When I think of holidays as a child two destinations come to mind; Donegal and France. As far as the younger generation of my family were concerned nowhere else existed. A wave of nostalgia hits me as I recall a montage of floating memories-long hikes in misty drizzle, feeding greedy donkeys on the roadside, fishing for crabs, sand scratched tennis courts, wet and salty walks home, card games by turf fires. In better weather we are permanent pool monsters, up the stairs, down the slide and up the stairs again; we are in summer camps, ice-cream parlours, caravans, discos and French castles; we torment frogs and stay out late, rent pedalo boats and tandem bikes.
More grim memories surface. Four lively, growing kids crammed into the back of a hot car journeying from Ireland to France and back via road and sea. Getting there was fairly mild; we were out of school (usually a week early) and loaded with holiday money and promises of extensive pools with numerous flutes and gimmicks. Minus the usual spits and squabbles, spirits were high. The way home was a different matter. We were burnt, broke and distraught at leaving new found best friends behind. Four foul tempered youngsters pushed up against one another in the back of the car. Escalating the friction was the addition of some fifty bottles of wine or so, Dad's souvenirs. They were crammed under our feet, tucked between us, on our laps, behind our heads, stealing every ounce of space we had. This infuriated us. It induced all out war amongst the clan, tempers flaring from every memnber. There was no comradery in the back seat ranks. It was each to their own as we twisted and groaned and swore on our lives to stay at home next time.
The painful memories did not fade with time. Each and every time Dad brought out a bottle of his French wine we would explode to guests our tails of child abuse in France. Looking back I am sure our fuss made him enjoy the wine more, every drop a reward for enduring taunts and kicks in the back as he drove in the heat for hundreds of miles.
When I saw this offer advertised by Irish Ferries I immediately thought how nice it would be for my parents to enjoy rather than fight for the right to buy wine in France. How nice it would be for us grown-up kids to help consume it on their return too.
At the end of the month Irish Ferries are running their first summer wine cruise to France. Departing Rosslare on Friday, 29th May, passengers will arrive Roscoff next morning with up to seven hours to spend ashore shopping before returning to arrive in Rosslare on Sunday, 31st May.
Escorting participants will be wine writer and broadcaster Martin Moran, who will conduct wine tastings on board the Oscar Wilde, previewing some of the wines that can be bought ashore and offering advice on the best bargains available.
Priced at just EUR99 per adult return, including a cabin berth with en suite shower and toilet, the three-day cruise to Roscoff is aimed at wine lovers and novices alike. A car or motorbike can be taken for an additional EUR89 return when two adults travel together. Hotel accommodation can be arranged for those wishing to extend their stay. At the port passengers of the wine cruise will also benefit from discounts on wine purchases.
This is a booze cruise without the hooligans, to start with anyway. A fabulous way to spend the bank holiday weekend and stock up for the months ahead. Go with your partner or go with friends, but for the love of God don't bring the kids!
Call Irish Ferries on 0818 300 400 for details or visit www.irishferries.com