A guide to the perfect Scandi inspired weekend in the UK with ideas for where to stay, eat and shop for a stay full of Fika and funRead More
Does anyone remember the TV programme ‘Challenge Anneka’? The basic premise was that Anneka Rice (sporting a blue jumpsuit that made her look like an errant Kwik Fit employee) had 48hrs to complete a seemingly impossible task like reintroducing an obscure species of Owl to the UK or persuading Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen to wear beige. It sadly disappeared from our screens some time around 1994 but I think the BBC should bring the show back and set Anneka a new challenge. Find a holiday cottage near the coast in the UK that sleeps 10-12 people (without anyone having to sleep in a drawer) with interior’s that don’t look like the inside of your Auntie Pat’s conservatory all for less than £5000 a week. I suspect it would make reintroducing that obscure owl look like child’s play. But fear not Anneka, I’ve got this one. In my little black book of holiday cottages is a place that ticks all of those boxes and more: Eden Hall Cottage.
About the Cottage
The cottage is located on the North Norfolk Coast on the so-called secret side (i.e. the stretch that is not overrun with men called Tarquin down from London for the weekend who are partial to red trousers). Eden Hall’s owners are Vicky and Chris White. If I tell you that Vicky is the founder of the beautiful home and lifestyle brand Plum & Ashby you will start to appreciate that this is going to be a pretty special place.
Vicky, Chris and their dog Bertie live in Olney (Bedfordshire) but have always been regular visitors to the Norfolk coast. They got engaged there and, in 2015, they started to look for a property they could turn into the coastal holiday home of their dreams. After two years of searching and several close misses, in November 2017 (on their shared birthday) they went to view Eden Hall Cottage and fell in love.
It took some vision to see it’s potential as a beautiful beach bolthole because it was, at the time, completely run down with rats in residence and a random toilet in the middle of the drive. However they were able to look past the loo and having secured the property, brought an architect on board to help them restore it to it’s former glory. Their ambitious goal was to have the property ready for its first visitors by the summer of 2018.
Having hired a team of local builders following a tender process, their first step was to strip the property back to it’s bare bones (including taking out and replacing all of the upstairs floors the joists of which turned out to be rotten). This is what the cottage looked like when I first popped round “Kevin McCLoud” style at the start of their renovation journey.
By the time Malmo McCloud returned to stay as one of their first guests in October 2018, it was virtually unrecognisable. With the renovation complete, the cottage has five double bedrooms (three of which are ensuite), a stunning kitchen diner with vaulted ceilings, a relaxed sitting room with open fire, a family bathroom with a gorgeous cast iron roll top bath and a boot room and separate utility. There is a lovely secluded patio garden at the front and a large lawned area at the back (perfect for letting our pack of lad labradors off the leash).
Vicky said that her aim for the interiors was to create an English take on an American beach house and it is a triumph of Nantucket come to Norfolk. The walls are painted in a pallet of clean minimal neutral colours which act as the perfect backdrop to some seriously luxurious furnishings from brands such as Neptune, Rowen & Wren, Also Home and the White Company. There is not a jaunty anchor or whimsical shell in sight.
The star of the show has to be the duck egg blue Humphrey Munson kitchen which is at the heart of the house and fabulously well equipped. I loved the way that Vicky and Chris had chosen to leave sections of the original flint walls exposed in the kitchen to provide a rustic contrast to the contemporary units.
We stayed at the house as a group of ten (with 5 friends rather than 5 children I have previously failed to mention in case you are wondering). The layout of the cottage is perfect for groups of friends or families.. Upstairs are two generous double bedrooms (one of which is ensuite) and a further single with bunk beds and some lovely touches for children staying like a minature teddy version of Bertie the dog. Upstairs is also host to the family bathroom of dreams which has Georgian style panelled walls, a huge roll top bath and gorgeous brass taps. The bath products are all from Plum & Ashby’s beautiful range made in the UK.
Downstairs are two further double bedrooms both of which are ensuite. This layout meant that those in our party with kids could sleep upstairs whilst those without occupied the bedrooms downstairs so that they were spared a 7:30am wake up by the Octonauts/Fireman Sam/Mr Tumble emptying his spotty bag.
The bedrooms are all beautiful but the one to fight over is definitely the master suite off the kitchen which has both a four poster bed and roll top bath of it’s own. It is set off the kitchen/diner and is like a mini hotel in it’s own right. I loved the vintage boathouse sign that hangs above the doorway to this room adding a nod to the coast.
We all then enjoyed big communal breakfasts together with papers around the huge kitchen table which can easily seat 12. Bacton, where the cottage is based has a small local shop which stocks all of your bread/milk/Sunday papers essentials. Though it is not the kind of the place where you will be able to source artisan pate or gluten free granola so maybe stock up in advance if those things are your daily essentials.
Evenings were spent slobbed out on the two huge comfy sofas in front of the fire. The zinc coffee table is truly a sight to behold, I am pretty sure that it may be bigger than one of our bedrooms at home. If you have been out taking the sea air during the day then coming back and running a bubble bath in the stunning main bathroom of an evening is also to be recommended.
Bacton woods close to the house offer excellent dog walking/Gruffalo hunting opportunities and if you are in need of a National Trust top up then Felbrigg Hall is just 10 minutes away. The delights of the rest of the North Norfolk coast are also within easy reach with Holt (a lovely Georgian market town) just twenty minutes drive and beyond that gems including Wells on Sea, Blakney, Stiffkey, Holkham and more.
We enjoyed a delicious pub lunch at The Victoria at Holkham and then a run on the vast and beautiful beach. We also called in at Stiffkey Stores for a coffee and spot of modern rustic interiors shopping. The kids loved a) the cabins for sitting in outside and b) the excellent selection of sweets for less than 50p on offer. I should also mention that the Gunton Arms (rated in the Top 50 places for a pub lunch by [ ]) is also just ten minutes away from the house. Be sure to reserve a table well in advance of your stay though as it gets really booked up!
So Anneka hang your jumpsuit back up and return to presenting the Sunday Morning Sizzle on Radio Colchester as this is one challenge I have solved without your helicopter even having to leave Broadcasting House. If you would like to book a stay at Edenhall Cottage click here you can also follow the cottage on instagram here. We were lucky enough to be guests of Vicky and Chris when we stayed but at less than £2000 for a stay even at the height of peak season it is a complete bargain compared to anything I have found of similar size/quality anywhere else in the UK!
*We did not pay for our stay at Eden Hall but I was not asked to produce any content in return for our stay. I am writing up our stay for the blog because it is genuinely one of the nicest places I have ever stayed and I wanted to share it with you *
Mr Malmo and I are not really country people. He grew up in Nottingham surrounded by bus fumes rather than bushes and, although I hail from Northumberland, 20 years of living in London have rendered me twitchy whenever I am more than 300 metres away from a filament bulb and a flat white. However, having three boys has given us a new found appreciation of wide open spaces where you can let lad/labradors off the leash with less people around to hear you loudly telling them to stop what they are doing and go for a poo or to take a SuperZing out of their nose. With this in mind my google holiday search have increasingly started to feature more escapes to the country than city breaks which is how I discovered Ivywood Cottage on the Norfolk/Suffolk border .
About the Cottage
Ivywood Cottage is owned by Laura and James who live in the big house next door with their 3 year old identical twin boys and new baby. It was the discovery that they were expecting the twins that prompted them to trade in their one bedroom flat in Islington for James’ native Norfolk and a Georgian House in the country with the added bonus of Ivywood Cottage attached. Moving from such a busy part of North London to Redenhall was, Laura admits, a massive change. Instead of the emergency services hurting past at all hours of day and night and noisy neighbours stomping around, they now have the odd tractor trundling past and a cockerel crowing next door. But having grown up on a farm herself and James a country village it wasn't the huge shock it could have been.
Their adjustment to country life has, therefore, been fairly smooth bar some standard country-newbie errors (running out of oil...several times, forgetting they have a septic tank, not realising they had a soak-away pond, not realising the lush green garden was actually thick with ground elder and bind weed…. Reading this list revealed the depths of my own #urbanignorance because I initially thought Laura was referring to running out of olive oil here and thought a soak away pond might be some sort of cool Grand Designs style contemporary garden water feature rather than a tricksy pond drainage system.
Downstairs at the Cottage
Ivywood Cottage has been beautifully restored so that you get the best of old and new. So there are gorgeous flagstone floors, exposed beams and quirky staircases but also the comfort of having a beautiful contemporary kitchen in soft grey with metro tiles and on trend copper taps and the very 21st Century pleasure for soft linen bedding from Loaf on all the beds.
We visited in January so took full advantage of the cosy woodburner in the living room which comes complete with all the urban comforts you need to ease you into country life gently i.e. ready access to the latest copy of Kinfolk. I loved how Laura has carefully mixed interiors styles together in this room, introducing vintage pieces such as two 1950s midcentury armchairs covered in gorgeous mossy green and smokey grey velvet.
The nearest town to the cottage is Harleston where we stocked up on locally baked bread, bacon from Norfolk bred pigs and fresh orange juice for breakfast (and if I am honest also Weetabix, Nutella and Robinsons squash because my kids regard Granola and Fresh Orange Juice as their breakfast enemies ). The kitchen has a gorgeous farmhouse table, bench and tolix seats and I loved the industrial touches like the vintage lights over the island and the concrete worktops.
Upstairs at the Cottage
Upstairs are two double bedrooms (one with an ensuite) and a large landing area with vaulted ceiling which houses a sofa bed meaning the cottage can comfortably sleep six making it ideal for a family break, a weekend away with friends or a romantic retreat with your partner where you can enjoy spaces in your togetherness i.e. escape their snoring if you need to!
There are a plethora of lovely country walks you can do from the cottage and a host of country pubs dotted all around. Laura’s favourite walk is a big loop from the house which just happens (!) to pass three pubs along the way. The last pub (about a 10 minute walk from the house) has a super children's play park a stones through away #parentingwin. After you have been out to take in the country air come home and warm up in the huge roll top bath. I have never been a huge shower curtain fan but the yellow and white candy striped one at Ivywood totally changed my view. I would happily have it cling to my naked body (if you are reading Ryan Gosling have similar thoughts about you).
Exploring the surrounding area
Whilst the cottage is perfectly positioned for enjoying the best of the countryside there are also plenty of lovely coffee and cake shops nearby should you need a #FlatWhiteFix. One of Laura’s favourite cafes, Marsh Larder, is on a local farm and when it's warm, you can sit outside with a glass of prosecco, eating homemade cake whilst the cows in the field next to you gaze on. Or, if, like me, you have a slight fear of bovine animals, why not try the Earsham Street Cafe in Bungay who serve up an awesome homemade cake. Bungay also has some great antiques and interiors shops and Laura recommends checking out Naken Interiors in Beccles who stock great brands like Ferm Living. Slightly further afield are all of the delights of the Suffolk coast. We worked our way over to Southwold one day via Darsham Nurseries which serves up delicious breakfasts and lunches in a garden nursery (think Petersham Nurseries rather than Dobbies Garden Centre).
There are great beach walks to enjoy at Dunwich, Covehithe, Aldeburgh, Thorpness and Southwold to name but a few and even more great pubs and bakeries to sample. No self respecting instagrammer (or donut fan) should leave Suffolk without calling in at the Pump Street Bakery in Orford. And if you are looking for the perfect place for Sunday lunch look no further than the Unruly Pig near Woodbridge.
We stayed at Ivywood Cottage at a discount but even at full rates it is great value for a weekend away at around £100 a night depending on the time of year. A single hotel room can easily cost that without any of the comforts, luxuries and style that Ivywood offers. We are already thinking about coming back not least because I can’t wait to see the renovations that Laura is carrying out on their neighbouring Georgian House. I am hoping I can convince her to let me come back and do a house tour when she is finished! In the meantime if you would like to book a stay at Ivywood Cottage the link is here
Tell people you are going on holiday to the Maldives and you will be greeted with reactions such as "wow that sounds amazing" or "you lucky thing I am so jealous" or "you are going to have such a fabulous time". Tell them you are going to spend a week taking in the beaches of the North Sea in Holland and you are more likely to encounter perplexed looks (think Joey from Friend's smell the fart acting face) and querying comments such as "Holland? That is an unusual choice" or "What made you decide to go there?" Chances are nobody will say "Ohh Holland, you are going to love the stunning coastline, oodles of beach clubs with amazing boho interiors and tiny hamlets over looking the water with cobbled streets and clapboard houses." Well, unless you tell Kinship Creative, my Scandi Sister from another mother that is.
It was on her instagram feed a year or so ago I first spotted an amazing looking beach bar with bleached rattan furniture and rustic textures galore that I mistook for a hotspot in Ibiza but which turned out to be on the Dutch coast just 30 mins away from Amsterdam, a city we had a one night stand with (not in) last February. One night was enough to make me think I would very much like to go steady with the Dutch capital city. Dotted as it is with beautiful buildings, amazing cafes, cool lifestyle and homeware stores and great museums and parks to keep kids entertained.
So just after Christmas I started doing my Air BnB research. It quickly became apparent that to stay in central Amsterdam itself in the Summer holidays in something that was not a shoebox or a youth hostel (although to be fair some of those looked quite nice) would potentially cost more than the UK's Brexit bill. I was about to give up when I widened out my search area a little bit and spotted a clapboard house located on a dyke (an inland sea) about 15 mins drive outside of Amsterdam which fitted the bill perfectly.
Sometimes in life things which look great in a photo or on the TV turn out to be disappointing in real life. Like Dermot O'Leary for example who I used to be rather partial to until I spotted him in Euston WH Smith and realised he is about the size of a small Irish Leprechaun in the flesh. Happily when we arrived out our home in the Holland for the week it turned out we had the luck of the Irish on our side. Click here for the Air BnB link but the pictures really can't convey what an amazingly idyllic setting it is in. Durgerdam is a tiny Hamlet of impossibly appealing houses looking out to sea. Our view to the front of the house was of boats bobbing in the harbour and sailing in the sea beyond and from the back there were meadows with sheeps and cows grazing with a stream running out throught the field.
The house is arranged over 3 levels and is a perfect base for a family break. The owners also have three sons of very similar ages to ours so there were a wealth of toys and activities to keep the trio of todgers entertained including a pool table, a mini astroturf pitch a full scale basketball net and a sandpit all in a safely enclosed garden. This meant that I actually managed to spend ten minutes lying in the huge hammock on the veranda which wraps around the house without anyone under the age of 8 appearing to tell me they were bored, had accidentally flushed their lego down the loo/wanted to use my phone to play a game that involves a sausage on legs running an assault course that would consume my annual data allowance.
There are 4 bedrooms, two double, two single kids room and two bathroom all decorated in a crisp clean Scandi inspired style with some gorgeous rustic features like the pine cladding wall in the main bedroom and concrete sinks in both of the bathrooms. It is a style I am going to call Netherlands Nordic.
The real jewel in the crown though is the kitchen which leads out on to the wrap around veranda I mentioned. This is where we spent most of our time with breakfasts around the huge oval table which had a really cool built in plywood benches to sit on with lots of storage incorporated. Dinners were taken out on the deck watching the sun go down over the fields. The kitchen leads through to a living space and kids play corner and I loved the crittal style windows that linked the two spaces and the timber ceilings in the kitchen which added a touch of cabin chic to proceedings.
10 minutes up the road from the house is a Landmarkt supermarket for all of your grocery requirements. I think it might be the Dutch equivalent of Whole Foods judging by the amazing range of mouthwatering fresh produce and slightly eye watering prices. It is definetely not the cheapest place to stock up on nappies and bin bags but all of the food on offer was delicious. There is also a lovely little restaurant in Durgerdam with tables right on the water and seems to be the place that Amsterdammers like to come and moor their boats and grab a bite to eat and glass of wine of a weekend so make sure to book in advance.
The weather when we were there was amazing so we were happy to have the option of cooling down by going or a swim in the sea from the pontoons leading out to sea or to let the kids paddle in the shallow waters from a little beach just 5 mins walk from the front door of the house.
If you can tear yourself away from this little corner of paradise then Amsterdam is just on your doorstep and you are within an easy drive of the beaches to the North. I have rounded up below a few of my favourite places that we visited but it is a far from comprehensive guide to all of the delights that Amsterdam and the coast have to offer (and definitely doesn't include delights including ping pong balls I am afraid). I hope to go back many times to this gorgeous area to build up the Malmo & Moss guide gradually!
Having kids is a wonderful life enriching experience but it does mean sacrificing some of the things you previously took for granted. Like the ability to cough without also doing a little wee or any hope of going to the toilet without someone bursting in within two minute of your cheeks hitting the seat. Mooching whilst on a city break is another one to add to the list. By which I mean idly wondering pretty streets with no clear aim other than pottering in and out of little boutiques and stopping in whichever bijou winebar, cute cafe or rustic restaurant takes your fancy. If, like me, you are exploring Amsterdam whilst also keeping an eye on 3 boys, 3 footballs and with a buggy more heavily loaded than an Eddie Stobbart lorry then head to the Westerpark neighbourhood and explore the Westergasfabriek, the site of a former gas works which has been redeveloped into a beautiful park and cultural complex with indie shops, elecetic eateries, an arthouse cinema and brewery all housed in gorgeous old buildings. We ate at Westergas Terrass which had statement boho lighting, industrial textures and vintage features and tables opening onto a huge public space in which the boys could run around and play whilst we waited for the food to arrive.
On the other side of town, the Vondelpark runs through the centre of the City with miles of cycle paths, open space and playgrounds for kids to explore. Just aroound the corner from the park is Dignita which sounds like it might specalise in Euthansia but which is actually a kid friendly cafe that serves a mean brunch, They have a play area to enterain the kids and a licensed bar should you fancy a bloody mary with your eggs benedict.
If you are in Amsterdam unencumbered by junior chaperones then the 9 Streets is the area to head to for mooching. There are a myriad of gorgeous lifestyle stores and cafes to while away the day in. By allowing the boys to plunder my annual data allowance watching Thomas the Tank Engine/Angry Birds/Fifa rerun videos on my phone we managed to squeeze in an instagrammable brunch at Pluk, a cafe within a lovely lifestyle store with plenty to tempt you in the way of food and homewares.
Zandvoort & Noordwijk
The nearest beach to Amsterdam is in Zandvoort about 30 mins drive away and then slightly further up the coast is Noordwijk. The towns themselves are nothing to write home about (there is a slight air of Soviet by sea about the drab concrete buildings that line the seafronts) but when you get down onto the beach all thoughts of Gorbachov will be forgotten. The beaches are miles long, wide open and, compared to Majorca or the South of France, relatively deserted. The sea is perfect for swimming in and surprisingly warm and there are shallow inland channels perfect for kids to paddle in without any fear of being swept out to the North Sea.
The real stars of the show are, however, the beach clubs which, with their relaxed rustic boho vibes will have you thinking you are in Ibiza not the Netherlands. Think bleached wood, rattan lampshades and lashings of botanicals mixed in. Our three favourites (all under the same ownership) were Hippie Fish on Zandvoort beach and Tulum and Branding Beach Club in Noordwijk. The atmosphere was super relaxed and friendly with great brasserie type food with an asian fusion twist being served up. The prices were not the cheapest but definitely not as eye watering as St Tropez. When the sun goes down bonfires are lit and festoon lights turned on to add to the magic
Oh goodie our plane is delayed by two and half hours said no parent travelling with 3 young children ever. With all electronic devices capable of playing C-Beebies having been drained of their batteries before we even left the tarmac at Gatwick, by the time we arrived in Malmö at 1am in the morning I would, quite frankly, have happily slept in the stockroom of the local Ikea. I think the passenger in seat 11E who was hit in the face by a polystyrene recreation of Mr Tumble during an in flight toddler meltdown would have happily seen us locked in said stockroom. Luckily, however, we did not end up bedded down amongst the Billy Bookcases and below is my round up of the best places to stay in Malmö whether you are travelling Hans Solo, in a couple, with friends or as a family.
The Story Hotel
The first hotel we were booked into the was the Story Hotel. Centrally located on the waterfront, it is a great place to stay if you are after somewhere that has Scandi interiors with an industrial edge. Rooms come with great views over Malmö although you may find yourself just lying in bed staring at the amazing concrete ceilings instead. If that sounds a little bit multi-storey car park then let me assure you there is not a whiff of the NCP about the decor as industrial features are balanced by warm tones and textures such as velvet chairs in deep burnt orange, warm copper lighting and thick natural linen curtains.
The hotel is also home to the only rooftop restaurant and bar in Malmö which has amazing views across the city and then out across the water to Copenhagen. Being in the company of three kids under 8 we naturally had about as much chance of sipping a quiet cocktail at sunset as I have of slipping into size 6 skinny jeans and going out on a date with Ryan Gosling but we did get to enjoy the views of Malmö over our museli in the morning instead.
Downstairs off the lobby looking out over the harbour is the restaurant Lokale 17. It mirrors the industrial interiors of the hotel and had a really great atmosphere, with a cosy seating area and a buzzy bar. Whilst the Story Hotel may not be predominantly marketed at families we did still find it worked really well as we had interconnecting rooms (the wholly grail for a family of five) . It had a really relaxed friendly atmosphere and there were lots of lovely touches like a teddy left in the cot for our youngest and chocolates in the room for the eldest two (even there beige palettes were slightly affronted by the liquorice flavour choice). It's location is also perfect for exploring Malmö.
If I was travelling with just Mr Malmo or some girlfriends and therefore had more than a 1 in 1.6million chance of a lie in, then the other hotel that caught my eye is the Hotel Duxiana. The rooms all look beautifully designed with less of an industrial edge and more of a classic Scandinavian simplicity about them and because the hotel is owned by the luxury bed manufacturer Duxiana, you are pretty much guaranteed an amazing nights sleep!
If you have less Kroner clunking around in your pocket then the Clarion Hotel & Congress which is literally right next to the Malmo Saluhall (so maybe pack extra elasticated pants if you stay here) also looks a good option. I did not visit it personally but I like the industrial styling in the restaurant and bar area from the website
The OhBoy Hotel
For the second half of our stay in Malmö we moved to the OhBoy Hotel which has 31 loft type rooms split over two levels and equipped with kitchenettes meaning you can easily self cater if you are facing a #ryebreadrebellion from your kids. The interiors are light and bright using natural textures such a wood and brushed concrete and all the rooms feature locally designed and produced furniture from southern Swedish creatives. There is a strong emphasis on sustainability with every room being provided with a bike free of charge meaning you can easily navigate Malmö without needing a car.
The hotel is located in the Västra Hamnen area of the city which is a former industrial area by the water which has been completely redeveloped and is now one of Malmös most exclusive neighbourhoods . It is the perfect place to stay if you are travelling with kids as there are some lovely cafes, brilliant playgrounds, a beach and gorgeous long wooden walkways stretching along besides the sea which are perfect for scooting and cycling down. Oh and if your kids are of the teenage variety they will love the shiny new skate park that is just opposite the hotel.
Air BnB Options
The Ohboy is a good compromise between a hotel and self catering accomodation but if you would prefer a little bit more space then there are also some great Air BnB options in Malmö. Two to save to your wishlist include this 1 bed close to the city centre with great Scandi/Industrial interiors or, a little further out, this 3 bed villa with rugged Swedish good looks would make a great base for a family.
We used the small town of Ängelholm as our base for exploring Skåne County which is about 1.5hrs away from Malmo. It is quite a quiet small town and we stayed in the Hus 57 whilst we were there which is part of the Best Western group. But this was no functional business hotel it has been designed with an instagram generation in mind as the decor is an super cool mix of industrial textures, luxe fabrics and quirky design touches all for a super affordable room rate. I particularly loved the velvet sofas in the lounge areas and the restaurant design.
We stayed in interconnecting rooms on the top floor (the ultimate family of five travel goal!) which opened on to a securely enclosed roof terrace. The hotel works great if you are travelling with kids as the rooms are really spacious and in the basement there is a huge games room with table tennis, table football and lots of board games. It was hard to lure the mini malmos away from it to explore the stunning coastline! There is also a small spa, pool and jacuzzi to enjoy.
If you want to stay somewhere a little more lively and closer to the sea (and have a bit of extra budget!) then without a doubt I would say book the Hotel Skansen in Båstad. It overlooks the most stunning golden sandy beach and had a gorgeous restaurant with floor to ceiling windows that let you lap up that view as the sun goes down. It was home to the Swedish football team when we popped in for a drink meaning I got to sip a glass of wine whilst taking in an even more pleasant view.
Air BnB Options
There are a pleotora of lovely Air BnBs you could make your base for exploring Skåne County. A few of the my favourites include this gorgeous modern bungalow with a pool in smart seaside town Bastad or this simple, contemporary timber house in the countryside need Torekov
*Thank you to Visit Sweden for hosting us whilst we were in Malmo and Skåne County and covering the cost of our accomodation*
When I was pregnant with my first child, one of my friends (who is admittedly a pessimist) told me that there is no such thing as a holiday once you have had kids. By which I think she meant I could kiss goodbye to the days of lounging around an infinity pool with nothing more pressing to worry about than where my next margarita was coming from and whether I had brought enough books with me to last the fortnight (#kindleluddite).
It is certainly true that the arrival of the trio of todgers has cut down the amount of time I spend horizontal on a sun lounger (it is hard to lounge when you are worrying about a toddler falling/pooing in the pool) and ensured that I am now more likely to go home having read the New Adventures of Spot rather than anything off the Booker Shortlist. However, I am a firm believer that you can still have a relaxing time on holiday with kids without handing over 3 months salary to Centre Parcs. If you are looking for a destination where you can lap up great design, interiors and impossibly beautiful blonde men named Lars whilst the kids experience premium playgrounds, sandy beaches and acres of open space then look no further than Malmö and Skåne County. Here are five reasons why it is the perfect place to holiday with kids and my top tips for things to do with them whilst you are there (none of which cost the earth).
It is fair to say that with 3 kids under 7 approximately 33% of my time is spent either in search of or in playgrounds. So I know my swings from my roundabouts when it comes to what makes a good one. Malmö has hands down some of the best I have ever experienced. There was not a dog poo, broken swing or treacherous slide in sight (I am looking at you Oakwood Park). In fact they are so good that you will need all your best parental negotiating skills to get the kids to leave them without the kind of reaction Donald Trump would have if he was served a quinoa burger.
Our favourites were one off Lillas Varvgatan near where we were staying at the OhBoy Hotel, the Slottsträdgårdens and Folkets Park but rumour has it Pildams Park is also well work a visit (we didn’t make it there on account of my 5 year old’s leg batteries running out that day). The Swedes are also great at combining their stellar playgrounds with instagrammable cafes. My favourite has to be the Slottsträdgårdens Kafè (@Slottsträdgårdens Kafè.) where we headed for for a cup of tea and some fika after a sphincter clenching hour of letting the boys climb the trees in the neighbouring park. I am not sure my Swedish vocabularly extends to "please could you call the fire service, my son appears to have climbed a tree the size of the Eiffel Tour and got stuck". You can recover your calm siting outside under the shade of rippling trees or duck inside the greenhouse strung with bunting and dotted with candles
I love almost everything about Scandinavia but if you are travelling with companions who turn their noses up at anything non beige/vaguely textured/potentially containing vitamins it’s cuisine can, at times, be a little bit of a challenge. FYI if you ever want your kids to tidy their bedroom just plop a herring rollmop down in front of them and tell them it is that or putting their lego away. However, take them to either Malmö Saluhall or Höganäs Saluhall and you can guarantee you will have no ryebread revolution on your hands.
There are a host of different stalls catering for all palettes and both are located in gorgeous old industrial buildings meaning you can lap up the bare bricks and rustic textures whilst they are tucking into ice cream from Favvo Glas, Pasta from Papi or cinnamon buns from St Jakob Stenugnsbageri.
If, like my kids, sitting down for longer than 10 minutes at time, you can grab the makings of a gorgeous picnic and head around the corner to Slottsträdgårdens where there is acres of green space and trees to climb to burn off some post lunch energy. If you have kids old enough to understand the concept that if you throw yourself out of a boat you will get wet and force your mum to make like a podgy Pamela Anderson to rescue you from the water, then you can also hire a boat to gently explore.
Malmö itself has a small sandy beach which looks out over the water to Copenhagen but hop in the car and within an hour you can be exploring impossibly pretty cobbled fishing villages with miles of unspoilt coastline to enjoy. Our favourite spots were Mölle, Torekov and Båstad. We spent a very happy morning exploring the dunes and rocks of Torekov where old ladies whizzed passed in dressing gowns on their bikes on the way for their daily swim. In the Summer you can catch a ferry across to Hallands Väderö an uninhabited nature reserve (thanks to @myscandinavianhome for the tip). If you are in Mölle head for Mölle Krukmakeri. You will initially think I am crazy telling you to take kids to a pottery but swerve the pots and head to the quirky café where they will be too distracted by quirky things like a giant stuffed tiger dressed as an airline pilot to cause any ceramic calmamities.
Our favourite beach of all was in the upscale resort of Båstad where the Swedish Tennis Open is held everyyear. There is a long flat golden sandy beach, shallow waters perfect for splashing around in and pontoons leading out to sea off which older/more proficient swimmers will love jumping off. In the Summer months there is cool beach club at the top of the beach and if you can hose them down and wrestle them back into their clothes then the swish Hotel Skansen is actually remarkably child friendly with friendly waiters and kids activitiy packs on hand.
Going round museums with kids can be somewhat of a hit and miss experience. Find a good one and they will be channelling their inner David Attenboroughs or Mini Monets but visit a dud and you will find yourself setting a new Guinness World Record for the number of times one person can say sshhhhh, don't touch that, don't climb that in one hour. Luckily Malmo has some great ones. Our favourites were the Malmo Hus which is a castle in the middle of a moat inside which there is a mini interactive aquarium and ramparts to explore. The aquarium was a particular hit with my kids because it had lots of things they could touch and climb on without setting off any alarms. Even Mr Malmo couldn't resist sticking his head inside a giant diving helmet in the middle of a tank of eels.
For an experience that doesn't involve eels then head to the Konst Hall. It is in a beautiful old orangery building and had a giant sculpture exhibition inside when we visited. It looks on first glance like the kind of place that might not love an invasion of sticky fingered noisy kids but it actively welcomes them, running free crafting workshops in a room off the main exhibition space. There is also a gorgeous courtyard cafe where they can be as noisy as they like and another brilliant playground literally right outside. If art is your thing then the Moderna Museum is also not to be missed.
Strolls by the Sea
If you are staying in Malmö with kids then I would recommend basing yourself in the Västra Hamnen area of the City, a former shipyard which has been transformed into a sustainable area of contemporary housing with a harbour bobbing with boats. There are stretches of wooden walkways looking out towards the sea dotted with beautiful Scandinavians (young and old) who have come to enjoy the sunset and a swim in the sea off bleached wooden pontoons. There is plenty of room for kids to run/scoot of some steam and then Vespa is a great spot to grab a pizza and watch the sun go down/watch the sun go down whilst also watching the kids to make sure they aren't about to attempt to swim to Copenhagen. This area is also home to the famous turning torso building which fascinated our kids. Questions they asked that I couldn't answer, how do they clean the windows, why does it look like a twiglet and why can't we live there (well I could answer that one, it is something to do with not having a spare 500 million Kroner down the back of the sofa)
I have never known a tantrum that can’t be quelled by a cinnamon bun (well apart from the one Mr Malmo had when I gave away to Oxfam a jumper which he loved by which I thought made him look like he was on day release from a juvenile detention centre). If you need a little cinnamon related bribery up your sleeve then there are numerous spots around the city to pick up a bun to stifle a toddler rebellion. . Some of our favourites were from Söderberg & Sara in the St Knut area of the city and on the other side of town the cardamon infused buns from Bagaren & Bonden were out of this world.
Thank you to Visit Sweden UK for hosting us whilst we were in Malmö and Skåne County. Whilst our stay on this occasion was in partnership with Visit Sweden UK, we have visited and loved Malmö as a family and will definetely be returning in the future. If you have any questions at all about travelling there with kids please feel free to ask in the comments below.
Growing up the child of Guardian reading muesli eating parents in the 80s/90s meant that our Summer holidays followed a well trodden middle class path across the channel to a French Gite my mum had booked through the Brittany Ferries catalogue. This being the days before the internet the most you had to go off in determining whether your accommodation was tres chic or a shit gite was usually just one picture of the exterior. On several occasions we turned up after an 12 hour journey in our Rover 316 (anyone else remember the faux mahogany trim that made you feel like you were trapped inside David Dickinson’s wet dream) to find what waited behind the keyhole was more ‘A Week in a Romanian Orphanage’ than ‘A Year in Provence’. Happily saying Bonjour to the internet has meant we can say Au Revoir to the horrible holiday lottery and these days Gites even come with their own Instagram accounts. So having followed and drooled over the Vintage Curator House feed it took me all of 20 seconds to say yes when it's owner Sam ( aka @vintagecuratorinteriors) asked me if I would like to go and spend a week there.
The house is located in the Vendee which on the West coast of France. The nearest airport, La Rochelle is just over an hour away but because we have 3 small children and therefore travel about as light as a zumo wrestler we decided to take the ferry and drive instead. Our plan was to hit the road straight after picking up the kids from school thus avoiding rush hour traffic. Obviously the reality was that an hour after picking up the kids we were still trying to find someone to feed the cat and locate the chessboard that my middle son claimed he couldn't live without but then didn't play with all week. A last minute discovery that I had neglected to pack myself any knickers set us back a further 15 minutes and whilst returning to fetch them avoided this blog being called "Malmo's Muff Gets into Merde"it did, on the other hand, result in us both running into rush hour traffic and Hurricane Brian. Arriving at Dover to discover our ferry had been delayed by 3 hours merely confirmed my suspicion that nothing good comes from things called Brian. But when we arrived at the Vintage Curator House the next day all negative thoughts about Hurricanes named after tax inspectors from Wilmslow were forgotten.
Sam and husband Oli bought the house back in 2010 after their search for a holiday house that didn't need much work instead resulted in the purchase of something that needed all of the downstairs beams replacing to avoid the top floor falling in, new windows, new doors, new roofs, the installation of two new bathrooms, a new kitchen and a new septic tank. Having taking care of the sewage and sash windows, the couple then added a swimming pool, outdoor cabana and al fresco eating area. Whilst the renovation may have had its ups and downs (particularly for a French plumber who had to climb into a pit of raw sewage to fix a leak in the septic tank) the end results are nothing short of stunning. The house has modern rustic good looks in spades with oodles of gorgeous exposed stone walls, wooden beams and flagstone floors.
With 5 bedrooms and 4 huge reception spaces it is perfectly set up for big groups and there is just as much space outside as in with a swimming pool, outdoor barn with table tennis, and, to my 7 year olds utter delight, a garden big enough to host a mini football pitch. We visited in October which I think offered us the best of both worlds with warm sunny days and cooler nights when we could light the wood burners in the kitchen and living room and get our hygge on. I would, however, like to go back in Summer so I can use the pool which I wasn't brave enough to venture in this time having seen Mr Malmo jump in and then rapidly get back out with his manhood resembling a terrified field mouse.
The house is located in quite a rural area so every couple of days we would head to the nearest hypermarche about 20 mins away and stock up with provisions. This took me back to my teenage years when I would blow all of my holiday money on Hollywood chewing gum, Galak chocolate and Lafuma pencil cases the moment I stepped foot in a L'Eclerc. My sister is still paying my mum back after suffering a bad case of #HyperMarcheHardOn and sinking all of her cash into buying a crushed silk peach coloured Naf Naf jacket in the Summer of 1993. To be honest though, the house is so well set up that it was a struggle to leave even with the lure of a L'Eclerc.
Even getting out of bed in the morning proved a struggle as our bed in the stunning master suite was so big and so comfortable that if I didn't have an 18 month old who is fond of watching the sunrise I would happily have stayed in it all day. Well, maybe I would have got up, but only to run a bath in the en suite bathroom which has a toll top bath and huge walk in shower. I know Mr Malmo was definitely wishing he had stayed in bed on the day we took the kids swimming at a local leisure centre only to discover an obscure French byelaw was being enforced which requires men to only wear "spot the sausage" swimwear. 60 Euros and 3 pairs of budgie smugglers later we entered the pool with him wearing swimwear shorter than the hot pants Kylie wears in the Spinning Around video. He didn't see the funny side when I told him he had, to quote Alan Patridge, "just popped out" whilst bending down in the shallow end.
If you prefer day trips that don't require you to leave your dignity and loose clothing at the door then our favourite local town was Fontenauy le Comte which has pretty winding medevial streets to lose yourself in with plenty of instagrammable doors in arrays of fading pastel colours. Slightly further afield is the Il de Re which has to be one of my favourite places in the world. It is an island just off the coast of La Rochelle and about 1 hr 15 mins drive from the Vintage Curator House. In the height of Summer you can't move for Chic Parisians on holiday enjoying it's impossibly pretty villages, wide stretches of sandy beach, cyclepaths through salt marshes and daily food and antique markets. However it was much quieter in October and we had a great day pottering around in the Autumn sunshine and cycling out to a lighthouse after somehow managing to find a configuration of bikes for 4 adults, 2 toddlers, 1 cycling seven year old and a non cycling 4 year old.
Back at the Vintage Curator House the weather was so mild that we even managed to squeeze in a couple of BBQs on the outdoor terrace and a mini drinks and (L'Eclerc) canapes reception up by the pool cabana before we set off home. Obviously we were only one Vol Au Vent in before one of the kids had thrown a shoe in the pool and broken the temporary Come Dine with Me calm but if you are child free or have older children less prone to throwing things in water then you will absolutely love all the spaces the house has for entertaining.
If you would like to find out more about how to book a stay at the Vintage Curator House then click here to book through Air BnB or visit www.vintagecuratorhouse.com. To find out more about Vintage Curated Interiors, the business through which Sam sells some of the gorgeous french vintage items she has found whilst visiting the Vintage Curator House visit www.vintagecuratorinteriors.co.uk
Prior to July this year, if you had said Tisvideleje to me I would have said bless you. Fast forward 3 months and I still can't pronounce the name of this small village on the Danish coast without sounding like I am gargling mouthwash, but I have found my holiday heaven. The name "Tisvideleje" is derived from "Ti's vælde", meaning a place dedicated to the God Tyr which makes me think that he must be the Danish god of coastal chic. I discovered Tisvildleje after asking Danish instagrammer Kirsten Skovbon where cool Copenhageners liked to go on holiday in Denmark. It turns out this is their Hamptons, tucked away on the North coast of Zealand just 80 minutes on the train from Copenhagen. It takes little bit longer by car but it is a beautifully scenic drive through small towns, woodlands and then the last stretch right by the sea.
Where We Stayed
Obviously ideally I would have been gazing out of the window drinking in the gorgeous nordic scenery listening to a soundtrack of Sigur Ros or something similarly etheral and evocative but being in a car with 3 kids I just had to try and imagine that as Imelda Stanton's Calypso version of A Squash and a Squeeze blared out instead. With Staunton's jaunty acapella rendition still ringing in our ears, we arrived at what was to be our home in the Hygge Hamptons: the Tisjvidleje Strand Hotel.
I had an instant #ClapboardClimax the moment we pulled up outside. The hotel oozed Cape Cod being housed in a gorgeous white clapboard building on a hill with front and back terraces filled with pale bamboo furniture. Inside it was like walking into the pages of Kinfolk with effortlessly stylish designer Danes at every turn. It quickly became apparent that by having a penis but no ponytail Mr Malmo was horribly off message compared to the rest of the male hotel residents. With his short back and side from AJ's Barber Shop he was little bit like Alan Sugar to their Joaquin Cortes at breakfast.
We had an interconnecting family room just off the gorgeous internal courtyard which was my favourite bit of the hotel. It had pale bamboo sofas with huge squishy cushions to lounge on and the whole area was strung with festoon lights and some very swoonworthy rattan pendant lights. The room itself was decorated in simple neutral colours although we did have a very un kinfolk rear view of the back of the kitchen and a fire escape. Am sure that for some trip advisors this would have been a big deal but we were just happy to have two rooms together so we didn't have to spend our evenings playing Scrabble in the toilet so as not to wake the kids.
Breakfast was included in the rate and it was lovely to sit sipping tea in a room lit by twinkling candles in the morning with a simple selection of breads, meats and eggs to choose from. There were lots of young Danish families there and babies are well catered for with very instagram friendly vintage wooden highchairs on offer (although if anyone else has a Highchair Houdini on their hands these are not particularly practical on account of their lack of straps).
Ten minutes down the hill from the hotel was the beach which is overlooked by thatched cottages dotted in behind the dunes with rocky groines leading out to sea. When I was not trying to stop the toddler from eating sand or locating a small lego catwoman my son buried "under a white rock" on a beach of 10,000 white rocks, I enjoyed channelling my inner Saga Noren and gazing out across the sea to Sweden.
5 minutes walk the other way from the hotel was the centre of Tisvilde which is dotted with lovely bakeries, cafes and interiors shops. My favourite cafe was Brod & Vin which bakes Kanelsnegle to die for (pop your elasticated waist trousers on and go and try the chocolate Snegle but be warned there will be no going back to Deliciously Ella's sweet potato brownies after you have opened Pandora's chocolate snegle box). Just across the road from Brod & Vin was also my favourite shop, No 17 Limited, which blended clothes and interiors together in a way that made you want to remortgage your house and buy everything in the shop.
We also loved Sommerhaven which was essentially a coffee hut in somebody's front garden. There was a slide, trampoline and clapboard wendy house so the kids were happy whilst we were getting our caffeine fix. My favourite part was the pallet seating and cool cushion combo that had me rummaging in skips looking for pallets to recreate the look once we got home. They also seemed to have mastered the art of planting raised flower beds with plants that blend well together and flourish rather than our own attempts at home which always end in everything dying except mint which then spreads everywhere faster than a veruca at a swimming pool.
Another one of our favourites was the pizza place near the station called Den Rode Tomat because, if I am honest, whilst I love almost everything about Denmark, there comes a point for me when rye bread and pickled herrings just aren't hitting the spot. At which point I need an injection of melted cheese which this place delivered with knobs on. It serves great, reasonably priced pizza, has a cool bar made out of a shipping container, a lovely outdoor seating area with mini playground too. The place we fell most in love with, however, was the Helene Kilde Hotel.
Helenekilde is located right above the beach in a stunning white house which was originally built as a summer home by a construction magnate called Mr. Grüner for his wife in 1896. Oh to be Mrs Grüner! In 1904 it was converted into a summer and seaside boarding house and then, in 2008, was renovated into the paradise that it is today by former ballet dancer Alexander Kølpin. He also owns the Strand Hotel where we stayed so is clearly a major #DanishHamptonsMogul. It has a gorgeous veranda, outdoor terrace and gardens that stretch down to the sea. When we were there people were preparing for a birthday party winding hundreds of fairy lights into the bushes and hanging photographs from the trees. What I wouldn't have given to be a guest at that party. Inside is just as beautiful as outside with log burners for the winter months and lots of hygge corners to hideaway in.
I am hoping for a lottery win before we next visit so that we can check in. We would probably be a few Kroner closer to that dream if I hadn't discovered Esther's Garage on the road out of Tisvileleje. It is doesn't look like much at first glance but inside it is a complete treasure trove of homeware both contemporary and vintage, all beautifully curated and displayed.
If you want to explore a little further up the coast then I cannot recommend a day trip to Elsinore highly enough and not because I am a #HugeHamletBuff. Bear with me when I say it is, in fact, because of the Maritime Museum. Don' t worry, I am not a secret naval nerd, I don't know my port from my starboard. But you don't have to be interested in boats to enjoy this place. Converted from an old dry dock, the interior is an industrial luxe lovers dream being hewn out of concrete with huge panels of architectural glass. But it is not just the building that is stunning. Everything had been so beautifully curated that at times I forgot I was learning about Danish maritime history and just stood spell bound by huge, scrolling projections of old shipping routes.
It strikes a great balance in appealing to both adults and kids. When we visited, there was a treasure hunt for the boys to do which ended in a lego workshop room where boxes as big as sheds all filled with lego awaited them. If you can tear them away from that lego mega load, then be sure to take in the cafe which is housed in an exposed concrete atrium and will take your breath away.
We returned home from our trip to Tisvildeleje dreaming of owning a cabin on this stretch of coast but alas only Danish residents are able to buy property in Denmark. So, whilst I wait for an answer back fromPeter Schmeichelto my bigamous marriage proposal, I will have to settle for the best Air BnB has to offer instead. I figure this one would do. If you would like to get your hygge on in the Danish Hamptons then read more here.
I spent my formative years in the North-East of England where my only contact with Scandinavia was the Gateshead branch of Ikea and even on trips there I was initially more interested in the mini hotdogs and 50p whippy icecreams than the bleached birch Billy Bookcases, Sodermalm sofas and fabulous faux sage. But somewhere along the way I discovered my inner Agnetha and this North-Eastern girl went Nordic. I began to dream of moving to a Scandinavian country and even went to so far as to take Swedish lessons with Mr Malmo who proved his undying love and devotion to me by spending his Thursday evenings desperately trying to form a Swedish sentence that didn't just sound like he was trying to clear a sticky piece of flem out of his throat. When it became obvious that we would struggle to ask for a Daim bar in a Netto we downgraded the plans to emigrate to frequent holidays there instead. Two Summers ago we went Scandi with the kids for the first time (if you don't count frequent trips to Edmonton Ikea) staying in Copenhagen and then crossing the bridge (yes, The Bridge) to Malmo to stay in the house of one of my all time favourite bloggers My Scandinavian Home. We had a brilliant time so this year, having sired another son (in medieval times I would surely have been given a cow or something by now) we decided to head back to Copenhagen.
Where We Stayed
I am one of life's nervous flyers. I am about as comfortable on a plane as Nigel Farage would be at a Liberal Democrat conference in a vegan cafe. However, it was not my extreme fear of flying that led to our last minute decision to drive rather than fly to Denmark. It was rather the fact that I left it until 2 weeks before the date of departure to book seats by which time return Ryanair flights were about the same price as a small helicopter. But 14 hours with 3 small children crammed into an overpacked Audi were quickly forgotten the moment we stepped inside our Air BnB apartment in Copenhagen. Even with my right eyeball still manically twitching from the 4 large cans of Redbull consumed to keep me awake on the autobahn, I could see that it was the apartment of my Danish dreams.
It is owned by a couple in their early thirties called Signe and Mark who live there with their two young children. They describe themselves in their profile as civil servants and design entrepreneurs causing me to radically re-evaluate my previous stereotypes of civil servants as people who wear short sleeve beige shirts, keep pens in their top pockets and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Common Agricultural Policy.
The apartment is part of a block in which the Danish Prime Minister lived during the second world war. But as you can see it is no gloomy underground Anderson shelter. The main living space is a huge, double reception room with high ceilings and gorgeous sanded original wooden floors. The rest of the rooms lead off that main space and are all painted white creating a beautifully spacious, light and serene feel.
It was a case of love at first sight for the boys as well. However, it was the massive smart enabled TV loaded with car racing games rather than the Dinesen reminiscent floorboards that captured their young hearts. Whilst their new found precious bought us a few uncharacteristic holiday lie-ins, the downside was that anytime we left the apartment to take in some Danish culture at one of the many brilliant museums and galleries Copenhagen has to offer, they had a tendency to ask us at 10 minute intervals when we would be going back to the holiday home to play Nitro Blast.
My favourite part of the apartment was, in contrast, the kitchen. It featured all the modern rustic elements that I love. Rough hewn wood: tick, earthy collections of ceramics: tick, accents of dark metallics: tick. It was a lovely space to sit with a cup of tea flicking through one of their Nordic cookbooks pretending that I am not the kind of person who thinks that rye bread should be reserved for hamsters instead of humans. We tended to eat out at lunchtime and then come back to have dinner at the apartment around the lovely rustic kitchen table having picked up ingredients from the local Meny (the Danish equivalent of Waitrose) on our way home.
There was also a branch of Lagkaghuset next door to Meny so at breakfast time, whilst one of us put the kettle on and stood in the weetabix firing line, the other would pop out to pick up the best cinnamon buns I have ever tasted (and believe me when I say I have tasted a lot!). It is a chain so you can find branches all over Copenhagen should you need a cinnamon top up at any time during the day. I guess they are the Danish equivalent of Greggs but with polished concrete floors, pale wood, twinkling candles and handsome bakery assistants called Lars.
In the evenings once we had the kids in bed we would light some candles in the kitchen (when I say we I obviously mean me as there is about the same chance of Mr Malmo independently lighting a candle as there is him suggesting we sit down to watch a Vicar of Dibley boxset) pour a glass of wine and make plans for the next day together. One of my favourite features of the kitchen was the black pendant lights hung at different heights over the table and worktops, they added a little bit of edge to all the natural textures and got me thinking about changing up our kitchen lights at home.
The kitchen looked out over a gorgeous internal courtyard which was a lovely spot to sit in the sun, watching the boys play with toys shared by all of the apartments with the Danes not being territorial over their tiny tikes. When we visited in late July there were mounds of hydrangeas in whites and pinks in full bloom to enjoy.
There were 3 bedrooms. The master bedroom was a beautiful tranquil space as it was flooded with light from the two big windows which looked out over the quiet street and a small park. The only blot on the bedroom landscape was that the bed had, as is the Scandi way, two separate single duvets on the bed rather than one double. I am not sure if this is because Danish men are chronic duvet stealers so the divorce rate is kept low by everyone having their own duvet, but I found that it meant that I frequently woke up in the night to find that Mr Malmo had rolled off with both duvets leaving me exposed to the Danish indoor elements.
Although the other two bedrooms were used as kids bedrooms, one had a double bed in and could easily have been used as an adult bedroom if you didn't mind waking up with the squad of FC Copenhagen (on the wall rather than in your bed that is unless you had enjoyed a particularly wild night on the Aquavit.) The other bedroom had a small cabin bed in and the only adult it would be suitable for would be wee Jimmy Krankie. Although the bathroom didn't have a bath it had a huge walk-in shower which was perfect for hosing down three mucky boys at the end of every day.
The Local Area
The apartment is located in the Østerbro neighbourhood and is about 15 mins walk from the City centre. It is known as the old wealthy neighbourhood in Copenhagen with lots of beautiful old architecture, broad shopping streets and leafy squares with cafes and shops. Whilst it is definitely not as hip and trendy an area as say Norreborre or Vesterbro, it is super family friendly so will work well if it is first class playgrounds rather than pulsing nightclubs you are after. If your kids are good at walking without claiming their leg batteries have run out, then take a stroll down to the lakes where there are some great restaurants and a section of townhouses so drool worthy that you will be wondering if having watched every episode of the Killing, Borgen and The Bridge will be enough to qualify you for Danish citizenship post Brexit.
2 minutes walk from the apartment was Faelled Park which our kids completely loved. It has an adventure playground, outdoor trampoline park, beach volleyball courts, football pitches, a mini traffic roadway system, a play equipment recreation of the Danish equivalent of Buckingham Palace and vast expanses of green open space. The home stadium of FC Copenhagen also borders the park if you have football fans in the family. Mr Malmo took our eldest son to see a match, buying tickets on the day that cost less than £30 for both of them.
Make sure you tune into the blog this Autumn when I will be sharing more Malmo & Moss tips on where to eat, shop and entertain kids in Copenhagen (when you can prise them away from Nitro Blast that is) and how Danish design has influenced my interiors style at home.
Beaching and Eating Our Way Around Cornwall
"What are your hobbies" was one of my least favourite graduate job application questions to answer. Having spent the preceding 3 years as a student, the truthful answer was: bellowing along to Britney/S Club 7/Steps whilst dancing on sofas in the union bar, discovering that when you mix Baileys and Sambuca in a shot it creates a drink akin to vomit suspended in petrol and speculating with my mates about which of our law lecturers might have the biggest dick. None of the above are obviously application form appropriate, so the extracurricular activities I listed instead were: President and Founder of the University Parachute Society (this was true although we never made it out of the union let alone out of a plane) and long distance running (I did the 5 mile Junior Great North Run twice and my unusual running style caused a spectator to comment that "the poor lass looks like she needs a poo."). Now in my thirties with 3 kids, I don't tend to get asked this question in interviews anymore. Probably because people assume (correctly) that my pastimes would mainly include wiping bums, trying to stop the baby ingesting lego and/or poo from the toilet brush and/or the cat's food (3 of his favourite snacks) and researching ways to remove smeared banana from my crotch so that it doesn't constantly look like I have an aggressive case of thrush. However, on the rare occasion when I don't have a wet wipe in my hand, one of my favourite things to do is head to the beach. A beach with a nice cafe nearby is pretty much my idea of heaven. Our recent trip to Cornwall offered several opportunities to develop this hobby further. Here were a few of my favourite finds for any fellow beach/cafe/beach+cafe enthusiasts.
Tintagel and the English Heritage Beach Cafe
75% of our holiday arguments are caused by my husband trying to park at least 5 miles away from the place we are actually trying to visit. If we were visiting Paris he would want to park in Cannes. So when we drove into Tintagel and he attempted to prematurely spunk his parking load on a patch of hard standing near some fields, a tense stand off ensued. Gallingly for me, it turned out that for once we were actually at the closest car park so I had to spit out an apology on our way down to the castle, beach and cafe. However, it is hard to hold on to petty parking gripes for long when you are looking at this kind of scenery.
There is a beach at Tintagel but, in truth, it is not really the star of the show. Nobody puts a 12th Century Castle where King Arthur was allegedly conceived in the corner. Exploring the ruins of that castle and trying to work out where the royal romping happened affords you stunning views of the windswept coastline. When you are done with the jaw dropping scenery with a side helping of history, it would seem that someone at English Heritage got the modern rustic memo when it came to refurbishing the cafe. It is like stepping inside a crofters cottage if Tom Ford had taken up crofting. It is a stylish mix of white washed walls, flagstone floors, ercol chairs, on trend distressed wood cladding, copper lighting and black and white photography. On a cold windy day you can warm up with a tea and scone inside and on a gloriously sunny day like the one when we visited, grab an icecream and soak up the sun and the views on a picnic table outside.
Watergate Bay and The Beach Hut, Zacry's and Fifteen
Watergate Bay was about 15 minutes around the coast from where we were staying at The Sheepshed and is both a mecca for surfers and well heeled holiday makers called Rufus. I can't claim it is an undiscovered spot by any stretch of the imagination but for a DFL like myself, the expansive beach and contemporary coastal stylings of the Watergate Bay Hotel were manna from heaven. When we last visited this part of Cornwall, the owners of the hotel had only just started to redevelop it from its previous incarnation as a slightly tired old family hotel.
The hotel has also taken over and revamped the old Beach Cafe which is now called the Beach Hut and boasts stylish interiors that I would describe as Coastal Industrial Rustic Luxe! There are cosy corners with banquettes, long wooden tables and a menu they describe as "contemporary British Seaside" which in practice means a mix of burgers, seafood and pasta.
There is lots to like about the hotel itself, it is smart without being stuffy and the interiors are coastal without feeling at all nautical cliche. You can eat either in the bar bit (called the Living Space) which has the show stopping views over the sea, or, in the slightly more upscale Zacry's. If you have kids I would say go with the Living Space as we ate in Zacry's and it doesn't have a kids menu which meant a lot of time scouring the menu for something that wouldn't have butternut squash or spinach or similar incendiary ingredients in it (hats off to you if your kids eat those things without resembling John McEnroe when a line call hasn't gone his way). The benefit of eating in Zacrys is, however, that it has a very cool chevron floor that makes great #Ihavethisthingwithfloors fodder. I didn't manage to get a very decent pic of it though as my 1 year old had caught sight of a nice big staircase in the lobby on the way in and spent the entire meal trying to escape the table to make an attempt at scaling Stair Everest.
I would love to come back and stay here some day as it is really well set up for families with an infinity swimming pool, kids club and plenty of other activities on offer. To be honest I was kind of wishing I could trade places with Max (age 8) who was there on an all expenses paid free trip with his mum and dad. Whilst I was supervising baby Ranulph Fiennes I overheard Max being told off for not being" a good friend" to his dad by refusing to go to bed thus impinging on the time that Dad could spend in the bar drinking free Champagne. Not cool Max, not cool. Unfortunately, in the absence of someone offering me an all expenses paid trip, I had to settle for a buying a couple of nice cups and this Cornwall guide from the mini shop in the Hotel lobby. Luckily the stunning views on the drive home were free.
Porthcothan and the Portcothan Stores
Porthcothan beach was the closest to the Sheepshed where we were staying and is much more low-key than some of the bigger ritzier beaches like Watergate Bay. I would like to say it is my undiscovered gem, but I think, in truth, the weather on the days we visited was just a bit shit and therefore most sane people were probably just somewhere indoors with a hot chocolate rather than freezing their tits off playing cricket and cops and robbers on the beach like us. It is a lovely little beach backed by sand dunes in a small hamlet of houses that is not at all touristy. The only shop is the Porthcothan Bay Store which is also a cafe and was taken over in 2016 by a young, bouncy and enthusiastic couple called Barney and Emma. It has a good mix of things you need (like deodrant and calpol) along with a very tempting things that your waistline really doesn't need but which you can wear elasticated pants on holiday and eat anyway. So we had very un-Deliciously Ella lunches of Chough Bakery Sausage Rolls and Monster Munch crisps washed down with decent coffee and Cornish tea before embarking on chasers of Roskillys icecream. There is also a little annex that sells everything that we land locked Londoners always forget to bring to the beach like windbreaks, buckets, spades, balls, beach mats and the like.
Godrevy and The Hut
Godrevy beach is located at the bottom of the North Cornwall Coast around the corner from St Ives. I have never been to Cape Cod but something about Godrevy made me think of massechutes (if you are looking for a new drinking game, try and get someone to spell Masscetchutes and makes them take a shot everytime they get it wrong. I tried 11 different combinations before I gave up and spell checked it!). It has huge sweeping wide flat beaches which are then bordered by rocky outreaches beyond which there is a lighthouse. Our kids loved going exploring across the rocks and looking for creatures in the many rockpools. There is also a really great cafe for when you are done with your Martha's Vineyard fantasy. It is a bit like I suspect the Hidden Hut on Rosevine beach was 7 years ago. Before, that is, it became a siren call for all middle class people on holiday in Cornwall meaning you now have to queue up for at least 45 mins to get your fix of artisan bread. Although obvs come August I will be up there with my Observer Reading elbows at the ready ready to fight for the last falafel, Godrevy offers same great food with a bit less fanfare. I would love to go back and go to one of their feast evenings this Summer.
So there you have it, my favourite places to inhale clotted cream and look out to sea. Will be heading back to Cornwall this week with my elasticated waist trousers ready to bring you more coastal cafe classics.
Growing up, our Sunday night ritual was crumpets in front of the fire and a tv double bill of Antiques Roadshow followed by Lovejoy. Consequently my knowledge of antiques extended to either Chippendale desks fenced to dodgy Russian oil barons by Lovejoy and Tinker or baroque art that someone found in their Granny’s attic and claimed they would never sell until they discovered it was worth £250K. The BBC budget never stretched far enough for Lovejoy to go on a tour of the South of France, so, until I met my mother-in-law age 23 (who has her own homewares business) I thought Brocante was some kind of infectious chest disease rather than a type of distressed vintage.Read More
Malmo & Moss Goes Jurassic
The last time I went to Dorset I was 9 years old and spent almost the entire time in the garden of our holiday house racing snails with my sister. I therefore can’t remember much about Durdledoor or the rest of the Jurassic Coast but I do recall that I found the Ferrari of the snail world who frequently reduced my sister to tears as he accelerated (in snail terms) past her slippery chap who badly needed an injection of snail steroids. This Easter, having put those heady snail racing days behind me, I returned to Dorest with my in-laws
Where We Stayed
We booked a great Air BnB about 5 miles away from Lyme Regis. Kerb appeal wise from the front it was not exactly a stunner, situated across a narrow road from a working farm, operated by a farmer who would probably not have been chosen to front a Duchy of Cornwall campaign on account of having only 3 front teeth and more hair coming out of his ears than I have on my head. It looked more the kind of place to be cordoned off by DEFRA for starting a foot & mouth outbreak than to feature in a soft focus segment on lambing on Countryfile. However, the rear and inside of the cottage were a very different story.
With 7 bedrooms in total (3 doubles, 3 singles and one with bunk beds) it was once two old workers cottages knocked into one with oodles of period features but decorated with a modern twist with great vintage, statement wallpapers and bold colour choices. The real showstopper was the master suite which was painted a gorgeous dark green which had me mentally scouring a farrow & ball colour chart to work out which shade it was. Green Smoke was the insta consensus. I wonder if doctors trying to diagnose dementia in middle class patients use some sort of system based on how many Farrow & Ball colours you can still name?
I wonder if doctors trying to diagnose dementia in middle class patients use some sort of system based on how many Farrow & Ball colours you can still name? At the foot of the gorgeous raspberry coloured bed was a roll top bath with stunning rattan pendant lights hanging overhead. Downstairs there was a lovely big dining table for family meals, a snug living room with woodburner and then upstairs there was another big family room. If I had any criticism it would be the carpets which were obviously next on the list of jobs to do but in meantime added a weirdly fusty air to proceedings.
However, the garden more than made up for any carpet based disappointment. It was huge and had a sea view over rolling fields (with the abundantly ear haired farmer often strolling past with a herd of sheep). It had a built in trampoline and separate den area with two brilliant treehouses. We enjoyed speculating Lloyd Grossman style “who lived in a house like this” and concluded that they were a London couple from the arts, possibly theatre designers, based mainly on the presence of several feather boas which, in truth, could equally have indicated they belonged to a burlesque troop.
Places to Go
The Rousdon Village Bakery
Anyone looking to book it should make sure to pack a pair of elasticated waist trousers in their luggage as it is a hop and skip away from the Rousdon Street Bakery.
Bear with me when I say it is in a former petrol station, I promise it is not a case of perching on a disused petrol can whilst eating a stale Ginsters. It has been converted into a light modern space with big communal tables and serves, hands down, the best bacon sandwich I have ever tasted. Served on fried brioche bread, I think it might have caused me to suffer my first bacon induced orgasm. There is also a nice shop next door selling textiles and ceramics when you have finally concluded, for the sake of your coronary arteries that two bacon sandwiches in one day would be too much. If you get a second wind you can also pop to the sister branch in Lyme Regis called the Town Mill Bakery.
We loved the slightly old fashioned charm to Lyme Regis. The sandy beach to the west of the town centre is overlooked by lovely pastel coloured beach huts and it is a great spot to grab some fish and chips from Herbies before one of you causes the RNLI to come and rescue the 11,151st person to fall into the sea whilst have a little French Lietenants Woman moment on the Cobb.
Ryder & Hope
I also discovered a rather nice little interiors shop called Ryder & Hope at the top of the High Street whilst my son was blowing his holiday money on an allegedly pre-historic shark’s tooth. It stocks a very insta pleasing mix of botantical inspired products, gorgeous textiles, candles and interiors books. I particularly loved their display shelving made of reclaimed scaffold planks & copper piping.
Further afield, Bridport and the Broadchurch featuring beaches of Burton Bradstock and Westbay are both worth a trip although the single lane A35 is prone to the type of slow moving tailbacks that may cause your children to ask what “cunting caravans” are. If you visit Bridport on a Saturday it plays host to an open air vintage/flea market with all of the bric a brac shops also joining in which is located in the shadow of an old mill.
Having been tasked with finding a café for lunch whilst we browsed the market, the men unexpectedly came up trumps with the Soulshine Café (although they did later confess to also having brought sausage rolls from the Spa which was their preferred preference but for some unknown reason they thought might be mildly unpopular with us). It had a lovely garden area, quirky furnishing and lots of games and toys to keep the kids amused. However, save room for a icecream from the Hive Beach Café on Burton Bradstock beach which is well worth braving the middle class bunfight for.
Burton Bradstock beach is definitely worth going along the coast too. It was used as a location in Broadchurch so is a good spot to go and close your eyes and pretend David Tennant is your husband, but it's real attraction is the Hive Beach Cafe which is justifiably popular offering a winning mix of great breakfasts, delicious cakes and ice cream from a hut out of the back. Although prepare yourself for having to fight off middle class children called Freya who are trying to queue jump you in a bid to get a mango and pistachio sorbet first. The beach also comes with the added bonus of a National Trust Car Park which you can use for free and thus convince yourself that you have totally got your value for money from your £15 a month National Trust membership despite not having been near a Stately Home in 7 months.
Back at the holiday house once we had got the kids to bed of an evening we would settle down for a couple of rounds of traditional family favourite “In the Bag”. As we headed home, sad to leave behind our contemporary coastal country pile, we were all left trying to erase from our memories my husband’s attempted mime of Julian Assange which involved leaping out from behind a curtain whilst thrusting his crotch and dangling a wire. Sexual assault allegations, diplomatic asylum and data leaks are, admittedly, a tough combination to act out through mime.
How do I book?
The property we stayed at is available through Air BnB.