Travel Tales


Meeting the King and Queen of Spain in a Medieval Castle

Back in the 70’s, I remember my two siblings and I being told by Mum that she had booked our family’s first foreign destination package holiday.  The destination…Spain, quite possibly Salou but I’m not 100% sure.  As you can probably imagine, we were happy giddy children running around the living room, our arms outstretched; pretending to be aeroplanes….vrooooom, neeeooooown!  Our usual family ‘holidays’ were day trips to Blackpool Pleasure Beach or the Cala Gran Caravan Park in Fleetwood, and even those trips were few and far between.  So, our first trip to foreign lands booked, and we only had a year to wait…a whole year!  Mum worked three jobs that year just to pay for the package holiday.  Family Holidays Have Changed Since The 70’s and a package holiday was the only way to go, booking DIY was relatively unheard of.


The year passed, and in the weeks leading to travel day we were dragged from pillar-to-post buying new clothes.  Travel day arrived and I remember getting dressed into my new clothes.  Wouldn’t want to look like the scruffy council estate street urchins that we were, no siree…posh clobber all the way!  Bescoby’s (catalogue shop) finest at that!  Manchester Airport was packed and the aircraft was enormous and noisy!  The engine noise was soon drowned out by the rowdy passengers (mum and step-dad included), many of whom were bladdered and singing at the top of their lungs….”oh, this year I’m off to sunny Spain, Y Viva España”!  The stench of alcohol was overwhelming and cigarette smoke filled the cabin, inside the aeroplane it looked like a foggy day!


There’s so much that I can recall from our first foreign holiday.  One awful memory is going to the beach and having our white freckled skin plastered with sun cream.  We looked like three ‘child-sized’ abominable snowmen on the beach but we didn’t care, we were on our package holiday!  There were vendors walking the beach with live animals; baby chimps, snakes, lizards etc, each trying to get tourists to have a photo.  My best memory was being taken to a Medieval Castle to watch Knights joust to win the hand of a Fair Maiden!  Upon entry to the castle we were given a paper ‘crown’ and a plastic ‘chalice‘ before being shown to our bench table.  We dined on chicken and potatoes and drank juice.  No plates, a whole roast chicken was slammed down onto the table by servers who were dressed like peasants.  Definitely no FSA hygiene rating in the good ol’ days!  Quite a scary experience for a child if I’m being honest, scary…but an indelible memory.  Plus we got to meet and have a photograph taken with the King and Queen of the Castle before we left.


Another memory I have of the 70’s family holiday was gathered on the return flight home.  I recall a drunken man, walking up and down the aisle with a colourful sombrero souvenir on his head and a large ‘piñata’ style donkey under his arm; collecting money from the passengers to hand to the pilot after landing.  Oh yes, and the tipsy travellers clapping and cheering once the plane landed and ground to a stop!  Heaven only knows why?  That’s the pilots job…take off, fly and land the plane!  To this day I am still baffled as to why ‘collections’ became a common sight on planes in the 70’s and 80’s.  It’s not as if pilots didn’t get paid a decent salary surely?  And, on the souvenir front, I also remember my Nana bringing home a plastic donkey that she filled with cheap cigarettes. Pull both of the donkey’s ears, the tail lifted and a cigarette popped out of its bum hole!  Highly amusing to a child, but also strangely weird!


Back in the 70s, booking via a Travel Agent on the High Street was the only option for Mum when she was booking our first family holiday.  Nowadays we can surf the WWW discovering far flung destinations.  The ease of comparing thousands of hotels and reading every Review (good and bad) of the hotel or campsite that you have your heart set on, is, well…easy!  Booking a holiday is much more convenient in the 21st Century, especially as we have so much tech and so many apps to assist our travels.  Mummy often recounts how, in the 80’s; her Mum and Dad planned their 3 week family trip to America and Walt Disney World Resort.  No Google maps or in sight and once at the destination…no sat-nav in the hire car!  I shudder at the thought!  I get lost in Asda’s car park let alone travelling the globe!


In this day and age we are truly spoilt that we very rarely experience ‘new foods’ whilst travelling.  The exotic fruits that you would only see on your foreign summer holidays are now stacked high on our supermarket shelves.  Albeit in the 70’s I’m sure that we, just like the other British holidaymakers in Spain; were still tucking into a full English fry.  Let’s go to Spain and eat a full English…now that makes sense…not!  And, just to make things clear; a fry isn’t a proper fry unless it has Heinz Baked Beans and HP Brown Sauce!  Eggs, sunny side up or over easy, what’s your preference?  Thankfully our tastebuds and sense of adventure have evolved since the 70’s.  Nowadays we love nothing more than exploring a region and sampling the local delicacies when we venture to a new country.


Think back, how on Earth did we survive a holiday without letting our friends, family and anyone else on our Facebook ‘friends’ list know what a fabulous time we were having!  Today, it’s so easy…lie by the pool with a cocktail in hand, snap that selfie (might take more than one attempt and a multitude of facial expressions) and share to all 7,936 friends (are they really ALL friends) on Social Media.  It’s a holiday, put your phone away and stop being anti-social!  But make sure you get that ‘instaworthy’ picture first!


Back in the 70’s you came home with a couple reels of camera film that you would have to wait for a week to be processed in your local chemist.  You would then spend hours arranging your glossy snaps into photo albums and annotating who, what and where…nightmare!  Friends and family would avoid calling to the house for months fearing a 7 hour session of you reminiscing whilst showing them your ‘amazing holiday’ snaps!  Now, when we arrive back home; a quick 10 minute ‘holiday’ conversation is all that’s needed because your friends and family have already seen the pictures and read about the holiday on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and every other social media outlet that there is.


Of course the cost of travel has also changed drastically since Mum worked 3 jobs to take us on our family’s first foreign package holiday to España.  2019 and we are in the era of low budget airlines where you can pick up a flight for €10 and sometimes less!  Search engines have become our new BFF and sites like Skyscanner, and Trivago allow us to hone our skills at searching for a bargain holiday to a luxury destination.  No longer does cheap mean bad, or ‘you get what you pay for’.  Credit was non-existent, there was no ‘stick it on the credit card’ and pay it off after the holiday, holidays were paid for with hard-earned cold, hard cash!  I remember vividly counting and bagging my saved pocket money then taking it to the Post Office to exchange to Spanish currency, Pesetas, or ‘potatoes‘ as we called them!  And I still have some of them from the 70’s, as well as a stamp.


One thing that hasn’t changed since the 1970’s is that people still travel to make memories.  Whether those memories and moments are captured in one simple 35mm photograph, or by 10 burst shots on your newest high-tech smartphone, we are all still trying to make the memories that our parents did back in the 70’s. 

Where will your travels take you?  What is your best travel memory?  Let us know using the comments box below.

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  • Reply
    15th October 2019 at 02:09

    Lovely post and a great reflection. Personally, I never went overseas (besides immigrating to Australia) with my family and some of the obstacles you listed are the reasons why. Another big one was fear. I think it is still the biggest obstacles to travel for many.

    Even back in the 70’s it took your parents courage, hard work and sacrifice to travel.

    • Reply
      Around The World In 18 Years
      15th October 2019 at 13:49

      Thank you. Yes, fear and a lack of knowledge definitely holds people back when it comes to travel. But the birth of the WWW now allows people to see a place long before stepping foot there. Hope your travels are going well. 🌏 ✈️ ❤️

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