Last week we headed for Norfolk for a blissful week of countryside, seaside, no signal and roaring log fires.
We've already travelled pretty widely with Cherry and Violet, from home turf like the Isle of Wight to the tropics of Singapore. Noel has always hit the nail on the head though when he sums up holidays with our children as 'really hard work, in a different location'.
This was the first holiday we've had where this wasn't the case. It was also the first holiday where our children haven't excitedly risen at 5am each day and become progressively more hyper and demanding as the week went on.
I think the two factors are related.
It really is incredible the difference it makes to your wellbeing, mood and general quality of life when your children 'lie in' until almost 7am.
In fact this was one of the most relaxed holidays we have ever had. We seemed to have lots of time on our hands for running, yoga, workouts, reading, writing and all the other things we seem to find it hard to squeeze in back at home. I admit part of this might be because we took a completely relaxed approach to letting Cherry and Violet watch TV - they had as much as they wanted.
It actually surprised me that they didn't just want to watch TV the whole time - I think secretly I've always worried if I let them have free rein with the telly they'd never want to do anything else! But they were really keen to go out, do things and play with each other as well as watch TV. I guess I should have more faith in them really. That said both Noel and I have always noticed that Cherry can become quite aggressive after watching lots of TV, particularly Peppa Pig! For some reason that pink porker makes her fighty. So after a while we put the tablet with the Peppa downloads away and they stuck to CBeebies, movies or videos of DangerMouse instead.
Our cottage was small, perfectly-formed and completely adorable. Cherry and Violet were absolutely wild about it. It was the perfect balance, charmingly free of mod-cons, but still cosy and welcoming.
I had a real thing about the windows and sills, from the way the light streamed into our bedroom in the morning to the gorgeous dried flower display on the kitchen windowsill. From the window in the living room we could see and hear a hedge full of sparrows going about their bustling business, from dawn until dusk. It was completely delightful.
We spent our mornings in the cottage as Cherry and Violet were really content and happy and are always very adept at entertaining themselves in the mornings. We headed out around lunchtime every day, ate out and spent the afternoons somewhere outdoorsy and scenic.
And Norfolk really excels at outdoorsy and scenic. From the wild screaming beaches....
....to the sprawling forests....
...the flats and the fens and the wide open spaces.
Even the garden was stunning, and full of wildlife.
I can't get over Norfolk. The wildness, the remoteness, the flat-ness, the unbelievable primal beauty of the place. I didn't know big skies like that existed in the UK.
We visited a couple of attractions - Church Farm in Stow Bardolph was a hit with Cherry and Violet, and I sneaked off to geek out on birds at the WWT reserve at Welney. But other than that we just made the most of the lovely cottage and the incredible natural resources.
I haven't felt this sad about the end of a holiday in a very, very long time. In the cosy warmth and flickering light of our cottage life felt far simpler and more straightforward than it does at home.
Obviously having Noel around all the time is a huge help - it's much easier to find space and time with two parents on hand at all times. Cherry and Violet also fought and bickered much less than they have been recently and that definitely helped.
Our life at home isn't complicated by any means, and Cherry, Violet and I enjoy a huge amount of freedom. Other than Cherry's three pre-school mornings we have no commitments or schedule to keep to. And yet life does tend to close in, become more stressful and somehow less open and free. Space and time are two commodities that often feel lacking, and in Norfolk I felt we had both in abundance.
I suppose leaving that all behind is the magic of a holiday.