I cannot tell y’all how much I am loving this trip right now.
It’s true that sibling disharmony is not improved by being stuck in a car for 6 hours at a time, but if they’re going to be fighting anyway, they may as well being doing it half way around the world while getting to see some of this amazing country with all it’s contrasting landscapes, cultures and accents, and learning so much about this side of their heritage, both cultural and familial.
And, as much as traveling through the West and Middle – seeing Yellowstone for the first time, and Chicago, to name just two pleasures – was awesome, it is really the time with people that I value the most.
We had plenty of that on the West coast, and now on the East – visiting with friends we hadn’t seen in over a decade, meeting people I’d only met before online, catching up with family and meeting new family (including staying with some AWESOME cousins who may be removed by a few “in-law” relationships, and have never heard of us before, but took us in at a moment’s notice anyway), and last night having dinner with a friend we saw most recently in Australia about a year and a half ago – who has now generously given us free range of his house while he is away.
We have met and reconnected with all sorts of lovely people, we have seen amazing sights and tasted all sorts of wonderful food, we have slept in a three-season tent during an unseasonably cold 19F night (that’s like -7C) and lived to tell the tale. We’ve figured out the metro in various cities, seen Washington DC from the top of the Washington Monument, marvelled over Yellowstone’s hot springs, and wept at the 9/11 memorial.
All this, and we’re only about half way through our road trip!
We had lunch at this little Puerto Rican restaurant in Chicago’s Humboldt neighbourhood yesterday. We discovered it on Yelp. It’s the sort of place you would never have discovered before the internet, unless you lived locally, and it was excellent.
The server didn’t speak much English, and my Spanish is limited to “Gracias”, but we managed to communicate sufficiently well (and then an English speaking chef came out and quickly told us what some of the food was, which did help).
We chose a selection of bits and pieces from the self-serve section and two jabaritos (sandwiches with fried green banana instead of bread), which was all excellent. Even Liam and Mikaela found enough they liked to fill them up (though Eliane mostly just ate the complementary bread). Mikaela found the sauce and/or chicken in the jabaritos a little spicy, but the even for me it was
All in all, highly recommended, should you be in the area. 🙂
The scariest part of our first day of camping was when I thought my daughter was dying in my arms.
It was just as well we decided to start our camping road-trip by having a kind of “trial” camp, right in the middle of Monterey, California, rather than setting straight off into the wild.
Otherwise the two – yes two – separate emergency visits we made within the first three days might have been more problematic. As would the call to AAA for car troubles. Although, we might have avoided the fender-bender with the BMW.
Yes, we had an eventful start to our road trip.
We had not been in camp for more than an hour or two before Ms Eight precipated the first hospital visit.
We were still finishing with setting up the tent, when she screamed.
As I turned around, I saw her land on the ground, under a tree. She landed facedown, and as I gathered her in my arms, it seemed possible that she had landed on a rock under her chest. The most scary moment was when she momentarily passed out in my arms, and seemed to start to convulse, and I thought she might be about to die from internal injuries.
It turned out that she had just been swinging from the tree branch, not actually climbing in the tree, so she hadn’t fallen from very high, and passed out probably from the shock and pain, as she did cut up her face a bit as well as hurting her chest. That was why she ended up spending the evening in Emergency at the local hospital – the cut under her lip was quite deep and we thought it might need stitches or glue, which was exactly what happened.
But I mentioned two emergency visits didn’t I?
Master 12’s first ER trip, plus a dingle with a BMW
Up until now, every emergency visit we have had has been down to Mikaela. She’s actually averaged about a year since she was 3!! But two mornings after she had her lip stitched, Mr 12 had his first ER worthy accident.
To be honest, had we been at home, we probably wouldn’t have taken him in at all, he didn’t seem in that much pain. But given we were about to set off for Yosemite, I figured it was a good idea to make sure he was okay. And it turned out, he wasn’t.
Monday morning was dewy and lovely, and Liam decided he would have a go on the swings. With his eyes shut. Which I’m sure was perfectly delightful, until his hands slipped off the wet chain ropes and he fell, landing awkwardly on his right hand.
We had not yet managed to get a compression bandage for our first aid kit (I really don’t know what it didn’t come with one!), so later that morning we made the trip into town to get one. Mr 12 was already complaining that it needed more than that, but we decided to start simple. Surely we didn’t need to make another emergency visit so soon?
It was on the way back from the shopping centre that the next two mishaps occurred. Just after I had texted my friend who was meeting us for tea at our campsite, to tell her we would be there momentarily, Chris made a right turn (Australian readers – think left turn, as we are on the other side of the road here), and didn’t see the car making a right turn into the same road. As Chris was changing lanes to avoid parked cars, the BMW was coming and and – CRASH. Except I massively exaggerate, it was the merest touch, and had it been anything other than a pristine BMW, I can’t imagine either driver being worried.
Alas, it was a pristine BMW, and insurance papers had to be exchanged. This of course, required us to pull over.
And now for the third minor distaster of the day. After all the palaver with exchanging details with the other driver was over, our car would not start! No, I am not kidding. The short time we had spent there with the engine off but the music and fan on had flattened the battery.
My friend laughed at me when I called to tell her, but she she very, very kindly came to collect me and the kids, leaving Chris there to call AAA and get a jump start.
Oh and Liam’s wrist? Yeah, it turned out to be broken. Chris took him to the ER after dinner that evening, just in case. Happily, it wasn’t a bad break, and he got away with only wearing a brace, with the recommendation that we take him in to see another doctor in two weeks time, and again two weeks after that, at which point he *may* get away with taking it off.
Honestly folks, don’t start your road trip this way. It is beyond inauspicious.
We are getting ready for another big trip, this one for 6 months to the US. We’ll be spending 3-4 months of the time driving/camping, so we have a whole different set of things to figure out for this trip, from solar battery chargers for the phones etc, to what’s the best laptop/tablet etc solution for me to be able to work as we travel, to how to we keep the kids up with their school work.
I have already got travel journals sorted for all three kids (I had a gift voucher from Blurb, so I actually made them one each, with loads of blank pages for drawing and writing, a big map of the states, and lots of photos from the last o/s trip we did, 3 years ago).
Also we’ve got house sitters sorted out for our house here (though we have a lot of work to do on the house before we hand it over to them, including MORE decluttering!), but we still need to find a house to sit ourselves for our last two months over there, in Berkeley CA. So sing out if you need someone to look after your house in the winter!
I am sitting in a cabin in a holiday park in the Poconos, PA, rain alternately pouring down and sprinkling lightly outside, while Eliane sleeps in one of the two bedrooms.
Chris has taken the other kids into town to do some washing.
We spent a day and a half in NYC and drove up here to Gouldsboro in the Poconos late yesterday.
New York was awesome, though very short. We were incredibly lucky to stay with a friend of a friend on the Upper West Side, right across the road from Central Park.
We arrived late on Tuesday with just enough time to eat some cheerios for dinner and then get everyone to bed, after a 24+ hour day, since getting up in Athens.
Wednesday we spent exploring Central Park. We started by exploring the West end of the park, starting with a playground just inside the gates, then took the subway down to the Museum of Natural History on 81st and made our way back into the park from there.
We were all a little tired and grumpy after the previous long day of travel, but managed to enjoy ourselves all the same. We treated ourselves to hot-dogs and shared a warm pretzel.
We didn’t manage to have a bagel with cream cheese, which was one of my NYC food goals (not that we can’t do that in Berkeley, but it’s just not the same, you know?), and Central Park’s famous carousel was closed, which was disappointing.
The highlight of the day for the kids was hiring a remote control sailing boat, which cost $11 for a half hour, but I’m sure we had it for something more like an hour. We all took a turn with this, and it was harder to control than it looked!
While the big kids played with the boat, Eliane spent a happy hour pottering in a nearby sandpit (just far enough from the lake to allow me to relax and watch squirrels preparing for the winter while she played).
By the time we got close to the zoo, which we had thought of visiting, it was getting on for four o’clock, so we didn’t mention it to the kids and just kept wandering. We also didn’t go into the museum, which would have cost around $50 (I can’t remember exactly) for the lot of us.
I had thought perhaps Chris could take Liam and maybe Mikaela back there (though I think Kaely would have quickly tired of it) when I took Eliane home for a nap, but time got away from us and Elli didn’t get a nap that day.
My favorite part of the park was Bethesda Terrace, which has beautiful tiled ceilings, among other things. The kids enjoyed it too, though perhaps more for the fountain and the many stairs, than the ceilings!
We also all got a kick out of all the tunnels in the park, which have amazing acoustics. Tunnels are the sorts of things kids just love regardless, but Liam and I also got a kick out of singing in some of them, and finding the best spots for magnification.
We finished the day with ice-creams at an ice-cream shop (I think it may have been a diet ice-cream shop actually, as odd as that sounds!), on Broadway, and then caught the subway back from there (we’d made it all the way down to 57th Street).
The next morning we continued the park theme, heading up a block to explore Morningside Park. It has at least three playgrounds which the kids enjoyed, though I think they liked climbing in the rocks, both there and in Central Park, just as much.
We were planing to get up above the park to see the huge cathedral there, but we hadn’t counted on the size of the park.
By the time we made it up to the cathedral we just had time to take a few snaps from the outside, before heading back to have some lunch, pick up a rental car, and head up into Pennsylvania – and we still didn’t manage to get here before dark!
Depending on how early we get out of here on Tuesday morning, we should have another half day or so in NYC next week. We fly out early in the morning, so we’ve booked a hotel the night before close to JFK Airport.
If we get there in time, we might either take the Staten Island ferry out to see the Statue of Liberty (and by ‘see’ I don’t mean line up for four hours with a slight hope of getting in) or maybe take the subway to Times Square, which was what we were planning to do Thursday morning, but traded in for Morningside Park (which was far more fun for the kids).
All in all we had a lovely couple of days in New York with the kids. I do hope we are able to get back there sometime.
In Central Park we wandered through the Shakespeare Garden…
…which was quite picturesque with plenty of flowers despite the late season.
We then walked up to Belvedere Castle to take in the views:
We came across this statue of Alice in Wonderland sitting on the mushroom, with the Mad Hatter and White Rabbit for company.
And is this squirrel I watched run back and forth collecting nuts for the winter…
…While Eliane played in the sand and Chris and the big kids played with the remote control boats.
Forster, NSW, is a delightful coastal town ideal for families looking for a beach vacation, along with a variety of unique near-by local attractions and boating activities.
Forster Highlights and Features
The best time to visit Forster depends on the activities you are planning. Forster weather, according to my grandfather who lived there for about 40 years, is paradise all the time.
Summer average maximum temperatures are around 27 degrees Celsius, while winter temperatures range from around 8 or 9 degrees overnight, to an average of around 18 in the day.
Forster Main Beach and One Mile Beach are Forster’s main beaches. Both have car parks, toilets and BBQ facilities. Forster Main Beach also has an enclosed pool ‘nestled’ into the break wall, known as Forster Ocean Baths.
Families interested in camping can visit the Booti Booti National Park, where they can also bike and hike through some spectacular scenery.
Take a tour of the Great Lakes Winery to try some local wines.
Go on a morning dolphin watching cruise aboard the Amaroo and watch hundreds of common dolphins mass offshore. A spectacular sight.
Car enthusiasts will enjoy The Curtis Collection Vintage Car Museum. You can look at the first Australian car, artifacts from the two World Wars, vintage motorcycles and much more.
There are lots of boat charters in Forster for families interested in fishing for bream, whiting and salmon.
At the Ton O Fun park, kids can enjoy paddle-boat and train rides, exhilarating water slides and riding on quad bikes.
For me Park Guell was one of the highlights of Barcelona, though once again I was struck by the absence of park-like spaces the way we know them in Australia. You could sit on benches, including the beautiful mosaic benches shown below, but there were no big open grasses spaces to sit. There was plenty of garden space, but it was for looking at from the outside, not for sitting within. However, the structures were amazing, and we took a gazillion photos just here.
Of course, it wasn’t originally designed as a park. Gaudi was commissioned to design a fabulous garden city, in which individual plots were to be sold for houses to be built on. However, the plots never sold, and eventually Josep Guell, who owned the land, donated it to the city of Barcelona to be a public park.
Once again, before we were travelling with the kids, we didn’t spend as much time exploring the park as we might have on our own. They enjoyed it for a while, but eventually the need for ice creams outweighed the need to see more mosaics!
We picked a fabulous day to visit the city, with blue skies and a warm sun. Although San Francisco is famed for being warmer in the fall than in summer, usually by November the chill is setting back in. Not today.
We spent most of our time sitting in the sun at the childrens playground, which is a fairly large space with everything from a climbing web to a long slide, and a sandpit for the littlies.
It also has four bucket style baby swings, three big kid swings (the flexible kind that even my hips can fit in), and a full chair style swing with back. Since the swings are always such a hit with my girls, both if whom could swing for hours, it’s always good to find the rare place when there are enough of them.
I actually spent most of the time we were there sitting on our picnic blanket on the grass chatting to my friend, keeping half an eye on the kids, while chris was good enough to follow Elli around. But, we placed ourselves near the sandpit where she was happy to spend a lot of time.
When we’d eaten our picnic and judged that the kids had had enough time playing not to stage a mutiny (a bit over 2 hours) we packed up and went exploring. The Japanese Tea Gardens were our goal, but we didn’t tell the kids that at first, just in case we didn’t make it – there are maps around the park, including one right next to the children’s quarter, but we weren’t quite sure of our bearings, nor of how far it was.
In the end it took us about an hour and a half to get down there, though only about 20-30 minutes to get back (we’d driven, and parked up at the children’s playground), and without meandering five year olds I reckon it could be about a ten to fifteen minute walk.
We walked via the flower conservatory, which we didn’t go into since you had to buy tickets, but we stopped outside and bought hot chocolates and coffees all round. They weren’t terribly good, but they were warm and the guy was kind enough to give me an extra cup half filled with whipped cream for Eliane, which made her very happy.
The kids also had fun climbing trees, running around like fairies, and generally exploring as we went, so I was happy to take the time.
In the end we got to the tea gardens with only an hour to go before they closed, which was okay, though we could easily have spent more time there. The kids enjoyed exploring the paths, crossing the streams on bridges and stepping stones, and admiring the fish in the large pond and the water falls. We enjoyed all that and the serenity of the atmosphere besides.
There is a Japanese tea house in the gardens which sells four kinds if Japanese tea, various small Japanese dishes including a very good miso soup, and some small cookies and soft drinks if you need something ‘regular’ for the kids.
We had a pot of tea which Liam and I shared (they brought two cups automatically, though the other three teas were all sold by the cup for the same price), and a plate of 9 little Japanese cookies which the children shared, and Chris had the miso soup. By the time we finished there they’d locked up the front gate of the Gardens, and we had to go out a side gate.
It cost $7/adult to enter the Tea Gardens, and $2/child of five and over. That seemed reasonable, but still added up to $20 for us (we had an extra five year old with us). They do have three periods of free entry during the week however, though all at morning times on week days.
(Actually, we’re staying in Seaside, not Monterey, but it all runs together…)
One of the great things about visiting with good friends is that even when it’s been nearly eight years since you last saw them, once you get together it just seems like yesterday.
It’s weird in a way. You spend so long building up to this big trip, it seems like it should feel more intense somehow when you get there. Like you should feel everything a little more strongly. Instead, it just feels normal, making it hard to comprehend, at the end, that it’ll likely be another several years before you see each other again. I’ve had this same sense of unrealness with all the good friend’s we’ve visited, where it seems so normal, but by it’s very normalcy, somehow seems surreal.
We’ve just spent a lovely three day weekend with some good friends who I used to live with when I was at university in Santa Cruz. They have three children of similar ages to ours, their eldest just about to turn eight and their youngest just six months old. Last time we saw them they had only a three-month-old baby, and we had a nearly two-year-old Liam.
What makes the time until we see them again seem more poignant, and more real, is knowing that next time we come, the elder children will likely be teenagers, and the youngest two will have skipped right through the toddler and preschool years and into grade school.
Travel blog and information from Barcelona to San Francisco and back to Canberra