At this point I think I was determined not to completely enjoy the ‘All Inclusive’experience because in a snooty sort of way I have come to think of myself as a traveller rather than a holidaymaker, a journeyman rather than a tourist and much to the dismay of my daughter I started straight away to find things to dislike.
First of all the apartment, which was a ground floor basement room and I always find these semi-subterranean arrangements to be rather sad and dark and exposed – I don’t like basement rooms. It was well appointed and had all the facilities that we had been promised and expected but basement rooms are designed for Hobbits who live below ground level and all that we could see from our sun starved balcony were people’s sunburnt legs walking by.
I returned to reception and asked if we could possibly be moved to a room on the first or second floor but the receptionist said that that this would be quite impossible. I told her that I had a fear of earthquakes and being buried alive but she showed no sympathy for my feigned phobia and turned away to deal with another guest.
And so I returned to the room and looked for a technical or repair issue and found it when I discovered that the balcony door wouldn’t lock and I went straight back to reception to demand a repair or a move and the receptionist promised that it would be dealt with within the next few minutes. I told her that if it wasn’t then I would expect to be moved to a room on the first or second floor because I was nervous about security issues especially as there were young children in the room and I gave her a look which said ‘you really wouldn’t want a madeleine moment would you?’
And so I returned to the room and we went for a walk around the gardens confident that we would shortly be moved and do you know what? By the time we got back the buggers had fixed it so I had nothing else to complain about. Actually it broke again a couple of days later but by then I was a lot more chilled out and Sally and the girls had rearranged the room in the way that they like it – rather like Belgium after the German Panzer division had passed through on the way to France in 1939, so I really couldn’t face the prospect of packing and unpacking and I just let the matter drop.
In between all this whinging we did indeed walk through gardens which were splashed with dappled sunshine like a Monet painting and where swifts and martins dipped and swerved in the warm corners and as the minutes passed my irritation began to evaporate. Behind the hotel were charcoal black mountains decorated with pine trees and in the fertile valleys below were citrus groves with oranges ripening in the sun and suddenly away from the hotel there was the warm smell of the Mediterranean and in the gentle late afternoon breeze the heady smell of jasmine wafting through the pergolas that filled the air.
There was a real danger here that I might drop my moaning mood and start to enjoy myself but then we went to the restaurant for evening meal.
I understand that dinner time at the Suntopia Tropical was once used as an initiation test for new recruits to the Soviet Army but it was discontinued because it was considered too tough even for this. The food, it has to be said, was very good indeed but the restaurant ambiance was like Dante’s inferno! Wooden chairs being scraped across tiled floors, cutlery being dropped on the floor, children running about and shouting, parents bawling instructions and the constant attention of the cleaning up crews who, if you weren’t careful would whip your plate away from under your nose even before you had finished.
Meal times were also great training for the ‘World Pushing In Championships’ but I am going to tell you about that later…
It was in the dining room that I first noticed the tattoos, because the amount of body art on display here was absolutely incredible. Personally I cannot understand why anyone, unless they are a Maori, would want to disfigure themselves in this way but here at Suntopia Tropical it seemed as though they were almost in the majority. Here there were bodies decorated with lions, wolves and dragons, goblins, fairies and skulls, a comprehensive A to Z of boy’s and girl’s names and more Indian braves than General George Armstrong Custer had to fight at the Battle of the Little Big Horn!
So, this was a mixed sort of day and at the end when the children were asleep and in bed and I was sitting on the underground balcony drinking a third or fourth gin and tonic I began to wonder what I was doing here and then the penny dropped and I had a quiet word with myself. This might not be the sort of place that I would choose for myself but I suddenly realised that this holiday wasn’t about me – I was here to give my grandchildren a good time – it was all about them and in that moment my mood relaxed and I was at peace with myself and so I went to the bar and ordered a fifth gin and tonic!*
* This might sound like a lot I agree but it wasn’t the real thing and was a weak alternative to branded gin which had to be paid for in real cash because the wrist bands didn’t work for Gordons or Beefeater. The beer was even worse – one day Sally said ‘Dad, you’ve drunk about eight pints of lager’, this, I confess was quite true but it was so weak that this massive quantity was only roughly the equivalent of a single can of Stella Artois and the only restriction on drinking any more, was not an alcohol induced coma, but the fact that I couldn’t get my trousers done up!