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!

Vienna, AUSTRIA – July 2016 : PART ONE

We traveled to Vienna, Austria in July 2016! It was our first trip as a family of four!

As if through divine intervention, a few factors miraculously came together in the final days of nursery school before summer which allowed us to make last-minute travel plans: Henry’s passport finally came in; at the same time, we found someone willing to watch our dogs when all kennel facilities were booked; and we had enough miles and points for “free” flights and a hotel room. Score! Matt and I threw around a few ideas, then spontaneously booked a trip to Vienna, Austria.

Why Vienna? I mean, why not, right? Matt had had an interest in visiting for awhile, and we’d had friends who recently travelled there, piquing our interest.

Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal 1
Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal 1

So, the first week of July, we took off on our first vacation as a family of four. It was lovely to return to Europe; as if coming back home, which it was in a way.

We flew in on Qatar Airlines, passing through Doha on our way to and from. It was an easy, comfortable experience and the airline took great care of us as a family. So appreciated! Checking in, they always put us at the bulkhead seats where we were provided with a baby bassinet each flight – first that’s ever happened. They also gave out little activity kits and stuffed Mr. Potato Heads for the boys to stay busy. I have nothing but great things to say about Qatar Airlines.

look at all of us moms taking pictures of our boys here! i love it!

Since we had built up enough Marriott points to use on a hotel stay, we had a few places to choose from. Deciding on the Renaissance was actually a really great idea, in hindsight. The hotel itself, in the old Imperial Riding School, was great! The breakfast each morning had a nice variety of food, to include what I can only describe as “crack waffles” (so delicious). We also had access to the lounge, which we crashed in each afternoon for coffee (or wine…) after a long day out.

The hotel is ideally located right next to a train line, so we were able to buy cheaper tickets on a regular train into the city from the airport, rather than take the airport express train, which is not only more expensive but, if taken, would’ve been a further walk to the hotel. Each Vienna train/metro ride costs €2.20/adult (€1.10/child) no matter where you’re going, and is valid for all transfers. This made getting around the city easy and inexpensively.

Our first afternoon in, we just walked around the neighborhood to get our bearings. There is a grocery store, pharmacy, launderers, and a big park all within a mile – really convenient for traveling families. The neighborhood – Landstrasse – is (much like the rest of Vienna) beautiful to just walk around and enjoy what you see. One of my friends who had already been to Vienna told us it was enjoyable to just walk the city. I couldn’t agree more.

Stadtpark

Day 1 – Innere Stadt

Early the next morning we set out, again on foot, and as per usual for us, with no real plan. I have a hard time making a firm itinerary because I don’t know how easy a new city is to navigate and I can’t predict how the boys will be each day. So, we decided to just walk toward Innere Stadt – Stephansplatz to be exact – and see where we could go from there.

Mozart's House
Mozart’s House

Mozart's House

St. Stephen's Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephan's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

From the impressive St. Stephan’s Cathedral, we moseyed down Kärntner Straße, and over to Albertinaplatz. We popped into a cafe right there for a coffee + nursing session. Very important break for all members of the family.

Once satiated, we moved along towards Michaelerplatz to Hofberg Palace. Then we found ourselves winding through the streets, in a bit of a roundabout way, until we found Rathaus.

Austrian National Library
Austrian National Library
Hofburg Palace
Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace

Michaelerplatz
Michaelerplatz

Stopped in a few stores as well…

Vienna Starbucks
A Starbucks! For our mug.

Before continuing on…

Wiener Minoritenkirche
Wiener Minoritenkirche
Ferstal Passage Vienna
Ferstal Passage Vienna
Ferstal Passage Vienna
Ferstal Passage

Ferstal Passage Vienna

Ferstal Passage Vienna

Palais Liechtenstein
Palais Liechtenstein
Palais Liechtenstein
Palais Liechtenstein

Our visit happened to coincide with Rathausplatz being transformed into the Gastronomie/Vienna Film Festival event. Which…was amazing! Food stalls everywhere. Beer and wine on tap. Outdoor seating on a beautiful day in a beautiful setting?! Heaven.

Vienna Rathaus
Vienna Rathaus

We had left the Middle East during the final days of Ramadan. During this time there is no eating in public during the daylight hours, for about a month. There is also not much alcohol around at any time, anyway. Here in Vienna, all of a sudden, we found ourselves picking out local craft beers at a stall in a public park, and faced with the decision: What food shall we try today? I’m not going to lie, it felt a little thrilling. It’s funny how quickly we adapted to being in Ramadan mode (not practicing, but being respectfully mindful), and how it felt weird going back to what is “normal” for us.

Of course given the option we choose to sample Viennese foods.

spaetzle in Vienna
spaetzle

Making ourselves at home in a secluded gazebo, I was able to nurse Henry while Porter freely played around. Matt ferried food and drink for us to imbibe in. It was perfect. The epitome of vacation.

Viennese Food

Vienna Rathaus
Vienna Rathaus

Once lunch was over, we moved on towards Museumsquartier, or the area “with about 70 cultural facilities”. We crossed through Naschmarkt not knowing what it was at the time (we popped through there another day), then stopped for Porter to play at a fun playground in front of Karlskirche. Finally, we went back to the hotel. Though we didn’t expect to walk so much, the exploration was definitely worth it.

Burgtheater
Burgtheater
Austrian Parliament Building
Austrian Parliament Building
Karlskirche Vienna
Karlskirche

Karlskirche Vienna
Karlskirche

So, because this is such a photo-heavy, long post, I will stop here for now.

To be continued…

Coogee Beach, Sydney, Australia – September 2015

We stayed in the Coogee Beach area of Sydney on the last part of our Australia and New Zealand summer vacation, in 2015.

Coogee Beach Airbnb View

Since our flights from Abu Dhabi flew into and out of Sydney, we decided to bookend our vacation in the city. We spent the first few days in downtown Sydney, and the last few days in Coogee Beach for a different vibe. Of course, Sydney has a ton of cool areas along the coast, so it was a little difficult to choose just where to stay. It really came down to finding the right Airbnb place, honestly. Something with a combination of location, quality, and cost. We spent maybe a little more than we wanted to, but the place we stayed at ended up being awesome, just next to Coogee Beach with a view of the sea.

Hold me, it was so beautiful and such a great finish to our big vacation.

Coogee Beach Airbnb View
Coogee Beach Airbnb View

Coogee Beach View from Airbnb

We flew back down to Sydney on a quick flight from Brisbane. We flew Virgin Australia and they did give us a little bit of grief at the boarding gate for bringing the car seat on the plane…even though we checked their policy before booking tickets and had it printed out for reference. And we had a proper FAA label on the travel car seat. And we had it okayed when we checked in to our flight. The people at the actual gate stopped us and wouldn’t let us on the plane until they had it DEFINITELY APPROVED by nearly everyone else at Virgin Australia. Once it was okayed they were super nice, but dang if they weren’t thorough about their job there. Then we were finally allowed to board and it felt like everyone on the plane was staring at us, haha. Americans! Holding everyone up! Traveling with a toddler, OMG and a carseat….sigh. I hate feeling like a burden to others! We settled in quickly and Porter fell asleep immediately for the short flight, but I did have the pleasure of listening to some guy behind me talk about how stupid Americans are. FUN (Sir, I agree with you, but seriously, we’re all human here, just shut up). We made it back to Sydney, grabbed our rental car, and set off for our rad Airbnb apartment for the week.

AND IT WAS RAD. We had a two bedroom, one bathroom place with an incredible view. It looked like it had been recently renovated – very nicely, so well thought out – and the owner left us little treats and some toys for our toddler, which was so thoughtful! We were just up the street from a park, walking trails, and all the cafes and stores at Coogee Beach itself.

Whilst in Coogee Beach, we planned on keeping things really low-key. This was the last few days of a long trip and we wanted to make sure we returned to real life actually feeling refreshed. Downtown Sydney was excitement, New Zealand in a camper van was adventure, Brisbane was wonderful but went by too fast, so Coogee was a final pause. The only major plans were to see our friends when they were available and to do the coastal Bondi to Coogee walk. One of our favorite things to do when traveling is to go to the grocery store, I know some people totally love doing this too and know what I mean. So, our first ventures out were to the nice local grocery store to stock up on staples and whatever Aussie products fascinated us. We visited a couple of the local cafes, and walked around the beach area, and took Porter to the children’s park to play a bit. Each night my middle school BFF, Liz, came over to hang out…which, it should be mentioned, was 100% out of her way to do so but I swear to God seeing her and her husband were the highlight to the trip! One night, Liz even babysat Porter so Matt and I could have a date. OMG. We ate a Brazilian steak house…and by “ate” I mean gorged and questioned our life choices, but it was so lovely! We owe her big time, and I’m looking forward to repaying that in whatever way we can 🙂

Processed with Snapseed.
Processed with Snapseed.

Now, the Coogee to Bondi (or Bondi to Coogee) walk I highly recommend if you’re visiting the Sydney area and can swing it. There is nothing like being outside on a sunny day and walking along the coast there. For some people, this is something they can do every day, freakin’ lucky bastards.

Coogee Beach

HOLY COW, it is STUNNING. The water is calm, then powerful, and so, so beautiful. There are parks, and people, and surfers, and families, and DOGS out enjoying the various places along the coast. SERIOUSLY, WHEN CAN WE MOVE THERE?!

Dunningham Reserve, Sydney, Aus

That is a cockatoo!

Dunningham Reserve, Sydney, Aus

Bondi Coogee Walk

Hunter Park

Marks Park

Once we got to Bondi it was about lunch time, so we moseyed around looking for some food, and ended up grabbing some quick lunch, and then a quick fika, before heading over to the beach.

Bondi Beach, Aus

Here, is where Henry had his first travel photo taken 🙂 At freaking Bondi Beach. What is this life?

Bondi Baby

We ended up cabbing it back just because Porter was getting a little sleepy/fussy (I forget how young he was!) and there are some stairs and what not along some parts of the coastal walk. Since we had the stroller, it was not ideal to keep taking him in and out – especially if he happened to fall asleep on the way.

On our last day, we cleaned up the apartment, packed up, and headed out for a drive before going to the airport in the evening. We were going to try to hit up one of the museums I suggested in the Sydney post, but we didn’t end up going in one either because Porter fell asleep in the car, or there was no parking, or something? Because life happens, what are you going to do? What we did was just drive around. From the downtown area we just followed the New South Head Rd east, until we ended up in the Vaucluse and Watson’s Bay areas. We just drove around drooling at some gorgeous properties and views towards Sydney Harbor. Wow.

Processed with Snapseed.

Just before heading over to the airport we stopped at a mall in Bondi…I’m not exactly sure why? But we did, which was cool. Then we headed on toward the airport right as the sun was setting, and I don’t remember much from there, other than we eventually boarded our Etihad A380 straight back to Abu Dhabi!

Australia and New Zealand were incredible, and I’m so glad that we decided to take an extra long vacation to do both in lieu of going home last year. I don’t know how doing the same thing with two (little) kids would be, but I guess…at this point, I’d more than happily jump at another opportunity! In any case, it was a special time and really nice to travel with Porter at his age, and before his brother came along. At times, it was really hard to believe where I was. Like, “Here I am LOOKING AT THE OPERA HOUSE!” or “Here I am in New Zealand, at the southernmost tip, closer to Antartica than ever!” For me, as an American, these things seem out of this world. More than anything, there are no words to describe how good it was to see friends while we were in Australia – that really made the trip. Other than that, I just tried to focus on the experience, and the sights, and some history, and tried to enjoy as much as possible however possible. I’m truly so thankful for the travel we get to do.