What do you do when you’re about to go back to work after having six months off with your first child?
If you said, take three weeks to travel through France, Switzerland, and Italy… you WIN!
I thought my husband was CRAZY when he told me his bright idea. My six months of maternity leave was about to end, he suggested we take another month off (unpaid), pack a couple of backpacks and go to Europe. Who takes a baby with them to Europe?! Plus, I’d never backpacked through anything before! I could feel my blood pressure rising. I may have panicked a bit… I don’t like to think I’ve got any diva in me but I usually prefer hotels to hostels. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Needless to say, I protested a bit…
Thank goodness my husband doesn’t always listen to me.
We landed in Paris, France in May of 1999 and hopped on a train to Switzerland with two oversized backpacks strapped to our bodies. I carried the kid with a diaper bag zipped to the carrier, a car-seat bungee corded to that, and a smaller bag velcroed below his seat. Dave carried all of our clothing and diapers needed for 3 weeks in the biggest red backpack we could find.
Making our way through the airport was one thing but once we started our journey on the subway and train system… look out people – we’re coming through!
To say the least, we over-packed*!
*if we were to do it all over again… we’d take only 4 outfits each, it’s amazing what you can wash in a sink & dry overnight, 2 pairs of shoes each (sandals & runners), and leave the car seat at home!
We made Lucerne, Switzerland our base camp – spending the majority of our time there with our good Swiss friends, touring around their BEAUTIFUL and super clean country. We saw everything between Lucerne to Zurich and all the way south to Zermatt, home of the incredible Matterhorn. While we were there we borrowed a stroller from a neighbour to help make it easier on our backs, this boy was 8lbs 1oz at birth… by 7 months, he was a small monster.
We spent almost a week with our friends in their family’s chalet, close to Brig, along the
Swiss/Italian border. Each morning we got to wake up to breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps. Yes, I did
twirl in a field while singing the Sound of Music…
Best Meal: Our friends took us out of the city to a small village, across the Lake of Lucerne, into the mountains – to a place called Pouletburg in Attinghausen – where we had the best-roasted chicken!!
Best Sights: In complete awe of the scenery, everywhere we went. The flower boxes under every window and the public fountains with water so clean you could drink from them.
Biggest Regrets: Dave would have loved to have gone mountain climbing. I should have bought more Swiss Chocolate and lace.
From there we took the train to Italy, our first stopover was Venice. Even though we were on a tight budget, Dave splurged. He’d heard my panic-filled rants about where we were going to sleep after all. He reserved a hotel room ($140 for one night) near Piazza San Marco, right around the corner from Saint Mark’s Basilica. However, we were shocked and unprepared for the high cost of food.
Best Meal: A panini we had for lunch, it had the thickest chunk of fresh mozzarella cheese… DELISH!
Best Sights: Walking the canals, all the flowers, the music, and the Palazzo Ducale.
Biggest Regrets: We didn’t have much time to take it all in, one day is not enough time. We didn’t venture too far from Saint Mark’s Square. Next time, we’ll visit one of the outlining Islands, walk through more neighbourhoods and maybe take our 1st Gondola ride.
Then back on the train, we went, making our way to Florence. It was HOT in Florence! I mean HOT – HOT – HOT. We couldn’t find accommodations with air conditioning, even for the $100 a night we spent. We bathed Q in cold water and tried to keep him in the least amount of clothes possible. You couldn’t escape the heat. It was a good thing he learned to drink water from a straw while in Venice.
In the two days we were there, we packed in the sights! We walked everywhere and saw everything possible; The Fountain of Neptune, Galleria dell’Accademia, Duomo – Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Uffizi Gallery, Basilica di Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, and much more.
Best Meal: We asked a local for their favourite place to eat. Down a few cobblestone side streets in the dark, we went until we came across this little gem. Not surprisingly, we were the only non-Italians there. IT WAS MOUTHWATERING GOOD. We ate and ate and ate, making up for barely eating in Venice…
Best Sights: Everything but most of all, Michelangelo’s “David”
Biggest Regrets: We found incredible Italian leather merch! Dave really wanted a particular bag, it was extremely gorgeous handsome ?… I would have loved to have been able to purchase it for him.
Just as we were acclimatizing to the Italian heatwave, we were back on the bullet train to Lucerne, Switzerland.
Note to future self: I get train sick while eating in the dining car, facing the opposite direction in which we’re traveling…
Paris finished off our trip. We stayed at the quaint Henry IV on Pont Neuf (Ile de la Cite). The building is around 400 years old, we had to duck and squeeze to get through the door. It was fun getting up the extremely tight spiral staircase with the backpacks and baby, but at $50 a night, breakfast included, this place was BIG on value and HUGE on location.
restaurants were tiny and filled with smokers. One supper in Paris we took turns standing outside on the sidewalk with the baby while the other one ate.
Workers were on strike. Alas, Mona Lisa was not to be viewed. 2) We arrived at Hôtel des Invalides when I realized I’d forgotten all the art we’d purchased from the artists along the Seine, in a payphone a few blocks back. By the time we returned, the museum was closed. So much for seeing Napoleon’s burial site.
A week after we returned home, I went back to work. Not a bad way to end a maternity leave eh?!
My son is now 15 and his biggest regret… being so young that he can’t remember any of it. He’d like to go again. 🙂
Hey, honey… do you think we could pull this off with four kids now?!