Travel: first time traveling as family of 4

We went for a first family trip to Boston for 3 days and it was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!!! Everything was perfect! I couldn’t have asked for more.

We were invited to spend Thanksgiving at Carmen’s in October and were excited since then. But since it was going to be our first time traveling with both girls, Lizzy being still young, flying with Lizzy, and most challenging return road trip, I had my doubts on whether we would enjoy it as much. However, I was determined to embrace the challenge and go with the flow.

Our flight was early at 6:30am. So I woke both girls around 4:15am after I finished pumping. We took a cab with all our luggage (2 carseats, 1 stroller, 2 suitcases and 3 bags) at 4:45am and arrived airport at 6:20am. Lizzy was very curious about what was going on but didn’t complain at all that we woke her up early.

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I was worried about naps for Lizzy because she has never napped outside her crib or swing. Even when we go out for a walk with her, she’d never nap, not even in the car seat. But by 7:45am, she was ready. Tony hold her until she was almost asleep, and I put her down on the seat besides me. She napped for a good 40 min, woke up just before landing.

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Sofia was super excited too. We’ve been talking about the Boston trip for weeks. She was even willing to stay all night up to not miss the departure. By the time we got to the cab, she was ready to take a cat nap.

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then we arrived the castle. It’s an old house built on 1876, renovated at 1905 and after Carmen bought it.

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we settled in our rooms (one for Sofia called princess room, one for Lizzy with her pack n play and one for me and Tony). Then we spent the day catching up with Carmen and Vincent. It was really nice to be chatting with one of the smartest couple in the world! 🙂

Vincent was in charge of the turkey (i forgot to take a pic) and Carmen had prepared the sides dishes the day before. By 5pm, we were ready for the feast. We had mash potatoes, sweet potato casserole, glazed carrots, stuffing and the most delicious mushroom cooked in sherry. We also had homemade buns and flan for dessert. Everything was scrumptious!!!

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After dinner, we put Lizzy into bed and got ready for a movie at home theater.

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Then I took a long quiet bath before sleep. We all slept very soundly that night.

Next morning, Lizzy woke up around 7:30am and came to our bed.

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she was soon happy.

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after breakfast (homemade waffles), we went to explore the city. We had plan to go first to Harvard then to downtown. But it was raining and cold, so after the tour at harvard, we decided to cut our tour short.

Lizzy followed her usual schedule of napping 2-3 hours so Tony and I got to play pool when Sofia went to nap too.

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it was fun to beat Tony for 2 matches 😉

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that evening, Vincent prepared another great meal for us. Meat in sour broth, marinated for 4 days. He served it with pasta and turnip. As dessert, we had a messy cake. Once again, everything delicious. I went for seconds.

Saturday morning started with a gorgeous breakfast spread. Vincent made fresh baked scones, served with assorted jams and butter.

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we all loved the food and last chats with Carmen and Vincent.

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then Tony went to get the rental car. We departed at 10:45am. After fueling gas, we were ready for our road trip adventure. We stopped 4-5 times for toilet stops and feed Lizzy. She behaved extremely well. Basically she ate and slept. Except once she refused to be sitting in the carseat and cried for 20 min before I had to jump to the backseat, fed her, hold her and played with her. Sofia behaved even better. She didn’t complain about the long ride. She was happily eating chocolate cookies and donuts (sigh… you do whatever you have to do to keep everybody happy). Excited when we stopped and felt asleep for naps.  Tony was the main driver. I drove few times, the longest one for 1.5 hours. It was actually not too bad when both of us could drive. We both wanted to drive more so the other could rest. That’s love without saying the word.

Although I enjoyed a lot seeing Carmen and Vincent this time, the most enjoyable part of the trip is I feel closer to my family. We took care of each other. Tony was the man of the family, carrying things, setting up everything ready for us, and took care of the girls more than I could ask for. It made me love him even more because his figure as the man of the family consolidated even more with this trip. I know I can rely on him. I know we will be taken care of. I know how much he loves us, all of us. 🙂

After this trip, I’m more confident to travel again with the girls. It’s really not that hard as long as one takes it easy, be prepared and not stress about small things. I remember taking all many more stuffs when I traveled with Sofia first time with my mom going to Hawaii when Sofia was 10 months old. We even took bathtub. But this time, we only packed essentials: clothes, diaper, wipes, bibs, baby spoon, packaged food and oatmeal. Feeding was easy, just mixed packet fruit/veggie puree with oatmeal and food was ready. Tony would hold her while I feed her, quick and easy.

can’t wait for our next trip! 🙂

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Travel: Salvador, Brazil

I travelled to Salvador, the state of Bahia in Brazil last week for work. It was my second trip to Brazil but first time in Bahia.

I was super excited for this trip because I haven’t traveled for work since July last year. So it was nice to travel and have sometime alone. I think all moms feel the same way no matter how much we love our kids.

One mini incident was that my checked luggage didn’t arrive with me. I was supposed to take the luggage out at Sao Paolo, but the united agent told me that it was checked all the way to Bahia. So I didn’t have my luggage for a day. Fortunately I was prepared for it and had all the pumping equipment with me. Lesson learned, have all the necessities in carry-on.

We stayed at Mercure Rio Vermello hotel, with a small beach. This is the view from the gym when I logged my runs.

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the hotel was just okay. The room was small and basic. The food was average but the view was amazing.

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I always have egg omelets, fruits and toasts with butter for breakfast.

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but tried local food as well: this is a coconut tapioca porridge

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a tapioca flour pancake. I had ham and cheese as filling.

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then cheese bread.

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It was a privilege to work by the infinity pool. Such a relaxing view.

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Local food is mainly seafood. So I had plenty of them. this one is a seafood stew cooked with bread.

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on the last day of work, I went to explore the city with colleagues and we had some snacks by the beach

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we had coquettes, one with meat and one with salted bacalao.

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then we had street food for dinner

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this is acaraje, a dish made from peeled beans formed into a ball and then deep-fried in palm oil. Super rich dish.

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and a tapioca pancake

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I had one with cheese, sun dried tomato  and basil. Super super tasty! I loved it, will definitely try to make it soon.

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My flight was scheduled for 4:30pm, so I went to explore the old town called pelourinho. It was the city’s center during the Portuguese colonial period and was named for the whipping post in its central plaza where African slaves received punishment for various infractions, as well as for disciplinary purposes.

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then it was time to go back home. I missed the girls so much.

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Lizzy had fever for 3 days. Tony was super worried because I was not there to tell him what to do. And seeing Lizzy down was heart breaking to him. But fortunately she didn’t seem too bothered as she continued to eat and sleep well, and the fever went away by itself.

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Tony was in charge of giving Lizzy bottle in the early morning (6am) and take Sofia to school.

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but he did so well. I’m so proud of him.

Once I was back Saturday morning, I spent the day unpacking, catching up with the family and in the evening, we took Sofia to a Halloween party at a community center.

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Sofia had fun and came back with a lot of candies.

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on Sunday it was Pumpkin caving time! As usual Tony was in charge.

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Sofia helped to take out the seeds

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and Lizzy was in charge of being CUTE 😀

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we had the idea of putting her in a pumpkin for a long time! We couldn’t find a big enough one to fit her in, so we did some carving and voila!

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and the final product

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final product, thanks to Tony

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it was a busy week. Traveling is always tiring but it was a good getaway for me. It made me realize even more how lucky I am to have the family I have, to have a supportive husband, a helping mom and two lovely girls.

I love my life!

Travel: Shanghai November 2015

We are finally over jet lag, so here I am doing a recap of what we did in Shanghai during our two weeks stay. I broke my iPhone so most of the pics are gone 😦 Here’s a glimpse of what’s left.

For almost a week, we’ve been dealing with jet lag in Shanghai. Fortunately Sofia slept relatively well at night, from 10-6. I, instead, slept between 10-2 or 3am. And in the afternoon, we need a 3 or 4 hours nap. Many times my mom had to wake both or all three of us because we had a dinner date and we were all still asleep.

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When we are not sleeping, I spent most of my days meeting with friends and eating out.

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I enjoy so much dining over a girls’ conversation with my close friends. We are all mothers and we all have complains about work, life, husband, kids…. jajaja… it’s nice to be able to get them out and have someone who understand them. 🙂

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my closest friends in China all together

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I also met with high school classmates

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even though we lived lives apart for over 20 years, we haven’t changed much. It’s interesting how much our personalities kept the way they were.

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I met with Ling several times… I enjoy so much her company. She’s not only a great friend, listener, she’s also a great photographer these days… capturing moments

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I love this girl and so happy that she’ll visit me in 2 weeks! 🙂

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We’ve also have dinner with both sides of my families. It’s the first time I formally introduced Tony to the family and all went well.

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more japanese food with Ling

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I was still so jet lag that day that I walked for 45min at the wrong direction and arrive an hour late to our date! so embarrassing.

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We had good time in shanghai once more. Sofia got to see Star and his parents. Although Tony and I stayed at our respective parents house… we did spent most of the time together. But we decided that next time we come back as a family of four, we’d rent an apartment and stay altogether. I don’t want to be apart of him anymore. 🙂

Day 9-10: Back to Teton & what we ate

day 9: we headed back to Teton after late breakfast and check out. Sofia was entertained as usual with her snacks and singing.

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we arrived Teton around 1pm so we found a picnic area for lunch, at jenny lake. It was a beautiful lake with many individual beaches, and people doing all kinds of water activities.

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we check-in at the lodge and went to the swimming pool. It was exhilarating for Sofia!!!

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she couldn’t stop laughing

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day 10: we went back to Colter Bay harbor.

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Sofia and my mom did a cruise tour, Tony and I did canoa

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really nice view and great workout

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after lunch we went back to the lodge, Sofia had another swimming session with Tony

then we went to the lodge bar for dinner with the sunset view

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What we ate during our trip.  VERY POORLY would be the best way to describe it. Within the park, there are only dinning places in the lodges. Where we stayed has a dinning room, a cafeteria and a deli. The first time we tried to get into the dinning room but after 30 min wait, we decided not worth it. Fortunately we came prepared, we’ve packed instant noodles, assorted snacks that lasted the whole trip, a rice cooker that did not work, a cooler and a water heater. So glad we did that.

For breakfast we have bread, sandwich for lunch, and dinner was oatmeal with chinese pickles for me, honey for Tony, and instant noodles.

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we cooked egg in the water heater! we all had two eggs per day to supplement protein. By the 10th day, I couldn’t see boiled eggs anymore, and I think I won’t have boiled eggs for a long time. The smell of it makes me want to vomit.

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we also had baby spinach mixed with noodles and oatmeal for a couple of days, and when I got tired of that, i simply bought a packet of frozen veggies, rinsed it and topped it with S+P and salsa (from my parents’ quesadilla)

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the only real meal we had in yellowstone was this rice bowl topped with veggies, shrimp and chicken with teriyaki sauce.

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the only sit down meal at a dinning place was as our last night at jackson lake lodge. We ordered chips to start

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my dad has corn chowder

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Tony had burger with gouda cheese

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my mom ordered burger with cheddar

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and I ordered chicken salad

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During the trip, Sofia didn’t eat 3 meals as usual, she’d have a light breakfast (cereal with milk), and snacked all day long. Most of the days she’d have 1/4-1/3 of my mom’s sandwich. She ate way too many chips, ice creams that I would like, but I was relaxed about it. As long as she ate and happy, it was fine with me.  I care about what I eat more than many people, but I don’t stress out about it during trips. My dad was asking where I’d eat, Tony asked too, and I told them clearly that this was not a culinary trip so we’d eat whenever whatever it was convenient. Fortunately the amazing view and experience of yellowstone made everyone happy enough to forget about food dissatisfaction. And we all lost some weight. 🙂

It was an amazing experience traveling with the whole family at such a different place than our normal environment. We were often lost our thoughts while admiring the nature. It was our first family experience with Tony and a great one. I didn’t have any doubt that we’d have great time because he’s a natural helper and carer, he made sure everyone was safe and happy by doing most of the work himself. Oh… he was the planner of the itinerary too. 2 weeks before our departure, he studied the map, the guide book and it was such a relief for me to not have to think about where and what to do everyday, and I didn’t even have to drive much!!! Love this man!!! 🙂

I don’t know when we would have another trip like this with my parents, hopefully in 4 years. Our initial plan is to go to the north of Argentina. It would be really nice to show Argentina to Sofia and Tony.

Day 6-8: Yellowstone

day 6: it was a rainy day so we decided to do a road trip toward Old Faithful. The rain was pretty heavy until we arrived Old Faithful. We found a good stop in the cafeteria and watched the eruption twice. It was quite impressive, in particular, how predictable it is, every 90 min, +/- 10 min, that is why it is old Old Faithful, the most famous gayser.
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we were back to Canyon area in the afternoon, the rain has stopped, so Tony and I did some hiking

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a surprising arco iris

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day 7: toward Old Faithful and stopping at each sight points.

first: Artist painpots

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then passed by Gibbons fall

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then we stopped for a little water play on firehole canyon drive

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next was Ojo Caliente by the fountain flat drive

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next was the famous Grand Primastic Spring

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the view was not complete so Tony and I decided to explore more. We found an off-trail by Fairy Falls Trailhead that could give us a better view, so we left Sofia and my parents in the car and we went

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after climbing up for 20 min, we  saw this!!! Spectacular!!!

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we also stopped by Biscuit basin and black sand basin before arriving at Old Faithful, almost 6pm. We witnessed again the eruption, had dinner and called it a productive day

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day 8: it was our 6th day in the park, we’ve seen and done almost everything, so we looked at the map and circled those sights that we missed and there we went.
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we did 2 hrs hiking to see Lone Star geyser.

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it also has a predictable eruption time, every 3 hours. We didn’t plan for that but it started to erupt few minutes after we arrived. So lucky!

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on our way back to the lodge, we stopped by lake hotel general store for its ice cream again. soooo delicious!!!

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Day 3-5: yellowstone

Day 3: We check out early and departed toward South entrance of Yellowstone. First stop was West Thumb Geyser Basin

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the first of many hot springs we’d see during the trip

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the bluer and deeper the color, the hotter is the water

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As we drove toward Canyon area… we passed by many valleys.

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suddenly the cars stopped moving. And for two hours we barely moved. Nobody knew what was going on, we had no choice but wait.

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and you know what happened? They were bisons, a lot of them, on the road!! So either cars had to stop to let them walk around, or people stopped to take pics of them.

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he was walking just in front of our car 😯

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After we check-in at our lodge (Canyon lodge), we went to Canyon South Rim Dr

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we did Uncle Tom’s trail to see the lower fall. It was over 300 steps… a great workout for a great view.

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Sofia hiked most of the time, and took breaks while Tony carried her.

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I’m so proud of my parents to have done it with us.

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and the most helpful man for the family 🙂

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as we went back to the park lot, it was invaded by bisons. 😯 Sofia was amused seeing them altogether eating and shaking against the trees.

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day 4: Mammoth

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another beautiful day to be on the road

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Mammoth Hot Spring was located at the north of the park, fairly close to Canyon.

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we walked through Lower and Upper Terraces. They are the product of dissolved subterranean limestone which is continuously deposited as the spring waters cool on contact with air. Quite a phenomena nature beauty.

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Sofia saw my mind tying scarf on the waist and she insisted  she’s big enough to do the same 🙂

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after 2 hours of walking, we went back to the parking lot, deers were taking a nap

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then we went to the park’s worst kept secret place: boiling river. It is a place where an underground hot spring surfaces from below a limestone overhang.

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Tony took Sofia to the water and she really liked it.

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then we drove all the way to the north entrance of the park.

Back to Canyon area, we went to Brink of the Lower Falls for a close-up views of the falls.

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day 3: Tower Roosevelt

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first stop: a nice small trail to a river
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and a fall at the end of the trail back up

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Sofia was waiting for us with her snack and water

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next stop: petrified tree

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then Undine Falls

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then we drove a blacktail plateau. It was unpaved… really rough and lots of turns. Just when I was cursing why we took this route, we saw a black bear mama with two small bears. What an adorable scene!!!

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in the afternoon we drove all the way to the north-east entrance and saw many animals on the way

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as we went out all day long, Sofia took her naps in the car, usually 1-2 hrs. It made the trip so much easier this way!!!

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we stopped by the lake side hotel on our way back to the lodge and had local ice cream.

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it was really really good! we all loved it!!! And the view was spectacular too.

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Sofia was super happy because I rarely give her ice cream. 🙂

Family vacation 2015: the journey begins. Gran Teton day 1 & 2

The most expected trip finally happened!!! Since Yellowstone is a popular destination, I booked everything in March this year so the expectation has been building up since then.

We had a long trip to get there but we were all very excited. Packed everything for 5 people in 2 large suitcases and 2 carry-ons. Most of the space was occupied by the Pack n’ Play, the cooler, rice cooker (that didn’t work) and water heater. WE were so glad we packed all these for this trip!!!

It has been over a year since Sofia’s last trip and she was super excited to go to the airport and see the planes closely.

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we arrived 1.5 hrs and recorded this moment. Our first family trip!

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I remember last time traveling with Sofia to China, it was exhausting!!! But this time it was much easier. She was easily entertained by snacks and some simple toys that I brought (play dough, stickers, a pad and color pens). We had two 3 hours flight and 2 hrs of layover. She behaved really well.

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we landed around 6:30pm local time. Got our car (KIA Santa Fe), paid the entrance fee to both national parks ($50) and drove to our first lodge (Jackson Lake Lodge) which was 45 min away from the airport.

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as we began our journey, I could feel my mind started to relax, immerse to the nature and just enjoy this special moment.

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Sofia didn’t nap during the flight so she passed out

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once in the hotel, we quickly set up her bed and called it a night.

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Day 2 (Gran Teton). We started early (as suggested by every guide book/blog). It was partially cloudy, quite cold and very peaceful.

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Our first stop was the general grocery store at colter Bay to get lunch items. Then we took a tour at the camp site. Tony kept telling me that next time we should do camping with the kids. And I said: “mmm…. I’d better leave you some bounding time with the kids alone. I can sleep in a hotel and provide you hot shower!”

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Entering more the colter bay area, we encounter this beautiful beach, facing the main mountains of Teton (Moran,

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Sofia was SUPER EXCITED to find her new activity: throw rocks to the water! 😯

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then we went to the Colter Bay Marina. There are people doing kayaking and canoe, Sofia immediately demanded to get to the “boat” too. We hesitated for few minutes and decided to try too. We all got the swim suit and we went out. It was a perfect day for going on a boat.

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I was holding Sofia most of the time. She kept telling me: ” todo el dia!”, meaning she wants to do boat all day long. 🙂

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Tony was in charge to get us sailing. He did a really good job!

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We enjoyed it so much that we had to do it again in our last day, and agreed to do more once we get home.

By the time we finished it was lunch time. Picnic by the lake. This is the first of many sandwiches we had over the last 10 days. WW bread with cheese and turkey.

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more rock throwing for Sofia

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while we relaxed on the beach

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love love seeing her happy and amazed!

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next stop was the jackson lake Dam. It is quite impressive.

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On our back we found a off-road to the summit. 30 min later we were on the top

 

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it offered a great view to the valley

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Sofia taking pics looks so funny!!!

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back to the lodge. We had a quick dinner (cobb salad for me, chicken wrap for Tony, and chicken quesadilla for my parents)

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we were quite tired by the end of the day plus the 2 hrs difference with DC, we went all in bed by 9:30pm.