I'M JUST back from my holidays. The week on the Greek island of Zante was fantastic. Brilliant sunshine every day. In truth it was a little too hot but mustn't complain.
In the pool every day. A nice cool beer to cool you down whenever you wanted. Day trips. Boat trips. Shopping trips.
Good company. A good laugh. A nice, relaxing break.
Zante has everything a sun-seeking tourist and family could wish for.
The coach trip from the airport to our hotel took just five minutes which put us in good stead for the rest of the week. There's nothing worse than starting your holiday with an endless journey in a hot and stuffy coach dropping off guests here, there and everywhere.
Our room had everything we needed and overlooked the pool. Air conditioning was a must. Ask my son. His didn't work properly and he spent many an hour out on the balcony during the steamy nights.
Talking of the balcony. My family will tell you that's a must for me on this type of holiday. Somewhere you can sit in peace watching people pass by.
The actual hotel facilities were spot on. The restaurant food could have been better, but mustn't complain.
The snack bar by the pool made up for that and we quickly found a restaurant outside the hotel complex where the food was good, reasonably priced and the service exceptional.
Back in the hotel, the staff were good as well. I was sure that our 'matron of the hotel' was the same lady who featured in some holiday reps fly-on-the-wall documentary I had watched a while ago. The lady on the box was fierce and didn't take any prisoners.
First impressions of the Zante lady was that she must have been the same person. She was a bit scary and I wasn't going to ask.
Glad I didn't, because over the course of the next few days we saw her in a totally different light. She was just good at her job and turned out to be a mental health nurse taking time out from her exacting job.
It looked as if the entire complex — at least the leisure and food side of things — was run by generations of one family.
I can still see now what must have been the head of the family spending his days having breakfast with the guests and then sitting in the shade away from the sun only stirring occasionally to pick up the odd empty glass or bottle from a table. What a lovely life.
It was the same routine for him in the early evening when the entertainment started. There was disco time for the kids, quizzes for the family, entertainment and bingo. Yep, bingo.Yours truly playing bingo. I can see dear old mum smiling down from on high as I write.
A trip to the nearby water park was one excursion. A day out on a pirate ship (yes that's right, mother, a pirate ship) was another. We were at sea for more than five hours, taking in the island's famous blue caves and stopping for a swim at a cove which was home to a shipwreck.
Back on board 'Black Bill' caught my eye. He was one of the pirates as the name suggests, although you wouldn't have guessed until right at the end of the voyage.
Up until then — when he suddenly donned a pirate hat and a black plastic hook for his hand — he had spent virtually most of the voyage chain-smoking fags and eating a cheese roll. Good luck to him.
Seeking out the island's famous turtles was the third excursion. More than four hours at sea. We did come across one — and more of those blue caves.
Our final night was a tour of the copious number of gift shops looking for presents to take home.
That's when things started to hit home and I thought of life back on the English Riviera.
We have gift shops. We have hotels. We have restaurants.
We have golden beaches. Boat trips. A famous Geopark. Beautiful natural scenery with Dartmoor on our doorstep.
It was Torquay Regatta Week when we returned.
The seafront was jam packed with visitors and locals enjoying the late summer sun as the Riviera shone in all its spectacular glory.
Thousands lined the promenade for the annual fireworks extravaganza.
Thousands more turned out for the annual Red Arrows show.
Some things never change. A new report highlighted how Torquay and Paignton were two of the most deprived seaside towns in the country.
Torbay was applying for government cash to breathe life into the Bay.
Parking was back in the headlines with Minister Eric Pickles warning councils not to use parking charges as a way of simply making money and killing off our town centres at the same time.
What Mr Pickles hopes to achieve, apart from shooting from the hip just for a change, is not clear.
There was news of another parking review being launched with parking guru and councillor Robert Excell at the helm. Black Bill came to my mind again for some reason.
Perhaps Cllr Excell will include a veto on parking wardens patrolling the seafront on a Bank Holiday. Give us some breathing space, Mr E.
As I say, nothing changes.
But let's not forget we have a Zante right on our own doorstep.
It's called the English Riviera. And we should shout about it.