Category: Little Trips/Travels

A Country Mouse in London

The last time we were in London was two years ago, when we watched The Snowman in December.  We used to go regularly, especially before T started school, but now that she’s in school, it can get a bit tricky to find the time to visit the capital.  This year though, we made it a point to go, it’s been far too long.

The Historian keeping T preoccupied while waiting for our train to London from Exeter.

It’s a two-hour journey from Exeter to London and when travelling with a young child, all parents know that you should come prepared with snacks and other paraphernalia to keep the young ones occupied and hopefully a whinge-less journey.

When T got tired of watching the world go by, she occupied herself with her Doodle a day Chris Riddell book.  When that bored her, she turned to the iPad.  To be fair though, she’s used to travelling and knows how to entertain herself without any complains.

We arrived early and so had time to have a little rest at the AirBnb where we were staying (sorry no photos).  It was a small studio flat that had everything you needed for a few days stay.  There was nothing fantastic about the place apart from the very central location.  This was precisely the reason why we chose it.  While I knew that it was a stone’s throw away from the British Museum, I wasn’t expecting it to be also a short distance to the theatre.  Was pleasantly surprised when it took less than ten minutes to get there.

And since we were doing good-time, we managed to have a long leisurely dinner at Belgos, one of our favourite restaurants in London.  If only they had a branch nearer to us.

Little T waiting for us to get seated.

After our meal, we still had loads of time to mooch around the Seven Dials.

And here’s little T doing a Matilda pose.

Matilda was fabulous.  T really enjoyed it.  We were lucky to be able to get tickets since we booked it really late, although we didn’t really have the luxury to choose our seats.

Woke up leisurely the next day and took our time to walk to the British Museum where T wanted to see the Egyptian mummies and where we were also meeting some close family friends for a catch-up.

I don’t even remember the last time we visited.  All I know is that, there wasn’t any security measures at all.  Now you’ll have to queue to go to a tent where they separate people who have bags so they can check before going in.  To be fair though, it was a fast-moving line, thank goodness for that.

I don’t know exactly when T became interested in Egyptian mummies.  All I know is that at a very young age, she used to like looking at her dad’s old National Geographic issues especially the ones with Egyptian mummies.  We promised her that the next time we’re in London, we’d take her to see them.

The Historian and I, took turns on taking her around while the others had a chance to talk and catch-up.  She was one happy bunny.

After reluctantly saying goodbye to our friends, it was time to catch the train back to the sticks where we live. The country mice were home sweet home.  While I do miss city life, it’s nice to come back home to our quiet little bubble in small hill cottage.

An Afternoon with Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell

Isn’t it just great when a person you really admire and enjoy both his works as an author and artist turn out to be a genuinely nice person?  I don’t know about you, but I always imagine authors and artists to be a bit of a “stiff-neck”?  So imagine our delight when Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell turned out to be the complete opposite.  I can never say it enough, he really is a lovely man.  And I have no doubt, little T felt that too upon meeting and listening to him talk at the Bath Literary Festival last Saturday.

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We sat there for about an hour just listening to his anecdotes, while answering questions and live doodling and me laughing away.  At one point, I became conscious that I was laughing too hard and had to restrain myself.

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He was already on the stage when we came in, mindlessly doodling as people settled in their seats.

I also found myself sitting on the edge, not even resting my back, because I wanted to make sure that I heard every word.  I can’t remember the last time I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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And here he is drawing his Children’s Laureate medal and telling us about the time his wife’s daughter’s friend who happens to be German rushed to him excitedly and said “Chris!  Are you really a Children’s Laundrette?  Apparently to his close friends, he is known as just that 🙂

I actually have to remind myself that while I like him, it’s actually little T, my six-year-old daughter who is a big fan of Chris Riddell.

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Drawing Mr. Munroe (one of T’s favourite characters from the books Ottoline) and explaining that he apparently based him on his daughter Katy, who as a young girl, liked to come down at night with her hair in front of her face and always gave him a “judging daughter look” – “Really Dad”” with her arms folded like in the drawing.

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When asked, what is your favourite book?  He drew The Hobbit.

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Before the forum started, we were given postcards where the audience could write their questions to Chris Riddell.  T didn’t want to ask any questions.  But the lucky ones who did and whose questions were picked from a huge pile, went home with his drawings.  Lucky bunch!

After the Q & A there was a long queue of children with their parents lining up to get their books signed and of course, little T was among them.

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Patiently waiting for her turn.

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T shyly accepting her signed book from her favourite author. ” He is the best mum!”  She said to me as she clutched her signed book excitedly and I definitely agree with her.

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Mummy!  I met Chris Riddell!

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Isn’t it obvious that she’s a happy little bunny for meeting her favourite author?

Driving all the way from Cornwall for the day was definitely so worth it.  I was really pleased and proud of little T for sitting quietly during the long Q & A session and waiting patiently for her turn to get her book signed in spite suddenly developing a slight temperature during the trip.

Thank you Chris Riddell for making a little girl happy.  And most of all, thank you for being a genuinely lovely person.

If your child hasn’t read any of his books yet, I do suggest that you add it on your Christmas list for them, especially if you have a little girl like T.  Ottoline (from the Ottoline books) and Ada Goth (from the Goth Girl books) are both feisty, strong-willed and independent little girls.  His books are nothing like  the usual books for children, that’s why we love them

Have you heard of Chris Riddell?

Do share.

We’re Going to the Children’s Bath Literature Festival

My husband and I have always been readers long before we met each other.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we ended up together?  And now that we have a little girl, it’s lovely that she shares the same passion for books even without having to prompt her.

Even when she was a baby little T had her own growing collection.  Now that she’s six, she’s managed to accumulate enough books to have her own little library even though we’ve gotten rid of some of her baby ones already.

She went through phases from the usual Julia Donaldson books of the Gruffalo fame, to the Kipper series of books and the adventures of Slinky Malinki the cat by Lynley Dodd and a whole load of others.  At the moment,  her current favourite author is Chris Riddell (who also happens to be a cartoonist for the Observer), he has written a series of books for children about a little girl called Ada Goth (Goth Girl) and another one Ottoline who is being taken care of Mr. Munroe, who looks a lot like cousin It from the Adams Family movie, while her parents are away.

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T loves his characters.  Ada and Ottoline are both very independent and individual type of girls, who are a bit different from the usual characters you find in children’s books.

When we found out that Chris Riddell was going to be at the Children’s Bath Literary Festival, we quickly signed up for her to see him in person.  I’m hoping that she’ll have a chance to really meet him and maybe even ask to sign one of her many books, although to be fair she does have his signature already, since the Coraline book (by Neil Gaiman) was illustrated by Chris Riddel, turned out to be a signed copy by both the author and the artist.

We also wanted to take her to meet Cbeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell who also wrote the Harper books series which she also likes, but it falls on a Friday and we don’t really want T to miss school.  Hopefully she’ll have a chance to meet her maybe Ms. Burnell will be around again next year?

The Festival will run from the 1st till the 9th of October.  Click here for more details.

Have you been to Children’s Bath Literary Festival?

Do share.

A Country Kid’s Post: An Afternoon in Paignton

Summer feels like it happened ages ago and yet every now and then we still get to experience a warm day, reminding us that in reality, it might actually still be hanging around.

We had a good one, even though this year, we stayed put and didn’t go abroad.  I was looking through my photos and was reminded that I haven’t written about the lovely afternoon spent on the beach in Paignton.

We arrived late afternoon.  I think it was way past five and nearer six.  But the air was still warm in spite the breeze, comfortable enough to have a little play on the sand without feeling chilly and that’s what exactly little T did.

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I love beach huts.  Love the idea of having a little beach-hole where you can just retreat to, whether it’s to have a cup of tea or just somewhere to go to escape or at least know that your belongings are safe from the water and sand.

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 Don’t you just love the look of them too?

And while T was happy playing, I was just snapping away – whatever caught my eye, even the pesky seagulls looked beautiful against the lovely blueness of the sea and sky.

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And then I saw the steam-train from afar …

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and a lone sail boat out in the sea.

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After awhile it was time to go … Has summer really gone?  Perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to experience an Indian summer this year.

Would you like that?

A Country Kid’s Post: A Morning in Dartmoor

Walking in Dartmoor

We like driving up to Dartmoor even if it’s a bit of a drive from where we live in Cornwall. On a whim, one late January on a weekend, we decided to drive to Dartmoor and was pleasantly surprised to find it covered in snow.  Little T and her friend had a lovely day building snow men and having snow fights.  It was just absolute bliss.

And I’m glad we were able to do that again over the summer break.  And just like before, we were in for another lovely surprise.

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Dartmoor in all its glory, on a beautiful summer day.

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Little T ready to go on a little hike.

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From afar, I spied a little river running through the moor.

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We came across this little stream and T decided to have a dip in the water and after more walking, we hopped in our car to drive some more.

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And then we saw a cluster of medieval looking stones, but it wasn’t the stones that caught my eye.  Can you see?  The famous Dartmoor ponies!  The husband quickly parked the car and T and I went out to look at the ponies.

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She wanted to come closer, but those two horses looked like they were having a tender moment, I told her we shouldn’t disturb them.  She said “Are they getting married mum?”  Kids, where do they get these ideas?

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After watching them from afar, we went back to the car and moved along. I’m wondering, why are they called ponies when some of them are obviously fully grown?

“It’s time to go to search for that pub!”  The husband announced.  Friends of ours mentioned that there was a lovely one just in the moor and he was on a mission.  Did we find the pub, no. But we found another lovely one and had a good lunch.

Have you seen the Dartmoor ponies?

Do share.

A Country Kid’s Post: A Day Out in Dartmouth

Dartmouth along the river

As mentioned on the previous post, we arrived in Dartmouth via the ferry from Totnes on a camping trip a few weeks ago.  It actually felt like we’ve gone abroad and weren’t in England anymore.  It felt more like we were in the South of France, or somewhere else in Europe.  For one, the weather was absolutely warm, don’t remember how high the temperature was, but it didn’t feel like the UK at all.

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Little T and I enjoyed looking at the colourful houses across the river.

Blue Victorian house

Loved this big imposing blue Victorian house in front of the river.  Look at the intricate design by the door, and the lovely big windows.  They must have stunning views of the river.

 Cobbled Stones and a boat

I love cobbled streets although they aren’t exactly easy to walk on.  I’m glad I was wearing sandals that day.

We headed for Darmouth castle.  It was a bit of a walk from the quay, but the views were stunning and in spite the heat, we really enjoyed just walking and stopping, taking photos or just breathing in the air.

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The view of the river Dart was just amazing.  Who wouldn’t want to stop for that?

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I just loved the abundance of colour whether it was found in the flowers around or the houses. Everything just seemed so vibrant and teeming with life that day.  Wouldn’t it be great if everyday life was just like that?

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We finally reached the 13th century castle and church, although it really looked more like a fort than a castle.  The oldest part dates back to 1380 and was built to protect Dartmouth harbour from a French attack.

Dartmouth cemetery

I love old cemeteries by the river.

Entrance to Dartmouth Castle

Entrance to the castle.

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T and her Dad inside the castle.

There really wasn’t much to see inside, although I can imagine it would appeal to young children, especially the long dark corridors and rooms.  If not for being English Heritage members, I probably wouldn’t think it was worth it, unless I guess you’re a historian like my husband.  T wasn’t really into it.  Thank goodness we found a small beach near the castle and she had a chance to have a little dip and play in the sand. By then it was lunch time, we took a small boat back to the harbour to have a very late lunch.

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 Dartmouth castle as seen on the boat.

We asked the guy who was manning the boat for some recommendations of where to eat in the area.  He recommended the Floating Bridge for seafood which we were all craving for, I guess i had something to do with being so close to the river.  And I’m so pleased that we asked even though it was a bit of a walk from where he dropped us off, it was still so worth it.

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While waiting for our food, we enjoyed sitting by the river and I managed to take a photo of the steam train running across the river.

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That sea food platter was just absolutely delicious and it disappeared not long after it was served.

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 After licking our plates clean, it was time to head back and wait for the ferry back to Totnes.

Have you been visited Dartmouth?

Do share.

A Ferry Ride along the River Dart

Have you learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time? – Herman Hesse, Siddhartha

When they told me that the ferry trip to Darthmoor from Totnes was going to take an hour and half, I was worried that little T or even I would get bored and impatient.  The German poet was right of course, time does not exist when on a river, not even on a ferry.

As mentioned in a past post when we went on a spontaneous camping-trip just outside Dartmoor, we had the chance to go exploring around the area.  Our friend suggested that we go on a ferry ride and in spite hesitating at first, I’m so glad that we did.

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Little T enjoying the ferry ride.

The onboard tourist guide also kept us entertained with information about the river Dart and important landmarks found along the way.  It also helped that he was funny and gave little anecdotes along the way.

Small Hamlet along the river dartThese three houses, apparently is the smallest hamlet along the river.

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Dramatic ruins on a steep hill set against a background of grey skies.

Cormorant on a branch

And if you’re a bird-watcher, you’ll feast your eyes on the variety of amazing birds along the river Dart like this Cormorant on a branch.

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There were a lot of interesting looking houses, like this lovely thatched cottage.  Of course, one can imagine how expensive these houses must be!

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Apparently this one, has an indoor pool compete with a bar in it.  I have no idea whether the tourist guide was joking – I can’t even imagine a bar in a pool, but it must be very nice and convenient to have one.

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Now this was our favourite house by the river Dart.  Isn’t it just idyllic?  Just imagine waking up to the sound of the birds and water.  Beautiful.  Now don’t burst my bubble and mention flooding or storms please.

Agatha Christie's House by the river Dart

And then we spied  the Greenway House, famous novelist Agatha Christie’s house by the River Dart,which is now owned by the National Trust.  Apparently, the author and her husband occupied the house till their deaths in 1976 and 1978 respectively.

Can you spot the man waving by the house?  When I first took the photo, I didn’t even see him waving.  I only noticed when I downloaded the photos to my computer. Looks a bit eerie doesn’t it?

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 We also sailed past Sharpham Vineyard famous for their English wine and cheese.

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Loved that everyone waved to us from their boats as we sailed past them and of course we waved back at them too.

Dartmouth

And then before we knew it, we were fast approaching Dartmouth.  And just like that, the ferry ride was over.

Have you tried the ferry ride from Totnes to Dartmouth?

Did you enjoy it too?

Do share.

A Country Kid’s Post: Camping Unplugged

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While we’ve had camping on our bucket list for some time now, we somehow didn’t manage to plan it, so when a friend phoned us and asked if we wanted to go camping a few weeks ago, I said yes right away.  While planning is great, there’s also something exciting about going on a spontaneous trip, don’t you think?

We almost didn’t go actually since T went down with a temperature the night before, in fact, I sent a text message to our friend to warn her that if T wasn’t feeling well, we’re going to have to cancel our trip.  Luckily for us, T woke up feeling so much better.  Not wanting to test fate, we quickly loaded our car and drove off taking Doc with us on our little camping trip.  Boots stayed at home to watch over the house.

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Little T relaxing while we packed as much as we can in our little car.

Luckily we found a lovely campsite just outside Dartmoor that had space and wasn’t crowded with campers.  Granted it was just a site with basic facilities like toilets, hot shower and sinks for washing-up, which we actually liked.  Besides, “going rough” is what camping is all about isn’t it?

As we left, little T asked if we were going to take the iPad.  I said, what’s the point in going camping if we were going to take it?  No, we were all going to unplug our devices for the duration of the trip and guess what?  It was absolute bliss!

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There was so much empty space in the campsite as you can see, Doc and little T had so much fun, although he wasn’t allowed to roam on his own.

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To top it off, the weather cooperated and we managed to stay up late the first night and just watch the sky change colours.  When it got too cold, we went inside our friend’s tent (which was bigger and had more space) and just sat there, sipping wine and just chatting.  Little T was also with us and had her head on my lap, listening and occasionally piping in to join the conversation.

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It was lovely to catch the sunrise and wait for the sky to do its magic…

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The next day we got up when the tent got too warm and headed off to catch a ferry in Totnes that took us to Torquay which we enjoyed (will save that for another post). and spent the following day in Dartmoor, had a brief play at the beach on Paignton and ended the day in Brixham.  On the third  of our camping trip we headed back home to Cornwall.  And just as we crossed the border, the sunny weather was gone and we were welcomed back home with rain.  Whoopie-bloody-doo-dah.

It was a little unplanned holiday, but sometimes it’s the spontaneous ones that really count.  I didn’t switch my phone back on (and neither did my husband) and checked my emails till we got back on Wednesday.  As mentioned, it was heaven.

Do you like spontaneous trips or prefer planned holidays?

Do share.

A Country Kids Post: Climbing Trees and having fun at Lanhydrock

Lanhydrock is an elegant Victorian country home owned by the National Trust here in North Cornwall.  This is our go-to place when we have visitors.  They have a lovely garden and of course the stately home is well worth a visit too.

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In the spring time, around April – May, I like to go and see the lovely bluebells scattered all over the pretty gardens of Lanhydrock.  It was too early for that, when we visited last Sunday and was struck with the changes since we last went.  They seemed to have had a major renovation of their grounds, a bike trail and another cafe near the parking lot had been newly erected and also a fun play-ground which wasn’t there when we last visited.

Before we even got to the house, the children spied this enormous tree and all ran up to it and quickly climbed the tree with its huge branches and roots on the ground.

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As you can see, little T and her friends had a lovely time climbing up and down the branches like little monkeys.  Poor Doc had to watch all the fun happening around him while tied to one of the branches.

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He wasn’t a happy dog.  He wanted to play with the kids, but sadly, dogs aren’t allowed to go off leash on the grounds.

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After a while, we finally convinced the kids to leave their beloved tree and go and explore the rooms in the big mansion since they haven’t been inside it yet.  T led the way since she’s been to it a dozen a times already.

We went inside the house while T’s dad walked the poor Doc around the grounds, to make up for having to watch all the fun while tied to a branch.

Once we were done in the house, the kids of course wanted to play in the new playground near the parking lot.

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After a little picnic, it was time to go home because Doc wasn’t too happy tied to a fence watching everyone have fun except him.

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Doc has perfected his “Disney Dog look” making people stop to pet him.  He loved all the attention he got from people passing by.

I used to love climbing trees when I was a child.

Do you have memories of climbing trees when you were little?

Do share. 

Summer Lovin …

happened so fast … As that song from Grease goes.  Maybe I should change the lyrics to “Summer lovin, please come as fast as you can?”  And that folks, is the reason why I would make a really crap lyricist.

As I type this I look out the window and it is greyest of grey outside.  Our little village is covered in mist.  Thinking of summer at the moment feels a bit ludicrous, or perhaps, this is the perfect time to dream of summer and going on holiday? Some of you have probably even booked your summer trips already.  We did that too last year and the year before that, booked as early as February. This year though, things are a bit on hold for now. But I will save that for another post.   For now, I want to take you and myself back to the summer of 2014.

It was the summer we took a road-trip from Cornwall to the French countryside and stayed at Eurocamp at the La Croix du Viuex Pont at Berny-Riviera, which was near enough for us to have a day trip to Paris and Disneyland and back.

IMG_6809Little T eating ice-cream at the plaza in Vic-Sur-Aisne

If you asked little T, of course what made the trip memorable was seeing Elsa and Anna live in Disneyland, Paris.  If you asked me and my husband, we’d say we loved the long and lazy days spent doing absolutely nothing but ambling down quiet and empty roads in the French countryside.

vicsur_littlestepsWalking around Vic-Sur-Aisne, love, love, love the French shutters and flower boxes.

Even the nearby town, Compiègne felt like a ghost town when we visited.  There was hardly anyone in the streets.  Although to be fair, later in the day, the French came out and of course to us, seemed impeccably stylish even in their every day wear.

townhall_littlestepsThe town hall and empty streets of Compiègne.

We live in a small village too here in Cornwall, but walking around in our little village, chances are, you’ll meet someone, especially a dog-walker, strolling around the village.  But not in the French countryside, we wondered, where everyone was!  But that was part of the charm I guess, the emptiness and solitude of the French countryside, what more can one ask?  Of course, this isn’t what everyone wants in a holiday.  Some may prefer the maddening chaos of Paris which I also enjoyed actually. I loved walking around the streets of Paris and gazing at old rambling buildings.  Although the crowd was a little bit too much for me, I think a day in Paris is enough, although my husband said, perhaps visit in a quiet month, like in autumn.

IMG_7008A lovely cobbled street in Paris.

To me a perfect vacation is just that … meandering through streets, walking around like a local, making wrong turns and discovering things on your own, especially places that are not mentioned in tour guides.  Having no itinerary, If you feel like lazing around on the beach and reading a good book, then so be it.  Don’t have lists of things to do while on vacation.  Remember, it’s all about taking a break from the madness of your everyday life.

What is your idea of a perfect holiday?

*This is an entry for James Villa Holiday’s competition.