Mother’s Day is fast approaching on both sides of the pond, so it’s time to remember the lady who was most likely your earliest travel partner. Here at Mr & Mrs Smith, we’re especially fond of mum-and-me holidays, so we’ve canvassed our US and UK offices to hear tales of unusual, hilarious and downright disastrous family jaunts. From flirty mothers that behave like teenagers, to creepy encounters in French caravans, it seems we (and our mamas) are an adventurous bunch – the apple clearly doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Helen got into a spot of bother with some grouchy French château owners:
‘The last time my mum and I went away (this was when I was 15, mind you), we went to Paris. Forget visions of the Champs-Élysées, the Marais and Montmartre: we were booked into a mad château run by a doddery old couple with trousers pulled up to their armpits. Rather than staying in the main house, we were put up in a static caravan – though we were invited up to the dining room for a group supper with the other guests, where I was forced to play piano as the “entertainment”. All in all, it wasn’t my idea of a holiday!’ – Helen Bailey, PR manager
Clara had a sun-worshipper’s wardrobe malfunction in Dubai:
‘Revising for Oxford finals gave my skin such a pallid, grey look (think claggy porridge) that my mother became genuinely concerned for my vitamin D levels. Claiming essential health benefits – though I’m unconvinced that an excuse for a holiday didn’t come into it somewhere – she booked us both on the next plane to Dubai. Wild at the prospect of a few days sans books and lever-arch files, I lay prostrate in the midday sun like a fish on a griddle pan, with roughly the same effect.
With what can only be described as nigh-on third degree burns, I was unable to wear any of the skimpy clothes I’d packed. Instead, I wore all my mother’s gear, practically living in a floor-length white skirt and long-sleeved, high-necked shirt. Needless to say, she hadn’t planned on pairing the two and I made quite the sartorial statement in my swaths of white linen, especially by the pool – where I was too burnt to sit down, so stood over everyone like a supercilious (but summery) Pope.’ – Clara Strunck, associate content editor
For Amelia, gambling and gargantuan birds are a family affair:
‘Never content to sit by the pool, my mom’s goal on just about every trip is to find the most oddball activity within 50 miles. Thanks to her, I’ve been to a pickle museum, the world’s largest water park and the LA Coroner’s office (for fun!). So when we went to Santa Barbara together I knew we wouldn’t just taste wine and walk on the beach. Instead, she lured me to a nearby casino where we spent five hours hooting and hollering at a slot machine called Kitty Glitter, then stopped at an ostrich farm to feed the flightless birds pellets from a metal dustpan. In the end, I did win $300 that weekend, so I guess mother really does know best.’ – Amelia Mularz, lead editor
Becca tried (and failed) to control her moody ‘teenage’ mother on a Florentine jaunt:
‘After a prolonged period of adult tonsillitis (and enforced starvation), my appetite returned with gusto on a mother-daughter mini break to Florence. Navigating the streets by our noses, we were led on a journey of gelato discovery, the highlight of which was the day we snaffled down no fewer than four cones. It was a selfless task, dear reader, for we can safely crown artisan gelateria Perché No! as the winner.
I should also explain that on holiday our roles were reversed: I became the guidebook-wielding bore determined to explore every nook and cranny of every museum, restaurant, rooftop bar and cobbled palazzo, while my mother acted as petulant teenager, dragging her unsuitably-shod feet. On our last evening together I looked across the table at my 60 (cough)-year-old mother, ice-cream dripping down one wrist and the other holding a jaunty amaretto; I’ve never been more proud.’ – Becca Dunn, content editor
Kate’s mother played temptress to local carabinieri in the Eternal City:
‘When in Rome, in between stops at all its grand, elegant monuments and ancient wonders, we stopped to watch a parade of carabinieri. Handsomely dressed in full regalia, including elaborately feathered hats, they were extremely taken with my mother and lavished attention on her, paying her compliments, kissing her hand and yelling “bellissima” with exaggerated posturing. They ignored me, but it did put a spring in mum’s step.’ – Kate Weir, senior content editor
And even James, the original Mr Smith, couldn’t avoid a mother-son slip-up in Venice:
‘The last time we took a mother-son trip, things soon became rather awkward. “So, how long have you been together?”, the words no son ever wants to hear when standing next to his mother. “Er, she’s my mum and I’m taking her to Venice for her 70th birthday”, I quick-fire back at the foreign exchange teller with machine-gun rapidity, in a vain attempt to quash further embarrassment. After all, there’s a bored queue behind us, within hearing range. “Oh, sorry sir”, the teller clumsily digs himself in deeper, “I mean, it’s arguably the most romantic city on the planet, so I just assumed you must be a couple.”
My mum is in hysterics, loving the moment a little bit too much. She’s not going to let that one slide in a hurry; it’s just a matter of time before all my friends hear the story, via “mother’s grapevine”: still the most effective social-media network on the planet for circulating gossip.’ – James Lohan, founder and executive chairman