Sorrento ItalyI can’t believe a year has passed since we went to Sorrento and I still haven’t got around to writing about it. That just goes to prove how hard it is juggling a blog and a full-time job… oh and an extended family, a house, a home and all of the other bits and pieces that go in to make the normal run-of-the-mill life. There is never enough time in the day!

We visited last year, just Paul and I, to attend our friend’s wedding. Trust me, Sorrento makes a wonderfully romantic venue for tieing the knot.

Although I lived in Italy for almost 20 years, I never got to see Sorrento and the surrounding area. I had heard of its beauty many times and knew it was extremely popular the world over. Sorrento was firmly on my bucket list and our wedding invitation was the perfect occasion to tick it off.

Cloisters Sorrento

The Cloisters in Sorrento is the perfect wedding venue.

As the wedding was to be held on the Saturday, we decided to ask the grandparents to look after the girls for a few days and make a short break out of it, after all, what’s the point of going all that way to turn around and come straight back? I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing the places I had heard so much about.

lemon tree sorrento

When anyone speaks of Sorrento in Italy, you hear descriptive words like lemons, music, stunning views and romance – in Italian obviously but I’ll save you that for now. I had conjured up a meraviglioso picture in my mind and I was curious to see how close my thoughts were to reality.

Getting to Sorrento

Getting to Sorrento is fun. We booked flights into Naples – another notorious city I want to return to one day. Then from the city you have a few options – hire a car and drive along the coast, jump on a coach or bus, get a taxi or take the ferry and sail around the coast to the harbour of Sorrento. Guess which option we went for?

The ferry!

Naples to Sorrento ferry

In order to do this, you have to catch a bus from the airport to Naples harbour. It’s not difficult and there are plenty of instructions online in places like TripAdvisor. It’s cheap and easy and on arrival, there are plenty of places where you can buy your ticket. All of them speak English and will be able to direct you to the right dock.

There are various ferries and we caught the one above. It meant we had to sit inside and couldn’t see much out of the windows that were covered in sea salt but there was a great Italian waiter who was selling drinks and snacks, so we bought a couple of beers to get into the holiday mood.

Cheers to being a couple for a few days and cin cin to Italia!

The ferry doesn’t take long and our friends due to marry were waiting in the harbour for us, they had been there a couple of days already, as stated by Italian law when you get married in the country.

Sorrento harbour Italy

Wheeling the suitcase into town – luckily there’s a lift in the cliff!

We stopped for drinks with them and then made our way via a lift in the cliff up to the town and on to our hotel with plans to meet later for dinner.

Hotels in Sorrento

We did what everyone does – pump ‘Hotels in Sorrento’ into the search box and click go. Up came the normal sites and after a few days of research, we decided on Hotel Europa. It was walking distance from the centre, situated on the coast and had some great reviews.

Hotel Europa Palace Sorrento

We weren’t disappointed – apart from the noise from the road, the Sorrentini do love to hit their hooters! The hotel had a charm of years-gone-by. I could imagine being here in the 20’s and being part of the ‘in crowd’. Our bedroom was comfortable and there were some lovely facilities, like the swimming pool and beach.

Hotel Europa Sorrento

Places to eat in Sorrento

We had booked bed and breakfast as we knew we’d be out and about during the days and eating with our friends in the evenings. We needn’t have worried as Sorrento is a town full of restaurants, pizzerias, bars and various eateries to suit all pockets. The streets are lined with choice – fish, pasta, pizza, meat, you name it, you can find it and freshly cooked too with wonderful waiting service. Prices are reasonable plus, if you’re lucky, there is a glass of limoncello offered by the house with the bill. Salute!

eating in Sorrento

Shopping in Sorrento

If like me, you like to buy things to take home that remind you of your time spent in a place, you won’t be disappointed. Sorrento has streets and alleys lined with shops selling everything you’d imagine to buy; leather, limoncello, ceramics, oil paintings and much more. I adored the handmade leather sandals, typical to the area but couldn’t verify spending €100 on a pair no matter how beautiful they were. Reluctantly leaving the overpriced sandals to one side, I filled our suitcase with limoncello, an oil painting, a leather purse, a beautiful scarf and plenty more bits and pieces.

You will love the shopping!

shopping in sorrento

Things to do in Sorrento

There are plenty of romantic things to do in Sorrento – getting married has to be the best by far! But we also enjoyed beautiful walks along the stunning coastline, through the town and stopping on the clifftops to watch the sunset is a must. There’s a wide terrace where people congregate to watch the sun descend over the sea, luckily there is a bar there too, so order an Aperol spritz and enjoy the moment.

sunset in Sorrento

sunset in sorrento

Fun things to do in Sorrento

Sorrento is beautifully positioned as the perfect base for exploring the area and on our 4-night break we managed to fit in Vesuvio, Pompei and the Island of Capri which I shall be writing about separately as they were so impressive.

Enjoy some of my favourite photos that I took in Sorrento.

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short break sorrento

elveden Forest

If you could hear me I would have started this post with a sigh of contentment, a lovely relaxing ‘ahhhh’ which encourages a huge smile and all my facial muscles to relax.

Let me explain.

I have recently returned from a short break. I left my husband and family behind and together with some colleagues from work I headed off to the forest for a long weekend. It was a Friday, the girls were at school, husband at work, Tommy too and Baxter would be looked after by next door. As I sat in the backseat driving along the motorway, further and further from home, I allowed my excitement to bubble to the surface and I started to forget about packed lunches, spellings to learn, dance bags that needed washing and my weekly shopping list.

I hadn’t even arrived yet but I was most certainly in the short break spirit.

There’s something about a short break that’s almost as exciting as a holiday, in fact scrap that, it’s better as it’s a break in normality. It’s two fingers to routine, in fact I’d go as far as saying it’s naughty. Like a secret indulgence that is to be savoured and remembered long after it’s been and gone.

elveden forest

On this occasion I was going on a girly weekend but it would be just the same if I was to travel with my family. It’s the getting away from it all that is key to the enjoyment.

It’s the leaving everything behind; the worries, the work, the washing, the ironing and the constant feeling of being on a treadmill that never stops.

It’s the ‘throw some bits in a bag and jump in the car’ escapism that adds to the thrill.

elveden forest

On that note, you can see it’s less stressful than packing for a two week summer holiday; will it be hot, do I need a cardigan, don’t forget your sun cream. This is a weekend bag, I need my toothbrush, a couple of changes and my coat. So easy!

Will it rain? Most likely yes, but on a short break it’s not a problem, we can sit in and light the fire, we can watch that DVD we’ve been threatening to for months. We can cook our favourite meals, or even take a walk in the rain.

Pack the wellies! A last minute thought but one that works, after all we’re going in the car and there’s plenty of room.

elveden forest treehouse

I cannot tell you how good I feel after my Center Parcs short break, we’re all still talking about in the office and everyone enjoyed it so much there’s already a conversation about repeating the experience next year.

In case you’re wondering what I got up to on my short break, well, I ate a super burger that was delicious and worth every penny. I walked for miles filling my lungs with the pine smell of the forest, I saw treehouses, squirrels, baby deer playing and birds, lots of birds. I went bowling and lost, I talked until gone midnight with a glass of wine in my hand (might have been two).

I ate Bouillabaisse and danced until midnight in heels – yes me in heels! Dancing!

I went on the most amazing Aerial Adventure and slid down the zip wire whooping at the top of my voice across the lake. An amazing experience.

elveden forest zipwire

I spent an afternoon in a spa floating from one steam room to the next, each one a different theme, Indian, Tyrolean, Balinese. I closed my mind and concentrated on me.

I vowed to do this short break lark more often.

Oh yes, go on a short break, you’ll love it.

Enjoying Bognor Regis with the girlsOur most recent Butlins Bognor Regis break was The Best Ever. Thank you so much Butlins for asking me to be a Butlins Ambassador again for 2013 too – yippee!

I’ve been challenged on Twitter recently, the statement was ‘If it’s for free the review is bound to be positive’ and yes it is lovely to be a Butlins Ambassador and receive a free holiday for my family to enjoy but if I cannot find fault, if all of the staff are genuinely nice and happy, the room is clean and comfortable, the food is varied and delicious and the Splash Waterworld is Out Of This World. What shall I do? Make it up?

Never! Check this out :D

Shoreline Hotel accommodation

We were given a Nelson Stateroom in the Shoreline Hotel with a huge terrace overlooking the sea. The wall of glass separating us from that view opened up the room even more and gave it such a glamorous feel it was like rubbing shoulders with the celebs! The girls had their own room with bunk beds and a TV. The main room served as our bedroom but had an area with a sofa and coffee table too.

The housekeeping team are really lovely and left towel art on the bed every day.

Butlins Shoreline Hotel

Paul on the phone: I’m on the beach. Can you see me?

Butlins Entertainment guide

On checking in you get given the entertainment guide and it’s really easy to follow. Check the colour box of the age of your kids and start to choose from those events. We saw a brilliant Lazytown production, Beauty and the Beast panto (excellent), Mike the Knight stage production – the kids LOVED it, Cirque du Carnival (utterly breathtaking) In fact there is so much to do you won’t fit it all in.

Butlins for family holidays

Splash Waterworld

The Bognor Regis Splash Waterworld is even better than the one at Butlins Skegness which we reviewed earlier in the year because it has a bumpy slide that children can use (our girls aged 4 loved it) plus another 3 slides, one of which the Space bowl and also a Master Blaster run where you sit in a dinghy and whizz around the closed circuit with bumps and hills and slides and you end up diving down a chute into a long stretch of water, it is awesome, I tried it out just for you.

Butlins by the sea

image courtesy of David Weekes

Butlins fairground

There’s a fairground for big people and then there’s a mini fairground for small people. Even the people looking after the rides interact with the kids giving them high fives as they pass by and generally making sure everyone is enjoying themselves.

There’s a Driving School – a piste with pedal operated cars which little ones sit on and drive round. Your worst problem will be dragging them away from it!

Then there’s Bob the Builder’s play area, a huge sand pit with diggers, and pulleys and all sorts of contraptions to keep the kids busy.

Butlins Bognor Regis

Butlins dining plan

Possibly the most important thing on your holiday review checklist? Food. Butlins have various options to choose from, we were on the half board dining plan and ate in the Shoreline Hotel restaurant. As the Shoreline Hotel caters for families with young children the restaurant opens around 5pm and closes at 9pm circa you are invited to book a table at your preferred time to avoid long queues – never good with hungry, tired children. Then it’s eat as much as you can. The little ones have their own serving station with Annabel Karmel recipes, there is plenty to choose from and we even managed to introduce a couple of new tastes too.

One last thing I have to mention is you can invite friends or family to come and visit for a day whilst you are there. Butlins very kindly gave us a family pass for Paul’s twin and family who spent the most fantastic day with us, we were able to take them all over the complex, fairgrounds, swimming pool and restaurant too. Thank you Butlins x

TOP Butlins tips

  • You can use your vouchers to eat elsewhere on the resort, I wanted to try out Turner’s restaurant and made my way over Sunday morning but I was too late, they were fully booked. So book on day 1 if you’d like to do this. ;)
  • Staying at the Shoreline Hotel you can visit Billy Butlins in his bedroom for storytime and tuck him into bed.
  • You can book a table for the character breakfast
  • you can post a letter to Billy who will leave his reply in your room.

So many fun things to do that keep the children totally awed and make sure parents get to relax and enjoy themselves too. A proper family holiday. Find out more here Butlins plenty of last minute deals if you’re still looking ;)

Disclosure: Our Butlins Bognor Regis short 3 night break with dining plan costs £1,164 for 4 (2 adults +2) with daily housekeeping included we were kindly offered this holiday by Butlins in return for a fair review and we LOVED it.

Butlins t shirtsBe warned this is going to be a very positive review because we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and cannot find fault in any part of our Butlins holiday.

There’s nothing worse than having a short break booked up for months and when it arrives the weather forecast says rain, lots of rain and even more rain but that is not a worry if you’ve got yourself a Butlins holiday.

Our journey up to Skegness took us in and out of rain clouds crossing the UK and we count ourselves lucky that it stopped whilst we unpacked the car. It was quite weird to draw up to the drive in check-in that Butlins have in place, it seems like you’re going on a ferry or the Eurotunnel but there are plenty of staff directing you and at the cabin you’re handed your Butlins welcome pack which has the keys, an entertainment guide and your dining passes if you’ve pre booked them.

Throughout the four days we bumped into lots of members of the Butlins staff and I can say they all had a smile on their faces and were eager to help and chat which is so refreshing these days.

Gold apartment Butlins skegness

We were assigned a Gold apartment which is the top of the range and as you can see from the video it is a home from home environment. Clean, warm and with every mod con available including a dishwasher, hairdryer and two TVs, one in the lounge area and one in the main bedroom. There were some lovely welcome touches including bathroom products, tea/coffee/sugar and UHT milk plus cleaning products including 2 tablets for the dishwasher.

gold apartment butlins inside

Settled in off we went to explore and luckily the rain held off as Skegness Butlins is a huge area to cover, practically a village. We made for the Skyline Pavilion where all the entertainment was to take place and we stopped at the Jellyfish bar for our first drink of the weekend. The Skyline Pavilion is humongous a large central area with a stage and dotted around the edge, supermarket, restaurants, shops, a theatre, amusement arcades, bars, a cinema and a Sky Sports room showing football matches and ten pin bowling.

Billy Butlins on stage

The entertainment guide is colour coded according to the children’s age and there is something for everyone happening all the time or if you don’t fancy that take a swim in the Splash World swimming pool or try the free rides at the fun fair as many times as you want.

Billy Butlins

I’m telling you it’s impossible to do the lot and just trying to photograph it all for you was exhausting.

Coast restaurant Skegness Butlins

Then came Pauls’ favourite bit, the Premium Dining Package which included breakfast and evening meals. We ate at Coast restaurant which is particularly geared up for small children so at times was quite noisy but there was a see through cube in the centre of the restaurant with soft cushions and games for  the children to play with whilst mum and dad finish their meal in peace. This is an excellent idea but at times it proved difficult to get the girls to finish their meals as they wanted to go off and play.

Full english Breakfast

The food is buffet and Eat As Much As You Can which my other half put to the test, it was his mission let’s say for this break and he managed a three course breakfast (fruit salad starter followed by two English  very FULL breakfasts) and he also had three course evening meals. The girls were delighted with the ice cream machine and I have to say the Annabel Karmel children’s menu was very good indeed, if only they sat still long enough to finish it.

Paul wants me to underline that he would thoroughly recommend the Premium Dining Package

butlins photo opp

One last word about Butlins is the cleanliness, whilst we were eating the staff are constantly cleaning finished plates from the tables, laying the tables for the next customers, sweeping the floor and making sure everyone is happy. They truly do care that you have a good time. Another nice touch was the fact I was able to buy a bottle of wine the first night and leave it behind the bar to drink on consecutive nights rather than have to take it away with me.

skyline gang - dude

So, a long post on Skegness but there’s so much more to say about it, I could go on forever. I can’t thank Butlins enough for giving me this fabulous opportunity and hand on heart I would recommend this break to everyone.

butlins adventure park

Total cost of a 3 night weekend break in a Gold apartment with the Premium Dining package for 4 people was £666.000 Keep in mind this was the top of the range and there are plenty of other packages to suit all budgets check out the Butlins website for more information and just look how the sun shone for us on our last day, simply beautiful. For more photos see Mari’s World Facebook page and soon to follow a fabulous video of our holiday

butlins skegness beach