Radisson Blu Fiji – April 2016


I have given in to the family holiday. Still on my own terms to some degree, but this can only be described as an A grade child friendly holiday. Le sigh.

From afar, during the heyday of single life and then coupledom, I would not-so-silently judge those folk on family holidays, pitying their beige accommodation choices and promising never to commit such crimes.And yet here I am, knee deep in family vay-cay. And I’m loving it. 

To be clear, the holiday nerd in me has not dissipated since becoming a parent. I am still able to source the newest and shiniest hotel, or one with at least a hint of style and character that is not allergic to children. I push the boundaries of what is acceptable and hope that in time my two year old will simply blend in with the designer furniture and no one will notice she is a small human who is drinking a babycino and not a macchiato. 

But for now, we have gone FULL FAMILY HOLIDAY mode, arriving with the extended clan of Giants, to celebrate our foray into this unknown territory. Turns out you can still enjoy yourself even if you are not a fan of children (except your own).

The Raddison Blu is MADE for family holidays, and we barely saw a non young family group the entirety of our stay. The staff are incredibly friendly and engaging with children – the kids club comes highly recommended and it is easy to see why. The children are treated like royalty – and not in a pampered, spoiled way. The childminders are plentiful and sing nursery rhymes to the toddlers swinging on ocean front swings; the pool crew arrange pool volleyball competitions and rowdy rugby matches.


We were travelling as a crew so did not rely on the babysitting. We used the best babysitter – the pool. There were pools everywhere! A main family pool, adults only pool for those seeking some peace and quiet, toddler and kids pools. But best of all, the endless loop of fun from a waterslide that allows adults is by far the best activity. Nothing is funnier than watching our crew attempt to navigate the waterslide while presenting our child in “lion king style” upon dismount. Hours of entertainment. 


Several water sports options are available for guests at no charge. I had my heart set on a paddle board session but the morning I chose had a particularly unappealing beachfront so I was not lured in. In fact, there were not a lot of people in the ocean at all it made me feel quite uncomfortable. Sticking to the fake beach inside instead.

The rooms won’t win any awards in the luxury front – they are basic but comfortable. They are large, well i believe they are but we had a fold out couch open the whole time so we felt a bit squishy. Balconies feature in most rooms, and open up into the sprawling gardens and pools. My pet peeve is the fully tiled flooring – i just can’t get comfortable and cosy. Fine in a unit, or a kitchen, but not in such a small space. But they were clean and shiny so not really a complaint, just not very inviting. 


Food options are plentiful and surprisingly good for a resort. The standard buffet breakfast is served at the beachfront blu brasserie which also does an all day menu and a rotating nightly special. We opted for the ala carte cafe style breakfast in the Thai restaurant. Try the corn cakes – outstanding. I also expected to drink liquid mud but they made an amazing coffee – cannot ever remember a time I’ve said that at a resort. The Thai restaurant is also the hottest restaurant in town according to TripAdvisor and does not disappoint – and given we arrived late it was our first meal so we were off to a great start! 

Honourable mention goes to the Mexican next door at the Wynham resort – mamacitaa was packed to the rafters and delivered a steady supply of tex mex and a shitload of fajitas. Seriously, every second dish out of the kitchen was a flaming fajita. But we were in the holiday swing, so margaritas all round. Would definitely recommend for a family holiday but if you are single/couple I would head straight to the islands. 

Final comment – Free wifi everywhere – come on Australia, what are we doing? It’s an embarrassment. 


 

NO MORE STAYZ

That was the title of the email I got from husband. I suggested a few properties for an upcoming trip, and was promptly rebuffed.Due to a last minute booking over the Easter weekend at a property that was quickly dubbed the drug dealers house with a sex dungeon thanks to a windowless basement room with a single sink and a fussball table, he is now scarred for life.

This is why i like to be organised and planned so that we get the pick of the bunch, rather than the dregs that are overpriced, weirdly designed and frankly a little bit odd. While hilarious, it is horrifying what owners of holiday house rentals think is still acceptable in 2016.

My no go list for holiday house rentals

– floral bedspreads (goes for hotels too)

– fantastic furniture couches

– cane furniture circa 1984

– red leather. It’s offensive

– bunk beds advertised as normal beds for adults. No. For children only. Do not tell me the property sleeps 10 when in reality it has two normal beds and the rest are bunk beds. 

– no linen. Listen, I WILL THROW MONEY at the problem so just tell me upfront how much it will be for you to make it all pretty. Or better yet just include it in the price as a given and be done with it. Who has time to bring linen?? I’m going on holiday so I DON’T need to do laundry. 

– no condiments – come on, just throw in a few of the basics you know i will forget and can go to the supermarket tomorrow but right now i need one thimble of oil.  

Croatian hotels – latest daydreams

Here i go again.

The Sydney weather starts to cool, and i immediately look to the northern hemisphere for some summer inspiration.

And add to my ever expanding list of Croatian hotels that i would love to stay at.

In the last 10 years the travel scene in Croatia has grown from strength to strength. And being a native i often don’t get to sample the delights of new hotels as often as i would like to, but i always try to at least stay one night in a new location.

Being absent for a few years means my list is growing. And fast.

A few of my latest daydreams

Villa Dubrovnik

The price tag is a bit hefty, but the location makes me want to hand over my credit card and deal with it later.

Little Green Bay

French Vogue recently reviewed this hotel and it is simply perfection. Hvar as a party island can sometimes feel too cheesy and touristy – this place ensures privacy and luxury all in one.

Hotel Navis

Our travels have never taken us to this side of Croatia. Yet. But i am determined to visit this beautiful spot referred to as the French Riviera of Croatia as it is visually very different given its Ottoman Empire influence.

Mercure Resort Sanur Beach – June 2015

Having only been exposed to crazy resort luxury and then the intensity of Seminyak, we were looking forward to head to the sleepy town of Sanur for a friends wedding. I loved the feel of Sanur as we drove through all the back streets on the way to the hotel. The vibe definitely felt less intense and more relaxed than the busy streets of Seminyak. A little less glam but with a lot more heart and balinese character.

There is something very special about an overseas wedding. Everyone is a little more relaxed, ready to party and very very excited about getting a holiday on top of a wedding invite. We came to the Mercure Resort ready to join the wedding party and promptly took over most of the hotel. Normally these events feel like you are at school camp, but with the property sprawling out to such a vast space it felt like an achievement to run into a familiar face. The property is lush and green, with cute little footpaths weaving through the variety of rooms and villas.

Our room is basic, with outdated and shabby decor and unfortunately very dark. But it was as cheap as chips, so not a lot of expectations on this one. We knew we wouldn’t be in the room much so it wasn’t that important. But let’s face it, you would always prefer to have a nice room even if you are in there for 5 minutes. There price sets the expectation that it will not be luxury to the max, but i was still disappointed in the quality of the room. The outdated decor aside …. nope, can’t put it aside, the bright red curtains really bothered me next to the orange and green pillows and bedding. My eyes, my eyes! The bathroom despite being clean did not FEEL clean.

Outdated fixtures like a wall hairdryer, and as described in previous bali posts it has been one of the most impressive features of the hotels i have stayed in so my hair was bitterly disappointed. Old shabby kettle which again is a shame as you know people are using it in a place where you cant drink tap water so are left with bottled or boiled water. The layout and design of the room left a lot of dead space – yes, the Deluxe room was much bigger than the superior room, but the space served no purpose other than an odd shaped room, and still only one window, leaving us feeling like we were in a dark damp dungeon. Not the beautiful holiday feel i was going for. Sneaking a peek into our friends superior room showed us that they were much better quality, and we instantly regretted our choice. Who assumes the absolute cheapest and bottom room would be the better pick?

Technology seemed to not be their strong point.  The telephone was so old school that it was a constant source of entertainment for my toddler. Probably not so much for the reception staff who she kept calling. We also had quite the issue with the room cards, and given the distance from our room to the reception, getting them updated FOUR times in a row, with a toddler in tow in crazy heat this was NOT a fun experience. Could really have done without that. The beds were also not great, with possibly the worst pillows ever. Luckily the amazing $10 massages on the beach could cure my poor sleeping posture. Heads up – privacy is not their forte so be mindful if you get carried away with the relaxation fairies and forget you are basically naked on the beach.

But heres the thing – you step outside the door and you are back in a tropical paradise, beautiful gardens with sweet little signs all around the place pointing out the local flora and fauna. The restaurant for breakfast is airy and open, by the pool and overlooking the ocean. Standard breakfast fare was on offer, but after three days we were in desperate need of a change. To be honest, after a week of holidays we were over breakfast everywhere and anywhere.

The pools were great – one in front of the restaurant and small enough for a quick dip and sun worship. The other is much larger, and quite deep which was such a joy after all the lap pools and waist deep pools of Bali. Not the biggest fan of swimming in the beach, the water quality not being up to scratch but with the beach lined with sun loungers there was nothing better than watching the jet skis and paraglider zoom past with all their activity….and have a snooze with a good book.

Must do

10,000 massages by the beach.
A visit to Angelique the hotel cow

http://www.mercureresortsanur.com/

Courtyard by Marriott Bali Seminyak – June 2015

The ordering of hotel stays on a holiday is extremely important. Do you start with the luxury option to get your holiday off on the right foot? Or do you end with it so that the last thing you remember as you fly home is the amazing place that you now want to live at? We battled with this on our Bali trip, but fortunately this hotel was in the middle meaning we needed to stay in Seminyak, it was not going to be our luxury option, we just needed a clean, well priced hotel.

My first impression was that it was a nice hotel occupied by not very nice people. Which is a shame as it is not exactly something they can control. After staying in paradise (Rimba) we were not used to the hustle and bustle of a bigger town (Seminyak), the polluted and busy streets ( taxi mayem ) or having to deal with other guests (Australians). I am well aware that my passport identifies my nationality, but it is in places like this where i would rather hide, scared that i will be painted with the same brushstroke of ‘All the Aussies”. Because needless to say, as a group we do not travel well in places like Bali. The cheaper economy and services can inflate the ego – and we wanted nothing to do with this. So the check in process, surrounded by our countrymen and women meant that we were immiediately turned off. Again, not the fault of the hotel.

We booked the Courtyard by Marriott for the fact that it was brand spanking new. I love that new hotel smell. And by that i mean no smell. Oh until the last night where they decided it would be a great idea to do some painting in the hallway at 4pm? Our room of course was full of paint fumes, and unable to air the room by opening windows for fear of becoming a mosquito’s biffet dinner. Hoping it would pass (read:too lazy to have to pack and move rooms) we asked the hotel staff to see what they could do but it wasnt getting better so we had to move rooms. Couldn’t let the bub breath in those fumes, and despite hating ot have to ask to move the hotel staff were extremely apologetic for the issue and moved us with no hassle or issue. However i think we were charged by the bell boy though for helping us to move rooms? thought that was a bit cheeky.

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The rooms are well set up, not overly spacious but clean and well designed. A bit squishy travelling with a toddler cot, but we didn’t spend much time in the room as it is conveniently located in the heart of Seminyak so we had more exploring to do. No bath, just a big shower which has never bothered me before but now travelling with a toddler i really need to pay attention to this.

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The pool was great, with several different sections starting from the pool bar and running the length of the hotel. Giant cushions are like daybeds in the pool, lots of fun for the lazy swimmer. The issue with the pool however is the positioning as it barely gets any sun. A design flaw or perhaps a benefit if you are thinking of how harsh the Bali sun can be. As someone coming in to avoid the Sydney winter i want to soak up as much rays as i can so i found this was rather limiting. Theres also a pool bar, but its my standard response that i am not that keen on hanging in there as there is not a high turnover of people which means one thing. Whizzing in the pool.

The restaurant and buffet breakfasts were presented well, with lots of helpful staff and an array of food options. Its just that they were not that good. Given we had just come from Breakfast heaven (Rimba) it was a bit hard to swallow. Literally. But it was included in the already low room rate so not exactly something worth complaining about.

The kids club deserves a mention – great space with lots of toys and things to do for the kidlets. Mine was too small to leave by herself but we had a good play and ruined a few crayons and tabletops in the spirit of holiday games.

Stay here if you like
– new hotel with a budget price tag
– convenient location

http://www.marriott.com.au/hotels/travel/dpssm-courtyard-bali-seminyak/

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Loxley Cottage, Lovedale

A group trip to the Hunter Valley to celebrate the nuptials of a beautiful couple, this very pregnant lady was looking for comfort and value for money.The Hunter can be damn expensive, particuarly so in wedding season.

Out of town weddings can be a hoot – except when you are a million weeks pregnant, can’t drive 2.5 hours without 5 comfort breaks, can’t drink or eat most ‘fun’ wedding food. But it meant booking a house to stay with my wonderful friends so it all balanced out.

Loxley Cottage is a lovely house plonked in the middle of a farm. Like a proper farm with cattle and fences that need to be opened and closed to keep the cattle in. And due to an enormous downpour on the drive up and overnight it was a giant mud bowl. But we had bought into the whole country spirit so it didn’t really bother us.

The house is spacious and simple – which is all you need for a weekend trip. Four bedrooms that can accommodate couples or small families, small bathrooms which were a bit of a pain for 8 guests (but we managed) and a small kitchen for us to pack with food for 50 people, an overwhelming amount of tea & gossip magazines. The couches are big & comfy and wrap around windows make for a peaceful outlook.

What was not so peaceful was the freight train line that runs RIGHT NEXT TO THE HOUSE. Didn’t see this one on the brochure. Luckily i was awake every 2 hours anyway (being one million weeks pregnant as mentioned above) and the rest of the crew were drunk from the wedding so it wasn’t a deal breaker. But dear lord, was it a fright the first time we heard it.

Loxley Cottage isn’t going to win a luxury award anytime soon, but given you can pay $300+ a night for an average hotel in the Hunter, i would definitely give this place a go again.

Loxley Cottage, Lovedale

The Byron at Byron – September 2013

A bit of luxury. Relaxation. Sleep ins.

That was my only plan for my babymoon to Byron Bay. Its all i wanted. What i did not anticipate because i was not inducted into the parental world was that there is this thing called school holidays, and a non parent should NEVER travel at this time. I was blindsided by my birthday and the countdown to baby so i booked my holiday without carefully consdering this fact. The Atlantic where we had been staying for a few days is kid free osi t never occured to me what a hotel would look like with children.

Now don’t get me wrong, its not like the children were particuarly bad its just that they were EVERYWHERE. Lobby check in with the most friendly and beautiful staff? Kids.Pool time with (non) alcoholic cocktails? kids. A rainforest walk on reccomendation by the hotel staff to a secluded, peaceful meditation spot? kids. I can laugh about it now as it was clearly the universe signalling that my dreamy days of boutique hotels and solo traveling was coming to an end. I just thought i would get one more opportunity to enjoy my own space.

If the hotel itself was spectacular it would have made up for this fact, but unfortunately for me it just fell a little flat. It is a giant resort, something that i am not usually a fan of, but you can guarantee to get great service from the mountain of staff running around. That part was fantastic. However, the rooms were a bit dark and outdated. The decor was a strange mix of colours and the beautiful rainforest outlook was stunning but not quite as wonderful as the bright sunshine streaming into our room at the Atlantic. The big tick went to the free standing bath which got quite a workout from this pregnant lady. It was really a mini pool and a welcome accessory to my tired body. The on site spa is apparently amazing, but i was not game enough to get a massage while pregnant and away from home (read: paranoid first mum).

All in all, the Byron at Byron was lovely – it just wasn’t us. Correction, it is probably us now that we have a bub but it was not the holiday i was bargaining for. Maybe i will need to give it another go.

The Byron at Byron

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