|Read About It|
Room to Breathe - by Jamie Pearson
Last December, my husband and I booked two nights at one of Britain's top luxury family hotels. This wreaked havoc with our already-shaky holiday budget, but we were suffering from incurable wanderlust. The hotel offered a crèche, baby listening, and a separate children's tea. If I were so indiscreet as to reveal this hotel's famous name, you would be astonished to learn how little we enjoyed our stay.
We weren't more than two steps inside the awe-inspiring lobby of this stately English manor when four-year-old Avery sprinted ahead, grabbed a ceramic urn from a pedestal table, and upended it on her head like a hat. Eighteen-month-old Max took advantage of the chaos that ensued by trying to shimmy up the 20-foot Christmas tree when no one was looking. We recaptured the children, checked in, and fled to our room.
Over the course of that weekend, I came to realize that when it comes to traveling with young children, staying in fancy hotels is a lot like flying business class. There are incremental luxuries, but the price is constant vigilance. And so, it was with some trepidation that I approached my weekend at Cornwall's Sands Resort. I needn't have worried.
Sands Resort is uniquely situated atop a cliff, and overlooks both pastoral Cornish countryside and inviting sandy beaches. After a five-hour drive with my unruly offspring, the sea air was intoxicating, and pulling up to the hotel was more like redemption than arrival. As I stepped into the hotel, I could see right away that management had created an environment that is truly family friendly. The staff welcomed us with sincere smiles. The warm indoor pool beckoned just beyond the lobby. The nautically themed décor was both appealing and bulletproof. And there wasn't a ceramic urn or pedestal table in sight.
While not luxurious, our room was spacious with ocean views, a king size bed, separate children's room, microwave, and small refrigerator. The hotel offers a children's tea, an early family dinner, and a later 'quiet' dinner. Most of the restaurant staff are in Cornwall to surf, not to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. Still, what they lack in experience, they make up for with attitude and effort. The food is diverse, and above average. But you don't come to Sands for the rooms or the food, you come to have your children entertained and exhausted. And nobody does it better.
Sands does magic shows. Party games. Fancy dress parties. Talent shows. Weekly animal visits from the Newquay Zoo and Blue Reef Aquarium. There's a hedge maze, a sand pit, a playground, mini golf, a soft play area, two pools, and countless other diversions on location. Farther afield, older children can go surfing, body boarding, fishing, and cycling. For parents who fancy child-free recreation, there's tennis, golf, a gym, and a spa. The four age-banded children's clubs are affordable and excellent.
Although Land's End, St. Ives, and the Eden Project were all within easy reach, we rarely ventured farther than sleepy town of Porth (much more civilized than Newquay - its excitable neighbor to the South). From the hotel, it's a five-minute walk down the hill through a profusion of wildflowers to golden, gently sloping Porth Beach. At low tide it's a children's paradise. The ankle-deep water seems to go on forever. There are tide pools to splash in, tiny waves to chase (and be chased by), and sea creatures to terrorize.
Across the street is a well-stocked convenience store with everything from maps, food, and newspapers to postcards, ice cream, and sand toys. The charming Nesscafe serves warm scones, full English breakfasts, cappuccinos, filled baguettes, pasties, and home made soups from early until late. And if you put on a pound or two in the course of your meal there or at the pub down the street, don't lose heart about making a poolside appearance in your swimming costume.