Today is the last “official” day of my holiday. My other half has returned to work, our middle girl has returned to school, Miss 17 starts her new college course in the morning, and Miss 13 returns to school tomorrow too. I’m busy going from one chore to the next around the house, trying to return our lives to some sort of normality.
The holiday already seems like a long time ago, even though it’s only been 30 hours since I was standing at the side of a road waiting for an airport transfer coach.
Rather than pick out specific memories of the holiday, I thought it might save everybody a lot of time and effort if I recorded a few scattered memories of the last week in a single post. This of course has more to do with me being lazy, than any concern for you as a reader (and it always seems odd, referring to an unknown audience as “you”, just for the record).
Where to start?
Perhaps the best place to start would be the hotel itself – a rambling, huge complex of buildings, pools, bars, and a central outdoor show stage. We went “all inclusive” for the first time in our lives, based on the advice of friends with teenage children – meaning we could essentially tell them to go mad in the restaurants and bars. Our room was on the first floor of a more exclusive part of the park, next to a large pool surrounded by perhaps sixty or seventy sunbeds. We never bagged a sunbed, because we are not insane enough to go to breakfast at 7am on holiday purely to put a towel down on a sunbed. What can I say? The hotel was clean, tidy, and the staff were wonderful.
Across the pool from our block was the main restaurant, which served breakfast, lunch, and dinner between allotted hours each day. The food was presented as a huge buffet with everything from a wide range of fresh salads, to various hot meals, and the ridiculous option of chips, friend eggs, and baked beans. Quite why you would fly half way around the world to eat food you can get from any cafe at home is beyond me.
The pools around the complex were all wonderful. The nearest to our block was a family pool, which made swimming next to impossible, but we discovered a deeper pool across the complex that was much quieter so headed out there from time to time. Of course the family pools had a busy entertainment programme all day – with dance music, and a small army of staff bouncing around doing aqua aerobics, water polo, yoga, and so on. I didn’t take part of any of it, and didn’t get around to reading any books either – because I spent most of my time in the pool with 13 and 14 doing handstands, swimming underwater, or trying to improve their swimming. I’ve almost certainly come home fitter than when I left – or rather I would have done if the pool bars hadn’t served unlimited soft drinks. Given the 30C+ temperatures most days, we drank gallons and gallons of drinks.
During the evening a central show area started at perhaps 9pm with a children’s show – involving the same team we saw throughout the day at the various pools. Surrounding the show area was a number of bars serving free drinks (all-inclusive remember). On the first evening the novelty of it all was a bit much, and I ended up mixing all sorts of drinks I wouldn’t normally go anywhere near. My other half was not impressed with me, and I felt very second-hand the next morning. Thankfully swimming is a pretty good hangover cure.
Away from the hotel complex, we visited the nearby beach several times – and it looked pretty much like any picture postcard mediteranean scene – with thatched umbrellas, loungers, and pretty people lazily wandering along wherever you looked. We felt a little like frauds as we picked our way through them to the water, and stared in amazement at fish swimming around our feet. We spent our entire final day on the beach – my other half under a lounger, and me in the crashing surf with the children.
Behind the beach – which swept for several miles around the curving coastline, there were of course hundreds of shops selling the same tacky tourist rubbish as each other. They were like a magnet to the children, and I spent several hours throughout the week wandering along behind them while my other half returned to the hotel. For the first time I can remember neither myself or my other half bought anything for outselves – no momentos – no souvenirs.
We did escape the hotel and the beach one day at least – and visited the old part of the nearby town, where the guides told us parts of a Roman city had been excavated. We spent much of the day – in almost unbearable heat – wandering around the various dig sites, and laughing at our own lines from Life of Brian while sitting on the seats of an amphitheatre. Walking the streets of a forgotten city that survived beneath layers of mud for two millenia is a strange experience.
I suppose the only downer of the entire holiday was some of the people we shared the hotel with. I’m not going to name specific places, even though I could identify their accents, but will say that some of them made me embarrassed to be English. Perhaps the most memorable was the family that checked into the hotel, then stripped to their underwear at the poolside and jumped in while a game of water-polo was going on around them – still wearing their socks. Coming a close second was the loundest child in the known universe running completely uncontrolled around the restaurant while his parents bellowed at him.
It was a wonderful week. A week of escapism. A week away from the stresses of every day life. A week of free drinks, free food, no washing clothes, and no washing up. By and large we all – as a family – got on well too. It was the children’s first time flying, and by far the most expensive holiday we have ever been on. I’m not sure we could afford to do anything similar next summer – but maybe the summer after. We’ll have to see.