Veering West

COLM TOBIN: Faraway hills might be greener, but our green isle is hard to beat!

August 8th, 2022 11:00 AM

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I DON’T want to be the miserable git talking about how stressful our sun holiday in the expensive European resort was this summer. Believe me, reader, I really don’t want to be that guy.

I am aware of how unimaginably privileged we are to be able to hop on a plane and go to some exquisite beauty spot on the Italian coast just because it’s warmer than where we live.  

But when we returned from our ten-day holiday last weekend, I was never so glad to feel the fresh Irish summer breeze on my face and to take in the panoramic dullness of the Dublin cloudscape as we walked off the plane. 

We were unusually tense in the run-up to this holiday anyway. Will the queues in Dublin Airport be catastrophic? Will the Aer Lingus flight be cancelled? Will the temperatures in Italy be horrendous and unworkable? How will the kids react to their first plane journey in years? Will they make a holy show of us?

The thing is, we needn’t have worried at all. All of the above went incredibly smoothly. The airport was exceptionally well run, the flights were incredibly smooth and the kids were absolutely on their best behaviour for the entire journey there and back. 

And the resort we booked was just as the website had advertised – lovely pools, a cabin in the woods with AC, lots of charming restaurants, diverse family activities and all only a three-minute walk to the beach. 

We’ve never done a resort holiday before. We normally prefer to venture off the beaten track. But after two years without any foreign breaks, we figured we’d throw a bit of money at it this time. For simplicity. And comfort. We just wanted to switch off our brains, take it easy and let the kids have the time of their lives.

This was the plan, ladies and gentlemen. 

And with the temperatures hovering in or around a very pleasant thirty degrees, as well as a lovely sea breeze to keep us cool, it all looked set up to be the perfect break after a tough couple of years. 


But then we got a swift reminder that travelling with smallies is a high-risk pursuit of its own. In fact, I think it should be redesignated as a form of adventure tourism. Climbing K2 is all well and good. Riding a motorcycle across the Sahara might look brave. But the real Tom Creans are the ones venturing anywhere outside their home patch with children in tow. 

It started in the middle of Night 1. In a fit of holiday excitement, the young fella had inadvertently gulped down a load of swimming pool water earlier in the day and the rest, as they say, is dysentery ... sorry history.

The poor little man woke at 3am, doubled over in pain and continued to be bound to his bed for three whole days, leaving his parents worried sick and feeling fairly helpless. 

And so the first half of the holiday was split between the sort of crippling anxiety only the parents of sick children know, and trying to keep the other child entertained by going back and forth to the pool. 

The high point of my week was getting to cycle to a nearby town to find the Italian version of Dioralyte. That was my personal reward after a two-year pandemic. And just as the young man was beginning to keep down some solids and come round a bit, the daughter went and cut her toe on some mysterious object in the swimming pool. 

It’s fair to say that, at this point, we did not resemble the happy families on the resort website by that point, frolicking around in the waves with cocktails in their hands. We were like the cast of some tragic Italian opera huddled in the cabin watching Is It Cake? on Netflix, waiting for the next bit of misfortune. 

Things picked up as the week went on, there were waves, there was craic, and there were multiple pizzas, but it was like we were in the second half of a match and too far behind to ever get close to a victory. It was all about reclaiming some respectability at that stage.  

As we left Pisa airport, exhausted and still suffering the hangover of the stress from earlier in the week we did ask ourselves – why on Earth do we do this every year?  

Foreign holidays are too much for the kids when they are small, the parents experience something approaching the opposite of a break and what exactly are we looking to find in these places, bar the warmer sea and admittedly glorious temperatures, that we couldn’t have got at home in Ireland? And that’s before I even mention the word ‘mosquitos’. 

The mad thing is that we knew all this already. Earlier in the year, we took a small break in Ahakista and the kids spent the weekend delighting in the simplicity of skimming stones into Dunmanus Bay. But somehow, it felt right to just go the extra mile this year, to give the kids a new experience, to give ourselves a reward in the sun after a few tough years.

And so we’ve resolved to stay in Ireland next summer. Camping in West Cork maybe. Or a week on one of the islands, perhaps. 

We’ve made this promise before, mind you. Once February comes around again and your optimistic human brain starts to plan ahead for the summer adventures to come, the pull of the Mediterranean is strong, the promise of sandy beaches and warm seas. And already the negative experiences we had last week are starting to fade and the good memories beginning to dominate. 

Actually, the whole experience has made us so thankful for our little house, the health of our family, and even the Irish climate that we give out about so much. Bizarrely, I am now returning to the office feeling refreshed and with a positive glow, despite our minor misfortune, and a feeling of gratitude that we get to call this island our home.

No doubt, next spring we’ll be looking to the summer ahead again and starting to hatch plans. ‘Remember last year?’, I’ll say. ‘We felt absolutely great after the trip to Italy, didn’t we? Will we try Portugal this year for a change?’

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