APR02

Nadine’s top 10 new family-friendly hotels

 
  • We’ve had a flurry of new properties joining our portfolio recently, so we thought it was about time we highlighted 10 of the best additions for families – as chosen by our Kids Collection Editor, Nadine.

    St Mawes Hideaways, Cornwall, UK

    St Mawes Hideaways

    With close proximity to sandy beaches and a wonderful setting overlooking one of Cornwall’s prettiest coastal villages, these four lavishly renovated, spacious self-catering houses will delight families of all sizes. For kids there are trampolines, ping-pong tables, dedicated TV rooms and dressing up boxes; for parents there are spoiling indulgences such as fresh flowers, Cornish hampers, wine fridges and concierge services.

    Country Kids, Languedoc, France

    Country Kids

    The hospitable owners of this former farm go more than the extra mile to welcome families in their 7 self-catering apartments. You get welcome baskets, gourmet teas, and – best of all – an unlimited crèche (from 3 months) as well as an adventurous kids’ club (seasonal), plus twice-weekly babysitting. There’s heaps of baby and toddler equipment, plus a petting farm, tractor rides and two family-friendly pools. Paradise.

    Locanda Rossa, Tuscany, Italy

    Locanda Rossa

    Set close to the coast in the beautiful Maremma region, this traditional farmhouse and its outbuildings have been converted into a hotel and four apartments with private gardens, ideal for families. There’s a Slow Food restaurant, a relaxed vibe, a heated pool (plus a separate infant pool), a playground and a mini-football pitch.

    Ekies All Senses Resort, Chalkidiki, Greece

    Ekies All Senses Resort

    Kids of all ages will have fun at this playful beachside resort set on a safe, tranquil bay with warm, shallow seas. There’s an organic juice bar, a heated saltwater pool, a tree house, a holistic spa, hammocks, a library with toys and games, a playground with swings and a playhouse.

    Saanewald Lodge, near Gstaad, Switzerland

    Saanewald Lodge

    Whether it’s skiing in winter or hiking and biking in summer, families will have a blast at this refurbished 1960s mountain lodge. Half-board rates provide the best value, and the restaurant offers tasty local food and a kids’ menu. Kids under 9 ski for free, and there’s a playroom with a PlayStation, games and DVDs.

    Palazzo Radomiri, Kotor Bay, Montenegro

    Palazzo Radomiri

    This good-value waterfront palazzo is in a tranquil, pretty village just 4km from historic Kotor, and just over an hour’s drive from Dubrovnik, Croatia. Outdoorsy children will enjoy cycling along the bay, kayaking, and diving into the aquamarine waters from the hotel’s own jetty. There’s a Med-Balkan fusion restaurant and a large pool, plus family suites with sea views.

    Apartment 43, Jerez, Spain

    Apartment 43

    If you’re after a stylish family city break, this light-filled, Zen-styled apartment fits the bill. Just yards from Jerez’s historic centre, it has two bedrooms and a sofabed, as well as a wonderful open-plan kitchen for whipping up meals with produce from the local market. Although the steep staircase means it’s not suitable for toddlers, the rooms can be flexibly configured and there are DVDs, puzzles and books for children.

    Le Portetta, Courchevel, France

    Le Portetta

    This chic ski-in, ski-out hotel is in the least flashy of the Trois Vallées resorts – Courchevel 1650. The slopes are wider and less crowded than most, making them perfect for beginners and children – there’s even a kids’ ski school just opposite - and there’s mountain biking, kayaking, archery and zip-lining in summer. Le Portetta has family rooms as well as lofts and lodges where you can self-cater, plus there’s a kids’ menu in the restaurant. After a busy day, entertain the little ones with games and DVDs for all ages.

    Bivouac, North Yorkshire, UK

    Bivouac

    These quirky woodland shacks and meadow yurts provide ideal off-grid glamping for families wanting to get back to nature. Organised activities for children include pottery painting, nature walks, craft workshops and foraging, and there are mountain bikes to hire. The cafe has a kids’ menu and a play area with swings, too.

    Forsyth Lodge, Madhya Pradesh, India

    Forsyth Lodge

    On the edge of the under-visited Satpura National Park, which offers the chance to spot the elusive tiger and many other species, is this wonderful lodge complete with eco-pool, superb service and delicious dinners. The team of passionate naturalists are eager to share their knowledge and the 3-day Junior Rangers Programme teaches kids how to identify and track different animals. There’s also a butterfly garden and star-gazing at night. Brilliant.

    Browse our Kids collection for more great places to stay as a family >>

    Posted in Kids, Top 10. Tagged , , , , , , , ,
MAR31

Escape of the Week… Dovecote View

 
  • Set in the heart of deepest Somerset, Dovecote View in Bruton is the perfect self-catering getaway for a couple (or two couples) seeking bucolic tranquillity in refined surroundings. The quirky, homely interiors and fabulous country kitchen will have you kicking back and lusting after The Good Life in no time.

    Dovecote View

    With Longleat and Stourhead nearby, and the imminent arrival of international art gallery Hauser and Wirth, you’re spoilt for choice for cultural excursions. The local food and drink scene is also not to be missed, if you can bear to prise yourself away from this sumptuous home-from-home.

    Dovecote View

    Rooms: The envy-inducing décor reflects the creativity of owner and art director Lucy, and her film-industry husband Marcus. We loved the quirky art, folksy cushions and eclectic arrangement of old portraits and mirrors dotted around the house. The two bedrooms differ dramatically in style. The master is a light-filled space with a central kingsize bed placed to make the most of the double-height window’s views towards Bruton Dovecote (the house’s namesake). There’s a freestanding tub at the foot of the bed and luxurious little details like crisp-white linens and twin basins. The second bedroom feels wonderfully snug with petrol-blue walls and warm lighting, as well as a cast-iron fireplace, vintage books above the double bed, and a walk-in rain shower.

    Dovecote View

    Food: The kitchen has everything you need to prepare a big, hearty meal (cookbooks included) and we really liked the open-plan design and sociable long table (there’s a small table on the patio for alfresco dining, too). There are a couple of shops nearby, basics in the cupboards, and you can arrange for food to be ready and waiting for your arrival (extra charge). Book through i-escape and you’ll also be treated to a bottle of Prosecco or a stash of local goodies (just-baked bread, a truckle of Cheddar, chocolates, Bath Ales beer), depending on the duration of your stay. Be sure to check out the Charlton Musgrove and Kilver Court farm shops for a selection of local cheeses, meats and other produce.

    Although Bruton is a small market town, we found plenty  to keep our curious taste buds entertained. At its heart is At the Chapel, a converted church that now contains a pizzeria, a wine merchant and a bakery. We made the most of the glamorous cocktail bar and spent an afternoon working our way through the tempting menu.

    Dovecote View

    Top Tip: Rummage for bargains at the huge antique and flea markets at the Bath & West Showground (normally the third and fourth weekends of the month respectively) – we picked up vintage crockery, an Edwardian mirror and recycled-glass vases, all at great prices.

    Dovecote View

    i-escape gift: Local cider and cheese (for stays of 3+ nights) or a range of local produce (for stays of 7+ nights).

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , , ,
MAR28

Snapshots from… Zanzibar

 
  • In our latest snapshots instalment, Marketing Manager Sarah shares some pics from her trip to the tropical island of Zanzibar, which sits just off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. One of the most exciting dive areas in the world, Zanzibar has plenty on offer for land lovers, too – including some of the longest, whitest and most idyllic beaches we’ve seen.

    Our first port of call was heavenly island hideaway Fumba Beach Lodge. We arrived after a 5-day safari in Selous Game Reserve, so our main priority was to relax, relax… relaaaax.  We dumped our bags in our room and headed straight to the palm-fringed pool to take in the first of our many sunsets on this enchanting shore.

    Fumba has its own dhow (a traditional wooden sailboat) and organises lots of scuba-diving and snorkelling trips to the amazing coral reef – you might even spot a dolphin or two if you’re lucky! Our favourite was a picnic trip to a small, uninhabited island that we had all to ourselves!

    One of the things we loved about Fumba was the variety of cool little places to soak up the surroundings: viewing platforms scattered with cushions, hammocks swaying from palm trees, and wooden steps leading up around an ancient Baobab tree where bush babies scamper in the evenings.

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    Our next stop was quite possibly my favourite place in the entire world. Fundu Lagoon is one of only 5 hotels on the small island of Pemba, just off the north coast of Zanzibar. It’s wonderfully remote, and we arrived via speedboat with the wind in our hair and big grins on our faces.

    The 18 tented Afro-chic rooms at Fundu Lagoon are all utterly gorgeous. We plumped for the Hillside Suite, which has its own thatched chill-out area and a small plunge pool.  Take me back!

    The jetty bar is the ultimate sundowner spot.  At around 6pm everyone saunters here barefoot to grab a G&T and watch the sun sink down in all its glory. By our first evening we were already hatching plans on how never to leave – did they need a couple of slightly tipsy skivvies, or should we set up our own camp in the nearby jungle?

    Our final port of call was one of the most beautiful coral parks in the world - Chumbe Island Coral Park. There are just 7 eco-bandas on the whole island, each with one of these distinctive parabolic wood-and-thatch roofs.

    The sublime seafood on offer, coupled with friendly staff who wholeheartedly encourage you to go back for seconds and even thirds, ensured we went home more than a few pounds heavier than we arrived!

    After dinner, we waddled to the nearby forest to get a glimpse of the rare coconut crabs that live on the island.  Apparently they can break coconuts with their claws. Needless to say, I didn’t get too close.

    On our last day we climbed up to the top of the old lighthouse to catch this awesome view of the bandas below. Magical.

    See our destination guide for more information on Tanzania and where to stay.

    Posted in Our Trips.... Tagged , , , ,
MAR26

Easy Escapes for Easter

 
  • Spring has officially sprung: we’ve seen daffodils, blossoms, lambs, and even some sun! These all mean Easter is just around the corner, so why not treat yourself to more than a chocolate egg this year? Take the pain out of planning a bank-holiday break and book one of our easy escapes, all of which still have availability for the Easter period*.

    We’ve scoured the globe for great prices, so 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…

    Get seduced by Somerset– £187.50 per person (3 nights, 18-21 April 2014)

    Watchet

    Watchet

    Somerset is known for its rural charm, and the harbour town of Watchet is no exception. From its colourful cliff-side cottages and views over the Bristol Channel, to the beautifully preserved steam railway and fossil-rich coves, it’s all quintessentially British. Exmoor National Park and the rolling Quantocks are on your doorstep, and there are plenty of pubs and eateries for that traditional Easter Sunday lunch – perhaps washed down with a glass of authentic West-Country cider?

    Swain House

    Swain House

    Stay: at Swain House, a contemporary B&B in the heart of Watchet. Spend your days exploring, before retreating to your sleek slate-grey room and slipping into your freestanding tub, bubbly in hand. A 3-night stay in a Double Room comes to £187.50 per person, including all taxes.

    Travel: Watchet is a 3-hour drive from London and an easy hour- and 20-minute trip from Bristol – there’s a public car park 30 metres from the B&B. Alternatively, you can get the train to Taunton and take a taxi from there.

    Total cost: £187.50 per person, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting there and other accommodation options

    Soak up the sun in Sardinia – £447 per person (5 nights, 20-25 April 2014)

    Sardinia’s macchia

    Sardinia’s macchia

    Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda is where white sandy beaches, aquamarine seas and cute little inlets all come as standard, which is probably why it’s such a hit with the super-rich – A-list celebs are often spotted sunning themselves here. But there’s more to this Italian isle than glitz and glamour: explore ruined bronze-age fortresses and cute Catalan towns, or head to the island’s beautiful interior for forested hiking trails and sprawling vineyards.

    Cento Ulivi

    Cento Ulivi

    Stay: 2km inland at Cento Ulivi: a romantic bolthole surrounded by macchia (scrubland made up of wildflowers and herbs), olive and pine trees. With big country views, a Jacuzzi and a waterfall pool, it’s the perfect retreat from the busy coastline. A 5-night stay in a Junior Suite comes to £261 per person, including all taxes.

    Fly: from London Gatwick to Olbia with easyJet for £112 per person, departing on the morning of Easter Sunday (20 April) – you’ll be there in time for lunch – and returning on Friday 25 April (direct flights).

    From the airport: the hotel is a 15-minute drive from the airport and we recommend hiring a car to make the most of the island. Rhino quotes £148 for 5 nights (that’s just £74 per person, based on 2 sharing).

    Total cost: £447 per person, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting to Sardinia and accommodation options

    Jet off to Jamaica – £1,341.60 per person (7 nights, 21-28 April 2014)

    Reach Falls

    Reach Falls

    Jamaica is one of the Caribbean’s biggest personalities – and it doesn’t disappoint! Expect golden shores, clear waters and hidden coves, plus a lush mountainous interior boasting some of the world’s best coffee, and colourful colonial towns illustrating the island’s intriguing history. Did we mention the food is to die for, and freshly distilled rum is pretty much on tap?

    Strawberry Hill Hotel & Spa

    Strawberry Hill Hotel & Spa

    Stay: at Strawberry Hill Hotel & Spa, owned by Chris Blackwell (the founder of Island Records). This is the island that gave the world reggae, so where better to lay your head than a mountainside retreat that once played host to Bob Marley? The hotel is currently offering 7 nights for the price of 4 if booked before 1 April 2014, making a 7-night stay in a Studio Suite just £517.50 per person, including all taxes.

    Fly: from London Gatwick to Kingston Norman Manley with British Airways (direct flights) for £769.50 per person, departing on Monday 21 April and returning on Monday 28 April (overnight flight arriving on Tuesday 29 April).

    From the airport: the hotel can arrange one-way transfers from Kingston airport for around £27.30 per person, based on 2 people sharing.

    Total cost: £1341.60 per person, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting to Jamaica and other accommodation options

    *All availability is correct at the time of publishing.

    **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 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 26 March 2014.

    Posted in Easy Escapes. Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
MAR24

Escape of the Week… Val de Grace Apartment

 
  • Typically Parisian, Val de Grace Apartment is a stylish and understated 1-bedroom bolthole in one of the most exciting corners of the City of Light. This immaculate pad has been cleverly refurbished by owner Olivier and features a well-equipped kitchen, a sleek double bedroom and 2 sofabeds – perfect for a romantic weekend or a short family break.

    Val de Grace Apartment

    Tucked away in the famous Latin Quarter, Val de Grace Apartment is surrounded by what was once the bohemian centre of Paris. Today, it remains a vibrant and fascinating neighbourhood with an arty vibe, a great sense of humour, and some excellent bars and restaurants for foodies.

    Val de Grace Apartment

    Rooms: The apartment is surprisingly large for this space-starved city.  We loved how bright and airy it felt too – even on a gloomy day light floods in through the tall French windows. The double bedroom is understated but comfortable, with plenty of cupboard space and spoiling touches like Egyptian cotton bed sheets, Ralph Lauren towels and a sprawling memory-foam mattress. In the living room, you’ll find 2 sofabeds (a double and a comfortable single), and the chic, sand-coloured bathroom has a deep tub as well as an overhead shower.

    Val de Grace Apartment

    Food: The kitchen in this apartment is – refreshingly – incredibly well stocked. On top of a dazzling array of culinary utensils you’ll also find lots of handy gadgets like a fryer, a Nespresso machine, and a state-of-the-art food processor.  Handily, you can pre-order groceries ahead of your visit so that you’ll be fully stocked on arrival. Alternatively, owner Olivier has put together a list of markets, shops and speciality stores in the area, so you can shop like a local during your stay.

    If you don’t fancy cooking, Olivier can hire a chef for the evening or help with local restaurant recommendations. We were delighted to find one of our favourite restaurants – the warmly welcoming, and tastily inventive Le Cosi  - a mere 7-minute walk away.

    Val de Grace Apartment

    Top Tip: Whatever you do, be sure to seek out Ladurée and get stuck into their world-famous double-decker macaroons – the nearest branch is on rue Bonaparte, in the 6th arrondissement.

    Val de Grace Apartment

    i-escape guest review: “The Val de Grace apartment is perfectly situated to enjoy most of the sights of Paris. The apartment is extremely comfortable and exceptionally well equipped and Olivier could not have been more helpful.  A perfect stay in Paris.”

    Lynn Passmore, UK (20.02.14)

    i-escape gift: a bottle of champagne at time of stay.

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , , ,
MAR21

Just back from… New York (with the kid!)

 
  • Busy and bold, New York City may not seem like the first choice for a family escape, but when i-escape Kids Editor Nadine took her 6-year-old daughter Esme, she found there to be an abundance of activities and intrigues for young explorers – particularly with the novelty of snow. During their visit, both mother and daughter discovered a world of fun and gastronomic adventure unique to the United States’ most iconic city. Here Nadine shares her – and Esme’s – discoveries.

    New York

    For February half-term we took our daughter to New York City – her first time in The Big Apple. It was an unqualified success (bar the ridiculously long wait to get through immigration) and proved to us that New York City is great for all ages, at any time of year.

    New York

    Our daughter was thrilled to be playing in real snow after such a mild UK winter. So we went to Prospect Park in Brooklyn and made a snowman, snow angels and threw snowballs. We also took her ice-skating in the new rink there – another first for Esme.

    New York

    She also tried sledging for the first time.

    New York

    The weather was by turns snowing or dazzlingly bright sunshine – off-setting the iconic buildings around Central Park to stunning effect. 

    New York

    Here we waved at the tourist horses and carriages (which may soon be replaced by retro-style electric cars), slid on icy paths and visited Strawberry Fields to pay homage to John; The Beatles’ back catalogue is one my daughter knows well.

    New York

    We stayed at Chambers Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, which is perfectly placed for the sights: just half a block from Fifth Avenue, a block from MoMA and 2 blocks from Central Park. It has stylish, comfortable rooms (with excellent minibars), and laid-back, funny reception staff. One of its most attractive features is the original artwork in each room and the commissioned pieces on each floor. We enjoyed riding the lift up and down to check out the different works and agreed that our floor – the 8th – had the best murals.

    New York

    On the ground floor, next to the breakfast room (where the bar is at night), they have a milk bar with cookies – another big hit with Esme.

    New York

    New York is a surprisingly kid-friendly destination. Esme was impressed by the glitz of Broadway – “Wicked! Matilda!” – and the excitement of Times Square, where she met Spiderman!

    New York

    New York

    Quintessential New York behaviour such as travelling in yellow taxis and on the subway, and spotting the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, were all part of the package. And, she really dug the Egyptian collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    New York

    And the food is great for children! It’s amazing how adventurous they become while somewhere as cosmopolitan as New York City. We had pizza for one lunch, delicious Cuban pulled pork for another, gumbo one evening and, on our last night, Esme ate a full sushi meal for the first time- and loved it!

    New York

    It was also on our last night that I had my ‘New York Moment’. We decided to walk back from the Japanese restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen rather than jumping in a cab, and took a small detour to see the lights of Times Square and Broadway. We were singing “Love is in the Air” and running through the streets together, the big city humming all around us.

    New York

    See our full New York City collection and destination guide >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Our Trips.... Tagged , , , ,
MAR19

Top 10 Dog-friendly Hotels and Cottages in the UK

 
  • If you have a friend of the four-legged and furry variety, you’ll know that one of the best things in life is being able to take them on holiday with you. With that in mind, we’ve created a hotlist of UK boltholes that will keep the little canine in your life wagging their tail for many days to come.

    1. New Forest Eco-Cottage, Hampshire

    New Forest Eco-Cottage

    The sleek and contemporary New Forest Eco-Cottage goes that little bit further for both the environment and your pets. Not only are dogs very welcome (as long as you request ahead of arrival), you can also arrange stabling if you happen have a horse in tow! The nearby Hampshire coastline and surrounding forests provide bags of outdoor entertainment, and there’s a large garden for lazier times. Aimed squarely at holidaying families, there are maps for exploring the local area and a cosy wood-burner for warming up afterwards.

    2. The Ship Inn, Sussex

    The Ship Inn

    Dogs are very welcome aboard The Ship Inn, where the warm and convivial atmosphere means guests on both two and four legs are quickly made to feel at home. There is a small charge for pets, but this covers housekeeping and a fun sausage breakfast especially for your canine friend. The location is perfect too; positioned right beside a nature reserve and the stunning Camborne Sands, in the village of Rye. It’s a delightful foray into rural Sussex with retro-coastal décor and bags of character.

    3. Blenheim Cottage, Oxford

    Blenheim Cottage

    Blenheim Cottage is a beautiful self-catering riverside hideaway on the edge of the Blenheim Estate – possessing all the charm of its namesake but with none of the crowding. The space is shaped for the comfort of your group and this means that – although they cost a little extra per night – dogs are provided with wet and dry dog food, treats, a bed and blankets, and wipes for muddy paws.

    4. The Pig, Hampshire

    The Pig

    This foodie country hotel welcomes dogs by prior arrangement. For an extra-special treat book yourself into ‘The Dog House’: a stylish room in a converted outhouse that’s specifically designed with dogs in mind. The spacious accommodation has a double bedroom, a private terrace and an extra room for your pampered pooch. The Pig is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway and has the privilege of being set in the sprawling New Forest National Park: an area beyond even the wildest of doggy dreams.

    5. The Wheatsheaf Inn, Gloucestershire

    The Wheatsheaf Inn

    The Cotswolds are home to a number of restyled coaching inns, but few possess the style and attention to detail of The Wheatsheaf Inn. Popular with well-heeled socialites as well as weekending families, The Wheatsheaf also keeps a place at the bar for their furry friends. Dogs are welcome in the fashionable communal areas (there’s even a tempting jar of pig ears waiting behind the bar) and can stay in the 3 downstairs guest rooms, where dog beds, bowls and snacks are provided.

    6. The Gurnards Head, Cornwall

    The Gurnards Head

    A charming pub with bags of character, The Gurnard’s Head sits on an untamed stretch of the Cornish coastline and warmly welcomes any four-legged stowaways you have in tow (free of charge). Laid-back and low-key, dogs are also welcome in the dining room and there are some glorious coastal walks leading out of the large pub garden – just be sure to mention your canine companion when booking.

    7. The Grosvenor Arms, Dorset

    The Grosvenor Arms

    Set in the heart of green-welly country, there’s plenty for you and your pooch to get up to while staying at this funky coaching inn, although you may find it difficult to stray beyond it’s warm, hospitable bar and restaurant. With beautifully decorated rooms (best for a smaller pup), a pretty guest courtyard and a unique doggy menu, The Grosvenor Arms offers tempting indulgences for all its guests!

    8. The Montpellier Chapter, Cheltenham

    The Montpellier Chapter

    In a spa town known for finesse and style, The Montpellier Chapter doesn’t disappoint. The sleek rooms, small spa and beautiful restaurant ooze a sense of opulence that laid-back weekenders and families will love. Luckily, the luxuries behind this neoclassical facade also extend to the lap dog in your life: with complimentary treats in the bar, plus dog beds, dog bowls and leads provided.

    9. The Peacock, Derbyshire

    The Peacock

    Set amongst some of the finest countryside in Britain, The Peacock is within striking distance of the Peak District’s breath-taking natural scenery and the historical opulence of Chatsworth Estate and Haddon Hall. Dogs are welcome for a small charge and there’s always a bowl ready at the front door for thirsty pets.

    10. Monachyle Mhor, Scotland

    Monachyle Mhor

    And, for those who don’t have their own dog to take on a weekend away, there’s always Monachyle Mhor’s impeccably behaved Labrador ‘Midnight’. If you’re a dog lover, you’re more than welcome to whisk him out for a walk along the glen – a treat we’re sure will earn you a friend for life!  This relaxed, family-run retreat will also welcome your own pooch, by prior arrangement.

    Posted in Top 10. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
MAR17

Family Escape of the Month… Muxima

 
  • At colourful eco-retreat Muxima (an Angolan word meaning ‘heart’) families are warmly welcomed. Owners Jorge and Sofia have 2 children themselves and the homespun, organic ambience lets kids – and their parents – feel right at home in the heart of rural Portugal.

    PO024_Muxima_125271_172KB_260214

    The pace at Muxima is purposely set to slow, so expect serenity and a heavy dose of relaxation. That said, there are wonderful beaches nearby and plenty of opportunities to take active forays into your surroundings whether on surfboard, mountain bike, or with golf club in hand.

    PO024_Muxima_98744_274KB_121012

    Rooms: The 4 distinctively decorated suites each have a kitchenette and plenty of space for extra guests. The Coba and Chaouen suites (in Casa do Monte) have space for 2 extra beds in the living area and would be perfect for families with 1 or 2 children. These rooms are also slightly more secluded, as they’re set further into the woodland. For those with 2 children or more, we’d recommend the Mangalore suite as it’s the biggest, with space for 3 extra beds. The double rooms are lovely too, but they’re not suitable for families. All suites and rooms have a private entrance, a slice of terrace and surprisingly effective solar-powered underfloor heating.

    PO024_Muxima_125272_123KB_260214

    Food: Breakfast (which takes place in a dedicated casita) is a bright and sociable affair with a buffet of local breads, homemade jams and fresh fruit. Each suite is equipped with its own functional kitchenette complete with a microwave, a hob, a mini-dishwasher and all the other essentials for rustling up a family dinner. However, if you don’t feel like cooking (or if you haven’t booked a suite), there are plenty of lovely restaurants within a short drive, and Jorge and Sofia’s recommendations are excellent.

    PO024_Muxima_125275_98KB_260214

    Kids’ activities: You’ll find plenty for kids to do on the farm and in the surrounding forest. There’s an outdoor playground with a Wendy house and sandpit, and resident farm animals include a donkey, a goat, pigs and dogs. There’s also an eco-friendly swimming pool complete with frogs, lily pads and a shallow-end, as well as DVDs and toys for babies and younger children. Nearby, there are some fantastic family-friendly beaches for walking, wildlife-spotting and learning to surf!

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    Baby equipment: All the essentials are provided: baby cots, high chairs, prams or pushchairs, night lights, potties. Be aware that all rooms and suites have showers only, but baby baths are available on request. It’s also possible to book both English- and Portuguese-speaking babysitters for an hourly rate. 

    PO024_Muxima_106529_109KB_030413

    i-escape guest review:Muxima has heart and soul that some other properties can only dream of. Jorge and Sofia run a charming, laid back guesthouse that draws you in and forces you to relax and switch off. This was our family’s second visit and we are already talking about going back. My son loved the animals and going to see the chickens in the morning with Jorge.  

    Kate, United Kingdom (22.09.13)

    i-escape gift: a free fruit basket and traditional Portuguese chocolate bars

    Read the full review and book Muxima >>

     

    Posted in Family Escape of the Month, Kids. Tagged , , , ,
MAR14

Travelling with kids: Keep them entertained!

 
  • There’s no need to let the fear of long-haul trips with children put you off family holidays! Whether it’s a 6-hour drive to Paris or even an overnight flight to America, travelling with children is do-able if you’re well prepared. Our friends at Babyccino Kids have put together this fab selection of the best games and products that will keep your kiddos happy and entertained.

    Babyccino Kids_kids boarding plane

    1.)   The classic Goose Game from Deuz comes in a handy travel bag and can be played by anyone, anywhere! We like that it’s made of fabric so it’s not too bulky to fit into a suitcase or rucksack.

    2.)   Dobble comes in a little round tin, easy to pack and tote around, and is such a fun game that even the grown-ups will want to play! (Our kids beat us every time!)

    3.)   Who doesn’t love Uno?! The ultimate family-friendly card game!

    4.)   This portable checkers game comes in an organic cotton drawstring bag and includes wooden playing pieces. It’s cute, it’s eco and it’s easy to throw in a suitcase or travel bag.

    Babyccino Kids_kids in campervan

    5.)   Of course, there’s always the iPad! We like educational games and storybook apps for littler kids. Some favourites are Peekaboo Barn and Bizzy Bear and educational maths apps like Appracadabra and Park Math.

    6.)   Audio books are a saving grace for road trips!

    7.)   Sticker books are handy to have when you’re on a plane and your kids are forced to sit still on their own. We like the ones with re-stickable stickers that can be used over and over again. These are some of our favourites, they also happen to have a travelling theme: All Around The World and Around the World with Mouk.

    8.)   For littler kids, we love this super cute Travel Bingo game by Djeco.  (This is also one of our favourite gifts to give young children.)

    9.)   We love this fun new Mix ‘n Match sketchbook by Deuz. It has a perforated line down the middle, so you can separate your sketches and create dog-fish, pig-ants, and dino-cars.

    10.) Lastly, there are always games you can play without any products at all! Many of these are age-old games we played when we were children and our parents played before us. They’re perfect while you’re driving in the car or simply sitting in the grass. To refresh your memory, here are some of them:

    > ‘Animal, Vegetable, Mineral’: Each player takes turns thinking of something and the others have to guess what it is asking questions that can only be answered by saying yes or no.

    > I spy with my little eye: always a favourite!

    Charades: only requires some paper and a pen and a healthy imagination!

    Rock-Paper-Scissors: always exciting!

    > Knucklebones or ‘Five Stones’: All you need are five little stones. Instructions to play can be found here.

    Babyccino Kids_casper on the train

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids. Tagged , , ,
MAR12

Spotlight on… Mallorca

 
  • Mallorca is one of our favourite destinations. In fact, our co-founder Nikki has been coming here for nearly 20 years, and it’s easy to see why. Expect rugged coastline, hidden coves, underground caves, fascinating towns and villages, and plenty of eateries to enjoy traditional Mallorcan cuisine and locally produced wine.

    Valldemossa

    Valldemossa

    Why go?

    There’s more to this Spanish island than the busy resorts of Magaluf and Palma Nova; steer clear of these and you’ll discover that it’s not just us who have fallen in love with Mallorca over the years. Through the ages it has been under Roman, Byzantine and Moorish rule, and each society has left behind markers of its existence, resulting in a rich and varied culture. More recently, the Balearic’s largest island has been attracting millions of tourists annually. The picturesque sandy beaches, jagged cliff faces, and clear blue waters draw in sun-seekers, the mountains are a favourite among professional cyclists and hikers (Bradley Wiggins loves to train here), while the island’s unspoilt interior is covered in vineyards, almond and olive groves, and hundreds of wildflower species.

    Cala Figuera beach, near Pollença

    Cala Figuera beach, near Pollença

    Highlights

    Palma de Mallorca is often overlooked when considering a break, but you could easily spend a long weekend exploring the island’s capital. It was once the home of the Balearic’s monarchy, aristocracy, and Church. With 16th-century fortifications, plus an Arab and a Moorish quarter, the city is full of fascinating architecture and history – be sure to visit the impressive cathedral, Le Seu, whose spire is visible from most points in the city. Palma is also crammed full of quirky boutiques, buzzy bars, inspiring galleries and creative culinary hangouts. Stay in restored 17th-century palace Hotel Can Cera, harbourside hotel Portixol, or – if you’d rather stay somewhere a little quieter – head to romantic countryside bolthole The Yellow House (just 10 minutes outside Palma).

    Hotel Can Cera

    Hotel Can Cera

    Next, head inland to the rural heartland, or Es Pla as it’s also known. Not much has changed here over the years: the olive and almond groves continue to mature, pigs and sheep zigzag across the fields, windmills dance in the breeze, and stone fincas stand strong against the horizon. Base yourself at luxurious Read’s Hotel to indulge at the spa, play tennis, or simply laze by the pool. If you can bear to tear yourself away, visit Binissalem (Mallorca’s wine production capital), Sineu for its Wednesday morning farmers’ market, and if you’re after some quirky keep-sakes, visit the craft town of Santa Maria del Cami.

    Read's Hotel

    Read’s Hotel

    Eastern Mallorca is great for those seeking a little escapism: its striking coastline encompasses hidden coves, historic villages, salt flats and several natural reserves – plus tennis fans will be interested to know it’s the birthplace of Rafa Nadal. Stay at one of our cosy boutique hotels and spend your days lazing on a stunning stretch of beach, such as white-sand Es Trenc – one of the island’s longest and most famous. There’s plenty to explore, too: catch a boat to the uninhabited archipelago of Cabrera (a national park teaming with birds and other wildlife), and explore the Cuevas de Arta: a maze of underground caves that once provided shelter to hermits, pirates and smugglers.

    Son Jaumell

    Son Jaumell

    At the northern tip of the island lies the quaint Mallorcan town of Pollença and centre stage is the impressive Calvario Chapel, reached by 356 cypress-lined steps from Placa Major, the town’s central square. Stay at Son Brull Hotel and Spa, a short drive away, which is the perfect place to rest your legs and feast on gourmet, home-grown dishes in the enticing restaurant. The surrounding countryside is a walker’s paradise and a hike to Mallorca’s most northerly point, the Cap de Formentor, will reward you with stunning panoramas of the island.

    Steps to Calvario Chapel, Pollença

    Steps to Calvario Chapel, Pollença

    A little further west lies sleepy Sóller: full of narrow streets, French-style mansions and sociable squares, and surrounded by orange and lemon groves. First timers to the area should catch the historic wooden train that runs through the mountains from Palma (built in 1912), before boarding the tram to thriving Port de Sóller, for the area’s largest sandy beach. Couples can cosy up in romantic mountainside finca Ca’s Xorc, while families will love super-stylish, seaside Esplendido Hotel. 

    Tram at Port de Sóller

    Tram at Port de Sóller

    When to go

    Mallorca’s subtropical climate makes it a great year-round destination. April, May, September and October are wonderful, as the island has warm sunny days and fewer tourists. February sees the island’s 4 million+ almond trees in blossom, while the following months bring a vibrant display of wildflowers. Spring and autumn are ideal if you intend to spend your time cycling, walking, mountain climbing or golfing. If you can, avoid June, July and August as temperatures can soar (though the sea breeze may lull you into a false sense of security) and beach space can be hard to come by.

    Es Trenc beach

    Es Trenc beach

    Our top tip

    Mallorcans love their festivals and they love their food, the result (unsurprisingly) is numerous must-visit festivals with a huge array of delicious produce, evening celebrations and unadulterated feasting. One of the best is the Fiesta Torrada d’es Borifarro, held in the village of Saint Joan on the first Sunday of October, which celebrates black pudding and other pork-based dishes. Other festivals to get your taste-buds going include the Pollença Wine Fair, the cuttlefish festival in Alcudia (both in April), Palma’s tapas festival at the end of October, and the olive, honey, and mushroom fairs, which are all held in November.

    Capdepera's  farmers’ market

    Capdepera’s farmers’ market

    See our destination guide for more information on Mallorca and places to stay.

    Posted in Spotlight on.... Tagged , , , , , , , , ,