BOOK REVIEW: Passports and Pacifiers—Traveling the World, One Tantrum at a Time by Kaitlyn Jain

55608649Title: Passports and Pacifiers–Traveling the World, One Tantrum at a Time

Author:  Kaitlyn Jain

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 37 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Parenting, Travel

Read Start Date: June 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 12, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Starting with two bumbling parents taking their Never-Sleep infant to Italy and ending with an adventure across Scandinavia, Passports and Pacifiers follows a naïve, baby-wearing family on memorable, affordable, and nap-centered trips.

You’ll be regaled with honest, often hilarious, accounts of their misadventures, like losing the only pacifier of the trip, missing ferries, and soothing tantrums across the globe. The Jains find deals—traveling just a tad off the prime season, finding buy one get two flights, and using credit card miles and free grandparent babysitters—and save where they can.

In addition, you’ll receive hard-earned travel tips like:
• Entertaining kids during long flights
• Packing light (while bringing what you need!)
• Driving with a carsick-prone toddler
• Keeping your Ever-Hungry spouse happy

My Review: I received this audiobook as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was excited to read this book because I also love to travel, and now I have a 10 month old daughter. I really liked the lessons learned and the tips the author provided. The stories were also humorous and the substance of the book was, in general, a good read. Listening to it made me long to travel and gave me some inspiration as to which places to go to.

I would have rated the book 4 or even 5 stars had it not been for the poor quality of the audiobook. To be honest, while I was enjoying the substance of the book, it was hard to finish because of the audio. The book was read by the author, and the recording was very unprofessional. You could hear pages turning, mouth noises, and once the author even stumbled over a sentence. Why was this recording not better edited? Additionally, the author would sometimes pause in weird places in the sentence, which prompted me to listen at 1.25x speed, as this normalized the reading somehow.

While I would highly recommend this book, I would ONLY recommend the print or ebook version. Steer clear of the audiobook!

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Who Will Accompany You? by Meg Stafford

60168257._SY475_Title: Who Will Accompany You?

Author: Meg Stafford

Audiobook Length: 6 hours and 10 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Travel, Memoir

Read Start Date: June 1, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 3, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Award-winning memoirist Meg Stafford has an adventurous spirit, and this time she takes us along for the ride. When her daughters venture into terra incognita-one of them meditating in the Himalayas and the other negotiating with the Colombian military-Stafford decides to go along. In the process, she reflects on her own lifetime of wanderlust and what it means for a parent to love and to let go. Generous, insightful, and deeply funny, Stafford is the ideal tour guide for a journey as big as the world and as intimate as the human heart.

My Review: I received this audiobook as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Meg Stafford is a mom who has accompanied her daughters on several trips, namely Bhutan / Nepal and Columbia. We also get to read excerpts from the daughters’ diaries relating to these said trips.

This book made we want to travel again! I used to do it all the time before COVID started and since then I’ve barely gone anywhere, except for maybe once or twice a year. Listening to the stories of these women’s travels, especially in Asia, I wished that I could visit these places.

This was a short, but pleasant listen that made a good companion to exercise / multi tasking.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

19501Title: Eat, Pray, Love

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Book Length (Audiobook): 15 hours 8 mins

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Travel

Read Start Date: September 9, 2017

Read Finish Date: September 17, 2017

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A celebrated writer’s irresistible, candid, and eloquent account of her pursuit of worldly pleasure, spiritual devotion, and what she really wanted out of life.

Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned thirty, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She had everything an educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want—a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be.

To recover from all this, Gilbert took a radical step. In order to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world—all alone. Eat, Pray, Love is the absorbing chronicle of that year. Her aim was to visit three places where she could examine one aspect of her own nature set against the backdrop of a culture that has traditionally done that one thing very well. In Rome, she studied the art of pleasure, learning to speak Italian and gaining the twenty-three happiest pounds of her life. India was for the art of devotion, and with the help of a native guru and a surprisingly wise cowboy from Texas, she embarked on four uninterrupted months of spiritual exploration. In Bali, she studied the art of balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. She became the pupil of an elderly medicine man and also fell in love the best way—unexpectedly.

An intensely articulate and moving memoir of self-discovery, Eat, Pray, Love is about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment and stop trying to live in imitation of society’s ideals. It is certain to touch anyone who has ever woken up to the unrelenting need for change.

My Review: Despite the good sounding synopsis above, this book was simply terrible. People rave about this book like it’s the best thing since sliced bread….well not this girl. This book was soooo painful to get through. How did this book receive such good reviews? How is this a movie? This book is a slap in the face to women everywhere. Is this book what people think of women?? I surely hope not.

Basically, this book is about Gilbert’s staged (and pre-paid!) introspective journey to Italy, India and Indonesia. This essentially was just one big marketing ploy. Her editor was like, Hey, Elizabeth, you know what would be a great idea for a book, and would make you a lot of money and increase your “brand”? Why don’t we give you an advance, and pay you to travel around the world, and then you can write about your experiences?

Gilbert’s introspective journey ended up just sounding trite and super whiney. Gilbert, a wealthy writer decides to take a year “off” to travel to Italy (because she likes how the language sounded — really, I’m not kidding — that’s what she said), India ( to go to an ashram) and Indonesia (because a medicine man told her that she will (WTF? Self-fulfilling prophecy much?)) Anyway, even though this book was supposed to be inspiring or something, instead this whole book is about her whining about how hard her divorce was (even though she refuses to say why her divorce was so hard) and that at 34 she must go find herself. I mean, she got a paid year of traveling — boo hoo! Your life is so hard Gilbert. A lot of women have hard lives, but you don’t see us crying about it while enjoying Italy, India, and Indonesia. Try feeling grateful for once in your pampered life.

Throughout the book, Gilbert honestly sounds like a selfish spoiled brat who has major personal issues that she clearly did not solve during the book, even though she’d like to pretend she did. Ugh.

I did not like this book and never saw the movie.

 

 

Sunday Stills March 24, 2019: Spring has Sprung

The theme of this week’s Sunday Stills Photo Challenge, is called “Spring has Sprung”. Spring is a time for renewal and starting over, the time when the winter chill is left behind and the warm summer months are just over the horizon, and the time when life awakens.

When I think of spring, I always think of flowers. The only recent photos of flowers that I have are from my trip to Japan.

Wordpress2 A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to travel to Japan on a business trip (it was my first time being there). My company has offices in Hiroshima, and we were there for one week giving a training on legal issues. We spent the weekend in Kyoto, since we were giving the same training at our office in China the following week, and we didn’t want to fly all the way back to Austria on Friday, only to have to return to Asia two days later again on Monday.

On that Saturday morning, I woke up earlier than my colleagues (I had skipped the bar the night before), and decided to take a run / walk to see what I would find. Kyoto has many shrines throughout the city, and I just happened to stumble upon this beautiful shrine called the Shimogamo Shrine, one of the oldest in Japan.

Even though the trees were just starting to bloom, we were unfortunately, a few weeks too early for cherry blossom season. To be honest, I am not sure whether the photos are of cherry blossoms or plum trees (or something else). All I know is that I was captivated by the beauty and vividness of the colors, especially against the white and brown backdrop in the photo above, and the orange bridge in the photo below.

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Japan is such a cool and spiritual place. I really enjoyed my time there, and would love to travel there on vacation sometime in the near future. I do not know how to describe being there. I somehow felt at home / at ease, even though I had never been there before. If given the chance, I would definitely live in Japan, at least for a few months. It was just truly magical.

I was really surprised by some aspects of Japan, however.

For example, we tried to get into several bars and were told at the door that it was “Japanese only”. I don’t know whether this meant that they only spoke Japanese (and so only people who spoke Japanese were allowed inside) or whether they meant that only Japanese people were allowed inside. I don’t want to think that it was the latter (because discrimination is uncool however you look at it), but on the other hand, I can’t imagine it was due to any language barrier (because sometimes the menu at these places had the word “beer” in it — and so it would have been easy to order). I wonder what they would do if a non-Japanese person who spoke fluent Japanese tried to get it.

While the rebirth of the flowers in Kyoto was beautiful, the renewal process of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was heartbreaking. I teared up several times while looking at the Atomic Bomb Dome (see photo below). This building is still standing after the 1945 a-bomb and is now a World Heritage Site. It was a little bit embarassing, since my colleagues were with me, and I had to walk away several times with the excuse that I was taking photos.

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Even though I wasn’t alive in 1945, I felt such shame to see this building, because I knew that it was my country that had blown it up, and killed more than 140,000 people, about 40% of the Hiroshima population at the time. On the other hand, it was amazing to see the regrowth of the city in the last 74 years. The city now boasts more than 1 million people, and if it wasn’t for the Dome building, no one ever would be able to guess that the city had once been decimated.

The Japanese crane, a symbol of hope and healing, also reminds me of Spring.

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Traditionally, it is believed that if you have 1,000 origami cranes, then your wish would come true. At a newly built tower (the brown building behind the Atomic Bomb Dome in the above picture), visitors can make origami cranes. There are videos which give you the instruction to make them. Even with the tutorial videos, it is not easy at all!

Once you are finished with the crane, you drop it down the side of the building. I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t allowed to keep the crane, but once it was explained to us why, I felt a little better. The purpose of making the cranes was to fill up the side of the building with origami cranes. It was actually pretty neat. My crane is currently sitting with hundreds of other cranes in Hiroshima. I hope to go back one day to see how far it is filled up (it wasn’t so full when we were there).

What does spring mean to you?

TRAVEL BOOK REVIEW: Pöstlingberg, Linz Austria (Lonely Planet Guide Book)

19139471A few years ago I received the Lonely Planet guide for Austria as a birthday present. Now that I have lived here for 2+ years, I decided to do a review of the suggestions in the book.

Today’s subject is Pöstlingberg. The book recommends Pöstlingberg as a “lookout” spot. “Linz spreads out beneath you atop Pöstlingberg (537m), which affords bird’s-eye views over the city and the snaking Danube.”

Tripadvisor also recommends taking the Pöstlingbergbahn (tram) to the top of the mountain. The Lonely Planet guide states that “This gondola features in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s steepest mountain railway – quite some feat for such a low-lying city!”

However, I also wanted to get in some exercise, so instead of taking the tram, I decided to walk up the Kreuzweg, or “cross way” in English. “Cross” meaning in the religious sense. The bottom of the Kreuzweg starts out in Linz, and the top ends in Pöstlingberg, near to the Pöstlingberg Kirche (Church).

Total walking time: 1 to 2 hours depending on how many times you want to stop to take photos or to enjoy the view.

Experience Level Required: None. I would classify the hike as “easy”.

Price: Free to walk. I think that the tram costs a few euros.

General Satisfaction: High.

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Along the way (about every 100 meters), there is a religious monument which depicts the story of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The battery on my phone was getting low, so I only ended up taking photos of the first few monuments.

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What I really liked about this walk was the scenery. At various points along the way you can see the entire city of Linz and the Donau river. The snow gave it an extra special atmosphere, especially when the sun came out. Unfortunately, my battery had already died by then, so all my photos are when the sun was hiding behind the clouds. I also was unable to take photos of inside the Church, but if you are interested, you can find some photos of the Church on Tripadvisor here.

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Across from the Church, at the top of the hill was the lookout point mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide. The sight of the mountains in the distance was a nice touch.

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Additionally, if the walk up the Kreuzweg gives you an appetite, you can also stop to see the Pöstlingbergschloss (Castle). There is a restaurant there, but I have never been inside, so I cannot give any recommendations. My boyfriend tells me that it is a little expensive, and the food is good, but “nothing special”.

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Business Trip to Stockton-On-Tees, England

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Last week I went on a business trip to Stockton-on-Tees in England, UK. The great thing about living in Europe, is that you can pretty much get anywhere else in Europe in only a few hours.

One of the things that I found particularly interesting, was the fact that there were two faucets in the sink, one for cold and one for hot. This meant of course that the cold gets really cold, and the hot gets really hot. Since the faucets are so far apart, the water basically never mixes unless you first hold your hands under the cold water and then move your hands under the hot water. Washing your hand and face in this manner becomes rather inefficient, if not down right annoying.

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Another interesting fact is that Guinness is served “extra cold”. I was always told that Guinness was served “warm” in the UK, but nope this is not the case. I am not complaining, however, because the extra cold Guiness was really good. From my understanding, there is very little gluten in Guiness, although there is some. Since I am gluten intolerant (but this mostly seems only to matter with solid foods rather than liquids) I waited until the last night of my trip (when all I had to do the next day was travel) just in case there was an issue. I am happy to report that all was well.

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I drank the Guinness in this pub call the George and Dragon. You may not be able to read it from the picture, but apparently the George and Dragon was the meeting place of the Promoters’ of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in February, 1820.

According to Wikipedia, the Stockton & Darlington Railway “was a railway company that operated in north-east England from 1825 to 1863.” According to my English colleague (and the sign outside of the George and Dragon), this railway was the first public railway in the entire world. Additionally, the building where the pub was located used to be a market inn and coach house, with stables for horses. Lastly, this pub won the “Cask Marque”, which pretty much means they pour a freaking great pint of beer. I can attest to this because the Guinness, as mentioned above, was really good.

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My colleagues and I stayed in the Best Western Parkmore in Stockton-on-Tees. The hotel was sufficient for our purposes, but wasn’t anything fancy. About a fifteen minute walk from the hotel was this cute little town called Yarm. According to Wikipedia, “Yarm is a small town in the ceremonial county of North Yorkshire, England. The town is on the south bank of the River Tees and is historically part of the North Riding of Yorkshire.” I found it really cool that they still had the old style red telephone booths (on the right of the above picture) and the red post boxes (on the left).  The red post boxes had the initials “ER” on then, which means “Elizabeth Regina”, for the Queen of England. Yarm was a gluten-free paradise. We ate at restaurants called Muse and Cena. Since I was in England, I had to get the rice pudding at both places — the one at Muse was much better. At Cena the gluten-free pizza is simply amazing — you would never know it was gluten free.

resize.20190119_0925371194758444When we got back to the airport, we were rather surprised that we had to pay 6 pounds as an “airport fee”. Durham Tees Valley Airport is a very small airport with only 3 gates or so. I am not sure why they require this additional fee from people who are flying out of the airport. Maybe it is seldom used or doesn’t get proper federal funding? Whatever the reason it was annoying because the fee machines only accepted EXACT change. I only had a 20 pound note and a 5 pound note, so I had to get change from a change machine — which only dispensed 1 pound coins. Sigh. As an interesting aside, the 5 and 10 pound notes are made out of plastic rather than paper, just like in Canada.

All in all, I would say the business trip was a success. The training I gave to my colleagues went well, and I was even able to get in a little bit of site seeing. Stay tuned for the next business trip installment: Japan and China.

 

 

Dohány Street Synagogue, Budapest

Back in August, 2017, I visited the biggest synagogue in Budapest, the Dohány Street Synagogue, and was told the following story by the tour guide:

During WWII there were approximately 70,000 Jewish people put into a Ghetto. The Hungarian government made a deal with Hitler that in exchange for free transportation of the Nazi army through Hungary, these Jewish people would not need to be sent to the concentration camp. However, were these people safe? No. The Hungarian army rounded up dozens of people at a time, brought them to the Danube on boats, and shot them. They then pushed the dead bodies into the river.

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The tree pictured above is in the courtyard of the Synagogue, is called the Tree of Life, and the leaves (as shown below) are engraved with the names of Jewish people who passed away.

Unfortunately, my computer crashed and I lost all of my other photos of inside the Synagogue.  However, I would definetely recommend to visit.

Things to do in Budapest: Your ultimate city guide

As always, these guys give a great rundown of things to do in Budapest! The only thing that they do not cover is the inside of the Dohány Street Synagogue. My boyfriend and I did get the chance to go inside, and I will post photos of the same, in another post.  This post was just too good not to share!

we did it our way

Welcome to the beautiful capital of Hungary, Budapest!  Split in two by the Danube, you have the hilly Buda, home to the awesome castle, and the fairly flat Pest (pronounced Pesht, so you don’t sound like a total tourist!)  Unofficially, it’s one of our favourite cities in Europe… but we say that about every place we go!  The city with a rich history, funky culture and beautiful architecture has something for everyone.  Here are just a few of the amazing things to see and do.

When to go

As always, it really depends on what you want to do while you’re here.  If you want to avoid crowds and extreme weather (either too hot or too cold), make sure you go between March and May, or September through November.

The summer months in Budapest are the hottest and wettest.  January is probably the coldest month, and the winter sees a…

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Pictures of Linz on a Snowy Day

I found a little trail by the Schlossmuseum which led me to the below view of the Donau river.

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On this little trail, there was also a statue of Johannes Kepler.  He was a 17th century German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer. There is a university in Linz named after him.

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What I really like about Linz, is finding unique art on the side of buildings.

 

Linz may be an industrial city, but sometimes it can be rather beautiful.

Things to do in Vienna: Your ultimate city guide

These guys are one of my favorite travel bloggers.  I was thinking about posting my own blog post about Vienna, but once I saw theirs I knew that I would never be able to write one that was as good.  My only suggestion which would differ from the blog post would be to take the OBB train instead of the CAT train.  The OBB train ticket would be for under €5, while the CAT is €15.

we did it our way

Vienna.  The beautiful capital of Austria is said to be the “city of dreams”, for being the birthplace of Sigmund Freud.  To us, Vienna was the start of our epic train trip through Europe, and it couldn’t have been a better place to kick things off.

Without surprise, Vienna has often been voted the most livable city in the world, due to its high quality of life ratings, as well as culture, infrastructure, and many markets.  The city is often cited as a leading example of urban planning and we can totally see why.  It was such a lovely city to walk around!

Wediditourway St Stephen's Cathedral Vienna Asutria We are in awe of the St Stephen’s Cathedral

Although we managed to see everything in 2 days, we would suggest a full 4-day trip to Vienna.  Here are our recommendations for what to see, where to go, how to get around, and where to stay.

When…

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