Thursday, May 17, 2018

Travel from Sintra to Algarve Along the Alentejano Coast

Our sixth day in Portugal was a travel day.  After breakfast in our cute hotel in Sintra, we picked up a rental car and hit the road south, past Lisbon, headed toward the Algarve.  We opted for the scenic route, a 4-hr drive close to Portugal's Atlantic coast (about and hour longer than the more direct inland route).

We hoped to find somewhere to stop halfway and stretch our legs.  Back at home, while planning our vacation, I'd searched all over the internet looking for suggestions on somewhere that would be fun with the kids, but found...nothing.  So while the kids napped peacefully in the backseat and with Mohit at the wheel, I turned on Tripadvisor and searched in map view for at least a recommended restaurant somewhere in the little villages we were driving through.

We zeroed in on a recommended restaurant, Tasca do Celso in Vila Nove de Milfonte.  We found Milfonte to be a cute little seaside village with whitewashed houses and narrow cobblestone streets.  The front room of the restaurant was dark and cozy, but the back room was unexpectedly airy and beachy feeling.  We enjoyed a yummy lunch of garlic shrimp, macaroni with broth, beans and tiny clams, and roasted chicken for the kids.

After lunch we walked outside into the BRIGHT hot sunlight and wandered through town.  We came out of the narrow streets onto a wide avenue with stairs down to the beach.  

The kids were excited to kick off their shoes and wade in the water.  Before we even knew what was happening, big kid had splashed face first into the water fully clothed!

Lucky for us we had suitcases of clothes in the trunk of our car! After a clothing change which deposited several buckets of sand in the car, we piled back in for the rest of our drive.  Our destination was the Martinhal family resort in Sagres.  I'll be honest, the drive after lunch was pretty miserable since our 3-year-old hated being in the car that long, and complained and cried for the remaining 1.5 hours.  But our beach resort destination did not disappoint!  Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Cape Cod (Mostly the Outer Cape)- Beaches, Playgrounds and Mini-Golf

A few years ago, my parents retired and moved from Central MA to outer Cape Cod.  Lucky us!  We've enjoyed spending time down there in the summers (as we did even before we had family on the Cape), but we've also enjoyed getting to know the secrets for fun with kids on the Cape even in the off season.  Here are some of the kid-friendly places and activities we have discovered, particularly in the Brewster/ Orleans/ Eastham/ Wellfleet area:

Our Favorite Beaches
Our kids are still pretty little, so we prefer shallow water and small (or no) waves.  Bonus for tidal pools and streams to explore.  Based on these criteria, these two are our favorites:
  • Skaket Beach, West Road, Orleans MA
    There are tons of hermit crabs in snail shells to collect here!  When the tide is low, you can walk out for what seems like a mile (no exaggeration) in shallow water that makes for some great pictures.  There's a food stand, toilets and showers here.  

  • First Encounter Beach, Samoset Road, Eastham, MAWe also enjoy looking for hermit crabs at this beach, and this is where we go on the 4th of July to watch fireworks being launched from Rock Harbor in Orleans.  Toilets here, no showers.  No food stall, but there's always an ice cream truck and often a gourmet iced coffee truck that comes by! 

Fun Playgrounds
Sometimes it's too cold for the beach.  Sometimes everyone just needs something else to explore.  We were really impressed by these two local elementary school playgrounds:
  • Orleans Elementary Community Playground, 46 Eldridge Park Road, Orleans, MAOur six-year-old loved the rock climbing wall and rope climber, and our three-year-old enjoyed the fishing community theme: there's a play fishing boat docked at a play dock with a hut.

  • Eastham Elementary School Playground, 200 School House Road, Eastham, MAIn addition to some standard playground equipment, we loved the two adorable play houses at this playground, plus a fun tree for climbing and a big field for kite flying. 

Fair Weather Activities
Here are a few of our favorite things to do with the kids when the weather is nice and warm enough for outdoor fun:
  • Cape Escape Adventure Golf, 14 Canal Road, Orleans, MAThis one has all the standard stuff you expect for mini golf, plus our son's favorite part is feeding the koi fish at the end of the course (fish food provided by the course).

  • Harbor Lights Mini Golf, 81 Underpass Road, Brewster, MA This one is relatively small (great with small kids with short attention spans!) and has lovely landscaping and water features.  

Monday, April 30, 2018

Harvard Museum of Natural History, Cambridge MA

Are there things you loved as a kid that you soooo want your kids to love too (partly so that you can keep enjoying it too?).  For me, natural history museums are one of those things.  I was a kid collector.  I spent my summer collecting specimens: rocks, leaves, seashells, wildflowers, butterflies and bugs in one hand and a nature guide book in the other. 

The Harvard University Natural History Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts  ( is an underrated little gem of a museum tucked away inside an unassuming brick building on Harvard’s science campus just outside of Harvard Square.  It’s free to Massachusetts residents on Sunday mornings before noon (and reasonable admission of $12 adults/ $8 kids/ free under 3 for everyone else).  We’ve visited with the kids once before, but I was a little disappointed that neither of them was as excited as me about exploring the vast collection of animals, birds, bugs, rocks and fossils.

Today was one of those cold and grey March days where we were all dreaming of playground weather, beach weather, gardening weather...but it’s all yucky grey snow and mud.  We decided it’d be worth another visit to the Natural History Museum, and this time I made each of the kids a scavenger hunt book which totally made all the difference!  It took me all of 5 minutes, a few pieces of construction paper and a stapler, and it bought us almost 2 hours of excited kids loving the museum!  Our 6 year old was the most excited to put his Kindergarten writing skills to good use, and he’s a kid who never turns down a challenge.  Our 3 year old just knew her brother was excited and she was thrilled to run around copying him, pointing to animals and scribbling on her pages. A win for Mom!