Well it was a bit of both. Just before 6pm we were at the top of a long queue to pay for parking at which point hubby let us go ahead to the 11th floor to take a seat in the car. We were then in such a long queue to descend the floors of the car park, that by the time we exited the car park, as per the photo below it was actually 1848. It's then a 50 minute drive to Bristol and we were at Aaron's long finished football awards ceremony by 1935 so not bad, not bad at all and little or no traffic.

Oh and what I didn't say, during the Monster Jam, Monster Trucks show, 2 friends, fellow football Mums, messaged to say that Aaron won Manager's Choice Player of the year for his age group. So I cried in the middle of Principality Stadium and it took ages for me to stop and tell my Mum and Husband that I was crying about a good thing. So thank God we left Aaron behind so that he could collect his award in person as we had no idea he was going to get this or anything remotely close. A great end to a great football year. He's improved so much it's insane.

Disclosure: We did receive free admission for both the Monster Trucks event and the Pit Party beforehand. All expenses (travel, food and ear defenders) we covered ourselves and any exposure I give the event has not been paid for, neither have we been told what to say. I have retained all editorial control with my review and we did genuinely enjoy it. I could see that everyone around us did too. I will do an Instagram post and feel bad that I haven't already done so.  I hope you got something from reading my review I have tried to make it as thorough, comprehensive and helpful as possible.

Bye for now, Liska xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Saturday, 27 April 2019

UK Road Trip Through Yorkshire Whilst Needing an MOT

Have you ever covered a lot of ground across the UK by road? 265 miles to be precise. We did just that a couple of years ago and just before Christmas too. We were due to get an MOT at the time and planned that into our itinerary, making sure we got a recommendation for somewhere reliable, as it's not something you let lapse especially not when travelling long distances with children for a much anticipated family trip. We always check the tyre pressure and water etc... before heading out, every single time we go on a long journey.

We went from London to York. And then on from York to Scarborough.... Actually my middle aged memory does not serve me right I think we went London to Scarborough and then York on the way home... best read the old blog posts and remind myself.

Anyway in York we were blessed to be able to review Premier Inn and during the 1st weekend of St Nick's Xmas Market no less.



In Scarborough we were blessed to review Ox Pasture Hall Hotel.

The problem was the decision of how exactly we would traverse all these "roads". Daddy desperately wanted to take the car for comfort and independence and I wanted him to use the Mega Bus given that we could then all be social and he could close his eyes if he needed to, given the amount of miles we would be covering. And actually had we taken the car we'd have done even more mileage as we'd have toured Scarborough instead of the alternative which was that we just enjoyed the boutique hotel we were reviewing and didn't see the surrounding area at all.

A visual guide at this point seems helpful:
I mark Ossett Tyre House above as that is where we looked into having our MOT done en route had we gone "down the road" (forgive the pun) of taking the car. To save your car from any damage book your MOT test in Dewsbury from Ossett Tyre House

It came recommended when we decided we'd be travelling through Yorkshire. What they say on site:
We can help you save money by servicing the vehicle before you get the MOT Test to ensure the vehicle is in the right condition to pass the test, reducing the need for you to have to pay for a re test. MOT in Dewsbury provides you with the facility to book in your vehicle online at any desired time. We provide economical rates and professional services to ensure your car stays safe.
Simply enter your vehicle registration details into our easy to use online booking widget, select the preferred date and time and we will contact you to confirm the booking.
Here at Ossett Tyre house we will also send customers a reminder for the due date to ensure you are safe and legal!
If a vehicle hasn't had an up to date MOT it can't be confirmed as being road worthy, which can compromise the safety of passengers which is no laughing matter at the best of times, but even more so as a parent when our children are such precious cargo. Accidents can be caused by unsafe cars. I'm old enough to remember my younger days in Ireland when MOTs were not compulsory - wow you should have seen some of the bangers on the road. Something you just don't see at all now. In fact they've gone to the other extreme and it always feels like people's cars are this year's or last year's. The NCT (National Car Test) was only introduced in Ireland as recently as 2000.
Compulsory car testing was introduced in Ireland in 2000 as part of an EU Directive that makes car testing compulsory in all member states. Source: https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/travel_and_recreation/vehicle_standards/national_car_test.html

Without your current MOT you can be penalized in the UK and may have to pay a heavy fine, or fixed penalty notice:
The penalty for driving without an MOT... No points are issued on a driver's licence although a fine is imposed by court of up to a maximum of £1000. A fixed penalty notice is usually the method dealt with by Police which costs the driver £100.
I wouldn't travel in a car with kids if the MOT is not done on time or if I have any doubt as to whether the car will pass it when due. The MOT ensures that both the interior and exterior of the car are functional. Mechanical and electrical aspects are covered along with the obvious, like the seat belts that are so important in the event of an accident.

Only an expert in MOT can provide you with the right solution and provide the fix to pass the car should it fail.

In the end though we used Mega Bus for our UK road trip which had the positive that Daddy could sleep and Aaron could get out of his seat for the loo etc but also the negative that albeit seeming cheap, it actually wasn't at all when you added up all the legs of the journey given we had to change a couple of times. Literally our round trip was £200 which if you know how cheap Mega Bus is, is a lot!  Also not bringing the car meant we had the headache of still needing to do the MOT upon our return.

Collaborative post.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

This is Not Just Easter this is a Marks and Spencer's Easter

Dream come true to have access to unlimited chocolate and alcohol fizzy pop for an hour in beautiful Covent Garden :-) Lottie looked like a kid in a toy shop when upon arrival she was greeted with an Easter Egg Hunt. Warmly welcomed and issued with a basket to FILL and FILL it she did. We're still eating chocolate today 24 hours later. The older kids - my nieces and my son Aaron hung back and let Lottie dive in. Definitely she made up for their politeness. I was shouting out that at each "bush" or floral display she should leave a few for other children. She was hopping from each chocolate location to the next in a way that would have made the Easter Bunny himself proud.

Breaking news: have you heard that Marks and Spencer have revived their "This is Not Just" ad campaign? Yeah I didn't know either till I saw the hashtag being used on Instagram after this Easter Press Show we attended.
Marks & Spencer has revived its much-loved This is Not Just marketing campaign after a 12-year absence, with the launch of new adverts that give the strapline a modern twist.
First launched in 2004, the campaign’s initial run helped boost M&S’s food business into the stratosphere and cemented its reputation as a premium food retailer.
The new campaign also comes weeks after M&S unveiled a new deal with Ocado, which will see it step into online delivery for the first time once the partnership comes into effect in late 2020. M&S’s new set of This is Not Just adverts were directed by Charlie Stebbings and Guy Manwaring, who spent four months creating them. The adverts also pay homage to the original campaign and all show various people in key moments daydreaming about items in the M&S food range.
Source: Retail Gazette Marks and Spencer brings back This is Not Just Food Campaign 

This is Not Just an Easter Egg Hunt Trail it's a Stunning Easter Meadow: 

Venue @carousel_ldn/  Easter Egg "meadow" produced by @heaps_stacks/
Flowers by @ClareLoveBlooms via their meadow making flower fairy: @laura_c_benedict/ 
Spot the Easter Eggs here (although maybe this was filmed after Lottie raided it as there doesn't appear to be nearly as many as when we arrived): 

There was a professional photographer there so no doubt he has much classier versions of the above, but in their absence I will use my own pics, which are as good as I can get on my camera, made up for by Lottie's cuteness of course. Of course This is Not Just cute this is Lottie cute :-)

For the adults we were greeted with Gold Crème Brulee Liqueur served IN cracked Easter Eggs as below. This is not just alcohol this is Marks and Spencer's alcohol. My Prosecco was bottomless too so all was good :-) I had a laugh with them as I thought someone had just put a thumb through a whole box of chocolate eggs. It took a lot of mingling over to Lottie and back for me to realise that being that they were ON a bar they contained a drink.
I tried the White Russian too after all it would be rude not to:

This is Not Just a Boiled Egg These are Marks and Spencer's White Chocolate and Passion fruit Eggs

The hashtag at the event was #MyMarksFave and I have to say without a doubt, hands down these were MINE.

6 White Chocolate & Passionfruit Eggs - Serves 6 (Pre-order for Easter collection 18th-20th April) are £12 for six. Be quick they are currently sold out.

This is not just cake This is a Marks and Spencer Easter Cracked Egg Cake


I didn't personally taste this cake but I did fall in love with this Easter Cracked Egg Cake it and take the above photo. What I can tell you is that it retails at £15 and I think you'll agree is a show stopper for any table.
Layers of sponge filled with strawberry jam and buttercream, decorated with vanilla flecked buttercream, a cracked white chocolate egg and icing.

This is not just an Easter Egg this is a Marks and Spencer Chicky Chicky Bang Bang BBC Good Food Winner Egg

Marks & Spencer says:
Our cute Chicky Chicky Bang Bang egg is made for sharing – smash the creamy milk chocolate exterior and let everyone tuck in to the candy-covered Mini Speckled Eggs.It even got the seal of approval from BBC Good Food, who named it the Best Kids’ Egg in this year’s Easter Taste Awards, saying it was “ideal for an Easter egg hunt”. Pick up Chicky in store now and take one home in time for your Easter celebrations.

This is not just hair this is Easter hair

Before the Marks and Spencer Easter Press Show we had been at the London Transport Museum for a few hours, being that it is in Covent Garden too and so between the two Lottie had a costume change and her Fairy God Mother did her hair as below.......

A day spent in Covent Garden called for something special. Lottie's God Mother came up with this beautiful hair design. I need to learn it myself.

I'm so glad she changed from jeans to a dress as it suited the Easter Egg Hunt meadow down to a tee.





We were gifted a Moonbeam the Unicorn Egg each but this is what Marks and Spencer has to say about their range of kids' eggs below. I will update this post with a pic of us and our eggs but currently I am saving them for Easter Sunday.

These are not just Easter treats...Little and big kids alike will love the cast of chocolatey characters you'll find in store this Easter. Stars of the show are our new hand-decorated Angus the Bull and Moonbeam the Unicorn eggs, made with creamy milk and white chocolate.
If you’re planning an egg hunt with the family, there are plenty of tempting bite-size treats to squirrel away – look out for our trio of hand-painted eggs, milk chocolate Cheeky Chicks and foil-covered Choccy Eggs. And don't forget to invite our award-winning Chicky Chicky Bang Bang egg and chilled-out Yoga Bunny egg along.
DISCLOSURE:
We were gifted our entrance to the Marks and Spencer Easter Press Show and given refreshments whilst there. We also received a goodie bag each as photographed, containing a packet of Hot Cross Buns each and an Easter Egg each. We are working our way through the Hot Cross Buns - there are NINE varieties including SALTED CARAMEL (I know!!!!) and there is a 10th in the form of a Hot Cross LOAF!!!!! Alas I didn't get any decent photos that I am happy with of the hot cross buns. Marks and Spencer Food thanks so much for inviting us. I wasn't obliged to write this but after such a GREAT time had by all of us, I surely couldn't not.