Last weekend my friend Leah took me to her fiancé’s beach house in Cabo Roig so we could lock ourselves up during the off-season and finish a bunch of papers we had to write and presentations we had to prepare. In between writing and studying and Google hangout-ing (it’s a verb, I’ve just decided, I’m making it a verb) we took walks along the beach in the slightly-windy but relatively mild weather and had gin & tonics at nearly empty Irish pubs. Leah kept saying how it was so much fun when it was packed and crazy when it’s warmer but you know what? I kinda like it like this.
Cold weather means actually greenery at the beach (not much of that when it’s 40° with no rain for months on end). It means you can get a drink immediately, no sharpening your elbows pushing people out of the way. It means you can chat to the genuinely friendly and fun Irish bartenders because they’ve got five customers, so they actually have a free moment to talk. Also, they’ll give you free shots of Baileys and créme de menthe, or share their chicken fingers with you.
When I went to Malta, it was considered “off-season”, as it was too cold for many of the favored outdoors activities. But you know what? There were still so many people that I can’t even imagine what the high season looks like. During rush hour, the bus was so crowded and the traffic so bad that I’m pretty sure I don’t want to see what happens there in the summer.
Three weeks ago in Poland, the Christmas market had just come down (although the lights and Christmas trees were still up??), marking the end of whatever winter high-season Wrocław might have. While the Christmas market is fun and cozy and delicious, walking through Rynek without navigating through crowded aisles of booths and saunterers is much preferable. Last January I went to Kiev to visit my friend Julia, and while she kept saying how much pretty it is in the spring, it felt special to very obviously be the only American for a whatever-mile radius.
In our age of insanely cheap RyanAir flights and globalized tourism, most places no longer have an “off-season”. Someone is always hanging around, if we’re being honest. Popular destinations (Prague, Barcelona, Budapest) always have tourists shuffling their way through. I’m not saying that you should only visit during the off-season, because there’s usually a reason it’s “off”. I would’ve loved to go swimming and snorkeling in Malta, for instance. And Wrocław is amazing in warm weather, when you can go kayaking or beach bar hopping or even just walking without freezing your ass off. But there are some perks. Those chicken fingers the bartender shared were amaaaaazing.