Helen Keller said it best when she said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all”.
I would not call international travel as a single mom with two small children a vacation. It is definitely an adventure, possibly a challenge, maybe even a mission. I’ve decided to call it constant steps into the unknown.
Our summer 2018 adventure began in Paris. For me this was an easy place to launch from since I studied abroad in France, speak the language, and have visited Paris many times. “I know the ropes”, I told myself. We could recover from jet lag and I could pretty painlessly navigate the city, menus, and agenda. Or so I thought….
When we arrived in Paris I was ready to launch into my itinerary. I barely slept on the flight because the anticipation was like a tornado coursing through me. Thoughts like, “I can’t wait to give them their first REAL pain au chocolate”. Or, “Will their eyes light up when they see la tour Eiffel for the first time?” flooded my mind.
I have so many fond memories of Paris and I couldn’t wait to take my kids down memory lane with me. I just couldn’t wait to land—hitting the pavement hard and fast. I gave a very responsible mom lecture to myself about not packing too much in a day. However, like most mom lectures, my self advice quickly went out the window.
My original goal was one small adventure a day—very reasonable. While this plan of attack was good for my kids, it clashed with my inability to sit still. I like to be on the go—seeing everything, tasting new things, and enjoying the small nuances of the places I visit. For me, hanging out at a hotel all day feels like a loss of opportunity. I love being on the go.
We arrived at Le Saint, a charming boutique hotel in St. Germaine Des Pres. The decor was chic, very current, and reasonably priced for Paris. We threw some fresh clothes on. Pemberley and I picked matching checkered pants and I grabbed my favorite Sarah Alexandra shirt. We may be haggard inside but at least we looked good.
We darted out the door to see what we could see. Well I darted, they limped. No problem. We’d just go see the parc du Luxembourg… of course we would start with lunch at the famous Les Deux Magots.
While walking to the restaurant I realized the advice others gave saying, “August is the wrong month to visit Paris,” was accurate. EVERYTHING was closed. Signs on just about every darling boutique I passed read that they were closed for vacation. How is it possible for an entire city to leave for vacation?! Oh well, this wasn’t a shopping trip anyway. Stay on course!
Good thing we were planning on Les Deux Magots because many of the restaurants were closed as well. Maybe I should have listened to everyone’s advice? At least the parks and monuments weren’t going anywhere.
Our first meal was my wake up call. These kids weren’t used to the relaxed paced culture, French food, or jetlag. They begged to return to the hotel. Nope! We will at least visit one park. Surely they will be glad once they are there.
Of course I got lost trying to get us there and when we arrived they could have cared less about the toy sailboats on the pond. They wanted to go to the hotel. They were frustrated and this wasn’t going well. That night, after I put everyone to bed I knew I needed to change my attitude and game plan or this wasn’t going to be a very fun trip. I tossed my mental itinerary and launched my next idea.
The next morning I gave the kids a few ideas of what we could do and let them pick where we went. We tried the louvre but the line was too long to go inside so we left. I cried a little inside but reminded myself as we took a photo out front that we could come back when they are older – when they will appreciate the art better.
The trip continued in this fashion, we saw la tour Eiffel but didn’t go up, we went to the Seine for a boat tour, didn’t get on the boat… To them, it didn’t matter. They saw the tower and the river and loved them both.
We spent two evenings at le jardin des touleries, this was a HIT. The ride with the flying swings way up high at sunset was jaw droppingly beautiful. The kids smiles were so big as they saw the monuments they had visited in the distance. “Oh please can’t we bottle up this moment”, I thought to myself. When we left Paris they remarked it was the greatest city ever. I took that as a confirmation of wild success and boarded the plane to Italy.
The next part of the trip I was walking into starry eyed but blind. It had been my dream for as long as I could remember to visit the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I had never really heard of people bringing their kids there, but surely there would be things for kids. Obviously kids have to live there!?!
We arrived to the NH Hotel in Amalfi after an eventful drive. The drive to Amalfi was no joke. Lombard street has nothing on this road. Our hotel sat on a steep cliff overlooking the sea. The view looked just like it did in pictures. It was surreal with the buildings built into the cliff side and the beautiful water below with beaches, boats, and cafes.
This hotel welcomed us like family. They got to know the kids names and were so welcoming. Every day they had live music. It was dream-like eating meals with the enchanting Italian music and view.
I quickly noticed we often were the only table with young kids. This was the ONLY luxury hotel in the area that accepted kids. So… if you have small children, tuck that tip into your back pocket.
While we didn’t meet a ton of kids to play with at the hotel we did find them exactly where I had hoped, on the beach. One restaurant next to the beach served great pizza, and the best eggplant parmigiana I’ve ever tasted. I camped out, watching the kids run back and forth for sips of Fanta and bites of margarita pizza while playing with the local kids. My heart was so full.
Those little moments made the trip beyond worthwhile. This was the part of the trip I got right. All was right with the world on our visits to that beach and the Lo Smeraldino restaurant.
This wasn’t quite the case with our day trip to Capri where I led the family up the side of the mountain climbing and climbing to “get lunch” and then almost everything was closed. I thank God for that one restaurant that was open. It saved me. Nor, was it the case at the boat launch for the blue lagoon when they told us it would be an hour and a half wait. My poor daughter that needed to use the bathroom shot me a look I won’t soon forget.
My trip this summer with my kids was eventful to say the least.
Here is what we are learning. The craziest moments tend to make the best stories. We will soon laugh about the vomit from the crazy car ride and the moments that had us almost in tears. But my heart will never forget the sound of the kids’ laughter, gigantic smiles, and big, big eyes that were opened. One can choose a life like a merry go round or a roller coaster. I pick the roller coaster every time.
This article was published in Points Living Magazine, December 2018