Atlantica Holiday Village Greece – part 1

Delays, Mosquitos and Making Friends in Paradise

We booked our Atlantica HV Rhodes holiday over a year ago as we wanted to make sure we could bag one of the very few rooms that can accommodate a family of five.

The 31 July couldn’t come fast enough.

Our plane was originally meant to leave Luton airport at 8.15am. (A surprisingly sensible time for a First Choice/TUI flight!)

Check in and getting through the airport at Luton was a breeze – even with it being the school holiday and the copious number of people.

Unfortunately we were held on the tarmac for 40 minutes as Traffic control in Rhodes said they had “no space” for our aircraft. Our pilot chuckled and said, “That’s Greece for you, get used to it”.

Once in the air all was good. The kids behaved so well, (honestly, they were fantastic), we had lovely snacks and drinks and all in all it was a pretty non eventful flight.

When we arrived in Rhodes we were, once again, held on the tarmac. Since the Rhodes Traffic control had asked us to wait back in London, we had now missed “our slot” to land. (Which made zero sense as they were the once who asked us to wait in the first place!!)

Anyway. 45 minutes later and we were allowed to disembark.

My goodness. Stepping off that plane and hitting that wall of heat. You know the one mean? It hits you like a sledgehammer.

Thumbs down. My beautiful, beloved Betsey Johnson flowery suitcase got totally destroyed.

Thumbs up: Even with a two hour delay, the taxi driver was waiting for us at arrivals. He was a lovely chap who told us all about the local history and what not to miss as we left Rhodes Town for Kolymbia and the Atlantica Hotel. Originally from the mainland, he travels to Rhodes in the summer to work as a taxi driver. He said that this was pretty common as tourism still makes up most of the Greece economy. (“The most important economic industries are tourism and merchant shipping”*

Checking in at the hotel was super easy and within 10 minutes we were in our room.

And even though it’s a bit on the small side, it’s lovely and comfortable. The fact that it fits us all is an achievement in itself.

The main bedroom is split into two sections by a partition wall that works well. There’s a big bathroom with shower and bathtub and obviously the pièce de résistance – our own swim up pool entrance.

Every other holiday we’ve been to with the kids have meant one of us getting up at the crack of dawn to reserve sun beds and it’s just doesn’t feel like a proper holiday. Faffing with the alarm, getting all the towels out and then lying around until you can go for breakfast.

We have our very own piece of sunny heaven. We don’t have to set an alarm, there is no rush. Our sun beds are out there for us to use at any time. We can have a lie in every day.

I honestly can’t tell you enough how wonderful this is.

I’m kidding, we have THREE KIDS – what the heck is a LIE IN?!

The kids have done lots of fun activities. Maggie has had swimming lessons and took part in Stage Academy with a show at the end of the first week.

Jackson has been doing Football academy.

Both of them have joined in several kids activities.

Alfie’s been into the crèche, and although a bit hesitant at first – he now enjoys it.

Maggie and Jackson made friends with some lovely Irish/Scottish girls on the first day and luckily for Brooks and I, their parents are lovely and so we all hang out.

It’s so nice when they make friends and it’s all very relaxed and well, easier somehow.

One drawback has been the mosquitos. They have been relentless and Alfie and I have been bitten alive. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Brooks and I went to George’s shop next door and bought everything. Like, any kind of mosquito fighting cream, spray plugin imaginable.

Alfie’s bites are so bad, the staff at the crèche suggested we call a doctor as they suspected it was chicken pox.

(It wasn’t. The doctor arrived. He confirmed they’re mosquito bites and prescribed a cream and antihistamine. £130 later. Ahem. But better safe than sorry right?)

The first week has flown by. This week we’re planning to head down to the beach and hopefully do some shopping too.

Center Parcs Woburn review

I’ve said it before – Center Parcs is a Parents Paradise.  Everything is set up with little ones in mind. I mean, everything.

I ain’t going to lie though – it’s expensive.  One week at Center Parcs easily equals a week’s holiday in the sun somewhere abroad.  Coming to, and in some degree, staying at Center Parcs is expensive.

But I guess this is where you’ll have to ponder the pros and cons and decide what’s important for you.

We stayed for a week during the Easter Holidays.  We had to queue to check in this time but it was generally smooth and straightforward.  It was tricky to find a parking space as it was absolutely rammed but we got there in the end.

The park itself is lovely and the perfect size. Big enough to not feel on top of other people, but you can easily get everywhere on foot.

We stayed in an Executive Dog friendly lodge in the Oak area, close to the Aqua Sana.

The Accommodation

img_0377
Our digs.

We loved our lodge. It was clean and fresh and it had all the amenities you could think of. Bring extra washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets though! They don’t give you enough initially. Also, if you’re staying a week, and is a coffee lover like us, then I suggest you bring some spare coffee pods for the Nespresso machine.

Our lodge was adapted for dogs but you’d never really know – it was really super clean and didn’t smell of dog at all.

We had a two bed lodge this time and it felt very spacious. Each room had an ensuite; one with a shower and one with a jacuzzi bath. The two older kids shared a room and loved it!

There’s an outside area with table and chairs and a BBQ.

The kitchen area was great. Really clean and it had pretty much everything you need for cooking for the family. There is a wine cooler which is a bonus.  The freezer is TINY, like a freezer compartment – keep that in mind if you’re bringing food from home.

Not that you need to bring lots of food. I would say bring food for the first night (unless you’re planning to eat out every night) and then top up from the local Parc Market if necessary.  It’s a great little shop and has a great variety of products.

What To Do

Honestly, Centre Parcs Woburn has so much to offer. There are loads of outside activities. Boating on the lake, riding your bike everywhere (though it’s quite hilly!), feeding the ducks in the lake, crazy golf, go for a play in the numerous play areas or just go for a walk – you are spoilt for choice!

We brought our bikes and it really worked well for us. Yes, it’s hilly, but our older kids really enjoyed the experience. We learned our lesson from last year and had bought a bike trailer for Maggie and Alife to chill in.  (You can find some really nice second hand ones on eBay)

You can pay to do activities too. Jackson, Kiri and Brooks headed to the Falconry Centre for an hour with the big birds. It was an amazing experience; the bird handler really took the time to explain and show how to handle the birds.

Maggie and Oscar the Owl

We did Aqua jetting again as well as Archery, Climbing, Pottery, Ballet Class, Teddy Bear Making, Maggie and I met the gorgeous Owls.

Swimming

But the main focus was the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The kids, and grown-ups loved it here.

There are different zones or splash areas depending on your age and something to suit everyone. The big boys loved the Rapids in particular and the wave pool.

Maggie and Alfie loved the smaller splash area and grew more and more confident in the water each day.

I’ve said it before – there isn’t an actual pool for swimming which is a real shame.

We learned our lesson from last year and so we hired a Cabana to stay in.  It’s pricey, but definitely worth it for a welcomed break in the day – particularly if you have a baby or toddler. (Or just need a nap in the middle of the day!)  There’s a fan, cold drinks (you get a mini fridge), comfy chairs and a TV.  It’s like your very own little beach hut.

In terms of food and drink there’s a Starbucks and Monty’s serving pizza, hot dogs and burger. Not gourmet food but absolutely fine and kids were very happy.

Food

Sarah and LEON, sittin’ in a tree…

We (okay me and my friend Sarah) fell in love with Leon’s and we had a take away pretty much every day.  Loved everything about it. The food is right up our street. We didn’t dine out this stay because, you know, three kids.  We used the Parc Market more and cooked at home every night.

Aqua Sana

The Star performer overall again was Aqua Sana Spa. WORTH. EVERY. DAMN. PENNY. You leave the place feeling really refreshed and rejuvenated. Bliss.

There are these comfy sofas on the sunlit roof terrace overlooking Center Parcs and initially we thought “maybe a bit boring” but no. We snuggled in lapping up the rays and woke up 40 minutes later.  I had a lovely manicure too – what a treat!

Wonderful staff, wonderful Spa area – just perfect.

General

I felt so relaxed.  Like I’ve not felt that relaxed in a long time – so happy and content. Of course there were some hiccups, but in general it was all pretty awesome.

We’ll be back.

Pro’s:

  • For us, not having to take the kids anywhere abroad on an airplane was a big bonus.
  • It’s only a 40 minute drive from our house. Anything that saves travel time is a blessing in this house
  • We could bring Buddy the dog
  • There are LOADS of child and toddler activities. All three of our kids would be catered for.
  • It’s safe and fairly contained. We could let the kids out and play and they were free (within reason obvs) to run around on their own.
  • We travelled with friends who stayed in the lodge opposite us. This made such a difference as kids and adults alike always had mates to hang out with and we could all split up at times to do different activities.
  • The Tropical Swimming was a HUGE hit with our kids. We went here every day.  It’s also free. (Yay)
  • No cars are allowed in the village so the kids got to practice their bike riding skills in a safe environment. Having our bikes also meant we all got some exercise every day riding up those steep hills!
  • The lodges were immaculately cleaned every day.
  • Staff are generally incredibly lovely and accommodating.
  • The Aqua Sana Spa is outstanding. You’ll leave floating on clouds.
  • There are loads of restaurants and take away places to choose from – or make food at home!
  • The Supermarket onsite is great and has pretty much everything you need. You can also leave the site and head to Tesco’s down the road.
  • The wine cooler.

Con’s:

  • It IS expensive. And everything on site is expensive. Captive market and all that.  It’s just what it is.
  • Staff are very young. I felt like the place was run by teenagers.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a bit odd.  Some lacked experiences generally.
  • It’s very steep and hilly – not ideal for little ones on bikes
  • They really need to invest in a proper pool area for swimming
  • The freezer and fridge are tiny, especially if you’re a large family of five.  Bring a lot of cupboard ingredients and top up during the week
  • They were really slow at service – prepare to wait in queue for your food.
Squad. 

 

 

 

Walnut and Coffee Birthday Cake

We had an amazing day yesterday celebrating Brooks’ birthday.

We ventured to a new restaurant at The Grove, Hertfordshire on the Saturday (a review to follow) and on the Sunday was spent in our local park.

All in all – a lovely birthday weekend.

We’re so lucky to live in the beautiful countryside with so many parks and lakes nearby. We used to live in London for years, but once we had Jackson we decided to move further out.

It’s honestly been the best decision for us as a family. (Albeit I miss London terribly of course! Luckily it’s only a 20 minute train ride away!)

Anyway. Cake.

I tried a new cake recipe! Brooks’ favourite cake is Coffee and Walnut cake so that’s what I made. The result was super tasty and I’ve shared the recipe here:

Ingredients:

• 225g butter

• 225g caster sugar

• 4 eggs

• 50ml strong espresso coffee

• 225g self-raising flour

• about 75g walnuts

For the buttercream topping

• 125g unsalted butter (room temperature)

• 200g icing sugar

• 50ml strong espresso coffee

Decorations:

Walnut halves and any chocolate bars you like. I used Wispas, Mini Fudges, Minstrels, Ballerina cookies (Swedish cookies – similar to a Chocolate Jammy Dodger), Mini Reese’s Cups, KitKat.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and pale.

3. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well to completely incorporate each egg before adding the next egg.

4. Add the espresso to the mixture and stir well.

5. Add the flour and walnuts and stir well to completely combine.

6. Spoon the cake mixture into two lined and greased 20cm/8in cake tins.

7. Transfer to the oven to bake 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is golden-brown.

8. Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

9. For the buttercream topping, beat the butter and icing sugar together in a small bowl until pale and light.

10. Add the espresso and mix well.

11. Spread the buttercream over the top of each cake, then place one cake on top of the other.

12. Decorate the top of the cake with walnut halves as well as all the favourite chocolate bars!

Travel Review – Swiss Farm Henley

Travelling with kids – Camping…

I know. Why would you voluntarily put yourself, and your whole family, in a tent for the weekend?

Not only that – but you’d bring all your friends along too! (though good thing obviously!) And a dog!

We’ve been going camping since Jackson was in Reception with a few of his school friends and we always have a blast. It’s a firm favourite of ours and we always look forward to it every year.

The kids play and parents get to chill, drink wine, eat and catch up.

The Girls

We normally have a BBQ and make s’mores, (also firm favourite!) and we all and chip in and share food and snacks. It’s beautiful.

It’s completely stripped back, with all our focus firmly on our kids.

TENT

We have a fantastic bell tent that we bought from Soulpad a few years back. I can’t recommend this tent enough. It comfortably fits us all (2 adults, 3 kids and a dog), all our gear and food. It’s relatively cool in the day time and warm at night. Check out the website – I promise it’s worth every penny.

Inside our Bell Tent

This year we decided to head to Swiss Farm in Henley and boy – it was fabulous. It’s a great camp site! I completely understand the hype now. Staff are so helpful and nice from the get go at reception. We stayed in a deluxe pitch (with electrical point, park bench and water point close by) and it was well worth the extra. We had so much space! The site is very well looked after too – everything is super clean and accessible. The showers and toilets were fantastic, and easy to find. Again, really fresh and super clean.

Blue Skies

We loved the pool area. We were lucky (?) to travel here during the heat wave so the water was a welcomed break. I don’t know how well I would have coped inside the tent when the sun was blazing down on us. Buddy the dog could come to the restaurant next door to the pool and this was a life saver. It meant one of us could sit and have a coffee with the dog whilst the rest of the gang went for a swim. But it also meant that he could come with us when we went for a beautiful cooked breakfast in the morning!

The only gripe was that people were putting towels out in the morning session to save sun loungers in the pool area. I mean… Really?

Mags.

Some of the families left their towels on the sun loungers, then kept popping out for lunch and later dinner – making those sun loungers out of action in between… Anyway. I was desperate to get an umbrella for the baby and my porcelain skinned children! Next year I will bring my own umbrella.

We had dinner in the restaurant twice and it was really nice. I can really recommend a visit here if fancy a break away from the usual camping food. Order the fish and chips – it’s amazing! Followed by any of the breakfast dishes. You’ll thank me later!

Eggs Benedict. Beautiful.

The staff are so friendly and service minded. Always smiling. They can’t do enough for you. Our food order got mixed up twice, but they were quick to rectify the problem.

The Gang

Livermore Top Tips:

  1. Bring your own pool umbrella. No joke.
  2. They’re meant to operate a “one session per day system” whereby you can use the pool for one particular 2 1/2 hour session only, but this wasn’t in place when we where there so the pool was rammed. I reckon head for the early slot if you fancy a swim with little ones.
  3. Head into Henley if you fancy a change of scenery. It’s gorgeous.
  4. Check the calendar before you head here. There was some sort of music festival in Henley when we stayed and the music was SO LOUD. We didn’t sleep.
  5. There is so much for the kids to do here. Playgrounds, swings, walks through the woods, the pool. You’ll be spoiled for choice
Erika and Karen
Sunkissed.

I caught the travelling bug when I was eight

Traveling with kids – the airplane edition

Our oldest is a seasoned traveller after years of commuting between Sweden and U.K.  For him, flying has become second nature and he doesn’t bat an eyelid nowadays. He always behaves in an exemplary manner. 

I’m joking obviously. 

Jackson

He’s a child.

They will always try and throw you a curve ball or eight.  You know, to keep you on you your toes. 

I remember the first time I went on a plane. I was eight years old and we were flying to London, our first holiday as a family.  

Travelling anywhere with my family was always a challenge.  You see, my parents are complete polar opposites.

Mum worries about EVERYTHING and has to be at the airport at least four hours before take off. She’ll have her bags packed at least a week in advance. 

My dad, on the other hand, well, he is never in a hurry and would probably arrive five minutes before boarding if he got his way. 

Let’s just say this is a recipe for disaster/interesting family time.

I got the travelling bug right away. 

I loved watching all the people rushing round to different destinations, the cabin crew – so sleek and professional, and feeling the plane take off into the clouds for the first time, watching Arlanda disappear 

Nowadays, the novelty of flying has worn off somewhat.

I’ve flown with many airlines to all kinds of destinations – both for work and leisure.  

I’ve had good trips and awful trips. I’ve been on long flights and short flights. I’ve missed flights and slept on an airport floor.  (Yes, really). 

Although I’ve had so many experiences with airplane travel,  some things are a constant.

I’m sure most of you will know these things already, but here’s a list of a few things we’ve picked up along the way.

Livermore’s Top Tips:

  1. People will always rush to board the plane. It doesn’t matter whether you fly short or long haul, budget or premium – we all want to get on that flight prontissimo.  You either join them or sit down and wait in protest.  Or you book first class and sail by the queue – up to you and your budget.  We’ll all end up on the same plane after all. 
  2. Boarding sequence is a weird one but generally speaking, if you have seats at the front or the very back you’ll either be boarding first and off first – or on first, off last. (Again, unless you fly Business or First Class) 
  3. Buy your snacks and food before flying. It’ll be nicer and cheaper.  Everyone does it so don’t worry about what’s etiquette. 
  4. Having said that, recently we’ve had some very meals with SAS and Tui respectively. I think airlines are upping their game! 
  5. Prepare for the unexpected. When we flew to Tenerife the cabin crew suddenly announced that we would be landing in Agadir, Morocco to drop off some crew. (I’m not kidding!) Bring extra nappies, babymilk, wipes, spare clothes and board games.
  6. Invest in a good power bank. An iPad is your best friend on long flights. You want it fully charged!
  7. I’ve said it before – headphone splitters. They will save many fights – err, I mean flights, in the future.
  8. I screen shot all the booking emails (parking, tickets, airplane lounges, car hire etc, etc) and the inside of the passport and then save into an album on my phone. That way I have all the info I need at hand in case the hard copies go awol and I don’t need to sift through numerous emails. 
  9. Most airline check ins can also be done really easily via an app.
  10. Team tag your luggage. If you’re like the majority of the population then you most likely own a black, red or navy suitcase.  (Unless you’re like me and love pink and purple coloured bags!) 
  11. We bring a refillable bottle and take through security. You can fill them up on the other side for free! 
  12. Another thing we do is to have a case for all our cables/chargers. That way, they’re all in one place and easy to access on the plane or once you’re at your destination. 

Happy Travels!

My flowery suitcase

Love, Jess

Love Halloween Hate Scary Movies

I love Halloween. 

Jackson trialling his electrifying Halloween costume

I love dressing up for Halloween. Under duress I dress up my children, dog and house. My husband is down with the dressing up but he’s firstly awesome and secondly an actor, so dressing up is second nature. 

My decoration collection has steadily been growing for years. A lot of the supermarkets stock a lot of fabulous Halloween decorations nowadays and I always head to TKMaxx for any fun/extravagant extras. And I ain’t done yet. 

Alfie wearing his Lion outfit

Every year I research different themes and  with the kids we come up with fun ghoulish food and drinks menus. I go full out. 

(Mind you, that is true for most Holidays. I go BIG. But that’s for another day) 

However, as we have small children I try and find themes that are less offensive and scary. 

More Casper, less Pennywise if you will. 

I love Halloween. The autumnal colours, pumpkin soup, dia de los muertos, candy, being creative – not only when it comes to costumes, but also the food. 

I hate Scary Movies. 

I really, really do. 

Watching Poltergeist as a teenager positively traumatised me. I had nightmares for weeks. Heck, even now, if I see the TV flicker the hairs at the back of my neck stand up. 

And don’t even get me started on those twins in the Shining or Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

Even though I dislike them so much, I’ve somehow watched most of the more notorious scary films. 

As an adult though I refuse to watch them. My imagination runs away with me and I can’t sleep.  

A lot of pop-culture references and iconic characters come from horror films. I’m sure you can name a few; Michael Myers, Jason, Norman Bates or (perhaps the scariest of all) Freddy Krueger. 

 Fortuitously, growing up I missed the whole Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and recently I thought it a splendid idea to acquaint myself with it.  You know, to see what all the fuss was about. 

Surely it wouldn’t be scary now, I’m a grown woman, it’s the middle of the day, it’s just a film. 

Wrong. 

Brooks found me on our sofa in the lounge, pop music blasting out from the speakers, all the lights on, no sound on the TV watching Nightmare of Elm Street, hiding behind a big pillow. 

This year we’ll be away in Spain for Halloween so the kids and I decided to have our own spooktastic party early.

We’re making spooky brownies, spooky cupcakes and mummy frankfurters. 

Today we were making hot dog mummies. Such an easy dish to make and the kids love it. Here is the recipe I used: 

Frankfurter Mummy

You’ll need:

  • a packet of hot dogs/Frankfurters (8)
  • puff pastry, either shop bought or make your own 
  • Mustard 
  • Edible Eyes, for decorating once cooked and cooled
  • An egg (for the egg wash) 
  • Ketchup for the (historically inaccurate, yet very tasty) blood
Puff pastry ready to be cut into strips

Preheat your oven to about 180 (160 Fan assisted)

Take your puff pastry out and carefully cut out thin strips.

Now thread the strips around the frankfurters. You don’t have to be too precise, they’re mummies after all.

Once you’ve covered them with pastry, place them on a baking sheet. 

Egg wash your frankfurter mummies.

Place in your oven and bake until the pastry is brown. (About 15 – 20 minutes or so) 

Take your hot dogs out and let them cool. Add little dots of mustard at the top of every frankfurter and add the edible eyes for the finished look. 

Enjoy! 

Frankfurter Mummies

Holy Mackerel – Alfie’s Party

Holy mackerel. What a party! 💙 Today we celebrated Alfie with lots of our family and friends. 

As usual I was running around all over, (#threekids) but we all had such a lovely time.  The kids had decided we should have a Under the Sea theme. 

I love a party theme.

To be fair, I love a party. In fact, if you know me well you’ll know not only do I love a party, but I particularly organising and planning a party. Any kind of party! 

The morning was spent sorting out the party food and decorations. 

Ocean Blue Scallop square dish
Ocean Blue Scallop dish

Honeycomb decorations
Honeycomb and Fan decorations

 

 

I got most of the decorations and balloons from eBay and some of the helium balloons from Morrison’s. Their party section really is excellent and good value too. 

I’m in love with these honeycomb decorations. And you can order a set in a colour scheme which is so handy too. I chose blue green and then bought some Aqua blue shade fans to go with it. 

We put popcorn in little buckets and added a sprinkle of mermaid glitter. 

Popcorn in a bucket y’all
Mermaid sprinkles. What’s not to love?
A banner just for Alfred

We had personalised Alfred banners and Blue 1st birthday balloons. (You can never have too many balloons in my mind) 

I love serving salads at parties as it’s simple to make for big numbers and easy to individualise by adding a few ingredients here and there. 

Also. Salads mean I can have lots of cake for dessert. Win – win.

Today was no different and this is one of the salads on the party smorgasbord.  

Roasted pumpkin and sweet potato salad

This super yummy (and healthy!) salad is made up with green leaves, spinach, roasted pumpkin, roasted sweet potatoes, walnuts and pomegranate. 

Drizzle some balsamic glaze over and you’ll be all set. 

Another popular salad is a broccoli coleslaw salad with roasted cashew nuts and dried cranberries from Costco. It’s simply divine and a firm staple on all our party tables.  

Sandwich cutter – dolphins and ❤️

As well as some good old sausage rolls I also made ham and cheese sandwiches in the shape of dolphins for the kids that all went down very well. 

Under the Sea Quiz. Kept the adults busy for ages – result

Alfred’s granny had made all the cakes and they looked and tasted amazing!

Cupcake Fish Cake
Vanilla sponge cake
Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing and edible sea creatures on top

And how about this weather we’re having?!We were sitting outside, in the sunshine, whilst the kids were running around playing in the garden in October!

We couldn’t have asked for a better set up. 

That sky…

Now it’s time to put my feet up, have some bubbles and catch up on Strictly. Happy Saturday everyone!