Tag: family holidays

Sleeping beauties

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Time away is like a deep sleep.

 It takes you time to settle; some initial tossing and turning is almost mandatory.

But, slowly, your breathing slows. Your mind quietens. You start to drift.

The things that crowded your head on the incoming flight, the stresses that tripped up your transfer start to fade.

You’re entering the first dream.

As the time meanders languidly forward, Larkin on the beach and palms raised in a sun salutation, you sink gratefully into the womb of slumber.

The dreams are freewheeling now, gentle and replenishing, rather than frantic and frightening.

By the time you stir, the sunlight beckoning group the white-net curtains, something has changed: your perspective has altered.

It had been 18 months for me since I’d slept like this and I had carried every day with me like a dead weight. 

But no more. We all need a deep sleep sometimes.

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Sunparks: a family escape on the Flanders coast

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In the Day-Glo Kid’s World soft play area, there’s a Flemish version of Black Lace’s Superman bouncing off the speakers on a Sunday morning.

The parents watching their somersaulting offspring are, I can’t help but notice, failing to keep up with the actions.

The previous evening I’d watched a man, the wrong side of 50 and dressed as a pirate, leading the kids through a rousing repertoire of Europop nursery rhymes. He topped the bravura performance with a balloon-modelling masterclass.

I never imagined myself here when – before fatherhood – I was trekking to Machu Picchu at dawn, or diving in the Red Sea. But, right now, a summer escape to family holiday resort Sunparks, located just outside De Haan on the Flanders coast, made perfect sense.

Why? My two daughters, Maya (eight) and Olivia (four) [pictured above] had smiles smeared across the faces for the whole weekend.

Sunparks is Flanders’ take on Center Parcs and, for Brits within easy access of Channel ports, offers a good-value alternative to the former’s newly opened Woburn Forest site.

The self-contained village, based around a central plaza, is geared towards primary-school-age children with a slew of playgrounds and activities, such as mini golf and bowling.

Our accommodation, a comfy if simple four-bed chalet with its own kitchen and private patio, looked a little tired but smarter lakeside chalets are also available at a premium.

Some families hire bikes on site and head off to explore the sandy beaches around the nearby resort town of Belle Époque De Han, others drive out to attractions along the 42-mile shoreline, such as the Explorado family science museum in Ostend, or Blankenberge’s Sea Life aquarium.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could be shopping in Bruges in under an hour.

But my girls were happy to stay on site, running the gauntlet of the wave machine and the waterslides in the Aquafun swimming centre each afternoon.

Each evening, rather than self catering, we bought tickets for the buffet and refueled on salads, steaks and apple pie, plus a selection of kids’ meals. A selection of local wheat beers kept dad in holiday mode.

Back at Kid’s World, Olivia had mobilised the toddlers to topple a Berlin Wall of play blocks, my tearaway toddler leading the French, Flemish and Dutch under-fives to forge a playgroup United Nations around soft-play furnishings.

While Euroscepticism rages in Brussels, the Superman-jiving toddlers of seaside Sunparks were finding a new family Entente Cordiale.

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Gazetteer 

Sunparks

Eurostar

Visit Flanders

Lunch with an astronaut on Florida’s Space Coast

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The week before Christmas has been dominated by an out-the-blue trip: Florida’s Space Coast.

Maya and I spent a long weekend in Cocoa Beach, researching a family-travel piece around the theme of introducing children to the space race.

This ties into the 25th anniversary of the moon landings in 2014.

Our trip was anchored around the Kennedy Space Centre, where the highlight of our visit was meeting the astronaut DonThomas [pictured above] for a private interview.

We also spent time getting to know the space story and trying our hand at being astronauts [pictured below].

Look out for the story in the Sunday Times Travel Magazine in February as part of a Florida Total Guide.

What’s your favourite space story for kids? Share your thoughts below. 

Gazetteer

Florida Space Coast 

Kennedy Space Centre

Sunday Times Travel Magazine

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Barbie takes the prize

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I always had high hopes for Barbie.

My story about the Barbie cruise, a trip around the Mediterranean in May this year with Royal Caribbean International [cabin pictured above], won one of the travel-writing awards at the British Guild of Travel Writers (BGTW) awards on Sunday night at London’s Savoy Hotel.

The Telegraph, where the story was published, covered the news with the story Two awards for Telegraph writers.

The BGTW subsequently put out a press release with news of all the winners on the night – Travmedia have it here as Travel Awards To BGTW Journalists Highlight Their Variety Of Topics.

Thanks for the messages of congratulations.

I was, of course, pleased but, more importantly, the Barbie girls were delighted.

We’re already planning our next trip – any suggestions?

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