Little Larey

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Due Date: Final Countdown To Baby & Pregnancy Recap

October 31st 2017. A date that has been on my mind since we found out I was pregnant. My official due date. And it’s finally here! Yay! You know what’s not here yet? The baby. That’s right. That little dude is staying put. So I think it’s safe to say that our baby boy will be a November baby – unless we have a sprint labor and delivery situation coming our way later today…

And since we’re still playing the waiting game and this mommy to be is pretty much getting bored out of her mind, I thought it would be nice to do a pregnancy recap. As always, mostly for our own archives, but maybe it might help or interest others too.

Trying To Conceive

If you’re a mom or you’re trying to get pregnant, you’ve probably heard of the term TTC, which means: trying to conceive. Well, I certainly hadn’t heard of it before we decided to try our luck at making a baby. I stopped using birth control after we got married, and man, we didn’t know sh*t. Yes, of course we knew about the birds and the bees, but it never really occurred to me that you basically only have one chance each month to actually get pregnant. You know, you need to be ovulating and all. Yes, super naive I know. We did know however that it takes the average couple around a year to get pregnant.

We made the decision to be very open and transparent about the fact that we were TTC because it really bothers me that it’s such a taboo to talk about these things. Like we’re all just getting pregnant in the first try, and that’s that. Nobody really talks about the struggle and everyone expects it to go super smooth and easy. You wouldn’t believe how many people asked us if I was pregnant yet. We were even asked if we were getting a dog because we couldn’t get pregnant. Seriously. After a few “rounds” we decided to try our luck with ovulation tests. And I kid you not, there were remarks being made about it not being romantic or natural that way. For real. Well, you know what? When you’re ready to have kids and you know these tests might help you get pregnant, why shouldn’t you use them?

Pregnancy Baby Bump Pregnant Mom To Be Belly Shot

After a few months it really started to bother me that I had to answer “yes, I still drink wine” at every social gathering, and basically the lack of sensitivity some people would address the issue with was getting to me. Even though it was our own decision to be open about it. Not the fact that I wasn’t pregnant yet was hard on us, because we both knew it could take a year. But that other people were expecting us to be expecting so soon was really hard. It might had to do with the fact that I was also building up to a pretty heavy burnout so I was feeling a lot of pressure on multiple aspects of my life (read my burnout story here).

So after 8 months of trying we decided to take a break. If you also read my post about Canada (and the above mentioned burnout blog) it was during that trip that I realized we needed to take the pressure off. We had also booked a trip to Curacao for October and since that little Caribbean paradise island is struggling with the Zika virus we knew we had to halt the baby-making process until at least 3 months after our return. Turns out this was the best decision ever since I could work on tackling the burnout and my back injury. And also, the pressure of trying to please people with baby news was gone. And you know what? The first “round” after we got back in the game I got pregnant. No ovulation test (I just kept a good eye on my cycle). Just a wonderful winter weekend away ♡.

I know there are a lot of couples out there struggling with conception and I hope by reading this people will take a moment and think before making a “funny” remark. This will only make the couple feel uncomfortable and sad, and it will definitely NOT help with breaking the taboo about trying to conceive. If you’re really interested show that by asking a sincere question instead of making jokes about it. I didn’t mind talking about it, in fact I wanted to talk about it, but in a respectful way and without all the prejudice. Just some food for thought for ya…

Pregnancy Baby Bump Pregnant Mom To Be Belly Shot

The First Trimester: Projectile Vomiting

If you follow me on Instagram (@littlelarey) you probably know that I have had a very rough first trimester. 75% of pregnant women struggle with what is commonly known as morning sickness, although I can assure you it has nothing to do with a time of day. I was feeling so, so, oh so very, sick pretty much all day everyday for the first 16 weeks (!) of my pregnancy. I’m not sure if it was the combination with the burnout, but I was basically on survival mode. It started at around 6 weeks, just when we went on our trip to California and Hawaii (more about that soon).

Pregnancy Baby Bump Pregnant Mom To Be Belly Shot

Most people will tell you, it will all get better somewhere between week 10-12, but I had to soldier on till week 16. And even though it might sound like it: I wasn’t complaining. I was so freaking happy that I was pregnant, that there was actually growing new life inside of me, and that’s what makes it all worthwhile. If I was able to eat something it would be a plain bagel with cream cheese, a Brabants worstenbroodje, rice crackers, bread sticks, and thank god – fresh fruit. I was munching on fresh watermelon, pineapple and strawberries everyday, and I think that’s what kept me healthy. Also: I’ve been taking two prenatal vitamins and two prenatal fish oil pills every day, and I can highly recommend Essential Organics (much better to handle than Solgar) and Wiley’s Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil.

The Second Trimester: The Golden Weeks

The funny thing was that as soon as I reached week 16 I almost instantly felt better. I got my energy back, my appetite was hugely improving, and I finally had that pregnancy glow (hello bigger curls!). I was ready to get moving again so I started with prenatal yoga and I got back in the weight room with my physiotherapist aka the best personal trainer ever. It was so amazing to feel so good again, while also taking good care of myself and the little one inside my belly.

We went on a few trips during my second trimester: we had a lovely weekend in the woods with our little puppy, we went to Moscow with our friends, and we did some island-hopping on the Azores Islands (also coming soon). We had a lot of get-togethers with friends and family, and we hosted a baby party on pretty much the hottest day of the year.

Pregnancy Baby Bump Pregnant Mom To Be Belly Shot

We had a lot of ultrasounds at our amazing midwives at Femme Amsterdam so we got to see our little one a lot. It’s because we decided to go for their extra care package which means an ultrasound at every appointment, prenatal massages and acupuncture sessions – among other services. (Just to clarify: yes, we know that it’s not for everybody to have that extra care but since we’ve experienced in our own close circle that extra ultrasounds can much better predict how your baby is growing and can even be crucial to notice if there are any problems we really felt like it was worth it.) Oh right, and I also sort of finally kicked that burnout in the ass and decided to quit my job. Yep, it was an exciting trimester, that second one.

Pregnancy Baby Bump Pregnant Mom To Be Belly Shot

The Third Trimester: Getting Ready for Baby

And then you’re suddenly in the final stretch of pregnancy. Wait, what?! It’s so funny how those first few weeks seem to creep by so freaking slowly (especially if you feel like crap), and then before you know it you’re closing in on the finish line.

Pregnancy Baby Bump Pregnant Mom To Be Belly Shot

In this final trimester we focused on getting ready for the baby. Which may seem silly, because hello, didn’t we realize pregnancy means baby? Well, to be honest, we were so preoccupied with the pregnancy itself, me being as healthy and zen as I could be, the husband taking amazingly good care of us, that we sort of “forgot” the little dude still has to come out at some point. Yeah, no sh*t Sherlock. So we enrolled in a hypnobirthing class (again: blog coming soon) and finished up our crazy cool adventure inspired nursery (see photos here). And we decided to do a maternity session with the amazing Silvia Falcomer which I can highly recommend.

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

We also celebrated our two year wedding anniversary on an active but relaxing babymoon to the gorgeous island of Hvar. I tried to stay active for as long as possible, and until week 36 I was still kicking ass at the gym, going to yoga class, and walking the dog every day, but in these last few weeks I’ve started to get into cocoon mode. We’ve really enjoyed these last weekends together and we had a lot of date nights at our favorite restaurants, we went to the opera, and we had plenty of romantic nights at home.

Pregnancy Baby Bump Pregnant Mom To Be Belly Shot

Final Countdown

October 31st 2017. Due date. So now we wait. It might be tonight, it might be tomorrow, it might be next week. Jeez, it might even be the week after that. And although we’re slowly getting just a little impatient, we don’t complain because I’m still feeling perfectly fine, we can both stock up on some sleep, and our house has never been cleaner. We just hope that the little dude will be making his way into this world on his own terms, and that he doesn’t have to be evicted from his current home in two weeks!

Obviously I will let you know when our bambino has decided he’s ready to meet his parents, but I can tell you in advance that our little bundle of joy (and poop) will not be a regular on my blog or my Instagram. Naturally, I will share things about our life as a new family and he will show up in photos – but never with his face. We’ve also asked our friends and family to respect our wishes about not sharing any images of him online. I don’t want to judge people who do share a lot of photos of their kids, because it’s a very personal decision, but this is just something we feel very strongly about. If you want to see our baby boy, you’re more than welcome to stop by! Uh, please call ahead ;).

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#Momlife: Our Adventure Inspired Nursery

I never really intended to do a blog post with a full nursery tour, but since I’m so happy (and proud!) with the result and I got a lot of questions following the sneak peeks on my Instagram Stories (@littlelarey), I thought I’d give it a go. Full disclosure: I also really love reading posts like this for inspiration, so I hope I can do the same for you!

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Gender Neutral Nursery

Yes, this is a loaded subject in The Netherlands these days, and I’m definitely not planning on starting a whole debate or something, but for us it was important that our nursery would be gender neutral. Not that blue or pink were out of the question from the start, but we just wanted to stay away from gender stereotyping. What I had in mind for the nursery was roughly based on how we are as a couple, our adventurous lifestyle and the dreams we have for our little kiddo. Side note: this idea came to mind way before we knew our bambino would be a baby boy. We just figured any child of ours, boy or girl, would probably have a wild and wandering soul just like ours :).

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Let’s Go Get Lost

For the nursery we were thinking something along the lines of a retro off the grid cabin let’s go get lost explorer’s club vibe – if that makes any sense. And since we’ve been collecting all sorts of knick knacks from our travels during the years, we already had a lot of stuff we could use to loosely create the vibe we were looking for. And I think the unfinished vintage yellow paint on the walls (I love that the husband knew exactly what I wanted from my pretty vague description) perfectly creates that retro vibe.

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

We were also keen on going for a cooler look than your typical cutesy goo-goo ga-ga uchi-kuchi nursery (you know what I mean). To be honest, the biggest accomplishment was when I realized I would definitely like this room to be my own – even as a grown up. Yes, obviously there are baby elements to be found in the room, but I think we managed to keep the overall vibe pretty rad.

Make It Don’t Buy It

Of course Pinterest was essential for finding inspiration, especially since I did a few DIY projects. To be honest, the only big expense we had for the nursery was the Stokke crib (that we managed to buy on sale since we specifically wanted the – now discontinued – walnut color, and we searched high and low for it). It definitely helped that we could reuse some furniture that was already in the study. So we revamped our Ikea Billy bookcase into a lovely baby wardrobe by making “doors” out of fabric (thanks for the sewing lesson, mom!). And the built-in desk was transformed into a changing table by throwing a beautiful changing mat on it. Bam! Easy does it.

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

One of the projects I’m most happy with is the Wild + Free canvas banner I made. I saw a picture of it on Pinterest forever ago and I immediately knew I wanted to have it. But then I saw that it’s €80 on Etsy. I kid you not! Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about supporting small businesses and independent artists, but this was ridiculous. So one day I cut up an old canvas bag I had laying around, sew it into a banner, traced the text on it with a Sharpie, and I used a wooden dowel and some string to hang it up. Total costs: €2 (for the dowel; other materials I already had on hand). Yes people, that is correct. (I roughly followed this tutorial if you want to make one yourself)

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

The same goes for the mobile above the crib. I saw some amazing ones on Etsy, but again for STEEP prices (€150 anyone?) so I decided to try my hand at making one based on this image. I bought some felt balls and feathers online and tied them with some string on a wooden frame. Total costs: €15. YEAH!

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

The wooden oar hanging above the crib was a fairly last minute addition. It had been standing in the study for years as a keepsake from the husband’s sailing days (yes, I questioned why you’d need an oar for sailing). And since I felt that wall could use something, I thought we’d figure out a way to hang it. Enter: nautical rope and my still pretty badass knotting skills. Initially, I wanted to paint the oar similar to this one you can buy on Etsy (I know you want to know: “only” €200) but the husband wanted to keep it original and used his veto. Okay, fair enough. Marriage is all about compromises, right? And to be honest, I’m also digging this vintage look.

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Go Green, Go Earth

Since trying to live a conscious and sustainable life is important to us, we were set on thinking green in terms of preparing for the bambino as well. Obviously there’s a lot of stuff you “need” to buy (read: stuff the internet says you need to buy), and we tried to recycle and reuse as much as possible. When it comes to things we actually need (like a stroller, a crib, baby clothes) we try to buy stuff that is either sustainable or organic or at least will last us a very long time. For example, our Stokke Sleepi crib can be used from the newborn phase all the way up to when our little boy will be 10 years old.

My sister gave us a lot of baby clothes from my nephew, which is not only super cute but also super green. And almost all of the clothes we did need to buy ourselves are made from organic cotton or bamboo. I searched for hours online to find organic ánd affordable muslin cloths (highly recommend: these from Konges Sløjd, these from Fine Little Day, or these from Fresk). Obviously we’re also stocking up on natural Naif baby care products since our friend Niki has been drilling us for years :). All the bedding and even the changing mat is organic. That’s right. No chemicals on our baby’s butt!

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

The Details

Decorating is all about the little details, right? Well, that’s probably bullsh*t, but to be honest, all those little things did make it all come together. And since I know how frustrating it is when you see something on a picture online but it doesn’t say where it’s from, I’ll try to give as much details as possible. Mind you, a lot of stuff was bought on our travels or had already been in our home for quite some time. If you see something I’ve missed, please holla and I’ll get back to you soon!

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

Crib: Stokke Sleepi // Bedding: Imps & Elfs // Vintage Oar: family heirloom // String Lights: Cotton Ball Lights // Canvas Banner: DIY (tutorial) // Dream Catcher: bought in Canada at Our Native Land // Crib Mobile: DIY // Laundry Baskets: Sissy Boy Homeland // Changing Mat: Cam Cam Copenhagen // Blue & White Storage Baskets: H&M // Yellow Basket: Zana Products // Persian Art: brought from Iran // Night Lights Collection: Sissy Boy Homeland // Vintage Flask: bought in Scotland // Wooden Animals: collected from Zambia, Indonesia, Azores // Large Animal Prints: LILAxLOLA // Penguin Print: Crisp Sheets // Photo Prints: own collection // Kilim Pillows: Decolic Kilim Pillows // Embroidered Pillow: bought in Turkmenistan // Aztec Rug: bought in Santa Fe, NM // Wooden Coat Rack: Dille & Kamille // Grey & Blue Fabric Baskets: Ikea // Curtains: Ikea (discontinued) // Animal Nesting Dolls: Wee Gallery // Family Nesting Dolls: Sketch Inc. // Matryoshka Doll: bought in Russia // Music Box: bought in Russia // Animal Candle Holders: Store Without A Home (discontinued) // Trains: husband’s collection

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Nursery Decor Adventure Home Tour Baby Amsterdam

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Babymooning In Picture Perfect Hvar (Croatia)

September 6th marked our two year wedding anniversary. Say what?! Yes, two years already. It’s crazy how fast they went by. Well you know what they say: time flies when… Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re definitely having fun. And since we’re always looking for an excuse to get out of town for a few days, we thought our anniversary was a good enough reason. Oh right, and the fact that I would be 32 weeks pregnant by then – so my last chance to get on a plane pre-baby.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon

We wanted sunshine, palmtrees, a nice hotel, cool excursion options, and well, it had to be within a 2 hours flight radius. And I forget the most important thing: it had to be a new country for the both of us. Yes, we’re super snobbish and competitive about our “been there, done that” travel map. And since the husband just got back from Israel and I got to check off Russia earlier this summer, we figured it would be fair to go somewhere that was new to the both of us. Yes people, these are the important things in #marriedlife.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon

Anyway, I recently saw some amazing photos of Hvar, a beautiful – like extremely pretty – little island just off the coast of Croatia. So we contacted our friends at Official Travel Company (they really are our friends) and they booked a lovely room for us at the perfectly located Amfora Grand Beach Resort. You can easily get to Hvar by ferry from Split – another very lovely destination on the Adriatic Coast.

And although we think Hvar is a fantastic destination for an European babymoon, it’s also known as “the new Ibiza”, so if you’re looking to get your fiesta on this is also the place for you. Just don’t behave like you’re tacky party trash because that can instantly increase the price of your trip. Just saying…

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon

Here’s a little (photo heavy) roundup of our amazing 5 day babymoon on the gorgeous island of Hvar!

Exploring Hvar Town

Hvar is not only the name of the island, but also the name of the island’s capital. It’s a very nice town with a lovely atmosphere and the cutest little streets and alleyways. You can roughly divide the town into three areas: the harbor area, the alleys leading up to the fortress, and the boardwalk along the stunning Adriatic Coast – leading to the Amfora Hotel and the famous Bonj Les Bains Beach Club.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon

The climb towards Hvar Fortress is a steep, but doable climb (even with baby bump), that will have you walk along the cutest streets you’ve ever seen. There are a lot of fantastic restaurants in this area, although you might find your table (and yourself) a little uneven due to the many, many steps.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon

Make sure you start making your way up to the fortress at least an hour and a half before sunset. Because trust me: the sunset view over Hvar town is absolutely worth the workout.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon

Bonj Les Bains Beach Club

Attached to the wonderful Amfora Grand Beach Resort is the stunning 1930s Bonj Les Bains Beach Club. Yes, it’s super expensive to get a bed here for the day, but I recommend doing it anyway. Treat yoself! On the day we were here there was a wedding in the evening, so they closed a little earlier than usual. Which meant a slight discount, and also: we had the entire place to ourselves! This is really what your babymoon dreams are all about. Assuming you have those. Well, I guess most of you don’t… Anyway, check out this gorgeous place and you’ll get it.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon Bonj Les Bains

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon Bonj Les Bains

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon Bonj Les Bains

Right? Right? There was a bottle of wine included in the price, which I was told was very good, but obviously I just stuck to my fresh fruit juices. It was also very nice that we had a cute cabana where this preggo wifey could take a little nap in the shade while the husband could continue to work on his tan.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon Bonj Les Bains

1974 VW Beetle Road Trip

So most of my friends and family probably know that I am the master of trip researching. Yes, I said it. It’s not only a skill, it’s an addiction. It truly is. I can spend hours and hours trying to find the best deals, the cutest restaurants, and the coolest activities. And I have to say: for our Hvar trip I really nailed it. What can I say, modesty is overrated right?

It’s no secret that the husband and I are big road trip lovers. When we met at Harvard in the summer of 2010 our mutual love for the open road – him being the king of the road, me being the queen of navigating – is probably what drew us closer and closer together. Since then we’ve taken many, many, trips and we definitely plan on continuing to do so after the baby is born. So combine that love for road trips with the husband’s deep love for vintage cars (when we bought our new family appropriate SUV there was NO WAY IN HELL that he would sell his mint green vintage BMW), and you get why he was the happiest boy on the planet when I told him I rented a vintage convertible VW Beetle for the day. What is it they say? Happy wifey hubby, happy lifey…

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip

“What color do you want? I have purple, red, yellow, orange…”. “ORANGE! We’re Dutch, so definitely orange”. And although Star (born 1974) only had 4 gears, was missing a mirror, and I had to hold onto the side window the entire day, she really is a star. A fabulous bright orange star.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip

Stari Grad

We did a little loop road trip starting and ending in Hvar, while crossing off three of the island’s cutest towns. First up: Stari Grad. If you take the car ferry from Split this is where you first arrive (pro tip: don’t take the car ferry, take the smaller and faster catamaran that goes directly to Hvar town). Stari Grad means “Old Town”, referring to the fact that it was founded in 384 BC by the ancient Greeks. It’s much quieter and laidback than bigger brother Hvar, and especially the back alleys are extremely cute.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Stari Grad

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Stari Grad

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Stari Grad

Make sure to pop into Za Pod Zub, a lovely delicatessen shop that sells Hvar’s best local products. We bought a little jar of delicious Tartufa, so we’ve been eating truffel pasta multiple times a week since we got back. Yes, it’s a hard knock life. Also: definitely buy some of the artisanal ice cream they sell here. I can highly recommend the mint with black currant flavor.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Stari Grad

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Stari Grad

Vrboska

If you think Stari Grad is quiet, you’ll be amazed by the tiny town of Vrboska. I don’t think we saw any tourists here, although this is probably very different in the middle of summer. It’s just a lovely, sleepy harbor town at the end of a long fjord. It is said to be the safest harbor on the Adriatic Coast because of the wind protection provided by the 1.5 nautical miles long fjord. And it has definitely kept its authentic old world charm.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Vrboska

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Vrboska

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Vrboska

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Vrboska

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Vrboska

Jelsa

After Vrboska we moved on to another wonderful harbor town on Hvar’s northern shore, Jelsa. It is surrounded by lovely teal-colored swimming bays and lush green pine forrest, so it’s a perfect stop for a stroll and a dip.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Jelsa

We especially loved the 15 minute walk through the pine trees from the town’s center to Mina Bay, where we spotted some lovely elderly swimming ánd singing in the beautiful Adriatic waters. Of course, I wanted to take a dip too, even though it meant finding my way down across some slippery rocks. I know, I know: when will I learn…

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Jelsa

Obviously we had to take a little detour back to Hvar town so I could check off the tiny (like super tiny) town that was named after me. Sort of. Actually not at all. But still, it’s one of my nick names. So yeah, I had to.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip Brusje

Vintage Car Galore

Where I usually am the one screaming “STOP THE CAR NOW!” when I see something I want to snap a picture of, the husband always hopes I take photos of old vehicles we pass along the way. Although he never really asks for it, I know he wants me to. Yes, I know him oh so well. And since Hvar really has a nice collection of vintage cars, I managed to get a few of them on camera. You’re welcome, honey.

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon VW Beetle Road Trip

Sailing The Paklinski Islands

In my opinion you can’t really visit an island without getting out on the water. And since I basically was being the perfect wifey already, and I know how much the husband likes to sail, I arranged for a relaxing sunset sail around the stunning Paklinski Islands (for some reason also known as the Pakleni Islands).

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon Sailing Paklinski Islands Pakleni

Oh wait, did I say relaxing? Well, that was part of it. The other part consisted of jumping off the boat into the beautiful blue water surrounding the islands for a little snorkeling safari. And again: yes, I know, I need to take it easy, but I just couldn’t help myself. I mean, this water looks sooooo inviting, right?

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon Sailing Paklinski Islands Pakleni

And after our swim it was time for even more action. It was racing time! Say what now? Yes, we went race sailing (I can see you shaking your head at me). It was super intense, but also super exhilarating. We really had to hold on for dear life otherwise we would have been thrown back into the Adriatic waters. I kid you not. There was a lot of tacking (overstag gaan) and zigzagging through the wind and I had super sore arms the next day because I had to hold onto the railing very tightly.

See the images below to get some idea of how our boat was leaning into the wind: both pictures have an absolute straight horizon but you can see the boat is heavily leaning towards the port side (left side). It was awesome. And such an amazing way to end our time on Hvar!

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon Sailing Paklinski Islands Pakleni

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon Sailing Paklinski Islands Pakleni

Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon Sailing Paklinski Islands Pakleni

Trogir aka Qarth

There was a little hiccup on our travel day back to Amsterdam. First of all: the catamaran between Hvar town and Split got cancelled due to strong winds (which the hotel very kindly informed us of the day before our departure). So we had to take the bigger – and slower – car ferry from Stari Grad. This meant that we had to leave the hotel earlier and would arrive in Split later, so our half day exploring Split got cancelled. Bummer, but okay we’ll live.

Babymoon Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Trogir Qarth Game of Thrones

When we got to Split Airport (aka the saddest airport I’ve ever seen – and that includes Lusaka Airport in Zambia) we soon learned that our flight was at least 2 hours delayed. Instead of getting grumpy and wait around at the sad, sad, oh so sad airport, we looked at Google Maps and noticed a tiny little island only 10 minutes from the airport (note that Split is 40 minutes from the airport). A quick Google search informed us that it was the best kept Roman/Gothic town in Central Europe ánd that it featured as Qarth in Game of Thrones. Needless to say: we hopped in a cab instantly and it was the best decision of the day. I love it when you unexpectedly get to explore more cool places! So if you’re ever stuck at Split Airport: head to Trogir. Tip from Larey. You’re welcome.

Babymoon Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Trogir Qarth Game of Thrones

Babymoon Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Trogir Qarth Game of Thrones

A Trip To Hvar: The Little Details

  • Closest international airport: Split (SPU). Mind you: there are basically no shopping/eating facilities at this airport, so bring your own snacks.
  • Croatia is one of the sunniest destinations in Europe. Hvar is the sunniest destination in Croatia.
  • Although Croatia is part of the EU, it’s not within the Euro zone: you pay with the Kuna.
  • Book the Catamaran from Split to Hvar town in advance with Jadrolinija. Mind you: take the catamaran, not the car ferry.
  • You don’t need a car in Hvar town, but if you’re up for an island road trip: check Rapidus Rent A Car.
  • For an exciting and relaxing day out on the water: check Hvar Adventure.
  • Check the calendar before you book: try to avoid Yacht Week and Ultra Music Festival. Unless, that’s why you’re going obviously.

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Croatia Travel Hvar Europe Island Babymoon

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Amsterdam Pregnancy Shoot With Silvia Falcomer

I know the words maternity and shoot probably give you the creeps, right? Those super posy, super bright studio shots, preferably with the parents to be wearing a black and white outfit? Yeah, you know what I mean. That’s also why we never really considered doing a pregnancy shoot. We just thought it wasn’t for us. Mostly because I’m the worst at standing in front of a camera with all my awkwardness, especially in a brightly lit studio.

But then we saw some beautiful pictures of a pregnancy shoot by the super talented Silvia Falcomer and we knew we wanted her to photograph us with my baby bump. Silvia’s photos are soft and romantic, with a timeless vibe, and you can tell she’s an excellent storyteller by her documenting style. And while I still had my doubts, mostly because of my own insecurities, the husband pushed me to contact her and book a session. And you know what? He was absolutely right to do so. Yes honey, I said it: you were right.

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

We spent an amazing (early) Sunday morning with Silvia on the canals around our house. The streets were calm and the light was soft. Those are the best Amsterdam moments. We even recreated our favorite shot from our wedding shoot two years ago (see more wedding photos here).

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Silvia is so pleasant to work with and she really helps you to relax and be yourself in front of the camera. We also got to take some photos inside our home, which I love because we’re selling our amazing apartment next year and now we have some wonderful memories. We even tried to get Polly in on the fun but, as always, she was all over the place and couldn’t really embody her inner model :).

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Oh and in case you missed my recent rant on Instagram about how it amazes me that a pregnant woman’s body seems to give people the right to comment on her changing and growing body, I’ll share it here as well. Yes, it’s that important to me :).

Today during yoga we talked about how people seem to think that it’s okay to comment on a pregnant woman’s growing body. Like the fact that you’re getting bigger is that one big topic. And to be honest, this has been bugging me for a while. I really don’t understand why the fact that a woman is pregnant gives people the right to comment on her changing body. Personally I can handle all the inappropriate comments and jokes about the size of my bump, my big butt, my wagging walk, or my thick thighs, simply because I know how amazing it is that my body is making a human. Actually creating new life. And it’s going through all those changes to make sure our little baby is growing healthy and strong. I’ve never felt more proud and confident of this beautiful big body. I feel super strong and I can still do 60kg single leg presses and 20kg lateral pull downs. That’s right. So make all the remarks you want, I couldn’t care less. If you’ve never experienced pregnancy you simply don’t realize how magical this transformation is. But let me ask you this, would you like it if somebody comments on your growing body, asks about your weight, tells you if you can wear a bathing suit or not, or wonders if you should even consider having a picture taken of your belly? Yeah, I don’t think so. Please think about that the next time you feel the need to say something about a pregnant woman’s body. So here you have it, my big naked baby bump. And I’m damn proud of it.

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

Pregnancy Shoot Amsterdam Silvia Falcomer

I honestly cannot recommend Silvia enough for a pregnancy shoot – or any photoshoot for that matter! Definitely follow her on Instagram (@soakuptheworld) to see more of her magic, and if you have a wedding or a baby coming up contact her as soon as possible. This lady is very popular!

All photos in this post are by Silvia Falcomer. They are not to be used without prior written consent from both her and myself.

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The Truth And Nothing But The Truth About My Burnout

Yes, that’s right. Here’s another thirty something struggling with a burnout. I’ve been thinking long and hard whether I was going to publish this post, because let’s be honest, talking about stuff that’s difficult and ugly is uncomfortable. But then again, that might be the reason why I felt it was important. For my own road back to recovery, and maybe I can also help someone else along the way. Because even though it seems as though the label “burnout” is all around us these days, I learned that there is so much that is unknown ánd misunderstood about this condition. People can make some pretty wrong assumptions based on their lack of knowledge. So here it is, the ugly truth about how I try to get back on track while dealing with a burnout. Oh yeah, and while also making a little human.

Burnout

Where It All Began

It’s difficult to precisely pinpoint when it all started, since a burnout is something that creeps up on you when you aren’t looking. That’s exactly what’s so frustrating about it: you never realized it was there, and then it’s already too late. In hindsight I sort of know when my bucket started overflowing.

It was roughly around May 2016, right before our trip to Canada (as I mentioned in my Rocky Mountains post), that I couldn’t really handle some unexpected obstacles at work. I don’t want to get into all the details, but let’s just say that I felt really alone and really responsible for everything that was going on – even though I absolutely wasn’t. Being so close to the top had always been amazing, and basically what I loved about my job, but it also meant that my position was pretty lonely which was getting harder and harder for me to deal with I guess.

Burnout

During our time in Canada I realized something had to change and when we got back I had a very good and long talk with my boss. I was relieved, happy, and confident that I was ready to kick some ass again. Well. I wasn’t. Soon after the summer calm was over, everything went back to its crazy normal routine, which was to be expected of course.

Oh Snap

That rushed and pressing feeling, being completely exhausted but at the same time you keep running like you’re being chased down all the time, came right back to me. And at the end of September everything came tumbling down when I snapped my back. I literally could feel it snap and I immediately started screaming and crying from the pain. It was excruciating. Luckily the husband was home and he could drag me to bed while I was almost passing out because it hurt so freaking much.

That was it. Game over. I was in bed for days, where I couldn’t even lift myself up or roll over without that hellish pain shooting through my body. The husband stayed by my side for days – which is not easy with his corporate career. Doctors were called, pills were given (ánd thrown back up because of an allergic reaction), and a physiotherapist came by. After a week or so I was sort of able to get out of bed and into the car so that the husband could drive me to my appointment every three days. With every painful treatment it was getting a little bit better. Next to the physical therapy I also was treated by an orthomanual therapist, who was literally using a hammer to place my lower back and pelvic floor back into position. Let’s just say your pain limit is really pushed when somebody is using a hammer on your pubic bone…

And finally I started working half days again. Well, at least that was the plan. After only two days back in the office I pretty much had a mental breakdown on the morning of day three. Why? The train was cancelled. Yes, that’s right. That’s all it took. I called HR and she immediately realized there was more to the story and convinced me to stay home for a while and call the doctor. So that’s what I did. “Uh hi, this is Lara. And I’m not sure what’s going on with me, but I think I need help”. Side story: at first I dialed a wrong number so I said all this to a complete stranger. Fun times. I made an appointment for the next day, called my BFF (who is really the best friend ever for dropping everything to be there for me) and got on a train to her house. The next morning the doctor referred me to a psychologist with a possible “DSM IV disorder”. And after the psychologist’s intake I was officially diagnosed with a burnout. I felt defeated, like a failure, and most of all: lost.

Burnout

Character + Environment

I learned that usually two factors are at play when building up to a burnout. The first factor is made up of your character and your personality traits. For me the things that probably most attributed to my burnout are my strong sense of responsibility for everything and everyone, and my ability to notice, remember and reproduce the tiniest details of life in general and my work in specific. Yes, I know you may think that these are pretty good qualities, and of course they are. But the problem is, like with oh so many things, there’s also a dark side to it.

Burnout

Taking responsibility is great, but feeling responsible for each and every issue not so much. Every day I would take up tasks that weren’t necessarily my own, just because I felt responsible to do so and I’d find it hard to bother others with it or simply because it was quicker to do it myself. Even though it might be their job in the first place. And having a perfect eye for details seems wonderful, but it’s not so awesome when your mind is being triggered by so many unnecessary details all around you. All day, everyday. I’ve always been highly sensitive which for me means I am “ON”  all the time, being triggered all the time.

And what’s worse, I can remember and reproduce a lot of those ridiculous details. I can tell you so many phone numbers, license plates of buses and taxis, account numbers, case file numbers, tour guide names, middle names of applicants, the tram driver’s childrens’ names, how many scooter alarms went off today, and all sorts of other random stuff that is taking up space in my mind. This has been the hardest part to tackle when trying to bounce back. I’m still learning how to shut my mind off while still being receptive to the beauty of the world around us. And while these two – and many other – qualities made me the perfect fit for this demanding job, it also is one of the reasons why I was slowly building up to a burnout.

The second factor is your environment. Obviously that’s your job position, your work environment, but also your social life, your personal responsibilities and where you live. And looking back I realize that I – unconsciously – was building up stress on all those levels. The responsibilities and pressure that came with my job position, the fact that there was a lot going on that I couldn’t share with anyone due to confidentiality aka clearance levels, the fact that we were trying to figure out how to plan our future with two demanding jobs (not to mention my daily commute), looking for a new house in the crazy Amsterdam housing market, while also feeling more and more resentment about living in the city. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Burnout

Another factor, in my case specifically, is that I have perfectly trained myself to never feel stressed. Yes, that sounds ridiculous I know. I think it started during my racing days as a coxswain where I had 8 rowers sitting in front of me, right before the start of a race, who were all super nervous so I always was the cool, calm and collected one. I just told myself not to be stressed or anxious, that I was perfectly in control, and at some point I managed to trick myself into believing it.

This is one of the biggest traits I have used in my professional life ever since. People could throw all sorts of stuff at me while my work was already piling up, but I never let myself be stressed about it. It even made me feel pretty badass that I could handle so much craziness without ever feeling overwhelmed. Well, I call bullsh*t. I since learned that my body produces high levels of cortisol (stress hormone), so even though I thought I was kicking ass all day everyday without a drop of sweat, my body was saying otherwise. This is probably also why my back issues started during my coxswain days, and they obviously only became worse during the years. My muscles have been completely full with cortisol, and thus extremely tight for years. And therefore they weren’t doing a good job at keeping my joints in place, which in their turn started to shift and became crooked. Result: a messed up lower back and pelvic floor. But hey, I wasn’t stressed, right? Yeah right.

Things People Say (That Aren’t Really Okay)

I don’t mean to call out the people who have said these things to me, because I know they didn’t mean to hurt me. But well, it kinda did. Even though I know that these things were said out of misunderstanding, it still hurts. The reason why I share this is because I hope people will think before they speak when someone tells them they are diagnosed with a burnout. Remember that listening is a pretty powerful and comforting tool, and sometimes simply all that’s needed.

“You’re way too positive to have a burnout”

This was probably meant as a compliment, but if I tell you it was being said by a (external) company doctor, you realize it’s a pretty weird thing to say to somebody who’s sitting in front of you overwhelmed and broken. And also: so only negative people can have a burnout? Complete horsecr*p. For me, my enthusiasm and positive work ethic are part of the problem because I was very good at convincing others ánd myself that I loved my oh so important job, that I was totally handling everything and I was completely fine. You know what? I wasn’t. Don’t be fooled by what you see on the outside. And you’d think a doctor would know that…

“Are you sure it’s a burnout? It sounds so exaggerated”

Yeah. Ouch. First of all: no, I’m not sure since I’m not a doctor and I don’t know what is going on with me. Second: because I’m not a doctor, I went to see a doctor. And last: that doctor is sure it’s a burnout, so I’ll take that professional’s word for it. To be honest, I get this response. These days we all know somebody, probably even more than just that one person, who has a burnout. So it must be some sort of trending thing, right? Be that as it may, that doesn’t really mean that we’re all just exaggerating.

I read an article not too long ago; it was by two old conservative grey men who were basically pissing on this entire generation for being pussies. Well, you know what? Back in your day, you would have your degree handed to you after showing up for classes occasionally for a few years (completely funded by the government, might I add). Without all the internships, student board positions, experience abroad, volunteering jobs, multiple language skills, stressing about student loans, oh and did I mention all these freaking group assignments, interviews and surveys? And after these guys got their degree they could just wave it around and there would be jobs to pick from. These days, you can have the best grades, and the best resumé, and you’re still lucky if you’re offered a temporary position as a trainee – often even unpaid. But hey, we’re all pussies.  [End of rant].

Burnout

It’s true that more people are being diagnosed with a burnout than ever before, but let’s not forget there’s a reason for that. Most jobs aren’t your typical 9 to 5 anymore. My work phone was with me all the time, and every night I was checking and answering e-mails because I thought it would be more annoying if I didn’t deal with them right away. Every morning, the first thing I’d do after turning off the alarm was grab my phone and check my emails. Even on vacation I was still handling requests because I felt responsible to do so (and also because nobody else was allowed access to my mailbox). But I never complained about it, and I told everyone it was just part of the job and it was perfectly okay. But like I said above, even if somebody seems to be doing fine, there’s no way of knowing what is actually going on inside. I didn’t even know it myself.

“If you really had a burnout, you wouldn’t be here”

I think this is one of the most common misunderstandings about burnout. Yes, burnout basically means a complete and utter exhaustion of ones physical and emotional wellbeing. Most days I would be in bed for hours, sleeping or staring at the ceiling. Feeling defeated and empty. Numb even. I couldn’t even do laundry or empty the dishwasher, or answer the door or the phone. Not to be dramatic, but I was basically a ghost in my own body.

But. But! There were some days where I would feel slightly better, or I made myself pretend to feel slightly better. And for some reason I would always feel guilty on those days. Like you’re not supposed to feel better, like you’re not allowed to feel better. Which was basically what was said to me when I was at a small get together with some friends. “If you really had a burnout, you wouldn’t be here”. I didn’t even know how to respond to that, and I think I just said nothing or mumbled something like “maybe”. But it felt like someone just kicked me in the stomach. Were they right?

My psychologist reassured me that even with a burnout you can still (try to) enjoy your life, and it’s even crucial to do so since at some point you have to get back out in the real world again. So it’s important to dip your toes in so you’ll slowly learn whether you’re ready or not. I remember being at some sort of party at a hotel in January, and where I usually always can get in the mood for some drinking and dancing, I felt completely out of touch. Okay fine, so I wasn’t ready yet. A few weeks later I went on a last minute solo trip to Fuerteventura because I had to get out of the city and thought it would be good for me to be on my own for a few days. It absolutely was. But when I got back I still wasn’t completely ready. And that’s perfectly okay. It’s a process and it will take you as long as it takes you.

Burnout

Ups and Downs

I was diagnosed with a burnout in November, and my initial thought was to get to work with my psychologist and nip this thing in the bud. I would be back to kick ass again shortly. Wrong. So, so wrong. I soon realized the road to recovery is filled with ups and downs and you just can’t follow a check list and get back to work. Well, you could. But I can tell you, the burnout is going to bite you hard in the arse fairly soon. There are clinics where you can check in for 6 weeks and they promise to send you home completely burnout free after that time. Sounds convenient, right? It isn’t. Because the hardest thing is that you have to learn how to function in society without the risk of another burnout. And I don’t believe you can be thrown back into reality after 6 weeks on the inside and are ready to face real life again. It doesn’t work like that. Like I said, it’s all about dipping your toes in, taking baby steps forward – and sometimes back again. Remember little Nemo going out of his anemone for the first time? Yeah, it’s like that.

I think my absolute low point was not long after we learned I was pregnant. Let me clarify by saying that it had NOTHING to do with the fact that I was pregnant, since we were over the moon happy right from the start. But those early weeks (uhm, months) of my pregnancy were pretty rough. It started around week 7 of my pregnancy, during the final days of our trip to California and Hawaii. I was sick all day, everyday. The only thing I could do was lay in bed or on the couch, and I couldn’t even take care of our new puppy (read more here). That feeling of being completely exhausted – both emotionally and physically – came right back and I felt so defeated again. It was probably the combination of my body adjusting to the pregnancy, while still recovering from the burnout. It was during those weeks that I finally was brave enough to admit to myself that I wasn’t happy with my job anymore, and I had to quit. I was relieved but also frustrated because I felt like I failed to win the burnout struggle. Like I somehow hadn’t been good enough at my job because it had led me here. I felt like I was failing my boss and my co-workers, my family, my husband, and most of all: myself. It’s still hard for me to acknowledge that it was also very brave to quit my job, and that quitting something doesn’t necessarily means giving up. Can you tell I’m still trying to convince myself here?

Burnout

So Now What?

To be honest: I don’t know. For now the husband and I have decided that being as healthy and relaxed as I can be during this pregnancy is what’s most important. I feel extremely blessed that I am in the position to take some time off and put this growing baby inside of me first. For the first time in forever I feel more calm and positive than I have ever been. My work with the psychologist ended not that long ago since we both felt that I was ready to be out in the real world again, especially since I’m very aware of what my triggers are. I’ve been focusing on a mindful life and pregnancy, meditating every day, and I try to keep all sorts of negative vibes as far away as possible. I still struggle to turn my mind “OFF” but it helps that I’m aware of how sensitive my mind is to all sorts of random things and I try to use it more and more to focus on the beauty and good things out there.

Burnout

I don’t know what I’ll be doing a year from now. Maybe I’m working as a freelance writer, while also dedicating more time to my own blog. Maybe I’m working at a travel agency. Maybe I’ve taken the plunge as an entrepreneur in the sustainability business. Maybe I’m working as a web designer. Maybe I’m a personal trainer for new moms (to be). Maybe I’m a volunteer and helping refugees. Maybe it’s a combination of all these things, or none of these things. Or maybe I’m a stay at home mom. And you know what? That’s fine too. For the first time in almost a year I’m actually very excited and positive about the future. That’s all that matters to me right now.

Thank you for sticking with me and this ridiculous long post. I hope it was well worth your time. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my burnout, or you feel like talking to someone about your own struggle.

Burnout

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Moscow: From Russia With Love

The morning we were going on our trip to Moscow my dad texted me saying that the little baby in my belly would now have been to both the US and Russia after this weekend – already a world traveler! And that’s exactly what we plan on doing, even now that we’re expanding our little explorers’ club.

Yes, I know that traveling with kids will be different from adventuring as a couple, and we’re not trying to be naive about it. But we think it’s very important that our kiddos will learn from a young age that our world is a magnificent place, with so many amazing places to see and wonderful people to meet. We can’t wait to show you the world, little one! So yes. In terms of our “babymoon” we now can cross both the USA and Russia off our list. Full disclosure: before the baby is born it has also been to the Azores Islands and Croatia. Yep.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Izmailovsky Market

The Fatherland

As I said in an earlier post, I was very excited to finally set foot on my ancestral country since my grandfather’s father was born in Russia. And although there isn’t a lot we know about our Russian family history (translation between alphabets can be pretty damn difficult), I’ve always been very proud of my Russian name and background. And especially now that I’m about to be a mom, I value my ancestral background even more – both my Russian and my Indonesian roots.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square

In this post I’ll share what I think is the perfect Moscow itinerary for a first trip. We were meeting up with some of the friends we made on our trip to North Korea and luckily one of them is also pretty much a Moscow expert (I think it was his 95th visit!). So instead of spending a lot of time figuring out where to go and where to eat, he was our very own travel guide. Thank you so much for that, Mr Z. And now, you can make use of this knowledge as well! So here we go, from Russia with love ♡.

Здравствуйте Москва!

Hello Moscow! Confession: even though I have Russian roots, I don’t speak the language. Well, I can say a few words and short sentences and kinda know the Cyrillic alphabet. But that’s pretty much it. I might have to restart that Russian language course now that I quit my job… Anyway, even though I think you can manage fine with English, it is definitely helpful if you know some letters of the alphabet so you can make out some words on street and metro signs.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Tram

Speaking of the Moscow metro, please note that the metro stations in Moscow are among the most beautiful ones in the world. So take some time to explore some of them when you’re out and about. Although we did a lot of walking, you can easily try to navigate the city thanks to the extensive metro system. Definitely try to make a stop at the stations of Mayakovskaya, Elektrozavodskaya, Ploshchad Revolyutsii, Prospekt Mira, Komsomolskaya and Kiyevskaya.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Metro

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Metro

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Metro

The Perfect 4 Day Moscow Itinerary

Day 1

5 p.m. Red Square

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, which I think is the perfect time to arrive to a new city. We checked into our amazing value-for-money hotel, the 4* Budapest Hotel, not far from the Kremlin and the Red Square. I highly recommend staying here if you’re planning a trip to Moscow. Since the weather was pretty nice we decided to walk to the Red Square for that first real Russia experience. The sun was setting beautifully over the wonderful buildings surrounding the square.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square

Fun fact: the Red Square wasn’t named after the colors of the bricks, or the blood shed on the square, or the links with communism. The Russian word krasnaya means both “red”, but also “beautiful” in Russian. And it sure is beautiful.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square

And of course, the world famous St. Basil’s Cathedral was an absolute stunner in that soft after sunset light.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square St Basils Cathedral

7 p.m. Borsch and Dumplings

We walked along Tverskaja Oelitsa to the Tverskoy Boulevard where we had dinner in probably Moscow’s best Russian restaurant, Cafe Pushkin. It doesn’t get more Old World Russia than this. It’s simply fantastic. Since the restaurant was fully booked we headed next door to their tearoom for dinner. Yes, that’s right. You can order the entire dinner menu in the tearoom. Which we only knew about thanks to our wonderful friend/guide. I had a big bowl of borsch (which is the only Russian dish I can cook by the way) and a variety of super tasty Russian dumplings. They also do some kind of tasting platter, and the boys seemed to really dig that. Since you’re in an actual Russian tearoom, you simply have to order a dessert. Or two. Yes, I had two desserts. In my defense: the baby made me do it.

10 p.m. Rooftop Cocktails

After dinner we walked it all off by heading over to the Ararat Hotel rooftop bar for some drinks with a wonderful view over central Moscow. They have an amazing selection of cocktails, including some delicious virgin cocktails that made this mommy to be very happy.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Rooftop Ararat Hotel Hyatt

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Rooftop Ararat Hotel Hyatt

Day 2

10 a.m. See Lenin

We decided to skip breakfast at the hotel and we went for a quick to go style breakfast at one of the little cafes near the hotel. Lenin was waiting after all! Well, obviously he’s no longer actually waiting for people to come and see him, but his mausoleum is. Beware that you might have to wait in line and that it’s only open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10-13 o’clock in the morning.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Lenin Mausoleum

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Kremlin Lenin

Before you get to the actual mausoleum, you’ll walk past the outside Kremlin wall where you’ll see the graves of other high Soviet leaders, like the one pictured above (please note the plastic red flowers). And although the practice of maintaining someones dead body for decades and decades to come still is very strange to me, it also was very fascinating for some reason. Especially since we were with the same people we visited the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il mausoleum with in Pyongyang.

12 p.m. Lunch at Mu-Mu

You simply have to try lunch at this cafetaria-style fast food chain that is very popular in Russia. The food is simple yet delicious and it’s mostly traditional Russian dishes. And also: it’s pretty cheap. And you probably know what I like to say ⇒ Good food: good. Cheap good food: better.

1 p.m. Changing of the Guard Ceremony

Every hour you can watch the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin entrance. Only the most promising cadets get to be part of this guard, and it’s always fascinating to watch young men strictly stick to a somewhat ridiculous choreography, and afterwards stand still for a whole hour.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Kremlin Changing Guards

2 p.m. Visit the Kremlin

First things first: Kremlin actually means fortress. Makes sense once you walk along the massive wall towards the entrance.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Kremlin

If you have more than 4 days in Moscow, I would suggest you plan at least a full or half day at the Kremlin to take in all the gorgeous cathedrals and museums. But if you’re shorter on time and you want to make the most out of your first acquaintance with Moscow, like us, you can perfectly fit in a quick scan of the Kremlin.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Kremlin

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Kremlin

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Kremlin

We decided to skip the museums and head straight to the many cathedrals, where I could easily picture young future tsars play hide and seek once upon a time. Did I mention I used to think (well, hope) that I was a descendant of Anastasia, the lost Russian princess? 

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Kremlin Cathedral

4 p.m. Gorky Park and River Cruise

In the afternoon you can make your way to Gorky Park for some leisurely stroll, if the weather is on your side.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Gorky Park

You should definitely do a boat cruise on the Moskva river. You can either go for a 90 minute or a 2,5 hour cruise and I recommend the longer one since you get to sit your butt down for a while after all that walking around.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend River Cruise

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend River Cruise

The Flotilla cruises dock at the Gorky Park Pier and you can sit either inside or outside, depending on the weather. The food is good and the views along the river are wonderful, especially when you cruise along the Red Square and the Kremlin.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend River Cruise

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend River Cruise

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend River Cruise

8 p.m. North Korean Dinner

You may or may not want to skip this part of the itinerary and go for a nice meal in one of Moscow’s many restaurants, but since the whole reason we all flew out to Moscow was to have a meal in a North Korean restaurant, I decided to add it here as well. Ever since our trip to North Korea in 2013 we have been having Korean BBQ reunions in wonderful Korean restaurants in Amsterdam and London, but a proper North Korean restaurant is pretty hard to find in (Western) Europe. Luckily, there is one operating near the embassy in Moscow, so we had to go there obviously. Yes. We are all crazy enough to fly out for a meal. Sorry not sorry.

After our dinner we walked over to the sincerely cool 42.5m high Yuri Gagarin statue. For those of you who don’t have a little brother that used to be obsessed with this dude (they share the same name): this fine gentleman was the first person to travel to space. Especially at night, Gagarin looks like he’s actually on his way back to space.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Yuri Gagarin Statue

12 a.m. The Lucky Noodle

Okay, since I’m on team #preggolife, going clubbing after a full day of exploring was a bit too much for my tired feet, but the guys told me this is a very cool place if you want to experience some Moscow nightlife. The underground Mendeleev bar – yes, that’s right – is hidden behind a super tiny Chinese fast food restaurant called The Lucky Noodle (conveniently located across the Budapest Hotel).

Day 3

10 a.m. Champagne Breakfast

No worries, this mommy to be skipped the unlimited champagne of the amazing breakfast buffet at the Hotel Metropol, but nonetheless this was an exceptional way to start another day of roaming around Moscow. It’s in a super fancy dining hall, complete with a glass ceiling, golden cherubs, and a shiny fountain. Oh, and I should mention the live harp music. How’s that for a Sunday morning?

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Metropol Hotel

12 p.m. Izmailovsky Market

After stuffing your face it is time for some retail therapy. Well, I suggest you skip the ridiculously expensive stores in downtown Moscow and take a metro out to Izmailovsky Market.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Izmailovsky Market

Here you can find some proper (Soviet) Russian goods, both authentic and tourist souvenirs. Don’t forget to climb up the stairs of the wooden structure to find the actual flea market, where golden oldies are selling some amazing stuff from way back when.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Izmailovsky Market

And I also suggest you wander around the buildings because it was originally built as a wedding complex, and the design was inspired by Russian fairytales. Oh, and if you feel like you can eat again: have some shashlik. Just follow your nose (and the smoke)!

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Izmailovsky Market

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Izmailovsky Market

2 p.m. VDNKh

This might have been the highlight of our trip for me. Originally planned as an Agricultural Exhibition in the 1930s, it was actually opened in the 1950s as the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy (VDNKh). Apparently, the territory of VDNKh is greater than that of Monaco and it has around 400 buildings. What?!

Moscow Russia Travel VDNKh

Moscow Russia Travel VDNKh

So yes: it is huge. In hindsight, that bike rental shop at the entrance should have been a clue. There are pavilions dedicated to various industries and to different countries and/or regions within the Soviet Union.

Moscow Russia Travel VDNKh

You could easily spend days here, but walking around for a few hours will also give you a great idea of what VDNKh is all about. Just make sure you see the Vostok Rocket, and check out some of the pavilions.

Moscow Russia Travel VDNKh Vostok Rocket

Moscow Russia Travel VDNKh Vostok Rocket

And also, on your walk from the metro to the VDNKh grounds you will pass the impressive Space Monument. It is not to be missed, but then again, you probably won’t miss it because it is massive.

Moscow Russia Travel VDNKh Space Monument

5 p.m. Ducks and Noodles

Our friend/guide organized a nice little get together with some of his Russian friends at a fantastic Shanghai style restaurant called Mandarin, Ducks and Noodles. Besides the lovely atmosphere and really amazing food, it was very nice to meet some Moscow locals and discuss everything from traveling the world to world politics.

8 p.m. Sunset Cocktails

We went back to the rooftop of the Ararat Hotel for some sunset cocktails and an outstanding view over Moscow. You could also opt for the rooftop bar at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel if you feel like a different view.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Rooftop Ararat Hotel Hyatt

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Rooftop Ararat Hotel Hyatt

Day 4

10 a.m. Russian Breakfast

On our final day we went big for breakfast yet again, so we went back to Cafe Pushkin and this time we were able to sit in the main restaurant. If you want a traditional Russian breakfast go for the syrniks and some rye pancakes with salmon. I decided on a fantastic fluffy porridge, and fried quail eggs with brie and tomatoes (YUM!). They also do amazing fresh juices from Mr. Apothecary if you feel like upping your vitamin intake a bit.

12 p.m. Shopping at Gum

Since it was raining we decided to head back to the Red Square for a last look at the beautiful buildings and some browsing at the famous Gum (ГУМ) shopping mall. You can find a Gum in many former Soviet cities (we saw one in Minsk, Belarus for example) but this is definitely the most beautiful one.

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Gum

I suggest you don’t do any actual shopping here, but you can marvel at the gorgeous ceiling of the arcade and buy a delicious pre-scooped ice-cream at one of the kiosks. Eating ice-cream on the Red Square on a cold and rainy day seems like a pretty good end to our jam-packed 72 hours in Moscow!

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Gum

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square Gum

Final Thoughts

When people ask me how our Moscow trip was, the first thing that comes to mind is that it is so much more beautiful than I’d expected. I always thought St. Petersburg was the pretty one and Moscow just was the more modern one (read: boring, big, ugly, concrete buildings). WRONG. So incredibly wrong. Moscow has a lot of beautiful historical buildings, some in that distinctive red color, others in soft pastel shades. LOVE!

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square

Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Red Square

I also liked the vibe in the city, and it’s so easy to navigate thanks to the very efficient metro system. For me Moscow was the perfect 4 day babymoon (probably because we did a lot of eating…). That said, because of the “hassle” (read: costs) of getting a Russian visa, I would suggest doing a combo trip of both Moscow and St. Petersburg and spend 4 days or so in each city. That way you get to experience both and according to the husband, who has visited our friends in St. Petersburg a few times, both cities are very much worth a visit so you should’t have to pick just one.

What are your plans for the summer? We are off on our island-hopping trip to the often overlooked Azores Islands. Stay tuned for updates on that adventure!

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Moscow Russia Travel Weekend Itinerary

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