elveden Forest

If you could hear me I would have started this post with a sigh of contentment, a lovely relaxing ‘ahhhh’ which encourages a huge smile and all my facial muscles to relax.

Let me explain.

I have recently returned from a short break. I left my husband and family behind and together with some colleagues from work I headed off to the forest for a long weekend. It was a Friday, the girls were at school, husband at work, Tommy too and Baxter would be looked after by next door. As I sat in the backseat driving along the motorway, further and further from home, I allowed my excitement to bubble to the surface and I started to forget about packed lunches, spellings to learn, dance bags that needed washing and my weekly shopping list.

I hadn’t even arrived yet but I was most certainly in the short break spirit.

There’s something about a short break that’s almost as exciting as a holiday, in fact scrap that, it’s better as it’s a break in normality. It’s two fingers to routine, in fact I’d go as far as saying it’s naughty. Like a secret indulgence that is to be savoured and remembered long after it’s been and gone.

elveden forest

On this occasion I was going on a girly weekend but it would be just the same if I was to travel with my family. It’s the getting away from it all that is key to the enjoyment.

It’s the leaving everything behind; the worries, the work, the washing, the ironing and the constant feeling of being on a treadmill that never stops.

It’s the ‘throw some bits in a bag and jump in the car’ escapism that adds to the thrill.

elveden forest

On that note, you can see it’s less stressful than packing for a two week summer holiday; will it be hot, do I need a cardigan, don’t forget your sun cream. This is a weekend bag, I need my toothbrush, a couple of changes and my coat. So easy!

Will it rain? Most likely yes, but on a short break it’s not a problem, we can sit in and light the fire, we can watch that DVD we’ve been threatening to for months. We can cook our favourite meals, or even take a walk in the rain.

Pack the wellies! A last minute thought but one that works, after all we’re going in the car and there’s plenty of room.

elveden forest treehouse

I cannot tell you how good I feel after my Center Parcs short break, we’re all still talking about in the office and everyone enjoyed it so much there’s already a conversation about repeating the experience next year.

In case you’re wondering what I got up to on my short break, well, I ate a super burger that was delicious and worth every penny. I walked for miles filling my lungs with the pine smell of the forest, I saw treehouses, squirrels, baby deer playing and birds, lots of birds. I went bowling and lost, I talked until gone midnight with a glass of wine in my hand (might have been two).

I ate Bouillabaisse and danced until midnight in heels – yes me in heels! Dancing!

I went on the most amazing Aerial Adventure and slid down the zip wire whooping at the top of my voice across the lake. An amazing experience.

elveden forest zipwire

I spent an afternoon in a spa floating from one steam room to the next, each one a different theme, Indian, Tyrolean, Balinese. I closed my mind and concentrated on me.

I vowed to do this short break lark more often.

Oh yes, go on a short break, you’ll love it.

Turner contemporary art

Turner Contemporary If there’s one thing you do visit whilst in Thanet I would make it the Turner Contemporary Gallery which sits at the beginning of the pier arm in Margate overlooking the long sandy beach. A contemporary white building that shines out over the bay and grabs everyone’s attention. I recently visited to take a look at the Seeing Round Corners exhibition and I wasn’t disappointed. The gallery is free to enter and explore and I am always in awe of the exhibitions and artwork laid out. This time was no exception and my tour started outside the building on my walk up the steps to the entrance where I spotted this fabulous interpretation of the Union Jack. I love how all of the different patterns fall into a perfect Union Jack which is immediately recognisable.

the new union jack

Yinka Shonibare

As I stepped through the entrance I found myself in a library. It was, in fact, Yinka Shonibare’s The British Library. On closer inspection, you could see that each of the books lining the shelves had been covered in brightly coloured fabric, a bit like we used to cover our school books back in the day. When you moved in even closer, names printed in gold could be spotted on the spines of the books, lots of very recognisable names.

Yinka-Shonibare-The-British-Library

Yinka Shonibare’s The British Library celebrates and questions how immigration has contributed to the British culture of today. Shelves and shelves of books covered in colourful wax fabric the spines bearing the names of immigrants who have enriched British society.

Yinka-Shonibare

Mark Batchelor

There are some steps leading to the upper level and these are never left without any artwork to admire on your way up. In fact this time I was smiling as I spotted the Mini Disco by Mark Batchelor hanging from the ceiling in perfect symmetry.

Mini-Disco-by-Mark-Batchelor

If you look even closer you will see that each disco ball is made entirely out of colourful plastic sunglasses, but aren’t they effective?

There is a great shop to visit which has so many wonderful things from jewellery to colouring books and I always come away with something no matter how small.

There are also workshops held upstairs for adults and children and I really want to take the twins along one day as I am sure they would gain enormously from being inspired by the work around them and just having a go at something new.

The exhibition is upstairs and includes all sorts of mediums, from art, to sculpture and also video and motion pieces. It’s really interesting and I always wish I could come up with some of these grand ideas that I see displayed.

Back down stairs I popped through the corridors to see what was hanging and was struck by these posters. It saddens me that people amongst us can be so cruel to say such things.

Turner-Contemporary-

Richard Long

As I exited the gallery and started to make me way over to Dreamland where dad was with the girls I looked back, and thank goodness I did otherwise I would have missed this enormous wall art called The Ebb Tide Circle Richard Long. It is painted on the wall and Richard Long uses his body to get the effect of movement. Fascinating.

EbbTide-Circle-Richard-Long

Keep up to date with the Turner Contemporary by checking their website (link at the top of the text) and their Facebook page

awning #wedocamping

Well that was a fun staycation in Devon!

Our gearbox broke only half an hour into our journey at the crack of dawn on a hot Saturday morning and then on arrival at Woolacombe it decided to rain and rain and then rain some more. Alice must have drank half of the swimming pool one day as she was sick for a couple of days for no apparent reason and then to finish in style we took a wrong turn on our way home and got stuck in a horrendous traffic jam whilst some poor people were being cut out of their car.

Having said all of that I am still a great fan of Staycation holidays and believe that Great Britain is a beautiful place to spend time with my family.

This year our annual two weeks was spent in our caravan at Twitchen House in Woolacombe, a final trip as on our return home we sold it on to another loving family having invested in a static caravan in Birchington on Sea back in April.

Our caravan trips always involve lots of organisation and lists. Food lists, clothes lists, utensil lists and entertainment lists. I become the mother of all lists when it is holiday time and I am pleased to say, I didn’t forget a thing this year *shines own halo*.

Millets are running a fabulous campaign this year, #WeDoSummer and they invited us to take part. They would be sending through a few items to make our camping experience easier and more comfortable.

millets camping products

I spent quite some time on their website and ticked off a lot of products that would be really useful to us. I had no idea their ranges were so vast, from tents to fold away tables and from cups to moon chairs, my list grew with every click!

In the end I had to be sensible, I had to calm down my urge to buy everything they had and settle on what would be our most useful products because when you are camping or caravanning the most important thing to consider is size and weight. It must pack down small, be easy to use and not weigh too much.

Moon chairs

What a great choice these were. Millets sent through two moon chairs, a red one and a grey one each with its own carry sack which sits nicely on your shoulder as you walk from the car to the beach. We had ours in the awning, moving them outside when it wasn’t raining and I can honestly say they are the most comfortable camping chairs I have ever possessed. They quickly became the preferred chair of all members of the family, even Baxter had to be frequently turfed out.

Baxter #wedocamping

The moon chairs are made by Eurohike and are round, like the moon. You have to pull the top bar and the bottom bar in an outward fashion and the chair assembles for you and likewise for dismantling a push on the same two bars collapses the seat back to its packing state. Sturdy, comfortable and perfect for taking out on days out too.

Foldaway barbecue

Anyone who knows my husband well will know he is a passionate barbecue-er. The minute the weather perks up he wants us all to start eating food cooked by himself outside in the garden. Currently he has 4 barbecues to choose from, gas, coal, portable and various sizes for different events. He didn’t really need a new barbecue that’s for sure but what caught my eye with this model was that it folds away. It flat packs. So it takes up barely any space at all.

I was so curious to see how it performed that for once when husband mentioned ‘Shall we have a bbq tonight.’ I agreed and passed him the box with an excited glint in my eye.

foldaway bbq millets

The Outwell Portable Grill  took seconds to put together and worked perfectly for us. If He Who Barbecues has anything to say it is the grill is a bit delicate. It folds into three whereas if it were in one piece it might be sturdier because placing it over the the hot coals once they’d been stoked proved tricky and we had to use forks to straighten it onto the built in supports along the sides. However, the portable grill cooked our meat perfectly and we used it on every possible occasion we could whilst on holiday, we soon got the hang of the grill top.

Not only is this product good for camping but it will be fantastic to take on fun days out, for a beach barbie possibly.

Cooking utensils

Millets also have a fantastic cooking section where they have pots and pans, cool boxes, colanders and all sorts of cooking utensils that are perfect for camping. We enjoyed our meals with some wonderful cutlery and dad used his Campingas Barbecue Spatula to turn his burgers, steaks and sausages over during the cooking. This particular spatula is large and enables the chef to turn two burgers at a time which became dad’s thing this holiday. A very handy utensil.

So there you have it. If you are looking for some excellent products to make your camping trip even better then I would definitely recommend the above. Have fun campers!

mari gin and tonic #wedocamping

Sitting in my moon chair and drinking a gin and tonic – cheers to that!

 

mount teide tenerife

I think it is safe to say we have been bitten by the Canary Island bug.

We had such a wonderful time in Lanzarote earlier this year that as our plane took off from Arrecife runway all we wanted to do was turn back and stay. At home this beautiful island has cropped up in conversation time and time again, even to the point husband is considering buying his retirement villa out there! But that’s a long way off and a completely different post.

It has also shone a wonderful light on the Canary Islands as a whole, a brand new destination for us and we feel as if we’ve only touched upon it. Having had such a wonderful experience in Lanzarote, we’d like to try another of the islands next time because although there will be similarities amongst them, each island has its own unique character.

I have been reading up about the largest of the Canary Islands – Tenerife with a view to planning a future family trip there. I want to know already what there is to see and do on the island, what to eat and drink and which souvenirs to look out for to add to my collection. Here are a few ideas I’ve stumbled upon.

Things to do in Tenerife

Teide National Park

Mount Teide is a Unesco World Heritage site with a 10-mile-wide volcanic crater which dominates the centre of the island. Having visited the Timanfaya National Park it is only natural to want to continue on the geological exploration of the islands. There is a cable car that takes you up to 1,200m and offers spectacular views. I’d love to do this.

La Laguna

La Laguna was once the capital of Tenerife and is now a Unesco World heritage site with mansions and villas dating back to the 16th, 17th and 18th century. Today the town is full of tapas bars, antique shops and bookstores. How about eating some tapas here?

Masca

The village of Masca was cut off from the rest of the island until the 1970’s, it is situated on a plateau in the Teno Mountains and to get there you have to travel along a gravity defying road but when you get there apparently there are some great restaurants and a museum. Maybe just me on this trip.

Garachico

charco caleton

Garachico was once the wealthiest town in Tenerife but in 1706 an eruption completely engulfed the town. Today it’s where the tourists go to swim in the rock pools in the lava. How I would have loved to swim in Cesar Manrique’s swimming pool!

Whale-and dolphin-watching 

The waters around Tenerife and it’s neighbour La Gomera are playground to around 28 species of resident and migratory whales and dolphins making it the perfect spot for watching cetaceans in their natural environment. Dad would really enjoy this one.

Siam Park 

Siam Park is Tenerife’s biggest theme park, a Thai-themed aquatic playground of water slides and adrenalin-pumping rides. The girls (and dad) would love it!

Cueva del Viento

Cueva del Viento is the largest volcanic tube in the European Union, tunnels running for 11 miles beneath Icod de los Vinos. Apparently there are guided tours in English and I bet it’s a fascinating trip.

Diving

It’s been a long time since I donned a wetsuit and air tanks, apparently Tenerife offers a lot to see underwater too. The best places for diving are Las Galletas, Los Gigantes, Los Cristianos and Puerto de la Cruz.

Cruz del Carmen to Punta del Hidalgo, Anaga Mountains 

Maybe one to do without the kids is to follow the trail that leads from the heart of the Mercedes Forest to the coastal resort of Punta del Hidalgo passing through a rainforest that pre dates the Ice Age, a troglodyte hamlet where you can have a meal of local produce in a restaurant in a cave, and hike along craggy paths skirting the deep ravines and rocky pinnacles. No typical tourist attractions to be found, back to nature.

Playa del Duque

The St Tropez of Tenerife, home to Tenerife’s elite, is the sandy beach of Playa del Duque. I’d love to visit for some people watching, some window shopping and a walk along the beach opposite La Gomera.

Hogwarts express

Kids love dressing up. Let’s be honest, adults love dressing up. In fact I’m not sure whether I know anyone that doesn’t love dressing up.

There are so few opportunities to don your favourite costume as you get older, but playing fancy dress can be a great activity for all of the family to enjoy. With that in mind, here are some fantastic days out for you and the kids where dressing up is fully encouraged…

The V&A Museum of Childhood
Whether or not you decide to dress up, this museum is more than worth a visit. Toys from the latest Pixar films share space with 1970s Barbie dolls and various Victorian creations. In fact, there really is something for everyone here. On top of that the V&A Museum regularly holds children’s activity sessions, including the chance to dress up as a true Victorian.

The Marvel Universe Live

Think of this like going to see an Avengers film at the cinema, except all the superheroes are really there and the CGI is replaced with some thrilling stunts and daring pyrotechnics. Of course, you don’t have to come dressed up as your favourite comic book character when it tours the UK, but don’t be surprised to find that you’re in the minority if you don’t.

Sutton Hoo

Two of the key players in the Marvel Universe are Thor and Loki, yet neither were actually invented by Stan Lee and are in fact figures from ancient Viking mythology. To explore more of this period you can go to Sutton Hoo, where there are ghost ships, ancient archaeological finds and ancient burial mounds to explore. Of course, there’s also the chance to dress up as an Anglo-Saxon villager.

Warner Bros Studio Tour

They say this is the Warner Bros Studio Tour. They say that if you visit you’ll get the chance to look at “sets” or “props”. But let’s call this place by its proper name. This is Hogwarts, or at least as close as you’ll get to it in the real world. And if you’re going to Hogwarts, it’s only right to be dressed in the appropriate school uniform. The real question is, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin?

Simon Plumb - lyme house

Credit: Simon Plumb

Lyme Park

Lyme Park is a stately home with all kinds of activities on offer, from Archery to adventures with Charlie & Lola. Perhaps most fun of all is the chance to dress up as an Edwardian and perform your own period drama re-enactments. The kids can join in as well, of course, or they can watch the Charlie & Lola show while leaving the fancy dress to the grown ups.

Nine Worlds

Another one for kids and grown-ups alike, this is a sci-fi convention with a real emphasis on inclusivity. There are games, talks and activities for all ages here and you can expect to find people in everything from Star Trek uniforms to full suits of armour wandering the hotel. It would be a shame if you didn’t all have costumes of your own, wouldn’t it?

Disclosure: A collaborative post