All posts tagged: travel

Mum vs Teenager & Teenager vs Mum

Let me start by saying son ‘15’ is awesome. 90% of the time, he’s smart, funny, pretty thoughtful. But oh boy, that other 10% is so stubborn, so critical, so dismissive! And of course, that’s his job: he’s being a Teenager, which involves the rejection of, and rebellion against, parental control, advice, and even experience. I get that. I did that. I did that massively, and my Mum (who turns 80 next year) would probably add that I still do. But when we’re in Barcelona, a place neither of us has ever been before, and a place I’m pretty certain I’ll never come to again, and it’s our first full day here, and I’ve bought tickets online worth $80 to get into the Gaudi-designed ‘Park Guell’, and we need to be there by 10.15am for our entry in the 10.30-11 time slot, and you, dearest ‘15’, want to watch surf movie clips on Instagram while dawdling over getting ready to go (me having been up for nearly 2 hours already, and gone to get the necessary …

With his tail tucked down

So we’re getting on the train at St Astier, ready to cross France for 8 hours to visit with an old family friend, and there’s some kind of problem on board with one of the other passengers. A young man, perhaps 25, dressed in black hoodie jacket, loose black pants, with a big, scruffy black suitcase. He’s white-skinned, sunken eyes, sweating slightly. He reminds me of a nervous dog, who got that way by being beaten. The conductor is standing in front of him, arms folded, legs wide apart, telling him he needs a ticket to travel, and where is it? A younger conductor is standing further along, in exactly the same pose, blocking the exit down the carriage. There’s only the door to get off, and the tight corridor surrounding us. Other passengers are looking over and away, then over again. Son ‘15’ and I are each lugging big suitcases, a small backpack, a bag of food, and my handbag, plus a 5 litre bottle of water. We are now in the middle of …

5 things we miss, and 5 things we’ve learnt to love and appreciate

Tonight is the Last One of Everything. Our last fire. The last dinner. Our last evening of badminton. Tomorrow we pack up all the furniture, empty the fridge, drain all the pipes of water (so that they don’t freeze and crack during Winter), cover the mattresses in plastic, and go stay with the neighbours up the road for a night (very kindly taking in the 2 cold Aussies, and asking us genuine questions like ‘Are kangaroos everywhere? Do they attack you?’) I feel melancholy. I know I’ll never have this time again. Not with ‘15’. Because soon he’ll be 16, then 18, then 20, and [hopefully] travelling the world by himself, or with mates and a girlfriend [I’m not assuming heterosexuality there, by the way; I’ve been referencing ‘boyfriends and/or girlfriends’ since he was about 9, and he finally sat me down firmly and told me he was definitely not gay, which I was very disappointed about- no marching proudly in the Mardi Gras with my child sigh]. ANYWAY, back to feeling sad by the …

Périgueux- home to perhaps the dodgiest Airbnb listing you’ve ever seen

Glorious day last week, with blue skies to rival Australia’s. Time to visit the mediaeval town of Périguèux, 40 minutes drive away, including its cathedral, built in the 6th, 12th, and 16th century: Time to be enchanted by the surrounding laneways, leading to the marketplace where son ‘15’ ate “…The best ribs of my whole life, even better than Dad’s, I’m sorry to say…” (no pics allowed, but let me assure you, there was Grease Chin, sticky fingers, and complete carnivorous delight): Time to take my favourite picture of the trip so far: Time to marvel at the unwelcome front doors they make round here: A chance to picture Juliet, calling down to her love: And then, walking along the river, we saw this- The Place You Don’t Want To Stay: We were flabbergasted. ‘15’ kept giggling, and imagining having parties inside, and getting everyone to run from one side to the other to rock it [Oh the way teenagers’ minds work huh?!]. Let’s look at it one more time shall we? Imagine turning up …

Travelling with a teenager to Paris: Completely reassess your food budget

Oh Paris, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Son ‘15’ is a hoovering food machine at the best of times; set him loose in Paris, and watch him ramp up his gourmet habit. Before I committed to this 2-month trip overseas, I drafted a budget. I did some Internet research, talked to a few fellow travellers, and guesstimated how much I’d need to survive for 8 weeks in Europe (while not paying for much accommodation, thanks to my extended family). I panicked a bit over the numbers I admit, then woke up at 2am one restless morning and thought “F**k it, if I don’t go now, when will I? And more importantly, when else will ‘15’ want to actually come with me? It’s now or never, before he’s 16 and in love, or 17 and rebelling, or 18 and doing Europe by himself anyway!” So Hello two return tickets half cash half credit, and a firm but fair travel budget in place in my mind. Hello to sensible talks with ‘15’ …

Is there a skeleton on your back?

Have you returned to where you grew up? Noticed how much smaller the streets are, and narrowed with more cars? Did you feel nostalgic, longing for good times past, or relieved to have gotten the hell outta there, no matter how picturesque it looks at sunset? My experience was definitely the latter. My son ‘15’ and I were just in Dawlish, a quaint seaside town, full of aged tourists and desperate English families trying to find shelter for their beach picnic. I lived there aged 10-20, and haven’t looked back since I fled to Australia. We’ve come to visit my Mum, who now lives 100 metres from the house I grew up in. The beach still smells of fish, piled with pebbles and seaweed. The amusement arcade still flashes distraction that sucks all coins. Ducks still waddle, but now outnumbered by monstrous seagulls, closely followed by multiple grey gangs of pigeons. The many gift shops still lack style; the strings of coloured light bulbs along the brook running through the town centre flicker like lost …

Medieval Toy Town?

‘How long will it take us to get to Paddington?’ I asked my cousin ‘The G-Man’. To his answer of ‘An hour at most’, I added 45 minutes. Notorious is he for underestimating traffic, and I hate rushing when I’m travelling. Moving from place to place is stressful enough, never mind adding 2 x 18kg suitcases, recalcitrant teenager, precious small backpacks, AND a time deadline. Yes, we’re on the move. From the comfortable, 3 bedroom flat near Brixton where we’d first landed, laughing and talking with fav cousin G-man, down to his sister’s place in country Somerset (known as Toy Town in the family). Sister ‘C’ has 3 kids, and no TV; G-Man’s flat we’d christened ‘Wifi Heaven’. This is going to be interesting… First, a bus, two tubes, and [thankfully], several escalators. Then a fast train journey through autumn fields, speeding so much that the approach to every station seeps the smell of burning brakes. My son ‘15’ suddenly asks me to imagine a time when the countryside would have been full of horses, …

Travelling with a teenager: Then and Now

I last came overseas with my son when he was 12, three years ago. We went to the UK to reconnect with the cousins he hadn’t seen since he was 6, and his maternal grandmother, who used to live in France. We snuggled in the same guest beds, took tourist tours on open-top buses, and ate familiar foods from home, like fish and chips. We posed with wax loookalikes at Madame Tussaud’s, and got scared witless in the London Dungeon. We played cards, watched crap English TV, and bonded with relatives by telling silly Australian stories (I think they were just enjoying listening to our accents more than anything). Now he’s 15. Tall, growing his hair, hyper-aware of his daily outfits, and often attached to his smartphone (yup, just a regular teenager). Everything is different. He sets the agenda: I want to go to Chinatown. I want to go to Camden. I want to go second hand clothes shopping. I don’t want to go on a bus tour, I don’t want to do the wiping …