A progress check on the Fall 2014 Travel Bucket List

IMG_0145We set out a while ago to come up with our Fall 2014 Travel Bucket List, and now that the days are short and the temperatures have dropped, it seems appropriate to check in with a status update.

Let’s see how we’ve done, shall we?

Local (a lot of these adventures have marked the return of the Sunday drivers):

  • New England Aquarium: we made it once and have plans to go back. Success!
  • Legal Seafoods: we tried but the place was a zoo. Still on the list, and boy will that chowdah taste good.
  • Russell Orchards. Fail. It might remain that way, but so it goes. Next year!
  • The beach with the singing sand: every Wednesday and tomorrow. The water still sparkles.
  • Appleton Farms.  Cheeeeeeeeese. And cows.  But really, cheeeeeeeeeese. Sunday?
  • Hikes, so many hikes: I wouldn’t say we’ve been on so many, but we’ve done a couple and they’ve been great. Moderately successful here.

Not-so-local:

  • Colorado! A whopping success. We had a great trip full of friends, family, and laughter. As always, the time passed too quickly, but we so enjoyed the time we had.
  • Vermont: Fail. Big, fat fail. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen either, but we’re shifting it to the winter list.
  • The Berkshires because I (and we) have never been: couple weekends from now this one can have a big checkmark next to its name. Hurrah!

International:

  • England to visit these two crazy gals: So incredibly successful. We had the best time, the best trip, so much fun. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
  • Spain to relax by the beach, practice the Spanish, eat some tapas, enjoy the downtime: It was perfect, magnificent, everything we could have wanted. A true lesson in why traveling with a kid is simply the best.
  • And for an added bonus, I threw Nigeria into the mix. Not a planned adventure, but an adventure for sure.

I would say we have had a busy Fall of travel. Daunting to some, but bread and butter to us. Let’s hope the coming seasons share some similar flavor, because we have had FUN, so very much fun.

The vacation word explosion

Beach pondererFor a while now James has graced me with the sweet, sweet sound of Mom-mom, and he has had a few other words as well, but vacation really marked that tipping point I’ve heard many moms speak of where the kid just starts to talk. He mimicked so many sounds on vacation that I hadn’t heard before, and he found his words.  So many!

The list:

  • Bath
  • Book
  • More (and mas!)
  • Please (I’ll give him the world when that sweet little voice squeaks, pwease?)
  • Boost (as in, Dad, give me a boost!)
  • Chip
  • Dip
  • Cups
  • Body (as in Bodyyyyy Slam!)
  • Step
  • Beach
  • Bus
  • Diap (as in diaper)

Crazy, just crazy. Since we got home he melted my heart once again when he figured out how to say Grampa (gam-paaaah). And gracias!

Wee little dude is growing up!

Spain: Old Town Marbella

We took a quick afternoon jaunt to Old Town Marbella one afternoon, in search of (what else?) a nice stroll, a quick pint, and a few snacks. It was worth the trip!

IMG_0550Much like the rest of our outings, we didn’t do anything per say, but we did walk for hours, soak in a little sun, enjoy a few snacks, and breathe in pure relaxation.

IMG_0548We also managed to find a craft beer at one tiny little spot hidden amongst the cobblestone streets. I’m certain we couldn’t find it again if we tried!

IMG_0558A bit less hidden was this spot where James enjoyed his afternoon nap. Patatas bravas, mussels, and a pint for Mom and Dad.

IMG_0547And this…beautiful, idyllic Old Town Marbella at its best.

IMG_0540We couldn’t get away without exploring a local playground once Jamesey woke up, so here he is, a little boy full of joy on a BIG slide!

IMG_0564And that was it, our afternoon in Old Town Marbella. Simple, yet delightful, much like the rest of our time in Spain.

Spain: the return to Sevilla and a side trip to Ronda

So we took a day trip while in Spain, an ambitious twelve hour day trip. It was great, and James only hated his car seat for about two hours of it, so all in all, we call it a success. The impetus was a return to Sevilla, my college study abroad home. We made it a loop: two and a half hours up to Sevilla, another couple hours to Ronda, and a quick hour home. Not too shabby, thought the hopeful travelers. And it wasn’t! Again, it was a bit long, but overall, a great adventure.

We begin in Sevilla where our time consisted of a tour of Kara’s old existence. Chris indulged me; James just kept his eyes peeled for playgrounds and/or ice cream vendors. Stop one after a stop for wine and snacks (okay, so stop two) was la Plaza de Pilatos and my old home! We found the casa! James was less thrilled than me, but so it goes. At one point in time that window in the upper right was my room (the one right above me, the living room – the one on the left, the kitchen).  Memories…

IMG_0594Lingering too long was not a choice though, so onward we strolled to the park where I enjoyed many a bocadillo (packed lunch) with my friends. It doesn’t feel that long ago…

IMG_0596Park tour complete, we strolled along the river for a while before heading back to the car and on to our next town: the little cliff-side village of Ronda.

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(That picture is still Sevilla!)

Ronda was good for a long walk, some time at the playground, some sand in James’ shoes, a snack, and a quick break from the drive. The town was beautiful and really perched right on the cliff – pretty impressive and a wonderful stop after quite a bit of time in the car.

IMG_0642 IMG_0637 IMG_0621 IMG_0619 IMG_0618There you have it, twelve hours of driving around Spain, wrapped up in a quick little post. The drive down from Ronda offered some nervous hairpin turns, but thankfully the passenger had a safe driver and a beautiful sunset to guide her home.

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Spain: Marbella with an 18 month old

From England we flew to Spain, beautiful Spain. We flew Ryan Air direct from Manchester, England, to Malaga, Spain. According to our friends, everyone flies Ryan Air once. Now we get it. It was fine, just not…nice. We almost had to pay thirty bucks to reprint our boarding passes because we couldn’t find the PDF of them, and evidently that’s the rule. Right, we flew Ryan Air our once. It got the job done, and we made it!

Arrival in Malaga was easy, straight forward, we were excited! Following bag retrieval and car pickup, the adventure began. James offered to drive – what a gem that boy is. (We said thanks but no thanks)

IMG_0502Our journey to the condo brought us all sorts of new fun (We don’t need to change money just yet, do we? Nah, let’s just go…oh, you think it’s a toll road? Shit, it’s a toll road!), and we loved every bit of it. We found a gas station for snacks and water, an ATM for Euros, and a map to guide our way – it felt like our own little Amazing Race. James played along nicely by snoring from the back seat (the poor thing was beat).

Arrival in Nueva Andalucía, just down the way from Marbella, was smooth as could be – we were in our apartment in no time at all. Followed by a quick trip to the market for our first stock-up of red wine, cheese, and olives (hot dogs and yogurt for the mini person of the group), we headed out for our first explore. Not too long into it did we stumble upon this delightful spot, where we stopped for a quick snack and a drink. Beach vacation, we had arrived (cheers!).

IMG_0503The rest of the days played our wonderfully as nicely as the first. Following a morning jog each day, we spent hours at the beach while the little dude delighted in the waves, the rocks, the sand, all of it.

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IMG_0508His parents didn’t seem to mind the beach mornings, either. The pure relaxation was just magical.

IMG_0511Our days in Marbella played out in much the same fashion each day: morning run, beach time, exhaust the kid, walk along the boardwalk until he fell asleep, and then mom and dad got to play (read: drink red wine at lunchtime on the beach!).  Truly, truly wonderful.

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IMG_0662Also truly wonderful was the little boy waking up from his snooze, lazily looking around, and then joining us for the last bits of our drinks and maybe – on a good day – a French fry snack.

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IMG_0663I yap about it a lot – James is just so fun – but this trip he was incredible. So happy, so relaxed, so willing to follow his parents as they flitted all over the place, soaking up the adventures that they craved so badly. Better yet, he seemed to enjoy it – like truly, truly enjoy it – which makes his travel-loving momma just SO happy. He’s a hearty little boy, that Jamesey. A wandering spirit after his parents’ hearts, perhaps? So many smiles from him on this trip.

Anyways, beach and lunchtime wine drinking aside, we spent a solid amount of time at the playground watching our little baby act so very much NOT like a baby.

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IMG_0715Back at the condo, James enjoyed a few odd activities like brushing his teeth using his own private sink. (James, that’s not a sink)

IMG_0693And hiding with Mom in the TV cabinet. (This was fun until Dad got in on the trick and fell through the back of the cabinet. Daaaaaaaad!)

IMG_0684And that’s that, our time in Marbella. We took a few day trips that I’ll talk about later, but for the most part our way was embodied by sunshine, the beach, red wine, olives, and so much joy. We had a blast, our little dynamic threesome did!

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England: Day 2 in Yorkshire

Day two, up and at ‘em early we were! Our day began with a proper English breakfast of eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, AND beans. All of that pub-sitting the day before meant we had earned a hearty meal. Right? Right. Sure, whatever.

First stop? The playground! (Don’t mind me being bow-legged, it goes back to horseback riding days…oh wait, right, I’m afraid of horses. So yeah, I have no explanation, just don’t mind it, I’m squatting awkwardly and James is watching me do so.)

IMG_0422Right after this next picture was taken, James fell off the playset. Oops. Becky and I had fun climbing the spider web thingy though (and he was fine)!

IMG_0424Following the tumble, James preferred lower ground and insisted upon driving his dad around in the truck. It reminds me of the Flintstones for some reason!

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Onward and upward with the day – next stop, the steam train!

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IMG_0435This next series shows idiotic parenting. We start with a cute little picture of the train, James, and me. Aww, what a great adventure we’re having!

IMG_0437Oh shit, it’s a steam train, and it’s leaving. Fuck, it’s steamy. We’re getting covered in steam train shit. Goddammit.

IMG_0438Holy protective momma bear. My baby is getting covered in steam train shit and good lord that whistle is LOUD.

IMG_0439Let’s get out of here and take quaint little pictures of English countryside villages. Yes, heart garlands fit the bill.

IMG_0443This should not surprise anyone that knows us.

IMG_0450We did not buy these. Though if I ever need a place to purchase my reet good proper porkie scratchings, I now know where to go.

IMG_0391Moving right along, a proper English tea at Betty’s!

IMG_0456Contrary to my uh-oh-we’re-in-a-fancy-place-with-an-18-month-old expectations, James was a little delight during our afternoon tea (once we fed him the chocolate cake).

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IMG_0473Ooooh, look at me, pouring proper English tea!IMG_0467And eating proper English tea cakes!IMG_0466Tea is exhausting.

IMG_0397And there you have it, our England adventure! Tomorrow, onward to Spain!

England: Day 1 in Yorkshire

Following our whirlwind two days in London, we hopped on a train northbound to Yorkshire, the countryside full of sheep and green and rolling hills.

Some of us were really excited about the train:

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Okay, okay, all of us were really excited about the train:

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The two and a half hour journey sailed on by as the landscape changed right before our eyes. Before we knew it, voila, the land of sheep and holy-moley-Yorkshire-accents!

Reunited with Jo, we began our explore of her homeland. First on tap, a drive through the Yorkshire Dales, a magnificently beautiful National Park that just so happens to house a magnificently quaint little Yorkshire pub that just so happened to be holding a magnificently enticing little beer festival. We decided we simply must stop.

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I enjoyed a truly delightful cider – fermented perfectly and entirely unfiltered. Delish! Back on the road, we carried on smartly to a quaint little village where James requested a photo-op. Take a picture of me with the cobblestones, he commanded (and we obliged).

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Following our little countryside drive, we headed back to Jo’s for a quick rest before a wander to the village pub. James declared us all to be massive embarrassments and chose to sit by himself. We obliged for about thirty seconds before we rained on his parade (we’re his parents, that’s our job).

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Following a pint (okay, or two pints), we were all beat and headed home to bed. Day two of Yorkshire to come!

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England: London with an 18 month old

A success, oh what a success.  Our trip was simply wonderful, the whole darn thing from start to finish.

Let’s jump in…

We arrived in England a bit worn and weary, but ready to go. We were in a new land and only one quick train ride stood between us and a reunion with a dear friend. Or maybe not a quick train ride…and not really one train ride either…but regardless. It took us about an hour and a half to get from Heathrow to Hackney, but excitement carried us most of the way. The man with the dog on the final leg was just what James needed when his enthusiasm began to wane.

Just what we needed when our enthusiasm started to wane? Duh, a local Hackney brew, enjoyed on Becky’s back stoop while James played in the yard. The perfect welcome, indeed.

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Following a leisurely lunch and some more back stoop sitting, we meandered our way into London.  In typical Kara and Chris fashion, we soon grew thirsty and paused to enjoy our first local cask ale. James, by this point, was in the midst of enjoying his first of many stroller naps (we all win).

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Piddling along after our pint, we made our way through Hackney into Shoreditch and onward to Brick Lane, home to Christopher’s dreams: real Bengali food (and real Bengali folk with whom to practice his real Bengali).  Dinner was great, the poor boy was exhausted, and our final pint was shared with another stroller-napping customer.

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Stroller-napping soon turned into bedtime for all the weary travelers, and we wrapped up our first day in London with a leisurely stroll home, a quick settling in, and off to bed we went.  Despite the potential for jetlag, we all slept like logs.

Day two welcomed us with the promise of more adventure. On tap was more walking, a bus ride, a wander by the river, a taking-in of some sights, and a reunion with old friends. Suffice to say we were beat by the end, but so very grateful for the adventures we enjoyed.

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Salt beef makes great fuel (and English mustard is delicious):

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Mongolia Reunion (over pints and chips, duh)!

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And when all was said and done, a final London stroller nap. Sweet, sweet boy.

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Flashback Friday: that time the SWAT team was in our neighborhood

SWAT 2Today we flashback to…yesterday.

I got stuck at work later than usual, so James and I were a bit delayed in our journey home. We pittered along though, stopped for a quick errand, wound our way through Newton. Tra la la, the last leg of the journey, James, see the fire statio…oh…umm…uhh? Police barricade? Hmm.

I pull up alongside the barricade, Uhh, excuse me, officer? I live…down there?

No go. Go around, he said.

What he didn’t say was that going around wouldn’t matter, because barricades blocked all of the roads home. We ventured as close as we could, snuck around one final barricade (I’m not always the best at following rules), and made our way to the church parking lot – which was full of news trucks and a giant police bus labeled Command Central.  What?

I called to the police standing on top of Command Central (Mama Bear Kara is bolder than plain old Kara) and requested information. What I got? Please just stay here for the time being.  Not enough for Mama Bear. I live there; I need to know a little more about what is going on, if my house is safe, why the fuck there are SWAT vehicles all over my neighborhood. Oh, Mama Bear means business.

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I got a half-story about a man threatening to do things to himself and assurance that all was okay now, just tidying up the heaps of police and SWAT team members, clearing the street of armored vehicles. Really.

So James and I hung out in the church parking lot for a bit until we received clearance to go ahead up into the neighborhood, the streets of which were still lined with police cars, SWAT vans, newscasters. It was surreal. James LOVED it. So much squealing, glee, excitement. A neighborhood full of diggers, dump trucks, and armored vehicles.

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Just another day in the hood.

Oh, what actually happened? There was a guy with a knife threatening to harm himself, so they said. It has to have been more than that, but as of yet the real details remain unknown. (Last I saw of the SWAT team they were parked down the way, grabbing a slice from the local pizza joint.)

Another rough day in Newton.

 

 

Nigeria: the quirks (as I define them)

Ranking up there on my list of most favorite things in the world are quirks. Quirks of all sorts, shapes, kinds. To me, they are the spice of life, and they are most spectacularly magnificent when traveling in foreign lands. Mind you, some folks might categorize what I perceive to be quirks as what the rest of the world perceives to be pains in the rear. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

In the quirks department, Nigeria did not disappoint, so here we go…

  • Somewhere outside of my hotel room door, someone plays Enrique Iglesias’ Hero on repeat everyday. Celine Dion and Bette Midler (seriously?!) come in at times, but Enrique is the one I hear the most. It’s inside the hotel too, not outside. It wouldn’t be so bad except that I’ve been hotel-bound for three days while in-country, and I can’t stand Enrique. I don’t want him to be my hero; I want him to shut up.
  • As a greeting, Nigerians say you are welcome. It’s a reversal of our usual thank you, you’re welcome. Here it goes you are welcome, followed by the white girl saying thank you!

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  • There are security guards everywhere. The entrance to the hotel parking lot, the entrance to the hotel, on my floor at the hotel. The entrance to the office building where we work. The entrance to a store, to the clinic, to the bank. Everywhere. It’s a lot of security. Job security? Security job.
  • The shower in my bathroom has a waterfall-type shower head (how lovely), a hand-held shower thing, and jets that shoot directly out at about stomach-level.  The first two are nice, the third…I would not describe as nice.

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  • Nigerian cell phones (or at least the one I was loaned) remind you that you’re wasting energy. How lovely!

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  • They were a British colony, but they drive on the right side of the road.
  • Our hotel keys expire every day. Finally they coded them so they would not expire until we left. I wonder why the daily expiration?
  • There is a restaurant in the airport. The international airport of the capital city of Nigeria. On the menu? Rice…cheese sandwich…no, no cheese sandwich. (I drank a coke, ate a sleeve of crackers, and inhaled a Snickers…and took the only photo of me in the country of Nigeria. That smile? It’s my travel grin).

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