Category Archives: Family days out

Jousting thrill at Hampton Court Palace

It was a choice between watching Roger Federer playing against Novak Djokovic at the Wimbledon final or heading off to Hampton Court Palace to enjoy the Tudor Summer jousting show.

I suppose if we had tickets to watch Wimbledon live we would most certainly head over there but as we didn’t ūüėČ we have chosen the Hampton Court and… loved every minute of it!

As we arrived we immersed ourselves straight into the jousting spectacle. There were two happening in the day and we managed to see them both, each from a different place which gave us a great overview.

There was an arena set up for Queen Mary I and her husband, Philip II of Spain and their court to sit and watch the jousting. The knights on their horses were galloping alongside the long semi-high wooden wall carefully constructed to resemble the Tudor era. The royal couple has actually hosted the jousting competition in 1557 at Hampton Court Palace celebrating Philip’s return to England after being away from his wife since September 1555 after her first pregnancy proved false. I thought I will mention it – what an innovative way to deal with your marital problems! ūüėČ

It was like a one big spectacle acted with such a skill that it truly made you believe you have transported yourself back into the Tudor Summer Palace. It started with arming of the knights preparing for the joust. All three of our children were taken aback after learning that the armour can be as heavy as 50 kg. They were able to see all the different layers the knights were putting on.

Meanwhile on the arena the fine Andalusian Stallions Spanish horses were put through their paces and performed many interesting tricks.

The joust itself was a great thrill! It was a much-loved sport during the Tudor era and the knights who competed were considered celebrities. Full of excitement and adrenaline, two opponents on horseback rode towards each other at speed. Armed with wooden lance, each would try to strike his opponent’s shield or jousting armour or even knock him off the horse. The live commentary provided by one of the court members was excellent – his jokes and use of historical¬†language contributed to the experience a lot.

The children have learnt that ‘squires’ in not only mummy’s favourite coffee morning meeting place but also the knight in training! ;-).

The spectacle was excellent with audience cheering every time the knights confronted and their lances would hit one another and break into many small pieces flying into the air (they were purposely constructed that way to look more attractive for the watching public ;-)). The first jousting ended with the Spanish knight winning while they drawed second time around.

Arthur was convinced these were the real knights and were fighting for real. He was sitting on my hubs knees watching with his mouth wide open (literally) and taking it all in. He was a little bit apprehensive when the knights first confronted each other but he was smiling with excitement every time from then on.

There was so much happening on the day. The English and Spanish court showed off their dance skills and the traditional musicians were playing a Tudor music.

There was also a tent with some traditional wooden games for the children. Ours spent ages playing with wooden skittles – looked easier than it seemed!

We had a picnic in the Palace gardens and the children explored some royal carriages dating back to XVI century.

A fine day of celebrations! As we were walking back to the car via Bushy park (which is where we normally park when visiting the Palace) the children humming ‘God save the Queen’ which we thought was rather amusing ;-).

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PIY (Plan It Yourself):

How to get there:

By train:

Hampton Court (35 min from Waterloo)

By car:

You can park at the Palace at £1.60 per hour or on Hampton Court Green at £1.50 per hour (Palace postcode is KT8 9AU).

If you however don’t mind some 10 -15 minute stroll via beautiful Bushy Park then it is best to park at their car park for free (TW12 2EJ).


We paid with Tesco Clubcard vouchers (£40) and paid some extra £12 in cash on the day (you cannot purchase a family tickets in conjunction with the vouchers so we had to do it separately namely 2 adult tickets and 2 children tickets, third child under 5).

Adult £19.30 (or £18.20 online)

Child £9.70 (or £9.10 online) under 5s free

Family tickets (2+3) £48.20 (or £44.90 online)

Best SAVING offer:

The best thing you can do to save is to then (and it doesn’t have to be done on the day, I have checked with an Information desk and ‘as long as it is not a ridiculous amount of time ie some one year later’) you can upgrade your tickets into the Membership category.

Membership is a fantastic value for money as it allows you to see ALL five palaces (Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace) for a year (plus an extra 3 months free special offer running at the moment). You can also save an additional £10 when you pay by Direct Debit.

Individual membership £47 (DD £37)

Joint membership Р2 adults £71 (DD £61)

Family membership Р1 adult and up to 6 children (!) £59 (DD £49)

Family membership Р2 adults and up to 6 children (wow!) £90 (DD £80).

So for us as a family of 5 would be £80 minus £10 special offer (so £70) so it would cost us only some  £18 to upgrade to a membership category! Planning to do it as soon as we are back from our holidays!



Sunday cycling and the Look Out Discovery Centre science fun

We had so much fun on Sunday morning cycling at Swinley Forest in Bracknell. We arrived at 10.30am and hired one adult bike with a pull on bike for Arthur (he cannot cycle on two wheels as yet). We got a cycling route map at the Look Out shop but it proved unnecessary as all the routes (except green one) are not quite suitable for this age children and some of the turnings are very sharp and would not accommodate the pull on bike.

We tried the green route (only 1 mile long so it can be done in some 10 minutes) and we all found it fun, especially the first time around! It is rather narrow and it has many ups and downs so it can get pretty bumpy! ūüėČ I was a bit worried about Conrad as he can get carried away with the speed but I was often shouting ‘use your brakes’ throughout the whole ‘exercise’ so it appeared he has taken some notice (no accidents!).

There are also blue, red and black tracks to chose from but these are more challenging for higher skilled riders than ourselves.

We would then cycle on the main paths for some 7¬†miles one way (it was rather hilly) before breaking off for a picnic of sandwiches and strawberries and… realising that in our excitement we forgot to buy the parking ticket!

Well to be perfectly honest I have actually realised it some 45¬†minutes earlier but made a quick bilans¬†in my head and decided that the peaceful family time together is far more precious than a prospective ¬£40 fine and got into terms with it pretty quickly (read: pushed it to the back of my mind until the point it was no longer ‘visible’) ;-).

Unfortunately that is not a conclusion my dear husband reached while he realised (of course I didn’t tell him as I knew pretty much what the outcome is going to be) the very same thing some 45 minutes later ;-).

And so off he went into one of his ‘I am on a mission’ state with poor Arthur attached by a metal pipe with his pull on bike, hoping to make it before some¬†imaginary parking warden or most likely a yellow ticket on the dashboard of our car… oh dear…

So here I was left on my own with the two children on the bikes and the tops of the trees and a sun as a compass (no sat nav! why nobody has invented a bicycle sat nav as yet?!) hoping to successfully recall my way back.

Well I followed the main path for a while but was rather confused at a few crossroads and pretty much made a wild guess which seemed to follow the direction my bike happen to naturally take at the time of its descend from the hill. Either way we made it successfully all in one piece all the way back to the car (must have been some 7 miles or so).

The parking tickets was of course already neatly placed on the dashboard inside our car which was a reassuring sign of my lovely hubbie and Arthur getting there before us in good time! We then went to do a couple of more rounds on a green route which is where we met the other two (or one if you look at the bike instead ;-).

All in all it was lots of fun which ended abruptly bus still didn’t manage to spoil the experience as such.


PIY (Plan It Yourself):

How to get there:

Best by car, the postcode is RG12 7QW, Bracknell, Berkshire.


£15 for 2 hours includes helmets, £5 for additional hours. We paid £24 for an adult and pull on bike for 2 hours but returned it after almost 3 hours and kindly have not been charged any extras.

Afterwards we headed off to the Look Out Discovery Centre – one of our favourite places we go out as a family. There are so many science exhibits there that even though we must have been there at least ten times or more the children are always excited about different things.

We went first to the Forces and Movement zone where they launched a hydrogen rocket and sent a huge hot air balloon up into the air. We tried a number of wooden puzzles available and both Giselle and Conrad got the special golden stickers from one of the staff members for perseverance!

Giselle spent some time playing with different ink colours while Arthur was jumping up and down on a large piano keys playing music ;-). We then went to a Light and Colour zone where they tried to capture each other silhouettes in the shadow box, played a tune with laser beams and altered the shape of the cloud by creating some mist.

And then it was time for a Yucky You show. We tend to go to the Look Out three times a year which is closely linked with every new show they put on (they really like them). This time they were finding out about all the yucky things about their bodies which inevitably included bogies, sick, scab and spots (it is all part of the science curriculum! ;-)).

There were many interesting facts about the bodies the children learnt ie what ingredients the toothpaste is made of, what happens inside their bodies when we are sick, why is it important to brush your teeth and wash your hands thoroughly – things I am sure stay with them for a long time. Arthur spent almost 5 minutes yesterday washing his hands and recalling different facts from the show – perhaps ‘Save our water’ should be the next one on the cards! ūüėČ

And the day would not have been completed without a visit to a Build It and Water zones. At the Water zone they played with boats in their indoor stream. Giselle and Conrad designed their own trees and all were fascinated by a colony of ants in one of the glass tanks.

They all absolutely adore Build It zone full of red lego-like looking blocks which you can load into the wheelbarrows and using the rubble chute transform up the scaffolding and start your imagination go wild! Needless to say we stayed there until the closing time which is 5pm (the parking ticket run out at 5.07pm which is worth noting in the circumstances ;-)).

I am sure if you ask them they would be ready to go back there as early as tomorrow!

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PYI (Plan It Yourself):

How to get there:

Best by car, the postcode is RG12 7QW, Bracknell, Berkshire.


We paid £7.25 each for adult ticket and £4.95 each per child (under 4s free). There is an additional charge per show which is £1.85 per person (definitely worth going). You can get a Family ticket (2+2) at £19.45.

There are some reduced prices after 4pm but since the Centre closes at 5pm is probably not worth paying.

The car parking ticket is £2 for 4 hours or £4 for all day and £2 can be redeemed at the Centre upon presentation of the parking ticket stub.