Hotel Europa Splash

In August 2018, we went to the Hotel Europa Splash on the Costa Brava for a week in the sun. Here is what we thought of the hotel!

Hotel Europa Splash

Location

Hotel Europa Splash is located on the Costa Brava coast, just over an hour north of Barcelona and 45 minutes south east of Girona airport. The hotel itself is on the south side of the seaside town of Malgrat and just north of Santa Susanna.

The hotel is just the other side of the main road from the beach and so getting onto the beach is easy and only a 5 minute walk. There is an underground subway so you don’t have to worry about crossing main roads. As the hotel is located in the town of Malgrat, there are plenty of gift shops, restaurants and mini supermarkets right outside the hotel.

Food

Here is where Hotel Europa Splash could do better. As part of the all inclusive package, you get breakfast, lunch and evening meal, as well as poolside snacks and unlimited drinks.

If I’m being honest, the meals from the restaurant were not great and after a while, they became very bland and same-y. Obviously they have to cater for people from different nationalities and so they have to try and please a lot of people.

We had better success with the poolside kiosk which served chicken nuggets, toasties, chips and hot dogs during the day. These were Heidi’s favourites and we probably ate these more than the normal. Also, the bars served the most amazing milkshakes, but make sure you as an adult taste them before the children, sometimes they go a big wrong!!

If you go to the bar inside, they have a wide array of drinks available, but if you ask for a children’s cocktail, they can make something especially for the children to make them feel all grown up (iti s just lemonade with colouring in!)

If you’re going out for the day, you can ask for a picnic to be made for you. We did this a couple of times and it was always a ham & cheese sandwich with fruit and a drink. If you’re struggling with the restaurant, this might be a good alternative.

Picnic

Accommodation

The accommodation is quite basic, but you don’t really spend much time in the hotel room anyway! The room consists of a double bed, TV, fridge, a balcony and a walk-in shower/wet room.

View from the balcony

The maid service seemed pretty good and we had fresh bottle of water every day in the room. They also arranged Heidi’s teddies on the bed each day which was a nice touch.

Perhaps the most important part is that the TV is in Spanish. However, for some programmes, they have English in the background. Therefore, you need to press the speech bubble button on the remote control and select English. We did this with Disney Channel and it worked every time. Also, the TV carries BBC World News.

Facilities

The Hotel Europa Splash itself has a main swimming pool, a kids splash pool and slides going into a smaller pool. There are lifeguards on throughout and music playing out to the main pool.

The hotel has a wonderful rooftop terrace which is ideal of sunbathing, but also good for taking wonderful photos, as you can see!

There is also a gym, but no-one goes on holiday for a gym!

You also have access to the sister hotel just along the road. Here, the hotel is bigger with more pools/slides, and better food, but the hotel is bigger and you can feel a little lost in there, especially when trying to look after little ones!!

Entertainment

The entertainment team were the best part of the Hotel Europa Splash and worked so hard to entertain the little ones. Check out the notice board for the running order, we found that the evening entertainment was the best part. The mini disco is a bit repetitive but because there is a little bit of time after evening meal, a lot of the children played together and that was nice. Heidi loved this part so much, she wanted to play rather than eat!

Heidi and the entertainment team!

 

One word of warning is that 2/3 times a week, they have various photo opportunities (a snake, parrot, weird looking Mickey Mouse etc!) Please note that these cost €10 each and so be careful!

We did do Kids Club a couple of times as it was nice and quiet (and cool!) but whilst the entertainment team do speak English, it is probably better if you stay with your child, to make sure they understand everything.

Twice a week, they do a walking tour to the beach to the foam party. Whilst it goes on for 2 hours, you’ll only be there for an hour at the most. It is good fun, but make sure you bring a towel or two!.

Foam party!

Conclusion

Overall, we did have a lovely holiday and the Hotel Europa Splash was just the right size for us and what we needed. Would we go back? Probably not, as I wouldn’t want to have the exact same holiday, but for a short burst in the sun, it is a pretty good place.

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Leeds Golf Centre

I was invited to Leeds Golf Centre in North Leeds to check out their facilities, especially their signature course, Wike Ridge. This was one time when I was “Matthew” and not “dad” and as weird as it sounds, it was a nice change. Anyway, less about me and more about Leeds Golf Centre!

Wike Ridge

The signature course is a fully-fledged championship standard course, ranging from 5472 yards to 6535 yards, depending on tee choice. As a result, it isn’t for complete novices!!

The course is of very high quality, with smooth quick greens and well presented fairways. As you can see, the bunkers are of decent condition (including rake!) which makes you feel as though you’re a professional!

This certainly isn’t a “standard” course with the water hazards and amazing views over North Leeds and the views and walk was almost as good as the course itself!

My personal favourite hole was the 9th. Mainly because it was the hole I got a par on!! Although it is a par 4, you can almost drive the green. I landed the tee shot into the greenside bunker before getting out and two-putting. I felt like I won a title!

What a view!

This was the first time I had played since being a dad (5+ years!) and so the length of the course does take it out of you. As a result, don’t be afraid to call it a day early before it stops being fun!!

One note is that it can be difficult to find the next tee, but the best way is to follow the gravel track following the fairway round. However, after the 1st green, you need to double back on you to the right to get to the 2nd tee!

The facilities

When you enter the Leeds Golf Centre complex, there is a decent sized free car park, and you walk round the back to check-in at the golf shop. Here you can rent a set of clubs, trolley or even a buggy (maybe next time!).

You can buy golf balls and tees too!

Within the clubhouse are changing rooms, a restaurant serving snacks, drinks and meals, as well as toilets. Yes, I am that person who takes pictures of the toilets!

There is also a cafe and toilet at the end of the 9th hole of the Wike Ridge course. Please note that this is the only toilet on the course.

The dress code

This is one thing that can cause issues, especially for newbies to golf courses. There is a specific page on the Leeds Golf Centre website about the dress code and the fact that they are relaxed about things. This is such a good thing! For the Wike Ridge course, they only ask that you don’t wear jeans or tracksuit bottoms, as well as a polo collared shirt.

For the rest of the facilities, there is no dress code at all. Result!

The other activities

As well as the Wike Ridge course, there are other facilities at Leeds Golf Centre to entertain. If a full course isn’t for you and/or you want to bring your child along, the 12 hole, par 3 “The Oaks” course would be ideal for you. There is also the increasingly popular Footgolf, where there are 6 specially designed holes from 39 to 90 yards long. This would be ideal to bring a teenage son who had little interest in golf!

All in all, Leeds Golf Centre has loads on offer, even if you’re not a proficient golfer. The course was busy on a Sunday morning, so make sure you pre-book online. If you’re a solo player, it can be slow at times, but the other players were very good in allowing me to play through.

Will I be back? Absolutely! I had forgotten how good the game was and I felt like my own person as opposed to being “dad” for a few hours. I just need to find my golf balls in all the trees!!

Full disclosure: I received a free round for the purposes of this blog post. This was provided by www.onlinegolf.co.uk who also send me some merchandise, including some golf balls. They had no editing influence on this post.

Look at my balls!
From onlinegolf.co.uk

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Time To Read

As part of the Booktrust “Time to Read” week (17th September 2018 to 23rd September 2018), I have been asked to share our experiences of reading and how much it has benefitted Heidi so far in her life.

How and When We Make Time to Read

Our Time to Read can be summarised into two main categories; Reading for Learning and Reading for Pleasure

  • Reading for Learning

Usually school give us a book to read each week. We seem to be going through the Pearson’s Phonics Bug chart. Whilst some of the books are a bit strange (In a Pit, anyone?!) they are designed to be read with only a limited number of sounds.

When we are reading for school work and going through the intricacies of sounds and word formations, we tend to do that just before bath time on an evening. That way, Heidi is not too tired to read and is able to take things in.

Time to Read
The first school book Heidi read all herself
  • Reading for Pleasure

If we are reading for pleasure, we always do that in bed, before bedtime. Heidi will pick a book from her bookshelf and I will read it throughout.  Whilst at some point I know Heidi will be able to read on her own in bed, part of me hopes she will always want me to read to her in bed. Here, I try to be as creative as possible with the voices and actions, whilst being mindful that it is supposed to be settling down time!

What we Read

When we are reading for pleasure, I try to give Heidi as much freedom as possible. I feel as though it is important for her to want to read whatever story she wants to read, as opposed to forcing a book on her.

Time To Read - bookshelf
Heidi’s bookshelf

One of the promoted books this year is “Little Monkey” and this is such a good book for little ones entering school via Reception or into Year 1. This is because the child can relate to the world being seemingly so much bigger than before and being away from loved ones, for potentially the first time ever.

Time To Read - Little Monkey
Reception children will be receiving this book

This book is going to be given out to 700,000 Reception aged children in England this year!!

How it has benefited Heidi

For me, the highlight of Heidi’s ability to read was when she was in London as a 4 year old and could navigate her way to the correct Underground Line. Granted it wasn’t perfect, but she knew to look for the “P” for “Piccadilly Line”. It proved that it was all worth it!

Perhaps the best example of how Heidi has benefitted from all the reading she does are the following excepts from her Reception school report:

  • “She is becoming a fluent reader. She is able to confidently read and understand simple and more complex sentences.
  • “Heidi has enjoyed a range of book and can demonstrate understanding of a story when talking to others about what she has read, recalling main events and characters.”
Time to Read
We did the school reading challenge!!

How it has benefited us

Making Time to Read really does bring us closer together. The bedtime story is such a highlight, and not because I want Heidi to go to sleep!! It is a time when it is just us two. There is peace and quiet and no distractions. Whilst we are focused on the book, we are also close together having cuddles and getting relaxed before bed.

You may have noticed that there are no photos of us reading in bed. This is because I do not want the intimacy of the moment to be broken. Whilst blog posts are important, keeping that peaceful atmosphere is more important!!

Top Tips for getting the most out of Time to Read

Booktrust have kindly shared their top tips for reading with your child. They are:

Set aside some time – Find somewhere quiet without any distractions.

Ask your child to choose a book –  Sharing books they have chosen shows you care what they think and that their opinion matters. This means they are more likely to engage with the book.

Time to Read
Don’t choose a HUGE book to start with!!

Sit close together – Encourage your child to hold the book themselves and turn the pages.

Encourage your child to talk about the book – Talking about the characters and their dilemmas helps children understand relationships.

And lastly, above all – make it fun!  – It doesn’t matter how you read with a child, as long as you both enjoy the time together.

Time to Read

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It’s ok to ask for help

Whilst part of this blog is meant to celebrate all the fun and exciting parts of being a parent, it is also important that it is a difficult job, and it does have its effect on us. Being a parent is hard work. Being a parent does have an effect on us both physically and mentally. As a result, it is ok to ask for help. You can’t do “parenting” on your own.

Ask for help

Effect of having children

Remember when life was simple? Remember when you could go out without a care in the world? The effect on having children on parents’ mental health is massive. The stresses of having to look after a new person is huge. The stress that coping with bills, childcare arrangements and practicalities can be tough. All this is forgetting the part where you’re absolutely shattered because your child doesn’t sleep.

The vast majority of parents love their children to the moon and back and there is nothing denying that. However, it is ok to ask for help to give yourself a break. It is ok to ask for help to talk to someone. We can’t be parents in isolation; we need our support network in place.

How I have kept going

For me, the world of blogging has really helped me through some difficult times. Seeing the pictures of others, reading how parents were going out and about really helped me. It gave me a challenge. It gave me some hope that things were going to get better.

And they did get better. I would never say that I was near to having a breakdown. However, I was a new father going through a separation. Life was tough. Life still is tough. At times, I was close to giving up hope. But I didn’t, mainly due my support network as well as the fact that I saw other parents having a great time, and that gave me the strength to carry on.

Blogging is my release. Blogging is helping me get through the tough times.

We needed each other – both then and now…

Effect

Without going into specifics, I have seen the effects of someone who couldn’t ask for help.  It is horrible. Even years and years later, the scars are still there. Yes, they have faded, but they are there. Even if you are the loneliest person in the world, there are still people who love you, who care for you. It is ok to ask for help, either from them, or for them.

These people would be devastated if you left them. Even more, there will be people who are too young or who haven’t even been born, who will love you when they’re older.

Children provide so much hope in life. They need support and guidance. They need us.

Statistics

Doing research for this article, I found a couple of really telling charts. The first one shows that men are about 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women.

It is said that this greater risk is due to

  • increased family breakdown leaving more men living alone;
  • the decline of many traditionally male-dominated industries;
  • social expectations about masculinity

The second one is that divorced men are over twice as likely to commit suicide than married men.

Divorce increases the risk of suicide because the individual becomes disconnected from their domestic relationship and social norms. Also, there is a strong cultural emphasis on achieving a strong and happy marriage. Those who divorce may experience a deep sense of disorientation, guilt and emotional hurt.

Ways to Ask for Help

There are many, many avenues for support out there. For some, local parents/child groups are ideal, however, they tend not to work well if your child is school aged, or you work. For others, NCT work well.  If your child is school aged, then your child’s school will be able to provide support and advice.

However, if things are much more pressing, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 (UK and Republic of Ireland; this number will not appear on your phone bill), email [email protected], or visit the Samaritans website to find details of the nearest branch.

My virtual door is always open if you need support. If you’re a mum, dad, or just someone who cares about another human being, it’s ok to ask for help, from myself or anyone else. Just make sure you ask for help before it’s too late.

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Single Parent Holidays

After being on our second daddy-daughter holiday since the separation, I thought that it would write a post on how single parent holidays are different to “traditional” family holidays. Whilst they are different, they are probably twice as fun, but twice as tiring! As such, if you know someone who wants to try single parent holidays, make sure you get them a nice big bottle of something nice upon their return!

  1. It is impossible to suncream your own back!

No matter how well you try to train your young child, they want to go swimming in the water rather than help you out. This usually means trying to face the sun all day!

  1. Family photos are “selfies” only

Selfies are all well and good, but sometimes you want a picture of you and your child in the middle of an incredible view … that’s not going to happen unless you really trust that stranger with your expensive camera phone!

Single parent holidays
Overlooking the Costa Brava coast
  1. You have no-one else to fall out with

Obviously family holidays are stressful and can often bring out the cracks that have been papered over. However, there is just you and your child – no more adult fallings-out.

Single parent holidays
Although children can be grumpy!
  1. You have full control of the memories

You can claim ownership of the amazing memories and culture that they pick up on. I was so proud that Heidi loves reggae music after our holiday to Jamaica. Not because of the music, but more of the fact she has developed as a person because of the holiday

  1. You get to eat all the melting ice cream!!

Unless it is in a tub, or bubblegum flavour – yuk!!

Single parent holidays
No to bubblegum flavour ice cream!
  1. Adult conversation is limited

You may find the perfect holiday buddy when you get there, but you might not. Bonus if you find others on single parent holidays! As a result, it can be quite a lonely experience when your child is making friends on their own.

UPDATE! There is a company called Melon Holidays (https://www.melonholidays.com) who specialise in holidays where single parents with children go on holiday together.

  1. Airports and aircraft are stressful

They are bad enough at the best of times, but having to worry about 2 sets of electronic devices and how to entertain a child on your own for so long is difficult. See here for a blog post about keeping a child entertained on a plane.

  1. Passport Control can feel like interrogation

I fully understand the reasons behind the questions, especially if you have a different surname to your child, but it’s very stressful! If they don’t quiz you, you wonder why they haven’t! Also, make sure you have a passport for both of you. Check out this blog post on applying for a passport.

  1. You build an even closer bond with your child

If you have shared care with your child, you feel as though you miss out on things. However, having just you and your child for company helps you bond and grow that relationship into something even more special.

Single parent holidays

  1. It’s really good fun!!

Perhaps the most important one of all! Going on holiday is meant to be fun for you and your child. You’ll have memories that last a lifetime and they are down to you as a parent and a person. That is something to be really proud of.

I’d love to hear more ways that single parent holidays are different to traditional holidays. If you are nervous about doing a single parent holiday, there are companies who specialise in them. However, I have been halfway round the world with Heidi, and it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Therefore, don’t be scared!!

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