Family Travel

Making memories in Crete

2017 was the first time we went abroad as a family. In fact it was the first time me and the Hubby has been abroad in the then 11 years we had been together. We headed to Crete one of the many Greek islands, with our 2 very excited children and my Mother and Father in law.

We chose the tiny little coast town of Almyrida and the most fabulous private villa up on the hill side about a 5 minute drive out of the town itself. We hired 2 cars that we collected at the airport nice and easily, it was about a 45 minute drive along to the coast from the airport to our villa. The drive gave us time to take in the beautiful island.

The villa

Our villa was fabulous, set up the hill with views over the valley, across the town and out towards the sea. The villa also had it’s own private pool, set in a olive grow. The villa had 3 bedrooms, 2 double and a twin each with ensuite bathrooms on the ground floor. Then upstairs there was an open plan kitchen, dinning and living room, with doors out on to the wrap around balcony. The balcony became home to breakfast, board game in the evenings and many glasses of wine of the adults.

The Beach

The beach was lovely, sat right in Souda Bay. We spent a couple of lovely days on the beach. We hired lounger chairs from the local hotel at €3 each, but it was also perfect because it mean that the bar staff from the hotel came down onto the beach taking orders for food and drinks.

Although as a family we had been on UK coastal holidays, being able to spend a whole day on the beach was lovely. We made sand castles, played with the beach ball and swam. We ordered food and drink from the hotel bar, which was all reasonably priced. For those couple of days of family fun making memories was worth every penny that the holiday cost us. Even now almost a year later we are talking about the holiday and the child are asking about when we can return to Crete.

The food

Greek food is some of the best in the world. Freshly made salads that are just out of this world, fresh fish dishes are very popular, things like moussaka, stifado, souvlaki are all popular. They also cater wonderfully for the children. The hubby tried the very popular lamb and goat meals, while I stuck to the fresh fish and salads. Oh I also loved the fried cheese, stuffed vine leaves, that we shared for starters most evening. Every time you go into a restaurant for a meal, they bring you ice cold water to drink while you choose your meals, they when they bring you your bill they bring out a small dessert, or bite size piece of cake.

The Island

making memories in crete

The island of Crete is just beautiful, steeped in history. We visited Chania and Rethymnon both old Venetian harbour towns. We wondered around, popping in and out of the shops and beautiful cafes. If you love seafood you must pop to Rethymnon as the restaurants around the harbour have the most amazing selection of fresh sea food. Although we didn’t you can take a boot trip out to sea from the harbours which we plan to do when we next visit the island.

Even though Almayda is small town, they have everything we wanted. A couple of small super markets, a bakery that sold the tastiest cakes, an ice cream shop, only a hand full of shops and then a nice selection of restaurants and taverns.

We loved our week in Crete, the Cretans are some of the friendliest people you could wish to meet. All so helpful in shops, brilliant with the children and in the restaurants more than happy to explain what the food is and what it contains. We are going to go back but next time with think we will look at an all inclusive holiday. We have found some great ones here https://www.holidaygems.co.uk/all-inclusive-holidays We made memories that will last a lifetime and cannot wait to make some more during our next adventure.

Have you ever visited Crete? What did you think to the island?

 

*This post was made in collaboration with Holiday Gems. As always thoughts and opinions are my own.*

A weekend Glamping at Caalm Camp in Dorset

We have been on many a camping trip and really enjoyed our time on a campsite but never glamping and never in January. However this is just what we have been doing glamping the last weekend of January in rural Dorset. We had a very rare child free weekend and took my brother in law and his girlfriend away with us to start the beginning of his 30th birthday celebrations.

Caalm Camp Dorest

Caalm Camp is a few miles outside of Shaftesbury and they have 6 traditional Mongolian yurts for your glamping pleasure there is also Caalm cottage if glamping just isn’t your thing.

On arrival at Caalm Camp we were greeted by Mark who owns the farm with his wife Caryl, he explained that he had lived there all of his life. Caalm Camp was named after the family members – Caryl, Anna, Ashley, Lisa and Mark, I just love that the whole family are part of it. The family have had yurts on the farm for 7 years now and unlike most yurt sites they are open all year round. Offering long weekends, Monday to Friday and full weeks. 

Facilities at Caalm Camp

Mark took us down to see the facilities that have for guests to use during their stay. Each yurt has its own fridge and cupboard in the large kitchen with everything you could really need for your stay. Pots and pans, plates, bowls, cutlery, cookers, kettles, sinks, toasters all the basics to make you glamping experience as glamorous as possible.

Each yurt is also given it’s own wet room with toilet so you can lock all of your toiletries into the wet room and only you have access to it. Perfect, no need for carrying wash bags around with you. There is also no need to worry about taking towels with you as these are provided. The showers are on a push button that lasts a couple of minutes at a time, just make sure you let it run for a bit before you get it as at first its cold. But it soon warms up to a nice hot shower.

There is also a communal dining room and lounge area with plenty of tables, sofas and a TV. Some toys and games for the children and some DVD’s to watch. Also highchairs if you have little ones needing them.

Off the back of the communal space is the barn games area, with a pool table and a table tennis table, we did use them during our stay it was quite good fun. More fun than the pool table and table tennis was Ruby the goat and Sammy the sheep, they live in the barn. Although Sammy kept well out of the way Ruby was so friendly and more than happy for you to pat her. The children would have loved her.

Traditional Mongolian Yurts

After Mark had shown us around the communal area, he took us to meet Daisy our yurt for the weekend. Welcomed by a green wooden door hand painted in traditional Mongolian style. On entering the yurt we were surprised by the size but also how warm it was in there. Mark had put the log burner on about 30 minutes before we arrived and it was lovely and warm. The log burner was set in the middle of the yurt and has a metal cage around 3 sides to stop you being able to touch it or falling into it. There is a log store fully stocked up with wood that had been cut to the perfect size for your log burner which is free to help yourself too.

Should you want to use coal on the stove at night to keep it burning, then you can buy buckets of it within the communal area, at £3 a bucket. Each bucket is enough for a night. However we had taken some with us as I had read a review saying you needed to take your own. But at only £3 a bucket it is just as cheap and easy to buy it from there. Also if your fire does go out then you can buy fire lighters from the communal area as well at only 20p each.

In the yurt there was a double bed and two single beds, a couple of chairs, drawers for storage of clothing and under the single beds there was wooden storage boxes that slide under. There was also a mini kitchenette area, with a single induction hob for boiling the kettle for a hot drink. The kitchenette was equipped with the basic items needed for a BBQ.

The roof of the yurt was made up of beautiful hand painted wooden latticework leading to the centre and the source of light. A large domed open space, letting the log burners chimney out. The dome is covered to stop the rain getting in, but allowing the light in and allowing you to see the nights sky.

Outside the yurt there was a wooden picnic bench, bbq, fire pit and then a tap for fresh drinking water. Each of the yurts are set nicely apart so you have plenty of your own space. There is also a communal fire pit and seating area. Which would be perfect if you were going with a group of friends or for new friends you had met while there, great for sitting around and toasting marshmallows. Yummy!

No cars are allowed on to the yurt field, but you have the used a the cutest pink wheelbarrow to take your items down to your yurt from the car park.

After asking us if we had and questions and telling us to contact him should we have any questions or and issues, Mark left us to unpack and settle into our home for the weekend.

Our weekend at Caalm Camp clamping

Day 1 – arrival

We had taken with us our camping chairs as our booking confirmation email advised us to do so. Also I had taken a tea towel, washing up bowl, washing up liquid, bin bags, kitchen roll, toilet paper, wine glasses and a washing up sponge. I was unsure what items we would need so thought I would just take a few items for just encase we needed them. However the only thing we really needed was a tea towel, washing up sponge and kitchen roll. Everything else was there waiting for us to use.

The first thing we did after unpacking the car was get the kettle on. I love a good cup of tea. I had taken a few bits with us, tea, coffee, sweeteners for me, milk, hot chocolate, marshmallows, ooh I also took our BBQ skewers for toasting the marshmallows …… this was a brilliant idea. I mean who doesn’t want to toast marshmallows over a fire. Just a few basic bits that I knew we would use. Not forgetting the very important cannot live without gin and various different tonics.

On the journey down we decided that we would try and eat out and about to save cooking but cook bacon sandwiches in the mornings.

After settling in and unpacking a few bits, enjoying our cups of tea we decided to head out and find a super market and somewhere nice for dinner. We headed into Shaftesbury to the Asda store to pick up a few bits before having a drive around to find a pub for dinner. We ended up finding a pub called the Ye Olde Two Brewers that was located near the bottom of Gold Hill. It was fish and chip night and that is was all had and it was yummy. The staff were really friendly and welcoming, the food was good and men were happy with the selection of beer on offer. I would recommended a visit to Ye Olde Two Brewers pub if you are in Shaftesbury.

Heading back to our yurt, we re-stoked the log burner, set the fire pit going outside and made up some gin and tonics. We enjoyed a couple of hours around the fire pit, drinking, chatting and toasting marshmallows.

Day 2 – Tanks, Indian and Gin

After a fabulous night sleep we woke up to rain. Lots of rain. Getting up to shower and cook breakfast before heading out for the day. We had planned to go back into Shaftesbury to walk Gold Hill, or better known as Hovis Hill, however with the rain we decided to venture to The Tank Museum at Bovington which was actually well worth the visit. I found the first world war and second world war area really interesting but after that both the ladies were feeling just a bit tanked out, although the men loved it all and while us ladies went and had a hot chocolate they continued to look around the tanks in awe.

After we had finished with the tanks, we made our way back to Shaftesbury and got an Indian take away from a restaurant called Chutney in the town and took it back to our yurt. It was yummy and soon eaten by us all. We spent the evening playing card games and drinking gin and tonics sat around the log burner keeping us all cosy and warm.

Day 3 – Gold Hill, Farm Shop, Sunday Lunch, Cheese and Gin

On the Sunday morning we made our way back into Shaftesbury to walk Gold Hill, I was expecting a long very steep walk. Yes it was very steep but it wasn’t very long, the one nearer our home in Lincoln is a lot longer. We wondered around the town although just about everything was closed because it was a Sunday. However we did find a little café for a Devonshire cream tea. Yummy! The town of Shaftesbury is beautiful and very old, full of little shops that I could spend all day wondering around.

As recommended by Mark we went to the Kings Arms Inn for Sunday lunch, it was great. The pub offered a carvery style meal, with the choice of 5 different meat and then lots of vegetables. It was only £11.95 each and we all ate the lot, I honestly couldn’t fault the meal. It was really busy, we struggled to get parked when we first arrived, which is always a good sign. Before getting there we popped to The Udder Farm shop, it’s well worth a visit if you are down there. A great place for picking up a few nice bits to eat, we grabbed some cheeses, fresh olives and stuffed peppers for our cheese night.

After dinner we decided to head back to the yurt for a lazy afternoon, in fact we all wanted a sleep after a big lunch. However the girls decided it was be nice to take a walk, it was cold, wet and very muddy. We walked a good couple of miles around the fields and back down the road before arriving back on the farm. It was really nice just to have a good walk after the big meal. The boys were reading their books when we arrived back, after a nice cup of tea we headed into the games room to play pool and table tennis. I’m not going to lie it was cold in there, but then it is a barn so to be expected.

The evening consisted of cards, reading, lots of gin and then cheese. We baked some brie and camembert in the kitchen and enjoyed it was some freshly baked rolls and chutney. Not forgetting the olives and stuffed peppers we bought at the farm shop.

Day 4 – Home time

We got up fairly early on the Monday morning to pack up, we needed to be out of our yurt by 10. So after showering I made breakfast, in the communal kitchen while everyone else was getting ready, packing up their bits.

We spoke with MarK about our stay and he checked that everything went well, we had no reason to contact him while we were there, as we had no problems with anything. Although he would have been on hand should we have needed him.

After loading the car and doing a final check, we started our 4 hour journey home to be back in time to collect the children from school.

Glamping is fabulous

We had the most amazing weekend away at Caalm Camp. The facilities were great, we had everything we could possibly need while there. We thought about going back in the summer, however my Hubby thought we would loose some of the fun of the cold weather and enjoying the log burner. So we are planning to return next winter with the children. They will love it. Not only the glamping and everything on the farm but it is also it is so very positioned for some fabulous attractions, Longleat, Monkey World, the Jurassic Coast line and so much more. All places we want to take the children.

Everyone should try glamping even if it’s just once.

Thank you Mark and Caryl so much for having us to stay for the weekend. We had a truly wonderful time and we cannot wait to share the experience with the children.

 

*We are given the weekend in the yurt in exchange for a review. As always thoughts and opinions are my own.*

 

Our night in an Aurora Cabin Lapland

Seeing the northern lights is something that is the top of my bucket list. As Lapland is high above the arctic circle the chances of seeing the lights increases. If there is little cloud and the conditions are right you have a high chance during the colder months of seeing this naturally occurring phenomenon. They say that October – April are the best months. Being away from the light pollution is also increases your chances. When we visited Lapland I really hoped that we would get to the see the Aurora Borealis in all it’s dancing glory across the skies.

Aurora Cabin Lapland – Levin LapinKylä

On one of the 7 nights of our staying in Lapland we were lucky enough to spend the night in the most beautiful Aurora Cabin at the reindeer farm of Levin LapinKylä. Did you know that the only people that are allowed to have a Reindeer Farms in Lapland are the only indigenous tribes in Europe, the Sami people.

Our Inghams reps had arrange for a mini bus transfer to collect us and pick us up the next morning. We were to be collected from the K5 hotel at 6pm and to be collected at 9am the following morning, which at first I thought was quite early however we had to be back for snowmobiling at 11.30.

The journey to the cabins took about 30 minutes as we were dropping others off at another location before us. We took with us the basic items for a night away.

Aurora Cabin Lapland

On arrival at Levin LapinKyla we were greeted by the head of the family, who’s family has farmed the land for generations. We were given a hot drink each and the children had a biscuit each too. We all opted for a hot chocolate, it was delicious. Even both of the children loved it. Plus we all fell in love with their friendly dog Santus. 

When booking the aurora cabin you had the option to book at meal to have here as well. I thought it was a meal to have in the cabin, so thought why not book it. The meal cost £150 for the four of us to have a traditional Lappish 3 course meal. So we were given the menu to choose our food from. As there wasn’t much for the children to choose, the chef happily made up fresh meat balls for one of them.

After choosing our food, we were taken to the cabin. At Levin LapinKyla they have 10 newly build luxury Aurora Cabins, they only opened the cabins in October 2017. The night we stayed we were the only guests there. We were taken across the snowy field to the cabins, I was so excited to be staying in one.

Our Aurora Cabin

When we arrived at our cabin Number 4, we were shown inside and told how to work the various buttons and gadgets. The various lights and also the heated windows, so you can see out all night. The cabin was already made up for us, with a sofa bed and a double bed. There was also an en-suite wet room, a desk, fridge and kettle and a selection of hot drinks to choose from.

We arranged to have dinner at 19:30 not in the cabin as I had thought but within the family house, we settled in and put the heated windows on in hope that by the time we came back we would be in for a night with the Northern Lights.

Making our way back across the dark field we were given a little lamp to carry with us, the children of course both wanted to carry it so it was agreed they would do one way each. We arrived in the family house ready for dinner, and were seated in front of an open fire.

A traditional Lappish meal

The Hubby and I both had, Forest Mushroom soup and bread to start with and it really was creamy, full of mushrooms and really tasty. The children both had bread and butter and were both more than happy to munch through it all.

For our main course the Hubby and I both had the Reindeer Stew, mash potato and lingonberry jam. I was not too sure what to expect having not eaten Reindeer before, plus I am not one for trying our new things but really enjoyed it. Reindeer meat is rally quite rich almost a gamey taste. One of the children had lasagne and vegetables and the other had meat balls, mash potatoes and vegetables, both loved theirs and eat it happily.

For our puddings we both had a berry pie, which was more of a large piece of blueberry sponge packed full of blueberries, served with cream. It was delicious I could have eaten it again and again. The children both had crepes with cloud berries, they were also yummy (I might have had to sample them). We also enjoyed a nice bottle of crisp white wine, which the children had fresh apple juice to drink.

Yes the meal was quite pricey, however it was delicious and a real experience to eat in the home of LapinKylä Sammi family. So worth every penny.

Sky gazing and a great nights sleep

After our fabulous meal we made our way back to the cabin, and found that the snow had all cleared from the glass roof. We showered and got ready for bed. We made hot chocolate and snuggled up in bed to try and see the lights, the children were happily watching the skies along with us. I shared a double bed with our daughter and the Hubby with our son, just to save the arguments between the little angels.

After an hour or so the children were both fast asleep and I kept on checking the various Aurora watching apps to see what our chances were, basically none as it was cloudy. So we read our booked and drifted off to sleep. I did however set my alarm for around 2am as the app told me it would be the best time to see it. However no such luck.

After a great night’s sleep in very comfy beds, we got up, packed up headed back to the family house for breakfast.

Our breakfast was a range of hot and cold items, they really had put a fabulous range of items out just for us. The hubby had the hot items, followed by some fresh fruit and yogurt. I had fresh fruit, yogurt and seeds. The children had bacon and toast. Lots of tea, coffee and fresh fruit juices.

The children were given a small gift each from a range of souvenirs they have, they choose a keying and a magnet. The hubby and I were both given a magnet each, which was such a lovely thought and gave us all something little to take away with us.

Our stay at the Lapin Kyla cabins was just fabulous, I would highly recommend it to anyone. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the Northern Lights however it did not stop us for having the most amazing experience with a wonderful Sami family.

 

*Thank you Inghams for gifting us the night in the Aurora Cabins. As always thoughts and opinions are my own.*

Our trip to Lapland – Immelmökit Cabin Review

As you know we visited Lapland just before Christmas and had the most amazing time. I was going to tell you all about it in a blog post, but because I have so much to tell you all I thought I would spread it out over a couple of posts and starting with a Immelmökit Cabin review.

Immelökit Cabin Review

We flew from Manchester Airport into Kittilä airport Finland. It was a 3 hour flight that left Manchester just over an hour later than planned, because of the unexpected snow we had in the UK that day. Amazing isn’t it that the day we are flying to Lapland to see the snow, the UK are having the first lot of snow of the winter.

I had packed the children up with various items to keep them entertained. We played cards and read books then they watched films on their iPads. To be honest they were both surprisingly well behaved. We all loved being able to look out of the window and watch the world go by. As we travelled towards the Artic Circle the more and more snow we could see.

Immelmökit Cabin Review

Arriving at Kittilä airport we got off the plane to be met by the friendly Inghams ski reps. They asked our names and told us which bus we would be getting on, we were on bus 8 which hadn’t arrived yet, but that was perfect because we then had to wait for our luggage to arrive from the plane.

Once we collected out luggage we made our way to the buses. Again greeted by the Inghams ski reps checking our names and letting us know which stop we would be getting off at. They also issued out our information packs that had an itinerary of our pre-booked activities and a map of levi centre. We were staying in the Immelmökit cabins, which was the first stop only 20 minutes away from the airport.

Even stepping out of the airport and seeing all of the snow was really amazing. But cold! It was the first time the children had really seen proper snow. Even the Hubby and I couldn’t believe how much there was. On the journey to our cabin we were all mesmerised by the fabulous scenery and the snow. Woodlands just covered in snow, then seeing the ski slopes lit up with skiers already enjoying their self’s on the slopes.

Immelmökit Cabin Review

Immelmökit Cabin Map

When we arrived at Immelmökit we were greeted by a couple more of the very friendly Inghams reps, we were issued with our cabin number. Collecting our luggage from the bus we made our way to our cabin, we were stating in number 13. Although it took us about 15 minutes to get the children to come to the cabin, they just wanted to play in the snow. Just outside out cabin was a massive pile of snow so it they could climb up it and slide down …. amazing.

When we managed to get the children inside, we had a good look around and found that we had space for 8 people. Two twin bedrooms an open plan kitchen and sitting area, toilet, wet room and sauna on the ground floor. Then an mezzanine floor with 4 single beds and a very low ceiling. The stairs up to the mezzanine were really quite steep, it was fine for us but if you had younger children they would be a hazard. I believe they offer stair gates to help with this, we however didn’t need to worry about them but it’s worth asking.

The living area had a table with stools that we moved around for mini coffee tables as we needed them. A sofa big enough for three people or four children however it wasn’t the comfiest, but fine for what we needed. Plus two high back arm chairs, that were much more comfy.  There was also a TV which had a great selection of Finnish TV, I always love watching children’s TV in a different language it’s all part of the of travelling abroad. Also there was a few English speaking channels if you have time to sit and watch it. There is also an open fire, we loved putting it on in the evenings not that we needed the extra heat as the cabins are lovely and warm, but because its just lovely. It’s all part of the idilic vision of staying in a log cabin during the snowy winter months. There is a wood store that you have access to, so you are able to collect your wood to use on the fire.

The kitchen area was well equipped with just about everything you could want. We had taken with us, tea towels, washing up liquid a dish cloth and bin bags as I had read that they didn’t include any of those items and the local super market was a bulk buy style so we wouldn’t use it all during the week. However I was surprised to see that most of these items were already waiting for us. There was a cooker, toaster, kettle, coffee machine (don’t forget your own paper filters) and a large fridge with small freezer section. Like the log cabin there is also a cabin that houses a washing machine which you have access to. We didn’t use it however should you need to wash anything its there but just remember to take some wash powder with you.

The bathroom area was a wet room style with a separate toilet area. In the toilet there was also a drying cupboard, which was perfect for putting all of the snow suits, hat, gloves, scarfs and base layers at the end of the day. The drying cupboard was brilliant, even on the couple of afternoons we went back for a couple of hours the clothing was dried before heading back out again. There was also a hair dryer in the cupboard to use. The shower was powerful, it got nice and hot so great for warming up after a day outside. Just off the shower area was a sauna, it was quite easy to work. Switch it on for 30 minutes before you want use it and make sure you have the cooker extractor fan on at the same time. It’s nice and easy to use and a great way to relax when the children are in bed.

Walking into Levi

As the Immelmökit cabins are a beautiful 10 minute walk outside of the centre of Levi. Such a stunning walk into the centre, over the lake, and although a lot of the walk is up hill, it was easily managed by us all. There are also very few cars on the roads so it was really safe for the children (and us) to play outside on the sledges. The first thing the children spotted was a sledge each sat waiting for them on the cabin porch. Everyone takes a sledge with them, just tie them up outside the shop or restaurant and collect them after. The generally rule seems to be if it isn’t tied up then you can take it. We used our to pull the children to and from the centre plus put any food items we bought on to pull back to the the cabin.

The cabins are also located really near to the lake which is a great place to walk to for Northern Light spotting as it is away from the light pollution from the centre and the ski slopes. It’s a place the we saw lots of organised groups going to try and see the lights.

I would highly recommend staying at the Immelmökit cabins, yes they are basic but they have anything you could want from cabin in Lapland. We will be going again and I cannot wait.