The Philippino transition

We are flying back to the homeland today! I’m excited because the uppity of the silly season and all of the family festivities that await give me something grand to look forward to. This Christmas inertia flies in at a perfect time, because I might otherwise feel miserable that this journey is coming to an end.

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To be honest, it’s a soft landing… we are still mooching around for a month on the East Coast with friends and family before we head back to Darwin in January. We will still be living out of our bulging suitcase and Finn will still only know his travel cot as his home. But once we step up to that customs desk, the great unknown will be closing down for the vagabonds. At least for the meantime.

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The Philippines has been our final destination. It’s been a month of mostly work for Witty, and for me, the place has given me time to transition toward home. In between the high-rises of Cebu and Manila, there has been beach, and it was beautiful. There have been sweet explorations, delightful sunsets and a few surprises here and there. We even got a yaya for part of the time, which is Tagalog for nanny. It meant that I could have someone with me instead of Witty for that time, and of course, find time to catch up and transfer the rambling thoughts from my mind to my blog. In fact, that’s how I’m finding time now!

The highlights of the Philippines are not so much the beaches we blissed out on but the people we met. We made friends with cool Kiwis, (one who shared the same birthday as me) and we celebrated like rockstars. We scooted around Boracay with a wild Scottish pair and lived it up in our resort pool after hours most nights.

Meeting Witty’s staff was also very special. For one, they know how to sing! And they showed us their talents on a night of Karaoke christmas partying. For a team who work remotely from one another, they are a very tight crew and they make serious efforts to support each other in lots of ways. I saw that a lot in this country- people don’t work just to improve their own lives. Life and the quality of it is guided by the network of people they have around them. Family is everything so how they support that family (emotionally and financially) dictates their overall happiness. They are a hard working nation (which we see all over the world) and when they actually get to be home, they love the closeness of their community.

Now I’m looking forward to returning to my community. After almost a year of listening to many accents and languages, Finn will soon be surrounded by people who sound like his parents. That will be unique. And since he’s now on the cusp of forming words from his many beautiful sounds, I’m sure a month on the East Coast will guarantee we hear that delightful Queensland twang come through. Finn Atlas, the Aussie?

Beaches, summer, family, Christmas. Have a happy one, my friends.

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Sint Maarten’s singers farewell the Vagabonds

The lanterns are lit. Children are skipping through laneways and streets, singing at strangers’ doorsteps in the night. With a little luck, their performance will result in a grab at that tantalising tray of chocolates… Halloween, right? Wrong. Welcome to Holland in November. Welcome to Sint Maarten’s Day.

Before we left Europe this year, we zipped across from Berlin to see a gorgeous Darwin friend of mine and her tall Dutch family in Holland. It was here in the coastal village of Haarlem that we soaked up a week of Dutch magic, dining in with friends, riding bikes along the canals and singing in the streets for Sint Maarten.

 

Sint (Saint) Maarten’s day is celebrated by the Dutch on the evening of the 11th of November. As the Autumn daylight dissapears, kids and light up their hand-crafted lanterns and step out into the chilly streets, knocking on neighbourhood doors to sing the song of St Maarten’s. These days they are hoping for candy. In the past it was the farms that people visited: the poor hoping for a good stock of food to get them through the winter.

St Maarten sounded like a pretty nice bloke. He was a Roman soldier who became a monk, and one evening while he was traveling around he came across a beggar who was freezing. Overcome with empathy, he cut off half his cloak and gave it to the beggar to warm him up. The rest is history and apparently that’s how nice guys become saints!

 

I’m not sure the history (or story) is as highly regarded as the candy these days… but that’s the case with most religious celebrations now: Merry Christmas, shoppers! Nonetheless, while it was pretty reminiscent of Halloween, it was new for me, and this highly regarded Dutch tradition was delightful. Finn and I joined Mia’s two beautiful daughters and we walked with them through the laneways of Haarlem. Their excitement was palpable. We giggled. We sang. We collected sweets. And the smiles on the faces of people in their windows and doorways warmed up my heart, even on such a chilly night!

 

We loved our last week in Europe and I recommend Haarlem over Amsterdam for anyone heading to the Netherlands soon. This seaside village is lined with canals like its booming big sister, Amsterdam. The ornamented façades of its buildings reveal funky bars within and the town centre lights up with action most nights of the week. However, Haarlem retains a delicate romance about it that may have since evaporated in a cloud of smoke for Amsterdam.

We loved our train trips into the big A and we made the most of museums, rooftop bars, the wild street life as well as the animals at the zoo. However, the christmas lights that sparkled in Haarlem’s streets, the family-friendly cafes and the aromatic farmer’s markets on Mia’s doorstep made this quaint little place the perfect spot to round off a European tour.

Aussies and Ossies: East Germany in the Fall

Wait! I thought we were chasing the summer around the planet! Did we really sign up for this? We definitely hadn’t packed for it. But there it was on the itinerary… bloody cold Berlin!

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Most of my friends know I’m a tropical baby, and generally I like to keep it that way. Humidity, sweat, bit of breeze- I love it. Sunless days with icy winds hovering around 5 degrees- not so much. Still, we couldn’t let ALL of our North European buddies down.

We’d had a good stint basking on the beaches in Mallorca and although we couldn’t catch up with all of our friends spread across various parts of Europe, there was a fair swathe of them living it large in Berlin. We layered up in our cotton threads, found a jacket to shunt out the cold, and fully equipped with a new bag of op-shop woolies for Finn, we mustered up the courage to beat it up to Berlin. And let’s face it: rain or shine, Berlin can deliver some bedazzling times!

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About ten years ago, Witty had rented his Gold Coast home to a bunch of German backpackers. A decade later they were all still in touch with one another, and impressively, with Witty too. You see, when they’d rented from Witty he had been more than just a landlord. He was passionate about life on the coast, and he wanted to show them how good life was. He would pop around on a Friday arvo, pack the German crew into the back of his van, and take them to places like Byron Bay for a weekend of backpackin’ bliss. The Germans, who were still learning English, fondly (and slightly awkwardly) called Witty ‘their owner’. This sounded a bit odd to strangers at the pub, but it made for a good giggle. Often bridging the linguistic divide with free-flowing Fourex (beer), their ‘owner’ would take them to the beach, take them clubbing, ‘make barbeques’ with them, and by the sounds of it, often end up passed out on the couch that he was allegedly renting to them! Suffice to say, they all became great mates on the Gold Coast, and you could feel the friendship firing up again when they finally reunited in Berlin.

This reunion was really special. I didn’t know any of these guys but I got to see them all come together again, hear them reminisce, laugh and revel in the many memories they still had together. We got to meet the families they’d since created, learn how life had changed, and clink glasses many times in a few short days. Of course, because they knew us Aussies so well, we even ‘made a barbeque’.

During our time there, we made it out of Berlin to visit the icy but hauntingly beautiful Ost See, which is known by most Anglos as the Baltic Sea. Autumn is a great time to get out into the wilderness here. The forest fires up with in vivid shades of yellow and red, wakening the senses

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We hung out at a friend’s fabulous hotel on one of the many lakes in the North. As we sipped schnapps and waxed long evenings away, I learned a helluva lot about what life was like for these East Germans before and after the Wall came down. Known as Ossies (from Ost-Deutschland) it really was amazing to hear these personal accounts of a thoroughly unimaginable but very real and recent history that each of these friends experienced.

Berlin was also that bubbling pot of culture and history that we wanted to sink our teeth into. Museums were full of frightening and humbling truths. Street art could strike you through the heart and of course, the East Side Gallery created a collage of emotion as you wandered along kilometers of muraled wall.

Lucky for me Berlin was also harbouring a few of my friends. I was able to catch up with a dear gal from my Darwin childhood who is now making magic in the screen scene, and another German friend who I last saw 17 years ago! On top of that, a very dear man (who I met when I was 6 years old in Alaska) took a bus all the way from Nurnberg to see me in Berlin and meet my two Witty boys. Now that’s dedication to friendship!

I’ll love Berlin for the taste I got. I hung out in an Anarchist cafe and wandered through a bustling Turkish market. I played with my kid in strangely stark but refreshingly unembellished playgrounds. I clubbed with my Darwin girlfriend in an underground club: it was Berlin beats shaking shanty town infrastructure, complete with a crystal ball and just the right mix of crazy dancers. I dined on a canal boat with swans ‘swanning around’ to my son’s delight. And I took it all in, as best I could.

 

 

The art of cross-continental sun tanning

I was clearly having way too much fun to sit down and blog about the hottest months of our year away! We had been chasing the summer around the globe, and while you wouldn’t necessarily pick Canada to sip beers in your boardies, we found out people actually do it! After swanning around in parks for a week in Montreal, we hooked up with some Cool Canadians in Ontario.

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Team Ontario: Monty the dog, Meg, Owen and Will

Meg and Will were mates of Witty’s from his Gold Coast days. This cheeky bunch took us into their home in Barrie (near Toronto) and showed us how to get our Ontario on. Oh yeah! And on top of that they also saved our holiday: they helped us teach our baby to sleep through the night.

The sleep cracks were really starting to show on us Witty parents since young Atlas had turned into a ‘night negotiator’, but when we saw how their cherub knocked off to bed and zonked through til morning without bother… we had to have it. It took some tears but with bitter perseverance (largely on Witty’s watch) we went from sleep deprived to slept-and-alive in a matter of days. It was a game changer for us, giving us a renewed sense of certainty that we could now survive another six months on the road with a moving and shaking toddler. I assure you, every friend who has hosted us since (whether they know it or not) would be grateful for the gift Meg gave us. And if anyone else wants it, she said I could share the PDF love!

In between fun nights out on the town, hanging out with friends and taking us to our first ever “Stag and Doe” fundraiser for a family wedding, we got treated to a typical Ontario Summer vacation: the cabin on the lake experience! The lakes of Ontario are incredible. Locals all hit the water when the sun shines- whether tenting or luxuriating in their mansions, kids are squealing and splashing, the barbeques are roasting away and Canadians are getting as hot as they possibly can- it’s summer after all!

Since we had two kids in tow (and a bunch of luxuriating to do ourselves), the ability to ‘glamp’ instead of camp was superb. Nestled gently in the woods, we spent salubrious days and nights in the comfort of their family’s holiday lake house. We wakeboarded, canoed, and soaked up the water (with a bit of wine) in every way we could! What is truly mind-boggling for a troppo kid like me, is that those bikini-friendly lakes I experienced in June will now be crusting up into hardened ice skating rinks as winter descends upon the flat lands. The truly distinguished 4 seasons in this part of the planet is remarkable. I hope I can experience them all one day.

Once August hit, it was time to taste summer of another flavour. We farwelled our beloved Canada and the people who make it awesome, and hauled ass to the next great continent: Europe.

While I’ve spent a lot of time in Mallorca, I’d never actually visited Southern Spain, and because I was long overdue a catch up with a beloved friend on la Costa del Sol, we thought we’d better stop in for some good energy.

In case you didn’t know, my friend Maria Teresa is the Universe’s answer to good energy. Everything’s on the up, and it’s fun, fun, fun! On her breezy, sun-lit balcony, Finn learned to dance to Jamaican beats. From her modest kitchen emerged mouthwatering delights and we indulged in the joys of Spanish cuisine. We laughed, we swam: repeat! And when we stripped Finn down and he paused his naked dancing to take a crap on her carpet, Maria just laughed, congratulated Finn… and turned up the music. Some people walk on the bright side. I like to walk close by this sort.

10 days was not enough for us, but we squeezed in a lot of good times. Maria took us to Malaga one night and we took a Tapas Tour through town. The old city was amazing, but relaxing in Benalmadena in her seaside apartment was pure gold.

When we sat on her veranda high up on the 8th floor and looked across the calm seas of the Mediterranean, we could see the African coast. In the evenings when the waxing moon rose over the water and lit up a pathway across the sea, I would fantasize that the luminescent passage was real. I liked to imagine that was how all the Nigerian street salesmen wandered over, toting their gucci bags and inflatable penguins across the waters surface. They are gorgeous, those guys, and damn, they work hard for a buck.

As a final hurrah to the high season in Europe’s south, we hit Portugal. Exploring the Algarve was the itinerary, but really it was just a great excuse to catch up with some gorgeous friend from Ireland. This way, instead of drinking Guiness and whining about the cold weather, we were slathering ourselves in suncream, sipping Mateus and playing with our matching babies (only 3 weeks apart in age). We had an incredible time with these gorgeous ones… so much so that we did actually get the guts to face the wilds of an Irish summer and visited them in West Cork in September. Friends: they really are good craic.

Montreal, mon cherie

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Montreal, mon cherie
Your summer brilliance stole our hearts
Lifted up with the breezes, laid out on the lawns and
Humming away with an orchestra of crickets and saxaphonists jamming in the park.

Summer, we’re in love.

Montreal, mon amie,
Streets of strangers feeling like friends, a smile on every street.
Je ne parle pas français, but ce n’est pas un problème!
You always showed us the way and inspired us with your cool sensibilities.
Social justice dances down the street, art is a way of life
And we tapped our feet to the beat of a cool sense of inclusiveness playing out in your hood.

Community, we’re diggin’ it.

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Montreal, you were buzzing,
And we want you, more, again.
We want to cycle your bike-friendly streets once more,
Walk through your shaded suburbs and chow on creative bites beside funky graffiti’d walls.

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We want to dance with our baby on the sidewalk where the public pianos are played, meet our neighbours in the park, and bask in the sunshine beside the buskers and kids.

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Would we have the skin for winter? Perhaps one day we’ll see.

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Thanks for inspiring me, mon cherie.

Caving in Mallorca

While we were in Mallorca, we managed to source a babysitter for a day (a first taste at ‘day care’ for him and for us) so we spent the six hours wisely, as any non-work-bound parent should: we went sea caving! While you’re still getting accustomed the fact that we didn’t just go to the pub (we were impressed with ourselves too), I’ll tell you about our adventure.

There are three things Mallorca has a lot of: windmills, German tourists and caves. In fact, between the crystalline coves and beaches slathered with sun seekers, the coastline is honeycombed with breathtaking limestone and sandstone caves. There are hundreds of them on the island, in the island and under the island! The craziest cavers and divers are still discovering more of this dark and mysterious world every day. Some die for it, literally. Lucky for us, there are a few accessible natural cathedrals for the adventurous (but not so devoted) explorers too.

When I worked on a boat in Mallorca about ten years ago, I got to know my captain’s family very well and was lucky enough to see them again when we returned this time around. Over that decade, my captain’s son, Callum, had since grown from a cheeky, lanky teenage boy into a cheeky, beautiful young man and was earning a crust by taking adventure-seekers trekking, rock climbing, canyoning and caving. Not a bad way to earn a living, you have to admit. Witty and I were immediately jealous of the intrepid tales he told us ‘about work’ as we sat around his parent’s living room table one arvo, so we promised ourselves we would get it together to join him on an excursion somehow, someway!

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In the end it was Callum that made it all come together. He set us up with a babysitter who was his girlfriend’s trusted cousin and professional nanny (oh là là), sourced some caving gear and insurance through his adventure sports employer, organised the perfect weather conditions with the gods, and we were off!

On a sunny morning, we packed up a Finn bag for our day-nanny and off we went, scooting across to the east coast of the island to discover Cova Des Coloms, a cave that you can only enter from the sea.

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We had risen early and and arrived at Cala Romantica before all the other caving tour groups got there. From this gorgeous cove where we parked, we climbed up onto the escarpment and walked across the shrubby coastline for about half an hour until we reached our basecamp in Cala Falcò.

When we arrived, there was already a group of 15 other cavers getting ready for a caving tour, but as we were only three and feeling very VIP, we were able to swiftly hike to our own spot on the cliff face, rope up under Callum’s command, and rappel down into the sea before anyone else touched the water!

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It was awesome, in the true sense of the word. I was in awe of these caves. The rappelling was fun and got the heart rate up as I probably haven’t abseiled since I was 18 (like 7 years ago). But the caves took my breath away. Once we rappelled down about 30 meters and dropped into the sea (Callum shortened the rope for us so we could literally plop in from a couple of meters in the air), we paddled into the cave’s narrow mouth which huffed and puffed as the waves sucked in and out of its entrance. We could stand here on a sandy seabed, don our head torches and comfortably receive a briefing of what to expect inside.

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The water wasn’t too rough, so it was easy to duck under the surface of the sea, feel the rocky ‘roof’ with my hands above my head, and swim under the mouth of the cave, up inside the first hollow. This hollow was high, with lots of space to stand. We were led out of the water, across a large flat surface of limestone which was smooth and white, like a carpet rolled out for a grand entrance. We stepped up and over, around a cool wet wall, and into the first cathedral. Magnificent. And so it went on, more and more magnificent at every turn.

It was freezing! But we had long wetsuits and we loved every minute, every nook and cranny. We were truly so lucky to have Callum as our guide. His well executed plan to get us there early meant we experienced the silence, the haunting beauty and the magic of this place all to ourselves. While most people enjoy these caves even with 50 others in there alongside them, we got to feel a calm and spooky cool like no other. We climbed carefully, swam slowly, whispered and sang as we waded about in four magnificent, echoing cathedrals. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.  It felt like I was floating through history: the hours, years and centuries dripping from the ceilings and spiking out in proud crystal clusters above our heads. We didn’t take cameras (thanks Rock and Water Mallorca for most of these shots) and because of this, we didn’t feel that incessant need to snap away. Instead we just absorbed and were absorbed by this natural, mammoth beauty.

Sea caving. Mallorca. However, whenever, make it happen.

An island life in Mallorca

We’ve been living in Mallorca since the end of August. It’s a beautiful Balearic island in Spain where millions of tourists flock each year, seeking out incredible beaches, exploring its coves, winding through mountain towns and dining in idyllic settings.

The island is steeped in history and its people are proud of where they live. Grand old farm houses, antiquated windmills and stone walls divide farms of olive groves and provide a path on the tiny roads that run between the bigger villages and into Palma de Mallorca.

I used to live here 10 years ago, when I had a job in the yachting industry. Because I loved it so much then, we made this a more lengthy stop on our world tour so that Witty could also get to know the island, learn its culture and taste the daily delight that draws us all here from afar.

Unfortunately, because the island is so busy each summer, we had a really hard time finding a place to live for two months. That was made doubly as difficult when in June the government cracked down on short term-rentals in Spain, throwing every airbnb host into a state of panic and making it nearly impossible to find anything for less than a 6 month lease. A young man on the beach one day was lamenting the changes, and told me he was facing a 30 000 euro fine after government officials working undercover busted him renting his Airbnb in August.

There are a lot of competing views on this issue. On one hand the short term rentals were too lucrative, and as such, pushed too many residents out of town. It’s a common issue in popular tourist cities and it makes life hard for the locals who can’t enjoy living in el centro. On the other hand, the government’s crackdown here on the short term rentals seems to have slammed business for the city as well. Shop owners and restaurants who relied on those short term visitors have seen a huge drop in business this summer. Millions of people still come, but their accommodation options are limited.

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We’re told too many hotels offer all inclusive deals so fewer people dine out on their visit. Then we heard about the cruise ships that spill into town for a coffee and a postcard, toting lunch boxes provided by the cruise. Well apparently in the eyes of the locals, the one cafe con leche doesn’t make up for the foot traffic, toilet traffic and mess left behind by fleeting day trippers. It’s an interesting conundrum, indeed.

We have heard a lot of opinions and in any case, it sounds tough on business no matter which way they go. For us in our house-hunting pickle, we were thankfully saved by some dear friends who let us house sit their homes through the peak summer period. This seriously saved us, and it was beautiful to spend time in Genova, one of Palma’s serene village suburbs that is perched on a mountain side.

We loved it there, but once we returned from our jaunt to Ireland, we finally unpacked our bags in a beautiful downtown apartment and called it home. It feels like Heaven!

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We are still living here in the old town of Mallorca. This antiquated but lively part of the city is a maze of narrow stone streets polished by foot traffic, and winds you between high stone walls that protect tiny bars, cafes, arty shops and opulent old homes with hidden gardens within.

Our pad on the 4th floor has high ceilings with exposed beams, lots of toddling space and shuttered windows that let in delightful quantities of sunlight and breeze. We are sharing a building that is centuries old. When our washing is blown off the line from up high, it ends up in our neighbour’s courtyard, who opens her front door 5 nights a week and sells wine from barrels for a few bucks a pop. The locals gather here for a tipple and a chat, and I fancy it as an essential pit stop when I take the recycling down all those stairs and up the street.

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I got a bike with a baby seat as soon as we arrived and I love it. We cruise around EVERYWHERE and Finn “sings” as we go. There is no point having a car in the old city. Unless you are a resident with some serious cashola, you can’t drive through here let alone park, but that’s what boosts the beauty of the barrio. In these long lanes, there is only room for feet, push bikes, occasionally a swarm of tourists on segways, and the horse drawn carts that pull lovers around on a romantic trot. Since I couldn’t afford a carriage… I just pop young Atlas on his mobile throne and we ride through this palatial place like the true adventurers we are.

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Old town Palma was built by the Romans, ruled by the Byzantines and then the Moors. The whole island still has a Moorish feel to it. The Arab Baths still remain down our street for tourists to visit, where the wealthy Moors used to gather for business and definitely for pleasure. It was probably a very glorious time for some, but Palma was eventually conquered by James I of Aragon in the 13th century and so the Kingdom of Mallorca was established. What did they do next? Build stuff, and lots of it. Beautiful castles, churches, and of course, the cathedral.

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This landmark of Palma is not just any cathedral. It is magnificent, it towers ostentatiously above the city and its prominence can be felt and seen from almost anywhere. In fact, I can see four of its spires from my couch right now as I look out of my window in the lounge room. When my parents visited us for Finn’s first birthday, we spent many afternoons riding bikes around it. We’d sit by the lake to watch the walls go gold with the setting sun and watch the gargoyles snarl in our imaginations as the sky darkened. We even a took wander through the cathedral’s interior one day which was (unsurprisingly) impressive.

In all the time I spent here as a ‘yachtie’ a decade ago, I never actually visited the cathedral within. I guess I was too busy walking the docks, trying to get a job, or celebrating in bars, having gotten a job. Now I’ve got the baby job, I suppose I can find time for a splash of culture here and there….

When my parents visited us in Palma for a couple of weeks, I felt the happiest I’ve felt on this whole trip. I know we’d already spent 2 months with them in the USA, but that was a crazy, whirlwind trip. Here, we had time. Finn had grown up so much since then and had new grandchild skills to show off. And importantly, for the first time since Denman Island in June, we actually had a home … so we could host!

We love the hosts we get visit, and we are sincerely grateful guests, but after 9 months having the door graciously opened for us, there is something remarkably satisfying about being able to open my door for someone else. To finally get to invite loved ones into our place, show them the streets we live in, and treat them to the lifestyle we love, that feeling has been unsurmountable.

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Hosting my parents was like living in a love bubble. They had come for Finn’s first birthday (and for Finn himself) so it was no task at all to wax away the hours away basking in the light that he creates in our hearts. It was a precious pocket of time when all us ‘oldies’ in one room could buoyantly and wholeheartedly bubble with love for that chunky monkey. We could celebrate his growing skills in walking, talking, kissing, eating and stair climbing, and we didn’t need to change the subject for anyone! Everyone was satisfied and (I assure you) so was he!

During the love bubble, we toured the island a couple of times, visited some coastal towns and even took a boat out for a day of snorkeling (and admittedly spent most of the time trying to keep Finn from crying in protest). Apart from that, we hung out, and doing not much was the most fun. Not much was interspersed with bumming at the beach, playing in the plazas, slipping down the slides and swinging in those swings at the playground. The 10 day love bubble culminated with a grand finale 1st birthday bash, complete with blueberry pancakes and champagne for the oldies under a sunset sky by the cathedral. It was a feast for a king and we were his loyal keepers.

When Mary and Gordo said their goodbyes, I had teary eyes and a heavy heart. It wasn’t like I was never going to see them again, but the love bubble was always going to be this place and that time. He would be one. We would be young. They would be healthy and we all would be happy. It’s just a point in time, and a good one for me. Since they left, I don’t love Mallorca less, but I’ll remember that visit with a beaming heart.

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The Wittys still rock the streets in fine form. We love the pinchos and cervezas at the Santa Catalina markets on a Friday- heading there today in fact! We love watching the bubble buskers in La Rambla. We’ve even “adulted up” and made a fleeting getaway to Ibiza for a night! The Palma beach is a daily scoot down the hill on the bike where Finn woos the ladies with his flamboyant flirting and fruit feasting.

The food is amazing, the people dress elegantly and in the early evenings you can taste the culture of cool in the air. It’s easy to just pull up a chair anywhere and take in the atmosphere (or your favourite paperback).

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We love our home, and our little neighbourhood. Cisco down at the plaza is definitely going to miss us- I’m sure his day isn’t complete if Finn Atlas doesn’t come squealing across the tiles of Plaza de Santa Eualia, toddling at speed with his hands in the air, triumphantly flailing his newfound treasure: leaves from the sycamore trees above. All hail the toddler.