On the back of yesterday’s post, I thought I’d share with you the journey of my first trip abroad.
I went to France when I was just six weeks old. It was a special occasion for Grandma and Grandpa, so we all went to stay in a big house in Normandy. All my cousins were there too, and it was a great chance for me to get to know them a bit better.
Sadly, Daddy wasn’t able to get time off work, so he kissed me and Mummy goodbye, told us to have a good time, and said he’d look forward to peace and quiet and long lie-ins while we were gone. The last thing he said to Grandma was “make sure you’ve got your European breakdown cover sorted.” You already know where this is going, don’t you?
We got on a bit boat to take us from Southampton to Caen and then we had another drive before we got to the house. It was a long day because we had to keep stopping. My fault. I was still nursing every four hours and if I didn’t eat on the dot of 240 minutes, there was a riot. I don’t take kindly to being left waiting.
Everyone was getting a bit tired and grumpy. They’d all had an early start too, and they just wanted to get to the house and get settled in. We were in two cars, trying not to lose sight of the other, and trying to navigate in a foreign land. Whilst driving on the right for the first time. Mummy is pretty well-travelled but she’s never had to drive on the wrong side before. I don’t think my feedback at high volume helped with the general mood.
Then the warning light came on the dashboard. A quick consultation with the manual suggested we could continue, but at a vastly reduced speed. A quick call to the others in front and both cars continued, limping along at a snail’s pace. At about 5km out (they don’t measure distances miles sur le continent) the others pulled off to the side of the road and stopped, hazards on. Who would have given odds of both cars breaking down en route. (I’m really getting in the lingo!)
It was at this point that the fun and games really started. We, and I say we because any one of us (the grown-ups really, but I don’t want to point fingers) could have checked the breakdown cover, yet no-one had. It was getting dark, we didn’t know where we were, our command of the language would be just about enough to get us directions to the library, and to top it off, it was gone 6pm on a Sunday evening so nothing was open.
So began the bickering and veiled insults reserved solely for loved ones on a family holiday. One car could hobble on, but both cars were absolutely full to bursting with luggage, food and associated stuff we didn’t need to bring. The Great Balloon Debate began, everyone arguing their case for a space in the working car to stumble onwards, with the losers having to wait on the roadside for the driver to return.
Mummy went a bit primal at that point. I don’t think anything would have stopped her getting herself and her baby in that car! Needless to say, we got there first.
The house was incredible. Just stunning. Called La Brasserie, it was exactly what you’d imagine a traditional French farmhouse to be, and very sympathetically decorated. My cousins quickly thawed the atmosphere when they arrived and the party was all together again in a way that only children can, and we started the holiday properly the next day.
I didn’t take pictures of the broken cars on the roadside, or the cross grown-ups arguing. My picture is of Mont St Michel, which we visited a couple of days later. It was quite something! It’s a proper little town with shops and restaurants, and as I was travelling in my sling, I got a close-up view of it all. I don’t think the buggy would have fitted through some of those narrow little streets. Mummy always wanted to visit MSM, so she’s ticked it off her list now. That and the Bayeaux Tapestry, but I slept through that.