Ian and I have always loved to travel. We’re not really “holiday” lovers in a traditional sense. There is limited appeal for either of us in lying on a beach getting hot, sandy and sunburned. Rather we love to see new places, experience different cultures and try alternative foods. That said, it should come as no surprise that our preferred travel trip has often been the city break. Short trips to new places, packing as much as possible in to a long weekend in a foreign land. In the years immediately before we got married we’d travelled to a diverse range of places from Marrakech to Kiruna, New York to Brussels. But our last “city break” was a trip to Paris to celebrate our first wedding anniversary when I was around 18 weeks pregnant with Thomas. That was more than three years ago.
We never consciously decided that we couldn’t do city breaks with a child in tow. But I had some pretty strong reservations. I couldn’t get my head around the accommodation. I didn’t (and still don’t, if I’m honest) understand how people could go away and stay in a single hotel room with their small children. What do you do once they reach their bedtime? Sit in silence in the dark with them? Granted we have an exceptionally poor sleeper, but I couldn’t imagine it working. I also had big concerns about managing a pushchair on a lot of public transit systems, as many I’ve experienced are anything but pushchair friendly. And even airport transfers became a conundrum. It’s a long time since we were “budget” travellers and whilst I have no objection to buses or trains, I’ll be honest and say that the option to jump in a taxi is a nice one to have when you are hot, tired and face an hour’s wait until your next train. With a child in tow – and no car seat – that instantly became a non-option.
Probably as a result of these niggling concerns, since Thomas was born we’ve stuck to pretty family-friendly holidays. Self-catering, farm stays and Center Parcs. Of course we’ve enjoyed those trips enormously, but I did still miss our old spontaneous weekends away.
This July we both had some time booked off. I’d booked the week a long time ago, as it coincided with Ian’s birthday and is a week we’ve traditionally gone away for. This year we hadn’t got around to booking anything and I’d begun to plan for having it as a week off at home, with Thomas still in nursery (judge me all you like!) to get some stuff done. Then our second IVF cycle failed. We decided that we needed a break from the norm. A chance to get away. And something to look forward to. So we began considering a city break.
In choosing a location, we looked at the long list of cities we have that we want to visit. We ruled several out easily as a bit too far away, to expensive or not very family friendly. The one that kept coming up over and over was Berlin.
Everyone kept telling me how family friendly it is, and how much there is for kids to do. It was a different way to consider a city, as our previous criteria in choosing a destination did not, for obvious reasons, include child-friendliness at all. I re-read, and re-read again, the excellent posts by Jennifer about her family’s trip to that city last year. We knew that all of the trains and other transport, plus the Loxx Miniatur model railway would, between them, ensure that Thomas was in heaven. We discovered an easy train connection between the airport and the city, which erased my transport concerns. The we found an apart-hotel complex. A hotel that also offered two bedroom apartments, complete with kitchenette. Better still, the price for when we wanted to go was comparable to a “normal” hotel room. My concerns about accommodation were wiped out too.
So we booked it. Four nights in Berlin with a two year old.
It’s taken me a while to get around to starting this write-up. That is in part because I’ve been having a bit of an internet and blogging break, but also because I’ve struggled a bit to know where to begin. We had such a fantastic time. Although our pace was necessarily different to how it might have been had we been without Thomas, we still packed an enormous amount in, including plenty of train and tram trips, some history in the form of the Berlin Wall memorial garden and Brandenburg Gate, trips up tall buildings (the Fernsehturm and the Reichstag Dome), plus lots of family activities such as the Loxx model railway, the Zoo and Aquarium, and the Lego Discovery Centre. We took hundreds of photos which I’m still trying to edit down now.
Thomas, true to form, loved the trains and trams. He loved repeating back the words he picked up from German announcements. And he enjoyed each of the places we visited, throwing himself in to looking at and exploring everything.
We all enjoyed the food, and Ian and I enjoyed the beer. No matter how many times I travel to mainland Europe, I still cannot really get over the fact that you can purchase half a litre of good quality beer for less than 1 euro! Well, we needed something to keep us going when Thomas was still refusing to sleep at midnight!
Of course it wasn’t all absolute plain sailing, and I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t hard work. Thomas refused to sleep pretty much at all, and was definitely even worse than at home in that respect! I can’t say the week was relaxing at all. But most importantly it was a lot of fun, and we definitely plan to do more city breaks again in future, so it definitely counts as a success!