Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Bourne Mill, Bourne Road, Colchester, CO2 8RT

Got a bit of a back log of blogs going on at the moment folks. Work/Toddler/Life has been absorbing so much time lately I haven't had much spare time to write. But my crusade to bring attention to Ye Olde Colchester continues...

A few weeks ago, I decided to take my son on a little walkabout to Bourne Mill. It's a recently refurbished Water Mill run by the wondrous National Trust. Since Google Maps said it was only a mile from our house I thought I'd go for sniff. This post will be more pictures than words as I can't really remember the details other than it was a lovely morning.

Our journey took us under the subway by Colchester Town Station (Colchester has not 1 but 2 very well serviced train stations fact fans) where we spotted these pretty groovy details:

I'm sure there is some interesting information about these somewhere but I can't find it. Colchester is a bit like that. Bit shy of spreading the word / terrible at PR.  

Our journey then took us past the 'Odd one Out'. Ive never been to this Pub but it's apparently a very special place. A bit like stepping back in time. The Landlord operates a strict no mobile phone policy, a no swearing policy and pints cost 10p (the last bit is a lie but apparently drinks are very reasonable). This place is so old fashioned its almost impossible to find out anything about it online but it's along Mersea Road if anyone is interested. 

We then continued walking along Mersea Road until we got to the junction of Bourne Road. I was expecting to see a brown National Trust here to let us know we were heading the right way but it seems that the National Trust are also in on the 'Let's Keep Colchester a secret' Act. No signs, not a sausage. 

Then we came across this:

'This must be the way', thought I. Although anyone that knows me will know that I have an appalling sense of direction so why I trusted my own instinct is a mystery to me. Needless to say it was the wrong way.

I tried dragging the buggy through this bog. It got stuck. My son then had to get out of the buggy and walk.

He then fell over on this bridge. Much crying ensued.

I tried to distract him by pointing out these ducks. It didn't work. The crying continued.

I then saw the Mill on the other side of this lake.

Yep, we'd gone the wrong way. So, back through the bog and over the treacherous bridge, past the ducks who I'm sure were laughing at us, we made it back to the road, walked along a bit further and saw this:

It really is a beautiful place. The site consists of a wonderfully restored old mill and a beautiful lake complete with ducks (don't feed the ducks bread though, it attracts rats. Seeds available from the Mill).

Original Water Wheel in basement.

Creepy face.

Ground Floor interior of Mill.

View of Water wheel from Ground Floor

The interior is as beautiful as the exterior, small but perfectly formed. The lady on the door (Jules) was super friendly and there is a tiny tea area where you can buy a drink and a cake. My son and I shared a scone and watched the ducks from the bank.

Definitely worth popping your nose in if you are in the area, especially on a sunny day. Just don't go through the woods....

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Avra Imperial Beach Resort and Spa, Kolymbari, Crete.

On foreign holidays, I don't generally like staying in big hotels and I really don't like buffets (queuing for food makes me feel like I am at work on set). I much prefer small hotels/B+B's and sampling food from local restaurants. You always meet really interesting characters and I think have a much richer experience by getting out of the hotel and having a good old sniff around.

However, now I have a small child my priorities have totally changed and since our first choice of hotel was not available.

Things I look for in a holiday now:

* Will the weather be good?
* Are there lots of places to lay down?

And thats pretty much it.

Our first foreign holiday after we had our son was at the Ammos Hotel in Crete. It is BRILLIANT for people with young children. They have everything new parents could want: Ikea highchairs, travel cots, baby towels, bottle warmers, a pool, on the beach, a 24 hour kitchen, soft play room and babysitting facilities. It was perfect. Sadly though, it gets booked up very quickly as it only has about 30 rooms and the only way we could have gone this year is by changing rooms mid way through our holiday. As this was our first holiday in nearly 2 years the thought of changing rooms didn't really appeal. So after a quick panicky search on the net of where else we could go in Crete, we found the Avra Imperial. It was big and had a buffet but at least it would be sunny and looked like it had lots of sun beds.

So imagine my despair when we left behind a UK heat wave, flew through the worst turbulence I have experienced for a very long time and arrived in Crete to this:

View from the taxi to the hotel.

To say I was gutted would be a massive understatement. Then when we arrived at the hotel we were told there had been a mix up with the rooms and we would have to move after one night... It really wasn't a great start but to make up for the mix up they would let us use the buffet restaurant in the evening for the duration of our stay (this would have cost an extra 50 Euros for us all each night). Then the sun came out. 

There are swimming pools everywhere. Most rooms also have either their own private pools or a shared pool with the rooms next door. If (when) we go again, we wouldn't pay extra to have our own pool. We didn't use it once. It was in shade most of the day so we used the bigger pools.

The room we had for the first night with the shared pool. This would be great place to come with a group of friends if you could get adjoining rooms.

The room we actually booked with its own pool. 

The hotel has only been open about 3 years I think so is very clean and very nicely designed. You could take photos of it all day. Every corner we turned was another nice view.

There is also a spa if you like that kind of thing. I personally can't think of anything worse than a stranger touching me, apart from Airport Frisking which is always acceptable.

The Avra even has its own chapel on site.

We took a trip one day to the town of Chania which has a beautiful Venetian style port, lots of shops and a great market. This was about 30 mins in a taxi and cost about 30 Euros each way. You could take a bus but apparently it is very slow and very hot.

Most evenings there was a little show for the kids. There was also a nursery here and child activities where children of 4 years or older could be left for a few hours and looked after.

The hotel is also located next to a beach but it was very pebbly so we didn't go there very much.

A short walk out the front of the hotel, there is a supermarket, some cafes/restaurants, several along the seafront. They are good options if you have breakfast and dinner at the hotel but fancy a change at lunchtime. Obviously now I am home I am on a strict liquid only diet. I have promised myself not to be the tubby-iest person round the pool on my next holiday.

Lovely fresh, local produce.

On our last might, we found this cake in our room for our son and a bottle of wine for the Wig and  I from the Manager. I am still not quite sure why, but he said it was because he loved our son. The man who ran the local shop also seemed to love our son as he gave him a free ball and the lady that works at the Duty Free shop in the airport gave him a lolly. The Cretans really do love children, its wonderful. 

I'm going to miss these :(

So, in a nut shell, I couldn't recommend this place enough. Despite being a hotel with around 300 rooms we still felt that the we got to know the staff as much as we would have done had it been a boutique hotel. The Manager saw us off when we went (hugs and kisses all round) which was really surprising for a place this size. We already knew we loved Greece, all our holidays in the last few years have been there, but in particular Crete. The people are always super friendly, especially towards children, the weather is great, the produce that they make is amazing (honey, olive oil, wine), it's just a really great place and we can't wait to go back.