When Accommodations Fall Short

30594293_10160406312935533_998050924970578046_n

Now that this particular experience is behind us, I feel as though the only proper closure is to write about it and share what I learned with all of you.

Throughout our European tour, the children and I have and will sleep in many types of accommodation. As a personal protocol I try to book a house within budget first so that I have a kitchen to cook in, which is crucial to the budget and so the kids have more room without disturbing others. We have also loved many a hostel, rented rooms in communal homes, been on farms in a rented room, hotels for one or two nights max, studio apartment hotels, rented hammocks and most recently been looking into couch sleeping in the more expensive cities. 

All of those experiences had wonderful pros and huge cons. That just comes with the territory. Even if you make tons of money and only stay in hotels it is human nature to find something negative about it. You will and that’s ok, but out of all of the accommodations to date (including a million accommodations in the u.s.) our worst experience has been the house in Heraklion Crete. I’m going to make a list as it is easier, prepare it is long. I recommend popcorn. Front loading the information, I was supposed to live in this place from April 9th to June 21st. . .

  1. Two hours into arrival, I send her a message kindly asking if she could bring by more towels and pillows because I cannot find ANY in the house. There are NONE! She is super annoyed, but obliges.
  2. First full day, sewage floods the entire bottom floor living space. Not by a little, but by a lot approximately four inches. We are marooned in the kitchen, as it is elevated and cannot leave. She thought I was being dramatic and “Would come by after work.” yeah, no. We have things to do and the market wasn’t open the last two days for Easter so we need to go. She gets there and is freaking out. “AHHHH why didn’t you tell me it was this bad???” I’m not sure what part of stranded in the kitchen she didn’t understand, but long story short a repair man came to fix it and she expected me to mop it up so she could return to work. No. I don’t try to be mean, but NO, I cannot unpack, go to the market, take care of three kids and mop at the same time.
  3. EVERY SINGLE DRAWER, CLOSET, DRESSER WAS PACKED WITH THEIR BELONGINGS. Everything from underwear and Christmas décor to sewing needles and candles. In every available space. I had to move all of their things in order to unpack.
  4. Then the hot water wasn’t working.
  5. The washing machine worked great for a while, but then it started to not drain water.
  6. The WIFI worked in one room. Seems shallow I know, but for heaven’s sake I need it to work.
  7. In order to travel I must cook most meals at home. When it is advertised as “fully loaded kitchen” only to discover that there’s one knife, three spoons, two forks, one pot, no lids, no frying pan, no mixer of any kind, no measuring devices, no coffee pot. . .I was devastated. When I asked for a hand mixer and/or measuring cups she was livid.

30704432_10160419498355533_7924374137757175882_n

Me compromising between not having a lid and having to go spend money on kitchen items.

  • Then there were the ants. Constantly for days. I paid lux many pockets of change to be on ant killing duty. I sprayed my first chemical since becoming a mother, actually I made lux do it because I couldn’t stand the idea of it, but we had to.
  • Then it got even better, Mice. A mouse ran across my foot and behind my stove while I was cooking. . .
  • Then the light fixture in the kitchen blew up. When they came to fix it they left all of the old light bulbs and trash on the coffee table and the baby ate part of a lightbulb. They were just so careless.

It was just non-stop and way more issues than what I ever could have imagined. BUT in all things horrible there are usually many positive ones as well. 

  • The reason why it took three weeks to leave was that the location was superb. We could walk almost anywhere we needed to go. We got to know the people who worked near the house well and really loved the area we were in.
  • I actually really loved the house itself. It had plenty of room and the layout was quirky and fun, but they didn’t take care of it.
  • I believe the owners to be good people. They tried, not hard, but they tried. I do not fully understand how they acquired the house, but it appears as if they just do not know what they are doing. I would love to show them some grace, but three weeks was enough and for the price and the safety of the kids I just won’t.

The point of this post was to remind you that no matter what your living situation is right now; there are and will be positive and negative aspects to anywhere you stay. The true travel trick is to not let it affect the wonderful things you came to see and allow it enough space to round out your experience. 

Please follow and like us:
error

Classroom of Crete

20180417_075233

Crete is testing our tenacity and yet helping us develop some lovely learning habits. When we first arrived here, I had plans of using Amazon Prime to order more school supplies for us as we were on empty as far as workbooks, pencils, etc goes. Much to my dismay, amazon prime delivers here, but it is not a 48 hour cure all like in the U.S. more like a four week “maybe it will get here maybe it won’t” sort of deal. So, in the spirit of adventure we set out to find things to “make due” until our other things arrive. What we found has worked quite well. 

The workbooks are obviously in Greek, but the concept is still the same. What it has done for us though is given us a portable avenue to be among the locals, enjoying good food and learning at the same time. We now have a weekly/sometimes twice a week ritual of taking our workbooks to the square and having lunch while we people watch and learn Greek in our workbooks. The boys love it and the locals that we eat among seem to enjoy our efforts. The kids practice their numbers with our waiter and count change to get ice cream afterwards. We also like to sit there to people watch. It is interesting to see the people watching us as well. We are a conundrum to say the least. We do not look Greek, but we do not look like tourists. I drag a market bag everywhere and our workbooks are in Greek, but we are fair complected and light eyed. It’s fun to see what language people choose to greet us in. 

In the last week we have also found molding clay and playdoh, which are proving to be very useful school tools as well. I am currently looking into Greek language lessons and Greek dance lessons. The process of settling is slow, but constant. To aid in our book work we are learning by living everyday and visiting one to two places a week that shed more light on the region. So far we have visited the Venetian Fort (Rocca La Mare/Sea Rock), we had a great day at the Natural History Museum of Crete and later this week we are going to go to the Minoan Museum of Archaeology or to the palace of Knossos I haven’t decided which should come first the location where it was all found or everything that was found. ????. I’ll have to ask the boys what they think should come first. As it gradually climbs from 58 degrees to 85 degrees here from 7am to 3pm everyday, we are wishing you all spring weather back home and a sun kissed spirit.

Please follow and like us:
error

Learning Crete

When I began letting word out that we would be living on the Greek island of Crete for a few months people always said “oh you must like it there, who do you know there?” I don’t know anyone. I’ve never been there. “Well how in the world did you choose it?” This is how;

  1. Affordability, long term housing was cheaper here.
  2. I’ve always wanted to go
  3. I thought my husband would be making port on this island (those plans have changed)
  4. My mother brings study abroad students here every year for 10 days (those plans have now changed as well)
  5. Chania (on the other side of the island) has a U.S. naval base and I’d like to scope that area out for a future rental property/retirement home

Let me tell you where I arrived to; the last two days have been rather difficult. Mostly, because our rental house has been majorly lacking in some big departments. I had very high hopes for this house and although things have improved drastically I am having a hard time adjusting my expectations and swallowing the amount of money I’ve had to spend to make it into a long term home. When we arrived there were only two pillows for four of us to share, one bath towel for four of us to share, no hot water, the “second bed” as advertised was a broken futon couch that didn’t lay down all the way and within 12 hours the septic had backed up into the atrium marooning us in the kitchen like the Gilligan’s Island Crew. That on top of no markets being open because it’s the Monday after Easter and our first 24 hours without Grandma were just a little more than I could emotionally handle.

Things have improved with communication and patience though I spent most of the last two days on the verge of the largest entitled American girl fit you’ve ever seen. After near begging, our land lady brought by a couple more pillows and more towels. The hot water just is what it is. She claims everyone here in old town has issues getting enough hot water. Ok I can deal, barely, but I will. The other huge issue with this house is that every single drawer/closet/dressers/basement/counter top is full of the owner’s things. They basically were hoarders that moved out yesterday when I said I wanted to rent it. It is very difficult to make a house a home when you can’t even unpack your belongings because of the amount of stuff in the house, yet there aren’t 4 towels, go figure. So instead of throwing a verbal fit I moved whatever I wanted to into a few closets to make room for us to live here. The structure of the house as a whole is lovely, quaint, quintessential Greek stone house and I can and will love it easily now that we are settled. 

 

Part of ‘settling’ for us meant finding the things I need in the kitchen to cook. There are only two pans available to me in the house, one knife, cheese grater and one spatula. We set out today to find a frying pan, pairing knives, kitchen scissors, dish towels and tupperware. At some point I’ll have to buy a whisk, which I forgot today or I won’t be able to mix anything to bake while we are here. A huge part of making a house a home for me is cooking in it. After today I now feel like we can begin to slowdown and enjoy it a bit. One massive bonus of this house is the washing machine is brand new and works like a much needed dream. 

On day two we found the closest beach and re-centered. On day three we found the post office where all packages go is my understanding. We also met our first people here and enjoyed conversations outside of each other. We have a much better understanding of the area in both directions after today and the next two days we are going to focus on meeting people. There is a large language barrier despite months of my efforts to learn Greek. I expected this, Athens is different many many more tourists so English is spoken by most at least on some scale. Crete is an entirely different story, which I was prepared for, but I still need a lot of work. I speak some, I have a large vocabulary, but putting together full sentences is still difficult. We need to make some friends now though, it is really the only thing (despite daddy) that is missing and even though friends only make up a small percentage of our days in the u.s. when they are missing it feels like they left a 90% hole. We need some interaction outside of the family so that is the focus this week. Hopefully by Monday morning I’ll be able to report that friends have been made and meals have been shared. 

Please follow and like us:
error

Athens and Friends

29791033_10160386930010533_7648428871835828654_n

We arrived in Athens desperate for sunshine and I on cloud nine to be back in Greece. I became an adult here, I learned how to love myself more than the company I kept and how to struggle with studies, laudry, food, friends, etc without the aid of parents. It was terrifying and liberating. This city knows me and I her. I had the most wonderful time showing my city to the boys. They are far too young to understand the realms of time so for them the term ‘ancient’, despite my efforts, is just a word, but we sure did have fun exploring what it means. 

I was able to share some of my favorite places and views with the boys, while also introducing them to some of my favorite people. We met up with my dear friend Vassilis for a day at the museum. Vassilis “Bill” and I have known each other almost a decade. Back when he was dating his now wife and we were both young and child-free. It was so good to see him. 

We also partied hard with new friends who we first met in Mexico in January and now spent two beautiful days with in Athens and Chalkida. I adore them and their endless amounts of knowledge and friendship. 

29790754_10160386928560533_2930927025148634488_n

You really can’t go wrong with site seeing in Athens. The Acropolis museum is superb and very inexpensive, the Agoras are wonderful, Zeus’ temple is an all time favorite, day trips to sounio bay are amazing, Delphi is top notch, and the list goes on and on and don’t forget that the museums; Byzantine, Archaeology, Cycladic are all amazing as well. You could live there your whole life and not see everything so if you are planning a trip to Athens aim for late April (perfect weather and still low tourist season and low cost flights) and plan out your days or you will miss out, but always reserve at least one day or a two hour gap in each day for random encounters, frappes on the deck and taking in the views you stumble upon. 

Please follow and like us:
error

Children in Museums: The Basics on “How I do it and enjoy it.”

With a Masters in Museum Science; museum going has been a love of mine for a long time. Even the dullest museums in content tend to fascinate me with structure. When I go into a museum I am reading humidity gauges, identifying text type and size, I can name a few glass manufacturers and I know how much money they spent on what display. I find it interesting because I know that information from school, but my children don’t. When we are state-side I get asked regularly how I manage to take such small children into such adult minded museums and the flat answer is quite simple; I just do. As creatures of learning they get used to the museum atmosphere and eventually learn what is appropriate and not appropriate, but there’s more to it sometimes. I do try to choose museums that offer the words “interactive,” “young explorers,” “Junior artists” on their websites because they tend to have some activities, even floors, dedicated towards children, but that’s not always possible. 

When we are exploring a museum that mama is greatly interested in, or a museum that I know will involve a lot of reading on my part, in those museums “school” starts immediately as opposed to the next day. For example, I really wanted to go to Rosenborg Castle. It seemed like a great option for the kids as well for a few reasons; 

  1. Every kid loves a good castle
  2. The kids are free 🙂
  3. There is weaponry on the brochure

That alone could have been enough, but when I saw the amount of stuff to see and look at upon entering I immediately began to engage them in my world. A few tricks and tips;

  1. Eye Spy: We played this in almost every room. “Eye spy four Ostrich Eggs.” It forced them to focus their attention on a few of the hundreds of items and then proceed to question that item as opposed to being overwhelmed and not questioning anything at all.

29597468_10160374139340533_3326390689308597169_n

  1. “Does anyone see a game that looks similar to something you own?” Now granted, ours is not gold and bejeweled, but a year ago I created a military strategy table top for the boys with civil war soldiers and horses. It could be anything though if you own nothing like this, maybe you have a b.b. gun? etc.

29694555_10160374108310533_1295268359033221802_n

“Yes! Did a kid play with this like we do with our army men??” 

“Yes, this was the crown Prince’s game pieces to help him learn military strategy. Do you notice anything special about them? What are they made of?”

“GOLD!”

“What else?”

“Pretty rocks!”

“Yes, those are called gemstones.” And then we identify the gemstones. Then we inevitably figure out our birthstones.

“Why are they riding camels??”

“Because these pieces are supposed to represent the Africans and the Romans. What does the camel tell you about Africa?”

“There’s sand and it’s super hot.”

And on and on and on. Simple. Effective. Engaged.

29694645_10160374106845533_1701968135269798555_n (1)

 

“What do you think this is?”

“A hole to hide your sword!” Such conviction.

“Not quite, but that might have happened a time or two. It’s an early intercom system. The person using this could communicate with people on the other side of the castle if they needed something. Do you remember seeing another communication system like this?”

“uh no.”

“How about the tin can telephones on Sesame Street? Do you think that has the same effect?”

“Oh….yeah! They’re both super cool, but I think this one should be for hiding your sword.”

If you have the resources, this is a good one to ‘take home’ so to speak. You could easily make a tin telephone system.

  1. History museums are a perfect place to teach about organic materials. There are a lot of things that were once used to make regular objects that have since been done away with, for example;

“The Queen’s throne is made entirely out of Narwhal Tusk.”

29695091_10160374107895533_9014905349305055843_n

“The tusk of what?”

“A Narwhal, like a small whale with a really long horn. The Horn is ivory and they hunted it for it’s horn.”

“Just like Rhinos and Elephants?”

“Yep, exactly. The King’s throne is made from solid silver. Where does silver come from?” I was looking for ‘mines’ as an answer. . .

“Guanajuato, Mexico.”

“True Statement.”

Same for the last photo. We had a great discussion about Amber. How it is made, what it is in it’s liquid form and then it turned into a conversation on dinosaur fossils. The possibilities are really endless if you choose the right items.

29594595_10160374138390533_9164112624266039800_n

I am here to tell you, from one mother of crazy children to another, there is never a good time to introduce your children to museums, but you are doing no one justice by with holding. If you haven’t noticed Greg and I live in this, slightly delusional yet achievable reality where, we believe that there is no where our small children can’t go. It isn’t because they are well behaved angels, they are not, not even sort of. It is because we believe that everything worth seeing should be witnessed by them as well. Bite the bullet and get them out there. There’s so much world, culture and learning to be had. 

Please follow and like us:
error

Copenhagen Sunshine

Though we were only in rural Denmark for two days we had become experts on bus schedules to include odd holiday routes because of course we traveled over the Easter holiday week and weekend. To complicate things a little more the Thursday and Friday before Easter were government holidays and different bus schedules, but the Saturday before Easter was not. . .So on a clear Saturday morning our hostel host loaded all of our luggage up in a trailer and drove us to the bus stop. We rode to the airport and finally got our Danish Krone from the currency exchange after three days of being in the country living off of the little bit I got out of the atm. 

We caught our connecting bus to the train station and got there with enough time to enjoy some food, Danish chocolate milk and ask the baker questions about all of the different types of bread.

We also had time to mail our first letter back to North Carolina.

Lux was over the moon with excitement to send his dear friend and neighbor Daniel some mail. 

Without any issues, we got on our train to Copenhagen. We sat next to a man and his wife. He spoke three languages and his native is Spanish as he is Columbian. I asked him what brought him to Denmark? His response will stay with me forever; “I followed a large chest here 19 years ago and the rest is history.” Not at all the response I was expecting, but I did ask so. He supplied the boys with an endless supply of chips and worked on their Spanish with them.

29572279_10160366136430533_2600810638506731796_n

The train ride was beautiful, taking us under the North sea and Baltic sea more than once. You get to see so much more of the world when you travel by train. Lux now says that it is his favorite way to travel.

When we got to Central Station we connected to another train for one stop and then trekked the mile in snow with bags to our airbnb. What we are now referring to as the 21st century boarding house. It’s hard to hate it when all of the tenants and host have such wonderful intentions and I believe them to all be good people, but have mercy we are ready for our own space again.

Our host, Cornelia, is a massage therapist/Vegetarian/Steiner Mom/Linguist. She speaks 6 languages fluently, only eats things that are green and homeschooled her children in New Zealand. She is maybe 98lbs soaking wet and as gentle and kind as a fairy. Her daughter is exactly like her. 

There are theoretically 3 bedrooms, her daughter has one, the Japanese female tenant has one, and she rents the other to airbnb people (us). All five of us are in a tiny room, but we are making due just fine. So little importance is given to space here and in the netherlands. There is an Indian man renting the couch and the  owner actually sleeps on a thin mattress in the kitchen. . .It is very interesting. The Japanese woman makes dinner everynight at 8pm, the Indian man leaves every night around that time and usually returns very late. Watching the comings and goings of the other people living in this small house is quite entertaining in itself. 

We had a superb day of sightseeing and sunshine in Copenhagen. We greatly enjoyed the Crown Jewels and the deep history of the Copenhagen Royalty in Rosenborg Castle. We also did a few things more kid friendly and visited the Hans Christian Andersen Museum and went to find The Little Mermaid in the Harbor. The Mermaid was incredibly touristy with loads of people and tours, but I’ve always wanted to see her so we went. 

29597993_10160374105765533_2397922058315982026_n

I have never been witness to a collection like that inside Rosenborg Castle. It was truly amazing and I’m so glad it was recommended to us. There are approximately 40 other things we wish we had time and weather for in Copenhagen; we will definitely be back someday!

Please follow and like us:
error

Crooning for Kroner

Our travel day to Denmark was very ugly. We missed our first train, as it sat right next to us and then recovered with a donut and school work while we waited for the connection train. Our 4 hour, no stop train ride turned into 5 trains with 45 minutes apiece and four connections. It worked out ok because we met some lovely people along the way, but it definitely complicated our arrival time. 

When we finally got to Denmark and popped out of the train station to catch a connecting bus; we were told that the bus only takes cash and it only takes the Danish Krone. I walked a half mile up the road, in the snow, wearing the baby to find an ATM. I found it though and all was well. We caught our bus and were dropped off at the airport to connect to another bus line. We needed food and Krone so we went inside and went to the Currency Exchange Counter. Their system had crashed. We waited half an hour to see if they were able to reboot it, but they were not. So now we were without the native Cash. 

We caught our bus and were dropped off at the end of the road that led to our family hostel. 

29571095_10160356423690533_5767957705403672363_n

Because of this particular kilometer walk with bags, baby, boys, Grandma, freezing wind blowing the snow sideways; I will forever more do more research about the actual size of and amenities available in the towns we go to. We were going to Billund, Denmark one way or another because Lego House is there and we wanted to see it. However, I made everyone’s life a living hell in this moment and I questioned if I was logistically good enough to do this. 

Other amenities were missing as well, like heat in the hostel and groceries. I dropped everyone off and walked a mile back to the closest and only grocer.

The actual hostel was quite wonderful. We had loads of children’s toys, the important things like Legos, Trains and Balls. Outside they had every wonderful thing imaginable to include goats, bounce house, jungle gym, trampolines, etc. It was just too cold this particular visit to use any of them. 

The little village of Billund, only exists because the creator of Legos is from there. There are no taxi, stores, atm, etc. Very few if any amenities at all. We would love to go back someday though and explore that area more with a car 🙂

29791049_10160361500740533_2508816786411121495_n

The hostel host was exceptional and after discovering that we walked with such small children and so many bags that first day; he offered to drive us to the bus station each morning following. 

Our rural hostel gave us something so incredibly special though; it gave us plenty of room to play, space from each other if needed, toys to play with and a table made for family meals. The meekest meal I’ve made in a long time. We had pasta (Woezel and Pip Pasta shaped like Woezel the Dutch Dog and Pip the Cat) with the cheapest jar of pasta sauce I could find. The little village had one grocery store with two pasta sauce options. They devoured it and because we were famished and living off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches they claimed “it was the best meal ever!”

We slept hard that first night. It was a very long, very testing day and my strong children proved for the millionth time that they are capable of overcoming tough, uncomfortable situations. I would unknowingly test them again in the next post. 

 

LEGO HOUSE: Surpassed any and all expectations that I thought I had. It was absolutely incredible! I cannot say enough good things about it. The zones were wonderful, there was something for everyone. Grandma walked in, hating the entire idea and by lunch time thought it was a brilliant impressive facility (big compliment coming from Grandma). The staff inside of Lego house was fabulous. One young girl showed me which app the Danish students use to figure out what public transport is running that day and at which times. She also found something for Atlas to play with in a room full of tiny big kid lego pieces. 

Another girl approached Atlas and I and told me all about the designers and staff. How there are HUGE LEGO DESIGNER GROUPIES that come to work for Lego to get closer to their superstar staff and so on. She gave Atlas a lego key chain of hers that he had been playing with. 

I truly do not have a single complaint about the facility and Lego house made the previous evening almost forgettable. 

We, by we I mean mostly me, are learning a lot of traveling lessons the hard way. I love to travel and there are a lot of tough situations that don’t seem as tough when you are only one or two adults traveling, but when young children are added to the mix each ill placed move is amplified times a thousand. You can hear the cries in the next town and the look on their faces when you say “one more bus” or “then we have to walk” would make a Marine cry. Letting them down has been a truly hard lesson to stomach. My logistical skills are improving everyday, but only because I have failed so horribly.

We left Billund with high spirits and high hopes for what Copenhagen had to offer all while planning a future trip through rural Denmark following the Viking History Trail by car.

Please follow and like us:
error