When planning our trip, I was so engrossed with covering as much with in the time we have allotted for our holiday. I really really regret that. I wished I had spent more time in Amsterdam. There’s just so much to explore!
We didn’t see much of the sites but chubby hubby knew how much I loved Van Gogh so that was one museum we didn’t skip and it was really worth it.
And ofcourse, Madame Tussaud’s.
We didn’t get to go biking and the weather was quite gloomy when we got there. But the old brick buildings and brick-lined streets, the canals, and the beautiful mix of the old and the new made you want to stop and take it slow and just enjoy the moment. It was a nice place to relax and take it easy. The city extruded that vibe.
Chubby Hubby fell sick on our 4th day in Paris and didn’t have the energy to go out. I, however, jumped at the opportunity to go out and see the Louvre which was less than a kilometer away. So with my museum buddy Aria, we headed out for an adventure of our own, without the boys.
It was very fortunate that I read the article about the different scams happening at tourist spots. On our way to the Louvre, a man suddenly kneeled down infront of me and pretended to have found a gold ring and kept insisting that I should take a look. Reading about it in an article on buzzfeed, I immediately said NO and started running away pushing Aria in her stroller. The man kept following me until I started shouting. I guess he was afraid to catch other people’s attention so he finally left us alone. With my adrenaline pumping, we navigated our way to the Louvre in no time.
Aria had the time of her life as I let her loose on the museum’s ground while I admired the beautiful architecture. I was contemplating on buying a skip the line ticket to the museum but decided against it. When I got to the iconic glass pyramid entrance, there was quite a line outside. Thankfully, it moved fast.
So Aria fell asleep exactly after leaving the grand gallery where the Mona Lisa was. I still went on to check out as much as I could while trying to carry her around. Made my way to Napoleon III’s preserved quarters to check out his pad which was located at the Cardinal Richeliu Wing.
I know I didn’t cover the entire thing and I skipped some floors to go and see the paintings and rooms I really wanted to see. Like I said, i’d go for a tour when I come back. And hopefully, my museum buddy won’t be in a stroller anymore.
If you haven’t noticed from all our trip photos, we actually wore the same jackets for 10 days. Our luggage consisted of 1 small suitcase, 1 small duffel bag, a backpack and a small baby bag. When we arrived at the airport, the ground staff were surprised that we only had that much luggage for a family of four. Tres bien, one of the staff said and I think he said it more out of surprise than admiration.
I actually packed 4 sets of clothes for the kids and me and advised Chubby Hubby to do the same. I washed our clothes every night until probably our 6th day. I did not go to the laundromat. Just washed the clothes with my hands in the bathroom sink and hung them near the radiator in the room. Thankfully they got dry the next evening. We didn’t have any radiator in our hotel in Amsterdam, but I am so happy they had their own laundry room downstairs where you can do your laundry.
I didn’t bring any accessories and I wished I didn’t bring any makeup. By the 3rd day, I did not have the energy to do my face.
I have no regrets that we didn’t glam up for this trip. I cannot imagine lugging around big suitcases with two toddlers in tow. I know I’ll have a glamorous holiday someday, maybe when the kids are all working. But right now, this is how we will roll.
I know I am talking too much about this trip and not about anything else. Well, it’s just that I have been living the mundane life of a housewife that our recent trip was the most exciting thing that has happened to me. So I am apologizing for a few months worth of posts about nothing else but that trip (hopefully I find something else to talk about soon).
Anyway, looking back at that amazing (and exhausting 10 days), I do have some things I wished I had done differently. Here are my top 5 lessons learned that I am hoping never to repeat again. Maybe I realized them already when I went on my euro-trip in 2009 but forgot about it since I didn’t get to travel again until 2011. If I did, how I wished I had paid more attention to myself back then.
5. I should’ve bought that item I really really wanted to buy the first time I saw it.
I wanted that book from the museum at George Pompidou but didn’t buy because I thought I’d just come back for it before we leave but I didn’t get the chance to. And that pair of Dr Marten boots I saw on a Saturday that I thought I’d come back for the next day not knowing that Sunday is rest day for most of Paris. So many missed opportunities… We did buy one poster at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, but the Chubby Hubby left it on the train from to Belgium and we couldn’t get it back. Boo freaking Hoo!
4. I wished I joined a tour of the Louvre.
The Louvre is a massive place. There were so many things I wanted to see that I didn’t get to see because it would have taken an entire day. And I know there are things I didn’t get to see that I should’ve gone to see. If I had joined a tour, I could’ve seen the important things and got a comprehensive overview of the entire place in two or three hours. But at least I got to see the Mona Lisa.
3. We could use more family pictures
Yup, I only have that one picture of the four of us at the Eiffel tower. I volunteered to take a picture of a couple at the Eiffel and they in turn took our picture. There was also one on my phone when a passerby volunteered to take a picture of us. Just two family pictures in 10 days. Wow.
2. 2 cities was enough for 10 days.
Traveling with two kids 2 and below was the biggest adventure we had on this trip. Just hauling them both from one place to another was exhausting. We visited three cities and didn’t get to do enough in each city because we got too tired and the chubby hubby wanted to take things slow. If we were still a little younger, and there were no kids, we could have added a city and maximized our sight seeing. But with our added baggage (aka booger and bear) taking it slow and just seeing two cities would have been the best thing. We wouldn’t be in a hurry all the time and we wouldn’t be too tired.
1. Never compromise your must-see list.
So many places, so little time. I had a list of must visit places for each city. I wished I had followed them all.
Oh well, there will always be next time… Unless the chubby hubby has given up on traveling. I hope not.
I have always envisioned myself in a fancy hat, colorful scarf, leather boots and a black trench coat when i come to visit Paris for the first time. I would take that selfie in front of the eiffel in coordinated clothing. But life never goes as planned, and there i was in Paris in a mommy shirt, ill fitting pants a purple jacket you cant miss, rubber shoes, a bonnet i borrowed from a friend on my head, and a baby in a wrap glued to my chest…
Travelling with two kids is no joke. My booger (Aria) thinks its time to let out her ill feelings when the bear (marcus) starts to cry. Pooping has also become a sport with both of them trying to upstage the other.
Taking the metro is also no picnic. Paris trains go way deep. Most stations dont have elevators or escalators. We usually hold up the commuters when we let the booger take the stairs by herself. So we carry her most of the time and she weighs a ton. I think i might have already lost a kilo or two.
We tried a walking tour and we didnt last ten minutes. By the time we started walking to the 2nd stop, both kids were throwing tantrums we left the group out of shame.
But I had the time of my life in Paris. I got to see the city i have loved even before i got to see it. And its as enchanting as i imagined. We even got to experience snow flurries for the first time and the booger was so happy she couldn’t stop giggling. So many things crossed off of my bucket list in just a few days.
So thankful to have a chubby hubby who makes fulfilling my dreams as part of his dream. ❤️❤️❤️ happy anniversary!
When chubby hubby first mentioned the possibility of a Euro trip he told me that his budget was just QAR 10K (roughly USD 2800) for the four of us, including flights. Because of that very limited budget I never thought it would come true with flights ranging from 500 USD to more than a thousand for the straight flights. But today we leave for Paris and visiting Brussels and Amsterdam in the span of 9 days. And we still have a couple of hundreds to spare.
1) The first task we needed to accomplish was to get our visas processed. The French embassy in Doha acquires the services of Capago for all their visa processing. We made temporary travel arrangements at a nearby travel agency, submitted our requirements and after three days our visas were released. We didn’t buy extra travel insurance since our existing health insurance provided by the chubby hubby’s company already included that. Thank God for that coverage! Visas for Aria and Marcus (aka booger and bear) were free so we only paid for the processing fee. Our total expense for the visa application for the four of us amounted to QAR 1100 (USD 302).
2) Once that was done, we finalized the booking for our flights, making sure to cancel the ones we made at the travel agency because it amounted to more than half of the budget. The key here is lots of patience and strong will. I had neither so chubby hubby worked on this one for us. We found cheap flights on orbitz.com and booked the ones with a 3 hour stop over. I wished myself well with handling a stop over with two toddlers in tow. I reminded husband that we should work as a team when handling Aria and Marcus if he wants to save with the flights instead of splurging on that direct flight. How this will go is yet to be determined but our flights (for four seats) amounted to only QAR 4122 (USD 1120.00).
3) Now the next task was to finalize which cities we wanted to visit. I wanted to stay in Paris for a big bulk of our vacation so we decided to stay there for 5 days. The challenging part was to decide which cities to go to next. Researched which major ones were nearby that I really wanted to see. France, Belgium and the Netherlands were all interconnected so we decided to go to Brussels for two days and then Amsterdam for two days. I just googled cheap hotels and saw a lot of places to stay in at less than 100 USD per night. I wanted to use AirBnB because the places offered had so much more space than the standard hotel room. However, chubby hubby was concerned with the security of the apartments so I gave in with his wishes. Found some hotels in that city using budgetplaces.com.
I made sure the hotels we picked were central and very near the metro station. Also made sure that places had good reviews on tripadvisor especially when it came to cleanliness. I cannot stand dirty rooms.
Our total hotel bookings amounted to QAR 2512 (EUR 608.00 or USD 680).
4) Train bookings were done on thalys. Thalys We didn’t have enough time to book ahead so we didn’t save much here. Chubby hubby finally gave in with buying train tickets because I made a fuss with how much time we were going to save with those bullet trains. Train bookings amounted to QAR 1347 (EUR 326 or USD 370).
5) Finalizing an itinerary with tours is quite limited when you work on a really small budget. I found an app online for some DIY tours for the three cities we are going to be visiting- City walks by gpsmycity.com. The free version of the app even have maps you can use with your phone’s locator. Upgrading is even more better (for USD 5) because it can act like a GPRS of the route you want to take. I also found some free walking tours online by sandeman. The Amsterdam tour comes with a minimal fee of 3 EUR and the kids are free but the Paris and the Brussels tour are free. Chubby hubby insists we make other tour reservations when we get there so I didn’t argue and let him win since he will be paying for it anyway. Total tour expense amount is QAR 25 (EUR 6 or USD 6.8).
I know it will get more expensive when we get there. There are city taxes and other things we need to spend money on like food and commute. There are also museum entrances that Chubby hubby might not think is worth it. However, I gave him my top 5 places we MUST go and see. We’ll see how it goes.
Visa – QAR 1100
Flights – QAR 4122
Accommodation QAR 2512
Train (Eurail) QAR 1347
Tour – QAR 25
TOTAL – QAR 9106 or around USD 2475
not bad huh?