Traveling With A Baby

Getting back into traveling when you’ve just had a baby can seem like a daunting task. There are just so many things to think about! My hubs and I used to be a “carry-on and backpack” only type of travel crew, but the addition of our baby, Harper, turned us into the “checked-bags / arrive two hours early” family. Such a different travel experience! Good news for you is that, it really isn’t bad at all (even if you find out mid flight that your diaper bag does not, in fact, have any diapers in it…yikes!) You just need to be prepared. To help my fellow travel-mommas, the following post will go over booking, hotels, plane flights, and more based on our first few trips!

The first important thing to discuss is mindset. It can get very stressful planning a trip with a baby. Our first vacay was supposed to be stress free, but 2 weeks out from our Florida trip, 2 additional trips popped up. We had a work/ family road trip to Houston, a solo mom work trip to Minneapolis, and our first flight trip to Florida all within 1 week, while pumping! Talk about the need to plan ahead. We made it through all of that because, at the end of the day, what was the worst thing that could happen? Yes, Harper could have cried in the car or on the plane. We did, in fact, forget diapers on the plane which we realized when she had a poop, but we made it and no one on the plane complained. We could have forgotten something but there are always Targets, Walmarts, or other stores close to pickup anything we forgot. If we ran out of bottled milk, I was on tap. At the end of the day, just know that “the worst thing that could happen” is not THAT bad and you will still enjoy yourself. As moms, we have so much to juggle, so take a breath and don’t be hard on yourself!

The second part is your expectations. If you haven’t read about my other trips, in summary, I pack A LOT of activities into a little time. I almost killed Ryan in Rome with trying to see the city in one day! Traveling with a baby is a completely different pace than what we are used too – but that is OK! The vacation will be slower, but honestly, you probably need it to be that way to get rest, take naps (Naps on vacation? What?! But yes, naps are good!), and not stress yourself out. For Florida, I told myself I wanted a restful vacation. We had no places we HAD to be, no time frames, and just a very rough outline of things we could do if we were up for it. Honestly, that was perfect. It gave us so much flexibility to do things based on Harper’s pace and our energy levels. This is your time to get some R&R, so give your self some grace. Your trip will be what you make of it and mindset is a huge part of that!

Harper ready for takeoff!

Considerations For Planning Your Trip With Baby:

  • Where To Go: You have so much stuff to bring with a baby. A trip that has multiple hotels, locations, and un-packs / pack-ups is going to be tough. We opted to go to Florida and stay on the beach in the same hotel for 5 nights which made it so much less stressful. Also, consider places with lots of outdoor places for you to enjoy with your little one. Just make sure to check the weather for the time of year you are going.
  • Distance to the Airport: Babies should not be in carseats for hours on end. Pick a spot within an hour or so of the airport because you will be exhausted after the flight. Also, if you choose an early flight like we did at 7:10 AM to Florida, expect a VERY early wake up (aka 4 AM) since you will want lots of time at the airport. The further your drive to the airport, the earlier the wake up. Also, if you have a rental car, you will need to add more time for getting gas, dropping the car off, and getting to the gate.
  • Activities: We usually book so many excursions on our trip, but with a baby, most of the usual suspects (long tours, adventure activities, etc.) are off the table. However, that does not mean you can’t have fun! Beaches, pools, areas to hike, zoos, gardens, water-taxi / larger boat rides, and National Parks, areas with town squares or walkable shopping districts are great places to go with kids as they usually don’t require a certain time to go, are paved for strollers, are cheap to get in, and give you areas for down time if needed. Indoor places like museums, aquariums, art galleries, malls, restaurants with a great view so you can camp out, etc. are great for rainy or hot day options as well.
  • Renting a Car/ Ubering: Ubers ARE doable with a carseat (even without the base). We did Uber to the airport and then we rented a car in Florida to get around. It was just easier to keep our stuff in and have our own, flexible schedule. Also, I could pump in the rental car while Ryan drove if we were out longer than expected. That would be AWK in an Uber.

Baby Friendly Hotels:

  • Location: Hotels close or walkable to the main areas you want to explore are super helpful. We booked our Florida hotel right on the beach, so it was a 2 second walk to the huge pool or beach. Also, the hotel was right next to the beach walk with tons of restaurants so we went for a stroll every morning and walked to almost all of our lunch and dinner spots.
  • Amenities in Order of Importance:
    • Baby Crib: Many hotels offer cribs, you just need to ask or check their website! This will provide a safe sleep space for your little one so you don’t have to lug one with you. So helpful! Just make sure to call a few days in advance and confirm you have one set aside for your room.
    • Kitchenette Area: To me, washing bottles and pump parts in the bathroom just does not feel sanitary. We had a little kitchen area in FL with a sink and it was a game changer. Also, having a freezer instead of just a mini-fridge for any extra pumping milk for those breastfeeding mommas out there is a nice-to-have as well.
    • Double Queen Beds: We got a King in FL and had double Queen beds in Houston. It was so nice to have an extra bed to use for Harper and her stuff in Houston. She played on it, we changed her on it, and if she spit up or had a blow out, we were NOT sleeping on it. The extra play space was so nice.
    • Elevators: If you are staying in a motel, get a 1st floor room. You do not want to lug all of your stuff up and down those stairs.
    • Balcony with a View: Getting up so early with a baby, we spent a lot of time drinking coffee, eating breakfast, and enjoying nap time on our hotel’s balcony in Florida. Having a way to enjoy your new environment from the hotel room is an big added benefit.
    • Kid’s Clubs / Activities: We traveled with Harper at 5 months old. Most Kids Clubs / hotel babysitting services have age minimums (starting at 6 months) in order to use them. Check that when booking if you want to take advantage for a date night or two.
  • AirBNB / VRBOs: These are always an option and having a bathroom / kitchen would be so helpful. The biggest thing to call out with rentals is a safe sleep space for the baby. Check in advance if they offer cribs or if you have to bring your own.
  • Darkness: Hotels are full of natural light during the day. While I love light and windows, it is not conducive to nap time! Our Houston hotel was way too bright and we had to put Harpers crib in the closet and use our cloth wrap on top to try and block the light. We bought this crib cover for our Florida trip and it made nap time so much easier!

Flying With Baby:

  • Booking Your Flight: If you have a baby under 1, they can fly free as a lap child! Doing so for a 3 hour flight to Florida was easy. Just consider how comfy you would be having a baby on your lap for longer international flights of 5+ hours. That might be the time to book a second seat, even if you have to pay. When you do book, just make sure to indicate you are flying with a lap child in the booking. Try and get seats to the front of the plan for a quick exit and an isle seat for easy trips to the bathroom if needed.
  • Airport Arrival Time / Check-In: Give yourself at least 1.5 hours (2 if this is your first time traveling with baby) to check in. Our first flight needed all of that time since we hit a few snags. Even if you check in online, most airlines require check in at the desk for the lap infant. You will also likely have to check a bag with all of your stuff. MAKE SURE THEY PRINT A BABY BOARDING PASS. You will need this to get on the plane. Even though I booked the tickets with a lap infant and all of Harper’s details, they did not print a boarding pass for her upon checkin and we had to recheck in at the gate as we could not board the plane without one. We lost our original seats in that process too. Talk about stress. You will also need to check your stroller and carseat at the gate and get a tag so you can bring it down the jet bridge.
  • Getting Through Security: Wear your baby! We went through TSA Pre (which is so nice since you don’t have to take your shoes off and the lines are so much shorter) and Ryan’s ticket did not say TSA Pre so he had to go recheck in. I went through security while carrying Harper in my arms and getting the stroller / car seat broken down and the milk out was so hard. A nice man had to help me out. On the way back from that trip, I carried Harper in the Ergobaby carrier and it was so much easier! If you are brining milk, just have it in a cooler that you can easily take in and out of your bag. We used this Skip Hop cooler that fits 3 Dr. Brown’s bottles. I also bought these long lasting, sandwich-size icepacks to keep things extra cold.
  • Flying & Pumping: Being on a pumping schedule is hard. You will likely have to do so at some point during your flight experience. It is not that bad! Airports have lactation rooms or pods in each terminal. I used those on my work trip to Minnesota and trip to Florida. Just check the terminal maps for their locations. I used my Momcozy pumps which are perfect for travel to do so and brought a cooler for the milk / Ziplock freezer bags for the pump parts. I also pumped mid-flight twice as well. I brought a scarf to wrap around while I was in my seat using the Momcozys and it was super easy. If you are traveling solo with baby, make sure to pump in the airport as doing so on the plane without someone with you will be very challenging.
  • Stroller / Car Seat: Most airlines (even Spirit!) let you check your stroller and car seat for free at the gate. You will need to get a tag at the gate agent and carry these things down the jet bridge. I highly recommend getting a case or protective bag for your carseat. If you buy it from the carseat brand, they usually will replace your carseat if it gets damaged in transit if in the case. Checking at the gate will reduce the risk of damage in transit and you will get them back as soon as you get off the flight on the bridge.
  • Baggage: You can also bring an extra bag for your kiddo onto the plane for no extra charge. Pack your bags for flights strategically and have Bags 1 & 2 for under the seat/ easy access and Bag 3 in the overhead bin.
    • Bag 1: Baby stuff. Toys on the bottom, food, pacifiers, and changing stuff on top of the bag for easiest access. Wipes / hand sanitizer.
    • Bag 2: Your entertainment, pumping stuff if needed, snacks, purse, water, and wallet.
    • Bag 3: Additional stuff you need mid-flight or cannot fit in your checked bag. Since it is overhead, it will be harder to access. Try to put anything you need during the flight in bags 1 & 2.

Baby Packing List Must Haves:

  • Baby: Diapers / wipes, changing pad, bottles, ice packs for milk if needed, cooler for bottles, cleaning supplies for bottles, light blanket or towel (we used one for the beach), toys / books, pacifiers, moisturizer / shampoo / baby wash / diaper cream / baby sunscreen, hats, baby bug spay, stroller fan, stroller rain or bug covers, stroller cup holder for walks, bathing suits that cover arms with UV protection / swim diapers / swim hats, swim inflatable for the pool, baby ear protection (you never know when it will be loud like on a water Taxi), small packable umbrella for the beach or other random times there is sun, bows (because they are cute, duh), baby carrier, crib cover, PJs and outfits plus lots of backup outfits, and bags for bringing dirty clothes home. We used packing bags and put swimwear, pjs, day clothes, and accessories all in different bags for easy access and neater packing.
  • Momma: Pumping parts / chargers / cleaning supplies, pumping bras or shirts, swimsuits that can’t be pulled off easily, water bottle to keep hydrated, a fully charged phone with lots of space for new photos / videos, and excitement for the trip!

Overall, making your baby into your travel buddy is so easy and absolutely worth it! They will be so engaged with their new environments and you will get some needed rest and quality time with your baby. Talk about making core memories! Just take it slow, listen to your babies cues / don’t push too hard, and enjoy every second of it!

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Day 1

Getting to Tokyo:

In 2015, we treated my dad to a trip to Peru for his 65th birthday. That trip was so amazing that my mom wanted to fast-forward her b-day trip to her 60th (typical mom!) and she wanted to go to Japan. After 7 months of researching and planning, our late March / early April cherry-blossom-season Japan trip was in full swing. My mom, dad, and sister flew in to Tokyo Friday night and Ryan and I arrived Saturday afternoon to start our two week journey.

After navigating the busy Tokyo Airport, grabbing our (very worth it) Rail Pass, hopping a few trains and walking through markets with our luggage, we arrived at the Shinjuku Granbell Hotel. Since there were 5 of us, my sister Julia was bouncing between staying with my parents and bunking with Ryan and I. The Shinjuku had this really cool loft suite so we started the trip off with a sleepover!

We unpacked and took a quick shower before hitting the streets to find some food. We ended up at a sushi train place with melt-in-your-mouth sushi! All 5 of us got our fill of so many types of seafood for only $50 total. It was a very impressive start to our culinary part of the trip.

After we filled up, we walked back through the crowded streets to our hotel for some much needed sleep.

Day 1:

Thank goodness for Melatonin. If you don’t know what that is, it is a natural sleep aid that tells your body when it is time for bed. When you are traveling and in a place with a totally different time zone, like Tokyo which is 14 hours ahead of Dallas, it helps you reset your body clock. My sister, Ryan, and I all had a gummy version of it before bed, slept like logs, and woke up ready for an 8 hour tour day!

We met my parents in the lobby of the Shinjuku Granbell hotel at 8:15 AM to grab breakfast before our tour guide arrived. It was only 40 degrees outside and it took one step out the door for me to start patrolling for a heavier jacket when we passes markets and shops. We walked about 5 minutes down to road to a more Americanized breakfast place for coffee called Tully’s. Ryan had half a ham and egg sandwich and pancakes to load up for the day and I had a coffee. This is going to sound really strange, but my sister and I both opted instead to go to 7-Eleven for breakfast. 7-Elevens in Japan look similar to those in the US but are much different. They have a wider variety of fresh food and are much cleaner / nicer. I had heard the rumors about them and read tons of info online so my sister and I decided to Japanese foods from there instead of the American place. I grabbed a pork version of the triangular shaped rice balls stuffed with meats, veggies, or fish, a steamed pork bun, and Korean rice ball. All three were really different but tasty! I don’t know how I feel yet about seaweed for breakfast though, according to our guide, traditional Japanese breakfasts consist of rice, veggies, fish, and always, always miso soup.

After our 7-Eleven stop, we went back to the hotel to chow down and wait for Misa, our 8 hour, private tour guide. She showed up right at 9:30 in a sun hat, fur-lined hooded jacket, and boots. Her face was bright and personality brighter, and we all hit it off with her immediately. She gave us an overview of the customized tour for the day and we headed off to tour gardens.

Our hotel was located in the middle of the Shinjuku district. While it is a modern, 4-star variety hotel, it is surrounded but all of these other themed hotels which were really interesting looking and strange. A lot of them had pictures of the various rooms in front of the hotels and private entrances. Misa told us that they were all “love” hotels that can be rented by the hour. Apparently, most of the houses in Tokyo are very small and people live in very close proximity with paper thin walls. To get privacy, most people in the city, from young lovers to parents, go to these “love hotels” and it is a widely accepted but secretive process. That conversation definitely brought a new perspective to our ideas of our neighborhood!

It was about a 20-minute walk to the garden and the sun was finally starting to poke out. For the sake of time, we decided to walk the Japanese portion of the garden only, about 1/3 of the full experience. There were some large and beautiful white flowering trees and the cheery blossoms were starting to bud as well!

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My mom was ecstatic when she saw her first blossom. After all, the blooming of the trees was the reason we booked our trip at the end of March! The cherry blossoms bloom from mid-March-May all over Tokyo and are so beautiful.

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After about 45 minutes of taking in the garden, we took off to our first temple. Along the way, Misa had us try these fried red bean and sweet potato fish snacks. They were so hot they burnt by tongue, but were delicious and so cute!

Misa reloaded our Suica cards and we hopped on the train. I have to say, public transit in Tokyo is so well signed and easy once you get the hang of it!

We walked to the Meiji Shrine entrance and bowed in respect. We saw a lot of girls dressed up in kimonos while we walked. Misa told us that the end of March was graduation season and that was the traditional dress for the graduation ceremony. It was super cool to see so many in their traditional garb and hear about the cultural traditions. We opted to grab some Sakura (cherry blossom) tea so we could rest for a few minutes and people-watch before heading into the temple.

The temple was huge and there were two wedding ceremonies going on while we were there. The bride’s white wedding kimonos were gorgeous and they wore these large round hats. Apparently, most kimonos are passed down from generation to generation and cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. There were also some 100-day old babies celebrating their first 100 days of living with their parents and grand parents. Again, the mothers and grandmothers were wearing family kimonos with their family crests embroidered on them. It was a treat to see the traditional wear and ceremonies of the people.

We walked up to the shrine and threw a lucky 5 yen into the entrance to make a wish for our futures. The word 5 in Japanese, “Go”, is also the word for destiny, so throwing 5 yen helps ensure your wish for your destiny.

Our stomaches were starting to rumble and we hopped back on the subway to go to a lake teppanyaki lunch. We arrived at this random building and I would never have found the restaurant, up this tiny elevator to the the 7th floor.

We sat around massive grill and Misa taught us how to make these seafood and pork grilled pancakes. We got a big bowl consisting of tons of veggies, egg, and meat with butter on top. We put the butter on the grill and then added the meat and seafood to cook first. Then, we stirred the egg and veggies together into a doughy mix and put that on the grill. Once the meat was semi-cooked, we put it on top of the cake and then flipped it around halfway through the cook. Once done, we added bbq sauce, Japanese mayo, and fish flakes. THE END RESULT WAS SO GOOD! Misa also made us veggies and noodles.

If you go to Japan, you must try teppanyaki out after a long day of walking.

It was such a treat to have Misa show us how to make lunch. She was such a great guide for our day. After we filed up, we took off through the market streets back to the subway to make our way to our next stop, the Ueno Park. The park was quite crowded and the blossoms were also starting to appear.

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This garden is massive and surrounded by museums. Misa told us that all of the museums and buildings over 5 stories in Tokyo are on rollers so that they can withstand earthquakes! Really inventive.

Then we headed to our last stop, the Asakusa Shrine. At the forefront of the Shrine was a gate with a massive lantern. There was a very long street with vendors lining it on both sides from the 1st massive lantern all the way to the 2nd that was right in front of the main building.

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We were getting a bit overwhelmed with all of the people so we took a side street the rest of the way down to the temple. We walked down the market and Misa bought us some various treats to try like sweet rice balls and savory rice cakes with sake.

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By this point, we had been walking for 7+ hours and we were all starting to get weary. By the main gate, there were these shaker cups with numbered sticks. We shook the cup and got a random numbers that indicated which box to open to select our fortune. The fortunes were these long pieces of paper and all of them were positive, except Ryan’s, so he had to tie his to this rack so his bad fortune would “blow away in the wind’. Poor Ryan!

We were already feeling pretty low energy, so we found a vending machine and grabbed some espresso. It came out piping hot from the machine and Misa explained that drinks with red prices are hot and blue prices are cold in the same machine! Such cool technology and such a good idea to have some caffeine which helped us get home.

Misa took us back to our hotel and we said our goodbyes. She was such an excellent guide for our day. We decided to take a 1.5 hour nap / recharge break and met back up at 7 PM to decide on plans for the next day. My parents wanted to go back to the “Robot Sushi” aka sushi conveyer belt place again, so Ryan and I broke off to try a Ramen place. What a good idea that was! It was delicious. We split a thick wavy noodle, pork belly Ramen with gyoza and fried chicken for like $12 total including drinks. It was so good and warmed us up on the cold evening.

After dinner, we decided to check out our hotels Sky Bar. We texted my family to meet us and sat at a table under the space heaters. The staff even gave us warm, fuzzy blankets so we could enjoy the view comfortably. We had a glass of wine and discussed our itinerary for the rest of our time in Tokyo before calling it an night.

Continue on our journey through Japan…

Sydney, Day 5 & 6

Sydney Day 5:

We enjoyed a lovely breakfast at the Kirkton Park. They had some to-die for hash browns, fresh braked bread, and yummy fruit, not to mention freshly made marshmallows for the coffee. Also, the rose garden was right out back and the gardener brought in fresh cut roses and rosemary to decorate the kitchen and tables – it was enchanting!

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After we filled up, we took off on the 2.5 hour drive back to Sydney. We saw a few kangaroos on the way back but that was about as exciting as the drive got.

We parked back at the Adina Hotel and decided to walk down to Chinatown and explore. I have fond memories of getting Dim Sum (Yum Cha) with my family on previous trips and I wanted to show Ryan around. We ended up exploring the huge market with tons of booths jammed packed with random stuff. Thankfully for my wallet, I didn’t have any cash on me so I couldn’t buy anything.

We walked up the street further into the restaurant section of Chinatown and ended up at Noodle Company. It had great reviews and all of the noodles were made fresh. We ordered pork fried noodles, sweet and sour pork, and lamb and chive dumplings. Yum!

Obviously, we should have looked at the portion sizes before ordering! Usually an order of dumplings came with 6 total and we had 12! They were sooo good and we decided to box up the rest for enjoyment later.

We were stuffed so the walk back to the Adina was welcomed. Ryan went back up to the room and I took off to the grocery store to buy a few things for home. My mom always had the best BBQ sauce imported from Australia, so I bought two bottles of bbq sauce, my moms favorite gummy snakes, and my favorite Aussie candy – Violet Crumble. Violet Crumble is chocolate covered honeycomb and is sooo yummy! I like to freeze it and it just melts in your mouth afterward. I highly recommend!

Once I got back with the groceries, it was time to catch up on some blog posts. Ryan napped and we relaxed for a few hours before deciding to go out for a pre-dinner drink. My cousins and sister were meeting us at Muum Maam for some Thai food at 8, so a pre-drink was a good way to pass the time.

We ended up walking to Lil Darlin, which looked packed and had a great happy hour – cocktails for only $10. We walked in and I saw this crazy looking pink drink that, upon glancing at the menu, consisted of cotton candy and I had to get it. So glad I did!

 

We got so much entertainment and joy out of eating the cotton candy (fairy floss in Aussie lingo). I really wanted to try all of the other yummy drinks on the menu but it was time to meet everyone up. We sat at a communal table and enjoyed some tasty pork rinds while we waited on the remaining cousins to show up. Unfortunately, our cousin’s dog was acting up right before she was heading over and she had to take him to the vet. It was a bummer that we could not see her and her husband, but we are big “dog people” and totally get it.

Anyways, we had some super yummy crispy spring rolls and duck paper rolls to start with. Ryan and I decided to share the Panang curry but we got the heart breaking news that they ran out so we ended up with some tasty Pad Thai instead. Who knew that we would be eating so much Pad Thai this trip? But I am not complaining!

After dinner, we wound up walking to an ice cream place and enjoyed some delicious macadamia nut, white chocolate ice cream. Such a great way to end the night with my awesome Aussie family!

Sydney Day 6 –

Today was Royal National Park day. We walked down to the little organic grocer down the street for a quick and delicious breakfast of rocket, aioli, bacon, avocado, and scrambled egg wraps and flat white coffee, and then we were off in our rental car to the National Park. The weather was absolutely perfect for hiking with a cool breeze that made you forget the work of the hike.

The views from the hike were awesome and the water was sooo blue!

Apparently, there was a huge brush fire in January of 2018 which wiped out 60 hectors (148 acres) of brush along the coast. While it was sad to see all of the burnt toast looking trees, there was tons of promising new growth.

The trail led us to some amazing heights,

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And some sandy, relaxing lows. We ended up snacking on apples and enjoying our beach view for a while.

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We walked for a good 1.5 hours before needing to turn around and head back to the car. We had a 5 PM drop off for the rental and didn’t want to cut our beach time short so we hustled back. It was definitely a good workout and we were thankful for the hats, sun glasses, sunscreen, and water we brought (though I think Ryan and my sister were getting annoyed with my “mom” habit of reminding them to reapply frequently!).

There was a large beach was right next to the car park so we took a detour before heading out. My sister and I got our feet wet and had a good time reflecting on our time in Aussie as kids and now. It was so special to spend this time with her, especially in a country of our heritage.

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We walked back to the car and tried to de-sand our legs and feet before dirtying the rentals. Our GPS showed quite a bit of traffic on the way back, so we opted to stop at a food court for some of the best butter chicken curry with naan bread I have ever had. It was so good that I ate all of it before snapping a pic. Oops!

Thankfully for us, traffic cleared up when we got back on the road, so the drive back into Sydney was easy. Getting the rental car back, however, was not so easy. The driveway was not clearly, marked and we definitely drove up the wrong way to trying to get in! It took us even more time to go down all 7 levels to our car drop-off. We got dizzy driving around and around so much!

Finally, we made it successfully and walked back to the hotel for much needed showers. We still had some delicious herb feta cheese and Semillon wine from the Hunter Valley in the day prior and enjoyed that while packing the rest of the evening. Our flight home was bright and early the next day.

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Sydney, Day 3

Today we decided to do the Coogee to Bondi coastal / beach walk – a 2.7 mile walk along the beautiful coast of New South Wales, Australia. It was raining pretty hard when we woke up around 8 AM, so we lounged until the sun came out around 9:30 and took off to the bus station. We waited about 10 minutes for the 373 bus to drive us 25 minutes to Coogee beach. On the bus there were two barely 20-year-old looking guys trying to get this young girl in a Ponzi scheme type company that sold “lotto” tickets. It sounded super shady but listening to their “sales” pitches helped pass the time waiting to arrive at our beach destination.

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It was still a bit chilly, so my Lululemon jacket really came in handy and the sun felt great when it finally hit us. The coastal walk is a paved walk that runs for miles along the water and is full of stellar views. There is quite a bit of walking up and down hills and cliff sides and, while it wasn’t thaaat tough, we didn’t realize how sore we still were from the Tongariro Crossing a few days prior until we started going up some of the hills!

With stopping to admire some of the views and chasing our hats around as they got blown off our heads, the hike took us about two hours. We even watched a whole bunch of kids surf the turbulent waves out on the water.

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Eventually, we got to Bondi Beach, one of the most visited tourist sites in all of Australia. There were quite a few people swimming in the sea water filled baths and surfers, but the beach itself wasn’t too packed.

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We were starting to get hungry so we walked down the shops and restaurants to find a spot to eat and ended up getting some delicious Chai tea lattes while watching the waves hit the water. Ryan really wanted to try McDonald’s (or “Macca’s” in Aussie lingo) so we stopped there and he got a Big Mac and fries. It actually tasted quite different from the US version, especially since the Ketchup (or tomato sauce in Aussie) is much sweeter.

I was in the mood for a meat pie since I had yet to have one in Aussie and they are one of my favorite Aussie delicacies! I found a little place called Funky Pies on the way back to the city and got a butter chicken pie that was sooooo flaky and delicious. (As I review this blog post entry, my stomach is literally rumbling for this pie 4 months later! It was THAT yummy). Good thing we had a 1.5 hour, 3 mile walk back to our hotel to walk it off.

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After quite the walk and a bunch of hills, we finally got back to the hotel. We showered and packed up to stay at my aunt’s house for the night. We walked down to the Central Train Station, filled up our Opal cards, and hopped on the train to her stop.

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It was super easy to find the right train and the train was very clean. My aunt was waiting for us at the station and it only took a few minutes to get to her house where my cousin and uncle was waiting. We watched some football, drank wine, and snacked on some delicious cheeses and bread with olive oil, balsamic, and dukkah – my new favorite combination!

Once my sister arrived, we enjoyed some amazing conversation, roasted chicken, fresh oysters, prawns, potatoes, and a slew of other delicious things. I have to say, both my aunt and my mom are excellent cooks! The amount of fresh produce and seafood avaialbe in Sydney only makes it even better.

It seemed like we talked for hours could have gone on for a few more. It was so great to catch up, get juicy / funny stories about my mom and aunt growing up together, and reminisce about the times my sister and I visited Australia or when my family came to the US. I have to say, my Australian family is absolutely amazing and I couldn’t have been happier to see them or finally introduce them to Ryan.

Eventually, we were stuffed and tired and hit the hay to rest up for another early morning.

Continue on this adventure…

Sydney, Day 2

My mom is from Sydney and has quite the family over in Australia with 3 brothers and 1 sister that all have kids around my age. I grew up visiting them throughout the years it was about darn time that I introduced my husband to them. After years of trying to make that happen, today was finally that day!

My sister, Ryan & I made a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast, at the hotel and then we took off to find some coffee, a birthday card, and wrapping paper for my Aunt who celebrated her birthday in the day prior. We went to a few grocery stores before finding a card and had to go to a bookstore to find any sort of wrapping paper or bags. The differences in what stores carry in the US and AU are incredible. Almost every store in Australia is unique and has super cute designs. Chain stores / restaurants are much fewer and farther between. I quite prefer the Australian stores to those in the US.

Once we got what we needed, we ran back to the hotel, grabbed the gift, and took off in a cab to Ripples Chowder Bay for brunch. The view from the restaurant was beautiful and we had two big tables for the 20 of us! I can’t tell you how happy I was that everyone was coming in from all over Sydney for lunch with us. Ryan did a great job trying to remember who everyone was and we were all in great spirits.

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Since there were so many of us, we had a prix fixe menu, though the waiters were having trouble rounding us all up to order since we were all socializing! Oops.

Our first course was either deliciously buttery prawns or a goat curd salad with beet root. I got the prawns and could not have been happier. They were 8 inches or so long, buttery, and melted in your mouth.

The second course was either risotto, barramundi, or what most of us had, the steak with mushrooms and sweet potato puree – so scrumptious!

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Dessert option 1 was meringue – an Australian dessert of the most fluffy, cloud like pastry you could imagine. Ryan tried it and kept saying he “made a HUGE mistake” ordering the chocolate moose!

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After a lively lunch, we took some family photos of all of 11 cousins and then my sister, Ryan, and I with my aunts and uncles.

It probably took us about 30 minutes and some serious corralling from some of the cousins to get us out of the restaurant and into the cars since we were all chatting so much! We ended up in my cousin’s car to drive back to her and her husband’s new apartment. They just recently bought the place to start their new family and it had an amazing view of a national park off of the back balcony. We even saw a few kookaburras in the trees!

We had some great conversations and catch up time before it was time to head back to Surry Hills. My aunt and uncle were kind enough to take us on a brief tour of downtown and drop us back at the apartment. It was so great to see everyone!

While brunch started at noon, we didn’t get back until 6! Time flew so fast and we were pretty hungry when we got back so we took off to an Indian place that my sister had been wanting to try called Masala Theory. It was a “neo-Indian” cuisine an we started with some deconstructed samosas that were to-die for! We then split some amazing lamb chops in a mango puree, flaky naan bread, and a green veggie curry – yumm!

That restaurant turned Ryan into an Indian food fan – something I’ve been trying to do for years! We were stuffed and were glad to walk some of it off on the way back to the hotel

Continue on this adventure…