Carddies Knight Set – an excellent children’s travel toy promoting imaginative play

So I have to hold my hands up!

Carddies family set

Carddies family set

We were given a pack of these little Carddies to review almost a year ago now: we used them, loved them, I started to write about them then things happened and I never published our review. This morning Freddie was rummaging through his travel box and spied them, ‘look mummy, remember these, do you remember when the dragon lost his colours and the Knight had to find them again?’ and yes I remember our story well! We then started to play with them again at the breakfast table. They are actually very wonderful – good old fashioned fun! So here is the review I wrote almost a year ago…

The Dragon who lost his colour!

The Dragon who lost his colour!

Every time we go away Freddie gets excited about packing his activity case. Our last trip was no exception. During the weeks building up to our trips we always gather items that could help our little chap at restricted times; in the car, plane or train. Our Carddies arrived a couple of days before our holiday and so it wasn’t too frustrating that he couldn’t start playing with them.

There are currently twelve sets from Ballet to Cavemen and Fairies to Football! We opted for the Knights Set. The first thing that struck me was the quality of the colouring pencils. All too often I find that when you buy any sort of colouring activity the pens, pencils or crayons are quite often of bad quality meaning you have to use an alternative but the pencils included in Carddies were wonderful to use. They colour the excellent quality card with ease.

We all got involved with the colouring and Freddie loved naming the characters. We didn’t get to colour them all on this trip as we stopped to play with them for a while. In our play our dragon (who has lots of colours on one side and none on the other) lost his colours and the Knights had to find them again.

Yay, the knights have found the dragons colour again!

Yay, the knights have found the dragons colour again!

At first I was a little sceptical about the price tag of £8.99 but the quality of the pencils, card and hand-drawn characters, who come with plastic stands, mean that these little characters and back drops will last trip after trip.

Freddie had just turned four when we first played with the Carddie Knights and he will be five in April and still loves them. They are aimed at children between three and ten years although we think that toddlers will love to watch scenes acted out too, as long as you keep the small bits away from them!

We think these are great little sets all housed in a handy box. With a little imagination they provide a perfect distraction for journeys, raining days and eating out etc. Keep one in your bag!

carddies (1)

Carddies are little card people to colour in and play. There are lots of sets to choose from and each set contains: card people, a card scene (all artwork drawn by hand), high quality colouring pencils and plastic stands for the little people and animals. They all come in a neat little box and made in the UK. They cost £8.99 per pack and you can read more about them and find stockists on their website http://www.carddies.com

Special offer: family bikes and picnic for a day along the Canal du Midi staying at this family friendly chateau

The owners of this wonderful family-friendly château are offering Holiday Tots guests complimentary bikes and picnic for all week holidays in June.

Family friendly chateau

The family-friendly chateau

 

The child-friendly château is perfect for families with babies, toddlers and older children with facilities and activities for all ages.

Kitchen Fire Place chard

The three bedroom cottage – sleeps up to 10 people

There are a total of nine holiday cottages all suitable for families with young children starting with one bedroom holiday cottages ideal for a couple and baby or toddler through to three bedrooms perfect for a party of ten.

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The swimming pool is fully enclosed

Within the estate there is plenty to do, swimming pool that is fully enclosed, tennis courts, 115 hectares of woods, vineyards and more. for the adults dinner and wine tastings are on offer too plus baby sitting!

The château is located in the Languedoc Roussillon just 20 minutes from Carcassonne. the Lac de la Cavalyere – a wonderful man-made lake surrounded by pine forests and sandy beach is just 20 minutes drive. It has lots to offer families from mini golf course and water parc to ropes course for the older children. Beaches of Narbonne and more are about 40 minutes and spectacular caves just 20 minutes.

Family cycle along the Canal du Midi

Family cycle along the Canal du Midi

The local villages are steeped in history and of course wonderful food!

Prices start from just €675 for a one bedroom cottage for a weeks holiday in June.

For details and to contact the owner directly visit the Holiday Tots website.

New on Holiday Tots: a fabulous selection of child-friendly cottages in acres of gardens for imaginative play…

The Lot France is one of the most beautiful and undiscovered French regions. If you are looking for a place where children can run free, then this small hamlet of child-friendly holiday properties will certainly not disappoint.

child friendly holiday cottage in the Lot region France

child friendly holiday cottage in the Lot region France

Owners Lara and Mike have worked hard to make this a children’s paradise with so much to do you might find the kids will never want to venture further than the enclosed three acres of grounds…

play barn and pirate ship…

Oooh Arrrr!!!

Oooh Arrrr!!!

playground, tents, meadow maze…

Moombas and the meadow Maze 2013

Meadow maze

swimming pool and much much more!

Fully enclosed swimming pool

Fully enclosed swimming pool

There are plenty of options when it comes to child-friendly accommodation, from luxury stone holiday cottages to glamping and lodges as there are a total of seven holiday homes.

Stone child friendly holiday cottage

Stone child friendly holiday cottage

Luxury child-friendly tent for glamping under the stars!

Luxury child-friendly tent for glamping under the stars!

Children will love the The Three Bears themed holiday lodge

Children will love the The Three Bears themed holiday lodge

There are lots of ride on toys and dressing up outfits for all ages!

There are lots of ride on toys and dressing up outfits for all ages!

If you are looking for something a little more private the owners have two lovely toddler-friendly holiday cottages located within a separate three acres of land with fully enclosed swimming pool, pirate ship, play area, trampoline and sandpit. Each has two bedrooms

Option 1

For a quieter option try one of two family friendly holiday homes in their own three acres of grounds.

For a quieter option try one of two family friendly holiday homes in their own three acres of grounds.

Option 2

cotton house terrace - Copy

The second of two child-friendly cottages sharing three acres of gardens and swimming pool

Swimming pool shared by two cottages

Swimming pool shared by two cottages

For all the holiday properties above all children receive an arrival present and have access to a huge amount of toys including lots of dressing up clothes!

The local village has a lake with small sandy beach, so if the wonderful countryside and activities within the grounds are not enough you can still get a fix of sand castle building!

For more details or to contact the owners directly visit Holiday Tots

New on Holiday Tots: child-friendly holiday farm in Cornwall

The latest child-friendly holiday properties on Holiday Tots are situated near Lostwithiel in South West Cornwall.

Luxury child-friendly holiday farm, Cornwall

Luxury child-friendly holiday farm, Cornwall

A luxury collection of nine farm holiday cottages with great facilities for babies, toddlers and young children

Family-friendly luxury farm holiday cottages in Cornwall

Family-friendly luxury farm holiday cottages in Cornwall

daily animal-feed runs with farmer Tim

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an indoor heated swimming pool (that English weather will not spoil the fun!), play barn and more.

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The cottages have all been fully renovated and offer fabulous child-friendly holiday accommodation. They range from a small 2 bedroom cottage, ideal for a couple and baby through to three bedrooms ideal for a family of six plus baby.

There is a soft play area for a break from the outdoors and within the grounds there are plenty of ride on toys, play park and pony rides.

Play Park & Hot Tub 041

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Indoor play barn

Indoor play barn

There is also a secret garden with hot tub, the ideal escape with a good book or some family splashing fun under the stars and the farm shop is open 24 hours for all sorts of goodies, even cooked meals for when you just really don’t want to cook!

Secret garden hot tub

Secret garden hot tub

The farm’s location is perfect for exploring Cornwall and has plenty of child-friendly holiday activities including The Eden project. There are lots of beaches and harbours to explore too: the nearest being just 20 minutes drive.

For availability and prices and to contact the owners visit their page on Holiday Tots.

Owners interview: Family life in the Languedoc…

The Buisson family

The Buisson family

The Languedoc-Roussillon is a region in Southern France and has five departments. Owners Louise and Franck set up home in the ‘department’ Pyrenees-Orientales and transformed an old derelict house into four child-friendly holiday apartments. Here is their story…

Myself, Louise, English came to France for university and never went back to the UK. Married Franck, French from the Ardèche region, and we have 2 boys aged 8 & 6.

Why did you decide to start your own holiday accommodation business?building pool2

We wanted to live in a nice environment for us and our family. found a very large property and it was a good way of being able to afford to have a bit more space around us than the norm !!

What was the toughest part about setting it up?

The tremendous amount of work we had to do to the very un-looked after property. then the week after we bought the house there was a huge snow storm, which like never happens here, and there was so much snow we could’nt access the house, Fallen trees everywhere etc. !! We couldn’t really afford all of the work so were using our customers holiday deposits to pay for the builders – the work had to be finished on time as we couldn’t even reimburse the paid holidays, and was a very stressful experience !!

Rural child-friendly holidays

Rural child-friendly holidays

And what was the most memorable/enjoyable?

Our children have the best play ground ever, and when we organise birthday parties the kids just have so much fun its brilliant !

The woodland play area

The woodland play area

The gardens are fabulous for play

The gardens are fabulous for play

What couldn’t you live without and why?

The tranquillity and the beautiful setting, I could now never go back and live in a city, you get used to the countryside very quickly.

Resident donkeys

Resident donkeys

What does your average working day involve?

Organising the children, making breakfasts for the b&b clients, cleaning rooms & gîtes, taking réservations.

What advice would you give to families wanting to holiday with you and why is your place so special?

Bring a couple of good books, plenty of suntan lotion and be prepared to unwind. Its the perfect setting for a family Holiday, the children will love it and when its easy to entertain the children, your own Holiday becomes so much more relaxing!

The ponies are always popular!

The ponies are always popular!

If you could pick just two attractions/places to visit in your area what would they be?

Collioure for its beautiful architecture and little quaint Streets full of artists studios. The lake at ST Jean Pla des Corts where there is so much to do for everyone, in a beautiful setting  – tree climbing, bouncy castles in the water, swimming in the lake, feeding the ducks, a great little restaurant ….

Collioure

Collioure

Is there anything you would like to highlight that might be interesting to families with babies/toddlers/young children who are thinking of staying with you?

We obviously have all the baby equipment you will need so less luggage needed. The pool is heated at 30° from mid-march until mid-novembre so even for tinies its perfect, and lots of children have learnt to swim in our pool.

Pool view and distant sea view from the three bedroom holiday apartments

Pool view and distant sea view from one of the apartments

In one sentence can you explain what life is like where you live?

Perfect !

Louise and Franck also have two holiday homes in the centre of Argeles sur Mer they own so if you are looking for a rural child-friendly holiday or want to be in the centre of it all they have both!

You can see all of their holiday homes here and they are all suitable for families looking for a holiday with babies, toddlers and young children. All Holiday Tots families get free linen, cots, high chairs and end of stay clean!

Owners interview – Living the family life in the Lot region France while running a child-friendly holiday business…

507px-Lot-Position.svgOne of the most beautiful regions in France is the Lot, it is still relatively undiscovered and enjoys a micro climate of hot dry sunny summer days and cold dry winters. The landscape is made up of fields, forests, vineyards, farmland, historic hill-top towns, dramatic gorges and slow moving rivers. Here Marion talks about her life here with her family and her wonderful three child-friendly holiday gites.

Marion, Ray and Katie

Marion, Ray and Katie

We are a family of three – myself Marion a goldsmith by trade and originally from Germany, my husband Ray who was a Project Manager in London but is now a lumberjack, roofer, painter, pool attendant, etc and our seven year old daughter Katie who loves piano, ballet and Cbeebies (Katie Morag is her favourite programme at the moment)……….plus Milly, the cat. We lived in Teddington near London before we decided to move to the Lot region in France in November 2011.

The three child-friendly holiday cottages

The three child-friendly holiday cottages

 Why did you decide to start your own holiday accommodation business

For seven years we holidayed in the southern regions of France and we always thought it would be great to be able to experience the French way of life permanently while running and developing a family oriented business.  When Katie came along I had to stop running my jewellery gallery in London, and with my husband working abroad during the week and only being at home at weekends, we thought this is the time to make the move. I started looking for a house with gîtes for sale, and I came across these and we decided to make the big step.

What was the toughest part about setting it up

The gîtes were already set up for families with babies and young children, so the business was already up and running although there were a number of improvements that we wanted to make. Everybody who has moved to France will confirm that the toughest part of setting up a business here is the “red tape”. The French authorities do not make things easy! Things are explained on a need- to-know basis and it is not up to you to decide what you need to know. I once read that “In France, information is like a truffle. You have to go rooting around for it, hoping you strike lucky.”

The swimming pool is fenced and salt water - ideal for young children

The swimming pool is fenced and salt water – ideal for young children

 And what was the most memorable/enjoyable

We moved into the house at the end of January 2012, during one of the coldest winters the region had experienced for many decades, but when spring finally arrived it was so amazing to see all our trees (and we have a lot of them around us) coming back to life.  We have also had some fantastic families staying with us in our first two seasons, and seeing them relaxed and enjoying “La Dolce” really brings a smile to my face.

 What couldn’t you live without and why

I love the space and openness the Lot region offers. It is so unspoilt and for me one of the most beautiful areas in France……….the vast fields of sunflowers, the soft rolling country side, the Lot valley with its stunning medieval villages, the wild life we have around us (great for the children to discover), the local wine and fantastic food,……….I could go on and on.

The Lot River

Le Lot Cahors

What does your average working day involve

We have of course the same normal family life as we did in the UK (household, school, activities outside school), I (Marion) am also an active member of the Parent Association of Katie’s primary school (e.g. organising events).  We are also working through our improvement programme for the gites – last winter we updated all the bathrooms and the games room and this winter we are renovating the roofs . We were just awarded three stars in 2013 by “Atout France”, the official French body for hotel, gîte and chambre d’hôte classification.

I am also updating the information folder for our guests with new restaurants we have discovered, with new places to go and things to do, dates for the medieval festivals, evening summer markets and other summer events. We have just had our website newly designed, so we have been busy with this as well.

In the season we are busy maintaining the grounds and of course looking after our guests. Changeover days are normally extremely hectic, as I am very particular when it comes to the cleanliness of the gites.

 What advice would you give to families wanting to holiday with you and why is your place so special

I think it is the beautiful and tranquil setting which makes our place so special. We are on 2.25ha of grounds, with the gites and our house in the middle, separated by a vast meadow and surrounded by trees. There is no traffic noise, all our guests will hear is the laughter of happy children during the day……and maybe the hooting owl at night.

The Wendy house within the grounds

The Wendy house within the grounds

 If you could pick just two attractions/places to visit in your area what would they be

Difficult to decide…………but I would say firstly Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac (The Overhanging Gardens of Marqueyssac), one of the world’s most magnificent landscapes. These stunningly sculptured gardens wrap around a 17th century château that sits perched above the picturesque Dordogne valley, offering fantastic views. There is a maze for children and in summer they offer a lot of activities for little ones. The second place would be Château Bonaguil. This is our nearest castle and very much worth a visit. It is considered by the French to be the most beautiful fortified castle in France; and it was the last one to be built. Great for little ones to explore and a fantastic site for the medieval festival in summer!

Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac

Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac

 

marqueyssac

marqueyssac

Is there anything you would like to highlight that might be interesting to families with babies/toddlers/young children who are thinking of staying with you

Staying with us means parents can really travel light – no need for baby equipment and toys in the luggage. Domaine de la Dolce is a safe holiday haven, where the children will find new friends to play with while Mum and Dad relax and have a well-earned holiday.

In one sentence can you explain what life is like where you live

Wonderful scenery, friendly people, a lot of sunshine, great food and Cahors wine – what else does one need?

You can find these lovely todder-friendly holiday cottages on Holiday Tots here: http://www.holidaytots.co.uk/owners-properties-75.html 

Grab the tissues and enjoy the ride… Book review

ImageJo Jo Moyes, Me Before You (book review)

Me Before You

Author: Jo Jo Moyes

This is the first book I have read by Jo Jo Moyes and I wasn’t disappointed. It made me laugh out loud and cry real tears. It’s not your general run-of-the-mill slushy romance and isn’t racy either. It is extremely thought provoking.

Me Before You is a beautiful modern love story, yes on the surface a slightly predictable story line; girl meets boy, girl is a little lost, loses her job and is unsure of her future until… but it is so much more.

Louisa is a young girl who lives with her family who are struggling for money, after losing her job in the local café she finds herself agreeing to a six month contract caring for Will, a paraplegic. Will, before his accident, was an adrenaline junky who embraced life to full, he and his family are wealthy but he too has lost his way. What follows is an enchanting story of two sides: a girl intent on making Will see that life is worth living and a man whose pain and suffering is too much and his life is just too hard.

Me Before You will make you laugh, there are some fabulous scenes, it will also make you cry, it dips in and out of the pain paraplegics suffer, from crippling physical pain and the constant threat of illnesses like pneumonia to the emotional pain.

The characters Jo Jo Moyes has created are really likeable and as you can probably tell, I loved this book. Not only from the shear entertainment value of sitting down and having a good read, but it also made me look at people with disabilities and their carers in a different light. It even touched a personal chord. I have a son with Epilepsy and as he grows into a young man I understand that I should listen to his needs.

I read an old review in the Telegraph where the reviewer Daneet Steffens finished it by saying ‘this is a story about two people who properly listen to each other, it is something good’.  This is so true…

All in all a brilliant read and in my opinion worthy of five stars. I will definitely be reading a Jo Jo Moyes book again. Grab the tissues and enjoy the ride.

Me Before You

Jo Jo Moyes

Tip There are lots of spoiler reviews on-line so if you really don’t want to know what happens before you read it be careful with the reviews you read. Just buy the book!

Its a steal on Amazon at the moment, £3.50 or less for paperback or Kindle copy

Jo Jo Moyes – Me Before You - Amazon link