Every trip we plan, has a day or two on which we spend time outdoors in an open play area in the city. With the last few days of smog, I cant help but think of the unfettered fun times we have had in the free open play areas around the globe. The one above is from Amsterdam on our way back from Italy in June 2016. Everything was shut because it was a Sunday, and there was some football match. But the open play area, well, it was open.
Some of the most fun open play spaces we have visited have been:
Over 2000 miles of coastline with some fantastic beaches. No hordes of tourists (as yet) like some of its neighbouring countries. Great fresh seafood (not withstanding some of the articles about mercury poisoning in the fish). So don’t let the violent patches in the country’s history keep you away. The country is changing rapidly. Go to Vietnam now, and take your kids with you.
North Vietnam – Hanoi & Ha Long bay
We started our trip, like a lot others, in Hanoi. The city, despite the hot and humid weather that we encountered in June, is beautiful and stately. (The immediate comparison to Lutyen’s Delhi comes to mind while Ho Chi Minh City is more like Mumbai).
We took a connection via Bangkok and after the night flights, reached in the morning, checked into the hotel and promptly crashed. Alas, I had messed up Rule #1 – never plan anything on the first day post night travel! I had booked a really interesting and unusual tour with HanoiKids Voluntary English Club and with great reluctance, husband (R) and daughter (K) got out of bed. These are university kids who take you to see places in the city, all for the chance to practice their English and to get some insight into your culture (you can find them on FB, but best to e mail them at email@example.com with the sites you want to cover).
Our first stop was very interesting – The Temple of Literature is a sort of place where Confucius is worshiped and the place of the first university in Vietnam.
But after an hour or so within the complex, the heat sapped our energy. K had slept off and it was getting increasingly difficult for R to walk carrying a sleeping child. We ended up cancelling the visit to Ho Chi Minh palace / museum post this and were happy to go to a little hole-in-the wall café in the old part of the city. We were so glad we didn’t give the old quarter a miss. While R was happy with the local beer, I tried the egg coffee – thick, creamy, intense, and a complete delight. K slept through the coffee break peacefully on a bench.
With energy restored, we meandered through the French quarters, took in the beautiful buildings in that area including the Opera House and called it a day. Our hosts were so keen to show us a typical book store, talk more about education, lifestyle, culture in India (that can take months!) but we bid goodbye and decided to have a drink at the grand Hotel Metropole before heading back to our hotel.
Ha Long Bay. – A UNESCO heritage site with over 2000 lime karsts rising out of the water.
K really enjoyed this part of the trip. This may end up being a bit difficult with kids, but she thought staying in a boat cabin was heavenly. The road trip to reach the bay was a different matter altogether. It takes 4 hours from Hanoi – through some really dilapidated and un-scenic parts and in my opinion, this is worth only if you are going for a night stay. It is too crazy to do this for a day trip! We booked ‘Dragon Legend’.
Also the bay is loveliest in the evening when all the other junks (yes, that’s exactly what they are called!) that carry day trippers have gone.
After a hearty lunch, there was an option to visit a small beach via a smaller boat or a kayak. We opted for kayaking. We all got a quick theory session on dos and don’ts and a stern warning about the presence of jelly fish in the water in parts. Our guide, an expert kayaker, offered to take the 5 year old daughter in his kayak, leaving us to enjoy in a separate one. K was a bit psyched about being alone with a stranger, but she stayed calm and kept us in her vision.
The destination was super fun for her – she thoroughly enjoyed the pristine beach, making sand castles and frolicking in the bay. We took the boat back to our catamaran.
Central Vietnam – Da Nang, Hoi An & Hue
Central Vietnam with its endless beaches and the charming town of Hoi An is a delight for kids. There are several beach resorts at Da Nang, and this would be an ideal place for families to stay.
Our first day was spent lazing by the poolside and doing pretty much nothing all day. Bliss! In the evening, we took the hotel shuttle to go visit the Hoi An town. It is a nice stroll within the town where cars have been banned. However, It can be quite crowded on some streets in the evening so make sure you hold on to your kids / toddlers. Hoi An has some amazing restaurants (the best food in Vietnam according to many travellers) and kids would have love the dishes, be it vegetables, fish or meat. My personal recommendations for the restaurants – Morning Glory, Mango Mango.
Brightly lit streets
Monkeying around at Mango Mango
Monkeying around at Mango Mango
As an aside note, my daughter only eats fried fish, not steamed or poached or even pan fried. Morning Glory has some amazing food and very different local recipes to enjoy. But there was no deep fried fish on the menu. However, once we explained what we want to the staff, they were more than happy to get us de-boned fried fish with some vegetables and chips.
The next day, we were all set for our countryside cycling tour. We took a taxi to the Heaven and Earth Tours shop in Hoi An town. They had our bicycles ready – one for R with a seat behind to comfortably seat our daughter and another one for me.
First the cycles had to be loaded onto a boat and we crossed the river to the other side. In many places, nets were pulled out of the water, seemingly sunning themselves. Our guide explained that the nets are lowered in the water mornings and evenings to catch the fish.
The cycling trip began once we reached the other side of the river. This is a beautiful way to experience the countryside and the village life. It is not strenuous at all, with breaks to visit a traditional house in the village, see an old woman weave a mat, see how rice liquor is made (you may wish to keep your kids outside the room where rice is being fermented!), see how a coracle is painted and even take a joy ride in a coracle. A bit like a typical Kerala village life, I think.
We had booked a day trip to Hue the next day. The 3 to 4 hour journey would be more convenient to travel in an air-conditioned car. For some reason, we thought it would be a hoot to travel in an old topless jeep (probably left behind by the US army).
The Hai Van pass (which you cross en route to Hue) is the highlight of the road trip and has some stunning vistas. Overall, it is a beautiful drive – with me constantly surprised by the quality of the highways.
Our guide suggested a break at the Elephant waterfall. While a nice stop for the locals to cool in the water and spend the day picnicking, I wished we hadn’t taken this detour – it meant getting into Hue much later than what I had planned for. My daughter thought completely the opposite. She loved getting in the cool water and it took quite an effort to get back on the road.
We finally reached Hue, had a quick lunch and went to visit the main attraction of the city. The citadel, from where the Nguyen emperors once ruled is a really large complex. Too large to explore in half a day. While open with beautiful buildings and trees-laden pathways, it can be challenge to explore on a hot day. After exploring the To Mieu Temple complex, R and K decided to laze on a bench while I explored some of the other buildings and gardens.
We decided to ditch the jeep and come back via a car. The journey back was on a different route, and there is loads to keep you engaged looking out the window – the coastline, green fields, the rows of boats where people cook and live.
We rounded up the stay at Hoi An with a day spent entirely by the pool side and the beach, before flying to Ho Chi Minh city.
South Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh city & Con Dao island
You could do away with Ho Chi Minh City from a family holiday itinerary without feeling the pinch. North & Central Vietnam have much more to offer to kids than this. It was a short break, 2 days before going to Con Dao island. We decided to skip the war museum in HCMC as friends suggested that some of the stuff / information displayed would be too gory for a 5 year old. But we did go to Cu Chi tunnels with K. And I think she was fine with all the American Vietnam war information – over-whelming in parts – that is available there. Cu Chi tunnels are out of the city and a good 1.5 / 2 hour drive one way. So stock up on water and snacks for the journey. The jungle, though largely sanitised for tourists, is quite thick and dense and its scary to imagine the guerrilla war being carried out there. There is a good documentary film shown and a model on display that shows the various tunnels at various levels. Guides who take a small team of tourists through a well-marked path on a regular basis are well informed.
One highlight for those who are not claustrophobic is to experience the thrill of going through a short or a long tunnel. I tried the short one – no steps to climb into, you can get in and do a short drop. I could walk standing up but not the American tourist behind me who was 6 ft 4 inches. It is clean except for some dried leaves / twigs and gives you a good sense of what it must have been for the Vietnamese soldiers / villagers to live, plan, cook in these tunnels. R tried the long tunnel later but here the guide leads.
There is also a section at the end of the walk before the souvenir shop, where you can try your hand at an AK-47. We didn’t try because of K.
The last leg – Con Dao island
We had researched and debated a lot before deciding on Con Dao island as the last leg of our holiday. Na Trang is for the party goers and Phu Quoc for both couples and families but this sleepy island where nothing much happens suited us perfectly.
Con Dao – a penal settlement used by the French and the Americans to house prisoners once upon a time – has been off the tourist track for so long that its really pristine. A small airplane service from Ho Chi Minh city connects to this island in the south on a daily basis. The plane was small, trembled violently in the rains, and was largely full of local tourists.
4 days of R & R is what we went for at this island, so the rains in the first 2 days didn’t bother us as much. The island is perfect for mountain biking and scuba diving (and also hiking) and we tried both once the rains stopped. K had decided – very conveniently for us – that the lady at the resort’s kid centre was her best friend and that she didn’t want to see her parents much.
The town centre is really tiny and we tried a café, but compared to the dining options at our resort – didn’t care for it much. One can go to visit the prisons used at one point of time, but we decided to give it a go
We flew back to Ho Chi Minh city and spent a day there before heading home. This last day was spent in shopping and trying out a bohemian café in the city.
Vietnam is not a natural choice for a lot of Indian families. We don’t know anyone from our circle of friends and acquaintances who has been there with kids. And after the trip, we kept wondering – why not? Great beaches, stunning scenery, fresh food, good resorts and no crazy crowds unlike its neighbours – whats not to like.
Do check out the full itinerary on the Zest In A Tote blog
This is a guest post by Shweta.
Shweta is a corporate executive, mother of a 5 year old, generally enthusiastic to plan and try out new things in life. Loves to read and of course travel. She’d like to believe she is NOT an adventure junkie but has tried sky diving, rappelling, glacier climbing, trekking, para gliding, mountain biking, scuba diving. She blogs at https://zestinatote.com/
Whats travel without sampling the local food. I’ve had some interesting food tasting experiences while travelling – black pudding in London, live heart of a fish in Easter Island. Feeding young kids in a different country can be a pain sometimes though. sigh!
The one above, is of the five layered fresh juice in Oman. the. most. amazing. juice. ever.
Watching matches live with kids can be so much fun! The city is unusually alive and its almost carnival like. We’ve had the best experiences in South Africa and Australia. This one is from the recent EuroCup 2016 match at Lens.
So our much awaited whole family trip to Italy got converted into half the family meeting in Kerala. Its a long story which deserves another post, but let me just say, if you have issues dealing with ambiguity, spend a month in Italy and be cured.
Kerala, although it was a really short trip, delivered beautifully on the ‘God’s Own Country’ experience. The backwaters are truly amazing and unlike any other water holiday experience (barring the Amazon, of course. South America has tuned down the rest of the world for me.). The highlight for us was the 1 night stay in the houseboat in Kumarkom, and here’s how it was with 2 feisty and active kids confined to a boat.
We were amazed at how close the water was, and i was worried about how big the windows were!
And then we wanted to throwing everything that we could find including didi’s toy phone, into the water. Till didi dear had a brilliant idea and gave him bits of paper to throw instead.
And when she sees paper, cards have to be made.
And then we took a break and admired the scenery outside.
When resting was done in about 5 minutes, we ran up and down the lone corridor.
As we pack our bags and head to Rome this week, I realised how different our travel itinerary and our bags have become! From 2 rucksacks and 1 carry-on to a suitcase, a rucksack, 2 carry-ons, a bag for S, a pram, a camera bag and a sling, phew! When we step out of the door, it looks more like a strange crooked backed, wheeled beast has stepped out. But the beast does manage to have fun, and here are some hacks that work for us.
The goody bag: If there is a train or car ride or flying during the day involved in the trip, I keep a goody bag for the kids. This has little new things that can amuse them for some time. A sticker book, a magic painting book, a small loom band set, a magnifying glass, cotton balls, a small wind up toy – anything small and new that can be handed out to ward off a potential meltdown.
Games for long rides: There’s no better way to get involved in travel than observe the surroundings so we usually play games like I spy or Name-place-animal-thing to pass time.
Snacks: Sweet as well as savoury ones. Can’t step out without them. I get hungry every couple of hours and so do the kids with all the walking. Nothing ruins the mood like hunger, so cheese cubes, fruit, chocolate bars, fruit loops, chocos, buiscits go along with us. Raid the breakfast spread, if there is one.
Time to explore: Kids like to spend time exploring wherever they are. We are almost never able to just leave our bags in the room and step out or just do a look see at a park. So plan for time to explore the room and the park or any other place that is going to be what you though of as a short pit stop. It won’t be short.
Sketchbook: To fill with experiences. S loves to draw and copied the Duomo in Florence. That way she remembers where she’s been.
Medicine kit: Goes without saying. Finding Crocin in a different country or in the middle of the night can be a challenge.
Self-packed bag by kids, edited: S usually likes to pack her own bag which she claims she will carry all they way. We let her put things together to make sure she is well occupied and carries the toys she likes, but it is always edited for any heavy, noisy or bulky items because there will come a time when she will simply hand over the bag to me and run off.
Wipes and sanitiser: Self explanatory. No matter how old the kids are.
Child-locator/ Branding: This I haven’t tried, but found recommended on many a site. Kids do wander off in large places so maybe this time we will put a bracelet on each kid with our local phone numbers on them.
Public Transport: Always a better option than hiring a car. One doesn’t have to figure directions with constant cries of are we there yet, I’m hungry, I want to drive ….Besides, the kids seem to enjoy these more.
Factor their itinerary: Everyday has at least one activity that the kids would love to do – pool, beach, park, play area. At the end of they day, it should have been fun for them too. If nothing else, ice-cream works.
An extra t-shirt: In the day bag, for mess ups or chilly evenings or strong AC environment. Along with the stole, of course.
Scan the documents: All of them. Passports, VISAs, tickets, hotel bookings. Having everything on the phone is a big boon if a bag is stolen or you can’t remember the name of the apartment after a long day.
Mind the money: We’ve found it best to carry little cash and use the ATM to withdraw local currency as required. But be sure to activate roaming on the credit cards (yes, at least 2) and have a decent limit on international spends. Getting caught out without money or cards is no fun.
Carry-on packing: The carry on bag carries 2 sets of clothing for kids, diapers for half of Africa and 1 extra t-shirt for each of us, just in case of a leaky poop or worse.
One Parent-in-charge: This actually worked by default rather than by design. With M’s enthusiasm for planning the vacation, he has it all laid out – flight tickets, mode of transports, lodging and day plans. I don’t lift a finger, you know, because what if he thought I was doing the day plan and I thought he was in charge 🙂
A plan for the day and check the opening times etc the night before: Going over the next day plans the night before is always a good idea, particularly if you are visiting a museum or driving to somewhere. The opening timings or renovations can throw your day out of sync if discovered at the gate of the sight. Of course if you are in Italy, the trains get cancelled and ATCs go on strike without notice.
Play-dates: I really really want to make this work, but haven’t found a reliable way yet. S craves company of her age after about a week. So longer vacations have many more melt-downs unless she has some kids to play with. If we are travelling with friends (which is rare) it works, but on solo family vacations I try and fix up play-dates with locals through common friends. It’s yet to work as a system though, sigh!
One swim bag: Oh yes, everyones swim things go in one bag that can be grabbed on the go. No fishing out swimming goggles for one and upturning the suitcase to find the swimming tube.
Packing cubes: This is my latest discovery. Pack each person’s clothes and or inners in one bag/packing cube. Colour code them and let each person know their colour. No more pulling out the wrong socks.
Ha. That’s the list. Do add more points and make our trips smoother!
One of the things about going around the world with little kids, that you will not see on FB and Instagram, is the jet lag after. I can barely manage to settle my own clock. I remember sleeping for 14 straight hours when we flew to Chile, but that luxury (along with a few others) is wiped away with the arrival of the diapered ones in your travel itinerary.
Dealing with jet-lag, for adults, involves a few simple tricks
Keep awake/asleep through the flight depending on what time of the day (at destination) you arrive, so you can switch the clock to fit the local time.
Wake up with sunrise and exercise to get the blood circulation, and hence oxygen to brain, going.
Eat more fruits and salads at more frequent intervals and make sure you drink enough water/liquids
With young children and babies, things get more complicated. While S, the older one, is a delightful traveler who enjoys company in the flight, eats most of the local food and wakes up enthusiastically even for the early morning activities, even she used to get high fever for 1 day whenever we returned. K, now almost 2 years old, is a different story altogether. He takes upto 10 days to get over jet-lag and that too after making sure we are easing him into the new timing.
For kids, or at least K, there seems to be a sleep disruption as well as a tummy disruption. Traveling East to West is easier. As the day ends later than ours began, we take a short nap on arrival and then definitely wake up for then next meal at local time. East to West is more complicated. The day ends sooner than our body clock and its difficult to sleep earlier. So, we have been there, done that and found a few hacks –
Night flights – if the flying distance is longer than 4 hours, we prefer night flights. We then land when it’s getting day and can make do with a short afternoon nap and adjust to the time more easily. Also, for the younger ones, managing a night flight is easier since there is little or no physical activity possible during the day and the kid gets all wound up. It isn’t exactly convenient, because the kids are rested and you are not, upon landing; but I’d rather have happy kids and cranky mom than cranky kids and cranky mom. For older kids (above 4-5 maybe) you could well take the day flight so you and the kids are able to sleep at the same time.
Work with the sun – our bodies are tuned to naturally wake up when the sunlight pours in, so keep the curtains drawn open and allow the morning sun to wake you and the kids up. Equally, switch off the lights at night to send the body sleep signals. Even if the kids wake up at night, try to do activities in low light or choose calm activities like reading or colouring etc. You will find K running around and shrieking though, even in the dark.
Swap the time one hour a day – when flying West to East, the kids will stay awake at night and then sleep through till even noon, sunshine or not. We advance the wake up time one hour per day (if you have the luxury of course). So wake up at noon and sleep at midnight on day 1, wake up at 11 and sleep at 11 the next and so on. Afternoon naps, if any, should fit this moving cycle, else the night sleep time does not adjust well.
Exhaust – swimming/park time are my best friends for combating jet-lag. Being out helps the body adjust to the sun – natural wake-sleep cycle and the activity helps night time jumping around less likely.
Feed frequently – I didn’t have a clue what a disruption feeding cycles can be for a toddler. K has bad bouts of colic when we travel. So we now make sure he eats something every 2 hours if awake – 1 biscuit, half an egg, 4 grapes – literally anything that prevents a build up of gas in the tummy. Also, he has milk 5-6 times a day in stead of his usual 3 times. The child might refuse to eat and may look fine and active, but do make sure she eats, even if its just 2 bites. Even cake will do, though pure sugar like candy usually is worse than being hungry.
Avoid cycle interference – (if its beginning to sound like a PhD, it’s because I have gone through some bad times). Apparently, the feeding cycle and the sleep cycle may not sync up at the same time. Kids can sleep at the right times and still wake up due to hunger or an unsettled tummy. So we make sure dinner is slightly earlier, there is a small snack just before sleeping and there is a bottle of coconut water right next to the bed for night-time hunger pangs. Giving K water or coconut water every-time he wakes up at night, helps.
Be ready to dance – given the sleep time is so disrupted, its possible the child wakes up just as he is about to nod off. Prepare to spend anywhere between 2x-3x the time it usually takes to put the kid to bed.
Linger – my kids frequently wake up within 10 mins to half hour of sleeping off, so I usually linger around the room to calm them immediately and prevent a full wake up. Cuddle up for longer, keep singing/humming, even if they look asleep.
Load up on patience & coffee. We have found jet-lag to be the most troublesome part of travelling with kids so far.
I have been fascinated by the French culture for a while now. It came about when I was evaluating how consumerist urban India is becoming and if, apart from the American dream, there is an alternate way of life inspired by Europe. The French way of life is about living each day, loving yourself and the time you have. They take art and beauty so seriously, they eat fresh, visit the bakery even twice a day, indulge a bit everyday, buy fewer but more expensive things and make them last longer, and move – a lot. The weekends are about going for outdoor picnics, hikes and the like and there are hardly any mall outings. I wouldn’t presume to know too much about the culture, but it sounds good. So I was quite looking forward to the two days in France we had. This was a quick stopover to watch 3 of the Euro matches on our way to a longer sojourn in Italy.
Looking forward wasn’t exactly true, i was indeed excited to see France ‘live’, also in the aftermath of the recent unhappy incidents, but my previous experience of French hospitality hadn’t been too pleasant.
That was before I chanced upon C MY PARIS. I don’t remember how it all started, but Larissa from C my Paris buzzed me about my Paris itinerary and offered to help with finding our way around with kids.
I really liked the concept of C MY PARIS. The idea is to help the visitor see the city through the eyes of a local resident. Almost like having a friend show you around to the places you’d like to see. I had wanted to do a bit of travel dating along similar lines, where we’d plan to meet up with friends of friends or similar, who live in the city and have kids – a great way to experience the place and have kids make new friends.
Larissa’s recommendations on everything, from parks close to where we were staying, to helping us with information on getting local sims and about the stadium rules for the Euro matches, were detailed and useful. It was a pleasure to catch up with her and her two sons. The kids were busy playing around while we chatted away at a cafe. I got to know a bit more about the Parisian life, and watched the kids play quite oblivious of the fact that they were speaking in different languages.
Our 2 days were actually 3 matches between Paris and Lens. The live match experience, as always, was awesome, for even sport agnostics like me. Especially, the England vs Wales at Lens. The walk to the stadium itself was beautiful and all the pubs were filled with fans.
We did manage to catch an evening at the Eiffel tower too. From the Trocadero side this time.
Oh, and the one thing i didn’t really expect to see was the public urinals of this kind, right near the Eiffel!
The airport we went to though, wasn’t CDG but Orly. We sampled the famed macaroons, halted for fun at the play area and made good use of the generous baby care rooms.
All in all, it was a short and hectic amuse bouche but better than my previous short visit. Maybe this was a coloured view given I’m fascinated by their way of life, but I’d definitely like to see more.
Summer holidays are a time when you don’t know whether you are better off at home or out vacationing, because a trip with kids can become so much about just the kids that it doesn’t feel like a vacation for you at all! If a trip to Disneyland or yet another beach vacation is beginning to sound like the last 3, consider destinations which are equally exciting for you. Here’s a round up of the places we have been to (during the summer vacations), with kids when they were ages 3 months to 4 years, along with what can make it fun for kids…other than beaches and zoos.
Iceland, Greenland (June 2012):
We tripped for about 12 days across the two. Our trip to Iceland was limited to the southern parts – beautiful waterfalls, majestic mountains and moody landscapes, all in unpredictable weather. I guess it is the combination of the last 2 that leads to the the Icelandic people still believing in mystical creatures such as elves and trolls.
We covered the gorgeous Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss and Gulfoss waterfalls, drove around in the Vatnajokull National Park and the Skaftafell National Park, admired the glacier filled waters at Jokulsarlon and watched the breathtaking geysers at Geysir.
Peachy was about 9 months old, which is a delightful age to travel at, as long as you can provide space for the baby to explore. We carried her around in a sling which she preferred to the pram so the breaks to make her sleep were minimised, she would just dose off anytime and anywhere. It was also a blessing that she was good with long drives as we drove around to almost everywhere.
A day in Helsinki, Finland, on our way back to Delhi
While there wasn’t anything specific that we planned for Peachy during the holiday, she did appreciate the variety of animals, so we’d stop by at lakes and farms and trooped specifically to Black sand beach next to Reynisfjall to see the Puffin birds.
The grown-up stuff that we were bold enough to put her through, went fairly well. So apart from the drives, we took her on a skidoo ride (yes!) and to the Blue Lagoon for a swim.
Skidoo ride with the Peach, we break for refuelling! She actually fell asleep on the ride back.
A dip in the Blue Lagoon. The changing areas were not very kid friendly, but did have baby chairs to plonk the little one in, while mommy/daddy changed.
The Greenland trip was limited to Illulissat. Illulissat means Icebergs in the local language and it is not difficult to see why. The ice fjord visible from town is a UNESCO world heritage site, filled with calving icebergs from the Eqi glacier 35km away. The Eqi glacier is the largest source of ice bergs in the northern hemisphere and the berg that took down the Titanic is thought to have originated here. We went at the time of light all night and it was amazing to watch the sun cruise along the horizon at, well, night, rather than dip away. The view of the glaciers was absolutely gorgeous, and Peachy enjoyed the long hikes and boat rides.
You would think I’m cold, but I’m fun!
The sun at 245am
Norway (September 2013)
The Scandinavian side of Europe has always fascinated me. It just feels like there is whole different culture and beauty there that the rest of Europe just does not replicate. In that sense, Norway doesn’t disappoint at all. Even after having seen the ethereal glacier dotted landscapes of Iceland and Greenland, Norway was gorgeous. Mostly it was the Aurora Borealis – the northern lights, that took our breath away, but the fjord tours, the crystal clear still lakes and lovely hiking trails make it a worth a visit.
The Northern Lights were easily the biggest highlight, for which we had trooped all the way to Tromso and stayed for 3 nights since one can’t quite be sure of catching them on a particular day. There are tours, though, that chase The Lights right upto the Finnish border. We took one such tour, left at 10pm and went around for about 3 hours to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon. Staring into the Milky Way literally made me feel like i had come face to face with the universe and creation itself. Few other moments can make one feel like that, here is a list of mine.
The Aurora Borealis
Then there is Flam. It is one of the most beautiful villages I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. With colourful little houses that reminded me of Toy-town (of Noddy fame), Flam is surrounded by the stillest lakes which make for fantastic photographs. We stayed at a little apartment with gorgeous views.
We spent a week across Tromso, Flam, Bergen and the Sognefjorden area because the northern lights were our main agenda. But In a week you could cover Oslo, Bergen, the Fjords and if you have more time, add in Tromso, Loforen Islands and the Atlantic road.
Norway, by far, is one of the most child friendly countries to travel to. There is child friendly infrastructure everywhere, the restaurants are more than happy to serve customised food and the food in general – soups and stews are good for young kids too. Even their trains had special compartment called Family Coupe which had a play area for kids, yes in a train!
We were well supported for Peachy at the northern lights tour, with the tour company providing us with additional blankets, a car seat in the bus and they even watched over the sleeping Peach in the bus, while we stepped out to view the lights. She was impressed with the ‘dancing lights’ too once she woke up, but the big shadows of the mountains scared her a little. The other fun things for two year old Peachy included a bike tour while being seated behind M, paddle boating at Flam, the troll statues all around, the Oslo Viking ship museum (largely because there was enough space for her to run around) and the trip to the Polaria at Tromso, where she got to see arctic seals and other exotic sea life.
Paddle Boat at Flam
Expensive as the country is, we saved money and had fun cooking in our apartment. The saved money went into shopping for chocolates and cosmetics, which wonderfully enough, were much cheaper than in India.
That’s our off-beat Europe, and you can read about Brazil here and Russia here.
The other places closer home are Singapore and Hong Kong, more on them in another post perhaps.
So take your pick of destination for this summer and happy trippin!