A long, long time ago, when my sister and i were 14 and 10 respectively, we went on a holiday around Europe. It was a pretty amazing holiday in lots of ways, in 3 weeks we thoroughly visited 5 countries; Holland, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Germany. We may even have done Lichtenstein. Granted, we saw quite a lot of it from inside the car, being in a hurry to see EVERYWHERE and i read for quite a lot of that time, being a new Chalet School convert and therefore not interested in all places flat, but it was a cool holiday. We Crazy Golfed in every country, stayed in a different hotel every night, walked on a multitude of beaches and bought small blue and white pottery models of windmills in twee giftshops.
On the last night we needed to head back to the port near Amsterdam, the Hoek (we did Amsterdam too, my parents honeymooned there and revisted old haunts and walked the 3 of us through the Red Light district, with my 6 year old brother gaping with awe!) and as the evening came in, we hadn’t had dinner or got anywhere to sleep. It seemed the luck had run out and we were destined to sleep our first night hungry in the car after a long run of perfectly placed cafes and hotels. But then a rather gorgeous pub loomed, with a great garden to run about in and the owners knew of a nice little hotel, just near the port, that they could book us into. So we ate and finally made our way off to find it.
The Hotel America was NOT a nice little hotel, in fact i suspect it can only have been a brothel for sailors really. I distinctly remember my parents blanching as we walked in, but by then it was too late to find anything else. We got shown to two rooms at either end of a long corridor, with half drunk sailors wandering about and (i kid you not) doorbells in the rooms to call for “room service” 😯 my parents put the three of us into one room, as they had done ever other night of the holiday and went to theirs. Very shortly afterwards they reappeared amd i spent the night with my mum while my dad looked after the younger 2.
I can only assume they got a better night than we did; the man in the next room (so approximately the bredth of a piece of paper away) snored like a ferry and by the early hours of the morning, we were reduced to sticking Tampax in our ears. Thank god she didn’t use Monncups, that’s all i can say! Possibly one of the worst nights sleep we ever got and if we had to go to the toilet, it meant braving the corridor full of drunken sailors. (That was the night i learned just exactly WHAT you do with a drunken sailor!)
The best bit was perhaps the next morning, when we went down to breakfast. The buffet was laid out in one room, with an only partly concealed room to one side of it filled with large gunge tanks no doubt intended for frolicking sailors and wenches. 😆 All i can remember being alarmed by was the fact that the whites of the boiled eggs were quite greyish in colour. I was a girl with my priorities right 😆
Max and i had a cheerful couple of nights on our one and only holiday abroad together, when i was just 6 weeks pregnant with Fran. We did a similar thing, driving for a while and then looking for somewhere to stay. Worked nicely the first night but the second night we were stumped (France closes on a Sunday and Monday night apparently, even the hotels!) and in the end we stopped at a cafe with a hearty “English Spoken!” sign outside, resignbed to a meal and a night in the car (for which you can get into trouble, though what you do if you unwittingly pitch up in the country on a Sunday or Monday night i don’t know!) Charmingly, the man in the cafe knew a man with some rooms, so he fed us (bean and sauage pottage that looked like vomitted up poo) and then called the friend, who arrived to take us off to the middle of nowhere in the dead of night 😯 I seem to recall a vague conversation between us about him being an axe murderer potentially, but we were tired and i was scared of the police.
Anyway, that particular one was okay; he had some funny old rooms in a prefab, but the next day he treated us to a slap up breakfast on the veranda and a tour of his smallholding, including horse and trap training ring and HUGE numbers of bunnies in cages waiting to become rabbit pie 😕 Nice man though; remembered with affection.
The only reason we’d ended up there in the first place was because of a chance happening on a town called Issigeac. Apparently it is a medieval town of some note, but when we arrived it was a) closed (see above) and b) apparently backwards. We wandered around it for ages and felt like we were in some bizarre maze because try as we might, we only ever seemed to find the backs of places and we didn’t see a single. solitary. soul. Not one.
Having given up there, we drove on a bit and found an odd like place that Max decreed suitable. We went in against my better judgement (it looked a bit like a US Diner built out of an ex-filling station) and found them to be flame grilling a large mammal in the middle of a cafe filled with enormous beery looking fellows but on enquiry, they showed us to their “room” which was 6 paces away from the grill, with the cafe toilet as its bathroom, sheets that hadn’t been changed since the last occupant and one cockroach clearly in evidence 😯
It was when i noticed the odd chain arrangement on the outside of the french windows that i started to wonder if there was a connection between the erstwhile previous occupant and the large shape on the flamegrill 😯 Of course, i voiced this to Max, he gave me a “my bloody girlfriend’s pregnant and turned into a loony” look and we left in a screeching of wheels and mumbled curses. I’m still convinced it was an actual life Hotel California 😆
So you can see why i didn’t like to complain about driving off with an axe-murderer. You can also possibly see why these days i like to go on holidays where i can take my own personal little house with me 😆