Pignoulet**In the interest of transparency, I’d like to state that I was asked to review the Domaine du Pignoulet Pilates Retreat in exchange for this blog post. (I paid for flights and transfers.) If you would like to read my full disclosure policy, you can do so by clicking here.**

Pignoulet was a pinch me experience! 

When I was invited to review the pilates retreat offered by the owners of Domaine du Pignoulet – a stunning restored farmhouse in the French Pyrenees – I thought I might be dreaming. Thankfully I wasn’t, and it was the most amazing weekend I’ve had in a very long time.

You can read about my incredible bonding experience with the other nine bloggers I went away with here. Our three days together were full of delicious food, interesting discussions and debates, pilates classes (obvs) and as corny as it might sound, soul searching. It’s hard not to end up reflective after an experience like this.

We laughed, cried and stayed up way past bedtime drinking local wine putting the world to rights. I mean seriously, what more could a group of tired mums, with twenty five children between them, possibly want out of a retreat?

A little bit about Pignoulet and it’s owners

Susie and James Wetton are a husband and wife team with big hearts and wonderful ideas. I like to approach things like this without too many expectations, but to say I was blown away by every element would be an understatement. From the second we started approaching the entrance to the house I was mesmerised. Driving through the wrought iron gates, past the barn and onto the sweeping driveway, the brightly painted shutters and masonry meant the house felt warm and grand at the same time.

James’ parents bought the house in 2000 and fully restored it, and he and Susie bought it from them in 2016. They are now living out their dream semi-retirement, which has been many years in the making. I found listening to their story of ditching the rat race and living life on their own terms incredibly inspiring.

PignouletThe rooms were spacious and clean with comfy beds and powerful showers. We didn’t spend very much time in our rooms, but had lovely views when we did. The night sky was absolutely stunning with all the stars on display twinkling brightly. Really does make you think about the awful air pollution in London.

We had brilliant weather for September, and were able to spend a few hours by the pool each day, which was amazing considering it had started getting chilly back home in the UK.

What the food was like at Pignoulet

Susie and James were up against it to cater for our lot. Between us we covered paleo, vegan, celiacs, and almost every other allergy/food intolerance you can imagine. Not only did our fabulous hosts feed us well, but the incredible food was served in an inclusive way. No-one was made to feel like they were an inconvenience and nothing was too much trouble. We ate every meal together, and there was plenty of choice.

Far from dishing up underwhelming free from processed nonsense, serious effort went into ensuring our party was suitably looked after. This is really important for people like us, who often feel excluded when we eat out. The local wines were delectable, and completely natural which meant no hangover the next day!

PignouletBreakfast and lunch were served on huge help yourself plates, and dinner was a three course affair. Breakfast included grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, home made granola, fresh fruit and lots of (herbal and caffeinated) tea and coffee. Lunch was salads, fresh bread, cured meats and local cheeses.

Dinners were carefully crafted morsels of deliciousness – stuffed chicken, huge stuffed roasted peppers, baked sweet potatoes, to name but a few components. One of the desserts was low sugar vegan chocolate mousse, which was out of this world. I really have to hand it to them for pulling this off so impressively.

What the pilates was like at Pignoulet

You’re in safe hands with Susie, who has been self-employed for the last 15 years as a personal trainer, sports massage therapist, pilates teacher and Nordic walking instructor.

We did two classes on the Sunday, and one on Saturday and Monday. By lunchtime on the Monday I was feeling it. Pilates is all about working the core muscles, strengthening and stretching. For some the classes will be the main reason for going to Pignoulet, but for me they were like the cherry on top of a delicious cake. Although I’ve not done pilates for many years (getting on for twenty), I really enjoyed it.

Susie’s teaching skills are phenomenal, and it’s made me want to continue practising at home, as well as finding a local teacher. I came back from the retreat with sore abs, which felt like a rite of passage. Sitting by a pool without children is lovely, but most people find it boring after a couple of hours, so it was brilliant to have a fitness element to the trip, and something other than eating to plan the day around.

 

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(#AD) When I was asked to review the pilates retreat offered by the owners of @pignoulet – a stunning restored farmhouse in the French Pyrenees – I thought I might be dreaming. Thankfully I wasn’t, and it was the most amazing weekend I’ve had in a very long time. Susie and James Wetton are a husband and wife team with big hearts and wonderful ideas, who have quit the rat race to live their dream semi-retirement. I like to approach things like this without too many expectations, but to say I was blown away by every element would be an understatement. Pignoulet was a pinch me experience! 🧘‍♂️ It was incredible having the time and space to bond with the other nine bloggers I went away with (see previous post). Our three days together were full of delicious food, interesting discussions, lovely pilates classes, and as corny as it might sound, soul searching. It’s hard not to end up reflective after an experience like this. 🧘‍♂️ We laughed, cried and stayed up way past bedtime drinking local wine putting the world to rights. I mean seriously, what more could a group of tired mums, with twenty five children between them, possibly want out of a retreat? I highly recommend checking out Pignoulet if you’re in the market for some R&R! Head over to the blog for my full review. . . . #freefromgang #freefromgangontour #pilatespignoulet #pilatesparadise #pilateslovers #Pilates #retreat #pilatesretreat #france #gascony #mindfulness #relaxation #meditation #frenchcuisine #specialdiet #bloggers #bloggerretreat #getaway #yoga #weekend #retreatyourself #dailycalm #france4dreams #allergytravels #mummytries @lecoindemel @glutarama @freefromfairy @freefromfarm @glutenfreealchemist @sneakyvegblog @peachicksbakery @dairyfreekids @_just_eilidh 💖

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A few tips for getting the most from your Pignoulet pilates retreat

A three day and night retreat will set you back £450, excluding flights and transfers (check out this page for more details). Although excellent value for money, given once you’re there everything is included, it’s vital to ensure you get the absolute most from your trip.

– avoid the temptation to capture each moment by tuning out to your phone as much as possible.
– don’t stay up too late, don’t drink too much. I could have definitely gone to bed earlier both nights, but I love to chat, so…
– just enjoy the classes, even if you’re a novice. Switch off the “is everyone looking at me?” monster. No-one is watching you because they’re too busy with their own practise.
Pignoulet– expect tears, time out from everything is bound to stir up repressed emotions and bring them to the surface.
– do a little extra each day, but don’t over exert yourself so you’re exhausted coming home. We went to a quaint French market on the Sunday, and had a nice hilly walk on the Monday. Combined with the pilates, these two activities were perfect.
– nothing is too much trouble for Susie and James, they can cater for anything as long as they have plenty of advance warning.

I think a retreat like this is the ultimate self-care, and worth every single penny. I’m going to pay for next years’ stay in monthly instalments, which will make it manageable.

Especially if you have small kids like I do, I’d advise putting together a little plan for the thud back to earth. Inevitably it will hurt more than you’re expecting it to. Allowing myself to take it easy for a few days after meant my zen experience didn’t go to waste. I arrived home around 2am on the Tuesday morning, and got very little sleep that night. I was prepared for Tuesday to be difficult, but Wednesday was worse.

Here are a few things I did to ease myself gently back into normality:  
– asked my in-laws for Polly to go and stay with them for a few days, which she did Tues-Fri. I still had two kids to look after during those days, so it wasn’t exactly another holiday, but it definitely helped.
– prior to leaving I organised a food shop to be delivered the day after getting home.
– didn’t put too much pressure on myself work wise and took the day off social media and emails on the Thursday.

PignouletWill I do anything differently next time

We opted for Easy Jet flights from Luton to Toulouse, which were at awful times both ways, but such a bargain they were difficult to resist. Coming from South London, and being a non-driver meant it was a massive journey for me.

I’m very grateful to the lovely Mandy (her blogs are Sneaky Veg and Cook Veggielicious, you really should check them out!) for driving me to and from both airports, but it involved two late nights and one very early start out of the four days.

There are other flight options (both airport and time wise) which would lighten the load in this aspect, so I’ll be aiming for something a bit friendlier next year.

Pignoulet

Photo Credit: Le Coin de Mel

Full address and social media links

Domaine du Pignoulet,
Chemin de la Maoube,
Ladevèze-Rivière, 32230, France
Email: info@pignoulet.com

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Reviews from my fellow retreaters

Eilidh | Emma | Kate | Laura | Vicki | Mandy | Midge | Mel | Rebecca

I honestly cannot thank Susie and James enough for their hospitality. I’m feeling chilled out, inspired and shall be recommending Pignoulet to every single person I know. If you’re in the market for a retreat, or just a bit of R&R, you know where to head.

Until next time, Pignoulet! 

Planet Hollywood London Before having children, eating out in nice restaurants was a regular occurrence. For Hubby’s thirtieth birthday, which was six days after Polly’s first, we went to The Ivy and were in for a massive shock. It would seem that dining with a small child in tow was a very different experience to the ones we had become accustomed to. We’ve still eaten out a fair bit over the years with the children, but now choose where to go based on reviews of kids menu and entertainment. So you can imagine our delight when Planet Hollywood London invited us for lunch.

Why? Because they’ve been voted Bookatable’s Best Child Friendly London Restaurant for the third year in a row. We had our meal on Andy’s 38th birthday, and here are our thoughts.

Planet Hollywood London is not your average themed restaurant  

Usually when hearing the words themed and restaurant, my mind starts conjuring up images of tacky fancy dress joints and un-instagrammable fodder. I was surprised in the nicest way when I discovered the incredible food on offer.

There are a ridiculous amount of delicious dishes to choose from, and a wide range of cuisines. You’d be hard pressed to not find something to eat. They cover everything from sharing platters and American fare to burgers and grills; pizza and pasta; fajitas; noodles and salads. There is an extensive gluten free menu, and Donald Russell supply their beef.

For those not in the know, Donald Russell are an online craft butcher, whose meat is traditionally matured and grass fed. They’ve held a Royal Warrant since 1984, so they’re clearly doing something right. Quality ingredients like this are everything, and just in case you were wondering, my chuck eye did not disappoint (more on that later).

Planet Hollywood London

I imagine one of the main reasons Planet Hollywood London gets the thumbs up for family friendliness is due to their entertainment. There are huge screens all around the restaurant, and you can ask for messages to be displayed for your loved ones. They can be anything you like, and ours revolved around Hubby’s birthday. The screens flip between cartoons, movies, music and these personalised messages, which is lots of fun.

There is tons of original memorabilia to check out, including outfits and props from iconic movies. Clara and Freddy were delighted to see a Power Ranger’s costume as we walked in, as it’s their current favourite TV show to watch. The big kid in my life was suitably impressed, especially seeing Hans Solo frozen in carbonite, and Polly was in awe of the Willy Wonka chocolate bar. I had to do a double take of the T-Birds jacket, worn by John Travolta himself when he played Danny in Grease (my fave film growing up). We were also thrilled to see a storm trooper wandering around.

In addition they have colouring for the children and a fab game for the adults where you have to guess the film star based on a photo from their younger days. Some look exactly the same as they do now, others were trickier to figure out. There really is plenty to keep you and the little ones busy throughout your meal, so much so for us that we stayed almost three hours. I could have quite easily set up camp and stayed all afternoon. In another life I would have hung around drinking cocktails.

Planet Hollywood London

What we ate at Planet Hollywood London

Regular readers will know we eat mostly paleo as a family, but I’m happy to be flexible when we’re dining out and gave the children free rein over the kids menu. Polly had spaghetti and meatballs, which she loved and Clara had hot dog and chips, which she polished off with gusto. Our little fussy eater Freddy just had chips, which is better than eating nothing, right? Meal times can be fraught, especially when we’re out, but they were so mesmerised by the big screens that we had zero fighting. Possibly a first in our family! They all enjoyed their ice cream sundaes afterwards, but that was never going to not be the case.

Portion sizes are very generous, and excellent value at £9.50 which includes a main, dessert and unlimited soft drink. The staff are all great with the wee ones too, which can make or break a lunch like this. There’s nothing worse than being made to feel like your children are not welcome.

Hubby and I shared some popcorn shrimp to start, and both had surf and turf for mains with medium rare chuck eye. He had his as it was on the menu – with a trio of fries, buttered green beans and a grilled tomato. I had mine from the gluten free menu, served with salad instead of chips. The steak was cooked to perfection, juicy and succulent with just the right amount of marbling. I’ve salivated over the memory of it many times these last two weeks.

Andy had sticky toffee pudding for dessert. The staff decorated it with a sparkler and sang him Happy Birthday as they brought it out. We had seen them do it for another table earlier on, but it was still a lovely surprise. I hadn’t asked them to do Planet Hollywood Londonthis, and thought it was a really nice touch. I had a bite, and it was very yummy, but I’m definitely over non-paleo sweet things. I appreciate I’m the exception not the norm in this respect, and if sweets are your thing you’ll love the dessert menu. It has all the classics some with a modern twist. You’ll find white chocolate bread pudding, Toblerone cheesecake, good old fashioned coke floats and more.

They even have a giant brownie sundae called the Big Boy, which is served in an oversized martini glass and is meant to be shared between the whole table.

Apparently their hand-dipped milkshakes are amazing, and they are currently serving Super Nova Shakes, which sound epic. Check out this video if you’re interested.

Where could Planet Hollywood London have improved things? 

No restaurant is perfect, and improvements can always be made. If I could have a direct word with the management, I would urge them to redecorate the toilets. They were very clean, had brand new Dyson hand dryers and non-touch soap dispensers. However, the seats were a bit wonky and the tiles were in need of re-grouting (or better still replacing).

It’s also worth mentioning that they do not have a coffee machine, and only offer standard filtered coffee and tea. This did come as a shock, because I’m so used to all restaurants offering a range of artisan coffees. To be completely honest though, I didn’t need to be putting anything else in my belly, it was more than full.

Planet Hollywood LondonWe were looked after so well and I wondered if we were being given special treatment, so had a stealthy look around a few times to see if the other patrons were also getting great service, and they certainly seemed to be. The staff weren’t only competent, they were happy, which is always a good sign.

Hubby said it was his best birthday since having kids, and the children have been asking when we can go back on a daily basis. All in all it’s a huge thumbs up for us!

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**disclaimer: we were invited to Planet Hollywood London for a complimentary meal, in exchange for this honest review. For my full disclosure policy, please click here.**

I lost count long ago of the number of fights we’ve had in my house over tooth brushing, which is why I was keen to try out Playbrush

I don’t think you can start drumming the importance of oral hygiene into a child’s head early enough. I wasn’t as fortunate when I was a kid. As I said to a friend the other day, I grew up on a diet of sugar and neglect. Believe me, I’ve paid dearly for this over the years. I have numerous fillings, two missing teeth at the back and a handful of root canals. The only thing stopping me from looking hideous are the veneers which cost thousands of pounds. I live in fear of them falling off, and dread to think what is lurking beneath!  

playbrush

As you can imagine, it’s absolutely vital to me that my kids don’t end up following suit. Unfortunately tooth brushing resistance is a constant source of drama for us. All three of my kids have sensory issues and none of them enjoy the task.

I’m all for being child-led and taking a gentle approach, but there comes a point where they have to learn how to independently start taking care of themselves.

We’ve had a few gimmicky tooth brushes over the years. Electrical ones, flashing ones, super-eco bamboo ones. You name it, we’ve tried it. Still the dramas (and some days downright refusal) over brushing their teeth.

What is Playbrush?

Playbrush makes brushing interactive, translating every tooth brushing movement into gameplay. The children actively control the games as they brush, and during each 2-minute adventure, the gaming apps encourage your child to brush at the correct speed, within all quadrants of their mouth. The result is a unique and very fun brushing experience, that even the most reluctant tooth brusher will adore.

Playbrush is a smart attachment for any manual toothbrush that has been designed to make brushing more fun and to motivate children to brush for long enough and all around their mouths. Playbrush comes with two free games as well as quick brushing statistics, a reward system and a leader board. You can create as many user profiles as you wish on your app, so even if you have more than one child you only have to buy one Playbrush.  

I have to admit I was a little sceptical. Not just because the children will usually do anything to get out of brushing their teeth. Also because they find it difficult to switch off from games, especially on a small screen. I have no idea how Playbrush have achieved this, but the app is like magic for them. It’s engaging, the music and voices aren’t annoying and the kids are literally queuing up to brush their teeth now. Shocked much? Err, yeah!

It’s genuinely been a game changer for us. Take a look at this video to see the children in action. Not just brushing their teeth, but willingly and doing a marvellous job of it!    

A gift for my lovely readers  

playbrushWith Easter just around the corner, why not give the special little people in your life a real treat?  

I’d like to offer you all an exclusive 20% discount when you buy your own playbrush (enter the code MUMMYTRIES at the checkout).

Check out the Playbrush website for more info, and pop over and say hi on social media.

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**this is a sponsored post, for my full disclosure policy please click here**

 

Shrek's Adventure!My children adore everyone’s favourite ogre, so I was excited to tell them we’d be going to Shrek’s Adventure! on London’s Southbank. Better still, we’d be going with our dear friends, fellow blogger Mel and her four

The tour lasts for around an hour, and is very interactive with lots of different segments. It starts with a 4D bus tour, and although it doesn’t actually move, it wasn’t too dissimilar to feeling like we were on a roller coaster. Various characters from Dreamworks films are talking and flying all around you, and it’s a lot of fun.

I won’t ruin it by giving away too many spoilers, but during this early segment, a little disaster occurs, and the rest of the tour is based around getting home. You get to meet lots of characters from the Shrek films along the way, and join in to help bring certain items to the Muffin Man so he make a potion which will create a portal to return back.

The actors play their parts exceptionally well, and the children came out of the tour absolutely buzzing. It was such a joy to see them all this happy. Keeping seven kids aged three to nine entertained is no small thing, so hats off to Shrek’s Adventure! for doing so.

Things to know before your visit

Queues: if you visit at a busy time (we went in UK half term), be prepared to stand in line for a while. We had pre-booked tickets for the 3pm tour, but didn’t start our tour until a few minutes to 4pm. It was a teensy bit deceptive because there wasn’t much of a queue outside the venue, once inside however, there was quite a bit of waiting around.

Don’t worry though, there is plenty to look at while you’re waiting to keep you entertained. We also took a big bag loaded with snacks and activities with us. It wasn’t much of a problem for us, but it’s definitely worth bearing in mind if you have mobility issues to consider. They keep the tour group sizes fairly small, which was impressive, because never once did I feel like we were being squashed in like sardines in a can.

Shrek's Adventure!Buggies/baggage: there’s no cloakroom until you’re just about to go on your tour, and they ask you to not take buggies in. If you’re planning to go with a baby either take a sling or be prepared to carry them.

Mobile phones/photography: you’ll be asked to switch your phone off, and not turn it back on until the very end. I really like this aspect of the tour, because it keeps everyone fully present and focused on what’s happening, rather than trying to capture the moment to put on social media. Not only are you asked to switch phones off, you won’t be allowed to take photos on a camera either. At the very end of the tour you’ll get to meet the big guy, and can snap away and share until your heart is content.

Frightening: until about six months ago, Polly (8½) would find something scary about even the most innocuous films or books. There are a few parts on the tour that involve witches and/or all the lights going out. Both Freddy (4) and Clara (6) stuck to me like glue in anticipation of something scary happening, but didn’t cry or get freaked properly out at all. Again worth bearing in mind if you have a highly sensitive child who is likely to scare really easy.

The verdict

Shrek’s Adventure! got the resounding thumbs up from all seven children. Yes really, I’m not just saying it. I think the best thing is that there are different segments every five minutes or so, which keep the kids completely enraptured.

There was a bonus section at the end too, where we got to meet the Kung Fu Panda. You’ll have to get down to the Southbank quickly though, because he’s only there to celebrate Chinese new year, and won’t be there forever.

Huge thanks to the PR team at Shrek’s Adventure! for inviting us to come for a tour. For what’s on and pricing, head over to the Shrek’s Adventure! website.

**Disclaimer: we were gifted our entrance fee in exchange for this honest blog, all words are my own, some photos were taken by myself, some by Mel. For my full disclosure policy, please click here.**

When London based bedmakers Warren Evans offered us the opportunity to review one of their super king sized beds, with a TEMPUR® Mattress, I literally punched the air!

Regular readers will already know that sleep deprivation has been a major feature in mine and hubby’s lives the entire time we’ve been parents. I almost don’t want to say this for fear of jinxing us, but our children are currently sleeping better than ever (more on that very soon). There is one catch though – Freddy, who is almost four, sleeps in our bed.

Every. Single. Night.

We’ve been through several cycles with him now, and for the last six months or so he has been very averse to the idea of sleeping in his own bed in any capacity. Co-sleeping certainly has many pros, but the obvious con is that I often end up being shoved to the bottom of the bed by a wriggly child. I’ve also woken up hanging out the side, with a terrible backache, more times than I can remember.

Drastic action was needed, but we don’t do sleep training or crying it out here. I figure that if Freddy needs the comfort and security of sleeping next to us then I’m not going to deny him. As we experience more stress than most families, I do everything and anything I can to counteract it. Hence the air punching at the opportunity to upgrade our old bed and trade it in for a much bigger, much better model. We went for the stunning Borneo frame, which you can view here

I’ve never slept this well

warren evans

The quality of a Warren Evans bed is undeniable. We fell in love with their beds after having a sleepover at our friends house, and now we have our own it has not disappointed. They are beautifully designed beds, and one the best things of all is that they are handmade here in the UK.  

We chose the TEMPUR® Original Deluxe mattress which moulds to the exact contours of your body giving optimum support and comfort. It also has the added benefit of TEMPUR® Soft-Touch quilted into the cover for a more luxurious feeling. This mattress contains pressure relieving properties that can reduce tossing and turning at night.

Sleeping in our new bed is what I imagine sleeping on clouds would feel like. My backache is a distant memory, and I’m getting quality uninterrupted shuteye for the first time in nine years. A good friend of mine bought a similar bed over a decade ago, and travels a lot for work. She said no hotel bed has ever been a match for her own.  

Don’t just take my word for it though, here’s what international tennis ace Serena Williams says about TEMPUR®:

“I’m really able to just get a deep sleep. It makes a huge difference.”

A little bit about TEMPUR®

Developed by Nasa in the 1970s to cushion and support astronauts during lift-off, TEMPUR® material distributes weight and pressure evenly, so all you feel is weightless. Today, TEMPUR® material lies at the core of all their mattresses and pillows and is still the only mattress product recognised by NASA and certified by the Space Foundation.

In my opinion, a TEMPUR® mattress is worth every single penny. They come with a ten year guarantee as standard which tells you everything you need to know. Warren Evans also offer interest free credit, and a price match.

A little bit about Warren Evans

Warren Evans has 38 years of award winning experience handcrafting beds, mattresses and furniture from their London workshop. Their superior service and quality products, at a fantastic price, means you get great value and a perfect night’s sleep.

I was super impressed with the delivery service, and was kept informed every step of the way. They sent an email and text message to confirm the order. Then on the day I had a phone call to tell me they would be with me within an hour. The drivers turned up on time, were polite, professional and efficient. They were in and out of my house in just under an hour, and that was to install this bed as well as the girls new bunk beds.

It does not surprise me one bit that Warren Evans was the highest rated UK mattress shop in the Which? Members “Best Mattress Retailers” Survey 2017.

Overall an outstanding service, and I cannot recommend Warren Evans or TEMPUR® highly enough! If you’re in the market for a new bed, and are feeling a bit tempted, now is a great time to take a look.

Warren Evans have many beds on sale, and I have an exclusive discount code just for you. Enter ‘WETEMPUR’ for an extra £50* off!  

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*The discount code will expire on 5th March, and the minimum spend is £1000*

**Disclaimer: This is a collaborative article, sponsored by Warren Evans. Click here for my full disclosure policy.**