Visiting the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N experience – Excel, London

Ever dreamed of being recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D.?  We visited the Avengers exhibition at The Excel centre in London and tbh its probably the closest you’ll get! Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network), is an immersive and interactive experience that explores the science behind the Avengers and tests whether or not you yourself have what it takes to be an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D...

We visited with 4 12year old boys and its fair to say they loved it!!!

Located at the back of Londons Excel centre, in its own purpose built building, you travel through various themed rooms until you reach a 4D Interactive game at the end.

Although reviews were mixed we booked tickets for six of us (using a voucher website to receive a slight discount on the ticket prices). You can book a time-slot so waiting time is reduced and the nearby Excel centre has food and toilets.

The props and tech used in this exhibition are really good. The most famous Avengers have their own rooms and interactive games, and the lesser known ones are grouped together with lots of on screen information, costume displays and other interesting titbits!

Amongst other exhibits, you can hold Hulks hand, ride Captain Americas bike or hold his shield, Follow Antmans ants or try and lift Thors hammer! I failed 😦

One of the things I liked best about it was the level of detailed information. As a fan you can read the ‘science’ behind all the characters and their stories as if they were real, studied phenomenons. What to know how the Rainbow Bridge forms? How Wakandas communication devises operate? What each Infinity stone does? How Captain America went from skinny boy to super-soldier? Its all here waiting to be discovered!

The whole thing is immersive and everything presented as it it is real. The team working the event are there as SHIELD operatives and you are kept in this bubble the whole way round. You wont find any mention of comic books or actors names here!

We didn’t queue very long for anything apart from the interactive games in Tony Starks lab (which our 12yo’s loved) and photography is allowed and easy to do as there aren’t crowds as only so many people are let in per time-slot.

After slowly making our way through the exhibition (I’d give yourself at least an hour if you want to enjoy the interactive parts) you then get ushered into a final room, split into teams and all given ipods to play an interactive Avengers game. This is great fun and a really good way to end the experience.

There is also a large gift shop (no cash, card only) and an opportunity have have a souvenir photo done, digitally posing with the Avengers.

Me, my sons and their friends really enjoyed this experience and I’m really glad we went. I would say its best added to doing something else in London if you were coming for a day out as it doesn’t last that long but for any Marvel fan it is a must see!!!

Due to extra demand this experience is now running till the 28th of April. Book your tickets here. Able to be flexible? Find selected Groupon offers here.

Another way to say thank you with Cadburys Roses

On Saturday I had the chance to have the most lovely experience in London thanks to Cadbury’s Roses.

On a quiet street at the back of Oxford Street just opposite Soho Square, this gorgeous pop-up shop was hiding, waiting to share its beautiful thank-you with anyone who happened to pop in.

It looked absolutely adorable, from its 3D flowery signage right down to the vintage style yellow bike outside.

Once inside it got even better…

Set up like a high end florist, each classic Roses flavour had its own hand-made paper rose with the chocolate hidden inside surrounded by foil petals. I’m a Strawberry Cream and County Fudge kinda girl…what are your favourites?

The idea was you could pick one flower, write a thank you note to someone special and then take it away for free to gift to the person you wanted to say thank you to.

The pop up shop was created by GoLin PR Agency and Bearded Kitten Events with 7000 hand-made flowers created by set designer Tamara D’Silva and her team and was really lovely – a chocolate florist shop…it doesn’t get much cuter than that! As a creative, I love seeing a concept delivered really well and the shop was utter event/pop up perfection! I believe its due to go on tour around the UK so keep your eyes peeled for it in your city!

I had my son Reuben with me and he wanted to say his ‘thank you’ to me. I saw him chatting to the lovely ladies running the shop and the next thing I knew he had a huge bouquet in his arms for me! See the video below…

And this was his message to me…*heart almost bursts with love*. What a wonderful treat.

I think its fair to say I was very pleased with my bouquet of chocolate Roses (one of every flavour no less!). I mean, look at how I’m looking at them

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

The real reason for all this loveliness? Well that’s lovely too –  Cadbury’s have created a limited edition Roses tin to mark the chocolates 80th anniversary. Can you believe Roses have been around for 80 years? The retro vintage design tins feature a variety of coloured roses surrounded by ribbon-style banners against the traditional ‘Cadbury Roses Blue’ background. The design is really nostalgic and reminds me of a Nana’s sewing tin! On that note, sustainability has also played a key role in the decision to opt for metal packaging for the once-in-a-lifetime celebration tins. Its definitely not something you’d ever throw away – I mean, look how pretty it is…

Find your limited edition 800g tin exclusively in Tesco now! Its RRP is £9.99 although it was just £8.00 when I checked while writing this blog post. A total bargain I say!

And thank you to Cadburys for making me feel so happy and giving my wonderful son the opportunity to say thank you to me! If you’d like to say thank to someone too, I think the vintage tin would be a lovely way to say thank you to someone special this winter.

The Vogue 100 Exhibition – National Portrait Gallery, London

As part of my birthday celebrations myself and my boyfriend had a great day out in London recently and I got to do one of the things I love doing – visiting art galleries.  The Vogue 100 exhibition had been on my ‘to do’ list since it opened in February and I was thrilled to be able to go and see it.  But the question is, is it worth seeing?

Once you enter the exhibition through pillars of different Vogue covers you are faced with this huge image of the late great Lee McQueen and a stark room with a  small selection of the past 100 years most iconic images from which you can then access the different areas grouped by decade.

The layout is quite a strange one as it doesnt run in chronological order so I made my way to the ‘century of magazines’ area first and then worked forward from the 1920’s finally ending in the film area.

I went into to one of the end rooms first  – The ‘Century of Magazines’ room

This room showed a copy of Vogue from every year of the 100 years it has been in publication…including the very first copy (pictured). It is breathtaking to see how a publication can represent its era, carry on through two world wars, touch politics, feminism and the changes to the world that happened during that time but still be a great fashion magazine.

 Another great room was ‘The Planning Room’ 

In this room you entered a darkened space with negatives from all eras presented on top of light boxes and series’ of shoot images being projected on the wall showing how many shots the Vogue team would see before they picked ‘the one’.

  

And then there were the rooms of the different decades…

My highlights

The 1920s/30s –

Aristocracy mixed with silent film stars and glamour girls. Many of the images looked as modern now as they did 100 years ago…


The 1940s – against all the glamour the starkness of these reportage shots from the WW2 really made you realise Vogue was never just a frivolous fashion magazine…

And seeing key fashion illustrations in real life, remembering they had been done at the time and were of the most contemporary fashions.

The 1950’s – this room held some of the most glamorous photos including original by Cecil Beaton and Norman Parkinson…

The 1960s – Probably my favourite era, style wise, I loved the tone of this room with its retro textured wallpaper and full wall shot of David Hockney, his assistant and glamorous model Maudie James in his studio by Cecil Beaton…

 

The 1970’s – a strange mix of glamour, sexist sterotyping and the grungy beginnings of punk rock. Probably my least favourite of all the rooms although this Helmut Newton pic taken the year I was born stood out…

The 1980s – Big, brash and bold was the order of the day in this room…

The 1990’s- a key time in British fashion with film stars and artists suddenly taking up as many shots as the models and the grungy ‘Heroin Chic’ style starting to appear…

The 2000s and onwards – it is quite breathtaking to see so many iconic images in one place – the curation was perfect and you really ‘felt’ each decade and its subtle changes…

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And finally (of course!) the shop

Look at these amazing Biscuiteers biscuits!  The Vogue 100 book was great too but I’ve got to be honest I’m not going to buy it for a ‘special price’ of £35 in the gallery when Amazon have it for £26. The vintage copies of Vogue on sale (from £35) were tempting though… 

I just adored this exhibition and would definitely recommend a trip. It runs until 22nd May 2016 and adult tickets are £17.00 each.  If youve been I’d love to know your thoughts…

National Portrait Gallery

St Martin’s Place
London
WC2H 0HE
020 7306 0055

Opening hours

Daily 10.00 – 18.00
Thursdays and Fridays until 21.00.
Last admission to the exhibition is one hour before the Gallery closes.
Exiting commences ten minutes before the closing time.

Pharmacy 2

Let go back in time…

Its 1998 – London is in the grip of the Rule Britannia phase, Brit Pop rules, as do lads and ladettes doing too many drugs, New Labour were telling us ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ and the British art scene led by the likes of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas and Gary Hume is changing the face of modern art.

Mathew Freud and Damien Hirst open up Pharmacy, a restaurant in Notting Hill and the rest is the stuff of legend. I went once with some people from Loaded Magazine (remember that!?!) but sadly I cannot mention most of the stuff that happened that night for fear of being sued! It was a pretty cool place though, although the waiters in surgical gowns did freak me out a bit…

Jump forward to now and Damien Hirst, in collaboration with chef Mark Hix, has opened Pharmacy 2, this time based in his Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall, South London.  See below what I discovered…

Its small but perfectly formed! The bar area is a mix of neon, pill prints and hanging leds.  Hirst butterfly print medical ‘+’ signs sit each side of the mirrored bar backdrop and cocktails are mixed as you perch on pill shaped bar stools.

There are booths to sit in for bigger groups and loads more Hirst originals. I tried to leave with one up my jumper but sadly there were too many waiters!

img_6420And even the bar stools are cool…  Just like the original piece of art, 2500 or so different pills fill the cabinets on the walls…The menu covers British and European classics, including the likes of shaved winter squash with Treviso and Graceburn cheese, white polenta with a Burford Brown egg yolk and shaved Wiltshire truffles, plus a Mark Hix signature dish of crushed potato and black pudding with pineapple upside-down cakes or chocolate mousse with honeycomb for dessert. Pharmacy 2 covers breakfast, weekend brunches and Sunday roasts, plus it serves a mean cocktail.

What do you think? Pharmacy 2 is now open for bookings – find the details here.

Ripleys Believe it or Not – London

As you may know, in our family there are 6 of us. Myself, my partner, my 8yo son and my partners three sons of 23, 8 and 3). Being in a blended family has its challenges, but also can be wonderful too. My ‘stepson’ Cam’s (although we are not married I refer to my partners younger children as my stepsons as I bring them up 50% of the time) birthday was last month and we looked to organise a fun day out in London he would enjoy.

IMG_9130 We settled on Ripleys Believe it or Not in Piccadilly and booked tickets for the Saturday. I’d been past it so many times as its in such a busy part of London but never really found out what it was. Well I think it’s a hidden gem for families! Due to the type of attraction it is we choose to not take our youngest as at three he wouldn’t really understand what he was seeing, so a family ticket for two adults and two children’s was all we needed. Now, tickets for Ripleys are not cheap – the family ticket bought online is the cheapest option at £67.96 and you can also use Tesco Clubcard tokens too. After a quick search on the internet though I found a buy one get one free offer so all together for the four of us it cost £45.82 – not bad for a central London attraction. Ripleys is in a fantastic building just off of Leicester Square and the attraction has over 700 artefacts spanning six floors, 19 themed galleries, plus an additional Laser Race area which certain entrance tickets cover.

IMG_1445 Inside it really is a mass of things to look at – mostly totally random but lots of fun. I didnt realise that Ripley has been a real person who spent his life collecting the unusual and the rare for people to then visit – there is information about him all through the tour – he must of been an amazing character. Some of it is probably a bit silly for older kids (knitted car, giant chair, upside down room) but for two 8 year olds it was perfect! There are crazy objects, models of record breaking things such as the worlds tallest man, the smallest piece of art, ornate coffins, animal skeletons and bits of meteor to name but a few…

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IMG_9133 Parts of it are more like a traditional museum whereas other parts are much more interactive. You can walk through a medieval dungeon with all its torture equipment, see Olympic Torches from throughout the years and look at crazy optical effects like walking through a tunnel of moving light that makes you think you are moving upside down.

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IMG_1444 I have to say I loved it! I loved seeing all the different art made from crazy things, part of the Berlin Wall and walking through a hall of mirrors. The boys loved the interactive parts such as the light tunnel, creating virtual graffiti as the Berlin Wall and feeling how cold the water was when the Titanic sank.

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IMG_9144 The Laser Race Attraction at the end of the tour had long queues when we got to it, but to be fair we moved to the front quite quickly. You go in as a family and then have to navigate through to rob the bank vault without setting off the alarm via the laser sensors. The boys loved the idea and did really well but be warned you do have to wiggle all over the floor like a cat burglar!!! No good if you’re wearing a dress!

There were a few parts I found a bit ‘too’ weird – there was a whole section on real life freaks and some of the real shrunken heads (including a film on how they were made) were quite macabre! At the end of the journey there is of course a gift shop which is over priced and mainly full of sweets and a hard sell if the £25 posed photo books of you in Ripley style pith helmets they encourage you to pose for. However you can leave via the Laser Race route, which we did to avoid the cries of “Mum/Dad can I have…” We had a great day and I’d definitely recommend it. Book the tickets in advance and definitely don’t pay the price on the door and avoid the gift shop. But if you have kids under 12 I think its a great day out that will keep them talking (and thinking) for long after they leave. Find out more on the Ripleys website here. Photo sources my own or via the link above.