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Tavira with kids: a family travel guide

July 24, 2019
Tavira with kids

Tavira is a sleepy town on the Eastern side of the Algarve (the less busy side).

It was recommended to me as a nice place in Portugal to visit with kids by my friend and ex-work colleague who lived there a few years ago.

I wanted to go somewhere not too touristy where we could spend time relaxing as well as having things to do (without worrying about losing our child in a crowd).

Tavira with kids

Tavira is a beautiful little town with a slow pace of life. It’s small, mainly pedestrianised and there aren’t too many cars noticeably around.

It’s also really easy to walk around. There are cobbled streets adding to Tavira’s charms. However, they’re easily manageable with a buggy.

What to do in Tavira with kids

The Roman Bridge

The town is separated by a river and a Roman Bridge. This is one of the most picturesque spots in Tavira and the scene of many a photoshoot.

I can’t say your little darlings will wow at the view or have a moment of reflection thinking life doesn’t get much better than this.. However, it’s buggy friendly and my son enjoyed running from side to side.

There’s also a great ice cream shop over the bridge with lots of choice including fig, the local flavour.

Terrapins in the band stand

We got a great tip about taking our son to look at the terrapins and koi carp in the pond which surrounds the band stand.

My son is a big animal fan and he absolutely loved seeing the terrapins swimming around.

It’s a completely free activity to do in Tavira with kids and offers a bit of shade away from the midday sun. Win. Win.

Band stand with terrapins. Tavira with kids

Tavira castle

Tavira castle is uphill along cobbled streets. We (ok, my husband…) managed to push our sleeping toddler and make it there. It’s well worth it for the incredible views.

There are also steps leading up to the castle in the town by the Islamic museum, which offers a much quicker route.

21 churches

Tavira is also famous for its 21 churches. I would check opening times in advance before you visit as they’re not always open.

This is why we only managed to see one..

Tavira island

Tavira island is 11 kilometres of white sandy beaches. It is stunning, trust me.

You need to take a ferry, which in the summer months runs from the river side. It costs 2 Euro for an adult return and takes about 20 minutes.

We didn’t take a buggy but I did see people who had so I think Tavira Island is doable with kids of all ages. There’s also a boardwalk once you get to the Island.

Where to eat in Tavira?

Pausa is a delicious tapas bar on the edge of town just behind the river. I spotted it after seeing some French people had reserved a table thinking the French are never wrong about food.

Turns out my stereotyping of an entire nation was correct. The food was utterly delicious and although not cheap compared to other places, still worth it. The portion sizes are also massive.

I ate the most delicious grilled sea bass at Os Arcoz down by the river. The food was great and the location even better.

Roman Bridge - Tavira with kids

We also ate at a local’s place down by the river at the less touristy end near the Tavira island ferry terminal and next to a boat shop. Yes, I do realise how ridiculous these instructions sound (Michael Palin I am not) but I’m still dreaming about the stuffed pork cheeks now.

There are obviously 100s of patal de nata spots. We liked Veneza near the Roman Bridge where I’m reliably informed a glass of wine costs 2 euro (aka my kind of place..).

Where to stay in Tavira?

Usually we stay in an Airbnb but this time I wanted something really simple and not have to worry about finding keys and buying food.

We stayed in the Vila Gale, which was in a great location close to the town and near the ferries to Tavira Island during the summer months.

The rooms were great, staff super helpful and the breakfast was incredible with nice touches such as fruit grown on their own farm. There’s also a decent pool area with sun beds and towels.

I also saw a sign for Bea’s bed & breakfast and while I can’t vouch for the rooms, it was in a good location overlooking the river.

What to buy?

Tavira has some really beautiful shops selling handicrafts and pottery.

I really loved a shop called Kozii, a textile shops which sells clothes, accessories and home furnishings. Yes, I did treat myself to a scarf and earrings – well I was on my ‘olidays..

Getting there and away

We flew into Faro and took a taxi to the station (costs 10-12 euro). We then took a train to Tavira (3.20 euro), which takes 45 minutes and has beautiful views of salt flats and the coastline, followed by a taxi to our hotel (3 euro).

It sounds more complicated than it actually was and its a journey I’ll definitely do again.

travel

San Francisco with a toddler

July 9, 2019
San Francisco with a toddler leaning against a mural in the Mission District

Are we mad taking our toddler on a long haul holiday?

I had lots of ideas about parenting until I became an actual parent and realised its not always as easy as you think. Which is why I questioned if we were mad to take our toddler son on a long haul flight to San Francisco?

However, we wanted to go before our son turned two (and avoid having to buy him an adult price ticket…) so decided to go for it. I travelled a lot as a child, which is why I don’t find it too daunting. However, I completely appreciate travel is not easy; mentally as well as financially.

I also downloaded every episode of Peppa Pig…

What to do in San Francisco with a toddler 

I used to try and race round cities to cram in as much as possible so I could spend the rest of the time sitting back and people watching with a beer in hand.

Funnily enough, my toddler isn’t really up for watching the world go by. I’ve also learnt that it’s just not possible to rush with a toddler either. There are practicalities involved with what they can do because either their legs get too tired or the terrain isn’t suitable for a buggy.

Which is why this will probably be the first guide to San Francisco ever that doesn’t feature Alcatraz… Next time…

It’s also important that he enjoys the holiday too. We always try to do at least one activity a day, which is just for him. Luckily for us, he loves parks and let’s face it, most of them are free. Win, win, all round.

Even though San Franscico is hilly as anything, it’s such a wonderful city to be in. Everything is quite compact so you feel like you do a lot with minimal effort – which is perfect when travelling with a child.

So here are five things to do in San Francisco with toddler

1.Sea lions at Pier 39

My son is an animal fanatic to the degree that his first word was ‘dog’ (not Mummy…) so he loved looking at the sea lions at Pier 39. I wasn’t hugely enthused by Fisherman’s Wharf itself and found it full of tourist tat. But equally, I’ve also been to far worse places in my life as anyone who’s ever been in Leicester Square on a Saturday night can testify.

San Francisco with a toddler sea lions at Pier 39

Eat the clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at the Boudin Bakery Cafe.

2. Mission Dolores Park

I don’t know about you – but I can find parks quite tedious and feel that I’m trying to enjoy being there, rather than actually enjoying it. I’m hoping this is a universal parenting experience…?

However, Mission Dolores Park is a game changer… It’s in the Mission district so go and see the murals first. Incredible views. Surrounded by beautiful houses. Great playground design. Plus lots of people relaxing and drinking beers on the grass to people watch (whilst keeping my beady eye on my child obvs).

San Francisco with a toddler Mission Delores Park

For post park refreshments, check out Bi Rite Creamery, which I’m told is the best ice cream in San Franscico. It was delicious.

3. Cable cars

Other than winding streets, is there anything more San Franciscan than the cable cars? We got the cars from Union Square and looked out of the window at Nob Hill and Lombard Street.

We went early in the morning on a week day after reading that the queues were large at other times of the day. There were still queues at Union Square but we made it on without too much of a wait.

San Francisco with a toddler cable cars

Take coins with you as it’s cash only. Luckily for us, it’s pretty cheap as we were not prepared…

4. Golden Gate Park

For a spot of peaceful restoration, head to Golden Gate park. It’s quiet and has over 1000 acres of park land so our son was able to scamper freely without me worrying about cars (he hasn’t yet grasped the green cross code..). There’s a lovely playground and it’s a nice way to spend a couple of hours.

Golden Gate park

Take a picnic with you and enjoy time in nature.

5. Sausalito

I know Sausalito isn’t technically San Francisco but indulge me in this okay… A standard San Francisco activitiy is to hire bikes and cycle across the bridge. Well, that wasn’t doable for us but I still loved Sausalito. It’s quaint, I loved the houseboats and it’s one of those places where it feels nothing bad could ever happen. I appreciate that sounds like the starting sentence of a Steven King novel…

Sausalito with a toddler

Enjoy a drink in one of the cafes on the waterfront.

Getting around

We used the MUNI and local buses, which were easy enough with a buggy and a toddler carrier. Drivers are patient with you. I can only assume they thought we were quaint…

We also walked a lot and it was infinitely doable although I would suggest getting a bus up some of the hills.

Walking ideas:

North Beach and the Beat area: City lights bookstore / Language of the Birds / Jack Kerouac alley / Cafe Trieste / China Town

Mission and Castro: 24th street for Mexican bakeries / Balmy Alley murals / Mission Delores Park / Castro street / Harvey Milk plaza

Picture postcard landmarks: Haight Ashbury for the old hippy area / Painted ladies

San Francisco with a toddler Golden Gate bridge
travel

Why a festival with kids isn’t as bad as you might think

May 31, 2019

Goodbye nightclub, hello nappies

In the early days of motherhood I couldn’t imagine ever going out again. Sleepless nights and feeding took a toll on my energy levels, but if truth be told, I just didn’t really want to. A night in the pub seemed out of the question, never mind a festival with kids.

However, I now have a 2.5 year old and life seems a bit easier. He has fairly good sleeping patterns (most of the time) and is at the age where he can engage with other kids and have a good time.

I also feel I’ve reclaimed my sense of self and no longer have that rabbit in the headlights feeling of being a first time mum. And one thing I now really appreciate (because the chances are so limited) is spending time with friends.

My husband and I are in the sad position of not having much in the way of family support. We only have my mum left as a grandparent and she lives hundreds of miles away. Weekends away as a couple are impossible. We do get babysitters for nights out but that adds on to the cost of the evening and so we can’t do it as often as we might like.

So when our friends asked if we wanted to join them and their kids at Shindig festival, of course we said yes… My husband had been before and loved it. We’re also reasonably experienced family travellers and so the thought of camping for a few days didn’t seem overly daunting.

Turns out a buggy makes a great festival chair

Shindig festival

Shindig is a boutique music festival in Bruton, Somerset. It’s small and in a beautiful setting surrounded by green, gently rolling hills.

It’s a family friendly festival with lots of kids around. It seems to attract similarly minded parents who want to spend time with their children but also aren’t quite ready to hang up their disco boots.

Shindig festival has more than enough to keep little ones happy. There was so much on offer including a theatre tent, a circus, a climbing wall, hoops for acrobatics and a brilliant DJ in an ice cream van to keep the parents entertained in the kids field.

The food was great and I heard all locally sourced. You could bring a few cans in with you into the entertainment area (no glass bottles), which helped to cut down on costs.

There was a camping area for people with disabilities and also a big wellbeing area. I can’t say I took part in any of the early morning yoga classes but I appreciated they were on offer.

There was a big emphasis on cutting down on waste with composting toilets and recycling facilities. Festivals are notorious for litter and the damage they do to the land and I thought it was great the organisers were trying to limit this.

There’s a brilliant music policy with small dance tents so you feel close to the action. I particularly appreciated the kids hammocks outside one of the tents because it meant we could tag team each other and have a dance to LTJ Bukem.

I imagine it’s great for people without kids. However, I wasn’t out late enough to see the action after hours and I don’t think my husband really remembers…

Being thrown in the air is the best fun ever

Why take your kids to a festival?

It may seem a bit mad to go to a festival with kids, however, not everyone has easy access to babysitters so it’s not as straightforward as that. I also think it’s good to have fun with your children and introduce them to the things you enjoy.

I spent a lot of time as a child travelling with my parents and some of my greatest memories are sleeping in a hammock across the front seats of our van. I think children enjoy a break from the norm and stepping out of their routine.

It’s also great to be able to introduce your kids to live music. Admittedly, there are other ways to do this than paying for a festival. I live in London so there’s often free events taking place and I like to think my son benefits from listening to music – maybe it’s just me who does…

Top tips for surviving a music festival with kids

Choose a smaller boutique kid-friendly festival. Shindig takes about 15 minutes to walk across and wasn’t crowded, which gave me peace of mind. I think most parents worry about their kids bolting (or is that just me?) and it was open enough to be able to see them easily.

Ear defenders are a must. My husband is pretty deaf (although sometimes I think selectively) after years of working in sound. Younger ears are even more susceptible and it’s just not worth the risk for something you can buy pretty cheaply. We have these Peltor ones. Sermon over.

Take tons of wet wipes for you and your kids. I took biodegradable ones to try and cut down on waste. Some festivals have shower facilities but most of the time I don’t bother. Let’s face it, everyone else is in the same boat.

We took a toddler sling and buggy. We didn’t end up using the sling but it didn’t really matter. The buggy was great for afternoon naps and for shoving all our stuff underneath. Other people had carts and they looked great for smaller kids that need to nap.

We froze milk in advance so it slowly defrosted while we were there. For smaller bottle-fed babies, you could bring steriliser fluid and cartons of milk?

Having a camper van was a game changer. Now, before I sound ridiculously over-privileged, please hear me out… We don’t have a car so needed to hire one and buy a lot of camping equipment such as a tent. We worked out that hiring a van would be cheaper overall, particularly as we cooked meals there. We had nice breakfasts, cups of coffee and best of all, dry clothes when it rained.

Bring lots of food and snacks. ‘A hungry man is an angry man’ once sung Bob Marley and never was a truer word spoken.

We also took a potty because we’re going through the joy of potty training. We also relied pretty heavily on nappies.

If camping’s not for you – and it’s not for everyone, then think about a day festival. We went to Jam on the Rye back in 2018 and Rudy had a great time bopping around.

My best tip though is to go with other families. It helps to have other people to keep an eye out if you go to the loo or the bar. Plus when you’re back in the camping area at 9pm because your kids need to sleep, you can hang out with your mates. Winner.

What are the best festival for kids?

Where can I find out more?

The Festival Kidz website reviews festivals with children in mind.

My personal opinion is smaller festivals aimed at a broader audience are probably a good place to start. You can always build up to a bigger one as your kids get older / you gain confidence.

travel

Living the #vanlife – with a baby

June 26, 2018
#vanlife with a baby

I told people about my plans to go on a road trip whilst I was pregnant. “Oh, you’ll never do it,” they said. “It’s impossible to travel once you have a baby”. However, travel has always been a big part of my life and I was determined it wouldn’t change once I had a child. We had the van already and my husband carried out a basic conversion putting in a bed and storage. So off we set to live the #vanlife with a ten-month-old baby and travel around Spain for five weeks.

There are countless images on Instagram of people living the #vanlife dream. They are looking out on to beautiful bays wrapped in Navajo blankets and sheepskins. The truth is a van trip is exciting but it’s not without its stresses. Conditions are cramped and there is nowhere to escape to. We also had our fair share of worrying moments and made silly mistakes. However, the freedom it gives you though is so worth it. We saw places we would never have stumbled across and created beautiful memories with our son to last a lifetime.

#vanlife with a baby
#vanlife with a baby
#vanlife with a baby

How to enjoy the #vanlife with a baby (and still keep your sanity)

  1. Pack the basic essentials. We bought a travel cot based on sizing, which also doubles up as a mosquito net and beach shade. I think it’s absolutely brilliant and lightweight. Although there were some nights, our son found it difficult to settle so I co-slept with him. We took old clothes, washed them along the way and made do with what we had. I found it really liberating.
  2. Overpack the essentials such as food, water, petrol (gas). It’s easy to forget when you live in a 24-hour city in London that shops aren’t permanently open and there may not be a petrol station for several miles.
  3. Do have some sort of route in mind. We had one night where we couldn’t camp up anywhere and had to sleep in a car park. It wasn’t ideal but we survived.
  4. Be prepared for that route to change. We wanted to go further South but Spain was having a heatwave and so we felt it would just be too hot for our little man.
  5. Take time out each day for yourself. Go for a walk, have a beer, anything to have a little bit of space and stop any tensions from blowing up.
  6. Go with the flow. I had lots of ideas about cooking and my son eating delicious camp side meals. The reality was he ate a lot more bread than I’d planned but sometimes you have to be practical too. We all ate well, he had lots of fruit and vegetables and no one got sick. Perfect.
  7. Remember babies are very adaptable. There were moments when I questioned whether I was pursuing what I wanted to do over what was best for my son. However, he spent five weeks with both parents constantly around. There were fewer distractions of everyday life and more time to spend bonding and enjoying being with him.
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