We took the trip of a lifetime, That turned into the most terrifying and exhilarating moments we will ever have.
In normal parent fashion, I asked the kids what they want for Christmas. Kingston's response was typical, however Olina's stopped me in my tracks. Olina asked to go to Paris. I chuckled at first, then I told her that is very expensive, we wouldn't be able to do any other gifts if we took that trip. She responded with
"That's OK, I don't need any gifts. I just want to travel the world like you, Mommy."
Cue the tears. Subconsciously, my hands were already looking up flights on my phone. Now, I had to convince Chad that it was totally normal to take your daughter to Paris for a Christmas gift. Not extra at all. It took some work, but he reluctantly agreed.
I bought plane tickets, train tickets from Paris to Strasbourg, and got all of our Airbnbs set up. We were ready to go. Then we watched the news... and saw the strikes were still a very big issue. I dealt with the strikes when I went to Le Cordon Bleu in September. The French govt was changing the benefits for their employees and caused everyone to go on strike. This meant most metros are closed and most trains were getting canceled. Some vigilantes start rioting in the streets on certain days. After we spent all of this money, we were starting to second guess if this was a good idea.
We got to Paris and found that the metro to inner city was in fact closed. This was a minor freak out moment for Chad and I. OK, a HUGE freak out moment. What did we just do? We just flew our kids to a country in an unrest state, we are not really good with the language, annnd we are stuck at the airport. Chad and I have never really argued in our married lives, until now... We sat in the middle of the McDonalds at the airport, and found a bus that would take us close enough to our Airbnb by the Eiffel Tower.
We get on the bus and Atlas has a massive bowel movement, and all of our diapers are in our luggage under the bus. So this trip has literally gone to shit.... For an hour and a half everyone around us is covering their noses and all but cheer when we get off at our station. Our Airbnb has a metro station right out our front door, that is why I chose that flat. But remember the Metro is closed, so we had to roll 4 carry ons and 5 personal bags, and 3 kids 1 mile to our flat. Also, we have never been to this neighborhood before, so now we are trying to use our phones to navigate while making sure our kids don't step into traffic. We finally get to our flat, drop off our stuff, and set off to get Olina's first parisian croissant. Which still remains her favorite food to this day.
Things would appear to look up at this point. I mean we are in Paris, right? Not so much. We couldn't go anywhere without a substantial walk, and we had the doom of our train being canceled. This meant we would lose the money we spent on AirBnb in Strasbourg, and now have to spend MORE money on a new Airbnb in Paris. All the while terrified we were going to get caught in the middle of a riot, because the news told us all of Paris is rioting, everywhere, all day long. Liars!
Chad and I tried so many scenarios and none of them seemed to work out. We were legit mad at each other. I was mad that he was mad, and he was mad that we were throwing so much money away. I was mad at God because he would allow this to happen. Little did I know this was the plan the whole time. (I see what you did there, God) So we stumbled through the town, we were cold, tired, bored, and fearful of what tomorrow might bring, but most of all we were hungry. It was dark, and we were heading back to the flat when we found this little food cart. It wasn't any bigger than a wheelbarrow, but it had roasted chicken, pre-packaged spaghetti, and a containers of potatoes. This meal I will remember for the rest of our lives.
It was silent as I was putting dinner on the plates. Both of us scared to talk without arguing again, I muscled to smile for the picture. We took our first bite and all of our worries washed away, it's almost like time stood still. We sunk back in our chairs and we sighed. These cheesy potatoes are Chad and I's favorite food to date, and I can't for the life of me figure out how to re-make them!
Bellies full, and a clear mind, Chad and I decided to navigate our way back to the airport to rent a car. This solution was an addition $500 but that was cheaper than getting new hotels for a week. After some poking around on the internet Chad was able to find where we could request a refund for our canceled tickets!!! Saving us $500, crisis averted!! Now our only concern is to figure out how to get back to the airport. But we left that worry for another day. Tomorrow we take on PARIS!!
At first, we were REALLY annoyed that we couldn't use public transportation, but we made the best of it. Our kids were amazing and walked 5 miles at a time. We went to the Arch de Triumph, Champs-Elysées, Eiffel Tower and The Louvre. We spent the whole day in the streets of Paris and it was magical. Nighttime came and it was time we made it back to our flat. It was a full moon and turned out to be the most beautiful night. The kids were truly happy, They skipped the entire way pretending to speak the French language to every person we met.
We triumphantly made it to the airport, rented a car and set out on our 5 hour drive to Strasbourg, the land of Christmas. Now, remember when I said God had his hand in this the whole time? Because we rented a car, we were able to travel to Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg, a luxury we would not of had if we had taken the train. I was able to see where my ancestors lived and our kids got to experience so much more than the original plan.
This trip was amazing. My children still talk about how much fun they had. Chad and I have memories to last a lifetime. We learned that if we let fear control us, we argue, and we won't get anywhere. If we step back, have a great meal, we can hash out anything. I learned to trust in God more than ever. I should have put it all in His hands and trusted that He had it all under control.
The kids have now put in requests to see China, Croatia, the Philippines and India. Once the Broken House is complete, and the threat of Covid 19 is gone, we will have to add a few more countries to our belt! To see more pictures of our travels check out the Raising Hellers Page.