Christmas in the Caribbean

Christmas in our house really started when the sofa finally arrived! After weeks of waiting it felt like the biggest luxury and finally made the house basically finished!
 Obviously this called for a couple of family portraits, and when you have little boys that means silly faces!

 In Guadeloupe there are so many different things going on around Christmas which resulted in many late, late nights. One night in particular Estelle, Maxime, Ed and I stayed up until about three. I don't know how the boys managed it but Maxime was just chatting away and Ed was giving so many cuddles. It was such a lovely night!

 I'm really quite big on Christmas, and of course Father Christmas traditions. My mum did such a fantastic job when we were younger I had to tell Estelle all about it and we agreed to have a very English Christmas.

Rather than Father Christmas delivering to Estelle's Uncle's annual Christmas Eve party, the boys left out some mince pies, and rum (Camille insisted he would prefer it!). We also made sure the reindeer had some carrots!
 Then with a little bit of help from Estelle and I, Father Christmas visited once the boys had gone to bed (about 2am!!!). He ate nearly all of the mince pies, made himself a Ti-Punch (Guadeloupian drink with sugar cane, lime and rhum) and the reindeer made a huge mess of the carrots!

 We also put our presents under the tree as there was no more danger of Ed opening everything before Christmas.

 In the morning I had a loud knock on my door from two very excited little boys letting me know that Father Christmas had been and he had even left a letter for the boys! In both English and French as he knows how clever they are!

 Ed didn't really get that he actually had to open the presents- he was happy to play with them all wrapped up, so he was quite shocked when Mummy gave a helping hand and he realised there were more exciting things inside!

 Maxime and Camille got a piano keyboard as they are starting to learn to play in the New Year. I think I was a little more excited than them though! I'm going to re-learn as I really wish I'd never given up!!

 I would love to take credit for the presents I gave to the boys, but unfortunately I actually stole them from my Mummy. I couldn't get the things I wanted for the boys sorted and knew just how much they would love the costumes... Thank you so much Mum! You're the best and I love you!
 Something about children's excitement makes Christmas different and for the first time ever I wasn't really fussed about opening anything myself. Never thought that would happen! I was completely spoilt by things Mum had sent over with dad, the diving from Daddy and then by Estelle. I really love this family like we were blood related!

Estelle and I are both a bit... anal... when it comes to the state of the house. We tried to stay relaxed as it was Christmas, but we just couldn't hack it for long and soon all wrapping paper was recycled for next year/thrown away and all toys had new homes with help from the boys.
 Although it didn't take long at all for Spiderman and Batman to make an appearance!

 For some reason I'd insisted on making sure we had a proper English Christmas Dinner on Christmas day, and although I got Dad to bring over some key ingredients, I was clearly the one who was going to have to cook it.

At first I worried what I'd gotten myself into, but I prepared it throughout the week with the boys which meant other than having to figure out what we were going to do without an oven (thank goodness for Estelle's mum having a restaurant!) it was completely stress free on Christmas Day! Even with time to make mince pies and play lots with my mini Super Hero's!
 It even went down pretty well! We had a fair number of English people there with myself, Daddy, Ace and a couple of guys I've met who are from Manchester, over here playing basketball. It was generally agreed it didn't taste too bad- and considering Harold went up for second helpings this is a huge accomplishments! Usually he's pretty wary of any English dishes I cook- and I don't think I'm that bad in the kitchen!

 We had a couple of star guests, making their third appearance of the day, before pudding was served.

A very English Christmas pudding... I was so excited to light it as at home it's usually Nan who gets to set it on fire, but I seemed to just keep putting the match out. Estelle came to the rescue and we had the longest burning Christmas Pudding I've seen! I think it's the Guadeloupian Rhum!

I was really apprehensive about this Christmas. Everything was going to be very different from the last few years, in a different place with different people. I almost feel bad admitting it, but it was actually the best Christmas I have ever had. Of course I missed seeing Mum and her side of the family- but having Christmas with the boys made it all magical and so special, the way Christmas is supposed to be.
Setting the Father Christmas scene and wrapping stockings sneakily so the boys wouldn't see the wrapping paper or the letter and then their faces when they realised he had been, I think, was the best feeling I've ever had.

I'm so in love this Christmas, it's a different kind of love, but I think it's the best kind. I'm in the most incredible place, with a family that aren't biologically mine, but who love me to pieces and who I love an insane amount back! I'm so full with love and happiness this year I think I could burst!

Learning to Dive

 I was a very lucky girl this Christmas! The first week that Daddy was here we stayed in a place called Boulliante (Boiling in English). It right on the coast and just off from the beach is a little island called Pigeon Island. Under the water is the Jaques Costeau Reserve which is famed for being such a scenic diving destination.

Back in September when Katie and Claire were on holiday we went for a try-dive and I fell in love. I kept meaning to look into finding somewhere a bit closer to home to learn to dive but I completely ran out of time- however Daddy had a great idea, that if it was possible to achieve the level one certificate in one week that I should do so. It was, so I did.

We chose for me to do the French Certificate as it is a bit more in-depth than the PADI cert. It consisted of five dives (more if necessary) and it means I am qualified to dive to 20 metres with a dive leader.

I was definitely spoilt with the conditions and scenery. There isn't a huge amount of current here and we saw so many different fish! Huge schools of rainbow coloured fish, barracuda's, moray eel's, langouste's and turtles! (A particular favourite of mine was the little damsel fish that come to play with your hands.) They are amongst some incredible coral reefs and sea plants. It just feels like a different world down there!

It was lovely to be able to share the last two dives with Dad, although his ears gave him some problems so he didn't join me on the final dive I did (my first one no longer in training!), a wreck dive down to Le Franjack, a purposely sunk ship.

I completely fell in love with it all and I plan on starting the level two in February after I have done a few more pleasure dives to gain some more experience.

I also took Daddy and his friend, Ace, for a snorkel off to see the turtles by the beach. Neither had believed me when I told them that at Plage du Malendure you can swim out a couple of hundred meters and see turtles having a sleep or eating the sea grass. Ace has been diving for a long time and said he has never seen turtles like this when diving- let along just snorkelling!
Guadeloupe I love you.

Daddy Comes to Guadeloupe

Daddy decided to come out and see me for a couple of weeks over Christmas. Handy that it gave him a bit of winter sun, eh! It was also a good kind of halfway point to meet up with his childhood friend, Ace, to lives in America.

Dad arrived the day before Ace, so of course I had to take him to Sainte Anne- my favourite place here.

Unfortunately Dad's done a whole lot of travelling and has sailed around the Caribbean before. So although I still fall in love with the views here over and over again, Dad has seen clear blue waters and white sand before which meant he wasn't quite as taken as I was. Boring old sod.

After Ace arrived on the Saturday afternoon I was officially on holiday and we headed over to Bouillante, where we were staying for the first week of their visit. It was an amazing view from the apartment looking over Pigeon Islands with the Costeau Reserve under the water.

 The beach is called Plage du Malendure and is where you can swim out to snorkel and see turtles. It's also the best place for a sunset at this time of year.
Daddy and I had fun taking selfies with the GoPro!

 I was still finding it very surreal that I was on a deserted beach in 30 degree temperatures in the middle of December...

 We caught another amazing sunset with no clouds before going out for one of the best meals I've had in the Caribbean!

 I had Lion Fish with an amazing sauce while Ace had a traditional Guadeloupian Chicken Columbo and Dad had some other type of fish with balsamic vegetables and parmesan.

They all came with a mixture of local accompaniments- sweet potato puree, Caribbean Rice, squash and seaweed. It was good!

 The dessert looked incredible- homemade Nutella fondant with marshmallows. But made you feel a bit sick and we ended up having to take the marshmallows home as I kept putting the tealight out trying to toast them...
 Before leaving we found these Langouste's in the tank. I tried to play with them but they weren't really very friendly!

 Dad and I went on a nice walk along the coast. We got lucky with the weather as it was an overcast day with quite a good breeze. It was fun to explore but the path was so illogical and we felt like we were just going up and down and up and down- a lot of walking without actually getting very far.

 There was a man selling freshly caught tuna so we got a kilo and Dad made some steaks which were alright.. but my Tartar is definitely the best!
 Dad and I went on another little walk down to a waterfall and I decided it was a clever idea to jump in the freezing water....

 On our last day on Basse Terre we down to Vieux Fort, one of my favourite places in Guadeloupe as you can jump off the rocks. An amazing adrenaline rush and something I would have never done before!

After settling Dad and Ace into their new apartment, on the day before the Christmas holiday's started for my boys, we went down to Saint Fran├žois and Point des Chateaux. There was some amazing mural left on the beach made from local flowers and fruits that just looked too pretty!