November 2, 2022

Travelling corner: My summer 2022 in South Devon, UK

I know it’s already November but I still dwell on our travels in summer 2022. It was our second trip as a family of 5, so still a big adventure for us all. Also, at that time, I really felt I needed a break from our daily routine, so we decided to make the most of the summery weather and we headed to South Devon.

Little Dartmouth and Dartmouth

We decided to stay near Dartmouth, a river-side town. We recently enjoyed coming back to places we visited in the past. This time, we even started our trip with the exact same location. We parked our car in the Little Dartmouth car park and went for a walk. However, this time we took a different direction (but to the same final destination, as the routes link together later on) and we went towards Dartmouth and its castle.

Dartmouth Castle

The walk from the car park is not very strenuous, but the last part is very steep. You can also come by boat / car. The castle is beautifully located, just on the banks of the river Dart with the views over the river and Dartmouth town. I really enjoyed climbing the tower and visiting the medieval church of St Petrox. My children loved the little café next to the castle, as they had ice-cream (!). So we finished our castle trip sitting with our treats, and enjoying the river views…

Greenway House

That was an unexpected day trip! In our summer chalet, we were going through the local leaflets and we found a picture of a beautiful house. It turned out it was the summer house of Agatha Christie, aka my favourite author in my late-teens. That trip was the cherry (icing on the cake?) of our stay in Devon. Our little trip started with a boat ride from Dartmouth to Greenway House, or as Agatha called it, ‘the loveliest place in the world’. The summer house is a beautiful white building with a rich collection of items inside (apparently the family enjoyed collecting things and they collected cca  (what does this mean? About?) 12,000 of them!). Also, I could spot books in all the rooms I’ve been to (including the toilet!). Outdoors, we went for a walk in the garden and then down to the boat house. The boat house was the place to relax, set on the river with a small swimming pool downstairs, and a living room with a fire place and a balcony upstairs. I could see myself relaxing there!

These were the highlights of our summer in Devon. I also plan to write about our favourite beaches there too, so watch this space!

What are your favourite memories from summer 2022? Please let me know in the comments below.

October 5, 2022

Travelling corner: our first holiday as a family of 5

Yes, we’ve made it! I know going on a holiday is something we should be looking forward to, and we did. But, as our family became bigger recently, I was worried how the whole trip was going to work, if we were going to enjoy it, and if we’d manage to have a relaxing time. It was actually refreshing to go away, after giving birth, going through all the ups and downs of getting to know our baby boy, and learning about our new life as a bigger family. So where did we go to…?

Wales

We went to Pembrokeshire in Wales. We know this place, as we went there twice in the past (please read my blog posts here and here) and both times we enjoyed exploring local beaches and walking trails. This time we didn’t explore as much; we had 3 little trips: to our favourite beach, to the woodland garden (to escape the rainy weather) and to Tenby (for ice-cream ;). We also did a couple of local walks following the Wales Coast Path. Most of all, we spent time on the beach, walking, splashing, swimming and getting soaked wet (by the rain!).

I’m hoping to return to this part of Wales again, so I can explore this area better, and share my travel stories here with you.

Do you travel with your baby/ies?? How do you find it? Please let me know in the comments below.

September 7, 2022

Travelling corner: summer 2022 in family-friendly Bristol

It’s September. Welcome back! I wrote about some of my favourite places we kept visiting this summer for you. They’re family-friendly places, but can be visited by adults too.

Miniature Railway in Ashton Court

We had such a fun time! Me (and my family) enjoyed all the miniature railway rides so much that we returned to this place many times over the summer. I learned about this place from my friend, and she also learned about it by word of mouth. As one of the team members said, it’s one of the best kept secrets of Bristol 😉 So worth a visit!

Tyntesfield

Many of my friends recommended this place, but somehow we never visited it. Until this year! What a beautiful space, and so much fun for the children. My friend said it’s her new ‘happy place’ and I called it my new ‘secret garden’. It definitely brought lots of joy to our lives this summer.

The zoo

This is more a tribute to this place, as the zoo is now permanently closed, and will be moved to the Wild Place Project. I first visited the zoo when I was still a uni student, and later returned to it regularly with our children. I understand the logic that animals will have more space in the Wild Place Project, but I will miss this cosy zoo in the centre of Clifton.

What have you discovered this summer in Bristol? Please let me know in the comments below.

July 6, 2022

My extraordinary-ordinary life

My life became so upside-down since becoming a mum for the third time! My baby boy was born in March and since then we started our new journey as a family of 5 (three children + mama and papa ;). People constantly ask me: how is it to be a mum to three children?!? And I think they’re more petrified by the mere idea of having so many children than me actually having them. I so clearly remember asking my friend (a mum to 4 children) the very same question. That was 7 years ago! I wouldn’t think back then that we’ll decide to have a bigger family. Life is fascinating.

We’re slowly out and about, so new travel stories and recommendations to follow from September. Meanwhile, we enjoy our extraordinary-ordinary life, so simple and so rich.

Have a lovely summer, let’s squeeze the best of it 🙂

June 8, 2022

Travelling Corner: What I dis/LIKE about camping

As you may be planning your summer holiday, I thought I’d share my observations on the topic 😉 First, I need to confess that I’ll be very subjective, as I’ll be talking about camping which is one of my favourite forms of holiday accommodation .  Second, to balance my love-relationship with camping, I’ll also list some of its drawbacks. Finally, when I think about camping, I see my experience as slow and mindful. And to me this simplicity and sustainability makes all the difference when it comes to vacationing under the tent.

What I DO NOT like about camping

Weather

Weather can definitely influence our camping experience. If we’re in warmer countries, the hot weather can make it impossible to enter the tent throughout the day, let alone to keep fresh food at some reasonable temperature. If we’re in colder or very humid countries, it’s sometimes difficult to stay outside in the wet and windy weather, so we end up spending too much time inside our tent.

Dry clothes?

In colder or humid countries, it’s challenging to keep clothes and towels dry, especially if you go swimming (drying out swimming costumes), walking (muddy & wet clothes) or experience some sudden downpour (everything wet!). I don’t recommend keeping your clothes in cotton bags, as they absorb more moisture from the air, we used plastic bags instead, which was a better solution, but not so eco-friendly. Perhaps there is a better solution?

Feeling tired

When camping, we’re constantly outdoors and, in my humble opinion, that requires some stamina. We need to do some extra everyday walking to and from the kitchen, water tap and toilet. We’re also exposed to variable weather (from hot to cold, rain or wind) and we need to be prepared to wait longer for meals, as it usually takes more time to cook on a camping stove. And if you add to that some physical activities like mountain walking or sea swimming, your camping experience can be very full-on, not to say tiring 😉

Loud at night

Occasionally, there are parties at night or louder neighbours. This can be annoying, especially if you camp with small children or have returned tired after a strenuous walk. However, a polite request to lower the volume usually solves the problem. Also, the camp site management is available for help. 

Not ideal for babies

I prefer not to camp with babies and pre-walkers, because taking care of them requires a mum’s (or dad’s) full attention and then there is very little energy / time left for anything else. Perhaps a weekend away might be a good compromise?

What I LIKE about camping

Everything is different

I love the fact that everything is different: you sleep in a sleeping bag, cook on a camping stove and walk much more (to and from the camp kitchen / toilet / water tap). Your camping days have this specific rhythm where things instantly accessible at home become more adventurous on the campsite. But then, those daily rituals make you more present and mindful and as for me it’s the best way to properly switch off and relax. 

Community

When you camp, you’re part of the camping community. There are other people with whom you can have conversations, ask for advice or help (e.g. when putting up a tent ;). It feels like everybody on the campsite is more visible and because of that more accessible / approachable. Personally, I really like this feeling of being part of the campsite’s tribe.

Boredom

Camping can be so boring! And it feels so good! In this modern culture where we’re supposed to be connected 24/7, suddenly doing nothing can be a real challenge. But then the reward is even more prominent: feeling relaxed and connected to oneself.

Nature

It’s one of the best features of camping: you’re in nature. You sleep outdoors, breathe fresh air and can listen to birds’ concerts all day long. If you’re a nature person like me, nothing compares with the camping experience (perhaps, wild camping? 😉

The view

My favourite views from the tent: the sun setting into the sea, the Milky Way at night, clouds moving fast up in the sky, the endless stretch of the sea, beautiful mountain ranges, people laughing around the campfire. It’s an amazing feeling to ‘own’ such a beautiful view even for a short period of camping time. Beautiful memories.

Phew, that’s all I wanted to share with you today! Now, let me know what you enjoy most/ least about camping? Please add your comment below.

May 11, 2022

Travelling Corner: Walking weekend in South Devon, UK

When you plan your walking weekend with two little girls, it’s going to be a slow walking weekend, and reaching any destination will be an idealistic dream rather than your reality. However, I should admit that my girls are amazing walkers. Without any complaints – almost (!) –  they are ready for the unknown walking plans of their parents, with a smile and a stick to make it all possible!

Also, I felt sentimental about going back to South Devon, as the last weekend we spend there was in winter 2018, when our oldest daughter was only 3 and now she’s 7. Now we also have another daughter aged 3. Further to that, we had day-trips to South Devon with both girls in spring 2020, with the most beautiful summery weather. This time we went to Devon in autumn 2020, but the weather truly spoiled us: apart from short showers, we had a full weekend of sunshine!

Spring

Winter

Wild swimming walks

As an inspiration for our walks in South Devon, I used Wild Swimming Walks by Sophie Pierce and Matt Newbury. I wrote about this publication here, as it’s a wonderful guidebook to walking and wild swimming in Dartmoor and South Devon, with 28 lakes, rivers and beach days out to choose from.

Walking

Our walking attempts followed these trails: Little Dartmouth (with a little stream to paddle in); Thurlestone Beach-Hope Cove (that was our longest walk, even though we didn’t reach our destination); North Sands-South Sands (with a very steep driving road to the car park); Blackpool Sands (we saw a small seal playing in the sea!). The weather was beautiful, so we could enjoy the views, but even so, some parts of the paths were quite muddy / with large puddles. We had a sling, but our 3-year-old was determined to complete all the walks by herself!

Swimming

While walking, we also wanted to enjoy some splashing in the sea, especially because the weather was amazing for autumn. We obviously went to Thurlestone Beach, to Leas Foot Sand, to be precise! That’s one of my favourite beaches in South Devon, but the sea water is quite cold. We also visited North Sands; we stayed on the beach longer, even though the high tide was coming in. The sea was warm and many people enjoyed swimming in it. We also went to Blackpool Sands, but on that day, the waves were too high and very strong.  

Do you go for long walks with your children? Please let me know in the comments below.

March 9, 2022

Travelling corner: Weekend with the kids in Wales

We planned this weekend forgetting that precisely two years ago we were here, too! I knew we had visited this place in the past, but didn’t know we came here the same month, and to the exact same location. What a coincidence! And both times, we didn’t have the best weather, but it’s winter, so we accept it’s windy, rainy, foggy and cloudy!

The Mumbles

We decided to stay in The Mumbles, it’s a small town just outside Swansea. It has a pier, café, playgrounds, walking paths and beaches. Just perfect for a family weekend away!

Waterpark

We visited a waterpark in Swansea and we all enjoyed our time there. It’s a family-friendly swimming pool, with slides, waves, bubbles, etc. What’s more, in the same building there is a café, soft-play area and a climbing wall.

(Play) Cafes

We visited Cafe Play Mumbles two years ago and our daughters had a nice time there, but this year we went to Boo’s Kitchen (which my daughter read as boob’s kitchen: also nice!). The café is on one of the quieter side streets of The Mumbles. It has a really nice family-friendly vibe and delicious food options. As it was a Sunday morning, it was quite busy!

Beaches

The Gower Peninsula has a lot to offer in terms of beautiful beaches. I really wanted to finally visit the Three Cliffs Beach, but the weather wasn’t the best for making the effort. Especially that two years ago, we attempted to go to Rhossili Beach and it was so rainy and windy that we could barely walk and enjoy this long stretch of sand (please read the story here). Instead, this time, we visited more local beaches (for us!): Limeslade Bay and Langland Bay.

Walks

We went for a relaxing walk to the pier in The Mumbles. We also visited Limeslade Bay and Langland Bay. In Langland Bay there is a small pebble beach and the pebbles make this amazing clicking sound when the waves move away. Also, there is a small café (with a real fireplace), just something you may so appreciate when it suddenly starts raining (as it did in our case!).

Where do you travel with your children for the weekend? Please share your recommendations in the comment box below.

February 9, 2022

Travelling corner: My winter trip to the Brecon Beacons

I didn’t really plan to write any posts on my one-day trip to Brecon Beacons, but when we arrived at Crickhowell, I suddenly realised that we had visited the Brecon Beacons before, and climbed Sugar Loaf four years ago. Back then there were three of us, and now we came as a family of four! It made me sentimental and also appreciative of those special moments together.

Last December, we decided to climb Table Mountain, and that’s why we first went to Crickhowell. My husband, Greg, had a small business venture there a few months earlier, and he was impressed by the charming little town. When we arrived, we first tried to find the path and somehow we couldn’t (even though we had a map and a guide-book)! Eventually, we took a short-cut to save the time we lost on finding the right way to the mountain. There were walkers, but not too many, and we had truly beautiful weather. The path wasn’t too muddy, and the hike was relatively easy, maybe only the last climb was more strenuous (and muddy). Our 7-year-old climbed the whole path by herself, and our 3-year-old needed to be put in a sling for the last climb (too tired!); overall they both did really well. I mostly enjoyed the views, for me more autumnal than wintery, but likewise beautiful.  Once we were back in town, we chose a cosy little café for a little treat!

I really enjoyed our day in the Brecon Beacons. Do you sometimes go climbing? What are your favourite spots? Please let me know in the comments below.

January 26, 2022

Goodbye 2021 and hello 2022

I used to dislike doing such reflections of the previous year and setting new plans and dreams for the New Year. But, a few years ago, I started enjoying this process of going through my past experiences and setting new plans for the New Year! I find it therapeutic and positive.

So let’s first see my 2021. It was an interesting year, where I re-established my values: I put my family and friends first, then business and then passions. It led to the decision to start home-schooling my daughters (aged 3 and 7). It wasn’t an easy decision, and it’s still a demanding and challenging experience for our family, but we so appreciate this time together and being able to properly get to know each other at different stages in our lives.

In business, we ran all our language courses online for the whole year of 2021. I think we feel more comfortable and professional when running our lessons online and as a consequence both teachers and learners enjoy the process of online teaching / learning even more. Towards the end of 2021, we needed to find new tutors in three languages! I was stressed it’d take us a long time, but it turned out to be a quick process, and we’re so happy with our new additions to the language school. Finally, we celebrated our 9th anniversary; I’m so grateful for our wonderful language tutors and passionate and dedicated language learners.

And my passions. I love travelling, swimming, cycling, learning languages and reading. We went camping twice and climbed Table Mountain in the Brecon Beacons, we swam in the sea, a river (for the first time!) and a lake, we went cycling in snow, rain and wind, I listened to podcasts in Czech, Polish and English, and read books in those languages, too. I think it was a good year!

Now, what are my hopes and plans for 2022? I think I’d like to be more patient when I’m with my children. Only through having children I’ve realised how impatient I am! Even though it’s only January, we already started spring-cleaning our house; yes, I felt it needed some freshness, changes in its interior design and overall organisation. It’s going well, but very slow.

In business, we’ll continue running our language courses and lessons online. I think for the time being, it’s an ideal solution for both teachers and learners alike. However, we’d like to get ready to offer face-to-face learning on top of our online offer, and also to have in-person meet-ups with our students and tutors.

Personally, language-wise, I think maintaining English, Polish and Czech at the right level is going well, but I need to put more attention into improving my French and forming a good learning routine. I also dream about travelling, but slower and more sustainable. I definitely plan to spend more time in nature, by the sea and by lakes. I also want to remain as active as I’ve been last year, doing morning stretching, walking, cycling and swimming (best of all: wild swimming!).

These are my reflections on 2021 and visions for 2022. Do you make plans / visions / dreams for the New Year? Please let me know in the comments below.

December 8, 2021

Book review: Lagom by Niki Brantmark

The right amount is best. (Swedish proverb)

I read and reviewed a lagom book some time ago and this winter I decided to return to this concept. Why? To get inspired by a simpler and more harmonious life. The word lagom loosely translated means ‘not too much and not too little – just right.’ It’s about having a more comfortable and balanced life. Sounds good, right?

In the introduction we read a wonderful story where the author writes about her summer holiday in Sweden. Her Swedish holiday was carefree, uncomplicated and enjoyable. Even though it sounds so simple and idyllic, in my personal experience, I find it difficult to completely switch off and slow down. And now, when the festive season is coming, I’m feeling even more encouraged to try not to put too much pressure on myself to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas and instead to balance my energy to have more relaxed celebrations and to enjoy this special time with my family and friends.

The book Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life is divided into three main categories: personal life, family & relationships and the wider world. The book first focuses on home and personal life and how to make them more lagom, for example through decluttering, buying second-hand, bringing nature indoors, preparing your bedroom for a good night’s sleep, taking good care of yourself (oh yes!), enjoying time in nature, and integrating some exercise into your daily life.

Niki Brantmark also writes about work-life balance: this aspect is important to me, as I sometimes struggle with it. What recently helped me to have some perspective into my work-life balance are my values: putting my family and home life first. As we read further, the Swedes also try to have a balanced work etiquette: they work very effectively and timely (staying late at work is not popular in Sweden!). We also read about the importance of having a break at work or from any other daily commitments (in Swedish it’s called fika aka taking time for a coffee, treats and conversation with friends) and disconnecting from emails and social media.

Another chapter that I found inspiring was on parenting. Being a parent myself, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of work involved in raising our little ones. If we apply the lagom approach, maybe we’ll feel less pressured and plan our family life in moderation. After all, it’s good for our children not to be constantly stimulated and to be actually bored.

The book also contains lagom guides to celebrations (including Christmas and Easter), community, nature and eco-life.

Personally, I found the publication an inspiring and useful reminder about the importance of having a more balanced life. I think I feel ready for the coming festive season and the coming year. Let’s make them more lagom 😉

Have you recently read any books on the Swedish lagom? Please let me know in the comments below.