Tag Archives: travel

Traveling with a Baby/Toddler

We have done long and short trips with our daughter at most ages/stages since she was 8 weeks old.  We took her to Cozumel last week and as I was stressing out about the babysitting at our hotel, my coworker said to me, “I can’t believe you’re not more stressed about about traveling with her. That is all I would be worrying about.” And I kinda shrugged and was like…well, I pretty much know how it’s going to go.  Which is and isn’t true, because every time we have traveled with our child we have traveled with a different child than the last time.  But my parents are also extremely high maintenance people who moved to Germany with my sister when she was a baby and traveled all over the world with two small children and I refuse to admit that they were somehow more capable than I am.  Plus, getting used to travel with my child is the only way I get to go anywhere.  And so, we go.

A friend asked me recently about traveling with her daughter at nine months or at a year. They both present their own challenges. So I thought I would sort of round up how traveling went with different ages and what trips we did.

8 Weeks: I will never travel with an 8 week old again. This was, I think, the worst vacation I have been on. We went to Florida, we were all getting over the flu, we didn’t know ourselves as parents or our daughter well enough and had no routine.  We packed too much and too little stuff, and she basically cried the entire time unless we managed to get her to sleep, which was a huge challenge.  Plus, we forgot the sunshade for the stroller, she kept getting really hot, she was too little for most sunscreens, she couldn’t sit in a high chair, it was just a disaster.  I would avoid a huge temperature shift for a baby this young, for a lot of reasons. We brought our stability ball for this trip, which felt ridiculous but also totally necessary, and it was totally necessary.

5 Months: This was mostly a good age to travel except I was overly stressed about napping.  Look, your kid may not nap well on vacation and if they nap in the stroller or carrier, just lean into it for the trip and worry about their nap schedule when you get home.  She decided she hated her carseat halfway through the first 2 hour drive and then screamed in it for the entire rest of the trip which included a 4 hour drive.  This was the first trip where we splurged and bought her her own seat, since we were going to England on an overnight flight and wanted some hope of sleeping on the plane. It turned out to not be necessary, and she slept better when I was holding her and nursing her anyway. We spent a lot of time at people’s houses on this trip, but we didn’t want to haul a ton of toys for her. I think if we had been willing to spend a bit of money on new/appropriate toys, this trip would have gone better. At this age, she loved hanging out in her bouncer and her baby gym. We thought she would be willing to hang out in her carseat with some Lamaze toys clipped to it but she was not interested.  I can’t remember if we owned our GoPod at this age, but we should have brought it because it would have been handy. I wish we had just brought something foldable like this because she was very close to sitting up and liked sitting up and looking around at that age. Plus, having a place where she could hang out and look around quietly would have been so nice at my grandmother-in-law’s houses.  Jet lag wound up not being an issue at all on this trip because she had been having such a hard time sleeping anyway.  We also brought the Merlin suit on this trip, since we were using it at this time.  I would recommend maybe weaning off the Merlin suit before a big trip to England because washing those things in the UK and then hanging them to dry is a lengthy process.  We also brought less clothing on this trip generally because we would have the ability to do laundry, but I wish we had brought more because we wound up with a lot of clothes being still slightly damp from drying in the airing cupboard in England in March.  We did just bring footed sleepers on this trip and that wound up being great except that in all the pictures she’s wearing footed sleepers and she’s at an age where those are a bit goofy on her. But we didn’t have to bring socks, so it was still the right choice.

8 Months: We did a group house in the Poconos with some friends at 8 months and a family trip to Lancaster, then stayed at my cousin’s beach house at 9 months. This was a challenging age because she was crawling and so the houses needed to be babyproofed, but she wasn’t super mobile yet so could be relatively easily contained.  The one house with a lot of breakables was pretty much a nightmare, particularly for the day I was there solo.  This was a great age for our Summer Infant Pop and Play, which I highly recommend to anyone traveling with a mobile infant.  (In Lancaster, I made my Dad go buy one from the local Babies R Us because my daughter kept trying to pull up on glass vases.)  We were on a 2 nap schedule at 8 months, and she wouldn’t just stay asleep in the carseat, which made planning things a little hard, but often with group trips we would be up at 7 and she would nap at 9, and nobody else was really ready to get going before 10 or 11 and then we would do the second nap in the car or carrier, so it was manageable.

9 Months: At 9 months, she was fully cruising and close to walking.  This was the most difficult age to travel with.  Partly because we went to Seneca Falls to go wine tasting and hiking in gorges and going to wineries with a cruising/crawling baby who wants to pull all the wine bottles and displays down on herself is kind of the worst.  She also was at an age where she needed to be really physically tired to nap but couldn’t safely run around a playground, so it was definitely a struggle.  This is the age for which a trip to an indoor playspace or a kids museum is kind of perfect and a little bit necessary.  She also went through a phase of hating high chairs, which made going out to dinner pretty challenging. She also refused to eat most food.  I think we realized later she was getting a couple of teeth. We also realized eventually, after getting some good advice, that most children eat poorly on trips. We’ve leaned into this a bit and just pack a ton of extra pouches and assume she will eat mostly junk when we travel.

14 Months: At 14 months, we went to Florida again.  This was when traveling actually started to get easier again – she was walking, she was signing so we knew when she wanted milk or food, she had consolidated to one nap, she could entertain herself with toys for a decent amount of time, and she was really interested in anything new. Our flight got delayed 5 hours, which was extremely challenging but we just let her run around the airport and followed her around. We were traveling with a lot of family, so there were tons of people around to help keep her active and happy.  I actually weaned on this trip and it wound up being okay because we were spending so much time together that she didn’t lose her mind every time I walked into the room and ask to nurse.  This was the first trip where she was taking cow’s milk and it was partly very convenient because I didn’t have to pump at all, but we also routinely would leave our house without bottles because we had never needed to be that organized/prepared before.  I came down with severe food poisoning right before we traveled and so the whole flight home was me feeling like I might die and my daughter refusing to sit with nobody else but me because she sensed I was sick and needed to be comforted.

15 Months: At 15 months, we went to California. This was the longest flight we were going to do with a very awake baby, since neither time we were flying was naptime.  We drove to the airport that was an hour from our house and she threw up on the way there. She was getting over a respiratory virus and a stomach bug was going around, so we wound up renting a hotel room for a day and postponing our flight to that evening. It was actually perfect – our flight took off right around bedtime and I wore her in the carrier and paced up and down until she fell asleep.  We got super lucky and had an empty seat next to us so when she fell asleep we just draped her across the middle of the plane and she slept the whole rest of the flight.  This was the first trip where we hired a babysitter and it made a huge difference in how much we enjoyed the trip – we went wine tasting without a toddler, and we went to the San Jose Tech museum which is great for older kids but not with a tiny kid.  Otherwise, we tried to focus mostly on kid-friendly activities like Happy Hollow and the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Fortunately our friends that we were visiting are fellow museum and animal lovers, so they really enjoyed some of our kid-friendly plans. The flight home was a little rough – she napped for maybe an hour of the 4 hour flight – and the rest of the time we needed to entertain her and we just hadn’t brought enough toys. We ended up breaking out the iPad for the last hour of the trip and playing a game called “baby bubbles” in which you tap bubbles and they pop. For some reason I feel better about this type of screen time than watching TV?

19 Months – We went to Cozumel at 19 months. We flew into Cancun and took the ADO bus and the ferry to get to Cozumel. I think that while flying direct is usually my preference, I would rather change planes and fly directly into Cozumel because schlepping to a public bus and then a ferry is a giant PITA.  We brought dive gear so we were bringing two huge bags.  We could have paid for a private transfer, but for some reason that seemed harder to me.  We didn’t bring a carseat on this trip, since we weren’t renting a car.  We did end up taking a few taxis, and just held her on our laps. I know there are a lot of parents who refuse to do this because it is extremely unsafe, but we decided the number of times we were taking cabs was minimal and hauling a carseat was just really unimaginable.  We hired a hotel babysitter so we could go diving. We also hired a woman I found a recommendation for on TripAdvisor and in the future we will hire her because she was fantastic.  This was actually a great age to travel with, other than we were going through some separation anxiety and some sleep regression.  But she’s talking and able to express preferences and you can use things like, “do you want to go to the pool? Then put on your swim suit.” in order to get them out of the house.  A lot of places didn’t have high chairs, which was hard, but fortunately 18/19 months with a very tall baby is sort of the age where you can sit them on a regular chair and feed them food.  The flights there and back were also not at all at naptime, so she was completely wired, which was pretty tough, but I was much better prepared this time and had picked up a bunch of fun dollar section toys to entertain her with.  Gel window clings will give you many tens of minutes of fun on a plane.  We also used regular stickers and some coloring toys and then just some new toys she hadn’t played with before. Again, we broke out the iPad for the last hour of the flight.  She was perfectly happy to play with the bubbles game, watch videos of herself, and play the “create a scene” sticker app that I had downloaded awhile ago.  I hadn’t had a chance to download any actual shows to the iPad before we left, but that wound up being fine. She also entertained herself with my kindle for a long time and seemed very into trying to change the font size? I told myself this wasn’t screentime.

So those are my thoughts on flying/traveling with a child of various ages.  I think everyone’s experience varies a ton, and it’s really hard to plan for whether your child will be crawling or walking at 11 or 12 months, but I also think travel is a lot more doable than some people think it is. It’s more a matter of knowing how to roll with the age you are traveling with. My 8 week old was completely uninterested in an aquarium, my 19 month old loves it.  I’m excited now that she is at an age where she enjoys doing things, because while it means that there are sometimes things we can’t do because they won’t be interesting to her or age-appropriate, unlike when she was tiny and portable, it is so much fun watching her discover the world and experience new things.  Plus, I finally have an excuse to do things that would be totally weird if we were childfree, like going to ride miniature trains.

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Filed under Family, Parenting, travel

Eurovelo Routes





Eurovelo Routes

Eurovelo Routes

So once we discovered the Eurovelo Routes, our imaginary grand adventure started to become something we really discussed.  Currently, the two front runners are Route 12 (the North Sea Cycle Route) and Route 6 (the Atlantic-Black Sea route).

Route 6 is flatter and shorter and goes through more countries I haven’t been to while also hitting several places I love.  Route 12 is longer, more exciting, and means getting to go back to Norway which is the most beautiful country I have ever been to.

Our other options include

North – South Routes:

1 – Atlantic Coast Route: North Cape – Sagres 8,186 km
3 – Pilgrims Route: Trondheim – Santiago de Compostela 5,122 km
5 – Via Romea Francigena: London – Rome and Brindisi 3,900 km
7 – Sun Route: North Cape – Malta 7,409 km
9 – Baltic – Adriatic: Gdansk – Pula 1,930 km
11 – East Europe Route: North Cape – Athens 5,984 km
13 – Iron Curtain Trail: Barents Sea – Black Sea 9,000 km
15 – Rhine Route: Andermatt – Hoek van Holland 1,320 km

West – East Routes:

2 – Capitals Route: Galway – Moscow 5,500 km
4 – Central Europe Route: Roscoff – Kiev 4,000 km
– Atlantic – Black Sea: Nantes – Constanta 4,448km
8 – Mediterranean Route: Cádiz – Athens and Cyprus 5,888 km


10 – Baltic Sea Cycle Route (Hansa circuit): 7,980 km
12 – North Sea Cycle Route: 5,932 km

The following are contributing factors when picking a route:
1.) New places – I have been to Paris, Germany (Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, several towns in Bavaria, etc.), Austria, Italy (Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii), Amsterdam, Belgium, Olso, Copenhagen, Vienna, Salzburg, Rothenburg, Switzerland (Lucerne, I think), Athens, and a number of other small towns.  (We can discuss how lucky I am some other time.)  Husband has done Venice, Rome, Greece, Madrid, Cadiz, Amsterdam, and some of the other common places to hit on a backpacker’s tour. I don’t have an inherent objection to going somewhere that we have already been (especially because we have been to none of these together), but I would like it if at least a large part of the trip involved going somewhere new.

2.) Ability to get to the starting point by train from Manchester or London.  We will go visit my husband’s family at some point on the trip, and I would like it if it was at the beginning and the end (flying from the states to Manchester most likely), so Routes 12, 2, and 5 are the most appealing because they start in England.

3.) Off road portions.  I don’t mind some road cycling, but I would like it if some portion of the trip was off road.  Route 6 is appealing because it is 70% off road.

4.) Easy lodging.  Ideally we would spend some time in hostels and some time camping.  A route with a lot of campsites along it would be great.  I think if we stayed in a hostel every 3-6 days, and then camped the rest of the time, I would be okay with that.

5.) Good weather.  Cycling in the rain in Wales last summer sucked big time.  I’m concerned about the headwinds on the North Sea Route.

So if anyone has any suggestions for routes, based on what I’ve laid out here, or any additional things we should consider for long distance cycling (things like elevation will be considered, but will ultimately not decide the route), please share.

I’ve also hammered out a reason why I want to do this trip, why now, why it’s so important.  I know it feels important to me, but saying, “because it’s there” or “because we can” doesn’t feel concrete enough.  This can’t just be about not wanting to go to work anymore, or giving my husband an excuse to jump ship.  So I have it some serious thought about why we should do this now, and not when we are retired. The thing is, when you have an extensive family history of memory loss on both sides, I have an intense desire to create very strong memories that will hopefully last us a lifetime.  And I don’t mean last us a lifetime like in the, “what an unforgettable trip” kind of way.  I mean quite literally, I want memories that last.  I want memories that are deep, that are really and truly unforgettable.  It’s possible that even quitting our jobs and throwing caution to the wind and spending 90 days on bicycles might not last us a lifetime, but I want to try.


If you were thinking to bike Europe, which route would you pick? Why?

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October 7, 2012 · 8:53 pm

Race Report: Shamrock Marathon Virginia Beach

We picked the Shamrock Marathon for a couple of reasons:

1) It was in March.  We wanted to train in the winter and run a springtime race because it wouldn’t be so hot to train for or run.
2) It is a pretty big race. We wanted a good crowd of people to keep us going.
3) It was flat.

I’m really really happy we picked Shamrock.  Mostly because of reason number 3, because reasons 1 and 2 turned out to not be so true.   I’ll start at the beginning.

When we woke up, it was pretty mild out.  We got dressed in shorts and t-shirts for the most part, because it was warmer than even the weather report had called for.  We made our way to the start line, which was pretty well organized and had pacers marking every 30 minute interval.  Two of us lined up with the 3:25 group and three of us lined up with the 4:30 group.  There were four starting corrals, but it was unclear what it meant or how they grouped us into them, but it helped keep stuff relatively organized.

We had agreed to start at a 10 minute pace, and we did.  We chugged along nicely behind the 4:30 group and skipped the first water stop (it was on the left, we were on the right, and we didn’t notice it.)  Somewhere around Mile 2 or 3 was the Bridge.  The bridge was the only real hill we encountered on the run.  We were told in advance to not be the sissies that walked over the Bridge, but after running Uwharrie, that bridge was a piece of cake both times we ran it.  After the bridge, we got to the next water stop, where we stopped and noticed that we were already sweating.  There were water stops every mile and a half, which seemed excessive when we first read through the book, but on race day, they were necessary.  The first ten miles took us south of VA beach, through one of the military bases that was there.  This was one of the coolest parts of the race – we got to run past crazy helicopters and all of the enlisted men came out to cheer us on and give us high-fives.  They were fantastic and totally made my day – I always consider military folk to be absolutely the most hardcore, badass people I’ve ever met, and here they were acting like we were awesome.

Around 9.5 miles, we hit the bridge again.  My friend J. fell down and S. stayed with her while I stayed with our pace group (I was too in the zone to see J. fall and we had agreed we would stay with the 4:30 runners and catch up to it if any of us fell behind at a water stop, etc.).  I was still feeling really good at this point.  We ran through downtown Virginia Beach again, through the boardwalk and then out onto Atlantic Avenue and hit the 13 mile mark.  Shortly after that was the 13.1 mark, and we started looking for S’s parents, who were cheering from the sidelines and waving giddily at us.  S’s mom joined us for a few short moments and checked in on how we were all doing.  Once we left them, we started looking for my sister, who I knew was going to camp out around Mile 14.  At Mile 14, there she was, with my husband and my brother-in-law.  I grabbed a handful of gummi bears from them, because my husband was on the other side of the course with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I was able to hang-ish with J. and S. for another two miles, but around Mile 16, J. and I went to the bathroom.  I could feel myself falling back, and I knew I was through the toughest part of the race and it was downhill from there, and I could do it on my own, so I told J. to go ahead and that I’d see them at the finish.  As I powered through Mile 16, I thought about my iPod Shuffle which was in my SpiBelt.  I had put together a playlist for the race, since I knew I would be running at least a portion of it on my own.  I decided that I would break out my shuffle at the next water stop if I really needed to, so I ran for the next mile, enjoying the cheesy shamrock and leprechaun jokes that were on the sides of the race course and enjoying the company of the crowd.  At mile 17, I had a bite of my cliff bar, but couldn’t even get it down because my mouth was so dry and I didn’t have enough water yet.  Around here, I passed the Lululemon race station, which was awesome and they were blasting music and waving signs and cheering everybody on, and we all picked up the pace for a bit at that.  At this point, I settled into a groove, but it was hard to ignore how much I was hurting.

Thanks to an utterly fantastic tape job on my knee by E’s husband, my right knee, which would usually be bothering me by now, wasn’t at all, but everything was just starting to hurt.  I was pleased to notice that my toenails weren’t hurting yet, which was good.  At mile 18, I thought with relief, “ah, only 6 more miles” and then realized that I cannot do math.  Around here, we went through Ft. Story, which my friend warned me was really boring.  It was true.  There was virtually no-one here, and we were all low on energy and just trying to get through to the end.  And it was HOT.  It was really hot out.  It was whatever my temperature threshold where I have to run slower because I get sick running fast in the heat.  One rest stop around Mile 20 had a table of food, including bananas, which I snagged, and jelly beans, which I tried to eat but instead got rid of.  I started walking at the water stops plus a bit at this point, because I was just feeling so leaden, but I realized pretty quickly that my body hurt more if I tried to walk than running, but my lungs hurt more if I ran.  So I kept running.  And I ran most of the way until Mile 23, which I knew would put us back on the crowd-heavy part of the course.

Around Mile 22-23 we came out of Ft. Story and back into the residential part, which wasn’t nearly as crowded as earlier – because a lot of people had finished, and even more people had gone to watch their racers cross the finish line, but I knew that my team was still going to be at Mile 25, so I kept going.  I wanted to look strong for them, and I felt like it was very important that I not let them down by walking the last three miles.  I felt my toenails and my feet felt so swollen.  My back had started to hurt, and my calves and hamstrings were incredibly tight.  I was running at the same pace that several people around me were walking at.

At Mile 25, I was relieved to see that my sister was dressed in her running capris and her green t-shirt from our wedding weekend 5k.  She had told me she was bringing running clothes in case I needed a pacer, but I wasn’t sure she’d be ready.  I’ve never been so happy to see her, and as I passed them, I said, “are you coming?” and she jumped out to join me.  She gossiped with me, let me complain about my back, ankles, feet, legs, everything else, and got me through the last mile.  As we tore towards the finish line, she hopped off to the fenced in spectator areas and I crossed at 4:55 clock time (4:48 chip time) and hobbled to pick up my medal, hat, sweatshirt, and then got handed water, gatorade, a banana, and a shamrock shaped cookie.

I expected to feel something huge and powerful after finishing.  I expected it to feel as emotional as finishing Uwharrie.  I expected to let an incredible sense of accomplishment wash over me.  Instead, I just felt tired, and I felt a desperate need to put on the crocs I knew were in my dry bag.  My sister met up with me and got me my crocs and then we walked over to the beer tent and met up with everybody else.  Team in Training was selling cokes and I bought one and downed it, and after that I started to feel better.  We all hung out at the tent for a bit and then hobbled back to our hotel (Holiday Inn Express – can’t recommend it enough – clean, reasonably priced, nice showers, comfortable beds) where three of us made quick work of a bag of potato chips (my favorite post-race food, and especially important for our gluten-free friend.)  We also realized that we were all sunburned and chafed (I will write more about what to pack in your marathon race bag later.)

So that’s that.  I get to check it off my 30×30 list, and make a nifty race-medal/bib shadowbox, and put a sticker on my car, and all of those other annoying marathon-y things that people do.  And I think, much like being married and being a lawyer and being 26, being a marathon runner is something that I have to settle into a bit, because it is kind of huge.



Filed under Exercise and Fitness, Life List

Plenty of tea. No parties.

I’m not going to say that if Obama dooesn’t win reelection, I will definitely move. But if some of the more extreme candidates win, I’m definitely going to consider it.  My husband is a UK citizen,so when I fantasize about where to move, my first thought is England. There is also the possibility of Scotland or Wales.  We can realize my retirement dream of running a B&B fifty years early, (since I don’t really want to go through more school to be able to practice law) and maybe rescue corgis.

At our B&B, we shall serve a proper high tea and quite possibly run a small-scale restaurant that serves plenty of vegetarian English specialties like vegetable lasagna and vegetarian pies, and a lot of locally sourced and humanely raised meats.  We shall have a monthly Cheese Feast in which we sample many kinds of cheese in many kinds of dishes.  I think the B&B shall be in the south of England, where cider is quite popular, and if our guests wish it, we can arrange for them to go on tours of the local Cidery.  We shall purchase many acres of land so that my parents can’t come build a house right next door.  I will learn to speak proper British and stop talking about pants.

Will you join me? Or perhaps you would like to join me instead in contributing money and time to any candidate in this election cycle that doesn’t hate science and poor people?


Filed under Life List, Volunteering

The Taff Trail, Continued

Once it started to rain, we hastily put on our rain jackets and continued pedaling.  Finally, we stopped under a bridge so my husband could put on his rain pants, and we assessed whether it was getting worse or better.  We decided to wait it out, and just then it started to pour, so we were glad we hadn’t risked it.  Then it was just drizzly, so we continued on.  We made it to Merthyr, and then pressed onward.  Somewhere around Pontsticill, the rain let up, but we made a wrong turn off the trail, and wound up on the road.  That quickly became an unbelievably steep hill.  We pushed our bikes up the hill and stopped at the top, feeling generally concerned and defeated. I stopped in at a pub to ask for directions after the trail, and found we were only a few hundred yards from where we could pick it up.  We talked about getting tea, but decided instead to press onward.

There are no pictures of what happened next because it started to rain again.  And it was hilly.  Really really hilly.  We spent a lot of time pushing our bikes up the hills in the mountains.  Finally, we came to a downhill and followed it down to the reservoir.  Ah-ha! I thought to myself.  The Talybond Reservoir! Our B&B should be coming up on the left!  We cycled and cycled and there was no B&B.  Finally, we came to a sign that said “Pontsticill Reservoir.”  Which we had passed about an hour earlier, before we got back on the trail.  Husband and I looked at each other, at a loss.  We finally decided to just keep following the signs to Talybont.

If you’ve ever been lost in the mountains of Wales, with a cell phone that doesn’t work and no numbers to call even if you did have a working cell phone, you will understand the desperation I felt at this moment.  As we continued to pedal onward, I started to feel more and more desperate.  It was past 5pm, we had no idea how much further we had to go, and the hills were getting steeper.  Finally, we saw a couple of cyclists coming the other way, and I asked them for directions.  Which involved pronouncing the name of our B&B, which I couldn’t do.  The cyclists got what I was asking anyway and assured us we were only 2 kilometers away from our destination.  Better yet, it was downhill.

As we coasted down the hill, the thunderstorm started.  The sky opened up as the Talybont reservoir came into view and finally! there was the Abercynafon Lodge, on our left, right across from a lovely babbling brook.  The owners opened the door and asked if we wanted tea and took our wet things and generally made us feel like their long-lost cousins who had come to stay.

That was the view from our room.  I could have stayed for a week.

Tomorrow, the rest of the trail, and the Brecon-Monmothshire Canal Towpath.



Filed under Exercise and Fitness

The Taff Trail

Let me start this post by saying two things.  The Taff Trail is lovely, in concept, if not in execution, and it is unwise to cycle in a foreign country, ever, without a map.  Our hotel had some of these maps, which it would have been costly and large, not to mention didn’t cover everything.  I think we should have bought this map, but we thought we would be able to get a map of the trail from the cycle hire company we rented from.  We got a map from them, but it only went about 8 miles.  We wound up taking pretty decent pictures of our route the second day on our smartphones, which worked nicely, so at the very least, do that.  Actually, at the very least, please print a map of the trail off of the internet.  You can start here, and then you at least know how close-ish you are to your destination.

So we started in Cardiff.  The trail from Cardiff north is lovely – it’s wide, easy to read, and flat.  It didn’t start to get difficult until we reached Castle Coch.  Which we weren’t supposed to go to, as it turns out there is a high road and a low road.

Castle Coch is up a very steep hill.  Husband toughed it out, I walked my bike up it.  Once we were up there, we checked the map and realized our mistake, and returned to the low road.  We had another few miles to go before we got to Pontypridd where we were having lunch.  I think if I had really known what we were up against, we would have started earlier and had lunch in Merthyr Tydfil (the “d” is silent, so it’s pronounced “tiffull”).  Merther was a much bigger city than Pontypridd, and probably had more than two options for lunch.  I wound up with a cheese and salad sandwich, which is literally shredded cheese, white bread, and lettuce.  It was good, but not great, and for this kind of cycle trip, you need great.

Our pace was extremely slow both days.  It took us about 1-2 hours longer than expected to reach either destination.  I was pedaling pretty hard both days, so I’m not really sure if the problem was the hybrid bikes, being out of shape, or some other problem.  But I wish I had realized, and come to terms with, how long it was going to take us, because I think I would have planned a different trip.

Right before getting to Pontypridd, the trail was covered, and I mean covered, in gnats.  Could hear them bounce off my helmet covered.  Keep your head down and your mouth shut and get through it, is what I kept telling myself.  When we got to Pontypridd, we had to go through a roundabout, which is no small feat, as we are cycling on the wrong side of the road, and a high-speed traffic circle is no joke even if you’re not totally freaked out by the cars.

I will say, the trail was not as off-road as I had hoped, although it was probably as off-road as we could expect for such a long trail, and the roads it was on were generally quiet and well signed.  It was great having a cycle route with a number and knowing we just had to keep following the trail signs.  I will also say that cycling on the left side of the road was generally not a problem for me, although intersections were tricky.  I have extremely bad spatial perception and a lot of problems with right turns and which direction the traffic is coming in.  I do not plan to ever drive in the UK, because I’m pretty sure I, and several other people, will be gravely injured.

Anyway, we made it to Pontypridd for lunch, and then we were continuing on.  Around this point, I began to realized that the trail was much hillier than had been promised.  We were shifting gears a lot, and this accounted for a lot of the slow pace, as I have huge difficulties with hills.  In addition, the trail had several barriers up to prevent motorcyclists, but that also slow down cyclists because you have to stop and maneuver through them.

I thought the hills and the roads and the gnats and the barriers were our biggest problems, but then it started to rain.

to be continued…

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Wales (Part I)

We are home.  The trip was awesome.  We spent 3 full days in Wales, and 3 full days with the husband’s family, and it was everything a vacation should be, except maybe relaxing.

The good thing about vacations that are a little bit stressful is that coming home feels like it is also a vacation.  Yes, I have to go to work, but there are no more hours-long train or coach rides in my future, for the time being.

Nonetheless, we did get a chance to relax.  I will recap our cycle trip separately, but for here I will state that the Taff trail is not “mostly flat” and August, while perhaps the dry season for Wales, is still Wales.

I have created a new rule for trips to the UK, which is, “never travel without fleece.”  I waffled on whether or not to bring my fleece jacket, deciding on “no” and brought a lightweight cotton hoodie.  I wish I still owned a microfleece jacket, something like this, as that would have been perfect for the trip.  The last time I was in England during the summer, they were having a heat wave so it was 85 degrees.

I am taking today off work to do laundry, wash dishes, go grocery shopping, and take care of some other household-related tasks.  Hopefully I can find the energy to do that and not just sort through 500 pictures from the trip :).  I shall leave you with this one from the Animal Wall next to the Cardiff Castle.

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Wales is why people get travel agents

We’ve booked our coach tickets from London to Cardiff, and now we just need to sort out where we are staying and reserve our bikes.  I finally, after much searching, found the perfect place to stay, but sadly, they only have three rooms and all are booked.  I came thisclose to asking if we could camp in their backyard.  They are the only hotel so far that has given directions for getting to them by bike.  Everyone else says, “we are close to the Taff Trail” which seems to mean either actually close to the Taff Trail, or “easy driving distance” from the trail.

We are still trying to figure out whether we’ll actually be able/want to do a full 55 miles there, and 55 miles returning the next day, since 55 miles takes us the better part of 7 hours with a stop for lunch, and that means we don’t get to see much of the Beacons.  So now we are considering taking the Taff Trail to Brecon, staying there, and then taking the 20-mile canal towpath down to Abergavenny, where we can then hop on the train and take the train back to Cardiff.  This would give us the morning to hang out in the Beacons and explore.  Perhaps do a bit of walking, which is British for hiking.

So far, I have found the following other problems with planning our trip to Wales:

1.) I can’t pronounce anything.  Can somebody please tell me how to pronounce Bwlch? It seems to be a town, but it has NO VOWELS!

2.) I can’t figure out where anything is.  In my googling, there are many things located in Powys, which seems really far from the Beacons, but it seems that maybe Powys is a region or something??

3.) There is a big difference between hotels, hostels, guest houses, bunk houses, and bed and breakfasts.  You would think that you could just search for “places to stay” but apparently you cannot.  Also, accommodation is British for “places to stay”.  Once I realized that, I stopped getting links about camping about the Taff Trail in my google search.

4.) The Taff trail does not appear to be marked on Google, so I can’t even tell if some of these towns are anywhere near it.

After excessive googling, it looks like it might be possible to stay in the town of Talybont-on-usk, which seems to be just off the Taff trail and also accessible to the canal towpath.  I thought I found a nice hotel, but they don’t list an email address and request that you instead call them.  Seems like a way to deter those rough and obnoxious American tourists if you ask me.


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England! And Wales!

We’re going to England this summer.  I’m insanely excited for this trip.  Our honeymoon was great, but I really held off on planning anything and I think a bit of planning might have helped us.  So the England trip is getting planned.  I spent a bit of time getting excited over the weekend, and think we have a pretty good trip planned. 

We have Husband’s sister’s wedding reception/party in Leeds four days after we fly into Heathrow (Wednesday).  We don’t plan to spend any time in London (expensive, loud, crowded), and instead will hopefully just get right on the 201 and take the 3hr trip to Cardiff, Wales.  We will spend the first day exploring Cardiff (suggestions welcome) and stay overnight in a hotel or hostel. 

The next morning, we will head over to the Cycle Hire shop and rent ourselves some bikes. Then we will get on the Taff Trail, which is a 55-mile trail to the Brecon Beacons National Park.  (Yes.  We’ll need to train.)  We will stay overnight somewhere in the park (UK parks are huge and include towns and hamlets, unlike US parks which, if you’re lucky, have campgrounds) and then spend Friday “walking” (British for hiking) or doing something else grand.  Depending on what we do Friday, we will either leave Friday afternoon and cycle back part of the way to Cardiff, staying in a town along the Trail, and then cycle the remaining portion in the morning, or we will cycle the entire Trail on Saturday and then catch a bus to Leeds in the evening and spend a very smelly four hours on the bus.  We could also stay another night in Cardiff and get on a bus early Sunday morning, spending Sunday and Monday with family before catching a train back to London to leave on Tuesday, but it seems like we’d have a much better chance of seeing people and not being stressed if we come in Saturday night. 

Did I already mention how excited I am?  Even if the cycling thing doesn’t plan out, there are plenty of buses up to the Beacons, and plenty of cool things to do in Cardiff, that I’m unconcerned about our biking plan falling through. 

Has anyone ever been to Wales? Suggestions for places to stay, etc. would be appreciated.


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