james villa with pool

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.

holiday collage

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.


alexander and vicki

My gorgeous and very glam Aunt Zak, my mother’s youngest sibling, here with her godson Xander.

Auntie Zak and Alexander

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)!

James Villa

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!

widescreen tv

luxury villa

James Villa lounge and dining room

An 8-seater dining table inside for entertaining if you choose to-

dining table

…Oh and a wonderful, personal touch to discover these beauties and a bottle of rosé on arrival.

fresh flowers

fresh flowers

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)!


papa g cooking

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.

downstairs bedroom

…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.

painting..Here is the bed we shared below. It leads to the veranda, pretty views, and a lush hot tub we loved (I could lounge in that bubbling al fresco bath forever).

James Villa bedroom with balcony

Isn’t the room delightful?

The rocking chair was again another thoughtful touch for parents.

room leading out to the veranda

Our veranda views-

veranda viewsHot tub lovin’

hot tub time

You lookin’ at me?


Dad looking like the Godfather or someone auditioning for the remake!

Dad in the hot tub

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).

hot tubBefore 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.

white light

blue light

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?!

James Villa bedroom

James Villa bedroom

James Villa Marbella

James Villa bathroom

photographing the bathroom

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.


blackboardOutside, 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.

swimming pool

al fresco dining

The master of the house waiting to be served-

al fresco dining

Such a pretty pool

swimming 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!

swimming pool‘Manchego’

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.

reading by the pool

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-

San Pedro

treesWith a little street light climbing for good measure on the way-

alexander in marbella

alexanderAcross water features perused and climbed on, as Papu George grasped Alexander’s little hand, stopping for kisses and cuddles as they went…


cuddlesAnd 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.

fountainThere were playgrounds and kids’ rides too, literally, on every street corner, meaning little people never got bored which made us adults happy.



car ride



alexander in a swing

…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.

kisses for Mama

My boy.

…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.

fried hake with garlic


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.

creme caramel

Coffee time


..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?!

vicki psarias

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.

cropped cardigan…I fell head over heels with these 70’s style block heels, so comfortable I wore them most days. Money well spent, already.

new shoes-70's style


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.

leaf print jersey dress

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!

Michael Kors shop

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.

Puerto Banus Puerto Banus

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!

Chorizo shop

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!

seafood marbella

seafood marbella

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.

fig trees

lime tree


kebabs sides

Greek salad

meatballs, olives

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.

Spanish restaurant

Sizzling lamb and thick cut chips were the order of the night for me.


These guys


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.

beach in marbella

pool in marbella

Puro Beach


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.

heidi klein

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…


tapas dishes

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!

gambas pil pil

Sushi time..


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.

alexander and oliver hugging

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.



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146 Responses

  1. Libby Duo

    Hi I love your blog! We’re going to Casa Haniel in a weeks time for 2 weeks and am so excited now. My husband is half Spanish and we’d love to hear your recommendations/names of restaurants you referred to.
    Best wishes Libby xl

    • Honest Mum

      Oh wow, enjoy, you will love it there. Ooh I can’t remember names now I’m sorry but walk into San Pedro and there was a super little tapas bar near the square! Enjoy x

  2. kristen Smith

    Looks unbelievably amazing!!!! Much different to the small apartment I stayed in there last year right next to the dreaded Linkers’ bar!! Love the pics!! xx

  3. ghostwritermummy

    So sorry its taken me so long to read and comment! As usual your photos take me right to where you were- beautiful! And it sounds as though you had such a fab time- loving the shoes too! x x

    • honestmum

      Oh thanks so much darling, blown away by the compliments for my photography, will definitely be getting behind the camera more as I often leave Peter to it, thanks x

  4. Tinuke

    What an amazing vacation! And what a photo packed post! I love the villa, especially that kitchen, just WOW!
    My goodness you guys packed a lot in, I’m sure Xander will remember this trip with his family for years to come, or at the very least, he’ll remember the grater!!

  5. Sabina

    Wowee you lucky, lucky lady! I recently had James Villas recommended to me by a friend when I asked about the best place to take our Beans for their first holiday abroad. This house looks like it was made for us, sooooo big and beautiful. My fears for travelling abroad are not being able to keep an eye on all four of them around a pool at once but it’s comforting to know that the pools have locked gates. So much to love; the playroom, the kitchen, the huge bedrooms, the HOT TUB! It really looks like you can relax there – isn’t that what holidays are all about?! Beautiful photos too xx

    • honestmum

      Thanks Sabina, this place would be utterly perfect for you guys, it fits 8, is huge and James Villas have thought of literally everything, I couldn’t recommend it more. So glad you like the photos too, thanks lady xx

  6. Nikki Thomas

    Wow wow wow, what amazing photos and what a wonderful holiday. I have been watching your photos on Instagram wit huge envy as it all looked so gorgeous and so wonderful that you were able to meet up with family. We have never considered a villa holiday but having read this, I would certainly consider it.

  7. Fiona @ Free Range Chick

    Haha, ‘manchego’ – love it! My tongue is literally hanging out of my mouth looking at these photos. What a stunning villa – you must have had such a relaxing time! Yay for Alexander sleeping through every night. Amazing.

    Shopping on holiday is magic. That statement necklace is gorgeous. I have to confess that I’m not a statement necklace girl, only because I have strictly been wearing fine jewellery… But, I wear a lot of basic tops, and I think that I may be converted. They look amazing and really liven up a relatively plain outfit with great ease. I’m gonna get on it.

    Those gold wedges are da bomb! Nothing beats a gold sandal for an instant addition of glamour.

    The port at Puerto Banus looks incredible. I don’t know what it is about yachts. I just love them. Vicki, if I had the money it would be muscle cars and yachts for me. Love that picture of you and your mum sitting by the water – so serene.

    My goodness, all of that seafood looks absolutely delectable. I’m feeling mega hungry now! The seafood in Spain is just out of this world. They really know their seafood/fish stuff out there… Haven’t been in years, but I have not forgotten about the amazing fish counters in the tiniest of supermarkets over there.

    Dear lord, I did a total double-take when I saw the pic of the guy on the accordion – that literally is Pharell playing, right? Did you Tweet him that picture? Hilarious!

    Ahhh, what a lovely little holiday of 50% of the Honest Mum family. A fantastic memory for you and Alexander, and for Peter and Oliver, I’m sure. Looks like it was a magical time honey. A huge (and belated) welcome back. Xxx


    • honestmum

      Aw love this comment girlfriend, me and you are so similar, I dream of a porsche and a yacht one day (you coming?)! Oh my gosh why didn’t I tweet Pharell, you are so smart hun. Spain is fab, there were literally the best fish counters everywhere, my Aunt is so lucky to have this all every single day. We love living in the Yorkshire countryside but I crave the sea. One day hun. Gorge holiday and we loved the villa so much very lucky family (well 1/2 of the family at least)-haha, mwah x

  8. brummymummyof2

    I loved seeing all the photos of this holiday over instagram! Looked like you had a really amazing time with the fam. What a lovely time! I wasn’t too el (I WAS SO JEL!) xxx

  9. K @ EatLoveLive

    It sounds like you had quite the ordeal with the passport. Glad you had a lovely time. The villa looks fabulous! You gave me big time holiday envy. Time for me to book a summer break! X

  10. Lora @ The 21st Century Mama

    I’m really glad that passport gate turned out so well in the end! Never thought of the positives, that they would get one on one time with a parent.

    The holiday looks divine, will need to have a peek at James Villas for our next holiday.

    Great photographs too! x

    • honestmum

      Thanks darling, so touched you liked my photos, going to share more of my own as Peter usually takes them. It really worked out well and I cannot recommend James Villa enough x

  11. Rachel

    Well this has put me in the holiday mood!!! The apartment looks gorgeous and beautiful photos as always!

  12. Katie Portman

    Take me there now! Please! 😉 Gosh, it looks sensational Vicki and besides ‘passportgate’ looks like you had a heavenly week with your gorgeous family.

    The villa looks sensational! I’ve never tried James Villas before but I will be definitely having a look at their selection of properties from now on, this one is stunning! So modern and feminine (suited you perfectly!).

    I’ve stayed in a few villas on family holidays in the past and have always loved them. I personally find them much more relaxing and I have to say, I think with little children, they are the best holiday solution. Glad you all had a wonderful time! xxx

    P.S Really impressed with the little touches from James Villas too – the flowers, wine and all those kids toys! Perfect! Love it when companies care so much x

    • honestmum

      It was utterly divine and James Villas had thought of absolutely everything, the perfect family holiday. I’m really sold of villa living thanks to them and especially as the pool was gated, really gave us peace of mind x

  13. Adventures of a Novice Mum

    What a fabulous holiday; makes you feel like packing your bags and going off. Shame you couldn’t all go but it seems it worked well in the end. It’s lovely for children to have times when they are particularly the centre of attention. What a fabulous family you have! Lovely, big, bold, bright, and clean captures too. So many momeries 🙂 #aNoviceMumBlogVisit

    • honestmum

      Thanks darling, my family rocks. So touched by your comments on my photos, I usually leave Peter to take the pictures, mostly as it’s easier for me to be in them or to play with the kids but I love shooting and will do more x

  14. Emily M Morgan

    Wow what an amazing link up this is, so many great posts to read!

    And what an incredible house, I’m amazed you could drag yourself away! What a nightmare about the passport, but thank goodness the kids both had a good time.

  15. Tim

    I can only imagine how traumatic the episode with Oliver must have been, but glad you managed to get out there and enjoy it anyway.

    The villa looks amazing. We now go away for a week every summer with old friends (as a party of four adults, six kids) and we always hire a big villa with a pool (a non-negotiiable for the kids) between us. We love having the space and flexibility of a big villa, and it’s so much cheaper than hiring a smaller place on our own. Plus it means the kids have friends to play with all day, while the adults (and our friends’ older kids) can settle down in the evening for long board games sessions. It’s fast become our favourite type of holiday.

    • honestmum

      It was so stressful and upsetting Tim. Relieved all worked out in the end and really loved villa life, will be staying in a villa again that’s for sure and wholeheartedly recommend James Villas x

  16. Brighton Mama @ Our Seaside Baby

    What an amazing holiday! Fantastic photos of your trip. Looks like you had an amazing time. Sunshine, delicious food (made me hungry just looking at the pics) and what a wonderful villa, with a hot tub wow! I love little Alexander’s expressions. He reminds me of my own cheeky little boy! ‘Mama, we’re married’ – awwwwww! My heart just melted, so sweet. 🙂 xx

  17. hannah Mums' Days

    Vicki, this holiday looks out of this world. A date night in bed with your blog and it did NOT disappoint 😉 The Villa looks completely stunning and I’m totally sold on Marbella – perfect flight time and so beautiful.

    That was a good move taking Papa G to cook up a storm but how utterly devastating you couldn’t all go. I’m so glad Pete and Oliver had such a lovely time together at home (of course they did!!) and definitely don’t beat yourself up about the passport, it could have happened to any of us, life is BUSY!!! Especially yours. You’ve really done this holiday justice, so many amazing shots, Vicki, your photos skills are getting pretty darn phenomenal!!

    Now, I’m off to go see about an August holiday in one of these Villas 😉 Much love lady, can’t wait to see you soon xxxx

    • honestmum

      Aw thanks beautiful lady, so glad you like it and so touched you like my photography too hun, it was really fun to get behind the lens as P is the main man there although missed him and Oliver lots. They had the most amazing time, I’m going to blog it soon. You will love James Villas, utterly beautiful and they had literally thought of everything. Miss you chick, we need a real life catch up soon for sure xxx

  18. Joanna @mumbalance

    Wow! the villa certainly looks palatial 🙂
    I love the look of the hot tub as well.
    Such a shame you could not enjoy all the luxuries, as a full family.

    • honestmum

      Thanks lovely, I know. We have another holiday in May for all of us which will be nice. We had such a fab time in Marbella, James Villas made it so special for us x


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