Variations on that pattern lasted until both children had flown the nest and I no longer worked full time. Then, in 2009, it was our turn to take a "gap year" and go traveling. It was while we were visiting Italy for the first time that year that Steve became ill, was subsequently diagnosed with mesothelioma back in the UK and "normal" life came to an abrupt end.
However, as time passed, we began to adapt to living on a three monthly time frame between hospital assessments and started traveling again, both in the UK and abroad. These days however, our "holidays" are shorter - anything from a few days up to a week long - but we go away more frequently. While we are traveling, we tend to pack in as much as we can, not knowing if or when we will ever return. As a result, we usually come back from these trips exhilarated but exhausted, with memory cards full of photographs to process.
We have just returned from a week based in Carcassonne, south west France, and this time it's been a very different experience - we are rested, relaxed and recharged! We spent a few days in Carcassonne this time last year while touring the wider area, so this trip was more like going back to see an old friend. We enjoyed introducing the walled Cite and the castle to our daughter Katie and her partner Ed, as well as being chauffeured around the surrounding area, including the Canal du Midi, some of the local villages and vineyards, and the Lac de la Cavayere, all new to us.
We caught the end of the Carcassonne Feria, where everyone gathered in one of the main squares to enjoy an evening of food and drink, music and a bit of dancing - a reminder of how close we were to Spain.
We sampled some lovely places to eat out in Carcassonne, but it was also a pleasure to eat in at the villa we had rented for the week, especially when Katie and Ed prepared meals using lots of lovely local ingredients!
One of the biggest differences however on this holiday, was simply taking the opportunity to relax, unwind, sit in the sun, take a dip in the pool, read a book, sleep in late in the morning and linger over a meal on the terrace, enjoying good company and conversation until late into the evening - luxuries we rarely indulge in when we travel alone. "Makes a pleasant change to chasing round after you" as Steve noted wryly one evening :-)
What better way to take our minds of Steve's next assessment, now only a few days away, when we will find out the results of the CT scan taken at the end of August. It was noticeable on this holiday that there were occasions when Steve became a bit puffed when walking. He attributes this to the heat which built up during the week we were there, and the very hazy atmosphere on one particular day which might have been caused atmospheric pollution. I am just hoping he is right, and it's not Leo rearing his ugly head after sleeping peacefully for three years and three months. We shall find out soon enough.
Before then, we have a day out in London with friends to look forward to, as well as lots of holiday washing and travel paraphernalia to put away, e-mails to answer and news to catch up with. Not to mention some photos to process - yes we did take a few!