WHO WENT Mandy Gregg, 40, children Florence, 6, Michael, 4, and grandma, Barbara (who would rather not give her age, thank you very much)
WHERE WE WENT A two-night break at The Grand Hotel Eastbourne
I’m not sure who was more excited about the prospect of our Eastbourne weekend, my mum or the children – they all spoke about it incessantly in the days leading up, and on the morning itself, things had reached fever pitch. Not even a painfully slow bus journey, followed by the tube and a final dash across the concourse at Victoria Station to catch our train, could dampen the spirits. Thankfully, just an hour and a half later we were at our destination, where after a short taxi ride, we were deposited on the seafront in front of the magnificent stucco-fronted building that is The Grand Hotel. No wonder it’s known as The White Palace, with its imposing façade and prime position, and we certainly felt like royalty as we were greeted by the hotel’s dashingly attired doorman and cordially ushered through the rotating mahogany doors.
There was a collective dropping of jaws as we found ourselves standing in the cavernous Grand Hall with marble colonnade that also incorporates the reception. I could see from my mum’s delighted face that she’d thought she’d died and gone to twinkly chandelier, sweeping floral-drape heaven. But with Mikey getting tired and cranky and Flo declaring none too subtly that she needed to go to the toilet, I did fleetingly wonder whether the hotel might be too overblown and stuffy for the likes of my children. I needn’t have worried, however, because the lovely, smiley receptionist immediately put my mind at ease, asking the children what time they’d like their hot milk and cookies delivered to the room that evening, and then presenting my mum with a birthday card. Talk about class! We were then shown to our first floor room, by the charming, chatty porter, and for the second time that day our mouths gaped open in unison. Like the hotel itself, the rooms are vast and ornate, with ours having a massive living room, with the overstuffed sofa doubling as the children’s bed, leading to an equally huge bedroom. Suffice to say, the room was fabulously decorated and contained every conceivable mod con, along with fresh flowers, complimentary soft drinks and fruit, plus a small decanter of sweet sherry that just happens to be mum’s favourite. But perhaps the best thing of all was the stunning, uninterrupted views out to the English Channel. I could feel myself gently slipping in to relaxation mode – a state that was to last the whole duration of our visit.
If Eastbourne were a person it would be a glamorous great aunt who’d regale you with tales of her rather jet set past (as opposed to bold and bawdy nearby Brighton). It’s fine Victorian architecture and handsomely manicured promenade (complete with bandstand) lends it a pleasing air of sophistication. But if it’s a traditional bucket and spade holiday you’re after Eastbourne will willingly oblige too, with huge sandy beaches, a lively pier, a sprinkling of amusement arcades and plenty of fish and chip shops. You’ll also fair well on the retail therapy front, as I discovered to my cost, with the town centre boasting an impressive selection of shops from high street chains to more exclusive boutiques (yes, I know I didn’t need a new dress, but it was in the sale).
WHAT WE DID
On the evening of our first night we opted for family dining in The Garden Restaurant, which while all high ceilings and starched table cloths, was actually unfussy and very friendly with Flo and Mikey tucking in to the buffet offering of pasta carbonara while mum and I ordered from the menu (sirloin steak for me, fillet of salmon for mum and delicious they both were too). Breakfasts are also served here and as we discovered the following morning, they really can’t be faulted either. Set up for the day, we all went for a bracing stroll along the seafront, before heading in to town. Money spent, we returned to the hotel to spend a lovely afternoon in the indoor swimming pool (there is a much larger outdoor one too, but being spring it was just a tad too chilly for our liking), before I took Flo and Mikey to the pier and amusement arcade, while mum had a cheeky little siesta. That evening we decided to throw caution to the wind and eat at the hotel’s award winning Mirabelle restaurant, and I am so glad we did. The osso bucco and risotto we all opted for was utterly, mouth-wateringly wonderful, while the fine bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape we ordered went down a treat. Back in our room, with the children contentedly sipping on their hot milks, Flo asked: “Do you think this is how the Queen lives?” “Probably,” I responded. “Probably”.
A stay at The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne starts at £427.50 a night for a family of four staying in a suite with a sea view and includes breakfast. For more information visit grandeastbourne.com or call 01323 412345
Other things to do while you're there…
• Widely regarded as the best small zoo in the country, Drusillas Park, just a 6-mile drive from Eastbourne, offers an opportunity to get up close and personal with hundreds of exotic animals from monkeys and otters to penguins and meerkats. For more information, visit drusillas.co.uk
• Walk along the promenade for about a mile and you’ll come across Redoubt Fortress. Built to defend the South Coast from Napoleon's forces it stands as a unique monument to that time and now houses the largest military collection in the south of England and also runs an engaging events programme. For more information visit eastbournemuseums.co.uk
• Ahoy my hearties! For buccaneering good fun, whatever the weather, visit Treasure Island, an indoor and outdoor adventure park, also on the Royal Parade, where the children can let off steam while you enjoy a nice cappuccino at the Hungry Pirate café. For more information, visit treasure-island.co.uk
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