Writer Kath Kay proves the naysayers wrong by embarking on a luxurious multi-generational holiday to Cyprus, with her eight-month-old son
Harvey has lots of babysitters-in-waiting
Why we went
When our son Harvey arrived on the scene, friends warned us that holidays would never be the same again. Weary shakes of the head indicated that lie-ins and lounging by the pool were long gone. Romantic meals in lovely restaurants? Forget it.
Fast forward eight months and we wanted to prove them wrong. Determined to maintain some semblance of our pre-baby lifestyle, we took Harvey to The Annabelle – a luxury, Thanos collection hotel, in Cyprus – on our first family holiday. We went with my parents, plus my sister and her fiance, so it was a multi-generational break.
Beautiful gardens at the Annabelle
If you're looking for Mediterranean sun, then Cyprus is a good bet. It's just a four-and-a-half-hour flight from London to Paphos, so not too long to endure with little ones in tow. We booked direct with the hotel and our flights with easyJet, but there are tour operator packages available.
Travelling on a low-cost carrier is rarely the highlight of a holiday, but we took advantage of easyJet’s free extra luggage allowance for up to two baby items, such as push chairs. Fortunately, our packing was greatly diminished thanks to the Annabelle's Baby Go Lightly program, where essential items can be pre-ordered so they're ready for you on arrival. More on that later.
Airport transfers in Cyprus can be pre-arranged through the hotel and it's just a 20-minute drive into Paphos. You can also fly to Larnaca which is 130km from the hotel.
We are family...
The Annabelle team was put straight to the test when we arrived at midnight, somewhat dishevelled and with a tetchy baby. A bartender entertained Harvey as they whisked away our suitcases and pressed refreshing drinks into our hands. Suffice to say, we felt quickly at home.
Celebrating its 30th birthday in 2015, the family-owned Annabelle has a reputation as one of the top luxury resorts in Cyprus. Its elegant lobby is reminiscent of an ancient Roman temple, flanked by columns and with a bright, naturally-lit atrium at the far end.
The bedrooms feature cool, light interiors with large beds and dark curtains to ensure a good night’s sleep. Ours had a private terrace with views of the gardens, so while Harvey slept in his cot, we could relax with a drink outside, still within hearing distance. Those wanting indulgences such as private plunge pools and heated jacuzzis should book a suite.
Set within the hotel's six acres of tropical gardens is a half-size Olympic swimming pool, plus a number of free-form pools with waterfalls, caves and a swim-up pool bar. Each morning we'd choose loungers among the brightly coloured hibiscus and bougainvillea, or in the shade of banana trees.
As guests of The Annabelle we enjoyed access to the restaurants, pools and wellness facilities of its neighbouring sister hotel, The Almyra. This family-friendly property is a member of the Design Hotels group and oozes sophistication; it’s proof that you don’t have to give up stylish holidays just because you’re parents.
The pool at The Annabelle
What we did
Our main objective was to spend quality family time together, and hopefully squeeze in some relaxation. The daily schedule was blissfully uncomplicated: we crashed out on sun loungers while Harvey napped in his buggy in the shade. It was a short stagger to the pool to cool off, and after the initial outburst at the lower-than-expected water temperature, Harvey soon got into the splash of it too. The Annabelle and Almyra are right on the seafront, so a daily dip in the warm, shallow sea became obligatory as well.
For pampering time out from mummy duties, I headed to the Almyraspa. It’s an adults-only utopia with indoor and outdoor pools, sauna and steam, a tennis court, yoga deck, and gym, as well as the 'Eauzone' restaurant, serving healthy juices and snacks. The spa itself offers high-tech medical to holistic and organic treatments, from the QMS, ill and Osea ranges.
My QMS 'Age Defying Facial' used natural soluble collagens with exfoliation techniques to reduce fine lines. By the end of the hour I’d lost count of the number of face packs applied, and the therapist had to gently shake me awake. The results must have been good, as my sister immediately booked the same treatment.
beach life, and the pool at The Almyra
The Annabelle is a short stroll from the amenities of Paphos, which is a little tired in places but there are gems to be found if you know where to look. For culture vultures, the Unesco -listed town is like an open-air museum, with a scenic harbour, medieval castle, Roman ruins and world-famous mosaics. You can explore many of its cultural highlights in a couple of mornings, and they're all conveniently close to each other.
Further afield, the hotel can arrange wine-tasting and ebike tours through traditional Cypriot villages, as well as horse riding and jeep excursions in the nearby Akamas National Park.
Sports enthusiasts are spoilt for choice with world-class sailing, diving, trekking and golfing on the doorstep. Thrillseekers can try parascending, hire a jet ski or bounce around on one of those big yellow inflatables behind a speedboat – but we preferred to watch the action from our sun loungers.
What we ate
The Annabelle prides itself on offering menus inspired by fresh local produce. Over the course of the week we tried all four restaurants, from gourmet and candlelit to relaxed al fresco by the sea.
Days began with a leisurely breakfast in Fontana restaurant, where the staff made a beeline to play ‘peekaboo’ with Harvey. The buffet of continental and cooked breakfast options included a live cooking station, where the chef took extra care to cook Harvey’s omelette longer, just to be sure the eggs were thoroughly done.
With five bars around the hotel, you're never far from a cold beer or iced frappe either, and the cocktails mixed at the swim-up bar are enough to have you sliding off your watery perch. Each afternoon, just as the sun was reaching its peak, one of the wonderful Annabelle team would come round with a tray of ice-cold smoothies. An unexpected but very welcome refresher.
Half-board basis includes themed buffet dinners in Fontana, but for a change you can try the set menus at the other restaurants, or have an allowance against their a la carte.
Atmospheric al fresco dining comes into its own at the seafront Mediterraneo taverna, which specialises in fresh fish. Next door at the Almyra, the Ouzeri Restaurant has candlelit tables on the promenade, and serves up hot and cold meze accompanied by live music.
The most unusual option is arguably the Almyra’s Notios Restaurant, which specialises in Japanese/Greek fusion. Our Omakase menu (which literally translates in Japanese as ‘trust the chef’), featured a medley of dishes including sesame tuna with wakame salad, roast duck with orange teriyaki, then piña colada panna cotta.
To celebrate my parents' golden wedding anniversary, we headed to the Amorosa, a no-kids, fine-dining experience that is well worth a call to the babysitter (which the hotel can arrange; all the sitters work in the Almyra crèche). My avocado and crab meat salad came in a glass cone resting on crushed ice to keep it cool, followed by black cod in a watermelon and Champagne sauce. Delicious as it was, I couldn’t help having food envy when my husband’s juicy Chateaubriand arrived.
Lunch time at the pool
The Annabelle’s Baby Go Lightly program allowed us to pre-ordered a complimentary cot, play gym, toys and books, changing mat and steriliser for our room. We also paid for nappies and wipes, all of which saved us stress and packing space.
All of the restaurants can prepare fresh purees on demand or pre-arranged to suit your baby’s schedule. Each day Harvey dined on steamed veggies with poached fish or chicken, served in two huge dishes. The staff love being around kids and were more than happy to whisk Harvey from my arms so I could have a cup of coffee in peace.
The Baby Go Lightly program is also available at the Almyra, which has particularly good access for buggies, with ramps and lifts to take you everywhere. The pool has a removable cover to provide shade on particularly hot days, so little ones can splash about without getting too much sun.
Guests of the Annabelle can also access the kids’ clubs at the Almyra, catering from four months old to teens. They’re on hand six days a week to offer much needed relief.
View from the hotel
Why we would go back
There’s a homely feel to the Annabelle – we watched the staff welcome back guests who clearly come back every year. We could see why: there’s great satisfaction, especially when travelling with kids, in going somewhere familiar, where you know you’ll be well looked after and where there are activities to suit everyone. That’s enough to get me booking again for next year.
Sunset over Paphos
Seven nights at Annabelle starts from €728 bed and breakfast, inclusive of taxes, based on two adults and one child sharing a Terrace Garden View Room. For half board, the price is €40 per adult per day. www.annabelle.com.cy. Flights with Easyjet from London to Paphos available from www.easyjet.com. For more information about Cyprus visit www.visitcyprus.com