Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Denmark and Finland Adventures

We're back, baby! After 3 weeks on the road, we're re-grouping and doing laundry and getting back to our day-to-day, minus the sleep part of that equation. It's been a little while since I visited this space, so I wanted to share all about our trip and bombard you with pictures, because really, is there anything prettier than the Nordic countries in the summer? 

Let me first, though, start off by saying this: traveling with kids is NOT easy. On the day we were supposed to depart, we made it to the airport only to find out that our perfectly pre-planned and scheduled 5:30pm flight to Chicago (which would have provided us with an international leg overnight for the kids from Chicago to Copenhagen) was delayed to midnight, which would have led to a missed international connection. The alternatives given were laughable. The first was to fly to Chicago and to sleep in the airport, and to catch a 10pm flight out the next evening. There were no hotels with any availability in the area due to all of the other delayed or cancelled flights, and the thought of 24 hours in an airport with 2 small kids is the stuff of my nightmares. The second option was to first fly to Houston, then to Frankfurt, then to Amsterdam, and finally to Copenhagen--a world tour of sorts. Finally, the last and final option, was to reschedule for the following day, with an added connection through Paris. Winner winner. Or so we thought.

We showed up to the airport the next day ready to roll, and made it through to Chicago and Paris with flying colors. However, once we reached Paris, we were told there was a ticketing error and we had not, in fact, been ticketed through to Copenhagen by the agent. Parisians are notoriously unwilling to help and full of red-tape, and lets just say that this situation fit those stereotypes perfectly. I begged and pleaded for hours at their desk to please let us board the plane while the kids wailed and melted down in the background, and FINALLY we were told we could make it to our final destination--but WITHOUT our luggage. We got on the plane, but totally panicked, since we had 3 weeks worth of clothes and toiletries in our suitcase and only a few days in Copenhagen before flying on to Finland. I totally thought we were going to end up playing luggage tag with our suitcase around Europe, but to our total surprise, our luggage made it onto the same plane that we did--though missing a wheel and split down the seam. Matt had to drag that gimp of a suitcase through the cobbled streets of Denmark as clothes spilled out the side. Memories.

Our second biggest challenge was a little monster called jet-lag. Our biggest struggle once there was lack of sleep during the night, leading to over-tired and cranky kids during the day. There were also lots of "naps" in strollers or no naps at all while trying to do all the things, which led to very challenging evenings at times. We also spent about half of our time in a city apartment, which was difficult with the amount of energy the boys tend to have. Unharnessed and with no outlet, their energy builds and they take it out on each other. If you want to challenge yourself as a parent, try keeping two boys occupied with no toys and older neighbors that share your living room wall. One day August went and rang all the doorbells as I was trying to haul our bags and double stroller into the elevator. Luckily, nobody seemed to be home. So there's that. I wanted to be transparent as far as all of this goes, because these pictures paint a seamless experience. This was most definitely not always the case. 

This little rant aside and out there, I also want to say this: it's getting easier. This is both of the boys' 3rd time to Europe so far, and they've done shockingly well on 16+ hrs of airplanes and layovers. This round, Oskar was even seated separately from me (though right across the aisle) and flipped through books or just talked to himself the whole flight home.  I was so proud of him. We definitely did lots and lots of kid-centered activities, but they didn't do half-bad (except for one horribly difficult day that comes to mind) during the adult stuff that Matt and I were interested in. Also, they play together now. They're interested in the same things and talk and make each other laugh, so they have travel companionship, so to speak. Ages 4 and 2 are much easier and worlds apart from 3 and 1. 

Our first stop, Copenhagen, is the prettiest, most family friendly city. The people were so nice, the weather was perfection, and we used only public transportation or walking to get around, which is totally do-able. They have trains from the airport right into the city center, and we rented a character filled little Air BNB by the metro stop in Kongens Nytorv. We went to Tivoli, the second oldest and most whimsical amusement park in the world, strolled Nyhavn (that famous 17th-century canal), took a boat ride, visited all the bakeries, and most importantly, for our two little fanatics, occupied every Lego store in the city (Lego is Danish). We also stopped at all of the child-friendly parks throughout Copenhagen, one of which had puppet-theaters set up for the kids at regularly occurring intervals. On the second night, when jet-lag was really raging, we let the kids sleep in the stroller and treated ourselves to a little date at a taqueria recommended by Anthony Bourdain in the Meat Packing district, paired with the best margaritas known to mankind. Copenhagen, we loved you.

Then, it was on to Finland. My sister lives there now, and has for 5 years, which gets harder and harder the faster these babies grow. But, there is certainly nothing like seeing them reunited and the pure happiness in their eyes. Their bond is unbreakable and there are no moments of shyness or hesitation. It's like they were never apart. The days flew by and I had to scroll back through my pictures to remember everything we did. Our highlights were certainly our rented lake-side cabin, splashing in the water and playing with the rocks and sticks, rowing on the boat, some days spent in Helsinki, eating ice cream every chance we got, a quick trip Kiikunlรคhde, a naturally green-water spring, watching my Pappa quietly and steadfastly fill with happiness and pride from these boys who came to see him, wrestling with and loving on the boys' second-cousins--a new generation of best friends--and charming little Porvoo, a city on the southern coast of Finland.

Now, it's back to reality, back to work and back to school, and somehow vacation is over until Christmas. Taking a deep breath, but keeping these memories close, as we wait for next time. I read somewhere that you only have 18 summers with your kids, and this is one of them. I think we made it count so far.

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