Here’s a strange and surprising statement: I think my kids (ages 3 and 9 months) are actually at the perfect age for travelling.
Two days ago, I never would have dreamed I’d say that. Perhaps I won’t be singing the same tune after three weeks of this. But our flight from Toronto to Paris was far from being the nightmare I was expecting and dreading; in fact, it was surprisingly great. The baby was just small enough to sleep in the bassinet, so he stayed unconscious for most of the trip. The 3-year-old is just old enough to understand rational explanations (whether he chooses to is another matter) and know what’s going on. He was happy to eat his chicken fingers, play with dinky toys, and curl up on the seat to sleep. They slept; we did not.
The other great thing about travelling with kids is the doors for opportunity that their presence opens. For instance, we got priority boarding; the kids’ food came faster; we were allowed to keep liquids (“parce-que c’est pour le bébé, hein?”) that otherwise would have been confiscated. Most successful of all was our son’s total and utter seduction of a flight attendant between Paris and Zagreb which resulted in her insisting on taking him and my 15-year-old brother (our in-house babysitter for the duration of the trip) into the cockpit to meet the pilots.
So far, the toughest part of having the kids with us is sleep-related. They’re overtired and overstimulated, which prevents them from sleeping. They’re both so used to having a rigid routine, and the baby is trained to put himself to sleep in a bed, that neither seems capable of simply falling asleep in my arms. Our attempts at enforcing a much-needed afternoon nap upon arrival in our rental apartment resulted in a full-blown tantrum that culminated in our son screaming, “I never want to travel again!” His two frustrated parents immediately burst out laughing.
An evening stroll through Jelacic Square revealed the beautiful Austro-Hungarian architecture that fills the downtown core of Zagreb. The parks are old, with towering white-trunked maple trees of impressively huge girths and magnificent fountains. Café culture is dominant — makes me pretty pleased — and everywhere I look there are comfortable outdoor chairs or wicker sofas, complete with spotless white cushions, surrounding little coffee tables and shaded by umbrellas. These cafés are crowded with elegantly dressed Croatians, chattering away in their gurgly, swishy, vowel-deficient Slavic language, and also offer prime vantage points for further people-watching.
We sat and watched the people, dressed stylishly and impressively. Some women navigate the cobblestones like pros in six-inch heels. Silk and lace seemed to be everywhere. My brother stammered around and turned slightly red when my husband asked how the view compares to his small-town high school. Our espressos were thick and sweet, the heat of the day still lingered in the air, a street performer clad entirely in leopard skin made a crowd laugh, a lone woman (also wearing high heels) sat on a monument and played haunting gypsy music on her saxophone, and a nearly full moon rose above the church spires. We shared a cup of tiramisu gelato as we wandered home to make our supper, baby finally asleep in the carrier, little boy worn out in the stroller.
Wow, does it ever feel good to be travelling again…