Fave Five 2008 Travel Excursions, Part Four

Managing Editor Janeen Christoff shares her love of travel with her daughter in her Fave Five travel experiences of 2008

By: By Janeen Christoff

It’s funny, but I can’t remember a time in my life when travel wasn’t a big part of it. Ever since I was a kid, I feel like I have been packing a bag to go one place or another — be it on a business trip or for vacation or backpacking through Europe. However, 2008 was a significant year in travel for me — it was the first year that I would travel with my daughter. She, like me, will hopefully never remember a time in her life when her bags weren’t packed, ready to head off for some fun or exotic destination. So, here are some of my favorite adventures from 2008 – with and without the family.

Girlfriend Getaway

 Photo: Carnival Imagination // (c) 2008
Carnival Imagination

To escape the chill of winter, my girlfriend and I packed up my nine-month-old daughter, Ava, and headed to Miami for a Caribbean cruise onboard the Carnival Imagination. The five-day trip took us to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Nassau, where we had endless amounts of fun playing at the beach. However, despite all the fun in the sand, I still think my daughter’s favorite part of the cruise was her endless supply of Cheerios, provided by the ever-attentive staff onboard the ship. Every time she saw that bright yellow box on the tray, a grin spread across her face.

Cruising with a nine-month-old is definitely an adventure — even if you never leave the ship! And my favorite memory of Ava was of her standing and taking some of her first steps on the bed in our stateroom — while the ship was rocking. It’s still our little secret that this milestone occurred onboard, since her dad wasn’t there to see it!

Spring Break

Photo: Ava plays at Club Med Ixtapa // (c) 2008
Club Med Ixtapa

Looking for a much-needed springtime break, my husband, daughter and I accepted an invitation to visit Club Med’s newly renovated Ixtapa Pacific resort. From the moment we arrived at the property, the friendly resort staff enveloped our daughter, Ava, and she was whisked off to Baby Club Med, where she had more fun playing with their toys than the ones she has at home. Where other resorts’ kids clubs have TVs and games in a room to entertain children, here babies are taken for walks; they played in a covered pool; and they even participate in specially planned afternoon activities that often included the parents. The resort also offers a baby-food buffet in the main dining room and 24-hour access to bottle warming, extra diapers, formula and more. Ava was so well looked after — and we were so well rested — it was hard to leave.

My First River Cruise
This year, I had the pleasure of taking my first European river cruise from Antwerp, Belgium, to Maastricht, the Netherlands, and back with an overnight in Brussels, and I fell in love with this leisurely and relaxing form of travel.

Despite the uncooperative cold, we enjoyed our time exploring the countryside. We experienced the sights — and tastes — of Antwerp, with a visit to a chocolate factory for a tasting and tour as well as a stop for the local specialty – a Belgian waffle. In Maastricht, our group took a walking tour of the city and explored its impressive gothic cathedral and the local market.
Our boat, the newly christened Swiss Sapphire, owned and operated by Tauck World Discovery, then returned us to Antwerp where we departed and where I vowed to definitely take another river cruise sometime soon.

Livin’ It Up in London
London holds many memories for me. After living there for two years, the city has a special place in my heart. So, I was thrilled that my husband and I could escape there for a few days this summer. After several Christmastime visits to the city, I promised him that this visit – in July – would actually showcase the beauty of the city in the sun, but I was wrong. On some of the rainiest days of the summer, we stayed inside and explored street art at the Tate, took in a political comedy show on the West End, enjoyed dinner with friends and — during a rare hour of sun — we did get to stroll along the Thames. It was magic — of course.

A Mammoth Good Time

 Photo: A Mammoth Good Time // (c) 2008

There’s something to be said for a white Christmas, and in Southern California, it’s pretty hard to come by. However, I was determined my daughter would see snow and Santa this winter, so we drove up to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., for a long weekend.

We were welcomed at Mammoth’s newest property, the Westin Monache Resort, and after years of staying at cheap motels in the area throughout my youth, this resort was a slice of paradise. The staff was low-key and attentive. Our room was large and cozy. And my daughter was content to race through the halls, greeting every guest who walked by, waving a wooden spoon she stole from the kitchen.

The snow was already falling when we arrived, and it didn’t stop the entire time we were there. At our first opportunity, we took our daughter down to the village, where we threw snowballs and built a tiny snowman – Ava was only 19 months old at the time, however, so the snowman didn’t live long enough to be photographed, but the fun is in its creation, right?