Pre-pandemic, I went on six all-inclusive coach holidays with people twice and thrice my age. Several things happened: I won the bingo on my first night in Scarborough; my appetite for an absolute bargain was repeatedly satisfied; I was charmed by a slower mode of travelling; my eyes were opened to the virtues of cross-generational encounters and I took a shine to the drivers. (Best driver joke: “Small group today, ladies and gents. Average height, 5ft 4.”)
The idea of a ‘Gran Tour’ came to me while on the telephone to my great aunt, who told me she’d recently had four nights in Torquay, return coach travel, nightly entertainment, 16 pints of craft lager, four three-course dinners and the company of people of a pensionable age – all for less than £100. I hung up, booked six trips, went on them, and survived to tell the tale.
The Gran Tour: Travels with my Elders was published last autumn. The book was not endorsed by Richard and Judy and nor was it in any way a bestseller, but it did pay a significant dividend: it equipped me with the knowledge that an older person is no more likely to be unbearable than a younger one. (Which is why my new housemate is 85, but that’s another story – literally: The Marmalade Diaries: The True Story of an Odd Couple will be published, for better or worse, next year.)
I’m still in touch with loads of people I met on my coach travels
But back to coach holidays – and more specifically, why you might want to consider one this summer. The evidence is persuasive. For one (and I know I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating), they’re great value. For two, going by coach allows you to drop down a few gears and holiday at an easy and soothing pace. For three, you’ll be shown how reliably rich and good-looking your doorstep is. For four, it’s a staycation, which means it’s more likely to actually happen. And for five, you’re bound to meet some good people.
I’m still in touch with loads of people I met on my coach travels. There’s Mick, a part-time philosopher from the Midlands, who’s worn nothing but shorts for 50 years because “they’re just easier to put on”. There’s Jill, who during our trip to Lake Como flung her bra into George Clooney’s garden. (When asked why, Jill just shrugged and said, “Well, I’ve plenty of others.”) And there’s Gary, who after a few pints in the bar of the County Hotel in Llandudno confessed to keeping his wife in the boot of his car. (Her ashes, of course, which he scatters whenever he finds a place he thinks she would like.)
I haven’t been on a coach holiday since they resumed in May. I’ve been meaning to, but keep getting forced to stay at home. Not by the NHS, but my housemate, who keeps finding things for me to do around the house, and sometimes even on top of it.