There’s no joy to be found in a family room for 2 adults and their 3 kids at the Travelodge hotel at Leeds Bradford airport. None whatsoever! But that’s where our February half term break to Malaga began. 5 of us crammed into a room which was clean but stiflingly hot. The baby did his usual two wake ups in the night for a feed, which in turn woke up the middle child, who kept asking if it was morning time yet. The situation definitely wasn’t helped by the wine I’d drunk the night before at the ‘seating area’ (4 pink footstools around a coffee table in the entrance foyer next to a vending machine) with the mums of the other families we were travelling with, once we’d finally got all the kids to sleep.
We accepted defeat at 5.45am, switched the TV on and tried to be super cheerful about the terrible nights sleep we’d just had. My middle son asked, “Mummy, was it you making noises like an elephant in the night?” and started making a snoring sound. No, definitely not, it must have been Daddy! We cracked open the mini boxes of Kelloggs cereals we had bought for the kids, which they proceeded to spread around the hotel room in a sugary soggy layer, and sipped on cups of Typhoo tea made with UHT milk. Starting the holiday in style!
We all congregated in the entrance foyer at the eye wateringly early time of 7.15am; 8 adults looking tired and slightly harassed and 10 kids (not a great ratio there) who were bouncing off the walls, and headed to check in for our flight. Bags dropped off, breakfast time! Gone are the days of heading straight to the airport bar for a liquid breakfast, no matter what time of day your flight is. Airports are definitely a time free zone where anything goes, food or drink wise, no matter whether it’s 7am or 7pm. We commandeered half of the seating area with our gang of rabble rousers and proceeded to have the most expensive breakfast ever. £25 for 3 pots of fruit and yoghurt, 1 chia seed pudding (for me because I’m fancy) and 2 bottles of lukewarm water. Scandalous!
Everything was going remarkably well, contrasted to last year’s half term break when we were all sprinting to the plane, hearing ‘final call’ echoing in our ears, kids scattered around the departure lounge, iPads lost at the security check, passports being frantically dug out of bags, and lots of swear words. That time we were the passengers who burst onto the plane, sweating, hearts pounding, for all the other passengers to tut and roll their eyes at. This year we were all seated in plenty of time, feeling rather smug. Then I remembered that the baby hadn’t pooed that morning. He’s always been a morning movement chap, Mr Reliable. But not today of course. So the entire flight I was on sniff watch whenever I caught a suspicious whiff.
Which brings me quite nicely onto plane food etiquette. Who brings a picnic of hard boiled eggs and corned beef sandwiches onto a plane? Let me tell you – the couple sat next to me, that’s who! Surely, all normal people eat floppy, tasteless packaged sandwiches bought on board, washed down with miniature bottles of your favourite tipple? It’s like the law or something.
The kids were all amazingly well behaved on the flight out. The baby was passed around the whole plane, nibbled on everyone’s sandwiches and crisps then had a snooze. Perfect! We ignored the grey clouds in the sky as we landed in Malaga, that were leftover from storm Doris who was battering Europe over half term. This was going to be a cracking holiday, no questions.
In case you find yourself landing in Spain on a Sunday, be warned. Spain is shut on a Sunday. Totally shut. We’d not considered this AT ALL. After checking onto our awesome villa, more of this later, 4 of us set off to shop for food and wine for dinner. 3 hours later we’d still not found an open supermarket. Anxiety levels were rising and we were all starting to panic. Then a Spar Express drew into view like a shimmering vision. I almost cried with relief as we screeched to a halt and sprinted into the shop. We proceeded to clear the shelves of pizza, crisps, nuts and wine. The shop assistant had no clue what was going on as we grabbed all the food and drink we could. We even dropped a bottle of wine on the tiled floor and it didn’t break. Someone was looking down on us that’s for sure! €170 later and we arrived back at the villa to find the kids had turned feral from a lack of food, and the remaining adults rocking silently in the corner. Corkscrews found, oven on. Pizza and wine never tasted so good!
Night 2 was our traditional paella night. Now, don’t know if you’ve ever cooked for 17 people plus a baby, but it’s quite an undertaking! One seafood, one chorizo and one chicken paella were served up in massive pans and devoured, washed down with squash for the kids and cava and beer for the adults, whilst sat on our glorious terrace. This was the life – flip-flops on, breeze blowing gently, good food and good friends. Perfect!
Our villa had an amazing pool and slide and was set in fabulous grounds, had a Moroccan style and was, quite simply, stunning. We’d hired *literally the best villa in the Costa del Sol last year, but this was a very close second.
The baby decided this week would be the ideal time to cut 3 top teeth. In a week. Who even does that? So our sleep was more broken than usual, making us a little bit grumpy. The other half was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder because he was like a bear with a sore head until the sun came out properly toward the end of the week. Men! The phrase of the holiday quickly became, ‘it’s not that cold when you are actually in’, said through chattering teeth whilst wincing in the pool. This was February after all, and just a few weeks earlier there had been snow on the ground.
We launched headfirst into a week of feasting and drinking; particular highlights being 4pm cava in the hot tub with the other mums, our ‘Yorkshire tapas’ creations and the worrying amount of Principe biscuits that we all chomped through. I never did convert anybody to the delights of a roasted vegetable and quinoa salad however, “it’s like eating fresh air!”
We bought two boxes of sherry by mistake, thinking it was high quality wine of course, leading to creative sherry based cocktails and meals being invented – Sherry St Clement anyone? Or how about chorizo in sherry, black pudding in sherry, or a version of a trifle, consisting of broken biscuit pieces, banana, squirty cream and a good dose of sherry. Masterchef here we come! There was pool high jinx and plenty of hot tub time, sunbathing and dodging showers, epic shopping trips to Carrefour and wandering round beautiful Spanish towns.
The kids had an amazing time, splashing around in the pool, bombing down the slide and hosting movie and games nights complete with all the snacks. They held daily Nerf gun battles, Block City Wars sessions on their various electronic devices, water balloon dares, and managed just the one impressive fall into the pool whilst fully clothed. A particularly epic day involved a trip out into the Mediterranean on a speed boat which one of the Dads had hired and a lazy afternoon of sunbathing and ball games on the beach – how to top that for half term fun?
All too soon it was home time and time to get back to reality. The return flight featured baby sick, expertly caught by my friend at the side of me in a muslin cloth, liberal Calpol administering, and a bumpy landing in significant turbulence. The ground staff who met the plane were dressed in balaclavas – welcome to Leeds in February! Only that morning we had been sat by the pool enjoying the Spanish sunshine and now we were being buffeted by wind and rain – not fair. Also not fair was how our jeans seemed to be a little more snug, but we put it down to the pressure in the cabin and nothing to do with a week of delightful overindulgence!
In summary then, it was simply the best of times (apart from the teething grotty baby bit), with the best of friends. February half term 2018 anyone? Cheers!
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