Sardinia: Finding the best holiday ever
EVERYONE agreed that Forte Village in Sardinia was the best holiday ever. Even the youngest, who doesn't quite say things as abstract as that, communicated it in her own way. We came home from there with what was, for me, an unfamiliar feeling. After consultation with some people, I realised it was contentment.
Starting with the obvious then, there is the food. You know how us Paddies like a buffet, apart from the two buffet shortcomings: a) there is too much food and you feel you have to eat it all, because your mother isn't there to stop you and b) the food at buffets often isn't great. The Cavalieri buffet is quite simply the nicest buffet you will ever see. You could dine like a king on antipasti alone. The cold meats are cut fresh for you at the counter, the nicest prosciuttos and salamis I've ever eaten, with Sardinian cheeses on the side; great seafood with octopus done in 10 different styles for the ladies, and various mozzarellas so fresh they quiver, and you quiver. Even the tomatoes were like nothing you've tasted. Think about the platonic ideals of all these foods and you have the buffet.
For the kids, the great thing about this outdoor buffet under the trees was the independence. The older one would head off over to the parma ham guy or up to the spaghetti guy or the ice-cream guy and get what she wanted. "Stay there," she would order firmly if you tried to get up, checking as she went off about her business, to make sure you weren't moving.
This independence permeated the whole week. Forte Village is a vast compound of eight hotels and various suites and villas with its own network of little roads, its own beach, its own infrastructure, an enclosed little town that has everything you want and where children can roam reasonably free. The elder got one of the little bikes and made the place her own.
And then, of course, there was the ultimate independence for everyone – the kids' club. We wouldn't really be kids' club people. I have this awful guilt about farming out the kids on the holiday. We all got over that at Forte Village.
The girls in charge – I have to say, all the staff – were warm and genuine and lovely (one of them was saying she's been there for 12 years, which I always think is a good sign), the crack was ninety and my two girls couldn't wait to head off every day at 3pm for the afternoon session of pizza-making, bowling, swimming and general playing.
And for the adults there was actual sitting on the beach reading a book for a couple of hours in total confidence that the kids were safe and happy. This might not seem like much to some of you, but I hadn't sat on a beach and read a book for about six years. It also meant, I like to think, that we all loved each other that bit more when we were together, because we knew we were getting some time apart.
You know you're having the best holiday ever when you wind down and settle into a routine straightaway. I'd swim early in one of the many pools around the place or in the gorgeous sea. I say gorgeous, the Sardinians thought I was mad. To them, it was icy cold. To Paddy, it was balmy. Breakfast overlooking the sea, followed by swimming with the kids in the heated outdoor pool, seeing as it was still early May. Messing about on the beach followed by spaghetti and clams for lunch by the sea, a bit of a chill-out and then kids' club.
For a break from the buffet, there are loads of other dinner choices too. But even the fine- dining restaurants, like the Dune, welcome kids and are happy to rustle up a bit of fish and pasta and ice cream. There are also various themed restaurants, without the lack of quality that a theme normally implies. We went Brazilian one evening. A set menu feast of spit-roasted meats – a chicken course, a sausage course, a veal course, a beef course and finally a lamb chop course. The trick, I found, is to avoid the carbs and just focus on the meat. The kids made it as far as chicken and sausage, and I felt their mother trailed off after the veal. I made it to the end and then cleansed my palate with the barbecued pineapple and some of my daughter's ice cream.
As you might be getting here, you can eat a lot and eat well in Forte Village, and possibly due to the outdoorsy life and the Mediterranean nature of it you never feel stuffed and you don't pile on the weight.
For the evening, there is music and crack in the square at night and chic shopping.
I should add that you can also do tennis and soccer intensives, go-karting, the aforementioned bowling, and there is a beautiful Thalasso Spa there. I should also add that Sardinia is a beautiful island and there are loads of historic sights and cute and glamorous seaside towns you can go to. Apart from a stop-off in the lovely fortified city of Alghero on the drive from the airport, taking the stunning coastal route back to the airport (I wish I could say we did that on purpose) and a quick spin around the charming local town of Pula and the ruins at Nora one day, we mainly mooched around the resort.
That's what you're there for. You get there and you don't want to leave. You don't need to broaden the mind. Sightseeing is walking through the sandy little lanes among the trees, maybe watching the resident macaws, who might call in for lunch if you're lucky, as they did one day for us.
We are all obsessed with authenticity these days and no doubt people will say that going to resorts like Forte Village is Sardinia Lite. In fact, the greatest trick about Forte Village is that it doesn't feel like a resort, apart from the fact that you feel totally looked after from the moment you get there. I came away feeling I had had a genuine Sardinian experience without any stress.
If I could warn you of one negative, one week really isn't enough, and in order to stem the tears you will find yourself making a pinkie promise, which is a very serious promise indeed, to bring them back there again.
Forte Village Price valid until June 21 2013Forte Village Resort, Sardinia, has a 7 night stay from €5,865 approx based on two adults and two children under 12 sharing a family bungalow at Il Villaggio on a half board basis.
Forte Village, price valid until June 21, 2013. Forte Village Resort, Sardinia, has a 7-night stay from €5,865 approx based on two adults and two children under 12 sharing a family bungalow at Il Villaggio on a half-board basis.
For reservations please visit www.fortevillage.com or call +39 070 921 8818. Rhino Car Hire (www.rhinocarhire.ie) offers car hire in Sardinia from €23 per day in 2013
Sunday Indo Living