When I was a child I was very fortunate, my parents used to take me, my brother and my sister on holidays annually to what then seemed to be far off places, being Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Yugoslavia (as was) and around the South of France. These places became our “summer playground”. Now, many years later, through our work, that playground has extended to covering most of the world where our business has both agents and offices. This year we, being my own family, wife and daughter, plus a couple of their friends decided to retrace my childhood fun, except, looking back, it was quite a hard journey for my father, travelling by car, no motorways, no air conditioning, no satnav etc. so, with slight modifications we set off, our first stop was Plymouth ferry port where we had 2 cabins on the cruise ferry to Santander, great calm trip, kids roaming the ship, visiting the kids play areas, and exhausted enough to sleep through the night in the cabins, next day breakfast and disembark for our 600 mile drive to the villa, owned by a friend of ours, beach front and great swimming pool, we had used it before and knew about the area well. A great week, lots for kids to do with a local water park etc. Normally we would fly to Spain and hire a car, this was airport free, driving our own car and using the second week to retrace my childhood holidays, seven of us in our 4×4 7 seater.
Having left the villa day one was to Valencia where we had booked 2 apartments in the centre of town, narrow streets, satnav didn’t like the tall buildings so lots of thanks to lots of helpful locals to find our home for the night, a beautiful square by the cathedral, lots of restaurants, including favourites of the kids, a great time was had by us all. Next day we headed across the border into France and stayed in Perpignan, flashy looking hotel, but not my best choice, so just a restful night before heading off to Cannes where again we had rented two apartments for two nights in a historic huge building with views over the bay, a stroll down to the beach, the only two boys in our group, me being one of them, the other being 11 years old dribbling at the site of all the Ferraris and Lamborghinis cruising along the beach road, while the girls were glued to the shop windows of the designer shops, sadly we all returned to the apartments empty handed except for the odd bits of sand. The following day saw us driving to Monaco for a tour of the principality, my plan being to see how our 4×4 would compete around the Monte Carlo F1 track, sadly not very well, we couldn’t find it, so we headed back to our apartments in Cannes, went down to the beach and watched the spectacular evening firework display before bed. Next day was a drive to Lyon, found a couple of rooms in a strange hotel, a bit creepy but a great restaurant next door, the chef was disgusted with me for wanting well done fillet steak which was excellent and during my consumption another British couple arrived and the gentleman asked for a well done fillet steak! Must have ruined the chef’s evening. That night we had a dramatic thunder & lightening storm lasting through the night.
The following day saw us doing a hard push via Paris to the Caen ferry port for an overnight crossing to Portsmouth, air conditioning off, heating on and windshield wipers as fast as they would go to cope with the rain until we arrived home in Bournemouth.
A lot different to our normal current annual holidays, dramatic at times, but thoroughly enjoyed by us all, and now requests from friends to do the same next year as they wanted to try the same experience. As for me, glad I retraced those long forgotten tracks, but next year will be via Heathrow or Gatwick!
Before the journey I studied the UK Gov web site showing concerns for tourists travelling through Spain due to highway robberies and cars trying to encourage you to stop in order to rob you. This was on my mind but had decided that if encouraged to stop I would continue until either I found a police station or other area with lots of people about, I also felt some comfort in the fact that we were driving a large strong heavy vehicle with blacked out windows thus anyone considering trying to stop us may be facing a couple of 100kg gorillas in the back for all they knew instead of four children and a mother. We encountered no threats, just a few new friends.