Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: holidays

The quiet family dinner out

Picture the scene; we’re driving back from a busy day out at the Lost gardens of Heligan (great family day out BTW), the boys are asleep in the back and Matilda is chatting away to herself. The lady of the manor and I are discussing dinner plans for the evening, we’ve had a good day but any day out with 3 children under 5 cannot be described as relaxing. Unless of course relaxing means feeling like you’ve run a marathon while shouting 10 times every mile “don’t touch that” “stay away from the edge” “that’s not for climbing on” “what do you mean you’re hungry again” “you’ll just have to wee in a bush”.

The thought of dinner out sounds very attractive, we talk ourselves into it; the boys have napped so will be in a good mood, the pub is on the way home anyway and it means no washing up (as the lady of the manor keeps telling me, it’s not a holiday if there’s washing up). Maybe it was the day in the sun, maybe we just had low sugar levels, whatever the reason we take the plunge and pull into the car park. Miraculously they are serving food all day (anyone else find it a nightmare with small children finding somewhere to eat before 5pm?) and we find a corner in a large and quite empty restaurant.

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Swimming with the fishes

Paddling at NairnWe recently had a problem with our heating system that meant there was a steady dripping of water out of a pipe on the side of the house. It took almost 3 weeks to coax a plumber to actually come out and take a look which is not only frustrating but also resulted in some very wet children.

You see Henry loves water and given the opportunity he would run round to the side of the house and you’d find him stood directly under the drip with a big smile on his face. Not caring in the least that those clothes and jacket we’d fought him to put on are now completely soaked. Then he’d shout at you WATER and start splashing around in the puddles on the floor until you dragged him away.

Matilda is similarly fish like and during our weekend trips to the local pool has started trying to figure out how to swim underwater. This love of water extends to pretty much all forms from the tiniest Scottish highlands stream to splash in right through to large lakes where they can feed the ducks. From jumping in puddles down the lane to throwing stones into a big river, if it’s wet they’re happy. Something they may well have inherited from their dad who has spent many a happy afternoon on the banks of a lake or river fishing and as a teenager could often be seen disappearing across a lake on a windsurfer.

Matilda also had the unique experience of having been in a hot spring for her first ever swim while we were in New Zealand when she was 6 months old (you can read all about that adventure here). Quite a stunning location for a swim and beautifully warm.

So it may come as no surprise that our holiday planning for next year revolve somewhat around water. I guess they may be a little young yet to go on a kayaking adventure with (sea kayaking with whales near Vancouver is on the bucket list) but we can certainly start introducing them to the sea and also go on some form of boat. Maybe a sailing boat for a cruise around some islands? Although I might be a little scared Henry would try to jump overboard. I bet they’d both enjoy some body boarding in some shallow water too, even better if the waters warm.

I’d love to say we plan to take them for a cultural experience and to see some of the world, but quite honestly that can wait. At their age they don’t care about history or culture, give them some of the activities above, a steady supply of snacks, the occasional ice cream and then a nice comfy bed to cosy up for a story at bed time and they’re happy. Then repeat again the next day but maybe with a milkshake instead of an ice cream. What am I talking about, AS WELL AS an ice cream!

What do you think? Perfect toddler holiday?

I’m submitting this post to Mark Warner in the hope that they pick me to be a #markwarnerdad for 2014, I think we’d be the perfect family to test out one of their holidays. We’re most definitely active and love nothing more than spending a day outside getting wet and dirty. Matilda and Henry are of course incredibly photogenic and always smiling which is of course what you want to see when reading about a holiday. Finally I became a (self nominated) travel reporter for a few weeks and blogged our way around New Zealand in 2011 as we explored that amazing country in camper van with a 6 month old baby, if that doesn’t make me a good candidate I don’t know what will!

French lifestyle – best in the world?

This may not be a ground breaking revelation but I think the French may have been first in the queue when God was giving out lifestyles. i have no doubt that I am not the first Englishman to come home from a holiday there and be more than a little envious that after I return home the locals are going to carry on buying their bread from THAT Boulangerie and eating amazing fresh mussels from the supermarket for only €3 a kilo and choosing whether to have fresh peaches or figs from the market today and and and. The list goes on and with it my wallet gets lighter and my stomach bigger.

There was of course the casual looking in estate agent windows and half hearted discussions of “you know it wouldn’t cost that much to get a holiday home here, we could share it”. But realistically would we ever do it? Can we really afford to buy a place here as well own a house in the UK? Probably not but who doesn’t like a holiday romance, even if the lady in question is rustic (i.e. falling down) farm house in the countryside rather than a tanned French woman?

But even if buying a holiday home isn’t realistic perhaps we can hold on to our French romance a little while longer by taking a piece of the lifestyle home with us? I’d love to take the 2 hour lunch breaks or the fresh bread being baked in every town and village but I might need a Jamie Oliver lead revolution to do that.

I can however embrace the attitude of the French, who are willing to spend money on good quality ingredients and shun sub standard food with questionable nutritious qualities. A simple comparison of an Inter-Marche to Tesco or Asda will tell you that. It may not be possible to buy that kind of food 100% from UK supermarkets but farm shops and small independent shops will offer it.

I can also embrace the simplicity of eating, expensive French food may be massively complicated and contain 100’s of ingredients but everyday French cooking isn’t like that it. It’s about a few simple ingredients prepared with care and shared with friends and a family. I would quite happily eat fresh bread, seafood, salad and wine every night outside in the evening sun until the day I die. Such pleasure from shelling prawns before devouring them with a squeeze of lemon while drinking wine and chatting with family.  Even better if the prawns have been gently warmed and smoked on the BBQ firsts.

That is pretty much how we have eaten for the whole time here, with the exception of a couple of nights where we had pasta or pizza for a change. Not that we tired of the seafood but rather felt we ought to change. We didn’t drink expensive wine, less than €6 most of the time, but carefully chosen by my wine industry working brother to maximise the value. To be honest though a €3 bottle of Muscadet was my favourite, perfect companion for the food and weather.

Returning home to autumn in the UK means the stomach begins to yearn for stews and casseroles to keep warm in the dark evenings. Not quite the same but if you apply the principles of French food it means buying a good quality piece of meat (not the same as prime cuts though) and accompanying it with a few simple but fresh ingredients and of course a nice hunk of bread on the side.

I’m also resolved to try to make a pain rustique just like the Boulangerie down the road, a great new challenge for this wannabe baker. The lady of the manor has valiantly volunteered to be chief taster, can’t think why.

P.S. If anyones interested in a chipping in for a holiday home let me know, maybe we could do a crowd sourced purchase via Twitter?