This is not a post which has, at the heart of it, an existential dilemma, one which will change our understanding of the way we live in this world. It will have no crashing repercussions on the fate of human civilisation. It will not make you stop what you are doing, and ponder deeply to yourself. In effect, it is me thinking on paper, with a very small audience watching. What a time to be alive.
The end of the year is drawing in, and we’ve still not had all of our holidays. We like travelling, our little family. At the beginning of the year I took my partner to Paris for a special birthday. You may have read about it. We spent a few weeks travelling through Norway, from Oslo, via Flåm to Bergen and Stavanger. We also spent a week in Annecy. Next will be Iceland, followed by a visit to Spain.
Yes, that’s rather a lot, but it gives me stuff to write about, and it’s basically all we’re interested in spending our hard earned cash on. The dilemma we always have is planning the next one. It can take months of searching for the correct flat in the most convenient part of the city we have chosen. That is all well and good, but what if you can’t decide where you want to go? We normally do that easily.
As you can see, we’ve done a lot in a short space of time, so there’s a lot which would just be an exercise in repetition. I would suggest staying in the UK, but I’ve spent a lot of time in London, and we’re off to Edinburgh shortly. Our reliable palette of holiday choices are: Nordic countries, other Germanic countries, especially Switzerland. Occasional visits to Italy and France (more on that later).
We love Nordic countries beyond all others, but I am starting to realise that I like Nordic countries a lot less when it’s warm. It’s almost as if it much defeats the point of loving countries like that, when the weather is actually pleasant. My memories of being lashed by wind and rain in the Faroes are almost entirely positive. I love the place, and would be there now if I could be. Yes, I may be being a tad snooty, but I love the fact that these countries are not for everyone, because people fear cold.
There are plenty of Nordic places we’ve not fully explored; that would be a great place to start. The issue is that you then have to diversify the holiday, in order to give yourselves enough to do and see. That means travelling great distances, or touring, which is a whole other can of complicated worms.
Like I’ve already said, we love popping in to places like France and Italy, but that has been a bad choice in the past, due to our poor choices of dates. We went to Tuscany last year, basing ourselves in Lucca, and looking to tour the region by train. It was all absolutely wonderful, apart from the heat. We found ourselves evaporating, chasing shadows, and generally immobile. We swore never to find ourselves in that position again. So much so that the next holiday we planned was a tour of Norway.
High temperatures just do not suit us. We have family in Spain, who love us to visit, but the heat they so crave finds us wilting in corners, unable to enjoy even the most relaxing activities. It may be a mystery to them, but we look forward to our visit in December. I get it; our tastes, our needs, our drives are different to most. My mother loves a resort holiday, but I can’t imagine us doing that. A lot of people love long-haul flights, but my partner would throw herself out of the window. True.
It’s within these largely self-imposed restrictions that we find ourselves. As Phil Spencer is always at pains to point out on Location, Location, Location, there must be room for compromise somewhere.
So, we don’t like places when they’re hot, and we don’t like resort places, and we don’t want to fly too far. What does that leave us with? Our thoughts eventually turned to the places we most often avoid, and the Mediterranean. For a summer holiday, places like Greece would be far too hot for us to cope with, but in Easter, that’s a very different proposition. Spring cool, rather than summer heat.
The first problem we faced was the types of places you could visit. My mother has been to Greece a lot over the years, so we have always assumed that it would be overrun with summer tourist resorts. Then we remembered pictures of boat trips, stories of tavernas, and the sight of Rick Stein touring through Greece, and his undeniable, unmistakeable love of the place. It seems worth investigating.
The reason I visited Iceland in the first place, almost ten years ago, was that I saw it on TV, and found myself with a strong, strange desire to visit the place. It stuck with me, and has taken me back there many times over the years. I have also, in the back of my mind, had the urge to visit Santorini, in the Aegean Sea. If Iceland was a success, why not follow my mental nose, and try that direction? Cool.
Leaving home behind for a week is always terrifying to me. Will the place burn down? Will we be robbed blind? Will our dogs destroy my mother’s house? Then there’s the travelling itself. That can be fraught too. But then, when we arrive in the apartment, and we’re actually there, the feeling of the holiday can begin to wash over you. The months of research have now borne fruit. Time to play.
As much as I like visiting places again and again – I will always love Iceland; I will always dream of the Faroes; I will always try to find my way back to Stavanger – it is a thrill to go and play somewhere new. My daughter will be looking for the nearest carousel, or set of swings; my partner and I will be more concerned with finding the nearest supermarket, to get some supplies in. The idea of grappling with a new language is terrifying and exciting in equal measure. I have never tried Greek. I want to.
The pleasure of planning holidays is as much about the memories you are likely to make as it is about the period of relaxation it should bring with it. We love getting out and about in the world, and we will continue to do so for as long as we can. I just hope you’ll keep reading about it.