When in Rome, Do as the World Eater Does

When in Rome, Do as the World Eater Does

Reading Time: 12 minutes

 

Ah, Italy. Land of pizza, pasta, espresso and more. Such a wondrous country. And at the epicenter of it all, Rome. The Eternal City. What a glorious place to visit. It is indeed a magical land, transporting you back thousands of years no matter where you venture. I firmly believe that Rome is a place everyone should visit at least once in their lives.

With all the history on display, visitors flock to Rome in droves, which makes it a tourist mecca… which means much of it is also a tourist trap. And nowhere is that more apparent than at it’s thousands of eating establishments, which all seem specifically designed to draw in sightseers and out-of-towners with the promise of a delicious, classic, Italian meal, but rarely deliver. Which brings up an interesting problem. Where should one eat?

Romans love holding onto their classic culture – and history in general – more than other place I’ve ever visited. This is wonderful in regards to preserving culture, heritage, history, art… but tends to stymie progress in the food and coffee world. Let’s consider what the phrase “classic” means when it comes to a meal.

Many Roman restaurants claim recipes handed down from generation to generation. This may very well be true, and Grandma’s recipes might have included the best ingredients possible… when she was alive. Remember, there was once a time that food was, by default, natural, organic and whole, as opposed to pre-packaged, chemically processed, mass-produced, and littered with chemical pesticides, chemical additives and preservatives. Let’s assume that Grandma’s recipes really did hail from 200 years ago, as opposed to from the 1950s, when frozen, canned and microwave meals were standard in every kitchen, and it wasn’t yet known how bad these foods were for you. Going with a best case scenario, Grandma’s recipe might have called for tomatoes, which she grew in her garden, and chicken, which came from the family farm. This sounds great, but that easily could have evolved into a mass-produced, GMO, subpar-tasting, mealy tomato and a water-and-antibiotics-injected, washed-in-chlorine, mass-poultry-farm chicken. Technically, still the same ingredients, but eons away in terms of taste and health benefits.

Bottom line is that, in today’s world of artificial foods, toxins, chemicals, additives, carcinogens, hormones, medicines and a whole other plethora of unappetizing ingredients added to our foods, sourcing good quality ingredients is the first step to a good restaurant. Unfortunately, I find that unless you’re paying a Michelin Star-level premium for your meal while in Italy, many Roman restaurants – even if they are sticking to the spirit of generational recipes – serve subpar quality ingredients, resulting in a subpar outcome, no matter how talented Grandma was.

Add to that, an alarming lack of consistency, some truly cranky service and crazily expensive food, it’s as if the Roman restaurant industry realized that since Rome is like Disneyland – non-stop tourists and no down season – they are unlikely to have a lot of repeat customers, so there’s no reason to worry about winning anyone over long term. And while I get how frustrating it can be to kowtow to ungrateful interlopers regularly, I don’t care! When I eat out, I want good food, good service, and – of course – a good price!

That’s why I was so happy when I finally discovered the best place to eat in Rome, which I ended up visiting numerous times:

Mercato Centrale Roma

 

Thank goodness for you! Located in the Stazione Termini (Rome’s main train terminal), the market is home to a wide variety of high quality food vendors, a wine bar, a coffee shop and a restaurant. Fairly new, having opened in October 2016, the Mercato took over the Cappa Mazzoniana, a century-old hall built by architect Angiolo Mazzoni, initially intended for use as the station’s restaurant, which never happened (until now). The thing that sets the Mercato apart from the other eateries in Rome is that they went out and sourced the best of the best in terms of local chefs, so you don’t have to. They did the research and you reap the benefits.

Whatever you might be in the mood for exists at the Mercato. Meat? Pizza? Gelato? You name it, you got it. They’ve got a pretty good system down, too. Sit at a communal table and a server takes your drink order. Then choose from one of the many stalls and eat to your heart’s content. Start with a glass of wine and an antipasti of cured meats and cheeses, move on to a pasta, have fish for a main, finish with a ristretto and something sweet. Each from a different vendor, specializing in a specific thing.

On this last trip to Rome, I frequented the Mercato a handful of times. I was over the moon about finding some enjoyable espresso there (something, surprisingly, very hard to come by in Rome), but it was the truffle stall (Il Tartufo di Luciano Savini, aka Savini Tartufi) that won my heart. We tried two different truffle pastas there, and they were, without a doubt, the best pastas we ate in Rome.

My favorite was the Gricia al Tartufo Nero. It starts with a calamaretti, which is a short, wide pasta tube, visually reminiscent of calamari, that collapses when cooked, trapping the sauce within (!). It’s coupled with bacon, a drop of milk, extra virgin olive oil and Pecorino Romano cheese, and then finished with a generous heaping of freshly grated black truffles. The sauce perfectly melds with the fresh pasta, and each bite is a reminder of all that is good in this world. I’d never had a pasta so delightful, perfectly cooked to the desired al dente consistency. Their Tagliolino al Tartufo was excellent as well, using a tagliatelle pasta in an egg/Pecorino Romano/extra virgin olive oil sauce. Both pastas were in the €15-20 range. That may seem expensive, but – to put Roman food prices into perspective – we went to a busy, casual osteria not at the market and ordered their truffle pasta. It didn’t even come close in taste or quality to the Mercato’s truffle stall, and it cost a hefty €37, nearly double the price.

The next time we visited the Mercato, we had the Trapizzini, a triangular shaped pizza bianca (pizza dough) stuffed to the point of overflowing with traditional Roman fillings. They recommended as a first timer trying the braised beef (their #1 best-seller), but, not being in the mood for red meat, I opted for the pollo alla cacciatora. Wow. It was a winner. The chicken was juicy, flavorful and so well cooked that it fell apart easily. It was cooked in garlic and white wine, and mixed beautifully with the crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside pizza dough surrounding it. My only regret is being too full to try another one.

At the Mercato, you shouldn’t miss out on something sweet. I opted for a tiramisu from Cremilla. Even though they’re known for their gelato, I couldn’t resist the look of this fluffy, velvety, coffee-tinged dessert. Sure enough, it was smooth, subtle, creamy and exactly what eating a tiramisu in Italy should be like.

Paired with an espresso from La Caffeteria (one of the few espressos in Rome I didn’t have to cringe to ingest, nor add sugar to), my meal was complete.

All in all, come to the Mercato to enjoy the hustle and bustle around you, and take in the smells of all the fantastic foods. Have a sit down meal at Michelin-starred chef Oliver Glowig’s restaurant on the second floor, enjoy a casual plate of lovely pasta at one of the many booths on the ground floor, or go really chill and simply grab a beer and a slice of pizza to go. Indulge in fried foods or sweets, chocolate and cakes. You can even buy some fresh produce on your way home. The market really does have it all, and they do an excellent job executing.


  

 

 

 

 

I tried a plethora of items and was pleased with them all. Mercato Centrale definitely offers a great choice for a variety of typical Roman foods (and more) at a good price. And you can trust the sourcing, because the vendors come highly curated.

 

 

 

 

 

In other words, when in Rome, do as the World Eater does, and eat at the Mercato Centrale at Termini I. Buon appetito!

 

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For The Love Of Layering

For The Love Of Layering

Reading Time: 9 minutes

 

We live in a Country where weather is a huge topic of conversation, and so we all need an outfit that will work all day and night regardless of what is going on outside.  Temperature shifts like that call for layering… and I simply adore layering.

The big, fluffy sweaters atop a tight tank. The ripped jeans with patterned tights or fishnets underneath. The bomber jacket over a cropped sweatshirt. The T-shirt paired with a natural-waisted pair of boyfriend jeans, with ankles rolled up, showing off your colorful socks. You really can have fun with layering. I especially enjoy it because I love to keep clothes from prior seasons in my closet, and layering allows me to still wear as part of a layered ensemble what might otherwise be a bit too dated to wear on its own.

You can truly get creative with layering. Almost anything goes, and it can be ridiculously fun! That being said, here are my top five layering rules to remember:

Rule One: The Plot Thickens

Remember that layering adds thickness. If you don’t want to look like an overinflated balloon, be sure to layer thin fabrics underneath thicker ones. Also remember to make the thin layers more form fitting than the top layer. Finally, make sure that top layer has a little bit of breathing room, so you don’t see all the creases and everything else that can accumulate from all the layers underneath, no matter what shape you’re in.

“The Go-To”: A tank top and netted sweater under a long, flowy cardigan, with comfy jeans and ankle high boots. Toddler optional!

Rule Two: Your Bottom is the Tops

Generally speaking, if you do all your layering on your top half, then simplify your lower half with something slimming, like a skirt or trousers. You want people to be able to tell where you start and the layering begins, and vice versa. Simply put, going baggy on both top and bottom will make you look precisely like a potato sack. And an un-stylish potato sack, at that.

“The Classic”: A button-up under a loose sweater, with cuffs rolled up. Note the colorful socks peeking out below the rolled trouser hem!

 Rule Three: Mixing Business and Pleasure

Always mix textures. Always! Example: denim on the bottom; jersey tee, cotton sweater, leather jacket and silk scarf on the top. Get texture crazy. If you wear all of one fabric, you will come off a bit flat and washed out, or – worse yet – appear too matchy-matchy. Wearing all of one texture is to be avoided at all costs, because it will not only make you look drab, it will also add weight. Horror of horrors.

“The Autumn Dress”: A button-up covered by a thick cardigan with winter tights, and boots. Get that short dress out of the closet all year round!

Rule Four: The Long and the Short of It

Have a variety of lengths. You want to make sure your layers have complementing proportionate hemlines that are different from one another. In short, you want people to know you’re layering, as opposed to you just having gained three layers worth of weight. If you layer three tops over one another and they all end at the same length, instead of looking stylish, you will look stockier, boxier and heavier. Avoid.

“Hot Shorts”: They’re not just for summer anymore, especially when you layer with fun, patterned tights and fishnets. Never hurts to throw a scarf in with this ensemble!

Rule Five: Cut from the Same Cloth

Choose appropriate fabrics. For example, when layering a button up shirt under a sweater, make sure the button up is not too heavy, or every button, wrinkle and fold will show through to the top layer. Ew. If your top layer is thick like a cable knit, you can get away with almost anything underneath, but if it’s fine like merino wool, you’ll want a smooth, lightweight shirt underneath – something like a non-slubby silk (satin, crêpe) or lightweight cotton (Batiste, lawn, voile). After all, there’s a reason the saying goes “smooth as silk.”

“Hem-brace the Layers”: Have fun with hems by layering with different textures – lace, sequins, pom poms… whatever!

 Bonus Rule: Cute As A Button (Up)

Simple crew neck sweaters look great with a collared, button up shirt peeking through at the neck, with the cuffs folded up and the hem showing underneath. Make sure the shirt is not too short or too long under the sweater. Ideally, you’ll be able to see the natural split of the shirt at the bottom, but have the lowest button covered by the sweater. Fold the cuffs over the arm of the sweater to give it a cohesive look. Make sure your collar is crisp and don’t let it splay all over the place, or risk looking sloppy, which is a fashion crime. Keep it in place by buttoning it up to the top, or near the top. My favorite secret for layering button ups is to wear a fitted tank top over your button up and under your sweater to hide any visible bumps from seams and buttons. No one will see it, but you’ll look sleek.

“A Layered Approach”: Use thin, soft fabric to pile on the layers, and avoid the bulk. Here, I’ve got four layers on, but manage to still look sleek in the process!

 Personally, I love the effortless layered look of a netted sweater with a tank underneath, and either a cropped jacket or super long flowing cardigan on top, with jeans and ankle boots on the bottom. It’s a look that can work with lots of body types and is easy to throw together, plus is super warm and cozy.

Speaking of warmth, I find that when layering for the cold, merino wool works best. It’s much warmer than anything else out there, and isn’t bulky. It’s a bit pricier than other fabrics, but you can get away with having just one or two for the season, as it’s naturally anti-bacterial and wicks away moisture, so you don’t need to wash it as much as other articles of clothing.

“The Timeless”: A short jacket over a cropped sweater with a tank underneath. Try a metallic tank, instead of a boring basic!

 A Few Layering Combos To Ponder

  • Bring your summer dress into winter by adding an open button up (chambray), a thick cardigan (also open), winter tights and boots.
  • Wear shorts year-round by putting leggings under them. Top with knee high socks and boots for a cute bottom half. Pair on top with a fitted tank and an oversized sweater.
  • You can even layer multiple tights under shorts or a skirt by putting a patterned or shimmery pair under a netted pair. Don’t go overboard with this, or you won’t be able to bend your knees.
  • For a more fitted look, add a thin belt to a cardigan that’s been layered over a form fitting knit top.

The ideas for layering are endless, but keep to the rules above and you should be fine to get as creative as you want. Most importantly, commit to your look so it appears intentional. There’s nothing worse than layering that seems like you’re wearing whatever happened to be clean that day.

“Warm & Cozy”: Wear a turtleneck underneath a sweater, topped with a blazer. You can’t go wrong with this easy and comfy look!

Finally, don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns. There are rules on how to do this properly… but we’ll save that for another day.

 

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Teach Your Child – There Is A Wealth in Languages

Teach Your Child – There Is A Wealth in Languages

Reading Time: 18 minutes

 

It is beneficial to teach your child multiple languages from the moment they are born, even if you aren’t fluent in the other languages you’re instilling in them. As I have lived in multiple countries and travel regularly, I’ve often said that in today’s world, true power comes not from position, but in the ability to communicate. Why wouldn’t we give our kids a leg up to be able to wield that power?


As the world grows smaller thanks to the Internet, satellite offices, shared work spaces, multi-culturalism, people marrying across racial, religious and geographical lines, etc., this issue of languages spoken (or not spoken, as the case may be) is at the forefront of how we navigate the world we live in now more than ever before.

We understand that work, life and love opportunities are not limited to our home soil. Rather, we are aware that those opportunities are spread throughout the globe – as far and wide, in fact, as the Internet (and low cost airlines) can take us.

 

 

Equipping our children with the tools to communicate in more than one language gives them a boost in life, and opens up entirely new places for them to explore – not just for personal enrichment, cultural exploration and sampling great new cuisines – but for job opportunities as well. In fact, even the businesses in your very own hometown often now require multiple languages to be spoken by employees, because partnerships with companies outside of our bubble are more and more common.

Language is the currency of the world, and the more you speak, the richer you are.

Some countries require their children to study more than one language in school for this very reason, but often that curriculum kicks in later than is ideal for a developing mind. The conclusion one can draw is that the best way to do this is at home from day one. Growing up bilingual used to only happen to children of that rare couple who spoke more than one language at the home, or if you grew up in a place where a minor dialect was spoken. Due to family units increasingly coming from a variety of backgrounds, this is happening more frequently, but surprisingly not as much as you might expect.

 

 

At this point, few people dispute that speaking multiple languages is an asset, which means that instead of asking “should we do this,” the question really becomes “how should we do this?” As someone who is only fluent in English, yet is part of a family (my husband, my daughter and myself) in which we regularly and consistently speak three different languages, I had to ask this question myself. There are many opinions as to what the right approach is to teaching your child multiple languages. Through research, conversation, interviews and my own observation over the last 21 months of raising my little girl, I can now definitively say that the only right way is to simply commit to doing it, without excuses. Everything else is just rhetoric.

A bit of background, so you understand where I’m coming from. I grew up in America only speaking English, even though my mother is from Taiwan and English is her third language (Taiwanese is her first and Mandarin Chinese is her second). I regretted being unable to communicate with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, let alone the rest of the Taiwanese people, every time I went to Taiwan as a child, which we did quite often. I decided to move to Taiwan and learn Chinese when I finished university, which I did. Unfortunately I never quite became fluent, and having been gone from Taiwan for 13 years prior to having my own child (and rarely speaking it with my mother even after learning it), my Chinese got worse and worse. Even so, I vowed to teach Chinese to my baby, to give her that part of her culture that was never given to me. Plus, what a useful language to know!

 

 

But how was I supposed to do this? When Xena was born, I started speaking Chinese with her immediately. It was fairly easy, and helped me refresh my Chinese, which at this point was barely above a beginner level. One word at a time, we learned together. Since she wasn’t communicating back, my limited Chinese skills were plenty sufficient. I pointed to a dog and said “gou” with as convincing a Chinese accent as I could muster, and she nodded and smiled. I was a genius.

As she’s gotten older, and has started speaking herself, it’s become more difficult for me. More and more, I’ve been coming across vocabulary I don’t have (thank you, Google Translate!), realizing I don’t know the correct grammar for a sentence, etc. Realizing I had to stay one step ahead of the baby at every turn, I downloaded multiple Chinese language apps and practiced daily. Once she had the attention span to watch videos, I only let her watch them in Chinese (or Hebrew, my husband’s language). We got books in Chinese and I re-learned with her.

 

My husband’s Hebrew is fluent though not native, as his native Hebrew-speaking Israeli mother also chose to favor English at home with him as a baby (it was a common thing in 1980s America). He lived on and off in Israel throughout his life, and served in the Israeli Army, so now he’s able to communicate fairly flawlessly. He speaks Hebrew to our baby and has since birth.

Conventional wisdom states that a baby needs to be exposed to a language 30% of the time in order to learn it, thus allowing for 3 or 4 languages to be learned (30+30+30+10). I primarily speak Chinese with her, my husband speaks Hebrew with her, and my husband and I speak English to each other. The baby is 21 months, understands each language and speaks all three. It really is fascinating to watch her soak up each word and retain them all, while recognizing that multiple words mean the same thing in different languages.

We spend a good portion of the year traveling around Europe for work, so she’s heard a variety of other languages since she was two months old, including Bulgarian, Hungarian, French, Spanish and German. She definitely prefers Spanish (her eyes light up when she hears it spoken and she’ll stop whatever she’s doing to look around and find the source), so we have decided to introduce that as language number 4, the language that uses the last 10% of the language learning capacity. Who knows if this current information is true, but it seems to make sense to us, and – not at all shockingly – she now peppers in the occasional Spanish word or phrase alongside her trio of languages, while not replacing any of the words she already knows. We want to continue to focus on four languages as a baby/toddler, with the idea that this exposure will help bolster her brain to be able to pick up an endless number of languages as she grows up and continues to develop.

 

 

We’ve been met with a surprising amount of criticism along the way, however, but we are undeterred and sticking to our guns. The progress we’re seeing is simply undeniable, and – frankly, even if there was no proof – sometimes you have to trust your gut.

Interestingly, the criticism comes mostly from family members, and the occasional know-it-all. We’ve heard a plethora of comments, such as:

“You shouldn’t speak a language with your baby unless you’re a native speaker.”

“You’ll give them bad habits and a bad accent.”

“Why are you speaking Chinese/Hebrew with her? That’s odd.”

“You’ll confuse the child.”

“That’s too many languages.”

“You’re not consistent enough.”

“They will start to speak later.”

“They’ll have difficulty communicating in preschool when they don’t speak the same language as others.”

“It’ll make her life more difficult.”

“They don’t need (insert language here). English is enough.”

 

Sadly, I could go on.

We’ve also been given this well-meaning piece of advice often: “The most important thing is that you be consistent in which language each parent speaks, so that they only associate one language with one parent, and make sure you consistently speak only that language.”

 

 

To be clear, I don’t claim to be an expert in linguistics, nor in child development. I know what I know, what I research and what I see myself. Thus far, as I said, the results speak for themselves, and we’re pleased. She said her first word at seven months (“Duck!” in English), and has been a little chatterbox ever since, really grasping the individual languages at around 11 months when she started saying handfuls of new words each day. I stopped counting new words once she hit about a hundred in each of her three primary languages. Yes, I said each. At around 18 months, she started saying the same word in multiple languages (sometimes saying “doggie” in English, sometimes “kelev” in Hebrew, and other times “gou” in Chinese). She recognizes that they all mean the same thing. She picks and chooses which language she wants to use and when she wants to use it, but she understands all three. It’s hard to argue with that.

In response to any criticism, I say that if a child has no problem communicating his or her needs and wants, then it seems to be working, despite us not doing it the way you would have done it.

 

 

Yes, there can be ramifications to the decision to introduce multiple languages early on, but said ramifications are neither positive nor negative. For instance, it can happen that a multilingually raised child can begin speaking later than normal (whatever “normal” means). Others can confuse the various languages towards the beginning of their learning cycle until they sort them out. In both of these cases, we’re talking about things that happen when they are still young and meant to be developing. Normally, even in severe cases, by the time they pass toddler age, they’re over it. And let’s be real – while we love listening to our children talk, they haven’t developed enough to the point where what they’re saying is going to be deep and profound. The things kids say in the first couple years of their life mostly serve as cute memories, videos and stories for us… not for them. Even if they do fall into the small percentage of children who experience one of the above situations (or any other), the benefits that come with the skills they’ve acquired once they finish going through that period are tremendous. Bluntly, trading the long-term benefits of language skills, cultural connectivity and brain development for us being able to hear some cute phrases we can laugh about later on is selfish, and nothing but. And most of the time, you still get the cute phrases… now you just get them in multiple languages!

 

As for the advice I get regarding consistency, or of having the child associate one language consistently with one parent, both my husband and I do our best, but – beyond not being native speakers – I can’t help but learn Hebrew as my husband is spouting it all day, and he, vice versa, is learning Chinese, so we slip into each other’s language occasionally, without even thinking about it. We jokingly say that our family speaks Chebrish, because sometimes one sentence will include all three languages. And lately, four! Xena doesn’t seem to mind.

I readily admit that it’s been challenging for me to keep speaking Chinese with her, but I won’t stop, and neither will my husband with his Hebrew. We won’t, because we believe we’re doing our child a service, not a disservice. Even if my grammar has flaws, or my accent isn’t perfect, and that gets passed down to her initially, she will have a foundation in the language, which is better than not speaking the language at all. Once she gets a little older and we enroll her in a Chinese “school” and a Hebrew “school” (at that age, they will be more like playgroups), she will start to evolve that foundation into something more organic. This should naturally help mitigate the accent, grammar and vocabulary issues that I unintentionally instilled in her early on.

 

 

As for worrying about confusing Xena, I’m not at all worried. I see her grasp each language and say more words every day. I watch as she plays with children who don’t speak any of her languages and they get along just fine. I know when she goes to school, she’ll be able to figure out which language to use with her peers, just like she’s figured out to say “dobre den” when we’re in Bulgaria, “shalom” when we’re in Israel and “adios” when we’re in Spain.

I’m just not stressing about it. I think that the “consistency” that we give her at home will be enough to help her figure things out in her little, but powerful, brain. Remember, babies are born with the maximum number of neurons they ever have throughout their life. At three years old, babies’ brains more than double in size, but they go through what’s called a synaptic pruning, which means that even though their brains are now bigger, they have less neurons firing. This is why early development matters, and why it’s recommended to introduce multiple languages early. In fact, the fastest rate of human brain development occurs between the ages of zero and three, so hurry!

 

 

Of course, research and science are ever-changing, and each human is different. Being a parent means knowing your child and assessing what they’re capable of. It also means being able to really pay attention and observe in order to see what does and does not work for your specific offspring. Babies and toddlers are capable of so much – far more than people give them credit for. Let’s give them a chance, and they will learn as many languages as we possibly can teach them.

 

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Emily Ramraz’s TravelMomma – Episode 1: Flying With Baby

Emily Ramraz’s TravelMomma – Episode 1: Flying With Baby

Reading Time: 15 minutes

I’ve watched time and time again as friends and family have completely changed their lives once they’ve had a baby. They stop socializing, their hobbies fall by the wayside and instead of listening to the music they love, children’s tunes play in their car. Where they once watched “Breaking Bad”, they now watch “Sesame Street” – nice outfits remain untouched, instead opting for comfy threads. Pre-Baby, I swore that wouldn’t be me, haha little did I know there’s a reason these things happen once Baby arrives. Babies, magical creatures that they are, monopolize all of your time, sap you of the energy you need to focus on yourself and shift your priorities. As a result, I’ve fallen victim to many of these things – my hobbies, grooming, TV shows and social life have all taken a hit… but due to my work (and my husband’s), there’s one thing we cannot allow to stop: Traveling.

We have no choice but to travel often, travel far and often travel wide. We’ve been on the go with little Xena since she was born. At 8 weeks, we took her from Israel to Bulgaria. Then a few months later, we went to Paris, then Barcelona, then Budapest. All of these were relatively easy trips, being that we were based in Europe. Which brings us to our first (dreaded) Trans-Atlantic flight, followed by a cross-country flight across America. Add to that a few train rides and interstate car trips along the way, another Trans-Atlantic flight, a few more trips within the EU, yet another Trans-Atlantic flight (and back again!), and now here we are! Phew. That exhausts me just writing it.

To put that in perspective, we’ve recently taken our 21st flight in the 18 months since Xena came into our lives, which provides the experience for me to be able to give a piece or two of advice about the subject. Let you learn from my mistakes. So, without further ado, here are my top five tips for traveling with Baby.

1) The Carry On: Baby Carriers To The Rescue

Oh, the joys of the baby carrier! It is truly a life saver (or, more accurately, a back saver!). Many people suggest putting your little one into a stroller (pram) for transport across the airport, since they can often roll right up to the airplane door (which is great), but wearing Baby on you allows you to take even more advantage of the stroller by loading it up like it’s a luggage cart! On our last trip, with Baby on my front, our stroller carried her diaper bag, my husband’s backpack, my backpack, both of our coats, my purse and one full-sized carry-on bag. It was the freest I’ve felt walking through an airport in years. A few things to consider when selecting a baby carrier. First, I suggest using one that allows for hands-free options, which means you should focus on buckle carriers as opposed to ring slings, pouch slings, mei tais or wraps. There are exceptions, but I’m speaking in general. Second, get one that has solid head support. You will inevitably be leaning over multiple times – going through security, waiting in line, etc. – and you want Baby’s head and neck to be safe (not to mention, it enhances just how hands-free you truly are). Lastly, if you can avoid carriers that require infant inserts, do. This isn’t the biggest deal most of the time, but because you have to take the carrier off to go through security and then stow it (at some point) when you get on the plane, the more pieces there are to it, the more likely it is that something will get lost or left behind. Keep it simple. My go-to carrier is the Lille Baby. It’s aces on all of the above, plus has lumbar support (!) and allows you to safely wear Baby facing out when of age. On top of all of that, for those that care about such things, it also is fashionable. People comment on its design to me regularly. Highly recommend.

2) Snack Time: Breastfeeding Cures All Ails

I watch mothers lug extra bottles, formula and nipples, worry about hygiene and struggle to find clean water at the right temperature, often forgetting that they have a baby snack machine built in… breasts! Of course, there are mothers that cannot do so, and this does not apply to them, but for the rest of us, when you fly with baby, keep this mantra in mind: Lighten your load as much as possible. If Baby is under 6 months old and not yet on solids, you don’t need anything but you, which makes life very easy. If you go this route, be sure to wear a shirt that allows for easy access – I find a button-down works best. This isn’t just for when you get on the plane, but even when you’re rushing through the airport or standing in line. When coupled with the right carrier (see #1), Baby can nurse whenever she wants and no one will even know you’re breastfeeding. This technique is guaranteed to make Baby feel safe throughout all the chaos of the place (and there’s plenty!). Also, if you nurse on take off and landing, it will help Baby’s ears from the pressure. Hint: Make sure to time it right. I used to start nursing too early and she’d finish before we actually took off. Wait for the plane to start rolling towards a proper lift off, and you should be good to go.

3) Bags, Bags, Bags: The Hidden Luggage Allowance

Babies under 2 fly for free in the United States. In Europe, you’ll pay 10% of a standard fee, even if the baby is sitting on your lap. Most people know this, but what the airlines don’t tell you is that babies have luggage rights, too! Of course, you get to gate check a stroller or car seat and you can bring a diaper bag onto the plane worldwide, but in the EU, Baby also gets her own checked bag (sometimes bags plural). On some airlines, Baby gets a full-sized suitcase of his or her own, and on others, the checked bag can be up to 10kg. Because of the discrepancies, double check with your airline, but we’ve never encountered a single airline that didn’t have this policy. On the other hand, we’ve never purchased an infant ticket where this information was readily available or provided to us, and in talking to other parent travelers, we were shocked how many people simply had no idea this was an option. More than that, many airline employees aren’t aware of this policy either, which has been interesting. I’ve taken to saving a screenshot of the infant baggage policy from their own website on my phone to show those workers not in the know. This is a right, and don’t let them deny it to you.

4) Rest Easy: The Elusive Baby Bassinet!

This is another free item offered by airlines, but not widely publicized. It often seems that airlines have the tools that make your life easier, but don’t want you to know about them. You can “reserve” a baby bassinet right when you book your ticket, both over the phone and online. I put quotes around “reserve” because just reserving the baby bassinet alone does not always – ironically – reserve the baby bassinet. There are a limited number of seats available on any flight that are equipped with the connectors that allow for a bassinet to be hung (depending on the size of the plane, there can sometimes even just be two available on the whole flight). Normally, I would say it’s first come, first served, but I’ve discovered that this is just not the case. When it comes to the bassinet, the person that is the most persistent, wins. A travel agent friend of mine told me to call right after purchasing my ticket to confirm that the request went through, and then to call once a day for three days prior to the flight to confirm that the request was still in the system. Once you check in, confirm verbally with the agent, and then mention it one final time when you arrive at your gate. I know it’s a lot, but when we didn’t go through the entire process, we did not get it. Hint: While I’ve seen babies sleep soundly in a plane’s baby bassinet, our little angel won’t even sit in the thing. Regardless, it is unbelievably helpful in terms of keeping drinks, food, iPads, toys, diapers, wipes, etc. off the floor, so I still recommend getting this, if you can.

5) Timing Is Everything: Choosing When You Fly Can Make All The Difference

We’ve taken so many flights where we haven’t had the luxury of picking the time of departure. This nightmare scenario has taught us a thing or two about how much certain times can make for a cranky baby. Each child is going to have their own internal clock and peccadillos, but for me, when given the option, I always go for a mid-morning flight. If you’re not sure what your baby will like, start with this, when possible. Baby will have almost a full night of sleep and be in a good mood for a hefty portion of the flight. Some people suggest night flights, but for many babies, the sheer chaos and distractions of flying keeps them from sleeping even when exhausted. This makes for a cranky baby when you get to the airport, while on the plane and even when you finally arrive at your destination. If your baby can sleep whenever and wherever, then by all means, book the red eye, but be sure you know his or her sleep schedule, or else this can backfire. Hint: Keep in mind that the time of departure is not the time to take into consideration. With car or train travel time to the airport, and the standard two to three hours you’re supposed to arrive before your flight, think about what time you will need to leave home, not what time you’re going to be taking off.

Bonus Tip: Toy Extravaganza!

This is a tip that came my way through my husband’s wonderful cousin, Rachel, and now I cannot imagine not using it whenever I fly a long distance. Go to the Dollar Store (aka Pound Shop, Two Euro Store, 100 Yen Store, ad infinitum all over the world) and buy a big bag worth of cheap, disposable toys. I usually buy twenty or so of them. This is a spectacular method of distraction for your little bub who doesn’t have the longest attention span. It’s important not to let them see the toys beforehand, so that each new trinket is an unmitigated surprise. It’s equally important to only dole them out one at a time. Each time Baby gets bored with whatever toy he or she has, simply stow it and pull out another shiny (as in new) object to occupy their time. This way, you don’t need to expect patience, since each toy comes with a built-in round of new attention. Even better – if you’re like me, and don’t like to accumulate too many toys at home – at the end of the trip, you can just toss the toys that were used, if you so desire, without breaking the bank.

There are, of course, many more tips on flying with Baby that I could provide, but – as space is limited – this is a good place to stop. These top five (plus one) should provide you with the tools to make flying with Baby less stressful than ever. Get ready to be Zen and add the lust back into wanderlust. Bon voyage!

Stay tuned for more episodes of TravelMomma

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WorldEater – Le Bouchon Bordelais, Bordeaux

WorldEater – Le Bouchon Bordelais, Bordeaux

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Food is a passion of mine, and I adore discovering new places to eat when travelling. I have even been known to jump on a plane just to experience a new restaurant or type of cuisine.  When home based I explore random eateries – and if I can discover a new culture whilst I am at it, all the better.

When I’m traveling, I also like to explore the history, people, art, and the best way to ‘taste’ a region is through their food.

Over the course of the life of this blog, I will be taking you to different countries and cities, some may be a short hop from where you live, others further afield. The food will vary in taste, culture and cost and a blog could detail an entire meal, or may expound on the merits of a perfect cup of espresso.

I will go everywhere and take you with me, and perhaps inspire some adventures, either in travel or new food experiences.

So, as this is our inaugural journey, and as I love a good wine pairing, I thought I would start with a place known for its fermented grape libations – Bordeaux, France.

The food in Bordeaux is exquisite. Even the places I stumbled upon were incredible.
Perhaps because Bordeaux is famous for its wines, it attracts the most discerning wine lovers.

The restaurant owners subsequently understand that their food needs to stand up to the quality of the wine, and as a result, you get truly beautiful meals all over the city, and since it’s France, much of it is done seasonally, which is even better.

I begin with a little gem I happened upon while sauntering around the cobblestone streets of Bordeaux with a group of close friends, trying to enjoy the time as my baby slept in her buggy. Luckily for us, this place had a couple of tables outside, and the weather was crisp but not cold, and we enjoyed the fresh air as we dined.

 Le Bouchon Bordelais
https://www.bouchon-bordelais.com/

The passion of Chef Frédéric Vigouroux, feels at first like a quintessential French bistro with a menu filled with tried-and-true classics.

However, upon closer inspection, I realized it was far from typical.  The waiters were patient and friendly, and didn’t pressure us at all to order or finish our meal.

They even spoke some English, a rarity in the City, which helped tremendously when Google Translate froze up or when we couldn’t connect to WiFi, as our French was very rusty.

The first thing the waiters do on arrival is to bring over a portable blackboard with the menu written on it in chalk. They explained that they do not have paper menus because the dishes they offer change daily, both for lunch and for dinner. Each meal, they offer up consists of le soup, le saladier, poisson, viande et le dessert (soup, salad, fish, meat and dessert, but it sounds so much better in French).

Every once in a while, depending on their fresh find that day, they also offer up la grilladea beautifully cut, marbled and cooked steak.

They had some fantastic recommendations, and, of course, appropriate and beautiful wine pairings to go along with them. As there were three of us in total, and in an effort to try as many dishes as possible – we ordered a selection for us all to share – soup, two salads and a large fish dish.

I’ll break down each dish, to give you an idea of the content, Like I said, if you go, you probably won’t be able to emulate the meal we had, but you’ll be able to have a new experience with the same level of quality and craftsmanship.

The start of my infatuation was in the form of a velvety pea shoot soup. Floating like an island in the middle of a delicious, bright green ocean was a huge dollop of fresh goat Chantilly cream. For those of you who don’t know what that is (as I didn’t), it’s a salty sweet cream, whipped to smooth oblivion. It was perfect. And by the way, when I say there was a “dollop” of cream, I mean it took up half the bowl and was covered in chopped herbs (mmmmmm, chives). It was so scrumptious, even my baby scarfed it down eagerly (and that’s no easy feat!).

This was followed up by the first salad, a spring bruschetta (bruschetta printanière), which is a perfectly crisp piece of crunchy toast topped by a delectable combination of chunky cucumbers, succulent tomatoes and cured meat, with an uber-fresh green leaf salad on the side. What made this salad stand out from all the other “topped toast” dishes I’d had in the past, aside from the sheer quality of the ingredients, were three things: 1) the perfectly soft-boiled egg served alongside the toast, 2) the super fresh chimichurri-style dressing ladled liberally over the top of the proceedings and 3) much like the pea soup, the dish was covered in herbs and fresh cream, tying it all together beautifully, while providing little bursts of unexpected added flavor.

Then came salad number two, which was an unbelievable pasta dish with huge, fresh-made conchiglioni seashell pasta topped by a fresh herb pesto, with sprigs of parsley scattered throughout. Lest I forget the best part, it is also paired with a chopped, gorgeously crispy veal, making this salad feel more like a fully fledged entrée than a modest interim dish.

Conchiglioni is one of my favorite types of pasta, because it is designed to do two things – make sauce stick to it, and make other ingredients get trapped inside of it. Which means that every forkful is a perfect bite. And this did not disappoint in achieving that level of perfection. It almost feels unfair to merely call it a pasta salad.

Finally, we reached our closer. Again, calling it simply a fish dish seems to diminish what we were served. Yes, it was a wonderful piece of hake, a white fish from the cod family, but it almost felt like that fish mated with a shepherd’s pie and this dish was born. The base of the dish was a smooth and fluffy potato mash filled with fresh spring onions and various herbs and spices. Sitting in the midst of the mash was the hake, flaky and creamy, which was sprinkled with beautiful greens. Perched atop all of it were meaty stalks of chunky white asparagus. It brought the idea of a fish pie to a whole new level for me, which makes sense because this chef has been known to say that fish is his favorite thing to cook.

In finality, the meal was one of the best I’d had anywhere in the world. I’m sure it was because everything there is super fresh, in season, properly prepped, flawlessly seasoned and cooked to perfection. I’m equally sure too that it’s because Chef Vigouroux cares so much about his food, his patrons and the entire experience of dining at his establishment. Overall, Le Bouchon Bordelais was a huge success, and a place not to miss when you take that trip to the ultimate wine capital of the world!

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