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.