Life, death and other stories 

I recently lost my sense of humour, hence the reason I’ve been away from this blog for a while too long. My humour is a well worn blanket, a comfy pair of slippers, a friend when I’m in need and an asset when a conversation is flagging or steering into the “woe is me” domain. Without my friend, humour, I’ve felt stranded. Here follows a rather dramatic story behind it’s loss and finally, it’s thankful return…

It was a regular Monday morning back in April – school run, quick dog walk with my two dogs (one, Ginger, adopted the day before, quite by surprise, from a photo shoot) and then a car ride to a shoot.  I was off to photograph a gospel singer in a church on the south side so I was driving at a snail’s pace as it’s an unknown area for me.  For about ten minutes, the roads were eerily quiet and empty of cars. I was ambling across an intersection just two minutes from my destination when WHAM! CRASH! WHACK! SPLAT- I was HIT with horrendous force by a speeding car and flipped over and over.

My life did not flash before my eyes and I didn’t feel fearful. Instead I felt absolutely, indignantly furious. “What?!” I thought “this is NOT happening to me! I’m on my way to a church for goodness sake! I’ve been putting money in the karmic bank of goodness for years and THIS is how I’m repaid?” Well all these thoughts and more were squashed together into one enormous “NO!” and then suddenly, out of nowhere, I was surrounded by a large bubble (not sure how else to describe it) and felt like I was floating in very slow motion. I heard loud and clear in my head “I am protected. I am ok” and then,  as I hung upside down, I found myself wondering how big the car was. Yes dear readers, that utterly prosaic observation was what I thought about at my junction with life and death and life again.

Yes, that really was my car

Then the car stopped, stank of smoke and the panic began. I’ve seen all the films where, at this point, the car blows up, so I got out as fast as I could  (I don’t know how) and scrambled through a broken window to an arm reaching out for me. Once out and surrounded by at least 40 gaping onlookers, I proceeded to spin about and wail very loudly in my very English accent, wearing my neat mac and tidy shoes. I could see people staring in wonder. “How could this happen to me?” I cried. ” I am doing a project for this city and THIS is my repayment. I am so upset! I am furious! I can’t believe this!” I continued for a while until my inner voice interrupted “How much longer are you going to wail you drama Queen? I think it’s time to quieten down- you’ve made your point- be quiet!”. I must say it’s quite odd to have such a loud inner voice and even stranger for it to be so entirely and utterly sensible. I may have heard it whisper in the past but now it had taken charge and it had the tone of a bossy headmistress! I decided to ignore it until two nice ladies with the look of social workers managed to sit me down on the pavement and calm me.

Then, when everyone decided I was sane, out came the endless  questions “Do you have insurance? Were you wearing a seatbelt? Where were you going? Can you call your insurance? Shall we tow your car?” I quite fancied a cup of tea and a hug but needs must so I found myself taking charge from my pavement seat. Then came the police- two very cool looking ladies with mirrored shades.  “You are lucky to be alive” they said in unison “hardly anyone gets out of these accidents alive- ever.”

It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn, and I’m feeling pretty good!

With that, I was strapped onto an ambulance bed and rushed off to a trauma unit. Once there, I was surrounded by doctors who told me they needed to cut off my clothes to check my spine. “Cut my clothes?” I asked them incredulously and in a tone as bossy as I could muster whilst lying down.  “You will do no such thing. I have just bought this outfit in London and you are not going to cut it.” “Oh” they replied, looking surprised and chastised. They let me take control and take off my own garments. Once checked from top to toe, I was declared ready to go home and took an uber. Yes really. Friends rallied round and my husband was flown back shocked and shaken from his trip in Hong Kong. For a while my sentences came out a bit topsy turvy and I had a few flash backs but my main thought was one of relief, wonder and gratitude.

Three months have passed and my sense of humour has finally returned. It took lots of small steps, love, friends and a very conscious effort to live in the present and really appreciate every moment, to finally get it back.

My neck still hurts but I do have a great place to go where I get my bones cracked into place by a cheerful lady and then a handsome young Physiotherapist gets me to make double chins endlessly and then laughs AT me whilst I do them,  which I find quite endearing.

I look back now and feel like my excess emotional baggage from the past that I was quietly dragging about, exploded on that road and I walked into my present life clean , shiny, free and ready for new adventures.

Me photographed by Janet Rausa Fuller for Chicago Magazine

Footnote:

Always wear a seatbelt!!

 

Finally…Friends!

This new life in Madrid had a big friendship sized hole in it. Once the novelty of living abroad had worn off (around one week!) reality set in like cement and it sounded something like this, “Mummy, we don’t have any weekend friends” ” Mummy, weekends are so boring now” “Mummy, do you actually have any friends here? Will you ever have friends?  Will we ever have friends?” Unfortunately answers were in short supply as I felt the same way. That friendship hole needed filling and fast but it was proving quite hard. Where do you start without the language? I suppose it would have been sensible to join one of those “British women abroad- Let’s unite, wave the flag and empower each other!” style clubs, but I’ve never been good at being sensible and joining groups has never suited me – or the group for that matter. I really hoped new friendships would emerge organically. After a few months my hope was stretched as thin as a pair of nylon stockings with holes in them.

My only companions durintg those first months in Madrid
At the school gates I attempted to make small talk with the mothers. It was so small I reclassified it to teeny. Within three minutes they would look at me with pity in their eyes and then continue conversing in Spanish, while I stood there feeling rather foolish. I pretended to be nonchalant. I took up looking at my new iPhone a lot (does twenty times a minute count as a lot?) and pretended to be “busy.” I called my sister, so the mothers could see that I had real humans who wanted to interact with me and I wasn’t a sad and lonely drifter. She answered (about ten times a week!), which was a relief as she hates the phone. The phone became my life line. When I couldn’t call the UK for a few days I felt completely abandoned, although weirdly I could still make calls to my husband. Poor man – I called him ranting and railing. He took to travelling and coming home late.

I was pining so much for home, my friends and my family, that my heart actually hurt. I hadn’t felt this isolated for years and it was unpleasant. It was just me and the dog. My smiles became bigger to mask my tears, although not too big as that would highlight my desperation and make me look like someone to avoid. I needed to keep my new needy character under control and under wraps. I wasn’t sure where brave and courageous Abigail had gone but I prayed she hadn’t abandoned me completely.  I had to see this process in a positive light – it was a metamorphosis and eventually I would emerge refreshed and renewed, like a butterfly breaking free of it’s cocoon. Well one can dream…

By this stage we had moved out of the centre of Madrid and were now living in a beautiful home in the suburbs. It was spacious, gorgeous and had a little pool in the garden with fresh basil and rosemary growing around it and red roses climbing  the walls. The house was idyllic, which did cheer us up.

Each morning, after dropping the kids to school, Skyla and I walked down to the local village high street where I found a perfect restaurant to sit with a cup of cafe con leche whilst enjoying the warmth (from a sad distance) of socialising humans. After about ten visits the owners (it was a family affair) began to talk to me. Two lovely sisters, who didn’t speak English but were hugely kind and warm and their five languages speaking, charming brother- thank god one of those languages was English! This became my morning safe haven. Now we just needed those weekend friends.

My table at El Nuevo Zaguan, Aravaca, Madrid
I discovered the mothers in my son’s class had a what’s app group, where they shared jokes (some looked quite rude!), party plans and homework. Unfortunately it was all in Spanish. That, plus loitering alone at the school gates at pick up, made me feel like an unwatered wallflower, quietly wilting on the side lines.
I was feeling helpless, wishing we could pack up and return to London, when a flurry of activity appeared on my phone. I was struggling to understand it and then a message appeared  -“Do you know what’s going on?” It read. “Do you need help?” It was Mabel, the Spanish mother I had met about a month before. “I have no idea what’s going on !” I responded, relieved yet desperate. “I do need help!”  She decided to take this lost English lady under her wing – I was someone who obviously needed steering in the right direction – she would be my fairy godmother, my guardian angel!

At school pick up, needy no mates finally had someone to talk to.  Mabel introduced me to “the gang” – a gorgeous group of her friends, some of whom spoke perfect English. “Do any of you like going out and drinking wine?” I asked them after about a week- “Because I’m desperate for a girl’s night out and equally desperate for a large glass of wine.” They laughed and a plan was hatched.

Within two weeks I would be going for my first girls’ night out in Madrid!. What would it be like I wondered. What should i wear? Would they like me? Would I like them?  Maybe, just maybe, they would fill that large friendship hole. My excitement began to brew…

Top Pic: Casa de Campo Park, where I spent many hours walking Skyla in quiet contemplation.

 

 

 

 

Mexico City! 

This week Chicago Stories is in Mexico City; a thriving, bubbling, vibrant metropolis of super saturated colour and chaos alongside pretty pockets of tranquility. 

 
I have been visiting Mexico with my Mexican husband for twenty years and I still love it. I’m always amazed by the sheer enormity of the city, with it’s three tier super highways coursing like a pulsing artery through it’s centre and a population of over 9 million (21 million if you include greater Mexico City!) 

Even as the city grows, I’m still struck by the warmth, civility and courtesy of the people. I am greeted by strangers with a “Buenos Dias” and no one ever frowns at my kids, even when they are being noisy or wild “Don’t worry” they say smiling  “They are just kids, it’s normal.” Their enchanting smiles are genuine, not frightening grimaces masking grievance and distaste! Teenagers here make eye contact – and not just to scowl. I think this might be because there is no distinction between adults and kids. Kids are everywhere- in the supermarkets way after bedtime (that’s UK bedtime, so around 7pm!) in all the restaurants and at all family gatherings – right up to the very end. Everywhere  you look you see a kid and that kid seems to be happy! Of course my kids love it and so do I! Which frazzled mother wouldn’t?

When I first came to the city all those years ago I sat down in an empty carriage on a train and a woman proceeded to sit down next to me. I was aghast- the whole carriage was free- why on earth did she want to sit with me? If someone did that in London I would probably move but this was Mexico – people just don’t seem to have the same sense of personal space or privacy that the British do. Imagine if they did make a fuss – it would be chaos. 

This lack of privacy was highlighted at the house of my in-laws, where no door, not even the bathroom, has a lock. This can lead to all sorts of chaos and an awful lot of shouts from me, “Out! Get out!” I screech as usually one or more family member stands and stares at me in horror while I’m standing there in my birthday suit. I’ve thought of putting up an “In Use ” sign and have even lodged a chair against the door, but to no avail- if I’ve decided to use the bathroom it’s guaranteed that at least four people will want to get into it at the same time. For me, the bathroom is a place of sanctuary where I escape from chores and hide out; it’s where I go for moments of quiet introspection and personal inspection “Ooooh look, nothing’s fallen off yet!”  In Mexico City languishing in the shower is now a thing of terror. I throw my clothes on as fast as I can, with one foot propped awkwardly against the door, and then race out! 

Many families in Mexico are enormous. After meeting twenty of Leo’s cousins and at least six aunts and uncles I lost count!  Unlike many British families I know, these families like to get together and not just at Christmas! For some it’s every single weekend! You might be reading this and thinking this would be your worst nightmare, but there’s a plus side – if you’ve just had kids there are loads of built in babysitters and if you are old, you will never be lonely. 

Now I’ve shared with you a few of my observations about Mexico City, I’ll share a few of my favourite places too.

1. Coyoacán and San Angel- These delightful areas sit adjacent to each other and feel like villages, with their cobbled streets, multi coloured colonial buildings, pretty squares, old churches and elegant courtyards.  Here you find uniformed accordion players, balloon sellers, cafes, bars, lovely terraces to sit on and while away the hours and the best ice cream parlours ever! On a Sunday the square is full of families, romantic couples and dressed up dogs! Yes, dogs in colourful co-ordinated outfits (some include hats!) are now all the rage, parading the squares with their proud owners.

 Pic: A pretty church in San Angel

 Pic: Mango seller, Coyoacán 

2. Frida Kahlo’s house – I adore this house turned museum. If you are remotely interested in her art, it’s a must see. It is as it was when she lived there and I particularly love her kitchen with all its bright ceramic bowls and her tiny bed surrounded by her art, easels and paints. It’s almost as if she never left…

3. Diego Rivera’s Murals in Palacio Nacional.  You can’t really come to Mexico and not look at these magnificant murals, depicting the history of the Mexican people, from their pre Hispanic origins to the 20th century.  These are epic, dramatic and vivid works of art. It’s really worth getting a guide to explain them and bring them to life. 

4. Polanco – this is a chic and wealthy hot spot of Mexico City. We like to go as a family to one of the many restaurants here for Sunday lunch. It’s full of glamourous ladies with swishing, luscious hair and high heels, large family groups and slick men. Sunday is a family day (Mexican style) so all the grandparents and kids are also out in force. This is a great area to people watch and get a sense of the dynamics of city life amongst the urban elite. 

  
Pic: Bright pops of colour in Coyoacán 

5. Colonia Roma – the hip part of the city, full of great restaurants located in beautiful Art Deco buildings with gorgeous terraces and peaceful courtyards. It has a charming air of faded grandeur, which I love.  

 
Pic: A beautifully presented margarita in Colonia Roma

6. Bazar Del Sabado, San Angel

 

This bazaar is open every Saturday morning. It’s heaving with people, cafes and boutiques. There is a beautiful indoor market with a  central courtyard housing a lovely breakfast and lunch venue. There is temptation on every corner and enough colour to feast your eyes on for a year. 

Tradition nestles calmly alongside modernity in this city of huge dichotomy. Everywhere you look there is evidence of massive wealth as well as desperate, extreme poverty, with some barely scraping out an existence. At some points you feel like you’ve stepped back 50 years (sometimes many more) and at other moments, sitting in a swanky restaurant and eating the most elegant food, surrounded by achingly sophisticated people, you could be in any major capital of the world. It’s this constant contrast that I find so fascinating in this magnificent megalopolis.

Footnote: Mexico City is heaving with cultural sites, museums, street markets and great architecture. My recommendations are just a tiny drop in a vast ocean of activity!

Confused in the City

On the fifth day of our new life in Madrid, I went to pick up my children from their school in the suburbs. Off I went by train, along with my little dog Skyla. We were smiled at by passing strangers and my heart filled with joy. Life was good I thought, the Spanish are lovely and they even accept dogs on the train –  just like London! I collected the children and we headed back to the station.  “No, no perro!” The conductor shouted forcefully, pointing at our dog. What? No one had stopped me before. Was he mistaken? We pretended we couldn’t hear him and tried again but the conductor was adamant – we had to leave!

I was concerned but reasoned that a bus would definitely take us. The driver pulled up, saw us and shook his head, “No, no perro!” I implored him in my limited spanish but he drove swiftly off. I will admit that I was beginning to feel some anxiety when two rather cool looking policeman pulled up on their motorbikes. Xavier was dispatched to ask for their help (his Spanish was improving by the minute!) and taking pity on us, they approached another bus driver, but to no avail, rules are rules and they could not be broken!

Our options were thinning fast. We tried hailing a cab, then another, then another –  all had the same response- “No perro!” My worry barometer was creeping up to a new level entitled “freak out time!” but I controlled myself and moved it down to “Let’s call Leo!”. Yes, I thought, he can help us. I called him but got no response, then sent 20 text messages – still silence. So there we were, stuck – two little kids (ages 7 and 9)  our little dog (aged 2 and a half) and me (old enough to know better).

Well, we could either cry, or we could walk to our destination (the English love walking) so that is what we decided to do! Now, to walk, you need a route, but unfortunately it was at that moment I found out that my phone map wouldn’t work. Things weren’t looking good. Xavier, who had now been elevated to Group Captain, was put in charge of asking directions but each time he tried, we were greeted with incredulity (the English – crazy people!) and directed to the station, “No, no metro – el perro” he would tell them, pointing to the dog. “Ah” they responded, continuing to point to the station. One thing was certain- part of our walk would be along the motorway!

Off we trekked, me singing at the top of my lungs (I thought it would cheer our spirits) Xavier joining in loudly and Anoushka prodding me in the sides, attempting to stop me. “It’s so noisy here Anoushka, no one will hear me!’ I shouted over to her, sounding like a jolly Sergeant in World War Two, leading us all to battle. “But Mummy, your singing is terrible, it’s not making me feel any better at all!” she cried, still trying to make me stop, her little elbows feeling sharper and sharper as she dug me in the ribs.

If I show fear, I thought, the kids will panic, so I hid the fear away and on we went. After two hours of motorway marching, which was relatively unpleasant and not something I would recommend, we ended up on a main road and found a cafe. We dragged our tired legs in and tucked into tortilla (the spanish omelette kind) and bread. I washed it down with a small beer for fortification. “It’s ok” I told the kids, “this is all part of our great big adventure.” They did not look at all convinced.

We continued our journey but by now it was getting dark and my mind began to whir – what was I doing? I could feel the panic bubbling up inside me. If only Leo would answer his phone!

We found ourselves in a run down part of town, full of stray cats, when Xavier stopped a sweet looking old lady to ask for directions. Her horrified response encouraged me to try Leo again, and this time he picked up! At that moment a taxi pulled up and beckoned us in. Oh my goodness, the relief – here was a driver who was happy to have Skyla in his car. It was a miracle!

At 8.30 pm we arrived back home. The kids fell into bed, absolutely exhausted. The next day I received a call from the school “Your children are very tired today, is it really true that you took them for a motorway walk for four hours?” “Yes, unfortunately it is” I responded. “Well, try not to do that again please.” “Rest assured” I replied “I will definitely never, ever do that again!”

Footnote: Madrid has no guns or gangs, has a very low crime rate and feels very safe!

Pic: Segovia, Spain – sadly this was not on our walk!

Madrid – those first weeks

So here we were, a family of four plus our little dog Skyla, embarking on our new life in Madrid. I will admit right now that I didn’t speak Spanish. My kids were quite good but not bilingual whilst my husband Leo, being a Mexican educated in England and having lived all over the world, was perfectly bilingual and perfectly adaptable.

Leo can slot right in anywhere with everyone, like Cinderella’s foot into the glass slipper – “Your husband, he is just like my nephew!” people exclaimed excitedly wherever we travelled. “What a great husband you have! Just like a member of my own family!” Yes, Leo was the universal son. And me, what sort of response did I get? This story will give you an idea – when Leo first took me to Mexico, we stayed in  Playa Del Carmen. We were having breakfast when I called over to the waiter, “Excuse me please, would it be possible to have a cup of tea?” “I’m sorry” the waiter replied, “I don’t speak German.” German? What? When did I start speaking German? My husband repeated the question, again in English, “Ah, a tea, you want a cup of tea, why didn’t you tell me?” I couldn’t believe it. How did that happen? It made us laugh but summed up my situation- I’m misunderstood the world over! How on earth was I going to get by in Madrid?

I had hoped that the Spanish would speak English, just like they do at those coastal resorts full of Brits but no, in Madrid they do not. They speak Spanish, as they should. Wishful thinking wasn’t going to get me anywhere!

So there was Leo, with his perfect spanish and adaptable ways, going off to work happily and there was me, with no Spanish and less adaptable ways, left to set up our new life.  All the normal things you take for granted were suddenly achingly difficult. School, shopping, calling for a taxi (that was hellish – would it turn up on time, on the right day even) navigating my way around the city –  it was like climbing a mountain. Spontaneous chat left my life abruptly, to be replaced with weird one minute dialogues and lots of wild arm gestures.

One instance brought the perils of my poor language skills acutely into focus. I had to ask a shop assistant for a replacement toilet seat. I was sure I was using the right words in the right place and I combined them with lots of gestures to make it clearer. She looked at me uncertainly, so I made the gestures more explicit. Her face moved from concern to alarm and I found her hastily guiding me to the bathroom, believing she was averting a brewing disaster!

Yes, not knowing the language of the country you have chosen to live in can prove to be not just difficult, but also humiliating! The kids teased me endlessly, laughing at my accent and incompetence – “Mummy, your Spanish is the same as a toddler!” Thanks kids.

My son, realising the situation was dire and that his mother boss was no longer in control, became our spokesperson. He chatted with taxi drivers, asked for directions and basically took charge – he was not yet eight!  My daughter, aged 9, became my calm confidente and navigator and even my dog seemed to sense the new hierarchy and took to steering me in the right direction. Suddenly I was taking a back seat in my own life – suddenly I was being guided by my dependants! The world had just turned upside down – would it ever be the same again?

 

Pic: Street scene, Chueca, Madrid

Madrid -The Story begins

After three days of travelling by car from London to Spain, we finally arrived at our destination. There was Madrid on the horizon; it was time to open the first page in the opening chapter of our new life.

As we pulled up in front of the air b and b, Xavier, my seven year old, leant out of the window, “Look Mummy, Sex is easy!” he shouted in his booming voice. “What Xavier? Why are you shouting that?” I shouted back to him, “It’s there Mummy, on that sign, the one right next to our apartment! Why does it say that Mummy?” Yes, why indeed. Well there it was in big, bold letters – a sex toy shop, with a huge photograph of a lady sucking suggestively on cherries to illustrate the point. 

Oh no, I thought, why on earth had the owner of the property told us that this was a fun but family friendly area? Her idea of family friendly and mine were obviously quite different! The sex shop just happened to be next to a night club, advertised with a large poster of a bare chested oily man with his hand placed down his underpants. I was beginning to worry but I pushed it aside and thought positive, happy thoughts to cover my brewing inner screams.

After unloading our huge amounts of luggage, we all stepped out to explore the neighbourhood. Right next door was a fruit and vegetable shop, which was a relief, and opposite a shop run by a Chinese family who sold everything you could possibly need in any event whatsoever, and never closed – so that was good too. Just a bit further up the street were some shoe stores and boutiques and then there, nestled between them, was an S & M Dungeon. Yes, dungeon and just in case it wasn’t clear enough, there was a list posted on the door of “services provided” and “special rooms”. This would have been fine if it was in Spanish, but no, there it was, in English. As I pushed my children fast past the door, I noticed the “Leather Club” on the opposite side of the road. “What’s a leather club Mummy?” asked Anoushka, “A club where people go who like cows” I answered – well, you have to get creative in these situations! I turned to Leo, “I thought you said that Madrid was conservative!” I was trying not to screech, “It is! I’ve never been to this area before!” he answered, slightly screechy himself.

Yes, here we were, our first day in Madrid and we were living in the “red light” district, right in the thriving, bustling centre of it. What do you do in a situation like this? Well, you embrace it, that’s what you do. 

It turns out that this little hub was Chueca, the trendiest and hippest part of Madrid and actually, apart from these small, seedy establishments, it was a great area, packed to the brim with coffee shops, cafes, boutiques and bars and cool, stylish people. It certainly wasn’t a family area, but we weren’t going to be there long so we decided to make the most of it. It’s not everyday you get to live next door to a nightclub with a very tall transvestite as a host.  This was all part of the colour of life. These stories would become the pages in our family’s history.

That first night we found a perfect restaurant only two minutes from our apartment. Skyla lay down by my feet and we feasted happily on delicious paella. Sipping on white wine, I sat back, watched my family with quiet pride and took a deep breath – we will be ok, I thought, we can do this; and here began our great big adventure.

Pic: Xavier leaning against a tree, Chueca, Madrid

The Road Trip – London to Madrid

So here we were in the car, driving to Madrid from London to open a new chapter in our lives, car packed to the hilt with as many belongings as we could stuff into it, kids squished into the back between the computer, dog on my lap and the audio books of David Walliams playing on the stereo (his children’s books are really funny).  Each time the story stopped the kids would start bickering, shouting, fighting, pinching, squealing, screaming and generally being the sort of passengers that if they were fee paying, you would pull over and leave on the pavement.

We had had the good sense to decide to break the trip up into manageable instalments. Basically that meant that we stopped in France and Northern Spain along the way, which meant we could rest our weary bodies, walk the dog, stretch our legs and go for a meal and the parents could drink a very large alcoholic beverage (or was it two?) and rest our ears.

In Northern France we spent the night in Rouens in a wonderful hotel and I have to say that I did feel terribly liberated and adventurous!  I rather admired us! Here we were, free, roaming across Europe, only the clothes on our backs and the luggage in our cars, no house, no ties, no beds, no fixed address, just the future beckoning before us – well, you get the picture, I was getting carried away with the romance of it all!

We wandered around the pretty town looking for a place to eat that would take us and our dog Skyla. I was a bit worried they wouldn’t let her in, but no, in France you can take a dog anywhere – I even saw some in McDonalds! The French love their dogs, I mean really, really love them and even for me, who is quite obsessed with her dog, it seemed a little extreme, but I wasn’t complaining, it meant Skyla could go everywhere with us, even to dinner!

We woke up to a beautiful breakfast, French style, our plates filled to the brim with crusty bread and mouth watering freshly baked croissants. The children drank thick, strong hot chocolate in bowls whilst I enjoyed my own tea, brought from England, complementing the perfection (I take my own tea wherever I travel – I’m English- one must!) What a good start I thought, this was definitely a good omen.

We then squeezed back into the car and a number of hours, shouts and David Walliams stories later, we arrived in San Sebastian in Northern Spain. Now, I have to say, San Sebastian is gorgeous. We found a restaurant in the town square and again, Skyla was welcomed without fuss. It was tiny, scruffy and empty, yet we feasted like Kings, eating and eating tapas after tapas, each delicious mouthful competing with the next. This was a sign. We were on the right path, spiritually speaking, we were doing the right thing. I just knew it!

Pic: Our hotel in Rouens, Northern France