We took a trip to Europe earlier this summer. It was a little crazy to be traveling so far away with two toddlers but it ended up being a wonderful trip. We lived in London many years ago now but are still close with our best friends from that time — the bulk of our trip was spent with them. Being with locals really made the trip work for us as there were so many daily decisions that we didn’t have to worry about. For the part of the trip where we weren’t with our friends, we were with my husband’s parents so our kids were outnumbered. In other words, we weren’t crazy enough to go traipsing across the continent just us and our toddlers!
We started with a couple days layover on the East Coast, something that I think helped immensely with jet lag. And, we had to meet up with the grandparents for our international flight to London! Our overnight flight was quick and smooth though the adults didn’t sleep nearly as well as our Benedryled children (we tried it ahead of time to make sure they didn’t get jazzed) We spent five days in London — some with the grandparents, some with our friends and their baby boy Fergus (how cute is that name?!?!), some days we went into the city and others we played in their neighborhood in South London. From there we headed to our friends’ family home in a village near Bordeaux for five more days of sightseeing, swimming, and mellow summertime activities. Finally, we met back up with the grandparents for three very hot days in Paris.
We had our highs and lows, but overall it was so fun to be abroad. I remember nursing my first son when he was a newborn and feeling chained to the couch. At that moment in time, the idea of strolling the streets of Europe (or anywhere else in the world) seemed like an absolute fantasy. I seemed like it would be forever before I’d get a chance to travel again and that made me crave it even more. Many friends prior to our trip said nice things like “hopefully you’ll get a chance to go out for dinner without the kids” and I really felt like that wasn’t the point. Simply being able to pick up fresh baguettes for breakfast or pushing the strollers down a foreign street admiring the shops and cafes was amazing — so inspiring and refreshing. It was also entertaining to do something new with our kids. Houlton and I checked out numerous library books about London and Paris (Madeline, Hippo says Hello, A Walk in London, A Walk in Paris, Paddington Bear, This Is London, etc) so that before we left, he knew many of the sights and monuments. The delight he expressed at each new place was so fun to share.
So it was amazing — catching up with old friends as if no time had passed, watching our babies and their baby play together, exploring the Transport Museum with my boys, making new friends at new playgrounds, catching a quiet hour at the Picasso Museum…
…and magical — sipping wine on the terrace at twilight, buying cheeses and groceries at the village’s Saturday outdoor market, enjoying a leisurely pub lunch with friends, and sharing Notre Dame at sunset with the grandparents.
And also totally real — asking in broken French to retrieve my three year old’s shoes from the staff only area where he’d thrown them, or not having actually bought a ticket for our lap baby on the flight and having to “start over” ten minutes before our flight was boarding, or having the kids pass out at 5 only to wake up at 8 super cranky and refuse to go back to sleep until 2am. And did I mention the heat in Paris? 100 degrees?!?! it was like standing under a hand dryer. We were all just surviving at times.
Despite the low moments, I am so happy we were crazy enough to take the trip, so grateful for all the family and friends who made our trip such a success through their thoughtfulness and hard work, and so fortunate that we were able to travel like this. The boys’ grandparents were seeing Paris for the first time too and that made it really special.