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Each evening as sunset approached, small huddles formed by the pool. A frisson of excitement shivered through each towel-clad group as the day’s most important decision was made. Finally, an all-important invitation would be proffered and accepted with the sort of reverence usually reserved for those dining at the captain’s table on the QE2. But then deciding which of your new holiday buddies will be the one who joins you for high tea is a serious business when you’re four years old.
My son Freddie, husband Alex and I were enjoying a break at the newest addition to the Mark Warner portfolio, Paleros Beach Resort, in Greece.
Within hours of our arrival, Fred had already found a gaggle of mates to mess around with by the water and by the end of our week they were firm friends he is still asking after today.
On the mainland’s west coast, Paleros has the Ionian Sea on one side and rugged, olive grove-clad mountains on the other.
The hotel only opened last summer, so the bedrooms are still pristine, while the infinity pools and sea of white sun umbrellas look suitably five-star in snaps.
When it comes to choosing holiday destinations, however, Alex and I tend to be less interested in their Instagram potential and more enticed by quality childcare and watersports, both of which Mark Warner excels at.
Offering a kids’ club by day and a “movie club” by night – think Disney favourites, giant bean bags and rows of tiny camp beds for when eyelids grow heavy – the resort’s fully qualified British nannies make the experience so fun that Freddie never looked back.
Each morning he would wolf his breakfast so he could get on with the day’s adventures, which included everything from football and face painting to windsurfing and sailing lessons.
Relaxed in the knowledge our son was being fabulously entertained, Alex and I would head for the beach to kayak the morning mill pond (winds more suited to sailing tended to pick up post-lunch).
A kilometre out from the beach, the water is so clear you can spot fish, turtles and the occasional pair of abandoned sunglasses on the sea bed.
The silence as you bob on the surface is broken only by the sound of water lapping against the hull and, occasionally, a cacophony of nearby church bells bouncing off the surrounding hillside.
As the resort is half-board, we tended to head to the local town – Palairos – to while away the hottest hours at a beachside taverna.
Restaurant Dionysos quickly became our favourite, serving up crisp salads, perfectly barbecued lamb chops and subtly smokey aubergine dips.
I probably shouldn’t dwell for too long on the day I made my son cry by ordering a whole red snapper.
Let’s just say washing it down with a glass of chilled retsina rather than returning it to the waters a few feet from our table didn’t win me any nominations for Mother of the Year…
The surprise hit of the week though was toddler tennis.
I didn’t envy the coach, Ollie, the task of holding our pre-schooler’s attention, but he was ace, if you’ll excuse the pun.
He managed to engage little ones for the full half hour of each session, making learning fun and teaching new skills without them even realising.
In just three sessions Fred developed a pretty killer backhand.
I’m already planning ways to harness his newfound sporting prowess to fund my early retirement.
Mark Warner offers seven nights at Paleros Beach Resort, Greece from £829pp including flights from London Gatwick, resort transfers, accommodation, half-board dining, sailing and windsurfing with tuition, tennis, road and mountain biking, fitness programme and childcare from two to 17 years (four months to two years is chargeable from £180 per week).
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