Tuesday, June 30, 2015

On the banks of Loch Lomond

I think one of the reasons we enjoy balancing city breaks with time in the countryside when we travel is because of the need to plan vs. wing it. Our trip to Scotland is a great example. In Edinburgh, we had a pretty good sense of how we might fill our time there. Certainly, it had its unexpected moments (who could have anticipated a swim in the Scottish Parliament, after all), but for the most part, we saw and did the things we had intended to do. And it was gloriously busy and exciting and memorable.

But as we drove toward Loch Lomond, at the very southern end of the Scottish Highlands, it became clear we could roll down our window and throw itineraries and guidebooks out into the fields. This wasn't a place where you check sightseeing boxes, unless that list includes shaggy cattle, mountains bleeding into deep blue waters, cozy shops selling wool blankets, and trails that lead you into forests. In which case, check, check, check and check.

This was a place where you want to maximize your time. Not the way Frommer's or Rick Steves might suggest, but instead to simply embrace each ray of sunshine, each passing cloud, each amazing viewpoint.

And so we did.

We hiked, picnicked, boated, tossed pebbles and dipped our toes in the water, stood in line for ice cream cones, and any other number of things during our brief time there. I could probably give you a travel tip or two about visiting the Loch Lomond area. But I'd rather you just fill your time the way a place like this would want you to: exactly as you see fit.

I won't be posting much here this summer, not because we don't have any travels planned, but simply because I'm being realistic about how I want to spend my free moments while the kids are home from school. This may be our last British summer and I'm carpe diem-ing it, not whiling it away on the laptop.

You can keep up with our travels and day trip adventures on the Arrows Sent Forth Facebook page and on Instagram. I've got a much more lighthearted post planned soon, too, so if you're looking for a laugh, hopefully you'll find one here in a few days. (On a related noted, can somebody get Little Arrow to start taking afternoon naps again so I don't have to write at midnight?)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Swimming (?!) at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

There's a bit of a ying and yang when you travel with young kids. Want to see what a city is like after about 7:30 p.m.? Tough going when you've got little ones already tucked away in bed. Interested in dining at fancy restaurants that you read about in guidebooks? Probably not going to happen very often. Magical moments as you see the world through your kids eyes? Now we're talking.

It is easy to get hung up on the way traveling Europe with young children can limit you. In fact, sometimes when I mention the places we've been to other families around here, I'm met with strange stares and "what exactly did you do with little kids there?" and "did anyone have any fun?" comments.

However... on a daily basis, on each and every trip we've taken, I'm reminded of the ways traveling WITH my kids actually enhances our travels. Experiences that can only happen when you've got a toddler who dawdles or a 6-year-old who asks 8 million questions. Moments that those so-called "fortunate travelers" without little ones in tow miss out on.

Take our evening at the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh. We spotted it earlier in the day on an open-top bus tour and my husband and I gave each other "the eye," as in "that would be a good place to let the boys run around later." Big reflecting pools, open areas of grass, gently sloping concrete perfect for running up and down (and skinned knees). To be honest, I'm certain we wouldn't have visited this area if we were in Edinburgh without our children.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Activities in Snowdonia, Wales for Families

I made it no secret in my last post that it wasn't any one activity or site we saw that I'd remember forever about our weekend in Wales. Rather it was the pace of the weekend, the beauty of our surroundings, and the quality time together. But that doesn't mean families will find themselves with a lack of things to do when visiting Snowdonia. Indeed the list of what we wanted to do far exceeded the limitations of our 2 1/2 day trip.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Disconnecting and Reconnecting in Wales

We're just back from a weekend away in Wales, still clinging to the complete sense of relaxation we had while there. I think what brought the most peace to me that weekend was the cottage we rented and its immediate surroundings. Which is ironic because our accommodations were a bit of a headache to plan.

I had originally thought we'd camp that weekend, but my husband had the good sense of questioning whether it would really be warm enough for that. (He's a smart guy... it rained about 75% of our trip and was quite cold... we would have been miserable in a tent!) I then struggled to find a self-catering property suitable for us. Big Arrow is becoming ever more allergic to dogs and cats and so I'm now trying to avoid staying in any property that accepts pets. Yet Wales is a popular area to bring dogs along since it's a great spot for hiking. I was also trying to stay within a 4-hour drive of our house, which meant we were limited to the Snowdonia area. At the last minute, I booked a small cottage I found through the National Trust's website. (Link to the exact cottage near Bets-y-Coed here.)

We had been quite busy leading up to the trip. Lots of commitments, busy schedules, visitors, etc. Something all families can relate to, I'm sure. I was craving time just with just the four of us more than I have since we moved abroad. What better place to cozy up for a few nights than an old, tiny cottage.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

5 Things to Do in Norfolk, England with Kids

Of all the things I imagined doing while living in England, spending time on the beach (or even the coast, for that matter) didn't really cross my mind. But it should have. The UK has some of the most amazing coastal areas I've ever been to. Sunny and 85 degrees? Usually not. But if you can brave the elements, it's totally worth exploring.

The Norfolk area is only a couple of hours from our house, so we've been able to visit on occasional day trips throughout the past two years. When my sister's family came to visit, we decided it would be a great spot to base ourselves for a few days in order to take in even more of the family-friendly attractions in Norfolk.

Here are our favorite things to do in Norfolk:

Looking up in complete amazement at BeWilderwood.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tips for Visiting Legoland Windsor (and Legolands Around the World!)

As a way of culminating a 10-day visit with my sister's family, which took us from our house to Norfolk to London, we planned an overnight at Legoland Windsor. We were a traveling entourage of 8 people, including 4 kids age 7 and younger. Needless to say, we fell right into the Legoland target market.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Happy 6th Birthday, Big Arrow!

As you may know, I like to write posts to the boys on their birthdays, and it is Big Arrow's 6th birthday. (You can also read his 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th posts or Little Arrow's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd posts.) I'll resume my normal travel tales and tips in a few days... In fact, I'll be writing about his birthday celebration at Legoland next week. But a mama's just gotta love on her boys sometimes.

The thing I've observed more in the past year than ever before is how strong your passions are, and how your enthusiasm is so contagious. And more importantly, how much I love that about you.