Fun in the sun; In association with trans pennine express Janet Tansley takes the family on a heavenly trip to the island of Crete.
AS I looked out to a sparkling blue sea, a smile spread acrossmy face.
I was in heaven.Or, rather, a secluded villa nestling on a hilltop in Crete - complete with pool, a fantastic view and absolute peace.
Our family week in Staloswas the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of normal life and the perfect opportunity to explore, once again, the beautiful island.
Greece had always been a favourite of mine and David before the children were born. But the country's searing summer heat was the reason why, when the children arrived, we gave it a miss.
But now Callumis 11 and Lois is nine - and we couldn't wait to return to a beautiful destination whose middle name is 'relaxation'.
And, because we wanted peace as well as lots of fun, we were drawn to a private villa in Stalos, just half an hour's drive away from Crete's second airport and the city of Chania.
It was one of many idyllic villas and resorts in the James Villa Holidays brochure. So our only difficulty was which one to choose.
Staff at James Villa Holidays were happy to help us select a villa which was right for us. And their information was spot on. Their knowledge of the are a and what a family like ours would want was second-to-none.
Although, as we arrived at the bottom of the hill which led to our villa, Pasiphae II, I didwonder if we might need climbing gear or, at the very least, a truck, to help us make the ascent in our little hire car.
We soon learnt there was a knack to getting up the winding hill (a trundle up in first gear was the only solution).Moreover, the view was worth the effort.
There would be no need for an alarm clock if you had this life to wake up to every morning.
And, so, we adopted our daily routine.
As the sun burst through the windows, the 'boys'would get up first to nip into the village to get the breakfast croissants, while Lois and I set the table on the verandah overlooking the pool and our sea-framed sanctuary.
And after we had enjoyed our al-fresco first meal, itwas time to smooth on the suncream before we all stepped out to the pool.
Howrefreshing not to have the battle to find a sun-lounger. Instead a fewsteps led us to our own turquoise blue pool where we spent hours on lilos or jumping in and out and playing in snorkelling gear.
Thenwe would retreat to the sun beds to sit beneath a parasol with our books and our i-Pods, a gentle breeze ensuring we stayed cool and comfortable.
When we did venture away from our bolthole, everything we wanted was close by. Atwo-minute drive or 15-minutewalk took us into the resort where we could dine at one of the many tavernas on the edge of the sea.
There were several crazy golf parks and cafes, too.
But our favourite place was even closer: a friendly taverna called Dexameni. Itwas on the hillside just a short wander from our villa and served up fantastic Cretan meals and the warmest of welcomes every time.
Owner and waiter Dimos Viglis was the perfect host, always there with a smile and happy to describe the local delicacies and recommend the Cretanwines (Enotria, an organic dry whitewon out) aswe wandered through the menu.
It would have been easy to stay within the resort, but that would have been to deny ourselves the many other delights of the island.
Chania itself is just stunning. It has been called the 'Venice of Crete', not because of canals (there aren't any) but because of its lovely Venetian-styled architecture.
One of the most beautiful spots, I was told, of the whole island is the Venetian harbour - and I couldn't disagree.
At night, when the lights come on and the crowds are out enjoying the cafes and restaurants, it's breathtaking.
We also loved the town's the winding, narrow streets which housed museums and shops where the usual leather goods, jewellery and natural sponges were plentiful.
Somany sights. So many delights.
Janet Ta nsley and family travelled with James Villa Holidays.
It has a range of villas in more than 40 destinations from Florida, Tuscany, the Greek islands and Mallorca to the Canary islands, Turkey, Provence and Malta.
There are some 56 villas to choose from in Crete - most of which are tucked away in the countryside.
Pasiphae II in Stalos is light and airy. It sleeps six in three bedrooms with three bathrooms and has all modern conveniences including air-conditioning. It is available from pounds 489 in the low season (villa only).
James Villa Holidays can help you choose and book your villa, flights, insurance and car hire. Visit www.jamesvillas.co.uk or call 0800 074 0177 for more information.
The family flew with Thomas Cook. Flights were on time with friendly and efficient service from an attentive cabin crew.
Flights from Manchester to Chania are available between May to October. Return flights during May 2009 cost from pounds 210pp.
Book online at www.fly thomascook.com or visit any Thomas Cook or Going Places high street store.
COMEONIN: Callum and Lois enjoy the pool at Villa Pasiphae II at Stalos on Crete