There had been no question but that we would take our 1-year-old, Josef, on our extended jaunt.
We believed that young as Josef is he also would enjoy the changing scenery and cuisine.
And having promised each other before his birth that having a child should not unduly diminish our travels, Josef in his first year had logged with us two trips to New York City and others to Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, for a total of about 20,000 miles.
So it was with a certain confidence that we packed for our two-month trip abroad a portable crib, a portable highchair, a car seat and a combination backpack and stroller, enough changes of clothes to last three days between visits to a laundromat, a selection of his favorite (small) toys and bedtime books.
A Change of Pace
When we used to go abroad as a couple we prided ourselves for traveling light, carrying onto airplanes all our luggage to minimize delays and worry about pieces being lost.
This time we had a total of five pieces to check, in addition to three pieces of hand luggage and, of course, Josef. With a baby in tow there is no dashing to a gate, or an exit.
Though most hotels do have cribs, having his own, we thought, would make him feel more comfortable, as well as avoid the occasional hassle of bellhops trying to piece one together. It did.
Also quite handy was the combined backpack and stroller, in which Josef got used to snuggling down into and napping, even when the contraption was perched precariously under a cafe table on a busy Paris boulevard.
We took an old car seat because we weren't sure how difficult it would be getting one in Europe, especially after a 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to Munich.
The portable highchair, called a sassy seat, that hooks onto the edge of a table, was not needed. Josef wanted to sit at the table like the grown-ups, at best on a booster seat supplied by the restaurants.
Hunting for Bargains
But the plastic plate, cups and spoons and forks were handy, even if it meant going to washrooms at the end of each meal to clean them.
And one should bear in mind that whatever might have been forgotten, or lost, can always be bought. We did not take certain clothes and shoes, or very many toys, knowing that we would buy them there.
Part of the fun of traveling is hunting for bargains. They were there, and we ended up taking back, among other things, enough shoes to last Josef for years and toys perhaps forever.
One plaything we bought that became indispensable was a simple shovel, sand strainer and pail set. This gave him something to play with in the numerous playgrounds Europe is blessed with, as we took turns watching him and resting as the other toured a nearby museum, or went shopping.
Indeed, when we had to meet each other, or someone else, we would choose a park that Josef could play in while we waited. One of our favorites was in Paris' Palais Royal, where there are two sandboxes near a cafe in the northwest corner of the enclosed landmark.
As for food and diapers, there was a wide variety of choices, sometimes too wide, in the supermarkets. And while the words varied--diaper in German is Windel, in French, couche, in the Netherlands, a luir --we found almost everywhere that a Pamper was a Pamper was a Pamper. Bless their multinational heart.
On Restaurant Circuit
Baby food also could be bought in drugstores and, of course, fruit, including the heaven-sent self-wrapped, sterile, digestible banana, at food shops and stands. But being with us on the restaurant circuit, Josef naturally wanted to eat what we were eating. So with some discretion we fed him from our plates.
While he picked at the vegetables everywhere, in Belgium Josef loved the pomme frites and ice cream. In the Netherlands he particularly liked the breakfasts of cheese and meats. Also high on his list of favorites in Germany was ham, and in France quiche, fruit tarts and chicken. His usual diet of health foods gave way to convenience.
Josef's favorite eating experience was our most common one, which was taking mid-morning and late afternoon breaks for a cafe au lait and perhaps a croissant or a pastry.
Traveling with Josef in Europe was, to paraphrase another writer, the best of times, the worst of times. Happily, the best far outweighed the worst and, in the process, opened a different Europe for us.
A Slower Pace
With Josef's need for naps, snacks, diaper changes, exercise and exploring, we moved at a much slower pace than usual. This allowed us to appreciate more Europe's parks, playgrounds, public facilities, street life, cafes, restaurants and, generally, the flavor of the host countries.
Josef, in effect, served as our envoy, ambling over to other children in a playground in Paris, a park in Amsterdam and on a North Sea beach to make friends and introduce us to other parents. We found child-raising the basis of an international language and Europeans more friendly than ever.