ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: I got a taste of vacation freedom … it’s absolute bliss


For weeks, the debate has been unfolding in homes across Britain. Is a vacation abroad worth all the noise, all the paperwork, all the costly – and often just plain mouth-watering Covid tests?

We went through the same angst and now, writing like someone who was on one of those first flights to Portugal when the chains were released two weeks ago, I am in a position to deliver my verdict.

What is certainly true is that, like old age, vacations abroad right now are not for cissies. You have to take a big, deep breath and jump – as many families will be doing this halfway through.

Quarantine can crop up on return and testing is a nightmare of unnecessarily expensive logistics which, unlike our magnificent vaccination program, puts the country to shame.

For weeks, the debate has been unfolding in homes across Britain. Is a vacation abroad worth all the noise, all the paperwork, all the costly – and often just plain mouth-watering Covid tests? We went through the same angsts and now, writing like someone who was on one of those first flights to Portugal (above) when the chains were loosened two weeks ago, I am able to render my verdict.

On a short break, you just figured out how to download PCR tests to your smartphone when you need to find a local location that will test you for your return.

And that’s without taking into account the stress, if you are nervous about whether the test you might find in Palma or Porto will be of the right specificity suitable for UK border control.

And yet, I also rediscovered something forgotten: how beautiful it is to be elsewhere. Being in a place where the smells and the light are different and, of course, where the sun shines pretty much every day.

I also think it’s completely absurd to feel for a single moment the pressure of vacation shame from those who don’t want to travel.

My partner and I have two hits and I don’t think we were at a greater risk of catching and spreading Covid in Portugal than we would in Putney or Peckham.

Despite our government’s current attempts to portray vacationing abroad as an activity akin to inciting civil unrest, leaving the country for fun is now officially legal.

Yes, it is a luxury for sure and for those with medical reasons to be wary of the bigger world, this is not the only way to take a break.

But the past year has been so confining and disturbing that even the hardiest have felt stressed and anxious. In my opinion, the idea that you are doing something for the greater good by sacrificing my current vision of sunny terra cotta roofs and palm trees is ludicrous and needlessly self-flagellating.

And frankly something you will forget with the first Aperol Spritz under a parasol.

From majestic glory to a ghostly ruin

Portugal has not had a monarchy since 1910. Visiting the Palacio da Ajuda, which was once the royal palace in Lisbon, was a salutary glimpse into what happens when you dump the royal family.

This once splendid building is now a bruised ghost of what it would have been, with leaky ceilings, wobbly candelabra, peeling paint, and shuttered windows. That doesn’t bode well for what might happen to Buckingham Palace or Windsor.

The upkeep of these huge buildings would be enormous if the Republicans managed to fend for themselves. And who would want to pay them? That would make the veil fade from the Downing Street wallpaper.

Portugal has not had a monarchy since 1910. Visiting the Palacio da Ajuda, which was once the royal palace in Lisbon, was a salutary glimpse into what happens when you dump the royal family.  This once splendid building is now a bruised ghost of what it would have been, with leaky ceilings, wobbly candelabra, peeling paint, and shuttered windows.  Doesn't bode well for what could happen to Buckingham Palace (above) or Windsor

Portugal has not had a monarchy since 1910. Visiting the Palacio da Ajuda, which was once the royal palace in Lisbon, was a salutary glimpse into what happens when you dump the royal family. This once splendid building is now a bruised ghost of what it would have been, with leaky ceilings, wobbly candelabra, peeling paint, and shuttered windows. Doesn’t bode well for what could happen to Buckingham Palace (above) or Windsor

My idea of ​​exoticism … a new pair of jeans

What makes shopping abroad so much more enjoyable? Even in Zara.

There are countless Zaras in London and it may seem like some crackers (to use my favorite Dom Cummings adjective) have spent a precious half hour in the one in Lisbon. But I still loved every minute. Maybe when I come back and take a look at the white jeans and rather stylish sandals I picked up, they’ll look as uninspiring as they would at Oxford Circus, but here, right now , they feel like a delicious exotic keepsake to take home.

To plant a tree? Not if you want insurance

We all love trees, except building insurers. They don’t like them at all.

Last week, a very distinguished protest against the removal of a 250-year-old oak tree took place outside the Oxford home of former Thomas Cook patron, Harriet Green. She wants to remove this glorious monument, supposedly because of subsidence issues.

I have sympathy for her, because as much as we and maybe she would rather keep her tree, the insurers on this matter are a nightmare.

We live in a Victorian terrace which, like so many others in London, literally cracks. Who knows if the summers have been too hot and dry out, or the winters too wet? But the first thing the adjusters will do if you are even thinking about making a claim is to insist on removing all vegetation.

You have to get out the hedges, climbing roses, shrubs and, yes, any tree bigger than a twig. So while we are all urged to plant trees to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year, insurers want to turn our front gardens into sidewalk extensions.

Just as Joni Mitchell predicted so presciently: “They paved Paradise and built a parking lot.”

Cruella ain’t good if you can’t hate her

Cruella de Vil is one of my favorite characters of all time. In other words, the authentic Cruella, created by children’s novelist Dodie Smith.

It’s this Cruella, the skin-skin embodiment of absolute evil, not the slightly damp Roger and Anita or even Perdita and Pongo and their adorable puppies, that makes 101 Dalmatians the classic he has become.

The whole point of Cruella de Vil is that she is totally heartless. So why ruin her completely with a heart-wrenching story in the new movie, where we don’t have the right to hate her?

The whole point of Cruella de Vil is that she is totally heartless.  So why ruin her completely with a heart-wrenching story in the new movie, where we don't have the right to hate her?

The whole point of Cruella de Vil is that she is totally heartless. So why ruin her completely with a heart-wrenching story in the new movie, where we don’t have the right to hate her?

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