Violet’s First Holiday

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

Top tips for travelling with baby

Before we thought about having babies, travel was ‘our thing’ we liked to do. We were always plotting our next adventure, usually something including a trek off the beaten track or somewhere you wouldn’t normally think of going. We’ve been to some amazing places. So, with the arrival of baby Violet our travel plans have screeched to a sudden holt. We knew this would happen and it’s fine, she is worth it! But now it’s now time to come out of our comfort zone and take her on her first trip. This time we’ve planned something super easy for first-timers and will be visiting family in France, making some stops along the way to break up the long drive.

As this is our first trip away with a baby I’m suddenly finding it incredibly daunting! I mean, a couple of the many questions in my mind have been – How do we survive the hot weather? How do we sterilise bottles on the go (and make formula!)  and how do we keep Violet busy in her car seat for the long drives? There is SO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT. Luckily our travel plans will be super easy though, so that’s all taken care of (Thanks Clickstay!) – Now all I need to do is organise the challenging task of packing for our journey.

So, following the success of my previous post about babyproofing, I turned to my same expert team of Mummy bloggers to share their top tips for travelling with little ones, as they’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt when it comes to travelling with little ones. They have shared amazingly helpful tips, not just on travelling by car but by air too, so if you are planning a trip with a baby this summer, I hope you’ll find this helpful. Here is what they had to say:

Use your hand-luggage wisely, leave any unnecessary bits for adults in the suitcases and prioritise things for your little one in hand-luggage. Make sure you have a ‘just in case’ bag of medicines and teething essentials, in the case of any unexpected illnesses on the flight. Distractions are key! Books, colouring books and crayons, magazine, small toys and even downloading your little ones favourite TV show to play on aeroplane mode will all help make the flight shorter for them. Tattooed Tealady

Snacks!! Lots of snacks. Both for the plane and the hotel. Also, spare change of clothes in the hand luggage for baby if you are going somewhere hot as you can change them straight away then so they aren’t irritable with the heat. If they’re weaned the pre-book meals for them, as a lot of airlines don’t assume you want them and wait for you to book them. Usually they need a few days notice too Then There Were Three

Pack extra nappies/spare clothes as the pressure in the cabin is likely to lead to explosions! Scandi Mummy

Pack plenty of nappies in your hand luggage just in case of delays, plus a spare outfit or two incase of accidents! My sister in laws baby had a poo explosion at the airport and had no spare clothes! Lylia Rose

Calpol an hour or so before you fly to pre-empt any discomfort from take off. I also made sure I gave them a bottle/dummy etc to suck on too.  Suburban Mum

Definitely spare clothing…. sitting in the car for long times can cause ‘leakage’. My son always timed accidents to the “perfect” moment, normally in public, miles away from a toilet..!  Planes, Trains and Meltdowns

Our little girl gets travel sick and GP recommended taking Piriton to relieve travel sickness. If you are hiring a car take a car seat with you, they are stupidly expensive to hire and you can check them in. For baby essentials I find it easier to find a local super market and stock up when we get there. I take enough stuff for a day or two. Part of the fun of exploring a new place is finding out what pampers are called in their country. 😜 The Tantrum Times

Pack a spare change of clothes (sleep suit etc) to get baby changed into for a comfortable sleep. Katy Kicker

If using bottles, a plastic tub and cold water steriliser tablets are really handy! The ready made cartons are also SO handy for travelling, as there’s no fear of powdery mess everywhere! Emily and Indiana

Ziplock bags – for packing changes of clothes for baby ( easy to grab one and know everything is all in there), also for ice cubes to keep milk/food cold ( refill after security and on plane) Spare change of clothes for YOU too ( or at least a top) Small Calpol sachets 5ml, Plenty of snacks and food if weaning/ post weaning ( most major airlines have baby purée in jars which you can pre request as a BBML. Something with a familiar smell or scent, CoziGo bassinet cover ( also great for prams too plus UV 50 and breathable) if your flight has a bassinet. A GALT ring is handy if you have a non mover- easy to pack, lightweight and very useful for a villa, or hotel room to keep baby in a safe spot or even by the pool. UV play tent – again very handy for the pool or beach. Flying with a baby

A baby carrier – far easier for dealing with airports and security (especially if it’s metal free as then you can wear your child THROUGH the scanners).
A handful of new toys to get out along the route when you need to provide some new entertainment. Just small things; a toy car, a small maraca (that type of thing. Devon Mama

We found our Snoozeshade invaluable – whether it’s sunny or not, it’s so helpful for even trying to get them to grab a quick nap in the pram. Life with Boys

Super helpful tips! Thank you so much to everyone that contributed – so basically I need a lot of spare changes of clothes, nappies and distractions! Luckily Violet isn’t weaning yet, so at least we only have one form of ‘food’ to worry about for her too.  These tips have really given me a good place to start with our packing so hopefully you’ll find them helpful too. We’ll be blogging about our trip as we go, so watch out for those updates too!

 

Post written in collaboration with Clickstay 

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A Springtime adventure in London #ad

I love nothing more than a spontaneous day out. Before Violet was born, we’d always be hopping on and off the train to London, going for days out to explore the museums, catching a West End show or the odd cheeky shopping spree. However, since Violet arrived, life is a little different and it’s not quite that easy – I mean it took me 5 weeks to pluck up the courage to get out of the door on my own, so the thought of a family day out further than our sweet safe zone of Brighton seemed like a big step… but a tempting one.

So, this weekend we decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. I’ve always said that when I had a family, I wanted to be the kind of person who gets on with life as it was before, doing all the things we would have done, just this time taking the baby along for the ride too. This seemed the perfect opportunity to start our days of fun days out for all the family.

Looking at the weather forecast, it wasn’t looking great but we were determined to keep going regardless – Good old British springtime weather! We decided the best plan was to opt for a sightseeing trip to The Tower of London – I haven’t been since I went on a school trip so I couldn’t wait to see it again and view everything through adult eyes (I think as a child you just remember the grizzly bits, like where they cut people’s heads off – right?). That way we could enjoy the things outside, but there would be somewhere to run for cover – should the weather turn on us.

So we got up nice and early and headed down to Brighton train station to board our train.

Now, after all my apprehension around travelling with the baby, honestly – this has been the easiest journey to London I’ve ever done. We hopped on the Thameslink service from Brighton – this goes straight into London Bridge which is right in the heart of London and the perfect place for getting to so many of the sights, without having to use the underground. As I went to buy our tickets I was also surprised as it’s such great value for money too – with the Super Off-Peak tickets at the weekend, we only paid £10.80 return too and little one went free (although they also do a Kids travel for £2 offer for bigger children too). Plus, can you believe it, our carriage was totally empty! A few more people joined us on the way to London, but everyone had a seat and there was plenty of room for the pushchair and I saw lots of people with luggage as the train stops at Gatwick airport too.

As we whizzed through the beautiful Sussex countryside, Violet was absolutely mesmerised looking out of the windows, all the flashes of sunlight, the colours and the scenery left her wide-eyed as she took it all in. She actually stayed awake most of the journey (I thought the movement would send her to sleep) as I think it was all pretty new and exciting for her, she wanted to just take everything in.

We arrived into London Bridge around mid-morning – this was the perfect base for us as there are so many sights you can visit from London Bridge without having to catch the tube and worrying about whether there would be lift access for the pushchair. From London Bridge some fab places to visit within walking distance are: HMS Belfast, River Cruises, Borough Market, Tower Bridge, The Shard, Tate Modern, the Jack the Ripper Tour – and of course The Tower of London, that just to name a few, there are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants to enjoy as well.

Checking the time – it took us just over an hour to get from Brighton to London, not bad at all! (Watch – Ice Lo)

We then headed to our destination for the day – The Tower of London. One of England’s most historical sights, the Tower of London dates back as far 1066, when it was founded as part of the Norman Conquest of England. From then, it’s been in the hands of many different monarchs, used as an armoury, the royal mint, a prison to Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh and also a place of torture and death – as Ann Boleyn and many others were beheaded within the grounds. The White Tower is said to be haunted by Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey and Ann Boleyn has been spotted walking along the corridors with her head under her arm. Nowadays, thankfully – it’s a tourist destination and the home to the Crown Jewels. With so much to see and do, you can easily spend a full day taking in everything the Tower has to offer.

We bought our tickets, which were 2-4-1 when you travel on the train and of course I had to buy a guide book too!

Two buildings, centuries apart.

We spent a good couple of hours at least exploring everything the Tower has to offer. The weather was so changeable, one minute it would be sunny, the next raining! I’m sure we spent more time putting Violet’s rain hood over the pushchair and taking it off than doing anything anything else. We found the Tower relatively easy to get about with the pushchair, although it took a bit of planning as most areas are accessed by steps but the guide book helped to point us in the direction of the step-free access points. Highlight of our trip to the Tower has got to be seeing the Crown Jewels – we queued for so long (luckily in the sunshine!) and once it was our turn, we boarded the travelator that goes past the main exhibit and lifted Violet up to see the Crown Jewels too. The Beefeater guarding the room laughed at us as she’s so little, but I think she was interested in the jewels for sure! Maybe it was the colours or the sparkles (she is my daughter after all), but one day we’ll tell her about her adventure to see the Crown Jewels and I’m sure she’ll be pleased we included her.

After a good look around the grounds at The Ravens, the guardsmen, the beefeaters and the Bloody Tower it all became a bit much for Violet and she got a bit overtired, so we retreated to the cafe for a well earned cream tea and a bottle of milk (for Violet, not us!). Feeling refreshed after a spot of calm, we continued with our day…

As we left the Tower, the weather turned and it was so stormy overhead – kind of made the Tower even more spooky and atmospheric with those looming grey clouds. It was time to make our escape!

We decided to carry on our day with a little ‘walking tour’ of London along the River Thames. I say a little tour as we didn’t join an official one we just plodded along, taking in the sights and snapping away as we went. Shame the weather wasn’t great as we did get caught in a torrential downpour at this point, but luckily it passed pretty quickly and we carried on, Violet asleep in her pram was none the wiser, so thats all that mattered!

For us, no trip to London would be complete without a trip to Wahaca to round the day off with tacos and mojitos! I was so excited to have my first mojito since before I was pregnant (well, and before I did IVF so maybe 18 months ago now!) and it was worth every sip! They are SO GOOD. Exhausted from our day of adventure around London we finally rested up and and enjoyed a Mexican feast, we even had a few friends who live in London turn up to join us, which was a lovely surprise!

After our meal we headed back to London Bridge Station on foot again, stopping as we passed a Nespresso Cafe which has a robot that collects your order of Nespresso pods and delivers them through a little hatch for you – honestly, I kid you not, a robot! I was well impressed. We also did a final bit of sightseeing, taking the scenic path through St Paul’s Cathedral gardens and we even walked by the First Dates Restaurant which was a fun little spot, I love that TV show.

All in all, we had a fabulous first family day out with Violet – she was good as gold and loved just taking in the scenery, the sights, sounds and movements kept her interested all day. When we needed places to sit and feed or change her, it was so easy – there are places everywhere! The train journey was quick and easy and much cheaper than I expected – plus we got a discount on our tickets for the The Tower of London which made it much more affordable too. I’m glad we decided to have a spontaneous adventure out and no doubt we’ll be planning the next one too.

Lastly, just for a bit of added fun, I vlogged our day out in London so here is a little video of us all as well – enjoy!

 

Post written in collaboration with Thameslink Rail, all words opinions and photography is my own.

 

5 things to do in New York

A bit of a different post from me today – It’s been a while since I wrote a travel post hasn’t it? We used to go on so many holidays but they feel like a distant memory at the moment! But life is different now so thats okay with me, I’ll travel again one day. However, this doesn’t stop me planning little trips in my mind though, maybe things we can do when Violet is a little bit older and will start to appreciate it a little more. One of the places I have always wanted to visit but have never been is New York – The city that never sleeps! Do you know in just one New York minute, there are 222 airport passengers, 416 taxi rides, 2986 rides on the subway – not to mention the 150 pizza’s eaten, 7296 cups of coffee drank, plus 187 tweets and 83 Instagrams shared. PHEW – that’s a lot, right? And thats only scratching the surface!  So I thought I’d write a post about the top things I’d love to do on my first trip to New York as a mini-wanderlust session and maybe if you are planning a trip, you’ll find this helpful too?

Times Square

Of course, this has got to be one of the most iconic sights in New York, right? I would love to stand watching all those flashing neon lights as yellow cabs fly by. I’ve seen it so many times in the movies, it would just feel so surreal to finally be there! The perfect place to start our trip with some food and shopping.

Top of the Rock

Everyone wants to go to the top of the Empire Estate building as that is the most famous building in New York, however for the best and most iconic skyline view of New York the top of the Rockerfeller Center is actually the place to go, I mean you can’t see the Empire Estate building when you are in it, right? It’s not the tallest building, or the best looking -but for the best panoramic views over the city, central park and beyond – a trip to the Top of the Rock is essential!

Central Park

That brings us nicely onto Central Park. How beautiful does it look? Is it only me that finds the fact it’s perfectly rectangular so pleasing? It’s amazing to have such a peaceful, tranquil green space in such a busy, bustling city. Gliding across the water in a rowing boat, visiting the Alice in Wonderland Statue and a picnic in the sunshine would be high on my list of things to do. I didn’t actually realise until I started doing some research but the park is absolutely huge, you can easily spend a day exploring so make sure you put some time aside!

Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge has got to be on my list of places to visit – is always reminds me of that moment in Sex and the City where Miranda and Steve get back together, meeting in the middle of the bridge! Being the old romantic I am, I’d love to visit the bridge I’ve seen in so many TV shows and movies and maybe even recreate a scene myself (ha! not really).

Eat all the food!

I’m not sure if you’ll remember but a little while ago I shared The Foodies Guide to New York on my blog, which was a post all about eating ALL THE FOOD, with a handy map to ensure you are visiting all the best places. If I visited New York, I would literally eat and drink my way around the city from beginning to end – from huge stacks of American Pancakes with lashings of maple syrup to giant pizzas oozing with stringy cheese, I would have to try it all! (And then have to buy two plane seats to get me home again 🙂 )

These are my top picks for a trip to New York – if you’ve been, where would you recommend? 

Post written in collaboration with Netflights – all words and opinions are my own.

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