A FRENCH ADVENTURE

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Kelly asked me a while back to contribute to her blog. We have similar attitudes to being outdoors, adventuring, and encouraging a love of nature with our kids. So I’m finally getting around to it…

I love maps, travel, natural landscapes and enjoying and protecting our environment. To me, as a teacher and geographer, understanding physical and human landscapes is much more enjoyable and effective by experiencing it first hand, than from a text book!

Both my husband, John, and I enjoy informing the kids about their environment and the historical context (John’s area of expertise!); from WW2 bunkers, to identifying the different types of Scottish Heather. How much of that the kids appreciate is debatable, but we hope our enthusiasm about this wonderful world will be imparted to them.

This has been such a fantastic summer for us as a family. The warm and sustained dry weather here in Northern Ireland has made the snowy winter a distant memory. From the beginning of May we have been out and about enjoying what NI has to offer – having had a few camping trips to the Mournes, National Trust properties, and the North Coast, we also went further afield in July and took the kids for their first European adventure.

Our idea of a holiday would never involve sitting by a pool side or beach, worrying about which cocktail to try next! Each time we go away we aim to have an adventure…..our favourite thing is a good old road trip!

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Now, we also have an 17-year old Landrover Defender in tow, she is a solid citizen, never letting us down and often getting us out of scrapes! Her boot copes well with all our camping gear, and as the top speed is only a little over 60-mph, with no air-conditioning except the front flaps and windows down, life is quite simple on our adventures.

We recently upgraded our accommodation from an Outwell Montana 6-person tent, to a 5m bell tent. The reason, well, the bell tent only has one main pole and I can put it up myself in about 10-15 mins, and less to take down. It is fantastic – and for our recent trip through France and Spain, it was fun addition to our camping set up. It even survived a flood….but that’s another story!

We like to encourage the kids to not only take an interest in their changing environments on our road trips, but to work as a team when camping – each taking a role and over the course of the holiday learning new skills. A few years ago it was an achievement if they could walk to the toilet block and brush their teeth without an adult, now they are on washing up duty , helping set up camp and trying out their French language skills when picking up the pain au chocolat for breakfast.

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They are starting to take an interest in maps and how to plan a journey. And me facing my fear and driving on the right, hopefully shows them that they can do and try scary things.

We always discover new things about each other during the course of our holidays while ultimately becoming closer and, I suppose, regrouping after a busy year at work and school.

It might sound like our summers are a bit crazy. I can assure you that mixed in with our adventurous activities we have plenty of time for rest. Rest is a really important part of our summer too. Time to get off the treadmill of life, refocus on personal goals and plans for our family for the coming year. In fact New Years resolutions in our family tend to run on the academic year! I try to make sure we have plenty of ‘free’ days where we just see what happens. Sometimes it’s an unplanned bike ride or a trip to the park, or maybe just doing a bit of baking. Low key events, but, to us, so meaningful.

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Even during the last few weeks of summer when we had nothing planned, the kids used the garden to the max. A couple of tarps, rope, some old blow up beds, old rugs and they set up an entire camp for themselves. Working together, cooperating, planning, replicating what we did back in July! It cost nothing and even with the rain back, they enjoyed seeing how water tight their tents were.

September is a month of mixed feelings for us with 2 out of our 3 children are starting new schools and before I know it, the sun will set at 5pm and we will be in the thick of Autumn. How we will reminisce about those super summer days when bedtimes were unimportant and we seemed to spend our days outside. But, having a bit of structure to the week is also welcome, as we dream about and plan our future family adventures

However you spend your family holidays or weekends, do try to carve out time when you can enjoy each other’s company, reconnect with each other, and have some new adventures!

Christine

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