One-stop-shop family holidays

  • The family holiday combines those 2 most precious of commodities – time and children. So finding that fabled retreat which has it all – a one-stop-shop for parents and kids alike – represents the Holy Grail for many families. Our Kids Collection Editor Nadine sought out these 10 glittering treasure troves…

    Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy

    Borgo Egnazia

    The perfect mix of style, sun and (4!) swimming pools, and all less than an hour from Bari or Brindisi airports so that you can fly and flop; we defy any family not to have a blast at Borgo Egnazia. Children adore the superb kids’ club (free for over 3s), and there’s a vast kids’ pool plus an excellent playground with a trampoline. There’s more than enough to satisfy adults, too: 4 restaurants, an award-winning destination spa, tennis courts, a golf course next door… And you’re just a free 10-minute shuttle ride from the beach club!

    Villas Martinhal, Algarve, Portugal

    Villas Martinhal

    These contemporary resort-based villas cater for all sizes and budgets, so they work brilliantly for families of every stripe. The kids’ clubs cater for all, too, from 6 months in the crèche to 16 years in the Adventure Club. Tech-driven teens have their own video-game room, and the tennis and football academies and Junior Lifeguard courses are popular with older kids. All children over 2 receive a hat and goodie bag on arrival, and you can pre-book must-have baby or toddler equipment to reduce packing. The villas themselves offer the flexibility of self-catering in swanky kitchens, but there are 3 restaurants should you not want to cook. There’s also a small spa, and you’re just 2 minutes from a sandy beach with heaps of watersports.

    Round Hill, Montego Bay, Jamaica

    Round Hill

    Indulge yourselves with some old-school glamour and new-world hospitality at this elegant resort. Set in 100 tropical acres that cascade down to the sea, it has a mix of villas and cottages, a choice of restaurants (complete with kid-friendly fare), and an infinity pool with a shallow end. Kids will delight in the private sandy beach, wading pool, outdoor playground and glass-bottomed boat trips, and the free kids’ clubs mean adults can treat themselves to windsurfing, snorkelling, tennis, cycling, yachting and massages while their little darlings are having the time of their lives. There are even themed family nights with Jamaican beach barbecues. Irie!

    Alpaga, Megeve, French Alps


    For the ultimate in Alpine chic, together with Michelin-starred dining and an exclusive spa, head to Alpaga. All accommodation options can take a baby cot, and the suites have bunk beds or twin rooms for children; there are also chalets for extended families, with plenty of communal space and a separate apartment for friends or teens. And for those who may not appreciate the tour de force gastronomy in La Table, there’s a more informal restaurant with a kids’ menu. As for fashionable Megeve, it’s a tremendous resort for winter sports and also makes a great destination in the summer months, when paragliding, hot-air ballooning, hiking, rafting, rock climbing and canyoning will thrill teens who think they’ve done it all.

    Country Kids, Languedoc, France

    Country Kids

    This laid-back farm turned all-inclusive retreat in rural France is the ideal place to bring your young family – the winner of our ‘Best for Babies & Toddlers Award 2014’, no less! Many return year after year to enjoy the petting farm, pools, mini-golf, playground, sandpit, trampolines and treehouse, and the 2-5-bedroom apartments all have terraces. Everything is included in the rates: the kids’ club (6 days a week), the ‘Big Kids’ programme for over 6s (summer only), 2 nights of babysitting, and even a Friday morning PJ party so parents can have a much-needed lie-in! There’s a pleasing emphasis on adult pampering, too: tennis lessons, wine tasting, daily housekeeping, spa treatments…

    Ekies All Senses Resort, Chalkidiki, Greece

    Ekies All Senses Resort

    Adults and children alike will feel rejuvenated after a stay at this playful retreat, set on a secluded bay on the Sithonia peninsula. There’s a superb holistic spa, a playground with swings, Family Suites, and blissful Coco-Mat mattresses for a sound night’s sleep. The beach is safe and shallow, and there are bikes to borrow for exploration. You also have a choice of restaurants, plus an organic juice bar by the palm-fringed pool – ideal for chilling while keeping an eye on the kids.

    Hotel Barcelo La Bobadilla, Andalucia, Spain

    Hotel Barcelo La Bobadilla

    Some reckon this is the finest country hotel in the region. No wonder, if you consider the show-stopper lagoon-style pool, opulent spa complex, stables, tennis courts and extensive grounds. The free summer-holiday kids’ club might take youngsters to meet the farm animals or off on a guided pony ride, and the plush suites are super-comfortable (if not the latest word in cutting-edge chic). Eat in one of 3 restaurants, with a good children’s menu of perennial favourites such as spaghetti, chicken and sausages. Book now for discounted rates over the summer holidays.

    Aman Sveti Stefan, near Budva, Montenegro

    Aman Sveti Stefan

    So much more than a beach resort! You’ll be treated to the most memorable of holidays at this flawlessly designed hotel, spread across a Unesco-listed island and a former royal palace in relatively undiscovered Montenegro. Adventurous older children and teens can climb mountains, sail the Adriatic or spot birds on Lake Skadar; for those of a more relaxed disposition, there are sandy beaches and 3 stunning pools. The Aman Spa defines indulgence for quality time when the kids are off on treasure hunts, making pizzas or practising yoga (there’s a weekly schedule of activities), and child-friendly food is offered at all mealtimes. Best of all, those under 12 stay free!

    Pimalai, Koh Lanta, Thailand


    For those after laid-back luxury, wonderful service and top-notch pampering in an exotic setting, Pimalai fits the bill perfectly. You’ll find a gorgeous jungle spa (stay before 31 October for a 20% spa discount), 4 restaurants (with an award-winning wine list), and beautiful grounds made for romantic strolls. If all that doesn’t sound very family-friendly, think again: there’s a kids’ pool, a large sandy beach, free snorkelling and scuba diving, a games room, and villas and suites in 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom configurations. From May to October there’s also a complimentary toddler day-care room, and a playroom with toys is available for 4-8 year-olds. Note that some areas of the resort only permit children over 12.

    Anassa, near Polis, Cyprus


    Under an hour from Paphos airport, on the northwest coast of the sunniest island in the Med, is this stellar beachside resort. It delivers on the one-stop-shop in spades: you’ll luxuriate in airy accommodation, feast on sumptuous buffet breakfasts and seafood grills (yes, there’s a kids’ menu), and make the most of superlative childcare at the kids’ clubs (including dolls houses and play kitchens for the little ones, and fun activities such as water polo, origami, bowling and air hockey for older children). The terrific watersports centre will have you all sailing, windsurfing, jet skiing and diving to your heart’s content; back on dry land, opt for tennis, mountain biking or blissing out in the uber-swish spa.  The prices can be pretty uber, too, so take note of the special offers: free half-board for kids, a free room for kids if you stay 5+ nights, and a 10% discount over the summer holidays if you book by 30 April.

    Discover other gems in our Kids Collection >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Our Favourite.... Tagged , , ,

Escape of the Week… Primero Primera

  • Popular with second-time visitors and those seeking a peaceful home-from-home in a hectic city, Primero Primera is an elegant 30-room boutique hotel set a short metro or taxi hop from downtown Barcelona.

    Primero Primera

    The friendly staff are full of insider tips on how to get the best out of your break, and there’s a quirky city map sketched on the wall of the library featuring all the must-see sights alongside others you might not have heard about. If you need a rest from pounding the streets, the small outdoor pool is perfect for a cooling dip.

    Primero Primera

    Rooms: The rooms are beautifully styled and come with all the little luxuries you’d expect: deep armchairs, rain showers, Gilchrist & Soames toiletries and big TVs. Black-out blinds, a pillow menu, crisp linens and absolute peace ensure you’re in for a great night’s sleep. We loved our spacious 4th-floor Superior Room, especially the blond parquet floor and the private terrace – great for alfresco room-service meals. The small 3rd-floor Standard Room would be perfect if you’re just after somewhere to lay your head rather than a place to spend a lot of time, while the attic rooms are wonderfully romantic. Families and those who want a bit of extra space should choose the Junior Suites, Suites and apartments.

    Primero Primera

    Food: Breakfast is a relaxed affair. Guests can help themselves from a big buffet of fresh fruit and juices, platters of cured meats and cheeses, pastries and jam, and quince and cheese on cocktail sticks; a few extra euros will get you hot options like sausages and scrambled eggs. Simple meals such as Iberian meats and cheeses, roast chicken and a cake of the day are available from the café/restaurant, which is open until 11pm. If you’d like to dine out, the lovely staff recommend local restaurants such as A Contraluz, a garden eatery serving Mediterranean and Catalan specialities, and Montesquieu, a tapas bar a short walk away.

    Primero Primera

    Author’s tip: Families will enjoy Tibidabo Park, a 100-year-old amusement park with rides, street theatre and great views over the city.


    Press review: “Uptown in the smart, leafy neighbourhood of Tres Torres, this modestly priced hotel is a great little find. Built as a private home in 1955, it is split into two distinct spaces by a covered entrance inspired by old carriage houses. On one side there’s a wood-panelled reception arranged around a swirling Art Deco staircase, a small gym and a plush sitting room with damask sofas, antique rugs, card tables and a drinks trolley. On the other is a casual restaurant with oak floor boards, white-painted brick walls, crushed-velvet sofas and leather armchairs.”
    Conde Nast Traveller (UK), September 2014

    i-escape gift: a welcome glass of Cava or wine.

    Read the full review and book Primero Primera >>

    Posted in City Breaks, Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,

i-escape’s family travel plans 2015 (part 2)

  • Editor Liz is up next in our 2015 family travel plans series…

    When Saphie was 5 weeks old, we took her to The Beckford Arms for a night. We were pretty daunted beforehand, but she was amazing (having her bath in an enormous clawfoot tub, sleeping in a sling on my husband Jon’s chest as we had dinner in the restaurant), and it was a really liberating and lovely experience. So during the first year of her life, we went on lots of Euro hops and jaunts around the UK, and we’re always planning more!

    Room 7, The Beckford Arms

    Room 7, The Beckford Arms

    We tend to be quite last-minute about our holidays and go on a few mini adventures throughout the year rather than one big trip; that’s the beauty of having a little one and not having to limit ourselves to school holidays. So at the moment we only have one definite plan for 2015, and the rest are just pipedreams.

    The Crutchlow family

    The definite plan is Bilbao for 4 nights at the start of May, which we are super-excited about. Jon and I have always wanted to see the Basque region of Spain, and now that EasyJet are flying from Bristol, it’s a really easy trip. We’ve chosen to stay in an apartment while we’re there as we love the mix of self-catering a few meals and going out for a few nice ‘treat’ meals. It also means we get lots of room so Saphie can toddle around, and somewhere nice to hang out in the evenings once she’s in bed.


    We’re really looking forward to visiting the Guggenheim, strolling along the river, and trying pintxos (the Basque version of tapas). It will be interesting to see what Saphie makes of new flavours like duck breast with orange, and cherries stuffed with blue cheese (I suspect a lot of it will be thrown on the floor!).

    We’re planning a day trip to San Sebastián while we’re there; the gastronomic capital of Spain. I’m thinking a stroll around the Old Town, a nice lunch out, then an afternoon on beautiful La Concha beach so Saphie can bucket and spade in the sand and play in the shallows.

    San Sebastian

    San Sebastian

    Back in the UK, I’m dreaming of a trip to Cornwall, and a couple of nights at The Rosevine.

    Manare, The Rosevine

    Manare, The Rosevine

    This gorgeous apartment hotel looks like a real treat for all 3 of us. For Saph, there’s a big playroom, an indoor pool, a massive garden, and a sandy beach a toddle away. For Jon and I, there’s a modern British restaurant (we’ll pack our baby monitor and ‘dine out’) and a bar serving perfect G&Ts! I love the stylish rooms and relaxing sea views.

    Food at The Rosevine

    We’re also debating a trip to Scotland, but are torn between the practicalities. Driving (positives: independence, being able to pack the car full, stopping at the Lake District on the way up; negatives: Saphie gets bored in her car seat after 20 minutes!) vs flying to Glasgow then driving around. When we eventually wrangle out the details, we love the look of Monachyle Mhor – a family-run gourmet bolthole in the Highlands.

    Monachyle Mhor

    Monachyle Mhor

    The stunning Trossachs National Park is on the doorstep so we’ll go walking with Saphie in a backpack, and there’s lots of wildlife for her to excitedly point at. We’ll also go to Skye for a long weekend with friends – the scenery looks stupendous.


    Other things we’re tempted by? So many! I love the look of Menorca, would return like a shot to family-friendly Catalonia, and Palmizana in Croatia is a long-held dream…



    Take a look at Head of Bookings Kate’s plans here >>
    Find out where Marketing Assistant Anna is planning to escape to >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Our Favourite..., Travel Tips. Tagged , ,

Top 5 mobile-free UK boltholes

  • Bzzzzzzz. Beep beep. Ding dong. Does your life (like ours) seem to be accompanied by an irritating soundtrack of incoming emails and messages? If you need to get away from it all, book a peaceful stay at one of these spots where mobile reception is patchy at best, and leave your phone at the door…

    The Talbot, Mells, Somerset

    The Talbot

    If this stunning country pub did have a signal, we’d still want to throw away our phones. With wonderfully friendly staff and a cosy welcoming bar, you’ll find all the company you’ll need. If you’re after full escapism, we suggest you borrow some wellies and head across the cobbled courtyard to explore the stunning Somerset countryside around pretty Mells – just be sure to get back in time to enjoy some delicious local fare in the restaurant.

    Cartshed Cottages, near Holt, North Norfolk

    Cartshed Cottages

    Nestled in a tiny hamlet near the beautiful North Norfolk coast, these chic self-catering cottages are the kind of place you’ll wish to be stranded. From the soothing colour palette of the décor to the lavender-scented terraces, every aspect is geared towards luxurious relaxation. Head out for lung-fulls of fresh sea air on the wide sandy beaches, tuck into super-fresh seafood, and return for a long soak in a roll-top bath before sinking into your heavenly bed. Work? What’s work?

    Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland, County Durham

    Lord Crewe Arms

    This ancient coaching inn is so wonderfully remote that your mobile won’t work inside or out. Bliss. It’s set in a pretty Pennine village, and it’d be a crime not to pull on your walking boots and set out, OS map and compass (provided in every room) in hand, to hike the North Pennines or stroll along the river banks from the hotel. It’s definitely worth walking up a good appetite so you can fill up on the delicious food: we loved the fried duck egg with spiced brown shrimp butter, the roasted Weardale grouse, and the Sunday lunch sharing feasts. And who needs technology when you can while away an afternoon by the fire with a good old-fashioned board game?

    Weeke Barton, Devon, southwest England

    Weeke Barton

    Near-total silence awaits you at this homely B&B on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. It’s surrounded by green hills in every direction, and you’re sure to have a peaceful night’s sleep with only the distant sound of braying cattle to wake you. With no TV or phone signal, it’s refreshing to switch off the gadgets and enjoy a good old chat with other guests around the vast candlelit dining table. During our stay we feasted on venison and juniper pie with delicate buttered greens, followed by a comforting apple and vanilla crumble with blackberry-infused clotted cream. Good food. Good wine. Good conversation. Good times.

    Augill Castle, near Brough, Cumbria

    Augill Castle

    On the edge of the grandly impressive Pennines sits this ostentatious Victorian folly, built in a moment of showy one-upmanship between two brothers. Today a 15-room B&B, it retains all of the frills and decadence of its original form: think turrets, ornate lattice windows and castellated towers. But despite the pomp of its appearance, it’s a relaxed and welcoming bolthole and offers some of the most unspoilt walking in the UK. If that sounds a little challenging, there’s always afternoon tea and croquet on the lawn.

    Search for other peaceful boltholes in our UK collection >>

    Posted in Top 5. Tagged , , , , , ,

Escape of the week… Avli Lounge Apartments

  • In need of blissful indulgence? This foodie hotel in Venetian Rethymno on Crete’s north coast has all the ingredients you’ll need: sumptuous suites, creative Cretan cuisine and a romantic rooftop Jacuzzi.

    Executive Suite, Avli Lounge Apartments

    Our favourite time for a romantic escape is the shoulder season (May-June or September-October) when you can escape the crazy crowds but still enjoy sunshine and warm seas.

    Rooftop jacuzzi, Avli Lounge Apartments

    Rooms: The suites are housed in a trio of 16th-century buildings, in which traditional beamed ceilings and stone walls sit alongside flamboyant chandeliers and high-back suede chairs. Junior Suites have open-plan layouts and in-room Jacuzzis with indulgent oils and creams, while the less ornate (but no less lovely) Executive Suites are furnished with leather sofas and calming whitewashed walls. The candy-themed Standard and Superior Doubles are much simpler (and brighter!) and therefore more affordable.

    Executive Suite, Avli Lounge Apartments

    Food: This is what it’s all about! The beautiful garden restaurant is a wonderfully romantic setting for your meals. We love the local proverb, ‘Shame on he who gets up and does not immediately fill his belly’, and who wouldn’t want to fill up on the homemade bread, jams and cakes, freshly made rice pudding and traditional Cretan omelettes filled with smoked pork and baby zucchini? Come dinner time, the innovative Cretan menu delighted us: skewered shrimps with avocado, lime and parsley then rabbit and spring onion pie.

    Avli Lounge Apartments' restaurant

    Top tip: Don’t expect too much from Rethymno’s beach; Crete’s north-coast beaches are generally commercial and overcrowded. Instead, hire a car and head for the blissful, wild, naturist-friendly south coast.


    Customer review: “We were upgraded the second night, so we saw the standard room and the suites. It is well worth while to book a suite if you can. The jacuzzi on the roof is heavenly. The manager was charming and the breakfast incredible. The restaurant is lovely – we also liked the bar/cafe round the corner, also owned by Avli. Rethymno is fun and very pretty. Prima Plora was a good fish restaurant at the end of the marina (follow the shore west from the fortress and old city).”
    Natalie, United Kingdom (18.08.14)

    i-escape gift: free soft drinks and local nuts

    Read the full review and book Avli Lounge Apartments >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , , , ,

i-escape’s family travel plans 2015

  • 2014 was an i-escape baby boom: we welcomed 3 little ones, who have all recently turned one. Bundles of toddler energy, it’s no surprise that all 3 sets of parents are very ready for their 2015 holidays!

    The first to share her plans is Head of Bookings, Kate, who is mum to Flynn, 4 and Jori, 1


    Our 2015 plans are the last for many years that won’t be dictated by school holidays. We’d usually take a late summer holiday in September when the crowds have all left and the temperatures have cooled, but this year that month will be fraught with starting-school-shenanigans for my 4-year-old. So, we’re off to our long-term favourite Muxima in June.


    This will be our 3rd visit to this colourful eco-retreat in sunny Portugal, which might sound boring but we LOVE it here – the beauty is in not having to waste time finding shops, the best beaches and child-friendly places to eat. As my kids get older we’ll certainly travel further afield, but, for now, short flights and an easy drive are worth their weight in gold.


    My oldest is full of excitement about going back to see Jorge, Sofia and their 2 boys, who he adores. He cannot wait to see the pig, donkey, goat, dogs and chickens. And after drab winter mornings learning to swim at the local leisure centre, he is full of chat about swimming with the frogs in Muxima’s natural pool.


    The highlights for Chris and I are the easy-going warmth of Sofia, Jorge’s delicious homemade breakfast cakes, the stunning empty beaches, and the rustic charm of the local area. We cannot wait to introduce Jori to it all; very adventurous, he’s sure to love it. And on a practical level, he’ll be all set up with a travel cot and high chair (the less stuff we have to cart with us, the better).


    It’s easy to be self-sufficient at Muxima: lazing by the pool, watching the kids play with other little guests in the small playground, and cooking up local fresh food in our kitchenette. Day trips are a cinch, too, driving 15 minutes to beaches and estuaries then enjoying grilled sardines, cataplanas (a Portuguese version of paella) and pasteis de nata with a cold vino verde at surfer cafes as the sun sets. Sandy feet, a dusty car, happy kids = happy days!


    I’ll be planning our 2016 holidays by Christmas, because in order to get the place you want at the right rates in the school holidays, you need to book early. We’d like to take the kids to Greece. Chris and I did a lot of island hopping in our 20s, and we loved the quieter islands, accessible only by ferry or hydrofoil, where the pace of life is slow. Onar looks to be the ideal getaway for us. Secluded, quiet, and with easy access to fantastic beaches.

    Casas do Coro

    Casas do Coro

    Alternatively, as flights to Portugal are cheap, we might try exploring a different region. We love the look of Casas do Coro, which we could link up with a short stay in Porto. Each apartment is set up for maximum privacy but they are very welcoming of families, and we’ve heard wonderful things about the restaurant’s food. Whilst I love a beach holiday, Flynn would like to explore mountains, so maybe it’s time for a change of scenery…? Watch this space.

    Read Editor Liz’s plans here >>
    Find out what Marketing Assistant Anna has got planned >>

    Take a peek at Muxima and the rest of our hand-picked Kids Collection >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Our Favourite..., Travel Tips. Tagged , , , , ,

Easy Escapes for April

  • Everyone at i-escape loves an excuse to unwind, so this week we’ve chosen super-easy, great-value getaways to bring about inner peace and tranquillity.

    No need to thank us; all you have to do is book*. Secure your accommodation through i-escape, then follow our recommendations for travel, and voila! It’s time to start packing.

    The Cornish Coast is Calling – £190 per person (3 nights, 17-20 April 2015)

    The Old Quay House

    The Old Quay House

    An early spring break allows you to enjoy Cornwall’s beautiful coastline without the crowds. Head to Fowey, where glorious views of its famous estuary can be seen from the ruins of St Catherine’s Castle. Back in the village, browse the boutiques, stopping along the way for Cornish pasties and cream teas.

    The Old Quay House

    The Old Quay House

    Stay: at The Old Quay House, a serene little seafront hotel with delicious food and kind staff. Grab the 3 nights for 2 offer and a 3-night B&B stay in a Classic Room comes to just £190 per person, including taxes.

    Total cost: £190 per person, including taxes.

    More info: Getting to Cornwall and other accommodation options

    Calm Catalonia – £309.68 per person, (5 nights, 10-15 April 2015)

    Rectoria de Regencos

    Rectoria de Regencos

    Catalonia offers oodles of culture and tranquillity, from the fascinating Dali Triangle to the sleepy medieval villages and charming coastal towns. Spring is perfect for leisurely cycle rides around the countryside and browsing La Bisbal’s antique shops and markets.

    Rectoria de Regencos

    Rectoria de Regencos

    Stay: at monastic Rectoria de Regencos, a former rectory with free bike hire and a pretty walled garden. We’re exclusively offering 5 nights for the price of 4, making a 5-night B&B stay just £203 per person, including taxes.

    Fly: From Bristol to Gerona with Ryanair for £97 per person, departing Friday 10 April and returning Wednesday 15 April.

    From the airport: You’ll need a car to reach restaurants during your stay (there are none in the village). Car hire through Rhino starts from £19.35.

    Total cost: £309.68 per person, including taxes.

    More info: Getting to Catalonia and other accommodation options

    Zone-out in Zanzibar – £737.50 per person, (7 nights, 19-25 April 2015)

    Dhow Inn

    Dhow Inn

    Zanzibar’s tropical southeast coast is home to the dusty village of Paje, an unassuming world-class kitesurfing destination! The area also has great snorkelling, scuba diving, game fishing and bottle nose and humpback dolphin watching.

    Dhow Inn

    Dhow Inn

    Stay: at Dhow Inn, a laid-back and contemporary hideaway, a minute’s walk from a white-sand beach. Our exclusive 30% discount makes a 7-night half-board stay just £287 per person, including taxes.

    Fly: from Heathrow to Zanzibar with Ethiopian Airlines (via Ethiopia) for £422 per person, departing Saturday 18 April (overnight flight arriving Sunday 19 April) and returning Sunday 26 April (overnight flight arriving Monday 27 April).

    From the airport: the hotel offers £57 return transfers – much easier than driving.

    Total cost: £737.50 per person, including taxes.

    More info: Getting to Zanzibar and other accommodation options

    *Please note that only the accommodation may be booked through i-escape.com. The information on travel is provided as a service to you, and must be booked through other websites, as indicated. All prices and availability are correct at the time of publishing. The per person prices are based on 2 people in a double/twin room or an apartment for 2. Published on 25 March 2015.

    Posted in Easy Escapes. Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Escape of the Week… Hotel V Frederiksplein

  • ‘Well-priced’ and ‘central’ are not descriptions that often co-exist when talking about hotels, but Amsterdam’s Hotel V Frederiksplein also manages to throw ‘stylish’ and ‘friendly’ into the mix. Set on the edge of Amsterdam’s horseshoe of canals, just a couple of stops from the museum district, it’s the perfect springboard into this vibrant city.

    Hotel V Frederiksplein

    The bigger sister to Hotel V Nesplein, Frederiksplein shows off the 19th-century building’s history while stamping its own distinct style on the interiors (hence the stunning round copper fireplace in the lobby).

    Hotel V Frederiksplein

    Rooms: The high-ceilinged lobby sets the tone for the 54 rooms, which all champion a minimalist but carefully curated aesthetic. There’s a pleasant purity to the exposed brickwork and distinct furniture, and large windows mean all rooms feel bright and breezy. Size can vary greatly, but this is reflected in the price. The recent addition of the V Lofts (each with its own lounge and kitchen) provides an option for those looking to spread out a bit more.

    Hotel V Frederiksplein

    Food: In the morning, the drinks bar takes on the role of breakfast buffet. It’s lined with meats, cheeses, and baskets of croissants and pains au chocolat, plus big bowls of apples, oranges, kiwis and tomatoes – an ample selection for those looking to bolster their bellies ahead of a long day of museum-hopping. For other meals you’ll have to venture out, but that’s no chore considering the numerous eateries just a couple of bridges away. Of course, if you plump for a V Loft, you’ll have a handy private kitchen for whipping up snacks or light meals.

    Hotel V Frederiksplein

    When to go: Spring is the best time to visit Amsterdam. The tulips are out, the days are often sunny, and the crowds have not yet descended. That said, there is a great buzz in the city during the summer months.

    Hotel V Frederiksplein

    Customer Review: “The team were great and the hotel is in a perfect location to de Pijp, Fashion and Museum District and Dam Square. The hotel team are friendly and helpful, the rooms are excellent. We had a fabulous New Year and I would recommend this hotel to anyone.”
    Diana, United Kingdom (01.01.15)

    See the full review or read about blogger Wild & Grizzly’s recent visit

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , , ,

Meet our Bloggers: Lori of Wild & Grizzly

  • profileAfter introductions to Fritha from TigerlillyQuinn and Lucy from Dear Beautiful, we now welcome Lori from the lovely blog Wild & Grizzly.

    Lori is the next in line of our small selection of fantastic family and lifestyle bloggers who will be joining us to explore the i-escape collection. In fact, you can read about her recent i-escape trips to Amsterdam and Berlin on her blog.

    Your blog in one sentence…

    “Wild & Grizzly is a UK lifestyle blog where mama meets cool. It’s inspired by design, travel, interiors and style, while exploring the wilds of motherhood.”

    Wild & Grizzly

    Wild & Grizzly

    What kicked it all off?

    “I started Wild & Grizzly as a place to document my adventures with my son F and to create a space to share things that inspire me. It’s a collection of thoughts and memories which tell our story.”

    When picking a break, what are the top three things you look for in a destination?

    “I always look outside the box. I try to avoid the usual tourist traps and search for something that little bit special, whether it’s staying in a well-designed boutique hotel or apartment, or travelling to an unusual destination which most people might not think to visit with kids. For me, the location has to have a combination of style, culture and good food.”

    Wild & Grizzly

    Wild & Grizzly

    What destination is high on your hitlist for 2015?

    “I always write a wishlist at the beginning of the year to give me inspiration and set myself some travel goals. At the top for 2015 are Berlin for a fun city break; Reykjavik for a wild cultural adventure and natural beauty; Croatia or Montenegro for stunning unspoilt coastlines; San Francisco for a sunny stateside holiday with a creative edge; and Palm Springs for classic modernist design and the Joshua Tree National Park.”

    If you could pack your bags for any i-escape hotel, where would you go?

    “For relaxation I would have to pick Post Ranch Inn in California and for city excitement, I would head to New York and the stunning Greenwich Hotel“.

    Post Ranch Inn

    Post Ranch Inn

    If you could only visit one country for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

    “Oh this is a hard question! I travelled quite a bit as a child and have visited a lot of places, each offering something different. I think I would have to choose somewhere like America or Canada, as they’re so big you really could spend your whole life travelling and exploring. But as a romantic at heart, I think Italy would be a lovely place to spend my days!”

    What’s your earliest travel memory?

    “As a child we were constantly travelling and I spent my first three years living in Perth, Australia, before heading back to the UK. My parents were huge fans of island life and we visited Mallorca most years, so I have very fond memories of it. My earliest memory of Australia was paddling and playing with my dad in Kings Park.”

    Lori in Amsterdam

    Wild & Grizzly in Amsterdam

    What’re the essential items in your suitcase?

    “Sun cream, sunglasses, an oversized handbag, a good book and my portable iPhone charger.”

    Any top tips for stress-free travel with the kids?

    “Be prepared. Take puzzles and sticker books for the journey, and allow yourself time to go slowly. If travelling somewhere hot, I always try to break the day down into two parts – one half exploring with F, and the second half relaxing and letting him go at his own pace as the heat can be overwhelming.”

    Take a look at Lori’s blog or read our Q&As with Fritha and Lucy

    Posted in Family Travel, Guest Blogs, Kids. Tagged , , , , , ,

Just Back From… Belgium, with the kid!

  • Each year, I take a holiday with my 7-year-old daughter Esme so she gets quality time with Mama away from her (sometimes annoying) little brother. For February half-term we resolved to take the Eurostar to Belgium. And what a breeze it was!

    Esme in Belgium

    Esme in Belgium

    We had never been to Belgium before but I sold the trip to her on the promise of chocolat, frites and gaufres (Belgian waffles). I also knew she wasn’t entirely adverse to a bit of sightseeing and history thrown into the mix. So, just 2 hours after leaving St Pancras, we arrived in Gare de Bruxelles-Midi. No queues, no hassle, and comfy seats with plenty of leg room; we are enthusiastic advocates for Eurostar!

    Gaufres Chaudes van

    Gaufres Chaudes van

    From Bruxelles-Midi we took a quick Metro ride to our first hotel, Made in Louise, just to the south of the historic centre. Immaculately run by an engaging brother (Martin) and sister (Melanie) team, the hotel’s turn of the century exterior holds 48 rooms (ours had an original fireplace), an extensive honesty bar area, a pool table and clubby sofas beside a wood-burning stove.

    Made in Louise

    Made in Louise

    Esme was immediately dragged out to sightsee. It was a Sunday and stunning weather so Martin recommended the flea market in the Place du Jeu de Balle, just inside the Petite Ceinture. I had no idea Brussels was such a mecca for retro wares, but to my delight a fabulous ’70s dress soon made itself known to me and a Dutch doll with clogs stole Esme’s heart!

    Flea market in the Place du Jeu de Balle

    Flea market in the Place du Jeu de Balle

    Next, fortified by a chocolate waffle (pleasingly, there’s a yellow waffle van on every touristy corner), we roamed through wonderful side streets groaning with antique shops and Art Nouveau facades towards the UNESCO-listed Grand Place, the heart of the city. Voted Europe’s most beautiful square, for its somehow harmonious marriage of Gothic and Baroque buildings, medieval guilds and gilt, it really took our breath away. The sinking sun glinting on gold ornamentation, the hum and shuffle of tourists wielding their selfie sticks around us, the size of the space.

    Grand Place

    Grand Place

    Nearby is the landmark sculpture of Brussels: the 17th-century bronze of a little naked boy peeing into a fountain – Manneken Pis. I had kept this as a surprise for Esme, just telling her we were going to see something funny. She thought it was quite funny.

    Next day, following a dutiful visit to the suitably imposing and Gothic Cathedral, we took a taxi to see the Atomium. This space-age silver sphere construction is in the shape of an iron crystal many times magnified and was built for the 1958 World Fair, when all were looking to the future. Intended to be a temporary structure, it proved such a hit that it remains open to this day as a museum.



    That night we ate at Le Chou de Bruxelles, a superb Belgian restaurant with no fewer than 30 varieties of moules-frites (book ahead!). Esme gamely ordered moules with her fettucine but decided against the flavour. Thankfully an enormous bowl of ice cream and chocolate sauce presented itself for dessert.

    Le Chou de Bruxelles

    Le Chou de Bruxelles

    For our last full day we changed hotels. Hotel des Galeries’ 19th-century façade is incorporated into the beautiful Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert shopping arcade, just a stone’s throw from Grand Place. Opened only last year, its classy makeover feels refreshing and airy, with a lot of green and yellow, and signature tiles (the architect is also a ceramicist).

    Hotel des Galeries

    Hotel des Galeries

    Next, we went to the Rene Magritte museum. Esme got the message that surrealism was invented to make you think, peering at peculiar associations sometimes with amusement, sometimes with incomprehension. Then we took a train south of the city to the university town of Louvain-la-Neuve, where the fabulous Hergé Museum is located. Purpose-built in 2007 to mark the centenary of the comic strip genius, we absolutely loved the place. You get an audio tour including an exploration of his early life, introduction to Tintin and his fellow characters, and a look at how cinema influenced Hergé. Displays also show how Hergé kept abreast of scientific progress and incorporated it into his drawings. Naturally we spent considerable time and Euros in the shop.

    Hergé Museum

    Hergé Museum

    After a twilight farewell to the Grand Place (most photogenic), our final dinner was at the hotel’s very delicious brasserie-style Le Comptoir des Galeries. It was a great hit with me (black pudding with pickled cauliflower followed by sole meunière), but less so with Esme. Luckily, she perked up in time for dessert, a vast waffle and chocolate tart.

    Le Comptoir des Galeries

    Le Comptoir des Galeries

    The next day, we rolled our wheelies across cobbled streets back to the Eurostar, and London – our boxes of Belgian chocolates safely stowed, of course.

     Check out the rest of our family-friendly Belgium hotels >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Our Trips.... Tagged , , , , , , , , ,