Twins on tour

Holidays with Hattie and Joe

Talofa lava from beautiful Samoa! I seem to have developed a habit of updating this often-neglected blog whenever I’m on holiday, so I thought I should share some snippets of our family holiday before we fly back to Auckland in a couple of days’ time.

Firstly, we need to talk about the journey. Long-term readers may recall Hattie and Joe’s last overseas holiday, when they were three and a half and we went to France in 2016. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if friends read the blog post I wrote about our horrific flight there to make themselves feel better in their darkest moments. Of course, six year olds are far more reasonable to deal with than three year olds, so I harboured no serious concerns about this trip, but I was nevertheless glad that we’d only be in the air for four hours. The journey was improved even more by some weird quirk of our booking, which gave us Premium Economy seats on the outward flight. Hattie, in particular, took this all in her stride:

I’ll say this for Air New Zealand: if you can fly in Premium Economy you don’t have time to get bored, because you’re fed incessantly. And ours was a morning flight, so we were given an endless array of yummy breakfast foods. That, coupled with comfortable seats and entertainment on demand, made for four happy travellers. Hattie and Joe showed very different viewing styles: Hattie became engrossed in the original The Lion King as soon as she sat down, and was quite peeved whenever she was interrupted by flight announcements. Joe, on the other hand, could not settle, starting and failing to finish half a dozen things and eventually running out of time to watch anything in its entirety. If there’s an easy way and a hard way to do things, Joe often prefers the hard way…

We caught our mini bus transfer to our resort, our hair becoming lively in the island humidity, and eventually arrived at our beautiful resort. We were welcomed with leis and cool drinks, and received a wonderful surprise: we’d been upgraded from a twin room (booked as a result of what can charitably be described as a communication breakdown with our travel agent, who apparently missed the one thing we’d asked for – separate sleeping spaces for us and the kids) to a two-bedroom villa with separate living room and kitchen and laundry facilities. Happy days!

We wasted no time in hitting the hotel’s two amazing pools, and it’s just as well: our first full day in Samoa featured endless torrential rain. Holiday pro tip: book resorts with unlimited wifi, fast enough to stream Netflix. We had a few days with unseasonable showers, which Joe adorably calls ‘dribbling’ (instead of ‘drizzling’). He also talks about hoping that the weather will ‘cheer up’, instead of ‘clear up’. It’s very cute.

The next day we returned to the pools:

We also tried to teach the kids how to snorkel, as the resort’s beach was mere steps away from the main building. Sadly, this wasn’t successful. Hattie is not a mouth-breather and could not grasp the mechanics of breaking through a snorkel, and also couldn’t really fit the snorkelling masks the hotel had available (it was a lovely resort, but its capacity to kit out guests with snorkelling gear wasn’t too flash). This led to many tears of frustration from our little perfectionist, who doesn’t yet relish the challenge of unfamiliar experiences. Joe showed much more promise (and he is a mouth-breather, which obviously makes snorkelling far easier to tackle), but in the end we gave it all up for a bad job and restricted our beach frolics to some shore-side floating in goggles.

As it was, the local fish life wasn’t particularly impressive – not too many fish, and none of the amazing colourful specimens that Tristan and I lazily floated around with within a couple of metres of the beach when we had a child-free few days in Rarotonga just before Easter (SUCH A GOOD TIME). But the fish we did see was sufficiently exciting for Hattie and Joe, who gave us running commentaries on what they spotted:

“Two striped fish!” [three seconds of silent floating] “Another fish!” [two seconds of floating] “Two big fish and three small fish!”

Next time we’ll get them those cool full-face integrated snorkel masks, and take them back with us to Rarotonga, and their minds will be blown. This will improve the experience for Joe, who ended up very frustrated because he kept getting salt water in his mouth, despite being certain that he was keeping his mouth tightly shut while underwater. Side question: do other people’s six year olds have a knack of complaining about things in an accusatory way, as if they firmly believe that you’re the reason for them – or is it just mine? It’s a trait that I can’t wait for Joe to outgrow…

Most of our days have been spent in the pool, with occasional forays into nearby Apia to visit cafés or stock up on lunch supplies at the supermarket. We had a hire car for three days, and we should have done things like track down turtles with which to go swimming, or visit the beautiful south coast beaches, or catch a ferry to the other island, but here’s the thing: Tristan and I have always been terrible tourists, far more interested in relaxing than in ticking off the local sights, and it appears that Hattie and Joe have inherited our apathy. Left to her own devices, Hattie will swim for hours on end. She’s her father’s daughter in this regard, but even Tristan can’t match her enthusiasm for staying in the water. Joe loves it too, but he’s more like a normal person who’d prefer to play for a while and then get out and do something else. Hattie is obsessed!

When we did convince the children to leave the pool we went for a couple of scenic drives, and played a game of trying to predict how many island dogs we’d spot during our travels. This proved to be a bone of contention for Joe, who is yet to grasp the fundamentals of being a gracious loser. Hattie has a better strategy of simply refusing to play if the game isn’t going her way.

One challenge here has been the kids’ inability to stay up late, which is when the resort evening entertainment happens (and by ‘late’ I really mean (past ‘8pm without turning into crazy people’). We managed it a couple of times, and the first occasion involved maximum cuteness when Joe and his Daddy wore matching shirts:

The second night was exciting because we actually left the resort for dinner! We went to an Italian restaurant called Paddles, and the food and company were delicious:

And we made it back to the hotel in time for the weekly fa’afafine show! Hattie and Joe were absolutely enthralled, and we were all sad to have to head back to our villa at 9pm:

Joe wore his new lavalava with pride, and has LOVED being in a country where lots of boys and men wear skirts every day!

Other than swimming and eating, we’ve done lots of reading and napping and colouring-in, and we’ve discovered homemade word searches as a great way to keep the whole family occupied:

We also took two huge bags full of beautiful children’s clothes to a local charity that serves as a refuge for women and children escaping violence, and were so thankful to our friends in New Zealand who donated things for us to take. It was very gratefully received!

All in all we’ve had a lovely time in Samoa. Everybody we’ve met in and outside the resort has been kind and lovely, and so welcoming of the kids. We’ve dealt with occasional bouts of brattiness and entitlement from both kids, but on the whole they’ve been on excellent form. And I’ve rewatched the entire sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race (easily my favourite, with Bianca Del Rio and Adore Delano). We’ll all be sad to return to winter in Auckland (and work, for Tristan and me), but we’ve got a new au pair arriving on Friday – and I must write a years-overdue update about au pairs and schoolkids!

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