Friday, 20 January 2012

Travelling by the book

This year, much, much later this year, I have a Big Birthday. Last time I had a big birthday, nearly ten years ago, surprisingly, I was still living in London and child free - looks back through the mists of time to younger, carefree days - and celebrated with two nights in a posh Bloomsbury hotel*, tea at the Savoy and an evening in my favourite Stoke Newington tapas bar with loads of friends. It was fab. Two weeks later we went to Venice.

Deep, deep nostalgic sigh.

Fast forward not-quite-ten-years and I am not just older, possibly wiser, definitely tireder but also poorer and it’s no longer just the two of us. We haven’t been abroad in years, our last two holidays under canvas, not necessarily by choice. But this year we are hoping to get away, to sleep in beds, between sheets not in sleeping bags on blow up mattresses, have food cooked for us, not heat up tins on a one ring outdoor stove. Ensuite loos, not treks across dew filled fields which definitely sounds more romantic and less damp than it actually is.

Only being contrary I don’t just want sun, sea and all-you-can-eat, I need more, a childhood spent with my nose buried in a book has given me many preconceived ideas of what a perfect holiday should be. The six hours we spend travelling down to Dorset or Devon? My attempt to relieve those long Noel Streatfeild summers when overworked children spent days running wild by the sea, returning to their stage schools full of cream and brown as berries. Must have been a lot warmer in the thirties, and a lot less rain.  Cornwall? The Dark is Rising series of course, I too want to stay in the Captain’s House, walk Rufus the red setter and help the Light defeat the Dark. Beats organised excursions any day!

Me on my honeymoon,
we dressed more formally eleven years ago
My OH cruelly vetoed my first choice of Prince Edward’s Island for a honeymoon destination, although he did allow me to choose a reading from Anne of Avonlea for the wedding itself, so instead I indulged my Lucy Honeychurch dreams and wandered round Florence for a week. Yes, we did have a room with a view, a perfect little apartment with a terrace overlooking the Arno. He may have been expecting highbrow sight-seeingwhen we went to St Petersburg knowing that my university degree contained a year of Russian lit and history. But no, instead I dragged him on a tour of significant locations from The Bronze Horseman.

And so what about my Big Birthday? Italy is always a temptation, with a classics degree and a love of wine, icecream and pasta it’s pretty much perfection but I find myself tempted by Austria. Not for the Sound of Music reasons, or Heidi (actually she may be Swiss), although naturally a day in Salzburg would be on the itinerary. Nope, a holiday in Austria would allow me to finally become a Chalet School girl.

Hob nailed boots, a neatly pinned scarf, a pack up with one vital ingredient missing and a sense of honour and adventure is all I’ll need to climb alpine slopes, wander alpine meadows, defeat Nazis, save people from falling glaciers and rescue Belsornian princesses. Then I’ll return to the Chalet for kaffee und kuchen and a spot of country dancing whilst conversing in at least three languages. Hopefully I won’t catch the twin disease though, I am pretty sure that every grown up Chaletian was delivered of at least one pair of twins, putting a  quick end to her career teaching at her beloved old school.

Of course, what I really want to do most is travel Europe by rail, first class on the Orient Express. Even my imagination draws the line at murder though.

*a surprise from my OH. I had had a very stressful week at work as they were restructuring and had to reapply for my job with an interview and presentation the day before my birthday. I returned home to find OH packing for me and was immediately convinced he was throwing me out and burst into tears. Drama Queen? Me?

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