As the bus pulled away from Levante Beach Hotel after our week long holiday to Rhodes, my eyes pricked with tears behind my sunglasses. Mainly I was feeling emotional because I just felt so thankful to have experienced such an incredible week with my little family, but there was also a part of me that felt truly sad and a little sentimental to be saying goodbye to such a special place. But all good stories start at the beginning...
Last year we were really lucky to have been chosen to be Mark Warner ambassadors. We chose Levante in Rhodes as our place to go and off we went last June for our first foreign sunshine holiday as a family. (Check out all our posts here) It was truly amazing and we had the time of our lives, so much so that pretty much as soon as we got home we booked to go again. As our departure date approached, I must admit to starting to feel a little nervous. What if I had built it up so much that it wouldn't be as good as I remembered it? What if we didn't have as an amazing time as last year?
I can honestly say that I have never been to the same place twice. I love to travel, I love to experience new places, but however much we love a place we will usually try somewhere else, even if it's a different hotel in the same country. But there was just something about Levante last year- so many happy little pieces fitting together to make it a perfect family holiday. Perfect isn't a word I use lightly, but it's true. The place, the staff- both the local Greek staff and the Mark Warner crew, the Mark Warner ethos, the magic of it all just completely sucked us in. But it didn't necessarily mean that coming back would be the same...
The girls were really good on the flight out there and again it was a nice treat to fly with British Airways, who were a pleasure to fly with. On arrival at Levante Beach it all just slotted back into place straight away, it was great to know exactly what we were doing, where we were going and we were delighted to find they had put us in the exact same room. There was no awkwardness of trying to find our way, we were straight back into the same routine as last year. We also were thrilled to find that a lot of the staff were the same as last year, especially in childcare and they remembered us which was really nice. We had booked the girls into morning childcare sessions again, something which was all completely new to us last year, but actually made the holiday for us. To be able to have a bit of time, just for a couple of hours in the morning is just fantastic as it gave us some time to relax and to spend together. The childcare team are truly amazing and I really could talk about them all day, but instead here is the first part of the story of our holiday in many many photos...
We arrived at Levante in the afternoon on the Saturday and headed down to the beach. (To collect stones obviously!)
We had a little routine last year of going down to the beach after dinner and before the evening mini club. (MW offer a evening childcare service where you drop them off in their PJ's and they watch a film and then snuggle up in little beds and either go to sleep/chill out until you pick them up) We tried to do this again, but on a few of the nights it was quite windy (but still boiling hot) and so we decided to give the beach a miss. The girl's loved going down there when we did though.
Waking up to this on our first morning certainly beat waking up to grey skies.
If you asked Mads what she remembered about her holiday last year she would always say 'pancakes, waffles and mini club'. As strange as it sounds we all remember the waffles so well! They are delicious and definitely a highlight of the breakfasts. We were pleased to see that the same Greek man was there making them each morning, he was really nice and welcoming. And we were even more pleased to see they were just as tasty as we reemembered.
On our first day I decided to go SUP, that's Stand Up Paddleboarding to you and I, on one of the organised group activities down on the waterfront.
There are loads of activities- sailing, kayaking, tennis etc, you name it and all are included in the price of your holiday unless you want private tuition.
I suprised myself on actually being able to stand up quite well, but steering was a bit of an issue!
Every afternoon was spent in one of the various pools, there are five in total. Then after a big swim the girl's would go down for a long nap which was fantastic as it gave us a chance to relax again. I love it when a holiday routine just seems to work really well.
So lucky to have this man in our lives. He is so good to us.
Looking very grown up. Of course Baa had to come everywhere with us as usual. For a split second as we boarded the plane to head to Rhodes I thought we had lost him in the airport. I was absolutely scared for a moment, she would be devastated if she lost it and so would I - he is definitely part of the family.
This little lady loves the sand.
My beautiful ladies. And that beautiful golden light which is by far my favourite thing to photograph.
I love this one. This girl made us the proudest on holiday. She was so confident going to mini club, she adored our afternoons of swimming and she just generally thrived on our holiday fun. Look at that happy smile!
I absolutely love this photo of the three of us. We rarely get photos like this so I will treasure this one. I think it might be my new favourite.
Walking back to our hotel room. It's a shame the sun doesn't set over the sea in Levante, but we won't hold anything against it when it produces such a gorgeous light.
Here is the first of two little videos I have made of our holiday to Rhodes...
Part two of our holiday coming up soon..
NB: Mark Warner were really fantastic and gave us a discount off our holiday as we were their ambassadors last year, but they haven't asked me to write about our holiday, although of course I would have done anyway. (thank you MW!) They are also offering a discount to any of my readers who are interested in booking a holiday with them. It will run for two weeks and you need to quote KatieBlog50 when booking- the offer entitles you to a £50 discount per person excluding free child places. It can't be used in conjunction with any other offer and Mark Warner booking conditions apply. You can find out more about amazing Levante and their other properties here.
Yet again it's time for me to type those same old words that I say every single month, and that's that I truly can't believe how fast June has whizzed by. But it's true, just when we seem to have gotten over how fast the previous month has gone, the following one passes us by just as quickly. I know I sound like a broken record but it's scary how quickly the time seems to go.
June has been a fantastic month, although I must admit that as I sit writing this post I do feel a little down in the dumps and I can't even blame it on the post holiday blues, although I am staring wistfully out my window wishing I was looking out at the blue crystal clear swimming pool of our hotel Levante. I have written before how I have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve and also get anxious quite easily, and for some reason since arriving home from our wonderful holiday to Rhodes I have been feeling a little on edge. Most of this stems from the fact that I, like so many others, am struggling to comprehend what has happened to innocent tourists in Tunisia, but it has been made worse by the fact that my little sister is in Tunisia at the moment and was there at the time of the attack. She is safe and well and will hopefully be on a flight today, but I keep watching the news and feeling so sad that our girls are growing up in a world where we can feel so unsafe. It makes me anxious, which I am sure it does to lots of others as well. Sometimes I just feel a little overwhelmed with the cruelness of it all.
Slightly negative thoughts aside, this month has been truly lovely. The weather has been a little hit and miss, but we have had some sunny days and enjoyed a trip to Legoland and a few picnics at home. I also had a weekend away in London for the Blogtacular conference which was lovely, and I really enjoyed some 'me time' with some great friends. We finally found out and confirmed Mads place at her new school for September, which is so exciting and I feel like we can now relax and enjoy the Summer together.
Just before we went to Rhodes, I also went for a brunch in London with the lovely ladies from Mark Warner and some other bloggers, and as the Brit Mums BIB awards were that evening I ended up staying which I wasn't going to do. I am glad I did because the travel blog I run with three other ladies 'Space In Your Case' won Best Travel Blog- I have never been so shocked when they called out our name. That was a truly lovely suprise just before our holiday.
Which brings me to the best part of June- our aforementioned holiday to Rhodes. It was incredible and we had the most amazing time together as a family. In fact it was so special that it almost seems like a distant dream that didn't happen, except for the fact that I have photos and videos to prove it really did. No doubt I will share them on here soon but in the meantime my 'Me and Mine' photos for the month were taken while we were away. For the first time ever I actually took our tripod with us on holiday, Mr E didn't look too impressed with me when I mentioned the idea, although not huge it's bulky enough to take up a bit of space in the case, but I am so glad we did end up taking it.
These photos were taken on the last night of our holiday. We had wanted to go down to the beach but it was really windy and we were worried about sand getting in our eyes and/or the camera, so we decided to sit down at this nice little spot just outside our hotel room. I really love these photos, firstly because of that gorgeous golden light I am obsessed with (again!), secondly because we look happy, and thirdly because I love that we will be able to treasure them forever and the memories that are now associated with them. Just ignore the fact that Mr E has a sore leg (he fell off his bike on a organised bike ride while on holiday and went into a tree- ouch!) and the fact that we both have really bad sunglasses marks. Panda eyes anyone!
It was such a special holiday and I am so glad that I took the tripod so we have some family photos of us while we are away. I am the luckiest girl in the whole world to have these three people to call my family.
This month I am sending you over to Fritha's blog- I am sure everyone knows her, but if not she has a gorgeous little boy Wilf and another little person on the way. She's a thoroughly lovely lady too! If you have a family photo to share be sure to link up below! :)
As I sit writing this post it's Sunday afternoon and I am sat in a hotel room in Wembley. I have been away the last two nights for the Blogtacular conference and now I have moved hotels and have an extra night away as I have a work related conference all day tomorrow as well. I haven't been with my babies since Friday morning and as I am putting this post together and looking at my photos it is making me miss them desperately.
I am not the type of person who can't be away from the girls. I miss them when I go away, of course I do, but I think some time apart is healthy for all of us. The most I have been away with them is four nights when I went on a press trip to Greece and by the end of it I cried because I missed them so much, but usually it's because I am with friends or doing work things so I am busy and the time goes quickly. Today however I have pretty much a whole day and night to myself before the conference starts tomorrow and therefore I am literally finding myself pining for them- I seriously can't wait to get home to them and looking at these photos doesn't really help.
Over the last month or so LL's speech has just exploded. This has opened up a whole new relationship for them both, one of discovery and new interactions. Sharing a room has bought them even closer as well and we love to stand on the stairs and listen to them chattering away together. The other night we heard them telling each other the same knock knock joke for half an hour to each other. Mads would say 'Knock Knock', LL would say 'Whose There?' to which her big sister replied 'The interrupting cow'. LL would say 'The interrupting cow who?' while Mads cut her off and shouted 'Moo'. (It's from the film Home in case you haven't seen it!) They would then repeat the process again and again with LL then being the person delivering the punch line and vice versa, before both of them giggling each and every time. It really is just so sweet to hear their funny little conversations.
They really are the closest of girls and have a bond so strong, it blows us away a lot of the time. They have to be near each other constantly, when they are sat on our big sofa with more than enough room to sit and spread out, they get so close to each other that they are practically on each other's laps. Mads will play with her little sister's ear and snuggle into her. Although she is the older one, she is still very much the driving force behind their affection, she is the more cuddly of the two. But you can also tell how much LL adores her big sister and looks up to her too. However as with any sibling relationship we have arguments, nearly all of them are to do with sharing, mainly with sharing the iPad in actual fact. Mads again is pretty laid back and will often give LL the iPad for an easy life but LL is a lot less tolerant, and often has little strops to try and get her own way. We have had a few occasions recently where LL has lashed out at her, trying to push her or grab it from her. This is all new to us as Mads never once did the whole hitting, pushing, or biting thing like a lot of children did. I do wonder whether it's because LL has been at nursery since a year old and has to defend herself or assert herself to get toys, whereas Mads didn't go to nursery until she was three. Having said that I've never seen her do it to another child or had nursery tell me any stories, so maybe it's just typical sibling squabbles!
These photos were taken at the very last minute. On Thursday evening having realised that I was going to London the next day, I had to rush and take some before I went. The weather was nice and warm so we decided to go for a yet another evening picnic after the girls had finished nursery. It was lovely and I just took a few photos while they were eating. Nothing particularly exciting, but they will be lovely to look back on when they are older...
This month I am sending you on to have a look at my lovely lovely friend Lucy's ever so cute twosome to see what they have been up to this month. And keep heading through the posts and you will end up here in a circle! :)
I am a big stickler for nap times and bed times. I don't know what it is, whether it's just who they are, or whether it's our set routine, but our girls do love to sleep and for the most part they will be in bed by at least 7.30pm every night. Of course if we are on holiday, or have plans to go out for the day then they don't always go to bed on time, but if we are at home then it just makes sense for them to go sleep.
However in the Summer months we definitely get more relaxed. The long, light evenings sometimes just cry out for us to stay out longer, and the last thing any of us want to do is to go in and do the whole bedtime routine. They are at an age where if they go to bed at 9pm one night, or miss a nap one day, that they aren't ridiculous grumpy monsters the next day- they can go a few days without a nap or later evenings.
We had one of those such evenings at the weekend. On Sunday the weather was just gorgeous, we had spent the morning at Mads first ever running race and then had a picnic with friends while Mr E got on with some work. We came home and the girls had a nap, and when we got up we decided it was just too nice not to be outside. We decided to forget about our planned 'hot dinner' and head out for yet another picnic.
When we drive in the direction of our supermarket I often notice a beautiful field of buttercups on one side of the road so I suggested going there for a picnic. Luckily Mr E is long suffering and generally humours my requests, so we packed some picnic food and drove the few minute journey to this beautiful wild buttercup field.
It was such a lovely couple of hours and the girls loved it, not only because they got peanut butter sandwiches twice in one day, which quite frankly is always a winner in their eyes, but because the sun was shining, there were giggles a plenty and Mummy even remembered to pack some Smarties. I sat back in the sunshine, feeling the sun beating down on my shoulders, watching our two little girls giggling and laughing, and I genuinely at that moment couldn't have been happier. It was another one of those moments that I want to store in that little memory box in the back of my head to pull out if I am ever feeling down or having a tough day...
If you like my photos or tales of life with my little ladies then my blog has been chosen as a finalist in the Mad Blog Awards (eeek!) in Best Preschool Blog and Best Blog Photography. If you wanted to swing a vote my way, I would be so grateful. You can vote here. xxx