My First Foreign Holiday

I left school in July 1966 and started work as an apprentice in that September. I didn’t earn a lot of money but I did manage to save a little in the Bradford and Bingley Building Society each week (we were paid weekly). In those days the holiday adverts started on TV on Boxing Day and Christmas 1966 was no exception. It made my Mum and Dad think about what they were going to do and if my memory serves me right they decided to go to Eastbourne the next summer. The process of finding somewhere to stay tended to be the same, they got a copy of the town guide from the local council as it was packed with adverts for guest houses and B&Bs. Mum and Dad’s preference was a guest house offering bed, breakfast and evening meal and if it had a visitor’s lounge or even a bar, all the better, somewhere to go if it rained. Then came the big question, did I want to come with them?

All the lads at work were talking about summer holidays, some were going camping, some were going to Butlins, some were staying home, a couple were ‘going away with the family’ and were ribbed something awful. Clive was going to Spain by car with his girlfriend and her parents and everyone was jealous. This got me thinking I rather fancied going to Spain, sun, sea, sand and sangria. There were three of us friends living in the little cul-de-sac, Ric, Graham and me. Ric and I had both left school that summer but Graham was born in September so had another year to do at school and had no money. Ric was up for a foreign holiday and had also saved a bit from his job as an apprentice compositor with The Times.

First, we ran it by our respective parents who surprised us by saying yes. I think Mum and Dad fancied a second honeymoon! The next stop was the travel agents and an armful of brochures. I think most of the companies from those days are long gone, Sky Tours, Cosmos, Court Line, Thomas Cook, I think the only one still about is Thomson. We had to look at the cheap end of the market for two reasons, we didn’t have a lot of money and the “V” form. The March 1966 Harold Wilson Labour Government was having one of its regular financial crises and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, James Callaghan, had introduced a limit on the annual amount you could spend in foreign currency. The amount was limited to £50 and was recorded in a ‘V’ form stamped in your passport.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Court Line had pale pink planes.
G-AXMF BAC 1-11 Court Line BHX 1969,
Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Every foreign holiday in a brochure was broken down into its Sterling component and its overseas component and the foreign bit of your chosen holiday was recorded on the ‘V’ form. Whatever was leftover from the £50 could be converted to foreign currency for your spending money. After much searching, Ric and I settled for two weeks in Majorca from the Cosmos brochure. I seem to remember the August holiday cost us £54 half board in a 3-star hotel and the ‘V’ form amount was about £25 leaving us £25 to convert into Pesetas for spending money.

I had never been abroad, but the previous year Ric had, his parents had taken him on a coach tour of France and Belgium and he had hated the channel ferry. Obviously, neither of us had flown and I was rather looking forward to it, Ric was not so sure, after feeling seasick he was a little bothered. Ric’s Mum drove us to Luton in the laden family mini for the Saturday afternoon flight. She usually used the car to drive two miles to work and this was just about the longest journey she had ever driven. She was nervous which didn’t help Ric, so the first thing he did at the airport was to buy some Kwells!

The plane was a Monarch Airways Bristol Britannia 300 Series. Monarch was a newly created charter airline closely associated with Cosmos holidays and the aircraft were ex British Caledonian Airways. We were allocated a window and a centre seat in a block of three. Ric had been given the window seat but begged me to swap which I was only too happy to do. I have no recollection of what food we were given, only that Ric wouldn’t eat or drink anything and was very quiet. I do remember it didn’t stop me eating or drinking!

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Monarch Bristol Britannia.
Bristol Britannia 312 ‘G-AOVT’,
Alan Wilson
Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

When the plane landed at Palma de Mallorca airport and the aircraft door was opened the smell that flooded in was something I will always remember. A heady mixture of hot air, pine trees, aviation spirit and cheap Spanish cigarettes. It still smells the same today when I get off a plane in a Spanish resort. Passing through passport control and customs was all new to me and I suspect many of the other passengers. Outside the terminal, we were herded on to one of half a dozen waiting coaches, in those days the Britannia carried only around 140 people. The coach we were on was only half full and we soon set off for the, in those days, undeveloped southeast of the Island.

We were heading for the Hotel Cala Murada in, what was then, the tiny fishing village of Cala Murada. The journey took us through the biggest town in the area, Felanitx, to the resort of Portocolom where we dropped off nearly all the passengers, leaving just 4 of us on board. It was dusk as we arrived and we were rushed through check-in, to our room and into the half-full restaurant as dinner was already being served. First impressions were good and the food was excellent. We had a wander after dinner, found the pool, the bar and realised that the hotel appeared to be not very full. We had a beer or two, my first-ever San Miguel I think, which was extremely cheap and then retired for the night.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Cala Murada is in D3.
Mallorca map montania,
Pedro Servera
Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The next morning there were more people around for breakfast, but many of them were Germans and none we saw were our age. Ric and I decided to explore. The hotel had large wooded grounds and there was a table tennis table and a football table which we noted for later. There was also a bar selling snacks by the pool and a large closed building that looked to have a dance floor and disco lights. We decided to head for the beach so we asked for directions at reception. We were directed through the village to where the road forked to the right was Cala Murada bay with a lovely quiet beach in a small protected bay, if we went left the larger Cala Domingos beach was the other side of the headland. We were told Cala Domingos was busier as there was a new German-owned hotel there. It seemed that the receptionist wasn’t too impressed by the Germans despite them making up the majority of the hotel’s customers.

We walked past a few holiday villas and local homes. The village was tiny, two bar/restaurants, two local bars, a shop selling tourist tat and a supermarket. I pointed out to Ric that it looked like something out of the Wild West, wooden side-walks with wooden canopies over them. There were no street lights, that was why the holiday brochure had suggested taking a torch! We headed down the steps to Cala Murada beach, it was beautiful. The secluded cove was nearly deserted with a few fishing boats pulled up on the sandy beach. The water was clear and calm. We went in for a swim and it was waist deep going way out and warm. We swam around a bit and chucked a ball around before we were joined by two girls and a boy all about our own age. Of course, they were German and staying at our hotel. They all spoke good English, which was useful as my German was limited to what I had read in war comics and I didn’t think, “Achtung Spitfire!,” was going to get me far. My first impression was that the boy was arrogant, but the girls were both nice and quite pretty.

Sunbathing and chatting they explained that the boy and one of the girls were brother and older sister and the second girl was her best friend. They were there with the boy and girl’s parents and in the second week of a three week holiday. The pair’s father was a diplomat. To the best of their knowledge, we were the only five people of our age in the hotel. At lunchtime, we wandered up to one of the bars and for the price of a beer in the hotel, which we thought was cheap, we each had a coke and a burger. Ric and I had wondered how we were going to make £25’s worth of Pesetas last a fortnight now we were wondering how we were going to spend it!

We went back to the beach for a while but it was getting very hot so after another swim we headed for the shade around the hotel pool. The lad, whose name I can’t for the life of me remember, so for convenience I’ll call him Karl, wanted to play us at table tennis. He was quite good and didn’t he know it. The girls warned us that he didn’t like losing. After he beat us all a couple of times we suggested the bar football machine. Now Ric and I played on the Black Bull’s bar football table every Friday and Saturday night and we were both quite good. After he lost badly to both of us Karl stormed off so we continued playing mixed doubles with the girls until it was time to have a shower before dinner. The girls said they might see us later but nearly all the Germans in the hotel were on bed and breakfast terms and they ate in one of the village bar/restaurants each night.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
We beat the Germany!
Table football / Tischfußball,
Christian Schnettelker
Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

After dinner, we decided to walk down to the village to get a drink in one of the bars. I think we were hoping to see the girls. That was when we were pleased we brought the torches. As soon as we left the hotel drive it was pitch black. The village was brighter, illuminated by light spilling out of the bars and restaurants. We decided to try a Cubre Libre. Big tumblers were placed in front of us, ice thrown in, and enormous measures of Bacardi added. Ric nudged me and the barman thought he was complaining about short measures and put more rum in! Talking to him later in the holiday he explained that the Coke was more expensive than the Rum!

The following day it was back to the beach for a repeat of the previous day. The Germans didn’t turn up until nearly lunchtime, the parents had a hire car and they had been out to Felanitx for some shopping. The shops there were cheaper than the village as it wasn’t a tourist town. It was while swimming that day that I realised that Ingrid had hairy armpits after a bit more looking so did Monika. I wasn’t highly experienced with girls but I had never before come across one who didn’t shave her armpits. When it started getting warm we headed back to the shade around the hotel pool but were careful about not beating Karl and making him grumpy.

On our third evening at the hotel, they put up notices advertising a disco that evening. With so few young people in the hotel, we expected it to be awful but Ingrid said it was advertised in other local hotels and the previous week had been quite busy they said they would be back after their dinner in the village. The disco turned out to be twice weekly throughout the summer on Mondays and Fridays and was free for residents, we just had to get a stamp on the back of a hand at reception. While Ric and I ate our evening meal we noticed quite a lot more younger people around the hotel. The disco was in a pool house we had spotted earlier and the pool bar was open for the evening. The girls turned up and Ingrid dragged me onto the dance floor. I hate dancing mainly because I am useless at it. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves in a secluded part of the grounds and I kissed my first German girl, hairy armpits or not.

We spent the rest of the holiday together, my first foreign holiday was also my first holiday romance. We wrote to each other for quite a while after returning home. It was fading fast as a summer memory when I met Penny at the Methodist Youth Club and that was that. Penny and I were together for several years before her job took her to Birmingham.

A few other incidents of note I remember. Late one afternoon there was a thunderstorm and we had a power cut. When it came round to dinner it had stopped raining but the power was still out and the chefs produced a terrific cold meal. A cold soup, cold meats and salad and gateaux. As the restaurant air conditioning was out it was served on the pool terrace under the pine trees. People liked the location so much they started offering the choice of eating inside or outside. It was Ric’s birthday while we were on holiday and after dinner that evening he was presented with a massive iced birthday cake with candles. For about ten years after that holiday both Ric and I got birthday and Christmas cards from the hotel.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Ric got a birthday cake.
Birthday cake,
Roco Julie
Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Ric and I both had money left over at the end of the holiday, I took mine home with me and saved it for the following year when we went to Sant Antoni on Ibiza. That time Graham came too and we had a fabulous time. That’s a story for another day. Ric’s leftover money was burning a hole in his pocket and he decided to buy a huge stuffed lion from the tourist tat shop. I think he had seen it early on in the holiday and decided to buy it if he had money left at the end of the holiday. I found it hilarious, him dragging this huge stuffed lion around Palma airport and struggling to get it into an overhead locker with the help of a stewardess. I half expected him to be stopped in customs at Luton but it was about 11 at night when our flight got back and customs was deserted. Twenty years or more ago I visited Ric’s house in Potters Bar and that lion was in his living room and his kids were playing with it. Next time I phone him I will have to ask if he still has it.

Cala Murada was a lovely spot back in the summer of ‘67, quiet, pretty and undeveloped. When I thought about writing this article I had a look on the internet to see if the hotel is still there and what sort of reviews it was getting. I found it is still going and the pictures of the hotel and pool are similar, but it has had a huge makeover and looks pretty nice internally. It still has 3 stars but it’s reviews rate it 4.5 stars. I was once told that part of the star rating was down to physical room size and no matter how good a hotel’s service and facilities if it’s rooms were a half-inch too small it would never get another star. The write up on the area describes it as “sophisticated”. The village seems to have become a township and there is now a bar/restaurant on Cala Murada beach. I bet the barman measures the Bacardi these days.

One last thing, you remember I mentioned my workmate Clive, who was going to Spain with his girlfriend and her parents and how we were all jealous. Well, they had a massive car accident in the Pyrenees on the drive down to Spain. The girlfriend’s dad, who was driving, was killed in a head-on collision with a lorry that was on the wrong side of a mountain road. The other three landed up in hospital, Clive for two weeks with a broken leg and multiple cuts and bruises. So he had no holiday. Years later he was still picking slivers of glass out of his back as they worked their way to the surface.

© WorthingGooner 2021

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