There are certain things in my head that epitomize motherhood and family. The routines of everyday life, school drop offs and pickups, sports days, storytime before bed, snuggling in pjs with popcorn watching series or movies, colouring in, a roast dinner and a long Sunday afternoon drive. And then there is the family holiday …
Some of my happiest memories are of me and my cousins over school holidays. Hot sun, sticky sunscreen, swimming pools, ice lollies melting faster than we could lick, bathing together covered in bubbles and curling up together listening to bedtime stories. The times where my daddy took some time off work and we had a family holiday… a weekend up the coast feeling like weeks.
And then there is a slightly blurry memory… When my dad was told his cancer was terminal (it wasn’t), I remember that we went away on a family holiday in Betty’s Bay. We went with my dad’s cousin and his family, we spent a lot of time with them back then. I remember this strange sense of fleeting time and like we had all let out a huge breath we had been holding. I remember my dad running into the sea with us, playing, laughing. I remember thinking how amazing it was to see him smile. So, family holiday is all jumbled with relief and happiness and being able to breathe.
When ATKV Resorts reached out to my assistant editor over at Tums 2 Tots, Laura-Kim Le Roux, to see if we would be keen to review a stay at one of their resorts, I nearly exploded with excitement. Why? Because we haven’t been away on a holiday since our babymoon in October 2013! Which of course means our Charly hasn’t ever experienced a family holiday!
Brett and I were “going away” people before we had Charly. Everything from gorgeous bed and breakfasts in Greyton and Paternoster, to our favourite self-catering getaway in De Kelders overlooking the whales. We had a life-changing holiday in Plett our second year together. I got to see and experience cheetahs and elephants and monkeys and dolphins. We spent a week in Sun City, swimming, playing the tables, going for spa treatments and eating all the food. The ultimate luxury at Sussi and Chuma lodge in the trees above the Zambezi just up from Vic Falls. And our 22-day honeymoon traveling in the USA.
I desperately wanted Charly to experience that feeling of excitement and wonder and escape from the “real world”. I went straight to the website to find out more about the ATKV brand and where they were based. There were so many choices (they have 7 different resorts across SA!!!). I just loved the family orientation of the whole brand on sight. Our closest resort is Goudini Spa and I loved exploring the different accommodation options and activities on the site.
At first we were planning to go with a group of our favourite families (and now that we have been there, I really really want to do that). In the end, we made it a family holiday. And by family, I mean Brett, Charly and I, my mom and dad, and my sister, Tammy, brother-in-law, Rob, and my gorgeous little beanie niece, Chloe.
On the Friday, we all finished work early, my parents piled into the backseat next to miss C (strapped safely in her extended rear-facing Volvo car seat). My sister and her family live in the Northern Suburbs, so they were there in under an hour. It took an extra hour coming from Southern Suburbs because of the roadworks, but if I had done a little research we probably could have missed that by adjusting our route. Either way, it is a short drive from home, and yet the scenery change is so complete it feels like a different country!
The staff at the resort were so lovely, polite and relaxed! From the friendly guards at the gate (making sure you have a booking to enter), to the reception, to the security on the property to the people in the shops. My sister had collected the keys already, so we just went in to say hi and headed up to the Slanghoek Villas, high above the actual resort. The views were breathtaking and I had to stop and breathe it all in before even heading inside.
The villa itself was awesome. There is more than enough space for three families, which is the one niggle when planning a family holiday with multiple family units. Each of us had our own room (with a small balcony of our own), there were 2 bathrooms, an open lounge area, dining area and small neat kitted out kitchen. We spent a lot of time on the big balcony, which has a large braai area, a wooden table that seated 6 (or 6 plus two little bits ;)) and a gorgeous view. Our family is a bit pedantic about cleanliness, especially my mom, so the fact that everything was spotless was a huge relief to me.
We all settled into our rooms and decided to explore our immediate surrounds. We had spotted a swimming pool just down from our villa and there was nobody there! In fact, because we had arrived early, we were the only ones up by the villas at all, other than the friendly security guard. The girls were in the pool within seconds with my mom and my brother-in-law. The water was gorgeous and there was literally not another soul nearby… So, for the first time since we were children, my sister and I ran and climbed into swimming things and got into the pool. Our girls were so excited to have us with them, it kind of broke my heart. And you guys, I was so so happy! I floated and smiled and let the girls climb all over me and use my braids as reigns and I laughed out loud…. And for that hour, I completely ignored my size and how utterly awful I looked and just breathed and relaxed. The top pool was warm and then it overflowed into a gorgeous smaller pool below which was cooler, because it was in the shade and the water cooled as it fell down the rock waterfall. And again, the view!!!
We headed back to the villa as the sun moved behind the mountains. We popped the girls into a bubble bath together and we started a braai. Rob was an absolute genius and packed all kinds of odds and ends to entertain the girls; there were sparklers and glow stick and bubbles. And then my sister and I snuggled with our girls on one of the beds and read stories. Charly fell asleep in her camp cot – STILL the best and only thing aside from a car seat that you need to buy for a newborn. She slept straight through the night, with Brett and I on the bed nearby.I have no doubt this wil be a family holiday she will remember for years to come.
There was something about waking up to the whispered voices of my parents and sister that gave me the warm and fuzzies. Lying between my own little family, and hearing them up and about made my heart so very happy. I had so many flashbacks to weekends and family holidays away at my grandparents, lying snuggled in a warm bed and feeling safe and surrounded by people I love. And watching Charly just light up when she ran out to hug everybody good morning was just everything.
After a breakfast made in shifts (you should totally bring along a skottel for breakfast making as the kitchen is a tad small for making food for many people – also, skottel breakfasts ALWAYS taste like holidays!), we headed down to the “real” resort. Technically, if you are up at the Slanghoek Villas, you could spend a whole weekend around the top pools and relaxing with gorgeous views, without heading down to the resort. But… There is something special about being around so many other happy families and excited kids and people of every shape and size and age and race and religion though. The family holiday vibe is contagious.
The resort itself is huge, there are 7 different types of accommodation; from camping to the luxury villas we stayed in. Each area has multiple pools, some fresh and cool, some warmed by the natural springs and then there is a huge indoor pool as well. It was much commented on how incredibly well looked after everything at the resort was. There was no mess, no litter, the pools were gorgeous and clear, and the grass was all lush and green (mountain springs for the win!). It is really like being in a different world. SO hard to remember that you are only an hour away from the city!
Outside of the pools, which is pretty much all the girls were interested in… there are a ton of other things to do. From a huge super tube, to trampolines and mini-golf, a beauty spa, a play area for kids, a restaurant, a take-out store, and one of the most equipped shops I have ever seen. I would imagine nature lovers would have the best time, as the resort is in the mountains, and there are hiking trails and bird watching and all kinds of nature-like things to do. For us, there was more swimming, ice-lollies, sunscreen, and relaxing on the grass just being.
At 11am on the Saturday, the amazing Lize from the agency who organised our trip, had booked access to one of the private jacuzzis for just Brett and I. I was uncertain as to what it would be like, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It was down by the indoor swimming pool, in its own room (so no chance of anyone walking in and seeing you in your too-tight swimwear) and everything was spotless. It allowed me to completely relax in the warm water, the sound of the water was loud enough that it made you feel like you had escaped into a little hidden paradise. We eventually left, because it got just that little bit too warm in there – perfect for a winter escape for sure. The little time out, escaping the busyness of the two preschoolers, really gave us a chance to unwind and recharge our batteries a little.
Afterwards we headed back up to the Villas and found our family playing in the bottom pool, which was perfectly cool and shaded from the heat of the day. After spending time just my mom, Charly, Brett and I for a while, we all headed back up to the house for lunch.
Just to pause for a second, I have to mention that the Slanghoek Villas are serviced by magical cleaning fairies! When we headed out to explore in the morning, they came in and washed dishes, made beds, cleaned floors, wiped everything, and neatened up. I am a big believer that no holiday is complete without cleaning fairies – there is absolutely nothing holiday-like about having to clean up after 6 adults and 2 kids.
Out on the balcony, we all sat and ate and chatted. Uncle Rob pulled out some big peanuts in their shells, which kept the girls entertained for close on an hour. My parents and Tam and Rob took the girls back to their favourite pool, while I went and lay down, wrote my Beauty and the Beast review in silence and then napped for a couple of hours. The bed and bedding were divine!!!! I could have slept the whole time if I were alone.
At some point (my brain was on holiday, so timings elude me), their water tanks ran dry and certain people were in the shower covered in soap and shampoo when this happened. I was so impressed when a call to the front desk saw somebody from maintenance there within a couple of minutes at most. They had already discovered and fixed the problem, but they made sure that somebody came up and triple checked that the water had come through again before leaving. I am a person very easily impressed with great service, and I have to say that I never experienced poor service from a single person at that resort.
We decided to splurge a little instead of braaing again and ordered meals from the restaurant, which Rob and Brett went to collect. Pizza, burgers, and fish and chips as the sun set. More sparklers, stories and an early night for everybody.
We packed up when we all woke and headed out just as the cleaning fairies arrived. While the girls went and had one last run around in the play area, I went and thanked everybody, returned the keys and sadly said goodbye to Goudini Spa.
The whole family had a wonderful time. There was something for everybody at Goudini and everybody left happy. Myself and my entire family all agree (something that hardly ever happens) that the ATKV Goudini Spa is the perfect place for a family holiday.
Now there was one complaint, but one that I could not speak to. Apparently, the neighbours on the opposite side of the house Brett and I were in, so right next door to my parents and too close to my sister’s family room, were very inconsiderate. They partied until well after 2am and the alcohol bottles on their balcony on the Sunday was quite a sight to see. I know the resort has strict rules about noise after 11pm, so if I had known this was going on I would have called and reported it. As it was, I only found out on Sunday, so nothing could be done. It really doesn’t matter where you go though, inconsiderate people are everywhere. I wouldn’t fault the resort on this issue at all as I am sure that if it had been reported, it would have been dealt with.
The checkout is at 9am, so we had “planned” to take advantage of Goudini being so central to so many great restaurants and wine farms, to have a brunch on our way home. Of course, we didn’t “plan” enough to actually book anywhere. Heads up – beautiful countryside tends to be fully booked on a Sunday morning. After some car park strategising and roadside powwows, we ended up at the Spice Route Destination. We got the very last table at La Grapperia and what a setting! I will do a separate post just on that because it is worth a visit with or without a family holiday 😉
Have you guys got any recommendations for winter getaways where there is snow? My sister and I really want to take Chloe and Charly to see snow, because (shock horror), neither of us ever has!
Sending all the love xxx
*While we did not pay for our accommodation at ATKV Goudini Spa, I was not paid to review it and all of the above is from my own and my family’s experience at the resort.