Sunday 28 December 2014

Child friendly holidaying: Club Med, Sicily

The bliss of a relaxing beach holiday in the sun with a toddler seemed the stuff of fantasy until Yvonne hogan discovered Club Med.

Yvonne Hogan

Published 06/05/2014 | 16:00

I have always been a lazy soul when it comes to holidays. I like to fly and flop.

I like a short flight that takes me to a place with a nice beach, with weather that allows me to lie in the shade and read a good book without being too hot or too cold. I like to do this all day long and then I like to have a nice dinner and go to bed.

 

I like my holidays to be restful — minimum one nap during the day — and relaxing. I want to move as little as possible and read and sleep as much as I can. It restores me and then, after about seven to 10 days, it bores me and I can't get back to the rat race fast enough. Perfect.

 

Since I’ve become a mother, I believed my days of such sunny holiday bliss were over. I’ve had one holiday abroad since my daughter, Ava McCarthy, was born 16 months ago — she was about five months old at the time — and between the packing, the airport, the flights, the nappies and bottles and sterilisers and naps, the trying to keep her out of the sun and the sand out of her, it hardly seemed worth it.

 

And since I would sooner cut off my own head than go on holidays without my little munchkin, I had resigned myself to holidaying at home until at least my 50s. Plenty time to lose the baby weight and get back into the bikini, says you. But, dear reader, I was wrong.

 

I have just recently returned from Club Med, Kamarina, Sicily where I enjoyed seven glorious days of sunny, lazy, sleepy, delicious foodie foreign holiday with my mother, Eily, and Ava, during which time I got to read four whole books. And before you assume that I had my mother to do all the heavy lifting baby-wise, I should tell you that she too read four whole books. And the baby had the time of her life.

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All our needs were catered for — food, drink, entertainment, activities (should we require them. We didn't). I didn't have to pack anything for the baby other than clothes, sunscreen, formula, nappies and wipes. They provided food, changing mats, baby baths, cots, blankets, sterilisers, bottle warmers, even buggies.

 

Getting there was pretty stress-free too. The flight was direct from Dublin and took just over three hours — we flew Ryanair, and I must say they were incredibly warm and baby-friendly — and the resort was only 30 minutes by car from the airport.

We arrived at the hotel at about 9pm and were greeted with such warmth and friendliness by the Club Med staff. They cooed over Ava, which she loved.

 

We were immediately relieved of our luggage and escorted to the restaurant, where we caught the end of dinner and thus began the laziest, loveliest holiday I have ever had. We woke at about 8am every morning and went down to breakfast. After that we would go for a little walk and then bring the baby back to the room for her nap, during which time we would read or nap ourselves in the large, bright airy room.

 

Lunch was next — always a vast selection of fresh salads and pasta and seafood and meat dishes, with an array of lovely desserts. We ate in the main restaurant in the hotel for most of our stay — it has a charming outside patio where it was warm enough to eat most days. Inside it’s noisy and bustling and a bit canteen-like, but you’re going to get that in any large child-friendly restaurant. The staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming and sometimes joined you at your table, making for a nice, communal atmosphere.

 

After lunch, we would go to the beach — a pretty, sandy seafront with clean loungers and plenty of shade, where the baby would eat the sand for a while before falling asleep in her buggy and we would read our books. Bliss. Then it was back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner, again a large array of delicious dishes, friendly staff and lots of children. We ate the majority of our meals in Les Dunes, the main hotel restaurant.

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As it was April and off-season, there was only one of the other four restaurants in the resort open: Il Cavallo Marino, which we tried one night for dinner, with mixed results — great food, great staff, cranky baby. It’s definitely a restaurant for which you might utilise the many babysitting options — nice dim lighting, a quiet ambience and a sophisticated menu. We were served a delicious four-course Sicilian meal, which really tried the patience of the baby, so we had to horse it down.

 

After dinner, we would go down to the hotel reception where there was usually some activity for the children — we had a magician one night, cookie baking another — and then to bed for us all at around 10pm. As there was only one English language channel on the TV in our room — a news channel — we would read some more before going to sleep.

Club Med is not just for those looking for a retreat-type holiday.

In fact, it’s rather an expensive option if you’re looking to just eat, sleep and play with your baby. But if you want a fun-filled, action-packed, safe holiday for all the family, it’s incredibly good value. There are endless activities available. For the adults there’s tennis, with 26 courts in the resort; there are two 18-hole golf courses designed by Gary Player and Franco Piras; mini-golf; sailing; scuba-diving; trapeze and swimming in the giant swimming pool.

 

As well as the restaurants, there are four bars and a nightclub in the resort. All food, drink and most activities are included in your package, with the exception of some premium drinks.

For children, there are most of the above activities suitable to the various age-related clubs, which operate six days out of seven. For age four to 10 there’s Mini Club Med and for the 11 to 17-year-olds the Club Med Passworld. All are included in the package.

 

For the smaller children, who travel free outside of high season (second week in July to first week in September), there’s the Petit Club Med for ages 2-3 (€294). In April and early May there’s also a Baby Club at Kamarina, which is an extra €313 for the week, or €48 for a half-day, €85 for a full day. After watching Ava stare longingly at the kids in the various clubs playing on the beach and running around together, I put her into the baby club for one afternoon and she absolutely loved it. The staff were fun and friendly.

 

She played soccer and other games and at the end of the day there was an award ceremony to which us parents were invited. There was a podium and music and all the babies won medals. It was adorable. Ava ran up to the podium to receive hers and bowed to the applause. All the babies clapped for each other. It would bring a tear to your eye.

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There were excursions available from the resort at an extra cost — to the likes of Mount Etna, Ragusa Ibla, Syracuse and other wonderful Sicilian sites, but the resort was just too comfortable and relaxing for us to leave. But that's okay. Now that I know I can cope with a toddler on a three-ish hour flight, Sicily is definitely on my “must return” list.

 

Need to know

Yvonne travelled to Club Med, Kamarina, Sicily with Sunway Travel. Seven nights starts from €998 per person during

September. Child reductions are available and children under five go free outside of high season (from second week in July to first week in September). Price includes flights, transfers,

accommodation on an all

inclusive basis and taxes. See clubmedsunway.ie or phone 01 236 6800

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