Have baby, will travel


Have baby, will travel.
The first thing that hit us was the smell of the pine trees and the sound of the waves,
transporting us to a world away from our home in south London. It was late at night when
my family and I reached our destination and ‘home from home’ in Spain for the next
month. We had rented an apartment on La Fosca beach, outside the larger town of
Palamós, 120km north of Barcelona in Catalonia. We’d taken the decision to come away
with our 8 month-old son, as part of a mini sabbatical on my husband’s part and an excuse
to get away for some valuable family time while I was still on maternity leave. Our deliberations
when we first started planning this trip away ranged from travelling around New Zealand
in a camper van, to backpacking around Argentina… but in the end a month-long sojourn
on the Mediterranean won, in terms of cost as well as pure relaxation factor. Having
been to some far flung corners of the globe both together and separately, my husband and
I initially questioned whether Spain was adventurous enough for this one-off opportunity. My
husband’s employers had agreed to his leave request and so the world (within financial
reason) was our oyster - but with a baby in tow the adventure requirement was deemed
much less of a necessity.

So here we were in La Fosca, in ‘boring old Spain’. Having gone to bed that night to the
sound of the waves lapping on the beach 10 metres away we woke the next day to blue
skies and sunshine, and the glittering Mediterranean sea literally outside our front door.
Backpacking? What were we thinking?!

The month ahead was like one glorious, sunny, fun-filled weekend abroad. Our simple
apartment on the seafront provided a wonderful base for exploring the local area - but not
too hard, as after all we had come away just to relax and spend time together as a family.
We had had great plans before arriving to spend some time in Barcelona, visit the nearby
medieval city of Girona, and maybe spend a few days in the Pyrenees - none of which we
had any inclination in doing in the end. We were too busy doing nothing, or rather, very little:
some walking, some beach time, some drinking, lots of eating. And introducing our son
to the Spanish way of life, which he took to like a duck to water. Our FOMO baby was never
one for wanting to go to bed early (or we’d not yet mastered that elusive goal) so the
later dinner/bed time suited him, and therefore us, perfectly. He even got the memo that
going to bed later meant later wake up times, and so it wouldn’t be unusual for us all to
wake up around 10am, and then plan our day according to the weather and how good a
night sleep we’d all had.

It was that sort of lack of planning that made us so relieved that we’d decided to just go
and live somewhere for a month - not having to sightsee, or move every 3-5 days was just
bliss, and not what we are used to at all- but was certainly the right thing for us now. And
the location could not have been more perfect. Previous visits to Spain had mostly been to
the south and although there are some beautiful parts of southern Spain, we were keen to
avoid the touristy/ overdeveloped areas overrun with British pubs and ‘egg and chips’ and
our location in this part of the Costa Brava, previously unknown to both of us, was just idyllic
- stunning coves, with crystal clear waters and quaint fishing villages, dotted with alpine
forests in between, which also provided some beautiful walks. And not a pub / egg and
chips / McDonalds in sight. For most of the month of May we were treated to glorious
weather, the temperature on average in the mid-high 20s along with a dazzling blue sky.
And of course there were tourists (we were there after all, although we pretended to ourselves
that we were locals) but you didn’t hear too many English voices and with its proximity
to France most foreign voices were French, which somehow never seems as bad as
just hearing your own countrymen!

What will always stay with us the most though, over and above the sunshine, seaside setting,
great food and general bliss, is how refreshing the Latin way of life is, and how welcoming
people and establishments are to babies and children. We would walk in to a restaurant
or tapas bar at 9.30pm at night with a wide-awake baby and no-one would bat an
eyelid. Our little one was always greeted with big smiles and a pat on the head from the
waiters, young and old, and cooed over by other diners. As a proud mum I could just put
this down to how especially adorable / irresistible my son is (which of course in my eyes he
is), but given the number of babies and young children we saw out at night with their parents,
this sort of welcome obviously applied to all - quite different from the ‘children welcome
until 6.30pm’ mentality which can be quite common back home.

Taking this small period of time out was one of the best decisions we’d made as a family.
For me personally it was such a refreshing break- I absolutely love being a mum but life
does feel a bit Groundhog Day at times, with the repetitive daily cycle of feeding, meal
preparation, changing, clothes washing, trying to get my baby to sleep….but with husband
in tow it definitely lightened both the physical and mental load, and was a very welcome
change of scene- and just a very special family holiday for so many reasons. With a
shared love of travel, my husband and I tried to get in as many trips as possible before our
little one arrived, with everyone telling us how life-changing having a baby is and the general
assumption that you cannot do the same things as you did before. But so far we have
found that we can still do most of the things we have always loved doing… they just might
take a different form!

Lastly, on our return we have found that our now 9 month-old seems to have leapt forward
in his physical development, possibly benefitting from having both parents on hand, giving
him much more leg stretching and less time being carted around in his buggy by me while
I go about my chores. So now we can now tell ourselves that this trip wasn't just for Mum
and Dad, but baby too- and all in all was worth its weight in gold.

Vicky Hartley
Mama of one, lives in London and survives parenthood with the help of family, friends,
restorative yoga and lots of coffee… mostly coffee.