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Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

86 °F

Being back in Sydney feels like putting on a comfortable pair of sweat pants after a long day. Ten years have passed since I first visited, but the familiarity and pull of the city stays the same. This is a place I could easily live.

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When Zac and I visited last we had no children. We explored on an unplanned path, followed whims, and trekked by foot around the vast spread of suburbs. This time we visit with an active two year old, which means we see the city with new eyes, and a slower pace.

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The ease, availability, and frequency of public transportation are impressive--and now even more appreciated! Traveling around the city with Des has been so easy and convenient. Sydney is full of families and we see young children everywhere. People here travel by public transportation, and NSW seems to make it very easy to do so. Ferries have been our main mode of transportation thus far, but bus, tram, and train are equally as accessible. Trip planning is simple and intuitive, and everywhere has permitted easy stroller access (or prams, as they are called here).

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We are spending our time in Sydney once again in Balmain. Originally a trendy neighborhood, Balmain became a working class neighborhood when a shipyard was constructed just down the way from where we are staying now, near Mort Bay Park. This brought in working class families (and lots of cosy pubs still here today), but when the shipyard closed just shy of 1960, workers were pushed out by middle and upper class families wanting to live close to the city center. And close it is--just an 8 minute ferry ride across to the Central Business Distict.

Balmain is now a well off neighborhood with shops, cafes, and restaurants winding down Darling Street from the water at Mort Bay to Queen Victoria Road in Rozelle. Townhouses with stunning and bright terraces line the streets here, with cottages tucked in as well.

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Sydney is a dense city. As such, townhouses and cottages are lined just off the sidewalk. Some have small gardens or terraces, but land is very much a commodity. Homes are tucked away small treasures. It's quite different from home where even in the city the homes, condos, and townhouses strive to be as big as possible.

The weather has been simply stunning. A bit hot in the high 80s, but being on the water brings cool breezes and evenings are perfectly temperate. Even so, with Desmond's schedule we are up in the cool morning hours and back home in the high noon heat for lunch and a nap. By the time Des wakes, the evening air comes in and it feels quite nice. I'm so happy to be enjoying warmth and sunshine right now! The grey of winter was really starting to wear thin back home. Here we are out during all our free time, soaking up the sunshine in lieu of rain.

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For as hot as it is now in autumn (which starts March 1st here), summer is evening hotter. Despite that, vegetation in the city is lively, lush, and green. It is gorgeous! Native plants are really quite adaptive and green stretches can be seen everywhere. Beautiful birds hide in trees and I'm constantly surprised by beauties like rainbow lorikeets just peeking out at me as I walk through the neighborhood.

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My fondness for Sydney combined with my dread of flying home leave me tempted to just stay here. Maybe try the flight again when this new Joey is 4? There are worse ways to spend time waiting for your children to not be so monstrous when flying long-haul across the world.

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Surprisingly, Des has done really well with adjusting here. He had no issues with immediately changing to a new (19 hours ahead) time zone and he has been such a champ with being on the go for exploration. He asks to see new things and has actually been allowing us to push him in his stroller!!!! The convenience is extremely high.

Over all it's been a great start to a few weeks of what we hope will be fun adventures and life long memories.

Posted by JorieW 21:13 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Australia

A few months ago we booked tickets to head to Costa Rica. The plan was to go with my brother and a couple of friends and their toddler, relax on the beach, explore in the rainforest, and have lots of fun adventures and good food. Then the entire Zika virus CDC travel advisory for pregnant women hit due to the increased risk of birth defects associated with the disease, CR was put on the list of infected countries, and our trip was canceled.

Rebooking elsewhere proved a difficult decision initially because Central and South America were off limits to us, as was the Caribbean and parts of Asia. European weather in February was less than ideal for us. Hawaii is a place we have been a couple times. US travel didn't tickle our fancy at this time, as we wanted to go international. What's left? Australia.

Don't misinterpret our line of processing. Australia is one of my favorite countries. I could easily live Down Under (and pester Zac regularly to move), however the thought of a nearly 24 hour travel day (with nearly 18 hours in the airplane) while 22 weeks pregnant and managing a very active two year old felt less than ideal.

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In the end we booked our tickets to Sydney with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation. Sydney itself is a wonderful visit for anyone, but particularly kids. There is so much to see and do, the weather is perfect, and the animals alone will provide endless entertainment. The city is gorgeous, easily accessible, and has delicious food, lovely neighborhoods, and plentiful parks.

However, we had to get here first to enjoy them.

After a delayed flight to SFO resulting in a missed connection to Sydney, we were rapidly rebooked to LAX and a new Sydney flight. By the time all was said and done and we were rebooked we had 20 minutes until the flight departed. Not boarded, mind you. DEPARTED. We were escorted to security to be processed immediately with the ticket agent waving goodbye as he said "you're not going to make it, but hurry anyway."

Security was a blurred dash of madness and rushing, arriving at the gate was a full on sprint with arms full of bags and baby, and we found ourselves at the gate as they were in the process of closing the doors. No seats together (except Des and I), but we made it! By the grace of all the different gods, we made it.

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Once on the flight I entertained Des as best I could. He did well, but there was so much turbulence that we couldn't get up during the flight. Normally in a two hour flight this wouldn't be a big deal, however mid-way through, Des had to poop. Fortunately he was in a pull up, but with a locked bathroom door there was nothing to be done. Des unloaded, and the poor guy had to sit in his own stink until finally the flight attendant opened the bathroom for us. By that time his entire outfit smelled and he needed a new set of clothes. I packed three extra outfits, so we were okay.

Once in LA we had 45 minutes before we flew out of a terminal that was a five minute walk from our arriving gate. Cake! I powered on my phone to find a message waiting for me from TSA that, in my rush, I had left my laptop (with alllllllll of Desmond's electronic entertainment) back in Seattle. Fortunately it is being held for me to collect on my way home, but unfortunately it was not in my possession during the 15 hour flight to follow.

We boarded in LA with enough time to use the bathroom and get Des some milk. The flight left at 10:40 p.m., so he was really wearing thin by the time we boarded. Much to our surprise, we had been upgraded to economy plus. Economy was packed full, but economy plus was very much open. Other passengers were offered upgrades for $250 a seat, but no one moved forward so we were able to stretch out. Justin had his own row! Zac and I were offered a second row to stretch out with Des! It was such a wonderful surprise, and made a big enough difference that we will be paying to upgrade on the way home.

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Before the flight I said numerous times that Des would have to sleep at some point. That point for him, unfortunately, wasn't until 4 a.m. Seattle time. It took great effort and holding him down to invite sleep. Even then he only slept 5 hours, and fitfully. He refused Zac helping with anything and only wanted mom. That meant I was essentially on Des duty for the entire flight. Zac at least say behind us and watched movies. I couldn't manage to finish one in 15 hours! Between Des, no room to stretch out since he took up two seats, and being pregnant, I couldn't get comfortable--let alone sleep at all.

But we made it.

Do I really have to come home in a few weeks?

It could have been much more of a nightmare. Des was pretty well behaved over all. I bought him new small diggers and he said "thank you mommy for my new special trucks" more times than I could count. Everything was met with a "thank you." Snacks, movie selections, giving a blanket. Very polite.

He also peed on himself in the bathroom, went through another outfit, hit the flight attendant call button every time he was in the bathroom, and refused to sleep. So there was all that.

But we made it.

Seriously though--do I have to come home in a few weeks?

No, it will be fine. We will survive. Again. And truthfully, it is worth it. Des is having a blast and Sydney is just as wonderful as I remember. On our first day here we arrived in the morning, went to stay with Zac's aunt and uncle (Gudel and Richard), and Des spent the morning playing outside in the yard. Richard made a sand tray for Des and Justin and Des had a grass fight. Trucks were brought out, tea was had, and somehow Des managed to make it to his normal 1 p.m. nap time. He slept until his usual 4 p.m. wake time, walked down to a park near the ferry dock, played gleefully, returned to Gudel and Richard's for dinner and more play, had a bath, and was in bed at 8 p.m.

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I wasn't far behind him with sleep, and we all got up this morning at a normal wake time, seemingly adjusted and well rested.

The flight? Forgotten.

Posted by JorieW 20:15 Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Mexico

Buenas dias

Having a baby has turned me into a morning person. I'm up everyday by 7 a.m.--even though Des doesn't get up until closer to 7:30 a.m. on most mornings. I should point out that I didn't specify "functioning" morning person. Just morning person. If you knew me as a teenager you'd be shocked at this change. Hell, if you knew me a year and a half ago you'd be shocked at this change.

I've been to Mexico twice now, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, Spain....in all my Latin American travels I don't recall often saying "buenas dias." By the time I would wake up, get ready, and head out into the world on my travels we had passed the "buenas dias" and moved into the "buenas tardes" time of day. Now that I'm a mom I'm a buenas dias kinda gal. Who'd have thought that would happen?

This morning I decided to take advantage of my early morning rising and head into town before Zac or Desmond woke up. I wanted some coffee and I wanted to explore some more. The sunrise was beautiful (to note, Cabo is one of the few places I've been where you can see both the sunrise and sunset over the water), and it was surprisingly quiet in my surroundings. I heard birds singing and roosters calling in lieu of loud music or calls for tequila. Men and women at the docks of the marina gave nods and greetings without trying to sell me anything. I saw these same vendors, just twelve hours before, aggressively soliciting business from passerbys and now I saw them setting up, talking with one another, being laid back, and paying no mind to my presence. Nobody wanted anything from me, and I just enjoyed my walk. Outside of the marina and well into the center of town was equally as enjoyable as shop owners swept sidewalks or began setting out chairs for breakfast. I stopped and had some coffee, chatted with a few locals, and enjoyed seeing only one other woman who clearly was as much of an outsider as I was.

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Quiet morning

This is what I like to see in my travels. I like having conversations with passerbys about my desperate need for coffee because I have a one year old waiting for me in my hotel. I like practicing my Spanish with people and not feeling rushed or pressured to spit out what I need to say. And there's something incredibly endearing about watching a woman mop the steps of her shop or a taxi driver wash his car because they take pride in their work. These quiet moments are hard to find in places like Cabo San Lucas, a place where tourism reigns and over saturation is common. Beaches aren't quiet, sidewalks are full, and shops are desperate for business. To have a moment where all of this seemed to disappear and to see the life that exists when people like me aren't around was a really great way to start my last full day here.

Yeah, last full day. Vacation always moves far too fast. I'll miss the weather. It's been perfect here. Plenty of sunshine, just a tad too hot, but not overwhelmingly so. Temperate evenings on the beach. Cool mornings requiring just a light sweater as the sun rises. We leave tomorrow in the early afternoon. By tomorrow night we'll be back to cold, dark skies. It's been great just getting Des up and not having to put him in layers or even shoes.

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We had originally planned on taking a bigger, 3 week trip in March before I go back to work. After our time here we've decided to push that trip back to the fall. As wonderful as it has been to be on vacation, and as possible as it is to travel with a baby, there's simply so much time spent back in the hotel just waiting for naps or bedtime. In two and a half months Des might be down to one nap, but it's likely he'll still be on two, and quite frankly I don't want to pay $5000 in airfare for us to fly somewhere only to spend 3 weeks in our hotel room.

Des is a champion traveler. He's adaptable, in good spirits, and sleeps so well everywhere we go. However he's so well sleep trained that he doesn't nap outside of his crib or pack and play unless he's exhausted (and only then in the Tula), so taking him all over the place with us while we're out during the day just doesn't work with naps. Could we do it? Of course. Do we want to do it? No. Again, if we fly to Australia (my top pick for our next trip, though Europe and Southeast Asia are on the table as well) I don't want to be stuck in a room. We want to get out, and we want Des to get out too. Mexico and Hawaii have been perfect vacations for Des this year. Stay somewhere central, venture out between naps, hang out at your beachfront hotel and watch the waves as he sleeps. So our options are another place like Mexico or Hawaii, or wait a few months longer than we'd planned and be able to do more. It KILLS me to push back a trip, but it was my suggestion. Can you believe it? I can't either. As soon as the words came out of my mouth I thought "who the hell is this person saying these things?"

Enough of that though. Let's end on a positive note. I had the best fish tacos in Cabo today, hands down. After multiple trips, numerous tacos, and plenty of comparisons the clear winner of best tacos in Cabo is.....Gardenias. If you're in Cabo, go there. Runner up is the tacos al pastor at Taco Guss.

You're welcome.

Posted by JorieW 21:56 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Mexico

Adelante

Onward our vacation continues, sans stomach bug. The relief we feel is wonderful, but I can't help but wait for the other shoe to drop. Or my small intestine. It's hard not to worry about being sick when you've already spent time on vacation sick. Today was another salute to that concern with one big middle finger as I refused to give in and avoid enjoying the rest of my vacation.

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It was the second day in a row of eating street tacos. How much more blatant disregard can be given to concern over illness while in Mexico than eating at a street taco vendor? I can only think of one other, and that would be eating ceviche sold out of a bucket by a ten year old for .$25 from a landlocked city in Nicaragua, and since we've already done that...street tacos will have to suffice. Not even just the tacos either. The toppings. The raw vegetables, slaw, carrots, onions....table salsas. All of it. Why? Because it's delicious, that's why. Because I'm in Mexico, that's why. Because I don't think I could possibly get much sicker than I did while in Peru a few years back and I survived that, so why the hell not?

We'd heard a rumor from the locals about the best place to get fish tacos in Cabo and we opted to investigate this bold claim. Food in Cabo is very hit or miss, and more often miss. Which is a shame, because we're right on the water and fresh fish comes into local restaurants daily. I've had some absolutely delicious sea bass while here, and some absolutely atrocious chunk of something that was rather gray. I've had tasty and tender grouper that flaked in perfection, and I've had what I think might be talapia, so overcooked it was mistaken for chicken. Needless to say, I was skeptical of these rumors. Though in good spirit I thought I'd give it the old college try, and together Zac, Desmond, and I found the concrete shack we were looking for.

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I must say, any place that has huge, painted advertisements for fish, shrimp, and tacos on its concrete walls to draw attention from far off places is a winner in my book. For brevity's sake I won't draw it out, but here's what you need to know: the fish tacos were indeed delicious, the cut of fish was cooked perfectly, and the barbacoa taco I had was also quite good. Were they the best I've ever had? No. Were they the best I've had in Cabo? Yes. Is that saying much? No. Here's what made it wonderful, though:

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That's right. These condiments all go with your tacos, so load 'em up, pile it all on, and enjoy yourself.

Our second taco stop was this afternoon when we wandered a short distance away to another highly recommended establishment. The open seating, hot stove, handmade tortillas, and spit roasting pork was exactly what I'd been looking for. Authentic street tacos. Flies and all. No kidding, you really got a lot of them. Now, when comparing establishments I will say that the first won me over. It was large, open, and had a pleasant breeze. It was easier to find, cleaner, and the staff had everything as advertised on the menu.The second establishment had charm though. A dirty bathroom tucked in the corner of a small open dining area, sticky table tops, no English anywhere, and most importantly, this:

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For comparison's sake, the second taco joint had incredible tacos al pastor. I've never had any so good in my life. I'm certainly no expert in the way of tacos, but this pork was somehow crispy and tender at the same time and had such amazing flavor that it was worth the possible parasite.

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Tomorrow we investigate further. So many taco stands, so little time. I'd go for every meal, but Zac insists we eat other things while here as well. This evening we'll be returning to the marina for a stroll after Desmond's nap and I imagine we'll get something there. The marina itself is certainly touristy, and the vendors and solicitors reflect that. However it's lovely, the evenings here are perfectly temperate, and Desmond loves all the lights that are up for the holidays.

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So, adelante.

Posted by JorieW 20:38 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Mexico

Baby Love

It never ceases to fail--my visit to any Latin American country almost always seem to leave me with some sort of unpleasant illness. This trip has proven no different. This time, however, it wasn't food or drink that took me down. It was my child. My flesh and blood. My baby love.

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Don't let his cuteness fool you. This kid can pack a mean hit of germs. That stomach bug that led to two power pukes en route to Mexico? Well that led to multiple power pukes, fevers, chills, and all around incapacity for both Zac and myself. We didn't maintain Desmond's good spirit while sick. We were too tired and too weak to muster much enthusiasm for anything. To say it was a rough day with both Zac and I sick was an understatement. We both agreed it's the worst day we've had since Desmond has been born.

Not to keep on with it, we're better--we've recovered. No one has vomited in 36 hours and our electrolytes have been restored. We're eating food and playing with our child again. The babysitter (aka TV) has been shut off for good, and making a bottle is now a perfectly doable responsibility and not a rock-paper-scissor to the death.

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Since our recovery from our (thankfully) relatively short stomach bug, we've been trying to win back good parenting karma points by taking Desmond to the beach to play in the sand, going out with him to explore at any opportunity, and letting him tire himself out while running the long halls of our hotel. We've already passed along a bottle of wine to our neighbors, and we're hopeful that as a result they'll forgive us.

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I mentioned before that Zac and I came to Cabo back in October of 2008. We did all of the things one would do in Cabo. Swim, snorkel, booze cruise, boat rides, horse back rides, walks at sunset, tequila shots, etc. With Desmond most of these activities prove to be difficult, so our days are spent relaxing, reading, playing, and repeating. There's not much to say other than travel with children is drastically different than travel without. In both wonderful and lame ways.

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Cabo itself was never somewhere I thought I'd return to. There's nothing that really sets it apart from other travels, and its real winning ticket was the fact that it has gorgeous weather, beautiful beaches, and is a relatively short flight away. However it's exactly the kind of vacation that works with Desmond at this current stage in his life. No plans to work around, no long days traveling around, and prime time real estate to enjoy while he naps. It's a great break, even when sick.

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Unlike our last trip to Mexico, however, the accompaniment of Desmond has really added some benefits. For starters, all those annoying beach vendors trying to sell you all kinds of things you don't need? They leave us alone. People trying to sell tours or timeshares? They accept "no." Strangers want to say hello to Desmond, people always want to rub his head, and strangers are more than willing to go out of their way to help us out or accommodate us. There is a genuine interest in Des, from his name to his age to his weight. Oh, and the big baby thing? It's endearing here. Back home we get comments all the time about how big Des is (undeniably--he's 98th percentile for height and weight!), and they're almost always followed up with "but he'll slim down as he's more mobile and active." It's as if there's this consolation to us. People are already body shaming him and he's not even old enough to understand it. Here? In Mexico it's "He's a big boy," followed by "Congratulations. He's beautiful and healthy." Truly, that's all we've heard. I'm blown away by it.

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Mexicans are truly friendly people, and Latin American culture is very family friendly. We've been approached by many staff here at the hotel who have applauded us for bringing Des with us. In part because it's good for him to travel and see the world, and in part because (according to them), many parents take trips to Cabo without their children, and in Mexico this is not common. Parents take their children with them wherever they go. At least three women working here have stopped me and shared this same story with me. Family is important, and as such children are seen as special, adored, and treated kindly.

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So, while Cabo itself never stole my heart, the people here are wonderfully accommodating, very thoughtful, and truly kind to Desmond. I've never seen so much interest in him, or so many people trying to steal smiles from him. It really blows me away, and I absolutely love that they love my baby love, too.

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Posted by JorieW 16:58 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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