Having said what I don’t look for in a holiday, I should consider what I do – although I am pretty easy-going, so it arguably made sense to eliminate the few things I wouldn’t choose.
I like cities, and will happily spend a few days exploring one on foot. I keep a general idea of where I am, but don’t mind at all getting lost and chancing upon interesting buildings or parks. I seem to have a friendly face and people often smile at me, but I don’t mind at all if I don’t exchange a word with anyone all day – although, since I evidently look at ease, it’s not unusual for tourists to ask me the way – but, being a boringly sensible person, I generally have a map, so can often help. Locals always pick me out as English though, at a glance. I think that just wandering around helps you to get the feel of a place and I like quirky details – architectural ones, such as interesting windows and roofs, and amusing ones, such as the small pool with fountain in Krakow, where I watched a well-behaved dog, on its lead, wallow to cool itself down and then, with astonishing self-control, walk away with its owner rather than follow the instinct to shake itself – the amusing part was when a young man, a couple of minutes later, came and filled his drinking bottle from the same pool. In cities, I also like visiting art galleries and museums, churches and so on. I’d rather have ‘culture’ than go shopping, although I love local markets, especially food ones.
I like rivers. If ever I did go on any sort of cruise, I’d rather it was a river one. I like a leisurely pace, prefer rowing to sailing and, when Weeza lived in London opposite a canal, rather envied the people living (or maybe just staying) on the houseboats. I like being on the bank looking at the boats, the birds and insects and watching the fish, or being on a boat watching the scenery drift by. I like looking at a rushing mountain stream, but would not have the least interest in doing anything like white-water rafting. I can’t imagine anything I would like less, in fact. The best boating trip I’ve ever been on was a magical 23 hours on the Kerala backwaters. If any of you have the opportunity, do take it. A traditional rice boat, with an engineer, cook and guide, cost Weeza and me about £100, six (I think) years ago, which included all meals (Keralan cooking is spicy and delicious) and no other passengers – each booking is for the whole boat.
I have no objection to an organised holiday as long as I’m reasonably confident of the company. I’ve been on several run by the Nadfas branch whose committee I used to be on. An advantage was that I didn’t have to sort out all the timings and everything, I am quite happy to leave that sort of thing to others. The main disadvantage can be that too much is planned in the time and there’s no flexibility. I found that in Spain, where three hours in Segovia was nowhere near enough, and in Scotland last year, where I would have loved to spend longer at the Burrell collection instead of going on to something else rather less interesting. In addition, the day we visited Edinburgh, I’d had no time to myself and opted out of a bus tour round the city, instead staying in the National Gallery for an extra hour or two and then buying lunch and eating it on the grass outside in the sun. One wasn’t supposed to, which I thought was a bit mean-spirited of the city fathers, but several hundred other people had also climbed over the barriers and were enjoying themselves too. What was lovely about these trips was, when abroad, groups of people meeting up to go off for dinner together – we had a lot of fun, no one ever had to be alone and it was all arranged quite spontaneously, so you met new people. The last visit, the friend I was sharing a room with was feeling a bit insecure and rather stuck by me – I didn’t really mind, but I’m not really one for too much togetherness and found that I didn’t get to know so many people that trip – when alone, someone always comes up for a chat.
When Weeza and Al were quite young, before Ro was born, we had a family holiday on Jersey (this is a Channel Island, Dave, not an item of knitwear). They were aged nine and seven and there were lots of things to do. What I loved most were the beaches on the rocky coasts, where there were rock pools and caves. I spent a lot of time there watching sea anemones, hermit crabs and so on. They are the sort of beaches I like best, I’m not one for sunbathing and I’m not that fond of sand. I don’t mind relaxing on a lounger for the odd few hours, however, as long as there’s an umbrella for shade. I don’t go to seaside resorts, I grew up in Lowestoft and the beach in summer didn’t appeal, far too crowded. I liked it best in the winter, especially when it was stormy.
When I had a bad hip, I got out of the way of walking for pleasure. Actually, I rather lost that many years earlier, when I had small children and walked at their pace. Stopping every few years to examine a colony of ants or watch fish in a stream or counting the cracks in the pavement rather destroyed a previous enjoyment of hearty walks , although I do like going for a walk with a friend – you can chat or walk in companionable silence, and since everyone is more observant than I am, it increases several-fold the chance that I’ll have a chance to see something interesting.
I like playing but I don’t like sport. I’ve never had the least inclination to go skiing, and am happy that it is now forbidden me (with an artificial hip, a proficient skier can continue to do it, but it’s not a good idea to take it up). If I went anywhere snowy, I’d like sleigh rides and frolicking, not skating and skiing. I have to be careful of sun, but I’m fine with heat. I don’t mind not speaking the language where I am, which is just as well. I don’t mind a long aeroplane flight, give me books and, ideally, a film to watch when I want a break from reading and I won’t move for hours. I love trying different foods and don’t mind what I eat. In the evening, I like the theatre, concerts, walking and eating, preferably not all at the same time, but if I’m in a country area, I’m quite happy with a pub or bar, and a book. I like some company but I don’t need it. I have to take loads of books on holiday or I don’t feel secure. It’ll be interesting, when I’ve got an iPad, to see if electronic books will substitute.
Okay, I think I can sum up here. I’d like to be within reach of a city with theatres and museums,, a river, some countryside with historic buildings or beautiful scenery and I don’t want to do the same thing every day. And I don’t mind if a town has hills, but if the countryside is hilly, I’ll go by car rather than walk.
Have I left anything out?