At the end of September 2018 the kids and I took a train to Paris. We had the clothes we were wearing, a change of clothes, and a pair of pajamas each in the back pack on my stroller (gb pockit stroller-best EVER). We had train and airbnb reservations for a week in Paris and a few days in Lille, France.
I knew that being the sole adult responsible for four tiny humans was going to be a HUGE responsibility. I didn't want a ton of luggage on top of that. So, every night I would wash our quick dry clothes in the washing machine at our airbnb and hang them to dry. Pajamas were not washed every night. I bought the diapers I needed as we went. This actually worked out really well for this longer trip. Nine months later we went for just 4 nights to London and I packed clothes for each day since I knew I could carry it on all on my back in a bigger pack.
This was our first trip after landing in Europe and getting adjusted to jet lag. It was HARD. Y'all, it was so hard. I speak French and I lived in France for a year when I was 20. I thought the trip would be a cake walk. But what I didn't account for was the fact that my four young children had NEVER (really) been on public transportation, NEVER (really) been in a country that spoke a foreign language, and never traveled without two adults to cater to their every need. In fact, even after the trip I found life in Europe difficult. I will never forget lying in my bed feeling bewildered by how much I was yelling at my children. I did not have trouble being a mom of four in Texas, but being a mom of four in Europe was killing me slowly.
By the end of our time in Europe the kids and I had it figured out. We'd all learned how to travel together. We'd grown to be patient and more graceful with each other. Most importantly, Baby J wasn't taking her clothes off in train stations anymore and that was a HUGE help.
Another thing I learned from this trip was that it is WORTH it to pay $$$ for whatever you need to not-lose-your-ever-loving-mind. Thankfully I have an incredible husband who agrees! After arriving in Paris and realizing that I actually am not superwoman and cannot carry two toddlers, a folded stroller (no matter how amazing), and a backpack up all the many broken escalators of the Paris metro, I found the first available cab company with car seats to take us to all our remaining sites for the rest of the week. Thank goodness I speak French and could (mostly) communicate with this cab company because they didn't speak a lick of English. At one point we had a miscommunication because I was saying "Wait, wait wait!" and they heard, "oui oui oui!" Y'all, lol. It was a mess, but it could have been so much worse.
It rained at the Eiffel Tower and the line was long and we couldn't see a thing. But the kids still talk about the Eiffel Tower ALL. THE. TIME. Who cares if I or even they had fun? They remember it and their world view was EXPANDED. Praise the Lord for the selective memories of children. Can I get an AMEN?
I planned in "days of rest" for our trip. Below are some photos from our "days of rest." I'm using quotes because MY KIDS ARE CRAZY. Keeping them from completely destroying our AIRBNB during these days was NOT restful at all! lol
We visited the Chateau de Versailles. I got a golf cart to drive around and that was great, but the kids' favorite part as the wheel chair ramp off in the corner of the gardens. Because, kids are just like that.
Also, my toddler threw a fit in one of the halls of the Chateau de Versailles and I plan to never. let. her. forget. it.
Our best day was at the Jardins de Luxembourg. It was seriously just the best way to spend a day with 4 young kids. But even that day ended with a kid puking in the rented car seat of the luxury van we'd hired to drive us home. No perfect days on this trip, people.
I've probably skipped a few days here, but oh well. We took the train to Lille at the end of our trip and stayed in this TINY apartment. It was adorable. There was no washing machine so I made the kids stomp on their clothes in the bathtub and we smelled not-so-adorable for the remainder of our trip.
We don't have a TV and I rarely let the children watch shows on my computer. We watched a LOT of TV on this trip. The kids watched so many French cartoons. One day they watched 8 hours. It was their job that day. Whatever. I was tired.
Lille was great. We went to their little zoo and their little amusement park which had the best rides for kids their ages. We had a great time. But I changed our tickets to go home a day early and left our airbnb with a night paid for that we never used because I WAS SO DONE WITH THIS TRIP!
I didn't exactly cry when Books picked us up at the train station, but I might have screamed with joy.