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ily had been there since 1908. She hoisted the Savoie flag and cooked a lovely dinner. I wasn’t quite prepared for the sleeping arrangements, however. I knew they would be communal, and that would come as a bit of a shock in itself. So I did wince when Madame showed us to a room which contained nothing but a bunk version of the Great Bed ofWare — the communal bed from a Hertfordshire inn now kept at the V&A.The choice lay between sharing with a mouse-like French couple on the top or a swivel-eyed Italian on the lower bunk. It was a long night: lights out was at 9:30 p.m.

Next day we made it over the Col de Vanoise, as well as up and down a series of incredible cirques — glaciated valleys the shape of amphitheatres that could seat audiences of several million. We were each ready for a douche chaude after that — but the plumbing at our next refuge had begun to fail and there was only cold water.The sleeping arrangements turned out to be even more embarrassing: Theo and I were put in with a honeymooning couple, and had to clamber over their smooching forms in order to reach the stepladder to the gallery where we were sleeping. It was awful, like when you take your kids to the zoo and the llamas start shagging.

Then the water ran out.Though the mountains in all directions were pouring with the stuff, not a drop was making it to our refuge. There were ample stocks of absinthe behind the bar, but no water. There was no chance of washing, and we had to beg for some of the limited stocks of bottled drinking water.After a couple of days I resorted to plunging in a freezing mountain stream.

We did, however, succeed in breaking our altitude record: reaching 3,154 metres by striding up a glacier on the French-Italian border.We would have felt even more pleased with ourselves had we not been disturbed at the top by a wailing — and looked up to see a family of chamois leaping about on the final rocky outcrop that we ourselves were too chicken to climb.

There was a consolation, however. On World Cup night a Swiss gent let it slip that our refuge had a television. It was a special occasion: the management allowed us to break its usual curfew of 10 p.m. by a whole hour to watch extra time. By mountain refuge standards it was pure and utter decadence.

CYPRUS

Adventure playground James Delingpole lures his children away from the poolside

Here are the things I like to do on holiday: go on long walks; visit churches, monasteries, castles, museums, art galleries; swim; dive; windsurf; look at wildlife and wildflowers; read books; not spend any money.

And here are the things my children like to do: eat ice-cream; hang by the pool in spa hotels with beautiful, landscaped gardens; buy stuff; not do anything cultural; not walk anywhere; spend a lot of money.

So I guess you could say that when I took the foul, ungrateful, sybaritic brats to a gorgeous place called the Azia Resort Spa Hotel near Paphos in south-west Cyprus that they won the argument, while I was doomed to spend the entire week in pampered misery. Ha ha ha: so you’d think — but I had other plans.

The thing I liked instantly about the Azia Resort is that even though it looks like one of those five-star paradises where everyone wanders round looking smug in white fluffy bathrobes —enormous freshwater pool, the biggest in Cyprus; tropical gardens; lovely big rooms, some with their own hot tubs; brilliant massages, etc — the vibe is much more akin to that of the kind of small, family-run three-star hotel: warm, welcoming, unsnooty, incredibly well-run by a smart woman — Azia Chatila — with a good eye for detail. It feels like a happy ship.

The question was: how to inflict my activity schemes on the wife and children without provoking a mutiny? Trick one: book some excursions before you go. It’s more expensive this way but what it means is that you can present your family with a fait accompli: ‘Sorry kids, I know you want to hang by the pool, racking up Cokes and ice-cream. But the thing is, I’ve paid for us to go on this adventure…’

One adventure was in the Troodos Mountains, where I would really have liked to have spent longer exploring because it’s proper, highaltitude walking country — with lots of old monasteries with old icons in

Narrow victory: the Avakas Gorge

The question was how to inflict my activity schemes on the children without provoking a mutiny

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. c y p r u s t o w n h o u s e i g h t w w w

C o p y r them — and perfect for escaping the heat of the coast.

Trick two: distract, bribe. Teach the kids to read Greek letters so that when you take them to see the famous mosaics in Old Paphos — which of course they’ll loathe — you can at least buy five minutes’ respite by getting them to see how many names they can decipher. ‘Ariadne. That’s right! One euro!’ ‘One euro? Is that all?’ ‘One euro’s a hell of a lot at the current exchange rate.Anyway, you’ll only spend it on crap.’

Trick three: lie. Lying is best, I find. My favourite one is: ‘No, don’t worry. This isn’t going to be a long walk.’ That’s what I promised before the trek up the Avakas Gorge. Begin, as we did, with a char-roasted pork lunch at the amazing clifftop restaurant above the gorge’s entrance (booking essential). And make sure you’re wearing the right kit: clothes and shoes.

It’s not so much a walk as a scramble — like an adventure playground, almost, which with hindsight I see is why the kids enjoyed it so much. Sometimes the gorge is so narrow it’s just sheer rocks either side of you with a sliver of light at the top; sometimes it broadens out in a lush, pretty green valley with rock pools you can cool off. ‘Dad, that was the best walk ever,’ said Boy afterwards. I got my long, arduous walk in, that was the important thing. It made the ordeal of two more days of massage and sunbathing by the pool very nearly bearable.

● Azia Resort & Spa www.aziaresort.com ● Classic Collection Holidays www.classic-collection.co.uk ● Cyprus Tourist Organisation www.visitcyprus.com

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