Egypt: The case of Mummy Vs. Mommy

“Mummies, mummies everywhere… where are all the kids?” – Krythya (my two and half year old)

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Events leading up to Egypt

Egypt, a country known for its rich history and culture is a popular destination for all ages. Hence it was a good choice for a ten day family vacation that included grandparents and young kids. However, our journey to get there had as many twists as did the Romans probably. At the time of booking the flights and accommodation (for which we used the services provided by Thomas Cook), it was visa on arrival for all of us travelling. A few weeks before our travel date the laws were changed requiring us to process Visas before arrival. The process itself was not cumbersome but it was double the cost. All was in order for Krythya’s first summer vacation from school. A few hours before our flight, my husband got called in for work the next day. You can imagine the disappointment, but we had to explain it to the toddler who had made plans to ride a camel with him (which by the way she did not end up doing, because her Dada would miss out).

Fortunately the flight journey was smooth, she enjoyed sitting in her own seat and was quite amused by the color changing stars on the ceiling of the flight (a feature in Emirates).

First stop Cairo

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Pool time

We arrived in the morning and got through immigration quite smoothly. We had a pre-arranged minibus for the one hour ride to our hotel in Giza – Le Meridian Giza. By the time we got settled into the hotel, it was time for lunch. And off to a great start we tried and approved (by the toddler as well) the best Falafel ever at Felfela Restaurant which was located right next to the hotel. What was supposed to be a rest day quickly turned into pool time for mom and daughter. Can’t blame her, the heated pool with the backdrop of the pyramids of Giza was just perfect. That evening we headed for the light and sound show at the Pyramids. Apart from the cold breeze K didn’t enjoy it as much, as it was too scary according to her. Grandparents on the other hand were totally immersed in it. Back at the hotel we witnessed a local wedding with music, lights and very pretty dresses… that made up!

 

 

 

Pyramids & The Sphinx, Giza
Pyramids & The Sphinx, Giza

The next morning was Pyramids and Sphinx by day and much more to K’s comfort. She enjoyed the rugged terrain as well as the effort to pronounce “Suphinx” correctly. We did not choose to visit the burial chambers inside the pyramids as the path was said to be very narrow and claustrophobic. We then visited a perfume store, by perfume store I mean all things smell. Utilization of these naturally extracted oils goes anywhere from perfumes, massage oils to even home cleaning liquids. It was K’s first taste of hibiscus tea, which is most commonly offered as a welcome drink. She also had a whiff of pure eucalyptus oil, which probably cleared her sinuses… Lol.

 

 

Next up on the agenda was the famous Egyptian museum. Unfortunately we were able to cover only the ground floor as the elevators were not in working condition. Another let down was the children section that was said to have Legos and other activities was closed. The last stop for the day was Khan-el-khalili bazaar, tonnes of stuff to shop but we were too beat to actually buy anything other than a few souvenirs and an adorable Cleopatra style knitted head gear for K, which she wore for the remainder of the trip and very much enjoyed the attention she got from strangers calling her Cleo.

 

 

Next stop Alexandria

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Our Guide Mohammed

The day trip to Alexandria was in a prearranged minibus with a tour guide. Unless you are a history buff, the temples are only as good as the guide. And since daddy dearest, our history expert wasn’t there we were quite glad to have a guide.

The Catacombs! Located 100 stairs below ground, home to the discovery of over 700 mummies, only my brother, myself and K were able and willing to pay a visit. It was definitely a very spooky experience especially because we were the only ones down there at the time! Other highlights were, the spectacular ocean views, Pompey’s pillar and the Bibliotheque (library). On our way back we had the local version of a Pizza for dinner, double the calories I’m sure, but it made up for all the walking and carrying. K also met some llamas, ostriches and other farm animals on the property.

 

 

 

Aswan awaits

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Philae Temple

Arrived at Aswan by a short one hour flight – Nile Air and greeted by Egyptian summer. The hotel packed breakfast was the standard juice box and cheese sandwich, so the Indian snacks handed out by grandma came in very handy. After a drive by Aswan dam we hopped on a boat to Philae temple. As expected sang row row your boat all the way. Known for love and beauty, Goddess Isis’s temple was exactly that…Beautiful. There was an hour to spare before embarking the Nile cruise, where better to spend it than a spice market. Loaded up on dates, nuts and custom made spice rubs to take back home.

 

 

Cruising the Nile 

Spice market finds

Krythya’s first Cruise! I was glad she was as excited as I was. I’ve always loved cruises although this was my first river cruise – The Steigenberger Minerva. At first it was strange seeing land on both sides, but the contrasting landscapes were awe-inspiring. Sunrise over the sandy desert bank and sunset over the lush greens and palm trees. The plus side of a river cruise is there is no motion sickness. On the minus side the restaurant is very limited in terms of timing. On a regular cruise its usually food in abundance and availability round the clock. On this cruise however meal times are set, aside from which the restaurant remained closed. So we stocked up on snacks like dry fruits, nuts etc and bottled water while on shore. We chose rooms with a large window rather than a balcony as its safer with a toddler especially one who likes to climb any chance she gets!

 

 

She was one of three kids on board and the youngest. By the end of our 3 day cruise almost all of the crew knew her. Especially the pasta counter chef and the housekeeping staff who made the most creative towel animals we have ever seen. Places covered on the cruise were – Kom Ombo, where we visited a crocodile museum (which had mummified crocs as well), Edfu, where we took what looked like a 100 year old cab as opposed to the horse carriage as it was not advisable for the grandparents, and finally arrived in Luxor. One place covered on most other cruises that we missed out was Abu Simbel, as it was more important finding a cruise that suited the quality of rooms and food that I was looking for.

 

 

Last stop Luxor

We visited the Karnak temple, to describe this temple is beyond words. Something I’ve wanted to see since the movie Mummy returns. The grandeur and process of building such high structures was impressive. With a sand crazy kiddo we spent time doing some digging and building ourselves.

 

 

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Hatshepsut

While the family did some shopping at the papyrus factory, K was busy trying to make papyrus herself and spotting alphabets and their corresponding pictures in heliographic script. At which time I found a word that best described our passion – “Reisend” meaning travelling everywhere. The Luxor temple was close to the dock so we visited that toward the end of the day. The cruise remained docked at Luxor as the checkout was the following morning. However we missed going to any of the temples during late evening/night when they are lit-up.

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Alabaster works

The last day of our trip and probably the hottest. We visited Hatshepsut, one of the very few female pharaohs of Egypt. There was a fun train buggy ride as well.  Then we witnessed how carvings are made from alabaster stones. K got a chance at grinding one (of course for a tip). As it was getting too hot we skipped the Valley of kings and headed back to the hotel for the last night – Steigenberger. The pool by the river was irresistible and so we spent the rest of the evening doing just that.

 

 

Food Coma
Food Coma

Next morning was our flight back home via Cairo. We had a long lay over with not much to do in the airport we decided to go to the nearest mall. On a Friday afternoon at prayer time not many stores were open so we spent our time devouring a traditional meal at Abou El Sid.

Things to know before you go

Since we planned to cover more than one city, layers of clothing was key. As it was the beginning of April which was the onset of summer but still pretty cold in Cairo and very warm in other parts of Egypt.

Comfortable walking shoes (as well as flip flops/crocs for kids). K would complain after a while that her feet were sweaty and switch to crocs.

Diapers. Even though K was potty trained by then, the availability and hygiene of restrooms sometimes made a diaper to use and throw the only way to go.

As far as strollers go, don’t bother. No stroller can take the sand and stone terrain of the ruins.

The baby carrier is a life saver, since there is a lot of walking we put it to good use whenever she got tired or simply decided it was “carry me” time.

Sunscreen is a must to avoid sunburn as most of the day is outdoors. Even on cooler days the sun was quite strong and hotter days even more so. Neutrogena kids roll on stick was super easy to carry and use even by herself (As we were in the phase of “I can do it myself”).

Hydration (or re-hydration) was something we were prepared for but did not face the need. Carrying ORS sachets is recommended.

A fly bat/squatter… nope not kidding. We are used to houseflies in India but there were quite a few in all the places we visited, could have been a seasonal thing but we did a lot of shoo-ing.

Play time
Play time with Intellikit

First cry Intellikit activity packs were easy to carry and keep her busy during downtime during travel or in the hotel room.

Tipping is quite high and almost expected everywhere (Min 5 USD per person). Not sure if it is correlated but the guides were very friendly, sometimes too friendly. K was given more than her fair share of ice creams and sugar cane juice by many of them.

Most common word – “Mesh” meaning All Ok. Which best describes our exploration of Egypt! A big shout out to my brother who was our sole luggage mule, Maama (uncle) on call, and basically Man of the trip!

Homeward bound
Homeward bound

Other places to see if time permits – A Nubian village, where one can witness the life and culture of the local people as well as real crocodiles! The Red Sea, (a 2 hour drive from Cairo) where the places of interest would be Sham El-Sheik or Hurghada or simply snorkeling in the sea itself.. We chose the Nile Cruise as those are date specific, so hope to get a taste of the seas whenever we visit Jordan.

 

Follow Other Adventures by Krythya:

A trip to the Land of the Himalayas

MOROCCO: Tagines, Tantrums and everything in between

 

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A trip to the Land of the Himalayas

8 days, 7 flights and 1 toddler

Diwali break and my mom’s birthday were reasons enough to plan our next family trip. To the Map! The search for a place not too far, with travel time under 5 hours and no visa hassles, was on. Of the few options the most exciting one was Nepal. We were fortunate to have a very good friend from Nepal who helped us with the detailed planning of how to go, what to do and even where to eat!

How to get there

One of the most common misconceptions about Nepal is that the altitude will be too high because there are only mountains. On the contrary the altitude of Kathmandu is in fact lesser than that of Ooty and there is a lot to experience. As for the weather, November was warm days and colder nights, so pleasant to travel.

Multiple airlines fly to Kathmandu from Hyderabad with a stop in Delhi. We however broke the journey on the way to Kathmandu, Delhi being our second home we wanted Krythya to get a taste of it. Although pre-Diwali pollution levels were so high that we stayed indoors for the most part. We chose a comfortable time around noon to fly to Kathmandu. There was no need to change currency as INR is accepted almost everywhere. For Indian passport holders the arrival process was as simple as domestic travel. The US citizens in our group though had a pretty long wait for their visa on arrival. Once we got out of the airport it was pretty smooth, the local transport was prearranged by our friend which took us straight to the hotel. The choice of stay was a boutique hotel – Dalai La, located in Thamel. The rooms were very family friendly with

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1st Momo

two double beds. The breakfast included was made to order and had enough variety to eat and pack a snack for the road. Thamel being one of the most happening areas in Kathmandu, the streets were like broad daylight although we had reached there by around 6pm. Once checked in, we headed out by walk to try some local cuisine for dinner. Krythya’s first Momo experience needless to say was a hit.

The colours and shapes of the momos definitely made it kid approved.

What to do

Boudhanath One of the largest and prettiest Buddhist stupas in Nepal. All around the stupa were prayer wheels at the perfect height for K to reach and turn by herself

 

 

Not sure if we earned any peace but she had a lot of fun turning almost every wheel there and we ended up spending more time than planned for.

Pashupathinath Everything you would expect to see in a temple and then some. The larger than life Nandi (Bull) and the monkeys kept K entertained. However, located on the bank of Bhagmati River the temple overlooks open cremations, something I was not ready for.

Bhaktapur An hour’s drive from Kathmandu is the ancient town of Bhaktapur. This town was partially destroyed by the devastating earthquake in 2015. The efforts to carefully recreate each monument to replicate the original architecture is underway. We were able to walk through the whole town in about two hours, while K napped in the bus along with those who couldn’t do the walk.

 

 

The best part – tasting Bara Wo – a traditional Newari dish, from a lady who has been cooking the same thing for the last 46 years!

Mt. Everest You can’t go all the way to Nepal and not see the tallest mountain in the world. But even without the toddler I don’t think we would be trekking up… Lol. The mountain flight by Buddha Air was our flight no.3 on this trip.

 

 

A guided tour of the Himalayan range and views of Mt. Everest from the cockpit is something worth waking up at 4 am for. The only downside is that it is a bit expensive, more so for non-Indians.

Pokhara Once back we hopped on to flight no.4 of the trip. Pokhara could also be done by road but would take six to seven hours. We had booked local transport there as well and headed to Hotel Dahlia. This was also a boutique hotel located next to the gorgeous Phewa lake. During K’s nap time we were lucky to get the last spots available at Sarangkot to try out paragliding.

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Its all down hill from here!

With spectacular views of the Himalayas and a very entertaining gliding instructor it was an experience not to miss.

Take a Hike Just kidding… we didn’t really hike up a mountain. But the walks to see the waterfalls, caves and gorges with K in the carrier sure felt like a good workout.

 

 

Since she was still under the weight limit for the carrier it was very useful especially since most of the places are not stroller friendly.

Celebrating Tihar In other words Nepalese Diwali. It was a one of kind celebration with zero crackers, lots of lights and rangolis.

 

 

Every street corner was filled with kids singing traditional songs that had K humming and dancing too.

Phewa Lake The last of our things to do before heading to flight no.5 back to Kathmandu was boating in Phewa Lake. Going early beats the rush as it’s quite a popular activity. Life vests were provided for adults and older kids, so we used K’s swim vest for her.

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Row Row Row your boat..

She fed some of her biscuits to very hungry fish, spotted beautiful birds and slimy snakes too!

Chandragiri Hills The free day. Our group split up into shopping vs activity. Good guess K was in the activity group. Getting an early start after breakfast helped beat the queue to the cable cars. A very scenic and peaceful ride later we reached the highest playground we’ve ever been to.

 

 

A good idea to carry sunblock as it was quite sunny even though it was cool weather. After picking up some lunch and taking in some more mountain views from the observation deck it was time to head back.

Shopping Of course no trip is complete without souvenirs. Around our hotel, was the perfect place to walk around at night to pick up some local artifacts. Early the next morning was flight no. 6 and 7 back to home base. 

Where to eat

Food is in abundance in Nepal. But with a toddler in tow making sure the quality is right was very important. So we tried to stay off the streets but still tasted authentic local cuisine.

 

 

Hotel Dwarika, on the way to Bhaktapur, offered both local cuisine and continental. Most importantly had lots of open space to move around while we waited for the food.

Kaiser Café, in the Garden of dreams, a beautiful way to spend an evening but pricey.

Himalayan Java Coffee, in multiple locations, for parents who need their coffee fix and yummy milkshakes for the littles.

Roadhouse café, for when you’re momoed out and just want some Pizza!

MOROCCO: Tagines, Tantrums and everything in between

The Planning 

After discussing most of the countries in the world everyone finally agreed on Morocco for our family reunion. The idea was for all four of my grandparents’ children to meet again after my wedding (6 years ago!). Of course, this had to include grandchildren (including myself) and their great granddaughter Krythya (my 22 month old daughter). We were a group of 12 (8 adults, 3 kids and a toddler) travelling from India and the US. US citizens didn’t need visas, we however did, although quite a simple process via a travel agent.

The Journey

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Abu Dhabi – In Transit

We chose to travel Etihad business owing to the age and health of those travelling, plus it was nearing the end of Krythya’s almost free airfare age. Needless to say, the lounge and flight had its comforts. Although it was way past Krythya’s bedtime the excitement of having family around kept her wide awake through the first leg of the journey to Abu Dhabi and during transit. We carried a few snacks as well as mini tetra packs of milk as she’s a dairy baby. I was only hoping the longer flight would be bed time and thankfully she slept through. Other air journey tips can be found here.

Casablanca

Our first destination, or base camp I should say, again chosen based on everyone’s flights. We got in by around 7am, all of us got through immigration quickly except for my grandfather who is an Antiguan citizen, as the officer wanted to make sure it was a real country! We picked up some croissants and sandwiches for breakfast at the airport and headed out. It was a good idea to pre-book a mini bus with an English-speaking driver to make our local travel easy. Although not mandatory we traveled with her car seat as its very convenient and safe for road trips. It took about an hour to reach our hotel Pestana Casablanca, located on the Atlantic coast, after which it still took another hour to get our rooms as we were early for check in. Krythya was however on schedule with her nap and didn’t mind the lobby sofa. Even if it’s a hotel, choosing places that are equipped with a kitchenette makes it convenient to prepare some quick meals etc. The staff were extremely friendly, even upgraded the baby’s room. Who doesn’t love some extra space?

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Kids Enjoying The Old Medina

Once everyone was checked in, and in our case napped and bathed we headed out to the Old Medina. The kids found a small garden to play in, with my grandfather and uncle watching over while the girls walked around. The tiny streets were lined with shoes, carpets, and endless artifacts. Soon it was time for dinner, we headed back to our hotel as it was conveniently located next to a mall with multiple food options. On our walk over, the kids rode camels on the beach while the toddler wanted to give it a bath. Also made a quick trip to the grocery for fruits, yogurt etc. With my rusty French I ended up getting sweet yogurt and mixed it with rice, yep you guessed it, Krythya spit it out. Only then did I realize it!

 

 

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Day 2 was a bit more touristy. Started off with our travel standard baby breakfast which usually contains oatmeal, eggs and fruits. We visited the Hassan 2 Mosque which certainly lived up to expectation. Being the 5th largest mosque in the world you could pretty much see it wherever you went. It was beautiful weather for the long walk around or should I say run around for Krythya. For lunch we went to a sea side cafe where I found one of my favorites – paella and Krythya had her grandmas tomato rice…. Just kidding she loved the green olives and pita bread too. On our way to the next attraction our driver decided to stop at a government building as they had some local street artists there. Turns out it was not such a good idea as Krythya did not like the look and sound of them. Took us a while to convince her that the drum man was gone.  By the time we had reached Mahkama du Pacha, the city courthouse it was Krythya’s nap time and she was tucked in to her seat and so my mom stayed back with her while we got to see some gorgeous architecture. Funnily enough the best part of the day was being stuck in Casablanca traffic with everyone singing wheels on the bus and learning mandarin from an 8-year-old.

Marrakesh

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Road Trip Swag

Road trip! We had an early start to beat the traffic for our 3-hour journey to Marrakesh. The timing worked out well to include Krythya’s nap. It was no short of an adventure from the minute we reached. We chose to stay at a Villa – Paix et Palmiers, which was not an easy job to locate. A beautiful rustic French style villa with a pool and lush gardens all around. Krythya was fascinated seeing oranges on trees. It was lunch time, and everyone were quite hungry, the villa only served breakfast, so my uncle ventured out to get some food. Behold it was a feast in the parlour/dining room which was on the other end of the swimming pool. We had the local version of roti and chicken, couscous salad and pizza. After lunch, we realized the gate to the parlour had locked on closing with the key outside, turning it through the grill wasn’t working. At a distance we could see a gardener who couldn’t hear us calling out (my aunt suggested he was a ghost haha). To make things worse my little cousin got her head stuck in the grill, which luckily wasn’t difficult to get out of, but she started to cry. Finally, one of the house maids came out and showed us how to open the lock. Enough adventure for one trip, right?

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Orange Trees at Our Villa

It was time to explore Marrakesh, we headed out to Jemaa el-Fnaa, the market place. It was quite entertaining for kids and adults alike. Horse carriages, snake shows, pottery, what’s not to like. Krythya got herself a pet camel (no not a real one….), while my grandfather got his shoes polished.

Day 4 started with lazy breakfast by the pool, as the day was slightly warmer. The weather in general was much cooler than expected. Always a good idea to pack in layers, and fleece jackets helped. Today we drove to see a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains. For lunch it was Tagines, a local delicacy of cooking in a clay pot. The restaurant overlooked a stream with hanging bridges, Krythya spent all her time on it and we took turns outside with her. Then we visited a facility where we witnessed the making of Argan oil. Argan peanut butter yumm! Tonight was going to be a late one, once we were back at the villa we made sure Krythya was fed and dressed in warm comfy clothes and made our way to Chez Ali. I would say it’s an elaborate version of Jaipur’s Chokhi Dhani. As expected Krythya fell asleep on our way, it was a stroller kind of night. There were beautiful warm and cosy tents set up for tables. Tagines for dinner again, the vegetarians had couscous and carrots. For entertainment were folk dancers making the rounds and the main show Ali baba and the forty thieves was set outdoor. Sure shot way of waking up a baby, fire forty gunshots… and she was up. She did enjoy her first belly dancing show that followed

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Bye Bye Marrakesh

Next morning was time to say goodbye to Marrakesh, the beautiful Villa and the very hospitable owners. On our way back to Casablanca we stopped at a resto-gas station for a quick bite. There was a children’s park as well, so we spent more time than planned for. Krythya made conversation with kids that were speaking French so it was quite amusing to watch. We arrived in the evening only to spend time together as some family was set to leave that night. The kids got very emotional as they didn’t want to leave Krythya. This bonding was really what the trip was meant for.

Rabat

The last leg of our trip was a one-hour drive to the capital city of Rabat. If you’re looking for roman ruins and nature walks The Chellah is the right place to be. Krythya got to see some large vultures and their nests too. At which point she referenced the baby bird from her book ‘Are you my mother’. For lunch, any guesses? Yep Tagines! But this time in Dar Naji a highly recommended restaurant for its beautiful and comfortable seating especially with a toddler who likes to be on the move and of course amazing food. Then we went on to see the Hassan tower, where we got creative with picture taking and had some very hygienically squeezed sugar cane juice. One last stop before heading back was Kasbah of the Udayas. As majestic as the name suggests but not very stroller friendly. Krythya did enjoy the mini doors and cobblestone paths like a she was in a story book. On our way back was a beautiful seaside drive that put all of us down for a nap.

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That night we were packed and ready to leave the next morning. The driver agreed to drop us off at the airport although that wasn’t in the original plan. Overall this was one of the friendliest places I have visited. And a truly memorable one for all ages!

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Memories Made

Useful Tips from our Trip

  1. Using a travel friendly car seat is both safe and convenient for road trips.
  2. Planning the day with Krythya’s nap schedule in mind helped avoid a tired and cranky baby.
  3. Choosing places to stay either villa or hotel that provide a kitchenette makes cooking small meals to pack and go convenient. Carrying dry items like rice and pasta would suffice.
  4. We found that involving Krythya in the plan of places we were going to visit got her very excited and interested in anything we did. Also helps them learn and make memories.
  5. Always have flexibility in plans. As sometimes just having time and space to run around in a garden makes the holiday so much more fun.

 

An Anniversary Trip to Maldives with Mystery, Romance, Action, Comedy, and Horror

 

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I loved these matching family slippers at Anantara Dhigu 🙂

I know what you are thinking… Why take your baby on your romantic getaway? Well, there is room for romance, action, comedy, and horror on every holiday when you bring your toddler along – and we would have nothing less on our Anniversary Trip to Maldives

This was our second trip to the Maldives – we were there in 2010 when we celebrated our first anniversary, and there we were celebrating our 9thin 2018. This trip, with Arya in tow, was obviously a very different experience. Saurabh chose the Anantara Dhigu Resort because it is extremely kid friendly, and located only a 35-min boat ride away from Male Airport.

The Mystery Begins…

cae3b0ba-841a-4c13-8d7e-77340b6c2057So… This was supposed to be a surprise anniversary trip for me – but I must have been a cat in my previous life, because curiosity literally kills me, and I can’t help myself from extracting every secret out of Saurabh through third degree interrogation techniques (as he claims they are). He had booked the trip with this “Luxury Surfing” company called Tropic Surf which arranges for packages with surfing, accommodation, and food (if you choose that option). This was an absolutely brilliant move by Mr. Marda because I think the experience and service through Tropic Surf is really unique! They have a special welcome crew, seamless check-in process, and special concierge service for bookings made through them.

Romance

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The Spa at Dhigu

Since this was an anniversary trip, there had to be an element of romance 🙂 This is where the resort’s excellent kids club came handy. We were able to get some alone time while Arya played with the 12 or so other kids who were checked into the kids club. This allowed us to go surfing and paddle boarding when we wanted to, and also had a chance to visit the sister resort Anantara Veli (which does not allow kids). With Arya safely deposited at the kids club we indulged in an extra drink (or two) at the picturesque bars at Veli. The baby-sitters were extremely flexible with timing and Tropic Surf team made sure that we had hassle free cancellations of babysitting service on the day our surf lesson got cancelled due to bad weather.

We had already done all the romantic stuff like sunset dinner on private island, and picnic at private lagoon on our previous Maldives holiday so we kept this one simple. But if you have not done that once – I highly recommend the sunset private dining experience!

Action

IMG_4866Although Maldives is supposed to be known for a relaxing holiday we are not ones to sit still. We had pre-booked 4 days of surf lessons (two of which got cancelled due to bad weather), but the ones we did get to do were amazing. Tropic Surf team has its own unique method for teaching which I think is quite effective! We managed to get a few really good waves. The only down side to surfing in Maldives as beginners is the reef break – we had a couple of small scrapes from waiting too long to dismount and getting dragged on the reef – nothing serious though.

The calm waters near the resort are also excellent for paddle boarding. So calm in fact that we took Arya with us. Paddle boards are free to rent if you book surf lessons through Tropic Surf. The resort gave us an infant life jacket for her and the Tropic Surf instructor showed her how to hold on to the ropes and sit. We could see turtles and small fish as we paddled through.

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The Swings in the Middle of the Sea

We also rented the glass bottom kayak on one of the days. Arya enjoyed sitting in the middle and looking at the reef and fish below while Saurabh and I paddled through the calm waters. We even spotted her a nurse shark below. We kayaked to the neighboring Picnic Island where they had these beautiful swings in the middle of the sea that made for amazing Instagram material.

Diving in Maldives is also phenomenal – we stayed at the Banyan Tree last time we were there which had a phenomenal house reef. If diving is topmost on the agenda I recommend choosing a resort where you can simply start from the house reef! We skipped diving this time around because it would require a half hour boat trip at least, an we already had too many other non-child-friendly activities planned.

Comedy

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Refreshments at the Pool

Life is generally full of comedy with Arya around. She just makes it extra special sometimes. When we were not doing anything we were sitting at the pool bar and sipping (pitchers of) Sangria, while Arya goofed around with the kids at the pool. Particularly hilarious was her interest in three blonde Russian brothers between the ages of 4 and 8. She tried to individually impress and befriend each of them – the whole effort was made especially comical by the fact that none of them spoke English – so she tried all her vocabulary in the three languages that

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Watching the Sunset from the Poolside Bar

she speaks (English, Hindi, and Telugu). Failing which, she also tried to befriend them by sharing everything she had (her pool floats, her beverages, the cashew nuts she had requested from the bar tender). Her final attempt – she tried to impress their mom (a 6-foot tall blonde who was only mildly amused by the chattiness of this 3-foot nothing creature).

Arya finally gave up on the kids and started befriending all the old people in the resort by telling them she was 65 years old. So… that worked! And we were suddenly getting life advice from retired CEOs and fund managers whom Arya had broken the ice with for us.

Horror

9f464b2b-80f4-4374-9aa4-d8b44b07454dSo… What can be scary about the Maldives? Sharing your bathroom with reptiles and crabs!!! Most of these new-age Maldives resorts have outdoor bathrooms. While they are very romantic and exotic and all… they can be a bit scary if you are a toddler. On the first day Arya spotted the chameleons in the bathroom and squeamishly ask me what they are. Now, typically I believe in telling the truth, but a chameleon sounds like a scary animal even in my head – so I told her they are squirrels (because squirrels are cute). She even pointed out that those were some weird looking squirrels and I had to improvise and say that’s what squirrels in Maldives look like. So, every time we went to the bathroom we would acknowledge the “squirrels,” birds and stray crabs (if any) with “Hi squirrel! Hi crab! Hi Birdie!” before going about our business.

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All in all – I would say, while it is not a typical family destination, Maldives can be fun for kids who love the beach. Of course – do your research and pick a resort that caters to kids (not all of them do!). Anantara Dhigu has small perks (like free lunch buffet for kids by the pool, and kids eat free at dinner and breakfast buffet policy) that makes it good value for money (well… relatively!).

5 Useful Tips for Mauritius and Seychelles With a Toddler

I now realize I am running about 3 trips behind on blogging. So I made this one short and to the point – particularly since Mauritius and Seychelles are both islands with a limited set possible itineraries and all of them have been listed on the interwebs.

We did a 10 day trip – 5 days in Mauritius, 4 in Seychelles (and one day of traveling). It was just Saurabh, Arya and I one the Mauritius leg, and a group of 16 family and friends (including 4 children) on the Seychelles leg. You can read my general tips about a beach trip in my blog What to Pack For A Beach Holiday With Baby. And air travel tips in by blog post 11 Things I Do To Make Air Travel With Baby Easier.

My tips for making it a hassle-free trip in both the countries for kids:

  1. Drive! In Both Mauritius and Seychelles, driving is safe, convenient, intuitive andIMG_3463 cheap, and parking is amply and freely available even near tourist destinations. Plus – we were smack in the middle of potty-training when we went to Mauritius and Seychelles, and I refused to let that slide. So we stopped at the side of the road for bathroom break at our leisure. Being able to drive also gave us a lot of flexibility to sightsee at our own time and pace. We rented a bright orange Mini Cooper Convertible in Mauritius to make extra fun to enjoy the sights.

 

  1. Get a Baby-Sitter: If you are adventure junkies like us and want to indulge in some IMG_3388diving, surfing (while in season), or other sports where kids are not allowed, or simply want to get some time for R&R, I highly recommend choosing a resort that has a well-reviewed nanny service. We chose Angsana Balaclava which provides a great nanny service which is also not too expensive. I know some parents are not comfortable leaving their children with strangers – but this is not someone you got off craigslist! It is someone the resort recommends and takes responsibility for. I always book for an extra hour before just so I can also personally evaluate the babysitter and offer them tips. Our babysitter at Angsana was actually a sweet Mauritian Indian Aunty who also spoke Hindi and was a pro at handling kids– so it worked out quite well.

 

  1. Go Boutique: I prefer small boutique hotels over large commercial resorts, mostly IMG_3454because in my experience, the service is more personal. Angsana is a small enough resort (not a huge one like the Hiltons / Club Meds). By the end of our 5 day stay, the staff knew our daughter well – what she likes to eat, play, etc. They knew our preferences and made sure they catered to our needs in the best way possible. There is, however, a tradeoff – I am told the bigger resorts have more activities options, and company for kids. It is hard to imagine my 20-month old would have been eligible for any group activities – maybe I will re-evaluate when she is older.

 

  1. Plan Ahead! Now I am all about spontaneity but I do believe one requires a bit ofIMG_3533 planning to make the most of a vacation (especially when you are in a large group). While it was just the three of us in Mauritius – we were a group of 16 family and friends in Seychelles. I do think we could have seen and done a lot more in Seychelles had we planned ahead a little bit for that leg of our trip. Even simple things like finding a restaurant that will seat 16 together can be difficult for a group that size. We had a couple of situations where we were looking for suitable places to eat with 3 hungry and cranky toddlers in tow.

 

  1. Choose Villas Where You Can! Since we were a large group in Seychelles we chose
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    The view from our villa in Seychelles

    villas instead of hotels. This gives kids the ability to be themselves (and be rowdy sometimes) without the adults having to apologize to fellow guests. We chose pool villas so the kids could swim to their hearts content. The villa we chose in Seychelles was a 6 BR villa located at the highest point on the island. You could literally see 80% of the island from the villa – simply breathtaking! The only downside of the villa was – because the two grandmoms had a kitchen available, they spent a significant amount of time there cooking for the four kids (I wish they could worry less and enjoy the trip more!).

 

What to see and do with toddlers in Mauritius:

  1. The Zoo (Officially called Casela Adventure Park): Although I am fundamentally against the idea of zoos (because I believe they are cruel) I have had to soften my stance since I had a kid. I still think its cruel to trap wild animals like lions in cages, and surroundings that feel nothing like their natural habitats. Which is why the zoo in Mauritius was perhaps one the of least offensive ones I have seen. About 80% of their animals are from the African continent and hence are not completely out of their element. Plus the zoo does not have small entrapped areas but large spaces to house the animals whom you can view through a vehicle that drives through the area or a view platforms. It somehow felt more humane. Also, Arya had a great time at the zoo walking side by side with giant turtles and ostriches.

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  1. The Curious Corner at Chamarel: This was a totally unexpected stop for us following a somewhat underwhelming viewing of the seven-colored earth at Chamarel (underwhelming only because I sort of expected it to be bigger after all that build-up of standing in a queue of cars to purchase a ticket and then driving 7km on a windy road). This is a museum/experience house that plays on optical illusions to create surreal imagery. This was a fun 1-hour indoor activity with a toddler – although I think Saurabh and I were more excited about the photos than her.

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  1. Get a lot of Beach Time! Needless to say Mauritius has amazing pristine beaches – plan to spend at least an hour a day at the beach – kids love the sun and the sand, and parents can enjoy local food and culture at some of the beaches. My favorites were Trou-aux-Biches, Mont Choisy and Grand Baei in the north of Mauritius – the waters are relatively calm and shallow, which means kids can swim and play without fear. Arya also loved the fresh juices and coconut water at all the beaches.

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There is a lot more to do if you have slightly older children (6 years and older), who can go hiking, ziplining, ocean-walking, kite surfing etc. But we took it easy and stuck to what our toddler could comfortably enjoy. Read my blog post on taking babies Swimming here How to Introduce Baby to Swimming.

 

As for Seychelles:  it is not particularly a place marketed to kids – but kids can have fun if they enjoy the sun and the beach. I could not find any activities specifically for kids but the four children in our group (ranging from 8 months old to 5 years old) had a great time frolicking around the pool in the two villas that we rented, and loved chilling at the beach. Mostly they were happy playing with each other.

 

Activities for Adults:

  1. Diving: both Mauritius and Seychelles have amazing dive sites and great options for diving. We went in off season (for diving) in Mauritius and still saw quite a lot of life. Had to dive through a bit of a surface current in North Mauritius but its all good when you get close to the bottom. The visibility is amazing even in supposedly off-season waters.
    Diving in Seychelles was simply breath-taking! We went diving first in the marine reserve where the density of marine life is some of the best I have seen in my life. Small and playful schools of fish make the experience absolutely unique and awe-inspiring. We also went diving to a wreck which was a fun exercise in practicing our diving skills.
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Saurabh and I during the hike
  1. Hiking: both Mauritius and Seychelles have amazing options for hiking. In Seychelles one of the most well recommended hiking trails began at our villa. We considered bringing our daughter on the hike in the sling but made the wise call to leave her with the grandparents at the last minute. It was a short but tough hike with steep and slippery steps.

 

  1. Food and Drink: If you enjoy eating and drinking – both these places will deliver. Mauritius has a combination of local food joints that bring French and Indian flavors together, and international restaurants that leverage the fresh seafood to cater to all palates. The best food we ate was at an evening local market in Seychelles where they had fresh catch barbequing in a parking lot, and drinks made from local rum to go with it.

 

Overall, I think Mauritius is more kid and family friendly with more structured places and activities for kids. Seychelles is actually perfect for either romantic getaways or short group trips where kids have company to entertain each other.

 

Why We Travelled to Israel with Baby Despite All the Hassles…

I am drowning in work but I am up at 2am writing this blog – because I want to share both how amazing our trip to Israel was and the lessons we learned about traveling with a toddler (skip to the end if you have no time, and just want the lessons). We almost threw in the towel on the second day and were very close to deciding NEVER to travel with our toddler again. And then she got cute on us (suckers! Yes)

The VISA!!!

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Eager beavers

So here is how is happened – we planned this trip a couple of months in advance to celebrate Papa’s 60th birthday in Israel together as a family.  This trip got challenging way before we even got there! So APPARENTLY, if you are taking a minor child to Israel and you apply for a Visa you need to submit their birth certificate and it needs to be apostilled by the Ministry of External Affairs. Plus both parents need to show up at the embassy in Delhi for an in-person interview. I wont bore you with the details of all the hassles and expenses we went through during the submission process but let me just say – having traveled to nearly 60 countries, this was my most grueling and expensive Visa application process yet.

The Politics

Then, just a few days before our trip, Trump announced the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, spurring several threats of violence all over the middle-east. I am not even going to get into the politics of it here – but lets just say we seriously considered cancelling the trip. I decided to write to a few friends/acquaintances in Israel who all confirmed that it was life as usual in Israel a few days after the announcement. I even wrote to the Indian Embassy in Israel who confirmed the same, and made a note of Sushma Swaraj’s personal and professional twitter handle… just in case we need it.

The (Over the Top) Security

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My sister

Next stop – Mumbai Airport, from where we were going to take the El Al direct flight to Ben Gurion Airport. This is the most amount of questioning I have gone through IN MY LIFE. They asked us totally random questions like why would you choose Israel for a holiday!? Saurabh, Arya and I cleared the questioning, my parents cleared it too, but my sister was stuck there for a good 15 minutes while all of us wondered what was going on. They passed her passport around from one security official to the other, making all of us nervous. Finally, when she was cleared she told us it was because they suspected she was an Israeli citizen with a fake Indian passport trying to smuggle a baby (Arya). Because clearly Saurabh and I look like the baby-selling type. Gah… I knew I should have dressed better! Lol

Finally… We were there!

We arrived in Ben Gurion at 3:20am on December 24 after an 8 hour flight which was thankfully uneventful. By 5am, we had cleared immigration and exited the airport with our rental car. We arrived in Jerusalem, our first destination, by 5:30am. I tried my luck calling the apartment owner to see if they would let us in but they confirmed that we not have the apartment before 1pm. Of course there was nothing else for us to do but to head to Old City and start the sightseeing. We parked in a lot outside Jaffa Gate and headed straight to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was a beautiful walk as the night sky went from black to dark purple to pasty orange at dawn. It was like we owned the place – other a few occasional runners – no people, no open shops or cafes – just a few friendly cats, early birds, and us. Finally a few cafes started to open – we sat at a Turkish café to have some coffee and juice before finally entering the church.

Jerusalem over Christmas

 

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What we experienced next was surreal. It was a special Christmas prayer at the Church of Holy Sepulchre – which is where Jesus is said to have been crucified and resurrected. The priests conducted special prayers, chanted in unison, and performed holy rituals. It was a feeling both eerie and surreal at once as nuns moaned in statue like poses in all corners of the church as the rituals went on. Finally, (someone who seemed to be) the head-priest arrived in grand black and golden robes, followed by a procession of similarly dressed priests and then devout followers who chanted prayers as well. There was something about the whole experience that made even non-Christians like my family feel a sense of awe and spiritual connection with the Divine.

By the time we were done it was daylight, and more shops and cafes were starting to open. We walked through most of the Christian Quarter and Armenian Quarter, visiting various interesting sites like Tower of David, Western Wall, Mount of Olives, Damascus Gate, and many more.  The most memorable one was the Temple Mount – which allows only a limited number of visitors.  We stood in line for almost an hour and a half before being let in. Arya napped through the entire time we were in line, and the rest of us chatted away about everything under the sun. We were ushered in after a through security check – I had to leave the Holy candles I bought for my Christian nanny in the lockers before security check. It was a short walk through a wooden footbridge that led us to the main Temple grounds. At this point I was feeling like I should have spent that $10 on an audio guide – but then again, between an antsy, sick, and hungry Arya and all the walking I wasn’t sure I would actually have the time or focus to listen to it. There was a huge mosque right in front of the main Temple.  We were offered entry into the mosque by (who seemed like) local guides – ONLY if we were Muslim. We said we weren’t and he promptly moved on to visually identifying other potential Muslims. It was a sunny but windy day and I was feeling bad for my little one who was running a fever and had a cold – so we didn’t spend as much time as the place warranted, and made our way through the winding exit roads back to the wailing wall. While the stroller was a lifesaver at this point, it did require a lot of carrying up and down stairs – we took turns but mostly it was my husband lugging it. A sling would have worked better here but my daughter does not like the sling anymore and likes the freedom of movement a stroller provides.

Yad Vashem and Tel Aviv

 

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The next day (Christmas day) we planned to go to Tel Aviv and stop at Yad Vashem on the way. Since children are not allowed inside the Yad Vashem papa and Saurabh decided to sit it out in the café with Arya while mom, sister and I went in. The hour we spent inside was a truly reflective one. Mom kept telling me how little she actually knew about the struggles and perseverance of the Jewish people before that visit, and how the mass killings are just a reminder of how cruel humans can become as a race if we leave the powerful and the evil to their devices. We reunited with the rest of the party in the café and reflected on our experience over some coffee and snacks before heading to Tel Aviv.

Being now used to the (somewhat over the top) Christmas vibe in Europe and the US, where I have spent nearly half of the Christmases in my life, I was a little taken aback by the lack of anything Christmasy at all in Tel Aviv. We started at the Jaffa Old Port where Arya had fun with the feisty waves hitting the walls and the friendly cats and birds playing with her. We then headed for lunch at what was touted as the best falafel place in the world – HaKosem. And it delivered! The place hardly has seating for 30, and most people order for eating on the go. We were lucky enough to find a table for 6. After about 15 minutes in line, we ordered what at the time seemed like food for 20 but it took us only 10 minutes to wolf it all down. The food was absolutely fresh and delicious. Arya kept nibbling at a pita bread and picked on some salad from the salad plate.

Defining Pasta (Toddler Tantrums!)

We then walked over to Sarona market – which is essentially a high end food and gourmet market. The market is full of (slightly overpriced but) delicious open food kiosks and gourmet cooking shops. While the rest of them roamed around the market – I thought I would buy lunch for Arya who hadn’t eaten much at the falafel place. I ordered a pasta – which she was very excited about – but when it came she refused to believe that it was, in fact, pasta. You see – I had ordered spaghetti in pink sauce. Spaghetti, to Arya is not pasta, its noodles. She had her heart set on pasta now so there is no way we could re-package this as noodles and convince her to eat it now. So we had to order another $20 plate of pasta – penne this time, in white sauce. Raise your hand if you’ve been in a similar food situation with your toddler – I can see about 95% of you raising your hand!

Anyway, after a long day we headed to the beach – where we could not stand for more than 15 minutes because it was windy and cold. We hung out at a diner close to the beach where we got some coffee, beer and milk (for Arya). The waitress gave Arya some toys to stay entertained – truly a God sent because she was beginning to get very cranky and saying she wanted to “go home.”

Breaking Point

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Cocktails at the Imperial Cocktail Bar

We then headed to the Imperial Cocktail Bar which is supposed to have divine cocktails. They wouldn’t let Arya into the bar, so Saurabh and I took turns sitting in the hotel lobby with her while the others had cocktails. They were nice enough to serve us cocktails in the lobby though! We took a bunch of non-believers like my parents and converted them – papa, a straight up whiskey drinker was not much of a cocktails guy but absolutely loved the cocktails served at the bar and went for seconds! The drive back was a fun one as papa – now buzzed was telling us some funny stories from his youth. But Arya was tired and super cranky by the time we got home, and I somehow knew that the night was going to tough. She woke up crying at least 3 times in the night – I got kicked, punched and hit in the face several times as she was trying to move around and find comfort. One of the times she was crying I knew she was thirsty (her lips were extremely dry and she was coughing) but she refused to drink water. It took half an hour of trying to comfort her, distract her, and convince her but ultimately what worked was giving her a timeout until she calmed down and had some water. She slept within 5 mins after drinking water.

Needless to say – we both woke up extremely tired and cranky next morning! Saurabh and I knew we had to change something – we couldn’t have another jam-packed day of touristy stuff and ignore her needs. We had planned to go to Bethlehem in the morning, but decided that we would go to the “Biblical Zoo” in the evening instead of the regular stuff we had planned.

Bethlehem

 

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The next day morning we took a taxi to the entrance to Bethlehem and hired a shady local taxi to take us inside Bethlehem. He charged us roughly $115 for a return trip to the Church of Nativity, and a tourist guide who would take us inside the church. This seemed like a lot at first considering we were only 3Km from the church. But seemed sort of worth it when the tourist guide pulled some strings (and bribed some priests) to let us in to the front of the line. It felt wrong to cut the line, but given the paucity of time and patience we decided to roll with it. I bought a few candles, burned, and then extinguished them in the holy water to “bless” the candles and bring them back for my nanny who is a devout Christian.

It is a narrow path into the actual place where Christ was born, which is marked by a hole in the ground, surrounded by an ornate star. Again, the whole experience definitely felt unique and surreal as a crowd of quiet and reverent visitors made their way through the narrow tunnels and walkways. But as we left the church and came back to Manger Square where we started, it was definitely a glimpse into the reality of Palestine. A visibly poor cousin of Jerusalem, one could smell the poverty and desperation of the people of Palestine. The little kids trying to sell us trinkets and snacks at “tourist” rates seemed all too familiar (to us as Indians).

After a round of piping hot falafels we headed back to the security point to re-enter Israel. We passed several graffiti laden streets and alleys on the way there, and finally walked through a smelly walkway to the checkpoint.

A Close Call

What happened next was – well – funny and potentially scary at the same time. As we laid all our bags and jackets on the x-ray machine tried to pass through the security check, the machine started running backwards and throwing all our bags back to the ground. A man emerged saying one of those bags has a weapon. We all looked at others around us with contempt – like – what were you thinking bringing a weapon! And then he points to Saurabh’s backpack and said there is a knife in there. At this point I am in shock. My sister and Saurabh are both doing face palms as they realized the “surprise” gift they had bought me was still in his backpack. It was a gourmet sushi knife. Saurabh took out the knife, still in its packaging, and reasoned with the woman sitting behind the glass that this was a gift for his wife. She was convinced – and let us go. Phew! Now I know most of you are thinking this is not a big deal – but you had to be there. This is a shady place with several heavily armed people – who half the time one couldn’t tell if they were soldiers or fighters. You did NOT want to raise any suspicions here.

 To the Zoo

 

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After grabbing lunch on the go we headed to what was called the “biblical” zoo – although there were more than two of quite a few animals, there was also an arc with a museum and exhibit. The zoo is spread over a huge area, and we decided to cover most of the ground in the super slow zoo train, and walked on the wooden walkway overlooking animal habitats. Arya was super excited about all the animals and absolutely loved the place. We definitely would not have this on the itinerary if we weren’t traveling with a baby. But it was a fun day.

I took Mom and Papa to the Mahane Yehuda market to buy some nuts and dried fruits they wanted to take home, while Arya, Saurabh and Radhika chilled in the apartment.  After putting Arya to sleep, Saurabh, Mom, Radhika, and I headed back to Mahane Yehuda at 9pm, when it had turned into a complete party street, with blaring music. Although Radhika would have loved to go out dancing after, we were pretty tired and decided to still head back a decent hour.

Masada and Dead Sea

 

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We checked out from the hotel next morning and headed to Masada. The drive along the shore of the Dead Sea was a picturesque one. We arrived around 9:30 at the Tourist center where the cable car rides begin at about 10am. Saurabh, Radhika and I wanted to hike while mom and papa would take the cable car. Arya had fallen asleep in the car but woke up right as we were about to leave for the trek. At this point, I tried to explain to her that she would come in the cable car with her grandparents but she refused and wanted to come with us. Saurabh said if it is less than an hour he will carry Arya up. I asked him at least 7 times if he was sure!? Arya rode on his shoulders the entire way up – it wasn’t a very difficult hike but it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either – especially with a baby on your shoulders. I don’t know how he did it!

The view from the top was phenomenal! There is barely much left in ways of ruins of the fort – also I think after my trip to Jordan I have been underwhelmed by most ruins (yes, Greece as well) – but the historical significance and the view make the trek totally worthwhile.

We took the cable car back and headed to Ein Gedi to access the Dead Sea. After briefly looking for the alleged free public beach for about 15 minutes, we gave up and decided to go into a very over-priced and badly-serviced Ein Gedi Spa. The changing rooms weren’t exactly very clean and food was pathetic and way too overpriced. But for the lack of options and paucity of time we decided to roll with it. Since I had already been into the Dead Sea in Jordan I decided to sit it out with Arya while the others enjoyed their dip in the Dead Sea. Arya was definitely intrigued and wanted to go into the water – sand and water are two of her favorite play things – so it took a lot of effort to keep her out of the stinging Dead Sea water. But there is no way anyone can stay for over 15 minutes in that water. Everybody showered and had lunch and we left for the village of Amrim in the north in the Sea of Galilee where we would be spending the next two days.

Kibbutzing around

 

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We spent the next two days at a much slower pace than the last four. There was only grocery store and two working restaurants in our small community of Amrim where we stayed at the most idyllic log cabin – Eretz Hagalil. A cozy and well equipped cottage was just what we needed to relax as a family after a hectic last 4 days. The little private play ground with swings, a see-saw, and a slide made this an instant hit with Arya. A huge Jacuzzi tub in one of the bathrooms was just the cherry on top. There was even an outdoor table tennis set up for the adults. The cottage managers had even left us some baked snacks, chocolates, and local wine to make it the warmest welcome one could expect.

We decided on spending time in Amrim there because Papa was excited about Israeli farming techniques and wanted to visit some farms. So, the next day I called the Harduf Organic Farm that came highly recommended by Timeout Tel-Aviv. It turns out, the farm was located inside a unique Kibbutz that habilitates hundreds of people with mental illnesses and disabilities. Moshe, one of the managers of the farm, was the sweetest (though busiest) man ever. He asked us to come at 1pm for a tour. We had a heavy breakfast that we cooked up at the cottage, and headed to the Jezreel Winery which was pretty close to the Harduf Community. It is a small winery that was closed for the winter but the staff organized a quick private tour and tasting for us. Arya was entertained at the farm by all the horses in the stable, the donkeys and the friendly cats. We bought a bottle of their Rose’ and picnicked at the benches in the garden outside. Arya was entertained by the two friendly cats with whom she shared her popcorn (I don’t even know if we should be giving popcorn to cats!?).

IMG_4234Off to Papa’s favorite part of the trip – the farm. We arrived at the farm at 1pm, and Moshe gave the warmest welcome with some delicious herb tea and dates (way to make his way to my Mom’s heart – anyone who offers her tea in the afternoon is an instant favorite). While we sat next to the barn and sipped on tea (and Arya indulged in a mooing competition with the cows), Moshe explained the history, purpose, and functioning of the Kibbutz to us – it was entirely centered around the idea of two thirds of the population taking care of the third that needed assistance and rehabilitation through meaningful work and integration. What a beautiful way of life. The farm was completely organic and still used the best of Israeli farming techniques. We walked through the farm and sampled the delicious vegetables and fruits along the way. We asked a lot of questions as a group, and were equally intriguing to Moshe who was surprised to see a random Indian family show up at his farm. At the end of the trip Moshe took us to the vegetarian organic restaurant at the kibbutz where a Hungarian lady cooked us the most delicious vegetarian meal I’ve ever had. Papa, who is an otherwise picky eater, also loved the meal, and observed that they would never have the opportunity to experience something like that through the organized tours they usually take to travel abroad.

Nazareth

IMG_4419We headed back to the cottage and picked the most delicious falafels for dinner. The next morning we woke up lazily, cooked and ate some breakfast, and checked out of our lovely cottage. Next stop – Nazareth. Took us about an hour to get there from Amirim. By now we were all churched out and didn’t want to spend too much time in the city.  We headed straight to the main attraction – the Church of Annunciation, were lucky enough to find a parking spot in a narrow lane, not 200 meters from the church. We spent about an hour at the church – mostly admiring all the artwork on the outside of the church – the mosaics of Jesus and Mary from all the Christian countries around the world. On the way out I bought some rosary beads for my Christian nanny before making our way to the last leg of our trip.

Haifa

IMG_4377We decided to spend time in relatively quieter Haifa instead of Tel-Aviv. Again, I decided on this mainly because I knew we have a baby who sleeps early and we wouldn’t be painting the town red partying anyway. Maybe Radhika, who was the one more excited about night life in our group would have preferred Tel Aviv. But my parents were happy with the choice of Haifa as well.  We had the most spacious and well furnished apartment, with the best view we could imagine. Located on the nearly the highest point in the city on Mount Carmel, you could enjoy the lovely breeze and a view of the Mediterranean Sea. The host was the most fabulous one, he gave us a lot of helpful tips and recommendations for the next 2 days. The recommended that we spend that evening in the German Quarter of the city which would be rife with celebrations that evening. And so we did! We arrived just in time before the main street IMG_4414(Ben Gurion Avenue) was filled with people.  We found a parking spot in one of the side lanes and walked up and down the street – sitting down for beer and vin chaud at a couple of bars. By the end of the night, we had eaten enough small snacks and weren’t really in the mood for a sit down dinner. We enjoyed some live street music and shawarmas and headed back to the apartment to rest.

We spent the next morning at Bahai Gardens – which, while it was beautiful, was not the most stroller friendly place. After coming down just a few stories to the middle of the garden, we decided to head to the beach for lunch. We drove about 15 minutes down to Dado beach that came highly recommended for sea side restaurants. Arya predictably loved this spot.  We chased flocks of birds and played in the sand while waiting for the food to arrive.  It was difficult to keep my water baby out of the chilly cold Mediterranean waters – so we let her play in the sand with the waves for a bit – her clothes and boots were wet but I let her be because I knew we would head back to the apartment after this and I could change her.

We headed back to rest at the apartment – Papa was coming down with a fever at this point. Mom cooked up something at home for him, while I put Arya to bed early (she was tired from all the activity that day) and headed out with Saurabh and Radhika to check out some bars in our neighbourhood. We enjoyed a huge cheese platter and some curated wines at a small wine bar – we were the first ones there at 7:30pm! And then headed to a bar that came highly recommended for dancing – although as I suspected, there was no dancing at 9pm! By 10:30pm Mom called saying Arya had woken up, and we had to hurry back home (such is life with a toddler!).

IMG_4390The next day was December 31st, and Papa’s birthday. Papa was still under the weather and decided to rest while the rest of us drove to Acre, where the fort we went to see was great, but the highlight was the best Falafel meal ever! With like twenty different plates of pickles at our table, it was a meal for every vegetarian foodie out there! Mom absolutely loved it!  We shopped for vegetables and other ingredients for the dinner and cake we were going to cook that night to celebrate Papa’s birthday, at the old style local market. Vegetables were ridiculously cheap there as compared to the grocery stores so Mom went to town with the veggie shopping!

IMG_4395We were back to the apartment by 2pm where we found Papa still sleeping (probably enjoying the peace that comes with Arya being away!).  After some R&R we began the dinner preparations. Saurabh was busy with the baking, I made my famous guacamole, and mom cooked up some Indian food (Papa’s favourite!). We decorated a cake table with some candles and celebrated with the most delicious Whiskey & Pecan cake that Saurabh had baked. Arya was asleep by 8pm as usual, and I had promised myself I would stay awake until midnight this New Years Eve! But, like every other New Years Eve, I was cosily sleeping in bed by 10pm.

IMG_4386The next day, we packed up from our apartment, and loaded the car. I had planned for a stopover at Caesarea on our way to Ben Gurion (for the flight back to Mumbai). But we got rained in and decided to spend time at a mall instead. The Children’s Place had a 70% off sale where I bought stuff for Arya and mom bought a nice jacket for Papa. We made it to the airport with four hours to spare because people had told us that the security procedures on the way out of Israel can be rather time consuming.  We did not experience any delays at security and made it right through to the boarding area in less than twenty minutes.

Overall, it was a great trip with some amazing memories and stories. We got to spend some quality time with my parents who are often busy with work or household chores when we visit them at home, and experienced a truly unique country together.

IMG_4222As for my learnings about baby-travel:

  1. As babies turn into toddlers we need to plan activities and attractions that they can participate in and enjoy – especially outdoor activities.
  2. We cannot overwhelm them with a jam-packed itinerary and no down time on holidays. You could do it when they are little babies just hanging on to you in a sling, but as they grow up their needs evolve.
  3. Packing list reduces significantly when they are potty trained and not using bottles to feed! I use some of that space to pack some instant foods.
  4. Instant food options if you have a space where you can cook: instant Dosa mix, instant Upma, pasta, noodles
  5. Pick up fresh fruits and vegetables from local markets – Arya loved cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas, grapes, and many other fruits and veggies
  6. Introduce local foods! Arya LOVED the warm and fresh pita breads in Israel. We would give her one to nibble at, and she would eat one whole pita during car rides. (Hummus was not such a big hit though!)
  7. For toddler parents: I always take a few minutes at the end of the day to recount the highlights of the day. This helps build memories that they can take home. Arya still recalls the amusing scene when the ostrich was biting the rhinoceros’s bum at the zoo!

Signing off now! Until the next adventure…

How To Take A Tropical Baby to the Alps!

Its been over six months since my last post – so, what happened, you ask?!  Toddler happened! My crawler suddenly turned into a walker and now a runner at 18 months. She also added at least 500 new words to her vocabulary across the three languages we speak. I was enjoying the energy of this new phase so much that I sort of got lost in it. But now that I have settled well into it, I am back! And I have a lot to write about! A train trip, a ski trip, a work trip, and a wedding trip… But in the spirit of starting with a bang, I thought I would start with the ski trip to the Alps.

Now, in case you missed my intro blog – we are avid snowboarders and do our best to make at least one trip to the mountain every year. This was our annual ski trip (I don’t know why we call it a ski trip even though both of us snow board), and we wanted Arya to get familiar with the cold and the snow for next year when she is old enough to start skiing (maybe – usually ski schools take kids in at 3, but some of them make exceptions). So, for the busy bees I have summarized my top takeaways first.  For those of you who want the play-by-play including the story about our car breaking down on New Years Eve please read on.

Preparing for the trip: In all honesty… it takes a village

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Prerna, Arya and I on the flight to Milan

Help/Baby-sitting: So, if you have been following my blogs you know that we are blessed with amazing families who have been supportive during our adventures. This time, we recruited my sister Radhika and Saurabh’s cousin Prerna to come along. Both in their twenties, I thought they would get along could help babysit Arya while we snow board. Plus they get to experience Europe by car in the winter. I cant say this enough – they were a huge help! When we took Arya to Europe she was 15 months old and in a transitional phase from being a baby to being a toddler – which for those of you who have toddlers know can be a tough phase. And Radhika and Prerna handled Arya very well. Now I can understand that you may not have the luxury to take a family member along – I also did a lot of research about day care facilities at the ski resorts most of them accept babies older than 1 year. Some even take 6 month olds. You need to make sure that the travel insurance you buy covers your baby and includes something called “Civil Responsibility Insurance” which in plain language means that if you baby breaks something expensive the insurance will cover it. Plus – I am told Swiss and French nannies are so good – there is no baby who does not like them!

Lodging: As always, I booked Airbnb/Chalets for the whole trip – which makes arranging food for baby much simpler. Also saves a lot of money if you are a big group at ski resorts where restaurant food is double the price in a city. You could easily spend EUR 100 per person per day on food alone if you eat all meals out (and no, that does not include Dom Perignon to go with your oysters, I am talking Beer, Burger and Fries)!

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Hanging out in the Ski Village at Val d’Isere

Baby Safety: A lot of parents wonder if it is safe to take babies to high altitudes. The answer is that babies are as much prone to the different types of sicknesses associated with high altitudes as adults.  The difference is that they are unable to communicate when they experience symptoms like headaches, or dizziness. I recommend that all parents read about mountain sickness and its symptoms before planning a trip. Slow ascent and descent ensures that baby’s body does not experience a drastic change in conditions. We drove the entire trip – which ensured this slow transition. And we ensured that Arya largely stayed in the ski village which is the lowest altitude point in the area, and did not take her with us on the ski lifts that go to higher altitudes.  Mostly, she was under 2500 meters in altitude, which the relatively safer limit.

Clothing: Bottom line – babies and adults both need three essential layers to be fully protected and comfortable in the cold: an outer layer of down feather or similar material which is both warm and water proof, a middle layer of fleece or wool, and an inner layer of soft body-hugging thermal material. All of these layers are easily available in India

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Nope! Not Recommended!

through e-commerce sites. If you plan to take the baby on the snow, you also need wool socks and snow boots. If you don’t travel frequently to cold places I recommend only 1-2 items of each layer. I would buy a few additional items in the middle layer because while you are indoors you typically remove the top layer which leaves the middle layer most vulnerable to food spillage.

Food: Ah! The big F again… I have a separate blog on food while traveling. But in a nutshell – bring a couple of baby favorites from home and pick up basics like egg, bread, pasta, milk, cereal, rice at the local grocery stores. If you do not book an apartment and have to make do with a hotel room – I recommend carrying some packaged foods like cheese sticks, wheat puffs, and fruits for snacks, and order baby friendly side dishes (mashed potatoes, rice, veggies) in the restaurants.

Now – For Those of Your Who Want the Play-by-Play
We planned the trip about three months in advance and decided to land in Milan because it is a good shopping city (and the air tickets are relatively cheap). We have been to Milan a few times now and know the area around the Duomo like the back of our hands now (ok, maybe not that well), but it was new for Radhika and Prerna, and generally a fun city. We arrived at 6am at Malpensa Airport and realized that the car we had booked may not hold all people and luggage we were carrying: 4 large suitcases, a baby seat (mandatory in Italy), a stroller, two snowboards with helmets, four adults, and baby. So we decided to upgrade to a bigger SUV – which wasted about an hour and a half at the car rental place but was totally worth the wait. Arya ran around the airport lobby pointing out all the lights (new word in her vocabulary then) while the rest of us enjoyed our morning coffee. We reached the apartment, which was about half a km from the Duomo, at about 9am, settled all the luggage in and set out to be tourists!

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Radhika and Prerna took a tour of the Duomo while Saurabh, Arya, and I fed and chased pigeons in the square and enjoyed the food and wares at the sprawling Christmas market at Duomo square. It can get a little annoying for my co-travelers but I like to eat/taste everything available at these markets and street vendors. We enjoyed some warm mulled wine with baked goodies. By the afternoon the adrenaline and dopamine from the excitement of Milan were starting to wear off and the crankiness from being on the flight all night was creeping back. After a few friendly squabbles and snapping at each other we decided to go shopping our own ways. Saurabh watched Arya while the three girls shopped. Shopping bags in hand we went back to the apartment, enjoyed some warm coffee and got back in the car for our appointment to view the The Last Supper (you have to book in advance or you will pay arm and a leg to local tour guides for tickets!) All arted-out, we got back in the car and headed to the Armani bar. Saurabh and I had been here before but thought this would be a treat for Radhika and Prerna who were in Europe for the first time – and they loved it! Arya slept through most of it in her car seat that we parked next to us. We got a few stares when she woke up and started crying in the middle, but I ran out in the lobby with her and patted her back to sleep.

The next morning, we enjoyed the view from the balcony of our apartment with some coffee for some time, then packed our bags and left for the first ski resort – Val d’Isere via Turin. On the way to Turin, with all the Christmas songs on the radio I was starting to get super excited about Christmas. While Diwali is hands down my favorite time of the year – I think Christmas comes second – and in Europe it is just a hundred times better! So we decided to do Secret Santa – I set a limit of EUR 10 to make it fun andfair. We tried to play car games like “20 questions” and “Guess the movie” but they all got boring after the bit. Getting Arya to say funny things was definitely more fun! We got her to say “We are on a Holiday!!!” and “Santa Claus is coming… To Town!”

Two and a half hours later, we were in Turin. Turin (or Torino) is one of the largest cities in Northern Italy – and unofficially the food capital of Italy – this is where the first Eataly opened (it was closed the day we went)! We parked near Piazza Castello and explored the piazza and all the activity – including, guess what!, another Christmas market!! I love those! And perfect place to shop for Secret Santa! We decided to split up and meet back at the piazza in an hour and a half for lunch. We walked around some more towards where the restaurants were, had some coffee and beer, and changed Arya’s diaper. To keep it fair for everyone – Saurabh and I took turns changing the diaper when we were outdoors, and Radhika and Prerna took turns when we were away on the slopes.  I thought that was fair – but I had a few complainers…ahem (can’t please them all!).

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Blissfully Sleeping Through the Commotion

It took us another 4.5 hours from Turin to Val d’Isere – well we added one hour because we followed the GPS (despite Google Maps showing the correct route), that led us to a supposedly shorter route – only to find out that road was snowed in and hence closed! And wait – this wasn’t our only driving adventure! We get to Val d’Isere, get the keys to our apartment from the rental office, and head to the apartment – which was up a steep and icy slope. The car not only refused to go up, it actually slid back – I think the girls were a bit shaken up by all this. Saurabh and I have been in “car stuck in snow situation” a few times now so we were used to it. Saurabh (with this excellent driving skills) managed to park the car at a safe spot and carried all the stuff up the slope to the apartment – that was more exercise than some people in our group (I wont name names – you know who you are) get in a week!

All settled in the apartment, and Arya asleep, we decided that two of us would go out to fend for dinner (it was a bit late, so we were afraid most of the restaurants would be closed). We found a great smelling café/bakery that had pizza, chicken pastries, and other good stuff. Luckily we had picked up some groceries when we stopped at one of the convenience stores – so we were set for next morning.

Next day, I made some scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast for everyone and Radhika brought out the two staples of any desi group on holiday: bhujia, and hot sauce! I had to f

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Arya giving Mommy a foot massage while Radhika gives a shoulder massage – oh am I pampered?!

eed the girls before I prepared them for their first day alone with Arya. I even left them some pasta and bottled sauce in case they were unable to step out. But I told them they could go out if they wanted – they just had to put some clothes (umm three layers) on Arya to make sure she is warm. Saurabh and I headed to the slopes and had a great day there – enjoyed a couple of coffees during our breaks, and had a wholesome pasta lunch (with the most delish Bolognese sauce) at one of the mountain restaurants.  For those of you who want more details on skiing/snow boarding conditions at Val d’Isere – please write to me separately. Don’t want to bore the rest with that.

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As a ski resort – Val d’Isere is a quaint village but had a lot of character – and great crowd. It has mostly European cuisine (and some American food). We tried a French restaurant and a pub/bar food place for dinner. On Christmas night I cooked up what the girls said were the “best burgers they had ever had.” We bought some beer and Champagne to go with it. Saurabh and I were too tired from the riding all day and stayed in the apartment with Arya and a couple of beers all the three nights. Prerna and Radhika went out to the night club and the bars and said they were great.

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After three days there, we were to drive to Courchevel. But we decided to add Geneva to the itinerary for the girls. We left at around 8am and arrived a little before 11am. We parked in Old Town within a walking distance from St. Pierre Cathedral. We walked up to the highest point from where you could see Lake Geneva and Jet d’Eau. Radhika and Prerna went up to get a view of the city from the church tower while Saurabh, Arya, and I played outside with pebbles. We then descended to the main street parallel to the lake where all the expensive stores are. All of us admired in silence the most beautiful footwear in the world at the Louboutin window display – that’s it my pilgrimage was done – I could die now! Then we looked at the prices, looked at each other, laughed, and resumed walking across the lake to a Mexican restaurant Saurabh had found. Lunch was the most delicious burritos I have ever had (or maybe I was really hungry)! Arya snacked on corn chips, and looked out the window facing the street while the rest of us indulged in porky burrito goodness. The plan was to walk to Jet d’Eau after lunch but food coma got the better of us. We decided to head back to the car and head to Courchevel instead.

We arrived in Courchevel by 6pm, and got the keys to our beautiful condo.  This was perhaps the smallest condo I had stayed in terms of area but it definitely was one of the most well designed and utilized ones I had seen. The owner Svetlana was a sweet and helpful lady who gave us a tour of the apartment and explained all the equipment to us. She had even bought a folding tub to bathe Arya in – how thoughtful! – if you have tried to bathe a baby in a shower you know how difficult that is! We settled all the luggage in and Saurabh and I decided to go grocery shopping for dinner.  I decided to cook everyone dinner. Saurabh picked up some beer and cigars and I picked some salmon and flat noodles with some spices to cook up some Asian style mustard-wasabi salmon and chili noodles. Again, everyone relished the food, and with Arya asleep after some shenanigans we kicked back with some beers.

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Courchevel is one of the poshest ski resorts I have been to (others super posh ones are Lech in Austria and Zermatt in Switzerland). It is the regular haunt of rich Russian families. It is very family friendly with a bunch of non-skiing activities to keep everyone entertained. I have never seen anything quite like the Aquamotion Center there – an indoor water resort complete with a kiddie play area, water slides, indoor surfing, and salt water hammams. The town center also had a free kids play area, pony rides, a carousel, and candy and popcorn vendors. While it was more kids friendly, the snow conditions in the week of Christmas were less than ideal with mostly artificial snow on most of the open tracks.  This was the first time I rode down a mountain on icy tracks with bare ground on both sides of me. It was a bit scary when my board lost control a couple of times because of lack of traction and there were other people in the way. Regardless of the ski conditions – we did have fun with the apre’ ski scene – everything from quaint pubs to Michelin star restaurants.

On our second night there Saurabh decided to surprise me with a dinner date at the Michelin star restaurant at Le Chabichou Hotel.  Since we arrived slightly early we decided to get a drink at the bar. This was a truly old school bar with live jazz music and we were possibly the youngest people there – but I enjoyed the experience. With a number of delicious accompaniments served with our drinks – I think I was full before dinner even started! We decided to go with the chef’s four course menu at the restaurant (really 8 courses if you include the amuse bouche, the palette cleanser, the cheese course and the chocolate course!) – and it was divine! The chef had a modern take on some French classics, and it was a fine display of carefully chosen ingredients (ok, I was a fine dining critic for a day).

With holes the size of Russia in our pockets, but satisfied smiles from ear to ear we made our way back to the chalet – to find that Radhika and Prerna nearly passed out from exhaustion! Arya had apparently driven them up the wall with all her antics and refused to sleep despite it being way past her bedtime. She finally fell asleep minutes before we arrived. We love you girls! J

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Thats Arya on the pool noodles in the middle of the pool with Radhika

The next day, I decided to give snow boarding a skip and joined the girls at the Aquamotion center while Saurabh went on the mountains for a half-day. I checked myself into the spa (mommy needs pampering!) while Radhika and Prerna took Arya to the pool. After my treatment I went up to the café and watched the girls fight over holding Arya in the pool (even after last night’s drama!! – I guess the cuteness makes you forget the pain they put you through!).

Since it was New Years Eve, and nearly the end of the trip – Prerna and Radhika decided to treat us to a fun filled evening at home – they prepared the appetizers and ordered the main course from a restaurant, brought some good champagne and even thought up funny party games! Somewhere in the middle of all this we found out that our car had broken down. We had a 9pm flight from Milan next day so while we did have some time to figure everything out, we realized it was New Years Eve and panicked a little. While the towing company took the defunct car away, they didn’t have a replacement to send us, since it was New Years Eve and they were both short staffed and sold out.

Just as we were trying to sort this out, an old French man, who lived in the condo above us stopped by to say that he was sorry our car had broken down and would be happy to help us any way. This was the best hospitality I had seen in France! He helped us figure out that the closest big train station was Chambery from where we could get a train to Milan next day. He also called and helped us negotiate the lowest last moment price we could get with one of the local cab companies. He was truly a God-sent!

Unfortunately, this meant our New Years Party had to be cut short a little because we had to clean up the house and leave very early in the morning – pack all the suitcases, snowboards, and baby equipment too. Brightside: the girls got to see the fabulous Milan Centrale Station, and Saurabh got to eat his favorite type of food – greasy Chinese takeout – for lunch. Milan Centrale has a luggage check-in service which allowed us to leave all the luggage and explore the area around the station before we headed to the airport.

Overall – I think it was a great trip! And Radhika and Prerna made it that much better. I can’t wait for the next ski strip – she will be two years old this time, and we may even be able to try some skis on her!

Feel free to share your mountain and Europe experiences (and any other travel tips) in the comments below – I love the tips shared on my previous posts!

A Babymoon in Japan – In the land of the rising bun!

So here I am, writing about my trip to Japan, on a Mommy blog!! It was still hard to believe that I had to plan for a pregnancy friendly trip. (simply because a month back, I was not the potato that I am now!)

We had already planned the dates way back before we even planned a baby (haha holidays always had priority on our new year resolutions list)

Once we found out that I am going to be a mom, I did a quick calculation in my head on how far off that one week of holidays was. It would be in my 4th month, so I took clearance from my doc right away. She was only interested in how long the flight journey was, before she said yes. Apparently for a 8-9 hour haul and above, it’s good to walk around on the aisles every 2 hours, just to ensure good blood circulation. I also got her to write out a No Objection Letter for my travel plans, saying I am pregnant and fit to travel. (To whomsoever it would ‘concern’)

How to choose a destination:
This was a slightly tough decision as we have always decided on a place based on what activities we can venture into while in that country. This time, we knew that the adventure sports and activities like diving or climbing would be out of the question. Also, while pregnant, you have to be aware that your body drives most of your decisions and will power plays very little role. If you are thirsty, you have to drink water right away. If you need to use the loo, it should be right away. And don’t even get me started on hunger pangs. So we wanted to choose a well-developed city/country which would give us all of the above and in hygienic state. Having good hospitals accessible at all times was a criterion too.

That eliminated a lot of the countries that we otherwise had on our list – like Laos + Vietnam or driving around South of France (multiple hours in a car – not something I was willing to experiment while preggers)

So to make it easy, we chose a food haven – Japan!

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Zen Gardens like these!

 

Packing and Planning: So while in Japan, the travel inter and intra cities would all be by rail. I also knew that I would not be helping in carrying around the luggage. So we packed light, one large bag (which Dhruv would carry) and one stroller/cabin baggage (which was for me to lug around).

Our hotels were booked based on proximity to the stations and 24/7 convenience stores. There was a fantastic coffee shop next to our hotel in Tokyo, so I helped me-self to a croissant every now and then as well. 🙂

We took travel insurance like we always do, but I should mention that the regular travel insurance does not cover pregnancy related emergencies. So there is really no way to avoid unforeseen costs for pregnancy complications.

Walking around:
I carried my lightest handbag for all the walking around that we would be doing in the day. Avoided all my leather bags because of the weight.

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Wide streets and Classy Stores – Ginza in Tokyo

I also had my most comfortable shoes on for most of the days. Bought a cool pair of (very comfortable) sneakers from Osaka while I was at it. 🙂

Walking and exploring in Tokyo and Kyoto was so fascinating and beautiful that I would tend to forget that I was carrying a +1 inside me.

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Hydration is Key!

But there were definitely times when I got extremely exhausted and sweaty. In those times, I just needed a bench to sit/lie down on for about 5 minutes. We always carried water with us, and bottled water was available everywhere as well. That was a very important tick for choosing Japan.

Shopping:
As a pregnant shopper, all of my focus was on identifying what is unique to Japan in terms of baby shopping. So I did a lot of research on which items I can or should buy, only from Japan. It was helpful to do this research before-hand, because I had shortlisted a few items like the Japanese baby kimonos (called Jinbei) and a super soft towel quality specific to Japan. There were a few Japanese baby boutiques which I visited as well. Research before-hand allowed me to plan the days efficiently. I planned the walking paths and locations based on which shops I needed to hit first, and the timings of all these stores as well. This might seem like a pretty straightforward and simple tip, but planning all of this in advance allowed me to 1) enjoy the day stress free 2) make sure I had enough eating spots along the way 3) not tire myself unnecessarily.

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Cycling around Kyoto

Rejuvenation/Revitalizing:
While making the bookings at the hotels, we had informed the hotels that I was pregnant. This allows the hotels to care for your needs in their own way. A few had extra chocolates and snacks for us, while all had extra pillows (of all sizes). All of this worked very well with my pampered side. 🙂

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Cooling down with a Matcha Ice Lolly

We all would usually want to see any city by night as well. Either the night life in clubs and bars or just simply on the streets. This is the one thing I cut back on for this trip. I did my research on the whether smoking in Tokyo clubs was in restricted areas or in the open. Tokyo had no restriction on smoking areas inside clubs, which was a problem. Anyhow alcohol was out of the question, so I overlooked the night life this time around. Making sure that I was back in the comforts of my hotel by 9 or 10 pm was a big help in allowing me the required rest time to make the next day’s 18 km walk possible. (Yes, that’s a true story – my fitbit can vouch for it!)

The husband was allocated the task of foot massages every night, which helped me get through the otherwise buzzing night life that I could have been part of.

But it was one of the smarter decisions I made, definitely.

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Enjoying some Ramen in Kyoto

Last but NOT the least, Food:
Japan can get tricky for vegetarians, but luckily, as both Dhruv and I eat most meat and seafood, this was not going to be a problem for us. The only thing I had to avoid was raw fish with high mercury levels. Whenever we went to a sushi restaurant, I chose what I would have liked to eat, but before placing my order I let the waiter know that I was pregnant. (I had a little note in Japanese which read “I am pregnant. Could you advise the best suited raw fish items with less mercury”) So he made changes to my order based on his judgement, which worked perfectly well.

I had carried some basic snacks from home just in case the little button inside me wouldn’t take to Japanese food. So I had Marwari ammo like makhana, bhujia, suhali and some roti+achar. Although I am proud to state that button was pretty adventurous and enjoyed every noodle as much as I did!

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The Classic Udon Noodles with Tempura – wiped clean within the hour!

In order to keep my hunger pangs in check, I did not shy away from Macha and mochi ice-creams. Japan had amazing street food like rice crackers and takoyaki. These kept me going in between meals. I still have mouth-watering dreams about a teriyaki hot dog I ate in Kyoto.

Needless to say, Japan was all about food for me, and rightly/aptly so!

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Munching on a rice cracker outside Tokyo’s Asakusa Temple

I think key to a superb babymoon is to keep yourself happy and stress free throughout. Listen to the needs of your body but don’t limit/underestimate your ability to experiment and have fun!

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I hope this helps a lot of to-be baby mamas out there. What did I miss? How would you do it differently? Lets have it for the rest of the expecting mamas out there.

Please feel free to give me a shout on facebook if you have any questions.

Lastly, Thanks to the one of the best super-moms I know, for letting me contribute to your “guide to the light’ blog. 🙂

11 Things I Do To Make Air Travel With Baby Easier

So, taking flights, especially long ones, with baby is the most dreaded part about traveling. Being stuck in a confined space with your infant or toddler and a couple of hundred fellow passengers (judging you, hating on you, killing you with their looks) is daunting indeed. Here are 11 things I do to make traveling with baby a (slightly) more pleasant and comfortable experience.

 

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Riding in her Graco Click Connect Jogging stroller in Goa at 3 months old

Before the flight…

 

  1. Dress the baby in layers: most flights are cold so dressing warm works, but airports (and even some flights) can be warm and make your baby irritable. Dressing in layers works for us – remove and add clothing as necessary. My typical travel dress for baby is a full-length onesie (which also protects baby from floor dirt on airports) and a cardigan and cap that can go on top in case its cold.
  2. Strollers are usually free to check in: most airlines allow strollers to be checked-in for free and it does not count for hand baggage allowance. Some even allow car seats and other infant equipment. But some low cost airlines either have restrictions on the type of stroller or charge you extra for taking one. Most airlines also allow a gate check-in for strollers – which means you don’t have to check it in with luggage and can use it for the long airport walk. You will also get your stroller back at the gate when you land, and don’t have to walk all the way to baggage claim to get it. But again some airlines require you to check it in with the luggage. Read this very helpful post. As a rule, if it’s the first time I am taking the baby on that airline… I do this next one:
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    Grumpy Car-Seat-Sleeping Look 

    Check airline policy: just Google “<airline name> baby stroller policy” and you will find a page that leads you to the airline’s policy on baby equipment. Its great to know if you could even bring a car seat on board for free (if you plan to take one for that driving trip through Europe 🙂 ).

  4. Let baby run around in the airport: you are going to be mostly tied to your seat for the duration of the flight, so you might as well let the baby exhaust themselves by running (or crawling) around in the airport so they (like you) just want to rest on the flight
  5. Invest in a lounge pass: I mentioned in my Sri Lanka post, that if you travel more than 2-3 times a year its worth investing in a lounge pass that lets you use the business class lounge (even on an economy ticket). This way you get a slightly more private and cleaner space for the baby to crawl or run around in.

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During the flight…

  1. Upgrade to Business Class, Baby! (ok just kidding…!)
  1. (Ok Really) Put yourself in your baby’s (tiny) shoes: Poor baby can only express discomfort or annoyance by crying, so try to imagine yourself in her place and see what might make you uncomfortable, and try to eliminate or address that. For example, I have severe ear popping during take off and landing so I can only imagine what Arya goes through – so that brings me to this next one…
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    2 Months Old on a Flight to Delhi – Got restless so I put her on the seat and played with her.

    Be extra attentive to the baby during take off and landing: I know you may be in the middle of some riveting conversation with a fellow passenger but just take a pause and shift your attention entirely to the baby for the 10 minutes each of take off and landing. I was reading that some babies experience severe discomfort during this time. So feed them, have them eat a snack, suck your finger… anything that makes them suck and swallow – because this relieves ear pressure. If the baby is still restless… follow this next one.

  3. Engage them through talk, song, game, or book: When the airhostess is instructing you to sit with the seatbelt on but the baby just wont sit still – engage them with whatever works for getting their attention at home. If they are engaged in an activity they like, they will not be restless. I know this sounds easy but it takes serious effort – especially with babies older than 9-10 months who are very restless. But don’t give in – seek help from any willing fellow passengers if you need to.
  4. If they are small enough, put them in a sling: this has several advantages – both you and the baby can sleep comfortably without you worrying about the baby falling off while you sleep. They stay close to you and feel secure (especially babies below six-months old). Also, some airlines allow you to skip the uncomfortable infant seatbelt attachment if the baby is secure in a sling – one less thing to manage!
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    Catching a nap at the Marhaba Lounge at Dubai Airport

    Be extra prepared with food, medicine, and other supplies: so I am usually a light packer but when it comes to baby stuff it doesn’t hurt to carry a couple of extra servings of food (on long flights), and some basic medicines for an SOS situation. Some international airlines (I know Emirates does for sure) carry organic baby food, formula, allergen free blankets, and toys for infants on board. Its great for back up but personally I wouldn’t rely on it.

  6. Once the seatbelt sign is off let them loose: babies eight months or older have oodles of energy, and if you don’t let them spend it they will get cranky and annoyed. So once the seat belt sign is off let them get off your lap and walk or crawl between the seats a little bit. Especially if this is a long flight you can even bring them to the little open area near the toilets and pantry and let them explore a bit. I know, I know, you are concerned about all the germs on the floor – keep a keen watch on them to make sure they don’t put anything in their mouth, and keep some sanitizer to apply after they are done.

There – all of this helps make my flying experience better. There will always be the annoyed co-travelers. While I do sympathize with them, I refuse to leave them sorry notes or care packages on flights (which a lot of generous parents do) – I just think they are full-grown adults who can look after their comfort. I spend my energy ensuring it’s a comfortable experience for my baby and me.

Do you guys have any additional tips to share? Add them in the comments section please!

How to Introduce Baby to Swimming

Swimming is a great activity to introduce early to your baby for several reasons. It allows them to discover their mobility in another medium, it may help them improve movement and coordination, and it is a fun an engaging way to spend quality time with your baby. Most of all – if you plan on traveling a lot with your baby, being comfortable around water can help your child enjoy a whole list of exciting activities early in their life.

I have been taking my little one to the pool since she was 5 months old. At 9-months old now she is independent in the pool in her float – the Fred’s Academy Swimtrainer (one of my favorite baby products!). Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that your child enjoys swimming:

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    Getting ready for her first swim

    Safety and health first: yes – no dunking baby in pool like an Oreo cookie in milk! When you take her to the pool, make sure the child is healthy, properly hydrated, and well fed. Also ensure that you use the right sun block if the pool is in a sunny location, and a swim diaper to protect against infections.

  2. Take it slow: no matter what age you introduce your baby/toddler to the pool, remember to take it slow – don’t expect a natural Michael Phelps on the first day. The pool is a vast scary thing for them before they get used to it and becomes fun. Give them ample time to love it.
  3. Do it yourself: your child trusts you (the parent) more than anyone in the world – so they would feel a lot more secure if you are one taking them to a pool, and not an instructor, or your sibling, or a cousin or a friend.
  4. Hold her close, and talk to her: for at least the first few times you take your child to the pool hold her very close to you, and keep talking to her to comfort her. Again, don’t worry about looking like a chatty fool at the pool. Remember the pool water is often colder than bath water, so, holding them close keeps them slightly warm and abates the temperature shock.
  5. Use props and toys to engage them: bring the baby’s favorite bath toys, or a napkin to play peek-a-boo with. You can also bring a plastic cup to fill and empty into the pool – some babies love the sound and action of water falling.
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    First time in the swim trainer

    Slowly introduce equipment: once the child is more comfortable in the water introduce floats that can help them become more independent in the water – their mobility is limited when you are holding them. So choose equipment that allows ample mobility of arms and legs.

  7. Once they are ready, lose the equipment: my child is not there yet – but once the baby is comfortable in the pool and old enough to follow basic instructions (even if by mimicking you) you can encourage them to let go of the floats. You can start by teaching them the right breathing technique, then teach them to kick their legs, and then to wade their arms. And voila we have a swimmer… ok not so easy – but the more time you spend with them in the pool the faster and easier the process will be.

Some people have the courage to take their newborns to the pool and teach them to swim right away. I wish I were one of them – but I am actually quite a sissy when it comes to my baby – so I am doing it the slow way. You can pick the method that suits you best.

Have stories to share about your experience with baby in pool? Questions for me? I will write the next one about introducing the baby to the beach…

6 Fears About Traveling with Baby

I am writing this on our way back from our Sri Lanka vacation – Saurabh and I are both tired of keeping up with our energizer bunny who refuses to eat anything today so is both energetic and cranky all at once. I will post about the vacation later but thought I would put this out there for all the parents planning travel soon.

We all have fears about traveling with baby – no matter how seasoned we are as travelers and parents. Here are my top 6:

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    On the Indigo flight to Chennai

    Flight tantrums: before we had Arya I was the type of person who would pray to God I was not seated within five rows of a baby. I would also say things like – “can’t they just give some Nyquill to the damn baby?!” Eating my words now. As they become more mobile babies get tougher to handle on a flight.  Not to mention ear drum popping that makes them uncomfortable. My tactics to handle this: of course the first one is to feed the baby – nothing keeps them more still. Singing rhymes, talking dramatically, playing air guitar and air-drums with baby in lap are other tactics that I have tried. Got more good ones?

  2. Poop bombs in inappropriate places: even though Arya is pretty regular with her poop times already, she has “surprised” me a few times with an unexpected poop bomb. If your baby is on solids or formula you know now their poop is very stinky! My fear is that she will poop right as we board the flight or get in a cab so it would be at least 20-30 minutes before I can find a bathroom to change her. Which means putting my fellow passengers through the stench for that long. Honestly – I have no retort for this one – maybe practice your embarrassed smiley face? Look up witty apologies.
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    Casual floor seating at Tartaruga Restaurant Unawatuna

    Baby behavior at restaurants: lets face it – everyone expects some peace and quiet, if not decorum while they are at a restaurant. And it is embarrassing when your baby is excitedly yelling away the two syllables that form her vocabulary. So here is what I do – pick more casual restaurants where there is light music and din so that the baby’s sounds get drowned out. We try to not expose Arya to screens if we can avoid it, so my tactic to keep her engaged is to give her some objects – like a dessert spoon, a straw and the cloth napkin to keep her busy. And most of all she yells to get our attention. So we take turns talking to her and keeping her entertained.

  4. Forgetting to pack something important: you can make all the lists in the world, but there is something you need and will forget to pack. I forgot to pack the toy and bottle washing liquid this time. My strategy for this is simple – make do with substitutes where you can, or buy once you get there. And most of all – don’t beat yourself up about it – this does not count as bad parenting, its just being human.
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    Not being let into bars: if you were used to chilling at bars before you had the baby this may be a rude awakening. We were actually denied entry into a couple of pubs/bars because they don’t allow babies. While I would have LOVED such a place when we didn’t have a baby it does sadden me a little that I am outright denied entry. You just have to recalibrate you expectations for this one – for every one place that denies you that much needed beer there will be three others that will happily serve you. Don’t take that rejection personally 🙂

  6. Food fears: there could be one whole separate post on food. We have so many fears when it comes to food for babies – will I find appropriate food for the baby? is the food I am giving hygienically prepared? what if my baby refuses to eat? Well..I do a combination of bringing some food from home, and giving local stuff. I pick up a few
    IMG_2311
    Arya would rather eat grass than her cereal!

    fruits like watermelon, bananas, and papaya from the breakfast spread. If its an Airbnb with a kitchen I make some cereal (like ragi or oats) and fill it in the Boon Squirt (highly recommended for non-messy travel eating). You will get rice almost anywhere – carry some taste makers like butter or ghee to prepare a quick meal at any restaurant. Most of all – I think cut a little slack on food rules while traveling. I don’t regularly give processed foods to Arya – but I carry wheat puffs and other snacks for her for travel.

Alright – over to you… what are your worst fears while traveling with baby?  And what are your coping tactics?  I am sure you have a few we could all learn from!

PS: Arya’s Onsie in the Featured Photo is from Blue Bus Tees. I love their stuff – capture my thoughts so well!

What to Pack For A Beach Holiday With Baby

The night before leaving for a holiday I always feel like I forgot to pack something important. So, I thought I would write this post before leaving for Sri Lanka – in case this helps me remember to pack everything I need. And helps you pack for your next beach vacation too…

So, here are my top 6 items (in addition to the regular baby packing):

  1. IMG_2132
    Left: Swimsuit, Right: Sunsuit

    Baby sunscreen: babies really don’t need anything more than an SPF 50. In fact most of us don’t need it. High SPF sunscreens may actually be bad for baby skin. I use Aveeno Natural Protection Sunscreen. Its a good consistency and works well for Arya.

  2. Sun Protection Suit: in addition to normal swimsuit – buy a sun protection suit. This is for when the baby is playing on the beach – you don’t want their delicate skin to burn, yet you want something that will dry quickly if it gets wet. I just bought this Tribord one on Amazon. We are yet to use this – will let you know how it worked out!
  3. IMG_2035
    Fred’s Swimtrainer in Action

    Swim Safety Equipment: you will most likely stay at a place with a pool where the baby can swim. So carry the equipment baby is comfortable using at home.  We use the Fred’s Academy Swimtrainer. As a mom, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this product. It is designed to encourage babies to be independent in the pool, and ensures safety without restricting movement.

  4. Baby Bath Robe: I know what you are thinking… but this really is useful for when the baby is done swimming but you are not ready to take her inside for a bath. You can remove the wet swimsuit and put a robe on while you finish whatever is cooking on the barbecue or your drink.
  5. IMG_1950
    Looking cute in her Sun Hat

    Sun Hats: get a hat that protects baby’s eyes from the sun. I got two hats from Mothercare but the one I like more is this soft white one from ShoppersStop. Buy a breathable fabric thats soft to touch. Also recommend buying one that clips/sticks at the chin, so baby cannot pull it off easily.

  6. Swim Diapers: so there is a lot of debate about these being a waste  of money. I think they are worth it especially if baby is sharing a pool with other babies. This way they are not swimming in each others pee.  I use Huggies Little Swimmers.  Is there another brand of swim diapers available??

Rest is all the regular fare like enough clothes to last at least 2 day time changes per day, towels, toiletries, grooming kit, baby food etc.

Sri Lanka… Here we come!!!

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Greece Part 1: Santorini

IMG_1905Some Background
So – this wasn’t our first trip with the baby but it was the first international one, so in the spirit of starting with a bang, I thought I would start here. This was a family trip celebrating my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday. This meant that we had a little extra help from Arya’s grandparents. We planned on Greece because it was the right flight time, weather, and budget, and has decent healthcare infrastructure (which factors in when you travel with old people and babies). I have to admit – despite all the support, I was a bit nervous about taking my 7 month old on an 8-day trip with long-ish flights.

Getting There
We checked her into business class with the grandparents while we enjoyed some alone time (read: peacefully watching a movie or sleeping) in economy – ok, fine, we cheated a little. But I have to say… Emirates hospitality and baby friendliness surprised me! They had age appropriate toys, allergen free brand new blanket, diapers, Similac formula, and Gerber baby food. It took us 20 hours from the time we left home to when we arrived at our first hotel in Santorini. (Handy Tip: Buy disposable bottles and spoons if you can – washing and sanitizing bottles and spoons and sippy cups at the airport was not fun)

So, Here is the Play by Play…
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We arrived in Santorini at about 6pm local time. Not much to do that day since it was 8pm by the time we settled into our hotel – Oia Suites. This is probably the best hospitality I have experienced in Europe – ever! Although they don’t typically allow babies, (they made an exception since it was low season and we were booking three rooms) they went out of their way to accommodate the baby. They got us one of those pack and play cribs – which was a God-sent! And through some stroke of luck – Arya adapted beautifully to local time. She slept at 9pm in the crib and woke up at 7am (with her regular two feeds at night). Being a crib sleeper – I think she felt comfortable in her crib, while we enjoyed being horizontal and comfortable in our double bed. (Handy Tip: If your baby is a crib sleeper request a crib – everywhere. If you request in advance they may be able to help you)

We woke up at 6am to enjoy the view of the entire island and the volcanoes from our hotel. Saurabh went for a run up the scenic trail to Fira while I enjoyed a quiet coffee with a view from the balcony outside the room, and waited for Arya to wake up. Arya woke up chirpy as ever – oblivious to the beauty of the view – just happy to see us and her grandparents. S and I tag-teamed bathing the baby in a shower – this is definitely a two people job – one person hold the hand shower while the other cleans the baby. (Handy tip: hotel bathrooms do not have tubs for babies. So, bathe the baby before you shower because you will be drenched)  

IMG_1914Minor Bumps Along the Way…
So, everyone was ready to go by about 9:30am – happily fed on Greek yogurt, bacon, toast, muesli, juice, coffee and more… when we were told that we might have difficulty getting around because many establishments and monuments were closed due to Greek Easter (May 1st). The lovely receptionist came to our rescue – she suggested that we rent a car for the day and drive ourselves around for a tour of the island. She also suggested that since it was 8 of us we do a private boat rental the next day to visit some of the must-see sights like the volcanoes, hot springs, and Red Beach. I thought she was going to drop a price bomb on us – something ridiculous like 2000 EUR. But the whole private yacht rental for 5 hours which included pick up from hotel and drop off to the port where our ferry to Mykonos would board, butler service, unlimited food (including barbeque and drinks), and sightseeing would be 800 EUR. Not bad – I thought the catamaran looked really posh with three bedrooms, slick leather covered indoor seating area, and a pretty deck. So we went for it. (Handy Tip: If you are willing to risk availability – these things are much cheaper to book when you are there – I looked up prices for pre-booking and they were at least double what we paid) 

A Laid-Back Day 1
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We packed ourselves, some sun hats, a snack bag, and a diaper bag into the SUV and drove away to Fira – the main town in the Island. While the rest of the group enjoyed walking around for some street shopping, S and I headed straight for the bar with the view. Handsome daddy with baby in sling sure gets the attention of the hostesses! We enjoyed the chilled beer and chardonnay with some olives and handed a piece of fresh baked bread to Arya to nibble at. (Handy Tip: we invested in a comfortable sling that works in both inward and outward front carry positions. If you buy sling models from earlier than 2014 they probably wont be designed for comfortable front facing carrying. The sling is great at keeping a baby of that age engaged and manageable at the same time. Just be sure to move plates and glasses out of her reach!)

IMG_1924We then drove through the hilly area of Pyrgos, to Perissa Beach. Since it was Greek Easter the traditional restaurant at the beach there was roasting a lamb outdoors spreading a yummy smell all around. We goofed around at the pebbly beach for about an hour taking selfies and pushing each other in the icy cold waters. May is NOT a good time to go if you want to really go into the waters – its still a butt freezing 15-170C. But you can enjoy the blue hues and sunshine from a distance. We had a really late lunch at the traditional Greek restaurant and headed back to hotel to rest and change for the evening.

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Since sunsets are pretty late at around 8:30pm we had ample time to rest before heading to Amoudi Bay for a dinner with a sunset view. Happily settled into our table by the edge of the cliff, listening to waves hit the rock, when we hear a shrill clink… in the one nano second while we were sitting to enjoy the view and the waiter went to bring the high chair, she had knocked off a plate from the table into the sea! A bit embarrassing, but hey its their job to embarrass us once in a while or they wouldn’t be babies, right? (Handy Tip: dress the baby warm in the evenings, duh-you-knew-that, and bring a warm cap that covers ears – Arya looked ridiculous in the napkin we tied around her face to save her from the wind)

Definitely not ideal for vegetarians, most of the restaurants in Amoudi Bay are known for their sea food. We picked our fresh fish, and ordered a whole bunch of sides, salads, potatoes and Greek yogurt for the two vegetarians in the group. If you have a dominantly vegetarian group skip dinner there and get Pizza at Oia instead! We wrapped up the day with a gorgeous view and some dancing to local music. By 9:30pm my happy little trooper was turning into her evil avatar James Cranko. So we headed back to hotel.

Our Day 2 in Santorini is the Stuff Bollywood Movies are Made Of…

13133274_10154818222389097_3843568759735820669_nWe packed up from the Hotel and were picked up by our lovely catamaran crew at 8:30am sharp. They took us back to Amoudi Bay where we ended the previous night, and we boarded a brand spanking new 60 foot catamaran with 3 bedrooms and “butlers’ quarter” (ehm… fancy much?). With six adults, two babies, two crew, and a fridge full of food and beverages, we departed from Amoudi bay for the volcanoes. We spent the next 4 hours on that beauty, being pampered by our personal chef and butler. I was a little bit paranoid about having Arya, who was just learning to crawl, on the boat. So Saurabh and I carried her in the sling for nearly the whole trip – she slept for about half of it.

13164333_10153769124694121_7571832907814032100_nOur first stop was the supposedly “hot” springs at the volcano. Ok, the captain did warn us that the springs weren’t exactly hot but warm. Saurabh was the first brave soul to jump in. Of course he was freezing his butt off – but didn’t tell us that or I would not have jumped in after him. These were NOT EVEN WARM springs… freezing-effing-cold springs is more like it!!! I swallowed a whole bunch of that sulphurious water because I was yelling so much from being cold and had a scratchy throat for the rest of the day. Oh well – you live and you learn, right? (Handy Tip: uhh dips toes first to check temperature before jumping in, and also carry goggles – I did, and they helped!)

 By the time all our “hot” springs shenanigans were over the butler had finished cooking our meal and put a whole bunch of meat on the barbeque. I ordered some white wine while I dried myself on the deck. We enjoyed a great meal and some great views of the pristine blue waters, red cliffs of the Red Beach, eerie lighthouses and churches, and hill top villages.

We headed back to Amoudi Bay and then to the Fira port in a van to board the ferry to Mykonos. Arya and I were in the back seat – enjoying the quiet ride and the picturesque Santorini views for one last time.

IMG_1920Summing up… My Top 5 Tips/Takeaways for This Post…

1. Try to broadly stick to the baby’s nap-sleep schedule during the flight and during the vacation as much as possible. This will make the jet lag adjustment process a lot easier (of course this only works when the time difference is 3-4 hours or less)
2. Babies tend to sleep more on vacations in day time – especially when they are warm and cozy in a sling. I prefer to let her sleep because that keeps my hands and mind-space free to experience the holiday.
3. If you are giving them solid foods – feel free to experiment with some of the local food (as long as its baby safe) – Arya loved Greek yogurt and homemade bread there.
4. Email hotels in advance to let them know that you have a baby in the party so that they can offer you the suitable equipment and room.
5. Most important of all: leave as much time for yourself and the baby as possible… happy mommies and daddies make happy babies. Talk to them about how much fun you are having, and how beautiful the holiday is… positivity is infectious! 

Stay tuned for my next post on Mykonos and Athens. And feel free to email me if you have questions about traveling to Santorini with a baby, or if you would just like to share your own experience.