This time last year we were packing up, enduring lots of injections and getting ready to travel. Goodness knows where we would be now if we had been able to keep to our plan of 18 months away. As it is, we’re home, it’s winter and the days are whizzing by.
We did manage to find a gap in our student hosting schedule to have a few days away over Christmas. We went to The Netherlands and Belgium, so we DID get to spend Christmas abroad. We went to De Kempervennen CenterParcs in Holland as it was not too far to drive yet would feel like a break from the UK. We stayed for a few days over Christmas. The kids loved it. They did get their Christmas stockings filled and hoped that any larger gifts from Santa would be waiting for when they get back. We self catered but we did have our Christmas meal in the restaurant. I don’t know if Seamus was under the weather, too excited or too tired, but he chose to only eat half an ice cream cone and ignore the rest of the buffet options. Don’t you just love them when they do that?!
The chalet was lovely. The children loved the on-site farm and we went to visit the animals on Christmas morning. Guinea pigs are going to be on next year’s Christmas list. Seamus loved feeding the goats, Orla like the deer and Aoife loved a very small fluffy sheep.
We paid a visit to Valkenswaard War Cemetery nearby. The kids were surprised at the age of the soldiers and the range of regiments they came from. It is quite heartbreaking to think about all those young lives wasted and although sombre, we always take time to visit the war graves whenever we are in Europe.
Perhaps most surprising was our visit to Mechelen . Although frequent visitors to Belgium, it was our first time here and we loved it. We visited the historic sites, walked along the river at night and ate Belgium chips and waffles. Beautiful and uncrowded (we popped into our old favourite, Bruges on the way home and it was ridiculously busy!) I would recommend Mechelen and would love to go again.
The highlight of any trip (and the only non-child specific activity we did) is going to a brewery. Ian and I sat with our tasters of Belgium Beers at the Carolus Brewery and the kids were great playing cards and eating cheese. Ooops, looks like we over ordered. Hic!
All in all, we were only away for a few days, but it was amazing what we managed to squeeze in.
Now it is back to the usual routine and it looks like we are going to have a busy year with back to back students, so no real chance for another break for some time. We currently have Japanese students staying with us and next week we will have Belgium teenagers. The house is busy and my laundry is never-ending!
Today, as Aoife and Seamus’ rugby was cancelled due to the frost (hooray!!!), we went to Margate. We saw The Little Prince Pub where there is only room for 6 customers! Afterwards we walked to the Shell Grotto … again! It can be tricky trying to find things to do with three kids and our students, but we do our best and just hope everyone is having a good time.
Baking has been popular in our household recently… guess we are missing The Great British Bake Off. The kids made biscuits and delivered them to all the neighbours (11 houses!) on New Years Day, which went down a treat. They got thank you letters and muffins in return! We have been encouraging the students to cook too, even when that means they want to make enough cakes and cookies to share with the whole language college the next day!
Our next event is Aoife’s birthday at the end of this month. She is having a pizza making party and looking forward to spending time with her school friends. We’ve made up the party bags (a dream catcher kit and some chocolate) and now she wants to make her own birthday cake … oh joy, more baking!