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    Blogs — Travel

    Ideal short break abroad - Boulogne Sur Mer

    Ideal short break abroad - Boulogne Sur Mer

    Long wide soft sandy beach, fresh delicious seafood and a children friendly town is not expected a mere 20 minutes drive from Calais but Boulogne Sur Mer was a lovely surprise.  

    The short 40 minutes on the Eurotunnel to cross The Channel was thoroughly enjoyed by our boys. They thought driving our car onto the double decker train was 'so cool'.  The time passed quickly.  As soon as we ate our packed lunch, took a trip to the toilets we had arrived in France.

    We decided to stop at the Carrefour hypermarket in Calais. We stocked up on some amenities but had we done our research we would have realised there's a small Carrefour nearby in town.  It's small town so there's no need to stop off in Calais unless you're arriving out of ours.

    We arrived mid afternoon and all the boys wanted to do was hit the beach.  The weather was sunny and warm with a breeze.

    They expended a lot of energy chasing the kite up and down the  beach.  There were only tears when big brother lost his grip and the kite blew along the coast. Imagine four grown adults and four little kids chasing it desperately trying to catch it before it flew up over the hills.  Only lots of cuddles and the promise of a new kite could console big brother. Wny did the beach shop close so early?

    It was a good time to get ready for dinner.  You can see our spacious apartment in the photo above. It was right across the street from the beach. Super convenient and very comfortable. 

    We randomly picked a well reviewed restaurant - Fleur del Sel from Tripadvisor not knowing it was probably too posh for kids.  Luckily we were the first ones through the door but we were all just so conscious the noise the kids were making that it made it much less enjoyable than it could have been.  To be fair no one made any comments or gave us any nasty looks and the restaurant were very accommodating with the children.  Still we did get out of there as quick as we could.  After we apologised the staff said 'they're just children -it was no trouble at all' and from our experience after the weekend Bouloge sur Mer is a very child friendly town.

    On Sunday morning we slowly made our way to the fish and grocer's market.  There's just something about fresh local produce that makes me buy more than we can eat.  Fresh bread and cheese made us too full for our lunch of simple fresh tomatoes and pasta.  Be sure to try some of the local oysters.  I don't think you can get much fresher than at the fish market.  Thanks to other half's fish skills we were able to indulge in the freshest seafood.  


    Crab pasta

    The old town is beautiful and worth a walk round.  We only discovered it when my friend and I nipped off just before dinner to buy some pastries for dessert.  Be sure to not make the mistake we did as they do close and sell out early.  After driving to 2 that were closed we did manage to find one just before it closed at 7pm - Le Délice de Palais.  .From the handful that were remaining and unembarrassingly bought out of desperation they were really yummy. It's just a shame we had to share it with the kids when they noticed we came home with cake looking boxes.   

    It was a very relaxed weekend with very little planned and plenty of fresh air. We definitely made the most of the beach across the road and the play ground - it's an ideal destination for a short weekend.  We didn't do many paid attractions but lots of walking around the town, beach and marina.   For those wanting to entertain the kids with more culture there's the sealife centre, museums and cathedrals to keep you busy.

    Hot off the press - new baby products coming to the UK!

    Hot off the press - new baby products coming to the UK!

    We had a wonderful trip to Cologne to look at new, innovative and stylish baby and children's products exhibited from around the world.  It was our third trip and every year we are surprised and excited by the inventions and products that come to the market and only wish we had these when our kids were little.

    So here are our top 7 baby products:

    7. Extra large changing mat by Pinolino

    The nursery furniture by Pinolino were definitely generating nursery envy for us. Spacious 3 unit wardrobes with clean, modern lines would make any room fit for a prince or princess. What drew our attention was the extra large changing table.  There was an extra panel extending the back of the chest of drawers and the changing mat was wide so you can change the baby front on instead of sideways.  Great for those wriggly babies.

    6. Microscooter cabin case and seat in 1



    This cabin sized suitcase will take away the stress out of airports.  When you've checked in your buggy and you have a toddler who wants to be carried yet you have your own suitcase, changing bag and extras to carry, this suitcase converts to a wheely chair, almost like a ride along bike, for your little one.  They say it supports up to 30kg but I had a sneaky ride on it - check me out!  Just like their scooters it is well designed, sturdy construction and great manoeuverability. 

    5. Biobuddi eco building blocks

    This is an amazing company using sugarcane waste to build safe, eco-friendly and sustainable building blocks.  They have a good range of vibrant coloured educational sets as well as building playsets.  These are a great plastic free alternatives and compatible with Duplo.

    4.Je Porte Mon Bebe physio carrier



    A baby carrier that meets all your requirements from birth up to 20kg!  This carrier is suitable for front and back (from 6 months) carrying and for all season.  We were instantly drawn to this carrier as it has a flap that reveals a mesh lining for warmer weather which is a thumbs up as we know how hot and sweaty carriers can get for both baby and parent.

    3. WeeKee - changing mat for cars

    Imagine you're driving in the middle of nowhere, your car boot is full and your baby needs a number 2 nappy change with no changing facilities in sight.  We remember very well. Take a look at the superb innovative solution: WeeKee car changing mat comes in a small pack that self-inflates in seconds and counters the incline of the car seat.  It's so easy to roll back up and repack.

    2. Maxi cosi infant carseat with air bag (Axissfix Air)

    This car seat, although an expensive initial outlay, is suitable from approximately 4 months, for toddlers and going up to 4 years old.  It's the world’s first car seat with built-in airbags. In the case of an accident within 0.05 second the airbags inflate with cold air which give crucial protection to your child’s head, neck and shoulders.  It has a 360° swivelling seat to make putting your little one in and out of the car seat a little bit easier.  It also has a forward facing seat option from 15 months.

    1. Elvie breastpump

    Our favourite product wowed us - the Elvie breastpump.   This is a revolutionary breastpump worth the £299 for one pump.  It's handsized pump fits into a nursing bra without leads so that you can remain mobile and get on with what you need to do.  The world’s first silent wearable breast pump has a 2 hour battery life with a BPA free bottle for 150mL pump capacity and all parts can be sterilised where required.  A novel feature of the Elvie breastpump is that you can turn it on using a mobile app that also tracks how much you've pumped with a pump history. We think that if you can carry on with your daily life this could simulate breastfeeding and promote milk production during expressing. Amazing product! 

    Box Hill Natural Play Trail for young children

    Box Hill Natural Play Trail for young children

    It's coming up to the end of British summer time so we thought we'd make the most of the dry sunny weather and do something outdoors but something different to the usual parks.  It was around 18-20°C -too cool for an enjoyable beach day so we decided to try the Box Hill Natural Play Trail in Surrey

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    How do you plan a stress free family holiday?

    How do you plan a stress free family holiday?

    We all need a break, and family holidays can be the highlight of the year. But not knowing what to do and where to go when you have young children can really take the fun out of it all. It’s different for everyone, but here’s my guide to planning a fun and stress free, family holiday with young children. 

    Before children, my husband and I would plan these lovely city breaks where we would spend our evenings checking out the local food, drink and culture and our days meandering the streets whilst recovering from the night before. We’ve never really been beach-lazing or country-walking people. But when our first daughter arrived, we suddenly realised our night-owl holidays would need to change dramatically. But to what? 

    Some families manage these amazing long haul holidays, and their children magically fall into a new routine. Sadly, we are not that family, but we didn’t learn that until our first holiday together.

    We went to see my family in the states. We planned flights to correspond with sleeping times. (She was too excited to sleep). We were going to one of my best friends’ weddings. (And ended up leaving the evening of dancing and drinks far earlier than hoped, due to jet lag and a very unhappy baby). And planned a return to work the following week. (My husband had 24 hours in London before flying back out to the states for business). It was a disaster, and both of us finished the holiday more stressed and exhausted than before we went.


    Since then, we’ve been much less ambitious with how far we go and how much we plan and it’s worked out so much better for us. Once the girls are a bit older we’ll definitely plan some bigger adventures (I can’t wait to take them to Japan, for instance). But for now, here’s a snapshot of what works for us.

    1. Direct flights only, and under four hours away
    When we flew to see my family, we had a connecting flight in Chicago. On the long flight, our daughter was pretty amazing even though she’d been awake almost the entire time. But when we had to go through security a second time and board a second plane, she lost it. And then we lost it. There were tears on both sides. So now, we plan things so that the airplane ride is part of the fun, and the girls can crash once we reach our destination. Where possible, we also fly out of City Airport, as it’s so close to our home and SO easy!

    2. Book into an AirBnB or KidandCoe
    We had grand illusions of booking a suite in an amazing resort with a pool and restaurant. And then we realised we’d all be sleeping in the same room and we’d have to head to bed or hang out outside so not to risk waking the girls. Luckily, there are so many options nowadays that are set up for families travelling (high chairs, travel cots, children’s cutlery, toys, and a local guide to the neighbourhood) that it’s easy to find accommodation where the adults can hang out once the kids are asleep, and they have space to run around without bumping into other visitors. It’s so low-stress that it has completely transformed the way we travel and we’ve decided to save the boutique hotels as a special treat when it’s just the adults travelling.

    3. Find a destination with a good mix of outdoor and indoor activities
    The weather is not dependable, and we’ve always had terrible luck. In the past, I’ve joked that our friends should prepare for a heatwave in London whenever we go away, as often the weather is better back home than it is wherever we’re going. But we’ve found if we plan for a bit of everything, we won’t be disappointed or attempting to keep kids from going stir crazy if our sunshine holiday is a total washout.

    4. Look for family-friendly cities
    One of our favourite holidays to date was a short trip to Amsterdam. The city is AMAZING for kids of all ages with so many enormous parks and playgrounds to explore. The restaurants embrace children, and often have a toy box in the corner as well as a good kids menu. The museums are very family-friendly – often with activities for the kids and space where they can run around. And their science museum was so much fun that my husband and I happily spent the day there.

    5. Eat out for lunch, and home for dinner. 
    The girls hit a wall around 6pm and if we’re not ‘home’ for dinner, bath and bedtime it is not pretty. We’d once ordered food, only to ask for it to be boxed up so we could run out the door with a tantruming toddler. Lunchtime, however, is another story and it’s a nice excuse for us to sit down, people-watch, and rest a bit.

    6. Take familiar foods as back up
    I pack a snack bag and restock it at the local supermarket so that we always have something on hand that I know my girls will eat. It means I’m not stressed, and we can always put a swift end to a hunger-related tantrum. We’re also happy to encourage her to try local foods, without panicking that either girl will go hungry.

    7. Read travel blogs before you go
    There are so many families far more adventurous than ours, who travel all the time. I’ve found them an amazing resource for insider’s tips on where to go and what to do, depending on your children’s ages. A Cup of Joe and Somewhere Slower are two of my favourites, but a quick Google will give you loads of inspiration.

    8. Keep it simple
    Don’t over-pack or create a complicated agenda. We try to limit ourselves to one suitcase for everyone, and one carryon for each adult. As the kids get older, they’ll be allowed one carryon bag as well as long as we don’t end up carrying it too. We keep our days open and flexible, with a holiday-long hit list that we can tick off in any order and on any day. With low expectations, we’re always pleasantly surprised. 

    So there’s our current fail-safe guide to planning the perfect time away as a family. We’re thinking this summer that the Italian Lakes look like a nice mix of downtime, nature and culture but would love to hear where you’re planning too! And any tips you have, please do share in the comments below.

    Is Istanbul an ideal family city break?

    Is Istanbul an ideal family city break?

    When planning a trip for the new year, I tend to book a trip for February as it’s something to look forward to after the Christmas/New Year festivities. However this year, was a special year for my hubby - his 40th birthday so I surprised him with a family birthday getaway in early January to Istanbul - a city that sits in between Europe and Asia across the Bosphorous strait. The flight is 3.5 hours so in terms of flight times, it’s a good city destination to head to with children. If you are anything like me (and I would imagine most families), travelling with young children, it’s always better to plan ahead or have some ideas of what to do, places to eat and travel checks beforehand. Here are some of my tips on what to do and how to handle a city break with 2 young boys in the beautiful Turkish city. 

    Getting there hassle free

    We always seem to take early morning flights on our holidays and our boys seem to cope well with them.  I think the tip here is to try to sleep as early as possible so that you can get maximum sleep as even if your kids manage to nap here and there during the day, it’s unlikely you will be able to close your eyes until your head falls on that pillow at the end of the day. Being sleep deprived for 4 years (that’s for another blog!), I usually have no problems falling asleep at any given chance. 

    Try to pack as much as possible a few days before you travel so that there's little or nothing to do the night before travel - giving you more chance to relax and get into holiday mode.  Perhaps write a packing list ahead of your holiday of what needs packing, some things you can pack early and others, you may only be able to pack at the last minute so having this on a checklist is very handy. 



    Hands free

    We checked our luggage in and this time our buggy too.  Little one (1.5years old) likes to walk and can walk independently for longer so we felt a bit more free not pushing a buggy around with us - I am sure you can understand how much quicker it is to walk up some stairs or going on escalators rather than diverting a mile to locate the lifts, only to wait until the 5th lift arrives, before you can go in. I kept the baby carrier on me so that if he did want to be carried or got a bit tired I could carry him and still keep my hands free.

    I usually pack a spare set of clothes for the kids in case of accidents – luckily I did as the eldest one had a small accident when he couldn’t use the bathroom during take off.  

    Hunger pangs

    There was a time when you could always rely on British Airways to serve a rather bland, overly mayo’d sandwich and yoghurt but even British Airways albeit short haul economy didn’t serve food or drinks onboard so we tend to buy our food and drink before boarding. Like anywhere you go, when travelling with kids and in particularly when being constrained to your seat, thousands of miles up in the sky, it’s very important to have snacks, snacks and more snacks. For our kids food always calms so we make sure we have plenty at all times!  

    We've arrived

    Don't forget you need a Turkish visa to enter Turkey.  They cost $20 and can be purchased online before you fly or at the airport when you arrive.  It's both cheaper and quicker to do it before hand.  Be warned that you cannot change any details on the visa once you submit it online so make sure you get it right.  I made a mistake on mine and had to pay for it twice. It was painful.  

    Hidden gem

    Our first dinner in Istanbul was at a local family restaurant called Yakup 2. We would have passed it walking down the street had it not been recommended by our trusted host.  It is a very traditional place serving delicious Turkish appetisers and the portions are good.  Their seafood is really good.  We ordered seconds of the anchovy and calamari.    Service very quick and efficient, so order as you eat so you don’t over order.  The waiters were polite and considerate. We even tried the local tipple.  Yeni Raki as well as the turnip juice.  Both an acquired taste. 

    Is it nutty?

    What we didn’t realise is walnuts are popular in Turkish cuisine. Some of you may know (from reading my early weaning blogs) my eldest has a severe allergy to peanuts and walnuts.  After his first mouthful he commented his tongue was itching.  I carry his medicines – adrenaline pens and antihistamines everywhere so gave him some anti-histamine and luckily that stopped any reaction.  So do check before ordering what ingredients are in the local dishes.

    Lazy morning

    We had a lazy next morning and didn’t leave our apartment for breakfast until 11am. I blame the jet lag, despite only a 3 hour time difference. However it might have been more to do with the long day and that Yeni Raki we had the previous evening! Kids being kids, cannot wait until lunchtime for their breakfast so luckily I had packed some cereal which they had when they woke.  This is something I tend to do on trips now as it gives you that extra bit of time in your room, rather than having to dash out early morning to feel the kids. We eventually ventured into town – don’t follow google maps. It doesn’t recognise many of the small roads and will send you on a tour of the town instead of a direct route.  Best to ask for directions before you head off as well as using googlemaps


    We slowly made our way to the quaint little gem of a restaurant called Privato Cafe.  It’s hidden away in the Galata area, just around the corner from the Galata Tower which was our first ’tourist’ sightseeing spot.  They were super friendly and very accommodating with our dietary requirements, although you will need to explain to them exactly what vegan is.  They definitely tried but the vegan concept is still very new.  My husbands’ twin is vegan and our host helped me source a vegan birthday cake.  He and I must have contacted around 8-10 bakeries and cafes to make a nut free vegan cake.  We had to specify exactly what we didn’t want in it.  The result was a delicious fruity tart.  You couldn't taste it didn't contain eggs or butter at all. Back to breakfast, the village breakfast was a delight, Homemade jams, local cheeses, hot and cold plates to try – this was a large breakfast so take your time.  We also tried the mezze platter which was a hit.  The vegetable soup was probably their weakest dish but still edible.  By the time we finished eating, it was past midday so we felt it was justifiable to finish the meal with some local quince desserts. 2 portions to be exact.  It was definitely very heavy (and sweet) but worth a try. Our stomachs were full and we were ready to hit the Galata Tower.

    Istanbul is hilly. Very hilly.  So expect to walk up and down hills – a lightweight buggy will help if you still have young ones who like to rest.  Romanesque in style  Galata Tower was the tallest building when it was built.  For 25TL (£5) there is a restaurant and café on the upper floors as well as an observation tower that gives you a magnificent view of Istanbul and Bosphorus.  There is a lift that takes you to the upper floors or the stairwell - do note, buggies have to be left as soon as you exit the lifts so remember that baby carrier although the observation tower is very tight and it was a squeeze with the baby on my back to get past people who stopped to take in the view. 

    Snack attack

    Our favourite snack in Istanbul was a bagel/pretzel mix equivalent called Simit that is covered with sesame seeds. It was a bargain at 1.50TL equivalent to about 30p.  They are sold all over the city in mobile carts.  They were a hit with the boys and adults alike.  Definitely saved us when we were hungry in between meals.

    Must see



    The only thing I knew I wanted to see whilst in Istanbul was the Blue Mosque.  It lived up to my expectations.  The handmade ceramic blue tiles and stained glass window emitting natural light was simply beautiful.  The chanting in the background just set the atmosphere perfectly.  The extended family stayed home to rest and both kids were napping by the time we visited the mosque so hubby didn’t get a chance to go in to enjoy the mosque because buggies aren’t allowed in.  The great thing is that it’s free to visit with scarves and skirts to borrow if you are not dressed appropriately.

    The Topkapi Palace was a lovely visit too.  It is now a grand museum to carefully displayed items in spacious surroundings.  The entrance fee was 40TL (£8) and if you expect to visit a few palaces and museums go for the museum pass 85TL which will also save you time queuing to buy tickets and entrance.

    Unfortunately we ran out of time and didn’t get a chance to visit Hagia Sophia which is supposedly more beautiful than Topaki Palace.  Oh well – we’ll just have to come back and visit again 😊

    Let’s shop

    I’d heard of the grand bazaar. I’d heard that it’s the equivalent of Westfield for markets.  But I didn’t realise how big it actually is.   It’s one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops.  We were there for over 5 hours and probably only visited about 10 shops.  We loved chatting to the shop owners and being shown their goods and told how they’re made and how to use them.  We were on the hunt for dried figs for my mum and spices for hubby.  We left with over a kilo of spices, 5kg of figs and 10 boxes of Turkish delights as well as 2 copper coffee pans and coffee glasses.The faint hearted can find it overwhelming especially with the 250-400,000 daily visitors.  Just go and expect to be offered everything you don’t need at a price you’re expected to haggle at.  Have fun!

    Getting around

    Taxis are very reasonable in Istanbul and very convenient but be careful when you’re travelling at peak hours as a 20 minute journey can easily be over an hour or even 2. The great thing is uber works here too!  The metro and trams are also very handy and easy to use.  We took the metro to our apartment and it only took us 50 minutes door to door (with 2 kids and a hobbling father in law in tow).

    Sleep Sleep Sleep

    We stayed in a beautifully restored apartment hosted by the ultra friendly, very helpful and kind Daoud. Literally a few minutes walk from the metro and situated in the cool part of town, a short walk to funky restaurants, shops and Galata Tower.  The apartment was super clean and fully equipped with everything you might need. Small touches like fresh fruit and bread, milk and water was provided.  The amenities that you’d expect in a 5 star hotel, such as luxurious towels, slippers, comfy beds and the view was stunning.  If you have older children, I would recommend the duplex apartment - the terrace will give you amazing views of the Golden Horn and the fantastic barbeque was calling for us to be used.  

    For next time

    We underestimated how little time we would get to do everything we wanted with such a large party so we didn't get a chance to visit a ham, which was definitely on my list to do.  We were recommended this beautiful place called Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami.  Definitely a treat but definitely worth the extra.  There are many more local cheaper options but not as luxurious.  

    Over and out

    I can't rate Istanbul enough.  It was absolutely charming.  Beautiful architecture, friendly people, weather was sunny and dry, all topped off with an amazing host. Thank you for an unforgettable trip.