Jun 30, 2013

Travel with Baby: France

The Journey

Over this past Memorial Day weekend, we met up with my husband's side of the family in France, in the Moëlan-sur-Mer area of Brittany.

Since I've traveled with the baby once before, I knew packing would be easier this time around. Basically, I packed all the same stuff I did for NY since he was still wearing the same size clothes and the weather in France was going to be similar to what it was in NY. What I really had to think about was our journey to get there.

From Houston, it was a bit of a pain to get to since United Airlines suspended its direct service to Paris. It meant we had fly other airlines which, we usually try to avoid since our loyalty program is with United.

The easiest and most cost effective route we found was to fly with KLM: Houston-Amsterdam-Nantes and then drive from Nantes to Moëlan-sur-Mer. Not including flight time, with a 7-hour layover in Amsterdam and another 2-hour drive to Moëlan-sur-Mer, our whole journey going over from the time we left Houston to the time we arrived in Moëlan-sur-Mer, was 21 hours! With that in mind, I had to make sure I had enough supplies for the baby. We also had every intention of going in to Amsterdam even though that didn't happen for reasons I will detail below. Heading back to Houston was a little easier with Air France: Nantes-Paris-Houston. The layover in Paris was only 2 hours, not bad!

For some reason, booking the flights through Delta on Expedia turned out to be cheaper than booking directly on KLM/Air France. However, I don't know where the screw up happened but, there was an issue with the baby's ticket... both ways. It took us an hour to check-in both in Houston and in Nantes. In the end it all worked out but what a pain!

The good thing about flying with a non-US airline, when you have an infant ticket, they usually reserve a bassinet for the baby at no extra cost. US airlines these days make you pay extra for those bulkhead seats, they consider it Economy Plus.

For the flight going, we got bassinet for the baby. Once we boarded, they even gave him a KLM bib. Nice! I've actually never flown with KLM before. Overall it was a very pleasant experience. The flight attendants were very friendly and helpful. The plane itself, even though it's a Boeing 747, had it's own individual screen with on-demand videos. The food was ok (I've had better but I've also had worse).

For the flight, I dressed the baby in a long sleeve onesie and long pants. Once he was ready to be put down for the night, I changed his pants to his sleepsack so he would be more comfortable.

In the past I'd catch up on movies on the plane but, I guess those days are behind me now (yes, my record was watching 12 movies on one round trip flight to/from Bali). Instead of movie watching, it is now baby watching. And, it's not like sitting in the bulkhead seats make any easier... it was a pain to maneuver the monitor and food tray with the bassinet on. For that reason, as nice as the bassinets are, I still prefer regular seats with an empty seat in between since it allows me to stow things in front of and underneath my seat. But hey, a bassinet is definitely better than holding a baby for 9 hours!

Once we landed in Amsterdam, like I said, we had every intention of going in to the city so I can... eat!! I was dying to have some Dutch pancakes and herring (not together! I'm not that crazy!). We had gate checked the baby's infant carseat and stroller in Houston but once we got to Amsterdam, we see infant carseat but, no stroller! We went to customer service to see if they can recall the stroller because we're pretty sure at this point they treated it as luggage and checked it all the way to Nantes. They said they can't because everything is secure, blah, blah, blah... Don't get me wrong, customer service was very nice, they even tried to find us a stroller to borrow but, no luck! In the end we were stuck for 7 hours at Schiphol airport which, if you've ever been to this airport, you know it's not a bad airport to be stuck in. It's actually one of the nicest airports in the world. They even have a baby care facility with cots, changing area, microwave. We didn't stay there long as there were a couple babies crying which made it harder for our baby to nap. In the end, we settled for a spot in the main lounge that was more comfortable for him.

Baby sleeping in KLM's bassinet
Baby care lounge at Schiphol airport
Baby care lounge at Schiphol airport

Our flight back to Houston was with Air France. It's been a while since I've flown back to the US through Charles de Gaulle. It's truly one of my least favorite airports. Our flight was out of terminal 2E, gates M. I was surprised to see the new terminal - it was very modern and looked completely different from the rest of CDG. Nice improvement although a better one, in my opinion, would be to build inter-terminal trains instead.

We had a surprisingly pleasant experience with Air France's customer service. I say surprisingly because let's face it, the French are pretty grumpy when it come to service. But this time, everyone was very helpful especially the desk agent in Nantes. After spending an hour trying to check us in, turns out she gave our baby his own seat to Paris and then for Paris to Houston, she blocked an entire row of four seats for us. We could've switched to bassinet but they only had one bulkhead seat available and after the KLM experience, I much prefer the empty seats than bassinet anyway. 

It's been a while since I've flown Air France especially since United switched from Skymiles to Star Alliance.  The old Air France plane was a bit... old. So it was nice to see they're using a newer plane now. They've also upgraded their entertainment system to an on-demand one. I also liked their footrest feature. I've only seen it on one other plane.

We did experience a hiccup with Air France. Our luggage was checked in in Nantes all the way to Houston. But apparently it's not an automatic system. Air France didn't recall our luggage until we were at the gate ready to board. Well d'uh! I could've told you we weren't going to get our luggage in Houston. Sure enough, we get to Houston and waiting for us at the carousel were Air France agents letting us know they were on the next flight out. Lucky we were home and not starting our holiday since it took two days before we got out luggage back.  

Looking good, Air France!
Conor sleeping on the extra seat(s)
Baby Accessories

We pretty much packed the same accessories we did for NY:
- My awesome diaper travel backpack! Although we did bring an extra backpack this time because of our long layover in Amsterdam.
- Infant carseat since we're renting a car in France. It also doubled as a place for the baby to sit while we dine since he can't sit up just yet. We didn't take the base, though.
- Carseat cover in case it rained. And it did! And you know you have a good product when a French woman jumps out of her car at the Intermarche parking lot asking us (in French) where we got the cover from.
- Stoller, of course...


While we were there, we stayed at a gîte that my in-laws booked. A gîte is basically a rental house. It makes traveling with baby a lot easier since we have all the convenience of a house while abroad.


This trip was about family time so eating to a backseat. And since I wasn't sure where we were staying, I didn't even bother researching any restaurants. It also didn't help that midway through our trip, I caught a stomach bug. I couldn't believe it! I'm the queen of street food and I even ate bugs in Thailand, and I catch a stomach bug in France??!! Blimey me!

Brittany region is famous for the crepes and galettes!

Seafood pizza because we're near the sea


Very nice seafood bouillabaisse - just what I needed!

Grilled lobster. Too bad it's covered in butter.

The description said sea urchin. What?! Must be lost in translation.

Jun 23, 2013

Eats: Breakfast at Revival Market

Every Saturday morning, Revival Market, serves different breakfast specials. This past Saturday it was sweet corn Johnny cakes. I've actually never had Johnny cakes before - I even had to Google it! The combination sounded delicious enough to warrant a visit.
Sweet corn Johnny cakes, chicken sausage, yogurt, peaches

I've always found Revival Market's breakfast to be "quality" breakfast. The ingredients are either house-made or locally sourced. The only thing is, for breakfast, they one breakfast special so if it's not something you're in the mood for... tough! In my case, I also need to make sure it's something my husband is in the mood for. Luckily this time we both agreed we wanted to try this Johnny cake thing which, if you've never had it before, it's like pancakes made out of corn instead of flour. 

In addition to their breakfast special, they always have steel cut oatmeal every Saturday morning. 

Revival Market
550 Heights Blvd.
Houston, TX

Baby Stuff: Burp Cloth, Nosefrida, and Buzzy

Flat Diaper Cloth
I inherited some flat diaper cloths from my sister-in-law and I must say, I'm a fan! I use them primarily as a burp cloth but, they're just great multi-purpose cloth. The ones I inherited doesn't have a label but if I were to guess, it's similar to these.

Nose Aspirator
The hospital gave us the standard blue nose bulb. They work ok but every time I use it on my baby, he would cry his eyes out. Until NoseFrida! I can't tell you how much I love this thing. First of all, it works better in sucking snot out than the bulb. Second, no more crying! In fact, I get giggles now from the bub. I got mine from Amazon.com but, I saw that Whole Foods carry them as well.

This is what I get for watching too much morning TV and talk shows... I totally got sucked into buying this gadget. It's supposed to help take the sting out of shots. Well, it didn't work at the bub's 4-month appointment, poor boy cried his eyes out! I'm not giving up though. I'll try it again at his next appointment.

Eats: Mama Yu - Indonesian Restaurant in Houston

David Buehrer, of Blacksmith, told me about this new Indonesian restaurant. It opened recently. Of course, I had to check it out. 

As you can see from the exterior shot, similar to Rice Bowl II, it actually doesn't advertise itself as an Indonesian restaurant rather, a Chinese one. I find it very sad Indonesian restaurants can't survive in Houston. It either has to market itself as a Chinese restaurant or in the case of now closed, Noodle 88, start selling sushi.  Why is that? Marketing? Location? It's not for lack of interest. I know, because I get asked if there's an Indonesian restaurant in Houston all the time! 

Anyway, enough rambling. I'm sure you're more interested on Mama Yu itself. 
Homemade passion fruit soda
Mie bakso
Nasi pecel ayam
Nasi soto ayam
Limited Indonesian menu
Chinese menu

In my opinion, Indonesian dining can be divided into the following class - restaurant being at the top, followed by warung, and kedai second to bottom. Think of kedai as your fast food, serving mediocre food, kind of like old fashion taco trucks. That's how I would describe Mama Yu's food mostly because all the rice dishes we ordered came with just one or two items, not a complete meal with vegetables, etc. but, it's not family style either because each plate came with individual rice. The food itself was pretty authentic.

If dining there, they also have homemade passion fruit soda, young coconut drink (they were sold out when we went), and teh botol. 

Mama Yu
10815 Beechnut (and Wilcrest)
Houston, TX

Jun 19, 2013

Eats: River Oaks Donuts

This donut shop opened recently I want to say... last week? Stopped by to get my favorite donut, blueberry cake. Verdict: I like it! I think it's better than Shipley's - crunchier edge, more blueberry-y (is that even a word?) and definitely bigger for sure!

Added bonus: they have drive-thru! I can't tell you how much I appreciate drive-thru's at the moment.

Blueberry Cake Donut

River Oaks Donuts
3601 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX

Jun 18, 2013

EaDo Addition: Green Bone

I'm so excited there's finally a doggie daycare/grooming service that opened in my neck of the woods. My first visit there was to get the babies nail's clipped and to check them out. My second visit was to get the babies bathed. They did a wonderful job I'm very pleased with their handling of the babies and how clean they were when I picked them up.

In addition to daycare and grooming service, they also have a coffee bar for humans, homemade treats for dogs, and host play outings to Discovery Green.

2104 Leeland St.
Houston, TX

Jun 14, 2013

Baby Stuff: Baby Monitors and Apps

We debated extensively on which baby monitor to get. Originally, we registered for the Motorola Video Monitor. In the end, we got the Angelcare Deluxe Plus per recommendation from my sister-in-law. SIDs is every parent's nightmare. This monitor provides new parents peace of mind since it has sensor pads that detects baby's movements. If there's no movement for more than 20 seconds, an alarm would sound off. Sure it would be nice to see your baby on a video monitor but at the end of the day, you need to sleep when the baby sleeps, not watch your baby on the monitor.

I also appreciate the monitor's room temperature sensor feature. It let's you know the baby's room temperature and will alert you if it's too cold or too hot.

Now, this monitor is not perfect. It's annoying every time you remove the baby from the bassinet, the sensor pads interprets it as an alert, and if you turn the nursery unit off (because that's what you do when it beeps, d'uh!) then the parent's unit will start to beep (d'oh!). All this is extremely annoying at 4am! What worked for us is press "hold" on the parent's unit first, then turn the parent's unit off before picking up the baby. But when you're a sleep deprived new parent, you don't always remember all these steps.

As annoying as that last bit is, I'm still happy with our purchase. Having said that, now that the baby is over 5 months old and sleeping in his crib, we don't really use this monitor anymore. Instead, I purchased an app called Best Baby Monitor. Basically, if you have two iOS devices you can connect them over the same wireless network or bluetooth, one acts as the nursery unit while the other as a parent's unit. Not a bad app for a $3.99! Plus, it's easy to take traveling since we always have our iPhone and iPad with us when we do.

Jun 7, 2013

Eats: Airport Dining - Cat Cora's Kitchen

This is a great option if you're looking for real and/or healthy food at Bush Intercontinental Airport. Let's face it, there's not many of those at any airport so this was a welcoming sight for me. But, between waiting for a table and the time it takes for the food to arrive, just make sure you give yourself plenty of time . It was quite busy when we went there.

Flank Steak Soft Tacos w/ Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Salt Roasted Beet Salad w/ Goat Cheese Crostini
Note the plastic knife :-)


Cat Cora's Kitchen
Terminal E, Bush Intercontinental Airport
Houston, TX 

Jun 2, 2013

Eats: Comfort Food

I caught a stomach bug while I was in France. Unbelievable since I usually have a stomach of steel. Seriously! I am the queen of street foods, I even ate bugs in Thailand and Vietnam and I was fine.

The problem with being sick in a remote French village is I don't have access to my comfort foods. So when I landed in Houston, I made a mad dash to Soma for some ramen. A couple days later I went to Kata Robata for more ramen... and then Nippon. Yes, ramen is definitely one of my comfort foods when I'm sick, along with Chinese rice soup (congee). What is yours?

Kata Robata's shoyu ramen

Soma's spicy miso ramen

Nippon's miso ramen

How do they compare?

Kata's ramen was a bit salty for me. It flavored the noodles well but, I wasn't able to really drink the soup.

In the past, Soma's ramen tend to be heavy on the salt as well. But since hosting Ramen in Common tasting events recently, I say the salt is a lot more balanced now. The only thing I didn't like about the ramen was the big chunks of pork belly. It's definitely a personal preference but I like the meats in my noodle soup to be thinner.

I've always had a soft spot for Nippon's miso ramen, perhaps because they have been serving ramen longer than the other two establishments. As you can see, it's less fancy than the other two but it tastes more comforting, sort of like a bowl I'd get at someone's grandmother's house.

Side note, the Nippon one was a take-out order. I had a sleeping baby that I didn't want to wake up :-P