Nuremburg-First Trip with a Baby

When our baby girl turned one month old, we ventured out on our first overnight trip to Nuremberg.  Truth be told, I was pretty nervous about it.  I wasn’t sure how it would go, if she would cooperate at restaurants, if we would be able to fit the stroller next to our table, if she would cry at night and wake the other guests up, if I would be able to find good places to feed and change her etc.  But, it all went very well!  We were able to go out to eat without any problems, she slept fairly well in the hotel, and overall made it pretty easy for us!  Maybe that’s to be expected out of a little baby who mostly sleeps and eats but as a first-timer, I didn’t know what to expect.  Plus, our baby is extra sweet so we are spoiled :).

It’s about a three hour drive from where we are to Nuremberg.  After arriving there in the evening and getting checked in, we threw baby girl in the stroller and started exploring.  Nuremberg is a medieval walled city, similar to Rothenburg.  Nuremberg wasn’t quite as charming and medieval, but was a happy medium between medieval Rothenburg and more modern and big-city Munich.  We stopped for dinner at a local restaurant and Laron had to try the famed Nuremburger wurst  (little sausages which Laron described as “just like Jimmy Dean”).  It came with spargel (the white asparagus)  which is a hot commodity around here in the spring.  You can always find some very delicious spargel dishes on the menu this time of year.

Most of the time it’s served in brotchen AKA a roll, and you can get it from many different street-side stands.

After dinner we did more exploring of the aldtstadt (old town).  This was an old hospital that sits over the water, which you can’t tell because we are blocking the shot…rookie mistake.

We even found my favorite big city coffee shop, Starbucks!  I had to go in to get a little taste of home.  Here’s Daddy and baby girl hanging out while I sipped my coffee.

A travelin’ girl, happy in her stroller!

The next day we decided to visit the Nuremberg zoo.  Even though our little one isn’t quite old enough to appreciate the animals, Hubby and I had fun seeing them!  It was a great zoo with a lot to see, I don’t think we made it to everything and we were there all day long.

They even had a dolphin show!  Can’t compare to SeaWorld, but it was fun!

 When we got back into the main city for dinner, we strolled through the handwerkerhof, which is a small area of quaint shops that sell more handicraft type stuff.  Basically just cute little shops.

The next morning before we headed off to the Nazi Party Rally Grounds and museum, we had a little fun taking pictures of our sweetie.  There are many more, but I’ll just give you one for now.

So the rest of the day we spent at the museum that documents the rise of Nazi power in the years leading up to and through World War II.  It’s on the site where Hitler had a huge grounds where Nazi party rallies were held each year.  He had intended to build much more there but it was never fully completed.  There are some eerie shots of the grounds in use.

Both pictures are from wikipedia, and here’s the link if you’re curious about the grounds http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_party_rally_grounds

The museum was a great rainy day activity.  Although these sites can sometimes be very somber, it’s so educational and visiting places like here, Dachau, and now Normandy (more on that later) has really broadened our understanding of the time and how and why things happened.  Nuremberg was also the site of the war trials.  We had hoped to visit the courtroom where they were held, but ran out of time.  Things move a bit slower with a baby in tow 🙂

The final morning before we left, I had one mission.  To get some lebkuchen or gingerbread.  Nuremberg is famous for it’s lebkuchen so I had to try some, whether it was Christmas season or not.  I’m so glad we did try some because it was delicious!  I don’t even have any pictures of it because it didn’t last very long.  I am seriously contemplating another trip out there in December for more!

This looks just like what we bought, yum!-picture link

Here’s my advice for your first trip with a baby:

*Pick a destination within driving distance. This will allow you to pack pretty much any baby gadget you want without worrying about room in a suitcase or a weight limit. Driving also allows your schedule to be more flexible. If you are running a little late because the baby spits up, no big deal. If you need to pull over to feed the baby, no big deal. You also have the privacy of your car for nursing, diaper changes, etc. if you’re a little nervous about doing these things under the watchful eye of strangers.

*Make flexible hotel accommodations. Chose a reservation that can be cancelled up until a day before your trip. That way if you’re not feeling ready, you just aren’t getting enough sleep, you can cancel the trip without losing your money.

*Do not over schedule yourself. Leave your itinerary open. Have an idea of a few big things you want to do, and just go with the flow. Don’t add to your stress level by booking a bunch of tours, reservations, etc. Allow yourself to take your time and explore at a leisurely pace while you get used to what it’s like to travel with a tiny human who needs frequent stops.

*When in doubt, Starbucks is an excellent place for a nursing session. I went in there more than once to nurse. It’s warm, there is a bathroom that likely has a changing table (something that can be hard to find), your husband can sip a drink while you nurse ,and you can reward yourself when you’re done!

*Take pictures. Babies grow fast and you’ll want to remember just how precious and tiny they were!

More Sights From London

Earlier I had posted the first part of our weekend in London. I got a little busy and never posted the rest of our trip! So here it is. From our trip to London at the tail end of 2012:

The next day Hubby and I made our way down to the Tower Bridge and Tower of London.  Our handy 2 for 1 guide (which we got from taking the Stagnated Express) worked for us again at the Tower of London.  Right when we walked in, one of the Beefeaters was starting a tour, so we were able to just join the group and get a free and very entertaining walking tour of the grounds.

I thought the Beefeaters were just guys dressed up in costumes, but turns out they actually have very important jobs and it’s very difficult to become one.  They have to have served in the British military for at least 20 years, and they live at the Tower of London with their families.  They play very official roles in royal ceremonies as well.

My favorite part of seeing the Tower of London was getting to look at the Crown Jewels.  They have all the crowns, important serving dishes, etc. on display here.  These are still pieces used today.  You can watch a film of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and then see her massive crown that she was wearing right in front of you.  It’s jaw-dropping to see the size of some of the stones and diamonds used on them.  I can’t imagine how heavy they must be, and also how fun it must be to wear something like that!

We spent a good few hours at the Tower before heading over to the Borough Market, an awesome outdoor market filled with all kinds of food goods and hot meals.

London skyline at night

That night we met up with our friend and some other friends of ours that we met in Positano on our boat ride to Capri.  You never know who you’re going to meet when you travel!  It was a lot of fun to see them again and catch up.  We went to a restaurant called Burger and Lobster.  It was delicious!  They have 2 things on the menu, burgers and lobster rolls.  Hubby and I got one of each. Both were very good but I have to say I think the lobster roll was the better of the two :).

The next morning we started out with a trip to where else…Starbucks!  Anytime I’m in a big city now, I make a point to go to Starbucks just so I can have one of their fancy drinks that I can’t get at the local coffee shops where I live.  Our friend walked us around neighborhoods and took us to Primrose Hill and Regency Park.

Then it was back to Borough Market to grab some food.

After a quick lunch at the market we headed out to Emirates Stadium to watch an Arsenal “football” match!  We had a great time watching and getting to go to something that is so popular there.  Unfortunately they lost at the very end, but we had a great experience getting to go to a game!

Our trip was now complete.  We had to get back out to the airport the next morning.  We had a fabulous time in London, there is so much to do!  We felt like we did a ton, but still have plenty of things to go back for…Wicked…afternoon tea, etc.  London was probably one of our favorite places we’ve been so far and we’re definitely hoping to go back again soon!!

Girls’ Weekend in Stockholm

During one of my husband’s work related trips I decided that my friend B (who’s husband was on the same trip) and I shouldn’t waste a perfectly good long weekend just because our husbands were gone.  I started looking at flights and found a good deal to Stockholm, and so it was done.  We quickly arranged the short getaway and were excited about venturing into a new city!

On our way to the airport, I got a phone call from my friend K.  Her husband had offered to take care of Ellie while I was gone so when she put a man on the phone I thought it was him.  I started telling him how I left the key for him and hoped I hadn’t forgotten anything when he said, “no it’s me, I’m home early.”  Then I freaked out.  Hubby wasn’t supposed to be home just yet, and when I realized he was at our house and I had already left, I did what I do in any type of emotional situation-I cried.  He explained to me that he had come home early and he was trying to surprise me and see me at home before I left for the airport.  The timing didn’t work out and we missed each other.  I couldn’t get over that after several of these trips I had always secretly hoped he was going to come home early and surprise me, then he did and I was gone!  Ugh, the frustration!

Once I got over the initial shock and disappointment that I missed him, I was just relieved to know he was back and would be waiting for me when I got home.  So B and I made it to the airport and through security, but then we were stopped by the luggage police.  They made us weigh our bags and shove them into the little bag box.  This cost me 50 Euro…

Not a great way to start out.  Thanks Ryanair.  Why they don’t have you do this at the check-in desk is beyond me.  Anyway, we had a nice easy flight and made it to Stockholm without any real issues.  We had to take a bus from the airport into the city because we flew into Skvasta which is almost an hour and a half away.  Luckily for us our hotel was across the street from where the bus dropped off at the train station, so we didn’t have far to go once we got there.  It was a late night arrival for us, and of course by the time we got there, I was starving and had to buy a Snickers bar and bag of chips from the front desk…pregnant lady problems.

The next morning we got up and just started wandering around the city.  We stumbled upon a Hofbrau Haus, some tiny parks, and a couple bridges.  Somewhere in there we found a lovely breakfast buffet at a hotel and sat ourselves down for some Swedish pancakes-delish!

We wandered on and found lots of cute shops, a flower and produce market, 50 H&M’s, and the Stockholm International Film Festival-complete with paparazzi!  Eventually we found old town and even more interesting places to shop.

Gate to Old Town.

Obviously I had to try on the Viking hat!

Once we had exhausted our shopping capacities we started to make our way back to the hotel to drop off the goods before our walking tour that night.  We had done so well throughout the day without using a map or cell phone, but on our way back we got a bit turned around and ended up walking in the wrong direction for a while.  But we did make it back, and had just enough time to rest our feet a little before hitting the pavement again.

We grabbed a quick bite and then met up with our free walking tour.  We took a tour of the Old Town area and it was great because our guide took us to places we had missed during the day and gave us a lot of information we would’ve never known otherwise.  And it was free!

The next morning we were leaving but we woke up early to try to get some better pictures from the day before.  We didn’t make it to all the photo ops we wanted but we were able to squeeze in a few before jumping on the bus back to the airport.

The Royal Palace.

It was a quick, but enjoyable weekend in Stockholm.  I loved getting away with my friend and wandering a new place.  We barely had time to scratch the surface though, so of course I’m hoping to do a return trip at some point!

Mallorca

We jetted over to the Spanish island of Mallorca for a long weekend in 2012.  It’s off the eastern coast of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea.  We had heard that it was a favorite vacation spot of Germans and Brits, and I would say that was about right.  Our flight was full of people who seemed like they were in spring break mode, plus a group of excited men on a stag party.  They were so happy to be going to Mallorca, that they brought their own beer and boom box onto the plane so that the party could continue.  This wasn’t that amusing to me at the time as I had recently found out I was pregnant, and I had worked all week-I really just wanted to sleep on the plane.

 

We got into Mallorca relatively late and we weren’t staying in Palma (the biggest city, close to the airport) so we had arranged to take a bus out to our resort area Cala d’Or.  The bus seemed like a great idea at the time.  It was cheap and it would take us right to our hotel.  What we didn’t plan for was waiting on the bus in the parking lot for an hour for it to fill up with people, and then stopping at everybody’s hotel along the way.  This bus adventure took almost 3 hours from the time we got on to the time we walked into our hotel lobby.  Not so fun.

Nevertheless, after a full night’s sleep and a good breakfast in the morning, we were ready to hit the beach!  We decided to venture away from our hotel to this other little beach we had seen on the way in.  The local bus that takes you over to the other town was a cute, little, topless minibus!  A fun way to get from place to place (as long as the weather is good).
Cruising in the open air bus!

 We arrived at the other beach Cala Mondrago,  with just enough time to take a walk around the edge of the cove and settle in for about an hour of sun.

Right before the weather turned nasty.
Cala Mondrago

After this hour of decent beach weather, it started to rain and got very chilly.  I had prepared for this, so I put on my layers, put a towel over me and hunkered down under my beach umbrella with a book hoping the weather would turn around.  Well…it didn’t.  Eventually we abandoned our beach chairs for the nearby restaurant for some more cover from the rain.  Once we decided the weather was pretty much done for the day we hailed a taxi (the open air bus was not sounding as fun) and headed back to the hotel.  We spent the rest of the afternoon on our balcony with blankets watching the rain and reading.

View from our balcony, probably right before we ran down to the beach to catch some sun.

The next day was similar.  We stayed at our hotel’s beach, tried to soak up as much sun as we could, but when the weather went bad we retreated back up to our balcony.  The day we were leaving we had the best weather of the trip.  I stayed on the beach mostly, and Hubby went out for some snorkeling.

Lunch by the beach.

Beach by our hotel.
Our hotel.

Late in the afternoon, Hubby finally convinced me to give the snorkeling a try.  I had tried to snorkel before in Mexico and it didn’t go well.  I just remember struggling and swallowing a lot of salt water.  However, this time it was much better and I really enjoyed it!  It was fun to just float around looking at the fish.

One last look at our hotel and beach before heading home.

Before long it was time to head back to the airport.  We opted to hire our taxi driver from the other day, rather than dealing with a multi-hour bus ride and it was the best decision because it gave us so much more time to enjoy the day.  We loved Mallorca, as you can see the beaches are gorgeous, as is the water and we had a very relaxing weekend there.  We learned that “Cala” is the word for a beach in more of a cove and “playa” is a long stretch of sand, a big beach that you’re probably used to seeing.  We liked being at the Calas though because the rocks do give you a better snorkel opportunity and it’s a little less crowded than a regular beach.  We would love to go back, we liked our area but would probably try a new town just to see what else the island has to offer!  My only regret is that I wasn’t able to try the sangria!  Oh well, more reasons to go back…

*Mallorca is possible to visit by ferry from Barcelona.  If you have the time and want a relaxing getaway from the big city, it is a great place to visit!

Our Last day in Paris

After two marathon days of sightseeing, we were ready to slow down for our last day.  Our first stop was a short metro ride over to the Arc de Triomphe.  It sits at one end of the famous Champs Elysees.  Right when we got off the metro we saw something both really scary and interesting.  A group of older people were huddled around a young girl and there was a lot of commotion going on.  We watched and noticed one man had the girl by the wrist and was shouting for police.  She was desperately trying to get away and eventually did.  She had tried to pickpocket him, and he caught her (for a minute anyway).  Startling reminder to always be aware of your belongings and travel safe!

Anyway, we stopped for some pictures in front of the famous Parisian landmark.  It was commissioned by Napoleon to commemorate French military victories.

Arc de Triomphe
Wandering down the Champs Elysees.
Guess what we found…another Starbucks!

 We continued our stroll around the city and found the “Flame of Liberty” monument.  It is a full size replica of the flame on top of the Statue of Liberty.  It has also become an unofficial memorial for Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash in the tunnel right below the flame.

Then to give our feet a little break, we took a cruise down the Seine River.  It was a nice relaxing way to see some of the sights of Paris.

Not a bad way to spend your Sunday!

Our trip was made a little less relaxing by these fellow boat-mates.  This group (only maybe half shown in this picture) stood in front of us the whole boat ride frantically taking pictures of each other.  They were in  a panic trying to make sure they got pictures of themselves in front of ever single place.  So much for getting those front row seats for the view-it was obstructed with crazy tourists the whole time!

Oh well, we still had fun on our cruise.

Just cruising the Seine.

 After that we headed back into our own neighborhood, Montmarte, to do a little shopping.  This is an artistic district and we stumbled upon a whole square of artists selling their work and creating it on the spot.  It’s a very fun, and lively atmosphere with a lot of character.  We had a wonderful time exploring the neighborhood (but be warned, it takes quite a bit of stairs to get there).

 Our time in Paris was through.  Clearly there was so much to see and do, and it really is a very beautiful city.  We are lucky because Paris isn’t too far away so I’m sure we will get the chance to go back again.  We dropped my mom and sister off at the airport the next day.  We loved having them here and getting to see new places together.  Hopefully another visit from family isn’t too far away!

Versailles-Day Trip from Paris

Our morning started out fairly early to get out to Versailles, which is just about a 30 minute train ride outside of Paris.  I never really knew what Versailles was before moving here, so for those of you like me, it’s a massive palace and grounds that was home to Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette up until the French Revolution forced them out.  When you arrive at the train station you just start following the hoards of people speed walking.  You round the corner and then you’re greeted with your first glimpse of the palace and it’s sprawling line.  It looked like the crowds you would see in front of Disneyland.

A statue of Louis XIV greets you upon arrival.
First views of the palace.

So we thought that because we had so smartly purchased and printed out our tickets that we would get to walk right in.  Haha, nope.  This giant line is for security.  Apparently when Rick Steves says be there at 9:00 when it opens, he means 9:00 sharp, not get off the train at 9:15 and leisurely stroll over to the palace.  Oops, lesson learned.

Huge snaking line you have to stand in, the little gray structure in the back left is the gate to get in.
Patiently waiting.

Finally up to the beautiful golden palace gate.

We decided to go ahead and do the palace tour first to get it out of the way.  It was a little bit of a nightmare because of how crowded it was.  In some rooms you could barely move, not my fave.  The palace itself was beautiful, extremely ornate, and huge!  It blows my mind that people actually lived here.

King’s bed in the King’s room.
Bad shot through the crowds of the queen’s bed in a separate bedroom.
The size and grandeur of the rooms was impressive.
Hall of Mirrors.
Catching a glimpse of the gardens.

We made it out of the madhouse and into the gardens.  The gardens are enormous.  There is so much to see, that it’s hard to see it all.  In the small lake behind us you can rent rowboats.  You can also rent bikes to ride between the main gardens and Marie Antoinette’s hamlet, the Grand Trianon (mini palace), and Petit Trianon.

There are fountains all over the gardens.  They only run at certain times of day, but when they do there’s also classical music playing to really give you a royal feeling.

One of many fountains on the property.
Swans in the fountain.

So we rented bikes, and rode over to Marie Antoinette’s hamlet.  Bikes was a great idea because it cut out a ton of walking, and gave us much more time to see the different areas.  So, “what’s a hamlet?” you might ask.  Apparently to keep herself entertained, Marie Antoinette had a farm and a few English cottages built on part of the property.  She would dress up as a peasant and go to the hamlet to get away from her life in the French court.  It had a fully functioning farm and vegetable gardens.  Pretty interesting that she wanted this built and that she would come to it to basically pretend she was someone else.

Goats in the shade.
Bravely feeding a donkey.
I’m considering petting the donkey, but scared he will bite me at the same time.
Cows on the farm.
The main cottage.
Pretty roses growing near the cottage.
Fish fighting for food, and the duck who just sits right on top of them.

We also rode over to the Grand Trianon, which as I said before was like a mini-palace with it’s own gardens.  It is so hard to put into words just how big the whole area is.  After exploring those areas, we rode back to the main gardens to check out the fountains and music in action.

At 5:00 the gates close, and everyone has to leave.  We were STARVING by this time.  My hubby had looked up a restaurant nearby that had great reviews, so we started walking over there.  By this time we were tired and hungry, not a good combo.  When we made it to the place, it was closed and I thought my mom might cry.  So we wandered until we found a nice little square with lots of restaurants, and we happily stuffed our faces with pasta and gelato.  This was just a little break for us, because we were headed back to the gardens for the night show.  In the summer on the weekends, the gardens are lit up, and each fountain has something special happening in it, and the  night ends with fireworks over the lake.  The experience was amazing, we loved it!  I would say it’s a must if you have the opportunity.

Even more beautiful at sunset.

Sun setting over the gardens.
There was a “fire show” choreographed to music on the main lawn.

Pictures can’t tell the full story, but you can see some of what was happening at the different fountains in the gardens.

Green lasers projected onto the mist from the fountains.
Color and music coordinated fountains, like at the Bellagio in Vegas.
This one was like a circle of waterfalls that were all lit up.
And some fireworks to end the night!

This was a jam-packed and exhausting day, but definitely one of my favorite things we’ve done in Europe so far.  If you go to Paris, you have to make the trip out to see Versailles.  It’s really beautiful and has plenty to see to keep you entertained all day long.

Paris (and another bike tour)

That’s right everybody, it’s time for another episode of “see Europe by bike.”  But seriously, it’s a fun, fast way to see all the highlights.  We went with Fat Tire Bike Tours this time, and they are no small operation.  We met under the Eiffel Tower and there were close to 40 people there for a tour.  Luckily the group got split in half into 2 groups.  Our first stop was the French Military School.  Napoleon himself studied there, and people still study there.

French Military School- Ecole Militarie
Directly behind the Academy is another wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower.

Next stop, Napoleon’s burial place.  I believe it was originally a church built for Louis the XIV, XV, or XVI (they seemed to be the ones we kept hearing about).

So our tour guide was a very nice young man, but his personality just didn’t quite jive with Hubby’s.  Let me just paint you a little picture: every time we rounded a corner, crossed a street, or hit a stop light our guide insisted on screaming “dominate!” which is code for “stay close together as a group.”  He also expected the rest of us to scream it back to him, which most of our group did happily.  However, it wasn’t exactly our cup of tea…

This is Hubby’s level of enthusiasm for our tour guide-not impressed.

 On the other side of that is the French Army Museum or Les Invalides.  It used to be a military hospital and was raided for weapons before the storming of the Bastille (beginning of the French Revolution).

Next was a quick stop for lunch in the Tuileries Gardens.

More of the Tuileries Gardens.
Faux Arc du Triomphe across from the Lourve.

So another fun fact we learned is that the Lourve was actually a palace of one of the Louies before it was an art museum.  The royals decided they were sick of being too close to the common folk and moved out to Versailles (stay tuned).  The building is huge and it’s hard to imagine it was a place of residence for someone.

The Lourve Art Museum.

That pretty much concluded our bike tour.  Even though we weren’t crazy about our guide, we still loved it and were able to learn a lot about french history and important sites and events.  On our way to our next destination we found a Starbucks!  Any time I see one now, I have to go in, because I’m never sure when my next chance will be!

Happy Seattlites.

We then found our way over to the famed love lock bridge.  If you haven’t heard of it, couples write their names on a lock, fasten it to the bridge, and throw the key in the Seine to symbolize their eternal love.

Cheaters-we didn’t actually put a lock on the bridge.
The true romantic.

A little further down the way, we found Notre Dame!  It is an incredible cathedral.  Again one of my favorites.  There’s something about French cathedrals that is just striking.

Beautifully lit by chandeliers.
altar
vaulted ceilings
rose window
donations to the church

Last stop of the night was the Lourve.  We waited until the evening because we heard the crowds die down, and on Fridays it’s open late and tickets are cheaper.  It just so happened that while we were in line to buy tickets, some people leaving the museum offered us their 2 tickets for free.  Then when we were at the kiosk another person offered us their 2 tickets for 5 Euro, so we took them.  All four of us visited for 5 Euro!  Our lucky day!

Some of the highlights…

Venus de Milo
Winged Victory
Crown jewels of France

Here she is, the most popular girl at the Lourve…

Through the crowds (which aren’t even that bad compared to other pictures I’ve seen) sits the Mona Lisa.
Up close with Mona Lisa.

The Lourve is massive, and has so much to see, you really can’t see it all in one visit.  We thought though that the pieces were better presented than in the Vatican museum.  It seemed much less overwhelming-which could have been due to the amount of people there too.  It was a great idea to go later after the masses died down a bit.  It makes it much easier to enjoy when you’re not fighting hoards of people to move through the corridors.

Looking up through the glass pyramid.

Busy day in Paris!  We went off to bed as early as we could to prepare for our next marathon day at the Palace of Versailles.