Weekend Wishlist

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Since reading this post and this one, about how Courtney (one of the Babyccino team and a girl crush alert) Adamo has been going to Positano every year for the past ten years, children (increasing numbers thereof) in tow, I have been quietly obsessing about doing the same. I have been to the Amalfi coast before – a brief, flying, uber-luxe visit (it was my first every press trip) – and fell in love with it. As we didn’t (for one reason or another) have a honeymoon proper, I love the idea of taking it now – with both the loves of my life.

On which note, this rather speaks for itself…

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It’s true. It lights up. It nods towards One Direction’s greatest hit (IMHO). What’s not to like? It’s £54.95 from new-to-me Oliver Hayden. I also love the idea of a personalised canvas: my baby’s name in lights!Henry-Modern-1We love pretty much everything Astley Clarke do. These stacking Fractal rings are completely perfect. Although I cannot for the life of me decide which colour I like best. From £75, Astley Clarke.84503837d5d0c980117b0a867defcc7c 502bcf32ba50a07ab36011368ea3e765-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been eating far too much Dairy Millk bubbly chocolate of late (yep, I have cheap taste in chocolate), so am on the hunt for super healthy suppers to, err, counterbalance the chocolate consumption. I am definitely cooking this Brown rice and garlicky prawn salad, with capers, broccoli and radish, from What Katie Ate, perhaps even tomorrow night?

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While you’re there, do look at her post about her trip to the Amafi coast. The pictures are amazing. See, the signs are ALL THERE? I should definitely go… Here’s just a taster.

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Images: via Pinterest, What Katie Ate

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Small-scale swimsuits

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No, not badly-rhymed bikinis, swimsuits for little girls. Before we came on holiday I was looking for a little swimsuit for C and it was far trickier than it should have been.

What is WITH the high street? Just because it’s for a little girl, why does it have to be a. luridly pink, b. decorated with Hello Kitty or Peppa Pig or some other nauseatingly whimsical princess-y type character, or c. weirdly grown-up which is SO WRONG in this context. Also, added complication, I refuse to shell out oodles of cash for something which will be worn for approximately two weeks of the year (and get covered in sunscreen).

I ended up with this one from H&M. And very sweet she looks in it, too. (It also comes in red, btw.)

Swimsuit (1 and 1/2 - 8 years). £5.99

Swimsuit (1 and 1/2 – 8 years). £5.99, H&M

I wish, wish I had chanced upon this one from Boden in time to order it. Suffice to say, I love it. I am contemplating ordering it for C to wear next year.

Pretty swimsuit, Boden

Pretty swimsuit (1 1/2 – 10 years), £16-£18, Boden

The go-to destination on the high street is, however, Next. Who knew? If they had this bathing suit in C’s size, I would have snapped it up (although it seems you have to wait ’til you’re three to escape The Curse of Hello Kitty And The Lurid Pink Swimsuit) – and the bikinis are pretty cute, too. I am somewhat hesitant about little girls in bikinis (it’s not just me: I sat next to a very charming Frenchman at a dinner the other week and we ended up talking about our daughters and holidays (he was recommending hotels in the Cayman Islands – I have a feeling we holiday on different levels), and he demanded to know, “What eel thees thing you English ‘ave with putting leetle girls in bikinis? It so weird. They should only be for girls when they are grown up.” (Yup, he did actually sound a bit Maurice Chevalier.) However, if you are free from such over-thinking, these are adorable.

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Ditsy swimsuit (3-16 yeara), £10.50 -£13.50), Next

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Coral spot frilly bikini (3 months – 6 years), £9-£10, Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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`Textured stripe bikini (3- 16 years), £9-£12, Next

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Textured stripe bikini (3-16 years), £9-£12,  Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One more floral (without being excessively cutesy). If you have a three plus aged girl, you are in LUCK.

Ditsy swimsuit (3-16 years), £9-£12, Next

Ditsy swimsuit (3-16 years), £9-£12, Next

Image via Vintage Fan Girl

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Ile de Re. With kids. Without kids. Just go…

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I have, for the past few years, been in the grip of a love affair with the Ile de Re. I know: I am not the only one. But I have, truly, dedicated time, money and effort to pursuing the acquaintance. I first discovered it on a a blissful week in June when my husband was my boyfriend and we were young, footloose and full of fancies (like staying in bed til 9, listening to the swallows swooping into the eves overheard); then I took my mum for a blissful long weekend when I was first pregnant (we stayed in a darling little attic apartment – with views over La Flotte – and I started every morning with a pot of apple sauce to stave off the nausea). It was here that my husband and I had our first solo weekend, post-baby; and then, last year, our little family spent a blissful week pottering around the hollyhock-lined lanes, eating moules frites, and sipping wine, watching the sun set over the sea.

Think Cornwall with better weather (and less in the way of Camerons and Hoorays), an island out of the 1950s criss-crossed with bicycle paths; beaches with swathes of golden sand, and houses with painted shutters (in approved shades – it’s all very Farrow & Ball-ed). It’s the closest you’re going to get to Swallows and Amazons these days.

The Villa Clarisse in St Martin – the island’s biggest, chicest town – is the perfect bolthole for two (although they can, and do, accommodate families). A white-washed villa tucked down a side street, just a stroll away from the legendary Hotel Toiras (its sister hotel on the ridiculously picturesque harbour – dinner here comes highly recommended), it is perfectly blissful.

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It’s a haven of white-washed, white-flowered calm, all very chic and ‘hmmm, shall we redecorate?’ inducing. We particularly loved: the hotel’s chaffer service to and from La Rochelle airport (result: no taxi queues); the heated pool; flinging open the shutters to admire the early morning sun from the comfort of bed; the simple, but perfect breakfast (with freshly baked pastries and local jam). When the small but perfectly formed in-house spa opens early next year, it really will be the complete escape package.

From €245 per room per night.       FD-VILLA_CLARISSE-RECEPTIONFD-Villa-Clarisse-CHAMBRE

(If you’re holidaying a deux and fancy splurging, do try La Baleine Bleu. Or, for something less formal and modern French (i.e. if you’re more of a steak frites type), opt for Le Bistrot de Marin (L’Ilôt, Saint-Martin, (00 33 5 46 68 74 66) and stroll to La Martiniere for ice cream in giant waffle cones to takeaway (eat whilst sitting on city walls, admiring the view).

 

Ars en Re, nearly at the tippy top of the island, is quieter, more relaxed, slightly less (but only slightly) full of unnervingly chic Parisians. Plus, the beaches are, to my mind, better at this end of the island. Le Senechal is, quite simply, one of the loveliest hotels on the island.

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There is a flower-strewn courtyard, a tiny little pool, rooms decorated with a charming mishmash of tasteful vintage – and you can even book one of the ‘little houses’ (complete with fireplace, your own patio, and – praise be – a separate room for small people. From €75 for a classic room (rooms are rated classic, character, rooms of charm, elegant, magnificent and exceptional), breakfast is extra, €12,50 pp).

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La Flotte, with its gorgeous covered market, quaint harbour, and excellent seafood restaurants, is an easy option if you are travelling with or without small people. If you crave your own space, Bon Sejour en France has a good choice of high quality properties across the island (but look out for the unexpected extras: the non-negotiable cleaning cost was ridiculous). And I’ve just spotted this fab place on Airbnb (from €190 per night):

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One thing you must do, wherever you stay on the Ile de Re, is make your way to LesTilleuls, just about the most charming little restaurant we found on the island.

Images: TootlaFrance, Villa Clarisse, Le Senechal, Airbnb

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Anyone in the mood for some sunshine?

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I was planning to post something on the retro-chic destination that is the Isle of Wight. But, as I sat, chilled to the bone, staring outside at the sodden sky, I thought blow that. What I need now, what I really need now is a hairdryer hot, sun-soaked holiday and as there is no chance of that happening in the next few weeks, realistically months, I’ll settle for some gorgeous, sun-soaked pictures instead. I could look at them and dream of lying around on a sun-lounger, sipping rose and gently turning my lily-white limbs that perfect shade of soft golden brown (yes, I’m afraid I am one of those increasingly dated -and soon to be wrinkled – beasts who likes to lie in the sun – I’m positively reptilian, my cold blood NEEDS it). I could reminisce about one of my quite-possibly-best-jobs-ever, a week spent reviewing boutique hotels in Provence for Tatler (tough gig). And then I thought, why not tell you about three of those stunning boutique hotels in Provence? So here goes, these hotels are knock-your-socks-off gorgeous. Great for long child-free weekends, they’re too small for children or week-long sojourns. Book now for summer. Book now for next year. Or if like us, you’re holidaying at home this year,  just stare at the pictures and dream of a time when a sun-soaked holiday is on the agenda. (Family-friendly boltholes coming soon).

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Anyone for a walk on the beach?

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Do you hanker after the bucolic, cream tea and sandy beach English holidays of your (or, more likely, your grandmother’s) youth? But, err, you don’t really fancy eschewing all those little luxuries without which a holiday feels, somehow, so much less. And you’d prefer not to schlep to Cornwall this time, thank you very much.

The very first holiday we took after we had C was a gentle toe-in-the-water trip to Dorset (home to many of my own childhood holidays). Now, hands up, I am spoilt on the hotel front (not, I should add, as spoilt as Alex, who has spent years nipping around the globe reviewing a-may-zing hotels for fancy-pants publications. The woman was the Travel Editor for Brides, there is not a honeymoon suite worth it’s rose petals she hasn’t checked out). 

So, I was not willing to accept that having a child meant style-free cottages or cheese-tastic family-friendly resorts (obviously, there are exceptions). Thank the gods of travel then, for Baby Friendly Boltholes. Simple concept, well done. It was here that I found The Cowshed - a mini barn conversion in a I-wish-we-lived-here village (there’s a pub and an aesthetically pleasing playground), owned by a lovely I-reckon-we’d-be-friends-with-them couple.

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See? It’s lovely, no?

The cottage is a bit like Babington House for babies. It has everything – everything – you need (cot, bunk bed, baby bath, steriliser, bouncer, highchair, changing mat, all conceivable paraphernalia a new parent could possibly want – yes, I waaaay over-packed. We’ve been back since (packing considerably less) and C adored the toys, the playroom, “the big boys” (the owners’ two delightful sons). We loved the sleek interior: the wooden floors, wood-burning stove, White Company linen (show me the woman who doesn’t love White Company bedding and I’ll show you a woman who hasn’t slept under it), the welcome basket packed with local goodies, the fact that you can book a trusted babysitter beforehand, the kitchen which is actually better than ours at home…

There’s also oodles to do. We walked over field and through woods to the King John Inn (delish food), drove to beautiful Studland Bay, pottered around the local villages, visited the farm shop and the petting farm, pretended we’d moved to the country (my husband wishes; I need to satiate my urban yearnings first). Decided to come back.

From £395 for a short break (Monday to Friday or Friday to Monday); from £545 for a week.

Images: Studland Bay by Adam Burton Photography; the Cowshed from Baby Friendly Boltholes

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