I love writing these posts and thinking back to our holiday to Rhodes. Although it was only a couple of weeks ago, our tans are already fading, our holiday clothes have been washed, ironed (thanks Mum!) and returned to their respective wardrobes, and we are back in our same old routine. But it's great to look through the photos and remember our special time at Levante Beach Hotel. If I close my eyes I can almost imagine the heat on my shoulders or that feeling of icy cold shivers when you first jumped in the pool, and the deliciously sweet smell of waffles cooking on the grill in the morning. And that's exactly why we go on holiday- to make those memories that will last a lifetime.
Here is the second part of our holiday to Rhodes in (far too many) photos and another little video...
I was so proud of my little girl as she decided she wanted to go kayaking with her Daddy. She looked so little sat there in the front but absolutely loved it and they were out on the water for ages.
She took after her Mummy and sat there letting Mr E do all the work. Although I am guessing she is lighter than me. ;)
This crazy lady and I sat on the shore throwing stones and waving at them kayaking further and further away from us.
She loves sand, stones and generally making a mess! She's also in her PJ's in this picture as she woke up from her nap to go and watch Daddy and her sister. If a girl can't wear her PJ's down to the beach, when can she?
I often just sat for a few minutes and watched the Mark Warner boats. The watersports is a huge part of life at Levante and the waterfront team are so fun and nice. Everything is included in the price, unless you want private tuition. I tried my hand at paddle boarding and also went on an organised kayak safari. On the kayak safari we were meant to go to a nearby cove and do some snorkelling but sadly on the day we went it was so windy that we ended up having to be taken back in the safety boat as it was so hard paddling against the wind. I thought the safety boat was just as fun though!
Sharing a 'cocktail' together. I have the exact same photo of last year in the same spot.
So proud these babies are mine.
She asked every evening if we could go for a cocktail. We were on a half board basis at Levante meaning we paid extra for drinks. But the drinks prices are incredibly reasonable.
My smiling, happy girl.
Golden light again- I will never tire of taking these kind of photos.
We loved dropping the girls off at the evening film and childcare service and having dinner together, it was such a wonderful luxury. We didn't keep them in for long, at the most two hours, but it was just enough time to eat our meal in peace, knowing the girls were having a whale of a time watching films and snuggling.
Mads windsurfing in the pool when I snuck up on her at one of her mini club sessions. I was so proud watching her doing things way out of her comfort zone and just like last year her time at Levante seemed to make her grow so much in confidence.
I am the luckiest lady in the world to have these three.
Every evening they wanted a 'disco party' on the lawn outside our hotel room.
They were looking at each other's knees and kissing each others 'sores' better.
They do argue on and off (some days more than others) but they truly are the best of friends.
The hotel has three restaurants- the main restaurant, the Pan Asian restaurant and the pool snack bar. For a small supplement you can eat in the Pan Asian restaurant by one of the pools which we did one night. The food was delicious- we had beef, mango and lime salad, spring rolls, crispy chicken and sweet and sour beef amongst other things. It was nice for a bit of a change from the buffet in the main restaurant and the view of the sun setting was gorgeous. (Which is also delicious!)
I adore this photo taken one evening before we went out to dinner- Mr E was pretending to be a monkey in the background.
Plus this one too. I love it when photos go according to plan and they give us genuinely happy smiles.
And this might be my new favourite of LL. She also seemed to grow up lots more while we were away too. I think we can all safely say Levante brings out the happiness in our family, look at those twinkly, sparkly eyes. It really is our happy place and we are so thankful that we found Mark Warner last year and that they invested in our family to make us ambassadors, plus I am glad we decided to book again for this year. I think we have found somewhere that we will hopefully return to year upon year.
Here is another little video of our time at Levante. It's the last one I have made but I have one more post of photos coming up at some point too. (SO many photos!)
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.
Here is the second part of my adventure to this beautiful resort...
Carb overload. The food at Ikos Oceania was absolutely delicious. I think often there can be a little bit of preconception when it comes to all inclusive holidays but Ikos is working hard to put an end to that by redefining the luxury all-inclusive experience with their concept 'Infinite Lifestyle'.
After settling in on the Thursday afternoon, the Friday was spent out and about. Our first stop was the Petralona Caves, about half an hour away from the resort. A large cave discovered in 1959 where they also discovered human and animal remains, this natural structure is fascinating to visit, and was really interesting for me as it's not somewhere I would have gone having such young children. I didn't take any photos while we were there as we weren't allowed to but here are the rest of the ladies on the trip waiting to get on the litle train that would take us the short distance to the caves.
It was a pleasure to spend time with this group of journalists, travel writers and bloggers. Some of the other ladies on the trip were Tina from Loved By Parents, Mimi from La Vida magazine and Gretta from Mums do Travel.
We were treated to a tour of the factory where the wine was being produced which was fascinating, before visiting their on site museum where they have the world's biggest corkscrew collection. It doesn't sound particularly thrilling but honestly it was so interesting, you wouldn't believe the different kinds of corkscrew you can get.
Before it was on to some wine tasting. (that's more like it!)
I used to be a massive wine drinker before having Mads, but I have weirdly gone off it a bit since being pregnant and it's not come back. Still it was great to enjoy a glass or two of the award winning wine- a fair few of our group took some home to enjoy back in the UK.
More awkward posing, it's a lot easier to pose when you have a child in the photo to take the attention off you. And I call myself a blogger!
The sun setting over Ikos Oceania. The resort is built into a cliffside and as such the views are spectacular.
Friday night was spent in Ikos Oceania's a la carte Italian restaurant Fusco, where the menu has been created by Michelin-starred chef Andrea Fusco. The decor was gorgeous, I loved the white washed brick walls and industrial style lighting.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the whole resort has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment and as such is absolutely stunning. The decor throughout was modern, clean and really calm, with lots of whites, blues and greens.
At Fusco we were treated to yet another array of delicious taster plates to try, including this rather tasty chicken and chilli pepper dish. I came away from the long weekend with jeans feeling a little tight around the waist- I dread to think what would happen if I was there one or two weeks.
Chilling out in the lobby with Alison- it was fantastic spending time with her over the course of the trip.
On our final full day, the Saturday, we were lucky enough to be one of the first few people to see the new Ikos Olivia resort which at that stage hadn't opened to the public, although it's since welcomed it's first guests. It was an honour to see this beautiful resort, which is modern and with an amazing selection of accomodation for families, with the introduction of private villas. I can guarantee that we will book to go back there with our girls one day as it was just a perfect family hotel. I felt very envious of the first guests tweeting me to say that they were off there and could I send them a photo.
On the Saturday afternoon we got to sample a bit of sunbed relaxation, which I must admit I was absolutely looking forward to. How beautiful is this pool? I think that the infinity pool at Ikos Oceania might just be one of the most beautiful I have seen. Look at that view in the distance.
The resort offers pool and beach side waiter service (and of course drinks are included in the price) which was just a wonderful luxury. It was wonderful taking a bit of time just to relax and sip on my mojito.
So beautiful. In fact all the grounds were absolutely stunning, some of the most immaculate and landscaped I have stayed in, with flowers everywhere and lovely attention to detail.
Could you ask for anything more from a holiday pool? We also got a gorgeous massage in the resort spa which was lovely. In fact it was one of the best I have had.
Our final evening was spent dining out. A really great bonus when you stay at the Ikos properties, is that you get to 'dine out' at a local restaurant for no extra cost. The food at Ikos Oceania was so gorgeous that you could never get bored, but still if you are there a week it's definitely nice to mix it up and have a change, plus of course it's great to experience an authentic Greek restaurant.
We ate at Erodios restaurant by the harbour and were yet again treated to an array of salads, meats and other dishes, including the most delicious fried feta cheese and also these zucchini fries- yum. Ikos organise transport for you to and from the restaurant as well so it's definitely worth visting a local restaurant at least once. Plus these dine out experiences also benefit the local community which of course is a great thing.
As well as eating breakfast in the hotels main restaurant Flavours for breakfast, we also ate lunch there on the last day. I snuck in three puddings, after all I was about to go home, it was compulsory really.
One last photo with the ladies from the trip and the hotel managers. All the staff were incredibly friendly and you can see why guests return year after year. Even better that they now have a beautifully refurbished hotel to enjoy.
Just in case you missed my last post, here is a video of my time at Ikos Oceania...
Overall I had a fantastic trip to Greece with Sovereign Travel and Ikos Resorts. The resort truly is beautiful and I was really impressed with the facilities that they had on offer, especially for families. The kids club looked incredible, but even if you don't fancy putting your kids into childcare, there was still a huge array of things for them to do. The soft play area was fantastic and there was a lovely outdoor playground for them as well. For older kids there was a range of activities for them to do as well, but really when you go on holiday what do you need except for a pool? And what beautiful pools there were on offer, the infinity pool was truly stunning, and there was a dedicated kids pool too.
My room was stunning, large and beautifully decorated. My one slight issue would be that if you had a family then there wouldn't be a separate area for the kids to sleep, this is a big part of what we look for in holiday accomodation. However having seeing my friend Alison's room, she had a different layout with a little lounge area, so that would be perfect for younger families. I would make sure you specify on booking if you want this kind of accomodation and I am sure the hotel will help you work out what's best for you. The rooms had great extras, with premium drinks (hello Diet Coke!) and a Nespresso machine too.
I would definitely recommend Ikos Oceania and the new property Ikos Olivia to anyone who is looking for an All Inclusive family holiday with a difference. It's definitely opened my eyes to the fact that you can still experience luxury while enjoying the benefits that an all inclusive resort has to offer. Ikos Oceania offers luxury, attention to detail, excellent family facilities and more in abundance. As I stare out of my dreary office window, I would give anything to be back in that infinity pool- but this time with my little family splashing away beside me.
Sovereign (01293 731566, www.sovereign.com), the luxury specialist, has a week at Ikos Oceania from £1899 for a family of three on an all-inclusive basis. The price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Thessaloniki with easyjet and private resort transfers. All Sovereign customers also benefit from complimentary lounge access at No 1 Traveller Gatwick and the premium security lane, as well as a private cocktail on the beach and a farewell gift. Price based on departures 25 October 2015 with a saving of £411 per family. For further information on Ikos Resorts please visit www.ikosresorts.com Lounge provided by www.no1traveller.com
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.
Sitting on my sun lounger, a mojito in one hand and my book in the other, I stared blissfully out at the clear blue of the infinity pool and beyond that to the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea in the background. If I squinted hard enough I could almost imagine my three favourite people there in the pool, splashing around in excitement. Mads would be giggling and squealing, like she always does when she is happy, and LL would be floating around gripping on to her Daddy's shoulders. I know for a fact that my little family would absolutely love it at Ikos Oceania.
But this time it was just me there and although of course I missed them terribly, I was loving having a chance to relax and to think about things. The reason for my short trip was that I was invited away for a lovely few days in Greece with Ikos Resorts and Sovereign Travel. I always feel incredibly lucky to be able to have a chance to do these things and this trip was no exception. We were a small group of seven, made up of travel journalists, bloggers and the PR representives and it was great to have a chance to make new friends and experience such a beautiful resort.
As usual, I took so many photos, and a little video too, so I am going to split my trip into a couple of parts...
A Little Low Down on Ikos Resorts...
Ikos Resorts have two properties, the property that we stayed at Ikos Oceania which has recently undergone a €4 million refurbishment, including new family rooms and a completely renovated kids club. Also in the group, is the brand new Ikos Olivia, which actually only opened this week (May 2015) and which I was honoured to be able to have a sneaky peek at a few days before their launch- it looks absolutely stunning and I am definitely going to try and go back with my little family soon.
The Ikos Resorts mission is to redefine the luxury all-inclusive experience with their statement 'Infinite Lifestyle' and it certainly exceeds the needs of the most discerning global leisure traveller, with bespoke personal touches and understated elegance. For me, as a parent of a young family there are a number of different things I look for in a holiday, but the main thing is that it ticks all the boxes when it comes to having something for all of us- Ikos Resorts had that in abundance and I will talk about it as I go along...
After our super early three hour flight from Gatwick (local airport is Thessaloniki and then it's about a 20 minute transfer to the resort- if you book with Sovereign Travel you get a lovely private transfer) we arrived at Ikos Oceania and were ushered into the beautiful adults bar to check in with a nice cold glass of champagne. This was the view that awaited us. Oceania is nestled into the hilltops, with spectacular views of the Mediterranean. There's a private beach, plus a number of different pools including one especially for little people.
After check in we made our way to our rooms and I certainly wasn't disappointed. My Deluxe Junior Suite was styled beautifully, with a calming blue and green colour scheme and a huge terrace over looking the sea.
There are a number of different room types so there really is something for everyone, but one of the main things I look for in a holiday as our girls are so little, is an area where they can sleep, knowing that even if they go to bed at 8pm there is somewhere we can sit and chill out. Ikos Oceania has a number of different room types depending on your family make up- and all have been refurbished along the same sort of colour scheme and decor style.
The view from my terrace was absolutely stunning. In fact one thing that I really noticed about the resort was the attention to detail when it came to the grounds. There was lush green grass, beautiful colourful flowers, and shrubs everywhere. They really obviously have invested a lot of money in making sure the gardens look perfect.
Before we slept in the beds for the first time, we were laughing with the hotel marketing manager about the fact that the pillows were so comfy people wanted to buy them. We were unconvinced but indeed the pillows are probably the comfiest I have ever slept on- she was definitely right!
The champagne and fruit on arrival were a really nice touch.
The resort is all inclusive but has coined the term 'infinite lifestyle' - it's got those little extras such as four a la carte restaurants, a dine out service, and high end premium drinks brands that make this a cut above the rest. Indeed Trip Advisor voted it the No 1 All Inclusive in Europe and you can certainly see why.
We headed off to the Ouzo Restaurant for lunch on our first day- a gorgeous light and bright restaurant situated by the main pool. Without a shadow of a doubt the food at Ikos Oceania was some of the best I have eaten for a long time, it's hard to believe it's an All Inclusive resort and that it's all included in the price. We were treated to plates upon plates of delicious food, and my jeans were definitely a little tight by the end of the trip. Think warm pitta breads, homemade houmous, and fresh and light salads. Greek food is one of my favourites, but I honestly was in heaven here.
Just a light lunch.
It's a pleasure finding out that one of your great friends is on the same trip. It was fantastic spending time with Alison, my fellow Space In Your Case buddy. Here we are doing what bloggers do best and posing before going out for dinner.
When I got these trousers Mr E said they looked like someone's old curtains that you would have in the 70's! But I love them. ;)
On our first evening before dinner we were joined by the marketing manager and were kindly given a tour of the hotel- it was great to be shown round and see exactly what they had to offer. How beautiful is this pool? It really was stunning. It's the little extras that make a real difference to your holiday, and I absolutely loved the all day waiter service at all of the pools and the beach.
Beautiful palm trees dotted around the resort.
The hotel is on it's own stretch of private beach, perfect for little one's who like to take a bucket and spade. One great little extra is that the resort offers a 30 minute childcare service on the beach- you can drop your child there and let them have fun, while you do important things like get a cocktail or enjoy a spot of sun bathing. It's all included in the price too of course.
We got a chance to check out the Kids club and I was blown away by the facilities they had on offer- it was spotlessly clean, with so many lovely toys. The childcare is included in the price of your stay if you chose to pop your kids in the club for a few hours, and is run by Worldwide Kids Company, a UK based childcare provider. This provides reassurance to parents that your kids are in the best possible hands. Indeed this is just one of the rooms, there are two others depending on the age of your little person and they have a huge program of activities available for them. All these things are so welcome for parents of young children, as we know that sometimes holiday's can be a little bit tiring when you are constantly watching their every move. It's nice to have the option even if you don't end up using it.
How amazing is this soft play? I know my girl's would have loved it and Mads indeed saw my photos the other day and said 'I want to go there to play Mummy'.
For our evening meal on Friday night we again dined at the Ouzo restaurant, where we were served a number of delicious taster dishes. Like this Greek Sausage dish. Michelin Starred chef Lefteris Lazarou's a la carte menu is Greek with a modern twist.
This sesame bread stuffed with cheese was delicious.
Mini lamb kebabs with a lightly spiced yoghurt sauce on Pitta Bread = Best Thing Ever!
I need to take Mads back to Ikos Oceania just so she can have this dessert- no one was 100% sure what it was as they just bought it out for us, but basically it was warm Nutella with something which resembled cornflakes, mixed together with ice cream- it honestly was one of the tastiest puddings I have had in so long. My little Nutella addict would have loved it! Our meal at Ouzo was delicious, topped off with a drink similar to Ouzo (yuck!) and some lovely wine from the resort's extensive wine list.
The sun setting on the main pool and my view from the restaurant.
It definitely was a fantastic first day and I went to bed feeling thoroughly full, with a voice hoarse from chatting and laughing with new found friends.
Here is a little video from my time at Ikos Oceania- next part of our trip coming soon!
Sovereign (01293 731566, www.sovereign.com), the luxury specialist, has a week at Ikos Oceania from £1899 for a family of three on an all-inclusive basis. The price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Thessaloniki with easyjet and private resort transfers. All Sovereign customers also benefit from complimentary lounge access at No 1 Traveller Gatwick and the premium security lane, as well as a private cocktail on the beach and a farewell gift. Price based on departures 25 October 2015 with a saving of £411 per family.