Bexleyheath Marriott Leisure Club – Review

Last week I was invited along to the Leisure Club in Bexleyheath’s Marriott Hotel to have a look around their facilities in particular their new gym equipment. Now as most of you know I am not able to use these sorts of machines due to my illness however, I managed to coax my husband to come along for the afternoon to possibly try some of it out.

If you are anything like myself, you probably would think that the facilities in the hotel’s leisure club are strictly for the hotel guests, or for those booked onto a spa day retreat. However, this could not be further from the truth and in fact this particular leisure club already has over 600 local members. It has a small swimming pool ( the type you would totally expect in a hotel) that has a decent sized raised jacuzzi at the far end and has comfortable lounge seating along each side. Just off to the side there is both a steam room and a sauna and separate showers so once you are changed and in this area all these facilities are together. This area is set out as you would imagine a day spa to be and there are often clients in there in their robes enjoying a spa afternoon.

Just before you reach the leisure club reception desk itself is a separate gym room with all the equipment your regular gym would provide, again it is the size you would expect from a hotel facility ( so not huge) but is extremely well equipped and set out in a manner that allows them to make the most of the room.

gym equipment

As you can see they have all the regular up to date machines including, running machines, cross trainers, cycle machines and a rowing machine.

cross trainer

They also have specific weights equipment in one area and then a separate small weights area to suit all styles of training.

weights equip

They also have TV screens up on the front wall to help occupy your mind with either music or programmes to help take your mind of what you are doing! When I used to run regularly before my illness I always loved to pop my earphones in and listen to some fast, loud music to help me keep running to a suitable rhythm and pace but I do know some people prefer something visual as they work out.

running machines

Now I visited the facility on an early midweek afternoon and the hotel was kind enough to allow my husband and I to enjoy the club for a few hours. At the time we were there, I have to be honest there were only a few ‘regulars’ in the pools area and the gym itself was empty. This is obviously music to ‘off peak’ patrons ears and this is definitely a bonus in my eyes that if you were able to use the facilities at these times it would indeed be a very relaxing time, or if you love having a gym to yourself that is definitely the time to go. We all know however that most people will be at work during the day and therefore would be visiting at the ‘full peak’ times after 4pm into the evening and on weekends during the day. I can imagine the club being quite different at these times and there may also be the possibility of waiting for gym equipment to become free, or say the pool/ jazuzzi being quite full- but obviously I can only speak from my experience on that particular day.

One thing I did really pick up on was the ‘non exclusiveness’ ( and I truly mean that in a very good way) we felt while we were there. The staff were very friendly and I noticed the manager would talk to all the members as she went about her business. The ‘regulars’ also seemed quite friendly and openly chatted to my husband and I while we were there- they did not ignore or exclude us because we were new faces. This is something that I am afraid DOES NOT happen in all leisure style clubs, and I have experienced an awkwardness in another well known club so much that I never went back, so I can say wholeheartedly that this was one of the main things I liked about the Marriott’s Leisure club. Another bonus is that the hotel offers free parking for patrons so when you do visit the leisure club you just need to register your car registration and your parking will be free.

Memberships at this particular club start at £44 a month, which is a rolling contract and can be cancelled at any time ( with 30 days notice) with the only additional payment I noticed was a £35 joining fee. This Marriott membership also allows for some additional benefits such as 20% off food and beverages at the hotel and 10% of any Health and Beauty treatments at that hotel amongst other things.

I personally found that using the 2 heat rooms on the day seemed to help my muscular pain levels especially in my neck, that in itself allowed me to get some extra sleep that evening. So because it’s a rolling contract I can cancel any time I have joined this week to allow me to explore using very gentle exercise such as a short swim followed by the use of the steam room and sauna to help with my levels of muscular pain. I will be looking at using it maybe twice a week to see if there is any difference and if that the heat rooms used as a therapy will help manage my illness overall.

 

For more info on the tarriffs and memberships please visit their website

Bella Italia Oprington review

This time last week I had the chance to pop along the the new branch of Bella Italia that has opened in Orpington just next to the new cinema complex at The Walnuts centre. I have to admit it has been a few years since I was in a Bella Italia restaurant and so I was interested to see what had changed both in style and menu.

On entering the quirky style decor caught my eye immediately with vibrant colours and fabulous wall art. What did catch my attention was the brilliant use of lots of huge old picture frames painted in bright colours that made up the so called ceiling which you could see much higher up. I also adored the wire framed bulb lights which really suited the style perfectly.

bella italia decor

We went on a Tuesday evening around 630ish and although there were customers in there it wasn’t particularly busy so we had our choice of seats. Tables were decorated with old wine bottles with a candle in the top as your table light, kind of cheesy but something I personally have always liked for a bit of a rustic feel. They had a main menu but also they had a specials menu already on the table for you to have a look through- a meal for less than 300 calories ( believe it or not using the popular ‘vegetable spaghetti’ as the base) wonderful if you are on a healthy eating plan without missing out on going out with friends. There are also lots of gluten free options too some that are dishes in their own right and some that can be adapted to gluten free from the main menu such as the pizzas.

Having my husband with me ( my personal designated driver) I gladly opted for a lovely glass of rose wine whilst we had a good snoop of the menu which is quite extensive with everything from pizzas and calzones, pasta dishes, ribs and even sea bass. My husband knew exactly what he wanted and had looked forward to a calzone all day. I on the other hand am absolutely rubbish at choosing when there is so much on offer!

So, for starters I went for something I have never tried before and ordered Tempura Kind Prawns with a mayonnaise dip, my husband decided on the deep fried calamari- again something he doesn’t have that often. Both dishes came up on wooden boards with the fish served in mini fry baskets which both my husband and I loving that presentation. the prawns were delicious and I wouldn’t hesitating to order this again.

bella italia starter

For mains my husband ordered the Carne calzone, filled with pancetta, spicy meatballs, red onion, mozzarella and beef ragu. It took me a while to decide but I went for Pollo Formaggi al Forno which was chicken and crispy pancetta  in a four cheese sauce with giant shell pasta and a crumb topping. We both ordered a side salad but chose one of each , a mixed salad and a rocket and granello cheese one so we could share.

bella italia mains

As you can see both dishes came up well sized and mine was extremely filling to the point I couldn’t finish it. My husband was  very pleased with his calzone saying the only thing it needed was just an extra spoonful or two of sauce juice as that is how he likes it.

We were both quite full but thought it would be very rude not to try a dessert and they did the perfect option which was a choice of 3 of the 5 different dessert shots that included banoffee pie and strawberry cheesecake and a mini pannacotta to name just a couple. However, our luck wasn’t in that evening as our server apologised and told us there had been an accident in the kitchen and the desserts had fallen and there wasn’t any left. So we went for a 4 scoop sharing gelato bowl with a mixture of flavours and some chocolate beans on top ( although there are lots of toppings to choose from).

YES we did actually share it!

YES we did actually share it!

I can only speak about our experience on that evening in that particular branch, but we enjoyed the food, the service was good and the staff were friendly. Our meal didn’t feel rushed in any way but we also didn’t wait overly long for the courses to be cooked either. I can see this branch becoming popular as it is right next to the cinema and would make a great pre or post film dinner option. They also serve breakfasts and lunches too so there would be something for any part of the day depending on your plans and there is also lots of covered seating outside for when the weather warms up too. This would be a nice relaxed place to come with the girls for a good natter, a bit of wine drinking and lots of yummy food for a great night out. The night we were there we noticed couples like ourselves, families, groups of friends and even a couple ,one of which was using a mobility scooter, and the layout of the seating meant it was easy for her to have it beside her table and therefore she wasn’t excluded in any way.

From my experience that evening I would have no trouble recommending this restaurant to others and I know I will certainly go back there myself.

 

DISCLAIMER: my meal was complimentary in return for an honest review. All view are my own and I can only base that on the food and service we received at the branch we visited on that particular evening.

 

 

Amazing how differently your teen is treated by teachers when they find out about his almost certain ADHD diagnosis

Ok so before all you teachers instantly take offence to that I will openly say I do not think secondary teachers are paid enough for what they have to deal with and I could not for all the money in the world even contemplate teaching teenagers!! I appreciate you all have several classes with probably 30 moody, whingy, bolshy annoying teens in every class driving you to complete distraction getting on your last nerve at times…………….. I repeat I COULD NOT DO THAT JOB.

That said, when it comes to your own child and you can see him being persecuted for being fidgety, talking, moving, getting distracted and distracting others. Now I am not a mother who sees her children as little angels, I am fully aware that my 15 year old son is ‘high maintenance’, loud, demanding and can drive me to total distraction on a daily basis, so I do appreciate how that could be a pain in the arse to deal with in a class of 30 kids. So when the said child does not change over the years, finds it hard to focus and is the king of ‘low level disruption’ but is generally a very likeable boy surely some alarm bells would be ringing from the school side of things?

However, this did not happen, it was my son after lots of discussions at home who decided that he needed to take this further as he was getting very frustrated with getting into trouble for the same repeatable behaviour, to the point where particular teachers would actually send him out of the room within minutes because he was tapping his pen, or tapping his feet, or fiddling with stuff on his desk and then totally lose his temper when they gave him a detention for disruption. He has been on Head of Learning reports in year 9 and just wasn’t actually learning from it- it his words ‘I feel as though I just cant stop myself- I have done it or said it before I have even realised’.

So we went through the process of getting the school to refer him last year for an ADHD assessment ( totally pushed from our side). He eventually had his assessment just before Christmas 2015 where the consultant openly told us it was highly likely in her view he would be diagnosed and to prepare for him to be put on medication that would help him settle, focus and help him achieve his potential at school ( he is at a grammar school and all his teachers say he is very bright but he is letting himself down with his behaviour). Unfortunately the appointment to discuss possible medications will not be until May/ June at the earliest due to the waiting list.

Tonight we had his parents evening. He has heard so many times about his behaviour that he totally rights himself off with school and doesn’t think he can do anything, yet recently we were emailed by his Chemistry teacher to say he had an excellent result in his latest ISA test. He is on par for an A* in his Drama, and does well in strange subjects such as Classics too. He has the capability to do really well in his GCSE’s and we have been told that by most of his teachers.

So at each of the 4 minute slots you have ( I swear it’s like a form of speed dating!) with each teacher, every single one of them concentrated on his behaviour and not on his work to the point I just didn’t care and totally ran over my slotted time in order to inform them that he has been ADHD assessed, with a highly likely outcome, and is waiting on a probably medication appointment in hopefully may/ June time- all of which has been discussed with the SEN who was supposed to pass it on to his them.

The difference in how they spoke to him, about him and what they could do to help was unbelievable! We went from him being basically slagged off ( no wonder he goes to school with a self fulfilling prophecy attitude, tell someone they are a waste of space enough and they will become it!) to a complete turnaround for some of them.

All of his teachers have said they will………….

  • physically check he has written his homework in his planner rather than just ask him ( as he will say yes intending to do it at break time only to get distracted and then forget………..roll on a detention).
  • some have offered to print out notes for him as he struggles to read his own writing when he rushes notes in class and therefore takes the attitude that it’s not worth it as he wont be able to read them, therefore getting into trouble for not doing enough note taking.
  • Some have decided that they will move him closer to their desk in order to help keep him focussed.
  • Several said to get a stress ball that he could keep in his hand in class so that he has something to ‘fiddle with’ without making noise or distracting others.
  • One has already started to give him a little note at the start of the lesson to break down his one hour class into 10-15 minute bites for him so he only has to initially focus for short periods on one task.

They spoke to him about helpful coping strategies that they could work together on and some we could use at home with regards to his homework and coursework etc. His Drama teacher was absolutely brilliant with him and said that he was welcome in her class when she was there during breaks or after school to ‘vent’ or talk about things he was struggling with and she would help him as much as she could. She said he reminded her of herself at that age where he was almost at a crossroads and could go one way or the other, on a good path or a bad one, and she was more than happy to help him make the right choices.

It is a shame that it wasn’t picked up earlier from school and he felt he had already been written off by his teachers who literally couldn’t be bothered to have him in their class. Therefore, in his head he was never going to do any good at his GCSE’s. Tonight he is already talking about being a primary school teacher ( which he would be fab at as he gets on great with younger kids). Don’t get me wrong he is not going to find this easy, he will have to put some hard effort in himself and knuckle down to getting his homework done, but if it’s in his planner then we as parents can support him by making sure it’s done and therefore cut down on any detentions for not doing it because it wasn’t written in there. He will have to try really hard in class for the teachers to keep this level of support up on his behalf and hopefully help him with coping strategies even before he has to think about possible medication down the line.

So, for the first time after one of his parent’s evening we have all come home much more positive and my son now knows he has a friendly and approachable contact in the form of his Drama teacher if he finds he is getting frustrated with things at school. I cannot thank her enough for how nice she was to him tonight and how supportive she has offered to be- I think if one teacher at school can influence him it is definitely going to be her and hopefully that will help keep him on track in other classes too.

I would love to hear from any of you who have gone through the same thing, and if your child was put on medication did that help them at all?

 

 

 

 

Ashford Eureka Park Beefeater review

I was recently asked to go along to this branch of Beefeater to review their menu ahead of Mother’s day and having not been down at this park before I was also interested to see what else was there.

We were booked into the restaurant for an earlyish meal around 6pm as a family of four before my eldest teen’s social like took priority and we became a party of three! When we arrived at Eureka Park it was clear to see the Beefeater was probably the main restaurant for the Premier Inn next to it and to be fair it seemed like it was one of the larger branches of the restaurant.

On entering it had a large bar area both with bar and table seating and seemed the perfect place for the people staying at the hotel to pop along in the evening and have a drink or some food. The reception area was a nice open space and we were greeted and seated straight away. Most of the seating in this branch is free standing tables and chairs however there is a diner style area of boothed seating adjacent to the open cooking/ serving area and that’s were we were seated.

This is looking onto the boothed seating back towards the reception area leading onto the bar.

This is looking onto the boothed seating back towards the reception area leading onto the bar.

My youngest teen had already decided what he was having before he got there as he absolutely loves their burgers ( the best burger he has ever had apparently- and he can be pretty fussy!). This time he took advantage of adding an extra burger patty for only 99p making his meal around £9 as he had ordered off the early menu before 6.30pm.

Double 1/4 lb burger with skinny fries and slaw from the early menu that finishes around 6.30pm

Double 1/4 lb burger with skinny fries and slaw from the early menu that finishes around 6.30pm

Normally from this sort of restaurant I would play safe and get something with chips but this time I decided to try something different, so I opted for the Liver and Bacon with mash and curly Kale. I adore liver when it has been cook properly as it is beautiful and tender, full of flavour and very good for you too. When it came up I was slightly disappointed at the size, just because I was very hungry and I thought it would come up served as a roast style dinner. However, I could not have been more wrong about the portion size- it was a very filling meal!

Curly kale not visable but is at the bottom, with creamy mash on top, several slices of bacon on top and then piled with crispy onions with gravy around the side.

Curly kale is not visible but is at the bottom, with creamy mash on top, several slices of bacon on top and then piled with crispy onions with gravy around the side.

Obviously liver can be a disaster when overcooked feeling like a bit of shoe leather and therefore, I was overjoyed to see it was cooked perfectly with the liver being gorgeously tender- so much so that my teen and mu husband (who hates liver!) gave it a try and actually liked it. I really must learn how to cook it properly myself as this was a beautiful dinner. The crispy onions were a really nice contrast to the soft creamy mash and believe me about 2/3’s of the way through I was getting pretty full. This dish came in at £13.99 and was definitely worth the money.

My husband also opted for a different choice and stayed clear of chips as he ordered the chilli. It came served in a little dish already on top of the rice with some separate flat breads and pots of sour cream and guacamole served on the side. Again the chilli pot did not look that big and my hubby has a good appetite so I was slightly worried he may have regretted his choice. I tried some of it myself and there was enough spice in the sauce for my taste but he opted to have the extra chilli pieces on top!!

The rice is not visible but is actually already under the sauce in the pot. The extra chillies and onions on top are optional and would depend on your taste.

The rice is not visible but is actually already under the sauce in the pot. The extra chillies and onions on top are optional and would depend on your taste.

The chilli is their signature slow cooked recipe and seemed a little thick in consistency and difficult to mix through the rice, however the flavour was perfect and the meat was super tender. Mixed with the sour cream and guacamole the texture then worked nicely and I would be tempted to have this myself next time I visit. The chilli is amazing value coming in at just £9.99 and although I thought my husband would still be hungry after it he said that with the flat breads on the side it was more filling than he expected it to be.

We are not really one’s to have starters usually as we enjoy having something sweet at the end, so we only ordered mains and then had a desert. We love traditional deserts do both of us ended up choosing the same thing which was their new Salted Toffee apple crumble and both of us opted for custard………….c’mon it has to be custard with crumble! You do have the choice though and we could have had either cream or ice cream if we had wanted.

Say nothing about the fact I tucked in before I remembered to take a photo!

Say nothing about the fact I tucked in before I remembered to take a photo!

This was seriously lush as a crumble lover and was only £4.99 which is very reasonable. My son just wanted plain ice cream as he is not a big ‘pudding’ eater and they were very obliging with that.

We were there on an early Friday evening so I would imagine this is one of the busier nights for them as staff. There was certainly plenty of people both in the restaurant part and in the bar area but that didn’t seem to impact on the service at all. I can only speak from our experience that evening, but there seemed to be plenty of staff serving and a regular turnover of meals at the kitchen service area.

Like I said earlier, it maybe has less of a cosy restaurant feel to it and more an open diner feel, and I could imagine a busy breakfast serving in there with all the people using it from the Premier Inn next door. In that respect it was definitely built for purpose and seemed to work fluidly in that way.

They also run a reward card where you get points for every pound you spend so if you have a branch near you then this would definitely be worth thinking about and if you were looking for somewhere different to go with family on Mother’s Day then there is something for every taste on this menu. It is also worth mentioning that soft drinks such as Coke/ Pepsi etc come as a refillable option which is great if you have kids as you pay just the one price but they can refill as much as they want ( my teen son loves this option!).

DISCLOSURE: I was given a voucher towards the meal cost in return for an honest review. All comments are my own and I can only comment on my experience that evening in that branch

When your teenager can still surprise you…..

My youngest son is 15 going on 35 so mature for his age group and acts like he is an adult!

As most of you will know if you have teen boys they hit that point where they stop asking you every 5 minutes ‘what we are doing today?’ and hole themselves up in their bedrooms, curtains closed, headphones on with games controllers in their hands and either ignoring you or telling you to get out of their rooms.

This pretty much sums up my youngest for about the past year, where it has been pretty hard to get him motivated with anything. Then Sunday out of nowhere he comes down to the table in the lounge and sets up an area so he can make a model of a tank. Yes I know I thought I was hallucinating too! From 2pm he worked on it all day until around 9ish in the evening breaking only to have his dinner. To be bloody honest I don’t think I have witnessed him sit in one place for anywhere near that long before (even when he is gaming he is up and down stairs getting food and drinks).

Then on Monday after school he came in got changed and then started again. I could not believe it. He even got me to order another model online so he had something to start once he finished the tank. Even now I cannot believe I am writing these words! Last night around 8 o’clock he proudly brought it over to show me. He had actually done a great job, he is the most inpatient kid I know and would normally have several devices on the go at any one time. OK so yes he had headphones on watching The Big Bang Theory on his Ipad in the backround, but he still ploughed on through with all the fiddly time consuming bits that you have to do, filing, glueing and waiting for things to dry before moving on.

Now he just needs to paint it but I am super proud that he pulled himself away from his games to do something constructive, and the fact he spent that much time downstairs in our company to boot. I am not fooling myself, probably by the time the weekend comes the novelty will have worn off and he will be back gaming non stop, but for now I am going to wallow in the fact he is doing something different and spending more time in our company…………..and if that costs me a small fortune in models then so be it.

DSC_0456

 

 

DSC_0458