Ditch Contiki and Do Europe With Your Mum
It’s the beginning of European summer: time for the yearly ritual of 20-somethings living out their best lives through a month of backpacking. Last-minute flights have been booked, bum bags have been packed, and smartphones are at the ready for the perfect sunny snaps.
It’s a ritual I have chosen to be a part of, and so has my 40-something-year-old mum.
For many, travelling with parents is a distant nightmare that needs to be buried under new memories of wanderlust and binge-drinking. The typical response to “I’m going to Europe with my mum,” is either the sarcastic, “Aww that’s so cute!” or the empathetic, “Oh well, you can go on your own next year.”
However, I’ve come to the slightly controversial conclusion that my European summer was just as awesome as yours, perhaps even better.
In April, my mum decided to make the most of the Easter travel deals and booked us to two tickets to London. After spending Friday nights together with takeaway Thai, Moscato and movies like Letter to Juliet and Monte-Carlo, the talk of travelling to Europe had been floating around my household for the past couple of years.
Sure, I wouldn’t be doing any of the usual Contiki-style things, like staying up all night and getting wasted, but as I had been told, “Oh well, there’s always next year.” Plus, I wasn’t all that concerned about being away with my mum for a month. After finishing school, I’ve definitely come to be more appreciative of our relationship. She’s my mum, but also my go-to for Sunday brunch or a night at the theatre.
In the lead-up to our departure, two large backpacks had arrived at our front door. Most commonly, backpacking is associated with hostel hopping or camping, but we decided to adopt hotel backpacking as a new style. It involves all the practicality of backpacking, minus the small beds and shared bathrooms you have to deal with at a hostel.
Besides its silly amount of stairs, London – our first stop – was a dream. We hopped onto one of the big red double-deckers and made our way around the city, soaking up everything from The London Eye to Buckingham Palace. I even have the cute Insta pics to prove it. One of the handiest things about travelling with your mum is that she knows your best angles. After all, she’s had to look at you for the past 20 years.
In our typical mum-and-daughter fashion, we also made sure to book a night at the theatre. We had a pair of tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera, and a reservation for two at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, living out memories of watching Hell’s Kitchen on the telly. The show was magical, and like Ramsay would say, the food was “fucking” delicious.
Our next stop was Paris. Before travelling, parents will often give you the following piece of advice: “Stay safe, keep your bags on you, and be aware of the people around you.” So when holidaying with a parent, you would think getting swindled is the last thing you need to worry about.
Mum and I were wandering down the Seine River, taking in the sight of the quaint Parisian buildings surrounded by greenery and the little markets that lined the path. All of a sudden, we were approached by a pair of young women. They didn’t look threatening or suspicious, so we kindly obliged when they handed us over a laminated piece of cardboard. It read, ‘Donation Please,’ and outlined their story and struggles in Paris.
We both took out our wallets in return. I handed over a 10 euro note, to which one of the women complained. “More!” she declared. I only had a 50 euro note, and I took it out with the intention of getting change, but before I could open my mouth, she swiftly snatched it from my hand. I looked over to my mum, who stared back at me confused and annoyed. At least we didn’t get mugged.
I’m super lucky to say that since I was with my mum, I got to have a boujier trip than I would solo. For both of us, food is the best part of travelling, and with good food comes good drinks. In Venice, I stuffed my belly with fresh seafood, pasta and tiramisu. Holiday weight is a very real phenomenon. The day would start with a pastry and coffee, followed by lunch and wine, then afternoon cocktails, and finally dinner with more drinks.
It was a glowy afternoon; the beaming sun was reflecting against the canals as we walked through the back streets of Venice. It was time for our afternoon drink, so we wandered into a little Italian restaurant and took a seat on its terrace.
In Italy, it seemed to be a common trend that the waiters are way too friendly and way too good looking. So as usual, another Italian hottie walked over to our table ready to take our order. Now let me tell you, I love mojitos, but this one was something else. Slowly, one cocktail turned into four, and it was time for dinner.
Of course, dinner means a different glass of wine with each course. Once you’ve finished your meal, it is then tradition to clear your palette with a slightly noxious but also free shot of limoncello. As the waiter placed the bill on the table, it was followed by a pair of shot glasses. He filled them to the brim, and charmingly announced, “Grappa on the house!” The bittersweet taste slid down my throat, and I placed the glass back down on the table.
Maths is not my forte, so neither is counting drinks, but I’m certain my mum and I both had one too many. Between us, my mum is definitely the more introverted. She knows how to be stern with people, but is also fairly quiet and reserved. She likes to have a glass or two of wine, but never much more. So after a long lineup of drinks, it’s fair to say that she was past tipsy, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her quite so giggly.
We waved goodbye to our Italian stallion and stumbled our way back to the train station. Our bellies were filled with food, but of course we had room for gelato. Together we sat on a bench by the water, laughing and slurping up our second dessert of the night. We stayed there for a while, chatting about our trip and life in Sydney.
My gelato cup was empty, but I wasn’t ready to go back home.
Fast-forward a year, and I’m back in Europe travelling around Spain. However, this time it’s on my own, and I can’t help but think of my mum. I’ve grabbed her a magnet from Barcelona to pop on to the fridge alongside the ones from our trip together. Don’t get me wrong, my holiday has been great, but every time I take a bite of a delicious paella, walk past a museum or enjoy a roof-top mojito, I think about how I wish my mum was travelling by my side.
So, if you’re looking for a European summer complete backpacking, cute snaps for your socials, sticky situations and drunken nights, look no further than ditching Contiki and going to Europe with your mum.