We made it!There’s quite a lot to tell, so I’ll divide this up into sections!
The airport: My parents took us to the airport which was fantastic. Mom helped us in with our (many) bags. Chloe napped pretty much all the way to the airport in the car which was excellent. Emily enjoyed the view from her car seat! Our first challenge arrived at the check in counter for Air France. We had called ahead specifically to ask about the size of our stroller and whether we would be able to check it at the gate. We were told this was no problem and we were happy because we’d rather have Chloe in a stroller to navigate the airport. At the check-in counter we were told we would have to check it there (meaning we wouldn’t have it for the airport). We were not happy – now we had too much carry-on, a huge car seat and two kids to carry. Due to the mix-up they promised us a golf cart ride to our gate once we were through security. Even though we had to wait about 30 minutes for this, it was worth it. We got to the gate and miraculously there was a huge play structure right next to our gate for Chloe to play on. Things were looking up.
The plane ride: We’ve discovered that France doesn’t really do pre-boarding for kids – they call you with the first round of passengers, which means that you are stuck waiting in a line (with all that stuff I mentioned earlier) to get on the plane. I carried Emily in the baby carrier and Chloe on my hip. Sean handled the rest of the stuff. We discovered that kids in France use booster seats at age 3, and so the airline attendants had never seen a car seat that big. They kept thinking it was for Emily and telling us that we would have to put in the overhead bin because the flight was full – and we kept having to explain that it was for Chloe and that we had a seat for her. The people at the check-in counter had messed up our seating so that my seat with Emily was several rows behind Sean and Chloe with no space for a bassinet for Emily as we had booked. The very nice man sitting in the seat I was supposed to have switched with me. Then, my seat was broken, so they had to call a mechanic on the plan to fix it. Okay, we are finally settled, Chloe is excited and we take off. At first Chloe was very excited to be on the plane. She liked eating some of her meal. By 9:30pm (we took off at 6:50pm) they had not yet turned the lights off. I got Emily to sleep by covering her head with a blanket (I left some room so she could breathe and she was sleeping on me!), but Chloe was completely delirious. She kept screaming, “turn the lights off so I can sleep”! Finally they did and she fell asleep. For 3 hours. Then she spent the next hour whining about not wanting to be on the plane. Poor kid. As a result, Sean and I did not get any sleep. We transferred planes at Paris and then continued on to Nice. Chloe had several temper tantrums, but all in all, didn’t do too badly considering she got about a quarter of the sleep she normally gets. She passed out on the car ride to our apartment. She slept through me carrying her upstairs and for about two hours after that.
The adjustment: After her nap, Chloe woke up crying and saying that she wanted to go back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I took her out to the carnival near our house and took her on the merry-go-round, which helped somewhat. Sean and I were talking later about how it must be so hard to be her right now, because she was not involved in any of the planning and all of a sudden she’s in this strange place with none of her familiar surroundings. We felt awfully guilty for bringing her all the way over here. However, the next morning she woke up saying “I love France”. She is doing much better now, enjoying the wonderful food, warm air, sunshine and carnival that’s pretty much right next to our place. Emily is adjusting fairly well also. She’s having some trouble adjusting to the time change at the moment, but hopefully that will pass soon. She is definitely having the hardest time adjusting, but I guess that her food supply (ie. me) needs time to adjust also). She keeps giving us these confused looks when we wake her up at 7am (1am home time) and when we expect her to sleep at 7pm (1pm home time). Anyone else had experience with dragging an infant through time zones and care to share any tips????
The apartment: The apartment is in Old Nice, very close to the beach, the tram line, the market and the pedestrian area. Most importantly it is also very close to amazing shopping. So far we have just been getting ourselves settled, so no wonderful purchases yet. I definitely have a pair of boots and a new jacket on my radar though. We have been having fun the last few days exploring the neighborhood and enjoying the food (let’s face it, this trip is largely about the food). We came across a child and parent centre in our neighborhood and checked it out today so that Chloe could play with some other kids. I also got to chat a little bit with some other moms. The downtown location is amazing, but we have both realized that it’ been a while since we’ve lived downtown in a city, and the density of people is taking some getting used to as well.
So, in short, we are settling in. The adjustment has been greater than we had anticipated (for the kids and for us). We are glad that we are staying for a few months, and not turning around and coming home in two weeks (only to have the kids have to adjust again). I’ve been experiencing a bit of culture shock (and it’s only France!), but more in the sense that I guess I had romantic visions of spending hours of time walking around the city, eating in cafes, shopping at leisure. Well, the news (good or bad) is the we are still parents of a toddler (who will have tantrums wherever you are, even in a french cafe bringing many dirty looks) and an infant (who gets very cranky if she doesn’t get her naps, and is delirious with laughter at 8am when her body thinks it’s 2am). Same shit, different place. The reality is that this trip is going to be amazing, just a different amazing than it was backpacking on our honeymoon five years ago. Although we won’t be traipsing all over Europe, we will be getting a sense of what it is really like to live here on a local level. We find wonder where our kids find wonder – the tram, the little applesauce squeeze packs (we really need to have these at home), mo-peds, a million dogs that look like Burt (Auntie C’s dog), baguette every night, croissants many mornings. At first I was wishing that Sean and I could have taken this trip on our own (obviously not for as long!) so that we could cram a lot more in. But adding kids into the mix slows us down to where we have to (literally) stop and smell the roses. And trust me, roses smell a lot nicer when it’s 10 degrees outside as opposed to -20!!