A woman's favourite destination is a cosy little spot that goes by the name of "G". But Europe comes a close second. The Continent haemorrhages history. There are hosts of ghosts in every nook and cranny. The whole place is casually strewn with medieval citadels, grand chateaux and Roman ruins, which is great because being photographed in front of ancient monuments makes a girl look soooo much younger!
I've lived in London for much of the last 30 years. The biggest benefit of living in England is its proximity to Europe. Every spare weekend, I've ricocheted across the Channel for close encounters of the Continental kind.
Every spare weekend, I’ve ricocheted across the Channel for close encounters of the Continental kind. Credit:iStock
As the Edmund Hillary of social climbing, I have a head for heights, which is why I've yodelled my way around the Swiss Alps and done a little light Julie Andrews-style twirling in Austria. I've patted the Lipizzaner horses (one of Vienna's, um, mane attractions) and enjoyed concerts by locals boys Haydn, Beethoven, Mahler, Liszt, Bruckner, Schubert, Schumann, Strauss, Mozart and Freud (okay, he didn't play an instrument, but he did deal with highly strung people).
Bayreuth is where I go for Wagner, and Berlin for cabaret. Yes, the German language is grating and the food is boring – every time I eat in Germany I want to scream, "You people occupied France and Italy! Did you learn nothing?" – but their musical menu is scrumptious.
I've done laps in the silky, shark-free Med and clambered over Greece's ancient mosaics, amphitheatres and smashed marble pedestals. In Delos I became a columnist, literally, when photographed atop a plinth (I always knew one day my plinth would come). I've cycled the Algarve, danced the flamenco in Cordoba, been introduced as "Caffe Latte" on Italian book tours. Dubrovnik, Prague, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Venice – I've been lucky enough to sample the whole geographical minestrone.
But my favourite place, by far, is France. When initially visiting Paris, my first thought was, "Isn't a bidet really too small a bathtub in which to wash your whole body?" I really didn't understand much about the French, except that they have a proud tradition of hating absolutely everyone. I also knew you could tell a French film by the amount of talking which goes on in it. The French don't really need a traditional army; they could simply bore their enemies to death with a crack team of existentialist philosophers spreading ennui. The opponents they don't succeed in smugging to death, they could just wipe out with passive smoke inhalation from Gitanes fumes.
Obviously, I wasn't in any danger of breaking the savoir-faire barrier. Arriving at the Gare du Nord, I presumed I'd be arrested by the Chic Police and told: "Never darken our Dior again." Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. It was love at first bite. The gateaux, the chateaux, the glamour, the galleries, the vintage vino, the flirtation … After a day or two in Paris, you realise it's not that the French are arrogant; it's just that the rest of the world suffers from delusions of adequacy.
Of course, post-Brexit, these easy, breezy excursions will become much harder. There'll be visas and passport queues. I'm not sure Boris Johnson and the other pinstripe-underpanted Tory pterodactyls have thought through a Europe-ectomy. Scotland will have a referendum and remain in Europe. Ireland will reunite and remain in Europe. Then Wales will realise that it can't cope without funding from Brussels and skedaddle back to the EU. All that will be left of Great Britain will be a shrunken little England – a museum of morris dancers and spotted-dick digesters, not so much Rule Britannia as Fool Britannia.
Okay, gotta go. Must pop over to Rome for a risotto and Poland for a polka, while I still can.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale September 8.
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