Packing for the beach getaway with two children

I usually let my husband to pack for himself his own clothes, which he does in just a few short moments – a pair of swimming trunks (we normally end up buying an extra pair at the destination. He must have a pair from all over the world.), 3-4 t-shirts, pair of long linen pants, one long-sleeve shirt, 2-3 pairs of shorts, flip flops, sunglasses, camera, phone charger – he is done. Then in the course of a few days I plan and stress over the vacation wardrobe for myself and our two children. Our last trip I feel I did not do such a goid job since it has been a while since we’ve been to Caribbean – since January 2014 to be exact, over 2 years. So as far as the boys go, I got a lot of unused shorts and catastrophically running out of t-shirts and tank tops. The reason is that bathing suits are often used as bottoms and all one need to change frequently are tops. So here is what I SHOULD have packed for 2 boys for the 8 days 8 nights trip:

-2 pairs of sunglasses
-2 pairs of sandals plus beach shoes for the baby, 2 pairs of loafers for evening outings
-2 swimming devices
-for each child 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of long linen or cotton pants, 3 t-shirts, 2 tank tops, 4 pairs of swimming trunks, 3 pairs of socks, 1-2 long sleeve shirt and 1 pair of sweat pants
-24 regular diapers for the baby plus 12 swim diapers
-band aid,children’s tylenol, sunblock, after sun lotion, children’s toothpaste, toothbrushes

As for me:

-pair of shorts
-short denim skirt
-capri pants or linen white pants
-shirtdress
-jumper
-2 tank tops, 2 sleeveless tops
-4 bathing suits
-heels, flats, tropeziennes






Is more than sufficient for 8 day trip

France part 2 – Louvre, Eiffel Tower and more

Originally both my husband and I were more interested in going to D’Orsay then Louvre but unfortunatelly, we had to leave it to another trip. Getting into Louvre was easy with the Paris passes we ordered before out trip and picked up after arriving to Paris.

My biggest thing about Louvre was seeing Mona Lisa, so i suggested we head there first thing, and only then we can pick what we get to see next. You simply cannot really see Louvre in one day and having only half a day we had to limit ourselves severely.

To be honest, Mona Lisa have disappointed me, perhaps due to my high expectations. the reality was depressing:

But as far as everything else goes, Louvre has surpassd my expectations in every way possible and we quickly lost track of time. Below are some highlights:








After walking Champ de Elysee back and forth, we headed over to Arc of Triumph to enjoy the view:




Breathtaking view fully justified a painful ascend.

Later, completely exhausted but happy, we met up with Tanya who found out about our whereabouts from Facebook. I must admit, earlier in the year I was planning on catching up with her but later it completely slipped my mind that she was living in Paris these days. After dinner and drinks (amazing fois gras!) Tanya presented us with unexpected surprise – made us run like the wind to see something exciting. I was not in the mood for running or even for seeing anything at all, all I could think of was a hot shower, cup of tea and a good night sleep. Few minutes later we arrived at a dark corner and I was about to ask what was so important that we could not have walked slowly, and then it happened – invisible in the dark Eiffel Tower suddenly lit up, making me feel like a kid at Christmas:

Aparently it happens at 10 o’clock sharp and many people, even the locals, gather to see it and take pictures.

Thanks Tanya, I will never forget the view:)

France part 1 – Parisian apartment

It has been almost a year since our lovely trip to France and I finally got a change to write about it. There is nothing that gives me more pleasure then reminiscing over every little detail, remembering our little apartment in Saint Germain, taste of escargot at the little restaurant downstairs, taking a stroll through the Luxembourg park or Tuileries, holding hands with my husband, watching yachts in St-Tropez, trying on Rondini sandals, or devouring those amazing eclairs at the L’ami du Pain cafe…

Our trip was so packed with experiences that I would have to break it down to a number of parts since it does not seem neither fair nor possible to jam it up together in one post.

When we planned our trip we’ve decided to rent an apartment in Saint Germain rather than get a room at the hotel. I found a nice little studio apartment on rue rue GrĂ©goire de Tours. Here is a glimps on what it is like inside a Parisian apartment:

apartment window

kitchen
Kitchen

living room
Living room/Bedroom

And of course a picture of Audrey Hepburn on the wall:)

view out of the window
The view

Apartments in France are very tiny, you cannot allow yourself to waste even an inch of space. I can see how one has to limit their wardrobe to suffice with a small closet space. Oh how I missed my huge walk-in closet back home!:)
The bathroom was so small, it allowed only one person at a time. As a friend of ours was telling us, in her apartment if she wanted some privicy she’d have to resort to a bathroom since it was the only place she could have a few moments alone.

But although tiny, the apartment was very cosy and had a lovely feel to it. The only real downside was an endless spiral staircase leading up the our third floor flat. My pregnancy was barely settling in, but I still found it quite difficult to get up there every night.

And this is us, enjoying a bottle of wine on our first night (although I only allowed myself a small sip due to my circumstances:)):

drinking wine

We found it was easy to get around, provided that nearest metro station was only short walk away.

metro

One thing that stood out to me the most was how openly couples kissed on the streets and expressed their affection for one another. My husband and I quickly adjusted to the local lifestyle and soon we were kissing like we did at the very beginning of our marriage:)

Both of us regard that trip as our second honeymoon. “If this this is not honeymoon, I do not know what is” as my husband put it. And although I missed my little one back home, it was nice to spend time just the two of us and to remind ourselves what made us fall in love in the first place.

eiffel tower kiss
And Eiffel Tower was our mistletoe…

Mexican vacation – Riviera Maya, Cancun

Trip to Mexico was Alejandrito’s very first vacation abroad. 10 days of playing in the sun, tanning, dancing, drinking, swimming at the laguna, celebrating Christmas, meeting up with Mariula and her husband and daughter. Both Alejandrito and my husband loved Mexico, Alejandrito put on some weight and gotten a tan. Now my husband will not be opposed to Caribbean vacations ever again:)

We took a small bus trip to Playa del Carmen, checked out local architecture, enjoyed some local beer, bought a bottle of tequila after sampling at least 5 different ones at the tequila store.

Mariula took us to a very interesting place full of incredibly strong energy called El Meco – it seemed like at some point there all the outside influences just stop, time stops and feeling of peace covers you. What I found especially interesting that the place itself carries peace and good energy but the piramids of El Meco have a very heavy energy. The contrast fascinated me

For Shandor’s first vacation we will go to either Jamaica or go back to Mexico, this time directly to Cancun to visit another friend of mine.

South America part 4 – Argentina, Avenida Corrientes, Obelisco

Avenida Corrientes, Avenida 9 de Julio, Obelisco
Avenia Corrientes is the place to buy books and tango CDs, as well as many other things. The only downside is that prices are pretty high due to large influx of tourists. But the selection is excellent!

Right outside one can purchase iguanas and bombillas for drinking mate, exotic stones and a variety of jewelry made from rodocrosita – a pink or sometimes red Argentinian stone. You can also buy rodocrosita in Brasil but in Argentina there is more variety, the jewelry are more elaborate and it is much cheaper. (Guanpas are cups for mate made from either pumpkins or leather, or both, and bombillas are the special straws also for drinking mate)

In reality I am the only mate addict in the family, my husband prefers cocido (same as mate but made from fried leaves) because it is less bitter. According to my husband I like everything bitter. Argentinians prepare mate with a large amount of sugar and I absolutely cannot drink that. When home, I prefer not using sugar at all, to me it only kills the divine taste of mate.
Cocido I also prefer without sugar. Every time my mother-in-law makes me a cup she always gets puzzled as to why I refuse sugar.

-“You are going to drink it just like that?” she asks every single time:)

While walking upand down avenida Corrientes loading up on tango CDs I got huge blisters on my feet and after a while all i could think about was getting a pair of comfortable sandals but could not find anything suitable – either too expensive or did not suit my taste. Finally I found a pair of cute wedge sandals, white, made of leather. They were a bit on expensive side – 160 pesos but I liked them and they were on a huge sale, so I decided not to look any further. When Albert saw them he noded his head with approval “very na zdorov’e” he said using English and Russian together. That’s how he usually expresses his approval in rare cases when he does not critisize something. “That is Ricky Sarcani. Very popular brand – all the movie stars are wearing them. How much did you pay?”

-“160”

-“That’s almost free! You won’t find them for any less than 300”

And he was right, the original price was 320 pesos. At least now I understand why a pair of rather plain sandals was so pricey.

Avenida 9 de Julio is the widest street in Buenos Aires and here are as many stores as on Avenida Corrientes. If you like books, this is the place for you. I got quite a few books in Spanish there.

As far as clothes shopping goes, I was very disappointed – nothing special and everything is majorly overpriced. And we went EVERYWHERE, the good areas and the bad.

As the evening approached, Alberto and Marcella dropped us off a=in the area of telos so we could spend some time in private:)

Telos are the greatest invention ever – especially if you are not married and living with parents, brothers and sisters and have absolutely no place to enjoy some one on one with a loved one. Or, like in case of myself and my husband, visiting from another country and staying at a friends’ house. Telos are cheap and very luxurious, here you have a jaccuzi, mirrors on the ceiling, champagne, various drinks, chocolates etc. And decor is positively beautiful! One of my favorites was a round transparent shower stall in the middle of the room and … well, a chair, I thought of as a massage chair at first…

The best thing to do is rent a room after 9pm, then you can stay all night. Otherwise the rooms are rented for 2-3 hours at a time. The best part is that in the morning they servebreakfast right in the room – lower down the breakfast tray through a special pipe so you never have to meet any servers. This is also done for privacy reasons – i case someone is there with another man’s wife or something like that.

Another thing I think I wrote about previously is that after you enter the room and close the door, if you re-open the door even for a split second, the electricity gets turned off and a maid is sent up to the room for cleaning. And if the portier gets a signal that your door opened more than 5 minutes ago and you still were not seen exiting the building, a security will be sent up to look for you.

The reason is very simple – telos guarantee your safety from theft, as well as being found. For example if a man comes to telo in search of his wife, he will be greatly disappointed – he will be captured as soon as he leaves the room, the system here is comparable to KGB, there is no escaping. Another reason is theft – some would rent a room and then exit and break into cars in the garage. Everything is taken into consideration here.

Next day, after a beautiful night followed by a delicious breakfast we went to the zoo in Palermo. Since the zoo was closed, we just ended up walking around the city. Which served me well since I wanted to buy some presents for everyone back home. My husband always tries to stop me from buying too much, saying there is no need. But I always ignore him and buy not only for my side of the family but also his. Every time we return back from a trip and he calls his mother, she asks him if he brought her anything. His eyes widen, he covers the phone and wispers to me “Do we have anything for my mother?” And every time I do have something for her as well as for his other friends or relatives.

And yet every time I ask during the trip “what are we getting for your mother?”, the answer is always “Nothing, why?”. I never listen though. I know my husband too well for that:)

So this time I was looking for something for our newest family member – my cousin’s wife. Finally I settled on a charm – rodocrosita stone on a woven leather strap that was made right in front of us on the street and I photographed him while he was working on it. Another present was a guanpa with hers and my cousin’s names on it.

By the way, people were gladly allowing me to photograph them, and some tried to get into the picture without even being asked:) Argentinians are very friendly and open.

South America part 3 – Argentina, Palermo

Cafe Tortoni
After La Boca we went out to eat at the famous and oldest cafee in Buenos Aires – cafe Tortoni. It is also one of the most beautiful, reminded me of the Opera Theater in Odessa, Ukraine,that has made a huge impression on me.

I still remember, more than 12 years later, the opera I was listening to, the heavy gold chandelier that looked like it was croched, while weighting not much less than the Titanic (exaggeration of course:)). I remember taste of caviar sandwiches during intermission and how stunned I was, drinking champagne mixed with my tears (I was crying for Iolanta and her ill fate).

I got a bit carried away here:) The impression the cafe has made on me was quite different from Odessa Opera Theater but nevertheless unforgettable.
I must mention that for the first time in 6 months I was sorry I quit smoking since Tortoni has an excellent smoking room.
For instance in the US the smokers have to either go outside or sit it a special area.



And here for that purpose they have a very cosy room with many tables, chairs and sofas draped in red velvet. Also, for your pleasure and entertainment, there are many magazines, books and such. Coffee can be requested to be brpought here and you can peacefully enjoy your cigarette or cigar while reading or conversing with your friends.


The husbands stayed with children on the main floor and Marcela and I went into the smoking room after asking the waiter to bring us our coffee there. The cigarette smoke was a bit overwhelming and irritating but in spite if that I was dying for a few puffs just to experience smoking in this smokers’ paradise:)

Besides beautiful decor, the food was also delicious, the toasted crustless cheese sandwiches were positively divine. All other food was no less amazing.

To my surprise the waiter who served us was a Russian guy from St. Petersburg named Dennis. He was actually a resident. I do not blame him, if I was to move, it would be to Buenos Aires.

Palermo and Jardin Japones

About Palermo I heard a lot from Roberto. He is a big fan. When he used to be a cab driver, his route always started in Palermo. Palermo is a quite wealthy part of Buenos Aires and very beautiful. Here is where the famous Recoletta cemetery (where Evita was buried) is located and no less famous Palermo Zoo and Jardin Japones (Japanese Garden).

We didn’t make it to the cemetery itself but stopped at the church, prayed, then went for a walk around the cemetery enjoying the view through the fence. Next time we will definitely try to get inside.

We left a trip to the zoo for another time and headed over to the Jardin Japones. Jardin Japones is a small Japanese-style park. Very nice but not easy to describe with words, so I am going to post lots of pictures.