We haven’t been out and about as much as we should have been recently (except at weekends when Matt is around to help) so last night I got us all packed up and ready to spend the day on the steam railway. Which we did, and had a very nice time. Until we got home and I felt in need of a cup of coffee. Just as I sat down with it Bee (accidentally) threw a cushion in my direction. It went over me, and I wasn’t sure if some had splashed on Mip’s hands, so as I ran to the kitchen to find wet tea towels to drape over me I ran him a sink of cold water and told him to play in it. Meanwhile JJ and Littlest were both upset. Bee looked after them as long as he could, but after 5 mins I had to take off my wet cloths and feed Littlest and put her to sleep. Meanwhile Mip extended his playing to putting his head and a bath towel into the sink and flooding the floor. JJ wasn’t recovering so I draped more wet tea towels and put them all in front of a DVD for a while. Mip then managed to fall backwards over the sofa and bump his head and scrape a shoulder. JJ at some point fell off the piano stool…..and then got cross with a yoghurt and pushed it onto the floor….
I was glad when Matt got home!

Coming home

We had to be out of the hotel by eleven. I’m not very good with deadlines, so it was a bit of a stressful morning. We were ready by 11:30, but this time we made sure we had good directions for the journey back around Paris. It was much easier this time, but very slow as the ring road was barely moving. Fortunately the children were all asleep or content and the car has air-con. We eventually stopped for diesel only to discover that we had no fuel cap. I must have left it at the garage in Rouen on the way into Paris. A little later we stopped for a lunch/play break and then finished our journey to Le Havre. We had an hour before we needed to get to the ferry, so we stopped at the beach for a quick play. The boys loved this and Mip and Bee were very confident in the sea. Bee was very unhappy to have to leave and fought us most of the way back to the ferry. The ferry this time was much emptier, we had taken more for the boys to do and the play area was much less busy, so the journey back passed quickly and easily.

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Then the final long drive back to Peterborough. I had planned to drive as Matt had done all the driving in France, but we only got as far as the Dartford crossing before the children started to wake up/cry/wet themselves, so Matt took over the driving and I took over the children. Home about four-ish.

Last day in Paris

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Matt was working again, so the children and I were back at the park for the morning. I spent the morning being chatted to by a very sweet but overly affectionate Algerian in a mixture of french and english, and the boys played. Back to the hotel to meet Matt, and then back to the station for one last visit. We wanted to go back and let the boys have a proper boat to sail on the fountain. Much happiness all round, especially when the man gave us a second boat for free (he saw that Mip wasn’t getting much of a go at the one that Bee was using – however when Mip had his own, he still didn’t want to do much with it, so Matt enjoyed that one). I sat at the edge to feed Littlest while Matt helped the boys. A slightly alarming moment as I saw JJ climb onto the edge to sit with his feet over the water and then drop his cup in. Matt was busy with the others, and it was too far across for me to call. I was waiting for JJ to jump in after his cup (which he always carries around with him) but fortunately he was noticed and a crowd of helpful people swooped in and rescued the cup, at which point Matt came back.

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Then a picnic tea, back down to the Carrousel du Louvre for toilets, and a wander back past assorted grand buildings to the station. On the walk back it was slightly raining, but not too bad, so we wandered down the side of the Louvre and down a few more streets. On the way we realised it would be too far to walk to Notre Dame (we needed to make sure we save some of Paris for another time), so we headed into Forum Les Halles. This is an underground shopping centre, but was closed by this time in the evening.

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Managed to all get home (together) uneventfully this time!

On my own in France (with several children!)

A quieter day. Matt had to work in the morning, so he went off to catch a train and I took the children over to the park. The parkland here is very extensive, and runs on to a chateau , the grounds of which are free to walk in, but we ran out of time to explore it. We met Matt back at the hotel mid-afternoon and then all went back to the park for the evening with a picnic tea. Mip happily chatted away to the french children, totally unaware that they couldn’t understand him. We went for a walk through the woodland, but it was very slow as JJ wanted to stop every few paces to pick up a stone and put in his pocket (it was the getting the stone into his pocket each time that was so slow). The weather stayed beautiful all the way through – about as hot as it can be without being just too much.

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First time into Paris

Tuesday was Matt’s free day, so as soon as we woke up we headed off to the station (half-hour walk) and caught the train to Paris (half-hour journey). On the train Matt asked someone the best route for the Eiffel tower. About fifteen minutes later and after much discussion amongst everyone nearby, a route was agreed, which was the one which had looked most obvious to us at our first glance at the map.

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We had bought pastries to eat on the train, but it was very crowded so we saved them until we were at the Eiffel tower. We had thought about going up, but the queues were horrendous, so we just walked around it. The boys were very impressed.

A few soldiers were walking around with very large guns. Bee noticed a bit, but not much and was happy with a fairly simple explanation. Though it was difficult to get across that they needed to be there because some people might want to do bad things and they were there to protect people!

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Next we crossed the river and walked along for a while. It was past lunchtime and JJ was again thirsty. I wanted to find somewhere to get him some apple juice, but we seemed to be in the wrong area for that, finding only the Paris Dorchester and Jean Paul Gautier’s shop. It was another low point as we got stressed and I insisted that Matt take us straight back home on the train. We nearly ended up getting lunch in a McCafe (McDonald’s). However, just managed to avoid this and found a cafe on the Champs Elysees, near the Arc de Triomphe. This restored us all and in much better spirits we went on to the Arc de Triomphe.

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Next stop the Louvre. We didn’t go into the museum itself, but the whole area is full of interesting things and the children had a good time, both underground in the Carrousel du Louvre and above ground in Les jardins des Tuilleries. At one of the fountains children were sailing beautiful boats across. On the other side we could see the stall where they could be hired, but assuming it was quite expensive we didn’t get one and so Bee found a cigarette end to float and a little lolly stick to push it along. He loved this and carefully brought them home again afterwards, but on our way past we saw that boat hire was only 2 euros for half an hour and we felt very mean for having said no without actually checking.

Carrousel du Louvre:
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In the Jardin:
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We finished with an Ice Cream and then headed back down to the Metro. We found a train we thought was ours, but we weren’t quite sure. So Matt got on with the boys to ask. I was standing by the door waiting to find out when suddenly the doors closed, the train went and I was still on the platform. Another low moment, as I realised I didn’t know where I was, I had no money, no ticket, I didn’t know Matt’s mobile phone number… Although it was a relief that I had littlest with me. We hadn’t thought to make a plan for this kind of eventuality, so neither of us knew what the other would do. Should I follow Matt on the next train and assume he would wait on the next station? Should I head to Noisiel and meet there? Or should I stay where I was and wait for Matt to come back? Eventually I decided I should sit still as at least Matt knew where I was. After half an hour or so a messaage in French came over the tannoy. I couldn’t make out much of it, but I did pick out “Noisiel” and “Joostine Pairsonne”. Forgetting even the basics of grammar I rushed over to the nearest friendly lady and anounced “Je suis Justine Pearson” and asked her to explain the rest of the messaage. She kindly accompanied me to the information desk where they explained that Matt was waiting at Noisiel, made out a ticket for me and then the lady took me back to the platform and we travelled on together. Great relief to be re-united at Noisiel!

Nearly the end of the day, but not quite. It was now too late to buy supper, but we explained our situation at the hotel and they very kindly put together some plates of food left over from that evening’s BBQ, all of which was very delicious and much appreciated.

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For future reference:

  1. Make a contingency plan before anything happens.
  2. All adults to carry their own tickets and money.
  3. J to learn M’s phone number.

Journey to Paris

We spent most of Sunday packing and set off late afternoon to Matt’s parents. The children slept all the way, so a nice easy journey. Great excitement on our arrival as they had a new adult sized trampoline. The evening was spent bouncing and playing with the Uncles. So the boys were blissfully happy.

Monday morning we drove down to Newhaven. We thought we had allowed plenty of time, but there were roadworks nearby, so we only just got there in time.

The ferry journey over was quite hard work. The ferry was very full. JJ wanted to walk around all the time and although we had taken some stories with us, we could have done with more for them to do. There was a little play area, but it had been taken over by older boys wanting to act out their latest violent computer games, so it wasn’t the best place for littlies.

We arrived at Le Havre at 6pm French time and parked in town. My French was hopelessly rusty and we only just managed to buy a few bits and pieces for a picnic tea. But the market was fantastic, everything looked so fresh and colourful and smelled so good. It made shopping at Tesco’s seem a very sterile activity in contrast.

We set off for Paris on a main road, avoiding the motorway. It was a long, long way. JJ by this point was very thirsty. He somehow has managed to refuse to drink anything but a certain flavour of smoothie, so his last drink had been that morning and he was refusing water. So he was tearful and I spent an hour or so in the back of the car singing him to sleep. While Matt did the driving.

As we approached Paris we realised that our map was inadequate and before too long we were hopelessly lost. JJ and Mip woke up and were crying, I ended up with them both on my lap still singing to them and desperately trying to get JJ to drink some water and poor Matt was trying to navigate without a map reader. Eventually, about midnight he stopped at a cafe to ask for directions. There was lots of pointing right and saying ‘gauche’, so he set off right. Five minutes later we were hopelessly lost again. Suddenly a car shot past us on a roundabout with a gesticulating Frenchman hanging out of the window. “I’ve seen him before” said Matt, which seemed unlikely to me, but it turned out to be a man from the cafe who must have seen us set off in the wrong direction and followed us. He set us right (or gauche) and by 1am with no more major problems we found our hotel. We had phoned from Rouen to say that we would be running late, so they had left the key out for us.

We carried the children up to our room – a bunk, a single and a double with a caravan style shower room – with much relief, and slept very thoroughly.

For future reference:

  1. Check travel news before travelling,
  2. Take enough travel games for a ferry trip
  3. Make sure everyone is able to drink water,
  4. Take a proper map.