Last month I did something pretty unusual. I said goodbye to Husband and the kids, and I went off to Italy for three days. I hadn't traveled on my own for almost 20 years. I was a bit anxious beforehand, but it felt quite liberating to do something on my own. It was like 'Eat, Pray, Love' with just the eating. And it turns out that Catania is a great city if you love food.
If you've never heard of Catania, it is located in Sicily by the sea. This means that you will find the most amazing fish and seafood. And with the growing popularity of wine being grown near Mt Etna, your meal will be complemented by some terrific wines. And because it is Italy, it is beautiful and the people are absolutely lovely.
My father-in-law turned 70 this year and he wanted to commemorate this special birthday with a family trip. So a few weeks ago we drove to Normandy to spend four days with Husband's extended family. I wouldn't think to spend a long weekend in France, as it seems to far away, but it was actually an easy trip.
The drive from south west London to Folkestone was about 1 1/2 hours, and then we drove onto the Eurotunnel train which only took 30 minutes to get to Calais. It was cool driving right onto the train. People mostly just sat in their cars, but there were toilets if needed. We drove swiftly off the train and then two hours later and we reached Luneray.
This journey was about the same as when we went to North Cornwall last month, but this time we were in France which naturally feels more exciting. Luneray is in Haute-Normandy. Not only does this mean that it's closer to the UK, but it means you're not far from the sea.
Cornwall has always been in the top five of my UK destination wishlist. It is known for its beautiful beaches, great seafood and many attractions. Really, who wouldn't want to visit?! So I was thrilled when the lovely folks from Baby Friendly Boltholes invited us to stay at one of their North Cornwall properties for two nights over the Easter holiday.
My family and I have stayed in a few cottages in the UK, but this was our first time with Baby Friendly Boltholes. And although we don't have a baby (my youngest is almost six), a family-friendly property really does make all the difference. As a parent, you're already packing a ridiculous amount of things when you go on holiday with your children, and it helps to stay somewhere that has some of the things you need. At Red Barn, there were games, DVDs and toys (Dubz was partial to the transformers and the army men, which I had to make sure didn't end up in his suitcase).
This past Christmas we decided to escape the cold of London and enjoy some Florida sunshine. My mother lives just outside Orlando, along with my aunt and grandmother, and we thought it would be nice to spend Christmas with my family and then have a few days at Disneyworld. So we swapped our woolly hats for sunglasses and headed for some winter sun and of course to see Mickey Mouse.
Many people call it Disneyworld, but there are actually six Disney parks falling under that header. Magic Kingdom is the original park in Florida, and it is considered to be the main park. It is where the classic rides are located (such as Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Space Mountain). It is where you will find Cinderella's iconic castle, you will see all the Disney princesses, and you will experience the many parades and shows featuring all of your Disney favourites.
In the past few years, we have been making an effort to have mini-breaks and holidays in the UK. Not only is it nice to only drive a few hours before reaching the destination, but as a foreigner I love exploring the UK. There are so many beautiful towns and gorgeous buildings to admire. I wanted to share our last UK mini-break, which was a weekend in Woodstock.
Woodstock is located north of Oxford, and is home to Blenheim Palace. The palace is most known for being the birthplace of Winston Churchill. When we first arrived, we went straight to Blenheim Palace. We had heard so much about it, that we were eager to explore. There was jousting on that day, as well as a jester show. After lunch, we were feeling a bit tired so decided we would return to the palace the next day (we converted our day ticket into an annual ticket for free).
My family had our first Eurocamp holiday in May (we went to La Garangeoire). Beforehand, I spent ages googling what to pack. We didn't do traditional camping as we stayed in a holiday home. This meant that we didn't have to take everything. But I wanted to pack wisely so that the car wasn't overly, and uncomfortably, full. So I thought I would offer my own Packing Checklist for any of you planning to visit Eurocamp.
We have never taken my son on an airplane (although his big sister has flown all around the world), as he has always been a handful. In May, we went for our first overseas holiday as a family of four. We had decided to go to France, and take Brittany Ferries as it would mean we could take our car plus we could better control our five year old son. I thought that sailing to France from the UK would be the easy travel option, but it turned out to also be the fun option.
I have to say that the kids and I weren't sure what to expect on the ferry. Luckily, the Brittany Ferries website has plenty of information and even videos of the ships. Dubz made me watch the videos about 20 times. His mind was blown to be travelling on a ship so big it could fit cars and beds and restaurants. But the ferry fits all those things and more.
For the May half-term, we packed a week's worth of clothes, got into the car and drove to France. Okay, there might have been more to this. Like spending weeks looking at which Eurocamp holiday parc would best suit our family and then researching what one needs for a Eurocamp holiday as well as what you need for driving in France. And obviously you have to book the ferry. If you try driving straight to France, you will literally be swimming with the fishes.
I must note that this was our first holiday abroad as a family of four. Dubz, who has just turned five, has always been quite
crazy a handful. But he has calmed down in the past year and we got him his first passport in May. We also thought that travelling by ferry would be a good way to ease into a holiday (I reckon we will be brave enough for plane travel in a few months).
So anyway, after much deliberation, we chose La Garangeoire in the Vendee (on the west coast of central France). I had read that there is better weather there than the northern parts of France, plus it requires much less driving to than the south of France. And we were not disappointed. While it did drizzle a couple of mornings, the weather was mostly sunny and warm. We had an amazing week at La Garangeoire, and I wanted to show you what a holiday looks like when every member of the family proclaims it to be 'the best holiday ever'.
While my family and I were in the Vendee on our family holiday at the May half-term, we decided to take a day trip to Nantes. To be honest, we had never heard of Nantes before the holiday but had read an interesting article in the Brittany Ferries magazine and wanted to visit Les Machines de L'ile. And yes, it was mainly because I wanted to ride on a giant mechanical elephant.
Les Machines is an art installation on a grand scale. You will see how sketches are brought to life with small models, which are then made on a large scale. The elephant is an amazing feature as it is 12m high (that's 40 feet!!), and made up of more than 48 tonnes of wood and steel. You can go for a walk along three different routes, which take about 30 minutes each. When you are at the top, you feel so high and it is such a strange sensation to be moving along. One of our favourite aspects of the elephant is that its trunk splashes water at people. So funny to see, whether you're near the elephant or riding on its back (have a look at my vlog below to see it in action).
Alas, I am not going on a transatlantic flight. On Monday, I attended a pop-up event for Air New Zealand. I was excited to try out their immersive flight experience, and see why they keep getting voted Airline of the Year. It turns out that Air New Zealand is full of style and comfort.
First of all, there are some seriously comfortable seats. Even the Economy seats were nice. And Air New Zealand offer Economy Skycouch - which means that one button turns your seat into a sofa (the footrest comes out to create a bigger area). My daughter has been on loads of long-haul flights and she always had trouble sleeping. Only when flights were empty and she was able to lie flat on her stomach was she able to sleep. Skycouch is basically the answer to every parent's flying problem.