Autumn equinox, the country bathed in an unexpected heatwave.
A day to mark summer's end with one last everything.
One last ice-cream, one last outdoor lunch, one last walk on the Dun Laoghaire pier.
It was the day of the All-Ireland football final, and Dublin Bay glinted in the sunlight, a deep patriotic blue.
Three hungry children determined that Itsa Bagel should be our first port of call - we ate lunch in the sun, at the brightly coloured tables on the terrace; looking out at the sea and the white boats bobbing on the horizon.
Eating outdoors never loses it's charm, even on the latter cusp of what will go down in modern folklore as the "best summer ever", a summer when eating outdoors became an everyday treat.
The toddler took off his sandals to chase pigeons, the girls made a dash for the adjoining playground, and Auntie N and I followed on with our coffees.
After hovering over an adventurous toddler for fifteen slides in a row, we pitched an alternative to the girls - a walk on the pier. There may have been mention of ice-cream (it's not really a bribe if you put it in a casual, indirect way)
We stepped out onto the East Pier, and just like every other time, my breath stopped for a moment. There is nothing in the world like the view of the pier and the sea and the boats and the sky on a sunny day in Dun Laoghaire. I am biased, I live there. But truly, my breath and my heart stand still every time.
We strolled slowly, stopping to look at boats, and ducks, and seagulls. Explaining to two inquisitive girls how people get out to their boats, and what currents are, and what the bandstand is.
We turned back halfway, aware that little legs would soon be tired, and retraced our steps, this time looking inland at the hazy Dun Laoghaire skyline.
Ice-creams well and truly earned, we stopped for 99s at a Teddy's ice cream van, and carried on with our stroll, catching drops of creamy vanilla as they dripped down the side of the cones.
We wandered along towards the People's Park, the narrow footpath busy with happy sun-seekers, dog-walkers, baby-carriers.
The calm blue sea on one side, stop-start traffic on the other. Cars with windows all the way down, some with roofs down. Music wafting out from car radios; "Do you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain?" incongruously coming from a branded jeep driven by someone born long after the song was written.
We crossed to the park gates, where we were greeted with the smokey smell of Falafals and Bratwurst, and the sight of hundreds of picnickers enjoying the Indian Summer sunshine.
I picked up some tomato and fennel bread at a bakery stall while the smallies excitedly greeted the girl at the popcorn stand, having chatted to her the previous day in Marlay park. Another chance to sample some lemon and poppy-seed popcorn (who knew such things existed!)
Inevitably we detoured by the playground - busy as always and not the most relaxing part of the day for Auntie N and me, but the kids were very happy to round off our day-out with a swing and a slide.
Driving home, we found the All-Ireland match on the radio and listened to the last ten minutes. The kids don't know much about GAA but they knew that their dad had intoned "Up the Dubs!" a number of times before he headed to the match, and they had become fairly sure that he was playing in the final. So they were suitably excited to follow the last few minutes and cheered the win with great enthusiasm.
A rather fitting end really, to a day spent discovering their home town.
And maybe the start of falling a little bit in love with it.
Labels: All-Ireland, children, Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, People's Park, pier, summer, sunshine, Teddy's ice cream, The everyday family life posts