The long haul

Practice does not make perfect when it comes to flying. No matter how many times you fly between NZ and Europe – and we’ve been fortunate to do that route many times – it does not get any easier.

We were up at 6am on the day of departure, with a long list of tasks to get through by 7.30am when we’d booked two taxis to collect us (why two taxis you ask? Long and ugly story. Don’t make me go there.) Every minute was used twice over, and we were still going when the taxis arrived. Nevertheless, it all came together, and we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Even better, the suitcases were accepted without any questions of weight.

We all survived the first leg to Singapore well, though we did not have a bassinet for Nicholas. This is always a matter of frustration. Despite booking our flights 9 months ago and requesting a seat by the bassinets, checking constantly about bassinet availability, and Nick being clearly the youngest baby on board, we were told that it had been allocated already. Imagine our reaction when it appeared to be occupied by a mother with a child way too big for the bassinet. He must have been under two as he did not have his own seat – but barely. While I stood, jiggling Nick to sleep in the aisle, she used that bassinet to store food trays and rubbish while nursing the enormous child on her lap. Fortunately I work for the diplomatic service, or bassinet wars may have commenced in earnest.

Tiredness set in as we started the second flight – the long 13-hour haul. We all got some sleep at Singapore airport – but only enough to make us feel seedy. So the flight did not start off on a good footing. Unfortunately we then had air turbulence from northern India to the Caspian Sea – several hours flying. Three of us, and many others on the flight, were overcome by motion sickness. You know it’s bad when the stewards have to strap themselves in and are therefore unable to assist the sick passengers. Coup de grace – vomit on landing in Paris. Lights out, everyone stuck in seats, and not a sick bag or a tissue in sight. The spare change of clothes in boys’ hand luggage came in handy!

Apart from that, the arrival at Charles de Gaulle was smooth. We had fast passage through border control thanks to baby Nicholas, so avoided the long queues. All our luggage arrived safely, in good condition, thank goodness. The transition of us and luggage through to the RER was OK, with just one relay system required when we could not take the trolleys any further and could not carry all the luggage in one go. The older boys were great. Very helpful towing suitcases and loading up with backpacks.

Finally a 90-minute trip on the RER B, but all the way from end to end, so no interchanges required. Worse was the nutter on the platform at Charles de Gaulle thrown in just to ensure it was an authentic French experience. From what I could tell, the guy had some beef against America and had taken offence at the mock American flag T-shirt Tom was wearing courtesy of Gap New York. So we had anti-American insults hurled at us at increasing volume as we attempted to retreat down the platform without engaging.

After we negotiated around technical issues with our mobile phones, we were pleased to be collected at the other end of the RER by friends, and it only remained to survive the day without falling asleep.

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