I'm not sure if I was high on placenta, over-euphoric (read: insane) after Liv's birth or just really bored of the four walls that I had barely left for the last few months of my pregnancy, but within a few weeks of giving birth I decided to travel and booked a plane trip to go and visit my sister-in-law in Aix-en-Provence.
You will think I'm a certified lunatic when I tell you that I was planning this endeavour alone, sort-of (my husband couldn't take the time off work, but my brother-in-law and his girlfriend were going to be there and fly to France with us). I was flying back solo, avec the two time bombs.
Even though getting on an aeroplane with a newborn may seem like an exercise in extreme masochism (and torture for everyone else in your close proximity), from past experience I've learnt that it's actually one of the best times to travel with your baby since there is no excess paraphernalia and the breast solves most issues. I was more worried about my ever-curious, occasionally hyperactive two-and-a-half year old.
After loading up on the essentials (puzzle books, snacks and princess mags) and making it to the airport on our own (the brother-in-law and girlfriend who were meant to help out arrived late and ticket-less, although they were wonderful and very helpful from that point on), Diana wowed me. She was polite, enthusiastic and easily entertained throughout the flight, and when we landed in Marseille, she eagerly and over-ambitiously shrieked: 'We're in New York! Yay!'
In fact, D's travel persona in the south of France only improved with our stay. She was called "sage" (calm) and "éveillé," (engaged, curious) two words which made me particularly proud since I was reading French Children Don't Throw Food at the time and those are apparently the highest compliments a French child can hope for. Liv was also mostly happy, suckling and not-sleeping her way around the ice cream parlours and glorious squares.
Our trip was such a success, marred only by the flight back, where I was seated in the middle of a group of twenty 15-year-old students and didn't feel I could confidently breastfeed (it doesn't help that I speak French), that I suggested to my husband that we go back. And that he join this time.
Aix part two gives new meaning to the expression "Quit while you're ahead." It was still lovely, but the girls not so much. We had to leave for the airport at 5am, which threw D's sleeping schedule off from the beginning since she wasn't able to nap and refused to go to bed until we did, so she was increasingly exhausted (and tantrum-y) each day.
On the plus side, she was potty trained at this point, which did make travelling with a toddler a million times easier, though it did little to abate the endless floods of tears in every square, restaurant and shop.
Liv, similarly, was not too thrilled. At five months, she was at her most irritable, on very little sleep and not really able to get her fill from solids (I've since discovered that her demon-like alter-ego has been partly related to desperately wanting food but being too young to actually consume anything other than breast milk or formula, which she continues to refuse).
Smelly cheese and gooey pâté, while divine, can only go so far when an entire family is cranky and overtired, and one or the other of the girls would throw a full fit each time we tried to sit down anywhere by our fourth (and thankfully, last) day.
So we packed up our things, bid au revoir to Aix and headed to the Marseille airport - but not early enough, apparently (OK, not early enough for me to get the caffeine fix from the airport Starbucks that I insisted on, which delayed us by 10 minutes).
After waiting on the security queue for over an hour and being no closer to getting to our flight (at this point, boarding had begun), my husband took initiative and got us to the front of the queue, which meant another roughly 20 minute wait, so he sent me ahead with the girls to the passport check.
When he finally emerged with our belongings (the entire flight was held up so we were OK in the end), I noticed that some of our crucial hand luggage essentials were missing, including Diana's shoes, Liv's Bjorn carrier and my jacket.
"A bunch of items were stuck on the other side of the X-ray machine," my husband explained.
I glanced at the brown paper bag of croissants that he'd managed to salvage instead of most of our travel belongings and raised an eyebrow. With the help of the BA flight coordinator we managed to get hold of the stuff and onto our flight just in time, clutching our children and our pain au chocolat dearly.
Needless to say, we're not planning any more flights for awhile, and going away with two under three requires more stamina and mental strength than either of us can manage at this point.
Amazing as fresh-baked French pastries are, and lovely as it was to see the girls' wonderful auntie, we returned to London frazzled, exhausted... and - you guessed it - in need of a holiday.