Category Archives: Travel

Family Fun / Life Abroad / Travel

Our Trip to Berlin

December 7, 2017

We just returned from a quick trip to Berlin to visit the Christmas markets, and tomorrow we’re off to Zagreb, Croatia for more! I figured I would try to sit down and write a quick post about our trip before we dive head-first into our next trip and slide directly into Christmas in the days following.

Berlin was the first home exchange we arranged after we joined the site. A nice family contacted us about swapping, and knowing how wonderful Germany is at Christmastime, I jumped at the chance to set up an exchange for December.

It was cold in Berlin, so the kids were forced to be all bundled up for our exploring. Lark was unsure of the number of layers we were requiring her to wear.   We visited the remains of the Berlin wall (yes, America, let’s all take a moment to remember how great that wall was, shall we?)  We visited many a brauhaus and the girls tried (and loved!) Bavarian sausage. (The numerous pretzels and fries we consumed were also a hit, go figure.) There were a couple points where we had both kids sleeping — one in the carrier and one in the stroller — which always feels like the biggest win and most relaxing part of vacation. That last photo above included two sleeping children and hot chocolate with Baileys so… WIN/WIN/WIN.  A couple of the Christmas markets had little rides which Prim got to partake in. It was a big moment for her and probably the beginning of her begging to ride every sad, lonely plastic horse stationed outside a supermarket. (Hooray.)  Prim insisted on riding on the front of the stroller at multiple points during the trip so she could “talk to Larky.” It keeps Lark happy and we get a few minutes of freedom from having to tell Prim to keep walking, so the fact that it may ultimately result in our travel stroller collapsing is a relatively minor concern.   We walked all over Berlin, even though it was really cold (it even snowed while we were there!) I thought we might not walk as much during these winter trips due to the weather, but we managed to clock in over 6 miles one day and over 9 miles another, and between 4 and 5 miles on both of our travel days, so clearly the cold isn’t hindering our exploring much.
Trying to take a decent photo with a 2 year old… it’s a challenge, guys. Just nursing a baby on a German train, like usual.  Germany, your delicious beers and carbs are proof that I was meant to be German. I can’t wait to return someday soon!

Life Abroad / Motherhood / Travel

Our Trip to Copenhagen

October 23, 2017

As I mentioned in the last post, KC has been traveling for work a bunch lately. Normally he’s gone for 4-5 nights and then returns for the weekend, but since he had back-to-back work weeks in Dublin, he opted to just stay through this past weekend, which meant I was facing 13 solo bedtime routines with the girls while he was gone (because really, isn’t that always the most exhausting part of the day?) and was really not looking forward to two straight weeks of solo-parenting.

I happened to get a home exchange request for part of the period when KC would be gone, and I was lamenting that it seemed like an awesome opportunity and was bummed that we couldn’t take advantage of it. KC immediately chimed in, “Well you could just go,” which, while true, is a bit tricky with both kids and just one me (just navigating the airport with both kids and all the stuff we have to bring on our trips would be near-impossible for just one person). I thought about it for awhile and then thought I would see if another stay-at-home mama friend would want to join along with her 2 year old. We spend a lot of time together already (Prim and her little one are best buds these days) and I know she’s generally down for an adventure, so I thought it might be a good option. She jumped at the chance to get out of town and we set our plans, buying our tickets less than two weeks before our departure date.

We were in Copenhagen for 5 days, and wandered through the city with our three girls, all under the age of 2 1/2. We weathered flight delays coming and going (both times while on the plane) and somehow managed to navigate two airports and an entire city without losing any luggage, children, or our minds.

^^ Don’t mind the caution tape in that picture. I’m sure everything is fine. #goodparenting  And really, looking back on the trip, I have to say how proud I am of these little ones of ours. They are seriously veteran travelers now and go with the flow better than I could ever expect a baby and two toddlers to. Being stuck in a plane seat or stroller, or confined to a restaurant chair is not easy for wiggly two year olds and a newly-mobile 8 month old, but these ladies weathered the challenges like pros.  We did opt to have some slow days so that the kids could nap and sought out activities where they could run around and stretch their little legs. And, honestly, we didn’t see nearly as much as I would hope to see of Copenhagen on our trip (I mean, this is where Mikeller is from — so many more beers to drink! So many awesome restaurants to try!) but we still did a lot and I’m so glad we made the trip.  And yes, of course the kids had their moments where they were just over it, but luckily those were few and far between. (And honestly, sometimes those moments make for the most memorable photos after the fact.) ^^ This wasn’t actually a meltdown, just a point where Prim decided she simply couldn’t carry on and laid down on the ground. Sometimes, as a two year old, this is the only way to assert yourself.  Copenhagen, you were so charming. I can’t wait to visit you again someday!

Life Abroad / Travel

Visiting Amsterdam?

October 11, 2017

I’ve had a few people contact me over the past year or so asking for recommendations for their trips to Amsterdam. I have been sort of dragging my feet writing this post because I think that recommendations for what to see and where to eat in a city is fairly personal, so what I recommend may or may not fit what you’re looking for. But that being said, I’ve put together a list anyway. Obviously a lot of what is below is kid-friendly, since we live here with our two little ones, but there are some bars and date-night options included for those of you who are lucky enough to be traveling sans-babies.

Click on the links for more info.

Groceries, Basics, etc.:

Breakfast/Brunch:

Lunch:

Dinner:

*adult/date night options – less kid-friendly

Coffee:

Beer:

**There is a pub crawl you can easily do over the course of a day or night (visit this site for more info). You have one beer at each: Arendsnest, Beer Temple, Beer Loves Food, and Craft and Draft, then present your receipts from each bar at Craft and Draft at the end and receive a free t-shirt. (Easiest/Fastest way to do this is on a bike.)

Other:

Favorite toy stores:

*These are kid cafes as well as toy stores

Favorite Tourist Activities:

A little outside the city: 

Budget-Friendly Weekend Fun / Family Fun / Life Abroad / Travel

How We Travel on a Budget

September 11, 2017

As you know, we have been traveling a lot recently, trying to take advantage of our current living situation by visiting many of the countries that are within arm’s reach of the Netherlands. I wanted to take a minute to explain how we do this on a budget.

While it may look like we’re rolling in dough over here, galavanting all over Europe, we actually took a pretty big pay cut to come to the Netherlands. I gave up my job when we moved and KC’s salary was adjusted to reflect Amsterdam’s lower cost of living, so we are definitely not in a position to be throwing money around on lavish vacations.KC and I had talked extensively about traveling while we were abroad and trying to really maximize our time while overseas. Unfortunately, when we started planning out trips for this year and working out the total cost, we were running into a huge hurdle: our “holidays” were killing us financially. KC and I are by no means financially reckless, so we opted to cut down the number of trips we were going to take.

Even reducing our vacation days though, I was realizing just how expensive these trips were going to be. Not only that, but traveling with two little ones meant we couldn’t book a cheap hotel room or studio — we had to book something with at least one bedroom (and ideally two). Furthermore, packing a major city into just a few days wasn’t really an option, as the kids can realistically only be subjected to so much sightseeing in one day, so we were going to have to take longer trips — spending more time in each city.

After stressing out over this and wondering whether we should just abandon most of our travel plans, I came across the website homeexchange.com. I poked around on the site and thought it might be a good option for us, but the site only allows you to actually contact other members by becoming a member yourself. I hemmed and hawed over it and finally brought it up to KC. I reasoned that the yearly fee of €130 would be worth if even if we only managed to get one night out of the membership, so we decided to bite the bullet and join.

I set up our profile one night and went to bed (as the setup took my entire evening — it was time-consuming!) By the next day I already had multiple requests for exchanges.That €130 membership fee has been some of the very best money we’ve spent this year. Not only have we booked three trips via exchanges for this year, we are in the process of potentially booking another five before we return to the states next year.

In case you’re curious, the exchanges are all free — you just pay the membership fee up front to gain access to to the messaging system which allows you to contact the other members on the site. We set up exchanges with other people like us — usually families with young children. It’s great because they already often have a toddler bed for Prim and/or a crib for Lark, plus lots of toys to keep the girls occupied.This post isn’t sponsored or anything, I just thought I would post about our experience because Home Exchange has been such a great options for us. I also think it’s important to be somewhat candid about our life on the blog, and while we are certainly having amazing adventures traveling Europe during this once-in-a-lifetime experience, it’s not because we’re making Bay Area tech salaries over here and have money to burn.

The service has also been especially awesome for us as all of the exchanges we have booked have been based on requests from other people (we’ve been members for 4 months and have gotten a whopping 84 requests for exchanges so far!) We are lucky in that we get a TON of requests on the site, so we have a lot of options; and it has taken so much of the stress of deciding where to travel off our (really MY) plate.

If you have any questions about our home exchanges feel free to leave a comment or message me — I’m happy to talk more about our experience with the site and discuss more of the specifics if you’re interested!

Family Fun / Life Abroad / Travel

Our Trip to Budapest

September 4, 2017

We returned from Budapest last Tuesday evening and I feel like I’m just starting to get back in the swing of things here in Amsterdam. As much as I love traveling, sometimes I feel like I need a vacation after my vacation — one that only involves sleeping and binge-watching TV (remember the days before kids when this was a possibility?? What a dream.)

Budapest was amazing and actually reminded me a lot of my beloved Oakland in many ways. I think it’s one of those cities that I could live in and would just grow to love more and more as time passed.  We spent eight days in Budapest and headed out to explore as soon as we arrived. Wandering around a new city is one of my favorite things to do while on vacation. Seeing the architecture and little cafes tucked into hidden alleyways — it’s the best.  When we were in Madrid we started off our trip by returning to the apartment in the middle of the day with the intention of letting the kids nap. After two days in a row of them refusing to nap while back at the house though, we just decided to start staying out during the day. Lark still naps well on the go, and Prim (our go-go-go party girl that she is) will literally be at 100% and then crash in the stroller or on KC over the course of a matter of minutes when she finally runs out of steam. She usually conks out for about 30 minutes and then is ready and raring to go again. (Luckily she is a good sleeper at night!)  Prim finds the fun pretty much wherever we are. I love that about her. We spent our week in Budapest wandering all over the city (I was oohing and aahing over the architecture, of course).  I mean, come on. Don’t you want to just wander those streets forever? Totally. As I mentioned in my Madrid post earlier, we did have an afternoon where we were tired and the kids were falling apart. KC was losing his patience and I was frustrated and the kids were coming apart at the seams and I had one of those moments where I wanted to just be back in Amsterdam and not dealing with “ALL THIS SH**” as my not-so-cool and composed brain puts it. But luckily within 20 minutes or so both kids fell asleep (on each of us, of course) so we wandered into one of the Ruin Bars and each had a very cold and very large beer.

It’s amazing what 20 minutes and a cold beer will do for your sanity. I was dying to see the inside of the amazing Parliament building, but when KC and I looked at tickets we realized that you had to take a 50-minute tour of the building in order to see it (there were no self-guided options). While this is something I would be all over if we were traveling without kids, with Prim and Lark in tow we determined that we were better off saving our money (and probably our sanity) and avoiding that. While we do stretch the kids on vacation, upending their schedules and forcing them into long days exploring and being patient in restaurants, we also recognize that these little ones have limits and it’s best if we accept the fact that we’re not always going to be able to do everything we want to do while traveling with them. We did see the Shoes on the Danube memorial during a rare moment when both kids happened to be sleeping. I was wearing Lark and KC had Prim on his back in the carrier, and even though it was around 90 degrees, we braved the direct sun so we could see the monument.

I have seen Holocaust memorials before and been to concentration camps, and I’m still always struck by how emotional seeing these things are. We walked down the row of shoes and I immediately saw a pair of child’s shoes among the others. All I could think of was how someone — a child’s mother or father, most likely — had to bend down and remove their child’s shoes knowing that they were both going to die. Even writing this out now is heartbreaking. There are no words to describe that kind of devastation. The current political climate in the US especially necessitates that we remember these horrific acts. This all happened within the modern era. Now is the time to brush up on your history, people.  Prim is becoming quite the savvy little traveler, and sometimes I look at her and I swear that she’s two going on sixteen. In her two short years she’s been to more places than I had been when I finished college, which is pretty crazy to think about.  And I have breastfed this little peanut in so many unusual and interesting places — including the Museo Nacional and Templo de Debod in Madrid, Parc de la Cuitadella in Barcelona, just outside Matyas Templom and at the baths in Budapest, and in line (literally shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of strangers) at the Frankfurt airport while waiting to be rebooked because our flight back to SF was canceled — ugh.

She will never know (or probably care) that she was nursed all over Europe, but these are some memories I’ll definitely hold tightly to. She’s truly my international baby.  We rode the cog-wheel train and children’s railway, and Prim’s push-puppy came along for the ride. We found that dog at a toy store in Budapest and Prim insisted on pushing it all over the city — literally everywhere. That poor puppy is so worn just from his few days of seeing the city, but man does Prim love that thing. And it was a great way to keep her moving when she wasn’t in the stroller.  We had a couple of really hot days in Budapest, so on one of them we headed to Margaret Island and ended up at the Palatinus Baths. Prim had a blast running through the kiddie pools and going down the little slides. I swear this girl has no fear — clearly I need to get her into swimming lessons ASAP, given how much she loves the water. You were so dreamy, Budapest! I hope we get to come back again someday soon.