The Musical Every Teenager Is Talking About

The Musical Every Teenager Is Talking About

Are you a fan of musicals or plays?  It's a question that can divide a room.  It's a bit like being a coffee or a tea drinker.  You tend to fall into one of the two camps.  Personally I would opt for a play over a musical 90% of the time, but musicals are a big part of London's theatre culture and hard to ignore regardless of your proclivity.  The one that every teenager is talking about at the moment, is Jamie.

Inspired by a real-life story of a teenage boy from County Durham, the musical has its roots in a BBC3  documentary called Jamie - Drag Queen at 16.

I first heard about the musical whilst listening to an interview between Jamie and his mother Margaret and Jenni Murray on Woman's Hour.  It was touching to hear how his mother, who had been on her own for much of his childhood, had not only stood by him but gone out of her way to encourage him to be true to himself.

When Jamie came out to his mother at the age of 14 he declared he was bisexual in a misguided attempt to make it easier for Margaret, however, she told him "not to be are gay."  She is clearly not the type of woman to look at the world through rose-tinted spectacles.

The real Jamie's self-confidence was so evident in the interview and this was portrayed beautifully in the musical characterisation by actor John McCrea. From the outset he is presented as a young man sure of his own identity in a way which many teenagers are invariably not and this was clearly due in no small part to the unswerving love and support of his mother, who he describes not surprisingly as his rock.

Their  relationship lies at the centre of this musical and demonstrates wholeheartedly, the unconditional love of a parent for their child and the lengths they will go to in order to guarantee their happiness.  What parent can't relate to that?

At the heart of Jamie's story and therefore that of the musical is Jamie's ambition to be a drag queen and to wear a dress to his school prom.  As with any gritty British tale of conquering adversity there are, however, obstacles along the way to Jamie realising his dream, not least the battle to overcome prejudice around him.  There is after all, a world of difference between sporting peroxide hair and being flamboyant in your appearance and openly wearing a dress.

A teenage plot without prejudice at its core wouldn't be complete without that ever popular teenage theme of bullying.  This is present in two characters.  First there is the school thug who struggling with his own sense of identity seeks to provoke and intimidate Jamie at every opportunity.  There is, however, no real conflict between them as Jamie is so steadfast in his confidence that he easily overcomes the bully's verbal assaults with acerbic and humorous dialogue, of the kind that every parent worldwide hopes their own teenager will be able to summon up to defend themselves.

This approach is not, however, so successful with the second antagonist, Jamie's absent father, a man who clearly struggles with his son not being the kind of man he wants him to be.  Shielded from this throughout his life by his mother, Jamie is lost for words in the face of his aggressive assaults when he misguidedly turns up unexpectedly to thank him for the symbolic red birthday shoes that provide the basis for his first drag queen performance. This is the only time you see Jamie crumble and in real life there is no contact between the pair.

The other theme within the play that I loved was the value of female friendship.  Margaret's dear friend Ray is there for her every step of the way, listening, advising and acting as a mummy double to Jamie when he has his rare moments of doubt.  As a mother and a female, it's another thread that gives you that feel good factor, the kind that makes your toes curl and forces you to think who would be that person in your life.

Overall the musical is vibrant, energetic, witty and sassy and what John McCrea can do in those red stilettos puts many a heel obsessed woman to shame.  More importantly, however, in a world where it is no longer politically correct to make gay comments, Jamie is bang up to date with its nod to gender politics.  The unapologetic hilarity of its campness smacks you in the face and invites you to laugh out loud.  For me and maybe other parents in the auditorium it was reminiscent of the good time feel of a night at the infamous Madame Jojo's.  For the teenagers it enforced the need to stand up for themselves and offered a glimpse into another world where anything is possible. All in all if you have teenagers in the house it is an absolute must see.


I love to hear your views and comments.  Are you a fan of musicals? Have you seen Jamie? If not do you think you might?



Las Vegas – The California Road Trip Finale

Las Vegas – The California Road Trip Finale

"Save the best for last" is a popular saying I grew up with and as we left behind the glitz and glamour of LA last year on the final leg of our California road trip and headed towards Las Vegas I wondered if it would be the case this time.

The drive from LA to Las Vegas is breathtaking and I know if you have read my earlier pieces on this trip I have said that before, but this was on a different level.  In place of the dramatic sea views along the Pacific Coast Highway are miles of open desert, blue skies and wild, rugged scenery.  How can that be breathtaking?  Well it just is.  You really do feel that it is just you and the elements and for a woman of my age it was a bit reminiscent of Thelma & Louise, but in place of a 1966 Ford Thunderbird and my best mate was a Nissan 4x4, air-conditioning, my husband and teens.


My husband last visited Las Vegas on a road trip with his own parents as a teenager, but for me and our teens it was our first experience. Regardless of how often you may have seen it on TV or in a movie, nothing prepares you for your first sighting.  The Vegas skyline looms out of the hazy heat of  the desert and is made up of the most incongruous collection of familiar landmarks from other renowned cities' skylines. The Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye all sit alongside each other.

America does everything on a big scale but Las Vegas epitomises that more than anywhere else that we visited and that applies to the hotels too.   Ask anyone who has been and everyone will have a different opinion on where is best to stay and why.  All the hotels are landmarks in their own right and are big and brash. The Excalibur looks like a Disney castle, The Luxor constitutes a Sphinx and a Pyramid and Caesar's Palace needs little introduction.  Then there is the Mandalay Bay with its very own Shark Reef.  We opted for the more sedate Cosmopolitan, less theatrical but equally as grand and dramatic as the others, with a jaw-dropping chandelier and bedroom views to match.

By day everything looks a bit tawdry and sad in Las Vegas, but by night the city comes alive.  Lights flash on every external wall, in fact it is so bright it is easy to become disoriented; fountains erupt into life and jets of water are synchronised with music.  Walking along the strip at night is an absolute must to appreciate the full Vegas experience.  It is a complete sensory overload but one not to be avoided.

Vegas is synonymous with hedonism, great entertainment and excess.  Gambling is what made the city what it is.  When banned in California, Nevada made it legal in 1931.  So did we gamble?  Well yes we did. It is hard to resist.  The atmosphere is addictive and particularly after you have had a fabulous meal, a few cocktails and the teens are out of sight!  I would love to say we won but as with all things addictive it is difficult to stop and of course probably like many others we got over-excited and lost!

However, although every hotel foyer is filled from morning until night with shouts from tables, the crash of coins or the annoying simulation of a computer slot machine there is alot more on offer.

Las Vegas houses some of the best restaurants and bars with an atmosphere to match.  It is home to some of the finest boutiques, they may all be empty by day but by night, the five storey shopping emporiums come alive. Vegas also stages some great shows, some of which have literally been showing for years, including my childhood favourites Donny & Marie Osmond!

The Blue Man Group was our show of choice whilst in town and we were not disappointed.  The show combines many different categories of music and art, both popular and obscure and what they can do with some steel drums and paint or a box of cereal needs to be seen to be believed.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but safe to say it was like nothing I had experienced before.  It is comedy, theatre, rock concert and dance party all rolled into one.  One thing it is not, is logical.  Cast aside your inhibitions. It is a time to go nuts and I say that as someone who generally prefers not to do that, well with strangers at least.  There is nowhere to hide in this show and audience participation is a necessity but it is not on quite the level you expect.  Well worth a visit if you want something that will appeal to the whole family.

Entertainment aside, there is another side to Las Vegas and that is its accessibility to the many natural and man-made wonders of the area and fabulous tourist hotspots, not least the Hoover Dam and of course the fantastic Grand Canyon both of which are within easy reach, which means the madness of the city can be easily balanced by the peace and wide open spaces in the desert beyond.  More fabulous views!

Las Vegas is cheesy, sleazy, artificial and excessive beyond all boundaries of excess you may have encountered before.  It is completely unique, wonderfully awful and awfully wonderful and that takes some doing.  It wasn't the best but for the 36 hours we were there before flying home it provided a fabulous and unforgettable finale to our trip.


This post is the final part in a series on our California Road Trip with Teens.  If you missed the previous posts you can view them via the links below.

A California Road Trip with Teens - Part One

Whale Watching in Monterey - California Part Two

The Big Sur - A California Road Trip - Part Three

Los Angeles - A California Road Trip - Part Four








Los Angeles – A Californian Road Trip – Part Four

Los Angeles – A Californian Road Trip – Part Four

Los Angeles is a must visit destination for anyone doing a road trip through California and for our teens it was a much anticipated highlight of our holiday.

Leaving the opulence of Hearst Castle behind we left Highway 1 and took the well known and faster Route 101 towards LA, stopping off first for a couple of days in Santa Barbara.

Widely referred to as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is a Southern Californian rarity in that it is a city with a single architectural style.  Following a devastating earthquake in 1952, the centre was rebuilt according to strict rules that dictated a Mediterranean style. The result is a city filled with white stucco buildings with red-tile roofs, which to a Brit abroad seem an incongruous feature on the sunny Californian coast.

The perfect stop off, Santa Barbara is an eclectic mix of just about everything.  With the Santa Ynez Mountains providing a dramatic backdrop as well as housing many wineries, Santa Barbara is perfect for aficionadas and novices alike to learn about and taste wines. There is history and culture at the Museum of Fine Arts and the gallery of El Paseo and the Mission Santa Barbara perched on a hilltop, houses Franciscan friars and a museum should it take your fancy.  For the green-fingered, the botanic garden is not to be sniffed at either, housing 40 acres of California's native flora.

For us though Santa Barbara also provided the perfect opportunity to ease off on the sight-seeing and indulge in a bit of shopping.  State Street is the hub of Santa Barbara's shopping district and it is and certainly was for us at least, easy to spend a whole day getting lost in the plethora of shops on offer.

After the almost suburban perfection of Santa Barbara, LA was the perfect antithesis, loud, brash and glitzy.

LA is best described as a series of interconnected villages, each with its own distinctive character from the affluence of Bel Air to the urban chic of Downtown LA.  The first thing that struck us on arriving was the traffic, the eight lane jams made a drive around the M25 seem like a walk in the park.

We chose not to stay in LA opting instead for the coastal community of Santa Monica.  The beach and that of its neighbour Venice is awash with people if not striving for, then certainly showing off their bodies beautiful.  A leisurely stroll along the boardwalk is littered with close encounters with skaters, surfers, cyclists, segways and then there are the guys pumping iron at the notorious Muscle Beach which of course fascinated our fitness obsessed eldest teenager.  It is an experience unlike any other, but one that is quintessentially LA.

The main attraction for us, or more particularly the teens on this section of our trip was a visit to Universal Studios, Hollywood. Housed in Burbank, the city's media centre and home to Buena Vista, Disney and Warner Bros it is a must visit.  To be honest my natural aversion to theme parks didn't put it high on my agenda but outnumbered 3 to 1, I went along for the ride.

Like everything in the US, it certainly didn't disappoint.  We had booked Front of Line passes to make accessing the shows, rides and attractions easier, but that aside the park and its facilites are extremely clean and laid out on two levels are well organised, making it easy to navigate and an altogether more pleasant experience than some UK theme parks I have visited.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is particularly impressive with reconstructions of Hogwarts and the shops of Hogsmeade and houses one of the scariest rides (or so I was told anyway) in the park.

As you would expect there are a variety of film-themed rides, some of which make the most of motion simulation combined with 3D and 4D technology to bring the experience alive incuding Fast & Furious, King Kong and Transformers.

In addition there is the World Famous Studio Tour which takes in sets from past and present films and shows in the largest set construction project in studio history.  These include the smouldering wreckage from Spielbergs War Of The Worlds and Jaws which was a particular highlight for us as it provided our eldest teen with the chance to come face to face with the fibreglass construction that haunted his dreams in his tweens and has kept him firmly out of the sea both home and abroad ever since for fear of sharks!  What makes the tour particularly special though is that Universal is a real working movie studio and therefore there is a high likelihood of witnessing filming in progress, which we did on our trip.

Aside from this there is also a lot of live entertainment at Hollywood Studios.  Our favourites were the Special Effects Show which features real Hollywood stunt actors recreating unforgettable moments from your favourite movies and WaterWorld which is a full-on explosive display of pyrotechnic effects that literally has you standing on the edge of your seat.

Aside from Universal the other must sees in LA of course are the Hollywood sign on Mount Lee and the Walk Of Fame.  The former is quite frankly a massive anti-climax.  You can if you wish go on a tour and get up close and personal with the sign but we felt this was a bit OTT so opted for viewing it from afar.  I don't know what I expected really but the best place to view it is from a bridge in the Hollywood and Highland shopping centre, a rather tacky construction on Hollywood Boulevard that offers peerless views of the sign. Maybe we should have gone on the tour because there was a definite "is that it?" sentiment to our viewing experience from the bridge.

The Walk of Fame however didn't disappoint, although it is a battle to manoeuvre your way through the hoards of tourists to get a glimpse of the terrazzo and brass stars.  Close by is Grauman's state-of-the-art Chinese Theatre where you can still check out Marilyn Monroe's impossibly tiny handprints and revel in the array of celebrity hand and footprints on display.

All in all LA rocks.  A glittering city for sure, we had the best time and we left, if not with a bit of Hollywood glamour then at the very least a sense of having been there and done that to add to our memory catalogue of family holidays.


This post is the fourth in a series on our California Road Trip with Teens.  If you missed the previous posts you can view them via the links below.

A California Road Trip with Teens - Part One

Whale Watching in Monterey - California Part Two

The Big Sur - A California Road Trip - Part Three





Educating Out Prejudice – Just How Tolerant Are We?

Educating Out Prejudice – Just How Tolerant Are We?

"Why on earth would I want to end my week by going to see a play about a man having sex with a goat?"   This was the question asked by a very dear friend as we set off to the theatre last week.

The play in question was Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? with Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo.  Avid theatre goers, we have all enjoyed many a memorable night together, but none quite like last week.

It divided and united us in equal measure which to me at least is an indication of a good play.  Theatre is not about pure entertainment it is about provoking a reaction, encouraging the audience to ask questions of themselves and society and The Goat Play as it is fondly known did just that.

I would be lying if I said the actors weren't largely responsible for getting me through the door, but so too was my natural curiosity.  I was not familiar with the play before attending last week so went albeit with some doubts simmering beneath the surface, a relatively open mind.

Enjoying drinks in the Oscar Wilde bar before the performance, we listened as the waitress regaled everyone with stories on audience reactions since opening, including those about some finding it all too much and leaving mid-performance.  In all honesty as we settled into our seats we were expecting our dear friend to join them.

The play is a quasi Greek tragedy.  It is the story of Martin, a married, middle-aged man and successful architect and his tragic fall from grace and the consequences upon his family, when he falls in love spiritually and physically with a goat.  Not only is this an unquestionably absurd story line it is evidently repugnant.

Bestiality is not an easy subject matter.  Shock is the predominant reaction of both the other characters in the play and the audience, as simultaneously you find yourselves experiencing the full emotional gamut of disgust, horror and anger, recoiling with every moral fibre in your body.

However, the play is not about bestiality, it is merely a means to an end.  By using a subject matter so unnatural and divisive, what the play does brilliantly is highlight how intolerant as a society we are and question how far we have really come in our seemingly progressive thinking.

The play is not asking us to accept bestiality but it forces us to hold up a mirror and look at our own prejudicial weaknesses.  Who is to say what is tolerable and what is not?  This is accentuated superbly by Martin's own incongruous response to his gay teenage son's sexual preferences, which he finds difficult to comprehend.

Albee said in an interview at the play's New York premiere "I want everybody to be able to think about what they can’t imagine and what they have buried deep as being intolerable and insufferable."

By shining the spotlight on those living outside the conventional, it is a play about the limits of our tolerance and who we really are.

Our tweens and teenagers are growing up in an increasingly more tolerant and progressive society than the one we inhabited at their age, yet still Albee's message is pertinent.

No-one likes to think of themselves as being prejudiced but we all have our own individual views on what is acceptable and what is not and and thereby unless we all share the same views, prejudice in some shape or form will exist and nowhere is this more prevalent than in relation to our sexual preferences.

"How would you feel if one of your friends came out as a Lesbian?" "Who knows what it means to be Gender Neutral?" "How accepting do you think you would be of a transgender woman at school?" were among the many questions asked of my daughter's class during lessons and debates marking LGBT History Month.

Homophobia in our schools is described as being at epidemic levels and it is commendable that there is a concerted effort at breaking down these barriers early, educating out prejudice and encouraging a more open-minded society, yet how easy is it to influence a change in opinion later in life?  Only last week Caitlyn Jenner was subject to transphobic abuse whilst leaving the British LGBT awards, demonstrating that even in an environment where tolerance should be high, there is still a way to go in our seemingly liberal society to being more inclusive.

There is no doubt though that there is a commitment to challenging the limits of our tolerance and even the big consumer brands are getting in on the act.  Heineken's new Worlds Apart campaign partners groups of strangers with a variety of opposing views including a transgender woman and a right-wing guy who thinks it's "wrong," and in doing so attempts to overcome barriers in our polarized world.

In the meantime, plays like The Goat, will continue to entertain and shock in equal measure and force us to question our own moral judgment of a variety of social taboos, not just sexual ones.  As for us, well we left the play agreeing to disagree on whether that is possible, but the mere fact we debated it went some way to achieving Albee's purpose of forcing us to stand back and consider a different stance to the black and white version.


Featured on HuffPostUK 





The Big Sur – A California Road Trip – Part Three

Driving for long stretches is historically my idea of a holiday from hell, but our California Road Trip changed all that.  It is hard to believe how you could have more fun in a hire car than on the Pacific Coast Highway, aka Highway 1.

Traveling from North to South so that the sea is on your side is the only way to tackle the journey, albeit slowly as everyone pulls over to admire the spectacular views.

Leaving Carmel and Monterey behind, one of the most memorable spots to stop along the Big Sur is at the colony of elephant seals at Piedras Blancas   As you emerge from your car the first thing that hits you is the noise and the second the smell.

Coming from Norfolk and growing up close to Blakeney Point which is home to England's largest colony of grey seals, I didn't think there was much more that could impress me with regard to seals but yet again on this trip I was proven wrong.

One of the great things about the US is the abundance of people on hand eager to help and at the viewing point a volunteer ranger was only too happy to share his knowledge about the seals to the hoards of tourists and bystanders.

Perhaps not surprisingly, elephant seals derive their name from their size and from the male's large nose, which begins to develop when the male reaches puberty at about five years and is fully developed by eight to nine years. The largest seal in the northern hemisphere and the second largest in the world, the adult elephant males are particularly impressive to see.  You cannot help but be struck by their sheer size and on mass they are quite an intimidating sight.

The beach at the rookery spreads over 6 miles and even though it wasn't the busiest time when we were there, there were elephant seals stretched as far as the eye could see.

The seals are in the open ocean eight to ten months of the year only coming ashore to the rookery at three key periods.  In the winter they come for the pupping and mating season, and in the late spring and early summer to molt and grow new fur.

October when we were there was the third population peak as this is the time that the young seals arrive on the beach for a rest and to spar with each other which really does make for entertaining viewing.  It is so breathtaking that you can easily wile away time just admiring the view and watching these enormous creatures battle it out with each other as the females doze in the sun seemingly oblivious.  


From here we made our way to Hearst Castle, the fantastical creation of the millionaire publisher William Randolph Hearst, developed in collaboration with America's first licensed female architect Julia Morgan over many decades.  Overlooking San Simeon La Cuesta Encantada, which means Enchanted Hill, certainly lives up to its name and boasts yet more glorious views of the Pacific Ocean.  What's not to like about this??!!

Hearst Castle is not a place for exploring unaided, in order to see the estate you have to book on to a guided tour of which there are several to choose from. Leaving your car at the visitor centre at the bottom, a bus takes you on the 5 mile ascent up the winding hill and then once at the top you are met by a guide who takes you around the public areas of the estate.

Seeing really is believing this place.  This sprawling estate comprises 165 rooms, acres of landscaped gardens, pools and fountains, statues from ancient Greece and Moorish Spain and the ruins of what was once the worlds largest private zoo; in fact after our visit as we continued along Highway 1 we spotted herds of zebra grazing on the hillside.

For the teens this was without doubt the least interesting part of our road trip but we felt that we could not justify driving past and not taking  a look.  To be honest I am not a great one for following the pack, preferring to explore in my own time and did find myself siding with the teens at a couple of points so was thankful that we had only booked the introductory Grand Rooms tour which was still a good two hours.

Interestingly, when I asked the ranger at the seal rookery whether he would recommend a trip to the castle, he said it wouldn't compare to anything that we have in the UK and in a sense he was right. Hearst Castle is not a place of heritage or steeped in history as we know it, it is literally the realisation of a very rich man's quest to build a museum where he could house his personal collections of rare and ancient works of art - of which there are many.

Hearst Castle is in effect a new build castle, a monument to ostentatiousness and I left feeling slightly disappointed and with lowered expectations.  Each room houses an assortment of artefacts from around the world, most acquired as a result of the plundering during the World Wars.

Renaissance and Baroque tapestries hang above neoclassical scultpure.  Church pews align the walls alongside 20th century sofas and armchairs.  Silver candlesticks from the Middles Ages sit on a refectory style dining table with mustard and ketchup bottles.  A 15th century Spanish ceiling adorns the billiard room with a Flemish tapestry from 1500.  Then just when you think you have seen everything, on the way out you are taken through the decadent indoor Roman bath with intricate blue and gold tiling and adorned with sculptures of Greek and Roman gods .

Considering this was formerly a private estate, it lacks any form of design cohesion that you would normally associate with a home.  Overall for me Hearst Castle was all a bit incongruous, but nevertheless the collection itself is not to be dismissed  and rivals that of many museums even today, it is certainly a place not to be missed.


This post is the third in a series on our California Road Trip with Teens.  If you missed the first posts you can view them via the links below.

A California Road Trip with Teens - Part One

Whale Watching in Monterey - California Part Two






Win Free Grand Designs Live Show Tickets, with CLC World Resorts & Hotels

Win Free Grand Designs Live Show Tickets, with CLC World Resorts & Hotels

Who doesn't love watching Channel 4's Grand Designs? For me it combines two of my favourite pastimes - indulging my fantasy for picture perfect designer rooms in my house, as well as getting a glimpse into the real agony and joy of others on their quest to make their own grand design happen.

The plus of course is Kevin McCloud,  design guru and silver fox of the interiors world.   Do I need to say more?

Based on the hugely successful TV series, this year's Grand Designs Live show runs for 9 days from 29th April - 7th May at Excel London.

The show offers visitors a unique opportunity to see all the latest trends for the home including many products never seen before.

Packed with over 500 exhibitors, across seven different sections, it promises to be a show not to be missed.

What's not to like? It ticks all my boxes and if like me, you harbour dreams of a grand design project, hopefully it will tick yours too.

The good news is to help make your dreams a reality, I  am really excited to have tickets to giveaway courtesy of CLC World Resorts & Hotels, Europe's largest independent resort operator and developer who are also providing the main prize of the show if you are in the middle of planning a small or grand design of your own and are in need of some inspiration or expert advice, this is the giveaway for you.

The entry requirements are really simple and please don't forget to leave a comment on my blog letting me know about your own Grand Design plans, past or present, small or large, I would love to hear about it.

Good Luck!


How To Enter - Rules

Leave a comment on this blog.

Follow me @motherofteensuk on Twitter

Retweet the competition post on my Twitter page

Follow @clcworld on Twitter or visit their facebook page CLC World Resorts


Terms & Conditions

  • Competition details form part of these terms and conditions.
  • Entry is open to residents of the UK except employees (and their families) of CLC World, its printers and agents, the suppliers of the prizes and any other companies associated with the competitions.
  • The entrant(s) must be aged 18 or over. Proof of identity and age may be required.
  • Use of a false name or address will result in disqualification.
  • The competition opens at 12.00am on 20th April 2017 and ends at 12.00am on 27th April 2017. Entries that are incomplete, illegible, indecipherable, duplicated or which contain profanity will not be valid and deemed void.
  • To enter, applicants must follow the rules outlined above.
  • All entries must be made directly by the person entering the competition.
  • No responsibility can be accepted for entries lost, due to computer error in transit.
  • The prizes are as stated and comprises of two tickets for Grand Designs Live (valid between the 29th April – 7th May) to be awarded to one winner. The prize is not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered.
  • Prizes are subject to availability and the prize suppliers' terms and conditions.
  • Prizes will be posted to the winner within 48 hours of them providing their postage details.
  • The winner will be contacted via Twitter on 28th April.
  • Entrants must be prepared to be able to organise their own travel to Grand Designs Live on a date between the 29th April – 7th May , in the case that they are selected to win the competition.
  • The promoters reserve the right to amend or alter the terms of competitions at any time and reject entries from entrants not entering into the spirit of the competition.
  • In the event of a prize being unavailable, the promoter reserves the right to offer an alternative prize of equal or greater value.
  • The winner(s) agree(s) to the use of their name, photograph and disclosure of county of residence and will co-operate with any other reasonable requests by Mother of Teenagers and/or CLC World, relating to any post-winning publicity.
  • Unless stated otherwise the winner(s) will be drawn at random from all correct entries received by the closing date stated within the promotional material 27th April 2017.
  • Reasonable efforts will be made to contact the winner(s). If the winner(s) cannot be reached within 24 hours of being notified of their win, or they are unable to comply with these terms and conditions, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the next eligible entrant drawn at random, or in the event that the promotion is being judged, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the runner(s)-up selected by the same judges.
  • Confirmation of the prize will be made via online correspondence to the winner.
  • Failure to respond and/or provide an address for delivery, or failure to meet the eligibility requirements may result in forfeiture of the prize.
  • Where applicable, the decision of the judges is final based on the criteria set out in the promotion and no correspondence will be entered over this decision.
  • Competitions may be modified or withdrawn at any time








Whale Watching in Monterey – California Part Two

Whale Watching in Monterey – California Part Two

For the next stage of our California Road Trip we headed South.  From San Francisco we took Highway 1 over the Golden Gate Bridge, following the same route we had taken only two days previously on our bikes and started our journey down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) along one of the most spectacular and dramatic scenic routes I have ever traveled.

The highway literally hugs the cliffs, winding along the coast and giving you open views of the Pacific and the beaches below.  There are frequent pull off points for cars and it is almost impossible to avoid stopping to take a picture whenever you can and to just stand and stare at the view.  Brought up near the coast in Norfolk, I am naturally drawn to the sea but this was like nothing I had ever seen.  It is overwhelmingly beautiful.



As well as viewing spots to take photographs, there are also many places to park and enjoy a picnic with seating areas looking out to the Ocean, in fact I challenge anyone to find a finer place to eat a sandwich.  Our destination was Carmel which allowing for stops along the route was approximately  a 3 hour drive.  Carmel is a town in Monterey County, well known for its famous mayor Clint Eastwood and its multitude of art galleries.  In fact there are reported to be 100 in the town itself and with such stunning scenery to inspire them it is not hard to see why.


A charming oddity of the town is that it is illegal to wear high heels on the cobbled pavements, which made me smile as the town, although small is full of designer boutiques and perfectly coiffured ladies walking their picture perfect dogs along the streets and would in my opinion seem the ideal place to take a stroll in a pair of Manolo's.

Carmel is, however, a convenient spot for visiting the more touristy town of  Monterey for a spot of whale watching which is why we were there.  Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey is home to various whale watching tours but a keen diver Mr MoT had booked in advance with Monterey Bay Whale Watch as the trips are conducted by experienced marine biologists.

Despite my love for being near the sea, I am not keen on boats and tend to avoid them at all costs, so on the day of the trip I was feeling mildly nervous.  My husband kept assuring me it would be fine whilst pointing out that the sea was like a "mill pond" so there really was nothing to be afraid of.  However, that was the bit of the sea that we could see immediately in front of us, you didn't need to be a brain surgeon to work out that the bit with the whales in would not be like that.  Informed by the shore staff that it was "choppy" on the day of our trip we took motion sickness tablets and prepared to board.

Anyone prone to sea sickness will tell you that the only place to be is at the back of the boat with your eyes on the horizon and that is where I sat.  The boat was small in comparison to the others we had seen in the harbour yet I had been assured that a single hulled boat in choppy waters is better for managing the nausea.   We were soon to find out.

As we left the harbour we were surrounded by sea lions basking in the sunlight on the piers and old abandoned boats in the harbour and as we headed out to sea the cacophany of their barks rang in our ears.  As promised it was choppy.  In fact I had to avoid looking at the swell of the waves to maintain my calm and all this whilst being quizzed by a friendly group of Californians on Brexit!  Nothing like taking your mind of it I suppose.

Every now and then the skipper would kill the engines as we were confronted by a huge wave and we would all whoop with delight as we went up and down as if on a roller coaster.  A lovely lady who spends all her spare time on whale trips kept regaling me with tales of her previous whale watching trip in the Antarctic which was apparently alot calmer.  I am sure she meant well!!

After about an hour and a half of heading out beyond the headlands of Santa Cruz, we stopped.  It was at this point that many passengers hit by the sudden stillness after the continual swell, promptly dashed to the back of the boat for a quick chunder.  This included Teen 2 who encouraged by her father had been enthusiastically enjoying the views from the front of the boat which clearly took the brunt of the ferocity of the waves.  Sickness over it was time to take in the view.

Shouts rang out around the boat "Whale 2 o''clock" "Dolphins 7 o'clock" this being the agreed language for us all to alert each other to any sightings rather than "Over there!"  It was a tried and tested method and it worked.

There are two seasons for whale watching in Monterey Bay, mid-December through mid-April to see gray whales, dolphins and killer whales migrating, or alternatively mid-April through mid-December to see humpback whales, blue whales, dolphins and killer whales.  So October was the right time of the year for whale sightings but nevertheless as with anything there are no guarantees.  We were lucky.  Not only did we see schools of dolphins jumping in the water we saw what we had all paid for really a whale and not just one, several.  In fact on the day of our trip the guide and biologist recorded a total of 12 humpback whales.


What you see varies obviously, but the first indication is a rainbow spout of water as the whale prepares to surface then it might be its back you glimpse or its tail as it dives down.  On our trip, however, we were also lucky enough to see a bait ball.  This is when fish swarm in a tightly packed spherical formation, in a last ditch attempt to defend themselves from predators.  It was a spectacular sight and was followed by the fish looking as if they were jumping out of the water as the whales came up from underneath with open mouths to feed.  It was spectacular.

Even Teen 1 who spent the early part of the journey terrified that we would overturn and be consumed by sharks and is rarely in awe of anything in the natural world, was rendered speechless and exclaimed afterwards that "This is the kind of thing you only see on the telly!"  It really was that good.

The whale trips vary in length.  We booked a 4 hour tour which with an hour and a half there and back left us with an hour just drifting out at sea spotting the whales.  Sitting on a relatively small boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean watching whales was surreal and was without doubt one of the most incredible experiences for all of us and one we will never forget for sure.


This post is a part of a series, if you missed the first part you can see it by clicking the link below:

A California Road Trip with Teens - Part One




A California Road Trip with Teens – Part One

A California Road Trip with Teens – Part One

America and more specifically the West Coast, has been the desired holiday destination of my Teens for some time now, so with both a 50th and an 18th milestone birthday to celebrate we decided to make it a year to remember with a California Road Trip along the Pacific Coast Highway which would take in San Francisco, Carmel, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and finish in Vegas, Nevada.



Direct flights from the UK land early evening which gave us just the right amount of time to hail a cab, check in to our hotel, eat and jump into bed.  Thanks to the jet lag there was no hanging around the next morning, so we were up with the larks and off to hire bikes to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.  We stayed in historic Fisherman's Wharf and from there you can take a cycle route alongside the bay to the foot of the bridge which is approximately an hour's cycle.   Although heavily populated, unlike London the cycle paths are wide and on the pavement, away from traffic so it feels safe.  There are a lot of hills on the route so it is physically challenging but the result is well worth the effort.


The first sighting of the  Golden Gate Bridge is awe-inspiring.  It looms out of the mist connecting San Francisco to Marin County.  Nothing, however, can prepare you for the experience of cycling across it. You have to go up a steep and winding hill from the shoreline to the cyclepath on the bridge.  One side is for cyclists and one for pedestrians.  Once at the top the first thing that hits you is the noise of the cars.  Highway 101 crosses the bridge which is a busy route, but the cars also make a strange clackety-clack sound as they go over the bridge's expansion joints which is deafening.  The second is the height - at 220 ft above sea level, the views are stupendous, on one side there is the bay with Alcatraz Island, on the other the open Pacific Ocean with waves crashing on the rocks below.  At this height and in such an explosed spot it is also very windy up there.   The third is the speed of the bikes going across. It is single file, two way traffic and without doubt whilst it is breath-taking it is also terrifying in equal measure.

The bridge is 2.7km long and the outside railing is at chest height for adults.  There is nowhere to stop easily until you are half way across and for those that do try to stop before that point, there is the risk of a pile up or abuse from your fellow cyclists. There are cycling speedometers at intervals on the bridge and there were many who impatient by the slow line of tourists and their kids would overtake at speed which when you are focusing all your efforts on maintaining calm and supporting your 13 yr old novice cyclist daughter to just keep going and not look down is nerve jangling to say the least. Having said all that it is totally exhilerating and something as a tourist you will probably only do once in your life.

When we arrived on the other side we joined the multitude of tourist cyclists that gather to exclaim relief that they made it.  Then just when you think the thrill is all over, you have to make the descent from the foot of the bridge down a hill with a steep gradient that seems to wind on forever.  My lasting memory is of me screaming at the Teens to remember to just hold the left brake.  Mr MoT on the other hand is all about risk and turned the whole thing into a competition of who could get down in the quickest time!  Jesus.  Those are the times when our differences come to the fore.  I am doing "safety" and he is off encouraging the Teens to go for it whatever the consequences because "this is fun!"


On the Northern side of the bridge in Marin County is the charming little town of Sausalito with houses clinging to the steep hillside along the coastline with views to die for.  Sausalito is full of lovely shops and restaurants and from here you can take the ferry back with your bike to downtown San Francisco.  We did actually move over from San Francisco to Sausalito for a couple of nights to explore that area which is full of beautiful walks and were lucky enough to enjoy spectacular views of the Golden Gate bridge from our hotelroom.  It was great to see it from a different perspective and it is certainly a view you could never tire of.  The only word of warning to anyone thinking of going is to make sure you pack some earplugs as the foghorns do go off quite frequently in the night so if you are not a deep sleeper they are a must.



Perhaps befittingly on the day of our Alcatraz visit, San Francisco was hit by a freak weather system which saw the Golden Gate Bridge closed due to high winds and torrential rain engulfed the city. Renowned as the holding pen for Civil War deserters as well as legendary gangsters including Al Capone, it is a must see on a visit to San Fran.  You do need to book tickets in advance for this trip as it is seriously popular as you can imagine so you can't just turn up.  The website takes bookings 3 months in advance and a night tour is an option.  The ferry for Alcatraz island leaves from Pier 33 and takes approximately 20-30 minutes.  It is all very organised and boats leave promptly.


When you alight at the Alcatraz dock you are greeted by a National Park guard with a loud hailer giving instructions on where to go and warning people of walking hazards on the route.  The cellhouse sits at the top of the island and is as you would expect foreboding  and walking to it in the lashing rain and wind added to this atmosphere.  Much of the island is steep and hilly and the distance from the dock to the cellhouse at the top of the island is about 0.5km.

You first enter the cellhouse as the prisoners would have done themselves, into the communal shower area and here you can pick up the audio tour which is included in the admission price.  It is fantastic but eerie and really brings to life the terrible conditions of being imprisoned on the "rock" , through the voices of real life inmates and correctional officers.  As you would expect, everything as you go around is dark, dank and gloomy which is further accentuated by the lack of windows.  The cells themselves are horrific yet the solitary confinement units are soul-destroying.


Despite its size, Alcatraz was never filled to capacity with the maximum number of inmates during its 29 years as a federal penitentiary, only 260.  During this time 36 prisoners tried to escape and all but five were recaptured and to this day no-one knows what happened to those five prisoners.

The island is now a national parkland with historic gardens, tidepools and bird colonies.  No food service is available on the island but there is a large picnic area and as well as the cellhouse you can visit various points around the island itself, however, due to the weather on the day we went this was not advised.  All in all the tour takes around two hours.  When we came back we popped along to Pier 39 which is a bustling pier of shops and fab eateries with scenic views across the bay, combined with generous sightings of sea lions.

San Francisco is relatively compact with many of the major attractions quite close to each other, so there is a lot of walking involved - comfortable shoes are a must!  From Fisherman's Wharf we whiled away an afternoon exploring the nearby shopping on Union Street and then onto Chinatown, which is the largest outside of South East Asia and is an absolute sensory feast.


There are some cities that you visit in the world that you just fall in love with and for me San Francisco was one of them.  It is the perfect mix of cosmopolitan and bohemian and I would say is one of the most beautiful that I have visited.  In the limited time that we had for each of our stops on our road trip route, we definitely only scratched the surface of San Francisco and having now been I would definitely go back again for longer and explore further.  Next stop Carmel for some whale watching.