Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


In the fall we will be moving to Seattle, WA!  
Back in March we took a quick trip to the PNW to check out the city before I was too pregnant to travel.  It was the first time I've been in that area and the plentiful beauty of Seattle surpassed my expectations.  

We had a great weekend taking in a few sights while also trying to get a lay of the land.  

snoqualmie falls

the cutest lunch spot, Odfellows Cafe + Bar

I have so many emotions about this move.  I'm excited because Seattle seems to have a lot to offer and so much to explore.  But I'm also wary;  I have moved so many times in last decade that I know how hard it can be to start all over again.  Moving with 2 kids (Thomas will be only 3 months old) certainly ads complexity since we are moving to a city with no family or friends.

When we moved to Canada, we knew that it wasn't going to be our permanent home, but it certainly has become a place that we'll always treasure. This summer is bittersweet as we enjoy the most beautiful season in Ontario.

Over the next couple of moths we will be gearing up for the move.  We are still trying to determine what area we'd like to live in and learn about all Seattle has to offer. So much to do! Please be in touch if you're in the area, I'd love to connect!  

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Babymoon in Paris

After our layover in Iceland, Mat and I headed to Paris for 4 days.

I had a few concerns about a trip to Paris at 30 weeks pregnant.  Would it be too much walking?  Would it be awkward to avoid cheese and undercooked meat without a mastery of the language?  Would our Airbnb be comfortable?  All of the concerns I had were erased I heartily recommend Paris as a babymoon even if you are later in your pregnancy!

After a few pregnancy complications the week before leaving, I wasn't sure how much walking I would be able to do.  However, I learned that there is no better city to have to waddle around as it allows you to take in every stunning detail.  There is magic that unfolds as you take in the city slowly that I hadn't experienced last time I was there. Plus, there is a cafe waiting around every corner if you want to sit!

We found Uber to be so user-friendly in Paris (even more so than cabs) because you don't even need to know French to tell them where you want to go.  We didn't take a bus or river tour, but both of those options would be perfect if you weren't up for walking.

In terms of food, I found it very easy to avoid non-pasteurized cheeses and was easily able to have my meat cooked well rather than rare.  In fact, most French waiters/waitresses would ask me before I could ask them because they saw I was pregnant.  I was amazed time and again how incredibly kind the French were; it was especially endearing to have them gush with excitement in another language and know that they were asking questions about the baby.

And as luck would have it, our Airbnb couldn't have been more lovely.  Sometimes you take a look at the pictures online and can only hope it will be as cute.  We found a cozy apartment that suited our needs perfectly and it was every bit what the pictures portrayed.  I really liked having a small apartment for this trip as it gave us more space than any of the hotels we had researched.

It allowed me to take a nap if needed and Mat could have a separate room.  The kitchen was small, but it was perfect for stocking with produce from the neighbourhood market and a few things that I wanted to have on hand.  And the added bonus was our sweet hosts who gave us inside tips for restaurants that felt especially local. As always, feel free to contact me if you want more info!
the court yard, building and family room in our airbnb

Jardin du Luxembourg- our Airbnb was in this neighbourhood.  We sipped coffee and ate croissants as early morning joggers and children headed to school; it was such a stunning slice of Parisian life.

Versailles- We did a self-guided tour of Versailles and spent half a day there.  The train ride was easy and the palace was incredible.  Sadly, I wasn't up for walking in the gardens, but it started to rain and so we will add it to the list for next time!
Musee de l'Orangerie: I highly recommend this museum for a smaller dose of the art that Paris is so famous for.  While I love the Louvre and Musee D'Orsay, this museum also blew me away.  Think quality over quantity- the Monet's stretch around the walls of two huge rooms in a way that you'll never forget.

Le Relais de L'Entrecote- Bustling with locals, lively service and perfect steak frites.  When that's all that is on the menu, you know it's going to be good.  I still dream about the sauce.

Chez Fernand- Our Airbnb hosts know the chef at this restaurant and it didn't disappoint.  From the red checkered table cloth to their house specialty of beef bourgeoning, it was delightfully french.

Laduree-  I know it's cliche and Mat certainly didn't understand the fuss, but I would wager that no trip to Paris should be complete without a Macaroon or two (or 5).

Pharmacie- I did a lot of research before our trip about brands and items that I wanted to get while in Paris. For other beauty junkies, this was such a fun place to stock up on goodies!

Monoprix-  They had such a cute selection of reasonably priced baby and children's clothes!
looks like there was a theme to most of the items I picked up1

Before going on any trip, I like to create a custom Google Map that I then use as a guide on our trip.  I add any spots that I've researched and may be interested in visiting/eating etc and then if you're ever wandering around a city, you can see which points of interest you're closest to.  Two guides that I found especially helpful were by Aspiring Kennedy and Glimpse Guides.  I added many of their notes and recommendations to my map.  I also added many of our reviews and insights to the map after the fact so that I can reference for (hopefully) any future trip!

Monday, April 11, 2016

24 hours in Iceland

If you were following along on Instagram, you saw that Mat and I did a quick 24 hour layover in Iceland on our way to Paris.  We flew Icelandair from Toronto which has a program that allows you to layover for up to 7 days without additional cost. 

We took the opportunity to see a corner of the world that we may never get back to and immensely enjoyed the day we spent there.  It was astonishingly beautiful and wonderfully Scandinavian (Reykjavik had the cutest shops).  
We arrived early in the morning, rented a car and hit the road to explore the Golden Circle.  This driving route is an easy day trip that allows you to see some highlights of Iceland's natural beauty.  I would recommend making sure that you either have GPS available on your phone, or have researched the route/ stops you want to take before getting there.  The maps provided at the airport and the maps along the route were not easy to follow.   There are multiple blog posts that also provide a google map that you can download such as this one.  
The second half of the day, we settled into our cute Airbnb and then checked out town.  There is a beautiful view from the top of the Hallgrimskirkja church that allows you to get your lay of the land and also see the colorful houses that Reykjavik is known for.

A short stroll from there, we wandered the streets to do some shopping.  (Coincidently, we also found ourself in the middle of one of Iceland's most news-worthy events of the past years.)  

I'd highly recommend a stop in Geyser; it's an Icelandic designer with beautiful wares. The look below is one of them.   We also saw countless Scandinavian children's shops boasting the type of stuff you can't find back home. 

For dinner, we had the most memorable fish and chips of my life.  Caught fresh everyday, Icelandic Fish and Chips was the most delicious version of this meal I can imagine.  They use a spelt batter that is delicate and light and my wolf fish was perfectly cooked.  With dipping sauces like dill and lemon or traditional tarter and perfectly crisped potato wedges, it was the perfect way to end the day.  
I hope you don't mind me posting a bit about our trips here;  it helps me so much to remember the details and provide answers to the questions I have gotten on social media.  I know I always enjoy reading about other people's adventures, and this certainly was a wonderful one for us.  
Later this week, I hope to post about our trip to Paris too.  Being this pregnant and traveling was not stress-free, but certainly worth every moment.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tips for Air Travel with Toddlers

Our recent trip back to Charlotte was our most smooth air travel experience yet with James Robert.  I'm sure part of that is he has had ample practice flying since he was little, but also because I've gotten better with planning and packing.

I know things will get challenging as we a baby to the mix, but for now, I feel pretty comfortable traveling with a toddler and wanted to share our hard-earned tips!


1) Make it fun:  We talk about our trips and going to the airport for days in advance.  There are so many exciting things to see at the airport that we try to make it like a game and it really ads to the experience.  When we get there, he has an idea of what to expect and is excited about it (i.e. dropping off our bags, going through customs etc.  seem to be easier transitions when we have talked about them in advance). 

2) Allow your toddler to walk as much as possible before you board your flight, but bring a stroller even if you're not sure you'll need it.  The stroller may only serve as a resting place for your bag and coats while your toddler is walking, but it is so necessary when you're rushing to catch a connection or trying to get somewhere in any hurry.  Sometimes JR doesn't like to be in a stroller, but we set the expectation that he may need to take a ride at the airport.  On the flip side,  if we aren't in a rush, we let him walk as much as possible in order to get energy out. 

3) Let your toddler pack and wear their own backpack.  JR loves that he get's to take his own special backpack, which makes him feel so grown-up.  He is allowed to pack his stuffed animals that he sleeps with and two small toys.  As he has gotten older, we have also packed a water bottle and his headphones in the pack too. We have this back pack and use it for preschool too; it's the perfect size and we love the monogramming (Charlotte locals, we got ours here).  

4) Pack novel toys and books that are new to your toddler.  I find that we have the most luck with stickers and I have made easy travel felt boards in the past.  I haven't had a lot of luck bringing books.  You can only read them once or twice before they are just taking up precious space.  I've included some of my favorite travel toys above. 

5) Sanitize!  I know I may look like a crazy lady to others when we first board, but I'm vigilant about wiping everything down on JR's seat, tray, window, armrest and buckles.  Not only for germs, but he has a peanut allergy and I have no idea what someone has been eating before we got on the plane.  I usually use these wipes for the seats etc and then have plenty of this hand sanitizer. Oh and while we're on the subject of sanity, I always back a roll of these bags; they come in handy for a rogue diaper or soiled clothing while traveling.  

6) Wear a backpack versus a diaper bag.  I have made the mistake of bringing a shoulder bag before and never again.  What I sometimes do is wear a backpack with all of our gear and then I wear a small cross body in front to have easy access to my passport/travel documents as needed.   

7) Screen time and snacks.  I realize this is controversial, but I think most of us can agree that an iPad or in-flight movies are a godsend after all the games and toys have been played.  We usually load up the iPad with a few new episodes of Sesame Street or Paw Patrol and maybe a new app before we leave.  Additionally, he loves to wear his own kid headphones.  Snacks are also crucial for us.  I always over pack in case we can't find something safe for JR to eat while we are out.  This lunchbox works perfectly with this thin icepack.  One of our favorite treats to bring flying are these veggie infused letters from Bitty's Brain Food. 

*Not pictured, but also part of my packing list includes more diapers than you think you need, all your regular diaper bag essentials and a healthy dose of humility and humor (that's what really makes the experience easier)!

**For international travel, we did go through the process of getting JR a Nexus card (to back and forth from the US/Canada).

Bon Voyage! 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Banff Travel Guide

Banff travel guide
When we decided to accept the opportunity to move to Canada, the first place we added to our travel bucket list was Banff, AB.

A jewel of the Canadian Rockies, Banff (and the surrounding area) really blew away my expectations. This post is picture heavy, but does little to accurately capture the beauty there.  I've recapped below some of our trip highlights including things to do, where to eat/ shop/ stay and some of our favorite hikes.

But the thing that made this trip so memorable, was a renewed sense of calm that only the mountains and unspoiled nature can provide (being toddler-free, thanks to Grandma and Grandpa also didn't hurt)!

At the bottom of the post, I've included a customized google map with all of these places and more.  I find that's the best way to take recommendations on a trip.
Waterfalls on the Lake Agnes Trail
Lake Minnewanka- A short 20 minute drive from the town of Banff, this storied lake has an easy trail and while in the area, do a quick hike through lower Bankhead which has remenants of a coal town.
Lower Bankhead Trail
Tunnel Mountain Trail- easy trails, iconic views of Banff and the castle-like Fairmont.

Lake Agnes Trail- from Lake Louise, head up the Lake Agnes trail to Mirror Lake.  From there, if you have the fuel, hike up a bit more to a mountaintop tea house (travel tip: they ONLY take cash, US or CAD).  From there we went to the very top of the bee hive for commanding views of Lake Louise. This was the highlight of my trip and what I'll always remember about Banff; the view from the top!
The top of the Big Beehive looking down at Lake Louise
Eat and Drink:
Evelyn's Coffee- A place with local flair. Don't miss the "yogurt cookies" (more scone-like than cookie); they paired perfectly with the lattes

The Fudgery- A delicious souvenir, if you have the patience to wait that long to dig into the goods.  Don't miss the dark chocolate bear claw; the maple flavored caramel is memorable.

Park Distillery- Dinner and drinks in a fun atmosphere.  They make their own spirits and have excellent cocktails.  Try the Abott's Pass!
Banff Eat + Drink
Evelyn's Lattes,  The Fudgery's Goods and The Park's bar
Take A Picture At Lake Louise-  Touristy, yes.  But standing there, taking in all it's glory, you can't help but join the crowds-- you'll want to commemorate the experience.
Lake Louise
Fairmont Banff Springs High Tea-  Even if you're not staying at the Fairmont, it is worth a visit.  Their High Tea was a wonderful way to take in the views and ambiance.  The relaxed pace and delicious food (think tea sandwiches, scones and artistic desserts) made this the perfect way to recoup after a morning hike.
Fairmont Banff Spring High Tea
High Tea at the Fairmont Banff Springs
Norquay Summit-  Unfortunately, while we were visiting, the Banff Gondola was under construction.  So we headed a few minutes outside of town to go up the ski lift at Norquay Summit.  While at the top, there is a little restaurant where you can grab a beer and take in the view.
Norquay Summit

Emerald Lake-  Drive north from Banff (take Bow Valley Parkway) to Emerald Lake.  This quaint mountain lake felt less touristy.  Rent a canoe for the ultimate experience.  You can easily spend an hour being awed by your surroundings.  The color of the water so closely resembles the sky, you feel suspended between heaven and earth.
The Canoes at Emerald Lake

This was the hardest decision for me to make when planning this trip.  Ultimately, we ended up a the Rimrock Hotel and enjoyed our stay.  The rooms were clean, we had a beautiful view and we enjoyed the more remote feel.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Montreal City Guide

I love to read city guides and find them so helpful when planning for trips.  Traveling with a toddler is an exercise in slowing down and rolling with the punches. It can be especially rewarding, but I've learned that the key to success is in the preparation (especially when you have a little eater with food allergies).

One of the best parts of moving to Canada has been exploring new cities.  We celebrated our first Labour Day weekend by visiting Montreal.  Here were some of the highlights.  Also, don't miss a comprehensive map at the bottom of the post which includes many more places to see, eat and shop!

No trip to Montreal is complete without sampling a Montreal style bagel.  St Viateur Bagel was a fun breakfast spot.  The ingredients were posted online and so James Robert was also able to enjoy one (he is peanut allergic).
For dinner one night, we enjoyed eating dinner at Ma Poule MouillĂ©e which is delicious Portugese chicken. We waited in line out the door and around the corner!  The menu is all in French, but I was able to speak to the cooks about the food in English and it was safe for James Robert to also eat here.

Tommy Cafe is across from Notre Dame in the old part of town; after you hit some of the touristy spots, this is such a cute spot to grab a coffee and watch the world go by.
Tommy Cafe

We love to visit local parks, especially traveling with a toddler.  It's fun to get a feel for another slice of life, it's free and most importantly, it's a good way to let James Robert blow off some energy. We especially loved the lookout from Mount Royal Park.

We also loved eating at a local take-out restaurant and then strolling around Parc La Fontaine at dusk. It felt so European and was really, really lovely.
We also really enjoyed walking down St. Laurent Street and spotting all the incredible street art.  It really captured his attention and ours; one of the coolest things about Montreal is that there is art everywhere you turn, especially once you start looking for it.  This was also a free activity that burned a lot of energy!

There were literally dozens of places that I wanted to visit, but just didn't have the time. Here are two places that we did make it to and really enjoyed. 

Mat visits Montreal frequently for business and has become a regular at a little toy shop in the Old part of Montreal called Bagnoles et Bobinette.  They have a wonderful selection of toys, many are brands that I don't see often or have not seen in the States which makes it that much more fun!
We love collecting books from our travels.  Drawn and Quarterly is an adorable little book shop. They have a selection of adult and children's books in both French and English as well as a little area for kids to sit and read books.  The staff was also super friendly.
One of my favorite ways to prepare for a trip is to create a map.

I like to collect all of the recommendations and research I do into a personal google map then add notes and pictures.  I created the map below for our recent trip to Montreal.  

We didn't get to visit all of the places I included, but that just means we need to take another trip, right?! I hope this is helpful if you're headed to Montreal.  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out or leave a comment below.