Wanderlust, discovery and a sense of identity: my thoughts on travelling to Croatia during the pandemic

Hans Christian Anderson once said that “to travel is to live.” I‚Äôve been very fortunate to travel to many different places around the world since early childhood. The anticipation prior to boarding a flight is something that never gets old for me. But there is something special to be said when I go to Croatia where my family is from. There are no words that can fully describe the feeling I have for the country that I love so much. Croatia, a small country of just over 4 million people, lies at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe and boasts a beautiful coastline, national parks and is home to many historical monuments.

Last year, our travel plans were placed on hold due to the pandemic. A part of me died that day in 2020 when we had to cancel our trip to Croatia. We actually had three trips planned for 2020 which all had to be cancelled. I didn’t think anything would be worse than my personal 2019 ‚Äúannus horribilis‚ÄĚ but 2020 ended up taking the cake.

Although travelling with small children can be rather difficult, we still wanted to continue to this beloved tradition to our homeland. We wanted to show our kids where their ancestors are from and to show them an appreciation for the world itself. Fast forward into 2021: my husband and I are next to one another and are staring at Google Flights. We went back and fourth for a few days whether or not to book and then just one day…..

….he hit enter.

We did it! Now what?

Was this the right choice to make?

Too late by this point because we just booked it and there was no looking back.

The following days went by quick. Asides from the usual packing, we also had to organize all our travel documents and COVID-19 requirements to enter Croatia. At the time, either proof of full vaccination or negative antigen test was required to enter the country. Fortunately, in many places in Europe, children under the age of 12 were exempt from such requirements.

We had a connecting flight into Amsterdam and immediately it felt much more relaxed than Ontario. Even in the best of times, the European lifestyle is way more relaxed than North American culture. We had a few hours layover and then we made our way to Split, Croatia and I immediately felt a sense of “coming home.”

Being Croatian-Canadian, I’ve always had a sense of a dual identity. Essentially, my heart has always been split into two: the person born and raised in Canada and the person whose heart belongs in Croatia. Almost a dichotomy in of itself, this is who I am and this is something I fully embrace.

Going to Croatia this year was very important for us. Many of our cultural events here in Canada have been to a halt for most of the pandemic. Croatian folklore was paused (it has since resumed but with COVID protocols); Croatian school was done virtually and a lot of our cultural events were either postponed or conducted over YouTube. The days of 600 people at weddings have downsized considerably due to pandemic restrictions (and I don’t see them coming back anytime soon). Although I can appreciate everyone’s efforts putting together virtual events for the sake of keeping things together, it’s not organic in a sense where you can properly learn and retain language for example. As a result, I started to feel isolated, sad and alone. For that reason, this trip was so important for us and quite frankly for me because I missed so much of this. In 2019 I had a close relative pass away and that sense of grieving lingered around for most of 2020. I didn’t realize how much I missed being around people until we were in Croatia.

With that being said, we spent the majority of our time at our family home in Vodice, Croatia, which is just north of ҆ibenik, approximately 45 minutes to one hour away from the Split Airport. We spent most days on the beach; the children happily playing with their beach toys and swimming in the waves. We had our routine everyday; breakfast, beach, lunch, dinner and repeat. This was as good as it can get with travelling with kids and this was by far the best trip with them. They loved the beach and they had their spot by the same cafe we went to. They knew which crepe (palańćinke) stand to go to.

I developed a new-found appreciation for Debit and Dingańć during this trip. We were fortunate to check out some restaurants, both new and old. Some of the restaurants we really enjoyed around Vodice were Strikoman’s Bistro and Karmelski Dvori – Konoba Okit. My husband and I also went back to Pelegrini again in ҆ibenik for a date night. Following a day trip to PrimoŇ°ten, we took the magistrala all the way up to Konoba Vinko, which is a Michelin Star recognized restaurant in Lozovac, just 15 kilometers away in ҆ibenik. My youngest son said that was “the best meal he ever had” and he was not kidding! We also had a chance to meet up with a good friend of mine at a newer restaurant called 4 Kantuna in Zadar. We also spent time with our families, did some day trips with the children and I was able to visit my late-uncle’s grave and pay my respects.

Overall, it was so worth it and fortunately we didn’t experience any issues. I don’t think things will change with the pandemic anytime soon and life is way to short to continue putting things on hold. I do not regret going at all; it was the best decision we made for our mental health, especially for the kids who have already given up so much. Travel in of itself is a very valuable education, one that I will always appreciate.

Exploring new places, starting new traditions

A wine tour of Twenty Valley, a hidden gem in my very own backyard

When it comes to wine, places like Burgundy, Tuscany and Napa Valley come to mind.  I am not necessarily a wine-connoisseur but I do enjoy some good wine.  I’ve been fortunate to travel to places like Napa Valley and Italy where I’ve gone to wine tours and tastings.   Growing up in Windsor, Ontario, I was well-familiar with Pelee Island and all it’s glory, but I never really thought about Niagara on the Lake or the surrounding areas.   Perhaps because I was so far removed, or never really took some time to consider visiting there.  Since moving to the GTHA, I started to explore various restaurants in the surrounding areas.   It didn’t take me long to realize that you don’t have to travel too far to find good restaurants and wineries, and I am not even talking about going to Toronto!

I’ve been to Niagara on the Lake but I haven’t done it properly, like gone on a proper wine tour.  It all started one afternoon at my niece’s 8th birthday party back in October.  I was talking to a few of my husband’s cousins on how we should get together and what not and how we always do something with the kids, but never just us.  I then said, “I think it would be nice if we all went on a wine tour.”   And like magic, it just happened.  We organized our first ever cousin’s wine tour.

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Just a bunch of cousins hanging out at Westcott Vineyards

We spent a few weeks figuring out where to go, how many wineries to visit and booking a bus.   I booked the restaurant and my cousin-in-law’s husband looked after the wineries.  Luckily, my cousin-in-law’s husband is an expert when it comes to wine, so he put together a lovely roster for our tour.  It worked out that all the wineries were located in Niagara’s Twenty Valley region instead of Niagara on the Lake.

Twenty Valley is located right in between Grimsby and St. Catharine’s and consists of Beamsville, Vineland, Jordan Station and the Town of Lincoln.  Not only is the region home to many world-class wineries, but to breweries, restaurants, markets and much more.  I’ve actually been to Christmas urn-making parties at the Watering Can in Vineland a few times and have been impressed with the beauty it surrounds.

I ended up making a reservation for dinner at Edgewater Manor in Stoney Creek, as it made sense to dine closer to home.

The weather couldn’t have been better for a late-November day as it was sunny.   We started our tour at Hidden Bench Winery, a lovely winery located in Beamsville.  It is a quaint area surrounded by a few barn-houses.  There were 11 of us total in our group and we had our own private tasting room, where we were greeted by some friendly creatures! As we entered our room, a flight of four wines were waiting for us.  We started with their riesling and made our way to the pinot.   It was a nice start to our tour.img_4646
Our next stop was at Tawse, an organic winery with some French flair to it.  This winery is a larger and more-commercialized winery.   We had an hour walking tour of the winery and a private tasting in the cellar.   img_4631I would say the pinot noir was my favourite at this one.  This winery also makes various spirits as well.  The grounds were lovely and had a nice view of the lake from a-far.
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Following this we stopped at Cloudsley Cellars, a smaller, more boutique-style winery.  We had a tasting with the owner, right in the cellar, which made for a more intimate setting.  I would say the chardonnay was my favourite here.

We concluded our wine tour at Westcott Vineyards, a family-owned and operated winery with a beautiful view and equally lovely rose!  I really enjoyed the story behind their “Temperance” wine, inspired by two women who were feminists for their time.  We tasted four wines here and I think the rose was my favourite at this one.
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We had a bit of time in-between the last winery and the restaurant, so we made a quick pit stop for cappuccino and drinks at Cappola’s Ristorante in St. Catharine’s.  My husband’s cousin-in-law grew up in the area and is friends with the owners.   We were greeted with friendly smiles and some Louis Martini!

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Drinking a much needed coffee after a long day of wine touring

We concluded our evening at the historic Edgewater Manor, located on the shores of Lake Ontario in Stoney Creek.  The manor is absolutely beautiful and is well-decorated for the upcoming holidays.   The food was phenomenal and our service was second-to-none. We were surprised by a guitarist who played some lovely flamingo music to us.
img_4703It was overall, a magical experience which made me realize you don’t have to travel too far to experience good food and good wine.  But most importantly, we created a new tradition for us to carry for years to come.  

 

Travelling with children: survival or enjoyment? One mom’s thoughts

We always receive a mixed response when we tell friends and family that we are going to Croatia with our boys. ¬†Some people respond by saying “that’s awesome” and others say that we’re “brave.” ¬†More often than not, you hear that travelling with children is more of a trip than a vacation. ¬†I can see how that is, especially if your children are challenging (or lively) like mine. ¬†But on the other hand, knowing that it’s not easy, is simply half the battle. ¬† What I can tell you for sure is that even the most uptight of parents, with the most spirited children, can still enjoy a vacation abroad.

We’ve travelled in the past with the kids before, where some trips went off without a hitch and others have been so bad to the point where we say “we are never doing this again!” ¬†However, my husband and I both have that travel bug in us and we so badly want to instil that same love of travelling in our kids. ¬† In January we decided to give it a try again and booked a trip to Croatia for the end of June.

We spent three glorious (well depends on who you ask…) weeks in Croatia. ¬†The first week went without a hitch. ¬†The kids loved staying in Zagreb and at Hotel Dubrovnik. ¬†They were overall, very well-behaved. ¬†They climatized to the time change and to the food well. ¬†Heck, they loved the food. ¬†With that being said, we weren’t strict at all when it came to diet because we knew that this was the time to indulge. ¬†We all deserved it! They really enjoyed the sights and sounds of Zagreb and were amazed at all it’s lovely buildings and landmarks. ¬† Our kids enjoyed the three-hour car ride to our family home in Vodice, where they were enamoured of the mountains along the way. ¬† They were so excited to arrive at¬†dida’s house and to go swimming on the beach.

Week two is when things started to become tough. ¬†The older child wanted to go home to his bed and the younger one refused to sleep at night. ¬†This resulted in some cranky kids. ¬†Perhaps they were overstimulated by all the sounds and sights of the beach. ¬†Perhaps it was from all the sugar they were intaking. ¬†Who knows? ¬†Some days they were upset that the water was too cold or that their ice cream was melting funny. ¬† It was hard as parents to not get frustrated, but that’s kids though. ¬†They have their moments; some days they weren’t too into things and other days they were great.

Our oldest is a screamer and it’s been challenging with him, and when he would scream, I just step away and remind myself, he’s just a kid and I just need to shake it off, I want to enjoy this vacation. ¬†I spent a lot of time reading “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka over this trip and boy, did it really help me get through those tough moments. ¬†During those moments when he would get upset at the beach, I would take him to a quiet area and say “I know you are angry, what is it that you need?”

There were some days that we just didn’t go anywhere, and that was okay, because little kids get tired and sometimes you just have to roll with it. ¬†Does that mean I did not enjoy myself? ¬†Absolutely not. ¬†I enjoyed not having to do chores and errands, or going to work everyday. ¬†While they watched a show, I would read a book in one hand, and drink a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) in the other.

You see, it’s all about perspective. ¬† Going into a vacation and knowing there will be obstacles makes you better prepared for how to handle them. ¬† This is where we failed during our last trip. ¬†Some children have a calmer temperament and others are more challenging. ¬†Ours happen to be more challenging so we decided to just roll with it this time around, and in the end, we did find a way to enjoy this vacation.

This is not to say that the whole trip was full of tantrums and meltdowns, there were lots of good parts as well, such as: going on mini road-trips and visiting family; going to the children’s waterpark at the Solaris Resort, and so on. ¬†We got to spend a lot of quality time with family and friends, be it on the beach or at a restaurant. ¬†My husband and I managed to get some alone time over dinner or coffee, which was a nice treat. ¬†On our last night, my husband and I went out for dinner and got to enjoy some tamburica at a local restaurant. ¬† The point is, that is what a vacation is about: ¬†it’s about making memories and making the most of that special time together.

Yesterday, someone at soccer practice asked me how the trip went. ¬†I smiled and replied: ¬†“as good as you can get with kids.”

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An evening in Trogir; we somehow survived

 

 

Konoba Pelegrini: An experience of a lifetime

One of life’s greatest pleasures is enjoying good food and better wine. ¬†I wouldn’t describe myself as a foodie per se, but one of my favourite types of date nights is exploring new and different restaurants. ¬†My husband, his cousins and I decided to go out for dinner at¬†Konoba Pelegrini, located steps from¬†the Cathedral of St. James (Croatian: Katedrala sv. Jakova) in ҆ibenik. ¬†Pelegrini has been rated 1 Michelin star for the past two years in a row. ¬† Both the menu and the views are beyond exquisite, making Pelegrini more than just a restaurant. ¬†It’s an experience of a lifetime.

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I found the service to be extremely pleasant and very well coordinated. ¬† Our Sommelier provided an excellent interpretation of Croatian wines and I found that he mastered his craft well in the way he presented our wine. ¬†We started our evening with a bottle of Saint Hills – Sveti Roko Plavac Mali. ¬† Plavac Mali literally means “little blue” in Croatian. ¬†This is in reference to the type of grapes commonly found in vineyards across Dalmatia. ¬† I thoroughly enjoyed this wine and found it to be very smooth.

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As a restaurant that serves a tasting menu, I was a bit nervous that I would leave feeling hungry.   I was completely wrong.  You basically have three options, a 3-course menu, a 4-course menu or a 5-course menu.  I opted for the 4-course menu.  I decided to mix it up with my selections, starting with octopus as my first course, rooster pasta as my second, lamb and eggplant as my third and then ending with the apricot caramel for dessert.   I was pleasantly surprised to find that an appetizer was served at the start of the meal and a dessert was given at the end.    With non-stop bread in-between courses, you will leave feeling very full.  This restaurant aims to please and much, much more.

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We choose Milos Stagnum as our second bottle of wine for the evening.  My mother-in-law gifted us this wine a year ago so it was nice to enjoy it again.

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Another feature of the restaurant which caught my eye was it’s close attention to detail as well as the coordination of the staff. ¬†I found that our evening flowed in a well-choreographed manner. ¬† It just seemed as if the food kept coming….and coming!

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After a few days of rain, the weather was finally back to normal temperatures again.   The sun in Dalmatia is much different than the sun in Ontario; there is no humidity and you can tolerate the heat.   I found the overall mood in the restaurant to be that of a perfect Dalmatian night.   Coincidentally, a klapa festival was taking place at the Cathedral while we were enjoying our meal, making the experience much more wholesome.

If you are looking for a restaurant that is decadent and unique; for presentation that goes above-and-beyond; and for something that excites your sights, sounds and tastebuds, look no further than to Konoba Pelegrini in ҆ibenik, Croatia.

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Zagreb: a city where memories are made of

While planning our upcoming trip to Croatia this past January, my husband and I were looking at different routes from Toronto. ¬† We had the option to either fly direct to Zagreb or fly with a connection to Split. ¬† When my husband and I were younger, we used to start our trip in Zagreb and stayed at Hotel Dubrovnik, which is in the heart of Ban Jelańćińá Square. ¬† I have fond memories of those carefree days where we would walk around the city and enjoy some coffee. ¬† My choice was clear: ¬† we had to start our trip in Zagreb and continue our tradition.

My husband on the other hand was not quite sure. ¬†He considered driving straight to our family home in Vodice following the flight. ¬† I quickly vetoed that as my rationale was we will all be hungry and tired. ¬† But, deep down inside, I just wanted to stay in Zagreb and reminisce about a time before we were married and had kids, a time when it was just the two of us. ¬†I wanted to simply walk around the streets of Zagreb with the kids and just take all the sights in. ¬† In other words, my husband had no choice but to book a hotel in Zagreb. ¬†We decided to book Hotel Dubrovnik, where we have previously stayed. ¬† We love Hotel Dubrovnik and it is our favourite hotel in Zagreb due to its close proximity to Ban Jelańćińá Square and Ilica Street. ¬† The staff there is incredible, especially with kids and their complimentary breakfast is second-to-none. ¬†We booked two nights there knowing the first day would be a bit of a right-off with the travel.

Day 1
Following check in we got settled into the hotel and let the kids rest a bit. ¬†We decided to venture outside for an early dinner and walk around Zagreb. ¬† We made our way to Tkalńćińáeva Street and had pizza at Nokturno, which was recommended by the hotel staff. ¬† Pizza sort of is the theme of this trip as that’s all what my kids have been eating. ¬† You would think that Italians are only known for their pizza, but Croatians make a pretty good pizza if you ask me. ¬†We thoroughly enjoyed our first meal and the kids were enamoured by the sights and sounds of Tkalńćińáeva Street. ¬†We spent the rest of the evening walking around the city, namely towards Kaptol where we saw the Zagreb Cathedral (Cathedral of the Virgin Mary) and passed by the market, which was closed by the time we got there.
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Day 2
The kids were extremely jet-lagged so we let them sleep. ¬† They slept probably for a total of 15 hours. ¬† My husband and I took turns going out for breakfast so he went first and then I second. ¬†It turns out that this day was a holiday, Croatian Statehood Day (Dan DrŇĺavnosti) so most stores were closed. ¬†The city felt quiet as most people went to the beach for the day. ¬† By the time my husband returned to our room, the complimentary breakfast was closed, so I made my way outside towards the Ban Jelańćińá Square and purchased a fresh croissant from a nearby bakery and enjoyed a cappuccino at the Hotel Dubrovnik Kavana. ¬†This moment felt like pure bliss. ¬†Peace and quiet while I did some writing in my journal. ¬† Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Once the kids woke up we fed them some yogurt and krafne for breakfast and made our way outside. We walked towards Zrinjevac Park where the kids thoroughly enjoyed splashing in its many fountains. We eventually made our way to Kralj Tomislav Square where the kids were in awe of such a impressive monument to Croatia’s first king.

img_1952We spent most of the day walking around the city, namely to the Gornji Grad (Upper City) where we walked by the Croatian Parliament and St. Mark’s Church. To get to this part of the city, we went underground through the Grińć Tunnel, which the kids found very interesting!

 

As written previously, pizza has become a favourite meal on this trip. We asked the kids what they wanted to eat and they cried “pizza!!” So we made the trek all the way to Karijola which is located directly across from Galleria Importane. The rooftop patio was lovely and instead of gemist I opted for a glass of rose which from my understanding is making a huge comeback this year. ¬†I find the taste of rose crisp, and subtly sweet and when served cold it is the perfect summer wine.

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Following this we returned to King Tomislav Square where the City of Zagreb threw a free concert in honour of Statehood Day.  The performer was none other than the remarkable National Folk Dance Ensemble of Croatia, LADO.  Nothing is more Croatian than LADO, who performs traditional Croatian songs and folk dances.  As my husband and I were both very active in Croatian folklore in Canada, we were delighted to attend this show and share our love of Croatian culture with our children.   The  kids enjoyed it thoroughly and we managed to last the first hour of the show, until they got tired.

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Day 3
The following day we checked out of our hotel and walked around Ilica and Ban Jelacic Square. ¬†We took the kids to the¬†Budi Ponosan (Be Proud)¬†soccer museum. ¬† It’s a little museum located on Petrinjska off of Ilica which is dedicated to the Croatian National Soccer Team. ¬†The kids enjoyed looking at all the jerseys throughout the team’s history and some of the displays.

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After our visit to the museum, we stopped for coffee and juice at the trendy La Bodega before departing to our next destination.   The first few days of our trip were a success, the kids enjoyed themselves, and for a small moment in time, I felt as if I was living a dream.    As a family, we created magical memories to last a lifetime and I am so happy that we started the trip how I wanted to, in Zagreb.

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Preparing for our trip to Croatia: summer vacation hawl

Okay, I realize I am a few days late posting this, but I figure it’s better late to post than never. ¬†Originally I was going to post this before our trip, but as life goes on, things get in the way and some things have to take the back burner. ¬†On top of last-minute errands and packing, I also fit in some last minute cleaning. ¬†The kids also needed a haircut and I needed a pedicure desperately. ¬†The kids also had a birthday party the day before we departed for Croatia, so as you could imagine, it was pretty hectic. ¬†As I am writing to you from our apartment in Vodice, here are my thoughts on what essentials you need to pack for your summer getaway…for yourself and your kids.

The “Essentials”
Lets start off with the essentials. ¬†Whether its packing for Croatia or a camping trip, you need to pack the essentials. ¬†For me that consists of sunblock (for you and your kids), Tylenol/Advil (again for you and your kids), aloe vera, mosquito spray and After Bite, in addition to other regular medications or vitamins you may require. ¬† In Croatia a few of these things are readily available, but I’d rather be safe than sorry and just have these things packed in advance. ¬†For instance, we landed in Zagreb at about noon, by the time we got out of the airport and made it to the hotel, it was already 3:00 pm. ¬†At this point, the kids were ¬†really hungry. ¬†It was over 35 degrees out and so there was no time to stop at the store and buy sunscreen, as we were all starving. ¬†Before we left our hotel room, we lathered ourselves in sunscreen and just made our way to the city centre for a late lunch. ¬†I always say that its better to have some of these things on hand.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Makeup/Toiletry Bag
I love nothing more than a good makeup bag and whats in it. ¬†A good makeup bag consists of a moisturizer, tinted moisturizer and/or foundation, eye brow pencil, mascara, lip gloss, blush and bronzer. ¬†Scrunchies are very in this season so I threw some in my bag, along with some cute bobby pins and tortoise hair clips. ¬† I also love dry shampoo for in-between hair washes and a nice, light, summer-time perfume, such as “Chance” by Chanel. ¬†Some of my favourite products for this trip have been Benefit’s “They’re Real!” mascara, Dior Lip Maximizer, Kosmea’s Rose Hip Oil, Biossance moisturizer, Revlon Kiss Lip Balm and Pur’s tinted moisturizer.

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Kid’s Capsule Wardrobe
For summertime, I love shopping at Zara and H&M for the kids.  The styles are great and the prices are just right.  I bought a mix of dressy clothes and basics.  I picked up some cute swimming trunks from Zara, as well as Hawaiian shirts which are very in this season.   I also picked up a few t-shirts and cotton shorts from H&M as well.  A rule of thumb is that I pack a few neutral coloured bottoms and different variety of t-shirts/dress shirts and basically mix and match throughout the trip.
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Nothing says summertime more than linen.  I found some really nice linen shirts at Massimo Dutti.  The quality for both adults and kids are excellent and I always happen to find pieces there that reminds me of the things my husband peruses on Style Forum.  
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I couldn’t help but buy these shirts for my boys at H&M….I thought that these shirts couldn’t be more fitting when walking through the streets of Dalmatia…

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Your summer capsule wardrobe
Before, I used to pack a ton of stuff, not wear half of it and be frustrated why nothing worked.  It took me 30 plus years to figure it out, but you just need to pack a basic capsule wardrobe when travelling.  I am so grateful for Pinterest to teach me this.  Your sanity and your luggage will thank me for this.  For me, my capsule wardrobe consists of a few cute summer dresses, one pair of white distressed pants, a few dressy tops, a few tanks and t-shirts, one pair of jean shorts, one pair of black shorts and one pair of high-waisted linen shorts, along with two bathing suits and two bathing suit coverups.  I always pack two neutral pairs of shoes (one black and one neutral) and a cute shoulder bag.  I also bring my tote along as I use it as a carry on and throw in a nice pair of shades and accessories.   Basically the same rule as my kids applies, but a few neutral colour bottoms and different tops creates a lot of variety for your vacation getaway.

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A few days into our trip and I can say that I am really happy with the way I packed this time around.   Between four people we managed to fit everything into two large suitcases and one carry-on, along with what was in my tote.  I believe that packing smarter, as opposed to over-packing, works way better.

Memories of Montreal

It feels like yesterday I was getting ready and packing for my first trip in 4 years….alone. Yes, you read this correctly. ¬†Alone. ¬†Alone meaning ¬†sans husband, sans kids. ¬†I went to Montreal for my best friend’s bachelorette. ¬†Looking back, the timing couldn’t have been better as we were in the midst of moving and I desperately just needed a break from the demands of being wife, employee, mother, planner, referee, cook, nurse, janitor, artist and so on.

I remember the excitement of going to the airport. ¬†Yes, the airport. ¬†For the first time in years, I got to sit and enjoy a cappuccino uninterrupted¬†and to make it even sweeter it was free (I flew out of Billy Bishop airport). ¬†I felt like I was 25 again and jet setting as I once used to. ¬†It was exciting yet at the same time I couldn’t help but feel so guilty. ¬†Was it wrong to feel solace knowing I wouldn’t have someone crying or whining towards me? I knew my husband would have a hard time with the kids, especially my oldest who is quite spirited. ¬†But, I also told myself, he can survive. ¬†If I do everyday, so can he for one weekend.

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This particular weekend was absolutely beautiful.  It was Canada Day weekend, World Cup excitement was in the air and I was going to be with my best friends.  I remember arriving to our air b&b situated in the trendy Plateau area of Montreal.  Our apartment felt quite Parisian with a bit of Montreal flair.   We had a lovely balcony that overlooked the street.  Everyone was excited to party but I was mostly excited to sleep uninterrupted!

Going out, I had mixed feelings, ¬†I felt as if I could go out like nothing has changed from before. ¬†But at the same time, I felt a little out of place, as if everything about me was screaming “mom.” ¬†Over the course of the weekend, ¬†I found that I just kept talking about my kids, over and over again and that I missed them too much. ¬†I had to mentally remind myself that this was my break from everything and to just relax and let loose. ¬†But it was hard to not feel that way. ¬†On the other token, I got to do something that I haven’t done in years and that was having some serious girl time: ¬†shopping and dining out! ¬†I will proudly admit that I did have that mimosa for breakfast along with my omelette, and it was pretty damn good.

My highlight that weekend was of course watching the Croatia versus Russia game.  We walked around the streets of Montreal with our Croatian jerseys on.  The six of us went into a pub, sat and cheered our Vatreni on over some sparkling wine.  Croatia dominated the game and won in overtime.  People from all over came up to us, cheered with us and even gave us hugs and congratulated us for our win.  Montrealers were definitely feeling World Cup fever and relished that moment with us.

Old Montreal is my favourite part of the city and we couldn’t have ended the weekend on a better note than enjoying brunch at Terrasse Nelligan, overlooking the St. Lawrence River. ¬†For a moment in time, I felt like I was somewhere in Europe again, the sun shining, while we indulged in crepes and omelettes. For the first time in a while, I felt more like me. ¬†At this moment, I came to the realization that I really did need this weekend and that my husband needed this time to be alone with the boys. ¬†Towards the end,¬†I was able to let go any sense of “guilt” for not being there or for being “selfish” to having two days of my own. ¬†In motherhood, sometimes we get lost on striving to be the perfect mom, trying to be perfect for our kids and our spouses and so on. ¬†Its kind of like being lost in translation.

Although I went to celebrate my best friend’s bachelorette, this weekend gave me the greatest gift of all: ¬†it gave me an opportunity to feel more like the old Natalie again….but not the old one, rather just a small reminder of the Natalie that was always there.

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Our view of the St. Lawrence River…photo cred moi

Perhaps its time to plan another girls weekend getaway….