Mariella Frostrup copes with the constantly changing criteria of holidaying with your kids.
When I discovered, five months after my daughter was born, that I was pregnant again, I went into nesting overdrive. The apartment we’d just lovingly renovated was immediately sold, on my insistence that two flights of stairs would be a disaster to negotiate with two babies under two and there was no pram space in the hallway. My husband indulged me as I swept through our lives making a series of unilateral changes to cater for the upcoming infant deluge.
Two years after the birth of that second child, a boy Dan who abandoned his pram the moment he could toddle, most of my lifestyle adjustments were rendered redundant. I discovered that the very basic tenet of parenting is that ‘this too shall pass.’ It is knowledge it pays to be aware of when it comes to holidaying and is illustrated in sharp relief if, like me, you have regular haunts that you return to year on year.
One of our favourite vacations is a summer sojourn on the island of Paxos, where we’ve rented a variety of villas over the years from Scott Williams, (specialists there), avoiding pools while the kids were young, with bedrooms in close proximity as they got older and these days with as much space between our sleeping quarters and our teenagers as humanly possible! It’s poignant to go back, as I did this year, and look at the stairs at Spianzi that seemed lethal when they were four and five, or later the tiny bungalow with a pool that offered cosy perfection but today would be way too close for comfort.
This summer, we gravitated to a three-bedroom cottage, with a large infinity pool high above the seaside village of Lakka, surrounded by olive groves. There, Stormzy could be blasted out at full volume, and late mornings segued into lazy afternoons as my teenagers slipped from beds to lilos and the outdoor kitchen made catering for four adult appetites more of a treat than a chore.
Villa Cavallino ticked many appropriate boxes but as always with kids, there was an unexpected curveball. What was I thinking when I chose a virtual ‘wilderness destination’ instead of a nice apartment in the main town, steps from the island’s nightlife? How naive of me to consider the disco’s 2am opening a reason for them not to attend! Paxos is a small island; one of its enduring delights is the mere twenty minutes it takes to get almost anywhere but I’m sure, despite protestations, that I’m not the only parent who draws the line at their 15-year-old returning home by taxi in the small hours.
For years, I’ve wondered at parents seeking accommodation in the tiny capital of Gaios. This year, I found myself suffused with envy. Its pedestrian cobbled streets, housing the two bars and one disco that make up Paxos nightlife, meant their children could hang out with the hordes of fellow teenagers, then totter home in the small hours with just a quick check-in with their sleeping parents to confirm their safe return.
I’ve seen the future and the isolated, peaceful villa, unless it’s got enough bedrooms to house a team of teens who can create their own party, is history. Instead I need to be in town, preferably in earshot of the disco so when the music stops as the sun rises, I know to start checking my watch for my kids return. And once this phase is over, hopefully, they’ll be old enough to holiday on their own as I’m tired of second-guessing their ever-evolving desires.
Mariella presents Open Book on BBC Radio 4 and Books to Live By… podcasts. Wild Women and their Amazing Adventures over Land, Sea & Air, edited by Mariella and published by Head of Zeus, is out now.