I am a firm believer that a love of travel is one of the best gifts you can give your children. I have my mother to thank for inspiring me with wanderlust, a desire to explore the unknown that stems from many wonderful memories developed on our family trips when I was a wee one.
Do you remember any specifics of your own early holidays?
Memories of that part of my life are usually made up of sensations: evocative smells, sounds and textures that trigger floods of nostalgia. It sounds slightly unbelievable, but I have SO MANY memories of travel in my very early years, perhaps not those that my parents expected me to have, but certainly those that shaped me as a child, and later on as an individual.
My earliest travel memories are of summer weekends away in our old Arrábida house, with its terracotta tiles, deep blue (freezing cold) sea at the horizon, the smell of clay and ivy, and my constant search for nearby cats. In fact all my life that has been one of my favourite pastimes, looking for cats! Around the patio there were thick bushes, and I and my siblings would make dens deep inside – I took my dolls and books there, and played for hours. There was no beach or pool, and the only way for us to swim was to walk down the steep steps to the cliff edge, climb down the metal stairs and jump into the icy waters. All magical experiences.
Where to stay in (near) Arrábida
Another very vivid memory is of a trip to Madeira when I was 3 years old, my first time on a plane! Every little thing was exciting – I must’ve opened and closed the fold-out tray a million times, and remember seeing Lisbon below getting smaller and smaller from my little window. Even though Madeira is part of Portugal, it felt like a totally different country to my child-self. The accent is dissimilar, and the landscape was lush and tropical, unlike what I was used to on ‘the continent’.
We did road-trips around the mountains, where we stopped to view the traditional Madeira houses and spotted banana trees! Toilet breaks by the cliffs, and windy roads that made me sick more than once. Faded memories now, but still fond ones. Back at the hotel, our afternoons were spent pushing the thrill-level and diving into the pool from the board, and our early evenings smelt like post-sun lotion, shampoo, sea-breeze and kids’ discos.
FIRST TRIP ABROAD
Out of my whole childhood, the single trip that I remember most clearly is our family trip to Disneyland Paris. I’ve been a Disney geek my whole life, and I remember when the park first opened and how children’s TV on Saturday mornings had dozens of ads making me jealous of every single child that had ever stepped foot in Paris. When I turned seven, my mum surprised my sister and I with news that we were going to blooming Disneyland!! I had only flown to Madeira before, so was super excited to be going properly abroad!
I think we can all agree that Disney knows what it’s doing and the memories start to be made from the minute you walk into the park – the whimsical music that takes you back to your favourite films, the smell of popcorn permeating Main Street, the pure joy and happiness emanating from everyone’s face and Sleeping Beauty’s castle at the end.
I remember we weren’t allowed the Mickey Mouse-shaped food, eating homemade roast beef sandwiches instead (from a joint that flew from Portugal with us!), and standing on tiptoes to spot our favourite characters in the parade, battling boredom as we waited to go on Thunder Mountain, and how I chickened out of the Indiana Jones coaster after waiting in line for an hour. I think that trip is the reason why now as an adult I love to go to Disney just as much, and end up going as often as I do (too much).
We stayed at the Cheyenne hotel, and if I close my eyes I can still smell the sweet hot chocolate that was poured from wooden barrels, hear the noise of the cafeteria and see the patterns of the linen in our bedroom. The roads weren’t paved at that time, and it felt a bit like the Wild West. They were the best few days of my young life.
It is a real misconception that once you have a family, opportunities for adventurous travel go out of the window. The reasons are usually because you can never relax, and the kids won’t remember it so why pay to go away. Rubbish. True it’s difficult to relax, having to always keep one eye on the kids, but you will see their excitement and laughter as they are exposed to new experiences, and children do remember, even from a very young age.
Maybe not the view from the Eiffel Tower, but the metro ride there, the crepe they ate afterwards, or how much fun it was when it started to rain torrentially. All formative memories that they will still recall years later.
This post has affilliate links which means that if you were to book a hotel by clicking on them, I would receive a small commission but rest assured the price wouldn’t change for you.