Category Archives: holidays

12 ways to survive Tenerife with a toddler (or three)

1 Don’t take plastic toys on the plane

A five hour flight with the wee man was always going to be a challenge for us – even if his cousin (R-Chopz), aunt and uncle were all there too. We packed a huge bag of tricks and rotated them. While R-Chopz, who’s 13 months, was peacefully sleeping, the wee man stood up in his seat, peered at the sleeping woman behind him and launched Thomas the Tank at her head. She woke with a shriek, we apologised profusely, the wee man started wailing, R-Chopz woke up, he started wailing, and we all had a very jolly time.

travel buddies Wee man and R-Chopz

travel buddies Wee man and R-Chopz

2 Accept you will become even more obsessed with sleep

We met the Wee Man’s other cousin (Shrimpy) and other aunt and uncle at the Tenerife resort, in the bar, where they were having a wee beer to help them through a day that had started with a 6am flight from London. Shrimpy (6 months) hadn’t really napped and the disrupted sleep pattern was to continue for all three children throughout the holiday. Only once did we all have breakfast together – someone was always getting an extra hour’s kip. R-Chopz woke at 5am every morning, the Wee Man at least waited til 6. We made a small breakthrough when we all discovered we could wheel the cots into the bathrooms. The wee man’s post-lunch snooze was always two hours, and dovetailed perfectly with the sun hitting our balcony, so I consoled myself with that.

3 Know that Cava at breakfast is acceptable behaviour

See above and remember, if you have paid for an all-inclusive holiday, it is your moral duty to ensure you get value for money.

4 Beware bare bums

It was hot, we were swimming and the floors in the rooms were tiled, so nappy-off-time was easy. Only once did we get caught out, one afternoon while eating chocolate, when Rod bent down to pick up a “truffle”. It wasn’t.

5 If falling off a chair, don’t grab the nearest child for balance

There were six adults and three children, so we’d usually end up pulling tables together and angling them so that we got the sun and the kids didn’t. We’d also usually rotate the drinking rota. Mealtimes were rowdy, messy and occasionally slightly tipsy, so when Rod swung on his chair and nearly tipped into a flower bed his reflex was to grab the nearest thing: R-Chopz in his high chair. If not for Uncle B’s quick thinking, it could all have been very messy indeed.

Mealtime at the zoo...

Mealtime at the zoo…

6 If leaving your toddler unattended (ie with dad) expect the unexpected

The girls and I spent a luxurious afternoon in the spa, having wonderful massages and then lounging by the adults-only pool on love seats overlooking the beach. We had a few glasses of Cava (efficiently clogging our freshly drained lymphatic system) and then, at 5, thought we’d better get back to help with dinner. Helen gasped as she spotted her 6 month old, covered head to toe in Ella’s Kitchen but at least her son wasn’t injured. The wee man was smiling through his wet fringe as Rod applied ice to a cracker of an egg on his forehead. “He didn’t cry – it could have happened to anyone,” Uncle B loyally exclaimed as I cried out and bit back the remonstrations. The wee man really was fine.

What? He's fine...

What? He’s fine…

7 If claiming golf took 6 hours, don’t post pub pics

Fair’s fair, so the boys went off for a morning’s golf. No children were injured in their absence. They strolled into the rooms six and a half hours later, claiming “the back 9 was really slow” and telling a long story about a German couple. Our suspicions were confirmed later that afternoon when a picture of them enjoying beers in the sunshine appeared on Facebook.

Post golf beers

Post golf beers

8 Choose restaurants with sober staff

We stayed in the resort for six nights out of seven, but ventured out once with two sleeping children and one boisterous toddler (the Wee Man) to the local town for tapas. At 9.15, when Rod and I had practically rocked ourselves to sleep and he was finally quiet, we parked him next to his slumbering cousins and eagerly perused the menu. The waiter bounced over and roared “Are you ready to order?” making us all jump over the buggies and pointedly whisper our requests. Perhaps on purpose, or perhaps because of his mate Charlie, he continued to screech at us until we were all holding onto each other laughing. The arrival of the last dish, Andrew’s “green pepper plate”, nearly ended us all.

Green Pepper Plate, sir?

Green Pepper Plate, sir?

9 When ordering a beer, remember the V

We couldn’t understand why Andrew came back from the bar the first night carrying five gin and tonics and what looked like pink lemonade. “I asked for a beer and I got this,” he said. When I asked exactly what he’d said, he answered, “una cereza”. I burst out laughing. “You forgot the V. Cereza means ‘cherry’!”

10 Anticipate holiday milestones

The best day of the holiday contained a hat trick of tricks. First Shrimpy sat all by himself for over a minute. Then R-Chopz took six whole steps towards me. Finally, at night, the Wee Man greeted his Uncle Andrew with a “hiya” – like it was the most normal thing in the world. Finally – another word!

Hanging out with his cousin

Hanging out with his cousin

11 Beware other children

Further to point 2 –  other families are most likely in the same boat. However, if they finally do get their 8 month old to sleep they should really park him somewhere other than the playpark. Otherwise it’s really inevitable that the wee man will joyously run over and squeal hello into the tot’s face. Oops.

12 Make sure everyone gets a date night

We each had the opportunity to have a meal at the “posh” restaurant at the resort, with the other two couples babysitting. It was nice to take the excuse to properly dress up and have a ‘date night’ but in the end, we cut ours short to rejoin the others. We decided we’d rather spend our last night with everyone.

Date night for cousins

The wee ones had a date night too…

The end of a holiday is always rubbish, but particularly so when you’re saying bye to your family, scattering across the UK and not sure of the exact date when you will all meet up again.

One thing’s for sure, we will definitely plan another holiday together – Tenerife was terrific.

Picture 4

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ME time

Full moon over London, as seen from Radio at ME Hotel

Full moon over London, as seen from Radio at ME Hotel

I sipped on my third mojito and tried not to topple over the balcony as I gazed at the London lights, from Tower Bridge to Big Ben and beyond. It would be very uncouth to pose for a selfie, I reasoned, everyone around us was ordering Champagne and lounging like extras from Made In Chelsea.

Abi had warned us Radio, in the newly opened ME Hotel on The Strand, was “very wanky” so I was looking forward to it immensely. Gratifyingly, a haughty supermodel-type tried to prevent our entry, claiming they were ‘over-capacity’ and that Darcy wasn’t available. Abi, however, is a barrister. It was highly entertaining watching her calmly argue our case before producing her iPhone and displaying several emails from the owner confirming our reservation. “Wow, really, for all those people?” the Kate-wannabe cried, completely breaking character, and ushered us into the lift, inserting the source of her power (a keycard) to allow us up to the roof.

Just before the doors closed, a breathless blonde barged in. A doorman called to her to ‘please come out so I can assist you’ but she stood her ground, exclaiming loudly that she had just spent two grand in the restaurant, the least they could do was let her up to the bar. I stifled a giggle, tried not to catch the girls’ eyes and thought to myself “ah but the emperor is mostly likely naked.”

We emerged to the tip of a glass pyramid. Peering through it we could see the hotel reception 10 floors below. Radio was dark and most certainly not full to capacity, with unobtrusive music and an eclectic crowd of suits, ladies and two men in football shirts eating onion rings (no really).

Two of us headed straight to the ladies, where there was a queue (naturally) until two young girls tumbled giggling out of a cubicle before posing for pictures in the mirror. “I’ll let you go in by yourself,” my friend said pointedly, with a look that clearly stated she too saw what the emperor was wearing. I was tempted to dust down the toilet seat.

We sat out on the terrace in an enormous wicker seat while my London friends identified all the landmarks for me.

“That’s Somerset House, they hold art exhibitions and things in the courtyard, and that’s The Shard, it’s very expensive to go up there, but I really want to… There’s St Paul’s cathedral and the Tate Modern….” It really was impressive.

I wandered through the bar, people watching and smiling sympathetically at a bearded barman who dropped his flair bottle, and stepped through the sliding glass door onto the south-facing terrace. This one was less crowded, two men and a woman lay back on cream sofas with curtains on three sides sipping Champagne and a couple of men in suits smoked as they lounged by the railings. I noticed a glass box at the apex of the two balconies which was curtained from the inside and roped off. When I rejoined the girls, they told me it was a bedroom and I marveled at the excess. I’ve since Googled it and found it is in fact the glass cupola of the duplex ME suite and would cost me £3180 per night (room only).

We left at two and tottered outside to hail a cab. I knew I’d be feeling a bit delicate the next morning but I also knew it would be worth it. If you’re going to go out, you might as well go all out, and tonight had given a whole new meaning to ME time.

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Disneyland Paris with a toddler

There is a moment before you go in which is even better than going in...

There is a moment before you go in which is even better than going in…

I couldn’t help it – my throat blocked and a tear escaped down my cheek. Luckily I was wearing sunglasses and no one noticed. The brass band was playing “Kiss the Girl” from the Little Mermaid, the wee man was running from Mickey-stuffed shop window to immaculate flowerbed to beaming Daddy and all I could do was gape at a scene so familiar and try to hold myself together.

12 years ago my now husband took me to Disneyland Paris, we bought my ‘engaged-to-be-engaged’ ring and planned our future. Now here we were with a two year old and it was all too much for this marshmallow.

Later, telling my friends Jenny and Al, I was gently ridiculed. It was Al’s idea of hell to spend five days in a place so cheesy, so false and so American. Well I am proud to say I embraced every last exit-through-the-giftshop. Disney was a huge part of my childhood and it means the world to me to be able to share it with my own wee boy. And let me tell you – anyone who said ‘why are you bothering? he won’t remember it’ totally missed the point. For five days the wee man was in sensory overload. The music, the characters, the rides, the colours, the overwhelmingly positive atmosphere, the two totally de-stressed parents – what’s not to love? So, if you are considering taking your little one to Disneyland Paris, here’s my “DO IT” report:

Daddy I want that one!

Daddy I want that one!

Accommodation:

We stayed in the New York hotel, just outside the Disney Village, so within walking distance from both parks. Our room was large with a great view across the lake, the staff were really helpful and the breakfasts were pretty good. The highlight was definitely the morning we walked out of the elevator to come face to face with Mickey Mouse in the lobby. We queued for about 3 minutes and got some great pics (which we forgot to go and get printed). Compare this to the 45 mins plus you’d have to wait in the park and it’s a pretty sweet deal. There was free wifi in the lobby (and occasionally accessible in the 8th floor room) and a fantastic bar with great cocktails. When the wee man’s cough wouldn’t let up, we called a doctor who came to the room within 15 minutes and prescribed antibiotics, which were delivered to the hotel within the hour. Now that’s good service.

Even the lobby feels like a celebration

Entertainment:

Man – where do I start? From Aladdin’s comment, “Oh, you’re so cheeky, just like Abu” to the nightly fireworks, there wasn’t a second of boredom. Watching the wee man experiencing It’s a Small World, the Teacups ride, Dumbo and the Flying Elephants, Pinocchio, Snow White and all the rest was even more fun than doing the rides ourselves. He was dumbstruck. Even the hormonal teenage Germans stopped their irritatingly loud flirting to melt at the wee man’s wee face. Then at night, when our awesome lie-flat City Mini buggy contained a sleeping toddler, Rod and I took it in turns to do all the roller coasters. I went on Space Mountain three times in a row, with a new challenge for the photo each time “OK this time grab the person beside you… NO! You didn’t do it properly, go on again!” The Walt Disney Studios park (a kind of MGM Studios next door) has several live shows, the best of which was undoubtedly Playhouse Disney. Featuring puppets from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny and Tales of Friendship with Winnie the Pooh – it was like the wee man’s TV schedule had come to life in front of him. He danced and clapped and shouted along – oblivious to the fact it was all in French.

Wave to Daddy!

Wave to Daddy!

Food and Drink

Rubbish. Expensive beyond belief and really disappointing. I mean, really, who pays 16 euros for a kid’s meal, he’s going to eat four chips and half a sandwich. We found this in Disney World Florida six years ago too – why can’t Disney get it right with their food offer? I actually cried out the day we came across Timone and Pumbaa’s banana stall – fresh fruit!!! My advice is to eat a huge breakfast and sneak a few sandwiches into the changing bag.

The characters

Outstanding. My personal highlight was Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast. He got so into the role of the arrogant, loud French hearthrob that he bellowed “ALLEZ, VIENS!” at a small child, making her jump half a foot in the air and drop her autograph book. He then flirted outrageously with her mother and winked at me. I reacted almost as badly as I did when we met Jack Sparrow. “Just one more pic, Rod, to be sure…”

So, fancy sharing a bottle of rum?

So, fancy sharing a bottle of rum?

The rides

A great mix of kids and adults’ rides with queues up to 55 mins, but usually around 20. Having been to Disney World Florida where every operator gets right into the spirit, I was disappointed with the French. They couldn’t have said: “I’m so bored pressing this button, when does my shift end?” more clearly if they printed it under their jaunty name badge. Queues practically disappeared after 8pm, hence the multiple roller coaster rides. The fireworks were at 10pm – save your spot from 9, though really there’s no need – they project images onto Cinderella’s castle so you can see what’s going on from most vantage points.

IMG_5039Getting there and back

We flew with EasyJet to Paris Charles de Gaulle then took a 9 minute train ride to Marne La Vallee. Why they insist on calling it after the town it was supposed to serve and never did seems to be to be a stubborn French quirk. Disneyland Station would make much more sense, tourists are the only people who use it. We flew back from Beauvais as the timings were better, but it involved a 75 minute taxi ride.

Five nights and four days was a little excessive, we could have done it all in four or even three days, but for once in our lives we weren’t in a rush. That in itself was a holiday. We loved every minute, the wee man loved every minute, and we savoured the Disney bubble of wishing on a star, believing in dreams, cuddling every character and wondering if life really were as simple as the dolls described in It’s a Small World.

For five days, it was.

IMG_5088

 

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