This year my ‘little’ brother turned 40, not so little any more huh! One of his big passions is snowboarding so it wasn’t a great surprise that his choice for a family birthday holiday was a week skiing in Cortina, Italy. Being the only one of my family who hasn’t skied before and having two small children I was suitably apprehensive about the idea! However, having been reassured that it would be fine and plenty before me had survived such feats I threw myself into it with a suitable amount of gusto! 13 of us embarked on this journey from the youngest (my 3 year old) to the eldest (my mum's 80 year old partner). In typical Lumley family crazy holiday style it was a proper case of planes, trains and automobiles. With some of us arriving by campervan, some by plane and my mum took the scenic route and arrived by train! We had booked a large chalet about 10 minutes drive from the nearest slopes, which comfortably fitted us all in and had a large veranda with an amazing view of the mountains. It was the end of the season so we unsure of what to expect in term of snow and how busy the resorts would be. Luckily for us it was pretty quiet although the down side was that only about half of the slopes were open, generally the higher ones where there was still plenty of snow. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was how much ‘stuff’ was required for our family of four and how heavy it all was. With the kids unable to carry much of their own stuff, it was a full body workout just getting to mountain top! I also wasn't prepared for the cable car, I don’t like small spaces, especially not small spaces that seem to be magically suspended from a piece of knicker elastic that stretches almost vertically up a steep mountain side! Luckily, because it wasn’t too busy, I was able to hyperventilate quietly by myself in the corner without a big audience other than my family who are used to my funny turns!! Anyway I digress, the feeling you get when you're on the top of the mountain is quite out of this world. You literally do feel like you're on another planet, the white brightness of the snow and the amazing view and the muffled sounds, there’s something to appeal to every aspect of your senses!
I watched my nephews 7, 11 and 13, zoom up and down the hill and wondered (naively) how hard could this possibly be - well pretty damn hard, let me tell you!! The first day was a cacophony of bumps and bruises, not helped by having a 3 and 5 year old intent on hanging off me while the husband went off to practice his snowboarding. The second day was only a little bit better, but by the third day and with lots of help from my much more competent family I was slowly getting the hang of it. I was definitely spending more time on my skis than on my bottom! By day 4 I was doing parallel turns and was coming down like a pro (kind of!) my 5 year old who had two lessons was also coming down like a pro (she was in fact much better than I was!) although she had age and a lower centre of gravity on her side! My 3 year old on the other hand was insistent that he didn't need a lesson, because he already knew how to do it apparently (must have been Eddie the eagle in a previous life!) he struggled to stay upright but was much more interested in building snowmen and throwing snowballs away. The last couple of days were a lot easier and much less painful! With my youngest being occupied by grandma, I really got into the swing of it and managed to navigate the lifts and the slopes with ease. My daughter and nephews zoomed up and down like a bunch of experts seriously outdoing most of the adults! We were all sad to be leaving the snow and the slopes but excited to be travelling on to stay with our old Italian au pair in Padua. We waved off daddy who was returning to London to work and my sister and I and the 5 children bundled ourselves into the campervan for the next leg of the trip and travelled in convoy with the rest of the family to Padua.
The drive to Padua was only 3 hours but we arrived to hot sun and blue skies, a stark contrast to the snow. It was lovely to see Nadia and her family and we spent 4 days relaxing in the sun, eating lovely food and catching up with our Italian family. We also managed to fit in wine tasting, stilt walking, tractor driving and castle visiting and hang out with Raja the family dog who had mutual love and respect for the children. One of the other highlights for the children was Teolo high ropes centre which provided hours of climbing abseiling and zip wire fun for the 3 year old right up to the 13 year old!
After recharging our batteries having a great few days in Padua we waved off the rest of the Lumleys and our lovely Italian hosts and moved on towards Alassio a pretty coastal town on the Italian Riviera. We set up camp in a small campsite right on the seafront in Albenga, another small seaside town just 10 minutes away and used it as a base to explore the nearby area and chill out on the beach enjoying a daily dose of fresh local gelato. Highlights here were the very reasonably priced cafes and pizza restaurants and Pelle the amazing football playing dog!!
We then headed north through France to Ardeche, named after the river Ardeche and lying in the South Central region of France. Small windy roads take you up and down mountains allowing glimpses of the rugged breathtaking scenery until you reach one of the many viewing points and get a full view of the river and the craggy rocks. There’s plenty to do and see, some of our favourites were Kayaking down the Pont D’Arc, the museum and Madeline Cave. We stayed at a lovely, and at this time of year, very quiet, campsite a few minutes from the river. There aren’t many shops or restaurants nearby it's a pretty rural area, although this is part of the charm. The river edges have little stoney beaches, perfect to sit and take in your surroundings. The water is lovely and shallow and although cold its sparkling and clear and provided many hours of entertainment, paddling, stone skimming and watching the kayaks. Ardeche is definitely somewhere we were all keen to return to, its certainly somewhere we will be back to spend a week in the summer.
The next stint North took us to Barbery-Saint Sulpice in the Champagne region. It was definitely the chilliest part of the trip so we booked a last minute cheap and cheerful ranch, Western City Troyes, for some cowboy fun - think archery, cosy wooden houses and camping wagons! To the children’s delight daddy came to meet us here and drove us back the last 4 hours to Le Touquet where we spent our final day in a great water park (Aqualud) and having dinner watching the sun go down over the sea. It was one of the most diverse and crazy holiday’s I’ve ever had and most definitely one of my favourites!