There is so much to see in Yosemite, we didn’t spend nearly enough time there, even with Mirror Lake and most of the falls being dried up (normal, by this time of year, though with the drought they had apparently dried up earlier than usual). I’ve selected just a few photos, because the web is already rife with better ones. The enormous granite cliffs, the wildlife, the amazing trees… I couldn’t capture the half of it.
Early morning at Lake McSwain. First time I’ve managed to be up before the kids. Torn between sitting & writing, taking a wander around the campground to enjoy the early morning light, or getting started on coffee & pancakes.
Just really enjoying the quiet, though I think I hear movement from kids in the tent. Being up before them is a joy, I think I will try to make it a common practice.
[Later, same day]
We stopped at the store in Snelling, California today (population 200 odd), and it reminded me of the corner store in Mossy Point when I was a child. The only store around, so it carried a little of everything. Groceries of course, but also plumbing supplies, camping supplies, hats, toys, some seemingly decades old hair ties, sporting equipment, and more besides. Oh and Starbucks Frappaccinos and a soda & ice machine.
Everyone’s asleep except me, but I am ensconced in the tent with them.
I went out to use the restroom after finally getting Elli settled and down, and the stars tonight are amazing. Being a Sunday, everyone else packed up and left while we were at the lake today, bar one couple in an RV. So there’s no other light or noise (RV couple appearing to be asleep already too). It’s just the beautiful Milky Way, thick with stars.
It’s been hot with loads of flies, and remarkably like Australia here, but different too.We saw blue birds here in the day time, and hawks quite close, and a bat fluttering around against the sky, just as dusk was starting to give way to night.
Next stop: Stanislaus National Forest, and Yosemite.
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.
There is a house right next to ours in Pyles, with a large courtyard out the front, where the children and I have just been entertained with pomegranates, chocolate wafer bars and stories of the owner’s grandchildren and his renovation woes. He is currently renovating the house (and not, I think, living there), and was waiting there today for someone to come help him with the kitchen, but he had not arrived.
He told me that getting work done on Karpathos is very slow. “Greeks in Greece don’t like to work,” he said. He said the Greeks in other countries – Australia, America, Germany – work very hard. But here in Greece they want to play cards, go to the cafeneio, talk.
He also said that the economy here on the island is not too bad, but in Athens, in the cities, very bad. Lots of people without work. Of course, that’s what then launched him into his spiel about Greeks in Greece not liking to work, but then I’ve frequently heard people in Australia complain about ‘dole bludgers’ who (supposedly) don’t really even want jobs. It was interesting to hear his take on things though.
He broke up two pomegranates for us to eat, scraping all the segments into a bowl, and cut up two or three small apples – all grown by him I think. I gorged myself on pomegranate because the children didn’t eat much (Mikaela tried only one tiny segment), and I suspect the polite thing here is to eat everything you are served, though I must look that up the next time the internet cafe is open. When I had to go to get Elli to bed (when we could hear her crying – she and Chris were still at home), he made me take the rest of the pomegranate with me, tipping it into my hands, and said to leave the kids who were busy playing on his grandchildren’s toy pedal quad bikes. They came home not much later though. I hope they said proper thank yous!
Written later on:
Today has been filled with gifts of traditional or homemade Greek food.
First there was the visit next door, with the pomegranate Liam had been so wanting to try.
Later, while I was nursing Eliane to sleep, I heard someone come to the door. It turned out to be someone Chris had met at the mini market the previous evening, bringing some of his homemade wine, that he thought had come out too dry, but that Chris might like, since he didn’t like the sweet wine they sold at the shop.
In the afternoon we went to Lefkos Beach, but then in the evening we went down to the local cafeneio, owned by one of our host’s nephews (the father of the woman we met yesterday who lives behind us). It appeared to be a bit of a boys club, with the nephew who had met us at the airport sitting outside on the veranda with a group of men, including his brother, the owner, and not a woman in sight, however they invited us to sit down and chatted on.
After a while their sister, who we had met a couple of days earlier, but who had only a little English, came by. She didn’t sit down but stood on the stairs chatting animatedly with her brothers and asking us what we’d been doing and how was the water (at the beach) and making much of Mikaela, in particular, with her ‘beautiful eyes’, which Mikaela withstood stoically.
She then brought out a plate of small cakes/biscuits smothered in icing sugar, and passed them around, insisting on giving Eliane a second one, then getting a wet cloth to clean her up as the icing sugar spread all over her! Her brother explained to us that her daughter had been accepted into law school today so she was treating everyone to these cakes in celebration. While she was there our backdoor neighbour came by and gave us a bag of baklava her aunt had made that day ‘for your breakfast tomorrow’ – when we got home we discovered there were 20 of these treats! Luckily they have no nuts or sesame paste, just the pastry with the sugar/honey syrup, otherwise it would probably just be me and Elli eating them! (Edited to add: we managed to get through them all over the next couple of days, and they were Yum!)
Next thing the mother of the law student (another of our backdoor neighbours aunt’s, now I think of it) wrapped up the remaining cakes and told us to take them for breakfast too, but not before taking back any cakes she had made the men take that were still uneaten, which she then also pressed on us!
Luckily Liam, Elli and I all liked them, but I had to quietly eat Chris’s when no-one was looking, because it had nuts in it, and Mikaela had two lollies (off the same plate), but didn’t try a cake.
While I am sitting here writing all this on my iPhone, drinking the (I’m sorry to say) pretty awful homemade wine we were given, I’m listening to a bazooka player who is just across the lane way from us and feeling properly grateful to be here. It seems like half the town are related to our friends back in Canberra, and the rest all know who we are. They have been incredibly welcoming and have gone out of their way to take care of us. It’s been really wonderful. Only two days left!
Today was our second full day in Greece, and the 12th day of our trip, and the tension was a little high. The kids were a bit ratty – grumpy and fighting – on and off all day, and perhaps we were too. I think part of it, especially for Liam, was probably that they’re missing the kids we were staying with in Barcelona. It’s like the typical first week of school holidays blues.
Nonetheless we had a great day. We went into Pigadia, the capital of Karpathos, which is also called Karpathos itself and which is really quite a bustling town by comparison to the surrounding villages, like Pyles, where we are staying. Plenty of cafes and lots of shopping, though it was all a bit empty at this time of year. There are 7000 people on the island (more like 35000 in the summer months!), and I’d guess a lot of them either live or at least work there.
We went in there primarily to buy some washing line and sunglasses, since I broke mine on the plane trip here. We got some for both kids too, who have been complaining of the glare a lot. We walked around a bit though, down to the harbour, and around some of the tourist shops.
Then we went to the beach recommended by a woman in the supermarket (who had lived in Geelong, Australia for many years!), Small Amopi, which was awesome. The water was clear and turquoise – it was exactly the sort of beach you expect from a Greek island. There were umbrellas on the beach, many with banana lounges set up under them, and most of the people on the beach were sunbaking on similar lounges. It was only after someone came down and asked us to pay fit sitting under one (€2) that we realized the umbrellas were someone’s business (what did we think? We didn’t, I suppose), and also realized that the empty banana lounges could have been ours for the asking too – €5-6 for two, plus an umbrella. Next time, maybe.
It was a small beach and just lovely for the kids. Quite a steep drop from toe deep to knee deep, but gradual after that, and no surf at all. I took Eliane in for a good swim, then I spent the rest of the time swimming out deeper with Liam, while Chris supervised Mikaela and Elli playing at the edge and in the sand.
Tonight the great-niece of our absent host popped in to visit us and see if we need anything. She just lives right behind us, with her husband and toddler, but she works in town (Pigadia) during the day. She said we should have a family meal with them on Sunday night – she’ll consult with her mother and let us know the details. Most everyone we’ve met here in the village knows the family who own this house, and I think a good half of them are related!
Traveling with kids is definitely different to traveling without them. Of course that’s not news. And I’ve traveled with kids before, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I supposed I haven’t traveled to places where I want to behave like a tourist before – sightseeing.
Today we went to the Sagrada Familia, which was amazing. This is a church designed by Gaudi, which has been under construction since 1882, with completion expected around 2020. Some people come back to Barcelona every few years to see how it’s progressing. I think we took about 100 photos.
Even at 10 in the morning the line to buy tickets to enter the church was around the block, but there were far fewer tour groups waiting than when we visited two days ago and decided not to go in, an hour or two later in the day. But, the line moved quickly, and once inside it didn’t feel particularly crowded, if also not particularly reverential.
Tickets cost us €12 each and the kids were free, all being under 10. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go up in the lift into the spires, because a) under 6 year olds can’t go up, so someone would have had to stay down with Mikaela and Eliane, and b) the next time we could go was 1&1/2 hours away – tickets were sold out until then.
An hour and a half seemed too long to wait, and we were not wrong in our assessment – the two younger kids were over it long before that, especially Eliane, who woke up tired and grumpy today, after a short nap yesterday and an unsettled night. There really wasn’t a lot in the church for them to do – when you’re 1 or even 5, it’s pretty much a case of seen one amazing glass window, seen ’em all.
Liam had his own camera and so enjoyed taking photos himself, while Chris and I took turns with child supervision and church appreciation. That was okay, but we simply weren’t at leisure to read the various plaques or spend any time in the museum (underneath) and so on. We walked through the museum, but only to find the toilets!
While the Sagrada Familia was well worth the visit, for Liam as well as us grown ups, I would love to go back without the kids (or without young kids at the very least) to be able to really appreciate the church in all it’s glory. After the money and energy that has been poured into this church, which was Gaudi’s last and some say greatest work, I imagine it will always be a tourist attraction. But I would like to think that there will be facility for it to be used as it was, I’m sure, intended, not only to hold services, but for the devout (or even not so devout) to sit in mediation or prayer in what should be an amazing atmosphere – if ever there is a time when it is not crawling with sightseers and their cameras.
Speaking for which, here are just a few of the photos we took:
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia. Tourism is a huge industry in this city, which is the 16th most visited worldwide and the fourth most visited in Europe. Each year, several million people visit beautiful Barcelona. It has something for everyone, making it the perfect destination for an overseas family vacation. To make planning more efficient, we have compiled the top 10 things to do in Barcelona Spain. Be sure to include several of these in the travel itinerary so the kids will enjoy the trip as much as the adults.
Barcelona makes a perfect destination any time of year because the summers are warm and dry and winters are mild and humid. Many hotels are family friendly, offering rooms that accommodate four or more guests. Family rooms at the Holiday Inn Express Barcelona sleep two children and two adults, while rooms at the Mur Mar Apart Hotel sleep six people. The Triunfo Hotel features triple rooms ideal for a small family and overlooks the Parc de la Ciutadella, a kid-friendly recreation spot.
Upon arrival, tourists can get an overview of the city by taking an open top, hop on, hop off tour bus. Even residents comment on the usefulness of this transportation because it provides a thorough overview of the layout of Barcelona. Travelers can use it to get around Barcelona, hopping on and off wherever they choose, or they may remain on the bus for the entire tour, passing by the most popular tourist spots. Daily tickets cost 23 euros for adults and 12 euros for children and two-day tickets are available at a discounted rate.
One of the first places adults will want to visit is the Gothic Quarter, which is the center of the old city of Barcelona. Many buildings in this area data back to medieval times, some constructed during the Roman settlement period. Particularly remarkable is the Sagrada Familia Church, under construction since 1882 with completion not planned until 2026. Kids will not last long on this sightseeing tour, so take them to the Barcelona Aquarium at Port Vell to get their fill of aquatic life. Special programs are designed for children of all ages.
Those who are staying at the Triunfo Hotel have the Barcelona Zoo across the street in the Parc de la Ciutadella. A wide array of animals is on display and the zoo features a picnic area, restaurant, ponies, a mini-train, and electric cars. By purchasing a Barcelona card, travelers receive free unlimited transportation on the Barcelona transport network and discounted admission to attractions like the zoo. Tourists prepay for attraction tickets and use this card to gain admission so they do not need to carry cash.
Most kids love amusement parks and Barcelona has several nearby. Tibidabo is one of the three oldest European amusement parks and it is located atop Tibidabo Mountain, providing breathtaking views of the city. Water parks are another kid favorite so the three swimming pools and more than 20 water slides at Illa Fantasia should not disappoint. This is one of the largest water parks in Europe and is just 30 minutes from city center via train. Families can dine at one of several park restaurants or bring their own food and sit at one of the 800 picnic tables in the park. They can even pick up their lunch at the supermarket next door and barbecue at this facility.
Four beautiful beaches are located within ten minutes of Barcelona, with Barcelonata being the closest. This beach can get very crowded, so get there early. For a bit more space, head to Icaria or travel 30 minutes via train to Sitges Beach. When on an adult-only vacation, explore the wild side by heading to Mar Bella, the unofficial nudist beach near the city. If the kids are too rambunctious to sit on the beach, how about a sailing adventure? Adults and children can take a sailing course together that will have them navigating the high seas in no time. Lesson costs start at 31 euros for guests ages 15 and older and 17 euros for children ages seven to 14.
It is not every day that the family visits a wax museum, so do it when in Barcelona. Museu de Cera is a magical place that pays tribute to some of the most important figures in world history. Emperors, queens, kings, inventors, sculptors, dancers, and musicians…all are captured in lifelike form using wax. Admission ticket prices are 9 euros for children ages five to 11 and 15 euros for visitors over 11 years old.
Architecture by the famed Antoni Gaudi can be found all around Barcelona. This talented architect even designed the Parc Guell, a beautiful park that features beautiful stone structures and amazing tiling. Kids will love the colorful dragon fountain that guards the entrance. They will also have fun climbing to the terrace at the top and looking out on the city. Adults will appreciate the interesting furniture in the on-site museum and the fact that admission to this large park is free.
When evening rolls around, the family can head to the Magic Fountain of Monjuic for a music and water extravaganza. This fountain has been a performance center since 1929, offering free shows to millions of tourists each year. Check the Magic Fountain Web site for show times because these change with the seasons. Before the show, the family can head to one of the chocolate restaurants for some churros and hot chocolate, a special treat that is particularly comforting during cold weather.
Ok, so we provided you with a bit more than 10 things to do in Barcelona Spain, but they are all well worth considering. Between the food, attractions, architecture, and other things to do and see, the family will be on overload. In between all the excitement, it is important to spend some quality time with each other. Barcelona offers plenty of shopping and dining establishments perfect for family bonding.
San Francisco is considered a financial, transportation, and cultural center in the US. After New York City, it is the most densely populated larger city in the nation. This, coupled with its long and rich history, results in many attractions, natural sights, and entertainment options for those traveling from near or far. No matter what time of year a visit is planned, we have unearthed the best things to do in San Francisco with kids and on a budget.
While adult travelers appreciate the beauty of San Francisco, kids just want to get out of the hotel and do something. Whether they drive, walk, or take public transportation, getting around town is not difficult for a family of any size. Though this is a large city, there always seem to be parking spots available. San Francisco is such a kid-friendly town that adults may find themselves wishing they could nap in the car while the kids explore.
Families who love the outdoors will appreciate the several national parks and beaches within the city or a short driving distance. Several of the parks and nearly of the beaches in San Francisco are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which has more than 13 million visitors annually. Ocean Beach runs along the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean and is great for kids who enjoy surfing. Baker Beach is situated in a cove near the Golden Gate Bridge and is part of a former military base called the Presidio.
The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department maintains over 200 parks. Golden Gate Park is the largest and most well-known park in the city. It spans from the center of San Francisco to the Pacific Ocean. Inside its boards are the San Francisco Botanical Garden, Japanese Tea Garden, and Conservatory of Flowers. Muir Woods, located 12 miles north of the city, allows families to take a nature walk amidst 554 acres of towering Coast Redwoods at no fee for children age 15 and younger. On certain days of the year, the $5 entrance fee is waived for visitors age 16 and older.
Once the children have had their fill of the flora, they can check out the fauna at the San Francisco Zoo, which is home to over 250 species of animals, many designated as endangered. Included are a children’s zoo, carousel, and miniature train for the youngest guests. General admission is free for children three and younger, $9 for kids ages four to 14, and $15 for ages 14 to 64. For an additional charge, families can even stay overnight at the zoo on designated dates, camping outdoors and enjoying guided tours and a hot breakfast.
Americans are known for their love of baseball, and foreign visitors should check out what all the fuss is about when visiting San Francisco. The Giants are the Major League Baseball team in this city and home games are held in the conveniently located AT&T Park. Individual game tickets are reasonably priced and can be purchased online in advance, downloaded to a mobile phone, or bought at the stadium. If the adults do not drive to the stadium, they can take Caltrain, the San Francisco Municipal Railroad, or the Larkspur Ferry from Marin County.
The Morrison Planetarium and Steinhart Aquarium are located in the California Academy of Sciences natural history museum. Morrison is the largest entirely digital planetarium in the world. Kids will love the “Tour of the Universe” show that takes them from the solar system all the way to the edge of the observable cosmos and has them back on Earth within just 20 minutes. Steinhart Aquarium features 38,000 live animals from all over the world including penguins, sharks, and stingrays.
A “Rainforests of the World” exhibit is currently housed at the California Academy of Sciences. Adults and children explore the living four-story rainforest that includes bat caves and a journey under swimming catfish and arapaima. General admission to the Academy is free for children ages three and younger, $19.95 for children ages four to 11, and $24.95 for older children, students, and seniors. Adults pay $29.95 for a general admission ticket. By showing the Pocket Penguins app on their phone at the ticket window, visitors can get $5 off general admission.
Alcatraz Island is home to the famous prison of the same name. Visitors are shuttled to and from the island on a ferry across San Francisco Bay, the same way the prisoners who once resided there made their journey. After a ten minute ferry ride, visitors are met by a park ranger, who provides a tour of the guard barracks, guard house, and cell house. An audio tour of the cell house is included with the ticket price for the ferry ride, which is $16 for children ages five to 11, $26.00 for children 12 to 17 years old and adults, and free for children up to four years old. There is no entrance fee to the Island or the prison.
No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a ride in a cable car. A one-day pass for the city’s MUNI system enables visitors to ride these notable cars, the MUNI buses, and the electric trains throughout the city. Kids will love zooming down Hyde Street, which features some of the steepest hills in the city. Take the car from Powell Station to Ghirardelli Square to enjoy a great meal and of course, chocolate. Cost for a single ticket for all MUNI transport except cable cars (valid for 90 minutes) is only 75 cents for children over age four and $2 for adults, while children ages four and younger ride free. Cable cars are pay per trip, and one day, three day and seven day “passports” are also available which cover all MUNI transport including cable cars.
These are just a few of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids and they are very reasonably priced. Of course, this city does not lack when it comes to dining experiences. Families can find everything from fast food, to delicious sandwiches at Fisherman’s Wharf, to the finest restaurants within a short distance of each other. A family trip to San Francisco is something everyone should plan to do, whether traveling domestically or from outside the US.
Travel blog and information from Barcelona to San Francisco and back to Canberra