Driving in Germany, Austria, and Czech Republic with a Baby

Let me preface this with a mention that I didn’t do any of the driving.  I am grateful for a husband that loves to travel and likes driving too.  We flew from the US to Germany and started our road trip from Frankfurt.  This was the first time for both of us in these three countries and neither of us speak German.  If you are anything like us, you will not ever let language intimidate you from visiting a country.

I’d like to give a few tips to those that plan to take on such an adventure, especially if you have kids in tow.  Always give yourself an additional hour, just in case of construction or other delays and stops you may have along route.

On our drive from Vienna to Prague, there was no shoulder to pull over on the highway and there was a great distance, approx. 70 kilometers, from one rest stop to the next.  Our baby needed to feed and we needed to take that in consideration every time we got in the car for a long drive.  To add to this, there was a ton of construction and more tractor trailer trucks than I have ever seen.  These truckers like to tailgate and will not care that you have a baby on board.

Driving from Vienna to Prague with a Baby

  • Leave Vienna by 1pm or 2pm and give yourself 5-6 hours driving time. Consider the time of year and arrive before sunset.  When we arrived in CR, the first sights we saw were prostitutes on the roadside looking for clients.  I was not at ease at the sight of this and did not want to have any reason to have to pull over for anything, including a crying baby. Fortunately, our little one slept until we reached our hotel in Prague.
  • Have baby’s music and milk ready or whatever your baby needs to relax.
  • Have your own snacks ready and choose something that isn’t loud. We ate bananas and plums.
  • Make sure you have a sunshield or guard so baby doesn’t have the light shining in their face.
  • Pack the car perfectly, so that you don’t have to stop to shift anything.

Traveling Through Europe with an Infant: Ditch the Train and Rent a Car

Before setting off on our European adventures with our 6 month old, I wondered which is easier…travel by train or to rent a car. I read a few blogs and it was a pretty even split on what people thought. After much consideration, we decided to rent a car for the following reasons:

  • We could adjust our schedule as necessary. Babies will have their emotions and it doesn’t matter what time it is. We didn’t want to be tied down to a train schedule.
  • We had a lot of stuff. Many forums will tell you to rent equipment, like strollers and cribs. We prefer to have our daughter’s own equipment with us because we know she likes what she has and as we adjust to time difference and the changing of hotel rooms every few days, at least her bed could remain consistent.
  • A stop anytime or anywhere would be easy.
  • My husband loves driving and in Germany he could get his NASCAR speed rush. He was very careful with baby on board.
  • Freedom. We didn’t have to worry about anyone else in our space when baby cried.
  • Attractions outside of the touristic zones were more accessible by car.
  • It was easier to design our trip.
  • The price was lower than buying train tickets for 2 people.

Whatever you decide, let it be right for you. If you get tired easily from long distance driving, the train may be best for you. You need a lot of patience to drive in countries that are foreign to you because you have to figure out the signs, tolerate the style of driving, and be more aware and alert. Finding parking will also be a bit of a challenge, but it is possible. The most important thing is to be very patient every step of the way and help each other.

Traveling with a Baby

We did it!! We traveled from Dallas to Munich with our 6 month old baby girl.  The journey was about 18 hours. In most cases, the trip is not this long, but we flew into Frankfurt and then drove to Munich.  We also had a two hour delay at Frankfurt airport while waiting for our rental car.

Speaking of rental cars, if you are visiting from North America, it’s likely best to stick with American companies like Hertz and Budget.  We went with Europcar and it was disorganized and they didn’t have enough cars.   Although we had booked on Expedia and already paid for our rental, we ended up spending an addition $360USD. The car we wanted was not available and they ended up selling us a better car along with insurance. I think it was their trick. Let me also note that we spent more than an hour in the line.  By the time we went through the rigamarole of securing a vehicle, we just wanted to get out and start our trip.

Our baby girl did so well.  She was a bit fussy at times in flight and after the flight, but we managed to relax her by playing with a toy or showing and talking to her about the things around us.  She also breast fed quite a bit and we gave her a bottle a couple of times. She doesn’t care for pacifiers, but if your little one does, definitely have that ready.  I kept everything that I needed for my baby within reach.  If you are traveling with a spouse or companion, have them sit next to you, so they can help as much as possible. It’s better than relying on a stranger to help.  Even for short flights, you may need the help to grab something from your bag that is stored under the seat in front of you.

Here are the things I had in my backpack for the baby:

  1. two teethers
  2. three face towels
  3. gum massager
  4. twelve diapers and portable change pad
  5. baby wipes
  6. diaper cream
  7. breast feeding cover
  8. three rattles
  9. baby’s mirror
  10. tiny baby stuffed animal that plays music
  11. 18 oz of breast milk in a small cooler bag with ice pack
  12. four breast pads
  13. ear muffs/noise canceler
  14. one muslin blanket
  15. one set of extra clothes for baby
  16. Wet One wipes

I like to make sure that my baby is warm and covered.  I dressed her in a long sleeved onesie and a pair of pants.  She wore socks with a pair of Robeez, which I got for a really good price at DSW.

The moment we got on the plane, my husband wiped down the seats and the tray tables with Wet Ones wipes.  It’s no joke, the airplanes are thilfy. As frequent travelers we have gotten used to wiping down everything, including the seat belts and arm rests.

I hate using the restroom inflight, but there are moments that it cannot be avoided and with a baby, you will have to change a diaper at least once. On a previous trip from Dallas to Vancouver, I only had to change the diaper once.  From Dallas to Frankfurt, I had to change my baby 3 times.  Thank God, it was always wet and not dirty!  Fortunately, the change table in flight was actually well kept.

Let me share a few musts before you decided to embark on this trip.  You must have the following to make it successful:

  1. Patience
  2. Patience
  3. More Patience

If you lack this, you will drive yourself and your spouse/companion crazy.  Your baby can also sense your nerves. The more calm and relaxed you are about everything, the better the experience will be for you and everyone around you.

When your baby gets a little fussy, breast feed or give a bottle and if that doesn’t work pick him/her up and go for a walk.  Talk you your baby with love and joy! Give a toy, read to him/her. Don’t worry about the people sitting around you.  They will appreciate what you are going through and may even offer to help or give you tips.  Be open, but remember you know your baby best.  Do what you know will help relax your baby.  Keep yourself hydrated, but if you don’t have anyone to help you with the baby, you might want to reconsider drinking too many liquids.

Lastly and perhaps most important, you are going to need to wear your baby.  We got the Ergo 360 and love it!  Going through security was easy without a stroller.  We checked our stroller and car seat for free and we fit a few other essentials in the stroller bag too!  Our little girl loves being in the carrier, facing outward, so that she can view what we see too.

As for the car ride to Munich, our baby slept most of the way.  We stopped a couple of times to breastfeed and give comfort.

Do you have experience with traveling with a baby? I’d love to hear about it. If you have any specific questions, let me know that too. I’ll offer some suggestions.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Season in Austin

Christmas day has passed, but you can still experience the joy that lights in the sky and bring smiles to families everywhere.  A favourite Christmas light festival is held yearly at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters in Austin until January 2, 2019.

Every year this local spot decorates their patio with 1 million lights and entertains the community with live piano music. I didn’t expect the place to be so busy. Parking was free at the Oyster Marina across the street and herds of families were coming and going from this venue. The line up inside coffee shop was likely a 30 minute wait and thankfully they had express stations set up in three other spots around the exterior of the property.  We got our hot chocolate and chocolate brownie from the express station and only waited 2 minutes.  With plenty of seating available on the deck, it was easy to find a place for two to sit right next to the marina-side.

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A Quick Guide For Your Visit in Austin

Visiting the capital of Texas is sure to leave you with a city and outdoor mixed lifestyle for experience.  Austin is known for its tech industry, SXSW, BBQ, and keeping it weird!  I have beed to this happening city three times and each time was short and sweet.  I’d like to offer you a quick guide to help you decide what to do when you visit Austin.  My most recent visit was in December, 2018.

Where to Stay: The Domain, Downtown, or South Congress.  if you want to the ability to keep your car parked and walk around an area filled with shops and restaurants (more on the upscale side) go with The Westin in the Domain area.  Like all Westin hotels it is extremely comfortable, convenient,  with a little bit of luxury.  If you do stay here, do make sure to take a trip to other neighbourhoods, because there is more to Austin than boutiques and brand name shops that you can find in any city.

Most recently I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in South Austin of Interstate Highway 35 and although the distance to South Congress was only a few minutes, I felt this area was too isolated and a little industrial.  You can probably save a few bucks by staying in this area during peak season, but I think the prices are relatively the same.  I wanted to stay in a different area and thought this part of town might be worth exploring.  Big Fail!

Where to Eat: Greenhouse Craft Food, Round Rock, TX

Austin has an abundance of food selections and is popular for food trucks and bbq.  On our way in to Austin, driving from Dallas, we chose to dine in at Greenhouse Craft Food.  The chef crafted each item with the notion of farm to table making sure everything that is served is locally sourced and sustainable.  We ordered Texas chili, a grilled pimento cheese sandwich, a burger, and a side of fries.  Check out their menu. The environment is uber casual and since we were there on a weekday, it wasn’t too busy and our food was serviced within 15-20 minutes.   We did have the mindset of patience and could afford to wait a little longer if we had to.  Cook to order and farm to table is a specialty worth waiting for.

For Breakfast: Phoebe’s Diner

All the great reviews we read were really on point.  From the customer service, wait time, food prep, presentation, taste and quality, we were 100% satisfied.   We had the flapjacks, and omelette, two scrambled eggs, and hashbrowns and coffee all for only $24.00.  This new restaurants has a long and narrow interior with a 50s style diner feel.  You can sit at the bar, in a booth, or if you are a party of two, you will be seated at the side by side tables that are almost too close for comfort with people on your left and on your right. Headsup: There is barely any parking in their lot and you will likely have to park on one of the side streets nearby.

Where to Walk: South Congress and Lady Bird Lake

This area is a must on any day. Taking a stroll on this street is sure to give you that Austin vibe you have wondering about.  Here you will find tons of local coffee shops, antique and boutiques, restaurants, galleries and the picture postcard featured as our main image. Residential is mixed in this area and you will notice massive aloe trees on many of the streets too.

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I took this photo right across the street from the Greetings from Austin Mural.

 

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Lady Bird Lake

Only a few minutes from downtown and South Congress you can experience the outdoorsy lifestyle.  You can rent a bike or walk along the trail next to the lake, while you soak in the nature this city has to offer.

Take a Drive: Pennybacker Bridge aka 360 Bridge

If you thought Texas was completely flat, you have to experience the rolling hills on this scenic route leading up to this bridge (Hwy 2222). Once you get to the bridge, there are a few spaces to pull over beside the cliff and there is a pathway to hike up to the top.  The hike up is only a few minutes and can be done by all age levels as long as you have a bit of strength to step over and up huge rocks.  Take your time if you need to. I did see many elderly doing this walk up with help from their family.  Once you get to the top the view is spectacular and photos are a must!  Expect to spend 5-10 minutes here, unless you plan to meditate and do a complete photo shoot, but I wouldn’t leave my car parked for too long.  The area isn’t zoned for parking and it is obvious that car windows have been smashed because there was a lot of glass around the area.

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parking right before the bridge

Have you been to Austin? What do you recommend? Leave your comments below.

How to Make the Most of Jackson, Mississippi in less than 8 hours

Less than a full day is crazy short in any city, but still doable. Get a taste of a city you have never been to and call it a short and sweet trip.

My 5 hours in Jackson kicked off like this:

First stop…

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Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

The Museum of Mississippi History.  Park outside of both museums and decide if you have time to see both this museum and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.  For lack of time and because we have previously visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, we chose to focus solely on the Museum of Mississippi History.  The artifacts found here go as far back as 1902 and cover the history from Native Americans, Black American, slavery, migration from around the world, the great Mississippi flood in 1927 right through to the current status of Mississippi.  Be curious and notice the innovation they have created to make this museum interactive and intuitive.

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Exhibit in the History Museum

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Old Capital Museum
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Mississippi Governor’s Mansion

Along Capital Street, you will pass by the beautiful Greek revival mansion.  Built in 1842, the architect, William Nichols was going fo plain republican simplicity.  Designated a National Historic Landmark this is the second oldest occupied gubernatorial residence in the USA. It is closed on the weekends, so we didn’t get a chance to tour the property.  If you arrive from Tues-Fri, between 9:30-11, you can tour for 30 minutes for Free.

As you drive around the city you will embark on The Mississippi Freedom Trail Markers.  Each site plays a pivotal role in the Civil Right Movement.  Grab a map or guide and plug in the addresses on your GPS.  We made a stop at Medgar Ever’s House.

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We noticed that Jackson seemed to be quite a depressed city.  We believe it is the city of soul, but it is very obvious that they are left behind in terms of care for the roads and infrastructure. It seems like a city lacking funds to take care of municipal requirements.  Most times, we weren’t sure if we were in a safe neighbourhood, but we took our chances and followed the GPS.

We went to a quaint part of town called The Fondren District.  This historic area is an eclectic mix of shops, cafes, galleries and charming homes.  You might want to stop here to eat or even just have coffee.

Every trip requires a comment about food.  A friend from Jackson, recommended a few places and we decided to go about 15 minutes outside of downtown and also quite a way from the Fondren District.  We wanted a place with the most highly favoured soulful experience, Bully’s Restaurant.  There is only one location for this specific restaurant and they have been serving soul food since 1982.  Driving up to this restaurant had us questioning if we were going the right way. It seemed like we were driving to a dead end.  Just as we thought the GPS was messed up, we pulled up to this little stand alone building with a very small parking lot.

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This dine-in soul food restaurant also completes take-out orders. In fact, we saw more locals coming in for take-out than dining in.  The longtime staff know their customers and greet everyone with the Southern hospitality we were looking for.  The menu includes everything we expected including chitterlings, oxtails, rice and gravy, turkey wings, neckbones, fried okra, mac and cheese, beef ribs, and a whole lot more.

We had the beef ribs, sweet potatoes, cabbage, and cornbread. The owners knew we were tourists, and went out of their way to greet us with joy and check on us more than once.  If you want a down to earth experience and nothing fancy, check out Bully’s.

There’s always more to do, but with so little time, that’s all we got to cover.

Have you been to Jackson?  What did you see and do?

 

 

California Sea Lions

San Francisco’s Pier 39 is a destination for everyone. As a local or a visitor, this is a great area to take a stroll, have lunch and experience a bit of nature along the Pacific Coast.

I was recently in San Francisco and although I have been many times, I decided to spend more time at time at the wharf.  This was my first time back at the Fisherman’s Wharf in 10 years.  I spent a few hours here, checking out the stores, walking along the pier and of course gazing at the sea lions at Pier 39.

The famous sea lions will always have a home at Pier 39.  Since the earthquake in 1989, sea lions arrived in San Francisco and docked themselves here and by 1990 they had claimed the site as their own.  With goodwill, the Marina Staff sought the advice of the Marine Mammal Center and after extensive research it was concluded that these sea lion be welcomed in their newfound home.

A few facts on California sea lions:

  • Intelligent, playful, and have a very noisy bark
  • They can bite, so do no provoke them
  • Male sea lions can be as large at 7ft weighing in at 850 lbs and the Females can reach 6 ft in length and 220 lbs.
  • Sea lion have external ear flap and seal do not
  • You can find Sea lions across the Pacific Coast, including Vancouver, BC
  • In California the Marine Mammal Protection Act has made it illegal to for visitors to feed or harass the sea lions

 

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Visit the local shops and restaurants. My favourite store was the The Spice & Tea Exchange.
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The population of sea lions vary depending on the time of year. It looks like there were about hundred on this day, but there can be thousands at times.

 

Have you been to Pier 39?  How was your experience?

 

Walk Across the Sydney Bridge for Free

One of the greatest once in a lifetime experiences in Sydney is the $200 Sydney Harbour Climb.  I remember watching Oprah and a crew of people, harnessed up to walk across the famous steel arch.  Last December, I remember my husband and I having the thought of whether or not we wanted to embark on this thrill, gut wrenching experience. It was almost an automatic no for me, but I wonder if my husband would have opted in if he was with his pals.  The experience is far too scary and unnecessary for me.  I much prefer the more predictable and free option!  After walking in The Rocks area we reached the entrance for the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

 

The Rocks

Looking for gorgeous views of Sydney on a clear sunny day? Then you must put walking across the Sydney Bridge on your list of free things to do.

 

Let the views begin and don’t take the engineering of the bridge for granted.  Take your time and appreciate this distinctive landmark.

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The bridge connects two major commercial areas, The CBD of Sydney and Milsons Point.  When you get to the other side you will be in Milsons Point.  I’m not sure if the vendors are always set up at the foot of the bridge on the Milsons Point side, but if they are be sure to stop and look at the handmade crafts, antiques, and fashion from local artists.

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After walking across the bridge, you might want to take a break under one of these trees or chillax on the benches before hopping on the train to get back to CBD.  Alternatively, you may want to continue exploring the Milsons Point area.

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Get an Opal Card and load up as you go.  We bought our card when we arrived at the airport and loaded up the card as necessary throughout our stay.  Taking the transit in Sydney is super simple.

A Piece of Arkansas in a Day

What comes to mind when you think of Arkansas?  From Little Rock to desegregation to Bill Clinton to the Arkansas Razorbacks, this state is known for its friendly people and Southern hospitality.  We experienced the love at every stop we made.  Our top 3 sites to see in a short and sweet timeframe are The Little Rock Central High School, River Market District, The Bill Clinton Museum and the Big Dam Bridge.

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Many years ago I heard Minnijean Brown speak during a Black History Month event in Vancouver, BC, which is where she currently resides.  Minnijean Brown is one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African Americans who challenged racial segregation.  At the time I heard her speak, I didn’t imagine I would one day experience the city and see the high school with my own eyes.  You too, should make a stop at Little Rock Central High School and the museum to embark on a a piece of land with so much history.

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A visit to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum is a must.  The Clinton library is filled with archives, including the daily agenda for each day of Clinton’s time in office.  I enjoyed the short film, looking at all the memorabilia from his election campaign and even items from his childhood.  The museum also has a wide collection of exquisite art, classified as the White House Collection of American Crafts.  These pieces are the exact items that were used to decorate the White House in 1993.  A guided tour of the museum is available at 9:30am, 11:30 am, and 1:30pm.  We preferred the self guided tour and spent about 2 hours here.  Make sure you see the replica of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room.  Cost to enter is $10 for Adults.

 

 

Before or after you finish the Clinton Museum, take a walk through the River District and check out the local restaurants and shops.  You can also take a walk along the many pathways in the area.  Arkansas is very green and has a diverse landscape with some of the nations largest parks.

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Big Dam Bridge – longest pedestrian bridge in North America

Make your way out to the longest pedestrian bridge in North America, the Big Dam Bridge.  This bridge is 4,226 feet in length and has never been used by trains or any vehicles.  The bridge isis reserved for pedestrians and cycling and is often used for cycling races.  The region expects to have healthier people and an improved economy.

Have you been to Little Rock?  What did you see and love about the city?

For more gems in Arkasas, check out this blog.

 

 

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