Silly Jaunts


London is an interesting sort of place. I suppose it’s an obvious destination for most young graduates peering through their student house windows at the world beyond (presumably through several layers of unidentifiable detritus and the visual blurriness that comes only from that twilight zone of hangover-drunkeness repeated several times over for the last three years). London a wealth of social distractions, indeed most of the distractions one distracts oneself with at university, just on a different scale. Don’t be fooled though. What at first seems the advantageous addition of money and a job, soon becomes the unfathomable drudgery of overdrafts, early morning meetings and (I must confess, it has happened to me) spending the last available noughts on one’s credit card not on champagne cocktails in a seedy underground bar, but instead on a nice new suit. It is, after all, the sensible option.

The apparent sensibleness that befalls young London dwelling professionals conceals an internalised struggle of millenarian proportions. On the one hand there’s working, mule like, for the carrot: the salary review, the ‘bound to be better than last year’ bonus, and, of course, the ultimate ‘in six months time with a little more cash in the bank I’ll bugger off to Timbuktu with nothing but a pair of Ray Bans and flip flop-clad feet and an appetite for exotic stories and infections with which to regale the grandchildren (if issue of such is not precluded by the latter).

I like to think of myself valiantly straddling the middle ground, fighting off temptation from left and right. In reality I’m probably just rather too lethargic to throw myself wholeheartedly at either option. So instead of doing anything meaningful or life changing, I prefer ‘Silly Jaunts’. There is nothing, in my humble opinion, quite like the Silly Jaunt for brushing off the cobwebs and, in the space of a matter of hours, forgetting all about London life and work pressures.

There are many varieties of SJs. There is the ‘let’s be civilized but we all know it’s going to end up silly’ jaunt. For an example of this my mind wanders back to a small farm house in Puglia: a one year old’s birthday party (no connection to us), a certain “DJ Mr Dennis”, a dozen or so of my London comrades and several dozen flagons of rustic (cheap) wine. Then there’s the ‘we’re so drunk that this jaunt seems like pure anecdotal gold and we will relive these glory days forever; once the shame has passed and the financial black hole left behind has been filled’. On this occasion my mind drifts off to a foolhardy expedition to Cardiff featuring a taxi across national borders and waking up in a room at the Cardiff Hilton surrounded by miniature bottles of gin and a tortilla chip buffet on a silver platter.

Striking exactly the right note for the SJ is a delicate task, but SJ novices could do worse than making their own a little hostelry named Can Sort. Nestled in between the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees in the stunning, arid countryside of Northern Spain lies a small farmhouse run by a delightful couple called Cristina and Jaime. It is beautiful: think all mod cons whilst retaining rustic charm, nestled amongst palm trees with Anglo-Arab horses wandering the grounds. I decided it was the perfect place to escape with some of my bestest chums. Demob happy with having collectively bunked off work early to catch the Ryanair express to Girona, we were gasping for banter, food and wine. After a brief interlude trying without success to find the exit to the airport carpark in our hired Fiesta (no expense spared, us city types) we eventually arrived to find Cristina ready and waiting with banter, food and… two bottles of wine… between 8 of us. The silliness had begun, not quite as we had envisaged it. Try to imagine my horror and dismay upon Cristina’s abrupt refusal of my polite request for more wine, to the order of perhaps a bottle each (I erred on the conservative side, sensing Cristina’s sensibilities). The conversation hushed as we ate our food and slowly sipped our wine. This was no small crisis. This was a monumental catastrophe. Never had two groups of people been so mis-matched since, well, I shan’t go into matters of ethnic cleansing right now.

But we did have to cleanse ourselves of Cristina, or at least cleanse her view of us. It transpires that she was a little surprised that a group of young Brits had opted for her remote farmhouse. In fairness to the poor woman, her experience of Brits abroad to date had been the odd excursion onto the Costa Brava. As we reached for the second glass of wine visions filled her head of smashing glasses, urinating into the pool and tribe-like chanting, perhaps all three, on horse back. Before embarking on said pursuits we decided to go for a drive, and find a drink.

Can Sort is surprisingly remote, considering it’s so close to Girona, Barcelona and the NII motorway. After driving for some time, having Spanish liquor licensing laws explained to us by the local petrol stations and quickly retreating from the door tariff and Betty Boo’s strip joint (just outside Bascara, in case you’re interested) we eventually arrived at Figueras and its multitude of boozeries. I’d like to recommend a happening bar or restaurant in Figueras but I can’t. It’s a pretty uninspiring town, with a remarkably un-Spanish feel about it (people sitting inside, rather than spilling out onto the streets, possibly because of the bland architecture and busy roads) but head towards the sounds of loud music as we did and you’re bound to find somewhere at least to check out the locals and enjoy and Drambuie or four (blame the translation).

If you ride, or are interested to learn, then Can Sort comes into its own. For all of about €25 Cristina will school you and Jaime will take you for a ride in the fantastic local countryside. This too becomes a cultural experience: Cristina is not a woman to be messed with and with the slightest crack of the whip she’ll have you humiliating yourself in any number of ways atop a horse. Courtiers of Catherine the Great would struggle to recall stranger equestrian scenes than that of my friend Rids’ stationary rising trot. However, as SJs go, cantering through Catalonia as the sun comes down and the Pyrenees dissolve into successive darker shadows on the horizon, well, it’s pretty bloody good.

One problem remained though: the prohibition. Having ruled out the options of (a) checking out and finding any old hotel in Girona; (b) bludgeoning Cristina in her sleep; (c) hunting down her wine cellar, if indeed there was one, and consuming it in its entirety, we instead decided to go to the supermarket. One over filled shopping trolley of essentials later we were sorted. Relaxing in the lounge the hard drinking began, and continued…

There was no disguising it the next morning either. If our guilty expressions didn’t give it away, then the rowdiness of the previous night and the car boot chinking with empty glass would have done. I like to think though that Cristina admired our resilience, that perhaps she saw something of her own feisty demeanour in us. With bulldog spirit we had refused to give in. It was either that or the saccharine sweet way in which we hovered around her, offering to clear away dishes, complimenting her on her horses, and generally seeking to ingratiate ourselves by whatever sickening means with the sole aim of defying her will again later on that evening with an even bigger booze up.

Whilst I am a sucker for the spirits, an important element of the SJ should always be spiritual succour. Shake the hangover off with a small glass of wine, jump in the rental car, stick on tunes (we opted for a gritty-angelic fusion of Jackson 5 and Dogz & Sledgez) and head off to Vilajuïga. This in itself is a damned good drive, zipping round the S-shaped roads climbing into the mountains one simultaneously has views across the bay, and into the mountain ranges beyond. However, high up in the mountains there is a real treat: the monastery of Sant Pere de Rhodes. This is a vast 1st century AD, but now redundant, homage to the Lord. It’s too cool for words, so I won’t blabber on. Just go there, see it rise out of nowhere, wander round it, feel a better person at the end.

That’s what the classic SJ is about: doing something just sufficiently different to one’s home life, and in a sufficiently short space of time that in juxtaposition it seems disproportionately awesome. And then go home, until the next time.



words by Bobby K