Athens Acropolis by open top bus

Posted on July 27th, 2018 - Fiona

We had visited the acropolis with our older boys in 2016 and were keen to return with the triplets on our 2018 holiday to Greece. Staying in Vouliagmeni, in our cousin’s holiday apartment, for the week was a perfect opportunity. May half term was very hot by English standards and the triplets at 14 were not best pleased with the suggestion of a sweaty bus ride followed by hiking up some ancient ruins. However part of the deal was that the holiday would be more than just sitting on a beach plugged into WiFi and so we had a truce. To all our delight we found a tourist bus service with open top buses running across the coast road where we were staying and up to Athens.

 

Athens Acropolis by Open Top Bus

Our bus line terminated at the acropolis and covered a very pleasant 40 minutes with the wind in our hair on the top deck . There were free personal headsets for everyone with Greek music and a tour guide in 7 languages. We tuned into the English and found the journey very informative. We realised the stretch of coast we were staying in was developed as an upmarket holiday resort from the 1960s which explains the hotels, apartments, tavernas, shops and harbours with magnificent boats.

Open tour bus to Athens Acropolis

We also passed a ww2 cemetery beautifully maintained with foreign, unnamed graves, many of whom are believed to have been English. This may help explain why the Greeks are welcoming to the English.

Athens ww2 Cemetery

The final stretch inland to the centre of Athens is busy with traffic, horns, heat and typical city scenes of shops and cafes.

Central Athens in an open top bus

Finally we reach our destination and prepare for a trek up the acropolis. I have been many times but the sight never fails to impress. Even in the heat of the day it is worth every step. We noticed the queues to pay for tickets were much less than in July, when we last visited, but May is early summer season Greece. Kids go free which is always a bonus with triplets. Students are also free with a valid student card and OAPs have a reduced rate but again you need ID, even my 82 year old Mother in Law needed to prove she was over 65! As we climbed, the kids took in their surroundings and began to take photos and selfies, a sure sign they were secretly impressed.

Walking up the Acropolis

Even though virtually everything has been or is being restored, it still gives a huge sense of history. Replicas of the Elgan Marbles were in place, the originals were pinched by the Brits and our in our National History Museum! Hopefully one day we might return them. The size and scale is immense and how it was originally constructed is still a mystery with the lack of machinery available. We enjoyed a good hour looking round from every angle and out at the vast sprawl of Athens below.

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By the time we reached the bottom we were all in need of a drink and a rest and sort out a pretty relaxing lunch spot.

lunch in Athens

Re-fulled, we headed back towards our tour bus, but not before Clio and I were taken in by a lovely Greek making named jewellery in Greek letters. Clio and I couldn’t resist a necklace each. This is her name in Greek.

Clio Necklace in Greek Letters

The streets up to the acropolis are beautiful bordered with tall buildings, trees and flowers.

Streets to the Acropolis

We sunk into our open top seats to enjoy the return journey and a late visit to the beach. Apparently site seeing isn’t so bad after all!

Recent Events

I can’t end this post without a mention for those effected by the tragedy there earlier this week. The fires were round the coast from where we were staying and my heart goes out to all affected. Our own family are safe but so many are not, a disaster this wonderful country should never have experienced. 

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Vouliagmeni Beach Athens Our Verdict

Posted on July 20th, 2018 - Fiona

We were lucky enough to be offered Nick’s cousin’s summer flat for our summer holiday with the triplets in Greece. Vouliagmeni is one of the desirable suburbs of Athens down by the coast and popular with Athenians for beach days and holidays. The flat was just one block inland from the beautifully maintained private Vouliagmeni beach and needless to say we spent quite a bit of time here during our week away.

Vouliagmeni Beach in Athens

A Gramable Underpass

The beach may have been just a few minutes walk, but it involved crossing the main coastal dual carrigway road and I didn’t trust the kids to look the right way for oncoming traffic. Thankfully there was also a subway which to the kids delight was covered in Graffiti and in their words was “gramable” for their Instagram profiles so they were happy to cross this way and we were happy for them to come and go from the flat on this basis.

Grammable Graffiti underpass

Vouliagmeni Beach

There is everything you need at the beach for a day there without leaving if you are visiting from further away. You have to pay to enter but it is only a few Euros and so worth it. Once inside the sun loungers and umbrellas are free, the whole place is clean and litter free and  there are many more facilities including cafes, loos and showers. With large open grass areas, flower boarders and even courts for ball games it is a very comfortable day in beautiful surroundings.

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Safe swimming

Vouliagmeni beach is very gently shelving with little wave typical of the Mediterranean. In early June the water temperature was perfectly warm and my kids spent hours in the sea just throwing a tennis ball to one another and keeping cool. There are lifeguards at either end of the beach for added safety. 

Vouliagmeni Beach

Anyone for Bat Ball?

Their other great love became the Greek Bat Ball. After watching the locals all play we bought  a set and had a go. It is so much harder than it looks and we were so obviously the clueless foreigners. The locals managed to keep rallies going for minutes while we only managed seconds. Jed is my naturally sporty one and he spent most of his time perfecting his technique on each one of us.

Greek Bat Ball in play

Not completely unplugged

The flat had no WiFi and very little mobile signal so the kids were truly unplugged most of the holiday. That said there was beach WiFi, all be it with a very limited signal strength, this kept the kids up to date with their friends at home via Snapchat from their sun loungers. After catching up on the chat there was always time for more swimming and a little siesta.

Kids on Beach wifi and soaking up the sun at Vouliagmeni 'beach

The Free Beaches

There are many free beaches in Vouliagmeni and all along the coast to Glenfada. Here you pay for the loungers and umbrellas or sat on the sand for free. However by the time you paid for our loungers and umbrella the price is much the same as the one we used. Most beaches were supported by tavernas, which we made a point of trying each night.   

Beaches around Vouliagmeni by day and evening

The Verdict

We all had a lovely relaxing week in Greece and were very grateful to Nick’s cousin for the use of their flat. We wouldn’t hesitate to go back, there are plenty of hotels in the area and it all felt so clean and safe. The beaches themselves are still not a patch on our Cornish beaches, but we can’t compete on water temperature and guaranteed sun and it was blissful to swim without a wetsuit; something I rarely do in Cornwall. 

 Tips for visiting Vouliagmeni Beach

Entrance price is 4 euro kids, students and OAPs.  6 euro adults. Payment is for a full day and their is no late admission discount. OAPs and students need to supply valid ID, even my 82 year old Mother in Law was not trusted at face value as being old! 
Prices go up at the weekend (8 Euros for adults) and the beaches are overcrowded with Athenians as are the carparks and local streets. There are not enough sun loungers to go around on Saturday and Sunday, these days are best avoided. 
Toilets and open showers are free
2 cafes stock drinks, ice creams and hot snacks. There is seating there or you can take away.
Across the road from the beach is a supermarket if you’d rather take in your own picnic
Bat ball courts are provided though they are very busy at weekends and any spare space is used.
The Beach has 2 Lifeguards all day.
Free beach wifi but very patchy to actually use as demand way outstrips supply.
The beach is litter Free with plenty of bins and staff to tidy each day. In fact this was true of all the beaches. 

 

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Balmy summer beach evenings

Posted on July 14th, 2018 - Fiona

 I’ve said it before but in beautiful weather Cornwall takes some beating; from the stark beauty of Bodmin Moor to the sandy beaches and clear blue sea of the coast. During the recent heat wave I couldn’t resist popping down to the beach after supper one evening. I had planned to take some stunning photos with my DSLR but arrived to discover I’d made that rookie error of forgetting to put the battery in the camera! I braved the heat on a mountainous coastal walk and was rewarded with breathtaking views and a slowing setting sun. With only my smart phone to capture the scene the quality may not be right up there, but it still captures a little of the holiday vibe present on balmy summer beach evenings here in Cornwall.

Cornish coastline from the Coast path

Coast path from Polzeath

Secluded bays waiting to be discovered

Secluded Baby Bay at Sunset

 

Campfires and friends watching the sun set over Polzeath

Sunset at Polzeath

 

A Golden Glow on a balmy summer beach evening

Cornish Sunset on a balmy summer beach evening

 

I had such a lovely couple of hours I returned with one of my boys the following day. Again it was so hot we both went for a swim without wetsuits. I can’t remember the last time I did this in the UK. After the initial shock it was refreshing and a lovely rest bite from the searing day time temperatures.

 

Soaking up the Cornish sunshine the following afternoon.

Coast Path Polzeath to Daymer Bay

 

Driving home in my soft top with salty hair and skin felt so uplifting. I know the heat doesn’t suit everyone but I just love it and it makes me appreciate the beauty of where we live. I will try to remember the feeling of balmy summer beach evenings in the middle of winter when we are all tucked up indoors by 3.30pm in the afternoon against the outdoor chill and darkness.   


May Point to Point Family Fun in Cornwall

Posted on June 8th, 2018 - Fiona

On a lovely sunny day in May what could be better than a little fun and a flutter on the horses? We are not big gamblers but love the atmosphere, a good deal of family banter and the outside hope of possibly coming home up on the day with some winnings. It was with Ally, Theo and Guy that we set off for the May Point to Point at St Columb Major about 30 minutes from Coombe Mill.

May Point to Point Family Fun in Cornwall

 

The location was perfect, set high up with a great view from the fields around the course. We ended up parking in the centre of the racecourse giving us the option of watching from the boot of the car or up on the grassy hill. The first job was to try and glean a little information by purchasing a race card.

 

Buying race cards at St Columb Point to Point

 

A day out with teenage boys means food before they can think about anything else so we delved into our picnic. It was a rather unsophisticated affair compared to the family next to us with their picnic basket and champagne – next time!  

 

picnic at the races

 

Refuelled, and not much wiser from studying the race card, we trekked up across the course to the parade ring where the boys had me laughing so much with their banterful exchanges on why each horse should win.

 

Studing the horses in the parade ring

 

Decisions made we placed our bets with the bookies, a grand £1 on the nose from the boys and £5 from Nick for us. I did say we weren’t big gamblers! It is all about the fun of the day.  Watching the boys with Nick always makes me smile.  Theo towers over his Dad and Ally is much stronger, however they have a lovely relationship that is great to watch.

 

Placing bets at the races

 

We settled down to watch the race each with our hopes pinned on a horse. Everyone there had a great view and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

 

May Point to Point Family Fun in Cornwall

 

In total we stayed for 5 races moving between the parade ring, the hillside and the boot of the car. I haven’t laughed so much in ages as we each bigged up our horses to win, but actually lost on every race.  Thank goodness we really aren’t big gamblers!  

 

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If you are down with us it is worth looking into the local point to point races. They are very family friendly and a great day out. I may have teens now but mine have enjoyed the races with us since a young age. I couldn’t help but capture these girls who were having a wonderful time between races rolling down the hill.

 

Rolling down the grass slopes

Facilities at  May Point to Point at St Columb Major

  • Entrance fee £10. Under 16’s are free.
  • Field Parking
  • Hog Roast baps and cake stall
  • Ice cream van
  • Indoor shed for wet weather
  • Potaloos – basic but functional!

 

Top Tips for Point to point local country races

  • Wear wellies or boots especially if it is damp
  • Be careful where you park if the ground is damp, especially without a 4 wheel drive car, there was no problem when we visited.
  • Bring a picnic rug to sit on (we forgot)
  • It is a perfect picnic opportunity but take your wrappings home as animals graze the fields.
  • Never bet more than you are happy to lose!   
  • Take layers, even on a sunny day the wind up on the racecourse fields can catch you out.

Funnily enough I’ve just finished reading a book that takes racing to it’s highest level. It’s a great read if you have any interest in the sport,  horses in general, or love a good fiction book with some real twists in the story. It’s called Citizen by Charlie Brooks   

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Birthday Beach Day Through the Mist

Posted on June 1st, 2018 - Fiona

It was our eldest son Alistair’s 20th birthday and the bank holiday weekend. His favourite past time is surfing and the heat wave, the bank holiday and his birthday all fell on a day of great surf. It was pretty much a done deal that we would be a birthday beach day. There was only two flaws in the plan, one was that the temperature fell from a gorgeous 24 degrees at Coombe Mill to just 14 at the beach under the mist from the sea, the other was that we were far from the only ones heading to the beach.  In the end neither turned out to spoil our enjoyment.

 

Birthday beach day through the mist

 

In the end it was Ally, Clio Jed and I that headed out after the feed run in search of the surf. Theo and Felix have GCSE’s and A levels fast approaching requiring reluctant revision and Guy was exhausted from a sleepover. We have a well oiled routine at busy times of year where by the kids carry the stuff onto the beach while I go off and park the car.  I get the raw deal on this as they are always changed and heading to the waves as I arrive.

 

Surf boards and kids go into the sea

 

The sea mist was visibly rolling across the beach and the cliffs came and disappeared from view. It was very atmospheric and before going into the water I stopped to capture a few photos.

 

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Down at the water’s edge I tried to find the kids but there were so many in the sea all in wetsuits it was almost impossible. I came back with so many photos of kids surfing I felt sure I’d have one of them all but in the end it was only Jed I had correctly identified!  I suspect Ally was too far out for me to see but he assured me he caught some great waves and stayed in the longest.

 

Jed surfing at Polzeath

 

I couldn’t resist a little stylised shot of my drained coffee mug before heading in to the water myself.

 

Coombe Mill Holidays mug at beach

 

Usually I like to hang around on the beach and warm up but it was too cold for that when we knew Coombe Mill was most likely still in full sun and anyway Jed had left the football he brought in the car. Using my coffee mug for a game of catch was not going to end well so I soon called Clio and Jed over as I saw Ally finally emerge from the water.

 

Teens on the beach

 

Driving back inland we soon left the sea mist behind and watched the temperature creep back up again. Sure enough it was still 20 degrees and beautiful back on the farm. Clio and Ally flaked out on the trampoline making up for the sunbathing time they missed at the beach.

 

Sunbathing on the trampoline

 

 I caught up with Guy and the guests over at the train and they all confirmed it had indeed been beautiful all day on the farm and they had enjoyed paddling in the river here.  It is hard to believe it was just gone 6pm at the start of May and everyone was in short sleeves.

 

Coombe Mill Train in the sun

 

A family meal with everyone back home and of course a homemade birthday cake for Ally made the day just perfect.

 

Happy 20th birthday Cake  

 

I do hope the gorgeous bank holiday weekend was just a taste of what’s to come this summer. I never tire of beach days.  

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