My husband and I have long been fans of grabbing some September sun in Europe. This year Spain, and more specifically the wonderful Caserio del Mirador, did not let us down.
These posts usually start at the beginning of a trip, maybe with a comment about toddlers and plane journeys, or a description of how wonderful it is to wake to a beautiful sunrise over the valley. I could have done either but instead I’m going to start at the end, in the not-so-glam location of our trusty hire car on the Valencia Airport-bound motorway. It was here that my husband Anthony and I almost simultaneously exclaimed: “Well, that was easily the best and most relaxing family holiday we’ve had. I actually feel like I’ve had a break!”.
We were driving to catch our plane home after a fantastic week at Caserio del Mirador with our little bundle of energy, 2.5-year-old Finn. This farmhouse-villa, set on a pretty and peaceful Spanish hillside with seemingly endless views, is a haven for families with under 5s. Anyone with a baby or a toddler will know that family holidays can be a bit hit-and-miss, but I’m confident they’re all a hit here.
Sarah and Johnny are wonderful hosts, and they really have covered off everything to keep both small children and adults happy and entertained. And that’s the key – we’ve always said that if Finn is kept busy, then we can relax. He was constantly occupied, with toys and books in our spacious apartment (he loved playing with the car garage and making us snacks in his toy kitchen), animals to pet (the fluffy rabbits were a universal hit), a pool to splash in, a sandpit to dig in, and so much more.
We fell into a lazy rhythm of waking to find a basket of warm croissants and rolls on our terrace (Who am I kidding? We were up with the start of CBeebies, watching Show Me Show me through bleary eyes), before enjoying a leisurely family breakfast. We then took any leftovers down to feed Beryl the pig, who’d come shuffling out of her shed as soon as she heard us approaching down the path.
Mornings were often spent at the beach – either café-and-restaurant-backed Jávea with its calm waters; tiny La Fustera where we built sandcastles, paddled and had a good pre-nap snack in the beach bar (they were really welcoming to Finn); or lovely Moraira, which has a little stream running alongside for splashing in and which was a favourite among all the families at the Caserio.
Afternoons usually involved splashing around the azure pool, or ride-on tractor races around the terrace with Finn’s new-found friends (thanks to fellow parent Geoff for being race-master, so the rest of us could laze on the fancy daybeds in the sun!). Kids’ tea followed (meals are available 5 nights out of 7), with Sarah putting on a brilliant spread of firm favourites (pasta and sausages in Finn’s case), as well as more unusual things like octopus (which he valiantly tried) and squid rings. This gave us parents the chance to have a nice cold drink, and revel in the realisation that we didn’t have to cook or clean squashed peas off the floor.
More rabbit-petting/goat-feeding usually followed, or perhaps a turn sitting on the big red tractor or jumping on the trampoline before toddler bedtime. We stayed in Isabel, which had a massive and supremely comfortable bed for us, and a little wooden one for Finn (a big plus for me, as travel cots and roll-out beds often don’t produce good sleep results!). There was also a big open-plan living area with a simple kitchen for hot drinks and snacks. If we’d wanted 2 bedrooms, I would have opted for poolside Pinta; I also loved the little Casita, which is 100m down a track from the main house and so perfect if you want a bit of privacy.
After the little one was all tucked up and snoring, we’d escape – monitor in hand – for a truly delicious spread and superbly selected drinks. Our favourite meals were the Sunday paella lunch and Friday tapas. I’m not usually one for communal holiday meals, but the atmosphere here was so relaxed and the other guests so easy-going that the conversation flowed easily.
The holiday was full of special family moments (the aforementioned octopus-eating and pool-leaping being two of them), but on our last day Sarah very kindly took all of the children out on her horse, which was magical for both them and us.
We’d return in a heartbeat (next time I would definitely have a massage by the pool – apparently they were fantastic). We’ve since been recommending Caserio del Mirador to all our friends with toddlers, with a promise that holidays with an energetic 2-year-old really can be relaxing.