We took off early Monday morning on 30th April, my Dad driving us from sleepy Lake, Isle of Wight to the Red Jet fast catamaran in Cowes. We unloaded our 3 suitcase, 1 baby carrier, 1 portable high chair, 1 baby travelling cot/tent, 3 rucksacks, one baby changing bag and a car seat and got our tickets (not forgetting the baby!). Travelling this light is pretty standard for us, so although it’s tough, we have managed before and we’ll manage again!
We get to the airport and the airport staff see our huge load of luggage and manage to help us rearrange our belongings so that we only have 3 kg more than we should. For those who need to know, Flybe will let you have 2 baby items free, then you pay for the rest; Virgin Atlantic willingly tag anything baby related and put it on the flight free of charge.
We are still not sure how we are going to get our luggage back to our hotel apartment, as Ed’s company have rented us a Peugeot 207 for a fortnight. We have decided not to worry about it and deal with it when we get there!
As usual, customs is a nightmare, not least because Tyla has packed some scissors in a pencil case in her hand luggage. She tells the customs officer “they must’ve just fallen in there” and luckily he actually has a sense of humour, so relieves us of our sharp item and lets us through.
We are boarded as priority and once settled in on the flight, we bump into our friend’s French girlfriend, Fanny. We knew she would be flying out that day, but hadn’t seen her. She is getting a lift back with her friend, who flew out with her and he is happy to take our excessive amount of luggage to her house in Bordeaux, not far from where we are going to be staying – hurrah!
We land in possibly the smallest airport I’ve been in – Bergerac. So small, that the usual barrage of questions we get about Nina being an American citizen are non-existent. The officer asks Ed if we should fill out a landing card for Nina – Ed says he doesn’t think so (lies) and we are let through. Our luggage is put on a manually rolling travelator, which is directly fed from an outside wall and measures about 20ft long. We have a little giggle at this and make our way to the car hire place. It is peeing down with rain and probably not the best welcome to a new life here in sunny Bordeaux.
As those of you who are familiar with France will know, everything is pretty much shut over the hours of 12 and 2pm. Tyla now calls this the “2 hour shutdown of France”. Even the car hire place is shut – pretty crazy. Anyway, we knew about this, so we just sit and wait.
Once we have the car, we head off with the help of Sat Nav and find our little hotel apartment. On first sight, it is great. Brand new. When we get indoors it is all new, but stinks of smoke. As a true reformed ex-smoker of 18 years, I heartily object to breathing in these toxic fumes and set about grumbling, opening windows etc. The apartment has a hallway, with huge built in wardrobe and separate toilet and shower (no bath – how will I bath the baby??). The main room has a sofa bed, table, coffee table and separate little kitchen with dishwasher, microwave combo oven and fridge freezer – perfect! There are no cleaning facilities/hoover etc, so we head out to the nearest supermarket to buy it all, using our English debit cards and parrying they don’t get declined, as per usual whenever we go abroad (they don’t).
We go to Fanny’s, collect our suitcases and settle in to our little apartment and our new life. It’s strange to be somewhere new, but a relief that we are somewhere we hope that we will eventually call home. Not too far from England, but far enough south to have some sun (hopefully) and enjoy the French laid back way of life.