My Sunday Photo

We’ve had a bit of rain this week, so one of the dogs decided  the ground was soft enough to dig a hole in the woods and try and climb down inside it.

I’m pretty sure he could smell or hear something crawling around underground as he eventually dug a series of holes in a line. He was completely caked with mud by the time he’d finished.

My dogs never learn. I can’t take muddy dogs inside for a nice warm bath or shower, so they end up under a cold hose in the garden. Neither of them enjoy the experience.

dog in hole

My Sunday Photo

My Sunday Photo

Last Thursday we came home to find the cats chasing this around the kitchen windowsill. There was some squealing from DD1 at the size of it and I admit I didn’t believe her at first. I thought she was probably making a fuss over a damsel or crane fly.

I rescued  the poor thing and took it outside. It’s wings were a bit battered, and I was worried that it might not be able to fly away. It sat on my hand for a bit, whirred its wings noisily for a few seconds, then took off into the blue autumn sky while the dog and I looked on.


dragonfly and dog

Mr Nobody

With six people, two dogs and two cats living in our house, you wouldn’t think it would be possible for someone else to live here and not be seen, would you?

But apparently that’s what’s happening. What else can explain what happens in our house on a regular basis, other than that we share our home with a ‘Mr Nobody’.

According to our children ‘someone else’ leaves the dirty socks in the hallway. ‘Someone else’ stuffs food wrappers behind the sofa. And ‘someone else’ is responsible for throwing the sofa cushions onto the lounge floor and constantly misplacing the remote control.

And if I calmly point out that these objects are not where they are supposed to be and make enquiries as to whether any of my cherubs knows anything at all about the missing object or mess every one of my offspring widens their innocent eyes and wrinkles their smooth brows in what can only be genuine confusion.

‘It wasn’t me’, they inform me quickly, often before I’m able to explain to them exactly what I’m asking them about. They are obviously concerned about my rising blood pressure. They are such lovely, caring children.

If I ask, it seems Mr Nobody is responsible for leaving empty packets in the cupboards and fridge, knocking all the wet towels off the drying rack, spilling ribena across the kitchen and trying to shove that one last piece of rubbish into an already full rubbish bin.

Because no other bugger owns up to it and what other explanation can there be?



The City Of Light With Kids

For our summer holiday this year we took the train to Spain, after stopping over one night in Paris. We stayed in a little 3 star hotel near the Bonne Nouvelle Metro Station, just 0.6 miles from Gare du Nord. We did take a taxi from the Eurostar terminal to the hotel, in fact we had to take two. When we first arrived we were besieged by drivers offering us vehicles so we didn’t have to join the official taxi rank. The queue was very long, so this did seem an attractive option but the cost was going to be 90 Euros! This did seem a bit steep, and they eventually went down to 70 Euros. In the end we decided to stand in line for an official taxi after all, but there wasn’t a car big enough for us and our luggage. So we took two, each of which cost us 12 Euros.   And so we avoided making a rather expensive mistake on our first evening.

Our hotel was fine for one night, but we wouldn’t have wanted to stay longer. The single beds were very narrow, but it was clean and tidy and had WiFi.  The kids were happy because we had McDonald’s for dinner.

Then, after we had spent a couple of weeks exploring Spain (Barcelona, Sitges and San Sebastian), we caught the train back to Paris for a couple of nights.

Paris sunset

The two oldest girls have actually been to Paris a couple of times before, but they were too young to remember anything. And we have taken the girls to Disneyland Paris about 8 years ago, when they were 1, 3 and 5 . Again, their memories of this are non-existant/fuzzy. I’m glad we took them when they were little, even if they have little or no recollection of the trip, because I have photos that PROVE we all had a fantastic  time.  Travelling with older children, especially tweens and teens, can be tricky. We found it much harder to balance our desire to stop and look at things with their desire to only do what they thought was going to be fun. When they were little, they had been happy to run around in circles and explore where ever we happened to take them. Now there has to be a whole lot of compromise going on.

For the last three nights of our summer holiday we stayed at an Air Bnb apartment near the Pantheon; there was more than enough room for all of us and it had a piano for DD2 to practice her exam pieces on. The location was fantastic and the lure of all those famous French places just outside our door made it relatively easy for the kids to put down the internet and explore.

Paris is full of great buildings and things to see and do, but we only had two full days there so had to be careful not to overload our schedules. The only thing worse than dragging a reluctant toddler from tourist attraction to tourist attraction, is trying to do the same thing with teens and tweens!

kids outside Notre Dame

We walked down to Notre Dame and joined the ridiculously long queue that folded around on itself many times so we could take a look inside. Some of the kids were more tolerant of the queuing than others, but it moved pretty quickly and we were inside within 20 minutes. DH and I would have liked to look around a bit longer but the kids were impatient, and wanted to go and feed the pigeons instead.

feeding pigeons Notre Dame

These birds weren’t the filthy, disheveled London-variety pigeon. They were fat and glossy and still had all their toes. There was a man hanging around doling out hand fulls of birdseed if you gave him a few coins. The kids loved the birds using them as a dinner table and no one got pooed on.

By this time people started getting hungry so we wandered across some seriously lock-heavy bridges in search of lunch.

Locks on Parisian bridges

Lunch was very French, which meant only half the family ate anything, and then we got cabs to the Eiffel Tower where we had a tour booked. This enabled us to skip the line for tickets at the bottom of the Tower and we  went up to the 2nd and 3rd floors as a small group.

Blue skies and the Eiffel tower

We all wore headphones which made it possible to hear what our guide was saying at all times no matter how far away from him we were, so we all learnt a lot about the history of the tower. Even the kids paid attention, although DS spent most of the tour pretending he was a spy.

A spy on the Eiffel Tower

I’ve seen, and been up, the Eiffel Tower a handful of times now, but I always love it. And the look of the kid’s faces when they first saw it, was worth every tantrum and argument. DD1 really wasn’t keen on using the elevators to go up, but she coped and managed to recover enough to pose for cheesy group photo at the top. I know, but it’s got to be done!

kids up the eiffel tower

We spent about 3 hours at the Tower until everyone started complaining of tiredness/hunger/boredom, then we grabbed taxis and headed home for dinner.

During our second day in Paris, we visited le Jardin du Luxembourg and paid out some money so the little kids could sail boats on the boating pond.  There was no technology involved, just sails, wind and sticks. Looking back we should have probably hired them a boat each. Either that or made them share a stick.

Sailing boats in Jardin du Luxembourg

Once our time was up and we’d retrieved the boat, we headed off to the Musée d’Orsay for some Art.

Musée d'Orsay from the back balcony
I love Musée d’Orsay. I think it might be my favourite gallery in the world. It’s fairly compact but it has space for kids to explore, and a lot of the art exhibited is really interesting. It’s also got a cafe and plenty of loos and places to sit. We spent a good three hours meandering from room to room and recognising works of art here and there. Even DD2, who had made the most fuss about having to put the internet down and leave the apartment, was impressed when she saw this hanging on one of the Gallery walls.

Vincent Van Gogh 'Dr Who' Painting

Being a Dr Who fan, she wanted to inspect it closely for a concealed Krafayis; luckily she managed to do so without setting any alarms off.

I could have spent another couple of hours in this Gallery, but again the kids were getting hungry and tired so we decided to quite while we were ahead.

That was pretty much all we did in our two days in Paris. Kids slow you down quite a bit, but the good thing about Paris is that it’s only a couple of hours from London by train, so we almost definitely will be back to visit some bits we didn’t get to see this time.


San Sebastian: From Tapas to Pintxos

After a lovely relaxing break in Sitges, we once again packed our bags, trundled up to the train station and caught a train cross country to San Sebastian.  This was another six hour train ride zigzagging across the plains and mountains of the country. The scenery was ever changing and we even got to stop at Pamplona. We didn’t see any bulls, though.

Finally we arrived at San Sebastian, where we waited and waited for a taxi to take us to our Air BNB apartment. In the end we gave up and walked. It only took us 20 minutes, even dragging our bags and it was nice to stretch our legs.

Our apartment was a huge, top floor apartment with a tiny lift and an amazing view of the Urumea river and Zurriola beach. I spent hours reading beside the window, while listening to the waves roll up the river.

Urumea river and Zurriola beach
As you can see, the beach was a popular one. We had obviously been spoilt during our time in Sitges as I found it impossible to keep an eye on four kids while they were swimming at this beach.

Zurriola has some good surf and the waves were quite large with the ‘right’ wind.  There are separate areas for surfers and swimmers so it’s probably safe enough, but I didn’t find it very enjoyable. The kids loved it though and went out with buckets trying to catch fish and crabs. They did come back with one small amputee crab that I then freaked them out with by showing them how to pick it up. Who knew that such a skill would one day be used to terrify my offspring?

There are calmer beaches in Concha bay, to the south, but these were also very busy. They did have some rock pools at the end near the Aquarium, where there were crabs and small fish waiting to be caught.

And further along the beach we found a lovely playground, Alderdi Eder, complete with shady seats and a gorgeous carousel. The older two were a bit meh about this, but it was a ‘must do’ for DD3 and DS. They spent ages deciding what they were going to ride on. DS chose an airplane and DD went for a cat.

Carousel in San Sebastian

We spent quite a lot of time wandering around San Sebastian, exploring and looking for places to eat. Again DH had visions of us roaming from bar to bar, eating a pintxos from this bar and that as we moved happily between establishments. Sadly for him, this was not to be.

Our children are varied in their fussiness, so catering for all of them with pintxos proved to be impossible. We ate at a place like the one pictured below just once. It involved hysteria from DD3 ( she didn’t like the hams hung behind the counter and won’t eat chicken), disgust from the other two DDs ( they won’t eat seafood or tomatoes), flat out refusal from DS ( if it’s not a burger or a pizza he won’t eat it), but we had lunch there anyhow.

Pintxos bar San Sebastian

It was all very tasty but it was hard to enjoy the food with the kids looking so disgruntled next to us. From then on we stuck to Italian restaurants. We may have to wait until the kids leave home before we can experiment gastronomically on holiday.

The weather was pretty good when we were in San Sebastian, but we had one wet day and used it to visit the aquarium. It was very busy but the line moved quickly and we were soon inside. We’ve seen a lot of aquariums as a family but this one was quite interesting as half of it is in the form of a museum of local fishing and naval history.

The aquarium itself was compact but informative and the kids especially liked the touch pool and the shark tunnel. ( NB These are NOT linked)

touch pool San Sebastian aquarium

All in all, we had a fairly relaxed time in San Sebastian. There is plenty to do with kids, and we had no trouble finding food for them. We loved the accommodation and would like to have stayed longer. But by now we were on the homeward stretch and were heading back to France, to stay in Paris for three nights.

Four Nights In Sitges

After three days wandering the streets of Barcelona, we took a train to the town of Sitges. It’s only a 30 minute trip and we bought tickets on the day without a problem. The kids were happy as it was a two-storied train and we got seats upstairs. There didn’t seem to be any designated luggage racks though, so we dragged the bags upstairs and piled them in a nearby corner.

Our accommodation was a ten minute walk from the train station. The paths were cobbled and the paths were a  bit uneven, luckily it was mostly downhill.

We were staying in a 3 bedroom apartment right on the beach front of Platja Sant Sebastiá so the plan was that this was going to be the ‘beach’ part of our holiday.

Insitges apartment Platja Sant Sebastiá

This is the bench I sat on most days, reading my kindle and watching the kids enjoy the surf.  Our apartment was at the top, behind the palm tree. It wasn’t noisy at night as the bedrooms were towards the back of the accommodation and we ate in the Mexican restaurant below a couple of times.

Sitges beach Platja Sant Sebastiá
The beach wasn’t crowded so I could usually just look up and count the kids, and the lifeguards were vigilant and moved people to safety if they swam too far out out or got too close to the rocks. The photo above was taken from the apartment balcony, so other times I just sat up there and supervised.

Sitges is known for its beaches; it has 17 of them. Some are more family orientated, some are supposed to be gay beaches and there are a couple of nudist beaches  to the East. We didn’t go looking for these but there was a lot of topless sunbathing going on. The whole town has a reputation for being gay-friendly but not to the exclusion of other groups. There is plenty to do as a family and we enjoyed the nice mix of all different types of holiday makers and locals, all just enjoying themselves.

We actually didn’t do much other than go to the beach and enjoy the variety of restaurants nearby. DH loved the Spanish Tapas-type food but the kids were more comfortable with burgers, pizza and pasta. We had no problem finding places to eat where everyone was happy with the food, and one night DH and I left the kids in the apartment ( DD1 is almost 14 and want to start babysitting for extra money) and ate at a lovely seafood restaurant 2 minutes around the corner.

Most evenings we wandered up the hill , through the town searching for somewhere that caught our eye,ate our meal then walked back along the beachfront and climbed the steps up to the whitewashed Church of San Bartolome and Santa Tecla on the way home.

church of San Bartolome and Santa Tecla
On our last day I took the kids over to Platja de la Fragata, the ‘family’ beach that had mini golf, volleyball nets, bungee trampolines and little paddle boats. DD3 was thrilled because she mastered backward flips on the trampolines. The others just had fun that didn’t involve being in the water.

bungee trampoline flip
We really enjoyed our lazy days at Sitges even though we are not ‘beach people’ and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for some laid back fun in the sun.