Neither the Hubby or I are massive sun worshippers but as long as a brolly is available then plonk us by a pool, or even better a reasonably unpolluted looking stretch of beach and we are happy as pigs in shit.
It was late summer and the Hubby had been getting increasingly stressed with work and showing some definite signs of needing some well deserved holibobs!!!
We spent a rainy Sunday afternoon scouring Trip Advisor for the perfect location at the perfect price. A beach front spot with a pool, a plethora of good value restaurants and bars to choose from, yet quiet and peaceful…. a short, easy journey with guaranteed good weather at the end of September… Formentera it is!!
It seems that it is rare to find a package holiday these days that is not “All-Inclusive”… I’d only been on one of these type of holidays before. The Great Mexican Adventure of 2011… two weeks, 12 friends aged from 26 to 40, no kids, a 24hr bar and what after a few tequilas (on tap) seemed like a challenge to eat, and more importantly drink your monies worth, even if it damn near kills you.
We were the epitome of Brits on the piss… at one point a few days in, the Hubby and I had been having a siesta in our room when we decided to go find the others. As we strolled across the perfectly manicured lawns there was a stream of unhappy looking families and couples heading in the opposite direction muttering and mumbling angrily in various different languages. As we neared the pool area our search was over, we just had to follow the noise, “Found them!!”… Turns out the rest of our party were doing exactly that, partying, and had taken over the whole sunken pool bar… it took some serious catching up but somehow Hubby and I managed, if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em!!!
What turned out to be the perfect environment for 12 twats on tour to stumble about drunkenly and get herded by the well practiced staff into areas where we’d cause the least disruption to the other guests… the all-inclusive didn’t hold much interest for us as a couple. Without the company of 10 of our nearest and dearest we wondered if it could all feel a bit like Groundhog Day?
We arrived on the tour operators’ bus still bemused by the early start, 3am ffs!! .. We checked in, dumped the bags and hit the buffet…. It was like a particularly competitive episode of supermarket sweep, people from all corners of the world coming together to hurriedly stuff as much cheese, bread, paella and set yogurt (why?) down their necks before someone noticed they’d eaten enough for 3 bodybuilders and a grizzly bear. I think Attenborough needs to do a documentary on the feeding habits of the all-inclusive holidaymaker.
(To be read in your best Sir David Attenborough voice)
First we observe the alpha males of the heard, the aggressive way they puff out their chests to intimidate potential challengers to their prey, normally found wearing brightly coloured and heavily branded t-shirts or vests that allow them to display large and more often than not, shit tribal tattoos so’s to render any potential challengers fearful of approaching the meat grill.
The meeker of the males can be found hovering just out of the alpha’s sights, heads darting quickly from side to side attempting to assess the steak/pork chop/chicken breast situation, trying to see what the more dominant males may have left them to pick the bones of.
Next we spy the geriatric males, easy to spot in their beige short and shirt co-ords with the telltale sock/sandal combo. Found circling the feeding stations attentively for what seems an age whilst clutching empty plates, these are the unlikely looking experts of the all-inclusive buffet. We observe, from a safe distance, that they appear to be awaiting freshly cooked offerings, pouncing on the unsuspecting kitchen staff as they carry the trays of pizza, pancakes and bacon to slide under the heat lamps, no cold chips for the wise elders.
The females are a far more complex bunch; the chief aggressors also appear to be the elders, covered in floaty, sheer leopard/tiger/zebra print tunics. These matriarchs of the buffet zone move with surprising swiftness and agility considering their more advanced years and usually hunt alone. These, of any of the all-inclusive holiday makers, are to be treated with the most trepidation, if just the slightest hesitation at the pastry counter trying to decide between a chocolate croissant and a cinnamon swirl is observed, then one of these animal-print clad bullies will swoop in, before you can say “Buenos Dias” you’ll be rendered tong-less and pastry-less.
The beautiful birds of paradise of the buffet are to be admired by all as they delicately totter between counters wearing 5in stiletto mules. Usually found in a shade of walnut brown or occasionally a hue of tangerine, and although it’s the middle of the day (and about 90 degrees) are dressed, made-up and have hair do’s that would take the majority of human females to a formal event or a night down the Sugar Hut. Despite their faces showing very little emotion or movement they are an altogether more polite specimen at the buffet stations, just as long as you are not competing for the last stick of celery or glass of Cava, in this instance I’d suggest steel toe capped footwear as those 5in heels are poised for use without a second thought.
The lady sight-seers are the next to arrive at the buffet station, normally sporting a navy or tan Bermuda short with a breathable polo shirt in a pale light-reflective colour, sturdy brown leather shoe/sandal hybrids and always clutching a large half filled backpack and map, these also display admirable skills in the way of the buffet. From our hide amongst the laid up tables and jars of condiments we can see that the lady sight-seer is confidently approaching the counters and acquiring a good square meal, usually eggs for protein, wholemeal bread for some slow release carbs, coffee and juice, however I also notice an unusual behaviour trait. I observe shifting glances from side to side, almost skulking around by the fruit station, then to our shock the lady sight-seer is witnessed smuggling as many apples, pears, bananas etc. as possible into her conveniently positioned backpack.
Finally behold the all-inclusive couples. They fall into two main categories both of which are made glaringly obvious by their individual body language. Firstly the honeymooners, believed to be in the early stages of courtship these couples find it particularly difficult to stray from each other’s sides, holding hands in the queue for the coffee machine, and as if to reiterate the pairing to guard from feasible suitors, the back and neck stroke often occurs. This excessively tactile behaviour continues whilst roaming the food counters but is also accompanied by a giggle or a nuzzle as the male chooses offerings from the salad cart and places them on the females plate, in my experience I advise sitting at a table a good distance away from this pair, it is entirely possible to feel a lack of appetite when in close proximity.
The second couple strides into the buffet area, the female normally a few steps in front, head held high, the male trailing behind displaying an altogether more submissive stance. The female chooses the couple’s table by slamming down an oversized pair of sunglasses and approaching the coffee machine purposefully, the male heads for the cooked food station in a subdued manner. When the couple return to the table to devour the fruits of their labor eye contact is barely made and a simple “Con o sin aqua?”… is the only verbal communication made during the sitting… Awkward!!!
…. And don’t even get me started on the sun-lounger reserving phenomenon or the nightly entertainment!!!
The all-inclusive hotel is a people watchers paradise where you can study an abundance of human behaviour and relationships all from behind the safety of some large mirrored shades, but never forget…. you too are the interesting (or not) subject of another holidaymakers inquiring mind.