Before you Go…

We’re preparing for our next trip coming up next month.  We’re excited to visit three new countries this time… Japan, Singapore and Thailand.  We also get to return to Australia which I couldn’t be more excited to see my Aussie family.  We’ll be gone for 3.5 weeks this time which means there are items to tend to before we hit the air!  Here is my Check List:

  • Get or Renew your Passport
  • Get a Visa(s) for your destination if necessary
  • Purchase Flights to/from and within your destination
  • Book transportation within your trip
  • Book Accommodations within your trip (make sure the hotels know how many will be staying in the room as some rooms are a three person maximum)
  • Plan for a Pet Sitter or Board your pets
  • Share your trip plans with neighbors who can watch your house while you’re away and give someone a spare key.
  • Hold your mail if your travel is <30 days; if not, have a neighbor pick it up or forward it to someone
  • Get any necessary Vaccinations
  • Refill any Prescriptions you’ll need
  • Change your cell phone plan to International for your trip
  • Make utility or other bills automatic pay
  • Contact your Credit Card companies, Bank, Health Insurance to make them aware of your travels
  • Take a picture of your wallet’s contents (front and back) including your passport
Next, it’s time to pack!  Check out my packing list and Cory’s if you missed it.
Alye and Hazel, our furry family members

How it all began… 

Go With Daddy started back in May of 2013…before we even realized it was happening!  Our first trip was to Delafield, WI only an hour and half away from where we lived in Chicago at the time.  Our daughter was nine months old and we went along as it was my first Mother’s Day.  We stayed at The Delafield Hotel one of the most quaint, old hotels.  Delafield is located in the Lake Country (as they call it) of Wisconsin and has such small town charm!  Unlike the south (where we now live), it was quite chilly in May but we enjoyed walking along ‘the beach’ here and window shopping around this picturesque downtown.

A few months later (in November), we flew with Cory to Seattle, WA so we could play while he worked!  Of course, our trip started out with a true rookie mistake.  We forgot a stroller!  And not having brought a car seat along, this new momma wouldn’t put my 15 month old in a taxi without one.  So, we walked a mile to the nearest Target to purchase an umbrella stroller.  Whew!  After that we enjoyed all the Seattle highlights including Pike Place Market and Seattle Aquarium which were both as unique as I had imagined.  We also patronized Cherry Street Coffee House with comical looks from the other customers.  With Cory, we enjoyed Bea’s first Ferris Wheel ride overlooking the harbor and Woodland Park Zoo.  What a neat zoo they have!  It’s segmented based on the continent of where each animal would live in the wild.

Our third trip was back to our former city of Chicago, IL.  Even Bea and I mixed business with pleasure this time as she had a doctor’s appointment.  Luckily, it was only a short part of our trip.  The highlights were getting to attend a good friend’s first birthday party, have a play date and hug a lot of friends’ necks!  We had moved away less than three months prior.  Bea and I hit the Shedd Aquarium as well as Bea experiencing her first taste of room service!

Just before our son was born in May 2014, we accompanied Cory to Dallas, TX where we hit the jackpot!  His family is from the northern suburbs of Dallas; so, while he worked, we played with family.  Bea loves playing with her older cousins as it makes her feel like the biggest girl!

In April 2015, Teddy (10 months old) took his first “Go With Daddy” trip to Franklin, TN.  Living in Birmingham now, it made it a no brainer for a road trip.  We stayed in the same hotel where Cory had his first key note speaking engagement.  The kiddos made an appearance at the conference which was super fun!

Who knew this beginning would lead to so many what fun adventures in our future!
Delafield

Seattle Ferris WheelPike’s Place MarketWoodland Parks Zoo

Chicago Valentine’s datesChicago friendsTouring the aquarium was exhaustingFirst room service 

Cousins in Texas

Sporting the conference t-shirt in Tennessee

Are you Airplane Ready with Kids?

Are you planning an airplane ride with little ones soon?

Is it a really long overseas flight and you kinda worried about how you are going to keep your kids entertained (and you sane)?

Don’t stress. You’re not alone and you can do it. We are here to help!

My family and I have successfully completed several overseas adventures from the US to Europe and Australia…not to mention 50+ domestic flights with our little adventurers.  These international long haul flights have been from 7 to 17 hours and we’ve managed them happily with  kiddos from 15 months old to 4.5 years old; it obviously gets easier to entertain them the older they get.  Every trips has not been perfect, but with the right preparation you can easily avoid the nightmares you might imagine.  Here are our tips to help you have just as much fun on the journey as you do at the destination!


First let’s start with the kids packing list:
Each child had a Skip Hop backpack with the following items in them.

Stickers
2 books
1 coloring book
Crayons
favorite doll or small toy
Tiny flashlight
Stainless steel water container
Headphones


If you need extra entertainment, don’t hesitate to ask the flight attendant.  Most international flights have coloring books or some activity packet to help
keep kids happy.

What we didn’t already have at home, we went to the Family Dollar Store so we
wouldn’t mind as much when a toy inevitably disappeared.

Buy a super cheap toy that you are willing to throw away for every hour of the flight.  During the waking hours onboard, give them a toy to enjoy.  When they get bored with it, replace it with a new one and throw the old ones away.

Now on to the parent’s onboard packing list…here are the kid-centric items in my
bag:

Sleepsack (For the little ones who us them at home…replicate bedtime experience)
Pajamas and Socks
Melatonin
Diapers and Wipes
Old wash rag
Plastic grocery sack
Snacks
Old iPad and iPhone (loaded with some movies and doubles as our sound machines)

The reality is that only so much of the preparation for long flights is about packing lists.  A lot of our prep has to do with communication and setting our minds to the task at hand.

Your attitude will dictate their experience.

We prep the kids by telling the exactly what would happen on the trip so they knew what to expect!  Kids are awesome and capable of doings awesome things if you help them and traveling well is no different.

Overnight flights are your friend when traveling abroad with kids.  Hours pass faster sleeping than doing anything else onboard!

When we’re at the airport before our flight, we eat a big, healthy meal and change into pajamas if we grabbed one of those overnight flights.  The big, healthy meal was a recommendation from our pediatrician as younger children will sleep better on a full stomach.  We also try to run a few laps in the airport before boarding!  This gets some looks from other travelers but pays off to have gotten our wiggles out before sitting for a long, long time.

Once we’re on the plane, we get everyone situated in their seat with their pillow and blankets.  Because we try to book night flights, we usually go right to sleep.  Then their reward for sleeping is watching a movie when they wake up.  Depending on your children, that will only last so long.  That’s when the backpack items come out!  So far, these few items have done the trick for successful international flights.

Check your stroller at the gate, not at the ticket counter if possible.  If not, get clear instructions from airline staff.

We also travel with a stroller which at most airports you can check at the gate and pick up as soon as you get off the airplane.  Having the stroller to get kids from security to the gate is a life saver.  It also doubles as a nice shopping cart if you have time to pick up some goodies at duty free.  Not all airports will let you take the stroller all the way to the gate, so check with your carrier upon check in.  Example…the Berlin airport not only didn’t allow the stroller to go to the gate, we had to take our stroller to a separate building to check it.  Amsterdam was also different as we picked up our stroller in oversize baggage in the baggage claim area after having checked it plane side.  When in doubt, ask lots of questions of the staff around to be sure.

There you have it…the Go With Daddy plan for having an awesome flight with kids.  Don’t be scared, be prepared and make the journey as awesome as the destination.

Six-Week International Packing List

Here is my packing list as I prepared our family to take a six-week trip to Australia back in 2015.  For trips short or long, I keep a running packing list handy so that I hopefully won’t forget any basic necessities!  Good thing is, you can mostly buy it when you get there just in case.  Here’s a link to my husband’s packing list from our most recent six week European trip this summer.

This is the actual packing list from our trip Australia.

Non-Clothing Items 

My Clothing Items 

  • 2 sets of pajamas
  • 7-8 mix and match outfits (pick a color scheme so it’s easier to mix and match your outfits)
  • 2 pair of comfortable shoes (at least)
  • 10 pair of Undergarments
  • Hat and Raincoat
  • Toiletries…travel toothpaste lasted 2 weeks, travel hair spray and shaving gel lasted 3 weeks (including anything specific you use that you cannot buy more of
  • Rx
  • Compression socks (for the plane)
  • Layers/Coats (depending on the weather)

My Kids’ Clothing Items

  • 5 pair of pajamas (including one for the plane ride)
  • 2-3 loveys
  • 8 mix and match outfits (with kids too it’s important to have a color scheme so you can mix and match attire)
  • Hair bows
  • 14 pair of Undergarments and/or Enough diapers for 2 weeks
  • 2-3 pair of Shoes and 10 pair of Socks
  • Hat and Raincoat
  • Toiletries (again take specific items you must have in case you cannot purchase them when you get there)
  • Layers/Coats (depending on the weather)
  • iPad and/or iPhone (for movies and doubles as sound machine)
  • Costume (or whatever is your child’s favorite thing that they will miss while they’re away) and a few more toys

Italy: A Tale of Two Cities (part 2)

Italy Continued…

With two great Italian cities down, Venice and Milan, it was time for us to roll on to our next two; Pisa and Rome.

On our way from Milan, we traveled through Tuscany and just had to stop for some wine tastings on our way.  Cory found a few off the beaten path options and we had quite the adventure.  First stop had us crossing a tiny brick bridge then we drove up a gravel hill to Greo Winery; we found a lady in her night gown who ended up being the proprietor.  I didn’t see that coming!  She met us at the top of the hill to let us taste her wine.  She spoke no English but she definitely could make wine!  On our way to another winery, I read that we should’ve scheduled tastings in advance.  Oops!  The owner of Valle del Sole Winery was also ready to call it a day but was kind enough to offer a great tour and tasting of his family’s wine and olive oil.  When you own it, you stay longer!

We made it to Pisa and Cory and I had an unexpected date night.  It’s nice to discuss the past few weeks of travel and talk about getting back to normal life in less than a week.

Cory worked at the University of Pisa the next day while we hit the sights.  I drove the big, diesel van down the narrow streets and even managed to parallel park (with help).  Again, I found a cute cafe for breakfast…that was closed at 10am!  What time do they eat breakfast?!  We found somewhere else to get pastries and coffee.  It was down a cute pedestrian street with a market at the end….of course, we bought some items.  Onto the Leaning Tower where we had to get pictures holding up the tower.  Bea proceeded to do this in all pictures the rest of the day!  The Baptistery had a beautifully carved pulpit and the best acoustics when an employee demonstrated it.  Pisa Duomo was just stunning as most all European cathedrals have been.  There were also so many people selling their wares there (and all throughout Italy); they don’t take no for an answer very easily!

Fun side note of Pisa is that the author, Tony Wolf, of Pinocchio is from there.

We had a late lunch so we stopped at a grocery for fruit, cheese, crackers and jelly for a picnic supper in the hotel lobby.  It was a nice change of pace.

On Friday, I drove us into Lucca, the town next to Pisa, and had a spread of pastries, cheese and olives at Cafe Monica for breakfast; I love a “grazing” meal! Lucca is an adorable little town with quaint shops.  We found the cutest book shop (Italian of course) to peruse and a Gelatarium that had swings to swing in while we ate.  When Cory was done working, we picked him up, packed up our luggage and drove on to our final destination of this trip…Rome!

Marriott for the win in Rome!  We had a big suite where Bea could have her own room and Teddy’s tent fit easily in the closet.  Bea cried the first night as she wanted her brother to sleep in the same room with her.  Wonder if their separate bedrooms at home will be sad or a nice welcome.

We only have two days in Rome so we waked early to see as much as possible.  We were told to buy tickets online for the Vatican Museum (which was necessary unless you want to wait in the longest line) and it was great advice!  I have never seen so many sculptures in all my life!  The detail of these figures, paintings and tapestries were exquisite!  Sistine Chapel was the last thing we saw which was a perfect crescendo to the museum!  The artistry of Michaelangelo was astonishing!  We also pre-bought tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica.  When you do this, you are given a designated meeting point to pick up your tickets then they parade you in passing the line.  It’s a brilliant concept!  The history of this church (and all we saw in Europe) was just amazing!  After a much needed lunch, we got on the hop on hop off bus to see the Colosseum.  Wow; this ancient sporting venue is massive, beautiful and wild to think they built it in 75 AD and hosted games for 500 years there!  Times sure were different then! No day in Italy is complete without some gelato and today I tried Nutella; yum!!!

On our last day of sightseeing we decided to take it a bit easier.  We found some markets to leisurely shop and enjoy.  At the first one, we let the kids have a few dollars to spend and they picked out a couple of toys.  We told Bea she only had enough money for the doll so she put the bracelet back that she had wanted also.  Then the shop owner gave her the bracelet too.  What a fun lesson in picking and choosing as well as kindness.  The second was Campo de Fiori which has been around for 400 years.  We bought fruit, saw lots of dried pasta and tried the water pump…called the Nasoni, which means big nose because the fountains look like a big crooked nose.  If you put your finger over the spout, the tiny hole in the top shoots water out to you like a drinking fountain.  Brilliant and there is more than 300 around Rome!

On to sightseeing…the Pantheon; it’s the oldest (built in 27 BC) ancient ruin that’s still in tact.  The only light in is a hole in the ceiling!  It is a must see! My third favorite restaurant in Italy was next up at Papa’s Cafe.  It was down a cute cobblestone side street. We did a lot of walking today including to the Spanish Steps.  They’re very picturesque! However we walked up to the top of them and then walked down.  We were fine but my sweet husband had to carry the stroller down.  Kids!  More walking to the Trevi Fountain to let Bea (Teddy was asleep) toss a coin over her shoulder.  Last stop was for gelato.  The amount they give you mixed with the heat makes for sticky fingers as it drops down from your cone or cup.  We waked Teddy (as promised) so he would not miss out on his last gelato opportunity.  Back at the hotel, my momma and aunt watched the kids as they played on our giant patio and we packed while we waited on our room service to cater our last dinner in Italy on our brilliant patio.  It was a great ending to an unbelievable trip!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been gone for six weeks!  It’s always bittersweet to go home. Until our next time “going with Daddy!”

Tuscany
Leaning Tower of Pisa

Grocery shopping

Vatican City 

St. Peter’s Basilica

Colosseum

Nasoni

Pantheon

Spanish Steps

Trevi Fountain

Last gelato

Bye Europe

Italy: A Tale of Two Cities (part 1)

Buongiorno!

Italy is our second new country (after Greece) this trip to explore as a family.  It is so fun to experience new places together!  We landed and had a minor issue of someone else taking one of our suitcases.  This has been our only flight issue so we cannot complain.  Luckily, the man who took our suitcase brought it back before we left the airport.

First stop in Italy is Venice so of course we took a water taxi.  We got off the Vaparetto (think bus but a boat) and walked straight into St. Mark’s Square; that was so cool!  All the streets are narrow walkways (when not in the water) as we got to our apartment.  It was a late night and hot!  One of the two portable air conditioners wasn’t working either so we had an even hotter night’s sleep.

On Saturday, we jumped in with both feet to sightseeing. St. Mark’s Square was a beautiful sight!  We took the lift up to the top of the bell tower (Campanile) and the view of Venice was breathtaking!  You could see the water way, all the boats, red roof buildings and all the people filling into the square.  St. Mark’s Basilica was next (with a €2 skip the line ticket) and again it was unbelievable!  The detailed architecture was unreal…all the different tile floor patterns and how well it had stayed in tact especially with the flooding Venice gets on too regular a basis.  The highlight was the angelic choir we heard and saw singing while in the church! After lunch, we took a gondola ride.  This was so picturesque!  Those gondoliers work really hard!  We walked through the Doge’s Palace, which was the center of government during the height of the Venetian empire. The courtyard was my favorite here.  Of course, Italy isn’t complete without some leather bag shopping.  We were also spoiled with a date night (thanks to Patty and G-Jan) walking around the town and our first Aperol Spritz (we tried them, but not a fan).  What a fun, packed day!

We enjoyed breakfast in the square at Cafe Quadrai on Sunday before taking a leisurely stroll to through the city.  It rained off and on today but we didn’t melt!  We took a water taxi to Peggy Guggenheim Collection to see her amazing artwork.  Teddy missed all of the art but we knew better than to let him sleep through supper.  One of our best meals was tonight at Vino Vino.

Side note: all Italian public transportation was scheduled to strike on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the next week and we had planned to train.  Instead we hired a car.  However, we got the pick up date wrong and rentals were being snatched up at a rapid pace so Cory went on a wild goose chase to finally get us transportation.  That’s how he spent Sunday afternoon and evening.

On Monday morning, we hired a porter to help get our luggage to the water taxi.  The porter definitely earned his money as there are plenty of bridges with stairs all over Venice.  One last water taxi ride before getting in our van.  As travel is always an adventure, there was so much traffic that our 3 hour drive turned into 6+!  Luckily, it was beautiful countryside to look at as we drove.  On to Milan…

After we arrived in Milan, Cory had to get to work so we were on our own for supper.  Yet another time we are so thankful to have my momma and aunt with us.  Bea also got an extra treat there being able to sleep in the room with her Patty and G-Jan.  Europe loves to have three people max in a room so Bea slept in the 3/4 bed already set up in the room.

Tuesday was our only day to sightsee in Milan so we bought the hop on hop off bus ticket.  First stop was Milan’s Duomo.  It is a beautiful gothic style cathedral with tons of marble, stone carvings and stain glass!  I wore shorts so I had to cover my knees with my raincoat.  This is pretty standard in all European cathedrals.  The highlight of this day for me was the La Scalia Opera House.  We watched rehearsal which must’ve been for a ballet which was a big hit for Bea especially.  We had a quaint lunch outside Giardini Pubblici before letting the kids run free and take a little train ride in the park.  Most afternoons in all of Italy, we needed gelato and today was no different.  For supper, I found a restaurant with amazing reviews but when the taxi pulled up in front, the garage door was down.  Agh, it was closed!  We went to supper too early (aka 5:45pm) which was typical all over (Greece and) Italy.  So we punted to a cafe; they’re always open.

Hump day was travel day!  Back in the van, we drove through lots of tunnels which are Teddy’s favorite.  Another one of our favorite restaurants was in a little beach town on the drive called La Speiza.  At Osteria del a Corte, we had an delicious cheese plate, pasta dishes and fish tartare; and, the kids were given cloth finger puppets.  Europeans love to give kids goodies and the kids certainly don’t mind!

Next stop, Pisa (then Rome)!

View of Venice from Campanile

St. Mark’s Square

Gondola riding: Rialto Bridge, large canal and small canal

Doge’s Palace (she obliged and he slept)

Peggy Guggenheim Collection 

Riding the water taxi

Thank goodness for the porter

Backseat riding in the van

Duomo in Milan

Frankfurt: A City Less Traveled

We’re back in Germany!

We were also back in Frankfurt at a familiar hotel (from our trip in the fall) the Westin Grand and were lucky enough to get upgraded to a large suite!  This is always a fun bonus when it happens and a nice break from a one room living situation.  We hit the ground walking to one of our favorite restaurants, Zu den 12 Aposteln for lunch.  It was even better than I remembered!  The chicken schnitzel and house rolled sausage were amazing along with the atmosphere of the outdoor bier garten!  As is true of a long trip, laundry day keeps coming back.  While I did laundry, the rest of the family rested.  I went to a laundromat I had been to before but I must’ve had too many loads as I left one behind on accident.  Luckily it was still there when I went back for it.  We hit another favored restaurant for supper, Paulaner am dom and had delicious turkey schnitzel with chanterelles.  After we got kids to bed, we organized the place (with laundry drying everywhere) as it’s nice to settle in when you’ll be there for the week.  It was a full day even if we didn’t do any sightseeing.

We waked up Tuesday and the kids enjoyed a morning to play with their toys in the open space we had.  Our mission today was to order a birthday cake for Teddy so we set out to a couple grocery stores.  However, I thought more about it and knew we didn’t have plates or utensils in our room so I changed gears and just purchased balloons instead.  We met Cory for a quick lunch then hit the Drachenburg Spielplatz (playground); it was a super cute, wooden playground…with lots of sand!  I had to dump sand from their shoes (again) before nap time.  Cory found a Bier Garten on the river for supper with an amazing view overlooking the Eisener Steg (Europe’s oldest suspension bridge).  There were colorful flower boxes all around the boat which I love!

On Wednesday, June 21, Teddy turned 3!!!  We had balloons waiting on him when he waked as well as a lion figurine and lion mask.  Before we could hit the zoo to see the animals (always his request), we rode the train to pick up my momma and aunt at the airport.  They joined us for the last two weeks of our trip!  We didn’t waste any time tossing their suitcases in the hotel room and heading to the zoo.  We especially enjoyed seeing the lioness and watching all the monkeys.  When we got back to the hotel for naps, we found a surprise dessert plate with Happy Birthday written on it and a note!   We also celebrated with party hats! Who doesn’t love a good party hat!  We went back to one of our favorite restaurants Atschel for supper.

We learned the sweet ladies from the executive lounge had arranged the surprise birthday dessert and they hadn’t even known I was looking for one.   It was so very thoughtful!  We taxied to Palmengarten for the morning and it was so lush!  Beautiful, colorful flowers were everywhere.  With my momma and aunt to tell the different kinds (since all signs were in German), it was even more enjoyable!  Of course, we found a train to ride and playground which suited the kids!  We hit our favorite Frankfurt restaurant again for lunch with Cory.  Tonight, we walked to Frankfurt au Main via the Cathedral and a wooden toy shop to hear the bells of Alte Nikolaikirche.  We patronized another favorited restaurant Paulaner Dom for supper.  When you find good food, it’s hard to not go back again and again.  Frankfurt is such an unassuming city.

Next stop, Venice!

Overlooking Eisener Steg then standing on it

More travelers arrived

Happy Lion

Navigating the zoo  

He’s 3!!!

Can you guess who threw in the ball?!

Palmengarten: flowers and fountains

My favorite girl and favorite restaurant 

Greek Isle of Corfu

Hello from Vacation part two!

Our time in Corfu is the part of our travels we were most excited about for a handful of reasons.  We’ve never been to Greece.  Cory was off work.  We were spending it with friends/locals. We were celebrating a sweet baby girl’s baptism.

The last reason is the main reason we were there… to celebrate the youngest  coordinate very well with our friends as I knew it wasn’t that big of an island.  Well, we didn’t see them at the airport as I thought, as we later found out, because they hadn’t arrived yet.  We knew we’d connect at some point that day! No fear, we just set out for Corfu town to begin our adventures on the island.  The boys needed hair cuts so off they went to the barber.  Naturally, the girls decided to get pedicures.  It was a fun impromptu daddy/son and mother/daughter date then we met back up for lunch close to the old fort.  It’s a beautiful island and everyone is so relaxed.

At this point, we still had not heard from our friends about our accommodations, so we decided to take a ride to the north side of the island to Sidari Beach for a few more hours in the sun and sand.  Once we arrived in Sidari, we needed to acquire towels and toys at a local shop.  Cory was quick to handle it for us and noticed a sign that said the nearby pool was available for customers of the attached bar…this would be handy later.  The kids were so excited to get in the sea!  We made our way to the specific beach in Sidari called Canal de Armour, where we proceeded to change into our swimmers in an empty field/parking lot…we did say this was an adventure, right?!?  Cory took the kids out into this beautiful cove and showed them the caves and stunning vistas of the sea.  After a good swim and some playing in the sand, we needed a place to clean up a bit and continue waiting for word on where we were spending the night.

Now back to that pool Cory saw that was free for bar customers.  We bought some drinks and turned the babies loose in the awesome kiddie pool.  We were chatting about our sleeping situation for the night when we heard from our friends!  They had just landed and gave us our lodging info.  We finished our quick dip in the pool; then we grabbed supper at Cafe Mediterraneo, where the kids enjoyed the playground with lots of other kids dining there.  Final adventure for the day was a night drive to our village for the week, Agios Gordios. Google maps only got us lost once, but no biggie, we finally made it!

On Tuesday, June 13, we showered quickly, as we’d just thrown everyone in bed at the late hour the night prior, before going to breakfast at Sebastian’s (a friend of Christos’ restaurant).  They have way better Greek yogurt than we do!  It is so fun to see our friend Christos at home seeing family and friends.  Our families were excited to play together!  We decided on the pool for the morning and had a lunch of the best chicken souvlaki and pita bread I think I’ve ever had.  Yum!  For afternoon naps, I enjoyed mine from our porch overlooking the ocean.  Breathtaking!  We also got in some beach time at Black Rocks beach.  It’s a hidden gem!  So Island time is way different; we were still on the beach at 9:30pm then we had supper.  We finally got in bed at midnight after a simply awesome day!

The good part with this late night is that the kids let us sleep in til 9am! Bonus! We took a boat ride to see caves at Agios Georgios Pagon; it’s the clearest water I’ve ever seen! Back to our village for pool time and a fun dinner with friends. This is the way vacation should be!

The kids slept a good 12 hours Wednesday night then played at the house for the morning to really recharge.  By afternoon, they were ready for the beach again.  Tonight we watched the sunset at Black Rocks before we had a family style barbecue.  It consisted of a Greek salad (my favorite), lamb chops, pork ribs, chicken souvlaki and fries (always with oregano on them).  Delicious!

Friday night, we went to Ambelonas Winery and Olive farm for a tour and tasting.  Everyone in Corfu makes their own wine and olive oil; some people turn it into a business and others just consume their own.  We stopped at a Pelekas lookout to see all of Corfu and it didn’t disappoint!  The Vasilaki’s have been amazing hosts with fun things planned all week and tonight was no different.  We had dinner with all their family followed by Greek dancing.  It was so fun but so different!  Cory especially loved seeing the unique rotisseries and Greek barbecue preparations…it was stunningly good!

Saturday morning came early as we went on a boat tour off the east coast of the island.  We stopped at a couple beaches, both with rocks instead of sand.  Our water shoes weren’t ready to deal with the tiny rocks getting stuck in our shoes.  Ouch!  The third stop was to a cave you could swim in and cliff you jump from; of course, Cory did both!

Sunday was the big day!  The church in Sinarades, where Haley and Christos were married is also where the baptism was held.  It had a tall clock and bell tower that we heard ringing.  It was such an interesting ceremony with everything done in threes for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  The ceremony, although in Greek, was beautiful as was Gabby’s gown made from her grandmother’s wedding dress.  A reception followed with more Greek food and dancing.  They use olive oil on everything and I cannot wait to do it myself at home.  There were four courses with barbecued lamb bringing up the rear; it was so much good food!  We enjoyed a dip in the pool for a bit that afternoon before getting our kids fed and to bed!  I, on the other hand, got to have a night out with friends; it lead to a much later bedtime that I’m used to, but totally worth it!

Mondays come whether you want them to or not as you cannot be on vacation forever. So back to Germany we go.  Next stop, Frankfurt!

Canal de Amour at Sidari Beach

Black Rocks Beach sunset 

Boating at Agios Georgios Pagon

Black Rocks

Ambelonas Wine and Olive Farm

Pelekas Lookout

Playing with friends

Ready for Gabby’s baptism

Christening gown made from her grandmother’s wedding dress

Marble and Marvels: 2 Days in Beautiful Athens

Xaipete from Greece!

This weekend is the official start of our “vacation” whilst we are on this little European adventure…Daddy and the whole crew could not be more excited.  Our preferred transport method from airport to hotel is generally a van or shuttle; but in Athens at 11pm with no prearranged ride, we are out of luck.  So we punt and two taxis it is…thanks mostly to the jogging stroller that pushes us just past fitting all our stuff and crew in a large sedan.  It was a 45 minute drive ($$$) to our hotel, which meant a super late night.  So goes a travel day!

We did sleep in a bit on Saturday, June 10th, for our bodies to recoup, but we started our morning right with a delicious breakfast made by the Greek family who ran the hotel.  The owner, Mr. George (or Boss as they called him) was so kind to our kids!  He especially took to Teddy.  It was precious to watch them play together even though they shared no common language….paternal sweetness and play transcends speech!  To get our bearings and gather a good summary view of the city of Athens, we opted for the hop off hop off bus.  Yes, it is a total tourist move, but we’ve found this is always the best way to see the most in a short amount of time.  City Sightseeing buses are all over the world and offer discounts if you bring previous tickets with you.  Our first stop was to the Acropolis and Parthenon.  You couldn’t bring strollers up but they had an easy and free stroller check available.  As we walked up the slippery, beautiful marble to the top, I got teary eyed at the view.  Wow!  Standing where others had been so many hundreds of years before and worked so hard to build these unbelievable buildings with little resources was almost unfathomable!  Talk about hard workers!  Also knowing these sites had been here since the 5th century was hard to comprehend!  We then headed to the Plaka area for lunch and window shopping then back on the bus we go.  We selected a restaurant close to the hotel for supper called Alexander the Great which was so delicious and kid friendly!

On Sunday, the kids crawled in bed with us.  That’s the best way to start a weekend morning!  We taxied to Mt Lycabettus except we didn’t get close enough, so we had to walk up four big, slippery, stone stairwells; we felt like we were in San Francisco.  Thank goodness for Cory hauling the stroller.  We rode a cable car up to top to see a beautiful view!  There was a chapel at the top where we went inside, lit candles and prayed.  This is the best place to view all of Athens beauty from up high…and use the selfie stick!

We are loving Greece even more so because Greek people love kids!  After breakfast, Teddy asked where was his friend (aka Me. George).  As it turns out, he had gone to buy each of them a little toy!  The receptionist gave it to them when we came in that afternoon and of course the kids loved it!  Unfortunately, we didn’t see him again but what a sweet man.  He surely made us all feel at home!

We had a restful afternoon and evening in the apartment to give the kids some downtime before we meet up with friends.  Cory grabbed ingredients for supper at the market across the street for $10 Euros…cannot beat that price!  The kids played and played.  They are good buddies and it’s so very sweet to watch them play together!

Monday morning started part two of our vacation from a vacation!  Our hotel arranged van taxi had two car seats!  We haven’t seen car seats since we left the states.  We also booked business class tickets to Corfu as the tickets were cheaper than paying economy prices plus baggage fees.  So we had access to the Aegean business lounge, a whole row of six seats for four of us on the plane and breakfast on the plane even included espresso.  The folks at Olympic and Aegean Air did it up right!

Next stop, the island of Corfu!

City Site seeing Bus

Parthenon

Mr. George

Her version of a Greek breakfast…toast and butter!

Tiniest lift ever!

Dutch Holiday Part Twee

Hallo from Amsterdam!

We had an uneventful flight, like most these days, and Schipol is a great airport…tulips and cheese for sale around the whole main concourse.  The big Mercedes van (which we love as it fit us all with extra room to spare) took us to the Renaissance Hotel.  We stayed at the same location in the fall so it was a familiar site.  After getting settled, out the door we walked to find an Italian cafe.  It’s chiller here but still not as cold as we anticipated when we packed.  Cory has to lead a four hour training tomorrow so he had some work to do before bedtime.  He amazes me with his dedication and ability to adapt to his constantly changing work.  We went to bed early this evening which was needed as Cory had an early flight to Madrid the next morning.

So, this past Monday was unchartered territory.  Cory flew to Spain to work (only for two days) but I was in a foreign country with my two babies by myself.  I was anxious about it, but am proud to say I think I ended up rocking it!  We settled into our morning like any other at the hotel lounge for breakfast.  We met the sweetest (grandparent) couple from the states and Bea and Teddy proceeded to talk their ears off for the next three breakfasts!  We didn’t try public transit here in the fall as we rented bikes instead.  So we taxied to Vondelpark to our familiar playground at Groot Melkhuis.  Bea couldn’t wait to get on their zip line!  Especially since Cory was out of town, it was so nice to have familiarity of this park.  I also let them dig in the sand since I’ll be doing laundry again in a couple of days.  Why not!  Of course, when we got home their shoes were FULL of sand!  We stopped at KinderKook Kafe for lunch based on a recommendation and it was adorable with toys and an outside play area too.  I did manage to navigate us home on the trolley.  Bea needed her own transit card which made her feel so big!  We stayed close to the hotel for supper after naps and had a low key evening.  We have two beds at this hotel so Bea has her own.  I decided to sleep with her since Cory was out of town.  When she waked up the next morning, she said “you slept with me!  That’s the best surprise ever!”

It rained most of Tuesday and the wind was howling which made pushing a make-shift double stroller with 75 lbs in it quite challenging!  The NEMO Science Museum was today’s agenda and Bea loves a science museum!  As we walked in, a lady gave me a ticket she had already purchased which was so nice!  The kids had a blast touching one of everything including playing with bubbles, building things, then Teddy dumped a bucket of water out on his legs.  I saw it coming but couldn’t stop it!  We grabbed lunch there before catching the bus back to the hotel.  I’m getting quite confident trying out the different public transports this go around.  Now Cory’s back!!!  He met us for supper at Het Karbeel, an interesting fondu place then it was laundry time for me again.

It’s Hump Day!  Cory trained to Rotterdam while we bused to the zoo.  However, we didn’t make it as it started pouring as we walked the final bit.  We got soaked!  Sometimes you have to change gears; we did just that with a trip to the bakery for a cookie and jelly beans.  We had a relaxing rest of the day playing in the room.  Teddy and I slept while Bea watched a movie.  Cory met us for supper at an Indonesian restaurant called Aneka Rasa.  Hands down my favorite place we’ve eaten thus far!

Anywhere you go, there are always errands to be run.  We’ve made diaper runs already this week but this day was to PostNL.  We bought a couple books and we already finished a couple too, so we shipped a box home to lighten our load.  It also included light fleeces that we thought we’d need but never even put on.  I’m not complaining as I like summer weather!  It has rained almost every day and this day was no exception.  As we say though, we won’t melt!  We toured the Royal Palace and they were the most kid-friendly with a scavenger hunt and a separate child audio guide!  They had a blast listening to young King Louis tell about palace life and finding stickers to match his questions.  Nicely done, Royal Palace!  On our walk for a pancake lunch, we found the tiniest dog named Lily who was helping in a cute boutique.  The kids have gotten their animal fix (aside from the zoo) in Amsterdam as we’ve also encountered two cats in restaurants as well.  We enjoyed our Pancakes at a familiar restaurant from when we visited in the fall (Lucien’s).  We have also decided lunch is the better time for treats so we did it up with ice cream and mini pancakes with Nutella of course.  Cory had a work dinner tonight, so we ate “supper” in the lounge.  Everyone is so helpful when I have the kids by myself.  They even got toys from a Renaissance employee. So very kind!

Our official vacation (where Cory isn’t working) started on Friday.  We couldn’t wait to have him all to ourselves for 10 days!  We packed it all up, grabbed a quick breakfast and taxied to the airport.  Then things slowed down; it took 40 minutes at the ticket counter to fix a mix up with our James Minton’s as they hadn’t put a middle initial on either boarding pass.  So we had to kindly ask to pass people in line at customs; thank goodness for the sweet Asian ladies who allowed us.  Then we proceed to run (even Bea) to our gate.  I wasn’t expecting to get any exercise that morning! Luckily, we made it!

Next stop (after a layover…which was supposed to be 55 minute but became 5+ hours in Bucharest…but who’s counting) Athens!

Groot Melkhuis 

Rained out the zoo

Royal Palace

Dessert time!