When I booked our October holiday to Crete earlier this year, I must admit it was with a degree of trepidation. Up until that point, any previous holidays aboard had been taken with other family members, such as group jaunts to the Canaries, or roping my mother into accompanying us to Cyprus last year. I have always managed to swerve the responsibility of being the sole adult. However, this time, I decided that, at 40, it was about time I stopped relying on other people and started acting like a grown up. A scary thought, I have to admit. I have never been one for stepping too far outside of my comfort zone. 2,410 miles, the distance from Manchester, England, to Heraklion, Crete, was definitely way outside of my comfort zone! But it was either book the holiday and reclaim my independence, or stay safely at home in the rain.

I am so glad that I chose the former over the latter. As everybody I know predicted, nothing bad happened, despite all of my worrying in the run up to our flight. It was actually very liberating to know that it was something I could do on my own, not that there was really any doubt about that. At home, I am almost intensely independent, and rarely socialise unless I can help it. I regularly take my son out and about on various expeditions, just the two of us, and it has never bothered me before. But that has all been on familiar territory, and not in another country entirely.

In hindsight, I’m not sure what all of the worrying was about! You can’t really go wrong with an all-inclusive holiday.

From home, to the airport, to the plane, to a coach, to the hotel. It was the best and easiest holiday possible for somebody who was nervous about holidaying abroad. The majority of the responsibility lies with your tour operators – all you really have to do is turn up and go with the flow. Suited me down to the ground. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t done it before as part of a small group, and my 11 year-old son, who goes away every year with his dad, assured me that he knew what he was doing!

The journey there went like clockwork, and we arrived in Crete in high spirits, and looking forward to the week ahead. I have always felt drawn towards the Greek islands. I’m not sure what is is about them that attracts me – maybe the picture-perfect white buildings set against cerulean blue skies, and the small beachside tavernas selling ouzo and bonhomie. Years ago, I visited Corfu with an ex, and have recently added Cyprus to my burgeoning list. Now Crete, and I also planned to add Santorini, the ultimate Greek odyssey, in a day trip.

The hotel we stayed in, Atlantica Akti Zeus, is located in Amoudara, at least 20 minutes by coach from Heraklion Airport, and literally on the beach. A Splashworld, the hotel was quite large and sprawling, and our first evening there when we arrived was spent wandering down identical corridors and in and out of the reception area, trying to find the pool and restaurant. Two hours ahead of the UK, it was evening by the time we arrived and we were a little disorientated by the vague signage on the walls and wandered around in circles for a good hour or so. Eventually, we gave up and retired to our room to relax. In the daylight of the following morning, we found the pool and the restaurant straight away and weren’t quite sure how we had missed it the previous evening. The sun was already out as we went for breakfast in the large buffet restaurant that overlooked the beach, and we decided to explore once we had eaten. As is generally the case, my son immediately found the resident stray cats which, for the rest of the week, we would regularly smuggle food out of the restaurant for. Animal lovers through and through, we are always enamoured by the local waifs and strays, of which there are generally many. There were also two beautiful dogs that appeared to live on the beach, and who we renamed Marley and Ellie and fed as regularly as the cats. Although there seemed to be a lot of stray animals, they all appeared well-fed and cared for, and we caught glimpses of affection from staff members, which cheered my son up. He gets very protective of his animal friends, which I am inordinately proud of. Cruelty to animals is something we both cannot bear!

To be continued..

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