Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Traveling to Iceland with a Baby

You know that thing where a blogging person has a baby and then they only write about their baby on their blog and become a MOMMY BLOGGER? (dun-dun dunnnnn) I am trying not to do that. At the same time, I want to share my experience, while also not try to portray myself as some kind of parenting expert just because I've been at it for almost 10 months. That said, I was looking for info when preparing for the trip, and found it a bit hard, so wanted to share my experience. So, if kids bore you (and I understand, I really, really do) - feel free to skip on to the next post in your reader. If you're interested in traveling with a babe in arms, read on. 

When we were doing our research for this trip, I did a lot of Googling about traveling to Iceland with a baby. Pickings were slim. There's one guy who answers just about every question about travel to Iceland on those travel message boards, and he seems really grumpy. I think he even said it was "irresponsible" for someone to travel to Iceland with a baby in winter. Jeebus. Nobody needs your judgement, buddy. I think that baby's parents can decide what they and their babe can handle, not some grumpy travel forum troll. Anyway, here are my own tips for traveling to Iceland with a baby. Let's hope the SEO is good on this one!


First off, L. is 9 months old. And he's not new to traveling. By the time he is one year old, he will have taken 12 flights (10 so far). So, he's kind of a pro. He's also a laid-back, easy-going baby. He's also the cutest. So, I know we kind of have it easy when traveling with him.

We traveled in late March, and it has been an unusually cold and snowy winter (here and there). More than the temperature, it was very windy there - and that wind was bitterly cold. For evening walks, L. wore his fleece bunting AND  his little fleece-lined puffy coat. During the day he was happily bundled in just his coat, a sweater and a warm stroller sleeping bag thingy (we have a BundleMe).

Car Seats

Let me first say I know nothing about Icelandic law. But, from what I read online, babies must always be in car seats, in cars, taxis and on coaches/buses. American car seats are apparently not allowed. However, most coach companies (including the Fly Bus at Keflavik airport and the Grey Line bus tours) have car seats that you can use. And taxis do as well, though you may need to book ahead to reserve one.

You can book your Fly Bus ticket and car seat online before you go. We didn't do that, but still had no problem getting a car seat when we got to the airport, but they only had one available. It was an infant rear-facing seat, but it didn't actually fit into the bus seats.

Here's the odd thing about the car seats. We used 3 Icelandic car seats (which were all Britax car seats). None of them really fit properly, nobody helps you install them, and it didn't seem to matter if your baby was big enough (or too big) for the seat you were given. I'm pretty sure my American car seat would have been safer.

Facing forward, it's cool.
A little research tells me that US car seats aren't used in European cars because the seat belts over there don't lock. You can buy a clip for just a few dollars that will lock the seat belts, but I don't know if this will make your own car seat ok in Iceland. I'd be willing to risk the heavy hand of the law for it though, because at least your child would fit into the car seat.

Sight-seeing

We did a lot of walking around Reykjavik, and mostly used our stroller. For the record, we have a Baby Jogger City Mini, which is lightweight and folds up easily, so it's great for traveling. Some people opt to buy an umbrella stroller, but I don't need to buy another stroller when I have one that I like.

We brought our stroller just about everywhere, including going up, up, up Hallgrímskirkja church. There is an elevator up, but then there are quite a few stairs, so the stroller could only get up to a certain point - not all the way up. We just took turns going to the top.


As I mentioned the other day, we also did the 6-hour Grey Line Afternoon Golden Circle Tour. We booked a car seat ahead of our tour, and picked it up before getting on the bus. I booked the shorter afternoon tour, because I thought it would be easier with the baby. However, there is no less travel/bus time on this tour, it's just shorter stops at each of the sights. I didn't feel rushed, but if you're wondering which of the two might be better for a kid or baby, that's the difference between the two.

While we were able to stow the stroller in the luggage compartment on the bus, we only used our carrier for each of the stops. It was unusually snowy and icy when we visited, and some sights - like the Gullfoss Waterfall - have a lot of stairs. When you get to the bottom of the stairs, only a low rope separates you from certain death. I didn't go near it, because of the ice - and if you're traveling with a more mobile kidlet, be very careful.



The cafeteria at Gullfoss has changing facilities, but seemingly no high chairs.

In Reykjavik, we stopped by the little pond Tjörnin where they feed the ducks, thinking L. would enjoy it. However - being geniuses - we forgot to bring bread. Whoops. However, L. still enjoyed looking at the ducks and geese.



Eatin'

L. is pretty good in restaurants, but we still aimed to eat at places that seemed child-friendly. We also ate earlier than the dinner-rush. Everywhere we ate was accommodating to us, and our stroller, and as I recall, all had high chairs available.



One place that deserves special mention is the Laundromat Cafe. Leave your strollers with the others out front, but this cafe had nice breakfast, and has an AWESOME play room in the basement for kiddies. L. was too young to appreciate it, but it was a great playroom. They also had a sign that I really appreciated that said something along the lines of "go ahead and breastfeed, we likes babies and boobs". Sometimes it's nice to know you're in a safe place when you're breastfeeding.

Sleeping

I mentioned in my last post that we stayed at the Hotel Odinsve, which was great for us. We were on the ground floor (room 11, holla!), and had lots of space to stretch out and dump our junk. And lots of space for L. to practice his crawling.

I'm not really qualified to advise on babies and time zone adjustments. It all depends on your babe. We took a short overnight flight, where L. slept most of the way. He also slept on the 50-minute bus ride from the airport to the hotel, and then snoozed in the stroller while we explored Reykjavik in the morning. Usually he goes to bed at 7pm, and obviously he stayed up much later on this trip, and we didn't really try to stop that since it worked in our favor when the morning came round.

(Re-entry for this little space oddity hasn't been so easy though, as he has gotten so used to sleeping in bed with us that we're having to re-sleep train him and get him acclimated to crib-life again).

And there you go. Just a few tips I would have liked to have known about before we went! I hope it's useful to you!



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Immigrant Song - Iceland 2014

We're baaaa-aaack! That applies both to my nearly one-month silence, and also our trip to Iceland and England.

Here's the low-down. We spent a whirlwind 3 days in Iceland, mostly exploring Reykjavik, but also getting in a bus tour to some of the beautiful natural wonders outside the city.

Hallgrímskirkja church, Reykjavik.
I've wanted to visit Iceland since about forever. It's a short 5-hour flight from NYC to Reykjavik, and the prices are usually pretty good. And that's because when they get you there, it becomes very expensive. But I'm jumping ahead.

We flew in Icelandair, which is possibly the most hit and miss experience I've ever had. First off all, if you ever have to call them for assistance before your flight, they are not very helpful, and it seems like you're bothering them by calling. But checking in at JFK in NYC, we had the nicest, most helpful agent ever. especially when it came to checking in and boarding with an infant. Awesome. Then, flying from Reykjavik to London was the worst experience. Truly terrible, and unhelpful, and the boarding agents were the worst. Then checking in and boarding at London, back to Reykjavik - one of the nicest, most helpful agents I have ever dealt with. Connecting in Reykjavik, back to JFK, back to crap. Weird, huh?    

We stayed at the Hotel Odinsve, which was a decent price and very nice. In fact, we had a nice little suite - 2 bedrooms and a living-room-type area, which was especially great with the wee one in tow. The only downside was that it was on the first floor, which didn't really matter in the end, since it's located on a quiet street. I guess the other downside is that we were charged for checking in early (50 euros). But get a couple parents and a 9 month old off a 5-hour overnight flight, and yeah, they will pay that for an early check-in.


Reykjavik is an easy place to walk around. It's pretty small. But it has lot of nice little shops, especially lots of nice ceramics galleries that will tempt you to drop big krona on lovely handmade doo-dads. Like a tiny handmade mug that cost - well, let's not discuss. It cost a lot. But it is our handmade souvenir of Iceland.


Anyhou. Day 1 we spent walking around Reyjavik, seeing the sights, shopping the shops. And napping. Let me say this about the Hotel Odinsve - their beds are magic. So comfy. Last night on returning home to our own bed, H. and I reminisced about the beds at that hotel .

Viking beds, probably not as comfy
Day 2  we booked ourselves onto a 6 hour afternoon tour with Grey Line. On that tour we visited Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir hot spring area.

Þingvellir National Park
Gullfoss Waterfall
Thar she blows!
Day 3, back to walking around Reykjavik, in the wicked, cold wind.


I'm not sure I mentioned this, but Iceland is expensive, and many of the shops and restaurants in downtown Reykjavik seem to be catered to tourists. If you're in the market for $300 sweaters and $1200 blankets and $200 throw pillows, this is the place to be! And an entree at most restaurants that we browsed seemed to be around $50. So, if you're going, be prepared to spend some cash.

I'm not a travel blogger, so I'm not sure what else to say. Except, if you're flying to Keflavik airport, take the FlyBus. We took the FlyBus into town, and a cab back to the airport when we left. And a cab is very, very, verrrrrrry expensive.

The moral of this tale is pretty, but expensive. 

Well, that's about it. Next time, I'll discuss traveling to Iceland with a baby.


Monday, March 3, 2014

This is awesome

Sorry, my blog is just a bunch of YouTube videos now. But this is awesome: The Worf of Wall Street.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Bork Bork

I have never noticed how freaky the Swedish Chef's hands are. They are people hands!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

I really enjoy baking, but somehow I married someone who doesn't like baked goods (crazy, I know). So, I don't often bake anything because, inevitably, I will eat it all myself. But thanks to some recent play dates, I've had a few opportunities to make some delicious muffins. Let me share some recipes with you.

1. Ina Garten's Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins

You cannot go wrong with the Barefoot Contessa. That is a FACT. These are made with sour cream and so nice and moist. I made so many, and ate so many. So, so many.


2. Vegan Zucchini Banana Bread muffins from The Post Punk Kitchen

I was a little sceptical. I've never done any vegan baking, and I've never been a huge fan of vegan baked goods that I've had. But these were AMAZING. So moist and so good, and I pretended like they were healthy which made me feel better about how many I ate. I did not add walnuts, as the recipe suggests, because I'm not a huge fan.


3. Moist Chocolate Muffins

This uses yogurt, so - like sour cream - they are delightfully moist. H. requested these, even though he's not big on baked goods (he just likes chocolate muffins), and he said they are the best of the recent muffins. I used vanilla yogurt (that was past its due date, even!) and it didn't harm them in any way.


Which were the best? I don't know. they are ALL great. I think I was so surprised by the vegan muffins though, that they might have been my favorite.

* Photos aren't beautiful well-lit and styled, because we just took them to show them to friends/Facebook, not thinking about blog-use!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Boys and toys

L. has a little bunny toy in his crib. When he falls asleep, he's holding it. And when I go into his room in the mornings, he's holding it.

I have no photos of him and his bunny though, but I have these.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Little Darling

If you know me well, you may know there are three things I love: 1) Paul Simon 2) George Harrison 3) Here Comes the Sun. Well, to be honest, probably only H. knew how much I love those things, and that is why he forwarded me a link of Harrison and Simon playing Here Comes the Sun on SNL in the 70s.

Embedding has been disabled, so if you want to see it, you have to go here.

Alas, if you can' t be bothered to go over there and watch, here's a photo of the two form the set.


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