Tag: toddler

Clinton Corners Day 1: Escape to The Willows

It’s been 1 year, 6 months and 21 days since my last travel post. When traveling back from Argentina back in February 2020, we knew Covid-19 was coming since as doctors we were following everything in China early on… but even on that last pass through customs, we were asked ONLY if we’d been to China at all during our vacation – there weren’t any masks yet – just an occasional bottle of hand sanitizer and oblivious travelers, us included.

The pandemic has been hard for us in some ways, but also easy in some unexpected aspects. As Emergency Physicians in the thick of treating Covid patients every day, we expected a degree of risk and danger, but I know that worry of us getting sick never settled (and still runs strong) amongst our friends and family.

We never took anything lightly. From the get go, we wrote our will, identified someone to care for our kids should the worst case happen… all the things, that for us almost felt normal – as all of our friends at work were doing the same. Things normalized to a new existence, and unlike most of our friends and family who experienced huge changes in their daily routines (working from home, virtual school), we still woke up every day and put on the same gray scrubs (plus a new scrub cap), drove the same 10 minute commute, dropped our kids off at the same daycare, and went to work with the same awesome and snarky people, just with a lot more PPE. In some ways nothing changed, relatively speaking, but of course everything changed and is still changing.

#1LilBrother explores the open fields at The Willows

We’ve had a few weekends away during the pandemic, some camping, time back in Norfolk with our families, but nothing I would call a vacation. Covid isn’t entirely to blame for that – we also added one more to our family in June 2020 – so #1Toddler has been promoted to #1BigSis to make room for #1LilBrother. Probably also relevant to note is that I’m 24 weeks pregnant with our third and last addition to TeamLouka, a little girl we expect to join us in December.

We’d originally considered a trip to Hawaii, but with the Delta variant surging, passport renewals delayed 5+ months, and #1BigSis occasionally rejecting mask-wearing, we felt like flying was a recipe for vacation heartbreak. As an alternative, we settled on a tried and true staple destination for us, a (drivable) getaway to a home owned by family in Clinton Corners, New York. Stay tuned for an entire post (or two) about this incredible 1914 Craftsman home set on 12.9 acres of rolling green hills.

#1LilBrother playing with the wet leaves as #1BigSis pumps higher and higher

We arrived just before 3am this morning. When Amir initially suggested driving through the night, the exhaustion of just having prepared and sold our current home followed by an unexpected week of me taking care of the kids at home (thanks to a Covid exposure at daycare)… it seemed ridiculous at first pass. But then he pointed out that they would sleep… SLEEP in the car for the majority of the 6 hour drive… SOLD.

Nap Attempt #1

The drive really wasn’t that bad (says the person who didn’t actually have to drive). We were originally going to take Amir’s car, but just before getting on I95, his check engine light came on, then the whole car started to shudder, and the check engine light began to flash. Back home we went to switch over to my car, just happy we didn’t end up stranded in DC or elsewhere far from home. AAA would have been no match for this car full of three tired grumps and a pregnant lady.

Straight shot up I95 to the Taconic State Parkway

Whenever we first arrive somewhere, we always like to walk and explore – to get a feel for the nooks and crannies. Whether an AirBnB or a campsite, it helps us plan our stay.

#1LilBrother wasted no time starting a robust leaf and stick collection

Amir and #1BigSis headed down to checkout the pond and fishing prospects, while #1LilBrother and I trapsed the perimeter of the house. Covered in moss, and with all the bump outs of a true craftsman, we found much to explore.

#1LilBrother finds the original driveway where horse drawn carriages offloaded riders
The formal front entrance now sits unused except by moss
Dressed for success

Team Pond Explorers caught a fish but threw it back. Hearing the jubilant cheers of victory, #1LilBrother and I went to check it out. Unfortunately I stepped on an underground hornet nest and was stung on my ankle. I looked down expecting a snake since we were at the waters edge and was slightly relived to just see flying critters. Man oh man did that burn. It’s easily been 30 years since I’ve been stung. I’ll happily go another 30.

The pond is surrounded by purple, yellow and orange wildflowers.
The many varieties of wildflower surrounding the pond (note to self: try to identify each before we leave)

After some lunch and some ice for my ankle, we set out for some swimming pool time. We still have two non-swimmers on our team, so pool time comes with a level of stress and anxiety only a parent of fast walking toddlers can appreciate. Few things in parenting legitimately give me nightmares – car accidents, choking, unsafe sleep… and DROWNING. I guess in our line of work you see the things that truly hurt kids. It’s not GMO food.

“Dada Island”
Found this friend sharing a swim in the pool
I enjoyed the view from the deck

After the pool, we stopped back by the garden. We’d paid it a quick visit first thing this morning, but had mistakenly arrived without a basket to carry things. Perhaps we made an assumption based on the low output of our city garden… but this time we returned with a proper vesicle.

Someone kept eating the rotten ones in the dirt
Ingredients for tonight’s salad
Amir and #1LilGardener (Not pictured: #1BigSis as she was naked post-pool)

Pools are refreshing and priceless on a hot summer day, but the BEST things about a pool these days is it’s a sure-fire way to guarantee a solid nap by both kids. Back at the house, they were both down for the count in less that 10 minutes.

The Willows, Built in 1914

As I mentioned, we had a big week ahead of this trip. We sold out beloved 102 year old house in Richmond, affectionately known as “Pink Floyd,” for its bright pink front door and address on Floyd Avenue. We’re moving to “the burbs,” something we said we’d never do, to a 4 year old home in a large neighborhood with great schools and built-in activities. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as we return here to The Willows for what might be our fifth visit over the years, I’m appreciating this 107 year old masterpiece more than ever. Old houses are alive with history.

I want more than anything to sit down tonight and flip back through the large coffee table book that recounts the history of this epic home. With two under 4 though, quiet moments alone are rare, so I’ll just see how the night carries on.

Argentina Day 13: Exploring Mercado San Telmo

After some more research last night, we learned Sunday is a great day for markets, art displays and carnival parades in the city. We took an Uber to Mercado San Telmo, the market named after the patron saint of sailors, St Elmo.

Sunday morning at Mercado San Telmo

Opening in 1897 to cater to the new wave of European immigrants, Mercado San Telmo still bears the same steel beams and structure as the original although some stalls have been updated.

There are stalls of antiques, bakeries, toys, jewelry, spices, butchers, vegetables and record albums. It truly is “un poco de todo,” a bit of everything.

Jewelry stall at Mercado San Telmo
Antique toy sewing machines
Semi-scary antique baby dolls

We came just after demolishing breakfast at our hotel, so we didn’t have much room for sampling things.

Tapas stall at Mercado San Telmo
Kneading the empañada dough

The market has grown so large over the years that it spills out of the original indoor space and radiates into the nearby streets.

Art fair at San Telmo

Just off the main fair you can find the French Salon, a small offset of higher end indoor shops. It caught my eye online thanks to the display of umbrellas spanning across the street.

#1Toddler soaking in the culture

After an ice cream and coffee, we caught another Uber back to the park near our hotel as #1Toddler has been asking for a “big park” for three days straight. Apparently the world’s largest waterfall didn’t count since it didn’t have a slide.

Plenty of slides to choose from at Plaza Vicente López

After the park at Plaza Vicente López we headed back to the hotel to hit the pool. It’s 75 and sunny today, so the pool is chilly but tolerable if you stay in the sun. The pool attendant pulled out a water noodle for #1Toddler to enjoy, and she quickly named it “my rainbow.”

Mural near Mercado San Telmo

I’m starting to feel a tad exhausted, so I think it’s time for a siesta before dinner tonight and boating tomorrow. I want to rest up because tomorrow is going to be a bear. We have a whole day in BA before our flight home which leaves at midnight.

-Steph

Argentina Day 12: From Iguazú back to Buenos Aires

So I’ve already been corrected that when we head back to Buenos Aires (BA) today we in fact have two nights in BA, not just one. We opted to stay at Hotel Recoleta Grand for these last two nights which is slightly more northeast in the city and allows for easy walking to different sites we didn’t yet explore when in BA at the start of our trip.

I’ve already mentioned how efficient the airport checkin process is here in Argentina, but there’s more to it than that. I looked it up, but it seems that in 1998, Autopuertos Argentina 2000 was founded. It’s a large group with over 2300 employees that operates all aspects of Argentina’s 35 airports.

At face value, it seems to work extremely well. Simple things like a single WiFi network across all airports ensure when you get off your plane, you automatically connect to WiFi. Each airport uses the same signage and security processes (imagine if the TSA had the same expectations at every location). Things are integrated and fairly seamless across the different airports. It makes it predictable and more navigable as a foreigner.

We had an uneventful 1.5 hour flight from Iguazú to BA, grabbed an Uber and checked into our hotel. Tired and sweaty, we cleaned up and rested for a bit before heading to dinner at Rufino, a typical Argentinian restaurant just a few blocks from our hotel.

Amir ordered a 20 oz bone-in ribeye, and I opted for pasta. #1Toddler devoured yet another sausage sampler. We ate too much. Sorry, no food porn as the lighting was dim, but you can check out the restaurant here if you are curious.

Tomorrow we plan to checkout the boat tours of the Río de la Plata. We don’t have a reservation yet, so we might not be able to make it happened. Regardless, we are central to activities that will please everyone in this crowd.

-Steph

Checking out of Loi Suites, Iguazú

Argentina Day 9: Hiking to Tacul Beach

We awoke this morning, finished watching “Cars” and picked a hiking trail for the day. Tacul Beach, 1.5 hours and rated medium, seemed like a great fit.

Scenic views from the trail to Tacul Beach

The website billed the terrain as “flat,” so given our success two days ago in reaching Sendero de los Arrayanes, we set forth with our CitiMini stroller in tow.

It wasn’t long before the terrain turned bumpy with rocks and roots crisscrossing the trail. We decided the only way to continue forward was to leave the stroller behind and for Amir to carry #1Toddler on his shoulders.

Considering and dreading the trek back, we almost turned around before reaching the beach. That surely would have been a mistake.

Crystal clear water at Tacul Beach

As soon as we arrived, #1Toddler scooped up a handful of pebbles and shouted “Splash! Splash! Splash!” I’m not sure what it is about throwing rocks into water, but she could do it for hours.

Rock throwing champion

We lucked out with the weather. No rain today and 60 degrees. The cools temps didn’t stop some young Argentinian women from bikini sunbathing though. Sorry, no photos.

We made it!

We spent about an hour at the beach, resting, throwing rocks, getting our toes wet and polishing off some leftover chocolate from Chocolatería Rama yesterday. It was hard to leave, but we knew we had a rough trek back and didn’t want to have to rush.

The for the trek back, Amir carried her on his shoulders until we caught back up with our stroller. We just gave ourselves permission to stop and rest as often as needed which made the return trip pretty tolerable.

Cleopatra took a nap in her stroller

All the rest stops along the way made for a great opportunity to snap a last few photos.

We reached the car starving and desperate to find a baño for me. I’d spotted a small café on one of our many drives through town. We decided to give it a try.

Chaido Tea Room & Café

The place reminded me of a young grandmas house. Eclectic decor, small, intimate and laced with detail.

We found a table near the window and quickly made some menu selections.

We ordered the waffles with creme, two sandwiches and two fresh fruit juice blends.

Prosciutto, Brie, tomato and arugula on multigrain bread
Café con Nutella (Coffee with Nutella)

#1Toddler not having had much of a nap was restless, so we had to pay up and skip dessert.

Admiring the decor at Chiado
Do the outdoor seating if you can

Tonight we have to pack up for our flight to stop #3 on this Argentinian adventure, Iguazú Falls. On the border between Argentina and Brazil, Iguazú Falls are the largest waterfalls in the world, despite Victoria and Niagara Falls sometimes trying to steal the title. The weather should be sunny in the low 90s, and our hotel has a pool. I’m ready.

-Steph

Argentina Day 1: Getting there is half the fun (when it involves travel perks)

You may recall that the last time we flew to Denmark, we came back on a first class upgrade. I knew that was going to be trouble. Once you experience it, especially with a toddler, it’s hard to go back.

Amir had a solution for this. Back in the states a week, he’d sorted out which credit cards and flier clubs we needed to join to ensure an elevated travel experience from here on out. If you want details, ask him, but in short it involved the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card with Priority Pass as a start.

British Airways lounge in Terminal B

The other way this trip is already different for us is that I am traveling while 20 weeks pregnant. No major alterations to our usually pretrip prep – except I scheduled a special visit to the Infectious Disease travel clinic to ensure my vaccinations were all up to date, and to learn about any exposure or other safety considerations for this trip. Turns out Zika is still a thing, but there are just as many cases in the US as Argentina. Fortunately most of my immunizations from traveling to Rwanda are still valid.

“Get some insect repellant with <30% DEET and don’t forget your sunscreen.” Easy. Check. Plus 2 “just in case” doses of azithromycin for any GI bugs.

“And any red meat has to be cooked well done.” Hrumph. We are only going to the red wine and red meat capital of the world. I’ve decided to order decadent seafood and chocolate wherever and whenever possible.

Static cling letters and animals are great for window seat entertainment

As I always say, the key to surviving 5+ hour flights with an infant or toddler is preparation. Small toys without parts that are easily lost are key. This trip we added static cling window cutouts since #1Toddler is big into her ABCs these days. We also brought two magnetic puzzles that help limit lost pieces.

If you can swing it, lay flat seats guarantee a solid nap

All our flights arrived on time. We flew Avianca for the first time and were quite pleased. We arrived at the airport in Buenos Aires and easily summoned an Uber to take us to our AirBnB.

Raphael met us in the lobby of our AirBnB to ensure a smooth checkin. We’ve had some great luck with AirBnB wins the last few years and were delighted with an artful apartment in a historic building with breezy balconies and more square footage than anyone would reasonably expect for an urban setting like this.

Of course now we are all three thrown off on time. Amir and I want to nap, but #1Toddler is requesting a trip to the park and sliced apples. Here’s to hoping for a second wind.