Since our Europe trip I’ve found it hard to get back into a blogging rhythm. The break marked the beginning of the summer for me and my mind is elsewhere if I’m honest – lack of child-free time to create new content,the house is always a tip as there’s kids’toys and craft stuff everywhere,and in the summer we spend most of our time outdoors,so the last thing I’m thinking about is the house and DIY projects. It’s like I swap hats and over the summer all my energy goes on being a parent rather than on anything home-related. So I’ve decided to flick the switch to family mode and this summer you’re more likely to find me posting over on my other blog,Young &Younger about parenting,kids’crafts,family activities etc,than here. In the past I might have apologised profusely for my absence,and felt guilty about it,but this year I’ve realised that this is a pattern that will probably continue for many years so I’ve decided to accept and embrace it.
I’m sure there’ll still be a couple of posts here over the summer (this is a sticky post so you’ll need to scroll down to see if there’s been anything new). Or there might not. Who knows? I’ll still be over on Instagram if you’re desperate to know what we’re up to. I’m also going to change my email signature to let people know why I might not have time to reply,or that a reply might come later than usual.
I hope you enjoy your summer as much as I plan to enjoy ours.
I’m finding it a challenge to adjust to being home after our Europe road trip. I miss the freedom of being on the road,and being out in the open air camping. We’re slowly finding our groove,and working out ways to incorporate some of the bits from our holiday into our everyday life at home. Some of these are lifestyle-based (less TV,more eating outside in the garden etc),but some of them are aesthetic too. The last stop on our trip was the Allier department of the Auvergne region in France,where I was seduced by the beautiful spectrum of blues used on the exteriors of the houses. Our local town,Ebrueil,was a delight to wander round,with shutters and doors painted in shades ranging from the richness and warmth of cornflower blue,to the palest shade of cool blue-white. A visit to the enchanting village of Charroux,one of the Plus Beau Villages de France (the most beautiful villages of France), provided another stunning example of this restful blend of blues. The first thing that greeted us on our return home was our front door,and the peeling orangey varnish that had become invisible to me before we went away suddenly looked shabbier than ever. Giving it a new coat of paint has gone to the top of the list of summer DIY jobs,and I’m going to take inspiration from these wonderful French blues when I come to choosing the paint colour. In fact,I’d like to redecorate the whole house in these shades,but that’s a bit of a larger project than a simple front door update,so I shall show restraint for now.
You may,or may not,know that I have another blog,Young &Younger,which pre-dates this one,having been started back in 2009 after the birth of my twins. It’s my place where I chat about parenting and family – milestones,parenting issues,craft ideas etc. Sometimes I do wonder if I should merge the two blogs,but for the time being they’re separate.
Anyway,for those of you who’ve been following our Europe road trip,I’ll save the gorgeous pics and general travel advice for this blog,but more practical stuff about travelling with young kids will be over on Young &Younger. Today I’ve posted about the games and crafts we packed to keep the twins happy on the campsites,so if a post on campsite activities for young children is of interest to you,head over there now!
When I saw a photograph of the clutches of tightly packed houses in their pretty pastel shades clinging onto the steep cliffs above the Mediterranean Sea,I knew that a trip to the Cinque Terre (or ‘Five Towns’) in Liguria,Italy had to have a place on our Europe road trip.
The picture in my mind was ridiculously romantic –puttering along the coast in a small fishing boat,pulling into the small harbours each of the villages and strolling around,soaking up the Italian mood and watching village life go on around us.
Of course the reality was a million miles from this. Instead we were squeezed onto a large ferry,teeming with other tourists who were all single-mindedly elbowing their way to get the best shots of the towns as we whizzed past. The sea was rough and by the time we reached our destination of Riomaggiore I was green at the gills,and had long given up attempting to take photos (we were sat on the wrong side of the boat anyway).
Riomaggiore was lovely,especially when we took a wrong turn to avoid a barking dog by the harbour and ended up lost in the steep back alleys. This was the only time time we were away from the throngs of daytrippers,and I enjoyed the peace,even if it was short-lived.
A train ride (hot and crowded but with exceptional views out to sea in between the tunnels) took us back along the coast to Manarola. We wandered down to the harbour where we ate gelati and watched people swim off the rocks. Leaving the kids with Ben,I took the path around the headland where I was rewarded with the perfect view of the village –its yellow,orange,pink and green houses stacked almost on top of each other in a chaotic but glorious jumble of colour.
The crowded commercialisation of the Cinque Terre did take some of the lustre off the place for me,but there’s no denying the beauty of each of the five villages with their cheerful,upbeat colours. I was left wishing we could come back out of season,and have the chance to explore in the evening after the daytrippers have left for the day. One day we’ll visit again.
Before we left the UK I saw a photograph of a gorgeous-looking village in Ticino,Switzerland called Gandria on Pinterest (where else?). When we looked at our driving route from Locarno to Lake Como and realised that we would drive right past Gandria,it seemed just the place to stop off for a break on our journey.
We weren’t disappointed. We parked up and followed the narrow,winding pathways down to the tiny harbour where there was a perfectly-placed bench to eat our picnic and watch the ferries on the sparkling Lake Lugano go past. The village was quiet and full of interesting passageways. I climbed the steep streets up to the church where there was a breathtaking view out over the lake towards Italy. We may have spent less than an hour there but it’s a place on our trip that I won’t forget.
After visiting Florence earlier this week (beautiful but busy –the throngs of tour groups definitely took the edge off its magic for me although the buildings were breathtaking),we spend yesterday exploring the medieval walled city of Lucca,whose laid-back vibe we absolutely loved.
The best way to get a feel for the city is to cycle round the top of its walls (these are so spacious there are parks and playgrounds up there) with a view of the city on one side and views of the surrounding countryside on the other.
As soon as we saw these hilarious four-person bikes we knew we had to have a go,and we had a brilliant hour of fun doing a full loop of the walls.
After our time in German-speaking Frutigen,we headed south for a few hours to Locarno,in Ticino,the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. I’ve already shared the video of our spectacular journey through the mountains,and the change from the alpine feel to a richer,more earthy Italian vibe was almost immediate as we entered the region.
Some friends recommended a trip up the valley to a hillside village called Corippo so we braved the steep,winding,single track road up to a village that time forgot. The moss-covered cobbled alleys and steps,weather-worn stone buildings,bright pots of flowers and complete peace (well as peaceful as we could get the twins to be) took my breath away.
I’ve been wanting to join in with Michelle and Emma’s #1day12pics photo day for about three months,but something has always got in the way.
This month,the date fell right at the start of our Europe road trip and I was determined to take part. Luckily a tweet from Emma that morning reminded me or I’d have completely forgotten about it. It was a bit of a challenge remembering to take a shot every hour but at least I was in glorious sunshine with time on my hands. I like the idea of a theme,like Michelle has tried,so I might give that a go in July,and I think next time I’ll also try a square crop for each of my shots.
10.00 Fresh coffee on our first morning on the most gorgeous campsite in Frutigen | 11.00 Exploring the town | 12.00 Rehydrating as it’s a scorching day | 13.00 At a lido at Adelboden up in the mountains
14.00 Marvelling at the view from the lido | 15.00 Watching the twins play in the children’s pool | 16.00 Leaving the lido to head back to our tent |17.00 Watermelon snack whilst we sort out dinner
18.00 Family dinner –fajitas and rice | 19.00 Drinking gin,enjoying the golden hour,waiting for the twins to fall asleep | 20.00 Exploring the campsite (this is one of the chalets) 21.00 Trying to crochet in the dark >
We’re well into the second week of our Europe road trip and most of our time so far has been in picture-perfect Switzerland.
We spent three nights in the mountain town of Frutigen,about half an hour from Interlaken. We were immediately seduced by the snow-topped mountains,wooden Swiss chalets and fields full of glorious alpine flowers. It was all just so totally and completely Swiss!