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  PUY DU FOU- OUR FRENCH HISTORICAL EXPERIENCE

24 Jan

I was going to blog about our recent trip to the wonderful, historical theme park Puy De Fou but my daughter has beat me to it in her new blog.

Lily's ramblings

In the Summer Holidays, we went on holiday to France for ten days. During the holidays, we went to a theme park (with no rides) called: Puy du Fou, where they have all sorts of shows including The Bird show and the La Cinescenie. These feature many spectacular stunts and actors. Many of them have an English translation, which is very helpful, as the shows are all spoken in French. If you wish to enjoy the night shows, I recommend that you stay at one of the 5 hotels (or villages) around the site. They each have different themes or styles, such as: the Romans, medieval houses on stilts above the water, massive tents from jousting tournaments and the Elizabethan era.

One of the best shows is the bird show, which in French is La Bal des Fantoms. In an old castle, Alienor and another lady are reliving past memories…

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The perfect family get away in France. La Garangeoire in the Vendee.

5 Jan

La Garangeoire is a beautiful holiday parc located in The Vendee. As it is a Castels site, we expected it to be of a high standard and we were not disappointed. From the moment we drove onto the site it felt welcoming, friendly and intimate. Children were safely pottering around on bikes and scooters, and everything looked immaculate and well kept.

Our accommodation was a Eurocamp holiday home which was very spacious and had a useful covered outdoor area. Perfect for lots of Al fresco dining! The Eurocamp staff were great and dealt with any queries that we had straight away.

La Garnageoire Avant Canopy Decking Exterior

Three bedroom Avant with Eurocamp

La Garangeoire has everything you could possibly need to keep your family entertained. In addition to the outdoor pool complex there is a beach lagoon, tennis courts, playgrounds, lake with pedallos and boats, horse riding, fishing, go karts and table tennis. The man made lagoon is just perfect on a sunny day. It’s gently shelving water is perfect for little ones and umbrellas are provided for shade which is a nice touch. there are free kids clubs provided by both the site and by Eurocamp. We didn’t make use of the Kid’s clubs as there was just so much else to do. By the way, if you are feeling fit there are some great running routes from the site, just ask reception for a map.

La Garnageoire Slide Area

Evening entertainment is provided in high season. This is of a much higher quality than what we have experienced at other sites. We loved the ‘Fire Show’ and the band ‘Idle Fingers’ were fantastic.

The majority of activities are included in the cost of your holiday but we paid extra for a one hour horse ride through the woods. There are lots of other extra activities that you can book through reception (available for an additional fee). Activities on offer during our stay included scuba diving lessons, a guided Kayaking trip, Cheese and Wine tasting and tree climbing at a nearby adventure park.

Taking a pedallo onto the lake is the perfect way to end a fun-filled day. We saw plenty of Kingfishers and on one evening we spotted an immature Night Heron, a first for us!

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I finally managed to get an ‘amateur’ Kingfisher photo.

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Immature Night Heron

Wildlife areas surround the lake and there is a huge woodland on the site where you can cycle or go horse riding. I managed to grab a few wildlife photos whilst exploring.

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Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi)

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Map Butterfly

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The nearby coast is beautiful and the golden sandy beaches stretch for miles. Despite it being the end of August the beaches were not at all busy. The nearest beaches are around 12 km away and we spent time at both Les Dunes and La Parée beaches in Bretignolles sur Mer.

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The site has recently been awarded the European Ecolabel award for its low environmental impact.  To receive the award, sites must demonstrate energy management, water and waste management, responsible purchasing and environmental education. We were really impressed with the recycling facilities and were happy to see that they had recently started to trial a food waste recycling system. We also loved their innovative vending machines for filtered and fresh water. This is an attempt to greatly reduce the amount of waste packaging on site and the cost is just 0.15€ per litre, far less than you would pay for bottled water.

The man made lagoon is just perfect on a sunny day. It’s gently shelving water is perfect for little ones and umbrellas are provided for shade which is a nice touch. We loved the swimming pools and could have happily spent all day here.

La Garnageoire Lagoon Beach

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For days out nearby:

We cycled to Lac Du Jaunay from the site which is around 1.5 miles. You can cycle all around the lake, probably too far if you have little ones but fine if they are older.

The seaside town of Les Sables De Yonne is worth a visit. The promenade tempts you with its seafood restaurants. Head further into the town to find the narrowest street in France. The town is also known for it’s ‘street of shells’ which are really quite amazing.

There are four Castles all within an hour’s drive and a number of zoos and aquariums too. You can get a full list of days out from reception, including suggestions for where to go on a rainy day.

La Garangeorie is  just over an hour’s drive from Le Puy De Fou. This theme Park has awards for The Best Theme Park In the World and is truly spectacular! There are no rides here it is purely shows. We spent two days here and stayed one night in their medieval themed hotel. More details to follow in another post but here is a sneak preview from the Viking Show! Every show is incredibly realistic and the effects are like nothing we have ever seen.

We would recommend this beautiful site in the Vendee and would love to return one day. For more information you can visit the Eurocamp or the Castels website.

Disclaimer:  Some of our nights on site were provided for free by Eurocamp. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by Eurocamp in any way.

Back to school the green parenting way.

12 Jul

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The summer holidays are now so close I can almost taste that freedom from the school run! Those glorious six weeks when there is less rushing around, less packed lunches to make and less general stress and chaos in the house.

Now is the time that we generally start to think about purchasing school uniform, shoes and other supplies but is there a way to do this that is kinder to the planet?

Source second hand school clothes.

New school uniform is a costly business. Why not reuse and recyle instead? You could ask around to see if friends have any that they wish to sell. Many people will just be glad to pass them on to a good home for free. You can often find second hand school uniform in charity shops. The benefit of children growing so fast is that they normally grow out of their school clothes before it gets damaged.

Make a list of what you really need before buying more.

The shops are full of new school bags and lunch boxes at this time of year but do you really need to buy more? A quick stock take before you hit the shops could save your wallet and the planet.

Eco friendly school supplies

If you do need to invest in more folders, bags or pencils – there are eco friendly alternatives. You probably wont find these in your local supermarket but you can source them on line. We love these canvas backpacks from Mibo.

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Longer lasting and better for the environment than the alternatives which normally contain PVC. They also stock some beautiful pencil cases made from organic cotton. I have my eye on the seal one!

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Green Office also have a vast supply earth friendly products.

Cut down on food waste

A comprehensive study carried out by WRAP suggests that over a school year a total of 55,408 tonnes of food waste is generated by primary schools in England and 24,974 tonnes by secondary schools, giving a total food waste weight of 80,382
tonnes. Although it was difficult to differentiate between waste from cooked school meals and packed lunches, the policies within the schools suggests that the vast majority came from cooked meals. This is because the majority of food waste from packed lunches is taken home.

What can you do to help cut down on this waste? Well a packed lunch is a good place to start. You can see exactly how much your child has eaten each day. If they are bringing home uneaten food it can sometimes be reused (depending on the food item of course). It may be that you are packing too much for your child to get through during lunch time and you can therefore adjust the quantities accordingly.

Reusable lunchboxes and drinks bottles are much better for the planet than single use, disposable options.

Ditch the sandwich bags.

Check out these gorgeous alternatives to sandwich bags. They are made from non-toxic environmentally friendly materials, are machine washable and they take up far less space than a lunch box. You can use them for a variety of items, not just sandwiches. For more information, check out this great review on the Kids of The Wild Blog.

Buy second hand books

You will often see used text books in charity shops. If you need a particular one then ebay is a good place to start. Or again, you could ask around friends if they have a second hand one that they would be happy to sell or pass on.

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you all a lovely summer holiday. Fingers crossed for some sunshine!

 

 

What makes a happy childhood?

28 Jan

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If you try to envisage your happiest memories from your childhood, what comes to mind?

For me, it is the memories of family time. As children we spent a lot of time with grandparents and other family and it is something that I am determined my own children should experience. We were so lucky that our grandparents lived close by and we were able to enjoy so much quality time with them.

I remember hot, lazy summers when the time seemed to move as slowly as pond water. We spent much of our time blackberry picking and playing pooh sticks then would head back to my gran’s house where she would cook up a delicious blackberry crumble. Gran’s house would always smell of something yummy like  freshly baked saffron buns or warm fresh bread.

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Blackberry picking with my brother

It is funny how smells can instantly take you back to your childhood. I only have to get a whiff of roast beef and I am transported back to my Auntie Kath’s house. Perfectly cooked in her old Rayburn, the smell would greet you as soon you walked in the door.

The smell of Peppermint reminds me of the Peppermint creams that I would make with my mum. They were usually a very bright green thanks to my obsession with food colouring. These were just one of the many treats I would be allowed to make on my own using my little Ladybird cookbook.

The best times were of course the summer holidays which were spent mainly on our bikes or playing illegally (!) in the school playing fields. We lived just two doors away from school which had its advantages. We used to have a lot of fun making use of the sandpit and hurdles and running away from the school caretaker when he decided to turn up on his ride on lawnmower! We had numerous trees to climb there and that is where we started our first famous five den, right at the top of a huge pine tree. We had a biscuit tin to store important supplies, all we were missing was a dog!

We would have family games of cricket on this school playing field with cousins, aunts and uncles all joining in. These were the best days and looking back I think it was probably because all of the adults were laughing and having fun too. It makes me realise how important it is to have fun with my children now so that they will also have these happy times to remember. Note to self: make more time for fun!

Other memories I will cherish

Snowy winters.

Oh how I would love to experience a real blizzard again. I remember being out all day sledging with my dad and brother, screaming with delight and terror as we approached the massive hedge at the bottom of the hill.We didn’t realise until we got in the door just how frozen we were. Mum had to try and extract us from our icy clothing to warm up in front of the fire. We built a snowman that was bigger than me and it lasted for days.

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Epic snow day!

Playing cards.

Rummy, Canasta, Seven of Diamonds, we loved them all and still do. We try to fit in a game whenever we meet up with Dad. He has taken over from my Gran when it comes to being the most competitive card player.

Holidays.

Our holidays were normally kept fairly local. We didn’t go abroad and normally went to Butlins or hired a holiday cottage in Newquay. Holidays were just fantastic as a child. In Newquay we would swim in the sea for hours and in the evening we would walk the headland, go to a Punch and Judy show or play crazy golf. At night we would sink into our beds exhausted, happy and smelling of the beach. Morning would bring the sound of gulls and the excitement of a whole new day of adventure.

My Gran, who lived slightly further away from us, would take me on holidays by train which was such a treat. We spent the whole day travelling to Blackpool. I remember listening to Mel and Kim on my Walkman, eating all the lovely snacks prepared by my gran and nodding off to sleep with the gentle rocking of the carriage. We took a tram to see the Blackpool illuminations and I remember being wide-eyed with wonder at how fantastic they were. We visited the Blackpool Tower Circus which was a real eye opener for my younger self. I imagine Blackpool is very different now so I’m not tempted to go back with my children. I want to keep it in my memory just as it was.

Christmas

If I think really hard I can still remember that butterfly feeling that you get when you wake up in the night and realise Santa has been. I am sure I could smell the wrapping paper at the end of the bed. I remember how even the smallest presents would fill me with happiness. I had a beautiful Jemima Puddle Duck bottle of perfume which I treasured for years and a Victoria Plum notebook which I just loved. I love seeing this same joy in my children now when they open their presents.

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EPSON MFP imageEnjoying nature

Looking back, It feels like the majority of my childhood was spent outside. We had a nice big garden so we would play on our scooters, make obstacle courses  and in good weather play in the paddling pool. There were lots of children nearby so we were often in and out of each other’s houses. I enjoyed getting involved with the gardening and I remember one night being in the green house until it was getting dark. I was sieving the earth ready to plant tomatoes and I did not want to go to bed until I was done.

Lily and Thomas haven’t quite got this eagerness to help in the garden (where did I go wrong?) but hopefully we are now creating similar happy memories for them.

This post is dedicated to my lovely grandparents!

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Adopt a Donkey for a special Christmas gift this year.

13 Dec

 

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Are you fed up with unused toys cluttering up the house? Do discarded gifts get you down? Why not purchase an unusual gift this year that will really benefit someone?

The Donkey Sanctuary Adopt a Donkey scheme is a wonderful gift idea for people of all ages. We are lucky enough to have an adoption scheme with Eeyore who lives at the Donkey Sanctuary in Ivybridge. Our lovely Auntie Audrey adopts him for us every year and we love to read his updates and also to visit him a couple of times a year.

Many of the donkeys rescued by the Sanctuary have experienced neglect or abandonment, and the adoption scheme ensures that they will never want for warmth, care or food again.

In addition to caring for the donkeys, the Donkey Sanctuary also provide Donkey therapy to children in the UK and internationally. They support projects in 35 countries worldwide! For more information on their work, please visit their website.

It costs just £24 to adopt a donkey for a year and the adoption pack includes:

  • A framed portrait
  • Four beautiful postcards
  • A certificate and their donkey’s story
  • Regular updates about their donkey

You can also visit your donkey for free at the sanctuary.

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Beautiful Burgundy. Family cycling in France.

9 Oct

France is a great location for a cycling holiday. We are not quite ready for on-road cycle routes and travelling miles and miles each day so this year we opted for one base that was in easy reach of family friendly rides.

The canal paths and sleepy waterways are perfect for cyclists of all abilities. We set off for the day, loaded up with picnics, drinks and sun cream and just loved the relaxed and easy way of life. No one rushes anywhere in Burgundy. The colourful canal boats drift along with ease, the crew giving a wave as you ride by or perhaps lifting a glass of wine in your direction to say ‘Bon Soir’. The beautiful villages along the way are very welcoming with their boulangeries and cafes.

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Our accommodation was on the edge of Vermenton. A lovely small town with all amenities and a very good campsite by the river. Friends of ours stayed at this site for a few days and loved it.

We stayed at Le Moulinot. This is a wonderful property that provides everything a family needs for a fun-filled holiday. The property is spacious and welcoming, has all mod cons (including a DVD player with English films) and is situated next to a beautiful millpond and swimming pool.

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There is a canoe on the pond which we made use of every day. The swimming pool was cool and inviting during the scorching hot days and there were plenty of loungers for relaxing and reading.

You feel completely free here and are surrounded by fields, streams and wildlife. Other than the owners who live in an adjacent property, there are no other neighbours and it felt very safe for the children to be wild and free. It is a bird spotters paradise, with a resident Kingfisher, Dippers, Herons and Buzzards flying over-head and beautiful dragonflies flitting about on the water.

Wildlife Collage.jpgOur favourite wildlife were the Coypu who doggie-paddled across the pool at dusk and entertained the children for hours. Although they are from the rodent family they are very sweet and look like little otters or beavers. They  have been eradicated in the UK so we were quite excited to see them. There were also red squirrels and  Loir (Edible Dormouse). We had a brief glimpse of a red squirrel but sadly never spotted a Loir as they are nocturnal. We did however hear them in the roof space at night!

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Coypu spotting!

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The beautiful and tranquil, Le Moulinot

Vermenton is an excellent base for exploring Burgundy. Here are our recommendations for places to visit.

  • Noyers-sur-Serein. A beautiful medieval town with an old castle to explore. Try lunch at Rouge et Blanc where you can get a fantastic platter of cheeses and cold meats.
  • Grottes de St More – Quite an energetic hike to these and you do need to be a bit of a mountain goat at times! If you are feeling adventurous though they are definitely worth exploring. Good for spotting sleeping bats!
  • Avallon – Another medieval town with some great restaurants. Thomas had his first taste of snails here. L’horloge restaurant on 63 Grande Rue Aristide Briand was really good at accommodating my gluten free requests. The owner spoke good English and was very reassuring in talking me through their menu.
  • Chablis – The only place I have ever been where it seems normal to have wine with breakfast! Check out the wine tours here, there are plenty to choose from. The open air market is excellent too.
  • Vezelay – A trip to the Basilica is definitely worthwhile. We had lunch at Restaurant le Dent Creuse which was very reasonably priced and despite looking like a tourist trap was actually very good.
  • Grottes D’Arcy – These are excellent caves with a guided tour in French (my husband and children enjoyed a spontaneous translation from a lovely Parisian English teacher). Look out for the second oldest cave paintings in France and amazing geological formations.
  • Auxerre – We visted here on our last day and I wish we had discovered it earlier. It has the best market of any we had seen. Do not miss Cathedral St Etienne, it has stunning stained glass windows, statues, gargoyles and paintings that take your breath away.

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vezelay-collageAs well as site seeing there are plenty of other things to do in the area…

Kayaking

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There are quite a few options for Kayaking the Burgundy rivers. We decided to head to St Pere in the Morvan Valley and chose AB Loisirs. They were helpful and friendly and spoke English which was very useful for us! Our route was a five mile fairly easy paddle and was easily managed by our 7 and 10 year old who shared kayaks with us. This was a great way to explore the river Cure and get up close to the wildlife.

Two minutes from AB Loisirs is Brasserie de Vezelay where you could buy a perfect, cold, gluten free beer. They also serve bar snacks. Definitely worth a visit if you are a coeliac like me.

Markets

We love visiting French markets with their atmosphere, sights and smells and stocking up on local cheeses and pastries. You can find a list of market days here.

Ecluse Des Dames on the Canal du Nivernais

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Ecluse Des Dames – a wonderful find!

I have to mention Ecluse Des Dames which we happily discovered on a bike ride. This is a play park in the trees! For just five euros each your little ones can play tarzan for as long as they like whilst you enjoy the picnic areas and hammocks and keep a close eye on them. (Children under 6 must be accompanied by an adult). The owners also have a small bistrot here where you can enjoy a glass of Chablis and a goats cheese salad. What a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

Burgundy was a delight for all the family and we would definitely recommend Le Moulinot. We will have some very happy memories of this trip.

What is your favourite holiday destination as a family?

How to holiday better – TV company wants to hear from you!

21 Sep

Are you a family who holidays on a budget? Would you like to learn how to holiday better?

We have been asked to spread the word about a new TV show which can help you to get the most for your holiday money. To apply to take part in this programme, or for more information please email:  holidaybetter@7wonder.co.uk

 

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