The Nocturnal Dad | Episode 6 | European Vacation
Tonight I had my pick of the pits. Desperate for comfort and rest, I yet again tried both bunks, for the thousandth time. On the bottom, Peter’s long ears jabbed sharply into my nose. Later, on the top, Pikachu’s unforgiving hidden plastic bottom smashed into my chin on turn thirty-six. Meanwhile, Rib Kicker and Drama slept soundly in my bed with my wife. Dadxit offered a reprieve as I flirted with the sensation of ‘normal’ but my return to this more familiar zombie-like-state feels strangely, perversely, comforting. Nocturnal by name, nocturnal by nature.
With caffeinated assistance and plenty of salad, I am just about recovered from the Dadxit shenanigans. My focus is now 100% on family and spending as much quality time as possible with my three beautiful people to make up for my time away. With some financial juggling we decided to look into going away somewhere. A nice laid back holiday with the kids. Beach, book, beers, lovely.
My wife turned me on to Paris about 15 years ago. She absolutely adores the place and she personifies the best of Paris because she too is beautiful, stylish, sophisticated and classy. She is a private person and I am of course anonymous, so I can’t use her real name and so I call her Rock Solid for the purposes of this column, as you will know if you’ve come across my ramblings before. She is that, but she is also kind and generous and supportive. And key to this story, she is always right.
Family Holiday to Paris
The first couple of times we went to Paris it didn’t really do it for me. But on the third trip, we ventured off the tourist trail and had one of the best weekends of our lives (ah yes, remember those glory days before they arrived?). We even talked about relocating there for a year and going full on Parisian. But that was before the small wars – before the bed stealers arrived.
“I really want to take the boys to Paris”.
Nocturnal Dad (thinking):
(Fu** that, it would be a total mare. Oh, bollo**s. I’ve just had two weeks away with my mates, I don’t have any say in this whatsoever)
“Paris with the boys, what a great idea!”
And that was that and so we would embark on our own European Vacation to La Ville Lumière. Translated as The City of Light. Not to be confused with The Stadium of Light, Sunderland, which at this point was way more appealing.
My sole but important task was to contact an old family friend who has a place in Montmartre in the hope that we might be able to stay there while she was out of the country, otherwise we would be stealing du pain and drinking from the Seine. Our luck was in and we bagged a stunning little house in the perfect location. Rock Solid was determined to deliver a ram packed culture immersion excursion. Within hours tickets were purchased for the Eurostar and there was a pre-researched itinerary briefing. My wife makes Gunnery Sargent Hartman look inept when it comes to preparing her men for a mission. She was already excitedly packing. The boys were hyped up to eleven. I was secretly dreading the prospect.
The Eurostar queue was surprisingly short and after showing our tickets we were ushered through passport control in a couple of minutes. Amazing service! We made our way to coach one at the front of the train. Awesome! We took our seats. Spacious! Even with Rib Kicker on our lap so that he could travel for free, there was still plenty of room. This was no EasyJet speedy boarding bobbins, this was luxury. We settled in and sprawled out across the table filling it with child travel essentials; tablet, colouring books, pens, Pokemon cards, a load of smuggled-in random bits of toy stew plastic and a big bag of Haribo.
The boys were excited, wired, boisterous and even noisier than usual. The rest of the carriage was deathly quiet. Oddly there were no other families or kids in site. Weird! Everyone was sat looking very serious and either already working at a laptop, reading The Financial Times or pulling on eyemasks. Shit! I looked at Rock Solid and a mutual look of terror and impending doom was exchanged as she covertly retracted the Haribo from the table. We had opted on booking to pay an extra tenner for a complimentary meal and drink and in doing so it had landed us, unwittingly, in business class.
That is how oblivious a lack of sleep and kids can make you to the passing world. With these two child-dogs in tow, we were free-range cattle class at best. Travelling anywhere with Drama and Rib Kicker is a dead cert nightmare. They are quite honestly hyper fuc**ing mentalists. Especially when forced together in a confined space. We could feel the eyes bearing in on us from all sides. I bloody knew it. Horrorshow!
Then something very strange happened. They stopped winding each other up and began chatting and playing quietly. No one kicked off. They didn’t scream for sweets. They even looked out of the window at one point and enjoyed the view. Rock Solid and I had a couple of complimentary drinks and exchanged renewed glances of shocked appreciation at this incredible scene. The power of Business Class travel on my children was like The Force. Or maybe, like their mum, they just have expensive taste and they will turn on us like the pit bulls they our next EasyJet mission. Whatever it was that did it, we chilled out on public transport with our children for the first time in history. I even had a little kip. It was absolutely splendid.
The bliss-full journey would set the tone for the trip and subside my fears. We used the Metro to get to our borrowed pad in Montmartre. As I teed up Metro stair shuttle runs with a suitcase, buggy, and kids, friendly locals of all ages offered their help. The boys walked, talked and took it all in without tearing chunks out of each other, the weather was great, the people were great and thanks to Rock Solid’s meticulous research and scheduling, we did loads of really cool stuff, stress-free.
There were a few culture-killer moments; Drama managed to smash his head into not one but two different glass mirrors within the space of three minutes – but no claret was spilled. We landed at McDonald’s for a guilty lunch – Rock Solid is not a fan, especially when on a family holiday to Paris. A massive funfair eclipsed Le Louvre – becoming our most frequented destination. RoboDogs were way more interesting than the Eiffel Tower overhead – with Rib Kicker sucked into the smack-like-tractor beam of the street vendors glittery tack. And Drama and Rib Kicker took great pleasure in sarcastically repeating ‘pardon’ and ‘qui-qui’ to locals in a manner that might have come across as inadvertently racist-tinged piss taking but was, of course, the innocent banter of two excited young boys exploring a new language – or so we convinced ourselves as we smiled with crimson faces and escorted them off the premises.
But once again my wife would be proven right. It was a brilliantly fun holiday and not all of it cost loads of money. Before we went out, people at home were banging on about Disneyland but honestly, I’m glad we didn’t go there. There is a ton of genuinely brilliant stuff to do in Paris without needing to feed the fat mouse….
Drama & Rib Kicker’s Top Seven Freebies
Spotting the latest Banksy on the steps of Montmartre
Negotiating the wall climb along the Seine
Stopping for board games and skittles at Paris Plages
Watching transfixed as boats passed through the locks and the road folded back in on itself at Canal St. Martin
Dipping their faces in the water pools at Le Louvre (although we moved on quickly as the next phase for our little exhibitionists would have likely been skinny dipping, or worse).
Sailing hand-made boats in the pond at Jardin du Luxembourg (this one was 4 euros for half an hour).
Sitting on the river bank wall after dark to watch the Eiffel Tower lights which look awesome (and preferable to paying 150 euros it would have cost for us all to go up the thing).
Fuelled on baguette and ice-cream, they ran like drunk puppies for hours saving us expensive lunch stops (obviously bread, sugar and late nights are essential ingredients for any family holiday, so that’s fine).
Drama & Rob Kicker’s Top Two Tickets
Mini roller coasters and awesome play parks at the recently re-opened Napoleon-era Le Jardin d’ Acclimatation (entry starts at 5 euros with ride tickets on top).
Losing their tiny minds with excitement at the Atelier Lumieres – a seriously impressive 360 projection mapped installation featuring the works of Gustav Klimt and his contemporaries (15 euro per person, free for under 3’s).
Evening Wine Down
After watching Charlie and the Chocolate factory (on rotation) and finally getting les chiens to sleep, evening listening back at the pad included Charlotte Gainsbourg (love this woman and she sounds even better when listened to in Paris) and this cracking Daft Punk live set from the Rex Club circa 1997 (yep, sounds better when in Paris also) – enjoyed with way too much sublime wine and cheese. Paris, oo-la-la – go get yours!
Illustration by Dominic Murray @SinisterSnowmen
Don’t Believe the Hype is the website for Dad 2.0, modern parents who spend time with their kids and take them to place like Paris, which would strike fear into some members of Dad 1.0. Find out who Dad 2.0 really is on the dedicated page.