This one is pretty new to me I have to admit. A UK beach holiday, that is. Well, it’s new for my current lifetime, however in my previous life as a carefree toddler and child, somewhere very close by did feature significantly in my life. What am I talking about, you ask? I’m talking about Dorset and more precisely, Sandbanks, near Poole and Bournemouth. According to Wikipedia; ‘ the 4th highest property value in the world’ is this small peninsula crossing the mouth of Poole Harbour. Also know as Britain’s ‘Palm Beach’ apparently! I didn’t see enough to feel qualified to truly comment on our overnight stay but I can say that I saw some stunning properties on the drive down to the hotel which sits in pride of place directly on the blue flag beach on its one side and a gorgeous view out to the natural bay of Poole Harbour on the other (hence rooms are either sea view or harbour view-neither too shabby!).
I mentioned earlier that Dorset played a large part in my childhood and that’s because my grandparents used to own a beautiful penthouse flat in Bournemouth, choc full of antiques and more importantly collapsible sun loungers which doubled as tents on their balcony. We spent many, many joyous days in the sunshine on that balcony or walking on the beach, playing crazy golf or on the pier with our Zaida (grandpa). You see, Bournemouth and it’s surrounds enjoys a very pleasant micro-climate with less rain and more sunshine than elsewhere so if you want to take your kids to the beach in the UK there is no better option.
I digress. I need to explain that my best friend has three children and has been raving about the Sandbanks Hotel to me for ages. In the past I tended to ignore her in favour of Ibiza, or the Maldives or Thailand or the French Riviera but last week whilst we were in the throes of a boiling summer week with temperatures spilling over the 30 degree mark we agreed to drive down from London (2 hours in no traffic but pick your time carefully!) with our 8 month old and spent a night there. This place is apparently the place to go with kids. Their kids club – The Funsters – is unrivalled and believe me, from seeing my best friend’s 3 kids being entertained from dawn ’til dusk I can see why. In fact, their kids club is one of the biggest draws for visitors to the hotel. That said, the room was comfortable, clean (my biggest bugbear) and modern with all the mod cons one would expect from a good four star hotel. Many, as ours did, have balconies with stunning views of beach and seaside that most forget exists in this country!
The hotel also has a lovely outdoor terrace with restaurant, bar and chillout area where people generally lounge all day, snacking, sipping Pimms and relaxing in between the beach or the sea. Along with sun loungers and off to the side, a children’s pirate ship themed playground ( that’s not forgetting that there is also an indoor pool to keep them occupied if the beach or the on site watersports academy weren’t enough!). For the adults there is also a steam room, gym and beauty rooms with access to the spa as well at the nearby Haven Hotel.
The Sandbanks caters amazingly well to people with young families and staff to guest ratio seemed very high. They are part of a group of four hotels in close proximity; FJB Hotels, so they also have a dine around option which is handy if you fancy getting out and about to explore. The food is plentiful and again with many options for the youngsters. So, all in all, I would say give it a go. But, be careful, if you are taking young children with you, you may be obliged to return over and over again!
We are off to Paris. Heading to the City of Love. Luckily missing Valentine’s Day by a few days and unluckily but hopefully not too relevantly, catching the end of half-term.
I haven’t been to Paris for such a long time. I used to love it there. My brother lived there on Rue de L’Universite in the 7th. I spent a lot of time there in between university in Tours and over the course of my work at Societe Generale; jetting out once a month or so to see clients and go to nice restaurants. I remember when Hotel Costes first opened, drinking in the bar there, having lunch at the brand new Cafe Marly and the wonderful club sandwiches at the Ritz Hotel, lunch on Sunday at Chez Marianne in the Marais, when the Marais wasn’t half as trendy as it is now! It wasn’t a bad experience of Paris at all. It was a privileged one. So what would be more appropriate than to return after more than 10 years to visit yet another family member living there (my first cousin) and with a new family member myself, in style.
Being an ‘older’ mummy (39 but look 30- sorry- it’s the genes and the fact that I’m 5 feet nothing!) myself and Mr Pregnantcitygirl have had the time and the money to lead the high life! First class travel – on the A380 no less – I’m a bit of a plane buff-, trips to the best resorts in the Maldives and many impromptu holidays during two recent gardening leave stints, whether it be returning from one holiday only to book to leave again the next day or island hopping in the Caribbean. We have been very lucky. Travel is a passion of mine so it must only follow that we return to the City of Love with our new love- baby Alexander.
We are testing out Paris in Luxury with a twist; a 3 month old. It’s his first trip abroad. He’s had two out of the three five in one inoculations (sounds like a pet, doesn’t he!) we have his first passport so we are ready to go. Well…… I say we are ready but are we prepared?
Most new parents probably take their first trips in the car. It’s much easier to kitchen-sink it that way. Before becoming a parent it was easy, now there is so much to consider. Which pram? The carrycot or the seat attachment (both!!!) , how many nappies? How many baby grows? (All of them). Where will he sleep? – In the cot provided by the hotel (he’s never slept in a cot before, just in his co-sleeping cot, hence we have to take the carrycot to the pram). It’s a minefield. A road (or rail in our case), never travelled before. Do we take a carseat? (No, the hotel is transferring us from and back to the Gare du Nord so I’ll leave that to them). These are just some of the things I have thought of let alone the ones that I haven’t. Luckily, we are going to be well looked after and I expect will want for nothing. We are staying at Le Bristol Hotel. Chosen over the Ritz or the George V ( Four Seasons). I believe that it’s the best hotel in Paris. If you believe Tripadvisor (I use it with caution and always cross-reference) it has glowing reviews almost every time whereas the George V doesn’t have such a flawless review history. I am very picky. A difficult customer. I expect to get what I pay for. So many people settle for less. Why pay for something and be content not to receive it in it’s entirety? Hotels and restaurants are notorious for falling short as it’s very difficult to meet or beat expectations at the top.
Hotel Le Bristol, is as French as it gets. Traditional and uber-luxurious. Amongst its numerous awards it’s the first French hotel to be granted the prestigious ‘Palace Hotel’ classification and is part of the Oetker Collection which also includes the famous Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc. Situated on the Rue du Faubourg St Honore between the Champs Élysées and the Place de la Concorde in the prestigious 8th surrounded by all the designer boutiques (unfortunately my budget won’t be stretching that far) and within easy reach of the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay- yes we will be taking baby Alexander for his first hit of art culture!
So, we chose Eurostar. A bit of a no brainer really. It’s so much easier. The new terminal at St Pancras is ten minutes from our front door and likewise at the other end the Gare du Nord is fifteen minutes from our hotel rather than a possible two hour taxi ride from Charles De Gaulle – believe me, with traffic it can be a nightmare. I remember the timed before Eurostar. The other consideration is the baggage; on Eurostar we are fine, on a plane we would have probably had to buy an extra seat for the amount our excess luggage would have cost us. It’s much easier just to wheel a pram on and off a train. The journey is much faster and for the environmentalists, ( it’s Alexander’s world now!) much greener. There are also loads of options with Eurostar. They offer more than just train tickets as well. With Eurostar Plus (Culture, Gourmet or Shopping) you just show your ticket at certain museums, restaurants and shops to get discounts; some up to 50%. I like a discount!
Meanwhile we are traveling Standard Premier class. Extra space, a ‘light meal’ and overall more comfort. I think, if the budget stretches it is worth it with a baby. It’s hard enough with a baby as it is!
I’m pleased that we chose Eurostar. Check-in took minutes, even with a pram and two huge suitcases and we were comfortably ensconced in a booth of four seats around a table with the two opposite us happily housing the carry-cot soon after. A light breakfast, some free magazines ( French Grazia and Vogue) and all went swimmingly well. One thing I didn’t think about was the pressure for Alexanders’ ears but I fed him whilst we were under the sea which took the pressure off and he was fine. Easy so far!
Well this is part two really because unfortunately I am back on planet earth and home in London. The conclusion is that our first trip abroad with baby Alexander was a huge success and a very easy experience.
The Hotel Bristol, one of Paris’ most historic hotels, was fabulous right from the word go.We chose it due to its genuine child friendly offering. They have a children’s program where each child receives a customized welcome pack; in-room toys, snacks, slippers a robe and even childrens toiletries ( I can’t wait to go back with a toddler!) They even organise treasure hunts and go as far as to offer a children’s area in the stunning three storey spa where the little ones can be entertained whilst their parents indulge in a little ‘me’ time. The hotel also offers special meals for kids so that they too can enjoy their own culinary treats – next time Alexander! Continue Reading