After two weeks away on a cruise with my Dad, it’s no surprise that this week I am grateful for having had the opportunity to go on holiday. The cruise was a bit of an extravaganza, a ‘you only live once’ situation, and I’m so glad we took it. To be able to up sticks and leave your life, even just for a week or two, isn’t a luxury that’s afforded to everyone. And coming the day after the terrorist attacks in London Bridge, I was extremely glad to have the opportunity to escape for a while.
I’m not the most well travelled person in the world, but it got me thinking about some of my favourite holiday memories.
Neither of my parents liked flying, so as children we holidayed mainly in Devon and on the Isle of Wight – and had some fantastic times. I’m sure it’s just rose-tinted glasses, but it seemed to be much more consistently hot in those days; ice creams rapidly melting into the sand, Mum desperately plastering my fair skinned brother’s protesting face with suncream, long balmy evenings where we were allowed to stay up late because it was simply too hot to sleep. (There were also, of course, plenty of times where in classic British style we would stoically remain on the beach, protected from the force 10 gales by a fortress of wind breakers and parasols).
The Isle of Wight has been a holiday destination for my family for many years (my parents even had their honeymoon there), and the place names roll off my tongue like familiar friends: Ryde, Gurnard, Carisbrooke Castle, Blackgang Chine. We visited again a few years ago, on what would turn out to be Mum’s last holiday; enjoyed the peaceful walk along the seafront between Cowes and Gurnard many times. I’ll forever be grateful to my brother for travelling to meet us as a surprise, waiting for hours in the rain just so that he could be there. That holiday was in no way perfect, but just being there meant the world.
One of my favourite family holidays was in, conversely, the popular haunt of the over 85s: Eastbourne. Myself and my brother were teenagers and for a reason I can’t recall, Mum and Dad ended up booking the trip very last minute. Consequently, the only accommodation available was the grimiest student digs imaginable – and having never seen a student house before, this was really quite a culture shock. Due to the fact that every surface seemed to be coated in a sticky brown film, and that in most of the rooms the windows had been painted shut, we spent absolutely no time in the house. I remember takeaway pizza on the beach for dinner; walking along the seafront each evening and nosing into the geriatric hotels, laughing at the entertainers with their Casio keyboards; eating breakfast in a streetside cafe each morning, marvelling at the mini pots of jam. We spent so much time together as a family that week, that despite the grim surroundings, we laughed more than ever.
In stark contrast to this, one of my first holidays without Mum and Dad was to the extremely classy and culturally significant destination of Magaluf. Again, this was a culture shock for many different reasons, and I certainly wouldn’t rush back – but I had a brilliant holiday for about £100. Yes, I ate McDonald’s for dinner, baked on sun loungers crammed around a tiny pool each day, binge drank every evening and suffered for it the following morning, and stocked up on dubious Spanish-branded spirits to take home (in the days before a 100ml liquid limit existed on planes) – but I spent the week with three lovely girls (two of whom I barely knew before the holiday), and had a whole lot of laughs. The holiday was also perfect preparation for the three years of binge drinking that would follow (and also gave me a great tan for Freshers Week).
As I have grown older, my holiday choices have (I think) improved somewhat. One extremely memorable trip was four days in New York with seven girls. Fresh out of a break up, it was the perfect tonic for me: a decadent extravaganza of shopping, cocktails, rooftop bars and very little sleep. The trip showed me how much fun I’d been missing out on, and gave me some of my very best friends.
The first time I travelled alone was to visit a friend in Canada – she showed me around Toronto, introduced me to her family, took me to a Polish street festival, to Niagara Falls and to Canada’s beautiful wine country, as well as for a quick trip across the border to Buffalo (we made it as far as Target, having been detained at the border for a number of hours thanks to my non-Canadian passport – great fun! Although I’ll never complain about an hour in Target: think Supermarket Sweep on steroids). I loved that trip, loved having the opportunity to see somebody else’s world.
A very different holiday was a trip with Dad, my brother and my sister-in-law shortly after Mum died. That really was the definition of an escape; we were still so raw, still working out how to deal with things. The beautiful Lake District was the perfect place to do so: I loved the clean air, boat trips on the peaceful water, a calming change of scenery.
My recent cruise with Dad also allowed plenty of time to appreciate the relaxed pace of being on water. Dad’s first cruise without Mum was always going to be something of a challenge, but I am delighted to say that we both thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Two weeks of sunshine, food and plenty of opportunity to make new friends: I was pleasantly surprised by my first nautical holiday.
Of course there have been many more trips: Mexico, Croatia, Kent, Yorkshire, Barcelona, Berlin to name just a few. I’m so lucky to have been able to travel just a little bit; to hear different voices, try different foods, see new sights; to escape from the every day and to make memories that will last forever.