Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: family holiday

Bluestone – the home of free range holidays?

I learnt 3 things during our stay at Bluestone:

1 – It is impossible to explain to a 2.5 year old the difference between Wales and whales. He was extremely disappointed not to see any whales in the water as we crossed the bridge into Whales. Then on the way home he said “but daddy, we can’t go home we didn’t see the whales”.

2 – I’d really like to live in a wooden lodge; the accommodation at Bluestone is in the form of the classic wooden lodges and I was quite amazed at the space we had given that it was a relatively small building. 4 very large bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and an open plan living area. Change the downstairs bedroom into a playroom and the bathroom into a utility room and you’d have a pretty perfect house to live in. I love the simplicity of it and the open plan feel. Plus with the double height sitting room you could have one massive Christmas tree!

3 – family holidays are all about making memories; it’s as much about the journey as the actual destination. Which may sound a bit corny but if you ask Matilda what her favourite thing on the holiday was she’ll tell you that it was driving around in the golf buggy rather than the activity at the end of the drive.

Bluestone lodges

During our stay at Bluestone we had gales, a small tornado, hail, snow, rain and some sunshine. Yet even with this crazy weather we had a great time, although it does of course help that we’re happy to throw on our waterproofs and head out in most types of weather. The park is set in beautiful countryside and centred around a lake and small village at the bottom of a valley that contains most of the restaurants along with a few shops. This being Wales it definitely isn’t flat and going anywhere involves a few hills, worth keeping in mind if you have little ones like us or aren’t as mobile. The site is car free so we hired a golf buggy for the week to get around when we needed to travel a little further or wanted to save the kids energy for the playground.

What I liked about Bluestone was that even in the depths of January there were loads of activities on offer, most of which you can prebook before your trip if you want. I imagine that would be essential in the busy summer months but was less of a big deal for us. The activities ranged from baby sensory and messy play through to kayaking, archery and bug hunting. In fact as you can probably guess it’s the outdoor ones and more adventure type ones that appealed the most to me. However I would say that a lot of the activities are geared to older children than ours, certainly the more active ones like rock climbing or watersports. I can’t wait until Matilda is old enough to do rock climbing and the high ropes courses, we’re going to have so much fun!

Jumping in puddles

On the really wet days we went swimming and used the indoor soft play area, although we almost didn’t make it swimming as we didn’t have enough adults to meet the pool’s rules on supervision. Thankfully Ella was staying at the same time and was our extra adult. Matilda absolutely loved the flowing river that took us outside while Henry and Rupert stayed in the little pool that was just a few inches deep. Unfortunately I couldn’t indulge my big kid desire to go on the chutes this time which curl around the outside of the building.

On the Thursday we finally had a good block of sunny weather so we headed out for a stomp through the forest near camp smokey with Matilda eyeing up the zip wires across the valley. We’d only planned a short walk but ended up walking all the way down the valley to the village jumping in muddy puddles and trying not to scare all the wildlife away. We then dived into the Knights tavern for lunch just before the hail started again and for some warmth next to the log fire. I was actually quite impressed with the food in the pub, I’m definitely a bit of a food snob but the food wasn’t the mass produced chain pub food I expected and was really quite good. There are lots of mentions around the site about the use of local food and that was clear in the deserts and the tasty local ice cream!

Walking down the boardwalk at Bluestone

We definitely enjoyed our time at Bluestone but there are a couple of changes that could take the park a little closer to perfection. First none of the restaurants in the village open before 12pm, you do have the option of the shop or bakery but if you want a cooked meal 12pm is the earliest. If you have children the age of mine you want to be eating before this, or at least ordering. Given the site is set up to be family friendly I was a bit surprised at the timings. The second thing is in the lodges, they already have stair gates fitted which is great, but I’d have loved to see it go a little further. There was no child cutlery or china in the kitchen and it would be great to have a step in the bathrooms for them to use with the toilet and at the sink. Little things (literally) but they do make a difference.

The big question of course is would I go again? Yes, but is my answer. For me 5 days there was long enough; while I enjoyed not getting in the car at all during the week part of the reason I like going on holiday is to explore and discover new places. By the end of the week I was ready for a change of scenery and to see more than the parks roads etc. But if we had older children I can certainly see the attraction of having so many things for them to do, you could easily send them off each day for half a day to do a high ropes course or kayaking and then have time to yourself.

A quick stop off at Tenby on the way home to enjoy the beautiful January sun

A quick stop off at Tenby on the way home to enjoy the beautiful January sun

Where’s my home gone?

It’s the first night in our holiday cottage, the drive up to Scotland the previous night had gone well if you ignore the fact the kids stayed awake for the first 100 miles and we were just doing our normal bedtime routine.

All going well so far, Matilda and Henry are knackered after a long day and all the excitement of a new house. We read stories together and then I took Matilda through to her room and give her a cuddle. Just as I’m putting her into her cot she utters the question for the first time.

Where’s my home gone?

I’m a little stumped, it’s obvious isn’t it? It’s where it’s always is and we’re just here on holiday. But apparently not in the mind of a toddler. I never considered that she wouldn’t ‘get’ the concept of holiday and then as I tried to explain what it is I could hear myself talking and knew it wasn’t making sense to her.

I reassured her that we would definitely be going back to her little house again, (and her garden and her cot and her high chair). But there was no way this was the end of it.

And so we had to answer that question at least once a day, each time the same worry in her voice. We offered to to send postcards home to her house and also our neighbours who are watching the house for us. This seemed to make her happier, that someone was watching it and we could send post to it.

She’s such a funny little thing, such a home girl, loves all her own things and makes sure we take them with us. She’s at her most happiest at home, playing in the garden with her pushchair and collection of bags. I love that she will happily sit and play by herself, really not needing prompting but it does also make it hard when we want to do trips out.

Anyone else have a toddler like this? Are we destined to carry a blanket and bunny everywhere we go for the next  5 years?

Matilda reading

Bordeaux or bust

I’m back! Back from 2 weeks in mostly sunny Bordeaux with the lady of the manor, Matilda and Henry plus my brother and his wife and their almost 2 year old. 2 weeks in a big villa with a pool and hot tub in a quaint little French village. 2 weeks of lazy mornings in our PJ’s eating our own body weight in bread and croissants followed by games of chase and hide and seek.

If I could sum up this holiday in one word it would be tiring, but quite honestly what more would you expect from a holiday with 3 under 2’s in the same house? However it’s also been fun, hilarious, exciting, adventurous, inspiring, beautiful, cute and tasty. There have been tears and tantrums, grumpiness and shouting, door slamming and toy throwing from parents and children alike.

But above all it has been a fabulous family holiday, our first as a family of 4 and after a rocky start the beginning of a great friendship between two toddler cousins. However these weren’t the only firsts. There was Henry’s first rollover and trip to the beach, there was Matilda’s first taste of a mussel and an anchovy (for the record the first was spat out, the second devoured), plus her first swim in an outside pool and in a lake. She learned to kick and throw a football and how to hold and eat a whole apple all by herself.

Not bad at all.

There was also parent only evening swim sessions accompanied by a cold beer once the little ones were safely tucked away. Seafood dinners outside followed by a hot tub under the stars. BBQ’d steaks accompanied by carefully selected red wines and stinky cheese for dessert. An evening with a visit from a MASSIVE snake on the patio (and yes it was massive, we googled it and it’s the biggest species of snake in Europe!) that had us all standing on chairs followed by a bat flying around the lounge and the biggest spider you have ever seen in the bedroom.

There was morning trips to the local Boulangerie for fresh bread and croissants and food buying trips to local markets that exhausted our 20 words of French very quickly. We ate ceps, prawns, mussels, steak, mackerel, fresh peaches, gorgeous juicy figs with cheese, pain au chocolat by the dozen, beautiful mature Comte. We climbed the biggest sand dune in Europe with babies on our backs and had a moment of panic when Henry screamed hysterically for 30 minutes for no apparent reason.

Plus of course me being me there was runs through vineyards of big white grapes waiting to be made into Cognac and past houses that all seem to have dogs loose in the garden barking at you. Squeezing in a run between Matilda going to bed and the beginning of the evenings eating wasn’t easy but I do need regularly exercising to stop me getting grumpy.

We’ll forget about the torrential rain in the second week that drove us a little stir crazy and the quite literally wafer thin ceilings that meant you could hear every murmur from the room above or below. Not ideal with noisy babies especially an 18 month old that is teething and screams herself to sleep most nights.

We may also have collapsed exhausted with a cold beer onto the sofa after the kids bed time most nights and had moments of tearing our hair out as Matilda and her cousin successfully distracted each other from eating a meal, but it’s been fun and so nice to have 2 weeks away catching up with my babies after a busy couple of months at work.

Shame that there is the small matter of an 8 hour drive in France and 3 hours in the UK to survive to get here. Coming down we did it in 2 chunks with an overnight stop, going home we did in one long journey but chose to drive over night to minimise the complaints from the wee ones. Hard work for the parents but a damn sight easier than having 2 crying children in the back fed up with sitting in their car seats.

 

So back to reality and work and everyday life. But also planning for the next holiday, California maybe as part of a work trip for me. Possibly Scotland also with the opportunity to see family and do some big walks plus meet with some fab bloggers while we’re at it.