Tuesday 31 July 2012

Dilemma re play dates?

A month or so ago a couple borrowed a friends house in the road.  They had 8yo twins, 1 boy 1 girl, and were very keen for their kids to play outside with ours.

I of course welcomed them initially but it transpired the little boy was a complete pain, I overheard him say "let go scratch some cars with this" holding some stone or something, and "lets go knock doors and run away".

Thankfully they moved further away!

Today however I bumped into the mother in  Tescos in town, and ended up swapping phone numbers as she would like to arrange some playdates aaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhhhhhhh

I may never answer my phone, my heart wants me to be honest with her - Jasper doesn't want to go (he got in too much trouble) - would welcome any feedback?

Annie x

Brittany Ferry - Scarlett asked if it was a tooth ferry haha

We were lucky enough to be invited to the Vendee in France, staying at Siblu Le Bois Dormant, sailing Saturday morning with Brittany Ferries - Scarlett (4) asked if it was a tooth ferry haha!

The Normandie
It was an early start to get to the 8.30 sailing, but the kids like being woken "in the middle of the night" and when you have a week's holiday ahead of you it really is not a hard(ship) *groans*!

Turns out this is from Finland!
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not dead keen on boats of any sort, so I was a little bit anxious, but armed with my Rescue Remedy I put on a brave face (that's a lie I actually cried when Jasper asked what we do if it sank), but it was early!!!

We were given a cabin, which was fantastic, and I think at around £30 would definitely do again!   I thought I'd be nervous being away from the deck, where I can watch out for icebergs, but in fact I began to feel quite calm about the whole situation, and actually, I have to say, enjoyed the experience!   When I attempted sleep - like that was going to happen with 2 excited children - I put a can of drink on the ledge so that if we did tilt it would hit me on the head and wake me up - yes I know how silly that sounds but hey!

I have to say that 6 hours went by very quickly and we were happy to be in France at last!

Goodbye France
Hello England
The return journey was a breeze, wasn't scared at all, relaxed and enjoyed it - though very sad to be leaving for home.

I think I may have to be thanking Brittany Ferries for calming my fear of large ferries at the very least!

Since I have made this blog more about me (surprise), a fab blog about the ferry crossing can be found here - by a fellow blogger I met on the return journey!

Thank you!
Annie x

Disclosure, the holiday and crossing were courtesy of Siblu and Brittany Ferries

Friday 27 July 2012

Port Du Bec - Vendee

Friday 27th July 2012
The weather wasn't as good today, and the children were too exhausted for the Water Park, so instead we headed to Port Du Bec, to have a look around and find some lunch. 

It is known as the "Chinese Port, and having seen it it's easy to understand why - lovely little fishing boats tied to rickety-looking wooden pontoons :) 

Nearby we found a place for lunch and it was so good! The seafood was so fresh - even the kids were digging into the crab and shrimps and muscles! We ordered the speciality muscles were cooked in foil over an open fire and the smokey flavour was divine!
These were so good!

The speciality muscles

Yummy fresh seafood, tho I did pass on the oysters!

Half a crab :)

Would definitely go back for more!
Annie x

St Jean De Monts beach - Vendee

Monday 23rd July 2012
Today we hired some bikes from Siblu and cycled to the local beach. There are lots of cycle paths around, including the one off road, through a beautiful pine forest, so the kids felt safe away from the cars.

The beach that greeted us was unlike no other I've seen before - it was so wide and so long up and down the coast! In fact the region boasts 140km of sandy beaches. It is also completely safe for young children as it so shallow for a very long way out! Plus - as I'm not a lover of sand - the sand is so fine it doesn't stick to you like other sand does - so we came away clean and sand free - this is something our neighbour at home told us about (he's from the Vendee). We built sand castles and jumped over waves and then made a hasty retreat as the tide came in so fast! An ice cream before heading back on the bikes and everyone was happy :)

This picture of the beach gives you some idea of how wide it is but it doesn't give you perspective how beautiful the coastline looked up and down from St Jean De Monts.

There were all sorts of activities for the children too, including trampolines, but it was so hot the day we were there, that dipping in the sea was really the best option!

I was also very impressed with the area itself, and the space given over to cyclists, as they have a dedicated cycle lane beside the main roads, and plenty of space to lock your bikes up safely!

The picture to the left gives you an idea of the beautiful pine forest we cycled through to get there and back :)  This is Jasper whizzing off in front of me, which seemed to be a common theme this holiday :)

Annie x

Puy Du Fou - Vendee

Thursday 26th July 2012 
When we heard we were lucky enough to be going to Siblu in the Vendee, Puy Du Fou was one of the places we planned to visit, having read about it back in the UK.

It is a huge theme park, but rather than rides there are spectacular shows and authentic villages to see and experience.  If you click on the link above it has a fabulous video summing it up!  We were able to book it via Siblu reception, who offered the same discount we would have got booking via the Internet. The great thing is that the tickets are then valid for some months (ours said Apr to Sept), so you are not tied to a date, just in case the weather or plans changed.

Amazing bird show!
We went on Thursday.  It opens at 10am and we were advised to get there for 9.30. We left at 8am, but we had to grab breakfast en route so in fact we arrived just before 10. There are lots of shows throughout the park - but there are five main shows, and you get a schedule on the day. 4 of the shows are on 3 times, but Le Signe du Triumphe - the Roman spectacular - is only on twice. This show is held in a full size coliseum by the way, the pics cannot do it justice!!!  We were advised to head for no. 5 first - Richelieu's Muskateers just right of the entrance, and finish with no. 4 - which is back at the entrance. This worked well as we worked out the other shows within these 2 and managed to see all 5!

Roman Spectacular!
The other shows are!
The Vikings
The Ball of the Phantom Birds and
The Secret of the Lance

There are more shows than these 5, so these are suggested as a minimum!

Vikings Set
The doors normally open 30 minutes before each show, but don't worry about kids getting fidgety, they very cleverly have little warm up acts to keep them entertained, and I have to say they were pretty hammy but very funny, including taking people out of the audience to embarrass :)

The shows themselves were incredible, amazing, jaw-droppingly fab. The costumes, scenery and special effects were superb, and the acting by the actors and all the animals left you smiling and often wondering "how did they do that"? The fact that they were all in French didn't detract from their entertainment either - you could hire headphones to translate - but we didn't feel it necessary.

Cooling off!
Between shows we explored the other various villages and the obligatory playground, and Jasper and Scarlett particularly liked the animals! We took a packed lunch - but to be honest the prices inside weren't too bad! I'll add a few pics but don't want to spoil anyone's future enjoyment! It was extremely hot and at one point the kids started flagging, but a good old fashioned water fight put paid to that! There are different vapour showers dotted around the park too - which was a great idea!

I cannot recommend this show highly enough, they are planning a Christmas spectacular too, which is certainly on my radar at the  moment!

One final cheesy family picture to top it off, Scarlett took this whilst we were waiting for the Roman spectacular, and yes I am restraining Jasper as it suggests haha!

Noirmoutier Island & "The Ballet of the Bottoms Up" - Vendee

Wednesday 23rd July 2012
This afternoon we headed to Noirmontier Island, we had a few things we could have done, Oceanile Water Park, Sealife aquarium or simply a stroll around. As we arrived at lunchtime we grabbed a bite to eat first, then, as it was so hot and the kids were flagging, we decided to take the road train to have a look around.  (We gave the kids the option to come back on Friday).   There are 2 train rides, and hour one and a 35 minute one.  We chose the latter and it was very pleasant indeed.
road train :)

Pretty port!
It was a very pituresque little place with lots of quaint little cafes and boutiques - sounds awful to be complaining about the heat now, but we decided to have the obligatory ice cream and head back to the shade of our Siblu home for the week.

We got to the island via the Pont (bridge) so decided to go back via the Gois (causeway). It was amazing to see this track of road with seabed either side - like the sea had literally parted - biblical like! We also noticed lots of people digging around the sea bed - so we decided to stop and have a nosey! Lots of people had crates of shell fish, and the ever so friendly locals showed us how to look for holes in the sand, beneath which we would find the Parlourd (to be googled later)! It was great fun and the kids got stuck in as you can see from the video!
It turned out that they were in fact clams - so the pitiful few that we brought back we BBQ'ed then covered with a sauce made of butter, garlic and wine, to die for! 
Waiting for them to open

Just amazing :)

I've heard that the locals call the clam digging the "ballet of the bottoms up" haha love it! We're going back later in the week - just need to find rakes and buckets! Annie x

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Jardin du Vent - Vendee

Wednesday 25th July 2012 
This morning we took a short drive to visit Jardin du Vent at Notre Dame De Monts. Wasn't sure what to expect of the wind gardens but it was a little gem with lots of interactive bits, set around an original windmill.

The idea is to allow visitors to understand the subtleties the wind has to offer, with the purpose being to heighten the relationship between man and the environment.  We certainly learnt a thing or two!

Below are just a few of the things you can do.  Entry is €4 for adults, €2.20 for 6-18 years, and free under 6.  It's a very pleasant way to spend an hour or so!

I can hear Jasper mummy!
 You can whisper your secrets in the Mirror of sounds.  These structures are set in line, some way from each other, but the kids could whisper into it and the other could hear.

The science behind it is that sound travels in a straight line, but when its hits a smooth and not absorbent surface, it is reflected!   The parabolic antennas are designed to direct the sound waves on a precise point :)  Great fun!

The central Windmill

Learning to control the wind
The steam on the left appears every two minutes, following the movements of the wind.
On the right you have to sit one on each seat, move your sail with the wind, to let it carry you.  the kids didn't get it but enjoyed whizzing round, then Chris and I couldn't wait to have a go!

Back in the centre and there is a well stocked shop full of interesting toys and posters, and also a library with a cute little playing area!

Afterwards we headed to Narmoutier for the afternoon.

Time well spent!
Annie x

La Perle des Dieux - Saint Gilles Croux De Vie - Vendee

Tuesday 24th July 2012 
We headed a little South to visit the sardine exhibition "La Sardine est dans la boĆ®te" At La Perle des Dieux they have been fishing sardines since 1887.  

There is a short but detailed slide show in French - followed by a video with English subtitles. It is fascinating to see how they fish, and then back at the factory all the preparation is done by hand - by woman - due to their delicate touch! If they are not good enough they are moved on to another area of the factory. After the film you are invited to taste some of the different flavours - and can purchase individual tins or a set! 

One genius piece of marketing is that on one series - which are labelled by year - they have used local artist Delphine Cossais to decorate them with fabulous pictures - whilst I am looking forward to the sardines - I am also planning to display the tins afterwards!
I love this so much :)
Loved the display, mini tins

For a few Euro it was a really fascinating journey - learning that like fine wine, sardines mature with age - and can be kept for up to 10 years! I cannot wait to try the sardines with goats cheese - and the various salmon and tuna tins we also bought! Luckily if we need more we can order from the Uk and they will arrive in a couple of days! 

Annie x

Atlantic Toboggan Water Park Vendee

Tuesday 24th July 2012
This afternoon we headed to the Atlantic Toboggan Water Park whilst holidaying here at Siblu Vendee.

At over 31 degrees it was a great place to cool down and chill out! It was well laid out with a fab pool for under 10's where Scarlett (4) played for hours! There was also a bigger pool - where diving and jumping in is allowed - another pool set out like a beach - with wave machine - and some longer chutes and rides for the more adventurous - i.e Chris and 8yo Jasper.

We spent half an hour on the swan pedallo, and enjoyed strolling around the pleasant surroundings with a cooling breeze. There was also a playground, but we didn't need it as the pool was such a hit.

Seaside pool with wave machine
We spent 6 hours there and would happily go back. At €19 per adult and €16 for kids 3-12 it's not a cheap day out, but definitely value for money given it was enough to entertain us for a full day!

My kind of pedallo
*and* relax

Annie x

Friday 6 July 2012

Buggy Pit Stop St Albans

I was recently given the opportunity to try "buggy pit stop", based at The Baby Shop in London Road, St Albans.   It couldn't have come at a better time as I was due to start with 2 new clients, and my double buggy had been sitting in the porch for about a year.  

I was almost too embarrassed to suggest my double, but thought it also a good opportunity to see what they could do.  There was mould on the inside of the hood, the usual food encrusted seats and generally feeling sorry for itself.  I'll be honest with you, I was considering dumping it and trying to find a new one on Ebay?

Beyond dirty

Inside hood
I was blown away by the results, the attention to details was fantastic, it is IMMACULATE and they even sewed up a little tear in one of the seats.   I have no idea how they have done it, but the buggy is like brand new.   As a childminder you'll understand that this is more like a company vehicle to me, and its important to me that the children are transported in a nice clean pram, I don't think I could hand over my child knowing it was going to be put into the pram shown above!
Immaculate and mould free
Good as new

Sparkly :)
I have since found out that they also clean car seats, so that's next on my list - particularly as the ones I have I'm not confident if I did get the cover off that I would get it back on again!

See here for a full list of charges you won't be disappointed!

Annie x

Disclosure: the service was courtesy of Buggy Pit Stop