Bestworst holiday

17th August 2007 at 01:00
Worst: I was backpacking round Europe with a boyfriend determined to clock up the maximum miles for the least money. It was never going to be very comfortable. Because he could read maps, train timetables and Aristophanes in the original, he assumed control.

I didn't know much so it was hard to argue with him but I tried. We bickered in unbearable heat: about where to sleep, where to eat and what to do. He favoured sleeping on trains (considering two seats for the night a luxury) and the roofs of cheap youth hostels. It never rained in Greece in late August, but it did on our roof.

A classicist, he eschewed buses and walked me at noon to every archaeological site there was for a lecture, which he gave. Just for me. After a particularly unpleasant backgammon game, I attempted to leave. He foiled me, because, too vain to wear my glasses and never having sight of his map, I didn't know where I was.

In a week we'd be home; it couldn't get any worse, I thought.

Of course it did. Our bags, with passports, tickets, money and my hairbrush, were stolen I had waist-length hair. With temporary passports issued by the British Embassy that provoked a sneering response in all foreign officials, we hitched from Belgrade to London. We had no food or money. Crossing the Alps in cheesecloth was chilly. Sometimes, waiting for a lorry to stop in the rain, I felt that I would never get home again.

Best: This time I was the expert. I was taking my new boyfriend to Greece. We would look at some archaeological sites, but not all of them. We would spend lots of time relaxing. And we would take a tent, so we did not have to sleep on roofs or on beaches where we would be woken too early by the morning sun and fishermen.

And I was in love with this man. The photos all show it. There he is walking across the sand on an empty beach, the early morning light revealing the musculature of his back, the curve of his buttocks. And there at dusk, smiling at me over his beer in a taverna.

Epidaurus: at midday the ancient ruins were empty of tourists as I knew they would be. We had all that majestic wonder and mystery to ourselves. At Epidaurus-by-the-sea I took him to the secret clifftop place I'd found before, where we could sunbathe and watch the happenings on the beach, unseen by those below.

And how did we travel on this blissful holiday? It was the Magic Bus from London: a cruel journey of cramped, hard seats, infrequent stops and crazy drivers. It required an iron bladder and a stoicism no longer current. But I do not remember the journey at all: it is somehow forgotten. Perhaps, because I was in love.

Gina Crowley teaches in Gateshead

Bestworst... holiday

Over the summer, The TES Magazine is turning the spotlight from lessons to holidays. Tell us about your best and worst holiday and we'll pay you Pounds 100. Email no more than 500 words to features@tes.co.uk

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