I’ve been a bit lazy on the posting front, apologies, but I’m currently forgetting what day it is and wondering if I will go to the beach or just sit out on the terrace, read another book or check out the Daily Mail. As you’ve guessed it, I’m on my holidays. No better way to forget your day-to-day life than to relax in a two week holiday in sunny (well at the moment) Portugal.
We had the unusual foresight to book two whole weeks holidays this year in January - I say this as we are never that organised. This year though we were those smug yokes who actually got the €100 Ryanair flights and have been looking forward to getting away from the min we pressed “complete booking”.
I made the mistake of telling the boys we were off on holidays in May, around mid-January, so it’s been a very long lead in to this holiday, let me tell you. They broke my spirit around mid-March, with the relentless asking “how many days until Portugal, Mum”….”will I get off school”….”can I swim in the pool when we land”…and made a countdown calendar and pasted it to the fridge door.
Every morning for about 8 weeks, they religiously checked off each day. We had a few birthdays and weekends away to keep it interesting, but getting to the last week I thought they would both explode with impending excitement. The journey to the airport (by AirCoach), what we would eat in the airport (Burger King) and how we might even make it through security, was all carefully choreographed by the boys, and all was going according to their plans until we were hit with a three hour delay in Dublin.
Quite literally we were queueing to board the plane and “delayed until 22.10” flashed on the previously inviting boarding screen. The always efficient Ryanair boarding gals even seemed surprised, and started feverishly tapping keyboards looking for inspiration.
This was not a computer error, it was for real and, thanks, to the annual strike of French air traffic control, we were going to have to amuse ourselves for three whole hours in one of the most boring parts of Dublin airport. I’m not sure there are many exciting places, but if you know the airport, the gates Ryanair depart from are fairly scarce in the restaurant and bar front. And you’re at least a 15 min walk from Duty Free, where we had already bought all the things we didn’t need there earlier.
To be fair, we managed to string out various electronic devices, games of “I spy”, running along the travellator (never gets old) and pretty much devouring the snack pack I had so carefully planned for the flight. We also combined our €5 compensation and brought some over-priced and tasteless sambos and a bottle of water for €20.
The best part of this delay, was the Ryanair plane sitting outside the gate we were at for the duration (full 3 hours). At the beginning of our adventure we thought it was our plane. However, after having been advised the plane had not left Portugal and was 3 hours delayed, we were patiently awaiting the arrival of the incoming plane, staring out the window and guessing every landing plane was ours, even the check-in gals were doing this! And arrive it did with some sad holiday makers, disembarking and delayed on their way home….but get this. Did we get on the plane that landed back in from Portugal, the one that was subject to those striking French air-traffic controllers…? Oh no….we were boarded onto the plane that was sitting in Dublin airport all along!!
As we were packed onto the plane, we were filed past the offices of Ryanair staff in the airport and could see all their motivational posters, targets for the week, even what to say to passengers. All very odd I might add. I really wanted to write on the walls…."Really, Mr. O’Leary…you had us sitting for 3 hours, made us eat shit, expensive sandwiches and you had a bloody plane here all along!!" But of course, I didn’t, and I obediently got on the plane with my family and strapped ourselves in for the journey to our holidays.
It was so nice to be accompanied by so many folks, who had clearly used their vouchers to buy beers and it did feel like we were flying in CopperFace Jacks!
Nothing, not even the delays or the sinning plane could dampen our spirits, and after 2.5 hours we landed, cleared customs, bags collected (they take them off you now, but I’m dammed if I’m paying for a check-in bag), and himself ran off to see if the car hire company would still be there at 1.30am. The lovely Portuguese car hire guy was, of course, there and we piled in to our Opel Corsa and hit the A22 to our home for the holidays. We’ve been here for a week, and unlike most holidays where we go for a week or 10 days, we’ve still another week to go.
We are all relaxed into the routine of doing little or nothing all day, and the biggest worry we seem to have is if we will BBQ or just go out or dinner!
The weather has been very un-Algarvian, and dare I even say it, but we had rain where Ireland was basking in a mini heatwave. I’m not that bothered as I can’t sunbathe and I practically cause people to trip over their cooler boxes on the beach I’m so white, but boys and himself do like to soak up the free Vitamin D.
So, we crossed the border into Spain and spent 48 hours in Seville, we’ve been there probably about six times and it’s a city that will never loose it’s sparkle for me. The old city full of winding streets packed with tapas bars and ancient buildings hiding behind marvellous wooden doors, opening up to reveal gardens, terraces and a charm of a bygone era that seems very much alive today, even in the most touristy spot.
We got so lucky with our last min booking and got this amazing two apartment, right beside a stunning park and once we ventured out, we were virtually tripping over authentic tapas bar, the kind where they don’t speak English and you order based on the fact that you have no idea what you will get…amazing! Between the tapas and a bike ride along the river, Seville never disappoints. Our 48 hours could have been extended, but we kissed goodbye to one of our favourites cities and headed back “home” with plans for days on the beach being hatched.
You may have noticed this post is all about the fun times we are having on our holidays….where is the cancer in this one I hear you asking yourself? I am not reading this for helpful tips on how to amuse yourself and the kids over a three-hour flight delay or what to do when it rains in the Algarve.
I’m writing this because of the life-giving effects a holiday away from the routine, chemo and even people asking me “how I am” just really can be. Over here it’s like I can even forget cancer is part of my life. I did have some ups and downs with my bowel and that lovely obstruction that keeps me on my toes before we came away, and I was nearly making myself sick just worrying we would have to cancel the holiday altogether. But we earned this holiday - we all needed to get away from the cancer.
My husband and kids, just hanging out, and despite the few bits of medication I have to take, we are not thinking or talking about it and I’ve even managed to get a three week break from treatment!
I had chemo on the Friday before we flew out, that Tuesday is usually my “chemo come down” days, but I was like a kid before Christmas packing my bag to go and the few steroids defiantly helped with my imprecisely neat packing. Most of all, I’m loving this time with my family, my boys, every day we have the laughs (some fights), and today was spend jumping in and out of the sea together. We finished up with a raspberry daiquiri in a chilled-out beach bar and I could easily say it ranks high up there on the perfect day list.
Here in the sunshine, we can hold our breath and forget all the worries, anxiety about treatment side affects, the future for me and just relax and, for a short time even, forget any of this is happening to us. We also got to celebrate a monumental moment for Irish women in the repeal of the Eight Amendemnt. A moment in history we all got to share here. So, I say to everyone, take time to step out of your life and embrace some time doing nothing but enjoying the company of those you love - you don’t have to fly away to do it, but it’s very nice!
As I type this, we have three of our best friends arriving to share the next five days with us - how lucky we are to be able to share this. In the end all there is, is family, friends, love and laughs…..enjoy all in equal measure.