From the moment we touched down and probably before; we were under the emphatic but subtle officialdom of the holiday company. We stepped off the Magaluf Express straight into the pre-prescribed formulaic world of many a TV sitcom.
A final tussle with my controlling streak, do I follow the crowd or do I take command. The battle was already fought and lost as I realised I had come on holiday to let others take the hassle from me. Meekly I fell into line and sheep like followed; retaining only some small semblance of rebelliousness as I herded my family to fall in.
The doors of the airport opened onto an array of about 30 coaches mainly in groups of same colours relating to which tour operator you happened to be travelling with. Which hotel we were booked into dictated which coach we were directed to. The island was not really that big was it? Added to the fact it was 2o’clock in the morning; local time, we were at the mercy of the tour company.
The sheer numbers involved were mind blowing. We had travelled with one particular holiday company, although at the airport it was evident other companies were also collecting their parties. Other planes full of holiday makers came in from Cardiff, Amsterdam and Manchester there may have been others.
The coaches filled with factory line precision; although left to our own devices, once aboard meant people sat wherever they could. The family was split up, but conversation was the last thing on people’s minds at that time in the morning. When the final flights had arrived and spat out their passengers and luggage, the coaches were full. A convoy of them left the airport in an explosion of engine noise, skidding and screeching tyres; amid the back drop of a spectacular lightening show.
The young lads from Majorca become coach drivers for the vast array of holiday companies taking over the island. Their thrills comprise an unspoken competition and joy racing each other along the rudimentary roads they call motorway, with a coach filled with unsuspecting invaders.
Our destination hotel determined which coach we travelled on; but as the journey continued having driven for an hour or so (I didn’t think the island that big) the coach began dropping at different resorts pointing further and further from our destination, alternate hotels seemingly run by other well-known holiday conglomerates. Doubt crept in; had we been directed to the wrong coach, was my Spanish that rusty that I had given misleading information; how many hotels can this island actually have.
We reached our final destination at 5 in the morning where a lone Spanish speaking hotel receptionist struggled to explain in broken English and mucho Spanish hand waving what had to be filled in on the form and where our rooms were amid the three hotel complex. We were all tagged as our details were taken in a scene reminiscent of the futuristic dominance of many a sci fi film. A feeling of big brother pervaded as the security guard secured the band around our willingly volunteered wrists.
We finally tumbled into bed just managing to take note of breakfast times and the time and place of our welcome meeting.
The well-orchestrated organisation of the hotel and its inhabitants now finely tuned to such a fine art that any one daring to step outside the pre-determined formula would be either ignored or I imagine removed before any calamitous consequences could arise.
All inclusive; we had decided this was the best way of travelling with three continually hungry growing boys. We entered the dining room to a cacophony of noise and smells and colours. The room was heaving with people, only one of three hotel dining rooms offering a huge assortment of differing foods.
Without time constraints and without anywhere to be it surely would have been rude not to try and sample a little of everything. Buffet style stations dotted all around the room offering cereals, toast, yoghurt, fruit, bacon, English sausage and frankfurter. Scrambled, fried or boiled along with pancake eggs. Tables, laden with cheeses, cold hams and continental sausages offered a genuine smorgasbord in recognition to the many Scandinavian visitors. Croissants, pain au chocolate and a vast plateau of pastries challenged the skill of any patisserie French chef.
Lunch was served just two hours later and dinner two hours after lunch was cleared away. There were of course as many different themes as there were breakfast displays combining the adventurous with the fussy eater. Tea and coffee was on tap for breakfast with fruit juices leading to beer, sangria and wine later on in the day. So many choices proved too great, creating the need to test each and every dish.
There were moments of the day and late into the evening when maybe the restaurants were not open but drinks flowed freely. All inclusive was just that, beer, sangria, cocktails, fanta and coke were available from mid morning through midnight with coffee and tea machines dotted round the complex where ever you might have need of yet more sustenance. Snack bars served burger and chips and continual supplies of ice cream just in case you could not last till the next cornucopia of meals was served.
No holiday would be complete without a few excursions and to give you an opportunity to part with that well-earned holiday spending money you had taken with you. We chose the boat trip aboard Costa’s Catamaran to a quiet bay where other boat excursions met us and we dived blissfully into the deep warm waters of the Mediterranean, kyacking and clambering and falling from the air filled lilo that floated behind the boat. The crew turned their talents to cooking the BBQ served with the now habitual wine and beer. The remnants of which, chicken, pork , sausage and pasta salad, when we could manage no more was thrown overboard to the suddenly shoaling fish, who had surrounded the boats.
We took the opportunity to join the beautiful Captain Scarlet in her fishnets and high heels in her quest along with Francis Drake, Barbosa and Blackbeard for their swashbuckling adventure to save their boat from the evil pirate Lafitte. Food and drink supplied and consumed the lights went down and we were treated to a spectacular show of fire, gymnastics and high flying acrobatics.
Off course all holidays need an opportunity to spend any remaining money you may have taken and the opportunity to pass a cash point to withdraw a little bit more. We joined the trip to the Inca market to barter for goods you would not look twice at home but had an allure that drew you in to spend spend and spend.
Keeping the holiday running to plan and all the holiday makers smiling are the cheery recognizable reps who assured us they were there to make our holiday as enjoyable as possible and they certainly were always available with a smile and and pre prescribed answer to any little niggle that may cross your mind. They join in and deliver shows and performances to keep us entertained through the late evening with their almost in tune singing, dubious acting skills and hilarious comedy routines.
Behind the very visible reps was an army of locals who kept their heads down and made the whole place function. Rarely did they stop, or even look up from their tasks but when you took the time to stop and say “gracias” they would greet you with a broad smile and even engage in pidgin discussion, my Spanish as rusty as their English.
With any good thing all too soon it has to end and with heavy heart we waved farewell to the hotel, to the dining room, to the on tap Sangria and the swimming pools and retraced our journey of only a week before. Waking up in my own bed, my own things around me I pause to consider was it all just a wonderful dream. My bank balance and the cases of washing proved otherwise and if I just close my eyes for a moment I can almost hear the noise, smell the sun tan lotion and feel the fullness of yet another meal. Just for that moment I am still on holiday; I can still relax enough to forget the washing, the cooking, the shopping and enjoy for a moment longer letting someone else take control.
Wherever you are holidaying this summer enjoy the moment, too soon it is all over and just a memory.