Our recent trips away with the little ones are more positive and fulfilling than those of when they were only mites. It is still a novelty to have a trip away with us all in one hotel room that isn’t a sweating, overly stressed nightmare. Maybe I am too brutally honest as a parent blogger, but it is true. I really felt the early days’ holidays were in fact a boot camp more than a rest. Dunnes in a different town. (This meaning that we just shopped for milk and nappies in another postcode). Over packing because we needed everything. Over spending on not actually getting to savour any food. Occasional magic moments amidst the hair tearing that make it worth a lot of the havoc but oh the cost! However, I can emphasise to the parents of newbies that this doesn’t last. It does get simpler. You will enjoy time away again. Maybe you already are!
We were organised this midterm. We had actually pre-booked a few days away and when the week off came I didn’t spend it racing about trying to do too much because we had already planned three nights away. To County Cork, the rebel county. Or Cawk as Betsy dubbed it. Too cute.Do I recommend Cork to families? I do. Firstly, I believe that the Corkonians are repopulating the earth single-handedly as I have never seen so many children everywhere, all of the time. Families with two, three, four and more were to be seen in all towns and and all times. Eating late was not a pressure. Everyone was there. Newborns. Toddlers. Tweenies. Twins aplenty. Babies galore. It was fantastic as we didn’t mind so much if ours were becoming tearaways as they had lots of company.
What are these kiddies and their keepers doing in Cork for fun? Well, let me show you.
1. Fota Wildlife Park.
I have been to this amazing park several times over the years but never since becoming a mother. There is something about Fota that makes it a different experience to a zoo. The animals seem less like they are just exhibits in a Staring Competition but that we, the guests, are privileged to be peeping into their cosy world in this part of rural Cork. This Halloween break saw a park packed full of babies and toddlers, parents and grandparents, huge family groups and occasional couples on dates. I did smile to spot one ‘freshly in love’ looking couple walk through the cafe and playground plaza area (which was particularly congested with crying spoiled little cuties and cooing adorable newbies) looking a combination of bewildered, bemused and more than a little frightened. Well, it was Halloween and this is their potential future if their coffee drinking hand-held romantic aura is anything to go by. Myself and Mr Paper looked at ourselves five years ago. It made me smile, albeit wryly.
The park is all about the animals, as I say. We had an almost shop-bought Autumnal perfection of a day to walk the grounds in, a leaf kicking glory, clad in bronze and russet. Yes, we had tantrums. Arguments. Full meltdowns. Giggles. Jokes. Rests. Chats about deer. A peek at a cheetah.
We also had a very funny moment in front of the monkeys where Gigi bellowed out the Five Little Monkeys song regardless of passers-by, totally content in herself and confident of her talents.
I hope she is like this forever.
Fota is a marvellous place with plenty of facilities for families. Picnic benches, cafes, a train for tired feet or you can roam around with chance of a kangaroo bounding past, a peacock interrupting your lunch or a parrot squawking above your head. Make a day of it and get value for money.
Be warned that the Tropical Area is HOT!! There is an iguana on the loose there too. I was quite envious of his relaxed attitude. Channelling Bruno Mars.I was particularly happy to see a peacock strutting his stuff, proudly fanning what he had left of his magnificent plumage.
This is a must for families. Nature, fresh air, coffee and penguins- what is there not to love?
Check out the Tiger Butt.
3. Cork City. The city itself is an attractive haven for history lovers and combines the urban benefits and culture of Dublin with the relaxed, easy living vibe of Galway (with more parking) to create a happy amalgamation all of its own. The real capital, as they say in Cork, and I can see why they are so proud of it. There is much to see and do but having time restrictions and our smallies in tow I didn’t push to visit the historical attractions that I am drawn to but kept those are for another day. We ambled along Pana ( I am reliably informed that St. Patrick’s Street is nicknamed this and at Christmas you can go see ‘Sana at Pana’) and took in the city.
It was October 31st so plenty of costumes and mirth to see through people watching- even the dogs were in their ghoulish gear. Halloween is merging nicely into Christmas in Cork this week too. We introduced the girls to designer bags and make up in Debenhams which in hindsight might prove to be an expensive future error. We visited lovely Lush and treated ourselves (myself really). The people of Cork were so friendly and talkative and this extended to shop assistants. We were served by the friendly Emma, a Mullingar lady, who has no future plans to leave Cork and why would she? It is a pretty cool spot.
We bought the much talked about product among the parent bloggers that seems to help as an aid to poorer sleepers, handed over our cow and got our magic beans. Fingers crossed!
4. The English MarketThis historical trade centre was my key focus to visit on the trip. I thought it would be fun to bring the girls there and Mr Paper and I love a good food market. Food window shopping.
The market was a visiting site for Queen Elizabeth on her Irish visit a few years past. You can check out the history of the market Here.
A fully roofed market, you can buy the daily needs of fish, meats and fruits or treat yourself to more artisan chocolates, pastries and breads. Tripe for tea anyone?
So much fun to wander about, the girls liked it but were not sure about the fishmongers. Smelly and a bit scary, they said. When you find yourself expecting a fish to talk to you, you can see why your little girls who are eyelevel with them might retreat!
The market was a fun stroll with plenty of boutiques, vintage stores and curio sales in the laneways lacing about the main thoroughfare.
We had breakfast in a small eaterie which boasted the intriguing quality of combining the locals and tourists side by side. You could tell the locals were regular. Our ladies had porridge and a chill out. Their curly hair drew many the comment and smile.
5. Kinsale. We arrived in this coastal town on Halloween evening. Just in time for the community parade of families in costume which was particularly lovely.
Our girls were ready dressed up for the day so it all worked out. We had some food, had some shop time browsing and took in the ambiance of this boating town full of colour and quirkiness.
I think Kinsale is a perfect place for families to hang out and just as everywhere else in Cork proved, it was full of children and there is a general joviality in the air and a sense of fun. If there is a good bookshop and a knick knack store then I am extra happy; and there was.
This is by no means the end of what Cork has to offer. Our three nights were filled with little trips, walks and hotel time but we could have gone to many more places. We took in drives to Cobh and Midleton usually at nap times so we didn’t explore. Thankfully the weather held for us and we didn’t have to use our back up plans but if we did, we were planning on the Titanic exhibition in Cobh, the Omniplex in Douglas or one of the many pet farms.
As it stands, we are home and happy. Now to try the Magic Potion and browse our photos…check out the rhino butt.