Micro-Breaks: Are 24-hour holidays the future of travel?
Short breaks get shorter...
I’m writing this on the train on the way back from a short break in Paris.
It was an exceptionally enjoyable visit, planned to anticipate a major exhibition of paintings by Modigliani, which is coming to Tate Modern in November.
The Italian artist moved to Paris in 1906, and mixing with the likes of Picasso, Braque and Cocteau in Montmartre and Montparnasse, this is where he found his inspiration, developed his style and enjoyed a dissolute lifestyle.
Even 100 years later, touring around the museums, artists’ studios and cafés of these areas, it is possible to enjoy trying to recapture something of the atmosphere of the belle époque in Paris when the city was at the epicentre of modern art.
But another reason I found the trip so interesting is that I think I have discovered a new type of holiday – the micro-break.
At least it is new for me.
I have always thought that two nights is the absolute minimum you need to get a sense of a place, and also to feel that you are properly getting away from everyday life. Anything shorter and you are surely thinking about going home from virtually the moment you first arrive.
This logic has also meant that I’ve always tried to maximise time away, leaving as early as possible on day one, and returning late in the evening on day three.
But this time I had no such luxury, and am heading home after barely 24 hours in the city – less than half as long as a typical short break.
Much to my surprise, however, I thought it worked extremely well.
And there is a financial logic too: now that fares are relatively cheap, the cost of travelling as a proportion of a holiday is much less than it was a few years ago.
There are, however, a few provisos. So here is my brief guide to a successful micro-break:
Travel at a civilised time
My outbound Eurostar left at 9.24am, and I arrived back at St Pancras at 6.30pm. No need for an early alarm, or a late-night return to squeeze every minute out of the trip. It was all about pacing.
NB: Flying during the day, and midweek, can reduce both the stress of early departures and price (business travellers tend to take the early and late services).
Travel by rail
Such trips work especially well for destinations you can get to by train – it avoids airport stress, and you can sit back and enjoy the journey as part of the break. If you fly, no matter how close you live to your departure airport, you will lose the extra time of getting between the airport and the city centre at your destination. Sticking to trains works well for breaks within Britain or Ireland too.
Plan around meals
I arrived for lunch at Le Moulin de la Galette in Montmartre, and left after lunch at Café de la Rotonde in Montparnasse. Booking nice places to eat like this somehow ensures that you keep the pace leisurely as the meals become a key part of the holiday. Of course you will want to explore, or shop or visit a museum after lunch, and probably again the next morning – but only once you have enjoyed your meal.
Stay somewhere central
Even though you may be feeling relaxed, you don’t want to waste time trekking to and from your hotel.
Have a theme
It helps keep things focused. Mine was Modigliani. But you might choose an event or a festival, an area, or a particular sight – any excuse will do as long as it doesn’t put you under time pressure.
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