How to improve holidays with children

Hey mum, let's get classical
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The Independent Travel

Did you know that the Ancient Greeks used to exercise without any clothes on? Nor did I, but I've been privy to lots of little gems like this since my son Patrick started learning about them at school. It was this particular fact that really caught his imagination, though I think he's quite relieved that things have moved on a little since 500BC. After all, it's not easy to imagine how all those World Cup players would manage with their kits off.

All this talk got me reminiscing about my first ever trip to Greece as a teenager. Back then, it was where hippies hung out - and I mean this literally, because to my horror there were nudist beaches wherever you turned. But more disturbing still, the remote corner of our Greek island hadn't heard of heard of sit-down loos.

Happily, things have changed rather a lot since then, and I've taken my children back there on more than one occasion. I'm glad to report that sit-down loos are all the rage, but that's not the only reason my kids love Greece so much. They rave about it because everybody loves them there - the Greeks think kids are the bee's knees.

So how do you choose where to go, with children in tow? My first choice would always be Paleohora, on the western tip of Crete. This is one of the few places you can really relax with kids, and it meets all the requirements: a long, glorious beach, great restaurants, and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere. They shut the road at night to allow your little treasures to get on with the serious business of running wild.

Paleohora is well off the Cretan track, so it's perfect for escaping the hordes of package tourists and high-rise hotels. Companies we've travelled with include Sunvil (020-8568 4499; sunvil.co.uk), which offers some decent accommodation at reasonable prices, and Freelance Holidays (01789 297705; freelanceholidays .co.uk) which has a number of harbourside apartments and is very happy to organise things like cots and extra beds. There's also a selection of accommodation at paleochora-holidays.gr.

The little-known island of Lefkas is also ideal, particularly if you and your kids fancy trying watersports in a peaceful environment. Check out Wildwind Holidays, which has a great reputation for its kids' sailing and windsurfing lessons. Its lovely beachfront hotel offers daily yoga classes as well as massage for adults (01920 484516; wildwind.co.uk).

Some of the more popular islands also have a lot to offer in the way of children's fun. Take Kos, where families are particularly welcomed at the four-star Neptune Hotel. This residence features four swimming pools, sports facilities, baby- sitting, kids' clubs and a gourmet restaurant (0870- 366 1626; sovereign.com).

The Greek islands are fab, but don't rule out the mainland when you're considering where to go. Halkidiki is where the action is; if you want to have absolutely everything laid on for you, try the five-star Sani Resort, which has a brand new spa as well as children's facilities coming out of its ears (00 30 23740 99400; saniresort.gr). This is the perfect place for those in search of proper Greek luxury. And yes, it too has sit-down loos.

Katy's top tip

For a taste of Greece without going 2,000 miles, take the kids to eat at Lemonia, a restaurant within reach of London Zoo. Children are warmly welcomed, and it's a perfect place to adjust their tiny taste buds to the joys of Greek food: 89 Regent's Park Road, London NW1 8UY; 020-7586 7454.

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