This is not normally the type of blog I would write. If you’re looking for some political ranting or scathing comments about children’s clothes, better look in the archives or check back next week.
I know there are many blogs which exist which take sponsorship or freebies from companies in order to promote them. Just to make it clear, this is not that either.
This is me, genuinely and honestly, raving about a truly brilliant family experience. No hidden agendas. No advertising. Just a few ideas and suggestions for any families who might be thinking of going away.
Pre-parenthood, my husband and I were like most people: we weren’t exactly what you’d call seasoned travellers, but we liked a holiday and we liked to explore. We were never fans of the package holiday or lazing around on a beach all day – you can’t enjoy that if, like me, you’ve got itchy feet and the attention span of a gnat. Plus, after an ill-judged last minute holiday in Majorca at the end of the season, where the highlight was being presented with a carrier bag full of Bacardi Breezers because we were the only customers and the bartender was clearing out, while spending one memorable evening looking after the poor child of a couple so drunk they could barely pronounce their own names, we realised resort holidays were definitely not for us!
So we’d save up for our big adventures, like visiting temples and scuba diving in Thailand, or exploring hidden ruins around Mexico City. In between, we learned the values of mini-breaks near home. We spent an amazing week discovering the beauty of Northern Ireland and a slightly less beautiful week in rainy Devon, where the highlights were a trip to a rather muddy Maize Maze (so much that the woman at the gate genuinely tried to turn us away and avoid our disappointment rather than take our money) and a day out at the House of Marbles (yes, it really is a house full of marbles).
We had a great time – you always do when you’re away with someone you love – but I had very much come to see UK holidays as a second best; something to be accepted before you could afford to fly somewhere more exotic again.
Last year we ventured abroad again and I was certain we had found our family holidaying mojo. A week in Barcelona was the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of modern life. Culture for us, a beach and aquarium for the little one and a city apartment with a balcony on which to enjoy wines and nibbles after toddler bedtime. It was amazing. I can thoroughly recommend Barcelona, and was looking forward to repeating a similar experience this year.
So, we started to look for the next alternative, but it was not as easy as we thought. The fact that the boy is now over 2 and we have to pay for his flights suddenly made a huge difference to what we could actually afford. Plus, the absence of a buggy and any guaranteed nap time meant that dreams of exploring old towns and cultural highlights were unlikely to been born out.
Reluctantly and, to be honest rather petulantly, I came to accept that a week on the continent was looking unlikely, and suggested a ‘staycation’.
We agreed, and I acted excited, but inside I was gutted. While single and childless friends posted stunning pictures of their smug faces against the backdrop of shimmering beaches and glasses of Prosecco, I was going to be attending village fetes and huddling under anoraks in the English countryside.
But then I discovered something unexpected…the UK is awesome! Or, more specifically, Cornwall is awesome!
It helps of course that the BBC seemed to lose its knack of weather prediction for the week, and what we expected to be a week of cloud and rain turned into such unexpected glorious sunshine that we ended our holiday rather pinker than intended. Low expectations definitely have their advantages.
Still, Cornwall truly has merits which I cannot put down solely to the weather.
The beaches are among the cleanest and most beautiful I have ever seen: peaceful enough to take a bracing walk on a chilly drizzly morning, and perfect for a family day out in the sun. No giant commercialised Coca-Cola awnings trying to brainwash you into wasting all your money, no one harassing you and trying to sell you stuff while you relax and no one blaring our hideous music or trying to organise a mass game of volleyball among people who just want to be left alone to sunbathe. Carbis Bay is quiet and beautiful, St Ives is cute and quirky, while Fistral Beach in Newquay is fun and, ultimately, too cool for the likes of me (though loomed over by the hotel where they filmed The Witches, so I kept my eyes peeled for purple eyed old women coming too close to my son!).
Then there are the attractions. Truth be told, my husband and I had started to drift into the odd reminiscence/moan about all the holiday things we’d miss out on having a child: no late nights out, no long lie ins, and, as I’m pregnant and he had to drive everywhere, there was no sipping wine while watching the sunset.
Yet, without a child we would never have been up early enough to enjoy a lazy breakfast in the garden and then have a full day out. We wouldn’t have got the steam train, played crazy golf, had a picnic and gone canoeing all in one afternoon. We wouldn’t have visited the seal sanctuary and discovered that we were more interested in them than our son was. If we hadn’t been so determined to get an overexcited boy to nap, we wouldn’t have driven around aimlessly and accidentally ended up in Lizard, the most southerly point in England, enjoying cream tea in the most precariously located coastal café with the some of the most stunning views I have ever seen. Perhaps best of all, if I hadn’t been holidaying with my family, I would never have enjoyed the hilarity of watching my husband struggle to free himself from the clutches of the sand, having persuaded our son it would be fun to bury him, then realise he couldn’t get out: trapped by a two year old!
I love being a mum – I really, really do. Yet I find myself all too often reminiscing about things which were better or easier before I had to factor in a child. Thankfully, I’ve been shown that missing out on exotic holidays doesn’t matter. It’s as easy to have an amazing time an hour away from where you live as it is to have a crap time in a place you spend hundreds of pounds to get to. It’s all about the company and the attitude. Plus, it helps if you go somewhere as a wonderful as Cornwall!
As I said earlier, there is no promotion or sponsorship involved in this blog. Just because we had such a fab time, I have listed below all the places we used, where we stayed and how we travelled, just in case someone is lazy and wants to copy our holiday ideas. I cannot recommend Cornwall enough. It was beautiful, fun and ridiculously friends: I have never had such good service anywhere in my life.
- Travel: We flew from London City Airport to Exeter with Flybe. Sounds extravagant but it was a similar price to the trains and so much quicker and easier. Important when you have small children to entertain! You can easily hire a car from the airport which makes life a lot easier for getting around.
- Accommodation: We booked through Cornish Cottage Holidays and stayed in a lovely little village called Lelant. The house was lovely, , walking distance to the nearest beach and easy driving distance to everywhere we wanted to go and right next to a pub
- Paradise Park: A wide selection of tropical birds, an indoor play area with the most fun slides I’ve seen (ahem, and been on – though they’re not really designed for pregnant women!) and, most importantly for us, a completely incongruous but very popular dinosaur trail!
- Lappa Valley Steam Railway: Possibly the best family day out we have ever found. nestled amidst beautiful lush green surroundings is a paradise of family activities including crazy golf, a boating lake, one of the best parks I’ve visited and s lovely steam train ride to get you there and back. An absolute must visit!