Tag Archives: bordeaux

What I Packed for Europe

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The summer is officially winding down now that it’s Labor Day Weekend and we’re officially reminiscing about our summer travels. After all the trips big and small we got to make this year, we are enjoying a no plans long weekend. I wrote about our summer trip to Europe recently and for those of you who enjoy packing and planning as much as I do, this post is for you. All the nitty gritty on what worked, what didn’t, kids gear and mom’s shoes. Read on!

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We tried hard to pack light — we bought diapers and toiletries over there, planned on doing plenty of laundry, and borrowed car seats from our friends (which was a mixed bag — there were a few times when we took taxis without seats at all or were stuck putting H in a booster seat which I wasn’t super comfortable with though it was wonderful not to be lugging seats everywhere). Again, being with friends who had a baby made it all so much easier — there’s so many little things you need that we never thought about — they had kiddo snacks in their kitchen already, extra bibs by the sink, baby shampoo.

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I bought some Eagle Creek organizers prior to the trip and it was great to have the bulk of our clothes individually bundled. It made sharing suitcases (we took two) so much less messy. We could pull out clothes for the kids without digging and divide up the suitcase without losing half the pile on the way down the hall to the kids room. I especially liked using one of the small compression organizers for the extra clothes that went in the carryon. Since we don’t always need that emergency change of clothes, it’s so much more sensible to have them tightly packed up in the bottom of the backpack for every outing. Before you rush out and buy a full set of these, I’ll say that I didn’t love them. I had one zipper break on me before we’d even taken a flight as you can’t really stuff them full. And, when you use a lot of packing organizers, then there’s so much wasted space in your suitcase — something I can’t deal with! The organizers don’t sit flat and flush to each other so there’s lots of room between where I stuffed extra shirts, socks, etc. For future trips, I think we’ll use the folders (mom and dad’s clothes) and a few compression bags (boys clothes) to keep the main things corralled and organized but not have every little thing in an organizer. While I loved the look and feel of the Eagle Creek stuff (minus some zipper issues), it would be so easy to DIY with things you already have at home — ziplocks (not very eco-friendly of course), cloth shoe bags, even pillowcases.
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So what did I pack? Separates… lots of separates… While this wasn’t as complicated as say packing for both a ski trip and a beach vacation in the same suitcase, we had several different climates and occasions I was trying to prepare for. London is (to my memory!) always a little cooler than you want it to be so I knew I shouldn’t rely on sundresses there, our countryside adventures in southern France would be relaxed (the only place I expected to wear shorts) and rather hot, and Paris… Paris is obviously so chic. I had several people tell me ahead of time how fashionable everyone is in Paris. One French girlfriend said, bring a nice bag — not necessarily for running after the kids during the day but certainly for mama at night. I wanted everything to be washable and work for kiddo time but still look polished and chic (certainly more so than I do at the playground in San Francisco!). In the end, I brought several pairs of pants, mostly sleeveless tops, a few sweaters/cardigans, a skirt, and two dresses.

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And I was so happy to have a nice leather bag! Another easy way to make a casual simple outfit feel more sophisticated. Mine packs flat (though I didn’t put it in the suitcase this trip as I have in ones past) or slips easily into a larger tote for the airplane and it has a long messenger strap which was nice for hands free time at the playground. I brought a backpack too (this favorite that we’ve had forever) but since we always had a stroller with us, it usually ended up on there holding all the kids’ essentials.
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I’m glad no one mentioned that my hood was tucked in my jacket all morning. So much for chic!

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I did not regret packing  two jackets for London — one rain, one khaki (a chic water resistant one could have done both though I love how lightweight and packable the K-way jackets are for summer thunderstorms). Nor did I regret the dresses and shorts and skirts because France was so hot. 90s for many days in Bordeaux and 100 degrees in Paris. And it was definitely the right call to have comfortable sneakers and sandals. We did so much walking which of course also means carrying. Speaking of comfortable, no regrets that I wore a sports bra on the plane. My sleeveless tops were perfect — great for hot days but layered easily for cooler ones. Big, bold necklaces were the only jewelry that felt right — they made simple outfits feel pulled together.
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While I didn’t have any regrets per say, I brought too many nice shoes — a nice leather loafer and a leather sandal each of which I wore just once out to dinner in Paris. Even in super chic Paris, wearing my nicer flats wouldn’t have made sense. Between playground sand and that fine white gravel that lines so many of the garden paths my shoes (and feet) were filthy at the end of the day. I suspect all those women parading through the Tuilleries at fashion week are trashing their fancy shoes. Plus we walked so much! 30,000 steps one day in Paris. Thank goodness I wasn’t dealing with blisters and sore soles.

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Don’t tell anyone but I also could have brought an outfit or two less. I often do that — pack a touch more than I needed. I wore everything but I could have “roughed it” a little more with less. I bought two pairs of my favorite stretchy high waist jeans for instance and I should have left one at home. Once out on the road, wearing jeans with a few stains on them or shirts with some wrinkles is simply the reality of traveling light and not such a big deal.

What do you think? Do you always overpack? How did you pack for summer travels?

I’m going to save myself the trouble of referencing each item however if you’re wondering where something came from, please leave a comment and I’ll look it up or try to find something similar if it’s not available.

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European Vacation

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We took a trip to Europe earlier this summer. It was a little crazy to be traveling so far away with two toddlers but it ended up being a wonderful trip. We lived in London many years ago now but are still close with our best friends from that time — the bulk of our trip was spent with them. Being with locals really made the trip work for us as there were so many daily decisions that we didn’t have to worry about. For the part of the trip where we weren’t with our friends, we were with my husband’s parents so our kids were outnumbered. In other words, we weren’t crazy enough to go traipsing across the continent just us and our toddlers!

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We started with a couple days layover on the East Coast, something that I think helped immensely with jet lag. And, we had to meet up with the grandparents for our international flight to London! Our overnight flight was quick and smooth though the adults didn’t sleep nearly as well as our Benedryled children (we tried it ahead of time to make sure they didn’t get jazzed)  We spent five days in London — some with the grandparents, some with our friends and their baby boy Fergus (how cute is that name?!?!), some days we went into the city and others we played in their neighborhood in South London. From there we headed to our friends’ family home in a village near Bordeaux for five more days of sightseeing, swimming, and mellow summertime activities. Finally, we met back up with the grandparents for three very hot days in Paris.

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We had our highs and lows, but overall it was so fun to be abroad. I remember nursing my first son when he was a newborn and feeling chained to the couch. At that moment in time, the idea of strolling the streets of Europe (or anywhere else in the world) seemed like an absolute fantasy. I seemed like it would be forever before I’d get a chance to travel again and that made me crave it even more. Many friends prior to our trip said nice things like “hopefully you’ll get a chance to go out for dinner without the kids” and I really felt like that wasn’t the point. Simply being able to pick up fresh baguettes for breakfast or pushing the strollers down a foreign street admiring the shops and cafes was amazing — so inspiring and refreshing. It was also entertaining to do something new with our kids. Houlton and I checked out numerous library books about London and Paris (Madeline, Hippo says Hello, A Walk in London, A Walk in Paris, Paddington Bear, This Is London, etc) so that before we left, he knew many of the sights and monuments. The delight he expressed at each new place was so fun to share.

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So it was amazing — catching up with old friends as if no time had passed, watching our babies and their baby play together, exploring the Transport Museum with my boys, making new friends at new playgrounds, catching a quiet hour at the Picasso Museum…

…and magical — sipping wine on the terrace at twilight, buying cheeses and groceries at the village’s Saturday outdoor market, enjoying a leisurely pub lunch with friends, and sharing Notre Dame at sunset with the grandparents.

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And also totally real — asking in broken French to retrieve my three year old’s shoes from the staff only area where he’d thrown them, or not having actually bought a ticket for our lap baby on the flight and having to “start over” ten minutes before our flight was boarding, or having the kids pass out at 5 only to wake up at 8 super cranky and refuse to go back to sleep until 2am.  And did I mention the heat in Paris? 100 degrees?!?! it was like standing under a hand dryer. We were all just surviving at times.

Despite the low moments, I am so happy we were crazy enough to take the trip, so grateful for all the family and friends who made our trip such a success through their thoughtfulness and hard work, and so fortunate that we were able to travel like this. The boys’ grandparents were seeing Paris for the first time too and that made it really special.

You can see a few more pictures on Instagram (this photo from Bordeaux was one of my favorites) . And I’ll be following this post with more details about what I packed and wore while abroad.

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