Nappy days in Is­rael’s Red Sea par­adise

The Jewish Chronicle - - Travel - BY JULIET ER­RING­TON

AF­TER 10 MONTHS o f c h a n g i n g nap­pies and re­cov­er­ing from t h e s h o c k o f p a r e n t h o o d (that it is a darn s i g h t h a r d e r than they let on in the movies), my hus­band and I de­cided to take the plunge and book our first fam­ily hol­i­day abroad.

Since ev­ery new par­ent we knew said we should ex­pect to wait about 20 years be­fore a hol­i­day be­came as rest­ful as it was pre-baby, we pre­pared our­selves for the worst — early-morn­ing wake-ups and food and babysit­ter is­sues. But I am thrilled to re­port that our week in Ei­lat was just the ticket for a cou­ple with a baby in tow.

The start of our trip was def­i­nitely helped by us­ing a meet-and-greet park­ing ser­vice at Lu­ton Air­port. Not for us, lug­ging cases — and baby — on to a bus in a car-park miles from the ter­mi­nal. Cen­tral Car Stor­age met us with a trol­ley as we pulled into the drop-off zone right out­side ther ter­mi­nal. Calm and un­flus­tered, we glided through check-in and boarded the plane hop­ing that our bag, bulging with in-flight snacks and toys, would en­sure a trou­ble-free travel ex­pe­ri­ence. If there had been any hang­ing around, there were quiet chang­ing fa­cil­i­ties, and a baby-food warm­ing ser­vice at the air­side restau­rant.

We checked i n to Is­ro­tel’s flag­ship Royal Beach Ho­tel and found the huge lobby is per­fect for crawlers — or for wheel­ing round a non-sleep­ing baby. All the rooms are spa­cious with bal­conies, but the fam­ily room — to which we were up­graded— meant that we could close Leo off from the main bed­room, giv­ing us some pri­vacy and the op­tion of stay­ing in with room-ser­vice, without hav­ing to whis­per or have the TV on mute. The ho­tel will also or­gan­ise babysit­ting which is, of course, much cheaper than at home — around £4 per hour, plus taxi-fare to and from the ho­tel.

It was prob­a­bly the time of year (Jan­uary), but we found the chil­drens’ pool area a bit blus­tery, so by day, we camped out by the main pool on dou­ble mat­tresses un­der shaded para­sols.

For a change of scene we headed to the beach or into the pool­side kids club. Open each morn­ing and af­ter­noon, the club al­ways had a cou­ple of staff on duty. Ba­bies need to be su­per­vised by a par­ent, but older kids could be left to their own de­vices with arts and crafts, games, books and soft-play.

On pre­vi­ous trips to Ei­lat we have al­ways been ex­plor­ing — a Be­douin camel sa­fari, scuba-div­ing and swim­ming with dol­phins at the Dol­phin Reef. This time, with such a small child, it was eas­ier to stay put at the ho­tel. But on our next visit we plan to take Leo to the Camel Ranch which has a pet­ting area as well as rides. The Aquar­ium is an­other great day out, with feed­ing shows and in­ter­ac­tive stuff for kids.

Dur­ing win­ter in Ei­lat the days are quite short, and it tends to be­gin to cool off at around four. We took strolls alongth­e­p­rom­e­nade,pot­teredaround the mar­ket stalls and some­times headed a lit­tle fur­ther to the shop­ping cen­tre where you’ll find brands like Zara, Adi­das and Nike cheaper than UK prices, as well as great lo­cal baby­wear at Fox Baby. In the ho­tel, the break­fast buf­fet was var­ied and the staff were quick to bring high­chairs and dis­pos­able bibs. Lunch by the pool was the usual café-style fare of hu­mous, pitta, grilled meats, sal­ads and chips, while the best falafel in town is at a kiosk on the Royal Beach prom­e­nade. Some par­ents we spoke to found the fast-food style kids’ menu a bit lim­ited, but for ba­bies the ho­tel has it spot on.

Their unique sell­ing point for me is Baby Room Ser­vice, avail­able at any time of day, any­where around the ho­tel and de­liv­ered in (on al­most ev­ery time) un­der 15 min­utes. Leo was on solids, but a 10month old baby does not have ex­trav­a­gant tastes, so be­ing able to ask the kitchen to whizz up some ap­ple purée, mashed po­tato or any­thing I wanted, took away wor­ries about wean­ing — and they don’t even charge for it. So in Ei­lat, at least if you’re un­der one, there is, in­deed, such a thing as a free lunch.

Ei­lat’s Ma­rina and ho­tel strip: the re­sort has plenty to of­fer fam­i­lies with ba­bies and young chil­dren

Beach baby: Juliet Er­ring­ton and lit­tle Leo in Ei­lat

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