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This week I am fulfilling every single January stereotype. Cold? Yep. A bit miserable? Indeed. Whining about it on the internet? WHOLEHEARTEDLY!
I’ve been jealous of those lucky holidaymakers with few January responsibilities and loads of cash – is it me or have all celebrities de-camped to the Caribbean this month? – but us mortals have had to come up with more inventive escapism tools.
For me it’s been wistful photo gazing followed by summer holiday planning, and I can say with 100% certainty that we’ll be heading back to a Mark Warner resort come sunshine days.
Last year the three of us visited Lakitira in Greece, and seven months on it still gives me a warm feeling to think about what an incredible time we had there. You remember warm? That feeling you get from the sun? I know it’s ages since we’ve felt anything approaching the sensation in this country, just sit close to a radiator when the heating’s on and you’ll soon remember.
Before I we visited I heard other mums discussing Mark Warner with the kind of fervour that’s otherwise reserved for a really really good pair of shoes, or maybe an insanely delicious cheeseburger. They went into raptures over all aspects of the experience, from the staff to the childcare to the watersports to the food and the facilities. “Really?” I thought. “Can anything outside of a date night with Gary Barlow be this good?”
Yes, yes it can.
I have to admit, I didn’t feel that way when I arrived at the resort. I’d never been on a package holiday before and I felt like the new kid at school: the hotel felt huge and I didn’t know where I was supposed to be, or when. But I saw those feelings off at the evening welcome meeting with a glass of wine, and soon got handed a schedule and so relaxed into the swing of holiday life.
Mark Warner is wonderful for people like me – and my kids – who enjoy routine. It was comforting to know we’d wake up every morning and head to breakfast with a wave to our new holiday buddies as we decided between the pool and the beach. This buffet was always a chance to fill up… beans, eggs and bacon for Elfie, chocolate pancake for Hux and fruit salad for me (hahah just kidding, I went all in on the hash browns and omelettes).
As I have two children who grew up in the most central part of the country, they’re not massively interested in beach life. The sand can get hot and there would be the most awful shrieking should it deign to work its way in between the foot and the sandal. Poor kids ;)
And so the pool it was, with frequent trips to the bar for Soleros and Cornettos, interspersed with games in either the kid’s or adult pool. As the big pool was so deep we were so thankful to have our SwimFins with us – marvellous contraptions that allow the kids to swim with buoyancy, without the uncomfortable feeling of armbands. Anything that lessens the amount of whining I have to deal with is all good with me.
The little shop on-site was well-stocked with water toys; we spent twenty euros on massive water pistols which were worth every penny, and which we left for other holidaymakers on our departure.
Food was great for grown-ups, and though the kid’s offering was a little more beige than I would have liked I was ALL OVER any option that would get the kids in and out of their supper with minimal fuss. There was always raw carrot and cucumber on offer (healthy staples for us at home) and as long as my two ingested at least a little of this I was happy for the rest of their lunch to be made up of pasta (Hux), pizza (Elfie) and ice cream (both). After all, we were on holiday! As long as they tried the odd Gyros, had a mouthful of my spanakopita and pretended to like Greek yoghurt and honey ;)
The mums waxing lyrical were right: Mark Warner IS all about childcare. I’ve been away with my kids before, not abroad but at kid-friendly places in the UK, and nothing compares with the sheer relief you feel when you can relax knowing the precious fruit of your loins is a mere 100 metres away being entertained. I was worried about pulling my kids out of school for a holiday (the guilt!) but knowing they learned how to windsurf, sail, swim and kayak while we were away enforced the belief that though they weren’t in formal education, our holiday was an education in itself. They LOVED their kids club, I LOVED my free three hours a day and we all LOVED movie time in the evening: the kids caught up with their friends, I drank rosé with mine. Perfect.
There’s nothing fancy about the accommodation at Lakitira. The kids were delighted to see such a ‘different’ TV – it was an old-style CRT with a bunch of Greek channels – but it worked really well for us. The kids ‘room’ (the small area adjacent to the main bedroom with two child-sized beds) worked well for them, and the hotel had wi-fi throughout. The air-con was cold and the daily cleaners were just fantastic. We didn’t spend loads of time in our room and it suited our needs perfectly.
I came back from our holiday to Lakitira with the same enthusiasm for Mark Warner as I’ve seen in many mums before me. I understood why they waxed lyrical so; the quality of the childcare and the opportunity to relax made the time I had with the children so special. I left that week desperately wanting one more in our glorious breakfast-beach-pool-ice cream-kids club routine, as did my two little sidekicks.
I went from being an eyebrow-raiser of a mother who steadfastly steered clear of all-inclusive resorts to one who didn’t have enough good things to say about them.
We’re heading off to a Mark Warner winter resort this weekend and I can’t wait to compare the ski holiday with our summer one. And when we get back we’ll surely be booking for this summer: once you go Mark Warner, you never go back. That’s what the mums say and now I believe them.
We are so thrilled to be working as Mark Warner ambassadors this year – I’ll be back soon to let you know what I thought of our snow experience!