31 October 2013, by Tan Yi Lin
We’ve just returned from a holiday to Paris and London.
I know, you must be thinking, “Wow, Chanel, Champs-Elysee, the Louvre… London’s coolest clubs and restaurants, the grand Museum of Natural History….”
Well. None of that happened. Not even French food.
It was probably the most unglamourous Paris and London trip anyone’s ever been on!
But it was, nonetheless, a GREAT trip 🙂
We had been planning to do this trip for awhile and booked our tickets to arrive in Paris and depart from London, all the way back in April – when Claire was just two weeks old.
We had high expectations for this trip:
It was our first holiday since the Maldives in January.
Dan and I were really looking forward to travelling again. While we love our little girls dearly and treasure the days spent with them, daily routine had subjected our lives to a certain mundaneness and we were badly in need of a good shake-up and a change of environment.
It was Coco’s first long-haul trip.
Normally, when travelling with Coco, we would favour a direct flight over one involving a stopover since the idea was to get to the destination (and later, back home) AS. FAST. AS. POSSIBLE. This time, however, we opted to fly on Qatar Airways, making a 2-hour stop in Doha both ways. After 7 hours in the air, we were glad to get off the plane, stretch our legs and hang around the transit lounge, before boarding the next plane for the remaining 6 hours to our destination.
We were travelling with in-laws.
While this is nothing new to Dan, having been on a few vacations with my family, it was my first time travelling with my in-laws. That in itself was a reason for trepidation. I’m not saying that Dan’s folks were difficult to travel with. On the contrary, they were pretty good sports and travellers, and were so hands-on in offering assistance with Coco and the luggage. It’s just that being in close physical proximity in a foreign land for days at a stretch is bound to create some friction due to differing views, plans, habits and schedules – more so when there’s a child / grandchild involved.
It was a family reunion.
Dan has an aunt who stays just outside of London. He last saw her almost a decade ago, and as for his uncle and cousins, he probably hadn’t seen them since the 1980s. I hadn’t met them before at all. Plus, both his cousins had a son each, whom, prior to the trip, we had met only virtually via Facebook. Not only were we going to see them all again, we were going to stay with them for a whole 5 days. Wow, talk about living in close proximity.
We were going to Disneyland.
And we desperately wanted Coco to LOVE it – not like the time when we went to Universal Studios at Resorts World Sentosa. She did. It was pure magic to a 2-year old: the flying Dumbo ride, the spinning teacups, the characters from Cars and Toy Story, the wonderous Disney parade where Mickey Mouse and his friends came alive. It was such joy to watch her discover the world of fantasy and to share the experience with her.
We had our own agenda.
It wasn’t going to be all about Disney and family time. Prior to jetting off, we had made plans to meet up with a friend living in London. Also, we had booked tickets to The Book of Mormon, a terribly popular musical on West End, in July – for an October show. Without Coco (but of course). Would we be able to keep to our not-so-grand plans?
The weather was expected to be cold and wet.
To human beings accustomed to life in the tropics, this was in itself a reason for worry given that we were travelling with older folks and a toddler. We armed ourselves with rounds of cold medicine and cough syrup in anticipation of chills, runny noses, raspy difficult breathing and phlegmy throats. Amazingly, the heavens were kind to us and doled out mostly warm weather and blue skies while we were there.
We were leaving Claire behind.
Oh, the guilt, the GUILT. We weren’t sure how we would have managed with an infant on this trip. We didn’t have a car and travelled by public transport all the time. It was tough enough moving around with all that luggage, a huge diaper bag and a stroller for Coco alone. Plus the long flight, the chilly weather, the… nah, we didn’t want to throw a 6-month old baby into the mix.
It was a fortuitous thing that my mum could time her retirement to start on the week that we left for Paris and I could travel in peace, knowing that Claire would be in Popo’s good hands 24/7.
Like I said, it was a trip of all things.
Thankfully, it all worked out well.
Sure, it could have been better. Definitely.
We could have seen fewer outbursts from Coco – the most puzzling of which was how she would wail “HOT! HOT! HOT!” when we bathed her in almost-cool water – in autumn.
We could have spoken to her a little less harshly when irritated by how fidgety she was while dining in the cramped confines of Economy Class, knocking over her water, and sending her biscuits, food and toys into the dark abyss of the cabin floor.
I could have addressed my in-laws more patiently and courteously, even when I was completely tired out from managing the travel logistics, like getting everybody (and our numerous bags) through immigration on time and onto the correct train or flight.
They could have checked with me before dangling chocolates and sweets within Coco’s reach – just as she was about to eat a proper meal, the latter being a rare occurrence throughout the trip for this fussy eater.
I could have been more sociable, more chatty to my new cousins and their families. But I needed those little pockets of ‘me’ time to take in the sights and sounds of England, without having to talk to anybody.
Disneyland at Paris could have banned smoking completely. C’mon, seriously. Rampant smoking within The Most Magical Place On Earth?! And these are people with kids and babies whom we’re talking about. Ugh.
We could have ridden on Space Mountain. Damn you, technical faults, gah!
Well, we’re looking forward to our next trip already. The first, in November, will be a Just-The-2-Of-Us vacation to Phuket for some much-craved couple time. The second, in December, will be a family vacation with the Tan clan and the girls’ godparents.
As for our guilt-fuelled promises to bring Claire to England and to Disneyland (NOT in cigarette smoke-filled Paris), we’re already psyching ourselves up in preparation for yet another hectic journey – with 2 young children this time.
Someone tell me – how do other parents, like this travelling super mum, do it without going nuts?