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National Geographic Traveller UK - Family Travel 2018

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A thr
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2018 ISSUE 11
& Ski
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Austria • Denmark • France
Iceland • Kos • Sri Lanka • St Lucia
Located in the Maldives and Thailand, Soneva resorts are the perfect
destination for a luxurious family holiday, with spacious multi-bedroom villas,
extensive children Dens, and rare experiences for the whole family to enjoy.
Please see for family offers.
Life is not about how far you travel,
it is about what you discover...
For reservations, contact: 0 800 048 8044
Maldives | Thailand
Inspiring a lifetime of rare experiences
42 Sri Lanka
9 Editors’ picks
Some of our favourite family things
10 Books
Reading that will offset the cries of ‘Are
we there yet?’
11 In Style
From monkey bingo to unicorn pillows
14 Ask the experts
Where can we take the whole family for
a winter sun adventure?
19 Book it now
Reykjavik, Austria, Denmark, Kos
and France
37 St Lucia
Pirates, volcanoes and lots of chocolate
42 Sri Lanka
Close encounters on safari with leopards
and elephants
50 Sardinia
Football, dance and beaches on this
Italian island in the Med
54 Holland
Splashing about at Duinrell
amusement park
58 Azores
Proper adventure opportunities for the
young at heart
64 Scilly Isles
Hiking trails, hillside meadows and
hearty grub
70 Tried & tested
As far afield as Florence, Suffolk, the
Netherlands and East Sussex
78 Competition
Win a weekend in British woodland
81 Are we there yet?
Games, quizzes and puzzles
82 Back chat
Forest bathing, gymnastics and
stargazing safaris
Family 2018
Holidaying on Summer Island Maldives isn’t about simply getting away. It’s about creating your own ‘canvas’ – mixing the
colours to create your perfect archipelago painting. Scuba diving to explore the coral reefs teeming with life or just snorkelling
for fun in the serene, turquoise lagoon. Sailing, canoeing or perhaps taking a boat to try some night fishing. Sipping exotic
cocktails while making new friends at the rustic beach bar or fine dining at one of the international cuisine restaurants.
Tel: +960 664 1949, Fax: +960 664 1910,,
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Stefano Pica
hen travelling with family, I’m often
faced with the challenge of finding
a balance between what we
grown-ups want to do and keeping our
pester-prone children happy. My solution: the
one-day-on, one-day-off rule. In other words,
pack in a day of activities, follow it with a day
sunning ourselves by the pool — then repeat.
In this issue, our writers grapple with this
dilemma. Some are presented with fresh
challenges — overcoming a fear of water
slides at an amusement park in Holland (p.54);
juggling new skills — football and dance, on a
beach holiday in Sardinia (p.50); or making the
most of a grown-up ski and spa trip to Austria
(p.25). All involved a balancing act, with some
things working better than others.
I had intended to apply this rule on a recent
family trip to Sri Lanka, with the safari day
being the ‘on day’ — as it was something I’d
always considered my kids too young/fidgety/
afraid of bugs for — followed by a day of pool
and beach. But, as it turned out, they loved it
all! Sometimes, the rules go out the window,
and you just get lucky. OK, they’ll still ask ‘are
we there yet?’ (p.16), but, truth be told, we’re
all getting there. Hope you enjoy your own
journeys. Happy travels!
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Family 2018
Ride the mail rails
A disused Clerkenwell
printing factory has been
transformed into the new site
for the Postal Museum. This
includes the renaissance of
the old Mail Rail tunnels as
a ride that travels over 100
years back in time, 70ft under
the capital. Mini trains, max
hour of movement a preschool child
should make daily, according to WHO
hours of movement a preschool child should
make daily, according to the Finnish government
English children who meet the World Health
Organization quota, according to the NHS
the campaign and competition to tally and map
kids’ activity around the world
Editors' icks
We asked the team for their tips and
top family picks for 2018
His Dark Materials trilogy,
Philip Pullman’s new
offering is almost a fantasy
of flood, fire, famine and
pestilence. A gripping read
for parents and kids alike.
HERE WE ARE: Notes for
Living on Planet Earth sees
author and illustrator Oliver
Jeffers give his newborn tips
on how to inhabit this planet.
Existential excellence.
EVERYTHING: The follow-up
to Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s
Waterstones Children’s
Book Prizewinning
debut is a
strange, brave
traveller’s tale.
A new study assessed cities under criteria
such as safety and activities of kids.
Local parenting bloggers and
professionals were also asked for
Small talk
Things we learnt from
our kids this year
are obsessed with
aeroplanes, but when
they get the chance to
press some buttons in
the cockpit, shyness
kicks in. Opportunity of
a lifetime, missed.
Creepy crawlies are
more terrifying when
imagined. Faced
with beetles, bugs
and butterflies in the
rainforest, my children
are fascinated rather
than afraid.
Despite being told to
not touch the animals,
when they’re nose to
nose with them... they’ll
still try to touch the
animals. MARIA PIERI
Family 2018
Listen to owls, foxes and other
nocturnal animals.
RRP: £12.99 (Noisy Books).
Africa’s least loved beasts.
RRP: £8.99 (Alison Green Books).
Take the glazed look off your sulky teen’s face with this fascinating
view into street life around the world
Travelling with teens is an even more
intense version of life with teens.
They’re determined not to be impressed
by anything you suggest or any wisdom
you try to impart. Every idea is met with
a shrug, or a ‘whatevs’.
Which is why I snapped up the
recently published Streets of the
World, by Belgian photojournalist
Jeroen Swolfs, who spent seven years
documenting everyday street life in 195
countries. The book is an incredible
insight into living conditions, food,
pastimes, passions and habits — and
young people — around the globe.
Among the arresting images are kids
playing volleyball on an airstrip on
Tuvalu in the Pacific, a policewoman
supervising non-existent traffic in North
Korea, alluring food stalls in Singapore
and families queuing
for food after a tsunami
in Samoa — the book is
an invitation to travel
and discover, but is
also wonderfully
Streets of the
Swolfs looks behind
World by Jeroen
the tourist-paradise
Swolfs. RRP:
image of the Maldives,
£39.95 (Lannoo
for instance, to the
poverty of Malé, tacitly
asking what kind of travellers we want
to be. And alongside images of shabby
public boats in Brunei is a list of their
Sultan’s 5,000-strong car collection.
This isn’t a cheap tome, but as a gift
to inspire and awaken teens (and maybe
make them realise just how lucky they
are), it’s a must. RHONDA CARRIER
Discover prehistoric lands and
the creatures that roamed them.
RRP: £12.99 (Lonely Planet).
A family trip to New York turns
12-year-old Ted into a detective.
RRP: £6.99 (Puffin).
Ideas for thrill-seekers — fancy
volcano-diving in El Salvador?
RRP: £24.99 (Lonely Planet).
�n style
Plot your travels on a map of the world and keep the little one safe in a
child carrier, plus games, lights and positive affirmations to illuminate
each day of your journey
Are your camping trips a circus? Embrace the
chaos and light up the tent with this torch that
projects such scenes as ‘panic in the lion cage’ in
1950s-style graphics. RRP: 12.99.
For the chance
to win a Thule Sapling
Elite Child Carrier, visit
competitions (competition
closes 30 February
2018). T&Cs online
Boldly go where no USB has gone before with
this little astronaut on a data wire. Travelling
with homework and storing pics has never
been such fun. RRP: $20 (£15).
Carry all your precious cargo in this
child transporter which comes with
detachable backpack, various mesh
and hip-belt pockets, load stabiliser,
sunshade and mirror to check in with the
baby on board. RRP: £235.
These affirmation cards help to banish selfdoubt and encourage a happy mindset. RRP:
Plot your world wanderings with this oldschool wall poster: a global map where visited
destinations can be scratched off and revealed
beneath in colour. RRP: £14.99.
Entertain your cheeky monkeys on the road
with this bingo board game featuring 64
weird and wonderful primates, with fun facts
and illustrations worthy of an encyclopaedia.
RRP: £19.99.
A cuddly animal that changes into a
functional travel pillow in seconds.
Choose from bear, elephant, penguin,
whale and, for the more fanciful traveller,
a unicorn complete with rainbow. RRP:
€28.50-40 (£26-36).
Family 2018
y msterdam
With direct Eurostar services finally
underway, the happening Dutch capital
is firmly on the map for family travellers.
Local, Mia Grout reveals the best places
to eat, shop and get a dose of culture
A microbe museum
may sound like
a strange suggestion,
but it’s an interesting,
breathtaking place to visit.
It’s also one of the most
innovative museums in
Europe — and the only
microbe museum in the
world. That means visiting
is a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to learn all
about the microbes that
work tirelessly — and
practically invisibly — in
our world.
MIA GROUT is a 16-year-old Brit who moved to
Amsterdam two years ago with her family.
She’s currently studying for an International
Baccalaureate Diploma and hopes to return
to London in a few years, to read English
Language at university.
Even though it’s one
of the city’s busier
museums, it’s a favourite of
mine because of the amazing
library — free for under-18s
to come and study in. Home
to thousands of books, it’s a
very calm and quiet place, so
the perfect spot in which to
do your homework. However,
it’s also an absolutely
fascinating museum to visit
without using the facilities.
The Butcher
This burger joint can be found in
Albert Cuyp, Nine Streets and other
locations across the city (and it delivers).
It does the best fries in the whole of
Amsterdam, perfectly crispy on the outside
and wonderfully fluff y on the inside. It
offers loads of different types of burgers
to choose from as well, such as chicken or
veggie, as well as The Daddy, a beef burger
with melted Edam.
OU Amsterdam
This lovely little nail
salon is set inside a
boutique that sells beautiful
clothing for women and
children. The nail salon itself
is the best in Amsterdam,
decorated in a really original
and creative way, including
storage units from old KLM
I’m a big fan of second-hand
clothing and thrift shops, and
Episode is an amazing one. There are
four venues dotted around the city, and
they all have a large stock of clothing,
from sheer tops to army jackets. Many
second-hand stores are expensive in
Amsterdam, but Episode has good prices
and its outlets are constantly restocking.
My favourite shop is located near the
Herengracht and Singel.
We compare
We’ve selected some great trips for families where there’s more than just waves on the horizon
Famed for its rolling waves,
consistent wind and glorious
sunsets, Praia do Guincho is a
popular Portuguese surf hub. Set
in the Sintra-Cascais Natural
Park, just 40 minutes west of
Lisbon, Surf’s Up (certified by the
Portuguese Surfing Federation),
teaches kids from five years old
and, in addition to private family
lessons, offers dedicated surf
clinics for children (6-18 years)
during school holidays. Days are
spent surfing and playing games,
beach football or frisbee.
BONUS POINT: Surf’s Up can
collect kids from the nearby
Oitavos Resort, giving parents
free time to chill out on the
hotel’s on-site golf course, yoga
pavilion or in the spa.
Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is a
rugged region with beaches,
waterfalls and tropical jungle,
where you wake up to the sound
of howler monkeys and exotic
birds. There’s excellent surfing to
suit all levels (best between
December and April) and most
surf schools give lessons to
children as young as five. Stay at
the luxury Florblanca Resort, and
the resort offers a free lesson for
under-12s. There’s a superb spa
and excellent Pilates and yoga
instruction, with other activities
including zip-lining and horse
riding along the beach.
Sri Lanka is a world-class surfing
destination offering warm water
and consistent breaks, including
the 2km Weligama Bay.
Soul & Surf operates from a
12-bedroom villa in the jungle
near Ahangama. Week-long
retreats include yoga and surf
sessions, with guided meditation
and Pranayama offered in the
evening. Group surf lessons for
kids are also available (6-16
years), along with activities
including guided canoe river
trips, Sri Lankan cooking classes
or SUP sessions.
BONUS POINT: With family rooms
and group meals, this surf break
can be a good option for
one-parent families keen to
connect with other travellers.
The last thing anyone wants on a
surf trip is disappointing waves.
That’s where Croyde shines; this
golden sandy bay’s exposure to
the Atlantic means the surf’s
extremely consistent. While the
waves can be challenging, Croyde
Surf Academy guarantees
beginners will be up and riding in
their first lesson or the second
lesson’s free. It also offers kids’
camps (8-16 years) during school
holidays, and for those who want
to practise on their own, there are
lifeguards on the beach during
BONUS POINT: Someone in the
family not up for surfing? Try
coasteering or foraging, then end
the day in one of the village’s
many excellent pubs.
Lessons from £99 for a family of
Stay at Ruda Holiday Park, close
to the beach, which offers
lodges, caravans and safari-style
glamping tents with kitchens and
loos. Prices from £189 for
three-night weekend in March.
Private two-hour family surf
lesson (two adults, two
children) costs €200 (£177),
including equipment, session
photos, and transfers.
Five-day kids surf clinic €250
(£222). Rooms at the Oitavos
from €157 (£139).
Seven nights at Florblanca
from £2,820 per person
including six private surf
lessons, return flights
(international and internal)
and transfers.
A seven-night retreat based on
two adults and one child sharing
a room from £2,075. The price
includes accommodation, full
board and the activity
programme. Flights are extra,
around £592 return, direct with
No flights and affordable
accommodation make this Devon
village a surfing hotspot.
Families can surf together or
apart, giving everyone time for
other activities such as yoga.
Kids get the chance to enjoy the
surf, along with numerous
outdoor activities.
A laid-back holiday with a warm
welcome from friendly locals and
the chance to enjoy social meals.
BONUS POINT: The beautiful
beaches of Playa Hermosa and
Playa Santa Teresa are on your
Family 2018
Our panel of experts answer your
questions, from plush family
spa breaks, to taking Fido away
Where can the whole family
go to get involved in wildlife
conservation while on
their travels?
You don’t have to travel far or spend
thousands of pounds to become
involved; some of the National Trust’s
working holidays are designed for
families with children aged 6–17. Family
Rangers in Northumberland (£140 per
person/three nights inc. meals) involves
helping preserve wildlife around Allen
Banks & Staward Gorge, including red
squirrels, roe deer, badgers and otters.
Looking further afield, Responsible
Travel’s volunteering trips include
working with sea turtles in Sri Lanka (all
ages; from £499 per person/seven days
exc. flights), and with rescued monkeys
in South Africa (best with ages 8+; from
£547 per person/seven days exc. flights).
With Biosphere Expeditions, you can
survey endangered tigers in Sumatra
(from £1,980 per person/13 days
exc. flights) or spy snow leopards in
Kyrgyzstan (from £1,940 per person /13
days exc. flights). While there’s no lower
age limit, they’re best for teens.
If an organised trip isn’t your bag,
combine a beach holiday in Cape Verde
with time at a wildlife conservation
centre. Both Sal and Boa Vista islands
have turtle centres where you can join
ranger-led night walks to tag turtles. takethefamily.
How do I drive to Spain with
the family and the dog?
1. PAPERWORK: Your dog needs a
microchip and passport. Vets can
issue these after a rabies vaccination
or booster. Puppies need to be over 12
weeks and can’t leave the UK until 21
days from the vaccination. Check the
microchip works before you travel.
2. TRAVEL: By ferry. At the port, your
pet’s passport and microchip will be
checked. Your dog can stay in the car if
it’s a short journey to France; travelling
to Spain (such as Brittany Ferries from
Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao), you
can book a dog-friendly cabin or kennel.
What are the best-value
winter sun destinations?
Japan is far from the pricey destination
it once was. Package costs have
come down over the past two years
while eating out in Tokyo is 25%
cheaper, making it the cheapest of
30 destinations surveyed in the Post
Office’s latest Long Haul Holiday
Report. Japan’s weaker economy has led
to fierce competition and the opening
of great value restaurant chains. A beer
can cost as little as 60p and a meal for
two with drinks is around £35.
Our barometer survey found prices
have fallen in 40% of winter sun
destinations, including Vietnam and
Costa Rica, which until recently had
no direct fl ights from the UK. We’ve
seen big increases in demand for their
currencies, so their popularity is clearly
rising. Competitively priced direct
fl ights, weak currencies, and cheap
meals and drinks make these exotic
half-term break destinations.
Don’t dismiss the Caribbean,
either. There’s likely to be a period of
instability in the wake of hurricanes
in the region and while islands such
as Antigua, Jamaica and St Lucia had
become expensive for meals, drinks
and other tourist staples, this year our
barometer of prices reveals falls of over
25% compared with a year ago. ANDREW BROWN
Are there any luxurious UK spas that don’t mind kids?
Pre-children, if you were feeling
particularly exhausted the answer
might have been a weekend spa break.
Post-kids, you start to consider a 7am
start and a cup of tea the very height of
luxury. However, having children doesn’t
necessarily mean some spa time is out
of the question. There are some fantastic
properties in the UK which actively
welcome little ones, so you can enjoy
family time and ‘me’ time. In London,
The Athenaeum Hotel is an excellent
choice — it has a tranquil REN spa
offering a range of bespoke treatments,
two cedar wood hot tubs, sauna and
steam room. Youngsters get their own
It’s compulsory to carry a muzzle, lead
and collar with ID tag. Your dog will
have to visit a vet no less than 24 hours
upon arrival, and no more than 120
hours before you sail — so they can
administer a tapeworm tablet.
3. PET-FRIENDLY HOTELS: Expect to pay
between €10-20 (£9-18) supplement
per night. For small dogs, you’ll fi nd
many establishments with dog beds,
bowls and biscuits. Most hotels won’t
accommodate dogs weighing over
20kg. Sawdays lists dog-friendly
4. INSURANCE: NFU Mutual covers
dogs outside the UK for up to 60 days
each year. SAM LEWIS
children’s concierge who brings milk
and biscuits at bedtime and can arrange
kite-flying in Hyde Park, opposite.
The Grove, in Hertfordshire, is an
absolute dream for a family — beautiful
grounds, a games room, three swimming
pools (including an indoor heated
one just for kids), even a ‘beach’ and
five-a-side football pitch. It’s a truly
child-friendly destination. It also has a
world-class spa with a fabulous selection
of treatments available — the exclusive
Orangery Experience is sheer bliss. And
there’s an onsite creche as well.
Family 2018
From playlist pitfalls to the insanity of ‘I Spy’, James Lohan explains the
rules of the road trip
Lohan’s road
trip laws
promptly betrays the rounded musical
education I’ve attempted to give her by
demanding some loathsome ‘comedy
record’ such as ‘What Does the Fox Say?’
I’d rather get back to I Spy.
Then, entering the charts of ‘things
you least want to hear in the car’ at
number three, comes the phrase: “I
need a poo.” Nine times out of 10, this is
a boredom-induced bluff, but with two
hours and 55 minutes still to go, can you
afford to take the chance?
This entire scenario played out in
my head when my wife suggested we
spend our family holiday driving from
Denver to Las Vegas, stopping at several
hotels en route. The proposition was
clearly insane. So, we took the trip,
but this time, we came prepared. We
distilled all our previous disasters into
five essential guidelines, and followed
them religiously. As a result, our journey
wasn’t a voyage into the bowels of hell. I
very nearly enjoyed it.
James Lohan is the founding ‘Mr’ of boutique
hotels website Mr & Mrs Smith, and Smith
and Family.
Space is absolutely critical
to stopping a backseat
brawl from breaking out.
Anything over three hours
just gets ugly.
Try family-friendly tracks
from the ’60s, ’70s and
’80s; and each song can
only be played twice.
Avoid fast-food stops. Pack
unusual lunches or bring
a disposable barbecue
to make road-trip food a
special occasion.
Road trips are as much
about the journey as the
destination. Travel via
awe-inspiring viewpoints,
water parks or quirky
museums (or maybe the
World’s Largest Fork).
h, the open road. Everything
spread before you, full of
promise. You can be as
spontaneous as you like; put the pedal to
the metal and let the adrenaline flow, or
veer off route into undiscovered towns
or picturesque villages for lunch and a
wander. Spot a sign for a pencil museum
or the World’s Largest Fork? Go check
it out! The road trip is one of the best,
most liberating ways to travel. Unless
you have kids of course, in which case,
within seconds of setting off, without
fail, it comes, rising from somewhere on
the backseat like a kraken from the deep,
“Are we there yet?”
No, we aren’t there yet. We won’t be
there for many hours. And, if you persist
in asking every five minutes, we may
never be there, as I’ll have swerved the
car into the nearest canyon in a fit of
frustration. First recourse: I bite my
lip. “No, darling. We’ll be another three
hours, at least. You should try to get some
sleep.” But, of course, no child is ever
sleepy; sleepiness being one of the things
that must never be admitted to, along
with needing the loo and liking broccoli.
And yet, there’s a phrase that’s even
more terrifying: “Can we play I Spy?”
Your answer is irrelevant; the game is
afoot regardless. Language itself means
nothing anymore. It might be down to a
moving vehicle being the worst place in
the world to play. Once you’ve covered
C = car/cloud/caravan, R = road/rock, S
= sky/seatbelt, there’s nowhere to go. E
= encroaching existential dread isn’t a
legitimate move.
In desperation, we usually turn to
music — that lovingly crafted roadtrip playlist compiled in the naive
assumption we’d get to enjoy it. By the
end of the first bar, our 10-year-old
has usually announced, “I don’t like
this one.” He wants rock music. I like
house music. The seven-year-old then
Your visit to Iceland
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Family 2018
5 things to do in
the land of Fire & �ce
Iceland for the weekend? It’s closer than you think, and
makes for an unforgettable family break.
Words: Pól Ó Conghaile
“The snowflakes are like big pieces of tissue!” says
Sam, 7, beaming as he tries to catch them in mittened
hands. It’s May in Reykjavik, but the Icelandic capital
is still throwing all four seasons at the locals and
tourists moseying among its colourful, corrugated
iron-clad buildings. We’ve seen Iceland in the
movies, marvelled at its made-for-magazine
landscapes, and popped Sigur Rós onto
family playlists, but it feels surreal to finally
be here. In the days ahead, we’ll wobble
through lava fields, make fart jokes amidst
the eggy whiff of sulphur at Geysir and slather
ourselves in Silica mud at the Blue Lagoon. It’s a
long-haul travel kick, just three hours from home.
“I don’t get why we’re not allowed in hot pools at
home,” says Sam, sitting in a 37C mineral bath
next to Lake Laugarvatn. You can always skip the Blue
Lagoon (it’s crowded and prices start from ISK6,100/£44
per person), and instead head for one of over a dozen
pools in the city, or lesser known places like Fontana,
which can be included on a Golden Circle tour. Once
there, we shower before stepping towards a popping
series of pools and steam baths. Bathing like this
has been an Icelandic tradition for
centuries, and you can even
order beer from a nearby
hatch. Why can’t all pools
be like this?
MORE INFO: visitreykjavik.
What’s it like to be a Viking?
“Sore,” says Sam, laying down a heavy
replica sword, helmet and shield in the
National Museum of Iceland. “Painful,”
adds Rosa. Entry fees to Reykjavik’s
museums can also be painful, but this
is a smart one-stop-shop, with exhibits
ranging from Viking skeletons to a
nostalgic modern history section with
exhibits including VHS players, and
Björk’s first LP (recorded in 1977 when
she was just 12).
ISK2,000/£14.50 for adults. Kids go free.
Yes, it’s touristy. But it’s also
terrific. Starting from Reykjavik,
the classic Golden Circle tour takes in
scenery straight out of Game of Thrones
— literally, in the case of Thingvellir
National Park, where tectonic plates are
cleft apart at a rate of two centimetres
per year (“One day we will conquer
the world,” our guide quips). Other
stops on the 186-mile loop include
the thunderous Gullfoss waterfall and
Geysir — where a thrilling, 30m spout
of steaming water bursts from the earth
every 4-8 minutes. You can self-drive,
but the bus allows us to kick back
between stops, soaking up the basalt
blacks, icy whites and mossy greens
through big windows… and almost
everyone is crashed out asleep by
the time we return to the city.
MORE INFO: Reykjavik Excursions
(, Gray Line ( and
Extreme Iceland (extremeiceland.
is) do day tours. Cox & Kings’ family
adventure trip includes a coach tour.
Iceland is home to just 325,000
souls, and Reykjavik is its
souvenir-sized capital city. It’s perfect
for families on foot, although weather
and daylight are vastly different in
summer and winter. Start on the main
drag of Laugavegur before hitting
the city’s oldest cafe, Mokka Kaffi for
hot chocolate, or local sweet shop
Vínberið for liquorice (“It’s nice and
salty,” the woman tells us, ringing up
a bag of lakkrís). We also steer towards
12 Tónar, a small record shop at the
heart of Iceland’s intriguing indie
music scene, and brave a visit to the
Icelandic Phallological Museum. 220
specimens range from field mice to blue
whales, with some surprising learning
moments among the giggles. Don’t
worry — there’s no obscenity, even
if the prices are a bit stiff.
MORE INFO: A Reykjavik Card from
ISK3,700/£27 for 24 hours offers decent
savings on transport, pools and
Pól travelled with his wife
Lynnea, daughter Rosa (11)
and son Sam (7).
Best for
Age 5-6 and up.
“That we were allowed in
the hot pools,” Rosa says,
brightening up at the
very memory.
Reykjavik’s harbour is where to head for whale- and puffin-spotting trips,
and there’s a tempting clutch of seafood restaurants in former warehouses
(“We have shark and Brennivín,” reads a sign at The Sea Baron. “Don’t be a
chicken!”). Rent a bike, visit the whale museum, or do as we did and simply
wander the waterfront, browsing bric-a-brac like whalebone jewellery and
lava bracelets at Kolaportid Flea Market before ending up at Harpa, the city’s
honeycomb-like concert hall. You don’t need concert tickets to explore inside
— worth it for the stellar views of the bay and mountains.
The prices — food and drink
bills really sting. On the plus
side, it’s worth noting that kids
under 11 go free on many
boat tours.
How to do it
Cox & Kings offers a five-day
Reykjavik and Golden Circle
Family Adventure tour from
£795 per person (exc. flights).
Flights from London to Iceland
on WOW air starting from £29.
Family 2018
“Do we have to go cycling?” This isn’t
what I need to hear two weeks ahead of
our trip to the Tyrol. A trip I’ve arranged
with family biking in mind.
I wasn’t an outdoorsy youngster.
We went family camping. Once. And
it was to a French Eurocamp, not the
wilderness. But when I look at my own
daughters, glued to screens, childhoodme seems like a mini Bear Grylls.
Could an e-bike — cycling with the
help of an onboard battery — convert my
two kids to a trip without sun-loungers
or shopping malls? For me, this is also
partly a revisit. I spent a summer week in
Kitzbühel as a teenager.
“I’m supposed to be finding out if
city kids like you can enjoy an outdoor
active adventure,” I explain.
“Does this answer your question?”
Lili replies, re-inserting earphones and
pulling the duvet over her head.
In the saddle
Austria’s mountains strongly evoke The
Sound of Music and emerald pastures;
verdant and dramatic, rather than
spiky, bare and gauche like their Alpine
neighbours. This landscape and its
people are unshakeably genteel. The
cashpoint even politely asks what
denominations I’d like my €100 in.
St. Johann, where we’re based, is
more than just a convenient jumpingoff point. Its small centre is corralled
by the carefully stencilled balconies
of timbered Tirolean chalets. They’re
draped in window boxes overflowing
with petunias. Consecrated in the 1730s,
its twin-turreted church is a baroque
delight with a gilded interior in stucco
and marble. Indeed, more than once
during our stay we’re grateful to the
town for rescuing us from ‘variable’
mountain weather. We even spend day
one indoors at Panorama Badewelt, a
pool complex in the town centre with
slides and a heated outdoor pool, safe
from the rain falling outside.
E-biking is big news around here.
Already, around 70% of bikes sold
locally are e-bikes. It’s not always easy,
however, to find e-bikes to rent for kids.
Bike Nature, close to our hotel, equips
us with new full-suspension mountain
e-bikes, including a 24-inch model for
Ruby. One minor hiccup later, when
Lili claims to have ‘dislocated her hip’
getting aboard, and we’re away.
The ‘e’ in e-bike stands for electronic;
it could equally be ‘easy’. Every time we
hit an incline, I press one button and the
onboard battery quadruples my pedal
power. Maintaining 10-12mph uphill is
a doddle; battery assistance cuts out at
15mph on the downslopes.
“This is my kind of cycling,” Lili
hollers, within a few minutes of setting
off. She now only has an earphone in
one ear, I notice. So, 50% engaged. More
than usual, anyway. Plus, the dislocated
hip seems to have healed.
We follow a quiet, mostly asphalt
Roman road through the meadows
to Kitzbühel. Navigating is quite
easy: we just keep the peak of the
Kitzbühler Horn on our left, passing the
Bauernhaus Museum en route, a typical
Untethering kids from their mobiles
is always hard. To do it for the sake
of a cycling holiday is a Herculean
task. Words: Donald Strachan
Einhof-style barn farm that’s been
preserved as a museum of rural life.
An hour or so later and we’re zooming
down into a Tirolean icon, complete
with a 14th-century church and pastelpainted houses.
Kitzbühel is as I remember it. A
little more chic, maybe busier. During
one afternoon, we cover 15 miles by
bike with barely a word of complaint,
not even when I miss the turn for
Schwarzsee Lake.
By dinnertime, we’re ravenous
and make for the street cafes and
restaurants of St. Johann’s main square.
At Dampfl we feast on hearty grub,
washed down with Tirolean black
beer from St. Johann’s Huber brewery.
Even full of fresh mountain air, it’s a
challenge to polish off Dampfl’s trio
of knödel — three dumplings with
spinach, fried cheese and speck all
topped off with a wonderful chanterelle
mushroom sauce.
Near miss
Leave them wanting more, as they say.
So, the morning after our Kitzbühel ride,
we take the St. Johann cable-car to the
mid-station for some treetop parkour
at the Hornpark, finishing with a flight
on the Flying Fox zip-wire across a little
alpine lake. (The adults, that is. The kids
sat that one out.)
The rest goes off equally — and
unexpectedly — smoothly. After a
tasty schnitzel lunch at the Berghotel
Pointenhof, we learn a bit of archery,
targeting foam animals in a bizarre
shooting gallery outside the hotel. The
teenager nails a polystyrene ibex with
her second shot. Even Ruby hits a baby
pig. It helps that I’m totally useless,
struggling even to keep my arrows
inside the range.
There were, of course, minor mishaps.
Lili got a sharp shock from an electric
fence and an even bigger one when a
heifer evacuated its bowels a mere three
yards from her Topshop skinny jeans
and favourite Nike trainers.
But we only visited McDonald’s
once. Nobody complained about being
tired more than twice a day. We even
hiked through a larch forest.
Admittedly, it was only for
20 minutes, tops. But
I’m counting it.
The new St. Johann
Bear would…
branch of Hotel Explorer
wouldn’t he?
features a spa and sauna. A
week costs from €202 (£181)
per person for a family of four,
including breakfast and
speedy wi-fi.
Donald and wife Lucia, plus
children Ruby (10) and Lili (14).
Best for
Pretty much anyone with
children aged 9+.
“These e-bikes have
completely changed my
outlook on life,” said Lili.
Not as hot as we hoped: 11°C,
mid-afternoon in July.
Need to know
At Bike Nature in St. Johann in
Tirol, a week’s rental for an
adult e-bike costs from €182
(£163); child’s e-bike from €149
(£133). Admission to the
Hornpark costs €17 (£15).
How to do it
British Airways (return flights
from £80 per person), EasyJet,
Flybe and Austrian Airlines fly
between the UK and Innsbruck.
Flight time: 2 hours. Innsbruck
Airport is 90 minutes’ drive
from the Kitzbüheler Alpen.
Four Seasons Travel offers
transfers from £180 for up to
eight passengers.
More info
FROM LEFT: St. Johann, Tirol;
family cycling on e-bikes
through the Tirol countryside
Four more to try
Ride Vienna’s 19thcentury Riesenrad
Ferris wheel and see
Austria’s capital from
more than 200ft,
then chow down on
giant schnitzels at
Enjoy stress-free
family skiing in a fully
catered chalet in
charming St. Anton,
which has a good
beginner’s ski school as
well as a kindergarten.
Travel on a vintage
tramway and a
Danube paddle
steamer, and visit
the Kuddelmuddel
puppet theatre,
in baroque Linz.
Walk child-friendly
hiking paths in the
Vorarlberg, where
the Brandnertal has
walks and a barefoot
Family 2018
TIP: Book your holidays with the code Geographic2018 and get an early check-in for free.
Situated in the heart of the Alps, the seven Explorer Hotels are
your location for spending active holidays in the mountains.
Modern design-rooms, an energising breakfast buffet, Sports
Spa with sauna, steam bath and fitness room
and free WiFi
€ 39.80 p. P.
More information } Tel. DE +49 8322 / 94079445, AT +43 5558 / 20333445 or
Explorer Hotels Entwicklungs GmbH, An der Breitach 3, 87538 Fischen, Managing director: K. Leveringhaus
A VERY Tyrolean
With all the action on and off-piste, there’s barely
chance to draw breath on a visit to Fiss, a familyfriendly resort in Austria’s Alps. Words: Sarah Barrell
Nothing says welcome back to the
mountains like landing in Innsbruck.
Here in the Austrian Alps, the runway
sits deep in a ‘V’ of snow-shrouded
peaks, under an hour from some of the
country’s best family slopes.
Case in point, the linked village
resorts of Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis: a quick
ride away (mercifully, for my carsick
daughter), following the Inn Valley,
lined with the eponymous river, spikespired churches and a castle-topped
cliff. Fiss, an Alpine resort that still
turns a seasonal hand to farming, is no
less postcard-perfect. Our home, the
Schlosshotel, may have a grand name
but this is no austere castle. A former
1940s hunting lodge, now five-star spa
hotel, it does a good impersonation of
a gemütlich wooden chalet. Family-run,
catering largely to families, the welcome
here’s a welcome home. It’s 5pm, postpiste time and kids are padding around
in rolled-down salopettes, bare feet
silent on plush carpets, tummies replete
with the sort of huge afternoon tea that
constitutes a multi-course, fine-dining
experience in most hotels. There are
cocktails being shaken for couples
sitting by open fires in the bar and
parents are found snoozing on loungers
around the indoor/outdoor spa terrace.
The staff don’t bat an eyelid. If this is
how Austrians live, says a look from my
daughter, then sign me up.
We sign up immediately, thanks to
the on-site sports shop and ski-depot,
for kit, lessons and passes, while our
cases are spirited to our room. There’s
a lift up to the piste and toboggans to
borrow but, at this late stage in the day,
nothing competes with the lure of the
spa’s indoor/outdoor pool.
If you can drag kids away from this
glass-fronted beauty, you’re a more
powerful parent than most. For starters,
a soundproofed flume waterslide snakes
down the entire side of the building,
complete with rubber rafts. The huge spa
areas for adults and families come with
dedicated steam, sauna and treatment
rooms making the impressively kittedout kids’ club redundant for our tween.
FROM TOP: Innsbruck ski slopes, Austria; Aqua
Monte Waterworld, Schlosshotel Fiss
Family 2018
from macaroons and petit fours worthy
of a Paris confectioner, to a gelato
bar and not one, but two chocolate
fountains because, quite frankly, what
child should be deprived of the chance
to drown a healthy serving of fruit
and berries in both white and dark
chocolate? The Haribos distributed on
pillows at turn down seem almost rudely
excessive (but are still welcome).
By the end of the week, we’re not sure
if it’s the skiing or excessive eating that’s
stretched our stomach muscles but,
aching as we are, a massage is suggested.
These are no token gesture treatments
but proper Austrian interventions. The
sports massage is up there with the
best you’ll find anywhere with its name,
while the duo experience with aloe gel
is a first for both mother and daughter.
And judging from the blissed out look
in the tweens’ eyes, it clearly won’t be
the last. Such are deliciously expensive
family traditions made.
FROM TOP: Colourful houses line the river in
Innsbruck; daughter posing with mini snowman
Sarah, and daughter, Ella (11)
How to do it
A family suite at Schlosshotel (sleeps three/
four) costs from €235 per person (£209) for
stays of four nights or more, full-board,
including kids’ clubs (8.30am-9.30pm, ages
two-teens), a daily programme of on-piste
activities, and spa.
On piste, when we finally get there,
ample nursery slopes and two ski
schools are on the doorstep while a
gondola accesses 130-odd miles of ski
terrain higher up the mountain. There
are snow parks with ramps, jumps,
tunnels and half-pipes, and on one run
back to the hotel, a wooden pirate ship
forms a bridge across an Alpine stream.
We up the ante by skiing across to
Serfaus to ride the Schneisenfeger. This
coaster-cum-toboggan rattles the mile
from summit to base station at 25mph
and is deemed by the daughter as the
best run of the season.
With a nightly five-course dinner
served in the lovely piste-front salon, it’s
pretty hard to pack it all in. Kids, sensibly,
aren’t expected to sit like statues through
this fine-dining experience. Few children
sign up for the early nursery teas; instead
they pick and choose from the a la carte
menu, occasionally nipping up to the
vast buffet of salads and cheeses.
It’s a wonderfully undemanding
grown-up dining experience. And if a
reward is needed, dessert — a la carte
or buffet — comes with everything
Exceptional advice for a magical Ireland vacation
A treasure trove of information for individuals or families planning an Ireland holiday.
Ireland Family Vacations provides first hand recommendations on where to visit,
where to stay, and what to do in Ireland.
The Great Danes
Denmark’s design-cool credentials
make for an amazing cultural family
holiday — complete with ice cream.
Words: Jo Fletcher-Cross
Moesgaard Museum, Aarhus
This museum of archeology and ethnography is a 20-minute bus
ride from Aarhus, the 2017 European Capital of Culture. We arrived
before it opened and climbed up onto the roof — totally allowed, the
large sloping surface is covered in grass and offers bay views from
the top. “We’ve climbed a mountain,” shouted Rowan. Inside ‘the
mountain’, it was an incredible experience — hugely interactive and
exciting. The exhibits involve quite a lot of spoken-word content in
Danish but somehow it’s quite easy to follow. We loved the highly
evocative and immersive battle reconstruction, which then leads down
into a display of a discarded battle horde. The whole place makes time
shrink and connects you with the past and teaches you about your
ancestors without ever feeling lectured at.
Clean, efficient, child-friendly, plus the
home of Lego and super cool Scandi
design, it’s no secret Denmark is prime
family holiday terrain. As someone
who has both a six-year-old and a deep
love of 20th-century art and design,
it seemed like it might be the perfect
destination. There was an obligatory
trip to Legoland planned, but would my
daughter be happy to tour the rest of the
country checking out Denmark's prime
cultural offerings? As it turned out
(fortunately): yes.
Jo and husband Tim with
Rowan (6).
Best for
Design-hungry adults and
adventure-loving children.
Tivoli Gardens — “I went on so
many scary rollercoasters and I
wasn’t scared at all. I loved
them!” Rowan
The crowds at the Experimentarium on a cold, wet
afternoon: “I couldn’t get to
the wind machine, but I did get
to make lots and lots of
bubbles.” Rowan
How to do it
British Airways, SAS, easyJet,
Norwegian Air International
and bmi regional all fly direct
to Copenhagen from the UK.
Ryanair fly direct to Aarhus
from London Stansted. Five
days car hire, from £125.
Den Gamle By, Aarhus
This is the world's fi rst open-air
museum; it opened in 1914 and
today contains 75 historical buildings
brought, brick-by-brick, from all
across Denmark. It's wonderland for
kids who like to play pretend: in a
1970s headteacher’s apartment from
Copenhagen, kind and informative
volunteers encouraged the six-year-old
to make a ‘meal’ in the kitchen while
we admired the Scandi design. The
coffi n maker’s house from the 1800s
was also a surprise draw, while it was
hard to get away from the old-fashioned
fairground, complete with swings and
bowling. The working 1970s bakery
was also a big hit; though I avoided
the gynaecologist’s office, unable to
quite face the inevitable questions.
Kolding is a fantastic town, with
tons to see — Trapholt museum
( has a wonderful collection
of modern art and 20th-century Danish
furniture plus a peaceful sculpture park;
Nicolai Cultural Centre (nicolai.kolding.
dk) has a whole children's building, an
arthouse cinema and serves fantastic
parent-and-child-pleasing pizza in its
cafe. If it's warm enough you can even
sit outside and the kids can play in
the courtyard. Stay in Kolding Design
Apartments (koldinghotelapartments.
com), where every building is designed
in a different shape (ours was a star) and
there are views of the castle and lake that
it sits beside. Most importantly, make
sure you head to Slotsisen (
for ice cream with amazing Wonka-esque
creations for instant delight.
Wadden Sea Visitor Centre
This beautiful bird-watching
centre on the North Sea coast
houses hands-on exhibits in a
space that merges art, science and
architecture into a mesmerising
experience. One room houses small,
simple wooden models of birds that
come to life when viewed through the
binoculars provided. A large tank full
of plants turns out to be rich in marine
life and keeps us busy for ages, spotting
fish hiding under the sand and crabs
scuttling among the seaweed. The
digital ornithology exhibition cleverly
uses sound, fi lm and mirrors to make
you feel as if you are in the middle of a
flock of migrating birds: surprisingly
meditative. An excellent place for
inquisitive little ones and adults alike.
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
One of the oldest theme parks in
the world, Tivoli Gardens manages
to pack in treats for little ones, terrifying
big-thrill rides for older children and
remain genuinely beautiful and fairly
calm so the adults aren't on the point
of nervous breakdown by the end of
the day. The pretty gardens and lake
are a lovely setting and the theming is
tastefully and neatly done. At dusk, the
lanterns and fairy lights everywhere
make it feel truly magical.
Family 2018
Kos, You’re worth it
Thomas Cook’s latest brand favours fine
food, boutique styling and is perfect for
families seeking a (really) quiet beach
retreat. Words: Pat Riddell
LEFT: Thatched
shade and sun
lounger, Marmari
As we drove up, and then back down the road parallel
to Tigaki Beach, we wondered why we’d left our hotel
in the first place. It might be one of Kos’s best-rated
beaches — long and sandy with shallow waters — but
it was hardly a secret; hence the lack of parking and
abundance of sun loungers, tavernas and mopeds for
hire. ‘Our’ beach, however, a few miles down the coast
near Marmari might not have been a secret, but it was
practically deserted.
Casa Cook, the travel giant’s latest venture, eschews
the traditional package holiday it’s best known for
in favour of boutique resorts; stylish properties on
Mediterranean islands. It’s Thomas Cook, but not as
you know it.
Our hotel, Casa Cook Kos, is the second opening in
Greece, a year on from the adults-only hotel in Rhodes
(with Crete and Croatia in the pipeline). It’s a more
family-friendly option (12 years and up) but still within
the confines of its ‘keep it distinct’ ethos.
The resort, a short (private) transfer from the airport,
is the stuff of an interior design glossy — slick styling
with earthy, natural tones. The 100 suites and rooms
are traditionally Greek in style but ‘minimalist and
contemporary’; in other words, simple whitewashed
buildings just one or two storeys high. There’s a calm
serenity about the place. The grey concrete floors and
fittings might seem somewhat austere, but they’re
practical in terms of keeping things cool in the summer
heat — and are, no doubt, easy to clean — but also
softened by the dark wood features, wicker mats, lamp
shades and baskets, and beige, floaty curtains.
Our suite — one double room, one lounge where
the sofas convert into two single beds — came with a
private pool, which was a real bonus for the kids. And
the outdoor features — hammock, sunbeds, palm tree
— meant we spent a lot of time at our stylish base.
The Bluetooth-equipped Marshall speaker allowed
us to have our own tunes by the pool. This is usually a
bugbear of mine as resorts usually have either no music
or terrible songs piped over the pool area. That said,
the sounds throughout the resort were in keeping with
its Med beach club vibe — chilled Cafe del Mar tunes
during breakfast and lunch, picking up to melodic, tech
house in the evening with a DJ, naturally, after 10pm.
Family 2018
Accommodation is on a B&B or half-board basis,
the latter of which is probably preferable given the
remoteness of the resort — but that’s a good thing in
many respects. Breakfast offers plenty of choice at the
buffet, from nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cereals, honey
and Greek yoghurt to bread, pastries, fresh fruit, meat,
cheese and a wide variety of cooked options.
The kitchen aims for a farm-to-table philosophy,
highlighting local and Greek ingredients and products.
The food at dinner is the real highlight — exceptional
cuisine with real depth of flavour. Half-boarders
are offered much of the a la carte menu (with a 20%
discount on the remainder) and we made our way
though all the choices over the course of the week.
Standout dishes included sea bass, roast rack of lamb
and cheek of beef, alongside excellent salads.
The main pool facing the restaurant also adjoins the
bar, which, along with its verandah and thatched roof, is
a great place to admire the view over the Aegean Sea.
The location, view and all, is fantastic. Beyond the
sand dunes is a quiet beach miles from anywhere,
with comfy sun loungers, thatched sunshades
and a fresh supply of towels. And the wind, which
keeps the temperature down, makes it an ideal spot
for watersports — windsurfing, kitesurfing and
paddleboarding are all part of the hotel’s offering.
To fully embrace the coast, there’s horse-riding along
the beach first thing in the morning and at sunset.
There are also daily outdoor yoga and pilates sessions.
The spa and gym complete the health focus, with an
impressive array of equipment and treatments.
But is, as many have suggested, Casa Cook trying too
hard? Does it really need a juice bar selling drinks for
more than €10 (£8.87), or an outlet selling €179 (£158)
robes? Still, overall it’s an impressive offering: a laidback boutique retreat, a practically deserted beach and
just about enough to occupy the kids beyond the private
pool — it’s definitely a case of su casa es mi casa.
And another thing
The island’s archaeological and historical attractions
are mainly based here, but it’s also an attractive town
with a handsome harbour.
A splash park, seemingly as popular with couples as it is
with families, is just 15 minutes from Casa Cook and well
worth a day out.
Casa Cook Kos pool area
RIGHT: Cycling in Kos town
Casa Cook Kos, Greece.
Pat and Jo with Mia and Dexter.
Best for
Families with over-12s: A boutique beach break
with watersports and top-quality food.
Need to know
It’s worth hiring a car for a day or two — namely
for exploring and trips to Kos Town, but also for
the odd trip to the supermarket.
How to do it
Thomas Cook offers seven nights in Kos from
£5,009 per family (two adults, two children).
Staying at the five-star Casa Cook Kos on a B&B
basis, in a Villa Private Pool Suite with two
bedrooms and separate living room, flying from
London Gatwick on 3 May 2018.
The best way to explore Kos — or head to Turkey’s
Bodrum in less than half an hour
Ideal for families
Fine finishings
Unique experiences
Day trips
“An unforgettable family experience”
Hill Towns Tours will help you find the perfect home for your Tuscan family holiday. Our english
speaking staff will help you choose from our selection of villas with private pool and town apartments.
From self catering weeks to fully serviced stays, HTT local experts offer a variety of services and experiences to complement your family getaway.
For more information or to book, visit our site at
Hill Towns Tours
Cortona - Tuscany (IT)
Office: +39 0575 603249
Oysters are to the French what fish
and chips is to the Brits. But can we
interest the family in finding out
how they are farmed, and get them
to try one, too?
Words: Maria Pieri
is your
t smells of the sea,” says my daughter,
Rae, wrinkling her nose. “And I’m
worried about the dog.”
“I’ll keep an eye on him,” says her brother, Luca.
They’re doing that, while we’re trying to listen
to our guide, the owner of Huitres oyster farm,
David Lecossois, in the Vendée region of France.
Translated from French into English, David’s
passion for oysters is somewhat lost on my two
children, but the setting — in coastal La-BarreDe-Monts — is rich in nooks, crannies, and rock
pools for them to paddle in and explore.
“There are 280 oyster farms here, around
Noirmoutier,” says David, “with some 100
nursery pools. This region is the third largest
producer of oysters in France, after Normandy
and Brittany, and the fifth largest in the world
— producing over 100,000 tonnes a year.”
The French are the largest consumers of
oysters in the world, he adds. “We eat them like
the English eat fish and chips. Oysters are really
popular at Christmas.”
“Are the shells easy to crack?” asks Luca, before
being shushed. We haven’t got to that bit yet.
David is taking his time, leading us from pool
to pool, each one home to larger oysters, ending
up at the sorting machine, for final selection
and bagging.
“It takes three or four years for oysters to
breed in the wild. We can do it in 18 months by
ensuring constant access to food in the pools.
Otherwise, due to the tide, for six-eight hours a
day, they wouldn’t have access to plankton and
algae. They need the sun and nutrients to grow,
and a combination of sea- and freshwater. We’re
ideally placed here with fresh water delivered by
the Loire.”
Luca elicits a yelp out of me proferring a crab
he’s found — then telling me off for scaring it.
This isn’t conducive to piecing together David’s
intricate farming story. The oysters, he explains,
are separated at around 18 months, with the
larger ones put in bigger mesh pockets to aide
the circulation of water. Around 30 months, this
happens again at Noirmoutier to help the oyster
reach its market size — around 5cm and larger.
“They can change sex!” I say, but it fails to get
their attention. Finally, we learn how to eat an
oyster. David explains that freshness is evident
when an oyster is firmly closed, to which you
take a knife with a blunt blade, and pass it
between the two halves of the shell, and wiggle
left and right. If you find seawater inside, this
is another good sign, and the oyster should
ping open but stay attached at the hinge.
Of course, I can’t get my children to try
one. We talk about pearls on the way home
— although I think I’ve lost out on this
adventure to the crab... and the dog.
France’s second most popular
theme park after Disneyland Paris
celebrated its 40th anniversary
last year, and features 20 historythemed shows and attractions,
including action-packed live
performances of ‘Viking Attack’
and ‘Dance of the Phantom Birds’.
The vast, sandy beaches of the
Atlantic coastline at Saint-Jeande-Monts are a 15-minute drive or
one-hour walk from Le Domaine
de Vertmarines villa. You won’t
need to fight for a beach towel
spot or a good view here.
Cycling, walking, hiking. A 6.5acre forest park renowned for its
rugged beauty is only a 15-minute
walk from the villa.
Chez Bastien in Saint-Jean-deMonts specialises in seafood.
We dined on moules frites and
camembert with honey. There are
also several restaurants serving
crepes along the promenade too.
The historic city of Nantes is an
hour away, as well as La Rochesur-Yon, in the heart of the
Vendée Bocage countryside.
Le Domaine de Vertmarines is a three-bed
Mediterranean-style villa with a nautical
theme, contributing to a very French
shabby chic. The kitchen is well kittedout with pots and pans. The gated
pool isn’t heated but it’s a good
temperature in the summer, and the
garden has both a patio area and a
stone BBQ. Located on the edge of
a forest, it’s also 2km (1.25 miles)
from the promenade of St Jean de
Monts, and 4.5km (2.8 miles) from
the resort centre.
Maria and Chad, and children Rae (10) and
Luca (8).
Best for
Adventurous families, looking for a step up
from camping and taking everything in the
car with them.
No traffic on the roads. The pine forest
nearby, the beach, and the fresh pastries and
baguettes in the morning.
Having to think about the little extras. Load
the car before you go with all the basics, as
the villa is without any staple supplies.
Need to know
You have to pay for water and electricity,
and wi-fi is only available at reception. You
will also need to pre-book linen and bring
your own towels, and be prepared to
clean the villa before you leave (or pay a
cleaning charge).
How to do it
A week’s stay, commencing 18 August 2018,
at Le Domaine de Vertmarines, costs from
£354 per person (£1,416 total), for a family of
four in a three-bedroom villa with private
swimming pool.
Family 2018
Give us your body for a week
and we’ll give you back your mind.
To learn more, call 0203 096 1608
or visit
(& chocolate)
Discover your own miniadventure on the lush
green Caribbean island of
St Lucia, with its volcanic
peaks, buccaneer bays,
and cocoa plantations
— and try hands-on
chocolate making too.
Words: Sarah Barrell
Family 2018
is name was Lucky. Ella hoped he would be
true to his name today. The mountain rose
ahead of her, a wall of dense green jungle.
Above: a hot storm blackening the skies. Lucky shifted
from hoof to hoof and snorted, bucking his head.
“Time to go,” he seemed to be saying. The chestnut
gelding knew best.
The going was rough. The trail climbed sharply
uphill, thick mud sucking at Lucky’s heavy hooves,
mucky vestiges of the last storm’s watery rage. Lime
trees flanked the path, their sweet leaves luring the
horse’s head from left to right, quickly giving way
to 100-year-old banyan trees whose tangled roots
formed cages high above their heads. Daylight itself
seemed to disappear into the rainforest’s damp dark
green. Lucky slogged on, Ella held tight. At last, they
broke through the treeline, the sky reappearing now
a blinding blue. The storm had passed out to sea.
The dual volcanic peaks of the Piton Mountains cut
perfect triangular arrowheads out of the blue, and in
the mirror blue of the bay below: a ship. “Pirates,”
said Ella. “I knew it.”
But for all its beautiful masts and sleek lines, this
luxury sailing charter is definitely no pirate ship.
If nothing else, tourists seem more than willing to
hand over a small fortune to board such VIP vessels.
However, in St Lucia, where Jack Sparrow buccaneer
bays crease every bend, and lava black mountains,
thick with jungle vines pose as King Kong-sized
playgrounds, you can forgive a child for this flight
of fantasy. Summit panorama aside, our 40-minute
plod through the rainforest at Morne Coubaril — a
former sugar plantation now fly-through must-see
for Caribbean cruise passengers — hadn’t filled my
own mind with much fancy. But for my daughter, Ella,
barely having been on a horse, never having visited
the Caribbean, this mini-adventure had initially
challenged her (“Mum, I want to get off. I don’t think I
can do this.”), and then pretty much blown her
11-year-old mind.
There’s a reason St Lucia was chosen as the
backdrop to Johnny Depp’s Pirates franchise: it’s a
natural showstopper. Ella seems oblivious to the fact
that it’s cruise parties — not pirates — who wobble
in and out of Morne Coubaril for their rice-and-peas
lunch and inharmonious harmonica show; she sees
wild tropical terrain.
Morne Coubaril is truly a beauty. You can see this
clearly, treetop to jungle floor, albeit at high speed, if
you ride its rainforest zip lines: eight wires secured 20
feet up in sculptural banyan and mahogany, offering
high-octane thrills, cracking coast views and neat
commentary. Our guide noting everything from parrot
species to St Lucia’s highest peak: a whopping 3,117ft
mountain called Gimie (pronounced Jimmy).
The island’s volcanic landscape really comes to
life at nearby Soufriere sulphur springs, where a
living geology lesson involves slathering yourself in
St Lucia
Big family adventures
St Lucia’s heights offer superb hikes. The 1.5-mile Barre
de L’Isle trail, for example, traverses a nature reserve
right through the island’s spine, offering ‘wow’ views
of both Caribbean and Atlantic. Rainforest species
have signs to aid identification, and you’re likely to
encounter the chatty St Lucia parrot and see huge land
crabs crashing around the undergrowth. This waymarked, looped trail takes about two hours; easy but
steep in parts it’s perhaps suitable for keener kiddie
hikers. Permits should be purchased from the trailhead
(signposted off the highway between Castries and
Dennery). A Forest Reserve guide can accompany hikers
for additional cost.
“therapeutic” volcanic mud, bathing in steamy mineral
water and letting the kids revel in how revolting the
rotten-egg smell is. These rudimentary concrete pools
perhaps don’t merit a cross-island pilgrimage but, like
many of St Lucia’s must-sees, it’s minutes from the west
coast where the island’s best resorts, and atmospheric
old plantations, are lavishly landscaped around the
towering Pitons. Our home here, Sugar Beach, is
arguably the Caribbean’s most perfectly positioned
hotel. Its pool villas sit on a steep, jungle-clad hillside,
VIP boxes at a natural theatre, overlooking a deep
white-sand crescent bay set, just-so, smack between the
Pitons. “It doesn’t look real!” gasps Ella.
It’s beautifully alive, though. Around our villa
(whose white clapboard patio doors, shutters and
windows can be hermetically sealed if desired) bright
birds and butterflies zip through the trees, teeny bugeyed frogs and geckos make sport around the terrace
and, in the otherwise pristine pool… a baby snake. At
least, according to Ella. I’m not sure and neither are
two strapping members of staff, even after they don
Ella’s goggles and dip heads into the water to check —
a sight that has Ella giggling into her hotel bathrobe.
“In all my years in this part of the island, I’ve never
seen a snake,” says the gamekeeper, Udel, brandishing
a comically oversized net. He gives us a quick lesson
in notable species: “Big boas live way upland, fer-de-
Zip lining in St Lucia
Paul tempers chocolate at
Sugar Beach.
View, Saint Lucia; zip-lining
gang, Mourne Coubaril, pool
plunge, Sugar Beach
Family 2018
looking green under her cocoa-tinted skin. Parents do
better at overindulging. With sports mornings, movie
evenings and all manner of games occupying kids
in between at the Sugar Club, adults can enjoy fresh
fruity cocktails and equally fruity-fun sushi at the
New York-meets-Bangkok style Cane Club, or go full
out with a modish French-Caribbean tasting menu on
the plantation house-style terraced balconies of the
Great Room.
With refined tapas at the toes-in-the-sand Bayside
bistro, and a breakfast buffet that nods heartily to the
resort’s dedicated American guests with its pancakestacked proportions, there’s a reason, I conclude, that
even at 80% occupancy during our stay, the resort feels
far from full. Guests have taken full stomachs to the
seclusion of their pool villas. But even beating a retreat
in St Lucia proves to be an adventure. Room shuttles
here come in the shape of brightly coloured tuk-tuks
imported from Thailand, which make the almost
sheer mountain ascents and descents something of a
fairground ride. “Can we take this route?” Ella says as
we approach yet another heady downhill. “This is the
steepest.” The burst of warm, rose-scented Caribbean
air rushes at us, the sea rolling out forever in front of
us, those pirate boats winking at us in the bay: another
mini-adventure surely on the horizon.
Sarah, and daughter, Ella (11).
How to do it
Kuoni offers seven nights at Sugar Beach during May 2018
half-term, from £9,579 per family of four, staying in a Grand
Luxury Villa, including use of the Sugar Club, Youth Sailing
Club, return flights from Gatwick and transfers.
lance — you don’t want to meet one of those — on the
other coast.” Ella is wide-eyed. “I’m going to add snake
wrangling to my CV,” grins Udel who finally fishes out
a rather bloated earthworm.
In the bay, wildlife is even more colourful. Stripy
eels, snouty seahorses, angelfish and ghostly squid
throng Sugar Beach’s coral reef; all seen eyeball-toeyeball, 20 feet beneath the surface of the Caribbean
thanks to a Snuba session. This scuba-snorkel hybrid
has a surface air supply and the option to surface at
will, and is suitable for swimmers from four years
old after a rudimentary safety briefing. Anxiety over
regulators and tubes and fins quickly gives way to
wonder: another mini-adventure under our (weighted)
belts. For those who prefer straight snorkelling
— or just lounging around out at sea like a VIP — the
resort’s private catamaran charters (Carnival Sailing)
visits boat-only access bays, with deep caves and rich
reef life, complete with a fine selection of imported
wine and local seafood grilled on deck to order.
The fruits of the land are even more enticing. St
Lucia’s old plantations produce some of the world’s
best chocolate. “You’ve heard the expression money
doesn’t grow on trees? Well it does here,” says Merle,
our no-nonsense guide at Hotel Chocolat. “Back in
Mayan times, 50 cocoa seeds could buy a king many
women.” There aren’t many concessions to kids at
this very grown-up resort — HQ for the UK’s high-end
high-street chocolate boutique. Its lauded Boucan
restaurant, spa, and mountainside infinity pool
are a haven for honeymooners, but its bean-to-bar
experience gives children the chance to get literally
elbow deep in the sweet stuff; crushing, conching,
mixing their own bittersweet treats.
Add to this Sugar Beach’s special chef’s experience
where kids get to work in the kitchen tempering
and decorating chocolate, plus the opportunity to
cover what clean skin remains with a chocolate wrap
in the spa (a magical, Ewok village-like collection
of rainforest treehouses), and you may reach peak
chocolate. “I never want to eat it again,” sighs Ella
Leopards make an unexpected appearance on an
unplanned game drive in Sri Lanka's Yala National
Park. Words: Maria Pieri
We’ve all edged forward in our seats.
A large Asian elephant is eyeballing us
through the glassless window of the
jeep. “Can I feed him?” begs my son,
Luka. “Can I touch him?” chips in my
daughter, Rae.
I can understand why they’re asking;
it would be so easy to reach out and
place a hand on a leathery flank, but
I’m conscious this is a wild animal.
“Remember the rules — don’t feed
or touch the animals,” Chandika, our
guide, calmly tells the children. It’s a
handy reminder; it’s not often a friendly
elephant appears at such close quarters.
“The natural pink pigment on the
elephants’ noses is used to identify
them,” says Charith, the biologist guide
who also accompanies us. “This one is
known as ‘The Beggar.’”
Our jeep inches forward a few feet, and
I just miss a classic head-to-head shot of
elephant and child, my iPhone choosing
that exact moment to shut down in
the heat. Still, this is our third wildlife
encounter, and we haven’t even entered
the Yala National Park yet. Earlier, we’d
watched a rat snake cross the road and
had to rescue a tortoise doing the same
thing. We’ve also encountered lots
of ‘rice hounds’. “These dogs are kept
by villages as leopard and elephant
protectors,” Charith had explained.
It’s been an eventful 75-minute drive
north west from our base, the newly
opened Wild Coast Tented Lodge, to
the edge of block five (378sq-mile Yala
is divided into five ‘blocks’). Block one,
the most popular safari area, is closed as
we’re in the July-September dry season
and a drought means large numbers of
animals congregating around a single
water hole. Park authorities felt it unfair
to subject them to more stress from
gawking tourists. Plus they’re trying
to resolve a guide licence issue. “There
are too many jeeps, which means too
many visitors. So they’re trying to find a
balance,” Chandika explains.
Heading into the park it’s extremely
hot, with 84% humidity, and we’re
glad for the air rushing through the
jeep. “All I can see is green,” says Luca,
manhandling Chandika’s binoculars.
“That’s because you’re staring at me,”
laughs Chandika, redirecting him away
from his shirt to the flora outside — a
vivid green against the red earth.
The first animals we encounter are
Ceylon spotted deers. “I absolutely love
the deers,” says Rae. Then we glimpse a
peacock and it’s soon forgotten. “My new
favourite animals are arctic foxes and
peacocks,” she proclaims. Then we see an
iguana — which, according to our guides,
isn’t an iguana at all. “Who told you we
had iguanas?” Charith asks. “Nick, the
Lodge chef,” I say. “We went to the fish
market with him yesterday morning.”
“It’s a water monitor,” says Chandika.
“We have lots of those. I’m sure the chef
is better with identifying the fish!”
This is proving to be quite the safari,
albeit almost entirely unplanned (added
in as an afterthought on our arrival).
Our Sri Lanka expedition had started in
tea country, in the Central Highlands,
before we headed to Yala National Park,
staying in the newly opened Wild Coast
Tented Lodge on the south coast. It was
Family 2018
only meant to be a brief pit stop to see
the lodge before ending our trip in the
coastal resort of Cape Weligama, 90
miles to the west.
Safaris are something Sri Lanka is
becoming increasingly acclaimed for,
and it’s easy to see why. As we continue
our drive, Charith points out native plant
species, including ironwood and palu
trees; suddenly, Chandika raises a finger
to his lips, and we go silent. It seems we
may be about to get lucky. In the trees,
something stirs. At first, all we see is
shadow, then a brown, furry, ragged
shape appears. But it’s a sloth bear, not a
big cat. Then the bear decides to make a
bigger appearance, fully emerging from
the undergrowth. “They make terrible
pictures,” says Chandika, nonetheless
continuing to train his telephoto lens on
the trees. “Too shabby.”
Unfortunately, we’re then descended
upon by an army of chattering, camerawielding tourists packed into jeeps. By
pausing, we’d alerted them to our find,
and they practically chase the bear off,
much to our annoyance. This is the
downside of a dry-season safari, with
block one closed, explains Chandika.
But there’s plenty more to see: beeeaters, black-crested bulbuls, stonechats,
black-rumped flamebacks... So many
species of exotic-sounding bird, in fact,
that I become name blind. There’s also
an abundance of primates to look out for
— macaques, langurs, monkeys — but
the children aren’t that fussed; they’re
primed for Sri Lanka’s apex predator.
“I want to see a leopard now,” demands
Rae. I’m not holding out much hope, all
too aware of how hard it is to spot one
of these big cats. But Chandika remains
upbeat about the chances of a sighting.
We pause for a tea break in the middle
of the park. Served from a three-tiered
trolley sent ahead by the Wild Coast
Tented Lodge, it’s a picture of colonialera England. As we munch on cucumber
sandwiches and ginger cake, the talk
turns to leopards. As Chandika explains
that Sri Lanka has the world’s highest
per-square-mile concentration of the
felines, he’s interrupted by a growling
sound coming from his shirt pocket: one
of the weirdest ring tones I’ve ever heard.
“It’s a leopard,” he smiles.
“National Geographic’s Night Stalkers
leopards documentary was filmed here,”
Chandika tells us. “There are around
10 to 15 in Yala, and at least two in this
area. And yes, they are dangerous, but
leopards prefer their prey to be around
40 kilos and below. Barking deer or pigs.”
“Or children,” I joke.
Back in the jeep, it’s nearing 4pm and
getting dark. Chandika reassures us
this is a good time for sightings, as the
leopards will be getting thirsty. He seems
to think they won’t be spooked by our
presence at a nearby water hole. “They’re
proud creatures; they won’t run off. And
they’re used to the jeep engine noises.”
We wait. I hear Chandika’s phone
ringing again. Only it’s not — it’s coming
from bushes nearby, around which other
tourist jeeps are congregating. There are
urgent whispers: “Leopard! Leopard!”
Our vehicle edges forward, but we can’t
see a thing. Chandika shakes his head.
“Let’s retreat,” he says. We do, and wait.
And wait. And wait.
One by one, the other jeeps drive off.
Then, our reward: a rather large shadow
lurking in the trees. A leopard appears,
stepping out into the open, gingerly at
first. Then another emerges behind him.
It’s a male and female, Charith explains
identifiable by the different collar of
spots around their necks. The pair walk
past the watering hole — proud and
dignified, very much at their own pace,
and I could swear they’re eyeballing us.
“This is great,” says Rae. “Two
Something tells me her list of favourite
animals is about to expand again.
"tea in the park,
Served from a threetiered trolley, is a
picture of colonialera England"
PREVIOUS PAGE: Asiatic tusker
elephant, close to tourists in
jeep, Yala National Park
FROM LEFT: Luca, Chad and
Rae having tea in Yala National
Park; leopards spotted at Yala
National Park
Family 2018
Handpicked adventures at your all-inclusive
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lcote in Ceylon is a carefully
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and families seeking a Sri-Lankan
adventure! We handpick the best
family-friendly excursions and help
plan your perfect holiday. Temples,
ethical elephants, turtle sanctuaries,
beach visits; whatever floats your
boat, we’ve got it covered. And
better yet, it’s all inclusive.
However, you may discover that Olcote in
Ceylon is so good that you won’t want to leave...
Five Star Villa
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Family Adventures
All Inclusive
Reviewed 5 weeks ago
Amazing place, what an experience
Reviewed 29 September 2017
Heaven, Absolute Heaven.
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Reviewed 29 September 2017
I think I’ve dscovered paradise...
Where to stay
On the edge of Yala National Park, the
lodge offers 28 tented ‘cocoon suites’,
with copper baths, four-poster beds and
teak floors. The kids slept in Shrunks
inflatable beds. Four suites are beachfacing with private plunge pools, 16 cluster
around water holes. An open-air bar and
restaurant wraps around the resort’s
free-form pool.
Bernard, our guide, has an
unquenchable thirst for tea. He’s a
former planter and knows his stuff.
The Tea Trails tea experience is unique
and Dilmah tea is the brand in these
dizzy green mountain heights. We’re at
the Dunkeld plantation during Diwali
and it’s virtually deserted. Bernard is
unperturbed by the lack of crowds; he’s
on a roll. “For growing the perfect tea,
it’s a combination of sunshine and rain,
and cool nights,” he tells us. “Making
tea is a science.”
Bernard explains that Dilmah, which
launched its pure Ceylon tea in 1988,
now exports to 130 countries. “In 1996,
Dilmah tea was on the shirts of the Sri
Lankan Cricket World Cup team,” he
says, grinning proudly.
It’s a family affair; the factory was
founded by Merrill J Fernando, and
continued, in earnest, by his sons Dilhan
and Malik (hence Dilmah). Over the
years, the brand has diversified. “The
initial aim was to put the Ceylon back
into Ceylon tea,” Bernard explains.
The company now includes a hotels
and resorts brand (Resplendent Ceylon)
and conservation initiatives, including
Dilmah Conservation, the Udawalawe
Elephant Transit Home and a leopard
conservation centre. We’re staying at
one of the Dilmah family’s five restored,
colonial-era tea planter residences, now
luxury bungalows, situated at an altitude
of 4,100ft near Hatton, in the Central
Province. It offers breathtaking views of
mountains and lush tea fields.
There are around 700 tea companies
in Sri Lanka, cultivating approximately
500,000 acres with an annual yield of
over 300 million kilos. Tea can be picked
every eight to 10 days, year-round, with
the trees needing pruning every five
years. “The trick is to pick two leaves and
a bud,” says Bernard.
Our tour takes us inside the Dilmah
factory and into the tea fields. All types
of tea, we learn, can come from the same
type of bush but it’s factors such as the
size of the leaf and how they’re treated
that differentiates them. White tea is
picked and steamed for example, while
black tea is withered, rolled, fermented
and dried.
Finally, we get to taste the different
teas. Rae tries all three grades — even the
strongest. I call it a day at grade two, Luca
goes for the chocolate coated tea leaves!
CLOCKWISE: Food served at Wild
Coast Tented Lodge; Exterior of
hut at Wild Coast Tented Lodge;
Bernard from The Tea Trails;
chocolate coated green tea leaves
Family 2018
Five to try
For a range of watersports,
including surfing and
bodyboarding — and
whale watching
Weligama and Koggala, on
the south coast, are where
to see this ‘traditional’
fishing practise. Sadly,
today, it can also be faked.
Made from rice flour
and coconut milk, these
pancakes are great with
an egg for breakfast or a
curry for dinner.
We got to visit one with
the resident chef at Wild
Coast Tented Lodge to
pick out our lunch.
These rickety three-wheel
taxis are ubiquitous and
thrilling fun to ride
ABOVE: Traditional fishing
practise; produce at the
local fish market
The leopards, elephants, peacocks, tea — and
the pool at the Wild Coast Tented Lodge.
The windy roads on the long drive
between Ceylon Tea Trails and Yala
National Park.
More info
How to do it
Experience Travel Group has a week in Sri Lanka
from £3,087 per adult, £2,917 per child, including
flights, transfers, experiences and stays at Ceylon
Tea Trails (all-inclusive), Wild Coast Tented Lodge
(all-inclusive, including game drives) and Cape
Weligama (B&B).
Maria and Chad. Rae (10), Luca (8).
Best for adventurous families.
Horathapola Estate
Horathapola Estate’s old-world
architecture and chic design
blend seamlessly with the lush
tranquility of a centuries old
coconut estate; a collection of
curated spaces connected by
style, detail and sustainability.
Our organic estate invites you
for long strolls beneath the
coconut trees, pepper gardens
and paddy fields. Horathapola
Estate is a perfect introduction
to Sri Lanka.
Kulu Safaris
The adventure of a Sri Lankan
safari, with exceptionally
comfortable accommodation,
while minimizing ecological
footprints, to offer a definitive
wildlife experience. Our
mastery of local knowledge,
operational and logistical
efficiency, superior equipment
and creativity has made us a
trusted partner of International
nature documentaries.
3 Sisters Beach
A tranquil beach side escape
in Matara along Sri Lanka’s
magnificent southern
coastline, our villa retreat is
all about privacy. Guests are
encouraged to make the most
of open spaces and sweeping
verandas. Rich antiques honor
the islands diverse history
and local seafood and fresh
produce showcase Sri Lanka’s
abundant tropical bounty. A
short walk down the hill reveals
a stunning surf paradise.
+94 715 338 230
+94 710 333 634
| |
A combination of football, dance and some of Italy’s
best beaches sees an active week fly by for our family
in southern Sardinia. Words: Pól Ó Conghaile
...smiles Andy Johnson. Sevenyear-old Sam has just rolled the
ball back into the path of an
oncoming teammate, who in turn
taps it forward for a goal-scoring
chance. “Nice passing, under 21s!”
So far, so Saturday morning
soccer, you might think. But this
is no ordinary kickabout. We’re in
southern Sardinia, the kids have
personal kits, and games wind up with
a swim off one of the most beautiful
beaches in Italy. Oh, and you may
recognise the coach’s name. Johnson
played with Everton, Crystal Palace and
QPR, was the top English goal-scorer in
the 2004/5 Premier League, and won eight
English caps. Sam is in seventh heaven.
We arrived at Chia Laguna Resort
late Saturday night. Run by the Italian
Hospitality Collection, this chic complex
of hotels, pools, restaurants, spas and
sports facilities cascades down the hills
of Baia di Chia, sprawling around the
central square of Piazza degli Ulivi,
where guests meet and mingle for cabaret
shows, gelati and drinks in the evenings.
“Any chance of food at this hour?” I asked
the receptionist who checked us into
our base for the week, the five-star Hotel
Laguna. “Of course,” he said. “It’s waiting
in your room.”
Upstairs, four antipasti plates were laid
out in a balcony room overlooking hills
tufted with olive trees, and the sparkling
Mediterranean Sea. Usually, our family
holidays involve a tiring whack of Daddriven exploration. This was going to be
different. With temperatures hitting the
mid-thirties, and the kids booked into
soccer and dance camps from 10-11.30am
and 5-6pm Monday to Friday, we were
about as intrepid as sun loungers.
“We’re doing a routine for the stage,
with practise starting tomorrow,” 11-yearold Rosa reports after her first session
with Alexandra Gale at the Campioni
Dance Academy. “On the stage in front of
actual people! OMG!”
Campioni’s soccer academies are wellknown (Andy Cole and Yannick Bolaise
were among the other pros joining camps
in 2017), but dance is a new venture.
Classes take place in an air-conditioned
conference centre to the tunes of Little
Mix and Meghan Trainor — exactly
the kind of stuff blasting from Rosa’s
emoji-tagged Spotify playlists back
home. At the beginning, she seems a
little reserved and bunched up, but soon
gains confidence. The blend of street
and hip-hop is right up her alley, as is the
impossibly glamorous Ms. Gale.
“I found it complicated but soon got the
hang of it,” Rosa says. “She fills us with
compliments, and she’s always smiling.”
Meanwhile, Andy and fellow coach
Stuart are running the Campioni soccer
academy as a mix of games and drills
— for the most part keeping a fun, casual
air to proceedings. The boys (and they are
all boys) range from six to 14, and most
are pretty nifty — one has had a trial for
Arsenal’s youth academy. By the end of
the week, Sam’s nailed his first crossbar
challenge (which Andy captures on video
— whoop!), and is actively seeking space
and calling for passes.
“I got two medals and a certificate,”
Sam reports, beaming. “I scored three
goals in one day and one was a nutmeg!”
There’s a dads’ game on Wednesday
night, too. I’m nervous for my wooden
hamstrings, but once a ‘bucket of beer’ is
mentioned, I’m in.
Family holidays aren’t all about the
kids… except they are, really. Good Italian
resorts have a knack for working with
that rather than against it. Forget the
yacht-spotted snobbery of the Costa
Smeralda; this is real-life luxury. Chia
Laguna runs four kids’ clubs by age
Family 2018
(3-6, 7-10, 11-13, 14-17), there are novelty
trains to the seaside, shows every night
and activities ranging from ‘drawing
laboratories’ to beach tournaments.
We drift in and out of Sam and Rosa’s
academies, but make time for our own
dips and downtime too.
Most families stay at the four-star
Hotel Village, with cottage-style rooms
scattered around the pool. The five-star
Hotel Laguna comes at a premium,
of course, but includes dinner at the
resort’s best restaurant, along with extra
touches like a private beach shuttle, pool
and staff who won’t think twice about
running down to the Piazza’s ice-cream
counter for the kids. Downsides? The
wi-fi isn’t as reliable as it should be, the
resort photographers pop-up a little too
often (they sell prints in a little store on
the square), and the AstroTurf pitch isn’t
shaded — though Andy and Stuart are
excellent with water and rest breaks.
Then, of course, there’s the sea.
Sardinia sits bang in the middle of the
Med’s warmest waters, and Chia Bay’s
beaches are gorgeous. Snorkelling ranges
from tiny islands and rocky coves to a
little rock garden about 65ft offshore at
Chia Laguna’s resort beach. When it’s not
too windy, we see lots of rainbow wrasse,
painted combers and bream. The wow
moment is seeing an octopus, with his
tentacles and balloon-like head shapeshifting below a rocky ledge.
“I thought he was going to shoot ink at
us,” Sam says, sharing our GoPro photos
with granny and granddad back home.
In the evenings, after showers and
device time, we gather on Hotel Laguna’s
terracotta-tiled terrace, sipping iced teas
and local beers in cooling temperatures
before moseying into the a la carte
restaurant — where highlights include
mouth-watering prawns with passion
fruit, rocket and zingy citrus, and a pasta
with rabbit and thyme — or the little
pizzeria on the square. Once or twice, a
full moon rises like a bruised peach over
the terrace, just as we’re eating dessert.
At the end of the week, the kids get
medals, certificates and their kits to
keep. Rosa’s show goes down a storm,
parents share tables, and Sam’s crossbar
challenge is played on the big screen.
It’s our own little piece of Sardinian
paradise, with football and dance
fantasies on the side. Result.
Four things to do
in Sardinia
After gorging on pasta and
pizza, try crispy Sardinian
pane carasau (flat bread),
pecorino cheeses, olives,
seafood and lashings of
light Vermentino wine.
Baia Dive Centre offers
snorkelling and dive trips
— a great way to see the
landscape and immerse
yourself in 24C waters
— without hiring a car or
lugging heavy gear.
Thousands of Nuragic
towers are scattered
along Sardinia’s coastline.
Chia tower overlooks a
lagoon — where you’ll
regularly spot flocks of
pink flamingos.
Pól, his wife, Lynnea; daughter Rosa (11); and
son, Sam (7).
Best for
Active kids aged 6-13.
How to do it
Western & Oriental has flights plus a week’s
half-board for a family of four at the five-star
Hotel Laguna from £7,159, based on two adults
and two children sharing two superior rooms.
Rates at the four-star Hotel Village start from
£150 per person, per day, excluding flights.
Campioni Football and Dance Academies cost
£495 and £315 per child respectively, including
Need to know
Gym shoes are fine for soccer, but most kids
bring AstroTurf or football boots. Lashings of
sunscreen and water are a must, and bring/buy a
travel pack of detergent to wash kits in the
evening — they get spectacularly stinky.
Cagliari (left), Sardinia’s
seaside capital, is about
an hour’s drive from Chia
Laguna. Time your trip to
explore the palazzo and
cobbles of Castello before
a spot of shopping and a
sunset dinner.
You need serious Dutch
courage to tackle Duinrell,
Holland’s high-octane water
park. Words: Glen Mutel
Roller coasters and water slides; I gave up on that type
of thing years ago. As a younger man, I decided that
nervously queuing up for the chance to be hurtled
around just wasn’t for me. So I opted out — a decision
I’ve yet to regret.
But there’s nothing like the wide eyes of a six-yearold child for pushing you out of your comfort zone.
And, during our first few hours in Duinrell, it’s clear
my policy of abstinence will have to be reconsidered.
Located close to the coast of northern Holland,
Duinrell is like a supercharged Dutch Center Parcs
— with accommodation arranged around both a water
park and a theme park. And, as we explore the latter,
it’s quickly clear that my eldest, Leena, intends to try
everything over the next eight days.
Mercifully, there are height restrictions, which
rule her (and, therefore, me) out of some of the more
savage-looking rides — not least The Falcon, which
plunges down a vertical drop straight into a terrifying
loop-the-loop, to a chorus of screaming.
There is, however, a decent handful of rides Leena’s
just about tall enough for, so I agree to give some of
them a whirl, beginning with the Aqua Swing — and,
while being flung around in a great circle on a chair
swing wouldn’t normally be my idea of fun, there’s
Their favourite things
“I love the Tikki pool, eating at La Place and the ice cream
at Luciano’s. And I really loved the Dragonfly roller coaster,
and the fact I went on it by myself.” — Leena
“Train. Again. Train.” — Greta
something about the summer breeze and the faint
spray of the fountains beneath that makes the whole
thing enjoyable.
Next, it’s the Kikkerachtbarn, a harmless-looking
family coaster towed by a happy looking frog.
I approach this one with little fear, having seen very
small children emerge from it with smiles on their
faces. My confidence is misplaced, as, while the
circuit isn’t too wild, three of four sudden bursts of
acceleration remind me why I don’t normally do this
type of thing.
From there on the baton is passed to my partner,
Rachel, who takes Leena first on the rather
frightening-looking Dragonfly roller coaster, and then
soaked by
The Splash;
enjoying the
water slide
Family 2018
"We're dazzled
by the light
shows on the
raft rides"
the Splash ride, in which
an open-topped craft
plunges head first into a
giant puddle, soaking all
its passengers in
the process.
Relieved to be leaving
them to it, I instead take
my two-year-old Greta
on a charming little
train for toddlers. Soon
after, she falls asleep in
her pram, so I retire to a
large glasshouse cafe for
a coffee and a pancake.
At the cafe’s centre sits
a beautiful, 153-yearold carousel, and as I watch chocolate-faced children
jump on and off it as it slowly rotates, I decide that I’ve
pushed myself quite enough for one day.
Make a splash
The new morning brings a new attitude, and a new
source of excitement. The Tika pool is sprawling
and magnificent, with more than 16 slides, and I’m
determined to try as many as I can. They’re all over so
quickly — what is there to worry about? The trick, I tell
myself, is to start boldly, so within seconds of arriving,
I grab Leena’s arm and head straight for the Pelican
Slide, for which there is momentarily no queue.
The Pelican is a short, steep slide that ends abruptly
and drops you free fall, through the air, into a deep
trough of water. It takes a matter of seconds, and
looks relatively harmless, so I put Leena on it first and
watch as she plops down into the water below. It’s only
when she emerges several seconds later, coughing and
spluttering, that I realise I’ve misjudged things.
Fortunately, she’s hastily fished out by her mum,
who shoots me a look, which seems to say: “Have you
lost your bloody mind?” Sheepishly, I follow behind,
hitting the water with a significantly heavier splash.
It’s not my finest bit of parenting, I admit.
Arguably, it’s the bold start I was after, and oddly
emboldened by this, we try as many slides as we can
over the next few days. Leena and I are eased in gently
by some surprisingly fun children’s slides. We’re
dazzled by the impressive light shows on the raft rides
Moonlight and Starfright. We’re pleasantly buffeted
about on the Blue Shark, while I’m twizzled around on
the Triton and just about emerge unscathed from the
Green Barracuda.
It’s time, I decide, to make the jump to the superfast
section. But my enthusiasm for this idea wanes after
Rachel tries out the Cycloon, which shoots her at
And another thing
This pretty little town is
five minute’s walk from
Duinrell and is a perfect
evening option for those
tired of eating on site.
Don’t miss Luciano’s,
a world-class ice cream
parlour that’s well worth
the queues.
terrific speeds into an open-topped chute, around
which she’s spun in a state of panicky bewilderment.
Normally so at ease with high-speed thrills, the look
of anguish on her face suggests she’s more than met
her match. I decide to quit water slides while I’m just
about ahead.
On our final day, there are no roller coasters, and no
trace of a water slide. Instead, in Amsterdam there’s
a canal-side table set for lunch, and plenty of juice,
coffee and wonderfully strong beer. Greta is clapping
at a passing horse-drawn carriage, while Leena is
watching the boats sails along the Singel. The sun is
shining brightly on the watery city. All is well. And I’m
sure Leena would admit, that, for this moment at least,
her Daddy’s comfort zone isn’t a bad place to be.
Wild Wings ride. Eating ice
cream in Amsterdam;
Cycloon slide
It’s certainly not the most
dramatic ride in Duinrell,
but the Aqua Swing is your
best bet for parent-child
harmony: it’s great family
fun without being too
tame or too terrifying.
Once you’ve had your fill
of the Tiki Pool’s slides, a
short spell bobbing up and
down courtesy of its wave
machine will put a smile on
the entire family’s faces.
Glen and Rachel travelled with their two
children, Leena (6) and Greta (2).
Best for
The park caters well to all ages.
How to do it
Al Fresco Holidays is offering seven nights
for up to six people, arriving at Duinrell on
14 April 2018, staying in a Vivaldi Riviera
three-bedroom mobile home, for £394. Book
by 28 February to access this rate, plus receive
an additional 10% off any arrival period when
using promo code 18AF10P.
If you’re prepared to
use public transport,
you’re only a short hop
from several wonderful
cities. Whether it’s The
Hague, Delft, Leiden or
Amsterdam, there are
classy ways to take a break
from the rides.
Family 2018
Soaking up aquatic adventures, verdant landscapes
and marine wildlife in the Azores makes for uniquely
enduring memories. Words: Ben Lerwill
Here’s a recipe for a lasting holiday memory: take one
eight-year-old boy, and put him at the prow of a Zodiac
boat as it sails into the gin-clear waters of the midAtlantic on a hot day. Then, wait for the appearance of
an 80-strong pod of wild bottlenose dolphins — each of
them sleek, speedy and considerably larger than the boy
— and let him watch as the creatures spend 10 minutes
swimming alongside the boat, darting here, leaping
there. Serve with a garnish of increasingly excited
shouts and liberal use of the phrase, “this is epic!”
The Azores are brilliant for kids, as my son can attest.
The Portuguese archipelago takes a handful of familiar
holiday touchstones — green hills, long beaches,
plentiful sea-life, proper ice cream — and transports
them to a still-steaming volcanic island group, 850 miles
off the coast of mainland Europe. Wild hydrangeas
cluster the roadsides, temperatures hover around the
mid-20s, and whales appear offshore. Everywhere you
go, there’s a crater to peer into or a thermal pool to
wallow in. It’s not hard to enjoy yourself.
I’ve come here with my eight-year-old son Joseph,
joining a handful of other families on a week-long
activity break. Our base is São Miguel, the largest and
most visited of the nine main Azorean islands. It’s a
magnificently tiring week. Each day combines a few
hours of downtime with a range of scheduled activities,
more often than not water-based. When we’re not
snorkelling, we’re soaking in hot springs, kayaking
on crater lakes, or jumping off 30ft forest ledges into
rockpools (with fearless glee in Joseph’s case, and
jelly-legged hesitation in mine).
“When I was at school in the mid-’90s, the Azores
weren’t even marked on the world map,” says Maria, our
tireless local guide for the week, over a group seafood
dinner. “That’s changed now.”
It’s mildly baffling why a subtropical destination
that sits under four hours from the UK took so long to
establish itself as a talked-about holiday destination.
The islands are by no means over-run by tourism
— during our July visit, even gloriously photogenic
"When I was at school in the mid-90s, the
�zores weren't even marked on the world map"
Family 2018
* PRODUÇÃO FOTOGRÁFICA/ PHOTOGRAPHY PRODUCTION – Parque Terra Nostra – Furnas – S. Miguel – Azores
Inspired by the natural beauty
and lushness of the volcanic
islands of the Azores, by their
people and their stories, their
traditions and authenticity, their
flavors and feelings, have a
wonderful stay at one of our
hotels on Sao Miguel, Terceira,
Faial and Lisbon.
Five things to
do in the Azores
spots like the twin lakes of Sete Cidades
feel virtually empty — but the Azores’
reputation as somewhere for outdoor
adventure is now well established.
The edge-of-the-world setting helps.
This is Europe’s farthest-flung outpost,
surrounded on all sides by vast blue skies
and wind-whipped ocean. For a volcanic
chain, however, the island landscapes are
surprisingly green and lush. The slopes
are laced with waterfalls, veined with
basalt and dotted with herds of Friesian
cows, creating a visual effect that’s partLost World, part-West Country.
São Miguel itself is around 40 miles
in length, 10 miles across, so it’s more
than big enough to keep young travellers
wide-eyed for a full week. Our hotel is
in Ponta Delgada, a whitewashed and
attractive coastal town but also — by
Azorean standards — built-up. Happily,
the holiday covers a lot of ground. As
well as ample time dedicated to zipping
around in the sea, the itinerary also
includes a visit to a tea plantation, a
forest jeep safari, a lakeside cycle and a
guided tour of underground lava tunnels
(“Daddy, why do the stalactites look like
runny noses?”).
There’s also a whale-watching tour
— the highlight of which is the sight of a
vast sperm whale tail descending into the
PREVIOUS PAGES: Joseph eating ice cream;
exploring the local landscape
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: A pod of dolphins;
frog sitting in a tropical flower, Furnas Gardens;
Joseph and a friend dressed up for canyoning
why do the
look like
runny noses?"
Visit the beautifully
landscaped Terra Nostra
gardens in Furnas, on São
Miguel. Home to around
2,500 trees and a grand
summerhouse, it also
boasts a huge thermal
swimming area.
Try the white wine from
nearby Pico Island. It’s
best known for fortified
wines, but the chilled
white is eminently
drinkable in its own
right and great
with seafood.
Whale watching is a
major draw here, with the
species you encounter
varying according to the
month. In April and May,
you might even be
lucky enough to spot
blue whales.
Should you wish to extend
your stay in the Azores
with more active pursuits,
the islands of Flores
and São Jorge are both
renowned for their
hiking and trekking.
Take the time to visit
Ponta Delgada’s historic
core, where you’ll find the
original three-arched gate
to the port town, and a
network of cobbled
lanes to explore.
Family 2018
deep — and even the chance to snorkel
with dolphins. Meanwhile, canyoning
on the penultimate day is a particular
hit, involving being kitted out in helmets
and padded romper suits then sliding,
abseiling and leap-of-faithing down a
succession of rock chutes and waterfalls.
The group dynamic becomes an
enjoyable one by the week’s end, aided by
some long communal meals. One of these
features cozido, a traditional stew cooked
underground by volcanic steam; at other
times we’re treated to swordfish, octopus
salad, slabs of roast pork and mounds of
the omnipresent local pineapple.
The fizzing thrill of that playful
dolphin pod around our Zodiac will be
mine and my son’s abiding memory of
the trip, but there’s no shortage of close
contenders. In truth, you can amend
the earlier recipe for a lasting holiday
memory with a simpler one: spend a
week in the Azores.
Their favourite things
“I loved watching them jump out of the
water and swim next to the boat. They
were agile, fast and confident.” — Joseph
“Looking back across the curving spine of
São Miguel, you get a real sense of being
somewhere special.” — Ben
“Because you get to jump off really high
things. When you’re flying through the
air, you’re like ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe
I’m actually doing this!’” — Joseph
ABOVE: Joseph exploring the lush green
landscapes of the Azores
Ben and his son Joseph (8).
Best for
Island adventures for kids 8+.
Need to know
The famous ‘Azores High’ is a
subtropical area of high
atmospheric pressure — make
sure to pack waterproofs.
How to do it
The Azores – Lava Lands and
Swimming with Dolphins small
group trip is run by Activities
Abroad. With departures from
March to October, prices start
from £1,395 per adult and £940
per child (aged 8-12) including
return flights, transfers, seven
nights’ accommodation and
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Call of the
It’s not often my children fall silent. Usually, this only
happens if all three are simultaneously munching on
doughnuts. But here we are, not a doughnut in sight,
kayaking between Bryher and Samson, the two islands
at the heart of Michael Morpurgo’s magical novel,
Why the Whales Came. As far as immersive childhood
experiences go, this is the equivalent of walking into
Hogwarts or flying the Millennium Falcon.
Samson stands a mile or so from Bryher and it
takes 30 minutes to paddle between the two. We haul
our kayaks onto the beach, our footprints the fi rst
of the day, and wander up Samson’s modest hills.
We pause to take in a view of deserted houses and a
superlative panorama of Scilly’s islands, scattered
across the Atlantic Ocean. As recently as 4,000 years
ago, before it was flooded by rising sea levels, Scilly
was one big island with lots of valleys. From the top
of Samson, the landscape looks like a sketch from a
geography textbook. Today, just six of the 150 or so
islands and rocky skerries are inhabited.
The tide has retreated by the time we kayak back to
Bryher and we see the silhouettes of holidaymakers
tip-toeing their way over the sandbars between here
and our nearest neighbour, Tresco. We walk around
the southern edge of Bryher and swim in Rushy Bay.
It’s utterly enchanting: a curved beach backing onto
bucolic farmland and winding away north to high
cliffs. We stop for lunch at the enticingly named Hell
Bay Hotel, a collection of stylish rooms and cottages
gathered around an excellent restaurant and bar.
Firethorn, a small passenger ferry, takes just a
couple of minutes to whisk us across to Tresco, our
home for the week. All the islands are between five
and 25 minutes’ sailing distance from one another,
and throughout our stay we look up from the beach
to see Firethorn and other waterbuses doughtily
scuttling across the waters. Tresco has something of
a reputation as a millionaire’s paradise: there are new
high-end, UK mainland-style properties aplenty and
the island shop and deli are pretty pricey.
The islands of Scilly, off the coast of Great Britain offer
UK-based families a taste of the wilderness without heading
to the ends of the Earth. Words: Mark Rowe
FROM LEFT: Golden pheasant;
Grimsby Harbour at Tresco;
Tresco Abbey Gardens
NEXT PAGE: Cormorants sitting
on rocks with Bishop Rock
Lighthouse in the background
We pay little attention to the moneyed element
sometimes visible and instead explore what’s natural
and largely free. Cars are forbidden — only tractors
and golf buggies, whisking luggage to the quayside, are
allowed — so depending on their age, you can let your
children roam with some confidence. There’s even an
indoor pool, which is handy if the weather turns bad.
We hire bikes and discover it takes half a day to
cycle round Tresco, stopping at beaches or rugged
headlands and clambering up rocky tors that could
have been imported from Dartmoor. It’s such fun we
do the same thing again in reverse. The highlight is
Tresco Abbey Gardens, built around the ruins of a
priory and stocked with Monterey pines and flora from
the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa
that thrive in Scilly’s temperate climate. The children
love the golden pheasants, sitting up in the branches
of trees, their extraordinarily long and look-at-me tails
waft ing the air below.
That evening we munch on pizzas from the Ruin
Beach Cafe on the east of the island. It’s a charming
spot and — for Tresco — reasonably priced. It’s low
tide again and skerries and granite protrusions are
exposed, rising out of the water like dragons’ backs
or bits of broken castle. Moonlight bouncing over the
turquoise shallows that lap this landscape is certainly
not what you associate with the UK.
Another light tracks our stay: the Bishop Rock
Lighthouse is clearly visible on the horizon from our
cottage, Bay House. We discover it can be visited as part
of a wildlife trip to the Western Rocks, so we board the
Spirit of St Agnes, skippered by John Peacock.
"� hadn't realised the sand could be so
warm under your feet here in the UK "
Family 2018
Mark and his children Hannah (11),
Thomas (10) and Oscar (8)
Best for
Close encounters with wildlife, not
too far from the mainland.
Thomas: “The seal popping up right in
front of me while I was in the water.”
Hannah: “Kayaking was amazing; it
was like being right out at sea.”
Oscar: “I hadn’t realised the sand
could be so warm under your feet
here in the UK.”
How to do it
Skybus year-round from Newquay and
Land’s End Airports, and between
March and October from Exeter
Airport. Return fares £140-£300.
The Scillonian lll ferry sails between
Penzance and St. Mary’s. From £90
return from spring through to late
autumn. A helicopter link between the
islands and the mainland will begin
operations in 2018. islesofscilly-travel.
More info
Scilly Seal Snorkelling:
Ruin Beach Cafe:
Tresco boats:
St Agnes Boating: stagnesboating. and
Hell Bay Hotel:
Bay House:
It’s a vivid experience: John explores the outliers
of Scilly providing plenty of close-up views of seals
and puffins. Then, suddenly, we’re no longer in cosy
sheltered waters. There’s a swell — modest enough,
for sure — and the slightly heady understanding that
there’s now nothing between us and Brazil. “Look at
the gannets!” I call out to my son Thomas, a die-hard
landlubber. He’s gripping the side of the boat for dear
life. Soon, Bishop Rock looms above us, rising 167ft
from its base to the helipad on its summit. The origin
of its name is uncertain but to our children it comes
across as a stern and spooky over-sized chess piece.
“Can we stay on dry land from now on?” Thomas
whispers hoarsely as we return to St Agnes. We hike
up the hill and buy an ice cream from Troytown Farm
before wandering across the wonderfully named
Wingletang Down.
Having spent so much time on, or by the water, our
final excursion takes us into it. Early one morning,
we’re picked up in a RIB from Old Grimsby quay
on Tresco by Anna Cawthray to go swimming with
seals. We dock at St Martin’s, Scilly’s most northerly
inhabited island and, after squeezing ourselves into
wetsuits, we scoot off to the Eastern Rocks. Anna
slows the RIB to walking pace and we trundle into a
sheltered cove where a dozen or so seals are laid out on
the rocks.
They’re clearly habituated to humans but Anna still
lays down a few guidelines. “These are wild animals;
don’t swim towards them,” she tells us. “They’ll swim
to us if they want to.” We bob around in the water,
letting our hands drift through kelp forests and
wafting seagrass. To begin with the seals stay put, but
it’s still the most remarkable sensation: you can hear
them groaning as though communicating with one
another. Fish flit around our flippers, while gulls and
cormorants zip overhead, and we have close-up views
of nesting birds.
Then a couple of seals slither off the rocks and
disappear under water. “Look behind you,” yells
Hannah and I turn around to see a seal bobbing up
barely 15ft away. It sinks out of view, only to pop up by
Thomas a minute later. This delightful, coy behaviour
continues for half an hour and is one of the highlights
of the trip.
Afterwards, we explore St Martin’s, walking through
quiet lanes with high hedgerows, past a silversmith, a
shoemaker, an excellent bakery (the delicious loaves
cost a fraction of Tresco’s gold-leaf versions so we buy
plenty) and a sizeable, well-stocked village store.
A visit to Scilly is often likened to stepping back into
the 1950s and, in a positive sense, that’s true: in more
touristy parts you can feel people have grown weary
of tourists and there’s the flattening experience of the
fantastic scenery being taken for granted. On Scilly,
hedgerows are bursting with song, there are no cars
on most of the islands and limited access keep a lid on
visitor numbers. It’s Cornwall before the monster of
mass tourism devoured it. For families, it feels like a
chapter from a Famous Five tale.
your family time
in North Sardinia
Resort & SPA Le Dune - the beach
watch the video
+39 0789 790018 | | |
Olbia - Alghero
How do your kids greet the smiling
concierge when they arrive at a
French hotel? With a shy smile
or a bold bonjour? Introducing
language app Babbel...
Teaching them the local language is a fantastic way to
enhance your child’s holiday experience. Learning a
language stretches the mind and boosts brainpower,
and gives kids a whole new level of freedom abroad.
The gift
Ordering for your kids in a French restaurant could be a
thing of the past. Once they can confidently request les
frites, s’il vous plaît, they’ll thank you — not only for the
chips but also for the opportunity to embark on a lifelong
love affair with languages, authentic foreign travel and
culture. It’s the greatest gift you could give them.
If packing a phrase book horrifies your little screen
addict, there’s no need to panic. With a simple swipe,
they’ll find language app Babbel on their phone.
Educational screen time on holiday? Mais oui!
fast and fun way to
learn a foreign language.
Thirteen languages are on
offer including French, Spanish,
German, Portuguese and
Russian. Download the app
or go to for a
free trial
Words make worlds
With Babbel you can add a dash of local
vocab to your kids’ travel experience.
Language luggage doesn’t weigh a single
kilo but adds limitless possibilities to
your trip. There’s nothing more satisfying
for kids than ordering their own ice
cream and making friends with locals.
Feeling at home in a new country is
priceless for travelling tots and sets up
great habits for the future.
Languages in numbers
Aged 13
Learning French
Aged 14
Learning Spanish
What did you think
of Babbel?
The repetition helps me
remember the words
Why learn a new language?
What did you think
of Babbel?
It’s really cool. It made
me feel like I know more
French than I thought.
And the voice is great
for teaching the accent,
which I find hard from
• 7,000: The number of languages spoken
in the world (to the nearest thousand)
• 480 MILLION: The amount of people
in the world who are native Spanish
• 12: The number of imaginary languages
spoken in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the
Rings books
• It improves your grades in other
• You can have much more fun on holiday
• You could become an international spy
• It can help you get a great job
• You can make friends anywhere in
the world
Lost in translation
GIFT means ‘poison’ in German
BRAT means ‘brother’ in Russian
LOL means ‘fun’ in Dutch
KISS means something completely
different in Swedish… ‘urine’
Have you used any
phrases you’ve learned
on holiday?
In Belgium, I practised
je voudrais une glace s’il
vous plaît every day.
Would you learn more on
the app or at school?
I love Spanish at school
and the app will help me
stay ahead.
What’s your favourite
Spanish word?
La moda —
it means ‘fashion’
& Tested
Our team tried a hotel in Winniethe-Pooh country, a break in the
Brecks, a waterfront Cotswolds
rental, a retreat in Tuscany, and the
Netherland’s Efteling theme park
Villa La Massa florence, italy
It’s been unseasonably hot. The
temperature’s soaring above 40C but
we’re in the ideal place to enjoy it,
sipping a cool welcome drink at Villa
La Massa, taking in the views of the
River Arno; the perfect summer’s day
in Florence. Then, of course, it rains.
Staff rush round to shelter us under
the marquee as we stoically brave the
downpour. It’s only rain and we’re in
Italy; it will stop shortly. But then it
doesn’t and we dash inside.
That’s when we really take in
the grandeur of this 16th-century
architectural Florentine home-cumhotel. There’s a real Renaissance aura
emanating from the frescoed ceilings,
tapestries, drapery and brocades of this
this 37-room retreat. Built in the Medici
period, it was transformed into a hotel
in 1948 and is just a 20-minute drive
from Florence, set among olive
groves, cypress trees and vineyards
on the fringes of the Chianti Rufi na
wine region.
La Massa’s restaurant, Il Verrocchio,
is headed up by resident chef Andrea
Quagliarella. Located in one of
the estate’s oldest structures, the
Mulino, its Tuscan-inspired cuisine is
delectable. Andrea runs cookery classes,
too, using ingredients from his herb and
vegetable gardens. A former pastry chef,
he’s something of a master craftsman
with pasta as well — the tortellini’s
superb, complemented by Italian wine
stored in the 15th-century cellar.
There’s also the Arno Spa and outdoor
heated pool to try, bike rides to plan,
and wine tastings and tours to book.
And as for the best way describe the
‘vibe’ of the place? Effortless grace. If
you were to order a beer or glass of fi zz
in the evening, fi rstly, the staff would
know your names, spark up an easy
conversation, and deliver a plate of
canapes or snacks (happily restocked
for our two children).
For a long weekend where you’re
looking to explore a little and relax a
lot, this is ideal, encompassing leisurely
pool days and afternoon visits to
Florence. (Oh, and it only rained that
fi rst day, too).
WHY: An out-of-town Tuscan getaway
with Florence on your doorstep. Take a
20-minute shuttle bus ride — one every
hour — and you can saunter down the
Ponte Vecchio or visit the Uffi zi
or Accademia.
SUITS: Ideally best for second-time
visitors, as you’re not based in the
centre of the city. Families with slightly
older children (10 and above), who can
appreciate fi ne dining and a ‘quietish’
pool experience.
DID IT WORK: For burnt-out professionals
like us with children, it really did work.
It was our second visit to Florence
so there was less pressure to sightsee. We took our time soaking in the
atmosphere at our own pace, and dined
in some wonderful restaurants.
THE DETAILS: A three-night stay for
the price of two costs from £3,930
per family (saving £950 per family),
based on two adults and two children
(under 12 years of age), staying in two
adjoining Double Deluxe Rooms,
including breakfast, economy fl ights
from London City with British Airways,
private transfers and UK lounge passes.
Based on 30 March 2018 departure. MARIA PIERI
Family 2018
theme park
“But why has the tree got a face?” asks
my four-year-old son, Ben. We’re in
the Fairytale Forest, face-to-face with
Sprookjesboom (The Fairytale Tree),
at the heart of the enchanted Efteling
theme park in the Netherlands. It
may’ve taken a little bit of coaxing to
get Ben on board with the idea of fairy
tales but the park, an institution for the
Dutch, is truly magical. A mix of rides
and attractions for all ages is on offer,
from roller coasters and water flumes
for the fearless, down to carousels and
carnival rides for the smaller ones, and
across it all a consistently top-notch
fairy-tale theme.
The Fairytale Forest has
a series of walk-through
attractions telling all the
classic tales, from Rapunzel
to Pinocchio, and is just a
short walk from Symbolica,
the latest ride to grace the
Palace of Fantasy. Here you
join Pardoes, the happy-golucky jester, as he takes you
on a tour of the palace, with
some cutting-edge wizardry
and special effects that put
Disneyland to shame. Beyond
that, the park divides into four
main areas: ride coasters in the
Adventure realm; experience
Fata Morgana, an indoor boat
ride, in the Other realm; travel into
the skies in a bizarre floating pagoda
in the Travel realm; and meet the Laaf
people and ride the Droomvlucht
(Dreamflight) in the Fairy realm.
Must-sees are the spectacular
Raveleijn horse show, George and the
Dragon, a medieval-themed wooden
racing roller coaster, and Dreamflight,
a fantastic indoor ride that impresses
at every turn, culminating in a familyfriendly finale that’ll make you want to
go back and see it again. The fairy-tale
theme doesn’t rest for lunch or dinner
either, with a whole host of options,
most notably the Polles Keuken
pancake restaurant, where pots simmer
and kitchen tools swing overhead as you
tuck into your lunch. There’s a choice of
accommodation surrounding the park,
from the Efteling hotel and its fabulous,
themed suites, to the cabins of Bosrijk
and the new Loonsche Land, where we
stayed. Designed to look like a beachside
holiday village, the imposing hotel sits
overlooking the water, and has a childfriendly bar and restaurant area, and
simple but effective rooms with bunk
beds that every four-year-old will love.
I can certainly say that after two days
at Efteling, we’re all fairy tale converts. As
to why the tree had a face, we still don’t
know, but it doesn’t matter. It simply
sums up the magical mystery of it all.
WHY: For theme park fans who want to
try something different to UK offerings
without going all-out to Disneyland.
SUITS: Young families new to the theme
park experience.
DID IT WORK: Yes. Travel to Efteling is
relatively simple, by car or plane. Allow
a two-day stay to cover everything
without rushing.
THE DETAILS: A two-night stay in the
new Loonsche Land Hotel, in a family
room sleeping up to five, costs from €388
(£344), including park entry for three
Family 2018
�shdown Park Hotel EAST SUSSEX
Country hotels with golf courses and spas
are not usually fertile grounds for family
stays. However, at Ashdown Park there’s
a llama farm within walking distance
and — the best bit — Ashdown Forest is
the original inspiration for Winnie-thePooh’s Hundred Acre Wood. The estate
also has a wealth of nearby attractions
including Bluebell Railway, Hever Castle
and the British Wildlife Centre.
The hotel itself features neo-gothic
architecture and a real sense of grandeur.
And the adjoining chapel, with its
wooden panelling and exquisite stained
glass, is hugely impressive. The modern
addition of a ‘country club’ offers a pool,
gym and spa for a little pampering.
Rooms are traditional and
comfortable, if not a little basic. But
with a kettle, Nespresso machine,
complimentary mineral water and mini
dressing gown and slippers for the kids,
the whole family is catered for. Better
still, rather than the stuffiness of some
grand hotels, it’s relaxed and friendly
with no unnecessary fuss.
WHY: A bit of country estate glamour
with a laid-back vibe.
SUITS: Families keen on a countryside
escape with kids’ attractions.
DID IT WORK: Yes, this was a rural retreat
that truly pleased all the family.
THE DETAILS: Family rooms start from
£425 B&B for a Junior Suite, based on
two adults and two children sharing. PAT RIDDELL
need a licence (13 years up). Elveden
also offers families the chance to try all
manner of mad skills, from crossbow and
air rifle shooting to axe throwing.
WHY: A weekend of wild activities.
SUITS: Active school-age children.
DID IT WORK: Yes. The Brecks offers a
wilderness-style break with few of the
risks or arduous remoteness.
THE DETAILS: Stay at Tuddenham Mill, a
pretty 18th-century mill house with the
original wheel, 53ft brick chimney, and
a very accomplished restaurant; doubles
from £185 per night (extra beds/cots £30),
including breakfast.
GETTING THERE: Returns to/from London
Liverpool Street-Bury St Edmunds from
The Brecks Suffolk
If you want kids to run wild, head to
The Brecks, a 630 sq mile expanse of
Suffolk-Norfolk borderlands, home to
the UK’s largest lowland forest; a unique
wilderness just half-hour’s drive from
Bury St Edmunds.
Follow quiet country lanes around
fields of sugar beet and vines, deep
into the forest to learn bushcraft from
the inimitably bearded John Tyler at
Brandon Country Park. Don’t miss
Brandon’s arboretum, with skyscraping
Giant Californian Redwood trees.
Climb almost as high at Go Ape, the
flagship treetop adventure park nearby;
a great double date with Bike Art, right
next door: 40 miles of traffic-free forest
trails including some hilly tracks — a
boon for bikers in otherwise flat Suffolk.
At nearby Elveden Estate, try steering
something more challenging: a 4x4 in an
off-road driving lesson. No, they don’t
Family 2018
Brooks Country House Hotel HEREFORD
It’s not every day you get to stay in a
vintage horsebox. And some might ask:
why would you want to?
Ask my son and daughter, who spent
most of the morning fighting over
who got the top bunk bed. New to the
22-room Georgian Brooks House, these
horseboxes are a pretty special addition,
an element of fun that children just seem
to love. We’d stayed in the main house
for a night which had already hit the spot
— four-poster bed, two sofa bed singles,
roll-top bath and open fire. Moving to
one of three on-site horseboxes — two
sleeping two and one sleeping four
— created another mini adventure for
them. Inside, the boxes are thoughtfully
furnished, with extra touches such
as multicoloured lights in the shower
room and ropes between the bunk beds.
There’s even a little deck that is a real
suntrap in good weather. We visited just
outside summer season and the weather
was sunny and crisp although slightly
too cold for the on-site outdoor pool.
WHY: For a fun night away in
novel accommodation.
SUITS: Any family that doesn’t
mind close quarters for a while.
DID IT WORK: Yes, and the location’s
a great jumping-off-point for
exploring the Wye Valley, Hayon-Wye, Symonds Yat for cycling
or canoeing, and both Goodrich
Castle and the Gruffalo Trail at
Beechenhurst in the Forest of Dean.
THE DETAILS: From £119 per night
based on a family of four sharing a
Courtyard King/Twin Room on a
B&B basis, or from £130 per night
sharing a large horsebox on a B&B
Lower Mill Estate Cotswolds
Set in the tranquil surroundings of
the Cotswold Water Park — more than
150 lakes set across some 40 sq miles
just south of Cirencester — Lower Mill
Estate offers a variety of eco-friendly,
lakeside accommodation. Most of the
modern, waterfront houses are glassfronted, with huge amounts of natural
light flooding into the properties.
Balconies front and back enable you to
fully appreciate the setting of some 550
acres of countryside estate.
Our property for the week, The
Swallows, was set over three floors with
four bedrooms, three bathrooms and
a more-than-spacious kitchen/dining/
lounge area — perfect for two families.
The minimal, stylish decor — combined
with a games room offering the kids an
Xbox 360, DVD, books, games and Lego
— meant it was a struggle to leave the
house some mornings.
But with plenty of lazy walks
around the lakes, gentle cycling
along the trails and an array of other
activities, such as birdwatching and
watersports (canoeing, kayaking,
sailing, windsurfi ng, wakeboarding
and waterskiing), there’s no shortage of
things to do. The Miss Mouse Adventure
Trail, meanwhile, is great for smaller
children — a fun, learning experience
incorporating lakeside walks, puzzles
to solve, clues to follow and padlocked
chests revealing rewards.
The on-site restaurant, Ballihoo, offers
breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as
takeaway, and the indoor/outdoor pool,
spa and gym mean you’re more than
well catered for in most respects. And
with Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-onthe-Water, and the Slaughters all within
a 40-minute drive, there’s easy access to
the heart of the Cotswolds.
WHY: Tranquil, peaceful wilderness
with luxurious surroundings.
SUITS: Families keen on watersports,
walks and exploring the Cotswolds.
DID IT WORK: Combined with great
weather, it was a perfect week away.
THE DETAILS: The Swallows is available
from £1,200 for a one-week stay. PAT RIDDELL
Travel Insurance
with you in mind
Travel insurance designed by travellers
Up to £10M medical expenses
Available for UK/EU Citizens if you’re already abroad
Cover for cameras and gadgets available
Extreme sports and activities covered, including
trekking and winter sports
Get a quote at:
or call 0333 999 3140
Forest Holidays is offering
National Geographic Traveller
— Family readers 10% off forest
escapes taken by 30 June 2018
and booked by 28 February
2018. Use code NGTFM
when booking online.
nited Kingdom
National Geographic Traveller - Family
has joined with Forest Holidays to offer a
three-night UK break in a luxury cabin.
Escape plan
A Forest Holiday is wherever you want
it to be: escape to one of nine idyllic
locations and choose from luxurious
cabins set deep in woodlands, on the
edge of mighty lochs, or in bright forest
meadows. Whether you’re travelling as
a couple, as a group of friends or with
the family, your cabin is your personal
sanctuary. The freedom, the fresh air
and the forest are yours to enjoy at your
own pace.
The rize
A three-night weekend break for one winner and up to three guests in a
luxury cabin. Choose from one of nine locations. Accommodation will
be on a self-catering basis in a fully equipped two-bedroom Silver Birch
cabin, which sleeps up to four. Each cabin comes with forest views and a
private hot tub.
Answer the question below by visiting
How many can sleep in a twobedroom Silver Birch cabin?
Competition closes 31 January 2018. The
winner must be aged 18 or over and the
trip is subject to availability. Full T&Cs at
Tower of Power
Three young African lions at their new home at Loro Parque
Loro Parque is a true “must” visit in the
Canary Islands for millions of visitors from
all over the world. Most recently
recognized by TripAdvisor as the Best Zoo
in the World in the prestigious 2017
Travellers’ Choice Awards, this magnificent
park is a true animal embassy that
promotes conservation of biodiversity and
protection of natural habitats. Thanks to its
mild climate and sunny weather, this winter
holiday season is the best time to take a
holiday break in the Canary Islands and
enjoy discovering the amazing wonders of
the animal world with Loro Parque.
Fascinating new surprises await the
visitors this winter as Loro Parque, true to
its commitment to excellence and
innovation, has given a warm welcome to
African Lions in a brand new Lion’s
Kingdom and to some of the brightest and
beautiful bird originated from Mexico and
Brazil in the new spacious aviaries of
South America. In a unique journey
through every part of the planet´s
fascinating nature, the park´s guests will
also meet the adorable red pandas,
gorillas, or chimpanzees, discover the
Planet Penguin and Katandra Treetops,
enjoy the fluorescent jellyfish at
AquaViva and amaze at the astonishing
shark tunnel, among other
breath-taking experiences.
Puerto de la Cruz -
240 metres of excitement,
adrenaline and intensity
Siam Park is the Nº1 water park in the
world, according to TripAdvisor, for the
fourth year in a row through receiving a
prestigious 2017 Travellers Choice
Award. Thanks to the unique water
attractions, Siam Park has established
itself as a worldwide leading and
revolutionary theme park in this branch.
The most recent recognition as the
Best Water Park in Europe by 2017
European Star Awards for sixth
consecutive year only reinforces this
magnificent achievement.
Siam Park´s flagship attraction, Singha,
is the most impressive water coaster
on the planet. Recognized by multiple
international awards, Singha has won
the hearts of thousands of adrenaline
and fun lovers. A unique experience is
perfect to be enjoyed this Christmas
with beloved family and friends!
Immersed in tropical scenery, Siam
Park is a unique place in which the
entire family will discover adventure
and experience an authentic adrenaline
rush and shocking dose of excitement
with an impressive variety of slides and
the world's biggest artificial wave. For
those who prefer relaxation, tranquillity
and nature, Siam Park offers diverse
possibilities, with its white sand beach,
exotic views, tropical gardens and laid
back journey on the crystalline waters
of the lazy river – amazing for the winter
holiday getaway!
Costa Adeje -
Avda. Richard J. Yeoward, 1 - 38400
Puerto de la Cruz · Tenerife · 0034 922 381 400 ·
Forest bathing, gymnastics and a stargazing safari? Three
things we want to try in 2018. Words: Rhonda Carrier
Originating in Japan, this is all about immersing yourself in the
forest to reduce stress and feel a sense of wellbeing. Forest Holidays’
rangers have been trained to lead you through a three-hour guided
walk combining a leisurely stroll under the forest canopy with
activities and meditations to help open your senses, hone your
intuition and experience the forest as never before.
Plus, with a new site in Snowdonia National Park — set to open in
summer 2018 — you can plan to try it here or at one of the many other
UK sites too, while staying in a wooden lodge (with hot tub), from
£445 for four staying for three nights.
Danish artist Superflex has turned the
Turbine Hall, courtyard and the new
building at London’s Tate Modern into a
giant playground — 30 three-person
swings form an installation entitled One,
Two, Three, Swing! Kids and their kidults
can swing for free, until 2 April.
These lightweight
waterproof boots
have easy pull-on
handles and a wicking
liner that helps keep
small feet
comfortable, and dry
in the wet season.
Take the family to
Peru to get up close to Paddington’s
relatives: spectacled bears. From £3,653
per adult/£3,257 per child (8+), including
accommodation and excursions.
The new-old sport for adults
and children. Join in the family
fitness at Tekne Retreats, Ibiza,
trying out gymnastics, resistance
training, trampolining and more,
then explore the island by horse,
bike or kayak. From £695 per
person self-catering (all-inclusive
Observe the stars at night from
the new on-site observatory
at Elqui Domos in central
Chile, then go for a night-time
horse-ride. You’ll be staying
in a domed astronomic hotel
or observatory rooms. From
£164 per night for four people.
Win a dedicated bundle
of Trunki goodies,
worth more than £120
Win the latest Trunki characters to
join the ride-on suitcase gang
— Cassie the Cat and Rocco the
Racing Car — plus the new EAT
range set, and ToddlePak backpack.
Just answer the question below.
Get a bird’s eye view of
If you haven’t been to London’s
Go backstage at the
Copenhagen, and a sound and
Science Museum since this
mocked-up studio in Paris’
light show on the new
interactive gallery was added,
interactive rooftop gallery at
then make a beeline for
the recently revamped
its Chemical Bar: see
Experimentarium. Inside, try to
timed explosions
dodge your own shadow in the
and demos that
Labyrinth of Light, climb the
budding young
are created.
copper-clad helix and get
scientists can get
Runs until 19
hands-on in the smart cinema.
involved with.
Cite des Sciences museum
for a behind-thescenes look at
how movie
special effects
August 2018.
closes 30 Feb
2018. To enter,
and for full T&Cs, go
Infinite fun
Punta Cana | Dominican Republic
Give your family the vacation of a
lifetime at our fun packed resort.
Barceló H&R will take care of your every
need with premier family services,
pools and the Barcy Kids Club.
As the premier all-inclusive family
destination, has everything you and
the kids could want and more.
08 000 211 256
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