European Tour – Italy

The Italian excursion was easily planned at home when 5 + 2 hours on a train didn’t sound too bad. After a week of solo traveling with Cillian, the prospect of getting in a train for a whole day from Ulm to Verona was very intimidating.

I was dreading it and thought I am crazy and should be slapped into reality. My fears were misplaced because between Dani and the distractions of everything new around, we were able to have a very decent trip. Tiring but very civilized. Little son enjoyed different activities, walks up and down the train with both of us, a nap and the views.

We arrived in Verona and my Dad and Cornelia met us. They had a child seat installed so for the next 3 days we enjoyed an Italian life that only in Italy can be found.

Verona.

Verona
Day one in Verona was hot, animated and entertaining. Busy streets full of tourists, Juliett’s house and balcony, a lovely lunch, gelato at Grom, and a quick tour of the Verona Arena.

Verona.

Limone del Sur and Sirmione
Dani suggested this was a location worth seeing and she was right. The drive there is spectacular in itself. The little town is very romantic with little streets, beautiful houses with flowers and hilly.

Limone sul Garda.

Limone sul Garda.

Limone sul Garda.

Sirmione.

Peschiera del Garda
We spent the last day at a slow pace, we looked for a supermarket which was supposed to be within a 5-minute walk, we ended up walking outside our town to get to it. Gelateria Romana was excellent. Cillian loved playing in the fountain in the center. We walked to the lake and had a little splash, had a lovely dinner with a spectacular promenade and view and of course one gelato to wrap the season up.

We embarked on the way back for another long train ride but yet again to give credit to my little amazing travel companion, he cooperated and together we made some beautiful memories.

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European Tour – Germany

The adventure continued for Cillian and me. Husband had to return to work and we were apart for 5 weeks while we were visiting friends and family.

Cillian was an excellent travel companion, navigating train stations, airports, airplanes. It gave me great confidence these weeks we spent together. Also it reminded me how kind and thoughtful people can be, of course, family and friends but also complete strangers.

Cologne
Our first stop was with D. & F.. They picked us from the airport, after a gentleman mansplained to me how to navigate two suitcases, a backpack and a child. D & F spoiled us for a week. They basically set up their place so comfortably for a toddler we could have moved in. Everything from a car seat, eating chair, a play area with Lego just for Cillian, our own bedroom and bathroom. Cologne was a revelation in terms of their excellent parks for kids with a lot of sand and water castles with pumps allowing the kids to play beautifully. We spent our days taking small walks, day trips, a bit of shopping during record-breaking temperatures. We had an amazing day at the animal farm in Frechen, another at Phantasia Land and yet another visit to Postkarten on Breite Str.

Usually, bath time was something Cillian shared with Husband and for the five weeks, we shared this experience as well. It was both exceptionally fun and exhausting at the same time. Cillian also found a first girlfriend in a mall, where a little girl grabbed him by the hand and wouldn’t let him go. He found it fun to start with, but not as much once she was ready to take him home.

D & F dropped us at the train station and we said a sad goodbye for now while we ventured on our first solo train ride for a couple of hours to sexy Ulm.

PhantasiaLand.

PhantasiaLand.

Cologne.

Ulm
Dani is a regular on this blog for visits she makes to Toronto but this time we made our way to her. We didn’t spend much time in Ulm as we thought might as well go spend 5 days in Italy. More about that in the following post.

The little time we spent here, was short and sweet with a trip to the Botanical Garden and a reunion with a dear friend from Manchester, a walk around the City Centre and home time dancing on latin music and watching Alta Mar once Cillian went to sleep.

Both trips were filled with beautiful memories and I was very happy we had a chance to spread some of Cillian’s energy around with such dear friends.

Ulm.

Ulm.

Ulm.

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European Tour – England

We came home for enough time to plan the son’s 1st bday picnic. He spent 7 hours outside having a blast with family and friends. We also had a weekend away at the cottage with the fam, rocking cottage life in the Bruce Peninsula. Not long after we started packing again for 2 months away in Europe visiting family and friends there.

London

Our first stop was England. The flight was not super eventful which was nice, just tiring as Cillian was at the stage where he was moving and walking around and not much interested in sleeping in an overnight flight. We planned to rent a car from Gatwick and drive over so we have it for the weekend. This was important since we planned to attend a friend’s wedding in Surrey and then drive to Manchester.
The wait to pick up the car was excruciating, almost two hours trying to contain a child who only slept an hour or so in one night. Chris is the flexible driver and has the amazing ability to drive on the left side or right side without any problems. He got us within a minute of our destination when we bumped the wheel into the island in the road. It must have been some really strange angle since the bump did not feel to great from inside the car. But it dislocated the wheel to the point we could not drive anymore, we got stuck in a tunnel with no emergency lane, no phone signal. We were lucky it was a low-speed tunnel, people were very patient and Husband masterfully managed to get us out of it without losing control of the car. We tried to get a replacement car but no such luck with the customer service, Cillian got sick with a fever so we sadly missed the wedding.

We spent the week with family and friends. It was not an easy week as my sister in law went through a health journey that started when we were there. Cillian always distracts everyone from their troubles so our timing was pretty good in trying to provide a helpful presence. She gracefully powered through some tough months and we are very excited to have her for a visit early January. As early as January 1st.

We have not seen our friends here in 3 years so it was a blast to see them all and enjoy quality time together over pizzas or in the park chasing Cillian around, allotment visits, just regular laughs and reconnecting.

Eat
Unlike other times we didn’t scout eateries in London. We were mostly homebound and that was perfect. We did have a lovely brunch at the Hackney City Farm.

Feast.

Around Bermondsey.

Hackney City Farm.

Manchester

Our home for 4 years was waiting for us to see it for less than 48 hours. It was short but oh so sweet to go to the place where it all started for our life together. We stayed with our dear friends Mark and Francesca and their two awesome kids Leah and Noah. They live in Chorlton a greener part of Manchester. We just basked in some sunny walks and found the best pub known to accomodate young families, Jackson’s Boat. Basically a pub and a playground all in one. We reconnected with friends, very quick sessions but the kind that always makes you feel like home and longing to return soon.

Around Chorlton and Jackson' Boat Pub.

Manchester.

Manchester.

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Australian Immersion – Part 2

We took a week and made a round trip to see family and friends in some Australian hotspots.

Canberra

Chris’ brother, the legendary Mad Macka from Cosmic Psychos works in Canberra as one does when they are a rockstar. Chris also worked there for a couple of years before we met. Actually all the siblings had a full reunion over Easter for the first time in 8 years. It is always a small victory when there is a successful family reunion. Canberra is a very settled and family friendly city, perfect to be enjoyed with my niece and nephew and little son. We helped Gus discover a croissant at Penny University. He is a very selective eater so it felt like a huge accomplishment for him to add a new food item to his repertoire. Hot chocolates were drunk, LegoMasters was watched and great times were had.

Canberra.

Canberra.

Leura, Blue Mountains

We drove from Canberra to Leura in the Blue Mouintains for a visit with Chris’ Aunt and Uncle. Husband managed to find the best bathroom ever in an AirBnb, a little cottage on a property right next to the bushland. The cottage was very small and extremely romantic for a couple without a toddler. With a toddler it was a trap with many surprises. We managed to not have him burnt by the fireplace or the heaters, or drop stuff down accessible drains. It was all worth the effort for the lovely view. We spent some soothing family time with Cillian proving himself an orator yet again. To end the trip on a high note, we had probably the best croissant from Black Cockatoo Bakery.

Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains.

Sydney

We stayed with friends and we had a house of 3 kids. It was a lovely visit with a lot of fun toys and walks on the beach. I managed to get my phone stolen at Bondi Beach. I was just super happy I backed up all the photos the day before so I was less crushed.

Sydney.

Sydney.

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Australian Immersion – Part 1 – We meet Yandina

We were hoping throughout the pregnancy that we will arrange to spend some considerable amount of time in Australia once the Son was born and we were lucky enough to make it happen. On April 1st we embarked on to son’s first Australian adventure. I started packing a couple of weeks in advance and Cillian had his own suitcase for the 10 week trip. We were excited and scared and we were right to be both. The trip started with a 4 hour delay in Toronto to the point that we realized we would miss the connecting flight. We ended up in LA for the night and that probably saved my sanity. The thought of rushing like mad people through an airport I dislike profoundly and with an almost 1 year old who was tired and confused was overwhelming. So instead by 2 am or so we made it into a Hilton at the airport and I had never been happier to touch the bed. We left the next day at 11 pm and it was a lot more civilized and we were less exhausted than the alternative.

We were greeted by Chris’ parents who were very happy to see the little son again, and we stopped by to see my niece and nephew. They are 9 years old, very cool and such sweethearts with Cillian, they welcomed us like we have seen each other just the previous weekend.

Yandina Creek

Chris’ Mum and Dad have moved to this beautiful area and it allowed us to discover many places we probably would have not visited if we would have stayed in Brisbane. It was fall time, so quite a bit of rain but we still spent most of our days chasing the sun and trying to discover as many beaches as possible. Husband is always keen to find a secluded beach somewhere. It took Cillian a few weeks until he realized sand and ocean is a pretty amazing combination. He was shy and kept staying in our arms until one day when we he decided he could enjoy it and fully embraced it. We mostly went to Peregian Beach but also loved Noosa, Caloundra, Maloolaba, Marcoola. Our last day at Peregian we saw a whale quite close to the shore, well mainly her tail, and it was a lovely way to say good bye.

Beach.

Peregian Beach.

Noosa Walk.

Peregian.

The Beach.

We had some memorable walks: part of the stunning Noosa Trail, a rainy adventure at Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Garden, the Buderim Forest Waterfall and Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, where we saw many wallabees hopping around. Very exciting for me a bit confusing for Cillian. We also saw some exciting wildlife at home with kangaroos just around the corner, black cockatoos and lovely kookaburras.

Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Garden.

Noosa.

Noosa.

Home.

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.

I don’t get a chance to cook much at home, Husband is on duty there with my mom’s help. But during this trip I did a bit of cooking, Chris’ Mum is very inspirational here. She has a great collection of cookbooks and more importantly she uses them regularly. She enjoys looking through them and choosing different recipes. One particular book stood out both for the impressive collection of recipes, approx 650 and for the tastiness/time spent cooking ratio. Annabel Langbein is a Kiwi chef and well worth trying out.

There was no corner of the house Cillian did not touch, he would go in the pantry and close himself there in dark without any concerns, he would harass Chris’ Dad while watching TV, he loved seeing the cows outside or the chickens. We had a little pool where he enjoyed carrying macadamia nuts in, he held speeches at dinner, he had a great time overall.

Home.

Home.

Home.

We caugth up with my niece and nephew as we kept stealing them away from Brisbane for weekends. Aggie and I made meringues together, we filmed a little movie which I am supposed to edit and put together, the only problem is we never filmed the ending. Cililan played a vicious murderer. Husband enjoyed Gus’ passion for soccer and they played it as often as they saw each other. They even had an epic match at Easter.

The twins.

The twins.

10 weeks sure passed quickly and our time there left us with some amazing memories. It is a beautiful place to have part of our lives even if it is so far away to get to.

Eat
Yandina seems to be a booming area for local coffee roasters. There were a few cafes that were very nice to enjoy a coffee and a quick bite to eat, quite kid-friendly too: Pioneer Coffee Roastery or Flying West.

Shop
I went a bit overboard with carrying books back home. That’s what happens when you are allowed two suitcases each. Some excellent book shops around BerkelouW Books in Eumandi and Maleny. I found some nice souvenirs at LalaLand. I used to love sending old postcards but in the last couple of years postcards have become highly collectable so you can’t touch them as easily.

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Canadiana and Americana 2018

Travels were very different in 2018. Little son came on the scene and traveling with him has been a bit of a change, a lot more planning involved.

Haliburton
Our first trip was to Haliburton, to our friend’s cottage for only a night. I prepared as if we were moving house. The son travelled well for a little bub of 3 months and a bit. It was a very slow paced trip with another young family of a 10 month old boy at the time. We just chilled around and during the day Cillian decided to have a nap of 3 hours which never happens at home. At night, he slept like he did at home and seemed to enjoy cottage life. We tried to go for a walk but the mosquitos did not let us get very far.

Cottage.

Cottage.

New Jersey
Family weddings are very special considering we are not a huge bunch. We embarked on a 12 hour drive to go for a family reunion and the wedding of my counsin. The drive there was as good as it could be expected, we would drive for 2 and a bit hours then take a break, take the little son out, feed him and keep going. This cycle repeated for 4 times or so, but by the 5th time little son was not keen to feed at the pit stop and started getting very upset in the car. So upset that we had to pull over in the emergency shoulder take him out and feed him. It was a smelly pitstop with some unfortunate animal who went to the other side. We arrived at my aunt’s place and little son made the rounds meeting his family. This was his first marathon and I would say he pulled through quite nicely. We sighed happily once we arrived at the hotel and he was super happy and smiley to be free and with just us for a bit.

At the wedding, he enjoyed the cuddles and spending time with everyone, even dressed up for the wedding although he did not attend. I had a reading as part of the ceremony and I was very moved and nervous at the same time. It was a beautiful ceremony at the Shadowbrook in Shrewberry, New Jersey. It reminded me to enjoy some fun and dancing even with a little baby. We had plenty of help from my mom looking after him so it was an easy enough first long trip.

On the way back we left from New York city, where we attended the religious ceremony and a lovely lunch. We decided to leave a day early, late afternoon, we thought it may be easier for him to be in the car for such a long period if we drive more through the night. We left at 4:30 pm and Chris marathoned us home where we arrived around 1 or 2 am. It was definitely the easier choice for the little son but Husband needed some patch work.

Cununie religioasa.

Wedding Day.

Cushing, Maine
The son had his first plane ride trip during his first year when we went with our Australian family to Maine for five days. My sister in law has a special talent to pick gorgeous houses for us to stay in and this one was the most idyllic so far. Hard to compete with the one we were in France a couple of years ago but it had something. We will revisit France in September so I may change my mind.

The days were spent lounging on the grass, the true Australians jumped into the freezing water, while I made myself useful recording them, we would go for lunch at a lobster shack and have seafood everyday. Can’t really say that was not a spectacular trip for the son to start his touristic adventures.

To Eat
Some of the delicious lobster rolls we had were at: Sprague’s Lobster in Wiscasset, Miller’s Lobster Company, McLoons Lobster Shack, a delicious pie at Moody’s Diner.

Trip to Maine.

Trip to Maine.

Trip to Maine.

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Bring in the Elvis Blues

This was a trip for the history books. We had a vacation booked for Australia during the holidays but I was almost 6 months pregnant and did not feel up to make the trip. I have experienced anxiety during flights and such a long trip while pregnant was not on the cards for us.

To make it up and enjoy a vacation still we decided to go a bit south and escape the winter weather with a 10 day excursion: Nashville, Memphis, Birmingham and New Orleans.

Nashville
On December 27, 2017 we dashed off to Nashville and the fun began at the airport when Husband pulled a back musle handling a suitcase. The flight was not a good experience for him and driving the rental car to the hotel did not help. I booked him with a massage therapist the following day but they gently sent him away saying they will not touch the bump that grew on his back. Luckily we found a physiotherapist, a NZ company as fate would make it, and with some exercises he slowly started coming back to some mobility.

During the following days Husband was feeling well enough to go to a football game and walk around the tourist area of the city where honkin’ tonkin’ happens. The game brought in a lot of people and I can see there is a lot of tradition and passion that goes into these events. I was a bit scared at the aggresive Christian preaching while waiting to enter the game with photos of abortions and quotes from the Bible with ideas againts gay people. Considering I was six months pregnant I was probably even more sensitized to how aggresive the messaging was. The game is a mystery to me so it was a good place to have a nap, and hide my Buffalo Bills hoodie. A gift from Husband which is perfect now as it is big enough to carry the son even at 11 months and ideal to grow with the pregnacy belly but it does bring me more attention than any other piece of clothing I own.

See
Even with the backpain we squeezed some hotspots in: the Parthenon, the University grounds, the Frist Art Museum beautiful art-deco building where we caught a WWI Exhibition, the posters for drafting young men stood out.

Shopping
There are many lovely shops around Hilsboro Village, the Hatch Show Print is a great source to see if any prints fancy to come home with you, Manuel is an impressive store if you want to see what celebreties wear on stage and Grimey’s New & Preloved Music is well worth a visit.

Food
We had a traditional diner meal at Elliston Place Soda Shop, a sandwich at Rotier’s Restaurant and a delicious BBQ dinner at a place I do not recall.

We stayed an extra day in Nashville to bring Chris to better health so we cancelled our stop in Birmingham. But we mananged to make it to Memphis.

Nashville.

Nashville.

Nashville.

Memphis
On December 31st we made it to Memphis after a few hours drive. We kept trying to motivate ourselves to go downtown and ring the new year in but we didn’t make it. I usually need an extra push but it was unusual for Chris to be on the sluggish side. He said he was coming down with something. Boy did he ever … It was stupidly cold when we arrived too. The poor staff working in the hotel were wearing their winter jackets inside so I was not in a major rush to celebrate in the streets.

On 1st of January Husband perked up enough to go visit Graceland. There are certain things that trigger childhood memories and this experience was one of them. Elvis, Alain Delon and many others were figures that seemed so out of this world that it felt a bit surreal to walk around his garden. By today’s celebrity standards the house was small but I love that he seemed to have fun with it. There is a huge complex next to the house where you can go see many exhibitions of his clothes, cars and other memorabilia. I kept watching documentaries about him after and it is strange to see all of that now as an adult. I never knew he didn’t write any music but yet he put his stamp on so many songs. Memphis breathes music and I would like to go back in spite of the place making me realize like no other how much privilege my skin colour brings.

Graceland, Memphis.

Graceland, Memphis.

By evening when we arrived home the husband was so sick and shivering that we booked a flight back home next day. The prospect of staying in a emergency room with me pregnant and no local health insurance brought us home.

So this sums up our last vacation together before the Son arrived. For the rest of the week Chris made it to the doctor started antibiotics immediately and slowly came back to a bit of health.

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Americana and Canadiana 2017 – Part 2

Quebec City

Dani spoils me and visits me often so every time she comes we try and see something new alongside all the mall sightseeing we do. This time around we planned a train trip, originally we wanted to hit 3 cities: Quebec City, Ottawa and Montreal but we narrowed it down to two and that was ideal with more time in each one rather than rushing it. I loved my first train experience in Canada. It makes traveling so much more comfortable. We spent 3 days in Quebec City in a nice Bed and Breakfast La Victorienne Urbaine where every morning we would get herbal teas picked by the owner herself, we had a lovely lunch at Aux Anciens Canadiens, walked around the city centre every day, enjoyed the Marché du Vieux-Port and one rainy day we found a Winners and visited it.

Quebec City.

Quebec City.

Montreal

We stayed in a Hostel, which wasn’t as cosy as our Quebec City BnB but it was near the student quarter so a great location to walk around. Considering I was 3 months pregnant during this trip I was quite proud of how much walking we did.
 We went to the Botanical Garden, an impressive light show by Aura at Notre-Dame Basilica, Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal , and to top it all off a fabulous Portuguese meal at Taverne F.

Montreal.

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Americana and Canadiana 2017 – Part 1

Buffalo
This was a quick day trip to pick a sitting standing desk that would fit a small nook in our spare bedroom and my office. Sometimes it is really frustrating the Canadian market is not as rich in options as our southern neighbours.
 It was a fun day trip, with a few stops to a bookshop, some antique stores and some traditional fast food in Allentown.

Buffalo.Buffalo.

New Jersey
Visiting family to celebrate my cousins’ baby shower and later on in the summer Rose’ baptism.

Bruce Peninsula and Owen Sound
This was a fun weekend getaway with Dini and Felix with some lovely walks and boat ride. Plenty to do and see in the area especially late spring.

Trip to Bruce Peninsula.

Haliburton
We have a yearly trip here to our friends’ cottage and it is always the source of some good laughs.

IMG_9882

Prince Edward County
It was our first time here and it seems absolutely lovely but sadly we could not enjoy too much walking around as the mosquitoes were on fire. We had a beautiful lunch with a view, listening in on a conversation about a house renovation that sounded like it would be featured in Architectural Digest. They were snubbing Wayfair so …

Prince Edward County.

Catskill
My sister and brother in law have made it very easy for us to meet up, they live in London, UK and they either visit us or organize trips where we can join them easily. As mentioned in previous posts they are excellent researchers and company for fun shopping, scenic drives and delicious food. Our drive from PEC to the Catskills was supposed to be a gentle 5 hours, but Husband decided for the scenic route which ended up to be an impressive day long trip. We stayed in a lovely house, we always do, and had some fun kayaking on Esopus Creek. Other sites included Kaaterskill Falls, Baird College, Sugarties, Phoencia Diner. On our drive back we stopped in Syracusse for antiquing at Syracuse Antiques Exchange and lunch at Stella’s Diner.

Catskill Cottage & Creek Esopus.

Syracuse - Antiquing.

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Thank you 2018

Dear 2018,

Well here I am on time this year. This time I have to start with personal highlights, one does not give birth in a year and still start with travel highlights.

Personal highlights:

  • Cillian, the Son arrived in a hurry April 6 and made our lives a rollercoaster of emotions. I watch videos of him from when he was born and it is hard to absorb how much approx 9 months with him has changed our lives.
  • Spending time with the Son and family and friends.
  • Visits from family, especially Cillian’s grandparents as well as friends.
  • Entering motherhood with a support group made of family and friends who always keep me in check with everything from food, necessities for the baby and more importantly company and moral support.
  • Stuart, our Norfolk Pine Tree is doing better and made a pretty healthy comeback after a rough spring. I am not sure if it was jealousy for a new member of the family but in late spring he was rapidly going brown. We are doing better now.
  • Ernie, the resident qumquat tree, had an excellent winter in 2017 but not a great summer and so far not a great winter. Fingers crossed his journey improves.

Travel highlights:

  • First cottage trip with the Son to Haliburton.
  • Trip to New Jersey to celebrate my cousin’s wedding.
  • Trip to Maine with the Son and family.
  • Trip to Nashville, Memphis.

Toronto highlights:

  • Walks.
  • Canadian Opera Company and Toronto Symphony Orchestra subscriptions had us going to some beautiful performances early in the year.

While the highs of this year were as high as one would expect, the lows were there to remind me how precious every moment is. We started the year with a vacation cut short by Husband getting sick in the US of A, and then the year continued with us losing people dear to us. There are many things that help you understand life more rationality but then your heart reminds you of the emotions of it all. While I am relieved our family and friends are not suffering anymore, their presence is missed and I hope their energy is moving on to happier pastures.

The pain of losing them will fade, and their spirits will bring joy so time will help but 2018 will be the year my Son entered my life and filled my heart with more love than I thought possible. It has not been an easy journey to motherhood before nor after but the love that comes with it lights up my path going forward.

Thank you 2018!

2018.

2018.

2018.

2018.

2018.

2018.

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