Thursday, July 18, 2024

SARAH VINE: Why would ANY of us want to go on holiday to Europe ever again?

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This may seem like a slightly odd thing to say given the excessively damp weather we’ve been experiencing lately, but why does anyone bother going on holiday to Europe these days?

A holiday is supposed to be a pleasurable, relaxing experience: a chance to escape the day-to-day grind, recharge the batteries, maybe take in a bit of culture and top up the old vitamin D.

What it emphatically is not is being overcharged for extras by greedy airlines, treated like cattle at customs, stranded by strikes and general incompetence, and derailed by cancellations — only to arrive at your destination to find a mob of anti-tourist protesters urging you to jump off the nearest building, while squirting water on you as you tuck into your overpriced gambas a la plancha.

Nor is it being blockaded on a beach, overcharged for cab rides and meals in restaurants, being harassed by leering locals or threatened by gangs. Holidays are supposed to be fun — and where’s the fun in any of that?

Last year my son and his friends made the mistake of going on holiday to Croatia, writes SARAH VINE. Pictured: Opatija

Take my daughter and her two best friends, who have just come back from Italy. They went to a small town on the coast just outside Rome where, as it happens, I used to go as a child after my parents moved there in the 1970s.

It’s a charming place, off the beaten track and not especially picturesque owing to the somewhat bombastic Mussolini-era architecture. But it has some beautiful beaches and it’s relatively inexpensive. They had a lovely time — save for one thing.

Wherever they went, groups of young Italian men would follow them, staring and taking photographs on their phones. One evening, with a group being especially leery at a nearby table in a restaurant, they appealed to the waiter. He just shrugged his shoulders and said: ‘What do you expect? You’re English.’

Meanwhile, last year my son and his friends made the mistake of going on holiday to Croatia. As well as being overcharged with menaces for cab rides, one of the females in his group found herself cornered outside a club by three men who ordered her to hand over her money and phone. If she tried to call for help, they said she’d be stabbed. Or worse.

Whether in Italy, Spain, France, Greece or Portugal, it seems that British holidaymakers are increasingly reviled, taken advantage of, treated with contempt — or made to feel like criminals for simply trying to have a nice time.

This latest development, the targeting of tourists by groups of angry protesters in popular Spanish resorts, is not only intimidating and dangerous, it’s also completely irrational.

As a Londoner, I know how frustrating it is to be priced out of your own town by an influx of rich foreigners. So I can appreciate the sentiments of locals in Barcelona and the Balearics who feel that the explosion in Airbnbs and holiday rentals is making it harder for them to find affordable housing.

But rich foreigners bring many advantages, not least a massive boost to the local economy.

If this is not translating into advantages for locals, then that’s hardly the tourists’ fault: it’s thanks to the often corrupt and greedy local officials who, in their desire to keep the flow of cash-cow tourists coming, have over the decades failed to impose sensible limits on tourism.

And that’s because they like our money too much. More than any other nationality, the Brits like to ‘spend out’ on holiday — more than £65 billion last year. That’s an awful lot of cerveza and Aperol spritz, and that seems to have suited everyone just fine for years — until it didn’t.

There are some exceptions. In Menorca, the least fashionable of the Balearic islands, the local government enforces strict boundaries about where holiday homes can be located. It is simply not possible to obtain a tourist licence for properties in the main towns and villages, or in rural areas, meaning local residents aren’t priced out and there are still plenty of small farms and businesses. Fines are draconian.

As a result, the island retains a strong community spirit and visitor numbers are limited. If popular destinations in the rest of Spain and Europe had adopted such measures, they would not now find themselves facing mobs of angry locals targeting innocent tourists. This is their problem, not ours. And I for one don’t see why we should put up with it.

Emma’s cop out?

Emma Raducanu is treated courtside by her physiotherapy team in her fourth-round defeat against Lulu Sun on Sunday

Emma Raducanu is treated courtside by her physiotherapy team in her fourth-round defeat against Lulu Sun on Sunday

I spent a happy Sunday afternoon watching the tennis, including Emma Raducanu’s defeat against the qualifier Lulu Sun.

It’s clear that the young Raducanu has a number of troubling injuries, which is a great shame. 

What I was surprised to see, however, was her being treated courtside by her physiotherapy team. I had no idea this was allowed — surely tennis is as much a game of physical endurance as it is skill? If a player can just stop proceedings for a quick massage, isn’t that a bit of a cop out? 

Me+Em is the label of choice for Labour’s new leading ladies, including Angela Rayner and Victoria Starmer.

It’s also the brainchild of Clare Hornby, leading light of the ‘Chipping Norton set’ — which also includes rival dressmaker (and ex-PM’s wife) Samantha Cameron. Politics and fashion: they’re smaller worlds than you think.

Courteney, the cool Friend

Her latest self-deprecating stunt on social media shows her working out straight-faced in the gym before emerging — in a black bikini — from her fridge-freezer

Her latest self-deprecating stunt on social media shows her working out straight-faced in the gym before emerging — in a black bikini — from her fridge-freezer

Courteney Cox was typecast as a neurotic control freak in Friends, but in real life she appears to be the opposite. 

Her latest self-deprecating stunt on social media shows her working out straight-faced in the gym before emerging — in a black bikini — from her fridge-freezer. ‘What?’ she says. ‘It’s cryotherapy.’ If only she weren’t so annoyingly slim, one could almost love her.

Extinction Rebellion is planning a three-day ‘mass occupation’ of the grounds of Windsor Castle next month. In other words, hordes of self-righteous ecohooligans are going to turn up and trash one of the most beautiful expanses of greenery in the land. Brilliant. I’m sure that will convert many to their cause.

Tracy-Ann Oberman (pictured with the rest of the cast including Damian Lewis and Stephen Managan) at a Shakespeare event in central London

Tracy-Ann Oberman (pictured with the rest of the cast including Damian Lewis and Stephen Managan) at a Shakespeare event in central London

Only in this country would 200 people sit in the rain for three hours in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s First Folio. 

On Monday, Shakespeare For Every Day Of The Year: Live! at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre featured a stellar cast, from Damian Lewis to Stephen Mangan and Tony Robinson. 

For me the most moving moment came as Tracy-Ann Oberman (pictured with the rest of the cast) recited Shylock’s monologue from The Merchant Of Venice: ‘Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands?… If you prick us, do we not bleed?… And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?’ How those words, written four centuries ago, still resonate. 

President Biden declares he will stand down only ‘if the Lord Almighty’ himself tells him he can’t beat Trump. Some people really do think they have a God-given right to rule, don’t they? 

I must confess, I feel a bit sorry for Liz Truss. I’ve never met a woman with so much misplaced confidence in her own abilities. It’s going to be tough for her out there in the real world. 

The new Deputy PM Angela Rayner strikes me as a cross between Fleabag and Patsy in Ab Fab. She and I could never be friends, of course, what with me being ‘Tory scum’ and all — but in a different life I would have liked to share a bottle of wine with her. 

I suppose there’s one advantage to the much-mooted suggestion Sir Keir Starmer will reverse Brexit. At least it will widen the options when the time comes to emigrate.

Jeremy Corbyn in line to swear allegiance to the King: ‘This is such a load of nonsense, isn’t it?’ Vile man. 

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