La Dolce Vita

Alternate title: 10 days of wine and gelato.

We just returned from a pretty amazing trip to Italy. JR’s Dad visited us in Tbilisi for 5 days beforehand, and we enjoyed showing him our favorite spots around town. JR also took him on an overnight trip to Kazbegi and a quick trip to Gori.

For the full Tbilisi experience, he had the pleasure of a 2:45 am airport pick up with us. A giant 16-person mini bus picked us up (the only available vehicle that could accommodate us and all of our stuff) and dropped us at the airport. As we shuffled to the Lufthansa check-in, I realized we were missing one car seat. JR quickly called the driver, who kindly returned to the airport to drop it off. Major crisis narrowly averted.

Our flight to Munich was uneventful. We were scheduled to have a layover of just under 5 hours, but it turned into more than 6. That’s a little long for my taste. I went back and forth over which stroller to take on this trip and even though my Britax B Agile Double is like a best friend to me, I was worried about trunk space and narrow Italian streets, so we took our City Mini Single GT. We still wanted William to be in his car seat on the flight, and it’s a giant beast of a seat so we borrowed our friend’s car seat cart for the airport transits. This thing is amazing! It was very easy to wheel around, even with Abby riding in it.  Best of all, she fell asleep in it for HOURS at the airport. We propped her up at an angle near the gate and let her sleep. Since we don’t take a car seat on the plane for her anymore, we checked her car seat in this great new travel bag I bought (I actually also just bought her a new car seat all together. I’m really keeping this industry in business – and JR displeased.) Highly recommend both of those items if you travel frequently!

 

My mom met us in Munich which was a surprise for Abby. We loved the new play area near Gate K9, it was perfect for both kids and had seating for adults. After getting as much energy out as we could, it was finally time to board the flight to Florence. It was delightfully short, and the airport is super tiny so we were on our way to our rental car in no time. My mom stayed back at the airport to wait for my sister to arrive and that’s when things started to derail.

JR’s Dad stayed with the kids while we picked up our car and tried to install both car seats. Car seat installation is the bane of my existence. Once that travesty ended, I drew the short stick and got to sit in the middle seat between the two car seats. Sit is not entirely accurate, as I was more wedged in between them and couldn’t put my shoulders back. Oh well, it was only going to be a 45 minute drive to our rental. Or so we thought.

Neither of us had a data plan for Italy, so we were relying completely on my Google Maps print out. Mistake! All it took was one missed exit and we were totally off track. It was super difficult to turn around and make our way back to the original mistake, so we kept getting further and further mixed up. That’s when Abby started complaining about her stomach, and did I mention William had already been crying the whole time? The kids were hungry and cranky. I thought William might have needed a diaper change, so JR pulled off on a side road and literally changed him on the hood of the car. #parentsoftheyear

After TWO HOURS of driving, we finally arrived at our rental in Greve in Chianti. It was a little more rustic than I expected, although to be fair the pictures we saw were accurate. It was also super super cold outside the day, and possibly colder inside this house. And I saw death traps everywhere for the kids. I rushed JR and his dad back out the door to find the closest grocery store so we could make dinner. And then I was alone with two hungry, cranky kids for the longest 45 minutes ever.

Eventually they came back, my mom and my sister arrived in their own rental car, and we all sat down for dinner and a glass of wine. We toasted to our arrival and the excitement of being together in Italy, and all was well.

To be continued.

 

Balkan Road Trip, Part III

In case you missed Part I or Part II.

Day 7:  Belgrade, Serbia

Our night in Timisoara was a bit rough because Abby had a bad cough which kept us up most of the night worrying about her.  Still, since we were already up and on the move, we were able to get on the road to Belgrade early and we arrived by 10:15am using Romania’s awesome highways, which was great after so many long drives.   Much of our drive was two-lane roads, often with lots of curves, so finding a nice highway in the Balkans was a treat!

When planning our trip, I had trouble finding a place in Belgrade that met all of our needs (walking distance to city center, parking, and suites) that stayed under budget.  I turned to Airbnb, which we used for our trip to Paris.  Immediately I found a perfect 2-bedroom apartment that was a ten minute walk to main areas we wanted to visit.  It was only $108 for two nights, so it was a great deal.   We met the owner’s mother outside the building to get the keys and information for our stay, and since Abby seemed up for it we went exploring.

We strolled along Knez Mihailova (the pedestrian street) and enjoyed the great weather.  I was totally surprised and excited to see a Vapiano’s restaurant right near our apartment.  We’ve been to Vapiano’s a few times in DC and I love their food, so we agreed to go there for dinner.  By the time dinner rolled around, Abby was over being out and about, so we just made a quick stop to order food to go.  We waited by the bar and I asked for a sweet white wine.  The bartender said, “would you like wine with bubbles?”  Splendid idea, kind sir.  Bring on the bubbly!

IMG_0585

Day 8:  Belgrade, Serbia

We set out early in the morning with plans to see Kalemegdan Park and the Belgrade Zoo.  I have a lot of feelings about our visit to the Zoo.  Although it’s located within a park, it’s also very much in the city center and portions of the zoo and animal enclosures back up directly to busy streets, which seemed very odd.  It’s not stroller-friendly, there were a ton of steps.  Most concerning were the actual enclosures for the animals – they all seemed too small and nothing like what the animal’s natural habitat would be.  I’m not anti-zoo at all, I love the zoos we’ve visited in Ohio (especially the Columbus Zoo!).   I just felt badly for most of the animals and at times, I also questioned the safety of the animals and visitors because sometimes it seemed like we were a bit too close for comfort.   It didn’t help that we passed by an exhibit with the gate keys still in the lock.  I won’t share many pictures because I think they are mostly sad, but here are a few.

bears hippos lion

By the time we left the zoo and the park, it was 10:30am and we’d already walked 7,600 steps (thank you, Fitbit).  We stopped for a quick lunch and then went off in search of Skadarilja, a small neighborhood with restaurants and bars.  I don’t know what the problem was, but we absolutely could not find this area.  We walked in a full circle TWICE (and these were big laps!) and would occasionally ask for directions, and still we missed it.  When we finally found it, I was so over walking and looking for it that I barely noticed it at all.  The neighborhood had a lot of nice shops and cool cobble stones but at this point Abby and I had enough of sightseeing for the day.  We stopped for a quick drink and then headed back to the apartment. The Fitbit said we hit 16,000 steps around 2pm, so that called for a nice, long nap.  For dinner, JR found a nice local restaurant, Zavicaj, right around the corner from our place.  It was perfect for the last night of our trip!

dinner

Day 9:  Pristina

We were on the road early and made it home by noon.  Back to reality!

A few random thoughts if you’re thinking about a similar trip.  A good stroller (we use the City Mini GT) and carrier (I love the Beco Gemini) are essential.   So many places are not stroller friendly, and it’s so much easier to wear her in the carrier, and we can take turns with it.  Some of our friends recommended the Totseat for a traveling high chair.  This thing is the best and has saved us on many occasions.  It’s easy to use, folds up small, weighs nothing, and is a life-saver when the restaurant doesn’t have a high chair.

Even with the long drives and weather issues, we had a wonderful trip.   It’s always fun for us to see new places, and we hope we can pass along the travel bug to Abby!