Le Cr*p d’Antibes

The Princess and I had the most wonderful time with my cousin and her family outside Zurich while The Husband completed The Haute Route from Geneva to Nice.

The three of us were then re-united in Nice and made our way to Antibes for our non-cycling family holiday. We’d scoped out the area in June 2010 when we’d spent a few nights in Juan-les-Pins, just next door to Antibes. Before that trip, I knew of Juan-les-Pins only as the glamorous destination of the woman being addressed in the 1969 song “Where Do You Go To My Lovely?” by Peter Sarstedt. In the song, Juan-les-Pins is on a par with St Moritz in terms of fashionable locations frequented by the jet set. Although I am really fond of Juan-Les-Pins, in some ways it kind of feels as though it is past its prime. I suspect that today’s uber jet set, have migrated just a few kilometres onto the peninsula of Cap d’Antibes, which has mini cliff faces instead of beaches, like its neighbours on either side of the peninsula: Juan-les-Pins and Antibes. But I suspect that like Cap d’Antibes’ most famous resident, Roman Abramovich, many of the residents are not too concerned about beach access given that they have their own yachts…

We chose a hotel with a small beach located near the centre of Antibes, bordering the gorgeous Old Town of Antibes on the one side and Cap d’Antibes on the other. For my morning run, I would run alongside the ocean through Cap d’Antibes and back. My first run must have been on rubbish collection morning, because I ran past a household which had evidently run out of dustbin bags. So as not to miss collection day, their trash had been elegantly placed in an assortment of different sized Chanel shopping bags.

Such is life in Cap d’Antbes…

View from Cap d’Antibes across towards Antibes

In neighbouring Antibes, we spent our days on sun loungers on the beach. Well, to be exact, we paid our 20 euros for our sun loungers, threw our towels on them and then spent most of our time running after The Princess. Although there were those cherished mid-morning moments when The Princess would pass out in her pram for her daily nap and we’d be able to get in some reading…

Mid-morning siesta on the beach

And then she’d wake up and we’d have to mediate the fight over beach toys between Italian, Russian, British and Dutch children and The Princess, who sees no reason to share whatsoever. The Queen of our little beach was undoubtedly a feisty little 21 month old Italian girl named Flaminia. Brown as a berry, she’d strut around in her little bikini bottoms like she owned the place and in a way she kind of did. She and her parents had booked front row sun-loungers in advance and Flaminia had the coolest toys. One morning she arrived with a pink, plastic cart on wheels… I could just smell disaster… The Princess LOVES anything on wheels that she can push or drag. Sure enough, a fight ensued, during which Flaminia’s parents insisted that she share her cart with The Princess. Flaminia was not amused and let the whole beach know it. Can’t really blame her – it was a very cool cart. Around lunch-time, Flaminina and her parents would say goodbye and then her parents would return, sans Flaminia, for a leisurely afternoon of reading and sun-bathing. The Husband and I daydreamed about how they achieved this. My money was on an Italian mamma stashed away in their holiday apartment, whilst The Husband was betting on a nanny. When never did find out whether either or these theories bore any resemblance to reality…

In the evenings, we’d retire to our room to put The Princess to bed and settle in with room service and a bottle of French wine. And so, when The Husband decided that he’d treat us to lunch at Eden Roc (an uber fancy hotel in Cap d’Antibes frequented by the jet set) I decided to bust out my best frock and my gold sandals, since this was going to be my only chance. (Okay, I had worn the dress to dinner in Geneva, but since we ate dinner at 6pm with The Princess, we were literally the only people in the restaurant at the time, so that didn’t count.) The thing I didn’t bank on was that everyone else at Eden Roc had either floated away from the pool for a spot of lunch or they’d stepped off their yachts. Literally. I mean they’d stepped off their yachts into a little Eden Roc boatie thingie and been deposited on the hotel’s jetty just below the poolside restaurant. So pretty much all the other diners were in their bathing suits with matching cover-ups (those sheer, long-sleeved tunic/ kaftan things that go over swimsuits). A few girls upped the game when they paired their bathing suit ensembles with high heels. Suddenly my gold flats from Woolies weren’t looking quite as out of place. Phew.

View from Eden Roc’s poolside restaurant

Our last beach day in Antibes was unfortunately tainted by a sea water warning. The life-guard on our hotel’s beach was quietly going up to anyone entering the water and telling them that the sea was uncharacteristically dirty on that particular day and that he strongly advised against swimming. When I enquired as to what may have caused this, he ventured that a boat must have “let go something” (direct translation from the French). Reading between the lines – and looking at the white, chalky particles we could sea floating in the Mediterranean – The Husband and I deduced that one of the luxury yachts we could see from the shore, must have dumped their cr*p into the water – quite literally. After The Princess somehow picked up salmonella and ecoli in the Seychelles with its pristine beaches and sea water, I decided that our beach holiday needed to end a few hours early and we retired to our air conditioned room.

I guess even the likes of those who wear high heels with their bathing suits, still have to cr*p…

Geneva to Megeve via Perrignier

This is one of those travel stories that is kind of amusing in its hopelessness when you tell it afterwards, but absolutely horrendous as you experience it unfolding…

The Princess and I had planned to travel to a ski village in the French Alps, called Megeve, where the riders would end their first stage of the Haute Route. We’d be at the finish for The Husband, cheering for him and congratulating him on successfully completing the first stage of this hardcore race.

The most convenient way of getting to Megeve, about 100km from Geneva, would have been by car, but I didn’t fancy driving on the wrong side of the road, in unknown territory, up into the mountains, with very precious cargo… And so I enquired of the concierge about alternative means of transport several weeks ago. I was told that there was a bus from Geneva which would be alot simpler and more direct than a train. So that was the plan. Here was the route we’d take:

Geneva to Megeve

Unfortunately, when I enquired about bus times the night before, the new concierge on duty discovered that, in fact, buses only ran between Geneva and Megeve during the ski season, so our only option was to take a train (or a taxi, which would only set us back around R7,000 there and back, but “that wouldn’t cover a Mercedes, Madam.”)

The train it was to be, then. Normally, a train journey to the town closest to Megeve, called Sallanches, would involve a one-way journey of roughly two and a half hours and we’d have to change trains twice. Not ideal, but especially not ideal with a baby in a stroller. Fortunately, there was one train option at a convenient time where we’d only have to change once, so naturally I decided on that one. When I asked if we could book the tickets on-line in advance, the concierge discovered that we’d only be able to buy tickets for the first portion of our journey, which would take us over the border into France. Thereafter, we’d have to purchase more tickets for our onward journey with the French train authorities.

We only had thirteen minutes to alight the train, find the ticket office, buy more tickets and then find the platform to catch the next train, but we actually made it and got onto what I thought was our final train journey before we’d alight in Sallanches and catch a five minute taxi drive to Megeve.

Our journey seemed to be going well until I vaguely caught the tail end of an announcement in French, that I thought may have suggested something about certain passengers needing to change trains. I brushed this off at first, but then decided to check with my neighbour to be certain, since there was no conductor in sight and moving through a train with a stroller wasn’t a quick exercise. Unfortunately, my neighbour didn’t have a clue and I figured that everything should be fine, so I relaxed and watched The Princess finally pass out in her pram after the morning’s excitement.

When I no longer saw Sallanches listed as one of the stops on the digital screen above our carriage, I started to panic. The panic rose as the train pulled off. Just then the conductor appeared as if out of nowhere. He confirmed my fears. He’d made an announcement stating that everyone travelling south, should have changed trains at the station we’d just left, Annemasse.


And this was not a train line with regular trains, so it was not a case of hopping off at the next station and hopping back onto another train 30 minutes later. I decided then that the best thing to do would be to take a taxi from the next station that would be geographically nearest to Megeve. The conductor told me that none of the stations would be near, but I insisted that he told me which would be the nearest. He then checked his little pamphlet and told me it was “Thonon-Les-Bains”. Still, I wanted greater certainty, so I turned on my data roaming and tried to get Google to tell me where we were. Of course, we were in the sticks and so for ages I couldn’t get a connection. When I finally could, it didn’t look pretty. It looked like this:

We’d left Annemasse (point “B” on the map above), which was east of Geneva (point “A” on the map) and instead of travelling south towards Sallanches (point “D”), near Megeve, we were in fact very much heading north, in exactly the wrong direction. To me Thonon- Les-Bains (point “C” on the map) did not look like the best place to catch a cab to Megeve geographically speaking.

This led me to make the executive decision to get off at the next stop before we travelled any further north at all. The next stop was called Perrignier – point “C” on the map below:

As I dragged the sleeping Princess off the train backwards in her stroller, I had a strong feeling I may have made the wrong decision. It looked like we were in the middle of nowhere. But of course, before I could change my mind, the regional train had gone chugging off and we were stuck on the platform of Perrignier.

At first, I literally could not see how one exited the platform. There was no subway in sight and there was a fence surrounding us. Then I noticed some cement slabs where one was literally expected to cross over the tracks – that’s how small the Perrignier station was. Just for a laugh, I decided to venture into the microscopic building where a ticket office might have been. But of course, it was only a musty waiting area with a bench.

All hope was not lost, however, and like every one-horse French town, Perrignier boasts its very own Cafe de la Gare (station cafe). This is it:

Cafe de la Gare, Perrignier, France

Unlike the picture suggests, the parking lot was full last Sunday when we arrived and I accosted a man climbing into his truck, wanting to know how I could find a taxi. I had to pause in between because the reality of where I was with my 17 month old baby had dawned on me and I was struggling to complete the sentence in between panicked sobs. He patiently told me that I should go into the bar and ask for help there.

You would think that at 11am on a Sunday morning, Perrignier’s Cafe de la Gare would have resembled the waiting room of Perrignier’s train station, but you’d be wrong. The place was packed. A number of the patrons could no longer boast anything close to a full set of teeth, but nonetheless…The bar was single-handedly run by the only woman in the establishment besides myself – an angel called Caroline, who took pity on The Princess and I and set about asking her patrons if they knew any taxi drivers who’d be willing to take us to Megeve on a Sunday. Just as I thought things may be looking up for us, one of the patrons put the front page of the local newspaper in front of Caroline and I. This was what it said:

And it translates to: “The Big Pain Of Finding A Taxi”. I confess that I can’t recall what the article said but the point was clear – taxis in the area were not exactly prolific at the best of times.

Fortunately, however, Caroline didn’t quit. She eventually got hold of a guy she’d been at high school with about thirty years earlier, who said he’d be there in half an hour. In the meantime, the sleeping Princess and I found a table by the door to try to avoid the smoke fumes, settled down to wait and I surveyed the bar scene I had somehow found myself in, despite having woken up in our comfy Geneva hotel by the lake five hours earlier…

Inside the Cafe de la Gare, Perrignier

About 35 minutes later, our taxi driver arrived and couldn’t have been nicer. I hadn’t even thought to request a taxi with a baby seat for The Princess as I thought that that would have severely hampered our options, but he said that he had a seat in his garage which was five minutes drive in the wrong direction. I decided it would definitely be a good idea, so we set off with The Princess fast asleep strapped into a seat belt on the seat next to me.

Nothing could have prepared me for her reaction when I tried to transfer her onto what turned out to only be a booster cushion and not an actual baby car seat. She went absolutely crazy. She was screaming her lungs out, her bottom lip was quivering and she was almost hyperventilating. It was quite scary. I had to ask the taxi driver to stop the car so that we could get out three times. Every time I tried to put her back in the car – not even strapped into the booster cushion – she went nuts. Eventually, I asked the taxi driver to take us to the nearest and largest train station as I just didn’t see how The Princess would stay in the car for the next hour. He told me that the nearest station was Annemasse (where we were supposed to change trains for the second time on our morning’s journey) and that we were currently about 35 minutes drive from both Annemasse and Geneva. With The Princess’ hysterical crying vibrating in my inner ear, I took the flash decision to return to Geneva.

The Princess continued screaming blue murder for what seemed like eternity. Other than trying to remain calm, I had no idea what to do. Any attempt at distraction only seemed to fuel her anger and/or frustration even more. What finally did the trick was quietly humming “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star”. I was too terrified to stop singing lest she start up again and ended up humming the tune all the way back to Geneva. Yes, the taxi driver was very kind and long-suffering…

So sadly, we never got to Megeve to see The Husband at the end of his first stage of the Haute Route. He had a brilliant first stage, coming around 260th out of nearly 600 riders. And he continued to do phenomenally well in all of his six subsequent stages, coming in amongst the the top 300 riders or better (barring the time trial when he came in the 300’s).

Well done, my love! You have just proved that you can do anything you put your mind to!

I am pleased to say that The Princess and I were at the end of the seventh and final stage which finished on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on Saturday. Well, sort of – the peleton procession entered Nice earlier than the organisers had warned everyone and so The Princess and I saw them pass us about 1km from the finish line and had to dash after 600 riders to try to get to the finish before them. We didn’t quite make it before the Alpine cyclists, but when we finally got there and The Princess saw The Husband, her undisguised joy at seeing her daddy again after a week, made it all worthwhile, for all of us.

And there ended our 2012 Haute Route adventures. Next up was three days of beach time in Antibes, when The Husband’s bike stood on the balcony in pieces, not to be touched for a glorious 72 hour period…

To Geneva for The Haute Route

About two months ago, The Princess saw a cycling magazine lying face down on the floor of our bathroom. At the time, her vocabulary barely stretched beyond “Mamma”, “Dadda” and when she spotted the magazine in question, she pointed at it and exclaimed:

“Dadda! Dadda!”

This is a picture of what she was pointing at:

This is “Dadda” in the eyes of The Princess

Basically, if he’s on a bicycle then he must be Daddy. (The picture is actually Ivan Basso – you’d only know who he was if you were cycling obsessed or married to someone who’s cycling obsessed). This just shows how much time The Husband has been spending on his bike in the last six months, or since The Princess has been alert enough to be aware of his riding. The word “by” (for “bike” was amongst her first ten words) so the sport is a big feature in her little life.

And this sport – or rather, The Husband’s obsession with it – has brought our little family to Geneva, Switzerland, where a race called The Haute Route will began today. The race runs over seven days, from Geneva to Nice, over NINETEEN (gulp!) mountain passes in the Alps, so it is only for the super fit, super motivated and/or super insane. The race is 780km long and has 21,000m of climbing. Geography, with its deathly dull topics like map contours, was never my favourite subject and so I can’t say I would ordinarily really understand the meaning of 21,000m of climbing in seven days. The fear in The Husband’s voice when he speaks of this, though, has given me a hint.

So if you’re like me, here’s a graphical illustration of what 21,000m of climbing means:

Profile of The Haute Route 2012

Our journey from Jozi began on Tuesday evening with an 8:30pm flight to London when The Princess broke her “number-of-consecutive-hours-awake” record. She woke up from her day nap at 11:30am that morning and finally, finally, finally passed out on the plane at five minutes to 11pm that night. Then we had a five hour layover in London, before our flight to Geneva. All in all, the entire journey went off relatively smoothly considering we were travelling with a 16 month old. And then, when we’d finally, finally arrived at our Geneva Hotel, I realised that I’d left my backpack with laptop and I-pad, on the plane. Fortunately, no-one in the first world is keen on nicking the I-pad 1 and a Macbook from 2009 and so my only inconvenience in this whole saga was a return journey to the Geneva airport. Phew!

We arrived ahead of the hottest weekend Switzerland has experienced this summer. This weekend, the temperature rose to 35 degrees. I clearly recall what 35 degrees felt like inland, in the south of France, in August last year. It was death. Absolutely unbearable. But somehow 35 degrees at the foot of Mont Blanc, on the shores of a lake feels hot, but just a tad breezy and therefore somewhat bearable.

I have never been to Geneva before but I suspect that the experience of visiting this city in the dead of winter may not be all that great. In summer, I have to say, I think it’s awesome, mainly thanks to the beautiful lake that it’s centred around. Everything seems to happen on or around the lake: I’ve only been running in the mornings or walking with The Husband and The Princess, but there are people on bicylces, on rollerblades and on scooters. You can also water ski or wakeboard on the lake and The Princess and I even went to a teeny little sandy beach called literally called “Baby Plage” (not translated from the French – that’s the actual name) where you can swim in a cordoned off area of the lake.

If it weren’t for how hideously expensive everything is, in summertime, one does feel as though one could live here. A cappuccino in our hotel’s lounge will set you back just under 80ZAR. And that’s without a tip, which is expected. In December, we were horrified when we had to pay R100 an hour for babysitting in a five star hotel. In our Geneva hotel, babysitting sets you back a cool R340 per hour, at present exchange rates. You almost want your child to wake up and cause havoc at that price!

We treated ourselves to a date night with a babysitter one evening and it was then that I realised how much I adore my husband. The menu had two possibilities for beef fillet – one for ladies and one for men. The men’s portion was 220g and the ladies portion was 130g.

“ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY GRAMS? Are they taking the piss here or what?” is what I was thinking. “I mean, in South Africa, a standard ladies fillet is 200g so does that mean that Swiss men eat only one bite of steak more than South African women?”

Tick, tock, tick, tock…

All eyes were on me to place my order. And I was simply not woman enough to order the man’s portion.

“I’ll have the fillet mesdames, please,” I spluttered.

And this was the moment of admiration and adoration:

“Don’t be ridiculous! 130g of steak? That’s nothing! You can’t have that! Have the 220g portion! Seriously!”

I was secretly thrilled as I could just picture the microscopic nature of a 130g piece of steak but I couldn’t capitulate too easily or it would look like that’s what I was thinking all along… Fortunately, the waiter was sharp and read the situation beautifully. He chipped in to support The Husband’s protestations against embarrassing women into starvation with miniscule portion sizes and I had the 220g portion.

To wrap up this Geneva blog, here’s a photo of something I found quite amusing. It was on the window of an apparently up-market watch shop:

On the window of a Geneva watch store

I guess in a country where artisanal watch brands that originated centuries ago abound, it becomes increasingly difficult to apply the old-fashioned art of understatement…

Cement for our Marriage

The French are so funny. You cannot throw a stompie and hit a French person who doesn’t smoke. In cafes, in the street, they’ll blow their smoke right on top of your baby without batting an eye. They’ll smoke all over your fragrant, Provencal plate of food. Chefs and restaurant owners will sit down with regular patrons and smoke on top of you while you try to savour the taste of their wondrous French fare. You can also bring your smelly mutt to most restaurants and to many hotels.
But God forbid you should pollute the environment by misclassifying your recycling.
For the latter, hefty fines are apparently imposed. You are also, we just learned last night, not allowed to poison rodents in your own home. According to our landlord, Steve, this might just be illegal – he’d have to check but he certainly did not look impressed when we called him over to introduce him to the rodents that have been rudely interrupting our dinner for the past ten days. Steve informed us that these were neither rats, nor mice. Rather, they are “harmless” rodents known as “mulots”, indigenous to the South of France. Sort of like field mice, he described, only bigger.
Much bigger, I’d like to add.
Just one of the South of France’s many contrasts…
That said, we still dream of one day owning a holiday home here. The Husband has decided that inland in the countryside there are “too many insects”. I’m not sure if this means that we should rather be setting our sights on Beijing if we want a holiday home that’s insect free, but we’ll see…
So far we’ve determined that our next French adventure will be on the coast. To this end, we explored the little hamlets of Agay and Antheor, close to St Raphael and just west of Cannes, the other day. Agay was cute but it was Antheor that was really spectacular. A less up-market version of Clifton with cliffside houses overlooking a pristine, turquoise sea. With The Princess perched in her pouch on The Husband’s chest, we descended the 130 steps (I counted on the way up to try and keep my breathing even) to one of the many mini beaches. It is nearing the end of high season now so things are still busy but thankfully the masses have gone home. Because of this, we were able to enjoy the beach with just a few other people. It made our day when we could just overhear a woman near us remark to her partner that The Princess was “magnifique”. We were basking in pride!
The Husband has become rather caught up in the romance of the French language and as such is making an attempt to learn it. The method at the moment involves us lying in bed with him painstakingly reading Tintin in its original French version and me translating. I have to say that he’s learnt quite a lot. Although he still gets confused with his basic Spanish and will find himself asking for “la cuenta” in restaurants instead of “l’addition”.
His love affair with the French language, however, is mild compared to his ongoing love affair with cycling. Over the years as I’ve seen his sporting obsessions go from rock climbing to mountain biking to road cycling, my view has always been: “Have fun, honey, just don’t torture me.” This has worked pretty well for us until two days ago when he drove three and a half hours to summit the famous Tour de France climb of Mont Ventoux. There he overhead a South African accent and proceeded to meet a 66 year old teacher from Cresta who had just ascended Mont Ventoux on a tandem, with her husband, a retired butcher.
“She took up cycling when she was 43,” he told me afterwards, “so there is plenty of time for you!”
I explained what he already knows, which is that when two people both like to be in charge, a tandem is not a good idea. He said he’d asked the teacher whether a tandem hadn’t perhaps negatively impacted her relationship.
“Not at all!” she replied emphatically. “It’s like cement for our marriage!”
I was thinking it’d be more like quicksand for ours, but the next day we went to the nearby Lac St Cassien – a beautiful, azur body of water just 20km from Fayence. Because The Husband can’t sit still, we hired one of those pedal boats. We climbed on, started pedalling and i found that my feet were just going around and around without any effort at all. I asked The Husband if he felt the same but of course it turned out that he was doing all the work.
“You see, baby, it would be just like this on a tandem!” he said.
Now we’re talking…

Quelle Chaleur

You know it’s hot when you leave your phone lying out in the sun and it says:
Temperature Warning: I-phone needs to cool down before you can use it.
Since we arrived at our little pad in Fayence in the Var region of Provence, I myself have often felt as though I need to cool down in order to function. The Husband mentioned that perhaps we shouldn’t visit the south of France in August because of the heat, but I totally dismissed his objections, thinking that anything was better than winter. Boy, was I wrong. It is just too hot. It’s hot from about 8am in the morning and it often feels as though it has barely cooled down in the evening. And then there are the mozzies. I thought Africa had mozzies but I’m starting to think we have nothing on the South of France. They pounce at dawn, at dusk and throughout the day. I haven’t had this many bites since our trip to the Amazon. Not to mention wasps and horse-flies. The Husband was literally hunted by a horsefly last night when he went for a swim. He ducked under the water to try and avoid being stung but the buzzing b*stard was waiting for him as he surfaced. And that’s not all. Last night we were finishing dinner when some sort of creature ran across the shade-cloth over our heads. It sounded kind of thunderous so The Sister and I looked up, a bit concerned.
“It’s a bird,” announced The Husband.
“Ah”, we replied.”
But when “the bird” scrambled off the shade-cloth into the tree, I noticed he had a pretty long, skinny tail. It was a mouse. The next thing his buddy went running across to join him.
I swear, it’s the wild west out here.
On the bright side, however, our villa is a gorgeous Provencal style house with beige stone walls and blue shutters, overlooking a much-needed and magnificent pool. One needs to dip in the pool every twenty minutes or so to avoid overheating, like an I-phone. And so The Princess has had her first swims, although she knows that this is not quite the same as her bath so she’s a little cautious and clingy.
Yesterday, for some glitz and glamour we went to Juan Les Pins, next door to Antibes, where The Princess swam in the sea for the very first time. She seemed to love it, although she did cling tightly onto her daddy’s ears, just in case. I love the beach set-up on the French Riviera. It’s SO civilized. You hire your sun-lounger with super padded mattress, you rent your fluffy white beach towel and you snap your fingers to get the attention of the “plagiste” (the very tanned, muscular “beacher” dude) who brings you drinks and an extra umbrella, should you so wish. Of course, you pay through your nostrils for all these privileges, but it’s so worth it. Not least because of the excellent people watching the Mediterranean scene affords one. If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s possible to be too tanned, it most definitely is. I have never seen such over-fried Caucasians in my life. They have literally turned themselves into the colour of mud. And I’m not just talking about prune-faced, bejewelled old grannies who were born in an era when no-one knew the dangers of the sun. I’m talking about teens, twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, forty-somethings… all turned pitch black from the sun. At the moment, The Princess has a definite tinge of red in her hair and her skin is absolutely lilly-white. Her daddy is much the same and her mommy is not exactly olive-skinned so the three of us are happy to stick to the shade. The Sister, on the other hand, has been working hard at trying to turn her English rose complexion a darker shade. Charity, The Princess’ nanny, thinks that anyone who deliberately lies in the sun in this heat is deluded. It’s been so hot, that she has gone from being utterly terrified of the water to wading out into the shallow waters of the Med and hanging out in the shallow end of the pool.
The Husband, however, has not let the heat distract him from his cycling obsession. He was delighted to learn that a Tour de France climb went right past our villa’s doorstep and wasted no time getting on his bicycle to emulate the routes of cycling’s greats. Right now, as I type this, he is off on his longest ride ever: a 200km epic. And this is by someone who often refuses to sit outside at restaurants in Joburg in summer on the grounds that it is “too hot”. He is officially mad. I just hope he doesn’t come home dehydrated. And that about sums up our little sojourn in the South of France for now. I think I need to take my Mac indoors before it issues me with a temperature warning…

The Princess Travels

I felt my night nurse summed up my marriage pretty well the other day when she declared that cycling was The Husband's second wife. I think that if I were ever to find myself in some kind of parallel universe in which I was in a polygamous marriage, I'd be as jealous of my "sister wives" as I am of The Husband's cycling. Because of this obsession with cycling, I suppose it is not surprising that The Princess' first trip away from home, would be a cycling trip. The Husband was taking part in a four day stage race in Mpumalanga and I was to go along, bringing in tow The Princess, her granny, her nanny and two 4X4's FULL of baby stuff. We had everything from teething gel to a huge electric steriliser (which proved useless after the cord was left behind in Joburg). I am very familiar with overpacking because I have travelled very, very heavily all my life. The difference with a baby is that you actually do use almost all of the things you pack.
After The Husband had filled up both his car and his cycling partner's car with bicycles and ALL our stuff, we eventually set off several hours late – I've heard that's par for the course when you go away with a baby… The Princess passed out before we'd even left Sandton and had a pretty good kip for the first part of the journey. Breastfeeding in the back seat in the parking lot of a petrol station was a first for us, but fortunately anyone in the vicinity was entirely consumed by the site of several rhinos wandering around in an enclosed camp about 15m from the parking lot. Bizarre, but a useful distraction.
For the first five hours of travelling, The Princess was a little angel, but thereafter she was starting to get annoyed being strapped into her car seat. At this opportune moment, The Husband managed to get us lost. Not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. He did so, despite being armed with:
1. A GPS unit
2. A map book
3. Written directions from the hotel, including a map
And they say women have a poor sense of direction?
The upshot of it all is that we drove to Hazyview via Sabie, which, if you're not familiar with the area, is not the most direct route from Joburg. The Princess was not amused by her daddy's blunder.
Speaking of her daddy, he is the most atrocious passenger and relentless backseat driver that ever lived. To the extent that I now refuse to drive if he's in the car. He can stress a driver out to the extent that they actually become more prone to driving as recklessly as he is predicting they will. The Mother Figure witnessed this backseat driving about two years ago and so she was curious as to how he was coping being in the passenger's seat while his cycling partner drove alongside him. She made a good point. I was also a little curious. But I told her that I was certain he reserved his backseat driving for me and that he probably wouldn't dare attempt it with his cycling partner. Just then The Husband phoned from his cycling partner's car to discuss directions (wrong ones, at that). A minute or so into the conversation, I heard:
"Please. For the love of God. PASS that car!"
Yeeha! So I am officially not the only one whose driving gets running commentary from him…
When we arrived in Hazyview on the Friday evening, it was a balmy 25 degrees. However, over the next two days I was colder than I have been in years. I couldn't believe it. I thought that daytime in the Kruger/ Hazyview area was supposed to be warm and lovely. No such luck for us, though. As a result, The Mother Figure and I decided to take a drive into the Kruger Park as it was too cold to do anything outdoors. Unfortunately, we saw wilder animals at the petrol station along the N4. The sum total of our sightings in the Kruger amounted to: a mongoose, some springbok, a few bushbuck and a couple of zebras. We also saw a zebra wandering around the gardens of our hotel, as well as a springbok in the bushes surrounding the hotel, so not much need for a 60km round trip to view the above.
On the Monday, the weather finally decided to play ball which led us to pack the nappy bag and go and support The Husband and his cycling partner during their time trial up a very steep and windy Kovyn's Pass. We parked the car halfway up the pass, put The Princess in her baby carrier and stood by the side of the road to cheer "our team" as they came past. I think The Princess should have been awarded a special prize for being the youngest supporter by far. It was impossible to time our support between feeds, so once again The Princess and I settled down to breastfeed in the car. She'd point blank refused to feed in the car at the gate to the Kruger Park but this time she seemed to be extra hungry and didn't mind where she fed.
Tuesday (Women's Day) saw The Husband and his cycling partner very kindly giving up Stage 4 of their race so that The Mother Figure and I could make it back to Jozi in time for Burn the Floor (a dance show which I highly recommend if you enjoy watching dancing). Once again, The Princess was a little angel during the car journey until we were all but home, when she started screaming blue murder. You could almost hear her going, "Get me OUT of this CHAIR!!!"
When we finally arrived home and she was released from her car seat, she was all smiles again.
All in all, I completely survived my first travels with baby. I have to say it was a good dry run for France next week and I am feeling far less apprehensive than I was before. And this despite having to deal with a HUMUNGOUS poo along the N4. If we survived that, we can survive anything, The Princess and I!
And France is most definitely happening because The Princess officially has her visa and so does her nanny. Yeeha! A bientot, mes amis!