It’s breakfast time at the Vila Gale Hotel and I’m having a moment.
It began out of nothing, as these things often do, with a simple chance meeting in the lobby on my first morning. An athletic young blonde clutching a large bag of tennis racquets and wearing shorts that were a little on the small side asked me the time.
After a casual glance at my watch I gave her my very best smile and, desperately attempting to put on a casual air of relaxed professionalism, told her the time. She smiled back (I think), thanked me and was gone.
Last weekend’s plush ITV production of Wuthering Heights gorgeously showcased Bronte Country, a wild, dramatic and rather secretive corner of West Yorkshire. For those who have never been, consider spending a few golden autumn days in this austerely beautiful and culturally rich slice of England before the public descend en masse.
The great British public, that is, since the Japanese have already indulged a decades-long obsession with Haworth, where the Bronte sisters grew up.
If there are four of you — two picky teenagers and two exhausted adults — each with a differing view on how best to spend 10 days in the USA, where do you go? In an attempt to satisfy everyone, we embarked on a swift grand tour through three states — Arizona, Nevada and California.
The idea was that there would hopefully be enough variety along the way to satisfy the diverse requirements of the entire family.
For all those nursing fond memories of Juan-les-Pins, that old favourite holiday playground of Anglo-Jewry — as well as for a generation which may not yet have discovered this frenetic but charming little resort — there are three new reasons to visit.
First, the town is home to Europe’s oldest jazz festival, celebrating its 50th anniversary next July. There cannot be anywhere more sublime to listen to good music than the intimate little stage in a pinewood sloping gently down to the Med.
The summit of Ben Nevis was shrouded in cloud and mist, frustratingly out of sight. It was the night before our climb and we were looking up at it from the grounds of the Moorings Hotel. It is a property just outside Fort William that I would highly recommend. From it, Ben Nevis looked mighty high.
My three friends and I just stood there having a silent moment. Or perhaps, a thoughtful prayer. Who, after all, would expect four middle-aged, Jewish men from north London with no climbing experience would seriously contemplate climbing the highest mountain in Britain.
If there is any downside to a weekend break, it can be the long shlep back which has a tendency to undo all the chilling you might have achieved during your sojourn in some gorgeous country house hotel.
Philip Green’s wife apparently spent £5 million at the Anassa on hubby’s 50th birthday, taking over the entire hotel and flying in guests — among whom were Kevin Costner and Prince Albert of Monaco — to this corner of south-west Cyprus. Apparently Rod Stewart, George Benson and Tom Jones performed there.
A neighbour who had taken her family there some time ago had also been impressed by their “Baby Go Lightly” service which meant there were lots of baby items she didn’t have to pack.
Earlier this summer, I was milling around Boulogne’s farmers’ market at Place Dalton, enjoying the hustle of the traders, practising my Franglais and rubbing shoulders with the locals. Business was brisk, the atmosphere vibrant and the steeple of the 13th-century St Nicolas church (the oldest in town) located in the hub of the market, glowed in the morning sun.
Cape Cod is a lot easier to spot in a picture — all those iconic white clapperboard houses, picturesque lighthouses and wild beaches recalling any number of Edward Hopper paintings — than it is to find in real life.
Unlike the coastal strip of Massachusetts known collectively as North of Boston, where one charming township follows another, this old fishing ground — only latterly reinvented as a tourist destination — is a sprawl of mainland and island communities with no visible centre
‘Fab place — sort of kibbutz in the Breton countryside. Swimming and cycling, communal barbecues. Kids insanely happy. Am reliving those long childhood kibbutz hols!”
That is the text I sent my parents at the start of what turned out to be a wonderful week at a self-catering holiday park in southern Brittany.
Yes, of course, I was being fanciful. Very. A holiday park in France is hardly an exercise in Zionism and Socialism or, indeed, any ideology except, I suppose, mild hedonism.