Life | Travel | Uncategorized

Adventures in Mexico (with a toddler): Cancun.

February 16, 2016

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During the last week of January, we finally made our family trip out of the country happen. Mark and I had both wanted to travel with Miles internationally while he was still in the “only child” category. We were also long overdue for a family vacation.

While we originally had more adventurous plans in store, we settled on Cancun and the Riviera Maya – the combination of reasonable costs, ease of planning, and the short plane flight was too tempting.

We picked our dates and booked flights. (Note for next time: Although we were constrained by our dates and needed to book when we did, we realized later into the trip that prices fall in the Riviera Maya fall pretty dramatically around the 1st week and 2nd weeks of February.)

We aren’t really “resort” people and get antsy after a few days in one place, so we wanted to stay in a few places and explore a bit rather than committing to one location for our entire trip. After a lot of “research” (Hi, Trip-Advisor), I was able to find quite a few family-friendly small hotels or bed-and-breakfasts available, even during such a busy travel time.

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Our stay in Cancun sandwiched the rest of the trip – we knew that we didn’t want to spend a lot of time in such a big tourist destination, but we also didn’t want to push ourselves to travel a lot in one day with a toddler. So we booked our first and last nights close to the airport and had about a day on each end to explore Cancun itself.

On the first afternoon, we drove our rental to our first stop – Bed and Breakfast Cancun. I was a little nervous because it was the most inexpensive of our lodging choices (and I felt responsible since I had picked allllll of our lodging!), but our time there was phenomenal. From the second we walked in the door, we felt right at home. The owners, a Canadian/Mexican couple, were warm, informative, and fun. They also were terribly sweet to Miles (even though I found out they didn’t normally allow children, whoops!).   Veronica, the hostess, cooked us delicious omelets both mornings of our stay and even kindly let me use her washer and dryer.

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Our room was immensely comfortable and impeccably clean. Once we settled our things, we drove out to the hotel strip (about 25 minutes away), to find the beach. We bought Miles some toys for the sand, relaxed on a little strip of sand that we discovered, and then headed to Mocambo’s for dinner. Our first dinner in Mexico was so memorable and delicious. Miles couldn’t get enough of the ocean and hung over the balcony railing staring at the water for the entirety of the meal. (One of the perks of toddler schedules, we’ve found, is that we tend to arrive at restaurants early enough to get prime seats ahead of any crowds.)

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The next morning, we headed to the Puerto Juarez pier for our ferry to Isla Mujeres.

I’m jumping ahead a bit, but I wanted to note one other great thing about the Cancun portion of our trip. When we came back through Cancun, we had a little more time to kill. We ate lunch outside at El Fish Fritanga and escaped the heat by visiting the stores inside Plaza Kukulcan for a bit, but after a little of Googling, I was so excited to find this list of public access beaches (here’s another helpful one that I found later as well). We only had time to explore Delfines Beach and we weren’t really prepared to swim that day but the thrill of finding some unhindered access was exciting, nonetheless.

Miles was getting a little tired of the vacation routine and loved just playing on a regular playground – but while he did that, we got to soak up such an amazing view! I wish we had discovered the fantastic public access earlier. If we ever return, we’ll definitely make it a point to visit Delfines Beach with our bathing suits.

Next stop, Isla Mujeres!

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San Diego: A Secret Garden

August 4, 2015


San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

I don’t think any of us realized the magic of the backyard as children. We played loud rambunctious games by day and louder, wilder games after dark, by the light of just a few flashlights. Meanwhile, despite the risks posed by more than a dozen small feet and curious helping hands, my grandfather patiently cultivated the yard. Growing, growing, growing – while the small people that terrorized the yard grew, the garden grew too.

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

Tomatoes, zucchini, nasturtiums, sunflowers. I’m sure Grandpa grew other things through the years, but those four were permanent watchmen of the house and the Pacific ocean shining behind them in the distance.

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

And then, as all great art does, the backyard garden outlived its artist’s hand. Surviving the perils of small children, changing caretakers, unfamiliar neighbors, new freeways, building traffic, ever-expanding congestion – it’s still there, just behind the wooden fence. A few fruit trees have been added. Plants have been moved around. But little of substance has changed.

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

Tomatoes, zucchini, nasturtiums, sunflowers – the old guards are still there. And the Pacific ocean shining under the San Diego sun is still just down the street. Maybe there’s a metaphor buried here, a tale of art or beauty or time. But to me, the garden just means I’m home.

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

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Travel

My Best Packing Tip.

July 16, 2015

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I used to be a chronic over-packer and although my days of absurd over-packing are behind me, I still have a long way to go when it comes to being a super efficient, minimalist traveler.

Traveling with a baby comes with its own set of challenges and extra gear, but traveling solo with Miles so many times has also made me wary of being overly optimistic about what I can carry through the airport with a 20 pound baby in tow.

Even the basics that I used to toss into my carry-on bag (laptop, thick book, sweater) I now skip. It’s a little absurd to think that I’ll be able to work on my laptop (or read a book!) while holding Miles during a flight and I never get cold on flights anymore thanks to my little snuggle-buddy. Also, there is one perk of always traveling with a baby – I can always wrap up in the sarong* or blanket tucked into my diaper bag if I start to get chilly!

I plan to post about what I do carry in the airport when traveling with a baby later, but today, I wanted to share my best tip for packing (or for combatting OVER-packing) with you.

Ready? Once I’m completely packed and everything is set to go, I pull one outfit out of my bag.

Easy, right? I always assume I’ll be wearing more outfits than I end up wearing in reality. What actually happens is that I cycle my favorite/most comfortable/most washable clothes for the entire trip. So removing one outfit from my bag, no matter how carefully I packed, helps reduce the unnecessary pieces that I bring on the trip.

I’m always grateful for the extra space and always wonder why I thought I’d wear that removed outfit in the first place.

What’s your best packing tip? I’d love to hear! Bonus: If you share your best tip in the comments, I’ll link to your blog or Instagram in this week’s Friday links.;-)

*Ever since Miles started to get really curious and busy, he’s hated nursing underneath the nursing cover. Although he doesn’t need to nurse as often when we’re out and about now, I’ve started to carry a sarong (UPDATE: a muslin blanket like this would work too!) everywhere with us instead of my infant nursing cover. It’s been a fantastic solution! Carrying it around has come in handy when we’ve needed an impromptu stroller cover and picnic blanket as well.

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Adventures on The Big Island: Greenwell Farms

May 26, 2015

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Hat and Coffee | The Orange Slate

 Greenwell Coffee Farm | The Orange Slate

One fantastic part of my visit to Hawaii was the tour of the Greenwell Farms coffee farm. On a morning during our vacation that threatened to be unfriendly to beach dwelling, we trip-trapped up the road from Kona to the beautiful farm. Tours are (generously!) free and run daily from 8:30-4:00 at intervals of 15ish minutes so pressure was low.

The tour was fun, informative (although the guide was occasionally difficult to understand), and brief. Many of the coffee plants have been there for over 100 years and the current owners are descendants of the original farmers, transplants from England during the mid-19th century. The farm’s coffee is now shipped all over the world. It’s also sold online and through their Coffee Club.

Coffee Jars | The Orange Slate

Coffee Sign | The Orange Slate

Our guide showed us much more than just coffee plants – the farm boasts banana trees, mango trees, breathtaking flowers, and the largest avocado tree I’ve ever seen. The farm sits on a bluff high above the Kona coast and the view of the west side of the island is magnificent (especially during morning hours).

Our group drank its weight in the (again, so generous) delicious and free coffee samples while we relaxed under the giant avocado tree and over-grammed our day. The beautiful lawns, stunning views, and abundant foliage made beautiful backdrops for lots of fun pictures. The staff was so kind and friendly, even to our somewhat rowdy bunch.

Coffee Cherries | The Orange Slate

Coffee Cup | The Orange Slate

If you visit the Kona side of the Big Island, I would definitely recommend a visit to one of the hundreds of coffee farms near Kona, and I’m sure that you won’t find a more pleasant one to tour than Greenwell Farms.

P.S. If you’re traveling to Hawaii soon, there is also no better guide than Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook. Local tips, secret spots, and hidden gems – both of our trips to the Big Island have been vastly enriched by this fantastic resource.

*Some links are affiliate. Thanks for supporting The Orange Slate!

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Travel

5 More Tips for Flying with an Infant

November 25, 2014

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Last week I shared 5 tips for flying with an infant. Here are five more. What did I miss? Share your tips for holiday traveling with a baby in the comments!

6. Pack carefully.

Careful, organized packing is probably the most essential step to flying with a young baby. Here is what I pack for Baby to ensure a stress-free flight:

  1. One full extra outfit (onesie and pants or pjs) for Baby, along with an extra onesie/bodysuit.
  2. 1 extra diaper for every hour you’ll be traveling, plus 2. (So if you leave your house at 8:00 am and plan to arrive at 2:00, bring 8 diapers. Layovers or cancelled flights become a lot less fun quickly if you run out of diapers and airports aren’t known for their abundance of baby supplies (why is this?). 
  3. Pacifiers. If you’re baby takes one, bring them. Again, pack several. 
  4. Changing pad. Those rubber, washable, foldable changing pads are lifesavers.
  5. 2 blankets. (Airplanes are grimy places. The likelihood of one blanket making it through the airport disaster free is slim.
  6. Bottles. Even if your baby nurses, it can be a lifesaver to have a bottle on hand during travel. Security guidelines normally ask you to show the bottles at security. If they are over 3 ounces, they test the liquid (without touching the milk). I just normally try to bring a couple of small bottles instead of one big one to avoid the hassle of the testing.
  7. Any diaper ointment.
  8. A few small wet baby washcloths in a Ziplock. 
  9. An empty large Ziplock to hold dirty washcloths, dirty clothes, diapers, etc.

(You can also download a printable version of this list.)

Airline guidelines allow traveling infants an extra bag of their own. However, unless you’re traveling with another adult, this can be it’s own disaster. I normally bring only my small cross-body bag with my wallet and other essentials, my Ergo, and one bag – packed as lightly as possible-  for both of us. That way, I can put Baby into the Ergo and then I only have one bag to carry.

When I pack for myself, I bring as little as possible. A sweater, some makeup, my wallet. I’ve quit bringing a book (!!) because the likelihood of me actually reading while traveling alone with Miles is just none. Zero. Nada. I am normally working so I do normally pack my computer, but a tablet is less bulky. I also always bring my phone charger.

7. Put important documents like IDs and credit cards in an accessible place. 

Nothing makes me more frantic than losing my ID right before I go through security. Before you get to the airport, pull out your ID, boarding pass or check-in information, credit card, and a little bit of cash and tuck it in some secure, external pocket. Once you are through security, re-pack your ID but leave your card and cash and boarding pass in an external (secure) pocket that you can access with one hand.

8. Dress comfortably.

I hate dressing for travel like I just woke up at summer camp. On the other hand, traveling with a baby makes comfortable clothing even more important. My go-to travel outfit is a pair of skinny jeans, flat shoes, and comfortable, cool top. If the weather makes traveling without a coat questionable, bring a light coat that can easily fold into your bag.

8. Dress Baby comfortably. 

I always put Miles in something that covers his legs and feet and normally something short-sleeved. Depending on your baby, this will vary. Miles tends to be warm-blooded and gets very irritable if he has too many layers on, but I don’t like his legs and feet to be exposed to all of the griminess of the airport and security. Also, having something comfy covering his legs makes the Ergo a little more comfortable for long periods.

9. Avoid hot liquids.

This is one of my pet peeves. Sane, level-headed, regularly decent parents forget that they have an infant strapped to them and don’t have a second thought about purchasing a tall cup of scalding liquid from the airport Starbucks. Liquid burns can be deadly for small babies. Infant skin burns much more quickly than adult skin. Burns are also much more likely to happen if you have a wiggly baby and are moving them around between the carseat and the carrier or baby wrap. Please do your baby and yourself a favor and purchase your coffee and tea iced during travel.

10. Be a Tiger Mama.

This one can be hard for me because I hate to be mean or grouchy. But you DO NOT have to let random strangers touch your baby. And they will try. I normally don’t mind people reaching for his sock-covered toes as much as I mind them reaching for his face. Figure out what  you mind and don’t mind and draw the line. If someone is trying to touch your baby and it makes you uncomfortable, say so. Stand by with something along the lines of “Sorry! I’m a pretty cautious mother and he has a sensitive immune system (which is true of all babies!). I appreciate your kindness but please avoid touching him.” Will it be awkward? Possibly. But that’s ok. There are lots of germs in airports and you never know what someone is carrying. It’s ok to be protective of your young baby. (On the other hand, if you’re not a super protective mommy and don’t mind if the occasional well-intentioned person reaches out to pat your baby, that’s ok too.)

 

 

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5 Tips for Flying with an Infant

November 20, 2014

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On our last flight, some well-intentioned elderly traveller cooed “Oh, your son is so cute! Is this his first flight?” No, as a matter of fact, it’s his third. Or his tenth, depending on how you count layovers.

At the ripe old age of four months, Miles has already done an inordinate amount of traveling. On my first flight with him, I was terrified. What if he cries on the plane? Will he cry on the plane? What if I have to run to my gate? What if our flight is cancelled and I’m stuck in an airport? What if I drop him during turbulence?

Now, we are a bit more experienced and I find traveling through airports with him to border on pleasant. Mark and I both love to travel and family is spread far and wide, so I’m sure we’ll continue to learn as he gets older. But here are a few suggestions for traveling with very young infants.

1. Travel with your stroller.

I will never fly again without my stroller and carseat if I can help it. I only took my front-pack with me through security on our first flight and regretted it. Even content babies can grow restless in a wrap or front-pack after several hours and leaving your stroller behind leaves you with few options.

Kudos to the airlines on this point. Most of the airlines allow parents flying with an “infant in lap” to gate-check a stroller (and attached carseat) and to board with an extra bag. I have never used the extra bag allowance (more on this in a minute) but traveling with the stroller is a life-saver. Even a small baby gets heavy after three hours in a large airport! Taking my stroller through security makes traveling more pleasant for both me and Baby. He gets to wiggle around and stretch and look around while I have the freedom to juggle our stuff and navigate terminals without carrying everything and everyone.

2. Travel with your front-pack.

Always carry a front-pack or wrap with you. If, for some reason, the airline refuses to let you take your stroller through security or doesn’t return it to you at the gate (or it gets damaged!), you have a back-up. Also, Miles seems to fall asleep (sometimes) better in a front-pack than in a stroller. Having another option for a fussy baby in an airport is always nice! There’s one other key reason for carrying your front-pack, so on to #3…

3. Put Baby in the front-pack before boarding the plane.

This is my go-to system now:

  1. Travel through airport with Baby in stroller.
  2. When boarding is announced, put Baby into front-pack.
  3. Un-assemble travel system and fold stroller at the gate.
  4. Board plane with Baby in the front-pack.
  5. To depart, reverse the process.

This system has eased a number of issues I was experiencing. For one thing, it’s hard to juggle a baby, a bag, and a front-pack! Putting Miles into the front-pack meant that I had two less loose items to worry about as I boarded. Secondly, Miles is more secure (and safer!) when I board with him attached to me.*

4. Either nurse or provide a pacifier or bottle during take-off or landing (if Baby is awake). 

Some kind mothers gave me this tip during our first flight. It has worked flawlessly. The sucking that babies do during nursing or holding a pacifier helps to equalize their ear pressure. I try to time nursing so that Miles can eat while we’re taking off and landing, but I also keep pacifiers on hand as a backup. A bottle has worked just fine also.

My only caveat is this: if your baby is sleeping, don’t wake him up. If he or she is asleep and starts to rouse or look uncomfortable, try to provide the pacifier, but don’t rouse a sleeping baby at the beginning of a flight simply to try to get him to eat or suck on a paci.

5. Maintain a calm, positive attitude. 

I have had almost entirely good experiences (minus the one detailed below) with airport staff and fellow passengers. I really do feel that I’m able to set a good tone for my interactions with security, airport counter staff, and other passengers at the beginning of the interaction by smiling, staying calm, and maintaing a light-hearted attitude. Moving efficiently, but avoiding stressful rushing is key to getting through security without a crisis. Don’t panic if there is a holdup (security, for instance, generally asks to inspect my bottles of breastmilk, which takes a few extra minutes.). Also, your baby will be calmer if you keep your cool. They can sense stress!

I had originally intended to include all of my tips for traveling with an infant in a single post, but it was getting quite lengthy, so I’ll include the rest of my tips, along with a handy printable packing guide, in part 2 next week!

 

*The last time I flew, I had one issue with this. Miles will consistently fall asleep in his pack almost immediately, so I like to leave him in there as long as he’ll sleep (which might be the entire flight). But on our last American Airlines flight, the flight attendant asked me to unbuckle my front pack. He said that “those things” (meaning the front pack) “weren’t approved for take-off and landing”. I hope the look on my face fully conveyed my disapproval at doing anything to disturb a soundly sleeping four-month-old. I simply unbuckled the strap around my neck and did my best not to jostle Miles and the attendant seemed satisfied. 

But has anyone else had issues holding Baby in a wrap or a front-pack during a flight? The was the only time an attendant has said anything to me about it, so I doubt it’s an airline or FAA policy. I feel like he’s safer inside my pack during take-off and landing because he’s secure if turbulence occurs. Any experiences with this out there?

 

 

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Weekend Adventures: Georgetown

October 21, 2014
Weekend Adventures: Georgetown
Weekend Adventures: Georgetown

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Mark’s Fall Break spanned Thursday and Friday of last week, so we put some carpe diem into practice and left town. We visited Austin for a few hours, exploring Barton Springs and walking around the grounds of the State Capitol before meeting a friend for dinner.

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Mark even practiced some baby-wearing. We love our Ergo!

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My family has deep roots in a little Texas Hill Country town called Georgetown. I have lots of early memories playing in the childhood hometown of my grandparents. Georgetown used to be just another little cute town, but now Austin has grown so much that Georgetown feel like a sort of extended suburb of Austin. We drove up to Georgetown late Thursday night and woke up early. After some Texas-shaped waffles, we were ready to explore!

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There is an idyllic square with stores that brim with cute antique furniture, old books, and adorable tea towels. A grand old courthouse sits in the middle of the square. (My great-grandfather was once a judge there and his picture is still inside! Hashtag family history.)  We also visited the home of my great-grandmother and took some pictures of Miles on the enormous Southern front porch. (His toleration for the photo-shoot was short-lived, clearly…)

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Mostly, though, there are THE RIVERS. It’s really one large river (the San Gabriel) and a smaller fork. There are lots of fun parks scattered throughout the city that center around little cement dams built on the river during the Depression.

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It was so fun exploring the parks where my grandfather and dad played as teenagers. We even dipped Miles’ toes into the clear water, although he didn’t seem to be a huge fan.

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Regarding Our Summer Up North – A Short List

June 22, 2014

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1. Just over two weeks ago, a moving truck came to take away our belongings. We fought D.C. traffic for one last time and headed away from the East Coast. The last two weeks have been the epitome of unabated vacation bliss as we’ve basked in the flawless early Michigan summer.

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2. Drinking morning cups of coffee on the back deck of my parents’ home is a luxury that never grows old.

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3. I woke up from a nap one day last week to find that Mark had driven an hour away to purchase five ducklings. They’re precious and soft and captivating and my mother calls the “Hippy Ducklings” because we have absolutely no idea what we’re going to do with them in six weeks. And who knew that ducks grew so fast?

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4. There are few more peaceful ways to pass a cloudy afternoon than fishing on the Boardman River boardwalk in downtown Traverse City.

5. We celebrated our first anniversary with an afternoon spent exploring the beach and pier in Manistee followed by a lovely dinner at Bluefish. In some ways, I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by. In other ways (all good ones), it feels like Mark and I have been married forever. I can’t wait to see what Year 2 holds for us.

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6. Our little guy is due in just over two weeks. We are beyond excited to meet him.

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Grownup summer vacation is a true luxury and we are soaking up every minute of this unscheduled, unhurried time. What are your vacation plans for this summer?

 

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Our Adventures in Italy: Snapshots of Salerno

November 4, 2013

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It’s Monday. Play and rest is over (although wasn’t it great to get an extra hour of sleep this weekend?). It’s time for work and meetings and responsibilities and errands and calendars and everything that a weekday brings.

But indulge me for just a few minutes. I’m not quite ready to get to work yet. I’d rather sit and dream about our magical week in Italy.

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I will always be extra fond of Solerno because, for us, that is where it seemed like the trip really started. We were done with overnight trains and frantic planning and schedule-scanning and running hither-nither.

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Also, although Venice is great, lovely, picturesque, fairy-tale-like even, something is lacking. In some ways Venice is a little too touristy, a little overly contrived, a little too crowded with stressed Americans. Solerno, though. Ah. In Solerno, I feel like I got to experience real, authentic Italy for the first time.

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I fell in love with Solerno’s beautiful stone cathedrals tucked away in random corners of the city.

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The streets of Solerno were filled with tiny tangled wrought-iron balconies that doubled as laundry lines, pot gardens, and storage; cafes, pizzerias, and gellaterias filled the sides of every narrow crooked street.

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I sort of flipped out over the Castello di Arechi, a 7th century castle built by a Lombard prince that perches 300 meters above the town.

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Cute dogs are everywhere, waiting in doorways for someone to give them some love or food.

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The wharf was alive with gruff Italian men.

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These fountains had no clear constructive purpose. But really, does a fountain have to do something constructive?

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If I could have a fishing boat as cute as that one, I might be tempted into a career change.

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Our Adventures in Italy: Day 1 and The Streets of Venice

October 26, 2013

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Until 2 weeks ago, I had never been to Europe, had never ridden across three countries on a night-train, had never seen the autumn sun set over German forests, had never watched boats slide merrily up and down the canals of Venice, had never carried everything I would need for two weeks around on my back, and had certainly never ever ever left on a trip without my hair-dryer.

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But two weeks ago this all changed. Late in the summer, Mark and I hatched a secret plan to slide off to Italy for two weeks during October. Mark wanted to test our backpacking abilities on a short, easy trip and Italy was at the top of my to-see countries.

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Our plan was to try to use the Space-A program, which allows active-duty and retired military and their families to stand-by for open seats on scheduled military flights, to fly over to Europe. The kicker is that you don’t know until hours before the flight leaves if you will actually get a seat.

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Sunday night, Mark and I headed to BWI to try to get on a flight. We had never tried to travel using Space-a flights and were a little pessimistic at best. But 10 hours later, we were standing at Ramstein AFB in Germany.

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First challenge of the trip – overcome. It was 1:00 pm in Germany and “all” that we had to do was to get from Ramstein AFB to Munich by 11:30 pm to catch a night train, book a sleeping car, and by the next morning, we’d be in Venice. Munich was a mere few hours away. Easy enough.

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Folks, trains in Europe are more complicated than they may appear. A few mere hours later, we were definitely not in Munich. Somehow we ended up on some podunk local train instead of the high-speed train we needed. And the podunk local train dumped us off at some random train station in the middle of rural Germany, with no direct trains to Munich. It was 6:00 pm, the sun was setting, and things were getting a little tense on the marital communication front.

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Somehow we managed to figure out the German train schedules and made it to Munich by 10:00 pm. Relief set in. Until we tried to book a sleeping car. They were all sold out. We were doomed to another night of trying to sleep while sitting straight up. In a car with 4 other people. Joy.

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To cap it off, our entire car was woken up at 2:00 a.m. by another frantic traveler whose bag, laptop, and passport had disappeared while he slept. The thought that passport-stealing criminals were loose on the train did not enhance our already tenuous night’s sleep.

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By the time we arrived in Venice at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, we were under-slept, dirty, grumpy, with a lot of dead electronics (Update: I wish I had known that these magical power-packs existed! Never again will I travel overseas without one), and without any reservations for the night.

But we solicited the kind help of a hotel owner who let us charge our phones and camera while we set off to explore Venice. And Venice. Was. Worth. It. All. The canals, the little cafes, the beautiful churches, the open-air pizzerias, the boats, the flowers, the street merchants – breathtaking. We spent the entire afternoon and evening winding our way through alleys and tiny cobbled streets.

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That beautiful first afternoon in Venice was totally worth the trouble getting there.

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Five Random Tips for Visiting Italy:

1. Check train schedules and bus schedules ahead of time. If you don’t want to commit to a definitive plan, at least know what your options are. Don’t do what we did. We thought it would be cute to travel without checking schedules first. This made for some very frustrating moments, albeit interesting ones, and some time lost to extra travel on the road. Planning is a good thing, kids.

2. Pizzerias and cafeterias are the Italian equivalents of take-out. Sitting down in them to dine is not the norm. If you sit down, you’ll be charged extra *and* you’ll be pegged as the inexperienced naive travel. Act like a pro – drink your coffee standing at the bar and take your pizza to go. We ate our as we dangled our feet over a canal in Venice – magical.

3. Italian drivers are crazy and pedestrians do not have the right of way. Keep your eyes open for scooters and cars. Don’t wait for cars to stop before you enter the cross-walk – they don’t and won’t. Just navigate across confidently and carefully.

4. When you do sit down to dinner, be aware that – unlike American restaurants – Italian restaurants charge for bread and water. If you don’t feel like downing more carbs, just send the bread back when it shows up. The waiters won’t think you’re weird.

5. Walk as much as possible. Mark and I walked all over Venice and the other cities that we visited. While the mass transit is abundant and effective, it was so much fun to really absorb the vibe of the city. Take comfortable walking shoes (Update: When traveling, I often prefer flats to sneakers because they look nicer and are often more functional. These shoes are worth every penny.) and wander as much as you can.

Italy Post 215

Italy Post 206

October in Germany. // My German coffee. // A cafe in Venice. // Illy coffee is *everywhere* in Italy. // Open-air market. // Piazza San Marco in Venice. // Italians are serious about their espresso. // The Venetian streets by night. // A bridge in Venice. // The Venetian canals by night. // Steps to the water. // The canals of Venice. // Who knew lemons were a thing in Italy? // The Basilica of St. Mark in Venice. // Pumpkins and geraniums. // We ate our first Italian breakfast on those steps. // I fell in love with the narrow streets of Italy. //

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