Piccola bambina

So it has been over a week since we returned from holiday and it is high time I shared the story of Elphie’s adventures.

It was really a holiday of two halves. The first half was hard going, Elphie never being the best at going to sleep at night (wonder where she gets that from), shockingly did not seem to realise there was a time difference and so would not settle till 3am or one night even 4am, and then would feed again at 7 or 8am which then meant it was hard to get ourselves up and at ’em much before 11am, which wasn’t that conducive to a day’s excursion. Indeed the first day was the worst – I don’t know if it was the heat or the change, but she was feeding constantly. I fed her for a total of 6.5 hours that first day, which is over 50% more than the time taken to feed her on an average day. Luckily that was just the first day or I would never have left the villa!

Another bolt from the blue was the discovery that the tap water in the villa was not drinking water; in fact whatever it was was so undrinkable that even boiling it in a kettle would not make it drinkable. This bemused me as I thought boiling was pretty infallible as a water purification technique. I never totally got to the bottom of it, but decided better safe than sorry and so Elphie had all her stuff sterilised in mineral water and she bathed in it for the week (any comments about the fact she went in the pool and the sea and was fine will be ignored!). But that was an unexpected stress – who would have thought a country in Western Europe would have places without drinking water? And don’t get me started on the standing up toilets.

We had been concerned that her screaming would keep our friends (especially those in the next room) up and had brought lots of earplugs in case they needed them. I don’t know if it was the thickness of the walls; that Elphie’s cries aren’t too bad for other people; or the numbing effects of Sardinian wine, but t’others said they barely heard her and if woken up were able to get back to sleep immediately. Sometimes she cried in the evening, but often our friends were quite happy to have a go at comforting her then – perhaps as practice for when they have one of their own!

We did even manage a few nights out. The first one Elphie needed feeding through a good proportion of the antipasti. She got fussy towards the end of the main meal and we took her for a walk outside which calmed her but not enough to prevent a repeat whenever we went back inside! Still I managed to have dessert so it wasn’t too bad. And the second time, at a local agriturismo, which served the same menu to everyone but no one minded because every one of the numerous courses was fantastic, Elphie was in her Caboo and slept the whole time! (Less so that night, but the meal was worth it). And she always slept or fed through lunches…
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The second half of the holiday, we finally got into the swing of things, taking Elphie to the beach and dunking her in the sea (she was less than impressed by the temperature and I suspect the crowded beach was less than impressed by her screaming).

We wanted to do a walk to Tiscali, which is a 5-6th Century BC village hidden in a cave – but we failed to get there last time due to a distinct lack of signposts and no preparedness on our behalf that taking into consideration that it might be tricky to find! But this time I had a look into it and it was going to be a five hour round trip hike and with a two hour drive to get there and feeding time to fit in, I just didn’t think it was something we could realistically manage with Elphie. But Fred thought we should head down in that direction anywhere and see the scenery. So we did, and when we hit Dorgali (the closest town to Tiscali) we decided to head to Cala Gonone on the coast, and coming through a tunnel high up on a hill we noticed a viewpoint stopping area and so decided to check it out. Then in standard Fred fashion, he spied an unmade road going up the rest of the hill and though we should take a little jaunt up there instead. So we did, Fred strapped Elphie in the Bj√∂rn to his front and a rucksack with the changing bag, our packed lunches and water in it to his back and off we trekked with me daintily carrying the breastfeeding pillow. We continued for quite some time on quite a pleasant walks with some nice views of Dorgali until we said “just half an hour more”, and I am so glad we did. The path opened up into a slightly undulating passage across a ridge, with amazing views into another valley with mountains spectacularly framing it. Finally, when our time was almost up (Elphie had been asleep all this time and we needed lunch and to feed her before heading back down), we passed through some crags into an expanse of rock with the beautiful valleys and mountains on one side and a view down to the sea on the other. It was just spectacular, and quite something for a random jaunt down an unmarked road. And we were really chuffed that we could continue to do our hikes with a bambino on board. She really seems at her most content when being traipsed around the great outdoors!
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On the final day we went on our boat trip. We hired a gorgeous 1950s yacht with wooden floors and puttered around the Maddalena Islands. Elphie donned her life jacket and seemed relatively happy to snooze, be fed and hang out on the boat. We took turns swimming in the turquoise water and sometimes breastfeeding curtailed my time, but simply sitting on such a beautiful vessel is really quite a fabulous way to spend a day.
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So a few hints and tips from our first foreign holiday with a baby:

  • Go somewhere you have been before – this will make you less bothered about seeing everything there is to see if you don’t manage to get out for a few days.
  • Take ten days if you can – a week wasn’t long enough, we had just managed to adjust and get with the swing of things when we had to return.
  • Bring your buggy’s mosquito net if it has one even if you don’t bring the buggy – then you can drape it over a chair with the baby on it (assuming they aren’t rolling yet) to ward off the nasties.
  • Remember the magic colic hold. As a temporary but reliable way of calming Elphie, having a position that would stop her crying was invaluable.
  • The important thing was we all made it through unscathed and enjoyed it. It makes me think there are more exotic locations in Elphie’s future – got to make use of the two years’ of free infant airfares after all!

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