Thursday, May 31, 2012

Finishing the week with a few bruises...

Remember that time when I saved Maxwell's life on the bobsled?  No?  I haven't told you that story?!?  Well, you'll have to wait because it happened on our last day in Prague.  If you are reading this blog and haven't read the first two, go back!  I am writing these in order of events, but blogspot posts the most recent one first.  This is the third and final Prague blog.


When we began this adventure abroad, I told David that I wanted to see some historical sites while we were in Europe, like perhaps places that were ruined by war or a concentration camp or something.  I always hated history, but I love seeing places in order to learn about the past.  David set up a tour for us to go on to Terezin, Czech Republic.  Terezin is a walled city, with a fortress that has held many uses since its construction.  It was first a military fortress, then a prison camp, and during WWII, a concentration camp and prison.  The city and prison were not a death camp, although many people did die there due to the horrible living conditions and overpopulation.  The kids enjoyed the bus ride to the town and were really good once again throughout the tour.  It felt very strange to be walking through this place that has such a horrible history.  It is a town where people live and are trying to thrive, but it has a sense of despair and quiet that just can't be erased.  The prison is now a tourist attraction, which is so hard to wrap your head around.  There are lines of restrooms with really nice facilities, and a restaurant/cafe WITHIN the prison, where all of these people were held as POWs and died horrible deaths.  I was glad to have experienced it, but I hated it at the same time.  

After arriving back in Old Town Prague, we stopped at a mall to walk around and look at the different shops.  In the square there was a dance competition going on with all these little girls, from about 5-10.  It was a fun little pit stop to watch them dance and people watch in the square (and I picked up my souvenir egg).  Even in the middle of all the other tourists, there were all these locals celebrating, drinking, and having a good time watching their kids.  It was cool!


It was raining when we woke up on Thursday and the forecast called for it all day, so after breakfast David took the kids swimming at the hotel, and I went to the hotel next door for a massage.  It was wonderful, as always.  I feel the same way about massages as David does about pizza:  even if it isn't great, it's still good!! We decided to take advantage of the rainy day and headed back to the mall that we found the day before.  We had lunch in the food court, at a place called The California Cafe that had dishes named after cities in CA, but were Czech meals like fried cheese steak and wiener schnitzel.  Weird.  Then we found an indoor play place and let the kids roam for a bit.  Maxwell and David really liked the ball guns.  I love my husband, but he is a dip.  It's all fun and games until your toddler (and his mother) get a ball launched right at his face.  He had a quick recovery, and was able to be the big man and a good big brother when Darian got trapped at the top of the play area and he helped lead her down the slide to the bottom.  

The week was beginning to take its toll, so we went back to the hotel to take a nap.  We had big plans for a late night, so I wanted to have the kids at their best.  Daddy went out to pick up an easy Chinese food dinner that we ate in the hotel room before out big night.  We were testing the kids:  we took them to the theatre, for a show that didn't even start until 8pm!  I gotta say, we got some dirty looks from the people around us, who were probably thinking, "Oh, great. Toddlers.  Our night was just ruined."  But as always, the kids were FANTASTIC! It helped that the show was amazing.  :o)  We went to see Afrikania, a black light theatre production.  It was all music and dance, where the dancers had these amazing costumes in front of black backgrounds that just glowed when the black lights came on.  It was mesmerizing and the kids both loved it!  Darian really like the first dancers, the butterflies, and Maxwell liked the zebras.  
After the show we walked to the Charles Bridge to see the city at night.  It was a long day with a lot of walking again, so I have to admit I was a bit crabby.  I was kicking myself for not bringing the Ergo to Prague, and wishing that we could have brought the stroller.  But the city was ablaze at night and it was well worth the midnight stroll.


Our last full day in Prague, David had quite the experience planned for us.  After breakfast we took the metro to a different mall, where there was a dinosaur park on the roof!  It was a very cool exhibit, with realistic looking dinosaurs who moved and had sound effects. It was very "Jurassic Park," and even the font for the signs was like the film.  Maxwell (who loves dinosaurs) was a bit freaked out by the two huge T Rex's at the entrance who were moving and roaring at him, but he warmed up and was eventually running up and down the pavement to look at all of the dinos.  The tickets to the park included a 3-D movie back inside the mall, that was in Czech and was actually quite gruesome.  Maxwell didn't like that at all (oh, my timid little man) and Darian, as always, was up for anything.

After lunch at the mall and a bit of shopping to find a birthday present for Aunt Nicole (my new tradition.  Her Christmas present was from Spain, bday from Prague. (o: ), we went back to the metro to travel to our last big adventure.  And let me tell you, David saved the best for last.

Remember that time I almost died?

Yep.  BOBSLEDS.  We walked for about a mile to get to the park and restaurant.  David said that Maxwell and I should go first, so I went for it.  The track is about 1km or a little over half a mile.  I was nervous but excited!  There wasn't anyone else at the park right then, so there was no one ahead of me in line.  I asked the man who was "directing traffic"  how to stop the sled, and he said (in broken English), "Stop.  Down."  Easy enough, right?

Maxwell was sitting in between my legs and we were both holding the brake.  There was absolutely no support on the sled, either for my back or legs.  I figured it would be best to start off slow before I learned how to manoeuvre the thing, so I pressed the brake flush to the floor of the sled.  We started going down, and I couldn't believe how fun it was...or how fast!  This is at full break?!?  NO WAY!  When we started going towards a turn in the track, I realized that I would have to lean my body  against the curve in order to stay upright.  It was the scariest thing I have even done in my life.  I was sitting in this thing that felt like it was flying, and I had my baby boy on my lap without a helmet.  We did a couple more turns like that, and on the fourth one I couldn't hold my body up enough to keep us up.  My feet and legs couldn't hold on and the flailed a bit, and my right shoulder hit the wall of the track.  I was digging my heels into the track best I could without cutting my feet off, and my right arm/shoulder kept riding the rail.  I seriously thought we were going to fall off.  I was able to almost slow to a stop, and we came to another turn, where there was a sign with a picture that said (in English, thank goodness!) "Break!  Stop!"  and it showed pulling the brake TOWARDS you.  Oh my goodness I am a dip.  I was so pissed at the guy that said break down!!!  I pulled it up and we stopped and I was able to reposition us on the sled in order to get back down.  The rest of the ride was uneventful, and when we started getting brought back up the hill, we were all smiles.  David didn't even know that we had almost crashed!    Maxwell didn't have a scratch on him, and he was totally fine. Nothing like knowing that your kid feels totally secure and safe in your arms!!
"I. AM. SPEED!!!"

When I was showing David what happened, we realized that there was a burn mark on my jacket, and my arm was all red and starting to bruise.  One small bruise, one huge victory for Super Mom!!  I saved my kid, and he went right back down the hill with David a few minutes later, yelling, "I AM SPEED!"  (Cars/Lightning McQueen reference)


We didn't have much time before the ride to the airport, so we didn't plan anything for Saturday.  We had a nice last buffet breakfast at the hotel, and then David kept the kids occupied with the blocks and games in the lobby while I went upstairs to pack.  It was really easy to get through the Prague airport.  We were about ready to go to the gate when we realized that we had never been through security.  But wait...we had been through the duty free shops, and had lunch at a cafe.  How can they not have security?!?  Turns out they had two small lines right at the gate.  We went through, and then were ushered to a bus that took us to the plane.  We had priority boarding since we had the kids, but it wasn't really a luxury on that flight, because there were two full buses of families!  It was the most chaotic flight I have ever been on in my life!  The kids were loud, crying, screaming, one point someone threw a stuffed animal at my head.  It was quite an eye opening experience that really made David and I look at our kids in wonder at not only how well behaved they were on that flight, but how well the behaved all week.  They really are awesome.  I love that we have a routine when we are at home, but I am so glad that they are easy going enough to be cool with it when we aren't.  We only had naptime once or twice all week, they were late to bed at night, we were either doing tons of walking or they were strapped into the stroller for hours and hours...our kids are just amazing.  

When we got back to the airport, we didn't have the best time getting the car back from "Stress Free Parking" company.  It took an hour and a half, and had we not valeted but parked on our own, we would have been home in that time.  A strongly worded letter later, David got a partial refund, and all in all, regardless of the yuck of that moment, our week in Prague was one of the best weeks of my life.  We explored, experienced new foods and culture, spent real, quality time with each other and made amazing memories.  No words can describe how lucky we are to be living abroad and have the chance to take these amazing trips.  Like I said in my first post, I am still on a Prague High!!

To see the full album of this part of our trip, go here.
With a smile on my face, because this is one trip I will NEVER forget!!
This was on Sunday night, about 48 hours later.  I really should have taken a picture of what it looked like on Tuesday.  Believe me, it got WAY worse!!

The Easter Rabbit Found Us!

I really am getting quite good at packing for our holidays.  David was shocked to see everything that I was able to bring along in just two bags for the four of us for a week!  Including goodies from the Easter Bunny.  Or Easter Rabbit, as Maxwell corrected me.

Our first full day in Prague was Easter Sunday, and what better way than to wake up to an egg hunt in the hotel?  Maxwell woke up, and very quietly came to my side of the bed and said, "Mommy!  The Easter Rabbit left eggs and treats all over the hotel!!"  We had fun looking for all the eggs and then got ready to really start our vacation.

Note to readers with toddlers: It is SO worth it to splurge on breakfast at the hotel if they offer it.  We were able to start each day with a nice, filling breakfast, with plenty of options so we were sure to find something the kids would eat.  As a stay-at-home mom, I feel like oftentimes I just go from meal to meal...make breakfast, play, get them a snack, play, make get the idea.  When you are out of your home for days at a time, the idea of providing all of that food on the go is a bit daunting.  After trial and error (mostly from our trip to Barcelona last fall) David and I learned that filling the mini-fridge with Maxwell and Darian friendly food, packing a lunch and sometimes dinner each day totally makes our adventures easier!


It was very cold this day!  We got all bundled up and headed out towards the river, where we were taking a water taxi to the Prague Zoo.  We have been to a lot of farms here in the UK, but we haven't been to a zoo since we moved here.  And the LA Zoo isn't really all that great, so we were excited to see all the animals!  I definitely recommend going to the zoo when you are in a new country, with or without kids.  David and I really enjoyed seeing all the new animals, specifically birds, that we had never seen or heard of before.  The Prague Zoo was huge and had such a variety of animals.

My favorites were the ones we saw at the end of the day:  the polar bears, penguins and wolves.  But this tiger was awesome.  They had the male and female separated (I think this is the female; there were cubs on her side).  The male was pacing back and forth on his side and growling, and then when we got over there to this side, she jumped up onto this log and was "talking" to him.  It was so cool to see them communicating like that!
It was so cold that it actually started snowing quite a bit while we were there, and Darian was not happy.  She perked up a bit when we rode on the chair lift, but it was a long day for the little one.  We took a bus/metro combo to get back to the hotel for a swim.  Then we finally experienced our first Czech dinner.  We ate at a pub called Pivovarsky Dum, and the food was delicious!


It was still quite chilly on Monday, but the sun was shining and it was a wonderful day for a walking tour.  After breakfast we walked to Wenceslas Square again, and headed to the Old Town Square.  There were lots of Easter Markets buzzing with activity.  We heard lots of different accents and languages about, but our ears were always drawn to the Americans.  We decided on a "free tour" in case we had to leave it early if the kids weren't behaving.  Our guide was great, and there were about 6-8 other people on the tour.  We walked through Old Town, the Jewish Quarter, over the Charles Bridge, into Lesser town and then up a huge hill to Prague Castle.
At the wall overlooking the city from Prague Castle.
All of the architecture and sights were just beautiful, and we really covered a lot of ground.  The kids were AMAZING!  Darian fell asleep for a bit, but Maxwell was so content, just sitting in the stroller and enjoying the views.  At one point David's blackberry did have to make an appearance in order to keep him from whining, but otherwise the kids were fantastic.  The tour was a good three hours or more, so once we got back to the hotel we were pretty tired.  No swimming this time.  That night we had another yummy Czech meal at a pub by our hotel, U Graffu.


 It is always nice when you don't have to get up for anything specific when on holiday.  On Tuesday we woke slowly, let the kids watch some Sesame Street (dubbed in German, I think) and Dinosaur Train (dubbed in French!).  We took the metro to Subway.  Wait...what?  ha ha  We wanted to get sandwiches for ourselves that day, so we took the metro to Subway.  Why is that confusing?  :o)  From there we took a tram up to Petrin Hill.  Atop Petrin Hill is Petrin Tower, which looks a lot like the Eiffel Tower, but smaller.  But since it is built on top of the big hill, I think that the observation deck is actually "higher" than the Eiffel Tower!!  We took a funicular up to the top of the hill.  The kids love those.  They must be a European thing; I had never heard of one before, but now between Barcelona and Prague we have been on several.  The kids spotted a playground, so we stopped for a little while to play before we ventured onto our big climb.  Maxwell was adamant about taking the stairs, so he and David left Darian and I waiting for the lift and started their climb.  When we met them at the top, I was shocked to find out that Maxwell did all of the stairs but the last ten.  289/299!  What a big boy!
Tower and grounds
Panoramic view from the observation deck of Petrin Tower
After the tower we went into a small building that had a Hall of Mirrors.  The kids LOVED it.  Entry fee to Hall of Mirrors:  £5 for the family.  Sounds of giggles and BONKS! as Maxwell rounded the corners too fast and ran into himself?  PRICELESS.

Tuesday night we went to an amazing restaurant for dinner, Vytopna Railway Restaurant.  (That is a video of it!)  Maxwell had a love/hate relationship with this place.  There are mini rails all throughout the place, and they deliver your beverages on a train!  Maxwell spent the entire evening standing up in his chair, waiting for the drink to go by.  He was so restless.  When one would come by, he was so excited.  But as soon as it would leave he would turn around and ask David and I to hurry up and finish our drinks so that we could order more!

To see a more thorough album of this first part of our trip, visit here.

Prague High!

You would think since the Ingham Family Tails has been silent for almost three months that not much has happened around here.  Quite the contrary!  Yet since we have been so busy, finding time to sit down and write is a bit of a challenge.  As for our recent travels, I MUST get this blog posted today (May 31).  Tomorrow it will be June, and at the end of June we are going to Ireland.  I cannot put off this Prague post any longer! 

Quick Kid Update:  Since our last post, Darian has settled into nursery school with flying colors.  She loves it, and has made lots of new friends.  Maxwell loves having her there, and is such a good big brother to her.  Maxwell is really excelling with his reading and maths.  He is "quite keen" as his teacher puts it.  :o)

March was a busy month for us all.  The kids finally started swimming lessons again.  Darian is in a Mommy & Me class and is doing fantastic.  Maxwell, on the other hand, doesn't really like being in a pool without us, but hopefully as time goes by he will warm up to the class and the teacher.

Maxwell and Mommy on Mothering Day
The Birthday Boy

We had that big 4th birthday in March.  We had a nice, small little pizza party here at the house with our friends, and Maxwell had a great time.  March in the UK is also the month to celebrate "Mum's Day" or "Mothering Day," as we saw on many signs around town.  David and the kids made it a very special day, and I had a blast.

Back to our travels...
When we decided to go away during Maxwell's week off school for Easter, my vote was to go somewhere warm.  I had been in serious need of some sunshine and temps above 50*!!  In our research though, there wasn't really anywhere in Europe that could guarantee anything more than 60 or 65, so I told David to just go wherever he wanted and to surprise me.  I just wanted to show up.  No planning, no research. I just wanted to get away, and since my job here at home is to be prepared and ready on a daily basis to keep the two littles entertained and fed and everything, the vacation part for me would be not having to worry about all that.

David came through with flying colors!  When the time came, I knew that we were going to Prague, and he had run a few ideas by me.  But when it really came down to it, I did not know anything about the city, what to expect, or what he had in store for us.  Being away from his office and all the calls and emails is a holiday for David, but for me traveling with the kids is still my "job."  David is an amazing trip planner!  Like I said...Prague High! I am still all giddy from our trip, and we have been home for more than six weeks! We had the best. week. EVER!  (Sorry about all those exclamation points, but it really was a fantastic week).

We left Saturday morning pretty early in order to get to the airport.  David arranged for us to valet park so that we didn't have too far to get to the terminal.  Our flight was easy and uneventful.  All this traveling has made the kids pretty used to road trips, flying, hotels, etc.  They were great!

When we arrived at the airport in Prague, there was a gentleman with an "Ingham" sign, ready to take us to the car.  How posh!  :o)  It really worked out great though, because we didn't take car seats and planned on using public transport all week.  The airport runs are the only hiccup in that plan, and David found a company who provided infant seats.  Nice!!

We were quite early for check-in time at the hotel, so after dropping off our bags we went for a walk to explore a bit of the neighborhood.  We walked to Wenceslas Square, where David was pleased to see his favorite European thing:  markets!  Pretty much the same as Christmas markets, except these were Easter markets so there were lots of stalls with souvenir eggs, rather than Santa's.  In fact, a hand-painted egg from one of the markets was the only souvenir we bought that week (we prefer to take home pictures and memories!!).  Our first Prague food experiences were not Czech, unfortunately, but they were delicious nonetheless.  We stopped for a pizza lunch and went to a local grocery store before heading back to the hotel.   Grocery shopping in a new country is one of my favorite things to do.  With two picky toddlers, we have learned to pack a picnic style lunch (and sometimes dinner) for the kids each day when we are traveling.  Eating out is expensive, and half the time they won't eat anything at the pub.  I LOVE perusing the aisles at the market, finding the right bread, fruit, searching for snack foods the kids will eat.  It is so fun!!
Wenceslas Square, Prague
After stocking up on groceries, we headed back to the hotel for a swim.  The heated pool was actually quite chilly, so Darian didn't last long.  But Maxwell had a blast and was doing great with his new floaties.  Now if only we could get that same behavior at his structured classes.  Hmmm...

Dinner on Saturday night was quite a treat for us.  Margaritas and Mexican food from a very authentic restaurant, Banditos.  Experiencing Czech food would have to wait until the next day.  That first day was very low-key, but exhausting because of traveling and getting up so early for the airport.

To break up the descriptions a bit, I will end this one here.  Many more Prague adventures to come!