Saturday, 6 September 2014

J'adore France... and other things I learnt this holiday

Dissertation done (finally!) and after a brief séjour - of basically a day and a half - in Spain, we were on our way to France, for the first family holiday since Eldest Martini was born in 2009. Well, if you do keep getting pregnant and having a child under the age of one, it does hinder your travelling capabilities significantly.

But, with those days well and truly behind us, we set off in the ridiculously large very spacious people carrier, complete with packed roof box, without a backward glance.

It was fantastic. Good food, good wine - what's not to love? We're already planning next year's adventure. Any advice? I hear you ask. But, of course:

1. Just because you're in control, doesn't mean the journey is stress free. 

Especially if you travel with Mr. Martini. Four children under the age of 5? No problem. (Although having Frozen on constant repeat did get tiresome.) Endless requirements for loo stops? The French serve wine at service stations, so bring it on. No, the problems came in the form on Mr. M. being in charge of petrol. In short, his massive miscalculation meant we had a very stressful 30 minutes without a petrol station in sight, and us basically hoping the fumes (we were well past the empty sign on the gauge) would get us through. They did, but this was far more luck than judgement. Needless to say, I was in charge of deciding when to stop for petrol from this point onwards. 

2. Ensure you have WiFi (or, at the very least, an internet connection)
And ideally, get hold of some bluetooth speakers for either your phone or tablet too. The home comforts of spotify, netflix and iPlayer saved us on several occasions. 

3. Sticker books are quite possibly the best invention in the world. Ever.

Nannie Martini had the remarkable foresight to prepare 'activity packs' for the three eldest Mini Martinis - which included pencil cases and a range of colouring books, sticker books and pads. Granny Martini also provided some sticker books. And Aunty Martini (aka my sister) sent a whole load of stickers and other treats from Japan. To be honest, I've never seen concentration from the kids. I doubt we could recreate it at home, however hard we tried. 

4. Day trips are essential

My ideal holiday would be lying by a pool in 40 degree heat, alternating between dozing and reading. I have to face the reality: this is unlikely to happen until all the children have stopped coming on holiday with us. They, apparently, aren't quite so keen to laze about doing nothing all day. So, plan some day trips you can all enjoy. We went to the Aquarium in La Rochelle, which was phenomenal  (look at the size of the tank below) and kept everyone entertained all day. Sun loungers: I will return one day, but not for a while. 

5. Try and get a babysitter for the evening - just to remember what the old days were like
We were lucky - the caretaker was an ex-pat and has three kids of her own (slightly older than ours, but young enough for her to remember!), and she came highly recommended. So, we treated ourselves to a couple of grown-ups only dinners at very French restaurants, and gorged on cheese, steak and wine. Just remember that the children will still be up, bright eyed and bushy tailed at the crack of dawn the next day!

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