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 Four-Year-Old’s Holiday Wardrobe

Look out the passports. Buy the factor 50 sun cream. Yep, we are on the countdown to a family break to Portugal and the usual giddy planning is taking place. But it struck me a few weeks ago that the four-year-old has had a growth spurt in the last few months, so now half of her summer gear from last year no longer fits. The other half of it is covered in paint/felt tip pen stains. In fact, yesterday she went to pre-school wearing a double whammy – a summer dress that was far too small for her and had black paint stains down the front. Mother of the year, right here.

So it was time to sort out a new summer wardrobe for her. My usual hit list for kidswear is H&M, Marks and Spencer, Mothercare, Tootsa MacGinty and River Island. I also hit Next and spent far too long checking out the swimwear and beachwear from Sunuva.

I love kidswear that looks like kidswear – bright colours, cotton, comfort. I’m not as keen on high fashion or grown-up trends shrunk in size (leather leggings on toddlers make me feel a bit uneasy) and brilliantly, there’s lots of fun kidswear around…

Holiday outfit kidswear

Yellow shorts, part of pack of 3 c/o Mothercare // Blue vest, part of pack of 4, Next // Blue sandals, Little Bird By Jools c/o Mothercare // Sun hat, Marks and Spencer

Little Bird by Jools sandals

Summer 2015 kidswear

Because I’m Happy t-shirt c/o Marie-Chantal // Blue sandals c/o Little Bird By Jools, Mothercare // Floral shorts, part of pack of 3 c/o Mothercare

Summer 2015 kidswear

White shirt c/o RI Kids // Blue smock dress c/o Tootsa MacGinty, Sun hat Marks and Spencer, Blue sandals c/o Little Bird By Jools, Mothercare

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How Would You Spend A Spare £100?

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I love playing imaginary games over coffee like “What would you buy if you won the lottery?” Dreams of buying a swish new house, treating yourself to a new car, going on a couple of luxury holidays a year, buying a posh handbag… What’s a bit harder is thinking what you would spend a spare £100 on. There are almost so many options that I find myself going around in circles and ending up thinking I’d just pop it in the bank.

Would you treat someone you love?

£100 would cover a lunch for two at a restaurant like the Berners Tavern in London or a couple of tickets to see The Book Of Mormon – two of my favourite things to do in London.

Would you treat yourself?

We all need a little R&R sometimes so taking yourself off for a spa day somewhere like Whittlebury Hall. From £89pp you can book their Escape & Spa Stay package which includes an overnight stay and a 25 minute treatment.

Would you give it to charity?

The Nepal Earthquake Appeal is the one that springs to mind, first of all. Hundreds of thousands have lost their homes and over 7000 people have died. Donating money to the appeal would help – a little….

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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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