As a child, even at such a young age, there was only ever one certainty in life for me – that I wanted to be a Mummy. Looking back, I naively assumed that I would fall in love, marry the man of my dreams and have children, as though it would be the easiest thing in all the world. And whilst I did become a Mummy, five times over, it was a difficult journey, struggling with heartbreak and loss, and when I finally had those babies in my arms the last thing in the world I wanted to do was leave them. And so I didn’t.
For the last fourteen years I can count on both hands the number of times I have left the children, albeit for just one night, and how my heart would physically ache to get back to them, worrying whether they were okay, feeling as though I had lost a limb without their little hands in mine. Of course, there were moments when I day dreamed about what it would be like to go away and enjoy some time just for myself, to experience even just a few days of being able to sleep in late, use the bathroom in peace, and leave the house without being weighted down with kids and coats and a zillion bags……and yet I knew that sooner or later, that day would come.
And last month, when I was invited to Tenerife on a seven day press trip, it felt like the right time to just seize the moment, to swallow my fears, and just say yes. And so I did! It took a huge amount of courage to wave goodbye to my babies and board that plane (not to mention a whopping dose of valium!), and yet from the moment we landed in Tenerife, checked into our Clickstay villa and toasted a week of adventure with a glass of Prosecco, something changed in me.
Because it turns out, after fourteen long years of parenting, a week away from my children was exactly what I needed.
I have made no secret of the fact that I have suffered with anxiety my whole life, not just on a small scale, but in a way that has impacted on my every day life for the last two decades. Far too many times my anxiety has got in the way of me going places, trying new things and meeting new people, and yet being thrown into a villa with two, for the most part, strangers, and having to spend a week completely out of my comfort zone, was exactly what I needed to rediscover the eighteen year old me who thought she could take on the world.
And as much as I thought I would spend the week desperately missing the children, the truth is, I didn’t. Not only was I assured that they were absolutely fine at home with Gaz and my parents, but thanks to the itinerary, planned for us by Hollie who runs the resort alongside her family, there simply wasn’t time.
Our first full day at the villa was spent exploring the area, enjoying a cocktail by the sea, and lounging around the pool reading a book – in peace. I can’t even tell you how lovely that was after a Summer of madness, and I didn’t realise just how much I needed it until right there in the moment.
By the evening Sian, Lisa and I met with Hollie at the Terrace bar and what started out as a leisurely gin and tonic and a delicious mean at Dabda, soon escalated into a long, cocktail fuelled, crazy night of madness which ultimately finished up at 3am having a pool party back at the villa next door. I swear I haven’t had so much fun in a long time and now, back home in the cold and grey, I still find myself laughing out loud at those hazy memories of dancing ourselves stupid, downing caramel vodkas, and remembering how liberating it was to just let loose, go crazy, and know that there would be no 6am wake up with one of the children the next day!!
Whilst we didn’t have to be up with the children, we did have to be up and at the marina bright and early to meet Hollie and Carmen who also works at El Barranco, for a Submarine Safari! I’m pretty sure, in any other circumstances, a submarine would be the last thing I would want to do full stop, let alone with a hangover but, given that we were all still a little drunk from the night before, it gave us the dutch courage we needed to board the submarine, albeit a little blurry eyed.
I’ll be honest with you, the moment I set foot on the submarine I felt the panic kick in and, as the door sealed and we set sail, my stomach was flipping from way more than just those vodka shots. But as we started to dive, and I breathed away the panic, I was utterly amazed at what we could see and I realised that this was the most incredible opportunity, and one I needed to make the most of.
Over the course of the next hour we crawled along the seabed, seeing the most amazing, and beautifully coloured fish, ship wrecks, and best of all, rays. Using scuba divers to swim down to feed the rays, we were able to see them just outside the window, just inches away, and I can’t even describe what an amazing experience that was, and certainly something I will remember for always.
As the submarine headed back up the marina I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself for doing something that ordinarily I would have been too scared to try. It really opened my eyes to the fact that my anxiety had already stood in the way of so much enjoyment in life, and perhaps this was the moment when things were about to change?
After a cold drink at the marina we made the short walk to Amarilla Golf where we enjoyed a tour of the course in our very own golf buggies, before stopping for lunch at The Clubhouse.
I ordered a steak with Canarian potatoes, which was delicious, and exactly what I needed to feed my hangover but I did draw the line at having a glass of wine with my meal!
After an early night we were up early the next day ready to explore El Medano, a small town on the south east coast and known as the kite boarding and wind surfing capital of Tenerife.
Unlike many of the beaches in Tenerife, El Medano has golden sands and the sea is the most beautiful shade of blue. Well known as being for being laid back and friendly, there are no typically English bars, no loud music or tourist shops, and almost instantly I knew that this would become one of my most favourite places I have ever been.
It was lovely to just sit on the beach, enjoying the sun on our faces, and watch the kite surfers across the beach. There is something so calming about El Medano and the colour of the kites against the clear blue sky was just mesmerising.
After a while we decided to explore more of the town and wandered along the winding back streets looking in the shops, admiring all of the different little bars and restaurants, only stopping to take photos – as all tourists do!
After a cocktail in the sunshine we were keen to try one of the seafood restaurants for lunch and heading up the steps to a roof top terrace, the view was incredible. Whilst Sian, Lisa and Hollie enjoyed a selection of tapas, which looked amazing, being gluten free I went for the fish of the day and Canarian potatoes, and it was delicious! By the time we left El Medano I felt completely relaxed, brimming with happiness, and certain that I would return in the near future.
Wednesday saw a free day to explore and we took the opportunity to visit a few of the local shops, buy gifts for the children, and then spend a lazy day at the pool. The weather was glorious and, knowing how cold and wet it was at home, we were determined to make the most of it!
On Wednesday evening we were met at the villa by a coach ready for the most amazing expedition which all of us were excited about – Teide by Night. Mount Teide, at 3718, is the highest volcano in Spain and at 3718 metres high, is the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic.
Being the worrier that I am, I thought that the coach ride to the top would be too scary, especially given the sheer drops to the side of us at times, and yet to the other side was the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
Part way up we stopped the coach to watch the sunset and, staring out to the sky, with the most incredible views below, I had a real “pinch me” moment. It struck me that there is a whole world of adventure out there and, for far too long, my anxieties and fears have stopped me from enjoying so much of life. Standing there, the sky the most beautiful colours of yellow and gold, I vowed to see more of the world, to be braver and bolder, and to remember that moment right there and how something had changed in me.
After another short drive we arrived at a secluded vineyard where we were greeted with such warmth at the highest restaurant in the National Park. There we were served the most delicious meal of soup, roast pork, and chocolate cake, not to mention the copious amounts of wine we were offered, all made from the vineyards there at Teide.
With our bellies full of food, we boarded the coach for the final drive to the top of Teide ready to view the stars in what has been declared one of the best astronomical observatories in the whole world. In pitch darkness, other than the light of the moon, our tour guide used laser technology to name and explain the different constellations and answer all of our questions about the night sky. And standing there, freezing cold, my neck craned up to the sky, I was certain that my brightest star in the sky was right there, looking down on me and telling me that everything was going to be okay. And that was pretty special.
By morning we were up bright and early ready for a much awaited trip to Siam Park. Siam Park is a water park in the Costa Adeje, featuring a fun Siamese theme, and has been hailed the best water park in the whole world by Trip Advisor. I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous given that ever since I had the children I have become super nervous about theme parks and water slides, holding my breath at every twist and turn, watching from behind my hands as Lew and Gaz ride the rollercoasters, panicking at how dangerous they appear, and wondering about the possibilities of just about anything going wrong. And seeing the size of the slides at Siam Park, I wasn’t even sure I could face them!
But it turns out that I’m actually really brave in Tenerife and, after the first slide, all four of us were buzzing with the adrenalin, racing up the hills for another turn, sometimes three times in a row, screaming in fear but loving every moment! Unfortunately I couldn’t take many photos of the slides due to the water but Sian made a vlog of the day here, which is pretty hilarious to watch!
With slides for every age, from the faint hearted to the super adrenalin junkies, there was so much to do at Siam Park. For those who prefer to sit back and relax, there is a huge man made beach with the most amazing wave pool with the worlds highest artificial waves at 3 metres high. One of my favourite moments of the day was when Hollie and I were let loose in the wave pool, throwing ourselves in and out of the waves like 8 year old kids, getting knocked over repeatedly, and laughing until our sides hurt. It was exactly what we needed just to let loose, be silly, and remember not to take life too seriously.
The ultimate test of bravery lay at The Tower of Power – a water slide with a height of over 28 metres, reaching speeds of 80km/h and finishing the ride passing through a huge aquarium of sharks and rays!
After much deliberating, Sian, Hollie and I decided that we needed to face our fears and go on the ride and so up we went, gripping the barriers as we climbed the stairs, with legs like jelly. I’ll be honest, as we reached the top and I looked over the edge I thought I was going to be physically sick and yet, somehow, I found myself lying down, crossing my arms and legs and praying that a) I reached the bottom safely and b) that I didn’t lose my bikini on the way down! As I reached the bottom, my heart pounding out of my chest, I have never felt so exhilarated and pumped with adrenaline, and I genuinely would have climbed the whole way back to do it all over again had we not had to leave!
After a quick change at the villa we were straight out for a meal at The 19th Hole at Amarila Golf Villas with Hollie, Julia and Jon, who owns Tenerife Holidays. The 19th Hole is a gorgeous, charismatic restaurant with the friendliest staff and a delicious menu! I chose baked salmon which was amazing, followed by the biggest bowl of chocolate ice cream! Yum!
It was such a lovely chilled out evening just enjoying a few cocktails, getting to know each other more, and finding out more about the area and all that Tenerife has to offer. I loved how, despite being new to the island, we had been welcomed so warmly by not only the English, but by the Spanish too and that was something I felt countless times throughout the week.
Friday was Sians last full day and so we spent the day at our villa, enjoying the last of the sun before a cheese and wine evening that evening at Vinos y Mas. The owners, the lovely Fabio, welcomed us in, handed us a glass of wine and made us feel right at home.
Fabio’s store, although small, is bursting with the most amazing condiments and cheeses, not to mention a vast array of wines, and we couldn’t wait to sample them all!
With every glass of wine Fabio brought out a platters of cheese, sauces and butters to sample – some of which I preferred more than others! Still it was great to try some authentic Spanish produce and of course, enjoy a few drinks alongside!
Now I don’t know a lot about wine but after five glasses in a short space of time, I know that I liked it! It was such a fun activity to enjoy and so lovely to spend time with Sian, Lisa, Hollie and Carmen for one final night.
Armed with all of our goodies to take back home, we waved goodbye to Fabio and stepped, somewhere blearily eyed, into the taxi and off for our final meal of the week to Las Cazuelitas de Feriche.
Las Cazuelitas is a real hidden treasure, tucked away out of sight, and is the most authentic and typically Spanish restaurant I have ever eaten in. The dining area felt as though we were guests in a someones home, with several private rooms off to each side, a court yard for al fresco dining, and a wine cellar to explore!
With it being their favourite restaurant on the island, Hollie and Carmen were keen for us to try as many dishes as possible and honestly, I have never been to a restaurant and ordered so much food before! The dishes just kept coming and by the end of the night we were absolutely stuffed to the brim!
As we made our way back to the villa we said our goodbyes to Sian knowing that when we woke in the morning, she would already have left for the airport. On our last day together Lisa and I spent the entire day at the pool, soaking up the last of the sun, enjoying the calm before the storm, and anticipating a very sleepless night as we flew home close to midnight.
In my final act of bravery I decided to board the plane home without Valium, for the first time in over a decade, and even during the flight from hell, when the seatbelt sign remained on, the crew shouted for a doctor due to a medical emergency, and the plane lurched from side to side for the entire four hours, I survived it. And as Lisa and I said our goodbyes and I made my way home, I knew that I was a very different person to the one who had left for the airport just seven days earlier.
Because it turns out that, as much as I love my children, I still have so many hopes and dreams, all of which I know I can still achieve alongside being a good Mummy. I made me realise that for such a long time I had lost my way, as so many of us Mums do and, having put my own life on hold for such a long time, perhaps now is the time to claw back a little me time, to adopt a little more ambition, and to know that a little time away from my children every now and then can ultimately make me, not just a better person, but a better parent too.
My week of adventures was exactly what I needed to relax, reset, and, most of all, remind myself that there is so much of life out there to live. I was pretty hardcore in Tenerife, but here’s hoping I can continue to kick ass back in the UK. Watch this space!!
** We were invited to Tenerife as guests of El Barranco and all activities, meals and days out were included. All words and opinions are my own. **