Holiday in Brussels?

Sunday Blog 99 – 27th August 2023

Several decades ago when I worked in London, a colleague shared a birthday with me, albeit she was a few years older. It was one of our many points of connection. She was a character in so many ways but her staunch dislike for committing to a relationship was interesting and refreshing to me as a thirty-something woman keen on starting a family with no Mr Right in sight.

“If you want to go to Paris, and he wants to go to Berlin for a holiday, then you have to compromise and go to Brussels. And who wants to do that?”

Whilst it was a little unkind to Brussels, I could see her point. But I was not hardline enough in maintaining singledom. A decade and a half later I got married, and the holiday conundrum is an ongoing first world challenge I have to negotiate.

Our first overseas holiday together was in Bali, a short three hour flight from Perth. I didn’t adequately plan ahead for the reality that while I can never get enough sitting around the pool reading and writing time, darling husband can do that for tops one morning.

And so, nek minit I found myself up in the air in a para glider, which while it was pleasant enough, did leave me wondering about the health and safety aspects of coming in to land. I had also undertaken a sweaty and exhausting riverside walk before ending up in a canoe. The photos show me smiling but really, I just wanted to be reading a book.

Cambodia was another holiday where largely I was in the clear because it was a dental tourism visit for him and he was mostly out of action. However, there was the tour of Angkor Wat. What I really wanted to do was pop down in a tuk-tuk at dawn and see the incredible temples in the dawn light. What we actually did was a bike tour of the Temple. Run by a well-meaning NGO, the tour started with a cycle around the drainage areas, a whizz through a village where some poor family had to put up with us milling around awkwardly and asking stupid questions. Then more cycling, and yet more cycling.

Generally, Cambodia is very hot. This day was no exception, and a migraine started to emerge every time I got back on the bike and peddled between stops. By the time we arrived at Angkor Wat itself, I was a broken woman. I limped around the temples as best I could. There would be several more hours and many more stops after this one. But Angkor Wat was a major tuk-tuk junction and I could act on the desperate escape plan I’d been hatching as I peddled along with my thumping head.

I chose freedom and the tuk-tuk ride of shame. The negotiations with the driver were swift and sure. There was room on the tuk-tuk for the bike and me and I left without a backward glance. He drove me back to the offices of the earnest NGO where I could return the detested bike and then walk the short distance back to our hotel.

I will never forget the exquisite relief of air conditioning, a shower and an enormous bed to loll about on. The headache immediately disappeared and I went back to reading my book, writing and generally enjoying myself.

As happens in Cambodia, a violent rain storm erupted and I spent at least two more happy hours alone, while darling husband was still at it, peddling in stifling, now very wet heat. When he finally returned he conceded that perhaps he was a little tired and wet but maintained stoutly that he’d enjoyed himself.

But I learned from Bali and Cambodia. I’ve hit on an almost perfect compromise which is not exactly Brussels. So here I am in Salzburg while darling husband is cycling through the villages and mountains of Austria to Lake Bled. I eluded all suggestions of getting an electric bike and joining him and his formidably fit siblings for this escapade. They are definitely not on e-bikes. One must feel every hill and incline!

I will be popping onto an air conditioned bus and will meet up with them all at the end of the grand cycling tour, in Ljubljana. We will then make our way to Greece by airplane and ferry where they can churn around the islands, swimming up to five kilometres per day while I do my yoga and waft around the hotel on my own, reading, writing and leisure-ing.

Closing out with a picture of me on the Sound of Music tour, which darling husband was particularly keen not to have to participate in.

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