The internet often gets a bad rap – but in reality it’s made all our lives so much easier.
We can now do our weekly shop, check our bank accounts and even read our local newspaper without leaving the comfort of our homes.
The internet has also helped take the risk out of booking a holiday hotel. And, for me, that makes it the greatest invention in history.
Following a bad experience in Tunisia several years ago, I vowed never again to book a hotel without thoroughly researching it.
So I invested in a personal computer and was delighted to discover travel websites such as Tripadvisor and Holiday Watchdog.
These sites carry traveller reviews and candid photographs, giving you a clearer picture of hotels than your holiday brochures.
The reviews carry star ratings for facilities, cleanliness, services, location and, most importantly, value for money.
My rule is that if the hotel doesn’t get an average rating of four out of five stars (or eight of out of 10) it’s time to look elsewhere.
So, after looking through First Choice’s Winter Sun brochure and choosing my favourite Canary Islands hotel, it was time to log on.
The El Greco Apartments & Bungalows are exclusive to First Choice in the UK and have a 100 per cent ‘good or excellent’ customer rating.
But would this be reflected on Tripadvisor?
To my relief, the hotel, in Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria, scored very highly. In fact, it was rated No.6 out of 328 hotels on the island.
A Tripadvisor member from London, who visited in November, wrote: “The apartment was spotless and the maids even did our washing up.”
And ‘netnet’ from Nottingham, who stayed in September, said the apartments “have everything you need plus a fantastic beach view”.
Like Puerto Rico itself, the El Greco, is incredibly popular with British holidaymakers. It was fully booked when we visited in early March.
The spacious, one or two-bedroomed (sleeping up to five) self-catering apartments have recently been refurbished.
They have a separate lounge, a kitchenette with fridge and microwave and a balcony or terrace – most with ocean views.
The El Greco has a large, heated pool with a snack bar (happy hour from 5-6pm) and a secluded, unheated second pool.
But its best feature is undoubtedly its location.
Puerto Rico tumbles down steep hillsides towards the beach, making it less than ideal for the elderly or young families.
The El Greco, however, is at ground level and literally just across a quiet road from the resort’s wide sweep of sandy beach.
A stone’s throw away is Harbour Lights bar, with cheap snacks and cheap drinks (two pints of San Miguel for three euros).
It also has the best views of any bar/restaurant in Puerto Rico and (keep it to yourselves, gents) plenty of screens showing live football.
Just down the road from El Greco is a marina where you can take a 30-minute trip to the charming Italianate village of Puerto Mogan.
This is a purpose-built resort unlike any other with canals, flower-filled pedestrianised streets and prettily painted lowrise apartments.
Puerto Rico’s marina is also the place to set off in search of dolphins and whales.
But try to go on a calm day. It’s easier to spot the mammals and you’re less likely to spend the trip throwing up – as my wife and I did.
Another advantage of staying at El Greco is that you are very close to the start of the new cliffside walkway to Amadores, 15 minutes away.
This brand new resort has a crescent beach of soft crushed shells (which don’t stick to your feet) and a terrific mini golf course.
The restaurants and bars lining the beach are a great place to watch the sun go down.
First Choice organises a number of trips for those who have the time to go further afield.
You can take a ‘jeep safari’ through pine forests to traditional Canarian villages, visit the house where Columbus stayed during his first voyage of discovery, explore the cave homes of the island’s aboriginal people or swagger through the original film set of A Fistful Of Dollars.
But sun-worshippers staying at the El Greco are unlikely to want to stray too far from the beach on their doorstep.
Staying seven nights self-catering at the 3-sun plus El Greco Apartments & Bungalows, departing from Birmingham on September 20, 2008, costs from £475 per adult, based on two sharing. The price includes flights, transfers, fuel levies and APD. For further information, call 0871 664 9012 or visit First Choice
El Greco Apartments & Bungalows