I was stressed about missing the flight.
Sim was calm.
I was stressed about packing too much stuff, that Ryanair would drop excess-charge bombs on us for being one centimetre over our allowance.
Sim was calm.
I was stressed we’d forget to pack certain things, items for Mina, or for the baby; it was the first time we’d travelled as a four-piece family.
Sim was calm.
Eventually, we made it out the flat, onto the 344 bus, across London to it’s terminus at Liverpool Street Station, and onto the Stansted Express train to the airport.
We played to our strengths; I bought the tickets, Sim foraged for food at Wasabi.
(although she’d already had the foresight to make sandwiches and other sundry bits for dinner – knowing we’d be arriving late and our food options limited – what a woman!)
And so there we were, at Stansted Airport, meeting my mum and dad, and going on our first family holiday since Leonardo was born, three months previously.
Amazingly, though our luggage was 700g over, Ryanair let us check it in – a blessed sign for our travels, surely?!
Security was overly complex, and there was a hideous force-march, snaking a route through a plethora of overly-priced duty free shops, eventually leading back almost in an airport-sized circle, to the departure shuttles…which weren’t working 🙁
Throngs of people were stuck, unable to get to their gates, and we were prime among them.
We had twenty minutes to take-off and apparently our flight gate was already closed.
Sim was calm.
As was I; we’d done what we could, now it was the airport delaying us and lateness was out of our hands. No point in me worrying about it.
After ten minutes a shuttle came and unleashed an almost rush-hour-on-the-Underground like crush of people and luggage, and there we were, prime among them.
A sprint at the other end, buggy whirling on two wheels, Mina shrieking with laughter, and we’re at the gate – miraculously kept open for us last stragglers.
Through, down the ramp, buggy flailing over three flights of stairs, racing across the tarmac, and we were there, outside the plane.
Sim’s on-board in a blink, carrying the kids my parents bringing up the rear.
And there I was, on the tarmac, juggling an amalgamation of bags; collapsing the buggy; removing an assortment of clips, car seats, buggy boards; tying loose straps; throwing random chords into random bags; rising like a pack horse, bags swinging all around me.
I rushed up the stairs, banging bags as I went, entered the plane;
“Hello Sir, can I see your boarding pass please?”
I couldn’t see Sim anywhere. The plane was full, everyone seated, staring malevolently at this mess of a man who’s just stumbled on. The guy they were all waiting for. The last passenger.
“Sorry, I don’t have it ” I answered in a sweaty fluster.
“What’s your seat number?”
I strained to see Sim, but couldn’t penetrate to the back, where I guessed she was seated.
“I’m sorry, I have no idea.” I confessed.
The stewardess looks torn, but let’s me on; she knows they’re now running late. I guessed she figured it best to just get going.
I waddled down the aisle, bags banging into disgruntled passengers, and eventually found my family.
Five more minutes of faffing with the bags, sitting, getting up to stow bags above, sitting down, strapping in, getting up to get bits out from above, finding Mina’s soft toy friends, sitting down, stretching for water in the bags under the seats, getting the bits that Mina’s dropped, grabbing a blanket for Leonardo, sitting down, strapping in and all the rest, and we’re done, all strapped in and all ready to go.
The safety demonstration done, cross checks made, and taxiing completed, we were finally airborne.
4:40pm, only a few minutes behind schedule.
At Bari airport.
The flight was easy enough. Kids well behaved. But the queue for passport control was ridiculous; only two policemen for two plane-loads, and they wanted to question everyone 🙁
Mina was getting restless. She was tired and she was bored (and was probably hungry, if she’d admit it); the killer combination.
But she managed to hold off any meltdown – as did we all – and eventually we found ourselves with our luggage, at the car hire desk.
We’d had to take two cars due to space. And I don’t drive. Which meant it was all on Sim. And Sim had never driven outside of the small island she was from, and even then only a couple of times per year, when we visit, and certainly not on the motorways.
This was to be her first time.
At least this was her country, where the driver sits on the left and they drive on the right.
But she was very nervous; it was a big challenge for her, something she wanted to conquer.
We got our cars, loaded in. By then we had spent more time at the airport than on the plane. It was late. It was dark. And we were all really tired.
The perfect time for one’s first motorway drive with a new family!
We persuaded Mina to go in grandpa and grandma’s car. Thankfully she consented.
So it was just the three of us; me, Sim and an immediately crying Leonardo.
After five minutes we had to pull over; the baby was too distracting.
Mum called us, in a panic; they’d already lost us in our little convoy.
I told her we’d be a while, settling Leo down, to go on ahead and we’ll meet in an hour or so at the place.
Reluctantly she agreed.
It was 11pm.
At around 12:15, after a few missed turnings and a possible speed camera triggering – I’m sure we’ll find out in time – we arrived at our B&B, to find worried parents, a tired owner and a wired four-year-old daughter.
It was a long day, a long journey and a steep learning curve, but we made it, safe, without major incident and massively ready for bed (though it took another hour and a half to get Mina to sleep!).
And so begins a new chapter in our lives; traveling with two kids.