In a nation currently bogged down by Brexit and so much sadness, it provides me with a little bit of optimism when I think about how beautiful some of our landscapes and coastlines can be. It’s genuinely fascinating also to think of how drastically a climate can change in a Kingdom that from top to bottom, is under 900 miles long.
The experience of hopping on a domestic flight to Cornwall was amazing. It took just one hour from Leeds, rather than 8-hours on the road, minus the stops. Because there is no gentle introduction to the milder temperatures as you’d get when driving down the country, I really did get that fabulous feeling of being ‘away’.
We picked up a hire car from a family-run business, who I’d really recommend for costs and the personal service. We stayed at The Esplanade in Newquay – a family-orientated hotel, that just couldn’t do enough for us and the kids. In just one week we managed to get around the Eden Project, Land’s End, The Lizard, Falmouth, Truro, Porthcurno, St Austell and Bodmin. Phew! Here are some of my favourite pics fro the trip:
I adore hotels. If anybody asks me what I’d like to do for a milestone birthday treat, invariably I’ll say that I want to check in somewhere swanky and make use of all the glorious facilities. I loved hotels before I had my kids – in fact I lived and breathed them for work – but I think I love them even more now, because time away is so rare and precious. Imagine if you never get to go to the toilet alone, how amazing it is to sit in a roll top bath, gently drinking away the mini bar?
Taking kids to a hotel is a different game. I’m the first to admit that it can be a very stressful undertaking, particularly if your offspring are also budding hotelphiles and want to be everywhere, on everything, all at once. I’ve had a few years’ experience of managing sprogs en vacances. here’s what I know:
Forget the days of papers, poached eggs and freshly-brewed coffee. Breakfast is now giddy carnage and I always lose part of my brain. The event becomes some parody of a military operation. Remember how you bribed the kids to go to bed last night, with the promise of Coco Pops, Frosties and waffles? Well so do they. Before you know it, you’re juggling tiny juice glasses, burning toast and glaring at the the poached eggy, chilled-out couple by the window. Best way around this is to just feed the kids first. Hungry shoppers are terrible, sweary shoppers, whereas full ones are sedate. Work as a relay team with anybody you’re travelling with. Take it in turns for eating and crowd management. Supplementary iPad or phone always helps too.
Regardless of a child’s age, you can be sure that swimming with them can push buttons. It’s a natural thing to feel jaded, when squeezing your semi-damp body back into jeans, in the way that sausage meat is crammed into a skin. So be kind to yourself. Sometimes things are taken care of, by doing a hoppy, chilly dance from foot to foot, still in swim wear, until children are dried off, given a snack (even though it’s five minutes after breakfast) and supplied with the helpful iPad or phone.
Kids just love to make friends in the hotel’s public spaces, so embrace the opportunity to sit back and let the little mites play with their newfound friends. Bonus points for being near a bar so you can sink a drink or two. So what if it’s not yet noon? You’re on holiday, so I won’t tell if you don’t. And don’t worry about having to speak much to the other kids’ parents. They probably feel just the same as you, so it’s perfectly acceptable to just ignore each other a bit; maybe check the headlines, if there’s any charge left on your phone or iPad.
Your bathed, fluffy ducklings and more hyper than Lee Evans after a litre of Sunny D. It’s getting late. There’s a feeling that this is never going to end. In all honesty? I just let them stay up until they’ve thrashed it out of their system. There’s a reason why a lot of family hotel entertainment starts way later than a typical bedtime. And a later bedtime many just mean a small lie in the next day. Hurrah! And when they finally snooze, you can blissfully sip wine from a bathroom tumbler, not daring to speak and watching TV with the sound off. Think how lovely your snoozing kids are, vowing never to do this again… until the next flash hotel sale. Happy hoteling!
Our trip to Sardinia was a kind of ‘Babymoon’, if you like. I was 6 month’s pregnant with our second son, and we decided to take a 3-year old Asher for a week away over Easter.
As a family, we’ve loved Italy for as long as we’ve been together, which isn’t actually that long – 5 years at the time of this trip – to be exact. But in that space, we’ve seen Venice, Verona and Lake Garda as a carefree couple, Tuscany with a toddler and so a trip to Italy’s largest island seemed like a natural progression. Plus, every Italian we know has had good things to say about Sardinian beaches.
Our hotel was located in La Caletta, a small town on the east coast of Sardinia, about 40 minutes’ drive from Olbia airport. An Italian all-inclusive (yay – Italian red and Peroni on tap… oh, I can’t drink) kept Andrew occupied and kept Asher well fed, for the 6,324 meals that he requires a day.
The local area doesn’t sport the prettiest of beaches – you should hire a car and descend the perilous trip to Golfo Di Orosei for that – but it’s a handy and very user-friendly base, especially for those with young children. I should also say that Asher took a shine to La Caletta’s Salvataggio and called him ‘Jingles’ (??) for the duration of our stay. He had a box of sandcastle making stuff next to his lookout, so you can imagine that he made a friend for life out of our curious little tourist.
Even though Sardinia is Italian, it’s very different in terms of food preferences and temperament of the general public. It’s sleepy, full of cured meats, sheep cheeses and gentle language. Forget the mainland’s hand flinging, exuberant dialogues. It’s a beautiful, special place that I’d love to visit again, when I’m not sporting a large bump and a young boy who thinks he’s a cliff-diving daredevil.
Anybody who’s seen the weather forecast this week, will have observed the lovely swathes of snow banding their way across the country. So far, Yorkshire hasn’t seen massive amounts of snow; just the sludgy jam-your-buggy-wheels-up type of stuff that just makes the school run unpleasant and makes a grimly sloppy snowball. Thanks for that, son *wipes side of face*.
Nonetheless, it has been cold, dark and relentlessly miserable. I’ve also been trying to make friends with my Christmas present to myself: A Fitbit to help me curb my gluttonous ways. To cheer myself up, I accepted a kind invitation from Pizza Express to go and try some specials that have been reintroduced off the summer menu, which would hopefully take the bite out of this grim weather (see what I did there?).
So how would a summer menu work in the dead of UK winter? There was only one way to find out. EAT!
I troughed daintily picked my way through three courses from the specials and really enjoyed the way the menu has been put together. As a driver/Dryjanuaryist (kinda… well ok, I’m not very good at it), I didn’t try the sloe prosecco aperitif, but a late summer berry twist sounds perfect in a dry fizz. Especially on a Friday night like this with friends. At this point, the three of us look to one another and wonder who suggested we all drive into town?
My starter of pennette formaggi (£5.75) was cheesy, oozy and drenched in a super-potent garlic oil. I love the stuff, especially when it mingles with a three-cheese sauce, mozzarella and Gran Milano, over the top of penne. Served in a Le Creuset-style lidded ramekin, it’s a small plate that’s deceptively filling. And oozy. And stringy. And delicious. Don’t tell my Fitbit I’ve just eaten that.
Having well and truly said arrivederci to my bikini bod (well, having two kids helped, can’t just blame the pot of cheese), I thought I may as well try the summery-sounding Barbacoa Romana (£14.25). A thin-stretched pizza topped with pulled beef that’s been marinated in chilli, lime and garlic, plus passata, chipotle salsa and a sprinkling of chopped tomato and red onion. The raw veggies and super-thin base indeed make this feel like a lighter and zippier choice for a warm summer evening, whilst the heat from the sauce and the tangy beef gave it the oomph of a stodgy, winter dish. I took my Fitbit off and put it in my handbag.
To finish, I ordered an oven-baked chocolate fondant (£6.40). A hot/cold contrast always makes the best desert in my opinion, and my friends did suffer dessert envy when mine arrived. Cutting the sponge open to allow the chocolate to ooze out was a joy. How many times can I say ‘ooze’ in one blog post? I’ll have to say it again; it was just oozy wonderment, especially as it cut through the cold ice cream.
So, I had a cheesy, oozy summer’s night dream in the middle of January, thanks to Pizza Express. I might put my Fitbit back on in a week or two, once I’ve stepped all the ooziness away.