As a rugged, cutting edge individual traveler, I have over the years subjected my family to many brutal bodyclock-shattering 'holidays'. They have usually begun with a midnight dash to Dover to get a 'nice early start', beat the traffic, save £4.78 on the cross-channel fare etc. Only 1172 km to Barcelona, chaps! I need a wee, Dad/I'm hungry/batteries for my stereo . . . are we there yet? ... So this year 'we' decided to fly. Breakfast in Surbiton, dinner in Laroque. Easy!
The only tricky bit was extricating the posh people-carrier from the compound at Barcelona's futuristic airport.
We easily found our apartment, thanks to Country Cousins' super map, passing the inviting communal swimming pool on our way up into the Albères, then straight back for dinner at Les Palmiers - gorgeous food and top service!
Next morning, off to the plage for some serious soleil. Stop off at Champion on the way home for supplies. I put on my chef's hat for the first of many garlic- and olive oil-soaked seafood banquets.
A couple of trips to exquisite, pedestrian-friendly Perpignan, with its seriously constructed Palace of the Kings of Majorca (a lot cheaper than Hampton Court Palace, if beaucoup less posh). Lunch in an authentically atmospheric Moroccan restaurant. Cous Cous - so good they named it twice. Erotically contoured aubergines and peppers from the nearby African market and back to chez nous for ratatouille and Toulouse sausages, washed down with a bottle or two of grown-up Côtes du Roussillon.
As we all know, it's been a rather unsettled summer right across Europe. We were spared flooding but were treated to some spectacular thunder and lightning display from our mountainside ringside viewpoint. Also some quite literally spooktastic fog.
On Sunday, a spectacular drive south along the coast road into Spain, and a gorgeous and inexpensive paella lunch. Recommended, although the traffic back was a bit large.
Spent a day at Ceret, where the pricey modern art museum was frankly a disappointment after the stunning (and free) Tate Modern in London. Better to sit and do lunch of pan tomate and serrano ham under the trees in the town - just like Matisse.
Another fab day at arty Collioure, swimming and wandering the back streets, where we even bought a couple of paintings. Fascinating late-afternoon trip to the fish market at the lovely Port Vendres. Watch your fingers, kids, in the tanks of live, fierce-looking conger eels!
Next door, you take a ticket and wait for your number to be called. Then choose from groaning tables of poisson and coquillage. We went for a huge sea bass, which went down a treat with a bottle of local white wine. Formidable.
Three weeks of this and we'd all had enough (not). As my Nana Walker used to say: 'we can stand any amount of this.'
A peaceful meander over the Pyrenées back to Barcelona 'the slow way'. Bargain lunch in the Catalan capital, quick visit to the stunning cathedral and cloisters, then airport/Heathrow/ The Red Rose (Surbiton's finest) for traditional English Sunday tea - chicken jalfrezi. Any papadoms?