Travel Goods: The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

For the past two years I’ve written a post on all the travel goods I’m secretly eyeing on the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (yes, they ship to Europe!). Nordstrom card holders can begin shopping the sale right now, while us plebeians have to wait until July 21 when it opens to the public. I window shopped online and came up with a list of ten items I’d love to have in my suitcase–all priced for less that $130. Here’s my 2017 list:

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The down-filled, quilted anorak is designed to be rolled up and stashed in your carry-on for a trip with unpredictable weather. Genius!

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I love the crispness of winter white and I think this slim, cable-knit sweater could be easily packed for the après part of an ski weekend in Switzerland.

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San Francisco-based Benefit Cosmetics is one of my favorite brands. Here are all of their cheekily-named bestselling products in travel size. Perfect for a California road trip.

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You should always have a bathing suit packed. No matter where you are traveling. I’m all about the one piece this year (ahem, I just had a baby) and this cut looks flattering.

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White tee-shirt, jeans and a bandana has been a summer uniform of mine for years. This menswear-inspired silk scarf would work easily into autumn trip to Paris.

 

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A Barbour vest for less than $100? Yes please. Hello Scottish Highlands.

 

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I can’t say enough good things about Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Oil, so I’m dying to try Keihl’s whole Anti-Aging line offered in this travel kit. Spa weekend, anyone?

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I don’t know why wearing a leather jacket makes me feel like a photographer on assignment, but I think this version would be perfect in too-cool Amsterdam.

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Too wild for you? I’m prone to wearing all black in the winter, so I think these leopard ankle booties would take my look up a notch when I’m strolling through London.

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This Longchamp tote bag is my secret weapon when I’m traveling with a baby. It zips out an extra few inches of space so you can make room for whatever you add along the way.

My five favorite baby travel products

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The Skip Hop Pronto! Baby Changing Station

This snazzy clutch turns any surface into a diaper changing station and goes absolutely everywhere the baby goes. It has gotten us out of some pretty tight jams… such as that diaper explosion at the upscale denim store in Paris. Yikes.

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Babyzen Yoyo+ Stroller

I’m going to dedicate an entire blog post to how much I love this stroller. It zips in and out of tight corners at restaurants. I can lift it onto trains and busses by myself. It folds up to almost nothing. It is perfect for our go-go-go lifestyle. This stroller takes your baby from leaving the hospital up to a 40-pound child. Designed by two French engineers, it is truly a feat of design. (Don’t believe me? Watch the video).

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Noisli Mobile Application

Our good friends with twins recommended this “noise machine” application for our mobile phones as their go-to sleep aid. White noise soothes his crying. Raindrops are his favorite napping sound. We’re totally addicted. Oh and so is the baby.

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The Ergobaby 360 Baby Carrier

This carrier is especially key when traveling to places that are not stroller-friendly– sandy beaches, hiking paths and Paris. (I truly have no idea how disabled people navigate Paris!) The baby also loves being so close to us when we’re wearing him in the carrier, so it has become our favorite way to calm him. With the newborn insert, it can take the baby from birth to 33 pounds.

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Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Oil

I slather this on the baby every night before bed… just kidding. This product is for me, my sanity and my now rapidly-aging skin. It smells like lavender and transports me to a luxurious, mental spa. It has become such a part of my nighttime routine that I picked up the one-ounce travel size.

The one thing I don’t have: A diaper bag! I kept meaning to buy one before the baby arrived, but never found one I liked. I’d actually prefer a backpack style so I can be hands-free. What do you use? Meanwhile, a few links on baby travel:

This travel site claims to be the Airbnb for families

Experts say these are the 10 baby travel products to buy

Is this the holy grail of baby packing lists?

Our travel crib has yet to leave our apartment, but we like it!

The 15 best places to travel with a baby

When The Bachelorette comes to town

Geneva! On The Bachelorette! I was floored to see my city as the backdrop of the latest episode. Either the rumor mill isn’t very active in Geneva or I’ve been too preoccupied, because I didn’t hear a word about Rachel filming in Geneva. Anyway, the episode opens with aerial scenes of Geneva. The Jet d’Eau. Cathédrale Saint Pierre. The United Nations. Old Town. And the city could not look better…

“This is an expensive city; this is a luxurious city,” Bachelorette Rachel says at the beginning of one of her dates. True, Rachel. That is why we don’t attract as many backpackers and college students as other European cities. Geneva simply isn’t affordable! I was happy to see that the the t.v. show didn’t shy away from the pricey reality. Rachel and her date drive around town in a Bentley convertible, drink champagne on a boat and go watch shopping.

“This is a city to fall in love in and I am 100% falling in love…” Rachel says at another point. And watching the episode–the strolls through cobblestoned Old Town and moonlit kisses by the lake–I was feeling the same way. Geneva is romantic. Geneva is charming. Why did it take a silly show like The Bachelorette to remind me what a beautiful city I live in? I am quick to complain about all the annoyances of everyday life in Switzerland, I’m thankful I tuned in to the ridiculous-yet-addictive reality show.

Did you watch? What did you think? Are you ready to fly to Geneva?

Meanwhile, a few links for your week:

My favorite camping spot in Switzerland: The Bernese Oberland

Is this the book of the summer? Everyone is talking about it

Summer and soup do go together

…or maybe you’d rather just read about cooking

I’ll watch anything this actress is in. Anything.

Apparently, these are the trips I should be taking now

Long time, no blog…

… because we had a baby! Please forgive me? Parenthood is demanding. And wonderful.

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Grant Ruedi was born March 24, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. His middle name comes from my great-great-grandfather Henry Rüedi, who was also born in Switzerland.

Grant is a smiley, wriggly, chirpy three-month-old who has stolen our hearts (and our sleep!). We could not be more in love with this little diaper-clad fellow.

Grant has already been to the Washington D.C., Paris and parts of Switzerland, so I’m learning a good bit about traveling with a baby. I will write more about what I’ve learned when I find the time (so please be patient). Goodness knows I rely heavily on the community of other writers with babies when it comes to my travel questions.

Also, there is also much to share about giving birth abroad and becoming an expat mother. And on taking a passport photo of a two-week-old. Wow.

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For now, some fun links from around the world:

I’m obsessed with this Motherhood Around the World series

One of the more unusual things to pack in your suitcase

Ten summer date ideas (We used to do #3 pre-baby)

An offbeat country I’m secretly hoping to visit

Sangria two ways would go very nicely with these ribs made in the oven

Our mothers were cool …been thinking about this since becoming a mom!

And also a piece on becoming a father

How to be mindful on your summer vacation

The truth behind travel blogs

Dreaming of the Emerald Isle

What better day than St. Patrick’s Day to reminisce on one of my favorite trips I’ve ever taken: My road trip through Ireland.

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To be perfectly honest, I never had a deep longing to visit Ireland like I had for Thailand or Morocco before my sister and I spent four days discovering this beautiful country. I think I’d written Ireland off as un-exotic, but now I can admit I was completely wrong.

I’d argue that Ireland is the perfect destination for an American traveler who’s itching to visit Europe. Flights from the U.S. to Ireland are inexpensive and fast. A flight from New York to Dublin runs about six hours and can cost anywhere from $200 to $800 depending on when you book the tickets. The time difference is just five hours, making jet lag easier to overcome if you only have a long weekend. Once you arrive, you can choose from a variety of different vacations, depending on what you desire:

  • Shopping and bar-hopping in Dublin;
  • Relaxing on the beach in County Kerry;
  • Road-tripping through the Irish Highlands;
  • Exploring castles in southern Ireland;
  • Soaking up music and culture in Galway; and
  • Enjoying a country cottage in central Ireland.

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My sister and I tried to soak up as much of Ireland as we could on a short timeline:

Day one. We met at Dublin Airport (she flying from the U.S., me from Switzerland) and immediately hit the road in our tiny rental car–headed west. We spent our first evening in Limerick, checking out the local art scene and having a proper fish and chips in a pub.

Day two. We drove northwest to see the Cliffs of Moher and the breathtakingly beautiful coast, picking up some wool goods on the way. By late afternoon, we arrived in charming Galway. We spent the evening strolling through town and eating our weight in their world famous oysters (try Oscar’s Seafood Bistro if you’re in Galway).

Day three. We drove from Galway to Dublin Airport and returned our rental car, and then headed into downtown Dublin. We paid a little more to stay in a Temple Bar area hotel so we could walk to everything we wanted to see. That night we found a raucous pub in our neighborhood with live music and made friends with the locals.

Day four. We visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then the Guinness Factory, taking in two sides of Ireland’s history. We strolled through St. Stephen’s park and shopped Grafton Street, enjoying the fantastic weather and local conviviality everywhere we went. We ended our trip at a decidedly non-Irish spot–an Indian restaurant–but man, that lamb curry was delicious!

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I was bowled over by Ireland’s natural beauty and charmed by her people’s friendliness. Our itinerary was a great introduction to Ireland, but if I’m lucky enough to return to Ireland I’d head to the coast or the Highlands. I’d be happy holing up in a little cottage for a few days. A fireplace, copper tea kettle and bicycles are non-negotiables. Meanwhile, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here are a few links to tempt you to book that Ireland vacation:

In preparation of bébé

This week I ironed our draperies, organized our spice rack and donated shoes I haven’t worn in a year. To say that I’m in “nesting mode” would be an understatement. The nest is clean and I’m running out of things to feather it with. Honestly, I can’t help myself. When it comes to expecting a baby, this is one of the few moments where I’ve felt like a stereotype straight out of a romantic comedy. Otherwise, the past nine months have been pretty uneventful.

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I keep reminding myself that no matter how many times I scrub the bathtub, it will not actually prepare me for the major life change I’m about to undergo. No amount of windex is going to ready me for parenthood. Which is why I’ve taken to asking my friends with children how I should actually prepare for our little one… due, any minute now. Their responses have been varied, but all on the same theme: Relax. Read. Bake. Get a haircut. Go for a walk. Enjoy time with your spouse. Do whatever you want and when you want to do it, right now. You won’t have that luxury again for a while.

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Unsurprisingly, one of my favorite ways to relax is to research future travel. Even if these dream vacations do not take place for months, I love visualizing myself in new places–stroller, diaper bag and bottles in tow. (Apparently, the three-to-nine-month age range is the sweet spot for baby travel.) Some of the places that are striking my fancy right now:

  • This Alpine retreat where neighbors wouldn’t hear a crying baby
  • This train that could allow us to see the Scottish Highlands car seat-free
  • A baby-friendly coastal home with rooftop pool in Portugal
  • A Barcelona hotel with cribs, babysitting and all-day snacks

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Do you have any baby travel tips? Would you travel with a baby? I’m all ears.

What it’s like living in the world’s ‘best country’

US News & World Report ranked Switzerland this week the “best country in the world” on its annual Best Countries report. The ranking does not surprise me–life here is pretty good–but it’s far from perfect, so I thought I’d delve into what Swiss life is like for an outsider.

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More on the report

The report analyzed 80 countries on attributes that are “relevant to the success of a modern nation” such as: Adventure, citizenship, cultural influence, entrepreneurship, heritage, movers, business, power and quality of life.

“Switzerland debuts as the world’s ‘top’ country, in part because of its progressive social systems, protection of human rights and business-friendly environment,” the authors wrote in their report. Overall, Switzerland scored nine out of ten points on metrics such as “cares about the environment,” “religious freedom” and “cares about human rights.” Switzerland also scored a perfect ten for “safety” and “economically stable.”

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My take on the report

If I had to pinpoint my top “quality of life” metric about living in Switzerland, it would be safety. Violent crime is basically non-existent in Switzerland, so I feel safe everywhere here. Every street I walk down, every bus I ride, every poorly-lit park I walk through as the sun sets. It is as if I’ve been holding tightly onto something inside of me–like I might hold onto my purse on a crowded D.C. metro–that I’ve finally released while living in Switzerland. I’m not looking over my shoulder. I’m carefree. And that feeling is worth so much more than I can quantify.

Switzerland cares about the environment more than any place I’ve ever lived and I was literally the poster child for composting in the 90’s (my one and only modeling gig). Recycling, composting and using public transportation has been ingrained in the Swiss mindset for generations. The Swiss do not brag about solar panels or eating farm-to-table, because it is simply something everyone does every day thanks to the government’s commitment to green initiatives. This country is the perfect example of how small, every day habits can slow climate change. Switzerland is committed to making big changes, too.

As far as economic stability, Switzerland certainly lives up to its ultra-wealthy reputation. National debt and unemployment do not often make Swiss headlines…if ever, come to think of it. That said, the Swiss rely on foreign businesses keeping money in their banks and their lenient tax laws may not be sustainable for much longer. But for an expat family who is paid in dollars, it is challenging living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. An average coffee is $8, a McDonald’s meal is $15 and a movie ticket is $25. We didn’t move here to eat Big Macs, but even grocery shopping can be appalling. Thank goodness the best Switzerland has to offer is free: Nature.

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Too good to be true?

Switzerland’s “top ranking comes from consistently high scores in ‘soft power’ areas, such as providing an inclusive society and a high quality of life for its people,” said US News contributor Christopher F Schuetze, adding that this perception doesn’t take into account Switzerland’s growing issues such as nationalistic populism, dependency on EU trade and difficulties foreigners have finding jobs.

Oh Mr. Schuetze, how right you are! 

Being a Swiss citizen is good. Very good. If you happen to have been born in Switzerland, you’ve won the jackpot. But even being born here like our son will be does not mean he’s a citizen, since Switzerland does not grant citizenship to babies of foreign parents. He will always be an outsider like us and the Swiss are not kind to outsiders, thanks to rising “nationalistic populism” which is being used as an excuse for the government to enact xenophobic policies.

So, you still want to move to Switzerland and become a productive member of its society? Don’t hold your breath. If a Swiss company wants to hire a foreigner it has to first prove that it advertised to and tried to hire any Swiss citizen who was interested in the position, despite his or her qualifications for the job. And having a job offer on the table first is the only way to obtain a temporary visa to live in Switzerland. It took us stacks of paperwork and countless hours to prove that we deserved a coveted one-year visa to live and work in Switzerland. Each year, we do it all over again.

Luckily, we are not seeking asylum from a war-torn country or trying to receive some of Switzerland’s top notch health care for a debilitating condition. We are living here to “have an experience,” which is something only privileged citizens of a first world country would do.

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Living in the world’s “best country” is good, but that “good” comes with an asterisk. It is good if you have enough money to afford living here and it is “#1 in the world good” if you are a citizen. Otherwise, Switzerland can be a very unwelcome place.

We’re going to enjoy the ride as long as we can!