With foreign travel still pretty much ruled out, this is the summer of the great staycation. In other words, holidays before they became complicated – no airport queues, language problems, visa issues, mosquito bites and car hire bills equivalent to the GDP of a small country.
Despite all that, a staycation always felt like a holiday wasted and it has taken a pandemic to show me I was wrong.
Down the years we’ve been hoodwinked into believing a summer break only begins when someone interrogates you about liquids at airport security before you are crammed into a metal tube and then dumped somewhere hotter than a baked potato just out the oven.
It doesn’t need to be that way. We simply piled everything into the car and drove. Knowing half of Britain would be on holiday in northern Scotland, we headed south to Cornwall where, surprise, surprise, the other half had already set out the windbreaks and blocked every lane with Range Rovers.
That said, there is something special about holidaying at home this summer. We’re all sharing the experience and trying to make the best of the situation after 12 months we would rather forget.
Knowing Cornwall pretty well, we managed to get off the beaten path and immediately it took me back to childhood holidays in the UK.
When I was growing up, we went to the Isle of Wight. Back then it was easier to get elected Prime Minister than it was to travel from Dumfries to Cowes via the Southampton ferry but we did it every year and I have nothing but the happiest memories of sunshine, ice cream and chips on the beach.
Decades on, millions of people are enjoying those simple pleasures around the UK right now, creating their own family holiday memories. To round off the nostalgic experience, we also stumbled upon a hotel that seemed to offer a direct link back in time to holidays gone by.
Hors d’oeuvres were still on the menu alongside Sole Veronique, all served by staff wearing white gloves who looked like they’d joined the payroll before decimalisation.
When we checked out, the receptionist asked if we would like the same room, same time next year. It seemed like such a weird question but then I looked around. The hotel was full and out on the terrace were rows of happy guests eating cream teas in the sunshine. These people clearly did just that, returning year after year for an experience they like and that is familiar to them.
This summer with the sun shining, I suspect many people are rediscovering the delights of what our country has to offer and perhaps wondering why we’re often so desperate to spend our time off abroad with all the stress and strain modern travelling involves. With climate change, there is no better time for us all to think about what we actually want from a holiday.
Of course we will head back to Spain, France, Greece and other popular destinations when we can if only for the variety but alongside so many awful things, the time of Covid has given us a reminder that a British summer holiday can still be absolutely brilliant.