Croissants and Cankles, Paradise and Poop

Long-haul flights are the pits. There really is no way around it. With 31 hours of travel between New Zealand and France and two stopovers of three hours each in Sydney and Dubai, we were exhausted. Our arrival in Sydney came with a bang - it was such a hard landing that some oxygen masks dropped down. We also had way too much hand luggage to drag around in the airports.

Despite all of this, the flights were a lot better than I thought they would be.  The children were really good at sitting still. The airline and air hostesses were great with children; as well as bringing the child meals first, they gave us extra snack boxes and activity bags with an etch a sketch, kids blanket and books.

Top tips for long haul travel with toddler:
- Take the car seat. This was a life saver for us as Little Miss Two was able to be fully strapped in on her own chair and slept the most out of all of us on the fourteen hour flight.
- Travel as light as you can (I know that you will need a lot of stuff but remember that you will also need free hands to grab said toddler when they try to run towards the toilets / food vending machines / escalators in the airports.
- Take plastic bags (folded into samosa triangles to save space) for dirty clothes as you WILL have poo / spew incidents. Our son got a cold while we were travelling and spewed in the aisle, sending several other passengers running for the loo as well. I also had to change a horrible nappy and it is not easy to do from the side in a tiny plane toilet. We both ended up covered in poop.

It was a great relief to be picked up at Nice airport by Dave's mum and her husband. If I could have laid in the foetal position and sucked my thumb I would have, it was so good to be met in a foreign place and looked after. We were all bundled into the car and brought back to our apartment.

Since then, we have been trying to catch up on sleep, get the kids into routines and fit in a little sightseeing. The first morning, I woke up with gigantic swollen ankles which were actually painful too. These cankles are gradually subsiding but I think they are irresistible to mosquitoes (if not anyone else) as I have been bitten a few times which is causing more swelling!

Nice is a big city with over a million people but it is really beautiful, embracing the Bay of Angels and the Mediterranean Sea. The Promenade des Anglais is a really wide 7 kilometre long boulevard along the coast ideal for walking, cycling and people watching. We took a little tourist train around the old town and up the hill to the Parc du Chateau which has an amazing waterfall and ruins of an old cathedral from 200BC.

It is really expensive to eat out here but food in the supermarket is relatively cheap. A good rose wine cost us 6 euros ($9)! There are lots of roadside markets for picking up fresh fruit and veges at reasonable prices too.

Above: Divine Beignets filled with chocolate

A short road trip over the hill took us to Villefranche sur Mer which is a beautiful bay with sandy beaches great for swimming. It is just like paradise with clear blue sea, golden sand and beautiful buildings crowding the narrow streets. We found a spot at Plage des Marinieres which is the main north beach and swam and relaxed,  while the kids paddled and collected stones. Being September, there weren't too many people around. There were of course the obligatory topless sunbathers of all ages turning over occasionally like wrinkly brown sausages. When we tried to leave the carpark, there was a moment of panic as the machine accepted only credit cards for payment and no-one had brought theirs along to the beach. So we sat there, feeling stupid, as the barrier arm remained stubbornly shut and a police car came up behind us. But the police soon moved along, bored with tourist antics, so I spoke to the machine and discovered there was a self service machine to put coins into further back along the beach.

Above: Villefranche sur mer

This is just one example of feeling like a fool when I open my mouth. This seems to be the norm so far. I was prepared for that though and am hoping it will happen less and less as time goes on. The French really do appreciate it when you attempt to speak with them in their own language. I have had a lot of positive feedback as well.

Tomorrow we are living it up in Monaco!

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