It’s been a whirlwind week of travel, self-reflection and eating. Turns out that traveling overseas while pregnant is not so easy, particularly with heavy bags, long connections and jet lag. When work told me that I had been selected to participate in a Legal development program taking place in Guildford, England (about 30 miles outside of London), I was really excited. On paper it all sounded simple. I’d even try to see my cousins in Paris while I was over there. But it was more expensive to fly to Paris, then to London and they wouldn’t pay the difference despite that I had to pay $450 in cancellation fees for a trip with The Husband that conflicted with the work trip. Bummer.
So instead, they booked me round trip from New York to London and it was up to me to pay for travel to and from the 60 hours in Paris. It was well worth it, if BEYOND exhausting. When I arrived at Heathrow aiport around 6:30 in the morning, I had no idea how large and disjointed an international airport could be. I had booked a connecting flight from Heathrow (London) to Paris, which was leaving from a different airport terminal. So off I went, bleary eyed, pulling my suitcase and carrying my heavy back pack to find the appropriate terminal. It took me two transfer trains, for which I had to wait about 30 minutes for each one. In fact, it took me longer to get to the connecting flight terminal than my entire flight from London to Paris. Whomever designed Heathrow airport was certainly not trying to make a connecting flight, nor had he / she ever been pregnant. I kept praying that all the baggage dragging, carrying and hoisting would not do any damage.
But once I got to Paris…it was worth every minute of the schlep. My cousin, Frank, was there to pick me and my mother (who decided to join the 60 hours in Paris escapade and had flown in directly from NY) at the airport. We drove into Paris and arrived to a nice lunch set up by my other cousins, Jonathan and Olivier and my littlest cousins, Ava (almost 2) and Noe’ (4 months). We unpacked, unwound and re-realized just how allergic I am to cats. Not dogs, thankfully, but a cat can send me into an immediate flu state within an hour. It was so bad that we had to leave the apartment urgently and I forgot to bring my iPhone, hence no camera. Luckily, my mother took enough pictures to document 20 trips to Paris. We walked around Luxembourg gardens, ate nutella crepes with hot chocolate, posed with a mini statue of liberty and even managed to shop a bit at some local stores. Dinner that night took place in my cousins’ dining room, with a delicious pasta bolognese dish that is one of my favorites of my cousin, Jonathan. Absolutely delicious for a pregnant girl who relishes carbs like oxygen.
Day 2 of our Paris boondoggle consisted of sleeping in, watching Mary Poppins with cousin Ava, eating a breakfast of French bread, croissants and jams and heading off to the Eiffel Tower. It was freezing outside for that time of year and I wasn’t dressed warmly enough. The result was that I ended up purchasing and wearing a very warm ski hat that said “PARIS” in bold black and silver letters, with fleece gloves that also said “PARIS” and as you may have guessed, a warm blue scarf that also said “PARIS” and had a huge, tacky picture of the Eiffel Tower. I was a walking Paris tourist nightmare. Completely embarrassing to my cousins, who kindly told me that I looked like a Parisian goddess, but I was warm.
We had lunch at a cute Parisian brasserie nearby and then Jonathan took my mother and I on a driving tour of about 90 important Parisian sites. Everything from the Arc d’ Triomphe, Le Louvre, the Opera House to Notre Dame, etc. This was topped off by a walk to a local bakery where we picked up fresh croissants to snack on because we hadn’t had enough croissants earlier in the day. Another wonderful homemade dinner by candleight followed by a roaring fire in the living room made it feel like Christmas. I put on long underwear to get into the spirit and made my cousins gossip with me about everything and nothing until my eyelids couldn’t stay open.
Our last full day in Paris was spent shopping with Olivier. He took my mother and I on a 4 hour extravaganza to La Galerie Lafayette where we hit up the maternity section, looked at tons of baby stuff and had lunch. The highlight was the roof of the store where we had a view of the entire city. We could barely sit up straight when we got home. Another fabulous candlelit dinner awaited us upon our return and it was hard to believe how fast the weekend had gone. I drove off with Frank, Olivier and the kids to their apartment across the city. It was closer to the train station and since I had a 7 AM train ride the next morning via the Eurostar from Paris to London, I decided to stay at their place. Poor Frank had to get up before 6 AM with me in the dark and accompanied me to the station with all of my luggage. I went through customs, boarded and was off to London.
The taxi that was supposed to be waiting for me at St. Pancras London train station was nowhere to be found and my phone didn’t work at first, so this put me into a mild panic as my work program was starting at 1 PM and I knew there was about a 90 minute drive to get there. Eventually, my phone started working and I was able to call the car company, which ended up being about 90 minutes late due to traffic. I finally made it out to Guildford which seemed like a quaint little village filled with narrow, country roads. This led us to Barnett Hill, an old English manor that felt very Downton Abbeyish, although I’ve never seen the show. Lots of manicured lawns to look out on, a croquet area, beautiful foliage and the smell of fall. My room was located at the end of a long hallway of bedrooms and I quickly realized that a very short person must have stayed there about 100 years ago when it was built, because the ceiling angled in at a couple of points and made it impossible to stand up straight. Don’t even get me started about the bathroom. The bathtub area’s ceiling was so short, that I ended up having to shower on my knees while keeping a handheld faucet over my head. Very challenging, particularly as I kept worrying that I’d bang my head the whole time. Not sure why Europeans thought that any sort of a modern bathroom should not have a shower head at least as tall as an average human being, but there you have it. I have a new appreciate for the American shower head and drying machines that make towels nice and fluffy. The things we take for granted in the US!
The week was filled with lots of different sessions, coaching and getting to know our colleagues. Lots of socializing and thinking, self-improvement exercises and leadership topics. Having never been to a development program before, I found it extremely interesting and helpful. The days were long, but the week went quickly. By the time Friday came around, I could barely keep my eyes open (again!). Back I went to Heathrow for my 7.5 hour flight home. HOME. A little after midnight on Friday, I was greeted by The Husband outside of our building to take my bags as I got out of the car. He had showered and shaved and was so adorable. Wally came running for me once I got up to the apartment, jumped on my leg, then wiggled across my face for a full five minutes when I got down on the floor to greet him. We have been inseparable since.
I have a new appreciation for my mother, who at 60+ years, decided to be adventurous and book the last minute trip to Paris to accompany me for my trip even though she probably spent more time traveling than actually in France. We had a lot of fun and it was nice spending time with her for what will most certainly be on of my last trips sans child and major responsibilities.
The nicest part about going on a business trip is coming home. The weekend has been spent doing long overdue errands, apartment hunting for something bigger and walking Wally in this beautiful weather. I have no idea who can afford apartments in New York City, particularly families, but that is a topic for another day.
It’s back to the office tomorrow, so I’ll leave you with some photos of our Paris trip. I didn’t really take many in Guildford, since we never really left the manor, but if you want to check them out, they are on my Facebook page at http://facebook.com/OfficeStace
You’ll also see some reunion pics of Wally and me. He’s been chewing bones in my empty suitcase and snuggling up to me for the past 48 hours. I’ve been driving The Husband crazy with random hugs and squeezes throughout the day. My tummy has definitely expanded in the past week, although I still would guess it’s the result of croissants and crepes versus an actual human pushing out from the inside. I’m fully in maternity clothes now and there’s no going back. Gulp. We’re in the 19th week. Holy cow. About half way there. Is this possible?