Turns out a holiday at the Mark Warner San Lucianu resort is full of so many activities and positives it takes over 4,000 words to do it justice. As a realistic blogger I am aware that few readers are prepared to digest that long a blog post in one go, so I split my post into two parts. If you haven’t read the first half yet, you can find it here: A Mark Warner holiday, review of the San Lucianu resort, Corsica (part 1).
Activities and facilities
With both the children taken care of for three hours every morning that left me and The Man to our own devices and, frankly, it was a little bizarre. It had been years since we’d spent that much time completely free from the responsibility of parenthood and our initial response was to run madly into the sea like a pair of mad teenagers. First thing Sunday morning we were down by the waterfront as a very young, very tanned sailing instructor ran through the basics of sailing a dinghy – then let us sign out a boat and take it out on the open sea by ourselves.
Mark Warner is great for those who want to try out various activities because they have an array of craft and equipment that you can sign out and use as and when you like, without having to pay any extra, which encourages you to be a bit more daring than you otherwise might and the waterfront at the San Lucianu resort is peaceful and sheltered, so not too intimidating for beginners!
Despite a bit of various watercraft experience neither of us had ever sailed a dinghy by ourselves and it was more than a little mad to be thrown in the deep end, but The Man took control and made a pretty decent fist of things, although it quickly became apparent that the very young instructor was very skilled and had made some of the skills look *far* easier to do than they really were! Whilst out on the water one of the other waterfront staff, Rachel (she becomes a recurring character, so it’s worth mentioning her name) shouted a few tips at us from the safety boat that patrols the marked-out section of water. She was encouraging about the things we were doing well, but gave us some really useful suggestions to improve things.
The Man caught the bug quickly and that afternoon caught him out on the water again, taking part in the ‘sunset sailing challenge’, albeit by himself as none of the other guests had signed up. His determination quickly caught the staff’s eye and they encouraged him to come along to the (free) improver’s sailing clinic, and sent him out on a variety of craft including a small catamaran. Inspired by his determination, I did my best to pick up some of the skills required so that on the third day I could helm the boat whilst he acted as the ’talking ballast’ (a role I’d previously been filling whilst he did all the work!). Encouraged by my success that day I got up the courage to go solo on the the fourth morning and quickly found I had a knack for it despite not entirely understanding the ins and outs of it all.
For years my parents had been trying to persuade and encourage me to try sailing, from a Mark Warner resort we’d gone to when I was six to some godawful sailing courses at a reservoir in Surrey when I was a teenager (teenage boys can be endlessly cruel to a slightly overweight teenage girl in a wetsuit), but I had stubbornly resisted; my fear and lack of confidence stopping me from even trying. The enthusiastic and never-beaten attitude of my husband combined with the supportive, encouraging a friendly attitude of the staff at San Lucianu did what years of my parents’ best efforts had failed to do and got me out on the water alone.
Rachel (see, I told you she’d pop up again), who had taken The Man and Boy out on a Cat and was now on first name terms with all of us, spotted my triumphant return to land and invited *me* along to that afternoon’s improvers clinic. That afternoon I saddled up (metaphorically speaking) and having only just helmed a boat solo that morning, learned how to manoeuvre the boat in some reasonably advanced ways doing ‘man overboard’ drills and the like.
Being a bit of a weed I did have some panicky moments when the boat wobbled about or when a tack didn’t go quite right, but Rachel’s brisk ‘you can do it’ attitude and gentle encouragement, plus her shit-sandwich approach to praise (good thing, bad thing, good thing) soon got me trying again and I felt reasonably confident about handling the boat. Now, a week later, I’m desperately missing the sea and wishing I could get back in that dinghy and have another go – see if I could handle those manoeuvres more skillfully. Sailing really is a bug.
It wasn’t all mucking about in boats though. We had a go at paddle-boarding, which I aced and The Man failed at woefully, spending more time falling in than standing up – it was a great entertainment for his cruel wife though!
We also had a shot at windsurfing, which I soon gave up at as I just wasn’t enjoying it and found the choppy sea far too challenging. Once again The Man gritted his teeth and kept on trying, with a mite more success than he’d had at paddle boarding, but still providing me with plenty of slapstick comedy moments.
Afternoons were spent juggling children. The Man took him out sailing a couple of times, I took him out on a sea kayak which we both greatly enjoyed, the rest of the time was spent by the pool or the beach.
Although small, the beach was pleasant with a sandy portion by the water and stones further up, which meant that children could both dig and make pleasing collections of stones. The Boy showed his engineer genes by constructing elaborate sand bridges and moats around his sand castles and The Girl had a whale of a time poking a large stick into the sand, putting ‘tone’s in a bucket and repeatedly filling and emptying a small watering can we borrowed from the resort.
The San Lucianu resort has two swimming pools, neither of which are heated. A larger, deeper one for ‘serious’ swimming and a smaller, divided one (one deeper section, one toddler depth section) for splashing about, silliness and kids. The smaller one was overseen by lifeguards during the functioning hours and the lifeguards deserve a medal for their endless repetition of the words ‘walk don’t run’ to my son who has two speeds: stop and zoom. Josh, in particular, was very patient and kind to him, engaging him in endless circular chats, fishing out toys for him and trying to encourage him to get swimming.
Although there was, unfortunately, a maintenance issue with the toddler pool for the first few days of our stay, it was resolved within a couple of days so that we were able to use it again. For those whose kids are more sensitive to cold water than mine I would suggest taking wetsuits along, particularly if you’re going early or late in the season. Although the water did warm up a little in the sun, there were a few blue lips on the chillier days.
As well as the watersports there was a pingpong table and, apparently, a series of very nice tennis courts on the opposite side of the hotel. I can’t comment on these unfortunately as I was too enamoured of the sea to investigate. For someone as entranced by the briny deep as me, Oxfordshire is a pretty crappy county to live in, seeing as how it’s one of the few landlocked counties on a small island surrounded by water. The Thames is really no substitute. There were, however, more than one couple who had come specifically to play tennis and they seemed to have a good time – so thumbs up for that! Likewise the mountain biking/cycling facilities available. We didn’t take advantage, but everyone who did seemed to have a fab time and the staff in chsrge of those activities appeared to be just as friendly and helpful as the rest.
Organised activities, entertainment and exploring
My only slight regret from this holiday is that we didn’t really take advantage of the opportunities for exploring the local area or the evening entertainments laid on by various members of staff. When staying for just one week it seemed like too big an ask to hoick ourselves and two small children across to any of the local towns. I doubt they would have enjoyed it, it would have been a lot of effort and we wanted to take full advantage of the watersports and childcare.
In the future, if we were to return, it would be nice to see both Bastia (we heard from other guests that it was beautiful) and do one of the guided walks of the local area to see the scenery, such as a waterfall walk or a coach expedition to an historic town. It is worth noting that these options were available though and for those travelling with adults or older children it might make a nice change of scene, especially if you’re lucky enough to be staying two weeks.
Lisa is an enthusiastic Scot who runs the various fitness classes with boundless energy. From the Sunrise & Sunset stretches to boxercise, traditional aerobics, aqua-aerobics and possibly a few more classes I didn’t even consider! Since I’d neglected to bring the industrial strength sports-bra required – after two children – whenever I decide to partake in vigorous exercise I carefully avoided anything too energetic, but made time to attend four of the stretch classes.
All the fitness classes were run on a small stage under a canopy overlooking both the beach and mountains. In the mornings the stretch class faced the mountains, in the evenings the sea and Lisa’s gentle instructions helped guide us through a very pleasant stretch routine. I found both classes beneficial – the morning ones for unkinking after a night spent curled around my baby, the evening ones for warming down after a day spent on watersports and wrestling children. I would definitely take more sports gear next time to take more advantage of the fitness classes.
Evening entertainments ranged from quizzes to a game of ‘Mr & Mrs’ (which I would have dearly loved to play, but 10pm is past my bedtime, especially when my own personal tiny alarm clocks relentlessly go off around 6am). These were all held down at the beachfront bar which is a lovely open-sided structure on the beach (surprisingly) providing ice-cream and beverages including milkshakes and smoothies.
We took advantage of the ‘listening service’ each evening, where you could deposit your child for the evening whilst you went for a grown-up dinner. Older ones could watch a film or curl up on a travel bed to sleep, whilst younger ones had to be settled in a quiet room before you left. Although this worked very well with our 4 year old who crashes out early and cannot be woken – he watched the film a couple of nights, but most nights we just carried him down asleep, then picked up up later and put him back in his own bed without him realising – it was not so good for our late-to-bed one year old. Although she would have been quite happy to quietly watch the film with the older kids, the guidelines stated she needed to be settled before we left. As she only really settles in bed with me with a boob in her mouth (one of the occasions attachment parenting is less convenient) we ended up having to take her to dinner with us all evenings bar one when she was so tired she fell asleep just before we went down and stayed asleep whilst we transferred her to the travel bed.
Luckily, as a family-friendly resort, the staff and most of the other guests were more amused than anything else by the tiny blonde in a babygro munching on olives and demanding to ‘dip dip’ in our food. One or two more elderly guests had possibly forgotten (or never experienced) the joys of parenting young children and tutted at her squeals, but on the whole it wasn’t too bad having her along at the dinners, and certainly easier than having both of them! Maybe if we go back she’ll be old enough that we’ll be allowed to leave her watching the film. Even with this slight inconvenience it was still a really nice service to offer for those who couldn’t afford to use the babysitting but still wanted some grown-up time in the evening.
Time to say goodbye
The end of the week saw a flurry of competitions and races: from a four-hour sail to triathlons, tennis tournaments and ping-pong championships there was something for everyone. The final night was a time for presentations, both official RYA certificates for courses completed, as well as ‘fun’ awards like The Boy’s ‘Shyest kid on resort’ (ha ha) and our family award for ‘Waterfront family’ as all four of us were down by the water whenever we got the chance. If The Girl had been less vociferously resistant (my God that child can scream) to the buoyancy aid we would probably have all four of us been out on the boats every afternoon, instead of taking it in turns to stay on dry land with her, but we won the award nonetheless and are all very proud of it.
It may not sound like much, but in just one week a real sense of community had been forged between the guests and with the staff. The awards felt like the right way to honour that and, as a recipient, left me with a very warm feeling towards the staff and resort in general. The Boy is massively proud of his certificate, too, though I’m not sure he fully appreciates the sarcasm.
So would we return? Absolutely. We’re already trying to re-jig our budget to accommodate it. Although it’s not the cheapest holiday ever, the cost is still pretty good when you consider the cost involved in hiring a holiday cottage in the UK and it’s especially good when you can plan the budget knowing that that is the whole cost and you’re not having to find additional travel or food costs on top. As a work-from-home/stay-at-home mother it was a real treat, a real holiday to have all the food taken care of, no housework and some childcare included. Not something you get from a self-catered in Cornwall.
As I mentioned before there were only a few little niggles and certainly nothing that would stop me from recommending it. I might make a few adjustments to my packing, wetsuits for both kids in case the weather is not as warm as I foolishly expected (got lucky this time, but better safe than sorry), more scruffing around clothes for the kids and more sportswear for me. I would have to check the luggage allowance, but I might be tempted to pack one of those rubber grippy mats for the bathroom to stop the bathroom floor being such a problem. Child-sized cutlery might also be helpful, though both of mine tended to just dig in with their hands if they couldn’t manage a full-sized fork.
If you’re heading off on an activity holiday this summer look out for my essential packing list of useful items I took/wish I’d taken with for all of us.
In the meantime I’d like to extend my thanks to all the San Lucianu resort staff for their help and care. I hope there are no more injuries!
Josh, Rachel, LouLou, Lottie, Louis, Lydia, Barnaby, Matt, Emma, Elise, Clarky, Lisa, Becky and many of the waiting staff whose names I never discovered but who were endlessly kind and helpful when my kids spilled, broke, ran off, got picky or noisy – thank you from Milla, The Man and the two little dinosaurs. I hope we see you again another year, but have a great time if not.
*credit for the photo goes to the lovely Lisa who ran all the exercise classes at San Lucianu 2016 – I’m sorry I don’t know your surname Lisa, but thanks for letting me use your pic.