We couldn’t Leave Costa Rica without a rainforest zipline experience! The kids are so small though, that most of the companies couldn’t accommodate us. Fortunately we found one near Dominical that had a lower age limit of 4 so we were in luck. This operation was very child friendly and our guide spent a lot of time telling the girls all about the wonders of the forest with humor and patience.
We started with a quick walk through the Butterfly Garden and a chance to see some banana trees up close.
Then, we suited up…very exciting!
Next came a nature walk from the lodge to the platform area. This was the most educational part. Our guide showed us the cacao fruit and explained how it was turned into chocolate. He picked up a tiny lizard and showed us how it played dead when threatened. He then fastened it to Jason’s ear (that was a big hit!) and finally the traumatized little guy was left to scurry home. Next, he told us all about the leaf cutter ants. He showed us their nests, described their behavior, showed how it’s jaws were powerful enough to snip a thick leaf stalk, and demonstrated how the native people used the ants as stitches for closing up wounds. Fascinating! Then, he ate one and let us know that they tasted kind of like carrots 🙂
Once we got up to the platform and prepared to jump I couldn’t believe how brave Skye and Claire both were, jumping into the air without hesitation. It was tough to stifle my mama bear protective instincts and let them do it…they looked so tiny hanging there!
It was a really fun and memorable day for all of us and I’m so glad we found a way to do it. 🙂
Spring time in North Carolina and Jason had just returned from a work trip, and we were itching to get out of the house! Camping sounded perfect, so we booked a cabin at the Cape Hatteras KOA on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for the weekend. I love the cabins we rent at the KOAs…perfect for a family with 3 kids. There’s a small main room with a large bed, and an adjacent room with two sets of bunk beds. This particular spot also had a dog park for our pup and some fun activities for the kids, including an enormous bounce pillow. The adults had a bit of fun with that one too:)
The first day we ventured north to the town of Kill Devil Hills (by Kitty Hawk), where the site of the famous Wright Brothers first flight took place. This was an especially significant stop for Jason, since he’s a pilot by trade and lifelong admirer of all things sky bound. About an hour drive through the windswept dunes of the outer banks and we arrived at the site. The memorial itself is atop a Kill Devil Hill and overlooks the site where the actual flight took place. It is large and stately and flanked by great informational plaques full of details about the theory of flight and the engineering problems the brothers had to overcome.
Down at the bottom of the hill is a park area that features a replica of the first plane at the moment of takeoff and the people that were present are all statues in the exact positions they had been in, based off of a photo taken of that historic day. Kids are free to climb on the plane and explore it. When I pointed out the old fashioned clothing from 100 years ago on the statues, Flynn stated “All the people died and then they froze into statues.” A three year olds mind can be a scary place…
Back at the front of the park, you can walk along the markers representing the takeoff and landing, and then enter a small museum that contains a replica of the plane and other interesting artifacts, portraits, and letters. We caught the second half of a presentation inside and the kids were able to ask questions at the end.
The next day, we headed down the coast in the other direction, to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It’s one of 4 iconic lighthouses on the North Carolina coast, each with a different distinctive pattern painted on it in black and white. This particular lighthouse is the biggest…it has the distinction of being the largest brick lighthouse in the world.
There are many posted rules about climbing the steep 257 steps (equivalent to a 12 story building) to the top, one of which is a minimum height restriction of 42 inches. Flynn stretched his body on tippytoes and a few of his hairs grazed the height marker, so the staff graciously let him climb with us. The winding spiral steps were not a physical challenge for fit children and adults, but for anyone with a fear of heights they are dizzying.
At the top, we emerged to a gorgeous view of the ocean and a friendly ranger took the time to explain to us the function of the lighthouse and how the ever changing coastline required the entire lighthouse to be moved from it’s original location a few years back. He answered all of the kids’ questions as the strong wind blasted our faces.
At the bottom of the lighthouse there is a museum. I recommend skipping the museum video about the lighthouse, which includes a lady slowly climbing the stairs and awkwardly describing every landing and nook and cranny on the way up in the most dull possible way. The sea artifacts and old photos in the other rooms are much more interesting!
Overall, a fun and educational weekend. The Outer Banks region of North Carolina is very beautiful serene and I can see why so many people flock there every year:)
On our way to Australia to meet up with Jason, we arranged for me and the girls to have a 3 day layover in Singapore. I knew very little about the city-state before arriving, having spent all of my research and planning on our month-long Australia adventure, so I was surprised to find myself in an incredibly clean, English speaking, cosmopolitan city full of friendly people. I was fortunate that our cab driver from the airport was patient enough to share a lot of the history of Singapore, it’s ethnic make up, and how it became an independent city.
We spent most of our short time in Singapore walking around with the double stroller and exploring. We walked to Little India and had some amazing food served on banana leaves instead of plates. We walked down to the river and had ice cream and engaged in my personal favorite traveling activity; people watching. When I initially brought my walking map to the front desk clerk at our hotel and asked him which neighborhoods or areas I needed to avoid before I set off, he looked at me like I was crazy. “There are no areas which are unsafe to walk!” he told me.
One of the nicest things we did on that first day was to hop on a boat at Clarke Quay and take a tour of the bay. It was a great way to see a good portion of the city; the colorful, immaculate buildings, different districts, and the famous Merlion fountain.
When I found out we were stopping in Singapore everyone told me that there was a fantastic zoo there I needed to check out. I signed up for the “Breakfast with Orangutans” and we got up at dawn to make it on time. It turned out to be a lovely and relaxing buffet meal with lots of fresh fruit, and the presence of the orangutans and their adorable babies was exciting for the girls. Skye even got to touch her first snake! After we ate, the insane heat and humidity descended and we had a sweaty but fun day feeding giraffes, watching elephants paint pictures, and various other animals in lush and well kept enclosures.
Finally it was off to the airport for the next leg of our journey. The Singapore airport is the most family-friendly airport I have ever traveled in. Wonderful food, play areas, a movie theater, and a policy that lets you move to the front of the line if you are traveling with children. I wish all airports were this nice!
When we began to expand our family and have babies, Jason and I promised ourselves that we wouldn’t stop traveling and having adventures together. I had heard too many stories from people who had young children and were so wrapped up in their routines they complained of not being able to see a movie or go out to dinner for years at a time. That situation works fine for many people, but sounds like a nightmare to those with a gypsy spirit. What we’ve found over the years since is that taking our children traveling and exposing them to a lot of new experiences and situations when they were young shaped them to be incredibly adaptable and able to handle crazy schedule changes, jet lag, new foods, and countless other inconveniences surprisingly well.
When the girls were very little (2 and 6 months), we lived in Japan and Jason frequently had to leave for work to different parts of Asia, Alaska, and the South Pacific. When he was assigned to an exercise in Darwin Australia, we jumped at the chance to turn it into a family adventure. He took a few weeks off on the back end, and we began researching a caravan trip. That road trip ended up being one of the most wonderful adventures of our lives. I highly recommend the drive from Darwin to Alice Springs for addition to anyone’s bucket list!
Starting in Darwin, we enjoyed the night market, museums, and seaside walks. We spent a day at Aquascene, feeding fish and baby gators. We were there in July (the Australian winter) so temperatures were mild.
We then rented a Britz camper van and hit the road, stopping first for a few days at Litchfield Park. Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia is lush and full of so many beautiful places to explore. It’s rich with plant life and roaring waterfalls. The absolute highlight of our time there was a visit to the Buley Rock Holes. Several areas of clear deep holes filled with cool clean water and surrounded by twisty trees and smooth rocks made for a tiny paradise in the middle of the forest. We spent half a day there and left feeling refreshed and peaceful.
Next we ventured east to the much bigger Kakadu national park. Here we encountered fields of enormous termite mounds, and so many crocodile warnings we were almost afraid to get out of the van at all in the swampy areas. Our main reason for taking a detour through Kakadu was to visit Ubirr and see the aboriginal rock art that is amazingly still visible after thousands of years. A bonus is the sunset view from the rocky outlook at the top of the hiking path. Locals told us it was the “best sunset in the universe”. It was lovely, but I wouldn’t quite say the best in the entire universe…
After those side trips, it was time for the real Outback portion of our journey. We took a few days to drive down Hwy 87 towards Alice Springs, staying in various campgrounds along the way. If I had any preconceived notions that driving through the desert would be boring, they were quickly blasted away by my awe at the stark, magnificent, ever-changing landscape. Fawn colored termite mounds gave way to deep red ones. Eucalyptus and ghost gums and countless other trees and shrubs I can’t name scattered across the terrain that seemed to be a different hue and texture each day of our drive. Kangaroos and Wallabies darted across the road.
We saw many sites and met lots of interesting people, most notably some of the permanent RV-ers that stayed at the campgrounds we parked at each night. It introduced us to a fascinating alternate lifestyle of road warriors, with their own lingo and traditions and humor.
The final stop before we hit Alice Springs was a place called the Devil’s Marbles. I had seen a picture of these huge boulders in a travel book and had to see them in person! We got there just before dusk and luckily had the place to ourselves as they glowed orange in the light of the sunset.
Alice Springs was a charming town (one I had dreamed of visiting since I was a child and read “A Town Like Alice”). We stayed at a lodge just outside of town, where every evening the black-footed rock wallabies would venture down from the rocky hillside where they were perfectly camouflaged to let the folks at the lodge feed them by hand.
Our last stop before flying out of Alice Springs to Perth was a two day trip to Uluru, Ayer’s Rock, iconic and spectacular.
In 2012 Jason and I were staying in the Plaka area in Athens with some friends and decided to take a bus out of town and explore the countryside. The Temple of Poseidon in Sounion seemed like the perfect place to go. After our obligatory trip to the insanely crowded Parthenon the previous day, the Poseidon temple looked comparatively peaceful and more isolated. Plus, there is so much history and mythology associated with the temple and the cliff on which it perches.
As the story goes, the famed ancient king of Athens, Aegeus, waited on the cliff for his son Theseus to return from battling the Minotaur. Before Theseus had left his father told him that if he should somehow slay the Minotaur and return safely, to raise a white sail on the incoming ship. Theseus did defeat the monster and return in one piece, but somehow forgot to hoist the white sail. Seeing the dark sailed ship, Aegeus threw himself off the cliff and into the ocean in grief. Now, the Aegean sea is named after him.
We recruited our friends Ken and Jen, had a street side lunch, and grabbed a bus schedule. It seemed simple to get there…just go to a bus stop about a mile from our hotel and wait for the bus with the right sign on the front. Our schedule indicated they would be by every 30 minutes or so. About 2 hours later and much back and forth over whether to just give up, the bus finally came around the bend and we loaded our sweaty, mentally exhausted selves on to the comfy seats. The drive out took about an hour and a half, and was lovely.
The temple itself was majestic and beautiful, with its tall, widely spaced stone columns and the backdrop of the sparkling sea below added to the grandeur. The lack of masses of sweaty tourists was a huge plus as well:)
We had some time before the return trip back, so we hiked down to a rocky beach with a few beers and had a swim in the inky blue Mediteranean waters. Definitely worth the 2 hour wait for the bus!
The main goal for our 2013 trip to Costa Rica was relaxation. We rented a VRBO house in the middle of the jungle in Dominical and spent most of the week sipping mojitos by the infinity pool while the kids ran around and played. A resident toucan perched over the pool and capuchin monkeys swarmed through twice a day, shrieking and gobbling up fruit. We sat on the deck with our bird-identifying book and spotted 20-30 species without leaving the house. It was a wonderful trip and one of the most relaxing we’ve ever taken.
We ended up taking two small excursions during that week, and they were both lovely. The first one was a horseback ride up to Nauyaca Waterfall near Dominical. If you had asked me the week before whether I would ever let my 4 year old ride a horse on her own I would have looked at you like you were crazy, but when we got there the horses were so calm and the guide so confident she could handle it that I agreed to let her at least try it out. Claire did great and ended up having the time of her life, so I’m glad I gave in:)
It was an extremely hot and humid August day, but we rode in the shade for most of the leisurely climb up towards the waterfall. A quick stop for lunch at a little lodge introduced us to a resident scarlet macaw and aggressive peacock.
Finally, Jason and I and the exhausted kids reached Nauyaca falls. On the walking path, we narrowly escaped the diving wasps that hung out above the restroom area, and witnessed a tiny snake attempt to swallow a frog. The struggle for life ended with the snake giving up and slithering away from the stunned frog.
The waterfall was beautiful and the cool spray enjoyable after the hot ride up. Jason joined our guide in jumping off of the rocks into the roiling water below the falls.
At the end of the day we were all worn out, sweaty, exhausted, and happy:)
Jason and I had an opportunity to travel to Greece in 2012 to be there for the wedding of our good friends and we spent some extra time before and after the festivities exploring as much of Greece as we could. Two weeks is just barely scratching the surface and we were left with long mental lists of places we’d like to see on our next trip back. Next time we’ll explore more islands, venture out to Meteora, and take the kids with us!
We stayed at the popular Plaka area of Athens, where our hotel had a rooftop bar with a view of the Acropolis.
It was surreal to arrive after a long flight and view this amazing piece of history towering over the spreading city below. First priority was braving the summer heat the next day and hiking up to the Parthenon and the Theater of Dionysus at the top. It was a long windy walk through cobblestone streets and up dirt pathways when we finally came to the Theater of Dionysus.
I love being in a place where so many generations of people have walked. This open air theater dates back to the 4th century BC and was home to countless festivals, plays and dramas through the centuries. Sophocles once stepped here.
A circular path from there led to the Parthenon. Again, it was wonderful standing next to an extraordinary piece of history. However, the masses of people with their loud chatter and sweaty bodies and ubiquitous cell phones definitely took away from the moment and if you add the scaffolding and cranes and construction workers and it’s difficult to be reflective. Here are my “photographer” images of the Parthenon…
And here’s what it was really like!
The next day we decided to hike up Mt. Lycabettus for an expansive view of the vast and ancient city. The sun was setting as we walked down and aside from some kind of cactus-like plant with painful prickly hairs that attacked our legs, it was a peaceful and lovely walk.
The next day was a relax and walk around the city day, with a stop at the Doctor fish. Jason and I had done this already in Japan and Thailand, but it was new to some of our friends. And even having done it before, the sensation of tiny carp nibbling at your feet is still squeal-worthy!
Three other major sights we ventured to in Athens were the Acropolis Museum, Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus.
So much history in one city…I can’t wait to take the kids there when they are old enough to really appreciate the sights and I can load them up with Greek mythology ahead of time!
Only 2 more weeks until we head out to Guatemala, and I’m getting excited! The plan is to fly in to Flores and take a shuttle to our hotel in Tikal. Explore the jungle ruins for a few days and hop on the overnight bus to Antigua. Then a week in a villa on Lake Atitlan before heading home.
I’ve been trying to prepare the kids for our trip by introducing learning materials on the Mayan culture. They have Mayan history, folk tale and art books and we have watched the 3 Nova specials on the Mayan civilization including one really cool one on deciphering the lost written language of the ancient cities. Nova also had a wonderful show on volcanoes (Guatemala has 37!). We’ve downloaded some Spanish apps on the iPads to supplement the girls’ school Spanish. They are required by their school to write in a journal since they will be missing 2 weeks, so I’ve packed travel journals as well. Here are their backpacks, ready to go!