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The Occidental Tourist

In the same way that you should never go food shopping when you are hungry in case you end up buying a Pot Noodle, it is probably best not to look into summer holidays when you are freezing cold, lest you book a trip to the Sun or Hell (not Skegness, the other one).

Despite this rule of thumb and the bitter weather, the Marshan clan’s holiday itinerary has recently become the subject of, if not argument, then at least vigorous debate. (Only within our family, I hasten to add – I can’t recall its being discussed during Newsnight or PMQs.)

Should we go abroad where it is warm, or stay in the UK where it is generally not? Would a hotel be best, replete with central heating and steaming showers, or should we plump for a self-catering apartment/caravan/tent where electricity, even if available, is metered with Scrooge-like parsimony? Or would it be a whole lot easier just spend a fortnight in Shrewsbury like we do most years?

Surprisingly, the consensus was B, the ‘staycation’. (I hate that particular Americanism – it would be bad enough if us Brits ever had ‘vacations’, but we don’t; we have disappointing holidays. Maybe we should call them ‘holistays’?)

Despite my protestations, proselytizations and PowerPoint presentations that we should go to the Maldives, my wife reminded me that we are briefly visiting Rome this Easter and she, like any other perfectly sane pteromechanophobe (yes, that really is a word), refuses to fly more than once per decade. So, the UK it is.

As we live in the south east we are limited in our choice of travel direction, in that we can only choose between north, west and, of course, that bizarre hybrid, north-west. Shrewsbury is directly north-west from here and already ruled out due to over-familiarity (I would claim it as a second home, but I’m not dishonest enough to become an MP). Regular readers (ha, see how I pretend that I write regularly and that there is more than one reader!) will know we spent last August in Scotland and that it was nothing like any summer I have witnessed before. So, to avoid further frost-bite and near-drowning, we have decided to holiday to the west; more specifically, after previous visits were not entirely unpleasant, to either Cornwall or Bournemouth. For no other reason than the fact that Cornwall is an entire county, it will be Bournemouth. (Also, Cornwall and Scotland it seems, in addition to being united in their hatred of the English, are also twinned climatically.)

Bournemouth – or ‘Cherbourg Nord sur la Manche’ as the French would probably call it given ‘une demi chance’ – has a reputation for drunken, incoherent idiots making utter fools of themselves as they stumble out of nightclubs, but it’s not just junior members of the Royal Family that visit. Hen parties, stag parties and even political parties descend on the town every year, making it very much a reimagined Blackpool of the south. However, the comparison with the home of Britain’s tallest “poor-man’s Eiffel Tower” is otherwise harsh, if only from a skewed personal perspective as the last time I visited the Golden Mile I was quite spectacularly sick all along it. Still, there was nothing wrong with me that a huge Full English didn’t fix the following morning.

Talking of which, I’m starting to feel hungry – I’m off to get myself a Pot Noodle!

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  1. 12/03/2011 at 2:26 pm

    Nice assination of one of Bournemouth’s reputations there!
    I hope you do come on family holiday and experience some of the other reputations Bournemouth offers; beaches (best on South Coast), indoor attractions, outdoor walks – and the alternative night life of live music, arts, poetry & theatre…

    For those of us that live and party here, there is only one other place to go on holistay that is as nice – that’d be Cornwall then!

  2. 12/03/2011 at 8:07 pm

    The only night life I experienced there was many years ago after a visit to Dean Court.

    I have to agree with you re Bournemouth’s beaches – we were there about 4 years ago in September and they were excellent. Packed, but none of the shingle/seaweed you get round here. Hope the weather is as good this year!

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