Five significant holidays

scan0054We’re off on holiday shortly and it’s going to be a big one. I’ve got myself a significant birthday so we’re off to Australia (again) via Hong Kong for the best part of 4 weeks with time in Melbourne and Adelaide before taking the train to Perth and a couple of weeks in WA.

I’m fortunate. I’ve had a holiday most years and most recently more than one. They’ve all been good, just a few have been exceptional, and I’ve been reflecting on those which have also been significant as my lifestyle has progressed.

As a child I enjoyed many family holidays, generally beach holidays and always in the UK. But I was taken on holiday; the first ones when I was calling the shots didn’t happen until 1966.

Four in a Mini to the South of France. It seems incredible now but in the summer of 1966 four of us (Tony Clark, Jock Macgregor, Noel McKeand and I) squeezed ourselves and our camping gear into my Mini and drove down to the South of France. And we did it for about £30 a head I seem to recall. We were just finishing 6th form at Hawarden GS and what we did was considered exceptional by our peers. However in October I started at Uni and found that in those circles it was really pretty normal. Anyway we enjoyed stunning weather, we discovered cheap red wine and noted how different France at the time was in comparison to the UK.

Just me on the Greek Islands. This was in 1970 and was my first truly independent holiday. I was working at Shell and earning halfways decent money. It was in the days before easyJet et al and I somehow got my hands on a cheap return ticket to Athens and without any plans just went. I guess Greece was pretty inexpensive in those days because I was able to take taxis, stay in hotels and island hop. I enjoyed time in Athens and on Mykonos and Crete and where ever I went there were other similar travellers with whom I engaged. It really was the one holiday when I only had to worry about myself.

A family of four in Cambrils. Fast forward now to 1985 when we took Clare and Charles to Spain just before Charles was two. We rented a cottage at the beginning of the summer and enjoyed our first true family holiday. The weather was mixed at best and the beach economy hadn’t really got started but the upside was that there weren’t any crowds. We enjoyed enough good weather and plenty of fresh Spanish food. The highlight was the paella served up at the beach bar which opened up just a few days before we left.

Club Med and Disneyland. In Switzerland they changed the school year in 1989 and this gave us a unique opportunity to take a holiday in May. It gave us access to low season prices and we headed off to Florida. The start was dreadful because we flew PanAm which was then in serious decline and the flights were late and we lost most of our bags. Once we landed though we had a stretch limo to take us to our first Club Med break. That was exceptional in itself but after a week there we had a couple of days, that was enough, in Disneyland before heading off down to Key West. And then of course we had the same PanAm performance on the way back.

Just the two of us in Sri Lanka. And so the wheel turned and as I took more independent holidays when I got to my teens so did Clare and Charles. That meant that in the late 1990s Juni and I started to take holidays without them. We’ve generally taken packages and had great experiences but none can surpass our trip to Sri Lanka in 2002. Sri Lanka’s a great place anyway but we found that we were the only two on the tour with the best tour guide we’ve ever had. Raji just ticked all the boxes: super English, expert all round knowledge and always doing a little extra for us. Our holiday became a series of experiences as planned by the tour company knitted together by an excellent lunch stop each day as Raji always seemed to find somewhere special.

The picture above is the reclining Buddha in Dambulla.

That’s it. The five ‘significant’ holidays which is a pretty arbitrary distinction anyway. There have been lots of others: many with Clare and Charles both summertime and ski holidays, and many subsequently without them in Europe. And that’s not to mention the big ones in South Africa (twice), Namibia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Peru, India and our first Australia trip in 2015. I really have been very fortunate.


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