I am planning a big family road trip, from London to Istanbul and back, over the Easter holidays. Every time I mention this to people they look at me in horror and ask: “Why on earth would you do that?”
I’m fairly confident that, apart from a couple of Europhobes, these people are not questioning the point of visiting anywhere in Europe but rather they are picturing the nightmare of anybody spending three weeks in a confined space with their children. Some people have even taken to calling our great expedition “The Divorce Trip”.
We do have form in this area. About five years ago, my family and I hopped into an RV and drove over the Rockies from Calgary to Vancouver. Had I just had the foresight to install some tiny, unobtrusive, Oscar Pistorius-trial-style cameras into the vehicle I would have had a massive international smash hit on my hands. The arguments we had would have made anything on The Kardashians or The Osbournes look like child’s play. My preferred route involves a “dark tourist” theme that would see us visiting Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, the cellar in Munich where Hitler made his first call for a putsch, the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo … but these plans have been questioned by the family. Stacey seems very keen on visiting as many churches and museums as possible and the children just want no driving, and swimming pools. It’s going to take a master tactician to pull this off.
Normally, I’m quite good at planning ahead and booking hotels but time has taught me that having to keep to some fantasy schedule is one of the main causes for arguments in the travelling Joly family. So, we are going to wing it, which will also be a cause for terrible trouble as we will panic at the last minute and check ourselves into some grotty B&B in Bohemia where we shall all be murdered in our beds by a man called Jiri and his mother.
I used to do huge road trips a lot when I was a kid. Then we would drive from Beirut to London and back. These hold incredible memories for me – being shelled on a beach in Lebanon, swimming out to an island castle in Turkey, sumptuous meals at a place called the Pin Rose in Tuscany. These were crazy times; the Lebanese civil war had broken out and we would escape over the border into Syria and breathe a sigh of relief. Now, of course, it is Syria that is in flames and travel there is impossible, otherwise I would have recreated my childhood trips for my offspring.
I so hope that things sort themselves out in that wonderful country soon – I’d love my kids to clamber over the fortifications of Krak Des Chevaliers and explore the ruins of Palmyra as I did. The Syrians were very hospitable, overly so sometimes.
We were once chased by Bedouins and forced back to their tent at gunpoint for tea. We’d initially refused as it was getting dark and in those pre-satnav days we had to get back to town. I don’t anticipate this kind of drama on our Easter trip, unless my satnav screws up and we end up in Ukraine. Que sera sera.