Fun with 5 – France, part 1

Always a laugh, taking the 5 kids on holiday.  Heading for the village of Arles-sur-Tech in the south of France would involve a proper planes, trains and automobiles expedition.

If past experience has taught us anything, it’s that preparation is key.  Get the packing list sorted – if not actually done – in advance.  Know what you need to buy and when.  We, for example, were going self-catering in France, so salted butter was an essential.  Also, knowing how strangely equipped some places can be, we were taking a can opener with us.  Magazines for the kids, chargers, cables, adapters, etc. for the tech.  Actually, that’s one thing that the digital revolution has not really helped with.  Time was you’d just need to pack spare batteries for stuff – AA, AAA and the weird one your camera took.  Now you need plugs and cables for each camera, phone, miscellaneous other gizmo.  If they could just pick one connector and stick with it, everything would be far simpler!

Day 1, drive to the airport in Shetland, fly to Edinburgh, bus into town through those lovely tram works, taking the long way around the back of the west end.  Can’t wait until they’ve finished them!  Then onto the trains.  Trains proving interesting thanks to the flooding on the east coast a day or so earlier!

Change trains at Newcastle, carry on to Hexham.  Overnight near there.

Quite a treck, but the kids all did brilliantly.  This isn’t the first time they’ve done journeys like this – equipped with a couple of their favourite toys and a fresh shiny magazine each, they handled their little wheely suitcases well, even Thing5 who’s only 2.  We’d hustled them out of baggage claim, onto the Airlink bus (thank you for the free WiFi) and through the bombsite that is Waverley Station – another thing I can’t wait for them to finish.  God that place is a dingy pit!  Normally we’d stop for munchies in there but with the trains as they were it was in, locate platform, up stairs, down stairs, onto train, sit down, watch as station recedes into the distance.

Thing 3: “Are we moving?”

Me: “No, they’ve put the whole of Edinburgh on wheels and they’re pushing it that way.”

Day 2, up at stupid o’clock to get a taxi to their airport and meet up with dad and get on the Jet2 flight to Toulouse.  Being a budget airline and drawing on our past experiences with Ryanair, we weren’t expecting too much.  Jet2 exceeded my expectations hugely.  Comfortable-ish – and assigned! – seats with plenty of legroom, even for 6’6″ me, expensive food (as expected, but comparable to the train).  Nothing for in-flight entertainment as it’s a pretty short flight so the kids switched between their magazines, sleeping and a game of Carcassonne on my phone.  A delay on take-off meant I’d got time to double-check the directions to the place on Google Maps.

Pick up the hire car from the strangely relocated Avis desk – it’s out in the carpark by the cars rather than inside the terminal, but this would prove to be a perfectly sane location compared to the setup in Newcastle! – then my wife did her first continental driving while I navigated to Arles-sur-Tech in the now pouring rain.

Now.  A word of warning about French cars.  This might apply to all cars, or it might just be the model of Renault we had.  Bluetooth won’t connect the music player for your phone.  Yes, it’ll do the phone side of things but not the music.  Not to worry, thought I, for I have the 3.5mm jack that will connect to the aux socket.  See?  Prepared, me.  Only it didn’t have a 3.5mm jack, it had the red/white phono connections.  Did I have that cable?  No.  Prepared, just not that prepared.  I do these things so you don’t have to.  Oh, the problems of a travelling geek.

Rain…  Lots of rain…  All the way there… Oh dear…  I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

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