Modern Mummy

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A Mini Break to Kos with Mark Warner

Two weeks ago, I was just about to jet off for three nights away in Greece with Mark Warner Holidays.

Yes, that Ruth from RocknRoller Baby and I (along with three lovely journalists) travelled to the Lakitira Beach Resort on the island of Kos to find out about all that Mark Warner have to offer for families - and it goes without saying we had an absolutely incredible time.

Although we were travelling without our littlies on this occasion, it was clear from the word go just how family friendly the entire package was - and boy did I miss those kiddos of mine every time I saw all the happily families holidaying together.

The main thing that struck me was how a Mark Warner holiday would be be brilliant for single parent families. As a single mum, our family holidays are lovely but couldn't really be described as a 'break'. When you have two little people with you, it's hard to successfully share your time between them, even harder to keep an eye on them both at all times, and pretty much impossible to relax! Mark Warner have everything covered to make holidaying with your kids solo a true holiday for everyone! But more on that later....

I might have missed the girls but I have to admit, getting my first full night's sleep (times three!) in over six years was pretty special ;)

Here's my low down on the trip.

Lakitira is a great destination for families, travel-wise. Mark Warner charter their own flights so you travel with your fellow holiday-makers from the word go, and the journey time is just four hours, which is completely do-able with little travellers. The transfer from Kos airport to the resort is less than fifteen minutes away too. A short transfer is brilliant at the best of times, but even better when a large proportion of the passengers are kiddos!

When we arrived we were greeted by really friendly and welcoming staff and directed to our rooms in the main part of the hotel. (There are also suites, apartments and villas available to book).

The resort is absolutely beautiful; perfectly designed and immaculately kept. And the rooms are equally gorgeous. I had a twin, with an en suite, double aspect windows (both with a sea view) and a balcony overlooking the main hub of outdoor activities.

Mark Warner is renowned for its fantastic leisure activities, and those on offer at Lakitira were hard to fault. As well as having an award winning 9-court tennis centre and expert tennis coaches, at Lakitira you can also try your hand at numerous different watersports, including sailing, wind surfing, kayaking and paddle boarding. All activities and equipment hire are included in the price of the holiday!

Taking social tennis VERY seriously!

Guided bike rides are available, or you can head into town yourself. We cycled into Kardamena, which was a really easy and enjoyable road ride, although you can also head up into the mountains if you're feeling brave/energetic! 

Being taught how to sail / sunbathing on giant beanbags

Paddle boarding was my absolute favourite. I usually avoid water sports because I can't swim, but I'm so glad I gave this a go. The instructors were brilliant and made me feel really confident in the water.

But if you just want to relax by the pool, Mark Warner can do that too!

The main pool area has a 'big' pool and a 'kiddie' pool and they both overlook the Aegean Sea. There is also an adult only pool at the front of the hotel if you want some time out!

Obligatory blogger pedicured-foot-in-pool shot

Of course the most important element of a Mark Warner holiday is the child care and I am happy to confirm that it is, without doubt, the best I have ever seen. I have no doubt whatsoever that both of my girls would LOVE the clubs and activities on offer and, being able to take advantage of them, would mean a real break for me too.

Under the expert care of qualified British nannies, little ones from the age of four months can join in with the children's club programme. They are divided up into six different age groups, each with their own structured activity timetable, and they get to enjoy the same things as the growns ups, only in dedicated children's areas. They have their own pool, their own playground and even their own watersports beach with shallow waters and junior equipment - and staff balance out the indoor and outdoor activities, ensuring that they are out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day.

Children under five can join in half day sessions, while the older ones can go for the full day if they want - meeting parents for lunch inbetween. But what I think is the best bit (and the girls would LOVE this too) is the evening child care. Kiddos can have an early tea time with their parents, before heading back to their room to get their pyjamas on and setting off for the evening's cinema club! Then parents can have a few hours (or more - it ends at 11.30pm) to enjoy a slightly more civilised and relaxing dinner, or a couple of drinks.

Again all of this is included in the Mark Warner price, although you can also pay extra for private babysitting services if you need them. Which brings us nicely onto the topic of....

Oh my god, we ate so much while we were away! The food at Lakitira is out of this world! There are four restaurants to choose from, with traditional Mediterranean cuisine forming the main part of all of their menus. I may or may not* have had saganaki as a starter for lunch AND dinner every single day.

*Totally did.

The largest restaurant on the resort is the Terrace, which serves breakfast and dinner in buffet form. It's large and bright and airy, with both indoor and outdoor tables and views overlooking the family pool and sea beyond. The variety available at both mealtimes is brilliant and there is guaranteed to be something for everyone - fresh fruit, cereals, pastries and cooked breakfasts in the morning and a huge choice come the evening; the menu also changes every day which I think is great.

The Trattoria is an Italian buffet restaurant next to the family pool offering lunches of pasta, pizza and salads (amongst other things).

Then there is the Snack Bar, right on the beach and close to the sporting activities. It's a self service restaurant selling sandwiches, paninis, grills and salads.

Finally, there is the Greek Taverna which serves an a la carte Greek menu and some seriously fine wine. We were given the opportunity to experience all of the restaurants during the course of our stay and our meal at the Greek Taverna was definitely my favourite.

A traditional Greek salad from the Snack Bar.... with added chicken for the Brit abroad!

Souvlaki, oh my

Pretty ham at the Terrace evening buffet

Baclava and chocolate and baclava and chocolate

And more chocolate... and lemon meringue 

And cocktails! Let's not forget the cocktails.

And if you have too many cocktails, Mark Warner cater for hangovers perfectly.... you just need yourself a RocknRoller Ruth to deliver bacon and orange juice from the breakfast buffet to your room (THANK YOU RUTH!)

Half board is standard on a Mark Warner holiday, but you can upgrade to full board (which I would totally recommend doing) for £77 per adult, or £67 per child, per week. That means you only have to worry about drinks - everything else is covered.

The great thing about the Lakitira resort is that it's close to a lovely town - Kardamena - so if you want to head out of an evening (this is where the babysitting services are required as you must stay on site if your children are using the kids clubs) you can take a five minute taxi journey and enjoy the local restaurants and bars. We ate at one called Alvi which was divine!

Kos Old Town is about half an hour away and if you're headed out that way I would wholeheartedly recommend getting in touch with Kos Private Tours. Whether you're interested in the history, the shopping or the bars, an entirely personalised tour can be arranged. As an ex-archaeologist this was one of the highlights of my trip and ours incorporated all of the above!

I had an absolutely fabulous three days and fully intend to return to Lakitira with the girls as paying guests; I was so impressed with the resort and the customer service - and on that note I'd love to thank this lovely bunch for an incredible trip:

And especially these three - Emilia and Torie from Mark Warner, and that gorgeous thing, Ruth from RocknRoller Baby.xx

I was invited on this press trip in order to write this review. As always, all words are honest and my own. 

To book your own Mark Warner holiday at Lakitira, head on over to their website here. Flights are currently on Wednesdays but in high season Saturdays will also be introduced. Prices start at £525pp and if you book prior to 3 June, full board will be added to your booking at no extra cost.

(Oh and by the way THIS! THIS should be your sun cream of choice this summer. SPF15, 82% organic, non-greasy, suitable for sensitive skin, smells AMAZING (that'll be the avocado and marshmallow - yes avocado and marshmallow!) HELPS TO SPEED UP THE TANNING PROCESS and REDUCES YOUR TAN FADING. Available from Green People here for £20. You're welcome).

Home Sweet Home: Sun Room Ideas

Around about this time every year, I seem to get an overwhelming urge to do BIG THINGS to my house. Last year it was the bathroom, the year before I had some new brick walls built and the patio laid and the year before that we had all our windows replaced.

This year I really want to make the most out of our outdoor space. The girls absolutely love playing outside and, as we're in the middle - and we have interlinking gates, all the kids from the terrace spend the summer mostly in our garden which is lovely.

The work I have lined up for this summer isn't a massive job or a particularly expensive one; I just need a nice lengthy visit to the garden centre for some new plants and then I need to rope in some muscles to help me clear the back of the garden. It's later in the year/early next year that I need to start saving for, as I plan to build a shed/play house/studio/chicken coop combo at the back of the garden and would also really, really love to extend the house downstairs with a sun room.

I know you either love them or hate them but I've got a real thing about conservatories. I love that they bring the outside, in (or the inside, out - whichever way you look at it). I love that they're warm all year round, and how they're so bright and open. One of my biggest regrets at our old house back in London was ripping down the conservatory, when all it really needed was a replacement conservatory roof. I'd love to have a new one added to the cottage (in an old-fashioned style) and have even been introduced to a company called Team Frames Trade & Retail (I especially love their Adorn Range), who are local to me in Surrey which is handy. When I've got the funds to do it, I'm planning on a super spacious extension to use predominantly as a dining room, and to free up space in the kitchen. I'd fill it with dozens of plants and a mixture of industrial metal and weathered wooden furniture and already think it will be everyone's favourite room in the house!

Have you got a conservatory? Did you inherit it, or have it built yourself? Do you use it every day?

If you're looking for inspiration, take a look at my 'My Dream Home' Pinterest board. It's full of slightly kooky, retro interiors ideas (including beautiful conservatory rooms!)


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Five Favourites: Statement Shoes for your Summer 2016 Wardrobe

Summer is nearly upon us (I hope) and with it the comes the promise of beautiful, shiny new shoes! A new, warmer, season means you’re going to need some new flat sandals, heels for those endless balmy nights on your holidays and of course some kicks for those walks in the park. Here are my five favourite statement shoes that you need to pick up for your summer wardrobe this year: 

Heels or flats, it doesn’t really matter, pointed shoes are hot stuff right now and great for elongating feet and giving outfits a chic finish. Available in all manner of colour palettes and shades, these are great for pairing with the LBD for a night out, your favourite pair of loose fitting jeans for a hungover brunch or for the office with culottes and a sharp shirt. 

This style reemerged last year but should still be around in the summer months – after all, they’re open shoes so great for warmer weather. This year try heeled mules with open toes and wear these for nights out drinking cocktails with friends or for that important meeting in the office. 

Flat versions – loafer style shoes with an open back – are great for everyday wear, they’re comfy and practical. This style of shoe is great for those who want to embrace the Prairie trend that’s buzzing around at the moment - with a floaty, high neck dress these shoes will look gorgeous. 

All things fringed is definitely a summer essential! Think festival style and you’ve hit the nail on the head. Fringed heels are perfect for evenings spent drinking Sangria in the local bar on holiday while fringed ankle boots - teamed with a pair of short shorts, a cropped top and a suede jacket - is going to be my go-to look at Camp Bestival this year ;) There are so many places to buy this shoe type, so you could perhaps have more than one pair to choose from… I won’t tell.

Popular in 2014, flatforms are back and ready to rock your world this summer. Introduced in spring, they’ll carry on through to the warmer months and are great for those of us who want to add some height but can’t manage in thin heels. Espadrille styles are great for the summer months, there’s something about that material that instantly reminds you of days spent at the beach in the sunshine. Chunky heels are also going to be popular, with straps and buckles for good measure to create edgier looks. 

These shoes never go out of style, they’re bold, make a statement and look amazing. Team some with a denim mini skirt – yep, they’re back – and a crisp white shirt for an instant fashion forward look. 

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