The Daily Telegraph - Travel
The toddler tug of war: who wins?
Should parents opt for a child-focused holiday or adult ‘me time’ with a good book? In Sardinia, Anita Singh finds that it’s possible to have both
There are things you give up in exchange for the joys of motherhood. Sleep, obviously. Peace and quiet. A functioning pelvic floor. And then there are the holidays. All the horrors you have spent a lifetime avoiding – kids’ clubs, the Macarena, that wailing child in a packed economy-class cabin – suddenly become your reality.
There I was, six months pregnant and mother to a two-and-a-half yearold, in desperate need of a relaxing break before the new baby arrived. I was fantasising about luxury spa treatments and reading a novel from the comfort of a padded lounger. I was fearing there would be time to do neither in between slathering her with factor 50 and attempting to build a sandcastle in the style of Elsa’s ice palace from Frozen.
Is it possible to have a recharge-thebatteries holiday with a toddler in tow? Is it wisest to pick a child-centred resort to keep her entertained? Or to opt for somewhere focused more on adult pleasures, trusting that a child of her age will be happy anywhere?
After much toing and froing, we decided to sample both. We opted for Sardinia, for its weather, food and beaches, and chose two well-respected resorts: Chia Laguna and Forte Village, five miles apart on the same stretch of southern coastline, for the easiest of transfers. Both are child-friendly (this is Italy, after all) but pitched at different ends of the spectrum.
At Forte Village reception, we were greeted by a giant parrot – Super Mario, the hotel mascot – whose presence sets the tone. Forte Village is a holiday resort aimed at children, and parental resistance is futile. The Children’s Wonderland has a Thomas the Tank Engine you can climb in, a Fisher-Price-branded nursery, and a bright pink Barbie shop stacked floor to ceiling with pneumatic plastic dolls.
The star attraction is Mario’s Village, which is fantastic: a dozen child-sized buildings including a fire station, diner and grocery shop, each kitted out with accessories and costumes. For twoyear-olds, it’s heaven. One peculiarity of the resort, though, is that these amenities are only open on certain days, at certain times – none of them advertised anywhere obvious – so check first or risk toddler meltdown.
The Children’s Wonderland is also home to the kids’ club, which offers daily activities and beach trips, and where the children we saw looked happy as clams. Under-twos are welcome in the nursery with a parent, and it is stocked with everything you might need but have forgotten to pack in your beach bag (nappies, wipes, water). We didn’t sample the activities for older children, but they looked impressive. There are water slides, a bowling alley, disco and gokarting track, plus a Chelsea soccer school where the face of that role model for youngsters everywhere, John Terry, is projected 15ft high on a pitchside poster.
The football school has an adjoining bar and plush outdoor sofas where parents can sip cocktails as their offspring practise penalties. Because this is the other thing about Forte Village: it’s flash, and the prices are set accordingly. The shops are aimed at the mysterious brand of holidaymaker who wants to buy a Fendi mink and goat-fur handbag charm (£625) while on a sunshine break. The pharmacy sells Sisley, La Prairie and Crème de la Mer. Attempts to buy a plastic bottle of water were met with confused looks and directions to the bar. But the atmosphere is friendly and guests and staff have no airs or graces, including the England footballer Peter Crouch and his wife who chatted happily to star-struck yummy mummies.
The resort itself is picturesque and vast, spread over 47 hectares with various types of accommodation dotted among the pine trees. We stayed in the five-star Il Castello hotel, which has a lovely pool with shaded areas and steps down to the beach. Our room was tastefully appointed, but not very toddler-friendly for a hotel that markets itself at families: there were lots of sharp corners and a marble step dividing the sleeping and sitting areas.
We spent our time relaxing over breakfast and dinner at Il Castello’s