You may be beginning to wonder if this is a travel blog rather than a baby blog, but maternity leave is too good an opportunity to go travelling (limited funds allowing) since when else can you travel for weeks on end without worrying about whether you’ll have enough annual leave left to cover Christmas? So when Fred declared that he wanted to visit his clients in Rio de Janeiro and asked if we wanted to tag along and extend the trip to have a few days holiday, there didn’t seem much sense in declining.
Brazil would give Elphie a third continent before her first birthday. It would also continue to provide material, to traumatise her with in later life, of photos of her living it up in exotic locations that she can’t remember while staycationing in Bognor for the rest of her childhood to avoid paying full price airfares once she hits two. So Fred booked the flights and hotel on Tuesday night and we were on the aeroplane by midday on Thursday.
It was only once on the aeroplane that it really hit me what we’d signed up for – the flight direct to Rio was 11.5 hours and we were doing it in the middle of the day with little miss never-nap. This could be a long flight.
By the time you read this, we will be concluding a weekend away in Paris with Pip. Hopefully it will have been more oh la la than oh no.
We had a wonderful trip to the City of Love last Spring which you can read about here and here. Luckily I had my bump and a ridiculous woolly poncho to keep me warm as it even snowed at one point (at the end of March!) but the forecast seems a lot more reasonable this time around. Apart from the weather, there is one other aspect of our 2014 trip that will make a significant difference: the addition of a third holiday companion who while much smaller than his parents is infinitely more demanding!
We are only there for three nights this time, over Easter weekend, and in order to ensure we get the most out of our trip as possible a bit of forward thinking is required. For Christmas Mr Cath gave me the book Paris with Children, and the following has been gleaned from that and from some helpful websites. Most tips I found can apply to any city break, and there is also a bit of overlap with Elly’s New York pointers. As with last year we are renting an apartment – this time with a proper separate bedroom rather than just a partition. This way we can put Pip to bed in one room then have dinner in the other.
Paris seems a particular challenge for many families, and I found reams of off-putting articles such as this Telegraphone entitled “Paris with children: a city that is terrible for ‘les enfants'” and another warning “Paris, France – not so baby friendly”. I’m grateful that others have shared their experiences, however bad they were, as it means that hopefully our break can be less stressful. There are recurring themes such as a lack of baby-friendly places and transport nightmares that we can try and be as prepared as possible for.
Without further ado, here are my pre-Paris-preparations:
There’s nothing like a spontaneous holiday – hopping in the car and driving somewhere, looking up hotels en route and hoping they are still serving dinner when you get there (or you can find the local Chinese takeaway before it closes if they are not – but I digress).
Some say that such spontaneity is impossible once you have a baby as they require so much clobber. Well “Pah!” I say to that. If your sense of adventure is still intact then anything is possible with a bit of ingenuity and a Tesco Extra.
Pip’s sleeping has, I think, been pretty average on the whole: he seems to fit somewhere in between the “good sleepers” and “bad sleepers” of our acquaintance, although it is hard to compare as most babies his age seem to be at least combination fed these days. Being an optimist by nature, I have lost count of the evenings I have gone to bed thinking tonight would be the night he would sleep through, only to be inevitably dragged out of bed in the small hours (repeated disappointment is one side effect Pollyanna never mentioned). We went through a golden spell of him only waking once in 11-12 hours, but since January, things seemed to have gone backwards and we decided it was time to try and do something about it. By the way, when I say sleep through, I mean going down at 7pm and sleeping until 6-7am – none of this five hours business, I aim high!
Both Mr Cath and I find Pip’s crying very upsetting so traditional sleep training was out of the question. The key, we agreed, was night weaning, that is, teaching Pip that he did not need to breastfeed any more at night. When he fed it was only for a few minutes and it was clearly a comfort rather than a nutrition thing. What would happen if and when night weaning was successful was something we could deal with later! In February we briefly tried a couple of nights of Mr Cath going in and comforting Pip but it was a disaster: we did not anticipate the crying that would result, and more often than not I ended up feeding him anyway which made the whole thing pointless and frustrating. Then Mr Cath was ill (which may or may not have been related to his recent night traumas), then Pip was ill, then one thing led to another and it was March and I was still waking a few times every night to breastfeed Pip.
While we resolve our technical issues chez Cath – laptop cable went kaput and it’s of a vintage where the battery alone is not an option – here is a video to entertain you in the absence of a proper post. I will tell you all about night weaning as soon as I can, I promise!