April 2012

For our Easter Holiday this year, we thought it was about time we visited mainland Europe and were delighted to discover that a week at a Center Parcs site in Belgium cost less than a weekend at one of the UK sites (including travel costs). So, off to De Haan we went, via Eurotunnel in convoy with the Callingham family, and found ourselves in a beautiful lakeside villa right in the heart of the park.

We spent at least 2-3 hours in the pool every day and, in fact, made good use of all the on-site facilities including bowling and mini-golf.

We also took our bikes with us which meant we could explore the nearby resorts of De Haan and Wenduine - both accessed via a combination of forest and dune paths. The weather was never really perfect for the beach - but of course that didn't stop the kids having fun. This is De Haan beach...

... and this is Wenduine...
Perfect conditions for flying kites. We've still only got the sort of kite that has a single string which provides entertainment for roughly 30 seconds per child. After that, it should be a simple matter of winding it in and packing it away for the next time. Unfortunately, shortly after Chris started winding it up he managed to let go of it and watched it sail up into the dunes - in fact, all the way up to the look-out tower. With some help, Chris managed to retrieve the kite and spent the next hour attempting to disentangle it.

Well, it was either that or get involved in the sandcastle building project. Actually, that ended up turning into a speedboat building project with Alex, Katie and Cassandra getting a boat each (all with a bit of early assistance from Gavin). Matthew skipped this particular outing, his batteries needing some extra recharging as a result of all the fresh air and swimming he'd been doing.

Whilst we were in De Haan for a week, we only ventured further afield on one day and that was to the beautiful medieval city of Bruges. What was particularly nice about Bruges was the fact that it was relatively small and yet contained enough variety of things to keep the kids interested. In fact, they walked around all day without any fussing at all which is quite rare these days.
They quite liked the old buildings covered in flags, like City Hall...

 
... and the really tall ones (that's Cassandra with Karen on the balcony of the Belfry)...

There were also canals to enjoy...

 
... and even windmills built on specially raised mounds along the banks of the river.

And once you'd climbed to the top of the mound, you could carry on up some very steep steps right up to the main structure.

From the top, you could enjoy a great view over the whole city and play spot-the-bell-tower from all the churches and civic buildings we'd passed earlier in the day - and not a single office block in sight.

Megan was very complimentary about the height of the doorway in the old city gates and everyone spent the day smiling.

Actually, we did cheat slightly in order to keep all the kids happy - letting them have a go on the dodgem-style bumper bikes that actually rather spoiled the ambience in the main market square. Still, I guess you need to make compromises to ensure everyone enjoys their visit to the city.

Bumper Bikes in Bruges

Safely back from Belgium and straight on with finishing off a new fence and then terracing a bit more of the back garden to make a home for our new toy - a trampoline. As with our tent, we weren't going to do things by half and decided that if we were going to get a trampoline it needed to be one suitable for the grown-ups to enjoy too. Fortunately, we had everything finished just in time for Cassandra's birthday.
On the day, we were blessed with fine weather so her Disco-themed party involved more playing in the garden than disco dancing but no-one complained. Megan's handiwork on the cake was well-received and everyone enjoyed the party.

Cassandra Birthday Party

We've been too busy bouncing on the trampoline to take any photos but since this has been amongst the wettest Aprils on record in the UK, its sometimes been necessary to get properly dressed for bouncing in the wet...

A lucky break in the otherwise mercilessly wet weather allowed Matthew and his Beaver Scout group to enjoy a St Georges Day Parade in the grounds of the Garrison Church in Aldershot.

This wasn't just an event for Aldershot Scouts. Groups from all over the local area (the Blackwater Valley District) participated. The formation on the parade ground with a salute to the Mayor of Rushmoor was quite impressive.

Finally, another quick Lego Mindstorms creation. This time, a bit of Chris's handiwork - a Mystery Box. Matthew had spotted it under construction and was intrigued by what it was. When he finally got to try it, he was fascinated and managed to wear the batteries down quite quickly.

Mystery Box