“Um, this just got really narrow.” J muttered as he inched the car forward. Building walls closed in as people stared at our car and moved around us.
“The apartment is supposed to be just ahead but I have no idea if cars are allowed here.” Google maps was ushering us forward and in our North American expectation we had just assumed that parking would be available on the street.
Not so it seemed.
“Maybe I should get out with the girls and the bags you can find parking.” I went to take my seatbelt off when I looked up to see angry motioning from a waiter in front of us.
He was shooing us away when he changed his mind and motioned to roll down the window. J obliged.
Rapid fire Spanish ensued, to our wide eyed lost-ness. I only caught “Policia” and something about a ticket and getting the hell out of here.
That part needed no translation.
We nodded and attempted to get the hell out of there. Only the back window was completely blocked by our American sized luggage and stroller. And it was 10pm on a Saturday night in the center of Málaga. Meaning that there were people everywhere.
A hasty retreat was not in the cards.
“Mama… I”m tired.”
“I know babies. But mama and dada are just trying to figure out where to park then we can get our things, get to our house-hotel and get all settled.”
J gingerly backed out and we tried to get back to the land of cars without the help of Google Maps, which obviously doesn’t work in the exactly places you desperately need it to work.
We both looked left and right.
“Let’s go right. I think I see a car.”
Wrong answer. Another pedestrian square. More dirty looks. More late night sweating from us.
“Arg. Let’s just get out of this whole area and get back to where we came from.”
We backtracked till we were clearly on a road. I saw a hotel and decided to jump out to ask for directions.
Good news and bad news.
Good news – we were 50 feet from the parking place we needed to go to. Bad news – because of the way the city center is laid out in one-ways, we’d need to drive 15 minutes around the whole old city to get back to the entrance.
But at least it was progress.
I tried to calm Bug and Peanut, who were understandably tired, hungry and now concerned, while calling out directions that I prayed were right. J just concentrated on navigating the roads while getting used to Euro driving rules and a new city.
How did the perfect morning in Paris end up like this by night?
We had woken up late, remnants of still getting over jet-lag, to the perfect Parisian autumn morning. Crisp and cool under a still warm sun after a night of rain.
We walked out in search of our last French breakfast before heading out to Spain later in the day. We found the perfect little boulangerie and ordered pain au chocolate, pain avec confiture and cafe au lait.
Tummies full, we walked out to wander. It’s fashion week in Paris so we passed countless people dressed even more en vogue than the average Parisian.
We fit right in.
Not quite, but we didn’t care. There was just too much to take in.
And then. We took a turn and in front of us opened up a weekend market. Fruits and cheese and meats and wares.
People bartering, buying, and just chatting. We bought some fresh framboises to snack on and it was all I could do to not buy all the cheese laid out in front of me.
The perfect weekend stroll as if we might be a chic family living in Paris.
A stop at a park and one of the many carousels, and it was time to pack up and head out.
The drive to Orly took us through the quieter streets of south Paris and we got to the smaller airport with plenty of time to spare.
Perfect, I remember thinking. Just enough time to check in, eat a late lunch and get to our gate without rushing.
Only: I had thought that thought too soon. The flight was delayed. Only by 80 minutes but for an evening flight that was enough to be problematic.
The thing about traveling with kids is that it’s completely doable. As long as you respect the basic principles and routines of sleep, eat and play.
We would now be pushing the bounds at night on eat and sleep.
But what choice did we have?
So we tried to occupy the kids for an extra 80 minutes in a small terminal where, apart from a small play structure, there was very little to do.
We managed to make it to our plane, though now with Peanut feeling under the weather and us concerned about her having picked some illness up. We bundled them onto the plane and with luck, they both fell asleep for the duration of the flight.
And so we landed. At 9:30pm instead of 8pm but we figured, just keep moving and we can keep it together. Grab the bags, head to the rental car.
Only: where the hell is the rental car lot?
Málaga may officially be the worst airport for rental car signage. Which is to say there was exactly none.
Not what you’d want when you have sleepy, sick kids, bags and that sticky hot feeling when you get off a plane and walk into the smokey haze of cars, cigarettes and other fumes.
At our frustration point already, we located the lot and the car in the depths of a stiflingly hot parking garage. We proceeded to carry over and install two car seats while keeping two irritated kids entertained. J even figured out how to get our American sized lugged into a Euro hatchback.
Luggage and children stowed, we punched in our destination and breathed a sigh of relief when it said only 19 minutes.
Only: 8 minutes in, Peanut decided to through an epic 3 year old fit over the existence of the small suitcase at her feet.
So now, to the indignant wails of this preschooler, we tried to navigate the dark streets of Málaga, towards our destination.
Which brought us back to our current predicament. And hoping this 15 minute detour would end fruitfully in a parking garage.
Lo and behold. About 100 feet from where we were first scolded, lay the entrance of the parking garage. Relief we finally found it. Frustration that the past 40 minutes of aggravation could have been avoidable.
Nonetheless. We parked, grabbed our bags and proceeded to the very same street, past the angry waiter. We tried not to make eye contact in our embarrassment but as cosmic travel luck would have it, the Airbnb was located right across from it. Luckily the instructions to get it were simple and 5 minutes later we found ourselves inside the perfect little “house-hotel” for our stay.
Famished, as Bug likes to say, we threw our stuff down and went downstairs to get some food.
It was 11pm by now and I thanked our lucky stars that we were in Spain, because dinner was still in full swing. We walked until we found a restaurant with the sweetest Spanish waiters who proceeded to entertain the girls with little tiki umbrellas and colored straws.
Phew. Finally at 11:30pm we could relax. You always know you’ll have days like this and we’ve had many, traveling by ourselves. It’s just a different thing when you have two kids in tow.
Still, they did fantastic, jumping in to help with they realized we needed to get through dicey situations. And now. We’re sitting at the perfect little table in the perfect little nook on a perfect little old European street.
The girls have bread. We have beers. And life is good.