Travelling around Europe with kids

Is travelling around Europe with kids a good idea or a bad idea?

Last Summer we decided to do something a little different with our Summer holiday. I've travelled all over the world and love nothing more than grabbing a backpack and heading for the airport. But, since having kids our Summer holidays have consisted of 2 weeks in France, Spain or Italy. We'd get an apartment or hotel and stay in the same spot for a couple of weeks. This is all perfectly understandable of course, who wants to go backpacking with young kids - not me! But, last Summer we decided that as they were a little older (9 & 12) we'd like to take them on a bit of an adventure. Trains, planes and automobiles... Travelling around Europe with kids.

We planned a little jaunt around France and Italy - no hotels with swimming pools this time! It could have been a disaster, but it wasn't. It was the best family holiday we've ever had.

I posted a few pictures on Facebook as we were travelling and a few people commented that they'd like to go travelling around Europe with kids as well and were asking for tips. So, here's the low down.

Itinerary

Day 1: Flew into Nice from Bristol. Picked up a car and drove to Villefranche.

Day 2-5: Explored Villefranche town, visited Eze and Aqualand near Frejus.

Day 6: Train from Villefranche - Ventimiglia - Milan. Collected a car in Milan and drove to Menaggio on Lake Como.

Day 7-17: Explored Menaggio and surrounding towns - Bellagio and Varenna and had a day trip to a chocolate factory and Lugano in Switzerland.

Day 18-21: Drove back to Milan to drop off the car and caught the train to Venice.

Day 19-21: Explored Venice, visiting Murano and Lido de Venezia.

First stop France

It's a short flight from Bristol to Nice. Flights into Nice and out of Venice only cost £588 for all four of us with Easyjet. After lots of recommendations we'd booked an apartment in the medieval town of Villefranche, known for its natural harbour and picturesque views. We picked up a car at the airport (Goldcar). If you're a James Bond fan (I am!), you'll know about the hairpin bends on the coastal roads in the Cote d'Azur. The road followed the coast most of the way and was little hairy at times, especially as we arrived late at night.

We arrived in Villefranche just before midnight and had to find a car park near the water as we were staying in an apartment in the centre of town which is pedestrianised.

The first day was spent day exploring Villefranche. We walked around the Citadel St Elmo and the medieval town centre with it's cobbled streets and alleyways full of shops and then spent a happy afternoon at the beach. In the evening, we consulted Trip Advisor and found a lovely restaurant called Achill's overlooking the bay.

The following day, we drove up to the charming hilltop town of Eze. It was a stunning drive and we stopped a few times to take in the jaw dropping views of the Mediterranean. Eze is perched high up on a rocky outcrop and is a quintessential medieval town full of tiny winding cobbled lanes and surrounded by beautiful scenery. Parking is very limited in Eze, so we parked at the bottom of the hill and took the bus up to the town. The little town is choc full of shops, galleries and a gorgeous mountaintop garden known for its picturesque views of the ocean. We were given a free entry ticket to the gardens from the park and ride bus, which was handy.

The next day, we met up with friends at Aqualand, a waterpark just outside of Frejus. It was a day of pure fun on the slides, ending with dinner in Frejus before driving back to Villefranche.

Images of Villefranche and Eze

French Highlights

Villefranche, Eze and Aqualand.

Onwards to Italy!

Our last day in Villefranche was spent chilling out on the beach. The kids absolutely loved playing the sea, it was warm, clear and shallow (with the odd spot of rubbish!). In the morning we walked 10 mins from our apartment to the train station in Villefranche and caught the train to Ventimiglia. What a stunning journey it was. The train hugs the coast for most of the way and so you pass beach after beach. I was glued to the window! We changed trains at Ventimiglia and boarded our prebooked train to Milan. Milan train station is very impressive - it's huge - the largest in Europe.

All train journeys for the trip were prebooked online with Trainline and Loco2.

We collected our car at the station and drove to the ancient town of Menaggio on the western shores of Lake Como. We chose B Rent for car rental because they were based at the train station. We'd booked another apartment in Menaggio with Happy Holiday Homes. It was a lovely little 2 bed apartment with stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. We had a few massive thunderstorms during our stay and it was very exciting watching the lightning and sheets of rain pass over the mountain tops and town below us. The only downside with being half way up the hill was that it was a 5/10 minute drive down for us to get to Menaggio each day. It would have been lovely to have had an apartment within walking distance of the town but we knew we'd get a nicer place if we stayed a little further out, plus the views were better.

Pretty Menaggio is one of the most popular towns on the lake, with plenty of things to do and great ferry links to other towns. It's a beautiful little town, nestled on the shore of the lake with panoramic views everywhere you look. The kids adored the Lido di Menaggio - which had a large swimming pool and also access to a little beach on the lake with a large inflatable obstacle course. We visited the Lido nearly every day (entry costs were included in the rental price of our apartment) and the kids happily played in the lake or the pool whilst I got some reading done. There's also mini golf available next door to the Lido which is a fun way to spend an hour or so. If you want to get away from the crowds at the Lido, there are other beaches on the edge of the lake where you can spend a quiet few hours for free.

We stayed in Menaggio for 10 days, in hindsight, it was a little too long, I think a week would have been enough and we could have squeezed another stop in somewhere but we made the most of the time that we had there. There's lots of ferries to other towns in the area - across to the centre of the lake to the beautiful Bellagio or all the way over the other side to the attractive village of Varenna. There's plenty to explore in each town and lots of shops and cafes to visit too.

Images of Menaggio and Lake Como

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best things we did was to hire a boat for the afternoon. If possible it's advisable to book a boat in advance as all the boat hire places were really busy. We explored around the coast and visited some James Bond filming locations (ok, I was more excited than the kids!). The best bit was when we stopped in the middle of the lake for a swim. It was well worth the cost and something that the kids will remember for a long time. If you look closely below, you might see a rare picture of the photographer on holiday...

Boat trip on Lake Como

Lake Como Highlights

Awesome views, boat trip, swimming in the lake, the Lido in Menaggio.

A foray to Switzerland

The travel bug had bitten us and were keen to add another country to our list.  So we nipped over the border and spent the day in Switzerland.  We planned a trip to the Swiss city of Lugano, on the northern side of Lake Lugano and more importantly to the nearby Alprose Chocolate Factory. Yum!

Travelling around Europe with kids - Switzerland

Venice, here we come

After 10 days in Menaggio, we said goodbye to the beautiful Lake Como. We headed back to Milan to drop the car off and get the train to Venice! I've been to magical city of Venice a few times. I wasn't keen on forcing the kids to queue up in the heat and look around museums. Been there, done that. I wanted them to get the feel of the place, lay their eyes on it and soak up the beauty. So we mostly mooched.

We'd booked a lovely apartment next door to the Hilton Hotel. We spent a couple of days exploring around Venice, making sure we ticked off the 'must see' places like St Mark's Square, the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs. Not forgetting the glass blowing island of Murano.

Our apartment was right next door to the Hilton Moline Stucky Hotel and the Skyline Bar on the roof of the hotel had been recommended to us for great sunset views. One night, throwing caution to the wind we decided to blow our dinner budget on the most expensive drinks we've ever bought. It was worth it though. The views were fabulous (and we got free crisps and olives!). On our last day we decided to go the beach (Lido di Venezia) to chill out away from the crowds before flying home.

Venice Highlights

Skyline bar in the Hilton Hotel at sunset, watching glass blowing in Murano, Grand Canal, general mooching.

 

Travel & accommodation at a glance

Bristol to Nice: Flew with Easyjet.

Nice to Villefranche: Car hire from Nice airport with Goldcar to drive to Villefranche.

Villefranche to Eze: Drove and then used the park and ride.

Villefranche to Frejus: Drove.

Villefranche to Milan: Train from Villefranche  - Ventemiglia - Milan. (Trainline & Loco2)

Milan to Menaggio: Collected a car at Milan train station from B Rent.

Menaggio: Used the car daily to drive into town. Accomodation booked with Happy Holiday Homes.

Bellagio / Varenna:  Ferry from Menaggio

Lugano in Switzerland: Drove.

Menaggio to Milan: - Drove.

Milan to Venice: Train. (Trainline & Loco2). Accomodation booked with Youatmolino.

Venice: Used Vaporetto's to get around.

Venice to Bristol: Bus back to the airport. Flew home with Easyjet.

 

Any questions?

So that's it! If you have any questions or want advice about travelling around Europe with kids, drop me line. There's so many opportunities for travelling like this across Europe that we're already planning another trip for next year. We can't decide between driving through France and Spain or going back to Italy and nipping over to Croatia. If you've got any travel tips, let me know!

Travelling to the Cote d'Azur isn't just a great idea in the Summer months - check out this great blog post from Aberdeen Family Photographer - Iana Chtefan, on why visiting the area in February is a fabulous choice too!

Read other blog posts here.

Gem x

 

 

 


How to boost your child's self esteem

Boosting Self Esteem

Did you know that displaying images of your children at home can increase their self esteem and well-being?

“When a child sees a family portrait with them included in the photograph they say to themselves: ‘These people have me as part of what they are, that’s why I belong here. This is where I come from.”
Judy Weiser, Psychologist.

 

family on the beach

family walking the forest

Show how much you love them

In this digital age, with social media taking up a large part of our children's lives there's a tendency forget the importance of printing family photos. I have a teenage daughter and I can tell you that a 5 minute scroll through her Instagram feed does worry me. As a photographer, I want to use images in a positive way - to promote happiness and security, not insecurity.

When I take photos of her with her family and friends and put them on the walls, in a photo book or in our annual family calendar, images take on a magical quality. They become a prompt to all of us to remember the fantastic times we've had a family. The images of her walking with her brother, hugging him or laughing with him make us all feel wonderful. Family selfies whilst out on a walk let us remember the day we had (and how we all have to bend down so my son's head is not cut off). The family images give my kids a sense of belonging, a secure feeling of knowing that they are loved.

sibling photo shoot

sibling photo shoot

A family bond

We had our own family photo shoot a couple of years ago (and I have another one planned soon too!) and we have the images all over the house. We have a multi-aperture frame in hall, which I look at every day. I have pictures in my office and the kids have them in their bedrooms too, along with other pictures that make them feel good about themselves. My daughter has images from a surf photo shoot with her friends on her wall and my son has some from his gymnastics competitions and ballet classes.

ballet class

friends photo shoot

Building self esteem

As a photographer, exploring the psychology of displaying images is really interesting. I've been reading about it online and I've come across some interesting research.

Psychologist Dr David Krauss says, “My bias is very simple. I think family photographs should be on the wall. I am very conservative about self-esteem and I think placing a family photo someplace in the home where the child can see it every day without having to turn on a device or click around on a computer to find it really hits home for that child this sense of reassurance and comfort. They have a certainty about them and a protecting quality that nurtures a child. It let’s them know where they are in the pecking order and that they are loved and cared for.”

 

autumn family photo shoot

family photo shoot on beach

Get in the frame

I've been a family photographer for 13 years now and it's very common for parents to ask about a photo shoot for their kids but not be so keen to get in the images themselves. Anyone that has ever had a shoot with me will know that I actively encourage parents to get in the frame. There's always a million excuses - not having the right hair, clothes, make-up, wanting to lose a few pounds, but I try to explain that nothing is more important that existing in images with your children.

Dr Krauss also says, ”I think it's really important to show a family as a family unit. It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit. A photographer’s job is to make and create the image to look like a safe holding space for kids where they are safe and protected. Kids get it on a really simple level.”

The pure emotional connection with your kids becomes the only thing that you'll feel when looking back at the photos. Not your flyaway hair or double chin.

family photo shoottwin brothers

They will cherish the images when they are older

My kids are only 10 and 13, so not really old enough to look back on their childhood with nostalgia just yet, but they LOVE looking through old photo albums. A while back we had some friends over, friends that we met when we moved to Wales, through our local NCT group. I've been photographing my kids and their kids for the last 13 years and it was so lovely to look through all the memories together. Trips to the beach, potty training, BBQ's, days out, sleepovers - they are all documented and looking at the images increases our sense of belonging and well-being.

“Displaying photos prominently in the home sends the message that our family and those in it are important to one another, and we honor the memories we have experienced,“ says Cathy Lander-Goldberg a licensed clinical social worker and a professional photographer and director of Photo Explorations.

display of framed images

Print your photos

We all have images on our phones, in fact, my son always asks to look at my phone so he can scroll through images of past holidays, but having the images printed and displayed has a much bigger impact.

Dr. Krauss believes that images should be displayed around the home. "What it says to a child is, 'I'm important in this family,'"

I understand that in this day and age people like having digital copies of images. That is why I include digital images in all of my packages. But, I also encourage families to print and frame images from their family photo sessions. It could be a large photo wall, or a multi-aperture frame or a few smaller prints displayed around the house on window sills. The important thing is that you and your children see them every day. It will promote a feeling of togetherness and a family bond full of memories.

display of family imagesfamily photo shoot

Get snapping and printing!

So, go off and increase the feel good factor in your families. Make your kids feel secure and loved. Display the images of your family that you have, instead of leaving them on your phone.

If you want to update your family photos - you can always book a family photo session with me!

Find out more about family shoots and have a look at my family portfolio.

Gem x


Beach Shoot in South Wales

A mini beach shoot in South Wales to blow away the cobwebs.

My girl and I got struck down with a horrible virus on Boxing Day and spent 2 weeks on the sofa sniffing and coughing. Each day we'd say to each other 'we'll be better tomorrow' and each day we woke up feeling rough. On the Sunday before school started in January, we decided that it was time we left the house and got some fresh air. I grabbed my camera and we headed down to our favourite place - the beach.

The beach looks great all year round. I love the pale tones of the sea and sky in contrast with the dark rocks and sand. The whole scene looked like Winter but was soothing and calming to look at. The rock pools at the beach provided a gorgeous reflective surface.

I discovered that my welly boot had a hole in it after standing in the water but I suffered with one wet sock so I could capture these images. What a brave solider I am!

If you're interested in booking a mini beach shoot in South Wales, please get in touch to find out more. 

There's also loads of beach shoots to view on my blog. Or, you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

In the meantime, enjoy having a look at these images of my girl. Gem x

 

Beach shoot South Wales
Girl on the beach south wales
little wave on the beach
Girl on the beach south wales
Girl on the beach south wales
water
Girl on the beach south wales
winter surfer walking into the water
Girl on the beach south wales
wave on the beach
Girl on the beach south wales
Girl on the beach south wales

South Wales Family Photo Shoot

My last blog post of 2018 and what a way to finish up a fantastic year! My aim at the start of the year was to do more beach shoots as I'm in love with the South Wales coast and I think it's safe to say I achieved my goal.

I absolutely love the images from this South Wales family photo shoot with the super talented lady behind Skratch Ceramics and her family. Check out her amazing work on Instagram! This shoot was wonderful - full of life and cheeky smiles, plus we had the most amazing pink sunset at the end of the session which lit up the beach in a peachy haze. We started off with a stroll around the gardens and then we headed down to the beach for a run around. 

If you have a family photo shoot on your list of new year's resolutions, then it's not too late to buy a gift voucher for a family photo session. Pop over to my gift voucher page to find out more or send me a message for more info.

There are lots of great locations for your South Wales family photo shoot - check out my blog post about location photo shoots and also find out the best time of year for your photo session.

If you have questions - maybe my FAQ's page can help! 

 

South Wales family beach photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
Sibling photo shoot
Sibling photo shoot
Portrait of girl
South Wales family shoot.
Portrait of boy
South Wales family beach shoot.
South Wales family beach shoot.
Portrait of a girl.
South Wales family shoot.
South Wales family beach shoot.
Portrait of a girl.
South Wales family beach shoot.
South Wales family beach shoot.
South Wales family beach shoot.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Girl on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Siblings on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Girl on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Siblings on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Siblings on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Boy on the beach.
Girl on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Siblings on the beach.
Siblings on the beach.
Portrait of a girl on the beach.
Portrait of a girl on the beach.
Portrait of a boy on the beach.

Autumn Photo Shoot South Wales

As a family photographer, you might think that I'm taking photos of my own family all the time, but that's not necessarily true. Yes, I've got loads of rubbish phone photos (my phone is awful!) but it takes a bit of effort for me to get my kids scrubbed up and ready for a shoot. I like to take them out at least once a year and capture them together with my 'proper camera'. This year it was the turn of the Autumn photo shoot...

So, I nipped out to the shops to get some new clothes for them - taking my own advice and buying a chunky mustard knit for my daughter. I knew I had a few family shoots coming up in the same location in the Autumn, so I used my kids and their friends as guinea pigs to test out the location. Turns out it was a winner!

There's so many great locations in South Wales. Depending on the time of year, you can find me shooting in a forest or on the beach. If you want to find out more about locations that I use for my family shoots, then check out my locations blog post.

I was very pleased to get my son to wear a pair of jeans for this shoot (small victories) as he normally prefers shorts or tracksuit bottoms and sliders. I've already printed a calendar for Grandma and a set of prints Nain and Taid from this shoot, as well as printing a set to frame for myself at home. Perks of the job! Gem x 

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