Terrific Day at the Taipei Zoo

Today we took Zoë to the doctor and got confirmation that she does indeed have heat rash (10 days now, I hate seeing my baby uncomfortable). The doctor gave Zoë a prescription of steroid cream that seems to be working well. Poor thing was up most the night last night scratching, hence the doctor visit. I love visiting a country where we can see a doctor and get a prescription for a total of about $25, but that is a topic for another day.

Since Zz was feeling better and her rash seemed to improve after applying the cream, we decided to take her to the Taipei Zoo.

When Chad and I lived here five years ago, we ventured to this wonderful zoo three or four times. We loved it and when we returned here, one of the things we were looking forward to was taking Zoë to experience it as well.

The Taipei Zoo is located in the Muzha district of Taipei, you can take the metro to the terminal stop on the Taipei brown metro line. The “Taipei Zoo” metro stop drops you off within a 2 minute walk of the zoo entrance. You can also take a taxi, but the metro is much cheaper and actually very comfortable.

We took the metro, or “choo choo” as Z calls it, and landed at the zoo this afternoon. It was raining at our house, but the weather there was beautiful and sunny. This is typical for Taipei, the storm clouds seem to pick one area and stick to it on any given day, I was glad that the storms left the zoo area alone today. We all needed some time out of the house.

Zoë was very excited to be going to the zoo, and became even more excited as she walked past the metal sculptures of animals on the way to the entrance.

Zoë loves the sculptures on the walk to the Taipei Zoo

Zoë loves the sculptures on the walk to the Taipei Zoo
(c) andthreetogo

We paid our admission fees (60 NT a person, but it was buy one get one free for adults, and children under 6 are free, so we paid about $3 to go to the zoo!) and entered the park.

The ticket window

The ticket window
(c) andthreetogo

Immediately, all three of us noticed the children playing in a fountain type water play area. We took Z’s shoes off and let her run around in the water for some time. It was a great way to cool her off before we started to walk around and see the animals. She had a blast. Not only did she have fun, but there seemed to be a Zoë fan club going on as well. There was literally a line of people waiting to take their picture with the little Wàiguó rén (foreigner). At first we relented and felt even honored, and then it got a bit crazy (probably dating myself, but think of the NKOTB fans and how they would have felt getting a picture with Jordan) so we stopped it. It felt a little like Zz was an animal in the zoo that everyone came to see and we both were worried that it would make her scared or something.

Zoë playing in the fountain

Zoë playing in the fountain

After we dodged the fan club, we started walking around the park. The wonderful and beautiful thing about the Taipei Zoo is that they have built it utilizing the existing landscape. The jungle that surrounds the zoo is part of the zoo. It is luscious and green and makes it fun to walk from habitat to habitat.

The park is large and we knew that we wouldn’t be able to see it all in one day, especially since we were being careful to keep Z cool and not exacerbate her heat rash.

We checked out the panda’s (which are way cuter in real life), the koalas, the elephants, hippos, tigers, and the list goes on. Zoë loved just stopping to watch the animals and also to pick up leaves and clean the ground with them. She definitely takes after her mama, a bit on the obsessive compulsive side.

Z hugging a panda statue (that was made to look as though it is marking it's territory)

Z hugging a panda statue (that was made to look as though it is marking it’s territory)

Zoë cleaning the handrails with a leaf Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

Zoë cleaning the handrails with a leaf
(c) andthreetogo

We left as the call went out that the park was closing. We left much of the park to see for another day, but with such inexpensive entrance fees, we figure we will take Zoë back numerous times during our visit to this great city.

As we left, we again had a crowd of people following us, asking to have their pictures taken with Zoë (Justin Beiber, you have obviously been replaced in Taiwan). We kindly declined the pleas as the line of people was getting rather long to get a snapshot with her. We ran to a taxi and headed home, the metro just felt too long a trip after running around all afternoon.

Whether you have kids or not, the Taipei Zoo should be on your must do list when you visit here. It is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, a day, or whatever time you can give it. I promise you it will be time well spent!

Zoë gives the zoo a thumbs up

Zoë gives Taipei Zoo a thumbs up

Beautiful Budapest

Budapest, Hungary is an intensely beautiful and interesting city. The city consists of two sides of the Danube River, Buda and Pest, that are connected with eight very distinct bridges. We stayed in an apartment we found on airbnb.com on the Buda side. Buda is a more quiet and less touristy than the Pest side. Pest has streets lined with restaurants, shops, and museums. Buda is more suburban feeling, but does have some little aggregations of tourist restaurants by the river. Both sides are great, and have government buildings, castles, churches, and apartment buildings that are amazing architecturally.

Unfortunately, jet lag caught up with us when we arrived so we spent the first three days we were there resting and getting acclimated. It is really odd that we were so affected, as there was only an hour difference between Budapest and Lisbon, where we had been for the past month and a half. Our bodies thought we needed a break I guess.

Anyways, we were left with four days to see and do everything we wanted to. We started with our old stand-by, a sightseeing bus. This time we took the green sightseeing bus that included a guided bus tour of both sides of the city, a panoramic pink bus (we didn’t take that one, so I am not sure what it would have shown us) and a river boat trip to Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube River. The ticket was a 48 hour ticket, so we took the bus one day and then the boat trip the next day.

We somehow planned it just right , Z was happy the whole time, and we were able to ride the bus from the first stop to the very last. It was fascinating to see all the different architectural styles and monuments and especially the views from the Citadel on the top of the hill in Buda. It was well worth the 18 euros each that we paid for it all.

View of Budapest from the Citadel

View of Budapest from the Citadel

The next day we took the river boat trip to Margaret Island (which can also be reached by the bridge on the far left side of Buda, aptly named the Margaret Bridge). The island is one huge park, filled with playgrounds, eateries, a hostel or two, a water park, and a couple of baths. There are also ruins of some sort on the island but we didn’t get the time to go check them out. Margaret Island was one of Zoë’s favorite places for sure. I never see her so excited and happy as when she gets to play at parks.

 

Cotton Candy on Margaret Island

Cotton Candy on Margaret Island

One of the stops on the bus tour was the Szechenyi Baths and the adjacent City Park, Budapest Zoo, amusement park, and circus. We decided to visit the zoo the day after we went on the river cruise.

The Budapest Zoo was a ton of fun. It was our first time taking Zoë to a zoo and I am glad that this was her first one. The zoo is laid out by continent and has all the normal zoo animals, but has many different species in a habitat together. For example, the giraffes also had gazelles, a couple of different types of birds and some gnu’s (at least I think thats what they were, I didn’t see the sign on that pen). It made it feel more real and also that the animals might be happier as they are surrounded by animals they would be near in the wild.

There were a few neat things that were great for young’uns (or grown up young’uns). There was a petting zoo, which was about 30 goats of all sizes that you could feed, pet, and hang out in their pen with them. You could feed the camels and pet them, and you could also pet the prairies dogs and sloths. It was awesome to interact with these animals up close. They zoo was very clean and safe (all the dangerous animals were locked up in habitats behind thick glass and fences, etc.) and fun for all ages.

Feeding the Camels Photo By Jennifer Mitchell

Feeding the Camels
(c) andthreetogo
Meeting a Sloth  Photo By Jennifer Mitchell

Meeting a Sloth
(c) andthreetogo

We wanted to go to one of the famous Budapest baths the next day, but upon further research we realized that the baths are off limits to little ones under the age of 14. And the regular heated pools that some of the baths have especially for children are only for potty-trained kids. Yes, Zoë is two years old and still in diapers. (She doesn’t seem interested in changing that and neither do I at this point. Diapers are just too easy while traveling). So, anyways, no baths for us. We will have to return to Budapest for those when Z is diaper free.

We spent the following day at City Park  on the Pest side since we could not visit the baths. The park is immaculate and is a huge 1 kilometer square. It houses a man-made lake that in the winter is an ice rink. In the summer, they rent out boats so you can paddle around and enjoy the nature (or restaurants really) surrounding it. The lake is also bordered by The Vajdahunyad Castle, that was built in the late 1800’s and is made up of “castles” of many different architectural styles throughout it, such as renaissance, turkish, etc. After we paddled a canoe around the lake for a half hour, we headed to the castle to check it out.

 

Zoë's Favorite Thing To Do, Play in the Sand at the Park Photo By Jennifer Mitchell

Zoë’s Favorite Thing To Do, Play in the Sand at the Park
(c) andthreetogo

 

Now, honestly, after seeing a few castles, they start to mold together in ones mind. Not that I do not appreciate the beauty and wonder of any specific castle, but I feel like I have seen a lot in the last three months. It was nice to see many different types of castle all in one place.

The park is massive and has many restaurants and playgrounds and kiosks selling everything from toys to bathing suits. It was a great last day in Budapest.

I know that I told you in my previous post that I would let you know about my favorite places to eat in Budapest (just one small hint, they include a mexican restaurant!), but it would just make this post too long. I will tell you all about them in my Wednesday Write-Up. It will be a food filled post! Until then my hungry friends (no pun intended, I promise!)…szia!

Disney Parks Anonymous

Hello, my name is Jennifer and it had been three months since my last Disneyland trip. I fell off the wagon this past week all in the name of Zoë’s second birthday. And I cannot say that I feel bad about it. Disney parks can be an expensive habit, but the memories and happiness that are associated with them for me are worth the price tag.

Chad and I joke about being addicted to Disney, but honestly for the past 3 or so years, we have gone to Disneyland in Anaheim, California about every three months. I would love to say it was because we wanted to have fun with our daughter, but we were Disneyland annual passholders long before Zoë was even a thought in our mind. It really goes against everything we stand for usually, but we just cannot stop partaking in the fun.

When Chad and I were thinking of what to do to celebrate Zoë’s birthday, we were considering taking her to the zoo, or the beach, or even just going to the park. Both of us felt a little guilty at the fact that she would have to spend her birthday without family and friends and the fanfare that comes with that. Our guilt worked to our Zoë’s advantage, because we decided that only Disneyland Paris would assuage our consciences and make her birthday special enough. So on Saturday, we left Lisbon, Portugal and hopped on a plane for Paris Orly Airport.

Paris has two airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly. I have never been in the Charles de Gaulle airport, but from what I have heard it is beautiful and efficient. Orly was obviously the more locally used airport, as we ran into language barriers almost immediately while picking up our rental car. The airport is not very well laid out and we ended up having to walk for 15 minutes with all of our luggage to get to another terminal to then pick up our rental car (really no shuttles?). These were really just minor inconveniences though, they were just magnified because we were all tired from traveling and wanted to get to our hotel. If you want to go to Paris and get there for much, much cheaper, use Orly Airport.

We found our hotel, The Park and Suites Prestige, on the British Airways website and we were able to use our “Avios” or credit card points to pay for the hotel room (as well as the rental car for this trip). When we arrived at the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised at the close proximity to Disneyland. We also were upgraded to a two bed suite with a small kitchen. We decided to get some dinner to go from the restaurant in the hotel and relax in our room and prepare for the following day at Disney Paris!

The next day, Zoë was kind enough to wake us at about 7 am, just in time to get ready, call both sets of grandparents, and eat our free buffet breakfast before catching the shuttle to Disneyland. The bad weather followed us again and it was raining (and continued to off and on all day).

We caught the shuttle and were dropped off at the entry walkway to the park. As we walked up, we were impressed at the beautiful Disneyland Hotel that had a massive Mickey Mouse Clock at its pinnacle. To enter Disneyland you actually walk under the hotel. Someday we will have to pay the probable small fortune to get a room there. Zoë is fascinated with clocks right now, so she yelled “o’clock” the whole time she was running up to the entrance.

All in all, we had an amazing time at Disneyland Paris. We rode all the fantasyland rides first, as it was Zoë’s birthday, we rode Pirates of the Caribbean, we took turns riding Space Mountain 2, and we walked around a lot and tried to find edible food and alcoves to keep out of the rain.

There are five things that I felt made Disneyland Paris a bit disappointing:

1) Cigarette Smoking Everywhere.

To most of us Americans, smoking cigarettes around children is a big no-no. I personally do not worry too much about second hand smoke in an outdoor area, but the amount of cigarette smoking in the park was sometimes overwhelming. The funny part about it is that there are designated smoking areas, and the park rules state that smoking is not allowed except for in those areas. Regardless of the rules, people will literally take their children on a ride, get them back in their stroller and light up a cigarette.

If you are coming straight from somewhere like California,where smoking is pretty much taboo, the smell of smoke could be upsetting, but if you have been in Europe for any period of time it probably won’t bother you as much, as smoking is prevalent everywhere in Europe.

2) Lack of staff.

This ties in a bit to number one of this list, the lack of staff makes it impossible to enforce the rules of the park. There were people smoking everywhere and children in areas that were cordoned off, where in the American Disney parks they would be asked to leave the area.

The lack of staff also caused inefficiency. It was especially frustrating when it came to wait times on rides. Since there were usually only two team members per ride (one getting people on the ride and one getting people off the ride) there was no one to change the wait times listed for the rides, and also no one to change the formation of the lines. This meant that often the wait times were longer than posted, or you would have to go around and around the lines like cattle being herded when there was no wait for a ride. Both of these situations were not of dire importance, but added to the overall feeling of chaos in the park.

3) Food.

This part is really hard for me to write, because as you all know, I love food. I am not picky about my food, it does not need to be gourmet, it just has to be flavorful. In this area, Disneyland Paris lost completely, which was very disappointing, as Disneyland Anaheim has amazing food, so my expectations were high.

If you would like McDonalds type hamburgers and fries, or foot long hot dogs (okay so the buns were good at least I guess), reheated pizza or pasta, or donuts, then Disneyland Paris is for you. The food that we had was all pre-packaged and rather unappetizing. I am not going to lie, one of the main reasons I love Disneyland Anaheim is because of the marvelous baked goods and meals, as well as the candy. The carmel apples especially are one of my favorites and I look forward to having at least one every trip. Disneyland paris had none of these things. It was very sad, I found myself wanting to leave the park to eat, and that is a first for me.

4) Cleanliness and upkeep.

The grounds of the Paris Disneyland were definitely not up to par as far as cleanliness and upkeep go. This ties into number two of this list, as I would think it would be impossible to clean and maintain that much space without any staff to do it.

The park was littered with cigarette butts and food wrappers. The waiting areas for the rides often had graffiti. The arcade was filled with games and kiddie rides that were not operating and also covered in graffiti and old food and drinks. There were cobwebs everywhere, which is not that big of a deal to me, but was a marked difference from the original park. And last but not least, the gardens and plants were overgrown and riddled with weeds. It looked like my old back yard. In summary, the park looked dingy, uncared for and made me worry about what Zoë touched most of the time.

5) Overall cultural differences.

I do realize that Disneyland Paris is in Paris, France not Paris, Texas. I assumed that there would be differences not only on the rides, but in the behavior of the tourists in the park. I was prepared for it, I had been living in Europe (albeit Lisbon, Portugal which is totally different from France) for two months. I was ready to be an experienced world traveler and not have any culture shock. Well I was wrong, the tourists at Disneyland Paris for the most part were rude and pushy. For example, if you wanted a picture with a Disney character, you had to push your way through a mob of parents pushing their children to the front of a huge semi-circle around the costumed person.

The Crowd Around Snow White

The Crowd Around Snow White

Zoë and I's Only Chance to Get a Picture With Donald Duck-We Were First To Get There Too!

Zoë and I’s Only Chance to Get a Picture With Donald Duck

Another example, if you were to be waiting in line for a long period of time, and a new line opened up for some reason, you would literally have to run to get in the new line, even if you were the next to go. People seemed to have no guilt about getting ahead by any means necessary.

But not all of Disneyland Paris was negative. There are five things that I feel you must experience at Disneyland Paris, they are:

1) Visit the Dragon in Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

Underneath Sleeping Beauty’s castle, by a special path, there is an area where a realistic looking animatronic dragon lies. It was so fun to watch, I would definitely recommend checking it out.

The Dragon

The Dragon

2) Ride Space Mountain 2.

For all of you Space Mountain lovers out there, Space Mountain 2 blows it out of the water. It is faster, longer and even goes upside down numerous times (I couldn’t tell how many times because it was so dark, weird how that works…).

Space Mountain will be my favorite ride always in both Disneyland Anaheim and Paris from now on. If you love Space Mountain, or any roller coaster for that matter, you must take the time to ride this one.

3) Ride Casey Jones and Storybook Land Rides in Fantasyland.

Most of the rides in Fantasyland in Paris were pretty similar to the Anaheim park, which is great because those rides are really fun anyways. But Casey Jones and Storybook Land at the Paris park are different and actually much better.

Casey Jones is an actual little kid roller coaster that whips around corners and up and down little hills. Zoë loved it, as did we. It was like a toddler Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Storybook Land was different in that each boat did not have a tour guide and the tiny scenes from Disney movies were different than the Anaheim park for the most part. It was fun to see something different.

It was not only that these rides were really fun and different from the originals (for both us an Z), but because they are hidden in the back corner of fantasyland there was literally no wait for either of these rides. Whether you have little ones or not, try out these rides.

Zoë and Chad on Casey Jones

Zoë and Chad on Casey Jones

4) Take the tour of the Nautilus.

One of Chads favorite movies growing up was “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” I have often heard him talk about how this movie instilled his love of adventure and underwater exploration. I must admit, I have never seen the movie, but being able to tour the submarine that was in the movie, the Nautilus, made me want to see it.

The Nautilus tour is just a walk-through of the submarine, but there are some surprises that keep it exciting. It was a great way for us to get out of the rain and let Zoë run around a little without worrying that she would run off or hurt herself.

Zoë and the Nautilus

Zoë and the Nautilus

5) See “Dreams” the Fireworks show.

It was our second and last day at the park, we powered through and made Zoë stay awake until 11:00 pm to see the fireworks show, titled “Dreams.” It is Disneyland Paris’ 20th anniversary and the fireworks show highlights all the films that are dear to France’s heart, such as Ratatouille, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Peter Pan, and Beauty and the Beast. Pretty much any of the Disney movies that were set in Europe, were showcased. The effects and fireworks were amazing though. It was unfortunate that it was on so late, but I could understand why they had to as the sun did not set until 11pm there.

All in all, I do not know if I would venture to Disneyland Paris again, but the memories that we made there while celebrating the second birthday of the most important little person in our lives, will make it special forever. It was truly wonderful, not because of where we were, but because I was with my two favorite people. Now I know this for Zoë’s next birthday and we can do something a little less extravagant (yeah right….)

Storming the Castle – Castelo de São Jorge

Castelo de São Jorge Photo Credit Wikipedia

Castelo de São Jorge
Photo Credit Wikipedia

This past Tuesday, we decided to check out one of the oldest standing structures in Lisbon. The Castelo de São Jorge, or Saint Georges Castle, is an imposing fortress that stands on the highest hill in the city. From pretty much anywhere in the city you can look up and see this awe-inspiring piece of history staring at you from amidst the trees surrounding it. This castle calls to be noticed, and I have heard it’s call since we arrived here. Finally, on Tuesday, the weather started to change for the better and we could make our way to check it out. I was so happy! Sun and history, can you really ask for anything more? That’s a rhetorical question guys…
The weather was warm (probably about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so a little cold still to me) and Chad and I needed some physical activity so we decided that we would walk to the castle. Like I said, it is on the highest hill in the city, but to our amazingly toned legs (kindly given to us by our four flights of stairs to our apartment) it was a refreshing little jaunt. Okay, so I am exaggerating a lot little. But really the hike up the hill was not all that horrible. It was a steep incline, but in all only took us about 15 minutes from start to finish. And to top it all off, all that wonderful exercise made it so I could eat ice cream later without the normal guilt I usually suffer with eating sweets.
Most people choose to take the bus or even a taxi up the hill (obviously they do not have our now strained and tired awesomely powerful legs). It is up to you which way you make your way up, but do it! This has been my favorite site so far in Lisbon.

It Doesn't Look That Steep From Here Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

It Doesn’t Look That Steep From Here
(c) andthreetogo

The price to enter the castle is 7.50 euros for adults. The castle admission includes a museum filled with ancient ceramics, run of the castle garden, getting to see the archaeological dig with walls dating from the 7th century BC (I immediately thought of my dad…I got to see something over 2000 years old dad!), and the most amazing view I have ever seen of Lisbon city. There are many hills and photo spots that I have passed by without a thought, but the view from Castelo de São Jorge, just breath-taking. Our pictures do not do it justice.

View from One Side of the Castle Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

View from One Side of the Castle
(c) andthreetogo

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From The Top of the Castle Wall

From The Top of the Castle Wall

When you are in the castle, you have pretty much the run of the whole area. You can climb stairs up onto the outer walls (which I did for about 10 minutes, but for some reason my fear of heights kicked in and I had to get down) and take more pictures of this beautiful city.
The castle that stands right now was built in the 14th century over remains of a fortress that was built in the pre-roman era! The grounds and castle walls are impeccably maintained. There’s a fancy looking restaurant that serves dinner and a cafeteria/snack bar if you need a bite to eat or just a coffee. Zoë loved running around and looking at the peacocks that run (and try to hide from all the crazy kids on school field trips) around the garden.

A Peacock Hiding in a Tree Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

A Peacock Hiding in a Tree
(c) andthreetogo

We spent a couple of hours running around the castle and imagining ourselves as royalty. It was a perfect amount of time to see everything and was one of the funnest afternoons so far. I would definitely recommend that you check it out, there is something in this castle for all different kinds of interests!
If you would like more information about the castle check out these helpful websites: GoLisbon, Wikipedia, Castles.Info, and Viva Travel Guides .

Here are a few more photos for you (did you really think I could leave you without a picture of Zoë?)

She Would Only Touch The Lion Statue With a Stick Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

She Would Only Touch The Lion Statue With a Stick
(c) andthreetogo

Looking for Captain Hook

Looking for Captain Hook

My Two Favorite People in My Favorite Historical Sight So Far Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

My Two Favorite People in My Favorite Historical Site
(c) andthreetogo

Pastries and Ships

Many of the museums here in Lisbon offer free entry before 2:00pm on Sundays. So last Sunday we decided to take them up on their offer and go to the Museu de Marhina (Maritime Museum). Chad and Zoë have a real love of “dada boaps”, as Zoë calls any kind of watercraft, and I love all things history. We were all exited to see what the museum had in store for us.

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We got a late start, but because of my intense need to eat often (its biological really!!) we decided to stop off at a famous Lisbon landmark for food on our way.

The Pastéis de Belém  is known throughout Portugal as the birthplace of the lovely little pastries for which the restaurant gets its name. The recipe for these little cakes of deliciousness date back to the 19th century when the monks at the nearby monastery needed to make a little extra cash. These pastries are made by other bakeries and are at every cafeteria and snack bar, but it’s well known that the original bakery’s are the best. The take away line always curves outside the restaurant and is known to take at least a half hour of waiting to buy these tasty pieces of history. I thought that was the only way to try the real pastéis were to stand in that long line, which I was hesitant to do. I know, my fellow foodies are disappointed in me right now, but standing in a long line with an impatient and hungry toddler sounded like hell a possibly unpleasant experience.

Lucky for us, a kind Canadian gentleman, that we met on our trip to Sintra, told us that there are rooms and rooms of tables that you can sit at in the bakery and get the pastries served right to you! The tables are first come first served, but the service is quick and the tables turn over so that you never have to wait as long as the take out line.

We sat and had some meat pies and finished our meal with the lovely, sweet, buttery custard pies. I am glad that we got to try the real things, they were scrumptious. I wish I could send one to all of you!

Pastéis de Belém

Pastéis de Belém

After we had filled ourselves up with yummy food, we quickly walked to the Museu de Marhina because it was getting very close to 2:00 pm. We slipped in with just minutes to spare.

Entrance to the Museu de Marinha

Entrance to the Museu de Marinha

The museum was filled with extremely detailed models of ships and (mostly replicas) of paintings of maritime war scenes and famous navy men. And we mustn’t forget portrait paintings of the very famous Portuguese explorers, such as Christopher Columbus (who actually was hired by Spain as were a couple of other Portuguese explorers). Again, most of the paintings, costumes, and weaponry were replicas it seemed, which deadened the experience for me a little. I love being close to real history, and the fact that most of the artifacts were actually more recently rendered facsimiles made it less awe-inspiring.

One of the More Interesting Looking Ship Models

One of the More Interesting Looking Ship Models

There was a huge area at the end of the tour that housed some of the actual royal ships and boats. That was pretty fascinating. That room also held some early airplanes and steam engine vehicles that were fun to look at.

The Royal Barges and Boats

The Royal Barges and Boats

All-in-all, I would recommend the Maritime Museum if you really love anything to do with boats and the military use of them. For me, it was just a little boring. If you want more information on visiting this museum, check out this website.

The winners of the day were definitely my tastebuds, having a chance to be enthralled by a tiny little custard pie. I may have to go get some now… Until next time!

Lessons from Living

There are many things as first time parents that you learn as your child grows. There are a ton of promises and oaths you make while pregnant that you realize were unattainable or just down right silly. I have had to eat my words many times so far in the almost 20 months that Zoë has been on this earth.

While pregnant I vowed that I would not let having a child change me, that I would continue on as I had been, working, taking time for myself often, going out with friends, going out to eat (even in nicer places), shopping, whatever it may be, I would keep on doing it or going there. I quickly learned after giving birth to my 9 ½ pound munchkin that I could not continue to do all these things. Some of them I could do at certain periods of her life, others not, but certainly my life did change. For example, I have gotten up twenty or so times already while writing this blog to help Zoë because she wants more “boo” to finger paint with.

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Another thing that Chad and I vehemently opposed was letting our daughter watch any screens (tv, computer, iphones, etc) before she was two. We had read the studies, we knew that the flatscreen lcd, plasma, whatever screens were bad for the development of infants eyes. We were going to entertain our daughter ourselves, we didn’t need the TV to entertain our daughter. We lasted until she was about 6 months old. Chads parents took him to see Star Wars in the theater when he was 6 months old and, as the story goes, he sat and watched the whole thing. This was just the beginning of a life long addiction to all things Star Wars for him. Chad wanted to pass on this tradition to our daughter. So at 6 months old she was (indoctrinated) given the gift of Star Wars (whatever the first one is called, or is it considered the fourth? Anyways…). From there it was Baby Signing Times (she needed to learn sign language- our daughter needs to be multi-lingual!) and on and on. Now our 19 month old daughter is obsessed with Bambi and in all honesty while she was sick last week, I let her watch it numerous times a day. 

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I have eaten my words about many other things in parenthood so far and I know there will be many more, but I am so happy that we are still in the mind set that we can travel with our daughter. Some people seem aghast that we are taking our daughter on a trip to see the world (what about stability?), others think we are crazy for trying at her age (what about the terrible two’s?), others are excited for us and think that Zoë is blessed to see the world and different cultures. I try my best not to respond too pridefully, because one thing these last 19 months have taught me is that I don’t know anything. Only God knows for sure what our future holds and all I can do is trust that His way is the right way. I of course have ideas and thoughts on how traveling with a toddler will be. I can think that Chad and I will be awesome communicators and will never argue, I can even staunchly oppose putting Zoë on a child leash, but I have learned to not to actually assume these things will happen. Life has a very real way of teaching you humility.

So as we prepare to leave this place, I also a preparing my mind to learn the lessons I am given and not fight against them. I think that learning that will make this trip amazing more than anything else, no matter how many times I have to eat my words.

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.  Psalm 25:1-2

(All Photos Taken by Jennifer)

 

Review: The Perfect Fit – The North Face Sprout

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One of the things I have felt is important to this blog is a review section. It seems that there are many reviews of various travel items, but none tailored to the traveling family. That is where we come in. This component of the blog will be focused on sharing our finds, whether they be places to stay, essential items, or other tips for traveling with a child. We hope to have this setup so it will be easily searchable and not part of our more conversational main page. Expect a subsection that will be a link away from the main page soon. Our review rating will be a special “thumbs up” from our daughter Zoë. We will be using a 1 to 5 thumbs rating system to grade items.

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Having said that, here is my first stab at reviewing a product that we spent some time searching for: The Toddler’s Backpack.

Image We are backpackers. Sort of. By saying that I mean that we carried a backpack, not a suitcase, on our travels before baby. That isn’t to say we are bare-bones, fly by the seat of our pants, tight budgeted travelers. Far from it. We love our creature comforts. But we also have always tried to do things less western, and more minimalistic. We almost gave up our trusty old backpacks for this trip. Figured that it was time to convert to a roller bag. But once we had the dusty old sacks down from the attic we knew… We knew that we were going to rough it once more.

 So as good parents do, we decided Zoë would share in our… idealism. I set out with a zeal, as I usually do when it comes time to buy something, and researched all I could find about children’s backpacks. Sadly, to my shopping disappointment, I found there wasn’t much out there. Most bags were designed for kids who were about to head to school. Not for not-quite-two-year-old-toddlers about to traipse the globe. This category sadly doesn’t exist. The only bags we could find were cartoon covered, cheaply manufactured, one pouch affairs, that were not much better than a plastic shopping bag.

It was only after yet-another trip to browse REI, (did I mention I love shopping? Jenny does not share my passion), that we stumbled upon an ideal candidate. Not only was it made by The North Face, and the perfect size, but it sported a fashionable pink plaid that is all the rage with the toddler set. To see the various options and colors check out The North Face’s website.

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One of the first things you notice when opening the bag is that it is of quality construction. From the water resistant zippers, to the durable mesh that lines the dual bottle holders on the sides, the bag is built to be used.

The other nice thing is that it has two separate compartments. A smaller one in the front and a larger one in the back. The larger of the two also has a mesh inner pocket, perfect for stowing art supplies, snacks, or whatever else you want the little one to have access to.

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The back padding is nice and firm, yet soft and plush. The straps are padded as well and it is built similarly to other adult day packs.  Even though we don’t expect our little one to carry all of her own luggage, we do think it is nice for her to keep some of the things she will want on planes, buses, daytrips, etc.. Also I want her to share the feeling of responsibility, and to be able to carry a bag the same as we do, so she feels more a part of the experience. Already she gladly puts it on and runs around the house with it whenever we put our own on.

Overall the bag is a perfect size for a little one of maybe 2-4 years old. It has ample storage space for light items, and is comfortable for a child to wear. Also the quality of the design won’t leave you disappointed. This being our first review we are glad to give the bag 5 out of 5 thumbs! If we change our minds after traveling we will update the post with our updated impressions. See the gallery below for more pics.

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