Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Travel journal: Thoughts on traveling with kids

We are traveling now. Last Tuesday we flew to Paris, and spent a few days there with friends, and then we all took the train to Amsterdam to see the tulips (I will post eleventy frillion flower photos later on). This morning, Brian, the girls, and I flew to Zurich, and we’ll be here a few days before returning to Paris.

Brian asked me this evening, “Are we doing thing wrong? We aren’t doing most of the things in the guidebooks. Are we supposed to wait until they’re older?” My instinct was to say no and wave him off, but the subject had been on my mind as well.

Traveling with the kids can be exhausting. There was their jetlag to contend with as well as our own. Adriana is in an age of being very picky, which can make eating out a bit of a challenge, and in Amsterdam grocery shopping became interesting. No crispy rice cereal? No Cheerios? Most of the breakfast cereals were laden with sugar. We are constantly thinking about snacks and meals to make sure we avoid the blood sugar-induced meltdowns that the kids (okay and we) are so prone to.

But other things are wonderful with them. I explained pointillism and Seurat to Adriana in the Musee D’Orsay, and watched her face as she studied Starry Night Over the Rhone, which was familiar to her from a Van Gogh book we have at home. Last night Lyra chatted up a tram driver, who had seemed grouchy when we first boarded but was soon smiling and talking to Lyra. As we waited to take off this morning, the flight attendants brought around small chocolate bars for everyone. "Mmmmm...toc-a-wit. What a wuv-a-wee suh-pwize!" Lyra said, and gave the flight attendant such a brilliant smile that he handed her a second one.

Today was an easy day. In Paris we were jetlagged and overwhelmed. In Amsterdam we walked around shivering in the cold and rain. After our flight this morning, we spent the time getting settled (into our third IKEA-stocked rental apartment in our third country in a week). That was exactly the kind of day we needed. We explored a bit within a small radius of our apartment here, got lunch and coffee, bought some groceries. I was baffled by German. Brian and I raised our eyebrows at how expensive everything is here. Both girls have had colds, and I wanted to pick up some more children’s Tylenol, so I went into the pharmacy around the corner.*

It’s not the kind of day that’s in the guidebooks, but I felt so happy as I walked along the Limmat holding Lyra’s hand and listening to her talk about her friend Toby, breathing in the cold air, eavesdropping on bits of conversation that I couldn’t understand. I’m glad we’re traveling now. I’m glad that we ran around doing touristy things in Paris and Amsterdam. I’m glad that tomorrow while Brian goes into the office here, the girls and I will go to the park to blow bubbles and watch boats on the river. I’m glad that we’re going to write postcards together and figure out the post office here. In the next few days we’ll go to the zoo and take a boat ride around the lake and maybe even take a look at Chagall’s windows in Fraum√ľnster if the kids are on good behavior or if we feel like taking turns staying outside with them while the other one goes in to look around. It’s not on any of the guidebook itineraries, but I think it will be fun.

*Children’s paracetamol in Switzerland apparently only comes in suppository form, so I bought some ibuprofen syrup instead. I feel as though I could do a great favor for the children of Europe by bringing them chewable tablets.


Christina said...

I know a thing or two about travel with children. It's aways harder but I'm usually glad we did it (Luxembourg the one exception I can think of).

dean zhang said...

Weekend , I also like to take the kids to the park to play