A Review of Tots Too and the Anantara Apartments Dubai, The Palm.

This year we decided to go away for February half term and we also decided we really wanted to be warm, so, as Ferg’s brother lives in Dubai with his lovely wife, we decided to go there.

Last time we went, we stayed at the truly impressive, Atlantis hotel which is also on the Palm. The Atlantis is bonkers. It has a water park, an aquarium, several pools, a small shopping mall and lots of restaurants. When we had two kids it was fine, but with three it’s really hard to get a room big enough to fit us all in or a suite that doesn’t break the bank. To be honest, I was struggling to find availability as well, as we were trying to book in December for travel in February. I had no idea, holidays to exotic places were so popular in February, but they are, so don’t be caught out if you also decide to travel then.

Anyway, I’d been receiving mailings from Tots Too for a while so decided to see if they could get us anything suitable. They were fabulous. I dealt with one person, a lovely, patient lady called Helen who did all the hard work for us. Tots too aim to provide, “Tailor made, luxury family holidays and child friendly resorts.” What I liked most is that they only recommended hotels that could definitely meet our needs. So for example, I asked if they could get us a suitable room in the Atlantis and she said all she could do was ask for an interconnecting room, they could not guarantee it. Bearing in mind how busy the half term week seemed to be, I would NOT have liked to leave that to chance. Imagine turning up at your hotel after nearly eight hours on a plane to find that one half of the family is on one side of the corridor and the other on another. No thank you sir. The idea of leaving anything so important to chance when you have young children, is not an option.

Helen sent us through a list of suitable hotels that either offered interconnecting rooms or 2 bedroom apartments. All the hotels she showed us had a kids club and a sheltered play area, they also all had lovely pools. Initially we wanted to go for the Sofitel Apartments on the palm which looked gorgeous (also had a water slide in one of the pools) but that got booked up before we got a chance to make a reservation. The next we looked at were the Anantara Apartments which I can tell you, were fantastic.

On arrival, we were shown to our apartment which is a short walk from the main body of the hotel. The service was fantastic and so, soon after arrival we were shown to our room. The apartment itself was beautiful. We had a large dining/sitting room, a small kitchen, two separate bedrooms (both with an en-suite bathroom). For us, this was pure luxury. To have that much space in such a beautifully designed room, made me feel straight away that this was going to be a great holiday.

However, all was not quite perfect in paradise. When we opened the curtains and looked beyond our balcony, we were confronted with a gigantic, dusty building site, complete with humming machinery and bright lights. Bugger, so very nearly glorious! Anyway we decided the building site wasn’t so bad as we’d spend most of our time by the pool and didn’t bother complaining. We just ordered room service, ate in the room and toddled off to bed.

At 7am we were woken up by the sound of heavy machinery. It was at that point I complained and requested another room. To their credit, they managed to find us another room by the end of the day and were supremely apologetic. From that point on I had no other complaints, it was all good.

Here are some images of the apartment we ended up in.

The apartments themselves are slightly separate from the the actual hotel but still on the same site. This wasn’t a problem though, part  of the lagoon was just outside the exit of the apartment building which is also where the apartments have their own gym.

To reach the hotel lobby, you walk from the apartment building through various lanes that go through the lagoon accommodation. If you were feeling particularly fatigued you could call for a golf buggy to pick you up and take you to the other side of the resort. We didn’t do this as the walk was very quick.

The main pool was lovely, not hugely deep so good for little ones as well as those learning to swim. There’s a jacuzzi area on one side and a baby pool on the opposite side.

The beach, although man-made was lovely with plenty of tiny shells in the sand. It had a great view of the Atlantis hotel, and at various points during the day there were activities such as football and volleyball for the kids to get involved in. There were also plenty of water activities to choose from, including waterskiing, wind-surfing, pulled water rings and pedalos.

Despite the fact that 3 out of five of us got ill during our stay, I thought the holiday was amazing!(I wasn’t one of the ill ones…) the food was great, the service impeccable, the facilities top-notch. I did wish there was a water slide in the pool, but to be honest, the kids just loved what was on offer. We only used the kids club once, but it was great. There’s a mini pool, sand pit, lots of activities, films to watch and computer games. They also offer an excellent baby-sitting service so if you fancy a meal alone, where you actually finish some sentences then be assured the babysitters who are also part of the kids club, are friendly, sweet and experienced.

I have to say that the weather was also phenomenal with a high of 36 degrees during our stay which was in mid-February. There was a sand storm on the day we left and although it was very exciting and fascinating to experience, it meant our flight was delayed for three hours. Ho hum, when are long flights ever easy with three kids?

I would definitely recommend the Anantara Apartments if you have kids. They’re large, comfortable and feel very luxurious. You have all the benefits of being part of the hotel but with more space and facilities for all those family needs. There’s always the danger you’ll end up overlooking a building site if you holiday in Dubai, so just make sure you ask at check in for a room away from any possible building work.

Tots Too were also fantastic, make sure you talk to Helen if you call them. She Rocks.

How to keep an 8 year old boy occupied – ideas needed!

You’ve gotta love school. Teachers are amazing aren’t they? They get our children to sit down quietly and learn things and craft things and play in the playground. By the end of this first half-term though my two school-goers were completely knackered, they needed a rest at home with mummy and I was really looking forward to it. In fairness, the first three days of half term were lovely, the rest were… challenging.

At the beginning of the week we went to see Nana and fed the ducks.

We went to the Botanical gardens for food and a play.

…and we wandered around Wandlebury with some friends. The weather was glorious and we all just made the most of being outside.

It was soooo freakin dreamy! Then, it got chilly and a bit rainy and quite a lot less fun. Strangely, being stuck inside with an energetic eight year old boy Is not very relaxing.

Something has changed since the summer holidays, Sam has suddenly become a big boy. Playing with his sisters is not as much fun as it used to be, playing on his own with his toy figures just doesn’t hold his interest as it used to do. All he wants to do is do something sporty or spend hours on the iPad. I have to admit it was a relief to get him back to school – at least they know how to keep him occupied!

Although all this growing up stuff is normal and good, it’s a bit of a nightmare from a, mothering during the winter months, point of view. Now he’s back at school, I absolutely don’t want every moment he spends at home glued to a small screen. It’s not just the fact that he’s pretty much absent from us when he’s playing these computer games, it’s the subsequent anger he sometimes flashes when it’s time to finish his game and do something in the real world. Somehow TV seems quite wholesome in comparison to computer game time and it’s a never-ending battle to try to keep him occupied with other stuff. He can’t do a club every night, he’d be exhausted and now it’s getting dark, football after school isn’t really an option, so how do I keep him away from his screen obsession??? Really, how???

Even during Isabelle’s birthday party he (and most of the other kids) retreated into the living room for a mass Minecraft session. For them it was brilliant, the idea of all wandering around the same virtual Minecraft world was about as fabulous as it gets. image What about wandering around the real life garden together? Not a chance! After the treasure hunt and a brief bounce on the trampoline by the smallest ones, the garden became redundant, even though it was gloriously sunny and mild! For us parents it felt as though we’d simply put off the inevitable. It was easier to just let them do that than listen to their relentless, “when can we play Minecraft?” mantra.

When Sam’s not playing on the iPad, he ends up complaining that he’s bored, teasing his sisters and making them scream. When his sisters are screaming, I flip. Something happens in my brain that turns me into a wild-eyed, roaring bear. I don’t like it and neither do my poor, cowering children. What do we gather from this? We gather that he needs to be occupied.

As of Tuesday, he’s only allowed to play on the iPad when I’m putting his sisters to bed. So far so good. This is mainly due to the fact that he did swimming one day and went to a friend’s house today. What the heck do I suggest as an alternative for the rest of his life at home? In reality I don’t have the time to entertain him, I’ve got to sort out dinner, do baths and put two out of three kids to bed. I’m pretty much hoping that without access to the iPad he’ll come up with something else to do himself, I just a have sneaking feeling that even when he does find something else to do he’ll still pester me to let him play on it.

So, someone, anyone, tell me what to do with this lovely bored boy. What did boys do in the olden days? I want him to have downtime after school that doesn’t include technology. Please, parents of boys, any ideas and advice will be gratefully received and promptly passed on!


My beloved, yet bored son.

The Many Faces of Maisie Moo – Random

This was taken on holiday in Norfolk. The girls were having some quality Barbie time with Nana so I decided to take a picture. I’ve no idea what this expression means or why it happened, but it’s classic Maisie Moo.


A Review of Our Time at Center Parcs, Elveden Forest.

So, we’ve just got back from Center Parcs and although I wasn’t overwhelmed by the experience, I thought the whole set up was great. The accommodation was fantastic, really well thought out and modern with a beautiful view from the patio doors. We even saw deer and ducks every day, as they’d come up to the window, obviously after some grub.

20130405-173733.jpgOne morning we actually had the pleasure of front row seats to some amorous ducks having a “special cuddle”. Who knew male ducks were so, err, forceful? Anyway, randy ducks aside, the setting was lovely.

The holiday itself though… I just don’t know. It didn’t help that it was FREEZING. There was loads to do outside but outside was basically out-of-bounds because of the weather, so we ended up in the pool every day and the pool was cold for my now, delicate disposition. The kids loved it though and Sam basically taught himself to swim in the shallows which was great without a doubt.

We managed to book Sam in for a go on the indoor rock climbing wall, which he really enjoyed, so hopefully if we go again he’ll be up for the outside version.

20130405-173858.jpg It was lovely having time all together, but it just seemed like after the pool, we would end up in the rather “Wetherspoon-esque” Sports Cafe, which didn’t leave me feeling like we were having a special holiday experience. Having said that, it was super convenient as it had a mini play-barn and plenty of free seats. In fact pretty much all the restaurants had mini soft play areas for kids which was brilliant.

I had a couple of spa treatments in the Aqua Sana, and they were really good. The atmosphere there was very luxurious and peaceful so that did feel like a special experience.

We put Izzy into child care for 3 afternoons and I was very impressed with the set up. The women in the crèche were all lovely and enthusiastic and considering that was Izzy’s first experience of child care, they all did a wonderful job of making sure she was happy. The crèche facilities were fantastic, bright and spacious with loads of great toys to play with.

Now that I’m writing it all down and gathering my thoughts I’d say that on the whole, it’s a great place to go with kids, there are loads of activities and the pool is amazing. Also, Center Parcs can’t help the weather and the weather was just too cold to be outside. If we go again and I think we will, we’ll book more activities for the children as there were things they wanted to try but couldn’t as they were already booked up. If you’re thinking of going then make sure you book activities in advance and also book restaurants if you plan to eat out as they also often get booked up. I think my lack of enthusiasm stems from the fact that the Sports Cafe and Pancake House were a little “tired” and the pool area was chilly as there wasn’t any sun to warm up the pool dome. Next time I’d love to explore outside more and maybe hire some bikes.

All in all, a good family time was had by all, I think it may just take a while for my frozen body to tell my frozen mind how much fun we had.