Summer Travel and Tips for Your Future Trips!

The summer has just flown by! I am so grateful for the wonderful experiences I have had!

After the excitement of completing residency at the end of June, my family and I went on a much anticipated vacation from our home in Canada to Italy and Austria in July. We spent 18 days exploring Rome, Venice and Vienna, hopping from one Airbnb to another! We must have taken every form of transportation available and the kids loved it! The best things I enjoy about travelling are the planning and seeing the excitement and enjoyment on my family’s faces when they see what is in store for them!

Let’s start with Rome…wow! Mind blown! I knew it would be breathtaking but it was even better than we imagined! Despite the sweltering temperatures, the kids were great sports, enduring a 3 hour guided tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, wandering through the fascinating artifacts of the Vatican Museum and running happily on the cobble stones of St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. We also enjoyed visiting the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Tiber River and exploring underground catacombs!

Our Airbnb was located in a charming area called Trastevere and the kids quickly adapted to the routine of running to the bus stop 2 minutes away to begin the day’s activities. Part of the fun was figuring out the public transport system and getting around (thank goodness for my husband’s great spatial awareness…I, on the other hand!)

After Rome had won our hearts for 5 days, we took a 4-hour high speed Trenitalia train to Venice. Wow again! We were blown away by the magnificent architecture surrounded by water as far as the eye could see. The kids absolutely loved taking the water bus! As we hopped off to make our way to our Airbnb, we were mesmerized by Venice! We spent most of the time doing unplanned activities, just exploring and walking around. We felt it was a nice contrast to the busyness of Rome where most days were planned. It was also quieter and more peaceful.

After a heartwarming stay in Venice for 4 days, we took the 1-hour Alilaguna ferry to Venice’s Marco Polo Airport where we took a 1-hour flight to Vienna. We had decided to add Vienna to our itinerary because my dear sweet mother who lives in Nairobi, Kenya (and who I had not seen in 5 years!) has always wanted to visit so we colluded with my brothers to bring her over to Vienna to join us! It was fantastic. Vienna has its own special charm, the architecture is magnificent! We visited the Vienna State Opera House, went on a tour in an electrovintage car, went to classical concerts with opera and ballet, took a cruise on the Danube River and made our own chocolate at a chocolate museum. We spent about a week in Vienna and it was lovely!

Travel tips that worked for us:

  1. Airbnb instead of hotel to bring down costs
  2. Check in online for your flights – saves time at the airport
  3. Travel with hand luggage only and avoid checking in luggage if possible – saves time at the airport and the hassle of lost luggage
  4. If staying at an airbnb for a prolonged vacation, carry about 5-7 days changes of clothes (or whatever can fit in hand luggage) and then just throw in laundry machine as you go along
  5. If kids are old enough, let them lug their own hand luggage (our kids were 8 and 10 years old at the time and were responsible for packing their suitcases and moving them around)
  6. Airbnb tips – check reviews (of course!), choose one that is close to grocery stores and public transport, has full kitchen (if you plan to cook and keep food in fridge), has AC and at least a washing machine. Cost of airbnb is cheaper, less noisy if away from downtown. For all our airbnbs, we could get to downtown within 10-15 minutes by public transport which worked well.
  7. We booked all our activities using GetYourGuide and Airbnb apps. You get a QR code which is scanned prior to entry to the activity. Most activities could be cancelled up until the day before for a full refund.
  8. Spend some days without planning anything, just walk around, people watch, find hidden less well known areas.
  9. Always carry snacks and water (especially if travelling with kids!)
  10. Carry some cash with you for those places that do not accept credit cards
  11. Acknowledge that things may not always go as planned and go with the flow!
  12. Document your trip by creating a photo-book that you can display in your home for guests and for you to walk down memory lane. I created one with MixBook that has 40-50% discounts for your first project!

We had such a wonderful time travelling that we think we may have been bitten by the travel bug! It has been such a great family bonding experience!

Summer Vacation Updates…and the Start of 4th year!

The summer is just flying by! I had a wonderful month of vacation in July.  The highlight was a trip to West Virginia to visit my cousin and his family. We were so touched by their hospitality. They totally spoiled us!

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12 hour road-trip to West Virginia

The 12-hour drive  from Quebec to West Virginia was spectacular. We took the scenic route through the Adirondack park in New York. I was impressed with how well the kids did on this long trip. They were excited to be the first to spot several deer as we drove by impressive rocks chiseled into the mountainside.

Our drive took us through Pennsylvania before we finally arrived in beautiful West Virginia. We spent most days poolside enjoying the beautiful weather with our nights perched on stools around the massive granite kitchen counter having hearty conversations covering all kinds of topics. I was especially happy to tinker on their beautiful grand piano majestically displayed near the fire place in the living room.

One particular evening, the adults had a night out on the town eating creole cuisine in a cobble-stoned square bubbling with vibrant music and laughter. The night ended with spectacular Tango music presented by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The exquisite skill with which the musicians displayed their talents gave me goose-bumps!

The kids had plenty of new experiences, trying out jet-skis for the first time and painting pottery. As we neared the end of our vacation, we hiked up to beautiful Cooper’s rock where massive green rolling hills outlined the horizon, with crystal blue waters snaking through the leafy backdrop. It was truly a fantastic, refreshing trip!

In early August, I had the wonderful opportunity to join 10 other musicians on stage at the Hudson Music Festival where we belted out a variety of Contemporary Christian tunes. My Yamaha keyboard (nicknamed “Mahaya” and given to me by one of my best friends 13 years ago) did not disappoint! It has been one of my dreams to perform with a band in this context and it was an awesome experience with an enthusiastic audience!

After a challenging year completing my third year of medical school, I feel so blessed to have spent such precious time with my family and friends! I am now 2 weeks into my fourth year of medical school, having an incredible experience on my Palliative Care elective rotation. More details to follow soon!

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Soaking up the sun in West Virginia

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Ready to conquer the world!

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More relaxation!

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Precious family time…beautiful Cooper’s rock, West Virginia

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Ready for a dip in Horseshoe Lake, St-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec

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Canoe-ride with daddy, Horseshoe Lake, Saint Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec

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Summer fun…and static electricity!

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Exploring the woods, Saint Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec