July 2013 we went to ‘Span-Ugal’ (flew into Portugal and transferred over to a resort in Sothern Spain). Our first family holiday abroad. Bearing in mind that me and Chris met in August 2010 and Peggy was born in March 2012, we hadn’t had a holiday abroad as a couple either so this was new territory.
I believed (stupidly) that having a baby would mean that our lives would remain the same but we’d have a perfectly formed little bundle of joy fashionably papoose – ed to my front throughout. We’d still be going out for brunch in cafes, lazy Sunday mornings, weekends away, dinner with friends, family celebrations in restaurants, clothes shopping, gallery visits, music gigs. We’d be like a Gap advert. All beige chinos and stripy T’s with floppy soft hair and pearly white smiles. What an idiot I was.
So I naively approached Span-Ugal in the same delusional state – we were going with friends (who I would sip cocktails with whilst relaxing by the pool getting a tan with baby sleeping alongside). Chris was going for a round of 18 on a brilliant Golf course near by. We’d stay up dancing with Peggy at the kids disco and she’d sleep until late the next morning. All-inclusive, so no need to worry about cooking and the resort was within walking distance to the beach – where Peggys would sit under a parasol, in her element playing in the worlds biggest sandpit. What an idiot I was.
Our first mistake was booking a hotel in which the three of us slept in the same bedroom. 18 month old Peggy thought the travel cot at the foot of our bed was amazing – all she had to do was stand up and shout and we’d be there…..which she did….all night. Also, when we got up to the loo in the middle of the night, the disturbance woke her. What an idiot I was.
What we should have done; Villa/chalet style accommodation where there are 2 bedrooms so we could have maintained some kind of routine. Taken black out blinds. Taken ear plugs. Taken Grandma.
Second mistake was all-inclusive. This was pre-coeliac diagnosis but we did have Chris’ low fibre diet to consider. All the fresh fruit, salads, fish marinated in local herbs and spices, pasta, rice, seafood booze. I was in heaven. Chris was in hell. Communal eating such as all you can eat buffets freak Chris out at the best of times. Hidden ingredients that play havoc with his stomach. Other people touching food/leaning over food/ breathing over food/sneezing over food. It’s not ideal for a person with a low immune system. Also, all-inclusive involves eating at designated times. Chris is a grazer. He’s better eating little and often and depending on how his stomach is, sometimes that food needs to be plain and easy to digest such as white bread, crisps, bananas, potatoes, steamed chicken or fish, well steamed soft veg. We didn’t once sit down and eat as a family because one of us was doing laps around the resort trying to calm Peggy down (who refused to eat anything because of the heat) whilst the other one wolfed down some food before taking over the walk.
What we should have done; self-catering. Gone to the local supermarket and stocked up on the low fibre essentials as well as hummus and bread sticks (pretty much all that Peggy ate at 18 months!)
Let me tell you something. Southern Spain in July is really bloody hot. It’s especially hot for the ginger pasty white dude who spends a lot of the Summer months shade hunting, asking “Has anyone seen my hat” and smothering factor 50 everywhere. Peggy was just as cranky in the heat. I think that doing a round of 18 in the mid-day heat was what saw Chris off and he spent a lot of time staying cool in our room under the air-con.
Peggy quickly learnt that;
A; Life-saving floatation vests and armbands are really bulky to wear and hot
B; Running to the pool full pelt, ignoring the screams of “Stop Peggy!” with Mummy and Daddy frantically chasing you was a hilarious game
C; The deep ‘grown up’s’ pool was way better than the shallow kids pool
What we should have done; Avoided accommodation with a pool which forms the central feature to the whole resort….breakfast by the pool, lunch by the pool, drinks by the pool, games next to the pool….in fact, just stayed somewhere without a pool!
I panicked A LOT about the flight …can we take milk in a bottle on the flight? What if she screams the whole time? What if the pressure of the cabin hurts her ears? What if we’re accused of drug smuggling when they clock Chris’ cocktail of med’s in our case? What if Chris’ stomach is bad and he needs the loo? I bought a selection of ‘tat’ and wrapped it all up individually for Peggy (so unwrapping each one took a few minutes before the 2 minutes of fun each item delivered. She’d opened them all and discarded them before we’d even taken off). Thanks to a fully charged I-Pad and sweetie selection Willy Wonka would have been proud of the outbound journey was, I’d say, OK. However, by the time we went to get our return flight we were emotional, tired and in need of a holiday. That airport was the pinnacle. The finale if you will. The straw that broke the camels back. I think it started with the buggy. In the que for checking in, we kept Peg contained within it until we were near the front – mistake. Removing all of our bags dangling from the handles and shoved in the tiny basket underneath took an age. Collapsing the bloody thing and figuring out how it went back in the ‘handy travel bag’ was stressful, even more so when you add the audience of disgruntled passengers watching on. Peggy was ‘rogue’ at this point and had ran full pelt past the checking in point and frantic airport staff were attempting to ‘round her up’ like a sheep dog trial. I misunderstood the instructions requesting that boarding passes be separate to passports and slotted them inside….which the angry and unimpressed member of staff checking boarding passes picked me up on and gave me a ‘telling off’. Which was an epic fail on his part considering the pandemonium that was unfolding around him and me. Surely he could see it would be best, on this occasion, to let the boarding pass misplacement slide and smile as he waved me through. I directed my expletives at Chris (who had backed the arse-hole up by pointing out the sign requesting ‘boarding passes be kept separate to passports’). I have a vague recollection of the ‘C’-word being banded about at a volume which was audible to the audience of passengers stood smugly behind us (all tanned, well rested, with impeccably behaved children, buggys collapsed in travel bags and boarding passes seperate to passports – bastards).
I sat in the middle of the row on the flight home with Chris on one side, Peggy on the other. My friend, positioned at the end of the row, spotted the single tear rolling down my cheek and wobbly chin and kindly passed a Kleenex along the line of our friends.
Our friends will forever refer to gigantic melt-downs as ‘Span-Ugal’ melt downs. Bloody miracle they are still our friends to be honest.
What we should have done; Looked at a map and drawn a ‘1 hour car journey’ radius around our house.
The year after ‘Span-Ugal’ we went to Center Parcs……which is where we’ve gone every year since (in fact we went twice last year). It’s everything I swore we wouldn’t be (back when I was a disillusioned, naïve idiot). Its just so bloomin’ easy. We’ve got the routine down to a fine art. Same group of long suffering friends who have kids the same age as ours. We set off Friday morning around 11 (“we’ll defo be on the road for 9am”) with a car picnic, swimming costumes on under our clothes, car boot filled with GF/low fibre essentials. We book into restaurants which we know cater for our needs. It doesn’t matter when our kids are kicking off because guess what, so are all the other kids in Bella Italia at 5pm! Saturday night takeaway; Chris has Chicken Chow Mein – one of the few Chinese dishes he can have – whilst I order the food I miss most in our house, an Indian!) Each family in our group stays in separate accommodation so we don’t have to witness each others ‘Span-Ugal’ style meltdowns and we get together ‘poolside’ next to the pirate ship, a stones thrown from Costa and near the loo’s. Saturday nights see Mums swigging Sauvignon next to the dance floor whilst dads are badgered for “Just one more pound for the guitar game Daddy, pleeeeeeeease” and we’re all tucked up in bed for 9pm. Heaven.