Finally! I managed to get away to Europe for a city break (post Brexit referendum). I had prepaid everything (which was a good idea) but didn’t stock up on euros until after the result, which was a bad idea.
Who cares? I was ready for three days in southern Spain, had based ouselves in Seville using a local Jet2 flight to Faro, a hire car from Budget, and a two and a half hour journey to Seville’s Hotel Barcelo Renacimiento. All these were good choices; no complaints at all.
To be fair, I had booked the hotel for its ease of access and car parking but also close enough to the old town. I had planned trips for the three days, only returning to Seville in the evening.
What was immediately apparent was that this modern and spacious hotel was on a island between the Guadalquivir river and a large area of water used for rowing and sailing. A bit like the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham but using the old river course and therefore having bridges over it. The island had been the location of The Universal Exposition of Seville (Expo ’92) The theme for the Expo was “The Age of Discovery” and over 100 countries were represented. As impressive as this may have been, I ‘discovered’ that most of what is left is now derelict and abandoned. That said, the hotel (presumably built for the the Expo92) has survived and is modern, spacious and has style.
It should also be noted that area has signs referring to the Olympic Stadium. There has never been an Olympic tournament here although they make two un-successful bids to host the tournament.
The bottom line is that Seville seems a great place for a city break. Very hot in summer, historic and modern at the same time. It is also a couple of hours from Cordoba, Cadiz, Granada and the resorts around Malaga.
The purpose of this post is to explain my observations on how Spanish children are occupied during the summer holidays compared to English. In the wide, marble areas of the hotel and conference centre were a series of what appeared to be stickers on the floor. These included arrows and were clearly to direct people.
Whilst finding my way to the pool and gymnasium, I found another clue.
Within this stylish hotel and conference centre they seemed to some kind of activity for the children.
The hotel seemed relaxed and quiet. There were a mixture of guests, couples, small business meetings, rowers, canoeists, and what I assumed were Spanish parents/grandparents with children.
It was breakfast on the first morning that moved me to write this. This was about 7.30am, so quite early. The breakfast room was again spacious and well set out. To the side was an outside area with tables laid out with linen tablecloths. I asked if we could use this and was told they were reserved; so we sat inside.
Minutes later I saw a young woman dressed as a pirate entered. She walked through to the outside area followed by about 10 children of primary school age. What was immediately apparent was that all the children had blank expressionless faces and looked like they wanted to go back to bed. To be fair the pirate did not look too enthusiastic either.
They sat outside and the pirate appeared to be addressing them with either a pirate story or a series of instructions. Whatever she was saying to them, none of the children appeared the least bit interested and many were already fidgeting.
The children were then allowed inside to get themselves a breakfast. Cereals, bread, fresh fruit, dried fruit, cheese, ham, eggs; there was plenty of choice.
One by one, these children returned with their plates stacked high with cakes, biscuits and at least a couple of iced doughnuts. Those clever enough also found gaps in which to put sugary sweets that had been disguised to look like fresh fruit!
I did not notice any more about this group at the time. I did see another young boy arrive with possibly his grandmother. He too was only interested in sweet sugary things.
For the record, my breakfast was dried fruit and yoghurt followed by an omelette and toast. A couple of cups of coffee and a glass of water.
The immediate comparison was that in England (and northern Europe) we tend to go for saturated fats in the form of cooked breakfast, burgers, chips and the like. In Spain it seems that sugary food and drink was the norm.
Skip forward to the evening. We had spent the day in Cadiz and returned at about 6pm, walked into the old town and ate at a restaurant that was getting busy as we left at about 9pm.
Near to the hotel is some sort of theme park called Isla Magica. We passed the entrance to this many times and there was a steady flow of families wandering back and forwards. I think this theme park was created out of one of the disused Expo92 sites.
Back at the hotel we sat in the bar and had a nightcap and watched some Euro football. This would have been between 10 and 11pm. At some point I saw movement to my left and out of the doors with the Pirate picture emerged the same pirate woman still dressed as a pirate. My partner commented.
“Blimey, she’s had a long day!”
Trailing behind her were a group of children. Whilst I cannot say for sure, they looked like the same group who had breakfast together. Now I have no idea how these children were occupied during the day but the look on their faces suggested that rather than go to bed. they wanted to go home and back to school!
“Not half as long as those poor kids”, I replied.
We had learnt that Spanish schools close for at least 2 months in the summer, compared to our 6 weeks. As a parent I know how much organisation is needed in the summer holidays. My view has always been that children of primary school age just need a safe environment. They will find their own entertainment and will interact with other children.
I remember family holidays with my children. Whether in hotels or camp sites, we rarely used ‘holiday clubs’, and if we did it was for a specific hour. It certainly wasn’t an excuse to offload them! We preferred to let them explore and interact naturally, keeping them in our sight discretely.
One day, I may have grandchildren of my own. I may even be asked to look after them for a week during the holidays. What they will not be doing is eating doughnuts at 7.30 and then dispatched into the care of a holiday club representative until 11pm. They will get the same chance to develop as my children did.
A little bit of irony emerged during our stay in Seville. We ate for the three nights at an excellent middle eastern restaurant named Arte Y Sabor on Almeda de Hercules which is on the corner of a quiet side street named Nino Perdido. This translates as Lost Child. I fear we are creating a few ‘lost children’ by forcing them to play at pirates when they really don’t want to!
PS. Whilst inserting the link to the Barcelo hotel, the first photograph to pop up was a group of children with a pirate!