18th October 2017
A weekend at Saunton Sands Hotel
When the Coopers took off for a weekend at Saunton Sands earlier in the year, they weren’t expecting two days to feel like a proper holiday. Mum Jo tells the story of their weekend escape
Saunton's a lovely destination and we took the kids there for a weekend a couple of years ago. In fact it had been such a success that the crab sandwiches have become part of our family folklore. So we were keen to take them back now that they’re a couple of years older, figuring they could get more involved in the outdoor activities and we could make the most of the stunning environment on offer.
Like most modern families, we don't spend enough time together as a family in the week. Our working life is busy and involves long hours and travel, and when that's mixed with school, kids’ activities and clubs, seeing friends and doing chores, the proportion of the week when we are together is quite a thin slice of the pie.
New legislation means that parents taking kids out of school for holidays is a no-no, and breaks out of term time are a lot more expensive, making a weekend away the perfect solution. So we booked a two night break at Saunton Sands Hotel, and here’s what happened.
It's been a hectic day before picking up the kids and packing for the weekend. I already wish I'd done it earlier in the week. By the time the kids are home from school they're bursting with excitement about the trip and winding each other up and generally hindering the packing process. Nick arrives home early so I put some concerted effort into the packing while he entertains them, and we get everyone and everyone into the car, and we're off!
We arrive at the hotel too late for the hotel’s childrens tea, but the receptionist is assures us that it’s no problem for them to eat with us in the dining room, so we book our table for 7.15, head up to our room, with a young chap struggling behind us with some of our bags - we've definitely overpacked for two nights! I'd packed a half bottle of champagne in anticipation of a bath with a glass of fizz before dinner, and even though there's not much time, I manage a quick soak while Nick and the kids get changed, and when we arrive at the dining room, spruced-up and shiny, it feels like we're a world away from home, and we’re already in a
We're shown to our table in the newly refurbished dining room, which is looking rather swanky with it’s 1930s style-style refurbishment and there's a buzz i as people start the weekend in style. The set three course dinner includes posh fish and chips, slow cooked beef with dauphinoise potatoes and sticky toffee pudding, so the kids are happy, as is Nick who orders venison from the a la carte menu. We're not the only family in the dining room - there’s even a ten week old baby sleeping in a carry cot. Much to our delight the boys remember their Ps and Qs, and make it through until nearly 9pm, so we feel we've had a proper dinner and a chance to catch up. A quick story and the kids are asleep in their twin room in our family suite, so we have a cuppa in bed and watch a film.
The kids are up and raring to go. Nick gets up with them and takes them down for breakfast and an early morning swim. I doze for an hour then after breakfast head to the pool to find them still diving for Zorg sticks. They've had the pool to themselves and a whale of a time. We head back to our room to get our scruffs on for a walk on the beach.
This week I watched David Bond's film Project Wild Thing about getting kids outside and away from computer screens, so I'm ready for their resistance to a 'walk', and complaints of it being too windy, and push on regardless. We bet them they're not brave enough to run down the biggest sand dune on the burrows, and the next thing, they’re gleefully heading down to the beach. We spend an hour and a half exploring the dunes and running head first down the sandy hills, eyes streaming with tears of laughter, then wander back to the hotel, hungry and feeling invigorated after our blast of sea air.
We hunker down in the lounge with crab sandwiches and some chips to share. There's a wedding going on, so we watch the bride come down the stairs before making her entrance into the Terrace Lounge where the ceremony is held. Then we play a game of Monopoly.
Alfred and I are back in the pool, practicing backward rolls, then he reads his book while I try out the aroma sauna. It’s huge, smells divine and I can watch him reading his comic on a lounger through the window. Nick and William chill out watching TV and reading after lunch.
The kids try out the playroom and do some drawing, then play on our iPads for a while. For once I'm not feeling guilty about them being glued to the iPad as they've already had a couple of swimming sessions, played Monopoly and had a run around in the dunes. Nick and I take the opportunity to have a coffee and read the papers, and everyone's happy.
We've booked dinner for 6.45pm and head off to play table tennis before dinner. We're not much cop at it, but it's good fun, even though we keep sending the ball into the pool. As we come down into the lounge area we can see that Captain Coconut is doing his bubble show for kids. The boys join in and are mesmerised by the huge bubbles. The chilled music and gentle pace of the show is an inspired way of getting the kids into a quieter state before dinner. Nick and I have a gin and tonic at the bar where we can keep an eye on them, and when our table is ready, we go through to the dining room with the kids promising to follow in five minutes when the show is over. One of the unexpected benefits of the weekend is that the kids can experience independence in a safe environment.
Sitting down to dinner, the kids are thrilled to see that their places have been set with special glasses and small straws, which makes them feel special. The restaurant is full with guests from the small wedding, some small groups, couples and families. There's a bit of excitement as one of the guests at the hotel tonight is in a seriously famous international rock band who is here for his sister's 40th birthday party at the hotel's Sands on the Beach cafe. The maitre d’ has a chat with us about our day and we're made to feel welcome. Dinner is lovely and we sit in the bar for a while before heading off to bed.
The next morning the restaurant is busy with people telling war stories about the night before. The boys can't believe they are allowed to have as many pastries as they want for breakfast and make it their mission to try one each of the apple, raspberry and custard danish pastries in addition to a full cooked breakfast. Somehow they manage it.
We pack up and check out, then leave the bags and head back to the pool for a last swim. The boys make friends with other children who are staying for the weekend and spend a happy hour and a half playing. Then we head off home. Everyone's smiling and we all feel more connected - and we're already talking about our next visit.