Villa Specialist Ian Howie set out on vacation to St Martin with two objectives: quality time for the whole family and total relaxation. “Our last vacation was in Maui,” says Ian. “It was incredible–there was so much to do. We had a packed itinerary and saw so much of the island in 7 days. But this time around, we wanted to enjoy lazy afternoons floating around the pool.”
Traveling with his extended family, including his partner, Caroline and their two young daughters aged 5 and 7, the good times started rolling immediately. “As soon as we walked through the grand entrance, we inhaled a breath of fresh air and exhaled a sigh of relief–the classic vacation moment when you realize, ‘we’re finally here.'” He notes how the spacious, open concept villa Sol e Luna creates a sense of welcome that you can’t trade in for anything else, “From the moment we stepped inside and the kids saw the pool, it was game over. They ran to get their bathing suits.”
The pool praise continues, “It was made for us! Half of the pool was on a gradual slope, about 3ft deep, which was ideal for the girls. If they’d had it their way, they would have never emerged from the water–not even for bed!” And with perfect timing, as the first splash came from the pool, Ian opened the fridge to find a bottle of champagne patiently waiting for the four adults.
“If the girls had their way, they would have never emerged from the water–not even for bed!”
The villa’s al fresco kitchen became the official gathering spot. “Cooking and eating together is family time for us. We grilled outside–steaks, shrimps, all of our favorites–then ate poolside. We love having our own space to prepare meals. Plus, the grocery store was an easy 5 minutes away.”
When Ian and Co. were able to peel the young swimmers away from the pool, they explored the island. He recommends the Butterfly Farm, “The girls were in awe–there are many different species there. Plus, you can combine a trip to see the butterflies with a day on Gallion Beach, which has soft sands and shallow waters, perfect for–you guessed it–more swimming.”
During a day trip on the Funseaker with Captain Sebastien, the girls had a chance to snorkel around Creole Rock. Ian notes, “Sebastian was incredibly accommodating. He catered our day on the boat to suit all of us–the girls got to snorkel, while the adults got our wish to have a lovely lunch on Anguilla. He remembers the tranquility of Anguilla, “It’s almost as if Sebastien reserved the entire beach for us! We were the only ones there.”
A few days into their St Martin extravaganza, the group tried on a different villa, Mer Soleil, on for size. “It didn’t take long for us to understand why the villa is called Mer Soleil–every evening from the balcony the view of the sunset is unobstructed, as if the sun is providing its very own private sunset performance for you.” Whereas Sol e Luna nods to a modern style in a tropical setting, Mer Soleil is a Hacienda style home with classic Caribbean splashes of color.
“I had a private yoga instructor come to the villa. We enjoyed an invigorating morning class on the terrace overlooking the sea.”
The highlight of the week was Caroline’s special birthday celebration, “I had a private yoga instructor come to the villa. We enjoyed an invigorating morning class on the terrace overlooking the sea.” And, as birthdays warrant, an evening of celebrations ensued at Le Calmos Cafe in Grand Case, “We had a delicious meal on the beach. There were other families around with kids, so before we knew it, our girls had met a whole new crew and were happy to play in the sand while we enjoyed our cocktails.”
As any parent will tell you, when it comes to traveling with kids, there’s an extensive checklist of essential “must-haves” that must be ticked before takeoff. “In both villas, and in St Martin in general, I can say that we felt extremely safe and taken care of. From clean beaches with calm swimming waters to pool designed for swimmers who aren’t quite yet Michael Phelps, it’s the little things like this that make a huge difference for a parent.” And when the kids are well taken care of, the parents can kick back and relax.
When asked what’s next on the travel agenda for his gang of globetrotters, Ian says, “As long as there’s a private pool and barbecue, count us in.”
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