My lottery win fantasy is to travel. And by this, I mean taking a year or two out from reality with Adam and the girls to explore the parts of Europe that I haven’t yet visited, indulge in a three-month road trip through Southern America, eat street food in Malaysia, learn how to swim in New Zealand and marvel at the culture of Toyoko.
In the real world, chances of this happening are slim to none so every opportunity that I get to escape from England is greedily grabbed with both hands. I mean, I love my home country and am a big advocate for UK travel, however, it had been a good while since I’d been on a plane and let’s be honest; there are only so many monotonous, grey days that a girl can deal with (barring the past few days, it’d been raining in Manchester for about four weeks in a row).
A few weeks ago, the parenting gods blessed us with something that has never happened before. Lucie had been invited away on a five-night camping trip with school – and it also happened to land on the same week that Megan was away on holiday in Prague.
It dawned on me that Adam and I would have almost an entire week with no kids. I swiftly booked some annual leave and daydreamed about how we could potentially spend this fleeting moment of
freedom rare time off together. An exotic jaunt to the Maldives? Head back to New York to relive our very first days as newlyweds? My bank account laughed and said no so I then had to think a bit more realistically.
We toyed with the idea of going glamping in Cumbria again or spending a few days at a spa in Bath but it somehow didn’t seem enough to satisfy that travel itch this time around. I’d also resigned myself to the fact that we wouldn’t be going abroad again for a while thanks to the price hikes during the school holidays; I absolutely refuse to take Lucie away from education in term time so the temptation to seize this unexpected opportunity and go further afield was strong.
After spending an evening online looking at various options, we managed to find flights and accommodation in Barcelona for less than €300 so decided to throw caution to the wind and book a last minute trip. Adam has been to Barcelona loads of times and I vowed to go back again after our trip in 2017 so it seemed like the perfect excuse to revisit a city that we were both already familiar with.
Earlier this week, we waved goodbye to the girls and hot-footed it away from a wet and windy Manchester without actually sharing any details of our impending adventure. I was worried that if I dared to say it out loud, something horrific would happen and we’d have to come straight back home, as it has done the last couple of times we’ve attempted to get away. Hello anxiety, my old friend.
After a short flight, we landed at Barcelona airport greeted with 31-degree sunshine and I still couldn’t quite believe that we’d pulled it off. We decided to grab some food and go for a walk around the Eixample district where our hotel was located. Despite its impressive exterior, visiting the Sagrada Familia has never really been a priority for me and when we went to Barcelona with the kids last time, neither of them were too interested so we didn’t bother braving the long queues.
This time, Adam encouraged me to give it a chance (he’d been there several times previously) and as soon I stepped inside, I was genuinely speechless. The stained glass windows and the sheer size of the interior were hard to take in and we spent a good couple of hours learning about the various architects involved in its creation, Gaudi’s tomb below and the future vision for this magnificent cathedral.
I kept in touch with the girls via messenger and took stock of just how much things had changed over the past few years. As I saw pictures of them both experiencing new things – Megan looking so grown up as she explored a new country and Lucie casually climbing Ben Nevis and camping under the stars – I knew that we’d all have some interesting tales to tell one another once we arrived back home and reunited as a family of four.
I shredded that last tiny bit of parental guilt, knowing that they would both be coming home richer for going outside of their comfort zones and taking big steps into adulthood without the immediate safety net of ‘mum’. It was actually liberating to just be, without the worries and weight of the usual daily routine that comes hand in hand with family life.
After sleeping for about ten hours, Adam and I headed to Barceloneta for a day on the beach (yes, the same nudist beach that we found ourselves on last time). I read books, drank cocktails, ate fresh food and generally enjoyed being carefree for a little while, finding peace in the sound of the waves and the wonderful feeling of the hot sun on my skin.
As much as it’s a popular tourist area, I’m not a great fan of Las Ramblas so we decided to go back to one of my favourite parts of this Catalonian city, Barri Gòtic on our last day. Lazily strolling around and getting happily lost amongst the tiny rabbit warren of alleyways, I felt truly appreciative of the chance to spend some time away from home.
I used to claim that I left my heart in Italy, however, the more time I spend in Barcelona, it’s fast becoming a strong contender for my affections. I love the architecture, the people, the food and the general pace of life. And the glorious sunshine, of course. Until next time…