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.

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

How to make Spooky Halloween Brownies

Being a Swenglish family we have the luxury to mix, amend, borrow and sometimes create a lot of our holidays. We can chose the things we like and make them into our own family tradition. 

For example, we celebrate traditional

Swedish holidays like Lucia and Midsummer, we have a Crayfish party in August, and an annual Eurovision party in May. 

We have a little mini Swedish Christmas on the 24th of December with the Christmas ham and Jansson’s but our Christmas is on the 25th.  

We celebrate Bonfire night, “Mys” on a Friday and generally have a roast every Sunday. 

We join the hordes of other revellers in park on a Bank holiday. (Even if it rains!) 

It made me think though. Other than Easter and a Royal Wedding – what other British holidays are there? 

Anyway. It’s lovely to pick and choose really. The best of both worlds!

We’ve also borrowed from our cousins overseas and have totally embraced Halloween.

The best Halloween I ever experienced was when I lived in Illinois in the nineties, but that’s a story for another day. 

This year we’re in Tenerife, Spain on holiday over Halloween and so it has been a very different experience. 

Believe Hotel Halloween Entertainment Schedule

The hotel we’re staying in have gone full out, with tons of decorations and dress up opportunities and lots of different activities everyday so the kids (and grownups) will get the full Halloween experience! 

Apparently their Casa del Terror is meant to be be really scary…. We’ll send Brooks to trial and review it on Wednesday.  

For me, one of the awesome parts of Halloween is all the fun Halloween theme food you can serve – and eat! 

Before we left England the kids and I made some spooky brownies. They’re super easy to make and so tasty. Kids and grownup alike will love these!  

This is the recipe we used…

You’ll need:

2 bowls 

1 microwave safe bowl

Small pan

20 square tin 

Baking parchment 

Edible eyes (sugar craft) 

4 large eggs

250g unsalted butter

200g good quality cocoa powder

300g caster sugar 

300g flour 

Pinch of salt 

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract 

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder 

50g white chocolate and 50g dark  chocolate

Marshmallows (we used the extra big fluffy kind and used about 5) 

  1. Preheat you oven to 175°. We used a 20cm square tin for this. (It depends on the consistency you’re after. If you use a smaller tin your batter will be more gooey, if using a bigger tin, the batter will be crispy). Add some baking parchment to stop it from sticking to the bottom.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up your white and dark chocolate into chunks. You’ll use these later once the brownie isbaked. 
  3. Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa powder. 
  4. In a different bowl mix together eggs and sugar. Once mixed, fold in the dry ingredients adding the flour and baking powder last.  
  5. Tip you batter into the tin and spread out evenly.
  6. Add you white and dark chocolate chunks to the batter.
  7. Put your mixture into the oven and cook for about 20 -25 minutes. 
  8. Let your brownies cool.
  9. Once cooled, put your marshmallow into a microwave safe bowl and melt for about 30 seconds a go. You want it really sticky and gooey.
  10. Take your marshmallow mess and this is the tricky sticky part.
  11. Word of advice: You’ll have to work fast with this one as the mixture will cool and harden quickly. Dip your fingers into the marshmallow mixture and carefully pull strings over the brownie, effectively making a web like patter. Keep adding more and more marshmallow strings. 
  12. Add your edible eyes 
  13. Now it’s ready to be served whole as a cake, or cut into individual squares.


That time I kissed a Moose and a travel review.

Moose

Moose. The symbol of Sweden.

They are Majestic. Regal.

Moose are absolutely huge. It’s extremely humbling when you happen to see one up close and personal. Moose weigh up to about 700 Kg and they’re about 2 meters tall. They are MASSIVE.

They truly are the Kings of the Scandinavian Woods. (And North America!)

Growing up in the Swedish countryside, surrounded by woods, I’ve always had respect for these gentle giants. You did not want to meet one at night driving your car. The impact is the same as hitting a train at full speed.

Once when I was about 17, I was in the kitchen making a cup of tea when I suddenly got that horrible feeling… My hair at the back of my neck stood up and my blood froze.

I had that feeling like someone was watching me. I turned to the window and there it was. A huge dark shadow, staring right at me.

It was early autumn and it had already started getting darker in the evenings so initially I couldn’t really make out what the shadow was. Trust me when I say that I was PETRIFIED.

However, I soon realised it was a huge Moose cow. And she was in our garden. Eating our apples.

Having Moose appear in your garden does happen on occasion so I wasn’t too bothered by that.

But something was odd… She was acting erratically.

Eating the apples but sort of dropping them and slobbering all over place. She couldn’t walk straight.

She looked… drunk.

Moose

We called the farmer next door and he informed us that yes – she was indeed drunk. She had eaten all the over ripe apple off our trees and she was wasted.

We had no choice but to wait her out. She ate some more apples and eventually wobbled back to whence she came. I thought of offering her a strong cup of coffee, *jordgubbssaft and a couple of paracetamol to help with the hangover but decided against it.

I promise you. You’ve not lived until you’ve seen a drunk Moose.

Moose are really abundant in that part of Sweden so there are lots of Moose road signs around. Growing up, the word was that the German tourists used to steal the “Beware, Moose!” signs of the road. I’m not sure if there’s any truth in this but they sure do love a Moose Safari.

And who can blame them?!

I was delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed this outing to Virum Älgsafari.

Virum Moose Safari

We arrived early and I’m very happy that we did because we didn’t have to queue for the ride.

We jumped in one of the carriages, ready to meet the Moose.

The Rangers talked through the safety rules and explained not to get out of the carriage, stay seated and calm.

The Moose were all out in the paddock and they moved up to greet the tractor. They were absolutely huge up close. We’d all been given vegetables and greens to give the Moose.

The Rangers said that the Moose will give you a kiss if you lean out with a treat. There was no way in hell I was going to do this. But then when my 6 year nephew did it without hesitation I couldn’t really NOT try.

So that’s how it happened.

I kissed a Moose and I liked it.

I received a slobbery kiss from Albin the Moose and I can confirm that it was pleasant and not at all scary.

Our kids loved the ride and the whole outing in general. We had lunch near the playground and seeing the massive queues waiting for the next Safari I was really glad we’d been on the first ride.

There’s a cafe and a shop onsite too that sell the normal tourist paraphernalia. And a lot of Moose road signs – presumably for the German tourists.

Livermore’s Top Tips:

  1. Arrive early. Make sure you get on the first ride of the day. You can’t pre-book and the Safari gets really busy.
  1. Bring hand gel
  1. Bring a packed lunch. The cafe is lovely, but as with most things in Sweden, a bit pricey
  1. There’s only one customer toilet by the cafe and shop and so the queue was very long. There are toilets outside by the first barn on your left as your enter the Moose Park.
  2. Try the Zip Wire.

* Yes. It does work. (I swear by this hangover cure.)

Travelling with kids – Vimmerby

We spent a week in a beautiful house in the outskirts of Vimmerby in Småland during our Sweden trip this summer.

The house was an old missionary building from the 1800’s. It was beautiful, with lots of antiques and odd furniture and we all loved it!

There were three families in total and we all could fit comfortably. (Although there was only one toilet and shower!!)

We knew we wanted to explore the beautiful countryside. We wanted to go swimming. We had also planned for a day out at Astrid Lindgren’s World (ALV) and a Moose Safari.

The first day we headed to ALV and we all had a brilliant time (-see earlier post for more Info on ALV).

The house we had rented for the week was situated nearby Lönneberga Village – the village were Emil grew up – and so for our second day outing we headed to Katthult farm, Emil’s family farm.

Emil is a fictional character created by Astrid Lindgren. He’s sweet and cheeky little boy, and although he means well, he always somehow ends up in trouble! He lives on a farm with his mum and dad, little sister Ida, the farm hand Alfred and farm maid Lina.

Emil looks up to Alfred and considers him his best friend. He doesn’t care for Lina much, who’s constantly nagging Alfred, trying to get him to marry her. His mother Alma is kind and loving, but his father Anton on the other hand has a short temper – but is generally the one who suffers the most from Emil’s pranks!

This was such a lovely experience! The kids got to pet the horses, the cows, the chickens and the rabbits. The tried to collect water from the well, hide inside the earth cellar and even to walk on stilts!

The buildings were used for the Emil films and it was fascinating for the children to see how people lived at the end of the 1890’s. You can visit Snickerboa’, the little wood shop shed, where Emil used to hide from his father. Most of the Emil films were filmed around the property and so it all felt very familiar!

The Katthult house is a privately own property, and I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a stream of tourists wandering around your land every day! But hey, each to the own.

You have to pay to enter Katthult and there’a a cafe onsite, with buns and coffee/ tea and ice creams. There is also a great gift shop.

We headed further down the nostalgia route and visited Bullerbyn.

Entry to the village is free, you only need to pay for parking.

Essentially – it’s the three houses from the books and films, a barn for jumping in hay bales, a lovely cafe and a playground. We all had a brilliant time here!

Alla Barn I Bullerbyn is a collection of books written by Astrid Lindgren and is basically based on dad’s upbringing.

The books tells us about the lives of six children and their families living in a tiny village in Småland in the late 1930’s.

The village consists of three houses lined up next to each other with parents, farmhands and housekeepers, lots of barns and farmland.

The book is narrated by one of girls and the kids go on all sorts of adventures. They swim in lakes, jump in hay bales, and celebrate Lucia and Christmas.

We all loved this outing! We had to bribe our children in order to leave the hay bale jumping!

I really recommend the cafe onsite. Hands down, they were the best cinnamon buns I’ve had!

The following days we headed to some fantastic beaches at camping sites nearby Vimmerby.

The wonderful thing about Sweden, particularly if you’re near the coast, is that you’re never far from water – be it the sea, a lake or river.

Most beaches in Sweden will generally have a sandy beach, a water tower to jump from, a playground of some description and toilet facilities.

Sweden was experiencing a heat wave this summer so most beaches were very busy, but even so there was always plenty of space and we always found parking. The beaches are free to visit, though double check before you set off.

Here are the Livermore’s Top Tips:

⁃ Most camping sites will have a cafe onsite but bring packed lunch, just in case they’re closed for any reason. It’s also quite pricey!

⁃ On that note – invest in a food thermos and bring your own hot lunch! We put hot dogs (and added hot water obvs) in our thermos and brought the buns and condiments with us. A nice change from soggy sandwiches!

⁃ If you’re planning to go swimming, then just head online. There are loads of beaches and camping sites nearby and they’re free to visit.

⁃ Have a coffee and bun when you get to Bullerbyn. You’ll talk thank me later.

⁃ Don’t buy your carved Emil gifts at ALV. Save your pennies and get them from Katthult instead!

⁃ Invest in a good beach umbrella. It was SO hot during our visit and it was pretty tough on the little ones. We had a beach tent,which was great, but a good quality umbrella would have helped.

⁃ We are all different. We have different parenting styles, bed times and routines. We have different food tastes and whether your child is allowed on an iPad or not. We travelled with families that we know well and that we’ve been away on holiday with before. This helps immensely. If you’re going away as a group then my number one rule is to be FLEXIBLE. Go with the flow and expect to bend your rules a little bit. Be prepared to compromise and negotiate. You’ll end up having a lovely, stress free time.

Travelling with kids – Vimmerby and Astrid Lindgrens Värld

Give the children love, more love and still more love – and the common sense will come by itself.”

– Astrid Lindgren

I grew up reading Astrid Lindgren’s books. Pippi Longstocking, Emil i Lönneberga, Alla Barn i Bullerbyn to name but a few.

It’s linked with most Swedish kids’ childhoods – it’s happy memories and gorgeous summer holiday days.

I’ve tried to introduce the books to my kids with mild interest. Both kids like Pippi of course. She’s a rebel. She’s a kid who can take care of herself and say what she wants. She’s kind and good hearted and fair. And of course, the strongest girl in the world. My absolute favourite quote from Pippi Longstocking – and there are many to choose from – I think is very relevant today and as a mother of a strong willed, red-headed little girl:

He’s the strongest man in the world.’

‘Man, yes,’ said Pippi, ‘but I am the strongest girl in the world, remember that.

The books are truly wonderful. Astrid Lindgren was such an amazing story teller. Her characters are heroic and complex. Like Ronja – my personal favourite character growing up – the Robbers Daughter who is determined to go her own way and trust her heart.

She believes in what’s wrong or right, so much so that she defies her own father, the Robbers King in order to defend a friend. Then we have sweet Emil, who means so well but always end up in a pickle. The Brothers Lionheart, a story about two brothers that talks about death and grief in such a beautiful way.

We recently visited ALV, Astrid Lindgrens World during our stay in Sweden. Astrid Lindgren World, aka Astrid Lindgrens Värld, aka ALV is a huge theme park, built around all the different stories by the famous Swedish author.

Each show has its own “world” with fantastic sets and props, animals and characters – all making it look authentic and as if you’ve stepped into an Astrid Lindgren book.

Getting there was super easy. It’s clearly signposted throughout Vimmerby. We had hired a little house for the week near to Vimmerby town so we only had to drive for 15 minutes or so to get there. (More on this in my next blog post!)

There was however a looooong queue for the car park early on but the ALV team worked so fast to get everyone in and parked up that we didn’t actually have to wait very long.

As it was Maggie’s birthday she got to go in for FREE! Happy birthday Maggie!

We got ourselves a mini wagon to pull our picnic along with and for tired little feet at the end of the day. Definitely worth its weight in gold.

We headed to Pippi first as this show is always the most popular. It was jammed packed but we ended up with great seats at the front. In hindsight, with it being around 11am, we would have brought something to shade the baby with. The sun was blazing and it was tough to sit out there for 10 minutes.

The show was super short which was a bit disappointing. I guess they have to get through a lot of the Pippi stories during the day. The whole world is named after her after all.

After and before the show you can meet Pippi (and the supporting cast), Lilla Gubben (the horse), and walk around Pippi’s house.

After the show we walked through Vimmerby City Centre. Basically a replica of the city centre but in miniature – so sweet! Everything was tiny. The kids said that this must be what Giants experience every day.

We stopped by the sweet shop and the kids (and adults!) got their sweet fix.

We headed to Emil after as we knew we wanted to have our picnic by the Barn playground.

The Emil show was really excellent with some fantastic performances all round. Jackson and Maggie loved it and sat through the 20 minutes easily. Again it was jam packed but it didn’t really matter and we had great seats.

We found a great table by the Barn (just behind Lönneberga) and we ate and then the kids could do wild playing for a while.

We went to Ronja’s show – as always – fantastic and emotional. The robbers song is so beautifully and stirring, it just makes me cry every time.

Alfie and Maggie LOVED the miniature street, with houses the kids could play in/with. Maggie made some friends and were making cakes and buns inside the Bakers Shop. We spent a good 30 minutes here, having a coffee and ice cream.

We watched two performances of Brothers Lionheart and this show was by far our favourite. Absolutely fantastic performances, great actors, a great stage and set. Everything was well thought out. Special shout out to the Dragon… Even I got a little shiver down my spine when I saw her on top of the castle wall! Top marks and worth the trip to ALV alone. The show is a bit darker then the rest, but then so is the book. It also brought up some important questions about death and in particular where you go when you die. (In the story the brothers end up in a sort of purgatory to finally end up in heaven..)

Here are the Livermore’s Top Tips:

1. Overall – get to the shows you like to watch EARLY. Study that map and show times like your finals exams. This will guarantee good seats.

2. There is no way you could watch all the shows you like in one day. There isn’t enough time to enjoy it all and soak up the atmosphere, so choose your favourite shows beforehand.

3. Bring a picnic and coffee/tea. The food, although nice tasting is expensive and the queues are very long. The coffee was awful. Definitely one of the worst so bring it with you.

4. Buy a FOOD THERMOS. This was an eye opener for us. From now on, no more soggy sandwiches. Instead gorgeous hot food on the go. Genius. (We got ours from ICA, 129kr)

5. Self explanatory, but remember to bring water and something to block out sun if necessary. Hats are a must have. And brollies. The shows are outside and there is hardly any cover or shade.

6. If you bring a picnic, hire a mini wagon. It’s easy to bring along the park and it’s a godsend at the end of the day when the kids are tired from all the walking.

7. On that note – bring comfy shoes because you’ll be doing a lot of walking.

8. There are “child wristband” stalls before and inside ALV. You write down your name and phone number on wristbands for the kids. This place is so incredibly busy and so it’s easy to get lost. With the wristband, staff can easily get hold of the parents of a lost child. (This did actually happen when we were there. A little girl got separated from her dad. We called dad who was by her side within minutes!)

9. If you can, book two days. If you want to experience all of it, then I suggest you stay over and come back for more. It’s pricey, but it’s definitely worth it for the experience.

10. ENJOY IT. It’s a magical place. I loved it so much this time and so did our kids. They were completely mesmerised by all the stories and characters. And even though it’s all in Swedish, the actors act out the actions so well, so it was pretty clear anyway.