The adults sipping wine, watching on as the children play happily in a grassy field. Long walks through beautiful countryside and tired kids falling into bed at the end of the day.
Well, no. Not exactly.
But it was, mostly, lovely, and everyone enjoyed our time en masse.
I discovered, however, that being taken to deepest Wales at least 10 times while growing up in no way prepares you for going as a grown-up and having to think about things that never even cross our minds in Dubai, like wellies, water-proofs, fleeces and socks. Things that, in North Wales, stop your kids from getting hyperthermia. Things that my mum, thankfully, remembered every time I forgot.
Here are some more important lessons I learnt (and sorry to my friends on the blogosphere for some repetition here, it’s all still sinking in!):
>• The road trip there is short by American standards, but long when you factor in the whining from the back, Shaun the Sheep on a loop on the DVD and Electronic Eddie’s devious short cuts along winding mountain roads so narrow they only fit one car.
>• You’ll need to pack at least five bags for every outing to carry the necessary wet-weather gear, plus spares of everything – and, even then, your kids will end up in their swimming stuff (the only dry clothes left) for the ride home. Spare pairs of wellies are also a good idea because when water comes over the top, they take a week to dry.
>• The kids (mine) will not happily settle into a routine of a set bedtime and 12 hours’ sleep. They’ll go to bed late, join you in bed and get up early with excitement. By the end of the week, you’ll be on your knees with sleep deprivation. The younger one will power nap in the car while everyone else holds onto their seats on those mountain passes, then he’ll wake up thinking it’s morning and keep going for hours. His delight at all the farmyard animals will go a long way towards making up for this, though.
>• You’ll marvel at your brother’s kids, who go to bed when told, get dressed when told, don’t snack, eat their meals and walk for ages without a whimper – both utterly lovable kids who are a joy to have around. But you’ll find you can no longer claim your own kids’ bad behaviour is a temporary blip when it lasts all week long (not to mention, end the holiday with a parenting crisis).
>• Just when you think you can relax and enjoy a picnic, the two-year-old will find a stone wall to climb and walk along, a big stick to poke you with, or be irresistibly drawn to a pile of poo. Even in the house the kids will keep you on your toes by choosing the most dangerous area to play in – this really odd open attic, high above my bed, that became the games club.
>• Your knowledge of all things related to the countryside will let you down spectacularly because you’ll be stumped by oldest son’s questions, including: Why are there no trees on the mountains? Why are the cow pats so big? (is it because cows have two stomachs, or is that camels?) Did the chicken or the egg come first? Where’s the swimming pool?
>• You’ll find that people with bigger feet have a much easier time at the cattle grid we had to lug the kids and 10 bags over every day to get to the car – parked a long way down a stony track because the access to our holiday home, over a teeny-tiny bridge that gave my brother’s car a flat tyre, was better suited to mountain bikes.
>• The alpha males of the group will attempt to keep the pack together, but find this increasingly difficult as the females are sidetracked by shops and the kids all run off in different directions.
>• You won’t enjoy having one bathroom for nine people (the horror!), the novelty of rain will wear off, and will really miss your husband (in Florida), who makes everything so much easier. But you’ll absolutely love the amazing scenery, seeing the kids enjoying the steam trains, the castles, the seaside, the cool air, the pies, the fudge and your own childhood memories it brings back.
Because North Wales was, without a doubt, the perfect antidote to summer in the desert.