A few weeks ago I had a lovely girly weekend in Lisbon, Portugal. Here’s a little montage and then I’ll give you some tips 🙂
We actually think our weekend in Lisbon was cheaper than a lot of UK breaks! Through the fab ‘flight-checker‘ tool we found flights for £50! (Easyjet, Bristol, Thurs-sun) and then via AirBnB found a gorgeous flat in a great location for £60 each… Bargain so far! (Oh and airport parking was £40)
I’m rubbish at working out exchange rates but all you need to know is that it’s good at the mo… So your British pound goes a long way against the Euro! That, combined with low prices for great food and drink, meant we could eat like Queens… Eg a full and fresh sea bass for lunch for 9euros (£6-7!)
As if low prices wasn’t enough of a temptation… Portugal is famous for its shoe making skills and there’s a shoe shop on every corner….
With that in mind, take a big enough piece of hand luggage with you otherwise you’ll have to do what I did and buy a new suitcase for the two pairs of boots that I bought!
What we loved most about Lisbon was the miles of mooching around the city centre and surrounding areas…. Soak in the pretty buildings and trams, stop for some shopping, stop for a pastry and drink… And repeat!
So don’t bother with the double-decker bus tours, you really won’t miss much… Our few hours in Belem was nice but prob much quicker to get a train there!
The views from the Skybar in hotel Tivoli are worth seeing… But don’t take a long walk there without making sure that it’s open (only open in the summer!) doh!
The Park bar is worth a visit to catch great views of the sunset… It’s a really cool open top bar on top of a car park, too busy for us to get a drink but worth it for the views!
If you can get into your appartment, try turning the key left instead of right 🙂
If you want to pick up some tacky souvenirs be sure to get them in the city… The airport has a cute shop and a McD’s… But no tat!
We recently spent 7 nights at the lovely Bluestone resort with our 17 month old. If you’re heading there with your toddler here’s some of the things you can get up to…
1 – Swim/paddle in the Blue Lagoon
Staying at Bluestone gives you free entry to their swimming pool complex, the blue lagoon. Most mornings we tried to head there for the 9am opening, and W loved it. He would wander as far into the main pool as he could, and then keep running back to the toddler pool where he could steer his ship and explore the ‘rock pools’ – brilliant place, and nice spacious family changing areas too!
2 – Circus soft play
W loved this too, a big playroom in the Adventure centre. Plenty to keep them occupied from a push along train/roller coaster thing, to bubbles, to little teepees, really great and again free to use!
3 – the rest of the Adventure centre
We didn’t really use this as much as it’s better for slightly older kids, but your toddler could use the softplay on the ground floor too, ball pools and a bouncy castle!
4 – throw stones into the stream down at Camp Smokey
This is an outdoor eating place in a little valley, but we actually wondered down there for a walk when it was closed so eerily had the place to ourselves… And precious memories were made with dad showing W how to throw stones into the stream… So cute!
5 – a dinner show at the Wild wood cafe
We loved this, we paid about £20? £25? for the ‘shelby snail’ dinner which involved a lovely fairy telling stories, a platter of food and a chance to meet, and have photos with, the character of the show which in our case was Shelby snail! And we loved that it was an early dinner… Running from 4.30-6pm with food brought out about 5.15 – perfect for us!
6 – eat out at the Farmhouse Grill or Knight’s tavern
We had a meal at the pub, the Knights tavern, which was ok but we much preferred the Farmhouse grill. We had the Sunday carvery there and a mid-week dinner, the food and service was great both times with 2 added bonuses for toddlers.. A fab little indoor play area, and they start serving dinner at 4.30pm!
7 – Book them into the crèche
We used the creche a couple of times and found it great, good staff and facilities, when we went to pick W up he was having a whale of a time! It cost £24 for 3 hours and seems to be on every few days.
8 – go to the Spa while they’re in the creche!
The spa is fab… A big outdoor jacuzzi, 2 saunas, 2 steam rooms, a salt room, and an ice room. Very relaxing 🙂
9 – try one of the toddler classes
We went to a toddler sensory class, which was £7 for an hour. Half an hour of that is ‘free play’ in the free-to-use circus room which I thought was a bit cheeky… The second half was fun though, singing and dancing (the adults… While all the toddlers were running off in all directions!)
They run a few messy play sessions that we missed, would like to check them out next time!
10 – Carew inn
Just a few miles away from Bluestone, we stumbled upon a lovely pub called the Carew inn. Good food, good value, and lovely, helpful staff… Oh and it has this fab outdoor play area….
11 – Carew castle
Just across the road from the pub is a beautiful, derelict castle. Entry was £5 each per adult and W loved running around these magical, eerie grounds with lovely views across an estuary.
12 – a day trip to Tenby
We went to Tenby a couple of times during our week there, I hadn’t been for a few years and had forgotten how lovely it is (especially off-peak!)
We found a cute little park overlooking South Beach (the park with best views ever!) and had a nice cuppa tea in the lovely cafe/bar/restaurant on South beach… after a run around on the sand!
Hope you find this useful if you’re heading to Bluestone… If you’ve already been, what did you and your toddler get up to?!
Small print: unlike most bloggers, I paid for our trip to Bluestone and opinions are my own 🙂
Travelling abroad for a week with a one-year-old….
I’m a laid-back ex-backpacker. I used to travel light and ‘wing it’. I don’t think I’ve ever been so stressed as I was in the run-up to baby W’s first foreign holiday a month ago… so I thought I’d try and share everything with you, to hopefully ease your pain and stress!!
Deciding where to go
Ok, you’ve agreed you *need* a week abroad – well, what next? Here’s how we decided on our destination:
We wanted to fly (not drive to Europe)- we were happy to fly from Cardiff, Bristol or Birmingham
We didn’t want the flight to be longer than 2 hours-ish
This also meant the temperature should be ok – mid-20’s
The flight times had to try and work within baby W’s schedule – we didn’t want any evening/late night/ridiculous early morning flights
These options basically led to mainland Spain or the Balearic islands (Majorca/Menorca/Ibiza)
Then we had to decide whether we wanted a hotel (various board types) or self-catering (‘aparthotels’ or villas) – think about what your evenings will be like – do you need more than 1 room? (we did ok with ours but an extra room would have been nice!)
We didn’t want the accommodation to be on its own, in the middle of nowhere – we wanted a beach within walking distance and ideally a couple of bars/restaurants/shops – but we didn’t really want to be in a big, busy resort
Transfer times – if you’re flying, how far is the accommodation from the airport?
Can you see yet why I was getting stressed?!
After looking at various flight-only options vs package holidays, we decided we wanted a hotel…. obviously you will have an overall budget that you need to work to
then we decided we needed a hotel with a crèche so that mummy and daddy could have a few hours off!
So with the holiday booked a month before we were going… what was our…
Make sure your passports are up-to-date and make sure baby has his/her own!
Make sure everyone has a free EHIC card – this entitles you to free healthcare within Europe – the official link is here, avoid any sites trying to charge you!
Even if you have an EHIC card, make sure you have travel insurance – in case your holiday gets cancelled, or they lose your luggage etc – I have a family policy free with my bank account but you can get it cheap enough from sites like Confused.com
If you need to, organise your airport parking – always cheaper to do it in advance. We went out of our way to fly from Birmingham as it was cheaper and the flight times were better – the money we saved meant we could spend a night up there before we flew- read about the Novotel stay and park deal – remember that you will have a baby and extra luggage with you – we realised convenience of things like parking were more important to us than before, so you could even plump for a ‘meet and greet’ service?!
If you have pets like we do, don’t forget to organise a pet sitter
Oh and don’t forget to give your nursery/childminder enough notice so that they don’t charge you 😉
Packing checklist for your baby’s foreign holiday!
So I went a bit overboard here – I envisaged us being so busy that baby W would need 2 or 3 change of clothes a day and lots more nappies than usual. In the end we took way too much (because he slept so much – we’ll come on to that!) but in a nutshell I packed for him:
2 outfits a day (t-shirts and shorts)
about 9 babygros/vests
9 sleepsuits (we didn’t end up using any of these as it was too hot at night for him!)
a pack of day nappies (I think there’s 31 in a pack)
10 night nappies
14 swim nappies (we used about 3 of these!)
2 baby bath towels
4 packs of wet wipes
his teething essentials – Calpol, Nurofen, Anbesol
a handful of bibs and socks
his Tommee tippee bottles and sippy cups
washing-up liquid (in a travel size bottle, so no leakage!), tea towel and bottle brush
his bathing essentials – bubble bath, shampoo, bath toys, toothbrush and toothpaste
baby powder – I’d never used this but heard it was good for getting sand off babies – it’s true!!
3 x swim costumes (all UV50 protection)
1 swim towel
2 x sleeping bags (1.5 tog but we could have done with a 0.5 tog)
his bedtime essentials – comforter, sheepskin, couple of favourite blankets
Black-out blind (didn’t need it)
a buggy (ended up having to borrow one from the hotel as we’d forgotten the sun visor thing)
Snooze-shade – absolutely great product to safely cover your baby so he can nap in the buggy out of sun’s harm!
Baby carrier (Baby bjorn)
SPF50 – some quick-dry stuff
Sunglasses and sun hats (even though I knew he wouldn’t wear them – just pulls them off!)
Here’s a link to his holiday wardrobe – I bought a lot of new (but generally cheap) stuff (I needed to stock up on his next size up anyway) to take with us as I couldn’t bear the thought of needing to do laundry on our first day back lol, and it meant I could start packing early.
I think I only forgot two thing which would have been quite handy:
some muslin sheets which we could have soaked and used them to cool him down
In the end, like I said, I took way too much – but I had heard things like ‘they don’t sell pampers in Spain’ – I was even worried that they wouldn’t sell normal cow’s milk!!! As it worked out, the supermarket opposite our hotel sold Pampers, Ella’s kitchen food sachets – the works – but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry?!
Neither me or my other half had anything in our hand luggage for ourselves (apart from money, passports etc!) – it was all stuff to keep him busy on the journey (and when we got there) so we had:
Bottles (for milk and water)
Snacks – raisins, baby crisps, bananas
Books – his favourite 2 plus new ones I’d borrowed from the library
Couple of nappies and nappy bags
His comforter an favourite blanket
Couple of small toys e.g. his toy tablet
A few change of clothes (for all temperatures – I didn’t know if he’d get cold on the plane! He didn’t!)
We both used soft bags, so we could stuff them underneath the seats in front – easier than needing something from the overhead compartment when the seatbelt sign is on!
And we split everything between the bags e.g. pack of wet wipes one, just in case one of us wandered off with a bag!
The airport – some tips
So I was dreading this part – our flight was at 7am so we needed to be there about 4.30am – even though we were staying right opposite and figured we’d be early, there was already a huge queue!
So, we paid about £10 each to go ‘priority’ – this meant we could jump the check-in queue, security queue and our luggage would be first off – money well spent for us!
we checked our buggy in at check-in and carried him in the carrier – but you can take the buggy with you right up to the gate (so have a think about logistics, what if they fall asleep in the buggy etc?)
Now, I knew at security that they would let you take formula milk through – but I had no idea about cow’s milk?! Well they do let you take baby bottles full of the stuff, so we filled ours up at the security desk (so now you know, you can do it in advance)
Don’t forget your bottle insulators to keep the milk fresh for a couple of hours!
After security we headed straight to the comfort of the airport lounge – another perk that I have with a bank account. I’m not sure how much these cost as a ‘day pass’ but if I were you I’d seriously consider it – you’re guaranteed somewhere comfy to sit and you help yourselves to hot/cold/alcoholic drinks and snacks (bacon rolls in our case!) – so when you add up how much you might spend at an airport it could be a good deal?
We started giving baby W his milk in the lounge, hoping he’d fall asleep but he was still wide awake when we got on to the plane, which is what I was dreading the most!…..
The flight – with a one-year-old!
Lots of people had said that giving your baby a bottle for take-off/landing was a good idea as it helps with their ears popping. This seemed to work a treat for baby W, plus he eventually entered his usual milk coma not long after take-off and slept on his dad’s lap for a good hour (so half of the flight). The other half was taken up with a walk up and down the aisle, and using all the toys and treats from the hand luggage to keep him entertained.
He wasn’t happy about sitting still for landing, but at least it’s only about 10 minutes of moaning 😉
We had transfers included in our package holiday but we could see from the website that it could take up to 90 minutes (because of all the drop-offs etc) so we figured we’d speak to a rep when we arrived and pay for a taxi (30 euros, 30 minutes) if it was really going to take 90 minutes.
Well, we had a lovely surprise on arrival – because our holiday was with Thomson but our flights were with Thomas Cook, we were in a minority and so the Thomson rep gave us a taxi slip and we got a free taxi to our hotel, instead of getting a bus 🙂
The taxi ride ended up being the hardest part of the day – baby W having to sit on our lap for 25-30 minutes. It was hot. He’d had a nap but hadn’t slept as long as usual, so he was grouchy and basically wanted to be on the move – he’d sat down for way too long by this point! So he cried and moaned most of the way and nothing would distract him but we got there in the end!
So have a think about how long your transfer might be on a bus etc. Our luggage came off early (as we’d paid for priority) but in hindsight, it might have done baby W some good to run around and burn some energy in the airport before we jumped into the cab….
We didn’t take a car seat with us for the transfer – he just sat on our laps which is legal apparently. But I’m pretty sure most airlines let you take a car seat (as well as the buggy) with you if you want – obviously check with your airline. If you’re hiring a car then obviously this would be handy otherwise you’ll have to pay to hire one over there. If you’ve got a bus transfer then you might be able to belt it in but not sure if they fit – if we’d have had a bus transfer he would have been on our lap for that too. Just something else to consider I guess!
On holiday – our new routine
We expected the weather to be about 20-25 degrees, but we arrived during a heatwave and for the whole week the temperature was 30-32 degrees! This was tough and basically baby W was not himself for the week, which I think was a combination of the heat but also teething (his back teeth were coming through). It wasn’t too bad, he was ok and did have some fun, he just wasn’t his usual, happy self.
Within a day we’d fallen into a new routine, we all know how much babies/toddlers love a routine – I’ve shared ours below, but you will of course find your own routine – I guess the point is, that your baby/toddler might be very different on holiday to at home so be prepared for that in case you were hoping to do excursions, go out at night etc!
6am – wake-up!
6.30am – 8am – play-time (softplay/wendy house area) or one morning we went to the beach (the swimming pool didn’t open til 9ish I think)
8am – breakfast
8.30-10 – walk and a nap – we’d have a lovely walk along the sea, and after a while we’d zip up the snoozeshade (turned out to be a holiday essential!) and baby W would have a 30-45 minute nap
10-12 – baby W went into crèche 3 mornings, played with us the other 3 mornings. As I said in the post about the hotel, the crèche was brilliant and meant we had a little break from him (and most importantly, he loved it!)
1 – lunch
1.30 – 3.30/4 – nap time. Before holidays he’d cut right down on his afternoon nap but the teething/heat combo meant he basically slept all afternoon, every afternoon! This worked out great as daddy caught up with sleep and mummy caught up with sunbathing and reading books!
4-6 playtime – swimming/softplay
6.15 – dinner!
6.45-7 bath, bottle, bed for baby W – we tried to stick to him home routine as much as possible here.
One night we tried taking him out, asleep, in the pushchair, so we could enjoy a sunset drink, but he stirred too much for our liking, so every night we’d just sit on the balcony with beers and books instead! A couple of nights my other half went to watch the footie, which was fine with me – we’d be in bed for 9.30-10 anyway!
Our flight home was at 1pm, so it was a nice time to travel. The taxi transfer was less stressful this time, but baby W was a bit grouchy in the airport and we had to queue a fair bit – we didn’t have the cash for priority queue-jumping here, and there was no airport lounge in menorca airport!
A bit of milk on the plane, and baby W then slept for most of the flight this time! Picked up our luggage, a trolley is a must as of course you have an extra suitcase, transfer bus to the car park and eventually home sweet home!
Holidaying with a 13 month old is great fun, but does need a bit more planning and preparation than usual! If you choose the right place for you and settle into a new routine, you can all have rest and some fun 🙂
I hope I thought of everything, and hope you found this useful – if you did, I’d love it if you could share it with your friends and peers on Facebook/Twitter! (And if you want to follow me, I’m @yummyblogger on Twitter) and if I missed anything, please do leave a comment!
We recently had our first holiday abroad with our 13 month old baby W and apart from him suffering from the heat and teething, we had an absolutely great time! This hotel has mixed reviews, so I thought I’d give our take on it….
The rooms are as described on the Thomson website – pretty basic but very clean and functional. A few reviews said that there isn’t much storage room and I would agree with that – but we had a set of bunk beds in there which we used for storage! There was a travel cot ready for us in the room (on wheels so we put towels around ours to stop it moving!) and we rented a fridge for baby W’s milk at the cost of about 2 euros per day.
We were in room 209, we had amazing views over the sea and saw some cracking sunsets. This side of the hotel gets the sun in the afternoon so when the boys were napping in the afternoon I could sit on the balcony catching some rays 🙂
One downside of this side of the hotel is that in the evening you can hear the entertainment from outside the hotel next door – but it’s not too bad and always finishes by 11pm.
Restaurant, bar and lobby areas
I have to mention the lobby – only because – at the Thomson rep desk, they have a crate where people leave their unwanted goods – I thought this was a great idea, and we left books and our inflatable toys there, I saw everything from clothes to swim nappies in there!
They seem to be half way through doing this hotel up – so the main bar area looks a little bit dated, but it’s still absolutely fine and I love how you just help yourself to soft drinks/lager/wine without having to be served – oh and help yourself to free tubs of ice cream! Next to the main bar, there is another bar (cocktail bar?) which has been renovated – it’s clean, modern and very-well air conditioned – this area was always really quiet and a lovely respite from the heat!
I hadn’t realised til we got home (otherwise I would have taken photos) that the restaurant photos on the website are out-of-date – the restaurant is in the style of this bar – airy, clean, modern – really nice. They have an area for families with highchairs at the table ready – much fun watching baby W babbling to the other babies in the vicinity!
We absolutely loved the food and couldn’t work out why the food would ever get bad reviews – we’ve stayed at a few posher all-inclusives than this one but this food was excellent – always a fish of the day, always meat, always pasta (baby W’s fave!), always something child-friendly like chicken nuggets, always an amazing choice of salads and a few desserts. My favourite meals of the week were their paella, local meatballs and their chicken fajitas… oh and I had nutella pancakes for breakfast every day – yum!
Because of the huge choice of food, there was always plenty for baby W to eat – from cheese slices to his watermelon! The staff there were lovely – giving baby W lots of attention (and we left them a nice tip at the end of the week as they’d spent so much time helping us clean up after him ;))
My only bugbear about the restaurant was that it didn’t open for lunch til 1pm – noon would have been better for us as we’re up so early with baby W! But you can free toasties/sarnies in the bar between 11 and 1 so I couldn’t really complain!
The pool areas, grassy area and beach
As you might be able to see from the photo from our room, there are 3 pools – a play pool with little slides etc, a small baby/toddler pool and the main adult pool – all good!! The reps do dancing and games every afternoon – you’d never catch me getting involved but it was fun to watch 😉
I’ve seen a few reviews moaning about not being able to get a lounger – by the end of our week we struggled too but we just put our towels down on the huge grassy area instead – which was perfectly fine 🙂 As well as the pool-side loungers and grassed area, the gorgeous sandy beach is just a minute or so away! We didn’t spend long down here but it was lovely, and you can hire loungers here too.
On of the reasons we chose this hotel is because it has a creche. We thought we’d put baby W in for 4 out of the maximum 6 hours a day (!!) but because of his teething etc, we only put him in for 3 mornings but he loved it! The 2 girls working there, Terri and Ashleigh, were absolutely great – warm, calming and put you at ease right away – we all loved them!
We had pre-booked our sessions before we went and just sorted out the times when we got there, but you can do it all when you get there and they’re pretty flexible if you need to switch etc. They only take a max of 6 babies/toddlers per session but when we were there it was never full.
One of Baby W’s highlights of the holiday was the softplay area between the pool and bar. The photo doesn’t really do it justice – it’s quite small but perfect size for babies/toddlers of baby W’s age – a ball pool, and some big foam things to move around – ace!!
So for older toddlers/kids, there seems to be 2 x kids clubs (I’ve no idea what the difference between them is) and 2 little park/play areas. For baby W there was a hidden bonus – by one of the kids club was a little area which 2 x wendy houses and a car – he loved it!! And a part of it was always in the shade – as baby W had just started walking before the hols, this area was perfect for him and kept him entertained.
Other baby-friendly facilities
Next to the creche (on the first floor, near the restaurant) there is a baby room which has a steriliser, microwave, kettle…. cot…. little ball pool, books and some toys, and a changing area. This was great for us, before or after dinner baby W would love playing in the ball pool – oh and there’s a TV/DVD player in there so he loved playing with the remote control too!
The other baby-friendly thing I must mention is that you can hire a buggy from the hotel. We had taken our brand new Chicco lite stroller with us but stupidly forgot the sun canopy and quickly realised we’d be buggered without it, so we hired one from the hotel (they have a room full you can choose from including a double buggy!) and I think it was only 2-3 euros per day which I thought was a bargain!
The resort – San Tomas
So we couldn’t really fault the hotel – and we LOVED the location! Santo Tomas is a tiny little resort so don’t there if you’re looking for ‘action!’ – it only has about 5 restaurants/bars and a handful of shops but we loved it – our highlight was our twice-a-day walk down the promenade, the sea on one side and lovely hotels and houses on the other. I think the resort has a mix of hotels and self-catering accommodation so as well as lots of other young British families we also saw backpackers, and older European travellers – I always like a good mix of people!
While I remember, the hotel is right opposite a supermarket, pharmacy and doctors surgery… and a bus stop – great location!
In the opposite direction to the prom, there is a cliffside walk over the next resort – we walked about half of it while baby W was in creche this morning – was lovely (there’s me on the rocks there!) and would have been ace to have the time to do the full walk!
Must also mention that a few minutes from the hotel is a softplay you can pay 3euros for – baby W was a bit small for it really but it would be great for older children, and they also had a trampoline etc.
Because of the mixed reviews we’d read, our expectations were exceeded of Hotel Victoria Playa – we loved:
the softplay and other play area
the creche – Terri and Ashleigh were ace
the baby room and being able to hire a buggy
overall a very baby-friendly hotel
our view overlooking the sea
the location – San Tomas was a real nice surprise for us, we loved the seaside prom – the whole place was so chilled and clean, lovely, quiet atmosphere
hotel has free WIFI – I didn’t use it, enjoyed an internet break!
The only real downsides I can think of:
the rooms are a bit small and basic but they look exactly as described, so I’m not really complaining!
would love to have lunch at 12, and dinner before 6.15 (baby W normally eats at 5.30pm at home) but we got by fine!
it didn’t bother us, but it’s quite a bustling hotel and obviously with it being a ‘family’ hotel, the majority of guests are young families – as you might expect, the clientele is a right mix which is fine for us – if you’re going there for peace and quiet you might struggle 😉
Hope you found this useful, if you’d like to know anything else about the hotel/area, leave a question in the comments and I’ll get back to you 🙂
Small print: I wasn’t asked to write this and I certainly didn’t get a free holiday (or any form of payment!) for this, I just wanted to share our experience with you!
We stayed here a couple of weeks ago before going away with 13 month old baby W for the first time- so the logistics were very different to our usual holiday arrangements.
I’d usually look for the cheapest hotel/parking airport deal, and end up in a random car park miles from the airport but now for us it’s all about convenience and ease…. and this is why this Novotel must be the closest hotel to an airport ever – you literally cross a road to get to the terminal – awesome!
Here’s a quick summary:
Check-in process – I’d had an email before arrival asking if I wanted to check-in before arriving, I did this so when we got there we were just handed the key without any forms to fill in – lovely!
Parking logistics etc – as we’d bought the parking package, we were able to pull up right outside the hotel for 15 minutes, unload all of our luggage before moving the car to car park 5 in the airport and then we were able to walk back to the hotel – just a 5-1o minute walk but shuttle buses are also available. When we arrived back from our holiday when we left the car park, we just had to give the Novotel booking reference and they opened the barrier for us and off we went – very straightforward!
Rooms – the photos on their website are very accurate – clean, simple, modern rooms – comfy bed, fridge, TV, kettle etc. We requested a cot and had one, lovely bathroom – all in all, very good! Bearing in mind it’s so close to the airport, we couldn’t hear any aeroplanes – the soundproofing is excellent, as are the blinds – nice and dark!
Bar/restaurant – they have both a bar serving food, and a restaurant. The bar area is lovely – again, modern, spacious, comfortable with TV’s and newspapers there too. As we were having an early dinner, we chose to eat in the bar and the food was ok – nothing special – I had a curry which was tasty but a bit watery. I’m sure the restaurant quality would be a bit better but also as you’re just a minute away from the airport you could stroll over to eat in All bar one or Frankie & Benny’s there.
Other facilities – the other thing I wanted to mention as we were travelling with a little one, is that tucked away around the corner from reception, they have a little play area! There’s a table with interactive games built in, a toy chest and book corner – I thought this was a really nice idea, and lovely touch – not sure if I’ve ever noticed anything like this in a hotel before (not that we’ve stayed in many with Baby W)
Location – as already said, it’s a 1 minute walk from the airport hotel – I don’t think you could get any closer to an airport!
Value for money – I think our package cost about £150 – I think a room only is about £60-£70. Having paid for numerous airport hotels, and parking deals – often separately, I think this deal represents good value for money – overall it’s a really lovely hotel and the location of both the hotel and the car park being on the airport makes life so much easier.
So thank you Novotel for a very family-friendly, good quality and value stay – we will be back!! (PS Readers – sorry for the lack of photos, writing this review was a bit of an after-thought!)
Small print – please note I wasn’t asked to write this review, and certainly didn’t get a free stay – just wanted to share our experience with you!
One of the things I said I wanted to do in my maternity bucket list was to explore parts of my city that I wasn’t that familiar with.
I had a few hours away from baby W last week, so had the opportunity to check out the lovely suburb of Rhiwbina….
I’d already been there the week before he was born for a massage and pedicure at Vanity rooms and knew there were some cute shops to look around…
So I started with lunch at the Snails deli – I went for lamb cawl (Welsh broth/soup) and it was delicious. It was a Friday lunchtime and it was jam-packed, I was lucky to get a seat at the window-facing bar so I could watch the world go by.
I loved the décor and atmosphere – rustic, friendly, bustling. I’ll definitely be back!
From there I went a few doors down to a shop called ‘Cwtsh bach’ – a very cute, little gift shop selling a lot of (but not only) Welsh and Welsh language gifts. I saw lovely felt cushions with the words ‘Mamgu’ (Grandmother) and ‘Tadcu’ (Grandfather) on them so I’ve bought those for my parents for Christmas 🙂 (similar style to the ones you can see in the photo) – PS I’ve just realised that they sell most of the stock online if you click on the link above!
On the same street (Beulah road) as the deli and Cwtsh bach, is another cute gift and card shop (Ginger White’s) they were selling local jewellery, candles and smellies and a range of other stuff.
I turned the corner onto Heol-y-Deri and went to ‘Nest vintage’ – I had been to this shop before but since then they have moved into larger premises.
This is an absolutely gorgeous shop that looks very homely – they have little rooms and snugs everywhere selling everything from Cath Kidston to Orla Kiely to local Welsh goods.
I didn’t buy anything but did get some ideas which I hope to go back for before Christmas. They also had lots of Christmas decorations and it smelt lovely in there as they were burning some Christmas-selling candles…. lush!
Opposite they have opened a new shop called ‘Little Nest’ for children’s and baby gifts – lots of pretty wooden toys, felt animal heads and cute baby leggings…. I was running out of time by this point so didn’t get any pics sorry.
I did manage to pop into Victoria Fearn art gallery on the street – and cue more unique gifts and decorations – as well as some lovely art pieces!
In addition to all these gorgeous gift shops, Rhiwbina has everything else you need from a wine merchant, yoga studio, barbers, chemist, florist and I think it even had a wedding dress shop!
It also had this very cool but random bench – I would love to know why it’s been decorated in this way!
Seeing as I’m publishing this on ‘Cyber Monday’, I hope it inspires you to Shop local, and support local businesses – you really could do all your Christmas shopping in Rhiwbina – I will be popping back there this month!
Last weekend I had my first weekend away from baby W and enjoyed a relaxing weekend with some great friends…
Friday – Clifton village including Somerset House and Wildwood
We picked Clifton/Bristol as it was central to all of us (from Cardiff/Devon/London). The Cardiff contingent got slightly lost driving into Clifton, but that wasn’t half as stressful as trying to find a parking space! We got one in the end, but I think we’d get a train next time – it would have saved me a giggling fit asking a local where to park and him reacting as if I’d asked how to cure ebola.. cue awkward silence!
Parked up, we explored Clifton village and fell in love with it straight away – it’s compact, and full of independent boutiques, bars and cafes. We had a great, late lunch in Somerset House – I had fish (can’t remember which!) on a bed of tomato/chorizo/chickpea with a glass of wine for just a tenner – delicious!
Post-lunch we had a look round the wonderful shops – we both bought some Christmas presents and treated ourselves to a few things (a candle and groovy umbrella for me!). Even the charity shops were amazing – I picked up a lovely Monsoon dress for £8!
After checking into our accommodation (found via Airbnb – very basic and a bit grubby but perfect location!) and meeting a friend for a coffee, we headed out for cocktails. We stumbled on a new, big, cool-looking place called Wildwood.
We made this our home for the next few hours, while we waited for the rest of the girls. Great ambience, friendly and efficient staff, good food and drinks – I recommend it!
Saturday – spa day at Clifton Lido
On a beautiful misty, mysterious morning we walked over to the Lido for a half spa day (£85). Regular readers will know that I love spas and treaments and this place did not disappoint! I’ve never been to a restored Lido before, and I loved it – they’ve done a great job of restoring it, modernising it while keeping lots of the original features.
The outdoor pool was refreshing after using the steam room and sauna (both of which were great although could get busy) and the outdoor hot tub was a great place to unwind and watch over the pool. I had a full body massage with Erica and it was excellent – she really worked on my knots using all sorts of techniques – I was close to sleeping! After a ginger and lemongrass tea in the relaxation room, it was time for lunch…
I’m used to spa lunches involving salads and jacket potatoes. – this was something else, a really good restaurant that just happens to be in a spa! I had amazing scallops in garlic and herbs to start, followed by lightly spiced minced lamb on a bed of humus – it was highly delicious!
Post-spa and lunch we were wiped out but managed to drag ourselves around some more shops! In the evening we wanted to try one of the other independent restaurants in the area but they were all fully booked so we defaulted to Pizza Express 🙂
Sunday – Clifton suspension bridge and Sunday dinner at Somerset House
A perfect, fresh, Autumnal morning for a walk to and across the famous Suspension bridge…
After working up an appetite (doesn’t take much!) and a bit more shopping (!) we ended our weekend where it all started – Somerset House. As expected, they do a perfect Sunday dinner with excellent house wine. We shared a dessert of apple and cinnamon doughnuts served with toffee sauce and apple puree – yummmmmmmmm!
So there we have it – great company, a wonderful spa, delicious food and wine, beautiful shops – all in one unique, independent part of Bristol…. Clifton, I’ll be back!
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I love travel and holidays. Pre-baby, most of my disposable income went towards the next holiday… the next big trip. I love it all… package holidays, city breaks, backpacking on a budget and a bit of luxury!
My motto used to be ‘work hard, play hard, travel harder’! I’ve had some amazing experiences and I firmly believe that even not-so-good travel experiences should be classed as a positive life lessons!
Here’s some photos from some of the countries I’ve been to with some of the memories created there….
Costa Rica: zip wiring, kayaking with crocodiles, sloths, tarantulas, sunset at the Mariposa, monkeys on the beach, waterfalls, frogs, hot springs overlooking a volcano
New York: Sandy! sisters, coffee, waffles, SATC, Tiffany’s, Starbucks, shopping
Sri Lanka: first wonderful holiday with my other half, releasing baby turtles into the sea, seeing elephants in the wild, fishermen on stilts, afternoon tea and tea plantations, tuk tuks, beers at sunset, watching turtles in the sea
Ibiza: sun, swimming pool, showers (or lack thereof), beers on sunset strip, sangria, amazing steak and awful paella, girly fun
Marbella: girly weekend, pretending to own a huge yacht, mixing gin with red bull = awful hangover
Amsterdam: Anne Frank’s house, wine, scrabble in a pub on a Saturday night, the cat museum… and another trip…. 12 hours of madness including a stag do and getting behind a bar to DJ in a pub!
Portugal: a few days by myself but making a great friend in the hostel, amazing beaches, amazing seafood, a man cooking sardines outside his house, cobbled streets and a wonderful square
Borneo: arriving alone and deciding to climb a mountain twice as high as Ben Nevis: getting up at 3am see sunrise from the peak was pretty special! getting approached by an orang utan at the sanctuary, wandering round the city barefoot (lost my flip flops) with people calling ‘miss, miss, you wanna buy slippers?’, our bus breaking down and being propositioned by a politician
Thailand: full moon parties (3!), temples, hours waiting for buses, overnight journeys, my first (and only) drive of a moped, seeing fluorescence in the sea for the first time, waterfalls, jungle treks, live music, great food, beautiful beaches, ping pong bars
Australia: sleeping on the deck of a boat in the barrier reef, camping on fraser island and thinking a dingo was outside our tent, taxi fun in Sydney, kangaroos and koalas in Australia zoo, bats in the botanical gardens, meeting the English rugby team… and Romanian waterboys!
Bali/Lombok/Gili islands: snorkelling with the crazy boat-man, Ramadan, amazing seafood
Malaysia: where do I start…. spending the night in a jungle hut, the night before sleeping in the worst accommodation ever – no running water!, the night after spending a fun night on the jungle night train, snorkelling with turtles in the Perhentian islands, having to leave said islands as co-travellers nearly started a riot, getting up early and hungover to go up the Petronas towers, bat cave, drinking in the hostel stairwell, rollercoasters in shopping centres
Vietnam: lanterns in Hoi An, cone hats, noodle soup and cheap beer on the streets, getting lost on a moped looking for ‘chicken town’, hanging out with tribes in the North, getting invited to a wedding party, going to a fashion show, mud baths, war museum and tunnels, getting ripped off by a taxi driver on my first day, sleeping on the deck of a boat in Halong bay
Cambodia: temples, hanging with locals at a sacred lake, scorpions, sad recent history, spending a day helping out at an orphanage (the day Michael Jackson died), making new friends for life, waiting around for a bus to go into the remote North East
Cuba: beautiful Trinidad and beautiful beaches at Varadero, dancing in the streets
Laos: 10 pin bowling then staying up all night for sunrise to see the monks receive their alms, nearly drowning in a kayaking incident, long bus journeys, hanging in a hammock with sticky rice on 10 thousand island, Buddha park, beers and food at Vientiane riverside where you could buy a turtle’s foot for dinner 😦
Mexico: temples, driving a hire car, my first time snorkelling, dancing on the sand in a nightclub in Puerto del Carmen, Halloween in Cancun, sea sickness, amazing food!
Dubai: family, breakfast on the beach, Atlantis, sunburn, shopping, 4×4’s in the desert
Boston: family, autumn, the crazy town of Salem, pretending to be students at Harvard
South Africa and Lesotho: horse riding to the highest waterfall in Africa, being so cold that I had to sleep fully clothed and keep my head under the covers, a bat in the house, roadside graveyards, shebeens (illegal drinking dens!), seeing elephants and giraffes in the wild, amazing landscape
Morocco: haggling, lanterns, amazing smells of spices, amazing food
Rome: rugby, lots of Chianti, pizza and club sandwiches in the hotel while playing cards
So there we have it – most of the places I’ve been! We’re hoping to continue seeing the world with baby W in tow and I still have so many places I’d like to visit….
Croatia especially Dubrovnik and some of the islands
Santorini (I’ve been to Rhodes, Corfu and Kos and loved them all!)
more places on our doorstep in France and Spain e.g. Valencia
Italy – Venice, the lakes, Sorrento
the whole of South America!
New Zealand especially the South island
India especially Kerala and Varanisi
San Francisco and Las Vegas
the Norwegian fjords
And anywhere else we end up 🙂
So there we have – I have lots of lasting memories from around the World – but lots more to create, now with a family in tow! I’ll leave you with one of my favourite ever quotes from Mark Twain…
‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover’
This post is an entry for the #Flying100 Family Holiday Challenge, celebrating how flying allows us to make memories and ‘be there’, in association with #Flying100. Find out more at http://www.flying100years.com/
Last week we went our first family holiday to Center Parcs in Longleat, read on to find out how got on 🙂
How we chose Center Parcs
My other half and I LOVE our foreign holidays and we always thought that baby W’s first holiday would be to somewhere like Spain or Greece. However, as he still isn’t sleeping through the night, the thought of the 3 of us sharing a hotel room all week was unappealing! We’d been to Center Parcs separately (read about my girly weekend there when I was pregnant) and both loved it so we knew it would be perfect for our first family holiday as we’d have plenty of space! (And if he screamed the house down, we wouldn’t wake up any neighbours!!)
I’ve never been so busy in the run-up to a holiday! We wanted to take as much food and drink with us as we could, to try and recoup some of the money we’d spent on booking the holiday! So the day before I went to Aldi’s, home bargains AND got a delivery from Tesco lol!
The day we left it took us a good couple of hours to get our stuff together and into the car. The accommodation doesn’t include a washing machine, and the weather was looking mixed… and you never know when baby’s going to have a growth spurt… so I took a LOT of clothes!
So as well as food, drinks, clothes, toiletries we also managed to get into the car baby W’s bath, moses basket, bouncer and playgym!
We had a ‘new style executive’ chalet in the Pines area. When we arrived I initially felt like it needed a good scrub and/or a bit of a refurb e.g. the bathroom grouting was grubby, handrprints all over the patio doors… but once we’d unpacked our stuff those thoughts faded away and it really felt like a home from home!
This was a slightly more expensive chalet than the previous one I’d stayed in and some of the extra features were a coffee machine (nice!), Jacuzzi bath (lush), en suite bathrooms, daily maid service (fab!) and TV’s in the bedroom (which we didn’t use). The rainforest-style showers in both bathrooms were AMAZING!
And of course the best thing about the accommodation is the view out from the sofa… the trees, the peace and quiet, the birdsong, the squirrels and rabbits running around….
We were really happy with the location – we could walk to the main Plaza and down to the sports area. When I’d been before we had to get the land train over to the Plaza, so it was nice to be able to be within walking distance this time.
What we got up to
We were blessed with beautiful crisp, sunny weather every day so we did lots of walking around with daddy and baby W making good use of their Baby Bjorn carrier!
Daddy and baby W went swimming nearly every day in the lovely, warm subtropical paradise pool – mummy joined them a couple of times too 🙂
Daddy treated Mummy me to not one but two massages in the Spa and a spa session – bliss! The massages were wonderful, and I really enjoyed using all the steam rooms and saunas that I was unable to use when I was pregnant – my favourite is the lemongrass steam room mmmm. I still think that this spa is the best one I’ve been to by far!
My parents came to stay for 2 nights so cue more walking, swimming and eating!
We ate most of our meals in the chalet but we did have brunch in the Grand café, lunch in the Pancake house, lunch in Café Rouge and a Chinese takeaway – all very good! I must add at this point that I noticed all the staff at Center Parcs are super friendly 🙂
So other than that we just chilled and played in the chalet. Unfortunately baby W was a bit grouchy for the first few days but perked up by the end of the week. my OH and I took it in turns to have lie-ins/naps so we both managed to catch up with some much-needed sleep 🙂 For the (un?) lucky one that was up early, we were blessed with some amazing sunrises….
One early morning when I was giving daddy a break I took baby W down the lake and we saw a baby deer (fawn?!) on the way 🙂
We also made a trip into nearby Warminster to stock up on wine, supplies and we bought some 99p reading glasses from Poundstretcher as my OH had misplaced his glasses!
The week flew by and suddenly it was our last day 😦 We made a lovely day out of it, going on safari in Longleat park which was great fun especially seeing lions very close-up (didn’t get a decent pic as I had baby W on me at the time!), having a monkey banging on our bonnet and watching the very nice Mercedes in front of us get trashed by the monkeys! Oh and making baby W wear a giraffe hat that came with a Next sleepsuit, he looked SO cute but unimpressed 🙂
We’ll definitely go back to Longleat park once W is a bit older…
We then stopped in Warminster for lunch – we went to a Wetherspoons for my first time in ages and I was really pleasantly surprised by the food, tasty and great value!
A couple of days after getting home, the weather turned – it seems to have gone from Summer to Winter here in Cardiff – a shocker but makes those memories from last week even more lovely… baby W falling asleep in his baby bjorn in the sun, his first real encounter with ducks… 🙂
Hopefully we’ll take W abroad next year, but we will definitely take him back to Center Parcs at some point – it really was a home from home and it was great being able to take all of his home comforts and toys with us – I’m not sure how we’d cope abroad without his playgym and bouncer! (Although I guess by then he will have outgrown them!)
Where was your first family holiday? Or where would you like to go?! I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below, or follow me on Twitter or Bloglovin x
So back in early March (c30 weeks) I had a fab first trip to Center Parcs and I wanted to share my thoughts on it as I think it’s a perfect place for mums-to-be (and hopefully new mums!)
We were organising a spa weekend for 6 of us, spread across the country and it turns out that Center Parcs was surprisingly good value – their basic accommodation was just about £90 each for 3 nights and I think we paid about £70 each for a spa day (a bit of a splurge but one of the best spas I’ve been to – more on that later)
Here’s how our weekend went:
Friday – arrived at our cabin in the Firs part of the park and we were all pleasantly surprised by the quality of the basic accommodation – comfy sofas, comfy beds, nice linen etc. One of the girls had brought a home-made lasagne with them which was v yummy and after dinner we all got into our PJ’s and put face masks on – relaxing, good fun and a good way of preparing our skin for the spa day 🙂
Saturday – after a great night’s sleep, it was wonderful to wake up to a fresh, sunny day…. opened the patio doors to wonderful light and peace and quiet…bliss!
Saturday Spa day – We got there about 10am and had a pastry (delicious vanilla and raspberry one for me) and hot drink as part of our package. The spa was fantastic – as I was pregnant I couldn’t use the plethora of saunas and steam rooms but I made sure I had a good nosey around them and they all smelt and felt amazing (e.g. lemongrass) and no signs of wear and tear as you see at so many other spas. Although I couldn’t use the rooms, it was nice enough to sit in the relaxation areas with magazines, and get into the small but cute outdoor pool in the sun. Lunch was part of our package and it was really tasty – I had a pasta dish but everything else looked great too!
Decleor mum-to-be treatment
Saturday spa treatments – Most of us had booked treatments and I plumped for the ‘Decleor sumptuous mother-to-be’hour long treatment which was just what I needed – it started on my legs with a variety of massaging and refreshing gels/creams… moved up to the bump and gave bump a tummy mask which felt divine… and then finished off with a facial. I lost the leaflet she gave me with all the products on it so I can’t tell you what they all were, but it was my first time trying any Decleor and I wanted them all (but behaved and didn’t buy any!). I felt refreshed and relaxed afterwards and apparently looked ‘glowing’ according to my friends. It was another splurge at £55 but worth every penny!
Saturday night – we had another night in with pizzas and even thought it wasn’t a weekend for me specifically, the girls had clubbed together to get me some lovely presents so it felt like a baby shower 🙂 I was given everything from a mug that I could drink out of while feeding, a Cath Kidston bag, a Sanctuary mum-to-be set (and you will already know how much I love that stuff) to a gorgeous Johnson’s set including bag, changing mat and baby toiletries… I felt spoil rotten, I love those girls!
Sunday – swim time! Sunday morning most of us headed down to the free pool, it was another beautiful sunny morning and the outdoor pool was even warmer than the pool in the spa the day before. So while the girls checked out the rapids and flumes, this pregnant momma sat in the warm water with the sun beating down on me… occasionally swimming about a few metres here and there… bliss!
Sunday afternoon we spent the afternoon down at the Sports complex as some of us watched England vs Wales (6 nations rugby) while the others did a Zumba class! When we walked over to the shopping complex (they have a beautiful gift shop) 2 deer ran out right in front of us! We tried booking a restaurant for dinner but had left it too late so that night we had a mix of Chinese and Indian take-away… nothing amazing but just what we needed!
Monday morning pedicures – 3 of us loved the Spa so much that we thought we’d go back for another treat before leaving on Monday so we all booked in for a Marine Spa Pedicure – our feet got a good scrub, mask and moisture followed by a nail treatment and colour – I went for a Spring-like lilac colour 🙂 I’m sure every mum-to-be and mummy would agree that feet during pregnancy need all the help they can get! (I should add that the polish lasted for ages… I still have it on now nearly 2 months later, am well overdue another pedicure!)
While we were there I saw lots of other mums-to-be, but also lots of newborns and lots of families. I loved our girly weekend there – it was SO relaxing and we loved our chalet – it was comfy and had everything we needed. There is a land train that takes you around as it was quite tough walking so much at 30 weeks but would love to do more walking and cycling next time – it was lovely seeing babies being cycled around by their parents 🙂 (Also, there’s LOADS of activities you can do there – the treetop activity looked like fun!)
I REALLY want to go back once Bean is here and a few months old – I love the idea of long nature-filled walks, and I love the idea that if we have a noisy Bean that it doesn’t matter as the neighbours won’t be able to hear a thing 🙂 We could take some in-laws or friends with us so that me and other half could use the lovely spa together for a few hours… and they have a babysitting service… here’s hoping…
Center Parcs, if you’re reading this I hope to come back soon (and even sooner if you want me to review any services ;))
Has anyone else been to Center Parcs with their babies? Would you recommend it?