As the bus pulled away from Levante Beach Hotel after our week long holiday to Rhodes, my eyes pricked with tears behind my sunglasses. Mainly I was feeling emotional because I just felt so thankful to have experienced such an incredible week with my little family, but there was also a part of me that felt truly sad and a little sentimental to be saying goodbye to such a special place. But all good stories start at the beginning...
Last year we were really lucky to have been chosen to be Mark Warner ambassadors. We chose Levante in Rhodes as our place to go and off we went last June for our first foreign sunshine holiday as a family. (Check out all our posts here) It was truly amazing and we had the time of our lives, so much so that pretty much as soon as we got home we booked to go again. As our departure date approached, I must admit to starting to feel a little nervous. What if I had built it up so much that it wouldn't be as good as I remembered it? What if we didn't have as an amazing time as last year?
I can honestly say that I have never been to the same place twice. I love to travel, I love to experience new places, but however much we love a place we will usually try somewhere else, even if it's a different hotel in the same country. But there was just something about Levante last year- so many happy little pieces fitting together to make it a perfect family holiday. Perfect isn't a word I use lightly, but it's true. The place, the staff- both the local Greek staff and the Mark Warner crew, the Mark Warner ethos, the magic of it all just completely sucked us in. But it didn't necessarily mean that coming back would be the same...
The girls were really good on the flight out there and again it was a nice treat to fly with British Airways, who were a pleasure to fly with. On arrival at Levante Beach it all just slotted back into place straight away, it was great to know exactly what we were doing, where we were going and we were delighted to find they had put us in the exact same room. There was no awkwardness of trying to find our way, we were straight back into the same routine as last year. We also were thrilled to find that a lot of the staff were the same as last year, especially in childcare and they remembered us which was really nice. We had booked the girls into morning childcare sessions again, something which was all completely new to us last year, but actually made the holiday for us. To be able to have a bit of time, just for a couple of hours in the morning is just fantastic as it gave us some time to relax and to spend together. The childcare team are truly amazing and I really could talk about them all day, but instead here is the first part of the story of our holiday in many many photos...
We arrived at Levante in the afternoon on the Saturday and headed down to the beach. (To collect stones obviously!)
We had a little routine last year of going down to the beach after dinner and before the evening mini club. (MW offer a evening childcare service where you drop them off in their PJ's and they watch a film and then snuggle up in little beds and either go to sleep/chill out until you pick them up) We tried to do this again, but on a few of the nights it was quite windy (but still boiling hot) and so we decided to give the beach a miss. The girl's loved going down there when we did though.
Waking up to this on our first morning certainly beat waking up to grey skies.
If you asked Mads what she remembered about her holiday last year she would always say 'pancakes, waffles and mini club'. As strange as it sounds we all remember the waffles so well! They are delicious and definitely a highlight of the breakfasts. We were pleased to see that the same Greek man was there making them each morning, he was really nice and welcoming. And we were even more pleased to see they were just as tasty as we reemembered.
On our first day I decided to go SUP, that's Stand Up Paddleboarding to you and I, on one of the organised group activities down on the waterfront.
There are loads of activities- sailing, kayaking, tennis etc, you name it and all are included in the price of your holiday unless you want private tuition.
I suprised myself on actually being able to stand up quite well, but steering was a bit of an issue!
Every afternoon was spent in one of the various pools, there are five in total. Then after a big swim the girl's would go down for a long nap which was fantastic as it gave us a chance to relax again. I love it when a holiday routine just seems to work really well.
So lucky to have this man in our lives. He is so good to us.
Looking very grown up. Of course Baa had to come everywhere with us as usual. For a split second as we boarded the plane to head to Rhodes I thought we had lost him in the airport. I was absolutely scared for a moment, she would be devastated if she lost it and so would I - he is definitely part of the family.
This little lady loves the sand.
My beautiful ladies. And that beautiful golden light which is by far my favourite thing to photograph.
I love this one. This girl made us the proudest on holiday. She was so confident going to mini club, she adored our afternoons of swimming and she just generally thrived on our holiday fun. Look at that happy smile!
I absolutely love this photo of the three of us. We rarely get photos like this so I will treasure this one. I think it might be my new favourite.
Walking back to our hotel room. It's a shame the sun doesn't set over the sea in Levante, but we won't hold anything against it when it produces such a gorgeous light.
Here is the first of two little videos I have made of our holiday to Rhodes...
Part two of our holiday coming up soon..
NB: Mark Warner were really fantastic and gave us a discount off our holiday as we were their ambassadors last year, but they haven't asked me to write about our holiday, although of course I would have done anyway. (thank you MW!) They are also offering a discount to any of my readers who are interested in booking a holiday with them. It will run for two weeks and you need to quote KatieBlog50 when booking- the offer entitles you to a £50 discount per person excluding free child places. It can't be used in conjunction with any other offer and Mark Warner booking conditions apply. You can find out more about amazing Levante and their other properties here.
Yet again it's time for me to type those same old words that I say every single month, and that's that I truly can't believe how fast June has whizzed by. But it's true, just when we seem to have gotten over how fast the previous month has gone, the following one passes us by just as quickly. I know I sound like a broken record but it's scary how quickly the time seems to go.
June has been a fantastic month, although I must admit that as I sit writing this post I do feel a little down in the dumps and I can't even blame it on the post holiday blues, although I am staring wistfully out my window wishing I was looking out at the blue crystal clear swimming pool of our hotel Levante. I have written before how I have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve and also get anxious quite easily, and for some reason since arriving home from our wonderful holiday to Rhodes I have been feeling a little on edge. Most of this stems from the fact that I, like so many others, am struggling to comprehend what has happened to innocent tourists in Tunisia, but it has been made worse by the fact that my little sister is in Tunisia at the moment and was there at the time of the attack. She is safe and well and will hopefully be on a flight today, but I keep watching the news and feeling so sad that our girls are growing up in a world where we can feel so unsafe. It makes me anxious, which I am sure it does to lots of others as well. Sometimes I just feel a little overwhelmed with the cruelness of it all.
Slightly negative thoughts aside, this month has been truly lovely. The weather has been a little hit and miss, but we have had some sunny days and enjoyed a trip to Legoland and a few picnics at home. I also had a weekend away in London for the Blogtacular conference which was lovely, and I really enjoyed some 'me time' with some great friends. We finally found out and confirmed Mads place at her new school for September, which is so exciting and I feel like we can now relax and enjoy the Summer together.
Just before we went to Rhodes, I also went for a brunch in London with the lovely ladies from Mark Warner and some other bloggers, and as the Brit Mums BIB awards were that evening I ended up staying which I wasn't going to do. I am glad I did because the travel blog I run with three other ladies 'Space In Your Case' won Best Travel Blog- I have never been so shocked when they called out our name. That was a truly lovely suprise just before our holiday.
Which brings me to the best part of June- our aforementioned holiday to Rhodes. It was incredible and we had the most amazing time together as a family. In fact it was so special that it almost seems like a distant dream that didn't happen, except for the fact that I have photos and videos to prove it really did. No doubt I will share them on here soon but in the meantime my 'Me and Mine' photos for the month were taken while we were away. For the first time ever I actually took our tripod with us on holiday, Mr E didn't look too impressed with me when I mentioned the idea, although not huge it's bulky enough to take up a bit of space in the case, but I am so glad we did end up taking it.
These photos were taken on the last night of our holiday. We had wanted to go down to the beach but it was really windy and we were worried about sand getting in our eyes and/or the camera, so we decided to sit down at this nice little spot just outside our hotel room. I really love these photos, firstly because of that gorgeous golden light I am obsessed with (again!), secondly because we look happy, and thirdly because I love that we will be able to treasure them forever and the memories that are now associated with them. Just ignore the fact that Mr E has a sore leg (he fell off his bike on a organised bike ride while on holiday and went into a tree- ouch!) and the fact that we both have really bad sunglasses marks. Panda eyes anyone!
It was such a special holiday and I am so glad that I took the tripod so we have some family photos of us while we are away. I am the luckiest girl in the whole world to have these three people to call my family.
This month I am sending you over to Fritha's blog- I am sure everyone knows her, but if not she has a gorgeous little boy Wilf and another little person on the way. She's a thoroughly lovely lady too! If you have a family photo to share be sure to link up below! :)
It's 9.30pm on Saturday evening and just ten minutes ago we walked through the door after eight nights away on holiday. The house feels a bit unknown and we don't yet feel comfortable and relaxed in our surroundings, it smells a little musty and looks a little dusty after being neglected for a week. The garden has overgrown in this humid weather the UK has been having and we have a big pile of unopened mail just lying on the floor of our hallway, brushed aside until we get a moment to open it. Our suitcases have been taken upstairs, but most definitely won't be tackled until the morning and we are all a little disorientated. LL is asleep in bed, having fallen asleep in the car on the way back from Heathrow, she woke up for a brief moment, brushed her teeth and then went happily to sleep in her bed, happy to be back with her Peppa books and other various furry friends. Mads is passed out on our bed, for the first time since she was a baby we had to carry her from the car to the house, where we didn't even attempt to get her in her PJ's.
We are home.
Just like that, it all seems like a distant memory. Our week of fun in the sun in Rhodes. It's back to reality, but luckily not with too much of a bang. Mr E has popped to Tescos to make us some fajitas and we have a whole host of TV to catch up on that we have missed. We are exhausted, albeit it not a long flight at just four hours, as any parent knows the travelling starts from the minute you get up in the morning to come home. It's been a very long day, with a transfer bus, an airport with it's immigration and waiting, a plane journey, another airport with it's immigration and waiting, another bus, before finally an hour and a half car journey home from the airport. Coming home, LL ran straight upstairs to her room to check it out and make sure all her toys were in place, a nice sense of familiarity and routine being set back in place. I probably shouldn't have written this, it feels strange getting the laptop out before I have even unpacked a single thing, but I want to get this post out the way so I can relax and enjoy my evening. I feel like I can't miss an Ordinary Moments post, however silly that sounds.
I haven't even really began to process our holiday to Levante in Rhodes yet, let alone even thought about writing it down. We went last year and it was just incredible, and if I am honest I was a little nervous that I had built it up so much that it wouldn't be quite as good as we expected or remembered. But it was. It was all that and more. It was a week of family time, of making memories and of being together. As we left the hotel this morning I felt tears pricking at the back of my eyes, a mixture of feeling incredibly thankful and lucky that were able to go on holiday together and sadness that it was all over so fast. And now as I sit here typing this on my purple rug in my living room, it feels like it was all just a wonderful dream. Tomorrow we wake up to a huge pile of washing, a ridiculous amount of unanswered emails, and a whole host of routines to get back into.
But with the happiest of memories to treasure forever.
I am now writing this post almost a week and a half after we returned from our holiday to Lanzarote and almost a week after I wrote our first post. Our tans have definitely started to fade already, but our memories haven't and I have loved going back over these photos and having another look. I wish we still back in our little villa, enjoying the sunshine with my little family.
Here is Part Two of our holiday to Lanzarote in photos and another little video... (I just love making these videos so much!)
Sister cuddles. On the third night of our holiday we went to a beautiful marina called Puerto Calero- if you are visiting Lanzarote I highly recommend a visit as it was so lovely to walk around and look at the boats.
Everywhere we went the girls got given these sticky, horrible lollies, usually AFTER they had already consumed an ice cream for pudding as well. We couldn't say no as they would look forward to them every meal but they definitely weren't as exciting for myself and Mr E who were worried about their teeth!
Look at my happy girly, she was all smiles all holiday.
Little freckle nose playing the 'minion game' on Daddy's phone- she was obsessed with playing it with him all holiday.
Puerto Calero harbour.
I love this photo of my girls- after all what is there not to love about golden light sunshine and sisters holding hands?
I'm a lucky lady to have these three to call my family.
Oh golden light sunshine you will always be my favourite. My Grandpa was looking at my blog the other day and he said 'why do you always take these hazy photos?' I think it might only be me whose a fan of these beauties! ;)
Love, love, love, love this photo of myself and this beauty. Mr E is getting better at the photo taking, as long as I set up the settings beforehand for him!
I think I might like this one even more. Does anyone else talk about owning a yacht when they walk round a marina or is it just us?! Puerto Calero was beautiful and definitely worth having a walk around, it was only about fifteen minutes drive from where we were staying.
Villa Ventura had a private pool and it was amazing to see how happy the girls were swimming around each day- Mads is a complete and utter water baby.
Two little crocs in the water- they look so similar in this photo I think.
I love the little bit of tummy poking out on this photo- this girl has got class! They lived in their Konfidence jackets as they do every holiday, they give us such peace of mind when being near water.
Both of the girls have got so much more confident going in the pool over the course of this holiday, I guess that's one of the benefits of having a private pool in your villa.
Cool dudes. Evening light. Yippee.
It was lovely to go for a walk in the evening, it stayed so hot even up until when the sun went down 8ish- the main promenade was wide enough that meant they could walk along without me worrying they were going to run into the road.
I am so proud of these two- love their Little Bird outfits too, Mads loves that blue playsuit, she is on an anti pink stage and so loves anything blue.
I am not quite sure why she was jumping in this photo!
I'm a big succulent fan (is there such a thing as a succulent fan?!) so I loved all these cacti on someone's front steps.
The girls loved the fact that the tide came in overnight and made big water pools, it meant they could splash and play to their hearts content. I love the beach but who else finds with children that the sand just gets absolutely everywhere?
Serious sandcastle building.
Sitting on Daddy's lap to eat her ice cream. You never know what to expect from restaurants on holiday but we can definitely recommend the areas of the Puerto del Carmen old town harbour and Puerto Calero, where we found a fabulous selection of tapas, fish and meat dishes. Plus they all had plain pasta and pizza for the girls which means it's always a winner in my eyes. ;)
Our last evening out and the last lolly of the holiday!
I love their happy smiles in this one.
Here is the second little film I made of our time in Lanzarote...
Overall it was a fantastic holiday, full of memories, happy times and laughter. Indeed if I had to sum it up in one word I would say smiles, of course you don't go on holiday to have a bad time, but I don't know what it was but it was just relaxed and laid back from start to finish. Sometimes going on holiday can mean the occasional grumpy day as routines change and the inevitable later bedtimes make for over tired children, but the girls were so well behaved from start to finish. We got into a routine of them both having a long afternoon siesta which meant that we could keep them up until around 8.30/9pm, therefore we actually managed to get out and have dinners out rather than just staying in our villa.
We went on lots of villa holidays before the girls were born, but this is the first time we have done one with them. It's hard to say which is my favourite- I love the luxury of a hotel stay, the fact that your room gets cleaned and you have your pick of nice food, but there is definitely something more relaxed about being in a villa. We could come and go as we pleased, weren't held to timings and the best bit for us was having the private pool area, which meant the girls could sit inside for a bit of shade and have a little watch of the television, but we didn't have to go in with them as we could sit less than a metre away in the sunshine.
As for Lanzarote, having been a few times in my childhood and teens, plus once in my early 20's, I admit to having a few tiny worries before I went away, mainly around it being quite commercialised and British- but in actual fact we couldn't have asked for a better location. The villa was in a quiet area but with the action not too far away. We were a stones throw away from the beach and there were really fantastic playgrounds dotted all around us, which were great fun for the girls. The whole resort was spotless, the people were friendly and we wouldn't hesitate in going back there again- there really was so much for us to do.
Looking back on these photos makes me get a little teary. I am just so, so incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to experience things like this with my little family, but more than that I am just so grateful to have these three in my life. I must have said to my husband 'we are so lucky' at least three times a day. Because we are. We have those two beautiful little girls, whose faces were full of smiles all week just at being able to have their Mummy and Daddy all to themselves. Day to day life is hectic, busy and at times I am the first to admit I am not always completely present- we work hard, the girls go to nursery, or there's cleaning to be done, jobs to be doing or meals to be made. I relished the opportunity to switch off and spend a week with my girls, away from the stresses and mundanity of day to day life, and I know they did as well.