Barcelona beach break?

I never thought of Barcelona having beaches before. Yes I knew of a beach resort outside the city called Sitges but in the two times I have visited the city of Barcelona I never realised they also had beautiful sandy beaches.

Why we were there

My hubby was invited to attend a conference in the city for work and so I decided that baby and me would tag along for a few days to get some much needed vitamin D.

His conference was on the outskirts of the city centre in a residential area close to the port and opposite the museum of natural history. It was also virtually on the beach.

Weather

The weather in early December was 18 or 19 degrees which if you’re Mediterranean is Baltic but for a British person that’s summer! As most Spaniards thought it was cold the beaches, and yes there are more than one, were virtually empty on what we’d class in England as a gloriously sunny day.  They also have beaches that are well kitted out with showers, toilets & play equipment so great for families.

The plus point of Barcelona over a more traditional beach place in Spain such as the Costa del Sol or one of the islands is the fact it’s Barcelona! So you have lovely beaches but in the evening you have all the delights of a big cosmopolitan city and if you’re bored of the beach you can look around the sights of the city.

Culture in Barcelona

Having been to Barcelona a few times before I’d been around the city to the usual tourist places like Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter and the Park Guell – Gaudi’s fantastical Park. Even though I’d seen the Basilica de la Sagrada Família from the outside I’d never been in. The queues were always hours long. The beauty of visiting in December is there were no queues for any of the big tourist attractions- brilliant!

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Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

I think it’s fair to say the cathedral blew us away once we got into it. I can only describe it as Star Wars like as it was so other worldly but the stand out thing for me were the stain glass windows that had Picasso style artwork in their design. A unique blend of colours and shades that perfectly made use of the light coming into the building. I would love to spend a full day in the cathedral watching how the windows react to the different light in the day. So beautiful I highly recommend a visit and to think at the moment it isn’t even finished.

Barcelona Cathedral

After visiting this extremely famous Goudi place of worship we then went and visited another more ancient place.  The original Barcelona Cathedral, or Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, to give it its official name. Located in the Gothic quarter it was again a place I hadn’t visited before because the queues were far too long. This one was built in the 13thand 14thcenturies.  We lit 10 candles here to remember Violet, Arthur, my Nan, friend Alethea and other friends who are going through a bad time. Amazing architecture and a huge achievement when you think it was built without modern day technology. The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia will probably take as long to be built (currently scheduled for completion in 2026) and the builders now have every bit of technology.

Aurora loved both buildings and gazed amazed at the beautiful ceilings and windows.  It was so peaceful and although I’m not religious I love the calming atmosphere in these buildings as though they have absorbed the love they have witnessed over the years.

Jet2 great with babies!

I also need to mention how amazing Jet2 are when travelling with babies. The cabin crew were brilliant helping us with bags onto the plane and then taking baby for cuddles while we got our luggage into the overhead lockers.  They were 100% better than when I’ve flown with EasyJet and Ryanair. Who I’ve listed in order of horrendousness with Ryanair being the worst offender.

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Aurora enjoying her first flight experience

In short I’d highly endorse a winter sun break to Barcelona so get looking at those Jet2 flight deals now.

Happy flying

Love Sarah x

Tis the season to be jolly

Well not for lots of people it isn’t. People who are alone, homeless, financially struggling, have mental health issues or who have lost someone dear to them it’s often a time of year they dread.

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Violet’s one and only Christmas morning

For us we face another Christmas without our little girl who’d be an excitable 3 year old this year and our little boy for whom it’d be a first Christmas. My husband will experience another year without his beloved father who died just before becoming a grandpa, a role we know he’d have excelled at. This year however, unlike the last two years, will be bittersweet for us as we now have our gorgeous little rainbow baby Aurora who will be 5 months old.

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Violet in her Christmas jumper and matching trousers!

The first year after we lost Violet we actually couldn’t face Christmas at all so a lovely friends parents’ leant us their holiday home in the Caribbean and my mum treated us to flights so we could escape the whole season for 2 weeks. We were very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family that could afford to help us escape in this way. I know others often aren’t as lucky and may choose to escape through shutting the world out at home. Or maybe their escape is immersing themselves in other people and going through the motions of Christmas, perhaps if they have other children then they have no choice.

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Me with Violet this time 3 years ago.  Photo taken by the amazing @hollygoeslightly

Last Christmas we spent with family who happened to also be going through a hard time, albeit for a different reason, as we wanted to do what families should do and be there for one another. Although we did escape for New Years and what should have been our Arthur’s due date, as we couldn’t face that so we booked cheap flights and headed off to Morocco.

This year will be the first year we don’t escape Christmas or New Years, instead we are inviting family to spend it with us. We will wake up with an excitable 4 year old niece on Christmas morning and it will be a first Christmas for our littlest nephew as well as our daughter. The fact that we can help to make it a magical day for my niece and nephew, I think will help us to get through it.

What’s sad is this year the kind family who helped us to escape that first Christmas have just suffered a devastating loss themselves so this festive time will now be especially hard for them. Our hearts go out to them this year.

Our motto is that if you are able to celebrate Christmas this year then embrace your family or loved ones. Make the most of every second because you have no idea what the future holds. Also if you can help to make someone else’s Christmas better or easier this year then do it. Whether you donate to a local food bank, drop Christmas presents into a charity looking after disadvantaged children or just invite your elderly neighbours round for Christmas dinner, nothing says Christmas like looking after those who are suffering by easing their pain or helping them to also have a nice experience, even if for one day only.

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Me & Violet with my brother & sister with their little ones 3 years ago

I can’t wait to hear all your lovely stories of goodwill and sharing. I’ve heard lots already, as I’m blessed with lots of amazingly kind people in my life. So far there are tales of people stocking food banks with so much food they can feed many families over the 3 days of Christmas. Those who fundraise and collect donations for presents for underprivileged children. Some have collected blankets for the homeless.  Keep up the good work. They say money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around well I say the same can be said for kindness.

Sending big hugs to you all and I can’t wait to hear more heartwarming stories.

Love

Sarah x

Surviving after Child Loss

Whilst I was sat on a train heading to Glasgow earlier this week I decided to write a few blog posts touching on subjects people have been curious about.

People often ask me about how we coped with losing Violet and about the techniques we employed to try to help ourselves get through this time.

We tried to remember what we enjoyed about life when our daughter was still with us and focused on making ourselves do these things even though we didn’t want to and certainly didn’t have the motivation.

It all began with us still going on a mini-break to the Lake District only a few weeks after she had died.  A break we had already planned and paid for when our daughter was still alive.  That trip was an extremely hard one for us and we only stayed there for the bare minimum of time.  We also had lunch at L’Enclume that I had arranged as a belated birthday surprise for my hubby.  We just went through the motions and returned home early on the final day as we felt lost.

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Cartmel, Lake District

The things we had enjoyed doing as a family trio were travel, Violet was a true jetsetter and travelled more in her short life then many adults do in theirs, and dining out in new places.  Admittedly the fondness for dining out was more mine and my hubby’s as Violet disliked food although she did enjoy people watching.  She was always good as gold too preferring to use high chairs to rest her books on for reading and often got praised by staff for how clean and well behaved she was.    I work in travel and hospitality PR so my work has always channeled my passion but I felt as though this love had disappeared with Violet.

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Violet watching the Snoopy film on the flight to New Zealand at 7 months old

After the initial Lake District trip we continued to make sure we planned and booked other things in advance, so then we had less chance of being able to back out and change our minds at the last minute.  Don’t get me wrong there were quite a few dinner reservations we made and then couldn’t be bothered going to or arrangements with friends we had to back out of as we simply couldn’t face it.

We jointly decided that we should focus on ensuring, despite our misery, that we booked restaurants or mini-breaks for anniversaries and birthdays.  We encouraged each other to make an effort to keep the reservation, as we often found that only one of us would wobble and want to back out of plans.  We worked as a team to persuade each other knowing that it was for the best in the long run.

We planned trips to places we had already wanted to visit but only for a few days at a time, as again we knew a big trip would be too much for us.  Places like Florence in Italy for Valentine’s day, Bilbao in Spain to visit the Guggenheim, Montenegro to escape for Violet’s anniversary, Morocco to escape Arthur’s due date etc.

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Sunset in Bilbao, Spain

Slowly but surely after nearly 2 years I can now talk again about travel being a passion of mine, without instantly feeling guilty about it as now I realise that this was also a passion of my daughters and something she would still relish if she was alive today.  I also embraced a new hobby for photography, especially landscape and architecture.  All the photos in this blog are mine.

I’ve not yet gotten there with the dining out thing, I’m still fond of food and work in hospitality however we don’t dine out as a couple anywhere near as much as we used to.   I know in time we will and this will be easier too. To the “friend” that said to us after Violet died “well at least you can now travel whenever you like and dine out whenever you like” well we did travel and dine whenever we liked with Violet as she loved it and we can nearly do this again without pangs of guilt and imagining what she’d have thought of it/been like in these places but every day is tough.  It’s not as easy as “at least you don’t have to arrange a babysitter”.

Traditional holidays like Easter are the worst

Lots of people this week were talking about how they are looking forward to the Easter weekend and spending much needed time with their families and children. I find myself forcing a smile and having to say “I bet”. Then they ask if I’m looking forward to a break and again I smile and say “oh yes of course”. I don’t say that for me my break is being at work away from all the reminders that we have a massive gaping hole in our lives where our daughter should be and isn’t.

We should be looking forward to the weekend possibly organising Easter egg hunts in the garden, taking Violet to a farm so she can pet all the animals and we’d take her to the family music events in Heaton Hall too as she’d have loved those.

Is it bad that part of me when they announced we’d have another cold spell this weekend with possible snow thought ‘oh good it’ll save me having to watch smug families going out enjoying spending time with their children, that just hammers home more clearly what we are missing or even having to watch some not enjoying their children, yelling at them which I find even harder to stomach’?

They say Easter is the time for new life and in previous years I used to find it cheerful and uplifting, as it also meant we were getting close to my birthday, which I used to find exciting. Now it is just a reminder of another year without my precious daughter. Sometimes I feel like a prisoner in a jail striking off lines on the wall with every passing year, while we wait and hope to see Violet once again.

Spring is the time for growth and lots of children have growth spurts once the weather starts improving in line with more vitamin D and sunshine. It reminds me that our daughter isn’t growing anymore and that she is permanently stuck at age 15 months. She will always be that age in our minds and hearts. We never saw her walk, talk in proper sentences, dance or even eat. She never said “mummy”. This is the really heart breaking thing the realisation of all the things we will never see her do or experience with her.

So if you have children this Easter please make sure you do make the most of your days off work and spend lots of time with them making memories. Hopefully you will always get to enjoy seeing your children grow every year but, if like us, something horrendous happens, then you will only ever have the memories to last you for the rest of your life so make sure they are good ones!

Take that photograph and film them opening their Easter presents or doing that Easter egg hunt because it will be over in a flash but the film or photo will last a lifetime, meaning so much to the relatives who bought them that present or organised that egg hunt.

Also do me, those who have also lost children, struggled to conceive or would just have loved a family but couldn’t have one, a favour and when you feel like your children are getting on your nerves this Easter, stop for a moment. Take a deep breath and for a minute realise how truly lucky you are and that there are those of us who would happily take all the tantrums in the world, sleepless nights and naughty behaviour just to have our children back. Appreciate your families and try to enjoy the moments, as they really don’t last for long.

For all of us without our kids at least we have chocolate!

Happy Easter

Love, Sarah x

p.s. all the photos in this post were taken at an artisan chocolate factory called HR Chocolate established by artisan baker Haflio Ragnarsson in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Anniversary dinner at L’Enclume

It’s important to mark the special occasions when they occur, as difficult as it might be when you’re also grieving.

Anniversary break

Last month I got totally spoilt by my gorgeous husband and taken to L’Enclume in Cartmel in the Lake District, as it was the 5th anniversary of our very first date. Cumbria holds a special place in our hearts, as it was the first holiday we ever had together. It was snow filled and the hotel we stayed in had a gorgeous fountain outside that was frozen.

The room

When we arrived this time and checked into our room my hubby got instant extra brownie points when I saw this photograph on the bedroom wall!

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We stayed in one of L’Enclume’s many guest houses in the village that had clearly been renovated recently, so was luxurious and decked out with modern facilities. The real icing on the cake for me was the attention to detail. Knowing I was allergic to cows milk they had ensured the mini bar had a bottle of soya milk in it and dairy free treats too.

We arrived a few hours earlier than our dinner reservation so there was time for a bubble bath before getting dressed for the restaurant. I have to say I loved the handmade organic bath products and the heated tiled floor. Got inspiration for our forthcoming house renovation!

The dinner

The L’Enclume dinner experience (and I call it an experience as it is more than just having dinner) was amazing and a real treat all 18 courses. The menus were presented to us at the start of the meal in an envelope sealed with branded wax. There were 2 menus in the envelope a “normal” one for my hubby and a dairy free one for me alongside the wine flight details too. 

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The L’Enclume wax seal
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Standard/ Cows milk free menus
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The Wine Flight

Each course was presented and described in detail by the extremely attentive staff.

Here are photos of some of the amazing dishes.

The highlight for me was the scallop served with green tomato and hogweed juice that tasted a little appley. Monkfish was delicious and the grilled potatoes, ramson (which we googled to discover is a name for wild garlic) and smoked eel was one of the tastiest dishes. We could have eaten more of it!

The other delight was the dessert named “Anvil” which was a chocolate mousse dusted with bronze and gold powder set in an Anvil shaped mould.   My hubby’s mousse was white chocolate, whereas mine was dark chocolate orange. They were sat on top of preserved orange and passionfruit.

At the end of our sumptuous dinner we were offered the cheese board, which looked amazing but we literally couldn’t fit anything else in.

Dinner or lunch here is the perfect special occasion treat as it really is an amazing experience if you are a real foodie like us.

The breakfast

The breakfast the next morning in Rogan’s café, that’s also owned and run by the team behind L’Enclume, was probably the best breakfast we have ever been served. Here’s a copy of the menu.

If your budget doesn’t stretch to lunch or dinner at L’Enclume then I would heartily recommend a trip to Cartmel and lunch in Rogan’s, that I’m sure will be more than worth the hour and half drive from Manchester.

For more details of L’Enclume the restaurant click here

For details of the accommodation available click here

For more information about Cartmel and what to explore there click here