Tag Archives: summer holidays

Camp in the Cloud – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 20

Since their first camps in 2016, G and M have looked forward to the start of every year to find out if they have got a place at their choice of Over The Wall camps. The initial outcome of this year’s applications saw both children on the waiting lists for their respective choices and, in M’s case in particular, with fingers tightly crossed that they might be lucky enough to make it to the actual camp when the time came about.

Like so many other activities, the coronavirus pandemic understandably shut down the Over The Wall camps this year, something that we all understood although it did leave the children somewhat disappointed. However, no sooner had we been advised that camp wouldn’t be happening this year, than an email was sent telling us that they were looking into a virtual alternative and to keep an eye out for future updates to be sent. It didn’t take long for the final details to reach me and both children eagerly signed up to the first ever Camp in the Cloud.

M was first up with the online South Health Challenges Camp and about 2 weeks before the start of camp his Camp in the Cloud box arrived on our doorstep. He did a grand reveal and shared opening his box with my Mum and Aunt over Face Time on the Saturday afternoon. Hidden inside was a padlocked box, sealed envelopes labelled for each day, face paints, a stationery set and, most importantly, his team t-shirt revealing he’s risen to the heady heights of being a green boy. The box also included a pot of M-friendly hot chocolate for cabin chat. The note on the container reminded him he could make it with the dairy-free milk alternative of his choice – a small thing that showed just how much OTW focuses on the finer details for each and every camper in their care. They also followed that up with an email just before camp began to remind me to check the ingredients to make sure I was confident that it was safe for M to drink.

The week of Camp in the Cloud came at a perfect time for M. It was a good start to his so-say summer holidays and proved to be a great distraction from the sad news of losing Grandpa the weekend before. The daily challenges gave him a focused activity to try his hand at and he loved being able to explore the virtual campsite, searching for the hidden Newman’s sauce bottles and participating in all his favourite camp activities in one way or another. The highlight of each day was most definitely the camp chat via Zoom, which gave him around 45 minutes to meet his team mates, accept, or set, team challenges and just chat in a face-to-face context, something he hasn’t really been able to do since lockdown began.

I was intrigued to see what M’s response to the week would be and it couldn’t have been more positive. Whilst he commented that it obviously wasn’t as good as going to camp itself, he loved being part of it and having something different to do after so many weeks of the same old, same old. Being able to dip in and out of the online platform during the day worked perfectly for my usually active child and the evening cabin chats really made it feel like camp. M was so impressed with the camp that he even contacted OTW himself to suggest that Camp in the Cloud is something they could continue to do in the future. He loves going to camp and always feels the bitter disappointment when he isn’t successful in getting a place. M believes that being able to offer Camp in the Cloud to those children who aren’t able to go the physical camp would be a great alternative and would reach out to offer the fantastic OTW experience to even more campers than they usually can. Whether they consider doing that, we simply don’t know, but anything we can do to help make it a reality we will.

Now we’re onto the countdown for G’s Midlands siblings camp at the end of the month – and she just can’t wait!

End of Term – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 17

And just like that it’s the end of the school year and the end of G’s secondary school career. From September she’ll have moved to the heady heights of further education here in the UK, although she’s still not decided as to exactly what she’ll be studying or where. It’s been an odd culmination of the last few years of hard work and has left us all feeling a little discombobulated. It’s not quite the end of the 7Y2D home-school as I have already warned both M and G that I fully expect them to keep up with some studies over the coming weeks and M has already been set some tasks by school to challenge him in preparation for his GCSE courses that will soon be starting.

They do have some fun activities planned for the summer too, with both children being invited to join Over The Wall’s “Camp in the Cloud”, something they’re both excited about as this photo of M opening his box shows. We will also no doubt take advantage of the freedom of more movement by embarking on a few hand-picked and carefully chosen day trips starting and ending at home. Our plans for a summer extravaganza to celebrate the end of G’s GCSEs have been put on hold for the foreseeable, but we will make sure that her results day is still marked in style. Truthfully it’s not the summer we had planned, but then 2020 hasn’t really been the year we were expecting it to be either. One thing’s for certain, this is a year unlike any other and we’ve all experienced life in a new way in the last 17 or so weeks.

Time to stop and smell the roses

New job, end of term, fundraising plans, health challenges, summer holidays… sometimes it really is nice to be able to stop and smell the roses, especially when they’re as beautiful as this bunch of flowers currently gracing G’s windowsill. A thank you from her Stagecoach school for all her help last week at their summer school – a small acknowledgement of her efforts and one that has very much been appreciated and enjoyed by us all.

We’re all taking a little time this week to slow down and appreciate life. With a couple of days off planned for the end of the week, I’m winding down to just spending some much-longed-for family time together and am wondering if I can convince the children to give up their technology for at least some of that time too. M is spending the week planning 101 things he wants to do with G before we have our break, whilst G tries her best to ignore him and focus on some gentle revision instead. Mike and I will complete as much work as we can and anything left outstanding will quite simply have to wait until we head back to our desks on Monday morning.

I hope you too get the chance to stop, take a breather and appreciate life in its fullest this week.

City Adventures in Lisbon

The first few days of our Portuguese adventures were spent in the capital city, Lisbon, where we enjoyed some great days out in what was a first visit for us, even though we know parts of the Algarve extremely well. For anyone wondering where to go on a family break, Lisbon has a huge variety of choices to suit just about every age and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. We weren’t staying in Old Lisbon itself, but rather in one of its suburbs and it was extremely easy to travel in and out of the main centre by train using their Via Viagem travel card system, something akin to London’s Oyster cards.

My Mum had lent me her Lisbon guide-book before we went, which I had just about had time to skim through and highlight some things which I thought might appeal to us all, given our ages ranged from 10 to somewhere in the 60s, and I knew she had a list of ‘must-sees’ to hand too. Her Berlitz Pocket Guide also proved to be a welcome distraction for an unexpectedly nervous M, who was surprisingly anxious about our 2 hour flight as he hasn’t flown since before having his tube and spent the time studying the guide pinpointing attractions he really wanted to visit whilst we were there. IMG_0957[1]With a list as long as our arm to work our way through, we narrowed down our choices to the top few that appealed the most to us all and set off to see just how much ground we could cover in our 3 full days in the city.

Our main choice for the first day was to jump on to a “Hop-on, hop-off” bus, a firm favourite in our family as a way of exploring a new place as it not only helps orientate ourselves, but also serves as a great way of seeing some sights that we might otherwise not get to visit due to time constraints. We used the familiar City Sightseeing tours as a company we’ve used around the world with great success, but have to say that this time we were left a little disappointed. The bus-stops were poorly signed and we frequently found ourselves walking miles in an attempt to work out exactly where we needed to be to catch the bus back to wherever we next wanted to be. On one occasion, we even gave up completely having spied the bus heading away from us after a good 20 minutes standing in the blazing sun at a marked bus-stop on what we knew had to be the wrong side of the road for the direction we wanted and instead negotiated a great rate with one of the Tuk Tuk drivers, much to the children’s delight.

We took the bus and travelled out to the area of Belém, where M had identified the impressive Torre de Belém as a necessary sightseeing stop. He was particularly intrigued by the stone rhino that graces the base of one of the Tower’s turrets and insisted we explored until we found it whilst the older members of our group held a place in the queue. We waited for well over an hour in the soaring heat and it was just about worth the wait. IMG_0914[1]Both children enjoyed exploring the different levels of the Tower, honing their photography skills amongst the cannons in the artillery as well as in the dungeons and of the stunning panoramic views of the River Tagus from the top. The tower is climbed via a steep spiral staircase and a series of sequenced traffic lights indicated when it was time to climb up, down, or pause for breath in one of the rooms off the main staircase.

Having exhausted all that the Torre de Belém had to offer, my Mum was keen for us to head towards the infamous Padrão dos Descobrimentos, perhaps one of the most well-known sights in Lisbon. Sadly, the monument that depicts a number of important Portuguese historical figures including explorers Magellan and Vasco da Gama, was hidden by scaffolding, but we enjoyed the walk along the river before wearily trekking on to our ever-elusive next bus-stop. Our travels also took us past the impressive Cristo Rei statue – M’s “…like Christ the Redeemer, but not..” – the beautiful Moorish-inspired Campo Pequeno Bullring and the awe-inspiring Águas Livres Aqueduct, all of which give us great reason to visit this beautiful city again.

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On the beach

Vettriano,_Singing_ButlerNaturally we couldn’t have travelled all the way to Cornwall for our summer holidays and left without spending some time on the beach. We were definitely busy enjoying our numerous day trips, but we were determined to squeeze in some beach time too and I’m so glad that we did. The weather might not have been as gloriously hot and sunny as either Portugal or Florida, but we certainly didn’t let some damp starts or chillier winds stop us enjoying all that beautiful Cornwall has to offer from a beach point of view. Due to some strange twists of fate, our week away happened to coincide with the travels of a mix of old friends and godparents, which meant we enjoyed our beach days in the company of others and journeyed between the Cornish coasts to visit them all.

Swanpool, near Falmouth – We were introduced to our first beach by G’s Godmama and her family. It was an unexpected stop as the forecast had been for heavy rain and we had actually arranged to spend the day with them at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth. However, by the time the sun had come out and appeared determined to stay for more than just a few minutes, we mutually agreed to abandon the museum as a rainy day pursuit and head to the beach for a couple of hours instead. 20150823_163118Situated less than 10 minutes drive from the central car-park near the Maritime museum, we made our way to Swanpool and parked a little way from the beach itself and tackled the remaining journey by foot.

To G’s dismay, we were completely unprepared for a trip to the beach and so she had to settle for paddling along the shoreline, rather than going for the swim she longed to do. She happily spent the next couple of hours building sand-castles and splashing through the waves with Mike and her Godmama’s youngest son, H, whilst M and their middle son D clambered the rocks with his dad John. As our children and husbands entertained themselves and each other, Godmama C and I soaked up the sun and caught up on a year’s worth of news and gossip in person. And once their family decided to pack up and head back towards their North Cornwall house, we enjoyed a last few lingering moments together before our own journey back to our base in Fowey,

ReadyMoney Cove, Fowey – When investigating on-line all that Fowey and the surrounding area has to offer before heading down there in August, I discovered this fantastic website that told me the top 8 beaches in the Fowey area. Heading up this list was ReadyMoney Cove, a place that appealed to both Mike and me, so imagine my delight when my old school-friend, Jo, told me that she and her family were also staying in Fowey that week and 20150826_132107suggested ReadyMoney Cove as the perfect place for us all to meet up.

We parked at the main town car-park and walked around 15 minutes along the coast until we reached the furthest point accessible on foot and arrived at this beautiful small beach. Donning their new wetsuits, picked up as we travelled down the M5, my intrepid pair took to the waves with their bodyboards for a few minutes before declaring it too cold and instead headed off to investigate the rock-pools, armed with buckets and some fishing nets borrowed from Jo. The sun was not quite as warm as our afternoon at Swanpool, but the children enjoyed our morning at the beach and were more than happy to sit on the sand and munch their picnic lunch before going back to the hotel swimming pool for the afternoon.

Treyarnon Bay, near Padstow – Our final beach was the amazing expanse that is Treyarnon Bay and M was thrilled to be introduced to it by his godmother, L and her family. This time we trekked across the county to visit this north Cornish beauty spot and it was well worth the effort. Found in the same part of the world as Padstow, this was the largest beach we went to and gave the children a completely different experience. 20150827_151840G, M and their long-time pal, H, spent a glorious afternoon body-boarding, wave-jumping, rock-pool exploring and building sand defences to protect us from the approaching waves.

As well as spending some precious time with H, both children also made new friends on the beach, which just added to their wonderful time. Mike and I had a fantastic afternoon catching up with L and M before spending a relaxed evening at their campsite, sharing good food, great wine and a night filled with laughter and tales, whilst the children spent the time burning off whatever energy they had left after a busy afternoon on the beach.