At the end of each year my family of ten (my parents, my sister and her husband, my brother, his wife and three children and myself) set off to some exotic location to escape the humdrum of everyday life and to celebrate Christmas and the New Year.
We have always chosen villas because we are a big family that loves home cooking as much as we like to eat out, love the outdoors as well as a good lie-in and we are all such ‘individuals’ we each need our space to do whatever we feel and, villas provide us these options.
As time has gone by, we have been able to fine-tune our likes and dislikes about the villas we’ve stayed in and the key for us is that our villa must be spacious and comfortable because we spend an equal amount of time in it as we do out of it and the whole point of our trips is fun, relaxation and togetherness.
Top twelve things we demand:
1. Villa on a private beach (2 minutes away is just too far for us).
2. 5 bedrooms, 3 is a little cramped but we’ve managed
3. Sunny, 25°+ Centigrade (77°+ Fahrenheit) weather, no flies and mosquitoes.
4. Swimming pool (especially for the children)
5. Housekeeper(on premise staff)
6. Driver and SUV. Otherwise, we‘ve found its better to rent two decent cars instead of one van because we don’t always want to do the same things).
7. Internet service
8. Satellite TV
9. All modern amenities (washer, dryer, dishwasher, family-size fridge/freezer, en-suite bathrooms, spacious kitchen with all modern amenities)
10. Good stereo system (we love our music and karaoke).
11. Water activities, bars, clubs and restaurants accessible, close enough but not near our villa (A five minute walk or drive is reasonable).
12. No cold weather
In no particular order and for various reasons, these are some of our favourite villas thus far:
Best location: Plantation Beach Villas, Stonehaven Bay, Black Rock, Scarborough, Tobago, West Indies
Plantation Beach Villas, Stonehaven Bay, Black Rock, Scarborough, Tobago, West Indies
This remains a strong favourite. It was the very first villa we rented and it is what spoiled us. The contrast of living in a plantation house set in a lush, green, tropical paradise, of exotic blooms and the most picturesque view of the sea and the most remarkable weather; never too hot.
The quietness and tranquility of the resort throughout our stay gave it an exclusivity that remains unparalleled. It was Christmas time and they had a nicely decorated tree with faux gifts around it and the staff and management were there at our beck and call. The best feature of the house was the wrap-around veranda where we lounged and ate our meals.
What more could we ask for?
Best architectural plan and best use of materials from the environment: Villa Loiki, Matemwe, Zanzibar (Tanzania)
Villa Loiki, Matemwe, Zanzibar (Tanzania)
A very spacious, open plan villa with porte-fenetres and jalousies, verandas on both floors and built to experience every aspect of the beautiful sea and lush garden no matter where you were in the villa.
Every room overlooked the sea or the beautiful garden outdoors. The architect ensured the experience of the outdoors being indoors and utilized materials indigenous to the village and the island.
There were several places to eat or lounge on the premises, on the almost wrap-around veranda as well as indoors or on the terrace by the pool. During the heavy thundershowers we were able to still sit outdoors protected by the long eaves.
Villa Loiki was very child-friendly and somewhat senior citizen friendly (my parents being octogenarians). Equipped with an adult and kiddies pool, gazebo and barbecue enclosure, there was absolutely no need to go anywhere except to walk on the beach or swim in the Ocean.
Most serene setting: Villa Castello, Anse Kerlan Beach, Praslin Seychelles. One of the main features of this villa was its large verandah that allowed us to lounge and eat outdoors during the torrential rain facing the pool and the sea on our own private beach-one of the most beautiful white sand beaches and clear water seas.
Villa Castello, Anse Kerlan Beach, Praslin Seychelles
The rooms on the ground floor opened out onto the verandah or into the garden so that those of us on the ground floor slept with the doors/porte-fenetres ajar to enjoy the beautiful view of the lush lawn and vegetation, statuesque trees and the sea in the distance.
Ultra modern décor and amenities: Villa Georgia, #29, Frond E, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
Situated on the luxurious Palm Islands in Dubai, this villa was designed for royalty. From its expansive media room, Infinity pool, surround sound channeled throughout the house, eclectic chandeliers, opulent staircase leading to rooms fit for the stars and a kitchen fitted with the top amenities money can buy, this was more of a staged house than a home.
It didn’t exude warmth but it gave us insight on how one could decorate a luxury home with simplicity and grandeur without being gaudy.
Situated in the ritzy, quiet, resort town of Cabo san Lucas, the focal point of this villa was the kitchen/dining room. Not the best-designed villa we’ve stayed in and though it was right on the beach, the sea was too rough and too cold at that time of year but certainly a surfers’ haven. Although there was a heated pool and Jacuzzi, they were never warm enough for us to enjoy. Still worth staying in.
Fantastic view atop a hill: Villa James, San Eugenio, Tenerife.
The smallest place we’ve stayed in for a family of ten. This was more of a small luxury townhouse than a villa. However, it caused us to bond even more because we weren’t spread out as with the other villas. Situated atop a hill, the view of the city during the day and at night was spectacular especially on New Year’s Eve with the firelight displays.
Most friendly, family oriented people and staff: Casa Boa Vista, Buzios, Brazil
Casa Boa Vista, Ferradura Beach, Buzios, Brazil
Cesar & Lucy the caretakers/housekeepers gave us the best of Brazilian warmth and I am not talking about the sunshine. For the first time, my octogenarian parents were a priority to the staff and people wherever we went.
We were up on a hill top but still in walking distance from the sea of which we had a great view from the house. The family room/media room was surrounded by the lush, floral vegetation of Brazil; the large, spacious kitchen opened out onto the patio that faced the swimming pool and we could walk or take the house buggy to the small, quaint city centre to dine or shop.
All in all, the importance of these vacations is to bring us together as a family at least once in the year. This is now part of our family tradition and we shall continue to do so until we are too old to see and even as we lose family members.
During these holidays, my mother (10/12/28 -17/03/11) would sit with her grandchildren creating a nativity, having them write or draw about the things they liked about the vacation. She kept them busy!
Find time to spend with loved ones, educating and exposing the children to different cultures, people and ways of life. It doesn’t have to be on some exotic vacation far away but right at home were you live even to explore the country that you live in via road trips, the Internet or simply story telling in the comfort of your home.
What have you done with your family lately? Do share some of your stories here.