Friday, 30 September 2011
My holiday: flat tyres, downpours and noisy neighbours!
DIE hard supporters of British tourism heap words like “traitor” on to holidaymakers who spurn home resorts to jet off to foreign sun.
But after 16 days spent touring this country from Cornwall and Dartmoor to the Midlands and London with only two dry days to show for it, I’ll be joining the plane exodus for 2012.
Things couldn’t have started better. A picturesque trip across the heart of Dartmoor and a pint in the lonely Warren House Inn, lonely that is until a million to one incident which brought a group of walkers into the pub including an old friend I hadn’t seen for years!
Follow that up with a superb evening meal, some unusual local cider and a peaceful night’s sleep and you couldn’t ask for more... unless it was not having my daughter rush up to me in the morning and say our car’s front nearside tyre was flat!
This was a major problem. All well and good on a normal day because it would just have meant a brief annoyance solved by the local tyre centre, but everything was shut on a Sunday.
We hummed and harred, drove tentatively to Okehampton to try and find help but eventually had to bite the bullet and abandon our weekend to try and edge home with frequent stops to check tyre pressures.
We couldn’t even use the RAC. They would have happily come out and changed our tyre, but there was no point since modern spare tyres are much smaller than standard and often aren’t up to long distances.
The galling part about it all was that my tyre centre in Weymouth told me our flat tyre had almost certainly been caused by parking at an angle by the side of our farmhouse bed and breakfast.
There was no nail, thorn or piece of glass they could find but the tyre rim was slightly uneven and they believed this and the angle of parking had caused the tyre to deflate. I felt pretty deflated too as if we’d known that we could just have pumped it up and enjoyed the rest of our weekend.
A few local trips in the rain followed and then it was off to our friends in the Midlands... only to find an unexpected diversion about 30 miles from journey’s end which plunged us off our familiar route and into the depths of the countryside with barely two signposts to rub together.
We hadn’t a clue where we were because hamlets were so small they didn’t appear on our map, so I resorted to sticking like glue to the driver in front... until he turned into a village hall and parked! So much for that brainwave!
Luckily the road was clearly way busier than usual, so we took a chance and went with the flow of traffic and eventually stumbled back on to familiar territory more by luck than good judgement.
The following day was three women going shopping in Birmingham by car and train and myself and the only other male taking refuge in more sensible retail therapy, namely the search for the perfect pint. We’re still searching.
Then came the highlight of our break, joining our friends for a weekend in London. They all popped off to see the musical Billy Elliott. We had a fantastic time, they told me later... and why are you soaking wet? That would be the cloudburst you missed, I replied morosely, reflecting that a drink in the Stage Door pub to dry out hadn’t exactly been what I’d planned.
Still we had a wonderful evening walk down from Leicester Square to the embankment and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the stroll by the Thames past the London Eye and over Westminster Bridge with its stunning views of a floodlit Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
By then I’d walked just under ten miles and was well ready for bed, so it was just as well that the Comfort Inn at Vauxhall was the last word in, well, comfort.
Its pristine bed linen, towels and a bathroom which was so clean you could have eaten your dinner off it were a credit to the chain, not bad for £111 for three of us. There was only one drawback... which we found out when we went to bed.
Double glazing didn’t work and we could hear every plane that went overhead and every door slam and boozy chat from the car park while the swing door in the corridor was so close to our room that it was crash-bang-wallop every time it was used which was constantly right up to and beyond midnight. Rounding off the cacophony was a waste pipe boxed into the room divide which seemed to be the main route down for all the bathrooms above us. Sleep was minimal.
Luckily in the morning we knew there was a wonderful park with a nice breakfast café nearby... which was shut when we got to it.
Fortune finally smiled on me when the men again left the women to go shopping and we made off to the British Museum for a fabulous few hours.
A brief return to the Midlands and all too soon we were driving back down to Weymouth and, ironically, the two best days of weather we were to get, so I split it between gardening and a lovely walk towards Ringstead.
Now I’m facing Christmas in just 13 weeks time but I plan to use that time to book a holiday abroad for 2012. I can’t risk another holiday in England because I’m starting to rust.