At the beginning of Easter break, we went to Crete with the kids. A wonderful family trip that confirmed our fondness for Greece! Do you remember? Last April, we spent our holidays in the Peloponnese; then, in July, we sailed around Corfou in a sailboat. What do we love about Greece? The landscape, the climate, the low cost, the food (fresh fish!) and above all the warm welcome of the locals! Here in Crete, we discovered amazing hospitality and generosity! In a word, a destination you shouldn’t hesitate to explore with your family! As Crete is a big island, we focused on the western part and I organized the road trip detailed below, for a duration of 9 nights. As far as the weather is concerned, we had 7 sunny days (18 °C and big blue sky) and 2 rainy days. Also, unlike the same time last year, the temperature of the water was quite cool (I’d say 16-17 °C), so we only bathed once. Let’s say that in April, it is entirely possible for the sea to be warmer, but there is no guarantee. Anyway, my program was more focused on hiking and sightseeing. The summits were still snowy. This early in April, on the most famous beaches of the island, we were lucky enough to be almost alone; during the summer it must be very crowded!
Articles tagged with Europe (en):
On Easter week-end, we went for a family getaway to Dorset, with the grandparents. Dorset is in the South of England, along the Channel, between Hampshire where we live, and Devon that we discovered in February. For this 3-day week-end, we settled in the seaside resort of Weymouth. We had such a perfect weather, that I was sorry I didn’t take my bathing suit. Besides, the beaches were crowded! The South of England really brings an air of holidays!
Our visits in Dorset
- Durdle Door: probably the most famous place in Dorset! You have to admit it’s pretty heavenly! I’d rather specify something: you have to go up and then down quite a steepy cliff so you’d better think about sneakers!
- West Bay: famous beach with wonderful golden cliffs that you probably have already seen on the TV show Broadchurch.
- Lyme Regis: it’s the most famous spot of the coast for… fossil hunting! The children loved it!
- Corfe Castle: a ruin full of charm in a setting so typically English! A National Trust site.
- Weymouth : it’s the seaside resort where we chose to settle to visit the surroundings. In its very cute harbour, the children fish crabs while the parents drink pints 😊. There is also a big beach that was quite full! Not far from here, don’t miss the dunes. And a few kilometers away, the village of Abbotsbury.
- Bournemouth: huge beach with fine sand, bordered by coloured cabins! It was crazy how many people were here! We will go back on a quieter week-end!
First Campervan outing of the year!
Since our excursions with our Campervan in the New Forest last Autumn, we hadn’t taken our camper out. Firstly, in Winter, it’s too cold for the children to sleep under the roof because the air passes through the fabric. Secondly, since our camper is French, we had a procedure to follow to register and insure it here (the first few months, it was okay because we were still covered by our insurance as tourists, but now, we are “English”!). Anyway, for this first spring excursion, we chose a combined formula. We booked a family bedroom in a farm for Ticoeur, Titpuce and their grandparents; while with Papa Voyage we slept in the camper on the farm field, with a view on the sea, and we gathered with the rest of the family to eat a delicious English Breakfast provided by our hosts.
Practical information and good addresses to visit Dorset:
- From Portsmouth, it will take you 1 hour by car to get to Bournemouth. If you are coming from London, it will take 2 hours.
- Accommodation: I recommend Swallows Rest, the farm where we stayed in the periphery of Weymouth. The children were amused by the “collection” of hens and the beautiful garden. The homemade breakfast is excellent!
So, are you tempted by Dorset?
For a week-end, we went in the South of Devon, between Dorset and Cornwall, by Torquay, to discover the English Riviera. How did we have the idea to spend a couple of days in family in Devon? Well, I owe this good idea of a gateway in this beautiful part of England to Agatha Christie! Do you remember? A couple of weeks ago, I went to see And then there were none to the theater of Southampton. And while I was comfortably seated in my chair, I remembered that Agatha Christie’s house was located in Devon. I had stored this information in a little box in my brain because I like to visit the houses of famous people whose lives I’m interested in. Watching on the Internet, I found out that her house was only three hours away from our home; then I booked a room in a beautiful hotel in Torquay and there it was! Sometimes, it doesn’t take much for a traveling idea! On the other hand, I had no idea of what we could see in Devon! It’s only on the day before we left that I started to draft a little program for our week-end.
The creeks of the English Riviera in South Devon:
Since we didn’t know the English Riviera, we were surprised by the landscapes we saw there: it looked like our French côte d’Azur! With palm trees, big villas, a dense vegetation and beaches so cute! I didn’t expect all these dream little creeks! To be honest, had it been a couple of degrees warmer, I would have bathed! The sea was clear, wearing turquoise and emerald shades… an air of summer holidays! So I will begin by showing you those coves we had a crush on around Torquay and Brixham:
Every time, the children loved the little paths that led to the creeks, for the adventure side… And I think Titpuce would have loved to bathe as well! At this time of year, we were alone, or almost alone, in those English “calanques“. It was perfect! We could easily have imagined that we were on a desert island. Great Britain! 😉
To reach those creeks, or to go from one to another when they were close, we followed the hiking path called the South West Coast Path. Altogether, this coastal path is 1.000 km long! (It’s the kind of hiking that I would enjoy!) We will probably walk on it again, or cross it, whether in Devon, Dorset, Cornwall or Somerset! (Well, yes, we intend to find the time to explore all of “our” South-West of England!).
Brixham and the Berry Head
We really liked Brixham, a little town with a nice ambiance, organized around a very active harbour. We observed the fishing boats, the fishermen’s traps and the coloured houses along the docks. There even was a pirate boat!
Right next to Brixham, we walked on the Berry Head, in a landscape that looks like the edge of the world… A long strip of land on the sea with high cliffs and dizzying views. We walked to the lighthouse (very small lighthouse, paradoxically!) then we had tea and cakes, under the sun, on The Guardhouse Cafe terrace.
Discovery of the Dart river: Agatha Christie’s house and the romantic landscapes…
Here we are! So we visited Agatha Christie’s house (Greenway): a beautiful visit, very detailed. Agatha Christie and her husband were quite collectors so their house is full of amazing objects: even if Ticoeur and Titpuce don’t know Agatha Christie, they were intrigued by this house, a real Ali Baba’s cave, English version 😊 Also, it is fully furnished, so it really feels like we are entering in the universe of the author, which is a real privilege, since Agatha Christie was a very discreet lady. We even could see her dressing, her clothes and hear a recording of her voice. At any rate, we do understand why Agatha loved this house: the location is unbelievable! Moreover, the setting inspired her book Dead Man’s Folly. The estate is on the Dart River’s edge and all the views from the garden are lightly romantic…
We spent a long time roaming through the garden. I didn’t expect it to be blossomed but with the temperatures we have been experiencing for the last couple of weeks, there were flowers everywhere: magnolias and especially the numerous species of Camellias. We had never seen so many versions of Camellias! A beautiful collection! And how lucky were we to be able to admire them in February! On their branches, there were a lot of adorable robins!
Still on the Dart river, facing Greenway, is the adorable village of Dittisham:
Then, from the village of Kingswear, we took a ferry to Dartmouth, another picturesque village where we ate a delicious Fish and Chips at Rockfish (they also have a restaurant in Brixham). We took our lunch away and ate while seated on the edge of the river. In Kingswear, we saw a steam train running: it might be nice to plan a journey on this old train with the children (some other time!).
Not far from the river, on our way back to Torquay, we stopped to visit another house: Coleton Fishacre House & Garden. It’s a mansion from the 20s and it shows us the life of a wealthy family of that time: a visit you should plan if you like Art Deco and design. The children didn’t really enjoy the visit but they liked the garden. It was so exotic! With bamboos, huge ferns and a junglelike density! We walked until the different points of views on the sea…
Torquay and Cockington
Torquay is the big seaside resort where we stayed. Since we prefer the little creeks and wild places we only stayed in Torquay to sleep. By the way, the sunset on the sea was an amazing pink!
Torquay is very well located to move around this area. We never had to drive for a long time to visit or hike…
Not far from Torquay, you can’t miss the tiny village of Cockington known for its old thatched cottages.
Where to stay in Torquay?
I have a very good address I’d love to share with you because I thought our little hotel was a beautiful discovery: The Charterhouse. The architecture of this thatched roof house is typical of the English Riviera style. The family suite is perfect because the children really have their own room to sleep in. The decoration is very neat and very British, the breakfast is gargantuan and delicious. And, if you go in the summer, there even is a little swimming pool.
And for our next time in Devon…
Devon is big! During a week-end, we only focused on the Torquay-Brixham zone so I already established a list of what I would love to visit next time:
- Dartmoor National Park
- The old town of Totnes
- The surroundings of Salcombe (South Devon)
- The creeks of North Devon
We really loved our improvised getaway in Devon, on the English Riviera, so I thank Agatha 😉…
What about you? Are you tempted by a family trip in Devon?
We had already been to Amsterdam in the past, but it was the first time with the children. This new trip to Amsterdam was a multi-generational holiday since the grand-parents joined us there. It was the perfect city trip to have 3 generations interested! As I often say, what I miss the most in our part of England, it’s culture so I really wanted to stay in a city where culture would be highlighted. So we chose Amsterdam for a 3-day week-end. Moreover, we were very lucky because the weather was gorgeous, which is quite rare in February!
Our family strolls Amsterdam
Since we already knew the city and we wanted to adapt our stay to the children, we emphasised on Jordaan neighbourhood and we only spent a few amount of time in the hyper centre. Thus, as a family, we didn’t go to the Red Light District 😉. Another point: even if we avoided the touristic central part, from time to time, we smelled a few fragrances that were coming out of the coffee shops. That being said, the children didn’t even notice.
The canals in Jordaan neighbourhood:
It’s the perfect neighbourhood to wander along the beautiful canals bordered by buildings full of character. It’s strange because there is much less people than in the centre although it’s aesthetically and architecturally richer. Basically, I advise you to follow the Prinsengracht canal all the way, while making shorts in the perpendicular streets and the nearby canals. For example, don’t miss the Eglantiersgracht, Bloemgracht and Brouwersgracht canals. All along the Prinsengracht, you will find an endless choice of little cafés where you will be able to sit on the terrace, and from where you will quietly observe the life on the canal. We opted for this walking + coffee breaks version rather than a cruise on the canals because we wanted to take our time and avoid group visits. Anne Franck House is situated on the edge of the Prinsengracht canal (see below in the list of our visits).
During the Autumn break, we spent a week in Malta. I was longing for warmth, sea baths, and the Mediterranean where I come from. Most of all, I needed to recharge my batteries after our first weeks in England. A change of life, especially as a family, is not so easy! Also, for Ticoeur and Titpuce, who started English school, the holidays were a very appreciated break to relax and enjoy our family cocoon…
The reason why we chose Malta is because there are not many destinations from our part of Southern England. But this option suited us perfectly. We had already travelled there twice – so it was the perfect occasion to discover some new things, but also to go back to the places that we loved. I don’t know how you feel about it, but, as for me, I enjoy to visit again a place that I loved. I am delighted to travel and discover new countries as much as I am enchanted to go back to places where I feel good. In Malta, I love the cultural aspect, the beautiful architecture of the old cities, the Mediterranean landscape, the stone walls that border the roads, the prickly pear trees, the Italian influenced cooking, the small ladders almost everywhere, that invite you to go down for a bath, and above all, I love it when Summer lasts until Autumn… That’s it: I needed Summer, bathing and culture !
What did we visit during our week in Malta?
- The island of Gozo: our biggest crush of this Maltese trip… I already told you all about it in my blog post three days on Gozo.
- Ghain Tuffieha beach: for us, it’s the most beautiful beach on Malta. The sand has a beautiful orange shade, the setting is quite wild, the water is not too deep but there are waves: my Ticoeur loved it! We spent an afternoon there, until sunset. It’s a perfect spot for sunset because it’s on the western part. (NB: there were little harmless pink jellyfishes – I don’t know, maybe it’s a matter of season?)
I take this opportunity to warn you that there are not so many beaches on Malta. There are many opportunities to bathe, yes, but not necessarily big beaches. Maltese inhabitants set up ladders along the rocky coasts, or they created natural pools like on this picture:
- The towers of Maltese knights: everywhere on the Island of Malta, you will find remains of the towers that enabled to control and protect the island. Our favourite one is the Saint-Agatha Tower, the only red one…
- Mdina: it’s the ancient city, it’s a journey into the past, it’s getting lost in the maze formed by the alleys of the citadel…
- In Rabat, alongside, we visited the catacombs. I don’t really know why but I am fascinated by the catacombs – I never miss an opportunity to visit some whenever it’s possible (you have to visit those of Palermo in Sicily!). Let’s say it gives another perspective of the culture of a nation. I thought that Rabat catacombs were interesting because of their structure and their number. The visit is a little bit repetitive because the galleries look alike, but you should see it, and the kids were intrigued.
- Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples: I hesitated to go there because you have to know that those temples are located under sheds, so that they are protected from the wind and the sea… And, visually, it takes off a lot of the character of the place… But we overlooked this fact, I reframed the pictures (😉…) and we experienced this. The remains are from the IVth century BC! I was seduced by those sometimes enigmatic buidlings: the children as well, so no regret. Moreover, it’s not an expensive visit so you should go!
- Valleta and the Three Cities: it’s the third time we are going there and we still love it, especially Birgu, the prettiest of the Three Cities, with its fort, and the Collachio area in which we can stroll far from any bustle. In Valletta, we didn’t visit the famous St John’s Co-Cathedral because we already did it the last time (and the entrance fee is expensive), but you should see it if you’re coming for the first time. This time, we focused on the gardens and the café terraces and it was perfect 😊 Between Valletta and Birgu we travelled by boat.
We also dropped by Sliema (by boat) to admire Valletta from the other side and to see again some salt works. But you have to remember to watch the sea, and ignore the concrete buildings of this seaside resort.
- Marsaxlokk: our first time in this fishermen town with photogenic boats (the luzzus). Look: they have eyes! And one of them even had soft toys! This little town is ideal for a terraced lunch on the waterfront.
- St Peter’s Pool: a spot you mustn’t miss right next to Marsaxlokk. I love this kind of coves with turquoise water. It’s not adapted for young children, nor for people who don’t know how to swim. It’s a place where people go to jump or dive into the big blue sea. With Ticoeur, we had fun, but we had to reassure Titpuce who was afraid to see us disappear in the gap, even though it was not so high…
Practical information to visit Malta:
- Which season? The first thing I want to insist on is that, for me, it’s a destination you should avoid in Summer (I forewarned you). Not only is it too hot, but also it’s overcrowded and there are traffic jams. That’s what the local people told us but I believe them because the island is not adapted to an important road traffic, and there are not so many beaches. That’s why, for me, it’s not an option. I went there once in January and twice in October and it was very good. Spring must be perfect as well. Concerning the temperature, this time we had 25° outside and 24° in the water. So we could bathe (although, there’s no guarantee of course…)
- Where to stay? We had chosen 3 places to stay: 3 nights on Gozo, 2 nights in Mellieha (in this simple yet clean and spacious apartment) to visit the North of Malta and 2 nights in Birgu (in the very neat Casa Cara, an old and typical mansion – Be careful : you cannot climb on the terrace with the children) to visit the Capital and the South of the Island.
On the picture below, Melliha downtown seems so peaceful in the first light of the morning, doesn’t it? Yet, on that night, our sleep was interrupted by… an earthquake! The epicenter was off the Greece coast. It’s the first time that it happens to us and we are glad we only experienced a small version! The children didn’t feel a thing. Happy little carefree angels…
- The English side: The British past of Malta makes it easy to communicate in English with everyone (English is the official language). On the other hand, it also means that you have to drive on the left part of the road… Stay focused in the roundabouts, but otherwise, it’s easy, you’ll see! Obviously, for us, after two months in England, we are already trained 😊
Our good addresses in Malta
We ate well in Malta. The cooking is influenced by the Italian cooking, and it’s for the best! Moreover, the kids like it! Seafood and pasta are in the spotlight!
Cafés and Restaurants in Malta:
- Crystal Palace: an institution in Rabat for quick eating the famous pastizzis (some sort of turnovers stuffed with green peas, or cheese, or chicken); it’s a Maltese specialty that allow you to eat cheap for lunch. You’ll find pastizzis everywhere on the island, but it’s true that the ones we ate there were particularly good, and warm, just out of the oven.
- Fior di Latte, ice cream maker in Mdina: yummy! You’d think you were in Italy!
- Café Society: for very good cocktails to taste in a very typical street in Valletta.
- Osteria.VE: a little trattoria held by Italians. Pasta dishes are delicious. We ate there on our two evenings in Birgu.
- La Reggia: very enjoyable terrace facing the fishermen’s boats in Marsaxlokk – the seafood cooking was very fine but less generous and a little more expensive than other restaurants of our list.
- Bouquet Garni: Excellent choice of fishes – a little expensive but the quality is there.
- Our good addresses on Gozo are in my Gozo blog post 🙂
So? Are you tempted by holidays in Malta?