• Mar 09, 2013

Why a family holiday to Sani Resort in Greece was the complete opposite of a Catastrophe for comedian Rob Delaney

My wife and I have three boys under the age of five. As such, our home is a cross between a decrepit zoo and an imperiled military outpost that is ignored, if not completely forgotten, by any general.

Getting them to school is a strategic exercise, taking them to a restaurant is like the second half of Braveheart.

The idea of taking them on an airplane makes me immediately begin sweating and pacing and opening windows. So finding a place where we can take a holiday is a bit of a challenge. My wife and I want to have fun. (Who do we think we are?)

We’d like our kids to have fun too. And – critically – we have to go somewhere where our very presence won’t totally ruin the holiday of other people who understandably want a few days away from the hot kiln they operate at the forge or whatever it is people do for a living these days.

I’m telling you all this because we can’t really afford to roll the dice when we pick a holiday spot. Those dice could come up snake eyes and then the snake could bite everyone, ruining their holiday before it had a chance to begin.

After a staggering amount of research, complete with fistfights and saying things we can never take back, my wife and I decided to spend October half-term at Porto Sani Village at Sani Resort in Greece. It’s near Thessaloniki, on the Aegean Sea. Blessedly, no one was killed on the flight from London to Thessaloniki. We were then picked up by a handsome Greek man in a van equipped with car seats for all three of our kids. I had been prepared to make Andy, my big simple son, ride in the boot.

Arriving at the resort we were greeted and charmed by the manager, Sagos, and a sort of super concierge, Katarina.

While Katarina told us about the resort and its offerings (beaches, LOTS of pools, luxurious spa, crèche for the kids, and much, much more) my four-year-old wandered from the lobby out to the resort’s beautiful network of linking pools.

I followed him at a distance and watched him lie down on an inflatable crocodile that was bobbing at the side of a pool, coast out to the middle of the pool, and roll off the crocodile into the water, fully clothed, shoes included.

Observing staff and guests didn’t bat an eye, and I knew then that we were in a good place.

We spent six days at Porto Sani Village and it was easily the greatest holiday of my life. Let’s start with the food: the freshness and quality of all the basic building blocks, like the feta, the lamb, the yoghurt, the honey, the bread and the olives and olive oil were such that even if served in a lazy pile, everything would have been amazing.

But they weren’t served in a lazy pile, they were lovingly prepared in various delightful combinations and served with a smile by a waiter or waitress, who, because they’re from a Mediterranean country that’s not afraid of displays of happiness or affection, would typically tickle one of my kids or touch their cheek and say they’re beautiful - which they most certainly are, thank you very much.

On a typical day, we’d be awoken by one of the small but effective mammalian alarm clocks my wife gave birth to around seven in the morning, then we’d walk to the resort’s nearby main restaurant and have a ridiculously good buffet breakfast.

If our two or four-year-old got bored by my wife or I exclaiming how good the food was, they could wander over to the table with art supplies and games where a young staff member sat, ready to entertain them. Have you ever heard of anything that great? I hadn’t.

Following breakfast, we would usually meander out to one of the kids’ pools so the big boys could flop around, experiencing a low-grade medical bliss.

If my wife and I felt like being around our own children after that, we might all go to the beach and take a dip in a mountain-ringed bay.

Or we might drop them off in the crèche, which was run slightly better than any excellent crèche I’ve seen in the UK or the US.

We would’ve left them with a stranger in a warehouse, but now that we know the type of care available at Porto Sani Village, I’d feel bad doing that.

Our kids, all three of them, didn’t want to leave the crèche when we came to pick them up, and since they’re not teenagers, that means it was amazing.

I also learned that bird watching is not boring, because my wife and I booked an afternoon bird watching tour and I enjoyed it very much, though possibly because we saw a lot of sheep and goats and beehives and turtles, in addition to birds, in the particular forest and wetland area we explored.

I suppose it was more of an animal watching tour, to be fair.

At night we’d eat at one of the restaurants at the resort, each one better than the next, as though it were some sick contest to make me fat, and trust me, I surrendered.

What Greek people do with food, and what the particular Greek people at Porto Sani do with food, is just magnificent.

I am, of course, writing as a parent of three kids under the age of five, so what I look for in a holiday is somewhat specific, but even if my kids had wandered off or been abducted into servitude by a yoghurt farmer, I assure you I would have continued to enjoy myself at Porto Sani Village.

It was such an incredible holiday experience.

I routinely found myself thinking, ‘I don’t deserve this.’ Probably not many people deserve something as nice as Porto Sani Village, but alas, there it is, a short flight from London.

I’m not a professional travel writer, so I don’t have an established rating system for resorts, but I give Porto Sani Village and its staff ten golden kebabs out of ten. Go immediately.