Recently, my husband and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Georgia. No, not the one in the U.S. but the one in Europe, the one neighboring Russia. It seemed like such an exotic choice. Unexplored, new, exciting. But as family (extended) vacations go, dates are mulled over and apartments are debated on until finally all 5 members have reached an agreement. But this time, we weren’t just 5. We were 5 and a half. I had to think about the little one. Would she be comfortable? Is the space enough to accommodate her when she needs silence to sleep? Can she get around easily? Or rather, can I get around easily with her? But all this I’ll tell you later. The interesting bit was that suddenly there was a little person in the mix and everything had to be evaluated carefully. Once all was done, we were on our way. But going on a trip with her, felt infinitely different then when I travelled alone or with my husband. Suddenly you’re analyzing flight times, transport options, weight limits, weather (I was monitoring this closely), distances and noise levels (yes I was actually concerned about the noise level in certain places). I must say, the entire dynamic of a vacation changes. But it’s interesting and well, it’s done with so much love that you forget how you travelled before. So let me give you a little tour of our trip and add in some pointers of all those out there wanting to take a little one to this fascinating and underrated country.
So, the dates were set for end September/beginning October. It was a good time for everyone to meet and also, the weather we predicted would be slightly chilly. We were wrong. For the entire trip, 5 days to be exact, the weather was a hot 26-29 degrees Celsius and at night dropped enough to require a thin sweater. So all those sweaters, leggings and hats I bought the baby were actually a waste. She used to leggings only once when we went to the wine country. So if you’re planning to go around this time, even until mid October, you’re fine with sleeveless shirts, shorts and a light cardigan. What you do need are good running or walking shoes because the topography is very uneven and the streets are cobbled, which is romantic but not very walking-friendly.
Then came the flight decision. It’s a perfect flight with a little one. Just 2 hours 45 minutes, which is a breeze considering you’re going to another continent. But. The only flight that goes from here directly to Tbilisi is flydubai. Now don’t frown. It’s really not so bad. You can purchase the front seats, which are spacious and comfortable even when holding a baby. And for a tiny amount more, you can get Business Class seats. The food selection is meh but the entertainment options are infinite. I doubt you’ll be blazing through movies on a 3 hour flight.
You can always choose other options but we really didn’t want a stopover on such a short flight. So with our jackets one (which we realized we didn’t need), we were on our way and soon landed in Tbilisi. The airport is small, no duty free (much to my disappointment) and the immigration lines aren’t bad. The staff is courteous and quick and soon we were at baggage claim. There is a line of cabs outside and I’ve been warned to always ask them the fare in GEL not USD because that confusion has sometimes lead to being overcharged. But we were lucky. We were picked up by our hotel manager, a sweet man who runs Vera House Apartments. This was by far the best place we could have picked. He was nice enough to pick up us and not only drop us home, but he also took my husband to pick up some food right after, at midnight too!
The apartment Verahouse is spacious, extremely well placed and can fit 6-7 adults. It has 3 bedrooms, with two king-size beds and one room with twin beds. The manager was very diligent about cleanliness and we came home to a spic and span apartment. The kitchen is relatively well-stocked and there is an ample amount of other amenities like towels, tissues. Some stuff we had to buy ourselves, but overall, it was an excellent apartment and what made it wonderful was the hosts. He himself couldn’t speak English too well, but his kids could and they guided us very well. In fact, we requested for a toaster and a pedestal fan, and they were prompt in buying and providing it for us. So if you’re in the city someday, I highly recommend Verahouse (you can click on the link to review it on booking.com).
The great thing about this apartment was also it’s location. We were a 5 minutes drive from Freedom Square, a walk from Rustaveli Avenue and there were many supermarkets close by. Also the internet is great if you’re looking to be connected.
So we reached there at night, and our adventures began the next day. We made our way over to Old Town. The driver by mistake drove us all the way up to the Narikala fort but the problem is, there are a LOT of steps to go all the way to the top. It’s better to take the funicular. So we had to cab it back down and then catch the funicular which took us all the way the top. There we walked around, saw the beautiful sights of the entire city of Tbilisi and took pictures in front of the Mother of a Georgian or Kartvlis Deda, which is a humongous statue of a woman holding a sword in one hand and a bowl of wine in the other. The funicular ride is beautiful and the area is wonderful to walk around. It was better having the baby in a sling/carrier, because the stroller was too heavy to cart around and the streets too uneven.
After walking around for a bit, we then made our way down for lunch. We ended up walking around Old Town until we came to rest at Mephe Gorgosah. It’s right by the sulfur baths and is a beautiful cafe which seems small outdoors, but is quite big inside. We grabbed a table flanked by flowers, with the fort overlooking us. There were quaint little 3 story homes all around, in shades of blues and yellows. You can see our view in the pictures below.
The staff was very helpful and we ate an assortment of local dishes like Kachapuri (cheese with bread), eggplant with mayonnaise, trout with almonds and kebabs. It was delicious and came highly recommended from the staff! Lovely way to satiate our hungry selves after the walk.
We also caught a bit of the local dance performed by a costumed couple right outside the restaurant. Stunning isn’t she?
We then walked on to the waterfalls a few meters away. It was almost majestic, hidden away in a corner, houses overlooking it. There was also a tiny bridge with locks close to it. I didn’t have a lock, but I did however make some wishes on that beautiful bridge.
We were exhausted and I think it was time for the little one to rest so we made our way home.
Made our way to the Pantheon this day, where notable Georgian writers, influencers and politicians are buried. It also has a beautiful church where many had left candles burning, their wishes burning bright in their flames. However, our cabbie had left us quite a ways below the Pantheon and it was a long long trek up the mountain to the Pantheon. The stroller was more of a hindrance since it was heavy to push it up the slope, so in hindsight, if you’re taking a baby up, make sure she’s in a sling and you leave the stroller at home. We stayed there for a bit, admiring the beautiful view and then made our way down, our pace elevating to a sprint because of high the slope was. You can see the view below.
We then made our way to Rustaveli and stopped for some ice cream, coffee and Tiramisu at the Marco Polo cafe. I highly recommend the Tiramisu there.
I had been researching quite a bit about the restaurants in Tbilisi, and one restaurant kept popping up; Cafe Gabriedze, named after and owned by Rezo Gabriadze, the writer, painter and theater and film director. When we finally found it, it was just how I imagined. A sweet little cafe, filled with his paintings and puppets (at 7 pm they also have a short marionette performance on the tower as in the picture below- which my baby loved by the way). The decor was beautiful and reminded me of old Parisian cafes. In fact, the area the cafe was in, was also beautiful. Small cafes, beautiful street art being sold everywhere and people casually walking the cobbled streets.
The meal was absolutely divine! And we cleaned out the plates in minutes. My favorite was the garlic chicken, a local delicacy. It’s exactly what it’s name suggests; fried chicken with garlic sauce. Yum!
After relaxing here for a bit, and taking a gazillion pictures of it’s beautiful decor and it’s embellished tables, we were on our way to Freedom Square. There we walked around for a bit, looked at the stores and of course had some ice cream. After that, we decided to call it a day. We had covered quite a bit for the day. But if you’re ever in Tbilisi, please do check out this amazing restaurant. It’s vibe is different from anything I’ve ever visited before.
At night, we went to Machakhela, which is their local chain of restaurants, for some takeaway Kachapuri, grilled chicken and dumplings. This restaurant can be found at many locations but it’s food is great. Cheap and delicious. The dumplings are what this restaurant is known for, so if you ever visit, do try. They’re yum!
Picture credits: Myself & Amir Butt