A reason to celebrate

Last weekend we had one of those perfect experiences. You know, when you think, OK well this is happening, it could be OK, but it also could go horribly wrong and then it’s better than you ever hoped? One of those.

Ben’s maternal grandparents celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary last week (that’s 60 years people!) and wanted to mark the occasion by bringing their relatively small, but rather geographically scattered family together. It was a really lovely idea and something we haven’t done in ages! The family were all booked in to a small boutique country hotel near Kingsbridge, Devon and invitations sent. However, this really wasn’t the kind of establishment that leant itself to toddlers, so it was agreed both Oscar and his cousins Lucas (3) and Anya (16 months) would stay elsewhere. My sister in law easily found an extended family member to sit for her in their home in Plymouth. However all our family are also in Devon, not Surrey where we live. Finding someone who Oscar felt comfortable with and who had the space was not going to be easy.

This in itself could have derailed our weekend from the off. Oscar doesn’t often stay the night with other people, mostly because our family all live hundreds of miles away. And the last person he successfully stayed with was joining us at the hotel. He doesn’t really know his extended family well enough, or they don’t have the space. So it was with some trepidation we asked our good friend Michelle whether she would have him. As he’d recently spent a few days with Michelle and her 4 year old daughter Holly when they visited a couple of weeks ago, we figured she would be fresh enough in his mind to be familiar. Add that to the fact that I just knew that Michelle would be bloody marvellous with him, I felt really confident leaving him with her. Her daughter Holly was so excited Oscar was coming for a ‘sleepover’ it was all Michelle could do to convince her not to sleep on the floor next to his bed!

So on Saturday we headed off to Plymouth, with the boy in the back thoroughly enamoured of the iPad in its new holder attached the to the headrest. We’d downloaded a few films and some Thomas the Tank Engine and by golly it was the most peaceful four hour journey we’ve ever had. He’s not a bad traveller all told, but this is my little ball of energy we’re talking about and four hours is a lot to ask of him. Despite setting off at 8.30am, nowhere near his nap time, he did brilliantly and even snoozed for the last hour of the journey waking up 10 minutes from our destination. When we arrived he was happy and calm and easily distracted enough by the gazillions of new toys not to bother about us leaving. We ran to the car like escaping convicts!

Buckland Tout Saints Hotel, Goveton

Buckland Tout Saints Hotel, Goveton

The beautiful misty view from our room

The beautiful misty view from our room

The hotel we stayed in was the Buckland Tout Saints and we arrived with plenty of time to join the family in the bar. I was unwinding with a Pinot by 3pm and it felt fantastic. Everyone was in fine sprits (literally) and the fun began in earnest. It was just so nice to get to chat. I’ve known Ben’s sister longer than I’ve known Ben, but as Ben and I have been together 17 years this year, it always feels like catching up with old friends when the family get together. We talked about the children and our lives and this and that. My brother in law was most impressed by their bathroom, which was on a mezzanine floor in their room. I think we were all taken to see it at some point or another!

Sent to to my sister in law when we went to get ready for dinner

I sent this to to my sister in law when we went to get ready for dinner

Getting ready in peace was amazing. We put some tunes on the iPad and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of putting my make up on without feeling like a fugitive hiding from someone (also known as the boy!) I got to wear my gorgeous new dress and as promised here is the evidence. It was so beautiful and comfortable and felt both smart and fun. It wowed the family just as I hoped it would. Nice one Pepperberry!

Charlotte dress by Pepperberry Size 16 Super Curvy

Charlotte dress by Pepperberry Size 16 Super Curvy

Super smiley - 3 glasses of wine in. Or was it 4 ;)

Super smiley – 3 glasses of wine in. Or was it 4 😉

Dinner was just how a big family meal should be. Full of chat, laughs, debate and fun. Who knew Aunty Gillian’s inability to get her arm out of shot would cause such hilarity? But then that’s what it’s all about. Laughing at the silly memories that mean nothing to anyone else.

Fun and laughter

Family

I just love the joy on Ben's grandma's face in this one.

I just love the joy on Ben’s grandma’s face in this one.

Me and the hubster

Me and the hubster

Rachel and Ross photobombed by 'Uncle' Andy!

Rachel and Ross photobombed by ‘Uncle’ Andy!

After dinner we proceeded to take over the bar (again) and partied until the small hours. Not sure how, but I seemed to drink myself sober. I even took my make up off when I went to bed and woke with no hangover at all! Bonus!

We picked up Oscar the next day, to hear that apart from not wanting to brush his teeth, he’d been fine with Michelle and actually put himself into bed and had fallen asleep immediately. What a star! He had taken every toy in the house out though, which I did feel a bit bad for, so we ensured Michelle was rightly compensated with wine, chocolates and flowers. We can’t explain how much knowning he was OK allowed us to have the best night. So once again THANK YOU MICHELLE!

From Michelle’s we took Oscar over to his Great Grandparents house. Again it’s not somewhere he’s been in a very long time and we were concerned how he’d cope being in a strange environment with a group of adults he doesn’t known all that well. We shouldn’t have worried. He was absolutely fine, heading straight for the toys in the conservatory and playing with his Great Granddad (and his namesake. Oscar’s middle name is Frederick). And when Lucas arrived with his sister Anya, well that was that. Oscar’s not always the most receptive to other children, but for his cousin Lucas he makes an exception. Despite only seeing Lucas handful of times in his life and certainly not for the last nine months, they have some kind of connection I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand. Every time they see each other they are like the best of friends and this time was no different. Within half an hour they were chasing each other round the house, laughing like drains and even holding hands, something I never see Oscar do with his chums! I don’t know, maybe they look at each other and see something familiar (or familial!) in each other. Either way it was beautiful to see and we cant wait until Lucas is old enough to come and stay with us!

Despite the time between visits they're always the best of friends

Despite the time between visits they’re always the best of friends

Holding hands partner in crime

Holding hands – partners in crime

Follow me, I know the way to the trouble!

Follow me, I know the way to the trouble!

We tried desperately hard to get a picture with all the children in one shot, but you know kids. They are wont to move. A lot! This was the best I did!

What? All three of them are technically in shot. It was the best I could do!

What? All three of them are technically in shot. It was the best I could do!

And I particularly like this one of my niece Anya. She’s going to be tall like her Grandma I think!

Anya, 16 months old. Going to be tall like the rest of the clan!

Anya, 16 months old. Going to be tall like the rest of the clan!

We finished the lunch off with a celebratory cake, made by Ben’s mum. As soon as Oscar saw it he sat up to the table and started singing what I believe was his attempt at Happy Birthday! Bless!

image

Cake!

Cutting the cake once again 60 years on

Cutting the cake again, 60 years on

We left, sad to be going, but so pleased that we’d been privileged enough to celebrate such an amazing milestone with such an awesome couple. A couple who raised two children, supported two grandchildren and care for three Great Grandchildren. A couple who have so many interests and hobbies and friends and ‘joie de vivre’. A couple whose attitude inspire the whole family, every day.

So here’s to a great weekend, to a great family and to a great 60 years.

Here’s to Fred and Peggy

... to Fred and Peggy!

… to Fred and Peggy!

Toddler on holiday at Moonfleet Manor

I’m sorry for the radio silence over the past week. When we decided to go away for a couple of days, I chose to take a weeks holiday from everything, including blogging and Slimming World. I have to admit I missed writing terribly. The whole time I was away, I was making mental notes on how to describe our trip. I’ll write more about how I found the break from Slimming World on Friday (after I’ve weighed in eeek!), but for now I want to tell you about our trip to Moonfleet Manor.

You may remember, a few weeks ago, I talked about holidays and more specifically holidaying with my toddler. If you missed that one you can read it here. Anywho the crux of the post was that we decided to take a leap of faith and try out a very different holiday for us. One that we hoped to speak to all our needs.

Which is how we found ourselves zooming down the A3, towards Weymouth, last Tuesday morning.

We had chosen (on recommendation of a friend) to try out one of the chain of Luxury Family Hotels. They have eight properties dotted around England, all of which look like grown up country hotels, but which place equal importance on the needs of all their guests, whatever their age. We chose to go to Moonfleet Manor in Weymouth partly because of personal recommendation (thank you again Michelle) and partly because it was no more than 2.5 hours away. We often travel to see family in Devon, which at 4.5/5 hours really is pushing the boy’s (and our) limits of how long he can stay in the car, so 2 hours sounded just right. As it turn out the journey there and back passed without incident and we timed our departure to mean he slept for most of the way for both trips. Bonus!

We arrived before check in, but were made to feel welcome straight away, being shown into the garden and supplied with lunch. And this set the tone for the rest of the stay. The staff couldn’t be more helpful and no request was too much. When we realised we’d left Oscar’s bottles at home for night time milk, we tentatively asked reception if they had any we could borrow. They did and bought him a bottle of warmed milk, up to our room, within minutes. Had we remembered his bottles (and marked them with his name) they would have also taken them away to be cleaned and (if we still needed them to be) sterilised.

Our room was a double, described as a “compact room, with a double bed and room for one cot/single bed”. We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of space this ‘compact’ room came with. We requested a proper wooden cot for Oscar (yup we still have the bars up at home) yet there was plenty of room for all of us. The room was well equipped, with a bath (important if your bedtime routine includes one as Oscar’s does), a TV & DVD player (again great if TV is part of your bedtime routine – we planned to use our iPhones, but the Wi-Fi signal was patchy. I would definitely take DVDs of any faves if we were to visit again) and the most amazing view from the balcony. Which was another little detail we loved. The balcony was a beautiful, and solid, five foot high twisted willow barrier. It meant we could happily leave the patio doors open with no worries of him falling/climbing/flashing the neighbours. Perfect.

Super view from the super safe balcony

Super view from the super safe balcony

The attention to detail continued in the dining room. All the tables were generously spaced apart, with highchairs provided. As soon as we sat down for high tea (Oscar usually eats at 5 so we stuck to this while away, although we could have chosen to eat later at 6) a bowl of carrots, cucumber, pita and humous were bought out to stave off any hunger grumps until dinner arrived. The children’s menu had something for every taste (from baby purees to Naan bread pizzas) and age (with toddler and older child size portions). The boy is a big fan of carbonara, so we thought we’d give the mac’n’cheese a whirl, to much success. We chose to take our own bag of toys and colouring books to every meal time, but we really needn’t have bothered as the dining room had their own supply.

First Mac'n'Cheese

First Mac’n’Cheese

Food for the grown ups was just as well thought out. The menu changed one starter and two main courses every night, meaning you always had the choice of something different. The first night I tried Salt Cod and went completely off plan the second night with delicious Pork Belly. The dining room in the evening was a very different place to the day time, with candles on every table and no young children, largely thanks to the baby listening service available in every room. We (read I) was a little anxious at leaving Oscar the first night. Would he settle? We kept his routine as much the same as possible then put him in the cot. I read him a story, explained I’d just be downstairs and left him, to minimal grumping. I must admit I did jump up like a meerkat every time the receptionist walked through the lounge for the first hour (and actually went to check in with her before we went into dinner. She showed me the bank of phones all plugged into the baby listening service, not one of them making a noise!) but I needn’t have worried. He settled brilliantly and although I did see reception come find a couple once during the evening it wasn’t us!

Time for ourselves was one of the most attractive features of Moonfleet, as not only do they have a baby listening service, they also have a creche, which we booked him into (for two hours a day) when made our reservation. I was so excited to drop Oscar off on the Tuesday afternoon and he ran in without a second glance back. However, I know my son and to be honest should have known that leaving him with strangers for the first time ever, on the day we bought him to a place he’d never been was a BIG ask. He managed an hour before having a complete spontaneous melt down. The staff realised this wasn’t a momentary outburst and, quite rightly, rang reception who came and found us in the lounge. Retrospectively I am really proud he managed that hour at all, but at the time I was convinced that the creche would no longer be an option for us. But we followed his lead and took him again on the Wednesday. We planned to only leave him for an hour, but when Ben went to pick him up, he was so busy having a whale of a time we left him for the full two hours.

I’m so glad we didn’t give up on the creche as it gave us the time to do things just for us. Things like read, sit quietly and avail ourselves of the spa facilities. The spa staff were just as friendly as everyone else ( I spent a very pleasant hour chatting to the lovely Chloe while she did a super French pedicure on me). One of my favourite memories was Wednesday afternoon. Oscar was in the creche, Ben was in the Spa and I was alone. I found a comfy armchair, ordered a cheeky glass of Prosecco and read a paper. It just felt so decadent.

Decadence

Decadence

What else can I say? I could go on for days. I could talk about the indoor playroom, as big as a barn full to the brim with fun. I could mention the swimming pools or the cinema room or Snoopy the hotel dog, but you can read all about those on the website. For me the thing the trip gave us was time. Together and apart. Oscar is by nature a curious chap. He needs to know exactly where he is and what’s going on to feel comfortable. He’s also a runner and constantly tries my blood pressure by running away from me. I knew taking him away could potentially be very stressful. And the first day had it’s moments. But, I don’t know, after his nap on the second day he seemed to wake up with a new attitude. One of ‘OK I’m here and I like it’. He stopped running off, he lead the way to the garden or to our room and held my hand if we needed to walk across the car park. Seriously, it was like watching him grow up before my eyes. He was so much more relaxed. And you and I know that happy bambinos mean happy parents.

Time well spent

Time well spent

Would we go back? Definitely. For longer and out of season. Two nights was great, but we were just getting settled and then had to leave. More nights would also give Oscar the time he needs to adjust. Going out of the school holidays (while we can) would not only make it a cheaper proposition, but would also change the age of the younger guests. More babies and toddlers and less tweens. Not that the age seemed to bother Oscar – he adored the ‘big boys’ and followed them round the garden copying their antics!

Would we try another Luxury Family Hotel? In a heartbeat.

A relaxed, happy heartbeat.

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