For our holiday in France last week, I decided to repeat the challenge I set myself last year of telling the story of our week using only my iPhone 5 and the standard tools available via the social photo sharing app Instagram. So here are my favourite shots (mostly mine – I’ve borrowed a couple of images from Heather’s iPhone), with a few words of commentary on each.
1. Look, kids, another mountain!
Located for the week in Evian (yes, that Evian) on the banks of Lake Geneva, the Alps were within easy reach. That meant almost everywhere we went we had glorious picture postcard views of Alpine peaks and valleys. The image above from the town of Châtel on the Swiss border was my personal favourite.
I loved being able to drive through all this spectacular scenery, particularly because we were driving on roads and climbs regularly frequented by the Tour de France. (This included Morzine, Avoriaz and the Col de Joux Plane, cycling fans.)
Boys being boys, Isaac and Toby were indifferent to most of the stunning views surrounding them. They were, however, beside themselves with excitement when we passed the wreck of a Renault Clio which had managed to drive head-on into a rock face on one of the main passes through the mountains. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.
2. The gang
As we did last year, we holidayed with old university friends who also have three children. Their youngest is (just) older than our oldest, Isaac, giving us a total of six kids ranging in age from 13 to two (Kara). The youngest five in particular spent much of the week together in varying numbers and combinations, occupying themselves playing in and around the pool, watching TV together and squabbling over who sat next to whom at meal-times.
It was really sweet, and there’s no doubt that four adults with six kids is so much easier than the two of us with our three. More than one of them were distraught at the thought of the two families going their separate ways at the end of the week.
3. The next Ranulph Fiennes?
Toby has many sides. He isn’t anti-social by any means but he is a boy who (like his father) is comfortable in his own company and happy to have adventures in his own little world. So when our travelling group of ten set off on the descent from a mountain summit, he was more than happy to strike out on his own while the other kids stuck together.
Unlike Isaac, who is happiest in the company of other people he can talk to/at, Toby is a genuine independent soul. I wonder if he’ll stay that way?
4. Food, glorious food
Food is always high on the agenda when we go on holiday, and our friends’ middle child (pictured above), at ten, is as much of a foodie as I am. Over the course of the week, there was much delving into fondue, raclette (essentially, scraping melted cheese) and my personal favourite, tartichèvre, a goat’s cheese-based savoury tart.
No frogs’ legs, though!
5. Coming of age
Last year there was a real sense of Toby (then 3½) coming of age, and this year it was Kara’s turn. Whereas last summer our plans revolved around her toddler needs – afternoon naps, nappy changes, stopping her from getting bored, all that rigmarole – this time around it was significantly easier.
She’s now both toilet-trained and able to make it through an entire day without a sleep. Food-wise, she actively seeks to eat the same food as everyone else. And with her rapidly developing verbal skills, she was able to join in with everyone else’s conversations (at least a little bit). She was even a regular participant in the ‘Country Game’ – ‘I Spy’, but you have to guess the name of a country – which kept all the kids occupied during many a meal-time. (Tip: if you’re ever playing with Toby and he’s thinking of a country beginning with ‘s’, it’s always Sri Lanka. Always.)
Indeed there were many times when we had to keep reminding ourselves that she’s still only 27 months old. Our little baby is growing up so fast. By next summer she’ll be a completely different person again.
6. Goat village
The mountain village of Les Lindarets is well-known for allowing its herds of mountain goats to roam the town freely, which draws in tourists in their droves. (It also has several excellent restaurants, including the one where I enjoyed the aforementioned tartichèvre.)
All three kids were fearless, despite Isaac discovering the hard way that showing a bag of food to the goats typically results in a violent mobbing akin to letting a rabble of teenage girls on-stage at a Justin Bieber concert. (Or so I’m told.) Goats have always been Toby’s favourite animal (his preferred cuddly toy at home is a goat) but Isaac, despite his early experience, quickly took to goat whispering in an attempt to keep them safe from passing traffic. And Kara was just as bold as either boy, marching up to goats to bark commands at them and happily getting involved in the feeding frenzy.
Yes, I know it’s all a bit gimmicky and touristy, but the kids loved it.
7. Sibling fun
Although we travelled together as one large group most of the time, we did have a couple of days where the two families did their own things. A quick stop-off for us en route to Les Lindarets brought us to a pretty mountain lake with a small wooden bridge on which our three kids were delighted to re-enact The Three Billy Goats Gruff (with Heather taking on the role of the troll off-camera).
Sometimes all it takes is a little thing. And although our children spent much of the week happily mixing with the others, it’s lovely to see them play together with such big smiles on their faces – and for the boys to be so inclusive with their little sister – when they’re on their own.
8. The ice bucket challenge
The Ice Bucket Challenge was at its peak doing the rounds of social media last week. Seeing as it’s for a good cause, we were all up for it. Of course, the fact it was 25°C and sunny helped somewhat!
And that’s my set of eight images representing for eight days of holiday. We had a great time. Roll on next summer.