Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.


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Disney – our week of magic

Two weeks ago we went away for our secret getaway in celebration of our first wedding anniversary. We took the kids – after all what fun is a trip to Disneyland Paris without the kids.

Woohoo – we went to Disneyland. It was fabulous – magical, brilliant, fun, entertaining, exciting.

Expensive.

We didn’t tell the kids we were going. On the Saturday we packed up the car while they were distracted, told them we were off to McDonald’s for lunch and loaded them into the car. After an hour or so we actually did give them a McDonald’s, since they asked so nicely. And often.

We were just driving around London when MM1, being 6, began to notice that we were not heading home. We told her we would find a hotel for the night, prompting her to worry about having clean pants. Yep, my daughter has her priorities on straight.

We got through the Channel Tunnel and onto the French motorways the next morning before the kids really started to question where we were going. When we told them, MM1 was pure excitement, tempered somewhat by the long ride ahead. MM2, however, was much more blasé. Three years old may be a little young to really understand without seeing it.

We stayed in the New York Hotel, placed about 5 minutes walk from the park and very convenient after a long day of walking around. Very handy for small children. However, although clean I did think it looked a little rundown.

The park itself is amazing. We have been to various theme parks in the UK and we love them. However Disneyland just blows them out of the water. The attention to detail on every ride, every attraction, every statue and flower bed is amazing. I’m serious about the flower beds. Look at these –

We went to bed and it was winter. Heather grew in all the beds - a different colour under every tree.

We went to bed and it was winter. Heather grew in all the beds – a different colour under every tree.

We woke up and it was spring, flowers growing, green everywhere.

We woke up and it was spring, flowers growing, green everywhere.

Walking in to Disneyland and seeing the magical castle – an iconic picture that every child recognises on sight – was just amazing. No matter how hardened the grownup, it must make you draw a breath, just for a second.

The iconic Disney castle.

The iconic Disney castle.

Inside the castle - even the window's carry the detail.

Inside the castle – even the window’s carry the detail.

One of the things I liked best about Disneyland is not only have they spent time putting in the details, we can actually climb on them, play with them, get involved in the displays. We climbed inside Skull Rock, explored Pirate Cove, walked around the balcony on Sleeping Beauty’s castle. After all, one of the most depressing things about other theme parks is seeing something that looks like amazing fun to play with and not being allowed to touch it.

We climbed inside Skull Rock and hung over the sides of the pirate ship.

We climbed inside Skull Rock and hung over the sides of the pirate ship.

We explored Pirate Cove.

We explored Pirate Cove.

An island built just for a roller coaster

An island built just for a roller coaster

The rides were fabulous. Disney do not do things on the small scale, that’s for sure. They built an entire island to house a roller coaster!

As for the night show, now that was beautiful. Projected lights and images flickered across the castle. Tinkerbell flew around the spires and Peter Pan chased his shadow across the night sky.

The queues however, not so great. Even in off peak season there were a lot of people there. I’m not saying it was unexpected, but goodness! We queued for over an hour for some rides.

Small mummy moment – my kids were fabulous. No whinging, no whining. They queued, they walked and they did so without complaining. Now that really is Disney magic!

On the other hand, the prices are not quite so magic. WOW.

Realistically, the prices for the memorabilia, toys, key rings etc are no more than you would pay at any other theme park or in a Disney store elsewhere. The difference really is that in any other theme park you just wouldn’t buy much, but you can’t take your kids all the way to Disneyland and refuse to buy them a single present.

That aside though, what was extortionate was the cost of the food. On the one hand, the fast food did taste good – much less cardboard and rubber involved than the usual park fare. But boy, did they charge for it. In one restaurant we paid twenty six EUROs for a burger. Yes, it was a themed restaurant where we got to meet the characters – the kids were ecstatic at personally getting to hug Mickey, Goofy, Pluto, Tigger and Eeyore. But the minimum fee for a child’s meal was around twelve EUROs. Two over excited children who were not going to sit and eat anyway – that’s a lot. It adds up – lunch and dinner for four, over 5 days.

The best value meal we had was at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. I recommend it completely. Not only is food included in the ticket price but the show was brilliant. Mr G was, I think, most excited. The kids got involved in cheering for their team. As usual, Disney do not do things by half. Real buffalo – need I say more.

Stagecoach hold up at the Wild West Show

Stagecoach hold up at the Wild West Show

MM1 had a wonderful time searching the parks for the various characters, getting hugs, photos and signatures to show her friends. MM2 is now a Mouse devotee, Goofy coming a close second as his hero. Even Mr G got a hug with Minnie and was quietly smug. Of course, my favourite had to be the roaring dragon who lived under the castle.

Over all – it was a wonderful holiday. What can I say, I am a sucker for the magic.

Mickey Mouse on Parade

Mickey Mouse on Parade

The dragon beneath the castle.

The dragon beneath the castle.

Top tips for Disneyland Paris adventurers –

1. Book dinner in advance. At least for the first night you are there. If you don’t book your table in a restaurant or your hotel, you could face a very long wait. Not great with two small, hungry and tired children. We ended up at McDonalds the first night – although I have to say, even McD’s in Disney is huge – the biggest I have ever seen.

The biggest McDonald's I have seen yet.

The biggest McDonald’s I have seen yet.

2. There are long queue’s for all the major attractions, food stalls and just about everything really. Take snacks and drinks for the kids. Oh – and get those elbows out. The queue hoppers are blatant and prolific.

3. Plan your day. If your kids want to meet the characters, then you need to be hanging out in the right place at the right time. They have set places where they will sign autographs for the crowds for a limited amount of time. Then they are off. If you want to have a good view for the parade – get there in time to line the walk.

4. Go to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The ticket price is worth it. But don’t pay the extra for the front row seats, we were second from the back and had a perfect view and plenty of space.

5. You get one free fast track (to jump the queue to a ride) with your entry ticket, which is fine if you are there for a few days. If you had to do the whole park in one day it would be worth paying the extra for a full days fast track, or you will miss 3/4’s of the park due to the queues.

6. The hotels on site might be closer and more convenient, but the off site ones are newer and fresher. For those with young children, I do think on site is better. Getting them home to bed is easier. Had mine been a little older, a short bus ride each night would have been doable.

Having said that, I did go for a sneaky peak around the main Disney hotel, which is right at the gates to the park. Inside it looks like a castle fit for a princess, with sparkling everything, a fantastic staircase perfect for sweeping down in a ball gown and light, airy foyer. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to sneak into any bedrooms to check them out but I would expect similar high standards.

The Disney hotel with sweeping staircase

The Disney hotel with sweeping staircase

Disney hotel foyer

Disney hotel foyer


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Project Optimism – It’s all in the planning

Today is Monday – the day we write a post for Project Optimism.

The problem I had today is that I am not really sure what to write about. You see, I am already operating at a pretty high level of muscle clenching, wee inducing, over excitement due to our impending getaway.

I have spent the morning searching for cheap thermal underwear for the kids, on the basis that Paris in March is going to be a wee bit chilly and no matter how hysterically hyperactive they are going to be, at some point the cold may just overwhelm the heat caused by the wriggling.

I have planned the journey – warning triangle and breakdown cover for the car, European sat nav for my sanity, entertainment and drinks for the kids, tranquiliser for Mr G (seriously, can you imagine a normally twitchy, tense, grouchy passenger and then put him in a car on the wrong side of the road. With right hand drive! I must be mad.)

Wrist bands and ID badges are here for the kids – I am debating whether tattoo’ing my mobile number to their wrists is over protective  . . . (paranoid mother alert)

I am prepared. Which is to say, now that I think I am ready I can start worrying about everything. Because, while I love to visit new places, getting there always makes me nervous. Ensuring we have all the paperwork, knowing where the kids are at all times – it’s this sort of thing that makes my stomach churn. Once we are there, all will be fine – until the day before we leave anyway.

So what to be optimistic about?

I am optimistic that it won’t rain all week – just half of it.

I am optimistic that I can drive on the wrong side of the road without too many tense moments or heated discussions about how I should have indicated before pulling out.

I am optimistic that I have not forgotten anything.

As for the rest of it – that’s all down to good planning!

 

What are you all optimistic about this week?

 

 


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Project Optimism – The Secret Getaway

Holy Kimoley, I am so excited.

(No, I don’t know what a Kimoley is. I just always wanted to use the phrase)

We are rapidly approaching our first wedding anniversary. What an amazingly fast year it has been! So much has happened.

A year and 3 months ago I was made redundant. I had no idea what to do with myself. Looking back at my posts from then then I was still optimistic, but frankly a little lost.

A year later I have got married, had an amazing honeymoon, gone self employed, cracked open a blog . . . It’s been exciting, educational, full of new experiences. Not least of which was learning to answer to a new name!

But now I am going to check off one more item from my bucket list. Well, two hopefully.

I am so excited I found myself doing a little dance round the house today. Quietly. So as not to alert Mini Monster 1 who is currently home on half term. Because its a surprise for her, and Mini Monster 2 of course.

So I can tell you, but you have to keep it quiet.

For our wedding anniversary, we are going away. On a trip. A secret getaway. We aren’t going to tell the kids. Nope, we will just load them in the car and see how long it takes them to work it out.

I can’t wait to see their faces. I know they are going to be ecstatic. Maybe not as ecstatic as me, I am pretty darn excited, I have to tell you. This is, after all, one of the reasons I had kids. So I can go on this particular trip and revert to being a kid myself.

Oh, I can’t tell you. You will have to guess.

But I will give you a hint. It’s a place where they promise to make the magic come alive.

And to think that a year ago I was unemployed and worrying about the future. Stay optimistic people and your dreams may just come true.

This post has been brought to you as part of Project Optimism. To find out more, please click on the cute elephant to the right. Go on, have a nose. It’s worth it!


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Did you know that fish can smell bananas?

I have only been scuba diving twice. The first time was in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Perhaps as a result of being a lifeguard while working my way through uni, I have a fear of suffocating. Being deep underwater and at the mercy of a small mouthpiece was a disturbing prospect. However the group I was with wanted to go so I caved quietly to peer pressure.

We had a practice session in the hotel pool. I don’t recall much about the practicing but I know that I didn’t feel prepared when it was over. Once off on our trip we were joined by fellow tourists. We were suited up and given belts with weights, to hold us down on the sea bed. One American man was so obese they had to tie two belts together to fit around him. Funny how, when you are trying not to think about what comes next, you focus on the little details!

We travelled out to sea by speed boat . Once at our destination – a spot of sea that looked much like any other to the untrained eye – we took turns in rolling backwards off the boat and into the water. A guide took us down to the sea bed one at a time, where we were sat in a circle as we waited for the rest of the group.  I kept one hand on my mouthpiece at all times – no way that was being knocked out of my mouth.

Once on the sea bed I had time to sit and assess my surroundings and was overwhelmed by the silence. How peaceful – and slightly unsettling. On the one hand,  sitting in a bright clear water – we were only about 10 meters below the surface and the sunlight streamed down. On the other, defenceless in a vast open space where we were the interlopers.

A member of the group – possibly the large American now I think back – bugged out. I mean literally as we sat there we could see his eyes growing wide open, almost popping in his panic. He was quickly helped back to the surface by the guides. Somehow that was reassuring – apparently I was not as afraid as I thought. And the surface was not far to go!

At last we were off, swimming gently along the bottom of the sea. We looked at plants and coral, we poked at strange creatures we had never seen before, we explored a whole new world and gradually I relaxed and even began to enjoy myself. A barrel full of cliches spring to mind, most of which would be apt – after all a cliche becomes a cliche because it’s true.

So – here comes the banana story. Did you know fish could smell bananas? Well – I am sure that is factually incorrect and an ichthyologist would soon correct me since fish don’t have noses. But – hold a banana up in the  water and the fish will flock (school?) over to have a nibble. Mr G held aloft our banana and within seconds we were surrounded by colourful little fishes dashing about our heads. Too fast to touch but amazing to watch. 

I did enjoy scuba diving, enough to have a second go at least. Once under the water it’s calming and beautiful. The initial push to get down to the sea bed is nerve wracking, but like any new experience, you can’t find out if you like it if you never try.

But I still like to keep one hand on the mouthpiece – just in case.

Scuba diving in Puerto Plata

Dominican Republic


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The First Adventure

Dominican Republic, here we come.

My first holiday with Mr G was in the year 2000. We had been together a full year and this holiday marked many firsts for me – not least my first long term relationship. My first holiday with a boyfriend. My first long haul trip. My first developing country. My first time scuba diving.

Bear in mind that this was 12 years ago now and so some of my memories are hazy. However there are some things that stay with me. We were holidaying with Mr G’s sister and her partner. The first thing I learnt on this exciting new experience is that my sister-in-law-to-be was petrified of flying. More specifically, the take off and landing. Note that at 22, this was my first real trip. However my SIL2B, her partner and Mr G, all being some years older than me, had done a fair amount of holidaying, back packing and travelling before. I was a little perturbed when she started crushing my hand and looking a wild eyed, but as we started down the runway and the whimpering began, I did wonder if there was something more about flying I should have been aware of.

Puerto Plata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We landed in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and I was astounded at the heat. I don’t recall the name of the resort we stayed in, but it was relaxed, the people were friendly and the ‘cuba libra’ flowed. We were all inclusive and  I was amazed at the amount of food available. All we could eat, 5 meal times a day. One night they piled the garlic prawns high and we ate as many as we could, pulling off the heads and tails and shovelling them in with relish. I ate my first lobster and it was delicious. I set a precedent then and there, that every time we go on holiday I must have a lobster to make it complete.

The other side of the coin

Of course, the other side of the coin is the appalling poverty in which so many of the locals lived. It was my first experience of seeing children living in houses made of corrugated tin and begging for whatever scraps the over indulged tourists could spare.

I felt then, and have on every trip we have made since, that there is something inherently wrong in our piling our plates with foods, while the people working to clear our tables, serve our drinks and make our beds are earning a pittance every day. I am not sure of the right word to describe the feeling – would it be terribly English to understate it and say that it feels so incredibly rude to sit in another country and demolish quantities of food in front of people who struggle to feed their families. How disgusted they must feel when over fed tourists then waste mammoth amounts of food which we took and then were too full to eat.

I learnt that the majority of the people living in the surrounding area would often try to attach their own cables to the power lines, in order to siphon off electricity for their homes for free. I was told that this was dangerous and often fatal. Certainly, whether true or not, every time there was a power failure in the resort bar or the lights flickered and dimmed, it was implied that there had been an interruption along the line.

Puerto Plata

Young children begging for sunglasses at the corner shop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took a trip out from the resort on quad bikes – with a guide as it was unsafe to explore alone. On our drive through sandy, dry and dusty dirt tracks we stopped at a wooden hut, the local shop. A small girl came over to hold her hand out to me. Our guide informed us that if we gave anything to one child we would be surrounded by clamouring children in seconds. I remember that this young girl, maybe five years old, made hand gestures towards my sunglasses. I thought she wanted to try them on, but she wanted me to give them to her so that she could re-sell them. For a moment I was tempted to hand them over, but as my glasses were prescription, I would then have been blind for the drive home.

Final thoughts

We went out for a walk through Sosua one day. Within seconds of stepping into the market square we were hailed by stall owners, each one desperately trying to entice us to view their wares. ‘Cheaper then Tesco’ they shouted, a cry I have since learnt is used across the world! Still, that first time I heard it was a source of great amusement. The market stalls sold a variety of wooden carvings and brightly coloured shawls, postcards and machetes. A riot of colour and noise all around. It’s well worth a visit to walk along the beach and sip cold beer in front of the sea, while the locals make music around you.

Puerto Plata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would I go to Dominican Republic again? Yes! It was warm and the people were friendly. In my limited experience it is very much a resort holiday, by which I mean we did not do a lot of exploring, but we did do a lot of relaxing and lying about. However I am sure there is more to see than a pool, a beach and a market. Maybe one day I will go back and find out.

Sosua


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A bit of bull

OK – So it’s a cliche, it’s not a new idea in any way. But, we like it. So here goes . . .

Everytime we go on our travels, Mr G and I have picked up a souvenir to remember the place by. Of course, when we  are in a distant country like Kenya where the locals are carving wooden artwork by hand, we bring back something beautiful to be displayed on the walls in our home.

But then when we go somewhere a little more prosaic we have started to bring back something small and, well, touristy. For the shelf. In the downstairs toilet.

So here is the latest addition to the shelf – a little bit of Spanish Bull.


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Magic Monika Hotel, Benidorm

Where to start with this hotel. It was both better and worse than our expectations. We normally stay in a quieter, family orientated all inclusive hotel in countries either known for their beauty or due to there being something we wanted to visit. Having had our preconceptions of Benidorm well and truly established by rumour and exaggerated TV comedy, it was the last place we thought to go and ended up here due to it being the best of the few remaining choices. That’s what you get for travelling last minute in the last week of the school holidays.

So, price wise. Actually pretty reasonable, the exorbitant pricing was in the return flights and not the hotel itself. For an all inclusive hotel the cost was reasonable. And this was the first all inclusive I have stayed at that included brand name drinks in the price. The drink portions were more than generous too. A regular rum drinker myself, even I was knocked sideways by the strength of the shots.

The rooms are a fairly decent size. We had a one bedroom apartment which had the 2 beds for the kids in the living area. But it wasn’t a squeeze, although if we had tried to use the little cupboard kitchen area I may have struggled. A kitchen area supplied with 4 saucepans, 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 cups, cutlery for 2 and a nut cracker. Slightly limited for a family of 4 and as for the nut cracker . . .

The buffet meals were fine. Not a gourmet explosion but all perfectly edible and a fairly extensive choice of hot and cold meats, potatoes, salads and breads. The usual selection of puddings and cakes. However there was a complete lack of vegetables. Oh, every night there was a bowl of soggy broccoli but nothing tasty or crunchy. Not a hotel for vegetarians. Breakfast had a good variety of cooked and cold options and a huge pile of freshly heated pain au chocolate. In comparison to other experiences I would say the food was decent but not adventurous.

The problems in this hotel were in two things. The basic decrepitness of the building and the major overcrowding. The pool for example was a great size. Lots of swimming room. But every day there was a rush for beds (see Zombies versus Sunbeds for more details on that) as there just was not enough room around the pool side for the amount of beds needed to allow for all the guests. Not to mention the number of locals who came over and under the fence for a free swim and free meal in the poolside cafe.

The pool itself had broken tiles everywhere. The guttering around the edge was brown and the stench from the gutter was awful if you got close. Not helped by the Spanish kids who climbed out of the pool to pee in the gutter. And since we didn’t see a single Spanish child in a swim nappy, who knows where the rest of their leakage goes. (I went shopping for more swim nappies when we ran out and couldn’t find them in any supermarket!)

The pool has a bar in the middle (not for swimming up to, it’s just perched mid pool and reached by a bridge) which looks nice till you get close enough to see the peeling paint. There are two pillars in the pool, presumably fountains but actually just full of stinking stagnant water. There are slides for the kids and ours had a great time on them. Just don’t look too closely at the bolts holding it together. The kids pool has a seesaw (one cracked seat) and some rocking horses that no longer squirt water as they were clearly meant to. There were also some lifeguards dotted about the pool, something I haven’t come across abroad before. They were friendly and fair with the kids. It was a little off putting though watching the previously mentioned fence jumping locals then getting their generously portioned alcoholic cocktails (for free) and handing them to their lifeguard friends.

The restaurant is hard to describe. Picture a school canteen but with a paper tablecloth on each table and the entire ceiling covered in mirrors. Yes, a huge room with mirrors everywhere. It’s downstairs and window free. Not quite the views of the scenery while eating on the terrace of an evening one would hope for. Due to the sheer volume of diners passing through it was more of a case of grab, shove and snarl to get the food. The staff, to be fair, worked their fastest (if slightly surliest) to keep it clean, change tables over and maintain some order in the frenzied stampede.

Canteen at Magic Monika

Other observations were that there was a room of pool tables and every night there was entertainment, albeit a little repetitive. The bar staff were slow, but cheery. When it rained water poured in through the ceiling of the main foyer and bars. But every night the staff put away all of the sunbeds tables and chairs and cleaned the poolside. So, Magic Monika had good staff, the place is clean, plenty of facilities and potential but it is very rough round the edges. What it needs is a refurb, repairs and to reduce the number of guests by half.

All in all I would say that, once we got used to the masses and worked out how to join in the morning race for sunbeds, we had a good time doing what we came for, which was to lounge by the pool in the sun and relax with the kids. Would we come again? No. Next year we will book earlier for somewhere a little higher star and less crowded.


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Modern Camping

This is a piece I wrote for some coursework, so takes a slightly different tone than usual. See what you think . . .

With many families budgeting more and more the uptake on a package holiday has decreased somewhat in recent years. In contrast, more parents are looking for a cost effective alternative and, perhaps over romanticising their own childhood memories, are taking up camping in a bid to spend ‘quality time’ with their offspring.  But is camping the same as in the days of yore?

When I was a child I remember camping trips with my parents and brothers being the most exciting part of the summer holidays. Of course, back then there was no such thing as a package holiday and the costs and stress of taking three children on an airplane would just about have finished my father off.

The night before we went my parents would be packing the car with exciting essential equipment – wellies, pac-o-macs, buckets (to bail out the tent) –  and in the morning we would climb onto the heap of sleeping bags laid out across the back seats, legs up on bags squashed down the foot well (no seatbelts in those days) and off we would go. My parents would choose a place to visit, usually Thetford forest or Aldeburgh, and once we got within range they would just hunt down a campsite and pay per night to pitch up in a field at a rough fee of £2 a night.

In recent years enthusiasm for camping has grown again, with an increase in camping and caravanning trips of 20% in 2009 according to the Great Britain Tourism Survey. Camping itself seems to have changed somewhat, with campsites having to provide more in the way of facilities and entertainment to attract families. With the ease of so much information available online, the discerning family camper can pick and choose their campsite based on amenities such as the shower block, washing facilities, children entertainment room and of course, the essential free wifi. Gone are the days where children would be expected to roam the forest or paddle along the rocky beaches with no other entertainment. Now, no matter how ‘rustic’ the camping experience, we would not dream of going anywhere without ready access to facebook. Electricity is available to power fridges and heaters. Last time I went camping, the neighbours turned up with their 24 inch TV. Pitching up in a field can still be done, of course, and that is sold as a unique selling point, with rural campsites advertising ‘camping as it used to be’.

The equipment has also improved. Gone are the days when touching the side of the tent in the night meant waking up in a soaking sleeping bag. Now tents are drier, warmer and much more roomier. Inner sleeping rooms can be bought in a dark fabric to prevent the light waking up the little darlings at dawn. Collapsible and inflatable furniture means a tent can be furnished with sofa and wardrobes without taking up too much room in the car. Indeed a new phenomenon of ‘glamping’ sees some campers taking rugs, beds, duvets and microwaves – a real home away from home.

Thankfully though, not everything has changed. Small children still enjoy the experience of snuggling up in their sleeping bags and listening to the exciting and scary sounds of the outdoors. One of the great things about camping that does remain is the sense of community, possibly born from the relief of knowing that every other adult there is as soggy, tired and insane as you are. However it is true that, as with no other holiday, campers are a friendly lot who can be chatting to the neighbours, assisting complete strangers in putting up their tents, sharing a hammer and rescuing stray children within minutes of finding their patch of grass. There seems to be an unwritten rule on a campsite of keeping an eye on each others belongings. Where else would you deposit your personal items and hundreds of pounds of cooking gear, sleeping bags and foldable tables and, having secured them carefully within a formidable shield of fabric and a zip, wander away for the whole day while fairly certain no one would breach the barrier.

As one mother said, ‘the community atmosphere is brilliant and there is a real sense of spending time together as a family that you just don’t get on a holiday abroad’.

Is modern camping an improvement? Parents certainly do appreciate having adequate showers and toilets nearby and, televisions aside, it does get families out and about and spending time together still. At the end of the week though, one thing has not changed. By the time the tent is packed up, the dirty washing stuffed back into the footwell and the sleeping bags on their way home to be aired,  any mother can tell you camping is hard work and there is no relaxing. It’s not what I would call a holiday.


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Zombie versus sunbeds

I have seen my fair share of end of world, zombie infested, civilisation crumbling movies. Mr G and I like to sit down to a good post apocalypse film night and watch how the director portrays mankind descending from a state of technological advancement to scraping a life without phones, supermarkets or a central source of control and order. Order that is usually provided by the government, the army or the lone hero who discovers his destiny is to lead the small ragtag army from their remote village through hordes of the undead, facing starvation, lack of clean drinking water, probable infection or death by being ripped to pieces by cannibalistic rotting corpses . It’s a good theme and one that prompts the same conversation very time, a chat I am sure is repeated across the country.

What would you do when the zombie virus breaks out?

We start to plan how best to defend our families, maybe even a few friends. Would you blockade your home? Is there a more secure place nearby you would reach. Do you search for the nearest army base? And what about food. First things are to secure the family, second is to grab the largest and most secure transport possible and ransack the local supermarket. In the UK we would need to find weapons since gun selling shops are not so readily available.

It quickly descends into a case of every man for himself. How quickly mankind can turn on each other, making sure ourselves and our families are cared for first and then maybe helping small select groups of others, banding together against perceived threats, other people who are different in some way or considered a handicap in our quest for survival.

Now I know where that movie director gets his ideas!

Ok, so no zombies were attacking. But we recently took the family away for a week in Benidorm. A last minute holiday which meant we were left with little choice in destination and one of the busiest resort hotels.

I have never experienced anything like this before. Of course on every holiday there are some people who get up at the crack of dawn to put towels on sunbeds, thus staking their territory and laying claim to prime position for the rest of the day.

But this hotel had solved this problem. No early risers here. No, this hotel had a fence around the pool which was not opened until 10 am.

By 9am, a family member was sent to reserve a place in the queue. By 930am the queue became a herd. Order began to break down. Small groups started to form, the younger men on one side, the elderly and less able in the middle. Brits on the left, Spanish in the right. Those after shade grouped to the right, men with families after the kiddie pool banding together over the far side.

Tactics were discussed, ways to avoiding slipping in the poolside tiles, getting a spring off from the grated shower floor, shortcuts through the palm trees. The more experienced holidayers noted the newbies and dismissed them, the regular pool goers marking their enemies, they being the ones who got prime position yesterday.

At 950 hotel staff repelled the sneak attack from the local children climbing in over the back wall, closely followed by the teenage children thrust over the fence by the holidaying fathers.

A tense silence falls as every group watches the clock and the gate warden. The minute hand ticks over, 10 am arrives. The gate is opened, the symbol of order is removed.

It’s every man for himself as the mass herd surges towards the small gate. A bottleneck of pushing holiday makers intent of getting their spot of sun builds up, the more able squeezing through first. There are the lead runners sprinting round the poolside to prime position, the less confident moving sideways to the first available beds. Weapons are deployed, a random flip flop arching over head like a well aimed missile to land on a sunbed, thereby marking that as taken. Towels are draped over as many beds as they can stretch to.

Sunbeds secured, the pack leaders stroll nonchalantly back through the slower herds still moving round the poolside to take what scraps of sun were left for them.

And as every one of the holiday makers returns to a civilised breakfast with their families they all comment, ‘Never seen anything like it. It’s ridiculous.’


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How far will you go . . .

For a holiday?

I ask because I am currently sat in Starbucks, where I have been for the last 3 hours, all in aid of getting my 1 week of sun, pool and waiter service for the summer.

Just a few months ago Mr G and I had said we would forego a family holiday this year. After all we had a wedding to pay for, we enjoyed a fabulous honeymoon. To go abroad again would be greedy. Month of downpours, colds and work stress and enough is enough. Mr G came home last week and said ‘Book it’!

No need to tell me twice. It’s my job to do the searching and booking. Don’t ask me how I came by this role, I don’t remember applying for chief organiser. I think it comes partly from being the mum and partly from being naturally controlling (I admit it, I know I am. But that’s because no one else can do it properly and as efficiently as me, of course).

But, just before I booked I thought I better just check and there was the snag. My daughter’s passport expired in April this year. Whoops. Mr G has booked the week off work, we go in 4 days and my daughter has no passport. Briefly consider leaving her behind with granny, but that really does take the F out of family holiday.

Monday saw me frantically running round our home town getting new photos, passport application forms and finding a friendly lawyer to sign both. On Tuesday I worked from sun up to late into the night doing all the work I wasn’t going to be doing on Wednesday. And Wednesday, here I am in Starbucks after a 2 hour drive to Liverpool, 40 minutes wait in the passport office and now a 4 hour wait for the superbly expensive, one day issue passport. Fingers crossed that when I go to pick it up in 55 minutes the paper work has been accepted and the photo considered good quality (some concerns were had over the darkness of the background grey . . .) .

After three caramel macchiatos, 2 large cookies and a dry sandwich and facing the prospect of a 2 hour drive home, I really hope there are some holidays left to book!