Travelling in Spain with kids has one unique challenge. The Spanish daily timetable is different to everyone else’s timetable. In Spain they eat dinner in the late hours of the night and don’t go to bed until after Cinderella’s coach would have turned back to a pumpkin.
If you live here, it’s a cycle that you would be used to. But if you are visiting for a couple of weeks it can be awkward. When your kids are used to being in bed before most Spaniards are beginning their evening it presents challenges. When you get up at 6 or 7am, having lunch at 2 or 3pm seems like torture. The fact that we’re renting apartments makes things immeasurably easier of course, but we can’t hide from the fact we’re not in synch with the local way of life. And, over the course of two weeks, we are not likely to get the kids in synch nor do we really want to.
Last night we went for dinner with Bob. Even with his concession to his visiting nephews we ended up with them in bed after 10pm and absolutely wrecked.
All that said, the Spanish way of organising things is so sensible when you recognise the climate that they’re dealing with. So sensible that we keep bemoaning the fact that Australia was settled by the British rather than the Spanish (only, I have to say in terms of dealing with the climate). Spain shuts down during the worst heat of the day when people have a siesta or a leisurely lunch. The cooler evening hours where daylight lasts until 9pm can then be used for shopping, or strolling about or playing in playgrounds.
The thing I don’t understand and which our tame local hasn’t been able to shed any light on it how the people who have an early start cope. There are people out cleaning the square outside our apartment at 7am. The supermarket up the road opens at 8am. So do these people just do without sleep? If they are like most others and don’t eat until 10pm, when do they get their sleep? Or is there a parallel society of those who run to an early morning timetable?
Anyway, today we took advantage of the quiet time in the middle of the day to head to the Parque de Atracciones – the local Madrid amusement park. It was lucky that Bob accompanied us because amusement park rides are like a religious experience for me – they are a triumph of irrational belief over rational thinking. I know I won’t fall and get hurt, but that doesn’t stop me hating the experience. Add to that a propensity to get queasy at the slightest turn and amusement parks are not my best thing. Callum unfortunately has inherited my approach. Declan, however, is fearless.
We started off with several wet rides which amused us all a lot when Jennifer seemed to garner the lion’s share of the water. Then Jennifer, Bob and Declan went on the Tarantula. Callum and I could hear Declan screaming the whole way around and he came off looking very scared. Within minutes though it was the best thing he’d ever done. Later he bribed Jennifer and Bob into doing the serious roller coaster, which he was too small for, by agreeing to do the huge drop ride where you are taken up a tower and dropped to the bottom.
It was only by the time we were leaving that the park was beginning to fill with people. So possibly there are some advantages to being out of synch with the rest of the country.