Planning our trip to Trinidad and Tobago

This post was written on behalf of Clickstay

So we are going to Trinidad and Tobago this summer…for a MONTH! Well, Laurence is going for two weeks because of work but the kids and I are making the most of getting over there for the first time in four years by staying that bit longer. Send me all your positive thoughts, prayers and vibrations for the transatlantic flight back on my own with three kids. I’m well intimidated but we’re a tiny team and it’ll be worth it.

When people find out I’m from Trinidad and Tobago they usually ask how often we get to go back. We mainly live on one income and with five tickets to buy, it’s easier for my parents to come visit us, even if we have made that more challenging by moving to remote Cornwall. With their help we’re finally making it out there and it feels like such a big deal, not least because we have no idea when we’d manage it again.

That’s why we’re planning ahead and thinking carefully about what we want to achieve with this trip. Seeing family and friends is a given as it’s my home country but it’s a holiday too so we’re thinking about how best to slow it down somewhere hot, sunny and beautiful. We also hope this will be a chance for the girls to start making longer term connections with a place and culture that’s an important part of their own identity. Certainly, at seven and four, Talitha and Ophelia are likely to remember their time there.

We’ll mainly be based in Trinidad, the bigger, faster paced, more urban sister isle where I grew up and where most of my family lives but we definitely want to make some time to chill out in Tobago which offers more of the classic Caribbean holiday vibe. We may also look at spending some time in the capital city, Port of Spain, just because it’s not something we’ve done in the past as my parents are based in South Trinidad.

I’m thinking of options for combining seeing people with the holiday thing and I think getting a villa could be an ideal solution so I’ve been taking a look through the properties on Clickstay. It allows you to stay somewhere self-catered with a swimming pool, generally in great locations, while splitting the cost of food and accommodation with whomever you’re staying with.

Image from Clickstay website

I really like the look of this Clickstay villa in Mount Irvine in Tobago, for instance. The location would particularly suit Laurence as it’s near the surf. Villa prices compare with hotels and Air BnB’s we’ve researched and we’ve found in the past that set ups like this allow us to enjoy quality vacation time with grandparents, for instance, without getting too much in each other’s space.

I’m keen to really document our time out in Trinidad and Tobago since it’s a big deal for us and it’s a bit of a “different” destination for a lot of people but one I think is worth considering. Perhaps I’ll pop a little bucket list on here before we go and I hope to put together a small guide for families once we’ve been. Let me know what you’d like to see and if you’re living out there, I’d love your suggestions. I haven’t lived there since I was nineteen and haven’t visited since Talitha and Ophelia were three years old and six months old so the proposition’s changed quite a bit this time around. We’re getting properly excited now!

Thanks to Clickstay for working with me on this post.

Madeira with kids: reasons to go and things to do

Our family holiday in Madeira back in November now feels long ago. It’s still fresh in our minds, though, because Talitha keeps asking, “When can we go back to Madeira?” and “What’s the weather like in Madeira now?” I think she’s quite ready for winter to be over too! It hasn’t been an overly cold one here in the south west of England but, my, it’s been a seriously wet and windy one. No wonder she’s craving sunshine, warmth and a place where she got to go swimming every day.

Laurence’s parents have a timeshare in Madeira so they invited us to come along with them for their November break. Loving that we could take advantage of home educating by travelling during term time, we were, of course, thrilled to go. I didn’t research much about Madeira beforehand. The whole thing wound up being a beautiful surprise.

Madeira with kids - things to do Marketplace-2

I was amazed that I recognised much of the flora. I kept showing Talitha flowers like hibiscus and bouganvillea and telling her that they grow in Trinidad and Tobago too. Of course, that also meant that we had a fresh supply of the fruits I grew up with like papaya, passion fruit and mangoes. There were also the distinctively flavoured easy peeler citrus fruits that we actually call “portugals” in Trinidad – that should have been a bit of a hint as to a historical connection, I guess?

I hadn’t expected to recognise a lot of the architecture either. Clearly, Trinidad has more Portuguese influence than I’d realised.

Some days it was downright hot and we had to be ready with hats and sunscreen. Others it was just cool enough for a cardigan to be a welcome addition.

Madeira with kids - reasons to go and things to do

Either way, it was such a pleasant temperature in November. Even though I’m from the Caribbean, I really don’t like being too hot unless I’m going to spend most of my time on a beach or by a pool.

We flew from Bristol Airport and the flight was only about three hours. We then took a 30-minute taxi ride to Funchal, where we were staying. How crazy that we could get somewhere dramatically different, in such a short space of time. For us, this would be a real pro of visiting Madeira again.

We were only there for a week and I was limited in what I felt able to do, being in the throes of the first trimester, but we still managed to pack a lot in (in between a lot of swimming for the kids).

Madeira with kids - things to do Marketplace-3

Madeira with kids - things to do Marketplace

Visit the marketplace
One of our first ports of call was the Worker’s Marketplace (Mercado dos Lavradores). On reflection, it would have been better to walk around, take a few pictures and go find somewhere a bit smaller and less touristy to buy from (we accidentally spent a bomb there!) but it was a fun experience tasting all the different types of passion fruit. I had no idea there were so many.

It’s definitely an experience to take hold of when you’re there. There were even people dressed in traditional Madeiran costumes while we were there as it was the market’s anniversary.

Madeira with kids - things to do Old Town

Have lunch outdoors in Old Town

To be fair, have lunch outdoors almost anywhere. Just enjoy the beautiful weather if it’s not too hot when you go. However, we loved having lunch in Old Town because of its eye-catching street art and narrow cobbled streets.

I wish I’d taken note of the name of the restaurant we dined at because it was literally the best meal of our trip – and we ate a lot of outstanding food that week. They didn’t have a baby seat but were very accommodating, offering cushions before we asked and had a baby change too. Generally, we found people extremely welcoming and friendly towards our children throughout our stay.

Madeira with kids - reasons to go and things to do Cable car

Going up the cable car
You can take a cable car up into the mountains, which is bound to thrill the kids and most adults. I admit I struggled with it because I get quite stressed with heights but even I enjoyed doing it, if mainly because the landscape made me feel like I was overlooking Trinidad. The view is well worth it.

Madeira with kids - reasons to go and things to do Toboggan-2

Madeira with kids - reasons to go and things to do Toboggan

Take a toboggan down
Once again, this is something I wasn’t naturally up for but, in the interest of keeping up with the group and pushing myself to try new things I went along with it. As we were already up in the mountains having taken the cable car, we took these old school toboggans down. Laurence had Ophelia in a front carry in the toddler carrier and Talitha sat between her grandparents.

It was, admittedly, a gentle pace though it still managed to set me on edge (I’m a wimp!). I won’t say I personally got that much out of it but everyone else found it so delightful, I’m really glad we went for it.

Madeira with kids - reasons to go and things to do - Levada walk-2

A short Levada walk
Madeiran levadas are narrow water carriageways that run along the mountains, dating back as far as the 16th century and ingeniously making mountainside plantations, gardens and hydro-electric power possible. Taking the paths along them offers stunning views and the chance to experience many different aspects of the Madeiran outdoors from rain forests to waterfalls.

We decided to take a rather short walk for Talitha’s sake as well as mine. Looking back, I should have just stayed back at the hotel. I was battling heavy nausea that day and just wasn’t up to much of a walk at all. Talitha enjoyed maybe an hour of walking and then wanted to go do something else.

I reckon that if I hadn’t been there, she would have sat for a bit under some shade and been happy to continue, hence my regret. We’d booked a taxi who met us at the halfway point and spotting the driver kind of spelled the end for us. I’d love to go back and try again.

A friend asked which walk we did, keen to find a child-friendly one. I’m sorry to disappoint but we don’t remember! We just asked the driver to take us to one that was a gentle and a couple of hours long, and he did so I reckon you could do the same.

I’d love to return at some point. I think we all would. Laurence had a brilliant mountain bike through the rain forest and I’d like to attempt another Levada walk when I’m more up to it. Maybe we’d try another holiday there when Ophelia is walking more too (which won’t be long, to be fair!) so there’s just one baby to carry. Or maybe we’ll wait a few years so all the kids can take advantage of the many sporting opportunities Madeira offers.

Talitha will likely get her wish at some point.

Family cycling through the Wye Valley

Last month Talitha went for a weekend with all of her grandparents. It was her first time away for two nights (her request) and our first time having a whole day with just Ophelia. We racked our brains trying to think of something we could do with an eighteen-month-old that we couldn’t normally do with a four-year-old and finally decided to give cycling a go.

Cycling as a family isn’t something that’s possible for us at the moment because I can’t ride a bike and we only have one baby seat. So we went to the Wye Valley in Wales for me to practise cycling. Learning to cycle is one of my 30 things to do before I turn 30 in seven months’ time. It was also a chance for Ophelia to have her first ride with Laurence. I’ve put together a little video of the experience.

I still have a way to go before I can confidently cycle but it feels like a definite possibility now. More recently, Talitha has started learning to ride a bike so let’s see who gets there first!