Digital Dad: Time to rethink your family holiday

For the second year in a row, we decided to pack up the kids and head abroad for Christmas. Sacrilege some might say, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

On both occasions we’ve headed to the Canary Islands mainly because you are guaranteed the sun, the flight isn’t overly long (circa 4 hrs), the resorts are very family friendly and Santa can travel anywhere, so why not head off? Granted, holidaying over Christmas can be expensive but if you plan it right and book it early enough you can get some fantastic deals.

December 2015 was our first family Christmas holiday abroad and although we as parents were run ragged, we still had great fun. Thing 1was four at that stage and Thing 2, our ‘livewire’, was two.

The latter kept us very busy mainly due to his mix of independence, fearlessness, craziness and humour, all of which make him a lovable rogue. One year on however and with the addition of our third child – Thing 3 – we decided to do it all over again.

THREE kids? Are ye mad or what? Honestly, it was one of the most stress-free, chilled out and enjoyable holidays we’ve been on in a long time.

Christmas in the Sun

Anytime we mention that we were away for Christmas we’re invariably asked, in typical Irish fashion, what did we do for our turkey and ham (?!) and did we not miss seeing our family over Christmas. Well for any concerned folks out there let me allay your fears; believe it or not, turkey and ham are available outside of Ireland.

So too is goose, roast beef, steak, shrimp, scallops, lobster, crab, chicken and more, all of which were available to us on Christmas day. In fact, the food in the resort for the entire holiday was excellent.

We booked an all inclusive package – breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus drinks and snacks all day long. Regarding our families, yes, of course, it’s lovely to see them on Christmas day but we live near them, we see them on an almost fortnightly basis and we tend to hook up for a home cooked pre-Christmas (and post-Christmas) meal anyway. So if you think about it, how much are you really missing out on?

Also on Christmas Day I don’t necessarily want to be dragging the kids and their associated toys from one house to another while the designated driver – usually me – grunts in the corner about getting home so that we can crack open the Quality Street. And before you wonder, yes Santa does visit the kids abroad. He pre-plans…

It’s all very simple or more simple than you might think. To add to this, most resorts usually have an onsite Santa who visits on Christmas day and gives presents to the kids too.

Granted, holidaying over Christmas can be expensive but if you plan it right and book it early enough you can get some fantastic deals.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Christmas at home but like most parents I’m sure, the countdown to Christmas starts for us pretty much as soon as Halloween finishes. The kids immediately turn their attention to Santa, toys, pantomimes, Christmas trees, decorations et al, so by the time we hit mid-December we’re ready to escape the madness. We also find that the days between Christmas and News Years tend to drag – nobody is around, the weather can be bad and the kids can drive us bonkers! Give us a beach, a pool, some sun and a glass of something nice any day.

Beach Cocktail time - virgin or an alternative

So how was it that a holiday with three small kids this time around was easier than a holiday with just two small kids the previous year? It’s quite simple really; the two older boys are now at a much better age where they can entertain each other without the need for Mum or Dad to don a clown suit and run around after them. It helped too that our newborn (Thing 3) is still immobile – a gurgling burrito you could say – so there really wasn’t much work in looking after him bar the usual duties of feeding, burping, changing and sleeping….pretty much what I did myself for the two weeks!

All of this plus the added benefit of a brilliant kids club (and evening entertainment) helped to oil our well-run parenting machine. The kids slept like angels too. Granted they stayed up until after midnight most nights but this was only on the basis that they napped – post swim – every day. Dually obliging, this napping lasted for three glorious hours every day. I’ve never enjoyed a glass of daddys lemonade silence quite like it in all of my life.

Give us a beach, a pool, some sun and a glass of something nice any day.

We honestly experienced no issues whatsoever – apart from Thing 2pulling down his pants in the restaurant one night and running around shouting ‘look at my hotdog’ – it was über relaxing, zero stress, great fun and without fail we were out every night. The kids had an absolute ball too.

If finances allow, we’ll most definitely be doing it again this year and although Thing 3 will be more mobile by then, Things 1 and 2 will be at an age where they can help us out a lot more.

So if you are thinking about it this year, don’t fret about the turkey and ham, don’t fret about your family – you can always invite them along – and try something different.

Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to know more.

DD

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Digital Dad: We put our Faith-legg in Waterford

I adore my kids I really do, but like a lot of parents (I hope) I enjoy being away from them too. Everyone needs a break and when it comes to children, too much of a small thing can drive you potty.

So to ‘de-pottify’ ourselves, myself and Mrs. DD decided to head south for two days while our amazing child-minder took over the reins at home. With school drop-offs/pick-up sorted and the cupboards stocked, we left knowing that the kids would be well looked after.

We like to travel around Ireland as much as we can, particularly during the summer when we usually spend a couple of weeks in Kerry. For a weekend away, however, I prefer trips that don’t involve half the weekend getting there so for this reason we chose Waterford.

At just over two hours from Dublin, or a total of three hourly news bulletins (the milestones by which I track a journey), Waterford ticked all the boxes and with the added bonus of the Deise Greenway to explore, we headed off like excited school children.

Faithlegg House Hotel & Golf Resort
Faithlegg House Hotel & Golf Resort

First Impressions
Our digs for the two nights was Faithlegg House Hotel, a beautifully restored 18th mansion on the banks of the River Suir which houses a four-star hotel situated in a stunning woodland location.

It’s also home to an 18 hole golf course which offers a wonderful sweeping vista as you make your way down the long and winding driveway to the house.

Faithlegg advertises itself as ‘a charming destination for a leisure break, wedding, meeting or conference’ and on first impressions, it certainly didn’t disappoint.

We parked up, turned off the third news bulletin and headed for the reception where a warm fire and warm, helpful staff greeted us. ‘Kids? What kids!’, I thought as I checked-out while being checked-in.

We headed to our room – a classic double but with a super king bed, large TV, tea/coffee facilities, robes and a decent sized bathroom – unpacked and left to explore our surroundings for fear of taking a sneaky power nap and waking up eight hours later.

Classic Double Room
Classic Double Room

The Lounge
Sorry, I lie; we made a quick cup of tea first and enjoyed the macaroons and truffle chocolates that were waiting for us on our arrival. Now If you know me, you’ll know I love treats so needless to say I was a happy camper after my ‘heroic’ two-hour drive.

Deciding not to exert ourselves and with pre-booked dinner only a couple of hours away, we decided to head to the lounge for some ‘no kids hanging out of us’ refreshments and chats. And if there was ever a lounge to lounge in, then the Aylward Lounge was it;

It’s a large beautifully decorated room with a grand piano, numerous comfy couches, armchairs, tables and chairs, all perfect for relaxing and ‘wine-ding’ down. The stout wasn’t half bad either.

The Aylward Lounge
The Aylward Lounge 

Dinner
Our dinner that night was in the Roseville Room Restaurant and the starters were some of the nicest we’ve had. Mrs. DD had Ardsallagh Goats Cheese Parfait with Pinenuts, Saffron, Pickled Pear, Brioche Crouton (it was as nice as it sounds) while I opted for Pan Seared Scallops with Twice Cooked Pork Belly, Black Pudding Dust, Green Apple Puree. Double yum all-round.

For mains Mrs. DD went for the ‘Chargrilled Fillet of Irish Black Angus Beef with Potato Fondant, Braised Beef Croquette [these were great], Baby Spinach and Bone Marrow Jus’, whereas I stuck with fish and had ‘Pan Fried Fillet of Monkfish wrapped in Serrano Ham, served with Roasted Cauliflower and a Smoked Paprika and Chilli Cream’. Again both were delicious.

Like ourselves, dessert was fruity and cheesy (you can decide who’s who) as we decided to share a Green Apple and Blackcurrant Parfait and an Irish farmhouse cheeseboard accompanied by tea and coffee.

It was the perfect finish to a fabulous meal and a special mention must go to Gielsa for making us feel so welcome.

After dinner, we headed back to the lounge for a nightcap and although the atmosphere was somewhat subdued – no music and non-lit fire – we were happy to retire to our sanctuary upstairs as breakfast and the Waterford Greenway awaited us the next day.

The Dining Room

Breakfast consisted of both hot and cold options, all very adequate, and with a table situated beside a large bay window overlooking the grounds, it was the perfect start for the day’s activities that lay ahead (more on that next week).

We spent the rest of the day cycling the 46km stretch of the Waterford Greenway, nursing our sore saddle bums and enjoying some of the great bars and restaurants that Waterford City has to offer.

It was a great day but we were happy to return to Faithlegg that evening where we nestled right back into the comfort of the Aylward Lounge to enjoy some live music and a few evening tipples. Bliss.

The verdict…
We had the pleasure of being invited to Faithlegg House Hotel on a complimentary bed, breakfast and evening meal basis and we really had a wonderful time.

The setting is lovely, the staff are very friendly and helpful, the food is fantastic and the service can’t be faulted. The house is in a glorious setting and being only a 20-minute drive by car from Waterford city centre makes it a great base for exploring all that Waterford has to offer….and it has a lot.

It was the perfect escape for these tired parents so I can’t recommend it highly enough.

So will we be back? Eh, yes definitely…just let me mention it to our child-minder first.

The damage…
We were guests of the hotel – the cost of our two night’s bed and breakfast with a dinner in the award-winning Roseville Rooms Restaurant on one of the evenings is €199 per person sharing.

Afternoon tea and spa treatments are also available as additional extras. A discount on green fees is available for guests.

The details…
Faithlegg House Hotel & Golf Resort, Faithlegg, Co Waterford.  |  www.faithlegg.com  | t: +353 (0)51 382000

Other options in the area…
Other hotel and spa options that we looked at around Waterford include:

  • Fitzwilton Hotel
  • Waterford Castle
  • Dunbrody House Hotel
  • Granville Hotel

Wherever you choose, I hope you have a great time and If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.

DD


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My Camp Friends

Bags packed and off we went….
So apart from last week’s Lego River incident, I deemed the backyard camping experience a success so I decided to bite the bullet and expose Thing 1 & Thing 2 to the harsh realities of ‘proper’ outdoor camping – a campsite with running water, toilets, showers, electricity, an onsite restaurant, a shop, a playground and a football pitch….I wasn’t sure how we’d survive.
The promise of camping was with the proviso that it wouldn’t be raining on Saturday and that the boys would be good all week – a useful ‘threat’ that I used all week to get them to bed on time.

Needless to say on Friday night their excitement was palpable and some 45 minutes after putting the boys down I heard what sounded like two Chipmunks giggling upstairs. I walked into their room half expecting to see flying underpants or fists but found them sitting like two bold altar boys, wishing and praying for dry weather, holding their respective soft toys, Bunny and Neem. The latter a toy sheep bought in Sneem last summer after ‘Chubby Bunny’ had escaped the buggy, only to be found later that day being dry-humped by a local dog on the Sneem to Catherdaniel road. Thing 2 hasn’t looked at dogs quite the same way since.

I almost melted. I knew we’d be going but I also knew that I’d be up at ‘Santa O’Clock’ in the morning at this rate.

We set off, packed to the rafters like the Beverly Hillbillies – tent (too small), duvets (bad choice), sweets, marshmallows, sweets, marshmallows, sweets, marshm… – headed for Wexford. The journey would only last one and a half hours but the steady mix of infant songs (Five little speckled frogs sat on a speckled log….Miss Molly had a doily that was sick, sick, sick) interrupted by the steady flow of ‘Are-we-there-yets?’  had me nearly breaking the speed limit.

I had begged invited some of my friends to come along with us and much to my surprise 6 of the ’lads’ accompanied by their eldest kids (13 in total) duly obliged. It was turning into a mini EP-n (Every Parent’s Nightmare)!

We arrived at Curracloe Campsite (excellent choice and well well worth the visit folks) and set up camp. The weather was fantastic (no risk of snow) and all of the kids had a great time interacting and playing together. I had brought a fire pit with us and after the sun had set, the marshmallows came out and we toasted and toasted and toasted to our heart’s content. The kids were in heaven but getting them down proved to be hell.

The trip wasn’t all about the kids however. As most parents will know, it’s often difficult to maintain an active social life what with the stresses and strains that come with raising kids, not to mention everyday life. In our house, we try to live by the ideology that the kids will adapt to our lifestyle and not the other way around (within reason of course) and so as parents we make a concerted effort to meet up with friends and go out as often as we can.

This trip was just that, 7 lads getting away to spend time with their kids while enjoying the banter with each other. It was great and something that we said we would do again next year with our respective partners and the other kids that were just a bit too young this time around.

Since I became a parent 5 years ago, time just seems to be zipping by so I’m more conscious than ever to enjoy every minute both with my family and my friends (I can almost hear your collective vomiting aww’s from here)

It wasn’t all plain sailing unfortunately. I made one epic mistake over the weekend. I came home to my eternally shattered wife – who is breastfeeding Thing 3 – only to ask her ‘how her weekend off was’. This did not go down well. I tried to blame my stupidity on marshmallow intoxication and smoke inhalation but while I stood there digging a large hole with a large shovel the first nappy hit my face….

DD

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