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Articles tagged with: Weekends

Our Stay At The Grove: A Luxury Family Friendly Hotel, Hertfordshire.

on Tuesday, 17 March 2015.

A couple of weekends ago we headed an hour down the M1 to a beautiful country hotel just outside of Watford in Hertfordshire.  It's pretty famous as hotels go, hosting all number of celebrities, sports stars, important public figures and even royalty over the years, so it doesn't need a huge introduction, but in case you haven't heard of it I am talking about The Grove Hotel.  

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On arrival you head down the longest, most rambling drive way I have ever seen, with golfers on one side of you (The Grove is famous for golf) and wildlife on the other.  Every car you pass makes you look twice- we spotted Ferrari's, Rolls Royce's and the odd Fiesta thrown in for good measure!

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When you first catch sight of The Grove in the distance it really does take your breath away- a beautiful country house set up on the hill.  You can just imagine being on the set of Downton Abbey if you pause for long enough to think.

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But when you get inside the hotel has done perfectly in mixing the traditional with modern touches.  This is the reception area you are greeted to when the concierge holds the door open for you.

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We headed off to our rooms and were greeted with beautiful views of the gardens- The Grove is set in 300 acres of sprawling English countryside.  And what a treat- interconnecting rooms.   This was the girls room. 

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And this was ours.  The bed was big, sumptiously soft and was just begging to be jumped on. (which we did if you watch this video!)

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Any hotel that greets you with macaroons is a winner in my eyes.  Although we had to share with the girls which I wasn't too impressed with.

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Especially when their room had some cookies waiting for them.

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The room was so bright and let in the most gorgeous light.

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I loved this bedside table and of course you can't beat a good coffee table book.

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We loved the roll top bath in both the rooms- once the girls were in bed we cracked open a bottle of prosecco to toast to my birthday the next day and relaxed in the bubbles.

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I loved the way the hotel was funished- if I could have picked this sofa up and put it in my handbag, I definitely would have tried.  I love the mustard yellow and retro vibe.

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Mini bar heaven.

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And you definitely can't beat a bit of indoor foliage.

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While Mr E and LL went off in search of a local shop to get forgotten supplies, Mads took the opportunity to walk hand in hand around the gardens.  She loved these little rabbits, each holding a different bit of sporting apparatus, including a cricket bat, golf club and tennis racket. 

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But our favourite was the secret walled garden that you could only get in to with your room keycard.  We told Mads it was magic and would only open with the words 'Open Sesame.'

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The secret garden was beautiful, with a vegetable patch, a gorgeous outdoor pool and a man made beach.  These daffodils made me feel very Spring like.

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Playing on the beach.  I can only imagine how gorgeous The Grove is in the summer when you can sit outside in your own bit of Miami style heaven in the English countryside.  Although that said I bet it is stunning in every season.  I want to visit at Christmas too!

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We played sandcastles in woolly hats while the sun began to set.

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Before heading home to freshen up for dinner.

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We had a meal booked at The Stables, which was supposed to be the most family friendly of the restaurants, although we were promised all would be happy for our little people to dine.  Over three restaurants, The Grove employs 70 chefs who are passionate about creating the most delicious food.   There is also Colettes, a more fine dining experience and The Glasshouse, where chef's prepare the food in the background while you watch on.

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We were really impressed with the childrens menu, there was lots of choice for our little people, plus as soon we sat down they bought crayons and pictures for them.

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I had the wild rocket and parmesan salad with balsamic-basil dressing to start- it was simple yet delicious.

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While Mr E had the Stilton fritters, green apple, celery, watercress and sour honey.  I may have had a few nibbles of his- just to report back of course!  

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 My main was the sugar baked ham hock, served with pickled red cabbage, creamed potatoes and charcuterie sauce- it was soft, tender, practically melted in your mouth and was one of the most delicious things I have eaten in ages.

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While Mr E had his usual staple- a good old burger.  (So predictable!)  The girls were busy devouring their pizzas too quite happily- they didn't pause for long enough for me to be able to get a photo of them.

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Even though I was so full I had to sample a pudding, I had the dark and stormy creme brulee with ginger snap biscuits, I could have eaten it twice.  Mr E had the hot chocolate fondant with salted caramel sauce, but it was gone before I could manage to take photographic evidence.  Our meal was perfect and it was made even better by the fact that our girls were so well behaved throughout the whole meal (as any parent knows eating out can go one of two ways!)  I asked for our waitresses name at the end because she was incredible and so friendly and lovely with the girls, but I have forgotten it.  She really went the extra mile and I even made sure I wrote that in the feedback form provided.

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Feeling full and fat we wandered back to our rooms to find a sweet surprise for LL- there were some friends joining her in her cot.

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And the turn down service had been.  Our two ladies fell fast asleep and we relaxed next door- no sitting in the bathroom all evening, it was a luxury having a room to ourselves. 

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We woke the next day feeling refreshed after a long sleep, although with slightly fuzzy heads.  I was also a year older.  We headed off to The Glasshouse for a birthday breakfast.  Of course it being my birthday I had to have a cooked breakfast.

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And a sweet treat.  Oops.  I can never resist the waffles or pancakes.  Breakfast was great, and as a family it's our favourite meal to out for, so we chatted about our plans for the day while people watching as well.  We spotted a few famous faces over the pastry table.

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There is a kids club at the hotel called Anoushka's and we decided to put the girls in there for an hour, just so we could have a chance to check out some of the other parts of the hotel.  The check in process was great and they put our girls at ease.  It cost us £8 per child per hour, which is pretty reasonable if you wanted to go and check out the spa for a few hours or go for a peaceful lunch.  As we only wanted to put them in for an hour, we decided to just go for a little wander around.  There are loads of little nooks and crannies where you can have afternoon tea or a quiet drink.  I loved this little library area.

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We walked hand in hand around the grounds, relishing just being the two of us for a few minutes.  The grounds are so beautiful and if we had time we would have hired bikes (free of charge) and gone on a family bike ride.

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We headed to the Sequoia spa to have a look- it looked absolutely amazing and we only wish we had time to visit.  The black mosaic tile pool looked blissful as did the quiet relaxation rooms.

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We did have time to chill out and have a quick juice and smoothie from the spa's juice bar though, which were both delicious.

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Before it was time to pick up two excited little girls who came running to greet us with some balloons.  We headed back to The Stables for a spot of lunch.  While we were there Mads burst her balloon and one of the members of staff headed all the way back to the Kids Club (a 20 minute walk there and back) to get her another balloon- the staff were so great with our girls.

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After lunch we went for a quick dip in the kiddies pool- it's completely separate from the spa pool, and we practically had it to ourselves which was lovely.  Young children aren't allowed in the spa pool understandably.

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Before it was time for one last walk around the grounds and a quick ride on a golf buggy from a kind member of staff (the girls so badly wanted to go on one!)  Then it was time to head home, feeling happy, relaxed and full of fond memories of our stay at The Grove.

Overall we couldn't fault our stay.  As a family who loves to travel, we don't want to leave the children at home, of course that's nice every now and again, but we want to make memories and enjoy these adventures with our girls.  We were so impressed with The Grove's family friendly policies- even though the hotel is definitely high end and luxury, we never once felt uncomfortable having Mads and LL there.  The staff really do go the extra mile to accomodate children and all the little touches for them definitely made our stay.

We loved our stay at The Grove and will definitely need to go back to try it in all the seasons- I bet it is beautiful in Summer and at Christmas time.  Oh and in Autumn too!

 

 

 

NB: Thanks to The Grove for inviting us to stay at their wonderful property- we are so grateful and had such a lovely time.  All words and opinions are completely my own.

 

A Busy Birthday Weekend...

on Tuesday, 10 March 2015.

I don't usually plan much of a shindig for my birthday these days.  Last year was a big birthday (21 I know!) so we had some lovely celebrations planned, but this year I was quite happy for it to pass me by pretty nonchalantly.  However it ended up being a rather lovely weekend, and one of our busiest for a while, so of course I had to bring my camera along for the ride.

We started off the weekend in style with an impromptu stay at The Grove.  In case you haven't heard of The Grove, it's a luxury five star hotel set in 300 acres of beautiful grounds in Hertfordshire- I took so many photos so will do a post dedicated to it soon, but it really is such a stunning place.  It's only about forty minutes from us, so really handy to get to as well.  We spent Friday and most of Saturday (my birthday) there, before heading home and going to my Mum's for a birthday celebration meal.  It was lovely to see my family as always.  

Sunday was spent running my third ever half marathon- I am still running, although I hit a bit of a blip around Christmas where I didn't run for a few weeks- this was my first real break since I started over a year ago, and I must admit to struggling with motivation. However the last couple of weeks I have been back training and being motivated again and I have really enjoyed getting back into the swing of things.  I do find half marathon's hard- especially on my legs, at mile twelve I really was struggling with knee pain, but I love to push myself and my body.  Then Sunday afternoon we headed over to my Grandma's for yet another little birthday meal and yet another cake!

Here is our weekend in iPhone and DSLR Photos and a little video too....

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Checking out their room- we had interconnecting rooms at The Grove, which is obviously every parent's dream!  No sitting in the bathroom at 7.30 in an attempt to get them to sleep!

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Chilling out in the room for a bit- I love this photo of my pair.  She is becoming such a Daddy's girl, which is both lovely and slightly annoying in equal measure- she was supposed to be my one! ;)

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Busy drawing with the hotel pencils- obviously.

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Mads and I headed off for a little walk around the grounds while Daddy and LL went to get something from the shop- the late afternoon sunshine was beautiful and I had such a lovely hour with my girl.

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Such a beautiful light- and yay for daffodils- Spring is definitely on it's way.

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Of course I am slightly biased- but she is just so lovely.  She is going through a funny stage at the moment again where she is testing the boundaries- some days she can make me worn out by the end of it and then some days she can just be delightful.

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The Grove has a man made beach and an outdoor swimming pool within a secret walled garden- I can imagine it's absolutely amazing in the Summer.  But we still managed a play on it and Mads loved building sandcastles!

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I can't remember what we were talking about here but I remember she was making me giggle- she has the wildest imagination.

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Mummy/Mads selfies.

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And another.

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Reunited with the other two member's of our team.

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The grounds were stunning- we spent ages walking around and taking them all in.  

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I love this photo of her- golden light how I love you.

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We headed over to 'The Stables'- one of the three restaurants at The Grove for dinner.  As any parent will know, you never know how a three course dinner out will go with little people- but our little ladies were on their best behaviour which was lovely.  We actually managed to relax and talk during our meal- although the iPad babysitter's did come out by the time pudding came!

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We woke on Saturday to my birthday!  I put this photo on instagram, but I was thoughtfully spoilt by Mr E- he is very thoughtful when it comes to gifts.  I got some lovely new running gear, some gorgeous Russian Dolls (I have a weird obsession for them) that I have wanted for ages but never told him about, some truffles, a book on salad, some sunglasses and a few other little bits and bobs.  

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Every birthday has to start with waffles right?

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The Grove organises a holiday club for little people where they play games, do arts and crafts and go out and about- we put the girls in there just for an hour to see what it was like.  We didn't have much time to ourselves but we grabbed a juice from the juice bar- my smoothie was delicious.

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We managed a little walk in the grounds together before it was time to go and pick up the girls- Saturday was the first day it really felt like Spring to me.

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Reunited with this terrible twosome and we headed back to The Stables for a light lunch- the kids menu was really good and LL was excited to see they had her favourite Peanut Butter sandwiches!

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Two little mermaids trying out the kids pool- the hotel has a lovely Spa pool and an outdoor pool, but there is also a dedicated pool for young children too.

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On Sunday I headed to my home city of Cambridge to take part in the Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon.  It was my third ever half marathon and I was incredibly nervous before- firstly because I am not good with crowds and there were over 4500 people there and secondly because I had only really been back training for about three weeks.  There was a great atmosphere though, with people high fiving you and shouting your name as you ran round.  

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I finished the race in a time of 1:50:04- I couldn't actually believe it and I did get tears in my eyes when I finished.  As I hadn't been training for very long I was aiming to get it in just under two hours so I was absolutely shocked and thrilled with my time- I was 270th female back out of 1587 competing.  I find them so tough, both physically and mentally, but as any runner will know the feeling you get when you cross the finish line is just so incredible and addictive.

A little video I made all about a lovely weekend...

 

All in all it was a great birthday weekend- it was just by chance that we happened to go to The Grove on that particular day, but I am glad we did as it made my birthday feel that little bit more special.  I was so tired on Sunday when I got into bed after the race and this wasn't made any easier by the fact we had a little person in our bed.  We are in the middle of decorating the girls new room and our new study so at the moment our house has been turned upside down, and as Mads doesn't currently have a bed she is in sleeping with us- she loves this and is so excited, but it's tiring for us as our bed is only small! This week is going to be a little crazy as we have so much to do in terms of their new room, plus we both have a lot on with work, so it was nice to have a real family weekend to enjoy together.

 

 

 

A Child Friendly Weekend In Amsterdam- Part One.

on Tuesday, 04 November 2014.

When you think of Amsterdam what do you think of?  Stag and Hen parties stumbling out of 'coffee shops'?  Men dressed as Borat roaming widely along the red light district?  Or perhaps slightly prettier things such as tulips or clogs?  I thought all of these things about Amsterdam until this past weekend, although I knew it was beautiful I didn't exactly imagine it to be a particularly family friendly city.  Having been briefly before, staying one night in my early 20's, and a couple of times because my old head office was there for work where I literally saw a desk and my hotel room, I didn't really know exactly what the city had to offer.  Therefore when we were invited to stay for the weekend on behalf of KLM and their #KLMFlyLocal campaign we jumped at the chance to get to know the real Amsterdam.

I hadn't flown KLM before but we were so impressed.  Flying from Norwich airport to Schiphol airport (KLM's original home!), our check in was smooth, easy and without the hassle often attached to larger airports.  Once on the plane our flight only took 35 minutes, which is pretty amazing and even within that time we got a biscuit and a drink included.  Whenever I fly I always think of the larger airports, but we will definitely fly from our regional airports again, in fact KLM fly from 16 local cities including Aberdeen, Manchester, London City and Newcastle.  It was just so easy and much less stressful with two young children.

All I can say is Wow.  Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful, vibrant, colourful and quite frankly amazing cities I have ever been to.  It is relaxed, the Dutch are so incredibly friendly and it is so family friendly, with my girls having the time of our lives over the course of our long weekend.  Both myself and Mr E were blown away with the city and wished we could have stayed longer.  Obviously travelling with small people can sometimes be stressful, but our girls were impeccably behaved all weekend, with us not having to have one cross word with them.  They loved it and so did we, we made so many memories as a family and we will remember it for a long time.  I have taken so, so, so many photos that I am going to have to split this into a few posts, but here is our wonderful weekend in photos...

Day One...

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We arrived into Amsterdam really early and by 9.30am were in our hotel room which is quite frankly so quick and amazing.  We were thrilled with our Junior Suite at the Movenpick Amsterdam City, especially because they allowed us to check in when we arrived and not wait until the usual time.  This meant we could have a freshen up and a relax in our room after a 4am start.

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Our first morning was spent walking around the canal area and getting our bearings.  The canals are just so beautiful, with street after street of waterside shops, restaurants and quaint coffee shops.  We spent hours looking at the old Dutch buildings and the girls waved at all the boats going past. 

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We took our single buggy and a buggy board but Mads decided to have a really long sleep in the buggy on the first day so this little one walked a lot.  She was in her element, waving at people, smiling and loving the attention from passers by.

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As a family we have a *little* obsession for pancakes, so were excited to try out some Dutch ones as they are a speciality over there.  I had heard the best place to go was Pancakes! Amsterdam so after much map orientation we managed to find it.  

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We had to queue outside for almost an hour as it is so small inside.  LL wasn't sure whether it was worth the wait!

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But it most definitely was!  We shared a traditional savoury ham and cheese Dutch Pancake, plus two sweet chocolate, whipped cream and ice cream ones, with a little sneaky American style maple syrup and bacon stack as well.  They were honestly the most delicious things I have ever eaten, definitely worth a trip if you are ever in the area. 

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 We were so lucky with the weather, the sun shined the whole time and it was so beautiful in the afternoons when it began to set.  I love this photo of Mr E and LL.

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I absolutely love this photo of us- she really is a ray of sunshine.

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We got on a tram and went to the area behind the Rijksmuseum so the girls could run around in the park area and we could see the 'I amsterdam' sign.

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 They loved running around and playing on the sign.

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I love the light in this photo.

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Peeking.

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M is for Mads.  And random Man.

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 Throwing stones in the water.  As you do.

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I love this photo of us- I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to take them on adventures.

 

The rest of the day passed in a blur of sightseeing in the beautiful streets, before we headed back to our hotel bar for dinner as the girls were so tired after their early start.  A couple of other families were also there at the same time as us, so it was lovely to meet Fritha and Laura's family for a drink in the Executive Lounge at the Movenpick, where snacks and complimentary drinks are served for Executive Room guests.  We all went to bed really early, with Mr E falling asleep at 8.30pm!  

Here is a little video of our adventures in Amsterdam and Day 2 and 3 of our photos coming up soon!

NB: Thanks to KLM for flying us to Amsterdam as part of their #KLMFlyLocal campaign, as always opinions and content are completely my own.

 

 

Our Weekend Camping Adventure- Part Two.

on Tuesday, 19 August 2014.

A couple of weekends ago we had our first camping experience as a family when (I say camping but we cheated and went for a more 'luxury' option!) to Pembrokeshire in South West Wales.  I posted some photos last week, but I took so many as usual that I decided to split my posts in to two parts.  

 

Here is a little more of what we got up too...

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I *may* have prettied up our tent with these super cute lanterns from The Little Things.  

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We decided to go to South Wales because Mr E used to holiday in Wales a lot as a child, and we heard the beaches were beautiful.  We googled 'Britain's best beach' and it came up with Barafundle Bay, and then when Lucy and her little family then posted about their adventure there, our minds were made up.  It didn't disappoint, it was absolutely beautiful and because we went late in the afternoon, it was practically deserted.  For those thinking of going there, you have to walk over the cliff to get there, it's probably a good 3/4 of a mile walk up some steps and hills, but once you are there it's 100% worth it.

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So worth the climb- how beautiful.

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'You better give me that spade soon Daddy.'

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This girl is an actual liability when it comes to sand- she gets it EVERYWHERE.  Whereas Mads was never fussed when she was a baby, LL just wants to eat it and put it places she isn't supposed too!

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No trip to the seaside would be complete without some competitive sandcastle building.  Obviously.

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We sat and had dinner on the practically deserted beach.  Which was lovely bar the sandy sandwiches, which were a little crunchy.

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She is still at that stage where she is 'waddling' - she's getting faster on her feet every day but still holds out her hands to steady herself most of the time which is pretty cute.

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Sisterly sandcastle building.

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The next few photos are basically all of LL prompting Mr E to say 'You are aware that we have more than one child?!  It's just the light was so nice and she was sitting still!

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Ahhh pretty light and a baby in romper shorts.  Perfect.

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I love this photo of Mr E and LL.  He really is the best father I could ask for for my little ladies.

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'I have sand up my nose.'

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'If I am quick he won't catch me and I can put some more up there.'

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'Damn he caught me- let's have a sulk.'

 

All in all it was a fantastic weekend, and I am glad we had such a memorable first camping experience.  I am still definitely not sold on the idea of full camping just yet, but glamping suits us just fine!

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