49.

So I might as well be frank. Andy started to get sick during the tail end of our trip. And jet lag coupled with my return to work has not been kind to him. 

We had a good time in Hong Kong, and I think Andy enjoyed the hustle and bustle, but this return home was too stark a contrast. The flight back definitely had its low points, and we probably should have tried to come home earlier. Andy is in his first week of full on “daycare” and I am trying to stay awake on the drive home from work. Not always the safest. 

Hoping that this all passes soon enough. Not sure how long I can survive with the minute amount of sleep that I’m getting.

  

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Hong Kong Top 5

So our Asian adventures have come to an end. Though I’m very happy to be home, I’m also feeling an inkling of sadness over having left the city of Hong Kong. Admittedly, Kelvin and I have both grumbled at one thing (people walking really slowly because they’re on their phones) or another (a general lack of service at regular restaurants), but there are also things that we really enjoyed about our time in Hong Kong. We loved the ease of transit and travel and the extensive underground and overground passageways. We marvelled at the baby changing facilities at some of the larger malls. We really liked our brief but wondrous car ride from Mong Kok back to Wan Chai. Beyond seeing friends and eating good food, these were the top 5 highlights from our time in Asia’s world city. 

  

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens 
Albany Road, Central, Hong Kong

Though known for its in fathomable density, Hong Kong actually boasts a fair number of parks. One such park that we really enjoyed was the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Set on a hill just south of the Central MTR station, this little gem is home to a variety of birds and primates, including a family of orangutans! 

Visions 2050: Lifestyle and the City
Kowloon Park, Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

We stumbled upon this completely at random. After lunch at Australian Dairy Company, we decided to walk through Kowloon Park to get to Harbour City. I’m drawn to all things related to urban design and architecture, so naturally the signage for this exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre piqued my interest. It was a small-ish but truly fascinating exhibit looking at all facets of life in Hong Kong’s past, present, and future. Through a whole slew of different media, individuals depicted the Hong Kong they know and the Hong Kong they envision. I could have spent double the amount of time there, but alas crying babies are not conducive to leisurely perusing. 

  

Hiking on Lamma Island

Kelvin’s one request for the Hong Kong portion of this trip was that he wanted to do a hike. We decided to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a slower-paced excursion on Lamma Island. We took the ferry from Central to Yung Shue Wan and embarked on a morning-long walk across the island. We saw beaches, pavilions, and even visited Hong Kong’s only wind turbine. There were very steep sections but also some very flat, scenic ones. We ended up at Sok Kwu Wan, where we ate our lunch of Chinese bakery foods before heading on the ferry for home.  

  
Hong Kong Museum of History

Museums are always a great option for us when we are travelling. What’s even better – this place provides free admission on Wednesdays! We loved learning about the history of Hong Kong from virtually the beginning of time until present day. It was amazing to see the quality of some of the exhibits! The Museum of Science is also right next door, which we will hopefully get to next time. 

Star Ferry

Last but not least, we loved taking the Star Ferry. Riding it at night allowed us to see Hong Kong in all its brightness and glory. Plus it made for such an easy (and cost-effective) trip from TST back to our hotel. 

We stayed at the Novotel Century Hong Kong the whole 6 nights we were there, as we did when we last went to Hong Kong. Kelvin is very fond of their breakfast (especially the pancake making machine) and we all love the location. If and when we return to Hong Kong, we will likely stay there again. 

  

The Grit and Glamour of Air Travel

When you think about it, it’s unbelievable the distances that we can travel nowadays. Places that even a few generations ago seemed inconceivably far can now be reached by spending a handful of hours in a floating metal tube. But air travel isn’t all pretty – especially when you’ve been cooped up for 16+ hours. Here were some of the nice and not-so-nice moments from our recent flights.

Glamour: LOUNGE access complete with hot shower facilities, laksa and sesame balls. And lots of Andy-friendly food as pictured below. 

  

Grit: the state of once-clean bathrooms by the end of a direct YYZ > HKG flight


Glamour:
the baby set-up on Cathay Pacific, complete with bassinet, diaper care package, and baby food set (now if only Andy would actually sleep in the bassinet)  
  

Grit: questionable airline food. Especially when you see where it comes from in the galleys. 

Glamour: personal entertainment devices and catching up on fairly recent releases

Grit: having those same entertainment devices about 10 inches from your face because the person in front of you has reclined back so far

On the whole, our flight from Toronto to Hong Kong was quite smooth. Andy didn’t sleep all that much, but he was in really good spirits still. And I sat beside a really nice couple from Niagara who are chicken farmers and had a connecting 10-hour flight to Auckland prior to getting on a cruise. They were the best.

Tourists in Toronto

While Kelvin jetted off to Miami for 40 hours this past weekend, Andy and I had a chance to hang out with family and also see a few things in Toronto. Here are some shots from our escapades. 

   
Our original plan was to head to Riverdale Farm, but we drove by Evergreen Brickworks and decided to stop in there instead. It was quite quiet there, being a weekday, but the weather was gorgeous and we had no problem whiling away an hour. I’ve always really loved Evergreen’s mandate and we even considered doing or wedding there! (Alas the space wasn’t quite large enough for what we wanted) 

 
They’ve got a nice little trail and park behind the buildings and we walked around the quarry and ponds and up to lookout point. The nice lady at the information desk gave us a map of the trails in the Lower Don and we definitely want to explore that more in the future…perhaps on bike??

We then drove down to the Toronto Christmas Market! I’ve never been before so I was really excited to check it out. Perhaps it was my lacklustre bratwurst, or perhaps it was because I was too enthralled in conversation with a new friend that I was meeting for the first time IRL, but I didn’t find the market itself to really be that amazing. We were there on a weekday, so it was free, but I definitely don’t think I’d pay the $5 admission fee to bump shoulders with throngs of people on the weekend. I did have some pretty delicious smores donuts though from Uncle Betty’s Donuts. 

 
The next day we drove downtown again to do a bit of hopping around to fairs. We first visited the Foodie Holiday Pop-Up at Artscae Sandbox. We were only there briefly, but we had lots of samples and picked up some amaretti for my mother-in-law. Next we drove over to West Queen West for City of Craft, which was definitely one of the most amazing craft fairs I’ve ever been to. They had such a range of amazing artisans there and I wanted to buy so much. Like all the prints. From everywhere. After a short stop in to a presentation centre directly opposite where I parked (I am such a sucker for these!! I used to make up excuses to go and get floor plans when I was little so that I could fill them with furniture and dream about living there…) we stopped in to one last fair at the Gladstone, and then we were on our way. 

Not too shabby for just a quick jaunt in the city, I think. I’m heading to Toronto at the end of January for a conference sans-Andy and I am ridiculously excited for my one free evening. Weighing out options of what to do. 

London, England

This post is long overdue. It’s been two weeks since we got back from Europe, and with no written journal to recount our days, I will have to rely on my increasingly poor memory to complete this entry.

Let me start off by saying I love London. If not for this city, I would likely not be alive. Literally. My parents met while studying at the University of London, and I will have you know that on our trip back in 2007, they essentially walked us through their college years. Right down to where my dad would park his motorcycle when they went to Chinatown.  
We flew easyjet from Barcelona to London. There is definitely no shortage of cheap cross-Europe airlines, but my mom recommended it to us. They kill you with checked bag fees, but alas, ’tis life.  We paid for two checked bags when we really only needed one (I didn’t want to run the risk of having to pay more for the bag at the airport). Oh well. We know now for next time.


While we were in town, we stayed at this AirBnB on Sloane Avenue. The location was perfect – short walk to either South Ken tube station or Sloane Square and a Sainsbury just across the street. We loved having a home base from which to enjoy the sights, and the biggest plus was having our own bedroom separate from Andy.

What to See

We took Gatwick Express from the airport to Central London, and with that we were able to access the London 2FOR1 deals. Buy one get one free for certain admissions and food across the city. That was amazing. One place we visited with the deal was the London Transport Museum. Kelvin and I love taking transit whenever we travel, so this place was a dream. We only had 45 minutes to explore, since we got to the Covent Garden area so late, but what we did see was awesome! It was amazing to see how transportation has changed since the beginning of the city’s development, and we loved all the Transport for London paraphernalia! We may or may not have spent a really long time perusing the store afterwards to find the right poster to take home as a souvenir…

Also with the London 2FOR1 deals, we visited the Globe Theatre. I’ve actually been here three times, and this is the first time we were able to go inside and see it! They often have afternoon shows, so if you want to take the tour, I’d definitely try to make it to Southwark in the morning. We took the tube to Blackfriars and then walked across Millennium Bridge to get here. We really enjoyed this tour and I would highly recommend this whether you like Shakespeare or not. We had a super awesome tour guide and I learned so much about the context of Shakespeare’s plays and audience! If Andy was older, I think we would have opted to come back for a performance. Favourite fun fact: Fainting is a regular occurrence at their shows.

One thing that is amazing about London is that so many museums are free. Our favourite one would probably be the Natural History Museum, which we went to on Saturday morning before the lines got too crazy. The dinosaurs exhibit was packed, but it paled in comparison with the dinosaur collections at the ROM or at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. What was awesome was the new Darwin Centre – a space where visitors were able to see firsthand the work that happens behind the scenes at the museum. Everything from the labs to the specimen collections. Having done his degree in biology, this was probably Kelvin’s sightseeing highlight. He lingered at every stop, and it just seemed like everything resonated with him. What a fanboy.

London is also a place for just strolling and exploring. We walked through our share of Royal Parks. We saw Buckingham Palace. We made our way up and down Regent Street and into department stores (we were commissioned by my in-laws to locate some Magnum chocolate, which we found at Selfridges). We enjoyed the buskers at Covent Garden. We ventured all the way out to Canary Wharf and to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

(Side note: Going to the theatre is highly recommended as well – we just didn’t get a chance to this time around. Next time!)

Where to Eat

London is an amazing place to eat, but I’m just going to highlight our two favourites. The first was our Friday lunch at Borough Market. The market is London’s oldest, and the selection is just mindblowing. We ate from half a dozen different stands. Burgers, pasta, baked goods, sausage, shawarma…whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here. My suggestion? Scope out your options beforehand – don’t just jump at the first thing you see. Kelvin and I split up when we got to the market and when we reunited (thank goodness we found each other…we didn’t have each other’s UK cell numbers and our iMessages weren’t working…and the market is a labyrinth) all he could say was that he kept seeing people with burgers and he wanted one. This will happen to you with more than one dish, I promise. We bought a venison burger at this one stall and it was delicious.

Hands down our favourite meal on this trip was at Dishoom. They have multiple locations, but we went to the one near Covent Garden (can you tell that we were around Covent Garden a lot?). Kelvin and I love Indian food and this was well worth the 75 minute wait. Or it might have been 90 minutes… The atmosphere was electric and the food was exquisite. Andy also fell asleep partway through the meal, so it made our experience that much more enjoyable. You can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu, but you must get the calamari. You will not regret it. And have the chai.  

One of the nice things about visiting London is seeing family. My dad’s sister and her family are still in the UK, so we met them in Chinatown for dim sum. It was really nice to wrap up our European getaway by sharing a meal with them. Plus we got to meet my cousin’s little toddler, who we were told was so excited to meet her cousin (Andy) that she couldn’t sleep! I don’t know that Andy lived up to her expectations, though. She barely talked to him the whole meal! Maybe she didn’t realize that he would be a baby. And that he wouldn’t be able to talk…

And there you have it, London in a nutshell. Until next time, London…

The Beauty of the Spanish Seaside

So after our two nights in Barcelona, we headed southwest a short distance along the Spanish coast to attend the wedding of some friends from university (our first transatlantic destination wedding!). Navigating the renfe website prior to this was a total nightmare, plus you can’t book tickets ahead of time for every ride, so we opted just to go to Barcelona-Sants and buy our tickets in person. For less than 9€ each, we were on our way to Altafulla-Tamarit. 

It took us about an hour to get there, and about halfway in, it dawned on us that we were in for a beautiful time. The city gave way to the sea, and the train wove in and out of mountains and valleys. I wish I could have take pictures, but alas I was nursing Andy for the majority of the trip. After arriving at Altafulla-Tamarit station, we walked the few minutes to our hotel. And what a beautiful hotel it was. We had a view of the courtyard, and had it been a tad warmer (or had the pool been heated), we would have plunged in for a dip that afternoon. 

  

Instead, we decided to walk down to the beach, to Carrer Botigues de Mar, for a leisurely stroll towards Tamarit. 

 

The walk reminded us of our time in Newport Beach, except that it was off season so not many of the villas were rented. We headed to the end of the beach before turning around and strolling back. We visited Villa Romana dels Munts (well, we walked up a hill to a dead end street where we could see it all) and then enjoyed a wonderful beachside dinner with the other guest of the wedding. 
The next morning, we decided to visit Tarragona and see some of its sights. We took a ridiculously expensive taxi ride to Pont del Diable, a Roman aqueduct a short distance north of Tarragona. It was amazing to see the architectural feat they accomplished…

 …and even to be able to walk across it!
  
To save ourselves some money, we decided to take the bus back into town. It was actually really easy – we took the 85 (you could also take the 5) bus from right off the highway and it wound its way through Sant Salvador back into Tarragona. And it cost us less than 2€ each. We saw the Mediterranean Balcony, their version of Las Ramblas, and the beautiful Roman amphitheatre they’ve preserved. The city is absolutely stunning, and had we had more time, we definitely would have wanted to see more. 

    

And this brings us to the real reason we came to Europe – the wedding! The whole occasion took place at the beautiful Castell de Tamarit, and MAN were we blown away. 

 
I mean, look at that ceremony venue! Does it get any more perfect? (I will have you know that that pool is strictly for looks. We asked repeatedly whether swimming was permitted, and much to the dismay of some guests, it was not.) 

There were a number of little courtyards and spaces (and come to think of it, we never actually stepped into the castle itself) that we got to enjoy while eating more than a dozen hors d’oeuvres. Below the cliffs and walls, people lounged on the public beach, which beckoned to us. 

  
Looking up, the castle was just stunning.    

The dinner venue was no less magical. 

 At the end of the night, we were pooped, but also filled with the beauty of the people and environment that we were surrounded by. 

The next morning, reluctantly, we packed up our things and headed back on the train to Barcelona. Once more, we whizzed by the seaside, surrounded by many more people this time. Old ladies on their way into the city, students heading to another town for class, businessmen presumably going to work or catching a flight. 

Arriving back into Sants, we took another train to the airport, and after a two hour delay (thank you, French air controller strike), we were on or way to London. 

30.

Has it been 30 weeks already??

I’m going to keep this post short, as it is almost midnight here in London and my head has already hit my pillow (yes I know it’s terrible, but we both bring our phones into bed). The past week has been wonderful, though Andy’s sleep routine has been atrocious. We are loving spending time in Europe and the more we see in London, the more excited we are for when Andy is bigger and able to actually understand what he is seeing. We went to the natural history museum today and Kelvin and I kept talking about how cool it would be if Andy loved science. 

There are times when Andy is super squirmy or when he cries so hard it sounds like he’s yelling. That happened on the tube yesterday and it was not pretty. All in all, though, good times. 

Here are some pictures from around London. 

  

  

  

Barcelona, Spain

Hola from Spain! So I’ve attempted to finish this post about Barcelona on a number of occasions, and alas here I am, writing it as I wait at the airport for our flight to London, which has been delayed. A post on the second half of our Spain leg will have to wait. 

First off, let me just put it out there. Whenever you tell someone that you’re going to Barcelona, the thing that most often comes up is a story about one pickpocket experience or another. Thankfully, the policia has ramped up their security around the city, especially in places like La Ramblas. We’ve been pretty vigilant and my parents let us borrow their pacsafe backpack, so all has been well!

All that aside, Barcelona is truly a beautiful city and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know it over the last two days. We took a red eye flight (such a good idea – Andy slept really well) and arrived into the airport around 12:30 on Sunday. After no more than two words with the customs officer, we were released into Spain and all its glory. 

  
On our first day, we were a little lacking in sleep (good movies on the plane get us every time…) so we didn’t stay out too late. However, we did manage to get in a pedicab tour of the old city (loved meandering through narrow streets and into the Parc de la Ciutadella), a quick pop in to see the ruins at El Born, and some dinner. It was also a Sunday, so pretty much everything was closed anyways. 

 

We stayed at Le Meridien right on Las Ramblas, which was a perfect home base for us as we explored the city. Its proximity to Placa de Catalunya was perfect, and though we’d never stayed there before, it had an SPG familiarity that we have come to look for whenever we travel. 

Andy is a huge hit everywhere we go. He is not shy at all and he smiles at everyone who engages him (and for those who don’t engage him, he takes the initiative). On the bus turistic, he made friends with the other passengers, and when he wasn’t doing that, he tried to eat all the handholds (gross). 

  
Undoubtedly, having spent only one full day in Barcelona, we were able to see but a little portion of the city, but here are a few of the highlights from our trip so far.

Eat

bacoa universitat – just a few steps from Placa de Catalunya, this burger bar has a very North American feel to it, but with the most delicious burgers ever. Highly recommend the one with manchego cheese and caramelised onions!

Carmelitas – best tapas ever. We ordered all these seafood tapas and every single one was delicious. So was their tiramisu. If we had discovered this place earlier we may have had all our subsequent meals here. 

  

See

On our one full day, we opted for the hop on hop off (also purchased ahead of time online for 10% off) to bring us around to the sights. It was a beautiful day and we thoroughly enjoyed that open-air, rooftop seating. Plus if we sat in the right spot, we could see our stroller which needed to be stored on the main floor. They give you headphones for the onboard audio guide, through which you get more info about each of the places you’re passing. 

Sagrada Familia – I’d been here in 2007, but they’ve done quite a bit more work since then! We booked our tickets ahead of time (highly recommended) and opted not to get the audio guide. The entire structure awes you, and the way light is reflected into the cathedral is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Gaudi truly was a master architect inspired by nature. 

  
Montjuic – We paid for the teleferic (even with a 2€ discount it felt steep) and went for a walk at the top of the hill by the castle. We didn’t actually go into the castle, though one could for 5€/3€ (16-29 years. 

  
The best thing, really, is just walking around and enjoying the sights. There is so much to see and explore and so many little cafes that I wish I could while away my time in. Perhaps when we come to Spain next we will visit Port Vell and peruse some of the galleries and museums in the city. 

Thoughts on Getting Around with a Child

I’ve been meaning to do a post on our carriers and strollers and just never got around to it. Andy is now 5 months old, and he has definitely had his share of travelling. He has been on a total of eight planes, about a dozen cars and taxis, two boats, a train, and public transit in three separate cities. My parents keep talking about how they make carting a child around so easy now, and I would have to agree. It’s also a whole lot more comfortable.

Now, Kelvin is a big a researcher. He is the one who combs through reviews and comments before we make any of our big purchases. I am very thankful to him for that, because I am not that diligent. When he strongly recommends something, I know that it’s because he has weighed out endless other options and has decided this was the best one. Before I go on, let me add a disclaimer that this is what works best for us, our body types, and our lifestyle. Others may vehemently oppose.

CarrierTula Baby Carrier

Four words. We love the carrier. It’s so great for quick jaunts and Andy loves it. It’s a must when we travel, and we will continue to bring it with us even when we bring our travel stroller. When he was little, he would fall asleep in it in an instant. He still does sleep in it, but now he stays awake much longer in it due to his general curiosity with the world.

The sunshade helps to keep his head in place when he falls asleep, and it also does its intended task of protecting his little face from rays. The pocket in the front is home to his hat and my iPhone.

There was a short time about two months ago where the carrier was a little frustrating, though. He was too big for his little feet to be in the carrier comfortably in the froggy position, but he was too small to be able to comfortably pop his little legs out. I spent more time than I should have looking at proper carrier baby positions, convinced that I was screwing up his feet. Thankfully, we got through it, and now his little feet stick out the sides. It’s super cute.

Upon looking at the Tula website, I think the prices have dropped a little bit since we bought our carrier. Plus they have added some more cute prints. I think one of the biggest reasons Kelvin voted for this carrier over the other one we were trying was for aesthetic reasons.

Also, my parents both like the Tula. When they came to visit last week, they put him in it often and went for strolls around the neighbourhood.

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CarseatChicco Keyfit 30

I must admit, not as much research and testing went into this purchase, but we are happy with it nonetheless. It is middle of the pack in most areas – price, features, weight. It’s functional, the base is easy to install in the car (ridiculously easy), and Andy falls asleep in it all the time. In fact, he is asleep in it right now. He nodded off in the car, in the 3 minutes it takes to get from the library to our home. Taking him out of the car seat when sleeping often results in him waking up, so I opt to leave him in there and just watch him sleep in the bucket.

His little feet will soon pop over the edge of the bucket, and we removed the bottom infant insert ages ago, but the infant head rest we’ve kept in place. We should probably wash that…

Also, it took me a few months to discover that underneath the canopy is an additional pop-out canopy that provides extra sun protection. For those first few months I looked with envy on other baby seats that had huge, convertible canopies. That was silly of me.

It fits into our stroller well, and I would say a good percentage of our photos from Andy’s first month were taken in this carseat.

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Day-to-day StrollerBumbleride Indie

So our original intention was to get the Indie 4, but when we got to the store in Ottawa, we both gravitated towards the Indie. The biggest reason was so that I could take it out with me on the trails when I wanted to go for a walk. I continue to be thankful for this decision, because I have seen many a four-wheeled stroller struggle its way through trails and streets, while this bad boy trucks through snow and ice. It is by no means a Maserati-level stroller, but it’s also not a typical travel system that you can get at Walmart. At this point in the game, I have mastered the art of getting it out of our car and ready for Andy with one hand, all while holding him in the other. I cannot, however, fold it down with one hand.

There’s a lot of care put into the simplicity of the design, but also some really thoughtful features. I love that we can recline it all the way (more than once, I have used it as a change table when no such table could be found) and that it has a little peekaboo flap so I can see him when he’s sitting inside. It’s also lighter than some of the jogging strollers I’ve carried, so that was a huge plus for me. The storage underneath is fantastic and we use it mostly for our carrier and library books. The cupholder, though spartan, does its job. Don’t think about putting your phone in there, though. I assure you it will fall out.

When Andy is older and we, God-willing, have another child, our plan is to get the mini board attachment so he can ride along while his little brother/sister sits in the front.

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Our stroller and our carseat, even though now we mostly just put him in without the carseat.

Travel StrollerMaclaren Mark II

Ah yes, our impulse buy. Our “it is way too hot to have him in the carrier” buy. I gave my two cents about this stroller in this post, and I stand by my opinion that it was the best decision. When you’re buying a travel stroller, you are not necessarily looking for bells and whistles. What you’re looking for is weight and ease of use. The Mark II wins in both of these. Hands down. Sometimes I take Andy out in this stroller just because it’s so easy to. When we head to Europe and Asia later on this year and next year, we will be bringing this with us. Because it would be foolish of us not to.

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Ithaca!

This past weekend we went to Ithaca to celebrate the start of a friend’s marriage. It was a beautiful, simple, and completely fitting wedding with a delicious, communal meal. We were surrounded by the best bounty upstate New York has to offer (quite literally, as the wedding took place at a farm) and unparalleled company. Kelvin and I are always thankful for opportunities like these, which inevitably will become rarer and rarer as more of our friends begin new family units.


We’d only been to Ithaca once before, about a year prior to this visit, and it was every bit as beautiful as we remembered. Last time, we walked the gorges, canoed to the farmers market, and ventured out to Taughannock Falls State Park to name a few. This time, we explored the new Ithaca Commons, visited the market twice (again), and enjoyed the AirBnB that we rented.

I think Ithaca holds a very nostalgic place in my mind. A “this is how towns should be” sort of nostalgia, with its ethos of stewardship and sustainability, where intellect and action coexist. Though small, it sets an example for many much larger cities.

Maybe part of it is that I see a lot of Kingston in Ithaca (or perhaps vice versa?), and I have come to love so much of what Kingston stands for. Either way, it made for a wonderfully relaxing weekend away from home.

Nashville: Part 3

When I was little, I was a little obsessive with keeping track of everything I did on vacation. In fact, the trip Kelvin and I took to Boston last year was the first time I didn’t write in a journal. Now that I am trying to recount our vacation, I am seeing how valuable those journals were (and we only got back from our trip last week)!

I’ve shared about our trip to Nashville in Part 1 and Part 2, and now here is Part 3.

After a few days of hanging out closer to the Gaylord Opryland (and a visit to Opry Mills essentially right next door), we headed back downtown for one more day. One thing we really enjoyed about taking the bus downtown was knowing that when it pulled up, Billy would be in the driver seat. Even though we only took that bus 3 times, we felt this strange connection to Billy (maybe it had something to do with the 45 minute bus breakdown on day 1). On the day we went to the supermarket, he told us he’d be looking out for us on the return trip! The bus also had regulars, like the lady who was always there on our 9:45 pick up, chatting it up with Billy, a towel slung over her left shoulder.

Our first stop was Cumberland Park (accessible via the Shelby Street pedestrian bridge). Nashville is seriously upping its waterfront game, and if Andy was just a little bit older, he would have LOVED this place.

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Seriously, it was like all of Nashville’s children knew to come here. There was this busy splash pad area, beside which was an astroturf wonderland called The Hollows. For children who preferred not to get wet, there was a bouldering wall and little play area. There were definitely some preteens and teenagers there enjoying the park alongside these little rascals. And let’s be honest, I totally wanted to play too. Now there is the mark of a well-designed park. Fun for all ages!

Afterwards, we headed back across the river to have lunch at Pinewood Social. If I were to ever start a business, I would want it to be like this place. Part hangout, part bar, part restaurant, part bowling alley, this place was the best.

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I had a grilled cheese that was out of this world, and Andy had some respite from the beating sun.

Because of some roadwork, our bus ride to the Ryman took quite a while (just you wait, we really hit a homerun today with the Nashville tourist spots!). A friend had suggested that we check the Ryman out, so we did, and it was such a fascinating thing to be able to hear about its glory days, neglect, and revival. I had read online about the 11-minute “show” that played before the self-guided tour, and it did not disappoint! We didn’t stay too long here, though, as we wanted to get a rest in at the park.

So we were headed to the West End on the bus (3 or 5 will get you to Centennial Park, where as the 7 will take you down 21st Ave south of Vanderbilt campus) when we passed by the Frist Centre. Yet another spot on our must-see list! We had originally intended to come down again the next day, but then I thought “Oh, why not just see it today” (I’m very glad we did, as we ended up staying at the hotel the next day). We hopped off the bus, walked the long block back to the centre, and got our tickets. Now, we had opted not to bring the stroller with us, so Andy had been chilling (really, cooking) in the carrier the entire trip. but this place provided strollers for free. WHAT. It was the best thing ever. We explored Italian Fashion and postcards and contemporary art. They also have this awesome section called ArtQuest where you get to make your own art. There were a ton of kiddos in there, though, so I opted not to create art this time around.

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I really did not want to leave the Frist, due in large part to this stroller, but alas, it was time to go. We caught the bus again and headed to Centennial Park. This was the site of the 1897 Expo, and home to the world’s only full-size replica of the Parthenon. Random, yes, but still quite an amazing sight. Andy and I took a little stroll around the park, then settled down for a nice rest. Two things that were nice around the park: (1) These oversized swings dotted the park for people to sit on; and (2) Plaques along the trail explained the history of the park. I’m all about merging recreation and learning :)IMG_1388We hung out at the park for a good 2 hours probably. Then we walked through Vanderbilt campus and ended up in a line for Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. This too came recommended by a friend, and Kelvin said it was some of the best (if not the best) fried chicken he had ever had. It was thoroughly enjoyable. Just so you know – counter service, expect a line.

The next day was our last full day in Nashville, topped off with Kelvin’s work gala dinner. Then an early morning flight to our next destination (for Kelvin’s true vacation): New York City!

Nashville: Part 2 (or How to Navigate the Gaylord Opryland Hotel)

At some point in the 90s, or maybe the early 2000s, I came to Nashville with my family. The only thing I remember about the city was our visit to the Opryland Hotel. More specifically, I remember going on the riverboat ride and hearing about the Presidential Suites that cost a few thousand dollars a night. I told my grandparents that when I got a job, I would treat them to a night in the suites. I have since gotten a job, but there has been no reason for them to return to Nashville.

This time around, we actually had a chance to stay in the Gaylord Opryland hotel. MAN this hotel is huge, and the whole place was a blur for us on the first day. But never fear, we figured it out, and I am here to tell you all about it.

First off, here is a map of the resort.

As you can see, there are five sections, one of which is the convention area. Figure out which section you are in (we were in Delta) and locate the elevator nearest to your room. You may want to get in the habit of using that elevator so that you’re not disoriented when you try to use a different one.

Once you figure out where your room is, make it a point to walk from your room to the Cascades lobby. Follow the signage, and make note of any landmarks. Then from there, do a loop of the whole hotel, going up the escalators towards the Garden Conservatory Skywalk, into the Magnolia section, past Fuse sports bar and Jack Daniel’s, into the Convention Centre, down the escalator to Delta Island (level 1), and through the Delta walkway to get back to the Cascades walkway. The whole place becomes a whole lot less confusing once you’ve walked around a few times.

When in doubt, go to level 2. You can access pretty much everything from that level, including the fitness centre and both the indoor and outdoor Cascades pools. You can either get to it through the Cascades guest room hallways, or through the Cascades skywalk.

Alright, now for some fun things that we did…

We took Andy swimming for the first time at the Opryland! We opted for the Magnolia pool even though it’s not as glitzy as the Cascades pool, because it’s in a courtyard and offers some good shadow coverage in the late afternoon/early evening. I did not want Andy roasting out there! Both Cascades and Magnolia have wading pools beside the main pool, so it was perfect for us. We didn’t have any swim diapers, so we coughed up the $5 for a disposable swim diaper at one of the Necessities stores inside the hotel (be prepared to pay some crazy markups for toiletries if you forget anything).

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We also got to enjoy quite a few things in the Delta section, including the 15-minute narrated riverboats tour ($9.50 if you’re staying at the hotel, $10.50 if you’re not) and part of the fountain show, which happens daily on the hour between 6 and 9 pm. We even built our own burgers at Stax! Suggestion? Get the combo if you’re going alone, but know that there are enough fries to share between two people!

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We really enjoyed our room, and Andy loved his little rollaway crib, so we made sure to spend some time in there as well! Remember, though, when you leave the room, to physically close the door. Unlike at most other hotels, the doors don’t always bang shut on their own, and I stumbled upon quite a few unsecured rooms. Better safe than sorry! (And speaking of safe, there’s a safe in the room, so use it!)

Last but not least, if you want to head beyond the hotel, options abound. There are free shuttles to the Inn at Opryland, Opry Mills, and the Grand Ole Opry (all of which are also within walking distance) and paid shuttles downtown and to the airport. Just know that it’s cheaper to take a taxi to the airport, especially if there’s more than one of you. And as for heading downtown, ask for the $25 flat rate in a taxi or take transit, like I mentioned in Part 1 of this Nashville series (The 34, which takes you downtown, also takes you past Kroger supermarket, where Andy and I went to pick up a few groceries for our days there).

So that’s the Opryland in a nutshell. Good times.

Nashville: Part 1 | Part 3