Bonjour! We have just arrived home from our first ever family holiday and we all had such a wonderful time! Seeing as we drove 900 miles with a 4 month old baby, we had a pretty relaxing time – all things considered! For our first holiday we headed down to France to stay with family who live near Bordeaux as we thought that a driving holiday might be easier. We’d have our own car and plenty of space for luggage, plus we could travel at our own pace, which seemed to work really well for us. So today on the blog I thought I’d share some little snippets of our holiday and what we’ve been up to. Being a family holiday, I realised I didn’t really have time to get my blog camera out to snap the perfect ‘blog photography’, so hope you enjoy these raw snaps mainly caught on my phone camera too!
We left Newhaven on the ferry early on the Saturday morning – Violet was up so early we kept her in her pjs so she’d feel comfy on the journey, we thought she’d sleep more but it was clearly too exciting and different to nap.
The ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe is around 4.5 hours and it was pretty choppy as we set sail. I started to feel pretty seasick and thought we were going to be in for a really long, rough journey but after about 30 minutes things settled down and I started to feel a bit better. I didn’t really enjoy the ferry though, it’s pretty slow and boring! I would have spent the time reading or writing blog posts, but Violet was quite unsettled so we mainly walked round and round in circles with her in the Ergobaby 360 Carrier – I couldn’t wait to get to the other side!
When we arrived in France, our first stop was Le Mans – around 3.5 hours drive away. Violet was so good on the journey down, mainly sleeping the whole way. If she grizzled a bit I put loads of nursery rhymes and the Moana soundtrack on my phone, that calmed her instantly – she loves music! We made a few stops to stretch our legs and get her out her car seat but we got to our hotel about 6pm, just in time for dinner and for our first night in a hotel with Violet. We thought she’d be really unsettled after such a long day of travelling, but we put up her travel cot with the Sleepyhead pod so it felt snuggly and familiar and she slept all night through. She is honestly such a good baby and a natural traveller! (Wonder where she gets that from… 😉 )
The hotel we stayed at was fantastic – in the middle of nowhere, but that didn’t matter as we were hitting the road again the following morning. Breakfast was amazing – I love a hotel breakfast, scrambled eggs, pancakes with Nutella, fresh fruit and stacks of coffee – perfect!
After breakfast, we got back on the road and headed down to my relatives house which is in Gemozac, a tiny village around an hour away from Bordeaux. Again, Violet coped brilliantly with the journey – sleeping most of the way. The French motorways are just so long and straight, I was able to write blog posts on my laptop all the way down which was fab to get some bits done on the go! This is the third time I’ve visited this part of France and it’s just beautiful – this year, we timed our visit with the sunflower season. I couldn’t wait to see huge fields filled with cheery, bright sunflowers and as we arrived into the area, the fields were just filled with yellow blooms as far as the eye could see (and we were a little early for the season this year, apparently half of the fields had not flowered yet) but it still looked amazing to me. My relatives have such a beautiful house and we stay in their gite, a renovated barn dating back to the 18th century which they rent out as a self-catering holiday apartment (if you are thinking of a holiday in France or want to see more about the place we stayed have a look at their website!). The area they live is perfect for exploring, with towns like Cognac, Bordeaux and La Rochelle a drive away, so I always get excited about going as there is always something new to see and do, plus it’s lovely for us to spend time with family too.
During our 4 night stay with relatives we spent most of the time relaxing and unwinding. On our last visit we were out and about most days but this time we decided to keep things simple for Violet and just enjoyed the sunshine in the garden, played in the paddling pool and enjoyed each others company. We did pop into Royan for some lunch and a trip to the famous wool shop though – that is a must! During our stay the temperatures soared to over 34 degrees, so we became consumed by keeping Violet cool – at one point we had 3 fans on, wet towels hanging in the room and all the windows open and it was still 28 degrees in her bedroom. I think we might have been worrying too much though as she still slept really well – in fact she spent so much time asleep on holiday and by the end of the week had quite obviously grown a lot as her clothes were tight, she’s our little sunflower growing in the sunshine!
I was excited to have some time to read for the first time since Violet’s birth – I got into my newest book ‘The Cows’ by Dawn O’Porter – I haven’t finished it yet but I was hooked and haven’t enjoyed a book so much for a long time.
One of the ‘must-have’ things that we couldn’t have been without on this trip was Violet’s Travel Essentials UV tent, its light, easy to carry about and pops up within seconds. We used it both inside and outside as a safe play space which was invaluable as she is rolling now so we needed a place she couldn’t escape from easily! It has a soft mat inside which made it the perfect area for her to play outside and be protected from the sun (the fabric provides SPF35 protection). It can also be used as a travel cot, so we used it for her to nap during the day and in the early evenings too so we could still enjoy dinner on the balcony and keep and eye on her as she slept.
Finally we got to visit the Sunflower fields which was a dream come true, I have been wanting to see them in bloom for years now! As you can see from the photos, they certainly didn’t disappoint – a sea of yellow as far as the eye can see. Of course, we had to have a little photo shoot – I don’t think Violet quite knew what to make of it all!
After 4 nights staying with my relatives we started making our way towards home, with two night stops along the way to break the journey. Our first stop on the way back was the beautiful town of Saumur. We had the most beautiful view from our hotel room looking out over the river. We had a late lunch, followed by a salted caramel crepe and glass of wine in town before heading back to the hotel for about 6pm to bath Violet and put her to bed, we then just chilled out in our hotel room for the evening, watching the sun set over the river. Going on holiday with a baby certainly is a different pace of life, I’d never be in bed by 7pm on holiday but it was actually really nice to have an excuse to just relax and be, rather than rushing about seeing and doing everything.
Our last stop and final night in France was in Rouen, another 3 hour drive away. This drive was a tricky one – if you’ve ever been to Rouen, the one-way system is horrific! We got lost and ended up driving around 3 times before we found our hotel with Violet crying in the back, we had ‘Humpty Dumpty’ on a loop and honestly, trying to navigate and sing Humpty Dumpty with a hysterically screaming baby will be etched in my mind forever! ‘Humpty Dumpty had a great….. TURN LEFT!’
We got to our hotel and settled in before popping Violet in her pushchair to explore the local area. Rouen was a fantastic town to explore – the medieval streets and cathedral were just stunning. We ate lunch in a restaurant in the square and watched the world go by – I didn’t want to leave and wished we had longer here.
Back in the hotel for our last night we gave Violet a present from our holiday – Sophie La Girafe, an authentic French Sophie! She loved it and played with her for hours, laying on our double bed rolling all over the place. That night she slept on her own bed for the first time ever (without the travel cot) and looked so grown up, she barely fits in her sleepyhead these days either – eek!
So on our last day we bid farewell to France and boarded the ferry home. The weather was better so the crossing was smooth and I didn’t feel as seasick on the return, phew!
And here we are, approaching home – doesn’t the sea look beautiful! So all in all, we had a lovely trip and managed to relax and unwind, even travelling with a 4 month old. I think we learned a few things along the way…
- Babies don’t actually need that much stuff, we didn’t use half her clothes, half the formula or things we packed, next time I’d pack lighter, you can get most things abroad so we didn’t need to worry too much.
- If you are having just one night in a hotel, pack an overnight pack – the first hotel we unloaded our whole car into the room and it was full to the brim! On the way home we packed specific bags just for the hotel room with essentials and just enough clothes for us all, that worked so much better.
- Evian water spray is your friend for cooling a hot baby
- Nursery rhymes are also great for calming if you are in the car with a stressed out baby
- Be ready to do a lot less when you are travelling with a baby as it’s all so new and overwhelming to them, enjoy lots of time chilling out instead of being out and about all the time
- Bottled water has a baby bottle symbol if it’s low in minerals and suitable to be used to make babies bottles (who knew?)
- Cold water sterilising bags are great for cleaning bottles on the go
- Try and make their bedding as close as it is at home, take the same sleepyhead, blankets and gro bag so bedtime feels familiar, even in a totally different environment.
- You can create a baby monitor, using a phone and ipad and connecting them both (either using an app or just via face time)
- Babies love new experiences so don’t be put off by travelling with a baby – it’s so worth it to see their little face wide-eyed and to explore together as a family!
Are you going away this summer? If so where are you off to? If you are thinking of travelling with a baby, I have another post of top tips here and also if you are thinking of a holiday in France, please do check out the gite where we stayed, it’s BEAUTIFUL and they still have a few spaces for bookings this year too 🙂
I was kindly sent the UV tent to review – all thoughts an opinions are my own