Last summer the Prada clan decided flights and hauling car seats and extra luggage around to get somewhere further afield was more than we could bear. So bang on trend we booked a staycation.
I was a bit dubious about this; would it feel like an actual holiday? Would the weather be crap? Would we return to wonder how to get through the winter without glorious sunshine, sea and the light that can only be found in the Med… (Greece we love you!)
We weighed all these things up but really it came down to one issue…. We were shattered. And there’s only one person to blame… little Pebbles (our second child) she is not one of life's sleepers.
Basically Hubby and I couldn’t face going abroad and dealing with all that entails at this excellent stage of our parenting lives. So we went to… Kent. It’s not sounding that great I know and I was not remotely looking forward to it but we did (or rather the kids did) have a wonderful time. And if they are having a good time it takes the pressure off a bit, you remember how cute they are and then you feel like you’re having a good time.
We drove less than two hours to get there. Everyone kept to their little nap/food routines. We arrived at a gorgeous place called Crabtree Farm run by Husband and Wife team Ian and Amanda McCallam.
This is one of those places you arrive and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s actually gorgeous and the internet didn’t lie.
There are two barn converted cottages. Ours was The Granary and very spacious downstairs, perfect for Pebbles to practice her walking. They provide highchairs, cots, children’s DVDs and books. There are stair gates everywhere which was a huge help. Upstairs there are two bedrooms and a bathroom. There is also an extra shower room downstairs. A fully functional kitchen and a lovely big garden.
There is a table so you can eat outside and another area with swings, a mini football pitch, mini badminton court and general safe grassed area all enclosed.
The cottages are in the village of Hastingleigh, 4 miles from Wye which is a gorgeous historic village with very good pubs, a few shops and a café.
The Tickled Trout pub has an amazing garden right on the river and is a perfect spot to drink the afternoon away. I am not sure how child friendly it is being right next to the water and they do have a sign asking for children and dogs to be quiet! Never seen this before and it both scared and amused me!
Our favourite pub was the New Flying Horse. The food is fab, the staff are very friendly and relaxed and it has a feel of a traditional English pub. Fireplace, dog, decent ales/wines and the children’s menu is good. It’s neither an old man pub nor a noisy family pub. It’s just perfect and without meaning to sound old, it’s how pubs used to be! I do miss places like the Flying Horse especially as I live in London where they are harder to find.
Places to visit
The incredible Leeds Castle. Apart from being one of the most beautiful castles you will ever visit, the children are well and truly catered for. There is a large wooden fort with endless ropes, stairs, slopes and different parts to climb, a fantastic maze with a secret grotto. Plenty of opportunities to purchase knights swords, shields and other items that may suit the adults better such as raspberry gin (soo good) and lavender chocolates. We ended up going here twice during our stay as there was just so much to do and keep the children occupied. In fact Papa’ Prada didn’t actually want to leave the fort either and I had to take the buggy inside to drag both him and our boy out!
If you have a rainy day as we did, there is dare I say it… soft play in Ashford. It’s fine, it does the job both the 4yr old and 1 yr old enjoyed the different bits for their ages. I won’t say anymore because if you’ve seen one soft play you’ve seen them all…
On one of our more spritely days we decided to squash chubby Pebbles into a new baby carrier for 1yr olds and try and all go for a family walk in the fields. It was gorgeous and we felt very good parents at this stage walking through fields of gold giving them both plenty of fresh air and the country lifestyle. Obviously it lasted about ten minutes before the Spaghetto decided he was way too tired to make it back up the hill and needed to be carried as well or had to be dragged by me trying to sing, walk and pull him whilst puffing away! Well worth it so you can say, “Yay! We did it!” And then morn that you live somewhere with a garden the size of a stamp and spend the evening drinking wine and talking about moving out of London to random villages who by now have all voted Leave and wouldn’t want a pesky Italian/English family moving near them anyway!
Other great things to see/do in this area are a visit to the beautiful City of Canterbury. We spent a day here shopping, sampling a lot of excellent cake and coffee, enormous Pork & Co sandwiches (A-MAZE-ing!) and visiting the Cathedral. It’s definitely worth paying to go in, the gardens are lovely and our boy ran around for most of the morning here. I then had to try and explain a lot about God, death, Jesus, tombs. Why he couldn’t blow out all the candles people had lit in the chapel and other awkward parenting moments. So be prepared!
On one of the days I had a slight wobble in that I felt here we are on holiday and everything we’re doing is about the children, how to keep them occupied, happy and not having meltdowns. With two little ones it’s still hard to even take time to read an article let alone a page from your book.
We were close to Ashford Designer Outlet so I persuaded Papa’ Prada to take me there. He was stupidly happy to do so but really he should have left me there as going round designer shops with kids in tow, one who always needs a nap and is insanely vocal and one who wants to climb everything is a recipe for disaster. I concede I had a rare cry on the way home.
Had I thought ahead I’d have realised the error of my plans and gone alone, or tried another day without the children when back in London but sometimes you think ‘Yes we can do this, it’ll be fine’. After all @mother_of_daughters goes to Cambridge for the day with four children!
The truth is, sometimes, if luck is on your side you can pull these things off. Often it depends how much sleep you’ve had and therefore how much stamina and perspective you have should the plan go awry. Unfortunately we were 5 weeks into a huge sleep regression and up four times a night.
As Papa’ Prada told me we are in the first two years of little Pebbles’ life and have a crazy four year old. This is apparently called 'The Baby Tunnel' by erm... experts!?! A stage where one child needs lots of activity and attention and the other can’t do anything for themselves. It’s draining, but it will pass.
Overall the holiday was a success and I think going abroad given our levels of sleep would have been far worse.
Sometimes you have to slightly lower your expectations, enjoy the little things and marvel that you’re actually doing ok with what is thrown at you… which sometimes is regurgitated Ella’s Kitchen broccoli, pear & peas…