Monday 6 June 2011

Our prize holiday

Thanks to a competition on the Ready For Ten parenting website in conjunction with Disney and Starwood Hotels my children and I plus my mum have just enjoyed a luxurious 3 night break at the Castillo Hotel Son Vida in Palma Mallorca. 

This was an amazing opportunity for us as my children had never left the UK or been on an aeroplane and I hadn't been abroad for nearly 9 years! This excitement made the 4:45 wake up call on day one to get to Leeds Bradford Airport for our Jet2 flight to Palma that little bit easier. It was great to be able to final make the most of the kids' Trunkies too as we travelled hand luggage only for speed:

The look on my 4 year old's face when we were airborne was classic (shame I couldn't capture it on camera!). Co-incidentally I had my first flight from the same airport back in 1977 though that was only to Scotland! This was my first experience of budget airlines (gone are the days of flying business class for work...) and it was simple but all we needed to get to our destination. Palma airport is quite a bit bigger than Leeds/Bradford but it was very straight forward to find our way to the taxi office for our hotel transfer. We were impressed that our driver went to get a booster seat for my son before taking us out to his car.

The hotel was on the far side of the city from the airport but it was a smooth transition to the golfers' paradise of Son Vida (never seen so many golf courses close together!). We knew were in for a special time when you drive up past an entrance like the one at the top of the article. It was an experience being met by porters who took our bags through the marbled entrance foyer to the reception desk. The fact that there was a full sized knight on horseback in the corridor really appealed to my son:

We were given 2 double rooms with an interconnecting door which made it a mini suite. The kids were impressed with the en-suite bathroom and the TV. It took us all some time to work out what the many light switches did but the night light under the bedside cabinets were very useful.

Unfortunately by the time we had checked in and changed it was raining so we had to swim in the indoor pool and not any of the 3 outdoor ones. It was lovely and warm in there though with enough space for kids to jump in and out. That night we ate in the restaurant at the tail end of the lunch menu (which finishes at 6!) but the prices were rather out of our league so we weren't able to repeat the experience.

The next morning we were up early to catch our included island tour and tucked into the wonderful breakfast buffet. There was a section of continental offerings and another adjacent for cooked breakfast:

Then we caught a taxi to our coach rendezvous for the tour. The children couldn't believe that the tour guide did his spiel in Spanish, English, French and Italian (hope this inspires them to do languages). The trip took us into the centre of the island with a first stop in the leather town of Inca for a chance to buy some lovely leather goods. Then it was on up through the Tramontana mountains on some incredible roads including Sa Calobra which has a one way system for tourist coaches as there is no where for them to pass on the route. The scariness of the route was worth it for the walk at the end to the Torrents of Pareis through man made tunnels (just shame the boat trip element was cancelled due to rough seas).

After surviving the return journey up the road it was on to the Port de Soller for a trip on a tram to the wooden railway at Soller. Ironically the tram was made in England! The train went through 13 tunnels including one that was over 2 km long to get back to just outside Palma and a reunion with our coach. We ended the day with a meal at McDonalds (cheapest option!) and a bus ride back to our hotel.

The next day it was again to damp to lounge around by the pool so after breakfast on the veranda (whilst admiring the hotel falcon performing pest scaring duties over us!) we took the bus into Palma and explored some of the wonderful buildings. We went in the Royal Palace museum to see where the Kings and Queens used to reside.

It was interesting to read about the re-Christianisation of Mallorca after the Moors were chased out. The castle must have been an amazing place to see when the monarchs actually used it. Then we crossed the plaza to the adjacent cathedral. This is an amazing place on the inside (I was one of the few obeying the no photos rule so I can't show you!) and I am jealous of the people that were being married there last Saturday!

We found a pizzeria somewhere in the maze of Palma's old town for a belated lunch which we all really enjoyed (and it gave us a chance to hide from the rain). Then we wandered along the sea front so that the kids could have a play in one of the many play parks that dotted the city. There is plenty of city to walk through if you have the time and inclination.

On our last day we were determined to go in the outside pool even though it was rather chilly, in fact only British guests seemed to have taken the opportunity for a dip due to the temperature! After checking out we took up residence in the hotel's kids' club cabana and took advantage of the colouring and games provided. Towards the end the sun came out so the kids headed straight for the children's pool for a paddle. Then it was time to head back to the airport for the return journey home.

A wonderful experience for all of us so we would like to thank Ready for Ten, Disney, Starwood Hotels, Jet2 and Niels at NDL who organised our trip. Wonder if I can win any more holidays as I've got the travel bug now!

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