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Edinburgh Dungeon review

Do you scare easily?

How vivid is your imagination?

Edinburgh Dungeon

 

Just like the time I went to see Shutter Island, I deliberately avoided reviews of Edinburgh Dungeon. I’ve not visited any of the sister attractions (London, York, Amsterdam etc) and I didn’t tell anyone I was going. I wanted to be surprised.

I went alone….

…which was stupid.

On four separate occasions I screamed out loud. Three times I burst out laughing. The Australian couple next to me thought I was highly amusing – until the Torturer pulled one of them out the crowd to demonstrate the castration device. He took one look and switched to the hamster castrator (yep, that was my third guffaw of the day).

I think it was the darkness.

I had no idea what was coming next – ever. We were standing, we were sitting, we were on a boat, we were in the dock, we were in a graveyard, we were underground – there was no pattern and no predictability.

The line between what was real and what wasn’t shifted constantly. People kept coming alive or appearing an inch from your nose. Your seat moved, the ground spun, the disorientation was brilliantly orchestrated.

There was one point when I was genuinely scared.

It’s not easy for me to admit that, being the optimistic pragmatist.

I won’t spoil it for you, but it is genuinely terrifying not being able to trust your senses. I wish I’d had a hand to hold (sob).

The finale was a hanging.

I wish I’d kept that picture – my hair is flying, my mouth is wide open and I look like I’m about to vomit. Instead I opted to get the warrior princess picture – the one where I look like William Wallace is about to decapitate me.

Edinburgh Dungeon

So my verdict:

  • Worth the entrance fee? (£18 per adult/£14 per child on the door, 20% off if you book online)

I’d say yes. It’s not cheap, but it’s 80 minutes of entertainment, including 11 shows and 2 rides.

  • Are the actors any good?

Hell, yeah. And this is coming from a Disney aficionado. To a woman, they were utterly convincing. One played a madman to a terrifying level of realness, the Torturer had a killer sense of humour and a razor sharp improv skill, and the new William Wallace show was one of the actors who made me scream out loud. Give them all an Oscar.

  • Should I take my kids?

Only if they’re in double digits. I spoke to the two 12 year olds on my tour and asked them if they’d been scared. They were lads so they were nonchalant but they admitted it was more frightening than they’d expected. My 7 year old would have had nightmares for weeks. The official advice is over 8s and under 5s aren’t allowed, so use your discretion.

  • Will I learn anything?

If I were to have any criticism it would be that the historical element was underplayed. I learned loads more from the guidebook (which, incidentally, is a journalist’s delight – my compliments to the publisher). Yes, each show is inspired by real events, but I felt like some of that was lost in the theatre. I’d rather have had a scary experience than a history lesson, but a few tweaks to the script would make the difference here.

  • What are the facilities like?

By its nature, the attraction is not particularly accessible – though there is a lift for visitors with mobility issues and, I’m told, a specialist wheelchair for evacuations. A couple of times they asked if people were sensitive to strobe lights, or had back problems or were pregnant. Those who had to stand out for these reasons were still actively involved in the experience, which I liked. The toilets were fine (there is a wheelchair-accessible toilet too) and the gift shop was quite cool, with a good range of products. There’s no cafe but they have a joint experience on offer with Hard Rock cafe which I would definitely buy if I had guests visiting Edinburgh. (from £32 per adult)

  • What if I’m a big Jessie?

The one public service announcement which really comforted me throughout the experience was “don’t touch the people you meet – they won’t touch you (and most of them have the plague anyway)”. The knowledge that no one would grab me turned out to be quite important – like the spinning top in Inception, it was the anchor for me. That’s not to say that things won’t touch you …

  • Overall verdict?

Atmosphere: 5/5

Performance: 5/5

Historical relevance: 4/5

Value for money: 4.5/5 – make sure you book online in advance!

Engagement: 5/5

 

My thanks to Emma at Merlin Entertainments for gifting me the ticket and the photograph.

This review was written independently with no copy approval from Merlin Entertainments

Book your experience online: http://www.thedungeons.com/edinburgh/en

 

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PAW PATROL LIVE! review

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After an astonishingly successful trip to Justin’s Band in March, I felt brave enough to accept a family press ticket to Paw Patrol Live – The Great Pirate Adventure.

The first thing to say is we are HUGE Paw Patrol fans in our house. Huge. Bribe-them-with-a-new-pup-for-sleeping-through-the-night huge.

So when I told them we were going to see them live, their faces were a picture.

“Live? Like alive? In real life?” KD sought to clarify with a three year old’s logic.

“Yes! They’ll be right in front of you! Marshall, Chase, Rubble – the whole gang!” I confirmed, as they both started jumping up and down squealing.

“Are you going to see Paw Patrol?” the nursery teacher asked at pick up. “He’s mentioned it once or twice…”

Then, at 6am today, a human bullet hit me in the stomach.

“Is it today Mummy? Do we have the tickets for today?” KD demanded, holding my face in his hands for my full focus.

Thank goodness it was a 10am showing.

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I’ll make a small complaint here about The Edinburgh Playhouse. No issue with the Box Office and ticket collection, but come on. A massive snaking queue of effervescent children waiting to get into the venue?

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At least it moved fairly quickly – and the ticket staff were fabulous.

“Now, no crowd surfing at the end, young man,” he warned my seven year old.

Huge thanks to Emma at Norton PR for acquiescing to my request for an aisle seat – we had row M in the circle. This meant loads of legroom and easy access which, when you have a child with ADHD, is a godsend.

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Kudos too to Mummy and Daddy who timed the entry to perfection – three minutes til showtime.

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As a parent, there are few things more touching than witnessing the look of glorious wonder on your children’s faces as they take in their cartoon heroes right in front of them.

They sat motionless.

Not silent, but motionless.

They yelled every character’s name and waved hello as they entered, gazed spellbound as they sang and danced, screamed and pointed at the errant parrot and generally soaked in the whole experience.

There was a quick dash to the cash point in the Omni centre so they could have the flashing cutlasses brandished by everyone around them (£15 a pop – ouch!). There was also a harried return to locate the mobile phone which slipped between the seats and was noted as missing back in the car. But otherwise, it was a stress-free experience.

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“I want to go and talk to them!” was the only complaint at the end. I wonder if the company might consider a meet-and-greet. Not in the foyer – that place was crazy. We even got collared by a film crew who wanted KD’s reaction – but he was in a huff. He was not up for it in the slightest. But perhaps somewhere else…

If I had to sum up the show in one word, it would be ‘energetic’.

The cast were brilliant – they must have been knackered by the end. I loved the way they combined oversize puppets with a video background. A lot of the music was familiar from the TV show, but there was plenty of new material too. The boys got involved with some of the dance routines and there was just enough panto “he’s behind you” to engage the audience without descending into farce.

As a parent, I loved it. Super colourful, high tempo, professional and fun.

As a kid – well, they couldn’t have been happier. When a boy with a short attention span can be engrossed for 90 minutes, you know you’ve done a great job.

Bravo production team.

5 star recommended *****

excited

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Vegan Challenge Day 1: Haribo horror

Today was going swimmingly until I caught sight of a packet of Haribo in the cupboard and realised it was off the menu.

Other disappointments included coffee made with almond milk (I mean really, vom) and grating cheese onto my son’s baked potato with beans while personally abstaining. But other than that – it was honestly no big deal. I had a wee bit of a headache today, but perhaps my ponytail was too tight or the wind on the mountain hurt my ears.

Yeah, we climbed a mountain today, my six year old son and I. We took a football with us. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. A mis-aimed kick on the ridge meant the ball disappeared and only a lunge from me stopped my child from following suit. He then threw an epic tantrum about finishing the climb, forcing me to put him on my shoulders in order to make the summit. There is a metaphor there for our relationship… Many Americans high-fived me and one lady offered her dog’s lead to tempt the Wee Man to climb up on his own, but no. Thighs burning, we reached the top of Arthur’s Seat and tucked into an Alpro plant-based dessert. I’d forgotten spoons, so we basically slurped it then I had to carry an open pot back down the track.

I mention this urban mountaineering only to illustrate that I did not faint from hunger nor suffer prolonged fatigue – in fact, I wasn’t hungry at all today. Not even after an hour of football in the park. I’m trying to figure out how I feel. Not really any different, to be honest. If anything it’s the lack of feeling that’s remarkable – no “crap I wish I hadn’t eaten that”, no full feeling, no pleasant tipsiness coupled with guilt that I’m potentially becoming an alcoholic. In fact, it’s quite a nice simple feeling. I gave my body what it needed today. I drank loads of water, ate loads of fruit and veg and that’s all there is to it. Hmmm.

Today’s menu:

Breakfast: overnight oats soaked in almond milk with half a tin of peaches; peppermint tea

Snack: Carrot and celery sticks with humous; pint of squash

Lunch: Two seeded rolls with humous, cucumber and spinach; apple; Alpro dessert; pint of water

Snack: Walnuts and raisins, pint of squash after almond coffee rejected

Dinner: Baked potato with baked beans and spinach; pint of squash; two bananas

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Halloween 2016

Man, Halloween has been fun this year!

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I dressed up as a cat to collect the Wee Man from school today. He shit himself, ran away and hid in a cupboard. Clearly I was more excited than he was.

His friend at school has an army major for a dad and the Wee Man thinks this is the coolest thing in the world. The major, having one daughter, has formed a lovely relationship with him and gave him an old army shirt and hat. The Wee Man has the salute down and marched around the neighbourhood showing off for sweets, while his little brother sang a sort of Baa Baa Black Sheep in his skeleton costume.

We were home for 6 and waited for the guisers, a ‘Welcome to the Haunted House’ mat at the foot of the stairs and our Shrek and crazy pumpkins on the steps.

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Well.

If ever we needed reminding we live in Edinburgh now, tonight we got the message.

Highlights included jokes in French, a stunning verse and chorus from Phantom of the Opera complete with falsetto, the response “Well, I’ll take the Aston Martin,” when I said we’d run out of sweets and, my personal favourite, a gorgeous impromptu rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by 12 ten year olds when the two year old forgot the words. In harmony.

So even though I’ve run out of sweets, crisps, packets of jelly, rice cakes and every pound coin in my wallet, I have been thoroughly entertained and made to feel even more at home here in the capital.

 

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First week in Edinburgh

Rod and I sat eating steak and ale pie today in a little restaurant called Mackenzies, with no children. It was peaceful. The noise of the last seven days had finally subsided and we could eat, talk in full sentences and stay seated. It was nice.

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The wallpaper in the wee man’s room was unexpected…

Not to say our first week in the capital hasn’t been nice, it’s just been a bit mental. The biggest problem has been the stairs. We have lived in a bungalow for the last three years, so the wee man has turned into George of the Jungle and KD has become a penguin, sliding down on his belly at any opportunity. It’s been tricky carrying boxes up and down and preventing A&E trips (again. See last post.)

We’ve had the inevitable sleepless nights as the big one plays musical beds and the wee one cries for no apparent reason, we’ve had the hourly shouts of “have you seen the…?” and we’ve been trying to only put things in the attic when the wee man is distracted otherwise he demands to ‘help’.

But now that everything is unpacked and the boys are in nursery for their first full day, Rod, who starts his new job tomorrow, and I can congratulate ourselves a bit. We’re here – we made it! We’re still standing and still married. We LOVE Colinton and we were pleasantly surprised with the size of the house, which actually fits all our stuff.

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We were delighted to discover a lane between our neighbours’ houses which leads almost directly to the Water of Leith and a fantastic playpark. The local shops, which we can walk to, include two pubs, two restaurants, a coffee shop, a post office, a dry cleaner and an art gallery (we are in Edinburgh after all). We walked up to the nursery this morning and we can drive to our fancy-pants new gym in 15 minutes. (I might give the gym its own post I’m so chuffed with it.)

I think, though, the best thing about being here has been the people. On Monday night we pretty much turned up at Karrie and Andy’s demanding dinner. They live a 12 minute walk away and we had only just got the keys and the kids were hungry. Their little poppet, who’s two and a half, even offered her booster seat to KD. Love.

On Wednesday my mum came through from Glasgow for the day and on Sunday my sister just popped by with her boyfriend – I can’t tell you how much I love that they can do that now. We even got a lovely welcome from friends we’d made on holiday this year who live in The Grange in a fabulous house they’ve recently extended. They gave us coffee and cakes and didn’t even fuss when the wee man mistook their daughter’s treasured snow globe for a bouncy ball and hurled it against the wall. Mortified, I helped search through Amazon for a replacement – only to click ‘buy now’ and casually charge it to our friends’ account. Guys – again – I’m sorry – we will make it up to you. *cringe*

Tomorrow I’ll wave Rod off with his new schoolbag, take the wee man to nursery and have my day with KD. We’re booked into a baby singing class at the gym (told you it was awesome) and then I’m looking forward to a long walk exploring my new city. I think we’re going to like it here.

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On the move again

I’ll need to change the blog tag to: Mummykimmy – a Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh blog.

On Monday we get the keys to our temporary new home in the capital and I am very nearly excited.

See, I thought we were doing it the right way this time, with Rod taking some time off between jobs and our Little Orange Book of Lists keeping us right. But life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

We haven’t sold the house yet, we only sorted the lease on the rented house today and my youngest child swallowed a glass pebble yesterday so we had an unscheduled overnight at the children’s hospital in Glasgow. We’ve also spent rather more time planning our social engagements than our packing schedule – do you think I could ask the babysitter to empty a few cupboards once the boys are asleep?

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Bright as a button after the glass pebble was removed under general anaesthetic

Basically it’s all on Rod. In a dramatic role reversal, I will be in the office tomorrow while he stays at home organising. He loves a trip to the dump so I’m prepared for some of our stuff to disappear forever. He also thinks packing just means chucking everything in boxes so I’m prepared for some of our stuff to get crushed and destroyed. Other than that, I’m delighted he’s doing all the heavy lifting while I have a farewell office lunch and get my nails done.

I feel I deserve this day – I did all the groundwork after all. I found the rental, the nursery and the gym, our top three priorities and only descending slightly in difficulty. The rental had to be in the catchment for the right school, be on the right side of the city, have three bedrooms, not cost the earth and be available this month on a 6 month lease. Tick – we’ve got a lovely, tiny, semi-detached in Colinton. The nursery had to be excellent, nearby and with availability for two children before Christmas. Tick  – we’ve enrolled the boys in a super friendly nursery a fifteen minute walk away. And the gym, well, it has to be David Lloyd, which has a creche.

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I’ll have this one please – it’s only £2m

Driving around Colinton last time I was down made me so happy. I still can’t really believe it’s going to be our home. Our plan is to buy a place in the area (if we ever sell up here) and I got quite carried away driving along Spylaw spending Monopoly money on a mansion overlooking the river. Just being in the capital, with its ridiculously located castle, its impenetrable traffic system and its boutique businesses in abundance, made me convinced the hassle is worth it.

Five days to go.

 

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