Travelling With Mother; 60th birthday, Bahamas, Paris & London edition

We arrived at the Warwick Resort after a very pleasant flight in business class with British Airways at around 4pm, and our room still wasn’t ready. Check-in was the slowest process I’ve ever experienced at a hotel! Granted, we had to show our covid paperwork, but we had all of it in order so I’m not sure that’s what held us up. When we left, there was a massive queue of people checking-in so I think there’s a bit of work to do to speed up the process.

The resort is billed as a four star deluxe, but not by European standards. The place looked a little tired and didn’t quite meet the expectations set by the glossy pictures on their website. Some of the nice decorative touches in the rooms had been removed as “high touch” areas so the room felt a little bland.

We’d upgraded to a deluxe harbour view room but I didn’t expect the harbour to be a freight port. There was a nice view if you craned your neck to the left otherwise it was quite industrial. The little beach lagoon did add something to the resort, if you ignored the trawlers in the background.

We also weren’t told about the building work at the side of the hotel before we arrived so the beach wasn’t particularly relaxing as heavy duty trucks went up and down all day long.

Having said that, this is not a relaxing resort anyway. As there’s not many all inclusive resorts in The Bahamas, the Warwick seems to attract a party crowd from the US and Canada. Although it is adults only, so no kids running wild, there’s drunk 20somethings running wild. Music blared from the pool bar, people hollering, shouting and whooping. Shots at 10am. Not really what I had in mind for our holiday!

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a drink and may or may not have got rather drunk myself one night, but I mistakenly took adults only four star deluxe resort to mean something a bit more chilled out and refined.

We were there Thursday to Thursday and the place definitely got busier over the weekend. The Bahamas is so close to the US, it makes sense that a lot visit for the weekend.

The entertainment is geared to the hotel’s main market and is loud and inescapable. The music is so loud in the evening it’s impossible to have a conversation. We didn’t have amazing weather whilst we were there and it was a real struggle to find a seat inside where you weren’t buffeted by loud music. During rainy days, the lobby bar resembled a disaster relief centre. You either sat outside in the rain or in your room in order to avoid the cacophony.

It was same in the evening. There’s no where to sit away from the madness. We actually marvelled at how the atmosphere changed once scheduled entertainment finished and the dancing started. Mum likened it to Michael Jackson’s Thriller and she wasn’t far wrong. Considering that the hotel didn’t seem full for the duration of our stay, I actually dread to think what it would be like with a full house!

There’s 4 restaurants – the Verandah buffet, Abbiocco Italian, Edgewater Grill Seafood & Steakhouse and Tings on a Stick Asian a la carte restaurants plus Chickcharnies fast food place. Tings was closed for our whole stay because of staff shortages and the other two only opened on select nights for the same reason.

The breakfast buffet was the same every day, but you can kind of get away with it for breakfast. I definitely enjoyed the fresh fruit every morning, but by day 3, I couldn’t possibly eat anymore French toast and bacon with maple syrup. The oatmeal was a tasteless mess. The omelettes were good although they got 2 out of mum’s 3 orders wrong.

Apart from the oatmeal, none of the food was bad, it was all well cooked. The buffet was good quality but it was samey at lunch times, dinner did offer more choice and there was something different every night. Rice and beans with some kind of protein was the usual offering. Having said that, I did enjoy the sea food buffet and I’ve never had chicken in a bag (fried chicken) on a hotel buffet before! That was margarita night (less said about that, the better I reckon!) and who doesn’t love fried chicken when a little tipsy!

The a la carte restaurants were decent and we had a lovely steak in Abbiocco which had lovely dark decor, just my style.

We had 2 meals in Edgewater Grill and had mixed experiences. On both nights, we had the same server who seemed to be in a rush and threw the food down with such force, I thought it would slide off the table.

The food was excellent on the first night, I liked the mix and match menu concept so you could try smaller versions of menu items in the same meal. The ribs were delicious, although we did have to ask for bread on our first visit.

On our second visit, the bread was amazing, lovely warm rolls which just melted the butter right in to them, but both mine and mum’s mains were cold, and I mean cold. My king fish was so flaky and had a wonderful texture but was cold. After we sent it back, the blast in the microwave made the meat tough, even if it was still tasty. For both meals, the garlic mash was delicious but the star of the show was the mango crème brûlée. It really was stupendous, one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. I had it both nights, we both did!

We had a couple of lunches at Chickcharnies, which offered grab and go choices of jerk chicken and pork, hamburgers, hot dogs and salads. Again, the food was fine if not particularly healthy.

As Chickcharnies is by the pool, everything is served on disposable plates and cups, which is understandable, especially as you don’t want glass and crockery where people are walking barefoot. I was staggered, however, that almost everything is served in plastic. The plates in the buffet are plastic, as are the cups for drinks. The drinks served from all bars are in single use plastic cups. Everything is thrown away. They use paper straws which seems a bit pointless next to the amount of plastic they’re using. There were no obvious attempts to separate rubbish for recycling.

The beach at the hotel was nearly always covered in litter, plastic bottles and cups in the sand. The remnants of the water balloon toss game just left in the sand for birds to eat or get swept in to the sea. One morning, we woke to find chicken bones on sun beds and at least 7 empty bottles on the beach. I rounded up the bottles and asked at the bar for someone to clear them away. It took about 6 hours for someone to move them.

It made me angry that people can have so little consideration for their environment and clean up after themselves, but the hotel staff also didn’t seem to care. Leaving burst balloons in the sand for animals to eat is shocking.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side and we lost 2 full days to rain. There’s few activities to do inside the hotel or quiet corners to sit so I’m glad we booked a room with a balcony so we could at least go somewhere to read a book and wish the rain to pass.

I’d booked us a snorkelling trip with Flying Cloud which should have been a full day of sailing to a few different spots to snorkel, a visit to Rose Island and lunch, but the trip got cancelled with an hours notice due to the poor weather. We rebooked for the next day but only a half day as the next full day trip was on the day we were flying home.

Flying Cloud had changed their programme since I’d booked and the half day was now more expensive than the full day I’d paid for and didn’t include lunch. They wouldn’t honour the old half day price on the basis that the trip now included an All Inclusive bar, not that we were interested in an all inclusive bar. Bearing in mind that they don’t serve alcohol before snorkelling for the obvious safety reasons. We also didn’t get the visit to Rose Island. In the end, the 3 hour trip consisted of 2 hours sailing about with 1 hour snorkelling. The hour after snorkelling spent having music blasted at our ear drums.

I did enjoy the snorkelling even if it was a little chilly under the cloudy sky. There was loads of fish, big and small and of all colours and it was a pleasure to glimpse into their world for a while. Mum had bought a special underwater camera so hopefully some of the pictures will come out well! I did enjoy checking out the amazing houses along the coast line as well. You can only imagine the many millions those houses cost and who lives in them.

There is a lot of money sloshing around The Bahamas and that’s no more evident than on the water. Some of the yachts are incredible.

We had a walk over to the Atlantis Resort to check out the Marina View Shops and mall inside the hotel and some of the boats moored in the marina would have been mind blowingly expensive.

We had a wander around the hotel, casino and aquarium and hoped to get dinner at the resort but a lot of restaurants were closed and those that were open either didn’t have appealing menus or we couldn’t get a table. We stopped off a local place called Anthony’s on our walk back to the Warwick.

The meal was fine but it was a faff showing covid paperwork to get a table inside. Like at home, covid rules are implemented in different ways wherever you go. Anthony’s wanted to see proof of double jab, we had to show proof of negative tests to get in to the Atlantis Resort, Margaritaville didn’t ask for anything.

We also went for a walk around Paradise Island, there’s a Versailles Gardens at the Four Seasons which we wanted to check out ahead of our trip to the real Versailles in Paris. We were a bit put off by the No Trespassers signs but the hotel assured us we’d be fine walking around.

The hotel offers a guided bicycle tour which we signed up to do but the bike was too big for mum and she couldn’t ride it, so we walked the tour instead, which took us to the turtle pond, Versailles Gardens and we made our way back to the hotel via Cabbage Beach.

Cabbage Beach was disappointing. We were hassled for sun beds and all-you-can-drink cocktails and saw a drug deal before we even got to the sand. The sea looked beautiful but it was far too rough to swim in. I’m not sure if the tide was high but the beach was very narrow, not a lot of room at all. Maybe the hotels that have their own private slice have the best bits. We didn’t plan on staying at the beach but didn’t leave feeling like we missed anything.

I was a little worried about safety and walking around but it actually felt very safe on Paradise Island, even in the dark. Aside from the drug deal at Cabbage Beach, we didn’t notice any other illegal activity and didn’t feel threatened or unsafe at any point.

This was my second trip to The Bahamas and other than another visit to Atlantis in the future, I’m not sure I would rush back Paradise Island. Having said, there’s about 300 islands to explore so maybe we’ll just hire a yacht, they’re only about $30,000 a week! Or maybe a clipper cruise would be easier on the pocket!

After a week in The Bahamas, we arrived at CDG and made our way to the train station at Terminal 2, which was about a 15 minute walk. I wanted to get the RER train to Gare du Nord station in the centre of Paris rather than the Roissybus which we used on our last trip as we had so much luggage and the bus seems to take forever. As it was a Friday evening, I didn’t want to get stuck in traffic after such a long journey.

The train took about 30 minutes and we headed to get a taxi to the hotel. An Uber was priced at around €25 so I’m glad we caught a normal taxi which was €20 with a generous tip.

I was super impressed with the hotel as soon as we arrived. Beautifully decorated, so Parisian and chic, warm and welcoming. We dumped the bags and then checked out the breakfast room which serves free snacks from 2pm til 2am every day.

We sat in the snack room a couple of times, usually after getting back from a walk and there’s a decent selection of teas, coffees, juices and pastries. The chocolate tart was swoon-worthy. You can even use the free snacks at the hotel’s sister properties – all 16 of them – so if you’re exploring and happen across another Astotel property, you can pop in for a cuppa and it won’t cost you a penny. That’s pretty decent in an expensive city like Paris. They even give you a map at check-in so you know where the other hotels are.

I liked the honesty bar concept (fill in the sheet with the drinks you’ve had and pay on check-out) but weren’t much interested in alcohol after a week at an all inclusive, and the room is very brightly lit which isn’t great for a relaxing drink.

Breakfast each morning was one of the best quality breakfasts I’ve had in a hotel. Proper fruit juices, lovely fruit salad, delicious meats and cheeses and freshly made breads and pastries. It’s your usual continental style but it’s the quality which makes it stand out. Location wise, we were just a few minutes walk from the middle of the Champs Elysées.

For our first morning, we headed down to the Place de la Concorde to see the execution site for Louis 16th and Marie-Antoinette, popping in to various shops along the Champs Elysèes on the way.

We crossed the River Seine and took a steady walk towards the Eiffel Tower which we had pre-booked tickets for. I am glad we booked ahead as the tower was very busy, even though the website said crowds were medium.

There was a massive line to buy tickets to go up the tower and I was concerned about the signs saying that the top was closed, which turned out to mean that tickets for the summit were sold out.

We spent about 3 hours at the tower and about 2 hours of that waiting in lines for elevators. It was very breezy so you definitely need to wrap up on cold days.

The views are spectacular and I loved seeing the exposed engineering and bones of the tower. The elevator rides are quite fun, but stand in the middle if you’re not good with heights. I felt a little woozy peering out over the streets of Paris as we went up and down the tower. If you’re able, I’d also recommend taking the stairs from the summit to level 2. It’s an easy walk and you get to see right inside the structure, similar to the climb at the Statue of Liberty in New York, but not as good.

After the tower, we crossed the river to the Trocadéro Gardens – one of the best viewing points for the tower in the city – and headed to the Arc de Triomphe. I’ve been inside the tower before but we just made a brief photoshop before making our way back to the hotel and the free snack bar!

After a recharge, we headed back out to see the hourly (on the hour) sparkle of the Eiffel Tower. We took up position on the Pont de l’Alma bridge, just next to the Princess Diana memorial, which was an ideal spot to see the lights. Just be careful walking along the river as it’s not well lit and easy to trip over tree roots, as one of us found out! The sparkle only lasts about 5 minutes so it didn’t take much out of the evening to go and see it. Another fab spot to see the lights – and city in general – is from the top of the Montparnasse Tower. At 56 stories, it stands miles above anything else around it and the views are amazing.

We were up bright and early the next day for the whole reason we came to Paris – to go to the Palace of Versailles, something which had been on mum’s bucket list for a while.

We walked to the Pont de l’Alma train station, which was about 20 minutes from the hotel and caught a direct train to Versailles Rive Gauch station. The yellow line train takes less than half an hour and it’s less than 10 minutes walk from the station to the Palace. The ride costs €7.50pp return.

We didn’t do a guided tour of the palace but did use the audio guide which gave interesting commentary about the history of the palace and the art work on display. It took just under 2 hours to explore the palace and I always enjoy learning about history, especially when there’s an infamous back story like there is here.

After the palace, there’s extensive gardens to explore either on foot, bike, little train or golf buggy. We, of course, chose the latter! The 1 hour initial rental is only just enough time for brief photo stops at key monuments around the site so we didn’t go inside the Petite or Grand Trianon buildings. The buggy can only also only go on certain routes but I still loved bombing about listening to French classical music on the carts stereo! I definitely want to do this again, maybe in summer, so I can spend more time exploring the gardens in detail.

Paris just didn’t seem as bustling on this trip, as it did when me and the other half went a few years back. Nearly all of the restaurants around the hotel were closed, and we were there over the weekend. The Champs Elysèes was busy, but if you moved a street or two away, it was dead. So many little brasseries closed, we really struggled to find somewhere to grab a drink. I’m guessing this is the impact of covid so hopefully it’ll pass.

Traffic was mental getting to Gare du Nord so it was a bit of a rush when we got to the station. There was a crowd of people surrounding 2 Eurostar employees with phones and papers in their hands but no order or indication as to what was happening. I pushed myself to the front and turns out they were asking for the UK passenger locator form. I showed ours on my phone, the guy barely glanced at it. We then headed through French and British passport control and then security. We were through to the lounge in less than 10 minutes.

We boarded about 30 minutes before departure and lunch was served within about 20 minutes of leaving Paris. I had salmon with a turmeric gloop and mum had a goats cheese pie. Both were fine but I enjoyed mine more than mum liked hers. The apple and frangipani tart was delicious but would have been so much better with some cream!

Knowing that we had to have our day 2 covid tests, I’d booked a hotel near to St Pancras so we could drop our bags, get the tests done and crack on with the holiday.

Once the tests were done, we headed out to Leicester Square to see the little Christmas market. Getting in to the festive spirit with bratwurst, mulled wine and hot chocolate. Mum loves a Christmas market and seemed to enjoy checking out the stalls.

After browsing the stalls, we walked around Regent Street and Piccadilly checking out the Christmas lights and window displays. Fortnum & Mason was spectacular!

We were up early for our last day, but only because mum had her alarm still on Paris time so it went off an hour earlier than we wanted! We had our sights set on visiting the Tower of London so got there for it opening at 1000. It’s quite pricey to get in, £30 each, but if you’re going to London by train, check out the BOGOF offer with your train tickets and Days Out Guide. Even if not travelling by train, a little hack is to buy a cheap train ticket to London for the day you’ll visit the attraction and you can still get the offer. This’ll work across the UK, not just in London.

Just like at Versailles, this is my kind of history, and the free guided tour by warden Gary was hilarious and informative. Learning about the Tudors was one of my favourite things at school so walking in their footsteps was thrilling for me. Mum particularly enjoyed seeing the Crown Jewels, which were very impressive. We even had a brief visit from a raven, they’re bloody massive!

We spent about 3 hours exploring the tower, including 45 minutes for the guided tour. There were areas that we didn’t explore fully so it’d be great to go back. You could easily fill 4 hours which isn’t bad value for £15 each.

We made our way back to the hotel via Oxford Street but we didn’t have long as we were booked for an early pre-theatre dinner in the west end.

As this trip should have been to Vietnam and Cambodia, I’d booked us in to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner, but they had to close unexpectedly and cancelled our reservation. We ended up eating at Steak & Co near Piccadilly Circus, it’s a small chain with a few restaurants dotted around London.

We were greeted warmly and the restaurant manager knew that it was mums birthday and gave his best wishes whilst showing us to our table. We were discussing which drinks to have and I suggested the candy floss Prosecco to celebrate and before we could order it, 2 appeared at our table. The server either overheard us or it was a stunning coincidence.

Our server was very attentive and explained the concept when we asked why we hadn’t been asked how we wanted our steaks cooking. Cooking on the hot stone was a lot of fun! We got in to a little process of pre-cutting all of our meat before cooking it, cutting up the veg and nibbling on an onion ring whilst it cooked. Once it was ready, a bit of meat, a bit of veg and a dash of sauce. Delicious! The only negative is that your clothes stink afterwards!

When the dessert came out, the staff sang happy birthday to mum and as well as giving us free Prosecco, they gave mum her dessert for free too! I’m so glad we did this rather than the Vietnamese, it was a great experience, great food and great service.

Feeling satisfied, we took the short walk to the Lyric theatre to see Get Up, Stand Up, The Bob Marley Musical. Mum is a big fan of Bob and it felt appropriate to carry on the Caribbean vibe.

The show was excellent, even if some of the Jamaican dialect was a bit hard to follow! The show follows Bob from a child, being sent away by his mum, to founding The Whalers and then his involvement in the political struggle in Jamaica in the 70s. It was an interesting story and a sad ending with cancer taking his life at such a young age.

Unfortunately, the emotional ending was somewhat ruined by the ignorant behaviour of 2 women sat on the row in front of us who had clearly had a bit too much wine and were laughing and talking between themselves. Other people talked through the show too and I got so annoyed that I told them to shush. I’ve experienced this before in cinemas and theatres but it was particularly bad this time, probably because I was sat about 2 feet from the offenders. Why on earth people think it’s acceptable to behave like this is beyond me. It was a complete distraction from what I’d paid to see on stage and unbelievably rude. What’s wrong with people?

And that was it. The end of another epic holiday.

14 nights.

9500 miles.

4 hotels.

3 countries.

3 flights.

3 trains.

Date of trip; November 2021

Price paid; £950.00 per person for 7 nights all inclusive at the Warwick Resort booked via hotels.com. £225.00 per person for 3 nights B&B at the Hotel Bradford Eleysées booked direct. £180.00 per person for 2 nights B&B at the Pullman St Pancras booked direct. $120.00 per person for the sailing trip with Flying Cloud. €25.00 per person for the Eiffel Tower. €20.00 per person for Versailles plus €36.00 for the golf buggy.

Points earned; 1080 Avios for paying for the Pullman St Pancras on my BA Premium Plus credit card. Everything else was paid using my MBNA Horizon credit card which charges 0% foreign exchange and pays 0.5% cash back.

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