After more than three decades of power-parenting, we attended the graduation of our youngest child last month. And we realized—now that we don’t have to book hotels and transport for offspring—we can afford to have a proper, grownup summer holiday at last. Well, kind of…
BARB’S VACATION TO-DO LIST:
1. Book lodging (for my dog):
I’m the least-fussy traveler ever. I can stay anywhere. Okay…anywhere that has wifi. And an en suite because I won’t put on shoes to use the bathroom. And a washing machine, dishwasher, fridge-freezer, and microwave. A patio with a grill. Privacy. Good restaurants, access to museums and culture, outdoor recreation, water, mountains, good transportation, and historical sites. And an electric kettle.
And that allows dogs.
After much, much, MUCH Tripadvisor, AirBnB, Google, and a few novenas, I found Francisco and Amelia. They live in one half of the mill her family has owned for hundreds of years, and have converted the other half into a little holiday villa in the heart of Spain. At least, I thought so. I couldn’t be sure because they spoke no English and the Spanish I remember from school is pretty much limited to ¿Has visto la pluma de mi tía? On the off-chance that conversational gambits would involve anything other than sightings of the pen of my aunt, I conducted negotiations via Google Translate and booked the mill for July and August. Probably…
2. Book transportation (for my dog):
Any possible savings from travel sans-offspring would have to be sacrificed to pay for the dog’s shots and sparkling new Pet Passport. Plus, obviously, we were going to need her bed, dishes, all her toys, several large bags of food and treats, her blanket, spare blanket, ball-flinger, brush, and poop-bags (lots). I figured my husband and I could each stuff a change of underwear and a toothbrush into our pockets in order to meet airline baggage limits.
“I have a better idea.” My husband was delighted. “We’ll take the Classic and drive to Spain so we’ll have plenty of room for anything we want to bring with.”
Me: “But…should we really take something that measures its age in multiple decades?”
Him: “Why not? We’re taking you.”
Me: “Ah…yes. But last time we took the Classic, it broke down in the line to the ferry and it took days to get the new water pump.”
Him: “That’s all good. We know it won’t need a new water pump.” (NOTE: this is called foreshadowing, boys and girls. Pay attention.)
I tried pointing out a few other details, like the fact that the Classic had a steering wheel on the wrong side for European driving, that it was old, that it sucked down fuel like Scots facing last-call at the pub, that it was REALLY old, that it would take several days of driving, and oh by the way—did I mention OLD?
He wandered off muttering about various pieces of sports equipment he could now load into the Classic.
I lit a candle and made sacrifices to the Google-deities, and they came up with the perfect solution—a two-day car-ferry cruise from England to Spain that would accommodate us, the dog, and the Classic. It only cost slightly more than booking lodging and transport for all the offspring, and had one cabin left with an outside view. I was pretty sure I was getting the hang of this grownup holiday thing.
The Classic is big enough to have its own post code. We didn’t bring the living room sofa, but everything else was fair game. (You never know. They might not have toilet paper in Spain. Or food.)
We’re off! Or not…
The day of our departure arrived and we rose with the dawn. As we were loading the car, the hub noticed that the MOT (safety medallion) would expire before we returned, so he headed off to get it inspected. I went back to bed. When he and the Classic returned several hours and hundreds of ££ later, he explained why this was a good thing. “Now, along with a water pump, we don’t have to worry about the brakes or the exhaust. Or the brand new locking gas cap to replace the one that for some reason was missing when they went to do the inspection.” (So yeah. More foreshadowing. It will be on the final exam.) We finished loading, stopped to buy gas (and collect the gas cap that we’d apparently left with the last fill-up), and we were off!
We drove across Scotland and down through England, passing the Lake District and stopping to spend the night in a four-poster bed at the ancient Featherstone Farm Hotel near the Cotswolds. If anyone can find prettier scenery, they’re welcome to tell me.
Next morning we arrived at the ferry dock in Plymouth. They slapped a big sticker on the windshield and asked if our dog was muzzled. Luckily (she did not approve of that muzzle, and had an uncanny ability to rub it off within seconds of its application) they didn’t actually inspect our incompetent muzzling efforts.
To my surprise, I loved the boat. In our little group, I was, however, alone in that opinion. The poor dog was horrified to discover that the bright blue deck surface reserved for her constitutional didn’t have a single blade of grass. Despite all my pleas to “go potty”, she decided to hold it until it could be done properly. For two days. [Memo to self: next time bring a bag of greens. Or maybe astro-turf…]
Meanwhile, the hub headed down to our cabin, made up the bed, and started to work. I went to explore the ship. We left port and soon were merrily bobbing along. Lots of bobbing. In ever-increasing bobs. My fellow passengers began to take on distinctly greenish hues. A group of laughing young men stopped on the stairway in front of me while two of their number puked their little hearts out. I got dinner from one of the onboard restaurants. Yum! Fish and chips. As my food arrived, the couple at the next table covered their mouths and ran off. Soon there was a line along the outside rail.
Isn’t cruising fun?
I took the dog for one last tour of the blue deck so she could again refuse to “go here”. By then the winds were so fierce that I could barely stand, so I admired the sunset briefly and headed back to our cabin. But as I lay in the bed and watched stars from our little window, I thought that I could get used this grown up holiday idea.
I can’t get used to this grown up holiday idea.