The family way

Issue 2 · Summer 2015

Bryony and Jane Gordon share mother and granny views of how a Mallorcan family villa stay turned previous holiday hells into heaven

Issue 2 · Summer 2015

Bryony and Jane Gordon share mother and granny views of how a Mallorcan family villa stay turned previous holiday hells into heaven

Bryony Gordon and daughter Edie

Dedicated staff are on hand to help with childcare

Bryony Gordon

Let me tell you about all the “holidays” I have had with my now two-year-old daughter, Edie. There was the one to Yorkshire, when she was about 10 weeks old, which saw her roll off a sofa on to a stone floor and ended with us spending a day in a walk-in health centre; then there was the trip to Devon, aged around seven months, when she developed a horrible stomach bug: we spent the week acquainting ourselves with the local GP and scrubbing the rented cottage while fervently praying we wouldn’t lose our deposit. I shall only touch on our belated honeymoon to the Maldives, where I burst my eardrum and cowered in fear of her screaming. But she was 11 months old, and at that stage all she really did was scream.

And then… well, then we booked a Scott Dunn holiday and I had a sense that this would be different. We were to spend a week in Las Palmeras, a villa in the Mallorcan region of Pollença, which slept eight and came with a chef, nanny and “host” (not to mention pool, playroom and vast amounts of land on which trampolines and football goalposts sat). Joining our family of three on this trip were my friends Martha and Adam and their young daughter; my aunt; and finally, my mother. She needed a break, but secretly I also thought she might be useful for looking after Edie. As it turned out, the villa’s staff meant that she could properly relax and enjoy her granddaughter without becoming resentful of us for using her as unpaid childcare.

Before we had even arrived I felt like I was on holiday, thanks to a call from our chef asking for dietary requirements and alcohol preferences, and telling us that there was no need to bring nappies as they would be provided (do you know how much room nappies take up in a suitcase?). When we actually got to the villa we were greeted at the door by Sam, our host, Phil, our chef, and Kim, our nanny. The latter immediately spirited the children to the air-conditioned playroom, where she set about introducing them to the endless books, toys and games on offer. The rest of us marvelled at the grounds as Sam brought us cooling juices; Martha and I let out yelps when we saw our bedrooms, packed with all of the baby essentials a parent could ever need: cots, monitors, Sudocrem, swim nappies, baby-friendly toiletries (and Cowshed for the grown-ups). And so began what I have since come to call the best holiday ever.

The children slept like logs, swam like fish and ate like little princesses

The villa has a backdrop of towering mountains, while the beach and the old town of Pollença were just a five-minute drive away. This meant that people could easily escape if they wanted to swim in the crystal waters of the Med, or shop in Pollença’s market and artisan food shops.

What made it so special was being able to relax, while the kids roamed around us under the watchful eye of Kim. Plus, I got to spend some quality time with my mother, to properly enjoy her company. So much of our recent relationship has, joyfully, been about Edie, but it was nice to be able to discuss other things: the books we were reading, or her plans for her new house as we swam lengths of the pool. We had massages while watching the kids on the trampoline, and felt the unspeakable bliss of not having to prepare any meals. Our stay at Las Palmeras wasn’t just a holiday; it was a complete recharge of batteries, and not just for the adults, but the children too, who slept like logs, swam like fish, and ate like little princesses. So often enforced family time can be stressful. Add to the mix the often incompatible holiday desires of a mixed group and you can have a recipe for holiday hell. But this was quite the opposite. There wasn’t a raised voice the whole week we were there, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Granny Jane's View

For me, family holidays – rather like family Christmases – have always been a triumph of hope over experience. Every summer, as far back as I can remember, I would set off on our annual holiday imagining that this year it was going to be perfect. The villa or hotel was going to look exactly as it did in the brochure and our extended family group was destined for two harmonious weeks in the sunshine. Oh dear. Somehow I managed to forget that year after year the reality never matched my fantasy and that I would come home in need of, well, a holiday.

Our rooms were elegant, air-conditioned and – crucially – located far enough apart to give everyone privacy

I can’t think of one holiday that lived up to the promises of the brochures. The Italian palazzo we rented one summer, for example, that turned out to have “magnificent” views of an industrial-sized pig farm. Or the villa in a “luxury gated domain” in Provence that was still under construction and where the children (toddlers at the time) were more in need of hard hats than water wings. By the time my three children had flown the nest I had concluded that it was impossible to find a holiday on which a multi-generation family could live together for a fortnight, without tension, tantrums and tears.

So thrilled though I was to be invited to join Bryony, her husband Harry and my 18-month-old granddaughter Edie for a week’s holiday, I was a little sceptical.

I am not sure at what exact moment I realised that this year was going to be perfect. But moments after our arrival at Las Palmeras, Granny Jane (as I am slowly adjusting to being called) finally found herself in family holiday heaven.

Our rooms were elegant, air-conditioned and – crucially – located far enough apart to give everyone privacy. The pool was perfect, the living areas cool and spacious and the living, thanks to our staff, was easy.

Having a nanny (something I had always mistakenly refused to do) was brilliant not only because it gave Bryony a break but also because I had quality time with Edie while still free to relax by the pool or go shopping. Phil the chef released us from the tension of mass family catering and arguments over who was working hardest in the kitchen. Instead we had delicious lunches and dinners presented to us on a plate. And before we arrived I had imagined that our host Sam would be a dour Mr. Carson-like figure but, in fact, she turned out to be charming and almost ridiculously thoughtful. She was so attuned to the needs of Granny Jane and Great Auntie Sue (my sister in law) that we jokingly nicknamed her our “carer”. It was a week – for the adults anyway – without tension or tantrums and just a few tears when it was time to go home…

Las Palmeras sleeps eight and is available from £1,395 per person per week. Call 020 8682 5040.
Images: Corbis

Jane and granddaughter Edie

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