A – is for sitting on your arse. Do this as much as possible. There are families who do a lot on holiday: tennis, surfing, diving, walking, that sort of thing. We are not one of these. We are brilliant at not doing very much, and in this we are united. Our kids do not wake up, as I hear others do, demanding, “What are we doing today?” Ours wake up asking, anxiously, “We’re not doing anything, are we?” and we don’t like to disappoint. After years of trial and error we have hit upon the perfect ingredients for a perfect day: a late start, a long breakfast, a bit of pool/reading, a long lunch, maybe the odd DVD, more pool, some ball games on the lawn, a game of cards, getting showered and changed and then walking somewhere for dinner, along with lots of chat. (See disclaimer below *)
Having said that we do go out for trips, occasionally. It’s all about getting the ratio right, about three to one. So far we’ve done: a boat trip, a drive to southwesternmost point, a couple of beaches and a lake. We have an inland village to go.
B – is for beach. Go and sit on one now and again, but not too often, opt for ones with hardly anyone on them. So far this holiday we have been to the beach twice (if you don’t count walking along it at night to get to the restaurants and the kids playing on it in the evening while we are waiting for food to arrive). Each time we go to the beach lunch figures in a big way. We have a slap up meal, which takes about three hours and then we and sit on the beach and have a swim, for about an hour.
C – is for crisps. You are on holiday so I reckon you are allowed to eat them everyday with your aperitif. Eldest likes salted pistachios, which compared with what the rest of us eat is a health food.
D – is for dinner. This year Husband announced that we should eat out a lot and I didn’t argue. We have eaten out so much that we gave ourselves a night off last night and I cooked. “It’s so nice not to go out for a change,” I found myself saying. Which was odd. I've eaten seafood everyday so far. Here is some crab...
E – is for Euros. They are the devil’s work. I don’t deal with them. All foreign money is voodoo. Husband carries the cash or his Caxton card (like a debit card but no transaction fees and you can use it to withdraw cash from machines). I ask for money on a need-to-spend basis, which hardly ever occurs because all we buy is food, oh and crap that the children demand every time we walk past one of those tourist-trap market stalls selling carved elephants. Husband is ridiculously indulgent: I turn a blind eye.
F – try to do it as much as possible it will keep Husband in a good mood, and his good mood will benefit the whole family.
G – is for games for all the family. We have travel Scrabble and Cluedo with us this year and we have also been playing a card game at the dinner table while waiting for the food to arrive in restaurants (it takes hours to arrive everywhere we go), consequently the cards have acquired a nasty sticky quality and several are missing. Middle One introduced us to this game called Cheat which he is brilliant at it because he mentally keeps track of all the cards when no one else can be bothered (or in my case, is able). Now he is severely thwarted by the fact that we have lost some of the cards and so does not win every time. Ha!
H – is for hats. Wear a hat in the sun and make sure your children wear one. Husband hasn’t got one because he can’t find one to fit his enormous head.
I – is for indolence, also see ‘A’
J – is for jacket. You don’t need it. Every year I pack one because I just can’t imagine what hot weather is really like. Leave it at home. It’s going to be 38 degrees today.
K – is for kitchen. I actually like cooking on holiday, as long as there isn’t too much of it, but now that I have a fabulous new kitchen at home the one on holiday is a poor substitute and I’m struggling to get enough heat from the hob - but at least it isn’t one of those awful convection ones. Bleugh.
L – is for lying around on the sun-lounger as much as possible. I’m doing it right now. “It’s quite hard to type my blog while lying on this lounger,” I just said to Husband. “Middle Class Problem,” said Husband.
M – is for mosquitoes. Don’t tolerate them. This holiday has been very short on mosquitoes, which is fantastic and probably because we are by the sea and it’s quite windy. Having spent a good many holidays in Italy (I love Italy, I would quite happily go to Italy every year but we like to mix it up for the kids) we are accustomed to being bitten to death and so I now travel everywhere with a bag full of plug-in anti-mossie devices and enough creams and sprays to stock a small pharmacy. Like with the jacket, I think these are acting as an insurance policy.
N – is for nightlife. Stay away from it. The only exception being if the local village is having a festival, in which case you must drag your reluctant husband and three boys along. Okay so they will kick and scream and moan and then sit with their arms folded scowling at you at the very edge of the medieval square as you throw yourself into the merriment with gay abandon, but do not let this cast a dampener on proceedings. They will hold it against you for rest of eternity but you had a good time for that one half-hour, and that’s all that matters.
O – is for "Obrigada”, the only word of Portuguese I know. Also see "Obrigado" for if you are male, but for obvious reasons I don’t need this.
P – is for pastries. They have these abroad and they are always good. Each country has its own type. Seek it out and eat them in copious quantities. Here in Portugal they have Pastel De Nata. Delicious. Custard tarts where I come from.
Q – is for queuing. Abandon all hope when abroad because they don’t know how to do it, even the Brits opt in to the chaotic foreign free-for-all. If caught pushing in at the supermarket queue, feign stupidity. For some reason the locals will be only too willing to believe you are a half-wit.
R – is for reading. Do a lot of this (see last blog). Take real books because Kindle is for weirdos. Re-order books from Amazon in the UK, at vast expense, if you run out and then spend most of the rest of your holiday waiting for the package to arrive (this is our current state of affairs).
S – is for suncream. Smother yourself and your children in it. You must assume that your husband is applying his own even if previous experience tells you this is unlikely to be the case, this is his look-out. Bring it with you from the UK because it is one million times cheaper.
T – is for tidying up. Don’t bother with it. You do enough of this at home and a holiday house can only get so messy with a mere hundredth of your usual crap in it. Having said that it is remarkable how much mess one family can make with a load of discarded pants, an up-ended packet of Cocoa Pops and a pack of sticky playing cards.
U – is for umbrella. Bring one from the UK for in case it rains, this will guarantee that it doesn’t (as with this year). Sit under a sun umbrella at all times. I’m under one now.
V – is for view. Insist on a great one from your accommodation if at all possible, which is hard to marry with being walking distance from the village/shops/restaurants. We have had houses with stunning views these last few years, and one house that ticked both boxes with an amazing view and the local village within walking distance. This year we opted for fairly good view of sea with walk-able restaurants. For Husband it is not a holiday if he has to constantly get in the car when we go out to eat, and it means he can’t drink. Fair enough. I refuse to drive a hire car unless it is an emergency.
W – is for weather. Go where there is some. Last year we went to the Ardeche, in France, which was stunning and mostly sunny but there were a few days of… CLOUD. I hate cloud on holiday. There is little so depressing as being in a holiday house with three children in bad weather. This year we are in Portugal for the seaside and the weather. Blazing sunshine, blue sky, every day, not a single cloud. This is exactly what we signed up for.
X – is for x-rated, also see ‘F’.
Y – is for yelling. Don’t allow it. No arguments on holiday. If you sort out the ‘F’ and the ‘X; it will help with this immeasurably.
Z – is for Zs, as in shut-eye, forty-winks, a long lie in, an early night, sleep, sleep, precious sleep. Make sure you get lots.
Love E x
* Okay, so we did go skiing for the first time earlier this year and we did some kayaking last summer hols, which was fantastic. But mostly we are lazy as hell.
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