You Know You're Over 40 When…

You Pack A Dressing Gown For A Weekend Away

(And slippers, if it’s going to be cold.)

dressinggown

I last went to Barcelona 10 years ago. And the last time before that was 10 years before that. Clearly, Barcelona and I are only destined to see each other every 10 years – like relatives who live on the other side of the world, or in my case, Bristol.

Ten years ago, I was in Barcelona to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday. It was a weekend fuelled by mojitos and as a result, my memory of it is a little hazy, although I do remember that a) it was a lot of fun and b) the Sagrada Familia still wasn’t finished.

I’d first seen the Sagrada Familia when I was 20 years old. I made several trips to Barcelona around that time because my then-boyfriend had moved there to teach English as a foreign language, which I think was a legal requirement for all language graduates in the early 1990s. I remember the buzz of a city preparing to host the Olympics; the construction of tower block flats down by the sea; the dusty parks and the flower stalls on the Ramblas; the fact that the Sagrada Familia still wasn’t finished.

This time, I’m taking my boyfriend on an Obligatory Couple’s City Break – because while I’ve not been to Barcelona for 10 years, he’s never been at all. I’m looking forward to discovering it with him – and it will, I’m sure, feel like discovering rather than rediscovering. Partly because of those mojitos, but mainly because a lot can change in a city in 10 years. Look at London, my hometown, for example. In the past 10 years, Oyster cards and Boris Bikes have arrived, the South Bank has become a wonderful place to hang out, and Jamie Oliver restaurants have popped up everywhere. Sadly, not everything is progress.

The other thing that’s changed in the past 10 years is, of course, me. When I was 30, a suitcase packed for a late spring jaunt to Barcelona would have included Alka Seltzer, strappy sandals and not much else. But now?

Now, I pack a dressing gown.

(As well as Alka Seltzer and strappy sandals.)

This is partly because I’m staying in an apartment rather than a hotel – another change from 10 years ago, when apartment rental sites like AirBnB were few and far between, and a city break was synonymous with a hotel stay. Now, it’s possible to live like a local by talking to that local online and staying in his or her place – and to do so for the fraction of the cost of staying in a hotel. A hotel where, yes, you might get a dressing gown – but it won’t be your dressing gown, will it?

And that’s the thing. A dressing gown is the adult equivalent of a comfort blanket. It gives you a sense of home – of self – wherever you are. If I don’t take my dressing gown with me to Barcelona, I will simply be staying in some stranger’s flat. If I do take it, it will suddenly be my place that I’m padding around in. It will feel as if I live in Barcelona. And yes, this fantasy might only last for four days (the required length of an Obligatory Couple’s City Break). But for those four days, I’ll be opening the balcony shutters, looking down on the narrow street below, drinking real coffee, flicking through the channels on Spanish TV… all in my dressing gown. I’m already picturing Frank and myself like David Hockney’s friends Mr And Mrs Clark, only without Percy. Unless we managed to pick up a stray gato from the streets of Barcelona – and even then it’s going to be tricky, because we’ll have to find a white one.

Of course, it helps to have the right dressing gown. I’m sure that most dressing gowns, if you wear them regularly enough, will give you that sense of self and comfort wherever you are. But the very fact that my dressing gown is goddam blooming lovely is another reason I want to take it with me wherever I go.

I bought it five years ago at Singapore airport. I went there for 24 hours (Singapore, not the airport – the Tom Hanks film The Terminal may be based on a true story, but it’s not mine) while I was working as a jazz singer in a hotel in Malaysia. It’s a long, patterned Chinese-style silk dressing gown in midnight blue and I fell in love with it at first sight. I’d always had a soft spot for this type of robe – it’s a classic, after all – but it was only now, while staying in South East Asia, that I suddenly felt I could justify owning one. As a result, I padded around my Malaysian hotel room in my classic Chinese-style dressing gown and classic Chinese-style free hotel slippers, feeling even more like… well, a jazz singer working abroad than I ever did.  All I needed was to have a good cry while wearing too much mascara to truly turn into an ageing Judy Garland-esque diva. (Reader, it never happened.)

In short: my dressing gown makes me feel both comfortable and glamorous. It’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer (it’s almost like those Chinese people knew what they were doing when they designed it). And as result of all these things, it’s now a must-have when I pack a suitcase: whether that’s for an Obligatory Couple’s City Break Somewhere On The Continent or a Week With Family Over Christmas In Various Parts Of Britain. And when it comes to the latter, I now also pack slippers. Which is no doubt another idea that my 20 or 30-something self would have been horrified by. To which I say to her: “Just you wait”.

SagradaFamilia

The Sagrada Familia. Estimated completion date: 2028.

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17 thoughts on “You Pack A Dressing Gown For A Weekend Away

  1. I officially love…and want…your dressing gown. It’s superb.

  2. Hehe. I’m sure they still sell them at Singapore airport..! ;)

  3. great post…and the Sagrada is still not finished?

  4. If I had a beautiful dressing gown like that, I would also take it with me everywhere! Enjoy your couples break. I have never been to Barcelona (or Spain for that matter…), but it is on the list…:-)

  5. So jealous – I love Barcelona. I have a lovely trip in your lovely dressing gown.

  6. If my dressing gown were that stunning I’d wear it all over town…sadly my equivalent of a comfort blankie looks exactly like a comfort blankie: threadbare, worn out & well-loved ;O)

    …fingers crossed that I stumble upon such a rockin’ robe during my travels as well – or maybe get lucky online!

  7. Over 40 and desiring to go away for a weekend? You need to check your birth certificate ;)

  8. How did I not know all this time you have a blog, Andrea? I love this post – and I love not just your robe, but the way you shot it (and then did a 180 degree turn).

    I also did not know you worked as a jazz singer at a hotel in Malaysia, so I’ll be clicking on that next. I did know that Sagrada Familia wasn’t finished, and on the one time (long weekend, not with a lover but with one of my best childhood friends, visiting from Malibu, who wanted my company while her husband – the reason they were going – was on a cruise to the South of France with his law partners. He was in the world’s biggest law firm – one of their accounts was the London Olympics – and when I asked him, when he joined us after in Barcelona, how the cruise was, he just looked me in the eye and said ’1000 law partners on a boat at sea, and you can’t get off: you do the math.’

    And I loved Barcelona so much – and the hotel we stayed at (OMM, directly across from another Gaudi, so we had the best view of it from the rooftop pool) that I’ve been longing to go back with my husband. Hasn’t happened yet but I’m going to check out AirBnB.

    One last question and then I’ll shut up – because I’ve become obsessed with travelling light, and this comment is now longer than YOUR POST – did you check your bag? I’m determined when we go to Ischia to fit our stuff into carry ons – and I want to bring my lovely light pale pink silky robe – I’m just losing sleep worrying if that’s the item that will tip us into checking in – and paying more for luggage than the flight to Naples!

    Hope you’re having a wonderful time, and I hope it’s warmer than it is here in freezing London.

    • Hi Jill!! Thank you – we are indeed having a wonderful time. Love your story of Barcelona. We did just do carry-on luggage – the time saved on not having to check in/wait by the baggage carousel is SO worth it, I think. Although the disadvantage is, of course, that you can’t bring loads of goodies back ;)

  9. Ooh beautiful. I have a cherry red, very similar but more child proof version and yes it goes with me on trips away too ;-)

  10. I remember when I first realized that wearing what makes you feel comfortable and confident can make all the difference in your experience. It helps me look outward.

  11. p.s. btw: I saw some gorgeous similar but not nearly as nice embroidered silk (probably synthetic) gowns at Zara recently. To be worn as outerwear. The latest in the underwear-as-outerwear trend, so you go on ahead and wear it out in Barcelona, Andrea!

    The one I’m thinking of bringing to Ischia is so boring, pale ballerina pink – totally pales in comparison.

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