Disclaimer: The pithy expressions and humble bragging below are intended to prove a point–while I can’t say that I always refrain from such things, I do generally attempt to avoid them in such quantity and proximity 🙂 .
So here’s how a person might normally document/advertise a family trip:
Hubby had a work trip to Spain, so we decided to tag along. We flew into Madrid, drove down to Granada to see the Alhambra, spent five days in the quaint town of Daimiel, and ended our visit with a day touring Toledo. Such a great opportunity–here are a few pics from the vacay:
“Little girl, big world”
“You haven’t tasted an orange until you’ve tasted an orange fresh off the tree in Andalusia.”
“The kids were loving the cobblestone streets and alleyways of Granada.”
“While we’re here we might as well check out the big orange building on the hill…”
(psss…it’s the Alhambra)
She was mostly there for the map:
“So glad we can expose our kids to all this culture at such a young age!”
“Soaking it all in”
Which leads me to my purpose in this particular post: to relate an experience that, while unfortunate, can’t be too uncommon when traveling with children, and also to juxtapose perceptions vs. reality. So much of what we see on social media is “picture perfect”. The reality is, however, that although a picture may be “worth a thousand words”, it generally does not tell the entire story, and may actually not be very representative of the true story at all.
In spite of the cheery and exotic pictures above (actual photos from our trip to Spain, of course), here’s the “true story” of the same visit:
Our trip began okay. We drove four hours to Copenhagen (there were closer airports, but when you have four kids ya gotta get those budget tickets), then flew from Copenhagen to Madrid. The plane ride and car trip were only as horrible as I had expected them to be, which was pretty horrible. Spent the night in Madrid, then drove four hours down to Granada in the South of Spain. Sunday morning we toured the Alhambra–this is a site that I have dreamed of seeing for many years, and it didn’t disappointment. The only disappointment was that, due to tired, hungry, and ornery children, we had to leave after about three hours, leaving all but a small section of the historic hilltop sites unseen. Without little kids I easily could have spent the whole day there, or even the whole weekend.
Next we headed back north to Daimiel where we would be spending the week. The idea was that my husband would be working while I took the kids out and about to visit some sites, parks, markets, etc. The weather in Spain was sunny and warm, in pleasant contrast to the gray, cold wetness that was still the norm in Denmark. We arrived at our hotel room in Daimiel and that’s where, in the middle of the night, things took a turn for the worse. I woke up to the encouraging sounds of Child #3 throwing up all over the pullout sofa bed. John and I got up and rinsed out the sheets the best we could in the bathroom sink, covered the bed with a towel, and crossed our fingers that it was a “one time thing.”
Child #3 continued throwing up all the next day, but at some point I couldn’t bear being stuck in the dimly lit hotel room any longer–not when sunny warmth (that I hadn’t experienced in months) was right outside the window! I was determined to get outside, if only to sit for a few minutes in the nearby park. I got all the kids ready. Child #3 seemed to be doing okay for the moment, so we got into the elevator and Sick Child immediately threw up.
I was determined not to let this stop me–we were in Spain! Also, I rationalized, if she’d just thrown up, she should be good for another 20 minutes, right? So I cleaned up Sick Child in the bathroom downstairs and then we escaped into the warm sunlight.
As we walked to the park next door, we noticed that a traveling market had sprung up a short distance down the street. I pulled the kids along, eager to see what such a Spanish market might entail. We browsed the market stalls for maybe two minutes before Child #3 begain crying and moaning. I decided this was my sign that we’d probably better head back to the hotel room.
I turned everyone around and suddenly I heard a chorus of elderly Spanish ladies exclaiming, “Ahh! La niña esta vomitando!!!” (Said ladies apparently frequent the Spanish markets in hordes and stand around serving the purpose of pointing out sick little girls). I looked down at Child #3 who was holding my hand, and sure enough, she was indeed “vomitando”. This was not the ideal “outdoor market day excursion” I had envisioned. I quickly picked up the sick child, ran her to the nearest trash can, and then it was back to the dimly lit hotel room for us.
At this point I was still looking forward to the next day. Child #3 would probably be better, and the forecast was still sunny. And then, as I was putting Child #4 to bed, suddenly he started coughing and gagging. Sure enough, we were in for another 24 hours stuck in the hotel room.
The illness proceeded to course through the other kids, and just to keep things interesting, another illness specializing in fever and malaise also decided to make the rounds. The entire five days in Daimiel were spent more or less inside a single hotel room, or the “den of sickness” as I began to refer to it.
And so, to juxtapose with my former “upbeat, fun” pictures above, here’s my “honest” photo book of the bulk of our time in Spain:
“Taken right before she threw up that juice and I had to wipe it up with a hotel towel and then throw the towel in the corner of the bathroom.”
“How many miserable kids can you fit on a sofa bed?”
And how much TV can miserable kids watch in a language they don’t understand?
(The answer is a lot, as long as it’s Spongebob).
Being quarantined to the hotel room for 5 entire days with little to no diversions, I decided to buy each of the kids a quiet toy they could enjoy within the room. C picked a Minnie Mouse art kit–as you can see, she’s thrilled. (She really was thrilled, she’s just too sick to show it).
“Shortly before he threw up all over the stroller at the beginning of our walk.”
Gross, but we continued our walk anyway. (I was hoping the Spanish ladies wouldn’t notice 🙂 )
Poor C lucked out and got sick with both of the terrible illnesses that were circulating among the children:
C was still weak and couldn’t walk during most of our sightseeing in Toledo, and since R was in the stroller, this was her mode of transportation:
(Better Dad than me though, ammiright?)
Arabelle and Charlotte hate the Plaza de Zocodover in historic Toledo.
To end on a positive note, however, I really did enjoy seeing Spain. During our drives we really enjoyed the scenic countryside and we also had a couple of (and by couple I mean two) good sightseeing days with most people in good (enough) health. Through my superior skill, I managed to only get a minor version of the fever/malaise illness and avoid the throwing up one all together, so I’ll call that a success.
Oh, and I also learned this important life lesson:
“‘Tis better to have seen Spain with sick children than never to have seen Spain at all.”
So there’s that : )