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Monday Listicle: Are You on Vacation? Or a Family Trip?

I just figured out that “listicle” = list+article.  Pretty slow on the uptake, hmm?  Stasha’s listicle topic today is, appropriately, 10 things that make a perfect vacation, a topic chosen by Hope at Staying Afloat.

I have a lot to say about vacations, but first a key clarification: “vacation” is something you do that probably doesn’t involve family members other than, perhaps, a partner-ish type person.  When you travel with family members, you’re on a “family trip.”

Once you have these two paradigms firmly established, you will no longer experience the shattering of expectations when you arrive at your scenic locale, kids and spouse in tow, only to find that you’re staying in a rental apartment that doesn’t even come stocked with salt and pepper, your kids are hungry, and everyone is wondering what you’re going to cook for supper.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve had some amazing family trips since we left New York, almost exactly three months ago, but I wouldn’t say we’ve been on vacation, exactly.

With our recent trip to India in mind, let’s review the family trip/vacation concept, shall we?  For my purposes, “family trip” includes two boys under the age of 11. Your “family trip” might include an in-law whose very presence is the human equivalent of nails on chalkboard, or a sibling who wants only to scope out chicks, or an irritable poodle who needs to be walked at inopportune moments.

1. Vacation involves a large bed, preferably with those fancy tempur-pedic mattresses.  You sleep on zillion-thread-count sheets and there is room to spread out. You may even be in this bed alone, without your partner, because, perhaps, your idea of a perfect vacation means traveling alone.  In either case, a vacation becomes a family trip when the four of you stay in one hotel room, with one big king-size bed and one cot. Three in the big bed, one in the small bed.

2. A vacation means traveling on the Maharajah express, where the sleeper compartments look like this:

or like this:

A family vacation means traveling in a sleeper compartment that looks like this:

3. A vacation means eating delicious, locally appropriate food, prepared exactly as you like it and served whenever you’re hungry.  A family trip means searching for pizza in the middle of Delhi. (Ironically, of course, the best brick-oven pizza we’ve eaten since we left New York we found in Amici’s, in Delhi’s Khan Market. Gotta love that global kitchen. Nevertheless, there we were, in the heart of Delhi, eating pizza. Furthermore, we went there twice).

4. A vacation means sleeping when you want to, where you want to. A vacation–especially if you’re a parent–means rediscovering the kinds of sleep you used to have when you were single, or dating, or had just started shtupping your latest shtupping partner. Remember naps? Remember waking up too early in the morning and going back to sleep? Remember having sex in the middle of the day and then dozing off afterward? Yeah. That is a vacation.  A family trip is…the absence of all these things, including sex (see entry #1, above).

5. A vacation means no set itinerary, no list of “to do,” no need to plan anything. A vacation is a long aimless stroll through a new neighborhood, or leisurely contemplation of the work in a museum, or sitting somewhere lovely and catching up on back issues of The New Yorker (or junkier pleasures, like Vanity Fair). A family trip is “I’m tiiiiirrrreed….”  “this is boooorrrrring….”  “this fort looks just like the ooooother foooort….”  “I wanna see a tiiiiiggggggeerrrrr…”  “I’m thirsty/hungry/angry/tired/thirsty/hungry/bored…” Aimlessness leads to whining.

6. A vacation means doing things you might not do in your regularly scheduled life and enjoying the break from routine. A family trip means that some semblance of routine remains in place: children need to be fed and watered regularly, they need to be reminded to brush their teeth, they need to be tucked into bed, they need to be separated from one another lest they kill each other. Same shit, different country.

7. A vacation means unplugging from the world, losing yourself in the timelessness of no work, no deadlines, no phone-calls, no meetings.  A family vacation (in our tech-addicted group) means “where’s the ipad? where’s my DS? why does he get the ipad? where’s my DS? it’s my turn for the ipad! where’s my DS?” …  (in their defense, the boys were reading on the ipad and not playing plants versus zombies. I have no defense for the DS, which turned out to be buried in my suitcase. I have no idea how it got there, I swear).

8. A vacation means a time to reflect and reconnect, with yourself or with people you love….Hmm.

Wait a minute. I think that we may, actually, have done a little bit of that on our family trip. It was the first time we’d been away from Abu Dhabi together since we arrived here, almost exactly three months ago, and our nine days of constant togetherness (and I do mean constant. Review #1) actually brought us together, once we got past the bickering about whose turn it was to use the ipad. Even the youngest of us knew we were somewhere amazing, and our wealth of experiences gave us all something to talk about, marvel about (and, yes, okay, complain about).  And being away made us think about Abu Dhabi as the home we were coming back to.  On the night we left Delhi, I asked the boys if they felt like Abu Dhabi was “home,” and Liam nodded and went back to the concluding pages of The Hunger Games. Caleb said “yes because home is just where the love is.”

So there you have it. We had a family trip. It was amazing but definitely not a vacation. Husband and I, as the grand finale for his 50 29th birthday celebration, are thinking about a trip to the Maldives. The boys are probably going to have to come with us because we don’t have anyone here we can inflict them on to take care of them for a long weekend. That said, however, we’re definitely going to stay somewhere that has a “kid’s club.” That way it can be a family trip in which everyone gets a vacation.

 

Wow! Cookie’s Chronicles linked this post with her “Best of the Blogosphere” for November. I’m so flattered to be included with the other writers on this list. Thanks!
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Read full story · Comments { 16 } on November 14, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, family, Monday Listicle, Parenting, Travel

We’ll Always Have Paris. Sort Of

So we went to Paris for two days before going on to Provence, where we were having a family reunion and celebrating my mother’s seventieth twenty-ninth birthday.  Two full days to revel in the city of light, stroll the tiny cobbled streets, marvel at the enduring romance of a river spanned by bridges, discover sweet little cafes tucked into quiet courtyards, sip chilled rose on the tiny balcony of our apartment and watch the sunset over the Paris rooftops.

Oh. Wait. That would be a two-day Paris vacation with my Husband, or by myself.

Actually? We were on a two-day family trip to Paris.

The last time we were in Paris, Liam was still in a stroller and Caleb wasn’t even the proverbial gleam in our eyes. Maybe because now, in comparison, both boys seem more grownup, Husband and I forgot that family trip is not a vacation (thanks to Cousin Sarah for pointing it out to me).  Thus Day One of our trip was filled not only with cold wet weather (more Novemberish than Julyish) but tag-team whining of the first order. If there were a Olympic whining event, my kids would definitely medal.

In a kind of French version of the Bataan death march (their version) we trudged from Notre Dame to Musee Cluny, to Musee D’Orsay.  It rained. It was cold. Caleb was, variously: hungry, bored, thirsty, persecuted by his brother, TIRED.  Liam wanted to know the French word for pretty much everything , which was charming for the first vingt minutes et puis tres aggravating because then he whined in French: je suis faim, je suis froid, je suis fatiguee, je suis HATE MY BROTHER.  (Yes, like Caliban, in The Tempest: we taught him the language and he learned how to curse).

Sigh.

You know where we ended up? The carnival. Yep. Missed the Louvre—why would you go see the glass pyramid at the Louvre when you could ride the Pirates of the Caribbean for three euros a pop? Well, actually, in this picture you can see one end of one wing of the Louvre, just behind the tall arm of the Ferris Wheel.


Double sigh.

Day Two, Husband and I threw our Paris desires out the window.  Husband and Liam left early to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, while Caleb, Grandma, and I meandered more slowly to the Tower, where Caleb (who insists he dislikes heights) rode the carousel and ate soft-serve ice cream. I tried not to be disgusted by the fact that the ice cream came from a dispenser that had been, a few short minutes before, crawling with bees.
After the Eiffel Tower, le batobus: the aquatic equivalent of a double-decker tour bus. We went from boat to lunch (pizza, of course) to the courtyard of the Louvre, to the boat, to Les Invalides (armor! guns! swords! Napoleon’s huge tomb!), to the metro and home.  Ice cream and small souvenirs were applied at judicious intervals in a way that never would have happened at home.  We are now the proud owners of a small blue Eiffel Tower, any number of commemorative “gold” coins, two small notepads, and a small plastic horse-and-knight.  Plus post cards.

But the boys went to sleep that night saying that they loved Paris, so maybe it was cheap at the price.

I guess Rick and Ilsa were right: we’ll always have Paris…and one day we’ll come back for an actual vacation.

Read full story · Comments { 5 } on July 24, 2011 in Children, Travel