Aug
23

Locanda Orseolo, Venice

Hotel View from the lounge at this Venetian Family Hotel Locanda Orseolo is a small quaint family-owned hotel with rooms overlooking a small canal just off Piazza San Marco and very close to the high end/designer fashion shopping. The entrance is through a large but secluded gated courtyard which is handy for kids to have a bit of space. From our arrival, we were treated like great friends. Every staff member introduced themselves and learnt the names of everyone in our family, which they used throughout the stay.
The breakfast room and lounge areas have little picture windows from floor to waist height, allowing guests a hassle free and novel back entrance into the hotel from the canals water taxis. The children sat amused literally for hours in the window watching the gondolas meandering past and were delighted to wave and chat to the gondoliers and their passengers as they passed by. Meanwhile, the adults were free to enjoy a quiet long sumptuous breakfast or a quiet drink. Watching the gondoliers skilfully weave gracefully past several boats without touching is an extremely addictive and relaxing pastime, almost like a meditation. This hotel however, and Venice in general, is not necessarily a relaxing experience for families with young children- the amount of readily accessible waterways and steps over the countless bridges presents considerable challenges.
The rooms are reasonably spacious (by Italian standards) and impeccably clean. We had a modest suite style room allowing us to sleep the children separate from the adults. Everything worked well, including the air-conditioning which was a Godsend during summer, keeping the room cool while it was very warm outside. One thing to note: although there are no prices listed on the minibar, we were charged a little more than expected for the soft drinks we consumed.

The staff were excellent and could not have been more helpful booking the best restaurants in town, pointing us to the best boutiques, arranging baby-sitting and locating places we wanted to visit. Our hasty departure via water taxi en route to the overnight train from Venice to Paris was very memorable with Alex waving us off through the canal window until we were out of sight. We will return and when we do, we know we will be greeted by our friends.

Jan
15

Luxury Family Holidays- Pan Pacific Hotel, Singapore

Singapore is a great Asian destination for either a easy luxury family holiday destination or short stopover with kids en-route to Europe. Singapore is warm, clean, highly organised and efficient. Great for relaxing, dining, shopping and taking in the Universal Studios Theme Park, just one of the attractions on Singapore’s Sentosa Island. We stayed at the Pan Pacific Hotel twice during the past month on recommendation from research using trip advisor.

Pan Pacific Hotel Singapore Pros

We were not disappointed. The Pan Pacific Hotel is recently and beautifully refurbished, showcasing some interesting architecture which held the interest of the kids every time they stepped out of the room. The hotel also has internal and external glass lifts, making every trip to the room  a fun and interesting adventure on it’s own. The hotel is large and clean, with very good service. The pool is very large with wading areas which are ideal for kids, lap swimming areas and other areas deep enough to safely dive. The pool staff were attentive bringing towels and complimentary bottled water regularly. The gym is very well equipped, with Technogym equipment and open 24 hours, the Spa also very impressive offering a range of treatments including the Jet Lag relief treatment which I can thoroughly recommend. The buffet breakfast is very extensive and if you can’t find anything to temp you any of the expansive choices, the chefs are more than happy to cook pretty much anything you desire.

The hotel is well located in the Suntec City/Marina Bay area with direct indoor access to the convention centre and large indoor shopping malls with exceptional quality food court meals readily available which is great when traveling with kids who under the influence of a little jet lag, need to eat frequently and urgently!  The Pan Pacific Singapore is also fairly close to the highly efficient MRT train service. Taxi’s are also readily available, and the traffic, although fairly heavy moves quite freely in our experience.

Pan Pacific Hotel Cons

The only negative- we experienced issues booking accommodation for our family on both occasions. One stay was booked by the call centre and the other directly at the hotel, but on both occasions, we were shown to a room for 2 with one king bed and therefore not capable of holding our family. However on both occasions, the front desk staff promptly upgraded us to a very large executive suite, which made our stays very confortable. For our trouble, the front desk manager also kindly added some extras to our stay.

Tip- Make sure you print all of your booking info and carry it with you on check in to avoid any difficulties. Other than this minor inconvenience, we give this hotel the a big thumbs up and will return again.

Sep
13

UK Family Holidays with Kids- London Syon Park Hotel- An Unexpected Oasis

Planning a UK Family Holiday with Kids?

Syon Park view from interconnecting room

UK family holidays with kids offer a diverse range of engaging experiences for your whole family. If you are planning UK family holidays with kids, London is an excellent place to start. Our family recently enjoyed staying at Syon Park Hotel, a recent addition to the Hilton/Waldof Astoria chain. Previously we had done the bed and breakfast thing, but with small children we preferred a hotel experience- as hospitable as B & B hosts can be, there is always a degree of discomfort staying in someone else home with little kids. So this time we were seeking a hotel that would not only give kids some space to be kids and run around, but it also needed to be well located to the airport, downtown London and Surrey and Legoland, where we were attending a wedding. London Syon Park  Hotel fits this bill. It is well located, about half way between Heathrow Airport and downtown London which is only 10 miles away.

This property is like an oasis, on pastural land owned by the Duke of Northumberland near the next to the Thames River. The Syon Park Hotel shares the 200 Acre property with grazing animals, a garden center, and a Castle which is the Duke of Northumberland’s London residence. The Castle and its grounds can be visited several days each week. (http://www.syonpark.co.uk/information.asp).

The staff were friendly and obliging and check-in very smooth. Interconnecting rooms are modern and ornately decorated, although somewhat small. They opened on to a balcony, with views of the large gardens and grounds of the castle. Ground floor rooms lead straight out onto the grass which is a bonus for families with sleeping babes and toddlers.

The fitness facilities are excellent, including a Technogym gymnasium and a beautiful indoor pool and spa. Kids were unfortunately restricted to swimming during designated times in the morning and afternoon, allowing adults enjoying the spa facilities some peace during the daytime. It didn’t really affect us greatly, we just planned our day around the available swimming times. The restaurant is somewhat formal inside but outside is a great option for dining with children giving them some space to wander and enjoy the courtyards edible garden. The staff were very helpful but they were late setting up and in opening for breakfast each morning – important when little tummys were waking up at 4am and ready to eat the second doors were to open! That being said, breakfast was very lavish and included in our room rate. The waiters were proudly serving traditional English fare which was certainly tasty but loaded with butter and salt. They were unable to accomodate requests for reduced salt and lower fat options.  No complaints from the little people however! Another thing to note was their were no kids meals available on the menu, but the chefs were able to modify the dishes to meet the tastes of youngsters.

Plan Some R&R On Your UK Family Holiday

One great aspect of this property is that the hotel actively supports environment awareness sourcing produce which is grown locally, and in fact much of its produce is grown on the grounds of the hotel including many delicious herbs and vegetables. We were fortunate during our garden strolls to meet Robert, the head garden architect who showed us around the green-house where there is a special dining experience on offer at the chefs table. We were lucky to sample some of the best tomatoes we have eaten, plucked straight from the vine.

Any UK family holiday with the kids needs a little “R & R”. There is plenty of opportunity for some quality downtime here with your kids. Wandering through Syon Park is very pleasant. Push bikes are also available from the hotel, but unfortunately they don’t have any bikes for kids yet (hint to management!). There are great paths for biking, walking and jogging with one leading down to the nearby Thames River and a great little family friendly pub where the kids can watch the punts and ducks floating by. Syon Park is also home to The Tropical Zoo with animals such as insects, tarantulas, snakes, lizards, iguanas, and even a baby crocodile.

We found a hire car very useful as it is a bit of a distance to public transport. The gardens are a still a work in progress and the hotel and it’s staff are still finding their feet. All in all, with it’s interconnecting rooms, plenty of space to walk, run and hide for the kids, animals to visit etc, this is a great place to consider staying with your family. Given time, this hotel will be an even more  wonderful place to stay, close to London.

Would we go back? Sure. Let us know if you have any other ideas for our readers of great places to stay when planning UK family holidays with kids.

Aug
24

Florida Keys Family Frolic at Cheeca

Cheeca Resort and Spa Florida KeysIf you’re interested in a tropical family vacation within the continental US, with easy access from Miami/Fort Lauderdale airport, the luxurious Cheeca Lodge & Spa (http://www.cheeca.com/) on the quaint island of Islamorada, in the Florida Keys is worth checking out. This beachfront resort has beautifully manicured grounds, villa style rooms with private balconies, with a good blend of amenities that a high-end resort has to offer, as well as facilities and activities that the whole family can enjoy.

You can dine outside on the beach or indoors at one of the three fine restaurants, sit under the shaded cabanas near the heated pool, pamper yourself at the spa, enjoy a game of tennis or squeeze in a nine hole 3-par golf game, work out in the state of the art fitness center, soak up the sun while lying out along the 1,100 foot palm-lined private beach, take a leisurely bike ride around the property or splash in the ocean.

Cheeca has hosted generations of families, Hollywood celebrities, Washington elite, and several United States Presidents over its 60 years. The ambience is casual and intimate, with attentive but never intrusive service. Sprinkled throughout 27 acres of lush gardens winding through shimmering pools and cascading waterfalls, the spacious West-Indies-style rooms, suites, and bungalows offer stunning ocean, island or golf course views. Rooms are beautiful and appointed with every luxury – from fine linens, extravagant marble bathrooms, and screened-in porches to wireless Internet access and sleek plasma screen televisions.

To add to the family friendly aspects of this hotel we love that all the Villa Suites have the option of interconnecting with a 2 queen room and have a fully equipped kitchen, accommodating up to 8 people. Babysitting is available and the resorts kids club, Camp Cheeca provides  loads of fun and supervised entertainment for children 5-12 years. Activities include fishing off the pier; arts and crafts; scavenger hunts; lagoon swimming/snorkeling; group games and beach exploration. The Florida Keys are home to North America’s only living coral barrier reef- the 3rd largest reef in the world. Home to more than 500 species of fish and nearly 50 varieties of living coral. Older kids can experience kayaking, sailing, snorkeling and windsurfing and they have so many places to hang out and explore.

We were recently at Cheeca for a wedding, “sans enfant”, and can’t wait to get back there with the whole family. It’s a gem.

Feb
28

Life Lessons at Orchid Villa, Ubud.

orchid villa ubud bali

We’ve just spent an incredible few days learning about life and nature with Rick Pursel who runs a sanctuary for humans at his home-stay villas, Villa Orchid, outside Ubud in the lush hills of  Bali.

Rick’s a fascinating guy. One of the few individuals who really walks his talk when it comes to living with a spiritual focus. His motto- Cause No Harm. This applies firstly to yourself, then to other people, animals, equipment, and our environment.

We originally went visited Rick and Lita’s home-stay for lunch when staying in Bali by the beach last year. We actually hadn’t considered staying up thinking that the kids would enjoy the beach more. Wrong!! The short story is that they wouldn’t leave after lunch and we ended up spending a couple of nights at Orchid Villa. For this past year, the kids have been begging to return to Orchid Villa’s magical garden.

The property has several garden villas and two side by side rooms with open air bathrooms and beautiful views over the valley which is perfect for families. One of the highlights for the children was Rick’s guided walk through local traditional farms teaching the kids and adults about the food grown locally– essentially showcasing everything which had appeared on our breakfast menu that morning! – chocolate / cocco and coffee plants, pineapple, sago, snake fruit, pappya, rice padi’s, ducklings, fish swimming through the rice padi’s, piglets, cows, citrus, chickens. We saw how the local people live and work their land and store the food. Stunning and fascinating. The walk took us just under an hour and just the right amount of time to engage the kids. One of the locals delighted by our appearance invited us to sit and chat for a while in his homes reception area. With offers of tea and food, politely declined we were once again on our way back to Rick’s magical garden as our kids affectionately describe it.

The garden surrounding the Villa’s at Rick’s place this wonderful location is like a maze of orchid filled secret gardens for children with flowing streams, dancing dragonfly, coy ponds, frogs, orchids, lotus, and a multitude of intriguing daily events taking place in the plant and animal kingdom.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157625940142777″]

Just when we thought our lessons about the food chain were complete, our youngest daughter came to us saying “come, come! There is a snake eating a frog,” and so it was.

Half way up the tall palm hiding in the orchids was a little padi snake, that had caught hold of its weekly meal by the foot. The kids and mums prayed and rooted for the frog to use its powerful legs to leap to safety out of the clutches of this ambitious, deluded snake whos mouth was clearly tiny, in comparison to the size of the frog. However, it was us deluded!

Nature is incredible, and despite our attempts to rescue the frog, with Rick Pursell’s guidance, we all had a first hand guided experience of the food chain and nature’s wonders.


Jan
30

Luxurious Child friendly George V Four Seasons Hotel Paris Reviewed for Families

Outstanding luxury family friendly hotels provide great services and facilities that keep everyone happy, from the smallest to the wisest, grandparents too. Whilst luxury hotels are plentiful in Paris, yet finding one that caters well for children is not easy. Reputed to be one of the world’s best hotels, the Four Seasons George V is our top pick for the best luxury family friendly hotel in Paris. The George V is ideally located, a short stroll from the Champs Elysees in the 8th arrondissement and two metro train lines. Beautifully decorated public areas are adorned with prints, sculptures, marble and gold leaf with stunning flower arrangements- a feast of colour and interest for little eyes.

Children are greeted at check in with their own room keys and choice of special gift from a basket full of the most sought-after treasures, little ponies, Bakugan, toy cars etc. Car parking is hassle free with the efficient and friendly concierge.

The rooms are spacious and luxurious. Welcome baskets filled with pastry and fruit, and Bulgari toiletry baskets for adults and children fill the air with glorious scents. Roll-away beds with full mattresses and cribs are complimentary for children up to 12. Child sized robes, slippers and t-shirts truly make children feel special and for older kids the complimentary videos, and gaming units are a big hit. Other hotels take note!! One of our rooms 141 had its own extra large private terrace balcony– invaluable with young kids, from which we enjoyed wonderful breakfasts and were entertained observing the activity in the bustling streets.

The hotel staff are very friendly and obliging with no request too much trouble– even a late night dash to a pharmacy for kids medication. Strollers and wheelchairs are complementary. The concierge arranged tables for us at short notice in wonderful local restaurants and had recommendations for the best attractions for children– cruise on the Seine, magic museum in le Marais and parks. Unique to the George V, the back-of-the-house tour is a must with kids, showing the behind the scenes workings of the hotel. Our children joined the chefs in the hotels lively kitchen to bake little Florentines- and we had snacks for the next couple of days!

Kids love the warm indoor pool and for adults, the gym, exquisite day spa and business centre- all first class. Internet is available in the rooms for a daily fee and complimentary in the business centre. The hotel was full during our stay, yet we often felt like the only guests. When we saw other guests they were very friendly and chatted with the children.

Restaurant dining in Paris with kids can be a mixed experience, as kids are often not welcome- not so here. Well behaved children are welcomed for the early dinner seating in any of its several eateries including the 2 Michelin star George V restaurant. The food is excellent, with a range of great food choices for kids and an offer to prepare special orders like steamed veggies.

Check-out is simple, courteous and efficient. A small discrepancy in the bill was quickly amended without question. All in all, the George V Four Seasons Paris is a tremendous luxury hotel for families. We wouldn’t hesitate to check-in for months at a time. The kids can’t wait to go back- enjoying it as much as Disneyland! Heck, I think we may move in forever!


Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris in Google Maps:

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