Russia – The with-kids travel guide

To think that Russia is all Moscow and St Petersburg isn’t fair to the country. The trans-Siberian railway and Kamchatka ( i have no clue why) have always fascinated me.  But in four days, the two cities give you a good flavour of the glorious years the country has seen. It is also the trip i will fondly remember, as the one that gave my my first published posts outside the blog.

So here is the Russia with kids, in four days. 

And here is what surprised me about the cities.

And this is what to do if you are stranded at the airport in Moscow with the kids because airports can be the most difficult to handle with kids. You have bags to manage, tasks to do and 27 questions to answer, most of which are ‘can I have this/buy that’. But find some cool things to do, and airport runs can become very manageable. So here is the top 3 things to do at Moscow Airport (Vnukovo, Terminal A)

  1. Eat at the My My café. It’s a cute buffet place on the 2nd There is a large cow, a helicopter and a car just outside to give the kids something to do. Multiple seating options allow you to sit with your food facing outside so the kids can be watched
My My cafe
My My cafe
  1. Spot the hanging plane. There is a Transaero Boeing 747 model hanging from the ceiling at the domestic check-in area. Much like the elephant duo at our very own IGI airport, this provides a good 5-7 minute distraction.
  2. Hit the play area. There is one large one with the longest Thomas, the engine, track in 300sqft area. Other things to do include a tent, a kitchen set, assorted toys and dolls complete with a small pram. A TV is also present with nice loungy bean bags. The lady at the counter cleans up the kids’ hands with wipes as one enters and the cost is 300 roubles for half hour.

Amazing Planet

Travel always gives you a new perspective, whether its a new food, different music or a different color of people. And every once in a while, you meet a moment that makes you meet the universe, or something deep inside yourself.

Here is a set of photos from the places that made me feel…wonder, left me awestruck and speechless on different occasions.

Northern lights, tromso, norway              This was 50 km odd drive from Tromso, and we dragged a sleeping 2 year old along to witness the dance of the Aurora Borealis. But it was well worth it. Just the view of the milky way..and then suddenly the ethereal beauty of the Northern Lights took my breath away. It was literally like peering into the entire universe.

Death Valley, Chile
Death Valley, Chile

South America, the whole continent itself feels like a different planet. Everything here is to a different scale altogether, be it the Iguazu Falls (they’re like Niagra on Viagra), or the Amazon river or the mighty Andes. But the view above, of the sun setting over the Death Valley in the Atacama desert was a sight we couldn’t take our eyes off. This was the last photo M took before his camera conked off; which was just as well, because we focused on taking in the beauty with our eyes. I would go there again in a heartbeat, just to see this sunset.

The Salt Flats, Bolivia
The Salt Flats, Bolivia

Yet another one from the continent. The Salar de Uyuni (salts of uyuni) stretch as far as the eye can see. Beautiful hexagons of salt, and a lovely sunrise. The shadows you see are of the raised parts of the salty hexagons, the sun is that low on the horizon. We left at 4am from the camp  and the temperature was a freezing -16*, but it was well worth it. I was wearing all the clothes i owned at that moment and then some, and it was worth it.

A view of the lost city
A view of the Inca city

The last one from South America (for the moment), Machu Picchu. There is a reason its counted as one of the wonders of the world. The ride up to the top itself was like living through the first few minutes of King Kong (the landscape of the movie). We stood in the queue at 4am (yes, my husband likes to travel like that) to ensure we were among the first to reach the top. Once there, a sense of calm descended over me. It was so …peaceful. How could anyone who lived here, not be happy and enlightened. I was willing to settle down right there and live on fresh fruit (and i eat meat everyday, everyday). If i were to ever get anywhere near enlightened, it must have been this moment in my life.

Namib Desert
Namib Desert

Namibia. We spent 4 days in the country and saw…4 people. And then we saw this – the DeadVlei. The trees stand there, just like that. And there is no one around. For miles. And Miles.

Icebergs float in Illulisaat
Icebergs float in Ilulissat

The land of the perpetual sun, OK for 6 months. This is the view from our apartment in the summer of 2012. S was about 9 months old and it was papa’s turn for night duty, so he got this shot at 245 am. Waking up to this view fills you with and awe for the planet.

Petra by night, photo credit http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/
Petra by night, photo credit http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/

The last one – Petra at night. The photo is from another blog because we couldn’t get good photos in the absence of a tripod. The one above is of the lamps lit outside the treasury on Thursday nights. But what struck me more was the walk through the siq to the treasury. A glimpse of the stars from between the walls off the gorge (100m-200m in height) made me feel like we’ve been looking at the world all wrong! It was a river of stars that was flowing and the real meaning of beauty is up there not down here.

No amount of text in history or geography can do justice to seeing The Planet, live.

If you have moments from your travels that left you awestruck, put them on the list as a comment.

Stole

Just the most massively useful thing a globetrotting backpacking mama can carry. It has immense practical value. You can use it to

1. Cover a baby at nap-time, in Oman

2. Protect a baby from insects, by draping it over the stroller, in the Amazon Jungle

3. Provide half an hour of entertainment to 3-9 month olds, with the stole fluttering within reach and throwing interesting patterned shadows around, pretty much anywhere

4. Plonk kids on one, at the Bondi beach

5. As a beach towel to dry off post the nth swim, since it dries as fast as it gets wet, at Copacabana

6. Double up as sarong for self, in Salvador

7. Double up as skirt or lungi to enter temples which wouldn’t allow shorts, in Thailand

8. As a weather shield against the sun, the rain and the wind

And still use it as a stole if it survives the above.

More importantly, it has immense psychological value. With the stole in your backpack, you will never feel guilty about having left anything behind!

And hence the phrase that has made it’s way into globe trotting slang ‘you know that 50 countries down backpacking mama, she’s a supermom who knows where her stole is’

P.S. a medium colored, mal-mal piece works best.

*credits* the towel from Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy.

Indiaaaa, India…clap clap – OR how to watch a match in the stadium with kiddos

11026311_10153756194947818_4426440536250436125_o
Cheering for the Indian Team @ Adelaide Oval India – Pak, WC 2015

Watching the matches was an awesome experience. I really dont care much for cricket, but the stadium atmosphere, the national anthem being sung by 50k spectators…all worth being a part of. We watched a total of 5 matches across 4 cities with the 2 kiddies in tow 🙂 and a lot of people asked – how do you do this? So here is the 101 on match watching with the kiddies.

1. Tame expectations – do tell the husband that actual match watching is in the range of 50%-60% at best for an ODI, a T20 can be watched almost whole. We mostly left early or reached late and had to step out a number of times to either feed or entertain kids. Here is M’s view of how the time is spent.

2. Watch the first one outside India – sad, but true. We’ve watched cricket in Australia, England, South Africa and Sri Lanka and the facilities are designed to make the whole process truly enjoyable.  There is a variety of food available, we were allowed to take the pram and bags, including food items, inside. Play areas and parks surround the stadium and one can step in and out a number of times.

Chasing pigeons outside the stadium in Perth
Chasing pigeons outside the stadium in Perth

Once you enter, the entire stadium is accessible; and most of all there were Parents’ Rooms, with changing trays, feeding rooms TV and AC to help manage kids under 2! (this is Australia only). The SCG, MCG, Adelaide Oval allowed prams, Perth did not. But for the others, the attendance must have been 1/3 kids under the age of 10. And the stadium looked like this!

Line of prams at the MCG
Line of prams at the MCG

South Africa had the grass bank stands which allowed for plenty of room to run around, kids were given a bat and ball to play with and many people had set up their own barbecues too.

We have watched the Football WC with Sara in Brazil and the stadia were bad, it was a really long walk from the parking/public transport drop off, prams were not allowed and we had to carry her a lot of the times. They didnt have food and did not allow us to take any in – so we survived on heavy meals before and popcorn and chips during. The entry queues were long and the only saving grace was that they would allow us in through the special entrance as i was visibly pregnant.

In India, S’s first match experience was at 9 months for the Nehru Cup (football); not too bad.

3. Prepare smaller kids for the noise levels – K used to get all shaky every time there was a roar. By the 2nd match he was used to it and needed only a tight hug to sail through the cheers.

4. Do carry sunblock and hats – the most likely reason for not having a good experience abroad is the heat/sun in your eyes.

Holidaying in the host country is s good option too, if you want to avoid the risk of spending a lot of money on tickets and then not liking the stadium or having a bad experience. The atmosphere is all party, most cities have a fan zone with a large screen playing the match live and there is plenty stall set up by sponsors to keep kids busy.

Ping me if you’re inspired to watch one live and want to know more.

Travel Dating!

10801716_10153179642364384_3155796569273139770_n

It is hard to believe but S actually misses company her age on holidays. She has started going up to kids playing around and making friends – language no bar!

1549475_10152287914819384_248421311_n555788_10151857722447818_2021944260_n

Whether its the boys in Zanzibar or French travellers in HongKong, there is delight in her face on making new friends.

So here is the idea, I have decided to set up playdates for her in the cities that we travel to. She gets to make new friends, we get to get an inside look at the culture and life in the city.

If you are a parent of kids in the age group of 2-5 yrs in one of these cities, or know someone there who would like to meet up for a play date, connect with us on FB and we can set it up.

See you there 🙂

Food Glorious Food

One of the big concerns about travelling with young kids is food. So here’s a feeding 101 for bubs on the move.

Under 6 months. Milk only

If your baby is EBF, the only thing to carry with you is a good feeding veil and a smattering of ‘my baby, my rules’ attitude.

1. Plan your food/rest breaks to match feeding time for the baby. Be mentally prepared to stop every 2 hours or so.

2. Use the commute to feed – in the car/cab/i’ve done this in a tram in SFO; so you’re ready to move as soon as you hit your destination.

3. Do carry a veil. A long stole that can go around the neck also serves well. In most countries a covered feeding should not attract attention; if it does, and i did get a comment in the US, just keep calm and carry on.

If you’ve started with formula, the cleaning and sterilisation can be a chore. Most hotels will do the cleaning for you; and we had moved to a hot water rinse in place of the whole sterilisation by the 9 month mark. You could carry an electric steriliser, but it takes up a big space in the bag; boiling is another option and hotels do help out.

Solid foods. Here is a list of things you could do

1. Pack well from the breakfast spread – boiled eggs, bread butter and jam sandwiches, sausages and fruit survive a good 4 hours.

2. Soup and bread is a soft chewable option. Most restaurants will serve boiled rice/potatoes/veggies with a white sauce.

3. Milk and cereal (a favourite one can be carried)/biscuits.

4. Gerber has fruit and veggie pulp as ready to eat baby food. Though, i prefer Heinz which has powders which are easier to carry and dont spoil.

4. Do carry a favourite snack, even if it is cake/cookies/fries, just in case it takes time to get to the food. Hungry kids are crabby kids and can quickly make for a big family meltdown.

Bon appetit!