Road trip from London to Scotland (London, Days 1-5)

Parked by the edge of a beautiful loch, we were all set for our barbecue in the Scottish Highlands. The warm scent of the strongly burning charcoal, pretty rolling hills and the rhythmic sound of flowing water resonant from a stream below; it was perfect. It was freezing but it did not matter an iota for we were wrapped in happiness thick. An unshakable reverie, a priceless moment, a memory that we would cherish for the rest of our lives.

Our summer holiday was here and we had just landed at Heathrow. Once the airplane docked, the indefatigable duo-our kids charged through gates. My wife and I were exhausted and we wanted to get to our hotel and crash, but our little masters had other plans. Never has there been a truer equation than the inverse proportionality of your child’s excitement level to your fatigue; perils of the job I guess. But it’s a job you’d love to hate.

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The arrival:)

Day 1

The day’s priority was to grease the engines of our little rascals and with that in mind, we made our way to the Dino exhibits at Natural History Museum. There was a butterfly exhibit right outside the spectacular museum building and we visited it first. The butterflies spontaneously come and sit on you, its beautiful

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The butterfly

Soon, the amusement levels had significantly dropped and we had to rush to the T-REX exhibit at the museum to calm things down, now that’s an irony at its best! We explored the many exhibits at the museum. Blending informational content to pique your child’s interest while on a family vacation is always a winner.

The T-rex

It was lunchtime by the time we were done and after exiting the museum, we made our way to the restaurants at the nearby Queen’s gate gardens. After lunch, we took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. It had started to rain but that was not going to dampen out spirits, we bought some rain gear from one of the kiosks, grabbed a cappuccino and we were off to the freaky Ripley’s believe it or not.

After Ripley’s we walked down to the lively Leicester square.We spent the rest of the evening there, the square with is eclectic character and spirit is our personal favourite in all of London. The sun sets really late in this part of the world giving us a lot of time at the square. The kids loved running through the fountains.

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Leicester square

Day 2

It was overcast today, the accuweather app however suggested that no showers were predicted for the rest of the day. London weather is really unpredictable, but the app does give you a pointer and we were on our way to the London eye. We took a tube to Waterloo underground station and at a 10 minute walk from the station, sits the London eye. We had bought skip the queue tickets from its official page and this saved us a lot of time. There are promotions if you buy from their official page and also great deals at Groupon.com. The views of the city, the Shard, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and the Tower Bridge are simply breathtaking!

After visiting the London eye we grabbed a quick bite at the Waterloo station and made our way to Oxford Street. The first stop at Oxford Street was at the Disney store – no surprises there. We strolled through the bustling Oxford Street and were there for the remainder of the evening. At a stone’s throw from Oxford street, is the vibrant borough of Soho. Its electric demeanour offers round the clock entertainment and a cluster of restaurants offer the most diverse and authentic cuisines. We treated ourselves to the best dimsums in town.  Soho also houses the best Michelin star restaurants in all of London.

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mandatory stop at the Disney store

Day 3

Today, we were on our way to the Diana Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground. Took the tube to Queensway station and at the corner of the Kensington gardens is a kid’s paradise. This playground for kids was built to commemorate the late Princess. A huge pirate ship, surrounded with beach sand sits in the centre of the playground with lush green trees all around. Looks like it jumped right out of a Peter Pan’s tale.

After the gardens, we went to Oxford Street and dined at Wahaca, a super Mexican restaurant. Aping his parents, our older one was ecstatic to have his first babycino, as the younger one intently watched him; runs in the family I guess. We walked to the Trafalgar square and spent the evening there.

In the evening we took the tube from Trafalgar to chalk farm and visited Primrose hill. There is an easily climbable hill at the Primrose park and the views of the city from the hill are spectacular. It is a very quaint and peaceful place to view sunsets and is extremely popular with the locals. Late evening, we went to the nearby Camden town. Camden has a thriving nightlife, dozens of pubs, jazz cafes, live music and tons of restaurants.

Day 4

Today was a leisurely family day at Camden town. By the famed Camden locks, is the Camden market that dons many shopping kiosks, cafes, live music, tons of multi-cuisine over the counter restaurants. There are boat trips at the canals there as well with one of stops being the Lords cricket ground.

In the evening, we visited the M&M’s, Nickelodeon and the Lego stores store at Leicester Square. The lego store here is immensely popular and people queing up to enter . As parents, one of the most daunting tasks is to make your child agree to wait in a line to enter a toy store. We loved the way the folks from the store worked this out and kept the little ones entertained. They did these  gigs with toy Lego phones. A make believe phone call to the grandparents back home from the lego phone models did the trick and suddenly the children were ok to wait for their turn to get in the store.

Day 5

It was a bright sunny day today, perfect for the hop-on hop-off bus tour. We took the tube to Trafalgar Square and took the hop on hop off bus to the tower bridge. We visited the top tier of the bridge with the glass bottoms. It was kind of freaky at first but the kids really loved it. Our tour included a visit to the exhibits showcasing mechanics of bascule and suspension bridges, pretty fascinating and extremely informative for the kids. Spent some time at the park adjoining the tower bridge and walked across the bridge to take a ferry ride. A part of the hop-on bus package, it is an enjoyable short ferry service on the Thames. It connects St.Katharine Pier to the London Bridge tower pier and provides magnificent views of the city.

After disembarking we continued our journey on the bus through the boroughs. It covers almost everything and it was a great way to see the city. We got of at Trafalgar Square and walked to Leicester square for our last evening there.

Our trip continues, please visit our next blog: Kingdom Come! Road trip from London to Scotland (Legoland and the Lake District, Days 6-8)

Through Italy – Pisa, Cinque Terre, Milan (Days 12 to 15)

Day 12

After checking out of our hotel in Florence and we were on our way to Pisa. We decided to take a minor detour and checkout “the mall” about half hour from Florence. The outlet mall has some genuine deals and it is highly recommended for those in need of some retail therapy. So, after an hour at the mall, we commenced our drive to Pisa. After driving for an hour and a half, we arrived at the leaning tower. There is a lot of noise on the “tilt” of the leaning tower but when you are actually seeing it, it simply transcends all logic. The square and the gardens where it is located are also very pretty. We spent a couple of hours marvelling the engineering masterpiece, while the kids played in the gardens. We then resumed our journey to Italian Riviera. Grabbed dinner en route to La Spezia and checked in to a hotel close to the central station there.

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Leaning Tower

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Boys@Pisa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 13

Next morning we visited the Cinque Terre (meaning 5 seaside villages in Italian and a word heritage site). From La Spezia we took a train to the first village of Riomaggiorie; the weather was a little wet but it was clearing out fast. We then took a ferry to the beautiful Vernazza, the crowed jewel of the 5 villages. It is strikingly picturesque. No surprises, it is so popular. The wife had discovered a great seafood restaurant. The red lobster with spaghetti and a perfectly paired wine was delicious. We wanted to try out an easy trail but as it turns out they were all shut due to the weather conditions. The sun, however, was out now. We took a ferry to another village called Monterosso, it boasts of the best beach of the 5. The boys had a great time at the beach with their snorkels and sand castles while we grabbed a drink. After spending some time at the beach, we took the train back to La Spezia, took our car and were on our way to Milan. The drive to Milan from the Italian Riviera was surprisingly beautiful. Tall skyscrapers greeted us as we entered Milan, we felt that we were on a glide path from the surreal to just another big city. Checked in and returned our car to the rental

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@Vernazza

 

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Cinque Terre

 

 

 

 

 

 

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@ Monterosso

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Gelato

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 14

After a late breakfast, we went to check out Milan. Started with visiting the Duomo and the really upscale Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the world’s oldest and prettiest shopping malls. Milan and fashion are synonyms and the Milanese are really well dressed. If you want to see fashion personified you need to visit Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. We walked to the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, this street, a shopper’s paradise, runs from the Piazza Venezia to Vittorio Emanuele I. We went to the Disney store to pick up something for the boys and leisurely strolled through, grabbing  some gelato slush and coffee.

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Duomo, Milan

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Duomo under lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Piazza

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Adrenaline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 15

The last day of our trip was here. With nothing on our list on this relaxed day, we headed to the Duomo again. It was a sunny day and the large Gothic monument looked marvelous. They were getting the grounds ready for a music concert. We headed to the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the aroma of fresh coffee from the many cafes there lingered in the air. We stopped at a fantastic café for some coffee and desert while the boys played at the small square adjacent to the cafe. Today was also all about family time for us. The last two days of our trip were planned for pure family time, nothing else was on our list whatsoever. We had dinner at one of the terrace restaurants overlooking the Duomo and got some gelato from CioccolatItaliani. After dinner, we took a tram to the central station and walked to our hotel.

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Birds

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Best cafe in Milan

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Fun times

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our trip!

So like all good things, our fast paced holiday across Italy come to an end as well. This trip was perhaps the fastest family holiday we have ever had;  and just so many memories. I can just go on and on with the stories. So, while we wait for that time of the year to arrive again for us and our next holiday together,  this trip of ours will always remain with us.

Through Italy – Orvieto, Val d’Orcia, Florence (Days 9 to 11)

Day 9

Orvieto is a walled town that sits on a flat summit of a volcanic rock between Rome and Florence. We parked our car at the car park below and took a string of escalators to reach the town. Once we reached the town, I could see why it was described as one of the most dramatic sites in Italy. We made our way through the beautiful alleys, ceramic shops and olive wood furniture studios. The town has a beautiful Duomo and good restaurants and coffee shops. After our lunch there, we strolled across the town and came to the walled area, which provide a breathtaking view of the Umbria region.

 

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@ Orvieto

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Orvieto

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Wall @ Orvieto

 

Took an Elevator to the car park and we hit the road to Florence through the beautiful Tuscan landscapes of Val d’ Orcia. The drive is bafflingly beautiful. There was some rain on the way but in no way it could play a killjoy. I took the beautiful regional routes of Val d’Orcia as against the freeway. We stopped in the post card perfect Montepulciano – a small medieval town that my wife was so impressed with (not to mention this town was feature in one of those Twilight movies) that she went running through the towns clicking pictures while I guarded the car as the two had slept. We continued on our road trip passing Pienza and San quirico. We stopped for dinner at an incredible restaurant and a winery. En route to our hotel in Florence, we got a glimpse of a flood lit Florence from the magnificient Piazzalae Micheangelo

 

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Val d’Orcia

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The square @ Montepulciano

Day 10

It started to pour, so, we decided to visit the Galleria Dell’Academia to see one of Micheangelo’s most revered works. When we reached the museum, we were confronted by long que for the tickets, since this was a “spur of the moment” kind of a thing, we were unprepared. The guard there, however, decided to take us in first and we were in the gallery in no time. David, the famed jewel of Florence, really speaks of the genius of Michelangelo. After visiting the David, we exited the gallery. It had stopped pouring and there was only a light drizzle now, we decided to visit the Duomo and walk the streets of the town.

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Rains

 

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Duomo @ Forence

 

On our way, we came across, an electric cycle rickshaw tour of the city. The kids really wanted to go and considering the weather, it seemed like a good idea. Our guide knew Florence like the back of his hand and he was really funny. He took us to all the sights and treated us to the best coffee there. After our tour, we went to the Ponte Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria. Had dinner near the square and headed to Piazzalae Micheangelo to bring my younger son’s birthday in. It was really brisk but we had a great time and what’s better than bringing in your 3rd birthday with an ice cream in your hand over looking Florence; a priceless memory.

 

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Our ride

 

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Celebrations!

Day 11

Rains again! This time around, we quickly hit the road to Castello di Verrazzano , one of the fine wineries in the Chinati wine region near Florence. After visiting the winery, we returned to Florence and took the kids to a carousel at the republic square. After that, we leisurely rounded up on all of our favourite sights, stopped for a gelato Venchi and ended our day with a birthday dinner at a café at Signoria. This was our last night in Florence.

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Fun times

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Happy B’day

Through Italy – Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri (Days 5 to 8)

Day 5

This day marks the start of our cross-country expedition, well, sort of. In the morning, after check ing out from our hotel, we went to Termini station to pick up our rental. After an hour, we got our car and we were on our way to Sorrento. Having heard some horror stories of driving on the south Italian freeways, I must admit, the drive was quite peaceful. After Naples the road narrows and the traffic increases but it’s not too bad. We made it to Sorrento in good time, despite many pit stops we took on the way. Our hotel in Sorrento was in a very pretty setting,  facing a cliff on one side and the town on the other. We parked our car at the hotel and walked to the main square. Sorrento is located on a cliff overlooking the gulf of Naples. It has fabulous restaurants, best limoncello and crème brulee ever, great local and upscale shopping and great views. After dinner we went for a short drive through zig zag cobblestone streets downhill and reached the harbour.

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@Sorrento

Day 6

Today, we were going to drive from Sorrento to the town of Amalfi trough the famed Amalfi coast. This drive is not for the faint-hearted as the terrain is quite difficult to navigate. But, it is surreal. Every corner we stopped had incredible views of the coast. We passed through the town of Positano, the coast’s most picturesque and photogenic town. We then made our way to the town of Amalfi, a little graceful town with a beautiful central square. After lunch at Amalfi, we were headed visit Ravello but our love for Sorrento made us change our plans. We wanted more of Sorrento since it was our last night there.

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@Positano

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Sorrento

Day 7

After checking out from our hotel, we parked our car at a car park and boarded a ferry to the island of Capri. We were going to spend a night there. Our hotel room in Capri was really impressive with the balcony overlooking the blue waters of gulf. We left out luggage and took a funicular to the town of Capri from the harbour.

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Capri furnicular

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Capri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The luxury boutiques, patisseries, the many gelataria  all add to the plush character of this place. It is highly recommend to spent at least two nights in Capri, if you don’t mind the tramp-in-a-palace feeling. It is pretty expensive, but it is gorgeous. It has immediately gone in our journal of repeat destinations. After going around the town, we decided to take the bus to Ana Capri. Smaller and laid back compared to its more flamboyant sibling, it is no less glamorous. While walking the streets, we came across a beautiful play area where the boys had a blast. I went to a coffee shop across and grabbed some coffee for the two of us.

 

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@ Ana Capri

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@ Faro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then visited the Capri town. It was nighttime and all the crowds had left. The island had now transformed in a very romantic location with flood lit streets and live music playing. We grabbed our dinner at a restaurant at the Piazzetta and took the bus back to our hotel.

 

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Capri by night

Day 8

The day started early for us and we took a boat tour of the island. The sea was really choppy and I was happy and relieved that we had we opted for a skipper. On reaching the blue grotto, we learnt that due to the sea conditions it was closed. But our skipper was really good, he took us to many grottos, beaches, caves and arches. The views of the Faraglioni rocks from the sea are really something. We took a quick dip in Capri’s unfathomably blue sea. After our boat ride, we hit the beach to snorkel and he took us to the beach. We spent some there while the boys went snorkelling. After the beach, we went to our hotel for a quick shower, picked up our bag and then took the ferry back to Sorrento. We picked up our car from the car park, took the luggage from our hotel in Sorrento and hit the road. We were headed for Orvieto in the southwestern Umbria region of Italy. It was quite a peaceful drive. The sun sets is pretty late in this region making the days longer, this works well for me as I prefer to drive during the daytime. It was just about night when we reached our hotel.

 

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Sailing through a cave

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The Faraglioni rocks

 

 

 

 

 

 

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@ Capri beach

Through Italy – Rome (Days 1 to 4)

Day 1

What makes for an ideal family holiday? I’d say road trips, jumping into the sea with the kids, getting local ingredients and twirling up a storm in the kitchen, discovering common interests and of course, the bonding time; these are memories that last for a lifetime. So, it was that time of the year again for us and we were as excited as kids in a candy store. Our flight was on its descent and the outside was visible now. In an ecstatic cheer my son said “guys look” and when I peeked from my window, I was awestruck by  the architectural grandeur and the symmetrical perfection of the city below. No surprises we were landing in Rome. Our excitement levels had quadrupled from the time we made our way through the aero bridge to the cab. Fatigue, hunger all disappeared and all we wanted now was to know more about Rome than Augustus himself. Our cabby tried to answer all our questions initially, juggling through the accents, but soon his English disappeared.

 

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@ Dubai Airport

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@ Rome Airport

 

After a quick pit stop at our apartment near the Termini station, we spent our evening in Piazza Navona. Our kids running tirelessly around the square with renewed enthusiasm at the end of each lap. It is one of the biggest miracles of nature, the energy these little beings of light have. We had our dinner at one of the many restaurants at the square. After dinner, we did some gelato at the Pantheon, explored the city by foot for a while and called it a day.

 

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@ Piazza Navona

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@ Pantheon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Rome

We visited the Vatican Museums today. I had reserved “skip the lines” ticket from the official website. You can skip the long lines and arrive at the designated time printed on the ticket. Since we arrived early, we went across the street and grabbed one of the most expensive below par pizzas ever. After our “so called” lunch, we entered the museum. My kids were really intrigued by the spiral staircase at the entrance but as soon as we hit the first exhibit, the interest died out and my younger one was off to sleep. Good thing we had a pram. We had to carry through the stairs in the museum at times but that it wasn’t a big deal. The museum is beautifully adorned in exquisite artwork and the Sistine Chapel is magnificent. The kids decided for us to visit St. Peter’s in the coming days as it was getting a bit too much for the kids. So, we grabbed some gelato en route to Piazza Venezia and walked to our favourite spot in Rome, the Trevi fountain. It was evening by the time we reached the fountain. Kids flipped coins, we got some pictures; it was perfect. We waited till the lights at the fountain were lit and then…magic!

 

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@ the walls, the Vatican

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@the staircase, Vatican museums

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Boys@Trevi

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The Trevi Fountain

After Trevi, we visited the Piazza Di Spagna to see the Spanish Steps. Some restoration work was in progress at the steps, so, we grabbed some dinner, gelato and called it a day

Day 3

We bought a 2 day ticket for the open top bus and took our little gladiators to the Colosseum. I had reserved skip the lines tickets from their official page. The architectural brilliance of this colossal arena is unparalleled, sad history though. Spent sometime inside the arena, showed the kids around, shared a little history and went to the adjacent gardens. The children transformed the garden in the busiest pretend airport in the history of Rome. After their pretend planes were finally parked, we went across the street for some pizza. It’s an amazing feeling to have lunch across the street from the colosseum. After lunch, we went shopping for toys at a shop called the little big world near Piazza Venezia. Now that the kids were happy, we headed for the Trevi fountain with a quick stop at the Pantheon. After Trevi, we were Piazza Di Spagna bound but our hunt for the Spanish steps actually transpired in one of the best memories we have of Rome. We were walking the streets of Rome at night, our elder one was siting on my wife’s shoulders, and my younger one was in the pram. Walking besides each other and sharing a laugh, this was perhaps the best memory of Rome for my wife and I. We got to a beautiful little square with an adjacent restaurant. Considering the crowds waiting for a seat, one could say it was very popular with the locals. A guy was singing Italian opera songs, could not understand a word, but he was entertaining and also he was doing these funny little jigs that kept the kids entertained.

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Outside colosseum

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Inside the arena

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Day 4

This was more of an off day for us. We grabbed some pizza from a restaurant near our hotel and decided to go to St.Peter’s. It is stunning from the outside and the interior is magnificent. After visiting the Church we went about walking from Via del triton to Via del corso and spent the day visiting all our favourite spots one last time.

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St. Peter’s Bascilica

The Lion – Days 11 to 15

 
 
Day 11 – Pilanesberg: The day began really early for us. We returned our car to a rental at the airport and took our flight to Johannesberg.  We took another rental vehicle from Jo’berg Airport and headed straight to Pilanesberg Nature Reserve to see a Lion. We had booked a lodge for 2 nights. After reaching to our lodge, we headed straight for an evening game drive in the park.
Our lodge was located right at the edge of the park with electric fences preventing the wild animals from getting through to the lodge from the park. You could see wild animals frequenting a watering hole from the restaurant at any time of the day
Day 12 – Pilanesberg: After breakfast, we took our car and went driving in the park; our very own game drive. An experience like no other and a definite must do. You can take a map at the gate to the park and take it from there, its pretty easy. They also have a central information point, where you can stop for snacks, at your own risk. They also have these kiosks there with screens that flash the locations of the lion sightings and are updated often. We stocked up on our food reserves and went driving through the park eager to find a lion. The day had passed and we had seen everything except a lion.
Info point at the Park
Day 13 – Pilanesberg/ Sun City: Our day started early and while I was going to get the car from the parking lot, I saw a huge African Elephant, at a distance of around 5 feet, just beyond the electric fence. This was the closest I had ever been to an Elephant of this size. We hit the park again, determined to find a lion. After driving for a couple of hours in the park and not a trace of a lion, we decided to head for the exit as we were already running past the check-in time of our Suncity hotel. On our way, we saw a naturalist on his radio, so I jokingly inquired if there were any lions in the park. He smiled and asked us to go to a location. As it was enroute to an exit gate, we decided to go there but couldn’t find anything there either, our futile quest prevailed. Suddenly, out of nowehere, a lioness passed by; we awestruck. Following her, were four cubs and a male lion. Ours was the first car to discover the lions and we had exclusive viewing for a long time. We marveled at these magnificient creatures. Now, the word was out and suddenly all safari/ ranger jeeps converged and the big cameras were out. But we had our share and were very happy. We drove to the adjoining Suncity, checkedin and hit the wave pool; water fun for entire afternoon, while the boys out the water slides. In the evening, we visited a hotel with an entertainment play zone. Sun City is a kid’s paradise.

Day 14 – Sun City – Today we went hotel hopping and exploring the area. We went to a great zoo in one of the hotels, played some treasure hunt games, did some atv racing, took train rides all in all it was great family day for us. In the evening, we went to a great Italian restaurant in one of the hotels.

@ Sun City
@ Sun City
Day 15 – Sun City: We hit the wave pool early in the morning. There are some extremely scary water slides for adults there. It is called the temple of fear. Oh man!! Well this was the last day of our vacation so post lunch we just went for leisurely stroll through the hotel and around 4ish headed to Jo’berg. We were going to stay overnight at a hotel close to the airport and take a morning flight back home.
@ Wavepool
@ Sun City

All in all, it’s a beautiful country and a great family destination. It has so much to offer from beautiful towns, exquisite wine n cheese, great mountains, pristine beaches and scenic drives. Not to mention the big 4 and the water slides. Another super family vacation….Pure Magic!

The Capes – Days 6 to 10

Day 6 – Wine region: This day marks the start of our roadtrip from the western to the eastern cape. We headed for the wine region of Franschhoek from Capetown. As you exit Capetown the beautiful wine region starts. There is a wine tram in Franschhoek that takes you through the wineries, however, since we reached there post 1:30 pm it was closed for the day. We headed to a wine cellar for lunch.
After lunch we hit the road and took the ‘Regional – R” route through Villeirsdorp, Robertson, Swellendham, Wilderness. My wife found a small restaurant called buzz bar in Robertson. It was a really nice find– really good pizza and wine. There were swings and a small play area also there so the kids had a great time too.

After dinner we headed to Wilderness. We had booked this great B&B in Wilderness and while it was pretty late by the time we reached there, our host was very hospitable and he was waiting for us when we arrived.

Franschhoek
Day 7 – Garden Route: Drove though the garden route, saw the Addo elephant park.  It’s great for the kids as you get really close to the elephants. On our way back we stopped at Knysna and went for a lagoon cruise. Grabbed dinner at the Knysna Quays.
Addo Elephant Park
Day 8 – Swatberg pass/ Outdshoorn: Today, we headed for the Swatberbg pass. The gravel road runs from east to the west of the Swatberg mountain range and takes to the peak and then drops. We saw two mountain deer pop up from nowhere while we were at the peak and a hawk take flight through the mountains, unbelievable. Driving the pass is out of this world but its not for the faint hearted. We headed to Outdshoorn and visited one of the Little Karoo Ostrich farms, kids really enjoyed the Ostrich riding. Had our dinner in Mossel bay.
The pass
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The pretty country
Day 9 – Garden Route: Today was more a less a free day for us. Explored the area, there are great beaches around. It was our last night in Wilderness
Day 10 – Storms River Mouth: After breakfast we headed for Port Elizabeth; we were going to stop for a night there and take an early morning flight to Johannesberg. On way to Port Elizabeth, we stopped at Storms River Mouth at the Tsitsikamma National Park. The route becomes very colorful with pretty flower on either side as you approach the park . We were going to stop there only for lunch, but we ended up spending almost the day there. There is just so much to do. It is a great camping site too. After dinner there, we headed to Port Elizabeth.
Wilderness
Storms River Mouth
Tsitsikama Park

Cape Town – Days 1 to 5

As our plane decends, I get the first glimpse of an imposing landform. It is familiar, for it has featured in all the cricket matches our nation has played in this part of the world – it is the Table mountain. Our plane landed at the Cape Town Airport and this time too, as soon as the plane docked, my son rushed out, the only difference being that this time around my younger son was following him. It was evening by the time we got out of the airport and after parking our bags at our hotel we left for the V&A waterfront for dinner. A perfect start to our vacation

Cape Town Airport

 

Day 2 – Cape Town: We were staying at a central location with the hop on hop off bus stop around the corner, great restaurants and good coffee in the vicinity and a car rental a couple of blocks away. We took the three-day hop on hop off bus ticket and headed straight to the table mountain.  Once at the base of the mountain, we took the cable car to the top. Once at the top, the mountain offers you insanely beautiful views of the city at every corner, great trails and a pretty decent coffee shop. You can spend anywhere between a couple of hours to the entire day there if you are doing the trails. After visiting the table mountain, we look our hop on hop to signal hill – the place boasts of beautiful sunsets over the town and it does live up to it. We had dinner at V&A and called it a day.

Cable Car – Table Mountain
At the top – Table Mountain
Signal Hill

 

Day 3 – Cape Town: We visited Hout Bay in the morning. It was a perfect setting, with a group of people playing live music, a bay and mountains. Not to forget the seagulls there were adding to the atmosphere, almost surreal. We had the best fish and chips we have had in a long time.  Kids really enjoyed the seal feeding there. After visiting Hout bay we visited Camps Bay. I think it has the best beach in Cape Town. We stopped there for some coffee and a quick bite. We then went leisurely exploring the place. Later we took our bus to beautiful play area by the sea for the kids in Bantry Bay.

Hout Bay
Our very own photo bomber!
Day 4 – Cape Town: After our lunch at the V&A waterfront, we headed to the two oceans aquarium – a five-minute walk from V&A. Kids loved the exhibitions and went hysterical with the shark feeding there. We then sailed through the canals of the V&A waterfront
2 oceans aquarium
Canals @ V&A

 

Day 5 – Cape Town: My son and I picked our rental car today and after a brief stop at our hotel, we headed to cape point, the most south-westerly tip of Africa. I took the route M16 from Hout Bay. The M16 is a very picturesque highway with a cliff on one side and the ocean on the other

Boys @ the lighthouse, cape point
Cape Point
Cape Point

A family holiday to the Alps, the Lakes, the Canals and the Rambala – Days 11 to 14

We took a cab from the airport to our hotel. Our hotel was about a 10 minute walk from Las Rambalas. We checked in our room, left our luggage there and hit the streets. We stopped for some coffee close to our hotel, spent sometime at the university square. It was dinner-time now and across the street from our hotel was a restaurant which was highly recommended and it did live up to its reputation. The seafood paella and the patata bravas were exceptional. The ambience was simple but the atmosphere was vibrant. The Spanish are a lively lot and Barcelona is one of most kid friendly cities in the world.

Day 12: We visited Park Guell. Sitting on top of a hill, you get great views of the amazing city. It is very colorful. The house that Gaudi lived in actually looks like it is out of a fairy tale. We had an option between the Gaudi park and Tibidabo amusement park but we opted for the Gaudi park as our kid was too small for the amusement park. We spent almost half a day there and returned to the lively Rambalas in the evening. The next day we took the double decker hop on hop off sightseeing bus. Its very convenient as it takes you all around the city and you can choose your pace. We went to Sagrada Familia.The highlight of the day was visiting “Mes Que Un Club”. I bought a miniature stadium souvenir and my boy got a small football signed by all the players. They have a small museum there as well. We went to the magic fountains of Montjuic, amazing

 

 

Day 13: We went exploring the city, there is great mall at the waters. It was a family day for us, we had ice cream and went on a carousel and played games.

 

 

We took a rickshaw to get back to the rambalas in the evening. Its quite amazing how the street transforms at night into a vibrant and lively party district. My son had turned in quite a social animal by now, interacting with almost everybody at the Rambalas. We stopped to get a cold beer for me and you should have seen him.

 

 

Day 14: So it arrives then, the last day of our holiday. It was 9 am in the morning and our flight was late at night. We took a cab to a car rental close to the airport. We had a reserved a convertible for a day. My son was tightly strapped in a car seat in the back. We wanted to drive the Costa Brava and be back for our flight. We went to a small little beach town called Blaine. It was summertime, so the beach didn’t have a spot left. It was a lovely sight. We took a quick pit stop and were on our way, the idea was to find some nice spots along the coast and stop there, but before we knew it we were close to the French Border and at a town called Roses. We had our lunch there, spent some time, sharing a laugh or two, admiring the beautiful sights while my son could get the wheel of our parked vehicle. It was evening already and we had to make our way back now. So we started our journey. By the time we reached to our rental to return the car, it was already shut. We tried calling the helpline but no one would answer and I am not too sure if there was a drop box. The situation was managed well by my wife, she had an idea to leave the car at a nearby hotel and leave the key at the lobby; it all ended well but was one hell of an adventure.

 

 

So there it was, from the alps to the lakes to gelato and tiramisu to the ramblas, it was a great family trip, Sunny all the way!

A family holiday to the Alps, the Lakes, the Canals and the Rambala – Days 5 to 11

Onward then, we get off a station in Italy and after finishing off with the passport control we go to a restaurant at the station. We had some pasta, pizza and wine. We still had some time till our train to Como and my son had it all planned. On the way, he had spotted a toy train parked outside the station. I inquired and as it turns out the toy train circles around the town for a 20 minute joyride.  It was fun, we had gelato on the way, enjoyed our ride and we returned to the station in time. We boarded our train to Como. The train cannot be compared to the Bernina Express but was quiet comfy and was on schedule. The train was full of school kids, on their way to a picnic perhaps and they were singing in Italian all the way. We got down at a station before Como and head to the ferry dock, which was about 100 meters from the station. We took a ferry to Bellagio. After doing some online research I had opted to get a hotel in Bellagio, as it was well rated by other travellers. So we arrive at this cute little lake town and head to our hotel. Our hotel was just a couple of minutes walk. When we get close to it, I realised that the hotel can only be accessed through a flight of stairs. My son rushes up the stairs and my wife follows him. So here I am with a pram, two bags, a kiddie trolley bag and a flight of stairs. After considerable workout, going up and down the stairs, on a hot Italian day, we finally get to the reception and check-in. In an hour’s time, we were ready to go and explore the town. After those stairs, I did deserve a cold desert. I ordered for strawberries and cream and my wife ordered for Tiramisu. We are yet to find a place that serves better Tiramisu than the one served at that small restaurant by the waters at Bellagio. My son spotted some ducks at the lake and we went feeding them. We went exploring around the town and then went for dinner and tiramisu as the finale.

 

 

Day 6: We rented a boat and spend the day on the waters of Lake Como just soaking in the views, looking at the surreal villas (Villa Balbianello from Casino Royale, Villa Erba from Ocean’s 13) and watching the sea-planes takeoff and land. It was amazing. My wife and son were petrified at first knowing that we would be sailing by ourselves and I would be at the wheel all the time but they were soon ok with it. We had a map giving locations of all the villas on the lake but midway through our journey it flew off.  So we could identify half the villas on the lake and speculated the rest. After our boat ride, we returned to Bellagio, fed the ducks, had Tiramisu and a cappuccino.

 

Day 7: We wandered through Bellagio, it was strikingly beautiful. Around noon we took a ferry to Como, had lunch there. Como is almost like a big city or at least we felt it that way after Bellagio. Went some kiddie shopping and rented a car. We drove the car from Como to Bellagio. The route for the most part is overlooking the lake. It is quiet difficult to concentrate on the road and not take in the spectacular views. We had dinner at Bellagio, followed by the best Tiramisu in the world.

 

Day 8: After breakfast, we drove down to Venice. Driving in Italy is more like a professional sport but I prefer it for the flexibility it provides. The approach to Venice, the bridge is majestic. We went to the rental to return our car and started walking towards our hotel, which was not far. Also, by Venice standards, the rooms were pretty spacious. Parked our luggage at the hotel and we were off, making our way through the narrow streets of Venice. Through swamps of tourists following the live music playing we got to St. Mark’s, the atmosphere there was electrifying.  We spent the evening listening to live music and just being at the square.

 

Day 9: We went around Venice. No Agenda, just going wherever we like. We visited the Dodges palace. It was very interesting, my son, however, had a ‘slightly’ different view. We had to make up for the torture we had put him through, so, we, got him to a Disney shop. He bought a small Mcqueen trolley bag from there. The red colour bag has become an essential part of his life and features in all our travels. He spent the evening just zooming through tourists with his bag and through the pigeons.

 

In the evening we took a Gondola ride to see Venice by night and it did not disappoint. It was magical, seeing flood lit Venice, as we went through the canals. After our ride, we wanted to go to our hotel. We stopped at the Rialto Bridge en route and clicked some pictures. Grabbed some dinner at a restaurant close to our hotel.

 

 

Day 10: We went to the glass factory, I thought it was quite overrated – let’s leave it at that. The ride to the island, however, was good and my son loved it.  We loved the approach to Venice, to the main square from the waters, a fantastic sight. The day was at our disposal and we went leisurely around Venice

 

Day 11: Our flight to Barcelona was in the afternoon and in morning after breakfast we wanted to go St. Mark’s one last time. As it turns out, it was the hottest day of our trip and we were exhausted by the time we reached St.Mark’s, which was a good 15 minute walk from our hotel. Well we ended up spending a lot of time at St.Mark’s and then suddenly we realised that we were too tired and also late for our flight– so walking again to the hotel was not an option anymore. We wanted to take the public transport ferry. So we headed to the stand and learnt that there was a public transportation strike! The only thing that was available was a Water Limo. It was PLUSH, it has its price tag, but, it was the only option available . The driver let my son take the wheel so that was pretty cool. Also, looking at the onward traffic – “boats” and so many of them was amusing. We got to the hotel in time and rushed to the Airport. On to BARCA!

 

A family holiday to the Alps, the Lakes, the Canals and the Rambala – Days 1 to 5

 

Day 1: My wife, my son and I landed in Zurich and as soon as the plane reached the parking bay and the gates opened, my son ran with his small trolley bag. My son was 1.5 years old now, wow. I remember the time I used to rush out when the plane would land, the excitement, the happiness and now, to see my son live through it is pure magic, its extraordinary. So I ran past my son and my wife and I clicked a picture. That’s how it began, my very own tradition of clicking pictures, while at the airport I have done it since. One look at these pictures and it’s like traveling back in time for me.It has been over 4 years since our trip but once glance at the picture from the airport of my wife and son and I can relive the entire trip. We grabbed our luggage, got a quick bite and got a cab. The best drives are the stretches from the airport to the hotel. Checked in, dead tired and I thought I would just CRASH, but my enthusiastic wife had other plans. In an hour’s time we were at a zoo in Forsterstrasse, looking at a peacock. A ZOO!! What’s going on here!! In hindsight, however, I thought it was the perfect start to our holiday.

All of us really enjoyed it. A great family time, afterall, spending some quality family time was the very soul of our holiday. After our boy allowed us to part from the zoo, we took a tram to Bahnhofstrasse. The Swiss transportation network is very simple, user friendly and at the same time very efficient. Our son had slept on the way so on reaching our stop, we stopped for coffee. My wife and I did this a lot in the coming days. This is by far the best memory I have of Zurich.

Day 2: We went for a cruise on the Limmat. It was mid May but it was brisk. I remember the red hoodie my son wore. He was shivering but had a huge smile on his face.  Well, he never let us get inside the cabin. We were at the gallery all the time, all three of us, shivering in cold, but smiling all the way. Once the cruise was over, we went to Bahnoffstrasse, as the wife wanted to shop. And shopping for her is actually shopping for the child and when she means shopping for the child she means showing me clothes for baby girls. While they are really adorable, for us, they are totally irrelevant since we have 2 boys!!  (we are refereeing most of the rime, trying to avert a tackle)

After “shopping”, we started to walk to the old town, cobbled streets and magnificient structures all around. We were hunting for a place called Schobber’s. They serve the best hot chocolate it seems. And when we finally found it, the shopkeeper was shutting shop for the day. He looked like he was eager to get home after a long day, greets us and rushes past.  We just stood there helpless, but the very next instance he backtracks. He lets us know that they are shut, but he doesn’t want us to leave disappointed so he opens his shop and gets some cold chocolate for us and man it was the best. Day 3: We took a train from Zurich central to the town of Lucerene. The train has a dedicated play zone and my son had a blast. The route to Lucerne is very picturesque. When we arrived, we quickly grabbed a bite at the station itself and just walked across the town. Getting some gelato on the way

 

Day 4: We took a train to St. Moritz. Checked in a small boutique hotel. The aroma of fresh chocolates from the hotel’s small chocolate factory lingered in and around the hotel. We went to a restaurant across the street and had cheese and wine fondue with snow clad mountains of St. Moritz in the backdrop. After lunch, we went exploring through the town. It’s an extremely pretty town. My wife clicked some awesome pictures of my son and I. After spending enough time through the town, we went for dinner. Ordered for a hunter’s platter, which is meat and veggies on a hot stone and only rock salt. I would never in my right mind order for something like this, well we did and as it turns out, it was really good. Highly recommended.

Day 5: We boarded the Bernina Express. This train essentially connects Switzerland with Italy. All the cars in the train were observation cars with large windows for an unrestricted view, we were awestruck by the sheer beauty of the surroundings. You pass through snowclad mountains through tunnels, world heritage sites and finally into the Italian fields.