As Britain’s future in Europe hangs in the balance, Cressida Connolly reflects on our enduring love affair with the Continent in Vogue’s June issue, and why Brexit, more than any other political question, is an emotional issue.
You always remember the first time you travelled independently. Probably you were in your late teens, one of a gaggle of sixth-formers, or maybe you’d just left school. Almost certainly it was in Europe. Somewhere in the distance lay all the promise of the rest of your life, bright and new. For the time being, though, the summer stretching out before you was the only thing on your mind. It might have been Florence or Barcelona, the South of France or a Greek island. What struck you were the smells: pine, coffee, a whiff of drains, the petrol tang as pairs of impossibly handsome boys sped past on puttering mopeds. Men with fat, gold wristwatches strutted by on clouds of citrus cologne, while on the beach and along the harbour there was the heady coconut scent of cheap sun-tan oil (because everyone was too young to care about skin protection: they just wanted a tan). You had bare legs, a pocket full of unfamiliar banknotes and no parents to spoil the fun. The heat of the pavement was so intense you could feel it thrumming through the thin rope soles of your new Gitanes-blue espadrilles. With any luck you’d have kissed an Italian boy before the summer was out.
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