Welcome home!


You guys, I missed you!  A month is a long time to take a trip around the world and not be at my desk.  A long, glorious, wonderful, adventure filled month.  And while I’m sad I’m not still in Europe, I’m really happy to be home, and I honest and truly missed you and missed our regular, you know, interactions on the interwebs.


25 Things I Learned by Taking a Month off Blogging & Traveling to Europe:

  1. I really like my kids.  A lot.  I’ve really missed spending time with them while I’ve been working like a madwoman over the past several years.  Spending time with them, in very close quarters, over the last month has made me appreciate motherhood that much more.
  2. It’s impossible to get sick of my husband.  His personality changes every 20 minutes, so it’s like I’m hanging out with a new guy every hour!  More fun than a bag of tricks, that one.
  3. Americans really don’t walk enough.  Like, at all.  We walked an average of 5 miles a day, minimum, every single day and it was fabulous.  Even my crap Lupus body loved it.
  4. 25 hours of travel EACH WAY is a lot.  Enough to make a sane person feel crazy.  Enough that even new release movies on Air France held no appeal.  Enough that I paid $10 for a flimsy Ranger Rick type magazine in Paris for the kids, and blew another $40 on three magazines for myself just because they were in English and looked like they could hold my attention for a handful of minutes.
  5. 25 hours of travel for a 6-year-old boy is crazy making.  See also: Nintendo Dsi’s are worth their weight in gold.
  6. Airplane food really is that bad.  Horrible.  There was a flea on my baguette.  And the stewardesses on Air France will yell at you for not eating your food, and will call you Ugly Americans in French.
  7. There is no equal to European architecture.
  8. Cathedrals really are that breathtaking.  But if you’re wondering, yes, they do smell like they’ve been around since the 1300’s.
  9. Speaking of smells… You know how Europeans can travel all over for extended periods of time without packing more than a tiny little backpack?  Showers are optional.  And that’s okay.
  10. While the American obsession with soda is catching on in Europe {sadly?} Coca Cola light really does taste all wrong.  As does Pepsi Light, while we’re at it.  Diet Dr Pepper, can we get into that market already?  Please?
  11. Traveling by train really is all it’s cracked up to be.  Sleeping on a train is even better.
  12. Austria even more breathtaking than you expect it to be.  Which is hard to imagine but totally true.
  13. The Alps took my breath away.  Literally.  And I live in the Rocky Mountains and have ridden horses and camped through the Tetons my whole life.  I was speechless at the base of the Alps.  Totally emotional.
  14. American bread has some slack to pick up.
  15. Speaking of slack, why on earth is sparkling water so difficult to get at the grocery store in America?  Why isn’t it a default option everywhere?  Still water is for sissies.
  16. I really can live with 3 pair of shoes and a handful of clothes.  In fact, it’s pretty liberating to live like a minimalist.
  17. Children can be completely flexible.  Like go to sleep on a train in one country, wake up at 6 a.m. in another, grab your bags and walk around a city for 16-hours-in-one-day before getting on another train, flexible.  They’re little rock stars when they need to be.
  18. Taking ugly very American walking shoes was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.  Cobblestones are rough, and they randomly flip up and pop out of place all the time.  See also: #17
  19. Drinkable European yogurt is the greatest thing since the printing press.  Period.
  20. European playgrounds put our sad American playgrounds to shame.  SHAME.  All this “safety” equipment and rigorous standards are ridiculous.  We found zip-lines, 60-foot slides, massive swings, 30-foot climbing walls, and merry go rounds.  I’m embarrassed to take my kids to the park now.
  21. Bathhouses really are the bees knees.  Even though we saw Rasputin and he lived up to his name, speed-o and all.
  22. Public transportation in America should be embarrassed.  Hanging its collective head in shame.  Afraid to show its face.
  23. All the sacrifice, penny pinching, preparation, stress, and planning that goes into a once-in-a-lifetime trip like this was worth it.  1000%
  24. Gypsies really, uh, live up to their gypsy reputation.
  25. If you’re in Warsaw and you’re craving Mexican food, don’t order the Nachos.  No really, don’t.  Please.  For all of us.
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Hello there! I'm Allison Czarnecki, founder + editor of Petit Elefant, a blog all about style on a budget for every part of your life: style / home / travel / family. I do a lot of how-to beauty + style tutorials, travel posts, easy recipes, home remodel projects, and cool DIY crafts you totally want to try. I'm super happily married (to a hot Polish immigrant) and am the mother of two kids, a daughter and son, all of whom are featured here on the regular. We live in the country but we're a little bit rock + roll. Welcome!


  1. Natalie :

    Welcome home! That sounds like an amazing trip, and your kids are lucky to have you!

    I would be so devastated if they ruined Diet DP though, so maybe that should just be an American thing. Those Europeans have everything else!

  2. emma :

    so glad you’re back! but I’m sooo jealous. I want to go too! one day though. one day. when the kids are older maybe. I’m so happy everything went great. so many memories I bet! Thanks for sharing!

  3. maile :

    I’m so glad you’re back. And loved every word of this! What a fun adventure!

  4. Michelle :

    Missed you too! Glad the trip was a success – I’ve cried every time I’ve come home from a vacation in Europe. Not that I don’t love America and all it stands for – there are just things that are fantastic overseas that don’t work as well here. Starting with transportation, bicycling, food, clothes, different way of life, etc. That being said – the diet sodas there are bleh! If you read and dig on the Coca Cola website enough (as I did after a debate with my FIL), Coca Cola freely admits that they change the formulation for their product in different markets and countries! So you are correct – it tastes different – I think it’s kind of “oily”. The parks you showed looked AMAZING – and we can get sparkling water pretty much at any grocery store in the suburbs of
    Chicago, sorry. Don’t you guys have a Trader Joe’s out there? Target? Ask, they should order you some:)
    Welcome Home!!!

  5. Kelleyn :

    So glad you are home, and glad you had a wonderful time. I agree with you on the bread. I bought a loaf of bread the other day, it looked so pretty and then I tasted it-yuck! I was tricked. It wasn’t European bread by any means. The mountains in Europe put ours to shame. I learned that when my husband took me to Austria to ski and I fell on my butt about a gazillion times. Though I kind of had that feeling it wasn’t going to be good when I looked out our friends apartment in the morning and realized how much taller the mountains were compared to Utah. Can’t wait to see your photos!

  6. Lisa Boshell :

    Welcome back! This is totally random, but I just found out this weekend that my brother is friends with your husband… they even went golfing together on Friday. Is it weird that this makes me feel important because I get to tell brother that I read your blog, so I know all about you?

    • Michal :

      Craig is a swell guy. And the golf, the golf was kind of a dud because we got bumped by the entire Spanish-Fork-JV-football-team-shootout-shotgun-booster-club-fundraiser-extraordinaire.

  7. Katrina :

    Too much to chew on! First of all glad you are back :)
    being with a European man for 12+ years gives me lots of opinions as follows
    1. Walking… 100% agreed! Wish there was more time for people watching :)
    2. I can’t handle 4 hrs to Cali, so scared for Europa.
    3. My airplane food was good { http://babicmama.blogspot.com/2011/05/plane-ride-with-children.html } , but flea, ewwww
    4. Trains and public transpo; heard so much about it, can’t wait!
    5. Bread is the one and ONLY staple in my hubbies diet, and he is uber picky about what kind.
    6. Faygo makes sparkling water, that is what I use to make this:
    { http://babicmama.blogspot.com/2011/03/raspberry-italian-soda.html }
    7. Ahhhh Cobblestone roads… {daydreaming now}

    • Michal :

      I had my apple juice held hostage by the flight attendant until I said “jus de pomme” to her satisfaction and then Allison got an earful because she let the kids eat their desert first. My folks seem to only fly Virgin and I’m starting to see that it might be worth that extra little bit if you’re stuck in the same metal tube for 12 hours with the same folks. America > Air France.

      • Katrina :

        WOW! Harsh people :)
        Did you go to any former Yugoslavia countries?

  8. Michelle :

    Welcome back! I can’t believe it’s been a month! I’m so glad that you had a great time and I’m glad you’re back!

  9. The Mommy Therapy :

    Welcome back. What a fantastic list.

    So glad you had a great time and that you brought sensible shoes, that’s a decision one will never regret.

    Your list made me optimistic that possibly some day I will really enjoy hanging out with my kids on a vacation instead of loathing the thought of them being anywhere other than their bed by 7 pm.

    Hope your jet lag isn’t too rough!

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. jodi :

    welcome back! sounds like a completely amazing adventure.

  11. Donna :

    Glad to have you back! Take me next time. Wait, I feel a Girls’ weekend coming on, except more like a week in Europe!! hee hee

  12. Marie :

    Welcome home!! Loved this list. I’ve got to take a train someday, life list!

  13. Mrslimestone :

    Welcome home – what an amazing trip. Good for you for doing what so many people say is impossible – soaking up the world withyour children.

    I’m totally with you on everything but the coke light thing – I prefer it to diet coke.

  14. Kristen :

    Welcome back! We missed you, too!

    I love every bit of that list. I can’t wait to take a trip like that with my kids.

  15. Kelly :

    So glad you guys had a good time!

  16. Rachel :

    So happy to hear you had a great time! I’m loving your perspective on Europe. After living here in the Netherlands for the last 6 yrs, I’ve also come to “discover” things about the US vs EU…

    10. I can answer the thing about why your coke/pepsi/Dr.P may taste different – another poster, Michelle is right, it is different. Here in NL the coke is actually made with sugar cane and not corn syrup…I’m assuming something similiar is being done in other countries and products as well.

    4. Yes buying english magazines and books is wacko crazy expensive here. That’s why I have my parents send me mags for birthdays and holidays and I hoard them over the year till I fly back for visits. Why didn’t you cram that Nook of yours with tons of magazines???? I know you can’t download new things while in the EU -which unfortunatly is why I can’t get one- but you could have used it and saved your moolaa. :)

    Can’t wait to see more pictures of your adventures and hear more stories!!

  17. Kristen :

    Polish Mexican food! When in Krakow, some friends took me to a Mexican restaurant. Though last I checked, cabbage and peanuts were not Mexican food! But as they were so excited to share their favorite restaurant with me, I told them it was the best “Polish-Mexican Mix” I’d ever had! And sadly, London’s just as bad – the European obsession with Mexican food continues… I never knew you could literally kill guacamole.

    • Michal :

      The base layer on the nachos was made from Doritos. ?_?

  18. elz :

    We missed you! So glad you had an amazing time. I was lucky enough to live in Europe for years and then return for part of graduate school. I firmly believe that every person needs to live/travel in Europe for a minimum of one month in their lifetime!

  19. Kami :

    The train ride sounds so cool! I would love to do something like this. What an adventure for your kiddos at such a young age!

  20. Jo-Lynne {Musings of a Housewife} :

    I can’t wait to hear more. And um, #7? SERIOUSLY? UGH!

    But the rest of it… I can only imagine how true it is. I have NEVER been to Europe. This just sounds fabulous. SO SO happy for you and your family. What an experience. They’ll never forget it.

  21. Darla :

    Um..I don’t know if this is a good thing or a horrible thing that I found your blog. Oh no, I want more!! What a fun list of European to do/to have/to be envious of! I wanna go now! Funny, I’ve never had the European travel bug like so many do..I’ve always imagined myself backpacking South America. But after reading this? Oh, I’m in. :)

  22. Rosstwinmom :

    Great post!

    We just moved from Texas to Poland this year. I totally agree with the playgrounds, walking, and public transportation. My boys rode trains in Warsaw all day as amusement. And, our favorite playground death-trap is this giant bar with arms on three sides. Each arm has a chain to hang from. Then, you just spin the arms and watch kids fall off.