Switching Off From Reality at Pine Cliffs Resort with James Villa Holidays

Pine Cliffs resort Portugal review

Going on holiday often gives you a kind of out-of-body experience. You know exactly what I mean – you’ll be sitting on the beach, or by the pool, and your mind will start to wander. You think about things and you’re somehow able to look down upon your life and see it with a bit of clarity. I reckon it’s just the change of scenery but also the fact you have time to think and that, on holiday, you’re away from your everyday routine (and possibly the things that cause you minor stress) that allows your brain enough space to be able to do this.

Right now, I’m writing this while sitting on the terrace of my villa in Pine Cliffs resort in Portugal. I’m drinking a cup of tea and the four-year-old is sitting next to me, playing games on her iPad and munching dry Cheerios. It’s so quiet – well, it’s not even 7.15am yet – and the sun is rising, hitting the golf course and trees in the distance.

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I feel like I could stay here forever, but that’s the beauty of holidays, isn’t it? They allow you to relax, get some perspective on life back home and spend precious time with your family. Even though I work from home, I work full time (actually, if truth be told, I probably work nearer 50 hours a week) and even on the four-year-old’s day off from pre-school, it’s Mr P who spends the day with her while I work. So having a whole week to hang out has been fab.

Every day, we’ve had a long drawn out breakfast in the villa, with rounds of cereal, toast and croissants plus cups of tea and coffee for the grown ups. Then the only decision we need to make is: pool or beach? There are three pool areas here – the main pool (which has waiter service to your sun lounger), a smaller pool area (with heated pool) and a tiny pool in the children’s play area. The beach is a ten minute walk away, down some beautiful paths towards the cliff edge (gorgeous views!) and then down in a lift to the sand. I have to admit, I’m definitely more of a pool girl. I love being near the sea, and I love sitting listening to the ocean, but that sand gets everywhere. Does anyone actually enjoy getting sand stuck to their suncream-smeared legs and hands?

Pine Cliffs resort Portugal review

So we have been spending most of our days by the pool. We did that classic holiday thing of spending €12 on an inflatable toy for the pool, yet the four year old still keeps eyeing up all the other kids’ inflatable toys – which seem much more desirable than hers. We’ve also spent a large proportion of our days playing with the random buckets, balls and spades, abandoned by holiday-makers gone by. We really should leave our inflatable, in pay-it-forward style for next week’s families….

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A Long Weekend At Ikos Oceania, Halkidiki

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Five years ago, I was pregnant and excited about what was ahead. I knew my whole life was about the change beyond all recognition. My online shopping habits had already shifted from Topshop boots and Asos dresses to sterilisers, changing mats and nappy bins from Mothercare. I knew that the regular mini breaks enjoyed by me and Mr P would soon be a thing of the past (which is why we squeezed in a quick trip to Babington House when I was five months pregnant) but I knew I wanted to carry on holidaying in semi stylish places – the thought of going on an all inclusive package holiday would never even cross my mind.

Does that make me a holiday snob? Probably. But just in the same way I’m happy to shop in Lidl but someone else might only buy organic produce from Waitrose, we all have different things we’re happy to spend money on, right?

But there’s been a change. The all inclusive package holiday has evolved and you can now book holidays to beautiful resorts that will relax and revive you at the same time as keeping your kids deliriously happy.

Ikos Oceania in Halkidiki is one such hotel and the packages you can book through Sovereign Travel to the Greek resort are outstandingly fab. I recently spent a long weekend at Ikos Oceania – but it didn’t feel long enough!

Ikos Oceania review

As soon as I walked into the hotel lobby (after being whisked from the airport in my complimentary transfer, organised by Sovereign Travel), I felt calm. The reception and bar areas have pale floors and walls, sheer white fabric hanging by the large windows and gorgeous pale blue chairs and sofas with beautiful flowers everywhere. It had a chilled out vibe, similar to a spa, and set the tone for the whole hotel.

Ikos Oceania review

I stayed in a one bedroom deluxe suite, which was huge and had a separate living room area with large sliding doors leading out to the sea view terrace. The large bedroom also had a door leading out to the terrace, as well as lots of wardrobe space and (pause for effect) the comfiest pillows I think I have ever slept on. I’m not even kidding. If I could have smuggled one of those bad boys out of the hotel, in my suitcase, I would have been tempted.

Ikos Oceania bedroom

Ikos Oceania review

Ikos Oceania pool area

The view from my room was breathtaking – vivid purple flowers, the pool area and the sea. As well as the pool near my room, there’s a main pool – an infinity pool, no less, which looks out to the sea, and an indoor pool by the spa area. Oh the spa! If the hotel lobby has chilled out vibes, the spa is zen-like. You can head to the spa to sit by their pool, perhaps read a book while the relaxing music plays gently in the background. You can also book treatments at an extra cost… I highly recommend the back, neck and shoulder massage.

Ikos Oceania review

Just hanging out, casually, in the infinity pool

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Polurrian Bay Hotel, Cornwall: Totally Worth The Journey

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It’s a little while since our stay at the Polurrian Bay Hotel in Cornwall, and spending an evening looking through my photos from our stay has made me think one thing:

When can we go back?

I’ll be honest and say that before we went, I wasn’t sure what to expect (I don’t think the website does the hotel justice) and I was worried that no hotel would be worth the mammoth journey down to the depths of Cornwall. But as soon as we had arrived and settled into our room, I knew. I knew it was worth the journey. In fact, I’d honestly say that even if you lived in the Highlands of Scotland, it would be worth the journey.

Built over 100 years ago, after the original hotel burnt to the ground, the Polurrian Bay Hotel is on a cliff, high above the beach on the Lizard Peninsula. The decor is fabulous – all mid-century shapes and bright pops of colour. The thing that really makes it is the fairly newly renovated Vista Lounge. Until a few years ago, the lounge area was fairly small (but stylish). But now! Now you walk down some stairs, where the original room stopped, and into a large airy lounge with floor to ceiling windows. It’s breathtaking! But as well as being super stylish and a relaxing place to sit with a cuppa by the log burner, it’s completely child friendly, with a dolls house and train set ready to be played with.

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It was chilly while we were there, but in the summer, I’m told the doors are often open and guests spill out onto the patio. There’s no bar at the Polurrian, but you don’t have to be sitting in the lounge for long before a member of staff pops up to ask you what you’d like. Oh and the staff are so friendly! While we were there, they couldn’t do enough for us. One waiter even remembered that the four-year-old hadn’t eaten the tartare sauce that came with her (posh) fish fingers one night. The next evening, he left the tartare sauce off the plate and brought her tomato ketchup instead. She loved that he remembered!

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the kids’ fish fingers, chips and peas – WITH tartare sauce on night one!

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The kids’ meals all come with a complimentary starter of carrot sticks, cucumber, bread sticks and humous. To be honest, the four-year-old ate the cucumber and left the rest but hotels and restaurants that give a healthy starter to kids always get the thumbs up from me.

The rooms are simple and chic, with neutral tones and splashes of colour. We had a gorgeous corner room which had views out to the sea on both sides. It was amazing to wake up to, every morning, and even though the room was small, the view made it feel so much bigger….

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The Lavender House: My Favourite Cafe In Bromley

I probably don’t talk about it enough, but I *heart* my local area. Bromley is such a brilliant place to live – in my 20s, I loved it because it has fab shops and it’s only 20/30 minutes from Central London by train (last train home is 00.48 meaning PLENTY time for drinking wine in Soho pubs after work). Now I have a family, I see it through different eyes. It’s a safe area, there are excellent schools, an abundance of child-friendly restaurants, an ace leisure centre and plenty of baby groups and classes.

One of my favourite things about Bromley is a little cafe called The Lavender House on Plaistow Lane. Everything from its bright purple exterior, to the garden area, to the warmth you feel as you walk inside is welcoming.

The Lavender House, Bromley

Lavender House

We probably go to The Lavender House at least once a fortnight – the four-year-old loves the kids’ lunch boxes and the big basket of books and toys at the back of the cafe. Owner Niki is so friendly – she knows all the regulars and always makes time to chat, no matter how busy the cafe is. The decor is modern-country-cottage with wooden floorboards and floral bunting.

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But as well as how child-friendly The Lavender House is (see the high chair in the photo above and there are crayons and colouring sheets on the dresser) the food is fantastic. It’s really hard to pop in for a coffee and not buy one of their cakes. They recently started opening on a Sunday, serving brunch and I’m not even lying when I say the eggs benedict is the nicest I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve tasted a lot of eggs benedict….

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A Heavenly Week With The Family At Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa

Review of Beaches Turks and Caicos

A couple of months ago, I’d never heard of Beaches. I’d heard of the parent company Sandals (everyone has heard of them and those romantic couples holidays, right?) But I had no idea the same company also has three resorts, aimed at everyone, called Beaches. Fast forward to now, and not only have I been on a Beaches holiday but it’s safe to say, I’ve had one of the best holidays of my life at a Beaches resort.

I recently spent a week at the Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Village & Spa with Mr P and the four-year-old. All three of us loved it and we’d thoroughly recommend it to any family. Here’s why…

Who we went with

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having lunch in one of the pizza restaurants

Our travel buddies were Katie, Mr E, Mads and LL – better known as the family from Mummy, Daddy And Me Makes Three. I work with Katie on family travel blog Space In Your Case, and we were both invited by Beaches to stay at their Turks & Caicos resort. (You should have SEEN us dance around when we received the email. We were at the Clarks press day and Katie actually did a lap of the room.)

The four-year-old loved having two little play buddies for the week, and Mr P and Mr E got on well too. Thankfully. Would have been a bit awkward, otherwise. You can read what Katie had to say about our stay here and here (and watch her fab videos.)

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How we got there

We flew from Heathrow to Miami (just under ten hours) with American Airlines, then after a four hour wait in Miami Airport, we hopped on a short American Airlines flight (1 hr 20) to Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The journey was thankfully smooth and all of the kids coped so well with the long day. Before we went, I was genuinely a bit stressed about the flight, wondering how I’d possibly entertain my four-year-old for ten hours (never mind the five hours after that). I didn’t like to go on about it at the time, for fear of getting lots of “Oh poor YOU, worried about how you’ll cope on the long journey to the CARIBBEAN” responses, but I was genuinely worried.

So it was such a relief to find the journey was actually fine. It’s six years since I’ve done a transatlantic flight and in that time, I’m amazed at how in-flight entertainment has improved. We had a touch screen TV with dozens of movies and TV shows to choose from. The four-year-old watched Frozen, Tangled, a few episodes of Sofia the First and listened to a Disney music album. We also each had a plug socket and USB socket too, meaning we could charge iPhones and iPads. Such a brilliant feature when you’re on a long flight and might lose power.

By the time we got to Miami Airport, the girls were as thick as thieves, running around together and playing games on the iPad. Only fighting a little bit (ahem) over whose turn it was.

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a couple of iPhone snaps i took of Mads and the four-year-old at Miami Airport

When we got to Providenciales, the kids had been awake for 22 hours so I think they deserve a medal for being so brilliant. There wasn’t a medal waiting at the airport, but there was a chauffeur driven car which whisked us away on the 15 minute drive to the Beaches resort, and as we got out of the car, we were given a cold wet flannel and welcome drink. They sure know how to make a weary traveller feel happy….

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