June: National Zoo & Aquarium Month

We love aquariums and zoos! They serve so many purposes: education, entertainment, conservation, etc. When traveling with our kiddos, we always research the area and make note of the local zoo and/or aquarium. It’s helpful to look up feeding times, special shows/exhibits, etc. I asked my boys which zoo/aquarium was their favorite and they said the Oakland Zoo (specifically, going to see the zoo lights around Christmas) and Turtle Back Zoo (specifically, feeding the birds). Over the last seven years (2010-2017), we have visited the following sites (and we’ve visited most of them more than once so if you have any questions feel free to reach out):

 

San Diego Zoo

San Francisco Zoo

Oakland Zoo

Philadelphia Zoo

Central Park Zoo

Turtle Back Zoo (West Orange, NJ)

Bronx Zoo

Birmingham Zoo

Duke Lemur Center

National Zoological Park / National Zoo (Washington, D.C.)

Tiergarten Schönbrunn / Vienna Zoo

 

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Adventure Aquarium (Camden, NJ)

Sea World Orlando

Georgia Aquarium

Aquarium of the Bay (San Francisco, CA)

Birch Aquarium (San Diego, CA)

Aquarium de Paris – Cinéaqua

 

Are we missing your favorite zoo or aquarium? Where should we go next?

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Tuck’s Take On: Paris, France

 

My friends consider me to be a bit of a Francophile and it’s precisely for that reason that I’ve been reluctant to write a blog about France; I know I can’t do it justice. I have been traveling to France since 1996 (if you’re doing the math, my first trip was with my family when I was 12). France is home to some of my favorite memories – Marseille, Paris, Corsica, Nice – I’m in love with the country and culture. I started this blog, because I wanted to be able to share fun things to do and see in various places and because I wanted to keep a written account for my kids. This year, my oldest began keeping a travel journal but my little one is still in preschool and I want him to remember details about our trips, so this blog will help to complement our photo albums. They already ask about places they’ve been as infants and I wish I had a little more than our photos for them to review. Anyway, over the last few weeks, I’ve been asked by several friends what I’d recommend in Paris (there are some incredible flight deals from the United States to France right now) and I decided to post one of the emails I sent. Hope it inspires (allez!!):

For hotels, my first choice is the Pullman Paris/Eiffel Tower. As the name implies, the rooms have views of the Eiffel Tower and you are within walking distance to the Eiffel Tower (literally a 2 minute walk). It’s nice because you can tell if your cab driver is heading in the right direction from pretty far away, because the Eiffel Tower is so visible (obviously). You can also walk along the Seine and walk to the aquarium (although it’s a terrible aquarium, especially compared to the Georgia Aquarium or Monterey Bay Aquarium – I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have to kill time). I also like the The Hotel Raphael near the Arc de Triomphe, The Trocadéro and Champs-Elysées (a few years ago we stayed there, construction interrupted our sleep and they upgraded our room, great service).

I’m sure you have most of these activities already in mind but:

LOUVRE, NOTRE DAME, EIFFEL TOWER, JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG, ARC DE TRIOMPHE, AVENUE DES CHAMPS EYLSEES

MUSEUM NATIONAL D’HISTOIRE NATURELLE, LES CATACOMBES, CLIMB THE SACRE COEUR, MONMARTE

Personally I would prioritize the first group of activities above. And I only listed the Louvre but if your boys have any interest in/tolerance for art, there are a lot of other really great art museums (when I am with my Parisian friends we usually stop by the Musée National d’Art Moderne). I would also definitely recommend the SEINE RIVER CRUISE (public or private- I’ve done both and think both are great options; private was nice with the kids because they got to “drive” the boat and ask lots of questions).

There are so many wonderful places to eat in Paris, you can’t really go wrong (you can also take cooking classes – first and only time I’ve ever made macarons haha). You know I chase Michelin stars and on my last trip we tried (and loved) L’Epicure. We had the kiddos with us and didn’t have a sitter that night (most of our friends had already left for the wedding in Corsica) but we put their little suit jackets on and brought them. Six and three is really too young for the experience but the chef tweaked the menu for them when the course involved something too adventurous. Overall I’m glad we brought them rather than missing out and I think my older one really appreciated it!

Finally- some “casual” restaurants:
Boissonerie
Enza e famiglia – for good truffle pasta
Brasserie Lipp – old French bistro
Creperie des canettes – for good crepes
Racines – good French
La fontaine de mars – good French

I might recommend making an advanced ticket reservation for the Eiffel Tower if you decide to go up- the line to buy tickets can get a little long (and we know how much little kids love waiting in line haha). And the fancier the restaurant the farther out you need a res, same as NYC.

P.S. I’d be happy to help you practice your French — everyone speaks English but speaking French goes a long way! You know I have my boys taking French lessons; what a difference immersion makes! xx

Women’s weekend in Utah

I am unbelievably blessed to be able to go on an annual(ish) “momcation.” This year, it was a ski weekend. The trip was short but it worked wonders! Motherhood is amazing and rewarding, and hard. We took two full days to reflect on and celebrate all of it. Eight incredible women went out to Park City, Utah together — stay at home moms, working moms, and everything in between — to bond and recharge; sharing parenting successes and failures, worries and triumphs. Our families are our worlds.

 

Group travel is complicated and in this case we mixed groups of friends. That said, I am so glad that I got to spend so much time with everyone; old friends and new! We laughed, we learned, we loved (we had an epic dance party) — I couldn’t have asked for better travel companions!

 

It was my first trip to Park City, Utah and I loved everything about it! The town has so much charm. I really enjoy skiing and I got to try snowmobiling for the first time — two hours at Garff Ranch, so much fun! We also really liked the Après-ski buffet at the St. Regis, and the ski in/ski out dining (lunch) options at Deer Valley resort. We also had two delicious dinners, one at 350 Main and the other was the Fireside Dining experience at the Empire Canyon Lodge. Both were excellent meals, the service was great too!

 

It feels appropriate to post this blog on International Women’s Day because I am so inspired by the women in my life, including the seven women that came to Utah with me. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without them! And I want to acknowledge my loving and supportive husband — for kicking butt as lead parent while I was gone and for always encouraging me to be my best self!

 

“Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” —Robert Browning

 

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The view from our condo (Flagstaff Lodge) in Utah! 

 

 

Christmas (2016) trip to Orlando!

Here’s how we ended up in Florida two months ago… Justin and I were honored with an award from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation in the fall of 2016. Upon receipt of the award, we mentioned what the outdoors means to us, and our sons (age 3 and 6) — both of them aspire to be marine biologists! Unbeknownst to us, an executive from SeaWorld was in the audience listening to our remarks and he generously extended an invitation for our family to visit SeaWorld. So we decided to surprise our kids on Christmas morning with a trip to Sea World in Orlando! They were ecstatic to have the chance to meet real marine biologists and to see so much marine life all in one place!

 

We spent almost NINE hours at Sea World in one day. And we didn’t go on a single ride. There was so much to see and learn! We started our day learning about some of the rescue animals that Sea World has in its care. Our tour guide Ryan told us a lot about animal care and animal rescue. My kids were totally in their element; it was so cool to watch them play 20 questions with Ryan (obviously the category was always marine animal). I have to brag that he wasn’t able to stump my little guys — they were always able to guess the animal without any extra hints. And by the way, the animals included: goblin shark and Japanese flying squid!

 

We saw manatees and beluga whales. We fed stingrays and sea lions. We had a dolphin encounter and a penguin encounter. We watched the dolphin show and the orca show. I am aware that the orca show is controversial and that it is being phased out but I’m glad that my kids were able to see it. I remember going when I was a child and being filled with wonder and a desire to know more about these enormous, intelligent animals. To say nothing of the thrill that you get from sitting in a “splash zone.” The look on the face of my six year old was priceless (my three old did not want to sit in the splash zone, he powered through the day without a nap but we didn’t push our luck)!

 

Even lunch was full of discovery. We ate at the Shark Underwater Grill and saw various types of sharks (and other fish) swim by while we dined. It was really cool.

 

Everyone that we met was so kind and so knowledgeable. It was a really special day. I hope that we succeeded in fostering our children’s interest in and reverence for nature. We have to take care of our planet and all of its inhabitants.

 

We rounded out our short stay in Orlando with a visit to the Orlando Eye and to the Crayola Experience. I recommend both! We did not visit Magic Kingdom on this trip. It was not an easy decision but we decided to keep this trip really focused. It was nice to have such an enriching experience at Sea World and to spend some quality time with our dear friends that reside in Florida!

 

 

 

Tuck Travel 2016 Summary

In 2016 we continued travelling the world, and finding the goodness in people across all walks of life! We traveled to five countries outside of the United States (it looks like six countries are listed below but Corsica is technically part of France) and 13 states/federal districts within the U.S.

 

The places we visited in 2016 include:

France

Corsica

Austria

Spain

Cuba

England

 

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California

Alabama

Washington, D.C.

Texas

Pennsylvania

New York

New Jersey

New Mexico

Connecticut

Colorado

Georgia

Indiana

Florida

 

Most of our travel in 2016 was family travel but I did have a few solo trips as well. I hate to travel without my guys but I know that sometimes it’s necessary (for work and/or my sanity ha!). In 2015, we were bicoastal and I didn’t feel settled enough to attend certain board meetings in person. In 2016, I was grateful to have the ability to again travel to Indiana for my annual meeting with the University of Notre Dame’s Performing Arts Advisory Council and to travel to New Mexico for my first meeting as a member of Horizons National’s Board of Directors.

 

I started writing a blog about our most recent trip to France and Corsica but have yet to find the right words… My friends and family know that I’m a Francophile, so I want that post to be very thorough! But with that said, some of my favorite memories from 2016 involved showing my guys my favorite things to do in Paris and Propriano.

 

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Our preferred method of travel for 2016 was definitely flying, we all logged lots of miles! Occasionally, we flew privately, thanks to some extremely generous friends! But for the most part, we flew commercial and became very friendly with airport staff! Flying with kids is not easy and even though my kids have flown quite a bit and they are a little older now (ages 3 and 6) I still get nervous when we head to the airport. People don’t often write about their experiences when they’re good (whereas I tweet my negative experiences immediately ha!) and this year we had a lot of really good pilots and flight attendants that brought my kiddos extra snacks, coloring books, wings, and helped them to feel very comfortable in the sky! I would also add that several airports have made some really nice improvements over the past few years and now have playgrounds, etc. to help families pass the time before boarding!

 

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Final travel thoughts for 2016… We made so many new memories! This year, I went back to some of my favorite places and I went to new places! I took my first trip to Cuba and my first trip Austria and I can’t wait to go back to both. No matter how much research you do, you never know exactly what to expect the first time you do something. And in 2016, a lot of scary headlines dominated our newspapers. But as I moved around the United States and abroad, my various interactions reminded me of the kindness in people everywhere and ultimately reinforced my faith in humanity! Here’s to 2017!!!!!

London Nights!

Justin and I recently traveled to London again. I believe it was the third trip for each of us to that city. I went with my parents on a family vacation when I was maybe 12 or 13 and then again two years ago when the Oakland Raiders played in London. Justin went roughly nine years ago when the New York Giants first played in London and then again two years ago when he played as an Oakland Raider. That said, this particular trip wasn’t really about taking in the sites, we had covered most of them on previous trips – and we were only in town for three nights.

 

Justin had some work to do, but for the most part, this trip was about recharging. Justin’s been working really hard as a graduate student, and for me, things have been quite busy with our kids and our charity. We are usually too tired to do anything too exciting but since we were only in London for the weekend, we decided not to bother switching time zones, and consequently, we were able to enjoy the nightlife!

 

My favorite night in London was as follows:

 

First we enjoyed cocktails with friends at the Chiltern Firehouse, a luxury hotel in Marylebone, London. No less than four different sources suggested we try the Chiltern Firehouse. Additionally, it has been written about a lot. It did not disappoint (we actually went twice – it was within walking distance of our hotel and they have great drinks and a great “scene”)!

 

Next we went to The Dorchester Hotel for dinner. The Dorchester is located across from Hyde Park and it’s home to some award-winning restaurants. We ate at Alain Ducasse (French cuisine, three Michelin stars) and China Tang (fantastic Cantonese food).

 

After dinner, we decided to try Kensington Roof Gardens for more drinks and dancing (after all, our kids were back in the states with Grandmom and Grandpop – might as well live it up!). We reserved a table that quickly grew to two tables! The staff was very accommodating. The DJ played primarily house music but he took our request and played some Beyoncé! The Roof Gardens is very pretty. The only downside was that this lounge shuts down at 2am – which felt like 8pm EST and we wanted to continue having fun!

 

One of our guests at The Roof Gardens was a friend of a friend and he was nice enough to invite our entire group to another club. So we rolled into the VIP lounge at a place called Tape, another London hot spot. Apparently, Tape is very popular because it has a recording studio so artists can record if/when they feel inspired by the vibe. Tape played hip hop music the entire time we were there and a good time was had by all! I recommend!

 

And there you have it – nightlife tips from someone who is usually asleep by 10pm haha (thank goodness for the recommendations from our friends that live in London)! I haven’t been out like that in years – love you, London!

The Tucks Take On: Vienna, Austria

Vienna is the most underrated city in Europe! Disclaimer: I’m one quarter Austrian (my Grandmother was born in Austria, she came to the United States via Ellis Island as a child), but personal bias aside, I’m surprised that Vienna does not get more attention. For example, Travel + Leisure recently released the results of its annual “World’s Best Awards” survey and Vienna did not crack the top 15 cities in Europe. While I agree with many readers about the cities that were on the list (who doesn’t love Barcelona, Siena, Paris, Florence, etc.), I was shocked to find that Vienna did not make the cut. Let me tell you why we love Vienna:

It’s beautiful.

It’s delicious.

It’s family-friendly.

Vienna is beautiful! We stayed in a lovely hotel called the Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof, which is in the heart of Vienna’s old city. From there, we were less than a 5 minute walk away from the Hofburg Palace (the former imperial palace and current seat of the Austrian President), the Spanish Riding School, and the Goldenes Quartier (luxury shopping area). If we walked for another 5 minutes, we could reach the State Opera. And if we walked in another direction, we would come upon St. Stephen’s Cathedral. While wandering around the city, it is impossible to not admire the architecture! You can also climb to the top of St. Stephen’s, parts of the church date back to the 13th century, for an impressive view of the city! In addition to the beautiful surroundings, the people are beautiful — inside and out! We met so many helpful and interesting people, from the local grocery store to the zookeepers, everyone was incredibly nice. Additionally, the traditional Austrian outfits are really something to see and are worn proudly for festive occasions. We stumbled upon the equivalent of a block party and were in awe of how wonderful everyone looked in their Lederhosen and dirndls!

 

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Vienna is DELICIOUS! Two words: strudel, schnitzel. Throughout the city there are restaurants on every corner and we could not find one that we did not like! The selection of cakes at the restaurants was fantastic; my personal favorite Austrian dessert is the apple strudel. We also loved the veal schnitzel/classic Wiener Schnitzel. Our two favorite restaurants were Café Sacher and Café Cental. Café Sacher is the home of the original Sachertorte (a delicious chocolate cake) and it’s a quintessential Viennese coffee-house. Café Central has a more expansive menu and has a pianist who plays while you dine. Additionally, both cafés have stunning interiors that provide the perfect atmosphere for a meal or snack!

 

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Vienna is extremely family-friendly. Six of us traveled to Vienna, my mother and father, my husband and our two young sons, and we all had a great time. For one thing, the city is very walk-able. We brought our stroller along so that our three year old could sit down if he needed to but our six year old did not complain about any of the distances we walked. Secondly, everyone in Vienna speaks English. That’s obviously a generalization because I did not have a conversation with everyone in Vienna but in all of the restaurants, shops, playgrounds and museums we visited, people spoke English. We encourage our children to learn other languages and explain why it’s polite to attempt to speak the language of the host country. However, at age six and age three, my little guys did not remember much more than: guten tag and danke , so it was nice that they could still interact with everyone. Vienna also has some FANTASTIC playgrounds! Not only are the playgrounds designed to entertain AND educate children, but they are also strategically located around tourist attractions. For example, one day we did a “big bus tour” around the city. City bus tours are a great way to get a snapshot of all of the history that an area has to offer. Unfortunately, my three year old was not interested in listening to the audio and he began to get a little bit antsy about halfway through the tour. We selected a “hop on/hop off” bus tour for exactly that reason and so when our bus stopped at Augarten we got off. Augarten contains Vienna’s oldest Baroque park and it was formerly used as both hunting grounds and for morning concerts (imagine: Mozart and Beethoven!). Today, Augarten has a Porcelain Museum and several areas for children, including playgrounds. So, while my parents perused the museum, I was able to run around the park with my little guys, collecting chestnuts, playing games, and enjoying the beautiful day until it was time to get back on the bus! Schönbrunn Palace also has a fantastic playground, just next to the maze and labyrinth. Schönbrunn was the former imperial summer residence and it was easily our favorite part of the trip. My older son and parents were fascinated by the audio tour of the palace and my younger son and I had a wonderful time exploring the area by the Neptune Fountain. Together, we all explored and enjoyed the Schönbrunn children’s museum. The children’s museum is extremely interactive; kids can dress up in period costume and play with toys inspired by life at the palace. In addition to the main entrance to the palace, the children’s museum, the maze and labyrinth, and the playground, we also went to the Schönbrunn Zoo! It’s the oldest zoo in the world and it’s magnificent! After spending several hours touring around, I expected my kids to be worn out but they spent several more hours at the zoo and their happiness was contagious! It was truly an incredible day. We are all looking forward to going back! In addition to the playgrounds, many of Vienna’s museums are suitable for all ages. We highly recommend the Haus der Musik and the Vienna Museum of Natural History (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien)!

 

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The ultimate sign that Vienna, Austria is a great city: none of us wanted to leave! Alas, back to the real world, Auf Wiedersehen!