Search

From Strong Roots…..

Grow Mighty Girls

Tag

#travelwithkids

Italy or Bust!

IMG_7780
Goodbye Montana.

We’re off again, this time to spend three weeks touring Italy.  My daughters and I will be joined by a rotating cast of characters during this trip to ensure that we don’t get utterly tired of each other!  Unlike our last European adventure where we spent the majority of our time based in Paris, this time we are traveling around the countryside.  The girls are older and a little more adaptable when it comes to packing up and moving on every four to five days which makes this approach more feasible.  It also allows us to cover more ground and ultimately, find things that appeal to everyone.  The greatest joy for me, however, is that it allows to sample Italian culture in all it’s variety and glory, from the top of the country to the bottom (almost).

First stop…..Milan and Piedmont.  I’ll admit, the first leg of this trip was more about me than anyone else.  I don’t feel even the tiniest bit guilty about claiming a small slice of the trip for my agenda.  First, moms deserve to have a bit of what they want, too.  Particularly as the children get older there can be a bit more accommodation for our wants and needs.  Additionally, in true serendipitous fashion, my girls found plenty to love on this leg of the trip.  Even though there were no beaches or grand tourist sites, we have fond memories of little villages, local farms, good food, relaxation and a goat named Albert.

I’ve long been a lover of European wines and have recently had a particular interest in wines from small vineyards in the Piedmont area.  The family and friend portion of our trip was slated to begin in the Cinque Terre which isn’t all that far from Piedmont (if you’re an optimist with a sense of adventure).  Truthfully, to get to the Cinque Terre in a cost effective fashion we were going to have to fly into Milan.  Once in Milan, you might as well take a few extra days and detour to Piedmont.  It turns out that even a few days is just not enough, however,  and next time I’ll go back for a week or longer.

Our journey into Milan was fraught with difficulty.  When you are traveling thousands of miles via three different flights and one rental car there will almost certainly be problems.  Or opportunities.  Depends on your frame of mind.  Generally I’m of the opportunity mindset but by the end of this particular venture I was of the “get me out of this recurring nightmare” mindset.  I’ll spare you most of the details but I can’t help sharing a few of the highlights.  We were just pushing back from the gate at 6:00 am on our first flight when the crew announced that they needed a physician to come to the front of the plane.  I pretended to be something other than a physician for a nanosecond until my daughters outed me.  I proceeded to the front of the plane where I found a lovely, gray haired, tenacious woman in her 70’s who felt dizzy and nauseated and couldn’t catch her breath.  Given that I’m a pediatrician, this was not really my wheelhouse.  No matter.  It didn’t take me long to realize that whatever this woman was experiencing was not going to be improved by climbing to 30,000 feet of altitude so back to the gate we went for medical services.  After some time, the woman was removed from the plane, evaluated by EMS, put back on the plane (!!!), and we took off for Salt Lake City.  There we enjoyed a little club room access (thanks Delta business credit card) and boarded our next plane to Atlanta.  That flight was blissfully uneventful.  Upon arrival we walked around, stretched our legs, stocked up on some drinks and snacks, and boarded our plane to Milan.

Those of you who have flown through Atlanta surely know that that airport is utterly cursed.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a flight go well from there. This time was no exception.  We were just about to push back from the gate for our 9 hour flight when the captain informed us that there was a “small crack” in one of the panels that needed to be fixed.  No worries.  Within 20 minutes they would have us on our way.  I stand in awe of the optimism that airline personnel must possess.  Because as all of you know, this was not a 20 minute kind of problem.  This was a 5 hour kind of problem.  Five hours!  On the tarmac!  We were given a small bottle of water and bag of Cheez-Its to tide us over.  Thank goodness.

You can imagine the scene on the airplane.  It was all hungry, tired, chaos ridden angst.  People were threatening to get off the airplane, sue the airline, etc, etc, etc.  Apparently water and Cheez-Its don’t quite soothe the masses.  Regardless, at the very bitter end, just before the pilots timed out and the flight got canceled, the crack was fixed and we were on our way!  I was so tired from keeping myself and two children from flying off the handle during this ordeal that I didn’t even have energy to waste wondering about the safety of the aircraft.  Seems like it was just fine, though, because we landed in Milan in the middle of a hot, sunny afternoon, only 5 hours later than planned.

We managed to navigate through customs and immigration, get our passports stamped and grab our luggage.  We muddled our way to the Hertz rental car desk.  I know, I know.  Car rental in a foreign land attracts me like a moth to a flame.  But really, to navigate Piedmont you have to have a car and I wanted to go to Piedmont.  So I got a car.

We waited in line forever.  Literally.  Time is just different in Italy.  When it was finally our turn, the representative gave me grief about being five hours late and said that our car had already been rented to someone else.  Like being five hours late was somehow a choice I had made and now I was suffering the consequences of that choice.  But wait, magic!  A new car was available.  Brand new.  Just perfect for us.  So we hauled our luggage out to the parking lot and waited in another line until someone could direct us to our car.  It did indeed appear to be clean and new.  We loaded our stuff and headed out gleefully for our hotel.  We had made it approximately ten feet out of the parking lot when it became apparent to me that this brand new, clean, good smelling car wasn’t capable of accelerating past 5 mph.  As I merged into airport traffic I checked everything.  In drive, check.  Parking brake off, check.  Evidence of weird European car settings that I just wasn’t aware?  Nope.  So I attempted to pull back into the rental car lot which unfortunately was up a small incline.  This car wasn’t going up a small incline.  In fact, it stopped halfway up said incline.  So, I got out of the car, children in tow and trudged up the hill to the man working the booth.  I explained to him my trouble.  He looked at me like I was an idiot.  I invited him to drive the car.  He tried.  It didn’t go well.

Eventually, there were six Italian men (in full suits, ties and dress shoes, in the 90 degree heat), attempting to push this car up the incline.  This didn’t go well either.  They eventually abandoned that idea.  As far as I know, that damn car is still sitting there.

After much ado and a lot of negotiating I found myself in another car.  This one was definitely not new.  It was definitely not clean.  It didn’t smell all that great.  Come to find out, the gas tank wasn’t even full.  But the car did run and it was beat up enough that I didn’t really worry about inflicting further damage upon the poor thing.  Basically, it was perfect.  We took off down the road to our hotel where we would spend one night before heading out to Piedmont.  It felt like we had surely used up all of our misfortune for one trip.  After a shower, a stroll around Milan, some gelato, wine and pizza (I don’t like to mess around), I was certain that sunnier days were ahead.

IMG_7796
Gelato!
IMG_7799
Hello Italy!

 

Travel with Friends

We are really, really fortunate to have great friends that we love to vacation with.  We most often travel with my former college roommate (and med school classmate), her husband, and two girls who happen to be almost the same age as our two girls.  Our first big trip together was to a medical conference in Cancun when our girls were just little (ages 3-6).  The trip was such a success that we have repeated it multiple times.  In fact, my girls really only consider it a true vacation if this family gets to go with us.  We have been to Mexico three times (Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and San Jose del Cabo) and Hawaii once (Maui).  We have been camping with them every summer for 7 or 8 years now and also do a girls’ weekend every holiday season.

When we all get together, one of our favorite topics is rehashing past trips and planning for future ones.  Half the fun of traveling is in the planning and that fun is even greater when you share it with someone else.  In the many months that often pass between seeing each other, we share multiple messages about this VRBO or that AirBnB.  We debate the various merits and downfalls of resorts and camping sites.  We share our research about zip lining and food tours.  We compile shopping lists and lists of activities that we must do.  We meal plan and share the packing list.  You know, I’ll bring the salt, you bring the Ziplocks.  I’ll buy the wine, you bring the beer.

We have tried pretty much every style of vacation with our friends.  We have camped in trailers, stayed in all inclusive resorts, stayed in separate VRBO condos in the same resort and on our last trip even shared one large penthouse suite (yes, it was a blast!).  Somehow, with these friends, it all works.  I don’t think that would be true of everyone but this family is the one family I can honestly say that we can vacation with under just about any circumstances.  This has a lot to do with the kind of people they are.  It also has something to do with the fact that we have vacationed together a lot and know how to anticipate and prevent problems by now.  But mostly, they are just great people and that makes it work.

So, what do you look for in a vacation partner family?  First, I think that having kids of similar ages is a must.  That way, the interests and abilities are likely to be similar.  When our kids were younger they loved to swim (with us in the pool), build sand castles, collect shells, do crafts and play simple games.  Now that they are older we go zip lining, take long beach walks, body surf in the ocean, ride bikes down treacherous trails and let them explore on their own with in a safe distance.  Another plus is that they can all tolerate a similar amount of waiting and walking and time between meals.  It’s tough to have a two-year-old who needs to eat every hour and take a daily nap combined with a 12-year-old who needs privacy and freedom and adventure.

The other plus with similar aged kids is that we can mix it up. Nothing kills a vacation faster than sibling squabbling.   The best antidote for sibling squabbling is friends.  I can take the two younger girls shopping and my friend can take the two older girls to the beach.  The older girls can have a little freedom and walk down the street one block for ice cream while the younger girls do a puzzle on the dining room table.  When they all reunite, bliss reigns supreme (or something like that).  Seriously, though, it helps to shake things up a bit.  Having friends with you increases the odds that everyone will get what they need, when they need it, and even have someone like to do it with them.

Another attribute that I think is key in happy friend vacations is at least a modicum of economic parity.  I know, I know, I hate to bring this up.  Money is a touchy subject but one that has to be negotiated and agreed upon in order to pull off a successful friend vacation.  I love that our vacation partners are reasonable about money.  I know they won’t agree to take a vacation with us unless they can afford it.  We have reasonably similar incomes and reasonably similar ideas about how to spend our vacation dollars.  As I mentioned above, we ended up sharing a penthouse suite on this last vacation.  It was a huge unit with plenty of privacy for everyone.  The shared cost factor made it possible for us to afford some luxuries we wouldn’t have been able to afford on our own. Most importantly, we all agreed at the outset that it was worth it.  My friend and I are both very happy to pay for an ocean front condo when we are on a beach vacation.  We are also pretty likely to eat breakfast and lunch in said condo in order to save some money.  We will splurge on nice dinners with drinks but if we want a drink at happy hour we will make it ourselves in the condo instead of ordering from the resort bar.  We talk ahead of time about adventures and excursions and agree on one or two that everyone will like and that we can afford.  When we get there, we won’t be spending wildly nor feel that we have to keep up with each other.  We know that no one will be stressing about money and that is essential to a relaxing vacation.

Finally, you want vacation partners who are flexible.  We all know that the unexpected happens when we travel.  The last thing you want is a tantrum throwing, inflexible, stressed out travel partner.  If you travel enough, some gnarly stuff is going to go down and when that happens you want someone with you who remembered to pack a good attitude.  I’m pretty sure I can’t even remember all the things we have been through with our vacation partners but there have been hotel rooms that didn’t get booked (anyone need a roommate?), reservations that got lost (how will we keep these kids happy while we wait???), menus entirely in Spanish (we took college Spanish, right?), beach walks interrupted by lightening storms, ocean sick kids on boats, dropped ice cream cones, transit on local Mexican buses, poop in hot tubs (that was your kid, right?), sand in shoes, vomit in beds, head injuries, lacerations, and one really epic screaming fit in the middle of a lake on a paddle board.  And you know what? These people that we travel with took it all in stride.  No big deal.  We shared a hotel room, we kept the kids entertained, we found food for everyone to eat, we danced on the beach, we held hair while kids vomited and cleaned up afterwards, we closed lacerations and evaluated for concussions, we scooped up the ice cream and put it back on the cone (ten second rule!), we emptied shoes of sand and we helped our oldest daughters mend their friendship after that really epic screaming fit in the middle of the lake on a paddle board.

After all of that, I can honestly say, I really wouldn’t have it any other way.  The right travel partners exponentially increase the fun, lighten the load, enrich the memories and enlighten the journey.

Packing List Take 2—Mexico

Now for a brief run down of the non-clothing items I packed for Mexico.

We stayed this time in a VRBO which means that I packed a bit differently than I would for a resort based vacation.  The main advantage of a VRBO is that you have a kitchen.  We generally like to eat breakfast and most lunches as well as snacks in the condo in order to save money.  Condo kitchens are variably stocked, however, so I like to travel with a few of the essentials.  I always bring good salt as well as basic spices. Nl1s7VtIR5ynKteANbEPnwMXd4wKWyR%+ivYKrJ2EyAw

This mobile spice kit has ten common spices that I replenish and refresh as needed.  It goes everywhere with me.  Camping, Paris, Philadelphia, Mexico, you name it, it’s been there!

I will often bring along one sharp knife as well.  I didn’t this time and found this condo pleasantly well stocked with excellent knives and utensils.

Another must bring is my stainless steel Yeti wine glass.  I hate drinking wine out of plastic cups but glass isn’t allowed by the pools.  Enter the Yeti.  It keeps the rosé cold and doesn’t shatter on impact or impart a weird taste to your drink.

lYiOcHqvSjCF2iGvJUnscA

I always travel with a basic first aid kit, too.  You never know what supplies will be available in other countries and you certainly don’t want to have to find out at 1:00 AM when someone has cut their foot or lacerated their face.  Trust me.

v1veMaZkRcKAqd59LQlj2g

I used a jewelry bag to stash some bandages, gauze, wrap, and Dermabond for wound closure.  We didn’t use it once and I couldn’t be happier about that.

I also brought my Bluetooth speaker which I often take on travels as I love to listen to music.  Maybe it’s because we were sharing space with friends this time but I didn’t use this once.  Given the size and weight, it might stay home next time.  It seems that more and more places have options for streaming music without having to bring your own device.

What are your travel essentials that make life on the road better?  Drop me a line and let me know!

San Jose del Cabo—-Friend Edition

One of our great pleasures in travel is traveling with friends.  More on this later but suffice it to say that we had a great time traveling in Mexico with our dear friends.  Our time in the Cabo area was fun filled and enjoyable and I hope the below tips will help make your trip better, too.

The first consideration is, in fact, where to stay.  I didn’t know this before we booked accommodations but San Jose del Cabo is NOT Cabo.  It is a smaller, more intimate town just to the east of Cabo.  It is also much closer to the airport which is an added bonus for me.  We stayed in San Jose on this trip and visited Cabo and I am so thankful that we stayed where we did.  Cabo (or Los Cabos) is busy, hectic, tourist filled and a bit pricey.  San Jose del Cabo is a 25-30 minute drive down the road but has a local, small town vibe that is refreshing.  Yes, there are tourists and yes, there are touristy things to do but it felt much more relaxing than being in Cabo itself.  We spent our first night at the Cabo Azul resort which is beautiful and everything you would expect in a high end resort.  I was happy to leave the next day, though, and check into our condo at Las Mananitas.  This is a relatively small, beachfront condo community which provided everything we needed for our week long stay.  I’ve included the link here and you will see my review of the property on the site as well.  https://www.vrbo.com/466060?utm_source=direct&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=earned:vrbo:sharecopylink:USA&utm_content=466060

XuSAXNxsSfOv%rJ9IugiIQ
Las Mananitas

 

Next up, transportation.  We flew into San Jose, arriving at 6:00 at night.  I had decided to get a rental car for this trip.  (See my previous post).  Regardless of your mode of transportation, once you leave baggage claim, get out of the airport as fast as possible without talking to anyone.  There are men all over trying to get your attention, scam you, sell you something.  Arrange your transportation ahead of time and know where you will meet your driver/shuttle/taxi.  Go directly to that meeting spot.  You will be tired, and hungry, and dirty and overwhelmed and everyone you are traveling with will be a hot mess, but DO NOT GET SUCKED IN!  As a side note, Uber works in San Jose and surrounding areas but cannot pick up at the airport.  They are also currently in a pissing match with the taxi companies and local government because, as far as I can ascertain, Uber just hasn’t greased the wheels in Mexico quite enough for smooth operations.  We were told at one point by a “security guard” that Uber was in fact illegal.  This turns out to be a scam perpetrated by the taxi companies and I suspect it will be a nonissue as some point. There is a good review here if you are interested.  https://www.gringogazette.com/?q=content/uber-finally-legal#sthash.kF4U1zih.dpbs 

That being said, we found Uber to be a great way to get around the area.  We took it to restaurants, into the center of town, into Los Cabos and even back to the airport.  The area is also very walkable and safe and we enjoyed many strolls to and from dinner.

WCeEUQqGGxb6OsmSgDg
Playa Palmilla
yZ0R4Ba%Qs+3D1WfHUAL+w
Playa Palmilla

 

Now that you are here, what is there to do?  There are, of course, all the usual vacation suspects.  Reading, lounging, swimming, walking.  We found a great public beach, Playa Pamilla, a short 5 minute Uber ride from our condo which was perfect for beach play and swimming.  Much of the beach in San Jose is NOT safe for swimming but Palmilla is much calmer and was very safe the few days that we were there.  We loved the Thursday night art walk in downtown San Jose.  It runs every week from November through June with galleries and shops staying open late and artists and dancers displaying their talents in the town square.  We spent one day ziplining with Cabo Adventures which was fun for the whole group.  Our other big activity was a cooking class at Flora Farm.  Flora Farm is a great farm to table operation in San Jose.  They offer a beautiful setting, delicious food and cooking classes a few days a week.  The class we took was informative and fun for our group (ages 9-51).  I have reviewed these all in detail on tripadvisor.com.  You can find them under my profile @JenniferH456.  Here is the link for Flora Farms to get you started https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g152516-d6424449-r653275229-Flora_Farm-San_Jose_del_Cabo_Los_Cabos_Baja_California.html?m=19905

 

r87zVCo6STmiOEoE7w1oKw
Flora Farm

 

fpCOrsqaRFu5BSuVSQmV4g
Flora Farm

We did take a day trip into Cabo to check it out.  We did a bit of shopping (Pandora charms for the girls’ bracelets) and had lunch.  It didn’t take us long to grow weary, however, of the noise and bustle and head back to our hacienda in San Juan.

Food and drink options are plentiful.  These are also reviewed on Trip Advisor but, some highlights were Cynthia Fresh, El Fish, Cantina Sardina and Las Cazuelas del Don.  Las Cazuelas is a must do if you get the chance.

eXURsQIQRTOjMGBJdXMyAQ
St. John’s platter at Sardina Cantina.

 

2Cmho2chRHiMpT12EBf3QA
Las Cazeulas!

 

g3HAMBElQ2SAtdLoc06v2w
Gorgonzola pasta at Cynthia Fresh!

Last stop, shopping.  El Wine Shop is a great place to get your morning coffee and buy your wine.  They offer a large selection of Mexican as well as European and American wines.  La Comer is the large grocery store in town and is well stocked with food, alcohol, clothes, games, boogie boards, etc, etc, etc.  The main plaza in San Jose offers a huge number of local shops and art galleries.  We didn’t buy much on this trip which is a bit rare for me but nothing really tugged at my heartstrings.  The girls each chose a dress at La Comer ($5).  My oldest and I split a pair of earrings ($20) and my youngest bought a bracelet with her name on it ($6).  We bought a bottle of tequila for my co-worker ($20) and eight bottles of vanilla (less than $1 each).

And that’s a wrap!  Leave me a note if you have questions or comments!

Winter Getaway

It’s winter in Montana which means the temperature is well below freezing, the snow is deep and the wind is howling.  It means that I’ve grown weary of hats, mittens, scarves, boots and cold cars.  I’ve lost my patience with dark, cloudy days and darker nights.  I’ve tried lots of strategies for winter survival in the past but at the end of the day there is really only one solution.  Head south and seek the sun.

In years past we have ventured to Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Maui.  Maui is my all time favorite but given the fact that I have to operate within my means both time wise and money wise, Mexico got the nod again this year.  Searching time efficient flights led us to the tip of the Baja peninsula in San Jose del Cabo.

We left Montana in the midst of a winter storm.  The temperature the morning we got on the airplane was -11 degrees.  We flew to Seattle for our one and only layover where there were 6 inches of snow on the ground.  Those of you who know Seattle know that they just don’t do snow there.  It literally paralyzes the city.  The majority of flights in and out of Seattle that morning were canceled.  By some beautiful twist of fate, our flights were two of the very few that got in and out that day.  (Our flight to Cabo was delayed by 2 hours but given the alternatives it was just fine).

Upon arrival at the Cabo airport we were greeted by the usual gauntlet of Mexican men attempting to sell us something.  A ride, a time share, a whale watching trip, a cab, a dog, some chocolate.  I don’t know.  It’s one of the few things I legitimately hate about Mexico. I hate being pressured, in a foreign country, to buy, see, watch, look at, and consider hundreds of services and goods that I absolutely don’t need.  I hate that they won’t stop until I very firmly, and almost impolitely, say “NOOOOOO!”.  Seriously.

But we got through the airport and out the front doors and to our car rental shuttle bus.  We arrived at Payless rentals only to find that our reservation was for the downtown location and not the airport location.  No worries.  We are tired, hungry and cranky.  We can totally wait for you to make 4 phone calls to try and straighten this out.

Now, if you followed our journeys through France a few years ago, you might recall that I feel very brave about renting and driving cars in foreign countries.  I did it in the Loire Valley to great success.  So I thought I would try it in Mexico, too.

I have to admit that in some ways I underestimated this trip.  I’m quite busy planning our summer travels right now and really didn’t devote the usual time and energy to Mexico planning.  While this is generally okay, it did bite me in the rear end in the car rental arena.  I booked through Expedia and was quoted a price of around $100 for the 8 day rental.  Bargain!  Upon arrival at the car rental counter, I discovered that the basic, mandatory, third party liability insurance would jack the price up to $325.00 for the 8 days.  Not a bargain.  If I wanted to add full coverage, the cost would be around $450.00.  Lord.  What’s a girl to do????

I took the “basic” option and drove away.  First stop, a toll booth.  I pushed the button to take a ticket, got ready to pay (much digging in the purse ensued), and stopped at the booth to pay my money.  No one was there to take my money.  Hmmmm.  A guard walked across the road and gestured that I should just take the ticket from the machine and drive on down the road.  Okay.  I tried to drive my car but the damn thing had shut off.  I took out the keys in an attempt to restart it and the alarm started going off.  Yep, that’s me.  In the toll booth, in Mexico, with my car dead and the alarm going off.  Fun.

By this time my husband and I are losing our cool with each other, the kids look a bit shell shocked and I’m wondering what the hell I was thinking.

After much effort, and a few ulcers, we finally got the alarm off and the car restarted and proceeded down the road.  After approximate a mile, I heard sirens and saw lights in my rear view mirror.  Great.  5 minutes in Mexico and the policia are coming for me and my rented car.  I pulled to the side of the road and watched the ambulance whiz past me.  Relief.

Driving again, we finally approached the end of the toll road which is apparently where you pay.  I gave them the ticket, dug in my purse (again) and paid the two dollar toll.  I could not wait to get to the resort!  I navigated a few roundabouts (why are the rules about those different in every country?) and wrong turns and finally ended up at the resort where we were spending our first night.  Sweet relief.

I overpaid at the restaurant for some nachos and rose wine, thanked my lucky stars to be in the tropical weather, laid my head down and went to sleep.

Tomorrow, onward and upward.

Side note: I returned that rental car 2 days later.  Turns out that I’m just not cut out for can rental in Mexico.  I find the driving to be chaotic, I didn’t do my research to understand the traffic laws, and I was constantly worried about what would happen if the car got damaged.  Would I go to Mexican prison?  Would I have to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fees and damages?  It also turns out that Uber works really well in San Jose del Cabo and in Los Cabos.  And it turns out that we were in a really walkable and lovely neighborhood with a Payless car rental shop just one block from our resort.  It was fate.  I was able to return the car early and even got a $225 refund for my trouble.  Totally worth it.

San Francisco Family Edition

Family edition is a whole different beast from solo edition.  Seven people moving through the big city is not a nimble operation.  It happened, though, and we lived to tell about it.

My sister and I have recently begun to appreciate that we should travel more with our parents.  Time is moving on and there will come a day when they either aren’t able or aren’t willing to join us on our escapades.  For now they are quite willing participants, however, so we schemed up a trip to San Francisco to visit my sister and take in the city.  My daughters and I flew in a day after my parents and younger brother arrived.  We were fortunate enough to find an Air BnB in the Mission just two blocks from my sister’s place.  It had high ceilings, a nice kitchen, two decks with gorgeous views of the city and a steam dryer that somehow turned my slightly wrinkled shirt into a dripping wet piece of cloth.  But I digress.

All good arrivals should start with a glass of wine.  #noexceptionshere

zbgvqhposgytiiziykr0gg

The view from our deck.  You guys, seriously.  This place is the best.  You can find it on Air BnB. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/19969592?s=51

 

fujrmd2usca%k5yknvtzbw

ldk07svqqagxz4q6xtr1qw

My Cuyana travel bags in the bathroom.  These are the best.  And so pretty!

olfafx%vqs2rbgtyrl%ciw

After we settled in and had a little happy hour we headed to Blue Plate for dinner.  I raved about this place in my previous post about San Francisco.  It was so good we had to go again.  The deviled eggs are still amazing!  #prettiesteggsever

k%mgwqepruqla1tkovclhgkxv6kstnqt62dtnfajnnyw

 

Our first full day started with the girls heading to Palo Alto for a little shopping while the boys toured Alcatraz.  I can’t report on what happened there but they seemed to have a good time.  After surviving the train ride we headed straight to Blue Bottle for oat milk cappuccinos and hot chocolates.  Must caffeinate before shopping.  The milk art never ceases to amaze me here.

lrfhvjjvsrucbtlnloopha

 

Coffee was followed by a loooong stop at the American Girl doll store.  The girls brought the dolls, had their hair done in the salon and purchased new outfits.  It all took about an hour and felt like an eternity.  But they loved every minute of it.  They are also old enough now that I felt okay leaving them in the AG doll store while I stole across the street for some fizzy water.  Must hydrate.

These two are serious shoppers.  I’m biased but I happen to think they have learned from the best!

l%5lluc5qi6bsybplak5qq

After more shopping, we trained home, regrouped and headed to dinner at Foxsister.  This eclectic Asian restaurant in the Mission offers a diverse range of foods, perfect for a large group.  We adored the Korean BBQ, fried chicken and garlic black bean noodles.

The following day saw us heading downtown.  First stop, more Blue Bottle.  I forgot to mention the waffles earlier but they are amazing!  Made to order, hot, crispy, sweet.  Don’t miss these if you find yourself at a Blue Bottle.  After coffee and waffles we headed to the nail salon for manis and pedis while the guys checked out the cable car museum.  Again, I can’t really report on what happened there but they seemed satisfied enough.  We were quite pleased with our few hours of pampering before we hit the city streets again.  I love how creative the girls are with their nail color choices!

ix4wckwqtks+o%mf7fj8vwolh69r7eragsbedkc+uu9g

 

We lunched on clam chowder in bread bowls.  My oldest adores clam chowder and was properly astounded by this whole operation.

t1huercrtuqjt7mhgwwukw

 

We journeyed home by way of Heath Ceramics and Tartine Manufactory.

 

Yum!ggi+o9z7tegbkywwzg2w8a

The day ended with persimmons with ricotta and honey and Halloween themed gingerbread houses.  Random but real.

 

Our final day in the area involved a family trip to wine country.  This sounds quite lovely in theory but in reality is no small feat.  Challenge #1……moving 7 people from San Francisco to Sonoma Valley.  This obviously necessitates renting a large SUV.  The largest SUV ever, in fact. The SUV is perfect.  Everyone fits in it relatively comfortably (it’s not really a family road trip unless someone is a little uncomfortable) and all of our gear can stow in the back.  Large SUVs are pretty great when you live somewhere remote, like Montana, for example.  They are actually a large pain in the rear when you are in a large city, like San Francisco, for example.  In the city the streets are narrow and the turns are tight and the parked cars are a real hazard.  Also, the cyclists.  Real life hazard.

I love a good challenge, though, so we got the SUV, drove back to the apartment, picked everyone up and hit the road.  My sister had found a corn maze in Petaluma and thought we should swing in there on our way to the wineries.  Sure, sounds great!  Let’s go!  How hard can a corn maze be?????  Challenge #2…….

 

So pretty!  And innocent looking!

g4py0v1brhwdodzaks+yvq

 

Earnest little explorers. #confidenceiskey

d%ocftiaqxyeyt42f0wwzw

Our view from the lookout tower.  Can anyone see the exit?????

+uom8xt+r%+3sb3elqyoxw

Nope.  We can’t.  All of our family dynamics played out in that damn corn maze.  Sibling squabbles, righteous indignation, parent-child dysfunction.  It was all right there.  For the whole world to see.  We had to get out of there, and fast!  So we did what any self respecting adult would do and headed for the entrance.  Yep, we came out the same way we came in.  Whatever.  We got out.

Relief!

 

No longer being foolish, we headed straight for Iron Horse winery.  I love this place.  If you ever get the chance to go, you must.  The wines are gorgeous and so are the views.  We were lucky to hit it on a Sunday which meant that the Oyster Girls were on site selling oysters and shrimp.  Not much better than oysters and bubbly in my opinion.

gcly8qmuriqioypn9f0uwg

ni3b1i5cqz+g7qovsh45vq

 

The views….

pnd6ywyhthmn3zmq64raqq

 

Bubbly all day!

vhjajcwwrdm5gymzzsy5mq

 

Picnic lunch in the gazebo after our wine tasting.

887m6pner1e2mbe3izrwhw

 

The kids did quite well at the winery.  The beautiful outdoor setting led to lounging, being silly, taking pictures, and sketching.

avcisovhtj2m9zgicbex0q

 

#sistertime

xazduhwztyunhyosyxuaya

 

I’ve been here many times and it really never gets old.  There were a lot of hassles getting to and from here (and one impossible corn maze) but it was worth it.

ucdy9btftngpnrouh+oy1w

 

The following day we left the city behind and flew home.  We packed a lot of adventure into a few days.  We ate great food, drank great wine, laughed a lot, rolled our eyes, got annoyed and impatient, made our way and found our way home.

Solo

Traveling solo with my daughters is something I’ve done since they were babies.  It’s not unusual to find us in the car, traveling to Spokane for some “big city” time, journeying to our cabin on the river or headed to my parents’ house for a visit.  When my oldest was 10 months old I flew solo with her to Boston to visit my sister.  By the time my second child was born, my sister had moved to San Francisco.  So I bundled up my youngest when she was six months old and flew to California with her.  A few years ago the girls and I flew from our hometown to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  We got through customs, hailed a taxi and arrived at our resort in one piece.  We spent the night there alone, went to brunch the next morning and were joined later in the day by my husband who was traveling to Mexico from a work function in California.  Needless to say, we’ve covered some ground with just the three of us.  Sometimes it’s daunting to be the only adult with two young children.  There’s a lot of “mom”, “mom”, “mom” and not a lot of peace and quiet.  Over time, though, we’ve kind of figured this out.  Plus, the girls are older now and pretty responsible and could basically travel by themselves if I would just get out of their way.  And give them some money, of course.

If you’ve followed along with us so far, you also know that last summer the three of us flew across the Atlantic Ocean together, arriving in Paris.  Once there, we met my mom who was staying in the flat with us.  When she left a week later, my husband arrived for a few days.  So while we flew there solo, we meet up with family once we arrived and were not ever truly left to our own devices.

Until the day my husband left for Budapest.  Then it was just the three of us.  We had already planned to leave that day for the Loire Valley for a mini getaway.  So…..we locked up the apartment, bought some new leggings at Gap, (yes, Gap, hello global economy) and hopped a train to Tours.  Despite all our adventures so far, I have to admit to some trepidation as we pulled out of Paris and chugged down the line towards the countryside.  Staying in a big city is one thing.  Most people speak fairly good English.  There are grocery stores, wine shops, restaurants, hospitals.  There’s a pretty good chance that all my needs and most of my wants will be met.

In the countryside things are a little more, well, French.  English is NOT spoken by everyone.  Restaurant interactions have to happen in French.  Shopping and buying happen in French.  It’s sudden immersion in a foreign country in a way that just doesn’t happen in the big city.

Despite all the potential for disaster, the biggest adventure in the French countryside at the end of the day was driving.  Yep, driving.  After taking the train from Paris, I rented a car in Tours and managed to get the three of us to our lodging at Chateau de Pray just outside of Amboise.  Before picking up the car I did a quick Google search about “driving in France”.  I spent approximately 30 seconds determining that driving in France looked pretty straightforward.  Drive on the same side of the road as Americans? Check!  Steering wheel and gas pedal on the same side of the car?  Check!  Automatic transmission?  Check!  Road signs with internationally recognizable symbols?  Check!  And most importantly, a navigation system.  We were set.  Our car was an adorable Mini Cooper that we immediately named Sweet Cheeks.  As in”Sweet Cheeks, please deliver us in one piece.”  Or “Sweet Cheeks, what were you thinking?”  You get the picture.

At the end of the day, all I can say is thank goodness we were in very small towns with very little traffic.  Turns out that a 30 second Google crash course on driving in France is completely inadequate.  The assumptions I made about the road signs were like most assumptions.  Ridiculous and inaccurate.  My understanding of right of way is so not French.  I got honked at.  A lot.  I was probably sworn at, too.  Deservedly.

Of Sweet Cheeks’ many virtues, perhaps the greatest was her ability to find the shortest distance between two points.  She could, for example, find the quickest way to get from our lodging to the chateau we were visiting that day.  Never mind that her chosen route took us down the roughest, most narrow, most remote roads in the Loire Valley.  No concern of hers.  It was the shortest distance between two points.  If I thought about it too much, it would freak me out a bit.  What if we broke down miles from nowhere?  What if we got a flat tire jostling through all those pot holes?  What if she didn’t know where the hell she was going?  I could have let my worry stop us.  I could have stayed at our chateau, happily ensconced in good food, good wine and a warm swimming pool.  I could have gone back to the known quantity of Paris, or even stayed home for that matter.  But if I had done that, we would have missed out.  We would have missed out on a grand adventure and a lot of laughs.  We would have missed out on amazing food and wine.  We would have missed out on spending some really great time together, enjoying life and each other.  It turns out that some of my favorite memories with my girls are these times when it has just been the three of us.  So we cranked up the volume on our road trip playlist, sang along, and trusted that Sweet Cheeks would take us where we needed to be.

Getaway

I’ve always loved a good getaway.  You know, just a brief respite from day to day life.  A few days spent in a neighboring city or a weekend relaxing at the cabin, free from responsibilities and interruptions.  Vacations, of course, are usually one long, decadent getaway.  But during an exceptionally long vacation, sometimes you need a getaway from your getaway.  After two great weeks in Paris, we were getting just the slightest bit city weary.  So we hopped on a train bound for the Loire Valley.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not really that spontaneous.  I’d like to be, but I’m not.  Months before I had planned this mini getaway, knowing that a change of scenery might be just the ticket after a lot of togetherness in a tiny apartment in a bit city.  But I digress.)

We grabbed lunch at the Monoprix, hopped on the train and headed to St. Pierre des Corps, a relatively large train station close to our final destination of Amboise.  I picked up our rental car at SIXT, right by the station.  I had some angst about the rental car.  After all, I was the only adult with two children in a foreign country where I can’t even read all the traffic signs.  My original plan was to rent a car in Paris and drive to Amboise.  By some stroke of good luck and genius, I changed my mind and took the train out of the city.  Driving from the train station to our hotel was definitely rural but still difficult.  I was the navigator, translator and driver.  It took about 30 minutes and by the time we arrived I felt like I had more than earned my glass of wine.  As a side note, if you are driving in a foreign country, study the road signs ahead of time.  Trust me.  The rest of the world does not drive like Americans.  They just don’t.

We stayed at Chateau de Pray, just out of Amboise.  Our room was bigger than our apartment in Paris and beautifully appointed.  The loft sleeping area for the girls was an added bonus.  The grounds were amazing, the service impeccable.  The heated pool felt like our own private oasis.  Buffet breakfast in the morning (additional cost) was convenient and delicious.  A definite win and would be ecstatic to stay here again someday.

IMG_5422
Terrace at Chateau de Pray

We spent some time meandering about the town of Amboise.  We loved the specialty market where we stocked up on oils, vinegars, salts and wines at a fraction of the prices found in Paris.

One of the big draws of the Loire Valley of course, are the historic chateaux dotting the countryside.  You could spend weeks seeing all of them.  We picked two, based on our own interests and enjoyed them thoroughly.  I was able to drive to them both with the help of the car’s navigation system.  The first we saw was Chenenceou, a grand estate with glorious gardens and a labyrinth.  There is a cafeteria on site, lunch for three was €40.  We also visited Cheverny, known for it’s hunting dogs.  It is a smaller chateau but offers the excitement of feeding of the dogs at 11:00 every morning.  The girls loved this but found the chateau less impressive than Chenenceou.  Next to Cheverny is a storefront that offers free wine tasting of some of the regional wines.  A few shops and restaurants can be found on the quiet street next to the chateau.

IMG_5381
Chenenceou
IMG_5378
Gardens at Chenenceou

IMG_5393

IMG_5392
Roses at Chenenceou

Another big draw of the Loire Valley are the multitude of vineyards and tasting rooms scattered over the region.  There are some truly beautiful wines that come from the Loire Vally that are accessible and affordable.  We stopped at Caves du Pere Auguste one afternoon.  I had a lovely tasting there which included a fabulous history of the wines of the region.  They even offered a grape juice tasting for children!  I bought five bottles of wine there for €30.  Ridiculously inexpensive, amazing wine.  Carting five bottles of wine back to Paris, first by train and then by metro was no small task and I cursed myself at least 100 times but, the wines and I all survived.

IMG_5420

The crowning glory of our time in the Loire Valley was our dinner at L’Orangerie, the restaurant on site at Chateau de Pray.  A Michelin Star restaurant, L’Orangerie offers impeccable food and service.  Reservations are a must.  My children were accommodated and treated like princesses.  The meal lasted for three hours and they made it through the entire thing without complaining!  The food is local, fresh, French and delectable.  My entree of blue lobster and beets with beet broth still has my mouth watering.  There was an endless supply of bread.  The cheese course was stunning.  The dessert of wild strawberries with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream was perfection.  There are multiple wine choices and a sommelier to assist you.  The prices were reasonable, particularly for the children who were able to order a children’s meal for €18.  This included their appetizer, amuse bouche, entree, bread, and dessert.  This was fine French dining at it’s best and a splurge I won’t ever regret!

IMG_5443

IMG_5447
Salmon cream foam
IMG_5452
Dessert

My only regret is that we didn’t have more time in this beautiful valley.  This a place I could easily spend weeks, exploring, biking, drinking wine, hanging out with my fellow travelers.  Once you’ve seen Paris, plan a getaway, get off the beaten path and discover the gems.

Paris With Kids, Round 2

In my last post I outlined some of the activities my daughters and I most enjoyed while we were in Paris.  Here I’ll outline for you some of the tips and tricks that will just make traveling life with les enfants much more enjoyable for everyone.  This is a bit of a hodgepodge of collected wisdom but I hope it will suffice none the less.

General:

I really cannot emphasize this enough.  When traveling with kids of any age, planning is key.  And by planning, I don’t mean a loosely assembled idea of what you are going to do. I mean a PLAN.  Thought out, researched, written down, reviewed, and rethought out.  A big time, capital letter PLAN.  For those of you who aren’t planners by nature, this may seem intimidating but trust me, it will be worth it.

For my planning purposes I adopted a modified Bullet Journal (or BuJo for short).  I started with a nice, new Moleskine journal (ahhhhh) and a few colored Sharpies.  For coloring coding, or course.  I’ve included some pictures so you can get a sense of my organizational scheme.

First page…..flight info.  Which changed after I originally wrote down the information so I had to redo it.

IMG_5857

An Index is indispensable…..

IMG_5858

A list of sights we wanted to see.  Blue notes indicate cost, whether or not the sight is covered by the Museum Pass (MP) and any other logistical information.  Orange notes indicate random bits of information for consideration.

IMG_5859

List of shopping stops we wanted to make with references to pages that have more information about that stop.

IMG_5860

Basic itinerary…..

IMG_5861

A more detailed entry about a  specific activity or neighborhood, again with color coded comments.

IMG_5862

Transportation: This probably won’t come as a surprise to you but plan your major transportation needs prior to your arrival in Paris.  Upon arrival at CDG Airport we were tired, hungry and spent.  Our host at the flat we rented recommended using a driver he knew well for our airport to flat transportation.  I have to say, this worked exceedingly well.  When you are the only adult and you are towing children behind you, you do not want transportation hassles.  When traveling alone to Paris I used the Metro to get to the city from the airport.  While it served it’s purpose, it is infinitely more difficult and cumbersome and requires you to pay a fair bit of attention.  Not my strong suit after a transatlantic flight.  Uber is another option and works in Paris much as it does in the rest of the world.  A private driver is your most expensive option, followed by Uber, followed by the Metro.

For day to day travel, we loved using the Metro.  There was a stop within a few blocks of our flat which made hopping on and off seamless.  When looking for a flat to rent, one of my specific requirements was that it be within walking distance of a Metro stop.  And by walking distance, I mean a few blocks.  I’m all about minimizing the whining at the end of the day.  Metro tickets are affordable, the system is easy to navigate and the efficiency is pretty great.  If you don’t believe me, try traveling the same distance above ground.  It makes the Metro seem like a dream.

One of the tasks the girls enjoyed immensely was planning our Metro routes.  Each evening we would lay out the strategy for the next day.  The girls would take turns looking at the Metro map we carried with us and strategizing the route for the next day.  They had fun and better yet, learned a lot about distance, time, strategy, etc.

Food and Drink: This one is easy.  Rent.  A.  Flat.  Get on VRBO or Airbnb or parisperfect.com and get a flat with a kitchen.  You can hit up the local bakery for breakfast and bring it back to your flat where you can enjoy your coffee and eat your pastry and take in the view and plan your day.  The kids can do handstands and pick on each other and no one will be offended.  We were often out for lunch, sometimes ate at restaurants or grabbed a bite in a cafeteria or cafe.  We carried snacks with us everywhere, nuts, trail mix, maybe a piece of fruit.  We bought bottled water at the grocery store and carried a bottle with us each day.

When you have a flat, you have maximum flexibility with your eating choices.  Going to the neighborhood grocery store or the bigger Monoprix was always a grand adventure.  It could take hours if we wanted it to and that was just fine.  We also LOVED the fun of stopping off at the end of the day at the fromagerie, the boulangerie, the charcuterie, the produce store and the wine store and picking up the components for a delicious dinner at home.  An assortment of cheeses, a few meats, a baguette, some tomatoes, olive oil, salt, wine.  Dinner.  And everybody loved it.  Some nights we went out but only when we felt like it and when people were in a good mood.  We either made reservations or arrived at the beginning of the dinner hour.  Some restaurants had lovely menus for children, at other places the girls ordered off the regular menu and discovered new foods that they really liked.

Not uncommonly, we would pop into a cafe for a pre-dinner drink, an afternoon espresso or ice cream or a quick crepe and some people watching.  I always carried in my daybag some postcards, a small sketchbook or a little game so the girls could be entertained while the adults enjoyed their drinks.

Shopping and Souvenirs: The best way to ruin a vacation for me is to have my children nickel and dime me on a routine basis for this or that junky trinket.  I hate it.  So for Paris, my kids had to save their own spending money.  And their own money for activities but we will get to that later.  They had about two years notice that we were taking this trip.  We told them that in order to go, they had to save a specific amount of money.  They both opened bank accounts and saved and saved.  Before embarking on our journey I sat down with them and we created a budget.  We delineated what I would pay for (airline, accommodations, three meals plus one snack a day) and what they would pay for (souvenirs, gifts for friends, extra snacks or drinks, Metro tickets, entrance fees).  They made a list of what they hoped to find or buy while on vacation.  Once we hit the ground, they found lots of things they wanted.  And each time they got to decide whether or not they really wanted to spend their money on it.  If it had been my money we were spending, I would have been broke.  With their money, however, they were conscientious.  They deliberated, they walked away, they went back, they decided to wait.    They didn’t bug me once.  It was amazing.

They found great clothes at Zara and H and M.  I know, I know, we have those stores stateside but they are way cooler in Paris.  And much more affordable than Parisian boutiques.  Art stores and art supplies were a major hit and they stocked up on high quality sketch books, colored pencils and paints.  Museum gift shops were a great spot to find posters of art they loved.  Scarves and bracelets bought at neighborhood street markets were also popular.

This whole approach really made my travel experience about a million times better than usual.

Activities: My previous blog post details the various activities and sights we enjoyed.  There are specifics for each of these that are worth paying attention to.  I urge you to get a good guidebook (Rick Steves’ series are my favorites) and study it religiously.  Find out how to skip the lines (hello, Museum Pass) and when to go to avoid the crowds.  You might be able to suffer through a long line in the heat of the day so you can go stand shoulder to shoulder with a  bunch of other tourists in the Louvre.  Your kids, on the other hand, will have a melt down.  And then you will have a melt down.  And then you will wonder why you ever go on family vacations.  And then you will find a nice café, order a glass of rosé and regroup.  And go back to the Louvre on Wednesday night when it’s open later and the crowds are gone.

Also, one, maybe two activities per day is plenty.  Any more than that and you will have a mutiny on your hands.  So go, do your thing, and then spend a little down time at your flat in the afternoon.  Your sanity will thank you.

We did a lot of “pre-work” before we visited the main attractions.  We would read at night or in the morning before we left and talk about the history of the attraction, what we expected to see, etc.

We made our own Bingo card and scavenger hunt and completed them as we made our way through Paris.  Poodle?  Check!  Dog poop on the sidewalk?  Check!  It gave us something fun to do, made us more observant, and led to quite a few laughs as we pointed things out to each other and compared our Bingo cards at the end of the day.

One more tip……go off the beaten path.  Do something just a little unexpected.  We had the best time spending an afternoon at a cooking class.  We learned a lot about French pastry making, the girls practiced their techniques, we met other travelers, we spent some great time together, had some good laughs and now relive our memories when we make eclairs and macarons at home.  We spent nearly an entire day in Montmartre on an exceptionally fabulous food tour that will be talked about for years to come.  So whatever your passion is, or your interest is, find a way while traveling to explore that.  It will be worth it.  I promise.

Journaling: I brought my own journal for the trip and kept lots of notes about what we did, what worked, what didn’t, etc.  The girls each had their own journal as well.  They really enjoyed using it to write out the plan for the day, write about what we had seen or draw.  They both discovered a new passion for drawing the sights and this filled many quiet hours in the flat or at a café table.

Boredom Busters: You, and your kids will need some downtime.  I know, Paris is vast and amazing and how could you ever get bored or need to take a break?  Trust me, you will need a break.  It’s no small feat navigating a huge, bustling city where you don’t even speak the language.  We brought along a deck of Uno cards, a travel cribbage board (I love this one from Walnut Studio https://walnutstudiolo.com/products/travel-cribbage-board) and one new game, Iota.  We each brought one book to read and others that were on our electronic devices.  As an aside, I really love a real book but when traveling, I really don’t love lugging them around so…..e-books suffice.  I also made a travel pack for each of the girls before we left home.  It was a basic plastic school type folder filled with fun pages.  Crosswords, word searches, sudoku, coloring pages of French sites, maps of the world, USA, Europe, France, Paris, colored dot stickers for marking, a few fun Parisian and travel theme stickers.  These were great on the airplane but also in the flat or at cafés when they needed some down time.  I allowed screen time, too.  I’m not a purist by any means but screen time only goes so far and there were lots of times they wanted something other than a show to watch.

Money: I know, I know.  No one likes to talk about money.  But you can’t travel without talking about money.  So here goes.  As I alluded to above, we had a pretty well organized strategy about saving and clear delineations about who was paying for what.  The girls bought their own Metro tickets, paid for admission to all the sites, paid for all their own shopping.  I did pay for the food tour and cooking class because they were a bit more pricey and because I was the one who really wanted to do those activities.

So, what does it cost to traipse a family around Paris?  Here’s the breakdown….

Day 1:

Fresh fruit at the local street market: €10

Eiffel Tower tickets: €17 each adult, €12.50 each child

Lunch at the Quai Branly Café €40 for three people

Grocery store for water, snacks: €12.71

Dinner at Café Constant: €60 for three people

Total: €164.71

 

Day 2:

Bakery for pain au chocolate: €6.00

Notre Dame: no cost!!!

Lunch at café: €47.50

Saint Chapelle: covered by previously purchased Museum Pass

Assorted dinner supplies (cheese, meat, baguette, wine, nuts, oils, vegetables): €80

Metro carnet: €5

Groceries: €8

Total: €146.50

Day 3:

Bakery: €6

Picnic lunch supplies: €30 for four people

Glass of wine in Luxembourg Gardens: €6

Louvre: covered by Museum Pass

Dinner at Le Nemours: €66.50 for four people

Total: €102.50

 

Just a few examples but, overall, I think they are representative of our spending habits.  Breakfast was usually a small price at the bakery and accompanied by eggs and fruit we had at the flat.  Lunch was at a café or picnic style in a park.  Dinner was at a less expensive restaurant or assorted supplies we picked up and ate at home.  Restaurant costs always included at least one glass of wine and maybe more.  The kids drank water at restaurants but had more fun drinks at the flat that we purchased while at the grocery store.  Our €80 dinner supply expense easily covered 2 or 3 dinners.  Seemed like we spent €25-40 every few days at the grocery store for water, wine and snacks.  Cost for activities varies depending on what you are doing on any given day.  We were thoughtful about our spending but didn’t try to penny pinch.  By the same token, you could easily spend lots, lots more if you wanted.

Au revoir and happy travels!

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑