I’m back from my holidays and now I’ve to try to fit 2 weeks of holiday action into a succinct blog post – eek! Sorry if this goes on a bit but I will try to keep it to the point!
The destination was Holiday Village Manar, Hammamet, Tunisia. Neither Stuart nor I had been to Tunisia before, our experience of ‘All Inclusive’ (we had previously stayed in hotels which were SC but offered AI and our friends and family shared their own experiences) wasn’t that great and when they say 5* it’s often a 4* facilities hotel with 3* cleanliness and quality so maybe 2 weeks in a place we didn’t know with 2 kids, 1 under one was a bit ambitious but hey…we’re up for an adventure.
Thankfully, the hotel was lovely, extremely clean, lots of very attentive staff, very family friendly with lots to do for all ages and food was good (very important for us and the one thing we were particularly nervous of).
Even better, we could fly there from our local airport, Hurn Airport in Bournemouth!
The flight was an early one which required Stuart and I to get up at 2.30am but we left Millie to sleep until just before time to go hoping she would sleep in the car etc. but the excitement of doing something completely strange while still dark outside & in her PJs was just too much and she didn’t sleep until we got to our hotel.
Both kids were fine on the flight. Millie was a bit of a fidget but the flight was less than 3 hours so any fidgeting was manageable. I was armed with a goody bag for Callum to keep him entertained, containing colouring books/pencils, new Lego toy, sweets, new Mr Man book, stickers and a few other bits. I had rolls and snacks in my bag to keep them going.
When we got to Tunisia, the coach transfer was 50 minutes. We were welcomed in reception of the hotel and our All Inclusive bands were snapped on our wrists. Hoorah! We had arrived!
Our hotel room was basic and a little small for a family of 4 and required a bit of furniture arranging to get comfortable and practical. The ‘master’ bedroom where Stuart and I slept (on 2 single beds pushed together made up as single beds – why do the do this? they could at least make them up as a double!) originally housed the cot but we moved this out to the ‘lounge’ area which is where Callum’s bed was made up – one of the sofa’s made into a bed. We turned the chest of drawers into a change unit putting a spare duvet on top followed by my travel change mat & a towel. The main thing about the hotel room that was quite annoying was that there were only 2 plug sockets, one of which was in a really inconvenient place to use. When you are frequently sterilising and making up bottles as well as trying to keep phones and cameras charged this is a bit inadequate. Our room had a balcony which had a sea-view and we also looked down on to the kids club & playground which we personally found ideal being so close.
Before we went, we were debating whether it was worth pre-ordering a Baby Pack which would have been ready in our room when we arrived and contained items like steriliser, bottles, highchair, buggy plus you could request your usual nappies and formula to be available for a fee. Because we wanted to take our own buggy to use at the airport, we didn’t need a highchair and we weren’t confident in trusting them to get the correct nappies or formula we decided against pre-ordering it, to take the nappies & formula we thought we would need as well as our own bottles but would request the steriliser when we arrived. This turned out to be a good idea as we weren’t charged for the steriliser and kettle (with tea & coffee) – although there were no instructions for the steriliser so it was a bit ‘make it up as you go along’. Also, like I said above, you had to juggle with the plug sockets but we managed OK. I was also pleased we went with our own nappies and formula as I only saw size 4 nappies (Millie is a size 3) which was fine when we needed a few more nappies at the end of the holiday but were still a bit big. This led me to believe they wouldn’t have had the right formula either but I don’t know this for sure.
Both kids adapted to a new routine really quickly. We only stayed out past 10pm a couple of nights. Once I was even in bed by 9 as I was so tired ha ha. Millie would sleep in her buggy of an evening and be transferred into her cot later. Millie slept really well throughout the holiday both during the day and the night – the only exception would be when we went on excursions as it would be typical that Millie would just dose off when we would need to wake her to get off the coach or get back on the coach! She wasn’t grumpy as a result though.
Millie ate really well the first week and appeared to love trying so many new foods. The second week, whether due to teething or upset tummy from drinking mineral water or perhaps both, Millie went right off proper solid food and pretty much stuck to a milk only diet. Her nappies became explosive and after several washes & all sorts of vanish concoctions later, I’m still hoping they are not completely ruined! The first day back home in the UK and her appetite returned. Callum loved choosing his own food but would typically stick to Spaghetti Bolognese, Pizza, Chips, sometimes meat, fruit, cake and ice-cream. He would frequently over-fill his plate though which pained me to see so much food go to waste.
So that Stuart and I occasionally got to eat together rather than one going up with Callum while the other stayed with Millie then vice versa, Stuart suggested we took it in turns to get both meals, choosing for the other person. This also kept the meals more interesting as we would try things we wouldn’t normally have chosen. There were plenty of highchairs around the restaurant but if not one immediately available, the waiters would quickly go get one for you. I took steriliser wipes which I occasionally needed to wipe over the highchairs but more often the staff would thoroughly wipe it down for us before using and if not it was no trouble if I asked them to do so.
The buffet restaurant, Jasmine, was themed each night so, although their were a few of the same dishes that appeared every night maybe with one different ingredient or one night the ratatouille was curried slightly for a ‘change’, there were still plenty of different dishes to keep it interesting. There were also 2 (out of an advertised 3) a la carte restaurants open which you could book once a week (not sure why 3rd wasn’t open). We went to the Tunisian restaurant, Sofra, on my birthday night (Friday of the first week) and the Asian restaurant, Mai Tai, during the second week. Sofra was much better than Mai Tai but we actually thought the food served in the Jasmine restaurant was much better.
In addition to these restaurants there was a snack bar open during the day that offered burgers, hot dogs, chicken wraps, freshly made pizzas, a few other hot dishes, salads, cakes and fruit. Oh and ice cream.
There were lots of swimming pools and activities to choose from. There was a general pool in between 2 toddler pools which had brightly coloured slides and fountains in. Behind this were the 7 big watershutes into a separate pool (only used for the watershutes). There was a Chill Pool where they held Swimming Academy swimming lessons (at a cost) and was a quieter pool for adults and children to use. Nearer our section of the hotel was an Activity Pool and child’s pool where they had the DJ shack and family activities taken place, games, challenges, waterpolo for over 16s (which Stuart and I took it in turns to play a couple of times) or just jumping in and splashing about. There was also a bar attached to this pool. Finally, I only discovered it on the last day, but there was also an indoor pool and Jacuzzis which were free to use in the Spa. Callum loved the big watershutes although, because he was a cm too short to ride them, he was told he could use them if he wore arm bands. We didn’t use the Chill Pool and spent most of our time by the general pool and the Activity Pool.
Other activities we joined in with were rounders (on the beach) and archery.
We went on two excursions. Market Fever which took you to 2 Medinas (markets to you and me), to lunch and to wine tasting. It was meant to include a pottery demonstration too but that didn’t happen for some reason. The other excursion was a Pirate Ship. We actually went on a proper pirate ship with crew dressed up as pirates that danced and performed a display on the rigging. The ‘punch’ was revolting! But there were other soft drinks available & probably done on purpose to dissuade drunken parents in charge of minors on a boat! There were joke telling competitions (lost count of the times I heard the joke “Where do Pirates like to shop?” Arrrrrrgos) and a Dad dancing competition and pirate face painting. It was a bit of a money sinker because they came round selling pirate necklaces and bandanas and then a ‘tip box’ at the end which was a little cheeky but we succumbed and bought Callum a bandana. After a while the boat was anchored so we all had a chance for a swim. Stuart and Callum went in first then I went in towards the end. So pleased I did it this time as I chickened out when we took Callum to Portugal.
When we booked we were really pleased they had a crèche facility (additional cost) and fully expected to take advantage but, in reality, Millie was so easy and gave us the occasional break when she slept so we decided not to bother. Callum did attend the kids club (inclusive) a few times. After the first session he didn’t seem that bothered and was hesitant to go back. I think they stayed in and just listened to stories so we made sure the next one he did was outdoors and fun and by the end of the holiday he was asking to go, saving the best to last – Alex’s Jungle Party (Alex being the Lion from Madagascar) with lots of chocolate. This one, as with a couple of the evening or more involved sessions were at an extra cost of about £15 dinar which was about £6. We wouldn’t have bothered with one of the sessions you had to pay for but it meant getting him out of our hair while we packed to go home and it sounded like he had a great time.
The staff at the hotel genuinely loved children but Millie got lots of attention and not just from the staff. I felt a bit for Callum at times but he mainly appeared proud of his little sister.
Other than the 2 excursions, we didn’t really venture out of the hotel/resort except once to visit our friends in neighbouring Yasmine Hammamet who were by chance holidaying at the same time as us – would’ve been a shame to miss an opportunity to meet up with them.
In the evening, the entertainment was as you’d expect for a family holiday venue. They had an outdoor venue for the hotter months in an amphitheatre with a bar attached just up some steps. The children would sit on benches just in front of the stage, either red or yellow depending on their age. Then the entertainment staff would play a number of games with audience participation (of course, focusing on the kids but sometimes adults would get involved), then there was bingo (had to buy tickets – we didn’t play and often too this as our queue to head back to the hotel room), then a kind of game show thing which was pitting two families against each other and then the night would end with a cabaret type show. One night they put on a pantomime instead. Callum loved it and it was so sweet to see him trying to join in with the i5live songs and dances they did every night (still struggling to get the Chocco Chocco Latte song out of my head!).
The only real disappointment all holiday was that I lost my mobile phone on the Wednesday of the second week – especially as it had my photos on it from the pirate ship. But hey ho, these things happen and I wasn’t precious about the phone itself. It means I also have to grudgingly admit Stuart was right when he advised me not to buy my new phone before I went on holiday in case it got lost, stolen or damaged.
Guess all that’s left now is to share with you my tips. As this blog post is already long enough, I’ve decided to create a separate blog post for this so just click here to read on.
Oh, and here are a few more holiday snaps: