Articles Tagged with RTW with a child

3 Amazing Families On The Go

Travelling is all about the experience. As much as it’s about different landscape, it’s about the smell, the colour, the look, and the taste. Above all it’s the people we met that makes the most lasting memories. As we were travelling as a family – which was certainly the minority in the long-term-travel department – we naturally paid closer attention to other families we met. So I decided to dedicate an entry entirely just to some of the amazing families we met.


Family 1 – Cusco/Peru – one big family ready for action

In Cusco, we stayed in an Airbnb house with a very special family for about 10 days. Parents (Bill & Nicole) and 4 kids ranging from 1 to 8 (Liam, Tim, Jeanne, Sam) shared a cosy 2-story colonial house with their guests (they could house as many as 10 guest I believe with 4 guest rooms). Bill & Nicole had to be the most active parents with this amount of little ones under 10 – I simply didn’t know how they managed it, and they managed it so unbelievably well.

Bill and Nicole were both originally from Buffalo/USA. Coming to Cusco when their oldest son was only 1 with no Spanish, they now had 4 kids – active, social, capable and polite – and everyone (except Sam who was just turning 1 so not verbal yet) spoke perfect Spanish as well as English. Bill impressed us one day with his fluent Quechua conversation with a cab driver. All kids were being home-schooled (they had a ‘classroom’ at home)! We were one of their first guests as, back in April, they just started their new adventure as a family: build a business with Airbnb room rental + local experience guide. Their business had been going wild since then as I followed their facebook update. They managed everything by themselves with just help of a cleaning lady coming to their place every day (I believe) – starting the business, receiving and looking after the guests, schooling, guests, outdoor, house chores, getting two outdoor showers built, and everything else with 4 kids. Yet they managed to be constantly on the move. They did walks or rode bicycles almost everyday after schooling.

Right before we left Cusco, they were getting ready for a 4-day trekking with all four kids. This was the real hard core type of trekking that we were talking about here: they had to carry all the gears and supplies for 4 days as there were no shops nor established campsites along the way, they had to set up tents every afternoon and take down every morning, they had to cook using only what you carried (including utensils), and they would be walking constantly well above 4000 metres above sea level- so snow would be present. This was the type of trip that even just with one toddler that I would try to avoid, and they were setting out with 4 kids, including one still being breastfed. Talking about madness!

For a week, they got Liam and Tim to practice setting up and taking down the tent in their backyard, and boys would sleep in the tent at night. A few days later, the boys were perfectly capable of taking care of their own tent, entirely on their own. On the day they hired three horses  – one for Liam, one for Tim, and the other one for carrying supplies. Bill and Nicole would carry one young child each. As the departure date approached, it started to rain heavily and the weather forecast didn’t give any better news. They hesitated – as any rain in the city of Cusco could mean horrendous snow up in the mountain where they were going. But they decided to go anyway. I was eager to hear from them as we arrived in Colombia – and then I saw them posting some awesome photos after they returned from that epic camping trekking trip. They made it!

Family 2 – Copacabana/Bolivia & Bogota/Colombia – It cannot be more international than this

South America is the type of place where you don’t see or hear Chinese often. In Bolivia, it became even less so.  So I was naturally surprised – and delighted – that in the garden of a small boutique hotel in Copacabana/Bolivia I heard a mother speaking to a young child in Mandarin!

Meet one of the most travelled international families I’ve ever known.

Yvonne (Chinese by birth) and Fernando (Venezuelan by birth) lived in Bogota/Colombia with their 3-year-old Luca (born in, guess where, Czech Republic). They were travelling for a month through Bolivia and Chile. Just before coming to Copacabana they did the 3-day jeep trip of the Uyuni circuit which I didn’t attempt to try (we only did the day trip).

We spent quite a few occasions together in the following days before they went back home, including a dinner in a restaurant, an outdoor Jacuzzi feast overlooking Lake Titicaca (the highest navigable lake in the world) where two kids had enormous fun together, feeding llamas, and a dinner cooked by Yvonne (in this most lovely hotel, each room/bungalow came with a kitchen and wood log fire place) and shared over a bottle of Chilean wine, a few beers, and many stories. We felt we had made 2 good friends in an entirely unexpected way.

Who would have thought that after bidding farewell there, we then would meet again in Bogota/Colombia, a destination that even at that point was not part of our plan?! Even more so, knowing we were going there, they insisted to have us stay over at their apartment in Bogota. Yvonne and Luca would be away in Prague (talking about international travel!), Fernando would reside in their sofa while we occupied their master bedroom! Have I mentioned that Colombians were among the most generous and welcoming populations on the planet? Fernando showed us around in the city of Bogota and led us inside a few doors that we would have otherwise never been able to.

Upon our second (brief) stay in Bogota after travelling around Colombia (and loved it), Yvonne and Luca were back, so we were able to spend yet again one day together, visiting the most beautiful school of arts (where Yvonne was studying leather arts), dined and danced in a Japanese themed restaurant with a few chica drinks.

This was a family that played an unmistakably big role in making Bogota such a special place in our trip. This family is still on the move – since then they had relocated to, guess where, Cairo/Egypt! Who knows where we’ll see each other again next.

Family 3 – Isla de Ometepe/Nicaragua – Serene family

A young family with a 6-month-old lived in a remote slice of paradise – on the volcanic island of Ometepe inside the biggest lake in Central America in Nicaragua. They were building their family, as well as their guest-house business, on the farm land that they bought (while still living in USA) and developed over the last 7 years or so from scratch. It was definitely an experience in itself just to get there, but it could easily be one of the most serene/peaceful/natural existences on the planet. With about 100 different fruit trees and many monkeys in the company, days could just be idled away, with plenty of time to reflect or to meditate, or to sip the house-made hibiscus tea. The question is: if some could build such a flourishing farm in such a remote location coming from so far away, what could not be done with some genuine love and persistence?

I have written a separate blog about our 3-day experience there – Finca Mystica, A Destination In Itself.

Where and how to live as a family is certainly a personal choice. By meeting some truly incredible families like the ones above who have chosen to live a different life, in unexpected corner of the world, or in some unconventional fashion, my eyes were certainly opened. Bringing a toddler to travel around the world for 9+ months was not a small deal, but sometimes comparing to these families I felt that was really just breeze.

[D186 – 189] Finca Mystica – A Destination In Itself

[D186 – 189] Isla de Ometepe / Nicaragua


D186, June 21, Granada -> Ometepe

Well, we are right now literally in the middle of nowhere, a farm lodge called Finca Mystica (‘Mystical Farm’) in the volcanic island of Ometepe in Nicaragua. Within 10km radiance, there are just 7 human beings: the owners Ryan,  Angela, Jazmine of their 6 mth old; Thomas another guest from France, and we three. The rest are monkeys, fruit trees, trees, water from Nicaragua lake, and the two volcanoes that our island sits on. Its remoteness reminds us of the jungle lodge we stayed in Tasmania.


We had quite a trek today from Granada to get here. Ryan from Finca arranged a car/private taxi to pick us up from Casa del Aqua in Granada to the port of San Jorge (for US30 and less than an hour, we avoided ourselves the hassle of walk+bus+walk+bus/taxi that might take more than 2 hours). From there we took the 2:30pm ferry (a vehicle + passenger ferry that costed us 70 cordobas pp for the one-hour ride). At some point the water was so choppy (freaky to think about esp considering that it’s inside a LAKE, well the biggest lake in entire Central America that is) that water came right up to the second floor of the ferry, and the passengers sitting on window seats got sprayed. But the view was simply surreal: looking towards the Isla de Ometepe, I could see the twin volcanic islands soaring up, towards the iconic volcanic clouds. Once debarking on the port Moyogalpa, we had another smiling driver waiting for us to our taxi/private car arranged by Finca again. Well, this time the 4×4 not only was practical, it was almost the only choice. After 20min of paved road, we started a bumpy unpaved mountain roads for the next 30-45 min (I just couldn’t remember how long exactly it was, it seemed going on forever anyway).  We passed through some houses, cultivated farms, a bit of beaches, a school, a few road side shops, but most of time just forest after forest. Finally after a long private drive way, we were greeted by the most gentle owner family of Ryan, Angela, Jazmine, and their dog and the howler monkeys. The journey itself was part of the experience, definitely the case here.


Howler monkeys reside on the farm land. I don’t know how many they are, but I saw 6 or 7 of them on the mango tree under which I was sitting on the hammock with Nina. They looked at us as intensely as we did them. The baby monkey was jumping around nonstop, while the mummy monkey was watching patiently. Exactly the behaviour of human being.

At night these howling monkeys, well, howled. So loudly that I could almost distinguish from which tree they were.

D187, June 22, Ometepe/ Finca Mystica

There wasn’t much to do really, esp for us who didn’t want to walk for kilometres with Nina in tow. We walked down to the beach – not exactly white sand beach, but black volcano sand/rocks, much finer than the one on Luguna de Apoyo. The water was warm, but not clear – was it natural due to the sediments or colours of sand, or due to pollution brought in by boats? If the canal does come through one day through Lago de Nicaragua, there would be more blessings or problems? Well, there was the possibility of opening up a second canel connecting Pacific with Atlantic (the only one currently is the Panama canal), which would be founded by Chinese. I didn’t really know what to think about this.


There wasn’t much to do around, and I was perfectly happy to just sit around in the hammock, watch birds, clouds, trees, and let time go by.

D188, June 23, Ometepe/ Finca Mystica

Hang around in the finca. Pouring rain whole day, much needed rain for the farmers. Everyone came out to plant seeds as they have been waiting for the rain to start. Ryan told us that they bought the farm/land about 6.5yrs ago. For the first few years, they would work 6mts in US (they are both from there) to earn enough money, and come here for 6 mths to build a bungalow, plant some fruit trees, and go back again. He used to live in Asia, and learnt how to use adobe to build houses, so he designed and built the houses himself with a crew of locals. Three yrs ago, they had enough bungalows (5 for guest rooms, 1 as common area/kitchen/dining/their own room) to start the guest house business. Now they have almost 100 types of fruit trees, including some exotic ones, such as sesame, Granada, star fruit, dragon fruit, nuts. Their rare failure includes durian (haha I wasn’t unhappy). He asked me which bamboo to plant in order to have bamboo shoots. I totally failed it, how do I ever explain 春笋,冬笋 etc (spring bamboo?? winter bamboo??) !!


It’s a total madness to think how they managed to bring all that’s needed for these comfortable bungalows (mattress, flush toilets, furniture, etc) being such a long way (and bumpy way) from anywhere commercial. Looking at the lush farm, I had nothing but admiration to them.

It’s a farm so there were many bugs around. Nico even found a scorpion like creature one morning right next to our bedside table. I guess we learnt to be zen – after all, they live here with a 6-mth-old, and they are thriving.

Nina loved picking up mangos under the tree, or found 2 ripe Granada !! Lemon grass are their footpath border plant, I like the idea.


Ryan and Angela seem to be serene people. Working and living on such a remote place certainly requires special traits. To do so happily, proudly, and successfully is not something everyone could manage. He proudly told me that they employ 12 local people , who in turn feel part of the finca and very proud.

Once here, one doesn’t really have choice but to eat in their restaurant 3 times a day. All food is made from scratch daily, using as many ingredients from the farm as possible, including the daily baked bread, pancake etc. The home-made hibiscus ice tea was awesome, as well as maracuya juice.

At night, it has to be the darkest place I be ever been to. Literally there is no light as soon as I turn off the light of our room. Not even distantly. Nothing. Pitch black. Period. It’s a cloudy night so not even moon light or stars. It’s such an unusual experience.

Yet there is internet, not that you get strong signal, nor consistent, but it’s a working one! They have set up an antenna high enough to receive the signal … from the mainland! I am talking about the mainland that’s 1 hour boat ride away. Hence the quality. But still, there is enough to keep in touch with the rest of the world. Ryan and Angela managed their entire business online after all – they get bookings mostly online, through emails. He told me their bungalows were booked out most of time in the year. Without Internet it’s just unthinkable to have a successful business in such a remote place, regardless how wonderful the place is. Isn’t just amazing to think what technology could do?

[D66 – 70] Buenos Aires

D66, Feb 21, 2014, BsAs

Got the news from my sister that a niang (our paternal grandmother) passed away yesterday ? now she would unite with a ya. And I couldn’t even be there … It’s too much emotion to write inside this blog so I will just say this much.

Tren de la costa to Tigre. A little cute train going to the delta, only 30 min. Although it took us 1hr almost to get to the train station. We had to wait for next train for 25min as we just missed the previous. There was a quite nice antique market adjoining the train station.

The train went along the coast. Nina excited about La Mer as she saw the water and cried.

Not knowing exactly what to do once I arrived at Tigre, we followed the crowd and took a cruise of one hour. Oh I was so glad I did. Only later I learnt there were so many rivers(Rio) running around this delta area. I saw some most charming houses along the rivers, with diverse architecture and style. What they all had in common was there was no road access and they all relied on boat (or kayak as I saw a few) for supplies and getting around. The ferry we took also took on some sort of delivery job. At the dock leaving Tigre, grocery/water/packs were loaded, then along the way, the ferry stopped numerous times at private jetty to unload the delivery – sometimes someone was waiting and sometimes goods were just thrown off to the jetty and left there. I guess it was pretty safe as no one could easily access the jetty anyway.

Tigre itself was quite crowded though and nothing much made us fancy without walking a lot. So after helado stop, we decide to take the train back but stopped midway at St Isda as LP said very good things about this place. It was a much quieter place to start with, then a nice cathedral. A tree lined square. A tourist info office that didn’t open.  It seems many wealthy locals choose to live around this area. We walked around the cathedral, dealing with a child who just woke up from insufficient nap and threw a tantrum. It would have been nice to visit the various museum and old villas. Oh well.

D67, Feb 22, 2014, BsAs.

Today was a rest day. No visiting nor much walking. Fetch laundry. Went to our cafe around the corner for a late lunch for 2 hrs. We are becoming local. Then went to the playground for 2 hrs. It’s almost like we were living here, although we had still to refer to LP from time to time.

D68, Feb 23, 2014, BsAs

Another leisure day, back to Chinatown for a meal at Taiwanese resto. Long wait. Full. At 2pm, we were yet to order. Fortunately we had enough crepe in the morning.

The lady sitting at next table started a chat with us asking where we live, in Chinese, as she recognized us speaking 2 languages. As it turned out, she grew up in Vietnam, studied in Germany, married a porteno and moved to BsAs. She was quite interested that we spoke 2 languages with Nina, and complained the slow service of the restaurant, which apparently changed the owner recently from a Taiwanese to a non-Taiwanese.

Then the helado stop, part of daily routine now.

Walked to plaza belgramo. Oh a lovely market, craft, creative, mostly sold by the artists themselves. In a nice surrounding, park, trees, next to the big (quite beautiful) church with round dome, and next to one of the best playgrounds we’ve come across in this city.

It’s almost like a local resident’s weekend, rather a visitor. Isn’t it what we were after?

D69, Feb 24, BsAs

I said I wanted to go back to La Boca for some photos, and off we went. The one hour bus became a bit boring, esp in a non-aircon’ed bus in a hot summer day. Nina wasn’t the only one who wanted to get off the bus asap.

Unfortunately the museum was closed, ah it’s a Monday!! Why didn’t I learn my lesson? But the streets were a little less crowded, although definitely still busy. Still tango dancers pose for the photos with tourists – some were actually nice poses. We chose a restaurant to watch their tango shoe, but it was their senior men’s band and live song that won our heart.

On the way back we decided to take bus only to the plaza de mayo and then take metro to get home faster.

Noticed people buying full trolley load of grocery and had someone packing their shopping, and very likely doing the delivery. That’s quite handy.

D70, Feb 25, BsAs.

Went to change some cash with xiao Liao our money changer on my own so they two got some down time with no fuss of bus. The bus became unbearably long: almost 1h30min just to get to his place. Should have taken metro.

The inflation in the country was so real, because Xiao Liao was told by a merchant walking in during our chat their selling price of something increased again … Liao was selling a bottle of detergent for 18peso last week and now his buying price become almost 25.

I walked along Defensa, for the last time, north bound to plaza de mayo. It’s such a quick walk, without Nina. I made sure to say hello to a statue of Mafalda, and asked to be taken a photo with her. She was sitting on the bench, easily to be missed if not knowing she was there.

There was a group of people protesting next to plaza de Mayo, but I didn’t understand what for. A quick metro ride (10 min) home, but they were out. Text, phone didn’t work, was anxious. Then Nico called me, I joined them in playground. Lunch at nearby cafe/confiteria. Good value for money of set at $62, the bread was in an edible biscuit basket, cute. Tea was in a nice tea pot. The vuelta (mixed fried potato, cheese, ham) nice.

Ran a few errands (last load of laundry, bought a small duck for Nina from the Chinese shop), pack. Time to leave tomorrow. Already.

[D61 – 65] Buenos Aires

D61, Feb 15, 2014, BsAs

La Boca, the colorful neighborhood, and home of Boca Junior as I just learnt. Caminito is said to be the most photographed street in BsAs. It’s a street painted in rainbow colours, the richest ones : yellow, red, blue, green. It’s also a notorious neighborhood – outside the immediate tourist streets it’s an area of social crime, poverty and daylight robbery as I read. ‘it’s not a place for a casual stroll’ as LP put it. But when you arrived on a Saturday, right into its center, you would think it’s the most festive place on the earth: tango shows, music, street artists, bars, restaurants full of earnest tourists, all with the most colorful murals as background. I would have loved getting into a restaurant with tango shows as they advertised it on guide book but somehow we ended up in an open air bar, with arrogant waiter and miserable food, although the beer was abundant. It wasn’t such a bad idea to sit outside for people watching. It’s such a sunny weekend so the crowd was impressive. All street vendors and artists were out, tango dancers were ready to pose for a fancy photo for a fee. Drum players were marching the street. The tourists, oh the tourists, armed with cameras or phones, a backpack, a jacket, jeans and walking shoes. Sometimes they look quite a scene themselves, funny, naive, ridiculous. When I said ‘they’, I included myself. There were a Chinese looking group with professional filming gear and journalist liking cameras having fun with posing for fancy photos. The guy acted like someone. Maybe he was, but who cared. The bar was the only eating/drinking place I didn’t leave a tip so far – it simply didn’t deserve a tip. Then Nicolas told me he asked me to pay for a higher price already (no bill was given when I asked for la qanta). Oh mine.

Football fans obviously could visit the stadium where Maradona started his career, and Boca Junior’s home ground. Or even better watch a match. But we couldn’t care less and gave it a pass.

There was a missionary couple of Argentinian husband and French wife approached us to have a chat, and at the end gave us a brochure to invite us to ‘reflect on the origin of life’. It turned out to be a topic dear to Nicolas’ heart as he read it with great enthusiasm in the afternoon during our various breaks (one ice cream break, and one vino break).

We left La Boca in a hurry, hoping to come back in a week day with less crowd and hopefully see it in its better self.

We then discovered the puppet museum, to my greatest delight.  Museo Argentino del Titere is a tiny museum with a small strip of puppet show theatre, a reception room and display room full of puppets of their own creation and collected from all over the world. It’s the type of place you felt true love of this art and a desire to share the love. It’s not a typical popular tourist stop, even though it’s just a few small blocks away from the major attraction in San Telmo. We also learnt that at 5:30 there would be a show to delight the kids. I begged Nicolas to watch the show even though I had no idea what the show would be.

At 5:30pm,we returned with Nina who woke up just in time for the show. We found other few families, each child eagerly waiting for the show to start.

I couldn’t understand a word but Nina seemed fascinated. It turned out to be the Patita who became the swan. I figured out only at the end. It’s called Eras Una Vez un Patita.

There were no more than 10 adults there (fewer kids), with $70 per adult and free for kids, it’s a very small revenue for the museum. I guess it somehow explained the rather shabby facade, simple curation of the display, and very basic furniture on the stage and seating in the theatre. But the obvious love of the puppets cried out from every corner. They displayed a sculpture of the founding lady, called Sarah Bianchi, an all smiling lady. This website has a good read about this place.

It’s the experience like this little theatre and no-oscar-winning show that delighted me most. Thank goodness we’ve got the luxury of time. Nina may not remember much – well she most likely won’t remember a thing) – but it may leave a trace on her to appreciate the simple pleasure, a sense of curiosity, the notion of fascination by something that someone else loved, and humbled by all the talents.

D62, Feb 16, 2014, BsAs

It’s Sunday and we headed to Palermo Viejo to hopefully find a more lively neighborhood. It was, at least in the centre of it. Park for families – Nina of course played in the sandy playground and mounted on the carousel, twice. There were two smaller markets but one was unimpressive and the other marginally better. Perhaps I have seen enough markets by now to not to feel easily overwhelmed, although always excited.

Had a lunch in a most lovely restaurant, with an banal name though Sheldon. Its set up was eclectic and mix and match, turning the open space between two houses into a covered courtyard, filled with vintage chairs and lounges. One house was a disc house, selling mainly Spanish discs in jazz and tango.

The food, not cheap, turned out to be surprisingly good, not sth I expected in the middle of the tourist attractions. Nina had fun running around and exploring the big place.

We then walked over to the Palermo Hollywood, across the train line, through many furniture and home deco shops, and even more restaurants and bars. The enthusiasm of porteños over food was openly claimed.

D62, Feb 17, 2014, BsAs

Planned for the trip to El Calafate and Uruguay, talked to an agent. Domestic flights for residents and foreigners have different prices, very different in fact.

Microcentro finally. Walked into an indescribable cafe/resto, having an indescribable lunch – arroz primevera was nothing like what I expected, it’s done ham, raw capsicum, carrots, beans on top of some hard rice.

Walking on ave Florida at 3pm was amazingly crowded. Were these well dressed people on their lunch break?

The national academy of tango had the most classic and amazing old style lift that’s still working. The tiny, iron cast box that made loud noise when in use, with dim light in the stairs around it. Oh I was in love already even before I visited. The museum had a very nostalgic feeling to it, with all the old posters and photos of the legends in tango history. There was a theatre with velvet seated chairs. Next door there was a tango class going on. It’s a place of amazing power to bring peole back in time.

Cafe Tortoni was so popular that you had to wait outside to wait for your turn in. The review online was mixed, LP bluntly put that the service was rude. Once inside you saw an beautiful old-time cafe that dated back 150yrs ago. It’s the equivalent of Cafe de Flore in Paris, where the writers, intellects of the time spent countless time there. The waiters were in black suit and wore ties, like in good old time.  The service was slow but no worse than some of the similar ones in Paris, and the price was surprisingly reasonable.

Then I saw the room for tango show … And the ticket selling for tonight at 8:30. I made  deal with Nicolas to watch the show tonight so that Nina Could watch it too (otherwise we needed to have babysitter as all shows in theatre or bigger places start from 10pm or later.

We then had 1h30 to kill. We walked to see the Teatre Colon, claimed to be one of the finest on this planet. The visit was already closed but the building itself was indeed quite impressive. I saw ads for Lang Lang show in June.

The plaza in front of teatre was a quite big and pleasantly empty one. With a big screen showing the photos of BsAs by a photographer (cannot remember the name).

At 8:30pm, the show back in cafe Tortoni started on time. It was a packed downstairs room, most people seemed to have dinner there. Nina sat there watching with great attention for an hour. She seems to really like dance and music.

I was very disappointed by the dance though. I couldn’t feel the passion, tension and rhythm of the dancers. They didn’t seem to enjoy themselves. Although the singer was quite good.

As disappointed as I was, I was happy that Nina could watch it with us.

BsAs certainly is a city living late into night. That’s what I was thinking on the way back home on the taxi.

D63, Feb 18, 2014, BsAs

The day started as functional: pick up laundry, go buy ferry ticket to Montevideo (via seacat, which charges only in USD or credit card, alas, they officially do not want their own currency).

Then we walked into Galaria Pacifico, the equivalent of QVB and Harrods. A magnificent colonial building, with fresco ceiling. Even better, the cultural center of Borges that I was looking for was just inside the last floor of the building. With its various exhibition (photographs, painting, multimedia, mostly free), tango class, and shows /concerts in the evening, this magnificent center was well worth a few hours. Even better, there were few people so Nina could run and play safely.

Then we decided to have a peek inside the church just on the opposite side. Oh an oasis inner courtyard garden! It used to be a Covent, now a chic resto (Como en casa) in the quiet location with tall trees and flowers. Love time like this.

Walked to St martin square/Santa Fe to take bus back.

D64, Feb 19, 2014, BsAs

National library. Oh what a unique building. Reminds me of the slaughter house in shanghai. Love the chairs, lounges etc – a series of classic design of mid century. Weirdly they destroyed an old building – used to be presidential residence so quite significant – and fot this industrial looking structure built. Visited a few floors but couldn’t go inside the library to read some books. Had lunch in cafe, again the purpose designed chairs just for the cafe probably.

Then fine art museum, just on the opposite side of the big avenue. On the lawn, two young dancers rehearsing their dance, with horse head. So powerful even Nina became a fan, watched for quite a while.

Fine art … Typical. A sculpture of Rodin, some paintings from Gauguin, van Gogh, Sisley, and Argentinian painters like Lopez, Puerrydon ??. A special expo of photographs of Madres, the mothers of ‘the disappeared’ more than 30 yrs ago. A hard piece of history in the country, worth reading. As we left, a huge crowd of elderly ladies walked in. They might be THE mothers who continued to march every Thursday on Plaza de Mayo, fighting for justice and recognition.

Nina has not had day nap for 5 days. Should I be worried.

Nicolas and I spent a lot of time searching good accommodation in Uruguay.., don’t want to have to do this all the time. Too frustrating.

D65, Feb 10, 2014, BsAs

My Spanish sucks. The progress , or rather the non-progress of it,  sucks more. Our daily routine of visiting and doing all things as a family together somehow didn’t allow us to meet other people. While it’s fine not to meet new people all the time, it’s not helping with my Spanish.

Belgrano today. Surprisingly developed and proper as I imagined it to be much more crowded and less organized. One of the nicest neighborhood playground, with full-chair swing, against a belle church. The metro station had escalator and lift!

Chinatown – there is always a Chinatown in every sizable city on this planet, even though I have seen surprisingly few Chinese here. Even in Chinatown I didn’t hear much mandarin nor Cantonese. There were plenty non-Asian looking population. Then around the corner, there was very chic resto and bars, of all kinds of cuisines. Not a typical Chinatown neighborhood.

Had the first meal in a Chinese resro … A fine modern one, although no staff nor other customers were Chinese. Not even chopsticks unless you asked. Very good value for money set menu lunch, $55 for a few dumplings, a chau mian, desert and a drink (Nico had his chop).

A probably best helado we’ve had here (we had a lot) in a small corner heladeria. Yum.

Bought some fresh pasta in a pasteria …

We really started to know our neighborhood.

We have been playing the ‘find the number card’ game with Nina. There was a deck of cards in the drawer in the apartment, and Nina started to recognize 2, 8, and sometimes 3. I would ask her to find 8 among a few cards, and gave it to Nicolas. She loved the game and would happily run back and forth to deliver the cards. Now when we walked on the street or took a bus, we would spontaneously point out these numbers and the letter O, and sometimes A. Has been fun game.

[D56 – D60] Buenos Aires

D56, Feb 10, 2014, BsAs

As it’s not raining in the morning, we set out to the Cemeteria de Recoleta. We took bus 110 (we were becoming really good at this bus thing). A really impressive cemetery! There were real building-high tombs and statues. There were streets lined up. In front of Evita’s there was a constant flow of tourists. Her tomb (along with her husband’s) was definitely not the impressive one, rather more humble ones. The one next to it was up fir sales… If location location location matters, it’s a spot destined to be regularly visited.

We the pushed onto Panerai boutique, as Nicolas is a fan (although with the current spending rate he’s not going to buy another one any time soon). Very disappointing as there were only 6 watches on display.

We ran to an old-time charming resto/bar in the corner called El Sanjuanino. Like back in time. I had locro, a sort of stew with sausage, veggie, maize. Quite hearty. Love the deco and feeling of the place.

After lunch we crossed a few blocks and a massive road, wanting to visit the BsAs Fine art museum. But it was closed, alas! We walked to the paeque de nacions unidade seeing the giant sculpture of flower. It reminded me of the one in HK.

Took a  taxi home as it was going to rain. It did. We stayed inside mist of the day. A day for rest and think what’s next after BsAs.

P.s. Some national icons displayed in president office, Mafalta us one of them. I didn’t know much about this cartoon figure, let alone knowing that it’s an Argentina one. Looks like worthwhile reading to learn about social events and background in 60s, 70s.

P.s. 2, as a big city, BsAs is quite special, in the sense that it’s actually quite quiet – no honking of the car, no hassling of the street vendors. Even pollution seemed to be in control – I didn’t realize its existence. It’s naive to say that it’s all just beautiful – but the infrastructure was quite solid, the metro, the extensive bus, the city bike, the universities, the drainage system that drained all overflowing rain water within hours.

D57, Feb 11, 2014, BsAs

It’s raining again. We decided to discover the kids amusement park inside a shopping mall in Abasto – a neighborhood that no regular tourist would be interested in going.

The so called Museo de Los Ninos is in fact a playground of 2 floors in a big shopping mall, with all sorts of real-life size objects to simulate the play, such as a truck, bus, a supermarket, a bank the kids can go withdraw money from the cashier of another kid, the laboratory to make milk and yogurt, a basketball court, a library, a veggie patch. I was quite impressed and Nina was even more. Her favorite was driving the bus … Her dream coming true … It’s funny to see her little hands controlling the big wheel while trying to sit on the driver’s seat way too big for her and way too far away for her not to slide down. It’s a 40$ well spent for a rainy day. Kids are universally the same creature, curious, adventurous, thrive with the love from parents.

The chef who made our Japanese lunch (udon, rice, bento) perhaps never saw a real Japanese dish in his entire life … It’s like frying spaghetti with some veggies. Anyway Nina seemed to enjoy the udon.

We were getting better with buses, taking two more lines, 188 and 64.

Went to the nearby playground before dinner. It’s becoming our routine. Nina always claimed 沙子, and dug deep. Some local kids came to talk to us. Alas what a shame I couldn’t understand and talk much. My Spanish is not coming back. We today even went to have a look inside the church around the plaza Güeme, at 7:30ish there was a mass. In front of the church a group of kids were playing football, with some quite impressive kicks. People were walking their dogs. Having a coffee in the bars around the plaza. At 8pm, it’s still very day like, lively, and we were part of it. Mundane it may be, it’s the moments like this life really came into being.

Our dinner time was now officially pushed to 8pm or later.

A street in Abasto was named after Boulogne Sur Mer!!

Suddenly I thought about where the name of Buenos Aires came from.

D58, Feb 12, 2014, BsAs.

We have been here for a week. With our own apartment of all normal facilities, it feels a bit like home, although the days were filled with visits and new things and frustration of not knowing enough Spanish. It suddenly occurred to me, while I was waiting in the pharmacy that it’s the normality of such travel that is not so normal. Does it mean that life as we know it can be established everywhere? I shouldn’t be too surprised by this, yet I was a bit taken back by this revelation/question. The existence, and choice of geographic existence, is nothing but a state of mind, plus a bit of material familiarity and comfort.

A sunny day, wanted to do a bit of nature in the park/ecological deserve in Puerto Modena. We got off the subte (getting really good at this public transportation thing) of Cathedral/plaza de Mayo, and started walking towards the direction.

Nina showed great interest in Ministeria de Defensa, as they had a few tanks in display in their big garden and everyone could enter freely – no question asked.

Puerto Midena was a renovated/refurbished old port, now a trendy/modern office/bar/high rising residential area. It immediately reminded me of Pudong in Shanghai, with its broad, neat, and artificial waterfront walks with fancy overpriced restaurant and cafes, with trees still not quite big enough to provide shade in a sunny day like today. One interesting fact was that this area paid homage to the women in the Argentinian history, hence even the fancy bridge was called women bridge, Puente de la Mujer.

The real delight was running into the navy museum hosted on a tall ship, the tall ship who did 37 trips to as far as Europe (Boulogne Sur Mer was on the list again!) and Australia. This massive ship was served as a training boat for navy officers, and it’s very well equipped. A visit down into the basement through a narrow steep ladder (Nina managed it) was interesting to see the dog that was brought on the trip, and the diving equipment of the day. The ship became the museum in 60s, today it charged a symbolic ar$2 for a visit. An under-valued visit! I had been onto 2 tall ships in Sydney before, none could compare with this one in terms of size, authenticity, and the historical educational value.

After a lunch at central market cafe, we made a mandatory stop in the playground before finally arriving at the ecological park. Ah the sort of park where you won’t see any man made sign except the dirt road. Nicolas would have loved it more if there weren’t so many mosquitoes hovering around him (none around me surprisingly). It’s still a delight to have such a big natural land right inside the city.

Massive ICBC building.

We took yet another bus 162 this time going through the train station and Santa Fe, a long shopping road.

Got laundry back.

Nina’s day is now synchronized with Latino time: wake up at 10am, lunch at 2pm, nap at 4pm, snack at 6 and dinner at nearly 9!

D59, Feb 13, 2014, BsAs

By the time we left home, it’s already 12 … Today was the zoo day, and a relatively cool day, hooray!

If you ask me, zoo was perhaps among the last things I would plan on visiting in a new city. But I shouldn’t deprive Nina from the pleasure of animals. Seeing lions, giraffes, bears, monkeys on the picture book coming to life must be quite something for Nina. I could see her eyes lighting up, and attention totally drawn when I pointed out the animals she’s ‘familiar’ with. Oh, wow, lions ARE big, giraffes ARE tall.

Never, I mean NEVER, buy lunch in the zoo. The worst and most expensive fast food ever, for more than 200$, we had 2 miserable (both in size and taste) hamburgers, one horrible pizza ever, 2 bottles of water, and 2 chips. That’s on top of $90/pp entry ticket.

Japanese garden? Nothing Japanese of it from the outset garden so we decided not to spare another $35/pp from us to enter. It’s perhaps as Japanese as the udon the other day.

We were finally psychologically and physically ready to tackle the late dine out. After playground and bath, at 9pm we walked into the lovely ambianced but deserted next-door restaurant La Paña de Colatado. We decided on diner only instead of diner+show as the show would start only at 10pm we were told, and we did not know how Nina would react any time from now.

Among a long list of parrillada with all parts/meats to be ordered separately, we choose the set menu for two to avoid embarrassment of ordering funny parts. It’s not the Brazilian BBQ but more like Korean BBQ, where they brought a tray  with all neat sizzling in it still. A huge tray that was! Some ribs, some steak, some sausage, some liver, some tripe. Way more that we three could handle. Nina loved the ribs the most – a bone sucking child. She showed amazing capability to handle late night meat dinner with just some tomato and salads. With a bottle of wine disappeared, at 10:30pm, other diners just started to walk in, and the show was nowhere near to start.  oh we were not that Latino yet, after all.

As usual we were presented with a bill (surprisingly reasonable at $310, esp after the lunch at zoo) marked ‘10% tip is not included’. Should I feel insulted that they thought we might escape tipping or should I feel grateful that they just wanted to help us avoiding being ridiculous?

D60, Feb 14, 2014, BsAs

We had a very late and very difficult start with Nina today. She woke up only at 11:15, and winged for 2 hours before we could dress her and got ready to go out. We decided on something nearby, just a few bus stops away.

El Ateneo,  located on Ave Santa Fe,  was claimed to be the 2nd most beautiful bookshop in the world. Although I personally was rather skeptical of such rating – isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? – it did trigger some sort of  curiosity in me.

Well, it certainly deserved its reputation. Through a rather humble entry, suddenly I saw a theatre, filled with books. Yes the building was originally designed and opened as a theatre, named Teatro Gran Splendid in May 1919. Only in about a decade ago it was converted into a bookstore. It’s 4 floors high, with thick crimson theatre-style certain , ceiling frescos, roman columns, all in red and gold colour throughout. It reminded me of the Garnier opera house in Paris.

Now it’s a book store, filled with books in every corner of three of the floors. The private theatre boxes in the corners were now reading area, making it a very comfortable and quiet corner to browse through what you may want to buy. The stage area was converted into a cafe, making it a cafe of old time atmosphere. We of course spent most of our time in the junior section, browsing through the kids’ books, in Spanish.

Argentina is said to be one of the highest book-per-capita countries. It’s a lovely and comforting notion that people still read books.

For lunch we finally tried the bar/cafe just down the street. It looked like having been around for decades if not longer and had an old-time vibe in it. It looked like a place where everyone in the neighborhood knew since kids and an still met for a chat.  We always wanted to give it a try. Its simple menu provided some family-like choices, like empanada, tortilla and a fish like we ordered. Nina was still in her grumpy mood unfortunately-  was she actually disturbed by the late night out last night, even if she got her 12+ hour sleep? Or was it something to do with the little red rash on her face and neck since 2 days ago? We wouldn’t know and we tried to remain calm yet alert.

It’s st valentine’s day  – Dia de los Anamorados as they call it in Spanish. I think the day was for singles or non-parent couples, as we were destined to have a night in and early bed time as parents. So not fair.