For years, Caroline and I have been squabbling over where to spend our summer holidays. Her ideal is a family-friendly Mediterranean resort where she can lie on a beach reading a paperback, while mine involves renting a car and driving from place to place, staying in Airbnbs and packing in as many ‘fun’ activities as we can. Last year she got her way; this year it was my turn.
So we took an easyJet flight from Gatwick to Munich. Admittedly not perfect, given that we were going to Italy, but it was the cheapest deal I could find: £450 all-in, including the kids. A bargain, even factoring in a 6.25 a.m. departure and a return flight to Luton. We ended up sprinting to the departure lounge after I’d miscalculated how long it would take to get through security — the perfect adrenalin-fuelled start to the holiday as far as I was concerned, although Caroline took a different view.
At Munich we rented a Ford Galaxy and set off on the 200-mile trip to the Rosa Alpina in the Dolomites. I daresay some cosmopolitan readers will have heard of this hotel, which is about as luxurious as they come. It’s at San Cassiano, 1,500 metres above sea level, and prices normally start at £500 a night for a double room. However, I had managed to bag a ‘media rate’ (a perk of being a hack) which made it just about affordable, at least for four nights. It also meant Caroline was a bit less grumpy about going on a ‘Toby holiday’.
Hard to say what the highlight of this part of the holiday was, it was such a success. The hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing were all great fun, even if Caroline did shriek with anxiety every time one of the boys strayed from the prescribed route. Then there was the hotel’s ‘cinema room’, where we spent a happy evening watching Dr No. Above all, there was the complimentary breakfast, where the children quickly discovered that they could order as many Nutella-slathered pancakes as they liked.
Probably the best bit for me was when 14-year-old Sasha lost her iPhone in a meadow. She only found it was missing once we’d got back to the car and had no idea where she’d dropped it. All she knew was that it had run out of juice, which meant no prospect of calling it. She’d been all over the meadow, which was marshy and overgrown, so it was needle-in-a-haystack time. We all dutifully trudged back down and started looking for it, but without much hope. It wasn’t long before the tears started flowing — and that was Caroline and me imagining the prospect of spending a holiday with Sasha without her beloved phone. But then, miracle of miracles, I found it. I held it aloft and let out a triumphant cry, at which point Sasha gazed at me with a look of absolute adoration. That doesn’t happen every day, let me tell you.
The second part of the holiday, which involved five days in Munich, wasn’t quite such a triumph. Caroline had found an Airbnb in a large block of flats which seemed to be kitted out for sex tourists. There were jazzy pictures of naked couples all over the walls with bolts of rainbow-coloured lightning shooting out of them, and the master bedroom had a hook over the bed, presumably so you could rig up some kind of pulley system. In the ‘Welcome Pack’ assembled by the owner and her husband, there was a list of local pick-up joints and at the end it said: ‘For special wishes or tastes you are welcome to ask us. We can give you a few tips.’ I was tempted to ask where I could buy a jar of Marmite, but I don’t think that’s what they meant.
The ‘fun’ activity was white-water rafting on the river Isar, about an hour’s drive away. I should have realised what we were in for when the man in charge of our inflatable introduced himself as an unemployed Hungarian trapeze artist — a daredevil from central casting. The boys loved it, but Caroline spent most of the white-knuckle ride with her eyes shut. In retrospect, I should have refused when he invited me to jump out of the raft and dive into the water just as we were approaching some particularly fast-flowing rapids. My tailbone still hasn’t recovered.
The local park in Munich was pleasant, even if it was full of naked men — no, not flashers, just perfectly respectable Germans out for an afternoon stroll. We also managed to squeeze in a tour of Bayern Munich’s stadium, a trip to the BMW Museum and some of the best sorbet I’ve ever tasted at Eiskonditorei Sarcletti. All in all, a pretty enjoyable ten days.
Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator.