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Where and How to do Long Haul with a Toddler? (Mauritius)

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photo (79)Two weeks in paradise is officially over. I'm writing this post in two parts because I want to tell you all about an amazing family-friendly destination and the two brilliant places that we stayed. We went to Mauritius for the first time. We are a very well-travelled couple, having taken advantage of the City money and needing the escape from stress there are few exotic places that I've wanted to visit that I haven't been to already but amazingly, Mauritius always seemed to get overlooked in favour of the Maldives (quieter, but for de-stressing) or Thailand (colour and culture, smiles and sun). I love long haul. I love the exotic, the excitement of new and different cultures, the sense,s the smells. We have been adventurous in our time too but admittedly, in relative luxury (Bolivia and Peru come to mind).

photo (80)So, I thought that I could be better than everyone else and that taking a 16 month old on a 12 hour (read '14' for the snow-delayed departure!) flight would be a piece of cake. I'm an ex-city trader with the banter and the 'balls' to match, so of course I can do it with ease.  And, not just with ease but it will be fun as we are flying Club class- another of the luxuries that I really enjoy. Sometimes, for me, being in the plane has been as enjoyable as sitting on the beach. What's not to like with the champagne flowing from before take-off and the flat beds. Time to relax, lie back and enjoy. Give yourself a mini-facial, mess around, read, watch movies that you never get to watch and drink expensive wine. WELL!!!!!! I was wrong! It wasn't hard, Toddler PCG slept for the first 6 hours but then wanted to be held next to the 'snack fridge' in the galley, opening and closing it for 2 hours whilst everyone else slept like babies in their BA flat beds! So, an altogether different flying experience. Be prepared!

Is it possible for someone to complain about flying Club Class you gasp!? Well, there's always a first. Must mention though that I was ill on the way out and had had 2 weeks of sleep deprivation beforehand, so that wasn't easy. Anyway thanks to the amazing staff at British Airways and an amazing husband, I would do it again anytime, just making sure that I was on good form beforehand.

waterOn to the more important things. Mauritius. What a stunning, lush, green and brightly flowered island!  The minute we stepped out of
the airport, that time when the warm air and jostle of tropical life going on around you hits you, I was in love. Not with the fact that this island is fringed with white sandy beaches and more exclusive five star luxury hotels than you anyone could possibly need where you can kick off your snow boots from London and relax and be pampered but much more than that;  I am a very liberal person. I love diversity and Mauritius is basically a melting pot of many cultures and religions so it becomes one heady mix of Indians, Creoles, Chinese and French.  Along with this, something that comes hand in hand with living happily together, the people are wonderful and friendly. A good start!

villaSo we were whisked off to our first port of call. I had done a lot of research before deciding on hotels. I am a hotel snob. Many, many five star hotels have fallen by the wayside and even more have felt my wrath (and probably never want to see me again!) simply because they were not up to scratch. I research to the nth degree as I cannot afford to have a bad holiday. Before going to Mauritius, just to give you an idea of my standards, my two top hotels would be Le Bristol, Paris and Soneva Gili in the Maldives - service and quality of offering head and shoulders above the rest.

DSC_0029The Anahita had a lot to live up to. An interesting choice for me too as although sharing the same beautiful plot as the Four Seasons it is not strictly just a hotel. Situated in a tropical oasis, set on a blue lagoon on the Indian Ocean and right opposite the Ile aux Cerfs, the sandy paradise island where the hotel speedboat dropped us, to a deserted beach for a luxury picnic which happened to contain mini pots of melting foie gras (!), the setting on the spectacularly wild east coast is out of this world. The interesting thing  about the choice is because it isn't simply a hotel but a 'resort'. It is also attached to a world-class golf course from which the views of the mountainous island are spectacular. So, it's a 'resort' which means that you get all the facilities of a top class, luxury hotel- the pool, the beach, the restaurants, bars, watersports and more but also you get an option to be more self-sufficient. All the suites and the villas have full kitchens so that you can do as little or as much as you wish and this is something that I really think is the selling point to families here.  Something in the past I might have turned my nose up at but brilliant with a toddler as I could do as much washing as I wanted without it costing the earth and I had a dishwasher for bottles and cups. They have a 'village' which is really a handful of charming boutiques where you can buy anything that you need ( there is also a grocery delivery service too), a bakery, a spa (massage out of this world!), a teens club and of course the kids club which I will come on to later.

photo (83)We stayed in both a suite ( 3 bedrooms, light, airy, luxurious with a massive terrace with a private infinity plunge pool on it) and a villa.  The villa was exactly the sort of villa I would buy If I were looking for one and had a spare $1.5m. Both were beyond luxurious, with all the mod cons that you would expect from a top five star hotel, loads of open living space and super-luxurious bathrooms.  I don't give compliments lightly, believe me. I have been to many five star hotels where the rooms are decorated in the same boring manner; everything 'luxury' but no soul or real feeling of taste or style or uniqueness and no real reflection of the culture either.The Anahita uses furniture made from local materials that wouldn't look out of place in the Tate Gallery. Wonderful, cool, modern decor. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

photo (87)

Despite having the option, something usual for me as I avoid being unadventurous and staying put but we didn't leave the resort once to eat and that is simply because there was no need. The food was imaginative  delicious and plentiful on the choices. It also didn't feel like production line five star. It had a quality about it that extended far beyond your usual five star offering. Each night the main restaurant overlooking the lagoon gave us the option of an la carte menu or a themed buffet. Never, ever have I been one for themed buffets but again, as a foodie, I enjoyed the quality and the choice so much that I was happy every night. Lunches by the pool also worth a mention with bento boxes filled with delicious sushi and fresh fruit alongside traditional favourites with a Mauritian twist kept everyone happy.

DSC_0393_01Lastly, the service was second to none. Waiters played with Alexander whilst we ate dinner, carried him
around, the crew from the boathouse sat him on their laps to drive the boat that sped us to the nearby waterfall and the absolute cherry on the cake and my saviour and benchmark evermore was the OurSpace kids club. This was the first time I had even contemplated sending Alexander to a kids club and it was also a difficult task finding a real five star hotel with a kid's club that took under 3's. OurSpace takes infants from as young as 6 months.From the first time we stepped foot though the doors I knew that he was in good hands. Run by Scott Dunn, the nannies are all fully qualified and wonderful.

ourspace The place was like a mini-village  with a choice of outdoor play areas, shaded outdoor grassed areas, shaded outdoor rooms with every conceivable toy known to man but thoughtfully chosen ones; educational toys, books, crayons, paints, just everything a child could possibly need to enjoy themselves and not want for anything. Actively playing with Alexander, singing to him, taking him for nature walks in the resort and swimming in the pool at the kids club making sure he was creamed, fed and slept,  I knew from the first day that I could trust them  to look after him better than I could and that doesn't get said often: I am a control freak so to let someone else take control of my precious son says a lot.

So, here I sit back at home, snowing outside wishing that I could have stayed just a little bit longer. Just a few more hours around our private pool in the villa whilst Alexander looked for turtles in the nature reserve with one of his new friends from OurSpace. The resort is split into different developments with the villas and suites all for sale to owners who luckily get to spend a good portion of their year here and the rest of the time people like me are even luckier to stay instead for a much lesser fee! It's a brilliant concept and one that I will never see in the same way again. Just as my family (hopefully) grows, I've found somewhere that grows along too and keeps the cost reasonable for a true luxury experience.photo (76)