9 June 2019

A night as Bond: Review of the Secret Cinema Casino Royale

Last week we went to the grand re-opening of Casino Royale and what a night it was… Secret Cinema, the immersive cinematic event in London, has done a production based on the start of the latest Bond re-boot Casino Royale and we went to the first night. The events are running until 22ndSeptember 2019 and  I wanted to share some of my thoughts and tips on how to enjoy the experience the best, so here is my spoiler-free review of the event.


wearing all white at casino royale event


If you have never been to Secret Cinema I would definitely recommend it. A special set based on the film is created at a secret London location, actors are recruited to interact with the audience and provide scenes relevant to the film, and finally the film is shown to the audience, with an added flair. There may be things such as special effects and actors recreating the scenes live in front of the screen. There are food and drinks and activities. Your phones are packed away so you can’t take any photos, and you immerse yourself in the whole experience. We’ve previously been to the Secret Cinema Blade Runner (see my review here), which was an amazing experience. 

Now, I’m not going to share any spoilers here now, but will update this post with a detailed description after the production has finished.

As part of your pre-event instructions you are told to wear a certain colour depending on your character. If your group has different colours, fret not, you can stay together, no-one will separate you. Before you enter the event you get briefed on your spy-appropriate mission - look for the person holding flowers in your colour.  

You don’t necessarily need to buy anything as a prop, but should you feel the need to, there is a Secret Cinema online shop, as well as a physical shop outside the entrance and inside the venue on the day. We had ordered a set of purple sunnies and red jewel earrings online before attending (they arrive quick, in a day or two) but could have just relied on whatever we could find already.

selfie

the red carpet to the event casino royale


At the event feel free to interact with the actors, and do explore the area. It is vast. Huge. There are off the top of my head five different areas to explore, although one didn’t seem to be much more than a bar. There are food stalls in at least three areas, so plenty of choice. There are performances happening in all areas, so don’t worry too much about seeing everything. There was live music and acting performances, with some scenes flitting from one area to another. There are also a couple of rooms where you can get in on the action, so do try join in if you can. You might not be able to as it is busy and not everything is available to everyone, based on skills and finances (without revealing too much detail!) and VIP status.  

I found the good things to be that the set was huge and there was much to explore. We got there as one of the first people and we managed to wander about a lot without ever feeling bored. Food was nice, although fairly basic stuff, not excessively Bond but keeping to the locational theme. I liked the performances although I didn't really capture any real storyline, if there was any. The film though... I'm not a fan of Bond films really but I enjoyed this one a lot. The added performances and special effects during the film were fabulous, and I loved it. It felt really immersive and cool. Also, unlike some previous productions the seats were well-spaced and  fairly comfortable, even if by the end of the film I was feeling tad achy after all that sitting. Modern films eh, they make them twice as long as they really have to be...


at casino royale

man and woman in front of secret cinema event


As for bad things, there weren't many. I did feel that there was a lot of people, and at time it felt like you were in a club, particularly at some transfer points between areas. A seriously annoying thing was that as the bars were open during the film, the quiet scenes were interrupted by chatter and ambient noise from the bars. Not a problem at loud parts, but even though we were sitting at the front we could still hear the bar noises during quieter scenes. 

Also, I think it is worth to mention that as a basic ticket holder (at £50 a pop) there were some activities to join, but I feel like there was a lot more (of course rightly so) for VIP ticket holders. We for example got booted out from one room, politely and in character by a couple of Bond baddies, as it was taken over by VIPs. As a basic ticket holder you probably miss a fair bit of the performances as they flit between areas and as a VIP you would be taken to where the action is. VIP ticket holders were taken from scenes to other scenes, so I would think they get more of a show and a storyline to the experience. 

But all in all, I really enjoyed our night and thought it was fantastic fun, and I loved watching the film. I've also got a few tips on how to enjoy the night...


My top tips for enjoying Casino Royale:
  • Glam up. You are going to the casino and the more glamorous you are, the more suited you are to the occasion. I saw many people in proper black suits and bowties, and ladies in proper evening ballgowns so don’t feel worried about being over-dressed. You won’t be... 
  • That said, take your comfortable shoes. I took my silly glamorous Jimmy Choo shoes, and quite frankly, I had to take them off and move onto my flats half-way through. The set is humongous and there is so much to walk around for.
  • Try to remember characters you've seen during Casino Royale - there are actors dotted across looking like them. Think of the final poker table, and some of the baddies at least... I think you may get a bit more out of the experience if the film is somewhat fresh in your mind, I had forgot many of the characters as it's been years since I've seen the film. 
  • When people start to get ushered towards the actual Casino Royale area, the film will start soon. Have a bathroom break, get your drinks and popcorn and start getting ready. The seating is at the opposite side to the stage if you want to get ready for the scramble for the seats.
  • Keep your eye out for the special star exhibit as you exit the cinema... Pretty cool!


man and woman at casino royale secret cinema



Have you been to Secret Cinema ever? What would be your tips?



You might also like: What was Secret Cinema: Blade Runner like?




26 May 2019

Going from one to two kids - it was pretty easy in the end!

I've been a mum of two for a year now, after five years as being a mum of just one. Truth be told, I was a little apprehensive how it would all change when our new baby would make her way into the world. Going from one to two kids, I was a little bit worried to begin with. You hear so often what a big shock to the system it is, how it changes your family and the dynamics and everything forever (as it would do of course) and how much extra work it all is... 

And honestly? After a year of mothering two I can honestly say I wasn't half as bad.


baby and sister in matching dresses


For me and for us, going from none to one was a big shock to the system. Suddenly there is this writhing little wrinkly stinky package, who demands all your thoughts and attention. Combine that with the first experience of serious sleep deprivation, a difficult recovery from birth and just feeling generally overwhelmed by everything, and that just begins to scratch the surface. 

Going from one to two however was a walk in the park in comparison. 

We already knew what we were supposed to do as parents. Nothing was totally new anymore, although as any parent with more than one child can recognise, no two kids are the same. What worked with one, might not work with the other one... As we found out pretty quick. Despite that, we sort of knew what we could try and do and could experiment. 

We already had most of the stuff ready. No more brain space wasted on the benefits of different travel systems or what would be the best cot bed or where could we find cute clothes. Nope. We had all that, and plenty more in the storage. It was rather cheaper this second time around. 

We already knew what to expect, from birth and from newborn stage, and later. While it was still quite exciting walking into the maternity ward I knew what I wanted and what I didn't want and could advocate accordingly. I knew what the first weeks with a newborn were likely to be and could prepare myself mentally. And I knew that all the difficult times would be balanced by such great joy in the end, it would all be worth it. It was just easier to deal with.


baby and sister in matching dresses kissing

baby and sister in matching outfits looking at each other

baby and sister in matching dresses cuddling



Our new baby just slotted herself in our lives with what felt like great ease. She appeared and fit in, just like a missing piece in a puzzle. Just like a key to a lock. 

It did help that our new baby was an OK sleeper. Not great, but OK. There haven't been many nights she has slept through but it hasn't been constant wake-ups either. 

It also helped that the age gap was a sizeable five years. Our older one was old enough to not get jealous and old enough to "help", whether that was handing over wet wipes or entertaining the little one with endless renditions of Baby Shark. 

But what probably helped the most was us just deciding not to stress about it. The new baby would do what she did and we would do what we could, but there were no specific things we needed or wanted to achieve as a family.



baby and sister in matching outfits smiling on bed


Maybe it is the fate of the second-born, but she hasn't had much baby "hobbies" like baby swimming or signing. Baby swimming only started when she was closing in on her first birthday. Me going to mummy-coffee-mornings didn't start until she was well past her new baby stages - I just didn't feel that need for peer support this time.

And another second-born syndrome manifestation is that poor thing has had hardly any of her baby book filled out yet, although it's not as bad as that sounds. As a blogger there are baby entries here on the blog and I've kept up her monthly portraits too, so don't worry her being neglected in the life documenting stages. 

I haven't felt the need to be (or appear to be) active, and I haven't felt the need to do this or that. I've done stuff, of course, but it's all been very stress-free and relaxed, and cancelled if I could just not be bothered, and that has helped in making this second maternity leave and getting used to being a family of four easy, really, quite pleasant too. 

baby and sister in matching outfits


Now, don't get me wrong. The extra laundry and cleaning and food and all, it has certainly made us busy. And it is noisy and chaotic at times. But it is also joyful and fun and filled with laughter, double the laughter now. 

So for us, going from one to two kids has been delightfully and frightfully easy. I could not have imagined that it would be like this. It feels like we have always had two girls - it has been so easy for our new baby to slot in to our family lives. It is like she was always meant to be here.

So if you wonder and worry about adding that second baby in the mix, well, it isn't always that bad. in fact, it might even be totally OK!

Now, I wonder what it might be if there was a third one in the mix...



Has it been easy or hard when you add to the family?




9 May 2019

Our amazingly fun first visit to the Zippos Circus

When I was a kid I secretly wanted to join the circus. All kids go through this stage don't they? Alas, it was never meant to be, even if I did learn to juggle at ten. The last time I've been to the circus was when I was a tween. It's been over twenty years... This spring I went back to circus - a new show by Zippos Circus, The Magnificent Top Hat - and my was it exhilarating. It was just like being a kid again. 

We were invited to attend the London press event for this review. We drove to Blackheath and rushed inside just in time to grab pop corn, cotton candy and the programme before the show started...





And what a show it was! Contortionists, aerial artists, foot jugglers, knife throwers, acrobats, and daredevils of all sorts. It was exhilarating and scary and funny, and I sat there mostly with my mouth open or laughing. It really felt like I was a kid again, watching these amazing artists performing mind-boggling tricks and wondering what would come next.

The Magnificent Top Hat tour of 2019 was great fun. There was plenty of humour in the storyline running through the show. Paulo, a showman just 3'6" tall, was trying to steal the top hat and the limelight from Norman Barrett MBE, the indomitable ring master with over twenty years of experience at Zippos Circus...









As for the acts, throughout the show there were so many amazing talents. I particularly enjoyed Ebby, the Mongolian contortionist, who was very flexible shooting her arrows. I also thought The Lucius Team and their "Globe of Terror", with five motorcyclists riding inside one little steel cage was exhilarating.

To be honest, it was all just highlights to me, all the acts were amazing. The Cuban State Circus had amazing rope skipping and springboard acrobatics, and The Timbuktu tumblers from Africa had such fun pyramids and tumbling. And as far as trust in marriage goes, the prize must go to Nikol, hailing from Czech Republic, whose husband Toni threw knifes at her while she was spinned on a wheel of fortune (or perhaps death would be a better term.). Paulo got in on the action with aerial stunts with Laci from Hungary - such incredible skills and strength from both of them.

Aili, my daughter who is five years old said about her favourite acts that "It was so good when they were flying". She was exhilarated by the experience, and my baby girl Aija, was quite mesmerised by all the lights and action too. It wasn't too loud at all, and the light were fun for babies, so feel free to bring little ones.

Our circus babies certainly enjoyed the experience, as did we parents. Like Norman Barrett MBE said, "You are never too old, never too young and never too cool to go to the circus!"






My top tips for enjoying the Zippos Circus show:

  • The seats inside the tent are small and there's not much space. If you can, leave big and bulky items home. 
  • You are not allowed to bring buggies inside the tent, so unless you want to hold your baby bring a baby carrier. 
  • It was fairly pleasant in the tent, even though it was a hot spring day, but worth it to wear light layers that you can easily remove if needed. 
  • You can have your photo taken with some of the artists at the interval, although you might need some change for this. 
  • Plenty of refreshments can be bought before the show and during the interval. There are hot and cold drinks, pop corn and cotton candy (£5 each). You can also get programmes and light sabers for the kids for £6. 
  • You can also pre-buy snacks with your tickets and it will be a bit cheaper. TimeOut has a good deal on for 2 front-view tickets with snacks for £35. 
  • If you're driving come in plenty of time - we found the access to the parking area a bit confusing as there was no signs pointing to entry. 
  • The show lasts two hours, with an interval in between. There are decent bathrooms outside the tent. 
  • We sat at ringside seats and I'd say these are worth the extra expense. It was nice to sit so close to the ring and the view was good even with some people sitting in front of us. That said, the view from the rest of the front-view seats is apparently great as well. 

When was the last time you've been to the circus?


You might also like: London with kids: Best kept secrets locals recommend and What we thought of Paradise Wildlife Park



25 April 2019

What I've been checking out at the Aldi Baby and Toddler event

Oooh, it is time for another bargain hunting trip! Aldi, the purveyor of food and random products on it's centre aisle, has their popular Baby and Toddler event on again. I was asked to check it out and go buy my favourite things from the sale - here are my top picks! (And if you order stuff and want to save £5 - use this link! You get £5 and I get £5 using this)

It's a very popular event for people stocking up on nappies and wipes, and I got some of these too. I've used them before and thought the quality was great. There are lots of baby sleepsuits and vests as well at very inexpensive prices. 




In addition to these standard items, I quite liked the other selection too - there were so many relevant things for summertime and camping, and there were reusable baby products with Bambino Mio available again. 

Last time there were Bambino Mio reusable nappies - this time Bambino Mio potty training pants and Bambino Mio swimming trunks.  I think it is brilliant that a big event like this is used to generate a bit buzz for reusable nappy products - and they might pop on the radar of people who have never even heard of products like this. I actually knew and my first-born baby five years ago used reusable nappies nearly from birth, but reusable potty training pants - I've only discovered about a month ago that these exist... Anyway, I'm off to check the stores for the potty training pants this weekend, I hope there are some left as they are seeming quite popular! 

As we are going camping, I liked the look of the light-weight travel cot and the baby travel chair. Both very handy for camping, and to be honest, for many kinds of family travel this summer. As these are items that don't get that much use on a day to day basis I'm quite happy to find them a bit cheaper!

Few other items I thought were pretty handy - toddler backpack reins (saved my sanity many times with my older kid), a reward meal time tray (maybe this will be the key to a better eating child this time!), a pushchair stroller clip, and storage baskets. Now, let's see what's our local store offering us this time!

And if you are ordering stuff online and want to save £5 - use this link! You get £5 and I get £5 using this!


Have you been to shop to Aldi and did you check out this store event too?


You might also like: My top picks from Aldi Baby and Toddler Event January 2019



18 April 2019

What we thought of the Paradise Wildlife Park

During February half-term we were invited to review Paradise Wildlife Park, a family-run animal park in Broxbourne in Hertfordshire. It's quite unique, with a compact zoo, a huge play park for kids and a dinosaur park, with animatronic dinosaurs. Our daughter had been to Paradise Wildlife Park with her school a year before and was very excited to return - she had had an amazing time there. 

And amazing time we had again. We came after midday as I thought having a half a day would be more than enough, but there were so many things to do and see, we could have been there the entire day. 

mum and daughter at paradise wildlife park entrance


What attractions does Paradise Wildlife Park have?

In the rather compact zoo, there were plenty of animals to see and we spent several hours there. In many cases you could get quite up close and personal with them, such as in the Australian enclosure where wallabies roamed free. There were many family favourite animals, such as meerkats, otters, penguins and of course the big cats - lions, tigers and snow leopards. The white tiger, who unfortunately was out on a holiday when we visited, is one of the stars of the zoo and well worth a visit to see it. 

There was a huge outdoors play park for the kids to run around in and blow steam out. There were lots of structures to climb in, such as a pirate ship, fire engine and a tree house and slides. There was everything you would have in a big park - just on a grander and more outrageous scale. My daughter was ecstatic. In case of bad weather there is also an indoors soft play area, although we didn't have a chance to try this out. 

In addition there were also the animatronic dinosaur park, a crazy golf area, and a small train, none of which we had time to experience. I've heard good things about the dinosaurs though, apparently kids really love seeing them!


















What is Paradise Wildlife Park like for families?

Accessibility at Paradise Wildlife Park was superb. We had a pram with us, but we were able to go and view all the attractions, including the tree top views of the big cats. At the play park there were specially adapted play equipment for children with mobility issues, so you could go on with your wheelchair. I thought it was fantastic that all kids are included in the fun, and families with babies will find it easy to move around the area too. 

There were a few eateries around the Park, and lots of snack booths. If you bring a picnic, there were lots of picnic tables dotted all across the Park, which was fantastic. Plenty of places to eat in, whether you bring your food in or not. We ate our picnic lunch underneath a tree, checking out the Red Panda climbing in it - such a fun experience. There are some small indoor picnic areas too, and the Speedway Museum if you need to eat indoors. 

I think the Paradise Wildlife Park was fantastic for families - there were lots of and a good variety of animals to see, animatronic dinosaurs to see as well, a huge play park which is great for kids, indoor play area for bad weather, a train, and so on.  Bathrooms are clean and roomy, and easily located. It felt like everything to do with kids had been thought through.










What was out favourite animal experience?

We loved seeing the animals - our favourite experiences were with the big cats. We got to see the lions feeding, which was quite a sight. The snow leopard was very adorable, and the tree top views of the big cats were great. 

There were great viewing points for many animals, including the meerkats, where kids could crawl into this structure inside their pen and see them quite close up. Otters were absolutely adorable too, and we spent a long time watching their antics, digging and playing. We spent a good deal of time seeing the monkeys in their houses and also a wide variety of bugs and other creepy crawlies. We didn't feed any of the animals around the park, but you can buy a bag of animal food for £1 - I think farm animals could be fed at least.









How did we find Paradise Wildlife Park  overall?

Overall we thought the Paradise Wildlife Park was great. So much to do and see, I was a bit annoyed we had reserved just half a day for visiting. We could easily have spent the entire day there and not get bored for one moment! One thing to pay attention to - the dinosaur park and the train close a bit early, so don't be like us and miss out because you leave them to the end of the day! 

Overall I thought it was a fantastic place for families with kids in different age ranges. There were plenty of things for the younger kids to do and a fantastic play structures for them to run around in, and older kids would likely really enjoy the talks and feeds and dinosaurs. All the facilities for families were there, including good bathrooms and picnic areas, and animals were well cared for. Some enclosures looked a bit small (like the penguins) but there are works undergoing to improve the animal facilities. 

We had a great time and would love to go back - this time we would pack a lunch, go straight in the morning and plan to spend the whole day exploring all the areas!






(I did note that they do Mother's Day deals, where mums go free on Mother's Day so am keeping that in mind for future years...)



You might also like: London with toddlers: London ZSL Zoo and What is London Zoo Land of the Lions like



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