While the neighbourly ‘drop in’ is tragically dying at a rate of knots, the Wittys have steadfastly maintained an ‘open door policy’ wherever we’ve lived. Admittedly we are pushing the proverbial uphill here in a small island of 2 million inhabitants. It’s news to noone that the bigger the city, the fewer the drop ins… so while we rarely lock our front door (mostly because we forget to), the spontaneous morning cuppas or arvo sundowners around the kitchen bench that we so relished in good old Darwin just don’t happen!
Despite this disastrous situation we faced given our incessant craving for spontaneous social nourishment, we have actually received a few International ‘drop ins’! Since we broadcast an open invite in our blog for friends and family to visit us in our foreign abodes, two fabo parties have taken us up on the offer and their company has set the bar high!
First and foremost, Team Ireland descended from the skies and taxi’d to our doorstep, seeking out sunshine, festival vibes, and above all, adventure! Beautiful Bex, Ambitious Ant and their toddler sized diamond, Delilah Mae Moon, arrived in the height of the Canadian summer and we took to the streets like the rockstars we all are!
It should be noted this trio of troopers not only met with us in Portugal during the initial Atlas Vagabonds 2017, they also took us into their home in Ireland (specifically the cow shed) and showed us a rollicking good time through the bonnie banks of Bantry. With International street cred like this we knew Atlas Vagabonds 2019 would be impossible without another reunion with this Irish family!
As a motley group of 7, we biked Montreal as Bixi Bandits en masse (see point 4) and celebrated the wild and unruly Pride Festival that soaked through our streets for a solid week. We did bars and cafes with kids, ticked the box with plates of sloppy poutine, kissed the skies at the Hot Air Balloon Festival and also managed a getaway into the countryside in Mount Orford National Park. This gorgeous sojourn was a short trip out of the city and the quaint chalet towns were connected by glassy lakes, hiking trails and perfect little picnic spots. Some of us walked the trails, some of us braved the refreshing waters, and the one of us even ran about 20km of mountainous mayhem throughout the park without any water, just for fun.
On reflection we agreed the visit from Team Ireland was as beautiful as it was challenging. Don’t get me wrong. Team Ireland were great craic. Team Toddler: not so much! As parents who were all on our “L” plates when it comes to understanding the mind of the toddler, we underestimated the challenges that lay unforseen when we opted to bring two confident, outspoken 2 year olds together for 10 intense days of activity. We may have pictured love bubbles and Instagramable cuddles. We may have envisioned joyous games of tip-chasey and building blocks together. We may have even thought a bedtime bath could be shared without a punch thrown. Look, we thought wrong, but who could blame us! They both looked sooo cute from the outside…
The toddlers were toddlers. And they had us en guarde at every other moment of each day. But between the rather aggressive conflict that was the Delilah-and-Finn-ship, they had their
good okay moments, and the rest of us definitely had fun! Our mini Moon, miss Tallulah, was easy to please. And as for us ‘oldies’, we could sit back and laugh off the toddler tyranny with a cold drink at the end of a warring day!
Before Team Ireland left the Village, our second contingent of International visitors arrived- my parents! This overlap emulated a similar situation in 2017, when my folks flew to Ireland for Bex’s 40th birthday bash while we were also there! Talk about travelling troupes! Two years later, the 9 of us reunited in Montreal and we ripped up the splash pads, dance floors and streets of the Gay village throughout Montreal’s epic Pride Festival. It was a gay old time.
When that exhilarating culmination of visits eventually ended, we found ourselves back as a fam of four. And you know, after all the excitement and mayhem of visitors we thought, ‘This is good, we like it!’. Until of course we realised that having a toddler and a baby is the most stressful combination of responsibility we’ve ever encountered and, actually, while being alone and finding time to get into a routine COULD be the answer, we big kids are still trying to figure out what the questions even are!!
We’ve had to adjust. In the past few weeks Witty and I have been knuckling down, seeking routine, and finding the ‘normal’ in the new world of double kid parenting. Contrary to popular belief, even people who “bravely” whisk their kids off to international adventures also suffer all the parenting dramas. We rush around. We trip over a lot. We fumble with decisions. We laugh when we can and play practical jokes on each other. But we also lose sleep. We also lose battles to babies and unavoidably, we also lose each other from time to time.
Lucky for us, we still have Montreal and its people to help bring us around again. As Autumn comes on, chasing squirrels and picking apples between weekend trips to the countryside with colourful friends has boosted morale and given us the courage to carry on!
As well as that, my cross-continental, binocular-wearing, bird seeking parents have just come back into the fold. And with them, we share that familiar family vibe. The one that can drive you bat-crazy, but can also bring you the best laughs and the loveliest moments with no effort at all.
With this grandy lot, we’ve shared lazy days in Le Village and little road trips afield. We’ve pushed the pram through Quebec’s Old City, wound through historic and charming villages like those on d’Orleans Island and some of us even skinny dipped in the glacial rivers that run wild with trout. On Friday we spontaneously took part in an historic 500 000 – strong climate strike that was led by one of our young wonders of the world: Greta Thurnberg.
On the weekend we skipped out of town to the luscious ski village of Mont Tremblant. We rode the gondola to the top and did all of the ‘hiking’ that groups spanning 3 generations can muster! Importantly, Mary and I took part in a divine escape to a Scandinavian Spa! Sadly, breastfeeding duties and other agendas allowed only 3 hours for the occasion but it was worth it. Luxuriating Mamas, we got this! And hats off to my husband for suggesting the indulgence. Love you Witty!
Leaving Tremblant was a feast for the eyes. We took the back roads to see the colours of the leaves bursting with brilliant warm hues and we topped off the trip with some wild interactions at Parc Omega. It was excellent fun for all involved as we got up close and personal with nature’s bigger and bolder creatures! My suggestion? Take carrots.
As we plan our next steps to Nicaragua, I feel eternally grateful that my parents brought me up with the gift of travel. I am just plain lucky to have the option to pass this wanderlust to my kids too, but sharing the experience across three generations is truly the icing on the cake. I mean, whose parents chase you around the world just to play with their grandkids? Mine. We are glad these entrepid oldies continue to wear out their passports whenever and wherever they can.
Long live the travellers and visitors from afar. And just in case you were wondering, you’re still invited to catch us in Nicaragua!