Last week saw ‘part’ of this family spend 7 days in Marbella, staying at the palatial Casa Haniel, a James Villa Holidays‘ villa in San Pedro, above, for a fabulous, relaxing, fun and invigorating week away.
First off, huge thanks to brilliant blogger and my lovely, kind friend Michelle of Bod for Tea for recommending us to James Villas- it was wonderful having the opportunity to review a villa with the family, and particularly as it was the first time we’ve not stayed in a hotel abroad too. I’m a definite convert. More on that later…
Now for those who follow my blog, you’ll be familiar with ‘passportgate‘ and how my eldest Oliver’s passport expired the day before we travelled! Eek (lesson learned to always check well in advance of flying).
Rightly so, you need an appointment at the Passport Office to renew, and children’s passports take 8 days to issue due to security reasons, so sadly there was literally no chance of sorting it once discovered, in time for the break.
After a lot of soul searching, a few tears shed (me), and little sleep (me again), my husband Peter persuaded me to still go on holiday, taking my youngest, Alexander, 2 1/2, and my parents with me, who were due to holiday with us anyway.
And funnily enough it ended up being quite the experience for each boy, both receiving undivided attention and time, from my husband and I respectively-Xander and I enjoying (mostly) sunny Spain and Peter and Oliver having an absolute ball back in blighty, spending time in Liverpool and Wales to record temperatures, exploring castles, catching crabs and having a staycation adventure they’ll never forget. I’ll be sharing their break on the blog soon…
But back to Marbs, my Marbella belle of an Aunt, Zak (also Alexander’s godmother) and her husband, Uncle Chris, live in Puerto Banus and have for years, I was a bridesmaid at their wedding there and my family and I have holidayed all over Marbella for years, loving the ease of a fast 2 1/2 hour flight, year-round sunshine, tasty tapas and the Spanish chilled way of life. Manyane, manyane!
Here, I share a post bursting with pictures, the first in a long while shot exclusively by moi, with my personal paparazzo sadly homebound and unable to snap for me.
Oh and the odd shot by my poor Dad who was forced to take a few snaps of me in them, so there’s a real selection here from shots taken with my ‘proper’ camera ( a Fuji x-m1, portable and professional although no match for Peter’s 5D) and my iPhone, when batteries died and I favoured a selfie.
My gorgeous and very glam Aunt Zak, my mother’s youngest sibling, here with her godson Xander.
It’s quite special going on holiday and having close family nearby. It really drummed in the whole ‘home from home’ aspect of villa living.
…This was the first shot of the holiday. On arrival at Casa Haniel-pretty in pale pink (Peter, I want a pink house please)!
First, let me give you a tour of the villa- a stunningly huge house that, despite us being just 3 adults and a toddler in total, accommodated 8 making it ideal for large families, those holidaying with friends and like us, with family nearby for dinner parties.
It was perfectly situated in a quiet residential part of San Pedro far from the main road, with a gated pool in the garden (so important with a little one), high ceilings, widescreen TV’s (with English channels-hello Cbeebies) and was just a short walk from the picturesque town of San Pedro, and a 5 minute drive to my Aunt’s house and the port.
And for those who aren’t familiar with the area, everything you need to know is ready and waiting in the James Villa prospectus. It was one of the first things Xander discovered on entry too!
Now for the villa tour-minimalist decor, white leather sofas, a kitchen kitted out with brand new brass copper pans and Denby crockery-everything Beyonce (or you know, you) could possibly want or need!
An 8-seater dining table inside for entertaining if you choose to-
…Oh and a wonderful, personal touch to discover these beauties and a bottle of rosé on arrival.
Food-obsessed Dad and I adored the kitchen and cooked various seafood dishes mostly, purchases from the many fish counters we came across in that space on several occasions.
A kitchen fit for Jay Z (and, erm Papa G)!
We arrived early in the morning on our first day so even cooked on our first night-Gambas Pil Pil (see my recipe here), king prawns in an orange reduction along with fried chicken, homemade chips and lots of fresh salad bursting with black and green Spanish olives.
…With a double bedroom downstairs, along with 3 others upstairs, we were truly spoilt for choice on where to sleep (we could have played musical beds all week there were so many, but that would just have been weird).
And oh boy, did we sleep. As did the actual boy, thankfully.
In fact Xander slept through every single night away, it was a dream. I think we might need to actually move to Marbs. Perhaps James Villa can rehome us 😉
Below was Prince Alexander’s napping room ( I told you there were a lot of bedrooms) and by night, I moved him in with me in one of the bigger bedroom’s King size beds. I loved us snuggled up asleep together, those times are some of my most treasured holiday memories.
…How cool is this vintage print smiling down on my son while he enjoyed his siestas! I immediately want a tropical swimsuit and rouge’d-up cheeks.
Isn’t the room delightful?
The rocking chair was again another thoughtful touch for parents.
Our veranda views-
You lookin’ at me?
Dad looking like the Godfather or someone auditioning for the remake!
And a photo I never thought I’d take. Xander usually hates the bath yet he couldn’t wait to get into the hot tub (which wasn’t actually too hot for kids I should add, with buttons to gauge the temperature with).
Before I forget, back in the bedroom, in the centre of the ceiling, hung a magic colour- changing light and watching it transform from white to blue, quickly became our nightly bedtime ritual after storytime.
Each bedroom also had towering fitted wardrobes and drawers, offering lots of space for clothes we brought with us, and those we bought there (of which there were quite a few purchases). Sometimes it’s good to leave your husband at home when you holiday!
…More bedrooms with ensuites. Gorgeous huh?!
In the basement, James Villas had thought of everything for families, with toys a-plenty from doll’s houses to prams of varying sizes, a table and chairs with sun umbrella, cars (big and small), teddies, a blackboard with chalks and more.
Outside, we were lucky to have our own private dolphin-tiled swimming pool along with a dining table for al fresco feasting, comfortable sofas and coffee tables, and loungers for sunbathing. There was even a barbecue area with barbecue. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.
The master of the house waiting to be served-
Such a pretty pool
James Villas even supplied soft white bath and blue beach/pool towels too for our convenience.
Fab that the locked gate kept this little one out of the pool when he didn’t want him in!
As usual, Xander had every toy imaginable at his fingertips yet he favoured a cheese grater! The obsession with kitchen utensils continues (even on holiday)!
When Alexander tired himself out faux-grating, I loved relaxing by the pool reading and just simply ‘being’. Switching off and chilling out. Bliss.
By the way, bloggers, do read twitter founder Biz Stone’s autobiography, it blew my mind and has inspired me to put some of his advice into action with my blog already.
Witty, dynamic, enlightening, it made me want to become the best person and blogger I can be.
And now the casa tour is done, I’m taking you down the road, beyond the lemon trees and bougainvillea to San Pedro, a quiet town dotted with quaint shops and stylish boutiques, Spanish cafes, rustic restaurants, cakes shops and food stores, all brimming with local, seasonal, produce waiting to be enjoyed…
Off we go-
And I stopped, a lot, to snap these Spanish postcard-worthy apartments and homes which punctuate the streets there. Pink and red geraniums peering out from their terracotta posts, towards the sun, swaying in the breeze.
Some of my most favourite times were just we four, strolling through the town, food shopping, smelling melons checking they were ripe, watching and waiting in line as raw chickens were chopped up at counters, returning to the villa to cook up soup or make sandwiches, or stopping for lunch or supper in local restaurants nearby.
The town square in the centre always drew us in. It housed a dramatic white washed and yellow church, and a fanciful fountain Alexander was mesmerised with.
…Alexander is an absolute mummy’s boy and wouldn’t stop kissing me. It was the sweetest thing.
He even said, ‘Mama we’re married’ after kissing me one afternoon. Think Shrek has had quite the effect on him.
…We stumbled across a traditional, unassuming Spanish restaurant busy with locals, and ate there many times.
The fried hake in garlic was out of this world, the calamari, crispy on the outside, succulent on the in, doused in a golden flour and melt in your mouth sea salt, thin frites on the side; enjoyed with a glass of chilled white wine. The best meal I’ve ever eaten or near enough.
Argh, then creme caramel for dessert. What an original garnish with the biscuit lightly resting on the top covered in powdery cinnamon. The best thing, the desserts there were never too sweet.
..And when we weren’t eating and playing, it’s safe to say there was a little shopping going on with new shoes, dresses and jewellery bought. I’m blaming my shopaholic mother and aunt for being bad influences on me (especially as Peter is probably reading this).
I just couldn’t resist.
The shops were chocka block with statement necklaces and sparkly earrings, what’s a girl gotta do?!
Rocking my new necklace with my one and only maxi dress bought from Cannes last year (this is literally the only maxi I’ve found to suit me), and a cropped navy cardigan picked up in a shop two minutes from the villa.
Planet also kindly sent me this striking leaf print jersey dress especially for my holiday, such an elegant, dress I will wear and wear this summer.
And Xander trying to take his own selfie (I’ve created a monster)!
I mentioned Zack was a shopaholic, so much so, that as soon as we entered Michael Kors, they were popping the champagne open for us!
Marbella definitely has shopping in style, covered! Mum and Zak bought bags and shoes but they didn’t have the wedges I loved, in stock. (Peter is now breathing a sigh of relief)..
The MK shop is in Puerto Banus, with lots of other dreamy designer stores close by, and we loved hanging out by the port- it always reminds me so much of the South of France.
We had 4 gloriously sunny days, and 3 milder, cloudier ones despite high temperatures so in colder times, we either headed to my Aunt and Uncle’s delicious deli and restaurant ‘Cravings’ in Puerto Banus for long lunches or made our way to El Court Ingles nearby, a gorgeous shopping centre host to Spanish favourites Zara and Mango as well as tonnes of indie boutiques, designer stores and most excitingly for us foodies, restaurants-galore.
Dad was in chorizo heaven here!
After the meaty snacks were scoffed, we made our way to the most epic buffet restaurant imaginable, with a hot grill where you selected fresh seafood and filleted fish to be cooked in front of your hungry eyes-to tapas, seasonal salads, side dishes (corn on the cobs, asparagus), fresh exotic and local fruit, a chocolate fountain no less and classic Spanish desserts. Phew.
I think we might have rolled out of there!
And on the never ending topic of food, my Aunt and Uncle hosted the finest Greek souvla style BBQ I’ve ever eaten at their stunning home one evening, grilled chicken and lamb kebabs roasting under the fig and lime trees in their garden was divine. I can smell and taste them now.
Dad taking a break from cooking as Uncle Chris cooked up a feast for us!
…Another evening saw us enjoy rustic Spanish fare at Alfredo Restaurante in San Pedro with a Pharell lookalike serenading us while Alexander unbelievably slept.
Sizzling lamb and thick cut chips were the order of the night for me.
Our last day was glorious, the hottest day of all, Zak drove us to Laguna Beach in Estepona where we relaxed at the stunningly beautiful Puro Beach overlooking the sea, in luxurious surroundings.
Footprints in the sand…
The shops there are stunning too. I spotted designer heidi klein whom I work with on the blogs stocked in one of the uber stylish swimwear boutiques.
When hunger struck, we sloped off to Camuri restaurant on site, famous for the tastiest sushi in Marbella.
Xander in Swedish brand me&i‘s One Black Cat tee, looking cool at lunch.
Wine which always tastes better in the sunshine, to wash down the tasty tapas…
The piece de resistance being my all time favourite dish Gambas Piri Piri (read my recipe here)-prawns in slithers of garlic, olive oil, tiny red chillies and tonnes of parsley. Delicious!
And then, before we knew it, we were on a plane back home, the reunion with Oliver and Peter was a little emotional at the airport to say the least with both boys cuddling and kissing one another, Alexander not wanting to let go of his big brother.
But before long, the squabbling I know (but don’t love) started in the car over whose Subway toy was the coolest.
And just like that, normality was restored. The family back together, after our respective, gorgeous holidays away.
Thanks so much James Villas, for the most superb villa, a place that was equally luxurious as it was practical, a decadent home from home we simply adored. We can’t wait to stay in a villa again. Gracias. Muchos.