petite anglaise

January 29, 2007

solo

Filed under: single life — petiteanglaise @ 9:29 pm

The last time I decided to take myself off on holiday alone was almost a decade ago.

In the summer which intervened between my two years of “teaching” English conversation classes as a lectrice, I found myself in the enviable position of having a three month paid holiday to fill, somehow. None of my friends were at a loose end, so I decided to go it alone. With the wonderful Routard as my guide, I started at Avignon and worked my way westwards towards the Spanish border, staying in cheap hotels and youth hostels in Nîmes, Montpellier and Perpignan, alternating budget restaurants and ravioli from a can, getting from A to B by bus and train. In those days, the Routard rated towns of interest with a helpful number of stars, and I made a point of visiting every place I could get to without a car, and was rarely disappointed. I saw jousting in Sète, fell of a rented bicycle into a ditch just outside Nîmes (due to a tragic combination of sunstroke, oversized bike and too-short legs) and ate fresh anchovies in tapas bar in Coliloure.

At the end of my three week tour I went to stay with a British couple, George and Sylvia, friends of a fellow lecteur, who had chosen to retire in the countryside north of Narbonne and were happy to put me up in exchange for doing a few odd jobs around their house and keeping them company. My favourite memory of that holiday is of the day when George drove me out to a vineyard to buy the cheap local red which he drank with every meal. On the way back to the village he took a turning I hadn’t noticed before, a narrow track which snaked through the vines, bringing us out on top of a hill from which we could survey the surrounding countryside.

“There’s something I thought you might like to see,” said George, parking the car and leading me slowly, painfully to the North side of the hill, leaning heavily on his walking stick. He had a bad leg, and it occurred to me that he was probably over stretching himself.

I followed him, squinting into the sun, thinking that the view was pretty, but not spectacular enough to warrant his trouble until I saw what he was pointing at, and stopped dead in my tracks. From our elevated vantage point the foundations of an immense Roman villa, invisible at ground level, were laid out in front of us. The main road almost clipped the outer wall, but without my guide, the vines would have had no trouble keeping their secret.

“I knew you’d like it,” he said, pleased as punch when he heard my sharp intake of breath. “After you told me about visiting the amphitheatres, the ruins near Nîmes. I knew you’d appreciate this.” He was not wrong.

Ten years later, I found myself once more in the enviable position of having the wherewithal to go away, and the time to do it. Tadpole will be staying with her French grandparents for ten days in February, and as I haven’t been on holiday (trips to see my parents or friends notwithstanding) since the damp and disappointing week I spent in Morbihan, Brittany with Mr Frog in August 2005, I decided to seize the opportunity.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to find some winter sun without breaking the bank, I thought to myself, scrolling through the destinations on LastMinute and AnyWay, clicking merrily through the special offer links on PromoVacances. But my mounting excitement was soon tempered by a feeling of indignant despair, as I saw that not only did most operators charge a hefty supplement for single occupancy of a double room, but in some cases they simply weren’t prepared to let a solo traveller book a room during the school holiday peak period, full stop. It seemed I had stumbled on yet another of those “Reasons Why Couples Look So Smug”, and it irked me no end.

After much dispirited sighing and surfing in ever decreasing circles, I finally found my solution (and it wasn’t a holiday site for singles, although I almost considered it). No, the solution was simply to eschew packages and book the hotels myself, often finding single rooms, and never paying a supplement.

I’ll be flying off to Marrakech for five days in late February, staying three nights there, and two by the coast in two gorgeous Riad hotels. My bags filled with books to read on the roof decks, I’ll take a few guided tours, do a spot of haggling, eat tajine and drink litres of fresh mint tea.

And by some bizarre twist of fate, guess who I’ll be meeting for dinner on the first night there?

81 Comments

  1. WHO WHO WHO WHO WHO???? I’m so jealous… I have no grandparents to leave my kids with… so no vacation alone, or with hubby or whatever… but GOD how I would love to get away….have fun… oh yeah… who?????

    Comment by magillicuddy — January 29, 2007 @ 9:35 pm

  2. George and Sylvia.

    Comment by Antipodeesse — January 29, 2007 @ 9:42 pm

  3. Er, me?
    (Christmas present from Mr Mancunian Lass: weekend in Marrakesh)
    However, think I may just miss you as am going first w/e in March.

    So, second guess: an ex-boyfriend? Mr Frog? ‘im in Rennes? The Boy?

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — January 29, 2007 @ 9:44 pm

  4. ooh, must be sexy Frenchman that our young Petite as an assitante fell for.
    Am I right?
    If not, it’s probably Parkin Pig (SO pleased by his comeback)

    Comment by Flighty — January 29, 2007 @ 9:51 pm

  5. The guy in the gym with the tight shorts.

    Comment by john — January 29, 2007 @ 9:58 pm

  6. You will be dining with your old boss?

    Have a great trip!

    Comment by Misplaced — January 29, 2007 @ 10:12 pm

  7. Des Lynam?

    Comment by Annie Rhiannon — January 29, 2007 @ 10:14 pm

  8. John, you stole my idea. I wanted to suggest the gym guy, but maybe there’s an *adventurer* around….
    …enough with dreaming.

    Petite, I hope you have a tremendous holiday. Morocco is one of the countries I would like to visit one day, too.

    Adventurer

    Comment by Adventurer — January 29, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

  9. oh wait …. your prudhomme lawyer?

    Comment by magillicuddy — January 29, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

  10. The Pharmacist? (what became of that, btw)?

    Comment by suze — January 29, 2007 @ 10:36 pm

  11. Marrakech isn’t near the coast, so if your Riads are indeed by the coast (say in Essaouira or Agadir) then you can hire a car or take a bus to get there. The bus isn’t as comfortable but far more fun.

    I lived in Morocco for four years, and happen now to work for one of the travel websites you mentioned… so if you need any info, just ask.

    Comment by fruey (Let's Have It) — January 29, 2007 @ 10:47 pm

  12. …plenty of Moroccan people?

    Comment by Paris Lights — January 29, 2007 @ 11:09 pm

  13. M. Frog? But only by coincidence.

    Comment by H — January 29, 2007 @ 11:16 pm

  14. Peaches?

    Comment by Annie Rhiannon — January 29, 2007 @ 11:32 pm

  15. Yaxlich has just checked his credit card balances, bank balance and web browser history. He can now categorically confirm that it is not him petite is meeting.

    He just wanted to clear that up.

    Comment by Yaxlich — January 29, 2007 @ 11:41 pm

  16. Er… Anna?

    Comment by Richard Gillin — January 30, 2007 @ 12:27 am

  17. Great story. It’s been four long years since I’ve been able to go traveling, so I’m really looking forward to my trip to Europe this summer. Have a blast in Marrakech…

    Jake

    Comment by GAYSPLOITATION — January 30, 2007 @ 12:39 am

  18. Raymond Delauney (if he ever existed)?
    The Cloggies from upstairs?
    Your Ma and Pa?
    Your nice ex-boss and his new lover, M. Vieille Cravate d’École
    Enough….

    Comment by andrew — January 30, 2007 @ 1:43 am

  19. She DOES know how to get us all going, doesn’t she? There are lots of possibilities about who it could be…but I am not so sure it is a “coincidence.”

    Elle

    Comment by Elle — January 30, 2007 @ 2:37 am

  20. Gosh, I thought george was going to turn out to be a pervert for second, glad it was just the ruins he was showing you. Off to India next week. Out of action for next three months thank god. Glad you are getting a break too.

    Comment by RF — January 30, 2007 @ 3:30 am

  21. Lover?

    Comment by lisele — January 30, 2007 @ 3:59 am

  22. Well done. I agree about package hols, it’s also difficult trying to book holidays for 1 adult and child, and I usually end up just going home to the grandparents. I admit to actually getting as far as looking at one of those single holiday sites on one occasion but then wondered if topping myself might not be a more viable alternative.
    I was reading a back copy of Paris Match in the hairdresser yesterday and was quite pleased to read about the adverse publicity your old employer has attracted (serves them right), particularly the link from their name in Google to the Wikipedia definition of ‘stupidity’, is that really true ?

    Comment by Kate — January 30, 2007 @ 8:01 am

  23. It is, although I’ve never known who googlebombed or how. The stupidity result is now on page two, apparently.

    Comment by petite — January 30, 2007 @ 8:07 am

  24. You will love Marrakech! I was just floored with the color and ancient culture there. The medina is fabulous and the people friendly. I second Essaouiria on the coast-a beautiful town of white and blue. It is amazing that in 2 1/2 hours you can be in a totally different and exotique place.

    Comment by Linda — January 30, 2007 @ 9:08 am

  25. You should try to see Maryam of My Marrakesh whilst you’re there!

    http://moroccanmaryam.typepad.com/my_marrakesh/

    Have a fantastic time…

    Comment by maitresse — January 30, 2007 @ 9:45 am

  26. Hey,
    everyone is asking you WHO will be there by coincidence. Everyone is avidly going through the commentaries to find a comment with the Petite eye signing. At last, number 23, a comment by Petite!
    But what? Despair! grrrrrrr…
    My final guess is that we won’t know until you come back. But as I am in my lucky week (have to play euromillion on friday!), I submit: George Bush. Even though Jacques Chirac is more familiar with the location.
    David

    Comment by David — January 30, 2007 @ 10:26 am

  27. Trevor?

    Comment by David in London — January 30, 2007 @ 10:28 am

  28. Your friend from the Telegraph who broke the story about your sacking?

    Comment by old school friend — January 30, 2007 @ 11:24 am

  29. It strikes me that I ought to have asked people to guess which of my commenters couldn’t eat bananas without breaking them into pieces.

    What a wasted opportunity.

    Comment by petite — January 30, 2007 @ 11:29 am

  30. Old School Boss….

    Comment by Alastair — January 30, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

  31. clearly mr frog….

    Comment by Marguerite — January 30, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

  32. Just googled your old bosses out of interest and in fact the ‘stupidity’ link is now 5th on the FIRST page! Ha!

    I love travelling alone. It’s the most lovely feeling of self-indulgence mixed with smugness about how independent and free one is! And of course the possibility of doing anything you choose…Enjoy!

    Comment by redlady — January 30, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

  33. Ah! Your old school friend? I remember that post … and the wrist action!

    Comment by JNH — January 30, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

  34. Nice to be underneath you at last, by the way

    Comment by JNH — January 30, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

  35. Petite, I really enjoyed this post as it reminded me of home. I grew up near Montpellier and enjoy all the Roman legacy left in our beautiful region.

    Enjoy Morocco, it’s on my list of “Places to go when I win the Lottery!”

    Comment by Pepette — January 30, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

  36. Perhaps it will be me & M, as we too have booked a holiday to Marrakech at the end of February. Hope that you have a lovely time.

    Comment by Rachel — January 30, 2007 @ 2:38 pm

  37. That would be Anna who can’t eat a bannannannna without breaking it into pieces, wouldn’t it.

    Or is it apples she needs to break up?

    Comment by Damian — January 30, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

  38. Anna – banAnna

    * collapses in peurile laughing fit on the floor *

    Comment by Damian — January 30, 2007 @ 3:10 pm

  39. Lucky you ! I love Marrakech…Here is one of the nice spots I adore in this city :
    – The Majorelles botanical garden: a really peaceful place initially owned by Jacques Majorelle and later bought by Yves Saint Laurent who has a residence in these gardens open to public visitors (the gardens, not the residence :) )
    – A great restaurant with fabulous moroccan dishes ”AL FASSIA” (on Zerktouni boulevard) around €30 for a meal.
    – A nice glamourous place to go out ”Le comptoir” with oriental dansers and trendy moroccan food (in Gueliz area).
    – Or ”Safran et Cannelle” for a more down to earth feeling with nice music, sometimes live bands (on Hassan II avenue).
    Have a nice stay!

    Comment by lafadelle — January 30, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

  40. i first thought of Yaxlich, but he has burst that bubble. so, if it’s “a bizarre twist of fate” situation, i’m really hoping it’s Jim from Rennes. you both may have moved on, but i haven’t gotten over him.

    Comment by franko — January 30, 2007 @ 3:28 pm

  41. Anneka Rice, and that’s my final guess.

    Comment by Annie Rhiannon — January 30, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  42. please say it isn’t philippe torreton. or I am commiting hari kari right now.

    Comment by gillian rolfe — January 30, 2007 @ 5:30 pm

  43. @gillian: random?

    of course, it goes without saying that if anyone else is going to be there on 24-25-26 Feb, you can drop me a line and we could meet for mint tea

    Comment by petite — January 30, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

  44. i’m jealous, incredibly so.

    Have a brilliant time, and don’t forget the camera!

    Comment by gerbil — January 30, 2007 @ 6:01 pm

  45. I can’t wait for the next installment! I haven’t been this addicted to anything since Bridget (sorry to make the same tired comparison!)

    Comment by Hannah Collis — January 30, 2007 @ 6:59 pm

  46. Gads I had some wonderful hash there in my wild untamed youth-lo these many centuries ago ;-) Enjoy and watch your bananas.

    Comment by Beau Radley — January 30, 2007 @ 7:05 pm

  47. I know I know I know!

    Comment by frog with a blog — January 30, 2007 @ 8:55 pm

  48. Ali Baba?

    Comment by Jim — January 30, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  49. Andre?

    I dunno, he sounds like he needs company, of the female type. ;-P

    Comment by Karma — January 30, 2007 @ 10:04 pm

  50. I was meant to go to Marrakesh last November – but a dodgy stomach even before I left put paid to that trip – though my friends did have a good time though!

    whoever you meet, whatever you do – have a great time!

    Comment by Nigel — January 30, 2007 @ 10:14 pm

  51. Is it Julien Lepers from Questions Pour Un Champion?

    Comment by Marcos — January 30, 2007 @ 10:52 pm

  52. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young??????
    “All aboard”

    Comment by petite — January 30, 2007 @ 11:10 pm

  53. “and too-short legs”…..(sound of illusions shattered!!)

    Travelling alone is best done without planning and enjoying flexibility to meet new people – fear of being alone makes one easy bait for the predatory; enjoying the freedom to meet new friends with confidence is what makes it worthwhile.

    Are your legs really that short ?

    Comment by Voyager — January 30, 2007 @ 11:38 pm

  54. Hmmm. Traveling alone — sometimes wonderous, when you meet so many local people and have unique experiences — sometimes frustrating, when you have no one with whom to discuss the day. I am sure the the former will be your case.

    Comment by Lost in France — January 30, 2007 @ 11:46 pm

  55. Petite, I am so jealous, it sounds wonderful! Have a fabulous holiday. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

    My guess would be Mr. Frog, hands down. In fact I’m quite surprised that he wasn’t the #1 guess in every comment box. If it is Jim though, I think that would be very nice…I think we all miss him.

    Comment by California Reader — January 31, 2007 @ 12:30 am

  56. Maryam of My Marrakesh???

    frog with a blog?? since he seems to know, perhaps it is him??

    hmmmmm, could be anyone:)

    Comment by kim — January 31, 2007 @ 3:40 am

  57. Petites’s going on the hippie trail and for some reason I’m more than a little excited. I think you’re meeting someone you met last time you went travelling alone or your Dad. Either way, have a great time and don’t worry I have short legs too!

    Comment by Sue — January 31, 2007 @ 8:52 am

  58. idunno why butiam quite sure that it is Bono!

    Comment by hera — January 31, 2007 @ 9:14 am

  59. My girlfriends went to Fez this time last year – without me- and had a blast. The Riad was out of this world, although the thing they found the hardest was just sitting and being and people watching – something I could spend hours doing – but the culture and the Moroccon men, sadly didn’t allow that. In fact as soon as they paused to look at something, the men pounced on them. It was a hassle, but it didn’t spoil it for them as they had each other. On your own might be more of a pain – but then Marrakesh is busier than Fez, besides a gorgeous girl like you aint going to be alone for long!!!

    Comment by Welsh Cake — January 31, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  60. I can’t eat banana’s without breaking them up – but I am seriously thinking of changing my ways now. I could do with a racy image.

    Comment by Di — January 31, 2007 @ 10:47 am

  61. I envy you! Morocco has been my home for 13 years and I have treasured every single moment of my life there..My childhood still keeps the perfume of safran, kousbara, mint, henneh..the sound of “chants andaloux” and the morning prayer coming out from the mausoleum..the djellabah for women and the fez hats for men..the medina and all the incredible artisanat..and so many things. Oh! Rabat..Fez..Meknes..Marrakech..Tanger..Casablanca..
    Anyway, in case you need any help or any special hint I would love to share my memories with you.
    Watch out the snakes at the place Jemaa el Fna (!!) and don’t forget to visit the Hotel La Mamounia and the Palais de Congres for the amazing architecture and mosaics! Be careful with the water and the..ice cubes!! I am sure you will have a wonderful time and I’m looking forward to reading your posts after your trip!

    Comment by Lion — January 31, 2007 @ 11:12 am

  62. Also wanted to add in response to the George and Sylvia situation, that I too was in a very simialr set up years ago, travelling alone, staying with elderly people – my ‘George’ took me on a drive to see something special too and it most certianly wasn’t a view. What got me though was his total disbelief that i didn’t find the sight of his 70 year old knob a turn on and that I demanded to be taken home immediatley!! Was I supposed to fall on it in wonder and gratitude???

    Comment by Welsh Cake — January 31, 2007 @ 11:24 am

  63. It’s TREVOR.

    Comment by David in London — January 31, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

  64. Don’t care whom you’re meeting, Petite, you’re going to the right place. Marrakech will be perfect, hope it is slightly warmer by then than it was last week… Also hope the place by the sea is Essaouira, THE perfect fishing-port, not yet overwhelmed by the promised golf-courses, everyone ought to go there now. The fish will be good for you as well – in fact, go for the fish tajines and get double benefit!!

    Comment by Hilary Temple — January 31, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  65. Hi petite,

    Enjoy your time in Morocco, but keep careful.

    People who lived for years there would be rather surprised the way it turns out now. I work as a consultant and spend a lot of time over here. I saw the surge of fundamentalism (is it the right english word?) and in July my wife was kicked off a restaurant in Casablaca because she was alone for lunch, although very conventionally dressed…

    Comment by Saluki — January 31, 2007 @ 6:41 pm

  66. sounds just perfect, Morocco and Mint tea :)

    Enjoy!

    Comment by Stjernesol — January 31, 2007 @ 6:45 pm

  67. When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, THAT’S AMORE!

    Comment by Trevor — January 31, 2007 @ 7:55 pm

  68. *mulling over whether or not to set up a “donate to Trevor’s rehab fund” button*

    Comment by petite — January 31, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

  69. Yes indeed, do.
    I am in favour of Trevor. Makes me laugh every time. He gets told off for his sour comments and retreats to sulk somewhere.
    No more.
    Vote for Trevor.

    Comment by Sophie — January 31, 2007 @ 10:21 pm

  70. You lucky, lucky bastard!! (As Monty Phyton would say.)
    Enjoy your holiday and bring us a lot to read about! :))
    And please eat a lot of tajine and drink a lot of mint tea for all of us who aren’t going. ;)

    Comment by Joana — January 31, 2007 @ 11:37 pm

  71. You simply must meet up with Maryam of My Marrakech – I only wish I was there, too.

    P.S. Don’t eat the salads!

    Comment by Liosliath — February 1, 2007 @ 1:33 am

  72. Borat?

    Comment by Discombobulator — February 1, 2007 @ 2:39 am

  73. I can’t believe so few people have guessed it!

    Then again, it IS incredibly surreal…

    Comment by Le Meg — February 1, 2007 @ 8:11 am

  74. My guess is … Petite is dining alone.

    Chez.Rosbif

    Comment by Chez.Rosbif — February 1, 2007 @ 10:48 am

  75. Oh! I’ve not commented before, but I can say that I am intrigued!

    Comment by C — February 1, 2007 @ 11:13 am

  76. Come on Petite, TELL US! It sounds a fab trip, whatever.

    Comment by old school friend — February 1, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  77. Mr Frog. Who else? Passing through with friends as part of a trip to visit a friend in Casablanca.

    Comment by petite — February 1, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

  78. “Meg Meg Bo Beg, BANANA fanna Fo Feg, Fee Fy Mo-Eg: Meg!” gets my guess as being the former banana cutter-upper.

    As for the dinner meeting, the hopeless romantic in me is wishing for Mr. Frog or Jim, but you are far too good at giving clever hints that get us all running in circles for it to be that easy!

    Do take lots of photos for us, and bon voyage.

    Comment by PJ Carz — February 1, 2007 @ 10:29 pm

  79. You must visit my marrakesh blog of maryam she has tips of where to shop.

    http://moroccanmaryam.typepad.com/my_marrakesh/

    I am sure you liked her too

    Comment by diane from gibraltar — February 2, 2007 @ 10:41 am

  80. I will meet you for dinner if you happen to want to hang around for a couple of weeks longer…

    Comment by anna — February 2, 2007 @ 4:59 pm

  81. Tempting as that sounds, I’m not sure I could get away with it…

    Comment by petite — February 2, 2007 @ 5:02 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

The WordPress Classic Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 80 other followers