I had never tasted potato dumpling with goat’s cheese before, let alone try to pronounce its culinary name - bryndzove halušky, but then I had never been to the Slovakian capital, before. A canopy of carbs, this hearty speciality of the city was unexpectedly appealing. Much like the city itself.
Any shipping line that brands a cruise “the world’s most beautiful voyage” is surely inviting contradiction. As a cruise virgin, I can neither verify nor refute the claim made by Hurtigruten for its round voyage up and down the Norwegian coast. But if there is a lovelier boat trip than this, I’d certainly like to hear about it.
We were on an intrepid mission and there were risks: blisters, arguments, financial ruin and a 4am wake-up call before dragging our cases on to a National Express bus at Golders Green, and then queueing for an easyJet flight to Naples.
It was tough: traipsing around Mafia-imbued streets, reading and then abandoning all guide books.
Some people love Paris in the springtime. But I’ll take Budapest in the autumn, the perfect time to go. Especially this year: Hungary was named best-value country in the Post Office’s Holiday Costs Barometer for 2009. With its recession-hit economy and devalued forint, the country is keen to attract visitors and prices have fallen accordingly.
Of course, for me Budapest is much more than an affordable holiday destination — it is where I was born, four years before the 1956 Uprising which led to my family’s flight to the West.
It took an open-top car snug enough for two, a healthy breeze and miles of unbroken road to get this Mr Toad out of Toad Hall and off to Chelsea-on-Sea. And with a poop-poop and glassy-eyed visions of million-pound designer beach huts, he was on his way up the A1 to the Fens, planning the perfect day in a perfect town where Orwell once lived and the seagulls sound just a little posher than those over Southend.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.