Yesterday, a fun little hashtag was doing the rounds on Twitter. #ConfessYourUnpopularOpinions saw such things as ‘I didn’t think Avengers was all that great’ or ‘Game of Thrones is over-rated’ or ‘I don’t like Christian Bale as Batman’ fly past on the Twitter feed. It was kind of amusing whilst at the same time encouraging to see that other people agreed with what you were thinking.
One of the things I put up was ‘I don’t see the point in holidays that revolve around lying by the pool/on the beach’. So that’s the subject of today’s blog. Holidays.
When I was young, which was an event that took place in another century – literal truth – we used to have a week in August when my dad was off work. We would always spend a week at a Pontin’s holiday camp. We split between three camps, really: Tower Beach (near Prestatyn in North Wales), Brean Sands in Somerset and Camber Sands down in Sussex. These weeks away would be filled with such wonders as the amusement arcade, or the ‘spot the new car registration’ game… or marvelling at how it was that milk came in plastic bags and you put it in a jug… or inter-house games between the two ‘houses’ – Embassy and Castella (named for big cigar manufacturers, how politically incorrect that must seem now).
My mum and dad would leave my brother and I pretty much to our own devices for a week and we engaged in all sorts of activities. They were fun, those holidays. As I got older, I suddenly realised the inordinate amount of snobbery that came my way when I said where we had been. But I genuinely pity that. I had some of the best holidays of my life. It was what my parents could afford and manage and I enjoyed every single one of them. The time they all went off site for the day and left me to my own devices and I came second in the talent contest sticks out in my mind. Not the coming second thing particularly, even though that was awesome, but the fact that I genuinely had the confidence to put myself forward – something I’d never done before.
Every year I inevitably ended up with a crush on one of the Bluecoats, too. There was also a guy called Peter who I met at Tower Beach one year. We shared the same birthday and we spent the entire week together, squabbling like an old married couple. I wonder whatever became of him?
I did not go abroad (not counting day trips to Calais) properly until I was eighteen years old. My first ever flight was a long-haul to Florida on a DC10. I had never flown before that day (16th July 1989 – I remember it that clearly) and it was the most amazing experience of my life. Mind you, I also noted for future reference, that I would never go to Florida in July ever again. I am about as British as it comes and that means that the heat and sun combo leaves me wanting to curl up and whimper in a corner. I burn through Factor 50 suncream. I don’t mind sun and warmth, as long as there’s an indoors somewhere for me to go.
I’ve been incredibly lucky in terms of holidays. I’ve been to some of the most beautiful and incredible places. Orlando. Las Vegas. Los Angeles. San Francisco. Rome. St. Lucia. Santorini. Vienna. Prague. Strasbourg. I feel privileged every single time I go anywhere. But for me, it’s still the holidays where we get out and do stuff that are the most memorable. Mind you, having said that, since I started my Girly Weekends with the wonderful Nik Vincent-Abnett, I’ve discovered that there’s a lot to be said for just chilling out and chatting with a good friend.
Our last trip away was Rome, nearly seven years ago. We went there for a long weekend as our belated honeymoon and it remains, to my mind, the most incredible few days I can remember. Rome is a strange city; it’s easy to get around, there’s graffiti everywhere and every other car is a Smart car. I went there for one reason alone. The Colosseum.
For years I had – and still have – a recurring dream about the Colosseum. Naturally it left an ingrained urge to go see it. I remember that evening absolutely vividly. We’d arrived mid afternoon, found the hotel, had a drink… and decided we’d just take a walk. We let our feet do the guiding and were just wandering. We found the Circus Maximus purely by chance and it was about then that I started to realise just what a remarkable place we had come to.
We kept on walking, rounded the corner and bang. There it was. Just… there. Sitting at the end of the street on which we stood, the weirdest centrepiece to a roundabout you’ll ever see. And I cried. I cried Actual Tears. Because it was just so darned incredible to see it.
My other overriding memory of Rome was the sheer determination of the street vendors. There was a day when we were sitting having lunch in the Campo de’ Fiori, watching them hock their wares. Sunglasses. Hats. ‘I Luff Rome’ type souvenirs. You know. Tat. And then it rained. Boy, did it rain. The rain was bouncing off the pavements. It was utterly wonderful to sit there with a glass of Rioja watching this rain and watching the street vendors scurry away… only to return five minutes later selling umbrellas.
WHERE DID THEY GO? WHERE DO THEY STORE THIS STUFF?
Rome, it may come as no surprise to learn, is pretty high up on my list of places I want to go back to.
So how about yourselves, gentle reader(s)? What are the most memorable places you’ve visited?