We’ve not been on holiday for years. Okay, we’ve had the odd long weekend in London; a few days in Wales; and a quick trip to Spain to visit old friends and check out Granada.
But a genuine, close-up-the-house, fire-up-the-Kindle and get away from it all in the Algarve—this is unfamiliar territory. It seems such a grown-up thing to do.
We have finished everything critical on the To Do list; emptied the fridge; left instructions on watering etc.—and keys—with a neighbour. We’re all set. So why do I wake at 2am, heart pounding, worrying about what we might have forgotten? And again at 3.10am—and 3.50am?
Finally, at 4.30am, I admit defeat and get up. I write emails, empty bins, check the windows are locked—anything to pass the time until we leave.
Our original plan was to take a ferry to Santander and drive through Spain and Portugal, stopping at Masterchef-recommended restaurants along the way and making the 2-3 day journey part of the holiday. But when we considered just how far it is; how crowded the ferries get at the end of half-term; and our inexperience in driving ‘on the wrong side of the road’—and compared it with a two and a half hour flight from Exeter to Faro, it was no contest really.
The flight is on-time, relatively stress-free—if you ignore the screaming of babies, the sales trolleys blocking the route to the loo, and the loud-voiced bore in the row behind us who doesn’t pause for breath from airport to airport and has a really interesting medical history (not)—and our pre-booked driver is waiting, smiling in the arrivals hall. Less than an hour later, we are deposited in our new home—a beautiful, fully-equipped villa complete with pool.
We look at each other and I wonder if Michael has the same holiday nerves I do; what on earth will we do with ourselves in a strange place, in a strange country, for three weeks?
The villa is at the top of a steep hill, about a mile and a half outside the village. Despite all the advice from the owners before we left UK, we realise we don’t know how to reach the shops—and food! So, donning sun screen, glasses and hats, we head out to explore. After taking a wrong turning, wandering around for a bit, retracing our footsteps and finding the sea on the horizon, we walk downhill to the coast. On the way, we identify potential spots for dinner, but at 2.30pm, many places are closed and we have had no lunch, so we fall back on that stalwart of Brits abroad (or is that only me?), the Chinese restaurant and dim sum.
Fortified, we explore the village and finally discover the supermarket. On learning that we can easily call a taxi to take us and our bags back up the hill to the villa, we load our trolley with healthy goodies (well, chocolate and wine come under the healthy category in my book).
We have sun, a beautiful villa, access to food. We visibly relax and the holiday begins.
The garden at the pool
It has always been designed as a working holiday for me. Each morning I rise before 6am, raise the blinds to let in the early morning rays of sun, and wander barefoot in the garden drinking herbal tea, inhaling the scented morning air and listening to the birdsong. Then I hit the computer and work through the morning, pausing for breakfast when Michael surfaces. At noon each day, the laptop goes away and I relax; a spot of lunch, a dip in the pool, a stroll into town for supper, and reading—so many books to catch up on.
Some people will frown on the idea of taking a laptop on holiday. ‘Don’t mix business and pleasure,’ they will say.
But I disagree. In the course of three wonderful weeks, my total output is: one electronic copy and two print versions of Counterfeit! finalised and distributed to their respective production companies; one collection of flash fiction, Flashing on the Riviera, launched as a promotional tool, just in time for National Flash Fiction Day; my contribution finalised for Out of the Shadows, a collaborative anthology of short stories launched as a perma-free promotional tool with a group of other women writers; the June issue of Chudleigh Phoenix laid out and published; the publicity campaign for Chudfest monitored and kept up to date; the publicity campaign for Counterfeit! planned; and emails responded to.
But I also swim every day; walk miles; develop a reasonable suntan without painful burning sessions; catch up on NCIS and Game of Thrones; eat some wonderful food; drink a glass or two of Vino Verde; and have plenty of time to talk to Michael. I return to UK relaxed, tanned, blonde (and I didn’t expect that!); and already planning next year’s trip. And I don’t have hundreds of emails to deal with!
Yes, taking a long working holiday, in the sun, outside of high season was a grown-up thing to do—and we loved it.
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