Author Archives: Andrea

Adventure December 13, 2017 posted by Andrea

Finding Christmas in Chamonix, France

Last year for Christmas we wanted to do the idyllic European ski thing. So we headed to Chamonix, France, because after doing some research this seemed to be the place to experience the French Alps. I ignored friends who’d said that there were better places that were cheaper and more kid friendly. I had my heart set on spending Christmas in Chamonix and I figured we were going to do it at some point, why not now? And why not for Christmas!?

I imagined a perfect vintage snow globe with me inside it; snow falling, happy children ice skating and sweeping views of the luxurious French Alps. It was going to be Christmas card perfect!

Where we stayed

We booked an AirBnB and it was in a perfect location, right off the main street in Chamonix. The apartment itself was nice, though not the most charming building, so my vision of the perfect Chamonix experience already had a bruise. I wanted to see a festive lobby, a Christmas tree and maybe a fireplace welcoming me. Nope. After entering through the backdoor through the parking lot, we crammed two people and two suitcases into the little elevator, while the other two waited their turn. The apartment was spacious, modern and very nice.  It had a full kitchen and a little bunk room for the kids. I would recommend it to other families, because the location is ideal for walking through the village and convenient to all the restaurants and shops.

However, after poking around the town and going to get a massage and enjoy the spa at Hotel ‘Heliopic, I know where we’ll stay on a future visit. The ‘Heliopic had the cozy, family-friendly lobby, an indoor pool and spa that even had treatments for kids, and a cute cafe to grab quick meals. They say it’s “Retro Mountain Chic,” and that it is!

As much I enjoy AirBnB, I realized again why hotels are sometimes the better option. In any case, we were here, in Chamonix!

Where the hell is the snow?

Once we settled into the apartment we went down to find a grocery store to stock up on a few things. This is when my European winter wonderland dreams began to look bleak. I mean, I enjoy nice weather and would prefer not to be freezing but the town was grey and damp. There was no snow to be found. Instead of focusing on no snow and how exactly we were going to snowboard, I opted to enjoy the kids playfulness with the photo props they found outside a store. The absence of snow didn’t seem to be bothering the kids, so I started to relax a bit and hope for the best!

After dropping our groceries off at the apartment, we walked over to rent our snowboards, boots and helmets. It was there that our snow concerns were confirmed. They told us that the conditions were not good, and that only a few chairlifts and runs were open.

It doesn’t look good this week, everyone is heading to the Italian side where there appears to be more snow.”
(Inside my bratty head: But I came to the French Alps, I want to ski in France. Sigh)

 

The next morning we put on our ‘positive’ boots and headed to catch the shuttle to get to one of the two areas that were open. When we arrived we were met by a long line, as this was where everyone had to go to get up the mountain. We walked across the bare parking lot, some brown grass and waited. There were two large gondolas taking groups of about 40 people to the top.

I didn’t even want to post this photo. It’s just so depressing. But that’s the gondola we took to the top – and shockingly there was actually some snow on the other side.

Once at the top we arrived and it didn’t get much better. We were met by a very small unloading zone, which was crowded and not much of an area to get situated, and put on our boards. I was trying hard to put on my best face, but um, this was not what I had envisioned and this was not Keystone, Mammoth or Whistler. (oh gosh, I’m an North American ski snob)

Sigh. Let’s go down and see what we can do.

I’ll keep this short. We went down maybe four runs and left. The few runs that our kids can do were wet and soggy and crowded. McKenna usually needs to start out on the wide green runs to feel comfortable and get her snowboard legs back, but there was none of that. It was steep, wet and there were rocks exposed. Not the fluffy ideal powder we had back in Whistler last year. Maybe it’ll snow tomorrow… or not. 

 


Let’s try the Italian Alps

So we decided to head to Italy for the day. It took a one hour bus ride there, and then we stood in line for another hour to get up the mountain. Conditions were only slightly better. Actually they were worse. It was very icy – I literally thought one of us was going to take a spill and end up needing medical attention.

I’m not usually a cautious person, but I did not see a single mountain worker, ski patrol or anyone that we could ask for help had we needed it. Not to mention, we do not speak French or Italian. I felt uncomfortable having my kids snowboarding on these steep icy slopes and on a mountain I knew nothing about. So I made them take off their boards, and they played in the snow outside, while I found my happiness drinking beer in the cute 1972-style chalet. At one point Hudson’s board went flying down the mountain, got lost in the woods and Harris had to go search and retrieve it. I laughed so hard as he finally reemerged from the woods with the board about 15 minutes later.

Harris was not laughing. But hey, smile – we’re in Italy!

 


Running in Chamonix, France

Lucky for me, I actually had something else to do in Chamonix, run. The weather conditions were perfect for that! I was in the middle of my training for the Barcelona Marathon, and I could run as there was no snow or icy roads. (I was just going to slack off for the week and figured all my snowboarding would be good enough). And this is where my spirit was lifted and my outlook on Chamonix was restored. Had it not been for no snow, I might not have experienced running in Chamonix. I saw more of the town and found a beautiful path with trails down by the river. It was breathtaking.

Christmas Day in Chamonix

Harris managed to hurt his leg somehow and he was in pain, so after our Christmas crepe breakfast he went back to the apartment. So it was just me and the kids to figure out how to enjoy Christmas day in Chamonix. We walked around the town and did some shopping. I was feeling guilty because there were no gifts to open on Christmas Day (because I thought we would have mountains of snow to be playing on as a distraction!) so I let them fill up bags of candy. Thirty Euros later and with two happy kids hyped up on sugar, we wandered around a bit more and then sat down for lunch.




And then… this is where my IDYLLIC Christmas picture appeared.

Watching my kids laughing and having fun together, in France, eating pizza and spaghetti on Christmas Day. It was right there that my kids were literally illuminating CHRISTMAS. With the quaint French-ness behind them and the mountains surrounding us, we were in my snow globe. It wasn’t exactly what I envisioned, but what it lacked in snow was made up in laughter.

Then just like the Grinch – my heart grew two, three, four sizes bigger!  (It could have also been my enormous beer) but Christmas was sitting right in front of me!

This trip is filled with so many memorable moments, and I have SO much more to say and tell you. From me leaving dinner one night because it was taking too long (no really), to drinking mulled wine wandering the village; to these kids hanging candy from a string from their balcony and my kids jumping for it and grabbing it over and over; Hudson and his damn moose hat; and of course McKenna breaking out in hives after eating a huge meringue. We have no idea why this happened.

To be fair to Chamonix, it was early in the season and the snow conditions (or lack there of) was rare. Usually there should have been more snow, but last year it was shockingly dry. This is also a lesson in be careful when planning your epic ski vacations too early in the season, mother nature can be unpredictable.

So here’s to managing expectations, keeping a grip on reality and making the most of it! I wouldn’t change a thing about our Christmas in Chamonix.


 

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Finding Christmas in Chamonix, France
Andrea December 11, 2017 posted by Andrea

Get your copy of Twist Travel Magazine’s winter issue!


The winter issue of Twist Travel Magazine is here!

Well look what we have here – it’s the winter issue of Twist Travel Magazine!!! I am ecstatic, to say the least. Why? Because this is the inaugural printed issue!

Yup, you can buy a printed copy or sign up for a yearly subscription right now. As in, you should. Right now. Go.

Last spring we put out the first digital issue of Twist Travel Magazine to test how things could go, and see if this wild idea of ours could be done. The feedback was great, so we moved on to the summer issue. People kept asking us how they could buy it!? Where could they get a copy? So we had to make a decision, are we going to throw everything we have into this or not?

My partner Keryn and I are similar, in that we don’t really do things halfway. Challenges get us fired up and really excited!  It was then we started developing the website and making plans for the fall issue and decided that we would go to print and sell the magazine through our website.

Yes, sell the magazine. I know. Some of you may be thinking we are crazy, but we believe that there is an opportunity and a space in the market for something like this. And trust me, the magazine is just the beginning, we have so many other ideas for this new travel brand that it’s hard not to spill the beans and tell you more!

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let me talk about the winter issue. The winter issue is a dream issue of snow and sand with sprinkles of holiday delights! It’s as gorgeous to look at as it is to read.

What’s inside the Winter Issue?

You want to know before you buy, I get it. Here’s the lowdown.

  • Family fun in the USA, including Park City, Ski Alta, Deer Valley, Tahoe and Vermont
  • The Best of British Columbia
  • Morzine, France and nine of the best spots to ski in Europe
  • Family Ski Gear Guide
  • Seasonal Recipes
  • Gifts travelers could really use
  • She Gets Around: Finding our Happy Place in New Zealand
  • Australia: Road Trip on the East Coast
  • German Christmas Markets
  • Global Recipes from across the Globe
  • Spring Break Ideas
  • Twist Favorite Lush and Tropical Hotels
  • Spotlight on Costa Rica

Spotlight on Costa Rica

In the back of the magazine we always have a “Spotlight on” section and in the winter issue we chose to feature Costa Rica! Since I lived in Costa Rica for three years I crafted the majority of this section. It was fun to finally compile all my favorite places and local hot spots into one beautiful feature. If you are thinking of traveling to Costa Rica in the future you should definitely order the magazine so you can use it as a reference later.

How to Get Twist Travel Magazine

Printed Copies of Twist Travel Magazine
You can order single issues of Twist Travel Magazine or sign up for a one year subscription, by visiting the Twist Travel Magazine Shop. A one year subscription includes four seasonal issues. So, if you sign up today you will receive the recently launched winter issue, as well as the Spring ’18, Summer ’18 and Fall ’18 issues. We are currently shipping to the USA and Canada. For our European readers and our friends down under in Australia, we hope to be able to ship to you soon, and eventually worldwide!

Twist Travel Magazine Digital Version
For those of you that cannot receive a printed copy, you can subscribe to our email list and get the digital version for free! Once you subscribe, you will be sent a link to view the issue online. We know this isn’t as fun as actually holding the issue in your hands. But you still get to flip through it and enjoy all the rich travel stories, advice, expert tips, and get inspiration and motivation to take that next adventure.

Happy Holidays, wherever in the world you may be celebrating them!

Get your copy of Twist Travel Magazine’s winter issue!
Andrea November 20, 2017 posted by Andrea

Life at Forty: celebrate, get a puppy and start a new business

Life? It’s been a whirlwind! I turned 40, got a puppy, and started a new business.

Oh, and we may have accidentally started a children’s theatre program in Barcelona too. Someone may want to come over here and check my sanity.

This is why I cannot keep up with this blog. As much as I would love to chronicle all of our latest travels and expat shenanigans, I do require sleep, therefore the blogging usually has to take a backseat. So here is a little digest to what has been happening in my ‘Life at Forty’, for anyone still listening.

Hello?

Life at forty. It's a whirlwind of puppies, Peter Pan play productions and a brand new travel magazine. My version of a mid-life crisis.

I TURNED 40

Yup. To celebrate I went to Tulum, Mexico for a girls getaway and let’s just say – it was a WILD weekend. To be honest, I had dreams of going to Morocco and staying in one of those fabulous riads, wandering the markets and riding a camel. However, getting a few of my girlfriends to come all the way to Morocco was going to be difficult. Most have jobs, kids, and busy lives themselves. So Morocco was out, and while going back to my favorite place in Costa Rica crossed my mind –  I really wanted to go somewhere I had never been before.

Then it hit me. TULUM. This trendy, bohemian chic beach spot in Mexico had caught my eye a few times. Plus, I know so many people that have been there and raved about it, I knew it would fit the bill. Tulum, Mexico it was. A little far from Barcelona, but what the hell, why not!

La Chica Reina

I invited ladies from all different stages of my life. High school, college, California, Costa Rica and even Barcelona. I wanted to spend my 40th Birthday with some of the women that got me to 40. Some of the women knew each other, but many of these women had never met before, ever. I was rolling the dice that they would all magically get along and love each other. It was either that, or this was going to be a frickin’ disaster.

But honestly, I knew even though some of them are wildly different, they would somehow connect because I truly enjoy each of them. I’m happy to report that they ALL got along SO well. It brought so much joy to me to see these women all laughing and talking like they had been friends all their lives. The weekend was beyond successful. I turned 40 being crowned “La Chica Reina” and it was everything I could have asked for and more.

We stayed at La Zebra Hotel and I cannot recommend this hotel enough!! I am going to write about it and share more, I swear;)

Life at forty. It's a whirlwind of puppies, Peter Pan play productions and a brand new travel magazine. My version of a mid-life crisis.

WE GOT A PUPPY

Meet Rex. The newest member of the Fellman family. We still have Canela, don’t worry. But, what’s with adopting one of the craziest dogs in world, when we travel like we do!?

Well, to catch you up a little bit, we used to have a Jack Russell named Jack. Unfortunately, he was hit by a motorcycle in Costa Rica. It was devastating and awful, our hearts are still a little broken. Therefore, we told the kids that maybe in Barcelona we’ll get another small dog.

How It Happened

Then fate stepped in and Hudson’s friend from school tells him that his two Jack Russells just had four puppies. The friend doesn’t just tell him, he shows him a photo and video of the puppies online, which Hudson then showed me. Really…? What are the chances of Hudson’s friend’s dog having four little Jack Russells? Actually, probably not that uncommon, we see a ton of Jack Russells here in Barcelona. It seems to be a very popular breed. So being the suckers we are and having a huge soft spot for Jack Russells, we went to go see them. We were sold. Obviously. Hudson had already picked out one of the boys, how could we say no. We had to wait about six weeks before we could get him, but he is now ours. He is literally laying on my lap as I type this. He is destroying things and causing all sorts of chaos but he is the CUTEST.

And yes, Harris and I have even called him Jack a few times.

Life at forty. It's a whirlwind of puppies, Peter Pan play productions and a brand new travel magazine. My version of a mid-life crisis.

Barcelona Children’s Theatre

The whirlwind continues! If getting the puppy wasn’t bad enough, we added producing a children’s theatre production of Peter Pan to the mix. Well, to be clear – this was all Harris’s doing, but I immediately got swept into the craziness of it all. This has a little bit of a back story as well, but long story short: Harris and the Director we worked with in Costa Rica had tossed around the crazy idea of him coming to Barcelona to put on a show (sure, ha a ha). Then one thing lead to another, and the next thing I know the director, Paul and his girlfriend are looking for an apartment to rent for three months!

“All we wanted to do was find a English speaking theatre program to put our kids in!” However, after Harris searched and called other Spanish-speaking theatres there was nothing! There are a few theatre programs for kids in Barcelona, in Spanish and Catalan OR programs with the purpose of learning English. Therefore, as the saying goes – if you want something done, do it yourself.

The Production: Peter Pan

Fast forward ten weeks, a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. Wrangling 35 kids, organizing parent volunteers, finding a theatre, buying supplies, dealing with logistical challenges, and plenty of other small headaches  – we have SOLD OUT all three shows. It is unbelievable. The response and support we have received from the ASB parents, staff and community is insane! The American School of Barcelona has been our partner in this, while this is not an official school program, they too see the need for a program like this so they have been supportive 110%.

It all happens November 30th, December 1, and December 2nd.

My mom is even coming to see the show. Well, she was coming to Barcelona to visit us anyways, so we just made sure her dates lined up so she could be here to see the grandkids in Peter Pan. Mckenna is playing one of Captain Hook’s main pirates, Starkey and Hudson is playing John, Wendy’s brother.

Oh and I made that poster up there, because somehow I am in charge of marketing and graphic design.

Life at forty. It's a whirlwind of puppies, Peter Pan play productions and a brand new travel magazine. My version of a mid-life crisis.

Twist Travel Magazine

Oh and hey – my partner Keryn and just launched the Twist Travel Magazine website!

You may have seen me write about this new ambitious adventure before, when we launched the spring, summer and fall issues. However, we did not start building the website until the middle of the summer. Now you can purchase single printed copies of Twist Travel Magazine or sign up for a yearly subscription! We are still only producing them quarterly, so your subscription includes four quarterly issues.

And if building the website wasn’t enough – while we were doing that, we were also putting together the 88 page winter issue!!  The winter issue is SPECTACULAR and will be released on November 28th. You can pre-order that issue right now. I will be writing more about this and the winter issue in the next week or so. 🙂

Perhaps this is my version of a mid life crisis…? Do IT ALL – you’re getting OLD.

I don’t know whether I need a drink or a nap.

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Life at Forty: celebrate, get a puppy and start a new business
Adventure September 20, 2017 posted by Andrea

3D Art Gallery Budapest: Where you become a part of the art

While we were recently in Budapest, one of the best things we did was visit the 3D Art Gallery Budapest. My kids actually found out about this attraction while they were researching things to do in Budapest. Now, you may be wondering what exactly is a 3D art gallery? Well, I was too! Essentially, the 3D Art Gallery Budapest was unlike any other art museum that we’ve been to, because here you become a part of the art!

Someone in our family was really good at this…

3D Art Gallery Budapest

I was not sure what to expect when we arrived at the museum. It’s not that big, and when we entered we came to the desk and paid a small entrance fee. A guide explained that we had to find creative ways to insert ourselves into the paintings. It took us a little while to warm up and get the hang of it.  It wasn’t always obvious how to position ourselves in the paintings. My husband is trained in improv and my kids are definitely not camera-shy, so they all seemed to have an easier time then me. So I was pretty much the photographer, as usual. As we we moved to each painting we quickly realized that this was not just about standing in front of the painting. You had to react and make facial expressions as if the paintings were real. By the time we got to the third room, we really started having fun with it. The kids were fighting over who got to jump in the painting first. They even competed with their dad on who could manage the best pose!

Striking the Pose

Once we walked through all the rooms of the museum, one of the staff then took us back through to get some family photos of us! I so appreciated this service, and am glad that they did this. He was able to direct us on where to stand, how to react and he knew where to stand to make the photo look the most realistic. I liked that they waited until after you went through independently the first time,  because that gave us a chance to loosen up and allowed our kids to use their own creativity. Then it was nice to go through again with a more professional eye, and with someone helping us get the best possible shots. This also allowed me to get in some of the photos too.

Scroll through our photos and tell me your favorite!

 

 


 

Sometimes it pays to have your kids do some of the travel planning and research!

Visit their website and be sure to check them out if you find yourself in Budapest.

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3D Art Gallery Budapest: Where you become a part of the art
Family September 15, 2017 posted by Andrea

What to do in London with Kids in the Winter

Last year, we decided to visit London with kids in the winter. More specifically, we took the kids to London for New Year’s Eve! Call us crazy but we thought hearing the bells of Big Ben in London on New Year’s Eve would be one of those big family bucket list moments. While we stood on Westminster Bridge in the cold and I drank wine from a water bottle, my daughter actually fell asleep on the curb! Maybe hearing the bells at midnight wasn’t on her bucket list, but it was definitely a night to remember.

Visiting London with kids in winter is actually quite fun. Yes it may be chilly, but seeing the festive holiday spirit all over the city was a fantastic payoff. I was hoping to see more snow, but unfortunately we just got caught in the rain a few times.

 

London with Kids in the Winter

Where to Stay: We stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel because our New Year’s Eve tickets were for the Westminster bridge section. However, even if you are not going to London for New Year’s Eve this is an excellent hotel because of its location. You are literally just over the bridge from Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. James Park, and Buckingham Palace. It’s also very close to the London Eye. We loved walking over the Westminster Bridge every morning to start our day. The hotel is massive and has all the modern amenities you would expect, even an indoor pool in the basement.

Generally, I like to stay in smaller hotels but for the purpose of our first trip to London with the kids it was really ideal. They have a nice cafe downstairs for coffee and easy grab-and-go type breakfasts. The customer service was fantastic and we liked being able to consult the concierge on a few occasions. In fact, before we even arrived in London, the concierge helped us secure what appeared to be sold out Harry Potter Studio tickets!

Great Location for New Year’s Eve

Park Plaza Westminster Bridge is absolutely the best place to stay if you are going to London for the New Year’s Eve celebration with the kids. You will be given a wristband the morning of New Year’s Eve, because entrance to the hotel will be secured and limited for hotel guests only. The streets around the hotel will also be blocked off. The subway station at Westminster Bridge closes for a large part of the night as well, so you will want to be back at the hotel earlier that day to avoid the traffic and closures.

We just walked out the Park Plaza to get to our designated section for the New Year’s Ever fireworks show. It was so easy and convenient and to reach the secured entrance on the Westminster Bridge. It was seriously the quickest entrance to a large event ever. We went through security, our bags were checked and once you were in you could not leave.  So pack a bag of drinks and snacks!

Buy London New Year’s Eve Tickets: Tickets for the New Year’s Eve fireworks go on sale in September. You can sign up for the sale alerts here.

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park

Every holiday season, Winter Wonderland takes over Hyde Park. This large winter-themed carnival is filled with plenty of rides, games, food booths and even an ice skating rink. It is free to enter but of course the games, rides and special attractions are not free. Warning: You will spend money. There are also special events and shows that vary from year to year which require tickets. We really enjoyed the day wandering around playing the games, eating and drinking and then having the most fun ice skating. One of my children was not so graceful on skates, but we got her up and going around eventually. Winter Wonderland is definitely something not to miss with the kids in the winter. (Dates: Mid November – January 1st)

Natural History Museum

This is a fantastic way to spend part of your day. If your kids are into dinosaurs this is the place to go! The showstopper is the large and most complete Stegosaurus skeleton in the world being on display. While the dinosaur is impressive, the room in which it is housed in actually caught my attention more!  Yes, I know that you go here for science but the building and architecture itself is absolutely stunning. The natural history museum has a variety of special exhibits happening year round. Check their website for more information closer to your visit dates. You may also want to check out the Dino Snores for kids, where they get to sleep over night in the museum. In the winter, the ice skating rink and the carousel just outside the Natural History Museum looks like something from a fairy tale. Especially if you go at dusk. We didn’t spend too much time inside the museum as it was so packed. We opted for hot cider, snacks and riding the carousel.

**After hitting the Natural History Museum, very close by is  SNOG for frozen yogurt or Bubblology for bubble tea. My kids love bubble tea so we always search for this in different cities.

See a Theatre Performance

What’s a visit to London without seeing a show!? We saw Wicked and it was fantastic! I had actually already seen it before but the kids thought it was so impressive too. There are always plenty of shows happening, so buy your tickets in advance if you are there during the holiday season. Shows fill up quickly because kids are all off on holiday. There is discounted ticket booths in the Covent Garden metro station so you can check there if you want to take a chance.

Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios Tour

You must BUY TICKETS EARLY for the Harry Potter Studio Tour. This is a top attraction for families and tickets sell out. The other thing to be aware of, is that this tour is not in the city and will take up most of the day. You will take an hour bus ride to the studio, where you will spend about four hours and then take the hour bus ride back. Our tickets included the coach bus ride to the studios and we boarded the bus at London Euston train station. There are other ways of getting there depending on who you booked through so please read your tickets and instructions carefully. Once at the studios you have a timed entrance and a time when you can start to enter the line. If you arrive early don’t worry, there is a large gift shop (naturally) and a cafe to grab a drink or a snack.  You walk independently through the studio and can go at your own pace, but it will take you about  2-3 hours. About half way through there is a nice cafeteria for food and where they serve the Butter Beer, so be sure to stop for that. The entire experience was impressive, I highly recommend!

KidZania

You may have saw my video gushing about this place. I really was not sure what to expect, and to be honest I thought it was going to be too young and babyish for my kids. However, this was my kids favorite thing in London. I honestly think they enjoyed it more than the Harry Potter Studio. KidZania is an experience you have to see to believe. KidZania literally transports your children to another world. More specifically to a city, fun by kids. The city KidZania allows the kids to play and learn independently from adults. They are able to have jobs and make money. They can be a doctor, firefighter, work for the postal service, work in broadcasting, fashion retail, learn to cook, write for the newspaper and even play on a professional soccer team.

KidZania is for slightly younger kids. My daughter had just turned 12 and I think that is probably the cut off age. The entire experience is impressive, from the start of entering at an airport and being helped by British Airways to the end when you have to clear customs with an immigration officer. Bravo!

Tower Bridge

I had been to London several times and do you know, I had never seen the Tower Bridge!? Well, this time we didn’t just see it but I literally ran over it on one of my morning runs!  I heard that the Tower Bridge tour is great. But we did not go because I waited too long and tickets were sold out. Even if you can’t or don’t want to visit the museum, the park is lovely and is a must see. Even my kids thought this bridge was impressive thought it looked fake.

We wandered and shopped in some nice souvenir shops in this area, then grabbed some lunch at Wagamama. Wagamama has several locations all over the city, and we like it because Asian food is the one thing our family can all agree on! There is something for everyone and the service is fast and efficient.

St. James Park & Buckingham Palace

From the Park Plaza, past Big Ben and Westminster Abbey you will walk right into St. James Park. This is a lovely walk to get to Buckingham Palace. Just before you get to Buckingham Palace there will be a fun park that the kids will want to play at, which is fine because there is also a little snack house serving coffee, hot chocolate, and waffles! Then head over to Buckingham Palace, watch the changing of the guards (if you are there at the times they do it). We didn’t even plan to go at the day and time, but we just lucked out and happened upon the changing of the guards happening! We were on the side so we mostly saw them marching up to the palace not so much the changing, but that was just as fine too.

Fun Fact: McKenna is VERY afraid of pigeons. 

Time Run Escape Room

We did not do this on this particular trip but a more recent trip to London. An escape room is obviously not a historic monument or classic attraction. But our family does escape rooms all the time and this might have been our family’s favorite! If it’s really cold outside and you are traveling with older kids I would highly recommend this escape room. Kids should probably be at least eight but check the website to see if they have age restrictions. It was a difficult one and our family unfortunately ran out of time, but best of luck to you!

There are obviously so many more things to see and do in London with the kids. The biggest thing to remember when traveling is that you don’t have to see and do it all. Also, your kids do not want to go inside every museum, and that’s okay too. You are there to have fun and enjoy yourself, so just do a few things and wander – letting part of your day just unfold. It’s about the experience, not how many things you can check off the list. On the last day, all my kids wanted to do was walk through St. James Park again, chase the squirrels, play at the park and get hot chocolate. So seriously, do not over plan or overthink it all.


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What to do in London with Kids in the Winter
Andrea September 5, 2017 posted by Andrea

Twist Travel Magazine Fall Issue

Twist Travel Magazine Fall Issue

It’s here!! OMG I am sooooo excited for the Twist Travel Magazine Fall Issue, but first let me start by being really honest. Putting together a magazine over the summer was a bit of a b*&%@! Producing a travel magazine in the midst of prime travel time for our team, well let’s just say next year we’ll need to be WAY ahead of the game;)

However, my partner Keryn and I were able to kick it into high gear and fight through the stress, a few mistakes, and the chaos – making it all SO worth it. The Twist Travel Magazine Fall Issue is a beauty, and I am extremely proud of it. This issue is the biggest yet, (80 pages) and it only keeps getting richer in content and substance. You may also notice that our logo is brand new too!

The fall issue of Twist will take you to Scotland not once, but twice. We have a special design + destination feature with Tea Collection, taking you behind the scenes of how the designers take the inspiration and culture of a destination and incorporate it into their beautiful children’s clothing line. Then continuing on in Scotland we have a great guide for traveling through the highlands with kids.  Then we have a special interview with a road schooling mom of four that gives you a better understanding of how road schooling actually works. There is a neighborhood guide to Chicago, an African Safari and my personal favorite, the Spotlight on India. We also have a very informative piece on how to snap better travel photos as well as travel safety tips, packing hacks, fall fashion and even a few fun fall recipes.  Oh and did I forget about the pre-season ski guide? Well that’s in there too…

Flip it, Read it and Share it! 

 

 

A HUGE thank you to everyone that contributed to this issue! 

What’s next for Twist!?

Well, for anyone that wants to know…. we will be launching the website soon and with the website will come a few changes on how you can view the magazine. Don’t worry, Twist Travel Magazine will still be available for free digitally but you will also be able to purchase a print copy!  Yup, a real life copy to hold in your hands and flip through with your morning coffee.  Starting with the winter issue you will be able to purchase single copies of the magazine, or sign up for a 1 year subscription and have the four issues automatically mailed to you! This is what we are working on now and hope to have ready just in time for Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!

 

Twist Travel Magazine Fall Issue
Posts August 16, 2017 posted by Andrea

Winter Escapes: Planning a multiple family vacation in Whistler

It may only be August, but this is about the time you should start thinking about your family winter vacation! One of my favorite places for a winter getaway is Whistler, British Columbia. Two years ago we had an incredible family ski vacation in Whistler, and I’m always trying to think of ways we can get back to that beautiful winter wonderland. While looking at some of these Whistler cabin rentals, I am very tempted to organize a multi-family trip to Whistler with some friends, or maybe even a girls ski weekend! Whistler vacation rentals are the ideal choice when looking for accommodations for a large group or a multiple family ski vacation. Choosing to stay at in a large cabin or luxury home has many benefits, but I believe the biggest benefit is that it creates a more engaging environment and a better holiday experience.

Multiple Family Ski Vacation

Now, before you book your multi-family vacation, be very careful in selecting who’s going on the trip. You probably have a pretty good handle on which of your friends you are best in-sync with, but you might want to ask yourself a few questions before you start throwing out invitations.

  • Do your families have similar interests?
  • Have you traveled with them before? How did that go?
  • Do you have similar lifestyle and parenting styles?
  • Have you at least spent an entire day out with them, where their any major conflicts?
  • Do you have similar taste, style and budget?
  • Consider the children’s ages and personalities

Whistler Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals allow for families to really unpack and settle in. When you are traveling with kids that all vary in age you will need more space then the average hotel room could ever allow. Some children in your group may still need naps or have a certain bedtime, while the teenagers may be up late and sleeping in way past the 7:00 am toddler alarm clock. A large home provides everyone with their own space, but sill keeps everyone together for meals and other daytime activities.

Renting a vacation home does not mean you will be stuck in the kitchen cooking and cleaning either. With many of these homes, you can arrange for extra cleaning and maid services. You can also inquire about a chef coming to cook for your group.  Another added bonus in vacation rentals, especially on a winter vacation, is the washer and dryer. It’s so nice to be able to pack less and wash things throughout the week. For anyone that travels with small children, you know how a washing machine can not only be a nice amenity, but a necessity.




This Sunridge Court cabin is what I would call perfection!! Although, I do love this stunning modern gem Nita Lake Estate too!

More Opportunity for Quality Time

The family time while sharing a cabin or luxury home is so much more intimate and personal. It’s like one gigantic family sleepover and everyone will have a much better time. Sharing a large home means the activities and bonding opportunities are endless. Each family can take turns cooking, and everyone can get involved. You can have theme nights such as Taco Night, Pizza & Pasta, or All American Burgers and Brats.

A large home also allows for entertaining game nights, movie night, baking cookies, roasting marshmallows, snuggling on the couch and even late night pillow fights. With a cabin or house there is also plenty of opportunity for off-the-slopes fun like snowball fights and snowman making contests! And let’s not forget relaxing in the jacuzzi or sauna after a long day on the mountain. Renting a large cabin or luxury home also helps you enjoy more down time on your vacation. Sometimes being in the center of it all or at a hotel there is a constant state of go-go-go.  You can be present and relax when you are a little removed from the hustle and bustle of the mountain.

Cost Effective

It can be much more cost effective to book a vacation rental, since you’re splitting costs between multiple families. One of the biggest savings is usually on the cost of food. With an entire kitchen at your fingertips, you can stock up and make breakfast, pop in from the slopes for a quick lunch, and have plenty of snacks for the kids on hand, as well as wine and beer for the adults. Eating out as a family while on vacation can really add up. You’ll save money even just making your own coffee and breakfast for the week. You can still plan on a few lunches on the slopes and maybe one (or two) special nights out for the adults, but making meals in the house will really help keep your costs down.  If everyone is willing to pitch in on the cooking and cleaning – kids can dry dishes too! – then it won’t be so overwhelming. You can also assign each family a specific day for the kitchen clean-up duties.

Planning a multiple family ski vacation to Whistler is a great way to save money and enjoy time with friends. A vacation rental gives families a lot of travel flexibility, as well as the chance to holiday in a cozy home away from home.

So, who wants to go to rent a cabin in Whistler with us!?

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Luxury Retreats.  All my thoughts and opinions are my own. I share this with you because we truly enjoy vacation rentals and I would stay at many (if not all) of these cabins.SaveSave

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Winter Escapes: Planning a multiple family vacation in Whistler
Andrea August 11, 2017 posted by Andrea

Princess Diana Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace


Diana Her Fashion Story

Upon entering the first room of Diana Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace, I literally gasped. It was like stepping into a princess’s closet in a fairytale. Except this wasn’t a fairytale, and these were the actual dresses worn by a real princess. 

August 31st marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s tragic death. If you are like me, you’re probably thinking wow – it’s been 20 years already!? I remember her shocking death like most, but also because that following Spring I came to Europe for the first time on a study abroad program. The mourning of Princess Diana was still pretty prevalent all over Europe, and the world. While our group was in Paris we walked over the tunnel where the car accident actually took place, which still had flowers, candles and signs paying respect to the late princess. 

While in London for a few days I discovered that Kensington Palace was having a special exhibit to honor the Princess of Wales, Diana Her Fashion Story. I was not sure of all the details or how to even get tickets but I was certain I needed to see this. It turns out that the exhibit is included in the regular admission price when you visit Kensington Palace. I did not have a problem getting tickets mid week, but I would check online to reserve as I have heard that the weekends are selling out.

In the first room there were five of some of her most iconic dresses hanging in a clear glass case that allowed you to walk completely around admiring the stunning gowns. I walked around it three times, mesmerized by the design, the fabric and the elegance of it all. Next to each dress were small stands that had photographs of Diana wearing the gowns, the year she wore it and for what occasion. There were also special details about the design, the designer, or what she liked about the piece. The soft lighting of this first room and the unique lighting design almost made it look like lace reflecting on the glass. It was magical. 

“The outfits in this exhibition track her evolution as a princess, trend-setter, humanitarian and woman, who’s ability to connect with people still remains powerful today”

From the first room you walked through a few smaller sections, including one that had a wall of the design sketches, then onto another larger room showcasing even more of her clothing. Then in the final room there was a  large circular case filled with even more dresses, and all around this room were gorgeous portraits of Diana on the walls. This room actually made me a little sad, as I thought about her sons and how emotionally heartbreaking this exhibit must be for them. Simply stunning, and extremely well done.  

Diana Her Fashion Story is on display at Kensington Palace until February 2018, so if your travels are taking you to London I highly recommend you visit this stunning tribute to Princess Diana. 


Travel Tip:
Try to get there right at 10:00am when they open, before the rooms start to fill up with people.

I tried hard to get photos without people in the pictures but this was difficult because of the glass and and ability to walk all the way around the cases.

 

 

 

 

Princess Diana Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace
Andrea August 9, 2017 posted by Andrea

20 BEST moments of two weeks in England!

Spending two weeks in England this summer was definitely not the typical beach holiday, but it was refreshing to escape the Barcelona heat. We went to England for two weeks because our kids were going to sleepover camp for the first time. We thought it might be wise to stay in the same country as them, just in case anything should go awry, but we also thought –  why not take advantage of this time and explore the English countryside.

We had a great time and looking back I easily came up with my favorite moments, all 20 of them!

20 BEST moments of two weeks in England

1. Staying in Notting Hill

We rented and AirBnB one block from the famous Portebello Road and it was a great location for our few days in London. We only had two days in London with the kids and we were not doing any major sight seeing, we just wanted to keep it chill. We just wanted to walk to all the cute cafes, cruise the Portobello market, and wander the adorable and very colorful Notting Hill neighborhood. And of course we had to step inside the Notting Hill Bookstore from the movie Notting Hill.

2. London Escape Room

We love doing escape rooms in all the cities we visit! We promised the kids we would do one in London before they headed off to camp. Harris found one of the top rated and best escape rooms in London and it certainly did not disappoint! This might have been our families favorite of all the escape rooms we’ve done! Time Run Escape Room

3. Seeing School Of Rock with the kids

We did not get theatre tickets in advance and seeing a show was not on the agenda at all. Which I regretted once we were in London and I remembered, oh right – we should see a show! While walking around Covent Garden it started to rain heavily, we jumped down in the subway station to head back to Notting Hill and there was a discounted theatre ticket booth. Clearly it was meant to be. I darted across the packed station and said “What cha’ got for tonight!?” School of Rock was a really high energy show and the kids loved it!

4. Drinking from a BBQ grill

Yes, you read that correctly. My (now very good) friend Katja literally just moved to London from Mexico City. As in like five days before we got there. She is originally from England, but has been living abroad with her family for over 10+ years. We had an interesting meal at a the Eclectic Diner in Notting Hill, then we went for a cocktail at Trailer Happiness, a funky little tiki bar. We figured we might as well keep up the hipster theme. We somehow ended up ordering a BBQ grill filled with booze to share. This is why Katja is now a very good friend, you do not share large BBQ grill cocktails with just anyone.

5. Dropping the kids off  for summer camp

Dropping the kids off at the St Pancras train station was a top highlight, not because I was getting rid of my kids for two weeks but because this train station is such a beautiful historical landmark!  I had never been to St Pancras Station and had no idea it was such a gem. But back to sending my kids away to camp for two weeks, for the FIRST TIME. We spotted the XUK Camp sweatshirts on the counselors with swarms of kids around them right away. We checked them in, hung out for a bit but then hugged and said our goodbyes. It was so bizarre walking away from them. My gut felt like it had been slightly punched. 

6. Diana: Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace

In honor of the 20 year anniversary of Princess Diana’s passing there is a special exhibit at Kensington Palace, Diana: Her Fashion Story and it is beyond GORGEOUS. Seeing this was an unexpected surprise. I did not know about this exhibit before we got to London and I still can’t even remember how I saw or heard that this was happening, but it was a MUST for me. I did this solo while Harris got some work done. This is on display until February 2018 so if you are in London I suggest you go! 

7.  Re-connecting with a friend from South Africa

We met Lole and her husband (who are from South Africa) in Barcelona while on a food tour with friends. We have remained in contact and randomly she was in London! She messaged me and we got together for dinner with her and her lovely daughter. It was so great catching up and talking about life’s twists and turns, but a highlight for me was hearing her and her daughter tell the story of them biking the famous Camino de Santiago through Spain. So funny.

8.  Harris being told he’s a “Wanker”

While driving from London to Peak District we had been on the highway for about 20 minutes and we were in the far right lane, then Harris moved over into the middle lane and a car zoomed passed us…

Harris: That guy just called me a Wanker!

Me: What, how do you know!?

Harris: Well he passed me and did this – Harris makes a hand jerking-off motion.

Me: Oh, is that the international sign for a Wanker!? LOL

Harris: I think so!

9. The Monsal Trail and biking through railroad tunnels 

The Monsal Trail was awesome! I am not a biker, I prefer running, but when in Peak District there are a variety of trails and Harris likes biking, so we biked. The Monsal Trail is a trail that used to be an old railroad that has been converted into a gorgeous trail that includes six railroad tunnels that you ride through. I absolutely loved biking through the tunnels, it was very cool. I had so much fun on this bike ride that I may have even agreed to bike with Harris back in Spain… maybe.

10. Pub Dogs & Pints

I had some favorite pubs while in Peak District and some not so favorite;) Two of my favorites were The Bulls Head (near Eyam) and The Anchor. The Bulls head was adorable inside and it came with the cutest pub dog named Jack! Not only was the pub cozy and the waitress friendly, but the fish-n-chips was SO good and it was literally the whole fish! The Anchor was my other favorite because they serve food all day and the staff was really nice and welcoming. This place felt like the being inside the belly of a pirate ship with even a rum room included.

The thing with the pubs in the peak District is, they are strict about their food serving hours – you better get there between 12-2 if you want lunch and 6-8 if you want dinner.  There isn’t much wiggle room and it was a little annoying. However, when we were late or behind the food serving schedule we went to The Anchor and they happily served us. Another pub that took us even though it was 2:30 was The Ashford Arms in Ashford on the Water, this was another stand out pub that had a lovely garden.

11. Tissington Trail 

Tissington trail was beautiful but just not as unique as riding through the railroad tunnels on the Monsal trail. However, the real gem of this trail was at the end when you reached the village of Tissington. We parked our bikes and walked around the town wandering into the most adorable vintage candy shop, browsed a beautiful home store and then stopped for some coffee and homemade fudge next to Tissington Hall, which is a gorgeous historical estate. This estate is popular for weddings and since it was a Saturday we saw a large group of dapper groomsmen getting photos taken. 

12. Peak District, pretty much ALL of it.

Never heard of Peak Distric?  Yeah most people haven’t. I actually read about Peak District in an inflight magazine, if you can believe that! Peak District is a national park in northern England and apparently the step sister to the bigger and more popular Lake District. Peak District is closer to London so it’s a bit more convenient and it is also a very easy drive from Manchester and Cambridge. It is well known for their hiking and biking trails but just driving around and exploring the the countryside stopping at all the small villages was fun too! I loved it here.

13.  The Sir Williams Hotel and Barry the local bar man

We were driving around looking for a place to grab a bite to eat and we suddenly came to The Sir William Grindleford and from the outside it looked adorable! When we drive to the back to park, the views were fantastic and they had a little garden area with picnic tables. I went in to make sure they were serving food and as luck would have it they were! We were met by the nicest staff behind the bar, which included a young college kid from North Dakota of all places, and Barry, who seemed to be the the permanent bar fixture. He was hilarious and kept us entertained while we ate. I also asked to see a room upstairs, because I am totally staying here the next time we are in Peak District. There will be a next time.

14. Our cottage in the Cotswolds

Adorable. I felt like frickin’ goldilocks (with one bear) ha ha ha! This cottage was the cutest and even came with one of those iconic country doors that you can open just the top half, a small detail but one I loved! This stylish little cottage was in the town of Cirencester – one of the largest towns in the Cotswolds, but not in a horrible way. It was nestled behind one of the main streets in town so we could walk out our door and walk to everything.  The funny thing was, it was sort of behind a Thai restaurant so when we would leave we would get an intense smell of Thai food. Ahhh, nothing like stepping out your door in the English countryside to smell Thai food!;) 

15. Getting my running back in the Cotswolds

I have not been running. My excuses – the end of the school year was crazy per usual, lots of friends have been visiting, traveling and the heat in Barcelona. Lame, I know. So the one good thing about the weather in England was it made for some great running weather. I also found a cute store that sold the coolest workout clothing so I bought myself a few fun pairs of leggings, which may have also inspired me to get my ass up and go running.

16.  The Hare Trail

I spotted a couple gorgeous sculptures of painted rabbits, so I googled. It turns out that there are 85 of them throughout the 28 villages in the Cotswolds and this is known as The Hare Trail. They are decorated by different artists and are on display from March – September, then in October they auction them off and the proceeds go to a variety of charities. I of course wanted to find all of them, but probably only spotted ten.

17. Meeting up with a high school friend in the Cotswolds

What are the chances that a friend from high school was visiting her brother that lives in the Cotswolds the same week I was there!? Slim to none, but it totally happened! We met up for a pint at a pub (naturally). I was also able to meet her brother, his beautiful dog and her sweet family. They had already been to Iceland, spending a few days in the Cotswolds, then heading into London and then onto Paris. Catching up with her was such a fun treat!

18. Reading an entire book in a day

This was a first for me. I have never read a book in ONE DAY. I am not the type to sit still for that long, my mind and body just does not do that. However, if you put me in a cozy cottage while it’s raining, apparently my body can be persuaded to lay around all day and my mind can get wrapped up in something other than being productive. Yay!

19. Arguing about eating pistachios while driving 

Have you ever eaten pistachios? Well if so, then you know that this is a two hand job. Have you ever driven a manual car with the steering wheel on the right side of the car? Then you know that this is also a two hand job. Therefore, it is not safe to crack open pistachios, navigate the roundabouts while driving on the opposite side of the road and changing gears. Period.

20. Visiting Oxford – Wycliffe hall

The icing on the cake! Oxford is about an hour drive from where we were in the Cotswolds and so on the last day we took a drive to Oxford, so I could relive my youth! 20 years ago I did a study abroad program called EuroSpring and we stayed at Wycliffe Hall on Banbury Street in Oxford. Our walk over to the hall brought back so many memories. We passed by all the pubs we would frequent and the park we would walk pass everyday. Whoa – this took me back, way back. That EuroSpring trip opened my eyes to the world – and I’m pretty sure it was then that I decided I needed to see ALL OF IT.

The place where my wanderlust life began…

20 BEST moments of two weeks in England!
Costa Rica July 19, 2017 posted by Andrea

In Memory of Dawn the Dog Lady in Costa Rica

Yesterday as I sat curled up on the couch watching a movie with Hudson and petting Canela, I was scrolling through Facebook. I got the news that Dawn Scott, aka Dawn the dog lady, in Costa Rica had passed away. Dawn was a petite British woman, and a real spitfire. We had the pleasure of knowing Dawn because she rescued both our dogs Jack and Canela, among thousands of other dogs in Costa Rica. I meant to write about Dawn and share the following story years ago, so I guess this is as good of time as any, in her memory.

Dawn the Dog Lady

Dawn and her husband Sid are the people that we rented from the first time we went to Costa Rica for a month, over eight years ago. When we moved to Costa Rica for good, we rented from them again while we looked for our more permanent home. They own a house on Playa Flamingo called Casa Mimosa, split into three lovely apartments.

When we moved to Costa Rica, she just so happened to have two dogs that she had recently rescued, took care of and was now looking to place them in a good home. Jack was a little black and white Jack Russell with loads of energy. She found Jack with a broken leg, got him to the vet and nursed his leg back to health. Even though he kept his left paw up and bent a lot of the time, that did not slow Jack down at all.

Canela was stand offish and more timid. She was afraid of people but so sweet once you got to know her. Dawn had found Canela in a hole on the side of the road and took her in. She believed that Canela had been abused. Dawn told us that she really wanted the two of them to stay together because Jack was her happy therapy, and was great support to Canela. They had formed a bond, and so she really wanted to find someone to take them both.

Helping the Dogs of Costa Rica

Dawn would hold dog clinics in the surrounding areas to spay and neuter pets to help control the pet population. Many Costa Ricans cannot afford to take their dogs to the vet or have this procedure done. She would hand out flyers and tell all the locals when the clinics would be in their area. Dawn would even have her groundskeeper and housekeeper pick up dogs and bring them to the clinic if people lived too far away.

She found veterinarians to volunteer their time, and would pay for many of the supplies out of her own pocket. Dawn did this whenever she was called upon to help rescue a dog. She made sure the dogs received the care they needed.

We went to one of these clinics with her and saw the work she was doing first hand. The kids were a bit scared at first as we walked up and saw the dogs just laying there. The dogs were fine, just heavily medicated from the surgery. The dogs rested for about an hour after the procedure before they could be taken home. Dawn then sent them home with a bag of dog food and a new collar or leash.

How We Got Two Dogs

While we lived at Dawn and Sid’s, we all got to know the dogs. We would find Canela sleeping outside our door some days. Jack and Hudson were similar in personality and energy while McKenna and Canela were a bit alike in personality too, more serious and calm. As we prepared to move into our permanent home, Dawn asked us if we wanted to take them both. We had just moved to Costa Rica with two small children, we were not looking to adopt a dog, let alone two dogs! The kids asked frequently if we could take them. Harris and I were pretty decided that we could not take them. After all, we travel too much and we did not want to add this to our plate.

Then our hearts gave way. We could not deny that perhaps these dogs were supposed to be ours. Isn’t there a saying… you don’t choose your dog, the dog chooses you. Or something like that!?

Canela & Jack Arrive

I told Dawn we would take them, but we wanted to surprise the kids. We told McKenna and Hudson that we had to ask our new landlord if it was even okay for us to have dogs. A few days after moving into our house, we secretly planned for Dawn and Sid to bring the dogs and come up for sunset and drinks to see our new place. When Dawn and Sid arrived, the dogs jumped out of their truck and our kids came running out of the house to greet them. I said “Guess what guys, they’re staying!” McKenna’s eyes got huge and she caved right into my gut and gave me the biggest hug she had ever given me. Hudson ran around to the back of the house to chase Jack. The dogs belonged to us.

During our last year in Costa Rica we unfortunately lost Jack (which I also meant to write about). It was pretty traumatic and is still very painful. We called Dawn and Sid to let them know what happened to Jack, and she wasn’t exactly surprised. He was a crazy little dog who loved chasing cars, buses, quads and motorcycles. Fearless and a bit stupid, that little guy.

Once I read about Dawn, I instantly thought about Jack, bouncing around with his gimpy little paw and greeting her. We have met so many people that have positively impacted our lives, living abroad. We are better people because of them.

Thank you Dawn.

In Memory of Dawn the Dog Lady in Costa Rica