I get up at 7am, make tea and start to pack. Four bowls, four spoons, four cups, cornflakes, fruit juice, milk, bananas, oranges. Lily wakes and asks if I’ve remembered our plans for this morning. I tell her I’m packed and ready to go. Julian and I are waiting for her and Katie to wake up and get dressed. Lily chooses her clothes and dresses and I gently wake Katie. ‘Breakfast picnic’ I whisper in her ear. She opens her eyes and slowly sits up. I dress her, knowing that if I leave her to do it herself we will still be on the boat half an hour from now.
Ten minutes later we are all in the dinghy, motoring through the still early morning river to the pontoon at Alcoutim. We walk back along the river until we are level with Carina, and climb the steep hill up to the old ruined castle built on a promontory overlooking Spain. Lily, Katie and I have been to the castle before and since that first exploration the girls have longed to show it to Dad.
The ruins are divided into forty or more tiny separate rooms, only low walls remaining. It’s the perfect place for playing any game involving knights and princesses and soldiers. The ground is flat and covered in tough grasses at the highest point with a view south over the river that is worth its weight in gold. A huge white washed Spanish fortress sits on a terraced hill across the river, with the village of Sanlucar at the foot of the hill and its old sail-driven windmills on a small hill beyond. The river disappears around a bend and gentle hills stretch to the horizon.
I pour juice into four cups and cornflakes into four bowls and even we world-weary adults are delighted by the novelty of a breakfast picnic. After breakfast, while Julian and I remain at the highest point of the ruin, relaxing, soaking up the view, enjoying the cooling breeze, the girls go exploring. Eventually the girls lure Julian away from the laptop, where he is writing a blog post, and into their game of hide and seek, and I am left alone at the top. Occasionally I hear a shout of ‘Found you’ or ‘Where are you?’ or someone calls me and waves up from their hiding place.
Despite the breeze on the hilltop we know that all too soon it will be too hot for the walk back to the village and to our dinghy, so we pack up, make our way down the hill, and find a sheltered spot to relax before an evening swim in the river.