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.
Last week I wrote all about our weekend in Bristol. Here is the second part of our lovely (albeit very wet!) weekend in this fabulous city...
Typically after awful weather all weekend, we finally woke up to some sunshine on Monday morning- just as we were due to be going home! This was the gorgeous view from our hotel window.
I have mentioned before, when we went to Amsterdam, that both myself and Mr E have a bit of a thing for street art. Obviously Bristol is home to probably the most famous street artist of all time Banksy, but first thing Sunday morning we headed to the Stokes Croft area of the city for a walk around some of the street art.
I love the colours in this one.
Then we headed to Bristol Zoo for the morning. We were really impressed with the amount of animals and things to do there, you could have easily spent a whole day there but unfortunately we could only spend a couple of hours due to the fact we had a long journey home.
How grown up does she look? She was in her element running round the zoo and it's grounds.
Spring is definitely on it's way.
When photos go wrong. ;)
Love this one of myself and my little girly.
We then headed for a ride over the Clifton Suspension bridge- a pretty iconic Bristol landmark- and so high! The girls loved driving over the 'big bridge'. I don't reckon we are the first people to spend a pound there and back to go over it just for the sake of it!
And in case you missed it, here is our little video from our time in Bristol...
All in all we had a fantastic family weekend- there is absolutely nothing I love more than a weekend away in a city, sometimes I think I actually prefer those kind of trips more than holidays. There is something so exciting about discovering a new place, finding little places off the beaten track to explore, being a tourist and heading to the hot spots and of course eating out in restaurants or little cafes. (our favourite pasttime!) I knew of Bristol before from having been down there on business a few times, but this was the first time we had been with the girls, and we will definitely go again. There are so many child friendly places to go, and even though the weather was rubbish we still had a great time. That being said, we would love to go back in the Summer and explore some of the outdoors a bit more too.
Before we had small people in our lives, I worked in the travel industry for many years as a Marketing Account Manager for the biggest online hotel website. Basically to cut a really long and boring story short, this meant I was responsible for all the hotels within a designated area. My area was the South West of the country and as part of my contract I was contracted to work away a week of the month and visit some of my hotels. One of the areas I looked after was Bristol and so I often went down there for a visit.
It was always one of those places I really enjoyed visiting- it's a really diverse and cultural city, plus it's ridiculously colourful and stylish. I hadn't been in a few years so when Visit Bristol invited us to stay for the weekend to see what the city had to offer for famillies, I couldn't wait to start planning.
On Friday afternoon we excitedly packed up our Subaru XV (perfect boot space for all our bags!) and headed off with two hyper little ladies. Unfortunately we couldn't have picked a worse weekend to go- from the second we arrived it basically rained non stop. It wasn't just rain however, it was full on gale force winds too. I wouldn't say it put a dampner on our weekend as we still had an amazing time, but it definitely meant we didn't see as much of Bristol as we liked. What we did find however, were some fantastic indoor activities for familiies- there is literally so much to do in all kinds of weather.
We actually started our weekend off on Friday evening when Mr E finished work (his last ever day at his job- eek!) and headed to Oxford which is half way between us and Bristol, just to stay in a Premier Inn for the evening. We did that usual parent thing of hiding out in the bathroom eating chocolate while the girls slept! Then it was up and off to Bristol first thing on Saturday morning.
I didn't think I had taken many photos due to the aforementioned weather, but in actual fact on inspection of my memory cards I found quite a few. Here is the first part of our weekend in Bristol in photos and a little video...
On arrival in Bristol we headed over to Clifton, a cute little suburb, to have some brunch. We found a cute little cafe called The Farm. (which just happened to be in front of us when it was torrential rain)
We have a tradition of having pancakes when we eat breakfast out so we all shared this stack of pancakes with maple syrup, fresh fruit and natural yoghurt- they were delicious.
While I had the chorizo eggs.
We checked into our room at the Marriott City Centre Hotel (where I actually had been to before as I had to give a presentation to over 70 people in my previous job- it bought back scary memories!) and the girls were really excited to be given some bags of popcorn by the hotel staff as there was a traditional old machine in the foyer. The Saturday afternoon was mainly spent dodging the rain and mooching round the shops.
After a quick change we headed out to dinner.
We headed to Glassboat for dinner, which is exactly that- a glassboat serving European cuisine offering panoramic views of the river. It was absolutely stunning inside and the girls were so excited to be eating dinner on a boat.
Posing outside the restaurant.
We had an early reservation meaning that we were able to watch the sun go down, which was gorgeous. The restaurant was lovely, but I wouldn't say it was massively child focused- they didn't have a separate children's menu but they did kindly do us a smaller plate of the butternut squash risotto for the girls. As it got later it became quite a romantic venue being that it was Saturday night, and they were the only little people in there. It didn't bother us as our girls are used to eating out and don't get up from the table but it's worth bearing in mind.
For my main I had the butternut squash en croute, roast chicory with a roquefort sauce, which was delicious.
On Sunday as the weather was dreadful we decided to head to At Bristol- an interactive science museum. We weren't sure whether it was going to be too old for the girls, but it turns out they absolutely loved it. There's so many hands on things for them to do and they loved playing with all the experiments. I love this photo of the wonder on their faces as they took turns in building a parachute and letting it fall to the ground. Their other favourites were the giant bubbles and the way you could milk a cow. You easily could spend a whole day there- it was brilliant.
After a morning at At Bristol we headed to a restaurant called Bordeaux Quay for lunch, which was a lovely deli, restaurant, bakery and cookery school on the harbourside. I love this photo of LL and Mr E doing a spot of colouring!
Testing her knowledge of all the Mr Men characters!
I had the pulled pork bun which was so yummy.
Followed by the creme brulee for pudding. I have this obsession for creme brulee at the moment which doesn't appear to be doing my fitness mission much good!
LL was fascinated by the fish and learnt two new words while we there- 'fishies' and 'turtle'. Her speech is still taking a while to come along but when she does say things it's the cutest thing ever.
After a busy day we headed back to the hotel. The girls and Mr E got room service while I went out for dinner with two of my favourite blogging friends Fritha and Lori, who live in Bristol. It was lovely to be able to get the chance to see them while we were down here, and we laughed all night long.
Here is a little video of our time in Bristol....
Part Two of our weekend coming soon!
NB: Visit Bristol invited us to stay for the weekend and gave us a media pass to enter some of the attractions. Although they gave us lots of information about Bristol, what we chose to do was up to us, and all thoughts and opinions are our own.