Travel Month: May 2016

Monday, May 30, 2016

Personal + Travel


This month was pretty quiet regarding travel, but I didn't mind as it gave me a chance to get ahead on work and enjoy the great weather in Vilnius. In Vilnius, we enjoyed the reopening of Open Kitchen and eating out at a few new restaurants. I also spent a fair bit of time at several parks and playgrounds now that Baby ISO is mobile.

My mother-in-law also visited for two weeks, which was another chance for me to get ahead on some work and blogging things. It was great to have her help!

A photo posted by Elizabeth (@insearchofs) on


Blog + Freelance


This month I've put up my first reader survey. Please click here to take my reader survey to help guide my future content. I'd really appreciate it and owe you a coffee if we are ever in the same city at the same time!

On the blog, I've shared a few posts about Luxembourg, which is a great city for a weekend break and several tasty meals, a packing guide, and a massive guide to Druskininkai, Lithuania.

As far as freelancing goes, I've started a new video program with TopEdit, where I teach about writing and publishing scientific articles. I'm not entirely comfortable on camera, but hopefully I'll improve over time. Freelancing has been a bit slow for science editing, but botanists are usually in the field at this time so this dip in work is normal for me. Regarding travel editing, I've just edited more than 500 articles for Trip101 and published 10 articles on Trip101 as well. I'm looking forward to many, many more!




Looking Forward To


In June, J's friend from college, his wife, and their 1 year old are coming for a visit. Together, we'll take a road trip from Vilnius to Tallinn and then a ferry to Helsinki. It should be a great trip and I'm looking forward to sharing all about it later in the summer. If you have any recommendations for Helsinki I'd love to hear them!

Later in June, we'll be heading back to the US for a month-long trip. I'm really looking forward to seeing family and friends, spending some time at the beach, and trying out a few new restaurants. Summer break really snuck up on me this year!






Links


Here you'll find a few links of my writing elsewhere on the web ...

Family Travel Interview with Learning Escapes: Family Travel Interview



How was your month? What are you looking forward to in June?

Road Trips In Lithuania: Where To Rent A Car

Friday, May 27, 2016



For our road trip around Lithuania and our weekend trip to Druskininkai, we rented a car from AutoBanga in Vilnius. We were able to pick up a car from the convenient location near Hales Market, which is great as we didn't need to take a cab out to the airport, where most rental agencies are located.

Both times, we rented a Mazada 3 with full coverage (after reading this post from Overseas Escape, I will always get full coverage) and a GPS. It ran perfectly and was a great choice for both of our getaways (both longer and shorter). I would highly recommend renting from AutoBanga as the pick up and drop off was easy and renting the car online was simple.



Click this link to take In Search Of's reader survey 


Have you rented a car before? Would you suggest it?

Reader Survey

Monday, May 23, 2016



I thought it was high time I create a reader survey to help me improve this space. This survey is only 6 questions long and should take you only 5 minutes or less! I'm working hard to improve the content on In Search Of and your input would really help. If we are ever in the same city at the same time I would gladly buy you a cup of coffee for your time!

Click this link to take In Search Of's reader survey



This survey closes on June 5. Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my survey! And I mean it about the coffee :)

Libraries With English Books In Vilnius

Friday, May 20, 2016

As part of my self-imposed book-buying ban, I've had to seek out libraries to borrow books from. With a bit of investigations, I've found several options, but I'll share my three favorites here. The following three libraries are open to the public and books can be checked out with a valid library card or membership.



A. Mickeviciaus Children's Library


I've been visiting this children's library nearly weekly with Baby ISO. They have a small selection of children's and young adult books in English (and Russian). In the children's section there is also a carpet, comfortable pillows, and several activity tables. This is a great library for children.

Visiting the library and using the facilities is free and open to the public. Checking out books requires a library card, which can be used at all public libraries throughout the country. To register for a library card, you need a passport or residence card and you'll be required to pay a small fee (when I registered it was around 10 Litas, I don't know what it is now that the prices are in Euros).

Find out more on their website. Visit the library at Traku g. 10 and enter through the courtyard behind the building. If you are visiting with a stroller the librarians will help you to bring the stroller inside.


Menu Spaustuve


For a great selection of English novels and books focused on art and dance, head to the library in Menu Spaustuve. Menu Spaustuve is a dance theatre with both children's and adult's performances -- we took Baby ISO to an interactive performance and it was great. Menu Spaustuve's library has a few small tables and shelves upon shelves of English books. It is my favorite library of the bunch.

Visiting the library and using the facilities is free. Checking out books, movies, or music requires a membership. Membership costs 6 Euros and is open to everyone. For more information, check their websiteMenu Spasustuve is located on Siltadarzio g. 6.





Vilnius University's Libraries


Vilnius University has two libraries that are open for public use (with purchase of a short-term or long-term user card. Non-Vilnius University visitors with a user-card can borrow non-fiction books, use the Wi-Fi, computers, and workspaces. The workspaces in the Central Library (Universiteto g. 3) are stunning, so despite the high registration fee, it may be worth it if you plan to work here often. I'll share more photos from inside the library soon.

Vilnius University's Central Library and Scholarly Communication and Information Center are both open to the public with a valid user card. You can find more information about registering for a user card here. For a long-term (12-month) user card, you must pay 17 Euro and register at the Information Desk.





Do you take advantage of public libraries where you live? What facilities are your favorite?

Travel Guide To Druskininkai, LT: A Popular Resort Town

Monday, May 16, 2016



Druskininkai surprised me with its walking street, cute cafes, and great park. With a small town, resort atmosphere, I thought that there wouldn't be anything unique or special, but I was absolutely wrong. There were unique sculptures all along the pedestrian street (Vilniaus al.) and outdoor artwork throughout the small downtown.

To see everything that Druskininkai and its surroundings have to offer, you could visit with a rental car on a weekend trip from Vilnius.

What is there to do and see in Druskininkai?

At the start the pedestrian-only Vilniaus al., you'll see the brick St. Mary's Church. Continue walking down Vilniaus al. to see interesting outdoor sculptures and artwork dotted along the street. If you walk all the way to the end of Vilniaus al. (5-10 minutes depending on how fast you walk), you'll find the Druskininkai Water Park and Spa and a cable car that takes you on a ride over the trees.












Off to the side of Vilniaus al. is the Russian Orthodox Church. This tiny, but magnificent blue structure really should not be missed (and can't be missed because it is so bright in a sea of grey and brown buildings). Walk all the way around the church because it really is stunning.







After wandering the remaining few streets of the downtown, be sure to walk into Vijuneles Park to enjoy a stroll around the Druskonis and Vijuneles Tvenkinys Lakes. In this park, you'll also find monuments, memorials, and a graveyard.











If you are visiting with a car, but staying outside of the easily walkable downtown, you can park in the plentiful street and lot parking.

Located about 15 minutes outside of the downtown, you'll find Gruto Parkas, or Soviet Park. I'll talk more about this another day, but Gruto Parkas is not to be missed if you are in Lithuania.



Where should I eat in Druskininkai?

We found two really awesome places to eat in Druskininkai: City Coffee and Toli Toli.

We all know that Lithuania runs on coffee, so I was hopefully that we'd find at least one independent cafe. City Coffee on V. Kudrikos g. 37 was it! The staff members were incredibly kind, even helping us to bring our stroller up the stairs, and both the coffee and cake were perfect. My espresso was perfectly made and not bitter at all. J and I shared a slice of Belgian chocolate cake, which was rich and surprisingly good. If you are in Druskininkai you should definitely visit City Coffee!





We ate lunch at Toli Toli twice -- that is how good it was. Though it wasn't on the menu during our second visit, the beet and coconut soup (seen in the photo below) was bursting with flavor. It was a really unique take on borscht. They also served Crooked Nose Coffee served in a Chemex, which was an excellent surprise.

You can find Toli Toli on Vilnaius al. 8, but it located slightly around the corner of the building.






Where should I stay in Druskininkai?

Where we stayed in Druskininkai was our biggest let down. We stayed in the Medea Hotel & Spa, located outside of old town, and although our hotel room was comfortable, clean, and nice, miscommunications got the better of us. I planned to enjoy several spa treatments (my back hurts from carrying around a baby all day!) while in Druskininkai -- it is a resort town after all -- but we couldn't communicate well enough with the hotel staff to set up any treatments. This was a total bummer as the website stated that staff speaks Lithuania, Russian, English, and Polish and the person I spoke with on the phone to make the booking spoke great English. Though it was very confusing, we were able to set up a massage and unfortunately, it was not great. The spa area itself is in need of renovations. Parking at the Medea Spa was also limited, so keep this in mind if traveling with a car.

Our friends; however, stayed at the Spa Vilnius Druskininkai, which is located right in the downtown. They were all able to schedule several treatments each and enjoyed everything. Spa Vilnius also had a pool, bathrobes, and free breakfast. If we were to visit Druskininkai again, I would stay here.

Other things to mention:

We visited Druskininkai in early March over Catholic Easter, when Druskininkai was very quiet. I have a feeling that Druskininkai gets really crowded in the summer.

Have you ever visited a resort town?

Carry-on packing guide for mom and baby

Friday, May 13, 2016

Packing for yourself in a carry-on bag can be tricky, but add packing for a baby into the mix and you just have a packing nightmare. My first trip with Baby ISO was a road trip with a rental car, so we for sure overpacked -- see the photo proof below.

overpacking like crazy for our first trip with Baby ISO


Our next trip together was a weekend in Frankfurt. We were only allowed a carry on each (without paying extra) and even though it was only a weekend trip, I overpacked for Baby ISO and underpacked for myself. The only pair of pants I brought was spilled on the first day and Baby ISO had several unworn onesies and pants.

Since these first two trips; however, I think I've improved with fitting my own clothes and Baby ISO's clothes/stuff into one not too overstuffed duffel bag or backpack depending on the length of the trip.

Packing is highly personal, but this is what works for us. I've tried to leave the list loose so that you could modify it to your needs.

For Baby:

Clothes:


  • With drool, food, milk, or some other unidentifiable substance, onesie shirts get dirty pretty quickly for us. I try to bring one shirt for each day we are traveling.
  • Bottoms don't get dirty as easily for us, so for a weekend trip we bring 2 pairs of pants, and for a week-long trip we bring 3 pairs of pants.
  • For bedtime, I generally pack 2 to 3 pajamas. Baby ISO will often wear pajamas during flights if the flights leave early in the morning.
  • Several pairs of socks
  • Outdoor clothes - now that it is summer, we don't need to pack a giant snowsuit! - We now pack a sun hat, a few light sweaters, and sunblock. 


Bedtime:

We've been working really hard on setting up a solid bedtime, so packing the same things we use for bedtime is really important for us. Here are our bedtime packing essentials:

  • Sleeping sack or blanket (Many hotel cribs don't seem to come with safe blanket options, so we always bring our sleeping sack.)
  • Vitamin D drops, Goodnight Moon, tooth brush, and toothpaste

Mealtime:

  • Bottles, spoons
  • Enough baby food for the first 1-2 days
  • Lots of bibs


Other:

  • We usually pack several toys, especially now that Baby ISO loves to play.
  • Carseat
  • Stroller (our carseat attaches to the stroller making it really portable)
  • Rain cover for stroller
  • Diaper changing pad, enough diapers for the first 1-2 days, diaper cream or powder. The changing pad that we have 
  • Baby medications in case of emergency (e.g., Baby Tylenol, sunblock)

It seems like a TON of stuff, but it does fit into my LeSportsac rolling duffle bag, along with all of my own clothes, a book, electronics, and necessary chargers. I still pack light for myself, but not as light as before having a baby. Even for weekend trips I now need to pack an extra pair of pants and an extra nursing bra. For now at least, gone are the days of throwing a few t-shirts in a bag and spontaneously traveling for a weekend.




What other essentials do you pack? How does packing change as baby gets older?

Could Lithuania be your ultimate European destination?

Monday, May 9, 2016



Basically, this is a massive post about Lithuania. Since having Baby ISO, we've been doing a lot of local travel during work vacations and long weekends. We've seen more of Lithuania this (academic) year than in our past two years of living here. I love local travel and have been happily checking off activities from my Lithuanian Bucket List. Vilnius, where we live, is the main tourist hot-spot of the country, and I think that many visitors don't even consider seeing anywhere else in the country. I think this is a mistake!

Lithuania is highly affordable: meals average around 10 EUR, cappuccinos around 2 EUR, admission fees to museums/events under 5 EUR, etc. In addition to it being an affordable country to visit, it also has an interesting history and culture, as well as incredible nature. See 16 reasons you should visit Lithuania in 2016 for more reasons. I'd argue that Lithuania has something for every traveler out there. Read on to learn more about Lithuanian cities and determine what city, town, or village you may want to visit.



Let's first talk more about Lithuania. Lithuania, the largest of the Baltic states, is a small country with an area of 25,212 square miles (a bit larger than size of West Virginia, USA) with a population of about 3 million. Lithuania has a rapidly declining population, because of its high rate of emigration, yet it has a quickly growing economy. The main language spoken is Lithuanian, although many people speak Russian (particularly older people) and English (especially younger people), and a small amount of the population speaks Polish.

Lithuania is primarily a Catholic country, although a small amount of the population are Russian Orthodox or Protestant. You'll find numerous, beautiful Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches throughout the country.

Much of the population lives in the capital, Vilnius, which is also the main tourist hot-spot; however, there are several other cities that also have much to see and do. Though we don't have a car, we've managed to visit several other cities in Lithuania and if you are spending some time in the Baltics, I'd highly suggest taking some time to visit at least one other city/town/village in the country. Below I've compiled a few facts and suggestions for things to do in each place.


Vilnius


Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is the largest city in the country with a population of about 526,000. The city founded in the 14th century by Grand Duke Gediminas. Vilnius boasts many large museums including excellent art museums, history museums, the National Drama Theatre, Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, and many more venues to experience culture for low prices. There are also many unique restaurants, huge parks, great street art, and interesting outdoor markets. As with many capital cities, there is a ton to do in Vilnius. You should visit Vilnius if you want to take a city break.



Visit Vilnius if you want to take a city break and learn about Lithuania's history.


Kaunas


Kaunas is the second largest city in Lithuania and has a population of ~350,000. From 1920 to 1940 Kaunas was the temporary capital of Lithuania. In Kaunas, you'll find many smaller museums, including the Devil's Museum and the Natural History Museum, as well as the 9th Fort, which is supposed to be interesting to visit. You can walk along the tree-lined Laisves Prospektas or wander the cobbled streets of Kaunas' old town.






Visit Kaunas if you are interested in off-beat architecture and unique museums.


Klaipeda


Klaipeda, the seaport in Lithuania, connects Lithuania with northern Europe via cruise ships and trade, thus the architecture is slightly different than what you'll see in other cities. Though the city is pretty quiet most of the year, in the summer it sees an influx of tourists visiting from the cruise ships. The population of Klaipeda is approximately 184,657. Dane River runs through the city, where you'll see a tall ship and a tree-lined park. Klaipeda is a great weekend destination for a slower pace and is the gateway for visiting the Curonian Spit.


Visit Klaipeda for a cozy city and to get to the Curonian Spit.


Siauliai


The fourth largest city in Lithuania, with a population of 127,059, Siauliai is a key industrial area in Lithuania. For visitors, Siauliai holds the Hill of Crosses and St. Peter and Paul Church.


Visit Siauliai as a quirky pit stop along your Lithuanian road trip.


Druskininkai


Commonly known as a resort town, Druskininkai is popular among Lithuanians for a relaxing break. Boasting numerous spa centers and a huge, indoor water park, Druskininkai makes for a fun weekend trip. We visited Druskininkai in March and I was pleasantly surprised by this cute town. About a 15 or 20 minute drive from Druskininkai is also Grutas Parkas, which is a park full of statues and propaganda from the Soviet times. If you visit Druskininkai, be sure to also spend a few hours at Grutas Parkas.




Visit Druskininkai for a relaxing spa weekend.


Palanga


Palanga is a seaside resort town with sandy beaches, sand dunes, and pedestrian streets. Other than the beaches, one of the highlights is a public pier that goes out 470 m into the water. Palanga is very crowded in the summer and often a popular spot for parties. I've not yet visited Palanga, but I'm hoping to make it there late in the summer this year or spring next year.

Visit Palanga for a beach and party vacation along the Baltic Sea.



The Curonian Spit (Smityne, Juodkrante, Nida)


The Curonian Spit is a 98 km long spit of land just off the Lithuanian coast. On the Spit, you'll find several fishing villages of varying sizes, long stretches of sandy beaches, and beautiful nature. There are great birding locations, excellent photography spots, an interesting border shared with Kaliningrad, and plenty of hiking and biking trails -- some even have wood carvings of witches








Visit the Curonian Spit for a nature-filled escape full of biking, photography, sunsets over sand dunes, and birdwatching.

Sources: http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/lithuania-population/; http://www.truelithuania.com/palanga-resort-330


Where do you want to visit in Lithuania? Where else would you suggest visiting in Lithuania?