Lisbon – our first family trip abroad

First family trip abroad to Lisbon

This trip to Lisbon was the first time in another country with our baby daughter. We knew it would be different to our previous trips, however we had a wonderful time and managed to do more than we expected.

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Getting from Lisbon airport to the centre was easy. The metro line runs straight to the centre, so within 40 minutes we were at our apartment.

We chose an apartment in the Amoreiras Garden district  Casa Amora. Perfectly located within walking or short Metro ride from the sights but in a quiet enough neighbourhood for a family visit. The great thing about choosing an apartment when travelling with a young baby is that sterilising and heating bottles is easier with a kitchen area!

The metro and tram system are a great way to get around even with a child. Although avoid the rush hour times and you will be more comfortable.

Lisbon is a city of many levels, and with viewpoints accessible by elevators and funiculars there is always a way to a fantastic view.

On our first day we visited the castle which was at the top of my agenda. There was a beautiful view across the city from the top and also home to a family of peacocks! (Which I love).

There were plenty of bars and restaurants to stop at whilst exploring the city. We took our time, relaxed and enjoyed our surroundings.

During our trip we also grabbed a tuk-tuk ride to Belem. We tried the famous pastry dessert and explored the river front gardens before heading to the tower. There was quite a queue to get into the tower without an advanced ticket, however it gave us time to enjoy the view of the tower from the outside.

The bus journey back from Belem to Lisbon centre was pretty eventful. A very full bus and a roadworks re-route meant some very unhappy passengers.. But we made it back in one piece.

We also visited Carmo convent, Parque Eduardo VII as well as some spectacular squares and viewpoints. Lisbon is a lovely city to walk around but there can be a lot of steps and hills!

My first experience of travelling abroad with our baby was actually pretty great. We had a lovely time as a family as it was surprisingly relaxed. I have to admit we visited less bars of an evening than we used to, we ate and had a beer earlier in the day before enjoying Netflix and a bottle of wine back at our apartment.

We grabbed a taxi through cabify back to the airport  (as referred by the lovely apartment owners). It’s similar to Uber so our referral meant a free trip and they also provide child seats upon request!

Overall an amazing start to our family travel in Lisbon.

Here’s to many more family holidays in the future! 🙂

 

2016 review from Travel Geek Tara

My 2016 review! What a year it has been for us!

2016 review
2016 review

Well the year kicked off on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. I managed to stay up past midnight despite being 16 weeks pregnant and sipping non-alcoholic beer… Not our usual kind of trip but I enjoyed relaxing and visiting lots of different Caribbean islands all in one trip.

2016 review
Standard beach, sea, sunbed, feet photo. 2016 Review.

So what happened next? March was quite a busy month.. taking a mini tour of Lithuania great place by the way.  Taking in Vilnius, Kaunas and Trakai. Then moving house when we got back! Shortly after moving my sister-in-law announced her engagement – another wedding to look forward to!

Vilnius
Cathedral Square Vilnius. 2016 review

In May I launched my Etsy store Geeky Wanderlust where I sell travel and vintage style jewellery, fabric items and prints. Just something else to keep me busy..You can check it out here:

On to June.

In June our lives changed forever with the arrival of our beautiful daughter. She is the best and has fit into our lives perfectly. (I’m in love). Of course we sorted her passport as soon as possible to continue our travels with her!

Some more brilliant news came in June.. My sister-in-law is having a baby. Auntie Tara for the second time.

Our first overnight stay as a family was in Leeds in August for our fabulous friends wedding. Then in September we took our first trip abroad to Lisbon. I absolutely loved travelling with our daughter. A bit of forward planning and preparation meant the trip went well, there were a few tears and screams on the plane but I expected that!

2016 review
Lisbon 2016 review

September was a busy month including a caravan holiday with friends to Burnham on Sea and Western Supermare, and a short break to Liverpool. At this point our daughter at 3 months old had spent a significant portion of her life away from home.

December came and so did my brothers wedding. Such an amazing day and very proud to be maid of honour :-).

Another proud moment, the birth of my baby niece. Now these two cousins have some adventures ahead!

Then came a trip to see Santa at Hatton Country World and a Christmas break in London. It was so nice to get away so close to Christmas again. I had such a great time at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, exploring the British museum and meeting animals in London Zoo.

2016 review
The British museum London 2016 review

Just before the year is ending we had some more great news, another of my brothers proposed and she said yes! How exciting!

That’s two proposals, two babies, four weddings, five trips and three countries. What a year.

So whats in store for 2017?

Well, we have already planned trips to Ireland, Rome and Dubrovnik. Revisiting and introducing our daughter to some old favourites. And if that’s not enough I plan to visit the top museums in the UK!

As expected I have less time than I used to which means less frequent blog posts… I have been writing one about Lisbon for two months. (Oops). There are a few more posts in the pipeline but I will probably write shorter easier to write (and read) articles to keep Travel Geek Tara going 🙂

Happy New Year to all of my readers and I hope you will continue to follow my blog next year 🙂

 

 

Baby passport – how to get a passport for your baby

Baby passport

How to get your baby passport in the UK – my tips.

Gone are the days when a child can travel on their parents passports. Every British child now needs to have their own baby passport to travel even new-born babies.

Baby passport

It may sound like a difficult task to get a baby passport. However it is simpler than you may think.

First things first – your baby needs to be registered and have a birth certificate that can be sent with their passport application. This can take some time depending on where you live. For example Birmingham registry office had a 6 week wait for appointments to register births. There are, however, always cancelled appointments that come up. If you call the office you may get in earlier. (We managed to get an appointment after a week.)




Next  is getting the passport photo right.  Here are the guidelines:

Photos of babies and children.

‘Children must be on their own in the picture. Babies must not be holding toys or using dummies. Children under 6 don’t have to be looking directly at the camera or have a neutral expression. Children under one don’t have to have their eyes open. You can support their head with your hand, but your hand must not be visible in the photo.’

The background must also be cream or light grey. I used a cream blanket to lie the baby on.

To make sure the photos were correct I used the website paspic.com. They quality check the photos and print them at the correct size which prevents problems with the application. The pictures were delivered in a couple of days.

Baby passport
We got our baby passport!

The application is pretty straightforward. Very much the same as an adult passport, however you will need to fill in grandparents as well as parents details.  The passport needs to be signed by someone who has known the adult filling in the form for at least two years and recognise the baby photo.

Here are the requirements of the counter-signatory:

‘Who can sign your form and photo

Your counter-signatory must:

  • have known the person applying (or the adult who signed the form if the passport is for a child under 16) for at least 2 years.
  • be able to identify the person applying, eg they’re a friend, neighbour or colleague (not just someone who knows them professionally).
  • be ‘a person of good standing in their community’ or work in (or be retired from) a recognised profession.

They can’t be closely related to or involved with the person applying, eg:

  • related by birth or marriage
  • be in a relationship with or live at the same address as the person applyingIf you’re applying in the UK

Your counter-signatory must:

  • live in the UK
  • have a current British or Irish passport’

Here is a link to the list of Recognised professionals who can sign the baby passport and photo. There are more to choose from than I realised!

Baby passport.
Our passports ready for our first family trip to Lisbon in September.

So you have your birth certificate, completed form, photos and counter-signatory.. Next send it off and wait for the return!

I sent everything off by Royal Mail special delivery as I wanted to make sure it got there as soon as possible. I also wanted to make sure it got there, not that I don’t trust the post office.

Within 3 weeks from sending everything off we received our brand new baby passport! Quick and easy really :-).

I hope this has helped and makes sense for those applying for their babies first passport. I cant wait to take our new baby on her first trip!

Happy travels!




 

 

 

 

Vilnius – Top things to do

Exploring Vilnius – What are the top things to do?

We spent a few days in Lithuania in March and Vilnius was our main base to explore from. Being the largest city and the capitol, there are plenty of things to see and do.  Here are my highlights  🙂

Castle Hill and Gedimina’s Tower

Vilnius
Castle Hill – Vilnius.

The top of the hill is reached by either walking a sloping path or the easier and cheap funicular. Most of the buildings have been reconstructed however there is a stunning view over the city. To climb a little higher, pay 4 euros to enter the tower for 360 views from the top. Inside the tower there are some interesting exhibits including suits of armour and other historic pieces. The stairs of the spiral staircase are a little steep but worth it!

The Hill of Three Crosses.

Vilnius
Hill of Three Crosses – Vilnius.

The crosses stand on the old site of the crooked castle and are believed to have been erected in the 17th Century. The climb is a steep one, entering through Kalnų Park. Climbing up the slopes and steps you will reach a plateau where the crosses stand. Another great view across the city and also castle hill.

Vilnius Cathedral and Cathedral square.

Vilnius
Cathedral Square Vilnius.

This great open space is full of interesting architecture. The Cathedral itself is French Classicist style and mostly dates from the late 18th century. Built on the site of an original pagan temple . It has had various uses throughout its life, including being used by the Soviets as a garage for truck repairs. Today the chapels, sculptures and paintings are to be enjoyed by its visitors.

The old town and Pilies street.

Vilnius
Vilnius Old Town.

With one of the largest old towns in Europe, there are many streets to explore. In contrast to Cathedral square, Pilies and the surrounding streets are narrow and winding. Get lost within the souvenir and local craft stores, coffee shops and restaurants. Especially popular for its local Amber-ware.

The Gates of Dawn

Vilnius
Gates of Dawn Vilnius.

The Madonna of Mercy is the focus of this classical chapel. Following the custom of having a chapel or religious image in gateways to protect leaving travellers and guard from enemies. This is the only gateway to have survived from the early 16th Century. Entrance is from the outside, steps lead up from a door in the street below.

Vilnius.
Gates of Dawn Vilnius.

These are just a few of the main sights to see in here. More top attractions worth visiting are.. The Presidential Palace. St Johns church. Vilnius picture gallery and The Church of St Anne.

Find more information here Vilnius tourism.

Flying whilst pregnant – my advice




My tips for flying whilst pregnant.

I have only two experiences of flying whilst pregnant. One at 15 weeks returning at 17 weeks and one at 27 weeks.
I am quite lucky to have avoided any morning sickness throughout so I didn’t have to contend with any nausea! But here is my advice to make it easier when flying whilst pregnant.

Flying whist pregnant.
Glad I took my flight to the Caribbean for views like this!

The first time I took a flight was during the beginning of the second trimester which is supposed to be the best time to travel. This is because generally you are supposed to be feeling better. The second was at the end and although I didn’t have too many adverse symptoms.. I was starting to slow down, getting breathless when walking for too long.

The flights I took were 8 hours to and from Barbados with Thompson and around 3-4 hours to Kaunas with Ryanair. As you can see my experiences are with budget airlines, so I’m not sure if it would be any different if you paid a bit more!




So from my experiences I can offer this advice and hope it’s helpful to anyone flying whilst pregnant!

1)Bring your own decaf.

If you like your hot drinks like I do then bringing your own decaf tea bags or coffee for your flight is a good idea. Decaf wasn’t available on my flights but I had anticipated that.  The attendants can give you hot water and you are good to go!

2)Wear flight socks.

I think they really helped, especially for a long flight and if you are prone to leg cramps. Make sure you get up and walk around too if you can to help your circulation. Not very sexy but neither are puffy ankles and visible veins!

3)Drink plenty of water.

Bring your own bottle. It may mean a few more trips to the loo but keeping hydrated is really important. It also helps with prevent water retention strangely. Also getting up to go to the bathroom will keep your circulation going!

4)Bring a comfortable pillow.

Trying to sleep on a plane is bad enough but when you are pregnant and can’t get comfortable its worse!. For a long flight bringing an in flight pillow will really help you get into a position you can sleep in. Or  even just a doze.

5)Take your favourite snack along.

If you have been feeling nauseated, the thought of aeroplane food may make your stomach turn. Make sure you bring some snacks you know you will enjoy whilst travelling to keep your energy levels up. Keep them handy too.. they are no good to you in the hold!

6)Mention your pregnancy when checking in and to the stewards.

There’s nothing wrong with telling the airline staff you are pregnant. You may be given priority boarding, an accessible seat or maybe just a little more care and attention. Anything to make your flying experience more enjoyable.

Flying whilst pregnant.
Wrapped up visiting Trakai Lithuania at 27 weeks.

Many airline have different policies when it comes to pregnant women flying. Usually flying up to 28 weeks is the safest time to fly and its a rule many airlines stick to. Any time after that may require a doctor’s note to say you are safe to fly. This will only be given however if you are low-risk and having a normal pregnancy. The dates are earlier if you are having twins.




The medical advice is always changing. Here is the current NHS ADVICE and Frequently asked questions.

The main advice from me is do it if you can! Have your baby moon and enjoy this relaxing time where you are the one being looked after.

Happy travels 🙂

 

Meeting Dolphins in St Kitts

Meeting Dolphins – Swim and encounter in the Caribbean.

A dream activity for many holidaymakers and animal lovers.

As part of our cruise we had the opportunity to arrange shore excursions. We are not used to taking part in large scheduled trips however the idea of meeting Dolphins here appealed to us. Before exploring the island of St Kitts we decided to book on the Dolphin Swim and Encounter at Dolphin discovery.

Dolphin Discovery Saint Kitts - meeting dolphins.
Meeting Dolphins in St Kitts. Ocean enclosure.

I liked the thought of the enclosure being part of the ocean here. I believed it would be closer to their natural habitat than an aquarium or pool in a park. However I did not have much time to conduct research prior to our visit.

On arrival we were given a safety briefing and a short explanation about the centre. We were issued our life jackets and split into groups of about 7 people. Our dolphin trainer then took us along the board-walk and down to a submerged platform to introduce us to the Dolphin named Dali.

The trainer explained how our encounters would work and told us about the commands he would be using. Dali the dolphin swam and played in the square enclosure whilst our trainer was speaking to us.

Meeting dolphins.
Dolphin kiss.

Meeting Dolphins.

Each person then took it in turns to kiss, hug, swim, dance and be pushed along by the dolphin. He was fed fish as a reward and responded to the trainers whistle as well as hand gestures we were giving. (Or trying to give..).

I found it a great experience to meet this beautiful creature. I really enjoyed being so close to Dali and swimming in the water with him. He was gentle and seemed to enjoy what he was doing. But to be honest I don’t think I would really be able to tell if the Dolphin was happy to be there or not.

Meeting Dolphins.
Dolphin trainer at Dolphin discovery.

Meeting dolphins is an activity that is on the majority of bucket-lists across the world. Maybe naively I expected there to be worldwide welfare standards for those places offering Dolphin encounters. After researching the topic a little I have only found very positive or very negative views on the subject.

I am disappointed in myself as I usually conduct a lot of research before visiting such places to ensure I am not inadvertently supporting cruelty. Although I have not read anything about cruelty at Dolphin Discovery in St Kitts. I have found concerns about the size of the enclosures. This however is often a concern for every dolphin encounter centre, as wild dolphins have the whole ocean to explore.

I still can not make up my mind if it is acceptable to take part in meeting dolphins programs. I know that I would definitely do my research before considering it again. I do know that I will never forget this amazing experience.

What do you think? Any good or bad experiences or views on this?


 

 

Trafalgar falls and Titou gorge Dominica

Trafalgar falls and Titou gorge.

Exploring Trafalgar falls and Titou gorge Dominica Caribbean.

To make the most of our day on the beautiful island of Dominica we decided to explore the natural wonders of the place. Trafalgar falls and Titou gorge are popular sites to visit. Dominica is a lush volcanic island which boasts rainforest and the famous Morne Trois Pitons National Park.

Trafalgar falls and Titou gorge
Trafalgar falls and Titou gorge trip.

Our tour guide looked after a minibus full of tourists. Our drive was really interesting, taking regular stops to marvel at the beautiful views. As it was Christmas time we learned about the local traditions and food served at this time of the year.

As we drove higher and higher the temperature dropped. The air became thicker with less of a breeze and I wished I had brought some drinking water along with me! Once we got off the bus there were always a few vendors around so I managed to get myself a drink on the way.




Trafalgar falls
Trafalgar Falls.

Our first stop was Trafalgar falls. We walked a short trek through rainforest to a viewing platform. Here we could see both waterfalls, the mother and the father. The taller of the falls, the father, drops 200 feet. The mother is adjacent shorter, wider waterfall. I enjoyed taking pictures here!

Dominica
The mother Trafalgar falls.
Dominica
The father Trafalgar falls.
Trafalgar falls and Titou gorge.
The Mother and the Father waterfalls.

I would have liked to spend more time here. However being on a schedule we trekked back down to our waiting minibus and carried on our tour.

Next stop was Titou gorge. Famous for being featured in the film Pirates of the Caribbean where a narrow gap leads to a pool and a hidden waterfall. Due to the current and being pregnant at the time I watched from a platform as others swam through the small gap. Life jackets were provided to those who swam and both adults and children took the plunge.

Dominica
View over the national park in Dominica.




The waterfall was strong so  swimmers could not swim out into the pool beyond. We did get a show from one of the guides who recreated the film scene by jumping from the platform into the pool below.

The water was described as “refreshing”. Which just meant pretty cold from the shrieks I heard as people entered the water!

titou gorge
Swimming through the gorge.

After finishing up here we were taken back to the town. The trip lasted half a day which left us with some time to explore some more of Dominica.

Geeky Wanderlust
Geeky Wanderlust posters, photography, cards and more.

Beach day in St Lucia

Beach day in St Lucia.

Spending a beach day in St Lucia

Not having much time to spend here we decided to have a beach day in St Lucia and make the most of the beautiful sunshine and the sea.

After asking for some advise we were directed towards Rodney Beach as somewhere we could relax and swim with facilities too.

Beach day in St Lucia
Beach day in St Lucia. Rodney beach.




We got a taxi and as is usual in the Caribbean we arranged a time for the same driver to collect us to take us back to the harbour.

The friendly driver took us past some lovely scenery and told us about the island.  He then showed us where we could hire sun beds and umbrellas. We later found the rental was quite expensive here compared to other islands but it was quite a popular beach.

We paid 10 East Caribbean dollars for each beach chair and another 10 for the umbrella. This included waiter service from a nearby restaurant if we wanted to order some drinks.

There were quite a few vendors hanging around on this beach. Every now and again I would be disturbed from my reading. Being asked if I wanted a massage, to buy jewellery, coconuts or other items. Most were not pushy and left us alone after a while. Still it wasn’t as relaxing as you would imagine!

Beach day in St Lucia.
Sea and sunshine at Rodney beach.




Although there were some water sports around, the sea was safe for swimming. I had a nice dip and a swim in the refreshing water. Again it was pretty busy compared to some other beaches we later visited.

Our taxi driver returned at the time arranged and took us back to the town where we stopped off at the markets. At the time of year we visited a lot of places were closed for the holidays as local people prepared for their own festivities.

Beach day St Lucia.
View over St Lucia.