Browse Month by April 2018
Reviews, Travelling with 5

Legoland hotel Windsor – review

If you want value for money, the Legoland hotel is NOT the place to stay

This week, I took my son to Legoland, as it’s his favourite place in the world. His school go back a week later than most, so we thought we’d take advantage of that, hoping it would be quieter.

Legoland hotel Windsor, review - A Free From Life
Image courtesy of Karen Roe/Flickr

He’s stayed in the park hotel before when he’s been with my husband, but this was my first time there and I was really excited about our little trip away together. It’s important for me, to have one-on-one time with my children if we can manage it.

We booked an adventure room at a bed and breakfast rate, with two days in the park and believe me, it was not cheap, even though it was out of the school holidays.

The room was a great size, with a separate bunk area for the children, including their own television. As fancy as a room may look though, a decent bed and mattress is what makes a hotel room for me. I don’t care if it’s adorned with Lego ornaments if the bed is rock hard and the pillows disappear to nothing when you lay on them.

I may be fussier than most when it comes to beds because of my back problems, but when you are paying through the nose for a room, I think it’s the least you can expect.

At the Legoland hotel, even my son, a skinny little nine-year-old, complained his bed was uncomfortable. I tested it out and it was like sleeping on concrete. Neither of us slept well.

Room facilities
My son had fun working out the code for the treasure chest in our room, in which was a prize of a small Lego pack. It’s a nice gesture for the kids, though personally, I think you should get more than that. We’ve been to themed hotels before where the kids have received their own welcome packs and loans of DVD’s. Again, it comes back to value for money.

There is a Legoland Channel on the room TV which my son watched when we returned to our room on the first afternoon. He was disappointed there were only a handful of shows playing on repeat and once he was through them (which didn’t take long), there wasn’t much else to watch.

I looked up the entertainment and movie selections on the menu, but you had to ask for those separately. I didn’t, as I presumed that meant they would incur an extra charge.

On arrival, I asked which restaurant it would be best for us to eat in, as both my son and I are dairy and gluten intolerant. He recommended the Bricks Restaurant, as it is buffet style, therefore more choice. He assured the staff would be able to help us and even make something specific, for example he mentioned they could do a gluten free pizza.

The reality was, they don’t do gluten free pizza, but they did offer gluten free pasta. I asked one of the catering staff what we could have and he simply handed me the allergy folder. This told me there wasn’t a great deal on offer for us, so I opted for the carvery and my son had pasta with chilli.

It cost me over £30 for both of us to eat and it was the worst carvery I’ve ever had.

When it comes to vegetables, there’s ‘al dente’ and there’s raw. The broccoli, carrots and cauliflower had barely seen a bit of hot water between them and whilst I wouldn’t mind a bit of raw veg in a salad, in a roast dinner – no thanks.

The breakfast was a little better. There was soya milk on offer and the cooked breakfast choice allowed us to have a decent plate full to set us up for the day. The only gripe I had about breakfast, was being told they were unable to toast some gluten free bread separately. Be warned if you are coeliac, as you cannot possibly use those toasters – they are the ones where you feed your bread in and it comes out of the bottom (usually barely toasted). The trays are full of crumbs and there is no way you could toast some gluten free bread without contamination. It’s hard to believe they don’t have a grill in the kitchen or even a toaster. They’re not expensive.

In the Legoland resort itself, it is difficult to find anything to eat if you have an allergy or intolerance. If we hadn’t been staying at the hotel, we would have needed to take our own food. For our lunch, we opted for the Sky Bar, as it was the only one open anyway. The menu there is small and mostly consisting of breaded things. I queried the menu, as it offered wraps with various fillings and had a symbol on there that said it was gluten free.

As it turned out, according to the allergy folder, the wraps aren’t gluten free, so I hope they amend this menu so as not to confuse anyone.

On the first afternoon, a lovely lady in the Sky Bar restaurant sorted us out some grilled chicken with chips and salad. She was very helpful and understanding and for someone with specific dietary needs, you can imagine how grateful you are when you receive service like that.

Unfortunately, when we ate at this restaurant the following lunchtime, it was a disaster.

We had a big plate of chips brought out to us but no grilled meat or salad. By the time we were three quarters through the chips, a waitress came over and said they were sorry they hadn’t cooked the meat yet and it was going to take another fifteen minutes as it needed to be cooked separately.

Whilst I am extremely understanding about the need to cook food separately in order to cater for allergies, and I’m more than happy to wait longer for my meal, I don’t expect to get my meal in stages. Would you expect that from a restaurant?

‘Here you go, Madam, here’s half of your meal, I’ll bring the rest out later.’

It wouldn’t go down well would it?

I said not to worry, we would just have the chips and leave it at that. Can you guess what happened next? We’d just finished eating the chips and out comes the meat and salad.

By that point I just wanted to leave!

Overall impression
You know why the Legoland Hotel is so popular don’t you? It’s obvious. For the kids, it’s amazing, for park access, it’s so convenient. It’s no wonder people are prepared to pay through the nose to stay there. You want to give your kids great memories to treasure, but it’s wrong, in my opinion, to take advantage of that by charging people lots of money and not giving them value for it.

If you stay at the hotel, you can get into the park at 9.30am ahead of the queues. That sounds like a great advantage doesn’t it? Except that hardly anything is actually open until 10am and half the park didn’t open until 11. In the end, we didn’t gain much at all for getting up and into the park so early.

Did you know Legoland have just recently opened another hotel right next door? It’s called the Castle Hotel and it is EVEN MORE expensive. I can only hope it’s better, considering the amount people are expected to pay in order to stay there.

For what it cost us, we could have gone to a luxury five-star hotel, where the focus is on quality and service. But, hey, that’s not the point is it?

And Legoland sure do know that.


Some headaches are a pain in the neck

Treating headaches caused by neck pain

Headaches caused by neck pain - what causes them and how to treat - A Free From Life

I’ve been suffering from headaches for a while now and it’s reached the point where I need to find out what’s causing them, rather than just trying to ignore the issue and hope it goes away.

I’ve had my eyes checked already. This was my first thought actually, as I’m in my forties and as much as I don’t like to admit it, things don’t work like they used to. Luckily, my eyes were fine, more than fine for my age, so I was told. I won’t go into how smug that made me, but let’s just say, I was happy to cross that one off the list.

A number of different things working together can cause headaches. This can make the root cause difficult to diagnose.

An obvious thought was could it be migraines? I’ve never suffered from them, so I can’t imagine just how debilitating migraines can be when they come on. My headaches can feel severe at times and the pain presses down on my forehead like a vice. Sometimes, it can make focusing difficult, but I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was akin to a migraine. I suspected not because I was still able to function, I didn’t shy away from bright light or feel nauseous. There had to be another reason.

I get a lot of pain in the back of my neck and in my shoulders. Whatever I do, I can’t seem to stop this area of my body from tightening. It stems from an injury, 14 years ago, that was enough to damage my shoulder ligaments and put my left side at a disadvantage to my right even to this day.

It made sense to me that this old injury could the source of all my aches and pains, going one way, up into my neck and the other way, down into my middle back. I exercise with specialists who know about this injury and my limitations because of it and as much as this helps keep my body from seizing up completely, it doesn’t stop my headaches. In fact, sometimes, it can make them worse.

The type of headaches I suffer from are known as cervicogenic headaches, the source of which is a combination of the neck and shoulder blades becoming knotted or in spasm.

The upper three joints of the neck, C1, C2 and C3 share a pain nucleus with the trigeminal nerve. This trigeminal nerve is the main sensory nerve that carries messages from your face to your brain. When the neck and scalp muscles become tense, or equally, if they move around too much (hypermobile), pain radiates from the back of the head to the front causing a dull, vice-like pain. This can sometimes feel like pressure on the head. The top of the neck and base of the skull can feel tender and it can be painful around the temples, side of the face, or behind the eyes.

Many people suffer from tension headaches caused by physical or emotional stress, excess alcohol or caffeine, eyestrain or fatigue. Cervicogenic headaches, however, are much less common, with an estimated 0.4-2.5% of the population suffering from them. According to the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, the mean age of patients presenting with cervicogenic headaches is 42.9 years and they are four times more prevalent in women. Studies show cervicogenic headaches affect physical functioning of patients to a greater extent than other headache disorders.

I can certainly identify with this and when my headaches began to affect my everyday life, I knew it was time to do something about the problem.

I’m not the sort of person to rely on medication, BUT I will reach for the paracetamol if it gets bad enough. This only treats the symptoms though and I wanted to get to the root of my pain and sort out my headaches once and for all.

Massage can help, particularly when you massage the base of the scalp, but although this does alleviate the pain to an extent, I felt I needed more intervention. Time to call in the professionals!

Osteopathic treatment, combined with an exercise programme can be an effective treatment for headaches caused by neck pain. Studies also show the effectiveness of spinal manipulation and/or mobilisation to help.

Osteopath, Vladimir Levachyov has been interested in treating headaches ever since he saw his first headache patient in student clinic. When treating a patient, his first task (primarily based on the case history) is to ascertain whether the headache is primary or secondary, followed by diagnosing (or at least classifying) the headache type. To help with this, Vladimir regularly makes use of the ICHD-3 (The International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd edition).

“There are various factors that affect headaches, especially cervicogenic headaches. The common/close neurological link is one contributing mechanism, another is when the range of motion in the upper thoracic spine (the top of the ribcage) is decreased. The neck compensates by developing increased range of motion and when this happens, the ligaments around the joints can become slightly strained.

As a result, the muscles around the joints tighten up to protect the neck from further (perceived or otherwise) damage. The suboccipitals muscles (where the neck meets the skull), when overly tight, will press on whole nerves or branches of nerves that travel underneath these muscles; such as the greater auricular nerve (innervating the skin above the ear and the forehead) and the greater occipital nerve (innervating the skin at the back of the skull).”

The rationale for osteopathic treatment in the case of cervicogenic headaches is:
• To decrease the muscle tone (tightness) in the suboccipital and other neck muscles and hence relieve pressure on the nerves. This can be done in a number of ways, from soft tissue massage techniques, to using dry needling techniques with acupuncture needles, and of course home advice to stretch the suboccipital (and other appropriately chosen) muscles.
• To increase the range of motion of the thoracic spine; as this is increased the range of motion of the neck will normalise, meaning that the muscle tone should normalise, too.

Once you’ve embarked on an initial course of treatment for your cervicogenic headaches, there are a number of things you can do to help prevent them from re-occurring.

Your osteopath will give you lifestyle advice to help avoid the muscles getting tight.

• Check your everyday posture – excessive forward neck motion (such as bringing your head close to your phone or other screen) for extended periods will undoubtedly contribute to hypertonicity (tightness) of the suboccipital muscles.
• Invest in a good pillow and mattress.
• Invest time in daily neck and shoulder stretches
• Don’t sleep on your front

Treating and managing cervicogenic headaches is an on-going process and one I will have to pay close attention to in order to make sure I’m consistent with my exercises and that I re-visit an osteopath for regular check-ups. It’s not something I expect to cure overnight, but I’m relieved to have a professional diagnosis and a plan of action for tackling them.