A couple of weeks ago we discovered the most beautiful little hidden gem. In fact it was so beautiful, that I almost feel like I don't want to share it because I want to keep it all to myself.
Last week I posted about our short break in Norfolk. It was a little bit of a spur of the moment trip, we decided to book it last minute. We had a lovely time, but one of the things that made the trip for us was the place we stayed in- so much so I wanted to write a post solely about it because it was just so great.
I randomly found Ivywood Cottage, a little white bricked home in a quiet rural area, just by chance when looking on Airbnb for accomodation in Norfolk. We didn't have a particular area in mind, we just wanted to be in Norfolk or Suffolk as they are only an hour or so's drive from where we live. On finding the cottage details, I immediately decided to book it as looking at the photos it looked just my kind of style.
On arrival at the cottage we were absolutely blown away by the inside. Basically it was my dream home in terms of interior styling- with a very industrial yet feminine feel, lots of exposed beams, retro touches and rustic accessories. Every inch of it is thought through and decorated immecably- I took a million photos as I didn't want to miss a drop but I don't even think my photos do it justice.
You walk into the cottage and are greeted with the kitchen and dining area, with it's fantastic breakfast bar- I obviously love the metro tiles (I have some in my bathroom!) but I also loved the industrial style lighting.
I wish I could have a pair of these in my home- don't think it would work in a modern detached house though!
We loved the little touches- like a homemade cake sat waiting for us.
The other side of the room was the dining area and in the morning it gave the most lovely natural light. We sat and ate chocolate croissants together while chatting about our plans for the day.
There were lots of fresh, wild flowers all over the place.
The bathroom was downstairs, just off the kitchen area. Again I loved the mixture of interior styling- lots of industrial, quirky touches. And the wood floor was gorgeous. We had a bath each evening, which was just so relaxing.
You walked through a door to a cute, cosy little living room. I loved the whitewashed floor.
We loved the snuggly blankets that were there for us to cosy up under in the evening- we played a riveting game of Scrabble while cuddling up together.
Love the retro style table!
After going up a creaky, wobbly staircase you get to an upstairs landing area which can either be used as a little lounge or a third bedroom- this is where LL slept. (Ivywood Cottage provide a travel cot if requested) It's little touches like this cute car on top of one of the beams that really make the place special.
The master bedroom has a little tiny ensuite hidden within the wall and lots of natural light.
Each room is beautifully designed with so many little touches that make it a delight to look around.
Across the other side of the landing is another guest bedroom, this one slightly more retro in style. Mads loved having a double bed all to herself but it would be great to go with another couple if you wanted to leave the little people at home.
Serious radio lust- I love it!
Ivywood Cottage is owned by Gem and Ed, and their attention to detail in designing the place really is second to none- it's one of the nicest cottages we have stayed in the UK. The price is pretty reasonable as well, considering the standard of the place, it's a flat £95 a night every day of the year with a little bit extra for a service charge and cleaning charge added on top. In terms of taking children, while the cottage had a few child friendly touches- like kids books and a travel cot, I wouldn't say it was massively marketed at children. But that's the beauty of the place- you would enjoy it whether you went for a family weekend, a romantic break away for two, or a fun time with friends. Our girl's aren't massively into exploring or touching things around the home- I think if you had a little explorer then it might not be the place for you. But for children who aren't as inquisitive, (they are all different) older children or non mobile babies, then Ivywood Cottage would be perfect.
The cottage is in a great location- completely rural but with the picturesque towns of Bungay and Harleston just a few miles drive. The coastal town of Southwold is about half an hour and Norwich is about forty minutes, so it's perfect for exploring. Were there any negative points? Not really, it really was a great weekend break. The only thing I would say is that when we went it was absolutely freezing outside and we couldn't really manage to get the heating to make the lounge cosy. We were nice and toasty in the night, but the downstairs stayed quite chilly. It did give us an excuse to snuggle up under a blanket together. Other than that, we really loved it, plus Gemma the owner seemed really nice and helpful too. (They live in the big house next door) We would definitely recommend it to anyone- it was such a lovely weekend and we will definitely go back.
NB: We paid in full for our stay at Ivywood Cottage- I just wanted to share the details as it really is a stunning place to stay.
I am definitely a creature of habit. I like routine and I can't bear not knowing what the plans are. I get a little twitchy if I don't know what we are doing at certain times, and I just feel reassured knowing we have plans or a bit of structure to our day. However sometimes the best adventures or memories are made when you step out of your comfort zone or do something on the spur of the moment. So this weekend that's exactly what we did....
We decided last minute to book an impromptu weekend away together. We didn't want to go far so had a little look online and found what looked to be a rather lovely place in South Norfolk, only about an hour and a half away from us. We booked and paid, not really sure what to expect from this little cottage. On Friday afternoon the girls and I picked Mr E up from work in our lovely XV and off we all went on our little adventure. We arrived at the cottage after stopping at a supermarket nearby for essentials and the first thing I thought was wow. The place I had chosen was absolutely STUNNING. If I had an unlimited budget and lived in that kind of style of property, then it basically was exactly how I would style my home. The interior was gloriously beautiful, so much so that I have taken a million photos and I thought I would write about it properly in another post. We ate a quick and easy pizza dinner, put the girls to bed and then Mr E and I relaxed in the roll top bath.
Saturday morning we woke up, had a leisurely breakfast of chocolate croissants, and then headed out to nearby Southwold, a very pretty quintessential English seaside town. We have been there before, when Mads was tiny, so it was nice to go back with both the girls. Unfortunately though it was bitterly cold, I am quite bizarre in that I just never really wear a coat, but even I was freezing, so we had a quick play on the beach as it is compulsory, then headed inside to a brightly coloured little cafe attached to the pier. The girls had ice cream, which was bizarre, but we put nothing past them and their quest for a sweet treat.
After a quick wander round the town we headed back in the opposite direction to Norwich. Norwich is somewhere I have passed through, going to the airport once and to pick up my camera from there a couple of years ago, but I have always wanted to explore it properly. Unfortunately by this point it was not only cold, but absolutely chucking it down with rain and it was windy as well. So we did what we do best. We ate. We went to Pizza Express for lunch- pretty much nowadays that's one of the only places we go with the girls, because we know that they love it and will gobble it all up. We had a leisurely late lunch (if you haven't tried the honeycomb slice for pudding there you have to try it now, it's AMAZING!) before having a quick browse of the shops. It was just too cold though and was dark by this point, so unfortunately we didn't get to see Norwich at all. We will have to go back again soon.
It was back to the cottage again, putting the girls to bed, before settling down for another lovely night in. There was terrible signal there, meaning we actually kept off our phones for once. We shared a bottle of prosecco, had another bath, and played a riveting yet slightly competitive game of Scrabble, before I got terribly excited as I realised the cottage had Netflix, and we could watch an episode of the Vampire Diaries. (my current obsession!)
Sunday morning the girls treated us to an 8am lie in, we had chocolate brioche for breakfast, before going back up to bed. We all snuggled in bed for over an hour, playing and watching films on the iPad, it was so lovely not rushing around. We then got ready, checked out, and headed to Bungay, a little, pretty market town with some cute shops. Unfortunately yet again the weather was rubbish, meaning there wasn't much open, but we went to a really cute little tea room for some lunch and a nice piece of cake. Then it was time to head home, full of contentment and happiness at a lovely weekend.
That's the thing. We didn't really do much. In fact I joked to my Mum that we basically spent the whole weekend eating. But sometimes you don't need to do a lot to have the most fun. I have come away feeling the most relaxed I have in ages and we really did have an adventure. When you are four and one, an adventure can be anything. Our girls love to go away, to experience new places and most of all to have their Mummy and Daddy's undivided attention.
Here are some photos and a little video of our impromptu weekend to Norfolk...
Having a chat over juice at the breakfast bar.
A cheeky girl chilling out waiting for us to leave the cottage to go to the seaside.
My cheeky little monkey. We are loving the XV for exploring new places.
The sun was shining when we arrived in Southwold- but not for long. Glorious British seaside weather.
All of a sudden she just looks like a little girl- but she acts like a baby still- she hardly says a word and is so cuddly and cute.
A cheeky pair playing on the beach huts.
We headed to the pier for an obligatory go on the 2p machines- it wouldn't be a trip to the seaside without them.
It was absolutely freezing on the beach but we had to go and have a little run about.
These girls have an obsession with stones. It's a little strange.
We felt the wind in our hair and watched the rough waves lap up on the shore.
A little red nose from the cold.
Posing by some sandcastles. I would love to say we made them but we aren't insane. It was far too cold for that kind of business.
But it wasn't too cold for ice cream. It never is for these two.
Concentrating hard on her colouring at lunchtime. Oh to have those eyelashes.
If you haven't tried the Honeycomb Slice at Pizza Express, you need to get down there immediately and have one. It literally is one of the yummiest things I have ever eaten!
I adore this photo of them. Her Daddy is her absolute hero. I hope it always stays that way. I changed this to black and white and I am going to get in a frame for Mr E's side of the bed.
A cheeky little girl drinking some juice.
On Sunday morning we all snuggled in bed and watched/played with the iPads- it was so nice not rushing about and for the girls to actually stay in bed for once.
Here's a little video I made of our lovely weekend in Norfolk...
It's ordinary to want to escape every now and again. Escape might not be quite the right word but if I am honest sometimes I find motherhood utterly overwhelming at times. It's all consuming, it's exhausting and of course it is wonderful. There is nowhere else I would rather be and there is nothing I would rather be doing than being with my girls. But before my girls came along and became my world, there was someone who held that title all on his own.
I find it a little surreal now to think of life before them. I often wonder what we did with our time, what we used to talk about and how we ever thought we were busy. I'm sure we were- we had work, full time jobs, busy social lives. But somehow all that pales into comparison now we are raising a three and a one year old. The truth is though, we had a life, a very nice life before our girls were in it. Of course, life is a million times better now, but before Mads arrived in December 2010 we had almost six years of just being me and him.
Nowadays we don't get much chance to just be us two. We have the evenings when they are in bed, but inevitably we are busy with work or so tired from our days that we just want to slob on the sofa and watch television and not talk much. I can probably count on two hands the number of date nights we have had since our girls were born- we actually have very willing babysitters but we are quite happy to just be together and do things as a family rather than spend time away from them.
However every once in a while you just need to have a break. Spend some time away and reconnect as a couple. So on Friday night we headed off into London for our second ever night away just the two of us in almost four years. We kindly were invited to stay at the Hampton by Hilton Waterloo, a stylish and modern hotel and so we arranged for Mads and LL to go to Grandmas for the evening so we could have some time just the two of us.
We had an amazing evening. We drank copious amounts of cocktails, were shocked by the prices considering we rarely go out anymore, (£19 for a round- good grief!) and held hands the whole time. We talked about the past, we laughed our heads off at old memories, and we talked about the future and our hopes and dreams. We of course talked about the girls, of how proud we are of them and how lucky we were. We went for dinner at Hawksmoor, somewhere I have been wanting to try for a long time, and it was pricey but delicious- the steak was incredible and the service was amazing.
It was lovely just to be together and we both woke up the next day with sore heads but happy smiles. It was so nice to just be together for a bit and of course as we pulled into the drive at my Mum's house we were both excited to see our terrible twosome, who greeted us with the happiest of welcomes and tales of their adventures with Grandma.
It's ordinary to sometimes want to get away just for a little while...but it's always our ordinary life that we always can't wait to get back to.
(A few photos of our night... they are only with my phone and the light was awful but you get the idea...)
Mr E surprised me on the train with this- he's always been so thoughtful.
Before we went out- I love this pleather effect metallic skirt from Next.
If you like steak you should definitely give one of the Hawksmoor resturants a try- we have been wanting to try it for ages and it didn't disappoint. It was more than we would normally spend on a meal, definitely a special occasion place but it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time. We went to the Guildhall venue in the city.
We both went for the fillet- then we shared triple cooked chips, skinny fries, creamed spinach and mac and cheese, followed by salted caramel ice cream and salted caramel rolos- it was utterly delicious.
We drank lots of these.
We had a beautiful view of London from our hotel window- here's the sun rising. (Why do we have an inability to lie in even when there are no children around?)
We headed down the next day for breakfast- hotel breakfasts are definitely the best kind! I loved these tiles and the breakfast set up in the Hilton, it was really relaxed with benches and no set seating.
When LL was just a few months old, we went on our first family holiday to Scarborough in North Yorkshire. I randomly found via google a gorgeous cottage just outside of the little seaside town at a place called Humble Bee Farm. We booked and paid for it before LL was born and when we eventually did visit we had a great time- I have such fond memories of our first little break away as a family of four. Humble Bee Farm is a working farm with lots of animals to see, it's perfect for little ones- you can even collect an egg for breakfast each morning from the hens which we did the first time we were there. It's home to three amazing cottages, some pretty cool wigwams which our friend's have stayed in before, and also camping pitches too. We really loved our adventure there back in May 2013.
Therefore a few weeks ago I was really excited to receive an email asking if we would like to go back to stay at Humble Bee Farm for a couple of nights. We jumped at the chance to go back there but sadly due to Mr E having to work he wasn't able to come with us. Still we got my second favourite big person in the form of my little sister Anna, who kindly said she would come along. We were all really looking forward to our sisterly break.
We set off on Wednesday morning and didn't arrive in Scarborough until late afternoon as we unfortunately had car trouble- my car decided to break down on the side of the A1 in the pouring rain which was quite a scary experience. Luckily a knight in shining armour (in the form of the RAC man) came to our rescue, and although the car wasn't completely better, he said it was ok to go on our merry way as long as we took it slow.
Our cottage 'Merry Dale' was as gorgeous as I remembered- cosy, warm and inviting with a rather fabulous hot tub in the garden. The girls were so excited to be there with their Auntie Anna and Mummy and after a dinner out at ASK, we all settled down in front of the fire for the evening. We didn't actually end up doing all that much during our stay, it was just so wet and windy, so we spent a lot of time snuggling in the cottage and taking advantage of the 'bubbly swimming pool.' In actual fact it was just what I needed- just to chill out for a bit and not rush around.
As usual, I thought because we didn't do that much, I hadn't taken that many photos but it turns out I still have a fair few that I love.
Here is our trip to Scarborough in photos and a little video...
As soon as they woke up on our first morning they were straight in the hot tub- they loved splashing around- such a great idea for families as a little extra bonus to your stay at the cottage.
There is nothing better than watching them giggle.
They absolutely loved the bubbles.
Funnily enough when we were here last time I got a photo of Mads in the hot tub that is one of my favourites of her ever, and this one is also now one of my all time favourites too- I think it's the fact she is completely happy and natural.
She was telling the duck off for splashing.
LL is growing up so quickly all of a sudden- she still isn't talking much but is now saying about ten words. I am willing time to slow down a little.
Even though it was really cold we had to go out and visit these amazing rainbow beach huts again.
I love this one of my girlies- I think I may get it framed for somewhere, although we are running out of space on our walls!
Also looking rather grown up- and very, very cheeky!
They had so much fun running up and down, playing games and being silly.
They are really playing with each other a lot at the moment, it's very sweet to see.
We went down on to the beach for a bit as quite frankly you can't go to the seaside without going and having a little paddle in the water.
She always has a look of mischief on her face.
It got so cold so quickly, our hands and fingers went so numb. Why is the seaside in Winter always so cold?
Writing their names in the sand.
We had to go and warm up in a little tea room- and of course cake was compulsory too.
We went back and had a snuggly afternoon back at our cottage- we got these cute little gingerbread snowmen to decorate as a little rainy day activity to do while away.
It was such a treat having the hot tub in the evenings when the girls were in bed- that really is the beauty of a cottage and the fact you don't have to hide out in the bathroom or go to bed at 8.30pm like you so often have to do in hotels. One night we shared a bottle of bubbles in the bubbles. ;)
One great thing about Humble Bee Farm is how child friendly it is- they had a big box full of toys and books to keep them amused.
My children are like little magpies and are attracted to anything sparkly and bright- they love going to the 2p slot machines when we go to the seaside and to be fair I love it too, it reminds me of being little.
Having fun even though it was pouring down outside.
Here is a little video of our adventures in Scarborough...
NB: We were invited back to stay at Humble Bee Farm free of charge for two nights after paying full price for a seven night stay the previous year. Thanks so much to Humble Bee for inviting us- we loved our stay and will definitely be back again in the future. Check out their website as they have some amazing winter rates if you fancy a little break away., especially in their wigwams.