We are off to Sardinia for a blast of early summer sun, a school-holiday escape from another wet British bank-holiday weekend. We are dreaming of blue skies and bluer seas, seeking shelter from the burning sun beneath a stripy umbrella, hoping for balmy evenings spent sipping crisp, green Vermentino wine on the terrace.
But it's cold and it's raining. Italy has been hit by a freak weather front sweeping storms down from the Baltic, and the guarantee of an enviable pre-summer tan is fading fast. The fountain in the kids' pool plays gaily by itself. Outside the bar, the chairs have been tipped against the tables to let the rainwater run away. Back in our room, we watch the weather news: it's scorchio in Britain.
Still, rain doesn't stop play at Valle dell'Erica, the resort we are visiting on Sardinia's northern tip. Our six-year-old son has abandoned us for a happier place, "Ericaland", one of the best kids' clubs we've come across on our travels. Why? Because of the sheer enthusiasm of the staff - Freddy, Max and Valeria - which is only matched by the boundless energy of the kids. They've found plenty to distract the little horrors from the black clouds overhead.
Ericaland is one of the new facilities on offer at the resort, Sardinia's oldest holiday playground. This place first opened in 1958, attracting visitors eager to enjoy its rocky coves, aquamarine waters and sci-fi granite boulders (they're really giant pods with Martians inside, one kid tells me). That was well before the Aga Khan had even had the first brick laid on the famous Costa Smeralda, his jet-set folly just along the east coast.
We're much more down to earth at Valle dell'Erica, for earthy is the point here. The resort has had a thorough overhaul since its recent takeover by the Delphina group, owners of a further seven hotels on the island. Yet great care has been taken to make sure the hotel fits its environment, allowing the rugged natural landscape within which it is set to dominate.
The original layout has largely remained the same, I'm told, with the rooms and communal areas stretching along the bluff, keeping the Maddalena islands and Corsica's southern rump within their sights. Yet the accommodation has been expanded and a gym, thalassotherapy spa, two new pools (one for adults, one for kids) and two restaurants have been added. A golf practise area and canoeing from the main beach have just become available, while a boutique and beach bar are yet to open. Tennis and football are due to be offered next season.
But the resort's real draw is the fact that it's so close to the sea. These days, Sardinia's hotels must stand at least 2km from the beach. Yet this old dame is so near to the waves that the distance from our terrace to the nearest cove is barely 100 metres. That's a joy for parents like me - perhaps more so for those with toddlers - who dread the major expedition to the beach. Just pick up the buckets and go - it's only a quick dash back to the room if you've forgotten the sun cream.
And if you get bored of the resort, the "real" Sardinia is just down the road. A 20-minute drive west takes you to the quaint town of Santa Teresa di Gallura. Drive a little further west still to the amazing granite headland, Capo Testa, and you'll find a great, simple fish restaurant, Bocche di Bonifacio, a favourite with the locals. And if you want to strike out, down at the port you can take the 40-minute boat ride to the town of Bonafacio on Corsica.
To the east is the less attractive, yet very pleasant Palau. This is where you can catch a ferry to the Maddalena islands. That's if they're not shrouded by rain. But, d'you know, I think the sun is coming out.
Kate Simon travelled to Valle dell'Erica courtesy of Just Sardinia (01202 484858; justsardinia.co.uk), which offers a week's full board from £731 per adult and £293 per child (aged 2-11 years) sharing an Erica Junior Suite, including airport transfers. Return flights from Gatwick to Olbia can be organised with Easyjet from £87. Argus Car Hire (00 44 141 005 0007; arguscarhire.co.uk) offers a week's car hire from £126, fully inclusive. Holiday Extras (0870 844 4186; holidayextras.co.uk) offers one night's stay in an airport hotel and eight days' secure parking from £69 per person, based on two sharingReuse content