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. 

Isle of Harris beaches

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.

Pretty Greek Taverna Athens

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.

Acropolis Athens

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?

Paris apartment block

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.

Grand Central Station New York

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.

11 responses

  1. Beautifully evoked memories there. For me, it’s very similar. Family holidays in a caravan in North Wales during the early years, then long hot summers in a tents and cottages in France (with teacher parents we had 6 weeks abroad, which was blissful. Then holidays on beaches with the husband, mooching, lazing, reading, drinking and eating. We’ve been on one holiday abroad as a family (last year, when F was a baby) which was lovely as my parents came too. That was all about just being together really. And next week we’re off on our first solo family trip, glamping in Cornwall. It’ll be about being outside, watching our newly walking toddler enjoy some freedom running around on the beach and again, just being together. Lovely post. x

  2. What a lovely post. Holiday’s to me are time to switch off from the world, and enjoy some proper family time with hopefully lots of funny/happy moments that are shared years later. We are off to France for a few days in August-think the back of the car will be full of snacks and toys to keep my boy entertained on the long journey!

  3. Beautiful post so full of memories. Holidays are so precious and when new memories are made to be treasured like yours are here. Holidays are times when you can just be you without any of the pulls or stresses of everyday life. When you can totally relax. When you can experience new and magical things. I love them.
    This year we are finally taking a big proper summer holiday for the first time in 6 years. And this time we have 3 children to take with us! And we will be reliving my family holidays and spending 4 weeks in France. Simple cannot wait.

  4. I love thinking about holidays. I met my OH on holiday in Greece. We used to go to Greece before we had the children and haven’t been since. This summer we are taking them for the first time. I just hope it lives up to our memories and the expectations we have given them 🙂

  5. Lovely memories, we never went abroad and didn’t step out of this Country till the big age of 18 which was to Crete but with my boyfriend at the time!!! Hours of fun was had with the tennis ball with my brother too, what was that game where you did a little rhyme as you played throwing it against the wall? Little chef seemed such a treat didn’t it, I remember pancakes with cream and maple syrup 🙂

  6. I love how holidays tell a story, you’ve really captured growing up here. Oh the number of times we begged to be taken to Little Chef! I ran out of time to put together my post for this month’s Memory Book, (packing for Camp Bestival took me AGES) but you’ve inspired me to go back and pencil in some more details! Thanks for linking up.

  7. I love your holiday memories. What a wide variety you have to remember, too. I think family holidays are wonderful – and ones where cousins who rarely see each other can get together and play are the best.

  8. Pingback: Goodbye 2012 | dorkymum

  9. Pingback: Summer Lovin’- Brit Mums Carnival

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