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The question buzzes insistently through my head. Why on earth didn’t we do this before? I get up to fill my little tumbler with another crisp, cold beer. The boys, seven and nine, cruise aisles of grub – pasta and pizza, but also freshly grilled fish, and salads too, if we can persuade them to make room on their plates for greenery. 

So far we have been in the Canary Islands for an hour and, in a parenting life usually filled with endless boring decisions, we have had to think about more or less nothing: no “Are they warm enough?” (it is 23C); no “Are they hungry or thirsty?”; no “What are we going to do next/tomorrow/the next day?” 

The answer lies there beyond the doors to this giant buffet, where the pool snakes beside serried ranks of loungers, and sky-blue shirted reps buzz about organising the next activity. We are going to do nothing. That’s what we’re going to do.

A strangely exotic prospect

To the guilty middle class mind, the prospect feels exotic, almost transgressive. Surely there must be a worthy medieval chapel with barely visible frescoes that we can visit; a local market where we can pretend the people carrying M&S tote bags and browsing the goats’ milk soap are locals, and that we are truly plunging into their culture; an overpriced museum where the only Goya is on loan; or a cafe underneath the sandstone Belfry where a beer costs €20 and takes 15 minutes to arrive, delivered by a waiter with evident disdain.

Again comes the question. What on earth have we been missing out on? The foam winks at the top of my refilled glass. No one is charging me €20 here. No one is charging me anything at all. For this is an all-inclusive package holiday to Lanzarote. 

I know. A package holiday. A PACKAGE holiday? With everything that suggests – the crack of dawn charter flights; the fellow travellers burnt lobster red, piling high the full English and seeking out the nearest Sky Sports bar; mass tourism at its worst. But wait. Park the preconceptions. Park the snobbery, and the guilt too. It turns out that the package holiday can deliver a unique, life-enhancing experience just as much as that bespoke trip to Belize. It is just that the experience happens to be a shedding of the dead weight of responsibility and domestic routine, a realisation that all those hours can instead be spent on selfish indolence. I haven’t read as much for years. As I do so I realise how much I have desperately missed reading. 

Beyond the resorts

Of course, all this doing nothing is aided and abetted by the landscape of Lanzarote itself – a volcanic moonscape. Here is not Greek island life, with picturesque little villages dotted about. Here is a dark, sharp-rocked landscape where, beyond the capital Arrecife, it can seem a miracle that local life clings on at all. In fact, it is easy to see why, only a couple of centuries ago – when the volcanic explosions that shaped much of today’s dramatic topography were still fresh in the mind, and long before the desalination plant finally brought fresh running water in the 1960s – Spain mooted evacuating the whole island. Life was too hard. Now, on the package resort, the living is easy.

Family holidays in Lanzarote


Harry DeQuettville’s family spending a day away from the resort

That’s not to say there is nothing to see or do, beyond the resorts. Far from it. We spend a day on a minibus criss-crossing the island, starting at the green lagoon on the barren southern coast, ending in the (relatively) more verdant north, where our guide assures us a dusting of rain can make a thousand wildflowers bloom. We even stop at a winery producing a malmsey vintage of the kind in which Shakespeare drowned Clarence, marvelling at the way each vine squats in a bowl, sheltered from the wind by a semicircular wall, drip-fed the life-giving water by the black, volcanic rock which farmers everywhere spread on their fields, prizing the way it sponges up even the merest dew, releasing it to the roots. 

But the unavoidable highlight is the Timanfaya, the volcanic national park itself, twisting on a lonely road through and above the caldera, feeling the gravel still heated from the bowels of the world. Here is the irony of our pampered, thought-free trip – this is a hard, barren place, where survival long strained every sinew. 

Now it is the cyclists, many pros among them, who strain the sinews, enjoying (if that’s the word) a spot of sunny winter training away from their usual hail-swept haunts in Roubaix or Ghent. This is evidently a paradise, too, for those who prefer their sport offshore – the sails of windsurfers and small boats ubiquitous in the channel between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, its companion island always visible in the distance. 

Vineyards, La Geria, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain


Each vine squats in a bowl, sheltered from the wind by a semicircular wall, drip-fed the life-giving water by the black, volcanic rock


Credit: imageBROKER/Alamy

Whitewashed lodgings

We stare across at it from the terrace of our room, part of the whitewashed amphitheatre of lodgings around the pool – simple, practical doubles with sofas where the children can bunk up at night, easily comfortable for four for a week, easily big enough to stow the luggage which, disbelieving, we have stuffed with clothes for all seasons. 

No need. Like snakes shedding skins, we slough off our winter layers in the cloudless days, grow used to flip-flopping in February; even if it is only to the buffet, or up to the sports area, where the boys can join a football game, or swing a tennis racquet. 

The pool is the centre of everything, and soon enough a new routine develops – not of rushed breakfasts and the school run, but of enjoying a leisurely bowl of granola or two, and perhaps a waffle (never fear, the full English is there too) then a dip, and before you know it, a relentlessly energetic rep has arrived poolside and is firing up the aqua fitness class. I turn to my wife to raise an ironic eyebrow at the very thought of joining in, but she’s not there. She’s in at the deep end, in every sense, pushing two, three, four, and flexing two, three, four… A little later, I am in too, dragged into a game of water polo in which absurdly competitive dads gouge and dunk each other in four feet of water while attempting to hurl a green beachall into a taped-together goal. Next day I am back for more. And the day after. On our last day – late – I hear my name being called over the tannoy, and feel a ludicrous rush of pride and belonging. 

4T TUI BLUE Flamingo Beach, Lanzarote hotels, travel in Lanzarote


The pool is the centre of everything at 4T TUI BLUE Flamingo Beach


Credit: Fotoware_nl

The great and particular joy here is that there is an escape valve from the resort, if it all becomes a bit claustrophobic – the sandy beach which gives Playa Blanca its name and which is just a couple of minutes walk away. There, beach cricket and a sea swim are an escape from all the artificiality, a welcome reminder of similar sandy games in Norfolk, or Northumberland.

Delights of the chocolate fountain

Then it’s back for supper – the food always different, and unexpectedly good. The only weirdness is that, at a point where Britain is abandoning Covid precautions, Spain still strictly enforces the wearing of masks, and even plastic gloves to wear while serving yourself at mealtimes. Little matter that, once back at our table, in a dining warehouse filled with countless others, we all take off our masks to eat and drink. Or that, for all the vigilance, this is a family resort, and there is always one infant confronted for the first time by the chocolate fountain, who cannot resist plunging in head first. As the pandemic – hopefully – recedes, the more or less gung-ho attitudes of different countries towards relaxing Covid protocols will become new cultural signifiers. Spain’s required pre-departure passenger locator form, too, was more of a faff than Britain’s, but for sunshine a four-hour flight away, hardly a dealbreaker. 

Soon, as the days pass, the boys begin to form their own idols among the reps, a hero-worship that reaches its pinnacle each night with Download, a kind of dance-off by the bar, driven with relentless enthusiasm by a muscle-bound Swede called Kasper. Like the guests, the staff seem mostly a mix of Brits and Scandinavians. Who will win Kasper’s competition? Red Team or Blue Team? The nippers scream for Blue while we gently nudge the barman for another stiff drink. Twice, I am hauled up on stage (or as close as Covid protocols will allow) to perform various challenges. Fortunately my flag-recognition is better than my water polo and the boys howl with delight. 

Tourists on sandy beach, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote beaches


The sandy beach which gives Playa Blanca its name and which is just a couple of minutes walk away


Credit: Plain Picture

Land of Lotus Eaters

Then it’s back for a bit of Ludo in the peace of our room, as bedtimes stretch away in the knowledge that today will elide safely into tomorrow, and more of the very same again and again. That is both the allure and the awfulness of this place, this land of Lotus Eaters, where one week might be heaven, two weeks hell. 

Of course, we don’t get to find out. Instead, as the soul begins to call out for a little extra, perhaps even a visit to that medieval chapel with the barely visible frescoes, we find ourselves heading back to the grey of home. 

But as we emerge from lockdowns and isolations and testing and swabs and doom and gloom, the merit of such simplicity seeps into our bones. There will be time enough for glamorous, once-in-a-lifetime jaunts, but after two years cooped up, there is something sensationally reassuring about the package trip – a reminder that it is easy to overcomplicate holidays, that warmth in winter and stress-free family fun can be miracle enough. 


Essentials

TUI (tui.co.uk) offers seven-night holidays to Lanzarote, staying at the 4T TUI BLUE Flamingo Beach, from £507 per person all-inclusive. The price is based on two adults and two children sharing, departing from London Gatwick on May 7 2022, and includes flights and transfers. To find out more, download the TUI app or visit the website. See our full guide to the best hotels in Lanzarote


Do you enjoy package holidays? Have you visited Lanzarote before? Share your experience in the comments section below

Source: Telegraph

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