“No, it has to be three weeks” I compromised with my husband as he expressed his wishes to drive across Europe to Germany, then down to southern France and back to Ireland, covering 4500km in 2 weeks. To my horror, he was actually calling this a holiday!
So we settled on 3 weeks and one day, including the ferry trips. The Germany part was attending a birthday party, but the Southern France part was for more obvious reasons – sun, sights and food (ok, maybe the wine too).
I was so looking forward to warming up my bones after a disastrous winter here in Ireland. Our garden was still reeling from the adverse weather conditions earlier in the year. We packed our bathing suits, sunscreen, blankets for sunbathing, and summer clothes. Getting off the Oscar Wilde in Roscoff and feeling the warm sunshine on our faces, we were just about ready for a good break, a good rest, great food, and plenty of sight-seeing.
Our first week involved a lot of driving. In fact, the majority of the overall journey was done in the first 2 days. Arriving into the Alsace area of France from Germany, we were ready for the famous “Massif Central”, an area well known for its beauty.
Within 2 days of arriving into Southern France, the weather changed and we experienced heavy rain and cooler temperatures. It was getting uncomfortable to drive, and the wind chill was not helping with our summer driving gear on. France then experienced the worst rainfall since 1827, where in 24 hours, 350mm lashed down on the town of Draguignan alone. Luckily for us, we had headed westward, but were not only stranded for 5 days, we had to upgrade to a Chalet in the campsite of Cahors, to avoid floating away in our tent. Every campsite near a river was on high alert. We have seen six different swimming pools, and not used one.
After 10 days, the daytime temperatures were down to 10 degrees. A far cry from 28/32 we were experiencing just a week before. We finally got our sun back when we headed north towards Brittany, and actually got sunburnt on the ferry home.
So that was our holiday! Now that we are home, and a week of tending to the garden, washing clothes and airing out damp camping gear has passed, I am glad we did the trip, it wasn’t so much a rest, but a change.
A holiday in any form is a total change from your home environment. Your routine is disturbed enough that it must be re-established on your return. We often complain about the holiday not being long enough, but when people were stranded in holiday resorts because of the volcanic ash problems in May, there was little fun to be had, as money and clean clothes quickly depleted.
For some, a holiday is to recharge the batteries. If that is the case, then we can restrict our activities to sitting by the pool with a good book or five, leaving the phone and laptop at home. For others, they find an energetic hiking holiday or going to West Cork with four children (plus the neighbour’s child) gets them far enough away from routine, it feels like a real break.
So when planning your vacation time, plan it according to your needs, prepare for the possibility of bad weather (bring the travel scrabble) and keep it as stress free as possible. Some day, you may have to deal with flooding, snow or similar weather conditions, so be open to change and you won’t resent your plans.