A 'travel expert but parenting novice' stays at South Lodge
Self confessed 'travel expert but parenting novice' Gaby Le Breton tells us about her stay at one of our C&C Tots properties, the beautifully presented South Lodge, Twizell Estate in Northumberland.
C&C Tots is a portfolio of holiday homes which are specifically equipped with the essentials that babies or toddlers need. With a supply of Babease in the larder, you're all set for an easy-peasy family friendly holiday with Crabtree & Crabtree!
For the next week we are offering you the chance to win your own C&C Tots stay at South Lodge!
Click here to enter our competition by Wednesday 25th September - winner announced Thursday 26th September.
In Gaby's own words:
Aged 42, I'm learning what millions of people already know: that parenting is the steepest learning curve out there. From the moment I emerged from hospital clutching my precious little bundle, suddenly the largest responsibility in my world, my life changed.
Having enjoyed a nomadic childhood, I travelled for several years after university and chose a career in travel so can probably claim to be a seasoned traveller. For much of my 30s, I spent at least nine months of each year roaming the world. Happy to abandon Blighty at the drop of a hat, I could pack a bag in minutes, screeched into airports shortly before take-off and knew Gatwick security staff by name. With hindsight, doing battle with Mathilde's car seat for our first, nail-biting journey together was a warning of the changes to come.
I quickly learned that Mathilde came with Packing Logistics. I couldn't even go for a stroll without packing a great bag full of supplies (and when I did, I suffered the consequences). And yet, when she was five months old, my husband and I took Mathilde to Norway for two weeks. Always a meticulous packer and lover of kit, I relished this challenge – I bought the lightest available travel cot, which doubled as a tent; made complicated nappy cost versus baggage space calculations; begged laundry favours in advance from my husband's family to save on bringing clothes... The kit all worked, she was an angel and we decided travelling with babies was easy.
Mathilde's next trip abroad was a chalet holiday in the French Alps, aged nine months. More kit was researched and purchased: miniature snowsuits, tiny sunglasses, a buggy with snow tyres... She mastered crawling, loved sledging and was weaned by the chalet chef on filet mignon and ox cheek braised in red wine.
Her third trip, a bitterly cold winter trip to Norway in the midst of a teething episode was not such a success for us (or our fellow hotel guests...). Which brings me, at last, to Crabtree & Crabtree.
Each travel experience with Mathilde, both in the UK and abroad, taught my husband and me about her and our travel needs. We wanted experiences that would satisfy our travel lust yet not prove too stressful to coordinate; trips that would stimulate Mathilde yet not exhaust her; and – a new idea for me – time to do nothing. For, as much as travelling with a little one has taught me about mind-boggling logistics and leaving more time at airports than you ever think necessary, it has also taught me to abandon busy itineraries, take pleasure in tiny things and lose myself in the moment.
It's no coincidence that Crabtree & Crabtree works so well for families – the team have changed nappies on beaches; grappled with Trunkis and toddlers at airports; searched with little ones for the best trees to climb, shared treats from local ice cream parlours and camped under the stars with them. And, as we discovered upon arriving at the delightful South Lodge in Northumberland, one of the properties included in the new C&C Tots portfolio, they know precisely what to look for in a toddler-friendly house - not just the provision of stairgates and potties but a quiet setting away from busy roads, a solid fence and distinct lack of intriguing ponds in the garden.
The C&C Tots team know the sense of relief when you realise you don't have to fold up that pesky travel cot again, cram the high chair into the car or bulk buy pouches of pureed sweet potato. And they know the sense of joy when you arrive after a long journey to find a freshly made-up cot, delicious Babease pouches in the cupboard and milk in the fridge.
But here's the really clever thing: not only do they anticipate the myriad details you know you need to keep your little angel content, the C&C Tots team anticipate the things you didn't know you needed. The garden shed was filled with toys, including what transpired to be Mathilde's second favourite thing in the world - a fishing rod - while a list of fun local activities revealed her favourite thing in the world - playing pooh sticks. Showing us the hidden den she'd discovered between two of the bedrooms, complete with resident giant unicorn, had her giggling to herself for an entire afternoon. Tips on friendly local pubs sealed my husband's contentment while I soon had a recommended local cook able to deliver homemade meals on speed dial.
I tend to find parenting most fun when I don't have to think about logistics, when I can just lose myself in Mathilde's carefree world, where time doesn't have meaning, meals just appear and life is there to entertain you. It is, in its essence, what being on holiday is all about and yet, when travelling with a baby or toddler, it's all too often what gets lost in amongst the nap times, disappearing wet wipes and soggy breadsticks.
So, while a C&C Tots holiday is essentially about allowing experts to guide you to destinations your children will adore while handling all the nitty gritty details in order to free you up to relax and enjoy yourself, there's infinitely more to it than that. Somewhat ironically, it was our time in Northumberland rather than abroad that taught me to embrace travel in my new role as a parent; to rediscover the spontaneous, carefree traveller within me by removing the need to over-think logistics and travel “goals” and simply live in the moment with my little family.