Yesterday for a little Monday treat I took the kids on a walk to see the sunset as it looked absolutely stunning.

View from Culmore Point

View from Culmore Point

Luca loves looking at the water and every morning on our school run I put down the car windows as we drive past it, watching out for boats, birds, seagulls and to see how much water and wildlife we can spot. I think he might be a future David Attenborough!

We got a really lovely surprise when as we were looking over the old dry stone wall,  one swan popped it’s long, graceful neck over to have a look at us!

Mother swan having a cheeky peep

Mother swan having a cheeky peep

Followed by two more equally stunning swans.

Luca, Eve and I have been following the lives and progress of the swans ever since they were little baby cygnets. There used to be four but yesterday we only saw three. Wow they have grown a huge amount since the last time we saw them up close, which must have been last January/February.

Back then they were very small, following their mother closely, now they are big, magestic, magnificent birds resplendent in their beauty and oh so confident!

Three beautiful swans

Three beautiful swans

They weren’t very impressed that we hadn’t got any food to give them, judging by the sheer size of them and the fact they were not one bit afraid of us – in fact there were slightly intimidating in how overly friendly they were- they are obviously quite spoilt. How could they  not be, they are so beautiful.

Swans always remind me of the old Celtic legend of The Children of Lir, not least because the only daughter was called Fionnuala.

The whole setting yesterday would have been ideal as a film set!

On the rest of our walk back to the car we were joined by two very friendly cats, purring around our ankles and trying to make a break for the backseat of the car.

Looking at the view across Lough Foyle to the Lisahally docks is really nice – even the smoke coming out of the factory funnel adds to the ambience.

Lisahally Docks

Lisahally Docks

The view of the Foyle Bridge in the distance is beautiful against the stillness of the water, the clouds and the glorious array of colours coming from the setting sun in the sky.

Foyle bridge in the distance

Foyle bridge in the distance

I’m so grateful that we live in such an outstandingly beautiful area of natural beauty. I really don’t appreciate it enough.

 

 

Travelling to festival family shot

Travelling to festival car selfie

We camped out at a local festival, The Stendhal Festival of Art, for the second year in a row, something which has  became a firm favourite new family tradition. This time with five month old Max in tow.

When I say camping it wasn’t strictly camping, we were lucky enough to borrow my dad’s campervan which he cleverly converted from a community Ambulance- complete with everything you could possibly need, including space for us all to sleep, a cooker and a much coveted toilet!

After a morning of intense excitement in our house, we all ate a hearty brunch,  packed the car up to the roof  (we really did have so much stuff) and headed off. But not before getting our festival glam on complete with plaits and hair flowers.

besutiful Cora

Eve hair

After we set up camp  we grabbed a quick snack before queuing up to get our weekend family wrist passes. Along the way we watched in admiration at the groups of families around us working together putting up their tents.

setting up camp

I must admit I felt a pang of nostalgia, remembering the days my own family fought helped eachother pitch up the tents at our caravan and felt that I had missed out abit in not going for the fully fledged tent experience. But the luxury of having our own toilet and cooking facilities was beyond comparison, especially with a five month old baby.

Waiting in the queue we got a real sense of the different mix of people that attend festivals, from the young loved up couples, the groups of fun loving friends, the hip crew, the first timers, to all the different types and sizes of families. I was impressed to discover this festival includes the option of a family ticket for single parents and their kids too.

Putting on the wrist bands really got us excited and we went straight off to explore the festival site, getting bogged down in heaps of mud on the way much to the kids’ delight!

Eve jumping in muddy puddles

There is nothing quite like getting out into the fresh country air and this is a fab excuse like no other to do just that. Eve and Luca were in their element, jumping and literally rolling about in the mud! They had the time of their lives relishing in their new found freedom.

Festival Must Haves 

We learnt from being at Stendhal festival last year that wellies are an absolute must when roaming around the fields, listening to the many live music acts.

camp boots

This time we took a three wheeler double all terrain pram, which inevitably got completely covered in mud too. By the end of the weekend it even had clumps of hay clinging off it too!

Max and Luca in pram

I brought along my beloved Lillebaby buckle  carrier too as I knew little Max would want to get out and have a look around him, it enabled him to enjoy the festival experience much more too.

I was so glad I’d invested in a waterproof rainsuit for the kids as this was an absolute saviour for us. It meant Eve and Luca could splash and squelch about in the muddy puddles all they liked without us adults getting cross and without fear of ruining their clothes! I got Max one too so that when he was in the sling he wouldn’t get wet if it rained, he should still fit into it next year as I got it in a bigger size, so double bonus!

Eve and Luca in waterproof suits

We all had such fun from beginning to end! Meeting up with friends we enjoyed watching the kids play together. There was so much for of them to see and do, especially at the free arts and crafts events, catering for all ages of kids. From designing and making boats out of corks, making Pokemon bouncy balls using clay, to playing in a sensory centre using lots of different materials, playing with sand, climbing trees and most of all using their imaginations.

Luca doing arts and crafts

Max 1 playing

Luca playing sensory tent

Eve's boat

Eve’s boat

There were plenty of takeaway food vans on site to suit everyone’s tastes and we were never hungry with a wide choice of food from burgers, chips, pizzas crepes and ice cream plus soft and alcoholic drinks.

The breastfeeding caravan and sensory tent came in very handy for us as Max is at the stage where he gets too easily distracted and it was nice to sit down and chill for a while away from all the noise. The ladies were very welcoming, even giving me a cool drink and strawberries while I fed Max.

In the afternoons we let the kids have some downtime at the campervan, as we cooked some food and ate al fresco.

Eve eating outside campervan

Then we wrapped them up in caps, cosy blankets and ear defenders, before setting out to listen to the live bands. We brought glow sticks along and put them all over the pram and on the kids so they would be easily identifiable when darkness descended. I also bought mini torches so we could see our way back to the camper easily at nightime.

Max ear defenders

PORTS playing the main stage

PORTS playing the main stage

Eve and Wee Cora

Cabin Fever

However it wasn’t always plain sailing  – there were times when the camping situation was a bit difficult, like when Max woke up at 4am crying inconsolably and for five whole minutes I couldn’t get him to stop! The stress! Nobody complained about the noise, but I felt guilty and lots of pressure to try to get him to stop as soon as possible.

Keeping six people entertained while in a small confined space in general wasn’t always easy, but luckily the weather held up great so there weren’t many times that we all had to be inside the van together. Next time I will definitely buy a tent for beside the campervan so the kids can go into it to let off a bit of steam while I cook. It will give us some extra space to store essentials too.

We were plagued by wasps the first day of the festival. Wasps are my biggest nightmare as I am allergic to their sting and even the faintest hint of a buzz has me screaming and heading for cover. The lovely ladies from the free kids crafts tent gave me some very helpful hints on how to keep them at bay – vicks vaper rub being one – who knew? Needless to say I’ve now stocked up!

Happy Campers

There is no other experience quite like getting outdoors together as a family and making memories.

Sharing food and drinks together, listening to music, we made new friends too, talking to people we would never have met otherwise.  There was lots of laughter throughout the weekend and just the experience of getting away from home and spending quality time together is like no other.

first night

We can’t wait to do it all again next year!

 

Fionnuala xo