Two Working Moms

Kids | Travel | Lifestyle | SEA


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Kid Glamping

If you asked me about car camping 10 years ago I would say no way. Why would I go into the forest to sleep next to my car? Why go into the woods so I have to be quiet and not disturb other campers? The reason is these two little faces.

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Now as a mom with two little kids car camping is the only way to do it if you want to have a good vacation and actually look forward to it year after year. I might go back to backpacking and minimalism one day but for now, I am 100% on-board with kid glamping and every year I look forward to our camping trips.

The Location 

If you live in the PNW you need to book your spot at least 6 months ahead. Yes, that is right, if  you want that sweet spot, the one group site near the bathrooms, the one with a water faucet, the one that has an outlet, the one that you to go every year then you need to book it on the first day you can so you don’t have to worry about getting something that is going to stress you out. We have that site, the one we go to every year with a water faucet, outlet, and picnic tables with a shelter. It’s a group site with good access and it’s been our 4th of July home for a few years now.

Pre-Camping

I love planning and taking notes. So last year after doing this a few times we really honed in on our pregame. It made a huge difference making the time to get some stuff organized and starting our trip on the right foot that I felt so ready I even got in an AM run before we hit the road.

Make a few premade dishes. We made some food ahead of time like couscous salad and chocolate-chip cookies. If you don’t have anything made I would at least consider having a lunch bag of food for each person so you have a quick meal ready when you get there. It takes time to set up camp and no one wants to be hangry. This is also a great way to keep the kids occupied while the adults set up camp.

Campsite Setup

In the morning your kids are going to get up at the crack of dawn. Be ready to roll out of that tent and have your lounge area set up. This is the area with the rug or large blanket. We have a few inflatable chairs and toys to entertain the kids. If they are really little you’ll have a playpen for them to chill in while you warm up the water for your instant coffee.

There will be bugs so make sure to bring net tabletop covers to keep them off your food. I also like to keep a basket out with utensils, napkins, and maybe a citronella candle to keep the tablecloth from blowing away. I keep this under the net tabletop cover to keep things clean while we are away from the site and all the critters get up on our table.

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For our picnic tables, we use the table cloths that are reusable and have a cleanable surface top and a cotton fabric bottom. They hold better to wood picnic tables and they are easy to wipe off and sanitize each time since at our location there was always chipmunk poop when we return to the campsite.

If you haven’t camped while and want to get one thing to make this camping trip a success get a new air mattress. Sleep is going to be hard in a new place, with new sounds, and you all might be in the same bed for the first time. To help get some sleep make sure you have a good bed and lots of pillows. If it is cold make sure to bring more blankets then you think you’ll actually need. Sometimes with kids, things get wet or dirty and better to have extra and not need them. I would also recommend having larger than needed blankets. So if you have a queen mattress bring king size blankets so everyone is covered.

Some things I do at our campsite and in our tent to make it feel more like home:

  • Large rug (or blanket) for the getting ready and play area in the tent.
  • Basket for shoes in the tent near the door.
  • “Doormat” outside the tent so there is a clean place to step or sit to put on shoes.
  • Solar lights to help see important areas.
  • Bathroom bag with a headlamp and all the stuff your kids want or need when you go no matter the time of day.
  • Air pump and a long extension cord. If you have kids they are going to jump on that air mattress and you are going to want to touch it up and fill it up a little more without getting it out of the tent. Trust me, bring an extension cord.
  • Furniture, and the cozier and more comfortable the better. We have found our favorite are the inflatables chairs and such. I bring some extra blankets and pillows to make it extra cozy.
  • I also like to bring some fun seasonal decorations.

The Food

Breakfast for the kids is that boxed cereal they never get to eat and while they are busy someone can make the adults some real breakfast. We do easy lunches and make sandwiches and let the kids snack all day. Then for dinner, we go big and make sure to sit at the table and eat family style like we do at home.

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There are a ton of tips online about what to make while camping but it is really up to your style. My hubby loves to cook fun stuff but he is also nostalgic about things and wants to have special types of classic dishes, especially for the 4th of July camping we do every year.

Here are a few of my tips around food:

  • Freeze large bottles of water for ice packs. This way you have water once it melts and when it does melt it won’t get everything soggy.
  • Bring a few reusable containers. They can hold lunch stuff to the beach or on a hike, they can be in the cooler for that half-eaten apple or the dinner someone didn’t eat.
  • If you can get dry ice that stuff is the best to keep everything cold.
  • Have a snack bag or box. This is all the dry snack items you have so you can have your kids help themselves. You can even have one in the cooler for perishables.
  • We use a travel bottle cleaner container that has a small dry area and comes with a brush. It is perfect for washing dishes.
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  • Bring something ready to eat like muffins, wraps, or comfort food.
  • Water bottles for the kids with their name on it. One trip… one cup!!!
  • We love making nachos. You can warm up the cheese over a campfire and then add all the sides to bowls so people and kids can build their own. Always a big hit with the groups and super easy to make.
  • This year the smores got an uplift with chocolate cookies.

The Clean and Dirty

We camp near the beach and by the end of the day, the kids need a bath, especially if we are there several days. We bring a large bucket/bin that holds our camping gear and use that as a bathtub. We warm up water with our sunshower and our immersion circulator if we need a little extra.

Once our kids are ready to go to bed we have them put their shoes inside the tent in a basket near the door. My kids are already used to taking off shoes in the house so this was easy for them to adopt. By keeping shoes inside we didn’t have to worry about bugs crawling in overnight outside the tent. This really helps limit the amount of dirt in our tent.

A few more things I add to my checklist:

  • Small dustpan and little broom to clean up dirt in the tent.
  • Disinfectant wipes (trust me you will need them).
  • Collapsible sink bucket to wash pots or dishes.
  • Paper plates for easy clean ups when you don’t want to wash dishes.
  • Large hand sanitizer for the table and a small one to take with you in your backpack for day adventures.
  • Bathroom bag or shower caddy with everything you need for the bathroom including a flashlight to get there.
  • Yoga matt for the inside of the tent to put shoes on or step inside the tent with shoes.
  • Large ziplock bag for the inside trash.

Bedtime Adventures

Bedtime for little kids is hard, even at home sometimes so we go the super easy route. I put my kid in our bed and give them their tablets with headphones. They watch a movie while I sit at the campfire only a few feet away and they pass out before the movie ends. I then transfer them when I go to bed. The great thing about the headphones is they don’t hear us talking and they get to stay up a little later than normal so hopefully, they sleep in a little.

I also suggest lots of blankets, extra pillows, stuffies, and kid lanterns.

Odds and Ends

We love camping and want to make the most of it for our kids. They thrive being outside and having everyone so close to them for days. It is a great family experience we get to share with close friends and do my best to make it fun and enjoyable for everyone.

Here are a few more odds and ends to make camping and exploring fun:

  • Scavenger hunt and exploring tools for the kids.
  • Smore’s caddy or station and stuff ready to go, including sticks with handles.
  • Glow in the dark toys and glow sticks for everything!!!
  • Toys like sidewalk chalk, buckets, shovels, and binoculars.
  • Stuff to do inside if it is bad weather like coloring books, crafts, and movies on tablets.
  • Warm robe for the kids. They are perfect for putting over PJs and keeping them warm all night long.
  • Backpack for day trips out and about to hold all the snacks.

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Hope this list and suggestions help to make your next family camping trip that much more enjoyable for everyone.

Of course, all this said, camping with kids is just like being at home with kids. It is crazy and you never know what could happen. You can plan for the worst and hope for the best and if you keep your bar low you will be happy with your vacation.

Happy Kid Glamping * L


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San Francisco Hotels

I love San Francisco, and why shouldn’t I, I was born in this city of love and greatness. I’m also lucky to live in Seattle with my family of 4 and a job that allows me to visit my city of love often. Each time I come I test out a new hotel in part to search for my away-home, or to help others find their perfect hotel for their next San Francisco stay.

What I love about hotels isn’t usually listed on a website. Plus it is the little things that really make a hotel room a home for the week. When you travel often there are some things that really matter and  I hope this post helps highlight these for you if they matter to you too.

I have three things that make the hotel a 5 star:

  1. Full-length mirror
  2. A fan in the bathroom
  3. Good iron and ironing board

Of course, other things matter too, like being clean, having a nice bed, friendly staff, and a great location central to things.

Marriott Marquis

This is a big hotel and after staying in some older ones I was ready for a big modern newer place. The room was nice and roomy and even the bathroom had a lot of space and nice full-length mirror.

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The view was nice, the place was super clean and I love the bedding. The lobby had some of the most amazing water I have ever tasted. I mean seriously might just go into this lobby next time to fill up my water bottle. The cafe on the floor level had a lot of healthy options and the staff was super nice.

The hotel did have a nice ironing board and it had a bathroom fan it would have gotten a 5 star but since it didn’t, so I am going to have to continue my hunt and give this one a 4 out 5 stars.

Park Central Hotel 

This is an older hotel but aren’t they all in San Francisco. This hotel has a great location close to Union Square, Market, Ferry Building, and Caltrain. It also has some great views and nice big windows.

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The room is clean but very simple and bare bones. There isn’t a fridge, no coffee machine, no bottled water for $5 or whatnot. I’m an SPG Member so often I get complimentary water waiting for me but not here to

They do have good wifi so love that and yes to a full-length mirror and good iron. No to the bathroom fan so overall I will give them a 3 out of 5 stars.

Hotel Nikko

This is an older hotel with a lot of heart. They work with Rocket Dog Rescue and they are super dog-friendly. Lots of snacks and bottled water for you to enjoy. Extra blankets and even a nice robe.

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The bathroom was clean and had a nice separate bathtub, but no fan.  Overall the room was very clean for an older place and the staff was very nice. Yes to a full-length mirror and good iron and I was happy I stayed here but no reason to go back.

Maybe if I traveled with my dog but I also really like hotel Kimpton for my pup.  I give them a 4 out of 5.

Hotel Zeppelin

My mother-in-law recommended this place and I can see how it is fun and if you like music the decorations and ambiance is awesome. It is an older building and I think they added on or have two buildings together.

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There is a fun restaurant bar that I didn’t eat at but looked poping on a weeknight. If you do have a few drinks here make sure you know how to get back to your room. Just trying to find the gym was a scavenger hunt.

The room itself was OK. The carpet is so old that I was truly thankful I had my flip-flops. The window overlooked other windows and it took me awhile to figure out the blinds. Super small bathroom and no fan.

The old character of the hotel didn’t out win my need for feeling like it is clean. It was too confusing of a layout and thus I give this hotel only a 2 out of 5.

W San Francisco

I saved my favorite for last, the W. Just stayed there last week to confirm that this is my home away from my current home. It has the 3 things I like in a hotel, like a bathroom fan, full-length mirror, a good iron, and ironing board. It also has a great bed, and love the Bliss products. The staff is super kind, and the location is perfect for hitting the Ferry Building, Union Square, or a quick walk to the Mission. If only they had a pool I would move in (they did a long time ago).

The XYZ bar is super fun to have dinner and people watch. The bar has lights that change color and there are outlets all over. The bathrooms are gender neutral and the atmosphere is welcoming with fires, TVs, and sitting sofas with lots of cushions.

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I would stay here hands down anytime while traveling to San Francisco and give it a 5 out of 5. I will be back W and look forward to my warm budda to guide me to sleep.

Enjoy my list and hope you have a great San Francisco stay. * L

 

 


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Happy Kids and Parents @ Disneyland

If you are like me you are super excited to go Disneyland and want to make sure your kids are happy, have a great time, and make memories of the place and not of their parents losing their cool.

I love to pFamilyPhotolan and organize and did a lot of reading about what others did and gleaned from their tips, made my own agenda, and found a lot of hidden treasures and lessons learned so you and I can have happy kids and parents at Disneyland.

My hubby and I went to Disneyland and California Adventure for 3 days for my son’s 5th birthday, with my 2 year old daughter, and grandma. We survived and my kids walked away with great memories and photos!!!

When we planned this trip I was thinking we would stay around Disneyland, but not at Disneyland. I mean you just sleep there and no big deal. Thankfully planning a hotel 5 months before around Christmas time is too late and the only options were The Grand Californian and Paradise Pier Disneyland hotel, all onsite. I was also VERY wrong, hotel does matter and save yourself even more waiting and hassle by getting a hotel at Disneyland. You deserve it as parents for already being so awesome and brining your little ones to Disneyland.

Tip 1 – Stay at a Disneyland Hotel

Why stay onsite at a Disneyland hotel:

  • You don’t have to wait for a shuttle when your kids vomit all over themselves and you 🙂 Or when you are just tired and done waiting in lines.
  • Magic Hour is offered so you can go to the park an hour before it opens if your kids wake up at 4am and are already going crazy in the hotel room.
  • Character breakfasts at the hotel are a MUST. You don’t have to wait in crazy lines to get a cute photo of Micky and your little ones while you are drinking a mimosa.

We stayed at Paradise Pier Hotel this time and here are the pros and cons of that hotel. Might try doing another Disneyland hotel next time but would stay here again if it was my only Disneyland hotel option. I travel a lot and have a few things that make a hotel room great for me (full-length mirror, good iron, shampoo and conditioner not all in one, and a bathroom with a fan) but everyone is different. Here are my pros and cons.

Pros of Disneyland Paradise Pier Hotel:

  • Very kid-friendly hotel with a pack-and-play in the room, cleared out fridge, and a counter in the bathroom the kids can reach to wash hands.
  • There is a hide-a-bed so if you don’t want to sleep with your kids that is an option.
  • Yippie they have a full-length mirror and nice products without combining shampoo and conditioner.
  • Our room had an amazing view of California Adventure and the fireworks show every night.
  • Cleaning staff not only does an amazing job, but they are super nice. We had to call them two times for some major clean up.
  • You can walk to the park and don’t have to take a shuttle. This makes it super easy to take naps and relax mid-day.
  • When you check-in this can take a good 30 minutes. If you are like me you just got off of a flight and your kids are crazy. There is an arcade and movie room on the first floor to hang out with your littles ones as your room gets taken care of.
  • Character breakfast was perfect!!!!
  • Awesome pool with a waterslide. My kids didn’t want to do it but I can see how it would be fun for older kids.

Cons of Disneyland Paradise Pier Hotel:

  • No bathroom fan. Now a lot of people don’t think this is a big deal when picking out a hotel room. Not till you are running late for a meeting and can’t see yourself in the bathroom mirror to get ready. Or in our situation here when your 2 year old pukes all over the place and you use up every bath towel and the room without windows that open makes the room stink!!!
  • Its an old hotel so the elevators are small and with strollers only 2 families can fit. So you often have to wait for a few to get on one.
  • The other side of the hotel is the pool side. Should be called the parking lot side. If you are up higher than the 3rd floor you no longer see the pool but rather a HUGE parking lot for Disneyland. So totally worth paying extra for the nice side!
  • Cleaning staff does amazing but the people at the front desk are super slow or maybe not organized. We called about our room being really dirty and stinky due to a sick kid around 8am. When we got back to the room at 3 it still wasn’t cleaned and the staff had to wait till our nap time was over and we had a stinky relaxing time. With that check-in was also slow.

Tip 2 – Have an Agenda

Having an agenda is key! Of course you aren’t going to stay on it but having it planned out before hand will really help. I’ve already done it, tested it, and know it to be true. I’ll follow this one again, next time we go.

Skip the magic hour. If your kids are 5 and under and they didn’t wake up and crack of dawn since they stayed up late, walked a ton, and frankly who wants to get up in the dark, get kids ready, and start a long day on the wrong foot?

Disneyland Day 1

8am – Character Breakfast at the Hotel. I was thankful to have a good, hardy breakfast. You can also avoid all the crazy long lines to get a good photo of your littles ones with Micky. Second they just got ready so everyone looks their best and you get digitals and photos to keep before you leave.

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10am – Make sure you have the Disneyland app and one you walk over to the park find the first Max Pass ride you want to go on. We only did Max Pass rides since the wait time is under 30 minutes. In the meantime while you wait for that first ride, head  over to a ride with a small wait time. Thankfully a lot of the baby rides my 2 year old can go on aren’t too bad.

Noon – Don’t bother with a sit down lunch and instead just eat snacks. If your kids are anything like mine they love snacks and you can get healthy ones if you head to Toontown. Got hummus, veggies, mango, and a park for the kids to run around in that is gated. There are so many yummy treats my kids just grazed inline for the most part. There is also a house and lot of shade.

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12:30pm – Find a spot on the sidewalk to watch the 1pm Main Street Parade. I stayed there with the stroller and one kid while the hubby and the other kid got snacks. Took a good 30 minutes and they joined me for the show. We have a BOB stroller my son could sit on the tip to watch front row.

3pm – After doing a few more Max Pass rides and hanging in there till the kids are exhausted, head back to the hotel for a late nap or quiet time. My 2 year old did nap a little in her stroller and so happy we had our personal one that fully reclined and gave her a lot of shade. At the hotel we cleaned up and got on warmer clothes, and brought our light up toys and whatnot.

5pm – We book dinner reservations in the app once you got our hotel. Things get booked up quickly so don’t wait till the day of.  Things are also expensive at Disneyland so it is up to you if you want to spend $180 on pizza and bad sangria or $200 on scallops and really good cocktails. We went to 3 places for dinner and I write up on them in more details below to help you pick the best one for you and your family. Do have reservations!!!

We ate at these 3 places for dinner and I would go back to one of them, maybe two:

Naples is a pizza place so we came her on my son’s birthday, the first night. We got a pitcher of sangria, pizzas, dessert and some soup and salad. The bill was about $180 before tip. They brought out the kids meals last and the food wasn’t that good.

Catal, was about $200 for a scallops, nice cocktails, and lots of appetizers. Even the kids mac & cheese was huge (they could have shared) and the staff was really nice and it had great ambiance. We would come here again next time for sure.

Cafe Orleans is a great place to get dinner at 7pm if you can wait that long. Great view of the fireworks show. The food was good but very limited menu and no alcohol.

7pm – People are still eating dinner so lines are a little shorter. Go on a quick one while you wait for a Max Pass ride to start. There is a great fireworks water show you can see even at a distance. We parked it near the Mark Twan boat ride and saw a good side of it without being in the middle of the crowds.

9pm – We stayed out as late as possible and our kids loved all the light and attractions. Got dessert and road one last big kid ride as my hubby and I did a switch pass and by son got to go on twice. Tip: get in line right when the other parent is about to get on the ride, so the line for the little kid is shorter the second time around.

My sons favorite ride was Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

Tip 3 – Pack Smart

Yes you are going to want the fun matching shirts! I was so happy I got mine last minute from Etsy Store. Here are some other must-bring items (if you ask me):

  • Mickey Ears – everyone has them and if you want to spend $50 for two then get them at Disneyland. I got mine at Target for $12 for 2.
  • Light Up Everything – I brought a light rope that I used to outline my stroller and it was so nice to have everyone be able to see me as we walked at night. We had light up gloves, hats, wristbands, rings, and lots of glow lights.
  • Disney To-go Cups – I got a 4 pack and we used them every day. Either for water or to discretely hold my adult beverage.
  • Gallon Size Bags – We used Ziplock bags for dirty diapers, dirty clothes, and really they just come so in handy.
  • Identification – If your kids are too young to know your name and cell phone number then make sure they have this on them. We used a clip on ID that was easy for anyone to see on the back of my daughter who is 2.
  • Disney Clothing – Got them into the spirit with Mickey and Minnie sweaters they could use on their way there.

 

Tip 4 – Travel Busy Book

There is a lot of waiting, so make sure to have a Travel Busy Book or something to keep them entertained while in line, waiting for food, and while traveling of course. I made my kids travel busy books and my little one loved it while she chilled in the stroller.

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My kids also played with them on the airplane and I am so happy I made them. Here is a better photo to see what was included in the one I made for my son.

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Tip 5 – What to Buy

Of course, there are some things you will want to buy there. We got my daughter her first princess dress. Took it to the hotel and she was so excited to wear it that evening for dinner. Got them a Mickey bubble wand that lights up and a Fantasia wand that changes color.

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The thing you do not want to miss that was a big hit was the penny souvenir. It only costs 50 cents but they watch it being made and both fell asleep holding on to it. You can get this on your way out of the park on the left-hand side near the gate, with a few other souvenirs.

Another thing you cannot miss is the Dole whip, yes even in the winter this is a must! They sell it at the park, but the line is always a good 30 minutes. The Disneyland Hotel has a “The Coffee House” that sells it too.  Not only that but they sell a version with rum!!!

This place is a gem and I cannot believe no one told me about it. We came here a few times while on vacation and every time there was no line.

 

Both of our kids had a great first vacation at Disneyland. My hubby and I didn’t lose our cool and we made some great memories, got a lot of fun photos, and learned so much.

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Q: What are your Disneyland tips for me to consider next time we go? * L


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The City of Dublin

Ireland wasn’t on my list but I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to go twice in the last year and wanted to share a slice of the Irish I was able to savor while there. I also talked to a few people and picked what to see and what to skip based on some tips they gave me. Hopefully, these tips help you or inspire you if your luck takes you to Dublin.

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The Guinness Factory is a big deal in Ireland and it is almost like an amusement park. There are interactive smelling games, tastings, videos, history, and a fancy shop. I do not like beer, (I know, I’m crazy, right?)  and the cost to get in is about $30 so I passed and just got a photo outside. There are tons of places to get Guinness souvenirs so don’t be sad to miss the shop inside. (You can’t go into it without a ticket).

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If you have a morning to do something get up early and be the first person to get a ticket to see the Long Room at Trinity College. I did and I didn’t have to wait in a long line and got to see this amazing library and the Book of Kells. It wasn’t much for a ticket but I did pass on the tour since I didn’t have a lot of time.

If you have time do check out the rest of Trinity College, the Globe art piece is amazing and the campus overall is just beautiful.

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If you don’t feel like walking they have these bike peddlers who can tow you around the city. Comes in handy at the end of the night when you just want to get home or to your hotel.

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All of the walking around can also make you hungry and something that Dublin does really well, (perhaps better than anyone,) are tasty donuts. It would be a shame to not have one of these from The Rolling Donut while visiting.

Another favorite food place to try if you want a nicer dinner that is memorable is Fire. I would suggest making a reservation if it is on the weekend. Another super yummy place was Rustic Stone.

If you are looking for something more traditional I would recommend The Church. They have Irish Dancers and it is a  very cool location; you guessed it, it’s an at old church. Or you can hit up The Bank for something local with less dancing, (and yes, it is in an old bank!)

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StephensGreensSt Stephen’s Green is a city center public park in Dublin, Ireland. If you have time this is a great park to run and just people watch.

There is also a big shopping center near this gate and a nice hotel I stayed at called the Fitzwilliam. The nice thing about this hotel is it feels more classical. It used to be an old movie theater and the staff was super friendly.

I also stayed at the Westin that wasn’t too far out of this area. They have a very nice restaurant in the hotel and bar called “The Mint” since, again, the building was once a bank.

Another hotel that was recommended is the Marker. It is a very nice, new hotel and it has a rooftop bar open most days of the week. At night you can see the installation by Martha Schwartz. Some call the Red Forest (art) from down below.  “Ireland’s first 21st Century destination square” only cost about 8 million.

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I really love the Grand Canal Square in Dublin. The art, hotels, and architecture makes for a great area.  Dublin is an amazing city with so much culture, diversity, and lots to see and do.

Hope to return one day and see more of Dublin and Ireland. * L


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Lisbon Portugal Trip

Please read, if you just found out you are going to Lisbon Portugal for work, you don’t have time to research what to do and see, you want to make the most of your short time there.

I had one weekend and some evenings to make the most of my business trip I took back in March. I saw a lot, and as a San Francisco native, I felt like this place was my sister city and fell in love with Portugal and Lisbon. Not only does it have a look-a-like golden gate bridge, it has the same coastal plants and landscape. The people are diverse and the hills make for a familiar place that I have never seen before. One day I hope to go back with my family and spend more time in Lagos and eat more egg tarts.

Day 1 – The East

You are going to have jet lag, so why not get up super early and head out for a run to catch the perfect sunrise photo in Lisbon. I got some address for a hotel, and some kind of balcony. Well let me warn you, there a big hills (think San Francisco) and if you are running, give yourself some extra time so you don’t miss the sun and the perfect photo.

 

If you are a Mom like me getting up early isn’t a big deal and since I am training for my first 1/2 marathon my real only time to do that is before my kids get up.

 

 

I walked a little on the way back and got some photos of the statue on the top of the hill. Great location to find a cafe and sip on some coffee if I didn’t have a country to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also found a fun tunnel with cartoon art inside that overlooks a palm tree. So much to see and I wish I had more time to capture it all. The hills and stairs are a real workout and even the cobblestone streets give you a challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After my run I went back to my hotel, DoubleTree Lisbon – Fontana Park. More about hotels later but I only stayed at this one for a night and it was already too long.

Grabbed a Uber Driver to take my coworker and I East to the town of Sintra. He was awesome and spoke a little english so we hired him for the day at 100 euros to take us to a few places.

 

First stop was Castle of Moor, a hilltop medieval castle in Sintra. This place is a huge park and you could spend all day here hiking trails, doing a picnic, or puts around the castle and spectacular views.

 

Mind you there are several entrances and parking lots. We ended up get mixed up and got lost. We asked a few people for help but most don’t speak english or very little. we ended up going the wrong way and couldn’t find our driver. Thankfully, he found us and this time we made sure to get his cell phone number.

 

Pena Palace is only about 20 more minutes drive away from the Castle and is a must see destination. Love the color, tiles, and architecture. There is a cafe outside on the deck with great views and a restaurant upstairs inside with air condition. No hot foods but you can get ice cream and some wine.17311144_10154538532462683_9070122551529320911_o

 

It was a warm day but you can tell you are closer to the ocean and can feel the cold wind in the air. In May I would suggest layers.

Next up, we went to the ocean to have a late lunch and see one more thing before going back south to Lisbon. Meals in Portugal take time and we almost missed out last destination before the sun went down.

 

 

 

 

 

Boca de Inferno, is located in the seaside cliffs close to the city of Cascais. There is a platform to walk out on and see the “Mouth of Hell” from the ocean viewpoint. Just a caution there isn’t any lights and there are steps so make sure to have something to light your way or it might be a hard walk back up.

We saw the sunset and used the nice public bathrooms before buying us and our driver a coffee and some snacks before heading back to Lisbon.

Of course, we couldn’t call it a day without visiting and seeing some of the night life. We headed to Pink Street for some drinks.

We heard things didn’t get good till 11pm and no one goes out before then. Me being a mama of 2 young kids I never go out at 11pm. Heck I am usually in bed by then.

My coworker really wanted to go out and thankfully my jet lag was working in my favor and after a shower and some new clothes, I was ready to check out the night-life.

We headed to pink street around 11pm and 30 minutes later the area was still dead. We asked around for a good place to dance and then headed to the spot a few people recommended, LUX.

17264853_10154538980617683_7252966033334493538_nIt opened at midnight, and we heard it can be hard to get it as they get selective once the line starts to form. We got there right when they opened and had a few drinks while we waited for it to fill up. I would say it didn’t really get going till 1 am. We danced till 3am!

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – The South

Sunday was our full day to go south and see the town of Lagos. We woke up early and headed to the train. We already got our tickets the day before and thought we could sleep on our way down. On the map it looked to be a 3 hour trip. The train is slow. What could have taken 3 hours to drive took us over 5 hours on train. It stopped a few places and we had to connect to a different train at one point. In hindsight we should have taken another method since we only had a day.

The ticket was a great deal but not planning ahead cost a lot of money coming home. Since it was Sunday the train had a limited schedule; therefore, we would only have 2 hours in Lagos before having to take the next train back home. We opted to enjoy the day and worry about it later.

 

Train Tips:

  • Everyone is assigned a seat. I thought it was odd these two girls sat right next to use then the train was mostly empty.
  • There is a food cart. We asked more than 3 people if there was coffee or food on the train and everyone said no. YES, there is a food cart and thankfully we found it after they announced over the speakers.
  • It is very SLOW.
  • Make sure to ask about transfers. The ticket was hard to read and this wasn’t very clear to us.
Lagos is amazing and really you could spend a week here and relax. Oddly enough most people who are born and raised in Lisbon never making down here. Things are slower, more shops are closed on Sundays and not that many people speak English. In fact later I found out it is rare for Americans to visit this part of the world.
Praia do Pinhão, is the beach we went to since it is closer to the city center and isn’t as busy as the other locations. Wasn’t a big deal for off season but we didn’t have a lot of time in Lagos so it worked out great.
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Sadly the one restaurant and local bathroom was closed but I could imagine how awesome this place would be in peak season.
Much like other beaches you will be on in Europe people here don’t mind getting dressed into their beach gear at the beach. So a closed bathroom wasn’t a big deal.
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After the beach we walked around town to have lunch and find a car rental place.
Sadly the only car rental place open was sold out and renting a car to go back to Lisbon wasn’t an option. At this point we already missed the last train north so hiring a taxi was are only option. We got nervous that no one was willing to take us up north after offering 400 Euros to 5 different taxi drivers.

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Final we got a taxi driver to expect our deal, over $400 dollars. We asked him why the others declined and he said they don’t want to be in the car that long with someone they can’t talk to since many taxi drivers here don’t know english. Still I thought this was crazy to give up so much money for one evening.

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In the end it worked out since Joe our taxi drive did know English and showed us a lot of great locations along the cost as we drove back up north to Lisbon.
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Evenings in Lisbon

The good news is I had the evenings to explore Lisbon. In fact I had a lot of time since most dinner places don’t open till 7pm.
Lisbon is a safe diverse city and there is so much to do and see. LX Factory was one of my favorite locations with a bunch of restaurants such as the Cantina, A Praca (pictured below), an ice cream shop, a bakery and a Sushi restaurant.

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I just loved this place and ate here 2 times while I was in Lisbon. The food was fresh and tasted amazing. They are super generous with their glass of wine and the staff was very friendly. I ate here the second time alone and didn’t feel odd at all.

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Among the many stores in LX Factory, the book store “Ler Devagar” clearly stands out. By size, architecture and design and the cute flying biker art installation that floats above you. There is an old printing press upstairs as well as a Cafè on both floors. I got some cute canvas bags here for gifts.

 

Not too far from here if you walk towards the water you can find the best bakery in Lisbon for egg tarts. Egg tarts started here in Lisbon and they taste so amazing I had at least one every day. Joe my amazing taxi driver in Lagos told us the secret to these tasty treats. They are made with seagull eggs. Crazy I know, and not sure if there is some seagull farm or they just get them from the wild. Either way they taste amazing and you must visit Pasteis de Belém’ to eat one right out of the oven. They also have lot of port and other branded items like a cooking apron you can have or give as a great souvenir. Tip there are two lines so make sure you don’t just stand in the one line. One line is for take-away and it moved much quicker. I don’t think it is worth the wait to get a table. Just get some to go and eat at the park down the block. YES this is worth the line and you will be sad if you missed it. http://pasteisdebelem.pt/en/

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I just loved walking around town and seeing all the neighborhoods and the wide variety of tiles. 17390453_10154557617742683_5008302911788957110_o

 

Another shop I would recommend is Claus Porto. I came out this way one evening to get some of these locally made soaps that have gone global. This new store is so cute and the store smells great, as these hand crafted soaps are infused with fine scents taken from Portuguese ingredients and you just can’t wait to take a sample of that home.

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The soaps are wrapped with finely and beautifully illustrated art work and make for great gifts. There is also a  gentleman barber services on the lower level for some extra pampering with their shaving and location collection.

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If you only have one night for dinner then you must go to Palácio Chiado

This place is a castle for sushi. Make sure to set up a reservation. You enter downstairs via a different restaurant and they hand you a card to enter the above venue. As you walk up the marble stairs with painted walls you feel like you are entering a place that is for the royals and perhaps your work attire isn’t enough. Don’t worry, it is.

This is the view half way up the stairs. The gold flying lion greats you.

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I came late so my photos didn’t show up that great. Take a look at them here: https://o-tuga.com/mochilando/palacio-chiado-portugal/

Such a dream location and the food was amazing. Creative sushi and we had them make whatever they wanted. Of course we did order egg tarts or dessert.

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I had enough time to see one more thing in Lisbon and I visited the Jerónimos Monastery and see the gothic style of architecture.

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Beautiful place and a great place to visit and take photos. There is an the main courtyard and the rooms around it. Then near the entrance is a free view of the church that is also viewable at the balcony level with you ticket to enter the monastery.17493000_10154557619387683_4470538302558746599_o17504602_10154557620012683_4574872142672739438_o

 

Hotels in Lisbon

I know it sounds crazy but in my 10 days being here I stayed in 3 hotels and here is what I thought about them:
1. DoubleTree Lisbon – Fontana Park. I was going to stay here the whole time and ended up only staying 1 night and will never go back. When I first got there the hallways was super creepy. It was a long black hallway with no windows and the modern look was’t working with the green carpet and just looked like a scene from a 70’s horror movie. My non-smoking room smelled like cigarets and you could even see burn marks on the floor. The sliding door to my 2nd story room didn’t lock and it didn’t even shut the whole way. I asked to be moved to another room that was secure and safe and they accommodated. My coworker was staying at another hotel so I moved there the next day. When I left my room in the morning and went to the elevator to check out my card key no longer worked. It didn’t work for the room or the elevator. Yes you need a card key to get to the lobby. I had my big roller bag so I couldn’t take the stairs. I had to wait 15 minutes till someone stopped on my floor to help me leave.
2. Sheraton Lisboa – was an amazing upgrade to the Double Tree. They have an breakfast buffet that has caviar and champaign. The room is plush and they even give you your own slippers to keep. Just being here felt like a vacation, but sadly they had been all booked up and I could only stay here two nights.
3.  Jupiter Hotel – was located closer to my office. It was a smaller hotel and more minimal but super clean and again a great buffet. Not as good as the Sheraton but had all the fixings and also did a buffet style dinner. The room was clean and the staff was very nice. The price was also a great deal for what you got. If I ever came back with my family I would stay here. The only thing to note is there wasn’t a bathtub and the restaurant doesn’t open for dinner till 7pm.
Hope I make it back to Lisbon one day. * L