How did the Israelites maintain Shalom Bayit (peace in the home) as they wandered the desert for 40 years? I lose my patience after my husband got us lost for 40 minutes. Like the Israelites, my family has been nomadic for the past three weeks, and it has taken its toll on our Shalom Bayis.
We have schlepped from country to country, city to city, hotel to hotel. We had great fun doing this on our honeymoon just last year. This time around, with a budding toddler in tow, not so much. There are plenty of sources of tsures (trouble): the endless packing, unpacking, and repacking; Aiven’s crabbiness when his naps get disrupted by our irregular schedule; and the struggle to keep all of our stomachs full (not such an easy task when your child eats more than a plague of locusts and your husband is a vegan).
Shalom Bayit has come to symbolically mean marital harmony, but with us the challenge to ours has actually come from the literal lack of a place to call home. At least the Israelites had tents they could call their own — we, on the other hand, have slept in one disappointing hotel after another.
Edinburgh, Scotland: B&B confirmed there would be a queen bed, a crib, and no stairs. We had two suitcases equaling 50 kilos, two carry-on bags, and a stroller. Stairs were not an option. We arrived to find a double bed, no crib, and three flights of stairs. My ingenious husband improvised a crib out of our suitcase to give us a few hours of sleep without our son taking over the entire bed!
South of France: Not sure where to begin with this one. We arrived late at night, so Alex had booked us a motel near the airport to rest our keppies for a few hours. Unfortunately, even though the motel was less than 100 meters away from the airport, it took us over an hour to find it. By the time we finally crawled into bed we were too tired to realize it was made of thistles. Next, the B&B we had planned on luxuriating in for a week was a bust. Not kid friendly and definitely not close to anything as the website falsely claimed. We left after the first night and went to Cahors where we found a dumpy hotel that worked just fine. If Aiven made a mess, who cared? It was a shithole to begin with. After two nights we went to Carcassonne where the hotel there looked great, but the elevator was out of service. So we left without checking in and plowed on to Narbonne. The hotel room there was 60 square feet or so, but the bathroom mirror made me look slim so all was forgiven. We left after 12 hours to catch a train to Barcelona a day early.
Barcelona, Spain: Day one we stayed at a five star hotel because the hotel we had a reservation for could not take us a day early. It was wonderful, which made it all the more painful to leave. Days 2-4 we stayed at a crap hotel that smelled of disinfectant. The walls were paper thin and our neighbors were a stereotypical Italian family whose four generations screamed in a perfect chord. I lay down on the bed and cried for 30 minutes as soon as I entered the room. It gave me a backache.
And then came Seville, Spain: With promises from my husband that he splurged for the last week of our trip, I cried on the inside because I had run out of hope. I just wanted a fluffy bed for a few nights to get some rest. He told me he got us a place at Las Casas de la Juderia. Huh, the houses of the Jews in Seville? Was it in a ghetto? Was it where Jews were persecuted? Were their belongings on display in the lobby? I was convinced that our hotel was going to be a cross between a haunted house and a Holocaust museum.
Well, the hotel in Seville was one of the coolest hotels I have ever stayed at. It was indeed in the Jewish quarter of old Seville, but there was nothing creepy about it. They had very tastefully renovated a handful of mansions and linked them together to create a one-of-a-kind hotel. There was a collection of beautiful garden patios, a luscious breakfast buffet, a rooftop pool, and a spa. But not just any spa — one that was designed to look like an ancient Roman bath! Alex had planned our stay so that I could have a spa day to myself, but when I saw how wonderful it was I wanted to share it with him. I bounded back upstairs and exclaimed, “We have to get a babysitter!” We ran over to the front desk, and the extremely helpful receptionist found us a babysitter on staff whom we could instantly see was excellent with Aiven. Alex and I had an impromptu date — alone — for the first time in almost three weeks. It was as rejuvenating as the spa, and we booked the babysitter for the next night as well so we could catch a flamenco show.
As I write this from my hotel room in Madrid (which is nothing to write home about but does not have any obvious flaws), I cannot overstate how important it was for us to get our groove back in Seville. It is fitting that we found our Shalom Bayit in the Juderia. Two dates with my husband, a comfortable bed, and good food did wonders for my sanity and our relationship. We discovered that Shalom Bayit is indeed possible on the road, but it is still no substitute for it in the home.