Flying with Twin Toddlers

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We have just completed our first plane trip with our 2.5 year old boys, which obviously makes me a top expert in the field of traveling with toddlers! Haha, obviously that’s a joke. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the long weekend went overall, and wanted to share some tidbits in case they’re helpful.

I’m going to break it into a few posts: the flying part, the Washington DC visit, and the apps they like to play.

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This first tip is HUGE DEAL. Since my husband was out of town and our nanny has an injury, my mom was here helping out late last week, and she was planning to drive us to the airport and help us check in. But then while she was here she asked about getting a gate pass. I was like, huh? Turns out that you can get a special ‘ticket’ or pass for someone to help you in the airport, past security. (I called the airline and told them, and then the ticketing agent is the one who can issue it, or not.) Seriously, this was a gamechanger. Being able to have two adults for the entire process made a huge difference.

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We happened upon a kids’ area at the end of the Alaska (C) terminal at PDX, and my mom stayed with them while I went to buy snacks and lunch for the boys, and to the bathroom. Then we switched and she went to get a coffee. All this was done leisurely while the boys played happily!

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The next tip was something that I’d thought made sense but recently saw a blog post confirming it–don’t board early. Why on earth would you want your small children confined to a tiny airplane seat for longer than necessary? I let them keep playing after boarding began, and then we were almost the last ones on the plane. The taxi/takeoff happened really quickly after we got settled. It made the whole experience feel a lot more streamlined and efficient. (Of course, we were on a morning flight from a smaller-city airport, and a nonstop to boot. All those effected efficiency, I’m sure.)

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The boys were very curious boarding the plane and someone pointed them toward the cockpit, where the pilot brought them in and sat them on the pilot seats! We also got some coloring books and crayons from the flight attendant–can’t hurt to ask on your next flight if they have some too!

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The three of us had a row all to ourselves, which was excellent. No worrying about bothering other people with our stuff and constant moving around. Plus, since the boys’ feet barely reached to the end of the seats, that meant I had three underseat storage areas: one each for my backpack, ‘their’ backpack, and my feet. 🙂

A random amazing thing is Alaska’s outlets at every seat. (I hear that some Delta flights have them too?) Being able to use devices as much as you want and not worrying about running out of juice? I’ve been on enough cross-country/international flights to know how precious that is! Overall, I was very impressed with Alaska. I hadn’t flown them in over a decade (since they don’t really fly to the east coast and I am/was a diehard Jetblue fan), but I will look forward to flying with them again in the future! Our flight attendant was really sweet and cooed at them, and also sat with one while I went to change the other.

On the flight itself, I was overly prepared with snacks and toys. I brought some silly putty and pullback racer cars, the Melissa & Doug Vehicles Reusable Sticker Pad, a Water Wow vehicles coloring book, plus our two iPads and 2 pairs of tiger headphones with a splitter.


The sticker pad was the first thing I pulled out, and they played with it for almost two hours! I wouldn’t expect them to play with it that long again, but since this was their first time seeing something like that, they really liked it. Mainly they just pointed to the sticker they wanted and then stuck it somewhere on their scene page. (I tore them out so they could each hold one, and I held on to the sticker sheets.)

(I didn’t end up taking out the coloring books or the new board books I had in my bag.)

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We had lunch and snacks, and then for awhile they listened to “songs.” (Which is what they call the kids music we play for them that they love: 52 Sing-A-Long Silly Songs, Children’s Favorites, Volume 1, and Volume 2) I was sitting in between them and I had them lay down with their heads in my lap, and they just zoned out. (And I watched a bit of a movie on the in-flight entertainment.) It was really sweet.

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At the end of the flight, they played a couple games on the iPad, and watched part of a Daniel Tiger episode. They did *not* sleep. The flight ended two hours after they would have gone down for their nap. And for the most part they were okay, but at the very end, after the seat-belt sign went on, E was really tired and wanted to lay down on his seat. Of course I tried to wrestle him into his seat sitting up..but gave up after ten minutes of shrieking (him) and a backache (me), and just put him on my lap. He calmed down immediately and looked out the window as we descended and landed. Sigh.

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On the return flight, my husband was there too, so we were evenly matched. Once again we had a row of three, and then the seat across the aisle. I made my husband sit with the boys and I helped out from across the aisle as much as I could.

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They fell asleep right after takeoff; it was several hours past their normal naptime. They dozed for an hour and then woke up again.

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The sticker pad wasn’t as interesting this time around, and the magic coloring pages only lasted a few minutes. Silly putty was a total dud. The racer cars provided some fun and interest! So did snacks. We also walked up and down the aisle a couple times, and the boys charmed the flight attendants. We put on 3 episodes of Daniel Tiger to finish up the flight.

So as you can see, overall our flying experience went quite well. What a huge relief. I think their age had a lot to do with it–a year ago they wouldn’t have been able to understand as much or communicate very well, or do as much, activity-wise.

If you have any great tips or favorite toys/activities for flying with little ones, please share in the comments!!

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2014 Oregon Coast Daytrips!

Spending the day out in nature or on a little roadtrip is just the kind of thing that PNW’ers are supposed to do. Up to now we’ve only done it sparingly (because, you know, twins…also, we’re lazy sometimes), but after our second great coast overnight this summer, when the dudes had such a good time on the beach, we vowed to *actually* go to the coast more often. And we did! Woo!

We went on a Sunday in September, back to Seaside and Gearhart. The weather was glorious. The beach was beautiful. We played in the sand, and watched the surf. We had dinner at Pig N Pancake, and watched the sunset on Cannon Beach. It was a fantastic day adventure!

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And then we went again the first weekend of October! It was going to be yet another beautiful weekend, and we knew the weather-clock was ticking, so we took advantage. This time we went to Arcadia Beach, which is south of Cannon Beach. It was an incredible day, though beach was very windy. (Gearhart Beach was not at all windy that we recalled, interestingly.) There was a family playing with a football, which attracted the attention of our small, impressionable boys. The family generously let ours play with their soccer ball, and then the boys ended up practically worshipping the older boy, and following/copying every.single.thing he did.

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Then they did some splashing in the little beach stream, and then they noticed the rocks. Looking at/collecting/awe-ing over rocks is one of their current favorite activities. Needless to say, we had to pull them away.

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We had dinner at Pig N Pancake again, and watched the sun set over the Seaside beach.

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It is SO fun to get away for even half a day–it feels like a world away! The littles have an awesome time, and the grownups do too. We relax, explore, eat treats–what’s not to like?

We are so very lucky to live where we do. So many interesting and beautiful places, less than two hours away! I can’t wait to go back to the coast in the spring (and summer, and fall…)!

Coast Vacation 2014!

After last year’s successful trip to the coast, I have been so excited to do it again! This year we decided to go for two nights, to give us more time to play.   IMG_6265_WEB

We stayed in Seaside this year, to be closer to more action. (As opposed to last year in Tillamook, where just the dairy was nearby.) We missed out on the sunshine…but that actually ended up being really nice. We didn’t have to worry about sunscreen and shade and all that jazz. It wasn’t cold but it wasn’t hot; it was actually quite pleasant.

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We brought a ton of stuff with us, as always. Mainly food and food-related equipment, but also toys and books. It’s like we moved in or something. We had a king room with a sitting area (a couch). We moved the couch to be a divider and set up the pack and plays on the other side. The babies quickly found the dresser drawers (and slammed their fingers a few times) and the AC/heater unit flap thing (which they kept playing with). NOTE TO SELF: Bring painter’s tape next time!!

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Seaside is a pretty small beach town. They have a carousel in a little ‘mall’, and then a little main drag with restaurants, gift shops, candy stores, and arcades. Our guys loved the carousel–we stayed on for a second ride and they wanted to stay longer!

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We had to stop in at this huge candy store with racks upon racks of taffy!

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We visited the little aquarium. At the front is a little seal enclosure. The dudes definitely loved watching them! Even though we got splashed a bit by the seal antics.

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BIG BAD NEWS: My camera got broken on Thursday. 😦 😦 One of our curious and handsy toddlers pulled it off the dresser and apparently it messed up the shutter mechanism. So I was then left with only my iPhone to take pictures for the rest of our time. Cue a very sad and stricken face. I felt a little naked and panicky at the thought of no real camera, especially since I was really looking forward to doing another family beach photo!

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By the end of the day, the sky was clearing a bit. We went to dinner in Gearhart (just up the road from Seaside) and went to the beach there. It was nearly empty compared to the very busy Seaside beach! The light was ah-maz-ing…and I didn’t have my big camera! Sob. I set up the iPhone timer app and got this one above, which is a good sister photo to last year’s.

I got a few other decent shots with the phone too, so it wasn’t a total loss. (I mean, not like the pictures are more important than the experience, erm, right?)

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Friday was our last day (just the morning): more beach! We went back to Gearhart again to have a nice quiet time playing in the sand. The babies would have probably stayed there all day with their buckets and shovels.

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I saw some big animal prints on our walk in, and then on the way out, saw more…and then looked up and saw this! A young elk, I think?

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The drive home was a little longer than it was ‘supposed’ to be, but isn’t that how it always happens? Overall it was a really good time–we loved seeing how much the babies loved the beach and playing in the sand. Plus it’s always a good adventure to explore new places. We hope to do a daytrip or two in the fall, and come back to play some more!

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Summer Bucket List #7: The Coast!!

Woohoo, we finally made it to the coast! This was the outing I’ve been most looking forward to all year!

This was our first ‘real’ vacation with the babies. We’ve only stayed overnight at someone’s house before, but after the success earlier this summer, we were hopeful that the babies would do okay with a hotel.

It was about an hour and a half drive–west on 26 and then meet up with the famed Highway 101. (In 2001, I drove 101 all the way to LA; that was the last time I was on the Pacific.)

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Our first stop was Ecola State Park in the town of Cannon Beach. This stunning vista greets you to one side:

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And the open ocean is straight ahead. We got out to stretch and to feed the babies their lunch. Happily, we’ve done a lot of al fresco ‘dining’ with them, so they were totally cool eating outside in this new environment.

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Make sure to change your focus settings before handing your camera to a stranger/non-photographer:

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We continued into downtown Cannon Beach and found lunch for ourselves, and the babies had their bottles. Then finally it was time for the beach!! There’s the iconic Haystack Rock behind us. Again, this was a stranger…she almost hid the rock behind us and also shot vertically (I cropped it).

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We rolled up our jeans and dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean! The babies had been cranky but they quieted down with their little feet in the water. No doubt they were trying to figure out what kind of giant bathtub they were in and why it was so cold! Emmett even managed to kick and splash while Andy was holding him up.

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On the way back to dry land, one of Andy’s shoes fell out of the plastic bag I had everything in. I suppose that’s a worthy sacrifice for an adventure. He needed new shoes anyway. He grabbed some flipflops from a gift shop and we made a detour to a mini mall so he could buy some new sneakers.

Then we continued on to our hotel in Tillamook. Babies’ first hotel stay!

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We had a ‘king suite’, so there was a little sitting area across a half wall. We set up the pack n plays there and crossed our fingers that the babies would be able to sleep. It took them awhile to quiet down (which happens plenty at home too), but they slept quite well. Andy and I watched stuff on our laptops with headphones.

Our first stop the next morning was the Tillamook Cheese Factory. For the record, 8am is a great time to visit; hardly any tourists are out yet. 🙂 It was a quick stroll and then we got back in the car.

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You can buy an empty ice cream bucket for fifty cents! I was stoked.

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There’s a little cape to the west Tillamook, and we drove out there to see the Cape Meares lighthouse.

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On the way back we stopped at the beach in Oceanside, a town so small it didn’t show up on the map on my iphone. We had more time this time and so the babies got to hang out and enjoy some quality beach time. IE, playing in the sand. Yes, they definitely ate some.

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And then we went back to Tillamook for ice cream before driving home! Andy got black cherry and I got s’mores. Dee-lish.IMG_1211

Overall, things went really well! It was a great family adventure. I hope we can find a closer beach-type place to bring the babies this fall, since they had so much fun. I loved seeing such pretty scenery and exploring new areas. Can’t wait for our next family vacation!

Summer Family Road Trip

Part 2 of our busy family July was a road trip up to Seattle for a long weekend. We were there mainly to see some family (mine this time), but also took the opportunity to play tourist with the babies.

I only realized after we’d gotten back home that we neglected to take grandparent photos. I’ll have to make sure we do that next time we get up there. I don’t know when that will be–maybe before the end of the year/early next year? We did get a few family photos while we were out and about though.

Packing up: I love our CR-V. It would be super awesome if there were like an extra foot of trunk space, though. I guess packing will be easier when the babies need less baby stuff.

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We stayed at my dad’s house, which has this gorgeous view:

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And this silly dog who loves to play fetch:

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And somehow these babies sit up on the counter now! When we were here in January, they were little bitty babies in their boppies.

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On that January trip, I basically sat around one house or the other, mostly trapped with the babies. It was boring and long and boring. So this time, we made sure to explore a bit. Thankfully the babies were willing to play along.

First up, we hit downtown Seattle! I haven’t been there in awhile, so it was fun for me to see the sights too. We did a very quick look around Pioneer Square (mostly the awesome toy shop), but there was some noisy construction going on and we didn’t want to upset the babies (lately they’ve been noticing and not liking loud and/or sudden noises).

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So we moved over to the Pike Place area! We strolled through the market but didn’t stop, because argh, the crowds.

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Phew.

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We did go find some ice cream for “lunch”. It was super delicious.

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And then the babies had lunch in the car. IMG_0636-6

On the second day, we went east to Snoqualmie Falls:

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It was another gorgeous day! The mist from the falls was drifting all the way up the cliff, and it was quite refreshing.

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Since we were so close to North Bend, of course we had to have lunch at Scott’s Dairy Freeze! It’s one of those local burgers/fries/shakes joints that is always tasty and refreshing.         IMG_0683-3

That day we also stopped by one of my favorite places in the whole Northwest–Boehm’s Candies. I always say that if heaven doesn’t smell like that shop, I don’t want to go. If you’re ever near Issaquah, you should go!

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Day three was a big adventure–Whidbey Island. The babies’ first boat ride!

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We got to my aunt Molly’s house and they took a nap together in their pack n play.

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When they were awake, they were passed around and they were totally into it–lots of new faces all looking at them!

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The whole gang!

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We had planned to leave before their dinner, but there was a huge wait for the ferry. So we ended up feeding them at my aunt’s house and then later, driving around Deception Pass. They slept the whole way, thank goodness. It was a three hour drive to get back to my dad’s house, but it would have taken that long to wait for the ferry and drive anyway. So it was a loooong day.

Altogether it was a good trip. I was really happy and relieved that they did so well being not only away from home, but carted around to so many new places, not to mention having their naps interrupted by outings. By the last day, they fussed a little being put into the car seats, but that was the extent of their protests. What amazing babies!!

Summer Bucket List #4: Berry Picking!

Two summers ago, we visited Portland and did a short visit to Sauvie Island to get some fresh corn at one of the many farms, and enjoy the rural scenery. And then a year ago, we went apple picking in the Berkshires and really enjoyed it. So, since we moved here to Portland, I’ve been looking forward to getting out to Sauvie Island to pick some fruit! It was the item I was third-most excited about for our summer list. We figured that it would be a great time to go while Andy’s family was here visiting. And it was!

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As we walked back to the berry fields, we passed the flowers and then the veggies.

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Blueberries! We wanted to pick enough to make a delicious cobbler. It was quite tedious–I now really appreciate the time and effort it takes to get those neat little pints of berries!

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We also picked some raspberries quickly. I tasted one right off the vine and YUM. It practically melted in my mouth. DSC_6325-18 DSC_6326-19 DSC_6330-20

There were two rows of Early Red Haven peaches that were ready, so we trekked over and grabbed a few handfuls.

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Here is the box of berries we ended up with. Beautiful as well as extremely tasty!   DSC_6372-27

I really can’t wait to go back. Hopefully this summer for more blueberries/raspberries, and then later for apples and corn, and then next year for strawberries!

Vienna!

Our start in Vienna was not so ideal. We forgot to load a map on the phone before we left wifi in Prague, so even though we had the street address and an assumption about a vague area, we didn’t know exactly where we were going. At the train station, we exited on one end and the information desk was closed. We couldn’t find an ATM and didn’t have any Euros, so we couldn’t take a cab. We weren’t able to buy UBahn tickets with a debit card in the machine we found either. So we wandered around a bit to figure out what to do.

Finally we went back to the platform the other direction and ended up in the correct end of the station, with shops/food, an open ticket office, and ATMs. The ticket office folks got us hooked up with a map and how to get to our hotel, we got some cash, and were on our way. Phew!

We made it to the hotel pretty easily after that, and after dropping off our stuff, went back into town. There’s a museum called Haus der Musik that’s open til 10pm, so that was our first destination (after being wowed walking past the Opera House!). There were several floors and we were the only ones there, so we went as fast or slow as we pleased, which is a pretty ideal museum experience, if you ask me.

There were lots of exhibits about music in general, and the Viennese Orchestra, and individual composers. Many areas included hands-on experiences. The first one was a minuet waltz that you ‘composed’ by tossing dice. Another floor is all about perception and sound itself. In this room, you can hear all kinds of different sounds in this phones (cars honking, someone yawning, wind blowing, etc).

 There were individual rooms/exhibits for a handful of famous composers: Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Strauss, Mahler. There’s an actual gazebo to waltz under in the Strauss room. In the Mozart room, you enter your name on a computer, and it creates your song. Mozart played with assigned notes/values for different letters as fun ways to compose. Then there’s a small room where you can actually conduct the Viennese Philharmonic. You hold the special baton and it controls the speed at which they play the song you’ve chosen. If you do it too slowly, too quickly, or too oddly, they will stop and admonish you! Great fun. 🙂

For a late dinner/snack, Andy was excited to find a schnitzel stand he’d found in the guidebook. We went back a few times while we were there and he loved it! The Viennese are really into their street meats!

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Day two was a long one, in energy if not geography. We spent the entire afternoon at Schloss Schonbrunn. There are many “attractions” to see, so you buy a ticket with whichever combination of “attractions” you want to visit. I put “attractions” in quotation marks because I found it kind of a ripoff. The gardens, for example, aren’t really interesting enough to be a separate cost. But the “normal” bundle is like five attractions, which is a good variety of things to see. I suppose it’s most beneficial for someone who only wants to see the museum part and can therefore spend less money.

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 Anyway, the castle was large and pretty. Very similar in feel to Versailles, except smaller of course, and less gilt. We toured through the rooms, most of which focused on either Maria-Theresa or Franz-Joseph and Elizabeth (Sissy). After the inside, we explored a bit outside.

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and of course we also jumped (this is the back of the castle, from up on the hill where there’s a big Panorama Terrace). It was really hot out there, and I was glad I’d brought my umbrella to shade myself. I moved nice and slow. (Except for the jumping.)

Finally, the most unusual (and tastiest) attraction was the Apple Strudel Show, a demo of how to make the classic Austrian apple strudel! The dough was so thin you could literally read through it!

We went to the Naschmarkt for dinner. It’s a bunch of fresh produce/meat stalls and some restaurants. I ate a small carton of strawberries and then had the most delicious chocolate ice cream of my life.

We also rode the Ringstrasse on the tram and marveled at the city. It’s a beautiful place, and totally different than Prague.

Day Three was crappy, weather-wise.We started by saying hello to the Stephensdom, the big church right in the center of town.

Then we walked over to the Albertina, one of several large museums in Vienna. There was an exhibit on the Impressionists, and another on Klimt. Due to my ‘delicate’ condition I wasn’t feeling too strong, so we walked through most of the galleries without stopping for too long, except for some bench sitting. (Sitting is one of my favorite activities when I travel anyway.)

 After some lunch (the most amazing McDonald’s meal of all time [I know; please don’t judge too hard]), we decided to hit up the Treasury in the big palace right in the middle of town. It was an extensive collection of not just jewels, but also clothing/costumes and other historical…things. Here’s the famous crown studded with all kinds of precious stones. There were a few other jaw-dropping items to see there as well.

We had a bit of time in the morning before our train back to Budapest, so we walked to the nearby Prater park for the Riesenrad, the giant ferris wheel.  It’s kind of like the London Eye (except older)–you get in a little cabin and take in the scenery as the wheel slowly revolves, for 15 minutes or so. It gets pretty high up there!

We made it back to Budapest and went to a free choir concert at St Stephens. It was beautiful, the way the notes echoed and lingered. No more fitting place for choral music than a cathedral/basilica!

We had an early morning flight out — we were at the airport so early that none of the check-in desks were even open yet!