Monday, 1 June 2015

Our Trip to Tallinn

Around eight weeks ago Chris and I took Teddy on his first holiday, a 3 day break to Tallinn, Estonia. I'll be honest with you, the destination choice was wholly governed by money. As we were travelling in a school holiday (the perks of being married to a teacher) flights to most of the places we fancied, including Madrid, Barcelona and Dubrovnik, were all pretty damn expensive. I had almost written the city break idea off altogether when I did a skyscanner search along the lines of 'Manchester to Anywhere' for our dates and discovered that Tallinn was a much cheaper alternative.

Cue a read of the Lonely Planet guide and some general internet research, from which I learnt that Tallinn looked very attractive indeed, aesthectically and on the bank balance. So a short text to Chris ("Do you want to go to Tallinn? It looks nice and has cheap beer") followed by an even shorter response ("Yes") later and we were booked to fly with Ryanair. The next step was to find a hotel, and this was a very pleasant experience because there actually isn't a huge amount of choice (compared to other European cities), especially if you want to stay inside the Old Town itself.  We chose the Merchants House Hotel because of its location, its individuality and the free standing baths! I may have a bit of an obsession with them.

This choice turned out to be a great one, as we absolutely loved the hotel. As Tallinn accommodation prices are generally very reasonable, again especially when you compare them to other capital cities, we could afford to stay in this type of boutique hotel and even upgrade to a suite. We decided that as we were travelling with a 9 month old in tow we wouldn't be out partying every night so it made sense to spend the money on a nice room which we would be spending a significant amount of time in. I contacted the hotel directly to ask about the size of the rooms and fitting in a travel cot, and they offered me a great deal (cheaper than the website price) for the suite which sealed the deal.

So off we went... we decided to borrow a buggy rather than take Teddy's pram/car seat combination which worked out fine for us. We drove to the airport and parked there meaning he was in his car seat for that part of the journey, and I checked out the taxi laws in Tallinn which confirmed he could go on one of our knees for the 10 minute journey from airport to hotel. Teddy stayed in his buggy at the airport and we didn't have to hand it over until we boarded the plane. I found the majority of the travelling process with Teddy to be fine. Luckily the flights were at decent times and we managed to keep Teddy awake for a good while beforehand so for both journeys he was tired by the point of take off. As soon as we boarded he had a bottle which sent him off, and he then slept for about 1.5 hours, leaving us with about an hour and twenty minutes to entertain him. We did so by dragging out giving him a meal, reading to him and letting him bang the fold down tray with his toy hammer (hi there fellow passengers!). Although it wasn't bad, I wouldn't want to go on a budget flight for much longer as there was a serious shortage of space. Maybe it would be ok if we paid for extra legroom or a first row though I guess.

One more bit of baby chat before I talk about the actual destination. Food and milk wise for Teddy we took two large ready made aptamil bottles which we put in the checked in bag and stored in the fridge in his room, then 6 small 7oz bottles for when we were out and about. We took two pouches per day and the same in fruit pots. For sterilising we took 4 bottles and purchased these disposable sterilising bags from boots which were great. Teddy tried a fair bit of food when we ate out, and had breakfast every day from the hotel buffet, but it was good to have the pouches for ease of use and to make sure he was eating enough.

Tallinn is split into the Old Town and the surrounding areas, the latter of which are often frequented by stag (and the occasional hen) dos but we didn't come across any once we were there. Full of cobbled streets and picturesque churches the Old Town is really beautiful and is really easy to navigate. I would say that three days was enough as it isn't very big, but then again you could spend much more time there if you wanted to visit all of the museums and galleries on offer. We aren't always museum people, and less so with Teddy, so we spent most of our time wandering the town's shops, bars and restaurants. We visited the main tourist attractions like St Katherine's passage, where we booked into a great Italian restaurant that did the best carbonara I have ever tasted, and the famous hot chocolate cafe Pierre Chocolaterie with its candlelit velvet interior.

We also spent one day visiting the zoo, which was fairly impressive given the next to nothing admission fee. It was really big and although some sections were under construction it was definitely worth the bus ride and we spent about 3 hours walking round.  That evening we walked out of the old town and round the back of the train station to an area called Telliskivi which is apparently where the cool kids hang out. We followed a recommendation from the app I had downloaded, Live Like a Local (which is really good) and went to F-Hoone for food and drinks. Despite it being a trendy hang out, no surprise was shown at us rocking up with a baby at 8pm and it was very child friendly.  The same goes for all of the bars and restaurants we went to to be honest, it is definitely a place that embraces young families. 

Weather wise it was a bit hit and miss; the first two days it was fairly chilly and coats were definitely needed. On our last day however the sun came out and as we sat outside having a few beers in the main square it felt pretty damn hot! The main square itself is very colourful and picturesque, evidenced by the amount of people posing for snaps there. I expected the prices in the bars which surround the square to be high (hello Rome) but was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no real difference between here and the backstreet bars. 

One final reason why I would recommend Tallinn is the time difference. They are two hours ahead and Teddy stuck to his loose routine based on UK time, meaning that he would wake at 9-10ish Tallinn time, making for a nice couple of lie ins! Similarly he wouldn't need to eat tea until 8pm in Tallinn which meant we weren't back in the hotel room too early. We hadn't planned to keep Teddy to UK time for naps and eating, it just naturally happened. 

It was so nice to go away and I think that we definitely did it at the right time. It seems that in the couple of months since we went Teddy's mobility has soared, and I can't see him being as happy now to spend as long being pushed around or sat in high chairs. He is all about the exploring right now! Having said that he did get to see lots of new things, and tasted numerous beer mats and restaurant menus. You stay classy child! 

I imagine that is enough for now :-) All in all it was a great trip and a lovely place for Teddy's first city break. Get it on your travel wish list! 

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