Harriet Walker: 'My enthusiasm for clock museums in foreign lands knows no bounds'



I narrowly missed being in the MTV generation proper by about two years; what I am instead is one of the mini- break generation. We with no children, unhampered for the most part by mortgage or matrimony, are like worse-organised, energetic pensioners going on cruises. EasyJet is our Viking Tour, Ryanair our Saga. We have clutches instead of money belts, and Birkenstocks instead of… Oh.

We use our weekends to explore the capital cities of Europe for not much more than the price of a ticket to a West End show and far less of the triteness, soaking up cultural experiences with the regularity our slightly older peers do baby sick.

My Facebook feed is full of people jetting off for weekends in picturesque locations. Here, a hen do in Madrid, there a stag in Prague, pink-faced and covered in sick in front of St Vitus Cathedral. My friends go for gastronomic adventures in Denmark, or cycling tours of Ghent. Or they razz it up in Paris, and dance in the gay clubs of Barcelona, which is just as valid a way to spend a weekend.

So thank you budget airlines for broadening our horizons. In the old days, I imagine people just got on a National Express to Manchester. Unless they were posh, in which case they just drove their own car to Gloucestershire.

The mini-break has also become a rite of passage. As Bridget Jones says, "A mini-break means true love." And miniature shower gels snaffled from boutique-hotel rooms.

Of course they come in different guises and for different reasons. First off, there's the mini-break at the parents'. Some might question whether the "break" part of this refers to the time away or to the spirits bowed by the end of it (not me, mind, I have brilliant parents for mini-breaks – they always fill up the fridge). Sometimes the parental mini-break takes the form of other people's parents. These are even better: you get all the comforts of a family home without being in your own and having to do the washing-up.

Then there's the messy mini. These are usually spent with friends in European cities more lax with their licensing laws than ours. Regard "los Ingles" struggling to stay awake for dinner at 9pm! See how they fail to hold their alcohol with dignity in the 17 hours before the club even opens at 1am!

"Spa getaways", of course, are for couples who think they're "getting away from things" for a couple of days, only to find that what they're trying get away from has come along with them. Or it's for female friends who think they're as close as two friends could ever be, but who then find themselves feeling awkward when it comes to sharing a bathroom.

Finally, there's the nerdy mini-break – one of my favourites. The nerd-break is when two people of equal geekiness go to a city that they then try to explore together in as efficient a way as possible. Personally, I have no sense of direction and an in-built fear of foreign public transport, so I don't rank highly when it comes to efficiency. But my enthusiasm for clock museums, medieval grain stores and cake shops knows no bounds.

This is sort of the perfect holiday for me, a person whose skin starts feeling a bit tight when they're away from home for too long. I worry that things won't get done – or worse, that they will, and any need for my presence where I belong will be subtly undermined. And the distances involved are ideal, too – far enough for the food to get a bit better but not too far that it resembles something from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

And the most lovely surprise of the modern mini-break? That if you end up in one of about 18 European destinations, you will almost certainly have contacts pushed on you by friends and colleagues, with promises that their friends there know how to have a good time. They're like private tour guides, these people, helping you fulfil your dream sequence that this is in fact the city you really live in. Tra la la, cobbles and cheese.

These mini- breaks sum up my generation: upwardly mobile, attention-deficit, ungrateful at times, and absurdly lucky. They'll seem both dated and exotic to the generations that come after us, who will no doubt be holidaying on Mars from behind a virtual headset in their sitting-rooms. They won't know it, but they'll really be missing out.

Still, at least they won't have to queue at the boarding gate.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform