Monday, 22 May 2017

Norwich Castle - Small Stories

Norwich its rich in heritage and the Castle is one of the "Norwich 12" heritage sites. It dates back to William the Conqueror, first being mentioned in history books in 1075, serving as a Royal residence throughout the centuries and finally becoming a museum in 1894 (I never knew there had been a museum there for that long!)

Norwich has been voted one of the top shopping centres in the UK and Norwich Castle sits prominently in the centre the City.  


Norwich Castle is open all year round (with the exception of 24/25/26 Dec and 01 Jan) and prices start from £9.15 for adults and £7.30 for children, concessions are available as are family discounts. 
Situated at the top of Castle Meadow, it is accessible via the slope or lift facilities. 
The Castle does have wheelchair access however, due to the age of the building some parts are restricted access.


Small Stories.
We were excited to visit Norwich Castle as I had heard about the Small Stories exhibit. Here you can see 12 doll's houses on loan from the V&A Museum of Childhood. Some of these houses are 300 years old and the attention to details is amazing!


Houses on display include those from the Victorian age when Doll's house gained their popularity, mansions, town houses and even a high rise! 


In this exhibition visitors can complete a treasure trail for fun, so Mollie took on this task, searching for the clues, some of which were audio, and discovering little hidden secrets of the houses and their background story.

 

Emily was magically shrunk to doll size and found the 1960's sitting room and enjoyed dressing up and exploring in there, even having a try at doing the "Twist!"


In another part of Small Stories you can travel even further back in time to work in a 1840's kitchen! In both of these areas you will find dress up clothes for children. 



Visitors can enjoy playing with a lovely wooden doll's house and there were a few other toys for youngsters.


The last exhibit on the Small Stories area was the project titled "Dream House 2017"

These are a series of rooms created by artists, students and local school groups, each entirely unique and well worth taking your time to explore these - not all is what it seems in some!




What else can you find in the Castle?
Natural History Galleries.
Now, we didn't get time to see everything the castle museum has on offer as there was simply so much! But we particularly enjoyed the Natural History Gallery. This showcase animals from around the world, preserved in all their natural beauty. Displays house animals typically found in habitation together. 
The girls took ages exploring these creatures and reading about them. 



Emily was particularly keen on reading up about Taxidermy!

The Castle Keep
I have strong memories of this part of the castle from school trips many years ago, to be honest back then I found it really (dare I say it) quite boring! However, nowadays I was pleasantly surprised to find how it had changed, whilst keeping the history of the castle alive, the museum curators have developed an interactive and fun discovery centre. 


With craft activities going on in the keep, dress up, you can also pop into an historic dragon suit as part of St Georges Parade from years gone by.


Around the upper perimeter of the Keep you can peer into the ancient toilets! Learn more about the Castle on the interactive screens, see the beautiful stain glassed windows and see a cut through section of the castle of how it would have been when used as a royal residence.




The Castle Dungeons.
The dungeons offer the chance to view the grim existence of prisoners hundreds of years ago, why not pop in the cell and have a try of the "bed."
Chris and the girls tried their hand as stonemasons - trying to build a weight baring arch! 


What else is there?
In other parts of the castle you can learn about the ancient Egyptians, discover about "barmy" Boudica and her Roman army, study Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings, view stunning art in the various art galleries to take in the beauty of art throughout the years, dating back to 17th century!



Norwich Castle also houses a delicious cafe selling scrumptious cakes, sausage rolls, scones and much more, prices here were reasonable, I enjoyed a very tasty fruit scone and a great mocha, costing just £4.80. There is also a small gift shop and, unusually for attractions, you don't have to walk though this to exit! Which means we managed to avoid the pressure put on by the girls wanting to spend, spend, spend!

Well-worth a visit, especially to catch the Small Stories exhibit which is running through until 25th June.


To find out more then check out the Norfolk Museums Service online or find Norwich Castle on Facebook!




Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Madame Tussauds London - Merlin Entertainment.


Madame Tussauds London, part of Merlin Entertainments is a worldwide acclaimed attraction, drawing crowds by the millions every year.
It was no different on the day we visited. The street outside was packed with visitors and they operate several queue systems to break the crowds down, these are managed by staffing to direct and aid customers.

I'd suggest that pre-booking is essential, particularly if you are visiting over a weekend or bank holiday, school breaks are also likely to be as busy so bear this in mind when planning your visit. 
Chris and Mollie actually visited on a week day in early March and found it much quieter that time.

We caught the tube to Baker Street and as we exited on street level we could see the attraction clearly sign posted. It was just under a minute walk from the tube station so is very easy to get to.

Tickets cost from £29 per adult/£24 per child or available as part the Merlin multi attraction ticket which offer huge savings. The attraction is open daily with the exception of Christmas Day, full details of opening times can be found here.

The layout flows well, leading you through themed areas and ensuring that you don't miss any of your favourite wax works. 

PARTY

First you rub shoulders with celebrities along the red carpet, new and old. The girls were particularly excited to see the likes of Johnny Depp, Posh and Becks and your favourite A list celebrities! Whilst Jaime found her Mr Darcy!



FASHION WEEK & BOLLYWOOD

Get your cameras out, it's selfie time! The costumes in the Bollywood section certainly do justice to the glamour and glitz of the Indian phenomenon! You can even strut your stuff on the replica catwalk.


FILM

A huge hit with us! Jump aboard Elliott's bike and fly off with ET or come face to face with King Kong (New exhibit for 2017!) and characters from many films throughout the years, from Audrey Hepburn to The Terminator!


Also in this area you can also create your own wax work! Mollie had done this back in March and Emily had saved her pocket money to have her turn in making her wax hand.



Prices start from £12 per hand but multiple hands and purchasing a light stand are also offered at discount rates.
The queue here didn't "look" too busy but at 15 minutes per hand and two members of staff working the stand it actually took us over 1.5 hours until Emily was done!
(There did seems to be a small issue with a member of staff here but credit to Madame Tussauds, they quickly identified it and sorted it out.)



YOUTUBE (Eeekkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!)



The girls were VERY excited to reach this area. They are (like most youngsters these days) HUGE YouTube fans and especially big fans of Zalfie! And had watched their Madame Tussauds wax reveal online with great excitement!


SPORT

In here we meet some of our favourite and inspirational Olympians and got a chance to hold the "Olympic Torch."



You'll also get to meet boxing legends, footballers and Wimbledon stars!

ROYALS

This area was crazily busy! The queue to see the Queen was far too long and after having waited in the wax hand line we were a little pushed for time, but we enjoyed the other Royals that we got to meet.



The girls loved seeing the formidable Queen Victoria and the beautiful Princess Diana. 

CULTURE

Here we got to meet famous geniuses, writers, intellectuals from history through to modern day. The likes of Einstein, Van Gogh and Shakespear. 


In here we also got to see Madame Tussaud herself. A tiny woman with an astonishing talent that has gone on to be a world wide success!


And saw some of the stages taken to create a wax work model.


MUSIC

In here was our chance to act as judges on The Voice! (New for 2017) Will you press the button and spin your chair! Great fun but extremely busy.

The girls enjoyed spotting their fav singers, including One Direction, RiRi and Lady GaGa.



But of course, they were the most excited to see Michael Jackson!


MARVEL & THE STARWARS EXPERIENCE

We skipped these areas as neither of the girls are Marvel fans or of Starwars and it was heaving in there! Definitely a must do if your a fan though. You will get to meet Spiderman, The Hulk and Captain America to name just a few!

WORLD LEADERS

Here we got to meet some of the most influencial World Leaders and current leaders from the UK and USA.
The girls posed proudly with Barrack Obama.


Nelson Mandela and other peace makers drew quite a crowd, whereas our current Prime Minister and Donald Trump looked quite lonely!

SPIRIT OF LONDON

Time for a trip in a traditional black hackney cab as you take in the history of London. This was a fun car ride, seating 2 persons (or 1 x adult and 2 x small children) per vehicle. Some height restrictions apply.
(No photography allowed) 
This ride takes you through a journey of historic events that made London what it is today. Ride past Nelson's face as you see the construction of his monument and survive the Great Fire of London, swing through the 60's and celebrate the World Cup win of 1966!


This signals the end of your visit and you exit via the gift shop.
Outside the street was still extremely busy as people were waiting to enter the attraction. 


We enjoyed our time at Madame Tussauds and highly recommend that you pay them a visit when you go to London. Look into the multi attraction tickets as these offer best value for money and if you can aim to visit during a week day, preferably term time, if not then just prepare yourself for the queues! Pre-book to avoid disappointment.

We used the facilities during our visit on a couple of occasions and found them all to be very clean.

For more information then visit their website or find them on Facebook.


Check out our other Merlin Entertainment features: