Guest Post By holidaysfromhels
The brief was to book a multi-generational summer holiday for my husband, his parents, siblings, their partners and our collective 5 offspring. The answer to a Barcelona villa lay in a remote location in the hills just outside Sitges, near Barcelona, booked through homeaway.co.uk. The further out of town, the cheaper and larger the villa. Figuring it would be peaceful to be in the countryside, and that, with kids, we wouldn’t be needing night time entertainment on our doorstep, we went rural.
Arriving at Girona airport, we set off in convoy up the increasingly dusty track, fearing for the hire car deposits as stones ting-ed off the unsealed road and onto the metalwork. Windscreen wipers were employed to swipe away the chalk. Bends were hairpin and the unguarded roadside dropped away steeply next to us. We would not be popping out for a pint of milk.
The arduous journey, however, made the palatial arrival even more rewarding. Huge verandas and corridors lead though internal archways, onto mezzanine terraces (from which all children were immediately banned). The roof-top was crenulated. A patio area ended in a potted cactus garden. There was even a piano.
Photo taken before implementation of ban
We were very excited, and also a bit worried about the lovely china ware perched artfully on pedestals around the villa at child head height. (These were strategically moved). The house was set in acres of land with its own tree house and slide. The ground was baked summer dry. The heat pretty much ruled out any sporting activities but this is where the hammocks and pool came in.
We had not really thought about the practicalities of an “over ground” pool which resembled an oversized paddling pool. The ladder entry made it surprisingly difficult to get in and out, and for non- swimmers there was no shallow end. Also, for lounger based spectators, all you can see is the sides, and not the children swimming in it. Definite note to self that a real pool dug into the actual ground would be better next time.
The children very much enjoyed looking after the bonus tethered sheep which came with instructions to move it on every day or so for grazing. Main character trait – stubborn.
The “it takes a whole community” to raise a child maxim was put to the test in the communal living arrangements The non-stair gated/open door life style combined with no one being ultimately in charge, did lead to the momentary loss of a 2 year old who had taken it upon himself to flee into the open countryside and then climb into the tree house, awaiting detection.
Mass catering is always a bit of a gamble and we started the week underestimating the amount a group of 13 can eat, leaving us a bit short and hungry, with no shop to bail us out. Over cater is my advice. Someone will always eat it.
Day trip to Barcelona
We’d been to Barcelona before and knew it was beautiful and that the kids would love the fountained piazzas and crazy Dr Seuss architecture.
It was decided to brave the journey and take an en mass trip by train. School girl Spanish was half remembered at the station kiosk as I sought to purchase 13 returns for a party of various ages and discount entitlements.
We popped up in the middle of Las Ramblas and joined the throngs of a thousand other tourists checking out the trinket stalls. A highlight was when the oldest cousin was taken by surprise and totally enveloped in the wings of a 10 foot demon-man statue.
After general wandering, it was time for food. (With a party of 13 it is always someone’s time for food.) Sourcing sustenance for a large group can be tricky. You simply can’t all fit in many cafes, or find enough free chairs even if they exist. An armful of baguettes from a roadside stall saved the day, eaten on shady benches overlooking the architecturally impossible and eternally unfinished Sagrada Familia.
Having lunched-up, we moved, in a long snaking line, on to the gorgeous and surreal Park Guell. (Traveling around Barcelona metro system is fine. You just follow the coloured lines, like any other subway.) Adult entry to the park is 10E (7E for 7-12 year olds) and worth every penny.
We climbed whipped cream turrets which appeared to be tiled in shiny snow and lounged on undulating mosaic benches. All the children insisted on owning a Spanish fan, much to the delight of the park traders.
A minstrel troupe had set up in a half-in half-out twisty pillared area and the sound reverberated off the bendy walls. A magical day out.
The nearest town to the villa was Sitges, with its cobbledy streets fronting a sandy beach. Very handy for swimming, loungers and cooling ice cream (and shops!). In a previous life I had spent a great afternoon people watching from a kerb-side cafe, drinking cocktails out of coconut shells which somehow also discharged clouds of dry ice.
Evenings were BBQ based and outdoors. Tea parties took place in the tree house, which, miraculously, was big enough for all 13 of us. And sheep rustling was a big hit.
Stay a little closer to town and get a proper pool, but a self catering villa is totally the way to go for a larger group and Park Guell is a show stopper.
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Hels of Holidaysfromhels travels the globe with her family and friends and in 2020 she heads off for a huge summer road trip across the US.
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My younger carefree self spent 2 and a half years pottering around the world. I am now all grown up and work in a school, which does allow me plenty of time, if not money, to keep exploring with my children and sharing the mishaps, surprises, stories and lessons learned in my new family adventures travel blog, www.holidaysfromhels.co.uk.
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