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The British experience of the Mediterranean, 1976 | Europe holidays

The British experience of the Mediterranean, 1976 | Europe holidays

‘When we set up the Common Market what was in the back of most of our minds was the Côte d’Azur,’ declared the actor Robert Morley, introducing the Observer’s exploration of Britons and the Med in 1976. His Riviera trips involved a regular ‘ritual potter’ around estate agents chasing a familiar Med fantasy: ‘To wake each morning to the scent of mimosa, to breakfast outdoors… A long swim, a short drink, luncheon under the tree, a slumber in the hammock.’

Morley’s dream was relatable, but his holiday experiences were rarefied: invites to lunch at ‘large, under-furnished, extravagantly shuttered mansions’ where esoteric mousses were served by gloved footmen and guests worried about who was wearing a tiara.

It was the same world explored in an accompanying article on the Riviera hotels beloved of the British great and good, from Queen Victoria to Noël Coward. Variously treated as ‘a glorified wintering spa’, venue for ‘dissipated glamour’ or the crucible of ‘ennui chic’, these grandes dames that had witnessed all manner of scandal and extravagance were now mainly ‘decaying slowly with an air of elegant abandon’, or gone entirely.

Most people’s Med experience was closer to the 2,750,000 tourists a year who took Mallorcan package holidays. The finances made sense: a fortnight cost £95 for ‘travel without tears, abroad without aggravation’. Courtesy of tour operator Cosmos, the journalist embedded with a group of Britons, viewed by locals as ‘undemanding’ but unadventurous, sticking to shady cafés serving ‘tea like mother made it’.

According to Doris Stone of Maggie’s Bar in Palma, ‘The two things we sell most are beans and chips. We never stop cooking them.’ A honeymooning couple, she said, had eaten just that every meal for a fortnight.

But was anything better than home? Despite the Med’s magic, Morley was ambivalent: ‘You have to get used to the French and, more important, they have to get used to you,’ he declared; the cover picture was taken by his pool back home in Blighty.

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at Travel | The Guardian…