We left Thursday from Amsterdam. Because we needed a big honking vehicle, we had to rent the car from a renatl agengy out by the airport. Holy crap, I clearly have never purchased a car in my life because I had no clue they made cars like this. It is a Ford S Max, which had three whole seats in the back, critical if you have a baby inbetween two adults. We have loads of space for all of our kiddo/adult crap, and good comfortable seats in front and back.
Because this is the first road trip we've done with an infant we decided to break up the normally 8+ hour drive into steps and also try to see some of France along the way. What are some lessons we learned? We, do bring lots of toys to distract kiddos who aren't used to sitting in cars. Also bring all the baby kit you think you need because you will need it and more. You will need to budget about x2 more time for pit stops to change nappies and let Munchkins wave arms and legs. Oh and forget about schedules- you need to let go of all that. Pay attention to needs and rhythms- Munchkin at nearly 8 months needs sleep and food more or less every 3 hours during the day. She is also in the middle of what is turning out to be epic teething (now three confirmed, more lurking under the surface), so a lot of other stuff like sleeping has been thrown out the window as well.
Day by day: left Thursday, stopped twice over +5 hrs and overnighted in Reims, which is a really lovely little city. Our big stress about this trip has been what to do with babies at dinner. First night we were not brave. We could not conceive of her in a resto with us. We were still stuck on a schedule-mentality. OH volunteered to stay with Munchkin and get room service and the rest of us went to a nearby bistro for what turned out to be the best meal of the trip, big salads with lots of unhealthy things on them. I had chicken liver and fried potato, very nice.
Munchkin did not sleep well, getting over a cold and beginning what turned out to be mega-teething. Friday we wandered about Riems, having very good weather, then did the rest of the journey to the chateau. I have to say the rest stops on the major French autoroutes have been uniformly good, all having well stocked baby rooms. We got in too late to join the chateau folks for dinner but caught the tail end, enough to say goodnight and find out our excellent friends K and I of Utrecht are also pregnant! And, less excitingly, our baby monitor could not penetrate the chateau walls. Mega boo.
Saturday we were the first awake and downstairs for breakfast (yeah for parent hours) after another rough night. Munchkin had a raging fever which thankfully dissipated quickly with some baby paracetemol. OH is feeling a bit rough. We spend most of the day after catching up with people over breakfast shopping for baby stuff. In the past we've not had a car of our own so it's nice to be able to get around. There are also a record number attendees at the chateau this year, something like 30. In the past we've helped a lot with the preparation but so many non-baby, non-pregnant hands free we are surpuflous. We try to be useful by staying out of the way and after shopping we swing through La Chatres for late lunch.
The big thing at the chateau is a fancy dress party the night before Easter. Fancy dress = costume. This year the theme is burlesque. W has outdone herself, sewing a mega-preggo corset looking top. The rest of our group are opting for cop-out, renting costumes. I have a burlesquey enough looking jacket top, which I pair with hoochy-mama skirt and shoes I've managed to pick up for 14 Eur the lot. We devised a clever plan to get around the baby monitor range issue; remove walls. O and W kindly let us put the Munchkin down in their room, which is just above the party dining room. We have a uber-light travel cot which looks and functions just like a tent. It's not ideal because rolling babies tend to get stuck in the corners, but it is very light and easy to transport.
Getting Munchkin down for the night is a huge pain in the ass. On top of it, OH is feeling worse so I am flying solo as he tries to get a restorative nap in before the festivities begin. I have actually devised a totally adorable baby-burlesque outfit, which lasts a total of about 30 seconds before Munchkin pukes all over it. More fever and fussiness, followed by more medicine, food, and an hour and a half of wrestling finally gets her down. It's amazingly stressful but she sleeps through the whole party and even tolerates the late-evening transfer back to our bedroom without much fuss. Doesn't stop her from waking up many times afterwards but we are able to enjoy the party.
Sunday sees the parents up again first, of course! We have now been to the chateau for three Easters, so we know the routine. There is an awesome egg hunt in the forest behind the tennis courts. Munchkin enjoys the nature and manages to stay awake through most of the lunch afterwards. Unfortunately we can't stay long after lunch because we are planning to break our return into two stops. First stop: a backroads scenic route for a nostagia visit to Amboise. I spent a student year abroad in Amboise and it's been about 16 years since I've been back. The chateau is the same but 90% of the center of town is different. New shops, more touristy than the town already was. I am excited to find the two families I stayed with in town are still at their same addresses. As is the creperie I likes though we don't get a chance to eat there.
OH is feeling totally crap by now. We find our B and B, in a troglodyte which is a house build out of natural caves in the limestone sheer face hills. Very beautiful and clever but the lack of sunlight is a bit depressing. OH stays in and we three take Munchkin for our first evening out with baby. Verdict: survivable. Definitely pick a busy resto with plenty of other kiddos so crying blends in. Managed to get the Munchkin down relatively painlessly with booby and enjoy the meal.
Rest of the trip I'll have to catch up on tomorrow, my fingers are going to fall off typing on this tiny keyboard.