I have a lot to say in my Mark Warner holiday review, so for ease of publication I split it into two parts. Please read the second part here: Mark Warner holiday review of the San Lucianu resort, Corsica (part 2)
“And now we have an award for a young man who introduced himself to everyone as being a bit shy, which I think we all know is not the case, so for [The Boy], the “shyest” kid on resort!”
Everyone burst into peals of laughter and a round of applause broke out for my 4 year old who was known throughout the whole resort as being something of a character and not the least bit shy, despite doing his best to convince everyone of that fact. It was this kind of good-natured ‘joshing’ from Josh, the activities co-ordinator, and all the other staff, that made our week at the Mark Warner San Lucianu resort in Corsica such a relaxed, happy and special holiday.
Never having taken the small folk abroad before, The Man and I were both slightly nervous in advance of the trip. This was in no way helped by the plethora of rather snarky reviews left on TripAdvisor that I happened across two weeks before we were due to leave. From hands thrown up in horror over everything from food to staff to cleanliness I was twitching with apprehension which contrasted sadly with my previous excitement over our first ‘proper’ family holiday.
For those of you who have found this review hoping for a rebuttal to the TripAdvisor comments let me hasten to reassure you – as I have already said this was a very special holiday and although we had some slight niggles that I feel I ought to mention, overall they were very minor issues in a raft of positives so please bear with me.
One of my main concerns was the travelling. Although living in Oxfordshire means we’re less than an hour from Heathrow, it’s still a significant trip with small people, especially when one of them hates – but HATES – the car.
The early flight meant we had to be up at 3.30am and at the airport two hours in advance of departure. Thankfully it all went very smoothly. We parked in long-stay parking, the bus took us to terminal 5 and we checked in with no issues. As the whole flight is chartered you can’t check in online but that wasn’t an issue and we were seated together with a window seat anyway. An added perk (albeit nothing to do with Mark Warner) was the Stay-and-play softplay area in terminal 5 that opened at 6am. God bless Heathrow for that little touch – it kept the Smalls entertained safely and wore them out in advance of the flight.
The flight was British Airways which lived up to its reputation for taking care of its passengers and we arrived on schedule in Bastia, Corsica. (Tip for those with plane-mad kids, after asking, The Boy was allowed into the cockpit after the flight and given a postcard and pilot’s badge sticker: got the holiday off to a great start with him and The (equally plane-mad) Man!).
Mark Warner staff were on hand to greet us on arrival and won me over immediately by treating The Boy as if he were a real, important, adult person. I am the first to admit that our wee chap can be a bit… *much* sometimes. Especially when excited. I love him to bits but the child talks a lot of nonsense and once he starts he Just. Won’t. Shut. Up.
Oftentimes I get baffled looks, people looking to me to translate or just simply talking over the top of him to address me. Not so Matt, the admin who first talked to The Boy, or a single one of the staff members on resort the whole time we were there and, as a parent, that just gets straight through your defenses to give you a huge attack of the warm and fuzzies.
The hotel was nice enough, a sense of faded grandeur pervaded, but it was clean, cool, attractive. We were in one of the older rooms on the top floor overlooking the mountains which meant it was nice and quiet. The bathroom and loo were spotless, but elderly with a few cracked tiles and, unfortunately, a fully tiled floor which was treacherous when wet – both the kids double footed it backwards on the first day, after which we had to keep a strict ban on the bathroom when the floor was wet. On the whole, though, the room was just fine for our needs – a big wardrobe, a TV (which we never turned on, but I bet it would have been a godsend if the weather was rubbish), nice thick curtains, a small balcony with two chairs (that made us unbelievably nervous with our two scrambling monkeys) which was mostly used for drying the endless run of soggy swimwear – not a lot of time to relax on a balcony with a toddler and preschooler!
Two single beds were pushed together for us with a camp bed in the corner for The Boy and a travel cot for The Girl (which we took one look at and folded up in the cupboard – no way was I going to argue with a co-sleeping baby all week, but that’s not really relevant to anyone but us.)
Food and restaurant facilities
After travelling since 3.30am we were more than happy to go down to lunch and thrilled by the range of options available, from freshly made pizzas in the wood-fired pizza oven, to a variety of salads, fresh fruits, stews, chips and dessert, there was something for everyone, even the pickiest of children. This pretty much set the pattern for every meal: if you wanted to live off chips and pineapple for the week you could have, or you could have something different at every sitting.
At 5.30pm there was a childrens’ tea (which was plentiful and catered to more childish tastes, which meant us parents had to manfully resist joining in with fresh battered fish or hamburgers – or stealing the large bowl of delicious chocolate mousse) followed by a grown up dinner from 7.30 which was sometimes done in buffet style, sometimes al la carte, always with more adventurous foodstuffs than in the daytime. Wine was included with both lunch and dinner which is probably a huge draw for most; as very light drinkers I think we would have preferred an alternative at lunchtime – even just a repeat of the fruit juices present at breakfast, but again this is a very minor quibble and I did enjoy the odd glass of (very good) rose with dinner.
The waiting staff were just as friendly and helpful as the rest and never made us feel badly for the phenomenal amount of mess made by two small children during a meal. Although I offered to clear up every time, and even tried to pick up the worst of it they insisted on doing it and I admit it was really really nice not to have to do it for once, as I’ve spent the last 4 years cleaning the floor after nearly every meal.
Highchairs, plastic bowls and plates, a microwave and even some pureed food were available for small people, although not small-size cutlery, plastic cups or bibs, all of which would be useful (luckily I had packed a couple of bibs, but it’s something that could easily be forgotten).
One of the big sells of a Mark Warner holiday is the inclusive childcare available. As The Girl was under two we did actually have to pay for hers, but it was totally worth it. I didn’t in any way want The Boy to feel he was being punished or excluded from our holiday, so we couched it very much in terms of it being a kids’ club to meet friends and do fun stuff and, even though he once or twice baulked at going when we were still in the hotel , once he had walked with us to drop his sister off, we couldn’t keep him away! He loved having people his own age to play with, the nannies were fantastic at dealing with shyness and bad behaviour alike and he had an awesome week doing tennis, sailing, windsurfing, playing pool games, burying his nanny in the sand, sea kayaking, water play in the garden, painting, reading and playing with an impressive range of childrens’ toys in the childcare centre.
I was far more concerned about The Girl who, at only 14 months, has never been left with anyone but me, Daddy or Granny and (as an unfortunate second child) has not attended nearly as many toddler groups as her elder brother so was unused to any kind of childcare setting. Fortunately for us she is reasonably confident and, being used to The Boy’s preschool as she comes along with me when I’m doing parent-helper mornings, wasn’t phased by the setting as much as she might otherwise have been.
Once or twice she was a little clingy at drop off time, but introducing her to a new toy usually did the trick and if she was a bit whingey the nannies had no problems picking them up and cuddling them until they were happy enough to be put down. Maybe my credentials as a stay-at-home parent are showing here and this is just normal in a nursery, but I was very happy at the loving care shown her. Just like the older kids the toddlers had a range of fun activities to take part in, from playing in the pool and digging on the beach to water play in the garden and painting, puppet shows and games in the childcare centre.
We didn’t take a buggy along, instead relying on a simple buckle carrier, but the childcare had access to buggies which they used to get her to sleep on the odd occasion when she needed an earlier nap. They did a great job keeping her clean and comfortable, although foolishly I did send her along in a romper I loved which got a bit of paint on it, but that was my fault for not putting her in less precious clothes. On one occasion she managed to get wee on her clothes during a nappy change and the nannies even washed the clothes for me and returned them when they were dry which was a much appreciated gesture.