Earlier in the year we booked a holiday in a gorgeous little cottage called Little Dragons, a week of UK bliss in the historic Dunster. A family staycation, I envisioned lazy days sitting on the beach while the girls built sand castles, eating fish and chips on the seafront, shopping in quirky independent boutiques. How wrong was I?
Truth is holidaying with toddlers is hard, really hard and in reality you end up needing a holiday or a week in a recovery centre to get over the chaos and torture that is a family holiday with toddlers.
If your planning on staying in the uk chances are you will experience the thing most parents of toddlers dread, a traffic jam. Or in our case a five and a half hour journey that was one long, torturous traffic jam. Summer holidays in the UK consist of every single bugger and their Aunt heading to the seaside and that means the motorways are a giant conga line of cars containing lilos, windbreakers, duvets and pillows, Aldi bags packed with the picnic essentials and of course the summer holiday staple the body board; is it even a UK summer holiday without a body board bungee roped to your Ford Galaxy? You find your stuck in a dance with these fellow seekers of summer fun, both slowing making your way down the M6. You will see a car and follow it for a while, watching the passenger asleep against the window and then when you spot them an hour later proclaim “oh there he is Mr Audi how did he get there before us”. Our journey to Dunster was terrible, the girls were stuck in their car seats for five and a half hours and given the circumstances stayed in pretty good moods. We sang “row row row your boat” about a million times, I dispatched tactical travel snacks throughout the journey to keep morale high and had packed at arm’s length all the toys the girls could want. We took a pit stop at a motorway services and alongside the rest of the UK and Mr Audi spent twenty minutes queuing for food, arguing with a woman for a table and then sat hot, sweaty and exhausted eating an overpriced sandwich.
When we had finally navigated the assault course of the M6 and made our way to our holiday cottage we were so happy to find such a wonderful, cosy and welcoming historic little cottage. The cottage is over four hundred years old and is full of quirky wonky walls, original fireplaces and a cottage door. The girls ran about excitedly screaming, rushing into every room exploring their new home for the next week. The girls had five and a half hours of built up energy and had practically turned into Animal from the Muppets, they wanted to play when all I wanted to do was sleep. That’s the thing when holidaying with toddlers, you don’t get down time, or time to relax. You are a 24/7 all round holiday rep. You provide the food, you provide the drinks, you provide the travel, the entertainment and you are basically a red coat keeping the demanding guests happy.
We didn’t have any plans for our week, we were just going to go with the flow, have a mooch about and take it slow, if I have learnt anything in the last eighteen months it’s that you can’t really make plans with twins, those tiny dictators kind of determine what you do and when. The only thing we knew was a definite was to go and visit the national trust Dunster castle and since we are #nationaltrustwankers we would use our passes and get in for free. So on our first day we wondered out of our little cottage walked for five minutes and were in the castle. That’s the charm of Dunster, it’s so compact and tiny you really feel like your encased in the city walls, everything is around a five minute walk. Which is brilliant for families like us with toddlers, you can go about car free for a week and just walk everywhere.
The castle is to date the best national trust property I have visited, it’s a proper castle, with a proper castle door, the type that only a giant could open. It is more than worth a visit and we visited the castle everyday of our holiday. There are walks through tropical gardens, walks along rivers, stables to visit and a working watermill alongside all the things to see inside the actual castle. I would say my highlight of Dunster is definitely the castle.
Every night we would take the girls for a walk around the village before bedtime and every night I fell in love with Dunster a little bit more. I could see myself living there in a chocolate box thatched cottage but I just need to win the lottery first. Every holiday has a few disasters and we had our fair share of “jesus Christ this is stressful” moments. Being alone with the twins means there are no spare hands to help when shit hits the fan and you want to bury yourself in a bottle of wine.
We headed into Lynmouth after reading a leaflet about it in our holiday cottage. Off we went head to toe in summer clothes but we are English so we obviously had a rain mac on with our Birkenstocks. I think the entirety of the UK population holiday in Lynmouth or at least they were the day we visited. We drove about for a good twenty minutes trying to wrestle for a parking space but to no avail. So we admitted defeat and ended up parking at the very top of the town. We thought we would get the little Victorian cliff railway (the longest and steepest cliff railway in the world so is claimed) down to the seafront. We stood in the queue for about ten minutes and the queue wasn’t moving so hubby went to investigate, “fuck this we are walking down” he proclaimed as he came back. There were fifty plus people in the queue and that little miracle of Victorian engineering only carries about eight people a time so we would be queuing for quite some time. So off we trotted down a little narrow path lovingly called ‘poets walk’ so steep Eddie the Eagle wouldn’t even attempt it. By this time it was totally pissing it down and the path was really slippy. My hubby was practically walking horizontally leaning back to hold the pram so it didn’t whizz down the cliff path. I took the very wise decision of walking in front of the pram so if hubby did slip I would break their fall and be able to stop the pram wheeling off. We had made it nearly to the very bottom of the path and hubby went flat on his arse, skidded and was getting dragged down by the pram with both girls totally unaware of what was going on as they peeked out through their raincover. The pram and hubby slammed into me and I did some sort of X-men move using all my strength and body weight to slow the pram from freewheeling down the path. Luckily hubby never let go and I found that weird strength that you hear mums summoning. I was able to hold hubby’s weight, the pram and the girls weight.
We made it safely at the bottom. Stressed and starving we went on the hunt for food. We headed into a local seafood restaurant overlooking the little bay at Lynmouth to order fish and chips for ourselves and childs fish pie for the girls. Our thinking was well they like fish fingers and mash potato so clearly they will love fish pie, especially fish pie that’s made using all locally sourced fresh fish. How wrong we were. It turns out the girls don’t like fish pie and made sure the whole of Lynmouth knew that. They screamed, they were tantruming, they mushed fish pie on the high chairs, in their hair and decided to unleash their inner Banksy to install some lovely new fish pie art work on the walls of the restaurant. We left with our heads hung in shame and decided Lynmouth was a bit of a write off. We joined the queue of the cliff railway and waited twenty minutes. Off we went up the cliff safely this time, turns out the Victorians knew the perils of slippy cliff paths.
We visited a lot of little harbour villages and local places in our week. We took a soggy windswept walk along the harbour walls of Watchet determined the British weather wasn’t going to defeat us. Nothing a bright yellow rain mac couldn’t handle. We had another food disaster on that day out aswell. We were looking for a family pub to have some pub lunch but got turned away from three places. It turns out pubs in Watchet only serve food from 12-2 and we were about ten minutes late to the party. We had to settle for a soggy Cornish pasty from the self-proclaimed ‘award winning pasty shop’. Claiming “all pastys are hand baked in our stone ovens”. While in the queue for this crusty creation of heaven the delivery truck pulled up and started to take in all the boxes of frozen pastys! freshly baked in store was clearly a lie. So after the most disappointing pasty that cost over four quid each and tasted worse than a Gregg’s special we headed off back to our holiday cottage to get in from the rain.
Alongside the food disasters and cliff path peril we had some really brilliant and successful days out. We went on a mini walk through the forest to visit the tallest tree in England which was amazing. The girls had a total blast picking up sticks and collecting fir cones along the way. Obviously they were always watching out for the Gruffalo but alas he proves elusive. That’s what holidays are for us now. Ensuring the girls have a good time and doing as many child friendly activities as possible. Gone are the days of visiting local posh restaurants and drinking at lunchtime. Now it’s a packed lunch ham sandwich and wotsits. But seeing the girls excited exploring new places and environments makes my heart so full. I just love being able to give the girls the chance to see new places and travel. We haven’t been brave enough to attempt a foreign holiday yet. I think UK holidays will be our jam until the girls are a little older or we can persuade the Grandparents to accompany us as extra help and back up.
On our final night we headed to a family friendly brewers fayre for tea. We got all the stares from onlookers hoping the screaming twins weren’t going to be sat on the table next to them. We ordered our food and attempted to keep the girls entertained by repeatedly playing baby shark on our phones. Endless mouthfuls of melty puffs and over twenty minutes later we were still waiting for our food. The girls started to get restless and started to compete in high chair gymnastics. A reckless sport where toddlers try to wriggle their tiny body parts out of the high chair and end up getting wedged in various contortionist positions. This high chair gymnastics plus baby shark continued for another twenty five minutes until our food finally arrived. By this time we had created a large circle, a sort of danger zone of empty tables where people were refusing to be seated. We ate our food as quickly as possible and watched the girls throw carrots and potato on the floor. Then started to get ready to leave. When we are out and about with the twins we always take a twin each and are in charge of that twin. I would clean up Alissi and Simon would clean up Ilaria, turns out this day I chose wisely. I had baby wiped Alissi down, cleaned up her mess and had her sitting happily in the pram with her sippy cup when hubby whispered in my ear “Ilaria is peeing”, “yeah what’s the problem”, I replied. “It’s gushing down the highchair and making a puddle on the floor”, was his worried response. Confused I looked over and there was Ilaria happiliy covered in carrots and chicken, doing a wee and it was trickling down the highchair and making a piddle puddle on the restaurant floor. Her earlier highchair gymnastics had displaced her nappy and she was now wearing it like a contestant off Love Island, wedged right up her arse like a thong. Now most parents would be super organised and have a spare set of clothes with them for such incidences but not us. I took Ilaria to let hubby clear up the piss puddle and went to the baby change to do a clean up on her. Her little clothes were soaking and since we had literally no clothing to put on her, I had to take her home in just her nappy and shoes. So off we went out of another restaurant, heads hung in shame and Ilaria half-naked with her dignity left at the door! Another successful meal with the twins.
When it came to home time we were more than ready to get home. The holiday had been fun, demanding, hilariously embarrassing and definitely one for the memory books. I would visit Dunster again it has so much to offer in such a small compact town but next time I might take a full-time childminder or an army of nursery workers to help with the twins. Packed up, exhausted and ready for home we piled in the car. Just the five and a half hour return journey to contend with.
I’m taking part in the Mummy Monday linky with Becca from Becca Blogs It Out