REVIEW: & Breathe Post Natal
Think about this: instead of looking for 'family friendly' holidays, why aren't we searching for 'parent friendly' holidays? I mean, when you think about it, that's what we're all looking for but because we're all so used to putting the small people first, we forget all about that. Kids Clubs are great - essential even - but where, in those 'family friendly' holiday packages - is the focus on the parents? These packages may offer parents free flowing booze from breakfast till bedtime and ice cream on tap with a mini disco in the evening to help you get five minutes peace with a cold glass of something and your significant other, but they don't often offer you a chance to actually look after yourself, to restore yourself, to really give you a break.
The &Breathe brand is all about self-care. It's about reminding parents that holidays don't have to just be about entertaining the kids. It's about offering Small-Havers the chance to use their kid-free time to do more than drink and eat the exhaustion away (although that's occasionally ok too!) It's literally, the best of both worlds.
The concept is fresh and simple - offer parents the chance to come up for air. There are two retreat options available. The first is The Classic Retreat -this is for parents with one new(ish) baby. The second is The Toddler Plus Retreat - a version of the original designed especially for parents with a baby and a toddler (although having just toddlers is also ok!)
Clio Wood, founder of the &Breathe brand is passionate about providing parents with a chance to take a minute and relax. The house that she has decorated beautifully (her interior design background is clear from the minute you walk in the door) is comfortable, French and big. There's enough space for all the families to hang without feeling like you're in each other's pockets. The bed was enormous and then some, the room was huge and the sleep was GOOD plus, there was a goody bag of epic proportions. I defy you to find another holiday that gives your kids free clothes and the parents some organic lube (haha...)
The food is healthy - really healthy. This is obviously great news for your waistline but if you think you'll feel the hit of a sugar-free menu then I suggest you stash a couple of chocolate biscuits in your hand luggage. I'm not ashamed (much) to admit that I found myself wolfing chocolate dinosaur biscuits on two occasions when the sugar-low got too much to handle. They don't mind though - &Breathe isn't a bootcamp. There's no guilt. Do what you want, what you can and enjoy the opportunity.
Day to day, the mums get a class first, followed by the dad's class. The morning sessions are usually more upbeat, high intensity, ahem, knackering. You're done by 12pm and you're free until 4pm. There's a great zoo nearby, a beautiful lake with a beach and a playground and a host of cool villages to check out. At 4pm there's a class for all the parents. This is generally a stretch, pilates, yoga type class - more chilled and relaxed. We were lucky enough to have the weather to do this outside every afternoon in the sunshine and it was, honestly, the most amazing hour of every day.
During the afternoon class, the kids are looked after by a nanny. She was, quite simply, wonderful. The only thing I would suggest if you're looking to book is to put aside a few extra quid to book the nanny for a few hours outside of the exercise classes. While it was ace to be kid free while we burpee'd and planked our way through the week, we did want some childfree time where we could just sit by the pool or have a nap. Fortunately, the nanny was around a lot and was more than happy to watch the kids while you had a shower or packed or had a nap or anything else...but this was the nanny going above and beyond. The boundaries here were a little unclear so make sure you know exactly what you get included and what you don't.
Other than that, highlights included a full body massage for both of us, a beautiful heated pool, an amazing, AMAZING personal trainer - Caroline Bragg (@carolinepteast on Instagram) - who delivered perfectly tailored and interesting classes every single day, an amazing desert of white chocolate ice cream which included absolutely no chocolate at all but was knock-your-socks-off delicious, a bed big enough to feel like you weren't sharing it, and finally, the lovely, lovely families that we shared our week with.