Don’t mention the Euro! (Kos, Greece, July 2015)

“For God’s sake, what is your father doing? We have a plane to catch and no idea how bad traffic will be!”

“I think he’s offering Albert the Tuna sandwiches India got from Hidcote…”

“No, he ate those. Maybe it’s the pies?”

“Oh for crying out loud! That’s it, I’m getting out of the car. Ben! Ben! Stop offering Albert pork pies and get in the car!”

Here we go again…

Bennett summer holiday 2k15 (that’s what the cool people say, right? 2k15?) And this one was to the lovely sunny island of Kos. Before we’d even reached July mumma B had panicked about several things. She firstly worried that we were all going to fry to death in the Grecian sun (England/North France has been the choice of the Cotswold Bennett clan for many years). Then, once she’d simmered down about that, guess what? Reports start flooding in that Kos is being flooded with migrants. This one took a bit more to reassure mum’s nerves ‘mum, the migrants are coming into the south of the island. We’re going to be in the north. I could be wrong here, but I highly doubt the Grecian government are going to go “hey you! Unemployed random migrant! We know you’ve had a tough time in Syria so you know what, we’re gonna let you have free reign across the island. Here’s a car, you should go up to the tourist hotspot, we’ll even throw in a free meal!”‘ Mum got the idea. It wouldn’t be the last time she freaked out, but at least for now she was settled.

Airport stuff went smoothly, having a lunchtime flight did mean we were more alive this time around. The fun really started though when we got on the plane. Once we’d taken off and I felt I could relax (hate take offs). I grabbed the in flight magazine and happened to land on this page:

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Gee, thanks Thomas Cook for making me feel fat before I’ve even left British airspace.

The events that unfolded in the following 20 minutes can only be put down to a lack of Oxygen. Photos like this started occurring A LOT

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(And these are the good ones)

Then the (in)famous Thomas Cook song came on so we started to do some awkward dancing, the only kind you can do while strapped into a tiny space:

And then India discovered this picture of the prophet Gary Barlow which was a complete game changer:

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Dear readers (esp. those in London), while you were carrying about your day to day lives at around 2pm on Thursday 8th July, about a mile above you this was was happening:

Yep, bet you’re pretty dam jealous you weren’t there, right?

Ok, so skip ahead a few hours and we arrive at Kos. Due to Kos’ stringent immigration checks at least half the plane skipped passport control by going through a door located just behind the booths. Dad had a slight oh-err moment when he went to get another man’s luggage off the carousel (made more awkward by the fact we spent the following week in the same hotel), but otherwise all good.

Hotel of choice: Ramira Beach.

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Great hotel, all inclusive (of course) and we actually discovered on the last day it was 5 star (“how did they get that rating when they don’t serve hummus?!” said a very middle class, Marie Antoinette, blogger.)

The Snow White themed alcoholic cocktails were a point of family confusion, especially when the child friendly mocktails had adult names and remained picture-less on the menu.

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The waiting staff has these names so engrained into them, that to request a pina colada to some staff was met with blank looks until you changed your request to ‘a Snow White’

Views were to die for. With the sea views from our room, you could very easily see Turkey from where we were. Mum worried briefly that we might be the front line for a Turkish/migrant take-over, but five minutes taking in the view and sun stopped that.

Meanwhile, in Alice and India’s room, India did a lot of this:

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“India, I want to sit on something that isn’t your face”

We also took to raiding the free drinks in our fridge which were topped up almost too frequently.

“Do you want a drink bub?

“Sure, what have we got?”

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“Well we’ve got Ban, wine and Ban. Ban, Ban and coke. Ban, beer and Ban. Ban, Ban and Ban. Ban, Ban and soda Ban…”

Remind you of anything?

Kos Town

Moving on, Kos town itself was actually very nice during the day…

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On one of the first days we made the horrific choice to walk there AND back, not realising how long a walk it was and how hot the midday heat could be. A couple of choice shots from the walk though was the Kos’ attempt at heath and safety:

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“India, stand next to these”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, urm because it’s art”

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But, more interestingly, there was this cow who shall forever remain nameless.

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A cow named Cow. she barely moved a jot in the time we walked past her on the way in and then on the way back. On way in I jumped when I somehow turned around and was face to face with this animal but a few hours later she’d turned her back on the road. As such I created a back story for cow:

Cow: A Short Biography

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Cow was in fact born in Turkey to a Ms Cowley. Her mother was Turkish but her father was part of a Grecian travelling heard (you know, the ones who go from town to town to show city kids where milk comes from). Cow’s dad was the star attraction of the show, because he had the best moo in the whole Mediterranean. His name was Alejandro and, just like Lady Gaga, Ms Cowley fell for his bad bull charm. However many months a cow is pregnant for later, Cow was born.

When she had grown up into adulthood, Cow’s mother told her about her father. Spurred on by the thought of meeting her papa, she become determined to go to Kos in the hope of finding him. One night she sneaked out of the field and hopped on a passenger ferry to Kos under the disguise of an old lady. Although she was full of optimism initially, as the days, weeks and months wore on Cow struggled to find any trace of her long lost father or his family in the local press and Grecian archives (made worse by the fact most archives do not permit bovines to access their records).

With barely any money and food left, Cow became desperate. One day she was walking along a road when she saw a farmer passing by. “Please sir, can you help me find my father?” Cow asked. “Why certainly my dear, I know exactly where he is” the farmer responded. However little did Cow know that it was a trap, and before she knew it the farmer had her tied up to a tree.

Cow was trapped and unable to escape the clutches of her captor. Even if she did break free, Cow had no food or money and she knew the farmer would find her (running and athletics were never her strongest pursuits). To this day all she can do is look back at Turkey and think about the life she lost and the mother she never said goodbye to.

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Fin.

Some say I have an over active imagination…

Meanwhile, back in Kos town, there were some random objects. Some of them not suitable for anyone, regardless of age, to look at (taking taste and tat to whole new levels). Here are just a couple of more audience friendly tat:

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Queasy looking frog hats!

Also, have you ever wanted a lower leg/foot cast but didn’t want the hassle of actually having to break your leg? Look no further, Kos has something to solve your problem!

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In terms of architecture/heritage, Kos town really gave me an eye opener in how they preserve heritage vs. Britain. This archelogical site was, on the surface, very charming in its own way.

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But then you realise it’s actually not wild and overgrown because it looks nice, it’s because local government have abandoned it.

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It was clearly something that had been well maintained and looked after back in the 70’s. But then while we ambled around for free, there were signs of what once was a paid entry attraction.

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The state of the place didn’t go unnoticed by the family either. “Look Alice, there’s even an abandoned ice cream hut there! You should go inside and play shops!”

Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed looking at the ruins and learning about what was once the centre of the island’s early civilisation, it’s just seeing these things reminded me of how lucky we are that our heritage is preserved, even if it does mean having to sometimes pay to view it.

The Greek Economy

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On the subject of money, I cannot write a blog post on Greece in summer 2015 without even touching on the Grecian economy. The whole bail out deal was a big thing before we flew out, and it felt like an even bigger deal while we were out there. We took plenty of cash and all clued ourselves up on how to spot ‘shady figures’ and avoid pick pocketers just in case. While we were out there though we definitely felt a slight unease, especially among staff. In her room mum was pacing up and down while the only English channels, Sky and BBC news, kept reporting of riots in Athens and predicting public sector strikes “if they go on strike on the day we leave we’ll be in serious trouble, it’ll be like the ash cloud all over again. We’ll be stuck here and what’s worse, this time around there’s no travel insurance to cover us.” The main concern here being we got a nice extra all inclusive week in Crete that time around, but this time it would be an airport floor. Every now and then she’d turn to the TV in hope the government had agreed to the reforms, when they were still arguing she’d sigh and walk out onto the balcony to distract herself.

If mum was panicking internally, dad’s method of handling the tense situation was ten times worse. Before we left he had told us all “now, we must be very careful not to mention the economy while we’re there, especially with locals. It’s a very touchy subject at the moment. Don’t mention the Euro!”

I couldn’t contain myself at this “Hah! You’re one to talk, you started asking a Southern Cypriot about his views on the Turkish occupation of the north! If anyone makes a social faux pas, it’ll be you!”

I was proved right time and time again. We knew what we were in for when mum paid up 22€ for a safe on the first day.

“22€ for a safe!” Dad exclaimed rather loudly “Well at least I’m helping to bail out the country.”

Red alert raised, we quickly walked him out of reception.

“You can’t say that Dad!”

“Why? If they’re going to charge me that for a metal box, I should say how I feel.”

This was a common theme throughout the holiday. Frequently trying to engage us in deep debate about the Grecian economy while the bartenders served us drinks. And it wasn’t just sensitive political issues that were up for debate, no, he even dipped in to his bank of stereotypes. Large German party behind us, he says:

“Well it’s all very random, like Nazis vs Aliens.”

(Through gritted teeth) “Dad!”

“What, there were Nazis there, against the aliens. The film with the James Bond guy in it.”

“You’re talking about Cowboys Vs Aliens. Conversation changer, isn’t the view lovely!”

All I would say in Dad’s defence is that, at times, it felt like Kos were flashing neon signs at us to want to comment openly about their dangerously weak financial status. Case in point, bike rentals.

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Bike rental shops were everywhere, and I mean everywhere. They out numbered car rentals by an extraordinary level, a level that in all my years (22, in case you’re asking) I had never seen before. Bike rental shops all with an alarming about of un-hired bikes sat on the tarmac.

It’s not like no one was cycling, heck Kos town has bike lanes a plenty. Borris would have loved it! (For us mere pedestrians it created another flow of traffic and therefore chaos).

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(As you can see above, even with the bike lanes cyclists still chose to cycle wherever they pleased. Nightmare!)

As we walked past bike rental after bike rental with flashy new bikes piled high on the forecourt and staff sat looking bored, all we could do was keep saying “what bank would approve a loan for another bike shop in Kos?”

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We were starting to see why perhaps Greece was in a spot of bother. Combined with the strings of failed restaurants located outside our all inclusive hotel, it started to paint a picture of the Greece you don’t see on English TV. A weak infrastructure that had been allowed to worsen unchecked for many years. This was not the image of rebellious pensioners in Athens storming the banks that I was used to seeing on TV.

I think the mood needs lightening now, this is a bit down beat. Ok, so…

Entertainment

This side of the hotel I’ll admit was poor. But at the “Lord of the Dance Show” I discovered what Zorro was doing with himself nowadays:

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Irish dance. Who’d have thought it.

Part of the God awful daily entertainment included a 3pm random dance I soon dubbed ‘the Zumba’ dance, because everything about it, the song, the dance moves, the energy, it all reminded me of Zumba. Here’s a clip of them doing it, I’ll let you make you own mind up:

Maybe if it was February and I wanted to burn off the Christmas weight I’d join them, but I was lying on a sun-bed trying to not think about the calories I put on when I ate this monstrosity the night before:

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I can’t even explain what is going on on that plate, let alone defend it.

Hotel Staff

One evening we were introduced to our Animation team, the people behind the Zumba dance. All very straightforward stuff until you heard where they were from. Two were from South Africa, another Hawaii, one Bulgaria, three from Romania. Crucially, not of them was Greek. Soon it became very apparent that in a Greek hotel on a Grecian island virtually all the staff were migrants, working for the summer season to send money home. As a family we formed a connection with one of the drinks waitresses, a young lady called Lia. Her accent was clearly not Greek and we were curious to know how she got here. A few days in, we asked her about her background. She told us she was Albanian, but had spent 12 years living in Cyrpus moving around. Her father had owned a small business which had failed forcing him and his wife to travel overseas for work. In England they had worked for a short time “in a place called Bir-me-ham” but they now were living “in Bor-ney-mout” (Bournemouth). Her sister was a trained hairdresser struggling to find work and the aim of her job was to save up to support her family and go to England when the season was over.

“Do they not keep anyone on over the winter?”

“No, it all close down in October. I may apply to work here for the next season, but if job comes up in England then I stay.”

She was full of questions herself, asking us about where we lived in relation to Bournemouth. When we told her it was some distance, about two hours, she went “it is no distance, very close compared to other places!” I do feel a tinge of guilt though for telling her about our weather.

“England, I am told it is a little cooler than Kos.”

There we were, sat in light dresses, T-shirts and shorts at 10pm and she thinks England is a little cooler?!

“It’s a lot more cooler than Kos! Always raining!”

We all took one look at her shocked face which was quickly turning into disappointment at this revelation and quickly added, “of course, you’ll be on the south coast, it’s better there.” Luckily this cheered her up and she carried on. For someone who can barely go one day without texting my family who are an hour away, the thought of being separated from my family, working in a foreign country to support my relatives, well I cannot describe how that one thought made me feel.

Pick up the energy Alice, come on!

Oh, there were a few cleaning ladies walking around who were dressed like French maids. It’s the world’s most unpractical uniform during the day and I didn’t feel at ease when I saw them tottering about with feather dusters at 11:30pm.

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(I even struggled to photo them.)

Also, here’s a calendar you could buy in the hotel which emotionally divides you because you know cats are cute but these cats are freaky as:

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They know what you did last Summer

India, Dad and I tried Banana boating and had a spin on a ringo

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A brilliant experience, but the latter was terrifying to say the least #ScreamFest #DeafDad

Middle Aged Man snap!

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And if all else fails just think, you’re not Cow.

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She’s still sat there.

Right, that’s enough to perk everyone up.

Zumba, bikes and cows aside, I had a fabulous time in Kos. I even wore a dressing gown and slippers with a glass of wine what like them posh people do:

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Great time in a hot sunny country. A needed break from the unpredictable British climate spending time with this piece of sunshine:

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And the actual sunshine:

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“What a lovely view…oh for Christ’s sake India, get off the bed!!”

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