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Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Holiday

Prior to having Little Pip, my husband and I spent a reasonable amount of our disposable income on holidays.  Work allowed us both five weeks holiday a year, and we took it; every single day was accounted for in trips abroad or indulgent mini breaks in the UK.  One of the advantages of having a child relatively later in life, was that having already clawed our way up the career ladder and got a foothold in the housing market, we did enjoy the ‘good life’ for a few years in our early thirties.   And enjoy it we did, my copy of ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ was well thumbed, and at one point I could probably list off the top off my head, most of the UK’s Relais and Chateaux hotels.  Every now and then we’d do something more ‘adventurous’, like take ourselves off trekking somewhere like Nepal or Peru, with rucksacks and sleeping bags, but these trips were top and tailed throughout the year with stays of sumptuous luxury and pampering elsewhere.

It was all rather lovely, but reflecting back on it now; these things can make you rather spoilt.   The more you stay in these wonderful places, the more you expect of them.  Each one needs to trump the other to be even more spectacular.  One becomes rather picky.  When you arrive back to your room at night, and feel dismayed that no-one has turned down your bed and left a nice chocolate on your pillow for you, then perhaps it's gone too far.   Because really, I do think that most normal human beings should be able to pull back their own bed sheets.

It was fun whilst it lasted, but the DINKY lifestyle is now long behind us, lodged in the same memory box as the designer shoes I’d wear whilst supping a champagne cocktail in a glitzy hotel bar.  When the bell of motherhood rang on the biological clock, I happily left that life behind for more simple pleasures, and I don't miss it one bit.

Fast forward to life with Pip.  We still love to travel,  but once you have a child there are a whole host of other considerations to bear in mind. Apart from the fact we only have one income now, the factor that is always at the forefront of my mind whenever I consider anywhere for us to holiday, is the 'Pip suitability factor'.  Millions of questions fire like neurons through my brain as I browse dismissively through holiday websites.  Is the accommodation toddler friendly  Safe? Will the weather be too hot? Too cold?  How long will it take to travel there? What’s the time difference? What is there for Pip / us to do if heaven forbid, it rained for a whole week? 

And so it was, all these considerations in check, that last week we found ourselves in a Mongolian Yurt in the Canary Islands.  Not somewhere I would have wanted to visit pre-children. In fact, my inner holiday snob would probably have turned her nose up (just a tiny bit) at the thought of lots of lager swilling, package tour holidaymakers. Well, shame on me.  They are beautiful islands, with a lot to offer, especially if you do make the effort to get off the beaten track and explore the mystery of the dark, volcanic landscapes.

Our yurt was on a Finca; a small rural piece of land.   We slept in it at night, but our kitchen and bathroom were in a little courtyard outside. Pip loved the sense of adventure of sleeping in the big tent. I shouldn’t have worried that sleeping under a mosquito net would freak him out, it only heightened the experience for him.  Literally 10 times a day we visited the resident chickens to feed them our food scraps, and collect eggs from the hen house which we then ate for breakfast, lunch or tea. Or, instead we would feed the resident donkey, visit the sunken trampoline, the adventure play house or paddle by the small pool.

We spent a week living mostly in the fresh air, and focusing on the simple things; making sandcastles at the beach, feeding the animals, and being together.  All washed down with surprisingly good local wine, and delicious tapas from the place on the beach.  With no TV, no Internet and only each other for company, we spent some proper quality time together as a family. Husband and I also got the time to talk properly in the evenings after making supper in our outside kitchen.  We played cards, played ‘name that tune’ on the ipod and made some decisions on the house project, that in the humdrum of everyday life in London, we never seem able to bring to conclusion.  It made me think, that sometimes, it really is worthwhile switching off the TV set/computer/ and doing something more interesting instead. 

On Mother’s day, I was given a lie in, and as the smell of burning sugar filtered in from the oven outside at 7.30am, I realised they were baking a cake.  Three years on, they still uphold the tradition they started in my first year of motherhood of making me a Victoria  sponge to celebrate Mother’s day.  Despite the challenges of our location, and the difficulty of trying to find the word for ‘self raising flour’ in Spanish, this year was no exception.  The slightly burnt bottom cut off, the cake was delicious.  I felt so thankful to have two people that love me enough to make such an effort.

It’s always a sign of a good holiday when you don’t want to come home. Ridiculously I felt a small lump in my throat on our last day, as we  said goodbye to our nomadic tent with it’s cheerful red inside.  It had been the perfect place to stay for a week, everything had just seemed so effortless and simple. Living as we had for a week was a stark reminder, that actually you don’t need much in life, you can get by with very few material things if you need to; and that what feeds and invigorates my soul and makes me happy, is being with the people I love and care about and spending quality time together.




Back home, I was filled with renewed energy and enthusiasm on our first day back.  By midday I’d done all the washing, changed all the beds, got husband to take lots of junk to the local tip, and unbelievably.. also spring cleaned the fridge.  Standing back, amazed by my feats of domesticity, I made a mental note to book my next holiday very soon.

19 comments:

  1. Sounds like you had a fab time. I still have absolutely no clue how to holiday with a toddler. I'm still craving fancy locations and hotels but they're out of bounds for quite a while. Dilemas, dilemas.

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    1. Top tips for holidaying with a toddler. Trunki for airport - sticker books/ ipad with cartoons for plane. I say, stay somewhere that is used to dealing with little ones - they'll have all the stuff you forget or know where you can get it. Things like a playground/ chickens/donkey/ trampoline on site all make life SO much easier too!

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    2. Ha, just purchased a Gruffalo trunki and iPad. Looks like I have that part covered at least.

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    3. Just need to find your destination now! Gruffalo trunki is so cool. I kept trying to persuade Pip to have that one but he wanted the fire engine. IPad is so much more battery efficient for watching cartoons than the bog standard travel DVD player - they just eat batteries!

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  2. That sounds fab. I am very jealous. And the cake is fantastic, well done to your two men.

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    1. Yes, gotta hand it to the boys, they do well with their Victoria sponge. I think making it by hand - including whipping the cream was a real challenge!

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  3. What a wonderful holiday - the Canaries can be a lovely holiday. What an adventure for Pip - sounds like he loved it! You must have felt so energised and refreshed after being outdoors for a whole week! Love the Victoria Sponge tradition on Mothers Day. It just sounds like you all had a really lovely time as a family! And alot of eggs were eaten!

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    1. Yes, alot of eggs were eaten. Luckily they were on the small side :0)

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  4. That sounds idyllic. I think I was actually looking at the very same place when I was contemplating where to go on holiday this year - it sounded like the perfect combination of things. Like you, I was a bit snobby about the Canary Islands, but it sounds as though there's more to it than Tenerife low-rises. It turns out that I'll just be having a week in Suffolk this year, but I'm looking forward to it for the same reasons as you enjoyed your holiday: the simple things.

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    1. Possibly it is the same place. If you do get the chance to go, I'm sure you'll have a fabulous time. The owner even took us to his friend's stone quarry so that Digger mad Pip could drive a real life Cat bulldozer. Highlight of his holiday!
      I love Suffolk. Lots of lovely places to visit round there. Beautifully unspoilt too.

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  5. Wow! What an incredible experience! I actually love holidays like that but haven't been game to take my children on any adventures like that... yet :)

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    1. I'm sure when you do they'll have a fab time. Lots of adventurous places to camp in your neck of the woods!

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  6. love the sound of your holiday. I have memories of travelling with our first child in the 90's, so glad we did it. Have yet to travel far with no.2 (20months old) but you have whetted my appetite again. Its amazing how much one can get done when energised, long may the feeling last.

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    1. Thanks...the batteries are still supercharged - log may it last indeed!

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  7. Your holiday sounds fabulous, I really want to go there now. I'm very keen to travel with the little man but so far all we've done is go to Cornwall and Greece although I'm trying to organise other trips like Holland and Italy. Would love to take him further afield. Love camping with the little chap, so I think a holiday like this would be brilliant fun. Love your cake, too, very special! Polly x

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    1. Thanks Polly. Yes, I think there is something about little men and camping that just go hand in hand. x

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  8. Ahh have made me want to run out and get holiday brochures! We are going to Centre Parcs this year as that is a tried and tested holiday which is great for J1 and J2, and the whole ambience is so relaxing. We are starting to try and formulate a plan for Disney, with J1 it'll take some mammouth organising but determined, its just the $$$ to find. Hopefully we are aiming to go when J2 is about 4 so praying the 'Tantrum' phase will be finished by then! Lol.

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  9. wow - sounds amazing. I know what you mean about the holidays - we were inveterate travellers before children (although maybe on more of a budget!), now we are luckt to get a trip to France in a holiday park( great for kids but I would have sneared at this pre children!) We are going to stay in a luxury yurt in Cornwall in June and I'm really looking forward to it!

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    1. Happy yurting! I'm sure you'll have a fabulous time.

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