Family Travel and The French Keyboard

POSTED ON Jul 24th 2013 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Gadgets and Techology, Travel

This summer’s travels for the Lofti have gone smoothly, save of course my 4th of July, World’s Most Organized Woman fail.

The twins turned 5 last spring, a magic age for families who travel. I’m certain that I posted on the timeline before (I did) but flying with 9 to 36 month olds–I don’t recommend it. From 3 to 5 years, you can start to distract children with iPads. (If you are on long haul flights with children, just swallow any aversion to electronics for youngsters. The distraction works particularly well for children getting electronics time as a rare treat. Use it. Trust me.)

Around 5 years old, however, kids, especially kids used to flying, become great travelers. Mine follow me like little ducklings though the airport. The eldest get themselves settled and rarely require my services throughout the flight. (The twins still don’t want to go the the bathroom by themselves. The weird door and loud flush still vex them.) Jet lag is easier, as all four can get and snack and entertain themselves quietly at the eastbound travelers’ middle of the night wake up.

Our plan to arrive in London a little before school let out worked as planned. We saw most friends that we wanted to. We didn’t see enough of them, but that is just the plight of a serial expat: always missing a little bit more time with friends. Cupcake and I had a tearful discussion of this point on the Chelsea Bridge one evening after leaving friends, hers and mine. I don’t know if she will remember that walk in the future, but I will.

This trip has been great except for data. I want a worldwide data plan. In this age of social media, waiting for wifi isn’t enough. Moms, at least the moms I know, usually communicate by text, occasionally by Facebook. I need data access, but roaming charges are highway robbery.

Yasha and I got a mobile wifi but promptly chewed up the allowance. (Actually, the kids did by playing Minecraft online. But my love/hate thoughts about Minecraft compose a post for another day.) We got an unlocked mobile device, one for which you can purchase a SIM wherever you happen to travel, but Three didn’t unlock the device. And apparently you have to call from within the UK to unlock it.

But we are now in France visiting friends. (Now that the kids are all good travelers, we can finally travel to visit the way everyone thought we should have when we lived here.) We are in absolutely lovely rural France, where the sunflowers are blooming late due to a cold spring and highspeed Internet isn’t common and old stone farmhouses kill wifi range. That is how I found myself checking urgent house-problem emails from home on Suzanne Power’s laptop, one with a French keyboard.

When I studied French back in the mid-90’s, we still used dictaphones to lazily take notes and dedicated word processors (fancy typewriters, for any younger readers) to type papers. So even while studying in France, I’d never used a French keyboard.

Switching the Q and the A keys, bumping the W down and the M up, and shifting for numbers to make way for accented e, a, and c, all of that I understand. But shifting for a period? That baffled me, mostly because the default character on the period key is the semi colon.

The semi colon is all but dead in English. I rarely see it outside of legal writing. I wondered out loud how often must the French use a semi colon to have it take priority over a full stop. Suzanne, American married to a Frenchman, turned to me with a laugh and said, “That should tell you something about French writing.”

I suddenly regret that I didn’t take French literature, so I could be in on the joke.


  1. awindram said:

    “. . . flying with 9 to 36 month olds–I don’t recommend it.”

    Great, I’ll just be in the beginning of that sweet zone in time for Christmas travel.

  2. Leslie Loftis said:

    The beginning isn’t as bad. It gets worse after walking. Regardless, when the time comes to prep, write to me. Will be happy to help troubleshoot. The biggest thing to remember: you will be On Full Alert for the entire journey. You can’t expect any down time. You might get it, but can’t plan on it. So my best general advice is to have grandparents or the like at the ready on the other end to take the little tyke for a few decompression hours for you and your wife.

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