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Cherry on the Top : Switzerland

Oh, it’s been too long since I have posted anything. In my defence, I have been swimming in beautiful Californian beaches, eating awesome Indian foods with family in San Francisco and doing tons of yoga in Chicago! See, I have legitimate excuses 😉

Despite experiencing the most miserable winter in Chicago early 2014, my first USA trip was fun. I have tons to post about my second trip which was more interesting!

Germany and Italy during their Autumn was wonderful. I love Germany. My trip back sealed my admiration for many of the things that make up that country.

Italy was nice. I love the Italian coast and I love Gelato. But Switzerland!!!…Switzerland was the cherry on the top for 2014.

We spent a few nights camping in the heart of the Swiss Alps; The Jungfrau Region. (the fact that we “forgotten” to get sleeping bags the first night, ignore that!) We woke up to the sounds of high waterfalls hitting the base of mountains. We could hear the mountains roar!

We had an incredible family adventure hiking through the Alps. We also climbed a “baby-friendly” mountain which took us about 4hours to reach its peak.

Switzerland is on my close-to-perfect list. It is traditional yet modern. It is classy yet not pompous. It is beautiful and blessed with amazing scenery : lakes, mountains, valleys and streams. The Swiss are creative and talented with food. They also have impressive mountain technology. These guys own it!

So…in not so many words. I loved Switzerland. It offers a perfect balance between nature and technology.

Here are some pics of our trip! (apologies they are not in order)

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Swiss Alps : Jungfrau Region Main Campsite.

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This is what a business class train looks like. Route : Florence, Italy to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. It made travelling with a baby so pleasant and comfortable.

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An Alpine community house in the Lauterbrunnen district.

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I would like to say this house looks typically French but this was a predominantly German speaking part of Switzerland.

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This was the prettiest cemetery we have seen. The people buried here are only the people who have lived in this Alps region. It was well cared for and had beautiful flowers.

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We climbed an easier mountain our last day in Jungfrau but could not get any higher with a baby. This route was fun as we walked inside or behind a waterfall.

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Restaurant on top of one of the peaks! We could ask for nothing more after a 4 hour climb with a baby on our back.

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We were exhausted from the climb. I dreamed of hamburgers on our way up. YES! The restaurant had hamburgers and it was the best!

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Views on our climb. It took our breaths away.

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Snowcapped mountains of the Swiss Alps

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Climbing the mountains would have been impossible without a proper baby carrier. We love our Vaude! I recommend it.

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This looked like a wood cutting and cow feed barn we discovered on our climb. Yes! There were cows and goats around.

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View from the mountain climb of the Lauterbrunnen village.

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It was tremendously beautiful reaching higher altitudes and discovering the natural ecosystems of those zones. From wet, rich greenery to dry rocky and solid. Amazed!

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This particular layer presented a lovely forest. So we were not the highest up yet although it was much steeper and harder to climb than we expected. That we had to crawl up.

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Some beautiful rocky waterfalls.

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Forest layer of the mountain.

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More beautiful waterfalls.

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A flatter and less challenging climb. We got to stop and “smell the roses”.

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Snowcapped mountain views.

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Jungfrau Campsite. It really did feel like a resort (without the bed). Thank God! I don’t think “real camping” is for me 😉

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The weather was surprisingly fantastic during the day.

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Sites on our train ride from Geneva to Lauterbrunnen.

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Switzerland was perfect.

 

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Otranto, Italy

After our week in Trieste, Italy we hopped on a first class speed train (which were awesome!) to the south east of Italy to a little resort town called Otranto in Lecce Province.

I did not like this week much. Fancy, snobby and pretentious. Typical resort behavior I guess.

The resort itself is very clean and modern but reminded me of those “new” and “modern” Chilean architectural designs that I find repulsive. Very blocky, total lack in character and creativeness.

That being said, the food was a whole different experience. Picture this….full, elaborate buffet for 3 meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for 7 days. It felt like a nonstop food gala. The buffets were elaborate but done cheaply. Still, I did find something I could eat, every time.

Italian food is not as grand as they make it out to be. It is overrated and once again, lacks imagination. Almost every recipe contains olives, olive oil, tomato and or cheese. Everything. It is their staple. After a week of this, I wanted nothing more than a good, spicy curry!

So the week at the resort was spent eating and relaxing(more like getting fat). It does have a wonderful beach, in fact..Italy’s north western coast is the most beautiful I have seen. I will go back someday just to sit there all alone with no one in sight and just read a book. Seems ideal.

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Grand Hotel Daniella, Otranto, Italy

The blocky, unimaginative building/resort.

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Grand Hotel Daniela, Otranto, Italy

The pool area of the hotel.

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Grand Hotel Daniela, Otranto, Italy

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Grand Hotel Daniela, Otranto, Italy

Sitting area by the pool.

Conca Specchiulla

Conca Specchiulla

Conca Specchiulla

Conca Specchiulla

We hiked over the hills surrounding the beach near the resort. It was a windy day but the scenery was lovely nonetheless.

Otranto, Italy

Otranto Cuisine

Typical foods for Lecce Province. Seafood, plainly cooked potatoes and raw veggies.

Conca Specchiulla

Typical Italian Cuisine

Seafood Spaghetti. We ate seafood every night while we were at the Grand Hotel Daniella. I don’t think this region eats anything else!

Conca Specchiulla

Conca Specchiulla Foods

More seafoods with a slice of pizza and veggies. Weird or wonderful?

Conca Specchiulla

Conca Specchiulla

We got to watch this strong, old lady knead dough and make homemade pasta like a pro!

Conca Specchiulla

Italian Coast

The beautiful beaches took my breath away. This is the beach in Conca Specchiulla.

That’s it from me.

HL.

 

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Flying with a Baby

We have been flying with our baby since she was just over 2 months old. Since then she has had more than 6 international flights and a few domestic flights. She is one busy 11 month old baby!

However, even with all these flights I have no easy solution on how to make flying with a baby as pleasant as possible. It is a tricky one.

We have been lucky that most of the flights were pleasant except 1 or 2.

Here are some of my (very limited and cautioned) tips for flying with a baby.

1. Long flights of 8-15hours are taxing on anyone. Having bassinets and extra seats were lifesaving! Get your bassinet! Contact the airline early to request one. Also don’t be afraid to ask about “free” seats!

2. This is not in order of importance but just something I am remembering right now. On one of the long flights our baby did a super vomit on us. Carry extra clothes for parents and baby. AND…during travels stay away from new foods or restaurant foods that will pose a potential threat to baby’s tummy.

3. Carry a bottle of water. Since I breastfeed babe, I usually don’t think about such things as bottles. But realized that it is actually quiet nice to have a bottle of water to use if babe does not necessarily want to nurse during take-off and landing. The suckling on bottle will help baby regulate ear pressure better.

4. RELAX. I know. It’s near impossible to actually relax when you are traveling with a baby! What I did when I really needed rest was to sit far away from my baby (she was with dad). I found a free seat on the plane or sat in another coach on the train. Those “far away” moments really helped me relax a bit. Try it if you can.

5. Most of us worry about ear pressure. I say if the baby’s ears are healthy he/she will regulate the pressure just fine. It is helpful to offer the breast or bottle during take-off or landing but this is not always possible. If the baby is sleeping he/she should be fine. If not, try to let the baby chew on something and if nothing is interesting to him/her then relax 🙂 Things will be ok.

6. Moving and crawling : Dealing with restriction and confinement is hard for babies and parents. I usually try to let my little one crawl everywhere in the airport before flying and exhaust her this way. It does not always work. Usually after an hour or so on long flights she wants out of her seat. I take every opportunity to let her crawl in the aisles.

7. Travel LIGHT! and I mean, travel light. I can not stress this enough. Pack the bare essentials…I promise you would need nothing else but you, your baby, passports and a diaper bag and all is fine. A baby is “baggage” enough! No suitcases and over the limit luggage is needed to burden you.

Happy Travelling with your little World Traveller!

HL.

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One week in Trieste, Italy

Trieste, Italy

Chiesa Serbo Ortodossa di San Spiridione

Trieste is a lovely little city in the north eastern part of Italy close to the border of Slovenia. I was told it is very Slovenian though my impression is that it is surprisingly multicultural with noticeable populations from all over the world, yet not lacking an Italian feel.

We spent a pleasant week in Trieste. We strolled around and just took in what the city had to offer.

Trieste is a beautiful combination of perfect afternoon and evening weather, diversity, nice foods and pretty European Architecture.

Trieste, Italy

Perfect blend of rich vanilla and crushed blueberry gelato.

I am forever accustomed to only the best ice-cream…technically not ice-cream but Gelato! After discovering this beauty of a cream I can not go back to industrial crap. GROM gelato boutique had the most diverse and interesting of flavours I have seen. Not only were they very creative with their style and recipes but it was quality ingredients too. GROM is definitely the Pierre Marcolini of Gelato. It was heaven!

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Flee Market, Grand Canal Trieste

With all the gelato and pastas in our belly. We needed to walk! Thankfully the streets were full of flee markets and live entertainment. It showcased typical Italian specialities like cheese and salami. I even bought a beautiful hand-knitted bathroom mat for our shabby Chilean apartment 😉

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Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia Square

I wish I had a proper photo to show you of this square. This is one of the buildings. It was a pretty square surrounded by overrated and pompously expensive cafes. We were desperately thirsty enough to stop at one of them and have a disappointing fruit juice. However, the few minutes of shade from the sun was worth it!

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Roman Ruins. Enough said.

Actually, the ruins was a pleasant surprise. Such a treasure from antiquity. This is an ancient Roman Theater or Teatro Romano. It was supposedly built in the Trajanic period probably by Q. Petronius Modestus.

Roman Ruins, Trieste, Italy

Roman Ruins, Trieste Italy

When I travelled Italy in 2006, Rome left me with a sense of awe! I was taken away by the footprints of the Roman Empire. What a stunning experience to walk in the shadows of history. So even though I did not expect much history this trip in terms of the empire, these little ruins were just as amazing as the grand ones in Rome.

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Roman Ruins, Trieste, Italy

The nice thing about this Roman Theater was that it was completely free. Open to the public right in the heart of the city. AND there is a wonderful gelato place very close-by that one could just grab a scoop of deliciousness and then sit and marvel at the ruins.

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Opicina Tram, Trieste, Italy

We took the Opicina Tramway on it’s famous route. We got to see how beautiful and leafy Trieste is from about 300ms high. It was a lovely ride. The tram’s technology is from a hundred years ago and has not been upgraded or changed since then except for maintenance. The tram is pulled and pushed which was an interesting experience for us high-speed train travellers! haha.

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Dessert at a German Cafe, Trieste

Off course, I am a dessert-lover! This was thee best Tiramisu. Deserving of pic.Yum!

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German Cafe, Trieste, Italy

The last time I had Goulash was in Hungary,2009. It was the first time I had Goulash then so I decided to try it out again. HIT! I think I just like Goulash now. This one was served with dumplings and polenta. Adding some Germaness to it, I think. BTW, German foods are heavy! I mean super meaty and heavy. No wonder the Germans are so tall and giant-like. Don’t believe me? Go to Hamburg.

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Vegan Pasta

Thankfully, Italy always had a nice option for my vegetarian hubbykins. Typical vegetarian spagetti.

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Chiesa Serbo Ortodossa di San Spiridione

The beautiful Serbian Orthodox Church. It was close to where we stayed so we enjoyed seeing it everyday.

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The Grand Canal, Trieste, Italy

This is the Grand Canal which met the Golfo di Trieste. The area has a lovely vibe. Trieste has so much more that we did not see in our week there. Hopefully we go back! It is a nerd community after all.

HL.

 

 

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Hamburg, Germany

As I think about my impressions of and experiences in Hamburg, I think of a lovely city and its amazing foods and breads. You got to love German breads! These guys know how to do their dough!

Having just arrived in Germany from Chile where I loathe the breads and good foods are not the common thing, I was ecstatic to be in Hamburg.

There was a world of good breads, vegan foods (a nice option for our little one), vegetarian foods (great option for hubby) and everything else in between. I just dived into the eating bits of what the city offers.

And it was not fancy at all. In fact, we loved going to the local supermarkets and just being amazed at what was presented in the aisles. It was very different from my experience shopping at a Chilean supermarket.

We got basic things like lovely brie cheeses, natural yogurts, breads, fresh milk, vegetarian foods and healthy cereals easily and at very reasonable prices. Our food budget in Germany was really under budget. We enjoyed that we got great foods for cheap.

So my first week in Europe was spent helping baby adjust to the time-zone change (which took two weeks!), eating everything I don’t eat in Chile and just enjoying what I missed about Europe. The pedestrianized streets, the beautiful cafes and tearooms and the wonderful foods.

Since we lived in Europe before, we did not feel the need to do any touristy stuff. I am glad that we didn’t need to and we got the chance to be laid-back after long flights and train rides.

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We found this cafe tucked away in a leafy part of the city. I loved the peaceful decor and it had such a beautiful charm to it. The foods were good too!

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A typical semi-pedestrianised street lined with cafes and bakeries.

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Little one found a play spot at the beautiful cafe.

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Is there anything better than a pot of tea in a lovely garden overlooking the harbour.

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A ferry docked at the Hamburg Harbour.

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A Museum in the nearest park we strolled through.

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A pretty church tucked away in the little park.

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We ate German cookies and watched a group of hippies perform hippie songs in front of the harbour.

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Centaur statue from about 60 years ago.

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strolling across a beautiful lake and park.

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German pastries and cakes are the best!

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We had a wonderful Pakistani feast too!

 

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Travelling Light

Travelling Light HybridLiving

Travelling Light : HybridLiving Copyright

The last 5 weeks have been a whirlwind of travel. Travelling with a baby. Across continents. With a lot of baggage.

We had a week in Hamburg, Germany, a week in Trieste, Italy, a week in Otranto, Southern Italy, a week in The Swiss Alps and Geneva, and then an unexpected early week in San Francisco, US due to the Air France pilot strike and the disruption resulting from that. Now we are in Santa Barbara, CA for the next three weeks and I couldn’t be more glad for this little rest period.

In all my years traveling the world I never quite learned how to pack and travel light. I have a history of being a total chaos with my luggage. Meaning I was always over weight. Pushing the limits with suitcases and pushing the limits with airlines.

I love collecting little souvenirs and whatever it is that I consider special from around the world. I have tons of boarding passes and tickets from 10 years ago! I am a travel hoarder! I love hoarding world travel stuff. But….but but…that is no excuse for my inability to travel light.

This family trip to Europe (I believe it was our first trip to Europe as a family?) really made me re-think the needs from wants (well…no actually…my first time in the United States really made me think about materialism and what I needed or wanted in my life in the material sense, but that’s another story). For now…the baggage and hauling all our baggage across Europe was the biggest inconvenience. I think it prevented us from really letting loose and just sitting back and enjoying the journey.

As we continue to explore our world as a little family, I think we can all do well with very little.

Baggage is burden. Travelling light is so much more freeing.

HL.

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Our Travels this Year

It is a month before our trip to Europe. I have not even updated pics and impressions from our trip to Chicago and San Francisco (with shorter trips in Kansas, Michigan and Ohio). We have a month left in Chile for this year. We head off to Europe (Germany, Italy and Switzerland) in August for a month. Afterwards, we are on our way to Santa Barbara, California for a while (woot woot) and then Chicago again for the rest of the year.

I am excited about all these trips but off course have such anxiety over them as well. Travelling with a baby. Enough said.

We have lived in Europe and travelled there *extensively*, so I am excited about meeting friends there, seeing old favourite places and eating cough*betterfoodthantheyhavehereinChile*cough.

Switzerland however, is new to us. Why have we never gone to Switzerland? Is it not the most fantastic country in Europe? Does it not have everything! Beautiful landscapes, semi-nice weather??, fantastic languages and culture and the world’s best chocolates! How could we have missed Switzerland!

Well…in a few weeks I will hopefully update with a pic of us eating Swiss chocolates on Swiss (baby-friendly) mountains.

For now, here’s a few pics from the USA Jan-Mar 2014 trip.  HL

San Francisco

I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge. What a splendid experience. Beautiful weather with slight breeze and beautiful views of the strait.

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Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA

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Golden Gate Strait

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

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Big City Life Chicago

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You can’t go to Chicago and not have this pic! Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park with the Chicagoan skyscraper backdrop.

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here’s another one.

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Thoughtful Parenting : Blue trains vs Pink flowers

Out of curiosity regarding my friend’s son’s first birthday soon, I looked up first party themes for boys. Granted…I am already “stereotyping” there. I could have easily just looked up “first birthday party theme”. But since I am well aware of the clear distinction of both, I made that clear in my google search. The results were amazing. I loved that boys from such an early age were encouraged to fly, to dream, to reach for the stars, to try to heal, to build, to fight and to conquer.

Then I looked up “first birthday party theme for girls”. It was nothing. Nothing but telling the girl to wear pink. When I speak about girls and pink, I get many raised eyebrows and defensive responses:
”because girls love pink”
“my daughter is such a girly-girl”
“my two year old will only wear pink”, and so on.

Well…off course “girls are going to love pink.” We have been shoving it in their faces since birth (let’s ignore the recommendation for brain development that babies love and notice contrasting colors, for example black and white). Surrounding their world with pink frills and flowers is not doing them any good.

The google search for girl’s party themes, while “pretty”, was completely nonsensical. I found nothing that fostered or encouraged girls: intellectually, mentally, socially or physically. In fact, just like we condition boys that they are better, that they can become anything they want, that they can lead the world. We are conditioning girls into a self-conscious, beauty-obsessed, low-esteem cycle while we raise boys to be astronauts, doctors and vets.

We can tell our daughters “you can be anything you want”, but our actions send opposing messages. We say by action “you NEED to be pretty”, “You can only be pretty if you are wearing pink”, “You are so cute with that big flower on your head”, “You NEED to constantly enhance yourself or your natural look to be better”.

We do not decorate boys. They are awesome just the way they are. They are smart. They don’t need anything specific like a pink tutu to be beautiful, accepted, fit in with the joneses and so on. That is the message we send by our actions.

A boy can walk into his room pick up his ragged pair of jeans from his dirty clothes pile, put it on, walk out of the room feeling like the most awesome being alive. That is because he was trained, conditioned to believe he is because he is. While us girls have to do so much more than that to feel awesome.

My point is: it all starts very early. From the day we are born, our first birthdays with pink flowers on our heads or little white dresses, no planes and trains to tell us “wow…these machines are awesome, they can take me places or better yet…I can drive them or even better yet, I can build them!”

Such a difference in focus is not harmless. Woman are constantly fighting for equal rights. Women are more educated than men yet do not hold corresponding positions of power in society. Women are paid less than men. Women are more often abused. Women are more affected by social injustices. And the lists goes on.

Could we change this difference in how we are treated as women if we changed how we parented girls?

HL.

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Chile in Pictures : Viña del Mar and Concon

We were lucky enough to have my mom-in-law visit us from the US in Chile just a few weeks after my daughter was born. You can read the natural birth in Chile story here! On her trip here she captured some wonderful pictures and I thought I would share it with you. The photos are of the coastal cities of Viña del Mar, Chile and it’s neighbouring towns Concon and Reneca. All photo credit belongs to Jeanene K Gittings.

Concon, Valparaiso, Chile

Coastal drive Concon. It is a very posh touristy place. I like Valparaiso far better. It is more my style. Local and unpretentious.

Valparaiso, Chile

This is the South East Pacific. Very cold and rocky, so hardly any swimmers in the area.

Concon, Chile

Coastal Drive. Reminds me of Cape Town, South Africa

Concon Wetlands, Chile

This is part of the Concon Wetlands. It was such a nice little surprise and day trip for us and our 6week old baby at the time. It is said to be one of Chile’s most important ecosystems. Fun place for Bird Watchers!

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This is the view from the University my husband works at. It is the nicest building in Valparaiso Region I think and has a splendid view.

Viña del Mar, Chile

Palm tree lined streets of Viña del Mar.

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Just another summer day. Beaches of Viña del Mar.

Viña del Mar Chile

Beaches of Viña del Mar

Valparaiso Chile

Carriage Tours of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar.

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Chile in Pictures : Colourful Valparaiso

The Hills of Valparaiso, Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

We usually go to Valparaiso on a Sunday once a month. There are some wonderful restaurants that serve delicious foods from various parts of the world. It is probably my favourite place/hill in the Valparaiso Region. Yes, the hills can be quite dirty and rustic…but they are generally safe to walk around (at least where we travel to) and have a lot of character.

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : This is just a pic of the cheap lunch cafe we tried out on Cerro Alegre. Small place but very “clean eating”. The lunches are simple and clean.

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : Valparaiso is known to be quite “hippy”…whatever that means? Happy people smoking pot and wearing beautiful clothes from India? I guess that would be somewhat correct.

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The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : Most of the buildings in Valparaiso are old and beaten looking. Partly due to bad infrastructure and partly (atleast me theory) is the frequency of earthquakes in this country that not much effort are put into buildings that will probably fall or crack anyways. This actually looks like a GOOD old building.

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : When I was pregnant I appreciated all the steps I had to climb to get to the restaurants and satisfy my craving for good food. The hills are a good climb.

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : As you have noticed it is quite an expressive little city. The hippies love art!

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : Walking down the rugged paths in between Valparaiso’s old buildings and sometimes torn down public places like former museums or schools.

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : Colourful stairway.

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : More colourful steps. If you like dodgy-looking hippy-loving places, then Valparaiso is definitely that sort of place.

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : I believe this is just a normal residential house.

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : More art/graffiti on the hilltops of Valparaiso.

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : Do you know who she is?

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : I love this. It looks to be a painting of what Cerro Bellavista (one of the close by hills with brightly coloured houses).

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

 

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile : Cerro Alegre

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

 

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile

The Hills of Valparaiso , Chile