‘Oh my God, G. Oh my God we’re in France. Dude, we’re in a whole other country!’
These were my words to my poor long-suffering husband after our coach drove off the channel tunnel train and into Calais. Ok the reaction, looking back, might have seemed a smidge extreme, but this was my first time on foreign soil ever, and I was flipping well excited!
These words were quickly followed up by more enthusiastic expostulations. ‘Look, the bridges have colours painted underneath them! Look, the wind turbines have red round the bottoms of them! Wow, it’s sunny. It was grey when we left Folkestone!’
My poor fella had to put up with this for a further nine days till we crossed the channel into Blighty once more.
Hard to believe, but I never had a passport until I was 40. It’s a bit more used now, but I’m still on my first one, it’s not due to expire yet. My dream holiday was not to some sunny palm-fringed beach, or anything like that. Oh no, not me. I had always wanted to visit Germany. So, to Germany we finally went, in July 2011.
We’d booked a coach trip as neither of us drives. Night one was spent in the up-market Crowne Plaza near Brussels airport (the coach company must have mates rates there as we could never afford the unbelievable 450 euros per night).
Everything was a different experience for me, including trying out my long-distant schoolgirl German to see if it worked. I had a phrasebook with me, and suitable sentences written out and to hand for if I needed them. I managed to tell the lovely dirndled waitress in a bar on the Drosselgasse in Rudesheim (where we’d nipped into for a much-needed beer in a boot and a famous and delicious Rudesheim coffee containing local Asbach brandy) that her country was very beautiful and that we were on holiday. I left feeling happy and touristy, full of beer and coffee, in a country where I had spoken brief words in the native language and been understood. So far this was encouraging.
Our itinerary included some time in the Rhine Gorge, then a trip to discover Ludwig II’s castles in Bavaria, and finally a day or two in the Black Forest. I must have driven the travellers in our coach party bonkers with my over-eagerness to see everything, and was constantly apologising.