Elounda, Crete

Although it feels like a lifetime ago, in August we spent twelve nights in Crete in the lovely harbour town of Elounda. It was our first holiday with entourage (grandparents and an auntie!) and I’m not sure we will holiday without them from now on. Built in babysitters are the way forward!

Elounda is an hours drive from Heraklion airport but I think its worth the drive, past the bright lights and English breakfasts of Malia and driving along a gorgeous coastal road. We got a taxi from the airport which cost €75 but you can also book cheap car hire and drive the beautiful route yourself.

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Caserio del Mirador review

We visited Caserio del Mirador in August 2010 with the Boy. I wrote this review shortly after but thought I would share it with you now on here in case you are looking for a fantastic family friendly holiday. Continue reading

Martinhal Resort, Portugal

We have just returned from two weeks at the Martinhal Resort in the Algarve. We booked this with the online travel site, Baby Friendly Boltholes having booked three previous holidays with BFB which have been fantastic. BFB is a great website and helped us immensely in making the transition from couple holidays to family holidays. The BFB website is very well laid out and each location is reviewed from a family perspective.

As usual with our holidays we had a fantastic time enjoying spending some good quality family time together and in the sunshine. Here is my detailed review of our holiday at Martinhal.

Location

Martinhal is located at the end of the world (or what was once thought to be the end of the world before America was discovered), at the South West tip of Portugal next to the town of Sagres. It is not in the hub of the touristy parts of the Algarve and so it is in a relatively unspoilt area. Many people who stayed at the resort had not hired a car so were fairly limited in where they could go however we were very pleased to have one to visit the local beaches and towns. The resort does offer everything you need so it’s easy to understand why many people don’t leave but if, like us, you like to get out and explore, a car is essential.

Accommodation

We had a garden villa which was a 5-10 minute walk from the different facilities. It was very spacious with two large bedrooms and two good sized bathrooms. The living area was open plan with a kitchen, large dining room table, comfy couches and a TV. We also had a garden area with outside seating and Fatboy beanbags. Don’t even get me started on the Fatboy beanbags – they were everywhere (around all the pools) and they were awesome. One of the best ideas a hotel has ever had!

Whilst the villa was well furnished and we were provided with all the extra bits we asked for – potty, toddler toilet seat, travel cot, stairgates – there were some design faults which didn’t make it perfect for toddlers. For example, the garden didn’t have a fence so you couldn’t leave a young child unattended, the crockery was stored in a cupboard low down and the stairs were tiled which were a bit scary if you thought of having a fall on them. These weren’t things that ruined the accommodation by any means but you do have to take care with young children.

Facilities

Martinhal is huge and has a very resort feel to it. There are four swimming pools, three restaurants, a crèche and kids club, a playground, a games room and a trampoline and sandpit and that’s not even including the huge beach! It is very well thought out with every area (pool or restaurant) having something to entertain the kids while you can relax. At Os Gambozinos (the Italian restaurant) there are play houses for young children and free bikes for older ones with a lovely large square for them to play in. At Dunas (the beachfront seafood restaurant) there is a selection of small chairs, beanbags and a giant jenga in a corner which means you can keep one eye on the little ones.

Each of the three swimming pools we used had small toddler pools (50cm depth all round) next to the main pool and two of the pools had slides and a selection of toys to play with. These pools were also heated and one of them is half inside and half out which is great for those super windy days.

The Boy went to the kids club (reluctantly) on four days for a couple of hours at a time and the staff, facilities and activities were excellent, we felt very comfortable leaving him there while we tried to play tennis (more about the wind later on!)

Everything has a very new feel to it and is in fantastic condition and the Boy loved the trampoline, the play houses, the big boat and the playground.

Food and drinks

The food in all three restaurants was good and we had no complaints about it. What really let Martinhal down on the holiday was the very poor service we received in Os Gambozinos. Whilst most of the staff were friendly, it was very slow service (e.g. waiting 20 minutes for a glass of wine and a cocktail) and when we tried to complain the response was not good. The Man and I are both very laidback and like to give the benefit of the doubt in the first instance but unfortunately, every time we went there was an issue with the service. On one occasion the wrong meal was bought to me and the waiter said “are you sure you didn’t think Tagliolini but order Linguine” which is not a response I expect when a mistake is made and certainly not what happened! (To be clear it wasn’t a wrong type of pasta, that would just be ridiculous, but seafood linguine rather than tagliolini carbonara.)

The price of the restaurants was very inconsistent with some things quite reasonable (€9 for a large pizza) and others very expensive (€7.50 for a non alcoholic cocktail – basically fruit juice). The best meal we had, which was the most expensive but in our opinion, the best value for money was in the grown ups only restaurant O Terraco.

We were spending upwards of €70 on a meal and drinks for the 3 of us which is the same price as the local Sagres restaurants so you can imagine our surprise when we ventured a bit further away to the town of Lagos and got the same amount of food and drinks for less than €40. This was our experience at most places away from Sagres and Martinhal so I think that because it is less developed prices have not been competitively bought down yet.

Other things to know about Martinhal

  • The wind was crazy – I work with wind energy projects and I can safely say that this is the windiest place I have ever visited. This means that in the day you get a lovely cool breeze and at night you do need to take jeans and a light jumper. The upside is I didn’t need to use a hairdryer when I was there as I just sat in the garden for 10 minutes and let nature sort it out. If you go away from Martinhal a bit the wind is nowhere near as strong and in our evenings in Lagos we didn’t need cardigans/jumpers. The massive number of wind turbines in the area also gave us a great car game to play with the Boy “spot the turbines” and my heart melted each time he said “Oh where the turbines gone” (yes I am a renewable energy geek.)
  • We used the babysitting facilities on two occasions. They use the staff from the resort so it is usually a familiar face which is nice and they charge €10 per hour or part thereof.

Our favourite places to visit and things to do were:

  • Lagos, in the evenings for dinner (25 mins away). There were some lovely restaurants with great fish which were very reasonably priced. We also picked up some lovely pottery souvenirs, had fantastic ice creams and watched some good (and some terrible!) street entertainers.
  • Rei das Praias restaurant (50 mins away) was possibly the best seafood restaurant I have ever eaten in. Giant prawns in olive oil and chilli and squid cooked in piri piri, garlic, wine and brandy were to die for. The beach it sits on is stunning and we spent a lovely day here.
  • Slide and Splash waterpark (50 mins away) was really fun. There were only two slides suitable for toddlers but the Boy didn’t mind and just went on them lots and lots.
  • Dolphin boat trip from Sagres harbour was fantastic – we saw about 30 dolphins swimming right next to us and the Boy was so excited. The Man and I have done a lot of boat trips on holidays and I think this was one of the best. The crew were very informative (they were marine biologists) and we were able to view the dolphins close up without feeling like we were infringing.

Conclusion

Overall Martinhal is a very good resort with all the facilities you could want for a family holiday. The location is not ideal if you want to venture to other places but this does give it a much more authentic feel, especially compared to the flashing lights of Portimao and Albufiera that seem to offer English Breakfasts and Chicken Tikka Masala’s all over the place. Apart from the service in the restaurants it is difficult to fault Martinhal it is clean, well thought out and has something for everyone.

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

I am on Holiday

I am currently on Holiday until the 24th June returning just in time for CyberMummy so I hope to see some of you there. If you are visiting my blog, thank you and please read some of my older posts and comment on them, they are still interesting (I hope!) and I would be delighted to return from holiday to see your comments.

Take care all!

ChocOrangeCityMum

Holiday dreams

On Saturday I am going on HOLIDAY – I am so darn excited I can barely contain myself from skipping down the streets with delight. But of course, its not all plain sailing and rocking up to the holiday without so much as a second thought a la HelloitsGemma. Oh I wish I could but I am too controlling for that. The Man however, has managed to wangle himself 3 days in Barcelona with work arriving back home 12 hours before we depart so I am left doing all the blardy packing for the three of us and in case you can’t take on board my annoyance and frustration at this over a blog post, let me tell you, my keyboard is feeling the brunt of my anger right now!!

And breathe, and remember the reason for the horrendous packing job (and don’t even think about the unpacking/repacking/unpacking thereafter). We are going to the Martinhal Resort in Portugal and to give me hope between tonight and Saturday morning, during which time I might tear my hair out in suitcase sized clumps or kill my husband the minute he walks through the door all chirpy with not so much as a Toblerone for me, this is what I am looking forward to about our holiday:

  • Swimming – I love it, splashing, dunking, lilo-ing, jumping in, handstands underwater – I just hope this year the Boy is up for it before our last day
  • Sunbathing – I think its my Indian blood because I love lying in the sun feeling the rays penetrate my skin and leaving me with a lovely glow
  • Eating – I love eating, well usually I do (when I’m not pregnant) and I cannot wait to eat fresh seafood – prawns, sardines, lobster and churros and having an ice cream EVERY DAY
  • The Beach – sandcastles, wave jumping, bat and ball
  • Reading my book – or should I say books as I usually get through a fair few
  • The first (non-alcoholic for me) beer after putting the Boy to bed, that is hoping he goes to bed this year
  • Playing cards with the Man after dinner
  • Not watching TV or going on my blackberry or laptop (well, only very occasionally and for a few minutes)
And best of all I get to do this with my two favourite people (when I finally forgive the Man for making me do all the packing)
What do you love about holiday?

>Farewell to an era

>On Thursday afternoon I had hand surgery to remove two stones from my hand embedded there since a motorbike accident in Thailand eight years ago. Although I can now clap without fear of the stones jabbing into me I will miss my little quirk and way to entertain small children. It has made me realise how much of my life the stones have been present for and how I will miss them. So, my tribute to my stones and the memories we have shared:

  • Moving into my first flat with the Man after university, it was tiny but it was ours and celebrating it by breaking the bed.
  • Working in the City, so much fun in my early twenties, far too much wine and not enough sleep.
  • The Man proposing to me in Richmond Park and the only time in my life I have been speechless (I had to nod yes).
  • Our beautiful wedding in Cornwall where the sun shone down on us and we were surrounded by all of our family and friends and I was made to feel so special.
  • The positive pregnancy test at 11pm after three pints and the subsequent breakdown in a Tesco toilet.
  • The birth of the Boy and the agony I went through to get him out followed by pure amazement at what we had created.
  • So many Boy moments that have filled my heart with pride and happiness.
  • And a memorable last day together.

So goodbye dear friends, whilst you live on in a plastic pot I feel our relationship will not be the same again. I will miss you and think of you when I see my two scars.