Monday 23 September 2013

A postcard from our first family holiday in Cornwall

Last week, hubs, Ethan and I headed to the chilled climes of Cornwall for our first little family holiday. After hearing how amazing the Cornish coast was from every man and his dog, we decided to check it out for ourselves and after doing some research, we decided to stay at a Parkdean holiday park near Newquay. We've stayed in a static caravan before and had a lot of fun so thought this would be a great base for our five day break exploring what Cornwall had to offer.

Are you SURE we need all this stuff Mum?!

We headed off on Monday morning for our four hour drive to the South West coast with a car packed to the brim. Hubs managed to play a giant game of Tetris and all our bags somehow fit into our Clio.

We made good progress and were checked in, unpacked and settled into our new digs by 4.30pm. Our new home was great - lots of space, clever storage and really nice and cosy. It was large enough for eight people to share but obviously that would be very cosy indeed, so we took advantage of the extra space by making one twin room Ethan's changing room and the other twin our changing room. As it had been a bit of a long day for Ethan, having never traveled so far or for so long before, we decided to have a quick drive into Newquay to get our bearings and find a supermarket to buy food for the week.

I really like our holiday home!

We were hoping to enjoy the many beaches Cornwall has to offer but unfortunately the weather was not on our side for most of the holiday. Monday and Tuesday night, the wind and rain were so strong, we were surprised to wake up in the same spot - we thought we'd have been blown away to the land of Oz! Luckily, little man, who had to sleep in the lounge area as there wasn't enough space for the cot in our room, didn't seem bothered at all by the weather or by being in a different room to us for the first time, which was great. I, in contrast, woke up every hour, clutching the baby monitor to my ear to hear him breathing.

A drizzly Padstow

On Tuesday, we decided to head to Padstow as it wasn't too far away and we had heard a lot about this port town. With our hoods up and the rain cover on the pram, we seemed to explore what the harbour and main town had to offer in record time, finding all of Rick Stein's eateries without even trying and covering all the streets within just 45 minutes. 

 The harbour

We stopped for a cup of tea and watched the mist come in over the harbour, then set out to find fish and chips. We'd been looking forward to eating at Rick Stein's fish and chip restaurant but even though we got there early, they wouldn't accommodate prams so we had to go to the order and collect window, then take our lunch back to our car to eat as outside everything was too wet. Dashboard dining at its finest!

We drove to some of the surrounding beaches but none of them were particularly accessible with a pram or easy to get close to with the car, so we decided to head home feeling we had seen all Padstow had to offer. We had a nice meal at home and enjoyed a few films and snuggles on the sofa.

So, what are we doing today?

On Wednesday, it was our third wedding anniversary, so after tea, cards and gifts, and having checked the weather forecast, we set out for St Michael's Mount. The sun was shining and we walked along the beach to the causeway, taking some great snaps of the scenery and collecting shells and pebbles for Ethan's memory box. Ethan slept the whole time but at least we can show him photos of his first visit to the beach!

We then drove to St Ives, which was only eight miles away. I'd seen beautiful photos of this harbour town and heard great things and we really weren't disappointed! It was a beautiful, pituresque place and just what we had expected of Cornwall. Parking was a pain though, with the main car park being very high up above the town, very full and not pushchair friendly on the descent. It had great views of all the houses, down to the harbour and sea, but my god, I regretted having a Kelly's Cornish Ice Cream on the way back up to our car! We had a lovely lunch overlooking the sea at a place called Hub but sadly, little man was very grouchy so we didn't get to relax as much as we would have liked. Never mind though, St Michael's Mount and St Ives were the highlights of our week.

We had hoped to go out to Padstow for a meal that night but having seen how small the few restaurants were, we knew it would be a problem with a pushchair and when we called a couple of places in Newquay, they said they didn't allow under 14's. So, that was that! We went on Google to find an M&S, finally found one in Hayle and headed over to get some nice food and wine for our evening at home.

 Peace out dude!

Thursday was dreary again and we weren't sure what to do as we had seen Newquay and Padstow and couldn't go to the beach. We decided to drive to St Austell, pick up a DVD, enjoy a Cornish pasty, then go home to put our feet up. There wasn't a lot to see in St Austell but it was another town ticked off our list.

Friday was our last day but we had to check out by 10am so we had breakfast, packed up then decided to stop by Fistral Beach for a last photo opportunity. We then made a detour to Bude, another place we'd heard about, but didn't stay as parking was a nightmare again as was access to beaches. Wecut our loses and decided to head home and thanks to some bad traffic, little man missed one feed, was late for a second and we arrived home slightly knackered at 6pm - it was a long day!

What we learnt about Cornwall:

  • You need a lot of change on you as the only car parks anywhere are pay and display and you have to pay and display everywhere, even at the beaches.
  • It's very hilly! I never thought of Cornwall as a particularly hilly place but there's a lot of ups and downs as you drive and all the towns we went to had sloping pavements.
  • Cornwall isn't particularly pushchair friendly. Between the hilly parts, narrow or non-existent paths and cute little shops which are narrow and up steps, we found getting about with a baby a bit of a challenge most of the time. I love a good gift shop and love buying some tat, I mean high quality souvenirs when I go away, but I just couldn't look around with a pushchair in tow and no-one seemed to want to get out of the way to let us through.
  • There are a lot of beaches to enjoy and if the weather is good, that's where you'd spend most of your time.
  • If the weather isn't so great, it's a little harder to get out and about. The Eden Project, the aquarium in Newquay and the Bodmin steam railway are the three things we looked into in case it rained for most of our trip, but with Ethan still being so young, we decided it wasn't worth the money and we'd be just as happy hanging out at our holiday park if the rain got the best of us, as relaxing and spending time together was the main thing.
  • If you like your shopping, you might struggle a little. Whilst it's nice to go away and see different parts of the country, it was difficult to find a decent sized supermarket, familiar shops or a Starbucks. I never thought I'd be like this but again, with the weather writing off sitting on the beach, we needed things to do when we went out. We headed to Truro, hearing it was the main shopping hub, but it wasn't that great and was just like Walsall back home. We had to drive half an hour one day to find a bigger supermarket for some bits and pieces and it just seemed to us that even the main towns were lacking in the usual shops you can expect to find on most high streets. I joked about buying so many things in advance of our trip but I'm glad that I did as it would have been a lot harder if I hadn't.
I know it sounds like I'm being a moaning Murtle, but there were just a few things that we came to realise about Cornwall whilst we were there. I'm sure that when the sun is shining, the beaches are great but as for the towns, aside from St Ives, we just weren't as blown away as we expected to be. We've been all over the UK and would say places like the Lake District offer more for those having staycations. We loved our family break away and have made some nice memories that we will share with Ethan when he's older. We know that in a year or more's time, we will be able to do a lot more with Ethan, which we're really excited about, but we won't necessarily be rushing back to the Cornish coast. Brighton, Great Yarmouth, Portsmouth... they are all great seaside towns too so we'll certainly continue exploring what Great Britain has to offer.

What we learnt about travelling with a baby:
  • We already knew this, but you can never have too many muslins or bibs or clothes! Best pack for a couple of changes a day plus good weather and bad. Babies seem to get through a lot of clothes so it's better to be prepared.
  • See if you have laundry services where you're staying or take along washing powder for some hand-washing as if you're baby gets their clothes dirty because of leaky nappies or if you start running low on muslin cloths, you're going to want to clean things as you go. You don't want to deal with those kinds of stains a week later!
  • Don't worry about how they will sleep - Ethan slept like, well, a baby, despite the strange surroundings and crazy weather outside.
  • Plan your trips out around their feeds as you don't want to be stuck en route somewhere when it's time for a bottle.
  • Be prepared to eat one handed more than you do at home. Babies can become bored or a little irritable after being in their car seat / pushchair for a while and it always seems to come when you want to enjoy a cuppa or some lunch!
It was a nice week but it's always nice to come home again, sleep in your own bed and enjoy all the little luxuries you have become accustomed to, like Wifi and a shower with a bit of power. Gosh, I really sound like a city bird now!

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