Another summer over and, once again, the question forms in my mind: where not to go on holiday next year? It seems a silly question – for the list, surely, is endless. There are all those places which have simply nothing worth seeing. The homes of light industry and flyovers, with no distinguishing architecture, scenery or climate. The Midwest, and its English equivalent, the East Midlands. The industrial towns of the German plains, the grim squalor that is the urban Third World.
However, there is another – rather smaller – list of places that, although they are very much on the tourist circuit, have absolutely no appeal. This is not just because they are likely to be overcrowded or overpriced. The sights of Greece, Rome and Egypt can be both, yet are wonderful must-sees that never disappoint. The Great Barrier Reef and Grand Canyon both do what they say on the tin, and France – most of it, anyway (see below) – is Valhalla.
No, I am talking about another list, an itinerary of destinations that hold no appeal, not for any concrete reason but simply because it is almost impossible to imagine having a good time there. This may be because of over-popularity or cost, but for the most part it is because a certain kind of over-familiarity has bred a certain kind of contempt. These are places to which I have never travelled, and which I harbour no desire to visit. Their familiarity comes not from personal experience, but (in a few cases) from the experience of friends or, mostly, from the related experience of the multitudes who have decided, in the most lazy way, that these are places to go. These spots crop up time and again in the lazy travel supplements, in the litany of destinations favoured by the well-heeled and/or the under-imaginationed.