I did something rash today. I booked a holiday for next year. I can picture the hotel now. Actually, I can see the hotel right now. It’s about 50m from where I’m sitting. And it looks jolly nice, too.
No, they haven’t built a 5-star resort on the outskirts of the Catford Gyratory; that would be madness. The thing is that I’m not in Kansas Catford any more. I and my Best Beloved are in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, on Day Four of the first foreign holiday we’ve had together for 22 years (okay, we went to Paris for a long weekend last year, but that doesn’t count really. France is just like England, but with style).
We’re staying at the Rui Helena Park, something that comes closest to a five-star hotel in Sunny Beach. Now that I’m working for the world’s best-loved hotel chain, I find myself comparing hotels, and this comes very close to the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in … with only a few reservations.
Firstly, most of the hotel staff speak really bad English, but then so do most hotel staff anywhere in the world (including London). To be fair to them, the most common language heard in Sunny Beach is German. The place is full of them.
Then again, Bulgaria has been German-friendly for many, many years. They even fought on the same side in two world wars.
And the Germans have always had an eye on fiscal matters; it is dirt cheap here and most Brits haven’t got that yet.
The first people to really appreciate Bulgaria as a beach holiday destination were the Russians. They caused Sunny Beach to come into being in 1958. Yes, it really is called Sunny Beach — or ??????? ???? (Slanchev Briag) in Bulgarian. Until 1958, it was a watering hole just outside Nesesbar on the Western coast of the Black Sea in southern Bulgaria, then the Soviet Apparatchiks came along and fancied soaking up the rays like their Western cousins had started to do in the South of France. So Sunny Beach was born.
By the time the Wall came down, the Germans were already regular visitors here. Brits, however, unprepared for the long flight across Europe, were much happier going to the Costas and turning them into a little slice of Old Blighty.
As Brits, we are very much in the minority here. Don’t suppose I’ve heard more than a dozen British accents since we reached the hotel (the couple next door are Glaswegian and shout a lot at each other).
The food is plentiful, perhaps too plentiful. Proper sausages first appeared on the breakfast buffet this morning, otherwise the menu has a central European slant.
The booze is cheap, if you buy local. The brands we all know and love — Barcardi Breezers, Smirnoff Ice, etc — are more or less what you’d pay on any drinking binge in Broken Britain. But I’ve been happy to knock back the local lager at £1 a pint, and even good wine in a restaurant is less than £7 a bottle, even for the stuff you’d buy in Sainsbury’s for the same price.
Then there’s been the main reason for coming on holiday in the first place: non-stop sunshine and temperatures of 28C at a time when it’s cold and wet back home (I know it is, I’ve been getting tweets).
So this is just Day Four, and we’re so impressed we’ve booked another 11 nights for the same time next year, only in the next-door sister hotel, The Helena Sands, which seems to have a better swimming pool.
I’ve been rambling on for too long now and you’re probably all jealous (I hope). There is lots more to say about the resort, its people and our fellow tourists, so I’ll close here and resume later on the correlation between Tina Turner and poolside barbecues, Why Bulgarian Kareoke is crap and when “Free to hotel guests” isn’t.
And remember what they say: “If God had meant man to live in England, He would have given him gills!”
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