THE GIRL says she’d be quite happy spending every summer holiday in one of her two most favourite places in the world – Center Parcs or the Lake District.
She likes the Lakes because it’s not just exquisitely beautiful, but usually chilly and rainy.
She’s a fair-skinned Northern lass who thrives on cold and damp.
“But not windy weather,” she says, “I hate the wind.”
Center Parcs is also prone to be cold and damp. We stayed there once in July and had three scorching hot days followed by four increasingly wet days.
By the time we left we were wearing our winter fleeces under waterproofs. The fact that we’d even packed the winter fleeces says everything there is to say about holidaying in the UK.
And so the great debate entitled Where Shall We Go This Summer? has begun once again.
“I’m fine with Center Parcs,” said The Girl. No surprises there. “Or Vienna.”
She has fixated on Vienna ever since I mentioned the place was probably stuffed with cake and coffee shops selling delectable Sachertorte, Linzertorte and Apfel Strudel.
As a Mozart buff with a fondness for cake myself, I also quite fancy the Austrian city. But The Man – although being of the cakey persuasion – says he’s not sure he could put up with the terrible non-cake-related food that we’d be forced to consume when not in a cake shop.
We spent a week in Austria a few years back and found the ham and cheese-based cuisine amusingly awful.
He’s quite keen to have one really big foreign trip and blow our savings on a tour of South Africa because family holidays are reaching that point when they will be soon be receding into our memories as the Offspring go off to do their own thing.
This will be the first summer away without Firstborn, who is planning a camping and caving expedition with his girlfriend.
The Girl leaves school next summer and wants to do one of those student rail card trips around Europe.
I don’t want to go to South Africa because I doubt my ability to sit still for 10 hours on a plane. I don’t travel well – usually arriving at foreign destinations feeling sleep-deprived, scruffy, exhausted and ready for two days of sleep.
Even a short flight – adding on several hours of cattle prodding in airports at either end – is an ordeal. The Girl feels much the same.
So, as usual, we will compromise which is what families have to do when everyone wants something different.
The Girl and I looked through a bundle of brochures together and found a page on Mont Blanc that ticked all the boxes.
For The Man there is hillwalking, canyoning, white water rafting and other exciting manly pursuits, as well as the possibility of decent food. For The Girl there is scenery, canoeing and a temperate Alpine climate. For me there is fresh air, a swimming pool and a short transit time.
So we’ve made our choice.
But, if the Katla volcano in Iceland blows – as is expected soon – then this might all be academic. The recently erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano is, apparently, just a baby compared to Katla and we’ve seen what happens when babies such as this have tantrums.
We went into a travel agency on Tuesday to ask if we’d get our money back should volcanic ash deposit itself across Europe all summer and the girl behind the counter said yes, definitely.
Then I pointed to the small print in the brochure that mentioned Force Majeure – wars, hostile weather conditions, natural disasters – and how this is excluded from the right to compensation.
“No, I’m sure you’re all right,” she replied, a little less convincingly.
However, a quick trawl of the tour operator’s website has assured us that should Katla erupt we would be compensated, which seems awfully good of them.
I expect their insurance bill is quite hefty and about to get heftier.
All those people who relish saying “I booked it on the internet for £150, for two weeks all inclusive” will find that, in circumstances such as these, it’s really best to get a package through an ABTA operator or they may end up with no holiday at all, even a cheap one.
Of course, recovering lost holiday money could be the least of our problems should Iceland’s volcanoes decide to tantrum big time. Eyjafjallajokull has blown three times in the last 1,000 years and each time set off Katla.
Iceland’s worst eruption in modern times was of the Laki volcano in 1783, which threw up so much ash that it changed weather patterns throughout Europe and caused a drought in Egypt.
Harvests were ruined and thousands died. It is said the French Revolution was one of the consequences of the ensuing famine.
And this, I guess, is the only crumb of comfort we can offer the people still stranded far from home or those who were unable to jet away on their much-needed vacations.
Things could be a lot worse! That and the fact we are fortunate people to be able to book a holiday in the first place.