It was a doctor who first told me about the Princesa Yaiza in Lanzarote. He is a fussy, cynical type and he was raving, so I took note of the name. Subsequently, at a legal party, it seemed that half the well-heeled corporate lawyers there had Yaiza-ed.
In one way that puts you off, and in another it makes you think the place must be good. We went and we liked it. So, for our first tentative steps back into the world of travel since having a second child, and with just five days to grab a bit of winter sun somewhere, we decided to go back to the Yaiza.
There are lots of practical reasons why the Yaiza suits people with small kids. The rooms are largely suites, so you have a living room where at least one of the offspring can bed down at night. And there's a fridge and a microwave for bottles, and all that. There's wifi in the lobby and you can get internet into your room at a reasonable price, if you wish.
Crucially, there is also a great breakfast. Because we've been here before, this time we manage to resist the standard Irish buffet fever of trying to eat everything -- "I don't generally have a plate of charcuterie after an omelette at breakfast time, but, hell, it's there and it's free".
From day one we were settled into a three-course breakfast routine of a fruit course, an egg course and then the doughnut course -- though Number 1, who is clearly quite continental in her tastes, didn't know herself with the unlimited supply of cured ham and chorizo at breakfast. With her blonde hair, blue eyes and her love of breakfasting on cured meats, the Germans there must have suspected she was one of them.
The downside is the duck. Kiko is the mascot of the Yaiza and the figurehead of their kids' programme, and he comes around every morning to say hello to all the kids at breakfast.
My three-year-old daughter is terrified of him but strangely fascinated too. So it was into my arms or under the table when the duck appeared and then a slight indignant disappointment when he went away. "Where's the duck gone?" He's gone away because you told me to tell him to go away.
Because we knew the terrain this time, we were straight down to the business of holidaying. There was no orientation needed and we didn't even do that classic thing of eating in a really bad place on the first night of the holiday.
Playa Blanca is as nice a location as you'll find in the Canaries. The Yaiza is bang in the middle of the nice promenade, equidistant from the marina in one direction and the attractive little town the other way.
There's a great beach just in front of the hotel with a lovely beach bar, where we often had the one beer which the children allowed us to have before dinner. The view out to sea, with Fuerteventura looming on the horizon, is quite beautiful and serene of an evening. The marina is a classy little spot with some nice shops, which are good for a browse, and some great little restaurants.
The town is livelier, though the restaurants are more the standard thing you would expect. Here, we tended to eat in a lovely gourmet-tapas bar on the promenade. Up behind the seafront, there is something close to a nice, real Canarian town and there were what looked like authentic tapas bars, where local people ate and things were half the price, but they weren't as child friendly as the touristy places.
You will either be thrilled or horrified to learn there are no nightclubs, and neither is there high rise.
Most nights we tended to eat in the Yaiza's own courtyard. Down one end of the property, just off the seafront, it has a tapas place and an Italian restaurant. I wouldn't generally eat my dinner in any hotel, even in Ireland, but the Yaiza's tapas bar, though dear by local standards, was cheap by Irish standards, and the guy who ran it seemed to take a proprietorial pride in it.
The whole set up was enclosed in the courtyard, with a bandstand in the middle, where there were varying degrees of entertainment of an evening. But the main attraction was that the kids could all run around there, while the adults lazily kept an eye on them.
As we've been to Lanzarote before, we've seen the sights, such as they are. They have a local Gaudi called Cesar Manrique, and a look at his creations will give you a pleasant tour of the island and its curious beauty -- a beauty that can get lost in people's stereotypes of the Canaries, but one I have come to appreciate down the years. It is also a hugely green place, where development has mainly been sustainable and in keeping with the nature of the place.
So, basically, we settled into a routine of big breakfast, then a morning by the bubbling, heated, children's pool. The Yaiza manages the kids thing quite well. There is a pool at the front, where older people and those without kids tend to congregate, and then those of us with kids colonise the upper pool and the nearby children's pool area.
There is also Kikoland (named after our duck friend) -- a mini theme park for the youngsters, with various playgrounds and activities.
The trick, we found, is to wear the kids out in the children's pool, then give them a bit of lunch, and then there is a chance you'll persuade them to take a nap in the shade for an hour or so, and you might get to read a book or do those things you used to do on holiday.
And for just a little while, you can fantasise that it is the olden days, when you even had the luxury of getting bored from lying around on the beach.
Brendan O'Connor travelled to the five-star Princesa Yaiza Hotel in Lanzarote with Sunway Holidays. Seven nights in the luxury Princess Yaiza starts from €789 per person for travel during May. The price includes flights, transfers, accommodation as stated, free baggage allowance, resort representative service, and all taxes and charges. For details of Sunway's specials to more than 70 destinations worldwide, check out www.sunway.ie or telephone Sunway on 01-288 6828.