Saturday, 8 March 2008

Teeming beaches

Holiday bliss for many people is soaking up the sun on a foreign beach absolutely jam-packed with other holiday-makers. But for me that would be unmitigated hell.

My idea of fun is categorically not being in the middle of a seething mass of humanity, dropping their ice cream on me and tripping over my legs.

If I want hordes of people, I can pop down to the local shopping centre any day of the week. I don't need to seek them out on some exotic stretch of sand.

My image of an ideal holiday is peace and quiet and stunning scenery. I want to go somewhere where I can purge my mind of the everyday hurly burly and the bustling crowds. I don't want more of the same.

What is it about a beach that's so magnetic anyway? It's only a pile of sand with water washing over it. Yes, very pretty but so are lots of other beauty spots. And you don't see much of the sand when it's covered by human bodies.

I think the attraction is a sort of unconscious territoriality. Historically it's beaches that are often invaded by enemy forces, so we like to swamp them with people now and again as a symbolic act of ownership and defiance.

Unfortunately the popularity of beaches has led to hundreds of hideous identikit resorts with their soulless promenades and high-rise hotels. You have to check the plane ticket to remind yourself where you are.

No, forget the beaches, or at least the crowded ones. My idea of rapture is just me and my shadow on a deserted mountain top somewhere. Jenny's welcome too, of course, but that's quite enough company, thanks.


TextualHealing said...

I tend to agree - but maybe that just makes us misanthropes!! And if I had kids giving them a safe environment to play in would be my main holiday riority

Mudflapgypsy said...

I must be a misanthrope too then though i would always class myself as a malcontent in work.
A citybreak of three days leaves me traumatised and three days is my absolute limit. I much prefer somewhere away from the madding crowds, Mrs M and I have been to the same spot in Crete twice now and it is our little getaway. If there are 4 people, not including us, on the beach then it is a busy day. I never was one for a beach holiday but when the beach is empty and the water is fantastic for swimming and snorkelling I am hooked. Not religiously lying on the beach all day mind, just a few hours before lunch.

The only noise is the sound of the waves and minimal light pollution means the milky way is an astounding view at night.

I want to go back please.

Heading to the mountains in the summer hopefully, no beach this year.

Nick said...

TH - Oh I don't think misanthropic is fair at all. I have plenty of time for warm, intelligent, humourous human beings. But humans en masse simply jostling all round me and getting in my way - no thanks!

Muddy - Same applies. Wouldn't say I'm a malcontent either, I'm generally a cheerful, optimistic soul. There are actually cities I love like Venice and Vancouver but again it's the quiet districts I head for. Your Crete hideaway sounds wonderful.

Wisewebwoman said...

LOL, Nick:
"I think the attraction is a sort of unconscious territoriality. Historically it's beaches that are often invaded by enemy forces, so we like to swamp them with people now and again as a symbolic act of ownership and defiance."
Still laughing at that!
Oh, how I despise crowded beaches, I've never associated them with happiness of any kind. I always flogged off on my own with a pen and paper and book and knitting. Still do. I'm lucky enough in NL to find miles and miles of empty beaches. Friends and kindres spirits invited of course!
And I'm the most social of creatures.
So there.

Baino said...

Haha . .we're spoiled for choice here, the further you go, the quieter the beach but for some reason, every man and his dog wants to sit on Bondi Beach. It's a hole . .dangerous surf and bang in the middle of a city . . my choice Hawks Nest, 2 hours up the coast . . water like the Agean, dolphins in the sea. Jimmy's Beach for the littlies and Main Beach for the surf. Koalas in the trees, lace monitors on the floor and everything closed by 9pm! Perfect.

Frankly, the fewer people who see me in my cossies the better!

Nick said...

www- Yes, I bet there are masses of beautiful secluded beaches in Newfoundland. There are quite a few here actually, I don't get to them often enough. I wish I was more gregarious, but I get very nervous around large numbers of people.

Baino - Oh yes, there are some fabulous beaches round Sydney. Never got as far as Hawks Nest though. I love koalas - such tranquil creatures, all they do is eat eucalyptus and sleep. They've got the right idea.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I love beaches, but not crowded ones. I love solitary beaches, preferably off-season, and my pet peeve is people who, with an entire stretch of empty sand available, choose to plunk themselves down right next to me, blanket to blanket, with a boombox that completely drowns out the sounds of nature that attracted me in the first place. They always smoke, too.

And I leave, with angry looks and muttering nasty words.

Nick said...

Heart, it sounds to me like they were plonking themselves right next to you to try and provoke you in some way. Otherwise why not keep their distance? Perhaps the smoking was a wind-up as well. And were you a single woman on your own? Some people just like to enrage others for the sheer hell of it.

Thriftcriminal said...

I am 100% with you on that. However at this point in my existence I have 2 small kids, so if I want to read a book without being required to be involved in some complex game that has sprung from their wonderful imaginations, I need a beach for them to dig in. That said I need a beach where there are relatively few people and I feel comfortable that my kids are visible and OK at all times, so northern France will do nicely. One day I will have solitude :-)

Nick said...

Thrifty, I can understand the reasoning re demanding children. And good point about their being visible and not lost in the crowds. Yes, one day you'll have solitude - and then Sod's law says you'll miss the little imps!

steph said...

Nick - I'm with you on this one. I hate sitting on beaches to sunbathe, and especially crowded ones. Even when my kids were little I disliked it. I love swimming in the sea and walking along beaches, but that's where the fascination ends.

Every year my husband and I go to Connemara to walk the deserted beaches. That's my idea of heaven and that's where I've requested that my ashes will finally lie.

Dave Hampton said...

Nick, I absolutely agree that a beach full of well-oiled people frying in the sun is not much of a vacation.

I love the water, but have become much more fond of sailing. I can charter a nice 35-foot boat for not much more than a beachfront hotel (about 250 euro per day, divided by whoever comes along). We can go where we want, each what and when we want, sun or swim off the boat, and moor someplace great at night. I don't want to do upkeep on a boat, but really enjoy the time under sail (I did the Stockholm Archipelago for four days last August and it was wonderful)

Now I want summer again...

Matt said...

Now for positive spin: I figure certain vacation destinations absorb the herds, leaving more unbeaten paths for those of us to whom it matters.

TextualHealing said...

I was being a provocative and citical of myself too. I love empty beaches and can't stand the costa del crowds. Clearly all Nick's readers are like-minded souls. BuT I just wonder why so many people do go to these shit holes? Do i (we) just not have the droning instinct? Is there something missing in my make up that makes me want to avoid rather than join crowds?

Nick said...

Steph - There are some lovely beaches in Connemara, J and I went there in 2006. They're not very keen on tourists though, we're seen as something akin to sheep-rustlers!

Dave - Hiring a boat, that sounds a great idea. I've never been sailing, though I have a feeling I would enjoy it. The Stockholm Archipelago must have been amazing.

Matt - Good thinking, siphon off the sand and sangria brigade into their tourist-trap enclaves!

Textual - No, no, there's something missing in THEIR make-up, that they can only feel secure and normal if they're surrounded by thousands of other people. I think a lot of them are terrified of silence, open space and themselves.

Quickroute said...

I immediately thought what a lucky sod Baino is when I read this post. I'm not a big beach/water fan but the beaches up the east coast of Oz are paradise - pristine - deserted and spectacular! - Mission Beach in Cairns comes to mind. Uncommercial, unspoilt, primative but beautiful! - But in UK, Brighton, Blackpool, even the Lake District make me feel like running for cover. Irleand not much better and south of Spain, Majorca etc ! WTF! I just don't want to be on 3 feet from my beach appreciative neighbours - gimme a mile and I'm good!

Anonymous said...

I'm totally with you. Give me a nice walk over a deserted Irish beach in winter any day :-)

Nick said...

Quickroute - Yes, I've been on some fantastic beaches in Oz. And you're right, some of the English resorts are dire. The Lake District is virtually ticket-only on summer weekends, it gets so congested.

Con - Some Irish beaches are impossible, but many others are lovely. J and I stayed in Ventry once on the Dingle Peninsula, and we had many happy walks along Ventry Beach.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This unwanted closeness seems to occur whether I am alone or with my husband, leading to the conclusion that many people are uncomfortable being alone, or that they are simply sheep who assume that if someone is in a particular area, then that is where everyone is supposed to be.

As a non-smoker. I regard smoking as a hostile act, a way of saying "I don't give a damn about your comfort, or even my own health."

Anonymous said...

Bobo and I were chatting about this the other day. What makes a holiday special is so individual.

The beaches in East Lothian near Edinburgh are stunning and not at all crowded, even in summer.

I much prefer that to a holiday I had in Rimini I had as a teenager where the only object was to lie around and get tanned.

Nick said...

Heart - You're probably right on both counts - feeling uncomfortable on their own and thinking that's where they ought to be. But you'd think they'd still be considerate enough to keep their distance a bit.

Hulla - Funnily enough, I was also taken to Rimini when I was a kid - I loved the ice creams but not the crowds. And of course the Italians are particularly beach-obsessed - come August the whole country shuts down so they can head for the coast.