I’m not sure travelling with small babies really counts as travelling. You don’t lose yourself, breaking links with the everyday to go on a little daydream of difference; you’re rather reminded how much babies like having their own familiar things around them, and how difficult they are when they don’t.
For Easter, we drove to Fontainebleau, to go climbing, or rather bouldering. I used to live for bouldering, went to every wall in London nearly every day of the week and worked on problems for hours. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for my ankles, going mountaineering has made bouldering seem a little bit pointless – it’s a bit like getting on a rowing machine when you could be getting on the water.
Anyway, it had been booked for months, and friends were going too. The day before we left, our baby was up sick all night. We took him to the doctor, who said he would probably be fine, but gave us an amused smile, paused, and said “Hmm, yes, well you might find it all much more difficult if you decide to go”. After some deliberation, we left on Good Friday, and drove around Paris on the outer motorway, rather than on the peripherique that is a permanent traffic jam. In the past, this route has never caused any problems, but this time, we were gridlocked for hours. Conrad was screaming in his car seat, and when we finally came to a stop there were big, rolling great tears on his cheeks. After twelve hours, we arrived in the frankly grim Ibis in the centre of town, and ordered a miserable looking room service meal. By this time we’d both caught whatever Conrad had, which seemed to be the worst cold in the world. He didn’t sleep all night. We went to meet our friends on Saturday at a new bouldering area, which was actually really great, and we even had good weather, but Conrad continued to scream for a few hours, so we gave up and went back to the hotel with him. The whole town was totally packed as it was the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s exile to Elba, so they had a whole lot of historical re-enactment going on. We had an early dinner at a pizza place, having found all my favourite restaurants (Bouchon de Bleau, Le Bacchus) were totally booked out. Early the next morning, we packed up our things and left to go on the long drive back home. It was plain sailing, and quitting was easily the best decision we’ve ever made.
We also spent a week in Anglesea, at a family house, which was marred by very cold, windy weather. I basically spent the entire time wearing at least four layers, Conrad didn’t sleep, and we didn’t find any nice restaurants. There was a really nice looking place called the Oyster Catcher in Rhosneigr, but it served disappointingly tough, processed burgers and the service was slightly embarrassing – waiter comes up to the table when I’m paying, and decides to loudly announce the total amount to the whole table. Still, we found some random sport crag by the beach and Benllech, and went up something I found insanely hard. All the way, I was thinking how weak I must have got, how I would surely have aced this two years ago. It turned out to be F6b, which is the hardest outdoor sport route I’ve climbed. It had a wonderful view over the whole beach, which was entirely bereft of people. The water was unattractively brown and muddy, and seaweed-covered. There was a small expanse of quite nice soft sand, and a seaside shack selling hot donuts. Going to a British beach always makes me so sad that my children won’t know Australian beaches. There is nothing like swimming in the Pacific, it is the fulfilment of life and some strange balm to my soul. Or something. I remember going on a kind of work jolly to Los Angeles a few years ago, and I drove down to Hermosa beach and jumped straight in the water. It was a strange time in my life, but getting into the gently lapping cold made nothing else matter any more. I often think just the fact it is next to the Pacific is a good enough reason to live in LA.
I think the best time away of the last few months has been a trip up to the Peaks at the end of March, to stay in a friend’s house. We shared Conrad’s room, he slept well, we made lovely food and had plenty of silly conversations. We went and did some bouldering at Crackliffe, checked out some ridiculous James Pearson route, and I did my first long lead route, with a sissy toprope backup. Richard led a beautiful looking E1.
Maybe for the next few months we will save our energy, enjoy being at home, and try to do some training for an Alps trip in September.