It’s a miracle that we made it to the home in France in one piece! By ‘we’, I meant Nicolas, Nina, myself, plus one suitcase, one backpack, three day bags, and a pram. By ‘one piece’, I meant all these pieces together.
The journey started way before the plane took off in Sydney, of course. It started when we planned what to pack and how to pack. You see, among three of us, we have two working human beings and one human being that needs help to work. So in total we have two working pairs of hands and two working upper bodies that can carry stuff. So our plan was: one working human being took the suitcase and carried one day bag, another working human being carried one backpack and pushed the pram with Nina in it with one day bag tugged under in the storage space and another small day bag hooked onto it.
It worked! Of course it means Nina wasn’t allowed to get off the pram whenever we had all luggage with us. Nina didn’t seem to understand this though, so we had a few occasion when one adult guarded all our worldly possessions and another adult ran after a super active toddler in public. Fun!
Anyway, come back to our 36-hour trip, composed of an 1-hour drive from home to Sydney airport (with a 3-hour most lovey afternoon tea stop at friends’ place with their new-born), 10-hour flight from Sydney to Tokyo, 5 hours layover in Tokyo airport, 12-hour flight from Tokyo to Paris, 2.5hr drive from Paris to Boulogne-sur-Mer (our very first stop, Nicolas’ home town), and a bit of airport chores as we all know that sometimes takes hours.
The first flight (10 hours from Sydney to Tokyo) was a breeze. A 10pm flight turned out to be the best kind of flight travelling with a toddler – Nina was so tired running around waiting in the airport that she promptly fell asleep when taking off before even seat belt sign was switched off! She remained in that status just one hour before arrival. She did invade both her parents’ seats during her sleep though, ruthlessly. At one point, I found myself being squeezed into the corner of my own seat by her beautiful sleeping head that I was only half sitting, so I had to drag her further back into her dad’s seat. Nicolas didn’t seem to be very impressed with that move but he was too sleepy to fight back at that point. After Nina woke up, with breakfast being served by her loving mother, she remained seated on her own with safety belt on. I thought this long plane ride thing was a piece of cake. Until I remembered that there was another long flight right after that. We were nowhere near our destination, yet.
We were in Tokyo airport. For 5 hours. When I had long connecting hours in the pre-child days, I sometimes left airport and did a bit of visiting. Or I watched a movie or paid myself a massage. This time, I was discovering the kids’ play room and parents’ room (very impressive facilities I have to say – a changing table that can convert into a small cot, kitchen for parents, hot water, a basin that is big enough to bath an infant). The most graceful was that Japan Airlines had a pram ready at the gate on arrival for us to use as our pram was checked in till Paris. We made the request at check-in in Sydney not expecting anything really, so it was such a pleasant surprise to see a smiling Japanese lady with the pram with our name on it. One had to love Japan.
The 2nd flight (Tokyo to Paris) was long. Nina slept 1.5 hrs for nap, then less than one hour just before arrival (which was 3:30pm local time and 1:30am Sydney time). She kept moving and walked down the aisle 50 times maybe. The only saving grace was that she didn’t cry or became grumpy. She was just excited about everything. The kid’s channel, the non-stop snacks (cute Japanese snacks), the magazines, the movies that her parents were watching (trying anyway, I settled on just-for-laugh episodes which were short enough and no regrets to be caused if I didn’t manage to watch till the end), the nice passengers that played game with her, the business class that she was not allowed to go to, the ‘attendant’ button in the toilet, the flush of the toilet, the ‘attendant only’ food preparation area of the plane, the lunch provided (oh, the BEST ever airplane lunch. And the sake on a plane!).
We let her play. Did we have choice not to anyway? 🙂 At some point I lost courage to look at the flight path map as it was always showing us too far away from the destination. So we decided on the new strategy: each parent would take turn to rest. It was with indescribable delight that I found 3 vacant seats at the back of the plane halfway through the flight, and I didn’t hesitate to occupy them for a 2-hour sleep (forget gracefulness and social ethic, I am a tired parent). I then reluctantly called Nicolas over for his turn and gathered enough energy to face the reality again.
By the time we finally saw my mother-in-law who was waiting for us at the arrival gate, Nina was officially exhausted. She fell sleep in the car. Me too. The only thing I realized was how early it became dark – it was already dark at 5pm. Coming from the summer in Sydney where sun sets at 8pm these days, what I had in mind was: soon, very soon, I will be sleeping in a bed… and soon, very soon, I will be refreshed enough to eat my croissant … bzzzzzzzz