Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Travel, family and more: 18 highlights of Summer 2016

Phew! That was a summer...

It's always the same – at the beginning of the holidays I'm a rabbit in the headlights, wondering how on earth we're going to fill the six and a bit weeks stretching out ahead. This year? We packed in so much!

Here are some of our highlights.

Photography: Sarah Kourey/Colston Hall

We're Going on a Bear Hunt!

We went on a bear hunt, performed by the British Sinfonietta and narrated by Andy Day from CBeebies, as part of the Colston Hall's Hoo Ha Festival. The kids particularly loved the bear sneaking up on Andy, and my eldest, A, ended up on stage trying out the instruments with the orchestra. Brilliant stuff.

Pokemon GO

Yep, we were hooked. The kids and I have caught 56 of 147 Pokemon (is the plural of Pokemon Pokemons? Or just Pokemon? Am I just incorrectly applying traditional linguistic rules? So much to learn!). More than just a game, it's been an excellent way to get the kids out into the fresh air or to make walks more interesting. And – don't tell anyone – I may have been known to have a little play when the boys have gone to bed.

Giffords Circus – The Painted Wagon

It's become a tradition each summer for us to visit Giffords Circus, the vintage big top that travels around market towns in the south of England each year. It's a very special injection of magic, a chance to marvel at human strength and ability, to drink in the glamour of the costumes and the antique trailers, and enjoy some old-style laughs.

This year's show leans heavily on the hilarious antics of Tweedy the Clown. If you've never been to Giffords you need to know that he sports neither red nose nor giant shoes. Instead, think cheeky, clumsy, charming, old school vaudeville clowning. The kids absolutely love him and we do, too.

Oh, and we had lunch before the performance at my friend Emma's new pub, the Daneway in Sapperton. If you're in the area, do go and try it out. It's lovely – both the setting and the food are great, and it's amazing to see someone follow their dreams. Go Emma!

Center Parcs

A week at Center Parcs with five kids? Hell yeah. We survived – no, wait – we thrived. Proper post coming soon...

Summer swims

Remember those stiflingly hot days a few weeks back? Most of our July and August this year was spent at the Lido in Clifton, Bristol. Swimming is one of my absolute favourite activities so we treated ourselves to membership and were grateful for it almost every day – the water is so cool and refreshing, the surroundings are stylish and the food and drink are just lovely.

Yes, it got busy and crowded but a quick dip was all it took some days to reset our internal thermostats. And I treated myself to a couple of new swimsuits, too – one from Toast, the other from Boden. It's an investment, right?

Summer reads

Our week in Mallorca sans kids was a chance to properly get our noses stuck into some good reading. But we were almost crippled by the pressure of choosing a good book! I managed to get through two amazing reads while we were away – On Chesil Beach, the heartbreaking novella by Ian McEwan, and Life After Life, an astonishingly good whopper of a novel by Kate Atkinson. What did you read this summer? Any recommendations?

Summer love

Watched my little brother marry his love in the cutest church in the countryside. The boys wore these fancy indigo shirts and grey cords from Boden and looked so smart (T teamed his with a bat bow tie!) while I fell in love with this glorious geometric ruched waist dress.

Summer sounds

It's one of my traditions to make summer playlists each year – have a listen to my summer of sixteen tunes if you fancy. Highlights include Christine and the Queens, Big Star, and Whitney.

Plus, we went to see Teenage Fanclub at the weekend, surely the ultimate end of summer band?

Summer series

We've really got into Stranger Things on Netflix and Fleabag on BBC Three. Both are excellent – good writing and acting, and had us gripped. Have you seen either? What did you think?

Bristol festivals

We enjoyed/endured two of Bristol's annual festivals – the Harbour Festival and the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. Much fun ensued although we emerged with very empty purses.

We drank...

Sangria tea from the Bluebird Tea Company and our obsession with the Aperol Spritz continues...

We ate...

Fennel tarallini, after becoming obsessed with this Italian snack we discovered on holiday in Venice.

London fun

Trips to London included the Boden Christmas press show, another brilliant year of Blogtacular, and the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Victoria Miro gallery.

The weekend before our Mallorca holiday, we went to Caught by the River Thames. This festival was absolutely brilliant – we hung out with friends in the sunny grounds of Fulham Palace, watching bands like Low and the Super Furry Animals as well as conversations between Lauren Laverne and Chris Packham. Oh, and we drank quite a lot of mead!

Home for the weekend was the beautiful Artist Residence hotel in Pimlico. Chic rooms, friendly staff, and bloomin' brilliant cocktails, it's a great option if you're looking for a change from the bland, cookie cutter chains.

Jet setting

Further afield, we've been to Venice and Mallorca, and I spent that amazing few days in Germany with Villeroy & Boch!

Day trips

We took the kids to Plymouth Aquarium for the day, then followed the coast south to revisit some of the places of my childhood – my grandma's old house in Kingsbridge and the beach at Bigbury for ice creams and a paddle. And we discovered Green People organic kids' suncream and sticky hand sanitiser – lifesavers!

A friend and I took a walk around the lovely gardens at Iford Manor (which prompted me to write this post), there was that weekend glamping in Dorset and a birthday meal at Ston Easton Park.

More recently, a weekend in Cardiff where we ate at a food festival and saw the incredible Roald Dahl exhibition at the Wales Millennium Centre – it's truly incredible, one of the top highlights of the summer.

Summer blockbusters

The Everyman cinema in Bristol is our new favourite, with its sofa seats, carpets inspired by The Shining and table service cuppas. Here, we saw Suicide Squad, Ghostbusters and Cafe Society, and took the kids to see The Secret Life of Pets and the BFG.


Writing work included a huge feature for The Simple Things – My City: Bristol – and I wrote about Jodi Ann Bickley's One Million Lovely Letters project for the letters issue of Oh Comely.


And blogging slowed down as it tends to do at this time of year, but we worked with The White Company on this summer sleepover post for their blog, I launched the first of my city travel guides (Paris!) and I particularly loved interviewing Rebecca Vincent, one of my favourite tattoo artists.

Phew! Busy, busy.

How was your summer? Let me know your highlights by leaving a comment.

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