Top luxury resorts in the Maldives

Crystal waters, tropical sunshine, luxurious resorts and breathtaking beauty – the Maldives have to be the most perfect islands on earth.

Some of my most magical memories were made in the Maldives; a pod of dolphins leaping from the turquoise sea as we sailed away from the island, snorkelling with giant turtles and wading through shallow waters with blacktip reef sharks at my toes. There is nothing subtle about the beauty of the Maldives as it lavishes you with an abundance of dazzling colours and scents that stay with you forever.

From the second I stepped off the sea plane and kicked off my flip flops, I fell madly in love with the islands, and for me, the Maldives take some beating.

 

Best time of year to go

November to April is fairly dry; May to October occasionally brings brief rain showers followed by sunshine.

Temperatures range between 77 to 95°F all year.

Have you been thinking about a luxury trip to the Maldives and just can’t make up your mind which resort to choose?  Well, here are my top picks for ultimate indulgence.

Baros

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Beautiful Baros. Photograph: Baros Maldives

With its vibrant house reef, Baros is a picture-perfect resort and the ultimate tropical escape. A ten-minute wander around this stunning island takes you right back to where you started, but fantastic things come in small packages and at Baros it’s all about tranquillity, understated luxury and equisite service.

Classic cuisine with a tropical twist is the speciality of The Lighthouse, while grilled seafood, fine meats and Asian tapas are available at The Cayenne Grill. If eating out doesn’t take your fancy, guests can enjoy an in-villa meal at any time of day or for a more intimate affair, how does a romantic dinner for two on an isolated sandbank sound?

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A romantic, candlelit dinner on an isolated sandbank? Yes please. Photo: Baros Maldives

The Spa at Baros Maldives is hidden at the centre of the resort amongst lush foliage. Here, therapists create bespoke treatments with a choice of wonderfully relaxing massages, cleansing scrubs, nourishing wraps, rejuvenating facials, manicures and pedicures.

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Spa Bath. Photograph: Baros Maldives

Accommodation

Villas

Each Villa has a king-size bed, a daybed to chill out, an espresso machine and an individual wine chiller with sommelier-selected bottles, as well as a well-stocked mini bar, an entertainment centre and complimentary WiFi.

Some Villas have partially open-air bathrooms, while others feature contemporary bathrooms with rainfall showers. Water Villas have exquisite bathrooms with steps from the deck direct into the lagoon. All Villas benefit from the personal attention of a dedicated Villa Host on call 24 hours a day.

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Pool villa with deck. Photograph: Baros Maldives
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Water pool villas with steps into the lagoon. Photograph: Baros Maldives

The Baros Residence

The most exclusive and luxurious Villa at this bijou boutique resort features a private swimming pool and personal butler on call 24 hours a day. The Baros Residence provides the quintessential harmonious and secluded romantic hideaway.

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The Baros Residence Pool. Photograph: Baros Maldives

Getting there

Baros is just a 45minute luxury boat transfer from Malé International Airport.

One&Only Reethi Rah

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What better place to reflect on life than on the swinging chair at the Beach Club? Photograph: One&Only

With twelve beaches and six kilometres of coastline, One&Only Reethi Rah is the largest, all-villa resort in the North Malé Atoll. Each villa has direct access to the lagoon and is discreetly placed along the shoreline offering stunning ocean views.

This sophisticated resort features three swimming pools including one children’s pool, a state-of-art fitness centre with outdoor training area, FIFA-approved size football field, tennis and outdoor wall climbing and watersports. There is also an artist studio where guests can unwind and take part in painting classes lead by the artist in residence.

After all that activity, guests can rejuvenate in the award-winning spa complete with vitality pools, outdoor steam and sauna, crystal steam rooms, saunas and stimulating ice fountains.

Seven restaurants offer a range of dining options, all prepared daily by international, creative chefs. Dishes range from organic, garden-to-fork cuisine, luxury French brasserie, Asian, Italian, modern Japanese cuisine, fresh seafood and a Middle Eastern influenced menu served beachside.

Not only is One&Only Reethi Rah perfect for both couples and honeymooners, it’s fantastic for families too and there’s plenty for children to do in the two kids’ clubs; KidsOnly for younger children and One Tribe for older children. Both clubs offer activities such as snorkelling, chocolate making classes, pirates’ cruise and many more for children aged four to eleven years old.

Accommodation

Beach Villas

Occupying their own stretch of sandy shore, these villas afford direct views of the ocean and access to a private beach. Décor is sleek with clean lines, a perfect balance for the tropical wood and thatch exteriors.

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Stylish interior of the Grand Beach Villa. Photograph: One&Only

Water Villas

Sitting on the water with wraparound hammocks, these villas are just the spot for sunbathing and stargazing.

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Dreamy Water Villa with Pool. Photograph: One&Only

Grand Sunset Residence

An extravagant space with exquisite touches of luxury that create the ambience of a private home, with three en-suite bedrooms, lavish living and dining areas, and a private, 50m² swimming pool surrounded by an elaborate terrace with inviting social spaces.

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The aptly named, Grand Sunset Residence. Photograph: One&Only

 

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A view to wake up to. Photograph: One&Only

 

Soneva Fushi

This award-winning resort offers the ultimate, barefoot desert island experience. Soneva’s philosophy is simple: No news, no shoes. No pretensions either.

Located in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Soneva Fushi pairs Robinson Crusoe fantasy with intelligent luxury.

Fifty-seven private villas with their own stretch of beach are hidden among dense foliage within touching distance of a pristine coral reef. Intuitive service is provided by Mr./Ms. Friday butlers.

Highlights include an open-air Cinema, counting Saturn’s rings in the high-tech Observatory, the home-made chocolate and ice cream rooms, five hundred wines to choose from, six different restaurants featuring gourmet menus using only quality organic ingredients. Guests who desire a bit of adventure can enjoy the castaway dining experiences around the island.

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Dine above the banana trees and the resort’s organic gardens at Fresh in the Garden. Photograph: Moritz Krebs
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Charming candlelit tables on the beach where guests can enjoy Japanese-inspired cuisine. Photograph: Richard Waite

In November 2015, Soneva launched a floating villa concept, Soneva in Aqua, a treasure trove children’s Den and a multi-purpose facility encompassing a glass gallery, boutique and studio where guests can learn the art of glass blowing

Accommodation

The resort features 57 private villas with their own stretch of pristine beach. Designed to provide ultimate privacy and a pure connection with nature, each retreat features open-air bathrooms that extend into a private garden.

Every villa features a living room, dining room, daybeds and sun loungers, air conditioning, television, Bose sound system, espresso machine, bicycles and WiFi.

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Villa 14 Exterior. Photograph: Richard Waite
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Sunken dining at Villa 11. Photograph: Bruno Aveillan

Getting there

The resort can be reached by a scenic 30 minute seaplane fight direct from Malé International Airport or a 12 minute speedboat ride for guests scheduled on domestic flights at the nearby Dharavandhoo Airport.

 

Have you been to the Maldives or any of these stunning resorts?  If so, I’d love to hear what you thought. Please leave a comment below.

Top things to do in Paris for Foodies

So, you’ve climbed the Eiffel Tower, can-canned your socks off at Moulin Rouge, pitter pattered your way around the Louvre and marvelled at the beauty of the Mona Lisa. If you’re anything like me, you were probably thinking about food most of that time.

Rich in culture, Paris is a gourmet party for the senses and home to some of the best restaurants in the world. But if you want to step away from the Michelin starred eateries for something a little bit different, these alternative experiences are a great place to start.

O Chateau Wine Tasting

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In a country renowned for fine wines, of course there are plenty of places to choose from when it comes to wine tasting events, but O Chateau is up there amongst the best.

Located in the heart of Paris, on Rue Jean Jacques Roussea, O Chateau offers a variety of packages including wine tasting dinners, group tasting events or even a day trip to Champagne.

During a wine tasting event at O’Chateau, the Sommelier makes you feel at ease in the beautiful basement tasting room, while you indulge in fine wines and learn about grapes and growing regions.

The Tour De France of Wine package lasts two hours and costs around €55.

Check out their website to find out more and book:  http://o-chateau.com

Secret Montmartre Food Tour

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What better way to experience French culinary delights than as the Parisians do?  Guided by a local Parisian, you will be taken on a tour of some of the best food shops in Montmartre. Throughout the tour, you’ll have the chance to sample macaroons, French breads, the finest cured sausages and home-made crepes. Then, just when your taste buds can’t take any more and your belly is screaming feed me, you’re whisked away to a secret location to enjoy all the food you have collected along the way. Yum!

To find out more about other food tours or to book this one, visit The Secret Food Tours: https://www.secretfoodtours.com/paris/

Dinner at Le Wagon Bleu

If you dream about dinning on the Orient Express but are looking for something a little kinder on the wallet, Le Wagon Bleu is the next best thing.

Set inside a 1920s carriage from the Orient Express, Le Wagon Bleu can be found in the 17th arrondissement. With gleaming cherry-wood panelled walls, luxurious velvet seats and polished silver cutlery, this restaurant radiates sophisticated glamour.

The menu is varied and the meals hearty, with choices such as burgers and classic French dishes. While there’s nothing gastronomically unique about the menu, the sense of regal nostalgia makes every mouthful a delight and is sure to place this restaurant towards the top of any must-do list.

Sunset Picnic on the Bank of the Seine

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There’s nothing quite like a stroll along the bank of the River Seine at sunset to bring out the Audrey Hepburn or Carey Grant in you, and I can’t think of a better way to round up the day than a picnic at Quai Montebello. Dappled in tangerine sunlight, with the beautiful backdrop of Notre Dame, it is a great place to find a quiet spot.

For a more Bohemian feel, head to Canal Saint Martin where musicians often gather –   it’s just the place to share a bottle of wine, read a book or simply close your eyes and relax.

For a rustic picnic thrown together yourself, you can pick up your goodies here:

BERTRAND’S Paris Notre Dame

10 Rue Lagrange

Bertrand’s sell croissants, pizza, quiche, baguettes and magnificent meringues plus much, much more.

Or, if your day has been too jam packed with sightseeing and champagne to prepare a picnic yourself, Paris Picnics have partnered with artisanal food and wine producers around France and offer a free delivery service: https://www.parispicnic.com.

 

If you’ve been to any of these places, please leave a comment below as I’d love to hear from you.

 

Braised beef ragu with smoked bacon

The addition of smoked bacon in this ragu gives the sauce an incredible depth of flavour and a splash of milk, blends the ingredients perfectly. Long, slow cooking means the beef just falls apart in the mouth.

In the unlikely event of any leftovers, this ragu tastes even better the next day.

Tip: If you like a bit of a kick dice half a red chilli and add at step 1.

Ingredients – Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion chopped

1 stick of celery finely chopped

1 large carrot finely diced

500g braising steak or 600g minced Beef

4 rashers smoked streaky bacon diced

3 garlic cloves crushed

1 large glass red wine

2 bay leaves

400g tinned tomatoes

1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree

2 beef stock cubes or 1 cup of good quality beef stock

1 heaped teaspoon of dried oregano

70ml whole milk

Grated parmesan to taste.

Method

  1. Fry onion, celery, carrot and bacon in olive oil until they begin to brown
  2. Add braising steak (or mince if using) and seal
  3. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute moving the mixture in the pan all the time
  4. Add red wine, turn heat up and reduce (takes approx 5 minutes)
  5. Mix in tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, crumbled stock cubes, bay leaf and oregano
  6. Cook on a low heat for 1 ½ hours adding small amounts of water if the ragu becomes too thick
  7. Stir in the milk and cook for a further ½ hour or until the beef falls apart easily
  8. Season to taste
  9. Serve with spaghetti and parmesan.

Italy’s hidden gems

If you’re looking for something a little bit different when you’re in Italy, why not escape the crowds and discover some of these well-hidden treasures?

1. Porto Venere – Northern Italy

Tourists flock to the five coastal villages of Cinque Terre, but the lesser-known neighbouring village of Porto Venere, oozes the same charm and beauty, making it an ideal escape from the crowds.

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A stroll along the harbour takes you past vibrant, elongated houses believed to have been shaped in such a way to enhance the village’s defence system.

An afternoon here is best spent meandering the cobbled streets and when the air cools, a visit to the Gothic Church of St. Peter at the top of the hill offers spectacular views at sunset.

It’s easy to see how Porto Venere inspired English poet Byron, for it is here, in Byron’s Grotto, where he was known to meditate and draw inspiration for his literary works. Although Byron’s Grotto collapsed in the 1930s, it is still possible for visitors to access the area and soak up its silent beauty.

 

2. Grotta Palazzese, Polignano a Mare, Puglia – Southern Italy

Nestled in a vaulted, limestone cavern overlooking the Adriatic Sea, this romantic restaurant is certain to melt the coldest heart.

Naturally created centuries ago, the cave is an enchanting restaurant setting and has been the scene for many romantic moments.

Here, diners can take a table for two at the cliffs’ edge and enjoy world-class dishes, whilst listening to the waves crash beneath them.

A four course meal at Grotta Palazzese costs €100.

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This is a very popular restaurant and booking is highly recommended.

 

3. Lake Orta – Northern Italy

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Located in Piedmont, enchanting Lake Orta, is the Italian Lakes’ best kept secret.

Lush mountains conceal this beautiful lake and the tiny island of Isola San Giulio that sits proudly in the middle of the water.

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Famous for its Benedictine monastery, this quant island is also home of Salla Tallone, where unforgettable concerts can be enjoyed in late June.

Occasionally, veiled in a light mist, this majestic island has an air of mystery surrounding it. It’s no wonder this treasure has been kept so quiet.

 

4. Atrani, Amalfi Coast

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Hidden between two cliffs, this stunning little fishing village is often overlooked as tourists gravitate towards the more popular towns on the Amalfi Coast. This fact alone, means visitors are gifted a blissful serenity in which to appreciate the architecture of the Medieval Church of San Salvatore de’ Birecto built in the 10th century, and the 15th century fortress of Torre dello Ziro.

After a spot of lunch at one of the laid-back restaurants, why not mosey on down to the small, sandy beach for some time out – a perfect spot to admire the breathtaking views.

Disney Magic Cruise| Where dreams really do come true

A friend of mine and her family are avid Disney cruise goers, but I had always struggled to join in on her enthusiasm. I just couldn’t see the fascination of a Disney cruise, when for the same amount of money, you could go to Disneyland. That is, until she recounted her holiday over dinner one night, then I wanted to go and not just because the kids would love it, but I knew I would too.

The Froggatt family are like boomerangs; before they’ve returned to terra firma, their next Disney cruise is booked. What is it that keeps them wanting more? I began to wonder if magical, MSG circulates through the air conditioning on board, or whether there are subliminal messages woven into the words of Snow White’s Hi Ho.

But as she explained the whole experience to me, I was sold. Disney has perfected the fairy tale. Random, magical moments occur over the duration of the cruise and, if you’re lucky enough to catch them, they will become treasured memories.

A Disney cruise isn’t a gimmick; it’s a floating wonderland where a crew of attentive and very talented people turn dreams into a reality.

So, if like me, you’ve been wondering what Disney Cruises are all about, here’s a summary of a cruise on Disney Magic:

Cruise Liner: Disney Magic

Itinerary: Barcelona -> Cruising -> Seville (Cadiz) -> Lisbon -> Cruising -> Ponta Delgada -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Antigua -> Cruising -> Cruising -> New York (Manhattan)

The Navigator App

Prior to departure, guests can download The Navigator app. This enables guests to view up-to-date holiday information, pre-book activities, view entertainment schedules, restaurant menus and destination details.  It can even be used to send messages to other members travelling in the same party.

Arrival

Approaching the ship, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer scale of it; with 11 public decks, Disney Magic can accommodate 2,700 passengers.

On arrival at the port, it’s only a matter of seconds before guests’ bags are whisked away, not to be seen again until they enter their stateroom.

Check in is smooth and on occasions where there is a slight wait, children are way too distracted by the appearance of their favourite Disney characters, to care.

With guests organised into groups, they wait for their group to be called to embark. But even this usually, standard event has a touch of magic added. Families are announced on board by a crew member, much like a master of ceremonies welcoming royalty to a stately event. Crew members form a walkway along which guests walk to rapturous applause. What an entrance.

Rooms

Room Booked: Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Veranda

Large enough for five people, this stateroom offers a queen bed, single sleeper sofa and two cleverly disguised, wall pull-down beds. The toilet is conveniently separated from the bathroom and there is ample under-bed storage space.

Dining

Disney uses ‘rotation dining’ where guests rotate between the restaurants on board. There are two seating times available – early and late. Each night guests are seated with the same table guests and a dedicated server rotates with these guests for the duration of the cruise.

Servers are experts at reading people and constantly strive to understand the preferences of the guests they are serving. Each dining experience is enhanced by the server who takes guests on a culinary journey, describing the origin of the ingredients and recommending complimenting wines.

Main Dining Restaurants

Animator’s Palate: As well as American cuisine, this restaurant serves up a spectacular Disney show while you eat.

Lumiere’s: The most refined of the three main restaurants with Art Deco styling and a French inspired menu, guests can enjoy a touch of Beauty and the Beast while they dine.

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Lumiere’s Roasted Rack of Lamb with Dauphinoise, Buttered Brussel Sprouts and a Burgundy, Rosemary Sauce
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Lumiere’s Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp
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Lumiere’s Chateaubriand with crushed new potatoes, shallots, green beans and red wine jus
 

Carioca’s: Inspired by Disney’s, The Three Caballeros, this restaurant offers a fiesta of flavours in its South American inspired dishes.

Casual Dining

Cabanas: At lunchtime, Cabanas offers buffet dining including steak and seafood. During the evening, guests can dine under the stars or indoors, watching the ocean sweep past. The evening menu provides four courses of Brazilian specials.

Pete’s Boiler Bites: Grab one of Pete’s Boiler Bites – a selection of Burgers, tacos and hot dogs.

Pinocchio’s Pizza: A delicious feast of pizzas.

There’s also 24-hour in-room dining available for in between meal snacking.

Palo Restaurant: Adult-exclusive

For those wishing to indulge, guests can treat themselves to the delights of Palo restaurant, specialising in Northern Italian cuisine with a twist.

Entertainment

With West End-style nightly shows, deck parties, fireworks and character greetings, entertainment on a Disney Magic cruise never ends.

During the day time, there are plenty of fun activities for everyone, including karaoke, game shows and bingo.

Kids’ clubs

Safety is paramount in the Disney Magic Kids’ Clubs. On entering, each child is given a wrist band which means the exact location of a child can be pinpointed at any given moment. Children can roam freely between the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab using a secure, secret passageway.

Disney’s Oceaneer Club – 3 – 12 years old

A feast for little imaginations, Pixie Hollow, Andy’s Room, Mickey Mouse club Room and MARVEL’s Avengers Academy offer secure environments for children to explore.  In these rooms, there’s plenty to keep them busy including, dress up, crafts computer games and Disney movies.

Oceaneer’s Lab: 3 – 12 years old

A pirate-themed area designed with exploration in mind. Here, children can visit the Animator’s studio and create their own animated drawings, play games or perform crazy experiments. Oceaneer’s Lab also offers children a space to relax, watch movies or read a book.

Overall thoughts

Quite simply, Disney truly know how to turn children’s dreams into a reality and it seems there’s a little bit of magic on board for adults too – so really, who wouldn’t want that?

 

Greek inspired meatballs with feta cheese

These meatballs are seriously good and children love them too. They are so easy to prepare and taste like you’ve spent hours in the kitchen. I’ve used lamb in this recipe, but pork or beef would work well too (or a mixture of both).  Try them, they’re delicious.

Ingredients – Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 400g minced lamb
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 390g Passata with basil
  • Handful of fresh mint chopped
  • 1 level teaspoon sugar
  • 50g Feta Cheese

Method

I use a mini chopper to chop the onions and garlic as it creates a really fine mixture, but if you don’t have one, just chop the onion really small and crush the garlic cloves.

  1. Put the onion and garlic into the mini chopper and blitz. Separate the mixture in half and set one half aside.
  2. Add half of the onion mixture, cumin and mint to the lamb and mix well, forming into bite size meat balls.
  3. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat and fry the meatballs until brown then push them to the side of the pan (pile on top of each other if you haven’t got room).
  4. Add the other half of the onion mixture and cook for 30 seconds keeping the mixture moving.
  5. Add the passata with the sugar and gently mix the meatballs and sauce together in the pan.
  6. Cook on a low heat for 40 minutes.
  7. 5 minutes before its ready, crumble the feta into the pan.
  8. Season to taste.
  9. Serve with fluffy rice or pasta.

Top Family Hotels in Zakynthos

Here are The Sandy Pencil’s top choices when it comes to family-friendly hotels in Zakynthos:

SENTIDO Louis Plagos Beach, Tragaki, Zakynthos

Transfer time from airport: 20 mins

 

Set amidst old vineyards and olive groves and just 150m from the beach, Sentido Louis Plagos offers the best of both worlds. If it is peace you are seeking, then lounging by one of the hotel’s two infinity pools, offers a tranquil haven. Take a five-minute taxi ride and you’re in bustling Tsilivi with its many bars and restaurants.

There is a children’s pool with water slides, kids club, playground and mini-disco, making this the perfect choice for families.

Facilities

  • Buffet Restaurant
  • Traverna
  • Main Bar
  • Cocktail Bar
  • 2 Infinity Pools
  • Family Pool
  • Large Children’s pool with water slides
  • Evening Entertainment
  • Gym
  • Spa
  • Playground
  • Kids club: 4 – 12
  • Water slides
  • Babysitting – available at additional charge and upon request.

 

Review

Rooms

We stayed in a sea view, family room on the ground floor with direct access to the infinity pool from our terrace and allocated sun loungers.

At the time of booking, the sea view rooms overlooking the infinity pools were exclusive to Thomas Cook.

These rooms and the infinity pools were a recent addition to the hotel, so our room was fresh, modern and clean. The bathroom was plush and spacious, with an enormous walk-in shower.

There was a daily maid service and our room was kept immaculate. The maid even took the time every day to arrange the girls’ teddies on their pillows neatly.

Food

Food is available all day. When the main restaurant is not open, you can help yourself to pastries, toasted sandwiches and fruit.

All the food well exceeds the standards you would expect from an all-inclusive hotel.

The theme alters nightly with a wide selection of delicious meal choices available. I’m one of the hardest people to please when eating out, and couldn’t fault it.

As well as the buffet, there is a choice of freshly grilled meat and fish. On Greek night, there was a serving station where a chef prepared fresh gyros and on the English night, there was a carvery. Children can choose from the main buffet or a children’s buffet.

When dining in the evening, the restaurant feels far from that of an all-inclusive hotel catering for the masses; the customer service is second to none. You are shown to your table by a waiter who then gets you your first drink leaving you to help yourself to your dinner.

We all agreed, that having stayed at many all-inclusive hotels, Sentido Louis Plagos is by far the best one for food.

Entertainment

Nightly entertainment was kicked-off by the mini-disco which the girls loved, especially the nightly appearance of the Sentido children’s characters.

It’s clear the entertainment team work very hard and some of the shows they put on were very good, others not so, but that would be my only grumble and I’ve had to dig deep to find that one.

Kids Club

Our girls went to the kid’s club twice and enjoyed it both times. The girls that run the club were very friendly and excellent with children.  Our girls were a little reluctant to be left on their own there, which was fine as staying with them gave me a good idea of what goes on in there and all the children appeared to be having fun. If I were to suggest an improvement, it would have been to include more activities geared towards English-speaking children as many of the songs we didn’t understand, but we sang and danced along anyway.

Customer Service

The second you step through the doors of the Louis Plagos hotel, you know you are somewhere special.

On arrival we were greeted by a friendly concierge and offered a refreshing drink and cold wash cloth. The service doesn’t stop there either, the staff cannot do enough for you and are genuinely pleased to help.

The bar staff were engaging and entertaining, the sort that have your drink ready before you’ve even sat down.

All the staff at Sentido Louis Plagos work very hard. They take time to get to know their customers, interact with the children and generally make you feel incredibly welcome.

The Sandy Pencil Rating: 9 /10

 

Clio Hotel, Alykes, Zakynthos

Transfer time from Airport: 30 minutes

 

This idyllic hotel is situated 350m from Alykes centre and boasts mountain views, chic sun-loungers and a laid-back feel.

Many people return to the Clio Hotel year after year and as soon as you stay there, it’s obvious why – the family who own this property know how to look after their guests and go that extra mile to make you feel welcome.

If you’re holidaying on a budget and want to stay somewhere where you’re really looked after, Clio Hotel is the right choice.

Facilities

  • Bar
  • Pool.

Review

Rooms

Our accommodation was booked directly with the hotel and included the transfers to and from the airport. We booked a family room which had a large balcony and beautiful mountain views.

Our room was spacious, nicely decorated and well equipped for a self-catering holiday including a large fridge with freezer compartment, two hot plates and a kettle.

The rooms were cleaned to perfection daily.

Food

Breakfast was a simple and tasty continental. For those wanting something more substantial, there was also the option of a cooked breakfast at an extra cost.

The homemade, evening meals were delicious with plenty of healthy choices.

Entertainment

Weekly Greek night.

Customer Service

For us, what made our holiday, was the way we were welcomed into the family for the two weeks we were there.

The owner made our children fresh fruit platters every morning, gave them a gift each, made Darcy an olive oil concoction when she had an ear infection and even offered to take us to the pharmacy. It’s these little touches that give the Clio Hotel its excellent reputation and why it has such loyal customers.

The Sandy Pencil Rating: 9/10

 

Top 10 travel tips when flying with toddlers

Holidays with our families should be joyous occasions. But nothing is worse than the trepidation of a long-haul flight with toddlers. You just know at some point in the journey they will take advantage of the captive audience and showcase their well-perfected tantrum skills.

What’s worse is, when the time comes and you board the plane, there are other toddlers; an army of mini Machiavellians, all in on it together. Half an hour after take-off, when the novelty of the window blind has worn off, Billy on the back row kick-starts the kick-offs.

By the time it’s your child’s turn, Doris and Ethel in the row next to you have well and truly had it up to their bouffant buns. Ethel slams her Mills & Boon shut and whispers something to Doris with a sideways glance at your little one, who you now feel an overwhelming desire to protect.  The others started it. I’ve been there, unprepared, stressed to the hilt, frantically waving inanimate objects in front of Darcy’s face to distract her.

Here are some nifty travel hacks I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Pre-book seats on the flight

I was shocked to hear that airlines do not have to allocate young children and infants a seat next to an accompanying adult.  The airline will endeavour to seat you together as a priority, but if not possible, your toddler could end up one row away from you sitting with strangers.

2. Optimise space on the plane when pre-booking your seats

If travelling as a family of four and the plane seating plan is 3 / 3, book two seats each on each side of the aisle. This way you have more chance of having the entire six seats to yourself – a bonus when the little ones get tired as you can lift a seat arm and cobble a makeshift bed.

3. Check your suitcases in later

Waiting around a dilapidated carousel for your suitcases with ratty toddlers is no fun. Checking in later for your flight, means your suitcases will be more likely taken off the plane earlier at the other end. This seems to work most of the time for us, but it depends on the airline.

4. Arm yourself with activities to keep your little one busy

Before the flight, have a mental itinerary ready to keep your little one occupied. Colouring, travel puzzles, non-messy craft, reading a story book are all good ways to keep them entertained.

5. Don’t peak too soon. Keep an activity back for the last hour of the journey

Save their favourite activity till last. That way, when they’ve really had enough, it’s got the added umph to hold their interest.

6. Load the iPad up with their favourite films, games and TV programmes before you go

There are plenty of really fun activities for toddlers on the iPad. Our girls love CBeebies and Puzzingo.

7. Take a lightweight blanket and a travel pillow just in case they do fall asleep

This is where the extra seat comes in handy.

8. Make sure you have a euro handy (or equivalent) on your outbound flight

The last thing you want to be doing when you reach your destination is scrabbling around for a coin for a luggage trolley. Or, worse still, not getting one and trying to juggle toddlers, hand-luggage and suitcases through arrivals and into your coach or taxi.

9. Pack a travel fan in your hand luggage

Bus and taxi journeys with no air conditioning are no fun with tired toddlers.

10. Most importantly – don’t stress about Doris and Ethel

Make sure you stock up on things that you enjoy for the quiet moments, whether that be items from the mini bar or a good book.

 

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki

If you’re missing the sun and longing for a taste of the Mediterranean, this recipe is a great way to take you back to your hols. Once the souvlaki marinade has done its thing, it’s super quick to put together too. The tzatziki is best prepared a few hours in advance and refrigerated, allowing time for the flavours to mingle.

Ingredients – Serves 4

For the souvlaki:

4 large chicken breast cut into chunks

Juice of one lemon

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano

2 – 3 cloves crushed garlic

Handful of fresh mint to garnish

 

For the Tzatziki:

200g full fat Greek Yoghurt

1 clove crushed garlic

1 small cucumber

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

  1. To prepare the tzatziki, take a potato peeler and peel the outer part of the cucumber until you reach the watery seeds in the centre (discard this part). You should now have nice, long ribbons of cucumber. Squeeze these to remove excess water and add to a serving bowl with the other ingredients. Mix and cover with cling film then refrigerate for two to three hours.
  2. To prepare the souvlaki, mix all the ingredients in a bowl and marinade in the fridge for 4 – 12.
  3. I prefer to cook the chicken in one batch in a large frying pan, but if you have the time, these are nice loaded onto soaked skewers and cooked on a BBQ. For this method, turn frequently and cook until no longer pink.
  4. To fry, heat a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the contents of the bowl. There’s no need to add oil – it’s already in the marinade. Cook until all the pieces are no longer pink in the centre.
  5. Remove the tzatziki from the fridge and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil
  6. Plate up the chicken, garnish with chopped mint and serve with fluffy, white rice or pitta.

 

 

Lindos| Donkeys n’ all

With its glittering, crescent bay and white washed houses, it is impossible not to marvel at the beauty of this medieval village. Crowning a steep rock, the Acropolis sits proudly above pretty cubic houses nestled in the rock’s surface. It’s easy to see how this archaeological site draws over half a million visitors each year.

Lindos village is accessible only by foot, so when we arrived shortly after lunch, we abandoned our car and made our way through a maze of pebbled alleys and courtyards, where history resonates with every footfall.

From the imposing Acropolis dominating the skyline to the Church of Panagia situated at the heart of the village, there was much to excite even the most laid back history enthusiast.

The advantages of us being completely disorganised meant we missed the crowds and were able to wander at our own pace, nosing in gifts shops and eyeing up prospective restaurants to look up on Trip Advisor in advance of our dinner later.

But of course, a visit to Lindos would not be complete without seeing the Acropolis close up. This meant either clambering a steep, uneven staircase or, for those wishing to take the easy option or drench themselves in the true experience, a bumpy donkey ride.

Approaching the accent, I spied a couple of donkeys feeling their way up the crumbling steps, their legs buckling under the weight of their hefty passengers and immediately knew I could not inflict myself on something the size of a large poodle. Surely there should be weight restrictions for donkey rides? Heavier than a four year old, you can’t get on. They have height restrictions on theme park rides after all.

Not being one with a head for heights and getting struck by vertigo by just standing on a step ladder, I had second thoughts and eyed up one of the donkeys waiting nearby who did its best to avoid eye contact with me.

The climb was tricky with few holds. Once at the top, glugging a lukewarm bottle of water, I mentally congratulated myself on my mini achievement, deciding it was worthy of a frozen Mythos later.

Meandering the site, we consulted our guidebook like obedient tourists. The views were incredible if slightly disconconcerting, with sheer drops in places and no solid barriers.

Nevertheless, we soaked up the history of the Acropolis. In 300BC, the Acropolis was dominated by the Doric temple of Athena Lindia and further developed during Hellenistic and Roman times. In the 14th century, the Castle of the Knights of St John was built, the walls and towers of which mould into the natural structure of the cliff.  These have been well preserved.

With my daily allowance of knowledge intake exceeded, we navigated our way back down and found a quant taverna. Welcoming us with a toothy smile, the owner led us up to a rooftop garden where we were gifted with a magnificent view. Just in front of us, the church’s bell tower protruded into the skyline and there behind it, etched into the horizon, was the slate grey silhouette of the Turkish mountains.

When our main dishes arrived, a grumpy but competent waiter took pride in filleting a freshly caught sea bream at the table. Perhaps it was a mixture of the stunning scenery and my elation at having climbed higher than a stepladder, but I can still remember the taste of that fish. So there I was, Mythos in hand and Baklava on the way, watching the sun slip into the sea amidst a crimson haze. It couldn’t get better than that.