boats fishing nets

Well, it’s taken until Sunday this week to find time to write about our trip away as the past week has flown by.

It’s a good spot to drive to from North Kent as it took us just under 5 hours. In fact we arrived early at our Parkdean site and although check in is not until 4pm, you’ve got to try haven’t you?

So off we all traipsed to reception, the girls happy to be let loose at long last, where the lady on duty there told us quite abruptly that housekeeping wouldn’t be ready till 4pm. And that was it. No alternative, no map of the site passed over, no mention of the cafe, the soft play area, the restaurant, the swimming pool. Not a peep. So I asked for a map, tilting my head in the girls direction trying to give her a clue that we had two hours to kill with little ones in tow. You’ll get one in your welcome pack.

playing with bricks

Bessie the builder

‘Yes, thank you for that but I need one now?’ ‘Please?’

She did hand over a map but it was obvious that we were breaking from her tightly run reception rules. She was hard work and funnily enough later in the week I noticed a form to fill in on reception asking ‘Have one of our staff walked in your shoes this break?’ Please tell us who and when. Well obviously she hadn’t thought about a long journey two tired, grumpy toddlers and two parents in need of a suggestion or two. It’s not rocket science is it?

We did get settled in, housekeeping were marvellous and had all the statics done by 3pm so we were able to move in early and settle ourselves in. Our new home was lovely, a three bedroom, one bathroom with a galley kitchen and a large dining/lounging area which the girls filled immediately with toys.

torquay

Cafe Alf Resco, Dartmouth

Our first outing was into Torquay itself which if I am truthful left me a little disappointed. It may have been for the rainy weather but I don’t think so, you see the words “English Riviera” had evoked a beautiful image in my mind and that’s not what I saw. I saw a large seaside town like many others, the British high street and a harbour. I had imagined boutique shops, eateries, cafes and beauty all around.

I did find these things the very next day when we ventured on to Dartmouth. Exquisite settings and the novelty of getting a ferry both there and back. There were two ferries to choose from so we took one there and the other back. My favourite has to be the tug pulled/pushed ferry, see my photo below. Dartmouth is full of gorgeous shops, art galleries (one with Rolf Harris’ art in it) , fabulous restaurants and beautiful scenery and houses to look at.

torquay

Tug pulled/pushed ferries, Dartmouth

We also visited Pennywell Farm and had a marvellous day out there which was so lovely to see the girls enjoy. We watched the goats being milked and got up close. We collected the chickens eggs still warm and were allowed to hold them, we then fed them to the pigs along with apples from the surrounding trees, the girls were fascinated with the real noise of a pig’s snort being louder and harsher than that of Daddy Pig’s in Peppa Pig! There was a large play area with picnic tables and an enclosed space with sit on tractors which they both adored. We watched a trainer flying a falcon and we stroked an owl he held for us, I was surprised at how warm he was (the owl that is!) and interested to learn that owls are really dumb, so dumb they don’t know how to hunt but wait for something to pass under them and go in for the catch. Talk about lazy!

torquay

Egg collecting – Pennywell Farm, Devon

Pennywell Farm was a brilliant day out for us. We took a picnic but there are a few places on site where you can buy and eat food and many more activities to do than I have listed here.

So would I go back to Torquay? Probably not but I would go back to that area again and try to visit Salcombe a little further down the coast from Dartmouth.

Would I use Parkdean sites again? Yes. I would. this is our second Pardean trip the first being to West Bay also in Dorset. At this particular site I was very impressed with their indoor swimming pool which the girls adored, their clubhouse with entertainment for the little ones – we had some very wiggly bottoms on the dance floor – and the shops and restaurants on site. I did have to buy a bottle opener but now every time I travel I shall pop it in my First Aid bag and never ever be without again. Phew! Thanks Francesca for that tip :)

Torquay.

I’m very excited. Torquay is a new destination for me, the English Riviera as it is also known and with a stroke of good luck we will have pleasant weather too. We’re going to be staying on a Parkdean site. We chose this for its indoor swimming pool and clubhouse with evening entertainment – including Baby Dance for the girls :)

We’ll be staying in a mobile home or static caravan as it’s otherwise known, a little more comfortable than our camping trip a fortnight ago. In fact we are on one of the infamous Sun Holidays for £9.50 per person. Amazing price isn’t it?

We’ve been on quite a few of these breaks now and thanks to The Sun and their wonderful initiative we’ve been to Cornwall, Devon, South Wales, North Wales, Rye and the Isle of Wight! We’ve even been to Spain with them and discovered the park we stayed at this year in Lake Garda is also part of their fabulous offer!

For £9.50 per person we manage to add another two holidays to our yearly stack and have the pleasure of discovering beautiful places around the UK.

For families they are perfect, there are activities organised to keep the children happy, bars to keep the parents happy, restaurants, take aways and supermarkets on site and the reception is bursting with leaflets advertising all of the local excursions.

On our last vacation to this area our travels took us as far as Lyme Regis so this time we’ll drive further on down the coast and visit Paignton, Brixham and Dartmouth, each resort a thrown back to time past. I also hope to take the girls on their first zoo trip in Paignton.

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll have tons to tell you as the week progresses and photos of the sites we see.

 

Do you remember that? Hi de Hi, classic TV from my childhood and I can’t go near a camp site without hearing her voice.

bar

We weren’t going too far afield Just In Case. So we headed off towards the North Kent beaches and Paul decided we’d try out the Two Chimneys campsite as he used to go their as a child. 

However, tent up, bedrooms ready it was time to hit the beach and take the girls to their Peter Pan party. 

tent

We returned around 6pm and ordered dinner from the take away on site, they’d run out of fish and chips already (?) but 2 x chicken nuggets, a chicken Kiev and scampi and chips they had. We watched the poor lady work on her own to get it already whilst there were others in the queue waiting. A bit slow but we made it and headed back ‘home’ for our meal. 

paul and girls

Afterwards, we took the girls to an excellent play area and on to see the swimming pool which was quite handily next to the clubhouse. It was disco night and so we stopped for a drink and took the girls to cut some carpet for their first time. 80’s favourites, I was in my element! 

So would the girls sleep in their new fun bedroom? Noooo, we had screaming, tears, ‘No daddy! No mummy! No na’nights’ and eventually they sat in Pauls’ lap whilst I read them The monkey with a bright blue bottom by Steve Smallman and eventually dropped off. We separated them, one in each bedroom so they wouldn’t wake each other up. 

dancing

Dancing queens

A bottle of wine later (This is Mari’s idea of camping Paul!) I crawled into my sleeping bag in full pyjamas as I wasn’t taking any risks. Had I known I would be sleeping in the girl’s room with Bessie I would have blown that mattress up to its max as well, as it was, “It’ll be ok for the girls”, clearly wasn’t enough. I slept like a banana, my bottom to the floor, my head and legs higher, so infinitely more difficult to turn and get comfy. 

I didn’t sleep well, admittedly the atrocious amount of wine didn’t do me any favours either. Alice was awake and sparkling at 6am on hearing a flock of seagulls shriek overhead and Sunday was born. 

Even the delicious ‘Full English breakfast baguette from the take away did nothing for my head and after a walk around the park to check out the static caravans we headed home, camping for this year crossed off the To Do List. 

Do you like camping?

lake garda

 

We arrived on Lake Garda Italy on a Friday afternoon in the most incredible heat, apparently they were the hottest days of the year so far and didn’t we know it!

Our Keycamp rep took us to our mobile home where we discovered there was no air conditioning. Having booked Spain last year with AC I had assumed all homes in hot countries had it. Wrong.

We opened every window in the home and turned on the fan whilst we set about settling in. The home was a three bed and they had set up travel cots in one for the girls, it had a lovely decking area outside with a gas BBQ and the road in front was pedestrian meaning the girls could roam on the grass and surrounds enjoying a tiny bit of freedom.

I had ordered two baby packs which included, cots, high chairs, baby bath and a potty (which I never saw) which allowed us to free up a lot of space in the car which was packed to the hilt anyway.

Keycamp mobile home Lake Garda

Our campsite was on the southern end of Lake Garda in Peschiera a pretty fishing town with a wonderful Monday market! During our stay we managed to visit Sirmione, Bardolino, Lazise and Desenzano del Garda. I think my favourite still has to be Lazise.

Gelateria Peschiera Lake Garda

Ice cream counter -mmmm

One of the most enjoyable pleasures for me in Italy is the ice cream parlour. The one photographed here is in Sirmione and has fridge after fridge of trays of piled up high ice cream in every flavour imaginable, of course I had one and on another occasion I treated myself to an Eis Cafe which is sublime…a tall sundae glass, with scoops of vanilla ice cream, drowned in a hot espresso coffee, topped with whipped cream and a squirt of chocolate sauce. To die for. I think I ate mine so quickly that Other Half didn’t even get to taste it. Ooops!

Peschiera market Lake Garda

I came home with some beautiful ceramics from Peschiera market, some clothes (Of course! we’re in Italy) some no make that lots of wine and a sun tan.

Me and friends in Italy 2010

I managed to catch up with some of my very dear friends who I know I won’t be seeing for a long while again but isn’t it lovely how you just pick up where you left even if it was a couple of years ago?

Swimming pool Lake Garda camping

The girls adored the swimming pool and our camping, Camping del Garda had a fantastic pool perfect for toddlers as it went from very shallow to a foot or two allowing them to move around freely and safely. Admittedly we started off with arm bands and rings but as time passed they got more confident and the bands came off.   They didn’t even mind the compulsory swimming hats as seen above!

Trombe d'aria Lake Garda Peschiera

All in all a wonderful holiday. The only snag being the dreadful weather we had half way through including a ‘tromba d’aria!’ Which literally blew our garden furniture away. When there’s bad weather on the lake you certainly know about it.

The girls playing with Gracey on the slides in the park

children on slide

And one last photo – all my four children together

My children taken June 2010 Lake Garda

pizza

The lake has numerous restaurants, pizzerias and gelaterie offering vast menus making decisions difficult with so much on offer. Fresh water fish is abundant as is sea water fish being so close to the Adriatic. Pasta mare e montagna, (sea and mountain) usually combining mushrooms and fish and a speck and raddicchio pizza, a firm favourite of mine ,which cannot be found here in Ol’ Blighty.

ice cream

However, I shall try my damned hardest to cram as much in as possible. One lovely thing about italians is they are very child friendly and welcomed in many eateries so lack of babysitters is no excuse.

I shall also be scouring the local supermarkets for products to bring home with me and that list will definitely include some wine, some balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

shop

And then the souvenirs, the beautiful towns of Lake Garda are packed with leather shops, ceramics, food, art and of course fashion. I can’t wait!

I shall also hope to be getting one of the water taxis on the lake to take day trips to the opposite shores and visit some of the other towns dotted around the edge such as Malcesine with its Scaligeri castle, Riva at the top, Lazise and Sirmione at the bottom famous for its therapeutic spa water that comes from the bottom of the lake.

Wish you were here? :)