We have just booked our summer holidays for this year, and we can’t wait. We’re having a few days up seeing family in the Western Isles, followed by a week in Edinburgh at the Fringe. I am reminded once again how much my idea of what a holiday is has changed over the years.
A few weeks ago, I did a guest post about holidays for Marianne over at Mari’s World, and she has kindly agreed to let me publish a version of it on my own blog too.
Holidays? I’ve had a few! They change though, don’t they? Not just the places you go, but who you’re with, why you’re going, what you remember…
As a wee girl it was always about family. Staffordshire, to stay with my Grandpa. It was long hot summers in the back garden with my brothers, whacking tennis balls against the wall, and sometimes onto the roof. It was lying on my back, looking up, and seeing aeroplane trails above, as though someone had dragged a fork across the sky. It was the sound of the ice cream van. It was day trips to Buxton and Ashbourne, and having tea on the way back at the Little Chef. It was playing in the caravan, which never went further than his driveway. It was laughing every morning as Grandpa put his orange in the Rayburn to warm it up and make it easier to peel.
Then, one time, it was something new. Abroad. With Dad, but not Mum. It was Yugoslavia; crazy golf, an amphitheatre, signposts directing us to strange places with strange names. A lady in the hotel lift with false nails – blue spots one night and then red stripes the next. It was tongue and cheese and pickled things for breakfast. It was my brother wearing mirrored sunglasses, looking like the coolest guy I’d ever seen. It was a day trip to Venice; ice cream, pigeons, stifling heat as we watched glassblowers transform red-hot globules into vases and swans. It was whooping cough, and coming home to Mum, who had acquired a new puppy in our absence.
A few years later, when I was older, it was package trips to Spain, Portugal, Tunisia. It was hotels with hot buffets and evening entertainment, red-blazered holiday reps and endless bus tours. It was palazzo pants, and karaoke. It was pre-teenage awkwardness; sunburn, spots, tie-dye sarongs and frizzy hair.
(I have hidden the photos from those years.)
Then, older still. It was camping in France, during the worst flooding of the decade. It was big spiders, dark slugs, and water up to my knees. It was brilliant omelette and chips in a motorway service station, and the best hot chocolate of my life in a café, the name of which I forget. It was the smell of Gauloises on the breeze. It was playing petanque in the village square, reading Agatha Christie novels, and swimming in the sea. It was brass bands and parades, the sound of steam trains in the night, and croissants with jam for breakfast.
Then it was Greece, the islands, warmer and more blue, more dazzling white than anywhere I had been before. It was fresh fish, glistening slabs of Feta, chunks of watermelon. It was henna tattoos, market stalls, watching the boats come in. It was tzatziki, and hummus, stray dogs and sleeping on the balcony. It was tiny tubs of Haagen-Dazs, silver bracelets, and sips of ouzo. I loved Greece.
There were a couple of transition holidays – ones without old family or new. There was Crete to dance and to celebrate the end of exams. There was Dublin, for Guinness and friendship. There were the two life-changers – the Arctic to study climate change and the West Bank to campaign for access to education. But I’m not sure that I count either of those as holidays. Is travel always a holiday?
Six years ago, it became couple holidays. It was Prague, for shots of dangerous liquor, pints of beer bigger than my head, late night dumpling dinners and breakfast in bed the next morning. It was Paris, for wine and walking, for dingy bars and Michelin stars, for a haircut, and a diamond ring. It was New York – first class – proper cutlery, comfy seats, and endless glasses of champagne. It was a hotel in Times Square, a room with a view over midtown. It was pancakes for breakfast, hotdogs in Central Park, playing video games in the ESPN Zone. It was looking up at the stars in Grand Central Station.
It was Athens, where they were rioting. Finding somewhere quiet to sit in the sun, to drink cold beer, to eat perfectly roasted chicken and chips with our fingers. It was crumbling wooden shutters, graffiti scrawled on every wall. It was just catching the last whiff of tear gas in the air as we walked back to the hotel.
And then. Then there was DorkySon… and I am back to family holidays again. Now we gravitate towards friends and far-flung family, because it’s the only chance we get to see them. We look for hotel rooms with space for a cot bed, and seek out beaches that are not too hot for toddler toes. When we travel now, my backpack is bigger. Instead of just a book and a camera, for shoogly-handed self-portraits, there are snacks and wipes, new toy cars, tissues and stickers and Lego men. We take trains instead of planes, breathe exhausted sighs of relief when our wee boy lies across our laps and finally closes his eyes for an hour’s nap. DorkyDad and I will smile at each other, and then sit and read in silence, or do a crossword.
It is different now, but it is good. Really good. These are the best holidays of my life.
What do holidays mean to you?
I’m entering this post into the Memory Book Holidays linky over at The Alexander Residence. Head over to read about the holiday memories of other bloggers.