I’ve just been to the hairdressers and my lovely hairdresser Matt just looked at my tanned face in disgust and said, “Alright Kate, where have you been now?” I looked at him in the mirror and said, “Sorry Matt, Lanzarote,” and proceeded to tell him all about it. Thankfully, I was only having my hair coloured so he didn’t have the opportunity to shave all my hair off, but I thought I’d tell you all about our trip too.
We were invited as guests of Villas 4 You, the sister company to James Villas, a company I’m sure you’ve heard of. This was our first ever villa holiday so I was really interested to see if it would work for us as a (small, but perfectly formed) family.
For the first time, we decided to stay in a hotel the night before we flew and we were able to leave our car there for the week also. We stayed at the Holiday Inn, which was really close to Gatwick airport, and I think for £85 all-in, we got quite a good deal. The main reason I did it was that even though we weren’t flying early in the morning, we flew at lunchtime, I just didn’t want the stress of getting caught in traffic on the M25 and so I thought this would be a good way to start the holiday. It worked a treat and set the tone for the rest of the holiday.
We flew with Monarch Airlines and the whole journey was seamless from the time we left our Gatwick hotel to the time we reached the villa. I had paid for a transfer to take us from Arrecife (Lanzarote) airport back to our villa and within an hour of landing, Dexter was swimming in the villa’s pool – I couldn’t quite believe it! Not only were our suitcases first off the conveyor belt (this is never happened ever in my lifetime), but our villa was only a 10-minute drive from the airport. It really couldn’t have gone any smoother.
When I compare it to the last time I flew, which was to Turkey last August, it’s like chalk and cheese. Turkey was a package holiday, full of fellow sweaty Brits, we were the last drop-off at 4am, and arrived … miserable, tired and ratty. I vowed I would never do that type of holiday again.
A quick note about how close the airport is. Don’t think that planes are going to fly overhead and disturb you – they don’t. We saw them in the distance, but there was no noise, which is really surprising considering how near we were. So it was the best of both worlds – an airport very nearby, with no noise. Winning!
We stayed at Villa Olita, which sleeps six people. It has a pool in the front garden with a spacious patio area and the villa offers everything you’d expect from a home away from home. A large dining room table, chairs and loungers, enough for six people – we were really lucky to have the whole place to ourselves. My first impression was how clean and bright everything looked, but then sunshine does tend to have that effect!
The Villa felt very homely and cared for and there was a big shelf full of DVDs and books that you could borrow during your stay, along with a TV, DVD player and PS2. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really get any of the TV stations to work but the Wi-Fi was pretty good, stronger in the lounge than in the bedrooms, and if you are that worried about missing out on Eastenders, there are apps you can use so you won’t miss any TV! (Although really, TV can wait a week or two!)
Villa Olita, Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote
The kitchen was quite big and was at the front of the house, so you can see what the kids are doing outside. There was a dishwasher, microwave, oven and hob and a great full-size fridge/freezer – plenty of room to store your cervezas! There is even a washing machine there, although the last thing I fancy doing on holiday is washing my smalls.
I’ve made a little video to show you around the villa:
Three good size bedrooms, my double bedroom had an en-suite bathroom, but there was also a family bathroom. There isn’t air-conditioning in the villa, but there were fans in each room, although we found that the Villa stayed really cool so we didn’t need them during our stay.
We were in Puerto Del Carmen and the villas are mostly at the top of an incline so our walk into town was 15 minutes all downhill. Which is great on the way there, not so much on the way back when you’re laden down with bottles of water/wine! Having said that, taxis are easy to find and dirt cheap. I’ve never been abroad at Easter before and I really like the fact that the town was fairly quiet – I would imagine it’s a completely different experience during summer though, so bear that in mind when booking. On our way into town, we stopped at a restaurant that had an outside terrace with a fantastic view and ended up having breakfast and dinner there quite a few times.
It’s run by an English couple and the food is what you’d find in most English restaurants, but when you’re travelling with a child that only ever eats cheeseburgers on holiday, posh restaurants are a little lost on him! I think when he is a little older, he will appreciate trying new food a little more.
Our walk downhill into town
Having said that, on the recommendation of a lady that reads this blog, we went further into town down by the harbour and ate at a restaurant called La Cascada. It’s predominantly a steak restaurant and (most) of the food was delicious, although the peppercorn sauce tasted like petrol. The weirdest thing I have ever tasted, and normally I would complain, but for €2, I didn’t bother. (Interestingly, after looking on Tripadvisor, I wasn’t the only one to have this issue.)
Creme Catalan – delicious!
I digress. The crème brûlée here was to die for and it was a really lovely restaurant, peppercorn sauce aside!
After dinner, we went exploring down by the water and further up the hill in the opposite direction, there is a modern shopping centre (complete with McDonald’s), but shopping with children in England is bad enough, and I certainly didn’t want to try it in Lanzarote! But the shops are there if that’s your thing.
We weren’t blessed with great weather when we got there, a strong wind had arrived that hits the islands every three months or so and it was actually quite cold. Thankfully, it only lasted two days and the rest of the week was warm and sunny. It was still late 60°s, and over the next two days the temperature got up to 72°, staying warm and sunny. I got really sunburnt on that first day because the wind was so deceiving because I didn’t put enough suntan cream on, so top tip for you – put loads of cream on, even if it’s cold and windy! It looked like I was wearing red Sox where my legs got burnt. Ridiculous.
My view for most of the week!
There aren’t many if I’m honest but I’m a single parent and so villa holidays aren’t always cost effective for me. Having said that, it would be easy to book this kind of holiday with two of my friends who are also single parents, and that would make much more sense. The villa I stayed in would be perfect for our group – it’s private, secluded and safe and if we spread the cost across the three of us, it would be really good value for money. I couldn’t afford this particular villa on my own, but there are smaller, cheaper ones that I could afford.
My other issue is that I do all the shopping, cooking and cleaning at home on my own and I don’t want to be doing much of that when I’m on holiday, but a villa holiday lends itself to that way of living. I started out with good intentions of cooking two meals a day at the villa and eating out in the evening, but two days in I decided that life was too short and that we should definitely eat out more! The food in the supermarkets is actually really quite cheap, and dinner in a restaurant for the two of us would cost around €30. That did include drinks and a dessert though so as long as you budget, you’ll be OK. But it’s something to bear in mind – how much do you want to do your own cooking and cleaning, and how much would you rather someone cooked for you?
Privacy was a big pro. I’m fairly body confident but to not have to worry about other people looking at you was a really big plus. I know it might not be a big deal to a lot of people, but it just felt like sunbathing in my back garden – bliss!
Chilling outside – this was about 7pm
Safety. Our villa was on a really quiet road, I only ever saw one other person during our whole stay, and that was the pool boy … who I wasn’t expecting! He turned up to clean the pool early one morning – and I got the shock of my life! So a word of advice, I’m sure it would have said in the book that the villa provides for you, when the pool will be cleaned and when clean towels will be dropped off, so prepare yourself so you know and you’re not shocked like I was. (I think he would have been more shocked had he seen me first thing in the morning!) You can double lock the front gates, and there is a metal gate in front of your front door, which you can also lock, so (particularly as a single woman travelling on her own), I felt very secure.
Dexter and I like doing our own thing on holiday and we don’t like feeling like we have to follow anyone’s timetable – what rebels we are! A villa allows us to do whatever we wanted. If we didn’t want to go into town, or I didn’t want to cook, we just ordered a takeaway like we would at home. We could chill in our bedrooms and read/watch TV if the sun was too hot, or grab a cold drink from the fridge and lie on the sofa. You get the gist … we loved not feel beholden to anyone or anything. A villa is obviously so much bigger than a hotel room and it was just like being at home (except with decent weather!)
So the big question is … would I choose a villa holiday again? It’s a resounding YES from us! It really fit in with our type of lifestyle and the only thing I’d change if I went back, is I’d hire a car to explore the island. You can do this easily with your villa company, but I was just a bit nervous to do it on my own. The island is only 12 miles wide, the roads are wide and I think I’ll be able to put my horrific driving experience of our 2006 holiday to Lake Garda behind me! (That’s a whole other blog post.) Obviously, I’d have to bear the cost in mind and find a villa suitable for my budget and our needs, but I’ve definitely been won over.
When we travelled home I sat next to the loveliest man who came from London, who lives six weeks in the UK and him and his partner then live 6-12 weeks at their house in the north of Lanzarote. He told me lots of stories about how friendly the people are, the type of food they grow, the friends they’d made, and about the lady next door who keeps making them cakes. Feelings of slight jealousy aside, I can totally understand why they’ve chosen to make Lanzarote their second home – we loved it and will definitely be back.