Family Friendly holiday in Portugal - Bon Tot x Martinhal

“I just want a break”. That was the sentence that started our search for a holiday destination that would work for our whole family.

A little introduction first perhaps. I’m Kristina, and along with my husband Graham, we run Bon Tot: an independent children’s clothing and toy shop, based in Edinburgh, and also selling online. We started Bon Tot 2 years ago, and opened our Bricks and Mortar store a year later. Graham still works full time as an architect, but Bon Tot takes up a lot of his spare time. We do everything between the 2 of us; running the store and the website; branding, graphics, mailing, sourcing… you name it and one of us does it! And to make life just that little bit more hectic (although endlessly more joyful of course), we have a 3 year old daughter, Clemence, and a 5 year old French Bulldog, Frisco.
Our store focuses on “simple, good design” and we source design-led, minimal, ethically made and gender neutral clothing and toys for kids aged 0 to 6. Our store ethos matches our lifestyle pretty closely. We like simple things, done well, but also look for creativity and bit of an edge.

VW Campervan envy

Clemence loved the 'bouncing fing'!

We’ve had a lot of support from friends and family since we set up Bon Tot, but the reality of working in retail is that we’re open at the weekend, and so we rarely get to spend quality time together as a full family.
Normally when we’re looking for a holiday destination, words like ‘adventure’, ‘experience’or ‘journey’, would be pretty high on the list. You’re equally likely to find us on a remote beach or in a dense city, but we would confidently have said never in a resort.
Martinhal was a name that we’d been hearing repeatedly for about 6 months or so. Friends and customers had visited, and all of them reported what a wonderful time they’d had. These people were, in our eyes anyway, cool, design conscious, well travelled and free spirited folks, so we started to think.. “hmmm, maybe we need to look at this!”

We discovered that Martinhal had opened up a new location, just a few miles outside Lisbon, near a beach-front town called Cascais. Graham had just visited Lisbon for work and came back saying how much he wanted to go back. The images looked good, availability was there, affordability of flights to Lisbon sealed the deal and we booked.
And what a great decision that was! Best ‘click’ of 2016 by a long shot!
Martinhal is branded and marketed as a family resort, which could be slightly off-putting. Let’s be honest; we all love our kids, but that doesn’t sound ‘relaxing’! But what Martinhal does, better than anywhere we’ve ever stayed, is cater for the whole family equally.

When they say ‘family’, they mean that every space has been designed for each family member individually and at the same time. Children are welcome everywhere, and while you might think this would lead to chaos, the result is the opposite. Because everyone there has children, the openness and welcoming nature of the resort creates a calm, relaxed atmosphere, where everyone is enjoying their time. The other fact that’s instantly apparent is that the spaces are designed for adults. They are grown up spaces, with grown up materials that have been constructed with a keen eye for simplicity and detail. No garish colours, plastic wipe clean curves or baby gates. These aren’t kids’ spaces; they are spaces that kids are welcome to be in. Which is such a subtle detail, but such a huge mind shift. And it’s the core of why Martinhal works so well.

Set on a large, beautifully landscaped site, the resort has 4 key areas – the main reception, restaurant and breakfast buildings; the Spa; the Kid’s Club; and the Pool Hangout. With 80 rooms, and 12 villas, the space to room ratio is incredibly generous, which most definitely adds to the calmness of the environment.

The first 2 areas form a main central area, and our room opened on to large balcony that overlooked this. The 2 restaurant blocks and the main hotel block create a naturally secure and sheltered square, where breakfast, lunch or dinner can be eaten, drinks sipped and feet put up while kids make friends and play. All under the watchful eye of on site staff, who do more than keep an eye out; they play, draw, chat with and entertain with a very relaxed, but firm, manner.

The space might be fantastic, but as we all know, people make places. Every member of staff we met went above and beyond to make you feel welcome, and most importantly, to make Clemence feel welcome. By the end of our week’s stay, we knew names of many staff members and Clemence would run to them with a huge smile when she saw them.

Our room itself was another little oasis of calm. Simply and stylishly detailed, with a big balcony overlooking the main pool area and a gorgeous bathroom finished with white marble, his and hers sinks and a separate bath and walk in shower. Again facilities for kids have been designed as an intrinsic part of the hotel; not as an extra over, or add on. Clemence’s bed was a proper bed, wheeled in to a part of the room that was meant to receive it. So often in hotels, roll out beds or cots are crammed in to corners and compromise the ability to use the space properly. But at Martinhal the room looked equally in order before and after the bed was in place. A very clever trick to pull off seamlessly. Potty, buggy, bikes, arm bands, flip flops… nothing needed to be brought (we’ll know that next time!) and nothing was too much trouble.

Although every space is accessible to kids, there is a dedicated Kids’ Club, for parents who want to have some proper child free time. It’s complimentary too and even this space caters for the grown ups. There is a pool directly outside, a restaurant upstairs and a bar! Clemence actually asked to go to the kids club, mainly because the space was amazing, and we sat outside with an ice cold drink by the pool and waited while she had a pizza making class inside and gladly sampled the fruits of her labour!

We met some lovely people that we still keep in touch with – as I write this Graham is catching up with people we now call friends, in Birmingham. Karen, Mike and their little boy Cooper joined us for a day trip to Cascais, which is a very cheap 20 minute taxi ride from the hotel (again the hotel will arrange transfer and pick up, including car seats). It’s a gorgeous beach front town, with lovely shops, a fantastic vegan restaurant with a roof top bar that kept me happy and a modern, minimalist museum that ticked the architecture box for Graham.

From Cascais we moved to Lisbon for a few days, but that’s a whole other blog post for another day!
After about 5 minutes at Martinhal we decided that, while we still wouldn’t call ourselves ‘resort people’, we definitely loved this, and we agreed that this was not “a resort”. It’s a family hotel in every sense of the word and a very unique proposition. I’m sure that the concept will become more common in the coming years, but at present Martinhal really is doing something unique. 6 months after our trip, Clemence talks weekly about Portugal, to the extent that recently, when trying to arrange a surprise getaway for Graham’s mum’s 70th, we had to tell her that Spain was “In Portugal” to get her to accept the proposition!

If anyone reading this has any questions at all, feel free to drop us a line. If we don’t reply quickly, it’s most likely because we’re planning out our next trip!

A weekend in Edinburgh with the kids - an Independent's Guide!

We were very excited to be asked by one of our fave kids' websites, Babyccino, to write a weekend guide to our fair city. As many of you will know, this turned in to a great giveaway, and one lucky winner 'won the weekend' and will soon be getting to test out our tips for themselves! 

Can't wait to meet them, but in the meantime, you can check out our recommendations below (Or Click HERE to read on the Babyccino page!)

Edinburgh is a compact, family-friendly city that you can cross by foot in an hour. However, within that hour’s walk, you’ll find the vibrancy and life of a much denser metropolis. With a rich history and thriving cultural scene, Edinburgh appeals to a wide range of age groups. Four universities and two art colleges keep the many cafes, bars, music halls and galleries bustling and busy until the small hours of the morning, while the seven hills and many parks and gardens that snake through the city mean there are plenty of places to meander, walk and play. Add in a medieval castle perched right in the middle of it all, and there’s a lot to talk about!

It’s perfect for kids and it has a design conscious, independent heart, beating just below the surface.

The weather can definitely be a challenge shall we say, so when people come to visit us, we always try to plan a mix of indoor and outdoor activities to cover all bases. Edinburgh has a booming food and drink culture, so don’t worry, there will be lots of stops to refuel too!

Edinburgh is handily split into The Old Town (medieval nooks and crannies, tumbling down the rocky ridge from the Castle at the top, to Holyrood Palace at the bottom) and The New Town (grand Georgian avenues; classically ordered around statesmanlike Squares and gardens). The two sides are divided by what used to be The Nor’ Loch. Originally part of the historic Castle’s defences, but drained when the New Town was planned in the 18th Century and now forming Princes Street Gardens, a sequence of open parks in the middle of the City. (Also a great play-park at the west end.) Why not stay at one of our favourite hotels and try a day in each side!

You can grab your morning pick me up at Century General Store; an independent general goods store, lovingly curated by Stephen, with an excellent in house barista. If your legs are feeling good, then you can take your babyccino up Salisbury Crags for a great view of the city. Dropping down, Hemma is a lovely, kid friendly place for brunch. Anna and Mike own a series of fabulous, and ultra child friendly, venues, inspired by their Scandinavian roots, and Hemma is one of our fave stops. Look out for their other offerings; Joseph Pearce’s, Boda Bar, Sophi’s and Akva as you wander the city. They are spread around town so you’re never too far from a great Swedish meatball dish!

A wander past the Scottish Parliament building and up The Royal Mile to the Castle is pretty much an Edinburgh essential, and you can have THE best gelato in Edinburgh as your reward at the end. Meandering down Victoria Street into The Grassmarket you’ll find Mary’s Milk Bar. Mary is one of our daughter’s favourite people you’ll be unsurprised to hear!

The National Museum of Scotland is the perfect place to run off the sugar rush. To be honest, you could happily spend a whole day there; the exhibits for kids are fab. Make sure you go find out what animal matches your weight and head upstairs to dig for dinosaur bones.

Finally, we’d suggest you find your very tired selves at Civerinos. Michele and his team have created a fun, dynamic, family friendly atmosphere, serving modern italian street food with bags of personality. You can grab your favourite slice from midday till the small hours, and there’s outside seating too if the sun gods decide to shine!

SHOPPING:

For Him: Walker Slater for a quick spot of tweed tailoring.
For Her: Hannah Zakari for some indie designer made accessories, jewellery and fashion. For the art lover: The Fruitmarket Gallery has a great selection of kids books, alongside some great artwork.
For a vintage twist: Armstrongs
Coffe, coffee, coffee: Brew Lab or Lovecrumbs

EAT, DRINK and BE MERRY
Drinks: You can catch a good old fashion folk music “session” at Sandy Bells or cocktails at The Devil’s Advocate if pie n’ pints aint your thing.
Book in advance: Gardeners Cottage for a 6 course set meal grown mostly in their own gardens.
Rock up and wait: Ting Thai Caravan for laid back, but spiced up street food.

NEW TOWN DAY:

This time, turn the other way from the Hotel and start with a walk down Broughton Street to grab your caffeine fix at Artisan Roast and then nose your way through some of our fave design stores; Curiouser and Curiouser, Life Storey, Concrete Wardrobe and Moleta Munro.

Our favourite local cafe/bistro is The Roamin’ Nose and so you might as well stop for an early lunch! I think we eat there more than we cook at home sometimes! Lucy and Stefano’s classic local spot is great for kids, although they also do the best pasta in Edinburgh in the evenings. They do child’s portions of main meals, so your child feels part of the party, and in a brand new and exciting twist, The Roamin Nose has just introduced the concept of the Roman ‘Aperitivo’ to Edinburgh! Note for those seeking the simple solace of a swing-set: George IV Park (known to locals as Scotland Street Park) is just behind Roamin Nose. It has a big kids park and a little kids one. There’s also a very special place called The Yard, that caters for disabled children during the week, but opens its doors (for a small fee) to the public on sundays. Its garden has a race track, with working traffic lights, climbing frames, sandpits and all sorts of fun things.

If the sun is shining, then picking up some snacks at Earthy Food and Goods and heading to The Botanic Gardens is a great way to spend some time and kids love the glasshouses in particular. There’s a great play-park at the Inverleith side, if you need to let the kids run around for a while.

Either way, come rain or shine, you should make your way along to Stockbridge. Nestled around the Water of Leith (and with some excellent Duck pond action happening!) is Edinburgh’s home of independent trading. Cheese lovers can get their fix at George Mewes or Ian Mellis, while Mr Eoin Coffee Roasters is well worth a visit.

St Stephen Street is the focal point for the independents though, and in particular it’s where you’ll find Bon Tot! Come in and browse our collection, and if you bring a treat for our little French Bulldog, Frisco, he’ll be your pal for life!

St Stephen Street is filled with vintage, vinyl, furniture, fabrics, oil lamps (and more alcoholic lubrication) and the best independent bookshop in town in Golden Hare Books. There’s a great kids section at the back.

If you can bear to eat another morsel then local Michelin starred chef, Tom Kitchin’s gastro pub cuisine can be found just around the corner at The Scran at Scallie. The perfect treat to end the weekend, and it caters for families. The Pantry, heading in the other direction, is another super child friendly option, with a play area to the rear and a great fresh menu.

SHOPPING:

For Him: Kestin Hare has his original flagship store on St Stephen Street, or there’s The Brotique for some grooming essentials

For Her: Kakao by K is a little scandi gem, tucked up on Thistle Street, while Aesop has just opened its first Edinburgh boutique in Stockbridge.

For the Art Lovers: The Scottish Modern Gallery of Art has a great landscape installation outside for kids to run around on, and is a short walk from Stockbridge.

For a vintage twist: Those Were The Days Vintage (our neighbours!)

EAT, DRINK and BE MERRY:

Book in advance: Wee Budha Asian fusion food in the cosiest atmosphere, with great cocktails and wine list.
Rock up and wait: El Cartel Tacos, tequilas and good times!
Drinks: The Last Word Saloon, or their Sister Bar, Lucky Liquor will keep you well hydrated!

One of the best parts of Edinburgh, due to its size, is actually how quick it is to get out of it. There are beautiful beaches just a short drive away, and lots more kid friendly parks and attractions to visit. We could write a whole other guide about that, and so hopefully a short, sharp, weekend burst will whet your appetite for more!

TIPS:

Arriving from Airport:
The Tram will cost around £5 per person and will take you right in to the centre of Edinburgh in around 40 mins. Children under 5 travel free. There is wifi on board to let you figure out your bearings on route. It’s reliable and there’s plenty space for bags and buggies.

– A taxi in to town is your other best bet. It will cost around £24 to get in to the centre of Edinburgh and will take 20 minutes in the early hours and around 45 mins to an hour in peak traffic. Taxis are used very regularly in Edinburgh, and Uber has arrived now too. They are usually happy to help with luggage and you can call and order. CityCabs is the best local operator.

Lothian Buses and Trams are free to under 5s in Edinburgh and are a pretty reliable way to get around. They have wifi and one dedicated buggy space per bus. They are used by locals and tourists so don’t be scared! You do need correct change though. £1.60 for an adult single ticket, £4.00 for an all day pass.

– Most museums are free, including the main Royal and Scottish Museums and many galleries. They are great ways to hop out of the rain, if you are lucky enough to get some “traditional” Scottish weather!!

– Here is another good tip: The weather is notoriously changeable, so a buggy cover is a good idea if you are bringing a buggy. A lightweight waterproof might end up being your best friend too!

– Most restaurants are child friendly and will have high chairs. Traditional pubs are less likely to, but they are an essential part of the Edinburgh experience! We’ll happily recommend some appropriate ones, and some great local beers!

STAY:

A perfect place to stay for families looking for a bit of comfort, at good value, right at the end of these gardens is The Apex Waterloo Place Hotel. It has a small swimming pool and spa, a good bar and a great breakfast.

Waterloo Place is our fave all rounder, but Edinburgh has lots of options. For a bit more space there are higher end short stay apartments like The Chester Residence, or more budget friendly offerings like The Fraser Suites. You can splash out on grand, yet boutique style, a little out of town, at Prestonfield House, opt for city centre minimalism at The G&V (formerly The Missoni), or go local at The Raeburn, down by us in Stockbridge. If budget is key, then there are is a Holiday Inn at Picardy Place and Premier Inn Lauriston Place, and The Novotel (also on Lauriston Place) is a good option with kids, as it has a pool.)

Bon Tot Meets . . . Ruby Diamonds

The next in our Bon Tot Meets . . . series, we get to know Ruby Diamonds a bit better. You might know Ruby from Instagram (@rubydiamonds), or perhaps you follow her gorgeous blog - www.saltandsand.co.uk

We love Ruby's photos and wanted to know a bit more about her beach side lifestyle, and what brands she likes to buy to keep up with her adventurous kids! Ruby talks sand, sea AND gives us her best picks for outdoor living from our AW16 ranges... Thanks Ruby!

Hi! My name is Ruby, I live with my husband and four children. 3 boys and 1 girl, aged 12, 10, 8 and 5 oh and two dogs!!

We live in Suffolk, not far from the coast which is perfect for us!

I try and keep life simple - with four children it can easily get messy and complicated! But I have to constantly stay focused on it and I'm always thinking about the next project or idea! Whether it's their rooms, clothes or adventures we might go on.

Anybody that knows me will say I'm an organised person, I don't always feel it but this is definitely something that helps when you have a larger family!

We have quite an active outdoors lifestyle therefore choosing good quality clothes for this is important. I would rather pay a little more for something that I know will last and then can pass down. 

Kid and Kind "I have a lot of feelings" T-Shirt

Kid and Kind "I have a lot of feelings" T-Shirt

I try and find something fun that I can pair with plain-ish items which makes mixing and matching outfits really easy and also good for all year round seasons!

Soft, stretchy clothes seem to work for mine really well. If it's a pair of leggings or joggers then they're happy. Soft tees I can layer up with a long sleeved top or jumper is a must when your outside a lot. We don't go big for accessories, I like keeping things simple. I think my youngest was 4 when he got his first pair of jeans so Comfort is the biggest win!!

Mingo Kids long sleeved top and striped leggings

Nor-Folk Play Hard T-Shirt

We asked Ruby to pick out her fave Bon Tot AW16 pieces that would best fit with her family's adventurous, outdoor lifestyle, and here's what she picked!

There are so many gorgeous pieces that fit this brief so makes outfit choices easy for me and they love being a little different from everyone else which you definitely get with brands such as Gosoaky, Kid + Kind, Nor-folk and loads more!

Top Row:

GOSOAKY lined raincoat, Kid & Kind Sweatshirt, Forever a Freckle Trawler Hat, Mingo Kids Skirt

Outfits from left:

Fig + Honey Tokyo Sweatshirt with Mingo Leggings. Tiny Cottons poncho and faces leggings. Gray Label striped top with Jax & Hedley Cracked ice leggings.

A huge thanks to Ruby for speaking to us and an even bigger thanks for picking out such AWESOME outfits! All available on our website; just click "shop by brand" to browse!