When I was a kid, we always used to go on holiday to France. We'd take about three weeks and head to a Eurocamp or Sunsites campsite, or in later years, we'd hitch our caravan to the back of the car and drive through France until we reached our destination. This usually took a couple of days, during which I happily passed the time with my head stuck in a book, or when that got boring, squabbling with my older sister. Fun times.
I have fractured memories of a lot of these holidays. I remember sitting in a Eurocamp tent playing a game where you had to put on an astonishing amount of clothing before trying to eat some chocolate with a knife and fork, and getting a sticker to put in my camp "passport" for taking part. I remember being in Biarritz in torrential rain, nearly getting flooded out, but loving the enormous puddles (they came most of the way up my legs!) and the brand new experience of swimming in an outdoor swimming pool (warm) while the rain fell on us (cold). I remember learning to windsurf and falling of my board while showing off and mugging for my dad's video camera.
But the very best of our holiday destinations was Annecy in the French Alps, an absolutely beautiful lake surrounded by mountains.
We went there several times and I remember it as a place of almost constant sunshine where I got as brown as a berry spending my days just running around the campsite, dabbling in streams and jumping in and out of the lake.
We had an inflatable Zodiac with an outboard motor and we'd spend happy days zipping across the water being towed behind the boat on a variety of toys. One thing that we loved was going to the opposite side of the lake to our campsite where it was possible to climb up a cliff and jump off it into the water. It felt like the smallest, highest ledge and it took an act of astonishing courage to jump off it the first time, before it became commonplace and we'd race each other to get the ledge and jump. I used to love heading into Annecy, a beautiful town that had the most wonderful ice cream parlour where the sundaes were always served with a sparkler or a fancy tissue paper decoration. I remember watching the Bastille Day fireworks display - always impressive, not least because of the spectacle of the hundreds of boats that always took to the lake to get the best views of the festivities.
We were almost always accompanied by our neighbours, a family with three kids. Lucy and I used to spend most of our time together - she was closest to me in age and we could spend hours inventing games - diving off the tethered boats and investigating the bottom of the lake for treasure and things like that. We even had a notebook that we'd jot down the things that we found. I also remember one particularly happy afternoon spent in my little tent with Lucy obsessively learning the John Barnes rap. You've got to hold and give, but do it at the right time....