Sunday 26 February 2017

The lessons of summer

Gemma O'Doherty

July is becoming such a downer of a month. It should be one of the driest in the year, filled with long sweltering days that linger into August. But for the past four years, all it's really done is rain. It seems to think it belongs to blustery autumn rather than sultry summer, and I've learned to give it a wide berth.

I feel quite smug that we got our domestic travels out of the way in June. We had two weeks of glorious heat in the south-east and went through a satisfying batch of Factor 50. The days were as long as they could be, so we could pack in long, leisurely breakfasts, afternoon outings and evening walks up to 11pm, when daylight finally dwindled.

That's the beauty of June; it lacks the volatility of its successor. It's a much more reliable soul.

A spell of high pressure this weekend notwithstanding, we're now heading for four rotten summers in a row. So it's time to rethink the calendar.

Our tour operators are seeing a surge in bookings among those who were planning to stay at home and ease financial worries but can't bear the thought that they might not see the sun again for the rest of the summer.

Turkey, the Canaries, Tunisia and Morocco -- four dead-cert sun destinations -- have all experienced a bounce in business in the last fortnight.

So what happens next? Demand increases and prices go up during what is already the most expensive time of the year to go on holiday. Travellers get ripped off. Big time. There are reports that some operators are adding 75pc to the price of a July holiday.

As most of us in this part of the world take our holidays at the same

peak times, the European Commission has proposed that member states consider having slightly different school breaks to help level out demand and reduce summer prices. It's a nice idea but would take some genius to put into effect.

If you are thinking of making a last-minute dash to the sun, sit tight and consider September. It's still balmy across Europe, the masses have gone home and you'll get great value.

Even if you have children, missing a week of school early on in the year won't do them any harm once they're not preparing for state exams.

A friend of mine takes her three kids away every September and pays half the price she would in August. She gets filthy looks from the teachers when she tells them they won't be back to school until the second week of the month, but she's convinced they learn just as much, if not more, when they're abroad as in the classroom.

Last year, they went to a villa in the south of France for a fortnight. The children, all under 10, mingled with local kids all day and came back with a good smattering of the language. They learnt about French cooking and spent days exploring the museums and markets of the region.

This year, it's a small village in Capri where, in between eating pizza and gelati for a week, their little ears will pick up Italian words and they will get a taste of the dolce vita.

If that isn't educational, what is?

Of course, if we all did that, there'd be nothing for our teachers to do in September, but surely they could manage for a week or two without their charges, and it would ease them back gently into the year ahead.

Irish Independent

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