Hello. As you have taken the time to enter our site I thought it only polite to introduce myself and my family to you. I'm Louise aged 33, Ian; my husband is 35 (although he still thinks he's 25). Then there is Dylan aged 4, baby Lennon aged 18 months and OJ the dog aka "The Old Grey Rag". I met my husband Ian in Ibiza during the summer of 1998. Two weeks after returning to my hometown of Worksop I could bear the separation no longer, and 'upped sticks' with OJ in tow and moved down to Staines to be with Ian.
Eight months after we first met we flew out to Sri Lanka to get married against the advice of many of our friends but six years on we are still happily married. We were joined in Sri Lanka by close family to witness our traditional Sri Lankan wedding, Ian's mum filling the role of his best man. It was an amazing day and the festivities were intriguing, however we didn't understand a word of the ceremony and to this day Ian often likes to kid himself that the marriage was not legally binding.
We rode off into the sunset on a beautiful elephant; unfortunately it took a huge disliking to Ian, and kept trying to push him off. It eventually shifted him by wiping its trunk all over his hand made silk suit which he had made in Thailand on the way to Sri Lanka. The stains are still there to this day although Ian can no longer get into the suit.
When we returned to England, we arranged a fancy dress wedding reception in the Winning Post Public House in Whitton. All invited guests were told what they should come as. The finale of the evening was a rendition by Ian and his friends of "Stop right now" by The Spice Girls, live on stage, which some of you may have been lucky enough to catch on Beadle's "You've Been Framed". Unfortunately musical careers did not beckon for "The Spice Boys" and Ian had to return to his day job as a self-employed electrician.
In December of 2000, our first son was born; we named him Dylan Joseph. Sadly, not long after, Ian's mum was diagnosed with a terminal illness. In 2004 our second son Lennon William was born. Unfortunately Ian's mum passed away just one month after his birth. We believe she hung on to see her second grandson.
Pat (as she was known) was an amazing woman, a real fighter and an inspiration to all who met her. She never let her illness get her down and managed to retain her sense of humour right up until the end. Along with earlier personal tragedy, the death of Pat made us realise that life is too short to sit back and drift along. We should all be thankful for every day of our lives, seize life with both arms and live life with love, passion and compassion. Carpe Diem.
“Self catering holiday cottages and apartments located in the beautiful Slovenian countryside. Family friendly. Well behaved pets are welcome. Above all our main aim is to provide an environment for all to enjoy, and one that we hope you will want to come back to year after year.”
Our 10 Reasons to Choose Slovenia
- Slovenia is a beautiful country with breathtaking scenery and a varied landscape. It has some unique flora and fauna and wild boar, bear, chamois and lynx can still be found there.
- The people of Slovenia are warm, friendly and hospitable. They are generally courteous and polite and will go out of their way to help you.
- The weather ranges from a Mediterranean climate in the West to a continental climate in our region in the East therefore we have long hot summers and cold winters so plenty of winter activities as well as summer fun.
- Compared with the UK, Slovenia is still a relatively inexpensive country for the tourist. A typical three course meal with wine will cost under £10.00.
- Food and wine are generally excellent in Slovenia drawing on influences from all neighbouring countries. The Prekmurje region is particularly famed for its game and fresh trout, "Bograc" (a rich meaty stew), delicious deserts and fine local wines. All restaurants carry a selection of vegetarian dishes. Fortunately the fast food plague of Western Europe has not infected Slovenian cuisine.
- Slovenia is easily reached from the UK and is less than a two-hour flight away which in our experience if travelling with children is long enough. Numerous airlines fly into Slovenia but we recommend that visitors to the Prekmurje region fly with Ryanair into Gratz airport across the Austrian border. They currently offer a daily scheduled service from London Stanstead. Gratz is a picturesque fifty minute drive from us. We can arrange transfers to and from our accommodation, local car hire at preferential rates or you can arrange car hire independently from Gratz airport.
- Slovenia has one of Europe's lowest crime rates. Everywhere we have travelled to in Slovenia we have felt extremely safe no matter what time of day or night. Children generally walk or cycle to school on the numerous cycle paths which criss-cross Slovenia bringing a welcome break from the infamous British "school run" traffic chaos.
- Slovenia has a strong economy and high literacy rates but the pace of life is definitely more relaxed than the UK. Drinking seems to be a national past time with most people producing their own "Slivo" (a plum brandy), the legality of which appears to be a somewhat grey area. It is common place for locals to invite you into their homes and offer home made wines, slivo and selection of cold meats and bread.
- Slovenia is relatively undiscovered by British tourists especially the Prekmurje region. This has surprised us as the country as a whole has so much to offer everyone.
- Prekmurje is ideally placed for visiting neighbouring countries. We are a 2 ½ hour drive from Vienna, 2 ½ drive from Budapest 1 ½ from Zagreb and about 1 hour from lake Ballaton in Hungary, which is Europe's biggest lake.
Lots of friends and familiy ask us about our life in Slovenia, and if we could send them photographs of how we are doing. So we have included this link to our personal albums.
Lennon Vrtec (pdf 5.67mb)
After being with his call since he was one and a half years old, Lennon is leaving to go to school
(he is now 5, nearly 6).
A few weeks before breaking up for the summer his class and two teachers went to stay for two nights at a local hostel next to a lake. Then a few days before the summer holidays they had a picnic at the local tennis club where the teachers were presented with gifts as a thank you for all the hard work they had done with the children over the past 4 years.
Thank you so much to Marta and Maja, Lennons teachers. They have been amazing and deserve a gold medal for all the work they have done with Lennon and for putting up with all those boys in the class!
In June / July 2009 we decided to take our family holiday in Italy, or Lake Garda to be more precise.
We chose to stay in a static caravan at a camp site called Bella Italia. www.camping-bellaitalia.it
The caravan was excellent, with 3 bedrooms and air conditioning which you defiantly need!
The campsite was excellent, very clean and lots to do for all the family.
The shop was very well stocked and play areas and kids activities fantastic.
The actual lake is quite beautiful and great for swimming. We also spent a day at Gardaland, The SEA LIFE centre, Canevaworld Water Park, Movieland, a safari park and even took a trip to Venice which was beautiful.
The two week holiday was excellent and we highly recommend both the campsite and the destination for a great family holiday. The weather was also very good, hot and sunny, only half a day of rain during the whole holiday and the most amazing storms during the night.
Our camping neighbours were lovely and who included people from Ireland and Belgium. It was also a popular site for Dutch, Danish and Swiss.
Our friend Terry flew in from the UK during our second week to 'have a rest' which was never going to happen with our 4 kids. As usual he didn't listen to our advise about sun cream and burnt himself on day one. We will definitely go back.
Katalina Jean Samuel (pdf 4.5mb)
At last after the 3 boys a little Samuel girl.
Settling in nicely with the rest of the clan, Katalina arrived very painfully at 09.30am after 5 hours of labour but is a little sweetheart!
All the boys love her, and Marley a bit too much at times but hopefully she will get used to it!
Well after another hot year our grapes were looking excellent except for the fact that we had two almighty storms during the summer which produced hail stones (toca) the size of golf balls, which not only made huge holes in our roof but also took out a lot of the grapes.
The morning started out worryingly cold and miserable however after a few Irish coffees the workers spirits rose. This year we picked three vine yards, so had two teams competing for 'who could pick the fastest. Luckily we had a Paramedic on call, who unfortunally within five minutes had taken the end off his finger with his secateurs!
For the first time in four years our friend Robbie actually did some work as he was 'puta boy' this is why there are a few pic's of him as we couldn't believe it! Jerry was a great help, keeping the drinks flowing and Stanko (the Chief) kept everyone in line! Thanks to all that came and helped.
We started at 8.00am in the morning and finished around 11 at night. Our friends Steve and Janine flew in from the UK for the weekend, we still don't know 'how' Steve survived that fall at the end of the evening, but I guess neither does he as he cannot remember the end of the evening. We finally ended up with 700 litres of wine, which isnt bad for beginners! So thanks to everyone, and even though we say it every year... NEVER AGAIN! see you all next year!
Croatia August 2008 (pdf 7mb)
After having such a lovely holiday in Croatia last year we decided to go again but head further down the Dalmacija coast to the region called the Makarska Riviera. The resort we stayed in was called Tucepi. Croatia in August is VERY busy. I have never been in one country and seen so many different foreign number plates. Mainly people from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Italy.
The main resort beaches were very busy, so we tended to drive a few km’s down the coastal road to small villages which has small and less commercial beaches. We visited many of the coastal resorts including Split. We also went to Mostar in Bosnia, this is where the bridge was destroyed in the last war was but it has now been rebuilt. Mostar is a very pretty and interesting place and Bosnian people are very friendly.
It took around 7 hours to drive so far down the coast which included a few stops for the children. The weather was HOT HOT HOT! The coast in Croatia is very beautiful and the best way to see it would be definitely by boat so Ian reckons he will do his boating licence next year???
Christmas 2007 (pdf 7mb)
After spending the past three Christmas holidays in Slovenia, we decided that we would head back to the UK for Christmas 2007 to see family and friends and so they could meet baby Marley for the first time. But instead of flying, we decided to drive.... ahhhhhh
All I can say is thank goodness for ‘Game boys’ and portable DVD players! The first leg of our journey was from Murska Sobota, our home in Slovenia to Nuremberg in Germany. This took us 6 hours. We highly recommended the Christmas Markets in Nuremberg which are apparently the largest in Europe. After a good nights sleep in a basic but clean hotel which had a family room, we drove onto Rotterdam in Holland. This leg of the journey took another 7 hours. At 5.00pm we boarded the Pride of Hull. The boys just loved the cabin, in fact it was the highlight of the journey as they both had pull down bunk beds.
The buffet meal on the ship was excellent, however at this point the flu that was due to dampen the Christmas festivities started kicking in! The ship left Rotterdam at 9.00pm, and by 9.10pm we were all asleep, so didn’t indulge in the ships bars, cinema or entertainment that was available. After a hearty breakfast we drove off the ship in Hull and another 45 minutes to my mums in Carlton in Lindrick. Unfortunately due to the flu that we all managed to get at some point during the holiday we didn't get to see all the people we would of liked to see, or drink the huge amount of wine we had brought with us from Slovenia.
From the North of England we drove to the South and spent the night with Ian’s cousins, before departing for Folkstone the following day where we travelled to France via the Tunnel which was brilliant! From Calais we drove to Paris where we stayed at the Davy Crockett Disney complex. We spend 3 nights here and managed to see both the Disney parks.
The boys enjoyed Disney but after 3 days were happy to head for home, stopping overnight again in Nuremberg.
Marley Samuel October 2007 (pdf 1.5mb)
The new addition to the Samuel Family. Marley Samuel (boy) born 04th October 2007 at 3.33am at Murska Sobota hospital, Slovenia. Weighing in at 3860g or 8.5lbs. 53cm long. Both mum and baby healthy and happy!
Croatia Samuel Holiday - June / July 2007 (pdf 4.2mb)
Ian, Lou, Dylan (6) Lennon (3) and bump 6 months.
At last we were able to get away for a two week family holiday in Croatia.
Children in Slovenia finish school for the summer the 3rd week in June, so we decided to go on the Saturday morning.. EARLY. We were advised by Slovene friends to set off at 4.00am in the morning, which for the children was very exciting. The journey should take from Murska Sobota around 4-5 hours but due to the large amount of holiday traffic it took just over 6.
The journey to Zargreb is pretty straight forward, then once close to Zagreb you hit the newly built 2 lane Auto cester or motorway which you must pay a toll for but which is reasonable. This motorway runs practically all the way down Croatia so ideal for people travelling by car. There are plenty of stopping places with toilets, cafes and children’s play areas. We opted to stay in North Dalmatian, at a holiday village called ‘Zaton’ its close to the pretty village of Nin and around 25 minutes from the port of Zadar.
We can highly recommended this venue for both camping and the apartments. Its an ideal location if you have children. The beaches are sandy, sea is warm and shallow and there are plenty of things to do for the children including entertainment during the evening.
We were also lucky enough to meet up with our Slovene neighbours who have a sailing boat docked in the marina at Zadar who kindly invited us out for a days sailing. A sailing boat is defiantly the best way to see all the islands that are dotted around the coast and some of the beaches are only accessible by boat. If this is something that interests you then I suggest you look into getting a charter boat for a few days with an experienced captain.
All in all a fantastic holiday. Everyday was hot and sunny with blue sky’s, temperatures around 27-37C. If you a looking for a two centre holiday (a week in Slovenia and one in Croatia) then we can highly recommend Zaton. www.zaton.hr
Pust Festival - February 12th 2007 (pdf 1.5mb)
We join our friends and other villages in Gomilica to celebrate ‘Pust’ the festival that is celebrated the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday and on Shrove Tuesday. This festival is famous for being in the town of Ptuj, however activities and events take place all around Slovenia. Due to the warm welcome, free flowing wine and Prekmurje hospitality the ‘Kurents’ traditional figures come from Ptuj the day before to celebrate and warn off the winter and welcome in the Spring with the villages of Gomilica.
Pust Festival - February 18th 2007 (pdf 2.3mb)
We all got dressed in up, joined our neighbours and drove around the village to collect money for our local Fire station. The money collected will be donated to the fire station and in return the Fire station puts on events throughout the year such as picnic's and parties.
We had to stop at every house in the village where locals provided a drink (usually home made) and something to eat (traditionally krof, which is a do-nut). I think the relevance of the do-nut is similar to the English Pan cake as Pust is officially on the Tuesday or ‘Shrove Tuesday’.
Photographs taken by Ian Middleton. Freelance writer of books, travel articles and photography. See web site for more details: www.ian-middleton.co.uk tel: +386 (0)51812368.
Our first ‘Bratva’ grape picking and wine making party.
Jolly Boys outing - From Feltham to Slovenia (doc 2.2mb)
Just to show you that Slovenia is not only for the young, we invited Ian’s family from the UK to show them a bit of Slovenian lifestyle and culture. In the party there were 7 men (all over the age of 65!). There was 2 uncles from Ian’s mother’s side (Ron and Jack) and one Uncle from his dad’s side (Uncle David). As well as a few hangers on!!!
They spent 5 nights in Prekmurje and we took them to a Bee keeping farm where they tasted various liqueurs made from honey. We also took them to the very famous Kodia butchers where they sampled the locally dried and cured hams, Salami, pates and cheeses washed down with locally produced wine. They visited the local vino-tech where the owners wife made especially for them the famous ‘Gibanica’, and they tasted the local wines. They all left very happy with a few bottles in hand!
Well, hopefully the jolly boys had a good week? They have practically drunk Slovenia dry, and exhausted poor Ian as he couldn’t keep up with their early starts and late finishes.
During their final day they took a boat down the river Mura, sampled Serbian food at a restaurant in the town, purchased some home made pumpkin oil to take back to the UK and was interviewed by the local TV company,‘Prekmurje najboljši’.
For some reason, many of our friends think that we have moved to Slovenia to retire? So to show you what we are doing, here are some renovation photographs from our property in Fokovci.
Dylan in hall at Šola school (jpg 60k)
In the Press
Slovenia and the new Jeruslem (pdf 754k)
Taken from Diplomacy and Trade
By Kester J Eddy
Birdwatching in Eastern Europe (pdf 616k)
Taken from Diplomacy and Trade
By Kester J Eddy
Magazine Article (doc 3.3mb)
Writen by Richard Webber
Pictures by Ian Middleton
Exploring Another Jerusalem (doc 95k)
Buying Balkan (doc 32k)
New Kid on the Eastern Bloc (gif 836k)
06 August 2006
The benefits of the low cost airlines (doc 40k)
08 May 2006
Tom Hall of Lonely Planet recommends Slovenia for Families.
Guardian Unlimited (doc 27k)
09 April 2006
Daily Mail Property Section interview.
Europe’s best kept secret (jpg 240k)
07 April 2006
European cities & regions of the future 2006 / 2007.
FDi Foreign Direct Investment (doc 114k)
23 March 2006
Article taken from the Slovenia Times.
Issue 51 (doc 63k)
10 March 2006
The Times Property Section interview.
Surrey of the Balkans
03 July 2005
Slovenian course for foreigners
In November 2005, the Ljudska Univerza of Murska Sobota held a short course for foreigners that wished to learn more about Slovenian culture and language. The course covered topics such as culture, history, language and tourism as well as demonstrations of local crafts from the region of Prekmurje. The students involved (Ian & Louise included) have now gone on to continue Slovenian language lessons.