Archive of ‘Family’ category
We just spent a month in Spain and I want to write down as much as I can before I forget it.
It’s been over 10 years since I’ve travelled internationally and I was rusty. I’ll share the biggies I learned re: traveling with kids (though some will be relevant for those traveling without!) We planned to move around a lot so we decided to pack light.
- G and I got smallish roller bags that can convert to backpacks. I got an Eagle Creek one. He got a more expensive Osprey that has a detachable day pack and is carry-on size for airplane travel.
- The girls used their Pottery Barn roller bags that they use for school.
- We each packed a week’s worth of clothes.
Eagle Creek Lync System 26" Travel Pack
Osprey Meridian Wheeled Convertible Luggage 22"
Pottery Barn wheeled backpack
- 5 short sleeved shirts
- 5 pairs shorts/skirts
- (I packed 3 pairs shorts and 5 dresses/shifts for hot weather)
- 7 underwear
- Swimsuits (2 for G and me, kids packed 2-4 each)
- 2 bras (me only ha ha)
- hat (for sun protection)
- 5 socks
- 1 long sleeved shirt
- 1 long pants
- packable rain jackets (they come in own pouch) – did NOT use!
- Flip flops
- (I also took Birkenstocks which I wore almost every day)
- Ibuprofen (including Advil PM to overcome jet lag)
- Bug repellent wipes
Things to pack/do (that we didn’t and learned the hard way.)
- 3-4 power adaptors (we had 2 cellphones, 2 iPads & G’s laptop and a mantra: ABC (Always Be Charging)
- Extra USB/charging cables
- Take photos of your passports and credit cards – store photos on iCloud in case of loss/theft.
- BYOWC (Bring your own washcloth if you use washcloths)
In the past we have been “over packers.” We used to take a huge duffle bag with all of our clothes thrown in for 10 days at my mother in law’s beach condo. You can imagine the time spent searching through for complete outfits. Last summer I traveled for 2 weeks with the kids in the northeast United States. We then spent another week camping at Grand Tetons National Park. Time and space did not permit this kind of excess. Our dear friend Trish met us with her family and shared her packing method of rolling outfits together for her two boys which I incorporated for this trip.
- Roll complete outfits together. Rolling clothes in general is a more efficient use of space in packing than folded clothes. It also tends to create fewer wrinkles. I rolled a shirt and shorts/skirt together and placed in roller bags. Kids could easily pick out an outfit on their own.
- Socks and underpants went into a large Zip-Loc. (You can also purchase “cubes” at REI or a travel store but they are not cheap!)
- PJs went into another large Zip-Loc.
- Swimsuits went into a 3rd large Zip-Loc.
Shirt & shorts (1 outfit)
Roll that sucker up
Place in rollerbag for easy grabbing by a kid!
Zip-Loc 'O swimsuits – messy!
Roll those babies up too!
Shoes/Flip Flops in a Zip-Loc too – you don't want the bottoms of dirty shoes touching your clothes. (Or DO you?)
Two days after school got out we flew a red-eye to Madrid. Our kids are ages 8 and 6 so no strollers/diapers/sippy cups etc. We took two CamelBak water bottles for them one of which was lost within the first 24 hours upon landing somewhere in the airport in Madrid. The second was lost a week or so later.
The owner of the AirB&B apartment we rented had a taxi driver waiting for us. He took us straightaway to our apartment in the center of Madrid near the Prado Museum. The climate was similar to southern California’s: dry & hot. It was in the high 90′s when we arrived. We had been traveling since 3PM our time and it was now late afternoon and we were out of all fruit etc. that we had taken on the plane. Around 8 or 9PM I walked outside with the kids to find a store. It was still incredibly hot outside and we walked past several theaters and restaurants. The vibe was relaxed – people sat at tables smoking or drinking a beer or glass of wine and kids played at a nearby playground. I compared it to the Promenade in Santa Monica which is rigidly structured in comparison – if alcohol is served in restaurants in SM there has to be a metal fence around the seating area. There are no playgrounds in the immediate area either.
I bought some overpriced spaghetti, sauce, toothpaste, a coke and 2 beers for George. We were in no shape to go out as we hadn’t slept yet.
The next day we set out to explore a bit. We planned to stay 2 nights before heading to Barcelona. We’d give ourselves more time in Madrid at the tail end of the trip but for now we wanted to get out of the hot city. Before leaving the apartment I asked G where the passports were. He had all 4 of them. He planned to keep them in his daypack. I asked for mine as I didn’t think we should keep them all together. First stop was a restaurant the apt. owner recommended at the end of our street. It was called Taberna el Sur.
First outing in Madrid
Tiny sip of sangria
I saw other tourists in there so wondered if all the AirB&B owners sent them there? Anyway, it was really cute, friendly and had nice sangria. Maddie ordered a caesar salad and had her first lesson in ordering food in Spain. Try to order Spanish specialities instead of ordering familiar dishes as they will NOT be prepared the same way. We ordered croquettes (with jamon), camarones (calamari), a sort of caprese salad and I have no idea what Bea got or ate. That lunch was our introduction to a month of camarones y jamon (ham – usually Iberian).
We had to switch SIM cards first so we went to Vodaphone or maybe two Vodaphone stores until we switched them. The second Vodaphone store was inside a Cortes Ingles which is a department store. There was a pretty nice grocery store in the basement so we grabbed some sundries. The tap water is excellent in Madrid so there was no need to buy bottled water. G and I had managed not to lose our CamelBak bottles yet.
After getting our new SIM cards and Spanish phone numbers, we stopped in a plaza for a drink. It was around 9PM but still light out. In the plaza we just sat down at one of many tables and a waiter approached asking what we’d like. We had no menus so I asked him what kinds of wine he had. He said, “Blanco y tinto.” Simple! I ordered a copa de vino blanco – seco (DRY!) The wine was excellent.
From time to time people approached to sell us jewelry, carved animals, wooden trivets etc. One man tried to sell us fidget spinners. We answered “No gracias.” countless times. It was pretty obvious they could spot the tourists and beelined towards them. At first the kids betrayed me by yelling, “PLLLLLEEEEEEEEEEEAze????” re: the fidget spinners. After the man left I told them that they were falling into his sales trap and that next time they had better act disinterested.
We ordered a second drink because it was so nice out and there were so many people out and about. The kids started playing in the plaza.
Kids were playing in front of "Despicable Gru" poster.
Around 9:30 or 10PM. So nice out!
A little boy joined the girls in the plaza. Instantly I romanticized them thinking, “The children are already befriending a native Spaniard!” but then his parents called to him in English. We struck up a conversation – turns out they were from the Bay area. So much for social immersion. As we talked with them the fidget spinner salesman approached again. We said no much more quickly this time and he seemed not to mind as he departed quickly. The CA family left and we paid our bill. Thrilled to see each glass of wine was 2.20 euros and the beers were 1.50 euros!
However, thrill turned to despair as we got up to leave and found no evidence of G’s daypack. We suspected the fidget spinner salesman had grabbed it from the ground by G’s foot. Inside were his and the girls’ passports as well as his copy of Lonely Planet Spain and his prescription reading glasses. We were supposed to leave for Barcelona the following day.
**To be continued…**
We started out at my sister’s house. My niece had a day off of work so we grabbed her and headed to South Street. The last time I’d been there was probably 20+ years ago and it wasn’t the same but we had fun.
We happened upon the Magic Gardens:
Outside The Magic Gardens
M was pretty grumpy as we’d just flown in the night before and it was pretty hot. Ok forget the excuses – that’s her default mood.
We had lunch at this largely empty pub. Free air hockey and a local cider, what more could you ask for?
Rachel and me at a pub
After lunch we headed to Smith Memorial Playground. Acres of playground
When I was a kid we at times sprayed furniture polish on the wooden floor, put socks on and slid back & forth. Some genius translated this to a slide!
You grab a gunny sack, run around the walkway and WHEEEEEEEEEEEEeeee down you go!
This little fellow helped us up at the bottom.
Texting & sliding.
No texts were harmed in the filming of this slide.
Not a bad “Intro to Summer Vacation.”
M only missed one day of school so I told her she could play hooky towards the end of the year. We wanted to pick strawberries at Underwood Farms in Moorpark but couldn’t face the weekend crowds.
If you haven’t been, it’s about an hour from Los Angeles.
Maddie put on Aunt Charlotte's jean jacket to wear to the farm
Patsy embroidered it!
It started out foggy and cool. Going on a weekday is key. Going early is best. The parking lot is almost empty.
When you arrive, you pay the entrance fee and can buy a bunch of tickets. This is the time to get a few tokens for the cars as well as some carrots for the animals.
We had the place mostly to ourselves at first.
No line for the pony ride.
I don't feel good about this but am too lazy/wishy-washy to say no.
M remarked that the ponies looked pretty bored.
Empty bouncy house = best bouncy house
Mama & baby pig
We also picked LOTS of strawberries but my hands were too full to snap any pix. They are very inexpensive when you pick them yourselves.
After a full day we grabbed a bite at In-N-Out and headed home around 4PM.
Lunch at In-N-Out finished a fun day
This is a fun day. You don’t need a stroller because they have wagons to haul your kids/bags/water bottles & produce around.
- sneakers/socks (flip flops will get kind of grody)
- snacks (they have a food bar but it’s not always open)
There are two farms: Somis and Moorpark. Moorpark is the one with all the extras (besides produce picking): bouncy house, animals, petting zoo, pony rides, and in the fall, a corn maze. They also have a produce market on the way out. Somis I believe is much smaller and is primarily for picking produce.
Moorpark Farm Center
3370 Sunset Valley Road
9am-6pm (during daylight savings)
9am-5pm (during standard time)
Open March-Thanksgiving and weekends through Christmas
Closed Thanksgiving Day.
$6.00/person weekends and major holidays
Children under 2 are free.
After 20 years in the Castro, my dad decided to leave for a flatter, easier life. St. Allison met me in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago to help get the show on the road. I guess she and my brother knew if I went alone many hours would be spent looking through old pictures and packing broken frames, plastic tape rolls with 1/4 cm of tape left on them and a lonely thumbtack.
The first morning there we did a lot of stuff like this:
I love that shade of pink. That was his dining room and I never got tired of looking up out the window seeing the pink interior wall against the white exterior wall and deep blue sky.
We also gave away all kinds of things on Craig’s List. I totally recommend that versus the dump as it involves nothing more than hauling junk to the curb and then posting pix with descriptions to the free section of Craig’s List. Saves things from the landfill too.
That said, I think we could’ve sold this rug my dad bought a million years ago in Portugal:
I got so many emails about this rug. But we didn’t dare tarry. Alli and I just couldn’t stop ourselves from hurling things down the staircases and out the door!
By Friday afternoon we were in pretty good shape so Allie and I took a walk down Castro.
I hadn’t been there in a while. These were new:
As usual I got sentimental and felt something wet well up in the corners of my eyes thinking I still haven’t had a drink at the Twin Peaks bar (aka The Glass Coffin) and things of that nature.
When I later lamented to my sister in law about never having seen a movie at the Castro Theater my dad quickly reminded me that we had. I already forget what we saw despite this conversation occurring last week.
The Castro is a beautiful, magical neighborhood! I was in my mid 20′s when my dad moved there and every visit was exciting not only due to being in a city but also because of the soft light, view of the bay bridge from his living room, hills and coffee. Yes, the coffee was GOOD. The coffee was STRONG. I was drinking double lattes with every meal because I lived in Naples, FL where the coffee and cuisine was nothing to write about particularly if you have trouble getting over the “e” at the end of “Grill” in 50% of the restaurant’s names. Olde Naples Grille and Buena Vista Grille. There is nothing quaint about a peach colored strip mall on the side of US 41, no matter how many “e’s” you tag on the end of a name.
That night my dad took us to Alice’s for dinner. No matter what you order at Alice’s, it comes smothered in the same brown sauce.
Shortly after reading this fortune I got a job casting (non-violent) criminals for a documentary series. These things never lie.
The next day Ali and I felt we were in good shape so we took a long walk down Mission Street to the Embarcadero. We explored many precious shops inside.
That night my dad had reservations at Zuni Cafe. I hadn’t been here in over 15 years because of 2223 (now closed.)
I couldn’t help but feel sentimental and a bit sad walking there that night.
Something magical about the lighting and the hills, the people etc.
We had a wonderful dinner at Zuni! We ordered:
- chicken for two roasted in the brick oven; warm bread salad with scallions, garlic, dried currants, and pine nuts
- wild arugula salad
- frisee salad
Waiting for our chicken at Zuni Cafe
Chicken must be ordered 1 hour ahead.
Chicken almost here!
Dad post gins/pre rose at Zuni
In packing we found this coaster Andrew made as a child.
Andrew ended up leaning towards the sciences and away from the arts
On Sunday we were doing so well we decided to take a drive down the coast, one last time.
Mini Road trip CA coast
Of course we had to eat first!
Finally we had to admit we were done and leave.
View of Castro from the apartment
View from Dad's apartment. It used to be possible to see the Bay Bridge until all the development.
One last look.
Good bye, Castro! Thank you for the memories.
A month or so ago we met Lyn in Chinatown (Los Angeles that is) for some dim sum.
Afterwards we descended the steep staircase
to head over to The Bob Baker Marionette Theater to see “The Nutcracker.”
There goes Lyn in the industrial elevator.
We met at the Theater. Founded in 1963 it’s the oldest children’ theater in LA and several years ago was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (Wikipedia). G had taken the girls a year or two ago and last November, after Bob died at age 90, suggested we go in case it shut down for some reason.
There are some chairs lining the outside of the seating area but most of the kids sit on the ground as close to the “stage” as they can.
Here comes the Sugar Plum Fairy!
Lyn got each girl a marionette after the show. Thank you, Lyn!
It was fun to see the old pix of the theater’s film work.
We had yet another fun day with Lyn!
I highly recommend this experience. You can buy tickets online from their website. They are so totally helpful and friendly – when G wasn’t able to show up they offered to refund his ticket money! We didn’t even ask (or take them up on it.)
Bob Baker Marionette Theater
1345 W 1st Street
LA, CA 90026