Tag Archives: Cornwall

And then there were 3: Cornish holiday part 2

Welcome to the second instalment of our holiday saga, featuring a reduced cast and much less sunny weather.

But first, I thought I’d reflect on holidaying in the UK vs going abroad. There are obvious arguments for staying in the UK if you’re committed to living more lightly on the planet and not contributing to the aviation industry’s disproportionately large carbon emissions (or if, like us, you’re at least trying really hard to be better). The UK is beautiful and there are so many corners of it to discover and enjoy. It can also be cheaper, although not necessarily. (We are big fans of house-swapping, house-sharing and cultivating friendships with holiday-home-owners. And of course, someday we will have to camp…).

On the flip-side, it can be expensive, the weather is wildly unpredictable (you may laugh, but it has a big effect on my happiness levels!), and there’s definitely something to be said for experiencing life in other cultures.

I grew up having a mixture of holidays in mainland Europe and some in the UK, although we always got there by car (the advantages of living near major seaports to France). I like the idea of our kids being at home in different kinds of environments, amongst different languages and cuisines, but also of them not taking that privilege for granted. When we were away I started dreaming up ideas like going abroad every fifth year, and plotting and saving as a family as to where we go. I’m not sure we can predict enough about our future to make plans like that, or that we’ll necessarily be able to afford to go abroad, especially once we have to go in school holiday season. But I like planning anyway.

Returning to our recent holiday, after a week of sociable, chaotic holiday fun in Port Isaac, we were extremely happy with our decision not to rush back to London. Instead we drove down further into Cornwall and stayed in a friend’s converted barn, in a village not far from St Ives. So far, so blissful.

We loved spending a week with friends but also really wanted some time with just the three of us. We’ve never really holidayed as a three – last year we went with my parents to France. And of course summer holidays of the future will now feature another little Flannagan. So some quality time together seemed like a good plan.

There’s nothing better than Cornwall in the sunshine. When it rains, however, I can go to a dark place. Internally I howl and curse our decision to stay in the UK, because I just find it so depressing. And my former coping mechanisms are useless when confronted with a bored toddler (‘darling, let’s just curl up and read our books, or relax in a nice pub, or go to the cinema…’). We had to develop new strategies. And here follows our top recommendations and favourite places.

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1.Paradise Park. I have a minor phobia of birds (or beaks to be specific), so an award-winning wildlife park specialising in birds wasn’t immediately appealing to me. But it was really close, and what’s more they had soft play. We set off one drizzly morning and it was a complete winner. Jesse was utterly captivated by all the amazingly coloured birds. He loved the shows. He loved the farmyard. And he loved the soft-play.  They had a deal whereby if you bought a return ticket it was only £4 (per adult – he was free), and so it became our new favourite place. he always wanted to see more birds, or go down the slides again. And even I was pretty impressed by some of the birds.

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This is a parrot trained to pick up a £1 coin from your out-stretched arm and drop it into a donation box. Sadly neither Andy nor Jesse really understood the premise.

2. Heartlands. I discovered this place on a flyer in Port Isaac, but it was only 20 minutes from our base near St Ives. And it was FREE. It’s basically a regeneration project that celebrates Cornwall’s mining history, and includes a big outdoor adventure playground, a cafe, a museum and various artisan workshops. You have to pay for parking but then you can claim the fee back inside (I got a coffee and a cookie for free). Highlights included the 270 degree film experience in the museum, the kids’ art studio (where Jesse painted a beautiful tea light holder), and the pic playground. Sadly our visit was slightly curtailed when Jesse head butted some concrete and we had to detour to the minor injuries unit…but otherwise it was an excellent outing.

Jesse the artist at work

Jesse the artist at work (with mentor)

3. DVD rental. Can you believe anyone still does it? We had no wifi for streaming, and were basically housebound in the evening once Jesse was in bed. Our solution: daily visits to a fab little rental place in the local town (Hayle), where the guy running the show made daily recommendations which generally proved excellent (or at least were based on true stories that were interesting). Hurray for human contact! It was indescribably more helpful than iTunes, where we have spent many a depressing hour scrolling through scores of films, struggling to find ANYTHING that looks vaguely appealing. (FYI viewings include Long Road to Freedom, Promised Land, Hector & the search for Happiness, Parkland, and The Theory of Everything).

Polishing off a Cornish tea

Polishing off a Cornish tea

4. The train to St Ives. It’s hard not to love St Ives with it’s beautiful cobbled streets, endless ice-cream parlous, beautiful beaches and harbour, and scores of art galleries. But we especially loved going there by train from where we were staying (St Erth), following the shoreline to central St Ives. The views are incredible, and Jesse always loves a train ride. (What’s more, with a journey time of 15 minutes, we can keep him interested enough in the views not to need to run up and down the carriage continuously).

 

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Going on holiday with other people (and their children)

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We’re just back from two weeks of holiday (that’s the excuse for the latest radio silence) and I have two blogs for you about our adventures. The second one will cover our second week when it was just team Flan, and our reflections on holidaying in the UK as a young family. But we’re starting with group holidaying.

For the first time ever (since having a kiddo) we went on holiday with other people who weren’t related to us. Which was something of an experiment, and so I thought I’d tell you how it went, what was brilliant and whether we’re now converts to a new way of holidaying.

Since we got married we’ve really only holidayed on our own. Regular life tends to be relentlessly sociable and busy and so we have always tried to protect our downtime together and keep it quiet, But then once we had Jesse we realised that parental solidarity and sharing the load (especially around 5.45am) were hugely appealing, plus who doesn’t want playmates on hand to entertain your child? (I had visions of one brave dad entertaining all the kids simultaneously while the rest of us supped wine on the veranda).

There were 11 of us, all in, and we stayed in one big beautiful house in Port Isaac, on the north coast of Cornwall. Mercifully we were able to go outside of school holiday season (how does anyone afford holidays at peak time?), and sharing a house rental (and food bill) across three families made the whole thing way more affordable.

Here we all are. Except Matt who took the photo,

 

Our highlights of the week included sitting on the shore on Friday night listening to the Fishermen’s Friends sing sea shanties (they’re pretty famous).

We had a pretty good view

We had a pretty good view

Long afternoons on Polzeath beach watching the kiddos dart in and out of rock pools.

(and stop for crackers)

(and stop for crackers)

The ferry from Rock to Padstow, where Jesse joyfully demolished Andy’s ice-cream (bought at Rick Stein’s deli – the boy has classy tastes).

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And for what it’s worth, here are the lessons learnt from the great adventure:

1.Choose your companions well. I had a definite head-start here in that the whole thing was basically orchestrated by my two best buddies and myself, and we knew we liked each other. Two of us had lived together pre-marriage, and we’d certainly holidayed together before in our single days. It’s definitely easier to be with your favourite people rather than your partner’s favourite people, although I’m pretty sure the boys all like each other too…Or if not, they did brave faces well. So I guess really really making sure that you’re both down with the plan is pretty crucial before committing.

2. Don’t do everything together. Every family had different routines or habits. Our little man was up around 6am, and one of the other families wasn’t usually ready to hit the road much before noon (they did have triple the number of children). So we devised our own adventures, sometime meeting up on the beach later in the day, sometimes just for dinner. Getting a large group of people to agree a shared plan each day is way too much effort. A mixture of family time and group time worked great for us.

3. Snacks are really important. For all ages.

4. Pick a great location. We came up trumps here, and not just because we accidentally ended up in fictional Port Wenn where Doc Marten is set (if that means nothing to you, join the club. We were completely ignorant on arrival). We scored a beautiful big house (through friends of friends), where we had enough space not to need to kill each other, with incredible views, but which was also right on the doorstep of a beautiful village. Children of any age could set out on foot (with responsible adults…) and adventure down to the harbour or the cliff top or just the winding village streets. Beautiful sandy beaches were only a brief drive away, and there were loads of gorgeous pubs and restaurants for meals out.

5. Make the most of people power. Each couple had a great date night out, and we happily babysat for one another. Andy and I had an amazing seafood dinner, despite the fact that that he doesn’t really like seafood.

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It was a brilliant week and has got me thinking that I’d love to do more shared holidays. (Share the cooking! Share the cost! Share the wine! Eat other people’s snacks!) I have so many happy memories of family holidays growing up, but we never really went with other families, and I think it’s such a great thing for kids. Saying that, I can imagine scenarios where it might be a nightmare. If we went on holiday with people who liked to be really tidy we would probably drive them bananas. Or if our kids were all really different ages and weren’t interested in hanging out or doing the same kinds of things. Or if you just didn’t like the people so much. Parenting is a pretty intense thing to be doing around people who wind you up, whereas genuine parental solidarity – I can’t get enough of it.

Do any of you have good or bad experiences of group holidays?

 

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