Every now and then when you’re on a trip you learn something you really feel like you should have known. Something so obvious, it’s embarrassing you didn’t see it sooner.
Mine goes something like this … traveling children, plus animals of any kind, equals happy children. We were in Nerja, Spain last summer when it finally clicked. There are cats everywhere in this fabulous beach-front city. On the street, on the beach, in front of the great ice cream place. It took us less than a day to learn to factor “cat time” into our travels. Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. Just planning on a few extra minutes to stop, say hello, and take a hundred pictures. Thank goodness for digital cameras!
Sweaters on Legs
The furry felines got me thinking … about sheep … in Northern Ireland. Better known as “sweaters on legs” in my house. We met them by the beach, at playgrounds and on the road. (More often than not, on the road.) When you’ve got an 8 and 10 year-old in the back seat, passing sheep just isn’t an option. And that’s okay. I wasn’t in any rush to leave the scenic Causeway Coast.
On the Rock of Gibraltar, we expected to see some monkeys. We didn’t expect to be surrounded by them. From the minute we stepped off the cable car at the summit, we couldn’t move without seeing the tailless barbary macaques. For safety reasons, you’re not supposed to touch the monkeys. But they won’t hesitate to touch you, or any of your things. We saw one monkey jump onto a woman’s shoulder and take a piggy back ride down the road. Another stared in vain at his reflection in mirror on a tour bus. Two young ones needed a nap, after pretending a car antenna was a fire pole. There were animal antics at every turn. It was sheer hunger that finally convinced my girls to leave the reserve.
Everyone told us, “Go to Morocco.” Just an hour ferry ride from Spain, the difference between the two worlds is amazing. The beautifully decorated doors inspired me. The smell of herbs and vegetables being sold on the narrow streets is still fresh in my mind. Pictures just can’t do the vibrant mosaic tile work justice. Tangier is a feast for your senses.
But, ask my girls what they liked best and they don’t even have to think about it. The camels! Their one minute, one Euro camel ride made Morocco one of the highlights of our trip.
Slimy French Snails
It was straight out of a fairy tale. The Loire Valley, a blushing bride married in a century old cathedral, followed by a reception at Le Chateau de la Bourdaisiere. (Yes, the same one from reality television show Joe Millionaire fame.) We spent four days roaming the 80 acres of amazing scenery and gardens. They grow an amazing 650 varieties of tomatoes.But it wasn’tthe tomatoes or the thousands of flowers that caught my girls’ attention. It was the snails. On plants, under stones, behind rock walls. We spent hours corralling the slippery species, building snail houses, a snail hospital and a snail zoo. (The gardener in me really wanted to step on the whole lot.) Not once did anyone complain about the slime. Not once did I hear “ewww” or “gross.” If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I’d never believe it. Travel magic or temporary insanity, it was just plain fun.
When you travel to China, it’s just assumed you’ll see pandas. More likely than not though, you’ll see them at a zoo. Chongqing was the last stop on our Yangtze River cruise and we were spending the morning at the Chongqing Zoo. I’ll admit the thought of a big city zoo was not exactly appealing. I could easily name a list of other places I’d like to explore in the bustling city. It’s just couple of hours I told myself, and the kids will have fun. It was a classic “suck it up and do it for the kids” travel moment.
Wow, am I glad I have kids! My bad attitude disappeared the second I caught my first glimpse of Lingling chewing on a piece of bamboo. My girls were enthralled and so was I. Hours felt like minutes and before we knew it, our morning was gone and it was time to leave.
Chalk up another travel lesson learned. The next trip looks like Florida. Move over Mickey, I hear swimming with manatees makes for magical moments too.
Other posts by Dana Rebmann:
Touring with kids – Think Outside the Bus
Travel packing tips – The Perfectly Packed Carry-On
Travel Journals for kids – Travelin’ Tales
New York with Kids – Climbing the Crown
Spain with kids – More Paella Por Favor
France with kids – The Delicious Side of Paris
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