Tag Archives: summer holidays

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.

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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.