Monday, June 13, 2011

Episode 6: European Vacations

Since one of our main pros for moving to Poland was that we could see Europe, we have always planned to travel as much as possible while living here.  We also plan to, of course, see as much of our area as possible.  Once the snow melted, and my blood pressure returned to a somewhat normal level, we took to the road.

Our first big trip was a three-day weekend in Warsaw.  We left on a Saturday and didn't leave the house until 10 or 10:30 which was good for us but would have made my father go nuts.  The day is half over by then!!!  For us, it was good because I could pack, and the boys started the day in a fairly normal fashion.  We have friends who time their trips so the kids are asleep as much as possible.  They've left in the wee hours of the morning and night.  We've left late at night only once, and that was before kids.  We high-tailed it out of Odessa, Texas after a friend's wedding.  I was just too afraid to stay there any longer lest we lose our sanity.

Of course, when traveling with young kids you must pack snacks and toys.  I did.  Unfortunately we'd eaten all of the snacks the first hour in the car.  We had to stop about 4 hours in to get snacks at the grubbiest supermarket in Poland.  I got dirty just walking through the door.  The kids chose some kiwi juice (not kidding) that was puke green and on sale.  Totally safe.  They gulped it in the car like it was fine wine.  Along with the spicy nacho tortilla chips their dad thought was a good idea.   

And the toys were not as interesting as the cars and trucks we passed on the way.  Which sounds great but really means that Alex told us every car, truck, house, and sign we passed.  The kid was not quiet for 6 hours.  He slept zero seconds.

The roads were fine.  I was worried because we'd heard they would be not great.  There was a stretch that was basically like a one-lane ride through a country town, but we're from Texas.  That ain't no thing. 

We drove into Warsaw in the early evening.  We drove right by old town, and it was so pretty!  That would be the last I saw of it.  The boys got excited by the buses and city trains we passed.  They did get a little tense when we searched for the hotel and did not immediately find it or a parking place.  Our boys do not handle uncertainty in the car really well. 

The hotel was perfect.  It was right in the center of downtown.  We were right across from a central train and bus depot as well as a cool clock tower and lots of restaurants.  Since it's such a busy part of downtown, the sidewalks go underground at the intersections.  Alex loved this!!!  He said, "I wonder how somebody thought of that?" 

Of course we ate at McDonald's for dinner.  Which was fine.  Except we couldn't find it.  We had to ask, and then this nice couple basically walked us there.  It was a pretty nice Nugget Store (what my boys call McDonald's).  They had nice outside seating and access to beer (which I didn't have but wanted very badly).  You know what else it had outside?  Birds.  Lots of birds used to getting food from patrons.  So, I was twitchy through the whole meal.  It took a bird exactly 2 seconds to take the cheeseburger parts the boys dropped under our table.  Also, there was a bird on our table.  ON OUR TABLE!!!  I'm fine though.

We tried to go to a restaurant farther away or just different, but I think Jack was having a bit of trouble with the change.  I think he thought we were moving again.  We put our stuff in the hotel room and went for a walk.  About 5 minutes in, Jack demanded we go back for his lovies.  He didn't even want to ride a train.  That's one stressed Jackers!  We did convince him to ride an underground train, but it was so loud he had to be carried onto it on the way back.  I had to stay at the top of the stairs and rush him down to the train once it stopped at the platform.  So, as you can see, McDonald's was the easy answer.

I swear this is Warsaw.  These are the only pictures I took.  It is really hard to photograph a family vacation with only 2 grown-ups around.  We need a professional photographer to follow us.

The next morning we were ready to start a fun day of seeing sights!  But it was raining.  Oh well, we're on vacation!  I ordered breakfast in the room.  Apparently I ordered enough for about 8 people.  It also cost way more than I had thought.  But that's okay!  We're on vacation!  And the boys ate like one bite of everything so it was totally worth it.

We decided to head to the zoo despite the unexpected weather.  We got to pass the cool new football(soccer) stadium they are building for the Euro Cup which will be held in Poland next summer.  When we got to the zoo, it looked fairly uncrowded, but the weather was not only wet but a little chilly.  We consulted our handy dandy guides and decided to take the boys to the science museum.  We talked it up big time and told them it would be way better than the zoo!!!!  (You know this is going to end badly, right?)

We had a bit of trouble finding the museum.  As it turns out, we parked about 200 miles from it.  But we soldiered on.  Because it was going to be awesome!!!  And the lobby was.  And that's all we saw.  The line to get in was 2 hours long.  (This time I'm not exaggerating.)  And it was outside in the cold.  But the boys really did enjoy the robot in the lobby.  We almost couldn't get them to leave him.  We were able to talk them into buying some bouncy balls in the gift shop though which became the bane of my existence for the rest of the day as they fought over the cool one and lost them in the hotel room.

So, we gave the zoo another try.  We got to enjoy some waffles (called gofry) with sugar and whipped cream on them.  This is a very popular treat here and can be found at all the beach stores/restaurants too.  We saw some monkeys and fish and giraffes.  They were the prettiest giraffes I've ever seen.  They ran some, and I don't think I've ever seen them run in person.  It was pretty amazing.  The boys were mostly wanting to see giraffes, so we left after.  It was still cold and wet.  It was the shortest zoo visit in history.

For lunch, we headed to a Mexican restaurant that was recommended in several guides.  We promised the boys quesadillas and maybe even guacamole!!!  Um, but since it was Sunday, they didn't have their regular menu.  It was a brunch buffet.  So, no quesadillas.  But, I did find some tacos that Jack and I both liked.  I think Alex had nuggets and Michael had misery with ketchup.  There was a room in the back with toys and face painting and balloon animals.  The boys would only go in there with me at first.  It's tough for them to navigate big groups of kids when they are the only ones speaking English.  I totally understand that.  They were troopers though.  They even sat through most of the puppet show.  I have no idea what it was about, and the dude doing all the voices and telling the story was a bit creepy, but my boys laughed when the other kids laughed.  At one point Jack turned to me and said, "That bear said something funny!!!"  If you say so.

We went back to the hotel and napped our butts off.  Whee!!! Daddy took us out to eat at Hard Rock, and the boys had fun picking out which guitar they might like to play some day.  Then, the funniest thing ever happened.  The waitress came to give us the check, and Alex winked at her!!!!  It was so awesome.  I had no idea he had been practicing, and no one told him to do it just then.  He just has a knack for knowing how to wow the ladies.  We bought Alex his first Hard Rock t-shirt, but Jack didn't want one.  He is too cool for things like that I guess.

Then, Daddy had a great idea to ride the above-ground city trains.  The boys were in heaven.  Jack could have ridden those trains for hours.  It was truly a happy thing for them.  We returned to the hotel with a content feeling and good feelings about our day.  They were even dazzled by the twinkly lights above the hotel entrance.

The next morning was still more chilly and wet than we would have liked.  We decided to go to another hotel for breakfast.  Michael is a super genius and found one with a buffet that had pancakes and fruit and yogurt and the right syrup!  (The boys are now only wanting real maple syrup.  Not the imitation stuff I love.  I'm slowly losing them to better taste.  I'm afraid I'd never get them to like Tang.)

After that, we had another sure-fire trick up our sleeve.  We took them to a train museum.  Bonus--it was free!!!  There were model trains everywhere.  But you couldn't touch them.  At all.  There was a guard.  That did not stop the boys from having fun.  In fact, that was the most animated I have ever seen Jack get.  At one point Alex and Michael were outside looking at the big train while Jack and I looked inside.  He pointed out all the parts of all the models.  He loved each and every one.  I almost cried he was so happy.  I'll never forget how much he loved those trains.

Here is where the easy-going, roll-with-the-punches parents left the building.

Daddy suggested more riding of actual trains.  I wanted to go to the old town and ride the train that goes around the square.  You know, maybe see a tourist spot?  But no, we rode the city trains again.  To nowhere.  Just up and back.  Whee.  To be fair, the boys loved it.  They think of those trains a lot.  But I just wanted to see the square.  So, I may have pouted.  Michael may have over-reacted to my pouting by saying something martyrish about being sorry the whole vacation was so awful.  Whee.

Luckily, we didn't let this get much further.  I think we were both tired and bummed that the weather was not great.  We rebounded and finished the trip at a big mall where we found pancake mix we love, mac and cheese by Kraft (Well, they call it cheesy pasta, but you can't fool me.) and some magazines in English.

The ride home was a bit tough at the end because Alex was so tired and couldn't really sleep comfortably.  He's not like Jack who can sleep standing up.  But we all calmed down at home and spent the next day together because Michael was still off work.

All in all, I'd say it was a success.  The boys ask when we are going back to the 'yellow city' which is what they call it because our hotel was yellow.  They loved the hotel room and the cool sliding glass doors at the entrance.  They loved the trains.  They had Mommy and Daddy at full attention.  There was no work, no computer, no distractions.  We had no chores in the back of our minds and no real place to be.  You can't get in a huff about not seeing everything with kids.  You would do better to just enjoy where the moment takes you and let it go.  We are headed to Berlin this weekend.  I'll try to take more pictures and throw no more less tiny hissy fits.  I know there are more trains and zoos in my future!


Niki said...

Traveling with kids is always stressful, but it sounds like you handled it well. Glad you're starting to venture out and see more of Europe! :)

Rosstwinmom said...

It's crazy that my 3 year olds have seen as much of Europe as me! How lucky are they?

241IMDUN said...

What fun! You all are doing great!

BabyBabyLemon said...

Traveling with kids can be so hard, hang in there. And calling McDonald's Nugget Store is the funniest thing I've heard all day.

Catherine said...

So jealous! What great memories you all will have.