A perfect day…

A shaft of sunlight falls across the sheets of the bed. You wake to the sound of birds singing, water splashing from the filter of the aquamarine swimming pool outside your windows and the laughter of your children. You realise that you are somewhere different, somewhere special. The smell of fresh coffee and freshly baked sweet rolls wafts through the room. You feel immensely satisfied to know that you’ve slept solidly for over eight hours.

As you pad across the room and out into the living area you sense an atmosphere of excitement. Something a bit different is planned for the day. A scenic drive down a beautiful coastline in a hired mini bus full of family, young cousins laughing and joking, everyone singing along to old Motown classics. You stop to spot exotic wildlife and do some beach combing along the way, filling buckets with the most beautiful seashells you’ve ever seen.

Everyone is treated to lunch at a pretty little seafront bistro with amazing ocean views. On the next part of the drive you stop to take photographs and buy beautifully crafted wooden animals from native roadside vendors.

The drive takes you into more mountainous country – the most stunning valleys and long distance views – some have described this as a view from ‘God’s window’.

You reach your destination for the night – a little b&b from the Victorian era, updated to boutique standards for the weary modern traveller. Everyone from your extended family take stock of the journey so far over dinner – funny things that have been said, holiday catchphrases and chatter about the itinerary for the following day – following a gold rush trail, passing through more frontier towns heading ever closer to our final destination – Safari!

three rondevals

I wasn’t sure where I was heading with this imagined description to begin with but almost straight away my thought process was hijacked by memories of the most wonderful holiday I had when I was 20 – travelling with my sister (and her then boyfriend) to Cape Town in South Africa to visit my Aunt, Uncle and cousins who were living out there for a few years due to my Uncle’s job off the African coast at the time.

The description above is a bit of a re-imagining based on the fact that I am no longer one of the kids but one of the adults! We really did take this most amazing journey up “The Garden Route”, saw wild baboons on the roadside, beachcombed in the most stunning places – beaches us Brits can only dream of. We visited the Kimberley Diamond Mines, stayed in a place called Pilgrim’s Rest, perched high in the lush mountains of the Mpumalanga Province and continued on to a safari lodge within the limits of the Kruger National Park. I’m getting shivers and tears in my eyes just thinking about it.

My Aunt and Uncle were the most wonderful hosts and it was fabulous to spend some quality time with them as young adults. The only thing missing really was the company of our parents as well. And the memory of perfection is more than just thinking about the physical location – it is a memory of a feeling – a feeling of such happiness. It was a time in my life when there were no real complications or worries. I was on that border between childhood and adulthood – enjoying the best of both worlds.

Of course that’s not to say that I haven’t had perfect moments and days since that time or that I won’t again.

I guess to sum it up my perfect day involves being in a special place, surrounded by special people. It has to be outside of the usual routines, and away from all the worries and chores of daily life. Love, laughter, sunshine and blue skies, new places and new experiences all add to the mix.

What would you’re perfect day look like?

This post was inspired by this week’s Prompt from Sara at Mum Turned Mom: A Perfect Day.

mumturnedmom

My family

If there is one place I know I can always go and be myself, amongst like-minded people who will never judge me, will always have my back, but who aren’t afraid to criticise, its my mum and dad’s house. Take the past weekend – myself and the boys stayed the night Saturday and my sister, brother in law and nieces came over to join us for a Sunday roast the following day. It was Mother’s Day and it had also been my brother in law’s birthday during the week so there were extra reasons to be cheerful and celebrate.

It has been a tradition that, ever since my sister had her first baby, I have included her in my Mother’s Day celebrations, usually buying her flowers and a card. When your children are very little it seems unlikely that they themselves will make a fuss over you, but you are still a mother after all, so unless you have one of those superdad/super-husbands it helps to have a sister! This year she bought me a card and a lovely Body Shop set and I was also lucky enough to get handmade cards from both my boys which they created themselves at nursery/pre-school. It is also lovely to make Mum, mother-in law and sister smile with the pretty flowers, cards and more importantly thanks and heartfelt appreciation for all they do for us.

I love the time we all spend together on Sundays, being able to share the highs and lows of our separate lives, seeing the children having fun together (despite the ten year age gap between cousins!), hearing my niece Carmen booking us all in for The Lion King in five years time when she will be 20 (!!) (she loves a musical!) everyone chattering away as we all reach across the table, swapping the sprouts for the carrots, the mustard or the horse radish. There is irreverance and silliness, music and heart to hearts over the washing up. Occasionally we are treated to an impromptu guitar solo from niece the younger, or a song from the elder, accompanied by her flourishing talents on the ukelele (!).

We share music, book and film recommendations, DVD box sets, and my dad has even ordered himself a camera like mine as I really sold it to him apparently (although he’s managed to get his for £80 cheaper – grump!)

Hopefully we will all manage to have a family holiday together this summer in Devon. My mum has now booked accomodation for early August. The last time we did this was 2012 when EJ was just five weeks old!

Yes it is fair to say there is never a dull moment, time always flies by far too quicky when we’re all together and sometimes I wish we could all club together and buy a huge house where we could share more than just the occasional Sunday. Until that day I just want them all to know how much they mean to me.

The Reading Residence
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The Theme Game week 8: Holiday!

Last summer I read a lot of comments by friends on Facebook who had been on amazing holidays and it got me thinking about both the things I am looking forward to about the future with older children and also nostalgia for some of the amazing holidays of my own childhood.

Boulangerie

We went to Iceland (to visit Icelandic friends who owned a chocolate factory!), Corfu, Portugal, Spain (to visit my paternal grandparents who lived out there), as well as a couple of staycations to Cornwall (where my dad drew an enormous naked lady in the sand [we looked down on it from the cliffs above]) and Pembrokeshire in Wales. However one of the most memorable and evocative holidays of my childhood was a trip to the South of France when I was 11 for a canal boat meander down the Canal du Midi from Narbonne to Carcassone.

This holiday began at Teddington station in South West London – my hometown. We went on holiday by train! This in and of itself was pretty blooming exciting, particularly because the second leg of the journey involved taking the overnight sleeper train from Calais down to Narbonne. Kudos to my parents (and their friends – another family we holidayed with) for even dreaming up such an awesome adventure for their children!

Memorable parts of this holiday included watching my mum operating the lock gates – particularly the Fonseranne Staircase Lock near Beziers -; falling into the fonserannes staircase lockwater and nearly getting crushed by the boat (whilst wearing my sister’s tracksuit – much to her consternation!); waking up moored up in a beautiful bucolic setting near a small village and going off with the other kids to the nearest boulangerie to order fresh baguettes and pain chocolat (unheard of in England in the early 80s!); and walking the old city walls of magical Carcassonne.

It is my dearest desire to be able to relive this holiday one day with my own children. I’d also like to take them skiing. And to Disneyland. Hmmm… better start saving up now eh?!

Linking up with The Theme Game as organised by Jocelyn at The Reading Residence and Iona at Red Peffer.

The Reading Residence

An Autumnal getaway…

R, J & T on Crooklets

Its become a bit of a tradition within our family to take a little break around about the first week of October to celebrate the hubster’s birthday. Before we had the kids it was Portugal and Tenerife but this year abroad was not an option, so I undertook a little websearch to see if anything UK-based grabbed my interest. My main criteria was that wherever it be, it should be geared towards small children so I was thrilled to discover lots of wonderful reviews for Court Farm Holidays in North Cornwall. The cottages themselves are extremely child-friendly, with all the facilities you could hope for, including books and toys on request. Outside there are lots of ride-ons and play equipment and there are regular morning animal feedings down in the nextdoor field where there are two pigs, an alpaca, plus sheep, goats and chickens (although admittedly I couldn’t get JJ interested in going through the gate – the pigs were quite big and they would have scared me at that age too!). The complex also has a heated ‘indoor’ pool with a retractable cover for the summer. I was a bit disappointed in the pool experience though as JJ got a bit out of his depth straight away and lost confidence, whilst EJ experienced his first time in the water and didn’t like being in his inflatable ring at all so I had to try and swim a bit with him clinging onto me like a little cuddly (slightly concerned) limpet.

tamarotters

When we first arrived JJ was feeling a bit poorly and our first outing – to the Tamar Otter Sanctuary – was not as enjoyable as it could have been for this reason. He actually wanted to go back to the car and sleep rather than look around and I consequently missed a fair bit of what it had to offer although hubster took EJ off on the woodland walk and took some good photos of the wallabies and fallow deer that also live there.

It would seem that JJ’s fever then broke and he perked up on Day 2 when we decided on a trip to Padstow. Everyone knows Padstow is Rick Steinville so I was hoping for a sampling of his fare (the cheaper end of the scale – fish and chips!) but we managed to walk straight past the back of his restaurant and ended up in town proper (which, it has to be said, struck me as extremely dog-friendly – more dogs than kids!) and incredibly busy considering it was a Monday in October. We did have fish and chips which was nothing special, JJ persuaded me to buy him a fishing net on a stick and I then managed to visit the Chough Bakery, right on the quayside, which looked very familiar (turns out it featured in one of those Alex Polizzi business make-over programmes on the BBC a while back). I knew I wanted an authentic Cornish Pasty and had been disappointed with what I’d received elsewhere but this was the real deal. I ate it hours later for tea back at the cottage and it was delicious! Apparently they put a blob of Cornish clotted cream in the pastry which is their USP and it works as both the pastry and filling could not be faulted. Then I was gutted that I hadn’t bought more while I’d had the chance! I also had a delicious orange marscarpone ice cream in Padstow – this was the best food of the week by far so Padstow did live up to its foodie reputation in the end.

On Day 3 it was the hubster’s birthday. Unfortunately this was the only day of the week that it rained. JJ wanted to ride on a steam train (rapidly becoming a UK holiday tradition!) so we began the drive to Bodmin but looking at our leaflets we changed our minds and opted for the Lappa Valley Railway (not far from Newquay) which looked more child-friendly being more of an amusement park with three miniature trains to ride on plus other attractions. This turned out to be a bad idea. The other attractions were all outdoors (all bar one building – essentially a shed made to look a bit like a train – open to the elements at both ends with a few soft play cushions and ride ons for babies), two of the three trains were open air. It was raining. We’d paid over £30 so were a bit gutted overall but we made up for a bad start to the day by going back to the cottage (via the Golden Arches! What plebs!) and then into Bude town in the afternoon for a game of bowling.

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Day 4 was our best day by far. Everyone was feeling good, the sun was shining and we discovered The Big Sheep! This is a kind of children’s farm cum amusement park with bumpy tractor safari, ride on piggies (pulled by another tractor), Indian Running Duck show (they’re herded through a series of amusing obstacles by a sheepdog), sheep shearing, lamb feeding and sheep racing (with betting!). There is also a great indoor playzone there which both the boys loved – EJ was able to get out of his shackles and run about and JJ discovered two slides there which will make every other slide he ever comes across fade into insignificance in comparison – it was extreme sliding! In fact The Big Sheep was so good we took them up on their half-price offer and went back on our last day too!

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The other notable thing we did was go down to Crooklets Beach in Bude. It has to be said that the beaches in Cornwall are dramatic and beautiful and, with the tide out, rock pools emerged in the middle of a huge expanse of golden sand. This was the point at which I began to realise that, despite the use of a baby carrying rucksack which we’d hired from the cottages, the whole beach/rockpooling holiday experience is clearly one which shall have to wait for a later date. It just doesn’t work with a baby in tow although JJ would have loved to do a bit more of it. The only thing we actually caught was a little crab. Which it turns out was already dead!

On our last night we visited a pub which we had tried to dine at on our first night but been turned away from due to it being full. That time we’d ended up at a much less well frequented place which served decidedly mediocre food (a home-cooked or ready meal would have better to be honest!). This time round we remembered to book a table for the first place and had a much better meal. Unfortunately, it was not until we were halfway home on the A303 the following day that we realised we’d left EJ’s buggy in the pub! After initial panic we had a bit of a laugh about it and I suggested we have a T-shirt printed up for EJ saying “I left my wheels in Bude!”.

Overall a very successful family holiday, but I’m looking forward to returning to Cornwall when the boys are a little bit bigger so we can all let loose on the beach!

Good things come to those who wait…

I’ve been reading a lot of comments lately by friends on Facebook who have been, are on, or are going on amazing holidays this year and its got me thinking about both the things I am looking forward to about the future with older children and also nostalgia for some of the amazing holidays of my own childhood.

Boulangerie

We went to Iceland (to visit Icelandic friends who owned a chocolate factory!), Corfu, Portugal, Spain (to visit my paternal grandparents who lived out there), as well as a couple of staycations to Cornwall (where my dad drew an enormous naked lady in the sand [we looked down on it from the cliffs above]) and Pembrokeshire in Wales. However one of the most memorable and evocative holidays of my childhood was a trip to the South of France when I was 11 for a canal boat meander down the Canal du Midi from Narbonne to Carcassone.

This holiday began at Teddington station in South West London – my hometown. We went on holiday by train! This in and of itself was pretty blooming exciting, particularly because the second leg of the journey involved taking the overnight sleeper train from Calais down to Narbonne. Kudos to my parents (and their friends – another family we holidayed with) for even dreaming up such an awesome adventure for their children!

Memorable parts of this holiday included watching my mum operating the lock gates – particularly the Fonseranne Staircase Lock near Beziers -; falling into the fonserannes staircase lockwater and nearly getting crushed by the boat (whilst wearing my sister’s tracksuit – much to her consternation!); waking up moored up in a beautiful bucolic setting near a small village and going off with the other kids to the nearest boulangerie to order fresh baguettes and pain chocolat (unheard of in England in the early 80s!); and walking the old city walls of magical Carcassonne.

It is my dearest desire to be able to relive this holiday one day with my own children. I’d also like to take them skiing. And to Disneyland. Hmmm… better start saving up now eh?!

Holidaying with a five week old!

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Sharing this one with What’s The Story? Linky at Podcast Dove and newly discovered Magic Moments at The Oliver’s Madhouse.

I love this picture because it is probably the first picture of me with both my boys together in a little (minus daddy) family portrait. It was taken near the beach at Salcombe in Devon where we went on holiday for a week at the end of August 2012 when EJ was just five weeks old. We went with my mum and dad, sister and brother-in-law and 12- and 13-year old nieces and it was so lovely to be surrounded by family who were all happy to entertain JJ and muck in with the baby. It was also nice just to be out and about after five weeks of watching everyone else abuzz with Olympics fever – I never even managed to watch one of Mo Farrah’s races but EJ will always be remembered as being an “Olympics Baby”.

In a week’s time we will be going away again, minus my sister’s family as, sadly for us (but great for them!), they are off on the other side of the world in Australia visiting their antipodean relatives. This year we’re off to Ventnor in the Isle of Wight with Mum & Dad and looking forward to some fun days with the boys.