A tad nervous that my then five-year-old son would get bored with just me for company, I desperately wanted my first single-parent holiday with him to be memorable. Having obsessed over the details of various destinations, I finally settled on Corfu, an island I’d been to before. This time, however, my choice of accommodation was the family-oriented MarBella Corfu Hotel in Agios Ioannis Peristeron, with a private beach, outdoor pools, a paddling pool for tots and kids’ clubs.
Part of my masterplan was to grab a couple of hours’ reading or snoozing in the sun here and there. A rather rude awakening to reality was in store: Joe flatly refused to go to the hotel’s mini-club. I didn’t have the heart to try to force him, so he had my undivided attention and we played endlessly together.
It turned out to be great fun. Our favourite spot was the infinity pool, not least (from my point of view) because you could always snare a recliner beside it. But this pool, again, did threaten to become a thorny issue, because it only had a tiny shallow section. Hence, my first mission was to teach Joe to swim. Luckily, he mastered an admirable doggy-paddle within a day, and he adored being in the pool so much it was hard keeping him out.
And despite his reluctance to go to the kids’ club, Joe did enjoy many of the games organised several times daily by the enthusiastic young animation team, so I did get a bit of break. Far from restful, on the other hand, was the evening I ended up taking part in a bizarre comedy sketch after Joe pleaded with me to get involved in one of the family shows that followed the nightly mini-disco. Still, witnessing his brimming delight as I pranced about the stage made all the embarrassment worth it.
The MarBella has sprawling, whitewashed Mediterranean-style buildings, immaculate gardens and friendly staff. Our room itself was fairly small, but it did have the bonus of being sharing a huge balcony with the suite next door. Evening meals in the main restaurant were surprisingly good mass buffets, while at lunchtime we usually had fresh fish and salad served at the pool restaurant before retiring for a siesta away from the sun. Of the bars, one was exceptionally inviting, with a large open terrace dotted with comfy sofas overlooking the Ionian Sea. Inevitably, Joe appreciated its charms less than I did and we spent a total of five minutes here.
It was hectic, but we returned to London refreshed and relaxed from having had the time to focus on each other to the exclusion of almost everything else. I was delighted with our trip, not least when a friend told me I looked 10 years younger. Best of all, Joe’s confidence at having mastered swimming extended to his bike – the training wheels were cast aside and a bronzed little boy sped off across the park.
Read more about family holidays in Corfu, including child-friendly places to stay and eat, and things to do with kids.