After months of planning itineraries, some sleepless nights stressing about said itineraries and a flip load of worrying about a million little things, we awoke to the day of our trip. Our first international trip. Ever. Which, my dear friends, is why I’m probably going to go into far more detail than most people would. Because this whole World is so brand new to me and I want to remember every moment that I’m sure most seasoned travellers take for granted.
But before we get into the day we left, I need to quickly tell you about some of the prep I did before we left.
A little bit of pampering
I got my very first gelish. Yip – you read that right. My first. I mean I’d had mani’s in the past. Obviously. But they never stayed on my nails longer than a couple days. Nevermind the fact that I managed to smudge them before I even got to leave the spa. So before this trip I wanted to treat myself to something special that would actually stay on my fingers for the whole time that we were there and I’d heard from my friends that this was the thing to do it.
With a stroke of luck the awesome ladies at GoBeauty asked me if I wanted to review some of their services and they hooked me up with Fox Box. I organised for them to come to my home the day before we left, which was a huge blessing because it turned out that Knox was sick and was home with me for the day. So convenient that they can pop over to your house and help you out while you work or catch up on other things you need to do. It was wonderful being able to pop Knox in front of Peppa Pig while I relaxed and had my nails done. They also have a store at the airport and so I could also have popped in before our flight if I’d known they were there (and now you do, so you know what to do with all that time you have between check in and boarding).
Sorting out the kids…
I knew that the 10 days away from the kids would be OK. They adore their grandparents and so I knew they would be well looked after and loved. But I still wanted to give them something to look at to remind them of us and the fact that we would eventually come home.
So we made this little count down calendar which they hung up on the wall. Nothing crazy over the top, just a little hand made memory.
Isn’t it funny that we could pack everything that we needed for 9 days into two little backpacks but for the kids we had to pack an entire suitcase. This is even though Seth’s parents have a cupboard full of clothes and things, a set of tooth brushes and like most other essential living things there already! Let’s just say, it would be impossible for us to try and replicate this whole back pack thing with the kids on a holiday. For now anyway.
Time to leave and say goodbye to the kids…
The night before we left we had an Italian dinner with the kids. Our way of including the kids without including them if you know what I mean. They wanted a mixture of pizza and pasta which we paired with some grape juice and wine. But obviously it all had to go a bit wrong. We placed the order but by the time Seth collected it and brought it home, it was cold. Cold pizza is the freaking worst. And they got one of the orders wrong. Which meant that Knox refused to eat at all. But you know, what can you do.
Once we got over ourselves, it was OK. We had food in our tummies and I think it helped them to feel a little bit more optimistic about the whole thing.
Surprisingly I slept really well despite all the thoughts swirling around my head like a muddy pool of terrifying but exciting things. I think one of the things that I was dreading the most was saying goodbye to the kids. We planned it so that they’d be at school so it would distract them from the fact that we were leaving. You know, so they’d sort of feel like they were having a “normal” day.
We dropped the girls off at school first and having had Riya in tears countless times before we left, I thought that it was going to be riddled with drama. Like screaming in front of the school drama. But in real life… Well, there was nothing. We got hugs and cuddles and then that was it. No tears, no nothing. The same for Knox. We both took him to school, watched him show us his “one” thing (that he does every morning that usually turns into about 10 things) and then we left. Also, no tears.
It went so well that I almost cried because they surely don’t love me or care that we’re leaving. I’m logical like that.
The airport and checking in…
We packed up a few last things, dropped some more of the kids things at the grandparents, cuddled our dogs and then called an Uber to take us to the airport. We didn’t want to inconvenience anyone in having to take us because it was at such an awkward time of the day.
I was really worried about getting our tickets and like actually making sure we were going to get on our flight. Like one of those anxious to the point of making you feel sick kind of worried. We were flying Ethiopian Airways and I had booked our tickets on a card that had since expired. So I was worried that because we were so excited something bad was obviously going to happen. I know it’s not logical, but that’s the way that I think.
We got to the airport about 2 or even 3 hours early and went straight to the Ethiopian Airways counter. We then had to go to another control counter where they checked the cards, but all was good so we were checked in. YAY! The plan was then to go and have a delicious lunch at one of the many restaurants littering the Cape Town Airport. We thought we’d have a good selection of places once we passed through the first round of security but boy were we wrong. There was nothing. Only a really mediocre takeaway thing were we bought pre-packaged salads and beers. Not the worst thing in the world, but I was really looking forward to like, a steak or something solid before we left.
A lot of people told us not to bother with changing money and to just use our ATM cards while we were there. We didn’t feel fully comfortable with that because we didn’t want to be caught without cash and stuck not being able to go anywhere or eat or whatever. Because you know how the banks are – you warn them that you’re going to use your card overseas and then they block it. It turns out that having cold hard cash in hand was way better than using the card – not only did the Italians prefer to have the cash (and only wanted to use the cards on really big amounts) the exchange rate was way better at home than it was on the card. Like changing at Bidvest before we left was R15.50 or something to the Euro but in Italy it was R16.80. Not a huge difference I guess, but big enough to have just changed it from the outset. We should have changed more. There’s probably better ways to do it. But for us that would have been best.
Anyway. Our R3000 converted into just 180 Euro. It was actually laughable.
While we were walking around we also bought a selfie stick which turned out to be one of the best things we had for our trip. We could always both be in the pictures together instead of just one of us. Because that’s what this trip was about really – the two of us, connecting and having an adventure together.
This was our first international flight, so I don’t really have anything to compare it to. The plane was clean, we were given earphones and there were loads of cool movies to watch. One of the most exciting things about international flights that I was looking forward to was watching the movies. I’ve always wanted to do that. Weird I know. Seth and I watched all the movies, together. Pressing play at the same time.
I don’t know what the food is like on other flights, but I didn’t think the food was bad. Everything was actually really good. Seth had a slightly different opinion but he flies more regularly to JHB and back so maybe he has a bit more perspective. Until we landed in Addis Abbaba I thought everything was great. We’d left Cape Town at around 2pm and arrived in Addis around 11pm their time so everything was dark and we couldn’t really see the land that we’d arrived in. But wow. I mean I’d heard that it was not the most appealing airport but I was sort of shocked by it when we got inside.
Although we’d just come off the plane we were sent through to the front of the airport. So we had to go through security again. Like take off your shoes, watches and belts kind of security check in. And that was after standing in the most confusing line I’d ever been in. There was just a guy, calling people to stand in a line to go to Rome. If we hadn’t asked where we should stand, I don’t think we would even have found where to line up. There were people sleeping all over the place but the most disturbing thing was the smell. Everyone taking off their shoes and things in an airport that didn’t seem to have any air conditioning was um, fresh. Except not fresh at all.
The good news is that we met a lovely guy that’s living in Cape Town and married to a Cape Townian, but actually comes from the South of Italy. We chatted a lot while we waited in the lines and it turned out that he was a bit of a saving grace the next day. But more about that next time.