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.
My flip-flopped feet were speeding towards the beach when I heard someone shouting at me. I thought I’d been spotted smuggling fruit out of the breakfast buffet, but the smiling Barbadian just said: “Stop rushing — it’s illegal to hurry in the Caribbean!”
Looking down on the ruins of Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas and one of the Seven New Wonders of the World was mesmerising. Nestled in the steep slopes of the Andes overlooking the Urubamba River, this city in the clouds seemed magical. It was one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen — and I have seen the other six of the New Wonders of the World.
I’ve never really understood the phrase “You can have too much of a good thing”. Why? Sure, you can have too little. Most of us usually do. The right amount of a good thing? Of course. Without doing a Wittgenstein on you, clearly if it’s the right amount then you can have it. But too much? Nah.
My mother gives me four matzoh balls but then comes over all health conscious when I ask for a fifth. Why? Would that 25 per cent increase in my matzoh ball consumption really make the critical difference to my Body Mass Index?
Holidays, as all parents can confirm, are for people without young children. For those with little ones it is perhaps more accurate to classify vacations as childcare in a scenic environment.
Crete is very scenic — it is also warm. But more than that, the island offered the tantalising prospect of a holiday that the children would enjoy and would count as a break for their daddy and grandma, too.
George IV is indirectly responsible for much of the sheer fabulousness that is Villa D’Este, the legendary Italian hotel on the shores of Lake Como. If, as Prince of Wales in 1795, he had not rejected his bride, Princess Caroline of Brunswick, within months of their wedding, his neglected wife would not have sought solace at this ravishing spot where the Dolomites meet the most northerly of Italy’s shimmering lakes.
So what have I got in common with the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Jessica Parker, Billy Joel, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren? Besides religious persuasion, not a lot… but we did all spend time last summer in East Hampton, the illustrious coastal town that sits at the most eastern point of New York.
If you were looking for empirical evidence that Mallorca has totally reinvented itself, Palma Airport is the place to look. Of the 200 people who were disgorged from an early-morning easyJet flight from Stansted to the island’s airport, a majority were either men on golfing weekends, Boden-catalogue families heading for a pre-half-term sunshine break, or the kind of linen-clad travellers who have Tania Plage kaftans and Vilebrequin trunks stashed in their suitcases and deem the sun-drenched Balearic island one of the Med’s smartest.