The World is a Book

Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…


The main city square

After reading in some international-focused move abroad magazines, we decided to spend a few days in Uruguay. We only had time for the capital city of Montevideo so our view is perhaps limited.

It’s about a 40 minute drive from the airport to city center and we booked a private car as recommended. This was nice as we had been on overnight flights from Mexico City to Bogota (the airport there is lovely) and then on to Montevideo. The price was about $75 pre-booking privately. When we left we simply took an Uber and that was only $22. Lesson learned.

The city is hard to be enamored with honestly although the people are friendly and we had some good food.

There were some nice bookstores

One of the kids asked if this was a communist country as they were reminded of Eastern Europe. It was very drab and lacked color. There were some lovely old buildings tucked in between large concrete blocks of apartments (but the old ones were rarely renovated). The thing that jumped out to us was that no one had any plants or flowers on their balconies. There was no color or desire to make spaces look inviting.

Some of the best spots we found

We were also a bit shocked at the amount of trash strewn all over the place. This plus loads of dog poop were unpleasant to walk around in the city.

Walking along the rambla ( the sea front) was no different either.

The Rambla
We did find a good market

Day Trips from Melbourne

The surrounding countryside around Melbourne is stunning. From incredible beach views along the Great Ocean Road to the mountains and rain forest areas. I was on a quest to see kangaroos (check that off) and koalas (sadly no so I shall just have to go back).

The driving is easy (on the left side) with open roads and no one really aggressive. Although we did see some sadly squashed kangaroos at the side of the road so dusk and night may be difficult similar to deer.

Sydney Sites

Pretty Impressive

Our big jaunt around the world started when we flew from Mexico to Los Angeles and spent 24 hours there due to flights not lining up well. It was fun to go over to The Grove and Farmer’s Market as it we’d been there before just prior to Christmas so somewhere I have pictures of the kids about 10 years apart.

We flew out the next day to Sydney and while it was 15.5 hours, it went surprisingly fast and we did manage to sleep (a miracle). It was strange leaving on Nov 29 and arriving Dec. 1. I kept pondering how we had completely lost the 30th! Our first day was purposefully relaxing with just restaurant nearby. Thankfully we were in a great area (Central Park) and had tons of amazing places to choose from. We ate Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, and more for our time there – all delish.

The first day we took an Uber to the Opera House and went on a tour. I hadn’t realized there were so many different theaters within this iconic building. Multiple shows running at the same time but we just couldn’t swing seeing anything there. It’s OK as we are going to Phantom (seen multiple times before but it’s a fave) and Hamilton in Melbourne so are pretty excited about that. The building is impressive and a tour was very good as we saw inside plus learned the history behind the building. Well worth the money.

From there we wandered around the dock area and The Rocks which is a cute area with narrow lanes and outdoor cafes etc. It’s all pretty with a great mix of old and new buildings plus nice green spaces and parks. We really did like Sydney a lot.

During our visit we hit up some museums and walked quite a bit to explore. Darling Harbor was nice and reminded us of the UAE a bit.

Our flight to Melbourne left at 6am so it was an early shift but very easy and everything went smoothly. Sadly Melbourne airport when I was leaving for Thailand a few days later was anything but. We all stood in line to try and check in with 3 employees helping. It took 3.5 hours to get thru the line and of course the flight was delayed. Coming back, they were announcing that due to chronic staff shortages, bags were very delayed and it could be at least an hour wait! Hope they can hire more people soon.

Anyway, Sydney was lovely. Perfect weather, friendly people, pretty architecture, and good food.

Waterfront views

Great area with Asian restaurants. Well everywhere has great spots!

Melbourne City Sites

Max, Charlotte, and I were hugely excited to get to Melbourne because this is where Jake is living. They got to stay with him while I went to Thailand to co-lead a 10-day study abroad.

Melbourne is lovely although the weather was hard to predict. It was summer one day (and actually the season we were there) but some days it felt cool and rainy.

We did so many things it’s hard to get it all in here for one post. We hit up quite a few markets (happens with a chef son) and they were impressive. Fresh oysters and all kinds of nibbles.

Jake’s restaurants are in the brown, historic building.

Melbourne view from Jake’s apartment

Some of the highlights were all our shows we were able to see. Hamilton, Phantom of the Opera, and Joseph were so much fun. COVID limited our show viewing so we tried to make up for it.

We also had a great evening at the botanical gardens watching movies on a giant screen (complete with huge fruit bats flying overhead). We saw the Whitney Houston movie, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and it was almost like being at a concert. Amazing night.

We ate some amazing food around the city but the best was my son’s restaurant — Mesa Verde. Wow is it ever good.

We had two house swaps over the holiday season so spent Christmas in a suburban beach town. We took lots of day trips from there into the countryside and cooked some good food at home in the really nice kitchen. We even had chickens in the garden that we cared for and were able to get eggs.

And then for New Year we moved to a city house that was a beautifully renovated warehouse in Fitzroy area. NYE was spent wandering down the road to an Afghani restaurant (complete with belly dancer) and then watching the city fireworks from our roof top patio.

Studying Abroad in Thailand

Bangkok scenes always impress

I had the pleasure of co-leading a study abroad group to Thailand. We have to plan these about 18 months before going and so I happily suggested my favorite places which meant we spent a few days in Bangkok, a couple in Hua Hin (south) and then up north to Chiang Mai. Not going to lie, it was a tough 10 days of travel with nonstop exploring and socializing. Packing and unpacking with a night her and night there is not my favorite way to travel. We much prefer slow travel but it was a great way to have student experience different places.

We did the Palace and reclining Buddhas etc. but also were able to attend a class in meditation (walking and sitting), visit a big STEM high school, and take a wonderful cooking class. We made the best food and the chef was delightful. It was extremely well organized with plates of ingredients for each person appearing at one station where we learned about them before going to another station to cook them. We made four dishes and could barely move as so full. If you are there check out:


In Hua Hin we hit the night markets and beach but then drove to a huge national park with a lovely lake. We took a boat ride around it and visited islands with monkeys on them. You could also rent bikes and ride around although I chose to sit in the shade as afternoon sun in Thailand is a tad intense.

In Chiang Mai we again shopped (always popular) and spent a day at an elephant sanctuary. We fed them, ground up herbs to make healthy snacks for them, and then it was bath time. Quite a muddy process!

Another muddy process was visiting a seed saving NGO called Echo. It was really interesting to hear about their work around the world aimed at helping collect seeds to share with small holding farmers and also to work on promotion of better farming practices as well as sustainable (and cheap) tools. It was cool to see them collecting natural methane gas from pig poop and then fire up a stove with it. We were able to sit and clean seeds and do some weeding in the gardens.

One of the best events was visiting Chiang Mai University and interacting with the students and faculty. Their students put on quite an event at the American Center on campus as they love to practice English and make connections. They had us playing some drawing games and fact finding warm ups that had everyone holding their sides from laughing so hard. Everyone was so welcoming and gracious that it was a really lovely day.

All in all, a wonderful “work” trip (struggle to call it that as it was so much fun with incredible students). It did remind me of how much I’ve missed S.E Asia.

Short Trip to CDMX

Coyoacan square

Charlotte and I took a trip to the city for a week as we were craving museums.

We stayed in La Condesa area and loved it. Our boutique hotel was right across from the main park and we surrounded by lovely restaurants.

We had sushi one night and Charlotte had veggie sushi with mushrooms that she claimed was the best she’d ever eaten. We also went to a great taco place that also catered to vegetarians and was delicious.

Amazing Pizza

And then we found a pizza place that had the big wood fire to cook them in. This was again wonderful and dare I saw one of the best pizzas we’ve had (even in Italy and Croatia)!

La Condesa Park
La Condesa Park

The museums did not disappoint. I think our favorite was the Soumaya Museum. This had a huge private art collection and when we were there was free to the public. It’s huge and the top floor was filled with Rodin sculptures and Degas paintings and more. Incredible collection.

Soumaya Museum
Soumaya Museum

We have been to the anthropological museum before so skipped it this time (but I do recommend it highly). We did go nearby to another in Chapultepec Park – The Museum of Modern Art. We enjoyed most of this but one painter was really weird and disturbing and we felt a strange addition. Still you remember the strange ones I think.

Casa Azul

Another day was spent in Coyoacán and a visit to the Frida Kahlo museum – Casa Azul.

We like this area of the city and enjoy breakfast in the square (amazing pastries) and then the market there. The museum is interesting and good to learn a bit more about Frida but we really don’t think it’s as great as hyped up to be. Enjoyable though.

A snack from the market anyone?

There are still loads of museums to visit in Mexico City so I see another visit coming on!

Back in the UAE: Sharjah

UAE Views
We had a visit from a friend who is an amazing photographer so thankful for that.

I decided to take a one year Visiting Professor of Psychology position at the American University of Sharjah so we packed up for our third time living in the UAE. We do love it there and I was eager to spend time with my brother and his wife who live in Dubai again.

In our previous years in country, Sharjah was mostly a place we went through on our way to the huge booze store in the emirate past this one. Sharjah is not known for it’s party atmosphere as it is dry (no alcohol) and much more conservating. But we found out it has lovely museums and old places to visit. It has a nice water front although possibly not bikini frolicking area.

There was a new mall near us plus two smaller ones with Carrefour and Spinneys (grocery stores we like) in them. We also had a great medical center and tons of restaurants and movie theaters around.

Campus Views

My favorite jaunt was the huge fruit and vegetable souk and fish market which is now inside and air conditioned but still has a very market feel to it. The range of offerings is incredible and I miss that a lot. We made weekly trips there given how many visitors came to stay. That actually was the best part of our year as we had back-to-back family and friends staying with us. It pushed us to not be complacent and to get out and explore more which is always a good thing. Anytime I get my family to visit is a good time

Lots of Riding for Charlotte

Places we enjoyed:

Al Wasit Wetland Centre

Arabian Tea House

House of Wisdom

Khor Fakkan beach and damn area

Al Mamzar Beach Park

Sharjah Central Souk

Archeology museum

Al Majaz Waterfront

We had a house on the campus which was in a beautiful university city area. Loads of gorgeous manicured gardens around us and it was lovely and quiet. Sometimes a little too quiet but overall a wonderful year.

Sharjah waterfront
Good food at the Arabian Tea House

Quick trip to the Algarve, Portugal

We just had a few days but decided to have a quick visit to a new country. We drove in from Spain and stopped just short of the border in Huelva to visit the Christopher Columbus museum complete with replicas of the ships. It was really interesting reading about the explorer through the eyes of the Spanish after hearing the US history so often.

We travelled along a very good highway to the house we had rented in a smaller town called Olhao which was close to Faro. Olhao is a smaller fishing town with amazing fish and produce markets. We had an incredible old house with high ceilings and beautiful historical accents. Unfortunately it had not been updated to include heating and so it was COLD. We layered outfits and had space heaters in one room but still struggled a bit.

The food was decent and if we had longer, the markets would have provided some goodies for meals. Wine was CHEAP and good. Some positives. Not sure I’d race back to the Algarve but I would certainly visit other places in the country.

Back to Andalusia

I had a conference to attend in Seville so we flew to Malaga and drove up to Cordoba for a few days first. We all fell in love with this amazing city. It’s just large enough to be walkable but filled with heritage sites and narrow alleys and delicious restaurants. Charlotte also went to a wonderful riding stable a couple of times which of course was a hit.

The mosque with a cathedral inside of it is one of the most incredible historic sites I’ve visited. Really encourage anyone to go to Cordoba and visit this. It was memorable.

From Cordoba we drove to Seville where we had a lovely apartment right in the pedestrian area of the city. We could walk to everything (although Seville is a large city so needs to be done over plenty of days). Having spent time there the year before it was nice to show Grandma places we knew and discover new spots.

View from our apartment

A trip south to Jerez was fun as Max is learning to make mead so interested in the sherry processing. Then a drive back up to the village we stayed in for 3 months the year before – Jimena de la Frontera and back to Malaga. Short trip but lovely.

South of France: Pouzols

We had yet another great house swap in the small town of Pouzols which is about 25 minutes outside of Montpelier. The house was a modern build inside an old walled garden. We had lovely places to wander and old buildings around us to look at and yet all modern conveniences. Plus cats – lots of them which was neat.

Grandma enjoyed the garden

There wasn’t much to do or any cafes in the village but we found plenty of towns around us and it was a short drive to the Mediterranean for food and views. The weather was just right for sitting outside and eating but the pool was closed up and it got cold quite quickly at night.

We found so many neat spots around us to visit. Highlights included Uzes, Saint Guilhem-le-Desert, Bouzigues, and of course Pont du Gard aqueduct which is an incredible Roman ruin built about 40-60 CE.

We ate happily too. Oysters and bouillabaisse, cheeses and market goodies, plus incredible Moroccan tagine.

Interested in house swapping and earning points from the site?

If you would like to sign up here is a link that gets both of us some extra guest points just to get you started:

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