Every year my hotlist seems to arrive a bit later. Last year I revealed it on 21st February. This year, I woke up in a panic having realised we’d got to March and I had still not put pen to paper. I attribute my tardiness to having too many children; number 3 has done untold damage to my output. Posts are written in my head more than they are on my laptop. So apologies everyone (although, admittedly, I have not been bombarded with requests). Without further ado, here’s what’s on my holiday radar this year.
Yes, you read that correctly. I am talking about that industrial port town in Northern Germany. Quite a departure from the bucket-and-spade-guaranteed-sun fodder that usually fills the pages of the Files. I can’t even take the credit for this one. It was my Mum’s idea. Stumped for a Christmas present for my model-train-fanatic father, she suggested we buy him a trip to Hamburg to visit a place called Miniatur Wonderland (that’s Minature Wonderland in English for those of you reaching for Google Translate). It’s the largest model exhibit in the world, housed in a warehouse in Hamburg’s old port. With a little bit of research I realised that my Lego-, Transport- and Geography-obsessed son would go mad for this place. It’s not just a model railway. It has a model airport (with planes that actually take off for goodness sake!); model beaches; model cities – anything that could be miniaturised has been. And I have to admit, I was pretty excited to see this myself. Before you knew it, 3 Easyjet flights had been secured and we are off on an inter-generational boys weekend to see this wonder of craftsmanship and patience! The more I’ve looked into Hamburg too, the more cool I think it’s going to be for a weekend break with a 7-year old boy. We’ll avoid the less salubrious parts of course (I’m not ready to introduce him to the sights and sounds of the Reeperbahn just yet) but the boat tour of the harbour where you get up close and personal to the cargo ships and mega-cranes sounds awesome. Plus with Bratwurst a-plenty, I have a good feeling this is going to blow Leo’s mind and be the stuff of memories.
- Barrington House, Dartmouth, Devon
Easter is my preferred holiday for taking a UK break. Why? Because, for once, I don’t stress about the weather. Holidaying in the UK in July or August is usually one big disappointment; you long for those blue sky beach days but at best you get one or two and the rest are spent shivering on a bleak promenade or in a noisy soft play. At Easter, however, you have no expectation whatsoever. You accept it might be cold and wet and make plans (and take clothes) appropriately. But also, in these El Nino and globally warmed times, you are just as like to get 25 degrees and sunshine on Good Friday as you are August Bank Holiday. This Easter, we are headed down to Devon, staying in the beautiful town of Dartmouth. I’ve wanted to take the family here a while: steam trains, farm parks, coastal walks, sandy beaches, boat trips, zoos… it has pretty much anything you’d want from a week in blighty. What will make it extra-special is where we are staying. Barrington House is family-friendly accommodation with stunning views over the river mouth down to sea. Made up of 3 self-catering units, we chose to stay in the Glasshouse, an architecturally-striking annex to the main house (where the owners live) with floor-to-ceiling windows and a private garden with trampoline. Included is access to a local health centre with swimming pool to keep the kids busy should it rain; and the owners will even organise a teddy bear’s picnic in their treehouse for the younger ones.
- Fawakay Villas, Morocco
Tourism to Marrekech (and Morocco generally) is well down on previous years. Terrorism in Tunisia and Egypt, plus ongoing strife in Syria, has made people cautious about the whole region. This is such a shame as Morocco offers the most accessible taste of the exotic you can find within a 4 hour flight of the UK (with no jet lag). Plus in recent years, accommodation options have increased significantly, offering many more family-friendly places to stay outside of the noisy and somewhat overwhelming medina. I’ve had my eye on Villas Fawakay for years, ever since it was reviewed by Files contributor Lynsey; indeed, it made it into my hotlist last year, I just ran out of holiday to get there. So 2016 is the year: we’re booked for May half term and I can’t wait. The set-up looks perfect – our own stylish villa with beds for everyone and a private plunge pool – set on a secure complex with just two other villas and a communal pool. There are creatures and critters to amuse the kids (including a resident donkey); kids’ activities that include cooking lessons and camel-riding; and the Atlas mountains and city of Marrakech beckon should we feel adventurous. There’s even a waterpark down the road, which should top the holiday off perfectly.
- Costa Navarino, Peloponnese Greece
I love Greece for summer holidays. The heat and sunshine are guaranteed; and life for one or two weeks in just wonderfully simple, circulating between bed, beach and dining table. Energetic kids, however, do tend to interrupt that soporific flow, especially as they get older. Sandcastles on the beach are no longer sufficiently distracting; more activities are demanded. Enter Costa Navarino. This huge resort, built alongside a stunning dune-backed beach in the southern Peloponnese, has more activities on offer than you can possibly imagine. Go-karting track; ten pin bowling alley; basketball court; and did I mention the on-site waterpark? The latter clinched it for me – we’re booked for two weeks in August. Best of all, there are kids clubs for the children, the Scott Dunn Explorers one taking children from 4 months so my youngest, Rufus, will be looked after – meaning my wife and I can enjoy a taster of the Greek holidays of old. I deliberately won’t want to do too much exploring, but I shall be headed to nearby Voidokilia, a stunning Omega-shaped crescent of white sand frequently voted one of the best beaches in the world.
The Canary Islands are booming. As resorts in Egypt and Tunisia are off-limits, these Spanish islands are soaking up the demand for short-haul winter sun. Accommodation is packed and prices are going up. In trepidation, I’ve already booked for New Year next year. I am slightly apprehensive about Tenerife. As Trunki Files followers will know, Lanzarote is my preferred Canary; in fact, it’s one of my favourite places in the world. So I am understandably anxious about switching allegiance, if only for one holiday, to another island in the archipelago. However, I’ve heard good things about Tenerife (previously reviewed here on the Files by Helen) and think it will offer plenty to keep us busy. I’m not after a beach-and-pool holiday; the weather in December is not reliable enough for this. What I want is to be out and about in relative warmth and (hopefully) sunshine. I have planned a drive to the other-worldly volcanic landscape of Mount Teide (and a ride to the top on the cable car); a boat trip to the island of La Gomera with dolphin-watching en route; a day out at the vast Loro Parque to see the birds and butterflies; and bike rides along the promenade that runs the length of Costa Adeje – all topped off with evenings in the hot tub (a winter holiday essential in the Canaries) on the deck of our rented villa. Salud!