10 July 2015

Our Mark Warner Holiday to San Lucianu, Corsica.

In all the many times I have been fortunate enough to travel with Mark Warner, never before have I been quite so taken with one of their resorts.

Although the majority of these trips were taken prior to having my boys, it is their family holidays that they are best known for.  Along with the provision of qualified childcare and tuition for any age and level for water sports and tennis or skiing - all of which are included in the price - there is also the friendly and professional nature of the management and staff, which, in the intimate environment of the San Lucianu Hotel in Corsica, noticably came to the fore.

The eldest wasn't very impressed when we first arrived though.  He said he wanted to go back to Lemnos, where we stayed last year, exploring a Mark Warner holiday as a single parent family and he took a bit of persuading to keep an open mind!

This is one of their smaller centres, with around only 160 guests staying when we were there (and a maximum capacity for 250), but I liked the feel of it.  It was quite cosy - yet not intrusively so - and the children could roam more freely than usual, because it was possible to still keep a keen eye on them.  They soon got to grips with that and, together with being able to sign himself in and out of his Kids Club, now he's old enough to be in the next group up from last time, the eldest began to like his extra independence, mercilessly milked it over the next few days and was quite quickly won round after all!

But how could he not be?  Here is the sight that greeted us from our (Superior) room.  We would learn that this pool is for proper swimming as it's unattended and that there are two others for proper playing - one for tots that's supervised by a lifeguard all day and an adjoining one that was central to our stay.  These are blessed with the beautiful mountain backdrop that some of the other bedrooms overlook.

mark warner, corsica, san lucianu,
The pool for proper swimming.

The pools for proper playing.
We were very lucky to be with these lovely other bloggers on an official press trip and it was interesting to see how differently we interpreted what was available.  Most of us did our own thing.

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L-R - Jen, the Manager, Carissa, Alice, me, Julie, Lisa, Charly, Emma and Amanda.
Carissa and her Little Likely Lads, loved trying out new sports, Alice and Emma have five children between them, two of whom have special needs, so they were exploring that angle.  Julie (five of her own) enjoyed keeping up a fitness routine that has seen her lose 55lbs in the last six months, Charly (famous for her photography) took advantage of lots of tennis coaching with her husband and Lisa (famous for her videos) liked being out to sea, while Amanda and Kate (not pictured), when not focusing on their new collaborative project, relaxed and checked out some of the spa treatments.  Well, someone had to...   

Karen, who has been travel blogging since before it became fashionable is also, sadly, not present in this group shot.  She worked on her websites and supported her fellow Scot whilst watching Wimbledon and, additionally, Monika was temporarily missing in action as she’d hired a car and gone out to explore Corsica with her kids, covering six hundred kilometres in three days!  

Others only made it to Moriani, the local town, which is just a short walk (or kayak!) away, but better than that was a (free) organized outing to a local waterfall and a few of us spent a special afternoon there, swimming and standing under it, feeling spiritually cleansed and fortified.  Apart from the bit when the eldest decided to climb up and throw himself off a rock from half way up (see the video below).  That kind of had the opposite effect.  

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This was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life!
But we were all glad we’d done it.  The freezing water is welcome after a hot and, sometimes, tricky trek.  It’s good to be guided there and, although they advise it for children over age 14 only, mine managed it easily enough.  It’s currently put on weekly, but directions can be given should you prefer to go it alone.   

On other days, we took up a recommendation of a (50 Euro return in a taxi) visit to Cervione, a village in the mountain we'd heard about, but, generally speaking, it’s tough to tear yourself away from the facilities on site.  Most of the children were taken care of for parts or all of the day and if you’re not satisfied with your biggest decisions being beach / pool, sun / shade and beer / cocktail when they're not around, there's plenty of stuff to do.  It's not only the  youngsters who can be improving their water-sport and tennis skills courtesy of this company - it's what they do!  

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Learning to sail, a kayak safari to Moriani for Italian ice cream (10 Euros) and a wind-surfing lesson.
Plus, there’s (all also included) guided mountain biking (adults only) – or again, you can go out independently and there are frames suitable for bigger children if they fancy joining you.  There’s a volleyball match every day, a small football pitch, a badminton court and table tennis as well as water polo, aqua aerobics and copious other exercise classes.  

The beach is all white sand and huge and there are loads of loungers.  Towels are for hire - although they rather risk annoying aficionados of Mark Warner as they're normally supplied as standard and some of us consciously won't have packed any - but there is my new favourite place in the world to sit around and watch it go by after all that exertion - their brand new beach bar.  It. Has. Sofas.  But, please be warned, you may get much too comfortable listening to George Ezra and the like and have your heart completely captured by Corsica - or 'Fritaly,' as my kids call it!

mark warner, corsica, san lucianu, beach bar,
My new favourite place in the world. A beach bar with sofas!
This is the place where gentle evening entertainment takes place. It normally starts at 10pm (not forgetting the complimentary Kids Clubs go on until 11pm) with a variety of quizzes, although at the outset of the week and scheduled much earlier, are orientation and a wine tasting.  

The table wine with meals is not included as gratis here - but, again, it usually is.  However, who can complain when we get to try out a variety of ones from within the vicinity of San Lucianu - so we can be confident when ordering them?

Wine is the biggest produce of the island, but it's rarely exported because it's so good the locals like to consume it all!  And it's customary for restaurants to serve only those from their area, so you can drink different ones depending on where you're dining around it.  (Now there's a holiday idea if ever there were one!).  The reds and roses I 'researched' were fresh, full bodied and moreish and it's offered by the bottle which can be kept with your name on, if it lasts that long (*winks at Amanda*) and this, way, it works out less expensive than purchasing it by the glass, if you prefer.    

Another difference from the larger resorts is the slightly more sophisticated a la carte arrangement for dinner, where individual wines will be recommended for each meal selection.  There are meat, fish, vegetarian and gluten free choices, all presented prettily and, seeing as it's all fairly informal, we found this adds to its charm.    

Breakfasts and lunches are buffets comprising food still sourced, as always, as locally as possible - fantastic fresh fruit and pastries, meats and cheeses.  There is an egg cooking cum (excellent) pizza station, lots of seafood, pasta, salads and baguettes as well as a Dish of the Day.  It's not always the Tuscan fayre Wikipedia promises, but it will certainly please most palates.  Do look out for the Tapenade - it's terrific!

Bookings for half board are taken with the option of upgrading to full board - at £35 per child and £49 per adult (paid in advance) for the whole week.  Fresh water is served everywhere, but some squash put on for the kids wouldn't go amiss so they don't sting us for so many 'mocktails.'  Paninis and chips are available in the beach bar (5 and 3 Euros), again, if you prefer, but you'd be missing out on some seriously lush French desserts.  Those on full board can request to have a packed lunch prepared for them if they're going out for the day.

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In the end, the eldest said it was 'Epic because of the choice of activities.'  The youngest had a ball with everything and particularly enjoyed being in the childrens' show on the last night.  I managed to do some decent swimming, alongside a little mix of work, rest and fun and found the place perfect considering I was travelling as a lone parent.  All in all, we loved it.

This is a 3*** rated resort - and priced as such, but we think it's better than that.  Our holiday would have come in at around £900 each at full price, yet a last minute substantial discount can often be found and bring it down to around half that.  (Drinks and any private lessons are extra.  Group stuff and independent hire of their equipment - for those who are confident enough - are included.  For those who aren't yet, a parent and child sail with an instructor can be paid for).

Mark Warner Corsica is compact without being quaint and strikes a brilliant balance between being as quiet or lively as you want it to be, depending on your mood of the moment.  Their format is tried and tested and it works for everyone - to the extent they recently won 'Best Family tour Operator' in the Sunday Times travel magazine.

All their resorts, reliably, have heaps to offer and the video at the very end of this post - made mainly to capture the marvellous memories - gives you an opportunity to check out San Lucianu more thoroughly, see the kind of things we got up to and decide whether you want to or can be be taken by it (or elsewhere) too.

mark warner, corsica, san lucianu,
Lively and fun, San Lucianu, Corsica.
Our video -

Disclosure - We were invited on our holiday for the purposes of this review.  All words, opinions and pics are our own or kindly shared by the other bloggers.