Category Archives: travel

Flying with a toddler and an occupied uterus

I booked a plane ticket for Florida knowing I’d be 28-weeks pregnant when I left. I booked the ticket knowing my belly had already expanded far beyond the 28-week mark with my first pregnancy. And, I booked the ticket knowing I’d have a 16-month-old kiddo sharing my lap with her unborn sister.

I should also mention I booked a 7 a.m. departure flight (must leave house by 3:30 a.m.) and an 8:30 p.m. return flight (toddler bedtime is 6:30-7 p.m.). Not exactly prime toddler-traveling times.

“Up for a challenge much?” you ask.

Bring it. It’s winter. I live in Ontario. Florida has sun, warmth and 0-1 layers of clothing required. Ontario has grey skies, seat warmers that can’t warm up fast enough, and who knows the number of layers I’m wearing.

It turns out airlines pity those traveling with young children. Particularly those traveling solo with young children. And especially those who look 15-months pregnant and are toting a toddler.

Because, we bypassed the 157 individuals waiting to go through security. We got stickers for going through security. No X-ray machines were needed. No one questioned the 937 items in my carry-on. We were among the first to board the flights. The flight attendants asked me several times if I needed anything, including extra drinks and snacks.

Now, I won’t say the 3-hour flights were entirely magical. LO was so happy watching the four youngsters around her on the first flight that she couldn’t nap. And she continued not napping for 13 hours. For the non-parents reading this, that’s a long time for a toddler.

And, the return flight was so late, and so far past LO’s bedtime that going to sleep was, again, difficult.

And then there was the lady in front of us on the return flight who reclined her chair (non-pregnant tall person’s worst nightmare) onto my almost non-existent lap and squirming, sleep-deprived daughter.

So, I may or may not have let LO kick, kick, kick her chair while screeeeeeeaming at the top of her lungs (the latter for the 60 seconds it took her to pass out), while I managed to unlock my knees, unhinge my legs and store them in the aisle.

But, that’s all peanuts compared to some of the horrific travel stories I’ve heard from friends. So, I’ll take the over-tiredness and discomfort for a few short hours.

Because it’s Florida. And it WAS warm.

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Riding in a car with a kid

Travelling takes on a new meaning when you have a kid.

Before kids, people say, “When I have a kid, the kid will go wherever I go, whenever I go and having said kid won’t change my lifestyle.”

Some of that musing is true. Like, yes, “the kid will go wherever you go, whenever you go” because leaving said kid home alone is frowned upon. But, the whole lifestyle-not-changing thing?

Ha! Haha. Hahahahahahahaha!

That’s a good joke.

An 11-day trip (6 hours away) that once required a suitcase and handbag has become two giant Rubbermaid tubs, a stroller, a Pack ’n Play, a suitcase, a handbag, a laptop bag (to Skype with Daddy) a diaper bag and a spare bag filled with anything else you could possibly imagine an infant needing while outside the house.

Also there’s a car seat complete with kiddo who may or may not be sleeping.

THAT’S the trickiest part of travelling: determining if your kiddo will or will not be sleeping.

Sleeping? Fabulous. Pedal to metal! No stopping for anything. Not sleeping? Ugh. Be prepared for possible silence, jabbering, squealing and/or ear-piercing screaming. Any of which may or may not be accompanied by tears.

Thankfully, on her first road trip, my kiddo fell into the “sleeping” category. Meaning, while in her car seat she mostly slept from Point A to Point B. Sleepy McGee slept for 4 hours, ate, slept for 3.5 hours, ate and slept for another 2 hours.

Wow. Did. That. Trip. Rock. Seriously.

And the trip home? Just as fabulous. Minus the “Hey, Momma! I’m choking back here!,” the police officer pulling Momma over because she was speeding while determining if the kiddo was still spitting up and the jerk who almost side-swiped our vehicle while looking at his cell phone. Awesome.

Perhaps installing a “Baby On Board” sign would ward off the idiot drivers?

Ha! Likely no (and no way would I ever install one of those).

Here’s to hoping/praying our kiddo continues to love travelling about in a car!

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A short letter to traffic mergers

Dear, traffic mergers,

MERGE ALREADY!

Love,

Jill

Great Market Hall

One of my favourite stops in Budapest was the Great Market Hall, otherwise known as Nagyvásárcsarnok. Funny, “Great Market Hall” seems easier to pronounce.

What a fabulous place! Built in 1896, the building is three levels of produce stands, bakeries, butcher stalls, paprika, goose liver, salamis, stand-up eateries, souvenirs, a supermarket, a fish market and piles of pickles. It’s like a giant farmers’ market only better. And, much more Hungarian, which likely adds to its charm.

Husband and I spent an entire morning milling about the booths and marvelling at the displays—the assortment, the colours, the giant cuts of meat, the kitschy knick-knacks, etc. We split a plate of beef goulash, served over rice, and picked up some fabulous pastries for dessert.

Some photos of our morning:

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Why is there no fan?

Standing next to one of the 619,372 statues in Vienna.

Husband is wondering when, if ever, I’ll write about some of the cultural differences we noted between our homelands and the European countries we travelled about earlier this month. Every time I think about doing so, I think back to the trip and our daily musings: “Why are the cars parked on the sidewalks?” “Why can I not get a normal-size coffee anywhere?” “Why can’t Toronto’s transit be as great as this?”

So, sweetie, this is for you. Thanks for making memories with me.

Now, I can’t say all of the noted differences hold true throughout all of Europe, so I’ll only speak for the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary. And, I won’t really speak for them, because my Czech, German and Hungarian are poor. I think I only managed “Hi,” “Bye” and “Thank you” in each language. Sad, I know. Also, this is not a comprehensive list. I suspect some notes flitted right out of my mind. Probably during the miles upon miles upon miles of walking we did.

Anyway, if you’re reading this and you’re European, I’d love to hear from you.

22 Random Notes on Eastern Europe by an American (with Input from a Canadian)

  1. There are no washcloths.
  2. Bathrooms are water closets. Not restrooms. Not washrooms. And, sometimes you have to pay to use them. Like when you’re out in public, which is all the time when you’re traveling. And problematic when you rarely carry coins in any currency.
  3. There are many, many diesel vehicles. Parked everywhere and in every which way.
  4. The vehicles are small. Smaller than small. Very un-American. Interestingly, Eastern Europeans (Czechs and Hungarians, especially) are not particularly short. Perhaps they are bendier.
  5. Water is not served with meals in restaurants.
  6. Water is not free.
  7. Water in any bottle smaller than one litre comes in a glass bottle. Logically, I can deduce that Europeans are dehydrated or tote about heavy handbags.
  8. There are no clocks or alarm clocks in European hotel rooms.
  9. No coffee drink is more than 6 oz. in size. Long coffee? Six ounces. Cappuccino? Six ounces. Mocha latte? Six ounces.
  10. It is not common (although becoming more so) to see people carrying coffee with them. Small cups only.
  11. Cold cuts, cheese and olives are breakfast staples. This makes me think Europeans are missing out on pancakes.
  12. Interconnected transit systems are way better than American and Canadian systems (in my experience). They are quick. They are efficient. They are cheap. Dirt cheap. You can purchase a pass that allows you to use all forms of public transit as many times as you like for as long as the pass is good (1, 3, 7 days, etc.).
  13. Beer is more common than water. Also, it is cheaper. The Czech Republic, in particular, is quite proud of its beer-making history. Pilsner, anyone?
  14. Smoking is as common as breathing. It, like beer, is everywhere. Everyone does it. Even the uncool people.
  15. Roundabouts are everywhere. Also a model of efficiency.
  16. Czechs, Austrians and Hungarians can make a mean strudel. Those in Hungary are particularly delicious and inexpensive.
  17. The Hungarian language is confusing at best and sounds like nothing you’ve ever before heard.
  18. Eastern European countries are chock-full of history. So much so that they make Canada look infantile. We wondered why people would visit Toronto. Anyone?
  19. The royal families lived like, uh, royalty. Schönbrunn Palace, located in Vienna, is the former summer residence of the Habsburg dynasty. It has 1,141 rooms. Summer home, indeed.
  20. Austrians LOVE statues, monuments and memorials. Come to think of it, so do Czechs and Hungarians.
  21. “5,000 Hungarian forint” sounds like you’re carrying a lot of money, not $26.
  22. There are no bathroom fans.

Thanks for reading. If you get the opportunity to visit the Czech Republic, Austria or Hungary, go. Go quickly!

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Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work I go!

Hello, brake lights, my newest and most-oft-seen companions!

I started a new job yesterday, working for a small, Christian nonprofit just south of the city. And, that’s really all the more I’ll say about that, because I’m not one to blog about work-related things.

However, I’m more than happy to chat with you about the commute. Because, it’s awesome. Awesome in a ridiculous sort of way.

I drive approximately 31 kilometers door-to-door. That’s the equivalent of 19.3 miles. Seventeen of those miles are on the highway. The three-to-four-lane-sort-of highway. Which means, in theory, that my drive to and from work takes 40 minutes round-trip.

Sounds fabulous, eh? Well, of course it does. Most theories do.

In reality, it takes me 35 to 40 minutes to get to work and 50 to 60 minutes to get home. This is because every last person living near me also drives in the same directions to and from work, creating massive traffic snarls and delays. And happy drivers. Lots of happy, happy drivers.

I realize two days is probably too soon to comment on the commute, but that driving was done in perfect weather conditions. No misting. No pouring. No snowflakes. No blizzards. Which means I have much to look forward to in the approaching winter months. Much indeed.

I’m now looking back on my two-lane, NW Ohio-driving experiences with fondness. Fondness and lamentation.

Good thing I’m enjoying the job.

On to Day Three.

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Graffiti

If you’re an urban artist or interested in urban artistry, visit Budapest. Graffiti is the cool thing to do. Anywhere. Everywhere. If there is space, there is graffiti.

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Can we just catch a flight, please?

Oh, Prague. You were so close. And then so far away that we had to return to the airport the next day.

In all of our pre-vacation excitement, Husband and I didn’t plan for Scenario B.

Scenario A: We leave home. We drive to the airport. We fly to the Czech Republic. We vacation.

Scenario B: We leave home. Airport delays our flight until we miss our connection to Prague. We are unable to find another same-day flight. We walk dejectedly to baggage claim to find our bags. We drive home.

Boo, Scenario B. Boo!

It turns out New York City was experiencing tornado-like weather the day we were to fly out. We boarded our 1:40 p.m. flight out of Buffalo International sometime around 3 p.m. Then, we exited the plane because of a further delay. Then, we sat in the terminal some more. And then, it became quite clear that we were not leaving Buffalo by plane that day.

While standing in line to speak with the lone ticketing agent servicing at least 50 people, the agent announced that we would have more success rebooking our flights if we called Delta directly and spoke to a representative. With two couples plus one solo traveller in front of us, we thought we’d take our chances with the present agent. Thirty minutes later and no signs of movement, we began to doubt our decision.

The newlyweds behind us, who called Delta from a cell phone while in line, were hoping for a same-day flight out of Pearson International in Toronto. They were calling everyone they knew to find a ride. Knowing we weren’t likely to go anywhere other than home that night, or maybe even TO, too, if there was a flight there, I offered them a ride. They were relieved.

By now, Husband was speaking with the ticketing agent. But, she couldn’t find a flight for us. At least not one with guaranteed seats. Not out of Buffalo, Detroit or Toronto. However, she said a Delta representative could do a better job than she of finding us a seat. Apparently, there are seats available on flights that she cannot see.

That makes a ton of sense, Delta.

So, Husband made his way to a payphone. After two disconnections, he returned with “Looks like we’re coming back here tomorrow.” Awesome. By now, the newlyweds had to get going or else they’d miss their flight out of Toronto. We practically jogged to the baggage claim.

Our bags had supposedly been pulled off planeside (after we gave descriptions and sticker numbers) and deposited at Carousel 3. Husband dashed off to pull the car from long-term parking, and after about 20 minutes, the newlyweds’ bags showed up. After 10 more and no more bags, I encouraged the couple to rent a vehicle and drive to TO. Because who knew how long I’d be standing there. And, good thing, because, it was another 40 minutes and quite a few laps with the car before our luggage showed up.

All in all, there’s 10 hours of our lives and one full day abroad that we’ll never get back. Thankfully, we had more success the next day.

Darn pesky NYC tornadoes!

Abby and Dave from Rochester, wherever you are, I hope you made it to Toronto in time to catch your flight. And that you had a fabulous honeymoon cruising about the Mediterranean. Because, we certainly had a fabulous time in Europe.

Once we finally got there.

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Scan me already

Full-body scans bring new meaning to one's loss of privacy.

The United States government has now seen every last part of me. I know this to be true because I was subjected to a full-body scan when passing through security at JFK International Airport on my way to Prague.

Full-body scan. Top to bottom. Left to right. Inside out.

No one was more annoyed by this latest security measure than Husband. He was full-body scanned at Buffalo International on the first leg of our journey and was certain he was being unjustly profiled. Because he was male. And because only males appeared to be directed toward the full-body scanner.

No, honey. They’re just picking people all willy-nilly like and scanning their bits and pieces. Plus, I got to participate when we re-started our trip the next day, proving officials weren’t necessarily profiling anyone. Annoying? Yes. Inconvenient? Yes. Fine, if it means there’s less chance of someone carrying on potentially threatening items? Yes.

In retrospect, I’d say those full-body scans were the least of our concerns that day. Cancelled flight and missed connection causing the loss of a full travel day, anyone?

Sigh.

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Goodbye, Europe!

Dear, Zsofi in Hungary. You live 4,446 miles from me. Please move closer.

I miss you already.

As you’re reading this, I’m in the process of flying home from what I suspect (this was written in advance) was a fabulous time in Eastern Europe.

Prague. Vienna. Budapest.

Oh, the travels! The sights! The people! The fun!

I can hardly wait to tell you all about it. But first, I have about a gazillion miles and hours of flights to get through.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, think of ways for me to help convince my Hungarian pal Zsofi to move closer to me.

Canada is nice, don’tchya know? And, I’ve heard OK things about the United States…

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