If you are a nature lover...mountain seeker...enjoy fresh air...and views for days and days...then, get ready to swoon over Switzerland! Oh and who can forget the famous Swiss chocolate?? Take me there.
In five days, we covered four cities and saw the most breathtaking landmarks. Switzerland is known for it's Alpine skiing, but don't completely disregard it during the summer. The weather is the most delicious and enjoyable. We went the last full week of June (shortly after Europe opened its borders due to Covid), and everything was delightful.
Are you curious about swimming in glacier water, historic city tours, hiking behind majestic waterfalls, devouring mounds of chocolate, and your car taking a train ride with you inside...?? Then read on!
We stayed in a rustic AirBnB above (literally above, up on the mountain) Interlaken. Although, we had grand plans of exploring as far as we could for as long as we could. Our first stop was the majestic area of Lauterbrunnen.
Standing in the parking lot staring with dropped jaw was enough to make my heart skip a beat. However, hubby found a couple of unique waterfalls to explore.
Staubbach Falls was the first one. It's a short, steep hike to get underneath the misty water. There is a parking lot just before the entrance on the left, which is only ONE FRANC to park. If you've been to Switzerland, it sounds too good to be true. But this place is legit!
Side Note: Switzerland is ridiculously expensive. To find anything normal priced is a miracle.
If you are sensitive to cold water, wear a light-weight, rain jacket with hood. The wet stuff drips through the rocks from overhead and will come from all angles- especially depending on how the wind is blowing. Some type of hiking boot or outdoor shoe would be preferred. Nobody likes walking about in soaked sneakers all day, and there are good sized puddles along the trail that are difficult to step around. Our boys are 4&6 years old, and loved every minute of it. Anything outdoors involving the possibility of getting dirty is their jam!
Once back down at the bottom, we stopped at a nearby playground for a backpack lunch. This is the single easiest way to save money while traveling. Grocery shop and make your own meals. Another reason traveling via AirBnB is my favorite go-to for accommodation.
This simple tip easily saved us $1,000 over the week.
Trummelbach Falls was the second. Y'all, this place...we saw some pretty amazing waterfalls in Iceland. But this series of glacier melt was crazy cool because of how close we were able to get.
You can hike to the top or have the option of taking the elevator. By taking the lift, you would miss out on various viewpoints though. My crew did half and half. We took the elevator part of the way up and then hiked the remainder. And on the way down, we walked the route which we didn't see going up. It was awesome, you guys. Well worth the few francs for entry. A little scary at some points due to the insane rushing waters and very cold. The boys enjoyed seeing their breath. It was THAT cold. We wore our rain jackets to keep us warm and fairly dry.
Children under four years old are not permitted entry. It's not safe.
Before calling it a day, we made the extra drive to Grindelwald. And man, I'm glad we did! It had been high on my list for a long time. We didn't do anything, per se while there. But I was able to get some spectacular shots while the boys were sword fighting outside the car. Ha! You do what you have to do, right?
This day was filled with such extreme highs and lows. The fam was thrilled to experience the icon of Switzerland in person. Or better yet, to my kids...the mountain of Toblerone.
You guys, we followed the map and *thought* we were driving to a place where we could catch the train to Zermatt. In all reality, that is exactly what we did. Only our car is what caught the train to Zermatt. Y'all...! If this had happened to anyone who struggles with anxiety or claustrophobia, it would not be good.
The problem escalated when we were following the flow of traffic, and it turned into a line that we couldn't get out of. Seriously. We drove onto a platform with bars on either side of our car, and there we sat. Literally like a sitting duck. We are generally very detailed oriented and super planners when traveling (well, my husband is at least!) but this took us all by surprise. We were translating signs around us that basically said turn off your engine and do not stick your head outside the window.
Hmm...makes perfect sense why we paid 27 Francs to get past a certain point. We were both confused as to why it was incredibly expensive for a toll or fee to access a road. When in actuality we were rolling aboard an "autoverlad"- a train for our car.
The autoverlad was a twenty minute, high speed ride that shot us through a pitch black dark cave of a mountain. It did save us about 40 minutes from driving around the mountain. But holy cow! Since we were unaware of what was going on, we had zero clue how long it was going to last. Seriously, don't attempt it if you have anxiety or claustrophobia.
Okay! Off the autoverlad, parked the car, and hopped the shuttle to Zermatt. This eclectic ski town is car free and is only accessible by train.
Once in Zermatt, we bought the crazy tickets which would power us to see the iconic Matterhorn. I say crazy tickets, because this was by far the most expensive thing we did and it was kind of disappointing. You can see the best views of the mountain from below. The closer you get, the more it loses it's grand appeal. The lookout had incredible views of the valley, up-close vantage point of paragliders, and other devine Alpine ranges. Although in my humble opinion, the grandest views...are seen far away from the bottom.
If you have time, there is a cafe and gift shop at the lookout point.
Otherwise, gazing at glaciers and standing in awe of God's raw beauty was enough for me. We began our trek back down the mountain via train to Zermatt and enjoyed an ice cream stop before boarding the shuttle to our car. And this time, we did NOT take the autoverlad back to our AirBnB.
The scenic route was worth the extra time! Choosing alternative routes can be a welcomed surprise.
If you do decide this route around, I HIGHLY recommend Grimsel Pass. It was one of the most breathtaking areas I've ever driven through. Unfortunately, I was too busy drooling out of the window to take any photos.
The capital city wasn't a huge focal point for us when planning, but it pleasantly surprised both of us! It was hubby's birthday, so I booked him a walking tour of the city while I took the kids to play in the park and have a picnic lunch. He's not big on history but does enjoy learning about the places we travel from a local. I booked this tour as a surprise for his birthday through, AirBnB Experience.
AirBnB Experiences provided by a local give you fun insight and clues to the area you wouldn't otherwise discover on your own.
We also stopped to see the city bears of Bern-
Went swimming in one of the free, local pools at, Marzili Bad-
Highly recommend a look into this! The birthday boy took a float in the Aare River around the city-
(more on this in my highlights of Switzerland on Instagram)
The tour guide told him this is something the locals enjoy doing as the river has a swift current. It's easy to swim or float on your own; although, very refreshing melted glacier water.
Fun Fact: As the glaciers melt, the rivers, streams, and natural pools fill up for swimmers in the summer. However, the warmer the air the more the mountain icebergs melt. This makes the water colder when the air is warmer. Therefore, the swimming holes are freezing cold in the hot August heat.
We also walked down the famous and gorgeously decorated Kramgasse.
It's also home to Kaspar Brunner's clock tower, Zytglogge. The residents of Bern have been consistently counting on this classic mechanism to tell time for over 600 years.
From 1903-1905, Albert Einstein rented out a second story floor with his bride and young son, Hans. During his time in Bern is when he discovered the life-changing Theory of Relativity. There, you will find a coffee shop in his honor and museum hosting a multitude of artifacts from his life.
Keep an eye out for a photo opt around town with the world-renowned genius. There are four opportunities to snag a selfie on a park bench with him; one being in the lush Rose Garden.
-Lucerne & Zurich-
Woowhee this was a long day. We checked out of our AirBnB and headed to Lucerne. The Chapel Bridge is a Swiss icon and a must-see when driving through. The wooden structure has experienced several fires causing portions of it to be moved, rebuilt, and mosaics to be repainted over the centuries.
Another amazing focal point when researching Lucerne is the lion monument, Lowendenkmal, tucked away in the center of the city. It's only a ten minute walk from the bridge and a great shady spot for a packed lunch.
We headed back to the car and made our way to Zurich for the night. Before turning in, we made a short stop by the Lindt Chocolate World. My, oh my...
Oh, and before I forget...we ate ONE meal out in five whole days. And it was 140 francs. This pretty much equates to similar in euros and US dollars, and I'm not even joking. This was zero percent fancy. It was casual. Outside. Pretty much a biergarten where we ordered some chicken wings, french fries, bratwurst, and I had fish. And it was, in fact, 140. The groceries we bought for the other five days while we were there totaled around 200. Guys...those groceries provided us all breakfast, lunch, dinners, and a special birthday cake. Insanity, I tell ya. Insanity!
Heading to Vietnam? How to Explore Hanoi...with Kids!
Our original plan was to drive through Lucerne AND Zurich on our way back to Germany. Hahaha! Oh the ambition. We soon realized just how ambitious that was and booked a room for the night.
I'll be honest; I am 100% team AirBnB since our kids are out of Pack N Plays. The space they provide is priceless. We split the kids up and put them to bed separately, because that mimics their bedtime routine at home. It gives my husband and I time to chill out and reset once the kids are in bed. It also provides a space for us to make breakfast and have slow mornings. We are on top of each other in a hotel room every waking second and bedtime is a nightmare when we are all in one room. Why not rent an AirBnB when they are the same if not cheaper than a hotel?? Especially when you can have a view like this?? Whew, I digress...
Anyways, we sucked it up and powered through one night of hotel dwelling. Little sleep and nerves on the frazzle, but there was no way we could've "seen" Zurich and made it back to Nuremberg after Lucerne.
A train stop was right outside our hotel, so we hopped aboard and headed into the city center for some good-hearted exploring.
Most of Zurich didn't stick out or give me that wow factor like most European cities do. It was typical modern buildings and streets. Meandering down Bahnhofstrasse was pretty neat though. A few years ago it was rated the most expensive real estate in all of Europe and lists all the high-end designers. However once you wander into the Old Town, it all changes. That specific area stole my heart. The quaint boutiques, architecture, and cafes had me swooning for awhile.
TRAVEL TIP: All fountains in Switzerland are 100% filtered for drinking. You are welcome to monkey around the bars for a quick sip or refill a reusable bottle. Money saved!
Lastly, a fun thing for the kiddos and great view for adults is taking the Polybahn to the top of the Universitat Zurich. The littles will enjoy the "train" ride, and you will be glad you went the extra mile for the city view.
2 MUST DOs for Switzerland!
1.) Make sure you have plenty of Swiss Francs as they don't accept Euros, and cash is still king. Plus, ATM fees are outrageous.
2.) Purchase a Swiss vignette before or just after crossing the border. They can be found at gas stations or border crossing stations for 40 CHF.
All the jokes of Switzerland being "neutral" amongst chatter is real. They are not part of the EU. So if you are accustomed to traveling throughout Europe, definitely check specific laws prior to entry.
Switzerland is a breathtakingly, beautiful country! Depending on which border you are closest to, the locals will speak a mixture of Swiss German or French. But for the most part, everyone we came in contact with spoke perfect English. The locals were super nice and didn't seem annoyed with tourists. It was refreshing! The biggest damper was the expense of everything. And I do mean everything.
Overall, would I recommend Switzerland? Absolutely! But bring cash (lots of it), pack lunches, plan hikes, seek out waterfalls, and drive for as long as you can. Every turn has a jaw-dropping, storybook view of those lovely, majestic Swiss Alps.
Be sure to check out the Switzerland highlight reel on Expat Actually's Instagram page for video footage of each spot with even more tips.
And don't forget to sigh-up below for more tips on adventurous international travel as a family. Click below!
5 Must-Dos in Three Days
After our whirlwind exploration of breathtaking Halong Bay, we returned to absorb the culture in the gritty city of Hanoi. There is no easy way to get from A to B. The Vietnamese countryside is crazy back and forth, back and forth. We also shared a van with a few other random travelers with no air conditioning and a manual stick drive.
As you can imagine, it took a lot for us to stomach the 4 hour ride back to Hanoi. But we made it. There are other more efficient (albeit more expensive) ways to reach Hanoi from Halong Bay, but we are notorious for making a dollar stretch as far as possible and still mostly travel like backpacking college kids. The situations can be tough with little ones sometimes, but we keep our cool and make it work.
"It's all part of the adventure!"
Speaking of making the dollar stretch as far as possible, we generally stay at AirBnBs or similar type properties we find on Booking. We discovered The Golden Sun Suites Hotel on Trip Advisor and it also included breakfast. Such a gem in the heart of the city.
Your morning will also melt into magic when you can walk out of your door and buy fruit off the back of a bike or head down the street for a delicious food cart...why would you want to stay at a boring resort?
By the way, these people aren’t homeless. Every alleyway has pop-up food stalls and stools/benches beside them, so patrons can have a place to sit and enjoy their meal. The next two photos are streets. Perfectly normal humans- sitting, chatting, eating away. That would not be possible if they reopened.
"Genius, if you ask me!"
~A Few Things To Do In Hanoi~
1.) Engage With The Locals!
Whether it is waiting on food to cook or stopping by a souvenir stall, strike up a conversation as best as you can. You will be fascinated walking away. This lady adored the boys, and even though we aren't huge on collecting souvenirs, we each bought a hat from her.
(see end picture)
The pictures below depict a very valuable lesson to teach your children at a young age - treating everyone with respect, even if you cannot understand them. Don't shy away or whisper talk about them. Respect them, their culture, and language. Even try saying something to them. This has happened in a few foreign cities. But I watched from a safe distance and let Jack mingle with the local kids. In this example- they were playing a game, and he wanted to join in. It took about 2.5 seconds for all the kids to realize they didn't speak the same language. But that didn't stop them from figuring out how to communicate and play together. It's a heart-warming thing to witness.
2.) Hoàn Kiếm Lake-
Travel days are always exhausting, and the previous day had us zonked. After our super calculated trip in Halong Bay, we were craving some relaxation. No tours. No deadlines. Much needed free time to explore at our own pace. We meandered a few blocks over to this gorgeous lake near our hotel. The little fella could toddle around, and the big fella could burn his ball of energy. Perfect! There is also a temple on a small island reached via a wooden bridge & a tower on another island. Visible behind the little guy.
Find this lake, though, especially if you have kids with you! There is a plethora of simple things to keep them busy. No playgrounds, but they can run, watch birds, pick flowers, play hide and seek, climb benches, etc. The walking path is massive, wide, and outlines the entire lake. I say this because in our western mindset, it's easy to get trapped in thinking our kids need a specific "thing" to entertain them. They don't. They need space. Lots of space.
3.) Water Puppet Show at Thang Long Theatre-
One thing I recommend you pay to do in Hanoi is the water puppet show. It's a cultural must if you want to experience a local thing! This tradition has been going on for over 1,000 years. Be aware that some kids might not do well with it, though. I had to take the little fella out towards the end, because he got scared. I recommend going, but be mentally prepared for it. The flashing lights, live music, and foreign language can be a bit much for a little one. The big fella was fully entranced though. I think it's the age, but also depends on the child as well.
4.) Vietnamese Coffee-
Even if you are not a big coffee drinker, I will still tell you to put it high on the list. You will not find coffee quite like this anywhere else in the world. It's strong, sweet, and delicious! I'm typically not big about having sweetener in my coffee, but this...this is different. The mixture of flavors is indescribable. I mean, the concoction includes sweetened condensed milk!
In case you return home with a hankering for the good stuff, here is a recipe I highly recommend from MokaBees!
5.) Visit a Temple-
If you are in Asia, there will be a temple. Lots of temples. Everywhere you turn, there will be a temple. The ones in the city center are smaller but still loaded with culture. Great lesson for the kids and easy sight-seeing stop for the adults.
#1 Tip: Bring a shawl or scarf. As is typical upon entering temples, you must cover your shoulders. Some are stricter and require full-length coverage, even for guys. Josh and I both had to purchase flowy pants and borrow a robe to gain access to the Golden Buddha Temple in Bangkok. Be prepared to fork over the funds for entrance into the temples if you aren't carrying adequate accessories for coverage.
#2 Tip: Keep your head up always. If it is your first time visiting southeast Asia, a major heads up would be to keep your head up and be aware at all times. The most affordable (and therefore widely used) mode of transportation is the motor bike. Not a motorcycle...don't call it that. Ha! It's a motorbike through and through. These things will whiz around a corner and take you out if you are not careful.
Hanoi is an incredible city!
I hope you can fit it into your travels one day. I'm definitely glad we took a few days to absorb a bit of city life in Vietnam instead of passing through only to explore Halong Bay. The culture, food, and historical ruins all A+. Hanoi is a great city to ease into southeast Asia if you've never visited. It's not overwhelmingly massive, yet not too far from the countryside either. Great location and enough to keep you busy for a few days.
Be sure to read about our glorious time in Halong Bay just days before this. It is packed with information on what to do and the best time to visit as a tourist!
I’ll close with these thoughts...
1.) As American passport holders, Josh and I were both warned of traveling to Vietnam for pleasure. These fears solely stemmed from the Vietnam war, which fueled all through the 1960s and came to a halt entering the 70s. Historically, this wasn’t very long ago. Many men lost their lives and tensions ran high for years following the war. In our experience, we were never threatened and didn’t have any negative reactions when people asked where we were from. Actually, a lot of folks were intrigued and were full of curiosity about the US.
2.) We also experienced the same warnings about traveling with our sons. Foreigners, in general, are an anomaly in most of Asia, especially when traveling through rural areas. Most residents have never seen blonde-headed/blue- eyed human beings. Oh cool...wrong! It makes you feel somewhere between an alien and a celebrity. It’s VERY common for people to stare, take pictures, and touch your children (on the head or cheeks). Although, I had a few friends warn me of taking my fair-skinned, little blondie/redheaded babies to Vietnam due to the high risk of kidnapping. One lady even told me they would fetch a high price tag for child trafficking. Say what?!? Why would you tell someone that?? Of course, I was on guard the entire time but not once did we ever feel threatened. I've felt uneasy in other countries before but felt okay here. There are certainly countries I wouldn’t step foot in for obvious reasons and I’m not naive to bad people being in the world, but I’m also not going to stay in my regional bubble for the rest of my life. There is a great, big ol world out there, and I want my children to experience the beauty of different cultures and landscapes. Wherever you travel (even in the US), you have to be vigilant and keep an eye on your kids.
In the end, I am incredibly thankful we didn’t listen to the nay-sayers. We would’ve missed out on many incredible experiences. We also met other fellow Americans while in Hanoi and Halong Bay. One family was from California and traversing several cities in Vietnam with their three young kids in tow. All little blondies and the youngest around Evan’s age. My momma advice– don’t be naive, but also don’t live in fear. YOU know best! Listen to your instincts, and you will be just fine.
Have you been to Hanoi? Is it on your future list?
Looking for future travel tips?
With children? On a budget?
Join me below!
One of our most favorite and involved trips from Singapore was to Hanoi and Halong Bay, Vietnam.
First, we flew 3 hours to Hanoi, spent one night there, then 4 hours on a bumpy shuttle bus through winding roads of Vietnamese terrain to spend two nights aboard this beauty (the Paloma) exploring a little further into Bai Tu Long Bay in the South China Sea. It was a lot... especially with one and two year olds, but it was worth it. Always is.
Based on our experience, I have compiled a few things you can (and should) do if you visit one of the bay areas and the best times to plan for a comfortable atmosphere.
WHEN TO VISIT
The best time to visit either Bai Tu Long or Ha Long Bay is from October-January. We went in April, which was cheaper but there was a constant misty drizzle of rain. You can expect that February-April. I would avoid May-September due to the heavy rains and tropical storms.
We reserved a family room, because it allowed us to spread out and comfortably house Evan's crib. So glad we did; look at that view!
Tip: if you are traveling with little littles, then be sure to call ahead and ask them to have a crib/cot set up for you. Most accommodations have them and will assemble for free. Toting around a Pack N Play is the last thing you want to include in your luggage, especially if you are backpacking around a region. The kids are enough to tote around.
These cute cabins had little balconies attached, and I'm so glad they did. Because without them, I wouldn't have been able to snap this incredible picture on Easter Sunday!
Overview of our Adventurous Two Days:
- Fishing Village
- Pearl Farm
I’ll splice together Hanoi in the next post. But for now...here’s a recap of our two night/two-ish day experience in breathtaking Halong Bay!
We settled in, tossed on some long sleeves, and quickly hopped on a smaller fishing-type boat to have a mini hike. We could've stayed on the Paloma, but opted to take full advantage of our situation. I recommend you do the same! We were zonked tired, but one can always rest when they return home. You don't take time off work to sit in your bed the entire time, do you? GO see what you came to see! For us, it was a crazy hike to watch the sunset.
We conquered three sets of these stairs. Super proud of the big fella for walking the whole way! He was two years old and bursting with energy, but be mentally prepared to carry your little to the top just in case.
Finally made it!
The inside was filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Parts were slippery and tricky to traverse while wearing the little fella. I had a few people give me strange looks because of the baby wearing.
One gal even said she was amazed that we brought them to Vietnam at all. I gave her a smile and just said, "awe, thanks!"
You never know the reaction you will receive from folks while traveling with kids. Some are snooty about it, and others will adore your offspring and treat them like cherubs.
We played on the beach and watched the sunset before taking the wooden fishing boat back to our ship for the night.
Fun Fact: Legend has it, the gods sent a family of dragons to protect the Vietnamese against invaders. After a battle victory, the mother dragon settled in Halong Bay and her children attended to her from Bai Tu Long Bay.
The Golden Hour - completely unedited
Today’s adventures started upon this teeny boat. I won’t lie; I was quite uneasy getting into this haphazard thing. Once everyone had boarded, the edge of the boat was seriously close to the water level. I had a humbling glimpse of what refugees experience. I can’t even fathom the reality. And later found out the little bitty thing was double capacity!
Viewpoint of the cave at the entrance...deep and dark, it was!
The big fella absolutely LOVED this! Our guide gave him a head lamp and mentioned bats lived in here and might fly by while we were inside. He constantly talked about finding Batman and enjoyed playing in the sand and rocks. It was supremely precious...
The stalactites (top-down) were hollow if you banged on them. Of course, every kid enjoyed the echo noise. The stalagmites (bottom-up) sparkled unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Glitter seemed to be poured over them. I was in awe!
"Alone in the cave with a baby!"
I stayed behind at one point since I was wearing the little guy, because the hike up inside was too steep and slippery. My momma bear instincts reared their head. Although, I didn’t realize staying behind would leave me in the pitch.black.dark with a baby!! Hello?! I was deep inside a cave! I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. Nothing! I sang to the little guy while we stood alone for a solid 20 minutes. I kept telling myself I was doing it to keep him calm, when in all reality I was doing it to keep myself from freaking out. Ahhhhh
We gathered our things to head back out for a few beach hours. The tour guide used a little charcoal grill and fed us lunch on the beach before heading back.
We left our swimsuits on the boat, but that didn't stop a certain someone from fishing around in his clothes... We made the most of it. The little fella toddled around the kayaks and threw sand, while the big fella made friends with older kids on our boat and let their imaginations run wild building and playing in the sand.
Back on the Paloma, we did another quick change for dinner before calling it a night. Whew! What a lovely, yet exhausting day.
Almost forgot...! I took the little fella back to the room to get settled for the night, while hubby took the big fella squid fishing off the back of the boat. Super cool experience for the memory books. Highly recommend this if you get the opportunity.
Curious about exploring Thailand with a baby and one year old? Check out our whirlwind journey to Krabi!
Good morning- ready to conquer day two!
Our last day in Bai Tu Long Bay was super packed. The picture below is worth a thousand words and a good indication of our day ahead!
Remote Fishing Village-
After breakfast, we took a 7am boat ride to a remote fishing village. I had zero idea what this really meant. Come to find out, around 1,600 people live in four floating fishing villages in the bay area. It was something else to witness with my own eyes.
"It felt like a living, breathing, National Geographic article."
We found ourselves on another small, row boat. They said it was only big enough for our family of four. Welllllll, I wanted to tell them about squeezing ten people aboard to the cave yesterday. I knew the capacity shouldn’t have been that much! Yikes.
I know it’s nerdy, but I love how you can see the rock erosion from over the years. One of the fishing villages can be seen below. Tiny shacks hovered above water.
"Only recently have kids been boated out of the villages to school. Teachers were once brought into the remote communities to educate the kids. Mind blowing to process."
There are few very, vivid moments I have of travel which stop me in my tracks, and this was one of them. Paddling through the floating villages and waving to kids on the "porches," I had so many questions...
- What do they do for food besides fish? How often do they get fresh fruits and veggies?
- What is the bathroom situation like?
- These villages being close knit communities, how do they have privacy?
- Where do the kids play since there is no land?
- And the dogs sitting on the docks...I had so many concerns
- With no insulation and protection from the elements, how do they survive in the dead of winter and intense summer months?
- What about monsoon rains? They are real in southeast Asia!
I've never been able to bring myself to take pictures of locals in their natural surroundings. No matter the country, it feels invasive and disrespectful. So- I wave, smile, and move along. The pictures I do take are from a distance. I like to capture a bit of the memory, but try my best to file it away in my mind when it comes to people.
The Pearl Farm-
Paddling to the other side of these remote neighborhoods brought us to a community of pearl villagers.
We were able to witness a worker cracking one open, removing the stinky, soft tissue, and letting us touch the pearl inside. The perfect ones are used for jewelry, and imperfect pearls are ground into powder for cosmetic use. Most of these pearls take 4-8 years to reach maturity. Fascinating...and smelly!
By the way, the lady in the striped shirt would not stop singing our praises of traveling with the boys. She originally moved to Hong Kong with her husband’s job nearly 40 years ago. Her sons are now 32 and 35 and grew up traveling around southeast Asia. She thought what we were doing was magnificent and would have a tremendous impact on the boys, even at such a young age. She understood. She knew the struggles and joys that come with living so far from home, and also raising children in a vastly different culture. I couldn’t thank her enough for the uplifting compliments.
People, be this lady!
Halong Bay is an incredible, natural wonder on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is comprised of 1,600 islets and 775 limestone formations.
A few glory shots taken on our rowing boat going back to the main boat...
“Here is the unfinished works of the Beings… here is the stones which the Giant played and threw away." -Vietnamese poet, Xuân Dieu
Such beauty surrounded us for three days and two nights. Bai Tu Long Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin of the South China Sea is where we floated and explored. I didn’t know this until we neared the end of our trip, but Bai Tu Long Bay has only been opened to the public since 2012. The emerald waters and fairly untouched lush limestone along the beaches and caves were some pretty amazing eye-candy.
We were thankful for our the incredible, albeit ambitious, time in this corner of the world. Our crew is all packed up and ready for the crazy adventure back to Hanoi.
So long Bai Tu Long Bay!
Curious of the other bays, national parks, and top attractions on the main land? I recommend checking out Lonely Planet.
STAY TUNED - The saga continues back in the gritty city of Hanoi, Vietnam!
Want more travel tips and ideas for kids?
Have you ever been stranded abroad while traveling? I have, and it is by far one of the strangest feelings. The pit that grows in your stomach from the moment you catch wind..."you are not going home"...is a straight sucker punch.
This time last year, we were in Iceland. A place I had long dreamed of exploring. Even better, our trip enveloped my birthday. It was a fantastically planned seven day journey. We landed in Reykjavík, made a pit stop in Vik, explored Höfn, and soaked in a few days of R&R near Hafnarfjörður to take in the Icelandic culture and live like a local.
Little did I know living like a local would take on a vastly different meaning towards the end of our trip!
Two nights prior to our return to Germany, we were swiftly notified our ride home had gone bankrupt. And that rude awakening? It came from friends, not the airline. News broke. Headlines were pumped up. Mine and hubby's phones were buzzing uncontrollably.
"WOW! Air had gone out of business..."
It took a minute to sink in. However, it hit my husband like a ton of bricks. Rightfully so, he is the planner of the two of us. 99% of our trip details are formed in his brain. If it were up to me, we would float through life on feelings and emotions- not logic and reason. I'm so glad I married him. Have I ever said that? I digress...
We eventually did receive an email stating the airline which was scheduled to take us home was no longer in business. Umm, what?! What were we supposed to do? How would we get home? We couldn't even call the airline to discuss options, because no one was there. They closed up shop and basically said "good luck."
My level-headed husband began scouring flights back to Frankfurt from Reykjavík. The first option would've been four times the price of our original flights and also included an 18 hour layover in Helsinki. Umm, no way. The next day, we caught wind that IcelandAir was offering "Rescue Flights" for pretty much the same amount as our initially booked ones. Whew! Only problems was it was a few days out. Now, what to do in the meantime?
Thankfully, the owners of our AirBnb didn't have anyone coming in after us and allowed us to stay the remainder of our time there for FREE! What a blessing!
Another blessing was booking the flights with our Chase credit card. We do this to collect points for future flights, and the fine print of our contract covered travel reimbursement. Woohoo! So we were able to recoup the money from our original tickets.
Always make sure you have some type of travel insurance to cover your behind in times of crisis. Check your travel agent or current insurance provider prior to traveling. It might already be in place. If not, don't leave home without it. I highly recommend keeping a Chase card in your wallet solely because of our past experiences. Not to mention the incredible rewards. If you don't already have a Chase account, follow the link below! Not to mention, the immediate cash upon signing up.
$750 STRAIGHT TO YOUR POCKET
WHEN YOU USE THE LINK BELOW
Copy the link when signing up for Chase Sapphire Preferred
Lastly, hubby's work was understanding of what happened and didn't penalize him for the hiccup. He didn't have to take additional time off from work. It just meant, I had to entertain the boys in this tiny AirBnB while he worked.
Meanwhile, we had to figure out what to do with this extra time. I know it sounds like a good problem to have, but when you've already explored the touristy sites and mounds of snow is piling up outside, there's little left to do. We ended up living like true locals.
Do You Frequent All-Inclusives?
Everything is crazy expensive in Iceland, so we weren't eating out that much anyways. We bought up more groceries, window shopped a ton in the city, and even paid homage to the local, indoor, trampoline park. Visiting a place like that is something we would typically not do while on a trip, but this wasn't a typical trip.
Our trip ended up being 11 days. In hindsight, it was a nice breather from our typical day-to-day routine. It gave us a moment to pause and enjoy one another. Even though hubs was working in the AirBnb, he could hang out with us at lunch and have mini Transformer sessions with the boys throughout the day. I got to snuggle my babies a little more. Well, they were 3&4 years old, but they'll always be babies to momma! And that micro kitchen? They cooked and baked with me and cooked some more. We played lots of hide and seek, colored, watched movies, read books, napped, and played in the snow.
So, take it from me...savor this time.
I feel like when kids are out of school, most parents still have to report to work. During this time, you can truly savor your kiddos. I know it's stressful figuring out what to do all day long. But my advice, just love them. Bake, cook, build a fort, play board games, snuggle up and watch movies, give them lots of empty boxes and watch their creativity blossom. Even if they are big kids, it's amazing to watch!
Squeeze in homework and housework when you can, but soak up this time. It is a treasure. Don't dismiss this golden opportunity to create memories. They might not remember the fluff around the madness, but they will surely recall those special moments at home.
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As I've said before, traveling is the lifeblood of living abroad. No matter what continent you have been plopped on, it's absolutely worth it to save the funds to get out there and explore! No brainer, you guys...no brainer.
Some folks who live abroad are blessed with an exceptional "expat package" making travel easier on the wallet. Those who aren't, have to make sacrifices just as they normally would back in their home country. Either way, there are super simple ways to save cash for travel funds.
Here's a quick list to tick off RIGHT NOW:
- cancel subscriptions- gym, magazine, cable
- free ways to work-out: Hello, YouTube!
- say NO to impulse buys
- make a list and stick to it
- buy groceries in bulk when on sale (freeze extra)
- use country specific Amazon to save boat loads on shipping
- ex. If living in Germany, I wouldn't order something on Amazon.de and have it shipped to the States. I would create an account on Amazon.com and have it shipped from that website.
- be your own stylist
- hair, nails, brows, facials
- in-source services
- house cleaning, gardener, lawn maintenance
- babysitter swap
- exchange your time with a friend to watch their kids while they go out and vice versa
- buy recycled or used items
- FB Marketplace, Craigslist, thrift stores, various community groups all sell good quality items with lots of life left in them
- free family activities at your finger tips
- replace museums, movie theaters, and play centers with parks, hiking trails, playground, and bike rides
- make your own coffee
- nix the fancy five dollar cups
- weekly meal plan and eat at home
- ask your kids what they want and get them to help you shop
- make a monthly budget (see my last tip at the bottom)
- and stick to it!
Have you made notes? Created a plan to implement a few of the bullet points? Trust me. You will save boat loads by cutting the unnecessary crap. You'll be surprised at how quickly it adds up!
- reassess your living situation
- is it a good time to sell your home? downsize? negotiate a lower payment with your landlord?
- sell a car...or two
- the monthly payment, gas, insurance, general maintenance all.adds.up
- sign up for a credit card with travel perks
- Put standing bills on there and pay it off every.single.month
- (in the US, highly recommend Chase - amazing rewards - double points for travel-related purchases and sign on bonus)
- Put standing bills on there and pay it off every.single.month
Want $750 straight to your pocket? Copy the link below when signing up for Chase Sapphire Preferred
Click Here to Sign Up! Voila!
- out with the lights/off with the water
- it sounds trivial, but making sure they are shut off really adds up
- open a travel savings account
- commit to putting $20, $50, or even $100 in every month
- two words - DAVE RAMSEY
- this guy knows his stuff and put us on the straight and narrow during the first six months of our marriage
Reframing your mindset and aligning your priorities will drastically change the way you live your everyday life. This is our life. We follow this list. I make a grocery list and shop at Aldi. I love to cook and don't feel like I'm sacrificing quality either, even on the organic selection. It's tricky at times, but we have one car in our family. We have credit cards that provide us with sweet travel-related rewards.
I don't get my hair highlighted and usually get it cut once a year or so. 80% of the boys' clothes are hand-me-downs or from second-hand shops, even shoes and jackets. My clothes too! The puffy vest I wore to church yesterday was from the local thrift store, and the shirt underneath was easily ten years old. Almost all of our furniture has been previously loved, not purchased from a store. I also buy generic make-up and beauty products. Living in Germany is heavenly when it comes to exploring forests, parks, and mind-blowing playgrounds. Creating memories outside is free and fun!
I won't lie though...we are human. Once in a while that chocolate bar at the check out is more than tempting. I might splurge on that ice cream cone for the kiddos or the occasional family outing to the movies...or restaurant. Because, who doesn't like a break from the kitchen every now and then?
You don't have to completely deprive yourself of a colorful day-to-day life, but rid the excess. Be smart about the choices you make. Make a budget, stick to it, and save.
Lastly, make traveling a priority. If you don't put your eye on the prize and believe you can see the world on a budget, then the opportunity might pass you by.
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Ever heard of "Bali Belly?"
I have. And would like to personally never experience it. We've had wonderful experiences in Indonesia without any stomach issues. All hail the miracle product!
In fact, I have a good friend who had a 12-hour return flight home from Bali. Within 30 minutes of being in the air, she started to feel dizzy and then came the nasty sweats. Before she knew it, she was profusely vomiting. In the aisleway. In the galley. In the tiny excuse for an airplane bathroom. Everywhere. And then the worst part came.
She blacked out. Passed out. The flight attendants tried everything they could, but her temperature kept climbing while she was unconscious. Luckily her husband was onboard with her. He was suffering from his own sour stomach, though, so not a ton of assistance came from him.
Thankfully, they landed safely. Rushed her to the hospital where she was admitted and given lots of fluids. I wasn't present, so I can't say for sure what was administered to get rid of the yuck. But I have been told by friends who work in the emergency room, a simple over the counter product is given in HEAVY doses. This simple little product is:
No matter the country you come from or will be traveling to, it is available everywhere. It's affordable. It comes in capsule form for adults to safely swallow, but also plenty made in tablet form for kiddos. You better believe I've crushed up a tablet or two and swirled it around in yogurt or mashed banana for my kids during the toddler era. I now dissolve it in water or juice and have them suck it down. They know what it is now, and they are well aware of how quickly it helps them.
We were recently in Malta, and my eldest came down with something very very fast. 104F fever, chills, sweats, vomiting. He begged me for charcoal. Within a few hours, his fever came down and the vomiting disappeared.
I'm telling ya.
The activated charcoal will soak up any nasty bacteria that can upset your tummy and will make you so very sick.
We took our boys to Thailand when they were 2 months and 22 months. The water at our accommodation would make you sick if consumed.
TMI coming your way! It helps with diarrhea as well as vomiting. Whatever is ailing your sensitive GI track, this stuff will soak it up and eventually work it's way out. It may look like sticky black tar. But hey, I'd rather see that than ten more rounds of throw up or spend the night on the toilet in tears.
So, do yourself a favor and pick up some today! Keep it in your luggage or already-prepped travel bag. You can write me a thank you note later!
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The above information is provided as preventative measures for acute illness while traveling abroad. If you are not feeling well and experience extreme health issues, please seek out emergency services.
This is wild to step back in time. It was our second international trip after moving to Singapore. The first was exploring Bali in Indonesia, but with only one babe in tow- plus an 8 month pregnant me.
I vividly remember looking at Josh like he was crazy. Flights to Thailand were cheap in the spring, and it was only a 1.5 hr flight. It all sounded good in theory. But we had a one year old, and I had just brought a new human into this world. My husband had officially lost his gourd, y'all. He thought we could do it. Had full faith in the two of us traipsing a toddler and barely there two month old around Thailand. But we did, and looking back...I'm so very glad we did.
If anyone ever says in passing, "wow, you take so many vacations! So nice to be able to relax in paradise." Can I tell you this could not be further from the truth if you have kids. Traveling with babies (and especially toddlers) is the exact opposite of a vacation. It is a trip, and I mother just the same there as I would at home. If I'm being 100% honest, it's loads more difficult than staying home. There are things to plan and buy and organize. And heaven forbid, you have a hawk-eye on your children the whole time for things they will put in their mouth. Foreign nasty things. Ughhh. Relaxing and enjoyable are the last words that come to mind. Hah!
But like each country cemented into my memory, the stressful times become a laughing matter, and the good times stick with you. Really stick with you. During the mass chaos, you will find yourself saying "no way I'm ever doing this again!" But then, you return home. Flipping through photos. Reminiscing about tiny details. You can't wait to do it all over again. I mean, how cute is it our eldest said "boat" for the first time while gazing at an authentic, long-tail bobbing up and down anchored to shore. Is it cute to have him dash through the airport throwing caution to the wind? NO. Absolutely not. But there is nothing like seeing your one year old burst through at full-speed fully exclaiming "ah pane! ah pane!" when he realizes he's getting on that airplane. It's a priceless memory.
We've been to Thailand a few times, but this one was extra special. It was Evan's first flight and our first trip as a family of four. SO many things we had to figure out for that "first" adventure, and we thought staying at a resort-type place would make things easier. While that is somewhat true, you can't experience the true cultural of a country without getting off the resort grounds.
BOOKING TIP while in DEVELOPING COUNTRIES:
We've traveled around many third world countries, and checking the cleanliness of the water supply is gravely important, especially when little ones are in tow. Always double check if the tap water is safe to consume where you are staying. Unfortunately, the water at this resort was not and I'm so very glad we asked again upon checking in. You can stay at nice places all you want, but that doesn't negate the fact you are in a developing or third world country where clean water is a luxury. At places like this, you need to take extra precaution when showering/bathing little ones to prevent them from splashing water into their mouths. They can get very very sick if not properly watched. As adults, we know to use bottled water to brush teeth and not sing in the shower. Children don't know any different, and it's an extra step we need to take in keeping them safe. Looks can be deceiving...always ask! This gorgeously updated, modern hotel did NOT have clean drinking water from the tap.
You will forever have individuals give you the speech, "The kids are too young for this. Why does it matter now? Stay at the resort and relax." And to that I laugh, because one does not simply relax at the beach or lounge around the pool with a baby and toddler. So why not get out and share the experiences? If we had decided to hole up and stay at the resort for five days, we would have missed out on these SIX fun things!
(We never booked a tour guide or driver. The following explorations were made completely on our own behalf)
1.) THE BOYS' FIRST RIDE IN A TRADITIONAL TUK-TUK:
Experiencing our first, family ride in a tuk-tuk (a motorized bike with benches attached) to a place recommended by a co-worker of Josh’s, way off the beaten path. Sure, we could’ve taken a taxi, but why not do as the Thai people?
Keeping with the spirit of living like a local...we hitched a ride back to our place in a neon tuk tuk. With the music and obnoxious lights, this thing made me think I should’ve been at Myrtle Beach during senior week. Hah! Jack was telling us to "shhh" since Evan was sleeping. Good thing the baby can sleep anywhere. You could hear this thing from a mile away!
...when in Rome, as they always say!
2.) EVAN'S EXPRESSION WHEN I ORDERED AN ENTIRE FRIED FISH:
Don't mind the shiny face. It really is that hot all.the.time.
3.) FEEDING AN ELEPHANT OUTSIDE OF A ZOO:
Elephants are such gentle loving creatures. I never knew their true noises, but it sounds a lot like a deep- voiced donkey- EEEEE AHHH. It was super cool to pet and feed them outside of a zoo.
And to see the conditions where the caretakers lived was a humbling experience to say the least: no real walls, floors, running water, or sanitation. Most of them had chickens living with them. Not outside, because remember... no walls - but WITH them.
4.) UNIQUE EXPERIENCES ON A PUBLIC BEACH:
We had a beautifully gated and guarded beach at our resort. But can I tell you about the intriguing people we met on a nearby public beach? Humorous and fascinating. Stray dogs we saw playing? Jack loved that. And sat on the stairs watching the local fishermen come in from their day's work? Incredible. We meandered along Ao Nang beach to watch the sunset and peruse the local shops of Krabi before heading back to tuck in for the night.
5.) DEVOURING TRULY AUTHENTIC LOCAL CUISINE:
Sure I could have ordered pad Thai at the restaurant in the lobby, but to have it served out of a food cart is generally more delicious and always cheaper than the resort. Yes, this was from a street-side stand!
And hello? Three words. Mango sticky rice. I still have dreams about it. If you've never had a fresh thai mango, ohhh you are missing out. It's heaven on Earth. It literally melts in your mouth and tastes like honey. Oh my my.
6.) SAVING MONEY ON SPA TREATMENTS:
If you ever stay at a beach resort in a foreign country, don’t go to the resort spa. I’ll say it again, DON’T go to the resort spa. You might as well throw money straight into the ocean. An hour massage at the hotel was $80. Not bad, but the hut on the beach next door was $10 for an HOUR AND A HALF! Plus, it’s outside...in the shade...with a breeze. And while the ocean soundtracks in the spa are a nice feature, nothing beats hearing the real thing. Sigh. You can usually find these places right beside resorts, too, so you don’t have to walk far. We did the same thing in Mexico, and it was ah-mazing! Take turns with the kiddos, and head out for a cheap and uber-relaxing moment.
Southeast Asia is known for their massages, especially Thailand. Oh man, a genuine Thai massage is heavenly if you have tight muscles. Once the massage is complete, they will bend, pull and stretch your body. You will definitely leave feeling all loosey goose. I have an absolutely terrible back, and it's THE best. Not a bad view in exchange for a massage and a 10 dollar bill!
After my session, I had this guy whack open a coconut for me to enjoy on the stroll back 🙂
It's taking in what Thai culture is like. How the people of Krabi live their lives. Strike up a conversation with a local in their village- the bartender at the hotel doesn't count. Ask them questions. See things from their perspective. Enjoying the random thoughts foreigners have about America and seeing our country through their eyes is fascinating.
After we dug into the world around us, we did spend a few moments poolside and walking the beach where we were staying. We took it all in. Goofing off, taking pictures, swimming with the boys, and slurping up all the tropical goodness in the Land of Smiles.
While vacationing (especially flying internationally) with a toddler and a baby can be challenging, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It takes patience and a tremendous amount of teamwork, but I would highly encourage any couple to do it. The kids won’t remember it, but we will. And these memories... oh so unforgettable.
It's never easy, but always worth it!
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Literally...chasing the sun is all we did!
When you live in Germany and don't see the big, golden, warm globe for a solid three months, you go after it. And after it we did. Hubs found 20 euro round trip tickets and pretty much booked it on the spot. YES. 20 EUROS! After spending one winter in Germany, you learn fast. We needed a break from the cold, grey suck that is winter in Bavaria. Same as usual, a fabulous AirBnB was spotted and the tickets were booked a few days later. A new country for all of us. Sunny and 65, in January? We are there!
Malta- I gotta hand it to you. We came for a long weekend, and you were quite surprising. A quick, sunny getaway was all we were hoping for to dry out and warm up our cold, damp bones. However...your rustic architecture, Mediterranean culture, azure blue water, and eye-gawking limestone cliffs made an imprint on my heart. There are only 500,000 of your people on the island, but man...were they warm and receiving of visitors.
A massive welcomed surprise was English being a main language. After living in a country where English is barely spoken nor appreciated, to hear a stranger approach you in your native tongue is music to your ears! I was also surprised to hear the mother language closely resemble Arabic instead of Italian. The cathedrals and temples peppered among the landscape hailed the Catholic and Muslim religions. We had exceptionally fresh seafood while we watched the little fishing boats bob up and down in the bay.
Another perk of traveling in the off-season is super cheap accommodation. Our modern and spacious AirBnB overlooked a gorgeous, rocky shore. The warm breeze in the morning was so refreshing and a glorious way to start the day.
But to be honest- even the most perfectly planned trip, can be completely turned upside down. I will ALWAYS be straight up with you guys...
We landed in Malta at 11pm. After tracking down the rental car three parking lots over and driving through cities we knew nothing about...with exhausted kiddos...after midnight...with little street-lighting...on a Friday night, left us a little antsy. Probably the worst roads we've ever driven on. So much so, our hubcaps were zip-tied to the tires. I kid you not!
The man at Avis laughed it off and said it was for good measure. No kidding, dude...no kidding.
We always shower before bed if we're flying. I just feel gross. So once settled inside our AirBnB, we shuttled the kids through the shower first. Little did I know, our hot water had a lifespan of around 8 minutes. And you guessed it, everyone got a proper shower but momma. I quickly hosed my body off with frigid water before crawling into bed around 2am...or so I thought.
We had individual room heaters, and ours shut off after an hour. Ughhhh. We've always divided the kids and slept with them. Have since we started traveling. So I got up and tried everything I could before waking up J to help. He finally got it running again around 3:30am. Sweet! Sleep!
Except, the kids coughed all.night.long. They aren't used to having any kind of air blow while they are sleeping. We don't have air conditioning back in Germany and our house has radiator heat. Plus, we use humidifiers in the winter. So, ohhh the coughing. Both of them were stuffed up the next day and continued coughing. We made the most of the day until just before dinner.
One of them was complaining of being cold. I mean, I was chilly because of the constant, cool, sea breeze. But this was more than that. He was shivering...and then felt hot. Ughhh again. He slept in my lap during dinner and didn't eat hardly anything. Got everyone back to the apartment and straight to bed.
No less than an hour later- coughing led to crying led to vomiting (everrrrywhere) led to super high fever led to sleeping on couch led to researching hospitals led to little sleep for mom and dad.
NUMBER ONE TRAVEL TIP:
NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT ACTIVATED CHARCOAL!
I wholeheartedly believe the above saved us from a Saturday night ER visit in a foreign country. Crushed up a few tablets, mixed in yogurt, and stuffed it down our son. The rest of the fam took a tablet for precaution, and we all steered clear. Woot!
We only had two full days in the island country, and our second one was half jeopardized from stomach sickness. Come noon the next day, he felt pretty much back to 100%. Since we didn't want to spread any possible lingering junk, we spent the afternoon in the sun getting fresh air at a sparsely populated beach and driving to an archaeological wonder. 12 hours later, all smiles and full of rock-climbing energy.
Even with random mishaps- you can salvage a short getaway. Set low expectations when traveling to any new place and keep an incredibly open mind. It keeps stress low and makes the adventure run more smoothly.
We had originally discussed a trip to the aquarium, a drive to the north end of the island, and a possible ferry ride to Gozo. All of those got tossed out the window, and we had to play it by ear. Which is okay!
How to spend 2.5 days in Malta!
We stayed in Xghajra and only saw a small portion of the already small island nation, but here is what you definitely need to put on your list of MUSTS in that area!
1.) Peter's Pool-
I won't lie. It's a bit of a crazy, bumpy ride. Remember the roads leave little to be desired?? Ooof. But once you are there and hike down a bit, the cut out of this view is spectacular. Said to be a great swimming hole for the brave during summer. Worth all the potholes in the world to see!
I forgot to take a picture- hence the lovely stock photo. But I had to give you a glimpse of the beauty. We spent our last night here and had a fabulous seafood dinner at Roots. The sea bass J ordered was brought out of that display in front of the door and sizzled to his liking.
3.) Blue Grotto-
Guys...very few landscape pictures have literally taken my breath away. This was one of them. It's an easy park and walk 100 meters down. All paved and well-kept lookout. If you want to take a boat through the cave, drive around the bend and park atop the arch. There's a tiny cafe to grab a coffee while you wait. Seeing it from above was perfect for us though.
...and while taking it all in, my big boy picked some
weeds flowers for momma. Swoon ❤️
4.) Pretty Bay-
The boys knew we were on an island, and all they wanted to do was go to a sandy beach. Even though our water view was gorgeous rocky cliffs, there were sandcastle-building beaches everywhere. A quick Google found us at Pretty Bay. It doesn't have the best view, but was kind of comforting having previously lived in Singapore. The largest port in southeast Asia resides on the Singapore coast, so shipping containers didn't bother us a bit. Was ironic to see a fort from the 1500s directly across from the shipyard though. Plus, there is a massive playground and skate park behind us. Cute cafes, shops, and bars outline the surrounding area as well.
5.) Ferry to Valletta-
There is no lack of ferries to choose a day venture in Malta. I highly recommend the one to Valletta. It's super quick and a fabulous sight to absorb Pinto Wharf. Valletta is the capital city of Malta and will pleasantly remind you of old world communities with shiny cobblestone streets, cozy vertical homes adorned with slender doors, and fab European eateries.
6.) Upper Barrakka Gardens-
Some parts of Malta predate the Egyptian pyramids, which is absolutely fascinating to me. However, most of the country is dotted with forts, walls, and sites of military encampment. Upper Barrakka Gardens will give you the best views overlooking the famous "Three Cities." Fort St. Elmo can also be seen (from the boys' vantage point complete with cannons) and dates back to the Ottoman Empire. It is shaped like a star and looks out over the harbor of Valetta to protect it. However, the Siege of Malta took place on those hallowed grounds and was an insanely bloody period in history where over 1500 knights lost their lives in 1565.
Our weekend in the sun was nothing short of amazing. We were pleasantly surprised by everything around the corner- except the roads. Dear me. Be prepared if you go. My back still aches. Ay yi yi. But so many things left to do -- diving in Comino, admiring centuries old Cathedrals, exploring Temples in Gozo, or maybe hit up the annual MTV music festival in July. Maybe. Getting too old to run with the youngins'
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