Toptracer Golf at Whitefields Golf Club

I was invited to attend the opening day of Whitefields Golf Club‘s Toptracer driving range by Coventry Bloggers, all words and photos in this post are my own.

Whitefields Golf Club, near Rugby, have kitted out their driving range with the latest technology from Toptracer. Four cameras analyse the flight of your ball and display the data on a screen in your bay on the range. The data can also be uploaded to your Toptracer account, and back to their app on your phone, so you can compare your performance at any Toptracer equipped driving range globally.

The technology means that not only can you feel like a pro, reviewing the flightpath of your ball etc, your driving range session can become more fun with various challenges, either individually or playing against friends. Of course, if you take your golf seriously, all this data is really going to help you improve your game.

As I was a bit rusty on the driving range, not having been for a few years, I was given some help to set everything up and had a few shots in the practice mode – see the screenshot above. Then I was set up on the “closest to pin” challenge on the seventh hole at Pebble Beach – one of the few golf courses that mean anything to me, having driven around it on honeymoon. I particularly liked how the virtual target/hole could be mapped to various features on the driving range in front of me, so I had something real to aim for. I was really getting in to the swing of things (pun intended), with most of the balls going pretty much straight, although the screen showed that had I been playing at Pebble Beach, my balls would mostly have landed in the bunker, with the odd one in the Pacific Ocean!

The Toptracer technology certainly adds another dimension to the driving range experience – a standard range would definitely seem boring now. I could see it being a great evening out with the lads, especially on a warm evening – challenging each other at the golf games and making use of the facility to get drinks/snacks delivered to your bay.

The Toptracer driving range at Whitefields Golf Club, at the Draycote Hotel, is open seven days a week, and costs from £4 for 30 balls, up to £10 for 120 balls, all the Toptracer features are included and the app is available for free from the Apple/Google app stores.

Tudor Tour of Coventry

I was invited to join a historical walking tour of Coventry by Coventry Bloggers. This was a gifted experience, however all words and photos in this post are my own. I have kept the historical details on this post deliberately vague, so as not to spoil the tour for anyone.

I have lived in Coventry for six years, and other than the blitz and Lady Godiva, I knew little about the history of the city. So when Coventry Bloggers asked if any local bloggers were interested in a historical tour of Coventry I was quite excited. Jen, who has a history degree, was a little bit jealous, however due to some cancellations, she was actually able to join us – after some last minute childcare arrangements were made. With two small children in the house, it is rare that we arrive anywhere early, but we made it to the meeting point – appropriately the Lady Godiva statue, ahead of the meeting time! Waiting for everyone else to arrive we did not know what to expect, but correctly guessed that the town crier walking towards the statue would be our guide – Paul.

When the group had assembled Paul started the tour in character as the town crier, ringing his bell and shouting “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez”, explaining about the tour and giving us some “on this day in history” facts. The tour started right at the beginning of the Tudor period – after Henry VII had defeated Richard III. Then as we moved to the Bull Yard, I learned that Coventry was once a walled city! I must have walked past the outline on the pavement of where the wall was scores of times without noticing it. Next we moved onto Christchurch Spire – aka the bar known as Inspire, a special place for Jen and I, as that is where we met on our first date! We learned about the monasteries in Coventry, including the Greyfriars who worshiped on that site. I was not aware that Coventry had monasteries, but once I heard the names they sounded familiar as they are still in use around Coventry today! In addition to his Tudor town crier tour, Paul also does tours as the Deep Fact Friar, which are more about the monasteries.

The next part of the tour saw us learning about the Black Prince and Mary Queen of Scots, ending up at some medieval buildings, including the gate that Queen Elizabeth I would have entered the city walls though. The stories were not just about royalty though – we also learned about a shoe repairman, and how the original cobbled streets were laid. From there it was under the ring road to the remains of Whitefriars Monastery – which I must have driven past hundreds of times, without noticing it. Sadly the only part of the building still standing, which dates from the fourteenth century, is now being used for storage, such a shame.

From the remains of the Whitefriars Monastery we walked back under the ring road to the remains of the cathedral, with Paul pointing out various details in the buildings and telling us their stories. I was surprised to hear that not only is there the ruins of the cathedral from the second world war, Priory Row adjacent to the ruins is built on top of the ruins of an even older cathedral. One which had some pretty significant royal visitors, as Paul explained whist we walked through Priory Place back to Broadgate and Lady Godiva where the tour ended.

I felt like I had learned so much about my hometown in a few short hours, but also that there is still a lot to learn! Both Jen and I thought this would be a great thing to do when we have people coming to visit us, as not only do you learn about the history of Coventry, you get to see a lot of the city centre too!

Paul’s tours usually run from May to September, starting at the Lady Godiva statue on Broadgate. Check out Paul Curtis Tours on Eventbrite, Twitter or Instagram for more information.

Move And Play Exhibition at Coventry Transport Museum

Owen and I were invited to experience the Move And Play exhibition at Coventry Transport Museum by Coventry Bloggers. All words and photos in this post are my own.

As a family Coventry Transport Museum is one of our favourite visitor attractions in Coventry, so I jumped at the invitation to visit the new “Move And Play” exhibition, billed as “an immersive and interactive exhibition that gets people of all ages testing their senses, balance and fitness”. As much as I like looking at cars and bikes, interactive exhibits are much more fun, especially if you are three years old! Jen and Henry also joined us.

Vitruvian Owen

As soon as we walked into the big hall with the “Move And Play” exhibition Owen’s eyes lit up – there was so much for him to get involved in! First we compared him to Da Vinci’s Vetruvian Man – Owen still has some growing to do! Next to Vetruvian Man there was a thermal camera, which was funny to pose for. The Retro Tennis (Pong?) and Virtual Goalkeeping were a bit advanced for Owen, but Jen and I enjoyed them. I especially liked being a virtual goalkeeper, despite probably looking like a fool prancing around in front of the green screen.

Playing blow football

The next three exhibits were also football based, and Owen enjoyed them! The first was blow table football, with the blow coming from sitting down on the stools – easy for me, but less if you only weigh 16kg like Owen. We teamed up, with Owen aiming the jet of air whilst I provided the puff by pushing down on the seat. The other football games were measuring power and accuracy kicking balls into nets. I am not a footballer, in fact last time I played I ruptured my ACL, but found these particularly satisfying. Owen loved these – he struggled with the kicking accuracy, but enjoyed throwing the ball at the illuminated squares, really getting the hang of it!

The next exhibit was actually about throwing accuracy, throwing bean bags through illuminated holes, with the lights *mostly* going out when you threw the bean bag through. Owen was so pleased with himself when he switched off the lights. Next was a levitating beachball which you had to hit through a dangling hoop, which I found surprisingly hard – Jen did it on her first try!

It was not all physical activities, next was “Sailing by Shouts” a game where you had to shout into a microphone to sail a virtual boat around an island –  not my forte either! Opposite was “Disco Donut” a wheelchair on a round illuminated floor, with the aim to roll yourself onto the lit up area before the light moved, which took quite some coordination – especially whilst balancing a wriggly toddler on your lap. However, these were followed by the most physical of the exhibits – a giant skipping machine! It looked intimidating with the rope spinning round really fast, but once you have the knack it is quite fun. Unless there is a small boy keeping his finger on the button to keep the rope spinning and shouting “jump Daddy”! I worked up quite a sweat on that one, but was proud I had conquered the skipping machine.

Tightrope walking

After I managed to escape from Owen and the skipping machine, the tight rope exhibit provided a welcome slowdown of pace! This was probably the exhibit we spent the most time on. Owen really has a thing for balancing on things at the moment, either on foot, or on his bike – pretending to be his hero Danny MacAskill. I was proud that I managed to make it across the tight rope, but even more proud of Owen making it across, albeit with a helping hand! He also liked rolling around on the crash mat and looking at the cityscape.

The next few exhibits did not get too much attention, as Owen had already decided his favourites, but I thought that he would have liked the stomping race game, especially as the three of us could race each other – Jen won! He was really good at the “Pulse Adventure” computer game where you had to control the character by raising or lowering your heart rate – he beat me comprehensively! There was also a set of scales that converted your weight in to animals, which got more fun the more people you added!

The final exhibit was a computer game on a giant screen where you had to team up with someone to control the two characters on the screen by holding hands and running left or right together. The aim of the game was to guide your characters to catch falling fruit, once we got the hang of it I felt that Owen and I did really well. Unlike the goalkeeping game this one was easy to spectate. After seeing all of the exhibits Henry was getting hungry, but Owen wanted to revisit his favourite exhibits – the three football ones, the skipping, the throwing and the tight rope. Even after another lap he still did not want to leave – a definite seal of approval from a three year old! We spent well over an hour in the exhibition and could have spent longer.

On our way out to meet Jen and Henry in the cafe we did a quick lap of the museum. Owen’s favourite sections are the bikes at the start, the Peugeots (inexplicably he is obsessed with spotting Peugeots, shouting “lion!!!” excitedly when he sees one), the trucks, and especially the toy car room! As entry to the museum is free for Coventry residents (or if not, your ticket is valid for a whole year), we do not feel like we need to take in every exhibit when we visit, working with Owen’s attention span. Whenever we visit there is something new to see, which keeps it interesting, however the “Move And Play” exhibition has been our favourite so far – even beating Father Christmas’s sleigh ride!

Strawberry waffle

Whenever we visit the Transport Museum we always seem to end up in Sprinkles Gelato in the old fire station across Millenium Place from the museum. I particularly like their waffles, with a side of gelato!

The “Move And Play” exhibition is at the Coventry Transport Museum until the 10th November 2019. Entry to the exhibition is included with your museum admission, which is free for Coventry residents with a GoCV card, or £14 for adults, £7 for juniors and free for under fives.

MOD Pizza Coventry Press Night

I was invited to the press night of MOD Pizza’s Coventry restaurant by Coventry Bloggers. Food and drink were complimentary for review. All words and photos in this post are my own. 

I am a big fan of pizza, to the point where I class pizza as one of the essential food groups. So I was excited to hear about MOD Pizza opening a restaurant in Coventry. And even more so when Emily from Coventry Bloggers invited me to the press launch night.

MOD Pizza started in Seattle, and has expanded across the United States and into the United Kingdom and have over four hundred restaurant. They bill themselves as “original superfast pizza experience”. I think the easiest way to explain it is like Subway for pizzas, in that you follow your pizza down the counter choosing which toppings to go on it, at no extra cost, before it is baked in their huge pizza oven and delivered to your table on a plate. A proper plate, not a board with paper underneath, that tears as you cut your pizza – other pizza restaurants take note! I like the “Subway” concept, especially for pizzas, as even when presented with a big menu I like to make changes to toppings. It reminded me of a great Italian restaurant I went to in Limassol called La Boca. 

The menu does have a few pizzas to use as a starting point, however I decided to freestyle as I went down the counter. I started off playing safe with a standard tomato and mozzarella base. At the meat section I was restrained, only choosing pepperoni and bacon, from the many options available. Then black olives, red onion and roasted red pepper from the vegetable section and finally a sprinkling of blue cheese to finish it off. At the end of the counter you pay for your pizza and return to your table, while your pizza goes into the huge pizza oven. One disappointment was that egg was not one of the “30+” toppings available – I love egg on pizza!

My pizza only took a few minutes to arrive, but others took a lot longer – forgivable in this instance as the restaurant has not opened yet. Initially I thought my 11” pizza looked a bit small, but it turned out to be the perfect size. I was full after eating it, without feeling like I had overeaten. This was good as it is an uphill bike ride back home from the city centre. For those with smaller appetites they also do 7” pizzas, or you can get a takeaway box for any pizza you cannot finish. Not being able to carry a box while cycling home meant that I had to eat all though. I was pleased with how my pizza turned out, the blue cheese looked a bit strange once melted, but it tasted so good, especially with the bacon! Roasted red pepper is not something that I would usually choose for a pizza, but I am glad I tried it – the softer texture and slight garlic flavour worked better on a pizza than standard red pepper.

We also shared some sides on our table (another reason why slightly smaller pizzas are better) – cheesy garlic pizza bread, wedges and dips. Another table ordered a humous rip and dip, which looked amazing as it was being delivered to them. The flat bread had puffed up like a balloon – definitely one to try next time!

As I was on my bike and doing the late shift with Henry when I got home, I stuck to soft drinks. Usually this would mean post mix fizzy drinks, which are self service and unlimited at MOD Pizza, but there was a much more exciting option – a selection of homemade lemonades! Also on a self service and free refills basis. They only had a couple of beers on tap, so there were more lemonade options than beers. As someone who prefers driving to drinking it is great to see that some thought has gone in to the soft drinks. I found the strawberry lemonade slightly too sweet, but thought that the classic lemonade was spot on!

For those that know Coventry, MOD Pizza is where the entrance to Cathedral Lanes used to be (Wilko’s now has a door at the back), behind the Lady Godiva statue. Inside it is like a lot of street food type places, with bare concrete and chipboard, but with some interesting statement art on the walls. My sort of place! It felt spacious inside, with plenty of room for pushchairs, which is something I have to consider these days! Three years ago Jen and I could eat out wherever (and whenever!) we wanted, but these days, other than the rare occasions we are child free, we have to consider pushchair and toddler friendliness. MOD Pizza ticks those boxes! There is also an outside area, which should be perfect in the summer. Now that Cathedral Lanes in full of restaurants I really hope that Broadgate states to feel a bit more European, with people eating and drinking outside restaurants. 

Overall I was impressed with MOD Pizza, the food was good and I liked being able to choose what went on my pizza as it was being made. I am keen to go back with Jen and the boys, I know Owen will love choosing his own pizza toppings!

MOD Pizza in Coventry is opening at 12:00 today, 29th March 2019. Their first fifty customers get free pizzas and one lucky customer will win free pizza for a year!