It's always a big moment at the start of the summer. You know, when you flick that alarm switch on your phone into that magical 'off' position. Thinking of the long lazy, and most likely rainy, summer days stretching out ahead of you. Plans for lazy days, barbecues, regular trips and some house and garden jobs are made; knowing that you have so much time to fill and a requirement to keep a teenager busy.
Yet before you know it, in a blink and a whisper, the summer is over, and you're flicking that darn phone alarm switch back into the not-so magical 'on' position.
I mean, how ridiculously quickly did that happen this year?
Of course, yet again, I didn't quite plow through all my plots and plans this year.
But I'm choosing not to dwell on that, after all unaccomplished plans form opportunities for days out in the future.
Instead, while my son settles into his senior cycle of secondary school, I'm going to attempt to round up some of the special things that we did achieve this summer, but never got to blog about.....
The school had barely closed it's doors for the summer and we were bursting on to an airplane for a nine-day family holiday to this beautiful country. With it's equally beautiful people. We stayed at the Pestana Cascais Hotel which was a 30 minute walk to the very lovely town of Cascais , however some free and public transport is available. It was a bit isolated and, as expected, there were no activities for children/teenagers - but it was very clean, comfortable and also contains an indoor pool and spa area. Perfect for our needs and I have to say that their friendly and attentive staff are their best asset. As were the gorgeous coastal views surrounding it. Plenty of 'sea-shelf ' exploring and a Boca do Inferno (blow-cave) to view for an interested teenager, and his parents, all within walking distance!
We also did some day trips using public transport - an adventure in itself - to see Lisbon and Sintra and some of their very fine castles and monuments. With some very stunning 'top of the world' views. Breathtaking and quite tiring days, but so very worth it.
Travel tip for Sintra: Get the bus from Cascais and ask for the 'tourist ticket' - approx €11-€13 each - as that allows you to hop on and off the public buses that tour the castles on the narrow route up in Sintra. Leave plenty of time to catch the last bus back though!
There were to be at least one of these a week. Interspersed with a weekly swim and gym trip and some socialising with his friends. Let's just say that the latter happened and while the former got off to a good start, it did eventually whittle down to nothing in the last two/three weeks. But we did manage to pay a number of visits to our two favourite and stunning hiking around spots in Wicklow: Powerscourt Waterfall - which I've told you about - and Glenadalough, which I haven't. There's just so much to tell, and so many photos I could share, that I could never even begin. So now I'm gonna try squish it into a few paragraphs in this post. Great planning, Jazzy!
This place is steeped in ancient religious history and an abundance of nature. It is a National Park of Ireland and as such it is cheaper to visit, with tons more to do, than the privately run aforementioned Powerscourt waterfall.
We go at least twice in the summer to view it's gorgeous lower lake, boardwalk and some ancient Church ruins. It is apparently said that if one can squeeze through the narrow window of the ancient church ruins below, than one shall enter the kingdom of Heaven. Lucky boy..... I didn't even attempt it!!
However it is to the stunning upper lake area that we devout much of our time, before hiking around. This year I actually made it to the top. We admired the view, even picnicking on the rocks in glorious sunshine. Only to shelter from the pouring rain mere minutes later. It was a very schizophrenic Irish summer weather day, the day we visited. And we loved it. LOVED it.
Not just the scenery but nature in general. At the very tip top, to where the teenager ventured but not I, wild deer and goats could be seen wandering freely about, and we do so love that.
Apparently the next time we visit we're going to the 9km 'circular walk' - up to the top again and then across the ridge all the way back down to the lower car park. It takes 3 to 4 hours and the teenager knows the way, he's done it before. So he says. *Gulps*
Towards the end of the summer the decision was made to take a quick few days away in our favourite holiday haven of all: the Gold Coast Hotel, Dungarvan, Just a few days to chill, take in the stunning scenery and sounds of nature on early morning walks. Get a fix of my favourite beach ever, as a balm to smooth all that may ail. And a chance to do some more outdoor hiking around, the nearby Mahon Falls being our waterfall of choice this time - with some wild sheep wandering everywhere, wondering what all the human kerfuffle was all about.
Of course I anxiously I held out for my favourite scene of all, hoping that the weather and nature gods would once again collide and reveal yet another Gold Coast sunset. Although I had to wait until the last night I was not disappointed.....
Oh, to lie in a hotel bed and look straight out your window to see the waves gently rippling just outside, flowing in and out with the daily tides and to catch the sunrise and sunsets.......
Another slice of heaven to keep me going until the next time.
This final section is inspired by Midlife Singlemum's recent blog posts, which reminded me that I had intended to share a little of what we've been doing in the garden. Not that we're real gardeners you understand. The teenager does quite enjoys the travails and actually possesses the essential gardening genes of time and patience. I on the other hand, do not. I more enjoy the final outcome, although I do reluctantly get involved. I am the real faux gardener here.
We replaced plants that had died: including the Camelia I told you about before - it bloomed once in seven years then had the cheek to just go and die on me - and a Bay tree that I'd grown from a cutting but failed to transfer to a bigger pot in time. These have been replanted in the garden to see if they rejuvenate, as advised by the horticulturist in our local garden centre, and some pretty plants (with terribly long technical names) have been
The teenager has also grown things from cuttings, usually unawares to me. He also likes to grow from seeds. Rooting Powder and plant feed are our friends. When we remember them.
The selection below shows the bamboo grass he grew from a teeny cutting followed by his veritable cornucopia of basil, parsley, coriander and Sweet Peas. Yes, I finally have a 'herb garden', and we get a great kick out of sprinkling them on our 'homemade' pasta and pizza dishes! Not included in this cornucopia of his are four little pots containing the seeds from a plum that fell from a neighbour's tree. We are proud to announce the arrival of the teeniest of green shoots! And the final one is the top of tall clematis plant - adorned by a tricolour feather boa, don't ask! - that I grew years ago from a cutting from my mother-in-law's beautiful garden.
If you're still with me then let me apologise for the long post, however I did enjoy putting it together. Simply gathering all these memories in one place shows how much we actually did achieve this summer, not forgetting the equally important down-time, and preserves them safely here, for me to peruse in years to come.
After all, the teenager will soon be a man and the offer of a free holiday may not be enough to entice him away with his jurassic parents. So I will cherish what we did enjoy and whatever will be in the years to come will be. Let him soar......
Meanwhile I may invest in a good pair of hiking boots and start training for that long hike.
As putting this together obviously also made me feel very cheerful I'm therefore linking this to this week's 'Reasons to be Cheerful' over at Single Lakes Mum.