It seems apt, to be writing on the eve of a holiday (a surprise birthday trip for T) about what would make our perfect holiday. We have a family motto: never finish one holiday without knowing when and where your next one will be! It’s important for us to have a milestone to work towards; and as a couple that bonded through our love of travel, entirely appropriate to start thinking about the next wonderful trip now.This is my entry to the Mark Warner family ambassador programme competition, which made me reflect on how what we think of as a ‘perfect holiday’ has changed as we have grown, firstly as individuals, then as a couple, and now we have a small family of our own. The only constant I can think of when I think of perfect holidays right from childhood, is how important food has been to all of them! As a budding amateur food stylist and nutrition student, of course I was going to enter the ‘serious foodie’ category. This is a mini tour of my perfect holidays through the ages, as told by the wonderful things we have eaten around the world.
Growing up I was a fidget, my family picked holiday locations based on nearby exploration opportunities for me, because my perfect holiday was about learning. They could read and doze in the sun, whilst I pottered around coastal villages, craft shops or archaeological sites, soaking up history. As a family we’d bond over visits to local food markets and fishing trips (where I was chief translator) followed by epic feasts of beautiful, vibrantly-flavoured local produce. My parents cultivated a love of food at every occasion, and it is so much at the heart of our family holidays that my Dad always packs his favourite chef’s knives in the luggage.My first step into the real world after university, and boy did I throw myself into it – straight on a plane for a solo culinary tour of Japan. A holiday for me was about making my own, different, path in the world. My first ever taste of sushi was at 6am in Tsukiji fish market. I learnt to make soba, tried kaiseki ryori and found countless other opportunities to explore a culture through its traditions, flavours and textures. It started a newfound joy for travel and exploration; and new ideas about what a perfect holiday is. Fast forward a few years, and we discovered if you want to make or break a relationship you should stick on your backpacks and camp in the Middle East! The perfect holiday was to challenge yourself to do something new. Indeed, my overland trek with (new boyfriend!) T in 2009 was enlightening in many ways, we indulged our love for outdoor adventures, and found culture shocks as landscapes changed from snowstorms to meadows to desert. Cooking on a gas ring in a sandstorm on a budget was one of the more challenging moments; the sweet, fragrant herby salads of Iran and the heady scent of ever-present rosewater were some of the more evocative and memorable ones. The Middle East trip obviously made our relationship, because five years later we found ourselves taking another career-break for our honeymoon. Not ones to do things by halves we spent 3 months in New Zealand and Asia – extreme sports, jungle trekking and good, clean water-park fun were on the itinerary; not to mention wine-tasting in Marlborough, Thai cookery in Chiang Mai and so much wonderful vibrant street food with Indochine influences in Borneo. Maybe not always the luxury that most people associate with honeymoon, but a perfect indulgence of passions for us. When our daughter, A, arrived in 2013, we braved our first trip as a family (as it happens to a Mark Warner resort in Lemnos) when she was 5 months old and found a new meaning for the perfect holiday – one that balances all the things that have made a holiday great in the past for us. There was some tearing around trying activities in the breezy bay, and some sitting in the sun with a book. It was a holiday for baby – time with mummy & daddy in the pool; and a holiday for us whilst she had a whale of a time exploring paints and sleeping in the cool and calm of childcare. It was the first time we had relaxed and slept well in months, and a chance to poke our heads above the parapet of new parenthood to remember the whole world out there. And the food? There was some indulgence with sun-downer cocktails at the bar each night; and some restraint, with exercise every day and healthy meals of locally-caught grilled fresh seafood and mountains of salad. A started her food memories here too: she had just started weaning and exploring the fun of new tastes at the breakfast buffet each day which caused no end of fun. The next perfect holiday is likely to build on the same theme of balance, but as A is now a little older, we hope to share some more of our passions for activities and adventure with her (like snow sports!), as well as giving us all a much-needed break. The perfect holiday will be about how we can grow and explore our interests as a family. And yes, we will pick somewhere where there is wonderful food!