Tales from France: A Trip With Four Children
Hello from France!! We have been here five days now, and I want to chronicle what we’ve done before I forget. Because I will. This post is going to be a radical departure from, um, all of our previous posts—what follows is essentially a journal/story of our days, highlights and lowlights, what I wish I’d done differently, beautiful moments I don’t want to forget, and everything in between. Honestly, this is mostly for me, because a year from now I won’t remember most of those little details. And I don’t want to take for granted how precious it is that I am rambling through France with my sweet munchkins and sister. So here goes.
We left our house at 8:15 am to drive to Atlanta. This departure time gave us multiple hours of slush time; I was paranoid we’d have a flat (or worse), and would need time to figure out a plan B. Because we had a flight to Paris to catch!! But the drive went ridiculously smoothly and we wound up letting the kids play at a Chick-fil-A for two hours while Christie worked at Starbucks. Our sweet friend drove us to the airport (also early), where we breezed through security and checked in at the gate. I gave all my children melatonin gummies on the plane; they had already eaten (it was 10:00 pm!), and so once meal service finished they zonked out for the rest of the flight. (That is, once I informed my oldest that she did not actually get to take advantage of the unlimited movies in front of her.) Which meant I got some sleep, too. YES.
Wins: Cheap flights out of an airport within driving distance and melatonin. And sweet friends!! All wins!
Funny moments: We are lining up to board our flight; the two year old is sitting on her aunt’s shoulders, and suddenly announces (in her uniquely piercing voice), “AUNT CHRISTIE I POOPED!” At least it was before we boarded.
Also: The plane is quiet, we’re getting the children set up with some videos as we take off. The four year old puts on his headphones; they are apparently too loud, so (also suddenly) he yells “TUWN IT DOWN!!”
(Fair warning: first world whining ahead.) Before we left on our trip, I looked at our layover in Heathrow: two hours, both flights in the same terminal. How perfect, I thought. How easy. Except not. Somehow we spent literally the entire layover changing planes with nary a stop to catch our breath in between. It started by deplaning on the tarmac, and exiting the aircraft down some stairs. This was the moment I realized that I had made a serious packing error: in my zeal to pack only in small carry-on luggage (in which is succeeded), I had given every child a suitcase they could roll themselves… but not carry down stairs… Oh. Snap. Christie and I scrambled to not only assist all the kids down the steps (and on to the waiting bus), but also wrestle 6 suitcase down the steps, too. Four adult arms to help the younger two kids plus six suitcases— you do the math. People were kind and helped us, so we made it, but once we got off the bus into the Heathrow terminal we went up and down multiple levels of floors multiple times (with children who also had to conquer scary escalators!) following the path to our flight through a second security check (yes, full on security), and then back on to the bus and up more stairs to our plane. To add insult to injury, on our short flight to Paris the airline would have sold us coffee, but they didn’t give passengers any complimentary beverages. First world problems, I know, but I was rather disgruntled by the entire experience. I arrived in Paris in an uncaffeinated state, and having used up all the energy I had hoped to use on our metro trip to our rooms on our layover. Because. We knew the metro was coming… and guys, that packing error made the metro trip incredibly painful. We lugged suitcases and tired kids and a stroller with a toddler up and down so many sets of stairs it wasn’t even funny. And then we walked to our rooms. The bright spots were literally zero time spent in passport control (we walked into a completely empty area. Didn’t even know that could be possible), and then the kindness of people in the metro. As much lugging of luggage as we did, we couldn’t have done it without the people who ALWAYS stopped to help us up and down. Seriously, it was at least a dozen people, and some of them went the opposite way they needed to go to assist us. We were so so grateful. I’ll end the tale with saying that even though we were exhausted when we arrived, I am also grateful that the trip went without any serious snafus, and that our jovial host was waiting and looking for us when we walked up to our rooms. Also that there was a boulangerie literally next door to our apartment building so we could eat sandwiches in our rooms. And you know what? We’re now in France!
Win: Traveling in the middle of the week!
Lose: Forgetting to factor in navigating stairs when packing.
Funny moment: We are eating our sandwiches in our apartment after we arrived, and the four year old asks, “Mama, is this Pawis?” Yes! I reply enthusiastically. “I don’t like Pawis.” He replies matter-of-factly. I promised him it would get better. 😉
Day 3 in Paris was low-key, but delightful; I will resume our tales in the next few days.