When the boys were young we couldn't afford to take them abroad, hell I didn't go abroad until I was 35, so we'd have day trips to the seaside and a week in a caravan here or there.
One place we particulary loved was Abersoch on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. We had friends who owned a caravan there and they rented it out to friends and family. Usually we only got as far as Lytham St. Annes near Blackpool in a caravan but, when M&H told us about Abersoch, we thought we'd venture further afield.
The boys were about 9 and 4 respectively on our first visit to Abersoch. We loaded up the car with everything we would need for a week(read kitchen sink here), MWM had planned the route - the M56 to Backford, A5117 and A550 to Queensferry, A494 down past Buckley to Ruthin and down to Corwen, A5 all the way to Bala, round lake Bala then the A414 to Trawsfynydd, the A470/A487 to Porthmadog, A497/499 into Llanbedrog which is just outside Abersoch and the place where the caravan was. If you ever want to go there you now have the directions from our house! This route took us about 31/2 hours but we passed some of the most beautiful scenery. The sun was beating down and we were all raring to go.
By the time we got to Lake Bala we were all bursting for the loo and D (youngest son) was car sick (we think it was all the windy roads that did it) so we had a 'relief' stop. By this time the sun had hidden behind the big black clouds that had been looming since Ruthin and it was starting to drizzle! You know the stuff - that fine rain that wets you through! I opened the boot to get out some wipes and a change of t-shirt for D when I suddenly remembered I hadn't picked up the kagools - they were still piled in a heap on the sofa. I heard MWM give a moan and he announced "I think the new petrol tank is leaking!"
Great, we didn't have much spending money, hoping for glorious weather so that we could keep the kids occupied on the beach with home-made sandwiches and a bottle of pop, now it looked like the majority of our meagre holiday fund would be spent on fixing the petrol tank and buying four kagools to keep the rain off! The rest of the journey passed in a blur of sick bags, rain and misery!
It was almost midday by the time we were coming into Llanbedrog, where the caravan park was, so MWM decided it would be best if we go straight into Abersoch to get the petrol tank fixed - if that was possible. Miraculously the rain stopped and the sun came out, not only that we just managed to catch the garage as they were shutting up shop for the weekend. "Could they possibly have a look at the tank?" MWM said pleadingly. "No problem" said the mechanic. I vowed never to let anyone call Welsh people to me again! There was no leak in the petrol tank it was just a loose something or other which he fixed in five minutes flat and with NO charge!
"What's the weather been like this week?" we asked the mechanic.
"Glorious" he says "we needed that rain, but it will be glorious again this week you watch".
He wasn't wrong. The temperature was in the eighties all week and we never saw another cloud the whole week - no need to buy kagools! In fact we had to buy some more sun cream.
We backtracked to Llanbedrog and found the caravan. It had everything we wanted and was on a lovely caravan park with beautiful countryside all around. The boys found friends in neighbouring caravans and had great fun chasing each other up Donkey Hill (don't ask I don't know why it was called that). We spent long lazy days on the beach at the Warren and the Harbour Beach in Abersoch itself. We found the Sandpiper Restaurant, where N (eldest son) discovered he loved deep fried whitebait and the Abersoch Rock Shop where they sold sticks of pink and white rock saying Abersoch all the way through to the end. After our evening meal at the caravan each night we all walked down to the little pub to sit outside with a drink and take in the evening air. The only complaint we had was the pubs in Wales don't open on Sundays, however it didn't stop us going back there for the next three years!
Now we never knew until very recently what a profound effect the holidays we spent in Abersoch had on our boys. Two weeks ago I had a video message on my mobile phone from N showing his three children playing on a beach with little boats in the background.
"Guess where we are?" said the message "Abersoch!"
I rang N to find out the why's and wherefore's and he told me he wanted A (his wife) and the three children to experience the best place you could possibly go for a holiday, so he had driven them to Abersoch for the day! Twenty-eight years after his first visit. They had a wonderful day there and totally fell in love with the place, so much so they're planning to go back and spend a week over the summer. D remembers Abersoch too, but not, I think, with the same affection as his brother.
I guess where you take your kids for holidays can have a lasting effect eh?
PS I just got through reading my son's blog Dan's Fi-ver where he has posted about the countryside around where he lives and mentions The Singing Ringing Tree in Burnley. Go listen to it here, it's amazing!