Michael Mcmahon

WINTER TRAVEL SPECIALThe great escape from other people

Michael McMahon goes skinny-dipping high in the Spanish Pyrenees

There is rust on the griddle of the barbecue, dust on the shoulder of the Pimm’s bottle and must in the air in the summerhouse, where the cushions and the picnic rugs are damp. Each day, dusk limps in earlier and earlier, and it can’t be long before the spirits start to go as flat as the paddling pool that has long been packed away. And yet now that the holiday season is over, the best time for a holiday has arrived – particularly if you have already had one, for stolen holidays, like stolen kisses, are sweet. Award yourself a bonus week or weekend away upon an impulse, and you will probably have far more fun than you had in the August fortnight you looked forward to for so long. With no time to build unrealistic expectations, you’ll certainly be far more relaxed.

Any number of advantages conspire to make now the perfect time to snatch an extra break on the Continent. For starters, there is the matter of time itself. When you wind your watch forward in the Chunnel, on the ferry or after take-off, you roll back autumn by an hour for every day you are away. Sure, it’ll be dark for an hour longer in the very early morning, but, unless you plan to get up to help the local farmer with his milking, you won’t be around to notice. You will, however, feel the difference in the late afternoon, when long shadows linger reassuringly and there is no sense of being hurried reluctantly indoors. In late September, Continental sunshine plays on al-fresco ice cubes, come the cocktail hour; G&Ts at home reflect electric light.

Of course, you don’t have to have a glass in your hand at six o’clock, and when there’s daylight to be enjoyed, there are perhaps healthier ways to relax.

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