If I recall correctly, we had only actually stayed in a hotel with our children twice before this trip. Once in a nondescript property in the northwest for an overnight family occasion, and once in the Cotswolds on the way back from a week’s holiday.
Trying to manage food, space and sleeping — and, well, everything associated with small children — in a typical hotel room was difficult to imagine. And, besides, we’d figured out that self-catering — villas, cottages, farmhouses, anything — meant we could eat what we want, do what we want and sleep when we want (well, maybe not that) without disturbing other guests or staff.
But after a week last summer in a cottage in Cornwall, mostly in the pouring rain (not that the kids cared), I was keen for what you might call a ‘proper holiday’ — one where it’s sunny and somebody else cooks and there’s a lot of splashing in the pool.
This year we found ourselves on a beautifully secluded stretch of Corfu coastline, with a mountain backdrop and olive groves in abundance. The MarBella Corfu Hotel ticked all the ‘proper holiday’ boxes for me.
The two-bedroom family suite offered everything to allay any fears of sitting in the dark while the children slept — two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a lounge area meant we weren’t tiptoeing around. A stylish and comfortable space, it also offered a generous terrace overlooking the sea.
A glass of Champagne on arrival was more than welcome after a long day on the move. Our six-year-old, Mia, had decided travel sickness would be an all-day highlight, making the journey a little more challenging than expected. That first greeting confirmed the staff’s universal friendliness and helpfulness, which really made a difference to the whole experience.
The fear with a half-board or all-inclusive holiday is that while the food may be an easy and cost-free decision, it’s not always the best decision. No such worries here. La Terraza, the main buffet, offers an excellent and varied array of cuisines, and dinner at Platea Greek was genuinely one of the best meals I’ve had this year.
The main attraction — and Mia spent most of the summer telling everyone about it — was the swimming pools and kids’ splash park. Standing knee-deep in water for most of the week might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but the children were more than delighted to spend all day on the slides. The two more ‘grown-up’ pools — one freshwater, one seawater — are a little calmer, with plenty of loungers and a rather handy poolside bar for a late-afternoon margarita.
The beach is quieter still, with crystal clear azure water. It’s here that many of the resort’s activities are on offer — scuba diving, kayaking, water-skiing and parasailing, to name a few. You’re never going to get bored here. There’s also a yoga room, gym and tennis courts — all of which are widely available but never in your face.
The kids club (ages 4-12) is complimentary and run to Ofsted guidelines, although Mia was more than happy playing with our not-quite-old-enough two-year-old, Dexter.
We could’ve quite easily packed them both off for a few hours of peace! Creche and babysitting services are also available at a price, so there’s always a chance for parents to get a little peace.
If you find time for an excursion, Corfu Town is easily accessible by local bus or taxi and brings some of the island’s history and culture to life. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with architecture dating back to Venetian and British rule.
We ended the week with a massage. Ninety minutes’ escape in the spa centre, with a treatment that sent me straight to sleep — the ideal way to shake off any last doubts about surviving a week in a hotel with
And with weather as consistent and glorious as it was, it’s one to remember for blue skies — a world away from the grey ones we came back to.
How to do it: Classic Collection Holidays offers seven nights at MarBella Corfu Hotel for a family of four from £3,269 half-board. The price is based on two adults and two children sharing a family garden-view room and includes return flights from Gatwick (other UK airports are also available) and private transfers. Depart 28 May 2016.
Published in the Winter 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller Family (UK).