Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Spanish-French adventure

This week we returned from probably the best holiday we've had in years. My brother got married just outside Girona and we took the opportunity to make the most of it and have a 2 week Spanish break.

Thanks to my fear of flying (and not being able to pop valium or get wasted on vodka as I would have in times gone by) we booked a ferry to France, 3 stops on the way down and prepared ourselves for a 4-day adventure with 2 under-5s.

I was apprehensive about the car travel and wondered how the boys would be but I prepared activity packs for them, plenty of snacks and drinks and an iPad loaded up with Peppa Pig and they were fine. They slept ALOT in the car which was great for the journey itself but my God did we pay for it in the evenings when they became incredible non-sleeping children.

We stopped in Tours, Sarlat-La-Caneda and Carcasonne on the way down. We then crossed the border and drove to the wedding venue in Fares and from there spent a week in Crespia. We only had 2 days to travel back up so 2 looooong days of driving took us to Limoges and finally Caen to get our ferry early morning.

We stayed in some beautiful places. Notably Les Petites Chamilles, just outside Sarlat, run by the parents of a friend I met through Twitter, L'Arcada which hosted the wedding and Hostal Nou where we spent the largest chunk after the celebrations.

The wedding was incredible, a 4-day celebration surrounded by friends and family. My parents are divorced and, though amiable, it's not often I get to see them both in one place so to have them, my brother plus my aunties, uncles, cousins and step-siblings not just together in one place but all dancing, laughing and enjoying each other's company was something special indeed.

All 3 places were located 'off the beaten track' and run by the most friendly, welcoming hosts we could have hoped for. Hostal Nou is owned by a Catalan family. As well as her day job as a teacher, Elena cooks the most amazing meals for the guests in the evening (saying they're 'amazing' actually doesn't do her justice. She went to cooking school for 2 years and the standard was unlike anything we've had for a very long time) runs the business with her husband and looks after her boys, age 2 and 5. The word 'superwoman' doesn't cut it for this lady!

The boys fell into a routine of waking at 9 (heaven after years of 5:30 starts!) having a siesta in the afternoon, eating with us at 9 then going to bed at 11. It worked really well and what struck me most about both France and Spain is the inclusion of children in everything. Going out of an evening, familes are all out together and it's perfectly acceptable to have toddlers at the table in restaurants at 9/10pm. They were given much attention everywhere we went with a pat on the head and a 'guapo' welcoming them in.

I won't drone on any more about the holiday itself, just to say that we had an amazing first proper family holiday. Lots of fun in the pool, taking in some beautiful parts of the country, immersing ourselves in the culture and eating some fabulous Catalan cuisine.

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