The warm Atlantic Ocean lapped gently at our feet as Isla memorised My Sister Is An Alien, little sis Evelyn picked up her Peppa Pig Mini Library for the umpteenth time, Rachel sped through her racy romantic novel and I glanced over at my newspaper supplement.
Many people say that a relaxing holiday is not complete without a good piece of literature, and at St James’s Club on the Caribbean Island of Antigua, the focus is all on books this coming summer.
Following last year’s stint alongside fellow author Rachel Bright, Curtis Jobling, the original creator of Bob the Builder, will be Puffin’s artist in residence at the resort’s acclaimed Kidz Club.
Jobling – whose other books include Raa Raa The Noisy Lion and Frankenstein’s Cat – will be overseeing a fortnight of live events from July 26 especially tailored for different age groups ranging from three to 10 years.
He kicks off with a week for younger children, followed by a week for older kids alongside his Wereworld books.
“The emphasis is on fun, reading for pleasure, and the world of possibilities that can be explored through creativity,” Jobling explains.
“The ocean and the paradise setting of the Caribbean are a fantastic inspiration for the Puffin events which the children love.”
So while mum and dad soak up the sun, or snooze in a hammock under a palm tree, the kids can be entertained and, dare I say it, educated, by one of the world’s leading children’s writers, in between other fun activities like crab racing, nature trails, swimming and arts and crafts. Jobling is spot on about the setting; the 100-acre secluded resort of St James’s is inspiring and magnificent.
There are six pools for families to splash around in, including two adult-only areas and one exclusive for kids.
The real pull of St James’s will always be its two stunning beaches – the millpond-like Mamora Bay complete with watersports centre, stalls and bars, and the breezier Coco’s Beach, looking out into the crystal-clear Atlantic Ocean.
But even with a setting as perfect as St James’s, not everyone wants to spend their entire holiday on a resort, and there are many excursions available away from the complex.
The four of us found the best to be a catamaran sailing trip around the island on the Verandah.
A half-day excursion on board Captain Anderson’s vessel took us around English Harbour and Rendezvous Bay, and included sights such as Nelson’s Dockyard, Falmouth Harbour and the Pillars of Hercules, as well as peek up at Eric Clapton and Timothy Dalton’s residences and the island’s rainforest.
About an hour into our trip, the crew dropped anchor, and Isla and I dived into the Atlantic and snorkelled amongst the brightly coloured fish.
A truly memorable daddy-and-daughter experience, and a highlight of any holiday.
On the voyage home, the line on the fishing rod at the stern went tight and Captain Anderson pulled in a large mackerel, which rounded off our daughters’ action-packed day perfectly.
Other excursions, which can both be booked include a trip to Shirley Heights to dance along to steel band, reggae, soca and calypso music on Sunday afternoons, and a day out at Antigua’s capital St John’s.
However, a holiday in Antigua is not all about ‘palming your children off’, as some would see it.
There is also a lot for families to do together – whether it be donning lifejackets and heading out to sea on a pedalo, strolling up and down the soft sandy beaches looking for shells and crabs, or even lying by the sea together with a good book.
It’s always a challenge to find a family summer resort holiday that is equal parts relaxing, adventurous and educational.
But it seems the people at St James’s and Puffin are re-writing the rulebook.