Warning: Super long post and loads of pix!
If there is one thing I don’t do much or enough of on this blog, is sing my hubby’s praises. For the man he is to us. To all of us. I mean, I do sometimes– one can’t quite help but bring it up now and again when delving into certain parenting matters on this blog, as it is so integral to our journey. But not often on it’s own. And its not for the lack of wanting, but mostly because I often feel I cannot find words that adequately express my feelings, appreciation and admiration for him. And that I often feel like trying to put it into words may cheapen what I feel, or not accurately embody what I have for this man in my heart. So often his birthday comes and goes, with little to no mention here.
And that long, maybe almost pointless ramble was just to let you know that his recent birthday was a big one: His 40th! Yes, folks, the big 4-0! The beginning of the decade that I say is where its all at! (read here about my take on the 40’s) But I’m not going into all the soppy, goopey stuff I really feel about him – at least not today – instead I want to share with you our little adventures in celebrating his big day.
So. Onward then…
The plans for Mikey’s 40th had been coming along for some time already..but nothing was set in stone yet. All I knew was that he wanted to get away. So I had secretly called up a few friends to ask if they could get away with us to help celebrate, but before I could call the rest of the friends, he made it clear: he wanted a romantic getaway for just the two of us! No friends. No kids. No family. Just wifey…And as a tired preggo, who’s head was still spinning from work commitments, parenting challenges and just other life stuff, I was, “hell yeah, let’s do this!” I mean birthday boy gets what birthday boy wants!
We chose Franschoek as our destination of choice – it’s one of our local favourites – and who doesn’t love Franschoek?! It’s a quaint little “town” with just so much happening in it and around it, with so much style and choice surrounding you at all times. And we were psyched! Sure it was only going to be two nights away. But it was going to be two nights away with just the two us: no interrupted conversations, no need to go all covert and into whisper mode after bedtime so as to not wake the kids. Fancy candle lit dinners, where making googly eyes at each other and playing footsie wasn’t going to be interjected with having to cut up some little person’s fish finger or wiping up spilled juice. I had already planned the indoor picnic by the fire. And the sleep? Oh the glorious sleep we would have! Don’t forget about the exploring! The ease of navigating the roads and unlimited time we could spend doing adult things. I mean, you know my take on the importance of a Babymoon. So it was all booked and it was on! On, like Donkey Kong!
And then, well…and then it all came to a crashing halt as we couldn’t get a baby sitter. I mean, our pool of child care choice isn’t exactly huge to begin with, and it was a busy time of the year. So try as we might, not a soul was able to help us out – not even in the spirit of celebrating Mike’s 40th. Nothing! So almost as if Mike and I had oddly somehow swopped rainbow unicorn souls, for while I was still trying to cook up fruitless plans to make this much needed couple getaway he was the one that just flowed with it – cool, it’s a family vacation then, and changed the booking from the couple suite to the family suite.
And so, that crazily even longer prologue finally brings me to the point of this whole post: Our Franschoek 40th Celebrations.
I woke up that morning with a terrible head cold that had gone from bad to worse, but was determined to not ruin my man’s special day by being a complete grouch. So a special oven baked egg and bacon and cheese bowl breakfast in bed was whipped up. I woke the girls and we came roaring into the bedroom with happy birthday tunes and we served him brekkie. We each gave him a gift. The girls especially put a lot of thought into their gift selections, as I explained to them it’s a very special birthday for daddy. Parker-Grace had me wrap up some Mickey Mouse bubbles, because bubbles make her so happy and she wanted daddy to be happy too. So Morgy concluded then that reading makes her happy, so she wants to get him a book. I loved that.
The out of character whining and crying all the way there really reminded us why we so wanted a couple getaway, but we just kept reminding each other of all the new memories we’d be making, and how good this is for them, and how we’ve never regretted family vacays before.
So by the time we got to our little cottage, we were ready to explore. Or at least the girls and I were. Mike was ready to make that fire and bunker down for the rest of the stay. And that’s the thing that silently always crops up on our little vacays: Mikey and I are such polar opposite type of travellers. It’s like this elephant in the room whenever we travel…and I’m constantly trying to lure that elephant outside. Mike’s more of the we’re here to rest,relax and chill – let’s see what’s on T.V type of vacationer. (I remember flashing him an incredulous look as he attempted to settle down to watch French TV in our little Paris apartment.) While I’m more of a let’s explore and “see how much of this place can we squeeze in”. More on that odd dynamic of ours another time, but the point was, it was a bit of mental battle for me because all I want to do is go out there is see what this pretty little farm we were on had to offer – I mean, it’s slap bang right in the woods here, and the girls were keen to explore it. But this was not my birthday. This getaway was supposed to be all about Mike. So we adopted the more leisurely Mikey pace…and it wasn’t half bad yo.. In fact, my sick body was probably more thankful for the slower pace.
The next morning after a decadently slow morning and breakfast served up by Dad, we headed out to the Le Bonheur Croc Farm for some heart stopping animal encounters! I won’t get too much into it here, and promise to do a separate post on it – but this is definitely a must-see as part of any family-friendly spots.
Mike and Morgan-Lee struggled to keep their wits about them, and caution was the name of the game amidst these beasts.. I mean it can be quite frightening to be surrounded by 100’s of these guys, but was all in a day’s fun for our little Parker-Grace.
In fact, whilst everyone practised caution and distance when handling the baby crocs, our little animal whisperer, Parker-Grace basically grabbed and hugged the croc! Even the ranger was taken aback as to how unafraid she was, and had to actually stop her from wanting to kiss the animal. (even though it’s mouth is taped closed, the ragged teeth sticking out on the sides can still do damage) But she was so at ease with it, and handled it so nicely, eager to hold it, and inspect it’s tail and feel it’s tummy – saying, wow, it’s soft like a pillow. This girl…move over Steve Erwin! 🙂
As much as I really wanted to stay on and see what else the Croc farm had to offer – there’s Bass Fishing, Snake shows and just so much more, Mike was keen to move on. So we fueled up at Cafe Des Arts…I mean, you can’t go to Franschoek without a pop in here… I love the quirky style of this place. (Just note of caution, most places here in Franschoek are pricey!)
On a side note, one day after reading one of her fave Enid Blyton stories, “13 o’ Clock“, which just so happened to be one of my faves as a kid, Pax tells me, “the next time I find a dandelion, I’m SO going to blow it!”. The kid’s been fruitlessly scouting fields ever since, and finally this day, she spotted one and called out to me in such delight,”MAMA! I found one!” Then waited patiently for me to get my camera out. Morgy and Mike didnt quite get what the two of us were going on about, but I loved having that little special thing that just she and I got.
We then ended up at Good Food & Co for some divine brownies and coffee, while the girls enjoyed the small but doable play area.
It was at this point that my nature-loving Pax and I decided to cut through the bushes. And also hppened to be the exact same spot where Morgy (the anti bush type) drew the line and refused to budge. We really wanted to explore more but Ialso couldnt exactly leave my child just standing there, so instead I
totally bribed told her she could get to hold the camera and take all the shots…and with that she was all in, adding “oh, I like that!“. She gingerly made her way through the bushes to us, and then managed to snap this gem:
I love it. I love that she and I can share in this love of photography. That taking the snap makes her as excited as it does for me. And that both she and I can get lost in old photo albums. It’s so lovely to be able to share in this with her.
Next morning, we had to say bye-bye to our lovely cottage at Stony Brooke. But driving through their vineyards we knew we couldnt leave without some of their wines…You know, stockpile for after little Coconut (baby) makes her debut. 😉
And then ended off with some indulgence at the Hugenot Chocolaterie…you’ve just got to! (They have an interactive chocolate making tour which is definitely on our bucket list)
And so, with our memory tanks and tummies full, we headed back home. Sure, we might not have felt as rested as we had hoped with the original plan, but by God, did we have some of the hugest smiles plastered all over our faces as we sat in the car. What a sweet way for my man to ring in his 40’s…relaxed, in nature and surrounded by his little family…And the girls. Well, they’re still talking about our cosy time at the cottage, the crocs and the fun that was had.
So, yeah, truth be told, I love family vacations. Yes, its tiring, but it’s an exquisite blend of frustration- excitement-exhaustion-adventure-patience and love. Sure we still need that couple getaway -like, stat – but there’s nothing quite like witnessing discovery through a child’s eyes, spending that time with them and adventuring together as a family. And lets not forget, that amidst that silent battle between two polar opposite vacationers, is magnetic love that keeps them together, always shifting, pulling and pushing…and makes them alway willing to make room for the other.
Here’s to great vacations, however short, and here’s to the forties…May my man show me how it’s done! X