Monday, 14 April 2014

An Awesome Time At Hever Castle By Jessica!

Although the weather was poor, our family had a fabulous time at Hever Castle. Here is what we did...

As we got to the castle early, we decided to go outside and have a look around first - something that is essential for every visit. There is loads for adults and children alike, ranging from incredible gardens to kids' playgrounds.
The Castle
You can see most of what we did from the video, but some of it has to be described in a bit more detail.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Groombridge Place by Robert

We went to Kent at the weekend and visited Groombridge Place. It was fun, exciting and interesting. The main activities were in the Enchanted Forest and, the ones I liked best were when we:

* Found out that there is such thing as a zedonk, (half zebra and half donkey.) The one we saw was called Adam.

Walked across a half mile boardwalk that included zip wires, tyres to climb through, tunnels, wobbly bridges and lots more.

Friday, 21 March 2014

An Amazing Time At clueQuest! (by all of us!)

We were lucky enough to spend a fantastic afternoon at clueQuest, near Liverpool Street, in London, where we became secret agents and managed to save the world! Here is what we thought...

Robert: clueQuest was BRILLIANT. You start by getting locked in a room then you have one hour to get out and save the world. You have to use codes, maps, machines, Lego, computers, cards and lots more. Every single object had something to do with the challenge, from if there was a code on a chair or a memory stick in a cupboard. You are allowed to get about codes from mission control to help you escape the series of rooms, (although the average is 20, we used a lot more than that!) The fastest ever anyone ever escaped was in 47 minutes and that group didn't have any clues.
My favourite bits were opening the padlocks, finding new objects that really helped and when everything clicked into place.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

It can be simple to save a life (please read this)

Our blog is about travel and usually contains stories of our adventures, whether in the UK or abroad. This post, however, is not about us. It's about a different kind of travelling, with a different aim, to save lives.

Saturday marks World Water Day. That may not mean much to many of us. After all, we can simply turn on a tap and have a drink or reach for the shower dial when we want to get clean. Yet if we move away from our comfort zone, it's a completely different story. Millions of people die every year from unsafe water and sanitation. It is literally (and that is not a word I use lightly) a matter of life and death.

Back in 1998, Fiona Jeffery felt that it was time she used her position as an influencer in the travel and tourism world to give something back. She was then the director of World Travel Market, the leading travel industry exhibition, and was keen to find a cause which would, as she says, tick several boxes.

"I always had an environmental focus," she told me. " But I wanted to find something which was also global in reach and impacted children and families."

She soon discovered water - or the lack of it. Diseases connected to dirty water and poor sanitation, she found, were the biggest killers of children aged under five. In fact, they killed more children than HIV, malaria and measles combined. Not only that, but just £1 could deliver clean water to a child for 10 years.
Fiona, her children and some of the beneficiaries of Just A Drop

Friday, 7 March 2014

What can you learn on holiday?

Holidays are wonderful (although the build-up isn't always so great!). I love spending time with my family, travelling to new places and learning, yes, I said learning about new things.

I didn't grow up thinking that holidays were just about relaxing. Instead they were exciting, full of anything from castles and museums to lakes and mountains. We went fishing with little nets in Devon and to the magnificent Cologne Cathedral in Germany. We learnt about steering a canal boat and opening locks in Wales, and visited historic chateaux in the Loire Valley in France. Holiday time was incredibly enriching.

Of course we weren't on the go all the time. My parents were careful to make sure that we had lots of time to read, or swim or just chill. But we didn't do that all the time.

And, when I stop to think about it, the holidays I had as a child and loved, are similar to the ones we now have with our children. We travel somewhere and we shop and eat and have fun, but we also discover local museums (like At Science in Bristol, which was fantastic) and stately homes.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Barcelona - a city with so much to see and do (by Ella)

Ella eating Spanish paella
Our first guest post, by Beverlie, was a hit! Now I'm delighted to have our second, and we are keeping in the family as it is by my gorgeous niece, Ella, who is 14. She was lucky enough to visit Barcelona.

Over to Ella:

I was lucky enough to visit Barcelona which is an amazing city, with so much to see and do. Here are my recommendations.

The Sagrada Familia is probably the best known thing in Barcelona. Gaudi’s ambitious – and incomplete, but beautiful – Church is an amazing sight, whether you explore the inside or enjoy the beauty of the outside.

La Rambla
La Rambla is another brilliant thing you find in Barcelona. A wide pedestrian street, with street performers, stalls selling birds and other animals, flowers everywhere and stunning – but crazy – buildings surrounding you, the road is one you must walk down, if you ever find yourself in Barcelona - although I was warned a thousand times to look out for pickpockets! The mosaic in the centre of the street is also something that is impossible to miss.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

We love this blog (and please nominate us!)

Sarah, Jess and Rob outside Buckingham Palace
We love writing this blog. It's so lovely to do something together, as a family. In fact, when we started it, my daughter and I didn't realise how much fun it would be to share what we do with other people, or how keen Robert (who's 8) would be to get involved.

The children write what they really think on here and I don't go through and edit it with a fine toothcomb - although I do correct spelling mistakes (once a journalist, always a journalist). I sometimes find that the children are harsher critics than me - or that they have picked out something which I would not have emphasised. That is part of the joy of doing this together.

It's also lovely to recommend places for other people to visit, which is why we like writing about holidays abroad as well as days out at home. We like reading other travel blogs and family websites too, and are very happy that through Family Travel Times we have met (in person, I mean) such lovely people as Gretta over at MumsdotravelTrish at mumsgoneto , Kirsty at the Family Adventure Project and Mari at Mari's World (as well, of course, as many, many more!) We've also made many virtual contacts (and we would love to turn those into real humans one day...).

We have had such a great time over the last year. America was outstanding, but we also loved our summer holiday to Bristol and searching for Gromits. Robert really enjoyed Dr Johnson's House and I felt spoilt rotten to be lucky enough to take a trip to Jamaica with Jessica.

We write the blog because we enjoy it, and we are delighted that you are reading it too. We are also extremely happy that some kind souls have nominated us for the MAD blog awards - the awards for mum and dad bloggers (and family ones too!)

We would be absolutely thrilled, honoured and delighted if you would also take the time to please nominate and vote for us. We think that we fit best into the category of family travel blog and new blog, but we are very happy to be up in any category you think might suit us (so, not best pregnancy blog then....)

You can vote by clicking on the following link, travelling over to the MADs nomination page, and then following the instructions. The first page has a slot for best overall blog, so we will leave that up to you. We're crossing our fingers that you might pop us down on the next page.

Thank you so much, and we hope you don't mind us asking.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Drake Fun Day at the Golden Hinde (by Robert)

The Drake Fun Day was awesome, funny, interesting and overall, a great day out.

It took place on the Golden Hinde II, which is a replica of the ship which Sir Francis Drake used to sail all round the world and attack Spanish ships with. It was the first ever English ship that circumnavigated (that means went all around) the world, and this happened when Queen Elizabeth was on the throne. The voyage took place from 1577 to 1580 and before Drake left, the Queen said to him " Sail around the world for England's glory."

We played games and learned facts from the Captain and his stupid, disgusting  assistant, Fart, who even wiped his finger (that he had used to scratch his his bottom) on me!

We played rock, paper scissors, Tudor sailing style. Captain was paper, officer was rock and sailor was scissors.

We also played hide and seek. We were trying to find the Spanish who Francis Drake hated. I was one of the people who hid and no one found me.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Brighton In The Winter (By Jessica)

Me ice-Skating At The Royal Pavilion
I was lucky enough to spend a few days at my friend's grandparents' house in Brighton recently and had a great time. Here is what we did...

Ice Skating
First of all, we took the bus to Brighton's Royal Pavilion to go ice-skating. One problem - I can't ice-skate AT ALL! After putting on skates, I slowly went out onto the ice and did a few laps, soon realizing that I wasn't as bad as I thought. Although I definitely wasn't the best person on the rink, an hour was enough for me to (kind of) learn to skate. 

The Pavilion in itself was beautiful - the grass was green, there were loads of flowers and the building looked like a miniature Taj Mahal. It created the perfect atmosphere. The open-air rink is open only in winter, and is somewhere you should really go to, whether you can skate or not... 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

This one's for mums (& dads!) Rafayel on the Left Bank - a 5 star spa hotel

The Rafayel spa
My friend Beverlie Summers is a woman of many talents, including writing, and being the mum of four. She is also the first person to guest post on our blog, and her post is about a wonderful sounding hotel which would be just perfect for a few days without the kids in tow! With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it seemed a good time to run her piece.

Over to Beverlie:

"Iqbal Latif - polymath, weaver of stories, social scientist, owner of one of the world's first environmentally-conscious luxury hotels.... I am just a little bit in love with him!  What he has created at Falcon Wharf, Battersea is nothing short of incredible. From the second you walk into the lobby you know that this is going to be an amazing experience.

The lobby

The Rafayel is one of the world’s first environmentally-conscious luxury hotels, managing to minimize its environmental impact without comprising on 5-star luxury, quality or comfort. Personally I really like having the choice of just having the bed remade or having all the bed linen changed every single day – similarly with the towels. I always find it somewhat wasteful to throw perfectly usable towels on the floor each day to be replaced.

The bedrooms themselves have MediaHub panels to connect mp3 players, laptops and digital cameras to the TV and audio system. The beds are really comfortable and the linen is luxurious. The bathrooms are spacious and full of top spec equipment – gorgeous power shower and a separate bath (complete with TV).

The Rafayel is in Battersea close to The London Heliport and with views of the Thames. There is a free Shuttle Service running every 30 minutes to and from nearest transport links. (Clapham Junction & Clapham Common) or if you prefer, there is car parking in the hotel car park for £15 per day. I chose to drive in as it gave me the freedom to travel the next day, but actually the hotel is so central I could easily have relied on public transport.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Where shall we go in the summer (it's tricky!)?

We went to Paris in October. Where's next?
Where should we go in the summer? That's our burning question for now. It may only be January, but you can never think about your next trip too early!

I gave advice on summer family holidays in this post on Top Cashback and realised there there were so many things to take into account...It's not easy.

Firstly, of course, there's a budget. Like most people we know, we don't have a great cache of money hanging around waiting to be used, so although we would love a fly drive trip to the USA, that's not going to happen.

Which leaves the UK and Europe.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Roman Baths in...Bath!

Jessica makes a friend
Bath is a truly beautiful city - so beautiful that in parts it seems almost like a film set. Designated a World Heritage site, it is gorgeous to walk around, full of little streets and wonderful views. But it is also offers loads of shops, restaurants and tea houses, which makes it a great place for a day out.

Of course the city is known particularly for the Roman Baths, the remains of an ancient spa and Roman temple. No one should visit Bath without spending a few hours finding out about the bath-house where people took their dips nearly 2,000 years ago.

I had last been to the Roman Baths long before having children, so I was interested to see what the kids thought of it. Luckily the audioguides include one especially for children (not only in English, but also French and German) and this was a great touch. The English one is narrated by Michael Rosen, and it definitely kept the children engaged. However, I'm not convinced that it would have been as popular for younger children, as ours are at an age where they are able to concentrate, don't get easily bored and won't run off (and attempt to touch the water...)