Cornwall – Watergate Bay

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Watergate Bay

Day 2 of our adventure and we had an exciting day planned.  Firstly, another note about Parkdean and the site.  Not sure if its the time of year or this would be year round, but the place was full of crows…yes crows!  The noise from the them is deafening and starts around 5am…needless to say, we were up early!  The good news is, the sun was blazing and the weather gods were looking down on us 🙂

The weather was particularity exciting for the girls – the camp was home to 3 swimming pools and  200ft water slide…so yes, we hit the pool for an hour before we set off for the day.  The camp actually plans well for the British summer.  They keep the pools heated at 30° so even if the weather was cooler, they were plenty warm enough.

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This day we knew we wanted to head North from Newquay.  We were headed to Watergate Bay.

I have family that often stays at the Watergate Bay resort.  Sadly, not for us this trip but it looks gorgeous and does offer all sorts of sports etc.   We arrived at Watergate Bay Beach area and easily found parking.  In high season, I am sure its a bear to park but we did just fine and were happy to pay £6 for all day parking…..a good deal for all day.

Our first stop was Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant!  We were so excited to experience a Jamie O restaurant and food and this was a really special treat.  What we have saved on accommodations, we can put towards experience.  In addition, the cause is a good one.  The Fifteen Model began in London in 2002, providing chef apprenticeship opportunities to disadvantaged youths in the local area.  There are now a number of the restaurants and the Cornwall location is also a local charity.

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Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen at Watergate Bay

I believe on all kinds of experience, big and small, basic and organic to grand and bold.  A dining experience at an upscale establishment is not only special but helps build skills in the kids for when the embark on their own adventures later in life.  While Jamies Fifteen is not over the top fancy (especially for lunch), they still had a properly set table, a sophisticated menu of which the kids asked the waiter many questions on to make their choices and a level of expectation on behaviors.

The restaurant is beautifully located on the beach of Watergate Bay overlooking the ocean.  Every table affords a great view.  The kitchen is ‘open’ so you can see the chefs at work.  The kids were happy to face the chefs to watch and we had the ocean view seats.

We opted for cocktails and mocktails all round and the food was delicious..

 

After a long leisurely lunch we explored the beach.  The sun was still shining so stripped off our shoes and wet for a paddle.

Surfers and Kite surfers were out but as the beach is HUGE, its felt like it was all ours 🙂

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Paddling at Watergate Bay

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Kite surfing at Watergate Bay

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Watergate Bay

Cornwall – Newquay

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Gunnel at Cranstock Beach

This last weekend, we went to Cornwall for the weekend.   It was a cheap getaway that we booked just a couple of weeks ago.  I had seen an offer in the Daily Mail to collect the tokens and get away for just £20pp.  I dont often do offers like this but as a family of five and copious amounts of travel draining the purse, I thought this would be a great deal for us…and it was.

We booked into a camping resort – Parkdean, Newquay.  Again, never staying in a ‘holiday camp’ type of resort before this was a new experience but pleasantly surprised.   The unit we booked accommodated up to 6 people.  It was sparkling clean and had everything we could possibly need for the short stay…2 bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen, living room, diner, tv etc.  We are at the beginning of the season so I wonder how well the units would hold up through the summer but for us, it was perfect.   We opted to bring our own sheets, although, they do offer these as an extra charge.   With the newspaper deal, we paid under £50 for a 3 night stay!  WOW!  This is a brilliant deal and highly recommend anyone looking out for the deals when they are done again.  We paid an additional £40 for entertainment passes.  Not critical for us but we did use them and they did check the passes so with such a good deal, happy to spend the little extra.

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Lounging around at the Camp site

Our first full day there was Saturday.  Having been weather watching all week, we knew that the weather wasn’t going to be great so we opted to do some driving/ touring around the area.

First stop was Newquay.  Don’t get me wrong, Newquay has some of the most beautiful beaches and best surfing spots in the UK but on a grey day we were less than enamored.  The town center/ promenade area was also disappointing.  Maybe we just didn’t hit the right spots?  Not sure…but with one way road systems, rain and no ease of parking we moved out of Newquay and headed South along the coast.

Our first pull over site was a National Trust location Crantock Beach.  We have an annual membership for NT so as it turned out, we were going to be fortunate to use it a number of times this weekend away.

We headed up and over the dunes onto a pretty sandy beach.  As I said, one of many in this lovely area.

We took a stroll along the beach watching the tide come in.   We opted to take a different path back to the car park.  There are many paths off the car park so by chance we opted to take an opposite path up and over into another cove.  This was beautiful!  Its clear where the water flows here and leads out to the ‘Gunnel’.

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Dogs playing on Crantock Beach

If you go, take a walk over to the wooden bridge and cross over to a series of steps up.  166 in all.   Perched at the top, there is a delightful cafe with fantastic views.  Naturally, we took some tea and cake – what we do best 🙂

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View of the Gunnel at the top of the steps/ cafe

After refreshments we set out North again to find another adventure.   Next stop was Holywell Beach (National Trust).

We asked the car park attendant for his must do at the beach and he told us to head to the far end and explore the cave…so that’s what we did!

For the walk back to the car park, we ventured through the dunes….all very picturesque!

Two beaches down, we opted for a little change in scenery – we headed into Truro for a look around.  I wont spend much time here on it as we only hit the shopping/ center.  From what we saw, it would be worth a return visit one day to explore more.  Shopping was pretty standard but the kids enjoyed a change in activity.   We grabbed a bite of dinner at Sams Bistro.  I would recommend the restaurant – the food was good and reasonably priced.

Final stop was back at Parkdean in Newquay – our camping resort.  In true holiday camp fashion, the resort offered plenty of evening entertainment.   So Bingo and quiz night it was before we headed off to bed!

 

Manchester – Didsbury

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Poplars of Didsbury

I’ve written a little about Didsbury in a post prior (Community Re-defined) but this post is just a little more about the area and a recent trip ‘home’.

I’ve been lucky to have had a week ‘off’ and stay in Manchester with my brother and sister in law.  Just me, no kids, and days to relax, explore and fine dining!

The week was filled with sunshine which is always a bonus.

One day, we explored the Trans Penine Trail, as it runs through Didsbury (and beyond). For all the years I lived in Didsbury, I had no idea about this pathway.   I knew of one short section…a small stretch that we always need to run along for school cross country (any Parrs Wood Alum will remember this), but I never thought about where the path led to in either direction.

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We accessed the path off Barlow Moor Road.  At the end of Darley Avenue you will find an access path to the trail along the river.  We headed left towards Didsbury (beyond will take you all the way to Stockport too).

You can walk either side of the river, with several crossing points along the way.   The path is a lovely alternative to getting around.  Walking, running and biking.   Wildlife is aplenty with birds and butterflies and it was so peaceful.

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We ended our river walk at Fletcher Moss Park.  Another haunt from my childhood.  Again, if you are visiting Didsbury/ South Manchester, these parks are a must.  They are beautiful and and lovely serene spot central in a bustling area.

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There is a lot to explore here, including some older buildings and churches steeped in history for the local area.

The river walk and exploring Didsbury can take up a day.  With Didsbury a booming ‘village’, there are also plenty of options for coffee or something a little stronger 🙂

On a different day, we strolled around another beautiful park – Marie Louise Gardens.  Situated in West Didsbury with an entrance on Palatine Road.  It was given to the citizens of Manchester in 1903 by Josephine Silkenstadt, in memory of her daughter, Marie Louise, who died young.   As a child/ young adult, I spent hours in these gardens.  Again, another hidden haven in the area.  The squirrels have a reputation of being friendly and you can feed them directly if you would like!   Its a favorite place of mine and I have fond memories of my dad here.  He grew up locally to the area and I am sure, as a child, he visited the park often too.

If you have time to dine and drink in the area, the Rose Garden on Burton Road is a must.   My brother is a regular there and I had the pleasure of lunch one day.  The food was amazing and possibly one of the best restaurant meals I have had.

For drinks, Burton Road is overflowing with bars!  We enjoy Folk – offering indoor and outddor seating and its always busy so atmosphere is guaranteed!

 

 

London – Changing of the Guard, Camden and Bike Tour

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Biking in London

As I had mentioned, we did a couple of more unusual things with our US visitor on this trip to London.

On this final full day in the city, we opted to be a little different and avoid a day of the big sights.   However, we did start with the biggest obvious sight, Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard.   This was mainly because our visitor really wanted to see the palace and yesterday, we couldn’t see it form the bus tour because of the rain.  We also opted not to get of the bus as we woudl have gotten soaked!

So we headed to the palace for the changing of the guard.  As a side note, we could have joined a walking tour with the Original Bus Tour company (see prior post here), that supposedly gets you closer to the event.  As I mentioned in the prior post, we just didn’t have all that extra time to dedicate to this so opted not to use that tour included in the ticket.  Something though that others might want to bear in mind as watching the Changing of the guard is easier said than done!

There are a number of vantage points for the event but not one allows for a views of the whole thing.  We moved to 3 different locations to see snippets of the parade and marching of the soldiers.  They approach Buckingham Palace down the Mall…marching into the Palace courtyard.  Ceremonies and more music takes place here but without a spot by the railings of the Palace, its near impossible to see.   They then march out again on the right side of the palace.  Of which we saw but again limited.    We saw some to get a flaver of what what happening but be warned its difficult to see much without dedicating time to getting there very early and waiting….ad still with a limited view!

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Our next stop was Camden Lock/ Market.   This is definitely off track here and I would say much less touristy in the true sense of the word.  My teen had visited prior and was in charge o getting us around as I had not been before.   She did great as its not easy to navigate and the crowds were crazy (we visited on a Saturday).   We arrived by Tube.   We had really wanted to arrive by Water Bus but time didn’t permit this we know we needed to be back into Waterloo by 2:30pm.   Check out the Water taxi and if you have time, take it down the canal into Camden Lock.   My teen has done this is in the past and its highly recommended!

Arriving by tube was fine and we ambled down to the market place taking in the unusual shop fronts/ art along the way.

The market is made up of a number of sections and for the most part, mostly arts, crafts and similar for sale.  fresh produce (typical market fare) died out years ago, and Camden definitely caters to a more alternative crowd.

We headed towards the food market which was not only huge but offers food from all over the world.  We spent 25 minutes touring all the stands deciding what we wanted.  Many tasters are on offer too to entice you to their offering.   Between the 3 of us we had Indian, Turkish and Mexican food….something for everyone.  If you are into food, this place is a must!

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After more strolling, we ventured into Cyberdog.   A store (vs. a market stall) that caters the the alternative crowd and has a leaning towards neon and PVC clothing.  Not to be scared by this though as its fun inside.  Club dancers greet you in the main entrance and music booms throughout.   Teens (and myself) enjoyed the energy it gave.

Other stops in the market included a chap that makes wire jewelry with your name Incorporated.  Again, the teens loved this and had a ring and bracelet made on the spot.

We really only had a couple of hours at Camden.  It is best suited to a day to really explore thoroughly but we got a good feel for it in the visit.

Next, we had another experience booked – a bike tour of London.   We had found a Bike tour online and thought this would be fun and different.  We booked the Secret Tour of London.  Having crossed off many big beats, we thought this would be fun to do and something new to see.   You meet at Waterloo station.  Guides were prompt and easy to locate.  They take you into what’s known as the ‘Banksy’ tunnel/ underpass to pick up the bike.  This itself was great – before the tour had even started!  This is a tunnel under Waterloo where street artists display their work.    The walls are covered with graffiti art and its very cool to see.

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Banksy Tunnel

The bike tour is 9 miles in distance and takes about 3 hours.   A word of caution is that while this is mostly on back roads, you do go onto/ cross over some very busy roads.  You need some street sense for the tour and I wouldn’t really recommend it for kids under the age of 14.  We did this on a Saturday so rods in the City were much quieter than they would be on a weekday (especially a Friday).  I would recommend weekend bookings vs weekday.  I always remained at the back of the tour to keep an eye on my teens and shout some road awareness to them when i felt it was needed!

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Picking up the bikes!

With that said, the tour was great!  We visited a number of spots around London – brick Lane, Bank of England, Tower Bridge, Spitalfields, Canal paths and more.  The tour guide was knowledgeable and you break often to hear stories/ history.  There is also a break built in at Brick Lane and probably the most memorable part is cycling over Tower Bridge.  Not for the faint of heart but a memorable experience.

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Splendid views of London after we crossed over Tower Bridge….

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Tower Bridge

 

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Modern London 

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The Tower of London

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Tower Bridge

The ride was 3 hours so we ended in time for another quick tourist stop at Harrods and then onto some dinner in the Kensington area.  A great day but long day…we then headed back to base for the night.

Supermarkets…

One of the big highlights of being back in the UK is the competitive nature of the supermarkets and the vast choice and quality of food!

Our first visit to a supermarket was Tescos.  A giant of a supermarket chain and reportedly the 3rd largest retailer in the world (profits at 2.2BNpds), approximately 27% of the UK market share for supermarkets.  Not only a giant in corporate size but by location too.  You can only imagine how children’s eyes lit up as we entered through the sliding doors.

While we cant really complain with the choice and availability of good food in the US, there is just something different about the supermarket experience in the UK.  Perhaps its the efforts in the retail environment, or the breadth of choice across all the departments or quality of the food?

 

Who knows but we went wild….

 

By the end of the trip – which was only for school uniforms (yes supermarkets in the UK sell clothes too!), the trolley was brimming with sweet treats and nostalgic items from my childhood – Ribena, fruit malt loaf and Cadbury fudge bars to name a few!

A down side to the supermarket extravaganzas on offer is the over sell of sweet items.   Since being in the UK, Jamie Oliver  has launched his sugar/ obesity campaign.  The US has always had a bad rap of being a nation of donut lovers and obesity with the UK even jumping on the bandwagon.  Whereas, in reality, and as an outsider looking back into the UK, I would argue the UK has a greater problem.

Supermarket experience highlights this greatly.  US supermarkets (that I am used to), are clearly laid out with a place for everything.  Bakery, deli, cookies, dairy etc.

UK supermarkets, while there is a place for everything, in EVERY place, you can also buy something sweet!  EVERY aisle has some sort of sweet offer…just in case you missed it in the aisle you were last in.

Our first visit to the shops, this was fun.  5 months in, this seems wrong.  Massive discipline is needed to get through a store to not load the trolley with sweets and junk…..and they are all so good!

Another disturbing sight in the supermarkets is the labeling of the aisles….Children’s drinks and Children’s cereals are the worst.  Targeted foods and drinks specifically for children.  Sugar laden and not a sign of goodness in sight.  Talk about making it difficult for a parent to make the healthier choice when the kids only want to shop from their sections! While Jamie Oliver may have a sugar fight on his hands, I am not convinced, taxing soft drinks is  the only way to go…start at the ground level and change supermarkets/culture in selling!

While the UK has a very sweet tooth, the prevalence of chocolate everywhere could be curbed.  As a child, chocolate was a treat.  My kids came home from school and made the statement that every child has some form of chocolate in the their lunchbox every day!  How times have changed.  The raisins just weren’t going to cut it here.

As noted, we are 5 months in.  I have become more savvy in my weekly shopping.  Knowing not to fall into the sweet trap at every turn and preferably not taking the kids with me.

While i wont miss the sugar when we leave, I will certainly miss the outstanding quality and choices of all else.

If we were excited after our first trip to Tesco’s, you can only imagine how we were when we first ventured into Waitrose…..