We’re just back from our first family holiday. Somewhat appropriately given my focus on Scottish, Irish and Welsh culture in my last post, we went to a Celtic region of France, namely Brittany. Beforehand, I was somewhat apprehensive about the prospect of flying with a five month old baby. However, I was reassured by posts by fellow parent bloggers on this topic such as this one from the Dad Down Under site. In general, I’m often a bit nervous about flying myself but found my son’s purple elephant toy a comforting sort of stress ball while he was asleep.
We were staying at a campsite just outside the village of Le Bono in Morbihan, about five miles south of Auray. Travelling in September rather than July or August not just fitted well with our own summer plans, but also meant that renting a caravan at the site was considerably cheaper than in July and August. The fact that the campsite was fairly quiet also helped to create a nice relaxed feel.
Nice and relaxed was not, however, exactly the way I felt when I was faced with the challenge of putting up the travel cot that the campsite owner had kindly lent us. Unfortunately there weren’t any instructions with the cot and putting it up felt like a sadistically difficult mental agility task from The Krypton Factor (apologies to anyone who doesn’t recall this 1980s UK game show).
However, thanks to the WiFi that was available at the campsite reception I was able to watch a forty second video on YouTube of a man showing how to put up an almost identical cot. As myself and my wife must have spent about 20 minutes trying to do the same by that point, I did feel deeply jealous and think that he was a right show off for getting the job done in 40 seconds. After reading the comments under the video, I managed to work out what I’d been doing wrong (the cardinal sin of pulling down the base of the cot before securing all four sides for anyone faced with a similar challenge).
I was delighted to be back in Brittany as I remember getting to know the area as a teenager following a school trip in 1998 and after spending two months working at a campsite in La Trinité-sur-mer the following year. I’d always had a sort of fondness for Brittany due its Celtic identity. Coming from Scotland, I feel a natural affinity with any area that produces traditional biscuits that are similar to shortbread. In addition, some of the coastline and countryside reminded me of parts of Ireland that I’d visited on family holidays when I was growing up.
Things are a bit different now. For a start, I’m now in my 30s, got married last year and become a father in April of this year. In addition, I’ve spent the last six years living in Wales and now speak Welsh fluently. I began noticed similarities with Wales when it came to place names and various words in Breton as well as debates to do with the status and promotion of the Breton language.
Our son, who is currently five months, probably wasn’t thinking about this too much but certainly seemed to have a good time. During the holiday, he started to blow raspberries, make a lot more different noises and continued his fairly recent habit of sticking his tongue out at people as well as smiling at them. People generally smiled and laughed back, which he liked, especially on a few boat trips and on the plane.
Being on holiday for the first time since our son’s birth in April perhaps meant that we took things easier than we might have done a year ago and did things at a bit more of a leisurely pace. However, this certainly didn’t stop us getting out and about to visit a lot of sights in the area near where were staying. We did quite a bit of walking, going to markets and particularly enjoyed visiting a small island called Ile d’Arz. It was great to visit other towns and villages such as Larmor-Baden, Vannes and Auray as well as driving down the Quiberon peninsula.
The food was good too. As a vegetarian, options can sometimes feel a bit limited in France and I don’t often manage to sample different regional cuisines to anywhere near the same extent as meat eaters. However, Brittany is renowned for its crêpes and galettes (traditional pancakes) and many of those that feature of menus are vegetarian or can be easily modified to be made vegetarian. It was particularly good fun sampling new types of crêpes, such as ones that combined goats cheese and the local delicacy of salted caramel butter. On one occasion, I had a crêpe that combined pear, goats cheese, a scoop of gingerbread ice cream and a green salad sprinkled with pine nuts and chopped figs.
Despite being too young to eat proper food, our son seemed to be getting more curious about food. Although only one of the cafes or restaurants we visited had nappy changing facilities, they all seemed to be otherwise very baby friendly. On one occasion, our son pushed a fork onto the floor within seconds of our arrival and the restaurant owner laughed and instantly fetched a replacement. On another, he started picking up a red paper place mat and waving it in the air much to the amusement of the waitress.
Looking back, it’s hard to pick out a favourite place, day or moment of our holiday. The best thing for me was just having eight relaxing and fun days that I spent with my son and my wife. I love my job but spending just over a week with my son and wife all day every day isn’t something that I’ve been able to do since my paternity leave just after our son’s birth in April.
France remains a special place to me and I’m sure it always will. I lived there for three years and visit fairly regularly both through work and on holiday. In addition to being the first place we went to on a family holiday, it’s also where my wife and I went on our first holiday together as a couple. I hope our son will grow to like the country as much as I do and enjoy travel and exploring other places as much as his mum and dad do.
What did you think of this article? What do you remember from your first holiday after becoming a parent? If you’d like to share your thoughts on this post, please feel free to do so via the comments section below. If you want to keep up with this blog, there are ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+. Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen.
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