“Mornings she lazed on sun loungers, under the welcome shade of a grass umbrella, waves lapping on the shore and children’s laughter echoing in the distance. Drifting in and out of sleep, she devoured book after book and, as the sun kissed her skin, she felt the stresses of the everyday melt away as she re-connected with life…”
No my friends, this is no extract from a holiday novel… This is an excerpt from MY LIFE!
Or, more precisely, our week with Mark Warner at Levante Beach Resort on the Greek Island of Rhodes. Stuff. Of. Dreams. And since the company is celebrating it’s 40th this year, it seemed a pretty appropriate time to go.
First off – *Disclaimer Alert*
- I’m not into the thought of package holidays
- I don’t like being told where I need to be, and when
- I detest queuing. It feels like time I’ll never get back again!
Yeah, no prizes for guessing, I truly wasn’t sure what to expect!
But from the minute we left Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on our British Airways charter flight, following the most seamless family check-in I’ve ever experienced (thanks BA!) I got the impression I’d be OK, largely encouraged by my *eavesdropping on excited chatter all around me as people compared notes on how many times they’d had the Mark Warner experience and how many times they’d been to this particular resort. A good sign if ever there was one! *all eavesdropping was strictly professional in the name of research and not in any way because it’s one of my favourite pastimes and I love listening in on conversations. Nope. Nopey. Nope!
In a former life – BK – before kids -Trey and I went to Egypt with Mark Warner so when they asked if we fancied trying the experience AK – after kids – I jumped at their offer.
A 4 hour flight and 25 minute coach transfer from the airport and we were greeted by “the” Levante view – from the bar terrace to the main pool – a pretty impressive welcome by any standards.
We quickly checked into our inter-connecting rooms (two rooms, two bathrooms – what’s not to love?!) the kids excitedly wowed at the views from the balconies and ready to explore. Early evening saw our Kids Club introduction and “Welcome Chat” and whilst I might have momentarily twitched at the super long line for dinner in the Amalthia Restaurant, thankfully it was just because it was the first night and everyone was starving. We never had to que again! We ate alfresco on the stunning terrace under huge ceiling fans and boy, did we enjoy that buffet and the kids loved marvelling at the many designs staff could conjure with a watermelon! (yup, now I’m totally gonna feel the pressure next time I bust out a melon at home!)
The next morning, and it was time to gear the kids and myself up for some serious sun and hopefully fun in the Kids Club. We’ve only ever done the “kids club thing” once before, for a few hours, so I truly wasn’t sure how my two would be and they can be a bit clingy, especially my youngest, Akira. I’d taken pictures of the schedule for Turtles (cute) and Lasers outside the clubhouse (thank goodness for i-phones!) so I could prep them on what to expect each day in the hope that they’d embrace everything that came their way. And wow did they?! Sailing, windsurfing, sand sculptures, pool races, party games – you name it, they did it!
I’ve never “got” the beauty of Kids Club before. I’ve always thought of it as parents wanting time for themselves and approached feeling an element of guilt. But as Kaya got more excited by the day to check-in with her new found gang, I realised I’d got it wrong and it was actually more for the kids than for me! She ruddy LOVED it! Incredibly, included in the cost of the holiday were 3.5 hours a day – morning or afternoon – and evening club from 7.30 with movies. And the schedule changes every hour, so nobody ever has time to be bored. Both kids had mornings filled with so much fun, they were bursting to tell us all about it by the time I collected them at 12.30.
Simultaneously, OUR mornings were spent on sun loungers, enjoying the beach, diving, snorkelling and indulging in *overshare alert* (look away mum) a bit of “fun” of our own! In the morning?! I KNOW! When do you ever get the chance for THAT as parents!? They should totally add that to the brochure! #just-sayin’
It was amazing to have time to ourselves and meant that we enjoyed our time together as a family even more. I even read two books, which is unheard of for me! A bit of light and fluffy chick-lit in the form of Helen Warner’s totally enjoyable RSVP and a thought provoker which I literally sobbed my way through, in the form of the amazing Raising My Rainbow by the incredible Lori Duron about raising her gender creative son. You MUST read it.
Lunches were generally spent at the pool cafe, catching up on the kids mornings and, following a brief siesta every day (I KNOW!) to escape the heat, afternoons we chilled at one of the 3 pools, or enjoyed a bit of family kayaking or sailing on the beach.
Levante also boasts a spa, gym and tennis courts plus of course every watersport imaginable down on the beach at the “Waterfront”.
I loved the olive trees dotted around the place and the fragrance of frangipani, bougainvillaea and jasmine which would occasionally catch you on the warm evenings when the resort transforms from bustling to chilled. After a buffet dinner in the Amalthia Restaurant, or Greek Restaurant, or a la carte at the Annora Panasian Restaurant, we generally wandered along the lit path to the beach to enjoy the best part of the day as the twilight hit the sea and the day took a turn for the magical.
Here’s a bit of family maths for you, to keep the cogs whirring in the summer holidays.
Mark Warner + Kids = Perfect!
It’s what it’s all about. The holiday truly comes into it’s own as every member of your family gets the chance to grow individually, as well as collectively. It’s that simple. 50,000 travellers a year can’t be wrong!
So who do I think would benefit from a Mark Warner holiday? Everybody! There were couples, families, extended families and re-bookers, all gushing about the experience. I even met a wonderful Grandma who used to bring HER kids 30 years ago and now life has come full circle and since they’ve all grown up THEY bring her – and THEIR kids!
But you can’t talk about Levante without mentioning the impressive life-force that keeps the place pumping, namely the amazing and incredibly hardworking staff who contributed hugely to making the experience what it was. Yes, I *may* have teared up saying goodbye to the lovely Mika in the restaurant, which tells you everything you need to know about what makes the resort special. So credit and heartfelt thanks to:
Sue – the wonderful Mark Warner Manager / Jodie for her lovely way with kids and for being the reason Kaya ADORED Kids Club / Mika in the restaurant for being brilliant – and lovely / Elsa for her amazing waiting skills and smiles / Kiriakos for making me smile every morning with his “lovely jubbly” and other “anglicisms”! / Laura on reception, for being endlessly helpful! / Kirsty in Kids Club for ensuring Akira had a great time / And thanks to all the staff for great week.
We ADORED our time in Levante. Just ONE negative….
One week leaves you totally wishing you’d booked TWO!
Ah well – there’s always next year!