That’s how Dave finally summed up our massive landmark after half an hour of trekking through the city in its direction. What he was attempting to describe was the curious tendency of Gustave Eiffel’s Iron Lady to seem so close, yet be another five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes away.
But we did finally make it to check out La dame de fer (Iron Lady) with a baguette, sandwich grec, and wine in hand. Sadly, the baby was not interested in partaking in any of the preceding. I’m not sure that we would have had the wherewithal to oblige her had she asked, as we were famished thanks to our morning’s flight and afternoon city hike. Plus, Dave read a sign that said consuming libations at the Champ de Mars was interdit (forbidden.) Plus plus, the baby is a baby and not only can she not ask for these things, she cannot have them. That’s a free tip for those of you readers who aren’t new moms and dads.
Back to the story: after months of thinking “Our departure date will never arrive!” we were quite surprised when August 28th arrived right on schedule. Never able to sleep before a big trip, I got little rest but I sure hope Dave got some good sleep. Otherwise I’m not sure how much his excuse for being a grump is going to hold up in court. Anyway, we planned to leave at 6 in the morning from Cocoa to Miami for a few reasons: I’m not sure what they were. Things like “traffic” and “potential car problems” and “Murphy” were mentioned, but Murphy and I are good friends so I didn’t buy into any of those concerns.
So we left at a quarter to eight for Miami, where our direct flight would deliver us overnight to France the next morning. I’m joking about not wanting to leave early, people- but the closer a deadline comes, the slower I seem to be able to move. And yet, it is very nearly the only way I get out of the door for trips. Ah, the gifts of a procrastinator. I’ll tell you more about them later.
My Dad drove David, Adelaide, our Dog Soleil and I down to Miami. The plan was for him to drop us all off and to see us to the gate, but were anything unlucky to happen, he would be there if we needed to go back to Cocoa or pick anything up or just play with the Grandbaby one more time. He was particularly useful at that last chore until they both fell asleep in the back of the car. Obviously he had switched with another driver at this point. It was me. And no, that did not last long. Dave took over and did marvelously. Thanks honey! I can’t drive that truck, it’s scary!
Well, something unlucky did happen: The sun. Literally. Soleil (sun) was not allowed to come to France with us on our flight because of the sun (sun.) It was just too hot. :-( It is an understatement to say that Dave’s heart is broken over this. Mine is as well, but I am just too relieved that she was not stuck in a crate for hours on end in the almost-too-hot-to-travel weather to be disappointed for long. We will be reunited again, my sweet puppy! Until then, swim happily in the pool and rip up Mom and Dad’s yard. (Not really Dad! She’s only a dog and I’m trying to comfort her simple brain. Also I don’t think she has internet access, so don’t worry about her seeing this.)
We said goodbye to my sweet dog and my sweet Dad at the airport at 4:00 p.m. to go through security for our 5:50 flight.
OK! OK! OOK! I cried, alright! I cried. I always cry at Baptisms and moving days and chopped onions/ I think everyone else did, too. It was a wonderful moment where Dad prayed over Dave and Adelaide and I and I will absolutely never forget it. We hugged and kissed and hugged again, then we picked up our bags, turned around and Dad was nowhere to be seen. It was just a personal reminder of how quickly life goes by- even at the airport, where things never seem to happen quickly enough.
And oh how true that became in a matter of moments. First came when David tried to check his bike as his primary checked bag, and the airline staff wanted to charge his for a sports item. The website explained that if a sports item is the primary checked item, it would not incur a fee. Well, that wasn’t exactly the case; it just wouldn’t incur a second bag fee. We were still charged $150 for the bike.
Then going through luggage check, my carry on bag was flagged. Whaaa? What could it be? An overlooked safety pin or forgettable bottle cap of come sort, perhaps a harmless conditioner bottle? NOPE! It was ALL OF THE WINE WE’RE BRINGING TO THE SAUVAGES!!!!! (My French host family from 2006.) Danggit. DANGGIT!!!! I had swapped my carryon and my checked bag at the last second because I thought traveling would be easier that way- but I forgot to move the wine. This wine is special because each of the three bottles is from a different region in Florida that is special to David and me. No, it is not special because we are bringing Florida wine to the French, although I can kind of see where you would think that. Just humor me here.
So David had to run back and check our bag… for an extra checked bag fee. Yay Dave! Grr bag fee. $210 in fees later, Dave summed it up this way: “They abuse us and then expect us to thank them for it.” No thanks!
On to our gate! Baby Girl at this point was being fantastic- especially in light of her own trials she was undergoing. Out of concern that her ears would be in constant pain for nearly 9 hours straight if she didn’t drink or nurse during take off, David and I decided to move her dinner time back an hour so that she would be sure to eat when we needed her to. She didn’t even complain. What a champ!
You can imagine my nerves when, as a crowd of 200 French and American people grew ever testier as 5:40 rolled around, the airline staff announced that our flight was delayed to 6:15. OK, 6:15 is not so bad, that’s only 25 minutes later than planned, and Baby Girl wasn’t even showing signs of hunger. She was happy to keep playing on her blanket.
Then we were delayed to 6:30. Baby girl didn’t raise an eyebrow.
Delayed to 7:00.
Delayed to 7:30.
Delayed to 8:00!
I fed her then. At this point, I was frustrated. That doesn’t even begin to cover how David felt. Here, let me provide a direct quote for your convenience: “I’m never flying American Airlines again in my life! I don’t care what direct flight they offer. They are lying to us, keeping us in the dark! They knew that plane wasn’t fit to fly, and yet they just made us wait while they said they swapped planes and this is the same plane! It’s not like we need to plan for anything! They are just abusing us and expecting us to thank them for it! Roar Roar Roar!” And rightfully so. We didn’t board until past 10:00, the whole time getting updates every half an hour that minor delays were pushing back our boarding time.
Sheesh! The good news is that I fed her and then they delayed us SO FAR BACK I was able to feed her again during take off with no problem. She was a champ! As an in lap infant, it got pretty hot, but we were never uncomfortable. That is, unless either of us wanted to sleep. I didn’t want to budge an inch if she was asleep and, well, you don’t really have an option of sleeping if your kid isn’t asleep, too. At first David and I were planning on opening the behind-the-seat tray and laying her on that flat surface, but right before we left, the passenger in front of me adjusted her chair. I had visions of flying babies. In my lap she would stay!
And really, there is nothing to report here, because Adelaide was amazing. We even cloth diapered her the whole time, just sticking the used ones in her need-to-be-washed dipes bag. She just smiled at everyone and drank more apple juice than she ever has in her life, and either she is immune to pain or the strategic bottle-feeding and nursing did the trick when it came to adjusting the press in her ears. Or that is her superpower. Uh, it was definitely the strategic eating. That would be a lame-o superpower.
We didn’t feel as though we got any rest, but the flight seemed to end much quicker than if 8 whole hours had gone by. Honestly, it felt like 3. Perhaps that is because I had a baby in my arms… she was wonderful. (She is interested in shiny plastic and necklaces, so the few toys we brought were completely overlooked for shiny trash and jewelry. High tastes that little girl has.)
After we landed and sailed through customs avec pas de problèmes (with no problem) we hailed a taximan from Haiti who took us and our mountain of stuff to our hotel, where we checked in around 3:00. Now, this is the point where we got hungry- super, super hungry. The flight didn’t feed us anything filling, apparently, so we went off to scrounge up our own food, and that is how we wound up half-crazed of low blood sugar and exhaustion in front of the Eiffel Tower. (Baby girl was spared the low blood sugar and exhaustion, as evidenced by her smiles, frequent sleeping and robust eating.)
We have two days before orientation begins for my Graduate School, the American University of Paris. It’s our goal to secure an apartment before then (we’d had leads but been nearly scammed online, more on that later. Seriously, that’s not a procrastination joke.) So for now, we’re just getting our bearings. I hope you’ll follow our little adventures here- and if you’re reading this and you are family or friends, know that you are missed A TON! Survive Hurricane season, OK? Have any of you readers ever done an international move? Do you remember anything about the flight? What didn’t you bring that you regretted? What did you bring that absolutely was a waste of space? Did you travel with kids? I’d love for this to be a travel forum… À la prochaine,