Taking a child on an aeroplane at any time can be a challenge but we took our toddler on an adventure to Rome. Back in December, we booked our trip, part of the idea behind it was that we could see how Jaxon coped with a short flight before taking him on a longer one. You can find the other posts in the series here.
Our flight wasn’t until 3 am Friday morning but Chris asked me to do the online check-in Thursday morning. What a good idea!
I attempted to do it from my phone while at a church group but I needed all the passport information before I could do it so it had to wait until I got home. No problem! With lunch finished I grabbed my iPad and the passports to get us all checked in.
I got as far as inputting Jaxon’s information and there was an issue. Jaxon was listed as an adult, not a child so the validation on the form wouldn’t let me process Jaxon’s as he’s under 16. I rang Monarch’s Customer Service Line and after 10 minutes, Jaxon has been edited to a child seat and we were given a refund (under 16s don’t pay departure tax so yay for a refund!).
I went to try and process it again and it wasn’t working. The refund on the booking was causing it not to allow me to process it. I rang Monarch again and once again their Customer Service team knocked it out the park. They were going to hold the refund to one side for an hour while we got checked in (which is exactly what they did and the refund appeared by the time we were back at the end of the weekend).
I went to bed and tried to go to sleep but it was just like that Disney advert when the kids can’t sleep because they are too excited. (I can only find the American version of it!). Anyway, that was me I couldn’t sleep. In the end, it turned out I had about 1hr 40mins of sleep so was essentially running on a nap rather than a proper sleep.
We got up just before 3 am and got the car loaded up and headed to Airparks car park near Luton Airport. We had both thought that Jaxon would fall asleep in the car given the fact it was dark outside and he wouldn’t have had that much to watch out the window but instead he was awake. He loved looking out the window of the bus and although he’s not normally the kind of kid to carry around a cuddly toy, Ooh the Monkey (made by Hannah at Prior to The Day) had to come too, for Jaxon’s first aeroplane trip.
We arrived at the airport and I was busy taking photos for Journalling and Blogging although Chris kept making comments at me!
Of course, we needed some selfies to document the day, also to occupy a toddler while we waited for the gate to be assigned. Breakfast for Our Sidekick and I was a bacon brioche from Pret A Manger. Chris had a poached egg, beans and mushrooms instead. Jaxon had a cheese sandwich and other munchies from Boots.
Following breakfast, Jaxon, Chris and I went for a walk towards one of the other gates as there was a flight leaving before ours. After waiting for about half an hour, the plane was still at the gate and had been delayed so we decided to call it quits and head back to Our Sidekick to get out bits together. As it happened when we got back it was about three minutes until our gate opened so we started walking towards the gates anyway. On our way, the gate number was added to the departure board so we were able to head directly to the gate.
When we arrived at the gate, an announcement was given out about families flying with young children could have priority boarding. This meant that we were the first four people to get checked in to board our flight. Our flight had sets of steps up to the plane rather than a walkway from the boarding desk to the plane. Once we had got down the stairs to the door onto the runway, we had been joined but two other families who had priority boarding too.
Once we were on the plane we had a quick game of musical chairs, Chris took the middle seat with Jaxon in the window seat. Our Sidekick and I were then across the aisle from one another. Jaxon was getting a little bit restless while waiting for the other passengers to board but Chris was on it and kept Jaxon occupied one way or another. I’m not sure he entirely understood why he needed to wear a seat belt and why it wasn’t a five point harness like his car seat and buggy but in the end, Chris had him sorted out and we were all ready to take off when the rest of the plane were ready.
This is the point that I figured that the average toddler might freak out. I’d prepped the iPad with episodes of Thomas and Friend’s so if things got desperate Jaxon could watch that all the way there. But this mummy didn’t need to worry because Chris had got it in hand. As the plane ascended to its cruising altitude Jaxon gradually dozed off and ended up curled up on the seat and slept nearly all the way to Italy. I think at one point of another the older three of us all took a nap too. I had been watching Rizzoli and Isles but in the end had to rewind an episode because I’d dozed off in the middle of it! Oops!
In the latter half of the flight, Chris got Jaxon changed out of his pyjamas and a clean nappy. This actually turned out to be a really good idea because finding changing facilities was going to become an issue throughout the weekend. Having got off the plane at Fiumicino and found our way to the train station, I then had to navigate the ticket machine. I knew we needed the ticket into the city but all the services I could find were the Leonardo Express which meant we needed a specific ticket. We ended up going to Termini and starting our trip from there. The train from Fiumicino to Termini took about an hour. It was a direct service rather than an all stops. I loved that Termini station is almost a shopping centre in a way. Imagine St Pancras but busier!
We weren’t entirely sure how to get from Termini to the apartment, we started by taking the Metro to Ostiense/Piramide and then walking the rest of the way. I wasn’t sure why there was a pyramid at Piramide but when I got home I found out that it was built as a tomb around 12BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius. (More info).
Following the route, we worked out from the map book we purchased at the Roma-Lido train station (as the one in my guidebook didn’t go far enough to cover where we needed to go). We crossed the River Tiber (Tevere) over Ponte Dell’Industria. (The Wikipedia picture looks a lot nicer than my picture!). What you can’t see from this picture is that Jaxon was on Chris’s or Our Sidekick’s shoulders and we’d been taking it in turns to carry him. The carrier was in the suitcase but we’d been trying to encourage Jaxon to walk in the hope that he’d sleep better at the apartment because he’d be so tired!
We arrived at our apartment earlier than our check in time – we’d got it organised for late afternoon but with the weather as wet as it was, it would have been better if we could have changed the time. First of all we went across the street to a cafe where we could get a couple of drinks and a snack. I incorrectly ordered and Chris ended up with an espresso rather than something like an Americano coffee. Oops! On the TV in the cafe there was a show called Uomini e Donne playing. It was like Jeremy Kyle meets Blind Date with a tea dance thrown in for entertainment. it was kind of random!
We ended up wandering around the block to the nearest supermarket so that we could get some basics like bread and sandwich fillings. In the supermarket we were in there was so much choice of Gluten Free food, I don’t think Chris quite knew what to do with himself.
We ended up playing I Spy stood outside the apartment for a little while. The boys did tell me I was playing wrong when I said “Something beginning with S” and I had picked the satellite dishes on the roof and that should have been “Something beginning with S D”. We played four or five rounds and then the landlady arrived. Her English was patchy but miles enter than the Italian we would have cobbled together.
She took us into the foyer and Chris, Jaxon and I got into the lift with her and Our Sidekick took the stairs. The lift was limited for four people but I’m pretty sure the four of us plus Jaxon wouldn’t have overloaded the lift. We got up the floor the flat was on and Our Sidekick was there sat on the stairs waiting for us. The whole apartment had tiled floors which for January meant the floor was always cold but I guess in the summer it would be quite refreshing on your feet given how hot it can get outside in an Italian summer. On top of the sort of “chilled to the bones” feeling we all had we just wanted to defrost and relax.
The landlady got the heating on and explained how the hot water worked. She also explained about various other bits around the apartment and local area. After relaxing for a little while it was time to go and find some dinner.
Chris had done some research and we hoped that finding a restaurant that could serve Gluten-Free food would be relatively easy however I think we must have found the least gluten-free area of Rome. Having tried three or four places, we wandered into Il Maggiolino. (EDIT: Since writing this post, Il Maggiolino has closed),
I was so tired that trying to ask in Italian was making my brain hurt so I sort of blurted out “Tu parle Inglese?” and hoped the waiter would be sympathetic! Thankfully he did speak English and when I asked did they do gluten-free options he understood me and knew what I was asking! I think the staff were in the middle of having dinner together before the shift properly started however they still sat us for dinner which was so lovely of them. As soon as we were seated we were given the menu, I think all barring maybe three or four dishes had a gluten-free counterpart. Wow! Not only that the waiter then explained which beers on the menu were Gluten Free too.
We placed our order and the waiter brought over a table mat to put under Chris’s plate so that it was clear who was on the gluten-free meal. Gold stars and high fives all around here! The service was just so friendly and helpful we loved it. A minor flaw was the lack of fruit juice based options for Jaxon but he had some water so that kept him going until we could get him some juice back at the apartment.
Following dinner, we walked back via a shop called Pane e Pane. I think it’s a kind of franchise as there was practically one on every corner like you might have a certain brand of coffee shop on each street. We tried to order in our best Italian but the chap behind the counter wasn’t taking it. He served Our Sidekick and then served me. While he was getting my order together he was complaining to another customer how the British don’t make an effort or something along those lines. I’m convinced I really needed some witty come back and they’d both face palm realising that I had understood even if I was struggling to speak it. We did the next best thing and when we wanted to go back to the shop the following day we went to a different branch instead after all voting with your feet can make the strongest statement sometimes.
After we went to get dessert from Pane e Pane we headed back to the apartment and got Jaxon ready for bed. Within about an hour and a half, Chris and I had also gone to bed. We were so shattered but it was a great first day.
You can find the other posts in the series here.