What do you do when you have emptied the freezer and fridge because the electricians are playing with the electrics in your house and everything in the house is more “off” than “on”, your kids are on their Easter break and you can’t negotiate most of the house because of all the work in progress?
You run away to France of course.
We have friends in France and for the last three years Himself and I have made short long weekend trips there, combining a little business with pleasure and making sure that we stopped by three families that Himself has kept contact with over many years.
Each time in the last three years they have complained that our children have not accompanied us, so last year we promised them that next trip they would.
With one thousand kilometers of distance between us it was not a road trip we really relished making with kids, but it was time for them to prove that they could be a bit more grown up in the back seat and to get used to the idea that if they could sit still in an aeroplane for fourteen hours at a stretch, it was about time they proved that they could do six hours or so in a car.
I needed to get permission to take Annual Leave and to travel since I am still recovering from my accident and still only working part-time, and we needed to figure out how I could travel with my foot raised as much as possible. We managed to sort and solve both issues by hiring a van for the trip since our very little car is both too small and too old to be reliably gallivanting around on such long distance travels.
A few years ago I bought two little magical boxes… they are called Nintendo DS’s and they live in a special drawer, only coming out as our “travel toys” . Our kids may pine, doe eyed for them the rest of the time, but sorry, in our house they are let out only for long distance plane and car trips.
The novelty and excitement factor of even getting their paws back on these is guaranteed to keep the kids busy (and silent!) for several hours or more and whilst the traditional game of “I spy” would be far more educational, I have found that on a practical level these little machines produce less stress and more family harmony in the end.
Modern motorways have evolved into busy mega traffic-moving corridors with man-made or organic barriers for soundproofing and rarely made with great scenery in mind and after all, there are only so many “T is for truck“ in the I spy game that you can handle. Thus I bow to modern technology and Nintendo comes to the rescue of parental sanity.
Since the kids have a half-day school on the Friday, we have the car packed and ready and with a chilly bin (that’s a.k.a. “cooler”, “cool-box” or an “esky” to some of you) we head out into Dutch Friday traffic.
Trying to get through Dutch and Belgium traffic on a Friday afternoon may or may not have been the wisest travel plan we have ever made, but the hope was that they would be less of a problem than the dreaded Paris Ring Road.
The Paris Ring Road is monster of a road that inhales vast volumes of motorised vehicles and reduces their speed to close to zero for the duration of it’s length. Himself and I have had the dubious pleasure in the past of crawling though it’s mass of choked lanes at a snails pace and wasting hour after hour of our lives on it, usually looking up the backside of a large truck…
…but at various intervals the beast breathes a little and this massive artery whooshes traffic though in a respectable time so we were trying to gamble that if we could survive the “relative” small madness of traffic-jams of the big cities of the Netherlands and Belgium leading there, that we would be passing the Paris beast in time to be sucked though it during one of these quieter traffic windows.
We progress steadily south… passing the old border posts between The Netherlands and Belgium and those of Belgium and France, the kids do some plane spotting when we pass by Orly airport, and later, Paris’s bigger airport Charles de Gaulle.
There are a few childish squalls in the backseat, but they are tiny waterspout moments rather than the whirlwind wars of the past and we have to make allowances for normal evening tiredness, so all things considered we are doing well.
The Paris Ring Road sucks us in… with the pulse of traffic exiting and entering, we go slow, then faster… fortunately the Parisian dinner hour is soon approaching and the traffic thins accordingly, speeding our way… we are exhaled by this beast of a road on the other side and start looking for a bed for the night.