168 hours into Sri Lanka and we're in full swing in this warm-hearted, stunning & incredibly diverse little country. The initial apprehension and guardedness a new country brings (especially with kids) has melted away. Getting to grips with how things work here only takes a few days and we've found everything incredibly easy with kids, apart from the food which can be challenging for little European taste buds.
We're impatient to discover the rumours of remote, pristine beaches, the rich culture of ancient traditions and temples, to witness tea being picked at tea plantations high up in the hill country, riding one of the most stunning train journeys in the world, not to mention the abundance of exotic wildlife.
As we become more clued up, we'll let you know our 27 day travel itinerary and top tips for travelling this amazing country with kids.
It's impressive what you can experience in 7 days in Sri Lanka. Even taking it slower as a family. Read on to hear our first impressions of this epic country.
You'd think North Devon an unlikely candidate for quick, quirky delicious grub. But hip food trucks and other offbeat eating holes, common in the capital are popping up all over the North Devon coastline. Read on to find out 4 awesome food stops from trucks, shipping containers and pop ups to make feeding the family a joy this Summer.
Lundy is like marmite. You'll love it or hate it. Anyone like us, with even a whiff of outdoors adventure, are guaranteed to fall in love with this windswept granite island. Only 10 miles off the dramatic North Devon coastline, Lundy, owned by the National Trust, is Britain's first ever marine conservation park. Stunningly beautiful, a haven for wildlife & with only 28 permanent habitants, Lundy is the perfect place for adventuring families to explore. Here we give you our top 10 tips to get the most out of your trip.
I've hankered to stay in a lighthouse since I was a young girl, my nose buried in countless Famous Five novels. I still can't think of a more exciting prospect of bedding down for the night, perched on a blustery headland, the rough seas lashing salty spray against the windowpanes.
My childhood wish was finally realised, amid the blowy Atlantic westerly winds on our recent stay in the charming Old Lighthouse Upper on Lundy Island.
The Old Lighthouse accommodation on Lundy island is the perfect base to explore the wilds of this tiny island
The Eden Project is a surreal, unworldly landscape born in a rather peculiar location. Hiding in a quarry in Cornwall, it's the brainchild of Tim Smit, who had a vision to build the largest captive rainforest in the world. Changing this barren quarry crater forever, the Eden Project, has been quoted as the 8th Wonder of the World, and it might just be one of the most beautiful transformations you might ever witness.
The Eden Project is an all round fabulous place for families to lay eyes on, to soak up facts, to get touchy feelie, and to meet what you eat from around the world. It's also a brilliant rainy day destination.
The Eden Project certainly has the wow factor with views like this from the Rainforest Lookout
Putsborough Sands regular pulls in a catch of best beach awards, the latest being 'Best Beach in the UK by Trip Advisor in 2015 and 2016'.
This is one of our favourite walks since my youngest could manage it solo from the age of 3 or 4. It manages to squeeze in a bit of everything and is varied enough to grip interest entirely round the circuit - a must for my little one where walking can be tough unless it's disguised as a chase, a treasure trail, or a game. Plus it ends on the beach so they forget the walk was ever there by the time they meet the welcoming waves and the sweet taste of ice cream dissolves on their tongues.
Whilst you might want to park and flop on the beach for the day, this walk is short enough to squeeze into the morning to get the heart pumping whilst walking the dog or a good one when the sky is moody, charcoal with impending rain (we always end up at the beach cafe which is a fab place to shelter from storms).
When the sun shines in Devon, it's the most glorious place in the World.
Unpacking our Winter life and moving back into our Devon home is no simple task. Yet within a week of Devon under our belts, the girls have slipped easily back into their old school, our bags and boxes have been emptied & re-stored and it begins to feel like we never left. My beloved garden I was hankering for, is verdant green and brimming with beautiful blooms. My surfer husband and girls have re-acquainted themselves with their wetsuits & re-discovered our invigoratingly chilly ocean. The rugged, stunning coastline we call home seems more beautiful that ever as we view everything with an appreciation only seen through recently absent eyes. One of the huge pluses of being away from home, is returning home. Happy days.
There's some brilliant family action stuff to do in Devon so if you're heading this way for long bank holiday weekend, the entire week, or if you're lucky enough to live in these parts, then we've rounded up the best outdoorsy, adventure family stuff to get your teeth into this half term.
The North Devon coastline is stunning. Blessed with magnificent stretches of golden sand to secret secluded coves, this designated area of outstanding natural beauty is a fabulous place to explore as a family. We're lucky to call this beautiful coastline our home and with us fresh off the ferry from our Winter season in the Alps, we are definitely staying local this half term.
Here are our top seven family beaches for you to discover this half term.
Whilst the valley of Chamonix can be daunting with it's incredibly steep mountain terrain, there are still plenty of easy family hikes to some incredible view points.
Despite the last minute ditch by Winter to smother the valley white, the Spring sun is hotting up and all of the lower trails are now bright green & snow free. Prime for biking and hiking. The beauty of visiting in May is that it's inter-season. Whilst other ski resorts shut down, Chamonix's no ghost town in inter-season. Yes, the high altitude trails are still inaccessible and yes, the lifts are out of action until mid June, but May is the perfect month to visit to take advantage of rock bottom low season tariffs, share the streets with locals rather than tourists and explore the lower mountain trails.
I'm recovering from my recent knee op, so sadly, the trails are out of bounds for me. Today, I look back at one of the pretty amazing kid friendly trails we took in December up to Europe's longest glacier at Les Bossons. We were ripe then with anticipation for the season ahead and eagerly waiting for the first snow dump. After teaching the girls about glaciers, how they work and why they are retreating, we hiked up to the Les Bossons glacier in Chamonix to see one up close and personal.
LE BOSSON GLACIER HIKE - (LE MONT TO CHALET DU GLACIER DU BOSSON BUVETTE)
LEVEL - MODERATE, STEEP, GOOD TRAIL, UNSUITABLE FOR BUGGIES
TIME - 1 HOUR UP, LESS DOWN (PARK IN HAMLET OF LE MONT)
Glacier des Bossons is the easiest hike up to a glacier from the valley floor in Chamonix. In Summer you can even take a chairlift up to the buvette (snack restaurant) to get to this view.
Laid up in bed day 3 after my ACL knee surgery, I'm enjoying the peace and quiet of my two girls being on back to back playdates. My leg feels like a tree trunk, heavy and clumsy. In fact it almost feels like a cadaver's leg and no part of me at all. The pain fluctuates and apart from my hourly physio exercises, I'm left with only stillness and an incredible view of the Alps. With seemingly unlimitless time on my hands, I turn to what I do best - travel planning. I'm unsure yet as to the limitations placed on me now this Summer with the intense rehab required after this major surgery but what I do know is in a few short weeks we'll be bidding farewell to this beautiful Chamonix Valley and excitedly making our way sea bound to Devon.
Whilst we are looking forward to seeing our friends, being back in our own beds and for me, to potter in my beloved garden, we also have Summer holidays to think about. We Airbnb our home during the rammed 6 week Summer holiday so where to go? Stay local, travel back to Europe or to head long haul?
Here are my 5 epic locations perfect in August for adventuring families.
It's seldom a relaxed affair, going out for dinner as a family. Chamonix has some damn fine restaurants, most of which you wouldn't even consider dragging your kids to.
Surprisingly, finding a good family restaurant in Chamonix is harder than you'd imagine. In many restaurants the tables are packed like sardines with little room to throw a cat, never mind a child play. Play? In a French restaurant? Heaven forbid! Children in France are terribly well behaved. Mine in comparison must be an absolute disgust to most French families looking on.
For us, we don't want to pay through the nose, we need to have ROOM, good food and a kitchen opening at 6 rather than 7 (terribly British!). Here are our pick of the pops on what, in our opinion, are the best family non-savoyard restaurants the length and breadth of the Chamonix Valley.
Chamonix doesn't spring to mind as a 'family friendly' resort. Black runs, steep terrain & die hard mountaineers bien sûr, but skiing with kids?
I admit, after spending 6 Winter seasons in my twenties hooning around Chamonix's slopes, the idea of bringing my kids back here to do a Winter season daunted me. I wondered if the slopes would simply be too steep for them in this sheer V shaped valley and repeatedly questioned whether we wouldn't be better choosing a more family friendly resort such as Morzine or Meribel.
I needn't have worried. Chamonix actually has loads of child friendly pistes (I just never had them on my radar before) and has, in fact, got a lot more family friendly in recent years with a concerted effort on pistes and areas specially designated for families (such as the Mont Blanc Legend area on Flégère & the Ski Camp zone at Les Houches.)
If you're here in Chamonix or heading this way, read on to find the friendliest mountains in the valley to ski with kids.
Family skiing in Chamonix? Are you mental? Actually no, there's so much to do with kids on Chamonix's pistes
On ski days in Chamonix we have our pick of five mountains but each time our 6 year old begs us to take her to La Flégère (part of the linked Brévent-Flégère ski area). The lure being the totally brilliant Mont Blanc Legend kids zone. More and more ski resorts are now providing kid friendly pistes and Chamonix is no exception. It's hands down her favourite piste to ski. So if you're on a family ski holiday in Chamonix with kids, be sure to check it out.
The Mont Blanc Legend kids zone on La Flégère, Chamonix, is perfect for families
With skiing still off the menu for my pegleg, my poles and I, we decided a change of scenery - mountains to city was in order. Italy is bang on our doorstep (15 minutes through the Mont Blanc tunnel) so last weekend we headed to Milan to grab some city culture. I'll be writing in more detail about the highlights of the city but for now let me take you on a photo tour of Milan.
Chamonix is chockablock with fabulous restaurants of every cuisine. Book a babysitter and head to one of these bad boy eateries when you're in town. Tried and tested, here are our top restaurant choices in Chamonix for when you are blissfully 'sans enfants'. Bon appétit!
With ski fatigued tiddlers all tucked up in bed, get your glad rags on and enjoy some fabulous cuisine in Chamonix
A snow holiday can be a fantastic bonding experience for families. Spending time on the slopes is a sure fire way to spend great quality time together and something that 3 generations can enjoy together. That said, with so many other people enjoying the piste, it's essential to know how to keep your family safe. Here are our 11 tips to making sure your kids are safe on the slopes this Winter.
My 8 year old has been tanking it down the pistes recently and with the Alps at their busiest in February (the pistes are burgeoning with holiday makers) her speed makes me cringe. We've had another chat today about the rules of the piste, knowing her limits and the consequences of hitting someone at 30mph.
Whilst I am proud she is turning into a fabulous skier, the ignorance of having never crashed at high speed means her confident has grown ten fold. Dodging the tourists at breakneck speed while straight lining the home run has now become an adrenaline game of cat and mouse. And accordingly to my other half (as I'm now out of action on the slopes) she's developed an annoyance when someone overtakes her on the piste and follows in hot pursuit intent on trying to snake past them. And this is on Les Grands Montets, the highest and burliest mountain in the Chamonix valley where only the experienced ride. Lesson 1 - lose the attitude.
So a reality check for my 8 year old and a much needed deliberation and re-visitation on piste conduct. Do your kids have spacial awareness whilst skiing? Do they know the rules of the piste?
Catch the Aiguille du Midi cable car up to the finest view in Chamonix. Ascend to the dizzying height of 3842m and freak your kids out (& yourselves!) by standing in a glass box suspended over a horrifying 1000m. What's not to love?
Not only that. The 360 degree panoramic views over the French, Swiss & Italian Alps are stunning. Plus it's the closet you can get to the jewel in the crown, Mont Blanc, without strapping on crampons, wielding an ice axe & hiring a guide. A ride up the Aiguille du Midi is definitely a go go for families who love adventure.
The fear factor and stoke valve open standing in the 'Step into the Void' glass box, Aiguille du Midi
With the February half term holidays on the doorstep, many of you families out there will be looking forward to your annual ski trip or maybe your first? The whole of France go on holiday at staggered weeks throughout February so ski resorts all over the Alps will be fit to burst. Squeezing a family ski holiday into one short week is frantic so make sure you do some clever planning ahead to maximise your time on the slopes and avoid the queues.
Maximise family time on the hill by booking lift passes, ski hire & lessons online
Being injured in a ski resort sucks. Being injured so early in the season after spending 11 months planning our dream family ski season is heart wrenching. My first ski season in 10 years comes crashing down between my smashed, semi-useless knees and I've shed enough tears to fill a wine carafe. Enough! It's important to stay positive when a sports injury takes you out of action.
Try to see the silver lining of being sat on your backside injured - throw yourself into studying a language, start a hobby or do something (non-physical) you've always been meaning to do but never had time.
Family Ski Insurance - 6 tips to make sure you're covered & why a Carte Neige / E111 combo just won't cut it
Insurance. We all hate it. We all question it at some point or another. Are we paying too much? Are we paying too little and if so would we really be covered if the poo hit the fan?
With the late start to the ski season this Winter, most ski resorts in Europe are still drastically low on their base layer. Meaning rocks that are normally covered by now, remain visible and hard to the human form, particularly at fast speed. Skiing without insurance is fool hardy.
Already this season I’ve got two X-rays, an ECG, and an ultrasound under my belt and am booked in for an MRI at the hospital this Thursday. I'm gutted of course, that I've spend 3 weeks off the hill and counting from a suspected ACL rupture and meniscus damage. I'm hoping I can ski again once we know what damage is done and what brace to wear. Nevertheless insurance is quite a subject in our home at the moment. Thankfully it's nothing serious but I will be claiming back either through E111 or through our Ski Club GB ski insurance policy once we know the total bill.
Check our 6 family ski insurance tips before heading out to the mountains this Winter to make sure you and your family are fully covered and why we don't advise the Carte Neige / E111 combo.
'Lets face it – affordable is not a word we would associate with skiing. Gone are the days you could easyjet over to the Alps for a cheeky weekend – blasting the pistes at warp nine & drinking to oblivion at après ski!
There’s 3 or 4 or 5 (or more) of you now and that’s just added at least another 0 to the price of your holiday. So whether you choose to book last minute, fly, drive, self cater or chalet style your ski holiday – skiing as a family ain’t cheap, so do you really want to add kid's ski school to the long list of expenses?
I’m a big fan of kid’s ski lessons and it’s not just about getting some time off. Here’s why.
375 days ago my husband and I made a concrete decision. To move to France to do a ski season. With our children.
As 2016 recedes, it is with gratitude and a smile that I wave it goodbye. 2016 for us was a year of planning & anticipation. And the year I started The Family Freestylers blog. A lot can happen in a year, 365 days. Decisions made that change your lives. Today we finally realised a dream of our own. Walking through the snow with our children to their first day at school in France.
Thank you so much to everyone that's shown so much support for The Family Freestylers blog and our dream of heading to the snow. Here's a round up of our best bits of 2016 and where we'll be heading in 2017.
Make sure you carve time into your Alps schedule to catch the Montenvers funicular from Chamonix to France's largest glacier, the Mer de Glace. The cute, crimson toylike train, Chamonix's oldest tourist attraction, has been shunting sightseers to arguably the most stunning mountain scenery in Europe since 1908. A fab family day out, kids will love the excitingly steep train ride and the adventure of walking into a real live glacier (the ice grotto). It's easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the surrounding mountains, and it's only up here that tourists can get close enough to touch the glacier first hand (unless you're skiing the Vallée Blanche). Dwarfed by jagged peaks and the spectacular scenery, enjoy a drink on the observation deck & gaze over the snaking tongue of the sea of ice. Definitely put this on your family to do list.
First time packing for a family ski trip? Here’s my essential ski kit for kids guide - the basics plus a few extra tips to keep your little ones warm and happy in the white stuff.
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far