Life’s been hectic around these parts lately. We rang in mother’s day at home, filled with home-made cinnamon buns, hand-made crafts, and a viewing of The Light Princess at the Arden. There was also playground time, more crafting, and generally a day organized for me by Sophia and Eliza. This is the first year both the girls are cognizant of the holiday and wanted to spend every single moment of it with me. The pictures, as few as there are, are forthcoming. Until then… a deeper glance into our recent vacation.
Just three days ago I was sitting under a 300-year old nispero tree in a former Carmelite monastery on a hot and starry night. Dreaming. The former monastery is now a beautiful hotel saved from the wrecking ball in the nick of time and thoughtfully restored with antiques sourced from Spain. This was our ground base for a week as we toured Puerto Rico over Sophia’s spring break.
This was our second time in Puerto Rico and we were so very enchanted by the first, albeit brief, visit that we vowed to come back as soon as possible. In this case, as soon as possible meant three and a half years (and another baby) later. For many, Puerto Rico is a springboard for more exotic destinations or cruises. However, the island, which happens to be a U.S. territory, deserves quite a bit of attention. Besides having glorious weather, it is also architecturally striking and has just about the friendliest locals. I am forever impressed how much of its own language, culture, and customs this sizable island has retained.
The local cuisine was delicious and, I am happy to admit, sampled by everyone in our family. Mofongo was a surprising favorite and the local guava flavors are going to be difficult to get out of my mind.
… and this …
I once told Sophia that I would take her to Italy if she learns to eat pasta with all sorts of different sauces. Italy, after all, is one of the few places in the world where you could eat pasta at both lunch and dinner and chase your meal with gelato without too much guilt. Traveling isn’t just about eating though and museums provide a welcome respite from the heat, crowds, and the occasional gluttony. Visiting museums especially ones with the opposite mission from the Please Touch Museum (which believes immersion through interaction is important) is an acquired skill for children. Evan and I are keen on ensuring that Eliza and Sophia acquire said skill here in Philadelphia and at an early age, too.
For those not in the know, the first Sunday of every month is a “Pay What You Wish” at The Philadelphia Museum of Art. We took the girls just as it opened to visit the beautiful collections of which the Japanese Tea House and the transported Abbey proved among their favorites. Sophia’s absolute favorite work was Degas’ “The Little Dancer…” sculpture which she spent quite a bit of time taking in.
The beautiful day at the art museum capped off a fun-filled weekend which started with amazing fun with Grammie and Pop and all-the-awesome-and-new-to-them-toys-Grammie-always-has.
Evan and I just returned from a weekend in Mexico City. This getaway almost didn’t happen because … life gets hectic this time of year or maybe, now-a-days, it is hectic all year round. Fortunately, traveling without kids doesn’t require so much planning or diligent packing. Although it was a difficult choice between a relaxing beach/mountains destination and an active getaway in one of the largest cities in the world, we are glad we chose the latter.
Mexico City was, by far, the most unexpected and welcome surprise. I expected a big sprawling city that would feel foreign and unfamiliar bursting at the seams with ~20 million people. Instead, I found a lively, beautiful metropolis, densely packed with parks and public works of art. The architecture of Mexico City is the most awe-inspiring juxtaposition of European renaissance splendor and geometric grandness typical of Aztec and other pre-Columbian styles.
The city is lively, vibrant, full of colors, flavors, smells that are otherworldly (at least to us). Here is a Mole spice stand presenting all the chilis and spices that are called for in most recipes.
The architecture is grand and there are even government-funded musicians in the streets which play lovely classical tunes, but the food, the food is nothing short of extraordinary. Restaurants, stands open all day, every day, full of exotic treats and delights for the locals and adventurous travelers. Theirs is a food and drink culture and at the price of ~ $1.oo USD for a taco, you couldn’t not try a bit of everything. Even the crickets and ant eggs. CRICKETS AND ANT EGGS. Yes, we tried them.
Art. Art. Art. Mexico City has more museums than any other city in the world. These are Diego Rivera’s murals in the Palacio National. There’s so much to see and take in from them that, to really understand all that he is trying to convey, I’ll have to come back over and over again.
Art in museums and art on the streets. We’re spoiled with our murals here in Philadelphia but the ones in Mexico City were such a treat. Vibrant and traditional they made for welcome surprises as we explored the city.
Culinary traditions are highly respectful of seasonality and we happened to be visiting the last week of mushroom season. You can put anything into a taco including mushrooms, pumpkin (the season for it is just starting now) and huilacoche.
Authentic aztec treasures exported from the surrounding areas exported straight into the jungle of the city.
Wild, eclectic, awe-inspiring, utterly charming, and eye opening is how I found Mexico City. But perhaps the best treasure that this wonderful city has to offer are the people. Warm, enchanting, religious, traditional, and spirited they live in harmony with a great respect for one another, for their culture, and their families. So the next time you want to go to Mexico, think about forsaking the beach and going to Mexico City to see it for yourself.
Having had our fill of Maine, we drove down to Boston to explore the city and its offerings. I’ve been to Boston many times though I mostly stayed to Cambridge where I was, at the time, collaborating with Draper Labs. It had been a while since I saw the city proper and explored its vibrant neighborhoods. Realizing that strolling the streets all day long may not be nearly as exciting for Sophia and Eliza as it is for Evan and I, we structured our day around one kid-centered activity followed by strolling and exploration.
The afternoon after our arrival we spent settling into our hotel which was located in Beacon Hill and then strolled to dinner from where we visited the Boston Fire Museum. The next day, we toured Harvard noting that the girls would be graduating class of 2032 and 2035. We noted that until we overheard that tuition at Harvard is something like $67,000/year. That is this year’s tuition for a single year.
We loved touring Harvard. The campus is beautiful filled with green spaces and architecturally inspiring buildings. I find that college campuses and the student body exude such a wonderful energy. Last year, Sophia visited Philadelphia’s Museum of Natural History and we thought that the one housed at Harvard would be a great educational experience and provide a bit of respite from the sun. We are glad we opted for the Harvard Museum of Natural History instead of the Aquarium because it was so well curated. The only thing that topped that day was a trip to the world’s only Curious George store where we picked out some coloring books and noted a great book.
We made our last day in Boston about the much-anticipated Children’s Museum and we weren’t disappointed. The girls loved all the exhibits and there was even things for Evan and me to get excited about such as the Japanese House . We rounded off our last day with an evening stroll of the liberty trail and a splash in one of the public fountains.
Evan and I were a little hesitant to embark on this vacation/trip/getaway but we are so glad that we did. We had a wonderful time, saw, learned, and enjoyed fun experiences. More than that, we bonded, spent time as a family and we can’t wait to do it again.
Here are a few dining recommendations:
- Pastoral serves up delicious fare right out of their wood-burning oven and manages to please tiny eaters, too. They have a great selection of pizzas and veggies and are conveniently located across the street from the Boston Fire Museum.
- Clover offers organic breakfast fare and small-source pour-over coffees in a very cool modern space. Good for breakfast/snack/coffee break.
- J.P. Licks is Boston’s way in ensuring we’ll be back. Delicious ice cream. The end.
- Q Restaurant offers multi-nation asian fare in a modern space making it the perfect selection for families with many tastes and preferences.
- Ogawa Coffee is an accidental find close to Beacon hill providing delicious coffee and healthful breakfast options.
- State Street Provisions has not just delicious but healthful and creative options for little and big kids alike. It is set in the port near the aquarium, across the street from splashing fountains and near a carousel.
I grew up in a family that traveled extensively and am incredibly fortunate to have lived and visited many exciting and captivating places in the world. Evan and I share this passion together and spent months over our 15 years together traveling.
The details of the trip are pretty simple — 2 days in Maine, 3 days in Boston. While we are content on the beach, especially with a book in hand, we wanted to mix things up to make sure Sophia and Eliza felt occupied. Our flight out was on Thursday afternoon ensuring that we beat the mad weekend rush to all the beaches in Maine and got a head start on
lobster rolls fresh air. Kennebunkport served as our home base in Maine. We visited the Portland Headlight Lighthouse and Portland on one day and made the next day a beach day.
I found an astoundingly small number of recommendations for restaurants and things to do when planning the details of the trip. What I did find and what we discovered ourselves, I am sharing so that others can hopefully benefit.
- You can’t go wrong staying in Kennebunkport. The Bushes, after all, have a huge compound there. It’s scenic, close to both Portsmouth, Portland, and it boasts beautiful beaches and a very family-focused vibe. We stayed in Dock Square which was central to everything and close to the beaches.
- Kennebunport: Alisson’s is great if you’re traveling with kids. The food is simple, but well prepared and locally-sourced. The kids menu lists the very same fried chicken bites and fish and chips but the dishes were obviously made in house. They provide crayons and coloring pages, too.
- Kennebunport: The Clam Shack lives up to its reputation as the best lobster roll in the world. Uncomplicated, fresh, and done just right, the lobster rolls and fried clams are the very definition of a laid back summer. I would consider a trip to Kennebunport just for these.
- Kennebunport: Salt and Honey provides good fresh seafood-heavy options in a laid back setting.
- Kennebunkport: It wouldn’t be a summer trip without a visit to a local ice cream parlor. Rocococo Artisan Ice Cream did not disappoint despite the fact that we live within 5 minutes of world-class parlors and make our own, too. The kids opted for the delicious chocolate and mint chip while Evan and I tried spicy ginger and fragrant guava. Yum.
- Portland: Portland is a must-see if you can tear yourself away from the beach and relaxation. There, you will find Central Provisions which offers inventive dishes that are both delicious and new. I wouldn’t say this is child-friendly in terms of the menu but worth a try with kids who are 5+.
- Portland: The Holy Donut serves up unique flavors of potato donuts. Donuts. Enough said.
- Portsmouth: We were in for huge surprise in terms of atmosphere and food at the Flatbread Company. It doesn’t look all that special and is fairly big which makes one think big, mass-produced, and run of the mill food. Instead, there are flatbreads and pizzas made with organic ingredients and fired in a wood burning oven. There is a big log for people to sit on in front of the oven. The girls loved watching Charlie fire the pizzas and Eliza was ready to stay and apprentice.
I wouldn’t say that traveling with the girls proved easy mostly because Eliza, who is just about to turn two, has decided to become a highly selective eater. We made the most of our trip despite Eliza’s refusal to nap, a newly acquired penchant for french fries, and the belief that she has a right to declare an end to our meal whenever.
Did you know that you could ride the train in this arrangement, too?
Once in D.C., we spent our time visiting the Postal Museum, the National Building Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery. The girls loved the Kogod Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery; Eliza couldn’t get enough of the “feet-in/hands-on” water features and Sophia spent her time coloring and drawing. She must have been inspired by what she saw at in the exhibits.
The building museum was new to us and we loved their hands-on building exhibits for children. They had a child-sized home complete with a kitchen and a living room. Sophia donned on an apron and started to cook.
One of the exhibits at the building exhibit was called “Small Stories” and featured doll houses from as early as the 18th century. The detail and craftsmanship was extraordinary as were the stories of the families who owned these works of art. There was one doll house, built in 1740, which was passed down from mother to oldest daughter. Each daughter added and embellished the house until the early 20th century when it was sold to the Victoria and Albert museum in London.
As usual with getaways and vacations, our visit was far too short. Everyone got back thoroughly tired and hungry but enriched from all the new things that we saw, experienced, and learned. Until next time, Washington, D.C., We will definitely back—later for longer.
We’ve long come to the conclusion that, for the man who has everything, experiences are more pleasurable than tangible items.
New York offers so much to do, and our time there is always limited. We chose to forego seeing a play and instead focused this trip on art. Having been to the Met, the MOMA, and the Guggenhem, we focused on two smaller galleries each of which had a particular art focus.
First, we visited the Frick Collection which featured Andrea del Sarto‘s charcoal sketches as a special exhibition. The sketches were awe-inspiring and I found it difficult to comprehend how a few simple strokes can, together, showcase such movement and emotion. The permanent collection was even more impressive in its breadth: works by El Grego, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas, and Monet were incredible. I am partial to El Greco, and having seen many of his works in Toledo—the city he called his home—I was once again reminded about his mastery with color, shading, and the marriage of Byzantine traditions into western-style works. This painting in particular caught my eye. His shading was so exquisite that one cannot help but want to reach out and touch the robes of the subjects.
We switched things up on Sunday with a visit to the Neue Gallerie which mainly focuses on post-impressionist art from Germany and Austria from the time of the Weimar Republic until and into the Third Reich. I wanted to see Klimpt’s “The Woman in Gold” and as magnificent as it was, it didn’t overshadow other fascinating pieces including fashions, jewelry, and photography from the period.
We interspersed our time at the galleries with tours of the Essex and Chelsea markets and a cider tasting. There may have also been a visit to a New York institution, a busy establishment for libations, and an beautiful dinner.
New York is big, bold, and beautiful. It’s crowded, enigmatic, diverse, and ever changing. These are the very reasons we keep coming back, to get recharged, to see how it’s changed, and understand a little more about ourselves through our experiences there.
I could, and I will, regale you with countless stories of our adventures in Denmark but wanted to share a few odds and ends, things we found unique, sensical, surprising or otherwise noteworthy.
- The Danes are a tall set. There were multiple instances where I found myself too short to see a mirror mounted above a sink. I am 5’2.5 by the way. And yes, that half inch is very important—to me. An added bonus for Evan is that in addition to being a nation of giants (just my perspective, really), they also don’t carry petites, and as such, I wasn’t able to accomplish any clothes shopping.
- This really is the land of endless summer sunshine. The sun is bright and it shines from very early on and until very, very late (at least in the summer). The sun set sometime around 9 or 10 PM when we were there and it stayed fairly light for another hour still.
- You won’t find frumpy or cluttered spaces in this country that is the birthplace and epitome of modern decor. I noticed that many homes decorated their windowsills with various accents from lamps to candle, pottery or fine porcelain figurines. The windowsills were beautiful and gave a passer-by a quick peek into the personality of the home and its dwellers.
- Kids, kids, and kids galore. The Danes, unlike Germany for example, are happy to be fruitful and multiply children. We saw many families with multiple children and many of them had three!
- Fitness is high up on the list of priorities for the Danes. Although I only saw one gym, we saw many people biking and jogging along the banks of the Øresund.
- Though important, fitness does not trump the amazing diet that the Danish population enjoys. Enjoying the fruits of the land and sea, the Danes follow a diet that is extremely similar to the one I grew up with. Breakfast is a big deal—cured meats, cheeses, breads, butter and dairy products are all staples on the table. A large and filling breakfast tends to carry you through to lunch which is enjoyed later than is typical for us at around 1:30 or 2:00. Smørrebrød or open-faced sandwiches are typical for lunch as are hot dishes. Beer flows freely even for those who have to go back to the office. The evening meal is much later (at least in the summer) and often enjoyed outdoors, soaking up the last sun-rays of the day. Small dishes and plenty of them are served for dinner chased with plenty of good wine and beer. Most surprising to me was the lack of vegetables we saw in the diet. Well, perhaps not vegetables, but rather salads. Carrots, peas and whatever else is seasonal was incorporated into the absolutely mouthwatering Danish cuisine. That said, I saw no salads, no heaps of lettuce or pounds of spinach weighed down with heavy dressings. Just as well, I didn’t grow up eating salads either and did not observe any obesity issues in the former USSR and not in Denmark either. Maybe these Danes are onto something? Maybe pickled herring and smoked mackerel, of which there were plenty, even at breakfast, is the magic diet food? Perhaps it is all about moderation, or the urban lifestyle?
- Snacking was not at all common and neither was eating on the go. Coffee breaks and drinks, however, were observed with great enthusiasm. Evan and I were only too keen to try and blend in with the locals.
- Dining, drinks and coffee were enjoyed at incredible leisure. In fact, it was very obvious that the locals viewed time out with company as not about the meal but more about spending time with company. It was as though they were paying for the time that can be spent at this establishment over the sole enjoyment of sustenance.
- Picnicking is central to the culture and much supported through the many, many green spaces this small nation enjoys. Green spaces and clean air. The air, even in Copenhagen, one of the cleanest I’ve breathed in a long time. No great surprise as Denmark is powered entirely by wind power.
- And last… not least… even the littlest royals, back in the day, enjoyed posh seating. This must be the most decadent high chair known to mankind ;-).
In years past, I was of a mindset that there is no time to waste; I liked to get off the airplane and rush to our hotel, drop off our bags and get started with sightseeing. However, I have come to believe that the journey itself is worth savoring.
Our vacation didn’t begin just when we landed—it began when we boarded our plane. As I enjoyed a leisurely glass of sparkling wine, remnants of last minute stress of packing/cleaning/cooking started to ebb away.
Evan and I iterated over our itinerary quite a few times before settling on two major destinations—The Danish Riviera and Copenhagen. The Danish Riviera, located just an hour away from Copenhagen, is the spectacularly beautiful northern coastline of Zealand. Small towns and villages dot the rustic shell and rock-filled beaches welcoming mostly Scandinavian, well-heeled families during the spring and summer months. Unspoiled, unpretentious, offering clean air, delicious food, and artisan crafts, it is easy to see why many families choose to spend their vacations here.
Having made Gilleleje our home-base in the Riviera, we spent two and a half days taking leisurely drives to a few small villages, visiting a few castles (this one and this one), a museum, catching up on Nordic cuisine, and resting. We stayed here and enjoyed meals here, here, and here. The hotel was amazing; simple (no TVs), unpretentious, right on the sea which meant we slept with our windows open lulled by the gentle waves. We can’t recommend it enough and should you want to visit, this is pretty much the only option since most people own or rent cottages. We enjoyed every single meal, too and highly recommend these restaurants among the many, many other options along the coast.
While the Riviera and Denmark isn’t my home, I felt very much at home there. We are so thoroughly charmed, that we’re set on brining the girls here for a summer vacation in a few years.