mom, twins, baby

Come Visit Us at Our New Home!

You can keep up with our travels, adventures, and chaos at twokidsforthepriceofone.com!

Come check us out!
xoxo, Rachel

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baby gear, family travel, mom, twins, baby, toddlers

We Love It Wednesday, #2

Man, y’all–this summer is getting away from me.  It’s already 4th of July?!  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?!?

I’m back to share another product that’s super helpful to us.  We literally never travel without this, and we use them when we’re at home as well.  Our second We Love It Wednesday feature is (more drumroll):  our CAMELBAKS!

Camelbacks at lunch
Enjoying a healthy lunch with sips from our favorite cups

Here are our favorite features of our Camelbaks:

  • big enough to hold enough juice//water for the entire day
  • looks like Mama’s, so I don’t get gross baby backwash in MY Camelbak
  • Straws flip down, so there’s no leaks, and we can just toss them in the bag and go!
  • SUPER durable!  T and M have dropped and thrown theirs, and they’ve even encountered the wheel of a stroller once or twice, but you can barely tell.  The bottoms have a bit of scraping, but that’s it.  Doesn’t affect performance at all.
  • Fit in most cupholders–stroller, diaper bag, and wagon.
  • You can buy replacement straws and valves, so if you lose a part or it wears out you don’t have to replace the entire cup.
  • Lots of different patterns//colors to choose!

We always bring 2 Camelbaks with us when we travel and fill them up every morning before we leave our hotel//AirBnB.  They’re so great for traveling; they fit perfectly in cup holders, and they’re so durable.  You can pick up your own for about $12 on Amazon;  you can check out some styles here (disclaimer:  Amazon affiliate link).

See you next week!
xoxo, Rachel

 

art, craft, holiday, mom, twins, baby, toddlers

I’m not a Pinterest Mom.

And that’s okay.  Say it with me:  it’s OKAY if not everything is perfect all the time.

Now don’t get me wrong–I SUPER love Pinterest, but I’m not a Pinterest mom.  My table isn’t always beautifully set.  I don’t make fantastic cakes for the boys’ birthdays.  I don’t have amazing things I’ve created decorating the boys’ room.  I use Pinterest to find recipes, crafts for holidays, party tips//tricks, and parenting tips (mostly).

The one exception I make to my “I’m not a Pinterest mom” rule is holiday crafts.  I like to do art projects with the boys to give to family members for Christmas and Mother’s//Father’s Day.  The boys like art projects, which makes it a little easier, but thankfully I’m usually able to find something somewhat simple that is a crowd pleaser.  =)  At this age, almost anything that includes a hand or foot print wins.

For Father’s Day this year, we made this craft.  It was really easy–honestly, the trickiest part was convincing them they were done after making 3.  Start to finish, it probably took 20 minutes to make 3.  We used Crayola Washable Paint, and I used a paint pen to add the words at the top, as well as the year, and picked up a 3 pack of 20×20 (cm) canvases at the craft store near our house.  We’ve used either washable or tempera paint on canvas for our last 3 projects, and they’ve turned out really well.  I’m not opposed to acrylic paint, but for some reason it’s CRAZY expensive here, so until there’s a real need for acrylic paint we’ll stick to tempera and washable.  You can see from our finished product that it’s not *quite* as nice as the original pin, but I think that’s part of the charm.  You can see the spots where the boys smashed their fingers around, or grabbed some extra paint, and tried to add more than just their handprint.  It’s not perfect, but it’s authentic, and that’s more important (to me).

If you’re after a last minute Father’s Day craft, or something to enhance your gift this craft is quick and easy, with minimal mess.  I let each of the boys choose their own color (which is why their hand prints are different colors), and then used a paint brush to cover their hand in paint.  Once their hand was covered, I helped them lay it flat on the canvas, right side up, as though they were giving a high five.  (I figured it would be easier for me to rotate the canvas and just write with their hands down, than attempting to get their hands upside down on the canvas.)  They lifted their hands, we put on some more paint, and they repeated the process for each canvas.  When they finished number 3, I wiped their hand with a few baby wipes and we went to the bathroom to wash their hands once or twice to get all the paint off.  Baby B got to color while Baby A went through the same process.  It took 20 minutes, including cleaning time.

Happy crafting, mamas!
Until next time, may your coffee be strong, and your tantrums weak,
xoxo, Rachel

baby gear, babywearing, family travel, mom, twins, baby, toddlers, Tula

We Love It Wednesday

Hi, mamas!

I’m hoping that this is the start of a summer (or maybe longer) series where we share tips, tricks, hacks, and products that we LOVE.  You can love it because it saves you time, simplifies your life, makes your kids happy–whatever.

There are a lot of things we love right now, and I have loved in the past, such as (but certainly not limited to):  sippy cups that truly don’t drip, clothes that hold up to two super active boys, Pampers diapers for containing all my children’s bodily functions for 2+ years now, almost any toy with wheels that can survive in our house.  But our first We Love It Wednesday feature has to go to something that we truly LOVE and couldn’t live without.  Something that we use almost every single day.  Something that has saved us from meltdowns, burned dinners, tantrums, and toddlers who believe they’re independent, but for obvious reasons, aren’t.  Our first We Love It Wednesday feature is (drumroll please):  OUR TULA!

20170423_120128
Here’s a picture of Baby B in the Tula from a recent trip

I know that those who have strong feelings on baby wearing also generally have strong feelings on what carrier is the best, but here are my feelings:  it took me a long time to take the plunge on an SSC (soft structured carrier), because they’re generally upwards of $100, but we have 100% gotten our money back out of our Tula.  You can’t see in this picture, but we have the totally awesome Tulasauras pattern.  I wanted something gender neutral, in case we have more littles, but also something I knew the boys would like.  I was between a few patterns, but feel really happy we (well, I) selected the Tulasaurus.

Let me give you a quick rundown of why I believe a Tula is worth the cash.

  1. I can get the boys into and out of this carrier unassisted.  So, if I’m somewhere by myself with them and we have a Tula situation it’s still manageable.  THIS IS HUGE!  Even if I’m making dinner and someone is melting down they can get in the Tula.  Someone’s noisy in the library?  Tula!  Trying to pull things off the shelf at the store?  Tula!  So fussy they can’t function in (insert any location)? Tula!  Tired of walking, but don’t want to be in the stroller?  Tula!
  2. It’s easy to adjust; you can practically take your Tula out of the bag and be ready to wear it.  (You would probably need to do slightly more adjusting with an infant.  To be honest, I’d recommend a K’Tan for infants, but that’s something different.)
  3. I can wear them front or back, which is great.  Since they’re 2, I wear them on my back most of the time, but if they’re super tired, or cranky I’ll front wear them for extra snuggles. (Bonus:  Carriers of all types make skin-to-skin easy when you have tiny squishes.  You can get your skin-to-skin in while reading a book, walking the dog, folding the laundry, or vacuuming the house. Some of these are more fun than others, but even mamas have chores.  *Le sigh*)

    DSC_0241
    A front carry for Baby A, whose nap was ended early by FOMO.
  4. For a variety of reasons I was never able to take advantage of this, but you can also nurse in a Tula.  And Tula actually has a really great how-to post on their blog that talks about how to nurse in a SSC, wrap, or ring sling.
  5. We have a baby Tula now, which the boys can be in a baby Tula until they’re 45 pounds! (And they can be in a toddler Tula until they’re 60!)  You may be in the same camp as hubs (“no way in hell am I wearing those babies when they’re 60 pounds!”), but when the time comes we’ll take the plunge on a toddler Tula as well because as the boys nap less and phase out of their stroller they’ll need a place to relax when we’re traveling, or even out for the day at a festival, bier garten, or park.

Bonus:  if you order from Tula’s US website (baby Tula), you get free shipping after $80, but if you’re not based in the US they also have specific sites for France, Germany, Poland, the UK, and Europe overall.
Bonus Bonus:  there are TONS of great resources on Tula’s website–how-tos, carrier comparisons, care instructions, and a blog full of babywearing brilliance.

Before you go, tell us what you think about babywearing.  Do you do it?  Do you have a Tula (virtual high-five!)? What’s your favorite part of babywearing?  (Independence) Or your least favorite part? (Getting sweaty)

Until next Wednesday, may your coffee be strong, and your (toddlers’) tantrums be few.
In Mama-hood,
Rachel

Europe, family travel, mom, twins, baby, toddlers

Vino por Todo! (The Barcelona Review)

We’ve gotten pretty handy at train travel with two toddlers in tow. So just to keep us on our toes, the hubs planned an April trip that required plane travel to one of my favorite cities, Barcelona. For those of you that don’t know, I spent my semester abroad in Barcelona, so this was a return for me, but a new destination for all 3 boys.

This trip was the first time we flew with the boys having their own seats. On both flights as a family of 4 they had us split 3 and 1, which is less than ideal, but not impossible. The flight was 1.5 hours (although if you had asked me on the plane I would have sworn it was 5–good move forgetting the iPad, Rachel), but both ends involved some train travel as well. Thankfully our boys LOVE trains, which makes it a little easier when the travel day is getting long.  Pro tip:  plan to take the train from the airport to the city center (it’s included in your metro card), BUT give yourself about an hour, maybe a little more if you fly into terminal 1.  If you have nuggets that might get hungry snag them a snack before you get on the shuttle bus.  It’s really easy, but if you fly into terminal 1 you have to take a bus to T2B, and then take an elevator up to the bridge, cross the bridge, elevator back down, and walk down the platform.  From the airport to the city center (Psg. de Gracia), it’s about 30 minutes.  We were able to walk from the Gracia stop to our hotel, but if you couldn’t walk, Psg de Gracia also connects to 3 city metro lines (L2, L3, L4) and there are plenty of cabs outside on the street.  Alternatively, you can also take a bus, or city trains to the city, but I think both of those are a little more complicated.  You can read about how to get into the city center here.  (The train also stops at Sants and Clot, which are also metro stations on opposite ends of the city.)

By the time we got checked into our hotel on Saturday night, it was time for the babies to play and parents to imbibe.  I ran to a closeby grocery before they closed to grab essentials, and the boys played.  We did a lot of walking in Barcelona, as we usually do, but Barcelona’s metro system is super easy to use.  It works very much like DC’s or New York’s; you can check out the map here.  You can also buy cards for the metro that work for 2, 3, 4, or 5 days.  These are likely to be your best bet for quickly and efficiently getting around the city; you can find more details about them here.

Hotel Review:  In Barcelona, we stayed at the Grandom Suites.  We booked through booking.com and got a pretty reasonable deal on a hotel apartment.  This is their official site, but you can compare rates on travel deal sites as well.  The location was great; pros and cons are below.

  • We were a 5 minute walk from the Paseig de Gracia station, really easy to find, near lots of neighborhood bars, restaurants, and bakeries, market close-by, AND a playground right out front.
  • Our room had 2 bedrooms, a bathroom with a tub (which only matters when you have babies to bathe), and a small kitchen and living room.  Family rooms also have a few toys in them, and the tv got Disney Jr. (which isn’t something our boys generally get, so they think it’s kind of cool when we do).
  • They also do evening turn down and left little suckers for the boys each night.  Every single member of the staff we talked to was incredibly friendly and helpful.
  • The ONLY bummer about our hotel is that the reception desk is only open from 10:00-19:00 (10a-7p), so after 19:00, you have to buzz the 24h reception.  We arrived around 7:40p and didn’t get to check in until after 8; we had several people tell us we would need to wait 5 minutes, but we waited much longer for someone to come check us in.  I didn’t have a stop watch going, but I would estimate we waited closer to 20 minutes.  Generally, that’s just an annoyance, but when you’re traveling with 2 hungry toddlers it’s a big deal.  
  • I would definitely recommend this hotel to traveling families, BUT if you even *think* you might arrive after 7p I would recommend emailing them with an estimated arrival time, so you don’t have to wait like we did.  Per the check in wait, I can only give them 1.5 mama thumbs up.

SUNDAY
We got a late start on Sunday, which was fine with me.  I planned to check out the Montjuic area, as I knew it would have stuff for babes and parents alike.  We took the metro to the Espanya stop, which is the closest to the main entrance to Montjuic.

  • **If you are traveling with children in a stroller, I would recommend avoiding the Espanya metro!  There are no elevators, and there are not escalators available in all directions, and some of the staircases are large.  If you can easily collapse your stroller and babywear OR if your nugget(s) are old enough to walk through metro crowds, it would be manageable, but trying to get through that metro with two toddlers in a stroller that’s still large and bulky (#twinproblems) even when collapsed was really obnoxious.** Had we known, we would have just planned to get off a stop early and walk down the block.

When we got off the metro, we both noticed a place that wasn’t on our agenda, but looked interesting:  Arenas de Barcelona.  From what I’ve read, it used to be a bullfighting ring, but has been turned into a commercial center.  The sign at the base says you pay 1€ per adult for the elevator, but it wasn’t crowded when we got there and the guy just waved us through.  You take a quick elevator up and there’s a walk way around the top that gives cool views of the neighborhood//city.  There are also several restaurants at the top, which was cool.  They smelled amazing, but it wasn’t meal time for us.  =)  We were able to get some nice pictures and the boys were able to run around the walk way.

It was a win for everyone.  I would estimate that we spent about 20 minutes here, and even if we had paid a euro it would have been worth it.  If you’re in the neighborhood I would recommend checking it out (although I wouldn’t necessarily go to the neighborhood just for this).
Our main stop on Sunday was Poble Espanyol, located on the side of Montjuic.  On its website they say it’s a museum, which I guess is accurate, but now how I would have described it if someone asked.

  • History:  It was built for the 1929 International Exhibition as a microcosm of all of Spain.  You can see the different architectural styles, and customs; there are also restaurants with cuisine typical of different regions, and artisans/stores selling items unique to each region. There’s a main plaza where they hold different events throughout the year; you can find them on their websites under the activities section.  There are also several smaller museums that you can walk through while in Poble Espanyol.

We spent quite a bit of time here on Sunday, and it was nice, but if I was doing our trip over I don’t know that I would return.  Or maybe I would time our entrance better?  We ended up with 1 or both of the boys sleeping for a fair amount of our visit, and there are quite a few stairs in the museum. (I didn’t remember all the steps, because pre-baby things like that didn’t matter, and the information I had read said they were handicapped accessible.)  Had they both been awake it wouldn’t have been a big deal; they would have happily run around, or we could have Tula-ed them, had we known.  It wasn’t the end of the world; it just made it a little more difficult to see everything.  Per the steps, I’m only giving Poble Espanyol 1 thumb up.DSC_0042.JPG

For Poble Espanyol, like with lots of tourist attractions in Barcelona, you can get 10% off if you buy your tickets online.  However, we got 20% off because we bought the Barcelona card.

  •  The Barcelona Card includes a metro pass, and comes with a physical card that gets you discounts to lots of tourist attractions–some museums are even free.  I’m not sure if we came out ahead with the card, because there are only so many museums that are toddler friendly.  BUT if you’re into museums, I would recommend at least looking into it.  We didn’t make it to  the Fundacio Joan Miro, (which is a GREAT museum, and if you’re into Miro at all I would highly recommend it), but entrance is free with the Barcelona card.  So you just need to weigh what you want to do while you’re there and see if it’s worth it or not.  To be honest, if we had kept a really chop, chop pace we would have totally come out way ahead on the car, but this was my birthday trip and I just wanted to relax and enjoy the city and our trip.

On Sunday, we ate dinner at El Nacional because it kept popping up when I was googling family friendly restaurants, and it wasn’t far from us.  If I were reviewing this place I would say that it’s just fine.

  • The wine was good, as was the food–the crema catalana was really yummy–but nothing about this place dazzled me.
  • They were able to seat us right away, and they had one highchair, but I just felt pretty okay about the overall meal.  I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest that people avoid it, but if you’re not in the area it’s not worth a specific trip.  I appreciated that we could just walk in and sit down, but we only had one high chair, so I had to wrangle T throughout our whole meal in a booth.  And while they’re good boys, the freedom of a booth means he’s almost unlimited in the things he can do during dinner.  Basically, it means I have to have one hand/arm on him at all times, so it just means I enjoy my meal much less.
  • Like I said, nothing about this place was bad, but I didn’t think anything about it was impressive either.  Bottom line?  One mama thumb up; I can’t totally hose any place that can seat us immediately.

MONDAY
On Monday, I thought we were going to get an earlier start.  And we did, sort of.  There was never a day where we hit it early and aggressively, but that was really okay with me on this trip. We headed out early-ish (especially by Barcelona standards) and casually wandered towards the beach.  Our plan was to go up the Columbus Tour and do a wine tasting afterwards (another tip from the Barcelona card book!).  After our annoying morning train experience on Sunday, I suggested just taking a slow, early morning walk down La Rambla de Catalunya.  It’s a big, beautiful street, and during the peak of tourist season there are street performers EVERYWHERE.  We figured somewhere between our hotel and the Columbus tower we would find breakfast.

  • As we were walking we checked out several cafes, and finally settled on a place called Creps Barcelona, and to be honest it was exactly what we needed.  It was a small restaurant, but when we went no one else was there, so we didn’t feel as concerned about T and M having a little extra energy.
  • I got a serrano ham sandwich, Mike got a chorizo sandwich, and we got the boys a banana crepe.  Also, the adults had coffee (duh)–an americano for Mike, and cafe con leche for me.  This was, for me, the best cafe con leche of our entire trip, and I had a bunch.  Much like cappuccino is my standard order in Germany, in Barcelona it’s ALWAYS cafe con leche (unless it’s dinner time and I can get a carajillo de Baileys).  But always cafe con leche.  We had to be a little persistent to get our check, but that’s mostly cultural.  We ended up with the exact right amount of food, and it was a pretty quick in and out, and it wasn’t ridiculously expensive.  I‘d give them 1.5 mama thumbs up for the speed of service, and if I were in the area I would for sure go back again.

Then we slowly walked (is there any other way with toddlers?) down La Rambla towards the Columbus Tower.  It took us a while (30 minutes, maybe?), but the weather was beautiful and we had planned to just enjoy the walk.  Again, we did the wine tasting because we got a discount through the Barcelona card.  There are a few different possibilities for visiting the Mirador de Colom, but we went with the visit to the top and the wine tasting.  (To be fair, all the literature says wine tasting, but it’s really just a glass of wine after you come back down.)

  • The top of the Mirador is INCREDIBLY tiny, so if you’re uncomfortable in small spaces I definitely wouldn’t recommend it.  If I had known how small it was at the top I might not have gone up myself, just because the boys were uncomfortable when we were up there.  I mean, it’s so tight it was hard to walk past other people.  The views are beautiful, but honestly, after 2 minutes you’re done.

I feel pretty neutral about the visit to the top, but I really enjoyed the wine tasting.

  • They have a nice bar set up in the base of the tower, and the bartender who was working at the time we were there was super friendly.
  • She gave us extra crackers, because the boys were super into them, and she gave good advice on selecting a wine.  We ended up both buying an additional glass, beyond what our ticket included and my first wine was so yum that we bought the bottle (wine is an essential part of parenting, right?).
  • There was space for the boys to be their silly selves, and the other patrons very generously tolerated them–and graciously said they were not bothered by them when I asked.

Next on our agenda was a port tour, by boat, because (you guessed it) we got another discount with the Barcelona card.  We did our tour with Las Golodrinas, but there are a few choices available.  We bought our tickets for a 2:15p cruise so that we would have time to grab a bite somewhere and then come back.  Neither Mike nor I were super hungry, but it was baby lunch time, so we headed back up La Rambla to find something to eat.

WORD OF CAUTION:  I knew what we were getting into, and we were prepared, but if you want to eat on La Rambla, basically anywhere south of Placa de Catalunya, be prepared to pay an obscene premium.  We sat outside on La Rambla, and we ordered a pizza for the boys and Mike and I just had drinks (sangria.  duh).  Our bill was like 46€.  And it wasn’t just that place; it’s true anywhere on La Rambla.  Much like El Nacional, there was nothing terrible or amazing about this place.  It did exactly what we needed it to do–feed the babies and avoid hangry meltdowns.
After our pricey lunch, we headed back down to the port for our cruise.

  • The boys were super into it, which always makes things worth it to me, but I kind of thought that the cruise would be narrated.  You know, like now we’re on the Montjuic side of Barcelona, if you look up that mountain you can see Montserrat, etc.  But it was a quiet cruise.  Actually, T and M fell asleep like 15 minutes in, which was fine.  They needed a bonus nap.
  • This is definitely another thing that I wouldn’t have done if we didn’t have the Barcelona card (or kids, to be honest), but it was kind of cool.  The staff was really friendly and helpful in getting our stroller on and off the boat.
  • If you do a port cruise, make sure to bring a jacket.  We all had to put ours on while we were out on the water, and we were behind the wheelhouse!
  • I’d give this one mama thumb up; it was a cool experience, but it isn’t particularly little kid friendly.  If your kids are older, I’d say elementary age, it would probably be fine for them.

Now, this may be where our paths diverge, but we were on the beach, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we had two sleeping babies.  We had talked about going to another museum while the boys slept, but instead we decided to just relax and walk around until we found a spot to sit outside and have some sangria and maybe a snack.  We headed toward Barceloneta, and basically outdoor bar hopped, having sangria and tapas at a few different outdoor bars.  It’s not the afternoon that everyone would choose, but it was great for us.  We ended up at a bar in a central square kind of off the beaten path, which was great–the boys were able to run all over and the streets that paralleled the square weren’t busy at all, so it was super low risk. DSC_0097.JPGWe packed it in around 6 and headed towards home; there was an empanada place near our hotel that Mike had been eyeing, so we stopped on our way back and grabbed a few empanadas–enough for the babies to eat dinner, and us to snack.  The empanadas were great; the boys loved them, they were fast, and friendly.  Everything I can hope for when we neglected dinner until almost too late.  =)  We also checked out Barcelona Beer Company.  I will tell you the beer scene in Barcelona is WAY BETTER than 13 years ago when I was studying abroad and I felt like the only beer available was Estrella Damm.

  • We hit BBC late at night, but they were still super friendly.
  • They do flights, which I love, and they also let us try their special holiday beer and didn’t charge us.  Plus, you can’t go wrong with decor like this.
  • The beers were yummy; I wish we had gone a little earlier so we could have tried their food, but NBD.  If you’re in the neighborhood, it’s definitely worth a stop.  And if you’re into craft beer, it’s worth traveling to the neighborhood.  =)

TUESDAY
Okay, even if we didn’t make up the money on the Barcelona card I really enjoyed the travel book that came with it.  We definitely got several ideas on what to do while we were there, and it included the website and metro stop of everything listed.  Maybe you could also pick up the book at a tourism office?  I’m not sure, but it was major helpful.  Whenever we wanted to know something, both Mike and I were like “check the book!”  We knew going in that lots of museums are closed on Monday, and Mike really wanted to check out MUHBA Placa del Rei.

  • I want to be honest, I was skeptical, but it was free with our Barcelona card, so I figured it wasn’t really a big deal.  The Barcelona City History Museum has several locations throughout the city, but we went to the one in Placa del Rei, because it has excavated ruins of the city.  Like I said, I was skeptical and wasn’t really sure what to expect, but this museum was awesome!  It was definitely Mike’s favorite thing, and is near the top of my list as well.
  • You enter the museum and take an elevator down to the earliest remains of the city. Pro Tip:  do the audio tour.  It’s free, and gives tons of interesting details.  Plus,  not all signs are in English.
  • Our boys slept for probably two thirds of our time here, and it was pretty easy to navigate our double stroller through the walkways.  There were a few staircases that were hard, but if we had a single stroller it would have been a piece of cake.
  • I don’t think we would have enjoyed our experience as much if the boys had been awake the entire time.  While Mike and I were both into the ruins and hearing about what they had been 2,000 years ago, T and M certainly don’t care about that yet.  I would say the under 5 crowd would probably want to time this to nap time, or bring something for a kid under 5 who doesn’t nap anymore to do.  I know they have a kid’s audio tour, but I’m pretty sure it’s only in Spanish.
  • Honestly, it’s hard to be upset with a museum you didn’t pay to get into, but I would have happily paid the entry fee here.  I’d for sure give this two mama thumbs up.  Our boys enjoyed it once they were awake, and it was relatively easy to get around with our double stroller.
  • Pro Tip:  if you have a backpack, you’ll have to either put it in a locker, or wear it on your front, even if it’s a diaper bag.  I assume it’s to make it easier to get by people when it’s crowded, but it wasn’t very crowded when we were there.  However, there are docents throughout the museum who will ask you to wear it on your front if they see you not doing it.


After our leisurely stroll through MUHBA everyone was hungry.  We had noticed a brewery the other day that we didn’t stop at, but were interested in, so we looped back there for lunch today.

  • Black Lab is in Barceloneta, but we were planning to be in that area again for the afternoon, so it wasn’t totally out of the way.  We sat outside so that the babies would have space to play and not feel confined to our table.
  • Pro Tip:  it’s really common in Barcelona to have to pay an extra fee to sit outside, and we got hit with one here.  I thought since we were off La Rambla it wouldn’t be a problem, but we had to paid a 10% fee.  Mildly annoying, but not earth shattering.
  • The menu was pretty American-ized; the beer selection was pretty good.  Mike and I both enjoyed our beers, and our food.  Having a variety of beer styles was really nice, after the limited diversity of beers in Germany.  T and M were able to play around after they ate guacamole and bravas (the lunch of champions), and we were able to enjoy our beers while also enjoying the lovely weather again. And apples for dessert, of course. DSC_0173

After lunch we went to the aquarium.  It had popped up on lots of lists of family friendly activities, plus we got a discount with the Barcelona card.

  • I will say Mike and I both agree that this was the most disappointing thing we did while in Barcelona, ALTHOUGH T and M totally had a ball, so it’s hard to count it as a total miss.  Even with our discount, it was still 32€ for tickets.
  • If we had paid less OR if the aquarium was bigger I would probably feel less disappointed, but like I said, the boys definitely enjoyed it.  Not a value stop, but again, since our boys enjoyed it it wasn’t a total waste of time.  I’d give it one mama thumb up.

We had some crazy meltdowns leaving the aquarium that ended in a bonus naptime.  Mike and I used that time to just stroll through the Barri Gotic, and we stumbled upon this super cool shop.  Everything in it was 100% made in Barcelona.  I was obviously immediately interested and made Mike go in.  (To be fair, he actually encouraged me to find something cool to buy for my birthday.)  I didn’t plan to spend an hour here, but I found so much cool stuff it took a while to winnow and then decide.  It doesn’t look like 100% of their inventory is available online, but a decent amount is.
After our unplanned shopping stop, we needed to do some refueling and let the babies out of their stroller.  It was like 5ish, so we figured the best place to do this was a brewery.  Duh.  We checked out Garage Beer Company, and they were GREAT.

  • The only thing NOT working in their favor was that they didn’t have flights, but you could get a taster size for less than a full pint.  We each had 2 or 3 beers here, and the boys played all over this brewery and everyone was INCREDIBLY nice and accommodating–patrons and employees.
  • We also got the hummus while we here for the boys, and it was SUPER DELICIOUS.
  • All their beers were good, their employees were friendly and helpful, and everyone was charmed by our crazy babies.  This brewery totally gets two mama thumbs up.
  • They also let us tab, which isn’t super common here.  I love when I can pay for everything at once, instead of as I go.

I had been eyeing this restaurant basically since we checked into our hotel on Saturday.  It was right next store to our hotel, and just looked like a place I wanted to eat–light, welcoming, busy, but not overwhelming.  We checked it out on Tuesday night, and I’m so glad we did.  It was super yum!

  • At, Teleferic you order hot tapas off the menu, but they also have premade ones on the bar that are 2.50€ and you just grab what you want.
  • This is definitely worth a stop if you’re in the neighborhood; they also have 2 locations in the city.  We ate at the Placa del Dr Letamendi location, but I’m willing to bet they are both delicious and amazing.  I would for sure recommend this place to a friend.  Major yum.  If we’re being honest, I’m feeling a little nostalgic as I review this place.
  • Pro Tip:  get the crab taco.  It’s on the bar, but you will not regret it.  =)

WEDNESDAY

This was our travel home day.  The only tourist attraction we did this day was Casa Battlo, because I would have been a bad wife if I took Mike to Barcelona and didn’t show him any Gaudi sites.

  • You get timed tickets here, and your entrance includes an audio guide.
  • I want to be honest, I’m glad we did this, but it was rough with toddlers.
  • You can’t take a stroller (they do check it for you), but the boys didn’t want to be Tula-d the entire time, but it’s super crowded, so managing two toddlers in a ridiculous crowd while trying to listen to an audio tour is a bit much.
  • Let me be clear:  this is absolutely worth the money, and a beautiful architectural site, BUT if you have really little nuggets I would just try to find a time of day where they’ll be content to be worn.
  • You don’t have to pay for kids under 7, though.  I think once your kids are over 3 you’d be fine.  We got 20% off with the Barcelona card, but you come sometimes find a bundle price with other Gaudi sites (La Pedrera, Parc Guell, La Sagrada Familia) if you do some research.

I could honestly probably write as much more as I already have about Barcelona.  I love this place, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the awesome things you can do while you’re here.  Here’s my top 5 list of things we DIDN’T do, but are still super cool:  Montserrat (give yourself at least half, if not a whole, day here), La Sagrada FamiliaParc de la CiutadellaBasilica of Santa Maria del Pi, and La Boqueria.  One last tip–Barcelona maintains a FANTASTIC website called Visit Barcelona that has information on essentially every tourist site in the city.  It has suggested itineraries for 2, 3, and 4 day stays, ideas for day trips, online discounts, and more.  It’s a great resource to use when planning your trip.

And with that, adios.  (But if you’ve made it all the way down here you should probably get some type of medal or something.)

bier garten, Europe, family travel, Germany, mom, twins, baby, toddlers, train travel

You get a beer, YOU get a beer, EVERYONE GETS A BEER! (The Munich Review)

Okay, guys. It’s embarrassing how long it’s taken me to get our Munich summary up.  We went over Presidents’ Day and I’m JUST now getting my act together.  Here’s the short version: we WILL definitely go back, and if you have kids spend some time in Munich! I have all the heart eyes for Munich. 😍😍😍

We took an ICE train from Frankfurt. I’m going to plug  Deutsche Bahn and ICE trains again. The kleinkinder car is the way to go! (More details about why it’s awesome in our Belgium review.) One cool thing they did on the way to Munich that they didn’t do before is give the boys “tickets” that they could turn in at the bistro car and get some coloring and puzzle books. Germany LOVES tsotckes for kids; we’ve gotten some random stuff in the process (plush monkey keychain, I’m looking at you here), but it’s always so nice and so different from home, and the boys love getting new toys for traveling.

We got to Munich around lunchtime. Our train took us to the Hbf, and we took an S-Bahn to our hotel from there. It was about 5 stops, and it couldn’t have been easier to find our hotel from the train station. We stayed at a Hilton again. I’ve never been big on brand loyalty in travel, but there are lots of perks to staying in Hiltons. With gold status you (can) get a room upgrade, free breakfast, and executive lounge access. Free breakfast alone is worth it to me–not having to drag littles out first thing in the morning//worry that what I pick is what they want? Yes, please.  There are 2 Hiltons in Munich; we stayed at the Munich City (website here) and it was perfect.  There were bars, restaurants, and markets nearby, and we were just down the street from the train station.  We were a little removed from downtown, so it was quiet at night.  The breakfast was super delicious and amazing, and they had a small play room near the breakfast room.  We also were able to get coffee//cappuccino to go every morning, so that’s a major plus.  I would say the biggest con to this hotel is that it was a little cramped with 2 cribs, but that’s true of a lot of hotels in Europe, so it’s hard for me to count that as a con really.  I would definitely give two mama thumbs up to the Hilton.  Their staff was friendly, and breakfast was delicious.

Being the great parents we are, we left immediately after check in to go to the Hofbrau Haus. (Jetzt click hier) Honestly, I didn’t think it would be terribly crowded on a Friday at 14:00. I would be wrong. It was packed! T slept almost the whole time; M slept for about 15 minutes. It was a nice time, but a bit loud and not 100% conducive to kids. If it had been a little warmer and outdoor areas had been open I think we would have stayed longer.  I don’t feel bad about letting the boys run around a biergarten, but it’s a little harder to let them run around the inside of a restaurant, which is what they wanted to do after being on a train all morning.  The service is quick, and food also comes quickly.  All the staff we encountered spoke English as well as German, and the menu had a lot of food choices.  Retrospectively, we should have fed T and M here. I give HbH 1.5 mama thumbs up

After Hofbrau, we needed to feed the babies. A friend of mine had recommended Der Pschorr, which was a pretty reasonable walk from HbH. In retrospect, I wish we had fed the boys at HbH, because their menu was more expansive and their prices were better. I don’t think Der Pschorr was expensive, but they didn’t have a kinderkarte, and I don’t think I need to spend 18€ on spaetzle for these boys. But you live and learn. I actually had a dunkel at Der Pschorr that was delicious, and dunkel isn’t normally my style.  You can find out more about their food//beers here (warning–this website will speak to you in German when you open it.)  Again, the staff was really nice, and Der Pschorr was way more mellow than HbH, which I appreciated.  Everyone loved on the boys, and they were nice and friendly, but it just wasn’t really a kid//family friendly place.

While at Der Pschorr, Michael discovered the most glorious place that has ever existed in the universe: Hofbrau Kellar. It’s owned by the Hofbrau Haus, but in an out of the way area. They serve Hofbrau beers, have a full food menu (incl kinderkarte), and–wait for it–they have a play area inside with COMPLIMENTARY BABYSITTING. Like they literally told me to leave my babies and enjoy a bier. Guys, I cannot make this stuff up. Hofbrau Kellar is great; their staff was awesome, the drinks were good, and T and M had a ton of fun. They also have a huge outdoor beer garden that would be great in warmer weather.  Also?  It’s on Innere Wiener Str, which I can only assume is pronounced like “in her wiener”, and we all know I’m entirely too immature for that.  But really, if you have kids and you’re planning a trip to Munich make sure to include the Hofbrau Kellar.  It was great for us to fill the gap between afternoon activities and dinner, like the 16:00-18:00 hours.  (Also called happy hour.)  I do not have enough thumbs up for Hofbrau Kellar; they deserve like 100.

On Saturday, we started at the Deutsches Museum. It’s Germany’s science/technology/industry museum, and the website says it’s the largest science/technology museum in the world.  Mike says there’s no way it’s bigger than the Museum of Science and Industry, so you can muse over that.  Kids are free until they’re 6; adults are 11€ each. They have a really great space called the Kinder Reich  (Kids’ Kingdom) full of super awesome activities for kids. Signage in the museum says 3-8, but our boys (at 22 months) were able to find enjoyable activities as well, and no one said anything to us. There are mega Legos, a guitar you can climb inside, and small train and kugelbahn exhibits so the boys were fascinated. We literally had to take them out kicking and screaming so we could go through the actual museum. Near the Kinder Reich is a pretty expansive mining exhibit that’s also somewhat kid friendly. T and M enjoyed walking through, although they obviously didn’t really get the exhibit. (To be totally honest, Mike and I only got an overview because there were no English signs in this exhibit.) The boys were strollered for most of the rest of the museum, but I would say kids might enjoy seeing the transportation exhibits on the main floor, but unless your kids are much older (8/10 or older) I don’t think they would be too interested in the exhibits on other floors.  We also got to the museum almost when they opened (because right now our entire life revolves around naptime), which turned out to be a great idea, because it did get noticeably more crowded as the day went on.  Lastly, we weren’t able to take advantage of this, but there are lots of free, timed tours of different exhibits, and some are in English.  There’s a large sign in the main entry lobby area that shows upcoming tours and the language they’ll be given in; if that’s something you’re trying to take advantage of I would recommend checking out the sign first thing.  It’s directly across from the elevators just after the entrance.

After the Deutches Museum, we ended up spending a lot of time tooling around the city.  We saw the Frauenkirche, which was cool.  Great for pictures.  We didn’t go inside, because I don’t hate myself enough to attempt to take two rambunctious toddlers into a place of worship (that isn’t my own).  We also walked by the Oktoberfest grounds, which is February are just a giant open area.  It’s crazy to see how it looks at other times of year.  We ended up grabbing lunch at the Augustiner Braustuben (more info here); it’s massive, and a little out of the way to most other tourist attractions, but it was cheap and yummy.  As was almost every brau haus we went to while in Munich.  I would say my piece of advice on brau hauses would be to select ahead of time and make reservations.  We were able to get in almost everywhere we went, but sometimes we had to sit in weird places that we’re ideal for 2 toddlers.  You can usually do it online, so you don’t have to worry about speaking English, but almost everyone in a brau haus does, because so many people come.  If you can’t do it online your hotel can probably help you, if you’re nervous about making a reservation and/or don’t have a phone that works in Germany without ridiculous fees.

In Germany, on Sunday almost everything shuts down.  You can’t shop, and you can’t even go out to eat until mid-afternoon.  In Wiesbaden, tourist attractions are also closed on Sundays.  More things are open in Munich on Sundays, I think because it’s a bigger city with a bigger tourism economy, but we had planned to do some outdoor activities on Sunday, knowing that lots of stuff would be closed.  Sunday in Munich ended up being my favorite.  We started in the Marienplatz  to see the glockenspiel (cuckoo clock).  

There’s an enormous glockenspiel in the Marienplatz that plays at 11a, 12, and 17:00 (only March-September).  It starts on the hour and lasts about 10 minutes.  The Rathaus and the square itself are really nice, so we spent some time checking out the area before the show.  After the glockenspiel went off (we saw the 11), we walked to the Englisher Garten, basically a giant city park, along the lines of the National Mall, or Central Park.  Y’all–it was AMAZING!  We spent basically the entire rest of the day there.  The park was beautiful, but so was the weather for February.  

This is another huge recommendation if you’re traveling with kids.  The Chinese tower has a giant biergarten right next to it, and there’s also A PLAYGROUND, so kids can play and adults can beer.  Even better–there’s a toddler playground and a bigger kid playground.  

The Seehaus is right on a little pond and also has a playground that’s slightly less friendly for younger kids, but T and M still enjoyed it.  If the weather is nice, you could really spend an entire day in the Englisher Garten.  We could have spent more time there, but once the sun started going down it cooled off quickly.  Englisher Garten definitely also gets two enthusiastic mama thumbs up.

Other Sights in/near Munich:

We were slightly limited by the weather of visiting in February, so we didn’t have a ton of time to spend outdoors, but I would definitely recommend the Viktualienmarkt to anyone traveling when it’s slightly nicer out.  It’s like a giant outdoor market; some groups even offer food tours of the Viktualienmarkt for a not-unreasonable cost.  Even if you don’t do a tour, I think it’s worth tooling around a bit.

Schloss Neuschwanstein is a famous castle outside of Munich–it’s the castle that inspired Cinderella’s castle at Disney Land (World?  I never know which is which).  Again, we didn’t go because our trip was short, but if this is something you’re interested in lots of groups run tours and you can easily find one.

On a more depressing note, Dachau is only about 35 minutes outside of Munich and you can also find guided tours (that include transportation) for a reasonable cost.  We did not do Dachau on this trip because the guided tours are long (5 hours, incl. travel), and I was nervous to have toddlers at such a somber place.  I mean, I wouldn’t even take them to the Wall in DC because I can’t count of them to be appropriately respectful.  And getting to Dachau without a car or guided tour is a bit of work (train to bus with a several km walk, as I understand it).  I know we’ll be back to Munich and I just felt like Dachau was better left for a time when T and M were either a bit older, or we had another adult with us.  I would be truly mortified if they had a meltdown at Dachau.

This was definitely a trip that I originally took to pacify Michael, but I ended up LOVING Munich, and I’m sure we’ll be back more than once during our time here.

Europe, family travel, mom, twins, baby, train travel

The Brussels Review

This past weekend, we took our show on the road and went to Brussels for Michael’s birthday.  We had a good time, and Brussels turned out to be a great combination of family friendly and beer delicious.  Here are our highlights//recommendations.

  • We took the train, which was really easy.  We paid extra for a reservation, which was totally worth it.  On our way to Brussels we were able to get a family compartment, which was AMAZING, and if you’re traveling on a train with any children who are too young to read//or your trip is too long for just screen time I would highly recommend a family compartment.  It gave our boys plenty of space to pull out toys and play, plus they could climb on chairs to look out the window and feel any feelings they had during our train ride without being super disruptive to other passengers.  Plus, it had the bonus of also being right next to the baby changing room, which was also really nice.  I give the ICE family compartments two very enthusiastic mama thumbs up.
  • We stayed right downtown in Brussels just off the Grand Place.  I really liked that because it made it easy to walk around, and not always have to take a train to get to things we wanted to do.  Plus, it made dinner easy because there were a jillion restaurants in/around Grand Place (it’s the heart of Brussels’ pedestrian zone.)  We stayed at the Hilton Grand Place, but that’s specifically because we have lots of Hilton points because of Michael’s work travel over the last 2 years.  The hotel was nice, and the breakfast was delicious.  The bar had a meh selection and was a little pricey, and the concierge routinely gave us less than impressive recommendations.  I would give the hotel 1.5 mama thumbs up.  We’ve stayed more family friendly places, but honestly any place that accommodates 2 travel cribs and fusses over our babies at breakfast can’t get a really poor rating as far as I’m concerned.
  • Brasserie Cantillon  (official info here):  this was our first stop in Brussels.  It’s a family owned Lambic brewery that’s been open (and in the same family) since 1900.  For as much beer as I drink, I was surprised to find out that I had no idea how unique the brewing process for a Lambic is.  And while I have to say it wasn’t as kid friendly as many other breweries we’ve gone to they were again friendly to us (even when M had a major meltdown) and it turns out that Lambics are not really my speed it was cool to see.  It’s still a working brewery, and it was pretty busy on a Saturday afternoon.  My pros:  kid friendly, 2 beers included with tour, employees were friendly and all spoke English.  My cons:  out of the way location, tour is self-guided, and the bar area has kind of a weird layout (that makes free ranging the kids hard).  I think I could have overlooked more of their cons if I had liked the beer more or they had had food available for purchase (the root of the meltdown).  Overall, I think I can only give this place one thumb up.
  • A La Mort Subite (details here–in English):  we stopped here for some local beers on Saturday night.  It was BUMPING; people were shuffling in and out, it was totally packed, and everyone was drinking beers.  The atmosphere was loud and convivial.  Pros:  it felt like a local place; they had a great (extensive) beer menu; staff and patrons were very friendly; no one thought it was weird we had toddlers in a beer bar.  Cons:  it was dinner time and they don’t really have a great food selection.  We were able to find something for the boys, which is really all that matters, but we would have stayed for more beers if they had a better food selection. The food part was really our fault, but we both (wrongly) assumed that most bars serve food.  While we’ve found that to be true in Germany it definitely didn’t carry over to Brussels.  Again, we really liked this place, and if they had more food/space we would have stayed waaaaaay longer.  Even though we had a minor dinner problem, I’m still giving this place 2 mama thumbs up.  The dinner problem wasn’t their fault, and they were incredibly accommodating to us//our boys.  If you’re in the market for a Belgian beer downtown I would definitely recommend this place.
  • Atomium (the downlow):  the Atomium is a cool exhibit created for the World’s Fair in 1958.  It was on our list of things to do in Brussels because it popped up on several kid friendly lists, and also Michael likes science.  It was 12E for each of us (the boys were free), but I have to say I think it’s best for families with slightly older kids.  You can’t take a stroller in and none of the information I read ahead of time had indicated that, so we had to wake our boys up from a nap to go in.  They really liked the top floor where you can see all around, but once we went down to go into the actual exhibit it wasn’t very young kid friendly.  Michael definitely enjoyed it, but I basically had to walk up and down all the stairs of the Atomium with M.  They advertise a kids’ sphere, but it wasn’t open when we there; we’re not sure if it was because of how cold it was or if it only opens for school groups.  It was a challenging visit because I knew Michael wanted to check it out, but there wasn’t really anything for the littles to do.  They did really like the 2 escalator tubes, and I was surprised that M was cool on an escalator (T was in the Tula).  Afterwards we hit another snack-mergency, but luckily they had a little cafe right across the way.  The Atomium is also in a MASSIVE park.  Which wasn’t really useful to us because it was like 20 degrees, but if you were visiting in the spring or summer it would be more helpful.  Also, Mini Europe is in the same park and we couldn’t visit because it was closed for the season, but it was high reviews on lots of family travel sites.  I think Michael would probably rate the Atomium higher, but I have to give it just half a mama thumb up.  The novelty is cool, but it just isn’t friendly to young families.
  • Train World (all about them trains, yo):  Let me just tell you–Train World made up for everything else in Brussels.  I was pretty skeptical about taking 2 toddlers to a museum, but our boys are pretty into trains, so I figured we would at least check it out.  Adults are 10E each; kids are free, but they do need a scannable ticket.  The website suggests 90 minutes at the museum, and I scoffed at their suggestion. I’ll admit it.  I thought “I have 2 two year olds.  There’s NO WAY I’m spending 90 minutes in a museum!”  Y’all.  I. WAS. WRONG.  We were there for at LEAST 90 minutes, and if we had eaten lunch before hand the boys probably would have stayed longer.  This museum is great.  They had tons of historical train cars in the museum that had been restored and you could go inside them.  The boys LOVED it!  There were tons of kids and families there.  Honestly, the only con I have is that I would have appreciated something more stroller friendly for as family centric as the place was.  Like a place to keep it while we walked through would have been great, because all it did was hold coats.  The boys walked every inch of that museum–well, technically we carried them some, but no stroller time.  Train World gets two massive mama thumbs up, and if I could rate it higher I would.
  • Le Express (restaurant right by Train World):  this place really brought us down off our Train World high.  The boys were hungry and really needed to eat, and this was the first place we saw so we popped in.  The service was poor, and the food was mediocre.  But it did the job and the boys were happy when we left, so that’s really all that matters.  They’re also just going to get half a thumb up.
  • Delirium Cafe  (tap it):  We stopped here for a beer before dinner on Sunday night.  They claim to have the most beers on tap of any bar in the entire world at 3,000.  It’s a massive bar with 4 different entrances, and it kind of seemed like different areas had a different vibe.  We went into what felt like the main section of bar, and the tap list was extensive.  We had to lift the stroller up a few steps, but not a big deal.  The bar was bumpin’ at 5:20p on Sunday and no one thought it was weird that we had babies in the bar.  Again, we only had one beer, but under different circumstances would probably have stayed for more.  There was enough open space that I think the boys could have had a bit of space for babying, but it was definitely busy.  I’d give it 1.5 mama thumbs up.
  • La Taverne du Passage (here):  this restaurant also popped up on several family friendly lists, so I was excited to try it out. We had originally tried lunch on Saturday  but they were busy so we made reservations for dinner Sunday. Having two toddlers puts us on the early end of dinner, and when we arrived there were only a few other people there, but as we dined the restaurant filled. Our dinner started out really well; we had croquettes and ordered beers. I was happy to see they had a kid’s menu, and was feeling optimistic. We were able to order quickly, and our food came quickly as well. Once we received our food the service went down hill. The boys ended up super fussy, and it got to the point where we had been finished for 30 minutes and still didn’t have a check, despite repeated attempts. We got the check by putting on our coats, but it was the wrong check. Ultimately, everything was settled. Had the service been better I would have given this place a better review. I just feel like the server got busy and totally blew us off. Pros: kids menu, relatively spacious, centrally located. Cons: we waited FOREVER for our check, couldn’t get more water for twins. Overall, I would give this place just one mama thumb up because of the service.

I think the lesson we learned on this trip is that we need to do more restaurant research next time we travel. We definitely enjoyed Brussels, and would recommend it to other families, and we’d even go back ourselves during warmer weather. =)