When it comes to holidays, my wife and I have never quite understood ‘returning types’. With three Geography degrees between us and a hunger to score new cities and countries on the ‘where I’ve been in the world’ chart, we are generally of the opinion that there is too much of the world to go back to where we’ve been before. Besides, even if we really enjoyed somewhere, mightn’t there be somewhere better – somewhere more beautiful; somewhere with more delicious food; somewhere more amazing to stay?
So it came as a shock to ourselves when we booked the same holiday for our summer break as we did last year. I am talking exactly the same: same two weeks in August; same country; same island; same villa… What were we thinking?
I can tell you we were thinking. We were thinking of 3 and a half hours of excellent child care each day; we were thinking about long walks, hand-in-hand, on sandy beaches; we were thinking about a cute little villa with its own pool for lounging and splashing with the kids (no tedious treks to the communal with all the clobber, just open the back gate); we were thinking about guaranteed sunshine and sea like bathwater; we were thinking about friendly local tavernas with playgrounds that assure meal-time harmony…
Yes, we were thinking about all this when we rang Simpson Travel in January and secured our place at Periyali Villas for the second year running. As I explain in the review I wrote last year, Periyali is truly unique. I challenge anyone to find anything like it in the Med. Yes, you can find kids clubs but not on this intimate scale; not where you don’t feel a little pang of guilt at dumping your kids and scurrying back to your villa (not your hotel room) to indulge yourself.
Despite all the obvious allure, we were nervous about going back. What if things had changed? What if it just didn’t work as well as last year: the kids reject the crèche; the heat all gets too much for them; the accommodation doesn’t work as well now the kids are older? We didn’t want to spend two weeks reveling in the memory of 2012 and regretting the reality of 2013.
Within minutes of touching down in the hot Zakynthian sun, these fears began to evaporate. Arriving back was like putting on an old pair of slippers. It felt like coming home. Pretty much everything was the same; Denise, the site manager, welcomed me with a birthday cake (delicious). Wendy was still heading up kids club. The gardener smiled at us like we were neighbours.
And then we started meeting the other ‘returners’. Families we’d met at Periyali last year who had the same idea as us. In fact, our first return visit cast us as mere Periyali novices. One family we met were back for their 6th time.
The kids took immediately to kids’ club. No tears, no issues. And the Periyali ‘format’ was as successful as before: the kids spend mornings in the club, being busy, whilst Mum and Dad relax, and afternoons are spent together (you can choose to have the kids in afternoons or all-day, but morning club is by far the most popular option). My wife and I reveled in our time as a couple. We talked; and not-talked. And we actually relaxed.
And because of that downtime, our time as a family – in the afternoons, evenings and weekends – seemed even better. We relished splashing about in our pool; trips to our favourite beaches (Banana, by the way – love the Ibiza vibe and sensational chocolate milkshakes); and nights in our favourite tavernas – Delfinia’s for the trampoline and friendly owner (who remembered us instantly); and Gallini for it’s health-and-safety-tastic playground. It was all so comforting, so… unstressful.
So I leave you in no doubt that this was a good, no, a great, holiday. And, with all great holidays, you learn a little more about yourselves whilst you’re away.
What this experience has taught me is that a holiday isn’t always about discovering new places. On this visit, we discovered that Genevieve can swim and Leo can now snorkel; I re-discovered a love of reading (I hadn’t finished a book in years); and Kirsty discovered that 11 books on her Kindle wasn’t enough. We didn’t need to be anywhere different to return with new talents, new ideas and new enthusiasm.
When travelling with kids, there’s definitely a time and place for adventure. I am the first person to advocate pushing the boundaries and (hopefully) creating memories that enter family legend. But, whilst there’s a lounger and chocolate milkshake at Banana Beach with my name on them, I might just temper my Phileas Fogg instinct for one more year.
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