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.
On New Years Eve 2015 Scott and I made the decision to return to Chamonix Mont Blanc after 10 years, in the hope that, as suggested by physios, consultants and GP's, a prolonged period of skiing would help our 5 year old daughter with her mild cerebral palsy.
So on our first trip in 2016 we returned briefly to Chamonix to visit the Montessori school in Argentiere for the girls to have a half day taster. This post had over a 1000 hits so thank you for your support. Now that the girls have started in the Montessori school for the season, I will be continuing posts on the Montessori education and how we are finding it.
Following our week in Chamonix, we had a fabulous two weeks skiing in Meribel. A fantastic resort. Above is Bo pictured with her amazing ski instructor, Stephan. She still talks about him now. If you're planning a trip to Meribel this season, Magic in Motion is an awesome ski school for kids! Read my post Kids Ski Lessons - Are They Worth It? This year I'll be writing much about our first family ski season in Chamonix and all things ski and kids!
We also spent a lot of 2016 discovering amazing spots in the UK. We drove down to Cornwall in May visiting beautiful Gwithian to review the Vango Idris II campervan awning (click here to read). Gwithian is a wonderful tiny village perched on the North end of St Ives Bay. With the vast expanses of empty beach and dramatic coastline, we loved it. Long beach sessions at sunset, flying kites and sizzling sausages on a beach bbq - perfect!
Treen was a favourite of ours. Rugged coastal paths leading to secret sandy coves with emerald green lagoons. Pedn Vounder is, in my opinion, the most stunning beach in the UK! But then I don't mind wobbly naturalists. I'm up for being beaten on this award so if you think your favourite beach can topple Pedn Vounder (below far left) then let me know. I'll be writing a guide to the best non-commercial campsites in Devon and Cornwall for families in 2017.
June saw us exploring the Channel Islands and writing the first of a series of posts on UK islands. Jersey, only 5 miles by 7 and a mecca for watersports is only a 5 hour ferry away from Poole. With remarkably few tourists, Jersey is a wonderful family destination. Boasting the most sunshine in the UK, beautiful sandy beaches, pumping surf and amazing seafood, put this on your bucket list as a family to visit. Click here to read read our post Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Jersey.
From Jersey we caught a tiny ferry across to micro Sark and a love affair was born. I have no doubt that we will make repeated visits to this lovely little island for many many years to come. With zero cars, the only traffic you'll find here are a bounty of bikes, a handful of tractors and the touristy horse and carts. Until you've ever experienced the bliss of traffic free roads, you'll never realise just how fierce the built-in safety mechanism inside you is to protect your little ones from them. We take it for granted. It takes a few days for that to unravel, but the peace within once it does is addictive. Here you can cycle to your heart's content around not a bit of tarmaced road. With many hire shops to choose from & with carriages and tag alongs available, families are easily catered for. Many visitors flock to Sark for the day. No. A day trip won't let you connect to the soul of this place. Spend at least two or three nights minimum. Word is that it might not stay this way forever so snatch some of the good stuff whilst it's still there. Read 4 Reasons Why Families Will Love Sark. In 2017 I'll be continuing our UK islands series by hunting down and reviewing some other amazing UK islands perfect for family outdoor adventures.
The great thing about the Channel Islands is that they're slap bang next to France. It makes sense therefore to carry on over to the Continent if you've got time. Condor Ferries sail over to St Malo (1 hour). We took this route to whizz down to Chamonix (again) to find accommodation for the Winter. The Alps in Summer are spectacular with some great family hiking trails and swimming spots. (Read about our hike to Cascade de Berard). Montreaux in Switzerland is fast becoming a favourite of ours with it's stunning lake against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps. This year I'll be writing about Montreaux and what are our top family favourites there.
Come May we'll be heading back from the Alps to our home turf in Devon. Blessed with beautiful beaches (read our 7 Amazing North Devon Beaches post) and an awesome coastline, North Devon is an epic place for families.
With Exmoor on the doorstep North Devon ticks so many boxes that it's easy never to leave. I'll be writing more about Devon, Exmoor and Cornwall in the Summer and the best beaches, hikes and experiences for families to discover. Our favourite find this year close to home was Outdoor + Active at Wimbleball Lake (below). A cross between adventure, outward bound and water sports, this place, set on the beautiful Wimbleball Lake, is perfect for adventuring families. Friendly instructors and affordable camping pods (book them early!) mean this is a firm family favourite. With so many activites on offer, it's brilliant to get families out on the water and confronting their fear factor. Read our Outdoor + Active review and our take on their fab camping pods here. With the girls trying dinghy sailing at Outdoor & Active we'll be stepping it up this Summer and reviewing a week onboard a yacht flotilla holiday in Greece.
Finally, we came full circle. 20 years after rocking up for my first winter ski season, I returned to Chamonix with my family. Full of anticipation, excitement and a tingle of fear, we've shacked up for the season 'l'hiver' and are 5 weeks into our adventure. With the girls starting school and the snow (finally) arriving, we can't wait to see what adventures we get up. We are looking forward to reviewing awesome winter mountain activities such as tandem paragliding, husky dog sledding and heli rides. Already we've ratcheted up a whole host of rad family experiences - the 'Touching the Void' glass box experience, feeling the frost of a glacier first hand in our Ice Grotto experience at the Montenver, Mer du Glace and of course, skiing most days in the most beautiful setting in the Alps, under the watchful eye of Mont Blanc.
I really want to thank all of my readers who have shown so much support over the last 11 months. Anyone who has ever read, commented, shared this website, it is much appreciated. To all our instagram, facebook fans and twitter followers, again, thank you so much - every follow, like or re-tweet means a lot.
A New Year is absolutely the best time to start planning your year. What dreams do your family have? What is on your family bucket list? We would love to know and hear of the adventures you're on or the explorations you're planning.
And to those who need a nudge, remember Mark Twain's words, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
Think it, book it, do it! Bonne Anneè
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far