If you follow my blog and facebook page you will be aware that we recently travelled to Zante for a two week holiday to watch my sister get married. Taking a toddler abroad was one experience we hadn’t wanted to do until he was a little bit older as we were concerned about taking him on plane being so young, we were unsure on how he would cope in the heat, we were reluctant to let the routine go out the window and, mostly, we had slightly selfish reasons because we felt we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the beach as we used to when we were child-free!
The last 2 summers we opted for Cornwall as our holiday destination; in a caravan park. We played it safe and stuck to his routine, made sure we were back in the caravan for bedtime and planned our days out around his nap times. Some people may think we were too extreme working our holiday like this, but it saved on over exhausting him and having to get back into the swing of routine once we returned home – plus he was only 6 months in the first year and 18 months the following one. This year the holiday choice was taken out of our hands which left me excited and anxious all at once! We could finally go abroad and get some sun and swim in the sea but when we booked it all Jake had only just turned two and I had my doubts about his behaviour. What I didn’t know (being a first time Mum) was how much his understanding and speech would come on in those next 6 months. The difference in development always surprises me and I think an 18-month-old Jake would have been much harder work than the 2 1/2-year-old Jake.
If you read the blog Top tips for flying with your child you will see how Jake got on in his flight – not at all what I had dreaded!
We chose to stay in a villa so that Jake could have a room of his own and we could prepare our own food if need be. It was a quiet location and away from the main town which would have been far too noisy and hectic to stay in. Instead, we were lucky enough to be surrounded by Olive trees and fantastic views.
It took over a week for Jake to settle completely into the new routine. We literally turned up and went hey son, here you can have loads of fun, see all your family and meet new people, eat loads, nap again and then stay out late! A sure way to make a child very confused. Trying to make him nap was one of the hardest parts and this occasionally involved someone laying with him and even also napping just to get him to stop. The strops after the nap were not welcomed by either of us. I have honestly never seen Jake like it. He would scream and cry, refuse to have a bath (he loves baths at home) and just throw himself all over the floor – strops which blasted every other one he’s ever had right out of the water!
Once we were out he would be fine and then, of course, didn’t wanna go back to the villa for bed; he loved the socialising part! One night out he made 2 Greek friends in a restaurant and, despite the language barrier, they played and laughed and ran around, getting other diners laughing too.
In the first week, we enjoyed day’s spent by the pool, meeting up with other wedding guests, visiting different beaches and taking in the breathtaking views. For Jake, every day was exciting and full of fun. He had the attention of all these people and the choice of who to play with – what a fab way to holiday eh?! Which also helped us get a well-deserved break.
A week in and it was the day of the wedding. Jake joined all the men the night before and he kept them in check in getting ready the next morning! I didn’t see him until we arrived as the wedding party to the venue, but he had been very good and looked so smart in his little suit. As for the venue… Just, wow! If you ever get the chance to visit Zante you need to check out Cameo Island. It is very touristy on normal days and has a bar and club, but despite this, it is still amazing. For a wedding, this part is closed off and it is simply beautiful. With a wooden bridge to access it, it sits roughly 80 metres from the mainland. Stone steps are carved into the side of this ‘big rock’ to go up to the top and then more follow to go down to the wedding venue. Huge white sails hang from one side to the other and with the glistening green and blue sea it provides the most stunning backdrop. We were all blown away and I had tears in my eyes throughout. What an experience. After the ceremony we were able to paddle in the sea – it was such a hot day – but lucky Jake had the perfect excuse for being able to strip off naked and sit in the warm water… he’s two! There were many jealous adults watching him!
All I could think was ‘wow, he is one lucky toddler getting to see all of this’.
The highlight of our second week had to be the day that we rented a boat. Yep, it turns out that Zante allows any old idiots hire a boat and drive it themselves! Seven adults, one toddler and a boat. They gave us a life jacket for Jake and cool box for our food and drink, then after a quick talk through the safest areas to go to and explaining where to keep away from hidden rocks in the sea we were led to the boat. Another guy talked us through how to drive it and then we were off! My sister took charge and drove us safely out of the harbour and around our first destinations, and a very good boat driver she was too.
I again was very anxious, especially with having Jake with us, plus in my mind, if they let us out on a boat who else was out there driving around without much of a clue?!! Yet again Jake proved me completely wrong by loving it and behaving amazingly. Other than the wedding this was the best part of our holiday. The sea was lush, the views were outstanding and we visited places we would never have gone to if we hadn’t had the boat. We sailed around Turtle Island and over to Cameo Island to view it from a different angle. We landed on Turtle Island (so named because the top of it is in the shape of a turtle) and did a bit of snorkelling and sunbathing, secretly hoping an egg would decide to hatch… didn’t happen.
We then went up the coast a little further and carefully picked an area to throw the anchor in – we were warned that it needed to land on sand otherwise it would get lodged under the rocks and we would be stuck. I had the responsibility of doing this, I was a little nervous, to say the least! Once we were safely secured some of us swam to the cave to explore, Jake included. I couldn’t have been any prouder of him. He leapt into the water with no fear and happily attempted his swimming (with armbands and his buoyancy vest) not at all fazed by the fact it was a little choppy, that the sea was incredibly deep and we were heading into a cave! He loved it in there, so much so I couldn’t get him to want to leave. For me, this was my special Mummy moment. My two year old looking up in awe at this cave, swimming in the deep sea, being blown away by the whole experience. I looked at him and thought about what this holiday had opened his little world up to, how much it had enriched him and how going abroad was the best thing we could have done for him. I didn’t get the opportunity to go abroad until I was a teenager and here he was at two doing things I would have loved to have done as a child.
On returning to the boat it was the moment of truth for the anchor. Thankfully, (for me!) it came up fine but the other boat nearby was well and truly stuck. They tried for so long, bless them, but it was wedged on a rock. Obviously being the perfect citizens we are, we offered to help and my new brother in law used his goggles to dive down and help release the stuck anchor. He was rewarded with a can of beer! (They were a German family and my did they have some alcohol with them!)
We travelled a little further and again found a spot to anchor up and swim to a shore. Jake again joined me, even though the current here was stronger. He just wanted to take it all in. The swim back was much tougher and I ended up with him on my back to try and reach the boat… I was almost drowned by him finding it hilarious to jump on my head, though!! The water was so incredibly clear and Jake discovered that he could feed the fish his crisps and they would leap out of the water to nibble them! Brother in law had to step up again and help 2 more boats with their anchors in the meantime – he was the boating hero that day!
We went out desperate to see some turtles but unfortunately, none could be spotted. But we came away having had a great time with our family, taking in new experiences and the best views.
On another of our day’s out, we even stumbled across the beach where we got engaged. When we visited Zante in October 2011 the weather was pretty poor with heavy rain and it was cloudy most days. Most of the island dies down in the later months and there was very little to do… except for hubby to get down on one knee whilst walking along the beach on our last evening. We didn’t think we would ever return because of the bad experience we had on that holiday. Fate changed that for us and even more so when we accidentally turned up on that same beach (our memories of it were vague, prob coz the weather makes everything look so different and we couldn’t quite remember the town where we had stayed). This gave us the perfect opportunity to show Jake where his Mummy and Daddy got engaged and to get a photo of all three of us in our special place.
I have watched my son become more confident in the water, socialise with people from different cultures, go to beaches with turtle nests, experience his first boat trip, explore a cave, go lizard hunting every day at our villa and enjoy the best beaches we could find. What an adventure for such a small guy.
My mind has been changed and I can now fully understand why parents want to holiday abroad with their little ones and why some even choose this time to really travel and see the world.
Where have you adventured to this year?
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