Monday, May 16, 2016

traveling with a young one

Well of course, we all worried about Snowdrop and the journey before her:  multiple flights, a long day on the road (well, in the air), breaks in routines, constraints in movement. Friends whose birth families live far away (in Europe, south Asia) laughed. They laughed because they've done these long trips with young ones multiple times and so they are seasoned travelers and seasoned travelers like to see a novice suffer, but secondly, they laughed because everyone said that the toughest time to travel with a child is when she or he is 18 months old. Snowdrop is 16.

With my own kids, the pull of Europe was strong, but we were saving for college and it wasn't until I began moonlighting at second jobs that we could fit such travel in on a fairly regular basis. My girls were young when they first crossed the Atlantic, but not as young as Snowdrop.

We start the trip with not a small amount of drama. I had incorrectly thought that my daughter had not bothered changing her passport since marrying and changing her last name and so the ticket that I had booked for her did not, in fact, match her passport name -- something we did not discover until the agent pointed it out to us at the airport. It's a huge error and for a while I was doubting that we could fix it before our flight took off.

We made it, but just barely.

All was forgotten as we boarded: Snowdrop was treated royally on this first flight to Detroit! The captain invited her into the cockpit and she got to sit at the controls. The girl was in high heaven! (And she didn't do anything to steer us off course.)

Back in her seat (well, on her dad's lap):

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A longish layover in Detroit was perfect -- we thought. We wore her out, riding the moving sidewalks and having her run from one gate to the next. A late departure -- 9:40 -- a dream for parents (and grandma) of a kid who has been sleeping beautifully long hours since she was a month old.

(With her mom, watching the fountain at the airport as the sun goes down.)

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But she was so excited, that she stood out as the only little one on the full flight who was not asleep at take off, not asleep as the aperitif cart rolled by, not asleep as her daddy jiggled and held her close, not asleep when the flight attendant attached the bassinet for her to the bulkhead...

[Does she meet the weight requirements? -- asks the thankfully quite laid back Air France attendant. Yes! - we answer honestly, basing our response  her last weigh-in a few weeks back. A half a pound more and she'd be over the top. Where the bassinnet completely failed her was in length. Snowdrop is a tall girl. Her feet dangled a good six inches up and out.]

... not asleep, not asleep, not asleep. Finally, her mommy softly sang her lullabies, her daddy held her ever so close and she dozed off. For three hours. Then she was up, ready to continue her adventure. Her parents were off in dreamland, but the girl had no intention of joining them there.

Grandma relinquished her seat (for a few minutes) so that the little one could read about Maisy the mouse going on an airplane ride.

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(I'll forever remember the walk I took down the aisle with her where she waved with a smile to anyone who would be awake and looking her way.)

Arriving in Paris was in many ways tedious: the line at passport controls was very very long. The terminal required a train ride. But she never once complained and when we picked up our suitcases and met our cab man outside, he gave the highest compliment a French person could give a little one -- she is very sage -- he said. We beamed.

The apartment I had selected (yes, after viewing hundreds!) has the benefit of being large enough for six and on the left bank. I wasn't thrilled that it nearly touches the Eiffel Tower (I like the feel of local neighborhoods and the Eiffel Tower is a neighborhood to the world). But I finally decided that for a child, this is a good place to stay. The Tower has an expansive park before it, where in fact many local children do play and if you walk eastwards, you're smack in the middle of a lovely neighborhood indeed, with all the shops and bakeries and cafes that we visitors adore so much here.

Our living room:

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And yes, the windows do come with an incredible view:

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Snowdrop naps, her parents unpack, I dash to the store to buy baby food, diapers, grown-up lunch. I am in a hurry (impending high chair delivery!) and so you get just two photos -- of the main commercial street here -- the rue St. Dominique...

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... and one of the bakery where I buy sandwiches and a quiche and, well, croissants. Because they really do have such grand croissants here!

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My lunch:

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Her afternoon snack -- gratin de courgettes (a zucchini mush I find in the store), followed by strawberries and her first croissant:

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I know it's not the view that gives her such splendid eating habits. Still, it is one hell of a view.

In the evening, we walk over to an Italian restaurant (Villa Verde), which perhaps may seem like an odd choice for our first night in Paris. (Snowdrop is the world's best distance walker. She can go on like this for many many blocks.)

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But I wanted to keep things simple that first night. We were all tired. Snowdrop had not even slept half the hours she was used to sleeping. I had the feeling we would just eat the pasta and run.

We pass the Tower and though I, like millions of others, have photographed this structure countless times before, it was quite special to photograph it once more, this time framed by blooming pink chestnuts.

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And once more, the weather predictions were off: they said it would be cold and wet and it was neither. The walk was thrilling, both there and back.

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At the restaurant, the waiters (all French -- I actually asked, wondering if they were perhaps Italian) were incredibly gracious to Snowdrop and she responded by turning on her full charm. One of them repeatedly told her she was beautiful (inside and out) and her smile and wave were so disarming that honestly, I could not believe my grandchild was capable of being this good after such a tough day.

When the waiter asked what we'd like for her to eat and we ordered a plate of grilled shrimp, he was dubious.
That's a large order! Are yous sure? Of shrimp?
Yes yes... She'll eat it.

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And she did eat it. After sharing our appetizers of cheeses, tomatoes and bread, she dove into her shrimp plate with gusto, finishing every last bit before her. The waiters gasped. I gasped. She smiled and snuggled on the couch next to her proud parents (forget about high chairs -- they are almost not to be found in French restaurants).

And then Snowdrop walked home, holding her parents' hands once more and the breeze danced among the chestnuts and the air was filled with the sweet sweet smell of May.

A few minutes of quiet play in her new home...

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On the hour, the lights on the Tower twinkle and dazzle.

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We are off to a great start.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this... almost as good as being there (well, not quite)! Wonderful!!!!

    Brings back memories of travel in England and Scotland with Snowdrop's dad when he was about the same age... he slept on the plane, really loved travel on the Tube in London, enjoyed pub garden spaces for lunch, and grabbed the camera any time he could... with no idea what to do with it, of course.

  2. And how the heck did I not read your weekend blogs, so that this appears here as quite a lovely surprise? So exciting. So many questions, but already I'm up way beyond my bedtime (whatever that is) and I must put sheets back on the bed before I sleep.

  3. So cool! Looks like you may have found yourself a new traveling companion!

  4. This post made me smile the whole way through. I love her introduction to travel and how she's been taking everything in and having charming interactions with the people she meets along the way, whether they're fellow airplane passengers or French waiters. I also look forward to seeing how traveling with her will affect the way you experience Paris.


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