This is it, the final installment of our Christmas – New Year European adventure. There has been a lot of photos and a lot of blog posts, but here is the story of our trip home and a bit of a wrap-up of the trip.
After 7 weeks of being constantly on the go, we were all a little tired, and ready to get home and catch up on some sleep. The trip home is never as exciting as the trip over, but there was the promise of a warm and comfy bed waiting for us!
We had picked up our bags at about 4.30pm and then caught the metro to Les Halles to meet up with the RER. We discovered last trip that it is the most efficient way to the airport (which is out of the city area). It will get you there in about 45 mins, with lots of stops but there was no thinking required. The RER was quite busy with lots of people with large amounts of luggage, no surprises where most people were headed. The train dropped us off right at terminal 2, where we needed to be, and with one last move of the luggage we headed up into the airport terminal.
Our flight was already showing on the large departures board, and was scheduled to be on time. As we had to be out of the Paris apartment at 12pm, we’d decided to get changed into our plane clothes at the airport and not wear what we had all day for the next 30 hours. The was probably wise due to our lack of access to showers during the trip. After getting the kids and us changed we did a quick repack of the bags by chucking in all our dirty clothes and coats, there was no more need for them, it was definitely warm at home!
Off to baggage check and we ended up with pretty much the same weight of luggage as going over. We had acquired some snow boots and snow suits and there was some shopping in Paris, but we had traveled to Copenhagen with quite a few kilos of things for my friend Rose, and thrown/lost a few items of clothing throughout our travels, so we didn’t come close to using all our luggage allowance. Unlike, on some of our previous trips, where we have shopped up big. Seven weeks of need to constantly move the luggage has that effect on you!
All checked in, and with a big pile of boarding passes in hand, we headed off to the Emirates lounge as it was still 3.5 hours until our flight. Unfortunately they decided not to honour our Qantas Club membership (we thought this might have been the case) so we had to head over to the gate. We found somewhere to sit and Anto had to go wandering to find where to claim the tax back on some of the shopping we’d done. We’d missed the location going through immigration so he had a frustration process of going in and out of the ‘EU’ and walking several km through the airport to finally get some money back, luckily we had time to kill!
Meanwhile we had decided to get the kids happy meals from McDonald’s as it was nearby. They never have Maccas at home so thought it was pretty good. Soren had a cheese burger and Astrid nuggets, but both were almost more excited about the apple slices and masks in their happy meals.
The rest of us figured we should also eat since the first meal on the plane normally takes awhile. It turned out to be lucky we did since it was very late by the time we got plane food. All the airport options seemed poor in comparison to the Parisian eating fest we had been undertaken all day. I still ended up with a pretty good quiche, and Anto had a jamon and cheese sandwich. Of course after getting these we walked down to the toilets that were located next to a Ladurée and realised we could have been feasting on macarons for dinner!
While we were eating we saw our A380 come in to our gate and unload and reload with food with luggage. Soren and Astrid were now behind excited about heading home and watching the plane intently, with Soren shouting about ‘big plane’ and ‘fly back home’ which was rather cute.
Our flight was scheduled for a 9.30pm departure and we had to board a little after 9. We’d had a debacle with the seating. After picking seats for all the flights at least a couple of months before we left Australia, we checked our seating the night prior to leaving Paris, and Soren had been moved out of one of our 4 seats across the middle and into a row 5 rows in front, on his own! There were no groups of seats left on the system and fruitless calls to the Qantas Paris office weren’t getting us very far as they seemed happy to let a 2-year-old fly on his own and some other random person sit with us in our row of seats. We eventually managed to skype call Qantas Club in Australia and have them fix it, but as a result we all got moved to row 86, down the back of the plane, which means it takes forever to get on and off.
Anto and I sat in the 4 middle seats with the kids, and Mikl and Alan had the aisle seats slightly behind us. The plane was packed and took a very long time to load so we were quite late taking off. We were close to last getting on and still sat on there for a while.
We eventually took off and Astrid was happy to go to sleep after take off, it was after 10pm so she was well and truly tired. Soren wasn’t going to give in to sleep, despite only an hours nap in the afternoon. He managed to stay awake until his meal arrived, at after 11.30pm and made a huge mess with it. He then did go to sleep, his stamina well outlasting my patience. I was initially not going to bother with Astrid’s meal as she was sleeping soundly, but then realised it was the only meal for the flight (they normally do a small one at the end of the flight) so at least grabbed the snack box for her, which gave her something to eat before landing.
Astrid managed to sleep until an hour before the end of the flight, when she was up to eat her snacks and watch some TV. Soren, once he went to sleep, slept all the way through landing, and most definitely didn’t want to be woken up. He woke up with some impressive crazy hair, and looked rather tired.
The rest of us eventually got fed at about midnight, although my vegetarian meal had gone MIA due to the seat change, so I didn’t get a lot to eat. Anto and I somehow ended up watching the same movie, a few minutes apart but it took us both several hours to get through it with all the stopping and starting due to kids. We didn’t manage to get much sleep, just a few short naps.
The flight was rather bumpy (despite the captain predicting a smooth flight at the start). The seat belt sign was on for pretty much the whole flight and there was a very limited drink service as a result so we were a bit hungry and thirsty when we got off.
Astrid, a flight veteran, amused passengers by her constant chatter and commentary on how the landing was very soft (it absolutely wasn’t, so this comment ensured much laughter from fellow passengers) ………and commentary on the landing process, wheel deployment and how planes work.
We arrived into Dubai at 7am local time or 4am Paris time. It was already 20 degrees and nice and sunny. We had a bit under 3 hours before our next flight departed, but that can be a short time in Dubai when you have to walk miles between gates. Soren had insisted on walking, rather than going in the ergo, until he saw the Emirates courtesy strollers, then was happy to sit in that.
It turns out our gate was rather close this time, and no train ride was needed. The line for the security re-screen was long though, and for some reason you can’t walk through with a child in a metal free carrier but they were happy for me to push Soren through the metal detector in a metal laden stroller….
Once we got to near our departure gates, we headed up towards the Emirates lounge. Qantas supposedly have a deal with Emirates for the Dubai lounges so we should have all gotten in. It certainly wasn’t a problem when coming through 7 weeks earlier on the way to Copenhagen. Today though they would only let the membership holders and 2 guests in, counting both the kids. This meant I couldn’t get in or I could but the kids had to stay out. I was not very impressed as my injured foot was rather sore, I was hungry and thirsty and really wanted a shower. In the end Anto took the kids in, and I went with my Dad and sat at the gate for the couple of hours until the next flight boarded. I did manage to find a coffee and a toasted wrap that cost me a vast fortune once I did the conversion to AUD, but I didn’t really care at the time. Another 20 hours of travel was not very appealing at that time.
Apparently the kids were rather tired, but Anto did manage to shower them although they didn’t eat a lot despite unlimited access to Emirates club food. A tired Anto reappeared with the kids to find me awhile before boarding, and Mikl stayed in the lounge.
My dad was heading back directly to Brisbane on a separate flight to our flight bound for Melbourne. At this point, after 7 weeks of travel together, we had to bid him farewell. Both flights were leaving within 10 minutes of each other, but being large planes they were boarding a long way ahead of time. None of us really wanted to go back to sitting on a plane, especially for the long leg of the trip, but we wanted to get it over and done with. So, we said goodbye to my Dad and headed to the gate.
We had yet another security rescreen and after finally getting our water bottles refilled in the lounge one had to be tipped out again, although Anto managed to get through with his one that they missed with their super thorough screening. At this point I was just pleased to have access to some water.
On this flight we were towards the front of the bottom section of the plane, and they boarded children first so we were on without too much trouble. Anto took Astrid in the aisle and centre of the window 3 seats, and looked like they were getting a spare seat next to them until some poor man appeared right as boarding was finishing and got to sit next to Astrid for the whole trip. Soren and I were across the aisle from Anto and Astrid in the block of 4 seats, and Mikl ended up on the other side of us. Again the plane was pretty full, so no chance of spare seats.
It took quite awhile to board but we took off just after 10am local time, for the 14 hour flight into Melbourne. Neither kid was in the mood for sleeping as it was only 7am Paris time and our bodies were saying it was awake time, despite being up most of the night. I still must have fallen asleep on take off because I was watching the plane cams to see the take off ….and then woke up and realised that we were in the air – it always amazes me that the A380s are so quiet taking off.
The next few hours didn’t go all that quickly. The long flights always suck, and 14 hour legs with kids are hard. The kids got their lunch a couple of hours into the flight. Astrid had, of course, managed to fall asleep just before it arrived but needed to be woken up as she hadn’t eaten in awhile and it was a long time until the next meal. Soren decided to mostly play with his food but eventually ate some. I actually got my vegetarian meal, and some drinks, so was doing much better than the previous flight.
After eating and endless rounds of colouring and taking headphones on and off, Soren fell asleep and slept for probably 6ish hours. Astrid took longer to go back to sleep but had a reasonable chunk of sleep. Both Anto and I ended up with kids sleeping across our laps again (as per the previous flight) so didn’t get huge amounts of rest and my injured leg was getting super sore from not being able to move for many hours. We watched a couple of movies and tv shows and slept on and off as the plane was mostly dark and quiet.
I was awake for at least the final 5.5 hours of the flight, or midnight Aussie time. The kids slept a few more hours while I watched another movie and desperately wanted to move. They were awake from about 3am Aussie time, and we figured that would be it for sleeping on that flight.
The crew seemed to start getting breakfast ready around when the kids woke up and we were promising them food but it was taking an eternity. In the meantime Soren ate various m&ms and gummy bears I had stashed in my bag and left over bits of their dinner boxes, it was lucky I hadn’t cleaned the camera bag in days as there were all sorts of lolly treats stashed in various pockets!
The kids eventually got their meals at the same time that I got mine and Soren picked the moment when there were food trays everywhere to have a nappy explosion that required 2 parents to deal with. After previously (repeatedly) spilling food and drink all over himself, we had run out of spare clothes (and we pack a lot on board), so we were back to partly dirty clothes for him and now totally out of baby wipes. This is the bit of travelling with kids that is just plain not fun!
Anto had managed to miss his breakfast arriving while dealing with the nappy incident but eventually tracked some down, along with 3 or 4 more coffees and possibly some wine…… there were still several hours and another flight to go!
As usual, the last couple of hours of the flight really dragged. Seemingly everyone on the plane was awake and was restless. After what felt like an eternity – I swear the ‘time to go’ trackers seem to go backwards those last couple of hours, we did manage to arrive pretty much on time by about 6.30am Melbourne time …..and were finally back on Aussie soil.
We escaped off the plane fairly quickly and were feeling sorry for the passengers that were only off for an hour before having to get back on to continue onto Auckland. Another reason not to be a Kiwi!
Almost on the home stretch, we did however, have the annoying process of getting through immigration, customs and quarantine. First was the important task of picking up some duty-free and keeping tired kids from trashing the liquor section of duty-free. Soren had to be returned to the ergo for my sanity, even if my leg was so swollen that walking with him was very painful and rather slow.
We managed to get through immigration and were officially allowed back in the country, much to Astrid’s relief, she was a bit worried they were going to make us go back to Paris and eat more croissants. By the time we got to baggage claim our bags didn’t take too long to appear and Soren kept many fellow passengers entertained with his constant chatter about how many more planes he had to go on today and needing to fly back home.
The Melbourne airport seems to have streamlined the customs and quarantine process compared to the huge lines we always find in Sydney. Our usual tactic of declaring everything, and things that we knew they wouldn’t care about, meant we were ticked and flicked straight out into the wild, and could make our way to the domestic terminal through hordes of early morning travelers.
By the time we got the bags back to domestic check-in, it felt like we’d been walking around for ages. We already had our boarding passes but the bag drop wasn’t keen on our bags being scanned in, despite us being well under our weight limits. Anto eventually gave up and went to a staffed counter and discovered the auto check-in had put all the bags against his ticket, racking up over $600 in excess baggage that was quickly fixed when they did it all properly.
An exhausted Soren had finally fallen asleep in the ergo, on my back, and of course we had to go back through security and they insisted I take him off. This is pretty much the most annoying thing for a parent, when you have an exhausted 2-year-old that you just want to sleep.
On the upside, we were allowed in to the Melbourne Qantas club, finally food, comfy seats and showers! My leg was now the size of an elephant and incredibly painful. I wasn’t looking forward to another flight. We decided I should probably go to see the doctor when we got home, to get it checked out. When the doctor’s office finally opened (just before we boarded) there were no appointments available, so the plan was revised to go to the hospital.
We had a little under an hour in Qantas Club and our bodies were telling us it was the middle of the night, yet there were all these early morning travelers looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed while we looked a fright in filthy clothes, exhausted and I was limping badly and rather grumpy.
Our final flight was leaving Melbourne at 9am and the 737 was only half full. The lovely hostesses had noticed we’d come through from Dubai/Paris (it probably helped that we looked tired and filthy) and reassured the kids it was only 39 more minutes in the air. Soren didn’t care and had been bouncing around in QC shouting about 1 more plane! The flight was blissfully short, except the 20 minutes at the start in the runway queue waiting to take off. The time was made up pretty promptly, so much so, that our coffee and biscuits were pretty much hurled at us and then taken back again so we could descend. Astrid was intermittently enjoying watching ‘Bananas in Pajamas’ and saying she was tired and wanting to sleep. Soren just fell asleep on his pillow with about 10 mins to go, one very exhausted boy.
It was a relief to finally see Canberra below us, as we came in to land. Soren slept through landing once again. He even stayed asleep in the ergo once he was on my back and all the way until we got to the car. He was beyond exhausted!
Astrid had perked up with excitement once we were off the plane, and more so when she saw Granny and Grandpa waiting for her! The bags didn’t take too long to be returned to us and we headed off and filled up the 2 cars with bags and headed home. Soren was uncharacteristically quiet the whole trip and Astrid was concerned we wouldn’t know the way home, until she fell asleep 5 minutes before home. We were impressed to see everything green after so much hot weather at home, while we were away.
Both kids were pleased to see all the 3 grandparents they hadn’t been away with. They were obviously tired though, as they both favoured a nap over chatting or lunch. When asked if he was going to have a little sleep, Soren replied with ‘NO, big sleep’. With the kids off to their rooms and under grandparent supervision we headed off to the hospital to get my leg checked out. I did manage to have a shower and change my clothes first but I most definitely would have preferred anything over an ED visit after travelling for 2 days.
Thankfully, the ED was fairly quiet and I progressed through very quickly, the quickest I ever had. They were taking the chance of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) pretty seriously. The doctor and physio checked out my leg and did all their tests and measurements and concluded it was unlikely I had a DVT and it was most likely ligament damage to my ankle that had been aggravated by all the walking and carrying luggage. With some strapping and a treatment regime and instructions to rest/ice for 5 days (yeah right with 2 kids and 7 weeks of washing and gardening to do) we were sent home. We got home and kids were fast asleep as predicted.
We set an alarm and managed to get an hours rest before the alarm rudely awakened us. Anto somehow managed to function enough to get the kids up and into the lounge room, but they were not so keen….. All three of us were trying to nap on the couch/floor and I even fell asleep holding my coffee. Seven weeks of travel had caught up with us all, and this is the story of jet-lag and exhaustion!
Over the next few days we managed to catch up on some sleep, even if the kids did keep waking up at 4am and then wanting to sleep all afternoon! We did get our body clocks back in sync faster than previous trips though……
Astrid started her first year of school, 3 days after arriving home, and somehow managed to survive! After more doctors visits and lots of physio it was determined that I had managed to strain the cuboid bone in my foot, due to my hypermobile joints not coping with the large amounts of walking I did carrying kids and/or luggage……. and walking on uneven surfaces, like snow, with kids on my back! Usually a ballet or gymnastics injury and I managed it in a much more interesting way.
Anto had injured his arm around the same time I did, somewhere in Switzerland. After it getting worse from all the dragging around of heavy bags, he finally got it checked out and found that he has torn the tendons down one forearm and the other arm is in a pretty poor state too. Apparently we might have both over-done it with the carrying of kids and bags, as our physio is getting lots of post-holiday business from us!
The trip wrap-up
There are many hours worth of posts to read about our adventures, and I know some people have been following along for the last several months. It has taken awhile to get all the blogs done – so many photos and so much to write about! If you’ve missed any, they are all still there, so go and catch up. For now though, here is a quick snap-shot of the trip, not our longest trip ever, but absolutely the most ambitious (especially with 2 kids in tow)…….
Length of trip: 7 weeks
Countries visited: 8 – Denmark; Sweden; Germany; Czech Republic; Austria; Slovakia; Switzerland, and France. Astrid likes to count the United Arab Emirates, but we didn’t technically leave Dubai airport either time.
Cities/towns/villages visited: 39
- Denmark: Copenhagen;
- Sweden: Stockholm, Visby, Malmo, Lund;
- Germany: Berlin, Potsdam, Dresden, Berechtesgaden, Konigssee, Munich, Fussen, Hohenschwangau, Garmisch-Partenkirchen;
- Czech Republic: Prague;
- Austria: Vienna, Salzburg, St Gilgen, Untersberg, Innsbruck, Hungerburg, Seegrube, Hafelekar, Zwolferhorn, Patscherkofel;
- Slovakia: Bratislava;
- Switzerland: Zurich, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Bort, First, Shrekfeld, Murren, Gimmelwald, Almendhubel, Stechelberg, Bern;
- France: Lyon, Avignon, Paris.
International/long-distance trains: 24
Local trains, funiculars, metros and buses: I lost count but Astrid probably still has the tickets shoved in her snow suit somewhere (she liked to collect them!).
Cable cars: 19 – given I am terrified of them, a pretty good effort! The kids are now cable car experts!
Panic attacks whilst on a broken cable car in mid-air: 1 (on the trip up to Schilthorn in the Swiss Alps). I didn’t die though!
Museums and castles visited: totally lost count on that one, but lots! The kids would say too many……
Lowest temperature: minus 27 degrees, but we had lots of days well below zero. It is possible to freeze both cameras and lenses!
Kilometres walked: 659km
Photos taken: 7,891 (so I didn’t inflict all of them on you!)
Blog posts: 51, with a total word count of 119,500 words. Does that qualify as a thesis?
Christmas markets visited: totally lost count on that one too, I think it was around 12!
Beer, wine (mulled wine, gloog, vin chaud etc) drunk: lots and lots. There might have to be a photo collage!
I hope you enjoyed all the pictures and stories from our big adventure. Thanks to all those people who have been reading along, and leaving comments!