Two Days Travelling with Toddlers

We were watching Paralympic seven-a-side football at the Olympic Park, a week and a half ago, followed up by Hitchin to Istres in the south of France on the next day.  Two days designed to tax anybody let alone a little boy who at 14 months old is only just finding his feet.  He must have been in three different cars, travelled in quite a few trains, spent a fair amount of time being pushed in the pram, walked quite along way on legs which are getting steadier by the day and went on an air-plane.

The Paralympics

Iran 8 - Argentina 1

The Olympic Park was great; it helped the weather was fantastic but we all had a really nice day whether we were wandering around the park or watching the events.  It was a shame we didn’t get to see more of it.  We really regret missing the Olympic and Paralympic parade in London.  However, we did witness some really good football including an 8-1 thrashing of Argentina by Iran was great to watch.

I cannot describe how awesome the Olympic Park was on so many levels:

  • The organisation – we only had to queue for three things – water fountains, Starbucks (okay that was outside the park) and the lift down Stratford tube station (but for only 3 minutes or so).  The games makers and military (the army sergeant who checked the pram was lovely, joking with Luke) were great at getting us into the park quickly and with the minimum of fuss, a marked difference from what we have experienced in various airports in Bedfordshire and Essex.
  • The atmosphere was great, everyone was smiling, and you just cannot help smiling back.  I have been to lots of football stadiums before, but I have never heard cheering like I did at the Olympic Stadium.  Unfortunately, we didn’t make it in, but the noise even 100 meters away was something else, it was like a train had just roared past.
  • The stadia look awesome –  even the temporary ones – some of which I cannot believe are temporary!

Through the park to the stadium

  • The grounds themselves looked really great, especially considering the poor weather and the amount of people who have trekked through them.  Luke loved the flowers: dragging him away was some task.
  • One of my favourite scenes was the sight of  two Games Makers next to the Manderville mascot statue using spectators’ cameras to take photos of the spectators with the statue.  Because of the size of the queue which had developed by the time we walked past, I can only assume their one off offer to one family must have been spotted by so many others that it had become a semi official photo call.

A few other observations on the day:The paper is the only thing that gets me through the daily commute

  • Why when there is a selection of 8 different types of food like the British style Italian and Indian cuisine do people insist on getting a Maccy D’s? Especially when the queue is 100 times (almost literately) longer than the other outlets on the park.
  • Never ever ever get on the tube at bank at rush-hour with a child in a pushchair
  • Thank you very much to the lady who donated her Evening Standard (see right)
  • If you have a small child and have to go into east London and have the choice of taking the DLR rather than the tube take the DLR because:
    1. They can see out and the Isle of Dogs, etc. is far more interesting than a black wall.
    2. Lifts – All the DLR stations are step free between the street and train.  This makes life so much easier.

    And whilst I am mentioning it why don’t more tube stations have step free access.  I might be able to half understand it in the case of the 72 grade 1 and 2 listed stations, but the other 198 aren’t listed.  Also if the stations are in everyday use don’t the Underground have a duty of care to help those of us who are either disabled or have small children, etc. to get around these stations?

Hitchin to Istres

Of the 633 miles, as the raven flies, between ours and Luisa’s sister’s place in France I only have a few comments to make on the three parts of the journey, because you are probably getting bored of me waffling on by now.

Gatwick Airport Security – Not bad compared to Luton or Stansted.  They have a special families and disabled security gate so the queues are a bit shorter, the staff slightly less sour and they have their own special gate (fashioned like a castle gate) for kids.  So they had made some effort, still a long way short of the Olympics efforts. I really do hope the BAA were taking note of the great way London 2012 handled the security.  Does security really have to come at the price of making everyone feel dehumanised before getting into the departure lounge?

Easyjet – basically if you want to get something almost as good as speedy boarding fly with a child under 4, as you get to board the plane before everyone else.  Our experiences of Ryanair with Luke haven’t been great.  Whilst they say they do board those with children first, in reality you are basically left racing with everyone else in the free for all.  Isn’t it better for everyone if parents get to settle children without having to worry about getting bags stowed away or being bumped in the aisle by others trying to get to their seats.  The alternative, an unsettled infant – for x hours at 30 thousand feet, is going to make everyone’s life hell.

Baby on a plane

Europcar – The car seat they gave us for Luke beeps when there is a weight on the seat, but the straps aren’t done up.  So if you forget to buckle your little one in (this hasn’t happened so far, but with other mistakes we have made I can see how it could) you get warned.  Also useful if your child is a budding Houdini (like Luisa was apparently) and try to escape their seat mid journey.  I didn’t know that child car seats came with so many gadgets.  Yes we did a lot of research when we brought Luke’s, but somehow this one past me by.


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