This summer, I took my son to Spain. It was my first time returning since before he was born, and his first time meeting his godmother who lives in Barcelona. Traveling alone is not for the faint of heart; but a trip abroad with a small child as your companion is only for the truly insane.
I booked a hotel room in the middle of the Eixample near to the Passeig de Gracia, the area’s high-end shopping district. I would not typically opt for a place so touristy, but being a mom carrying a child on her hip down the street – well, it seemed safer.
On our first day in Spain, after arriving and napping the day mostly away, my son’s godmother and my close friend came to meet us at the hotel, and after muchos besitos and enough hugs to fill five years apart, we spent the first night at a vinateria, drinking wine (grape juice for one of us) and catching up. My son, the well-traveled young man that he is, took everything in stride. Walking down winding, centuries-old streets is just another day for him. It was not until the next day, on a trip to the beach, that he began to properly appreciate Spain.
We were picked up early for a drive to a restaurant in the mountains above Eixample. The pastures on the hillsides were dotted with horses and stone buildings in different stages of decay. We arrived at the restaurant, actually a kind of social and gastronomy club, which houses an old chapel to a saint I didn’t notice or recognize. Just inside the front door lies the kitchen where bread was baking over a roaring fire oven. Eggs were cracked onto a griddle and placed right into the flames. We ate outside on the terrace, joined at the table by Diego, the restaurant owner and a friend I had made on previous trips to Spain. He is jovial, drinking red wine in the morning, calling for his staff to bring more bread, more tortilla de patatas, more fruit … and more wine. And just when we were filled to the brim with some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, it was time to fold ourselves back into the tiny car and finally head to the beach.
We made our way down the winding, make-you-vomit roads leading into Tossa de Mar, 90 minutes out of the city – and a holiday heaven. Beaches stretch all along the coastline, little shops offer straw hats and beach dresses, sand toys and towels. We spent hours in the sun, splashing in the salty water, hunting for rocks and playing with toys in the sand. Then, it was back into the little town for a bite of lunch, cava sangria for everyone (except the little one) and back out for a walk up to the stone castle that overlooks the city.
By the time the sun was beginning to fade from the sky, we were heading back to the car. Bronzed and sandy, salty and tired, we were also unbelievably happy. We would return to the beach a few more times during our trip, and every time would be utterly gorgeous; something a child and an adult can both enjoy equally, the stress of the city long behind us.
Over the following days, these beach memories would make many stressful metro rides and station changes seem less upsetting. Those beach days would make the meals alone with a four-year-old feel less daunting. As difficult as traveling with a child can be, these good moments are what stick longer than the moment’s panic over whether we’ve missed our stop or if the restaurant has anything on the menu at all appealing to a small boy.
And maybe I’m truly crazy, because I’m looking forward to our next mother-and-son adventure… as long as there’s a beach.