After several months of anticipation, our
escape from the Pook trip to Spain and France has come and gone. We originally planned to celebrate our 10-year anniversary in Spain in 2019, then quickly realized it would need to become an 8-year anniversary celebration. Because A. Baby, B. 15 hours from family, and C. New England winter. I should have kept a journal from our trip, but unfortunately I was too busy drinking wine and doing whatever I damn well pleased whenever I damn well pleased (AKA: taking midday naps and going to the bathroom/showering at will). Instead, here’s a lengthy recap that I intended to be brief and is mostly for me to look back at and reminisce, and will very likely bore everyone else.
Our trip started off supes awesome with an anxiety inducing 4 hours in traffic from Hartford to Boston (a commute that’s normally 90 minutes when there aren’t 3 serious accidents along the route). Thus, we missed our flight. It was a valiant effort at the Boston airport from Aer Lingus, rushing us through security, but all our hopes were dashed when my electric breastpump flagged as “suspicious” in my suitcase and required a thorough search and bomb detection. We literally missed the plane by 5 minutes. 5. Effing. Minutes. It was an expensive 5 minutes since we, naturally, had to pay a “change fee” to get on another flight later that night. We would also miss our day and a half in Madrid, and would instead be spending 24 hours in Dublin. Once the my-world-is-ending feeling quickly subsided, we grabbed a drink at the bar and realized that we really couldn’t bitch about the situation. #firstworldproblems And we were having drinks at the airport without a short, plump little man screaming at us. It was officially vacation, despite missed flight.
Our day in Dublin was surprisingly relaxing (see above regarding lack of short, plump little man). It was cool with occasional rain, but something tells me that’s not uncommon. We didn’t get into anything touristy, since we prefer to walk and people watch more than anything on short trips to unfamiliar cities. So instead, we popped into a couple cozy pubs and enjoyed more than one Guinness, surprisingly good food, and talking with friendly locals and other travelers.
The next day we took an early flight to Madrid, followed immediately by a 6-hour bus ride up to San Sebastián, which is way less terrible than it sounds. The scenery is so picturesque, the ride is an adventure in itself. We rolled into the tiny beach town mid-afternoon, just in time to grab pintxos and bevvies at a beachside festival. We slept at a fantastic place called Hotel Gran Bahía Benardo in Donostia, a 10 minute walk from Parte Vieja and Playa La Concha.
The next morning, we ordered croissants and cafe con leche at a sidewalk cafe, which is our standard and deeply loved travel tradition, then experienced a double pug sighting that reassured us we were in the right place at the right time. The weather was beautiful for the majority of the day, and we alternated between beach-sitting and cafe-sitting. We noticed that nearly every plaza contained a playground, and nearly every couple out was toting a baby along. I compare this to buying a car, then seeing the same exact car everywhere you go. Or naming your kid Charlie, then coming across every kid in the universe named Charlie. We discussed that it was actually cheaper to get here than to someplace in the Caribbean, and thus, we should make this a family vacation destination. No. Scratch that. Let’s move here. Yes, that’s the best idea. Our decision to move to San Sebastián lasted for a full 5 days, at least.
Our itinerary took us to Bordeaux next. We arrived via train in the city, then rented a car to drive out to our chateau (Yes, chateau. And yes, I feel both snobby and fancy when I say “chateau”.). Chateau de la Grave is a family-run winery and B&B about 40 minutes outside Bordeaux, near the tiny town of Bourg. We had no idea what to expect, and our seeing the place for the first time went sort of like this: “Holy crap, we’re literally surrounded by vineyards.” “Oh my gosh, what’s that place on the hill? It looks like a castle or something.” “Woah. Is that our place? Holy ef, that’s our place!” “Whaaaat?!” “Whaaaaat?!” We immediately ordered 3 bottles of wine upon our arrival, which felt totally normal, but apparently is not that normal. Our whole evening was spent on the balcony drinking wine, eating from cheese plates, and brainstorming about what crap jobs we could get in San Sebastián to make the move possible with regular visits to this chateau. Our plan got increasingly detailed as we made our way through the wine (which was badass, BTW).
We had a tour and wine tasting the following morning (as if we hadn’t already tasted half their wines), then laid by the pool and read the majority of the day like a couple of beached whales. I hadn’t relaxed this much in… oh… 10 months? I felt gluttonous. And fantastic. We had a very similar evening to the first, with a lot less wine this time. But still some wine, obvi. Being a decent drive outside the city meant the place was pretty remote, with the only sound coming from crickets, birds, and an occasional tractor tending to the vines. We’re big on cities and people-watching, but this quiet getaway was pretty top notch.
The last stop for our trip was Paris, which, like San Sebastián, we hadn’t seen in about 9 years. We used Airbnb to get an apartment in the 9th arrondissement, and it turned out to be pretty great. Since we had already seen a lot of the major “must-see” attractions in the city on our previous visit, we felt very little pressure to sightsee. So, shockingly, we did a lot of meandering, coffee/croissant consuming, and people watching during our time there. Can you see a trend in our travel style? We had another stupid-great view from our lodging locale, which kept us on the balcony in the mornings and evenings.
Also notable is our pathetic obsession with meeting dead authors like Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris. Thus, we hit up the restaurant Polidor for dinner one night, followed by a stroll to St. Etienne du Mont where Gil was picked up in the movie. We may or may not have sat on the steps at 1 AM and called an Uber to come get us at that spot, like a couple of losers. I’m not even ashamed. Although getting into the Uber wasn’t nearly as exciting as getting into a 1920s Peugeot with Hemingway. Damnit.
As stressful as it was gearing up to leave Charlie for a week (The “how-to” list I made for his care was literally over 4 pages long. It’s sort of embarassing.), it was exactly what we needed in the “couple” department. Huge props go out to Grandma Cindy for Pook-wrangling like a champ the week we were gone. We received the perfect number of pictures and videos during our trip… Not too many to make us homesick, not too few to worry whether he was still alive. Pook had about 100 more toys when we got home, too. Very mysterious. Here’s a few from his time with Grandma Cindy, and an excerpt from Charlie’s journal, dictated by Grandma. He obviously had a terrible time in our absence.
“Grandma says it’s warm enough that I don’t need to wear pants inside the house! I hate pants. She does make me wear this dreaded diaper though. Of course, that’s because I’ve peed on her twice already- Oops…”
To top it all off, Nonna & Pop drove up 15 hours to cover the day gap between Grandma Cindy leaving and us returning. No one wants to spend any time with this child, clearly.
Sigh… back to reality. Which, it turns out, isn’t too bad.