Posts tagged with "holiday"
Tuesday, May 11, 2010 9:25:00 PM
So, here I am blogging again after a longish interregnum. Is it because of the hoo-hah surrounding the election result? Is it because of Fabio Capello's World Cup squad?
Nope, it is because I am on holiday, on the island of Santorini
, a Greek island off the coast of Turkey.
Initial impressions are good, but that may be because I am sitting on the balcony outside my room, overlooking a pool, with a particularly fine lamb kleftiko in my stomach and a glass of sambuca on the table.
In the room I can hear the French 24 channel – an English language 24-hour news channel – broadcasting David Cameron making all the right noises outside 10 Downing Street. Putting political preferences aside, let's hope he is the centrist politician he claims to be.
As the French correspondent has just implied, Cameron and Clegg should get on well because they are both upper class toffs, though she did not quite put it that way.
Anyway, on to the important subject of the day, my holiday.
The flight left Gatwick at six in the morning, which meant checking in at some ungodly hour. We spent the night in a nearby hotel which cleverly also offers long term parking and a bus service to the airport. The earliest bus – the one we took – arrived at 4:35am to a surprisingly crowded airport.
We'd booked with Thomson so we queued up at the exceedingly long check-in queue that was conspicuously populated by numerous children of school age. The LCD screen at the desk said “All flights” in big letters then something else flashing underneath that we could not read from the back of the incredibly long queue.
Once we reached the front of the queue we finally read what the smaller message flashing below the big message said. In effect the full message said “Checking in for all flights – except your one, mate.”
Having wasted our time queueing at the wrong check-in desk we rushed to the correct desk and mercifully it had no queue. That was because the plane was already boarding by this stage.
We rushed through customs as quick as we could to find, of course, that our departure gate was the second furthest gate away from where we were. Mrs. Fiendish, who gets out of breath climbing up the stairs when carrying a laundry basket, did very well hurtling along half the distance carrying a frikking heavy lap-top (just in case we get stranded and have to work from the poolside) before it dawned on her I should be carrying the heavy bag.
Long story short, we made it with about 5 mins to spare. The flight was spent catching up on our sleep though it is doubtful that anyone would have slept through the landing, which was more like a fairground thrill ride than a smooth descent.
From there it was on to the Thomson coach and the old “God, I hope they are not staying at our hotel” game. The first two candidates were two middle aged people hovering near the coach dragging furiously on their fags. Next up was a lad, aged about 20, sitting next to his girlfriend. Outside of the albino Finnish community he may well be the whitest man on the planet, with his pasty skin, ginger-blond hair and freckles. Luckily he had made himself look more presentable by wearing ridiculous Eugene Reynolds
plastic sunglasses, rancid tattoos on his forearms and enough ironmongery in his ears to melt down and forge into a broadsword.
Santorini is not exactly s raver's paradise so it was a bit perturbing to see anyone under the age of 40 on the coach but Mrs. Fiendish had gone the extra step to ensure we'd be somewhere peaceful by booking a 5-star hotel
Oh, didn't I mention we've left the kids behind? Yeah, they are all grown up now so there is no need to drag them with us on holiday, Number one son is going to a Spanish music festival this summer, number three son is going to Reading festival and number two son has a girlfriend, so may well be going away with her family.
Anyway, the hotel is really nice, even if it does look like it has been designed by Prince – lots of purple, lilac and pink – and the island looks suitably Greek and thus far riot free.
At some point we may check out the nearby volcano and the legend of Atlantis, and maybe visit some Greek ruins, or we may just sunbathe, drink beer and sambuca, stuff our faces and read our books.
Hope it's pissing down where you are.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009 11:07:49 PM
With two teenaged sons on holiday, the trick is in keeping them occupied. Mornings: no problem. Mornings don't exist for teenaged boys on holiday. Afternoons: the sun, sea or the pool take care of. Evenings get a bit tricky, however.
Luckily we have with us a laptop, a netbook, a Sony PSP and a Nintendo DS. Oh, and some things called “books”, but number two son has not worked out how to plug these in yet nor has he located the “on” switch on any book.
One late afternoon we were sitting round the table doing our various things. Number two son playing something called “Gangs of London” on the PSP, number three son playing something on the Nintendo DS while Mrs. Fiendish and I were reading.
Clearly, “Gangs of London” was not fully engaging number two son's interest because periodically he would stick his foot in number three son's face and order number three son to “smell my sock”.
After about 15 minutes of this number three son got fed up. Perhaps he was coming to a particularly tricky bit of his game and he did not want his concentration broken by a socked foot up his left nostril. So he punched number two son.
Middle son is the sort of person who, if someone else starts a fight, he makes damn sure he finishes it. It's not a side of him I have seen but number one son said that at school, in that brief period when all of my sons attended the same school, middle son was the psycho case that everyone steered clear of.
On the plus side, middle son is a fair minded sort. Knowing that youngest son is not really the fighting sort, what with his chronic back problem and all, middle son decided to even up the odds in the impending fight by offering the use of a carving knife to youngest son.
Youngest son, duly pissed off and backed into a corner, accepted the knife and feinted to use it against number two son, at which point it truly kicked off, with the kicking and the punching and the waving of the knife.
It would have been scary stuff had it lasted longer than about three seconds, which was the time it took for Mrs. Fiendish and I to intervene. I pulled off number two son and saw the thought pass briefly through his mind, “Shall I lamp my Dad one?”
I was fighting like a girlie at the time, gripping his shoulders but digging in my nails in the hope it would distract him from number three son.
Luckily for me, he decided not to whack me, and contented himself with some foul mouthed expletives aimed at number three son.
At home, middle son is easily the lowest maintenance of my three lads. Neat, quiet, intelligent and undemanding, and he actually makes the effort to spend time with his parents, aka the “cash dispensing taxi service”.
On holiday, however, I have seen the side of him which has exasperated a succession of teachers. When he is bored, everyone else has to suffer. He has no social skills whatsoever in terms of picking up body language. Alternatively, he may be capable of picking up when people are getting irritated by his behaviour but he just does not care.
All very worrying, and it has given me a couple of restless nights on this holiday. He'll be 17 in three months and he has shown signs of maturing – though that could just be a case of us moving him away from his gang in Enfield to what he sees as the stultifying boredom of Hertford – but for the first time we are considering medication to see if that has any effect. He goes to college this year to study art, a subject in which he is interested. We're hoping the combination of a less authoritarian environment and the chance to learn something he considers useful will finally get him on the straight and narrow as far as school goes, but if he blows this chance I don't know where we go from there.
It seems all my friends have kids who are not only going to universities, but top universities. OK, all of my kids are better dressed and know a much cooler lexicon of slang than most of my peers' progeny, but I can assure you it was not in the Fiendish parental game plan for our kids to be non-academic feckless feckers.
My sole comfort in this arena of offspring envy has been my best friend John, whose eldest daughter is slightly older than my eldest son. She's not been to university, she's underachieved at school, has a bed room that looks like a bomb has exploded in a “black garments only” clothes shop and she earns about thre'pence a week looking after horses.
You can imagine how overjoyed I was when I visited John last week to learn that his younger daughter – the one who goes to acting school and who has already appeared in Casualty and The Bill (hasn't everyone?) - has learnt Japanese and is going to Japan later this year.
What skills can I brag about for my youngest? He's quite accomplished at lying to police, which I suppose is a practical skill. He can make a sound like a train sounding its horn as it goes past, and his timing on this is excellent – it never fails to make me laugh. It's not quite on a par with learning Japanese, appearing as an extra in TV shows and performing in ice skating tournaments, though, is it?
Oh well, as my (elder) sister says: With kids, you go through the wringer and they come out dry.
Enough parental angst.
A bit more about the holiday
The weather has been pretty good. We've had about 7 sunny days out of 9, with the temperatures hitting the high twenties. Having chosen the Vendée over Brittany because it is a bit further south and therefore likely to have slightly better weather I think the decision has been marginally justified. It does mean we have had to drive a bit further but driving does not seem a chore in France – the roads are amazingly empty.
The French have been universally charming and sympathetic to my efforts to communicate. Yesterday I successfully asked an ice cream vendor if she had a Magnum. That's a seven word sentence, all in French, if you count Magnum as a French word.
Prices have been expensive – beer about £3.80 for less than a pint, but, hey-ho, that's tourist rates for you.
The food has been extremely variable. I don't suppose this area of the Vendée is representative of the standard of cuisine for all of France – you wouldn't judge all of England's restaurants on the quality of pie and chips in a restaurant in Margate – but in our experience we have been taking our lives into our hands if we move away from mussels and (superb) chips.
The steak and the lamb we have eaten has been uniformly stringy; no wonder this race contemplates eating horses – they can't breed a decent side of beef to save their lives.
The bread and the ham have been fantastique, however, as has the cheese, of course.
Wine has not been especially cheap. Mrs. Fiendish tried a locally produced wine the other day (we are situated near the Loire) and most of it went down the sink.
Beer is OK if you stick to Kronenbourg. Amstel and something called Pelforth (which could be the local brew, given its ubiquity) taste like fizzy paraffin.
I did buy a dark beer but Mrs. F. drunk it before I got a chance to open it. She said it was not very good.
We've not done a lot of these. Wasted a lot of money on a mediocre water park on a not very warm afternoon; elected not to do likewise on some half-arsed paintball and quad bike offerings.
We drove through some pretty towns yesterday (Monday) on our way to Le Grand Parc at Puy du Fou. Small French towns appear to shut down completely on a Monday afternoon, which is probably not a bad idea. Even the Lidl and Netto stores were shut, but the big Super U stores were open.
Le Grand Parc at Puy du Fou might loosely be called a theme park. There are no rides, just a lot of exhibits and shows. It has a vaguely mediæval theme - no, scratch that - make it an historical theme.
So there are staged Hollywood style shows on the following themes: gladiators, Vikings, knights in armour (the English were the baddies, so we cheered lustfully for them, of course), the three musketeers and some other shows probably based on local legends.
Following the story was a bit difficult because of the language difficulties, unless you spring for a headphone and translation kit. Best to just focus on the stunts (pretty good), the dancing (OK if you like that sort of thing), the horse riding (all those dressage gold medallists finally have a career path) and the spectacle.
The Battle of Donjon, which featured the nasty English attacking the plucky Frenchies in their castle, was especially baffling. The blood-thirsty English were sticking it to the outnumbered locals, and firing balls of fire at the castle from their siege engines. These siege engines, by the way, were on wheels and self-powered (I suspect there was a 2CV inside each of them) so it was a bit like watching a humungous episode of Robot Wars.
It was looking bad for the local team until the under-siege castle got on its bike – or more likely its cleverly concealed flat-bed lorry – and moved forward on wheels to mow down the English. Just like in the history books.
Still, it is no more ridiculous, perhaps, than walking forests (Macbeth or Lord of the Rings) but I would have loved to have known the rationale behind the finale. Probably something along the lines of “it takes more than dressage to win a battle”.
Less painful than watching the fourth test the previous day, in any case, even if the English had as much chance of winning.
Sunday, August 9, 2009 4:18:59 PM
The Fiendish family is over halfway through its summer holiday and it has finally dawned on me that with lots of time spent busy doing nothing, now is a good opportunity to catch up with the blogging style of thing.
So, where are we?
We're in France, on the Atlantic coast, in a region called the Vendee. There is probably meant to be an accent over one of the final two letters of the Vendee but I truly can't be arsed to find out if that is the case and, if so, how to do an accented letter in the Linux version of Open Office.
We are staying near a town called St. Hilaire de-Riez and if you really want to narrow it down further, maybe because you are thinking of launching a ninja attack on the family, our nearest beach is La Pege – definitely an accent in there, too – and the camp site we are staying at is called Club Sol A Go-Go. If it was in Wales it would be called Club Solagogogogh. Possibly.
Now, when I mentioned we are staying at a camp site, you might have got the idea that we are outdoors types who like nothing better than erecting a tent, brewing cups of tea on a Calor gas stove and yomping through woods with knapsacks on our back.
We are staying in what might loosely be termed a caravan but Jim Rockford – he of the Rockford files – would recognise it as a trailer. I suppose I had better update that reference for the benefit of any younger readers who may have strayed across this blog; think Joy and Darnell (aka Crab-Man, aka Benouit Assou-Ekotto, left back for Tottenham Hotspur FC).
Two bedrooms. One double bed, the other with a single bed and two bunk beds.
Shower room and toilet.
The main room is a kitchen-diner affair. Sink, oven, hob, electric fan, table, L-shaped settee (no accent necessary on 'settee' according to my spell checker), gas fire, fridge, freezer, wine rack (naturellement) UK and continental plug sockets and a surprisingly large amount of cupboard space.
Outside there is a deck with a table and umbrella, chairs, loungers and a gas barbecue thingy.
No TV, music playing device or Internet connection. TV, music and Internet can all be enjoyed in the camp bar (ooh, get you duckie – no, not that sort of camp bar).
We booked through a company called Eurocamp because (a) they are solid, reliable operators and (b) I am a shareholder in the parent company (Holidaybreak) and so get a 10% discount. Hurrah!
The preparation was virtually all done by Mrs. Fiendish, some of it virtually (go to the Eurocamp web site and have a virtual look around the trailers). The conceit I allow myself is that it makes more sense to have one person doing all the packing, sorting out the tickets, the passports and what not, because it avoids confusion. The truth, as we all know, is that I am a lazy sod.
So, Mrs. Fiendish chose the camp. Excellent! That means she gets blamed by our restless teenaged boys (we brought number 2 and 3 sons, and left number 1 son behind) when they inevitably pronounce the camp as “gay” (this still seems to be in common parlance as a general all-purpose pejorative term, analagous to the term “naff” that I overused in the eighties).
Mrs. Fiendish did the packing, so she gets to beat herself up when she forgets to pack the hair straightener, or the map of France or the charger for the mobile phone.
Mrs. Fiendish also gets to do the driving because as a relatively new driver of just two years experience, she does not trust me in a right hand drive on French roads, and she especially does not trust me in her Lexus GS 300, which has a top speed of 148 mph and the acceleration of a whippet. Nor is it practical to take my Toyota Yaris (did someone mention role reversal?) as it lacks the luggage space of the Lexus.
Mrs. F. gets to look after the tickets, the passports and just about everything else. My meagre contribution was to get pounds changed into euros and choose some games to take with us (St. Petersburg, San Juan, Settlers of Catan, Coloretto, Land Unter and En Garde [the card game], since you asked). Now that we are here I am also expected to dust off my “O” level French (failed) to converse with the locals.
I did very well yesterday in a supermarket queue. “Apres vous, c'est fermez,” (place your own circumflexes and accents) said the cashier, and when some punter came and stood behind me, I said: “Apres moi, c'est fermez,” to which he responded, “Do what, guv'nor?”
Actually, there was one more thing I had to do and that was sort out the routes. We had to be at the ferry port by 9:30pm and Mrs. F. had said we'd be leaving about 7pm. At various times in the previous week she had told me we were sailing from either Plymouth or Portsmouth. So I was a bit concerned when I sat down at the PC at about 5:30 to plan out our routes to find that the AA said it would take about 4 hours to get to Plymouth which meant we had to leave right that minute. Zut alors! Whatever that means. Merde, even.
Luckily, we were going to Portsmouth, not Plymouth, a mere 150 minutes away.
Well, to hell with Google Maps, that damn company is taking over the world. I am sticking to the good old Automobile Association (aka the AA) and its route planner. I printed off a route to Portsmouth and it did the job nicely, thank you very much.
Eurocamp provides a route planning service on its web site to help customers navigate from the French ferry port (Caen) to the camp, but it does so inside a panel which makes it a bugger to print from Opera or that other browser that nicked most of Opera's best ideas).
Never mind, Michelin do a route planner for the continent. Amazing, really; when I hear the name Michelin I think restaurants, not tyres.
So, we were sorted, ready to roll (on and roll off).
Ferry cross the Manche
Not much to say about the ferry. The overpriced chips were at least well cooked and they had a few video games to keep the kids amused.
We had booked a cabin so went to sleep about midnight, and set our phone alarms for 5:15am, 15 mins before we were due to dock.
About 4:30am classical music started blaring out of the loudspeakers in our cabin and there was nothing we could do to switch them off. In our confused state it took us a while to realise this was the ferry company's way of ensuring we did not oversleep.
After about 15 minutes, we actually started getting into the music. Then it stopped.
The sensible thing at this point would have been for me to have got up and got two cups of coffee – no, make that three cups of coffee; one for me, and two for Mrs. Fiendish.
I knew from our last ferry crossing, when we had this mad idea of driving from Poole at 5am in order to get home in time to go to work, that Mrs. F. needs a good 8 hours sleep, some coffee and maybe some food inside her in order to stay awake at the wheel. On that occasion (driving from Poole) we made it as far as junction 23 (we lived just off junction 25 at the time) of the M25 before capitulating and stopping off at a service station. For about 15 miles, maybe 30, of that journey Mrs. F. had been repeatedly dozing off at the wheel while doing 70 mph, with me periodically poking her in the ribs. Madness. Of course, we never made it home in time to go to work. We took the morning off.
Any road up, as my old Granddad (that spelling looks a bit Welsh but the spellchecker insists – it also insists that spell-checker be hyphenated) used to say, we rolled off the ferry and started following the Michelin route planner.
These things are normally pretty good - “at the next roundabout take the third exit marked Rue d'Gestures” that sort of thing – and we even got used to the third exit being a left turn, as it is when you drive on the right, but they become a bit tricky when you go off piste.
We got piste off round about Rennes, a large city on our route which we ought to have bypassed. However, Mrs. F. started doing her dozing off party trick. It was Sunday, circa 8:30am and not a lot of places open selling coffee. Thank God for McDonalds, eh?
We parked in the car park and I got out to inspect the petit dejeuner menu. I might as well not have bothered, they don't do it at 8:30 on a Sunday morning. Coffee and muffins, that's your lot.
Only drive through (or “drive thru” as our dipthong averse transatlantic cousins have it) was available, so I got back in the car, and we drove up to the speaker-cum-microphone order point, acutely aware that pointing and body language does not translate well through an audio only communication device.
This seemed to have occurred to Johnny Servingchap (Jean Chapdeserving?) as well. I don't know what the French is “For fuck sake come round to the window you ignorant foreign peasants” is, but it could well have been what he said.
So, we poodled round to the window to be greeted by a perfectly charming spotty youth of around 21 ans (years). Probably the manager.
“Deux cafes au lait, deux Cokes et quatre briochee something or other, s'il vous plait,” quoth I.
“No briochee, monsieur. I am sorry. Only pain chocolat,” responded the Big Mac man.
“Bon. Or possibly bonne. Non, bon, je pense. We'll have quatre of them, por favor.”
They tasted like toe fungus, as it happens, but it was a small victory. Supercharged with what was actually quite decent coffee (are you reading this, Starbucks? Your days as a purveyor of overpriced shite coffee are numbered) Mrs. F. was as alert as a falcon on the wing.
Unfortunately, we could not get back on the road we had exited by retracing our route, which meant we had to busk our way through Rennes. Not literally, you understand. I wasn't standing on street corners singing “Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London,” to bewildered passers by at 9:00am on a Sunday morning in a regional French town. No, by busking, I mean we had to navigate by the seat of our pants.
We got lost.
So, time for the last resort of all true men: look at the map.
Tricky chap, Johnny Map, when he only covers the area you are travelling to and not the area in which you are lost. It was jolly nice of those Eurocamp fellas to provide us with a free map but we – and when I say “we”, I mean, of course, Mrs. Fiendish, had not bothered to check that the map covered all the route from Caen to St. Hilaire de Riez. So,we had our Bonnie Tyler moment: Lost In France.
The following night we had another Bonnie Tyler moment when someone absolutely slaughtered “Forever's Gonna Start Tonight” (or whatever it is called) at the karaoke evening.
Anyway, Mrs. F. duly castigated herself for not being able to think of everything, and I consoled her with the patronising comment that it was still pretty efficient of her to think of 10,001 things, but she is such a perfectionist, except when it comes to choosing a husband.
As it turned out, you don't even need to have failed French “O” level to work out that Peripherique means ring road, so we headed for the ring road and recommenced our journey.
We made it as far as Nantes (have I got these town names the right way round? If not, you are probably wondering why I am heading north and not west) when the next ring road bowled us a googly (told you those bastards are taking over the world – look it up, non-cricket fans; it's roughly analagous to a “curve ball”).
We had to exit at junction 23 or similar. Yet, here we were, heading in the right direction, but the next junction was 33 and the one after that was 34, so, naturally wee turned around and headed in the other direction, not realising that after junction 35 came junction 18, then 19 and so on. Heaven knows why they did it that way, probably an EU regulation or something.
By now we were on the complementary map which is how I came to realise that we had been headed in the right direction after all, so we turned around (bright eyes) again. Every now and then I fall apart etc.
The Michelin guide suggested we should have been there by about midday. What with the coffee break and the two diversions, we were pretty happy to be a mere 10 miles from our destination by 1:30pm. Of course, the last 10 miles took almost an hour, as it was down twisty unnamed roads and I had, in any case, left it too late to switch from the map to the very specific and totally accurate instructions from the holiday company on how to navigate the last 10 miles of the journey.
The important thing was that we had made it with the best part of the day – the afternoon sun – still ahead of us. Nobody had died. That was to take place – almost – later on in the holiday when number 2 son and number 3 son got involved in a knife fight with each other.
Dramatic stuff, eh?
Monday, February 23, 2009 2:12:17 PM
Assuming she can put up with me for another 10 months or so, Mrs. Fiendish and I will have been married for twenty years at the end of November. As we did on our tenth anniversary, we are treating ourselves to a holiday away together sans kids.
Last time round we went to Lanzarote, largely because that's the only accessible place that is warm at the end of November. This year Mrs. Fiendish said we don't actually need to be away on our anniversary, just so long as we go away some time this year outside of the school holidays. So, the world is our lobster, as George Cole used to say.
As for destinations, we are typically targeting places that our kids would hate. Me, personally, I like a beach holiday but leavened with a bit of culture: a Greek or Roman ruin, some Moorish architecture, a chance to see some unknown blues genius playing in a Chicago club, that sort of thing.
We've been looking at places in Europe, even, God help us, going on a cruise. A Baltic cruise looked appealing, taking in St. Petersburg, but there is something about the perceived age profile of people who go on cruises and the fact that you appear to be tied down to an itinerary that put me off the idea.
I've always had a hankering to go to Corsica, largely because it is a chance to go to Italy (almost) without having to speak Italian, though I doubt whether my barely remembered "O" level (failed) French is any better at communicating with the locals than waving my hands and shouting very loudly.
However, lovely place though it is, it looks a bit expensive, even before sterling plunged against the euro.
Bizarrely, places a lot further away, such as Cuba, Trinidad & Tobego and the Dominican Republic, appear to be far more cost effective, even for a 7-day break. I get the sense that, beautiful though these places are, they are not geared up to cater for the cultural side of the equation, though Cuba sounds like the sort of place I would like to explore.
Mrs. Fiendish has out-sourced the research to one of her colleagues who, being single and childless, goes on about 5 holidays a year so knows where to go to get a bargain. However, any feedback from readers on where to go will be gratefully accepted, unless they involve Spain (Mrs. Fiendish is not a fan) or France (too close).
Wednesday, August 27, 2008 5:22:39 PM
I am back from my holidays. I've been back for about 2 weeks, in fact, so I suppose I ought to write something. About my holidays, perhaps. It's not every year I go to Las Vegas, Williams (Arizona/Grand Canyon/Route 66), San Diego and Los Angeles for my hols, so I suppose I ought to put my worthlesss (and weak) observations out there in the blogosphere. After all, these places don't get nearly enough coverage from the world's press. Well, Williams probably doesn't.
I should also do a review of Ian McLagan and the Bump Band at the Jazz Cafe (niiiiice), a gig I attended two nights before going on holiday after heroically driving from Leicester to Hertford via Lytham St. Annes in a single day - a round trip of 391 miles.
It's all going to have to wait though. Things are busy as stink at work - just 63 company results for a four person team to cover tomorrow along with all the other stock market gibberish to report on - and after a hard day's work bashing away at the PC I don't much feel like sitting down at home doing the same thing. Besides which, I have about two weeks' worth of Homicide: Life on the Street
to catch up on.
I am sure I used to have some spare time before I bought a digital video recorder.
Sunday, November 11, 2007 2:09:01 PM
I suppose I had better bore you with what I did on my holidays before I forget them, though heaven knows I have tried.
We went to Bulgaria. Sounds exotic and undiscovered, you might be thinking, as did I when Mrs. Fiendish told me we were going there. My suspicions that our destination might not be the undiscovered paradise I hoped it was were aroused when she told me the name of the resort we were staying in: Sunny Beach.
Excuse me, but shouldn’t Bulgarian place names be the sort of words that give Scrabble players orgasms, all Vs, Zs and Rs?
As you might have surmised, Sunny Beach is a purpose built tourist resort. A pretty bloody huge one on the cost of the Black Sea. Actually that last statement is not true; it is neither pretty nor bloody, but it is huge.
Why did we go there and what happened to pre-holiday due diligence?
The answer to that is procrastination and apathy.
Every year we make a pledge to choose and book our holiday early, preferably in January of the year in which we intend to take our holiday. Post-Christmas, the holiday brochures arrive and a reasonable amount of research is done on holidays that either promise “undiscovered” delights or “adventure”. Following the research a number of suggestions are made to the family, all of which fail to elicit outright commitment but some of which garner responses of the “Mmmm, could do,” or “Sounds interesting” sort.
For instance, I wanted to go on a sailing trip round the southern part of Italy, taking in a visit to Pompeii. Number three son fancied a sledding holiday in Lapland or something Viking cold. Mrs. Fiendish fancied something involving horse riding and, if possible, world record breaking consumption of wine. Number two son fancied expanding the family graffiti franchise to New York in a sort of “coal to Newcastle” fashion. Number one son fancied a week of raving, shagging and puking, out of sight of his parents, and he was the only one who got his wish.
After the initial burst of holiday booking enthusiasm subsides, the months slide by, interrupted only by the now traditional one week sojourn in Center Parcs. By July, the school holidays start and the need to book a summer break becomes pressing for Mrs. Fiendish who, as well as working hard at her day job, slogs her guts out at home looking after some of the laziest, untidiest slobs ever put on this planet; the rest of us, quite frankly, would probably be happy with two weeks spent at home, staying up late, sleeping in late, surfing the net and watching every episode of Scrubs ever made. Twice.
So Mrs. Fiendish pops into a travel agent – yes, I was surprised but it actually works out quicker than slogging through 20,000 pages on the internet – and says “Find me a beach holiday in a warm client, with accommodation for 4 people, with a separate bed-room for adults.”
Last year, the travel agent came up with an apartment in Crete. Now, Crete is hardly undiscovered, but it has some cultural elements (we ignored them) and the Greeks are wonderfully friendly. We had a very good time, thanks largely to the community spirit that built up among the apartment residents at the pool and bar. We are not the world’s greatest at making friends with strangers but it’s important for the kids to do so in order not to go nuts with boredom. Number two son even managed to pull a stunningly good looking girl who was two years his senior, but that story is only worth telling if I have the photos to hand …
Anyway, the “book late, take pot luck” approach worked well last year. This year, however, the kids had expressed an interest in staying a hotel and this did not work out so well, largely because the number of residents was too large for friendships to be forged. You can sometimes get round this by making friends on excursions, and heaven knows we went on enough excursions, but they were mostly shit, being directed at fans of boiled chicken and cabbage.
So, we arrived at Sunny Beach at about 5 in the morning, Bulgarian time (3:00am UK time) to see people still milling about the street, presumably on their way from, but possibly on their way to, a noisy bar.
Our room smelled slightly of tobacco smoke and Mrs. Fiendish immediately resolved to get us moved to another room first thing in the morning. In the cold light of day – or, more accurately, the sweltering light of day – we decided not to bother as the arctic air conditioning quickly neutralised all other smells, even the pong of number 3 son’s 2007 socks (so called because he changes his socks once a year).
After a bit of a lie in we made our way down to the pool where we noticed a sign advising residents not to lay claim to sun loungers by putting their towels on them before breakfast. This is a despicable practice pioneered by the Germans and not the sort of thing we Brits do, which means that, given 95% of the hotel’s residents were British, German residents from other hotels must have been invading our hotel and colonising our loungers with their Teutonic towels.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Though I, being a closet conformist, would never do such a thing, Mrs. Fiendish succumbed to this annoying practice by the second week. Being from up north she is a lot more assertive than me.
A quick visit to the bar to take advantage of the much touted cheap beer prices – a scandalous 70p for something approaching a pint at the hotel, but only 30p from some of the local bars – and it quickly became apparent that we did not fit in with the other residents.
Yes, as well as being a closet conformist I am a snob.
I’d say about 50% of the residents had tattoos, and that included many podgy middle aged women. I truly, truly do not get the point of tattoos – would you choose to have the same pattern on all of your shirts for the rest of your life? – but I can sort of see its appeal for the young and stupid. What, however, makes a fat mother of three go out and get a butterfly tattooed on her shoulder blade, or a fleur de lis tattooed above her bum crack? Does she think this ink staining will transform her from a dowdy mum into a super-sexy vixen?
Remind me of these comments when I buy my two-seater sports car, will you?
A good proportion of the residents also had piercings. One woman had so much ironmongery in her face she looked like she’d accidentally walked along the riverbank at the casting off of the All England fishing competition.
Finally, they were all Sun readers to a man. Probably. I think some read the Star while for those who found these publications too taxing, there was OK and Hello magazine.
Still, not to worry. Just because they had ITV tastes does not make them bad people. It did tend to make them tedious company, however, for us. There we were, anxious to discuss the works of Marcel Proust or get into heated debate about the collapse of the US sub-prime mortgage lending market, and all they wanted to talk about was beer and football. Which seeing as the beer was shit and Spurs had got off to their usual calamitous start to the season, I was not keen to discuss these matters.
I don’t want to labour the point about the idle tendencies of the Fiendish males but it is true that left to our own devices, we’d do nothing but sunbathe in the day and stay in to watch Animal Planet in the evening. Mrs. Fiendish cannot abide such inactivity so she insisted on booking some excursions. This had worked well last year in Crete, where I had almost killed myself learning Scuba diving and crapped myself on the big slide at the water park, but for some reason the excursions did not pan out too well this time.
The first of them was a “jeep safari” up into the Balkan mountains where our guide was at pains to stress that just because the word “safari” was mentioned, we should not expect to see any wild animals.
There were about 15 jeeps on this safari, and ours contained the tour guide and the cameraman. The guide’s role was primarily to whoop a lot every time we went down a steepish hill in an attempt to create some artificial excitement, while the cameraman’s task was to film all this nonsense and then try and sell us a DVD of the day’s activities for £15.
Halfway through the day we stopped for a rest. We were all given a chance to have one shot with an air rifle at some plastic bottles hanging from a tree. This was about as close as we came to wildlife up in the mountains.
We then drove around a bit more. On two occasions we saw incomplete concrete bridges spanning dried up river beds. Weird.
Later on we had a water fight – cue more frenzied whooping – and at some point we undoubtedly stopped for some boiled chicken and cabbage. The geographically ignorant among you might need reminding that Bulgaria is adjacent to Turkey, home of the kebab, so you’d think the Bulgars would know a bit about grilling meat. However, our chicken on a skewer always looked undercooked, so we studiously avoided eating it. Subsequently we found out from the rep that the restaurants used on these excursions typically boil the chicken and then whack it under a grill for a couple of minutes to make it look as if it had been barbecued. Still tasted like rubber, though. Mind you, the tomatoes were delicious.
For a bit of comic relief we occasionally stopped to watch the gang snap tow leads as one or the other of the Russian army jeeps used by the excursion company got bogged down in mud or stuck in a rut. I know how they feel.
The day ended at a small distillery where they brewed some lethal but drinkable brandy. Bulgaria’s back-room stills will be forced to shut down (yeah, right) by those spoilsports at the EU in a couple of years time but in the meantime they are free to carry on making life in Bulgarian crap-hole towns bearable.
I don’t mean “crap hole” in the New Cross/Toxteth sense. Away from the tourist areas and, presumably, the major towns, the standard of living in Bulgaria is clearly very poor, and the villages we passed through bore the tell-tale signs of a hurriedly westernised eastern-European state: crap housing but state of the art TVs and satellite dishes.
Our first evening in Sunny Beach was mostly memorable through Mrs. Fiendish’s insistence that we go in to a noisy bar. This was an open sided affair on top of a retail unit; the roof was held up by columns carved into the shape of bare-breasted women, which I suppose was a plus point. The fact that the music it was blaring out could be heard in Tokyo was a distinct minus point, but at least the music was occasionally punctuated by an even louder air horn, thereby providing at least some form of melodic counterpoint to the uniformly dreary Euro-disco slop.
Be that as it may, the bar looked “interesting” and possibly even “happening”. Do people still say “happening”? Number two son would probably say “it looked bear good”. The only way to find out for sure was to walk up the stairs and find out.
As soon as we stepped into the bar we raised the mean age of the clientele by several years, and that was with two teenagers in tow. At one end of the bar a scantily clad woman stood on the bar top and gyrated randomly to the music, while at the other end of the bar a man did likewise only less enthusiastically, lest he be thought of as gay.
Just as I don’t “get” tattoos, I don’t understand dancing. For me, the female go-go dancer was just blocking my view of the football which was showing a game from the Dutch league. Yes, the bar was that interesting.
Well, as you can probably tell, much of the above was written ages ago and my enthusiasm for finishing it is about on a par with my enthusiasm for returning to Bulgaria, so I won’t be able to explore the mystery of why 95% of bar bands in Sunny Beach featured at least one Credence Clearwater Revival number in their repertoire. Besides, I have next year’s holiday not to book.
Friday, September 15, 2006 3:22:26 PM
Mrs. Fiendish and I have never been too good at making friends on holiday. I suspect it is because we are frightful snobs and like to get a good look at our companions before deigning to exchange idle chit-chat with them. This year’s holiday was no different. It wasn’t until the second week’s intake of people that we mingled much with the other residents and that was only because of, dare I say it, the karaoke evening.
Yes, all right, I admit it, I participated in a karaoke evening. These things are only enjoyable if the people doing the singing are either very bad or passably good and almost everyone at this particular event was extremely bad, and knew it. Particularly excruciating was a bloke called Tony who droned his way through numerous Sinatra standards. By sticking to the same note all the way through each song he had a 1 in 8 chance of hitting the right one occasionally, but let’s give the guy some credit for being the first one up there to break the ice.
Particularly entertaining were the lunatic Dutch contingent, whose first song was a very sad one about a boy who lost his kite (I only know this because although the song was in Dutch, it was accompanied by a video), which was delivered with exactly the right sense of pathos by the slightly beered-up gaggle of wife-swappers and jazz-cigarette smoking Nederlanders – i.e. none whatsoever!
They excelled themselves on their next song. I can’t recall what this was called but the video had lots of farm animals; I think it was a Dutch version of a cross between “Old MacDonald’s Farm” and “I’ve Got A Brand New Combine Harvester”. Bizarrely, most of the Brits tried to join in on the chorus, despite not having a clue how most of the words were pronounced.
The kids (not mine) had a shot at it too, choosing an Eminem song each time. Personally, I don’t mind Eminem, though I am no great fan of rap music. However, his songs do contain a lot of words – most of them gibberish, judging by the teleprompter, though the gibberish is leavened by some well-turned phrases – and they are not big on singalongability, so with the kids mumbling their way through Eminem’s self-righteous anthems, it was an excellent opportunity to get up the bar and order some more unspeakably bland Greek lager.
After sufficient amounts of said lager, I was persuaded to get up and have a go myself. I was two lines into “Stand By Me” when I heard a voice behind me say something to the effect of “Ey up, this one can sing”. I must have done all right because the bloke doing the karaoke made a CD of all my performances, so if you want to hear me butchering “Walking In Memphis”, get in touch.
If memory serves, I did 5 songs, and by the fifth, my voice was shot. This came as a surprise to me, as did cocking up my breathing on one of the songs. I had no idea the mechanics of my singing technique had deteriorated so much. A bit depressing really, when your skills start to decline in the one area of your life where you have always been above average. Still, if Michael Schumacher can come to terms with it, I am sure I can.
The second week’s intake seemed to have a higher proportion of kids with the result that our offspring went from being a bit tiresome in the first week (“Dad, come and play pool with me”) to being largely absent (“Piss off, Dad, can’t you see I am busy?”) in the second.
Number 2 son (aged 13) became very friendly with a pretty girl (aged 15 but looked 18, especially in a bikini – if you will forgive my “dirty old man” moment) from Southampton. Now, that’s just not right, is it? It’s one of the immutable laws of the world that teenaged girls are only interested in older blokes. Having said that, number one son always has older girls calling round for him as well. Maybe it is because my sons are all devilishly handsome?
Mrs. Fiendish and I still didn’t make any friends, though I was on speaking terms with quite a few people after my karaoke exploits. Still, it left us plenty of time to get on with our holiday reading. I managed to read 8 books and was halfway through my ninth by the time we touched down at Gatwick. Six of these books were by James Lee Burke from his Dave Robicheaux series, and it might have been a mistake to read so many of them in quick succession as even these relatively complex examples of the private eye novel started to seem formulaic. Still, at least the Robicheaux character gets older as the series goes on, whereas the likes of Robert Parker’s Spenser just wouldn’t cut it as a sixty something gym rat work-out freak. For Robicheaux, his experiences in Vietnam influence his behaviour so much that it would be difficult for James Lee Burke to ignore the march of time. In contrast, Spenser’s past is restricted to an unsuccessful boxing career in his youth which included a defeat to Jersey Joe Walcott – and you’d need to be a boxing fan to know that Walcott retired in 1953 after losing to Rocky Marciano in a title fight, which would make Spenser at least 69 years old now.
I haven’t got round to downloading the holiday photos yet but rest assured that when I do, they’ll be posted to the web site. I’ve not listened to my karaoke CD either but if it is either terrible or good I’ll put some files on the web site too.
Friday, September 8, 2006 4:11:54 PM
When it comes to scuba diving, I suckIt is a depressing fact that any Mediterranean coastal resort served for any length of time by package tour companies will become just like any other Mediterranean costal resort. So it was with Hersonissos, where the main street consisted of a repeat of the following sequence (with occasional variations) of shops: taverna, car/bike hire place, excursions place, souvenir shop, jewellers, super market. Typically these were all identikit places, except down by the seafront where the tavernas gave way to more “clubby” bars plus the ubiquitous Irish pub.
Most of the jewellers did not display prices, suggesting that they were happy to barter. Now, I am happy to barter over the price of a shirt or something I buy on a regular basis, but would you barter over the cost of a bracelet that could cost anywhere between £80 and £2,000?
The souvenir places all seemed to sell the same stuff: beachwear, football shirts, t-shirts with corny slogans and so on. For what it is worth, the only English clubs whose shirts featured in these shops were Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Some shirts came with the number and player name pre-printed. Who were the most popular footballers? Ronaldinho and Frank Lampard. Fancy that!
We did find one little cloth shop (and bought a table cloth from it) and a book shop to break the monotony, plus a few clothes shops. Mostly, however, it was “Southend-syndrome” where all shops of a similar kind sold similar stock at similar prices and thus relied on happenstance to win custom.
Old Hersonissos, which was within walking distance of our apartment, was a little more interesting; at least it had the benefit of old buildings and twisty alleyways to provide a bit of interest but it consisted mainly of tavernas plus a smattering of local craft shops including, bizarrely, one shop run by Chinese who were selling silk cloths and such like.
Talking of Chinese, we had a Chinese meal in old Hersonissos which ranks as one of the most mundane we have ever tasted. I know it is odd to go to Greece and then have a Chinese meal but the kids are fussy eaters and fancied a Chinese. Besides which, the Chinese who settle in different countries each end up developing a different take on Chinese cuisine; the one we went to clearly thought anything too spicy or flavoured was a bad thing, with the result that the food was largely tasteless. Or maybe they did not have access to monosodium glutamate? Lin’s chow mein, bizarrely, consisted mostly of shredded cabbage.
A somewhat more memorable meal was held on Mrs. Fiendish’s birthday. We walked the length of old Hersonissos looking for a suitable restaurant – ideally one that served lobster which, for some reason, the kids were anxious to have. Perhaps Paul Oakes had taught them his “always order the most expensive thing on the menu” restaurant policy.
in particular caught her eye because it, in my words, really should have been located in Essex. It was big, brightly lit, with lots of classical-style statues, hanging vines and lanterns, whilst the waitresses were dressed in ancient Greek garb, even down to the laurels in their hair: completely over the top. This, of course, was the restaurant we ended up in, on the basis that it was the one most likely to have lobster available. This proved to be a shrewd piece of analysis on the part of Mrs. Fiendish as they did indeed have lobster available, and we ended up sharing 2 between the four of us. One was plain, the other cooked in garlic.
Given that we had ordered unusual dishes, the restaurant owner asked if it was a special occasion, to which I replied that it was Mrs. Fiendish’s birthday. This resulted in him recruiting some English girls from another table to sing happy birthday to Mrs. F. at the end of the meal. Unfortunately, he also treated us to some free champagne; I say unfortunately because neither I nor Mrs. Fiendish like the stuff and we subsequently found out that it makes Mrs. F. ill when she drinks it (well it has on the last two occasions, and given that she never drinks more than a mouthful of the stuff we can be fairly sure it is not over imbibing that is causing the illness). By this stage of the evening – 12:30am or so – we were exhausted and desperate to get home to bed, but the legendary Greek hospitality kept us there for another 30 minutes as the kids were treated to complementary ice creams whilst the parents participated in about 10 minutes of hand-shaking, hugging and salutations with the staff. Still, it was a good night, and despite its naff affectations, the restaurant was pretty good. The waitresses came and cleared away crumbs and other detritus between each course and after the lobster dish they appeared with a jug of warm water – I thought they were going to bathe my feet for a minute but, sadly, no – the water was poured from the jug into a small bowl, where we were encouraged to wash our hands.Tell me about the scuba diving
In contrast to previous holidays where we spoke about doing something adventurous and then never bothered booking anything, on this holiday Mrs. Fiendish was determined we would do more than just sun-bathe and get sloshed.
Now, given we were in the cradle of western civilization, and given that I won a prize at school for being the best student of Greek literature (from a field of …. oooh, 30 students I should imagine – the award was easily on a par with Best Pipe Cleaner Modeller), you might imagine that our activities would include visits to the Minoan palace and the remains of the labyrinth at Knossos. However, for some reason, seeing these remains had little appeal to me and I imagine even less appeal to the kids. Instead our excursions involved doing something active: scuba diving, horse riding, sea fishing.
Number two son wanted to do scuba diving and though I have never been that interested in the idea it wasn’t totally repellent to me, so we booked an introductory session for the morning and a monitored dive from a boat in the afternoon. Mrs. Fiendish and number 3 son, meanwhile, lounged nearby on the beach.
Before we did the training we had to sign a waiver form. There was one section that caught my eye, pertaining to people over 45 years of age (guilty). The long and the short of it is, if you have high cholesterol or a history of heart disease in your family then you can only do the training if you have dispensation from your doctor. (There were other pre-conditions but these were the ones that applied to me, in as much as I have high cholesterol, my mother died of a stroke and my father had – as the old joke has it – acute angina).
So, naturally, when completing the form I lied about this but it did put the wind up me a bit, as it dawned on me that the activity might be a bit more dangerous than a gentle swim in the sea.
We were then shown a safety video, detailing all the things to remember about scuba diving which, so far as I can remember, boils down to the following:
1.Breathe through your mouth
2.Press one button on your jacket to increase buoyancy
3.Press a different button to decrease buoyancy
4.Learn how to clear the regulator by sending a blast of air through it (best done by saying the word “two” into the mouthpiece)
5.Don’t hold your breath. Even if the regulator is not in your mouth, keep breathing out bubbles of air.
6.Don’t go any deeper until the air in your lung, nose and throat is balanced. “Pop” your jaw in order to do this.
7.Various hand signals to aid underwater communication
After the video, we were kitted out in a rubber fetishist’s dream outfit and taken out to a fairly rough sea for our training. I must admit, I had expected to learn in a swimming pool. I had real problems putting on my fins (flippers) in the sea and had swallowed half a pint of extremely salty sea-water even before I got down to the serious business of diving.
There then followed a spell of learning to breathe underwater through the regulator. This was easy enough and I quickly got to grips with breathing only through my mouth. Before I knew it, I was guided down to the sea bed where my ears felt like someone had placed my head in a vice. I was busy trying to remember how to balance the pressure in my lungs and head, all the while experiencing inordinate difficulty in balancing on the sea-bed. I’d like to say it was because of the rough sea but number 2 son seemed to manage it all right; I was flopping about like a rag doll. The instructor kept placing me upright, and tightening various bits of equipment, and once I had achieved an upright status it was time to go through the drill of practising clearing the regulator. This entailed removing it from one’s mouth, then reinserting it, then spitting the word “two” into the mouthpiece. I did all this, but evidently not well enough because my next breath through the regulator consisted mainly of sea water rather than air. My immediate reaction was to spit out the regulator and hold my breath. The tutor quickly placed the regulator back in my mouth and proceeded to start flicking V signs at me. “Well you can fuck off too!” I thought to myself, instantly forgetting that two fingers held up meant “clear the regulator by spitting the word ‘two’ into the mouthpiece”. I signalled I was in some distress, and he brought me gently to the surface, where I coughed up sea water. I then mentioned I wasn’t enjoying this very much, and he responded “Not for you, huh?”. Now, I hadn’t intended quitting when I surfaced but he seemed to be inviting me to do so, and I took up his invitation.
It was probably a seminal moment in number 2 son’s life, where he proved more adept at an “adult” activity than his Dad. Or maybe it was a seminal moment in my life, where my athletic prowess was easily surpassed by a thirteen year old boy, though to be honest, ever since the day my then 10-year-old son beat me in a 100 metres sprint at a cubs’ sports day I’ve had no illusions about my nigh on extinguished sporting prowess. Or maybe I should stop watching re-runs of “The Wonder Years” and acknowledge that life is not always accompanied by an interior monologue.
(Actually, I think number 2 son was more chuffed about beating me at St. Petersburg
on last year’s holiday).
Number 2 son completed the morning course but ducked out of the second course. He didn’t find diving that interesting either, even without the salt-water diet. The scuba diving people were fantastic about it (they were almost all Germans of a distressingly Aryan manner) and gave us a full refund for the afternoon session. I suspect a British outfit would have taken the view that we had paid for the afternoon session and it was our own fault if we were too wimpish to go through with it.
The deep sea fishing proved more interesting. I have never fished in my life, so was largely expecting this to be a glorified sea cruise for me, interspersed with periods of me taking people’s eyes out with my fish hooks, but I really enjoyed it. It helped that the boat had some sort of gizmo (sonar? radar?) that told it where the fish were, and so even the most incompetent fisherman (i.e. me) managed to catch something, though once again number 2 son comprehensively outdid me.
We finished the day with some snorkelling (much better than scuba!) whilst the boat owner barbecued some fish on the beach. The fish tasted excellent and I consumed all of it except the head and the skeleton. This I chucked over the side where it was picked clean inside 40 seconds by a whirling ball of fish.
I didn’t actually do the horse riding. That was an activity for Mrs. Fiendish and number 3 son. The latter proved very adept and with his diminutive stature might even have a future as a jockey, were it not for his complete inability to get up in the morning and his addiction to chocolate spread sandwiches and other junk foods.Part III to follow, sometime
Tuesday, September 5, 2006 4:40:57 PM
A long, tedious, belated online postcard - part 1We booked our holiday in Crete at the beginning of August, some 2 weeks before we were due to depart. We did it the old fashioned way, by bowling up at a travel agent’s, giving vague instructions of our requirements, and letting the travel agent make recommendations. Well, I say “we”, but in fact all the work was done by Mrs. Fiendish – as usual. She did it on Sunday morning while I was still in bed.
Possibly we missed an opportunity to grab a cut-price deal via the internet, but who wants to go on a holiday that no one else wants to go on (in high season)?
We left number one son at home as he no longer wants to go on holiday with his parents unless he can bring a friend along. He was most put out that we were going on holiday. His attitude was not so much “I want to come with you” as “I don’t think you should go without me”, which was a position against which it was hard to argue.
The night before we were due to fly out was spent extricating number 2 son from some (anti-)social difficulties, which meant that we did not have time to do a last minute round-up of useful but non-essential items to take with us, such as board games, personal stereos and that rubber French maid’s outfit that I so like wearing in my private moments ….
We arrived at Gatwick airport in plenty of time, expecting mammoth delays and security measures, but to be honest it was not that much worse than usual. Just before we joined the queue for the security check we bought some chewing gum, only to be told that we would not be allowed to take chewing gum on to the plane. En masse, the Harrington family promptly spat out its wads of chewing gum into a bin, only to be belatedly informed that only unchewed chewing gum was considered a security risk. Oh well, it was only 40p wasted. The woman behind us in the queue had to throw away £20 worth of lipstick and seemed mortified at the prospect of not being able to reapply her lippie for the next four hours.
The flight was uneventful, apart from the Scouser next to me getting up out of his seat every 10 minutes for some reason or another. I did check the wheels on the plane when we alighted and they were still all there, so heaven knows what he was up to.
We arrived at Heraklion airport at about 4:00am (Greece is 2 hours ahead of the UK). In the smaller confines of this airport it was easier to observe a phenomenon which has doubtless been going on for years but which has passed me by, namely the “slags/wankers on tour” team shirt, as worn by gangs of young Brits off to some Mediterranean hell-hole to terrify the local populace with their projectile vomiting capabilities.
The first group I saw consisted of about 6 girls. Each had on the same coloured polo shirt, which had on the back that person’s nickname (e.g. Fairy), team number and – at the bottom – a slogan or catch-phrase. My particular favourite was Choo-Choo, whose slogan was “You can cum in my tunnel.” Nice. One member of the team was, unfortunately, so plump that her slogan was lost in the rolls of fat around her waist. Perhaps her slogan was “Don’t sweat much for a fat bird” or “I’m willing to try the new all-sperm diet”.
There were at least three other similar groups milling around Heraklion airport and it was my fervent hope that none of them would be staying in our apartments. I needn’t have worried. All were bound for Malia, Crete’s answer to Blackpool, only with slightly more English and Irish pubs.
Our resort was called Hersonissos (and, so far as I know, it still is called Hersonissos), which sounds like a stutterer's nightmare. We stayed in the Adam's Apartments which, if you look it up on the web, is slated on every single review
site, albeit by the same popsie with a grudge to bear. Here are some excerpts from her review, with my comments appended.Popsie's reviewI stayed at these apartments in July / August 2006. Booked through tour operator Cosmos, 6 of us girls went to stay there. (We are all around 22 years old).
Ah, well, there's your problem. These apartments catered more for couples and families.The apartments are run by two brothers. Upon arrival, we immediately realised that this is very much a Dutch resort. There were only three other English groups in the hotel.
When we were there it was only about 30% Dutch. Perhaps the English people pretended to be Dutch to avoid talking to a group of 22 year old English slappers?When checking into our rooms, the manager was very rude to us- we sensed that he didn't like the English as we saw him being rude to other English families but he would sit there and drink with the Dutch.
Both the Greek managers were fine. Given that they spoke English with a North London accent, I find it hard to believe they did not like the English.The rooms were tiny. Book bigger rooms, you cheapskates.We had three in a room which had a double bed and a tiny single bed. Underneath our balcony was also a goat and cockerel farm - you can imagine the noise coming from the farm early in the mornings! How inconsiderate of the locals to persist with their traditional way of living! Surely the owners could have arranged for the sounds to be drowned out, perhaps by a tape of English lager louts puking and shagging (possibly simultaneously)?There wasn't much else in the room except a heating hob and a dressing table with a small mirror and a tiny wardrobe. The bathroom was so small you barely had enough room to turn around in it!!! The plug sockets were hanging out of the wall and looked dangerous. The rooms were also sweltering hot- you absolutely had to buy the air con in there otherwise, like us you probably wouldn't be able to sleep in the heat.Mostly fair comment. Facilities were basic, but safe. Our bathroom was certainly big enough to swing several cats; we know this because several cats visited us every day to eat out leftovers. It's true you had to buy the air conditioning, otherwise it became unbearably hot at night. If they had offered a mosquito zapping option as well I'd have gladly have paid for that, too.The maid never cleaned the rooms - they were filthy, the bed was made but that was about it- no other cleaning was done.Ours were cleaned every other day.When we got back that night, there was no water AT ALL. We couldn't flush the toilet; we couldn't shower or even brush our teeth. The water was off for hours and when we finally asked the manager what was happening he shouted at us "don't talk to me, I have only just woken up". This was at 11am in the morning! Again we asked him and the only response we got was "it's not working yet" (well that was obvious!)
Blimey, who'd have thought you'd end up longing for British plumbing? It sounds like that by this stage relations between the manager and the girls had already deteriorated. It's true the manager only surfaced at 11:00am each day - oddly enough, that was when the bar opened. Every night he stayed serving behind the bar until 2:00am so I don't think it is unreasonable for him to surface at 11:00am. When we arrived on our first day at 5:00am he seemed perfectly courteous.In short - DO NOT stay here! After all the bad reviews written on the web, I'm shocked Cosmos can still use this as a resort!!! The manager is aggressive and rude and the apartments are filthy and more like a squat!All the bad reviews seem to have been written by this woman. On another site she confesses she had gone to this resort to spend every evening in Malia (see above), some 10 miles away. Sounds like a case of wrong person in the wrong accommodation in the wrong resort. I was glad she wasn't there on the weeks we were!Part 2 to follow - God knows when