Monday, 29 September 2008

Credit Where It's Due

I feel I must start by thanking you most sincerely if you are still with me after the endless moaning rant I've been indulging in about the holiday. Sorry. It's been a marathon drone even by my standards. I like to think that getting it out in the open has helped me deal with the sheer bloody annoyance of wasting a huge amount of dosh and annual leave on an experience I wouldn't have wanted if they'd paid me to go. But still. Enough already. We did have some nice times too, but what's the fun in telling you about those? So I've decided that from now on I can let the whole sorry episode wash over me, learn from it and move on.

Or so I thought until the post came this morning.

Got the credit card bill today. There it was in black and white (soon to be red I fear), the whole sorry catalogue of disaster documented in pounds and euros from start to finish. The Travel Agent's rip-off con trick. The hire car which somehow magically appears to have cost many, many more Euros than we were quoted. That first night meal which had me puking for England, literally, (didn't tell you about that, too much detail). Even the eighteen quid bottle of bog cleaner masquerading as white wine, it was all there as evidence of a bad time had by all.

And there was the bill for the umbrella, purchased in a "raindrops keep falling on my head" moment in an attempt to make things more bearable with a bit of retail therapy, that was there too. Sheltering underneath it in the pouring rain, dodging heaps of Day-glo dog-poo, we dashed through the city streets looking for shelter and warmth.

"Let's start again," suggests husband, "let's try and make the most of it, even though it's not really our scene" he says as we wait to cross the road.

"OK," I say, "it hasn't all been bad, we're having some nice times too I suppose. Looking on the bright side, at least I've gone a trendy new umbrella."

"Let's treat it like a bit of a watershed then" he says, laughing.

He can be such a witty bugger at times, thank goodness.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda.

We've never had a proper holiday flop before, so really we should have counted ourselves lucky, but instead as the days went by we tormented the life out of each other with thoughts of what we would rather have spent the money on had we not sleep-walked (or should that be slept-walked?) into this situation.

We could have gone to Paris on Eurostar, always a favourite of ours, stayed somewhere swanky and hit the shops big-time. True, someone had set fire to the Chunnel the day before, so that was a bit off-putting, but still. Or maybe we would have been better going to Barcelona for a few days, got a bit of Ramblas shopping under our (designer) belts and a little culture to boot. Right at the start I should of course have insisted on a destination from my recommended list, but no, here we were, disenchanted and disgruntled, unable to find the light at the end of the tunnel which wasn't in fact an on-coming train.

The morning after our arrival we woke up with two matching hangovers, the result of drinking far too much on way too empty stomachs. Husband had refused to be thwarted re the lack of red wine and had charmed the hotel receptionist into producing a bottle of white from the back of a cupboard somewhere. Actually, I guess it might have been from under the sink. It was disgusting, tasted of pencil sharpenings and ear-wax (I imagine) but did the job of numbing the pain until dinner time when we re-emerged, slightly pissed but re-energised, re-fettled and ready to party. We had gone on foot in search of the village and spent a good time searching for it before we realised that the dingey parade of shops reached by four flights of un-lit, slippery concrete steps, was in fact, it.

In my dreams the village would have had little waterside restaurants with candle-lit tables, smiling waiters and gorgeous food. In reality we were greeted at the local Pizzeria with a scowl, made to sit outside because the staff hadn't yet finished their supper, and only allowed back in when they'd done. It was bloody cold out there. The food took hours to arrive and when it did it was average, so we did the only sensible thing under the circumstances and kept on drinking. We left a huge tip in the hopes that if we had to eat there again during the week, this time they would like us more and maybe give us a smile, or be a little more friendly. It didn't work. This was obviously a local pizzeria for local people. Later that night I regretted both the tip and the tortellini I'd eaten there as my stomach lining and I violently attempted to part company.

Consequently, the following morning, things were dire. We went down to breakfast and again, not a soul in sight. I began to fantasise about the reason for it and finally decided that the whole hotel, which was pristine, white and hushed, reminded me of the euthenasia clinic as featured in the BBC1 TV series Holby City a while back. No one was coming in or going out, although I suppose it would have been a lot more worrying if loads of people had been coming in and no one going out. Whatever. It made me a bit suspicious of the breakfast juice, I can tell you.

And still it rained.

We went into town by taxi, bought an umbrella, hired a car and had a row. I ruined my best flat shoes and my hair went frizzy. Husband trod in dog-mess (unavoidable, the whole place was covered in it - what DO those dogs eat??) and got it on his jeans. Day one was not going well.

We looked across the grey sea towards Elba, shrouded in mist.

"Napolean died there you know, some say he was poisoned" said husband, trying to distract me from my misery with interesting facts, but failing totally.

"Not bloody surprised, probably ate at that fucking pizza parlour."

I shouldn't have said that. It was not helping, I know that now. I really needed to get a grip of myself, cheer up and tone down the smart-aleck remarks.

But all I could think about was that it was still six more days until I could go home.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

If The Rain Comes

The journey from airport to hotel would have been so much better undertaken in the dark. We'd arrived mid-morning, had been greeted by a cheery holiday rep who put us in a cab and waved us off, all the while trying to smile a happy smile even though she was getting thoroughly soaked to the skin. Apparently it hadn't rained in Corsica since May, and whoever or whatever controls the weather over there certainly knew how to pick the best possible moment to welcome us with a storm of monsoon proportions, with raindrops so large they could hit the ground and bounce back up your trouser legs, soaking you up to the knees of your jeans in ten seconds flat. Trying to make us Brits feel at home, no doubt. How kind.

Sitting back in the taxi my husband reached for my wet hand. I didn't look at him. Instead I continued to gaze through the steamy cab windows at the passing vista of crumbling high rise flats, industrial yards and derelict concrete buildings. I bit my lip to stop it quivering and wished I'd packed an umbrella and cyanide pill.

We arrived at the hotel which was surprisingly pretty considering it's urban surroundings, and my spirits began to lift. I gave myself a bit of a mental telling off for being so defeatist and silly. Maybe it was going to be OK after all. At reception we asked about getting some lunch, we'd been up since 4 a.m. and had avoided the in-flight cold bacon ciabbatta on the grounds that it looked like a bit of a health hazard, and now we were starving.

The bad news that this particular hotel had no food service at all apart from breakfast came as a bit of a shock to us, ditto the revelation that everything in the village would now be shut, it being Sunday lunchtime, and wouldn't be opening again until that evening. Perhaps. The only place we would be able to eat at this time of day was back in town, from where we had just come, and as we weren't due to pick up a hire car until the following morning, we were, quite frankly, buggered. And no, sorry, even though this is indeed a hotel in wine making country, we don't actually have a bottle of Corsican red in the so-called bar for you to take up to your room to help pass away the time until dinner.

So we started our holidays tired, wet and hungry. And just a little bit grumpy.

Things could only get better, right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

And So The Die Was Cast

"OK then, Bastia it is" smiled the Travel Agent, outstretching her hand to take my husband's credit card. I couldn't quite remember agreeing to it, but I suppose we must have.

I watched in stunned silence, my mouth opening to form the words "hold on a minute, I'm not actually sure......" but husband just beamed at me and said "I've always wanted to go to Corsica, it'll be great" and punched in his PIN.

The words "I don't really think I fancy it" withered and died in my mouth. I felt the noose of commitment tightening around my neck. I was trapped into a decision I wasn't sure about. I gave my husband a panicky look, willing him to telepathically get my drift and get the transaction voided. Or maybe get me voided. I tried to say something but it was too late, my protests fell on deaf ears, largely because it was only the voice in my head which was shouting "I've changed my mind".

I am a total holiday nightmare. I can never decide where to go. And if, by some weird twist of fate I do actually make a decision, the very second the decision is made I want to get out of it. Make up some silly reasons not to go. It might rain (it did), we might not like it (we didn't), it seems an awful lot of money (it was).

The only thing I fear more than going to new places and seeing new things is not going to new places and not seeing new things. I have to really push myself to take that first fearful step and our ultimate destination has to be worth all the effort. I'm not a natural born traveller, nor an adventurer, but merely a home bird with occasional migratory tendencies, eager to fly the cage that I have constructed for myself but rarely brave enough to spread my wings.

Usually my fears prove to be groundless and once we arrive everything is fine, but this time I was really worried that we'd made a big mistake.

And when we got there, saw the lie of the land, that voice in my head was saying "I told you so."

Monday, 22 September 2008

Now How Did That Happen?

So I said to the travel agent, "I have a list of places I'd like to go to, recommended by some well travelled friends of mine." I think she was impressed. Thanks to your input, it was a very long list.

Top of my list was Italy in general, Lake Garda in particular, and if she wanted me to be even more specfic, how about Malcesine? Or if not Garda, how about Maggiore? Or Verona maybe with a little excursion to an Italian lake, or vice versa, or even a short break? If not for a week, then maybe just three or four days or so? Or anything at all?

There was nothing available, sorry. I said I was really surprised, that we'd expected there to be loads of last minute holidays given the current financial climate and everyone worried about the price of chicken breasts and bread, and sacrificing their holidays in order to pay the milk bill or keep grandma off the streets. She said that because the weather had been so foul and the news so dire, lots of folk were just desperate to get away from it all and had booked a holiday anyway, and that because several small airlines had so recently gone tits up (OK, she didn't say tits up, but that's what she meant), people were booking through travel agents for last minute deals so that they were protected financially. Or something like that. The long and short of it was that last minute deals were hard to find, and non-existent in some cases. Anyway, there was bugger all in the Italian lakes.

So OK, no problem, back to the list. What about Alghero in Sardinia? I'd heard from a reliable source that it is fab. My friend Mimi says there are good views, fab food and very, very laid back people. I really like good views, fab food and especially very, very laid back people, and they usually like us, so can we go there then?

No flights available for our week unfortunately.

Mmm, what about Cyprus then, my mate Norman thinks it's simply the best. I trust his judgement so what about it?

Same thing, couldn't fit a week in around our dates.

And so it went on, through my shopping list of desirable destinations until we'd been through them all and not been able to find an available week anywhere to fit in with our holiday fortnight. No to Alghero, forgot to ask about Santorini, couldn't do Malcesine, Maggiore, sorry about Verona, forget Sicily. And Sorrento? Sorrento at such short notice? Pah, you must be kidding. Maybe Cyprus if you fly in the next half hour, but not sure about next week being available and definitely not to any of your mate's other suggestions, that's for sure.

And suddenly, she said "Ever thought about Corsica?"

I can't say I ever have, to be honest.

So I said no, I hadn't.

And the next thing I knew, we were going.

Oh Bastia.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Am I Being Too Fussy?

I'm almost too embarrassed to tell you but I'm still in rainy Blighty, despite all of your fantastic travel tips for which I am eternally grateful. They all sound so great, but unfortunately I think we've left our run a wee bit too late. The travel agent surprised us by saying that there aren't that many late-deals around to the places we want to go to but can offer us hundreds of holidays which we don't really fancy. In fact, some of the deals on offer made me want to hide in the airing cupboard until next April. Top of his list was an "adult-only" holiday in a concrete village in Spain, all inclusive, as much as you can eat and drink with all night entertainment and escorted trips. Great if you like that's your sort of thing, but my personal idea of hell.

Next up was a Mediterraean cruise, ditto the above details but this time waking up in a different location every day with forty-five minutes or so ashore to "do" the area local to the port, then back on board and off to the next one. Sounded absolutely knackering, and thankfully I was able to use my claustrophobia as an excuse to say no thanks to an inside cabin deep in the bowels of the ship.

We could have gone to Egypt if only I'd had the jabs previously and the time to get them done before we set off. Not that I wanted to go to Egypt particularly anyway (no offence, Egypt), as my taste buds were working overtime for Italian food and culture at the time.

So here we are, still at home, with two weeks' holiday and as yet nowhere to go. And it's still pissing down.

I feel so stupid.

Remind me to book earlier next year.