Well, five days to be precise. Not quite the full Peter Mayle experience, but then again we are a couple of OAPs who’d never list ‘travel’ as a hobby on a cv or internet dating site. “Going anywhere nice?” ask friends and neighbours when we announce we’re taking a break from the cut and thrust of bed and breakfast provision before we die of exhaustion. “Oh, you know, just a few days in Provence,” we reply, with a nonchalant air that betrays the uncontainable excitement at the prospect of our Eurostar package – like it’s one of those breaks we’ve just booked at the last minute, rather than the main summer holiday we’ve been planning for the previous eight months.
“What about you?” is the next, inevitable, question. “Have you been away yet?” As soon as the words leave my mouth I know it’s a mistake. “No, not properly. Well, we went to the Maldives for that break in June, of course, and then had the mini-cruise to Norway. Oh yes, and the visit to Dave’s sister in the Dordogne which has become a bit of an annual pilgrimage. And the Austrian walking holiday of course. But no – our real holiday starts next week when we go up the Amazon on our home-made kayak for eight weeks. We haven’t done it for at least three years. Can’t wait.”
Oh well, I did ask. And we had a lovely time. The guide – slightly exotic with an air of what I can only call raciness – came, somewhat inexplicably, from Hull. Not only came from Hull – but still lived there. Ian didn’t believe me. “I’m going to ask her,” he pronounced. And I knew what was coming: he nicked my joke. Before I could stop him he’d asked the inevitable question: “Vous etes d’Hull?” Oh how we all laughed.
Like all tourists we took zillions of photographs, ignoring Alain de Botton’s advice to put away the camera on holiday and get out the sketch book, the better to fix the scene in your mind. He’s right: Roman ruins, cliff-top villages, colourful markets, fabulous food – it all merged into one. I won’t even attempt to caption the photographs, just log them as a reminder of a perfect break. Short, sweet – and all by train. Bliss.