Travel is all about discovering new places, new experiences and new adventures… or is it?
Can travel be about returning to the same place again and again and discovering more nuances about a place?
Years ago, I remember being very surprised when a friend was going back to the same holiday park in Devon for the third year in a row. I just couldn’t understand why they’d “waste their holidays” on going to the same place, when there was so much to see in the world.
This year, after what has been a hectic year for travel thus far, I travelled with the kids and Campy to a familiar place- the Lake Balaton. Our destination- Vadvirag kemping (Wildflower Camping) in Balatonszemes. We discovered this campsite 2 years ago. We stumbled on it with my cousin and spent two nights. Last year we came back and spent 4 nights. This year I was there for a week.
Despite ever-changing weather- rain, wind, sun, hot and cold- it has been the most relaxed holiday I’ve ever had with the 3 kids. We had family come and visit us 4 days out of the 7 and the rest of the time it was just the four of us. (Dadonthebrink, sadly, had to stay home to work.)
What was it that made this holiday so relaxing?
The camping pitch
We had a wonderful pitch right on the waterfront. There was just a narrow 5 m strip of grass separating us from the Lake Balaton. The Balaton changed with the weather- going from angry green to soft blue hues. There was always something happening on the lake to allow us to just sit and watch.
We were rewarded by the most awesome sunsets. Even the kids, especially Angelina, were captivated by the short display of spectacular colour in the sky, reflected on the water. One evening, we had a spontaneous picnic on the bank of the Balaton watching the sun go down. From then on the kids wanted to do it every evening.
The holiday routine
In reality the holiday routine was not having a routine.
We woke up: my alarm went off at 8am, so anyone awake before that got a “SHHH!!!” from the others just stiring. A leisurely breakfast followed, which was different everyday, depending on what we had in supply or needed to be eaten- cereals, milk, toast, jam sandwich, eggs, salami, poppyseed-filled pastries, etc.
On some mornings we went for a cycle (once ending up in hospital after a fall, once in a puppet theater), but most mornings we just played. The kids discovered a sandpit right by our pitch and the joy of mixing the sand with water they’d just fetched from the Balaton kept them occupied for hours.
The castle and volcano complex evolved over several days. As did the friendship Hugo developed with his little Polish friend Timon.
Hugo exclaimed excitedly after the first hour of frustrated attempts to communicate with Timon:
Mummy, we can understand each other if we point, use our hands to signal and make noises!
Our afternoons were spent with similar “let’s do what we feel like”.
We played old favourites like Dobble and new favourites like the boardgame Bookworm.
Or we just watched the world around us.
We’d spend ages spotting water snakes (Siklo, is a harmless snake that eats small fish and feasts on dead fish too. They are afraid of humans but venture out if we are quiet.) Although I freak out from snakes, I tried not to while we were at the Balaton. Why let my kids reflect on my irrational fear of these harmless beings?!
The swans gave us daily entertainment as we fed them bread, rice or sweetcorn.
There were so many watercrafts enjoying the lake. I watched the sailing boats with envy, wanting to take the kids out. (It would’ve been way too complicated to hire as a single parent with all my relevant papers in my drawer at home in the UK.)
The kids had at least one swim a day in the Balaton,
whatever the weather! They, mostly, emerged shivering, but extremely happy. I, on the otherhand, only ventured in one day, on the hot day we had 30C.
The family visits
It was wonderful to spend time with Grandparents and cousins, second cousins, Godmothers and Godfathers. Their visits gave variation to our days. We loved chatting away, catching up on gossip, talking politics and life. It was just a pity that we couldn’t convince anyone to actually camp with us….They are too soft! 😉
The ready-cooked meals
On the first day we remembered a restaurant from last year and popped in to check them out this year again. It was a mere 5 minute walk away- Rudi Tanya. They did a daily menu where you could choose from 5 soups and about 8 main courses, all for just 750Ft (less than £2) per person. They also had play equipment to keep the kids occupied while the food arrived. Once they were finished they were asking to leave the table to play again. This meant I didn’t need to scoff down my food to keep pace with them, but could enjoy the meal.
We ate there every day. The staff smiled as we arrived each day, knowing to bring our water and a spare plate and cutlery for Max.
I loved not having to cook, but still eating well.
The kids’ entertainment
This year the kids went less to the kids’ club than they had last year, but it was good to know they were there if they wanted to go. They only went to 3 sessions, choosing to spend time swimming, reading or in the sand pit instead. When they did go, they returned with a plethora of drawings and crafty creations.
The only thing we really, really missed was having our whole family together. It was sad to have this relaxed holiday without Dadonthebrink!
Do you return to familiar stomping grounds for holidays
or look for new places year after year?
Info: We stayed at Balatontourist’s Vadvirág Kemping & Üdülőfalu, in Balatonszemes, Hungary.
The 7 nights cost me 41,500 Ft (c £100) on a medium lake-side pitch with electric hook up.
The facilities are not the newest, but are plentiful, regularly cleaned and functional. The showers are hot and the cubicles are relatively spacious. Interestingly, there are about 10 individual toilet cubicles campers can hire for a couple of pounds a day.
The dishwashing area has a couple of stoves for cooking on. There is a laundry area, but I forgot to look in there.
The campsite in theory has free WiFi, but this is limited to 250MB and can only be used in the reception area. There are a reasonably priced unlimited data packages for durations from 30 minutes to 1 month. Sadly, there was absolutely no signal near our pitch.
The animation team do a good job at involving kids of different nationalities. Most of them speak at least one additional language.
The campsite has an on-site shop with all the basic supplies, fresh bakery products and milk products daily and a good selection of fruit and veg albeit slightly more expensive than the supermarkets. There is also an on-site restaurant and bar, serving simple dishes.
There are also water pedelos and peddling cars for hire at Vadvirag. The site has an independently run mini golf course and a couple of tennis courses.
The first part of the campsite has wooden lodges which will take 4- 6 people. These have equipped kitchens for self-catering. The cheapest category costs 14,500Ft (c £32 Aug 2015) a night. My cousin stayed there for a night and was quite happy with the comfort of the lodge, saying it was basic, dated, but perfectly functional. Bedding and towels were provided.