Archive

Tag Archives: Baby

Can I still write about my vacation last month? Its old news, probably not, but I’m doing it anyway. I have had a lot going on in the past three and a half weeks since we got home and I haven’t had the discipline to sit down and write about my trip, but, as Chris keeps pointing out to me, I will enjoy reading about it someday if I make the time to write about it now. So, here it is, I’m making time.

When I first sat down to look through my pictures from Norway, I realized that there were not many pictures, and even fewer good ones. I’m a bit disappointed, but not really surprised. It is pretty difficult to manage Kai while effectively taking photographs. We have a lot more pictures from the second half of our trip in Prague where Chris joined us and championed the photography effort.

In my last post, I went on a rant about the high price of food in Oslo, although, all said and done, I managed to only spend $298 on food, entertainment, and transportation over the three days that we were there; I feel pretty good about that.

So what does one do in Oslo anyway? That was a big question for me before our trip, but I quickly found out that there are many exciting things to see there.

We visited many museums such as the Fram, Munch, Nobel, and Viking Museums as well as my very favorite, the Ski Museum. I almost didn’t make it to the Ski Museum because it is a bit out of the way and involved a long walk, ok, not that long, maybe a mile, straight uphill from the nearest Metro station, but I am so glad that we went. I really enjoyed reading about the history of skiing and, for some reason, Kai patiently allowed me to do so.

Because the weather was chilly and drizzly, I sought out as many indoor activities as I could find. Kai seemed to stay quite warm in her stroller sleeping bag*, but I kept getting chilly and I kind of regretted leaving my Uggs at home. Don’t get me wrong, we did many outdoor activities as well, just fewer than we might have done had it been warm outside.

*If you live in a cold climate and need or want a stroller sleeping bag, I highly recommend the 7AM Enfant one. It is by far the most awesome one that we have used, Kai’s feet stay warm even in sub-freezing temperatures when she kicks her shoes off.

So more about Norway, I’m not finding a lot to say. I am glad that we went. I cherish the opportunity to go new places, see new things, learn about other countries and cultures, but I’ve had trouble writing because it wasn’t all that I had hoped for. I still haven’t written posts about the Maldives for the same reason. [Chris, remind me that I should get on with that as well!]

My main hangup with Norway was the people. They are very beautiful, arguably the most beautiful people in the world, but they can act kind of ugly. They were friendly in much the same way that I have experienced friendliness in France; read that how you will. I had a few experiences in Norway that just rubbed me the wrong way. None of the situations were dangerous and I understand that they do not reflect the behavior and attitude of each and every person in the country, but I’m just having trouble getting past a handful of extremely rude people who I encountered.

Overall, Oslo was a safe, clean, beautiful city with many activities for tourists, nevertheless, I don’t think it is at the top of my ‘revisit’ list.

Advertisements

Our first day in Oslo started off pretty well. We took a short nap and got cleaned up before heading out for some lunch and some sightseeing. We hit up several of the sights in Central Oslo before I decided to look for somewhere for us to eat.

Big mistake. Finding food for us took much longer than I expected. I quickly found out that it would be difficult to find even a fast food sandwich for us to split for under $12. I was also realistic enough to realize that splitting a European-sized sandwich with Kai would not even come close to filling my oversized American appetite.

I started to get kind of nervous. I had been warned that Norway was expensive, heck, I had even been warned by a Brit who thought Oslo was far more expensive than London. It just didn’t sink in though until I was converting the prices of things in my head.

Thinking back on our trip to Japan, I made a beeline for McDonalds. We had a few meals there in Japan and they were pretty reasonably priced. I shuddered at the idea of feeding Kai McDonalds. Bad. Mother.

I could not believe my eyes when I saw that the price of a Big Mac Value Meal was more than $17. Yikes. My fear of feeding Kai McDonalds went out the window because even that didn’t seem like a reasonable option.

I needed to buy some time while I figured out what to do. I stopped at a convenience store to buy a small (~16 oz) carton of milk for $3 and a banana for $1.22. At least Kai would forgive me for another hour or so while I got this sorted out.

Finally, I found a grocery store that was open. I bought some fruit and bread so we would have something to snack on while we were out and about, but there was nothing in this store that would make a meal suitable for Kai without my having access to a kitchen.

I eventually settled on getting us $12 fast food sandwiches. Naturally, I ended up eating nearly two $12 sandwiches because Kai didn’t like either one. I should have seen that coming.

In the end, we did not end up spending a fortune on food in Oslo, but we also never ate at an establishment that offered seating of any kind. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though; sometimes it is stressful to take a toddler into a restaurant by myself, so alfresco dining had its perks.

We got to see a lot of awesome stuff in Oslo, but I’ll share more about that another day.

Kai and I took two flights to get to Norway and, thankfully, they may have been her most successful yet. After both flights, passengers commented to me that they had no idea that a baby was sitting adjacent to them.

20130415-000159.jpg

The first leg of our journey took us to New Jersey where we had a twelve hour layover and an opportunity to hang out with my family all day. We got to have blueberry pancakes, a trip to the zoo, and a big dinner before heading back to the airport for round two.

For the second time that day, Kai fell asleep before takeoff and managed to sleep until the final approach into our destination airport. The sounds pretty good, but there is a bit of a downside for me; it means that I did not sleep much at all as I was dealing with various limbs falling asleep from her weight and the inability to get up to use the bathroom for nearly seven hours. Still, this was a much better alternative than a cranky, wakeful baby.

Sunday morning we arrived in Oslo, caught a train into town, and secured a super early check-in into our hotel. So far, so good!

    After leaving Porto, we began to make our way down the Portuguese coast visiting a few beach towns along the way. Chris was hoping for a chance to surf, but it never worked out. It was pretty cold out and, with no wetsuit, I don’t know how enjoyable it would have been anyway.
    Portugal Coast 1
    One of the towns on our “must see” list was Nazare. Up until fairly recently, it was a very traditional, somewhat untouched, fishing village and I was really curious to see it. Unfortunately, when we got there it looked more like a typical American boardwalk than a Portuguese fishing village. Lining the beach was store after store selling the same generic trinkets. Nearly gone were the old women in plaid skirts, knee socks, and fisherman’s sweaters that I had heard about. It is hard to say if people like me are the problem, “invading” the village to visit the ocean or if tourism is a huge benefit to the local economy. I’m guessing the latter. While the curiosity of seeing a traditional village is gone, I sensed that tourism was important to the locals.
    Portugal Coast 2
    We did not spend much time in Nazare because we were pretty crunched for time by that point in the trip and we had committed to a hotel room in Lisbon that evening.

    The next morning, we got started bright and early exploring Lisbon and Chris was feeling super enthusiastic, practically dancing in the streets.
    Lisbon 1
    One of the things that I was especially drawn to in Lisbon were the mosaic sidewalks. Most of the city was destroyed by fires that started as a result of the Great Earthquake of 1755 and, when the city was rebuilt, this type of sidewalk was installed with beautiful and intricate patterns. I can’t even imagine the work that must go into making one of these!
    Lisbon 2
    Our first stop in Lisbon was the Tagus River waterfront. It was sunny and warm there with a great musician playing for tips. We might have stayed there for hours had Kai not gotten impatient for us to keep going. By this point in the trip, I think she was starting to get a bit tired of riding around in the stroller so much. I don’t blame her, in fact, I was delighted that she tolerated it for this long.
    Lisbon 3Lisbon 4
    Next stop was to see the “World’s Sexiest Bathroom” before we continued our journey through the winding streets of Lisbon. Obviously I needed to see why it was so great. I paid my 50 Euro cents and went in. It was nice and clean and had some pretty cool wood paneling on the walls, but I don’t know that it was deserving of such a bold title.
    Lisbon 5Lisbon 6
    After climbing many hills and carrying the stroller up more staircases than I can count, we arrived at the top of the city. A whole neighborhood full of breathtaking views and plenty of cafes to enjoy them from.
    Lisbon 7
    We tooled around there for a bit and grabbed some lunch before heading back down the hill and over to the Belém neighborhood to taste pastries from the most famous pastry shop in Lisbon. In many ways, it reminded me of going to Cafe du Monde in New Orleans for beignets. The Pasteis de Belém is a pastry shop that was opened by a group of monks who needed to fund their monastery. The shop has been in business since 1837; it sounds like this gig is working out for them.

    Lisbon 8Lisbon 9
    Next up was the Jeronimos Monastery, home of the famous pastry making monks. Of all the monasteries that we visited on our trip, I think this one was my favorite. I did like the frescoes that we saw in Madrid, but I had much more appreciation for the architecture at Jeronimos.
    Lisbon 10
    After hitting a few more sights, it was clear that Kai was finished and, quite honestly, I think we were too. We took a cab back to Baixa for dinner, but first there was the matter of getting Kai to sleep so we could eat in peace. I had high hopes that she would easily fall asleep after riding a few bumpy blocks on the mosaic sidewalks, but no such luck. We had to employ more advanced techniques. A pashmina from a street vendor and an ultra pasteurized “milk box” later, she was zonked out, I was eating more grilled fish, and Chris was eating yet another “tipico” meal of octopus over rice.

Porto 1

The first thing that struck me about Portugal was how welcoming the people were. It is one of the friendliest countries that I have ever visited.

Our first night in Portugal, we ate dinner at a small family run restaurant in Porto. Although the proprietor and his sons spoke very little English, it was clear that we were welcome, Kai was even more welcome, and they were excited for us to taste and enjoy their food. I played it safe by ordering grilled fish, I think I had dorado, while Chris asked for a house specialty. The tripe stew.

If you have ever been in the kitchen with Chris, you have probably seen that he can be a little bit over the top with food safety precautions, so I was pretty surprised to hear that he was going to eat tripe that he did not prepare himself.

Porto 3Porto 2

We started dinner with bread, then salad, chouriço, and soup. So that we could taste both of the traditional soups on the menu, I had ordered the Sopa de Legumes, while Chris tried a Caldo Verde, a creamy kale and potato soup. Not being a huge fan of soup to begin with, Chris left about half of his soup in his bowl. As he was clearing our dishes, the restaurateur’s son asked if Chris liked the soup. Always honest, Chris tried to politely explain that it wasn’t really his thing. I’m not sure how much of that was lost in translation, but suddenly our consumption, or not, of every morsel of food that was delivered to the table was being scrutinized. It was clear that this family took their food seriously and that, as their guests, our opinions mattered.

Porto 4

Remember the tripe on order?

Finally, my fish and Chris’ tripe arrived at the table. After his first bite, his face said it all. Luckily, Kai saved the day. It was probably the first time that Chris has ever been eager to hear her cry during dinner. He immediately took on the role of doting dad, entertaining Kai while I ate every bit of food on my plate as fast as I could. All the while, the restaurant’s owner was checking on us and how Chris liked his dinner. At the very least, we needed to take Chris’ meal to go and make a huge fuss over how good it was. On cue, Kai’s tantrum escalated and we were able to get Chris’ meal boxed and gracefully leave without eating any additional tripe.

Although he was left hungry, I’m sure Chris felt quite relieved.

Porto 5

Looking back on this experience, I am recalling that much of our stay in Portugal involved eating things that were new, different, or unexpected and breakfast the following morning was another example of this. We set out for the day with an eye out for somewhere to eat breakfast and quickly found a small bakery/cafe that was packed with people, taking that as a good sign, we grabbed a table and ordered two Americanos and the server’s two favorite items out of the deli case. A few minutes later, our breakfast arrived. A fried salted cod sandwich for me and a pastry of meat, cheese, and phyllo dough for Chris. Initially, I was rather turned off by the idea of a cod sandwich for breakfast, but by the time I finished it, I was vowing to cook more fish for breakfast at home. Don’t knock it until you try it, I guess. 

I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon for breakfast, why not salted cod?

Porto 6

It was time to continue on to the most important part of the day. We were on a mission to walk across town and cross the River Duoro to visit the port cellars on the other side.

I did not realize how much I had to learn about port wine until we toured a cellar. In fact, I would have told you that I did not even like port wine until we did a tasting. It turns out that I love it, unfortunately, I seem to prefer very fine port wines, aged 40 years. Needless to say, I will not be taking up port drinking on the regular anytime soon.

While Porto might be an interesting city for wine enthusiasts to visit, I didn’t feel like it offered a whole lot in terms of general tourism. Perhaps we missed some hidden gems, who knows. I was glad that we visited, but would probably not rush to go back there.

Next up: Nazare and Lisbon

We pulled into Toledo after dark and somehow managed to find our hotel without getting lost. The city stood up on its hill, still having a striking resemblance to El Greco’s famous painting of its dramatic skyline. I was excited about visiting Toledo for many reasons, the most prominent of which is because it is the marzipan capital of the world and I absolutely love those overly sweet nuggets of almond paste; they remind me of a favorite Dutch dessert that my grandma used to make and give me a feeling of happiness and warmth that can only be evoked by super sweet almond confections.

Toledo 1

After checking into our hotel, we ventured down the street to make our second attempt of the day at eating tapas. Once again, we found ourselves in the hands of a barkeep who spoke very little English. Fortunately we know the word for cervesa and we were able to muddle through a few sentences asking him to serve us his favorite items from the menu. This time, the cervesa and tapas flowed. The three of us ate and ate until finally, when the barkeep asked ‘Mas?’ Chris and I both replied ‘No mas. Gracias!’

Toledo 2

The next morning we awoke to chilly temperatures and frosty windows. As we wound our way through the city, I was super bummed that I left my Uggs at home and crazy jealous of Kai getting carted around town in a sleeping bag.

Toledo 3

Pretty quickly, we found out that, in spite of what appeared to be booming tourism, many of the restaurant and shop owners in Toledo did not speak much English. Yet again we ended up ordering a tipico breakfast, which, strangely, was paella; clearly not a breakfast food. No worries, it was tasty and it got the job done. After breakfast, we strolled through the narrow, hilly streets of Toledo taking in the sights, and, of course, munching on marzipan along the way.

Toledo 4

By the time we had crossed town to see the last “must see” on our list, The Cathedral of Toledo, my fingers and toes were completely numb from the cold. I couldn’t wait to go inside and bask in the heat of the second largest church in Spain. Sadly, and I should have expected this, there was no heat. It was nearly as cold inside as out. I think this sealed the fate of the rest of our trip. It was time to bail on frigid Spain and head for more temperate coastal Portugal. A few hours later, after we declared Toledo “done”, we began our walk back across town, across Puente San Martin, and to our car.

Toledo 5

Our early evening was spent driving through Spanish, and then Portugese countryside on our way to Porto.

Next up: Porto, port wine, and tripe

Our time in Madrid, although well spent, was probably a bit too short. I, for one, was feeling a bit lazy while in Madrid, so I did not do a great job of pushing the agenda. It didn’t help matters that the agenda was pretty open; I accidentally left the Spain travel guide in our car at the airport when we flew to Morocco, so I wasn’t able to pre-read much before we got to Madrid. Yes, I realize that most people pre-read weeks, or even months in advance of their trips, but I was and always have been a huge failure at planning my vacations ahead of time.

The first thing we “did” in Madrid was sit down to an awesome breakfast on Gran Via where Chris and I ate Eggs Benedict, Kai ate fruit and yogurt, and the three of us plotted out our day. After wrapping up our breakfast, we set out for the Monasterio Las Descalzas Reales, which was just a few blocks away. We got there just in time to join an English speaking tour of the old monastery. Of the limited things that we saw in Madrid, this was probably my favorite. Chris and I got married in an old Italian monastery that had beautiful frescoes on the walls. Similar to Villa Grazioli, our wedding venue, this monastery also had some amazing frescoes.

Madrid 1

After spending the next part of the day visiting the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, and Plaza Espana to name a few places, we realized that lunch time had come and gone and that we were starving. We decided to get tapas for a late afternoon meal and took great care in selecting a bar that felt authentic, not too touristy, and appropriate to bring Kai into. After what felt like miles of walking, and much deliberation, we were finally seated in a bar with drinks in front of us and tapas on the way. In keeping with the stereotype of the fat American over consumer, we ordered entirely too much food and couldn’t wait for it to arrive so we could devour it all.

The first thing that came out was two breaded hunks of brie melted around some Serrano ham. It sounds kind of gross when I describe it that way, but the little nibble of it that I had was pretty tasty. I fed most of mine to Kai as she seemed hungry too and this was totally a food that she could get on board with. Another little plate with two bite-sized pieces of food came out. I can’t remember what this was anymore, but I remember snarfing it down quickly, eager to fill my hungry, rumbling tummy.

We waited and waited, no more tiny plates arrived.

Kai became restless.

We passed her back and forth, trying to entertain her with silly faces and nonsense chatter as we continued to wait for more tiny plates to arrive.

I decided that Kai’s restlessness might be because her diaper was a little wet, so we crammed into a shoebox sized bathroom to attempt a “standing” diaper change. There was no surface in the bathroom that could be used for baby changing, so I found myself holding a wriggling baby in one hand while changing her diaper with the other. If you have ever done this, you understand the enormous level of stress involved with doing it. I was sure that I would get an unwanted shower, or worse. Somehow, I emerged from the bathroom with a happy baby and clean clothes.

Kai sat on Chris’ lap as we made even more silly faces and even more nonsense chatter and continued to wait for more tiny plates carrying bite sized morsels of fried yumminess to arrive.

At some point, we realized that the rest of our food wasn’t coming. As Chris stood up to re-order our food, I saw that my mid-air diaper change didn’t work out so well. Kai’s pants were soaked. I must not have unfolded the leg gussets properly. Madrid 2Lucky for Chris, Kai’s pants seemed to have absorbed the bulk of the fluid. We decided that it was time to bail on our meal. Chris paid our tab as I got Kai cleaned up again. For the second time on this trip, Kai was going to go pantless, this time to The Prado. Fortunately we have one of those stroller sleeping bags, so I doubt that anyone except for us knew about her escapade. Surprisingly, we were able to see nearly all of The Prado before Kai determined that it was time to leave. I was quite impressed with her endurance.

After the museum, we made our way back towards Gran Via, stopping along the way for a few sandwiches and some free internet so we could find a hotel room for that night. Kai needed a nap, so we reserved a hotel room in Toledo, piled back into the car, and made the drive about an hour south to the famous city on the hill.

Next up: Toledo