travel

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Camping at South Lytchett Manor, Dorset

Earlier this month, the family and I went on our annual camping trip with our Leamington friends. After last year's bone-breaking 10-hour car ride to the Lake District, our friends took pity on us and we all agreed upon Dorset as our destinations. After packing the car to the gills and a speedy two-hour ride, we arrived in Poole.

Upon arrival at South Lytchett Manor, I was impressed at how easily it was to check in. We then had someone personally show us to our pitch and we got to unpacking our car. Although we liked the Low Wray campsite last year (our pitch was lakeside so it was lovely), we did not enjoy having to park away from our pitch. It just made life a bit more time-consuming when it came to unpacking and packing. Our pitch was next to a water tap, which was also quite handy when it came to cooking. Though it was a bit annoying as people kept walking by our pitch to fill up their water containers.

South Lytchett Manor also accepts motorhomes, and they have caravans and sweet little Romany caravans to rent. But we have bought this camping gear and are determined to get our money's worth. This year we got a few new items including a bench table and seats and an electric coolbox. You can pay for electric hook-up at the campsite, so we thought we would get it and make life a bit easier. This meant that I could bring my straightening iron - oh happy days! The campsite also had the cutest red phone box that they used as a library (one of those 'leave a book, take a book'). And there is a playground, though the time we went it was heaving and we were the only adults there. The campsite wasn't that picturesque but it is a very practical campsite.

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Fun In The Sun at Sandbanks

Last weekend, we spent three nights camping in Dorset with friends. While there, we visited Sandbanks. I had vaguely heard of Sandbanks, and basically knew that it was a peninsula and that it was a lovely long stretch of beach. We soon discovered that finding parking on a sunny weekend was not going to be easy (if  you go, get there early!). The various men dropped us ladies and children off and then met up with us. Husband got royally lost and met up with us much later. But once we were all together, we had a lovely time.

Moozles and Dubz made sandcastles and frolicked in the icy cold sea. Husband flew the kite, but then it hit a woman in the face and I yelled at him, so back to the sea they went. Moozles went for a kayak ride with our friends and we ate ice cream. Then it was time to go. Husband got sunburned as usual. And I even got sunburned on my neck (who knew brown girls could burn in the UK??!!). We will definitely visit Sandbanks again, but next time we will get there for 10am.

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A Weekend In Wales - Bluestone Wales

Last month, my family managed to get away for a sneaky weekend break to Bluestone Wales. Long-term readers will know that we had a week at Bluestone last year in June. It was our best family holiday, and the kids have asked to return to Wales ever since. As you can imagine, they were over the moon when we told them we would be going back to Bluestone for three nights.

I think if many families only had time for a four-day break, they would chose somewhere relatively close to home. And you might think that Wales is too far away if you live in London. But it is not! Bluestone Wales is located in Pembrokeshire in South Wales. It takes about four hours to drive there from south west London. Four hours is an easy drive (especially on roomy A roads and motorways). Even with children. We stopped halfway between for lunch and a toilet break. There are loads of nice services on the way, plus a plethora of castles which make for a lovely stop.

Now back to Bluestone. During our previous visit to Bluestone, we had loads of day trips, but this time we wanted to spend most of the time on the resort. Moozles and Dubz loved the Blue Lagoon waterpark and we went every morning. Last year, we were gutted to miss out on a few Bluestone highlights. The first being our visit to Camp Smokey. We were thrilled to finally walk through the 'deep dark wood' to the cafe and enjoy lunch and roast some marshmallows.

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Tenby Beach, Wales

Last week, while we had a family mini-break at Bluestone Wales, we managed an outing to the beach. We went to Tenby last summer and loved it, and could not imagine a trip to Pembrokeshire in West Wales without visiting again. So, armed with buckets and spades, we went to Tenby for a day of fun and fish and chips.

One of my favourite aspects of Tenby is that the beach is sandy. It's great for sitting and chillin', as well as making sandcastles. We saw a few people flying kites and felt jealous that we didn't have one. If you're not fussed about sandcastles or kites, walk along the beach and look up at the beautiful cliff and the pretty pastel houses. It wasn't very warm or sunny during this visit, but we still had a lovely time. To be honest, it is a relief not to need raincoats and wellies when spending the day at the beach in the UK.

If you're visiting Tenby from Bluestone, it takes about 20 minutes by car. There is a fairly big car park near the beach (we paid £3.00 for four hours). It takes less than 10 minutes to walk to the town centre from the beach, where there is a decent selection of cafes. Although there is a cafe by the beach, we like to go into the centre for our favourite place to eat - D. Fecci and Son's Fish & Chips. They make such delicious fish, and even offer them in different sizes (mini is perfect for kids, while I had the regular portion). They also do children's meals, and pies and sausages for fish-haters like Husband. And wonderfully, they have gluten-free options. Such a gem!

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Hooray for Legoland

Last week we surprised the kids with a visit to Legoland Windsor. Hooray! They were thrilled, to put it mildly (check out the vlog below for their reaction). Windsor is a 55-minute drive from where we live in south west London, so Moozles and Dubz didn't have long to wait. They were also very excited to find out that their grandparents would be meeting us at Legoland and then taking them to Leamington for the weekend (though I think that Husband and I were even more excited).

Anyway, we last went to Legoland about three and a half years ago, when Dubz was five months old. As you can imagine, he did not get much out of it, and I had to keep missing out on things to breastfeed him (there is a baby care area where you can breastfeed in private, as well as change nappies). But now that Dubz is almost four, and Moozles is eight, I was looking forward to a fun day we would all enjoy. Dubz hasn't needed a stroller/buggy in over a month, and can now walk three or four miles, which makes family outings so much easier.

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A Day At The Black Country Living Museum

We are in the Midlands for a few days this week for the Easter holidays. Regular readers will know that my in-laws live in Royal Leamington Spa, and we try and visit them often as it is a lovely area. Today we went to Dudley (which is about 50 minutes northwest of Leamington) to visit the Black Country Living Museum.

First of all, I had to ask why it was called the 'black country'. Apparently the area was given the name due to the smoke and soot from the ironworking foundries, but maybe also because of the 30-foot thick coal seam near the surface. The Black Country Living Museum (BCLM) is an outdoor and indoor museum set over 26 acres that shows us what life was like in a Black Country town in the 1800s.

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Our Break in BrusselsI love looking at old photos, though I mostly concentrate on the ones when my children were quite young. Isn't it amazing how one day they're a little baby, and the next thing you know they're at school multiplying their tables. Today I found the photos from our family mini-break to Brussels back in 2010. Oh, the ease of travelling with just one child. Moozles was two but we had a painless journey on the Eurostar to Belgium's capital city. We even forgot the buggy, and it was still fine.

Then again, Brussels is a good city to visit with little ones. We strolled through the Grand-Place, visited parks and statues. And we had lots of lovely meals. And all those chips. It's a child's dream. My only issue is the terrible photos. What on earth was I using as a camera back then? Ugh. Thank goodness for today's smart phones and their fancy cameras.

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My UK Travel Wishlist for 2016Forget new year's resolutions. It's cold and dark, and all I can think about are  next year's holidays. I am not even thinking about sunny holidays lounging in the sun. I just love getting out of London and visiting new places. As an American expat, there are still so many places in the UK that I haven't yet visited. So I thought I would share some of the beautiful UK cities, brimming with culture, that I would like to visit in 2016.

My UK Travel Wishlist for 2016

Bristol - I have been wanting to visit Bristol for ages, and hopefully 2016 will be the year we visit. As a family, there is so much for us to see. There is an open-top bus tour around the city, which takes about an hour. We recently took a bus tour around London and loved it. After the bus tour, we could visit the At-Bristol Science Centre. There are loads of hands-on exhibits and shows for the entire family to enjoy. Afterwards we could walk around the harbour and take in the lovely sights. Stop at Stable Pizza for one of their amazing pizza or pies.

No visit to Bristol would be complete without exploring Clifton Village and seeing the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Whilst in Clifton, the kids would love a visit to Bristol Zoo Gardens. Lions, seals, gorillas, oh my!

My UK Travel Wishlist for 2016

York - Once a year, Husband and I manage to have a weekend to ourselves, and I think that York would make a romantic kid-free city-break destination. Though there seem to be a lot of family-friendly activities there, Husband and I are desperate for some alone time. We could start off by climbing the steep steps of Clifford's Tower (it is all that is left of York Castle, which was built by William the Conqueror). After working up an appetite, we could have afternoon tea at Bettys. The scones and cakes look amazing. We could also go for a walk through York's alleyways, passageways and ginnels which sounds quite quaint. Whilst walking around, I could drag take Husband into the many antique shops.

My UK Travel Wishlist for 2016

Colchester - I've recently learnt that Colchester is Britain's oldest recorded town. That's a lot of history. And there would be no better place to begin than at Colchester Castle (a Norman castle dating from 1016). My kids love visiting castles, especially my three year old son, Dubz, who loves knights. There are family events, creepy vaults and dressing up. Dubz and Moozles would also enjoy visiting Colchester Zoo. We all love animals, especially elephants and giraffes. Plus a huge soft play and playgrounds for when Husband and I need a rest. While in Colchester, I wouldn't mind going for a ride on a narrow boat. These boats are such a charming part of British history and I think the kids (and their American mother) would get a kick out of a boat ride. We could then enjoy Sunday Lunch at the Church Street Tavern (it sounds delicious and they even have a kids menu).

 

So these are the three UK cities that I am hoping to visit in 2016. They are full of culture, fun and beauty. Have you been to any of these three cities? Any tips to share?

 

*Photo credit: top photo, Carolyn Eaton

 

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