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Onwards and upwards

Our neighbour keeps reminding me that the days are already growing longer, that we’re past the darkest day, that spring is just around the corner - but it’s hard to believe it.

The mountains towering above this village have snow-clad shoulders and deep frowns on their frozen faces. The air is hard and sharp, the sky leaden, the scenery completely monochrome, the square is deserted, not a car in site - you’d think no-one lived here at all.

I loathe January. No flowers, no tourists, no swimming in the river, no Bank Holidays to look forward to for months and months, and worse, the only village event on the calendar is the Tripe Evening. Gulp.

In self-defence, I’m diving into the holiday brochures. All those pictures of swimming pools and beaches, palm trees and beach bars - makes you feel warmer just thinking of it.

Personally, I’m wondering about Italy. After eighteen months of doing my daughter’s Italian homework (I’m getting quite good marks these days) I feel it would be good to practice my irregular verbs on a real live Italian.

Venice? Or Florence? Or Rome? A tricky decision. All three are dream destinations. But Venice is the hottest possibility for the simple reason that you can get an overnight train from Nice all the way (you have to change trains all night for Florence and Rome) and the tickets are amazingly cheap, even including the cost of couchettes.

I’m wondering about using my “billet annuel” to pay for it. (If you haven’t caught onto this one yet, pick up a leaflet from the SNCF.) On the other hand, I quite like the idea of plunging into a mad whirlwind of culture and shopping in Paris this spring, so perhaps we ought to save the railway tickets for that one.

Time to look at the Ryanair site and see if they’ve got any bargains. Of course there are the routes from Nimes and Montpellier, but from here flights from Carcassonne are more interesting - I’m especially keen on the idea of Dublin. Peat fires, Guinness, soft mild Irish air, literary giants, mist, horses, Irish music... Or is Dublin going to be filled with brash American fast food restaurants and chain stores?

Hmmm. Perhaps Barcelona might be a good idea. Or what’s that theme park down there? Port Aventura, isn’t it? My friend M says it’s great - every bit as good as Disneyland Paris - and much easier to get to as it’s only down the motorway. I wonder if we could combine a trip there with a few days of culture-vulturing in Barcelona? Perhaps stop at the Picasso museum on the way back?

What? What snow? What wind? Oh you mean all that stuff happening out there on the other side of that window! Oh never mind about that. I don’t care what the weather does...

I’ve just found a brochure about the Dom-Toms. Now there’s a thought. A nice cheap trip to the Caribore, a way of leaving the Hexagon without ever leaving France. And what’s the best season to visit Martinique and Guadeloupe? Oops, yes there it is. January! Ooh er, Missis. I’m starting to feel hot all over.

Pass that brochure over. I can feel a booking splurge coming on...

Next column will be uploaded around 15 January.

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