Arizona getaway

Before Anjali started her new job full time, we decided to getaway for a few days to sunny Arizona, away from rainy and cold Sausalito. We knew this is likely our last flight together as a family until the summer when we go celebrate Dada-Dadi’s 50th Anniversary in Europe with the entire family. The kids were very excited to be on a plane again. We had the most amazing luck during our journey across 4 continents that all our flights were on time, no lost baggage etc. It came to an end when our flight was a couple of hours late and slightly messed up our plans since we were driving straight to Sedona that day. The kids did well on the short plane ride and had a nice nap. We rented a Jeep and drove 2 hours to Sedona that evening arriving to our hotel at night, a little past their bed time (Arizona is 1 hour ahead). Ayaan has gotten to the age where every few minutes he’ll ask “how much time left to reach?” It makes us wonder how we ever did our 10000+ miles of driving! (Luckily he only started on this trip). We stayed at the Sedona Pine Ridge resort that turned out to be super kid friendly and had a nice small cottage for us.

Kids didn’t sleep great though and Ayaan woke us up in the wee hours (he’s awake at sunrise). We ate some yummy Mexican breakfast and started our day hiking in Sedona. Weather was wonderful in the mid 60s and sunny, and we all enjoyed hiking the red rock Cathedral trail. I took the carrier, but I was very proud that both Ariana and Ayaan wanted and were able to hike themselves with little help. Ariana on the way back told me “I am having a lot of fun doing this with you daddy”. They are so attuned to the outdoors and travel at this point. We did another short trail to the bell, before grabbing some Tamales for lunch. The kids were quite tired so we headed back to the resort for a dip in the heated pool and hot tub. That got Ariana exhausted and she had a nice nap. I had to do some project work, so Anjali took Ayaan to the park and to play mini golf in the resort. They also went and bought some groceries so we could BBQ outside the room (inspired by our neighboring cottage who helped us set up) and have a chill night. Our last morning in Sedona, it was overcast and started pouring before lunch so we drove around, went to the Chapel of the holy cross and had some chai and listened to live music at the arts and crafts market.

Done with the rain, we drove to warm Scottsdale while the kids had a nice long nap for the entire time. We checked into the Westin Kierland resort and spent the afternoon in the lazy river and pool. Ayaan made a friend who had a water gun and Ariana befriended a couple of older girls that kept her smiling. The resort was kid friendly once again as we sat outdoors to grab dinner while listening to bagpipes first and then a live singer. A huge surprise was awaiting Ayaan, as they had S’mores – his absolute favorite! Anjali and I spent some together on the balcony of our 11th floor hotel room overlooking the Sedona area and the golf course, while enjoying the live music downstairs and discussing career decisions for me. I’ve been a bit stressed this trip as I decide amongst a few options. Our final full day in Scottsdale started with story time for kids at the resort. We then took them to Macdonalds ranch nearby. It was a super unique experience for us visiting a traditional western ranch with a petting zoo, pony rides and western games. The kids loved every bit of it. We ate Vietnamese for lunch and Ayaan was so happy to get Vietnamese crepes – his favorite from the entire journey over the last few months. After a nap, we spent more time doing the same as yesterday – pool time and live music.

It was a great short getaway and family time before we truly end our full time travel and start full time work.

Ireland – part 3, Galway & Dublin

After a sumptuous breakfast of waffles, freshly baked croissants, and smoked salmon, we set out for Connomarra National Park, a 2.5 hour drive from Corrofin. As we approached the area, our eyes were greeted by stunning lakes, and lush green mountains with waterfalls streaming down. Our first stop in the park was for lunch at the visitor center, after which Ariana played with her grandparents in the park while Ayaan joined Gaurav and I for another hike. As we walked up the mountain, we could see a spectacular view of the valley and lakes below. After the hike, we drove to the beautiful Kylemore abbey which was set against the backdrop of a lake. After strolling the grounds, we drove to Galway and checked in to our apartment. Gaurav brought dinner for the kids and grandparents, and then we enjoyed a date night out! Our first stop was at Cava Bodega where we enjoyed pinxtos and tapas with a carafe of Rioja. Next we headed to the popular pub, Tig Cioli where we each enjoyed a strong Irish Coffee. We learned that Tig Cioli was the first pub that ever opened in Galway and they’d listed the price of a pint for nearly every year since 1900! I’ve begun to really appreciate the pub culture in Ireland because it is extremely kid friendly with baby changing tables, kid menus and live music to drown out any tantrums :). The pubs have become what I look forward to for each meal, and possibly what I’ll miss the most about Ireland! This time though, we were kid free and we decided to make the most of the night. Our next stop was Tich Neachtain where we were able to hustle our way into a fantastic seat right by the live band. We started off with a black Jameson reserve which was fantastic and then proceeded to have several pints of Guinness and whisky flights interspersed with shots of Jameson. We stumbled home and woke up to a heavy hangover the next morning.

It was dada’s birthday so after breakfast at home, everyone enjoyed a treat of the famous Murphy’s ice cream. We walked to Eyre Square and then strolled the medieval streets of Galway taking in the live music at nearly every corner. We made our way to the Galway cathedral which was beautiful. Finally we enjoyed lunch at a pub near our home and then headed back for the kids nap. Ayaan and Ariana have been to over 50 playgrounds during this trip and we took them to another before dinner. It was one of the densest playgrounds we’d been to with a train in addition to the usual and the kids loved it. It was dada’s 73rd birthday and we celebrated with dinner at Buddha Bar. The kids enjoyed singing “happy birthday to Dada”, blowing out the candles and eating up the cake.

In the morning we drove 2.5 hours to Dublin and arrived at our apartment in the heart of Dublin near O’Connell St. Gaurav returned the car to the airport after 1600km of driving, while I picked up groceries and lunch. We spent the afternoon strolling through the historic streets of Dublin – Trinity college, Dublin Castle and St Patrick’s Cathedral. Ayaan wanted sweet corn chicken soup again so we found a nearby Chinese restaurant called M&L which worked out great, and also gave us the opportunity to walk down the touristy city center. After putting Ariana to sleep, Gaurav and I sneaked out to check out the night scene in Dublin. We stumbled upon the Quays bar with a live band that played many of our favorite Karaoke songs! We also visited the famous Temple Bar which is a huge indoor-outdoor pub with Irish local music. The Jameson Black Barrel became our go to drink for the night. Overall we really enjoyed Dublin’s vibe with its historic streets, canals and live music everywhere.

On the last day of our European adventure, we woke up to a sunny Dublin. We took the tram to St Stephens Green, a lovely local park with beautiful flowers, ponds and a playground, and neighborhood. The kids and parents enjoyed the short tram ride. We spent the morning strolling through the park with our coffee, and ate lunch at the mall next door. To celebrate the end of our 2.5 month journey through Europe, Gaurav and I had a special meal at Taste of Rustic, a new age Japanese restaurant in Dublin. After enjoying some Nigiri, we visited the Church bar, a unique experience since neither of us had previously had a drink at a converted church!

It’s been a wonderful journey and we’re thankful that Ayaan and Ariana did incredible, and the grandparents joined us for some of it. On to Bombay for the next phase of our journey!

Ireland – part 2, the west

The west of Ireland is where it’s at, with its stunning coastline and 5 peninsulas. After exploring the Dingle peninsula the previous day, we got a very early start to explore the famous Ring of Kerry drive. The weather wasn’t great in the morning and unfortunately our boat tour around Skellig Michael got cancelled – but we were sort of glad since the ocean was rough and the kids wouldn’t sit still for 2.5 hours. We anyway drove to Portmagee, our first stop on the ring. It’s a small fishing village with the typically colored houses and a breathtaking view point overlooking Skellig Michael and the boats departing to it. Our next stop was just 1.5km away at the Kerry’s Cliffs. The signs are right to call this the most magnificent cliffs of Kerry! We continued down the beautiful Skellig ring drive and were often reminded of the 17 mile drive in Monterey. We stopped for lunch at a pub in Waterville and it was once again a warm experience. We continued driving around the loop making small stops along the way at some sights, and taking a break for coffee and Irish apple cake at Kenmare – another cute town with colorful houses. Ariana and I explored the church here and we took the kids to the playground where they made new friends. Our last section of the ring was through the Molls gap pass and the Killarney national park. We stopped to see the Ladies view and the waterfall along the way, before stopping in the town of Killarney. All of us loved walking around the slightly larger town of Killarney and we ate some Asian street food for dinner.

We started our fifth day in Ireland driving to our next stop in Corrofin, near the Cliffs of Moher. On the way we passed Adare, a small town with thatched roof houses, a castle and a Methodist church. We stopped at Limerick for lunch where we had some delicious Italian food. Before checking in at our next B&B, we visited The Burren National Park, with its limestone rocks and large formation. Ayaan, Anjali and I walked on the 40 min nature loop and we were so proud of Ayaan since he walked the entire loop himself. Our B&B (Burkedale) was lovely as it was a large top floor of a house with meadow views. Joanne our host was very warm and welcoming – as we expected in Ireland at this point. She also gave the kids toys to play with including train tracks and the cars to sit on. The kids loved the house as it had a cat and dog as well. In the evening, we visited the quaint town of Ennis and ate at a recommended pub which was fantastic as well. We tried the Irish coffee which then became a regular for us.

We slept in late in our comfortable B&B and woke up to a good breakfast – having a fulfilling breakfast is one of the best perks of this trip so far! We drove 40 minutes to the famous Cliffs of Moher. We were early enough to beat the rush as we took in the beauty of the magnificent cliffs. As we strolled along the cliff side path it became clear what this place special with its humongous cliffs, green meadows and clear waters. We spent a few hours here and then drove to the nearby Doolin for lunch at a locally recommended pub. We relaxed in the B&B as the kids played with their toys, and later visited the town of Ennis again for dinner.

Ireland – part 1, the south and some west

To end our 2 and a 1/2 month adventure in Europe, we boarded our Norwegian air flight to Dublin. Ireland is a new country for all of us and Ariana’s 20th country! We were excited to be meet my parents who were joining us for this last leg. We arrived to a typically rainy Dublin and rented a large 7-seater to ensure we’d all fit comfortably. I was excited to drive through Ireland on the other side of the road and not have to catch another flight for 10 days. We picked up my parents from their hotel in central Dublin and drove straight to the town of Kilkenny 1 hour 45 mins away. It worked out great since the kids napped after the flight and were overjoyed to meet Dada and Dadi. We stayed at the Springhill Court Hotel which was quite nice and had a pool and spa and most importantly a playground. As soon as we arrived we could tell the Irish were super nice and kid friendly, which was a pleasant change from the recent countries we’d been to where it seemed like they had forgotten how to smile. We spent our first evening eating at Lemongrass, an Asian fusion restaurant, in the heart of Kilkenny. We loved the food and the town with its castle and quaint brightly colored beautiful houses (which we learned through our travels was typical of Irish towns). Anjali and I put the kids to sleep and enjoyed a Guinness at the hotel bar with live Irish music!

Next morning we woke up to an average breakfast in the hotel, before going into the town of Kilkenny. Street parking was easy and we started by walking the grounds of the famous castle from the 12th century. My parents took the kids on a chu chu train tour of Kilkenny which they really enjoyed as it gave them a flavor of this unique town. Anjali and I meanwhile walked through the quaint streets and explored the local Abbey and the church, both of which were worth a visit. Kilkenny was my favorite little town in Ireland! After about an hour of exploration, we drove to the Rock of Cashel that was on our way to our next stop at Kilbrittain. The Rock of Cashel is a historic must-do site, a medieval rock castle, overlooking vast meadows and fields with cows and sheep. Walking through the rock got us hungry and we ate at an Irish pub. The pubs became our go to for meals since the atmosphere, food and service were uniquely Irish and very relaxing. We were also pleasantly surprised to find Indian curry in many of these pubs. After filling our stomachs with yummy food and Guinness, we drove for about 2 hours to our B&B in Kilbrittain called Seafield farmhouse. It was located at the southern tip of Ireland with stunning views of the bay and ocean, hundreds of cows, bright green meadows and to the kids delight had its own dog. The host was very sweet and welcoming as well. Oh yes – and the rooms in Ireland were large unlike much of Europe. We were in love with Ireland to our delight and it was very different than our travels in the mainland. We ended the night with a ocean view dinner at the Pink Elephant with great wine and local food.

We woke up to cows mooing and birds chirping, ate some home made scones and breakfast, and set forth to explore the nearby town of Kinsale. Weather was typically Irish and wet, so we first decided to go to the Charles Fort, a rock fort overlooking Kinsale and the south of Ireland. The kids loved their time here playing with the grandparents and running around with umbrellas in the light rain. We stopped in the town for lunch to devour some pizzas, only after a stop in the playground!

Our stop for the next couple of days was on the west coast in Castlemaine and it was a couple of hours drive from Kinsale. We decided to drive further to the stunning Dingle peninsula since the kids were sleeping. This wasn’t originally part of our itinerary but we were so glad we did this. The Slea Head drive at the tip of the peninsula is one of the most amazing drives I’ve done. It’s extremely narrow and we often got stuck and had to back up – but still worth the drive. We ended our drive at Coumeenoole, a gorgeous view of Skellig Michael and the great basket islands. We drove an hour back through the town of Dingle to the Murphy’s Farmhouse B&B in Castlemaine where we stayed for 2 nights. We ate at yet another local pub that night called Anvil while thoroughly enjoying the live music!

Copenhagen

We arrived into Copenhagen on a rainy evening so we checked into the AC hotel and dined at the hotel bar before calling it a night. The next morning, we took the subway to downtown and the kids were delighted to find a toy store where they could play and ‘test drive’ a large majority of the toys. We spent an unanticipated 45 minutes there since the kids have been deprived of their toys for two months now (save for a few favorites that we were able to squeeze into our suitcase). We then strolled to Nyhavn, a picturesque (albeit touristy) harbor with colored homes and restaurants lining the canal. We ate lunch at one of the restaurants overlooking the water and my burger was pretty good (most other places in Europe where I’ve tried a burger haven’t been able to match up to American / SF standards). We decided to take a canal cruise which was a good start to getting a ‘lay of the land’. We then walked to Christiania, which is meant to be a bohemian, eclectic neighborhood. It may have been the rain but we didn’t get what was special about the neighborhood. The rooftop bar at our hotel had just opened so we decided to dine there. The build-out was impressive and the ambiance hip and energetic. However the service left a lot to be desired. We enjoyed several rounds of Japanese-inspired cocktails that were fantastic but didn’t end up getting our entrees well past the kids bedtime, forcing us to leave somewhat hungry. Not entirely surprising for a restaurants first day but a disappointing experience nevertheless.

I was excited the next morning as my Cornell bestie, Bumjoo was flying in from London with her husband Adam to meet us. We spent the day at the Tivoli Gardens, a creative amusement park that was celebrating its 175th year, and from where Walt Disney reportedly got his inspiration. The park was unique in that it was also appealing to adults with nice restaurants and lounge chairs in the grass. It was a perfect way to catch up with Adam and Bumjoo while the kids were well entertained with a live show, trams, the famous carousel and driving cars and boats. Ayaan was thrilled to finally find cotton candy after searching for it through all of Europe. Luckily, by lunch time the kids were exhausted and napped instantly and soundly, allowing us to enjoy lunch with some local Carlsberg beer! We ended up spending the better part of the day at Tivoli and then retreating back to our hotel through another Pride parade (we experienced pride in Lisbon and Madrid as well!). Dinner was perfect at a nice Indian restaurant Rasoi near our hotel where the kids chowed down on butter chicken and saag paneer with rice.

We started the next morning by climbing to the top of the Round Tower, but not before stopping at a Lego store (LEGO is from Denmark) where the kids played and Ayaan bought a little Lego train. We noticed that all the toy stores in Copenhagen have created an experience for the kids, likely allowing them to survive (and thrive!) despite the proliferation of Amazon and other online retailers (Toys R Us couldn’t learned something from here by creating an experience and potentially preventing their downfall!). The kids did great climbing to the top of the Round Tower by themselves (it helped that there was a ramp nearly the entire way) from where we enjoyed a panoramic view of the city. After retreating back down, we headed to the Rossendberg castle and some gardens where the kids played in a unique park. We then met Bumjoo and Adam for lunch at the fresh food market and enjoyed some delicious fresh fish from sushi, sashimi, and a smorgasbord of seafood delights. We strolled to the nearby botanical gardens and a beer garden where they told the history of beer. Next we went to some food trucks in Christiania where we got another small bite with a round of drinks. The Copenhagen Iron Man was inspiring to watch! We bid goodbye to Bumjoo and Adam that evening and enjoyed dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant before retreating to our hotel. Onto Irelend tomorrow where we’ll meet with Gaurav’s parents!

Austria

After a 3 hour drive we arrived in Bad Goisern, Austria – Ariana’s 15th country. It continues to be brutally hot in Europe this summer with the heat wave with temperatures in the 90s in places like Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland. We checked in to our apartment in a hotel which was great with a wrap around balcony. We took it light since it was a travel day and went to nearby Bad Ischl, Austria’s original capital, and to a local children’s park which the kids really enjoyed with a train, zip line and jungle gym. Ayaan “drove” us in the train to Porto – that place and name is ingrained in him since we kept telling him about the trip when were in Sausalito and how we’re flying to Porto.

On our first day, we woke up early and drove to Hallstatt. We took the funicular up to the viewpoint overlooking Halstatt and the lake, which the kids loved since it reminded them of the hillevator in Sausalito. The view was stunning and we were lucky to get up there early. Ayaan then said “let’s walk around the lake” so we strolled through the beautiful but touristy Halstatt. We then decided to drive to Dachstein Krippenstein and take the cable car up to the top of the mountain at 2100m. Kids once again loved it as expected and we were all delighted to find the temperature to be much cooler at noon. We ate a nice lunch overlooking the glaciers and mountains, after which Ariana fell asleep in the stroller. Anjali and Ayaan went and played in the snow – it was Ayaan’s first time and he loved making snow balls. That tired him and he napped as well. We pushed the stroller on a short hike to 5 fingers which is a lookout over the stunning lake and Halstatt. Enough activities for the day and we headed back to the apartment, visited the same park again, did some laundry and called it a night. Putting Ariana to sleep has gotten more difficult as she’s gotten used to hanging out and playing with Ayaan.

On our last full day in the area, we decided to spend time visiting the smaller, lesser known towns and lakes in the breathtaking Salzkammergut area. We first visited St. Gilgen on Wolfgangsee which was quaint and absolutely stunning. Halstatt is the most famous, but the other towns are equally great and less touristy. We had a cup of coffee lakeside and then visited the children’s park in the center. The kids were thrilled to visit the fire station that had a open house and push the baby stroller in the town. We then drove along turquoise and deep blue lakes to Mondsee, which is a charming. colonial town with a nice square. Ariana saw a church and said “Lets go see the church” and so we did. We learned later that it was the same church where Captain Vontrapp and Maria had been married decades earlier. We saw an Austrian folk band play live for a wedding in the square which was cool. We had lunch in one of the Italian restaurants in the square and devoured some delicious risotto and pizza – ironically now that we were out of Italy Ayaan loved it. The kids napped and we took the opportunity to take a longer scenic route driving past a few more lakes including Traunsee and the relatively uninspiring time of Ebensee. Our evening was fairly predictable as we took the kids to the park again, took the kids to a Chinese restaurant, and opened our bottle of Tignanello. Off on our final drive tomorrow to Munich.

Venice

After 5 days in Tuscany (including Florence), we drove 3.5 hours to the Venice area. We arrived at our agriturismo in the scorching heat of the afternoon and decided to make it a rest day. We bought some groceries and Anjali cooked us a nice dinner that we accompanied with our Chianti Classico from Antinori. We could see the kids really enjoy munching down on pizza, broccolis and chicken nuggets in a safe environment, rather than another dinner in a restaurant. They also really enjoyed playing with the baby tractors, swing, trampoline, slides and toy house, all while pushing their stroller around. We traveled fairly light so we took this time to do some laundry and Anjali and I got to spend some time together alone after the kids slept early. Oh and we finally got to wash our car which got pretty disgusting after 6 weeks!

The next morning we woke up late and the kids enjoyed mamas breakfast and the outdoors. We parked the car in a lot and took the bus into the main city of Venice with its grand canals. It was convenient and after seeing the long line for the parking at the entrance of the city (of course no cars inside), it was definitely the right decision. It was my first time in Venice and it is as unique as you would imagine it to be. With over 100 islands, 400 bridges, and buildings up against the canal, it’s majestic and romantic. However the heat along with the heavy tourists really take away from it. The other thing we realized is that it’s probably one of the worst places to visit with young kids since people aren’t super nice (since it’s crowded and touristy), it’s extremely hot and humid, not very stroller friendly as most bridges have stairs, and lastly and most importantly not too safe with toddlers running around as there’s water everywhere!

We, however, made the best of our time there taking the vaporetto (water bus), walking in Realto and in the San Marco square. The kids were fascinated with the gondolas and with canals everywhere and no cars. We found a nice air conditioned restaurant where for once we allowed the kids to enjoy ice cream for lunch since it was too hot. We made our way back to the agriturismo via vaporetto-bus-car and took a well deserved nap in the afternoon. Italy 🇮🇹 has been great overall and we’ll definitely be back (thought probably not again to Venice, once is sufficient). Off to a new country tomorrow!

Lyon: An unexpected experience

After bidding farewell to Dayton (the dog) in Rauzan, we left on our longest drive of the trip – a five hour drive to Lyon. We always planned Lyon as a stopover rather than a destination, but with the double whammy weekend of Bastille Day and the World Cup Final with France playing we knew it’ll be fun. We checked into our Airbnb and were quite disappointed since it was small, the washer didn’t work and most importantly it wasn’t safe for the kids with a spiral staircase and a loft. Since it was a holiday weekend we decided to drive around Lyon which worked out great since parking was free everywhere. That evening we walked along the Rhone river, across the walking bridge, and spent some time in the slides and water park along the river. Lyon was beautiful with two rivers, several bridges and a mix of historic and modern architecture. Also more chill than Paris with friendlier people more tolerant of children which was a great change after the Bordeaux wine region. Our favorite part of the evening was sitting on one of the boat rooftops overlooking the city while drinking some cider. One month into our trip we were craving some non-European food and we came across an amazing Sichuan restaurant called Bon Voyage, that compared well with our favorite Z&Y in SF. We slept that night with the sounds of fireworks celebrating Bastille day.

Next morning we decided to check out a day early out of our Airbnb and move into the Marriott close by. Anjali has exceptional benefits at Marriott and SPG that have significantly helped with the rates, upgrades and free breakfast! Our second day in Lyon was incredible. We started off by grabbing breakfast at a local coffee shop and their cinnamon brioche, soft boiled eggs and flat white was just what you would expect in Lyon. We then drove to the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere, a Sacre Coure like cathedral on top of the hill overlooking Lyon and it’s two rivers. We went for the view but the cathedral was a piece of art with paintings and sculptures to match the best of what we’ve seen – by far the best cathedral so far on our trip.

Next we went to the local park – Parc de la Tete d’Or to see the botanical gardens. This park was a complete surprise. In addition to the indoor and outdoor sprawling botanical gardens, it had some amazing kids activities. It was a free zoo with giraffes, zebras, bears, crocodiles, flamingos and other animals enclosed right the in the middle of the park – something I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world. In addition they had a children’s area where Ayaan enjoyed earning his first reward by “fishing” for 9 ducks. Ayaan is so caring that he gave one of his three airplanes he won to Ariana. Ayaan also enjoyed sitting on a baby “horse carriage” with me pulling the horse carriage for 10 mins through the track and tunnels (tiring!). Ariana enjoyed going to the carousel all by herself for the first time! She’s a little bold monsta (as she says).

I was particularly excited about the evening – it was the world cup soccer final and France was playing Croatia – and we were in Lyon, what luck! We drove from the Marriott and found parking very close to the main square where 20,000 fans were gathered to watch the game. It starts pouring in Lyon around 430pm everyday so by the time we walked around the square we were completely drenched. But the atmosphere was amazing. We got lucky to get into a bar with screens everywhere and French fans in full spirit. Ayaan slept through the game but Ariana was participating in the cheering and dancing as France beat Croatia 4-2 to win the World Cup. It was an incredible scene on the streets and we were so fortunate to have witnessed it! On our drive back to the hotel we accidentally joined the motorcade of cars with fans screaming, sitting on top of cars and honking loudly. Anjali of course joined the action by sitting on the window. Overall Lyon was a special experience and we are sure to be back!