24 hours in Kigale, Rwanda

Kigale in Rwanda is not on many people’s bucket lists. The only reason we went was as a convenient end point to our Ugandan/Rwandan safari. When putting together our itinerary, we decided to stay at the infamous Milles des Collines hotel (of Hotel Rwanda fame), now a Kempinski hotel.

At the hotel Milles des Collines, aka the Hotel Rwanda
At the hotel Milles des Collines, aka the Hotel Rwanda. In the background the famous pool.
In a way the choice, or lack there of, of suitable hotels led to us staying here is a great symbol of my apprehension of going to Rwanda. You see outside of the Rwandan genocide, I knew nothing about the capital city of Rwanda. A look in the tourist guides provided little other information about the city away from its genocide.

As we arrived late in the evening, I looked towards our next day in the city with some apprehension.

Our main stop, as I think is the case with many tourists was the Kigale Genocide Memorial Centre. The centre has beautiful grounds that serves as a cemetery for over 250,000 people who died in the Capital during the Genocide. The scale of this memorial only serves to emphasis the extent of the atrocity. Inside, the centre is given over to explaining how the genocide came to pass, historical context and how the international community did little to prevent or intervene. A shameful blemish on reputation on the rest of the international community.

It was without a doubt the most upsetting place I have ever been. The sheer scale coupled with the stories of survivors had me in tears. The stories of children caught up in the Genocide were the most harrowing. There were some stories of heros that risked their lives for others that were uplifting and a welcome relief but not enough to counter the effects. Though uncomfortable, I am really happy that we visited the Memorial,.

Once we had left the genocide memorial we went to an artisan craft market. It was only once we had left the genocide memorial that you began to notice the ages of the people in capital, the missing generation and notice the literal scars on the residents of Kigali.

Despite this, I came away from Kigali with a feeling of hope. It is remarkable that the city doesn’t have more problems, that there is not an ongoing quest for retribution. Instead I saw a city rising from the ashes and trying to move towards a better future. Initiatives by the Kigali City Council such as once a month mandatory street cleaning for all residents, make it feel like a city of the rise. It was one of the cleanest places I have been, and I don’t just mean in Africa. More recently it has embraced the no car days to encourage exercise and community gathering. It feels like a city looking towards a different and better future.

In the end I was glad that I went to Kigali and the Genocide Memorial. But most of all, I was glad I stayed at the Milles des Collines. It was here, where Paul Rusesabagina let over 1000 people take refuge,  that I had time to reflect on Kigali and my short time there. It reminded me that there are always people, however few that will put there lives at risk for the sake of others.

My hopes for Kigali in the future is that they can diversify and create a country that is defined by more than just its Genocide and its springing off point to see gorillas.

Sunshine after the rain, a rainbow in Kigali
Sunshine after the rain, a rainbow in Kigali
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Untold Morsels

 

Safari by Boat – Sailing the Kazinga Channel

When you think of safari, you think of open topped jeeps driving through the vast expanse of wilderness. I had never even considering taking a safari by boat until it was suggested for us to do in Uganda.

Where?

The Kazinga Channel. This is the channel that links Lake George and Lake Edward and runs through the Queen Elizabeth National Park

Why You Should Do it?

I had never really considered the benefits to this type of safari until we actually did it. Being on a boat offers a unique perspective to other types of safari.

Firstly it allows you to get up close and personal to many animals that for safety reasons you couldn’t do in other mdoes of transport. One of our favourites was getting to see Hippos really close. Hippos are really dangerous on both land and in water so having a sturdy boat was the only way in which to get close. We saw entire herds of them and even saw a baby out of the water!

A herd of hippos

 

A baby hippo
A baby hippo
Other than hippos, we also saw crocodiles, elephants, water buffalo and wart hogs.

An elephant at the Kazinga Channel
An elephant at the Kazinga Channel
But perhaps one of the best bits was the ability to bird watch from the boat. As you can see from this picture, the variety of birds you see here is pretty unbeatable.

The Kazinga Channel, A Birdwatchers Paradise
The Kazinga Channel, A Birdwatchers Paradise
Some birds have their nests in the muddy embankments of the channel, a view that would have been impossible to see if not by boat!

Birds nesting in the Kazinga Channel Embankment
Birds nesting in the Kazinga Channel Embankment
Another great aspect of the boat trip was getting to understand more about the local life and social history. As the sunset over the Kazinga Channel we sailed alongside boats full of men going out to fish. It was humbling to see how people live.

The locals fishing on the Kazinga Channel
The locals fishing on the Kazinga Channel
It also gave an interesting perspective on how animals and humans coexist. The guide here told us about the villages that remain inside of the national park and how the Ugandan Wildlife Authority are trying to make it so these villages thrive off tourism more than poaching.

This is my favourite picture showing how the villagers and wildlife coexist.

Man and beast coexisting at the Kazinga channel
Man and beast coexisting at the Kazinga channel
Have you ever been on a water safari? I would love to hear your experiences.

This post was part of the #MondayEscapes linkup

Plane, train or automobile across Uganda?

Ok so just plane or car but that title is no where near as catchy.

 When we knew we were headed towards becoming a family, we decided to have one last blow out holiday to somewhere you can’t take kids. I am all for travelling anywhere with children but my line in the sand is a malarial zones so we therefore chose Uganda and gorilla trekking as our last couple holiday.

When we were initially looking at doing a safari one of the things we found is that if you want to be remote you need to take a small plane. I am not a fan of small planes and one of the big appeals of Uganda was the ability to drive across it. When we announced this most people thought we were mad. That our time would be wasted driving between locations and that the roads would be arduous and really hard going. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

The hardest part of our journey was leaving Entebbe, the busiest part of Uganda we experienced. The roads here were congested and I imagine rush hour would have been a nightmare. Fortunately we left after the main morning rush hour so our experience wasn’t too horrific. And actually seeing the city was itself quite interesting. Watching the markets was a fascinating insight into life in Uganda and was interest contrast to the markets we saw in the more rural areas. My favourite part of was looking at the local merchants who were making their products on the street. We saw a local merchant making coffins, pork shops and fabric dyeing stalls. The most interesting however was a demonstration a local merchant treated us to showing us how he made clothes with paper bark. Paper bark clothing is Uganda’s only representation of the UNESCO world intangible heritage list and was truly a delight to see first hand. All this in our first hour in the car!

Bringing Bananas to Market, Uganda
Bringing Bananas to Market, Uganda
By driving across Uganda I think we got to see more of Uganda in terms of both people and wildlife. Driving through the villages, it was fascinating to see how each village had grown up around one type of ‘industry’. Whether it was coffee bean drying, tea picking, banana or cinnamon production. We even saw how these products were brought to market where traders came from all directions congregating on one small town to exchange their goods on market day. In some ways it was quite medieval to be driving along the road and seeing merchant after merchant carrying the goods to the nearest market day to sell or trade but gave a real insight into what everyday Ugandan village life is like.

Ugandan scooter going to market
Ugandan scooter going to market
One of the most surprising things I found about the drive was how built up the Ugandan countryside was. I had expected wide expanses where we saw no people but in fact Uganda is heavily populated throughout the countryside and the roads not as bad as I had expected.

A church at Bwindi
A church at Bwindi
Friends of ours who had flown across Uganda said that they found a lot of begging when they left the local airports to drive to their lodges. Whether this was because perhaps areas around the airports saw more tourists and had the expectation or whether we had just been lucky but his not something we experienced in Uganda. The most begging we saw was one girl on the road shouting “Give me Sweeties!”

The other highlight for me of driving rather than flying across Uganda was the wildlife we saw this way. From the road we spotted a variety of birds, to many to name in this post, baboons, several varieties of monkeys, elephants and even lions.

Baboons at the roadside
Baboons at the roadside
For me the greatest concern about this option was the toilet facilities. However even this was not as bad as expected. Most toilets were squat toilets which as a European I was not use to. On reflection if I did again I might take a she-wee as an aid and additional loo roll but other than that it was for the majority fine.

Our Volcanoes Safari Jeep
Our Volcanoes Safari Jeep
Some may see the additional time taken to travel between lodges as a downside however the experience for us was well worth it. I think we got a better overview of the social history of the country and the people who live there and truly immersed ourselves in the landscapes and wildlife it has to offer. Overall I have no regrets about driving rather than flying as I feel I have seen more of the country and and would certainly choose to travel overland again.

We booked our tour through Steppes Travel. Again flying was the primary option for travel between lodges but they were more than happy to tailor a driving safari to our needs. More coming up on the lodges, treks and Ugandan experience in future posts

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Suitcases and Sandcastles

 

Copenhagen 48 hour Itinerary for Castle Lovers

I love castles! I really do but before going to Copenhagen I had no idea how many castles there was in its surrounding area.

We decided to purchase a Copenhagen Card for our time there and dedicated one whole day to visit castles in Copenhagen. This was a great option as it meant entrance to the castles and also all our transportation costs in the Greater Copenhagen area was included in the cost.

Our first view of Frederiksborg Castle
Our first view of Frederiksborg Castle
Our day started early at the central station of Copenhagen to head to Frederiksborg Castle, which also serves as the National Museum of Denmark.  This castle a short train ride away from Copenhagen, and then a short walk through a quaint town to get to the castle itself.

The castle was built by Christian IV of Denmark in the 17th Century. A beautiful castle, we decided to take a guided tour to ensure we got the full experience and did not regret it. I don’t think I would have learnt as much about the architecture, paintings or history of Denmark without this. Highlights of the tour for me included the Chapel and the Great Hall.

Walking around the lake and via the gardens
Walking around the lake and via the gardens
On the way back to town, one could take the small ferry (also included in the cost of the Copenhagen card). On the day we were there, the ferry was quite busy and it was such a lovely day we decided to walk the other way around the lake and back towards to the train station. This gave us the perfect opportunity to stop and explore the beautifully landscaped gardens.

The beautiful Kronburg aka Shakespeare's Elsinore
The beautiful Kronburg aka Shakespeare’s Elsinore
Back at the train station we took the train towards Helsinore, to see the castle made famous by Shakespeare as the castle of Hamlet, Elsinore (in real life known as Kronborg). Now, out of all the castles in Copenhagen, I was expecting to like this one least. In my head it was more the Tower of London to Frederiksborg’s Hampton Court Palace. How wrong I was. Here we learnt about the control of the sound and how the castle was built to control the duties that needed to be levied for all ships wanting to enter or leave the Baltic Sea via the Sound and relations with Sweden as well as some more of the military history. The walk around the outside of the castle was also pleasant with great views over to Malmo. There are also some nice cafes within the castle walls.

Outside of the castle, much effort has been made to make Helsinore a cultural centre. In 2013, the Kulturhavn Kronburg was made to encourage tourism and includes the National Maritime Museum amongst other things. We didn’t have time to venture in but if we were to go back we would definitely spend a whole day in Helsinore!

After Kroburg, we headed back to Copenhagen. If we had a more leisurely timetable we would have stopped at Louisiana, a beautiful modern art gallery set on the sealine which even from the train I can tell you offered great views across the Sound. Its definitely a must when we return.

 

Throne Room Selfie
Throne Room Selfie

The next day, because we hadn’t had enough of Danish castles we went to Christiansborg, now the home of the Danish Parliament. Our favourite stop here was the Throne Room and the Stables. It also has a Tower which boasts great views of Copenhagen (so I’m told – we were too lazy to walk up!).

The next stop on our palace Tour de Force was Rosenburg, home of the crown jewels. While beautiful this was perhaps my least favourite of the castles as it was by far the busiest. I guess this is what happens when the castle is in the centre of the city and is home to the crown jewels.

Rosenborg Castle
Rosenborg Castle
At 11:30 you can watch the start of the changing of the guard who go all the way from Rosenborg to Amalienborg, the final stop on our trip and the residence of the Danish Royal Family.

The start of the changing of the guard
The start of the changing of the guard

Amalienborg, our last stop
Amalienborg, our last stop
Overall I think Copenhagen may be the greatest city on earth for Castle lovers! The trains are efficient and easy to use so it means you can even travel outside of the city to get your castle fix. If I was doing this with children, which next time we definitely will be we would obviously take this at a much more leisurely pace and would recommend a carrier – these castles aren’t made for prams!

This post was added as part of the #citytripping link up with Wandermum and Mummy Travels 

This post was added as part of #hmcapturingmoments link-up.

Happy Mummy

Flying and Morning Sickness: A Survival Guide

I never had that lovely pregnancy glow – just the morning sick sweats! There wasn’t a toilet within a ten mile radius that I hadn’t stuck my head down. You see I was one of those unfortunate people that suffered morning sickness until my third trimester (where it subsequently had a brief encore). On top of that, my morning sickness was more a morning, noon and night sickness having more oral expulsions than Krakatoa! For me, not travelling during pregnancy was a no no. I have to travel regularly for work and if I was doing that I was sure going to travel for pleasure while we were still only the Wandermust Couple! I’m not saying you should travel while suffering from morning sickness and a doctor should always be consulted – but if like me you have no choice but to fly while morning sick here are my top tips for surviving a flight with morning sickness (I do mean surviving because when flying with morning sickness, this is the best outcome you can hope for):

1. If at all possible fly business or first. I did both of these while pregnant and these journeys were far more pleasurable than when I was back in economy. But let’s face it – this is an option many of us can’t afford when travelling on our own dime

2. Check out the seat configuration of the plane and choose your seat wisely. There is an art form to picking the perfect seat while suffering from morning sickness. An aisle seat is a must! It’s better anyway to help prevent deep vein thrombosis and will help for all those joyous trips to the bathroom that pregnancy gives you. If for some reason you can’t get one, it’s always worth asking fellow passengers. In my experience, no one wants to be vomited on!

You definitely want to be close to the toilets in case your body gives you a five second warning about impending vom! But if bad toilet smells – yep we’ve all been on that flight – or toilet chemicals are your trigger then maybe give yourself a couple of rows leeway. Fortunately for me, neither of these were my triggers so I always opted for an aisle row seat just in front of the bathroom next to the galley. It is always worth checking these seats, as on many planes these are in a two person configuration, which means if you have a midair-seatbelt-sign-on incident, only your partner is going to have to suffer watching you hurl in a little paper bag

3. Hoard the barf bags!. Thankfully present on all flights, these little bags will become your best friend. It is always worth having more than one with you, just in case. Now the biggest tip I have, which was given to me by an ex-stewardess friend is always carry a good supply of ziploc bags. These are great for times when you have no sick bag but also, again for those midair-seatbelt-sign-on incidents – you can put away your lovely bag of vomit discretely and trap in all those lovely aromas at the same time. Your fellow passengers are definitely going to thank you for that one!

Don’t forget to grab a couple of unused barf bags on your way off, I always kept a healthy supply of these in my handbag!

3. Bring on your own food. For me, food smells were my biggest trigger so I always carried on food for me and my hubby to limit the amount of airplane food odours around me and make sure I had something with me I knew I could stomach. For me, this meant a healthy supply of salt and vinegar crisps in the early days and some mints for breath freshener.

4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! I always informed the stewardess at the beginning of the flight about my pregnancy and asked for them to bring me a bottle of water. They never said no and I was always given a large bottle as it would save them time during a flight

5. Sleep, sleep and more sleep – easier said than done I know but if at all all possible try to rest. Travel can be exhausting anyway, let alone travelling while pregnant but I found the better rested I was, the more I was able to deal with the sickness.

6. Extra clothes and tie that hair up  – I doubt this one needs extra explanation

7.. Remember your meds or any remedies doctor has prescribed

Flying and Morning Sickness: A Survival GuideSo they are my top tips for flying while morning sick. During my pregnancy I travelled to 10 countries and did a few long haul flights all with success. Flying with morning sickness is never going to be a pleasurable experience but I hope, that if you have decided to or need to travel while morning sick, these tips will help.

Do you have any tips for surviving a flight while morning sick?

 

 

 

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My Petit Canard

 

Elephant Safari at Udewalawe National Park

In celebration of #elephantday I thought I would share with you an adventure we had when we were just a Wandermust Couple in Sri Lanka! I had never been on safari, so when I got the opportunity to go to Sri Lanka before our upcoming Africa trip, I couldn’t help but feel like we were getting a warm up; an opportunity to test our safari gear, test photography etc. However this was a gross underestimate of how amazing Sri Lanka is!

Elephants cooling off in the Midday sun
Elephants cooling off in the Midday sun
We were looking at possible trips to Yala or Udewalawe National Park but eventually decided on Udewalawe for a number of reasons. Firstly we had heard that Yala, was the more popular of the sights and sometimes you could be fighting with a number of other jeeps to get close to wildlife. Also, despite having fewer elephants, the smaller park size meant there were greater chances of getting a great elephant sighting.

So off we went. We had literally been in the park for four minutes when we came across our

Elephant
Elephant at Udewalawe
first elephant who was more than happy to put on a show, showering himself with water right next to our car. If I had been worried about not seeing elephants, ten minutes inside the park had dispelled any concerns. We must have seen about 50 elephants during our 4 hours in the park. My personal favourite was watching a family of elephants heading into a pool of water to cool off in the midday sun. I couldn’t have asked for a better shot!

On our trip around Udewalawe – we never saw another car and felt like we were really alone with nature. A big shout out has to go to our guides whose eagle eyes caught things we never would have. Other than elephant we saw numerous birds, and I am sure if we had got there earlier in the morning we would have seen even more.

Unfortunately we never saw any leopards which are notoriously difficult to spot – but I will certainly be returning for another shot!

Safaris in Sri Lanka, can rival that of Africa, especially if you are an elephant fan. A recommendation for anyone travelling to Sri Lanka!

One happy Wandermust Mummy
One happy Wandermust Mummy
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Oregon Girl Around the World

 

5 Tips for visiting Souq Waqif with a Baby during the Summer

Whenever we get visitors to Doha the first place they want to go is the Souq Waqif. Why wouldn’t they – the Souq is awesome and gives people a flavour of something uniquely Middle Eastern. Souq Waqif – meaning Standing Market, is located just off the Doha Cornice. A beautiful spot when you can get a real taste for the local culture. It was therefore  no surprise when family came to visit Baby E that they wanted to go to the Souq. Baby E was born as we were heading into summer so was this going to be possible?

It absolutely was! But there are certainly ways to do it that make it more enjoyable for all so here are my top tips for visiting Souq Waqif with a baby in the Summer!

Souq Waqif at night
Souq Waqif at night
Do as the locals do! 

Embrace the night-time. The souq doesn’t really come alive until the evening anyway so do as the locals do and head down to the Souq after sundown. This will be a more authentic experience, have a better atmosphere and cooler for everyone!

Baby carrier or pram? 

This was a big debate we had. The Baby Carrier would make manoeuvrability a lot easier – The main street of Souq Waqif is cobbled, off which are a series of small narrow alleyways lined with shops and traders which aren’t to be missed for a true Souq experience – but carrying a baby that close to you was likely to make us both hot and sweaty. Given the time of year and the heat we opted for the pram. Yes this was a bit more cumbersome but a decision I am glad we took. When we return in the Winter we would definitely use the carrier but for summer months the pram is a must!

Make sure you dress for summer even at night
Make sure you dress for summer even at night
Dress appropriately

This goes without saying for adults, but follow all the rules and customs about keeping shoulders and knees covered as to not cause offence but remember these rules don’t apply to little ones. Dress your little one in vests only to keep them cool but be sure to have blankets with you as many of the Souq restaurants have fierce air-conditioning.

Ask for Lifts

Some of the restaurants have upstairs with lovely terraces or seating areas. Be sure if you are travelling with a pram to ask if there is a lift. The restaurant we were in had one but it was tucked out of sight!

Avoid Shisha

I personally don’t like taking Baby E to places that are smoky, even with shish smoke (which some people wrongly say isn’t as harmful!), so we tend to visit restaurants where they either don’t serve shisha or where smokers are separated from diners.

These are our top five tips for visiting the Souq at night with a baby! What advice would you give?

This post was done as part of the #CityTripping Linkup hosted by MummyTravels

 

Seychelles Mama

 

Surviving the Middle East Summer with a Newborn

Surviving summer in the Middle East with a Newborn

As Doha traffic will testify, most expats leave for the summer; trying to escape the Middle Eastern heat where temperatures can and do exceed 50 degrees. If you are not one of those people able to participate in the mass expat exodus, summer can be a particularly long and difficult time, especially with a newborn! So here are my top tips for surviving a Middle Eastern Summer with a new baby!

Make malls your friend!
I think there are two kinds of people in this world – those that like shopping and those that don’t! I am definitely in the latter of these groups but living in the Middle East, especially in the Summer, you learn to embrace the mall! Not necessarily for shopping but as one of the few places you can go for a walk during the daytime. Many malls in Qatar try to encourage residents to walk 10K steps a day and have routes to achieve this. Ok, I know, it’s not the most riveting walk you will ever go on but it is at least a chance to stretch your legs and have a change of scenery!

Find local groups
While you are stuck at home with your newborn, it can feel like you are the only new mother who hasn’t escaped to cooler climbs but this isn’t the case. You just have to know where to find them. Scope out any local mother and baby groups and go along to one of their events. Let’s face it at this point, outings are more for your sanity than baby’s development so go out there and meet new people.

Become nocturnal (ish)
Ok – this is a piece of advice that I struggle to follow. Baby E is a baby who loves her routine and we have got bedtime down to a tee! I am reticent to change anything that may mess up her sleep schedule but I know other mothers who this has worked a charm for. You will find that many venues in the Middle East only come alive at night – particularly places like the Souq! So do as the locals do and take advantage of the cooler night temperatures! The times we have done it we have had great fun!

Enjoy some culture
Aside from malls, the other thing Qatar is investing is in culture as part of its 2030 vision. There are several great museums in Qatar that you can visit during the summer. The Muesum of Islamic Art and Mathaf  are must sees while in Qatar.

Take advantage of baby’s portability and treat yourself!
It seems hard I know, surviving summer with a newborn but I am pretty sure it only gets more difficult as baby gets older and requires constant entertainment. So why not take advantage of the portability and relative immobility of baby and indulge in some indoor entertainment for yourself. My favourites so far have been indulging in afternoon tea at the Four Seasons (see our review) and an array of business lunches at some of Doha’s finest hotels.

What advice do you have for mothers with newborns for surviving a Middle Eastern summer?