Recently a friend of mine and I decided that it would be a good idea to take a mini-vacation to Almaty Kazakhstan. The kids needed a change of scenery and we needed Starbucks.
Luckily our kids, (hers 6 and 12) and Mine (2) love each other and are best friends so they were all very excited about spending a few days together.
My first big realization on this trip was that Little Love is no longer a baby. And being 2, I now actually have to pay for a seat for her on the plane. I also have to figure out how to get her to stay in said seat with seatbelt fastened during take-off and landing. Cue ALL the snacks.
She actually managed the short trip really well and with the help of our trusted friend “hIPad” there were no major meltdowns. No mom-shaming please, limited screen-time is often my only saving grace, #toddlermom.
We arrived at the airport on the other side to find out that the hotel had only sent one car to pick up all 2 adults, 3 kids, 4 suitcases and a stroller. After some broken English / Russian conversations and translation plea phone calls to the hotel we found another car and a hair raising drive into the city ensued – at least there were lines on the road!
We were very pleasantly surprised by all the green. There was no dust. The sky was blue and I could breathe (I think I only blew my nose like 4 times the entire trip!)
Being a former Soviet country, the use of the Russian language is huge. The use of English, not so much. We definitely struggled to communicate. We felt a slight sense of animosity towards us “Americans” and a definite refusal to assist us unless I broke out my very limited Russian and at least tried to converse. We struggled with cabs because we could not communicate and as soon as they smelled the foreigner on us the price quadrupled. I would strongly suggest getting a local phone plan so that you can use Uber and Maps to find your way around without having to actually speak to people unless absolutely necessary.
I won’t give you a day-by-day breakdown but will highlight a few activities for reference and entertainment’s sake.
McDonald’s – The kids (yes all 5 of us) were very excited to see one a block away from our hotel. Lunch on the day 1 was the first of many visits. My favorite thing on the menu – ice cold Coke…with ice.
Zoe got to experience McDonald’s milkshakes. Unfortunately I think that there may be an allergy in there somewhere due to the fact that poop-splosions happened shortly after … every time …
We moms were even more excited to discover that a block away from McDonalds was in fact a Starbucks. Many visits were paid to this establishment too. My takes – Vanilla Latte, slightly different; Green Tea Lemonade – did not include Lemonade; Vanilla Chai Latte – Just what I needed!
After attempting to find the Zoo, we ended up at an Amusement Park (it had a petting zoo so I guess is kinda counts). Many meltdowns happened here. Most were because Little Love was too little to go on some most of the rides. Some because she did not get to ride in the Pink car, but had to go in the blue one instead.
When the moms couldn’t take it anymore we hiked through the city trying to find a cab, instead we found our trusted Starbucks, and with their free WiFi were able to get an Uber to the mall. Of course we ended up at the wrong mall… but it had A/C, and Pizza Hut. Little Love feel asleep in her pram and we were able to enjoy some quiet time browsing the stores and realizing that we couldn’t afford anything. Thank you international mark-ups.
Next, the part I was most excited about – Dinner at Ocean Basket. Who knew that I would find a favorite South African sea food chain in Almaty Kazakhstan? But we went (it was at the other mall…) and we ate a lot! Unfortunately they didn’t serve alcohol and they ran out of ice for the lemonade but they had a kid’s play area and we got to eat in relative peace.
We did in fact make it to the zoo on another day. Not much to say about it except that my 2 year old did not love the zoo as much as I hoped she would.
We took a trip up the mountain which was great. It warmed my heart that when I told Little Love that she was going on a cable car she immediately associated that with Table Mountain. Her favorite part was probably drinking ice cold mountain water out of her new cup that mummy had to buy.
Of course there were many more delicious meals consumed and a few more meltdowns and disagreements that I wont go into. But it was a great break and a much needed getaway. I’m lucky to have great friends that I can travel with and I’m lucky that those friends have great kids to keep mine occupied so I can relax a bit.