The ShopUp in London – the countdown begins!

The countdown has started! Our live shopping event will take place just one month from now!! Have you marked your diaries? Told all your friends? We can’t wait to see you there!

p.s. To see a list of all the fabulous shops & brands participating, click here.

Hello from Belgium!

We’re all in Belgium together this week! Ten children, five adults and loads of chaos! Coincidentally all of our school holidays fell during the same week, so we rented a big house in the Ardennes to spend the holiday together. We’ve done a bit of exploring around the area, we’ve gone on some big hikes in the forest behind our house, but mostly we are staying home enjoying lazy mornings, doing lots of cooking and letting the kids run around together. We’ve been really lucky with the weather this week – it’s been so unseasonably sunny and mild, and the kids have been spending so much time outside. What a treat!

We thought we would share some photos of our time here. Hope you don’t mind the many photos (of course we couldn’t resist the big group photos! ten children does feel like a lot when you get them all together!!).

Hope you’re all having a wonderful week as well! Were your kids also on school holidays this week? Have you travelled anywhere? Please share!

xxx Esther, Emilie and Courtney

Bonnetapompon, a lovely Spanish brand

Oh! I just love to find spanish brands like Bonnet à Pompon! It is so sweet!. Clothes made with exquisite taste and care.

With very delicate colours, their shops are also an amazing experience. It is all like a fairy tale!!

Very happy to find this brand made in Spain and hope you like it. And, if you happen to be in Madrid, it is well worth a visit to their shops.

- Maria

To read more from Maria, visit her wonderful blog, escarabajos bichos y mariposas.

The ShopUp… is shaping up!

Whoop whoop!! We’re SO excited about all of these fabulous shops and brands that are joining us at the ShopUp! (For those of you who missed the announcement — we’re organising our first ever live shopping event in London at the beginning of December!) In addition to the great shopping, we’ll have superb entertainment to keep the little ones busy… mini family photo-shoots… little bits to eat and drink… and there’s a raffle with a fantastic prize!  It will be a such a fun day out, and such a perfectly easy way to buy sweet presents for all of the little lovelies in your life!

We can’t wait to go shopping at the ShopUp ourselves!! So… mark your diaries, tell your friends, invite your family, and we look forward to seeing you all there!!

xxx Courtney and Esther

Exciting new spaces in Paris

For once I am giving the urban planners of Paris a cautious thumbs up: this summer not one, but two new public, urban spaces opened! And, to boot, they are great for the whole family.

On the right bank, after being a massive building site for a long while, the new Place de La Republique is finally ready. It is hated by all taxi drivers, who get stuck at the red lights, but it is loved in the neighbourhood. Some of the top attractions are the toy library, where you can borrow for free anything from chess to stilts to baby toys. There is also a great little water park for children right beside a lovely café/restaurant. The new trees are still small and their could be more play areas, but in general this space has some great potential.

Over on the left bank a much bigger project is slowly coming together: a long stretch of the banks of the Seine (from the Musée d’Orsay to the Pont d’Alma) has been closed down to traffic and now is solely pedestrian. It is not quite finished yet, but there are already amazing play areas and great restaurants on barges and along the banks. It is such a treat to have access to the river, something that was really lacking in Paris.

It is so nice to see an old city like Paris still constantly evolving and adapting to its population!

- Emilie

Kid & Coe, a vacation rental website for families!

I am really, super excited about the recent launch of Kid & Coe, a vacation rental website featuring stylish family homes all over the world. Imagine travelling to New York, Paris, San Francisco, Copenhagen… Mexico even (!) and being able to stay in a family home, complete with child-sized beds, toys for your kids, a proper kitchen to cook meals, and other family-friendly features to really make you feel at home wherever you go.

Each Kid & Coe listing offers a great description of the property as well as a ‘good to know’ section of family-friendly considerations (closest parks, baby proof safety measures, dishwasher and washing machines, etc.). You can also read a description of the neighbourhood and surrounding area, and of course view loads of great photos of each property (truthfully, it’s like viewing the pages of Elle Decor – some of these homes are so beautiful and inspiring – it’s worth travelling just for the chance to stay in them!).

Not only is it a great place to find stylish family rentals, but you can also list your home with Kid & Coe if you’re interested in renting it out while you’re away. Registering your home is really easy, and the team at Kid & Coe is extremely helpful. It’s easy to enter the dates you’ll be away and manage your property listing and information. I know because I recently signed us up our home and it was really a piece of cake. I’m excited to see the process of booking and renting out our home… and I’m even more excited to stay in some of the other amazing homes around the world. I definitely have the travel bug just looking at this site!

xx Courtney

p.s. Here’s the link for the beautiful London-based home featured in these photos. (Don’t you just want to move straight in?!!)

Our summer holidays in Holland

Oh! It is so nice for me to remember our holidays in Holland this past summer! We went in July and we were so lucky with everything. We are in a program of house exchange and everything went just perfect!. We really loved our house and the garden with the lovely wooden house.

Great memories and lovely times in our garden!. So much fun. But speaking about fun… how great it was for us to ride a cargo bike the whole holidays!. For us Spaniards, riding bikes is not the norm, let alone a cargo bike!. That was just amazing, and we really really enjoyed it!

We really enjoyed our area, with the lakes, and canals. We had amazing weather so we got to do many things outdoors. We also went to our nearest city, Haarlem. We adored it! One of my favourites shops was Meneer Paprika. A really cool store and cafe, the paradise for children and adults!.

A very relaxed, healthy, quiet, and amazing summer we had!!. Really looking forward to going back to The Netherlands. In fact, looking forward to next summer!!!!! ;-)

Happy to be back here!!

-Maria

To read more from Maria, visit her lovely blog Escarabajos Bichos y Mariposas.

Waterproof gear from Muddy Puddles

We recently took the kids out of London for an adventurous weekend day trip to Warwick Castle. It was one of those cold, drizzly September days that felt a bit more like winter than Autumn, and we were happy to be kitted out in waterproof jackets and wellies from Muddy Puddles.

My kids have the reversible jackets, which are fully waterproof on one side and lined with cosy fleece on the other — perfect for this time of year when the weather varies so much. They also have the matching rubber wellies, so they are both coordinated and cosy in their waterproof gear. My kids were able to run around the castle grounds braving all the elements of the blustery day.

Muddy Puddles has a wide selection of outdoor gear that is as fun as it is functional. Perfect for our unpredictable British weather and the cold, wet winter ahead of us. (It only took me 10 years to finally accept that in order to live happily in London, we just have to have appropriate warm & waterproof clothing!!)

p.s. Even on a grim day, Warwick Castle was really great! Loads of fun activities for the kids, and a really pretty setting for a lovely day out. I definitely recommend visiting.  (And the view from the tower is amazing!)

xx Courtney

Mark your diaries: Presenting The ShopUp!

We are really, really excited to announce some BIG news: we are organising our first ever LIVE shopping event!!  The ShopUp will be held in London this coming December and will bring together a selection of the finest shops and brands all under one roof! We’re thrilled to offer the chance to shop the good ‘old-fashioned’ way — to see and feel the products in person and fill up your shopping bag with wonderful gifts and goodies!

The ShopUp will take place on Sunday the 1st and Monday the 2nd of December, just in time for the holidays! The event will be held at the Cecil Sharp House in the trendy, family-friendly neighbourhood of Primrose Hill (a very short walk from the park, the London Zoo and the buzzing high street) — the perfect setting for a fun, family day out!  We are especially excited about the wonderful shops we’ve lined up so far! (You can see a list of the participating shops here.) We just can’t wait to go shopping ourselves!

We will also be offering a whole host of fun activities for children, and there is also a charming café located downstairs with a selection of hot drinks, snacks and nibbles. Shops will be offering discounts, prizes will be available to win, and canvas tote bags will be handed out to all visitors. So come shopping with us — we can’t wait to see you there!

Our Summer holiday in Middle France


Summer Holidays rock everywhere I reckon, but we just had one of our best holidays ever, so I wanted to jot down a few of my memories!

I need to preface this with the mention that we had one of the worst springs in history (my history at least). So everyone was longing for sun, warmth and the big outdoors! Also we ended up spending much of spring in Paris and I for one was going a bit stir crazy!

So our first stop was the Haute-Vienne part of the Limousin, which is the area my family comes from. It is not especially well known, but I have been going there my whole life and it has developed incredibly over the years. We also have a very simple little farmhouse down there (photo above), which is very rustic but very charming; it feels like home.

We went to the bustling market on a Wednesday in the little town of Piegut, where we picked up some amazing tomatoes, confit de canard, plums and cheeses.  There is a lovely café there and a cute little ice cream shop.

We went climbing in trees around the lac de la Haute Charente, which is a huge amount of fun, especially when you zip line across a lake!

We went to some of the evening markets all around the region where the locals butchers sell their meat which is great in front of you. There is also normally a cheesy cover band playing and locals and tourist alike get to join in the fun.


(Above Coco dancing to an Bob Marley cover band at a fête du village, the lovely plums from Piegut market and Coco and Vi hanging out by our local swimming lake)

We then rented a VW camper van and drove around the amazing Dordogne. We discovered the lovely village of Limeuil and visited the Aquarium and old style village of Bournat, which the girls loved. We discovered a troglodyte village and the Lascaud caves. We swam in the Dordogne river and ate amazing food.

(Above the bridge over the Dordogne in the lovely village of Limeuil and a baker baking bread the old fashioned way in Le Brounat.)

The next stop was the lovely little village of Carcans-Plage (also known as Carcans-Ocean). It actually is not really a village but more a bunch of beach shacks, with world class surf. It is tiny, though a lot of people turn up for the day and is surrounded by pine forests. We cycled for hours along the bike paths in the pine forests without seeing cars and jumped around the waves. I even took some surf classes! I especially loved the lovely wooden beach shack rentals, which the local town built; perfect for families.

(The beach, the local pine forest and Vi ready to hit the surf.)

Finally we returned back to the Limousin for more BBQs, family, friends, sun and fun! I still wish it had never finished and I was still hanging out in my hammock!

- Emilie


(Photo taken by Coco of Vi and me enjoying the sunset in the Limousin!)

My tips for travelling with young children

After a wonderful, lazy summer in the Seattle area with my family, we have just returned this week back to London. Every summer my husband flies out there with us, but unfortunately can’t stay the entire time… which means that every year I end up flying back home solo with all the kids.  It’s the teensy price I pay for a nice, long, extended holiday with my family. Totally worth the trek!

Plus, I feel like I’m getting kind of good at it by now. Or maybe it’s that my kids are getting good at it and that makes an enormous difference. In any case, I thought I would share with you some of my simple tips for (long-haul) flying with young kids…

  • Try to avoid the ‘oh my gosh, I’m flying for 10 hours on a plane with my kids –  I must pack every single thing I have in the house to entertain/feed/care/clean/change them’ feeling, and pack as little as you can. I used to bring the kids their own headphones for the TVs, and those neck pillow thingies for sleeping, and a change of clothes, and an entire bag of snacks. But it meant that I was carrying on at least two enormous (and heavy bags!). It made the schlep through the airport tiresome, and we often ended up not using most things. This recent trip, I packed one bag and tried to keep it as lightweight as possible. (You can also give your kids their own backpack and ask them to tote around the things they need for the plane – toys, books, snacks, etc.)
  • Use a baby carrier instead of a buggy. It’s so much easier going through security and navigating a busy airport if you’re carrying your baby instead of pushing them in a buggy. You can go straight through security carrying your baby – no need to empty your buggy, fold it up, have it examined by the airport security, etc. It also means you have your hands free to hold other children’s hands, or carry bags, etc. My favourite right now is the Ergo Baby Carrier .
  • We always eat in the airport before boarding the plane and skip the first meal they serve on board. It’s not easy holding a baby and trying to eat off your little tray in front of you. And inevitably one of your kids will need his meal chopped up, or will spill his drink in his lap, and you’ll have to get up to help… and it will be extremely difficult if you have your food on a tray on your tray table in front of you. Just skip the meal entirely.
  • Make sure your kids use the toilet before boarding the plane to eliminate any extra trips to the bathroom on the plane. It seems like common sense, but I have forgotten before… and there’s nothing worse than your child telling you he has to go potty when the plane is taking off and the seatbelt sign is on! (Also make sure to change your baby’s nappy.)
  • Pack simple, non-messy snacks. I like raisins because it seems to occupy the kids for a while, trying to grab little raisins out of the box, and they’re not messy. I also like to pack nuts or trailmix, snack bars, dried mango, pretzels, fruit, etc. Before take-off, I always have a box of raisins ready for the baby in case she gets antsy sitting still on my lap when the seatbelt sign is on. (I also still nurse Marlow… and that is a big help for calming her down, and keeping her ears from popping during take-off and landing. Nursing is the easiest thing, but if you don’t nurse, you should have a prepared bottle on hand for the same reason.)
  • Dress (you and your children) in comfortable clothing. I never bother with changing them into their pyjamas – I just find that it’s an extra hassle. Instead, I dress them in normal, comfortable clothes, and make sure everyone has an extra layer (like a hoodie or a cardigan) in case it gets cold. I always bring a scarf for myself because I always get cold on planes.
  • Don’t bring too much, but make sure you have some simple entertainment on hand. I have always found that once kids get to the age of 4 or 5, they are much more independent on airplanes because they can watch TV or movies. My boys are so easy on airplanes now. I don’t even think they got up to use the toilet the entire time on our recent flight from Seattle to London – they were either watching movies or sleeping. So… for children under 4, you will need to have some entertainment on hand. Things like simple paper pads and a pen, sticker books and colouring books (you can often buy them in the airport bookshops), and paperback books (hardback books are too heavy – leave them at home!). If you have an ipad or iphone you should make sure you have children’s games or books on there (see here for ideas).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. People are always so sympathetic to mothers travelling with small children. Ask the flight attendants to help if you need it. You can even ask for help when going through the airport. One time I had to ask for help getting my sleeping children and bags off the airplane and to over customs because I simply couldn’t carry everything. Someone came immediately to help me and got me all the way through the airport.

I hope these tips were somewhat helpful and not just redundant things everyone already knows. Please feel free to add any tips I may have forgotten below.  And lastly, I’ve written my tips for beating jet-lag here if you’re interested.

xx Courtney

p.s. Photo above is of my children on the ferry overlooking Seattle, and a photo of Marlow in the Ergo carrier.

Weekend Getaway: Hamburg

As you might have noticed I have a big soft spot for Germany, the country I partly grew up in, and Hamburg has always been one of my favourite German cities. It has this great majestic, Northern European vibe. Crazy how Europe is so small and cities and their architecture are soo different!

One of the great things about Hamburg is how very much it is centred around the water and river. Our reader Sarah, who put together this post on Hamburg, actually knows a lot about living around and on water as it is her job to decorate yachts. She lives between Hamburg and Venice with her family and I am super excited to share with you her tips on this great city! Here is her guide:

You will love Hamburg as it is a typical Northern European city with lots of attractions, water, ships and shops! There are a lot of big attractions in Hamburg, such as the fish market, the vintage ships, the harbour and St. Pauli, a lot of museums, and so on, but I decided to introduce you to some of my favourite places with kids. We have a lot of wonderful parks and quarters with multi-kulti (multi-cultural) flair.

SEE & PLAY

Canal Tour:  A cruise along the Alster canals reveals the mysterious side of Hamburg. You will find beautifully-kept villas with hidden parklands and luxurious houses, as well as other interesting sights (like a real venetian gondola) along unspoilt riverbanks. Although you are near to the city centre, you will find yourself in the midst of the greenery. Don’t forget to take along a typical Hamburg picnic made up out of fishballs and herring. The tour starts at Jungfernstieg, one of the most famous shopping streets in Hamburg.

Hamburg Planterium: What happened at the BIG BANG? and other questions to be answered at Planetarium Hamburg. It is really a magical place not only for children. Built as a water tower in 1912 it is an architectural landmark with a breathtaking view from the observation deck on top. Experience a great sky show with a trip through space and time. After an amazing laser show, you can have a walk in the Stadtpark as the Planetarium is surrounded by the biggest park in town. And if you visit Hamburg during summertime come and bring your swim clothes, as there is a wonderful bath from the 1930s!

The Miniatur Wunderland: Visit the world. America, Scandinavia, Switzerland and Germany & the world’s largest model railway!
This is the most popular family tourist attraction in Hamburg. There are more than 7.000 square meters of different levels, moving cars and trains, flying planes, snow, sun and rain. Thousands of mini people populate this stunning “little” world. You definitely need binoculars to explore everything. For kids it is amazing, but exhausting, too. There are lots of people and a million things to watch; so plan a lot of time and book tickets in advance. Bring a lot to drink and, after the visit, stroll around the famous Hafencity and Speicherstadt. The Speicherstadt is the former trade centre of Hamburg. Large warehouses out of typical red brickstones along the canals are worth the trip! Right behind this Trade City you can take a walk through Europe’s largest new building project: the Hafencity. Find a lot of small cafés, the hilarious Philharmonic building, the Maritime Museum and the Prototyp Museum with a lot of Porsche cars, little harbors for sailing boats and a playground right behind every corner. Enjoy the view and drinks at a café called Carl’s and fall in love with Hamburg.

PLAY

Strandperle: The Strandperle was build in the end of the 19th century right on the waterfront. It used to be a milk shop! You might still be able to get milk, but you can also lay back with a glass of white wine or a typical Hamburg beer, the Astra. While you enjoy the fantastic view on the harbor skyline, huge container vessels from Panama and Nowosibirsk will sail past and the kids can play and conquer the beach. Yes, the beach! Hamburg has more than 10 kilometers beach and we love it!  Plan a day for the Strandperle, as you will not tear yourself away from this terrific place! Later that day you can climb up the hill up to the Elbchaussee, Hamburgs “Avenue Princess Grace”. After 15 minutes walk you will find a quarter called Ottensen, with a lot of small shops, cafés and restaurants. Handmade objects are on sale here, as are small fashion labels and the world’s best ice-cream in a shop called “Eisliebe”. Have a wine in the “Garage” Kleine Rainstrasse 1, eat cheese and ham before returning to your hotel.

SHOP

Herr Max – a wonderful patisserie in fancy Schanzenviertel, Schulterblatt 12. Delicious little pastries, fresh cakes and biscuits. And it is absolutely sinful!

Vergissmeinicht – it’s the name of this litlle romantic flower, forget-me-not. And you will find a lot of wonderful fashion brands for kids, toys and costumes, little vintage toys, vintage jewelery and hair stuff. Great little shop!

Herr von Eden – for Men: Tailormade woollen cashmere suits, denim shirts, hats, jackets, silk scarfs. Very stylish, very modern, very spezial! Herr von Eden is one of the most beloved brands for individual men.

Kauf dich glücklich – become happy by shopping! A glorious combination of little nice things, books and a lot of fresh german labels. Especially for Mama!  It’s on Susannenstrasse 4. Bars and a playground around fort he rest of the family.

SLEEP

Here are a couple of suggestions for hotels: The Side Hotel,  the Riverside Hotel,  the 25hours Hafencity Hotel and the George.

Come along & Ahoi!

Sarah

Playtime Paris: A recap

The three of us (plus two babies!) met up in Paris last weekend to attend another Playtime tradeshow. It was a beautiful, sunny (hot even!) weekend and the three of us had so much fun together. On Saturday we walked around Paris until the sun went down and the babies got tired. It was the perfect summery day in Paris! On Sunday we attended Playtime and, as usual, we were so inspired by the many great brands we saw — lots of old favourites, and a few new discoveries too! Here’s a brief recap in photos:

  • Aymara – Beautiful knitwear in a rainbow of cool colours!
  • Nobodinoz – A vibrant collection of toys, cushions, decorations and really cool animal backpacks.
  • Seesaw – A new-to-us brand featuring geometric designs and easy-to-wear silhouettes.
  • Shusha Toys – Such wonderful wooden toys from Russia – we want to buy every toy in their collection!

  • L’Asticot – We loved the fabrics in this collection. The little squid and the fish prints – so cute!
  • Sunchild – A great collection of brightly coloured swim trunks, nice and short – perfect for little legs!

  • Coq en Pâte – Bold graphics and colours. And we love the collection of beach toys made from seaweed – Fun!
  • Garbo and Friends – We love the illustrations and soft colours.
  • Picnik – Gorgeous, bold geometric patterns.
  • ESPno1 A great collection as always, and we especially loved this awesome playsuit!

  • It was so hot in there – the only place Marlow wanted to be was on the cold cement floor!
  • Sprout by Grow – A beautiful collection for big and small girls.
  • Aravore -We love the new collection, and how sweet is that little floral romper?!
  • Indikidual -Original cuts and patterns set this collection apart. The Jellyfish trousers are a highlight!
  • Biobu by Ekobo – A collection of dishes which are beautiful, natural and completely biodegradable!

  • Maa — Awesome, hipster trainers! We want these for ourselves!
  • More Shusha Toys – We love these wooden facial parts to create different faces. So fun!
  • Macarons – Beautiful textured fabrics. We loved the Ikat skirt!
  • Poco Nido – Fun high and low boots and cute baby shoes.
  • INspiRaTiOns by la Girafe – A beautiful stand with fresh flowers from the garden.

Ring-Rings.com: your phone number on your child

It must be one of every parent’s worst fears — losing your child in a crowd. The airport, an amusement park, the park on a warm summer day, the beach… all places where it’s so, so easy for a child to get lost. ‘She was just here a second ago’ is a phrase I know too well myself, and thankfully (touch wood!!), we’ve always found our kids back before panic broke loose. However, kids do get lost all the time, and this is where Ring-rings.com comes with a simple solution: silicon armbands with your phone number embossed in it.

I ordered two Ring-rings each for my kids, one with my husband’s number and one with mine, and so far they’ve been great! They’re waterproof, the colours are fun (glow-in-the-dark even!) and the miniature sizes are perfect for small children’s tiny wrists. They also have a very high ‘cool’ factor, my kids have not taken them off since they arrived.

This summer when we’re traveling, it’s safe to know my kids will have our phone numbers on them at all times. (But I hope they won’t need them!)

xxx Esther

Insider tips: Positano, Italy


The lovely Joanna from A Cup Of Jo (who is expecting her second baby any minute now!!) recently asked me to share my insider tips on Positano with her readers.

We’ve now been to Positano every year for the past ten years. For us, it feels like going home — some of the locals even feel like family. It is certainly one of our favourite places in the whole wide world, and so it was easy answering her questions and sharing our tips. Thank you Joanna for featuring them on your blog!

xx Courtney

Ten Seaside Escapes

We’ve teamed up with the fabulous travel site i-escape which offers a well curated selection of stylish travel destinations along with an easy-to-use booking service. They’ve kindly agreed to scour their collection of chic family friendly hotels, villas & apartments to narrow down 10 of their favourite stylish seaside escapes. Perfect for summer holiday planning! Both Esther and I have previously booked holidays with i-escape and they were some of our favourite family vacations, so we are especially excited to discover their suggestions. Take a look at these ten great seaside escapes all hand-picked from their dedicated Kids Collection:

1.) Almyra, Paphos, Cyprus

Stressed-out parents can fully recharge their batteries on the beach, by the pool or in the spa, safe in the knowledge that the little ones are having the time of their life! This unpretentious design hotel’s superb kids’ club caters for all ages up to 17, with activities ranging from t-shirt painting, treasure hunts and tennis lessons, to banana-boating excursions and snorkelling for teens. Added to that, the staff are super-friendly and the sun shines here over 300 days a year!

2.) Fiskardo Cottages, Kefalonia, Greece

Set in a gloriously peaceful location, within walking distance of 2 unspoilt beaches, these charming whitewashed cottages (sleeping 2-6) are the perfect rural retreat and great for older kids. Head for the hills and hike through dramatic scenery, sail, snorkel, scuba dive or just play in the shared pool. The slick modern kitchens mean self-catering is a pleasure or you can walk to the nearby village tavernas for delicious local dishes and fresh seafood.

3.) The Rosevine, Cornwall, UK

This chic apartment-hotel has a wonderfully casual vibe making it a haven for families. Designed with kids in mind, they have heaps of baby paraphernalia to borrow (less to pack!) and kids will be kept well-entertained by a toy-laden playroom, indoor pool and playground in the garden. The restaurant has a kids’ menu, and at night its candlelit – pack your baby monitor and ‘dine out’. But the best bit? It’s a just a short stroll from wide, sandy Porthcurnick beach and the hotel has buckets, spades and fishing nets to borrow for rock-pooling.

4.) Txai, Bahia, Brazil

Rustic simplicity meets style and luxury at this eco-friendly estate on Bahia’s undeveloped Cacoa Coast. With an emphasis on nature, tranquility and beauty, make the most of vast unspoilt white-sand beaches and hill-top Shamash spa, take surfing lessons or go horse riding or hiking along one of the stunning trails. There are plenty of grassy areas for children to play on and our reviewer found it near-impossible to extract his young daughter from the fab kids’ pool.

5.) Azur, near Antalya, Turkey

If you’re after beachside bliss on a budget, Azur Hotel’s simple wooden cabins are the ones for you. Despite having no formal crèche, it’s a great place for kids with safe lawned gardens and hidden hammocks, a child-friendly pool, lovely staff who know each child by name and boat and jeep trips for adventurous day trips. Nearby Cirali beach, one of Europe’s loveliest, has wonderfully clear blue waters for swimming and snorkelling.

6.) Hell Bay, Bryher, Isles of Scilly, UK

Set on Bryher – the smallest inhabited island of Scilly and many people’s favourite – this 25-room hotel allows you to stay in style and comfort and its restaurant is billed as the best on these isles. Owned by Tresco’s Dorrien-Smith family you can expect solid and dependable service and rooms with a distinct New England style. Couples will revel in being somewhere so unique, so far out. But it also has special appeal for families thanks to sandy beaches, a heated pool, games room and local farm chickens which little ones can feed.

7.) Jashita, near Tulum, Mexico

Laid-back beach sophistication and a dreamy Zen style are the order of the day at Jashita. Uniquely secluded, it’s the only hotel on this pristine beach with shallow aquamarine waters that’s sheltered by its own coral reef. Families will love Villa Jasmine, a beach house for 10 that offers independence and the opportunity to self-cater, along with the use of the hotel’s facilities and restaurant. Kids will love the beach and boat trips and there are adventure parks nearby.

8.) Onar, Andros, Greece

Walking through the river from this collection of simple stone cottages (sleeping 2-7) to the beach is the sort of thing fantastic family memories are made of. The atmosphere here is secluded but the communal meals and effervescent host ensure that you’ll never feel lonely. Kids will love the natural swimming pool nearby and the small playground, while sun, sea, delicious fresh food and stylishly simple décor will reinvigorate even the most jaded workaholics.

9.) Esplendido, Puerto Soller, Mallorca

One of our most popular hotels for families in Spain, there will be lots of new friends for your kids to play with at this hip hotel in picturesque Puerto Soller. Occupying the top position in the middle of the bay, the proximity of the beach is a godsend with energetic youngsters, and means you can hear the waves lapping below from the sea view terraces. And don’t underestimate the excitement provided by the many ice-cream shops and the tram to Soller!

10.) Marari Villas, Kerala, India

Within a whisper of the sea on a white-sand beach, these boutique villas (sleeping 2-6) are great for families as they combine the privacy of a villa with room service and a private chef. Each villa offers a secluded haven (your own living space, your own garden, some with a pool) with all the luxuries of a larger resort, but they are closer to nature, more intimate and better value. There’s plenty of kit for kids (toys, books, inflatable toys, cricket kits) and babies (pushchair, backpack, car seat, sunshades), so you can pack light(er!).

………………..

We have teamed up with i-escape and Sunuva to give-away a whopping £500 summer prize! The prize includes a £200 gift certificate to use towards a stay at one of i-escapes family escapes as well as a £300 gift voucher at Sunuva to stock up on adorable and UV-protective beachwear! Click here to enter to win!

Moving to London? A relocation service to help

My friend Lindsey from the London-based Urban Mums blog had the ingenious idea of creating a business to help families get settled when moving to London. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received from other mums who are planning a move to London. These mums have so many questions (as I’m sure I would if I were moving our family to a new city!). Questions about neighbourhoods, schools, renting a home/flat, finding childcare,  learning about healthcare, shopping, dining, etc. I have always answered those questions as best as I can… but I’m not an expert. And here is where Lindsey comes in handy.

She has created Urban Living, a relocation service to help ex-pats navigate life in London. Whether you’re visiting London to explore the idea of moving here, or whether you’ve moved here and would love a local’s tips and expertise, she has created tailored services for individual needs. Plus, she is such a sweet, hip, energetic woman (and mama to three!), that even I am thinking about booking her services just to get to the spend the day with her. : )

If you, or anyone you know, are moving or have recently moved to London, definitely get in touch with Lindsey!

x Courtney

TA DA at the Centre Pompidou


Last weekend Esther and co were in town, which was a serious amount of fun! It was so great catching up, though at the end of the weekend we did start wondering what we should do, as it was literally pouring with rain the whole time. That being said, finding things to do in Paris is not very hard…. We all wrapped up and headed over to the Pompidou Centre, specifically the Children’s Gallery, which is hosting a brilliant, interactive exhibition: Ta-Da!

The artist Navid Nuur wants kids to learn again about how to play and create with everyday objects and see the beauty in them. It is really well done — I think everyone’s favourite was the 3 columns filled with play dough or the machine that made medals out of a 5 cent piece.

The Centre Pompidou is, by the way, one of my favourite places to take visitors. It has such a great view over Paris, the permanent exhibition is amazing, as are more of the temporary ones, and, not to forget, the gift and book shop are full of beautiful bits and pieces. (I do love a good museum shop!)

- Emilie

The photo is of little Ava arriving into the Centre, complete with rain coat and umbrella.

Alvaro Sanz and the traveling karibu

Last weekend I had the amazing experience of attending an Alvaro Sanz photography workshop in a lovely town by the sea in Asturias, where I live. He is a very talented Spanish photographer, and travels all over Spain and abroad with his incredible workshops. Alvaro is also Nanook’s father, so he had this idea: when he travels, he takes photos of a little karibu toy which he later shows to his son when he gets back home. That way there is always a connection between the travels, the father and the son. Isn’t it a lovely idea?

So that little Karibu has already been to Morocco, France, Sweden, all over Spain and more… and always comes back home with a picture!

I love the idea. Thanks Alvaro for being so inspiring, always.

-Maria

Holiday get-away: Tarifa, Spain

Coco and her friend overlooking the sea and the coast of Marocco on Paloma beach

I have just been away on an amazing break with the kids, and I would love to tell you about it. (To put it into context, we Europeans have been having one of the worst winters I can remember and all we wanted to to was to shed the jumpers and socks and shoes and put on the flip flops and skirts.)

Tarifa is a beautiful little town on the most southern tip of Spain — it is so close to Africa you can see the Maroccan coast most days, a mere 20 km away. The town itself is lovely — it is an old walled city. But it is the surrounding beaches around Tarifa that make this place amazing — the beaches are empty, clean and beautiful, the food is incredible and cheap and everyone loves kids. It is super relaxed and the whole area has a bit of a hippy, surfer vibe to it, just what you need to let go and have a good time. I could have stayed on and on, and a week felt like 2 days, so here is just a little list of the few places I discovered (if anyone has any other tips, please do share!):

STAY:

We actually rented a house, as I went with a friend and her two children which was lovely and had everything we needed. But we did also discover some hotels, which looked really nice.

The Hurricane Hotel is a great little boutique hotel with a chilled out vibe. It has an amazing pool, a great restaurant and is right on the beach. Basically the perfect combination. It is about a 6 km drive out of Tarifa town.

Hotel Dos Mares is close to the Hurricane Hotel and maybe even a bit more child-friendly. For example, the pool has a nice, shallow paddling area. You can rent little bugalows that line up along the beach.

Camping Torres de la Pena is a nice budget option and if you don’t fancy camping, they also rent out some bungalows. The beach bar is super relaxed and literally on the beach, so kids can play while parents drink a good café con leche.

I- Escape has a few listing in and around Tarifa. I did not see any of them, but I-Escape is always a good bet. I really like the look of these natural energy powered bungalows.

The kids hanging out at the Hurricane Hotel pool.

Do:

Tarifa is a seriously sport location, all day long you can see wind- and kit- surfers sitting on top of their VW buses watching the wind for the perfect moment to take off. The place we were recommended was the Club Mistral,which gives lessons to older kids. They also rent out boards for windsurfing, kitesurfing and plain old normal surfing. You can pick up cheap body boards for kids pretty much anywhere and they are a serious amount of fun as there are little, non scary waves most of the time.

Hurrican Hipica: Horses are everywhere and there is nothing more peaceful than going for a ride on the beach. We loved the Hurricane Hipica, run by a group of super efficient girls, one of the best maintained stables I have ever seen. Violette, who has just turned 5, had her first riding lesson there and it was possibly the most exciting thing ever.

Firmm Dolphin and Whale Watching: One of our big, major highlights was a boat trip out into the straights of Gibraltar to see dolphins. We thought it was going to be a tourist trap, but it was the opposite. We were surrounded by dolphins doing summersaults all around us. It put the biggest smiles on all of our faces. It is also not unusual to see whales. The Firmm boat trips are great as they are part of a research organisation, which uses the trip to collect data and makes sure that the trips are respectful to the animals.

Since coming back and doing a bit of research for this post, I have found out that there is a lot of rock climbing to be done in and around Tarifa. There are even little rocks which could be a lot of fun to explore with older kids. I didn’t really find a website, just different blogs talking about it!

It is also very easy to jump on a boat and go on a day trip to Marocco which is a mere 20 boat ride away. It is something we sadly ran out of time to do…

Not the best photos of the kids on horses on the beach. Note the surfers in the water behind them.

Play:

Beaches, beaches, beaches, what more can one want? We stayed close to Bolonia Beach and it is very easy to understand why the Romans decided to build a town on this beach. It is so beautiful. The beach is incredibly clean and has a massive sand dune at one end that is a huge amount of fun to climb and run down.

We also visited Zahara Beach on a recommendation of an Instagram friend and did not regret it, we spend a whole morning body boarding on little waves and then had some tapas in the town itself.

Another beach between Tarifa and Bolonia is called Paloma Beach and one of the most amazing things to see is the wind picking up and the kite from the kite surfs flying up in the air  - Actually really beautiful, though I suspect I would be ripped of my surf board and fly off into the air with the kite, it looks like such a hard thing to hold on to.

Little orange tree on a square in Tarifa town.

Anyway, a lovely holiday and so close and yet a world away from the rest of Europe.

- Emilie

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