|via children on their birthdays|
Case in point: our holiday to Portugal. Now for any new readers - Portugal is where we go every year. Are there any new readers out there?! I feel like I write this blog to my oldest friends, you are always in mind's eye as I type, with the puppy (who is now 2 years old) at my feet. Will he forever be called a puppy? He looks like a puppy, behaves like a puppy, strangers think he is a puppy. This is good when he misbehaves as I can rely on his youthfulness to explain his naughty behaviour. Sheepish grin. Puppy love.
I digress - so Portugal, we visit the same places and do the same things each year and really it feels like an annual tonic to the hustle and bustle that is our life. However this year we did some different stuff. We did a city break with our kids in Lisbon. We stayed in a beautiful hotel that used to be a Palace, it was awesomely stylish. We learnt that our kids (ages 8 and 12) are not really, truly ready for a city break. This hit home when we ended up in a too-cool-for-school Vietnamese restaurant '...no, really, it'll be just like Wagamamas...' and the choices on the menu started at soft-shelled crab. To be fair to them, they tried it; kids will actually eat anything if they are hungry enough and you've spent the day schlepping round heart-achingly cosmopolitan, tree-lined boulevards, stumbled across fountains and basked with a chilled drink in the city heat. However no matter how beautiful the architecture was, they would have probably preferred being elsewhere, somewhere less hot and less architectural. Interesting and useful family lesson.
We moved then to the coast, to Cascais, which I LOVED. It had a really chilled-out feel to it. We had a bizarre experience with the villa we rented, which turned out to be more like an unplanned, unwanted house-swap. I wonder now, returned and relaxed in my own home, why I reacted so strongly on the day we checked in. We rented a large villa with friends, that whilst might have been of an older style, we thought would be cleared out and freshened up for our arrival. It hadn't been and was sadly dirty and so full of old, broken personal clutter it was a shock. It was baaaad. Uncomfortably bad. The thing I have learnt about clutter is that it is not great when it's your own; even worse when it is someone else's. And not really what you pay your hard-earned cash for when you take a holiday. Long story short, we ended up changing location and checked into a hotel up the road which turned out to be a real treat. Again, stylish, understated, luxe and no clutter in sight. There was also flawless service, lovely food and a big saltwater pool that kept our kids entertained for days. Lesson number two: I am completely affected by my surroundings and it does really matter to me that things are clean and clear.
So now home, we have builders here as we knock through to next door. Three new doorways that have opened up our house to the cottage next door and overnight we have the prospect of a third more space. It's a great feeling and comes nine years to the week that we moved in to our farmhouse. There are plans for a bigger build next year, so we have an architect working on it, who bizarrely lived in our house as a child. We bought it from his parents. Anyway, our days have been spent this week reviewing the progress, checking plans and revelling in the loveliness of expanding our home. I feel very, very lucky that we can do this.
But some things stay the same; I returned to the beach this morning as all of the summer people have gone now and the dog walkers and runners have taken back the dunes as their own again. Then there is the future. As corporate life becomes a ever-more-distant image in my rear view mirror, I am enjoying the openness and freedom of having less to do. I can literally feel my brain empty out as the days pass and I am going to fill it with nothing but good things.
|...Lisbon style tiles...via cape cod collegiate|