Last weekend was the start of the school Easter holidays in Portugal. How to fill two weeks with energetic activities, happy memories and fond family outings. So on day one of the holidays, eight o’clock in the morning, there I was sitting up in bed all ready with a great idea. Here goes. At least this is how it was supposed to go.
“Thought we’d go to the mountain today children”.
“Cool, mum, that’s exciting, I’ll go and get my shoes on.” Rush of the children to the front door, coats in hand.
Here’s how it actually went…
“Let’s go to the mountain today kids”.
“Oh no muum. I want to stay in”.
“There’ll be snow though, it’ll be fun. You said you wanted to see some snow because we weren’t in England”.
“Can’t we just stay at home?”.
“Computer games”, chimes in my eight year old.
An hour and a half later we were in the car. With the attraction of snow I had finally managed to convince my eight year old it would be much more exciting than looking at a screen. My thirteen year old dragged herself, grumbling, into the car. We headed for Covilha. I had seen the snow covered mountain from afar, behind the hills of Castelo Branco, and had looked forward to going up it.
We arrived at Covilha, which was much prettier than I imagined, and we turned into the town. “The snowy mountain’s over there, the right turn surely” said my husband. “I’m just following the signs to Serra Da Estrela”, I said and directed him to the left and into the town instead. I wasn’t convinced we were on the right route, I was more or less winging the way but tried to sound as though I knew what we were doing. I often do that. Sometimes, even worse, I’ll follow a random car assuming it knows a short cut through the town. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it isn’t going my way at all. Doesn’t everyone do that?
We drove past the university, the shopping centre, independent shops and numerous ski resort hotels. I made a note to come back another day and investigate the town. “Where’s the snow, there’s no snow” wailed the children. Everything was green. We wound higher. No snow. Please let there be snow. Trees blossomed. It wasn’t looking good. “Look, there’s snow” I said, hopefully, as a few grey bits appeared by the side of the road. We passed walkers trudging up the hill. “Why are they bothering to walk, haven’t they got a car mummy”, said the eight year old. “Walking’s the point” I said. “Look snow!”.
Suddenly there was a little wonderland of white bushes and rock. We pulled in. The kids got out and promptly chased each other around, throwing snowballs. The dog lolloped around. Such relief on my part. The walkers caught us up as we got back into the car. We drove higher and higher, until we were at the peak.
The sight was breathtaking. Hundreds of people sledging, throwing snowballs, children running through the snow in the cold air. Out of the car we were knee deep in it and climbing up rocks, the kids chasing each other and giggling. Taking photos.
We were soaking wet, had inadequate footwear and freezing cold hands but it was worth it. All this an hour from home. I imagined if we’d stayed in, cold, bored and bickering, trying to get the children away from a screen, and was glad I hadn’t given in.