Hard to believe now, but I used to be quite the intrepid traveller, whipping off for a cultural adventure in Peru…soaking up the wonders of nature in the Galápagos and Costa Rica… trekking in Thailand… Sorry, have to stop myself there before I get all nostalgic for ‘Young Me’. Those days, of course, were all pre-kids.
Now, I know there are a great many parents out there who continue to have these sort of adventures with their young ones in tow, and I salute and envy these people in equal measure. But I am Not Those Mums, remember. Simply organising a day trip with sterilised containers and 19 changes of toddler clothes was enough to overwhelm me, so family holidays had to take a different path.
Happily, before long we discovered the pleasures of Cornwall – endless sandy beaches and breathtaking countryside… just pile everything in the car and spend the next eight hours in slow-moving traffic: what could be better? Anyway, this seemed by far the easiest option for us, especially when we were introduced to Sands Resort Hotel & Spa near Watergate Bay… https://www.sandsresort.co.uk
Sands Resort Hotel & Spa
Oooh, when that glossy brochure plopped through my letterbox (for these were the dark ages before WiFi) I was transported to a world in which I could imagine a remotely glamorous and leisurely break… a family-friendly hotel with sea views, meals catered for, childcare… Well, that was it, we were hooked for the next few years. We even had a choice of whether we dined with the kids or fed them first so we could return for a proper adult dining experience on our own, taking advantage of the baby-listening service on offer, or the creche. Now, call us selfish (just plain exhausted really), but we chose the latter, as the process of dining with infants didn’t conjure up visions of luxury, involving as it did the spattering of pasta sauce all over the table, separating peas so they didn’t touch the mash, and the law of spilling at least one cup of orange juice all over themselves, resulting in a meltdown.
Sands Resort Hotel & Spa
And all was good for many years. So good in fact that my passport expired. Why change the recipe? There were kids’ entertainers on tap, and we even persuaded friends to join us on occasion. Happy days. But around the age of 8 or 9 we realised with heavy heart that our time was up at this resort… While our kids still hadn’t exactly mastered the art of sitting at mealtimes without fidgeting, it was clear they had outgrown the craft clubs and kiddy entertainers, though I longed for them to still love those activities. Believe me, I envy those with under-5s. It may not feel like it at the time, but there’s so many things to occupy children of that age – plus they just go along with your decisions, and are still excited about going for a walk, a trip to the farm, RAIN! WAVES! Anything.
So we moved on to the more mature setting of the Bedruthen Hotel & Spa… (https://www.bedruthan.com) Ooh, now this was a little piece of luxury for sure. Having worked on a parenting mag at one stage, I had heard tell of this magical place along the coast a bit from Sands at Mawgan Porth, which too offered fabulous food and kids’ clubs, plus an indoor play area and lots of other stuff to amuse older children, all within a stone’s throw from a beautiful bay.
Bethruthan Hotel & Spa
So we booked up we weren’t disappointed – well, we kind of were a bit, what with the view of the car park ‘n’ all, but we hadn’t thought to book five years in advance so that’s all we could get. We wafted along those hallowed corridors and oohed and ahhed at the facilities on offer, and couldn’t wait to run down to the beach, which was tantalising close.
HOWEVER, this being Blighty, it blinkin’ rained pretty much the entire two weeks we were away. But we werent too downhearted. Ahh, we thought smugly, we have sensibly booked somewhere with wall-to-wall childcare should you want it. Reader, we didn’t want it, we NEEDED it!!! God, we were still recovering from the sleepless nights looong after they were babies, and – did I mention? – our kids are VERY energetic and love nothing more than a bit of heavy bickering during daylight hours. So, shamelessly, we booked them into the kids’ clubs, session after session, while we sloped off to have a coffee and read the papers for a couple of hours. (I’m sorry, please don’t judge – I’ve done more than my share of finger painting and Playdoh but, hell, I just needed to read a book/have a nap/go to the loo uninterrupted before we headed out with them onto the rainsplattered beach or waterlogged farm.) And they loved those kids’ clubs and we were happy they loved it, because we finally got a rest and they came out with smiles on their faces. All was good and we had a fab time…
Until check-out day and the bill arrived. Er, what?! Excuse me, there must be some mistake surely? Um, flip!! Are you sure there’s not an extra digit on this bill? Ah-ha-ha-ha *Manically now* Are you sure? Would you mind checking, as I’m sure we didn’t have more than a bottle a night with dinner. Oh! You mean…childcare wasn’t included in the rate? We put our kids in for how many hours?! Oh yes of course! That’ll be it…No, it’s fine, it’s fine. All fine…”
OH MY GOD! What did we do?!! We could surely have hired a skippered yacht around flippin’ Barbados for the price of those two weeks in soggy Cornwall! That tale still raises a titter amongst our friends who’d made more savvy choices than ours that summer. Oh, how we laughed along with them as they recounted the bargain resort in Corfu, the excellent camping facilities in sunny Spain. Yes, dear reader, we smiled and smiled… then cried and cried into out pillows that night.
Did we learn our lesson? Not quite… we still pursued with Cornwall (there’s something about those long stretches of beaches, the clifftop walks, the salty air… we never tire of it). We hired a cottage in Sennen Cove for a week – THE most stunning location, and the magic and atmospheric open-air Minack Theatre nestled in the rocks just a short drive away… Well, the rain came down in sheets most of that week…we ended up putting up a play tent in the living room just to entertain the boys and let them imagine they were on the beach. We finally gave up and came home a day early…
By this stage, even the kids were starting to say, “When can we go on a plane somewhere? Are we going to go to Cornwall every year?”
“No, no,” I reassured, mentally backing away form the image of crowded airports and delays that formed in my mind. But I lied to them, because by then I’d found Watergate Bay Hotel (https://www.watergatebay.co.uk) and fell in love with that… Ooh a week in this stunning boutique hotel with its infinity pool overlooking the bay, surfing and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant on the doorstep, we just had to do it. Surely we’d be lucky with the weather this time? Well, it all looked good to begin with… we managed to get out and cycle the Camel Trail (a disused railway line along the coast) and all agreed this was hearty and wholesome family fun and we could collapse in our (bijou but delightful) room when we returned. And then the rains came down and once again we were trapped indoors or soggy for the best part of our summer holiday.
Watergate Bay Hotel
The following year we took the plunge and renewed our passports. Taking a tip from friends, we booked a lovely resort called Marina di Venezia in Italy (http://www.marinadivenezia.it/eng/ ), an easy day trip from Venice (culture, you see) with a fantastic pool complex, a beach, reasonable restaurants and, most importantly, sunshine and free entertainment! Yay! But after three years, the kids asked, “Mum, is Italy like the new Cornwall? Are we ever going to try anywhere else?” Arghh! So, what now?