Hiking around Mt Blanc with a newborn on your back

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It was never a question in our minds. As soon as our son was born, we were headed to the Alps. Perhaps it is the optimism of a new parent, but we didn’t consider whether we would have the energy, the practical knowhow, or even the willingness to carry a newborn baby to the top of mountain peaks. I remember looking up how much a baby would weigh at ten weeks, and being satisfied that it was only around 5 kilos, and that would be a breeze!

Our little River cub came along at a huge ten and a half pounds. It slightly threw the projected weight off, but C-section or not…we were headed to the Mount Blanc Massif. This time we chose the Italian side, hoping to learn a little more about how the Italians interact with the Alps. Our friends generously allowed us to stay in their apartment in La Thuille, a ski resort by winter, and perfectly situated for some hiking adventures at 1500m. Continue reading “Hiking around Mt Blanc with a newborn on your back”

Stepping back in time in Maramures, Romania

img_5486It is hard to imagine being any more beguiled by a country after the awe and wonder stirred up by Buchovina. Yet we were to learn that Romania doesn’t serve up a ‘one dish suits all’ mentality, and literally as you navigate the winding roads, you can feel as though you have entered another world with the simple crossing of a mountain pass. In addition, in Romania, we were discovering that the journey is not solely to reach a destination, but an attraction in and of itself.

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Our next destination was Maramures, the north of Romania bordering the Ukraine. The area is known for its stunning steepled wooden churches and villagers’ homes fronted by ornately carved gates. It is the most traditional area left in Romania and it truly does feel as though you have entered a time warp and travelled back 100 years. Peasant culture still prevails, and there was no need to search for any authenticity – you were surrounded by it! Continue reading “Stepping back in time in Maramures, Romania”

Baby on Board in Bruges


The last time I was in Bruges I was supporting a 7-month-preggers friend as she huffed and puffed her way up the bellfry. I remember thinking that if pregnancy was such an inconvenience, a child would be the ultimate in derailing your travel experience…

Oh my, the times have changed!

This is me now. Pretending to share my coffee with our newborn son. I don’t even drink coffee…it belongs to Joel of course. If he was a single father I’d put my odds on him feeding River coffee rather than milk. Thankfully I am around to supervise!


But somehow, believe it or not, I’m having an equally good time. If you add in those moments where you catch your baby boy staring at things in wonder for the very first time…maybe Bruges round #two even trumps it. Continue reading “Baby on Board in Bruges”

Ceahlău Mountains of Romania – Trekking to Cabana Dochia

Not may people would be able to say that their bathroom wall causes them to do things that are out of the ordinary. The culprit is an unsuspecting piece of artwork that hangs from the comfort of our London bathroom wall. It says, ‘The Mountains are calling and I must go” – so go we did. We sort of ignored the part that I was five months pregnant.

Our destination was Cabana Dochia, which is tucked away at the top of the Ceahlău Mountain range some 2000m plus in elevation. Now, although we had thrown everything possible at gaining information about the winter adventure we were to embark upon, the only confirmation that they were actually ‘open’ was from a Romanian farmer “da, open!”. I don’t even know if he understood the question. That was enough for us, as the Mountains were calling our name and we had to go.

To reach Dochia you can start at a whole host of points. However for us, we chose Cabana Izvorul Muntelui where we were greeted by a National Park worker. Really, he was more so intrigued by the presence of a car in his town and he stepped out of his house to greet us. With a flimsy map in our back pocket, a few broken English tips stored away and snacks for the journey, we set off. Continue reading “Ceahlău Mountains of Romania – Trekking to Cabana Dochia”

Bucovina, a hidden Romanian gem

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Unless you are a carefree, two-year- old toddler who is only obsessed with their next treat, you will have heard someone say at sometime or other, ‘They just don’t make things like they used to in the good old days’. Never have I seen a greater display of this statement than by laying my eyes upon the painted monasteries of Bucovina. We had extensively searched Google images to get a sense of what to expect from these 15 th century feats of architecture. However, not even the swagger of beautifully presented Google images prepared us for the real deal. Painted from head to toe, inside and outside, in a vibrant richness that looks like it has come from yesterday’s paintbrush, these monasteries are a true marvel and simply must be seen.

We were lucky enough to visit three in total: Voronet, Sucevita and Moldovita. Each one had its own appeal, each one lured us deeper into the past and each one told a story without the presence of words. Continue reading “Bucovina, a hidden Romanian gem”

Bucharest

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Arrival in Bucharest was a bit bedraggled with Joel smack bang in the middle of a vomiting virus and me on the tail end of it. To be fair it felt no worse than the last four months of morning sickness, but poor Joel was suffering (oh he has no idea!). So it was with much relief that we were welcomed by our gracious hosts Stefan and Raluca in their historic house in the old Jewish quarter of Bucharest. As we were to find the remainder of the trip, the Romanian locals go out of their way to give you a good experience, and are truly proud of their country and it’s hidden subtle appeal. Continue reading “Bucharest”

Rome – The Eternal City pt 1

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I have dreamt of visiting the Eternal City since we were forced to take Italian in primary school. Monuments like the Colosseum, Sistine chapel and the Trevi Fountain sort of hold your fascination for so long that you half fear the moment you finally lock eyes on them being a letdown. Well I’ll let you in on a secret… absolutely nothing in Rome is a let down.

Upon learning we would be expecting a little bundle in 9 months, my first rational thought once the excitement had subsided was – “babe we need to get to Rome first”. Travel obsessed much? Guilty as charged. So regardless of the outrageous October half-term prices, we booked 4 days of ‘when in Rome’.

We chose a little apartment on the top floor of a residential area close by Campo di Fiore, a bustling market square which holds a fresh food market every morning. Despite being in my 15th week of pregnancy the morning sickness aka all day sickness was not relenting, and as it so happens Campo di Fiore was the perfect spot smack bang in the middle of everything. This made it easy for mid-day breaks which of course never materialised as there is far too much to see and do in Rome to afford breaks! Upon arrival in the evening we promptly navigated our way to our first Gelateria!

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The first day we were up early to knock one of the big boys off the list – the mighty Colosseum. There it was, rising from the ground in all it’s splendour, an ancient monument come to life. I always need to touch the walls of these ancient Roman Ruins to immerse myself in the wonder of standing in a place where so many thousands milled around in times past. We had booked a tour weeks ahead to allow us to access the ground floor of the Colosseum and it was well worth being organised to book this as we were regaled with tales of Gladiators and Emperors, Lions and Shields. Our imaginations went wild and Joel may or may not have let a few quotes from Gladiator slip, or even have claimed to be Maximus Decimus Meridius (I love you babe). Staring upon where the floor would have been, we marvelled once again at the ingenuity of the Romans and the way they went about ordering their society.

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The afternoon was spent as close as possible to how the locals go about their business. Joel and I love observing….and copying. We have learnt whilst travelling that a line should always be joined. So we picked a number in a packed little deli in the Jewish Quarter and hustled along with the Romans to acquire some Pizza Bianca. It doesn’t look like much as it is essentially pizza type focaccia with oil and salt. But omg wait until you put that baby in your mouth. Drool. My carb-hungry plain-food-searching baby seemed to leap in the womb. Joel was very pleased with himself for his performance in the deli even though he copped out at using the Italian numerals we had drummed in our brain at school.

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We were on a roll and next visit was to a nondescript unlabelled Pasticceria which sold 5 items (obviously successfully) and I acquired a ricotta cheesecake with cherry base. Even Joel who doesn’t jump at such things admitted genius. Then we were on to our staple – gelato. Ever tried rice flavoured gelato? You should.

Off we went on a merry stroll through the side alleys of Rome, soaking it all in, marvelling at the Europe we so love, and how tantalisingly different it is to the UK, and wondering how they live and adapt in the apparent chaos. It makes you realise how uptight we are in our day to day lives in England and Australia. Europeans seem to go with the flow, they seem to enjoy the every day, they are not in a rush, they do not look haggard and stressed (well, except for in Paris) and the folks in the cities seem be folded up in the culture of the place itself, like part of the furniture.

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We soaked in the ambiance of Campo Di Fiore’s bustling market place whilst I grinned good naturedly at the Italian men who seemed to feel compelled to make a comment as I walked past. In due course we found ourselves sunning our weary bodies in a corner of Piazza Navona underneath the last of the dying sun – shoes off and content as cats lapping up the last of their milk. As the sun made its final descent we meandered down Via dei Coronari, a lovely and quaint shopping street featuring many antique stores. Despite being waylaid by more gelato, we emerged at the Tevere (Rome’s river) and beheld the mighty Saint Paul’s Cathedral being illuminated by the final rays of light the day had to offer. It truly took our breath away, and I will remember that moment protectively in my mind, as no camera could have captured the radiant glow in all it’s spectacular fullness. The place could have ascended to heaven itself it was that beautiful.

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Morning sickness tends to rear its head and laugh at me most viciously in the evenings which posed a challenge, particularly when in Rome and surrounded by the most spectacular food known to mankind. I could not carry myself far so we opted for fresh pasta at a little restaurant nearby which had a mama making fresh pasta at the window. For those of you who adore Al Dente pasta, you will adore Rome. They have so many traditional pasta dishes which I decided then and there I would track down, or to put it more aggressively, hunt down, over the next few days. Oh how could I forget, we washed it down with more gelato. This time at the oldest gelateria in Rome which we stumbled upon purely by accident by the name of Giolitti, a family run establishment with a line out the door. For a reason! We consumed gelato from no other place our entire stay. The seasonal pomegranate was a highlight.

I’ll leave this post on a high note (or dolce note)… Join us for the next instalment in part 2!

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Trekking Compostella – The Arles Way pt 1 France

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Our foray in to the Pyrenees was long anticipated. I had held dreams of walking the GR10 (long-distance trail traversing the Pyrenees from coast to coast) or completing the pilgrimage along the Santiago de Compostella for some time. Alas dreams sometimes have to marry reality and therefore we settled on a plan to cross the Pyrenees from the French side and down into Spain. Continue reading “Trekking Compostella – The Arles Way pt 1 France”

Jungfrau & Lauterbrunnen

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Out of all the journeys we have undertaken, Switzerland is the only one which has racked up over 1,000 images on the memory stick. Whilst I love taking photos, sifting through them is not my favourite past time. I am anything but ruthless when it comes to discarding pictures.

Some people hoard belongings, I hoard images.

Switzerland is a delight to all senses, but most of all your eyes. Even I was shocked at the raw beauty when I finally sat down to select pictures for this post. I had to have my more-ruthless-other-half moderate when I couldn’t cull below 70! What am I trying to say? I suppose Switzerland is a story is better told in images. So I will try to accompany them with a few words. Continue reading “Jungfrau & Lauterbrunnen”

Herculaneum

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If you are in the region of Naples, you must visit Mt Vesuvius and learn about the infamous volcanic eruption. I must say that the towering outline of this still-active volcano does not fail to impress! It is apparently the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted in the last century. Not only this, but if it erupts again there are now 3 million people living in its vicinity, and it is known for violent and explosive eruptions! I’d be having my eye on that volcano!

We chose to visit Herculaneum rather than Pompeii, as it is better preserved, more compact and conveys a better sense of how people lived in 79AD. The Pompeii site you need to devote a lot of time to cover, whereas you can visit Herculaneum in a few hours. The excavations were truly remarkable. I take my hat off to the Italians for an 11 euro well spent. Continue reading “Herculaneum”