We had a GREAT time. Simply the best yet.
This was our home for the week- Penty Parc in Havorfordwest, Pembrokeshire. Or as we called it, Draketon Abbey.
Yep, this was ALL OURS. I would highly recommend this place for large families, the owner was lovely and it was beyond reasonable for the week when you have 10 adults or more. We literally felt like royalty (well, I did!) and no chance of accidentally pinching anyone's dressing gown and room key (ha!). There was no lift, so Elin needed to be carried up the vast staircase to bed -I promise I did not pretend to be Scarlett O'Hara every time I descended. (That may or may not be true. Ahem.) But we found this completely manageable especially with all the help on hand. Do you want a peek inside?
The pictures don't really do it justice. It was simply incredible. The kitchen even had a massive aga range and there were servants stairs at the back of the utility room (itself bigger than our front room at home). Added to this were 8 acres worth of three beautifully kept floral gardens, including a delightful 'secret' garden behind a wall, and a lake. Only thing missing was a dripping wet Mr Darcy/Colin Firth emerging from said lake in a clingy shirt, but hey-ho, you can't have everything. I know you don't read this blog to hear about a house, but I can't stress enough to like minded folks with large families to try it out if there is enough of you. You won't be disappointed.
But what about the star of the show? I hear you cry. Never mind Manderley, what about Elin???
She was AMAZING.
She had a rather grumpy week leading up to our holiday so I was a little nervous before we left. She was a little bit whingy on the way down and when we got there. Luckily her little buddy Gruff was on hand to try and cheer her up by kindly bringing her Gordon, his Thomas The Tank engine toy. I mean who wouldn't be cheered up by that!!! Too cute.
From that moment on I think Elin decided Drakation might be ok. And with Caitlin, Connor, Arthur, Tabitha and baby Ivy also present to amuse her with their youthful energy and shenanigans she really had no choice but to be happy. So she was. ALL HOLIDAY.
We felt so lucky that she was happy and well. Added to the amazing setting and the incredible wall-to-wall sunshine, we really did have all the ingredients for a fabulous, relaxing time. It also helped that there were several Masterchef standard cooks in the party and so family tea time was delicious every evening (obviously, I'm not including myself in that. You know I don't cook. I did go for the chippy tea on the first night though- that's the same thing, right? ) Eating al fresco it really was hard to believe we weren't in a chateau in the South of France or somewhere equally idyllic. We felt very blessed indeed.
So then to the day trips. As Caitlin is competing in the Urdd Eisteddfod today to defend her gold medal from last year in the musical theatre solo (eeeeek!), we left a little early- the rest of the Drakes are still there (sob!) We also hardly ever take Elin anywhere for more than a few days as we never know how she is going to be- we try not to count our chickens. You sometimes have to walk away whilst the going is good! Anyway despite this we still managed to get two fab day-trips in, one to Tenby beach and one to Laugharne where Dylan Thomas, one of my literary heroes, lived. I have ALWAYS wanted to go there, I wasn't disappointed!!! It was stunning. I fell in love with Pembrokeshire this holiday, we will definitely be back. Here are a few of my favourite photo's from the trip...
It's a bit hot here! That must be why Caitlin needed a beer- to cool down! :-)
Anyone trying to get out and about for the night with a disabled child (or any child really!) highly recommend the Aero-bed which plugs in and inflates in minutes to a full sized single bed. VERY handy for our travels.
Elin and I chilling out with gorgeous peach-face baby Ivy in the beautiful grounds.
Elin and Tabitha in the 'Princess Room' (Tabitha's words) which was so posh we daren't go in there to lounge around as a family but it lent itself VERY well to me, Elin and Tabitha dancing around grandly pretending to be Belle from 'Beauty and the Beast'. Girly heaven.
The day before we went to Tenby beach we visited another beach named Newgale and it was late afternoon so it was a little windy. Not that Elin seemed to mind. I cannot fathom how much of an assault on her senses the beach environment must be and yet she seems to love it. Clever, fearless girl.
Here are a couple of snaps from the day trip to Laugharne. I have loved Dylan Thomas for a very long time not least because I was 'First Voice' in a production of 'Under Milkwood' at Drama School. It not only gave me a renewed respect for the text but it also helped me to quash my homesickness in being in Scotland- that Welsh lilt I had missed so much was suddenly all around. The definitive performance of 'First Voice' is of course Richard Burton and I probably turned in an extremely pale imitation of this performance in my interpretation but nevertheless I loved it and it has had and always will have a very special place in my heart as a play. I actually think it's genius . Going to see the writing shed where 'Under Milkwood' was written was definitely one to cross off my bucket list and it would never have been the same going without Elin.
This is Laugharne Castle
The actual place Dylan wrote. BLISS.
The cafe at Dylan's boathouse, where he lived. Now home to a museum and a gift shop where I bought a book by his wife Caitlin (who Elin's very own big sis Caitlin is actually named after don't you know) which I'm looking forward to devouring in what is left of half term. Wow how I love to read when I have time!! Heavenly. Oh and Elin REALLY liked the cafe.
Back at the ranch, Tabitha and Elin have another little play together. Elin absolutely thrives on the sound of other children, it melts my heart to see how much she enjoys it. Maybe a little brother or sister would be a good idea for her -oh excuse me, Paul has just fainted in horror I'll be back any minute to finish my post.......... ha :-)
Right, whilst Paul inhales his smelling salts- I forgot about this pic. This was taken in Tenby, which was busier in half term than St Peters Square in Rome on Easter Sunday without the added bonus of getting a glimpse of someone famous, ya know, like the Pope (seriously. I've done both. It actually was busier) . Elin didn't mind and even found sitting in her chair quite funny. She especially enjoyed a quick visit to the pub for a swift half. She's a rum one that Elin Drake!
Penultimately, here is a photo of our branch of the ever growing Drake dynasty (sorry for the branch pun but it's tres appropriate since we're standing by what is basically the Faraway Tree) in the gardens of the house.
The lovely Drakes. Not the most conventional family in the world maybe, but one that works.
And that's good enough for us.
Happy half term, folks.