We have discovered the exclusive world of the private French beach, and we will never be the same again.  Comfy lounge chairs and umbrellas, white sparkling sand, blue Mediterranean water and a smooth French waiter who follows every sentence with “it’s no bother.” Tall cold drinks decorated with fruit, plates of cheese, tuna tartare, salad niçoise, and some warm baguettes all served in wicker baskets.  Gentle lapping waves with yachts bigger than my house in the background. Ah, heaven! Here are a few of the family-friendly beaches on the Côte d’Azur: Cannes Cannes has one of the most famous (and expensive) beaches, but it lives up to the hype for beauty.  You have to park in a city parking lot a few blocks off the beach and then walk to the water and choose which restaurant/beach you want.  If you eat at a restaurant, you get to use their beach for the day. Vegaluna This private beach is centrally…Continue Reading
Uber Paris
The trip to Nice was easy but finding our villa was the challenge.  We landed in Nice at 9 pm and began our long journey to our villa.  The first challenge was to pick up the rental car.  Not an easy task in Nice.  First you have to find the rental car agencies.  Rich can read French but the signs were less than helpful.  The information desk was empty, not an airport employee in site.  We finally figured out that we need to change terminals, which is done via bus.  So we waited for an eternity and boarded our bus.  Next stop: Terminal One, but no rental cars.  After a few minutes, Rich was able to find a sign leading us on a path through two parking garages, over a bridge, down a dark path to the car rental building.  We grabbed our car, remembered how to drive on the…Continue Reading
Puxley Mansion, Castletownbere, Ireland
Our drive from County Clare to the Beara Peninsula was amazing!  The landscape is absolutely gorgeous. The highlight was driving through the Ring of Kerry.  Around every corner we discovered waterfalls, vistas, sheep and fog.  We stopped at Ladies’ View (it was named after Queen Victoria’s Ladies in Waiting who were there in 1861) to take in the view and have an ice cream.  I was thrilled to discover that they had Bailey’s and Coffee to go — I love Ireland! Then we drove off into a thick fog band to discover County Cork.  Our rental house is on a working farm on the Beara Peninsula.  The woman who owns the house recently remodeled it.  It was a farmhouse from the 1800s that belonged to a relative.  It is new and beautiful but still maintains its original 3 foot thick walls.  Our neighbors are cows that love table scraps so the…Continue Reading
Stonecutters Kitchen, Luogh North, Doolin, Ireland
We said goodbye to Scotland and caught a flight to Shannon, Ireland (Glasgow to Shannon on FlyBE…. highly recommended!).  Shannon Airport was immaculate and friendly.  One of our youngest left his iPod on the plane, and when we called the main line to check on it, they already had it and were holding it for us.  An airport worker walked it out to us in the terminal and gave our son a smile and a happy “you be more careful now, lad!” Our first glimpse of Ireland was an amazing rainbow when leaving the airport.  Perfect Irish welcome!  The twins wanted to search for the gold at the end of the rainbow, but dad was exhausted and wanted to find our home for the week.  We had rented a house at the last-minute so the owner, Seamus, gave us an amazing deal.  We were thrilled to drive up and find such…Continue Reading
Who would dare go to Scotland without engaging in the hunt for Nessie?  First we visited Urquhart Castle which was built on Loch Ness in the early 13th century.  Most know the castle for its role in the Scottish wars for Independence but to my boys it was the site of Scooby Doo and the Loch Ness Monster – a classic!  The castle is mostly in ruins but the site is beautiful and the weather was amazing.   They have a tea room for a slice of cake on your way out and a nice gift shop. I wish that we could have stayed and enjoyed it longer but we had to get to Nessieland before it closed.  What can be said about Nessieland?  Part gift shop, part movie, part large latex monster statues, throw in some movie posters, grainy photographs and snakes dangling from the ceiling, and you have Nessieland! …Continue Reading
Isle of Skye, Scottland
The Isle of Skye is remote and breathtaking.  Did I mention remote?  Rich said that it felt like we were driving to the ends of the earth.  The road from Killin to Skye is by far the most beautiful drive that I have ever taken, running through Glencoe and Fort William.  Long stretches with no towns, no power lines, no trees, just enormous mountains, covered in emerald-green grass, with waterfalls around every turn. The beauty continued after taking the bridge over to Skye, but now the hills were covered with sheep grazing.  The house we rented was near the top of the Isle in an area called Waternish, and only had a handful of small towns on the way.  The last 15 minutes were on a curvy, lightly paved one lane road through sheep farms. You never knew as you rounded each corner if you would come face to face with…Continue Reading
We are off to Scotland! The weather has been lovely and we are hoping that it will hold out a little longer. On our way to the Highlands we stopped at Carlisle Castle and Hadrian’s Wall. Carlisle is a 900 year old castle on the border of England and Scotland. Some of the castle was actually built with stones from Hadrian’s wall. We drove up through Scotland to Killin, a village situated at the western head of Loch Tay in Stirlingshire, Scotland.  The west end of the village is built around the Falls of Dochart. It’s a beautiful place with a bridge connecting the Main Street over the falls. The boys loved hopping over the rocks. Behind our little rental house is a gorgeous path which leads over the river to a pasture full of sheep, horses and a stone circle. Rich and I can’t get enough of these Neolithic…Continue Reading
For the past 3 days we have stayed in the most wonderful place that we, as a family, have ever stayed.  It’s called Augill Castle and it is truly a special place. Augill Castle is in the Lake District of Cumbria near a small town called Kirkby Stephen.  Fifteen years ago, the current innkeepers purchased this country home, built in 1841 and restored it from disrepair to an amazing inn.  It’s everything an English Country Inn should be: it has cozy beds, and sherry in your room, and a drawing room, and high tea, and croquet on the lawn, and an honor bar where you can make your own drinks anytime. Our favorite part is that they completely cater to children!  They have tennis courts, a playground and fort.  They have boxes of toys, costumes and games.  A screening room with a projection TV, a great choice of movies and popcorn. …Continue Reading
Closeup of Whitby Abbey Facade
On an overcast but warm Saturday in September we drove across the Moors from York to see Whitby Abbey, perched over the coastal town of Whitby. It’s a popular weekend town in Yorkshire and families came from all around to enjoy the fresh air and the seafood.  We dined on fish and chips at a small diner and then strolled down to the pier. The kids were thrilled to see a fun house and a roller coaster for kids.  We rode on some rides, played some carnival games, and then hiked up the hill to Whitby Abbey for a breathtaking view of ocean and city. The first monastery was founded here in AD 657.  The future of the English church was decided here in 664, when the site was the venue for the Synod of Whitby, when King Oswiu convened a meeting to work out Celtic and Roman differences of religion.  Observance of Easter and…Continue Reading
The owner of a home we rented in York suggested that we take a day trip to an “amazing place”. It was a two-hour drive on beautiful but narrow farm roads and we got a little lost several times but it was so worth it!  It’s hard to describe The Forbidden Corner.  It’s really unlike anywhere we’ve been. The brochure says A labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises created in a four-acre garden.  But it’s much more fun than that.  We got soaked, disoriented, lost, freaked out and laughed the entire time.  We ran through mazes, tunnels, and haunted chambers.  We entered a giant mouth, marveled at giant tree figures and got stuck in a gate.  We climbed up towers, down into dungeons and squeezed into caves.  It was a blast. We even had tea!  We saw giant rats eaten by an enormous cat, Roman guards, gravestones, ghosts, Pan,…Continue Reading