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Napa

Three months ago*, we took our first family trip/vacation to Napa. We wanted to get Dom on a plane early and we like to travel, so we picked a place that was the same time zone and only a few hours away to minimize the chance of making a horrible mistake. The good news is Dom did about as well as we could have hoped; we also learned that he’s entirely too big to be a lap infant.

Napa itself was a nice break from a pretty crappy spring in Seattle. It was in the 70s and 80s over the course of our stay and we got to soak up the sunshine to recharge our batteries. I think it’s a nice place to visit, but I’m not sure it’s somewhere I’d have to go again. I don’t know if we’d have a different opinion if we didn’t have an infant with us, although I will say we did get time away from him thanks to our fantastic nanny riding along for a few days. We even managed to treat ourselves to a private winery tour sans Dom, which made the most of a few hours of grown up time. The rest of the week, we relaxed in our apartment and at various locations around the valley. There’s really only so much you can do when you’re limited to three hours between naps. Mostly it was just a way for us to spend time together as a family. In that sense, we were very successful. We learned about traveling with a kid, we got to spend an uninterrupted week together, and we have these pictures where Dom already looks so young compared to how he looks today.

I’m not sure Dom will remember any of it, but we will. Oh, we went to Morimoto’s restaurant – it was awesome.

*It took us a year to do Vietnam, so we’re improving… right?

Prague

It has taken a year but we have finally gone through our photographs from Prague and are ready to share them with everyone. The delay has everything to do with how busy we were and is not a reflection of the trip it self. In fact we both loved Prague and hope to return soon.

January 30th to February 4th:

The two week trip was planned to take advantage of the fact that Chris was in Prague for work. He flew over on January 30th, spent a day sick in the hotel, and checked out a few of the sights close to the office before I few over on February 4th.

Staromestska metro station interior.

February 4th to the 5th:

On February 4th, I left Seattle, flew to Washington D.C., then Munich, before arriving in Prague on the 5th. It was mid-morning when I arrived so I was able to rest up for our evening out. When Chris got off work we took the Metro, then a tram out of the city center to see the local hockey team HC Sparta Praha play at the O2 Arena.

February 6:

To celebrate Chris’ birthday we got out and explored some of the more famous areas of the city. We took the Metro to the Old Town Square (Staré Město) where the Old Town Hall with Astronomical Clock is located. There were tons of vendors set up selling “traditional” foods so Chris sampled their version of Halušky. I decided to have a Chimney Strudel filled with apples and walnuts before we crossed over the Charles Bridge. On the other side of the Vltava river we visited St. Nicholas Church then walked the narrow streets toward the Castle. Here we watched a protest then stopped at Starbucks with an awesome view, before back to the hotel for a rest.

Interior of St. Nicholas Church

View of Prague from the castle Starbucks

February 7:

At noon we met up with Chris’ coworker, Lucas, and his family. They took us to lunch and showed us around the city including; Wenceslas Square, the Jubilee Synagogue, and the Czech Republic Main Post Office to see the interior decoration. Unfortunately, since it is also a bank, they do not allow any photography. Then we walked to the train station to see the old building interior and took the tram to Namesti Republiky (Republic Square) were we met up with  Adela, another of Chris’ coworkers, for some coffee and cake at the Municipal House. Afterwards we walked past the Dancing house, then along the river bank to the National Theater before splitting up for the evening.

Book store in Wenceslas Square

The exterior of Jubilee Synagogue

Exterior of the Municipal House.

Vltava river from the Jirásek Bridge

February 8:

Chris returned to work on Monday so I had a day to explore the city on my own. I took the metro to the Prague Castle, walking past a house where Alphonse Mucha lived for a while on my way to the Castle entrance. I toured the Picture Gallery, the St. Vitus Cathedral Treasury, and walked into the Cathedral to see Mucha’s stained glass window. Jet lag and pregnancy was not a fun combination, so I decided to get some lunch and then return to the hotel to nap. I was still not feeling up for much when Chris got done at work so we had dinner at the Japanese restaurant in the hotel.

Exterior of St. Vitus Cathedral

February 9:

Feeling a bit better, I returned to the Castle area the next morning to get my art fix at the Lobkowiczky Palace while Chris was a work. From there I took a tram to the Municipal House where I checked out the Art Nouveau exhibit and took the guided tour of the building. There each room is decorated by different Art Nouveau artists, but the highlight of the tour for me was the room designed by Mucha. When the tour was over I had lunch at Cacao, then checked out a grocery store before returning to hotel. After work we took the Metro back to the Kampa area of the city to U Modre Kachnicky – The Blue Duck – for dinner. It was a super cozy restaurant with slightly fancy feeling, and really tasty roast duck.

Buildings along Old Town Square

The Mayor’s Hall in the Municipal House. Everything in the room was designed by Mucha.

Ceiling mural, The Slavic Concord, of the Mayor’s Hall painted by Mucha.

The Confectionery, one of the “ladies parlous” in the Municipal House.

February 10:

Chris had taken the rest of the week off so that we could continue to explore the city together. In the morning we took the metro and then a tram outside the city center to the National Gallery / Trade Fair Palace. We ate at Potrefena Husa before going to the museum; Chris had Beer  and Chili Goulash and I had a baked goat cheese salad and Coke… a Coke has never tasted so awesome in my life. I am pretty sure all the pregnancy food cravings were in full swing. Chris also managed to fall while crossing the street and banged his leg and arm up a bit. One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Prague to see the Slav Epic painted by Alphonse Mucha. The series of 20 painting was incredible; I had no idea of the scale or detail before going. Given the chance I would go see them again. After walking through the museum we returned to the Old Town Square, checked out a few shops and went to the Sex Machines Museum. For dinner we explored a new area of the city. The restaurant we wanted did not have any availability so we ended up eating at  Olive Point. I was happy that there was salad on the menu because the whole trip I was craving fresh vegetables and having a hard time finding any.

Viewing two paintings from the Slav Epic

Namesti Miru metro station

February 11:

On the way to the Mucha museum, we stopped into a vintage jewelry shop where Chris bought a pocket watch from the 1920s. Then we continued our tradition of eating at McDonald’s in other countries. The menu was pretty much the same as in the U.S. – Chris had the Grand Big Mac and I ordered the fried cheese with my chicken sandwich. I almost ordered the McFlurry with Toblerone. The Mucha museum was fairly small, but they had an interesting mix of his work and a few pieces of his furniture. From the museum we walked through the Jewish Quarter, then back to the Old Town Square. Since the day was clear we decided to go up into the clock tower for a view of the city before returning to the hotel.  In the evening we went back out to Cathedral of St. Clement for a Vivaldi concert. It was an incredibily beautiful experience.  After we walked around for a bit to find somewhere to eat, we finally found a “tapas” restaurant called Monarch. The food was interesting; a potato dish that was just five potatoes with a spicy red sauce in/on them, mushroom croquettes, bread with a olive oil tomato spread and a potato salad that unfortunately had carrots in it.

View of Church of Our Lady before Týn

February 12:

We had nothing specific we wanted to do on our last day exploring Prague, so we slept in before heading to lunch at Café Imperial. The food was good and service was very attentive; unfortunately I felt very underdressed in the heavily decorated and very fancy restaurant. When we were done eating we walked around for a while and wandered through the Palladium (shopping mall). I bought some chocolates and Chris talked himself out of purchasing a large Apocalypse statue that would have needed its own seat on the plane ride home. After resting up for a bit in the hotel, we tried to go to Mucha’s granddaughter’s jewelry shop before dinner. Sadly it was closed for the month, so I had to look for my Prague souvenir at another shop. From there we walked back to the Old Town Square for dinner at Mincovna.

Waiting for the tram.

February 13:

Our last day in the Czech Republic we explored beyond Prague. After a quick breakfast at the hotel we took a train to Plzen, the birthplace of Pilsner beer. In Plzen we walked around the city, had some lunch, then went on an underground tour. The guide led us around under the streets into areas used in the 14th century, told us about the history of the city, and gave us beer vouchers. At the end of the tour we went to a local bar to watch some hockey while Chris enjoyed our free beers. Then we went on the Pilsner Urquell brewery tour. This was the best brewery tour we have been on – far better than the Guinness tour in Dublin. It was mesmerizing to watch the bottles line up to be filled and we even got to sample the beer directly from a cask in the cellar. It was pretty late when the tour was over, and we had only a short amount of time until our train back to Prague so dinner was just a bunch of snacks from Tesco for the train ride.

 


February 14:

After a wonderful time in Prague we returned home through Frankfurt, Germany.  The trip back was long but fortunately there were plenty of open seats on the flight so we both were able to spread out.

There is so much more I can say about the trip, beyond what we did, but unfortunately mommy brain is in full force. We hope to take Dom to Prague in the near future, maybe then I can put into words how remarkable the city is.

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The Aquarium

In a continuing effort to spend money on experiences and not things, we recently purchased a membership to the Seattle Aquarium. Dom’s getting to be the age where everything is interesting, so we wanted to start getting him interested in nature. It doesn’t hurt that we can always fall back it in the event of failed plans, bad weather, or just a plain ole need to get out of the house. The aquarium is a 10 minute drive or 30 minute trip on public transportation away, so we can even use it as a “free” way to kill a few hours.

As far as our first experience – it went well. We met up with another family that has a one year old and we spent… I don’t know… an hour or a bit more walking around. Dom did really well and he seemed to love it. I was initially worried it would be boring and time again, but I’ll leave you with a quote from my discussion about the topic on social media. That, and pictures… everyone loves baby pictures, right?

Without trying, I became engrossed in how Dom was interpreting the world around him. I swear if I couldn’t picture those little synapses forming in his brain. I saw literal wonder in his dark brown eyes – everything was new and amazing to him, and therefore… new and amazing to me.