jetBlue Review – Is Even More Space worth it?

When we flew home from Seattle last month, I decided to upgrade our seats to the Even More Space seats.  The option was available when I  checked us all in 24 hours prior to our departure.  I was able to see that we could get 3 seats together and 1 seat in the next row which is about as good as it gets for a family of four flying on a plane with a 3-3 configuration.

We had not flown jetBlue in quite some time (we flew Delta to Seattle) and having heard so many great reviews, I was looking forward to the flight.  Especially with all that legroom…

But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Let’s start with the positives:
  1. Loads of legroom.  I think Jason appreciated it the most.  I’m only 5’2″ and the kids are shorter than me – for now, at least – so we have a little less at stake on the legroom issue. One unexpected benefit – the kids weren’t bumping into each other every time they reached for their backpack which reduced the bickering. And that’s always a win.IMG_1710
  2. With more legroom comes an extra window.  This is key when traveling with 2 kids as it means the kid who has scored the window seat isn’t blocking the view for the other kid with his/her head.  This reduced the bickering far more than I expected. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I really appreciate anything that reduces kiddo bickering.IMG_1722
  3. Helpful flight attendants.  While our needs weren’t great, they kept the snacks and beverages coming and even put out water bottles in the galley for self-service.

 

Now for the negatives:
  1. The screens and entertainment system in general.  The first thing the kiddos said when we sat down  “why are the screens so small?”  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen screens that small before.  To make matters worse, the movies were not working.  This left us with just the TV channel options which can be hit or miss for kids.  We had our own devices and were happy to use them.  Except it was a 5-hour flight and we didn’t have charging outlets.FullSizeRender (10)
  2. Snack boxes were the only food items available for purchase.  I had higher expectations for a 5-hour flight that left at 11am local time.  It was too early to buy lunch at the airport prior to boarding since we’d just had breakfast and we had no way to keep it fresh until we were hungry.
  3. The plane was a little “tired” – there was some peeling on the interior just above the windows and we were delayed for a bit because the handle on an overhead bin broke.  Maybe I’m being too critical but sometimes, it’s the little things you notice.FullSizeRender (11)

The Even More Space seats were great and I would purchase them again – especially for a long flight.

As for our jetBlue experience on the whole, I definitely learned a few lessons and will be a little more prepared next time with charging options and meals.  I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be, but nothing was a deal breaker.

 

 

Kallo-Knippla – Our Swedish Paradise

When we started putting together our trip to Sweden, I knew we’d want to spend a few days in Stockholm, but wasn’t sure where else we would want to go.  I proceeded to spend more time than I care to admit scrolling through house listings on Airbnb* in an effort to figure out where else to go while in Sweden.

I kept coming back to this one charming house right on the water.  But I knew nothing about the location.  It sounded a bit intimidating – a tiny island off the coast of Gothenburg requiring 2 ferries to reach it from the mainland.  It also wasn’t very close to Stockholm which meant more logistics planning then I was necessarily wanting to tackle. But, I couldn’t resist.  The listing was almost dreamlike – right on the water with a dock, a water view from every room and while quiet, not isolated and lonely.  The house seemed to strike just the right balance.

FullSizeRender (9)

I went for it.  After viewing the listing no less than several dozen times, we made a family decision to book it.

It was perfect.  It was the first time in our travels that we took it slow and really relaxed without running this way and that, trying to see sights.  While there weren’t really any sights to see on Kallo-Knippla, that doesn’t mean we were bored.  Far from it.

The northern part of the island was not built up and just had walking paths winding through the rocky terrain.  We spent most of our time outside, walking and climbing the rocks along the coastline.  Despite the weather being cold and windy, we (okay, I…) packed a picnic lunch to enjoy on the rocks.

What town center there was consisted of a small market, a pizza place, one restaurant open during the high summer season, and a fish stand open only a few days of the week. The only drawback to the lack of services/amenities meant more time in the kitchen.  The good news is that Sweden has embraced the convenience of rotisserie chicken.

We did travel a few islands over to Hono for dinner out on two occasions – our first dinner out was at a little pub and the second was at a delightfully charming restaurant, Tullhuset.

DSCN2957

We spent one day in Gothenburg and on our way back to our perfect little house, we all vowed not to leave the island again for the rest of our trip.

Our time in Kallo Knippla was an absolute delight.  The weather was as good is it could be with sunny days warming up our little house.  The island was charming and a refresing break from city travel.  Because of our time on this charming island, my approach to travel planning has changed.  No longer do I reflexively look at city destinations, but I have been searching out quieter spots that allow us to absorb the culture of the place in a more relaxed way.  We’ll see how this pays off on our next trip.

*On the off chance you don’t already have an Airbnb account, clicking my referral link will land you a $40 credit.  But doesn’t everyone have an account by now? 😉

Stockholm in 3 Days. With 2 Kids.

We had 3 full days in Stockholm and since we are traveling with kids that means you can’t just plow through the sights and run yourself ragged.  Well, we usually run ourselves ragged – but it doesn’t take much for this crew.  Typically, the best we can do is 2 big things a day- something in the morning and something in the afternoon with a lunch break in between and a dinner break at the end and back to home base to wind down.

I don’t stick a strict schedule but have a general sense of the big things we all want to do. Then I look at the weather and try to correlate the weather with the outings.  Based on the forecast, it looked like we had one sunny and nice day and the others were cloudy/rainy.  I saved the 2 outdoor sights for those days and plotted the indoor sights for the other 2 days.

Day 1 – Saturday – a gloomy day but we managed to dodge much of the rain

City Hall – This was not to be.  We attempted to go Saturday and Monday but it was closed both days.  Disappointing, but given the closures were due to the terrorist attack, it was quite understandable. –Mom

Nobel Museum – We spent quite a bit of time here and enjoyed a scavenger hunt type activity for the kids as well as some hands-on experiments as part of the aptly named “Experiments” exhibit. –Mom

The Nobel Museum was super fun. There are clips about Nobel Peace Prize winners and the give you a quiz and you have to hunt for the answers and the prize is a chocolate coin. – Nate

Since this was our first full day in Sweden, jet lag and lousy in-flight sleeping meant this was a short day.  We headed back to our apartment and just grabbed some pizza take out at a local spot recommended by our Airbnb hosts.

Day 2 – Sunday – The sunniest day which meant we did as much outside as possible

Skansen – It was Nate’s dream come true! Our Uber to the Skansen was a Tesla. Another enjoyable thing at the Skansen was a story-in English- about witches and butter luck. There was a cute pottery shop as well as a glassworks place and a bakery. — Catherine

Millesgarden – This was the one spot on my must-see list.  I’m so glad we had a sunny day for enjoying it.  There weren’t many tourists.  It was a bit tricky to get to on public transportation so we took an Uber.  One element making this very kid-friendly was the outdoor space and lack of crowds meant the kids had a bit more freedom to run around. Plus the sculptures were so visually dramatic the kids couldn’t help but be intrigued. –Mom

Day 3 – Monday –  Another rainy day but with indoor museums planned, we made the most of it.

Vasa Museum- a giant ship made from the salvaged half-viking ship the Vasa and made into a museum. My favorite part of this museum was Sail A Ship, where we compassed, put the sails up, and un anchored the ship in order to sail it. Now that was fun! –Catherine

Nordic Museum– At the Nordic Museum, there was a Time detectives game where we had to figure out who stole the Golden Marzipan Statue. As Nate and I plowed through the evidence, witnesses, and suspects we reached the end for a prize of… a pin? Yup. –Catherine

The Children’s Playhouse is a room within the Nordic Museum set up like a little agricultural town in the “olden days” – complete with a horse drawn carriage to drive, a river to cross, a general store, and a kitchen.  The kids could have played here for hours more than they did.  Well worth the extra 20 SEK for admission.  There was also a replica of a 1940’s apartment – another hit with the kids.  I wish I had better pictures to share but the kids were on the move and it was fairly dark. –Mom

Tour of Subway Art – In the process of researching our trip, I learned that Stockholm has some pretty amazing subway stations.  The kids were getting a little tired, at this point in our day which meant I had to make this tour a quickie.  I looked up the stations with the most distinct art and off we went.  Our tour put the DC’s Metro to shame but that’s not too difficult.  The linked article does a great job giving some historical background on the subway art and is worth a read before exploring.  There are free walking tours of the subway art but our timing was a little off, unfortunately. –Mom

Ericsson Globe – Hello everybody! Nate here! Now as you know I love buildings, they are my whole life even!

Now a little fact – The Ericsson Globe is the tallest spherical structure in the world!!  So what happens is you watch a short clip and and you take a pod up and down the side of the building. personally I would recommend it and I would also give it a 5-star rating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Stockholm Kid-Friendly?

The answer is a resounding yes!  While my kids are older and we have left behind the stroller years, it was impossible not to notice the many ways Stockholm makes life a little easier for parents as they navigate the city.

The first thing we noticed were the ramps built into stairs.  We first came across them coming out of a subway station but then found them all over the city.  What a clever way to make the city stroller accessible. Naturally, I had to tell my kids they were NOT for running up and down.

When it comes to eating out, not only were there kids menus at all of the restaurants we visited, but there was often the option to order a half-portion of a regular entree.  The twins are less enthusiastic about kids menus as time marches on; the option of ordering off the “adult” menu was a fantastic.

We also came across some fantastic playgrounds.  There was one great playground right near our apartment in Enskede.  It had one of the coolest play features I’ve ever seen.  To spare you my description, I’ll let these cute time-lapse videos speak for themselves.  It may have been the hot spot for the local fathers who took their kids to the playground. I think I saw more fathers than kids playing on them…

More than the specific kid-friendly features, it was also the vibe of Sweden that was very family-friendly.  I didn’t feel the pressure to keep my kids silent while riding on the train. I didn’t get the stink eye from other passengers when my kids dared to talk as we so often encounter when traveling in certain areas.  The culture of family-friendliness made traveling through Sweden a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

 

 

 

Upon Arrival

As the plane pulled to the gate, we gathered our things and got ready to disembark.  I turned on my phone to text my mother that we had arrived safely in Stockholm.  As I waited to connect to service, the alerts started popping up.  There had been an attack in the city center of Stockholm.  So as not to alarm the kids before we had more facts, I handed my phone to J without saying anything.  We knew this would have an impact on getting to our apartment but there wasn’t much information available as the situation was still unfolding.

We proceeded to immigration, excited as always for a fresh stamp in our passports.  While waiting in line, J and I tried to get the latest news and see what had happened but there wasn’t much in the news as the attack had happened just 2 hours earlier. The immigration officer asked a number of pointed questions about our travels – it’s hard to say if she asked more questions given the events or if she’s always that inquisitive.  But we had never been questioned quite so extensively.  The officer handed us our passports, and informed us there had been an event in the city and we would want to inquire at the information desk as to transportation options into the city.

As we expected, all trains were shut down.  So much for the tickets I’d purchased in advance for the express train.  We were advised to sit tight for a bit, get some food and reassess the situation.  At this point, we had to tell the kids what was going on.  We took them to the side, and explained what had happened.  Our best option was to get some dinner at the airport and maybe transportation would be more available at that time.

Thankfully, the Arlanda Airport has a shopping/dining area attached to the airport with numerous options.  We settled in for dinner – meatballs and mashed potatoes of course – and tried to get more information about the attack.

Once dinner was over, it was pretty clear the subway and trains weren’t going to reopen any time soon. It appeared at that time that the suspect had not yet been apprehended.  Our only choice was to take a taxi for what would undoubtedly be a long ride given the increased traffic we were likely to face as all public transportation was still closed.

At this point, the taxi lines were much shorter than what we had seen earlier which was a relief.  Perhaps our decision to wait it out was a good one.  We all piled into the car and we were off.  It wasn’t long before we hit traffic, at which point, the kids and I promptly nodded off.  When I woke up, the taxi driver was explaining that he had two options to get us to our apartment – either go around the city or through the city.  He chose going through the city as the traffic was heavy on the highway.  Unfortunately, the streets were closed and we had to turn around and take the highway.  The remainder of our trip was uneventful but long.  We were relieved when we pulled up to the apartment – 90+ minutes after leaving the airport.

J and I hadn’t yet read much on the attack as our primary concern was dealing with the transportation issues and keeping our very tired kids from losing it.  We tucked the kids into bed, soothing what concerns they had about sleeping in a new space – what was that noise, are there enough pillows, it’s too dark, it’s too bright, where’s my stuffed animal – you know the drill.

As we explored the city yesterday, we noticed heavy police presence but otherwise, people were out and about as you would expect in any city.  We did take the kids aside and emphasize that if either one of us tells them to do something or not do something, they must listen to us.  They are not to first ask why or push it until we do that ridiculous 1-2-3 counting we still have to do.  They seemed to get it.

We tend not to be very alarmist in these situations.  J is a law enforcement officer and we know there are risks in our everyday life.  We are no more concerned or worried than when we planned this trip several months ago.

DSCN2686

The Swedish flag flying at half staff over the City Hall.

8 Things about Us

1 – We took the Amtrak Auto Train from Virginia to Florida in 2009.  The twins were not quite 2 and 1/2 years old. It was a pretty chill way to travel with small kids.  They don’t have to be strapped in their seats for hours – once you close your cabin door, they can squirm and explore.  The gentle swaying of the train also rocked the twins right to sleep.  Since we were headed to FL in February it was essentially a train full of doting “grandparents” – instead of giving a traveling family the stink eye, many seemed happy to see small kids. The free wine and snacks when you board certainly helped.

2 – I travel with tea bags to make sure I can always get a cup.  My grandmother was British and she got me hooked when I was a teenager. I’m always looking for the perfect spot to enjoy a cup.  I think I’ve found quite a few.

3 – I used to be scared of flying but now I’m much more chill about it.  Oddly enough, the longer the flight, the happier I am – 12 hours is the longest flight I’ve done.  Just think – no dishes to do, no meals to fix, no negotiating over what we watch since we all have our own screen, no laundry…You get the idea.  It’s nice to just chill out with absolutely no chores to do. The twins are also old enough to not need our constant attention.

4 – I’m afraid of heights.  If there’s a sight to be seen from up high, I will likely wait behind and J and the twins will go on up.  I made it up to the top of the Eiffel Tower but there was a moment in the elevator where I thought I had made a terrible mistake. My eyes were closed the whole way up.  But I ended up doing ok.  I was also pretty miserable on the top of the Rock of Gibraltar.  That surprised me as I usually do ok on terra firma even if up high.

DSCN0841

Look at me all the way down there!

5 – I grew up in Massachusetts as did my husband.  In fact, we first laid eyes on each other in 8th grade band class when I moved to his town.  I then moved to Florida in high school and stayed there for 10 years.  I moved back to Massachusetts when I was 25, where J and I reconnected and feel in love.  Oh the romance.

6 – J is a musician.  He will always stop for street performers when we are traveling.  I like that about him.

7 – We have a cat named Elvis. He’s always well cared for by our neighbors when we are away and I can tell he’s excited to see us when we get home.  Maybe not as excited as a dog would be…

8 – I have 53 wish lists on Airbnb.  Hotels just don’t work well for us as a family.  It’s heaven to have a spot to tuck the kids away and then still enjoy being up.  Plus, I hate going out to breakfast.  If I have to shower and get dressed before breakfast, it just doesn’t feel like a vacation.

I don’t know why I picked 8 but there you have it.

Dispatches from Abroad, Part 1

Last year we went to London and Paris, spending a full week in each city.  Of course a good time was had by all and as expected, with time, I’ve managed to forget some of the small details.  And that’s when my text history came to the rescue.  I remembered sending my parents and sister frequent text updates about our trip.  So I dug them up, dusted them off, cropped them, and presto.  They can now be shared for your reading pleasure.

FullSizeRender (4)The first text set the tone for numbered lists and I stuck to that format for many of the others.  As you can see, the most pressing update is the revelation that English muffins are just muffins.I wish I could claim to find that less interesting than I do but it was the first thing I sought out at the grocery store.

Catherine’s dissatisfaction with menu options will be a reoccurring theme.  Definitely not the last time we see that mentioned.

Successfully managing our first tube ride was also no insignificant task.  Though I take the subway all the time where we live, the system in London is quite a bit different.  I was delighted that kids ride free but it took a few attempts before we figured out how to get 1 adult and 1 child through an automatic ticket gate. I’m relatively certain people had no idea we were tourists…

FullSizeRender (5)I was so excited to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.  I had carefully plotted out the days which we’d be able to see it so as to be sure not to miss out.  Maybe a slightly over hyped attraction, at least for kids who hate waiting.  Unless you can get in the section right at the gates and a better view of the action.  Which would require waiting.  I don’t know about anyone else’s kids, but mine do not do waiting very well.  So while they held out for the pageantry, they were clearly unimpressed.

At least we tried.  Right??

 

Our 3rd update rolls around and sure enough, and we were back on the tube and still eating lots of food.  Only in this update, I have children happy with the food.  Yay!
FullSizeRender_3[1]FullSizeRender_1[1]

Well, we tried to experience some cultural highlights and be frugal at the same time.  Free doesn’t always translate into “fun had by all” when  you’re traveling.  Especially when creepy organ music is involved.

I also entirely forgot about how poorly my kiddos were adjusting to the time zone change. Before re-reading these texts, I would have humble bragged about how my kiddos just seem to adapt so easily, blah blah blah.  But it’s all coming back now.  Just wait for the next text…

FullSizeRender_2[1]Catherine wasn’t about to go down quietly.  Oh no.  It’s definitely all coming back to me. I don’t know how I managed to forget.  I guess it’s kind of like childbirth amnesia.

Maybe we made too big of a deal about having them look left before crossing the street.  I’ll consider that one a lesson learned.

I can’t remember if I made good on my play date promises but something tells me she held me to it.  Catherine doesn’t forget things like that.

 

FullSizeRender[1]The next text update I sent my parents and sister while we were in London hits upon one of the delights of having kids old enough to realize what’s going on around them.  They understand when you’ve done something wrong.  And they don’t let it go.  Such as when we took the bus headed in the wrong direction.

We had a lovely tea at the Orangery and it’s location couldn’t have been better if you have kids.  It was right near the Princess of Wales Memorial Playground at Kensington Gardens.  The grounds were lovely and the kids could run and play and blow off some steam.  As you can see they had lots of energy to play, despite lacking the energy to walk the few blocks to tea.

FullSizeRender (6)As part of my trip planning, I scoped out numerous dining options that offered a free kids menu.  We took advantage at a lot of places where we ate.  But as you can see, there were some challenges.

The Mission London book was awesome and helped tremendously when we were doing some traditional sightseeing. It kept the twins engaged and the adults had fun too.

The book must be what prompted our discussion of spy names in the next text update I sent.  Have I piqued your curiosity?
Nate is really really into skyscrapers.  So it was no FullSizeRender (7)surprise he was over the moon at the prospect of going to The View at the Shard.  My pictures from that visit are some of my favorite of the trip.

And as you can see we made another visit to Westminster Abbey but this time sans creepy organ music.

Why didn’t anyone tell me about salt beef sandwiches?

And yes, my kiddos really really hate walking.  Any time we have to walk more than a block, they whine, moan and groan, and complain. It makes sightseeing by foot such a delight.

Well, I hope these real time dispatches are somewhat entertaining to read.  Though you likely won’t be as amused as my parents were but they’re the grandparents.  They’re genetically obligated to be amused.

Preparing for Sweden

The Wandering Twins’ Perspective

Yay! We are going on another European Trip! But this time we’re going north to Scandinavia. To be pacific, Sweden. We go in just a few weeks! We have snack bags full of delicious treats for our trip. Lara bars, Cliff Bars, and Tic Tacs etc galore.

Hi! Nate here and I would like to tell you my perspective of preparing for Sweden. We got a TON of books so we will like, never be bored and there are SUPER yummy snacks and I am trying to get mom and dad to go to Malmo to see the tallest building in Scandinavia, the Twisting Torso, powered by geothermal energy. Super awesome, right?


The Parents’ Perspective

We leave for Sweden in just a few weeks!  With less than a month to go, this is when my wheels start to spin. I’m noticing a trend as we prepare for this trip – about a month out, I tend to start buying lots of clothes.  I’m not much of a shopper so my wardrobe is not exactly robust.  Faced with having to pack several days worth of casual clothes, I realize that I have 2 pairs of pants that fit (fit being the operative word these days) and I should probably get another pair or two.  I also realize that all of my casual shirts are stained or have tiny holes in them. Oh, and the kids need new shoes, of course, because they’re kids and all they do is grow out of shoes or destroy the ones that do fit by playing in the mud. But at least I can earn lots of miles through credit card or airline shopping portals since I refuse to physically go shopping.

I’m also hard at work gathering provisions for the oh-so-crucial snack bags that keep us nourished no matter the travel circumstances.  Okay, so it’s really about keeping my kids quiet, who am I kidding?  With a healthy bit of junk, it’s definitely not all about nourishment.

I’ll be honest, I do not have a reputation for being organized when it comes to packing. The past few conversations I’ve had with my mother, she’s mentioned packing cubes each time.  I just don’t get them.  I cannot figure out why putting your stuff in a cube is better than cutting out the middle man and putting it straight in the suitcase.  With that being said, it would surprise my family to know that I usually create packing lists.

Packing listWe have just 2 1/2 weeks to go for our trip to Sweden and I’ve already started the packing list. Getting the list started, along with acquiring provisions for the snack bags, puts a little spring in my step and makes me feel like the trip is right around the corner.

Growing up, we went to the beach every summer for two weeks and rented a house. Every year, a few weeks before our vacation, my mom would put boxes in the dining room.  With each trip to the grocery store, she would add provisions to the boxes for our trip.  As the weeks went on, we’d watch the boxes fill up and get excited knowing our vacation was around the corner. Obviously, we can’t bring groceries with us to Sweden, but the packing list and snack bag provisions have the same effect.

As for other trip preparations, no one around here is on board for my suggestion to head over to Ikea for a Swedish meal. I think it’s a brilliant idea and they’re nothing but a bunch of grumps.

We might also be working on our Canadian accents since we’re not sure what kind of reception Americans will get.  I shudder to think some one would assume we’re happy with our current political “situation.”

*And yes, I do know that Catherine used the wrong word in her section, but I can’t bring myself to tell her. I think the mix up is too cute.

 

The Day the Magic of Travel Failed Us (a/k/a The Granada Incident)

In 2014 we went to Spain with my sister and my parents.  It was a big family trip to celebrate my 40th birthday.  We all flew into Madrid, spent a few days there before renting cars and heading to Osuna which is about an hour east of Sevilla.  It was a great trip. Except for our day trip to Granada which, um, had a few wrinkles.

Granada

Looking happy and in love while touring the Alhambra

It started out as an ordinary travel day.  We all loaded up the cars and off we went – our GPS calmly guiding our way.  One thing of note – while we had 2 rental cars, we only got 1 GPS in an effort to minimize expense.  The GPS was in our car and my sister and parents were following in the other car.  This is a key fact that becomes relevant later…

We went straight to the Alhambra and parked.  For those who haven’t been to Granada, the Alhambra overlooks the city of Granada below.  After touring the Alhambra, we decided to explore the city.  We hadn’t done much advance research on what we wanted to see or do in Granada. Maybe not the best approach.

As we gathered our thoughts in the plaza, I noticed a gentleman selling a large sketch of the plaza itself.  There was a sign that said he lost his passport and was selling the sketch for 20 Euro.  I loved the sketch and bought it immediately, feeling good that I was helping this man.  My husband was wandering around the plaza at the time I made the purchase.  When I brought it over to him and explained what it was, he told me that I probably just gave a pedophile money. J insisted the only reason why people “lose their passports” is because they are criminals.  Now bear in mind, J is a law enforcement officer so he does tend to assume the worst in these situations.  Naturally, I was crestfallen and feeling badly about giving him money.  But I loved the sketch.  The Sketch Incident was the first sign of rocky times ahead.

I don’t like to drive and quite frankly, I’m not that great at it.  I get flustered easily.  I don’t do it often since I commute by public transportation. This is a key fact that becomes relevant soon.

J had done all of the driving on the trip thus far.  After a long day of sightseeing and in an effort to rebound from the Sketch Incident, I offered to drive the 2 hours back to Osuna so he could enjoy a beer or two with dinner.

After a lovely dinner, our little caravan headed home with me and the GPS in the lead and  my sister and parents following.  The first sign of trouble was when I encountered a rotary or traffic circle or roundabout, depending on where you’re from.  Whatever you call them, I don’t like them.  But I bravely drove forward into the circle of traffic.  Which is precisely when J started barking at me because apparently, my approach was a touch on the reckless side given that my sister was following.

That traffic circle behind us, quite literally, I took a deep breath and thought, if I just make it to the highway, all will be fine.  Or not.

For some reason the way the arrow was painted on the road of the entrance ramp threw me for a loop and I had this thought that I was going the wrong way on the ramp. I may have become a little flustered and sought reassurance from my husband.  Unfortunately, he didn’t understand why I was flustered. Instead of reassurance, there was more unhelpful barking.

I then recall trying to exit the highway to get gas but missed it and then drove to a dead end because J failed to provide navigational assistance.  My sister and parents dutifully followed me to the dead end.  I asked my beloved husband to give me some clearer navigational guidance. I believe this is the point where I started to cry in frustration. Actual tears with kids in the backseat and my sister and parents stopped at the dead end right behind us.  J’s response was to start saying really helpful things like “go straight” and “go straight again” every 20 seconds when there was no other option but to go straight. This was not as helpful as he thought.  By the time we turned ourselves around and got back on the highway and then properly exited for the gas station, I was a touch frazzled.

Because we are parents, the first thing we do at a gas station on a road trip is find the bathrooms.  I grabbed Catherine and set out – without saying anything to J because I was a touch frazzled, remember? I met up with J as we walked out of the restrooms and said “Where’s Nate?” His response: “I thought you had him.”  Oops.  Turns out we had left Nate in the car.  At a rest stop on the side of a Spanish highway.  At 10pm.   Of course, all was well and Nate was happily entertaining himself in the car.Yes, my sister and parents were also getting gas but they were at a pump that was not in view of our car and they were making their own trips to the bathroom.

Thankfully the rest of our journey was uneventful and we made it safely back to Osuna without further incident.

I did not attempt to drive again while in Spain.  We did not bicker again the rest of the trip. Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Car Spain

Happier times in the car – with me in the passenger seat and J behind the wheel.

A footnote to the Sketch Incident – I  left it behind at the gate area when we were boarding our plane home.  J was the one to notice I didn’t have it and raced back to get it.

FullSizeRender (1)

The Sketch which now hangs in our finished basement.

It’s been a little over 2 years since the Granada Incident.  We can now laugh about it. We laugh, look at each other fondly and say “we need a Granada do-over.” Okay, so I also do this thing when J is being annoying where I raise my eyebrows and say “go straight, go straight” in a jerky manly voice. It seems to get the message across.

 

Georgia – The Itinerary

Bear with me as The Wandering Twins takes a trip down memory lane recounting our first adventure.  It was over 3 years ago but we still get warm and fuzzy talking about it.  This is going to sound drippy – but here goes – the trip was magical.  For starters, Georgia is an amazing country and we had the benefit of locals to show us around.  But it was also the trip that showed us how manageable it is to travel with children and how well our kiddos responded made us want to keep going and going, trip after trip.
Capture

A brief summary of our itinerary to Georgia with more detail below:

  • Day 1 – Arrived in Tbilisi
  • Day 2 – Tbilisi
  • Day 3 – Sighnaghi
  • Day 4 – Sighnaghi
  • Day 4 – back to Tbilisi
  • Day 5 – Tbilisi
  • Day 6-Travel to Stepantsminda
  • Day 7 – Stepantsminda
  • Day 8 – Travel back to Tbilisi
  • Day 9 – Tbilisi
  • Day 10 – Travel to Borjomi
  • Day 11 – Travel to Akhaltsikhe
  • Day 12 – Travel back to Tbilisi
  • Day 13 – Tbilisi
  • Day 14 – Travel home

This was before Airbnb options were plentiful and my friend was able to make local arrangements for an apartment for us for our 2 week stay. Essentially, a little old lady volunteered to vacate her apartment in exchange for our money. It was right down the street from their home so it couldn’t have been better situated.  Even better, it was right across from a great coffee and gelato shop –  Luca Polare – and it was delightful.  Our apartment was inexpensive which alleviated our guilt for going on overnight excursions and having hotel expenses on top of the apartment.

IMG_0753

Our hotel in Sighnaghi was the Hotel Kabadoni and it was delightful.  This is my view while having a cup of tea on the hotel restaurant’s terrace.  The hotel restaurant also had a lovely breakfast.  One word of caution – if you order the breakfast sausage, be prepared for a hot dog-style sausage. The kiddos thought it was hilarious to be eating hot dogs for breakfast.

We had dinner both nights at Pheasant’s Tears – the first night we ate inside but the second night we outside and it was delightful.

 

Exploring Sighnaghi by horseback proved to be quite the adventure – for the whole family. None of us could be described as accomplished horseback riders.  But we managed and had a lovely tour of the area.

The kids enjoyed exploring the wall that surrounds Sighnaghi and walking the city streets just taking it all in.

Our visit to Mt. Kazbegi and Stepantsminda was one of my favorites. Our friends joined us and we all piled into their SUV for the 2ish hour drive.  We had to stop a few times for car sickness issues – for the kids and adults.  The roads are winding and more than a little dizzying.  We packed a simple lunch stopping at Entree to pick up sandwiches before leaving Tbilisi.  A solid decision since there weren’t many/any options along the way for food.

368

The view from the spot where we stopped to eat our lunch.

One of our stops was at a lookout point built by the Soviets.  The views were amazing and completely worth the stress of worrying about my kids falling over the side of the mountains.  Which was completely irrational.  Sort of.

We stayed in the most amazing hotel in Stepansmidna.  J and I frequently go the hotel site just to pretend we have another trip to plan.  I’m generally not a fan of staying in hotels when traveling with the  kids but this was different.  And perfect. Rooms Hotel is one of the most delightful places I’ve stayed.  Ever.  The kids had plenty of freedom to roam and play which gave the adults plenty of freedom to curl up on the cushy sofas on the expansive deck with a bottle of wine and chat away. A few pictures below don’t do our stay justice.  The pictures of Mt. Kazbegi were taken from the deck – likely with a glass of wine in hand – so there was no need for rugged hiking to take in such impressive views.

 

Our next stop was Borjomi and we stayed at Nick and Goerge’s Guesthouse which my friend arranged for us.  It was delightful.  The owners were so welcoming and doted on the kids.  There was one other couple staying there and it was peaceful and quiet.  Dinner and breakfast were provided and besides being delicious, the amount of food set out was positively gluttonous – in a good way.  I’ve never seen so many options laid out on a table for just one meal.

It was through the guest house owners that we had a tour of Borjomi National Forest on horseback.  It was slightly terrifying at times but the kids had guides walking their horses and while there was a language barrier, the guides were mindful of how the kids were holding up during our 3-hour tour.  Because of the language barrier, we had no idea how long the ride was or where we were going, which made me a little uncomfortable. Admittedly, I had visions of these two strange men leading  my family into the wilderness only to abandon, torture, or kill us. But, as is so often the case, my worst fears went unrealized.  Go figure.

Our final stop as we explored beyond Tbilisi was Akhaltsikhe where we stayed at the newly opened Hotel Rabath Gino Wellness and it was another delightful excursion.  We were on our own without our friends on our Borjomi and Akhaltsikhe jaunt and it felt good to do things independently and navigate on our own.  Well, kind of on our own as we did have a driver but since he didn’t speak English, I think we still get credit for being on our own.

The hotel was great as was the attached restaurant.  As I mentioned, this was our first time really being on our own.  Our ordering choices reflected our status as novices.  We were wondering why the waitress seemed so amused as she took our order but once the parade of food started coming we realized just how much we over ordered.  But it was all delish so no harm, no foul.

From Akhaltsikhe we headed back to Tbilisi to enjoy our last full day before flying home.  It was tough to go home and I remember having serious re-entry issues when we got home.