Family holidays, without collateral damage
A well planned family holiday can be as much, or even more, fun than holidaying as a couple. Five ideas to avoid anyone getting bored.
Not only possible, but recommended. Finding the right destination and hotel will ensure that family holidays do not stress either the parents or the children.
All in it together
There is more to travelling with children than hearing the dreaded question, ‘Are we there yet?’ repeated every 15 minutes. And there’s definitely more to it than parents queueing in amusement parks with straight faces and sunburnt shoulders while their children wait impatiently to hurl themselves into space with their feet hanging from their seats, several metres up in the air. Family holidays can be so much more than this with plans that appeal to the grown-ups and children alike. Because there’s something to suit everyone, and anyone who is looking for a few minutes’ peace will be delighted to know that at the hotel, their child can learn about Marie Curie by doing experiments, without the parents needing to be there...
In the Aragonese Pyrenees, in the province of Huesca, is a charming hidden town of only one thousand inhabitants where you can enjoy the natural surroundings. It’s time to put on your comfortable shoes, as you will be tempted to go walking and discover the hidden corners that the city doesn’t offer. That town is Boltaña. The town centre is attractive and friendly, and it’s worth taking a look at the bridges (the medieval San Martín bridge and the Moscarales bridge over the Ferrera stream), the collegiate church and the main square; there is also an early eleventh-century castle comprising a walled enclosure and a tower.
If there’s a cycling fan in the family, you may want to include the bicycle trails in your plans. If you would like to go for a good ramble together, choose a hiking trail. The routes offer spectacular views and are almost all relatively easy, with circular routes lasting from two to four hours.
Here, 20 minutes’ drive from the magnificent Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park (needless to say a visit not to be missed), you can recuperate at the five-star Barceló Monasterio de Boltaña hotel. With its views of the Pyrenees and the River Ara, a night’s stay in this seventeenth-century building is quite an experience. If you’d like to add a little extra excitement to the trails already mentioned, you can go horse riding, rafting or even climbing. Oh yes - and the hotel has a swimming pool!
Desert, sea and spaghetti Westerns
From the mountains to the beach, via the desert. Still relatively unknown, though rapidly growing in popularity, Almería is a wild paradise that it is only too easy to fall in love with. Anyone who visits there, always returns - that’s just the way it is. The area is steeped in cinematic nostalgia as during the 1960s and 1970s Almería witnessed or, more precisely, co-starred in many Hollywood Westerns. Its desert became a film set and through it passed a succession of stars, ranging from Clint Eastwood to Claudia Cardinale. Today, you and your children can be the ones strolling down the dusty streets that were once film sets at the Fort Bravo and Oasys theme parks in the Tabernas desert. Apart from museums and other attractions, you can see shows inspired by the films that were shot there, such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was also partly filmed in Almería. Do you remember the scene in which Sean Connery used an umbrella to frighten off seagulls on the beach? That was the beach of Mosul, in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park. Since 1989 when the film was shot, this beach has remained untouched, and is ideal for quiet relaxation and calm bathing. But there are many beaches like this, and the best plan for visiting them is to lose yourself among them, and discover them one by one. On the seafront, and with direct access to the Natural Park, is the Barceló Cabo de Gata**** hotel. This hotel provides every facility and comfort for the whole family, and from here you can visit the beaches and discover the most unspoilt Mediterranean paradise on the whole peninsula.
Travelling along the coast to the south west, we arrive at Punta Umbría in Huelva, another natural sanctuary where all sense of time is lost. Here there is no desert in which to play the cowboy, but there are green and woodland areas, native flora and fauna, and beaches just as stunning as those already mentioned, many of them with few or no tourists.
Right opposite the Costa de la Luz beach, you can stay in the Barceló Punta Umbría Beach Resort family hotel. The hotel offers generous accommodation in which everyone can have their own space; you will find various restaurants to suit the tastes of grown-ups and children alike; and the youngsters can play and develop their creativity with the Happy Minds Programme. The Happy Minds programme is based on Gardner’s theory of the seven multiple intelligences, according to which we have not just one skill but many that work in parallel. Guests aged from 4 to 15 years will have a different plan for every day of the week, ranging from workshops in which they will discover geniuses such as Leonardo da Vinci or Frida Kahlo, to emotional intelligence workshops with games led by a Master of Ceremonies.
Also in the south, but this time among olive groves and ilex woods, is one of the best places in Andalusia to wind down and reset your counter to zero. La Bobadilla, a Royal Hideaway Hotel. Set in countryside perfect for exploring as a family, the hotel has a swimming pool area in which you can bathe, relax and even plan the rest of your year.
It borders on paradise for children, and is even closer for parents. Activity leaders who are fully cognisant of youngsters’ tastes and anxieties will organise everything for them, ranging from bicycle rides in the surrounding area to olive-tasting sessions. If this experience awakens the chef within, the whole family can enjoy the Mini Foodies Retreat, a practical patisserie workshop in which parents and children can enjoy learning to make desserts and biscuits. After two hours’ baking comes the best bit: tasting the desserts with wine and milkshakes. An ambitious plan.
Cross the Mediterranean
Don’t worry about the logistics: it’s only a matter of catching a plane. The trip lasts just over an hour. And then... paradise and tranquillity will be your reward. Majorca, as well as being the largest of the Balearic Islands, has so much to see, do and discover that there’s no time to get bored here, and you will all have a wonderful time as a family. To begin with, you can go on a food-tasting trail, as the island’s cheeses, sausages and ensaimadas (typical sweet Majorcan pastries) which are well worth getting your teeth into. (In the town of Inca, at the Forn Sant Francesc, they make daily what are considered to be the best ensaimadas in the world.) You can discover Majorca’s history, either through its caves, such as the Caves of Drach or the Caves of Campanet, or by strolling around its towns and cities such as Palma. Visits to the island’s natural parks, each unique in its own way, are something else that appeals to all ages.
And after all this action it is time for the other things you go on holiday for: quiet and relaxation. And there is no better place for that than the Occidental Cala Viñas, a family hotel with direct access to the beach at Calas Viñas in the south of the island, where tranquillity reigns, the sand is white and the water crystal clear. With a wealth of sporting activities for the more active members of the family, and swimming pools for both children and adults, the hotel also offers an All Inclusive package so that you can be carefree and concentrate purely on enjoying yourselves.