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.
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.
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.