Our First Vacation to Charleston with The Baby

One of our favorite escapes from Charlotte is Charleston, SC. We love the food, beaches, historical downtown and the low country. So when we found out that my parents in law had never been we decided to take them there for their birthdays. I was hoping they would agree that experiences and time spent together are the best gifts and hey in my book those are much better than something that would collect dust. We got them enough of those things for Christmas. 😀

We’ve been incredibly lucky that husband’s parents have begun snow-birding in the NC mountains so we get to see them much more often now. Also great because we could all drive down to Charleston and meet there. I had found a super awesome (if I may say so) vacation rental on Air BnB. With four months old baby Leo and his grandparents there, having a common living area and a full kitchen was fantastic and look at the view from the living room; we loved seeing the creek at low and high tide!

Best hidden secret for staying near Charleston, SC

Mount Pleasant

We usually don’t stay in downtown because we love going to the beach, too, aaand it’s significantly cheaper. Mt. Pleasant is a short drive across the marvelous Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge and has loads of great dining and shopping options so we enjoy staying either there or in one of the beach towns. Thanks to Yelp and places we’ve discovered and loved during previous visits there we had bitchin’ food at Page’s Ocra Grill, Five Loaves Cafe, and Poe’s Tavern (best burger!).

Best burger in Charleston: Poe's Tavern on Sullivan's Island

While the men enjoyed a(n entire) day on the air plane carrier USS Yorktown at Patriots Point, my mother-in-law and I spent the day with Leo. No, that didn’t mean we hung out at home and entertain him. Thankfully he loves being carried in his baby carrier and so we checked out a local furniture consignment store and then drove to the beach town of Sullivan’s Island. We had that great burger for lunch, then I fed Leo who had napped through our lunch and we walked off all those calories on the beach. Winter temperatures in Charleston are so so so pleasant!!

Sullivans Island's large beach

As you can see it definitely wasn’t high tide when we were there. The texture of the compacted sand was just perfect for a long beach walk. I so love the wide Carolina beaches and that day I found my first whole sand dollar ever! Yeah I get excited about them and sea shells and that kinda stuff. 😀 I get bored and usually over heated just lounging around at the beach so this was the perfect beach day in my book!

Downtown Charleston

Of course we spent a day in downtown Charleston as well. My parents-in-law had never been so we wanted to show them the essentials. With soooo many things to do there it can be tough narrowing down your agenda so we settled on doing a walking tour through the historic center after cruising by the Citadel (a prominent military college). It’s not far out of the way and you get a pretty good impression of life there when you drive around the main square. Bonus sightseeing points if you stop to take a photo with their bulldog statue outside of their stadium.

A quick drive through the Citadel campus. Top things to do in Charleston.

After parking the car (And man was that painful, parking was tough to find! We liked the garage on Cumberland St.), we felt like eating brunch and as luck would have it, Toast was right across the street. My MIL wanted to try it and we were all glad she did because it was goooooood. Great breakfast all day, a changing table and I felt comfortable nursing there so that’s a win in my book.

Freshly nourished we strolled down Meeting Street to take in some Charleston history. The first quick stop was the cemetery of the Circular Congregational Church, which didn’t disappoint with grave stones from the 1700s.

Old cemetery in Charleston

We continued walking south, peeking into St. Michael’s church, marveling at the old houses that didn’t crumble during their big earthquake in 1886 and enjoying small, tucked away parks like Washington Square. The Nathaniel Russell house (uhm excuse me, mansion!) drew us in. Such a cute garden! Also, great restroom with a nice changing pad that you can access through the gift shop. This was the first time we did the actual house tour and it was great! Instead of of just talking about this piece of furniture and that painting (yawn), they talked a lot about what life was like back then in the Charleston society. Loved the grand staircase!

Nathaniel Russell home tour in Charleston, SC

From there we continued walking south to battery park where the boys of course checked out the cannons. I’m usually more interested in the ocean view there and we love the strolling along on the harbor wall. The historic McMansions are so charming!

Historic mansions on our walk around Charleston

Further up we looked at Rainbow Row, the pastel colored row houses, and then had fellow tourists take this beautiful family photo of us at the pineapple fountain. Is that perfect light just before sunset or what?! Pineapples are everywhere in Charleston and fittingly stand for hospitality.

Charleston's pineapple fountain is a great backdrop for family photos

To complete the perfect Charleston day I recommend a little shopping for example down Market Street or King Street. We checked out the historic society’s store for some local gifts and really enjoyed their selection of local children’s books. Grandpa bought Leo The Legend of Putterfrog, a goofy little story about a frog on a nearby golf course. 😀

On our final day we went back into town for lunch at our favorite place, Husk. I checked for reservations about two weeks in advance and I kid you not, the only things available during the week (!) in November (!) was lunch. I gladly snatched up the table and loved my shrimp and grits – a southern must!

Husk is a must eat at restaurant in Charleston

Traveling with our baby boy is definitely different and takes much more planning but it is totally possible especially these days that all he needs is my milk bar. If he’s cranky we get take-out, otherwise he’s usually very chill when we go to restaurants. Going early or later if it’s lunch helps a lot: less wait time for a table and the kitchen isn’t as busy. Yeah we don’t go to pubs or bars with him but husband got a six pack of local brews at a grocery store there so he was able to sample local craft beer nonetheless.

2.5 Days in Charleston, SC with a baby


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Three Days in Barcelona (Spain Trip Part 2)

Three day itinerary for a Barcelona visitAfter our wonderful time in Madrid we headed to the airport at 5am to catch an Air Europa flight to Barcelona. We had originally planned on taking the train there just because that seams to be the European thing to do but when it came time to buy tickets they would have been over $300 for a roundtrip for two. Half-jokingly I checked flight tickets and lo-and-behold those rang up to about $200 with a shorter trip and at convenient times. No brainer. We would fly in for our long weekend in Barcelona.

Air Europa Flight at Sunrise

Day 1

We arrived in Barcelona bright and early at 8am without problems and found a bus that goes to downtown every 5 minutes. Done. Of course our hotel room wasn’t quite ready yet, which turned out to be great in hind-sight because we had no chance to relax and fall asleep waste time but instead headed out into the city. The guidebook had said to check out the Cathedral of Barcelona and it certainly was an impressive Gothic church with all the amounts of gloom and glorious chapel niches. Definitely craftsmanship! Also very interesting were the offering candles, which were electric. Ha.

Catedral Barcelona

electric offering candles at Barcelona's Cathedral

Back outside in the sun we strolled around Barri Gotic – Barcelona’s old neighborhood. You really feel a bit as if you are in a different time with all the little alleys. Well, so long as you ignore the plentiful Desigual shops that seam to be at every street corner. 😉 We found another rather old place and looked at a couple of ancient roman columns that were remains from an old Roman temple. So neat! Now hungry, we settled in for lunch at Allium restaurant and had a tasty boar burger and tagliatelle. Their food definitely hit the spot after all the traveling and sight-seeing.


We moved on to walk on the famous La Rambla street passing through beautiful squares on our way there. I thought La Rambla itself was quite overrated, touristy, and nothing too special; I much preferred walking the many other streets in Barca. But you obviously have to check it when you’re there. At the sea front end of La Rambla I found a kiosk that sold ice cream and Michael was excited to be able to buy a beer and drink it while walking around the city (oh American husband of mine….). Being by the sea is always amazing in my book and we walked around the pretty marina and the Barcelonetta beach. Who cares that it was chilly and the Mediterranean Sea was still freezing?! We were there! But because we got pretty cold and needed a break we sat down in a little beach front café and had a cup of coffee (translates to espresso there) con leche. So nice!! Those are seriously moments in life that I will be forever thankful for. What great memories!

A Stroll at Barcelona's Beach

We strolled back to our hotel through the Park De La Ciutadella (city park), which, though less famous than the Retiro Park in Madrid, was much prettier. We enjoyed seeing the beautiful Parliament of Catalonia and the amazing Cascada fountain built by none less than Antoni Gaudi and his teacher. At the end of the park stood a pretty Arc de Triomf (yeah we don’t have those in Germany, we seam to lose more than win. Hrrrhrrr).

Ciutadella Park Barcelona Fountain

After a little break in the hotel we were hungry again and thought about what to eat. Eating tapas in Barcelona had always been on my personal bucket list but ironically that first night I did feel like I needed a break from Spanish food even though all we had eaten had been super delicious. We found a great compromise at Mosquito Restaurant in El Born though, which served Asian tapas. And how delicious they were!

Mosquito Asian Tapas Bacelona

Day 2

For our second day we had planned to see Barcelona’s number 1 sight: Sagrada Familia. Popular as it is and it being a Saturday the lines were long. Should have bought tickets online – so if you have a chance, be better prepared than we were and buy them online. Luckily the line did move somewhat quickly and we got tickets to get onto the church premises in another hour. Ah. OK. The guide book proclaimed that the Hospital de la Santa Creu I Sant Pau, another one of Gaudi’s works, was worth a trip to and so we walked there and back in the mean time.

Gaudi designed hospital in Barcelona

The time finally came though and we got to go into the Sagrada Familia. Just the façade itself was incredibly detailed and so different than what I am used to in terms of how most European churches look (read: old and stuffy, not friendly and welcoming). We decided to get an audio guide and the cool thing about it was that we were able to share just one by using our own iPhone headphones. Savvy, or what?!

Best Way to See Sagrada Familia - Together

Inside the church was even more stunning. So bright and such beautiful lines and shapes and the way the stained windows filtered the light was just breathtaking. So worth the wait! Michael kept saying how this was the most beautiful building he had ever been in and I agree with him. I’d love to go back in a decade or two to see the progress. I can only imagine how glorious it will be.

Sagrada Familia Altar

Inside Sagrada Familie March 2015

Afterwards we were a bit hungry and did not want to eat in one of the tourist-trap-like spots around Sagrada Familia so we took the Metro to Paral·lel and ate at Quimet & Quimet, a tapas bar the guide book had recommended. Yeah, I was ready for my Spanish tapas in Barcelona bucket list box to be checked off. Turned out to be our favorite food spot in Barcelona! The place was packed but we were able to swoop in for a little standing table at the end of the small room. A tasty white wine and Spanish beer kept us company while we picked out Montaditos to try. They were all pieces of bread piled high with deliciousness. I’m drooling right now just writing about it! Once back home I was actually watching Cooking Channel and they featured Quimet & Quimet on one of their shows. Yeah, it’s that good! Nom!

Best Tapas Bar in Barcelona Montaditos Tapas from Quimet i Quimet in Barcelona

Though we didn’t really want to leave Quimet & Quimet we eventually took the funicular and the gondola up Mont Juic to enjoy the view of the city. We walked back down from the Castel Mont Juic to the National Art Museum of Catalunya with a pit stop to look into the Olympic Stadium (and use their restrooms). A long walk for sure!! I was pretty beat by then and so we took the subway back to our hotel, rested for a bit, and reserved tickets online for the next day at Park Guell. We had learned from today. Yay us!

Museum of Art Catalonia Barcelona

For our last night in Barcelona we had wanted to enjoy some more Spanish food and we wandered around old town until we found a spot on the little square at Basilica Santa Maria del Mar. Someone was playing music, people were out and about and the church was lit up. So beautiful! I was super pleased with my Padron Peppers and garlic scampi but surprised about the Patatas Bravas: they were French Fries! Good French Fries but still, I felt kind of cheated. Not sure why I had roasted potato cubes in my mind… Oh the high expectations of something sounding different. Haha. We strolled around the quarter for a bit longer after dinner. So beautiful! I am totally in love with this town and was so glad to be able to share it with my Love. A shared experience is double the fun indeed.

Traditional Spanish Tapas near Basilica Santa Maria del Mar

Day 3

We had another tasty breakfast at the El Nostre Pa bakery around the corner from our hotel. Si, they remembered the terribly Spanish speaking tourists from yesterday. Thank heavens the staff was sooo nice and patient with our broken Spanish. Well nourished we took the Metro up to Park Guell and wandered around its free grounds until we finally found the entrance to the spectacular architectural area. #MapFail It was a beautiful day, finally much warmer than earlier in the week, and we enjoyed being outside and admired all the decorative tile mosaics. It was quite crowded, especially at the famous lizard sculpture, so we didn’t linger too terribly long though.

Park Guell Barcelona

All set and done though we were getting close to lunch time and so we checked out Mercado de la Boqueria, a subway ride away in downtown. We had hoped it would have been similar to the tapas market in Madrid and the guide had highly recommended it but we didn’t really find much to eat there or if there was prepared food it was impossible to find a spot to eat. So we enjoyed a delicious fresh fruit juice and marveled at the fish and vegetables on display and then headed out to find a real lunch place.

Fresh Fruit Juice in Barcelona

Another one that the guide had recommended around that area was closed for good so we stumbled into the Bianco Noir bistro/bar that was run by a friendly Spanish woman and her Italian husband, who thankfully spoke excellent English. While we enjoyed good pork sandwiches and some cava (oh bliss), a group of young Italians came in to watch 2nd league Italian soccer on TV. Ah yes, we had stumbled into the local fan bar of Pescara Calcio. How ironic. We had a great time cheering for their team with them though and in return they let us in on where the best gelato was to be had in Barcelona. When in Europe…

Off we went, a quick stroll down La Rambla, through Placa Sant Jaume and we had found Gelaaati di Marco. Fantastic place! I could lay down in that ice cream and eat it all. So so good! So hard to find good gelato back home in North Carolina.

Gelaaati di Marco - Best gelato in Barcelona

Sadly then it was time for us to get our bags from the hotel and fly back to Madrid where we caught our flights home the next morning. What a wonderful, wonderful trip we had had! Honestly, if I had to choose between Madrid and Barcelona I would probably choose Barcelona but only because of the Sagrada Familia and the beach. We had unforgettable food in both cities and they both offer way too many cool cultural sights to see. Tough tough call though! Just visit them both! 😉

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Madrid in Two Days (Spain Trip Part 1)

Last month I was lucky enough to have the chance to combine a business trip to Spain with a few days off to explore. Zee husband flew in as well and we got a great taste of Madrid and Barcelona. Amazing sights and delicious food! Loved it!

Favorites in Madrid:

  1. Tapas at Mercado de San Miguel
  2. The almost obnoxious grandeur of Palacio Real
  3. Chocolate and churros at Chocolateria de San Gines
  4. Watching the flamenco dancers at Villa Rosa

My trade show went very smooth, we reached our goals and the dinner event I had planned was a great success. Nothing like seeing a big project come together after you’ve worked hard on it for months. So with that load off my shoulders and all our equipment packed up, the fun began. 😀 We had stayed in a very convenient and nice hotel near Principe Pio train station and enjoyed the wealth of restaurant options there. The jamon iberico – amazing! The area was a great spot to explore the sights on the western part of Madrid’s center – although all of Madrid’s center was smaller and much more manageable by foot than I had anticipated. Huzzah!

Palacio Real Ceiling, MadridDay 1 in Madrid we started with obligatory breakfast of café con leche and then walked to the Palacio Real. As a German I’ve seen my fair share of castles but this one really stood out in all its splendor. Definitely worth a visit. We loved seeing the extravagant rooms with their beautiful furniture and accent pieces, the armory and the original Stradivarius instruments of the former queen.

Tapas Market in Madrid, SpainHungry from that we headed over to the San Miguel food market and indulged in all sorts of tapas. When in Rome… We shared some black paella, bocadillos (sandwiches) with roasted peppers, caramelized onion and goat cheese, roast beef with brie, tortilla, pickled herring, olives and what seemed like two of Spain’s national drinks: Vermuth and Sangria. Everything was amazingly flavorful!

Fueled by our awesome lunch we then walked around downtown’s bustling streets including Placa Mayor and took the obligatory photo with the bear and strawberry tree statue at Puerta del Sol; one of the main places in downtown Madrid. Commercialization has taken its toll on that square, it’s now called Vodafone Sol. I suppose that’s similar to Time’s Square but just imagine we’d have the “Palmolive Golden Gate Bridge” or “Monsanto National Mall”. Just a little sad and odd.

Churrus and Hot Chocolate, St. Gines, MadridFrom there we moved our bags to our new hotel, which was more towards the east part of downtown, less conducive to trade showing but better for sight seeing. It has to be noted that we had the weirdest bathroom door ever. It was frosted glass and didn’t shut properly. Even as a married couple… not sure what the purpose of that door was. As a reward for hauling our stuff across town we sat down at St. Gines Chocolate for hot chocolate and churros. I would say this was the Madrid equivalent of New Orleans’s Café du Monde’s beignets. The stuff was gooood! The churrors not too greasy and the hot chocolate rich but not overly sweet. Perfect for the cold weather. I was so full that for dinner we just sat down at a bistro next to our hotel with a salad and a few tapas for Michael. When in Rome…

Day 2 started with a good breakfast at the hotel (thank you half price deal for Expedia+ members). Café con leche of course was part of it but also good cold cuts (oh how I miss those in the US) and the usual shabang that you get at hotel breakfasts. Thank heavens we had a lot because we spent quite some time exploring the Reina Sofia Art Museum that morning. Always amazes me how something like Salvador Dali’s amazing, ambiguous pieces can hang next to a black square on canvas. Oh modern art! Definitely neat to see Guernica after having heard so much about it and the sad part of Spain’s history.

Best Calamari Sandwiches in Madrid - El BrillianteOur guide book had recommended a little pub, El Brilliante, next to the museum for their calamari sandwiches and they were indeed pretty darn tasty. After that a stroll through the Retiro Park to admire the pretty Crystal Palace with its little waterfall grotto and the free art exhibit we stumbled upon in one of the other buildings of the park. I love exploring!

Flamenco show at Villa Rosa in the center of Madrid

We rested a bit and then headed out to a flamenco show in downtown Madrid at Villa Rosa. I had been somewhat worried that it would be just a tourist trap with a cheesy show but the performers were exceptional. The amount of speed with which their feet flew over the stage was incredible and I love listening to their rhythms. Definitely a highlight of the trip and a great way to spend our last day in town before heading to Barcelona.

If you stumbled on this while searching for a two day itinerary for Madrid consider pinning this image or save it to your smartphone for when you go.

Two Day Madrid Itinerary

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Short Rocky Mountains Getaway to Breckenridge

Zee husband and I just  returned from a wonderful, albeit too short, trip to Breckenridge, Colorado. Our main objective was to ski but the town has so much more to offer that we didn’t want to miss out on. I especially loved the local gemstone and mineral store, whereas Michael is partial to the local distillery. We both loved both places. 🙂

Casa Bonita Restaurant DenverOn our way to Breck from Denver we stopped at what I would call the most stereotypical food extravaganza on earth: Casa Bonita! While you eat terrible TexMex food and unlimited sopapillas (dough pockets similar to funnel cake but less tasty), cliff divers, pirates, and gorillas entertain you. Pretty darn awesome in the most tackiest of ways. SouthPark featured them in one of their episodes and we just had to go see it. I was totally scared by Black Beard’s Cave. OK maybe not but it was crawsome (crazy awesome).

Time to leave Casa Bonita behind and hit the road for Summit County. It’s always mind boggling for me to see the steep Rockies pop up behind pancake-flat Denver. We had sweet talked the rental car clerk into giving us a German-approved Jetta and thankfully it was able to bring us up snowy I70. Chain laws were in effect and we saw quite a few cars, including SUVs, stuck in the slushy snow.

I70 snowy in Colorado

We got a salad and sandwich at the Quandry Grill and shared a local beer. When in Colorado… What is it about Colorado and the countless craft breweries? We’re blessed with them, too, here in North Carolina but it sure seems above average!

Tab beer at Quandry Grill

After dinner we stopped by the Oxygen Bar to inhale some of the good stuff. Breck is so high that your body can have a hard time adjusting to the altitude. People can get headaches, lightheadedness, nausea, and insomnia and the oxygen is supposed to help. With only 4 days out there and me tending to get lightheaded anyway we didn’t want to take any chances. On top of that it was a really neat experience! You got your very own cannula and were able to select a scent to add to the O2. Neat-O! I did feel great the whole time so I’m guessing it worked. Zee husband said he had issues sleeping – of course he had felt too manly to sniff oxygen. 🙂

The first day we explored Main St and said mineral store. Y’all, Breckenridge is soooo adorable! It literally looks just like a snowglobe town. We explored many a hat, antiques and t-shirt shop as well as an art gallery. The amount of t-shirt shops per capita has got to be one of the highest in the country there. Insane!

Breckenridge Main Street

We warmed up over a steak sandwich from Salt Creek before engaging in an epic battle of the sexes in skeeball at Eric’s Pub.

Yummy Steak Sandwich

In the evening we picked up our friends that had been staying in Frisco and we headed to dinner at The Dredge – a replica of one of the old dredges that used to work the Blue River. Food was decent, not amazing but the staff was very friendly and we had been wanting to try it because we loved feeding the fish there in the summer. My portobello burger was tasty!



The next two days we enjoyed skiing the peaks of Breckenridge. I got more and more comfortable and very much enjoyed skiing down the blue runs by day two (this was 5th and 6th day skiing since day 1 on skis). I was eying a black run but felt like I should end on a good note and not awkwardly slithering down a crazy steep slope. Next time! I cannot wait to go again!

Skiing Breckenridge


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