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Distant Lands

Monday, 24 December 2007

Longwood Gardens vs. The Grinch

Two days before Christmas and it might never stop raining. 

We were embittered, damp, and filled with the joys of cabin fever.  But then the rain let up long enough for us to wade to the car, and we were off.  Longwood Gardens, in Pennsylvania's Brandywine Valley, was far enough away to dry us out and cheer us up, we thought.

We had to drive through a monsoon to get there, sparking the comment "This is Crazy and Stupid!"  But we kept going.  Bathrooms were mentioned while still driving, prompting cries of "I have to go NOW!" from the backseat.  We kept going.  We were going to see Christmas lights and get some holiday spirit, darnit.

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By the time we pulled in, it had stopped raining again, and dusk had fallen. The lights in the trees strengthened everyone's interest in not giving up and turning around.  $16 adult tickets (toddlers enter free) dealt with, [...]More

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Christmas in Bavaria

Back in Munich, exploring the Christmas market again for nativity scene gifts.  The kids were all pressed up against the big display windows of a couple stores, which had been transformed into snowy wonderlands of animated trains, stuffed bears, flying planes and sleighs, sparkling castles, and waving dolls.  One toy store had life-size models of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger made of Legos.  Even the things that are there all year, like the mechanized clock, the trams, and the escalators that don't move until someone's on them delighted the kids (and the kids-at-heart), and every restaurant we patronized welcomed the baby and made much of him.

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Monday, 17 December 2007

The Paper Moon Diner and Baltimore Holiday Treats

The Paper Moon Diner has been the favored midnight stop for students at Johns Hopkins and Loyola College for years.  During regularly-scheduled daytime hours, it is a few blocks from the Baltimore Museum of Art, a short hop down the Jones Falls Expressway to the Maryland Zoo, the Walters Art Museum, and more.  The proximity, and the open-24-hours part make it a great place to grab a cup of coffee (us) and a scrambled-eggs with cheese (her) before moving on to our next event.

Two other things I might mention?  The decor - which is covered floor-to-ceiling in toys (in various states), cars, shoes, artwork and anything else the eclectic and wonderful owner's imagination can conjure.
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Mannequins grace the bathrooms.  Superheros twirl overhead from the fans. Oh the wonders of superglue.  And the food - if you are partial to peanut-butter-pie, [...]More

Friday, 14 December 2007

The Bavarian Alps

We rented a car in Munich and drove down to Fuessen to see Neuschwanstein and tour the Alps.  Since the car we'd reserved wasn't actually available when we arrived at the rental agency, we had to negotiate for a similar car (or at least something big enough to carry 4 adults, one baby in a carseat, and luggage).  I strongly recommend being familiar with the makes and models you are likely to be offered in the area you're traveling - thinking you're getting a luxury sedan when you rent a Mercedes A-class will be a let-down.

I thought driving in Munich was great, but keep in mind I was coming from Athens.  Still, I found the signage good and the other drivers quite decent.  When we left the city, the baby and I started our first-ever trip on the autobahn (the others had traveled in Germany before). 

The views of the Alps across the Bavarian farmland were tremendous, and we passed through a couple charming little villages, complete with partially iced-over ponds full of ducks and swans.  At 8 months old, just driving in a car made the baby pretty happy, and [...]More

Wednesday, 05 December 2007

A Do and a Don't in Bavaria

Overall, traveling with a baby in Bavaria in the winter was wonderful, but I do have to note one major mistake:  Linderhof.  This is a (the?) summer palace of Mad King Ludwig (of Neuschwanstein fame) and is based on Versailles.  It's pretty much on the way between Neuschwanstein and Munich, at least the scenic route we took, so we decided to stop and tour it.

Bad plan.

I'm sure it's gorgeous in the summer when the grounds are at their best, but in the winter it was treacherous and icy (and not all that attractive).  With the baby backpack we nearly wiped out several times, hours away from medical help.  Once at the palace, we found we couldn't take the backpack inside (we knew strollers weren't allowed, but the people at the ticket counter thought the backpack would be okay).  So not only did we have to leave the pack with all the stuff in it outside, but we had to carry the baby in our arms the whole tour.  Which no one enjoyed.

As usual, the baby loved the snow and being outside and seeing stuff, [...]More
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