What’s Going On?!

Did I already title a moronically overdue post the same recently? Probably.

What’s been going on lately, y’all?! I’m constantly all over the place, as usual, and I’ve missed this platform. I have ten thousand unpublished drafts from the past few months and most of them will probably stay that way. Feels good to write, but I don’t need to put everything out there.

I don’t know exactly how it is for everybody, but for me, living in Abu Dhabi, it seems like time moves insanely fast. For example: we moved again (I know, I know, I know). It literally feels like it was SO LONG ago that we lived in the first house here, but it was only a bit over a year ago. It feels like maybe we just saw or spoke to friends, and then all of a sudden you realize its been MONTHS. Every time Henry hits a milestone I can’t even remember the day before when he didn’t: have a tooth, crawl, eat, walk, etc. I can’t even remember when Obama was president because…woof.

This particular year we had friends out, went to Oman, I’ve run a few races (“races” ha), picked a school for Porter which involved a LOT of applying, researching, visiting, playdating, etc. And we moved, and dealt with everything that that involves, which believe me…is a lot.

And all of a sudden it’s Ramadan again, we’ve got vacations planned, it’s a trabillion degrees, and I still haven’t lost the baby weight! Sigh.Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

We’ve done a bunch of fun things, too. Dubai always seems to lure us in on the weekends, so we’ve finally ventured up there a bunch more to see and do. There is so much to do in Dubai, and it feels just different enough from Abu Dhabi, so it’s nice to explore more but we always run out of time. Need a staycation, I think.

Also, brunches. It’s only taken us forever, but dipping a toe into the brunch world is long overdue. Dangerous, in the best way.

Over two years in now, and it seems like we are finally carving out more of a routine and lifestyle. It was the same in Sweden; we estimate it takes about 2-3 years to “figure things out” and get comfortable. I can’t imagine that new jobs, pregnancies, and new babies makes any expat move and settling in easier, but we’re doing it  😉

And just when you think a particular stress storm is about to pass, you get ill. Bed-ridden, can’t function, how-do-people-even-survive-this-shit sick. The house has been going through all of  that this month. Summer vacation can’t come too soon.

Vacation? YES. We’re headed back to Europe because we can’t quit it, despite always saying we’ll try to go somewhere else. It’s close! Tickets were cheap! And we’re doing so many things on (my) bucket list! Matt suggested *one* location and I was like, but if we go there then we can do this, and this, and see this, and all of a sudden a quick get away became three weeks, three countries, and entirely too much money –  I’m half regretting the entire thing right now. Matt’s like, “YOLO.” And since he funds things right now, yolo it is.

I might try this crazy thing where I make an effort to blog like a real blogger on this trip. Such as sharing tips and quips and pics in real-time. Don’t hold me to that. For the sake of being creative, I have hearty goals for this space. It just seems to be a constant wrestle between real-life and creative and scholarly pursuits. I’m getting there, though!

2017 is turning into the year where I am really realizing the need to keep things simple in all areas of life. We are paring down, cleaning up, filtering out, and it’s providing us with some more room to just enjoy life. This is kind of hard time of year – end of the school term, Ramadan, and the true beginning of the long, hot summer – but we’re in the best place we’ve been in a few years. I’m looking forward to what there is to come, both planned and some hopeful new opportunities. That’s what’s going on!

Vienna, AUSTRIA : PART TWO

Vienna, Austria

In July 2016 we traveled to Vienna, Austria! You can read the first post in this series HERE.

Day 2 – Zoom Kindermuseum

Our second full day in Vienna, Austria was definitely on the slower side. We took our time in the morning, then made our way over to the Museumsquartier again, where we found ZOOM Kindermuseum. First we ate a quick lunch at the nearby cafe, and then spent time playing on this large grassy water bed in the courtyard before the entrance to the museum. A tentative Porter “tested the waters”, unsure of what would happen if he stepped on it, but then found himself bouncing around among the other children.

ZOOM Kindermuseum at the Museumquartier

Inside ZOOM, toddlers and babies can play for one hour inside a sea-inspired wonderland. Walking in, you’re “under the sea” with urchins and creatures made of different textured materials, and little coves to explore. Up a winding ramp, we found ourselves at the helm of a ship, which Porter LOVED. Again, there are a few places to explore around the “ship”, and a gangplank to walk over to discover a jungle, or dress up corner, and much more. We loved watching him play and it was great for him to have something special to do, too.

I loved these posters!

Walking home, we stopped to explore the Naschmarkt, not fully realizing what it entailed. It’s amazing! From our first passing, at the very end of it, it looked like a couple of small buildings serving food, but it is actually a narrow market, with shops on either side, selling all kinds of great stuff. Souvenirs, spices, cheese, lunch, meat, vegetables, you name it. If you go to Vienna, definitely spend some time walking, shopping, eating and drinking there.

Naschmarkt
Naschmarkt

Naschmarkt

Then we got a bit lost walking home and had to deal with all these beautiful buildings to walk by.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria
Heldendenkmal der Roten Armee

Day 3 – Danube Cruise to Bratislava

You may read about our day in Bratislava, Slovakia in a separate post HERE.

We returned in the late afternoon, and decided to walk around during golden hour. We first walked by this beautiful Russian Orthodox Cathedral that was actually our view from our hotel room. Gorgeous!

Russisch-Orthodoxe Kathedrale
Russisch-Orthodoxe Kathedrale

Russisch-Orthodoxe Kathedrale

Russisch-Orthodoxe Kathedrale

And since the hotel was very close to Belvedere Palace and gardens, we just headed over there.

Schloss Belvedere
Schloss Belvedere / Belvedere Palace

Everything was spectacular! From the grounds of the palace, to the setting sun, to the peacefully quiet neighborhoods during dinner time.

Unteres Belvedere
Unteres Belvedere

Belvedere Garden

Belvedere Garden
Belvedere Garden

Belvedere Garden

Belvedere Palace
Belvedere Palace
Belvedere Palace
Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Day 4 – Schönbrunn Palace

On our final day, the plan was to have an early start and arrive at Schönbronn Palace as soon as it opened. This was in order to avoid crowds/lines as much as possible, but also because it is a bit out of the city. With tours of the Palace, gardens to explore, and a zoo, I knew there would plenty to fill our time, too. Unfortunately, our reality now is that everything takes much longer than planned for – including getting out the door. Kids, man!

Schloß Schönbrunn
Schönbrunn Palace / Schloß Schönbrunn

Getting to the palace was quite easy on the metro. Once there, we decided on a shorter tour of the Palace, first. Thank God we chose the short tour because Porter was not having any of it, that is until the very end when he found the fire extinguisher inside the stairwell.

It was a really informative, interesting tour of the beautiful main rooms. No pictures were allowed inside, though. Schönbronn is a classic European palace, full of history, art, and beauty. Not to be missed.

Schloß Schönbrunn
Schloß Schönbrunn

After our tour inside, we moved with the crowds around the gardens, and up to Gloriette for the incredible views.

Schloß Schönbrunn

Schloß Schönbrunn
Gloriette

Schloß Schönbrunn

At this point, I was tired. Retiring on a bench to feed Henry, I asked Matt if he wanted to cut the palace visit short and go back to Rathaus for lunch in the park again. He agreed, and an easy metro ride later, we found ourselves back in the gazebo, enjoying the afternoon.

Yet another late afternoon walk home through Vienna:

Innerstadt, Vienna, Austria
Innerstadt, Vienna, Austria

Innerstadt, Vienna, Austria

Innerstadt, Vienna, Austria

Innerstadt, Vienna, Austria

Enjoy your vacation!

It’s taken me a few years of traveling to realize that we don’t have to see and do everything. There is no obligation to travel like other tourists or how the travel books recommend. After all, these are our vacations. The time we take to get away is necessary for us, as expats, to recharge. Which might sound strange because living as an expat can seem like a vacation. But it has its difficulties, too, like the fact that this is not our home and we don’t have a normal support system around a lot of the time. Also, one of the perks to being an expat is taking advantage of the ability to travel, if you are fortunate enough to do so.

When we found ourselves eating lunch at Gastronomie, in the park, we weren’t doing anything special or uniquely Vienna, perhaps, but each one of us in the family were relaxed. Which is something I forget we need to focus on while on vacation in a new place. We ate and drank slow. We tried new foods and let the toddler play in the water fountain for a long time. And we were able to strike up conversations with locals!

Schönbronn Palace is an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of fascinating history, and is an amazing sight to behold all around, but I’m glad we ditched out a little early to return to something that made us happier 🙂 Maybe when we’re older and without the burden of children’s needs/timelines/schedules we’ll get to leisurely tour a palace again. Ha, if we should be so lucky!

What I love about Vienna

Vienna is truly a remarkable, beautiful European city. Do not hesitate to ever go!

  • It is so easy to get around on foot, by train, and metro.
  • There is FREE WIFI around the city! I absolutely loved this for planning and mapping things, as well as sharing way more than usual on social media.
  • History, arts, and culture abounds.
  • The food and drinks!
  • Everything is beautiful: the architecture, the parks, the waterways and surrounding countryside, the people.
  • There is so much to do and enjoy, no matter what you like.
  • It is a fabulous family destination – many places with child friendly areas, also breastfeeding friendly.

I’m really happy we were able to go to Vienna. It was a great place for our first trip as a family of four and really nice to return to Europe again.

Day Cruise from Vienna to Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

If you are in Vienna (or Bratislava) I highly recommend doing a Danube boat cruise!

Vienna to Bratislava

When our good friend visited Vienna a couple of years ago, she popped over to Bratislava, Slovakia for the day. She took a train there and a high-speed catamaran back. Being that the boat cruise took about an hour, and her pictures looked awesome, we decided this was a must-do whilst we were in Vienna.

First of all, if you don’t know much about the Danube (like me) here is a map of it:

Danube map
photo via Wikipedia

So, you see, it goes through half of Europe: 10 countries, 4 capitals! It’s a big deal.

high-speed catamaran can travel between Vienna and Bratislava (or vice versa) in 75 minutes. Leaving Vienna, we took it easy traveling down the Donaukanal where there are Viennese fishing houses that are SO cute and inspiring.

Viennese Fishing House

My husband, the fisherman, was probably envisioning a life spent fishing out of his own version of this, while I was envisioning building, decorating, and maintaining our own little cottage. I failed at taking enough pictures of these because I was too busy fawning over them. Trust there are some really adorable ones, as well as some serious “bachelor pad” ones as well.

Once on the Danube proper the catamaran did its “high-speed” thing. The river is wide, but calm – perfect for cruising along, however you may see fit. Along the way to and from Bratislava you will see various other boats like large floating hotels that boast multi-day Danube cruises, long-distance kayakers (this seems like a hardcore, yet awesome, adventure), and barges.

Vienna to Bratislava

Austria/Slovakia Border on the Danube
Austria/Slovakia Border on the Danube

OK, so on to the day!

We bought tickets and headed to Bratislava, Slovakia early in the morning. We chose to spend the shortest time there, 4 hours. I think with little kids, this was a good amount of time. Not too long and drawn out; however, I don’t think we used our time entirely wisely.

Here’s why. When you arrive in Bratislava, you are dropped off on the “old town” side of the river.

Bratislava Danube
Danube in Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

There is a little train you can choose to take some tours on, which will go around the old town and castles and what not, and I would actually recommend this even though we didn’t choose this option. But it is there, and I think a great way to see the sights and learn some history about Bratislava in an amount of time of your choosing.

Bratislava Castle
Bratislava Castle

We didn’t choose this option because…I don’t even want to put this out there publicly, but whatever…we decided to cross the UFO bridge to the shopping mall on the other side of the Danube to try to buy a Starbucks mug. So, when the Twin City Liner docked, we disembarked and found our way to the walking path that is on the bridge, and then found our way over to the mall.

Novy Most Bratislava
Novy Most Bratislava

Unfortunately, the Starbucks there didn’t have any Bratislava or Slovakia mugs 🙁 Fortunately, we got to take some time to experience something more than touristy Bratislava…although, a shopping mall isn’t typically my first option for that sort of thing. This mall was pretty impressive though, as it had a great selection of international stores that I recognized from the UAE (European stores that I hadn’t seen in Sweden, or before), and a wonderful family changing room with private nursing areas, and a great selection of cafes and restaurants. We grabbed lunch there, as well as a sun hat for the baby.

Not that happiest looking picture, but lunch was great!

Soon after, we made our way back over the bridge and into Old Town to explore a bit.

Old Town Bratislava
Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava
Michalská brána / Michael’s Gate
Old Town Bratislava
Michalská brána / Michael’s Gate

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

While there we walked around, found some souvenirs, and tried to walk over to Bratislava Castle, but didn’t make it the whole way before realizing we just didn’t have the time. I would say we had a nice enough time looking around the Old Town area, but could always enjoy more. If you aren’t limited by children, and are interested, I’d encourage a longer stay.

Old Town Bratislava

Bratislava Danube

Slovakia itself has piqued our interest before, so it was more than “just a trip to Bratislava” for us. I’d LOVE to go back to Bratislava, as well as any other part of Slovakia. Matt has pointed out that the difference in language was striking – not something we have any background knowledge of – but luckily in Bratislava enough people spoke english well enough for us to get by (in the few hours we were there, in the touristy areas, ha). We can manage enough of a Scandinavian language, or German, or Spanish, or French, but this was our first time in a European area with a wholly unfamiliar language. I absolutely enjoyed the little slice of life we got to see at the mall, and I loved the Old Town area!

Whatever comes to mind when you think of Bratislava, I guarantee visiting will far surpass your expectations!