Friday, 31 July 2015

The predictability of package holidays

There's been a reason for the blogging lull. Well. Sort of.

Loyal readers may recall my last post 'Summer holidays the Scottish way'. Turns out that I couldn't survive the entire six weeks shivering on picnic benches in my fleece. Neither could my very dear mum.  So off we trooped to the travel agent and a last-minute week of Mallorcan sunshine was ours.

It's been several years since I was on a package holiday abroad.  And yet. Some things truly never change...

Here they are - in no particular order:

Whatever you wear to the airport for departure will be completely inappropriate for the temperature  at your destination.  And vice versa on the way home. (Bear in mind that my point of departure is Aberdeen International Airport, which takes this particular phenomenon to a new level of extreme.)

On queuing for check in 90 per cent of females will be anxiously clutching something resembling a polypocket containing passports, tickets and other essential travel information. Meanwhile, the men will be looking around vacantly, wondering how long they have to wait before they can scoot off to the bar.  

Regardless of your best efforts you will never, ever get through security first time.  Buckles on your sandals? Glasses on your head? And don't even start me on the liquids. They'll catch you out one way or another. 

Within five minutes of disembarking from the plane you will utter a statement along the lines of it being "far too hot". Despite the fact that you spend the remaining 51 weeks of the year fantasising about temperatures above 20 degrees.

While logic tells you that some of the people on your complex must also be new arrivals, they will all be golden limbed from day one. As you slap factor 50 on your sun deprived skin, you have a vague concern that you'll give the locals snow blindness.  

When it comes to the breakfast buffet, sunbed locations and dining out, everyone else will have it sussed.  Even the toddlers, who strut back and forth for their morning croissant with supreme confidence. You, on the other hand, will feel like a 'green' newcomer - right up until the day prior to departure. By then, you'll finally be starting to get the hang of it.

On your return home, you will conveniently forget all of the above. Instead, you tell anyone who will listen that everything went swimmingly. 

And you know what? In the big scheme of things, it really did. 

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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Summer holidays the Scottish way

It was a tropical 10 degrees in our patch the other week. No, I'm not joking. And I didn't write this post in February and schedule it for summer either.

When you live in the north east of Scotland you develop a certain stoicism about the weather. And yet, when the outdoor furniture and skimpy outfits hit the shops, we still rush out and buy them. 

If you're lucky enough to live in warmer climes, please admire our efforts to enjoy popular summer activities. (It's like *let's pretend* for adults.)

The family barbecue
The event: Impossible to plan in advance, this involves a frantic ring round of relatives on the morning of said barbecue. The sky is blue and the forecast is screaming little yellow suns for the duration of the day. On securing the attendees, a frantic dash to the supermarket ensues.  This is incredibly inefficient as everyone you know is in there too, desperately lobbing sausages in their trolleys for their own opportunistic family barbecues.  You stagger back laden with food for the five thousand three hours later.

The reality: Remember those little yellow suns? They lied. As your guests arrive, the skies mysteriously darken and little spots, which everyone manfully tries to ignore, start to steadily fall. Ladies clad in flimsy dresses and sandals begin to inch their way indoors.  Your relaxed al fresco gathering starts to resemble the family Christmas get-together with extra chairs squeezed into the living room and hyperactive children rampaging round the house.

Top tip: Always, ALWAYS, erect the gazebo. However promising the temperatures or forecast.

The beach picnic
The event: Another last-minute venture, also involving a last-minute supermarket splurge. As it's a *guaranteed scorcher*, you decide to make a day of it and invite some friends to join you for carefree fun and frolics at the coast.  Everything from swimsuits, towels and Crocs to beach balls, soft tennis kits and windbreaks is flung in the car.  The roof box is likely to be fully loaded too.

The reality:  Regardless of how much you spend on food, if you are going with another family, your children will prefer whatever is in their cool box. By the time you reach the coast, that north-east phenomenon known as 'haar' will have descended. You may have to retreat 10 miles inland to feel anything resembling heat.  Huddled round a picnic bench in your fleece, you feign enjoyment while the children whine "But why isn't it sunny here?".

Top tip: There is no such thing as a *guaranteed scorcher* when it comes to the Scottish seaside. Take layers. Lots of them.

The camping expedition
The event: Having succumbed to all those Tiso advertisements that make camping look like a healthy, fun and cost-effective family holiday, you feel duty bound to use the tent and all its accoutrements at least once a year. Waiting for a prolonged dry forecast is impossible.  You pick your dates and go.

The reality: By the time you've purchased a roof box and bike carrier for your cheap family holiday, you'd have been better off at a five-star hotel. You get drenched during both tent erection and dismantling. And let's not even mention the whole *drying out* saga after. No-one gets any sleep because it's either a) too hot b) too cold or c) too noisy.  You return home feeling you've endured the equivalent of Bear Grylls Mission Survive but without the benefits of looking like Vogue Williams.  You will also be in desperate need of another - dare I say *real* - holiday.

Top tip: Swallow the pain and sell the tent and accessories on eBay. Use the funds raised to book a hotel mini-break. Pronto.

Disclaimer: To the wonderful people at VisitScotland, I love my country. Really I do. Now if we could just fix the weather...

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