Never been to a Folk Festival? Nows the time to try it …

I can’t believe it was so long ago that we went to Folk By the Oak 2013 at the beginning of the summer in July.

Folk By Oak
Folk By Oak

I’m a fan of family festivals as you know, but I’ve never been to a ‘folk’ festival, so I was intrigued to see what it would be like.

I needn’t have worried and I can tell you now that if you aren’t sure about going along to a big family festival, then this is definitely the chilled way to go!

Also, if you live in London it’s so easy to get to as well because you just walk straight out of the train station and up the road to Hatfield House – perfect.

Kids love the folk music as there is something in it that reminds us of our roots and gets us jiggling.  Plus folk festival goers are intrinsically well behaved, so it’s the perfect option for a family.

The BIG TIP that I discovered was not to sit in the throng of things and expect the kids to stay with you, but instead sit off to one of the sides, where there are more kids and some space for them to run around.  Check out my other tips here.

Children Play At Festival
Children Play At Festival

Plus I gave them both a budget, so that we had a look around at all the stuff and then they had to pick and choose.  This way, it wasn’t all about them doing stuff all through the day, but they got to chill and listen to the music or play.

Hows about the music?  There was some fun traditional folk music, which I really enjoyed.  But much of it was more lovely voices singing – simple as.  Then there was the guy with the electronic guitar, which Curly Headed Boy loved; definitely a new way of listening to ‘Strawberry Fair’!

 

Now that you are gutted that you didn’t go, I have some good news for you!

To finish off the summer you can go to Folk Stock on Sat Sept 21st at Aldenham Country Park.  Doors open at 10.30 and it finishes at 11.30pm.  Folkstock is slightly different in that it is not just folk, but also acoustic artists, and the amount of choice is going to be phenomenal.

Check out their wicked jingle (I KNOW how cool is it that they have a jingle!) .. <listen here>

Plus, there is a big bonus in that we will be launching Espiritu, our new Salon and Spa there – so you can come and get free hair consults, hair colours in your hair (using hair chalks), braids, reflexology or indian head massage.  Come on over and we’ll give you a bit of a pamper and pep up!

My FAVOURITE artist of all time is coming woo hoo …

 

JonPaul Palombo
JonPaul Palombo’s greatest fans!

Check out his classic song ‘Jimmy’ which gets the audience dancing every time …

 

Check out some of the other folk/acoustic music here and you will see what a mixture it is going to be.

 

And if you are fascinated by why folk music has a enthralling magic to it, then check out this radio show by Tamsin Rosewell where she looks at some of the artists at Folkstock.  She explains it much better than I can – there is just something very ‘ancient’ in the music that we can all enjoy, even if you are normally clubbing it on a saturday night or listening to Xfactor.  Plus she has a lovely way about here; I’ve listened to this show several times while chilling out reading a book at the end of a hectic day.

 

In a summer holiday that has frankly been difficult as we’ve been working all through it, without the money for camps etc, Folk by the Oak was a lovely treat to start the summer with and Folkstock will be a great way to round it off.  We didn’t manage to go to any bigger festivals this year, or go camping, so I’m really chuffed that we’ve found this slightly easier alternative.  Hope to see loads of you in a couple of weeks at Folkstock!

 

Disclosure: I’m part owner of Espiritu, so clearly I’m going to pimp it out!  I was given a family ticket to Folk by the Oak, but I would have gone anyway, and we have also got a family ticket for Folkstock, but again I would have gone anyway – don’t tell them that though!

 

my Handmade cushion

The Power of making a cushion!

I love synchronicity!

I was just leaving Radio Verulam a couple of months ago when I saw a sign for ‘Homespun Living‘ and thought ‘Oh that’s a small business I should contact to see if I can help’ (check out my tips for small businesses).  As soon as I got home, there was an email from Helen asking if I’d like to review her course on ‘How to use your sewing machine’!

So a couple of weeks ago I appeared in her classroom, very nervous, along with 4 other women.  I was having flashbacks of the shirt I made that was so bad that the cat peed on it, and the disgusting dress that was like torture to wear!

But I came home with THE MOST GORGEOUS CUSHION and full of too many ideas of things that I want to make now.

I’ve realised that it is like sport vs exercise; we exercise for fun and health, not because we are good at it.  I’m going to start doing more crafty stuff because it is good for my health in a Zen like way, not because I’m any good at it!

 

my Handmade cushion
The most gorgeous cushion in the world!

Top Tips

My sewing machine was pants, it didn’t have a ‘go slow’ option at all, in fact it scared the living daylights out of me everytime it started.  You are looking to spend £120 or so, not £60!  (It’s my birthday in a month – yay!).

Dress fabric will wash, but fades for curtains.

Curtain fabric is dry clean only, but could be used for a dress.

Have wonderful scissors, and NEVER use them on paper.

I now chant “Foot Down, Needle Down, Peddle Down”!

Youtube and blogs are your friend!  I’ve pinned a pile of easy things to make here.

 

Does it save money?

Handmade with love
Handmade with love

It can definitely actually cost you more in the end, as now material etc can be quite expensive.  You need to be discerning about what you think about making.

It’s more about getting exactly what you want really.

I think that if you have expensive taste, then you can copy expensive styles and save money that way.

It’s great if you want something specific too.  Many older women are constantly furious about the lack of sleeves in dresses, and this would be a great option.  I like tunics, but find them hard to come by (I like my bum covered), so I might try making myself one.

For me it will save money in bags and boxes – I can now make as many as I like and keep my little heart satisfied!

I’m also planning on making curtains and cushions for the kids playhouses, and I have some ideas for really cheap but cute presents for people.  It will also save some money on a big secret project I am working on.

Knitting definitely doesn’t save money, unless you are making a jumper that would cost over £100 when you bought it.

 

Other Courses

She also offers some other courses that I really fancy like the one to make pyjamas and one to make children’s fancy dress; you know those panic evenings when we get short notice to make a camel!

Helen is lovely, so if you have ever thought of getting your head around your sewing machine, then I can highly recommend her!

If you aren’t within 30mins of St Albans, then have a look around.  This is the one big silver lining behind the recession; little companies like Helen’s are popping up all over the place to help you find your creative side.

 

Disclosure: I attended Helen’s course for free, but that doesn’t affect my opinion

 

Feather Bowers at Just So

Go on try something new – a festival or camping?

Life’s still hard with the recession and we all need some fun and adventure in our lives, so for this month’s Lifestyle feature over on Radio Verulam with the lovely Danny smith on his Drivetime show, I talked about festivals and camping.

I first decided to got to a festival when Little Dimples was 18months (two years ago) and Curly Headed Boy was 5.  I’d NEVER been to a festival and felt a bit mortified by it.  I decided if we started now with the kids, they might TAKE ME when they go to Glastonbury in 15yrs time!

Since then I’ve actually become a fan of camping too.  We started glamping, but due to the cost my practical side chose camping with a touch of glamp last year.

Listen here to me chatting with Danny here:

 

Why Go?

Music is good for the soul, it feeds our spirit and gives us a much needed lift.  One thing you can be sure about is that the quality of the music will be MUCH better than anything you see on Xfactor.

It’s great for kids because they learn to sit and listen to music, and the festivals I go to they tend to get to chill, run around and dance.  If you go to a family festival there will be all sorts of lovely things for the kids to do as well.  CHB says that a 3day festival is like going on holiday for 10days!

If you are brave enough to go for several days and try camping it is even better.  There is something about camping and it’s closeness to nature which is relaxing and healing at the same time.  We tried a motorhome at the beginning of this year, but despite being more practical it just didn’t have the same benefits for me.

my son and me in a motorhome
Top bunk is always best

 

 

Tips and Concerns

I know it can be intimidating, so I’ve put together my top tips for you to get you inspired to go!

The biggest reason to go is if you haven’t done it before, then NOW is the time to try it.  Be ADVENTUROUS.  Make memories to look back on and say ‘I did that’!

 

1) Start Small and Local

The key is not to go to Glastonbury on your first year (although they do have a family area)!  Go for small ones (5000 and under).  Look for local one day festivals so that you don’t have to camp.

Local to me in hertfordshire are:

St Albans Folk Festival Sorry I didn’t manage to publish in time –  (22-23rd June) – terrible website btw guys!

Folk by the Oak – Hatfield House – Sunday 21st July – I’m really looking forward to this festival.  Check out this youtube of Kate Rusby:

Folk Stock – Aldenham country park – 21st September –

Here is a fab way of hearing all their artists on a sound cloud.

They have got my FAVE artist coming – JonPaul Palombo

Celtic Harmony do a Beltane (See my video review here) and Samhain Festival each year.

Plus we had loads of fun at Hoo Bookfest, so I really recommend that for next year.

 

2) Planning

Feather Bowers at Just So
You are never too old for a feather bower or hair garland!

Plan ahead so that you know what is on BUT also go with the flow as it can be too stressful to keep to a schedule.

Go with friends.

Explain to your kids about safety, and make sure that you have one of those wristbands with your mobile number on it.  Or this weekend at Britmumslive I was given a Kattoo which looks brilliant (tattoo for your mobile no).

Bring Ear defenders for the kids and a picnic blanket to sit on.

3) Family Festivals

It really helps your sense of safety if you go to a family festival.

Lollibop – This is a London festival with a big kids TV orientation.  I’ve never been, but I’ve heard that it is great.  It would probably be a bit too commercial for me.

Camp Bestival – This is in Dorset and looks to me to be incredibly well organised.  Again there is a bit of a Cbeebies theme going on.  It feels to me like they try to make sure that all the practicalities that a ‘middle class’ family would worry about are covered.

Just So – This is a magical, more artsy festival with a hugely magical vibe.  Here’s my mammoth review from 2012 (same location as this year, so you might like last year’s planning post too) and my review from 2011.

 

4) Weather and what to wear

An example of what I wore
Festival style from the back!

Remember this is all part of the adventure!  We went to the Penn Festival (eighties music) last year, which was more of a mudfest.  The kids LOVED it.  All you need to make sure is that they are covered from head to toe in water proofs.  We also had a small pop up tent, that we used near the stage.

Bring lots of layers so that you can take stuff on and off.

What to wear – Leggings or skinny jeans are the easiest, with a pretty dress or long top over them.  No heals, instead go for daps/wellies.  A flower garland is essential (BE BRAVE!).

Check out my what to wear to festivals post with lots of ideas for you and links to my Pinterest boards.

 

Money

I don’t like the ones with lots of things to spend money on like the Herts County Show, buy, or things that kids will want to do that cost a fortune; so we tend to avoid those ones.

What you can also do is give the kids a budget, so that they know they just have £x and that is all.

Food can be expensive, so make sure you take water, squash, snacks and fruit.  Check if breakfast is provided if you are camping otherwise brioche is fab.

 

Loos and Showers

Actually again because I go to small ones or family ones they aren’t too bad.  But always take LOO PAPER and anti-bacterial spray.

Some actually have great showers BUT you can get away with a day of showering with wet wipes (it’s not as bad as it sounds!).

 

Camping

How to make your tent look Glam
Camping with glamp

Take ear plugs (just incase you are near someone having too much fun or kids that wont sleep), a wooly hat, socks, and extra jumper for night time.

Bring something to put mudding shoes in, so that they don’t come in the tent.

If there are just a couple of you then you can get a festival kit ever so cheaply with everything that you need.  There is nothing wrong with going for ‘cheap’ shops like argos etc.

If you have a little more money to spend then check out the pop up tents (a bit tricky to put away) or the Vango blow up tent we have.

The best beds are the mats that puff up; air beds are actually cold.

Bunting is a MUST!

Here is my ultimate camping list (you don’t need it all!).

 

Finding

Festivals for all – great site for all types of festival

Festival Kidz – specifically for taking kids

Forestry Commission – I’m an ambassador for the FC and was gutted to realise too late that they do concerts.  How gorgeous to see someone like Olly Murs AND be in a forest.

 

At the end of the day

Go on, try it.  It’s fun.  It’s simple.  It’s pretty cheap in comparison to a package holiday.

And you’ll have something to tell your grandchildren that will give them the impression that you didn’t wash up all day long!

Have you started camping in the last few years?  What do you reckon?

Have I inspired you to try a festival this year?

 

Toddler in den

Adventure comes in surprising places

Mum and child in the woods
Not so warm!

 

Brrrrrrrrrrr!

It was freezing (0 degrees!), but the kids didn’t seem to notice at all.

I was wishing I’d put my thermals on, and was eternally grateful for choosing woolly socks and snow boots over wellies.

But the cheerful ‘Ooooh Mummy look at this’ coming from one direction versus ‘No Mummy come look at this first’ from the opposite direction cheered me up.

Curly Headed Boy was chuffed that he could easily pretend he was in an ancient forest with bears and wolves around every corner.  He was off climbing through brambles and goodness knows what else.

Toddler in den
My secret den!

Little Dimples was enchanted with a little partially constructed den that she had found and I was instructed to find more sticks to add to it.

The Hairy northern one meantime was taking photos left right and center, so he too was in his element.

Next time we are definitely bringing the big black monster (it would be easy to put the dog back in the car at the end of a walk, while you get a cuppa, or drink it outside).

 

Where were we?

A well kept secret that when I mentioned it loads of people seemed to know about, but no one had told us; Wendover Woods.  (We live just outside St Albans, and it’s about 34-45mins away).

We’d brought the radio flyer just incase the kids got tired, but I was amazed that Little Dimples (3 in a month) was able to keep walking the whole distance, even when we were climbing back up the hill, it must have been all the ‘Ho Hos’ that we sang.

Children investigating
Climbing an imaginary mountain!

I’d still recommend bringing something though if you have a toddler, or be prepared to carry them.  In fact I was amazed how many young families there were and especially how many with little babies, either with industrial strength push chairs or slings.

We tried out the Cafe in the Woods, which I thought was great.  Simple stuff for grown ups and kids that hits the spot and at a good price (menus are online).  It got really busy though (at 11.30), and it’s winter.  So I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t get any where near it in the summer.

Next time we are going to go as soon as we get up and have bacon butties before we go for our walk; yum!

Plus we’ll remember to try the free iPhone app which has a map of the area and a tree finder, which I think is a great idea.

Once the family gets a little older, there were people cycling, running, and there is a Go Ape as well.  I talked to a local mum who says that in the summer locals walk up rather than drive so it doesn’t get as busy car parking wise as you’d expect, and that it’s great for parties.

I also saw someone in a wheelchair, so when it says that it is accessible, it obviously is.  I was a bit worried with my fibromyalgia that it might be too much for me, but I needn’t have worried (don’t worry fitness types; it could be a lot more physical than we tried).

I was worried that Go Ape would be too obvious and we’d get nagged to go, but it wasn’t too in your face at all, and the play park is great, so I’m sure the kids will be happy there.

Muddy Puddle At Wendover
A HUGE Muddy Puddle!

Of course of all the potential things to play on the boys were much more interested in the huge great big muddy swamp that was all iced over and covered in big sticks, and eventually we did have a catastrophe.

Luckily it was time to go home, so we wrapped Curly Headed Boy in a blanket and popped in the car.  I’d recommend a spare pair of trousers for each child just incase.  (And a hot toddy for you, when you get home).

 

The Numbers

A discovery pass for a year is £37, which gives you free parking.

Parking would cost you: £1.50 for 2 hours, £3 for 4 hours or £5.50 for an all day stay.

So if you went all day 3 times in the summer, and then for 4 hours more than 4 times a year, it would have paid for itself.

There are also a pile of other freebies or discounts listed here on the page about Discovery Passes, the most significant being 15% off forest holidays or  10% off trailbase holidays and the most useful being free refills on cups of tea or 15% off Go Ape (see details for exclusions).  So you could save lots more than the pass cost you.

You also get a few bits and pieces to start the kids off with ideas of things to collect and enjoy while they are there, which I think would be a great idea if you were the type of family who thought it would be a good idea to get out and about, but weren’t sure how to get the kids interested.

 

Overall

Boy covered in mud
I fell in!

 

Curly Headed boy said that ‘it was the best holiday he’d had’; he’s not always that easy to please!  Later that day he said he was really lucky to have me as a Mummy; now we know that’s true, but it’s not often that he remembers, so that was a lovely thing for him to say.

Little Dimples said ‘Forest was good. I loved the play ground’.

The Big Hairy Northerner thought ‘the woods were magical’.

I loved it, and really loved my hot toddy when I got home!

For me buying a pass would feel like a commitment and a reminder, and I think it would be well worth it.  I suspect very strongly that we will be renewing next year when our pass runs out.

We are bound to go back lots, so I’ll do another review in the summer and let you know what the BBQ sites are like and whether it gets too busy or not.

 

Disclosure: I was given a years Discovery Pass in return for doing a review, but my opinions are my own.  I’d like to thank the Forestry Commission for being so patient with me, as soon after they offered for me to get the pass I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and have been nervous of going and busy with sorting it out.

 

Fairy

Is this potentially the best family festival in the UK?

JonPaul Palombo
JonPaul Palombo’s greatest fans!

 

This is a mammoth review of Just So Festival 2012, so hold onto your socks!

Because I reviewed it last year and wrote a pre-post explaining all the different areas and my plans, I thought that this year I would do a quick interview with some other people and get their perspectives.

They’ve all had a little more than ‘quick’ to share though, and I actually think that the information is really useful if you are thinking of going yourself, so I’ve decided to make the most MAHOOSIVE blog review post in the history of mankind.

If you’ve attended, I’d love to hear your opinions too!

By the way, they have an early bird option on at the moment for 2012 and once all the early tickets are sold it goes up to full price.

(All the photos are of my family or things that we did, not of my interviewees)

Sunday Day Ticket

Wild rumpus parade
Curly Headed Boy, Little Dimples and their friend on the way to the Wild Rumpus Parade

I met the lovely Ruby on twitter and really wanted her perspective as she only came for a day, not only that she got the rainy day.  So what did she think? …….

My husband and I decided to take the Kids to there first festival this year and Just so looked like the perfect choice, it’s not too far to travel, not too big and the activities were all aimed at children so it sounded great, we booked day tickets incase it wasn’t how we thought it would be or incase the kids didn’t like it as much as we thought.

My husband and I have been to many festivals before including Glastonbury, Download and Hellfest as well as small festivals in Middlesbrough and Bristol. However this was our first with the children. We have two Boys Leo is 32 months and Eli is 4months.

We thought there wouldn’t really be anything suitable for Eli but we were happily supprised by the baby massage classes by Weleda and Baby Yoga by baby bumpkins both of which were great classes and they didn’t pressure you into buying there products or signing up to there classes.

My favourite memory was the wild rumpus parade, although we were only there for a day it was a great way to round off the whole festival in a really magical style. The music tent was great as young children are often told they “can’t touch” expensive equipment, Leo was really excited about the music and has been loving playing with daddy’s guitars since we got back.

Playing Piano At Just So
Curly Headed Boy playing the little piano
 I think the free cloth nappy laundry system is a great idea and I hope there back next year as I’m sure that makes the logistics of camping with cloth nappies easier.  We loved the baby change and feeding area and the toilets were great, so toilet training is fine (can’t imagine portaloo’s would go down well when toilet training!!)

The only bad things we found were the lack of seating areas (especially at lunch time when we had to walk all the way back to the car to sit down to eat) and we were also upset that we didn’t get to see the gruffalo, obviously it’s understandable that while the rain was out he couldn’t come out but after looking for him all day we asked the information desk when he was due out we were told “he’s on his way” so we stood and waited for 1hour in the same place as not to miss him but sadly he never turned up 🙁

Our favourite area was the lazy days as there was lots to do and also space for the kids to have a run around!! The music was great and done in a relaxed and informal way which suited the style of the festival perfectly, (the 12 year old boy on saxophone was amazing).

We took with us a couple of drinks and snacks for throughout the day and bought our meals so we didn’t have too much to carry, the food prices weren’t cheap but about what you would expect for a festival, and we made the most of the Pie Minister stall (we love it but don’t have one here in Manchester).

We decided to go to let the kids experience something out of there normal day to day routine and that’s exactly what we got. From the camp fire in the woods and the music stage to the wild rumpus parade, they loved it more than we could imagine, we will definitely be back next year (hopefully with a nice new bell tent).

I would definitely recommend it to anyone with young children and hope we have many more fun years ahead at Just So Festival.

 

Camping Family with 5 kids (and one teenager left at home)

Wild Things
Willow On Phone In Where The Wild Things Are
 I also met the lovely Ed on Twitter, but we failed to run into each other, despite the fact that he must have been pretty easy to recognise with his lovely big family (and number 7 on the way).  He also happens to be a writer, so check out his blog here, where there will be a lots more pictures.  

Hi, I’m Edd a thirty seven year old man with a large family and a slim wallet. I work as a Labourer for the most part but am trying to better myself through writing and living. I have a wonderful wife and six awesome children (from 15 to 2) , each of whom are as precious as the next, as well as a large extended family that lives pretty close to me (for the most part).

This was our first festival and though we do camp we normally the two girls hadn’t been camping before.

The festival was very busy and to keep toilets well stocked and clean throughout the whole weekend was a big ask but I think they did a good job. Having a main toilet area and then portaloos in strategic areas made sense and it only really got very grim in the main toilets come the final morning, which is understandable. I work on building sites and I can tell you the Just So Toilets were very well maintained in comparison.  The Showers were a pleasant surprise. There was enough room to turn around in them, they were deep enough to allow kids to be in and showered in turn and overall I thought they were kept as clean as possible too. Obviously the wait was brutal first thing but if you left it and picked your moment it wasn’t more than a ten minute wait. That’s shorter than the time I have to wait at home to be honest.

The Planning was spot on from where I was sitting. There was space to roam, everything had enough distance to make it feel very big and yet you felt you were in a specific area when you entered a new ‘zone’. The details made the experience great from the decorative chairs hanging from tree branches too Fairy dresses floating in the woods. It was lovely. The food, toilets and stage set up was great and the breakfast and play barns meant there was always somewhere to take shelter. They even had ATM’s on site. Top class.

Whale at Just So
The Metal Whale Show In The High Seas

The Organisation itself was clean and crisp. The information  tent would charge your phone for you (only for a short period, but enough to get you through on minimal settings), was staffed by lovely, friendly people and having the helpers all wearing top hats meant you could always see a person that could help if needed. Everyone had a wrist band and you were told to write your phone number down on the children’s wrist bands for ease of contact if they became lost. Very good.

As it stands I liked the food court area <best>, but outside of the grub I’d have to say the forest where the Fairy queen lived and the Pirate area by the lake <called High Seas> were my favourites. The lake was beautiful and I love forests so it stands to reason those were the places I’d love. The kids loved the ‘Where the Wild Things are’, ‘The Fairy woods’ and ‘Forty winks’ (all in the same wooded area, my favourite area too).

Honestly I wouldn’t really change any of it. It was charming. I suppose maybe providing more toilets would help to easy the obvious pressure on the festivals organisation? Something like that.

Fairy
Just So is definitely the place for dressing up as a Fairy

Sadly I missed the musical evening sets as I was guarding the sleeping minis that passed out around seven o clock on the nights we were there. Mama took the older kids to the camp fire singing and evening events. I listened to the music drift over the fields towards me from the party but never managed to get to hear it up close and the daytime activities swallowed me up with the kids.  It sounded good from a distance though.

We decided that our journey was too long to bring a lot of food and we agreed to either leap into a supermarket when we had gotten all set up or just eat there and not worry about it. I ended up buying dinner, leaving the breakfast and lunch time stops to be filled with sandwiches or fruit.  The food wasn’t any more expensive than I thought it would be, there was a good spread of choice from Mexican and Noodles too pizza, pasta and burgers. All in all I was impressed with the provision and the quality. Very good eating indeed.  On a side note the breakfast barn was giving out free porridge and crumble bar things, very good idea indeed! I loved the festival but the residing memory will be one of the friendliness of the camping area. Everyone was relaxed, in family groups, seemed respectful of each other’s space and it was clear that they were all having a great time. This feel good factor that surrounded the campers flooded out into the activity fields and made it a magical weekend.

In closing though I’d say we loved it, would love to be back next year but won’t be as our seventh child with be born in January and so it’ll be too tough for us to attend. I do advise you go though if you like your days free, easy and relaxed. No hassle, no crossed words witnessed all weekend and none of the normal young bucks that perhaps don’t quite know when to stop before they take things too far.

A great family festival, a well delivered event and a beautiful crowd of people.

Couldn’t recommend it enough.

 

Camping Family with 1 kid (our mates camping 6ft away from us)

Feather Bowers at Just So
You are never too old for a feather bower or hair garland!

Now I must admit that by the end of Sunday I did think that my mates might be telling me that they had enjoyed it but despite loving me would never come back.  One week on, this is what they said …

We are a family of three from St. Albans; comprising of a happy at home mum, a fun- loving working dad and a 6 year old adventurous little lady.  Just So is the only festival we have been to – twice…. Berkofest is next!

My favourite memory is chilling out in the sunshine at the Panic Circus watching the little lady having fun and skilling up on stilts, unicycles and pedalling furiously!

My man’s favourite points were chatting to Michael Buckley (a writer), camping and exploring the woodland with the little lady and the novelty of drinking (adult) blue slushies and poking out his tongue!

The little lady, when asked replied, “all of it! But especially….” she mentioned: Making Masks in Wild things and the Wild Rumpus Parade, learning circus skills, the experiments with the Physics Busters, riding along with Compass, listening to the music in Footlights –“ I rather love Jon Paul Palombo Mummy – do you?!” and DeliKate and Crepe man were wolfed down!

Flying Bike At Festival
The Crazy Flying Bike!

Grrr to the number of times we rocked up to make something (lanterns, feathered headdresses, musical instruments) at the allotted time only to be confronted with “we’ve run out of materials”…….. faces fell in disappointment and it meant not joining in the fabulous lantern parade.

Also our little lady was very lucky to have a ride with Compass (the Jumblies from last year!) in their fantastical flying machines – however we had to tell about 25 families that we were the last family in the queue – a sign would have been good so we didn’t have to witness others disappointment. I would also have to add that only 16 families each session were lucky enough to embark on this wonderful adventure and that seemed too few. I would have liked to have seen more opportunities for greater numbers to partake in certain areas e.g. trapeze lessons were fully booked in an instant an hour before the event, again great for a chosen few rather than seeing smiles on a decent number of faces.

Music was awesome this year; however, I missed a fabulous band from last year called The Lovely Eggs…… bring back them back please!!!

I would also object to the pricing of a small yet delicious sausage in a hot dog roll by The Farmer’s Wife – £4.50!! Thankfully, the other eateries were much more realistically priced for brilliant quality food.

Levitation
Levitating Little Dimples!

Some areas were sparsely populated with activities and stalls and more could have been added to draw more crowds – All the World’s a stage was extremely empty and this didn’t seem great for the stallholders there, however, was probably a bonus when we were having a nursery rhyme knees up with an audience of 4!

Loved Footlights, Nowhere Now was a huge hit too – The Fantastical Photobooth of Confusion and Wonderment from which we have a treasured keepsake of the festival and little lady enjoyed Levitation and experimenting with the Physics Busters.

Really great! Adored JonPaul Palombo again but sad that his set was so short, the Robbie Boyd Band and Common Tongues also provided a fabulous energy to bop along to.  However……. bring back The Lovely Eggs –( my friend thinks I’m insane for liking this band but now we and many others we chatted to went and downloaded everything they’d ever recorded off Amazon after last year’s Just So performance.)

We cooked tea the first night and brekkie both mornings and then bought lunch and dinner from the following:

              • Rode Hall Farmer’s Market – snacks of stuffed vine leaves and spinach parcels yummy!
              • The Farmer’s Wife – delicious yet expensive sausage for the little lady
              • Deli Kate – yummy paninis and milkshakes. Such a hit, brilliant stuff!!
              • Pieminster – yummy Heidi pie – however in line with the Festival’s common theme of running out of stuff – it had to be eaten solely with a knife as cutlery was in short supply – the lovely pie people did take a £1 off for the inconvenience though!
              • Tasty Thai Cuisine – definitely my favourite… well priced and scrummy!!
              • Ginger’s Comfort Emporium – the little lady loved the vanilla ice cream
              • Crepes – A yummy nutella and banana one hit the spot, however was eaten with fingers as…. Wait for it…. There was NO cutlery!!!  Before you think I’m strange for not asking other stalls for a fork or knife… I did however some were not into sharing due to a meagre supply or didn’t have any themselves!!
  • Stage at Just So
    Dressing up and fun at All The Worlds A Stage

Loos – great until the final day when the organisers scrimped on a final pump out and sent the portaloos into a complete state. Cue Jackass style wretching from the little lady and a request for a peg for the nose and a blindfold!  The showers were a huge hit with my man – who loves a good shower!

Upon arrival unloading on the drop off zone noted on the programme was fab but then…… we were told we could not use this for packing up….. Cue human conveyor belt of numerous bags, tents, blow up mattresses being passed from the field, over a fence, over the road, over a fence into the car park. One word to yea organisers – KERFUFFLE and please please stick to one rule for all otherwise it gets people like me crazy. After a Just So bod telling me I wasn’t allowed to move my car to the drop off zone on the road sides due to the fragility of Snowdrops some others were waved through and when I asked why – the reason given was they have kids?! Mmmmmm wonder how much adult blue slurpy they had consumed the night before!!!

Just a suggestion please could you make things to do pre-bookable online so then you’ll have a rough idea of how many want to take part in activities and I certainly wouldn’t object to spending a bit to guarantee a slot or to help increase providers to ensure more happy faces.

Just So
The little miss that made us sing on stage after dressing up at All the Worlds A Stage

So I sound pretty mixed about Just So but as the rain ceases, the smell from the portaloos dissipates, the sweat dries from the kerfuffle of packing up and you stand there smiling in a field, muddy, clutching a paper mache mask and some Physics Buster bubbles you know you’re going to return to do it all again next year. The organisers are incredible, admittedly not at conventional organising but at imaginative organising and it offers families a fabulous opportunity to do something brilliantly different.

<We went> because we loved it so much last year and the people we went with obviously!

Yes <we would recommend it> – but not to all, you have to be a kid yourself too to really get the most of it and we’re like Peter Pan in our house!

Yes- because Just So tickets seem to come with Rose tinted glasses so that all of the bits that could be improved and make you sway about going back next year seem to add to its charm!

 

 

My Review is: 8/10

Puppet Show
Little Dimples running her own puppet show in the Panic Circus

I love Just So, I love the ethos behind it and the magic it creates.

I liked the new location, although I think it might need a little rejigging next year with maybe a few bigger props for the bigger location (but don’t change High Seas which was wonderful with the most amazing atmosphere!).  It did seem to me that there were a LOT more people as well, but it handled the rain on the sunday well and didn’t get too muddy.

Music was brilliant, especially JonPaul Palombo; my only complaint being that his set should have been longer, but at least I got a hug!  Louis Barabbas was one of those bands that works brilliantly for kids because he was totally crazy.

This year the kids really got into the music side of it; Mum and Dad having a drink, kids running around and dancing, and then dragging one or other parent up to look silly.  I LOVE this bit and love that it is so safe.

The other reviews show how well it covers many age ranges from baby upwards, which I think is very clever, and also different types of people from extremely different backgrounds.  I’m going to add the tip to bring a picnic blanket with you, so that you have somewhere to sit, as there will never be 4000 seats to my top tips for family festivals post, as well as many packs of wet wipes for showers.

I really enjoyed the camping side of it and it has proved to me that it totally works for me as a relaxed type of holiday, but OMG the toilets on the last day were outrageous and don’t empty the ones by the tents at midnight!  I also embraced the wet wipe version of a shower as I couldn’t be bothered to queue, however the hairy northern enjoyed them.

Mother hen
MopTop and Knickers had my 2.5yr old entranced!

I wouldn’t be giving an honest review or helpful feedback if I didn’t say that:

  • It does NOT work to have activities going on for just a small handful of kids when you have thousands coming.  Those activities need to be either bigger with more helpers, or back to back or both.
  • It does NOT work to have craft opportunities for excited kids wanting to make things for the parades in the evenings and then to run out of materials, I think Just So are going to have to give the craft people material budgets.
  • In fact lots of the craft activities and unusual oddities should basically run all day I think, which I do understand will increase the prices as this means paying them rather than just giving tickets.  The problem is that you drag the family all the way to one location, find it’s all booked up, so walk off to the next to be too late for that one and so on.  It was a struggle at times with dissappointed kids.

So the slightly suburban middle class computer nerd side of me struggled with some of the organisation of it, and hated having to disappoint the kids at times.  Plus it made it a bit more stressful for us parents.

However, the tree hugging side of me suggests that next year we just avoid anything organised, mill around and catch the spontaneous things that encourage the children’s imagination like the Panic Circus (so much better than the circus at Penn Festival), MopTop and Knickers (fabulous from Mother Hen) and the stone balancing.  The music was great and I was REALLY happy with the fact that the kids learnt to just mess around and dance to crazy music.

Teaching someone to play the saw
Curly Headed Boy Learning To Play The Saw

I know that regular festival goers would say that we were lucky to have loos that worked for the majority of the time and that all the problems that worried me are pretty standard.  But Just So is now getting so popular that it is going to get people coming who need structure and organisation even more than me and there are other festivals that from their reviews I can see focus more on making the parents life easier, but are probably too main stream and commercial for me.  This is the challenge for Just So for 2013 after the challenge of moving location this year, and as they pulled that off, I’m sure they will pull this off too.

Will I be going back?  I really hope they invite us back, (a) because we love it and (b) because I’d love to give them a 10/10 next year.

 

Curly Headed Boy said he definitely wants to go back because there was so much to do, and his favourite bit was the music.  I will finish on a video of Little Dimples dancing to Louis Barabbas!

I’d love more comments from people who’ve been to other festivals or fellow Just So-ers?

 

Disclosure: I received a family camping ticket for Just So, but all the opinions expressed are my own or those of my interviewees.  The picture of Little Dimples as a fairy has a green tutu and wand sent to us by Fairy Glass, the wings were the ones we bought there last year, but we also have a gorgeous pair of wings to match the tutu; just couldn’t get her to wear the matching set all in one go!

 

 

Just So Festival

The Key To A Successful Family Festival

Just So FestivalI’m so excited, because I’m off to review Just So Festival this weekend (In Cheshire at Rhode Hall: doors open at 2pm on Friday and we get kicked out of the campsite on Mon at 11).

Last year was brilliant, but it was my first ever festival, so I had no idea what to expect.

Apparently I picked the best one, so I’m sticking with it!

I’m now a veteran as this is my 3rd ever family festival (there was the Mudfest at Pennfestival in between, and yes I am joking about the veteran bit!).

So I thought I’d tell you the key to a successful family festival:

Planning

AND

Going with the Flow

 

With no clue of what is on, and no plan of what to do you’ll keep arriving as things finish and miss what your kids would most love to do.

But you need to leave space for magic and adventure to find you as well, especially when we are talking Just So.

Be too organised, and the kids will be constantly on your case as to what is next.  They need to learn to chill and find the unexpected, but having a couple of plans up your sleeve will help to avoid the disaster of wandering aimlessly for a couple of days and not getting immersed in the festival.

So, I’ve been sitting down with Curly Headed Boy and I’ve come up with this plan (which I’ll mention at some point to the Hairy Northerner of course!).

This is just my plan, you might need a cuppa or a glass of wine and a couple of hours to make your own.  But I thought you might like some hints, especially if you are a first timer.

 

The Areas:

Here’s a quick summary of the different areas from what I can grasp from the online programme (expect changes, things to not be in the programme and surprises!):

Social: Food is looking good this year, I’m really impressed (basically everything I wanted last year is there this year!).  So I’m just planning on taking Tea, Friday night food, breakfast, juice, squash, snacks, fruit and maybe a spare meal for sunday just incase.  Just So is packed with things to do, so I don’t really want to have to go back to the tent and cook.  Other festivals don’t start until lunch time, so there is more time.

Jitterbug: Dancing and discos (I fancy the belly dancing and Curly Headed Boy wants to learn the Chitterbug or Jive)

Footlights: Some of the bands, but it looks like there is lots more music this year and I know one of my favourite bands is elsewhere.

Lazy Days: Don’t be fooled by the ‘lazy’, I reckon it’s going to be pretty energetic with the sports day and circus there.  I missed Capoeria last year, so really want to do it this year: (Friday 4-5pm Saturday & Sunday 10-11am & 4-5pm)

Nowhere Now: These look like fun things to pop in and experiment with, I remember Physics busters from last year and they were fab.

Peekaboo: Baby fun and some pampering from Weleda

40 winks: Looks like a fab chill out place with story telling and dens

Wild Things: Was popular with Curly Headed Boy last year and looks like there is even more fun to be had with bush crafting, den making and don’t underestimate making clay faces

All the worlds a stage: Don’t miss out on getting the kids to do their own imaginative face painting, lots for the more dramatic in the family here

Away with the fairies: a must, they’ve added loads to it this year, but be prepared for the queen to be popular to see (Friday 4-6pm and Saturday & Sunday 10am-12noon and 2pm-4pm)

Elsewhere: Looks like the fun eclectic stuff from Just So that you wander into and then slip away into a magical and slightly weird universe ;o)

High Seas: Pirate training was so brilliant last year and they’ve added loads more (Friday 4.30pm & 5.30pm or Saturday & Sunday 9am, 10am, 11am, 2pm & 4pm), I think that the fox pockets and stone balancing are appealing to me too, no idea why!

 

Tribes and Parades:

We are part of the fish tribe, which will I’m sure mean more on the festival, but we are definitely going to make the willow lanterns this year and get involved in the parades.  We missed out last year and only watched it and the kids were gutted.

 

Friday

Get all settled, let the kids play outside the tent, wander around getting our bearings (it’s changed location this year)

MUST DO: Jon Paul Palombo 6.30 on ‘all the worlds a stage’ (check out my a fab video of him here: gorgeous and brilliant!)

yoB: looks like they will really suit our friends (going on the music they enjoyed last year – OMG!): Fri 5.30-6.30

Saturday

Really fancy the fables and music with Fox pockets at the High seas Saturday 11.30am & 4.30pm

Robbie Boyd Band: Look like they could be brilliant Sat 7.30

The Lantern parade is Saturday at 9 – meet in Lazy Days from 8.30 for lantern lighting.

Sunday

Weekend Sun: Are a must, sounds really cool and funky Sun 4.30

Fiona Bevan: Sounds lovely, I think she could be the shining star of the show: Sunday 6.30

Eighties Disco – Yay!!!

The wild rumpus parade is at 7.30. Again, meet at Lazy Days.

Check out my tips on:

What to wear to a festival, and remember at Just So anything goes as long as it’s fun.  Sadly Wellies are going to be a must this year, but it’s looking pretty warm too, so don’t bring your winter clothes!

A brilliant festival/first timer tent, incase you need some ideas for next year.

Why family festivals are great if you still need some persuading or are worried.

Don’t worry about the Mud if it rains, we survived Mudfest and it was fun.

We are taking a radio flyer, and you can rent them from Trolley Tots and they are great with little ones (even the 6yo still uses it).

If you’re camping here’s my ultimate camping list!

UPDATE ON MY RETURN

Forgot to say take a picnic blanket as there probably wont be anywhere to sit (thank fully we always have one with us).

Plus extra wet wipes incase you don’t fancy queueing for showers (it’s only 3 days, you’ll survive I promise!)

Set your kids expectations as to how much they might be able to spend per day or the number or icecream vans; that will reduce the number of arguments when you get there and they see a few stalls full of lovely stuff.

 

Disclosure: Last year I went to the festival on my own steam, but this year I begged them to give me a family camping ticket and they very kindly agreed.  This doesn’t affect my opinion of the festival, I would have loved it anyway! 

 

Omaha Beach in Normandy

An Adventure in Normandy


Omaha Beach in NormandyHmmm a Ferry and a mobile home?  I wasn’t sure what I was going to think about that.

I have fond memories of staying in a caravan in the South of France at about 5yrs old and it being a crazy fun holiday, so we decided to take a chance and accepted the offer to go to Normandy to try out Domaine De Litteau, which is one of the Siblu mobile home holiday sites.

Last year we went on our first ever family summer holiday and were shocked at the prices, as I steadfastly refused to pay the ridiculous sums of money being requested.

At last we found something I thought was reasonably priced, but I met loads of people on holiday who had been really unfairly overcharged because they had more than 2 children (i.e. double the price because they had to buy TWO studio apartments when they only needed one).

So I was really interested as a more affordable holiday option for families; especially those with young children who want inter-connecting rooms or who have more than 2 children and don’t want their holiday prices doubled.

Verdict – 7.5/10

Value for money: Brilliant.  These holidays are especially good for families who want their children near them when they are sleeping or have more than 2 kids.  You would normally get penalised for interconnecting rooms or having more than 4 of you, but that’s not the case at Siblu.

Courseilles Sur Mer

Courseilles Sur Mer Sand DunesBeaches: INCREDIBLE.  I’ve never seen such amazing, empty, long, sandy beaches in my life.  Nice and shallow for the kids to play/paddle in as well.  Warm enough when the water comes back in to swim in, just.  Apparently it doesn’t get too full when the french go on holiday in a few days time either.  BUT the beaches are 30 mins away, which was tricky with our kids.

The best spot is if you head to Omaha Beach, just to the right of the big silver pointy statue/memorial, near the food shack and life guard station.

Veuille Sure Mer gets really cramped when the tide comes in, so only good when it goes back out again.

We went to Arramanche one day, but it’s much more commercial, so headed out to Courseilles Sur Mer, which is less tidy, but has fun sand dunes and lots of people sailing/wind surfing and a great food shack.

Swimming Pool: Brilliant and hardly ever too packed as it’s not really somewhere that people stay all day.  It’s covered (the sides are removed when its hot), so usable whatever the weather and has a toddler area.  The BEST BIT was the water slide which did NOT go into the pool (which terrifies me from a safety perspective).  Instead, the slide is separate from the pool and I think therefore much safer.

Weather: perfect for young kids or active kids or people who like to go out and investigate without broiling i.e. it’s not massively hot and can be unreliable.  In fact I met several families in the second week who had been further south at another park and felt a huge sense of relief to come to a cooler site.

Journey: It’s only 40 minutes from Caen, so great for us with Little Dimples who pukes on long car journeys.

Food: We ate at the bar a couple of times and it was really good value for money (7€ for a meal), good food, just could have done with salad or more green vegetables for me.  They were rubbish at advertising what was available though.

Shop: The shop is small, but good for emergencies.  There is a supermarket near by.

Dress Code: Very relaxed, even in the evening.  Plus if you are worried about wearing a bikini, you really don’t need to; French women eat cake too; lots of it and their bikinis are atrocious!

Domaine De Litteau's forest

All weather swimming pool at Domaine De Litteau

Forest: We went for a couple of walks in the forest which was lovely (and cool) and they also do organised nature trails.

Meeting other people: I’ve discovered that I NEED chats with people, and I pretty much don’t care who with (although my best chat was with a young teenager about writing and what would the world be like if the Germans had won WW2).  It’s easy in a hotel when you all go down for breakfast at the same time, and sit around the same pool.  But it’s more tricky at Domaine De Litteau as all the facilities are at the entrance and the caravans spread out away from it up a hill.  If like me you need people, then you’ll need to make an effort to go to the Pirate evenings and meet other parents.  It will just take a bit longer.

Which mobile home: I would definitely recommend you go for one with a veranda as the weather in Normandy is unreliable (So an elegance or excellence van).  I don’t think that air conditioning is really important as it cooled down by 11pm, so if money is tight don’t worry about that.  If you would like to sit outside, or have napping toddlers or young kids who might want to play games, I would phone and request if possible a van with a good sized plot.

Noise: You can spookily hear people in the next van when the kids are running around and french babies seem to cry a lot.  But it all settles down pretty early by 11pm and didn’t stop my kids from sleeping at all.  We hardly heard anything in the second week.  Domaine De Litteau is a very quiet site at the moment, I hope they maintain this as they grow and don’t add in the day long music I’ve heard is at the pool at one of the other sites.

Max with face painting at the pirate party

Party night at sibluStaff: The kids club staff were great, maybe not as warm as the Cypriots from last year, but then they seemed to be only warm with kids and grumpy with the rest of the world (sorry for the generalisation!).  Some staff seemed a bit dippy or relaxed, but Carol who was in charge of the cleaning was brilliant and a great help, and the life guards seemed very aware (there was a dodgy review on trip advisor about them from last year).

Kids Entertainment: Curly Headed Boy discovered the kids club a few days in for the Talent show and was hooked!  He didn’t seem to mind that in the first week he was the only english boy at all (lots in second week).  There are often Pirate shows in the evenings, less professional that the other sites, but still really fun, and a special Talent show evening once a week.

Growth in future: Over the next few years they will be adding more caravans up to 500 (It’s 250 now), increasing the size of the pool, adding a little supermarket, changing the entrance to a safer location, adding 2 more kids clubs, and a restaurant.  Lots of those things will be great, and a little more organisation might be nice.  But at the same time I hope they hold onto the laid back feel that they have now.  I talked to someone who has owned a van for years, and they were really keen on the changes.  It’s brilliantly maintained, and I’m sure that they will keep it beautifully.

In general: It’s a very relaxed, slightly disorganised, but charming site, perfect if you don’t want to drive too far, like visiting interesting sites, and don’t want to be too hot.

 

Curly Headed Boy’s Review

He didn’t want to be missed out, so he’s made you this little video to show you what it all looked like!

 

 

Mobile Home at Siblu

Our Trip

Sadly our trip was marred by Little Dimples being sick for the majority of it.  I was exhausted before we even got there, and then hurt my back really badly.  There was a short remission after a trip to the doctor half way through and then she seemed to get sick again and the big hairy northern one hurt his back too.

It meant that I was stuck to the caravan for lots of the trip and unfortunately although we had one with a veranda we had one of the few that had very little out door space.  I should have asked for us to be moved, but I was too tired and didn’t think of it.

I wasn’t comfortable sitting outside the van because the space was so squashed, so I got a bit bored and stir-crazy.  To be fair, the majority of the pitches I looked at had loads of outdoor space, we were just unlucky.

Curly Headed Boy LOVED kids club and the pool, but it did cause a logistical nightmare though, trying to fit in visits to other places, beach trips and Little Dimples’ naps.  Next year it would be much easier.

My daughter hugging the graves at Omaha

Kids LOVE caravans, so it’s pretty much an immediate winner for them; although being ill Little Dimples did ask to go home regularly *sad face* (and is now asking to go back; typical!).

The 3/4 days that we did get to the beach I loved.  Kids just seem to play so naturally on a beach and I relax loads more.

I also went for aqua-aerobics a couple of times just to get some time to myself and discovered a new found respect for this much scoffed at exercise.

We also went to see the American cemetery at Omaha Beach which was really amazing.  The museum was great too, although not a long trip.

There was tonnes more to get out and see like the Bayeaux Tapestry, but sadly we didn’t make it.  We tried to see the english cemetery at Bayeaux, but it’s very different from the American one, with no parking nearby (you park at the museum that we had already driven past).  It was about to p*ss it down and the kids were grumpy, so I compromised with just looking as we drove past.

 

Siblu mobile home with verandah

Extras to Buy

Linen pack: let them provide the bedding, rather than fill your car to the brim!

Towel pack: You’ll get towels for the pool and shower.

Verandah: if you can afford it, very worthwhile.

Air conditioning: Probably not necessary, but maybe if you really hate any possibility of being hot.

 

What To Bring

Siblu Normandy isn't as hotTwo fleeces each: one can get sandy that way!  I brought just one and regretted it.

Tracksuit bottoms: great for after the beach when it’s chilly.

Pair of shorts: great for going to the beach or pool.

Two swimming costumes: so you don’t have to wear a wet one.

Proper PJ’s: It gets cool at night.

Jeans for cooler days and trips out.

Evening: casual, jeans, nothing very dressy, no heals.

Crocs: My peep toe crocs that were given to me with my ‘Inspire’ Britmums award were AMAZING!!!  I hated crocs before, but they are fab and the normal ones are great for the kids on the beach.

Food: You could go without. But it’ll save you shopping time if you bring a few essentials: Tomatoe Ketchup, Washing Up Liquid, Washing powder, Bleach for loos, Loo Roll, Soap, Pesto, Pasta, Tea, sugar, and anything your kids insist on having.

Beach tent and wind break at normandy

Wind break and beach tent: Really useful, especially with Little Dimples needing a mid-afternoon nap.  We also brought the Radio Flyer wagon for the beach and walking to and from the caravan.

Toys: iPads for journeys and incase the kids get sick, colouring stuff and pens (we made loo roll people one afternoon), Bananagrams, Duplo, Snap.  Buy Boules and sand castle stuff at the supermarket there (no shops on the beach).  There are plenty of plug sockets if you are geeks too and need to bring gadgets.

 

Price Comparisons

These are not comprehensive, but I was wondering how the prices match up.  I did some research between Siblu and Key Camp etc beforehand and apparently they are very similar.  So I checked what 2 adults, 3 children aged 2,6 and 13 would cost at a couple of different locations over 7 nights from Sat Aug 11th 2012.

Siblu – Domaine De Litteau – £616 + Ferry (with Cabin) £610 = Total £1216 (Remember to add petrol driving to Portsmouth and 60mins from Caen, and you could do a cheaper ferry trip)

Center Parcs – Elveden Forest – £1858 (monday-monday)

Butlins – Bognor Regis – Self catering apartment – £1658

 

Would I Go Again?

My family on a normandy beach

I would definitely do a caravan holiday again.

I definitely loved the peace and quiet and space of Normandy; I’m friendly, but not that friendly and don’t really want your towel next to mine, sorry!  I’d love to see more of the sites there as well, as they seemed to have real significance to life.

I was worried about Siblu being ‘cheap’, but there’s nothing tacky, nasty, dirty, or horrid there, which I was worried about.  It’s clean, pretty organised and beautifully maintained.

But I would like a beach nearer and a bit more sun.

I gave it 7.5/10 because I took off a point for the beach being so far away, a point for the lack of grass around my van, and half a point for slight disorganisation; it could definitely be an 8.5/10.

Eating at SibluI’d also like them to add the option to pay extra to not have to clean the caravan at the end.  I know they don’t expect a full clean, and I wasn’t planning on leaving it like a mess, but it would take a bit of stress out of leaving.  Oh and rent one of the vans out to someone offering massage and reflexology next year please!

So I reckon I would compromise and go to one of the other further southern locations for a week, where my friends kids spent the whole time in the water park, or where you could cycle to the beach.  Then I would come up to Normandy and Domaine De Litteau for the last week, more of a chill, swimming, kids clubs and visits to interesting places.

 

If you would love a holiday, would really like to go to France, don’t want it terribly hot, would like amazing beaches, kids clubs and great places to visit then I can highly recommend Domaine De litteau.  For more heat and more facilities go for a bigger Siblu site further south.

If you have young kids or can flex on dates, then avoid July-August, maybe even go in June for the D Day landings.  The prices drop are more than 50% off and you pretty much get the same holiday, maybe with more jeans, less shorts and even more chilling.

 

 

Disclosure: I was given a return ferry trip by Brittany Ferries and week at the Domaine De Litteau site from Siblu holidays for the family.  We added an extra week ourselves.  This didn’t affect my review and my opinions are my own.

 

Child at Omaha War Memorial

What Would Have Happened If Germany Had Won WW2

Child at Omaha War MemorialI think the family thought I was being a bit eccentric when I kept saying I wanted to see the cemetery at Omaha Beach for the American Soldiers.

I’m not even sure why I wanted to go?

Something to do with Dad flying in the war?

Perhaps wanting to give Curly Headed Boy who loves computer games some perspective?

Maybe to pay my respects?

I don’t know, but I do know that I would definitely recommend anyone in Normandy visit one of the many sites related to the war.

The atmosphere was lovely, it was quite breathtaking, and the kids seemed relaxed despite the message of the place.

Children at omaha watching war video

First of all you go into a building with great videos and pictures to take you quickly through the history of the war.  It’s amazingly touching to see pictures of real life people and read about their real life stories.

It’s not sad exactly, although I would admit big tears sprung to my eyes.  It was more looking inspired/grateful at the thousands of lives sacrificed for our freedom.

There is also a museum at a different location that Curly Headed Boy and the big hairy northern one went too (I was looking after a sleeping Little Dimples).  He bought a brilliant book done in a cartoon style that explains lots about the war, which he has really enjoyed.

On another day we popped to the British cemetery at Bayeaux, but unfortunately it’s not set out like the American one, so I couldn’t park nearby, and leave the tired kids with the big hairy northern one while it p*ssed it down; so I had to  compromise with just driving past it.  I’ve heard that because it has less pomp and ceremony it is actually even more touching.

 At Courseilles sur Mer (Near Arromanche) you can still see loads of evidence in the sea and on the beach of the D Day landings and when the tide goes out it looks like you can walk out to them (there was an awful storm, so we made a dash back to the car before we got a chance).

Omaha war memorial helmet and gunJust incase you don’t remember the numbers, here are a few for you to digest

 

50-70 million people died in WW2 (2.5% of the worlds population)
40-60 million approx were civilians
20-25 million were soldiers (5 million of whom were prisoners of war)
6 million Jews were killed
9,387 American soldiers are buried at Omaha, most of whom died during the Normandy landings
4,648 British soldiers are buried at the Bayeaux war memorial
22,000 civilians in Normandy died
My uncle died, lost at see and my grand mother never got over it.
My Dad never talked about the war, but you could tell the gravity of what happened when you saw him reunited with his friends.

 

And it got me thinking …

What would life have been like if we’d lost?

From Wikipedia I found the following quotes ..

Nazism favoured private property, freedom of contract, and promoted the creation of national solidarity that would transcend class differences.  The Nazis outlawed strikes by employees and lockouts by employers, because these were regarded a threat to national unity.  Instead, the state controlled and approved wage and salary levels.

It is a variety of fascism that incorporates biological racism and antisemitism.

 

My daughter hugging the graves at OmahaMy history and political understanding isn’t great but just looking at my life I can be pretty sure that it would be unrecognisable …

– Near me is a place called Radlet, which must be 50% Jewish.  That would be empty and none of Curly Headed Boys friends from his old school would have existed.  I find that a shocking thought.

– We wouldn’t have ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’, because Gypsies wouldn’t exist either.

– Curly Headed Boy wouldn’t be going to street dance and tap dancing classes because we wouldn’t want the risk of him being marked as a potential homosexual.

– My biggest gay best friend crushes wouldn’t exist: Gok Wan and John Barroman

– There would be no paraolympics, either because they were dead or hiding

– I suspect that the power of women and Mums wouldn’t have grown to the extent it has today and we would have very much been stuck in the more traditional role of staying at home.

– He hated the poles almost as much as the Jews, so there would be no Polish builders here; he would have probably been as ruthless there when he ran out of Jews to kill.

– I doubt there would have been any immigration allowed or benefits cheats; which might sound OK in ways, but what about the people who really need and deserve benefits?

– The improvements in racism wouldn’t have happened and the big arrival of West Indians after the war to help rebuild Britain wouldn’t have happened.  Bristol where I was born wouldn’t have had such a big Jamaican community and if I was Nigerian I wouldn’t come over to england, so Curly Headed Boy’s best mate at nursery and reception wouldn’t have been here.

– What about the World Wide Web?  Maybe something underground would have kicked off, but nothing to the extent that we have now and not with the freedom that we enjoy.

– Blogging would be definitely outlawed; especially a pile of opinionated women bloggers stirring up trouble like us Mummy Bloggers.

– No Facebook or Twitter; lots of time saved maybe, but the amount I learn everyday from the sheer speed of information sharing.

– There’d be no recession, because although he encouraged nationalism and industry, the wouldn’t have let the banks have such a free reign and we wouldn’t have been allowed to be so greedy and get ourselves into such a state of wanting more stuff and getting more debt.

 

Would it have lasted?  I doubt it, because the power of the resistance is strong and extended himself too much.

The scariest thought is that the cold war would probably still have existed and Hitler would have had the bomb.  The likelihood of someone with his nature using it would have been very high.

It’s given me a real sense of perspective going to see all those graves.  Although life is tough for most of us at the moment with the recession, the fact that our lives could easily have been so different is humbling.  I’ve always taken note of remembrance day, but from now on I won’t just ‘remember’ the people who died, but I will also remember how lucky we are to have the freedoms to make the mistakes and the great creations that we have today.

 

Here are all my other posts about Siblu:

An adventure in Normandy: my official review of Domainne De Litteau

Which is best going by Ferry or Plane? A review of the ferry trip to Siblu

How to go on holiday with more than 2 children and not pay a fortune: One of the key benefits of Siblu

 

Disclosure: I was on a review trip of a Siblu mobile home site called Domaine De Litteau and received a return ferry trip with Brittany Ferries and a weeks holiday for the family, we bought an extra week ourselves.  It has not affected my review and my opinions are still my own.

 

 

What it's like going on a ferry

Which is best going on holiday by Ferry or Aeroplane?

Travelling with kids is generally considered a nightmare.  The question is, which is less of a night mare; Ferries or Aeroplanes?

I was really nervous of trying a Ferry out considering the disaster of the Costa Concordia and that last time that I went on a school trip and puked the whole way.

I’ve had my share of aeroplane disasters though with an engine blowing up, wheel falling off, dropping a couple of hundred feet, and trying to get off a dangerous plane and past the men with guns.

What it's like going on a ferry

It’s not that which really stresses me though.  It’s memories of being a teenager with two disabled parents who steadfastly refused help, but took a LONG TIME to get through the airport, so I was constantly panicking that we wouldn’t make it to the plane.  (No one told me that once you are booked in they can’t leave without you!).

I basically freak from the moment we set off to the airport and don’t settle until we are on the plane.

Now that I have kids I freak all the way through the plane journey until we land as well.

That’s a lot of freaking!

So the ferry seemed like a really good idea.  But there was hardly any information about it for a control freak like me and I had no idea how it would work.

It’s really easy though: just a pile of different queues.  You arrive and queue in the right place for your trip.  You can even get out and go to the main building, but I don’t recommend it as several people were caught out as the queues moved.  Then you get put in a queue for your car shape and size.  Then you started to queue up to go on the boat, where you park in a queue.

Remember the level and letter of where you are though!!!!!!!

We had a bag ready to take with us, and off you go up to your cabin and the ferry.  Wander around for a few hours.  Then leave your cabin half an hour before the end and head back to the right staircase for your car.  Pop in your car as soon as the automatic door opens, and depending on where your car is, you’re off!

 

Kids on the deck of a ferryPro’s to Plane:

Quicker (the ferry was 6hrs).

Heathrow/Luton/Gatwick are nearer to us.

Can go further away than just France, Spain or Holland.

You don’t get scared shitless by having to walk around the outside of the plane with your two kids!

I have puked on a plane, but less often than on a Ferry.

Quicker to go to nearby places.

 

Pro’s to Ferry:

No need to park the car.

No limit (apart from size of car) on how much stuff you could take: So we had wind break, Boogie board and Radio Flyer!

Less faffing around at the airport.

No waiting for suitcases afterwards.

A cabin has bunk beds that come down from the roof

More shops.

Things to do on board: Cinema, Soft play, Magician, Dinosaur show.

Choice of food (3 different places)

More space: you can even have a cabin with bunk beds that come down from the roof, which was fab.

 

Kind of the same for each:

Price: You can probably find cheaper options of both.

Customs was quick for us, but slow for one of our friends.

Both journeys can take up pretty much a whole day.

 

On the way out I would have said that I’ve come away a lot keener on ferry trips and didn’t puke once (I had some homeopathic pills).

From talking to other people, it’s better to go on the slow ferry than the fast one if you are prone to puking!

HOWEVER, on the way back it wasn’t rough but it was ‘choppy’ apparently.  Well, whichever the way the ‘chop’ was going I was bed ridden for the whole trip and the big hairy northern one tried to brave it out, but because he’d walked around for longer, ended up feeling sick for hours after as well.  You DEFINITELY need a cabin when travelling with kids.

For the sea sickness I tried homeopathic pills, ginger biscuits and in the past have used those pressure bracelet things.  Basically the only thing that helped was keeping my head low and then having some bitter lemon when we left (I had some in my bag, because the bubbles and sugar seem to help me).  When we got home I had a pack of crisps; I might like healthy eating, but crisps work a treat for me when I feel sick!

 

Here are all my other posts about Siblu:

An adventure in Normandy: my official review of Domainne De Litteau

What would have happened if Germany had won WW2: a review of the american Omaha cemetery

How to go on holiday with more than 2 children and not pay a fortune: One of the key benefits of Siblu

 

Disclosure: I was given a return trip from Portsmouth to Caen with Brittany Ferries as part of a review trip I was doing on Siblu Holidays.

Kids love muddy festivals

Don’t Go Thinking I’m More Adventurous Than You!

Kids love muddy festivalsI had a couple of lovely comments from Mums watching the funny stream of muddier and muddier instagram photos appearing during my visit to Penn Festival.  Many suggested how brave I was, or how well I was coping with mud up to the kids knees.

So I thought I’d set the record straight, because I don’t want you all reading my blog and thinking ‘Oooh isn’t she clever – I could never do that!’.

I am definitely NOT more adventurous than you!

Two years ago I’d never been camping and never been to a festival.  Not one tiny festival, even as a teenager or student.  How boring is that!

As part of my mid-life crisis I decided I was going to be more adventurous and do things I’d always wanted to do.  So I literally convinced myself that I was up for it by reminding myself regularly of how adventurous and magical my life was.

Last year, we went off for our first adventure to Just So in a Yurt (proper glamping to start me off slowly).  Finding it a huge success I decided that this year was going to be even more adventurous, and that I also wanted to try out holidays that were maybe simpler and cheaper so that I could review them for my blog.

Luckily for me it’s all been pretty easy.  The gorgeous Romany from FestivalKidz contacted me to review Penn Festival and hence I am now a ‘proper’ festivaller who has experienced a musical mud-fest extraordinaire, plus my first camping trip (check out the video of hubby putting up a tent in 3mins), and found that as long as I can make it look vaguely pretty I can handle anything.  (Especially with a shed load of lists!).

Hopefully I get so see what it’s like to go to a non-muddy festival in a tent later in the year as Just So have invited me back to review their new location and even more fabulous line up.  This time we are going for the full event and not leaving until the monday, so that we can soak up the whole magical environment; the organisers of Just So have the most incredible imagination when it comes to kids, so it’s bound to have LOADS of adventure in it.

In a few days I’m going to be able to let you know what it’s like to be in a mobile home holiday camp in Normandy care of the lovely people at Siblu.  I would always have wanted to try something like this, but I must admit I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to try something so different if they hadn’t contacted me.  So if you would also be nervous of ferries, and caravans in france, perfect, because I can let you know how it all pans out and you’ll know whether it would work for you too!

I’m really excited about seeing what Siblu is like because when we went for our first summer holiday last year I realised how ridiculously expensive it is if you want practical accommodation  for a young family (i.e. inter-connecting hotel rooms or studios).  We found a cheap holiday in Cyrpus in a studio apartment.  But one family I met had to pay for TWO studio apartments, just because they had 3 kids rather than two, literally doubling the price and therefore meaning they could only go for one week.  So although Siblu would be about the same price as that holiday (when you add in Ferries etc), it would be a totally different situation for people with more kids.  Plus if you don’t want to fly with your kids, it’s a perfect idea.

I’m not naturally adventurous.  I’m just 43, and decided that I’m done with thinking that all the adventure is for other people and not trying things out myself. I’m sure some won’t work out, but some will be great.

So when you see all the fab things I tell you about on my blog, rather than think ‘I’m not sure I could do that’, think instead ‘Well, if Lisa can do it, then so can I!’.