13 years of Mark Warner Holidays!

I can remember the exact moment we decided to try this bunch out: I was sat in our rented accommodation (we'd sold one house and were renting another while our forever home was being renovated) with a 2 year old and a 6 month old baby, surrounded by chaos. I’d had to abruptly leave my city trading job when my eldest was born 8 weeks early but I’ll never forget my then boss, "big John", telling me about the holidays he and his wife and their twin boys had enjoyed for many years. I looked them up online (back in the days when you had to plug your lap top into your telephone socket!!) and ordered a brochure. I can clearly remember being sat on my sofa, baby in one hand, toddler busy playing on the floor in front of Cbeebies, taking my first look through. 

Mark Warner Holidays by Nina Callow 3 Boys & Me Photography London/Kent

Big John’s words had stuck with me and the thought of a holiday where the children got to try new opportunities and I was able to do things myself while they were enjoying themselves in club, really sounded appealing. What I really liked was that this was no ordinary "children's club"; it wasn’t the kind of thing I had noticed pre-kids, of creche-style rooms with toys and children being indoors. This was a club where the children would learn to sail, windsurf, kayak, play pool games, go on ice cream trips, play board games, card games and spend a small amount of time inside, in the creche facilities in the air conditioning. Add to this lots of facilities for children and babies - cots, sterilisers, freshly prepared baby food at each meal time, kitchens just for parents to use and baby essentials - like bouncing chairs - available to borrow. An evening creche existed too, so you could actually have dinner - just the two of you - without constantly wiping food off yourself that had been launched at you or picking up yet another glass of apple juice knocked your way. The boys, babies then, would go into a supervised area - asleep, and be looked after so you could have an evening to yourselves without feeling bad that you were keeping them awake too. As the boys got older, this evening club changed, and from 2 years up, they would be dropped off in their pjs to watch a movie before snuggling down in their own little bed in the creche with their own personal bedding for the week - stored in a bag with their name on and there to use each night. As they got older still, the over 5s would meet for a sporting activity - rounders, football, beach volleyball, for the first couple of hours before heading back to the "chill out zone" where they could either play board games or watch that night’s movie. This really did suit our lives and our family dynamic.

Mark Warner Holidays by Nina Callow 3 Boys & Me Photography London/Kent

All these years later, Mark Warner has given us the most amazing holidays and more recently - 6 years to be precise - some life long friends. As I start to get organised (last minute of course!) to go to their new resort in Turkey - in our long standing group of 24 with two extra families taking us to 31 for the first time! - I cannot begin to tell you all the experiences and opportunities the whole family have had over the years. I’ve learnt to sail, the boys have done some of their youth RYA sailing qualifications, some of the family have spent hours in the tennis academy, taken part in the triathlon that runs weekly, gone road biking in some serious heat and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Mark Warner Holidays by Nina Callow 3 Boys & Me Photography London/Kent

And this bunch? The Levante gang as I call them (as we've spent the last 5 years going to Levante in one massive group), well, they are like family. I love them all (sorry you lot!) but I can’t begin to try and explain how they make my holidays. I couldn't bear it if we ever stopped going away as a big group but, as our children get older, this, sadly, is inevitable - or maybe not? So soon, all of us will be sat (way too late into the evening) around the pool, where we've been relaxing after a day of activity, drink in hand, watching the sun go down on another fab day. As the children take it in turns to run back and get ready for the evening, us adults do our 10 minute getting ready shower and change dash, before heading to dinner for a table for..... well, how many will it be this year? It’s normally 10 adults, but this year I guess some evenings it may be even more!! I hope you’re ready for us Mark Warner!!

Mark Warner Holidays by Nina Callow 3 Boys & Me Photography London/Kent

I’ll be blogging this trip when I'm home for Sevenoaks Mums and I can’t wait to share it with you. For now, here are quite a few photos from our years with Mark Warner (I’m sure you’ll notice a year-on-year improvement in my photography skills!!). And if you want to follow along in the madness, please come and find my Instagram feed for daily updates!

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Nina is a documentary photographer and mum of 3 boys based in Bexley Village.