Magical Epping Forest. The smalls were on another planet of joy just exploring, running through the undergrowth, picking blackberries and discovering dens. Pablo threw himself into tree climbing and scaling, and Indy pottered across logs and tottered down hills grinning. So amazing what a bit of freedom in the wild can do, even the not-so-wilds of Essex...so lucky to have this on our doorstep.
We went on holiday! It was the beginning of a very long enforced holiday from updating this blog, too, but I'm finally getting round to posting about it. I booked it on a whim, being desperate for a getaway and having the vague excuse of Konch's birthday being nearby-ish. A friend who'd been before couldn't stop singing its praises and it was so temptingly affordable that I couldn't resist. After the initial excitement of booking had passed, I began to panic a bit. What had I done? As the dark days of January and February kept us locked inside and longing for long afternoons on hot beaches, I suddenly realised, to my horror, that this was the first time I had ever booked us (or even just myself) a holiday somewhere cold. Very cold. With snow. WHY WOULD I DO THAT? The looks of confusion I was met with when I mentioned we were off on a springtime family jaunt to snowy Poland were also a bit off-putting. But once we got there all faith was restored.
We flew to Krakow, rented a car (complete with snow tires) and started off up into the Tatra Mountains for the two hour trip to Zakopane. We arrived in a winter wonderland - valleys of snow three feet deep and dark blue skies, air so fresh I immediately looked ten years' younger (probably), houses that looked carved from gingerbread. We each had apartments in Villa Dorota, a fairytale alpine lodge with loads of space and views across to snowy peaks. The weather was so sunny and gorgeous that I managed to snatch a full twenty minutes of reading on the terrace one morning and got an actual suntan.
A highlight for me was epic sledding in our own garden , but when we weren't doing that (or gorging on Kinder-bars by our wood fire, or eating VERY big sausages) we mostly went skiing. Pablo was zooming down the beginner's slope like James Bond (sort of) by day three, and afterwards there were infinite apres ski options - hot wine, big jars of lard to smear on your potatoes, and many raw, organic beetrooty salads. Most restaurants had built in play areas for the kids to frolic about in their long johns arguing over arcade games whilst we grown ups compared skiing aches and dared each other to try "hot beer" . We also visited vast indoor hot springs with multiple water slides, jacuzzi jets, whirlpools and outdoor relaxation zones steaming in the snowy wonderland. Everything was confusingly affordable - a grown-ups dinner out with vodka galore, wine, and three BIG courses of delicious, fresh food (+ atmosphere) came to £20 per couple. Ski hire was £20 for the week, lessons only £10 a pop. We didn't manage horse and sleigh rides, which are everywhere, or snowmobile hire, though I would love to if I ever end up there not with tiny children. The absolute highlight was just the fresh air itself - I had forgotten what that felt like after relentless London and it was incredibly energising. We are keen to go back one summer, when the hills are apparently alive with the sound of goat herding and the scent of wildflowers, and there are stunning lakes to visit for swimming.
Soggy Monday seeking out a cake decorating shop that sold meringue powder as I've got to make a Mexican sugar skull for a cake project coming up (more on that later...) After an obligatory iced bun and a bit of a splurge in what turned out to be cake decorating paradise - sprinkles EVERYWHERE ohmahgahd - we stumbled upon a shabby but well kitted out very 80s very English playground. It was just what we needed.