Turkish Family Travels: A Budget-Friendly Bosphorus Cruise

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - A Budget-Friendly Bosphorus Boat Trip with Kids! #familytravelThis post appears as part of our Turkish Family Travel Adventure series, chronicling a fun fall fling in the city of Istanbul.

While the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are generally the stars of the Istanbul show, let’s not forget that the Bosphorus has made headlines for thousands of years.

Until 1973, the only way to cross the Bosphorus from Europe to Asia or vice versa was by boat. Now, for the mere price of a toll or subway ticket, you can whoosh your way back and forth between the continents.

But forget all that modern innovation – wouldn’t you rather experience the strait like a pirate on the high seas?

Okay, maybe not a modern pirate. Those chaps are mighty frighty. More like a fairy-tale, swashbuckling-yet-serene pirate. Eye patch optional.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - A Budget-Friendly Bosphorus Boat Trip with Kids! #familytravel

Since we only had a few days in Istanbul, I didn’t want to devote an entire day to one tour. If I would have had the time, though, we could’ve sailed straight up to the Black Sea. Throw in a walk up to the medieval Anadolu Kavağı Kalesi and the opportunity for a stellar picnic, and I’m sold.

Ah well, that adventure will have to wait until our next time in Turkey.

Not wanting to give up on the dream entirely, we settled for a shorter cruise. Our ship left from Eminönü right down in Sultanahmet and was scheduled to depart at 1430. We showed up about forty minutes prior to sailing, bought tickets, and boarded.

Fortunately, the boat wasn’t crowded, but the upper deck filled quickly. Expert tip: Stake out seats for your party as soon as you board. Don’t stop to use the loo or buy a drink. If you do, all the choice spots will be gone.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - A Budget-Friendly Bosphorus Boat Trip with Kids! #familytravel

From the upper deck, we were treated to a view from above of the spice market area as well as the back side of Topkapi Palace and two other mosques. All that, and we hadn’t even left the dock!

The ship chugged out of port, slipping past behemoth cruise liners and dingy fishing boats on its way out to sea. She stopped briefly to pick up another set of passengers at Ortaköy which is near the most charming little mosque (Büyük Mecidiye Cami) and nearly underneath the massive Bosphorus Bridge.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - A Budget-Friendly Bosphorus Boat Trip with Kids! #familytravel

Viewing this feat of engineering from such a close angle completely fascinated me. I learned later that the bridge took more than 3 years to build, boasts 8 lanes which can be assigned to either direction depending on the time of day and flow of traffic, costs about 4TL to cross, and is closed to pedestrians.

Apparently, it was possible to walk across the bridge in the first few years of its opening, but this is now forbidden. Too bad, because that’s definitely something we would have done!Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - A Budget-Friendly Bosphorus Boat Trip with Kids! #familytravel

As we made our way up toward the Black Sea, our eyes were treated to beautiful palaces, mosques, homes, and gardens along the water. We were given a free brochure with the names of these landmarks, but no further information was provided. If you’re particularly interested in learning more about each building, it’s possible to rent an audio guide for the journey.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - A Budget-Friendly Bosphorus Boat Trip with Kids! #familytravel

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - A Budget-Friendly Bosphorus Boat Trip with Kids! #familytravelOnce we reached the second bridge (Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge), the ship sputtered around, spinning to position herself for the journey back to Istanbul. I had hoped for a bit of excitement, say nearly missing a colossal container ship, but no dice. Slow and steady she went.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - A Budget-Friendly Bosphorus Boat Trip with Kids! #familytravelThe unfortunate reality for both the full and half day cruises are that there’s only one way up to the Black Sea and back, so you’ll have to retrace your steps no matter what.

At this point, the constant whir of the motor, the lapping of the waves, and the sea breeze lulled me to dreamland. Docking back at Eminönü rudely interrupted my 12TL nap. Shame.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - A Budget-Friendly Bosphorus Boat Trip with Kids! #familytravel

So, was the Bosphorus Boat Cruise worth it? Eh, maybe. The answer really depends on why you want to set sail.

We had two purposes in indulging in our maritime excursion: (1) Grab a glimpse of the Anatolian/Asian side since our short stay made exploring that area impossible and (2) entertain little boys who think boats are pretty awesome. Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - A Budget-Friendly Bosphorus Boat Trip with Kids! #familytravel

While we did fulfill both of those wishes, I can’t say that I thought this boat trip was in my top five Istanbul favorites. Top ten, yes. Top five, no. Perhaps I shouldn’t have expected pirates, James Bond, or container ship collisions.

There are certainly worse ways to spend two hours of your life, but I can think of better ones as well.

Now before you write me off because boats are to you what trains are to Sheldon Cooper, you should know that I’m not totally a boat trip hater. We’ve had great fun at sea in Brugge, Hvar, and Berchtesgaden just to name a few.

So, tell me, are you a boat trip aficionado? Would you want to do the full-day Bosphorus tour or skip the seas all together?Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

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Turkish Family Travels: Exploring Istanbul from Underground

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Visiting Istanbul's Basilica Cistern with Kids! #familytravel

This post appears as part of our Turkish Family Travel Adventure series, chronicling a fun fall fling in the city of Istanbul.

There are so, so many ways to explore a city.

Strolling “ordinary” neighborhoods, attempting public transportation, cooking native cuisine, people watching from a café, peering over the skyline from above with a bird’s-eye view… these are just a few of our family’s favorites.

It’s rather obvious to see the sights from the ground level, and often more thrilling to take a look from on high. Please tell me I’m not the only sap for an amazing view from above?

Most overlooked, however, is the belly view – experiencing a city from under the ground. One such subterranean experience in Istanbul awaited us at the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici).

But would it give us that unique Turkish twist we were seeking?

First Look

After a rollicking morning across the street at the gorgeous Hagia Sophia, we showed up at the Basilica Cistern eyes and cameras ready for more amazement. However, as we approached the entrance line, we thought there must be some mistake.

After all, most of Istanbul’s historic treasures are total eye candy. Not this building. In fact, if it weren’t for the queue of tourists, we very well could’ve been vying for a spot in a Turkish jail cell.

A postage-stamp building, bars on the windows… are people really going to steal the water in the cistern or attempt to make off with a gigantic stone column?

As if.

Down

Forty Turkish liras later, we slipped down the slimy marble steps to the cistern itself, water source to emperors and sultans for over a thousand years. From the staircase landing, the 336 columns come into view. Chipped but sturdy, these pillars remind all who enter just how surprisingly solid ancient structures can be.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Visiting Istanbul's Basilica Cistern with Kids! #familytravel

Now on the platform level, we began to wander down the corridors of dramatically lit columns, and I begin to wonder… If it weren’t for the theatrical lighting, would this place have much to rave about?

Around the prescribed path we walked, trying to envision James Bond hightailing it past us in To Russia With Love. That would certainly up the thrill factor, because right about now, I’m thinking I just paid nearly 15 bucks to stroll around a big room on a platform with nothing but a thin layer of murky water covering the floor.

Whoop. De. Doo.

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Visiting Istanbul's Basilica Cistern with Kids! #familytravel

Medusa

But, wait, you say. What about the mysterious medusa heads?

Ah, yes, the snake-headed sisters sitting at the base of a couple of columns on the northeast side. Such a thing is surely worth a look. So, look we did… along with every other cruise-ship-sailing day-tripper. Hence the blurry photo.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Visiting Istanbul's Basilica Cistern with Kids! #familytravel

It’s no use denying that the bases with faces are a curious thing. Why would one erect a column atop an inverted or rotated Medusa head? Would the images ward off those who sought to poison the waters? Or were the heads inverted to stunt the power of the Medusa? Or might they be borrowed from an earlier structure as part of an ancient recycling program?

The solution to Medusa’s mystery is anyone’s guess. But, here’s a mystery I’ll just go ahead and solve for you right now. There’s really nothing special about the Medusas that can’t be seen in photos on the Internet. In fact, those photos will probably be better than anything you or I could attempt, given the frenzy over the heads that makes it nearly impossible to get a clear shot.

Light Delight

At this point, we had walked up and down every bit of bored-walk. No matter where we rested our eyes, we could only see two things: people and blazing stone columns. Is this it?

Well, yes – yes, it is.

In an effort not to let those forty Turkish liras go completely to waste, I decided to have a bit of fun with my camera. Taking photos in the dark isn’t something I do often, so it’s a challenge to snap a decent shot without a flash.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Visiting Istanbul's Basilica Cistern with Kids! #familytravel

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Visiting Istanbul's Basilica Cistern with Kids! #familytravelPainting the darkness on my camera screen with flaming streaks of orange light provided a brief reprieve from pillar monotony. Well, that is, until I realized my boys were also bored and making a break for the three-inch pool beneath the boardwalk.

Time to go.

Say Cheese

Now off the precarious elevated path, I took one more quick look around as a last-ditch effort. Surely, there has to be something else of interest down here…?

There, in the corner! The shiny costumes flickered at me from afar. Sumptuous fabrics and fanciful headpieces adorned a couple intent on returning home with evidence that they had, in fact, lived like a sultan and queen while in Istanbul.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Visiting Istanbul's Basilica Cistern with Kids! #familytravel

You’d think I’d scoff at such silliness, but actually, a part of me wanted to give the absurdity a try. Anyone can shimmy into a pair of chaps or wiggle into a saloon girl dress in America, but Turkish royalty costumes are a bit harder to come by.

Unfortunately for me, Doc Sci wasn’t at all interested in foolishly gallivanting as Ottoman royalty. Such a shame, since masquerading as Korean royalty in Seoul was his idea.

The Skinny

Unless you’re doing your best to beat the Turkish summer heat, the Basilica Cistern isn’t worth a slice of your Istanbul travel budget. Your time and effort would be better spent scrolling through photos online or even taking a virtual tour, available from the Yerebatan Sarnici website itself.

My advice? Buy a postcard, and spend your 20TL per person elsewhere.

What featured attraction(s) have you been to that didn’t live up to their hype or seemed like a waste of time and/or money?

Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

Conquering Kotor, Montenegro

Thrifty Travel Mama | Adventures in Montenegro with Kids - Bay of KotorMontenegro. Say it.

It sounds… exotic, feisty, mysterious.. even dangerous.

These qualities (obviously) mean I should add it to my list of places to go with three young children, right?

Wait, are we nuts?! Probably. I know there are other families that take their kids even crazier places than we do, but, man, we are so far gone from pretty little Disney holidays.

Today’s adventure takes place in slick little Montenegro, another former YU country (sorry, I know I put it on our bucket list and it’s not technically Croatia, but just go with it). Known as Crna Gora / Црна Гора to locals, most people young, rich, and/or famous know it as a fabulous place to party (Budva).

But, we know it as a (literally) breathtaking place to drink in views of the fjord-like Bay of Kotor.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Adventures in Montenegro with Kids - Bay of Kotor

Bay of Kotor.

Kotor is a popular day trip from Dubrovnik given that it’s supposedly only an hour and a half drive (see Notes at the end of this post). If you like collecting stamps in your passport from random small countries to up your count or exploring old stone cities steeped in history, Kotor might be for you.

Just don’t come here to climb up to St. John’s Fortress like we did.

No, no, no.

The city of Kotor, located on the bay of the same name, is quite small and can be explored in an hour or two. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Kotor is cute, and sweet (which is about the opposite of how Montenegro sounds). Plus, it’s less crowded than its flashy friend to the north, Dubrovnik. Cruise ships have started docking in the city, but you can check the schedule in advance and adjust your itinerary to visit on a different day.Thrifty Travel Mama | Adventures in Montenegro with Kids - Bay of Kotor

So, what do you do after you’ve strolled the ancient streets? You could do something normal and sane like sit down at a cafe, have a drink, and and enjoy the atmosphere. Or you could set your sights on higher and more insane things like conquering St. John’s Fortress… with children.

I cannot officially recommend schlepping kids up 1,350 stone steps, so I won’t. But I will tell you how it could be done if you thought you might be hare brained enough to entertain the idea. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Pick up a map from the tourist information kiosk just outside the city walls. Or, just walk away from the bay and toward the mountain. You can’t miss it. Bring euros for the small entrance fee as well as water, snacks, and bribes for the hikes. You’re going to need it.

The first thing you’ll notice is that you have two choices: walk on stone steps or a somewhat flattened pile of rocks, both of which are quite slick in the rain (did I mention it was raining?!).

If you’re a parent, your two options become one option. Walk on the rocks while your child walks on the steps. Well, except for the parts of the climb where the low wall that provided a false sense of protection against a nasty tumble down the hillside is, conveniently, missing. Then, you can switch places until the wall reappears.

About fifteen minutes into the climb when you’re soaked to the bone underneath your rain jacket because good golly is this thing steep or what, you’ll reach the Church of Our Lady of Remedy.

Fabulous, you’re nearly there, right? Ha, no. But you can take a rest with the chain-smoker that’s more than happy to sell you an over-priced bottle of water. People watching is, of course, complimentary.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Adventures in Montenegro with Kids - Bay of Kotor

Just passing the Church of Our Lady of the Remedy.

Try to keep your eyes on the route and not on the fantastic panorama unfolding with each step up. You don’t want to slip on those rocks and take the kids down with you. No, no. Oh, and try not to think about why you don’t see any other families along the way.

When you do reach the top, you might want to (again) watch your step. It’s not like the fortress is falling apart or anything, but, well, yeah, it pretty much is. And the edges don’t have secure railings, so you might want to embarrass your kids by tagging along when they need to take a leak so they don’t tumble when they tinkle.Thrifty Travel Mama | Adventures in Montenegro with Kids - Bay of Kotor

If you’ve made it this far, pat yourself on the back because that was one heck of a climb. And one seriously ridiculous idea with tots in tow. But the view, the view, the view, THE VIEW!Thrifty Travel Mama | Adventures in Montenegro with Kids - Bay of Kotor

It’s easy to understand why this spot was chosen to fortify. From here, you can see so much of the Bay of Kotor, the city of Kotor, and the surrounding terrain.

Set up the self-timer, and burn up the camera. This is a perfect place to take a family photo. Just don’t position expensive cameras or precious children too close to the edge of anything.Thrifty Travel Mama | Adventures in Montenegro with Kids - Bay of Kotor

On the way back down, try to ignore those shaky legs. What are you, a weakling? You just owned that climb up to the fortress! Promise the kids they can have  a n y t h i n g  they want to eat from the grocery store if they just make it down in one piece.

Bonus: Groceries in Montenegro are CHEAP, so they can have the chips, the ice cream, and the juice for all I care.Thrifty Travel Mama | Adventures in Montenegro with Kids - Bay of Kotor

Thrifty Travel Mama | Adventures in Montenegro with Kids - Bay of Kotor

Why yes I did just sweat my way up and down the mountain behind me, thanks for asking.

I’m (obviously) being cheeky here, and just in case the sarcasm is lost on you (Sheldon Cooper), I don’t want you to think we didn’t enjoy Kotor. In fact, we loved it, and it goes down as one of the best days of our Croatian adventure.

Also, I probably should add that for all my groveling here for the sake of humor, actually our kids made it up with hardly any whining. Reading that statement from my trip notes and typing it again here, I can barely believe it, but it must’ve happened. Just don’t expect a repeat performance, right?Thrifty Travel Mama | Adventures in Montenegro with Kids - Bay of Kotor

By the way, I’m partly blaming my desire to conquer the climb up to St. John’s Fortress on Calli and Travis of Have Blog Will Travel. Their post got me hooked on the idea, and, well, we’re suckers for a good view. If they did it, why couldn’t we? Oh right, because we have THREE LITTLE KIDS with us. And apparently I just skipped over this little line, “The hike isn’t an easy one, as many of the pathways are still a work in progress,” and instead focused on the fact that, “the views at the top are more than enough reward.”

Well said.

To see the fortress walls of Kotor all lit up at night, click here. And then tell me, what would you do for a good view?

Thrifty Travel Mama | Adventures in Montenegro with Kids - Bay of Kotor

Stuck at the border. This line took us nearly 1 1/2 hours..

More Notes on Montenegro:

  • Driving directions will tell you that Kotor is about 1:30 – 1:45 from Dubrovnik. Don’t believe everything you read. Double that time to allow for long lines at the border (maybe triple it in summer). We were only about 12 cars away from the crossing and it took nearly 1 1/2 hours. Apparently there are problems with drugs, guns, money, and the like in and out of MNE so that’s why the checks are thorough. See? I told you, dangerous…
  • The roads were horrific – one lane in each direction, winding and twisting around the water with 40-60km/hr speed limits, slow old beaters and big trucks.
  • Bring loads of snacks and entertainment options (or practice your hand at these games that don’t require any equipment) in case you get stuck.
  • Living in Germany, we have become quite accustomed to not bringing our passports when we pop over to France or dip down to Switzerland. They’re never asked for or checked. But you definitely need your passport with you when crossing any borders in this region.
  • There’s a ferry option to cross the bay of Kotor, but it is not much faster than driving around the bay and the second option is much more scenic. Plus, if you drive around the bay, you can stop in Perast.
  • To up the awesomeness of your time in Kotor, park in Perast and take a boat out to the island of Our Lady of the Rocks. We didn’t make it out there, unfortunately, but I believe the boat costs 5 euros per person. At the very least, pull over and have a look; the two little islands are lovely to look at from the shore (see the second photo in this post). Check out Travis and Calli’s post on getting to Perast via public transport here.
  • Parking outside of the city gate in the town of Kotor is quite cheap (around 1 euro/hr) and convenient.
  • You can find small grocery stores inside the city walls or larger supermarket-type stores a bit further out.

Signature Thrifty Travel MamaThis post is part of Our Croatian Family Adventure: Ten Days on the Dalmatian Coast series.  Click on the link to view our bucket list and recaps of each excursion!

The Great Croatian Walls of Dubrovnik and Ston

Thrifty Travel Mama | Croatia with Kids - The Great Croatian Walls of Dubrovnik & StonDubrovnik is nearly everyone’s favorite Croatian city and for good reason. She ain’t known as “the Pearl of the Adriatic” for nothin’. And while it’s sad but true that she was bombed heavily during the war, you should know that Dubrovnik’s got her fancy pants back and is as pretty as ever.

The difference between Dubrovnik and, say, Zadar is that Dubrovnik is made for tourists. Yes, real Croatians live here, but D-brov isn’t the place to experience authentic local life. You’re just going to have to do the tourist thing here.

While there are all sorts of luxurious things to do in Dubrovnik like lounging around on the beach or blowing your budget on drinks at the Buza bar, the one expensive thing you must do is walk the walls of old city.Thrifty Travel Mama | Croatia with Kids - The Great Croatian Walls of Dubrovnik & Ston

Getting There

Dubrovnik’s walls were built to keep unwanted visitors out. These days, visitors are exactly what the tourism industry wants, despite what one might think when experiencing sticker shock at the admission price…

Anyhow, if you’re going to walk the walls, first things first – you’ve got to get up on the wall somehow. I assume you’re staying overnight in Dubrovnik because the city isn’t a day trip from, well, anywhere except maybe Montenegro or a docking cruise ship.

Admission booths and stairways are located at both the Pile and the Ploce Gates. Visitors must walk in one direction, no doubling back.Thrifty Travel Mama | Croatia with Kids - The Great Croatian Walls of Dubrovnik & Ston

The View from the Top

Once you’ve bled kunas in exchange for a ticket, get ready for the “wow” chorus that’ll be intermittently interspersed with “ooh” and “ahh” verses.

From the walls, you can see all of the old city, the Adriatic, Lokrum and other islands, and the rest of the town of Dubrovnik.Thrifty Travel Mama | Croatia with Kids - The Great Croatian Walls of Dubrovnik & Ston

And, once you’re standing on the fortress, you’ll be able to tell just how insanely massive the walls really are. We sometimes have that despicable spoiled traveler disease that renders one jaded and unimpressed, a side affect of seeing too much of the world. Not so in Dubrovnik.Thrifty Travel Mama | Croatia with Kids - The Great Croatian Walls of Dubrovnik & StonThrifty Travel Mama | Croatia with Kids - The Great Croatian Walls of Dubrovnik & Ston

We were totally impressed. Flippin’ fascinated, in fact.

What’s There to Do at the Top?

After walking around in the hot sun for nearly an hour (I told you the walls are massive!), you might be ready for a drink. We noticed several shops and cafes selling ice cream bars, bottled water, and fresh-squeezed juice. You can even find bathrooms and some tourists stands selling overpriced wares here and there.

If you’re cheap like me, bring your own water and snacks and take a break near the cannons. They’re located on the sea side at a particularly wide stretch of the wall. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a pirate ship heading out to sea!Thrifty Travel Mama | Croatia with Kids - The Great Croatian Walls of Dubrovnik & Ston

Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!

The European Wall of China

A smidge to the north of Dubrovnik is a lesser-known but no-less-impressive wall in Ston. I’ve heard it called the “European Wall of China,” which is profound in its impossibility but I digress… Visitors can enter the wall either in Ston or Mali Ston and walk to the other village.

According to our good ol’ pal Wikipedia, “The wall, today 5.5 kilometre long…links Ston to Mali Ston, and is in the shape of an irregular pentangle. It was completed in the 15th century, along with its 40 towers (20 of which have survived) and 5 fortresses.” The area is currently on the UNESCO Tentative List.

Since Ston doesn’t appear on many people’s bucket lists, the area is much quieter and rarely overrun with tour groups.

Now, this is the part where I usually tell you how great it was to be up on the wall and how we were the only weirdos up there with kids, if you’ve been here long enough, you know the spiel..

Well, uh, I can’t write about that because it’s not entirely true.Thrifty Travel Mama | Croatia with Kids - The Great Croatian Walls of Dubrovnik & Ston

Our experience

Most of the tourist sites in Croatia are closed in winter and admission is reduced or free in spring and fall. We (falsely) assumed that Ston would be the same. In fact, when we arrived, it looked abandoned.

When we tried to go inside the fortress, a guard chased us out and demanded money for us AND for the kids. Now, I’ll get to this in my kid-friendly Croatia post, but this is not normal. And, the fees were a bit steep.

Honestly, we might have paid it anyway, but our calves were screaming from walking the Dubrovnik walls the day before and to a hillside fortress in Montenegro the day before that (yeah, told you we’re weirdos). I wasn’t sure we actually wanted to torture ourselves further with more. stone. steps.

So, I politely said we just wanted to have a look and then hurriedly went in while the males stood within view of the guard.

I noticed that the rails were rickety in some parts with a sheer drop rewarding any missteps. The wall is long (5k), and I knew we didn’t have it in us to do three psycho wall hikes in 3 days.

So, I did what any other person in the Facebook-Instagram oversharing world would do: I took a selfie.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Croatia with Kids - The Great Croatian Walls of Dubrovnik & Ston

Sorry, I know, this isn’t my selfie. But it is the back side of the wall which you can see if you drive to the other village instead of walk on the wall.

The Verdict

The walls of Dubrovnik and Ston are unique in the world and unique in their own ways. They both warrant a visit (though perhaps not Ston with under 5’s), and they both give you a glimpse into what life must have been like centuries ago in the old Republic of Ragusa.

Which wall would you rather visit? And, I’d love to know, what other walls around the world have you walked? Signature Thrifty Travel MamaThis post is part of Our Croatian Family Adventure: Ten Days on the Dalmatian Coast series.  Click on the link to view our bucket list and recaps of each excursion!

 

Our Croatian Family Adventure: Ten Days on the Dalmatian Coast

Thrifty Travel Mama | Family Adventures in Croatia on the Dalmatian CoastFinally, (finally!!) I’m giving you what you’ve always wanted – tales of our travels in Croatia! Admittedly, what you’ve always wanted is probably more like the opportunity to actually go to Croatia, but since I’m not giving away any trips today (boo!), this will have to do.

In April, we spent ten days in Croatia, overnighting in Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. We usually prefer to just stay in one place and do day trips to surrounding attractions, but the driving distances were too great for our norm to be realistic this time around.

When I visit a new destination that I’ve always wanted to see, I often make a list of the must-see sights (you too?). I ask myself, what will I regret not seeing or doing if I don’t make it happen this trip? I know the usual travel advice is to assume you’ll be back. But life gives us no guarantee, so see what you want while you’re there. However, don’t stress yourself out by doing so much that you don’t enjoy the trip. I know, I know… it’s a delicate balance.

Now, I must admit, I feel a bit ridiculous talking about our travels in Croatia. SJ of Chasing the Donkey has put together such an incredible blog filled with gorgeous photos, fascinating sites, and fun things to do in the country. If you have not yet had the chance, I highly encourage you to hop on over to her blog, and follow her straightaway. She’s an Aussie expat living in Croatia with her husband and son who is the same age as our little Charlie.

With SJ’s help, I put together an itinerary that I hoped would be a balanced diet of sightseeing, driving, and rest: three nights in Zadar, three nights in Dubrovnik, and four nights in Split.

Like our trip to Tuscany last summer, I created a (much shorter) bucket list for our Croatian holiday. Follow along as I write about the highs and lows of each of our adventures in Croatia with three boys. I’ll add links as I post about each place.

Our Family’s Croatian Bucket List:

I’ll also answer the inevitable question… “Is Croatia kid-friendly?” I searched high and low for this kind of information before our trip, but I came up empty-handed most of the time. Look for my answer and some tips on taking the kiddos to Croatia here.

Taking your family to Croatia outside of the high summer season requires some special consideration and advance planning. Read my pros and cons of visiting during the off-season here.

And, it wouldn’t be right not to include some Supermarket Souvenirs that you can enjoy while in country or take home to friends and family. SJ wrote a post on Croatian candy, and I’ll report back with our taste test results.

So, to the Dalmation coast we go.  First stop, Zadar!Signature-Marigold

Where to Find the Best FREE View in Edinburgh

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in EdinburghIn most cases, I prefer to write and post about our travels right after we’ve finished them. The details are fresh in my mind; the information is current, relevant. But I also think there’s value in revisiting a trip months (even years) later.

In looking back, it’s much easier to see the places, the people, the moments (the burrito) that made the most impact.

For our family, it’s usually all about the view… and the burritos. But that’s a post for another day.

In my I’m-sorry-I-love-you-but-I-need-to-take-a-break post, I teased you with a shot from our trip. Now, I finally have time to tell all, and I’m starting with that breathtaking view.

Arthur’s Seat

Edinburgh – okay, the whole of Scotland – is notorious for its crappy weather. So, you can imagine my surprise at our good fortune when we stepped off the plane in early November and the sun was shining. Oh, the horror!

We stashed our stuff at the vacation rental and dashed off in the direction of Holyrood Park. We waved hello to the Queen’s Scottish residence, Holyrood Palace, and continued on toward the massive rock behind it.

As we got closer, however, we saw that there were actually several peaks in Holyrood Park. We wanted to climb Arthur’s Seat, not Arthur’s footstool. We asked around but couldn’t get a clear answer from anyone. Since we didn’t have much daylight left, we gambled on the highest of the bunch and went for it.Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

All roads might lead to Rome, but only half of the footpaths in Holyrood Park lead to Arthur’s Seat. The most direct is from the east near Dunsapie Loch (more on that below). The kids scampered up the wide path until slippery rock slopes slowed them down. Little ones will (literally) need a hand to reach the top safely.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The summit at Arthur’s Seat.

Once we rounded the last craggy bend, we were rewarded with an astonishing panorama. From Arthur’s Seat (on a clear day, duh), one can see Portobello Beach, Meadowbank Stadium, Calton Hill, Waverly Station, Cramond Island, and even the amazing Firth of Forth Bridge.

Oh, right, and of course you could also see the city’s crown jewel, Edinburgh Castle.Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle is a must-see, and the views from the castle are (usually) wonderful. But, just as the best view in Paris is not from the Eiffel Tower itself, so the best view in Edinburgh is not from the castle. Well, at least not when it looks like this…

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

Completely fogged up view from Edinburgh Castle.

The wind at the top of Arthur’s Seat is somethin’ fierce, and the weather up there can change rapidly. Luckily, we had brought decent outdoor clothing, but we still shuddered in the waning afternoon sun that set the whole of Edinburgh ablaze in brilliant orange.Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life: The English Speaking Bubble, Edinburgh

When our eyes could take it no more, we picked our way carefully back down the same way we’d come just an hour earlier. We could’ve gone a different route back, but I wanted to see Dunsapie Loch.

A friend of mine that lived in Edinburgh for a year told me that this was her kids’ favorite spot. They’d often go to the loch to feed the swans. When we walked up, there were the swans, just as she said, floating under the pink clouds of sunset and guarded by a hilltop ruin that hovered over their watery home.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The swans of Dunsapie Loch, flocking to their next crusty handout.

Edinburgh, you were beginning to get to me. I actually started to imagine that was our family’s favorite spot. But then I pinched myself and sobered up – not all days in Edinburgh are as gorgeous as this one.

Honorable Mention – Calton Hill

While Arthur’s Seat was an easy walk from our vacation rental in Abbeyhill, it might be more of a bus ride for those staying closer to the city center. (Not that riding buses in Edinburgh is a problem – in fact, the city’s transportation system is excellent.) But if you’d like to take a stroll somewhere closer to the castle, say, then a mighty fine view can also be had from Calton Hill.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The view OF Arthur’s Seat from Calton Hill.

Wind is a theme that can’t be shaken whenever one goes to great heights in Edinburgh. If you can keep the hair out of your mouth long enough to open your eyes, you’ll be treated to a closer view of Edinburgh Castle, the Firth of Forth, and Cramond Island.Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The climb up to Calton Hill is easier and less treacherous than the ascent to Arthur’s Seat. I think my boys enjoyed Calton Hill more because there’s plenty of space to run around without fear of toppling over a rocky cliff. Plus, there’s an old canon in the park which always makes for a good time in their book.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The unfinished National Monument of Scotland in the park atop Calton Hill.

Whether you choose Calton, Arthur, or both is up to you – they’re both completely free and worth the physical effort required. Just consider yourself warned: the views from these summits are intoxicating. Brace yourself; you’re about to fall in love with Scotland, grey skies and all.

Do you love a good view? Would you rather pay for a panoramic view in physical exertion or paper money?Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

This post is part of the Sunday Traveler series at Chasing the Donkey. Please head here to get the best of this week’s travel-related blog posts!

 

Mishaps: Our Not-Exactly-Perfect Italian Adventure

Thrifty Travel Mama | Our Not-Exactly-Perfect Italian AdventureOkay, this is my LAST Italy post, and then I’ll shut up… promise!

When I post personal vacation pictures from our travels, I often get comments about how great it is that we travel the world.  And it is…. and, it’s not.

We are so, SO blessed to have this experience.  It’s awesome to pack up the kids and head to Italy for two weeks.  However, I just want to bring things down to earth, and share some of the utter chaos that often accompanies us when traveling as a family.

What follows is a short recap of our mishaps – the Italian edition.

Saturday… 330am

We wake the kids up in the middle of the night in order to knock out several hours of driving while they sleep.  We discover that Big Foot has a massive squidgy poo in his pants.  Annoying, but this is life with a baby, right?
Somewhere between Basel and the infamous Gotthard Tunnel, the poor thing has another blowout.  This one is even more epic and reminiscent of the early infant days, creeping its way up all over every possible surface within a six inch radius, including his car seat that conveniently does not have a washable cover…
And we wondered why he only slept about ten minutes of the first 3 hours of driving.  Huh.

Saturday… 330pm

By this time, we have been sitting in standstill traffic on the Italian highway for nearly three hours longer than expected.  We can’t exit the highway because the rest stops are clogged with other travelers escaping the eternal gridlock, and we are about to go bonkers listening to the bored boys in the backseat… screaming, crying, fighting, tired.

Saturday… 830pm

We realize that due to the morning’s unforeseen fecal fiasco, we seem to have forgotten the older boys’ stuffed animals that they sleep with every night.

Sunday

Screech is playing in the yard in front of our villa, being creative with the available materials.  He pretends the gravel is chicken and stuffs it in the stone grill.  He rips the unripe pears off the tree and uses them to bomb the “bad guys.”
He then picks up a terra cotta vase that is used to decorate the yard.  As I warn him not to use the (ancient? irreplaceable? collectible?) artifact,  he promptly drops it like a hot potato and laughs as it smashes to bits.  There goes our security deposit…

Monday

In Siena, T-Rex tumbles head first down a flight of stone steps.  He lands on his face, bruising his nose and knocking three front teeth loose.  I have nothing more to say on this since I’m still *slightly* traumatized.

Tuesday

Doc Sci tries to hop onto the swing where I am sitting on the playground just outside Pienza, and splits the front of his one good pair of shorts wide open.  Daily photo ops are now over.
Later that evening, I am doing cartwheels with T-Rex in the front yard when I accidentally kick him square in the mouth, in the exact spot where he had injured his teeth the day before… I could not have aimed more perfectly if I’d tried.

Friday

The boys have managed to break half of the pool toys we brought along, including two brand new super squirters.  In just a few more days, they will have managed to reduce every last pool toy – literally – to pieces.

Saturday

Despite our harrowing experience the previous Saturday, we decide to risk taking the highway for a short distance between Chianti and a pit stop near Pistoia.  We have not learned our lesson… and endure an unnecessary hour in standstill traffic.

Monday

I leave my brain by the pool instead of taking it with me to Firenze.  I grab the wrong paper map, fail to pre-load my “Tuscany with Kids” Google map on my phone, and forget the Frommers guidebook in the car.
We know our way to Brunelleschi’s Dome.. but after that?  No clue.  We wasted hours (hours!!) looking for a wifi spot in order to revive the map and trip notes on my phone.
I could go on, but you get the idea.  Life with kids is unpredictable and wonky in the best of circumstances; traveling with them just takes the pandemonium up a notch (or ten).
May our mishaps serve as the catalyst to bring contentment to the place you’re currently at (traveling or not) and anchor your dreams to reality (traveling with kids is only done by crazy people).
Got any good traveling-with-kids horror stories?  I’d love to hear them in the comments below!Signature-Marigold

Cycling the Walls of Lovely Lucca – with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama - Cycling the Walls of Lucca with KidsLucca is, in a word, lovely.

Everything about the place took me by surprise.  Not only is  the architecture just downright pretty and slightly unique, but the town is so…. relaxed.  No one is in a hurry.  No crowds, no jostling, no chaotic queuing.

Not to dis Florence or anything, but Lucca is a breath of fresh air compared to its more famous neighbor.

When working on our itinerary, I squeezed Lucca in between two packed day trips (Florence and the Cinque Terre).  It was meant to be a sort of low-key, half-day filler, really.  But we were so charmed, we found it hard to leave.Thrifty Travel Mama - Cycling the Walls of Lucca with Kids

Though graceful in the streets, Lucca is most known for its massive, ancient walls.  Four kilometers in circumference, the surface of the walls are wide enough to accommodate two lanes of vehicles.  In fact, auto races were held on the walls in previous years.

Today, residents and visitors alike walk, jog, run, and cycle the walls.  I didn’t want to buck the trend – so we rented bikes and joined in!

The walls of Lucca from outside the city.

The walls of Lucca from outside the city.

The wide, wide walls.

The wide, wide walls.

Our bikes were from Cicli Bizzarri on the north side of town.  Rates were 3 euros per hour for adult and children’s bikes; tandems, trailers, and Surrey bikes cost more.  We opted for two bikes with children’s seats, and a kids mountain bike for T-Rex.  I wanted to rent a Surrey, but Doc Sci wasn’t keen.  Since it was expensive (I think 12 or 15 euros per hour), I acquiesced.

Though he cycles to school each day, T-Rex does not have gears on his bike.  The kid has not stopped talking about his “gear bike” since!  

I rented this bike with a baby seat on the front.  Big Foot liked being where he could see the action, but it was difficult to get used to extra weight on the front.  And the little stinker kept putting his hand over the bell whenever I rang it.

I rented this bike with a baby seat on the front. Big Foot liked being where he could see the action, but it was difficult to get used to extra weight on the front. And the little stinker kept putting his hand over the bell whenever I rang it.

Once airborne, we couldn’t believe the extraordinary views from above of this darling city.  Boutiques, churches, backyards, fountains, flowers – everything exuded a quiet elegance.  The boys enjoyed counting the playgrounds (two down below and three on the walls themselves).

One complete circle on the path takes around 20-25 minutes if you don’t stop.  We started clockwise, and then had another go in the opposite direction.  Since the walls are so wide, I never worried about T-Rex taking a tumble.  Of course, he rode near the middle of the path… just in case.

Here we go!

Here we go!

One of the playgrounds we saw.

One of the playgrounds we saw from above.

These houses backed right up to the walls.

These houses backed right up to the walls.

Even the ice cream is on wheels in Lucca!

Even the ice cream is on wheels in Lucca!

Before we returned our bikes, we decided to dip into the city below.  Unfortunately, we found ourselves befuddled by the ancient alleys and lack of street signs several times, but (truth be told) that happens even when we’re walking!  Even so, our legs were happy to be pedaling rather than pounding the pavement for hours as we had done in Florence the previous day.

If you happen to cycle in the city itself, be forewarned that pedestrians here don’t know the first thing about sharing paths with bikes.  I might’ve gone a little overboard ding-a-ling-ing the bell…

After taking a wrong turn, we found Spiderman!

After taking a wrong turn, we found Spiderman!

For lunch, we chose the Trattoria da Leo as recommended by our trusty guide book.  Again, it didn’t disappoint.  With incredible food and reasonable prices, it’s no surprise that snagging an al fresco table at lunch time can be a real challenge.  Reserve in advance, if possible.

In a sheer stroke of luck, we ordered two knockout dishes – Minestra di Farro Lucchese and Rigatoni something-or-other with eggplant.  I don’t even like eggplant, and Doc Sci and I had a thumb war over the last noodle.  I’m still hunting for a recipe to replicate the harmonious flavor of that soup!  Even picky Big Foot scarfed down everything we put in front of him.  After mopping up every last dribble of sauce, we were out the door for less than 30 euros.  Yes!

Trattoria da Leo

Trattoria da Leo

To crown our culinary experience, we sought out some gelato.  The organic flavors at De’ Coltelli hit the spot.  A few euros later, we savored intense blueberry and lightly sweetened yogurt.  Should you be the adventurous type, De’ Coltelli also whips up fish gelato.  Say, what?!

Delicious organic gelato.

Delicious organic gelato.

We passed a boutique called Isola on the way back to the car.  I popped in and found myself unable leave without a darling necklace.  Whenever I wear it, I’ll think of the soup, the scenery, and the sigh of relief I felt in lovely Lucca.

One more darling church with a handful (instead of hundreds) of people.

I couldn’t resist – here’s one more simply elegant church with a handful (instead of hundreds) of people.

Practical tips for Lucca:
  • For free parking, navigate to the Piazzale Don Franco Baroni near Via delle Tagliate.  It’s about a five minute walk to the walls (and Cicli Bizzarri) from there.
  • The city is mostly flat and many ramps lead up to the walls so this is one of the few good places in Tuscany to bring a pram.
  • Free bathrooms can be found at the Tourist Information office sandwiched in between Cicli Bizzarri and another bicycle shop.

This post is part of Our Tuscan Family Adventure: Two Weeks of History, Culture, Food, and Fun in Italy series.  Click on the link to view our bucket list and recaps of each excursion!

Signature-Marigold

Swimming in the Ligurian Sea and Taking in the Cinque Terre

Thrifty Travel Mama - Visiting the Cinque Terre with KidsAhhhh, the Cinque Terre.  If you’re a Rick Steves fan, you’ve probably heard of this place.  I find it rather ironic that the man that makes a living selling guides to Europe’s back doors has opened the floodgates for the Cinque Terre.

Not that I have anything against Rick Steves – just sayin’.

Rugged and breathtaking, these five villages cling to the rocky hillsides and offer an eye-popping welcome to the jewel-toned Ligurian Sea below. The “five lands” of the Cinque Terre include Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso.

You’d be hard-pressed to visit all five in one day; you really need more than an hour or two in each to savor the sights and soak in the sea.  We made it three, and that was overdoing it.

The towns are virtually inaccessible by car.  Visitors must arm themselves with hiking boots and railway timetables, or fight for top-deck real estate on the ferry.

Unfortunately, flooding and landslides in late 2011 severely damaged some of the footpaths between villages.  The two easiest and safest walking routes for families (Riomaggiore – Manarola and Manarola – Corniglia) were still closed during our visit in August 2013.  To save time, we opted to travel by train.

Word to the wise – avoid the Cinque Terre in August if at all possible!  Trains were packed tighter than Moscow subway cars at rush hour.

Thrifty Travel Mama - Visiting the Cinque Terre with Kids

First stop – Riomaggiore.  I found this “land” rather touristy, and we encountered mostly foreigners here.  When you get off the train, and head to your right through the tunnel with the blue plastic roof.  You’ll find shops and a quaint harbor on the other side.

Manarola

Manarola

We spent the better part of our day in Manarola at the rocky harbor.  We aren’t beach people, so the idea of sea without sand was rather attractive.  The area surrounding the water was filled with Italians of all ages and shapes working on their tans.  We plunked our junk on the concrete, staked out an area with beach towels, and headed in to the water.

I had previously read (probably in a TripAdvisor forum) that some tourists enjoyed watching the children swim in the Manarola harbor.  “Children” must have meant “teens” because unless your kids are fantastic swimmers or have rafts, they aren’t going to venture out into the deep and rocky harbor.Thrifty Travel Mama - Visiting the Cinque Terre with KidsThese crazy cats were jumping from the cliffs into the water below!

These crazy cats were jumping from the cliffs into the water below!

Thrifty Travel Mama - Visiting the Cinque Terre with KidsBig Foot didn’t mind the gentle waves as long as he was safe in his daddy’s arms.  My older boys, however, were uncomfortable with the pull of the tide and the depth of the water.  After struggling to gain their trust for the better part of half an hour, we finally gave up trying to get them to face their fears and fed them lunch instead.

After a hearty picnic, we walked toward Corniglia in hopes that the path had miraculously reopened (it hadn’t).  We did, however, catch a glimpse of the next town and discover a playground with an excellent view of Manarola.  You can also find bathrooms and shaded picnic tables here.

The playground at Manarola.

The playground at Manarola.

View of Corniglia from Manarola.

View of Corniglia from Manarola.

As I watched the swimmers and sunbathers from above, I decided I‘d rather swim without the boys than allow their fears to tie me to regret.  As we ventured back to another area of the harbor (calmer albeit deeper water), I coaxed T-Rex into giving the sea another go, and by the end of the afternoon I had both boys in the water.  Yay!

Here's where we ended up swimming.

Here’s where we ended up swimming.

If you plan on taking a dip at Manarola, I’d highly recommend aqua socks.  There’s a high probability you’ll cut yourself on the jagged rocks getting in or out of the water.  If a traditional sandy beach is what you’re after, head to Monterosso instead.

After rinsing off in the free freshwater showers, we picked up a few slices of focaccia (try the local specialty – pesto) and elbowed our way onto the train to Corniglia.

Steps up from the train station to Corniglia.

Steps up from the train station to Corniglia.

The middle “land” is different from the other four.  To get to Corniglia from the train station, one must either climb 365 steps or meander along an equally steep road.  We took the road up and the steps down.  Don’t do that.  The steps are more of a hike but a shorter overall distance.  I believe there’s also a bus option, but we (obviously) didn’t take it.Thrifty Travel Mama - Visiting the Cinque Terre with KidsSince we popped in at the end of the day, we were too tired to really appreciate much of Corniglia’s charm.  It is noticeably quieter than Riomaggiore and Manarola, the shops quainter, the restaurants cozier.  From the edge of Corniglia, you can just make out Monterosso to the right and Manarola to the left as you face the sea.

T-Rex checking out Manarola from Corniglia.

T-Rex checking out Manarola from Corniglia.

Beat from the masses and the heat, we headed back to La Spezia where we had left our car in the free parking lot (Piazza d’Armi) on the west side of town.  From the parking lot, it’s an easy ten minute walk to the train station.  If you need to grab some snacks, there’s a supermarket on your right as you cross Viale Giovanni Amendola.

Some Italians prefer to park in Levanto because getting in and out of La Spezia is a real pain in the you-know-what.  In addition to the volume of traffic because of the port, much of the main road has no lane markers which means it is either 1 or 2 in each direction, depending on how drivers feel at the moment.

Until next time...

Until next time…

Despite the crowds and traffic, we absolutely loved our day in the Cinque Terre.  I look forward to our next visit when we can hit up Vernazza and Monterosso.  Until then, ciao!

This post is part of Our Tuscan Family Adventure: Two Weeks of History, Culture, Food, and Fun in Italy series.  Click on the link to view our bucket list and recaps of each excursion!Signature-MarigoldI’m linking this post on the Cinque Terre up to the #sundaytraveler. Don’t miss a great mess of posts from the hosts and other travel bloggers. You can find this week’s links here.

Our Tuscan Family Adventure: Two Weeks of History, Culture, Food, and Fun in Italy

Thrifty Travel Mama | Our Tuscan Family Adventure: Two Weeks of History, Culture, Food, and Fun in ItalyDear September, I’m so glad you’re here.  I sure do love me some fall food, soft scarves, and crisp leaves crackling beneath my boots.  But, hang on.  I’ve still got summer on the brain.  So forgive me; I feel the need to revel in the warm sunshine just a wee bit longer.

What about you?  Was your summer vacation a tad too short?  Are you already drowning in lunch boxes, laundry, and loads of commitments?  Then escape the grind for a moment, and dream with me about Italy.  Italy!  Eeek!!

After spending two contemptibly boring Augusts in southern Germany, I vowed to venture out this year and experience a true European “holiday.”  Destination of choice?  Italy in general, Tuscany specifically.

Unfortunately for me, Italy is terribly expensive and crowded in August.  It seems the whole world loves this country and shows its affection by turning up once the sun starts burning the hills with her summer heat.  Somehow, I managed to secure two somewhat affordable weeks of lodging – in villas with pools, no less – and the itinerary planning began.

In reading through my guidebook (more on that in a moment), a bucket list of sorts emerged.  As our travels have increased, our appetite has changed.  We’re no longer simply interested in seeing a place, adding a country to our list, snapping a few photos, and moving on to the next overcrowded attraction.  Now, what we crave is the experience. 

What does Italy smell like near the sea?  Taste like when you make regional food with your own hands?  Look like from a medieval tower?  Feel like inside the stone walls of a hill town?  Sound like in the bargaining chatter of the open market?

From these questions, I came up with a bucket list.  Even with two weeks, it’s quite impossible to fully discover all that Tuscany was and is.  Add kids in the mix, and you’re lucky if you get to do anything that doesn’t involve a pool and pizza.  This bucket list is my happy place.  It’s only a taste of Tuscany, but for now it’s enough.

Our Family’s Tuscan Bucket List:

If you’re planning your own Italian adventure, you might be curious as to how I came up with this list.  Several items on the list have been personal dreams for years (Cinque Terre, the Uffizi, a cooking class).  But I owe a great deal of gratitude to my friend Audrey (hi, Audrey!) who recommended the guidebook, Frommer’s Tuscany, Umbria and Florence With Your Family.  Not an affiliate link – just an honest recommendation!

I’ll touch on this in later posts, but Tuscany is not exactly “kid-friendly” (which is not to say that it’s unfriendly toward kids).  The Frommer’s Tuscany guidebook highlighted activities and attractions that my family could and would actually want to do.  The budget restaurant recommendations were spot on.  When I tried to squeeze in some extra research time for “Tuscany with kids”, I can’t think of anything I found online that was not in that book.  Prices were out of date, but that is to be expected.  The advice is still solid.

So, to Tuscany we go!  Enjoy your weekend, and I’ll be back with some sun and sea at the Cinque Terre on Monday!Signature-Marigold