Posts Tagged ‘airplanes’

PART I:  The Journey

After two solid days spent unpacking, laundering copious amounts of stained, sweaty, sea-salt encrusted vacation clothes, and reintroducing myself to the kitchen, things are finally back to normal at Chateau Hirschauer.  Our return to the real world after ten days of cloudless beach weather in Turkey was shocking; Emma had a tearful morning at school after carefree days building sand castles, splashing in pools, and pillaging the all you can eat dessert buffet; and Maggie, exhausted from endless water play, baby disco dancing, and looking a bit haggard after a diet consisting exclusively of french fries, oranges, and ice cream, wandered around the house like a zombie until finally collapsing in a pile of dirty laundry.  It didn’t help our vacation fatigue when we returned to Thoiry to find that our quaint, often sleepy French town had morphed into a carnival site complete with cotton candy machines and mini roller coasters in the school parking lot.  So, this weekend, meant to be a recovery weekend, was instead filled with late night torch parades, missed naps, wild marching bands, flower floats, and lots and lots of candy.

While there will be more, much, much, more on the bizarre awesomeness that was the Fete de la Saint-Maurice in a future post, let me return to the subject at hand; our adventures on the Bodrum peninsula in Turkey.  Two weeks ago we pulled Emma from school (gasp, the former teacher pulls her child from school in her second week to indulge in a beach vacation…I am still working through the guilt), packed our bags and headed for a physics conference at a resort on the coast of the Aegean Sea.  I should have known when we arrived at the airport and queued up (I’m not learning much French here, but am becoming fluent in British) in back of a throng of 80 physicists all headed for the same hotel, that the flight was bound to get complicated.  There was the fact that we were in possession of the only two wriggling, shrieking, kicking, jumping small people in a flight of middle-aged, computer wielding, serious looking physicists.  It is one thing to annoy an entire plane full of people you have never met and will never see again, but it is quite another thing to torment a group of Jim’s colleagues, some of whom are senior to him, and all of whom we were to be vacationing with for the next week.  Our troubles began in the check-in line when Maggie grew weary of the cereal I was so kind to shove in her face and took up her new favorite pass time of covertly pushing Emma’s buttons (think hair pulling, toy snatching, unwanted tickling).  The “torture thy sister game” rarely ends well, but on this particular day, in this particular line of impatient, technology deprived scientists, the howling reached catastrophic levels.  By the time we made it up to the check-in counter to be informed of the 2 and a half hour delay that awaited us, I was ready to chuck the whole beachside vacation idea in favor of turning tail, heading home, and watching Disney’s Robin Hood on repeat for the next ten days.

If you have to be delayed for two and a half hours with scores of your husbands nerdy colleagues, however, the Geneva airport is the place to be.  For starters they apologized profusely for the delay (the first “I’m sorry” I have ever heard at an airport counter, I nearly fainted) and gave us vouchers worth 40 CHF to use at any restaurant in the airport.  So, we collected our free lunch, including an obnoxiously expensive Starbucks latte (the first I have had since arriving in Europe) and sought out the fabled airport play area.  I am leery of airport play areas, they are usually sticky with mysteriously tacky toys that I find disturbing.  Also, I swear I can see the germs snaking their way through the nooks and crannies of the grungy toy planes that Maggie will inevitably decide are delectable snacks instead of plastic disease vectors.  The Geneva airport, I am happy to report, has an inconceivably pristine and decidedly unsticky play area.  If you happen to be in the Geneva airport with children I urge you to visit this germ-free wonderland.  It is a sterile oasis of wooden climbing toys, kitchen sets, slides, and popular children’s books.  There is a sparkling toddler sized potty, comfy changing table, and free diapers and wipes.  In a word it is airport heaven.  We happily passed the two hours, the girls in their stocking feet and I with medical booties over my shoes (I’m telling you the Swiss are fanatics about their cleanliness), sliding, reading, and cooking the delay away.  It was divine.

After working out some energy in the immaculate Swiss play place, the flight to Istanbul was relatively uneventful.  Thank goodness because we happened to be sitting directly in front of the Physics Analysis Coordinator (translation: head honcho) of Jim’s experiment.  We arrived in Istanbul aware that we had missed our connection to Bodrum, but seeing that eighty other people also missed their flight, we weren’t too worried.  I was concerned with the unfathomably long line at passport control.  On the three-hour flight to Istanbul the girls had reached their bribing limit, and no amount of pretzels, granola bars, or stickers was going to keep them quiet while we slowly snaked our way toward the customs official.  So we spent a lovely hour or so inching our way forward, trying desperately to quell our unruly, crabby, and excruciatingly loud children.  I feared that we would be kicked out of Turkey before our passports had even been stamped.  Finally we reached the unusually cheerful passport control officer who smiled and cooed at our two wild-eyed monsters, writhing and struggling in their umbrella strollers.  His enthusiasm for the children that I had long grown weary of was disarming.  I had never in my life met a more friendly passport official.  It was like he was a kindergarten teacher wearing a Turkish customs uniform.  He somehow managed to pacify the girls and their whining faded into giggles as the magical (yet extremely slow-moving) passport official stamped our books and welcomed us to Istanbul.

The Istanbul airport was huge, crowded, and super stressful.  We weaved our way through the bustling mob of travelers, searching for the domestic terminal and the group of physicists that we had somehow lost in the passport control maze.  Sweating and breathless after our sprint through the airport (including a frantic trip through security where I nearly had to be restrained from punching an impatient business traveler) we arrived at our gate, reunited with the scientists who I’m sure were hoping that we were lost forever, and discovered that our connecting flight was an hour and a half late.  Deep breathes were taken by all, and we set Emma and Maggie loose in the Istanbul domestic terminal, which was not as kid friendly as the play area in Geneva, but offered plenty of space for the girls to run laps.

We finally arrived in Bodrum a full five hours behind schedule.  Next up in our marathon trek to our hotel was an eighty minute bus ride over bumpy, winding, extremely small roads.  We did not put our bags down in our room until after midnight.  All in all the trip to Turkey, originally intended to take roughly 5 hours, took us 16 intense, sweaty, maddening hours.  I think that our transatlantic flight from Chicago to Geneva was easier.  But, when we were finally able to toss the girls into bed and retire to our balcony with a much deserved glass of wine, I declared our 16 hour exodus from Thoiry  to Turkey to be a success.  The light from the moon, which on our first few nights in Turkey echoed the crescent shape from Turkish flag, glistened off the Aegean Sea, and the sound of crashing waves upon the shore lulled us to sleep.  We were officially on vacation, the girls and I that is, Jim had to wake up early for conference meetings.  Science never sleeps.

The girls and I atop Bodrum Castle.


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Airplane watching at the airplane park.

Finally, things are looking up at Chateau Hirschauer.  Although we still never leave the house without tissues in our back pockets, the girls seem to be rid of those darn colds.  To celebrate our new (hopefully long-lasting) healthy state we set out to explore a new park and bask in the sunshine.  Well, we found the new park, but that fickle sun ducked back beneath some serious cloud cover right as we reached our destination, which was the airplane park.  What could be better than a park built adjacent to an airport (so close to the runway that you could spit on a plane as it takes off), complete with swings, a slide, and a vomit inducing merry-go-round?  The answer if you are under the age of four is, nothing.  If you are over the age of four and are lucky enough to meet another mom at the park, so you have someone to talk to as your children drool over airplanes, there is easily nothing better than the airplane park.

The airplane park is mellow compared to the scene we often encounter at the tiny playground in the center of Thoiry.  On sunny afternoons we brave the after-work speeding commuters and head into town to play and to meet Jim at the bus stop.  We have quickly fallen in love with this routine, as it gets us out of the house during the witching-hour, gives the girls some much-needed outdoor time after naps, and conveniently, situates us directly in front of a delicious bakery so we not only walk home with Daddy, but also (and possibly more importantly) with a freshly baked baguette.  The scene at the playground in the afternoons is intimidating, to say the least.  For starters, I always feel under-dressed.  My jeans, sneakers, and hoodie scream “frazzled American Mom” when compared to the skinny jeans (black), chic top (black), and Jessica Simpson stilettos (black) worn by one of the regular park goers.  Do I get French fashion points for my black hoodie?  I don’t think so.  I have watched this stiletto-wearing, stroller-pushing, baby-chasing wonder of a woman for a few days now.  I have not seen her stumble once.  I can’t even walk in my Dansko clogs without turning an ankle.  Pathetic.

Anyway, I have been not so subtly checking this lady out, and today I realized that she is a nanny.  HA!  I knew no real mom would continually wear stilettos to the park.  My triumph was clouded by the thought that (sorry Jim) there was no way I would ever, in a million years, hire a stiletto wearing nanny.  No way could I handle that woman gracefully clicking around my house as I stumbled past her with swollen ankles and ripped pants.  (Long story short, the last time I wore heels was at Easter and I turned an ankle, tripped, and fell while carrying Maggie.  Possibly because my dad was a football coach and I inherited his instincts, I was able to cradle Maggie as if she were a spiral pass straight from Tom Brady’s hands.  Like a good receiver I did not let the ball, or Maggie’s head, touch the ground.  No instant replay necessary.  She walked away from the whole debacle unscathed.  I, however, had to attend Mass with a bloody hand, torn pants, and severely wounded pride.)

There is a large group of nannies and their charges who meet at the park in the afternoons.  The nannies all gather together at one end of the square, smoke cigarettes, and dole out snacks to their charges.  Maggie loves the nannies.  She has discovered that she can blend into the group of French children that swarm around the nanny huddle and, if she plays her cards right, can walk away with delicious contraband.  Today she was the lucky recipient of some sort of European Hostess Snack cake type treat.  Maggie’s resourcefulness causes me great stress, because I have no way of communicating my gratitude to the snack wielding nannies.  All I can say is “Merci,”  when I really want to joke and say “Thank you for feeding my daughter.  She is clearly malnourished.  Sometimes we wonder if she is part seagull.”  I am positive that they think I am some frumpy, stupid, American mom who starves her children.  And they are probably appalled at my choice in footwear.

The airplane park boasted many things, but the most awesome was the view of Mont Blanc. I am not sure if my camera captured it, but those white, cloud-like peaks in the distance are the Alps.

The airplane park claims another fan.

Are you sick yet? Emma and Maggie experiment on the merry-go-round.

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