Where has 2017 gone?
We’ve had one of our busiest years for a while, and not just because we’ve managed to fit a fair bit of travelling in. The kids added Spain, Iceland, France and Italy (and Vatican City) to their list of countries visited.
2017 was also busy on a personal level as we had to adjust to a new family situation which was difficult for all of us. The husband was seconded for a year and his new place of work was too far for a daily commute; the kids and I have only seen him at the weekends for pretty much all of 2017. He also had lots of extra work to do and ended up working many weekends so our free time this year has been somewhat limited.
Looking back, I think we managed to fit quite a lot in to 2017. Take a look at the things we managed to get up to!
January, February and March
Most of the first part of the year was spent adjusting to our new family situation so we had a fairly quiet start to 2017. In early January we managed to get to Longleat Safari for the annual Festival of Light. This was a gorgeous spectacle – the kids enjoyed the safari itself and I thought the house was beautiful.
Unfortunately in February we had some sad family news when my grandmother passed away at the age of 104. Much of our free time this month was spent with family.
In March we visited Legoland which had been on our list of places to visit for a while. All of us enjoyed looking at the Lego models but overall we felt that Legoland was more suited to slightly older children.
Things started to pick up in April, and we were looking forward to our first break of the year in Rome.
At the start of the month, we visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour and had a fantastic day. The children were enchanted by the props and the husband and I thought the new Forbidden Forest, infested with gigantic spiders, was a real highlight. This is an absolute must-see for any Harry Potter fan.
Disaster struck a few days later when the Cub came down with chicken pox and we missed out on our holiday to Rome. We are getting used to the kids coming down with an illness just before (or during) a trip – it just keeps on happening!
To replace our Rome week we spent some time in Dorset with the husband’s family. Spring in the UK can be one of the best times to visit and we had a lovely week with sunny weather. We visited castles, beaches and beautiful gardens, as well as learning about conservation at Monkey World.
May and June
In May we spent a fun weekend in Somerset, in the south west of the UK. In the Mendip Hills there are two neighbouring cave complexes; one at Cheddar Gorge and the other at Wookey Hole. Unable to choose which one to visit, we went to both. The caves were different enough to make visiting both worthwhile – we preferred the caves at Wookey Hole but the surroundings of Cheddar Gorge were more interesting.
We also discovered the gorgeous, tiny city of Wells – which is technically England’s smallest city. Wells is definitely a place that we’d recommend stopping at. It has a stunning cathedral, a beautiful medieval street and lovely gardens surrounding the Bishop’s Palace.
Right at the end of the month, we got a surprise holiday. A delay with his project meant that the husband got two weeks of unexpected leave so we dashed off to Spain for a few days. We spent three days in Seville, three in Cordoba and two in Granada where we also visited the Alhambra. Beautiful scenery, fantastic food and plenty of historical sites made our Spanish trip better than we expected. Spain also had a very family friendly feel to it – it’s a great destination for young children.
We spent July at home in the Cotswolds enjoying the summer sunshine and mainly mooching about our nearest town, Cirencester, in our free time. Cirencester is a pretty market town with plenty to do, and a good option for a base if you’re thinking about visiting the Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds Show is a weekend-long festival held every year in Cirencester Park and we went along to one of the days. This was a real family-friendly day out and everyone enjoyed watching the medieval jousting tournament as well as looking around the stalls and shows.
For our other day out in July we went to Windsor Castle. This turned into a bit of a disaster as the weather was terrible – we were unprepared for a downpour, got totally soaked while queueing outside, and couldn’t see the grounds. Inside the castle, the state rooms are amazing though! We’re going to try to go back next year to see more.
Our big trip of the year was our 10 day trip around Iceland’s ring road. We had a fantastic (and adventurous) trip – highlights included snorkelling in the Silfra fissure; seeing waterfalls and beaches galore; exploring volcanic springs, and meeting whales and puffins. The scenery was breathtaking all the way around the island. Spending time outside in the fresh air meant that Iceland was surprisingly suitable for small kids, although you should choose your activities carefully.
Just before school started, we snatched a weekend in Dorset and went to Corfe Castle. We were lucky and visited on a day when a medieval fair was on. Here the kids had fun dressing up as princesses and knights before making pennies with the local smith and exploring the ruins of the castle.
September marked a big milestone for the Cub, who started school. Sadly this means that we’re now tied down to school holidays for our trips if we don’t want to get fined!
We went on lots of day trips this month, mostly in the Cotswolds. The World Heritage listed Blenheim Palace is always good for a fun day out – the gardens and the train ride are a hit with kids, while adults will enjoy looking inside the gorgeous house.
Sudeley Castle, near Winchcombe in the Cotswolds, isn’t perhaps as famous as it should be. It’s full of Tudor history (and more) and has a fantastic collection of priceless historical items. In all honesty, the castle itself is much more suitable for older children but the gardens are beautiful and there’s an adventure playground for the kids to let loose in.
Bourton on the Water is one of our favourite towns in the Cotswolds. It has plenty of attractions aimed at families and on this visit we finally looked around the brilliant Motoring Museum with the vehicle-mad Bee.
Stonehenge is probably the most famous UK attraction we went to this year. Some people feel it’s overrated but we all had a great day. Of course, a bright warm late summer day helped!
We did pretty well in October for days out, too. Broadway Tower is another great destination in the Cotswolds, for deer-watching and far-reaching views. Nearby Hidcote Manor Gardens is a garden with a difference and we spent a fun day exploring its carefully designed “rooms.” Right at the end of the month we travelled to Bath and visited the Roman Baths which I’d been dying to do for ages.
It didn’t take much effort to persuade my parents and sister to accompany me and the kids to Paris for a half-term break. Sadly, the husband was busy with work and couldn’t take any time off. So the reinforcements and I took the Eurostar and stayed in an AirBnB in Montmartre.
The kids were desperate to see the Eiffel Tower but other than that we avoided the main monuments, art galleries and museums in favour of gardens and science centres. Apart from Bee running a temperature on one of the days this was a fun break in a busy city.
Our pace slowed a bit in November; the husband had a lot of work on so we didn’t do as many day trips.
I escaped to London with my mum and sister for a very rare kid-free day. We had a fun afternoon tea at the Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington. This afternoon tea had a science theme – using pipettes, we mixed our drinks in beakers. The cakes and sweets were in the shape of rockets, astronauts and planets. It would make for a great afternoon tea with kids.
We got into the Christmas spirit late in the month when we returned to Blenheim Palace for its Christmas illuminations. It was a beautiful display and very different to Longleat’s lantern display almost a year earlier. The kids loved the fairground rides despite the very cold evening!
December has been a cold month! Near the beginning of the month the UK got a bit of snow, so naturally, the whole country shut down. We were snowed in and the Cub’s school was shut for a couple of days so we had lots of fun building snowmen in the garden.
Finally, the husband’s secondment came to and end – a relief for everyone. To celebrate him returning home, we took that trip to Rome that we’d missed out on earlier in the year. It was my first time to Rome and won’t be the last!
Unlike our trip to Paris we spent most of our time looking at the main attractions. But the kids really enjoyed running around the Circus Maximus, taking a bus ride, playing in the Borghese gardens and riding as many carousels as they could. Blog posts coming soon!
What’s planned for 2018?
We don’t have many firm plans for travel abroad yet, mainly because we can’t agree on a destination!
The husband and I are both keen on Japan next Christmas but we’re worried about jet-lag and the long journey. Closer to home I’d be interested in returning to Morocco but the husband isn’t inspired and would prefer Egypt. An easier and less stressful option is Portugal, and I think we’ll probably head there at some point. Portugal also has the advantage of being much cheaper!
I’ll be taking the kids to southern Sweden to see my sister and her family at Easter; I’m hoping to squeeze in a couple of nights in Copenhagen on the way. And I’m tempted to go to my first travel blogger conference, TBEX Europe, in the Czech Republic next summer.
We’re definitely going to make an effort to explore more of the Cotswolds and the south of the UK. I already have a list of places to get to as long as my arm.
Stick with us to see where we make it to!
What are your travel plans for 2018? Let me know in the comments!