The Adventure of Salzburg

I fancied going to Salzburg before we leave Austria in December. There is a direct train from Vienna that takes two and a half hours. It is under €50 for a return ticket and Noah can travel for free. City breaks are never easy with small children (I can only assume based on my own experience) but we were feeling brave…

Getting the 9.38am train out of Vienna should have been simple seeing as Noah rarely wakes up after 6am. Unfortunately, Noah woke up in a terrible mood. It was our own fault (it was mostly my fault). We took him along with us to a retirement party the night before, meaning he went to bed two hours later than usual. It is very rare that we allow him to stay up past his bed time. When you have a sleep demon, it’s best to stick to a strict routine for everyone’s happiness and sanity. However, I decided I didn’t want to spend the night sitting indoors on my own, so I dragged Noah along…

From the moment he opened his eyes at the crack before dawn, he was miserable. Every breakfast suggestion I made was met with wailing and an onslaught of tears. Seeing as we had a schedule to stick to and I needed him to calm the hell down, I told him he could eat his breakfast at his little table and chairs in the lounge, watching Bob the Builder. But he refused to eat his toast and refused to sit in his chair and the wailing started up again. Eventually, the television was switched off, porridge was made, he was transported kicking and screaming into the kitchen and was force fed his breakfast sitting on my lap. After this ordeal, we only had 20 minutes to get washed and dressed.

When we got off the train in Salzburg, we needed to go and dump our bags at the hotel, but we didn’t know how to get there by public transport so we walked. Noah, already dead on his feet, was not happy. I had booked the hotel (as my husband reminded me once or twice as we were walking down a strange, dark and seemingly deserted alley). One of the problems with staying in a hotel with a three year old is that when they go to sleep, you have to either go to bed too or sit silently in the dark for a couple of hours. We needed accommodation with two separate rooms. My husband found us a self-catering apartment with two rooms for €75 for the whole weekend. I considered the price and glanced at the photos of this place and decided it was a dingy, flea-ridden hovel. I found us a suite in a mid-range hotel (at about five times the cost). To my relief (because otherwise I’d never have heard the end of it), our hotel was fine. My husband liked it enough to buy himself a pot of their homemade jam to take home with us. There were only two real issues with the room. Firstly, it stank of stale cigarettes despite the no smoking signs everywhere. Secondly, the curtains were in metre long strips which you had to line up across the window in order the close. In other words, it was broad daylight in the room when I was trying to get Noah asleep.

Our hotel was a five minute bus ride to the old town. I had planned some activities with Noah in mind. We went to the Natural History Museum. I tried to psyche Noah up by telling him we were going to see some dinosaurs. Although Noah claims he wants to be a dinosaur when he grows up, he wasn’t very interested in spending time with his ancestors. In fact, we mainly got him around the museum by playing hide and seek…

Where's Noah?
Where’s Noah?

After the museum, we went to a café for tea and cake. As we were waiting to pay the bill, an Australian couple sat down at the table next to us. I gradually became aware that the man was complaining about something quite strongly. He sounded disgusted and I heard his wife say, “Let’s go somewhere else” so I pricked my ears up and listened in to see what the problem was. The man was complaining about the smell. I sniffed the air. Yes, there was a bit of a pooey whiff. I hadn’t noticed it before…And then I realised that the smell was my very own son. His bottom, to be precise. He had done a “botty pop”. He had farted and it was a stinker. Noah was oblivious, but my heart felt a little bit sore for him because of the man’s reaction. Okay, so he smelled a bit but it’s life. We all do it. (Actually, I don’t…). “Is that Noah that smells?” I asked my husband in a loud stage-voice, hoping to make the man feel ashamed of his over-reaction to a three year old’s fart. Moron.

Who's done a botty pop?
Who’s done a botty pop?

The next day, fortified by a good night’s sleep, we were still feeling brave so we embarked on The Original Sound of Music Tour. My husband has never seen the film but enjoyed the scenic views from the bus. Noah slept for most of it, including when they played the soundtrack CD and the only people singing along were me and an enthusiastic Welsh man sitting behind me. The tour ended at the Mirabell Gardens where the Do-Re-Mi scene was filmed. I couldn’t resist dancing along the pathways singing the song. Oh, I had a great time on that Sound of Music tour.

Doe, a deer, a female deer...
Doe, a deer, a female deer…

Later that day, we went to the Speilzeugmuseum (toy museum). They had lots of different toys out that children could play with. For €4, I’d go there every week if they had one in Vienna. The next day, we went on a Salt Mines tour. We crossed the border into Germany and went into a mountain which has been used to extract salt for hundreds of years. It sounds like a laugh a minute, but actually, it was really good. We had to put mining overalls on (or space suits if you listen to Noah). A little train took us through the dark tunnels into the mountain and then we had to go down a great big slide to get to the next level. I am not a fan of slides. I stood at the top and peered over the edge. “I’m going to take the walkway,” I told my husband. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he replied. I knew that there was a camera set up to take a picture of you half way down and I really, really, really wanted a family photo of us on the slide. So I swallowed my fear. In the photo, I have my eyes closed and I’m gripping my husband so tightly round his neck, it must have felt like I was strangling him.

Do you like my space suit?
Do you like my space suit?

Overall, I really liked Salzburg. It is a lot smaller than Vienna and not as grand. It seems more touristy which is a funny thing to say seeing as in the centre of Vienna, you can’t move for tourists. Vienna is more about museums and Opera and palaces. Salzburg reminded me a bit of a toy town. The mountains and lakes around there are spectacular.

And Noah was a good boy. That’s always puts things in a positive light.

Well done, my Noah.


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The Adventure of Menorca

I have been to Menorca every year for the past 28 years. My grandparents bought a villa there and it now belongs to their four children, one of whom is my very own mother. When I was a child, before the airlines had thought up baggage allowances, my sister and I would pack suitcases full of toys. I have memories of our Barbies floating on a lilo (their cruise ship), of tea parties in the forest with our bunnies (I was never a teddy kind of girl and my sister did everything I did) and of us getting lost on “adventures” with my dad which sometimes ended up with us walking into strangers’ back gardens. When we were teenagers, we went through a stage of hibernating indoors watching Sky. In particular, Clarissa Explains it All, Saved By the Bell, Boy Meets World and countless other teenage American TV shows which I have now forgotten the names of. They really don’t make TV like they used to. When I did venture outside, it was to sit in the shade with my notebook and scribble one of my novels, my very own series called Kool Kidz. And, of course, I read and read and read. This was something that continued as I grew up. The very attraction of Menorca was that it was a holiday to do nothing but to read and to relax, to eat out and drink Sangria. When I started work, this was more precious than ever.

And then I had Noah. Holidays in Menorca, like everything else in my life, changed dramatically.

We first took Noah to Menorca when he was three months old. For the whole holiday, the longest period he slept in the cot was 40 minutes. Every 40 minutes he’d wake up screaming until, at somewhere around 3am, I’d give up and hold him for the rest of the night. In hindsight, I think he was cold. But back then, I was obsessed with cot death and overheating. He’d be put to bed in a vest with a thin sheet over him. We’d have the air con on. The boy was cold. We live and learn.

Me and my 3 month old Sleep Demon
Me and my 3 month old Sleep Demon

The next two years were spent chasing after Noah in a state of sleep deprivation. This year was no different.

The Buzz Lightyear Rucksack

To get to Menorca from Vienna, we had to change flights at Madrid. Unfortunately, there was a casualty at the airport: we left Noah’s rucksack there. Noah’s rucksack contained his sunglasses, his dragon, his lion Leo (favourite toy to take to bed), his Ben and Holly DVD, his Jake and the Neverland Pirates DVD and a brand new sweatshirt from GAP which I was particularly fond of. I have since made six or seven phone calls to Lost and Found at Madrid airport. The conversation goes something like this:

Me: Hello. Do you speak English?

Madrid: A little.

Me: I have lost a bag.

Madrid: Sorry?

Me: I left a bag at the airport.

Madrid: Back?

Me: No, a bag.

Madrid: What colour?

Me: Blue and red. It’s a Buzz Lightyear children’s rucksack. Nino.

Madrid: No. Call back after 8.

Explaining the situation to Noah was a bit easier:

Noah: Where’s my Leo?

Me: You know in Toy Story 2 when Woody gets taken and all the other toys go on an adventure to find him and rescue him?

Noah: Yes.

Me: Well, the toys that were in your Buzz Lightyear bag are on an adventure and they’re trying to find their way back to you.

Noah: (Running out of the room) Nana! Nana! My toys are going on an adventure!

I am a bit cut up about the sweatshirt, but I think the real problem will come when Noah inevitably asks to watch Ben and Holly or Jake and the Pirates…

Nightmare Nights

True to form, Noah didn’t sleep well. The villa has three bedrooms: one for my Mum and Dad, one for my sister and one for me, my husband and my Noah. None of us slept well. Noah now wears pyjamas and sleeps under a duvet so he slept for longer than 40 minutes at a time, but it was still hard work. He spent the first four nights waking up at 5 am. For the next five nights, he woke up for between 2-3 hours in the middle of the night. For the rest of the holiday, he was up and down, either waking up early or waking up in the night.

In the middle of one particular awful night, he was on the floor between our beds.

“Noah, get back in to bed!” You can imagine my tone.

“I’m just doing my press ups,” he replied.

He has an answer for everything. When he was asked why he didn’t sleep, he replied, “My back was hurting. The bed is uncomfortable.”

Armband Alert

It was difficult to keep Noah entertained all day. He liked the pool, but there are only so many hours in the day you can spend in there. He liked the beach for about an hour. One day we went to a snack bar that has two little water shoots. He loved it. It cost 5 euros for 28 goes. We got there at 12 and Noah had his 28 goes, then we had lunch. After lunch, he wanted to go back on the slides. My husband took him up to the top whilst I positioned myself at the bottom with my phone ready to take a picture. As he got to the bottom, my timing was late and I missed the shot. I moved the camera over to try and get a shot of my husband who was on the next slide. I also missed that shot. As I was busy deleting the photos, my husband called, “He hasn’t got his armbands on!” Yes, to our extreme horror, Noah had gone down the water slide without his armbands on. When he ploughed head first into the water at the bottom, he resurfaced and swam to the side. And that’s all I have to say about that.

3 year olds must wear armbands when sliding head first down water shoots...
3 year olds must wear armbands when sliding head first down water shoots…

Melting Meals

As Noah finds sleeping through the night such a challenge, his bedtime routine is very important. But this causes problems when we are on holiday. Most restaurants don’t open before 6 so we either have to find somewhere open at 5 or eat at lunchtime. It was so very very hot in Menorca this year that neither of those options were ideal. My husband is a great believer and enforcer of the routine. My mother likes to mention how when we were children, we had a strict bedtime at home but not when we were on holiday and thinks Noah should go to bed later. I hover in the middle. By 7 o’clock, the boy is finished. Staying up later would mean him being a nightmare. I certainly don’t go on holiday to stay indoors and cook and neither does my Mum, but finding somewhere to eat can become a bit of a chore. My family are in Menorca for four extra nights and they are now enjoying eating in their favourite restaurants in the evenings. They claim they miss us…

And so Menorca is not as relaxing as it used to be. So what? I still love it. I love the pine trees, the sound and the smell of them. I love the general stillness and the quiet of the island. I love the white villas with the red tiled rooves. I love how all the waiters are friendly and give Noah illegal lollypops. Most of all I love the memories. Menorca is part of my fabric and I know that it will be part of my Noah’s too.

Me and my 3 year old sleep demon
Me and my 3 year old sleep demon