Category: Food & Drink

Denmark Day 2: Exploring Copenhagen & World Cup

We went to bed last night at 9pm exhausted and with #1Toddler just having napped half the day. Needless to say we weren’t expecting much, if any, sleep.

We awoke at 11am, (yup, you read that right) despite the sun peering into our room since 4am. 14 hours of blissful sleep on hotel sheets. Our toddler parent dreams come true.

As mentioned yesterday, we packed a tad too lightly for the cool weather, so the goal today was shopping, then hot dogs and if energy – culture and World Cup. We accomplished all of the above with a little help from H&M, a friendly street vendor and Jeff & Nadja, our hosts.

On our way to the shopping district, we passed through Nyhavn, a pedestrian friendly street lined with cafes, musicians and people pausing to converse and enjoy the water. You can take a canal tour if you prefer the view from the water.

You can never go wrong with a train set
Building table
A pretty serious “play” fire station

We always look out for toy stores along our walk. They provide a needed break from the bustle of pedestrians, cars and bikes (omg the bikes) of the city scene.

Biking is the preferred mode of transportation
“Park n Ride” equivalent outside the metro station. These are commuter bikes, not rentals.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Jeff & Nadja after a quick stop at the National Museum. It houses a Children’s Museum within as well as a fantastic exhibit on the Mongolian Empire. #1Toddler’s take on the museum: “Too much scary.” (Lots of skeletons and masks on display).

Unfortunately we got there just an hour before closing and didn’t get to see all it had to offer. It’s conveniently located right next to Ørsteds Park which has multiple swings, slides and a sandbox perfect for antsy toddlers.

Ørsteds Park

After H&M, we enjoyed our obligatory street food adventure with a local hotdog.

#1Toddler approved.

I ordered mine with mustard, crunchy onions and special sauce.

We met Jeff & Nadja at a local food market called Torvehallerne. We ordered duck sandwiches x 4 paired with local, unfiltered brown ale drafts.

After dinner we walked to a pub that Jeff was fairly sure would be airing the Women’s World Cup match. USA vs England is a house divided for us and a match not to be missed under any circumstances.

Two pitchers of Carlsberg, one order of very bad nachos and a victory for the good old USA, and we called it a night. Tomorrow we head to THE Legoland.

Backing the engine into the fire station after a call

Denmark Day 1: Traveling with a Toddler is Tiring

Phew. We made it. And I say that not because #1Toddler was bad or misbehaving in any way, but because forgot how those Transatlantic flights afford you roughly 2 hours of sleep and packing for 10 days (including fancy attire for a wedding) yields more luggage than our usual.

We’ve travelled to Copenhagen to celebrate the wedding of Amir’s roommate from undergrad, Jeff, also a groomsman in our wedding. Born of Danish blood but in the United States, Jeff moved to Denmark just a few years after finishing college. He met Najda here and never looked back. Having been here In Copenhagen less than 24 hours, I can already see why.

#1Toddler has lots of “my stuffs” to keep occupied

The drive to Dulles was thankfully uneventful, as was the flight from Dulles to Heathrow. No mid-flight cardiac arrests this time. As we entered that same elevator where we met the man who would later die and the woman who would become his widow, I paused and wondered how she has been coping in the 6 months since our paths crossed.

We love connecting in Heathrow ever since discovering their “soft play” areas in multiple terminals. The one thing a toddler really needs after a 6.5 hour transatlantic flight is to run around and let loose. Ask any airport staff member to direct you if you can’t find your way.

Soft Play area, Terminal 2, Gate A12
Making Friends at Hamleys Toy Store

The flight from Heathrow to Copenhagen was a tad more taxing for all. Someone cried for the last hour of the flight. Not naming names.

As we’d boarded the flight at Dulles earlier, #1Toddler insightfully asked us, “ears hurt again?” – clearly remembering her last transatlantic flight for our trip to Greece. We both marveled at how she could maintain memories and make connections between similar events 6 months apart. She’s only two, and I can barely remember yesterday.

Exploring Kastellet Fortress

As we like to do whenever arriving to a new city, we dropped our bags at our hotel and went for a casual walk to explore. We walked the “moats” of Kastellet, a 17th century fortress. I use quotes because the water surrounding this fortress used to serve a defensive purpose, but now filled with lily pads and swans, it’s what draws visitors closer.

Amir has scouted Google Maps for a casual place to stop and grab dinner. Wherever we go, we are always on the hunt for the best casual seafood restaurant with tons of atmosphere. Near home, it’s Merrior in Topping, VA. In Copenhagen it’s Toldbogen. Complete with outdoor space by the water and an inviting interior that mixes salt water fishing with industrial and techno, there’s tons of visual interest. Amir ordered a meat sampler and I the fish n chips. Both came served on a bed of perfectly salted string French fries and with freshly plucked raw veggies draping over top. Simple preparation of delicious ingredients allowed all the natural flavors to speak for themselves.

Fish n chips, Toldbogen
Vibrant atmosphere indoors and out
Locally brewed beers are served in these large, thick round glasses

Tomorrow we have some utilitarian plans. I realized I forgot to pack my Rothys last minute as I’d left them out to dry (hint: they are machine washable flats). So tomorrow I’m on the hunt for walking flats. Oh darn.

I also packed a bit too lightly – we left 95 degree weather in Virginia and arrived to a crisp, lovely 65 degrees here. Daytime will be fine, but the evenings command light layers. To the shopping district I go!

Entryway of Babette Hotel
Passing the 20 minutes before check-in with drinks at the bar

Our small balcony with Firenze-like views
Hotel sheets are the best!

Traveling with a Toddler – Crete, Greece: A Snaily day close to home

So it’s 6:30pm here in Greece, and we’re drinking champagne and eating peanut M&Ms. That’s been the theme of the day – slow and casual. We started the day with no clear plans, but not for a lack of trying.

Mr. Snail taking his time

We started the morning playing in the yard, swinging on the swings and appreciating the small gifts from Mother Nature. There are tons of snails and millipedes here at Villa Irene. Amir was drying out his bathing suit yesterday,and when I shook it to bring it inside, 4 millipedes fell out. Ooopfff.

Despite it being winter, the rose garden of Villa Irene still offers some jewels

We drove a short way to nearby Keramoti Beach easily visible from Villa Irene. It’s a pebble beach, consisting of rocks ranging in size from sand to boulders. I thought of the rock tumbler I’d begged my parents to buy when I was twelve. Here I was standing on the biggest crop of polished quartz, marble, slate and other gems. A natural rainbow.

Rock rainbow at Keramoti Beach

#1 Toddler enjoyed the tactile experience of picking up and throwing the rocks into the water then watching for a splash. Many of hers fell short, but her dad staved off her disappointment by skipping rocks for a solid meter.

Skipping rocks on the beach at Keramoti

There was one Kandylaki on the shore at this beach. Atop a large boulder, I couldn’t see inside to appreciate its inspiration.

Seaside Kandylaki near Villa Irene
Sponge and seashells washed up on the shore

She loved throwing rocks a tad too much and ended up getting soaked. Amazingly she wasn’t cold or pouty given that it was only 60 degrees out.

On the drive down to the beach, we spotted a small cave with a trickling stream. It was the cave that initially caught my attention and beckoned my camera, but as I approached, I realized there was a Kandylaki here in this special place.

Roadside cave with a stream and Kandylaki

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The glass is fogged, but you can still appreciate the wine and other offerings

After the beach, we headed home for a change of clothes since some of us were soaked. We looked online briefly for an alternative lunch spot, but ultimately we returned to Kochilas since we’d had such an amazing meal there two days ago.

Goat cheese and tomato purée on toast
Shrimp spaghetti, simple and delicious
She napped through the first half of lunch

After lunch we hopped back in the car to explore the nearby Monastery. Unfortunately the interior closes from 1-5pm daily, so we were limited to the exterior tour.

Μονή Παναγίας Χρυσοσκαλίτισσας
Exterior of the monastery
I wish I knew what was behind that closed door

While the monastery being closed was certainly a disappointment, it did satisfy one desire for the day – to see more sheep or goats.

On the drive home, we stopped at the Church Agios Theodoros to take a closer look. We drove past it two days ago on our drive to Elafonissi Beach but didn’t stop.

Ageos Theodoros
The altar inside Ageos Theodoros

After returning home, I had the sudden urge to go swimming in our heated pool. Tomorrow’s forecast is for 100% chance of rain, so we may just enjoy the storm from inside the comfort of Villa Irene, or if the roads aren’t too bad, we might check out the Archaeology Museum in Kissamos.

Splashing in the heated pool at Villa Irene
Another Kandylaki from today’s travels

Traveling with a Toddler – Crete, Greece: Salino Kastelo in Paleochora & Roadside Kandylakia

This morning we awoke to #1 toddler attempting to catapult out of her crib. She still sleeps in a baby crib at home since she seems perfectly happy there. I’m thinking it’s about time to pull the toddler conversion kit down from the attic when we get home.

Amir did some research last night and selected today’s destination. Paleochora, a seaside town featuring Salino Kastelo (Castle Salino), was just a 1.5 hour drive from Villa Irene in Livadia. The only catch, zigzagging the roads that traverse the many mountains in between.

Yes we went up that and then back down

As we’ve been driving these narrow roads in Crete, I’ve noticed all these little roadside shrines, which I now know are called Kandylakia. Most are small shrines dedicated to different saints that serve as street signs to denote that an Greek Orthodox Church is close by, as most are not visible from the road. There are also no street names, so these little landmarks are helpful signposts.

Kandylaki dedicated to a loved one
Neglected Kandylaki filled with trash

A Google search also incorrectly stated that most are dedicated to lost loved ones, but this is just a false assumption by tourists. There are certainly some that serve this purpose, but most are signposts for larger churches.

Kandylaki with brass chalices and a photograph
Kandylaki outside a café
This Kandylaki has solar-powered lights inside

Contents of the solar-powered Kandylaki

We reached Paleochora (Pah-leh-oh-hor-ah) with little difficulty. We parked easily, strapped #1 toddler into the Baby Boba, and climbed a trail of stairs to reach the top of Salino Kastelo.

There wasn’t any signage to guide you through Salino Kastelo, so we weren’t quite sure what was what when we were there. After reading at home, the castle was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times since 1257 AD, which explains why it seemed to be composed of every natural material imaginable. Marble, granite, limestone, gravel, terra cotta – it’s all there.

It’s worth a trip for the views alone, but I recommend reading up on its history before you go.

Evangelistria Greek Orthodox Church in Paleochoro
Mosaic stepping stones outside Evangelistria Church
Bell tower of Evangelistria Church

There’s a vast selection of seaside taverns and cafes in Paleochora. We opted for Olympus Pizzeria for a change of pace, plus we knew pizza would satisfy everyone.

Olympus Pizzeria, Paleochora, Crete
Chef Pizza
Red house table wine by the glass
“Meatballs” and potatoes served with Roquefort and mushroom sauce

After pizza, as if we weren’t stuffed, we headed to a nearby family café for dessert. Baklava and vanilla gelato called our names, along with a cappuccino for me and a latte for Amir.

Baklava with vanilla gelato

After the drive home from Paleochora, somehow we were all there filled with energy. Mind you at this same time yesterday my co-travelers were both taking 3 hour naps.

We opted for a brief walk from our house towards the sea. The first night we arrived, there were goats grazing throughout this area. Yesterday they had completely vanished, but today they returned. We went for a visit.

Sleeping in the Boba

Before we made it 20 feet, #1 Toddler was fast asleep in the Boba carrier. She didn’t miss any great encounters with goats or sheep. We could see them in the distance and hear their bells, but with the sun silhouetting them, there wasn’t much to see or photograph.

Chapel St. Anthony visible in the lower right

While we didn’t find many goats, we did find a hidden gem carved into the seaside cliffs, St Anthony Chapel. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get closer to it, not for a lack of desire, but because we are not rock climbers. There’s no clear path. I’m still desperately wondering what’s inside. A Google Maps search did provide a close up photo from a much more adventurous traveler than I.

Chapel St. Anthony near Villa Irene in Livadia
Olive groves everywhere
Seaside olive groves

We made it home in time to watch the sunset from our Villa while enjoying a glass of local red wine. We still need to plan tomorrow. So I’m off to search Google Maps via satellite view to see what hidden places we can explore.

Local red wine is like a light port
Snow capped mountains are visible from Kastelo Salino
Village along the way

Traveling with a Toddler – Crete, Greece: Elafonissi Beach

This morning we awoke around 8am and slowly started our day. We’d stopped at a small market yesterday on our drive here to get some essentials for the house. As I mentioned, Villa Irene is beautiful but remote, with only a few restaurants nearby that are open since it’s off-season.

Our only alarm clocks were the sunrise and #1 toddler

We spent a bit more time this morning playing in the swing set while Amir planned navigation for our drive to Elafonissi Beach. We’ve learned to take screenshots of Google Maps and save them to your smart phone to ensure you have a map even without internet or cellular service.

Along the way we met some sheep. #1 Toddler was happy to place the “bahhhh” sound with the real thing.

Seaside chapel

Elafonissi Beach is world famous, a usual player on those infamous Top Beaches in the World lists. Its pink sand and crystal clear water are unique. In the summer it’s quite crowded, but today it was just us and the kite surfers.

The beach was warm but super windy. I can’t imagine it’s this windy year round or you’d never be able to keep your beach blanket in one place.

After watching the kite surfers do some flips, we walked the beach and collected a few shells. The wind was getting the best of us and threatening to knock over #1 Toddler, so we decided to wrap up. We took a last survey of our private beach and headed to the car in search of lunch.

Kochilas Tavern near Elafonissi Beach

Our AirBnB hostess, Maria, gave us lunch recommendations. We opted for Kochilas Tavern due to its proximity to Elafonissi and robust menu of fresh seafood.

Elderly Greek men sit and enjoy drinks and conversation

We picked a table near the window. There’s a lovely patio open during the high season. The waitress greeted us and was immediately smitten with #1 Toddler. She brought her a toy truck and a high chair. Everywhere we’ve gone, the people have been so welcoming to a toddler. We’ve not once felt put out, even when she’s spilled or dropped things.

Monster truck and seashells, the perfect toy combination

Amir and I always like to divide and conquer a menu. He selected the fresh fish, while I opted for the grilled octopus. We knew chicken souvlaki would be a hit with you know who. We went 3 for 3. Winning.

Grilled local fish, vegetables and hand cut fries
Grilled octopus, vegetables and hand cut fries

To drink, I ordered a Fix beer and Amir a Greek soda called Gazoza – think Sprite meets bubblegum flavor.

We ate everything on our plates, but I was craving just a little something sweet. We asked our waitress (who by the way turns out to also be the chef and owner) about dessert. She mentioned something about yogurt and glaze, and returned 5 minutes later with 3 plates – Greek yogurt with sour orange topping and Kataïfi, a straw-like filo pasty with walnuts, honey and spices. Oh, and two shots of raki. This woman was my new best friend.

Raki and Greek yogurt with fruit topping
Kataïfi

We settled up and headed back to Villa Irene. The drive back was beautiful but uneventful. My two other travelers both took 3 hour naps while I caught up and wrote yesterday’s post. We had planned to take an afternoon walk to explore the area right around Villa Irene, but the day got ahead of us, and the sun was soon setting.