Posted on February 18th, 2017 - Fiona
Following on from my posts about Athens and where we stayed in Kefisia, I’m sharing today the next leg of our Greek trip last summer. It’s a bit of a change from my Sunday photos on the farm but the area is so beautiful in a very different way to Cornwall, I wanted to share a little of what we enjoyed here and brighten up a Sunday in February.
Booking a holiday independently from the UK in an area you are unfamiliar with is not easy, even in the modern age of the internet. We wanted a two centre holiday, beginning with a few days in Athens and finishing with a few days on the coast. For our coastal stay the area near Nafplion, in the Peloponnese region south of Athens, appealed having good reviews. We randomly selected a hotel in a little village called Kantia. That was back in February last year and we had a whole 5 months to wait before we would find out if our choice was a wise one.
The Greek roads have been transformed out of all recognition in the 20 years since I last visited. A super new highway connected Athens with the Peloponnese and in our hire car, complete with sat nav; we reached our destination in under 3 hours. Stepping out of the car was like stepping back into the Greece I remembered; dusty roads, fabulous houses next to derelict ones, rooms to rent and a rather undiscovered beach devoid of all the touristy water sports. Instead the beach supported just the odd Taverna every 200 yards or so, lemon trees, olive trees, the odd dog lying underneath and our little hotel just 30 yards up a dirt track from the beach. This was clearly a place for the locals but with a Greek surname and a smattering of Greek it was just what we were hoping for.
After confusion on arrival and a misplaced booking we were in. Thank God my ever prepared husband had the bank statements and emails printed out to prove we had booked and paid. I did feel sorry for the flustered owner, it is my one nightmare, that the booking system will fail and I’ll have a family arrive I’m not expecting. I’m pleased to say in 15 years it has not yet happened!
Our 4 days here were perfect. After an adequate breakfast we set out exploring the area in the mornings covering Nafplion, Mycenae and Epidavros retreating back in the afternoon for a swim and siesta around the pool or down on the beach.
I love this photo of my eldest and his Dad (Farmer Nick) walking from the hotel to the beach together.
We explored on foot and swam for miles before falling into one of the two tavernas each night to watch the sun go down, sipping ouzo and indulging in the local Greek food.
Greek style squid is still one of my favourite meals
Sun setting inland over Kantia
Early Morning was my favourite time to swim when the sea was as calm as a pond
Tips and pitfalls of staying in Kantia
- We stayed in the Candia House Hotel. It is a mid range hotel, nothing fancy, a little tired but friendly and welcoming and more than adequate. We ended up in the Presidential suit after confusion with our booking, which was a cut above the other rooms. It had a pool and wonderful views out to sea from our suite and the breakfast room / veranda. There is shady parking area for cars and rooms are serviced daily. I would book here again if returning to Kantia.
- Pack light. We only travelled with hand luggage which saved us over £100 each and this was adequate in July. I never needed a jacket once; only swim wear, shorts, tops and a couple of floaty dresses.
- It is suitable for children but be careful in the water as it shelves very quickly so younger children may find swim aids helpful.
- My favourite time to swim was at sunrise and after dark when the sea was like a lake. A wind whipped up the waves during the day.
- WiFi is excellent all around. There is free beach WiFi and it was free in the Tavernas and in our hotel.
- You have to feel comfortable with the Greek style of eating. There is only Greek food on the menu and it is served Greek style, i.e. haphazardly when it is ready. We were happy to go with the flow and share everything, but if you like to order and eat your own it is not ideal as one dish may be half an hour ahead of another.
- Watch out ordering wine, it is only local and pretty poor quality. I loved the old peasant wine Retzina, however this is no longer sold even in the supermarkets, the replacement is quite poor if you like a good sauvignon like me. Local beer is a better bet.
- In the absence of good wine I developed a taste for the local Ouzo with ice. Watch out though as the little bottles I had were 75% proof and more like half pint sized!
- The locals all speak excellent English and are very hospitable so asking anything is easy.
- Kantia is a made up spelling from the Greek alphabet. Unfortunately every map producer has chosen a different English equivalent meaning you have to watch for signs to Kantia, Cantia, Candia and try them all in a sat nav!
- We hired a car from Kafisia where were staying in Athens via Hertz rental and opted for the Sat Nav too. It was a 5 seater costing £320 for 4 days returning to Athens Airport which is well signed on the return journey. Petrol is a similar price to the UK.
Would I recommend Kantia?
If you want to experience the real Greece then this is a great holiday, however if you want modern resort facilities and a variety of cuisine this may not be for you. The beaches were quiet during the week but busy at the weekend as the Athenians came down for their weekend / day retreat. For me it was perfect and just what I hoped for my boy’s age 16 and 18. This year we are tied to school holidays again and will be enjoying the summer from home in Cornwall, however I hope to return with our younger children one day.
Posted on February 17th, 2017 - Fiona
Winter can feel very long without a few things to look forward to. One tradition we have is a family winter short break to our favourite hotel in Devon on a weekend when we have no visitors at Coombe Mill. We spotted our chance and booked up.
The hotel is one we have been going to for 21 years, since our honeymoon. I’d have never thought back then that it would be somewhere we would still be returning to all these years later with our now almost fully grown 6 children. It is pricey and so 2 nights in mid winter is all we can stretch too but we all look forward to the break.
Our first day was met with a real south westerly wind and drizzle, not to be put off some of us braved the coast path.
The more sensible ones opted for the badminton and squash courts and it wasn’t long before we caught them up for some inter family challenges.
The outdoor pool was unsurprisingly closed but thankfully the indoor one was open and the kids were in and out all weekend when they had a spare half hour.
Day two was quite different with glorious sunshine and warm too, there was no time for indoor swimming as we headed out to wear off our indulgent breakfast. Guy and Jed fancied themselves as the next Wimbledon stars
The others dabbled at golf. This is Farmer Nick’s passion and a big part of choosing this hotel 21 years ago. He has so much patience teaching the children and keeping their spirits up after landing in the rough.
I find golf very frustrating and am happy to enjoy the coast path after failing to gain a true golf score again!
After a full day of outdoor fun dressing up for dinner is a treat and enjoying the odd mocktail or cocktail down in the bar.
Even with one very rainy day we had another wonderful visit and returned to the farm feeling refreshed and ready to greet those visiting us for a welcome winter short break.
Do you have a short break to look forward to in winter?
Posted on February 4th, 2017 - Fiona
Coombe Mill is set just off Bodmin Moor in North Cornwall. It is nestled at the base of a valley with the river Camel running through the middle. The Camel’s source is high in the moor and it reaches the sea at Padstow. It struck me when looking through a few comments on my Pinterest just what a beautiful part of the country we live in and how it resembles parts of the world many miles away. My countryside sunset photos have been likened to Africa while our rugged coast and turquoise waters likened to Hawaii. Winter harbour photos have been mistaken for summer in Padstow and I see New Zealand’s south Island in much of our North Cornwall landscape.
Postcards from North Cornwall
I thought I’d share a few of the recent contrasting photos that have generated these global comparisons.
Padstow Summer or Winter?
I always maintain that the coast is timeless and seasons melt into one. But for the temperature which is hard to convey in a photo, this photo in Padstow was mistaken for summer but is in fact from a visit over the Christmas holidays
Cornish Coast or Hawaii?
I have taken to running the coast path this winter after dropping the kids into school in the mornings. There is a beautiful loop covering the coast and veering inland that covers about 6 miles. One of my favourite views is coming round the headland from Polzeath and seeing The Rumps stretching ahead. This photo was a quick I phone capture last week that was likened to Hawaii.
North Cornwall Countryside or Africa
I do love to chase a sunset. With my long lens looking out from our lane towards the sea the orange glow reflecting back has been likened to the African plains.
Coombe Mill or New Zealand
I have never visited the African planes or Hawaii, however I have been to New Zealand and parts of this remind me so much of home here in North Cornwall. This next photo is taken along our ravine and is typical of the waterfalls and streams of New Zealand.
If you fancy an exotic holiday without the cost, North Cornwall is a pretty good compromise! For everyday bargains Marks and Spenser have some savings you may like and a little careful shopping with find you plenty of other deals from well known companies. Grab your bargain whether it is a holiday or a new look for the home.
My thanks to A Modern Mother, Mummy from the Heart, Lets pack our Bags Blog for inspiring this post through their comments on my Instagram photos.
Disclosure: Sponsored links included.
Posted on February 3rd, 2017 - Fiona
Parts of Cornwall can feel sleepy and close down in winter yet this can never be said of Padstow. At less than half an hour from Coombe Mill it is a great day out for the family. Over the Christmas holidays the Harbour was buzzing with life, the surf style shops open for business and the smell of fish and chips filled the air. If you visit before Christmas the lights are beautiful, when our children were younger fish and chips watching the Christmas lights was an annual event. This year I took my mother and mother in law together with two of my 12 year old children between Christmas and New Year on a glorious sunny day and it unexpectedly turned into one of the happiest days of the winter holidays.
We parked along the end of the camel trail; this begins just a mile from Coombe Mill and finishes at Padstow along the old railway line. It is about a half mile walk from here to the centre. I love to see the boats moored up and the view across the estuary which was simply stunning in the winter sun.
Jed couldn’t resist reliving the few childhood memories of climbing on the giant sand digger, which was parked up for the holidays. His dare devil antics had diminished none with age as he leapt from the top to the soft sand below.
We perused a few shops and ate pasties on the Harbour front like real tourists in our local town.
A few more heart stopping moments for me as Jed climbed down the inner Harbour wall to peer into boats and holes within the wall which I assume were some form of high tide defense.
There is the beautiful walk from the Harbour up over the cliffs and down to a collection of sandy coves. It is under a mile to the first of these and easy terrain to the first too if you have buggies or the elderly, and open fields to the side if you have boisterous tweens playing football along way.
We wandered on to the second beach cove which opens up into a beautiful Sandy Bay at low tide. The kids were in there element running around with Jed’s new Christmas football while the mums and I soaked up the sun.
Did I mention how warm it was? Jed, hot from his football playing, stripped down to his boxers and went for a swim.
Guy and I had been in the sea the previous day, but with full wetsuits. This was the gutsiest swim I have seen in a while, you could be mistaken for thinking it was midsummer, though I’m sure the water temperature said otherwise!
Every good walk needs a little adventure. Jed and Clio ran ahead on the way back exploring hidden pathways. They came across a disused bunker and couldn’t wait to explore inside. With the help of phone torches the clambered in and looked around. Clearly they weren’t the first to discover this judging by the graffiti; however to them it was a secret discovery and a highlight of their day.
If you are staying at Coombe Mill I can thoroughly recommend a day trip to Padstow, even in the winter holidays it has plenty to offer for families of all ages. Our visit is one we will all remember fondly.
Tips for visiting Padstow with children
- Parking is tight and limited in the town centre; we turn down by Tesco on the approach to Padstow where parking is free and walking in safe along the end of the camel trail.
- Hiring bicycles from Wadebridge and cycling to Padstow is a great option with 5 miles of flat estuary cycle path.
- Padstow Harbour is suitable for buggies and wheelchairs, but watch out with young children as the Harbour edge has no wall.
- There are plenty of public toilets in the town that are well maintained and currently still free to use.
- Treat yourself to lunch out you are spoilt for choice from pasties and fish and chips to luxury restaurants. Rick Stein is the big name in food with many resultants and food shops for every budget.
- All the big name surf fashion shops can be found around the Harbour and will be open even on bank holidays; the same cannot be said for much of Cornwall.
- If walking to the beaches, take a towel, kids will get wet even in the winter holidays. Jed ended up using my scarf to dry off!
Posted on January 27th, 2017 - Fiona
I make no secret of loving family days at the beach and here in Cornwall we have some gorgeous beaches to choose from. I don’t mind if it is summer or winter, time at the beach for me is time well spent. I can feel on holiday just minutes from home here and I like nothing better than the school holidays when all my family join me. Having children now age 12 – 18, family trips are becoming less frequent, there is always someone off doing something independently, so when the Christmas holidays gave us a chance to all be together for some winter beach days there was no stopping this trip. For Farmer Nick this is a bit of a rarity, I swear Christmas is the only time of the year he joins us at the beach; normally he is much happier pottering on the farm and having a little peace and quiet from us all!
It wasn’t a beautiful day but it was warm for December and to me it was perfect. School and work were on hold and we could just enjoy a few hours of fresh air. Once at the beach our party split into two, one group walked the coast path to the headland while Guy and I opted for surfing (Guy) and body boarding (me) in the sea.
I don’t remember the wind but looking back at the photos the waves and our hair blowing all over shows there was quite a strong side wind.
Normally photos of my family are a rarity, however thanks to my brother joining us, suddenly the kids were happy to stop and smile giving me some lovely memories of our day.
I wish I could have transported Guy and me into these photos at the headland.
That said we were in the sea nearly an hour and had a great time, it didn’t even feel like winter in there. Though I do have a thick wetsuit and a thermal rash top, Guy was the brave one in a summer weight suit.
Winter beach days: A return trip
We enjoyed it so much we couldn’t resist a return visit a few days later and this time in full sun. The tide was further out and splashing in the sea and football on the beach was all it took for happy family fun.
I don’t know what it is about term time, but persuading the kids to come out with me is so much more of an effort. I’m now looking forward to half term and the prospect of more family winter beach days here in Cornwall.
Tips for family Winter Beach Days at Polzeath
- Take wetsuits, especially for the children, they always end up splashing in water at any time of year. We have plenty to borrow at Coombe Mill from our boot room.
- Take snacks and drinks or a money if it is a beach with facilities. Beach play is thirsty work!
- Our visit here was to New Polzeath, lf the tide is in there is a walk from parking to reach the main beach at Polzeath so check tide times before setting out.
- In 2016 the beach toilets became pay toilets. You need 20p to go and worse, they lock them all together now in winter due to lack of funds for cleaning. My tip is to use the local beach cafes which are open at peak times like the Christmas holidays.
- Parking at Cornish beaches is heavily monitored, never outstay your ticket or you are like to be fined. New Polzeath is free all year but parking is limited. There is a pay car park too for busier months.
- Be sensible in the sea. There are no lifeguards from October to May, though you can still book surf lessons for adults and children with Surf’s Up.
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