Tim Peake's spacesuit and helmet on display at National Museum Cardiff. the light bounces off the top of the glass helmet and the dark background make it look like it's in space.
Places To Go, Things To Do

Tim Peake’s Spacecraft lands in Cardiff

I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a buzz in National Museum Cardiff as we experienced at  Tim Peake’s Spacecraft Family Day last weekend and we go there pretty frequently. It was alive with people of all ages getting excited about space.

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama held a lunchtime concert featuring the Star Wars theme. Live music accompanied visitors journeying through the Evolution of Wales. Dizzy Pineapple glittered the faces of children at their stall. Cardiff Astronomic Society helped children and grown-ups to use their telescopes and share their passion. Did you know their observatory is in the Vale of Glamorgan’s very own National Trust site Dyffryn Gardens?

The most thrilling part of our whistle stop tour was seeing Tim Peake’s actual real life capsule that he hurtled back to Earth in FROM ACTUAL SPACE complete with genuine scorch marks. Looking like the result of a giant conker, a submarine and a bell merging in a mad science experiment,  the Soyuz capsule is accompanied by its colossal draped parachute.  Tim Peake’s spacesuit is on display too and the whole thing totally grabbed our imaginations. It’s free! You can see this for no pennies. There are space themed activities you can have a go at and you can step into a spacesuit for those essential selfies and boomerangs.

The Soyuz space capsule in whichTim Peake hurtled back to Earth from the ISS. Looking like a cubmarine crossed with a conker, this bell shaped capsule has a small circular window and scorch marks.
Tim Peake’s Soyuz Capsule

We zoomed through on the opening weekend partly because we were going to the Wales v Tonga match that day at the Principality Stadium but also because we have every intention of heading back another time or two to delve deeper into the exhibition and mooch more slowly on a quieter day.

There’s a Virtual Reality experience for teens and up as part of the exhibition which costs £6 per person and is narrated by the main man himself, Tim Peake. This VR adventure takes you on a 250 mile journey from the International Space Station back to Earth in a Soyuz capsule just like the one on display.

The exhibition is in Cardiff until 10th February 2019. It’s part of a national tour presented by Samsung and the Science Museum Group so make space in your diary to see it before it launches elsewhere.

For full details, head to the museum’s website: https://museum.wales/cardiff/whatson/10260/Tim-Peakes-Spacecraft/

A poorly drunk lady is comforted by another lady in a Christmas jumper
Thinking Out Loud

Black Friday

Remember when Black Friday wasn’t about greedy people grabbing giant tellies in Tesco or incessant emails from every company you’ve ever bought anything from ever? Black Friday was about swarms of drunken office parties, boozy mates and students home from uni who descended upon Cardiff and Swansea for the last Friday piss up before Christmas with a pocketful of payday pounds.

Sandra from accounts pukes her Malibu and coke into a city centre shrub while Linda holds her sequinned Santa hat and wishes she’d got that taxi home with Boring Barbara. In the queue for Walkabout Kelly finally gets to snog Steve who lovingly buys her WKD blues for the rest of the night. Gareth regrettably punches Dave in the smoking area for something they’ll both forget. Sian and Louise giggle while they piss behind the Christmas market sheds. Matt goes the full show off with his street performance of the Macarena and Anna gorges herself on chicken curry half ‘n’ half as she sits on the curb of Chippy Lane bedecked in tinsel.

What are your Black Friday tales? I’m talking festive binge drinking yarns not that 25% you had off an electric drill in 2016.

 

Christmas revellers on the streets, Christmas lights in the background, a man dancing in the road and a woman sits on the curb.
photo from Wales Online
Places To Go, Things To Do

Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland 2018

We haven’t been to Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland for a few years, partly because my husband is Buzz Killington when it comes to ice skating, partly because of the cost and partly because it’s one of those things I mean to do but just don’t get around to and then all of a sudden it’s February and I’ve missed it. Full disclosure, we had food, drink and ride tokens in return for a review. #ad and all that.

A few things have changed since we last went. The bar is two storeys high so not as rammed as I remember, the biggest ride has changed and the ice skating is now undercover, probably for the best in the rainiest city* in the UK.

winter wonderland sur la piste

It did drizzle while we were there but it didn’t dampen our spirits. You can take food bought at the stands into the bar so we ate and drank in the dry. Sur La Piste (see what they did there?!) was going for that après ski, wooden chalet vibe complete with stag antler paraphernalia and a rainbow of faux furs on the roomy booths. Word to the wise: if you want a mulled wine or mulled cider you’ve got to use the downstairs bar.  We were at the upstairs bar so I panic ordered a Rekorderlig.

Unsurprisingly, the food isn’t super cheap at £5 for a bratwurst in a hot dog bun and £3.50 for chips but it’s filling and cheaper than buying the family a meal in a pub or restaurant. Kids meals (chicken nuggets, chips and a fruity drink) were also a fiver each. The sauces were squeezed from an udder contraption which tickled my stepdaughter. Make sure you use the right condiment though, unlike the poor little kid we saw who made the school boy error of dousing his chippies in chilli ketchup. Service was a little slow but it was the first night so I’m sure they’ll get into a rhythm.

winter wonderland bratwurst

As we first approached Winter Wonderland (we parked on road near the museum but it’s easy to reach on public transport from the Vale, just get off the train at Cathays or Queen Street and walk) we were greeted by the screams of grown men calling for their mothers. Festive. We had the heebie jeebies just watching the source of the squeals, the 90M Tower, a new attraction this year that replaces the Big Wheel**. I damn near wet myself with terror on ferris wheels so this 90 meter high thriller was not for me. We hit a few of the tamer rides instead. I say “we” but I watched and waved whilst sipping my mulled wine.

The Ice Skater ride was one of those spinning ones that I vowed never to go on again after being forced onto a similar one at Barry Island. The kids (ages 12, 10 and 6) loved it. It’s exciting, fast and covered in bright lights. The Fun House is awesome. It’s massive, took ages to get around and is only 2 tokens per person. Think classic fairground cake walks and Danny and Sandy at the end of Grease. For smaller children, the reindeer ride was gloriously Christmassy, blasting passengers with fake snow.

winter wonderland ride

We didn’t ice skate last night, saving that for another time with friends while Buzz Killington holds the bags. As I told the kids, we can’t do everything every time. Winter Wonderland has the potential to be one of those experiences with kids where they turn into brats asking for all the treats, more rides, more drinks, those maddening flashy light things. It works best for us to tell them exactly what we’re doing and not doing. So “we’re only ice skating tonight, don’t ask about the rides” or “you can have a drink, pick one ride each and we’ll share some churros”. Ah yes, the churros. Big hit and good for sharing. £6 for 6 churros and dipping sauce.

Skating sessions on the Admiral Ice Rink are 1 hour including time to put on your skates so get there 15 minutes before your slot. No under 3s on the ice, kids under 7 need an adult. The penguin things are £5 to hire per session. Group bookings give you a bit of a discount (buy 10, get 1 free etc). It’s cheaper if you pre book and the off peak prices start at £7 for kids or £27 for a family of 4 (Christmas Eve and NYE are the most expensive. Obvs). This year they’re also holding several Relaxed Access Sessions with lowered lighting, sound and number of skaters which is worth looking into if someone in your family has an autism spectrum condition or sensory sensitivity. Full details on cardiffswinterwonderland.com, call 029 2009 9087 or email info@ice-skate.co.uk.

winter wonderland skating

If Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland is the kind of thing you’d usually put off until the Christmas holidays, give it a go on a random November midweek night. It’ll be less crowded, you’ll get a better deal on skating and it means you’re spreading out the treats. Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland and Admiral Ice Rink are there in front of City Hall and the museum*** until 6th January 2019.

* true story. http://www.freeflush.co.uk says so and they’re rainwater harvesting experts using Met Office data

** It is tradition while watching the biggest scariest ride for Buzz to retell his tale of his mate Simon who had one too many purple ciders before being spun meters in the air above Winter Wonderland and sprayed the crowd with his purple vomit.

*** Tim Peake’s actual spacecraft is at the National Museum until 10th February. We’re mega excited. The exhibition launch day is this Saturday 17th November 11am-4pm and is free. Not connected with Winter Wonderland but it’s right next door so you could combine the two in one visit to Cardiff. Be warned: the 17th November will be very busy in Cardiff, especially on public transport as it’s Wales v Tonga at the Principality Stadium.

Places To Go, Things To Do

Mwah Ha Halloween Half Term

October half term is here and no doubt there’ll be a glut of Halloween related activities on offer. I’m not a massive Halloween fan. There, I’ve said it. Why can’t we just carve a pumpkin, dunk some apples and wear a sheet to be a ghost? What’s all this decorating the house faff about?

What’s jumping out at me so far:

Memo Arts Centre, Barry

One Man Shoe Monday 29th October (2pm) £7 / £24 for 4

A family show with puppetry, slapstick and magic. My youngest currently wants to be a ventriloquist when he grows up so it sounds right up his street.

The Little Mix Experience Thursday 1st November (6.30pm) £13.50

This Little Mix tribute act were incredibly popular last time they were in town.

Dyffryn Gardens

Lots of activities on offer here and it is a lovely day out.

Autumn Apprentice Trail Saturday 27th October – 4th November (10am-3pm) entrance fee but event is free

Whack on your wellies and join in with five tasks like raking up piles of autumn leaves.

Pumpkin Carving Saturday 27th October – 31st October (11am-3pm) £4 per pumpkin plus the entrance fee

If you don’t fancy tackling this in your own kitchen, make the most of the stencils, carving sets and helpers at this event.

Make It Mondays Monday 29th October (12-3pm) entrance fee but event is free

Craft activities.

Cook on a Campfire Friday 2nd November (12-3pm) £2 plus entrance fee

As the name suggests, you get to cook on a campfire.

Amelia Trust Farm

Pumpkin Patch Trail Saturday 27th October – Sunday 4th November

Kids Crazy Headwear Monday 29th & Tuesday 30th October £5.50 per child, pre book on website

Mini Beasts & Pond Dipping at the Farm Saturday 3rd November £5.50 per child, pre book on website

Penarth Pier Pavilion

Snowcat Cinema: The Curse of the Wererabbit – scratch ‘n’ sniff experience. Wednesday 31st October (2pm-3.30pm) £7.50 / £6 concessions (50p extra if you buy on the door)

Watch this family film from the makers of Wallace and Gromit with a special scratch ‘n’ sniff card. Fancy dress is encouraged. No adverts so arrive for a 2pm start.

Mountain View Ranch

Halloween Daily Events Saturday 27th October – Sunday 4th November (11am & 1pm)

Room on the Broom read by the Ranch Witch (11am & 1pm)

Marshmallow Toasting at Creepy Creak (2pm-3.30pm)

Spooky Pumpkin Trail (all day)

All activities are included in the entrance fee of £23 for a family of 4 and £28 for a family of 5. Wrap up warm, take a flask and a picnic and have a lovely time. Dressing up is optional. Last time we went we bought delicious pizzas and hot chocolates in their café which I’d thoroughly recommend.

St Fagans National Museum of History

Halloween Nights Monday 29th – Wednesday 31st October (6pm-9pm) £15 adults, £8 children, under 2s free but recommended for ages 4+

I really want to go to his. Expect Halloween special effects display across the outdoor Museum, Creepy Craft workshops, wand making, ghost stories for children and adults, Halloween character walkabouts, live music, lantern parade (no naked flames), Burning of the Wickerman (!) and a Scare Zone for bigger frights with a 12+ age advisory! The timing makes this perfect for those of us working over half term with older kids.

 

Sadly, they’re not running their usual Halloween event at Hendrewennol Fruit Garden this year. No pumpkin picking for us.

Let me know what you think of any of these goings on if you get a chance to try them out.

theatre, Things To Do

Review: Discover Dance

Last night (Friday 9th February 5pm) we had an after school theatrical treat, discovering dance with National Dance Company Wales at Sherman Theatre. I was accompanied (as ever) by my 11 year old stepdaughter and 9 and 5 year old sons. None of them go to dance classes but they all enjoyed the event. Even surly Nine who didn’t want to join in the first half “no way”.

NDCWales’s Discover Dance production is a game of two halves. We kick off with an introduction from the effervescent Lee Johnston, the company’s Rehearsal Director which she explains is like being the coach. We’re taken through the dancers’ warm up routines with a chance for everyone who’s up for it  to join the dancers on stage.

It’s a credit to the team and the welcoming, open tone they set that so many of the children in the audience were keen to have a go. Eleven and Five threw themselves into the opportunity. As Five said:

“It was really fun to go on stage. I’ve never been on a big stage like that. Sometimes I get nervous but the dancer made me feel happy because they showed me the moves. I think all the other children enjoyed it too.”

We swiftly move on to some exercises and sections of Folk, the production we’re treated to in the second half. Again, we’ve got the chance to join in and one of the exercises in particular fired up my boys:

Nine: “It was really satisfying when they did the crackling out of the ice. That’s the kind of movement game I’d like to play at home or school.”

Five: “Also Mum I liked the bit when they were doing hurricane bits. I liked the bits where he finished one of them, he keeped quiet for a little bit then he said loudly “Crazy crazy! There’s a tornado! Then you can just feel the snow melting and the ice in the water.””

We get to wave at the techies at the back of the seats as Lee tells us about the lights and sound that play their parts in a show. It’s a great way to highlight the whole range of skills and roles that are needed to pull a production together.

Nine: Charlie was the boss of the music and Adam was in charge of the lights.

Five: They did a really good job.

Half time comes and we break for an ice cream from the mid-refurb Sherman foyer, wees and a chance for the dancers to get changed and ready for their performance.

The second half is a half hour dance piece called Folk which absolutely flew by. Choreographed by Caroline Finn, it’s a perfect choice for a family audience with characters that feel both otherworldly and recognisable and a beautifully striking set designed by Joe Fletcher.

Nine: “Folk was quite cool because the tree was hung from the roof. This woman was randomly speaking Italian and it was quite funny. It was quite witch-like when they were doing the witch circle.”

Five: “It was spectacular! I liked the show when it was nearly at the end because I like imagination. And I liked the other bit when there was a teensy bit left to the end because it was just like a made up language and it was really funny.

It was great because I like puppet shows, they were making them look like puppets because they were copying. (*Nine demonstrates the moves we learnt in our seats during the first part of the show*).

The whole thing used up lots of funny imaginations. Whoever’s imaginations they were, I like their imaginations.

The music, it was good because I liked the one where it was sort of harmony like sort of calm. The beginning sounded like they were definitely in France and then there was some music that made me feel in the jungle and then Tokyo, is that the capital of Japan?”

Eleven: “It was really fun. I thought the show was really good and I loved the music.”

After Folk, the dancers return to the stage to answer questions from a buzzing audience. “Where are you from?” “When did you start dancing?” “What’s your favourite type of dance?”

Nine: “It was great because you could ask questions at the end so we could find out where they came from and how they started dancing. They were from lots of different countries, even America.”

Watching dance is a fabulous way to inspire keen dancers but it’s also brilliant for kids in general. There’s room for imagination, the chance to weave your own story, to laugh at something because it tickles your funny bone without words or slapstick.

Wales should be very proud of their dance company. They’re presenting beautiful work and stirring a love of dance. Discover Dance is an ideally relaxed way to introduced new audiences to contemporary dance and gives young people a chance to interact with the professionals.

Five: “I’d like to watch more dance because it’s funny sometimes and you get to do lots of different moves and when you dance it’s kind of like doing exercise and it’s good for you because it helps you stay healthy.”

Nine: “I’d like to watch more dance because it can be strange in certain ways and funny. It was very weird because usually you’d have a tree on the ground and you wouldn’t use a brush to sweep leaves, you’d use a rake.”

We were also intrigued to get a sneaky peak at the developments in Sherman Theatre’s foyer, which got a thumbs up from hard to please Eleven: “I LOVED the redecorating, it feels cosy but big too.” We’re big fans of the venue, their range of family friendly productions and the utterly awesome Sherman 5 scheme that has genuinely opened up the doors to so many people.

Discover Dance is touring the UK this spring, heading to Huddersfield, Brecon, Shrewsbury, Aberystwyth, Newtown, Mold, Newport, Swansea and Derby. Full tour dates on www.ndcwales.co.uk.