I want to be alone

The charm of off-season travel

It’s possible that I am slightly anti-social or a little bit enochlophobic, but I just love vacationing where everybody else isn’t.

My preference is only partially driven by the price advantage of off-season travel. For the most part, I am motivated by the fact that I don’t like standing in line. Nor do I want to set my alarm clock so that I can beat the crowds to the beach chairs or wait my turn for a quick peek at the Mona Lisa.

Empty blue beachI also prefer getting to know the locals rather than rub shoulders with the the crowds rolling off loaded tour buses from everywhere else.

If this sounds like your kind of travel experience, I’m glad to share some of my favourite off-season spots with you:

  • Paris in November: This is the season when you can leisurely wander the Luxembourg Gardens with only a few pigeons for company, stop regularly for a cappuccino and be assured of the best seats indoors, or outdoors, at any café.
  • Amsterdam in February: Lounging in uncrowded neighbourhood brown cafés and not having to line up at the Van Gogh Museum will make you forget about the lack of tulips.
  • Cote d’Azur in September: The weather is still absolutely perfect and everyone who’s anyone has left. Need I say more?
  • Scotland in December: The latest addition to my off-season bucket list reveals its character best when the locals are partying full time – all sporting those silly paper “Christmas cracker” hats. And best of all, you don’t have to share their beautiful country with anybody else.

Granted, Scotland can be a little chilly in December. Maybe even a little damp…. OK, you can count on it being cold and wet, but after a wee dram of scotch the weather is easy to forget.

Edinburgh CastleMy off season theory held water throughout our family foray to Edinburgh and St. Andrews over the Christmas holidays – although, my umbrella didn’t. It blew inside out with the first gust of wind as we approached the all-but-deserted Edinburgh castle.

Also on tap in Edinburgh is the decomissioned Royal Yacht Britannia, voted “Best Tourist Attraction” in the U.K. All summer long, hordes of tourists throng her decks. And with good reason – it’s fabulous to be on board, imagining what it was like when royalty used the yacht for their own family holidays and royal visits to the colonies. But, in the off-season, being able to mess around in the officer’s mess and poke about the grand dining hall on your own, is a unique experience.The mess

The idyllic village of St. Andrews virtually closes shop over Christmas – perfect! No reveling students, nobody on the beach and, in the birthplace of golf, you can have your pick of tee-off times for the Old Course on December 24th. But, you do have to wind up your round before it starts getting dark  -around 3 p.m.

And on Christmas Day, in our splendid off-season home away from home, the St. Andrews Golf Hotel, we discovered we were the only guests having breakfast. The considerate staff presented us each with gifts, we snapped open our Christmas crackers and donned paper party hats as we feasted on black pudding and haggis.

Old golf courseAs for Edinburgh’s famousHogmanay when hundreds of thousands of revellers flock into the city centre for their over the top New Year’s celebrations – missed it!