The airport security woman shouts as she pushes out plastic trays: ‘Anyone with tablets?’ My mother keenly holds aloft her plastic bag of medication. Collective eye rolls and giggles – even from the security woman before she continued: ‘Laptops anyone? Mobile phones?’
As an anecdote it does not, thankfully, reflect our inaugural multi-generational holiday, made up of my parents – who are in their 70s, my partner – who is in his 50s – and our five-year-old daughter. We’d all lived abroad and were well travelled, but how would it work with us on holiday together?
Spoiler: it worked a treat – forensic planning was key with a sprinkling of psychology thrown in. Without sounding too mindful, I learnt about patience.
Hideaway: The Vermentinu Primonte villa where Sarah Hartley took her parents, partner and five-year-old daughter
A priority was to discover somewhere new and, after discussions, Corsica ticked the boxes for award-winning white-sand beaches, sensational French and Italian food and stunning scenery. Plus there would only be a smattering of British tourists, as most head to Sardinia.
A villa holiday, it was agreed, would be cost-effective, plus afford us some privacy so we could truly relax without having to interact with hotel staff or guests. I asked around and Simpson Travel came out tops.
It was worth taking time to deliberate over the villa to suit us all. Was it idyllic enough? Was the garden on a gradient too steep for my parents to enjoy? Was the swimming pool too accessible for our five-year-old? Could head chef be prepping and still talk to everyone? We chose Vermentinu Primonte, a real gem of a villa near the chic harbour town of Porto Vecchio, on the south-east of the island and a short drive from beaches.
Perched on the crest of a hill, it had mesmerising views across vineyards towards Santa Giulia beach, less than ten minutes away by car. Four bedrooms slept seven – so there was a spare room (snorers’ retreat) just in case. A teak terrace wrapped around the villa gave each bedroom a private area with loungers to sit quietly with a book. A WhatsApp group was set up and was brilliant for answering questions speedily and sharing photos afterwards. To ease our way on to the plane, we booked long-term parking at Stansted and fast-track security.
We chose a hire car (dubbed the tour bus) to seat seven so we could spread out. My partner was the designated driver as the hairpin bends would have been intimidating for older drivers. We also swapped places in the car every journey as even a grandparent can tire of a five-year-old singing show tunes.
Corsica itself was a revelation. It was like a hot Cornwall, with craggy, rocky shorelines and tiny sandy coves. We could meander down to the sea on stony paths lined with yellow gorse, heavy thicket trees, lavender, and myrtle – an indigenous herb used to create a liqueur that makes a perfect aperitif mixed with prosecco.
Shore delight: Santa Giulia beach, which was a 10-minute drive from Sarah’s villa
Beach life is chic and discreet so if you want bling and blinis, head to Sardinia. This is where the French elite holiday – if you squint you can spot their homes dotted around the hills – and there are no high-rise resorts.
At our villa we were greeted by the scent of sweet jasmine, which curled across the white walls. A green salamander darted across the terrace where blue pots of red geraniums framed the perfect shot to the sea.
Inside was expensively decorated, with every detail thought of – from laundry powder to a basket laden with local chestnut biscuits and other treats. The superbly equipped kitchen made cooking a joy and Joelle, the local Simpson representative, stopped by armed with restaurant tips and advice.
A separate TV room meant a Chelsea football game at full volume did not disturb the readers. A petanque terrain in the shade of olive trees was ideal for winding down with our daughter at the end of the day. The pool on a lower terrace had its own bar and outdoor kitchen, and the loungers were favourites for taking in That View.
Sarah says that beach life is chic and discreet in Corsica (stock image)
Independent villa and boutique hotel specialist Simpson Travel offers villas in Corsica and has local representatives to help while there.
Prices for villas from £520pp for seven nights, based on four sharing, including flights, car hire and seven nights’ accommodation. Visit simpsontravel.com/corsica.
We set up a breakfast buffet, eaten on the terrace, which meant my father – who reads a daily book before 9am – was not twiddling his thumbs before we pitched up. We took it in turns to cook and shop at markets which, when every ingredient is fresh, was a treat rather than a chore.
To eat out only at lunch made sense – we could enjoy a day on the beach or exploring the town of Bonifacio, then at night flop ‘at home’. Even a beach club lunch was a sophisticated affair with heavy cutlery and wine glasses. Think scented herb salads with goat’s cheese, fig and black chestnut honey or platters of local seafood. Such elegance comes at a price (£13-£25 per head) but every meal and beach was memorable.
We agreed that the package from Simpson was great value, and when my mother asked if we could stay for another week, she voiced what we’d all have liked.
There will be flashpoints, of course, but the only flashes came from me: ‘Why are you washing up by hand when we have a dishwasher? And you have a dishwasher at home and you are on holiday?’ Dad: ‘I want to wash up by hand.’ I had to learn a Gaelic shrug. I’d long ago taught my five-year-old about patience and now it was my turn.
‘What is patience?’ I shout towards the pool where she and Granny are splashing.
‘A VIRTUE!’ she shouts back.
TOP TIPS FOR MAKING A ‘MULTI-GEN’ TRIP A HIT
- Allow more time for everything. Whether it’s deciding where to have lunch or walking around a town – it will always take longer.
- Find out what you all want from a holiday – a spa, a villa with a pool, sports facilities – because if one person isn’t happy, no one is happy.
- Different generations do things differently. No one is right or better. Some people are determined to wash up by hand even if there’s a dishwasher.
- Nothing’s worse than worrying about money, so agree a budget and try to stick with it. Travel with cash as well as credit cards (and consider paying into a kitty) to make it easier to split taxi fares and restaurant bills.
- It’s OK just to want to relax at home. Older generations may not want to be off and out exploring every day.
- Look at transfer times as well as flight times. There’s nothing like two or more hours in a coach with hungry, tired children to get things off to a bad start. Consider paying for a private transfer if you can afford it.
- Remember that you are not all joined at the hip and should do your own things occasionally. Meet up for lunch or dinner to share your experiences.
- Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that the grandparents will always be happy to mind the kids – it’s their holiday too.
- You’ll find your groove. About day three, everyone will find a natural rhythm and a natural role.
- Your idea of a gentle stroll might not be so gentle to everyone!