Europe Travel Post 1/3- 'I traveled 8 European countries in 4 weeks while 5/6 months pregnant!' + Europe Photo Diary

18 February 2019


Pregnancy Week 27 (June 12, 2018)- Right now, we are on our way home, in a taxi, from a 4 week trip to Europe. It’s raining in Auckland, as always. Auckland always welcomes cold. What a dream trip! Even though I’m on bridge of second and third trimester, I’m so glad we put our reservations aside and just went for it. For the last leg of our trip, insurance company wouldn’t insure any pregnancy related issues if they happen overseas. I don’t recommend doing this but for us, it was now or never for this trip. I took the risk and now we are back home with nothing untoward happening in last 4 weeks. Assuming all is good in this 10 minute ride home with Karamjeet, the Uber driver. 

If you are planning to travel overseas while pregnant and want insurance cover (you should), most companies cover till Week 24. One covered till week 26 (the one I went for, TID for those keen) and one offered pregnancy cover extension up to 30 weeks. The cost for 30 weeks one was too exorbitant for our budget. To put that into context, insurance for two of us healthy individuals was $240-ish. Extended pregnancy cover alone was about $900+, totaling 1200 for insurance. Hence I took the risk to be covered till week 26 and leave the rest to chance. So Week 27 of my Pregnancy during travel was uninsured. 



How was travelling to 8 countries in 4 weeks or less for late second trimester? Well it was fine. Mostly because I was too excited and determined to get through this. I’m not the one to heed to pregnancy related gyaan and myths, so there was a deaf ear towards most that came my way. I believe Rujuta Diwekar when she says that women are at their strongest when pregnant and that pregnancy isn’t a disease. It’s a phase of life that needs to be celebrated. The changes need to be honored, respected and taken into stride of life, without added stress. It isn’t going to last forever. Is it? So off we went to the unknown, with half our bookings done because it was so last minute. So last minute that for 3 days during the trip, we had no idea where we will be and what mode of transport will get us from point A (known) to Point B (unknown, too many options & too much of a logistical nightmare). Some might have freaked out how we treated this pregnancy but for both of us, no decision was made based on pregnancy related care. Decisions were made on the base of price, feasibility and excitability. 

So I just had a look at the 'Stepz' App on my iPhone and added up all the walking we did during the trip. Any wild guess? It was definitely way more than I expected. 306 Km!!!! Woahhhh. That has taken me by surprise too. I don't think I've ever walked so much in my entire life. And sitting in this car going home, I actually feel fine. There is no visible swelling on my feet or legs. They are not achy or sore. It's all fine. I'm actually amazed my body coped so well with it. The excitement for travel really made up for everything. Any cycling and public transport hustle is additional. That averages to about 13 km a day of just walking. And I feel good. Though during the trip, we were practically exhausted every night. Not just me, husband too. I made it a point to journal every day of this trip , in my diary and also on Instagram Stories, but truth be told, even though I achieved it, i used to doze off many many times during the process. While husband slept, I was awake for many hours after, waking up and dozing off every few seconds, trying to pen my sleepy thoughts and post on Instagram stories the days worth of pictures. Now that we are back home, I’m so glad I journal-ed it because I have beautiful memories that I can live through whenever I want. The Instagram stories are in the highlights on my profile 'Lipsnberries'.

This was our dream trip. Even though we are doing the worst we have ever done financially in my 31 years of life. We saved pennies by walking a few stops instead of paying for transport, by eating burgers pretty much everyday, by missing out on attractions with high ticket prices, by booking AirBnB's with breakfast option and eating lunch's worth from the host, by not doing the fancy dining anywhere during this trip, by hiring bikes to explore surrounding towns on our own than paying for shuttles, by going the longer routes and finding loopholes in subway system, by taking multiple trains instead of one that'll take you straight to your destination for more the moolah. But tell you what! What a magic time it was. Even when we got lost, we discovered a lot more. Curiosity guided us to places and events that were nowhere on our agenda. From ending up at a live concert in Ghent to a marathon in Berlin to an orchestra concert at Bruges. And let's not forget the highlight of all 'The Royal Wedding of Price Harry and Meghan'. We were there at Winsdor that day! 

This baby is going to be a resilient one because it survived on everything that a pregnant women shouldn't eat- Fast food, burgers and Falafel wraps from shady joints, serving them with hummus, wilted lettuce and 'god knows how clean' salads. Oh and cheeses! You can't go to Europe and not have bucket load of cheese. Best cheese finds happen when your husband is a hard core vegetarian and would insist we try new cheese every-time we shopped at the supermarket. Oh yes supermarkets! when we couldn't fleece breakfast from our AirBnB hosts, it was the supermarkets to the rescue. Fresh toasted baguette with cheese and pickles! Divine. I think all of Europe had more for us vegetarians than New Zealand, and it was surely more affordable too. You can't have a decent burger meal for one person for $16 in NZ but we both could eat in that price in Europe. I can't wait to go cheese hunting in Pak n Save supermarket today, when we get a lil freshened up. I need some cheese fix asap. 

If someone asked me what our main mode of transport was, I'd say walking because truly I've never walked so much in my life (I think I said that already!). Baby Blueberry loved all the action. I've been so active all of last 6 months, that poor baby hasn't had a chance to put on extra weight. Good for me in the long run probably! 

I'm glad we made this trip as 4 weeks instead of 2 weeks that we had originally planned. Now I feel like it should've been more. We just couldn't get enough of each city. We gave 2-3 days to each city and hence a lot was crammed into our days. If we ever go back again, we are going to make that 4 days to each city as you practically spend 2 days getting in and out of a city and organizing activities and making list of must-visit attractions. We were left so exhausted in each city that we practically crashed into bed, with no energy to plan the next day or make a to-do list for next city. This problem would have been avoided if we didn't book the tickets so last minute and not left Auckland with next to nothing in planning department. Booked tickets on a Monday to leave Auckland on Saturday. People spend months upon months to plan their  Europe itinerary. With 5 days in hand and working full time (+ assignments), we were up till 2 am every night and could barely decide on the cites we'd like to see. Booking air travels tickets is the easy part. We knew we were landing in London and coming back from Paris (even deciding that was a mission but whatever!) but what do you do in-between those two flights! Which cities and countries you pick and choose based on logistics, finances and hustle. It's another ball game. When we left NZ, we had 3 days unaccounted for. We couldn't decide which city or country we'll do. We just left it to the whim and guess what! we ended up in Rome. I don't recommend that kids but when you are in your third trimester and travel is now or never for you, you take the risks and just live on the edge. 

I've been asked about our Europe itinerary a lot of times. Truth be told, it was the most unplanned yet most amazing thing to have happened to us. So this itinerary was made on a whim but it worked amazingly for us. Our only regret is not booking it sooner so we could have researched more about the cities and planned our day better. However, we ended up at some great events and happenings, by pure coincidence and I don't think any amount of planning would have achieved that fun. 

I intended to write about our trip and I may as well one day but for now, everyone who has been asking me about the cities we visited, here's the itinerary we followed-

Day 1-3 London, Stay at a TravelLodge hotel in Slough, near Heathrow Airport
Day 4-6- Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden (Netherlands)- Our base was Ibis Styles Hotel, Haarlem
Day 7,8- Bruges, Belgium - AirBnB at Oostkamp, Vlaanderen
Day 9, 10- Ghent, Belgium- AirBnB at Sportstraat 171
Day 11-13- Berlin, Germany- AirBnB at Knobelsdorffstraße
Day 14-16- Nuremberg, Germany- Stay with friends at Herzogenaurach town- Day trips to Bamberg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Neuschwanstein castle
Day 17-19- Rome, Italy- AirBnB near Vatican City
Day 20-22- Paris, France- AirBnB in Montmartre
Day 23- Bangkok, Thailand (Extended stop-over for a day)
Day 24- Back to Auckland

Our favorite bits- Netherlands. I am so going back there. It was so much better than I imagined. We are so glad we made Haarlem our base, instead of the very cool & hip Amsterdam. Haarlem was a dream village/town with windmills, Gothic churches, yummiest vegetarian food and most gorgeous houses. It was just 10-15 minutes train ride out of Amsterdam. We missed the tulip season by about 2 weeks so all we saw were some lavender fields and all green fields of tulip plantations sans the flowers.  If we go back to Netherlands, Haarlem will happen again and also Leiden, with its cobbled pathways, street markets and cafes by the canals. Riding bike around Leiden will be the highlight of this trip. I don't think we'll go back to Amsterdam. It was too busy for us rural folks. For a teetotaler couple, we found the surrounding villages and towns had more for us than the city. Though no other city can beat Amsterdam for its huge museums. We couldn't finish Rijksmuseum in 3 go's.

Husband wants to go back to Bruges in Belgium. The preserved medieval town center is a dream, with one of the oldest hospitals in all of Europe (12th century), the Belfry tower, markets and churches. Our Bike ride along the canal to Oostkerke and Daame will be imprinted in our minds for a long time to come. If you followed our stories from the day, we met a beautiful girl in Oostkerke, the white village. She rode on her bike to come see her childhood home after dreaming about it for 10 years. We took her photos in front of her dream house and it was magical. There wasn't a soul besides us in that town on that very hot afternoon. This is travel in a nutshell for us both! The stories of people and how you are in that very moment, out of sheer magic.
 Oh! and McDonalds in Bruges had a fake chicken patty which is the next big thing to my homemade burgers, so we really have to go back there, like NOW.

We will also be back to our friends at Nuremberg (actually Herzogenaurach town). Our time spent with them and their then 8-month old baby girl is our most treasured. Nothing like home cooked Indian meals when all you've eaten is cheese and bread for weeks.

Husband is also keen to see more of Rome as 2.5 days were no where near enough.  Staying close to Vatican and our walks to St. Peter's Square every night fill my heart with so much happiness. I think I'd prefer to do Florence next time though.
We will probably not do Paris again as it was every bit of a cliche but had to be done. Glad I visited my dream city and I can move on to another city now.

As you can sense, we can't wait to go back to Europe, though time will tell how feasible it is with a baby in tow. For sure! we won't be able to cover so many cities in such a short span of time. I don't think we could squeeze anymore in. It was already a jam packed schedule.

We are about to reach home and get back to the reality of Auckland life. I am so not ready for it. Europe you were a dream. I wish we met sooner but I'm still glad we met.

Are there any cities/countries in Europe on your wish list? Tell me in the comments below. I'm all up for Vienna, Strasbourg, Prague and Salzburg. Oh and anywhere in Netherlands is good!

Love
Nishu

Tip: Abuse the pregnancy privileges. A guide outside Vatican museum noticed me standing in very very long queue for entrance, in burning afternoon heat. He said hey! I can help you and I said 'No Thanks' with the most nonchalance look on my face. He wasn't happy but still proceeded to say "You look pregnant, go in front of the queue and tell the staff that you are pregnant, they'll let you in. You don't have to stand in queue"& he was right! That sparked in us the idea to abuse the pregnancy privileges. Use the bus/train seats for pregnant women, tell the Versailles palace staff that I'm pregnant so can't be standing 1.5 hours in queue. We used our unborn baby whenever we could, to save us some wait and grief and it was the best thing ever. So much satisfaction! I'd probably never get to travel again while pregnant so why not use the excuse to death!


Europe photo diary to follow-
London (UK), Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden (Netherlands), Bruges (Belgium)
More photos to come in next post of this series. There are too many for one blogpost.

London View from The Shard

Every Media Channel of the World was there to cover The Royal Wedding at Winsdor

Husband lying on grass and giving major Insta-Husband goals, outside Westminister Abbey, London

Most Gorgeous houses at Notting Hill

It looks like we are travelling like locals, but we actually got lost like tourists, Amsterdam.

Walking Forever, Haarlem, Netherlands

Plant lady will find her plants, anywhere. Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam (Netherlands)

The streets of Haarlem, Netherlands

Parking our bikes and enjoying the most beautiful coffee's by the canal, Leiden (Netherlands)

The Canal Life, Leiden (Netherlands)

Molen de Adriaann, Haarlem (Netherlands)
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The cobbled empty streets of Bruges (Belgium)

Found a Punjabi guy who owned a restaurant in Bruges and made me the spiciest veg pasta (Bruges)

Spoilt for choice in Bruges (Belgium)

Casual views while riding bikes from Bruges (Belgium) to Holland. Wild horses & Windmills by the canal
Found a bit of homeland in outskirts of Bruges, chomping on wheat shoots.



10 km bike ride mark, Oostkamp (Bruges, Belgium)

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