Puerto Rico: things to see, do, and EAT

We’ve been having so much fun on our Grand Tour, we haven’t been doing a great job keeping up on the blog. The Babe has been recording her reflections, the Mama is just behind on transcribing them. We’ll get back to it once we’re home. For now, the Mama is taking over for a special blog post.

We’ve had an amazing time connecting with other traveling families on Instagram! In the last few weeks, we’ve given several families suggestions on things to see, do, and (most importantly) EAT in Puerto Rico–the Mama’s home country. It seems like it’s time to write a little blog post so that all the information is in one place and easy to share with our friends!

About Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a common wealth of the United States. It is the smallest of the great Antilles, and is located in the Caribbean South-East of Florida. For Americans, it’s a great place to visit for a variety of reasons including:

-the island uses US currency, so there’s no need to deal with exchange rates.

-English is taught in the schools starting in Kindergarten, and most people–especially if they work in hospitality–speak English.

-it’s easy to navigate, and the speed limit signs are all in MPH. However, for some unknown reason (to me) fuel is sold in liters.

-you do not need a passport or visa to visit–it’s just like visiting any state!

It’s a great place for non-Americans to visit too! Namely because:

-the island is gorgeous. It has so much ecological diversity in a very small space; from mountains, to beaches, to desert, to rainforest. As far as I understand it, the only ecological system the island doesn’t have is tundra.

-the people are kind and generous.

-the food is AMAZING.

-it only takes 2.5-3 hours to cross the entire island from East to West, and about 1.5-2 hours to cross North to South. In other words, you can see a lot in a short period of time (just be aware of traffic on any time sensitive trips…especially in to/out of San Juan).

I would definitely recommend a car rental! And if you’re traveling during high season (summer, but also Christmas/New Years), I recommend booking early and with a recognized company. It’s an island, so there is a finite number of cars available for rental. You don’t want to be left without!

In no particular order, here are my suggestions for things to see, do, and eat in Puerto Rico!

Thing to see

-Explore Old San Juan (Viejo San Juan). Walk the colorful streets and visit the fort. Fly a kite on the grassy field in front of the fort–or lay back and watch as others fly them. Then get out of there! Like many highly touristed places, Viejo San Juan only presents one (albeit very pretty) part of island life!

-Head to the west side of the island and visit Rincon and/or Cabo Rojo. This is a beautiful area, with great beaches and surfing.

-Travel South of Cabo Rojo to the very tip of the island where there is a cool lighthouse (faro los morrillos) with a nice crescent beach below. The drive to the light house takes you through a salt desert. It’s not the Sahara, but it is cool to see the way the high salinity of the soil affects the growth of plants.

-Drive up into the mountains to visit native Taino archeological sites. Unfortunately, the Taino Indians were wiped out by the Spaniards within a generation of their arrival, but there have been conservation efforts to preserve their sites. There are some soccer-type fields to visit and cave drawings to see.

Things to do

-Hike in El Yunque. The national rainforest has many different hikes and trails, many leading to small waterfalls–some with pools where you can take a swim. It’s a great place to explore, either on foot, or on horseback.

-Visit “los kioskitos” near El Yunque in a small town called Luquillo. The beach here is ok, but the biggest draw are the little kiosks right by the beach! The kiosks mostly sell street food and are independently run by different families. See “things to eat” below for foods to try here. I tend to stay in Luquillo when I go to Puerto Rico because it’s a short drive from lots of things I want to see and do, but away from the hustle and bustle of San Juan.

-Swim with bioluminescent plankton. There are three bio-luminescent bays on the island. One is near Fajardo, but I believe you can only look at this one from the shore. One is on the small island of Vieques, and I’ve heard you can canoe on this one. Vieques was totally decimated during Maria, and I’m not sure how recovered it is or how the bay there fared. The third is in the south side of the island, and this is the one I would recommend! It’s near a town called La Parguera, and you can either kayak out to the bioluminescent bay or hire a guide with a motor boat to take you out there. I’ve done both, and to be honest, I preferred the boat. Kayaking in the dark, knowing the open ocean is just a little to the south is a little discomfiting. But that’s just me. If you’re an avid kayaker, then go for it! Once in the bay, you can actually swim among the bioluminescent plankton! There are also jelly fish that feed on the plankton, but they don’t sting. They do give off a brighter glow if you brush up against them, because they’re clear and filled with the plankton. Check the moon and rain forecasts and try to go on a dark night when there hasn’t been recent rain. The moon obscures the bioluminescence and rain will form a layer on top of the bay where the plankton haven’t swum to yet. This is by far one of the coolest experiences you can have on the island! It’s like swimming in pixie dust!

Note: if you plan on going to the bioluminescent bay in La Parguera, I recommend booking a place for a night or two on the south side of the island. It’s not a super long drive to the San Juan area, but seeing as how you’ll be out late looking at the plankton, you would have to drive back super late. If that doesn’t bother you, then don’t worry about it. Otherwise, keep it in mind.

-Explore the caves in Camuy. Stalactites, stalagmites, and bats, oh my!

-Make like the locals and take a dip in the sulfur baths in Coamo. There are several pools at varying degrees. The waters are supposed to have medicinal properties, but really, it’s just a different (and stinky) way to relax.

-Visit the Arecibo Conservatory, a giant radio telescope in the mountains outside Arecibo. The dish has been looking for extra terrestrial life since the early 60s. It has also been instrumental in important astronomical discoveries including the correct length of Mercury’s rotational period, proof that neuron stars exist, and the discovery of various pulsars. It is also famous from some dramatic scenes in the James Bond flick, Golden Eye (1995).

-Go out beyond the beach! Definitely bring a snorkel and enjoy the fish by the shore. Or, go deep sea fishing or diving if you’re into either of those things.

-I don’t have a favorite beach, because we always went to the beaches closest to my grandparents houses. But you really can’t go wrong with any beach, and if you don’t like the one you’re at, drive on a little further and find another one!

Things to eat

Because it’s so hot in Puerto Rico most of the time, the majority of Puerto Rican food is fried (gets you in and out of the kitchen quickly). Puerto Rican food is not spicy like Mexican food. It is flavorful and full of spices.

Here are some of my favorites:

Alcapurias-plantain mashed, stuffed with ground beef or crab meat, then deep fried. They’ll look almost black and will be slightly crunch on the outside and soft inside.

Empanadas-flour dough discs stuffed with cheese, ground beef, crab, chicken, or “pizza” (cheese and tomato sauce), and then deep fried

Papas rellenas-mashed potatoes filled with ground beef or crab, then deep fried.

Bacalaíto-cod fish mixed with batter and deep fried.

Tostones-plantains that are fried, squished flat, and fried again. Great as a snack or a side. Ask for mayo-ketchup (mayonnaise, ketchup, and garlic) to dip it in.

Monfongo-plantain that has been fried, mashed with garlic and pork fat, and formed either into a heap on the side or as a bowl (sometimes still in the mortar they mashed it in) that can then be filled with fried meat, shrimp, stew etc. Not to be confused with mondongo, which is tripe stew.

Pinchos-pork or chicken skewers, cooked on the grill. They usually serve them with a small slice of pan sobao on top.

Pan sobao-bread, slightly crunchy on the outside and oh-so-soft in the middle. For breakfast, you can just have it with some butter and a café, or get a ham, cheese and fried egg sandwich on pan sobao. It’s the best!

Fruit: eat as much fresh fruit as you can! Coco (coconut), piña (pineapple), parcha (passion fruit), guava, pomarosa (rose apple- a firm, pear like fruit with a strong flavor of roses), kenepa (they’re called Spanish limes, but they’re nothing like limes…they are apparently related to the lychee), tamarindo, mango, any fruit you see that you don’t know…give it a try!

Seafood is plentiful and delicious on the island. I love ensalada de pulp (octopus salad), which is octopus, onions, green olives, marinated in olive oil and vinegar. Usually served with a side of fried or boiled yuca.

Drinks:

-Coco Rico is a coconut soda. Yummy.

-Malta is a malt drink (think the inside of a whopper candy). Some people love it, some don’t. I’m a fan.

-Rum is the major alcohol produced on the Island. Don Q and Bacardi are both Puerto Rican brands (although the Bacardi family was from Cuba).

Christmas food:

At Christmas time, you’ll find more dishes that use the oven or stove top because the temperatures cool off a tad.

Pernil: roasted pork shoulder picnic/butt, seasoned liberally with garlic, is a staple of the Christmas holidays. Eat it with a side of arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) for the authentic Christmas dinner. And to really eat it like a Puerto Rican, add a little ketchup to your rice (don’t kill me mom–you’re the one who taught me to eat it this way!).

Pasteles: mashed plantains filled with either ground beef/pork or sometimes crab, boiled. These are also usually eaten with a side of arroz con gandules. And yes, you’ll see people put ketchup on their pasteles and/or rice.

Drinks:

-Coquito: coconut nog. It’s like egg nog, only without raw eggs and so, so good! I just had a friend come back from Puerto Rico with some coquito. Her husband loved it so much, she asked me if I happened to have a recipe for it. And I do!

Coquito

Ingredients
-1 can cream of coconut
-1 can evaporated milk (or, if you’re like me, coconut milk)
-1 can sweetened condensed milk
-cinnamon (to taste…I use about 2 tsps)
-vanilla extract (to taste, I use about a tsp)
-1/2 cup of rum, to taste (again, if you’re like me, you’ll get coconut rum)

Directions
1. Place all ingredients in a blender. Mix it all until smooth.

2. If you still have some chunks, pour liquid through a colander into a pitcher.

3. Chill for about an hour and enjoy! 

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I hope this post has been helpful!! Please feel free to reach out if you have specific questions!

~The Mama

The Babe does Paris! (Day 5)

Y’all know I LOVE museums! I enjoy looking at the art, especially if there are little kids or doggies (or ducks)! And everyone knows the Mecca of art museums is the Louvre. Some people thought my parents were nuts, but we set aside a whole day to check it out. And you know what? It was perfect!

Day 5: The Louvre

We arrived early in the morning to the Louvre. There’s a metro station that stops right at the museum, so getting there is pretty straight forward. Finding how to get inside proved a little more of a challenge…

We purchased our tickets online, and should have been able to just walk in.

Instead, we ended up upstairs, and outside. We had to go through security twice!

Fortunately, we had a timed entry (and a stroller), and that let us skip to the front of the second security line. Also, the Dada and I got to ride down in the open elevator, and Dada said he felt like the Emperor during the Galactic Empire Speech in Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. He wants me to link to the YouTube video, but I think you guys can find it on your own if you don’t know what he’s talking about.

Ok, so here’s the thing about the Louvre. It doesn’t matter if you still take naps like me, or you’re in the prime of life, or you need to take lots of breaks like my Nana, you can’t see it all in one day. It’s too big. I mean, you could walk through it all in one day, I guess, but you can’t take it all in. So, the Mama and the Dada made a game plan. They looked at the map and decided which exhibits they wanted me to see, and which we would skip/see another time.

The sculpture gallery was first.

Well, that’s impressive!

The problem with the sculpture gallery is that it is not stroller friendly. Lots and lots of stairs! Some of the stairs had lifts, but most did not. We quickly decided to skip the sculpture gallery this time and move on to the painting galleries. Yes, it meant we missed some famous sculptures, but it gives us an exciting reason to go back in the future!

We went to the top floor first. Mama likes to work her way down from the top floor, and in this case, it worked really well. The top floors were mostly empty! It meant I could get up close and personal with my favorite pieces.

Like this one of chickens……and this one of a horse…and some dude.This guy was copying a painting, and was doing a really good job! I could have watched him for hours!Still got to see some of the sculptures, from a cool vantage point!

One floor down, and I was pooped! I took a little nap in my stroller while the Mama and the Dada checked out another floor.

The galleries with paintings all had lifts when they had stairs. So much better for wandering around in the stroller. I woke up just in time for lunch on the veranda. By working our way from the top down, we made it to the cafe just in time for lunch.My favorite part of the museum, feeding the pigeons!

Here birdie, birdie!

After lunch, it’s back to doggie spotting!

There’s two doggies!

Finally, we made it to the pièce de résistance, the Mona Lisa. The line was long, but not horrible, and we had the stroller to block anyone who tried to cut us in line! All these people are here to see me, right?

Meh, she’s not a doggie.

I think of all the paintings, this one is my favorite!Dada taught me that sometimes you have to look up to take it all in.

After we had our fill of looking at the art, we tried to find the “Touch Gallery.” It’s a special area of the museum set up for those who are visually impaired. There are replicas there that they can touch to gain an appreciation of the art. The Mama thought I might enjoy getting to touch some art too, since so often she has to say “don’t touch.”

We got lost and ended up in the African art wing. Most of it was meh, but this drum was super cool!

The touch gallery was awesome! There were about 20 pieces there, which was more than enough for me to explore! I know this wasn’t the intended purpose, but I recommend it for anyone who visits the Louvre with littles! I mean, how often do you get to hug a work of art?!

Two cherubs. Can you tell which is the work of art and which is alive ?She needs help with her blankie.Boobies! Sorry, I was breastfed.I can point too!

Hugs!!

Right as we were finishing lunch, it started to rain. It could have put a damper on our plans for awesome pictures with the pyramids outside, but we did have umbrellas we borrowed from our hotel, so we were prepared.

Dada making sure I stay dry!

Mama and I. I was so happy they finally let me hold my own umbrella!

After such a long day, I thought it was important we all go back to our hotel room and take a little rest before dinner.

Making sure Dada gets in a little nap so he’s not cranky at dinner.

We wanted some place near our hotel for dinner since we were tired and hungry. Found a kebab place nearby. The food was good, the ketchup was better. I blame the jet lag. I don’t normally pass out during dinner!

Plum tuckered out!

Great art! Great day! Loved our time at the Louvre, and would definitely recommend it for other traveling Babes! Just remember, you won’t see everything, so plan accordingly.

~The Babe

The Babe does Paris! (Day 4)

The Mama and Dada don’t let people call me a princess. They say we aren’t royalty, and unless I marry into a title one day, I’m not likely to be a princess in my lifetime. BUT, for one day we got to pretend!

Day 4: Palace of Versailles

It’s a long train trip to Versailles from Paris. It took us about an hour to get there, and the Mama was insistent that we arrive by 9AM. She even booked us a timed admission so that we wouldn’t be late.

It’s a good thing I’m an early riser! And I love trains!

Here’s why the Mama wanted to arrive early:

The line for the people who bought a timed entry ticket. It still took us about 25 minutes to get inside and through security.

The line to get in without a timed entry ticket. And this was at 9AM, when the Palace opens. Later in the day the line is insane!

Once inside the gate, there were far fewer people…but not for long!

Come on people! I wanna see the palace!

So, this is a really important thing for all my traveling Babe friends to know. You cannot bring a stroller or a framed carrier (i.e. a hiking backpack) into Versailles. While packing for our trip, the Mama and Dada went back and forth on whether or not to bring a wrap and/or the Ergo. Unfortunately, they decided to bring only the umbrella stroller and the hiking backpack…neither of which they could use in Versailles.

Fortunately, Paris is a melting pot of people, and the day before the Mama had noticed all the African ladies carrying their babies (and toddlers too!) using only a scarf! Taking advantage of still being awake at 2am due to jet lag, she went on YouTube and found a tutorial on how to do the “Kanga wrap.” She had brought a long scarf to keep her warm during the Poland portion of our trip, so she dug it out of her bags. She told the Dada in the morning about her plan. He was a little dubious, but went along with it (because although I’m light, it’s still a challenge to carry me for a long time).

Once we got to Versailles, the Mama gave it a try!

Voilà! It works! It was actually super comfy for both the Mama and the Babe!

With our kanga wrap all set up, we were ready to explore the beautiful palace.

Look at the pipe organ!

The views through the windows are just as beautiful as the inside of the building.

Gold gilt everything! It’s a little much for my taste, but it is stunning to see in person!

Learning about life in the Palace on the audio tour.

Sometimes life imitates art.

Did I mention the kanga wrap was super comfortable? So much so, I slept through a good portion of the tour through the palace. Gotta get my beauty rest! Unfortunately, I feel asleep during the most impressive part of the palace: the Hall of Mirrors.

Look at that door!

And the ceiling!

Sleeping soundly. The little old ladies thought it was so cute…at least that’s what Mama says. I don’t remember this part.

The Dada having fun with the warping of the centuries old mirrors.Egg head.

I did wake up in time to see the Hall of War.

It’s impressive…and large.

The Dada wouldn’t let go of his audio tour…so I led him around by the lanyard.

Ready to go outside and see the gardens!Garden goals!I wanted to play in this fountain, but the Mama and Dada wouldn’t let me.They wouldn’t let me play in this one eitherI liked these flowers. They looked like puff balls.So pretty! Anyone know what these are?Versailles from afar. The gardens are massive…and we didn’t even see everything.

We wandered all through the gardens. I was so good and sweet, Mama and Dada decided I deserved a sweet treat. Gelato is the best!

After our gelato break, we tried to take the train to Marie Antoinette’s chateau. I say try, because the driver didn’t open the doors when we got there, so we waited patiently (maybe we had to wait our turn?). Then he took off for the next stop. The Dada asked him why he hadn’t opened the door, and he told him that we hadn’t signaled. Then he told the Dada that he doesn’t stop there on the return trip, and we would have to walk.

So walk we did…the long way around to the farm. We made it to the rear entrance, which wasn’t open, then had to walk all the way back around to the front. When I say we, I mean the Dada and the Mama…I was fortunately in my stroller. I’m still a new walker, and my little legs get tired quickly!

But we did get to see sheep! Baa!!

Finally we made it to the front entrance. We were running short on time (because of the long detour), so we skipped the little palace and went to the gardens and the chateau instead. Such a good idea!Stopping to smell the lilacs. I love to smell flowers…I always sniff and say “Mmm!”

It’s so pretty and tranquil here!Geese! I love seeing all the animals!If you need me, I’ll be here…pretending to be a princess pretending to be a shepherdess.Hello sweet little chateau!

Wildflower field. Got my fill of smells here! Dada says I look like a flower child.

The absolute best part of the day came next! We got to the farm near Marie Antoinette’s chateau. So many animals to see! So little time!

Goat! Maaaa!Hey! I know that animal! It’s Mary’s little lamb!Seriously, so happy to be here!Chickens, and roosters, and ducks, and geese…and a fellow animal lover to share it with!Honk! Honk!Had to walk a long way back to the entrance, but it was worth it to see all my farm animal friends!

I had a fabulous day exploring Versailles!

Before taking the train back to our hotel, we stopped for dinner in town. My favorite part was the wandering accordion player. He was so good, and played “La vie en rose” just for me! He even let me play his accordion!

Trying to be subtle while checking out the accordion player from afar.

So glad he came over to play for me. I love music!

For anyone considering taking their Babe to Versailles, I highly recommend it! Keep in mind the carrier limitations, and skip some of the crowded areas for Marie Antoinette’s chateau and especially the farm! The palace itself isn’t conducive to little people like me walking around, but the grounds are!

~The Babe

The Babe does Paris! (Day 3)

Here’s a little sneak peek into my daily routine when traveling. I start by stealing the foam from Mama’s coffee.

Espressos are good, but cappuccinos have the best foam!

After breakfast, we play and read books.

Inspecting the world outside our window.

Then I take my morning nap. Mama likes to make sure I take one good nap in the hotel each day if possible. It helps me adjust to the new time zone.

The crib the hotel gave me was broken. It took them a few days to be able to get a new crib, but that didn’t bother me any. Although I kept rolling off the mattress!

When I wake up, we finish getting ready, and then hit the road!

Dada went a little overboard on my sunscreen!

A quick lunch, and we’re ready to explore!

Day 3: La basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre and Jardin du Luxembourg

A short train ride took us to Montmartre on the north side of Paris. This is the neighborhood of Picasso and the Moulin Rouge, the Bohemians and Impressionists. It’s also the highest point in the city, and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart sits on the highest point. The Mama and the Dada took me there to get the best views of Paris!

Isn’t it beautiful?!

It was a bit of a hike from the train station to this point, and there are still a ton of stairs to go….plus the 300 steps inside the basilica to the viewing deck at the top! So, we took the funicular the rest of the way. There wasn’t a line, and it was included in our metro pass!

The facade and the statue of King Saint Louis.

The nice thing about going to tourist places early in the season is that the line to get in was pretty short.

Oooh! Aaah!

It’s so beautiful, I’m salivating. Just kidding! Spilled some water…gotta stay hydrated!

Three hundred steps later…

Isn’t my Mama a trooper? I’m sure glad I didn’t have to climb all those steps!

The views (and the breeze) were worth it!

Bon jours Paris!

Going down is actually the worst part. It makes you dizzy, and you have to be super careful you don’t trip and fall! Once we made it down, we took a little break on the step out front. There were people selling all sorts of stuff, and a really cool street performer.

It was a nice little break, and the view was pretty spectacular from here too!

A lot of people spend time wandering around Montmartre, but the Mama and the Dada felt it was overly touristy and there wasn’t anywhere for me to safely play. So, we hopped on the metro and road south to the Luxembourg Gardens.

Isn’t this path lovely? I can totally picture ladies in gorgeous gowns walking down this lane!

There are so many palaces and lovely gardens throughout Paris! This one was one of my favorites! I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Paris with toddlers or young kids!

Plenty of rocks to play with!

A beautiful palace to admire.

Older kids can pay a small fee to sail a boat in the fountain. I enjoyed just watching! Each boat is for a different country, and there’s even a pirate ship!

There are lots of chairs all around the park for people to sit and enjoy the weather and the gardens.

I had a blast people watching!

Look! A “do! Woof, woof!”

There are pony rides for the older kids, and an awesome playground! My favorite part? The sand box!

I could have played here for hours!

Now that I have a stick, I may never leave!

Eventually we did leave. Had to have dinner! After a good meal, we road the metro back home. I had such a fun day, now I’m wiped out!

Still need a travel pillow, but I figured out how to get comfy enough to sleep this time.

Until tomorrow!

~The Babe

The Babe does Paris! (Day 2)

One of our friends who is following this blog said they love pictures of hotel rooms, restaurants, and food. Funny, we do too! Stay tuned, they will all appear in this post!

Day 2: Musée Marmottan Monet and the Eiffel Tower/Jardins du Trocadéro

I slept so good last night! Being on the go all day and keeping to my normal nap schedule in the new time zone meant I was so ready for bed! I’m generally a good sleeper, so that really helps!

We were so happy when we got to our room late last night! It’s huge! Lots of space for us and our stuff, which is great!Love a good window!We got the corner room, so we actually had windows on two walls! The outdoor seating area downstairs. It’s a nice place to hang out!

The upstairs outdoor lounge. This hotel had three outdoor areas!


The upstairs lounge was my favorite…because it had FLAMINGOS! (I love flamingos!)

Our first excursion for the day was a visit to the Musée Marmottan Monet. It’s a smaller museum on the far western side of Paris. It houses lots of impressionistic art by various painters–including the largest single collection of Monet’s work–over 200 pieces, including about 20 of the “Water Lily” paintings!

I love art museums! I know not every babe does, but I like looking at the pictures, and I’m really well behaved! I am always on the look out for kids and dogs in paintings…they’re my favorites!

Found some kids!

I’ve been to museums the world over. Generally, other patrons are understanding of my enthusiasm for the art, and my limited ability to express it. At this museum, there were a few older ladies who kept giving me dirty looks and huffing at me. I know it’s because I was talking loudly about the art, but I don’t know any better. Anyway, I didn’t let it bother me, and it got much better once we went down to the Monet gallery.

In fact, the Monet gallery was so peaceful, I decided to take a little siesta.

Right in front of the Marmottan Museum is a beautiful park, the Jardin du Ranelagh, with a fun playground! Since I did so well at the museum, the Mama and the Dada let me play in the park for a while…and I even got to go on the last hand turned carousel in all of Paris!

I’ve got my ticket! Waiting my turn!

I even got to play the bells that signal the carousel is going to start! Because I’m so little, I had to ride in the basket instead of on a horsey. But it meant I got to see the guy push the carousel around–he pushes the basket to start the ride! The bigger kids ride the horses and try to hook rings on sticks.

Love to play in the sand!

Still not too sure about the slide…

This was fun to bop on!

Our plan was to go to the Eiffel Tower after, but first we stopped off for some aperitifs to tide us over until dinner.

The wine is for Mama and Dada, but I got to share the jambon and beurre (ham and butter) and rilletes sandwiches!

This lady was from Phoenix. She was some sort of investment banker and had a lot of money (something about owning a Maserati…Dada said that was a fancy car). Still, she seemed kind of lonely, so I came over to say “hey” and people watch with her… and steal her cheese!

Up next, we were off to the Eiffel Tower. It’s a super touristy thing to do, but what can I say…we are tourists! Mama read that it was better to approach from the back of the tower through the Jardins du Trocadéro- fewer crowds and a better view. So that’s what we did!

Selfie time!

Dada! Throw me high so it looks like I’m jumping over the Eiffel Tower! My favorite part of the park? All the stairs…

…and the pigeons to chase!

Dada has been jumping at tourist attractions since way before I was born!The Eiffel Tower. Designed by the same architect who did the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, due to the threat of terrorism, you’re not allowed to walk under it any more.

All that pigeon chasing and stair climbing made me hungry! Mama (the planner), had found a restaurant near the Eiffel Tower, so we went there for dinner. “Les Cocottes” on rue St. Domenique is one of THREE restaurants by Christian Constant on this same street! The guy must live nearby or something! He’s got a casual café on the corner, this mid-priced restaurant down the block, and a fancier place next door. Cocottes are individual cast iron pots used in French cooking. We went to a restaurant last year in Nice that served some amazing dishes in cocottes, so we were excited to try this place. They don’t take reservations, but we were lucky enough to snag a low table on the sidewalk out front (all the tables inside are tall barstools, which make it hard for me to sit with Mama and Dada).

Man, this place was so good! Definitely recommend eating here!

The shared appetizer–langoustine raviolis with artichoke mousseline in a shellfish coulis–served in a cocotte. So yummy! Dada had the pasta risotto with Parmesan, squid, and Espelette pepper. This was AMAZING! It was garlicky and creamy and I enjoyed all that Dada was willing to share!

Mama had the sirloin steak with grey shallots, rissolées potatoes and sucrine salad. The steak and potatoes were good, and that salad was great!For dessert we had the chocolate mousse–also served in a cocotte. I’m pretty sure this was my favorite course!

As is generally the case in Europe, dinner started and ended late. So late, in fact, the sun was starting to set–sometime after 9PM! After dark, the Eiffel Tower puts on a five minute long light show every hour on the hour (apparently the last show at 1am lasts for 10 minutes, but I’m just a baby…that is so way past my bedtime!). It’s always lit up, but for those five minutes, it sparkles! We had passed a little side street on the way to dinner with a nice view of the tower, so we went back there. Made it just in time to see the 10pm light show, and it was awesome! The whole tower glitters with lights!

The light show was originally designed in 1999 to ring in the new millennium. It was so popular, the city of Paris kept it! Pictures, and even iPhone videos, don’t do it justice!

As soon as the light show ended, I zonked out. It’s been another long, but wonderful, day in Paris!

~The Babe

The Babe does Paris! (Day 1)

The last two months have been a whirlwind! The Mama and the Dada have been busy finishing the semester, packing the house (which they were able to rent while we’re gone!), and generally preparing for the trip. Now that we’re finally in our home for the next two months, there will hopefully be some time for blogging!

At the start of May, we spent a week in Paris! It was so much fun to see all the sights!

Day 1: Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe

We landed at 5:30am local time! Turns out we arrived on VE Day, so lots of quirky travel things happened today. For example, since it was a state holiday, the taxis wanted to charge 150 Euros to take us from the airport to the hotel! Fortunately, the Dada got European SIM cards before we left the US so he had data and was able to call an Uber instead. Even with surge pricing, it was only 50 Euros…much better!

We got to our hotel and dropped off our bags. The best way to beat jet lag is to get on the local time as soon as possible. That meant instead of going to sleep, the Mama and the Dada took me sight seeing!


Smelling the azaleas at our hotel while Mama and Dada plan our day

The Mama saw online that there was a ceremony being held that day at the Arc de Triomphe in honor of VE Day. The French flag would be flying under the Arc, and the President of France would be laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier. Sounded like a perfect, low-key adventure for our first day, so off we went!

Another travel quirk due to the ceremony was that the metro stations near the Arc de Triomphe (Champs-Élysées and Franklin Roosevelt) were both closed. As a matter of fact, all of Champs-Élysées was closed off to motorist!


It’s amazing to see a main thoroughfare in the heart of the city vacant!

We took the metro to the nearest open stop near the Champs-Élysées and walked back towards to Arc. Since I’m just a babe, I got to take a little nap in my carrier.


Crossing the Seine from Invalides. Mama and Dada need to buy me a travel pillow!

We finally made it to the Arc de Triomphe, and got to see the end of the ceremony on the big video monitors! Then the President shook hands with a bunch of school children…and it seemed to take forever! But, I could see the motorcycles, so we walked slowly toward a restaurant, hoping to see the motorcade before we stopped somewhere for lunch. Right before we went into the restaurant, they drove by! I was pretty impressed by all the motorcycles!


Vroom, vroom!

By the time we finished lunch, they had cleared all the barricades, and we were finally allowed to go up to the Arc!


Just after they re-opened the Champs-Élysées to motorists.

The Mama and Dada decided to take the hiking backpack this first day, since they weren’t sure what the metro/city streets would hold. That meant Dada had to carry me up 284 steps to the top!

If you’re planning a trip of your own to Paris, know that there are stairs in the metro, but if you have two people to carry the stroller, it’s not so bad. The streets are pretty smooth, and even areas with cobble stones aren’t too bad. The Arc de Triomphe has an elevator to the top for those wheelchair bound and in strollers.


If you can’t ride in the elevator, you might as well take your picture in its reflection.

The views from the top are amazing! You can see most of the major sights in Paris, including the Eiffel Tower and Sacré-Cœur.


I loved seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time!

After this, it was past the check-in time at the hotel, so we headed back. Hotels in Paris are expensive, so Dada found a great place in the nearby northern suburb of Clichy. The hotel was super nice, in a quiet area, and the room was spacious and new! The walk to the Metro only took about 5 minutes, and although being outside of the city center added about 15 minutes to our commute, it was worth it!

After checking in, we went to a local park just a block away! I got to chase the pigeons, say hi to all the doggies, and play ball with local kids.

This neighborhood is great! Lots of young families and a mix of nationalities made for a vibrant place! We had dinner at a restaurant on the square, and then we went to the hotel for bed!

What an exciting first day in Paris!

~The Babe

The Grand Tour

I am excited to announce the details (as we have them planned so far!) of our Grand Tour!

In early May, we will be boarding our flight for Paris, France! We’ll spend a week in Paris, taking in the sights and getting over jet lag (Note from The Mama: I’ll be posting about jet lag and babies soon!).

From mid-May until mid-July, we will be in Belfort, France. The Papa will be working with a colleague at the university there, while the Mama and I go on hikes, check out the local sights, and hopefully learn a little French (well, the Mama anyway, I’m still trying to learn my native languages!).

In June we’ll be spending a long weekend in Switzerland…including a trip to Art Basel!

We’ll spend the last two weeks of July in Italy on vacation. The Papa and the Mama haven’t quite nailed down where, but I’ve heard them say “Grosseto” and “Rome” a lot.

The last bit of July and first week-and-a-half of August will be spent in Rio de Janeiro! The Papa will be at a conference, and the Mama and I are going to be beach babes! Did I mention I LOVE the beach?!

Then we go back to Italy for the rest of August. This part is also vacation (The Papa keeps calling it a “Hemingway Vacation”–work in the mornings, play in the afternoons). Location is also TBD on this part, but there’s a cute little AirB&B on Elba Island (yes, the island were Napoleon was sent to in exile!) we’ve been eyeing. There’s already a cute little bed for me! Other locations are still being discussed, so we’re really not sure yet! Regardless, a little sight seeing, a little beach combing, and a little language learning (once again for the Mama…Papa already speaks Italian, and I’m–well, I don’t say much more than “uh-oh,” “mama mama,” and “papa papa” yet…).

(Update: The Mama and the Papa tried so hard, but the visa paperwork didn’t come through…so we’ll be going to the UK instead!).

Finally, we conclude The Grand Tour with a three month stay in Warsaw, Poland! We were in Warsaw last summer, and it really is a hip, up-and-coming city. The Papa will be working at a big math institute there. The Mama and I did most of the touristy things last summer, so it’ll be interesting to find the cool things the locals like to do. Mama has no illusions about learning Polish.

I am really looking forward to traveling the world (well, a nice part of Europe…and a tiny bit of South America) this year! Hope you enjoy reading about all my adventures too!

~The Babe