ISO Reader Survey -- 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017



Hello!

With my impending move to Florence coming on July 1, I've got some big-ish plans for ISO, but before implementing them I'd love to get some input from you! If you have the time, I'd really appreciate it if you take this short survey of just seven questions.

Thank you so much!

Elizabeth


Looking For A Hotel In Parnu? Choose Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On our trip to Parnu, Estonia,  J and I really needed a bit of quality R&R, so we opted for a hotel and spa option. We booked into the really lovely Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa*, and it easily ranks up there with one of the best hotels I've ever stayed in.

Check In


Checking into Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa* was a smooth process, with the friendly staff quickly providing our key and asking if we needed a travel crib (we brought our own awesome Baby Bjorn). The women who checked us in also gave Baby ISO a cute little resort-themed coloring book and colored pencils.



 The Rooms


When we entered the room, I was surprised to see just how large and nicely detailed our room was. All rooms at Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa* were renovated in 2015 to include detailed Estonian influences, and the decor created a calming atmosphere. Our room was decked out in calming greys and had a large arm chair, comfortable desk with chair, and dim lighting. On the wall was a set of photographs of Parnu, which I really prefer compared to the stock photos or mass-produced art that is found on many hotel walls.

The bathrooms were also lovely and had heated floors and a large walk in shower. Free toiletries, a soft bathrobe, and disposable slippers were also provided.

Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa also offers free Wi-Fi, and it was very fast and had a strong signal in our room (on the 3rd floor). I was working during this trip, so it free, fast Wi-Fi is really important to me.

One minor complaint I had about the room was that there was a bit of dog food on the floor in one corner of the room. Probably we wouldn't have noticed if we didn't spend so much time on the floor playing with Baby ISO, but some more attention should be paid when cleaning a room after a pet visits.





The Spa


The spa at the Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa* was stand-out! J and I both treated ourselves to spa treatments and they were lovely. Although I didn't take any photos, the spa treatment area was calming and decorated with delicate white birds hanging from the ceiling. The spa treatments focused on traditional Estonia spa practices and utilized medicinal herbs in the Estonian pharmaecopia like meadowsweet, birch leaves, cornflower, and nettle.

J opted for the 60 minute full body massage, which he said was perfect for sore shoulders. I had the 30 minute shoulder massage and a peat and meadowsweet facial, which I loved.

In addition to the numerous spa treatments available, the rooms come with free access to the pool, sauna, and hot tub facilities. The pool was lovely and well-maintained and was dotted with about five hot tubs (some were outside). My favorite though, were the numerous saunas (maybe about 10 to 15) at varying temperatures. The aromatherapy sauna had large windows facing a small street, which made it perfect for people-watching while sweating out all toxins.


Noot Restaurant


Our first evening in Parnu we opted to relax and eat in the hotel. Noot was a surprisingly good restaurant that had a great toy basket for kids and a nice menu. The head chef of Noot -- Rudolf Visnapuu -- creates a new menu a few times per year and even has the youngest travelers in mind.

J enjoyed his (winner winner) chicken dinner, and I had the duck with barley, which was good but not great. Baby ISO had a really tasty meal of creamy pasta with chicken and vegetables.






If you visit Noot or stay at Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa, make sure to treat yourself and order dessert. The chocolate fondant cake with berries and coffee ice cream really stood out! But maybe skip a cup of coffee to go with it, because my cappuccino really was not good.



The free buffet breakfast was also served at Noot. The breakfast had a massive spread of meats, cheeses, pastries, yogurt, vegetables and fruit, porridge, hot dishes, and more. There were many delicious options, but make sure you look around because the buffet tables were a bit spread out (I missed the pastry table the first breakfast).



*Please note that links marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. I make a small commission on hotels booked through these links at no cost to you. This helps me to keep In Search Of up and running. However, we covered our expenses for this trip and would re-visit Parnu in a heartbeat.

48 Hours in Parnu: Estonia's Gorgeous Resort Town

Monday, May 15, 2017



After spending a nice few days in Riga, we hopped back into our rental car and made our way 2.5 hours north to Parnu, Estonia. Parnu is Estonia's premier summertime spa and beach resort, and rightly so because it is simply stunning. In Parnu, you'll find a long stretch of beach flanked by a gorgeous green park, several surprisingly excellent restaurants, and a small but quaint historic center.

What really caught my eye in Parnu though was the kid-friendliness of the city. The large park, several playgrounds, baskets of toys at restaurants, and pedestrian-only streets made wrangling a very active toddler a lot easier.

I've now visited all of the most famous resort towns in the Baltics -- Druskininkai, LT; Jurmala, LV; and Parnu, EE -- and Parnu tops my list as favorite. If you are looking for a lovely, relaxing city break, I have to recommend visiting Parnu.

Day 1: Late Morning/Afternoon


After checking into your lovely resort hotel*, I'd recommend popping over to the beach and park -- I always need a bit of a walk after being stuck in the car for a while, don't you? The large park along Parnu's shoreline features a really nice playground, benches designed in a very cool way, and plenty of space to run. There is also an additional playground on the beach and a large ropes course/jungle gym for older kids and adults further down the shore.





Although it was only April and certainly not the best time to visit, the beach was lovely, with a long stretch of soft white sand. I expect it gets pretty crowded in the summer, but I actually think that'd be really nice!




Day 1: Evening


We were a bit tired from our drive and J had a massage scheduled, so we opted to eat at the hotel's (Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa*) restaurant, Noot. Normally, hotel food is shockingly expensive, but the prices at Noot were reasonable, the food was lovely, and there was a basket full of toys for kids. I had the duck with barley and vegetables, and it was good, but not the best I've eaten. J opted for the chicken and enjoyed it. Baby ISO loved his creamy pasta with chicken and vegetables, which makes my job a whole lot easier.



J had to make an early exit for his massage, but he really missed out because my dessert was the star of the meal. For dessert, I ordered a chocolate fondant cake that came with fruit and a scoop of heavenly coffee ice cream.




Day 2: Morning

After a leisurely breakfast in our hotel (the selection was awesome), it was my turn for spa treatments -- I'm never one to pass down a spa when available! If spa treatments aren't your thing, the morning is a great time to hit the resort's pool area because it is less crowded.



Day 2: Late Morning/Afternoon


After a relaxing morning getting spa treatments or sweating it out in the sauna, a visit to Parnu's historic city center is a must. It is easy to reach the historic center and the pedestrian street, Ruutli St., on foot from Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa*. Though small, the colorful architecture of the buildings that line Ruutli St. is eye-catching. Architectural and historical highlights included St. Elizabeth's Church, St. Catherine's Church, and the tower remaining from the old city defenses. Another thing to keep your eyes open for when visiting Parnu are the colorful and intricately designed doors. They are really beautiful!




If you are into checking out the local stores, Ruutli St. had a few nice options for women that focused on local Estonian design. I'd suggest visiting Pleme Avatud (28 Ruutli St.), which had some really pretty dresses, cute accessories, and a small section of men's wear.





Shopping lovers can find the Port Artur shopping malls just a bit off of Ruutli St. Also off Ruutli St. is the Parnu City Museum that we ended up not visiting because Baby ISO was a bit unruly. If you aren't traveling with a toddler, you might opt to visit because the exhibits sound really amazing.



Day 2: Evening


All of that walking and fresh air had us hungry for a sort of early dinner, so we stopped by Kohvik Supelsaksad, which is a very highly rated cafe and restaurant. If you are visiting Parnu, you too should opt to have one of your meals at Supelsksad because it is really tasty.



The interior of Kohvik Supelsksad is very colorful and fun, which is also reflected in the tasty food and the friendly staff. I ordered a quinoa and vegetable dish and J ordered the prosciutto salad; both were so fresh, bright, and delicious! Baby ISO was spoiled yet again with a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, meatballs, and vegetables (his meal was really good).





To finish off the meal, I had a lovely cup of rooibos tea and a very rich chocolate tart. J opted for the raspberry cake, which had the perfect mix of sweet and sour.




Other than the great food and bright, refreshing atmosphere, Kohvik Supelsksad brought it home with a basket of toys, coloring pages, and an ample amount of high chairs (what's the deal with restaurants only having one high chair?). If you visit Parnu, I really hope you get the chance to eat at Kohvik Supelsksad!

If you are looking for an additional meal option (I realize that I omitted lunches from this list) the try Mahedik, which gets amazing ratings. We walked by and I really regret not stopping in for a coffee and a cake.

Getting to Parnu:


Parnu is about a 5.5 hour drive from Vilnius, Lithuania, a 2.5 hour drive from Riga, Latvia, and about a 2 hour drive from Tallinn, Estonia. Do keep in mind the A1 and A2 (the roads you'll take from Vilnius or Riga) basically sucks, so it could take longer. Though considered a highway, the A1 and A2 are congested with trucks and the one lane roads don't often permit passing. Nonetheless, you absolutely should visit Parnu.




Have you visited Parnu before? Parnu is my absolute favorite resort town in the Baltic States. If you are looking for a relaxing spa experience, great food, lovely beaches, and a quaint town, Parnu has you covered.

*Please note that links marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. I make a small commission on hotels booked through these links at no cost to you. This helps me to keep In Search Of up and running. However, we covered our expenses for this trip and would re-visit Parnu in a heartbeat. 


I'm linking up with the 1 year anniversary of Wanderful Wednesday

A Day In Vilnius: Personal Photo Diary

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I really like the hourly photo challenges that some bloggers do on Instagram, but my phone is too old for capturing the quality of photos that I'd prefer to share on Instagram. So, I had to scrap that idea. However, I thought it might be fun to do a personal photo diary of my day to give you a bit of a snapshot into what a regular day might look like for me in Vilnius.

The Day: Friday, May 5, 2017

Location: Vilnius, LT

On Fridays, I don't have childcare available (I've found quality childcare really difficult to find in Vilnius), so Baby ISO and I get to hang out all day. Also remember that I'm a freelance content creator and editor, so I squeeze in work whenever I get a chance on Fridays.

So here is how my day looked on May 5:


6:30 to 8:30 am: J, Baby ISO, and I all get up around 6:30 am and we take turns feeding and getting Baby ISO and ourselves ready. During this time I also try to post to Instagram and eat a quick breakfast. After J leaves for work, Baby ISO and I play and read books. Right now, our favorite stories are Little Blue Truck* and The Wonderful Things You Will Be*.

 
8:30 to 10:30 am: This Friday, I happened to be volunteering in the 4th grade class, so Baby ISO and I met the 4th graders at Bernardine Park for an exploration into plant adaptations. After the lesson, Baby ISO and I stayed in the park to enjoy the spring-like weather that is slowly making its way to Vilnius.




10:30 to 1 pm: This time tends to be a bit crazy, with lunch prep, playing, and cleaning all mashed into one. 

1 pm to 3:15 pm: Nap time is my time to sit down and completely focus on work. This particular Friday, it saw me editing for Trip101, working on In Search Of a bit, and doing accounting/business administration tasks.



3:15 to 6 pm: J rushed home from work to take Baby ISO to a doctor's appointment, so that I could stay home and get some things done. After I saw them off, I popped into the Vilnius Art Academy (VDA) to check out the displays for Lithuanian Design Week as well as this month's art exhibits. I wasn't super impressed by the items displayed in the Design Week exhibit, but the projects in the hallway leading to the exhibit really caught my eye. There were really some clever designs! Also, if you are looking for a different view of St. Anne's Church, the third floor is wonderful!





Following my visit to VDA, I came home to do a few other work related tasks, make dinner, and arrange the flowers J was given for Teacher Appreciation Day. We are also big time in the midst of our move to Florence, Italy, which means I've been searching for apartments hard core. It seems pretty hard to find apartments in Florence, so I spend a bit of this time calling and emailing for a few different apartments. Hopefully one will get back to me soon!



6 pm to 8 pm: Right when J and Baby ISO returned home, we ate dinner. We've had a couple of lemons sitting around in the fridge, so while playing with Baby ISO and cleaning up the kitchen, I made some lemon bread, which turned out pretty delicious.



8 to 10 pm: Finally! Baby ISO is in bed by 8 and J and I get some time to relax, watch Netflix, and I also drafted Monday's blog post. At around 10 pm I head to bed and spend some time reading, which I find helps me turn off my brain before bed. Right now I'm reading The Lord of the Rings* -- I've never read it before and I'm loving it.


What does your day look like? Do you like the day-in-the-life type posts?


Note that links indicated with an * are Amazon affiliate links. Purchasing an item from this link costs nothing extra for you, but it helps me to keep this blog running. Thank you for supporting In Search Of! 

Comparison Review Of Four Baby Travel Cribs: Traveling With A Baby

Monday, May 8, 2017



Baby ISO is about a year and seven months now, so we've tried our fair share of travel cribs and cots. Some we've loved, some we haven't. So, I thought I'd share a review of our tried and tested cribs to let you know what is truly worth the money--because the less you spend on baby stuff the more you can save for travel!

Baby Delight Snuggle Nest Surround XL Infant Sleeper


The Snuggle Nest Surround XL Infant Sleeper* is a safe, separate option for parents who want to co-sleep either at home, while traveling, or both. This co-sleeper is also very small and folds in half, allowing it to fit in luggage easily.

This was our at home and travel sleeper for when Baby ISO was born until he was about 3 months old. I absolutely LOVED this sleeper since it is small, yet comfortable, fit right in our king sized bed, and made it easy to get up approximately 1.5 million times each night (oh newborn life). The nest comes with a light and music making add-on, that in my opinion isn't necessary, but we just popped it out and left it out.

Other than using this every day for about 3 months at home, we used this for our trip to Klaipeda and Nida. I loved that when traveling, you could put stuff in this to save even more space.


Final verdict: I would 100% use this co-sleeper again and absolutely recommend it.



Graco Travel Lite Crib with Stages


 The Graco Travel Lite Crib with Stages* converts from a bassinet to an infant crib and finally a toddler crib. It packs up into a convenient bag and weighs approximately 20 pounds.

Honestly, I did not like this crib at all. The sales information says that it is light and easy to move from room to room, but 20 pounds distributed rather awkwardly is not that easy to move around, especially when also carrying a baby. Set-up is pretty complicated, as is putting this crib away. Despite the website saying this is great for toddlers up until 3 years old, Baby ISO grew out of this crib by 11 months (his head was smashed against one side with his feet up against the other). The mattress of this is also pretty hard, which seemed to make Baby ISO uncomfortable.

We used this crib when staying with family in Connecticut, and on our road trip to Cape May, New Jersey and Richmond, Virginia.

Final verdict: Save your money.

Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light


The most expensive of the bunch, at around 200 USD, the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light* has breathable mesh sides that are removable and washable (so necessary) and only weighs 13 pounds (though I'm surprised reading that it is 13 pounds because it feels much lighter).

I LOVE this crib and can't rave enough about it. The Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light* is really easy to set-up and put away (see my vlog below!) and feels very light weight. The mattress is soft and Baby ISO sleeps comfortably in it, which is so important!

video


We've traveled with this crib in the US (thanks, Mom for the awesome Christmas gift!), Riga, Parnu, Bari, and have several more trips planned for it. We also plan to use the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light as the main bed for Baby ISO while we are moving. The crib has flown well and we've not had a problem with it being damaged with checked bags, although we do wrap it in a heavy-duty trash bag just in case.

Final verdict: I 100% recommend the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light* as the best travel crib we've tried.


Hauck Dream and Play / Pack n' Play


Ok, ok, we don't own the Hauck Dream and Play crib, but this is what we've used at pretty much every hotel we've stayed in. The Hauck Dream and Play is very similar to, if not the same as the Pack 'n Play*. The website says that the Hauck Dream and Play is appropriate for children from birth until 33 pounds, it is wipeable (not washable), and weighs about 17.5 pounds. Do note that the Hauck Dream and Play is equally as expensive as the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light.

Baby ISO has slept in the Hauck Dream and Play crib in approximately four hotels. The mattress isn't nearly as soft as the Baby Bjorn, but Baby ISO does sleep well in it. The set-up, however, is really complicated and requires snapping the two longer sides of the crib together at the same time. It is really finicky and always takes us several tries to set it up.

Final verdict: Don't bother. Buy the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light* instead.

One of the several "Pack and Play" versions we've tried



What travel crib do you use? Which would you suggest? Our friends use a tent-like crib, which also seems easy to travel with, but I know that wouldn't work for our kid.



Note that links indicated with an * are Amazon affiliate links. Purchasing an item from this link costs nothing extra for you, but it helps me to keep this blog running. Thank you for supporting In Search Of!