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

 

Share

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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links