Day Out With Thomas The Tank Engine At Mid Hants Railway – Watercress Line

We have visited the Watercress Line a couple of times already as both daddy and son are big train enthusiasts. However, we never attended a Meet Thomas Day.


For those whose never been there, the Watercress Line is located in Alresford, Hampshire. It’s a heritage railway which was saved by enthusiastic volunteers in 1973, and Watercress Line was re-open as a tourist attraction four years later. A 10 mile line is operating currently with steam locomotives between Alresford and Alton. They regularly do Meet Thomas The Tank Engine days, in every few months.

Visiting the Watercress Line is great fun every time, we especially like stopping at Ropley, where all the engineering works are being done, and can be watched too. Fascinating for train enthusiasts. There’s a playground for small children (I’d say from 3 years up) and picnic area. Snacks and drinks are also available in the station gift shop. The King’s Cross bridge from one of the Harry Potter episode is moved down to Ropley, so even Harry Potter fans will find something exciting.

Visiting the restored ticket office and the station masters lounge makes you feel, that you stepped back in time. Even the toilets are made to look vintage. Another times we also stop at Medstead and go for a picturesque walk to Alton, visiting the Jane Austen House in Chawton village.

This April we booked tickets (£18 for adults and £12 for children) to see Bobcat’s favourite character Thomas The Tank Engine. We arrived early to make the most of the day, as you’re entitled to unlimited travel on the day, so we stopped at every station, marvelled the engineering works, watched the character trains pulling into Ropley station. The trains were running up and down between the stations in every half an hour.

We went for a few rides on the miniature train, which was one of the top favourites of the day. We packed lunch and had picnic, whilst the little guy spent some time on the playground and went for teacup rides – he was way too excited to eat. Outside of the station we even met with Bertie the bus, his second favourite character from the show. Apart from Thomas, some other tank engines are present (don’t ask me names, all I know that, they all have a name and a number) and running between the stations. He also shook the Fat Controller’s hand – the organisers really paid attention to the smallest details.

There was a tent with story corner where they did daily story time and DVD shows. Also some tables and chairs with Thomas themed coloring sheets and play sets. Bobcat received a certificate and some Thomas stickers too. The only thing we didn’t try was the big bouncy slide, it said from 3 years+, but Bobcat was too small for that, we thought. But he didn’t mind, he was perfectly happy with all the other fun things. Naturally, fell asleep on the way home and had an unusual long nap which resulted him bouncing around till 11pm that night. Oh well.

 

Real Mum Reviews
Bridie By The Sea

15 Fun Things To Do In Vienna With Small Children

I love Vienna. It has been voted to the most liveable city of the world for a reason. I’ve visited plenty of times, however, never with my children until a few weeks ago. Naturally, this time it was a completely different experience, just as we did expect it to be. Not so much of Aperol-Spritzing and Museum Quartier visiting. You can’t just drag your young children along whilst visiting galleries, markets and trendy restaurants. If you plan ahead though, everyone can get something of what they wanted. City tripping with a toddler and a baby sounds challenging but it it’s not impossible!

Start with booking the right accommodation. We stayed in serviced apartments this time, because we knew that we won’t be able to eat out in the evenings. That is one thing we needed to give up. Keeping their usual bedtime routine meant, that they were able to cope a lot better, it’s something they are both (all of us, in fact) heavily rely on. We also needed space, which an average hotel room just doesn’t provides. (The hotelier inside me is gasping in horror now.) So we booked Anyna Apartments, which was OK (price-wise and staff -wise good, but with some small security and other issues) and close to transport links, near a big park with playgrounds and supermarkets.

When the weather is nice, then of course there’s plenty to do. But when it’s raining or it’s too cold outside it can be a bit tricky to entertain small children. So, my list contains a mix of indoor and outdoor activities. However, avoid traveling in winter, as lots of outdoor attractions are closed. Also better to avoid places like Nashmarkt. Whilst it’s one of Vienna’s famous attractions and it’s great fun as a grown up, it’s most definitely no fun as as a parent of small children. It’s very busy, there are a lot of hot food stations, smokers and things to grab from the stalls. (Yes, the experience is talking.)

1. Prater

One if the oldest amusement parks in the world offers a lot of fun small rides for the minis. If they can’t ride on their own, because they are too young, parents can accompany them. There’s no entry fee to the Prater, you just need to pay for the rides (cash only). Plenty of options for food, from small kiosk-type street food to a proper restaurant. Open from March till October. The mini rides are relatively cheap: cost between EUR 2-4 each.

2. Playgrounds 

Vienna has lots of playgrounds, they are all very clean and well maintained, most of them has small swings, slides and sand pits for the littlest.

3. Zoom Children’s Museum

Zoom is quite big, suitable for children of all age. For the minis (8 months to 6 years) particularly, it has a play and adventure area called The Ocean, with a glittering water grotto, a mirror tunnel and a coral reel with tickly anemones. They can explore a ship deck and play role games, untie knots, turn the ship’s wheel or communicate with the lighthouse. Entry fee: EUR 3 for a child (free admission for one adult per child); extra adults pay EUR 5.

4. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

Sitting on the top deck of the bus when the weather is sunny and pointing to all the exciting things to see is great fun for small children. (They are also prepared for the bad weather with a cover.) There are 6 routes and 50 stops. From EUR 22.50 per person.

5. Cake Time!

No Vienna experience is complete without a cafe house visit. And that means: it’s time for a cake! The traditional cafe houses are not exactly children friendly and booking is always required. Also, at some places  smoking is still allowed (Austrians love their cigarettes.) and normally a separate room is dedicated to that, but obviously you can smell the smoke all over the cafe. However, places like Aida and Oberlaa are more relaxed and welcoming towards children. (No smoking is allowed at all, either.)

6. Schoenbrunn Zoo

Schoenbrunn Zoo is considered one of the best zoos in the world. The animal compounds have a decent sized living area and designed to imitate their natural habitat as much as possible. More than 700 kinds of animal live in the zoo. It’s a fun place for small and big children. There’s also a huge nature trail and an educational forest trail, which I really liked. Unfortunately, not too many options for buying food and drink once inside the zoo in April when we visited, more in summertime. The little train wasn’t operating either, which was a shame as my little boy is a huge fan of trains. Entry fee is EUR 18.50 for adults, free for children under 6.

7. Schoenbrunn Maze And Labyrinthikon Playground

Bobcat really liked both the maze and the playground. And watching the fantastic water fountain. We enjoyed a lovely walk in the palace park. The playground is really cool and it has unusual elements as well as classic toys: climbing poles with sounds, jumping station, puzzles and water gargoyles. He especially liked the water features and marvelled the huge eagle-shaped climbing frame, but he was too small to climb that. But there was plenty of other things for smaller children, so we spent a few hours there. Open from April till November. Entry fee: EUR 5.50 for adults and EUR 3.20 for children.

8. Family Fun

It’s a huge amusement park for children, with a section called Kiddyworld, where even the smallest kids can enjoy themselves too. There’s trampolines, ball pools, a magic climbing tree, and some more. I’d say it’s probably from 1 year up, depending on the child’s capabilities. The toddlers will love it. Entry fees: under 1’s go free, 1-3 year olds EUR 3.90, 3-16 year olds EUR 8.90, adults EUR 3.50

9. Riding An Old Tram 

Simply 🙂 Very old, vintage trams are still in every day use in Vienna. Some of them are more than 50-60 years old with wooden benches. They are one of the coolest things to see, so don’t miss our on a Ring-ride, especially if you have a transport and vehicle maniac 3 years old, like us. Just buy a ticket and complete a whole Ring loop, it’s really good fun.

10. Bogi Park

It’s a huge indoor playground for children aged between 1 and 12. Again, I’m sure even some active babies can enjoy it, and recently they started to do Baby Mondays. For very small children, they have  bouncy castles, slides, ball pools, small climbing installations. Entry fees: under 1’s go free, 1-3 year olds EUR 3.50, 3-16 year olds EUR 8.90, adults EUR 4

11. Donau Insel

The Danube Island is very popular amongst the locals, there’s so much to see and do for the whole family! There’s a family beach, which is protected by a number of small islands surrounding the beach and the water no more than one meter deep. Absolutely fantastic in summertime. There’s also a free water playground with a separate splashing area for under 3’s and a trampoline center. Free entry.

12. Horse carriege ride (fiaker)

One of the tourists favourites, an absolute must do. The children loved it, it’s a leisurely ride (really slow, very safe with being small children on board) around the historic inner city area. You can find them parking all around the old town, just hop on one. It’s normally a half an hour and prices vary, around EUR 50.

13. Cobenzl City Farm

Meet and get to know the farm animals at a working farm producing organic goods. You’ve got pony rides, a nature trail and yummy cakes to buy. Entry fee: EUR 18 for kids and EUR 28 for adults.

14. Danube Boat Tour

The shortest tour takes around 1.5 hours, it’s a lovely, cultured thing to sit on the top deck in the sunshine. Waiving to the other boats and to people strolling at the river bank, it’s a relaxing cruise on the river. It’s operating from April till October (with the heating on when needed). There’s also a restaurant or bar on all the cruise ships. Prices vary.

15. Inner City Parks

When everything fails, just let them run around in a lovely, well manicured, safe park. There are plenty of them: the Stadtpark, the Volksgarten, the Burggarten, the Sigmund Freud Park and more.

One Messy Mama

 

 

 

Real Mum Reviews

Family Dayout Series: Drusillas Park East Sussex Review

Drusillas Park is located in East Sussex, short drive from the lovely coast. Our first time visit left me with ambivalent feelings. Some parts of it are really nice, but others are just run-down or just random. It has no apparent concept either: bit of a mix of everything, but not too original or exciting. The park tries really hard though: there are loads of extra summer activities, adopting options, be a keeper for a day and even birthday parties available. They definitely bring the best out of it.

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The zoo

It’s a decent size zoo with a lot of monkeys and must-have meerkats and lemurs. Unfortunately, a lot of animals are behind a glass panel and some monkeys don’t seem to have enough space. The lemurs, however, being the mascot of the park, enjoy extra attention and living space as well as interaction with the visitors: you can take a stroll in their little habitat and pet them. Which is quite fun: the lemurs want to check your bags, pockets and even the buggy for food. Therefore, you are not allowed to take any food inside their place. (The lemurs will body search you anyway.) Lots of feeding times too.

The main theme park (Go Bananas, Go Wild, Maze)

This part of the park is really run down. The plastic bits are faded and outdated. Daddy got nearly stuck on the snake slide. The treasure hunt maze is proper scary (and run down too). My little boy was in tears when he tried to “save” me (awww) from entering a one of the dead ends of the maze with a mechanical talking parrot. We had to take him straight on the Thomas the Tank Engine ride. Three times.

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Thomas mini train ride

Cute, but very short. Prepare yourself for queueing too. Kids get stickers too.

Get Wet

Best fun by far. You have water jets, ground geysers, twirling streams and spiraling sprays, slides. We had a real hard time to drag Bobcat away after spending almost an hour here. Take double sets of changing clothes! The slides are just a little bit too big for a 2 years old.

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Hello Kitty Secret Garden

Good fun. Bobcat doesn’t mind just yet about “girly” looking things. He favours purple and pink colours and also likes cars. Double win. He loved driving around in the little electric car so we went for a few rides. Also enjoyed the tea cup ride, had to try both the blue and the pink tea cups, and the pink tea cup obviously performed better. 🙂

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Good point for:

Having a decent changing room not only for little ones but for disabled adults too.

Bad point for:

Smoking areas. Not at all hidden. It’s a theme park for children!

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There is a small shop for wasting some money for stuff the kids only want in the heat of the moment and breaks by the end of the day anyway. We didn’t eat here, but there’s a big pic nic area if you buy food here or take your own.

Family Ibiza Holiday With Children – That’s What We Call Luxury!

Ibiza is forever in my heart since I lived there for a few years. Forget about the notorious party island fame, you can take children and they will love there!

APCCDT Harbour, Dalt Vila, Eivissa, Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain

The sandy beaches are very safe for children: they are clean, the water is shallow and warm, and most of them has at least one small beach bar (chiringuito) serving fresh food. Small towns like Santa Eulalia, San Rafael or Santa Gertrudis are especially perfect for families being a bit away from the hustle and bustle, but they still provide you with everything: great restaurants, folklore, markets, beaches. Spain is famous for being family and children friendly: you will see a lot of small children eating out till quite late, running on the promenade or visiting the night market at Las Dalias with the parents.

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By booking a villa with The Villa Shop you get the best of everything. You can find a villa of 2-3 bedrooms to 6-7 bedrooms and the villa portfolio stretches across the island. It’s a small island, so luckily nothing is too far from the sea.

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Their experts will help you to find the best fit for you in terms of budget (with price match guarantee), location and anything you might find important. It’s a tailored customer service which will enable you to enjoy your holiday and not to worry about thing. The Concierge360 service is there for you to if you need a baby sitter, a car to rent (you will need a car on the island) someone to cook (either every meal or just an occasional), a driver for a night out or if you want to go for a boat trip. Just to mention a few. The concierge service is available 24/7.image

The company also keeps a few villas in the portfolio on the island of Formentera. The tiny island is one of the most beautiful gems of the world. In my humble view, you can compare its sparkling clean water and white sandy beaches to the Maldives. It’s just a lot more private, a lot less well-known and it isn’t rammed with tourists. If you are staying on Ibiza island, it is still worth to take a boat trip and visit Formentera, you won’t regret it.

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There’s a lot to do on the island with children. Check out Aquarium Cap Blanc which is great entertainment for the whole family, equally perfect for small and big people. More water fun available at AguaMar Water Park For bigger children (8 years old onwards)  Arcobosc Ibiza could be a great adventure located in a natural park in the region of Es Canar. The famous Las Dalias Market is open every day in summertime and they also do night markets (from 7pm). The original hippy market of the island offers lots of fun for children and adults too. If you are after more modern and quirky things to buy, visit Sluiz Ibiza, it’s a great concept shopping experience for the children too and they also run a restaurant which is worth a try. There’s a lot of cute and chain stores too in Ibiza town. Food wise, in Ibiza, you can’t go wrong. Let it be a chiringuito on the beach, a famous beach bar, a Spanish restaurant in Dalt Vila (old town of Ibiza) you’ll find great food, prepared with love and passion everywhere. Everyone’s favourite is La Paloma near Santa Gertrudis, is famous for its organic, healthy and new wave kitchen, in a picturesque setting. Or try Pura Vida near Santa Eulaila.

 

 

Barcelona Revisited (Hotel SB Diagonal Zero Review)

We travel to Barcelona every year or two because I love there, it’s one of my favourite places in Europe. I lived in Spain for a few years, it feels like home 🙂 It’s always good fun, very child-friendly and a lot warmer in March than in London.

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This time we wanted to be near the beach but still close to town and just go for long walks and relax. A long weekend with spa experience and great Spanish food. So we booked SB Hotel Diagonal Barcelona Zero which was very convenient for the beach, as it’s just on the other side of the road. Not too bad transport links, tram stops just outside the hotel. They also booked us a travel cot (nearly new, good quality) free of charge. We were very impressed with the breakfast: from grilled vegetables for your scrambled eggs to churros with chocolate sauce they had everything. They even had a dedicated kids’ breakfast section – unfortunately, mainly with stuff which would exceed an adult’s daily sugar intake: pink sugar coated doughnuts, sugary cereal and yogurt, chocolate pastries, chocolate pretzel sticks etc. So cover those little eyes when entering the breakfast room.  imageTwo things we were really unhappy with: firstly, that we couldn’t enter the spa with Bobcat being under 14 years old. The information they have provided to Hotels.com is deliberately misleading: Hotel Information on Hotels.com, not saying a word about extra fees (not only the treatments cost money which is normal, but just to enter the spa too) or the age limit (14 years old. Really???). So, there goes our getaway spa experience out the window. When telling this to the receptionist she simply replied: apart from the age rules, I can’t use it anyway, because I’m pregnant and the chemicals in the water might be harmful. And it’s just a jacuzzi anyway. If we’ve known about this, we would not have booked this place. The other thing was that the door lock was broken and the door didn’t close properly. So they sent a handyman to fix it. On the photo below you can see the AFTER repair state. image

Apart from having nice walks down at the beach and stopping at every single playground (Barcelona has loads of playgrounds and they are great), this occasion we went to Barcelona Zoo, where Bobcat had some fun with feeding goats. imageIt was just very sad to see how small space the animals get in a small European zoo. Not only in Barcelona. They are just old, founded in the 19th century, and in those days no one cared about animal rights. It was heartbreaking to see the cheetach walking up and down in its cage, seemingly beyond stressed.

The City Park though, never dissappoints. We went for a walk after the zoo, stopped at the playground again of course.

Barcelona is always a great getaway choice with kids. From early spring the weather is very plesant.

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Ski Chalets Le Chardon – The Family-Friendly Luxury

Have you ever tried to go on a ski holiday with small kids or babies? If you have then you’ll know that you usually need to take everything with you. It can take a lot of time to research and plan childcare, family-friendly restaurants and the best ski schools for you and your family.

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Le Chardon Val d’Isere have everything you need for a perfect, stress-free family ski holiday. The 5 traditionally designed ski in / ski out luxury ski chalets located in Val d’Isere in the French Alps are easily accessible from Chambery, Geneva or Lyon airports. All major European cities also have trains going to Bourg St. Maurice, which is just 19 miles from beautiful Val d’Isere.

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The smallest chalet has 5 en-suite rooms and the largest has 10 rooms, so you can plan your holiday for small or big families. Each luxury ski chalet  is individually and tastefully designed and equipped with everything you need for a relaxing holiday.

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They offer a 5* concierge service who can arrange highly qualified nannies for babies and toddlers so for a change, mummy can ski too and just pop back to the chalet for feedings. All the chalets have sledges, high chairs, cots, DVDs and games. Private or group ski lessons and ski hire for the older children and family can be arranged with the option of boot fittings done in your own chalet. When you’re not on the slopes, there’s plenty of family fun activities such as husky rides, ice karting, ice skating or a visit to the Aquasportif Centre in the village is always a popular choice. All chalets are equipped with a sauna or outdoor hot tub and you can also book in a massage with Le Chardon’s very own wellness therapists.
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I think the best feature is the 5* dining with every meal prepared by your own chalet chef. Using the finest local produce, your chef will create a bespoke menu especially for you and your family. Each chalet also operates an open bar policy including fine wines, spirits, beers and soft drinks. So, you don’t have to worry about finding child friendly restaurants that will suit your children’s daily meal schedules. You don’t have to drive to get to a restaurant or waste your precious time with cooking. You don’t have to worry about the menu and whether picky toddlers will eat it or not. They can go to bed at the usual time and have breakfast in their pyjamas!

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Their concierge service will provide everything you may need from airport transfers including champagne picnics to ski hire. If you wanted a private flight to Geneva Airport and back – that’s not a problem either.
The French Alps are also beautiful after the snow has melted and a popular destination for active families. The area provides wonderful mountain walking routes, mountain biking possibilities, hiking, trekking, via ferratas, rafting or even glacier skiing.
If you’d like to find out more about Le Chardon Mountain Lodges for your next luxury ski holiday then check their availability and prices. Most chalets are booked on a chalet basis, however shared chalets options are occasionally available.

And to celebrate Easter, Le Chardon are running a competition until 21 March ’16 to win a fabulous Fortnum and Mason Champagne and Truffles gift. To be in with a chance of winning, head to http://www.lechardonvaldisere.com/fortnum-mason-easter-giveaway/to enter.

 

Linky – Our Monthly Favourite 5 Things (Join in the game with Suburban-Mum)

This fun little game is the invention of Suburban Mum, my fellow local blogger. It’s a great way to summarise your last month and look back all the exciting things you did, saw or visited. We can even call it monthly memory board.

Here’s our top five for January 2016:

  1. We found out we’re having a girl! I had my 20. week scan last week and it seems like we’re having a little girl, so Bobcat will be a big brother soon. At least the sonographer was quite sure about it. 😉
  2. We visited my parents in Hungary so Bobcat met with his grandparents. It was very-very-very cold in early January (as it should be) and he had some snow fun too! Not to mention the grandparents.image We also sneaked away for a 2 days pampering getaway to a spa hotel. Read my review about the experience here: Bambara Hotel Hungary – The Perfect Family Hotel Thoroughly enjoyed it, totally recommend this place if you visit Hungary. Very family and kids friendly and Bobcat just loved the kiddie pool. Here’s a photo of my wrapped up son enjoying some outdoor time on his swing in -8 degrees.
  3. Since we enjoyed some not too cold days here in the UK, we went for a day outs the nearby Claremont Gardens and we also visited Bodiam Castle in East Sussex. We really make a use of our yearly membership with National Trust, well worth the money.  imageIn spite of the dramatic clouds we really enjoyed the walk around the castle and even popped down to the seaside to charge up on some salty, clean sea air. Both my husband an me need this from time to time, even a half an hour walk on the beach does miracles.
  4. Daddy and me had a few Bobcat-less hours when we went to see the London Art Fair in Islington. He knows I love modern art so makes sure we go to the most important London art fairs, just to marvel all that beauty. Here’s a photo of one of my favourite piece: image
  5. I was invited to Tiffany Rose’s sample sale in their Chessington workshop. Ah, when you’re pregnant, you have nothing nice to wear and your favourite maternity dress maker invites you for their sample sale! I don’t think I need to add anything 😀 image Read my review about the experience here: Tiffany Rose Review (There’s still a chance to enter and win one of their dresses on my blog!)

Well, that’s my top 5 for January. Don’t forget to read Suburban Mum’s top 5 of the months! Click here:

Review: Independent Guide to Disneyland 2016

The Independent Guidebooks asked me to review their guide to Disneyland (California). It was an enjoyable task as I visited Disneyland in 2013 on honeymoon (though it was only a brief afternoon visit because we stayed in Huntington Beach). As a matter of fact, we are planning to visit again in the next 2 years.

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As a travel expert I’ve been always a fan of guidebooks and because we travel a lot we already have a small collection. This one is available printed or in Kindle version too. You can’t deny the fact, that the Internet is the only source of up-to-date information these days. Now, to start with the best feature of the guide book let me surprise you: the Independent Guidebooks series are continuously updated throughout the year and printed on demand. Which means, you buy the latest published version with the most up-to-date information. This is a completely unique approach in the guide books’ world. The guide itself is very well structured, easy to read and covers everything from getting there to the nearest non-Disney hotels outside the park (in case it’s all getting a bit too much). I also like how the printed version has readable fonts and sizes as well as reasonable amount of information on each page. Parents will be delighted to read about free and cheap souvenirs, how to jump some queues and where not to waste precious time. Disneyland is indeed a whole city compressed into a theme park, so it’s worth to explore and plan ahead the visit.

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Because it’s cheap, you need to compromise a little on the photo content’s quality, but that’s money saved for you. I think it’s a clever idea to rather invest into providing the latest updates.

If you like it, you can purchase the guide on Amazon by clicking on the following link: Independent Guide Disneyland or visit the publisher’s homepage to check out their other travel guides: Independent Guidebooks

Roaring Camp and The Redwood Grove Loop Trail (US)

If you’re looking for a day out for a curious toddler and a husband with mild train obsession – this is the place to be near San Fransisco and Santa Cruz.

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We purchased our tickets online which is strongly recommended to avoid queueing. However, it will not save you the fight for seating, this bit was a little annoying with a small toddler. There’s no time slot booked with your ticket, so you can get on any train you catch. I suggest to be early and visit in the morning or late afternoon and take one of the last trains.

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There’s two train routes to choose from: the Redwood Forest Steam Train Route and the Santa Cruz Beach Train Route. We opted for the steam train ride which is about an hour and 20 minutes but it only feels like a half an hour because you’re just enjoying the scenery of trees and the ride itself. The cars were open air with bench seating along the perimeter. The train does stop halfway and you can get out for a little walk in the magnificent redwood forest. Wonderful park-like grounds with some historical-looking buildings giving you an old-town feeling (I loved the room showing silent movies) and a lots of green field area for the little ones to run around. All employees wear historical costumes from the mid 1800’s. If you can, take your own food and have a picnic. The picnic area is great and the food you can buy at the cafe is quite bad. The best you can eat is hamburger and corn dog (yuck!). There’s a BBQ area where you can also buy food, but we didn’t eat there.

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To make the most of your day trip you can combine your Roaring Camp experience with a side trip to the Henry Cowell Redwood State Park, which is just next door. You can easily walk the Redwood Grove Loop Trail after your train ride, as it’s only 0,8 miles. It’s a wonderful walk and apart from the gorgeous old trees you can see some deers too!
Capturing Moments

Basque country in early September

Since we still can – because we’re not restricted by the unfairly short summer school holiday just yet – we have a holiday in every September.

We decided to visit the Basque country this time as British Airways flies to Biarritz. We were looking for mainly self catering options like a holiday house rental, because Bobcat was only 15 months old so we couldn’t really eat out every night with him. I think I’ve never heard about Pierre & Vacances before and I actually never thought I’d stay in such a place. Serviced holiday apartments basically. We booked this one: Pierre et Vacances Residence Le Domaine de Bordaberry and it was a pleasant surprise, just like the whole holiday. The hotel is well positioned, with coastal view, a short drive to Biarritz, to San Sebastian and to the mountains. It was well maintained, clean and well equipped (good kitchen, coffee machine, microwave, hob and fridge), but I thought there could have been more space. Our apartment was advertised for 4-5 people, but it would be really uncomfortable for that many people. Just a small double bed in a tiny bedroom, we have to set up Bobcat’s travel cot in the living area. For 2 adults and a toddler it’s good enough though. We enjoyed some nice evenings sitting on the good size balcony. The weird thing was only (for me at least), that you have to clean the place after yourself upon departure. Great pool area, and lovely gardens. Mini pool for small children and a little playground with sand. The staff was very attentive and friendly. Plenty of parking space. Bus stop right outside of the property (we rented a car though). It was a lot cheaper in September as in summer season, I think I would not stay here for the summer rates. WiFi was a bit expensive.

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We thought we are going to combine some beach-time (mummy’s idea of holiday), some mountain climbing and steam trains (daddy’s idea of holiday) and some kicking a ball around, having a pizza then falling asleep in the car (Bobcat’s idea of holiday).

Being on the Atlantic coast of France meant that it wasn’t very warm and we had a rainy afternoon or two, but we actually managed to get some sunny beach time on the stretchy beach of Bayonne and Hendaye, it wasn’t rammed of tourists and Bobcat had a great time in standing in the shallow water waiting for the waves to toss his ball into them. The beaches around here all have a natural bay form, so they are very protected. They are all sandy running alongside long and picturesque promenades. Really lovely coastal town is San Jean de Luz, relatively small, with fishing heritage and coast guarding. It’s cute old town worth an afternoon walk with all the basque architecture represented.

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Biarritz was a different story, it is indeed very posh, you can catch beautiful art nouveau and luxurious art deco elements on the casino’s building, the public swimming pool and just generally the sensation of being on the Southern-France Riviera. Great surfing at this time of the year. The chocolate museum is worth a visit. The old town has many wonderful cafes and patisseries, a paradise for macaroon and chocolate bon-bon lovers.

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Also drove down to Bilbao on a rainy day and being there for first time, I wasn’t really impressed. Apart from the Guggenheim, there’s not much interesting to see. The parks are lovely, but I had the impression, that there’s only one thing to do here on a Saturday: shopping.

The absolute favourite town was San Sebastian, I’d really like to go back. I just prefer the Spanish way of things, really 🙂 It’s got a lively, long promenade, wonderful old town and harbour area. We actually ended up driving over here for a couple of lunches and dinners because the variety of restaurants and Spanish tapas bars just a lot better than any other French town’s on the other side of the border. Very family friendly too, kids are running wild on the playgrounds and the beach, staying up late. Food is generally very kid-friendly too. The seaside is stunning! Donostia (its historic basque name) is packed with galleries, art shops, cinemas, museums and generally any art lover would be very pleased to wonder around the town.

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For Bobcat’s and daddy’s holiday fun we took Le Train de la Rhune which really is an exhilarating experience on a clear and sunny day. Better to be there early and take the first or the second train, it’s extremely popular, there can be a long waiting in the queue. Try to pre-book tickets. Once on the train, you won’t question why. Never in my life I experienced such magnificent views, you’ll literally feel that this is the view why people climb serious mountains. You’ll see all the mountains on one side and the seaside deep down, 900m lower on the other side. There’s no words for it, it’s a must see. The train ride itself is very enjoyable too, mini wild ponies (pottoks) and mountain goats to spot apart from the breathtaking view.

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We will be definitely back around here, great holiday with small children, lots to see and do.