When you’re on holiday, do you ever imagine yourself living there?
In my mind, I create a fantasy, parallel life in which I’m shopping in the stores I’m browsing as a tourist, eating at the same restaurants and, somehow, have an instant circle of good friends from the local area with kids who get on like a house on fire with mine.
All this is imagined in the knowledge that the chances of us actually moving there are about the same as being relocated to the moon (actually, this is really tempting fate – DH’s job means we could end up anywhere).
Whether I do this because, being an expat, I’ve developed a case of geographical schizophrenia or because, sometimes, it’s fun to dream, I’m not sure, but I found myself at it again last week in Bavaria.
Munich – I could so live in this beautiful city! The culture, the centuries-old architecture, the chic stores, the weather – it was all so refreshing.
And not shoebox-small like you sometimes imagine Europe to be: from the beer served in one-litre mugs to the huge pretzels and the XXL wiener schnitzel (veal escalope) that covered my entire plate, I could really see why Americans love this region of Germany.
Europe meets Texas, no less – way down south and with locals dressed up in traditional clothing to boot!
The autobahn – yes, this is the way to travel, I decided. Despite making Dubai drivers look like slow coaches (no speed limits for long stretches and cars doing 180km/h, no kidding!), it was so ordered, so disciplined. Such politeness.
And the vehicles on this cleverly engineered highway (no tyre debris in sight!) – the Audis, the BMWs, the Mercedes. A bit of Vorsprung durch Technik and Germanic efficiency looked very appealing.
But my fantasy life moved to a new dimension when we reached the Bavarian Alps.
The lush green, grassy pastures and snow-capped mountains took me right back to one of my favourite childhood books: Heidi.
Wrong country I know, but if you’d spent the past four years living in the desert, I’m sure you, too, would have conjured up images of running up rugged mountains with young Peter the goat-herd – to the sound of babbling brooks and Alpine birdsong.
Amazing what fresh, mountain air can do for you. Just don’t get me started about The Sound of Music!