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…

Paris, FRANCE – April 2014

Paris, France

Grab yourself a bottle of Bordeaux and let’s escape Sweden for a bit, shall we? Oui.

Despite the nearly idyllic lifestyle that Linköping provides, it is necessary to escape on the regular to remain sane. It’s nice to be reminded that not everything is uniform, lagom, or rolled out on a schedule (holiday pastries, spring Converse, etc.). Variety is the spice to life, and Swedes don’t do much spice. We need spice.

Despite our Sweden Bucket List, we ended up in Paris for the long Easter weekend. Not for lack of trying to cross some of our items off, though! Turns out it’s just as expensive, if not more, to travel up to Abisko National Park, where it was still covered in FEET of snow. I’m not going to lie, with a baby, a big city trip seemed easier than hiking/driving/exploring around in snow. However, after researching for a trip up north, a Kiruna/Abisko/Narvik exploration is a high priority.

Paris!

paris, france

Do you know the first thing Swedes will say to you when you mention you’re going to Paris? “It’s great, except for the French.” To which we think, “Well, the same can be said for Sweden and the Swedes…” (OK, and the USA and Americans, but I digress). All the Americans that I know who’ve recently visited Paris have had nothing but great things to say, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Parisians do have a reputation after all, right? In all seriousness, everyone we encountered was so kind, helpful and incredibly friendly; it was so refreshing! Swedes are often the first to say that they can come across as cold, and yeah…it’s true even though we know it’s not really true about Swedes. It’s just nice to be around people who don’t seem “so cold”, if you know what I mean.

The French saturate a visitor in all senses – sights: the buildings, parks, and people; tastes: food, wine, chocolate and desserts; sounds – bustling city, clanking dishes and chatter at bistros, scooters whizzing by; smells: bakeries, coffee, flowers, trees; touch: sitting in a grand park in the warm sun, carrying a baguette, the feeling of your camera as it clicks a postcard view…

Tour Eiffel, Eiffel Tower, Paris, France Paris, Franceparis, france

For me, the most surprising thing was that Paris reminded me a lot of San Francisco. Honestly, Matt and I both felt so comfortable and at ease in the city, which I’d have never guessed. The best part (mostly relief) was that people and places were far more baby-friendly than expected!

Logistics: We flew straight into the belly of the beast (Charles de Gaulle) from our local airport. SAS has a new flight out of LPI so we booked tickets on it, hoping that flying on a less budget-airline straight out of and into our destinations would be easier. (Yes, it was so much easier! However, SAS gave us a giant headache on the way home though…) We booked a great apartment on airbnb, right in the heart of the 2nd arrondissement, and arrived there via the RER train from the airport (super easy). Most meals we made ourselves, shopping at the local boulangeries, boucheries, vegetable markets, and grocery stores. And wine shops! Can’t forget the wine…don’t want to forget the wine… Are you drinking your wine?!

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Each day, we picked a sight and just set off to walk in that direction. Our choices happened to be the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, and Luxembourg Gardens. Then, of course Notre Dame and Pont Neuf, the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay, and the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe were points we also wanted to make it to when and however we could.

Paris, France

Most of our trips I/we end up planning next to nothing and just wing it each day, but for Paris I knew I’d regret not seeing some of the big touristy things. When in Paris, after all… If we’re lucky enough for a next time, our plans will include nearly no popular tourist destinations, as it was far nicer to be far away from undulating crowds, naturally.

Day One: “Paris Death March”

Rue Montorgueil, Paris, France

From Rue Montorgueil in the 2nd arrondissement, we walked to Place Vendome, then to (and through) Tuileries Garden for the baby to get his nap going,

Tuileries, Paris, FranceimageTuileries, Paris, France

then crossing over the Seine, and finally over to the tower.

Tour Eiffel, Eiffel Tower, Paris, Franceimage

After taking some pictures and playing at Champ de Mars, we walked through Rue Cler (at the suggestion of  Rick Steves via my father, but I’d recommend Rue Montorgueil over Rue Cler), and had a little lunch.

Paris, France image

We then proceeded to march over to Trocadero,

Trocadero, Eiffel Tower, Paris, Franceimage

up to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs-Elysees, and then over to Blvd Haussman and finally back to where we were staying. I think we calculated it to be over 10 miles, most of which was powering through an insane sea of tourists. We literally walked around the entire city, half of which I was wearing the baby and Matt was pushing an empty stroller, and that is why I call it the death march. Totally worth it though.

Day Two: Sacre Coeur for Easter Sunday

Sacre Couer, Paris, France

Setting off early in the morning, we walked up Blvd Poissoniere towards the Sacre Coeur basilica, getting a pain au chocolat on the way for breakfast.

Paris, FranceSacre Couer, Paris, FranceSacre Couer, Paris, France

We entered the church to walk around and lit a candle and said a prayer for our Grandmas (always makes me tear up a little), as is tradition for us. Easter mass was starting soon, but it wouldn’t have been feasible to stay with the baby, so the rest of the day was spent wandering around beautiful Montmarte. We had an Eggs Benedict brunch on the corner of Ave Junot and Villa Leandre, at a nice place called Marcel, before moseying over to see les Moulins de la Galette et Rouge.

Montmarte, Paris, FranceMoulin de la Galette, Paris, FranceMontmarte, Paris, FranceMoulin Rouge, Paris, FranceParis, France

Day Three: The Louvre

Louvre, Paris, FranceLouvre, Paris, France

We chose the Louvre, over d’Orsay or another museum, simply because it seemed to be the most worth our limited time (baby life). We set out early to stand in line which was an estimated hour long wait at the time. It was moving quickly and we had no issue, but a group of museum staff walked by us and told us we didn’t have to wait in line because there was a special Family entrance – instant access! Point for Porter. So we just walked in, got our tickets and set off.

Pyramid, Louvre, Paris, France

General notes on the Louvre: It is HOT inside and the tourists are insane. Most people barely stopped to look at anything other than the popular pieces (Mona Lisa! Aphrodite!), and some just walked through videotaping all of it without even glancing at the art. It’s also a maze, one that I’d happily have gotten lost in for a long day had I not had a 25 lbs dependent strapped to me.

Mona Lisa, Louvre, Paris, FranceLouvre, Paris, FranceLouvre, Paris, FranceAphrodite, Louvre, Paris, FranceLouvre, Paris, France

Speaking of, Porter had countless photos taken of him inside the museum as well, so yes I will consider Matt and I fine artists for our collaborated creation. And sorry to say, he was a temporary exhibit.

After the Louvre, we went to Chipotle. THAT’S RIGHT. Because we’ve lived in Sweden for two years and haven’t had a burrito in that amount of time and you know what…it was awesome and tasted like home. SORRY. NOT. SORRY.

Day Four: Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

We walked over Pont Neuf and onward to Jardin du Luxembourg,

art, paris, france

where we spent the morning relaxing in a sunny patch of grass, playing and people watching. We got a crepe and some coffees. We moseyed around the gardens. We spent time watching the little kids play with the boats and feed the ducks in the fountain. It was relaxing and lovely.

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, Francebee in flower, paris, franceimageJardin du Luxembourg, Paris, FranceJardin du Luxembourg, Paris, Francebees, beekeeping, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

If we had more time  we’d have walked over to Tour Montparnasse to go to the top. Tip? I would suggest paying the bit more to go to the top of this, instead of the Eiffel Tower because 1) you’ll get a view of the incredible Eiffel Tower and 2) you will not get a view of Montparnasse tower, which looks like a giant black skyscraper.Which panorama would you rather have of Paris? Then again, going up in the Eiffel Tower would be pretty incredible…

Crossing back over the Seine, we walked around Notre Dame, then left an engraved looooove lock on Pont de l’Archevêché.

Notre Dame, Pont de l'Archevêchéimageimage Notre Dame detail, paris, francecarousel, paris, france

I had totally expected Paris to be far more intimidating than magical for me. I didn’t know what to expect, honestly, because I never really thought I’d get to go! Paris is everything they say it is, and more. It is a city to fall in love in and with. We both felt comfortable and at ease everywhere, people were incredibly kind, and it really is a breathtakingly beautiful place to be. There must be something in the air that intoxicates people, because how else can it be explained? My mountain man has even agreed to an annual Paris trip from now on (in a perfect world!), so, you know it must be love 😉

paris, france, locks, bridge

Copenhagen – December 2013

When my friend solidified plans to come out here with her family, she and I decided (for the group?) to take a mini trip to Copenhagen. So just after Christmas day we all set off, the four of them on a train, and Matt, Porter and I in the car, to meet up again in Copenhagen at our amazing airbnb apartment AT the Marble Church.

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We stayed for a few days, wandering around the city to see some of the more popular sites, as well as some of the more meaningful places to us on personal levels.

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The first day there, we set off as a group to see the Christmas Market at Tivoli, walking there via Strøget.

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This was the first time to Tivoli for all of us, and I’m not sure how things look normally, but during Christmas it was beautiful! We braved the theme park for a little while, but it was a very cold day; however, it was enough time to convince me that…maybe Tivoli is better than Disneyland? I mean, there was a VIKING SHIP ride. C’mon.

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After Tivoli, Matt and I were to lead the gang to somewhere we have wanted to go for a little while – the Mikkeller Bar (AND OMG they have one in San Fransico?! Whaaa?! GET THEE TO THE BAR). Mikkeller is a microbrewery based out of Copenhagen and they produce some incredible beers. So, we took our guests for a bit of a tasting. The Carlsberg Brewery is obviously a great place to visit while in Copenhagen, but if you’re into beers/microbrews/Belgian styles, give Mikkeller a try. The price is worth it.

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Yes, Porter went to the bar with us. No, he didn’t try anything. No, I didn’t really try much either. And, despite bringing the cool factor way down with a baby in the bar, he behaved himself like a true Scandinavian and didn’t draw any attention to himself (other than being the adorable fellow that he just naturally is). We went during the day and while we were out walking around, so I hope it wasn’t inappropriate at all? The guys there didn’t really seem to care, so…meh.

Moving on…the next day we set off on foot to go see something near and dear to our friends’ hearts: Soren Kierkegaard‘s grave at the Assistens Cemetery (Hans Christian Andersen’s grave is also located here).

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They did a sort of Kierkegaard Pilgrimage that day, but after going to the Cemetery and grabbing some lunch, Matt and I took off on our own to go to Rosenborg Castle, which then turned into walking around that part of Copenhagen taking pictures and ending up over at the Kastellet.

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Staying at our nice apartment with a view, we would usually just pick up breakfast/dinner foods at the corner grocery stores and then eat casually at home. I swear this makes traveling so much better, and it obviously helps immensely with a baby. The size and location of this particular place also made the trip really nice for all of us (three couples and a baby!).

The last day in Copenhagen found us split up again, since check out of the apartment was early. So, our friends went to a service at the Marble Church and then did some more site seeing in the city, while Matt and I set off back to Sweden, stopping at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art on the way.

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Our trip was shorter than it normally would’ve been (Porter can now say he had a meltdown in front of a Jackson Pollock…), but we really enjoyed our time at the museum, especially The Arctic exhibit that’s going on now.  We plan on making it back to see some of the upcoming exhibits this year, too.

All in all, Copenhagen remains one of our absolute favorite cities, and it seems that our friends also felt that way. The people of Copenhagen make the biggest impact, I think, as they are refreshing and vibrant, and the attitude just seems awesome down there.

Do I want to live in the city and run with my babies in their stroller to work? YES. Do I want to pedal them around in bikes with baby carriages on the front? YES. Do I want to assimilate completely and become a Dane? Yes, I do.

Now, that being said, I might be kicked out of Sweden…

 

*All photos were taken with our Christmas present, a new super wide-angle lens and then edited with the Snapseed app, which our friends introduced us to during this visit. There may or may not have been many times we were all on our devices taking/editing/uploading our pictures as we went… Nice thing about friends with the same hobbies as you, you learn a lot more 🙂