Sun, Sand and Kids

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Where and How to travel with kids

A Splendid Night at Stoke Park

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Two Sundays ago the husband, two little A’s and I set off nice and early straight after breakfast for our 1 night break at Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire.   The car was crammed full with baby food, milk, bottles, nappies and clothes, my husband reminded me that Stoke Park was still near civilisation and probably had a Tesco 5 minutes away from it.  Only an hour away from London meant we arrived there in no time, the kids napping on the way.  We decided to have a quick lunch in nearby Slough at an authentic Punjabi restaurant called Exotic Karahi.  This had been recommended to me by one of my friends.  We opted for all vegetarian dishes, kadi pakora, aloo tikki chaat, dhaba daal.  Everything was delicious and we washed it all down with a pink milk and jelly drink called falooda (kind of the bubble tea version of South Asia – google it!).

Driving up the green grounds, it was like expecting a Duke to coming riding on a horse, a fitness instructor on a Segway, and a swish hotelier in a Ferrari to come welcome you all at the same time! This was a place that has that sort of old/new feeling.

We had booked a junior suite in the Pavilion Building.  This opened in 2008 and was contemporary in style compared to the Mansion House.  With kids I would recommend staying at the Pavilion because of the relaxed atmosphere and the casual and child-friendly San Marco restaurant.  Another benefit is that as the spa and swimming pool are in this building, you can walk to it from your room in your robes and slippers.  Our suite was spacious and homely.  The view of the grounds from the large windows was breathtaking.  The 300 acres of beautiful green at Stoke Park is indeed splendid.  It was a shame on that particular Sunday we couldn’t take advantage of the beautiful grounds or the children’s outdoor playground as it was raining and quite cold.  However, the next morning the sun was shining and we really enjoyed walking around the estate. 

We spent the afternoon lazing around in our room enjoying the beautiful view.  The children were so happy doing the same.  An activity pack with crayons, stickers and colouring book had been provided for Aiden and he enjoyed that and exploring the room especially pressing the buttons on the safe.  The swimming pool has plenty of family times available but we didn’t fancy getting wet when we were so cosy in the room. Aiden’s bed had been made up with Disney character bed linen.  A children’s gown and slippers had also been placed on the bed for him and this we thought was a lovely touch.

We had an early dinner at San Marco- the hotel’s Italian restaurant.  A big convenience the hotel offered was to keep Arhaan’s home cooked food that I had bought with me in their fridge and warm it for me when I wanted to feed him.  A bit later on we had dinner at The Orangery, the hotels all day dining restaurant in the Mansion House.  It was a bit difficult getting into the Mansion with our heavy double buggy as it did not have a step-free access.  However the staff were really helpful in helping to lift the buggy- lucky there weren’t too many steps!  My husband and I both went for the roasted lamb steak which was lovely, unfortunately we had to rush back after our main as Aiden was getting quite cranky and the vibe here wasn’t as relaxed as San Marcos. Arriving back in our room we were surprised with lovely personalised cookies for the children.  A brownie (or cookie) point indeed!

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In the morning after a comfortable night sleep we all awoke fresh.  Breakfast at San Marcos consisted of Weetabix for Aiden and eggs Florentine for us. Straight after breakfast we headed to the crèche where we dropped the children off so that we could enjoy some relaxation at the spa.  The staff seemed nice and the room was large and airy.  The charge was £8/ child per hour.  I was worried as this was the first time for both the kids that we had left them with strangers.  The lady assured us that if the children got too distressed she would call us.  

The spa treatments were sublime and the therapist highly experienced and excellent.  After a thalgo facial and a terrake massage I understood why this spa had won a whole host of awards and voted consistently as one of the best spas in the UK.  The kids were dropped to us at the spa as my husband’s treatment went on for a bit longer than anticipated.  The crèche staff were not too impressed with him and he apologised profusely.  The children were really happy and had had a great time at the crèche.  They both looked exhausted and fell asleep instantly in their buggy.  We had a light lunch which was included as part of our spa package and left soon afterwards.

The short distance from London, the excellent staff, beautiful surroundings and most importantly child-friendly elements made this a great weekend trip.

Inside Château de Chillon, Veytaux, Switzerland
The world’s most beautiful prison?
http://www.criminaljusticedegreehub.com/top-10-most-beautiful-prisons-in-the-world/

Inside Château de Chillon, Veytaux, Switzerland

The world’s most beautiful prison?

http://www.criminaljusticedegreehub.com/top-10-most-beautiful-prisons-in-the-world/

Saturday night at The Pie Crust

The Pie Crust, if you don’t know it, is one of London’s most exclusive restaurants.  It’s almost impossible to get a booking at this trendy establishment in Stratford, London.  I’d been trying since the beginning of this year to no avail.  I finally found out that the family running this popular Thai joint had gone on a two month vacation to Thailand and the restaurant would reopen in February.   A popular restaurant closing for two months to go on holiday is unheard and this speaks volumes about the priorities and confidence of the owners.

I called last Thursday and was told the restaurant would open the following day for the first time this year and it was already fully booked.  On Saturday, I couldn’t bare the suspense any longer.  I’d wanted to try this place since December 2013.  What exactly was so good about this Thai restaurant with the strangest name and an exterior fit to be in a horror movie?  I had to find out.  I didn’t bother calling and decided that we would just show up and demand to be fed. 

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At 10 pm we arrive outside The Pie Crust, it was very dark and appeared to be shut.  Disappointment began to flood in but luckily a closer look showed signs of animated diners enjoying their food.  The kids had fallen asleep in the car so we decided a take away option would be best.  Just as well because there was no space inside to fit our large double buggy.  I walked to the till squeezing between the chairs and asked if I could order some food for takeaway.  This apparently was not possible as the restaurant was far too busy.  I pleaded with the friendly Thai woman telling her I had been waiting for months to come here and it was my first time.  She agreed to do us a prawn pad Thai and a black bean flat noodle dish.  I was surprised that the prawn pad thai was only £6, everything else on the menu was really cheap too.  She warned that the food would take at least half an hour to prepare.  It infact took an hour! 

My husband and I drove around in loops not wanting to park anywhere for too long should the children wake up.  We’ve discovered that as parents to two young children eating in the car is the new eating out! A typical night out involves driving to a place that’s far enough for the kids to fall asleep on the journey.  Ensuring that the two munchkins are fast asleep we park up and order our food on the phone speaking in lowered voices.  We then enjoy speaking to each other with no children distracting us and realise this is probably the only time we really get to talk.  Once the food is ready we pick it up and eat is as fast as we can because the fear of the two boggarts in the back waking up is so eminent.  After finishing our meals successfully we feel so proud – mission accomplished and drive back home chatting all the way.  

Back to The Pie Crust - By 11pm we were starving and we hoped that this turned out to be the best Thai food we’ve ever had.  My husband finally walked back to the car holding a bag with our greatly anticipated noodles.  The containers were so hot! We had to put our coats on our laps and then the food on that the foil containers didn’t burn us.  The aroma wafted out encircling us, it smelt so good.  We dug in. 

So the big question-was it worth the wait, anticipation, excitement?  I think we’ve found our new favourite Thai place! 

http://londonliving.at/londons-top-five-thai-cafes/

“Everything you see I owe to pasta.” – Sophia Loren
Really!  I just had to share with you what makes me happiest.  Creamy mushroom tagliatelle with chilli and garlic from Pasta Remoli, Westfield Stratford City.   www.pastaremoli.co.uk
Words can’t describe how much I love this place.  If I don’t get my weekly fix of this amazing pasta my life doesn’t feel complete.  A mouthful of it is like a lush bath bomb dropped into warm water, fizzing and melting filling the water with creamy, fragrant soothingness.  When I am in need of some TLC a hot bowl of this utterly delicious work of art is just what I need
Fresh handmade pasta by skilled and passionate chef Simone Remoli and managed by the charming Stefano Anfussi make this a place you want to return to time and time again.  I can quite honestly say Pasta Rermoli has the best pasta I’ve ever tasted and I have travelled across Italy and only a tiny place in Florence comes even close to it.  
Pasta Remoli had to be included in this blog because it’s a destination you must travel to.  Your children will love it too as kids meals are also on the menu.  They sell their pastas and sauces for you to take home so you can create the magic of Pasta Remoli in your very own kitchen.

“Everything you see I owe to pasta.” – Sophia Loren

Really!  I just had to share with you what makes me happiest.  Creamy mushroom tagliatelle with chilli and garlic from Pasta Remoli, Westfield Stratford City.   www.pastaremoli.co.uk

Words can’t describe how much I love this place.  If I don’t get my weekly fix of this amazing pasta my life doesn’t feel complete.  A mouthful of it is like a lush bath bomb dropped into warm water, fizzing and melting filling the water with creamy, fragrant soothingness.  When I am in need of some TLC a hot bowl of this utterly delicious work of art is just what I need

Fresh handmade pasta by skilled and passionate chef Simone Remoli and managed by the charming Stefano Anfussi make this a place you want to return to time and time again.  I can quite honestly say Pasta Rermoli has the best pasta I’ve ever tasted and I have travelled across Italy and only a tiny place in Florence comes even close to it. 

Pasta Remoli had to be included in this blog because it’s a destination you must travel to.  Your children will love it too as kids meals are also on the menu.  They sell their pastas and sauces for you to take home so you can create the magic of Pasta Remoli in your very own kitchen.

four seasons hotel des burgues, geneva

This post will be rather short as my stay at this wonderful property was in 2012 and unfortunately I’m not blessed with an excellent memory.

We stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel des Burgues for only one night as part of our cross Switzerland trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  It wasn’t exactly a big romantic holiday as Aiden, then only 8 months old, came along with us.

Knowing that Switzerland is home to some of the world’s best hospitality institutions we had very high expectations and the Four Seasons exceeded every single one of them. Whilst Geneva was our least favourite city in Switzerland the Four Seasons Hotel des Burgues was most definitely one of the best hotels we have ever stayed at.  Located on a prime spot on Lake Geneva, the hotel is a short walk from the station and close to many of the city’s attractions.

When we arrived the receptionist greeted us by name and enthusiastically said “We have been expecting you.”   She was so professional and efficient yet friendly, warm and genuine.  She appeared so happy to see Aiden and never forgot him for a second as she escorted us to our room chatting effortlessly.   Our room- a lake view loft suite was contemporary and simply stunning.   A lovely brushed metal cot with luxury bedding and a soft alpine marmot cuddly toy had been prepared for Aiden.  So many luxury hotels think it’s acceptable to give the most important guest (the child) an ugly, uncomfortable and tired looking cot to sleep in.  Not the Four Seasons des Burgues, I wanted to dive in to Aiden’s cot and have a nap!   

Then for the bathroom- words can’t express our delight as we walked in and saw that colourful foam letters had been stuck inside the large free standing bath to spell out ‘Aiden’.  Not one but three sets of high-end baby toiletries including L’Occitane Baby, Mustella and organic Jungle Baby amenities were generously provided.   The Aqua di Parma toiletries for us were of course very nice too.  They had remembered to put a nappy disposer which surprisingly we discovered many hotels don’t even have.  The bathroom was huge so stylishly done with all the finishing touches and even had a hammam shower and mirror TV.

To conclude the Four Seasons had thought of everything and pampered us from beginning to end.  Aiden had been treated like a star and given the same importance we as parents give.

Main photo courtesy of Four Seasons Magazine

"I have not told half of what I saw."-Marco Polo

"I have not told half of what I saw."-Marco Polo

We travel with our children because we want them to experience first-hand the beauty, sadness and infinite variety of the world. We hope to inoculate them against prejudice, imbue them with curiosity and nurture the practice of lifelong learning. And, along the way, disrupted from circumstance, the family itself grows more tangible.

—Bruce Kirkby

Magic Box

Going on holiday?  Wondering how to keep your little one entertained on the flight?  Even a 2 hour flight can seem like an eternity when you have a toddler with you.  Kicking the seat in front as the person in it keeps turning back to throw you dirty looks.  Screaming at the top of their lungs, and jumping up and down on their seat.  Running down the aisle tripping up the cabin crew serving lunch.  On a recent flight we were the proud parents of a very naughty 2 year old!  Our saviour – a children’s snack box from the in flight menu.

 A box containing a number of different mini size snacks like chocolate cookies, hoola hoops, cheese dips as well as some crayons and stickers kept Aiden entertained for an hour or two.   One of Aiden’s favourite games is to put things in and out of a container.  I once took him to a toddler group and instead of using the colouring pencils to colour he spent the entire hour just putting them in and out of the pen pot.  So of course he was very excited to take the snacks in and out of the box.  After he got bored of this he would ask me to open a snack, enjoy eating it for a while then move on to another one.  He enjoyed exploring different tastes.  He spent some time colouring with the crayons and of course putting the crayons in and out of the crayon box.  So this little snack box turned out to be a magic box keeping Aiden on his seat for almost half of the four hour flight.  Don’t ask about the rest of the flight!

Lessons Learnt:

  • Think carefully about your journey and take activities that your child enjoys the most.
  • Pack a box with goodies that your child hasn’t seen before and give it to them at a time you need to distract them most.

Did you know some hotels can rent you a microwave!

—Never be shy to ask, you’ll be surprised at the lengths good hotels will go to to make your stay as comfortable as possible

30 mins Weekend Break, London

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A friend of mine confessed that she and her husband booked a weekend at a luxury central London residence and checked out within half an hour of checking in!  What was the reason???   They felt overwhelmed when they walked into the crammed one bedroom suite and their two kids began crying their eyes out.  They tried feeding their older child on a chair but realised they couldn’t manage without a high chair as he refused to sit still long enough to put anything in his mouth.   The younger one hated the hotel cot and wouldn’t stay in there without screaming. They said the room wasn’t child-proof either so they couldn’t leave the kids to roam around.  My friend was in tears and said it felt like so much hard work that all she wanted to do was go back home.  Lucky for them home was only an hour away.  They checked out and the front office staff member was very kind and said they would take care of the room charges.  She said that was the shortest weekend break they ever had!

Lessons Learnt:

  • Spur-of-the moment plans rarely ever work, travelling with kids requires serious thought and planning.
  • Check hotel room amenities for high-chair and other items beforehand.
  • Bring your own travel cot if your kid is particular as the hotel cot may not always suit.
  • Don’t use a holiday to try new things, if your kid is used to eating/sleeping/playing a certain way then practice new ways a week before the holiday.