Viewing: summer

The beautiful beaches of Naxos

After pregnancy and childbirth, I was exhausted, yearning for the sun, and wanted to treat myself to something special. So Marlon and I agreed that this year’s Big Trip would be to a place that had long been on both our travel wishlists: Greece.

Since we planned this trip when Tala was barely two months old, we made a lot of newbie parent mistakes (more on those later) and paid for them big time. We barely crawled to our hotel that first day, exhausted after nearly 12 long hours of travel (!!) with a baby.

The only thing that wasn’t a mistake? Choosing to go to Naxos.

Greece has so many stunning islands, that it can be overwhelming to choose one. As the travel planner of the household, I was stumped. We wanted an island that was baby-friendly, with beautiful beaches and great food. Elena of Olive Tomato came to our rescue by suggesting Naxos. Thank you Elena!

Naxos Agios Prokopios beach

The long golden stretch of Agios Prokopios was where Marlon, Tala and I spent most of our time in Naxos. Our hotel was closer to the quiet end of this beach, away from town with its restaurants and bars. Most of the people around us were Greek families, with teenagers taking selfies, babies playing in the sand, and mothers and grandmothers squealing over Tala. And that was just how I liked it.

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Going to Greece!

Most of Europe has already taken their annual summer holidays, but we are just about to embark on ours. This blog will be quiet for the next week or so, because we are going to Greece!

Oia at sunset

Oia at sunset, image by Karol M, via Flickr

Santorini, image by Mysystlav Chernov, via Wikimedia Commons

Beautiful Naxos, image by Web4camguy, via Flickr

Greece has always been one of the big items on my travel wishlist, and I can’t believe that in just a few days, it will finally get crossed off. Marlon and I booked this trip when Tala was barely two months old, and even before our departure, we’ve already discovered some big newbie parent mistakes that we made when we knew nothing about traveling with a baby!

Still, I’ve looked forward to this trip for months, and it comes at a much-needed time. We will split our holiday between the islands of Naxos and Santorini, just two hours apart by ferry. To make up for the blog silence while we’re away, I promise to share lots of Greek gorgeousness with you all upon our return. Of course, there’s always Instagram.

Till then, please help yourselves to the archives. See you soon!

Out and about in Alicante

This heat wave has really sapped my blogging mojo. I meant to finish my Alicante posts last week, but without the comfort of airconditioning, I just haven’t found the energy to do anything. There are a few more things I want to share from our impromptu weekend escape—proof that there is more to Alicante than just the beach, and proof that we didn’t actually lie around like beached whales the entire time.

I love how European cities and towns always seem to have a main promenade. In Alicante, it’s the Explanada de España, which runs alongside the marina and ends just before Playa Postiguet.

Alicante Explanada de Espana

Alicante Explanada de Espana buildings

Alicante Explanada de Espana mosaic

Lined with palm trees, overlooked by elegant old buildings and laid with an estimated 6.5 million marble tiles, it’s where the locals go for the paseo, (evening stroll), or to occupy the wooden folding chairs scattered around the promenade and gossip with their amigas.

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Heatwave!

The heatwave sweeping Europe has ensured at that long last, the Netherlands is finally being treated to a real summer. By “real summer”, I mean humidity levels of 90+ percent and temperatures of about 28-32 degrees, very close to Manila’s. And we are loving it!

Baby pool bubbles

We set up our balcony this weekend with pillows and a duvet for Tala to wriggle around on, and bought an inflatable baby pool that could easily fit an overheated parent if necessary. We rigged a wine crate up as a table and stocked it with ice cold ginger beer, sangria fresca, spicy mango hummus and vegetable crisps, and whipped up strawberry smoothies and frozen coffee slushies. We slathered on the SPF, watched Tala splash around on her back in the water, and blew bubbles over her as she made the funniest faces.

Post-splash nap

After enjoying the sun, we retreated to the cool shade of the house, switched on the electric fan we brought from Singapore (a rarity in these parts) and passed out multiple times. Family naps are the best!

Cat and baby napping

Tala learned to roll over last week, just a few hours after I published her four-month blog post. Since then she’s been experimenting with different ways to sleep. Most often, she sleeps exactly as I do: sprawled on her stomach, head turned to one side. The first few nights after she learned to roll over, I was compelled to keep checking on her in her sleep. But she’s a strong girl—she’s never face-planted while rolling over and she always manages to put her head to the side, so I guess she’s in the clear.

The heatwave continues throughout the week, so I’m keeping the baby pool permanently filled and stocking the freezer with more frozen coffees. Side note: Dutch cafes do not sell iced coffee, even in the worst heat. I’m amazed the business-savvy Dutch haven’t seized upon the opportunity to charge more for a few cubes of ice.

The heat reminds me of home, but with a more celebratory feel—nobody is inside cowering beside the airconditioner, they’re all out in various states of undress, having the time of their lives. Because we all know this won’t last forever.

How do you plan to keep cool this week?

Badeschiff: The Return

To cap my series of Berlin posts, I’m happy to report my return to the Badeschiff!

Last year, I was delighted to discover this awesome hangout and barge-turned-pool floating in the river Spree. But because I didn’t pack a swimsuit and have a serious case of Asian modesty, I was forced to sit on the deck, stewing in my own envy as everyone enjoyed a swim on a sizzing hot day. Everyone except me!

This time, I came prepared. I made sure to return on the warmest day of the week, during a weekday afternoon, to avoid the huge crowds of my past weekend visit.

Badeschiff Berlin weekday afternoon

It was super easy to grab a seat, which was a relief after my previous sardines-in-a-can experience. People were killing each other for these deck chairs last year.

Badeschiff Berlin white canvas sun loungers

Not only did I return with a swimsuit,  I also brought a friend—the Diplomatic Wife, freshly relocated from Jakarta. And oh yes… I brought a baby with me too!

Badeschiff with baby

The summer heat made Tala drowsy, putting her to sleep most of the time. Occasionally, her tiny feet would pop out and she’d wiggle her toes, letting me know she was awake and in need of a little attention.

Tala's toes

Notice the mole on her right foot? According to Filipino superstition (my mom is big on them), a mole on your foot means that you are meant to be traveler. I have one on mine, too!

Anyway, Daddy joined us after work, which was fun…

Tala at the Badeschiff Berlin

… and together with The Diplomatic Wife and her Diplomat, we all just kicked back with a few beers and chillaxed in the sun. We may have had to deal with a poop explosion or two, but I’ve accepted it comes with the territory now. By the way, in this picture you can see the Nhow Hotel Berlin, where we stayed, on the right.

Badeschiff Berlin deck chairs

A huge thank you goes out to The Diplomatic Wife for being fab company, for teaching me the right way to put on sunblock, and for watching Tala while I finally took that swim I’ve been longing to take. I was as happy as a seal, and just about as large, too—so the pictures of me actually swimming in the Badeschiff will never see the light of day.

I’m always the one behind the camera, so it’s really nice when we have a friend around to take a family photo!

Family photo Badeschiff Berlin

Our sun-drenched afternoon at the Badeschiff already feels like ages ago. It’s been dismal and cold here, so we are chasing the sun this weekend with a last-minute escape to the Costa Blanca in Spain. I hope to share some sunny pictures and Spanish stories when we get back.

In the meantime, have a great weekend!

Party at the park

What a gorgeous weekend we just had! After two full weeks of rain and cold (I’m talking 13ºC here!, the sun finally made an appearance just in time for a special afternoon party at the park.

Tala at Romy's party

It was a double celebration: a going-away party for Peggy and her family who are moving to Sweden very soon, and a birthday party for her eldest girl.

I love Europeans’ fun and casual approach to children’s parties—no big catered buffets or hired mascots here, just homemade goodies made with love, colorful decorations strung up on trees, and children playing in the grass and sunshine. I won’t give away too many pictures from the day, I’m sure she will post some photos on her blog too.

Birthday party decorations

Whether it’s The Hive or a children’s party, this woman always makes it look effortless! Peggy masterminding the celebrations behind the scenes (and behind the decorations).

Mom behind the scenes

It was just a happy, relaxed time in the sun with friends (from blogging, how wonderful is that!) and of course, family.

Birthday party at Oosterpark

Family photo Oosterpark

It was Tala’s first party too! Although she eyed the cake with great interest, she will have to stick to milk for a long while. Sorry, my love. You’ll get your turn.

Mmm... cake

This was just such a lovely afternoon (and the sunshine so rare!), I had to interrupt my stream of Berlin posts to share it. But there will be more Berlin posts (some of my real favorites from this trip!) this week for sure.

How was your weekend?

Three months!

Tala is three months old!

Tala 3 Months

She turned three months over the weekend, while we were in Germany, so I didn’t have my usual white onesie and star-print blanket with me. As you can see, I had to improvise with a hotel duvet and the nicest outfit in her vacation wardrobe. But I like it, she looks like a little lady here!

This past month, Tala has become much more active. She’s no longer content to stare at things… now she’s beginning to really go after them with her hands or feet. I bought her a couple of baby gyms (second-hand goodies, can’t live without them) to give her more things to do during her awake time. It’s fun to see her interact with them, and I can see that there’s more intention behind her movements these days.

Tala and her baby gym

She loves to look at her surroundings, and I love to see the curiosity in her eyes.

Tala and Rogue

Also this past month, summer finally arrived in Amsterdam. This was perfect for enjoying lovely lazy afternoons in Westerpark, hanging out with friends or just spending some mother-daughter time together. Tala can sleep for hours when we’re at the park—her record was a little over five hours. Five hours of uninterrupted me time, woohoo! They say never wake a sleeping baby, but I got a little freaked out and woke her anyway.

Tala at Westerpark-June

The most wonderful development of the past month has been laughter.

Happy with Daddy

It’s a little more like squealing, sometimes it’s almost soundless, but it expresses joy and excitement just the way laughter should. And when I hear it, I can’t help but laugh too.

Excited in Berlin

I think it’s safe to say that things have gotten a little easier. She feeds six times during the day (like me when I was pregnant!) and sleeps for longer stretches now. She’s able to self-soothe (not all the time, but often) by sticking her hands in her mouth, or even just staring at them before falling asleep. I managed to take care of her all by myself for three days while Marlon was away on business—without extra help from a babysitter, something I couldn’t do the first time he traveled for work. I even managed to go on my first girls’ night out!

And of course, this month also marks her first flight! But I’ll save that for another post… along with a few stories and snaps from Berlin.

Missed the boat

I spent what was probably the last sunny, warm Sunday of the summer—of the year!— in Amsterdam’s famous Canal Belt for Open Monument Day (more on that in a separate post). While walking from historic one canal house to the next, I felt dizzy and had to stop for a break. Marlon and I ended up spending a good half hour sitting by the canals, just watching all the boats on the stately Herengracht…

Herengracht

… and the smaller, but more charming Leidsegracht nearby.

Boats on Leidsegracht

It was a gorgeous day to be out. For the Dutch, to be out on such a day invariably means getting on a boat and heading out on the water.

Boats on Herengracht

This is probably one of the things about I love the most about the Dutch culture: their affinity with water. It seemed like everyone was out on a boat that day, from crusty old-timers and their shaggy dogs in rust buckets to silver-haired, linen-suited gentlemen in sleek white pleasure crafts.

I love watching the Dutch in their boats. They just look so happy. It doesn’t take much apart from a boat, the water and some gas. Just throw in some food, drinks, a big squishy cushion…

Boat on Herengracht

… and you’re all set. Don’t forget the babies (and a change of diapers)!

Family boating in Amsterdam

If not in a park, on the water is where you’ll find the Amsterdam summer. For the ladies, it was the last chance to slip into those maxi dresses and sandals, and wear the last neons of the season before swapping them for sweaters, boots and varying shades of gray.

Friends boating in Amsterdam

And for the lads, it was the last chance to ogle tanned female bodies on display, and perhaps tempt them in passing with their shirtless goods. Sorry, boys. No more bare shoulders from here on in. Oh and in case you were wondering… Dutch gents really do slather on that much hair gel. This is not a summer thing, it’s all year round.

Lads boating in Amsterdam

I spent the summer (a.k.a. my first trimester) mostly curled up in bed asleep, waking up to occasional pangs of guilt at being indoors while many a sunny day went on without me. Now I realize I haven’t been out on a boat all year. Summer is gone, and with it goes boat season… and I just missed it!

Amsterdam boat bumper

Well, maybe there is no such thing as boat season. You just know these crazy Amsterdammers will still be out on the water in October, heck, maybe even November. If I get desperate enough, I might just join them.

Related reading: check out last year’s boat trip on the canals (and the bridge that nearly decapitated us) here.

First trimester: Finding out

The last three months have just flown by. Not only does the weather go downhill from today, signaling the end of summer, but it’s also the end of my first trimester. I know, it’s confusing, wasn’t I at nine weeks just three weeks ago? Numbers aren’t my strong suit either, but that’s what the ob-gyne says. I am officially 14 weeks today.

It’s mostly bloat, but yes, there’s some baby in there too.

I’m surprised at how fast the first trimester has gone and how little I actually blogged about it. I’m actually the only person I know around here who’s said anything her pregnancy before the first trimester ended (seems to be a Western/Caucasian thing).

Still, I don’t want to forget; in fact, I already regret not documenting some of the early highlights (like how flat my tummy actually was!). So I thought I’d share a few of the most memorable moments from the first three months of my pregnancy… starting with how I found out I was pregnant.

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Lake Balaton, the Hungarian Sea

A sandy beach and water sounded like paradise after being cooped up in scorching Budapest. After Marlon’s work in the city was done, we decided to cool off in landlocked Hungary’s most popular summer destination: Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe.

We arrived at Budapest Deli (one of Budapest’s two central train stations) bright and early Saturday to find a huge mob of overheated Hungarians all raring to escape the city.

Budapest Deli station crowd

Fortunately, we had booked tickets online a few days in advance. An eager, English-speaking trainee immediately spotted us looking lost and guided us to a ticket machine to print our tickets. He also helped us reserve seats in an air-conditioned car.

A little over two hours later, we arrived at the town of Siofok on the south shore of Lake Balaton. Walking to our apartment along Ady Endre utca, this main road lined with dozens of eateries began to feel oddly familiar. Then I realized it reminded me of… D’Mall.

Lake Balaton restaurants

All the tiny restaurants, people walking around in bare feet and swimwear, even the knockdown tiangge stalls hawking cheap bikinis felt so much like a slightly seedier Boracay, it began to feel bizarre. All that was missing was coconut trees, a tricycle service and Andok’s Lechon Manok (I really could have used the tricyles). “Can you believe we’re in the middle of Hungary?” I asked Marlon.

Seeing this poster knocked me right back to reality. No beach party in the Philippines would ever advertise topless pool girls so shamelessly. God bless the Eastern Europeans.

Lake Balaton beach poster

Now, the beach. It wasn’t Boracay, heck it wasn’t even Puerto Galera. But red-faced and sweaty at 39℃, with the prospect of a dreary Dutch autumn looming, I ran to that beach like a long-lost lover.

Lake Balaton shore

And the water… well, it was blue, clean, swimmable, with enough of it for me and half the population of Hungary. Above all, it was warm. Holland’s North Sea makes me shriek every time I dare to go in it, but Lake Balaton elicited nothing but embarrassingly orgasmic groans of pleasure.

Lake Balaton bathers

“Oh my God. Oh my GOD. I could spend the whole day in this water,” Marlon groaned as we waded into the lake with idiotic, summer-starved grins on our faces. And that’s exactly what we did.

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