Why I like last minute holidays

Holiday in sandThere’s something to be said for last minute holidays.  I’ve met other bachelors who aren’t that keen on going away, figuring that if they’re in their own company then they might as well save the cash, but I actually do like holidays, especially last minute ones.   I’m usually travelling solo so I’m able to head out more or less whenever I like, as long as I can get the time off work.

For starters, last minute holidays mean you can get some really cheap prices and, often, the more last minute the booking, the bigger the reduction.  As a general rule, you should check out any hotels you’re planning to stay at before you book (otherwise you might be looking at the old ‘parachute for sale, only used once’ principle).  However, if you’re like me and you don’t like spending money where you don’t need to, then it’s definitely a good way to cut costs.

The other thing I like about doing things last minute is that I tend to end up being a bit more experimental.  The first few times I went travelling, I went to the usual places: Rome, Berlin, New York.   After a few years, however, I ended up running out of ideas.  Last minute bookings forced me to just take the plunge, without thinking too much about it.  I have ended up visiting cities I would never have considered if the holidays hadn’t been so cheap.  I only ended up going to Porto because it was a last minute booking and because I’d heard of their soccer team.  I had a great week for next to nothing!

Finally, last minute holidays often mean packages are available.  It can be a nuisance having to book several different components, but there are many sites now that will enable you to book everything together, making life much easier.

Cruising in a camper van

My mate Pete and myself are in a strange situation; we both have a significant other for the first time in a good few years, and as they get on almost as well as Pete and I do we decided to all go on holiday together this summer. This may sound like a great and simple idea, but we have very different ideas about destination, and as the discussions progressed it became clear that we were not going to agree. It was beginning to look like we would all be going away separately, when someone (I’d like to claim me) came up with the idea of renting a camper van and visiting a variety of places. Genius.

We decided to base our tour in Europe, and we each chose a place to visit and then came up with a route that would include a few other places that were on the way between our chosen destinations. The camper van itself turned out to be fairly expensive, because my idea of a VW classic camper was overruled on the grounds of space and reliability; apparently if we all had to spend that much time so close together I would return single and friendless, that is if I wasn’t left by the side of the road in a remote French village.

It is quite amazing what you can get in a mobile home these days; ours will have running water, shower, full oven facilities and even a television if we want – although this is still under debate. There are plenty of campsites across Europe that accommodate the large vehicle and if necessary we could just park up anywhere; sounds like the perfect flexible holiday. All we need to do now is decide who will drive first; we’ll all be taking turns and the navigating will be satnav in the name of preserving relationships. Should be a great holiday!

Taking a holistay

As we are English, I am using the phrase holistay as a stand against the all-pervasive staycation, which is definitely an Americanism.  Regardless of what you call it, staying in the UK is a great way to take a holiday.  We have pretty much every holiday activity you could possibly want.

Now, you may be thinking that that a beach holiday in the UK isn’t going to match a beach in the Caribbean, and you’d be correct.  There are, however, a whole load of other benefits of a beach holiday in the UK, namely everything else that you can see and do, as well as having to travel less, which is definitely a bonus.

The UK has beaches, mountains (sometimes even with snow!) moorland and grassy plains.  It has a whole host of history, from Stone Age times right up to nowadays, with some of the greatest cutting edge architecture in the world.  We have a huge range of food to try.  Pretty much every culinary style is represented somewhere, and I defy you to find a deep fried Mars bar or pizza anywhere except Glasgow.  We have stories and tall tales, kings and queens, wizards and ghosts.  Everywhere you go there is something to discover, and a native who will be happy and proud to tell you all about it.

I love getting out and about in the countryside, but haven’t really toured everywhere properly, and I think it will take me the rest of my life to do so.  I’ll make a start on my next holiday, probably just driving about and seeing where I get to, or maybe I will try the classic putting a pin in a map.  It’s a holiday choice that not enough of us make and we really should think this through.  Where else could you surf one day and ski the next?

Travelling light

I’ve recently been away on a short break to Berlin, which is an amazing city, but not the topic of this particular post.  I flew with a budget airline and, as we were only away for the weekend, my mate and I decided to opt for hand luggage only, something that as blokes we thought would be easy for a couple of nights, but it turns out that we don’t travel as lightly as we thought.

The first issue was footwear.  My feet are about average for a man, but put a pair of my shoes in a suitcase of a suitable size to carry onto a plane and there wasn’t a lot of space left.  So we were down to just the shoes we planned to travel in, trainers in the case of both myself and Pete, my travel buddy, at which point the question of whether we would get into a smart restaurant or club arose.  We decided that we’d have to beg or slum it.

Having dealt with the shoe issue, things got even girlier as we came to deciding who would pack the shampoo and shower gel. Would 50 ml of all-in-one shower gel be enough for us both for the weekend? We thought probably not, and both packed some.  Having finally managed to fit a few extra T-shirts, pants and socks, and phone, camera and kindle/iPad chargers into our suitcases, we were exhausted.  Not knowing what the weather would be like was an issue too, as was the possibility of wanting to bring anything back.  We had absolutely no space.

I now think that it is worth the extra money to take a case – purely to lessen the hassle of packing!

My favourite destination for a short break

Summer is slowly beginning in Britain and soon we will all forget about the horrible winter weather. I must be honest: I just can’t wait for summer to arrive. At some stage, the dark, dreary days simply become too much for me and I get on a plane to spend a few days where the sun is shining and there is light and fun and laughter.

My favourite winter getaway is Benidorm on the Spanish Costa Blanca. I know it’s not everyone’s favourite, but I love it. Apart from lovely beaches and blue skies, Benidorm also has more high-rise buildings per capita than any other place on earth. This translates to lots of entertainment and dining options, which I happen to like. I’ve never been someone to spend a holiday on a remote beach where the nearest town is ten hours away by horse cart.

This year, I treated myself to a stay at Levante Club Benidorm. It’s a modern place with all the facilities and services one would expect for its price. I loved the spa centre with its sauna and massages. It’s an excellent way to get rid of the stress one builds up at the office!

I also spent some time in the gym and I loved the outdoor pool. Sometimes I enjoyed dinner at the in-house restaurant and afterwards made new friends at one of the four bars on the premises. At other times, I went out to explore the town and the many dining options it offers.

My room had everything I needed. There was a private terrace, the internet connection was flawless, and before I went to bed, I could catch up with the latest news on one of the satellite TV channels. The minibar was well stocked.

I like children, but I have to admit that the fact that the hotel has an “adults only” policy isn’t a bad thing when you are really tired and all you want is some peace and quiet.

Travel with me to the enchanting city of Paris

Eiffell TowerI love travelling, which is rather fortunate given that my job in the finance sector regularly takes me to foreign destinations. Some of those destinations are quickly forgotten, while others make a lasting impression on you. One of the places that I regularly visit and can never get enough of is Paris.

To me, it’s simply one of the most enchanting cities in the world. The French just have that peculiar ability to build something truly ugly and then turn it into a tourist site that people will travel from far and wide to see.

Take the Eiffel Tower, for example. Nobody in his right mind would really call it beautiful. Yet it is so unique and makes such a bold statement that there are probably very few people in the world who haven’t heard of it. Every time I visit Paris, I still take the lift to the top of the tower. I simply love the view from there and the excited chatter of tourists from all over the world who are experiencing the ride for the first time.

Another example is that grotesque glass pyramid in front of the Louvre. It would have looked bad enough in a chrome and glass city like Singapore, but it’s a real travesty to build something like that in front of a historical building like the Louvre. It simply doesn’t fit in. Yet we have all come to accept it. It now belongs there. A thousand years from now, people from all over the world will probably still flock to see it.

Whenever I have the time, I wander around aimlessly in the Marais district with its numerous artists’ shops and lovely little restaurants. Shoot me for saying it, but we just don’t have anything like that in London. Sit at a sidewalk café in the Marais long enough and the whole world will eventually pass by. It must be one of the greatest places for people watching on earth.

I know it’s a very touristy thing to do, but every time I visit Paris, I still go on a boat trip down the Seine. There’s just no other way to appreciate the incredibly beautiful old buildings on the riverbank better than from the comfort of a boat silently gliding down the river while you sip a glass of real French champagne.

The best part of any visit to Paris, however, is getting to know the Parisians. They are often a bit grumpy, sometimes a little xenophobic (especially if you speak English), but always interesting. It’s like an artist with a flair for the unique created them.

If I were a painter, I would love to paint the little old ladies shopping for vegetables at the markets, the old men playing chess in the park and the young ones doing what Parisians do best: enjoying life.