So Where Did You Go?

RTW map latestFinally I was able to create a map version of where we disappeared into during that 9 months or so.

Comparing to our rough initial plan (to use the world ‘rough’ would be an overstatement), this map had a lot more dots on it. Although the basic itinerary (which continents for example) remained the same roughly, the exact countries – and places in each country – had changed and evolved so much throughout the trip.

A few notable changes: we added Patagonia in Argentina/ Bolivia (loved it)/Colombia (thank goodness)/Nicaragua; we didn’t go to Chile/Brazil, and we shortened the time in Costa Rica significantly. At times these changes seemed daunting, and other times they were obvious decision. Initially we thought we would stay in each place for a few weeks, and very quickly we realized it was not realistic nor necessary. I will come to some of these changes with more detail in relevant posts.

It’s once again a powerful proof to that good old saying: change is the only constant.

The tool that I used to create this map was an online tool called ‘travellerspoint’. Although it wasted me a few precious late night hours when I tried to create the map for the first time (it just didn’t want to save. Totally No stress!), I did find some interesting merits. For example, it told me that:

  • We travelled 77,279 kilometres
  • Days travelling: 282 days
  • The total distance travelled is roughly equivalent to circling the earth 1.9 times! (so we’ve got a lot of carbon footprint to be accountable for …).
  • Distance travelled by mode of transport:
    • Boat: 593km
    • Train: 1,117km
    • Bus: 3,064km
    • Car: 4,520km
    • Airplane: 67,731km
  • we have visited in total 17 countries (although 2 should be deducted as they were just transits)
  • It even allowed me to export my trip to an excel format, which was quite handy.

Now I will stop sounding like their sales rep, and return at once to the most burning question.

So where exactly did we go??

Here is a map for visual person like myself.

countries travelled

Here is a list for the more brave-hearted (of the places we either spent at least one night or as major transit stops):

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Tokyo, Japan
Paris, Ile-de-France, France
La Capelle-les-Boulogne, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France
Lyon, Rhone-Alpes, France
Annecy, Rhone-Alpes, France
Hauteluce, Rhone-Alpes, France
Grenoble, Rhone-Alpes, France
Antibes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France
London, United Kingdom
Paris, Ile-de-France, France
Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain
Buenos Aires, Argentina (here, bookstore)
Montevideo, Montevideo Department, Uruguay
La Barra, Maldonado, Uruguay
Cabo Polonio, Rocha, Uruguay
La Tuna, Canelones, Uruguay
Buenos Aires, Argentina
El Calafate, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina
El Chalten, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina
Salta, Salta Province, Argentina
Tilcara, Jujuy Province, Argentina
Tupiza, Potosi Department, Bolivia
Uyuni, Potosi Department, Bolivia
Nuestra Señora de La Paz, La Paz Department, Bolivia
Copacabana, Copacabana, La Paz Department, Bolivia
Puno, Puno, Peru
Cusco, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Peru
Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, Cusco, Peru
Cusco, Peru
Lima, Peru
Bogota, Colombia
Cartagena, Bolivar, Colombia
Taganga, Magdalena, Colombia
Barichara, Santander department, Colombia
Villa de Leyva, Boyaca, Colombia
Bogota, Colombia
Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador
Lima, Peru
Miami, Florida, United States
Oviedo, Florida, United States
Miami, Florida, United States
San Jose, Costa Rica
La Fortuna, San Jose, Costa Rica
San Carlos, Rio San Juan, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua
Apoyo Lagoon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua
Ometepe, Rivas, Nicaragua
San Juan del Sur, Rivas, Nicaragua
San Jose, Costa Rica
Miami, Florida, United States
New York, United States
Newport, Rhode Island, United States
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
New York, United States
Vienna, Virginia, United States
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Fort Collins, Colorado, United States
San Diego, California, United States
Pismo Beach, California, United States
Palo Alto, California, United States
San Francisco, California, United States
Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Village, California, United States
Mammoth, California, United States
Lone Pine, California, United States
Los Angeles, California, United States
Pape’ete, Windward Islands, French Polynesia
Moorea, French Polynesia
Atoll Rangiroa, French Polynesia
Auckland, New Zealand
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

[D119] How Has Nina Been Coping

Almost 120 days after we officially started our round-the-world trip, 5 countries stamped in the passport and 21 different beds later, I came to the conclusion that kids are just unpredictable creatures – at least Nina is!

Uyuni 01

What I thought would be the most difficult to cope – changing beds so often in new room/country/temperature – Nina had absolutely no issue with except the very first few days in France (largely due to the time zone changes between Australia and France I suspect). She has so far slept on 21 different beds – sometimes with her own bed, sometimes in a cot, sometimes on a mattress on the floor, occasionally sharing a bed with us. Regardless the bedding arrangement, as soon as the light was out in the room and door was closed, she promptly falls onto her bed and is ready for her night. I cannot be thankful enough for this priceless gift that Nina is granting us!

But then, sometimes, in the most unexpected moment, Nina would become the most horrible creature on the entire planet. Some days, nothing but taking off her pyjama, changing her nappy and putting her day clothes on would take more than an hour, with screaming and physical wrestling. At days like this, by the time we were ready for breakfast, I was exhausted, and seriously asked Nicolas why we were doing this to ourselves.

Nina, as all other children I guess, had a natural talent in keeping herself entertained with the most unexpected objects. While we walked on the most mundane street in BsAs, she could spend incredible amount of time joyously walking on and off the steps in front of apartment buildings. Lately she is in love with wooden sticks mostly branches fallen off the tress. She would laugh with excitement when we found one for her, and even more so if we found two at once! Many times we couldn’t keep the sticks with us (well, for a 6-hour bus journey for example), she would constantly ask where her sticks, and we had to promise her once and again that we would get her new sticks when we arrive.

Talking about long distance bus trips … I was very concerned with having to going through this with Nina, as well as the well-being of other passengers. Nina was all over the place on a 2-hour bus journey in Uruguay already, and I thought that was the sky limit. Then Nina surprised us again and again – she was ok with a 3-hour one, then a 4-hour one. The record so far was a 6-hour extremely bumpy bus ride in a Bolivian version of tourist bus (reading: no air condition, no reclinable chairs, etv) – she not only endured it but seemed actually having enjoyed it.

One of the most challenging aspect of travelling with such a young child – as far as I am concerned – is the fact that you are stuck with each other 24*7. She needs other kids to play with. I need ‘me time’ for my own sanity from time to time. But the fact is that we are constantly on the move, and it’s not realistic to get reliable babysitters in a country where you don’t even speak their language properly, so there is just no escape. After a full-on day, there is still research to be done for the next destination, hotel to be booked, bus ticket to be bought, luggage to be packed, diary to be written, emails to be replied. Sometimes, it just feels overwhelming. And why the update of this blog has been slow (I’m trying my best still!).

But then it’s all made up by the fact that we get to discover the world together. And I as a parent get to witness how she’s learning, changing, building up her language, while getting to know the world with her parents. It’s a privilege that I cherish.


P.S: to follow our RTW experience: Trilingual Family blog, or join Trilingual Family facebook group

D30 – 35 Antibes/France

(Note – I hesitated a lot to publish my quick notes of diaries as-is onto this blog. I would have loved to be able to write specifically for the blog, ideally, so that it’s a bit less ‘rough’ and more thoughtful. However I realized – after one month of keep trying but in vain  – that it’s just too time consuming to do so hence unrealistic during the trip. It’s only going to do absolutely no favour to my original intention to document and share our trip. As such, I am going to, at least for the time being, to post my quick notes almost as is first (just deleted some purely personal/private references). So the upcoming few posts are going to be catch-up work. You will have to accept my apologies in advance for some obvious rush work).

Nina 2 yr - 0

D30, Jan 15, Antibes

Road trip today from St martin de la Cluze to Antibes. What a beautiful trip! From snowy mountains (we crossed Vercors through le Col de la Croix Haute of 1200m), it was apparently snowing last night, all white everywhere, -2c at some point. Mont Aiguille was finally behind us. It was where Nicolas brought me and 2 other friends to mountain climb and I had the most impressive rappel in my life – 50 metres straight down, and at some point I was in the void, or in the air literally.  We were relieved though to have passed the Col as we won’t sure if it would be too much snow to drive through. All these little villages dotted around the valley, the mountains etc.

Then slowly landscape changed, into valley only, snow disappeared, olive trees appeared. Houses of yellow facade replaced the houses with volets (wooden foldable double window to keep the house warm). We were visually officially in Provence. Chateau became more often and accessible. More people walked or sat outdoor in cafe. Stopped at Sisteron for lunch. Set menu of confit de canard for 9 euro, great deal. Lovely town. Parking was surprisingly free between 12 and 2pm! While we got closer to Cote d’Azur, the temperature went up to 14c. Sunny, impressive forms of clouds. Well maintained highway, reasonable toll charges. Suddenly I was correcting myself for saying in the past that the country felt decaying. This time, I didn’t hear much winging. Even the public toilet was very proper (even saw a very innovative design of combining water/hand soap/dryer into one device).

Why people choose to live where they live? When you can fairly easily travel from place to place nowadays. How many of us live where we live by chance or by accident? A person, some sort of romance? a desire just to see? accidentally passing through somewhere and felt in love? Where we will all end up? The questions of my life! We were asked so many times so far, where we will be after our RTW. Most people surprised when our answer was so certain, Sydney. Won’t you fall in love with somewhere else?

Will we?

It’s a long road trip for Nina, being strapped for 5 hours. Suffice to say that I should have prepared more toys and books.

At 4pm, we arrived the sunny, warm, crowded and visually prosperous Antibes, to meet Monique my mother in law. We will be staying with her for the next week.

And our real estate agent found us a tenant just today, who were moving in tomorrow! It’s all happening. Very stressful morning before hitting the road to sigh paper, answer questions etc. But everything falling into place as they say!!

Monique prepared our bed using my old linen (what I had in Grenoble a decade ago). So cute.

Delicious pot au feu.

D Antibes 05

D31, Jan 16. Antibes.

We were welcomed by a weather similar to that of la Capelle, except in a slightly warmer fashion. It rained and it would rain every single day during the week that we were here. Hence trying to find indoor entertainment. Good luck in an apartment! Playing football in the garage did the trick.

At 5pm we had an appointment with a generalist for Nina’s vaccine of typhoid (she couldn’t get it in Sydney before we left with other vaccines because they would only give typhoid vaccines for kids above 2 years old). She was more a Buddhist than a doctor I have to say! Nothing was pressing, all could take time. To find a band-it, it took her good 10 min and sorting through the paper in her drawer of the last 10 yrs, but in vain. She finally gave up and asked the doctor next door who shared the same cabinet. She didn’t ask a single question nor gave indication of what side effects the vaccine might have. She did though talk about the trips to Argentina etc. Her waiting room was quite charming.

French President’s romance was rather entertaining for the whole nation. Now French people had not only a first girlfriend but also a first mistress! Quite disturbing when it comes to political etiquette. Yet it couldn’t happen in a more suitable country, where their precedent presidents had far more quantity of mistresses, or just went through one divorce and one marriage and one birth of child during presidency. French public had just fun of it. It provided the headlines for weeks and the raw materials for numerous talk shows and political debates. Funnily his support rate didn’t go down but went up. Only if Clinton could live in France!

D32 Jan 17, Antibes

This morning I was granted the right to have a walk, on my own!! They took Nina with them to Casino for grocery, I went for a walk in the old city. I loved the narrow winding lanes, the doors, the stone walls and houses in the small alleys in the old city. I have always loved walking around, esp in a new place, and sometimes could walk for endless hours and days. I love the joy of surprise. Ever since the birth of Nina I wasn’t able to do this at all, and I much appreciated the few hours of being able to do it. Time for myself became the ultimate luxury. I need the time to feel no one else – not a mother, not a wife, not a daughter, not a neighbor, not a teammate – but myself. It’s also time to be taken by surprises and let the unknown inspire me.  I need such time from time to time.

Evening we went to Nicolas’ old school friend Ch for dinner. Another lovely soiree, especially for Nina. She ate and ate and finished two pieces of cake – a very delicious and good looking fruit cake. Ch’s family was a trilingual family too (French, Danish, English). There are really quite a few multilingual families around.

Another record bed time for Nina: 22:30. She behaved rather quite well and didn’t even fall asleep on the way back home. This child adapted fairly well to the changes so far.

Nina 2 yrs - 03

D33 Jan 18, Antibes.

Nina’s 2yo birthday today! Can u believe it has been two yrs since that long day?!

Nico made a cake for her daughter, like last year. I guess it would become a tradition. This time it’s a round cake with clementine sauce. Pretty. Nina liked more blowing her candles though.

Last year we said instead of buying Nina a birthday gift, we would rather offer her a birthday experience. This year we were already doing a round the world, but I still would love a special experience for her birthday. The torrential rain limited our choices quite  bit as we had to opt for indoor options. Hence we went to the Musee de Picasso à Antibes. I liked the museum (equally the Picasso museum in Paris) when I visited several years ago. It’s tugged in a most amazing part of the old town of Antibes, overlooking the Mediterranean sea on the one side, the old town the other side. A stone building, 3 stories. There is only one level however that was dedicated to Picasso’s works, painting,  ceramics and sculptures. Between 1946 and 1949 when Picasso lived in the area he had part of the building as his studio. The other level to other artists work. The jewel was the garden though as far as I was concerned, dotted with cactuses and sculptures by Miro and others, overlooking the Mediterranean coast. Even under heavy rain, it was still pleasant walking in such a pleasant garden.  Nina’s favorite was the stairs though.

In the morning we went to the food market in the old town. I never got tired of markets. This one was another particularly charmng one, presenting everything that we could dream of Provence and Mediterranean: lavender, olives, sausage, tapenade, fruits.

We had freshly made spinach and ricotta ravioli for lunch, and confit de canard for dinner (again! Did I already mention that this was one of my favorite French dishes?!). Nina was over petit Swiss now, but still fanatic about oranges/mandarins/clementines.

How many 2 years one has in a lifetime? At 2, Nina has been to 5 countries (Australia, Fiji, China, New Zealand, France). At this rate, when she reaches 20, she would have gone to 50 countries. That’s what I’ve got in my bucket list of my lifetime!

D Antibes 04

D34, Jan 19, Antibes, Italy

Despite the rain, or because of the rain, we decided to go to Italy for a pizza. Only 60+km and an hour away, it’s the Italian border. Ventimiglia was the first city after the border, and a quick glance over the guide book told us there was an old city, so we stopped. It’s a decaying but still rather charming old old town. Narrow, deep and high laneways connected  the narrow buildings. Laundry hanging outside the windows reminded me of China. The laundry was under the rain for goodness sake! Only in places like Italy, there would be an  overly decorated mirror on the external wall!

The cathedral just finished the mass service when we arrived just after 12, but the organ player was still playing. Nina asked for more after each piece. The crypt had some beautiful crafted stones excavated from the same site during renovation (so as I understood from the Italian notice).

It’s time for our pizza! But it was nowhere to be found. The old city was so quiet that hardly any shop was open. We were almost giving up, when we saw an open sigh from a pizzeria/ristorente! It was apparently on the petit routard… Well I should have known better when I saw the sign, but we were quite desperate at that point. When the waiter came to take the order I was told pizza was served only in the evening!! What kind of restaurant it was. We settled for gnocchi, risotto, lasagna, and spaghetti. All other tables were occupied by French speaking population, likely all disappointed by not having the pizza they came for.

We went for a walk along the beach in the newer part of the city. Black sand, black cobbles, but lots of tree branches and rubbish washed onto the beach. Quite sad. Under rain not many people was walking so Nina could run and threw stones on the beach. Really kids didn’t need much to have fun.

We pushed onto Bordighera for another 10 min, but the rain did take its toll and we decided it’s not worth getting off the car anymore. So we decided to do a u turn and stopped at Monaco because I said I had never actually visited it.

Of course there was the casino, the tourists, the pretty cars, the luxury shops everywhere, but of course it’s not my type of city. Nina decided to push her pram through the raining city. I was tempted to visit the gilded casino inside (for once!) but as they didn’t allow little person under 18, I skipped it. My chance of becoming a millionaire overnight was just gone.

The drive along Cote d’Azur was a pretty one even under rain. But from the evening news it seems there were lots of flooding, damages and accidents this week due to heavy rain. We apparently chose the best time to visit.

D Antibes 02

D35, Jan 20, Antibes.

No more rain today!! Although still cloudy mostly, the occasional sun was most welcome after 4 days of torrential rain.

Went for a walk to Juan les Pins in the morning with just 3 of us. Had lots of fun running around the sand. The city was so quiet, most houses were closed whole day (as volets were shut)- this was indeed a holiday city.

After lunch we four did a drive around the Cape d’Antibes, passing through quite a few gorgeous houses and the famous Eden Roc Hotel. Mental note: would be better to do a bike tour next time. Walked in the old town of Antibes. The most elaborated  pastry/chocolate shop ever, called Jean Luc Pele. 100% black chocolate!! Definitely not my cup of tea.

Then we drove to the lighthouse and chapelle on top of the hill. From there you had a really good view onto the city. The Chappell was perhaps the only one i have visited so far which was so heavily decorated by small photos and painting of all sorts. Not the typical kind of church.

Then we had a most amazing sunset view. Certainly looked even more spectacular after a week of clouds.

After dinner (moules frites), Nicolas and i decided to take advantage of the last night here with an in-house babysitting to go for a nightlife ? the city was even more dead at night. Only a few bars open. We opted for a rather trendy modern vin bar to finish off our stay at Antibes.

P.S: to follow our RTW experience: Trilingual Family blog, or join Trilingual Family
facebook group

Video – Nina’s First Encounter With Snow

It was on the first day of January 2014 when we went to Semnoz near Annecy/France for an outing of Luge, with A (Nicolas’ godson) and S (A’s dad). Nina seemed very intense on the video – she was indeed. She was probably getting her head around the cold white thing everywhere around her, and the speed with which she slide down on it.

The great thing about Semnoz – a so-described rather small ski station by French standard – was that there was an automatic belt that brought you, your child, and the luge etc uphill after you all went downhill with the luge. So zero effort was required from the parents. Top stuff!

P.S: to follow our RTW experience: Trilingual Family blog, or join Trilingual Family facebook group.