Monthly Archives: July 2013
Last 24 hours before setting of to Camp Bestival @campbestival #campbestival, Pete's on his way to Go Outdoors to get last minute camping stuff and we haven't even thought about packing. Still finishing off unpacking from Kos last week so I have that to do before I can start cooking.
It is 15 years since our first Mark Warner holiday. Is it still as good? Yes, absolutely. We originally booked for the childcare and because we as parents got to have a holiday, 15 years on that is still the case.
A really really good day on the water
I love the ski lift service here at Lakitira but I have been getting very frustrated at not being able to get back in to shore on my windsurfer. I bit the bullet and booked a one to one with the lovely Dave who I was assured was a hunk.
The alarm went off at 8am, a ridiculous time in the morning on holiday, even worse the bars that serve decent coffee don't open until 10am. So caffeine-less I arrived on the waterfront at 8.50am thinking this was a really bad idea, I was still asleep and maybe I should forget this. I was soon buoyed up by the lovely Dave, yep as promised he's a hunk. Hmm maybe a Dave every morning could be a good alternative to coffee? No, behave woman! Control yourself. You're old enough to be his Mum......hmm that's wrong why? *rushes off to find a cold shower*
We started off on the dummy rig on land, went over the basics then got the rig out. Bit of a panic as Dave had booked a Beach, which is the widest and most buoyant board but they all got nabbed despite the protestations of the lovely Harriet who was in charge at the desk. So it was a large Rio and 2.5m sail........and a tether.
Dave was lovely, he shouted lots of good things about my technique and we then moved on to jibing and tacking......and.......I got it. Couldn't believe it, I actually managed to jibe, turn, tack, turn, fell off a couple of times but I did it, whoopee, wahoo, oh boy it felt good. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to carry on without Dave but I managed it without him telling me what to do. Came ashore, left my rig ready, had a coffee and 20 minutes later was back on the water.
This time completely on my own. Zig zagged perfectly, steered, avoided other windsurfers and ended up way out to sea. I went over to one of the orange buoys then over to the other one and back into shore. Yes, I did it. I got back into shore. I felt so good I went out again, this time the wind picked up and I signalled for the attention of my knight in shining armour, the lovely Terry, to come and give me a lift back into shore. Terry is fabulous, he rescued me yesterday, in fact I think of him as my own personal knight, some people are fortunate enough to have a butler or a valet, I have a knight Sir Terry the Brave.
Sir Terry rides the waves rescuing damsels in distress from fire breathing dragons and great sea serpents who capture windsurfers and try to drag their prey under the sea (this is why we fall off, nothing to do with poor technique). Sir Terry is a true hero. Sir Dave is also a valiant knight, teaching us ways to combat these pesky sea serpents using wind and water technology i.e. windsurfers that help us ride over the waves to distant lands.....ok I did feel that I was heading to Turkey at one point.
Today I not only mastered steering, tacking, jibing and turning but also going fast and not being afraid of the wind but also......this is the ultimate accolade......got invited to go into town with the waterfront guys for a party. That's it, I've made it, I've reached the pinnacle, there is nowhere higher to go. I won't go, it was lovely to be invited but I think it's probably best for all that I don't, could be very, very bad.
I checked out town today. Town is Kardamena, I was warned by the Head of childcare not to let big girl, or any teenagers, go into town as it was a big 18-30 party town. I checked out a mountain bike and decided that I really ought to see a bit of the island and get a culture fix so off I went. Hmmm, definitely an 'un-culture' fix. Kardamena makes a night out in Aylesbury look sophisticated. It is awful, full of tattoo shops, booze shops, fast food and kebab shops, bars and signs for 'rooms to rent'.
On the upside the beach is lovely and so is the harbour with some high price tag yachts moored. I don't think that any of the people on them actually ventured off the yachts though. The sea is crystal clear and turquoise and you can get naff boat trips from a number of sources. You can also hire quad bikes and book banana boat and doughnut rides. Thankfully there is nothing of this at Mark Warner; even though its only 15 mins cycle away it's sheltered from this completely. Thank goodness. There are a lot of boarded up shops which open up in the evening and turn into the clubs.
Apparently Kardamena changes at night and the town you see in daytime is transformed by 4am to a club or rave heaven. Kardamena is fab for teenagers who want a cheap, party town, I'd have been up for that when I was 18 and I'd have been shinning down the drainpipe at night to go the clubs if i'd been here with my parents. I actually feel rather sad admitting it, but not now, I've grown out of that and I'm glad I'm in Lakitira.
I've been attempting to windsurf for 21 years, first time was in Mauritius when we got married, since then there were a few gaps taken up again on Mark Warner holidays over the years. Last year in Lemnos I decided with sheer bloody minded determination that I would crack this windsurfing lark once and for all and booked myself onto a RYA Start Windsurfing course. I passed by the skin of my teeth and I'm sure that the beach front guys just felt sorry for be and took pity on my at the last minute. I had a mention awards on the last night for sheer bloody determination rather than natural skill, but hey, I got it.
On Monday I did a refresher course with the lovely Ben who told me to get a rig out and just practice. My goodness I think that's probably one of the most scary things any one has ever said to me
"Take a rig out on your own and practice"
I'm allowed to take a rig on my own!
With no instructor?
Are you serious?
I couldn't do this on Monday as it was very windy and advanced sailors and windsurfers only. So on Tuesday I did, and yes it is scary, after 21 years its like taking the car out on your own for the first time. Just wetter.
The lovely crew on the beach offered a beach valet service, ie they go and get you the board and the sail and help you fit the UJ, or they did me. It could have been the pathetic look and pleading I did. Actually, no they were really really helpful and great for boosting my confidence, still not sure that they're completely mad for letting me do this.
Didn't do very well, severe case of 'conscious incompetence', I know what I'm supposed to do, I can do it slowly but the wind kept getting the better of me and every time the sail caught the wind I dropped it in terror......I can't do this on my own, I need help? Massive bruise on my knee the size of a duck egg, pulled something in my back and my other shin is black and blue. Managed to get out eventually but hopeless at getting back in with an offshore wind, unknown on a rescue boat came to save me and give me lift back in. Thank you Charlie. I think this is going to be known as the Lakitira Ski Lift, you know, you ski down the hill and get the ski lift back, well this is similar, you windsurf out with the wind behind you and get the ski lift back in to do it again, simples.
Today, Wednesday, I took the same rig out again, this time I came in with dry hair. Yeay, whoopee, apparently I was very loud when I got back and I've heard that most of the beach now realised that I managed to windsurf, sorry. I was so excited, got up, sailed out, turned (without falling off), the wind even caught the sail and I went fast ad didn't drop the sail in terror, I really enjoyed it, then got the ski lift aka Terry in the rescue boat back in again. I tried turning it round but the wind just kept flipping my sail up, back to where it was. Looking around all the dinghies were capsized so I had to wait for a little while but it was a good excuse to catch up on sunbathing. Terry mentioned that the waterfront staff were very busy today but he'd rather it like than the opposite as it can get very boring when there's no wind and no one needs help.
These waterfront guys and girls are just so cheery, lets face it, they've been out since May putting up with guests who probably sail or windsurf once a year at best and probably have to go over the same thing week in week out. OK they are in Kos, it's hot, it's beautiful and way better than the UK. They do it with a smile, constant good humour and never a grumble, they are complete stars.
I can now officially windsurf, it's taken 21 years but I can do it. My next challenge is that I want to be able to get back into shore again so I've booked Dave, who is apparently a hunk, for a 9am one to one tomorrow. Mike, the hunk in charge of lessons and ops says he's a hunk so we'll see in the morning. Worth getting out of bed early for, I'll let you know.
Probably one of the most vicious water games there is, no rules, jumping, grabbing, drowning, yelling, anything goes, I love it. Half an hour of water polo is the most fun and probably burns off a huge amount of calories. Bless, a new English chap joined in today, after a couple of minutes he declared "you can't do that it's against the rules!", back came the comment "what rules!", there you go. I remember a couple of years ago all women were banned from playing as it got too rough and dangerous, not quite there yet and probably around 40% women today. Couple of big Russian blokes who are a bit of pain to get round though but brilliant fun.
Imagine netball in the water with no rules whatsoever, yeay.
Kids club sailing
Small boy went sailing today, his first introduction to proper sailing and he thoroughly enjoyed it as they took the fun boats out and played pirates. Basically trying to board the other fun boats, trying to capsize the fun boats and generally being piratical, he now thinks sailing is brilliant and wants to do more of it. At what point do we tell him that getting his RYA qualification is not about capturing other Picos or Lasers but sailing them. Actually, that sounds like far more fun than just learning to sail them, maybe I should have a word with the RYA and get them to rethink the courses.
RYA 1 - learn to be a pirate, steer your dinghy, jibe and tack to get away from other pirates, capsize drill in case you are attacked and capsized by other pirates or happen upon a dinghy that's been capsized on purpose by other pirates. You have to be able to right your capsized dinghy. Learn the basics of pirate speak:
'ahoy me hearties' - hello chaps, I'm here
'Ooo arrr' - by gum I like the look of your dinghy, maybe I ought to attack you and borrow it for a short while, would that be ok with you?
'Avast ye scurvy swabs' - I say chaps would you mind awfully crewing the boat?
'Avast behind' - watch out chaps, there are some awfully dodgy hoodlums coming up on our rear
'Shiver me timbers we been hit lads' - oh my goodness I think I felt the boat rock a little, there is the distinct possibility that we have been hit by something not very nice.
'Methinks you be swinging the lead' - listen up sweet pea, I have an inkling that you're not really pulling your weight around here and being a bit of a slacker, buck up lad, stop sunbathing on deck and grab the tiller.
In order to be politically correct I must add that pirates are bad people, in no way am I saying that pirates are good fun and in no way would I ever encourage any one to be a pirate.
Tonight is karaoke night, I can clear a bar in minutes with my singing voice, the resort may be saved as the kids show is on at the same time, or it may not......
Lakitira resort looked really big when I checked it out online, compared with Lemnos and San Lucianu and we were a little worried about the size. No need to worry as it doesn't feel huge at all, it feels roomy and has a very nice laid back vibe about it. The white washed hotel and village are surrounded by hibiscus growing up the walls makes a strikingly beautiful picture against the deep azure sky.
The sounds are pure 'holiday', chirruping of the cicadas, lapping of the waves gently breaking on the sand and relaxing chill out music from the bars, interspersed with 'grunts' from the tennis courts. Well, it wouldn't be Mark Warner without that would it?
Our rooms are amazing, we are in the village and have a two storey 'house', it is actually bigger than our first house. Downstairs there are 3 single beds and a huge amount of space, fridge and bathroom, with a large patio. Sufficient room for all three teenagers with messy detritus scattered everywhere but not overstepping the 'no walk' zones of each other's allocated space, if you have teenage girls you'll know this could mean the outbreak of World War 3. Marble stairs take you to the grown ups room with lockable door (necessary for any 'couple' time with teenage kids around, especially when they have their own keys and no issue about just walking straight in without knocking, need I say more?). We have twin beds, our own bathroom and balcony. The whole thing is absolutely massive and even better, there is NO television. Ok I know some of you would like a TV, if so book into the hotel as their rooms have widescreen TV. For us this is a dream so the are no arguments about watching it vs going outside and doing healthy activities. In previous years we have been bad parents and lied to the kids that the 'TV doesn't work unless you pay for it' and 'it's really expensive', or 'it doesn't work until 7pm', or 'it recognises your thumbprint so only adults can operate it'.
Small boy took my instructions of 'quiet time, out of the sun between 12-3pm to the extreme yesterday as a bunch of the boys piled round to his new best friend Callum's room in the hotel to watch Men in Black, at least they were out of the sun.
Both rooms have air conditioning too and the showers are brilliant. Not only do they work after 6pm (previous holidays the hot water has run out at 6pm and reduced to a trickle) but these are just like the power shower at home, yeay. The electricity works by putting your heavy key fob into the slot, bit tricky if you only have one key fob and there are 5 of you as the spares don't have a fob.....toothpaste tube works just as well.
We even have our own entertainment in the form of a cat and her three kittens who live on the kids patio, they've been told not to try and stroke them (the children have been told not to stroke the cats that is, not the other way round) but they seem very sweet, catching lizards and playing with each other much to the kids entertainment. I like lizards so not so keen on this bit but its a good introduction to nature for the children.
There is a beach towel hire facility which is €7 a week per towel and you change your towels every other day, so they can get grotted on the beach or in the pool and you just change them out, we brought our own but this means I have less washing so ours are remaining firmly in the suitcase. There are toiletries in the room too, it's the little things that matter.
The first time we booked a holiday with Mark Warner it was because of the excellent childcare, mean we could have holiday knowing that our 2 year old was been looked after and having a fabulous time and we all had a holiday.
15 years later I'm really glad to say that this hasn't changed, their childcare is as excellent as ever. Mark Warner also have an exceptionally good 'lost child' procedure. We've seen this in action over the past holidays, always with a good outcome, but never had to experience it ourselves, until yesterday. Let me give you some history first.
Around 7 years ago on our first French camping holiday we took our eyes off small boy, who was then 4, for a couple of minutes while we were tidying up the caravan, one minute he was playing outside the door the next minute he was gone. We were living every parent's nightmare. We shouted for him, we checked every room in the caravan, we asked the girls, no small boy. The French families around us heard what was going on and immediately sprang into action to help us look, it took 5-10 minutes, it seemed like forever and every outcome went through my head. Just as we were about to go to reception to raise the alarm he turned up. He thought he saw his sister heading in the direction of the pool and followed her via a new secret route he'd found through the pitches. Turns out it wasn't his sister so he made his way home but got a little lost. End of panic and the longest 5 minutes of my life. Consequently I've been a little paranoid whenever small boy goes missing.
Yesterday lunchtime he finished Kids Club at 12.30 and was due to meet us at the pool, around 50 metres away, I was waiting the pool, his sisters turned up, no small boy, after 10 mins I walked over to kids club but it was empty, went back to the pool, waiting, no small boy. Decided to go and check the room, no, back too the pool, no, walked down to the snack bar where we were having lunch, no, bumped into husband, we both split up. Basically by 1pm we'd done the hotel twice and I approached reception with all sense telling me that he was off with his friends trying to find me but there is always that niggling 'what if' demon sitting only shoulder so I uttered the dreaded words "I can't find my son".
Immediate description was taken, Mark Warner were alerted and Jono the resort manager appeared as if by magic. Within a minute 30+ staff had been dragged from their lunches and were about to go off on the search when my husband came running in yelling "I've found him". Relief and lots of apologies from me, did I feel an idiot or what?
Reason tells me that he's 11 and will be off with his mates, but he's my youngest and I'm a paranoid mother, at no time did any of the hotel or Mark Warner staff say "he's 11, he's probably off with his mates", they may have thought that but didn't say anything, they took it seriously and for that I'm very grateful, this is why I booked with them in the first place and like I said earlier Mark Warner childcare is second to none.
I do miss the children being in mini club and it was lovely no hear the mini club song, took us back a number of years, pity they don't have Indy Club singing this too.
At the welcome meeting for Indy club we were warned that the legal drinking age in Greece is 16 and that the local town, Kardamena, is a big 18-30 venue and a party town, they recommended that we do not allow our teenagers in there for an evening, they don't have any trips into the town either. Basically the bars will serve anyone, anything, no
ID needed. Indy's have their own supper at 8pm. Kidz Club have their own dinner at 7.30pm, so that means we get to have supper on our own, no children, omg we have to talk to each other and don't have to spend the evening scolding children, negotiating with them as to what they eat, grown up time, bliss.
There is then entertainment for Indy's until 10.30 and for Kidz until 9.30, it used to be the babysitting service when they were little, now it's just a continuation of that, how much better can this get?
Small boy asked if he could book a table at the Trattoria this evening for him and three of his mates as they wanted to eat together and not with all the rest of the Kidz Club, he went off booked a table, we had to confirm with the restaurant as they understandably didn't want to take an 11 year olds word that this was ok. At 9pm he and his friends all went off to supper on their own, in a different restaurant to us and had a lovely time. Just asked him how it went and he replied "brilliant", were you well behaved? "Of course, they're all nice boys". There you go, that's what the clientele of Mark Warner are like, 11 year old boys who book their own tables and eat with their friends, well behaved and 'nice boys', not sure I would have ever done that at his age. I'm am so proud of him.
We had our first Mark Warner holiday when big girl was 2, she's almost 17 now, Pete spent a lot of morning watching the sun come up at various resorts with our small children, usually around 5.30am. He wasn't the only one, the was a real sense of togetherness with all the other Dads who were on early morning duty on the beach. Things are a little different now, it's trying to get them up in the morning that's the challenge.
Motivation for getting up for a child's point of view is that club starts at 9am. In previous years we've had to go down to the restaurant to get toast and honey for big girl in order to get her to the beach for a 9am start, this year it's up to them.
I had to be out for 9.15 Pilates taster, which was amazing, but at €18 an hour not sure i want to go for it, may just stick to the aerobics programme and yoga with the lovely Laura from the hotel is was just so sweet and made such an effort to find me afterwards to make sure I'd enjoyed it and persuade me to come to the music quiz tonight. Pete went off to play tennis and has booked into a course as well as doing social tennis this afternoon.
After Pilates my focus was playing 'shark' in the pool with small boy, teaching Medium girl to dive and learning how to do butterfly stroke from small boy.
Windsurfing refresher for 30 mins following which I'd hoped to rake out a windsurfer. Let me just set you straight here... I started windsurfing 21 years ago and last year managed to get my RYA Start Windsurfing qualification, almost had to bribe the instructors for it, so after 21 years I officially managed to get up, get the sail up, windsurf a little way, turn the thing round and get back to shore, so that tells you how good I am! Today was a blue/red flag day meaning only advanced sailors on the sea, no hope there then.
After lunch I got very excited as the flag had gone down to blue so off I went to talk nicely to the beach crew. I love Mark Warner beach crew, they actually go and get your board and sail and put it together for you and then launch it in the sea. It may have been that they took one look at me, took pity and thought 'blonde' but I don't care, the lovely chaps gave a fabulous 'windsurf butler service' for which I was very grateful. All I can say is that I only fell off once, pretty miraculous and pretty impressive.......I did have to be rescued though. An offshore wind took hold and before I knew it I was getting very far away from shore, with the sail down, struggling to get it up due to the gusts and no hope of even getting into the recovery position as the wind kept whipping the sail over the board. Rescue boat came and, with my pride hurt, I had a lift back to shore. Felt better soon afterwards when talking to the beach crew as they all admitted that the wind is tricky and they've all been rescued frequently.
Back for a spot of pool shark with small boy then yoga with Laura from the hotel who is part of the animation team who is just lovely. She made a point of finding me afterwards by the pool to ask if I'd enjoyed it and to persuade me to come to the music quiz tonight and aqua aerobics tomorrow.
I asked medium girl tonight if she was enjoying herself, her response was
"Oh yes, I've made some really good friends and I'm having the best time ever, I can't believe I've only been here two days, it feels like a week already, this is just brilliant". Praise indeed from a 13 year old.
Lakitira isn't a purely Mark Warner resort, there are a few Italians, Russians and some French here. I love the Russians, this is probably not politically correct but I'm going to write this anyway. There are great games you can play with the Russians.
1. Spot the boob jobs.
2. Spot the inappropriate age mix in a couple
3. Check out how much gold, gold lame, glittery stuff, high heels on the beach they're wearing and who gets the "bling" trophy of the day.
4. Get together in the bar at the end of the day to compare notes.
In Egypt a couple of years ago there were a couple of older men, dressed in full leather, heaps of gold jewellery accompanied by very skinny 20 year old blondes with obvious boob jobs, it was great fun playing 'spot the Russians', disappointingly there is no one like that here.
I won yesterday by spotting a couple with a baby, the girl was wearing a nice white bikini from the front, nicely rounded, not skinny, but then she walked past to reveal a 'thong', now pushing a baby around while wearing a thong just seems inappropriate, especially when you haven't the body to carry it off, her husband was wearing speedos, tight ones with gold writing and squiggles all over which glittered in the sun, walked past, heard them speak........yeay Russians.
A big plus with having other un-Mark Warner folks here is that there are even more activities to choose from. The hotel has its own animations team including Laura from yoga. They put on evening events such as the fab music quiz which we came second in, losing out on the tie breaker. Even better after the quiz they started up the Eurotrash music. That was it, in Mum heaven, the complete and total ability to embarrass your kids handed on a plate. We're talking Agadoo, YMCA and some new lovely Eurotrash pop songs with new actions. Oh yes I was up there with the kids, other people's not mine who were trying to hide in horror, no issues missing my noon pool Eurotrash pop songs at French Campsites, I have it in Greece too, Whaley I'm on holiday
Mark Warner, Lakitira - Sunday
5.00am checking-in at Heathrow means a luxurious lie-in, you think I jest? Not at all, this means getting up at 4am with the sun coming up, a 30 minute drive and to be met by a fabulous chap from meet and greet. Actually got all five of us into Terminal 5, before it opened at 5am. If this had been Gatwick we'd have been up at 2.30am - there you go, luxury in perspective.
Husband's brill idea to have breakfast at Giraffe went pear shaped, decision made on the basis that:
"it's child friendly and they have a huge selection of things the kids will eat".
Hmmm.....medium sized girl poked at her waffle and declared that
"it didn't taste right",
Small boy looked at his toast (the only item on the menu that he 'could' eat), poked it and declared that
"it had bits and it was cold so the butter didn't melt',
We had granola and yoghurt which was ok but out of a packet and they didn't have any skimmed milk to do me a skinny flat white. Ok I know I'm high maintenance but seriously the one thing I need in the morning to make me human is a skinny latte, cappuccino, flat white whatever, as long as it has two shots of espresso and skimmed milk it's fine. The words "we don't do skimmed milk" are not ones I want to hear any morning, never mind when I've been up since 4am.
My suggestion was going to Pret a Manger, which was overruled by husband, this was where we ended up anyway to get croissants and pain au chocolate plus orange juice with no bits, which is what the children wanted anyway AND they had skimmed milk........husbands listen to your wives!
Also I have to have a moan about the shops in terminal 5. I'm used to Gatwick for charter flights and they have it right, Next, Fat Face, Accessorize, Body Shop, just what you need to cope with last minute panics. In T5, it's MAC, Bobbi Brown, Ted Baker and Sunglasses Hut, great for us grown ups but pants for teenagers who need a mascara or a new pair of sunglasses or flip flops, well not pants, but flipping expensive.
British Airways charter was superb, loads of leg room, lovely reclining seat pitch so both small boy and I went to sleep, no horrid cartoons either or unsuitable film content like we've had on previous flights, such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall with a 5 and 7 year old who just want to watch a film......not this one, think that was Thompson, so good old Mark Warner have done us proud here.
Arrived on Kos, 15 min transfer and the luxury of having the lovely Mark Warner staff take our luggage to our rooms. In our case two gorgeous, very tall, blonde hunks. We followed them, that's how I know. I figured they were beach crew and got all excited about windsurfing until they confessed that they were tennis coaches, I was very disappointed but big girl seriously thought about doing some coaching if that was a sample of the coaches!!! Phwaor!
Straight to the pool, I think I was the third one in out of our family, and first one into the sea, children can be sooo boring when they get older. Then we come to the club meetings, in the old days this was 'meet the nanny', however ours are now 11, 13 and 16 so it was a little different.
Indy club for 16 yr old -, the are three groups based on age as big girl was worried about having 14 yr olds in with her, no worries they were in a different group. Legal drinking age in Greece is 16, so Mark Warner have this sussed and have drinks cards for parents to sign which are dated and given to the Indys each day with their booze allowance. There is a choice of beer and wine card and a spirit card. Spirit card was not signed due to an overload of Waikiki last summer, beer/wine allowance was restricted to two small beers or glasses of wine a day. We were also warned of the local town Kardamena, and strongly suggested that we do not allow our teenagers in there as its a big 18-30 resort and party town. Apparently the bars will serve anyone so the advice is 'just don't let them go there'. Breakfast is at 9am and activities start at 10am with Indy supper at 8pm in a separate restaurant and supervision until 10pm.
Kids Club for our 11 and 13 year old - again split into age groups so they weren't together, a relief for them both. Small boy didn't want to go until he met another small boy who is now 'best friend' so that's the holiday sorted for him. Again they go to their own supper so that means that we get to have grown up supper together, no shouting at children, no nagging them as to what to eat....we have no idea what they're eating so can't get stressed about it. We have time for each other and get to talk to each other over supper,almost like having a holiday on our own, scary.
At 10pm we went down to say 'goodnight' to the sea, the full moon cast a fabulous glow over the ocean and highlighted Turkey in the distance, the lapping of the sea made it even more magical, *sighs* we are on holiday.
Mark Warner Beach Clubs saved my sanity
Ten days and counting....in 10 days I will be on a beach in Greece, Kos to be exact and my backside will be glued to a sunlounger for at least the first afternoon before I take to the water windsurfing, swimming and doing the things I want to do rather than what the children want to do. How? Because we're going back to a Mark Warner resort.
I need to take you back 15 years. Picture the seen, oldest daughter, Ellie, is coming up to 9 months and we decide to go to Majorca on holiday. We rent this fabulous villa with it's own pool, just the three of us. OMG it was awful. Villa was divine but...
- ceramic floors - Ellie has decided to learn to stand up and spends all her time pulling herself up on furniture and falling backwards. So we move all the furniture together in this fabulously huge living room to make a giant playpen for her and fill it with all the cushions we can find in the house. The villa doesn't look as great now but at least we know Ellie isn't going to crack her head on the floor.
- Cot - Spanish cots, hmmm, with wheels, within seconds Ellie has figured out how to jump in the cot and move, or rather shoot, the cot across the lovely slippy ceramic floor, guess who slept with us for the rest of the week.
- Pool - totally freezing, none of us would go into it.
- Beach - yeay we'll make sandcastles and paddle in the sea - Ellie hated the feeling of sand and refused to put her feet on it, screaming every time she touched it
- Ellie was bored, she wanted other children to play with, we were boring. We eventually gatecrashed a German holiday club with an indoor pool and winged it on the basis that that we were expats and had just moved to Germany, got away with it for 3 days but it was tricky. Ellie loved it in the pool with other little ones, hated it when we left.
- Food was a nightmare - after 2 days we discovered a very spicy gaspacho soup which was the only thing Ellie would eat.
- The first time she smiled all week was on the way back to the airport when we stopped for an ice cream - not a great holiday
It's January, Ellie is 18 months old, Pete my husband is in Japan for two weeks with work, I'm feeling desperate to go on holiday and completely dreading it with the memories of Majorca. Starting to think that I won't be able to have a week on a beach for at least 16 years. In desperation I go into the local travel agents, explain my dilemma and they mention the magical two words "Mark Warner". Not convinced I go home with the brochure.
Once Ellie is in bed asleep, I read the brochure, it's like my Fairy Godmother has appeared, I can see light at the end of the tunnel and it's not 16 years away. When Pete returns from holiday he's told that we're going to Corsica in June for 2 weeks with Mark Warner and Ellie is booked into toddler Club - whahey.
Mark Warner Childcare - this is what makes it a holiday for parents and for children. It may have changed now as we've not been back for a few years but last time we went the schedule was that clubs opened from 9-1pm and from 3-5pm, you have to book at the same time you book the holiday and if you have under school age children and go out of school holidays then you need to book early as they have strict nanny to child ratios depending on the ages of the children. High Tea is served around 5-5.30pm for younger children and there is babysitting service or child supervision in the evening, for the older children there are usually evening beach games and events and videos on a big screen somewhere so they can watch films until you're ready to go to bed.
Once at the resort the kids don't have to go into the clubs, it's up to you, or them, how much they go, it could be just for an hour while you have your tennis or sailing lesson or it could be all day because they're loving it so much they don't want to be with you 'because your boring!' Be prepared for this and don't say I didn't warn you.
The only downside is that Mark Warner clubs became the holiday standard my children expected, to them, this is what you did on holiday - tennis, sailing, windsurfing, pool games, painting, messy play, all leading up the last night show and presentations.
Please don't start going off on a self righteous "I want to spend all my time with my kids, I don't want to shove them into a club and forget about them for two weeks, that's not what a holiday is all about", you won't, they'll love it and you won't see them down to their choice not yours. If you want time for yourself and to see something of your partner (plus that special time in the morning to 'catch up on sleep') and you want your kids to have an amazing holiday and not have to listen to "I'm bored" then book Mark Warner.
Did it live to all our expectations? Wow, yes, I really don't think that I'd have coped with family life over the past 16 years without Mark Warner.
Our family rules for Mark Warner:
- Children are booked into club for the morning, this is adult time, club starts at 9am and the children HAVE to be in club at that time (they don't but these are the family rules only). It's amazing how many 'Do not disturb' signs go up on the bedroom doors once club has started. Of course, we know that this is because parents need to go back to bed to catch up on the sleep from the night before, right? I wonder how many babies were conceived at Mark Warner resorts?
- The grown ups get to do what they want in the mornings - sailing, waterskiing, windsurfing, tennis, mountain biking, aerobics, going back to the room for a bit of lie down (!) etc, afternoons are family time.
- We meet up for lunch and collect the children from club, then we have quiet time until 3pm, this means going back to the room and being quiet and out of the sun, reading (yes this was days before iPads and DSs).
- Children can go back into club in the afternoon if they wish or they can come to the pool or beach with us.
- 5pm is high tea whether the children have been to club in the afternoon or not they go to high tea.
- 6pm is shower, pjs and allowed back down to the bar for children's cocktails and crisps before one of us takes them back to bed around 8pm when we log in with the babysitter or nanny on duty and await the dreaded 'blackboard'.
- At the end of the week there is the 'show' and the 'awards', I still have these given by the nannies to the children:
- Ellie - San Lucianu 2001 - Disco Diva, Lemnos 2003 - Little Miss Giggles, Lemnos 2004 - Pool Pest
- Maisie - Lemnos 2003 - joint aerobics award with Mum (she came to aerobics every morning and was better than the adults at 4 years old)
- Max - Lemnos 2004 Smoocher award for giving the nannies big kisses
I had two holidays, Paleros and San Lucianu while pregnant. I'd just found out I was pregnant with Max in San Lucianu 2001 and got the Aerobics award then too, think it was helped when I told the instructor I was pregnant at the end of the two weeks and she was a little gobsmacked. The water polo was amazing, this was held in the top pool which was very deep and consequently adults only, so everyone had to wear buoyancy aids but you put your legs through the arm holes and wore them as 'aqua nappies' to keep you afloat, it's was so funny. Also because I was pregnant there was a '1 metre Beverley exclusion zone' meaning that no one was allowed to come within 1 metre of me, tackle me or be rough with me, hah, I was first to be picked for teams and scored so many goals it was brilliant
The blackboard - every parents nightmare, with the babysitting/listening service if a baby or child wakes up the nannies used to radio down the restaurant where the parents are getting steadily more tipsy, sorry, eating supper, with the room number of the crying child, the board was then walked through the restaurant with the words "child crying in Room XXX", there was hushed silence as it passed the tables, if you were at the far end of the restaurant the feeling of dread got deeper the closer it came and no other parents rushed out, there was also the sighs of relief and grabs for the wine when the board passed your table. I used to take two pairs of shoes to dinner, glam ones and 'legging it back to the room' ones. Occasionally a small child would appear with a grumpy looking parent at a table or a partner would request a tray and take food back to the room for their other half to eat knowing that there was no escape that night.
So what about the adults? You can do absolutely nothing, glue yourself to a sunlounger, do a little child spotting and listen out for the "everywhere we go-oo, everywhere we go-oo, people ask us, people ask us, who we are-re, who we are-re, where we come from, where we come from, and we tell them, and we tell them, we are the mini club, the mighty mighty mini club, and if they can't hear us, WE SHOUT A LITTLE LOUDER " and either wave, hide or pretend to be asleep under your hat and get off it for meals or you can go wild with the activities.
Adults tend to split into the 'waterfront' and 'tennis' crowd - I'm definitely waterfront. I had tennis lessons 4 years in a row with Mark Warner, always in the beginners class, on the 4th year I arrived and the tennis coach berated the coaching I'd had for the previous 3 years stating that no one could be that bad, when I told him it was all Mark Warner coaching he back-peddled a little until the end of the week when I was still in the beginners group and he agreed that actually I was awful and should stick to windsurfing. I'm great at doubles because I just put off the other team as I'm so bad.
Since our first Mark Warner holiday we've been back a number of times, to Corsica and Lemnos a couple of times each and also to Paleros, sometimes with friends, sometimes on our own, usually bumping into someone we know when we get there. We stopped going when Ellie was in year 6 and we couldn't take her out of school any longer. That was 7 years ago, since then we've been posh camping in France mostly with a holiday in Wales (awful rained), Turkey (OK but children disgusted that there were no 'clubs') and Mauritius (OK that was amazing, no comparison, heavenly).
The children, now aged 16,13 and 11, all remember Mark Warner and this is the standard they expect from all their holidays, they couldn't believe it when we went to Turkey a couple of years ago on a 'normal' package that there was no 'club' and were really disgusted that they had to spend all their time with us. Posh camping was 'normal' as there were clubs.
Last year I had had enough of camping, albeit 'posh', Ellie discovered that there was a teens club and we didn't see much of her, I ended up surfing on my own which is great but not the point of a family activity, the two younger ones just wanted to spend all their time cycling round the campsite with their friends and we had to bribe them to even go to the pool. Plus I spent two weeks cooking and washing up as the children all scarpered quickly afterwards. When they were younger it was fine, we've grown out of it now.
So back to sanity-saving Mark Warner, this time to Lakitira, Kos, kids booked into club, Ellie has already asked how many times she has to report back to us each day, with a request that it be midnight curfew and she'll grunt at us in the morning (we are negotiating on this currently). Maisie and Max have just realised that Club isn't actually compulsory - this is where years of telling fibs comes back to bite you and we've had a little bit of 'shock and disgust' as they always thought that going to club in the mornings was not optional but they had to as we'd paid a fortune for it - never told them it was free, they've just found out, oops. However, the discussion now is along the lines of "when do we have to come back to see you? Can't we stay with our new friends all day? YES we can sign ourselves in and out of club and do what we fancy." Brilliant.
I've already planned the stack of books I'm taking and fitting my windsurfing and aerobics plus early morning yoga in around focussing on my 'glueing backside to sunlounger' technique, Pete's planning on sailing and tennis, Ellie wants to learn to sail, Maisie just wants to off with new friends and Max is up for tennis and sailing lessons. Even better I DON'T HAVE TO COOK OR WASH UP for a whole week.......
9 days and counting.
Wear bright flourescent colours and lots of reflective stuff - make yourself be SEEN in complete gobsmacking "whoa, what the heck is that bright beacon a mile up ahead, wow that's bright......Oh it's a cyclist" style.
This is pretty much the same as my previous rant, sorry blog piece about Walking Safely on Road, but you must cycle on the same side of the road as other road users, plus other rants:
- Wear a helmet. No, I don't want to hear any arguments, OK, yes it's your decision, yes if you want to rant about your rights but this is coming from someone who has written off 3 helmets in her lifetime and I wouldn't be here now if I hadn't been wearing one. One was destroyed when I went head first into a bollard while trying to 'bunny hop' up a pavement in the town centre (yes I was around 25, so not 6 either and I was trying to show off and came a proper cropper), the most serious one was on our mountain bike tandem whilst competing in the Polaris Challenge around 18 years ago in the Welsh Mountains when we spectacularly crashed into the side of a mountain doing 40 mph after hitting a rock in the track. Large dent in my helmet which would have been my head if I hadn't been wearing one plus a fractured elbow but still managed to carry on cycling for another 6 hours. I then drove (yep, with a fractured elbow) my lovely hubby to hospital the next day, men, total wusses! Yes, days before children I used to do daft stuff like this, bit of an adrenalin junkie I was. so just wear one, it's not cool to be dead.
- Don't cycle really closely to the outside edge of the road or kerb - LISTEN UP CAR/TRUCK DRIVERS, THIS IS WHY CYCLIST CAN'T PULL OVER, not 'won't'. Because a. there are potholes that if our wheels hit them we will be off our bikes in a heap, possibly in the middle of the road; b. the edges of the roads are usually very uneven or very word making cycling on them very dangerous as either we'll be thrown off the bike or if it's slippy we'll skid; c. there are these horrid things called manhole covers or drain covers which are metal and get hot and slippy in warm weather and cold and slippy in the rain - main word here is slippy = dangerous to cyclists.
- Don't assume that other road users can see you, even if a vehicle is indicating, doesn't mean that they know they're indicating or have intention turning in that direction, ignore it until you see that they are actually turning that way. Look the drivers in the eye and don't assume they've seen you even if they look you in the eye too.
- Obey traffic lights, give way signs, stop signs and all the other road stuff that you would as a motorist, you're using the road and have obey the rules of the road, read the Highway Code. This is a top rant for me. I live down a lane with traffic lights on the end which up until 8am in the morning most motorists (and cyclists) assume that they can ignore. I've stopped going out on my bike before 9am, tried it at 6am one morning and it's scary out there. Motorists ignore traffic lights, stop signs and give way signs, it's like a free for all on the roads on the basis that the highway code and speed limits are only in effect between 8am-8pm and those are the only hours that traffic police work, after that you can what you want. NO, NO, NO, these are not optional extras, this is still the law. As a cyclist you still have to obey the rules of the road the excuse of "nothing ever comes out of that lane" do not apply so the next cyclist that rides into the side of my car when they've jumped the traffic lights at the end of my lane I am going to smack - you are idiots if you do this and put the rest of us sensible cyclists in a very bad light, plus you'll end up dead, so don't do it.
- Ride on the pavements - but ONLY if there are no pedestrians. This is the rule, if there are pedestrians on the pavements they have the right of way and you have to get OFF not take them out, this is very bad, you may not die but you may get a nasty punch if they catch you. Even worse you are endangering them and especially children and elderly people.
- When overtaking other cyclists and pedestrians on the road (the ones who are not walking towards the oncoming traffic that is) it is courtesy to let them know you are overtaking by shouting out "on your right", "coming round on your right", "overtaking" or something similar, if you a bell ring it, so they know you're there rather than making them jump out of their skin. If they are pedestrians then an additional "you're walking on the wrong side of the road" may help too (done this twice this week already when two people jumped out of their skin when I cycled past).
- If wearing spuds (SPDs)/clips remember to unclip before stopping and focus on which foot you've unclipped and put that one down - otherwise you'll end up in a hedge, in a heap and give any other road users a good laugh.
- When indicating to turn right, look behind, indicate, if it's clear then pull out whilst indicating, check behind and in front again before turning. DO NOT ASSUME that the Silver BMW 5 series has any idea of the highway code and that they are supposed to allow you to move out into the middle of the road to turn right at Longwick roundabout. Assume they can't see you and are just going to keep driving totally ignoring you, even when they come so close that you catch the kerb and end up in a heap on the pavement entangled with your bike, no they won't stop and help and neither will the other cars behind them. When turning right unclip, wait and move to the middle of the road and check when all the 5 series with idiots driving them are out of the way. Yes, I know the car and I will get you.
- Keep your hands on the handlebars except when changing gear, indicating or braking.
- Keep your feet on the pedals
- Do not take passengers unless you have a tandem or a special child seat and make sure if you do have a child seat that the child is strapped in properly and securely and is also wearing a helmet
- Do not do tricks and wheelies, this is what bike, skate and BMX parks are for.
- Turn your iPod or MP3 player off, you need to use your hearing to hear vehicles approaching you from behind.
- Make sure your bike is serviced regularly and ALWAYS check that brakes work before taking it anywhere.
- Do a Bikeability course - they're brilliant.
Advice from other websites worth checking out:
This is a great one for children - Tales of the Road
The Times has a great campaign running at the moment and lots of tips here
Book your children and yourself on a Bikeability course, they're fabulous, well worth it.
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