x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

What defines success - or failure - on a family holiday?

The success of two very different hotel bookings during a two-week break in northern Cyprus will come down to one toddler.

It turns out that our two-week family holiday to northern Cyprus is neatly divided in two: failure and success, or rather, five nights in a rather rustic-looking guest house on the Karpaz Peninsula (booked by me) and one week in a private villa with a swimming pool near the main resort of Kyrenia (booked by my husband). I'd had to persuade him that the remote isolation and glorious beaches promised in our guidebook were worth hours in the car on top of the early morning flight from Abu Dhabi; and when we arrive, all smiles, my heart sings with relief as we are warmly greeted by the manager and row upon row of brightly coloured flowers. "Oh," I think, "It's all going to be OK."

Only minutes later, however, my husband is voicing some very legitimate concerns: the local village shop sells all manner of dusty food packets, fizzy pop and sweets, but fresh produce for our 14-month-old baby, apart from a few potatoes and onions, is seemingly nowhere to be found. The village of Dipkarpaz itself, a collection of breeze-block houses, a mosque, school and petrol station, dotted with rusting farm machinery and cars, does not hold anything that resembled a supermarket. It is the same story at the not-so-nearby villages. I'd packed a jar of pesto, a few snacks and some milk powder but these supplies won't last long.

Problem two? The promised self-catering accommodation turns out to be a large stone-built room, immaculately clean and well-presented, down to roses placed on our pillows, but without so much as a gas ring or kitchen knife. Plates and glasses? Forget it. The two sadly empty kitchen units in one corner contain a plugless sink. Nor is there a plug in the bathroom sink. How, my husband asks me, voice steady, are we going to wash the baby's bottles? The only positive notes are staff who are desperately keen to help and the fridge in one corner.

Later that evening, however, perched rather uncomfortably on the stone steps outside our door, and I'm feeling strangely jubliant. There are bats flying about, around and overhead, like kamikaze pilots, and it turns out that the restaurant next door serves a rather fine selection of mezze and kebabs for about 20 Turkish lira (Dh44) per head. I can feel myself relaxing into holiday mode, delighting in a new experience in a new place. Unfortunately, my husband is having the opposite sort of evening. We should leave, he reasons, and get back to civilisation for baby's sake. We. Need. Food.

The next day marital harmony is restored in the form of a hot, served breakfast and a fully equipped kitchen in reception. Of course, as it turns out, baby won't eat anything anyway.