Thursday, 31 March 2011

Travel with Toddlers, AKA When Will This Hell End?

Traveling to and from Paris this past week with just the Bambino (now 23 months) reminded me how difficult travel with toddlers can be.

The flight back was eleven hours.  He slept for two of those hours.

He's too little to be interested in movies or even the short cartoons that the flight entertainment programme has to offer kids (who ARE these under-twos who will watch TV for longer than three minutes at a time?  It's not that I'm against TV for kids that age.  Mine would just never watch that long!).

His picture books are too short to last more than a few minutes each.

His toys were nothing new.

And after his two-hour nap, he wasn't tired in the least.  In fact, he was fuuuuull of energy.

What kept him busy in the end?  Some French maman had the ingenious idea of bringing a bag of toy cars for her three-year old son.  The Bambino was thrilled to play cars with this older boy.  Phew.
In between running up and down the aisles, pulling peoples eye-blinders down, covering people's TV screens and generally being a complete nuisance, that is.

In the end, I played the completely laissez-faire, slacker mom and let him run around while I remained seated in my chair, enjoying games of Solitaire and Air France's version of Trivial Pursuit.

Until he ran into the Business Class cabin and started trying to wake people up in there.  The flight attendant didn't like that too much and "suggested" that I not let the Bambino run around by himself.  Fortunately, meal time was just ending at that point, so I looked at her innocently, pointed to the meal tray in front of me that had not yet been cleared away, shrugged my shoulders and said, "What can I do?  I'm trapped." ;-)

Friday, 18 March 2011

Imperative for parenting in some parts of the world - a driver's licence

After years of living single in New York, London, and Paris, and then years with children in Paris, Rome and now Antananarivo, Madagascar, this Globetrotter Paris is - finally - going to get a real driver's licence.

You're probably wondering how it is possible that I don't have one.  Well, basically, I never got one in high school or university and then I was always limited for time as a full time lawyer and even more limited for time as a lawyer and mom.  And when I finally stopped working as a lawyer, when we moved to Rome, well, I was NOT going to try to learn to drive in Italy.  No way.

So now I am getting a driver's licence in Madagascar,

where there are no traffic lights,
where there are no stop signs,
where there are no signs for anything, really
where even the marking on the pavement is so faint that you can't see it
and where traffic jams and air pollution abound.

It's imperative.  We have a driver here but our next city will probably be a place where getting a full-time driver is not so normal, practical or cheap so, well, I may have to actually, er, drive.  Sigh.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Adventures in mud

We often head out to the Club Olympique de Tananarive (the COT) on Sunday simply because, well, there's not much else to do in this city on Sunday.  When we're in Paris, we head to the park.  There are no parks here.  Or we go to a museum.  No museums here either.

So, if we're not exploring this grand island, we head to the COT, play tennis (well, the Frenchman plays tennis), swim, eat lunch, and hang out with friends.

Except that we're in the rainy season.  And yesterday it rained.  Hard.

And since Madagascar has a lot of dirt (red dirt, mind you) and very little pavement, well, there's a lot of mud here after a rainstorm.

Needless to say, our kids had a lot of fun!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

South Africa - Part 3: The Spier Wine Estate

Imagine that you're in France and you stop at a wine estate in Bordeaux.  If they're open, the owners will let you taste some of their wine - maybe - and then you may buy a bottle or two.

While you and your spouse are tasting the wine, your kids are.... doing what?  Running around and making a lot of noise while the owners say "Attention" every minute or two because your little ones are about to step on and/or break something?  Or maybe just being bored and asking "Can we go yet" every minute or two.

Now let me compare this scene with Spier Wine Estate, about a 45-minute drive from Capetown, South Africa.

You arrive in a HUGE parking lot.  There are at least 50 other cars there.  The first thing you bump into on exiting the parking lot is a large market with all kinds of South African crafts.

Then you walk by a deli that sells Spiers wine and lots of yummy foods (think ham, cheeses, jams, relishes, pickles, chips...) and there is a huge picnic area out back where you can eat their food.  There are two play areas for the kids, both with all-natural wooden equipment.  There is a duck pond.  There is a restaurant where you can have lunch or dinner with their wine.  And then you can also taste their wine for a small fee.

Oh, and there's a hotel there, too, in case you would like to make the Spier Wine Estate your base for exploring the winelands of the Western Cape.

When it comes to marketing wine, the French could maybe learn a little from the South Africans, n'est-ce pas?