Category Archives: Travel
I never mean for so much time to pass before and between posting, but summer swoops by so fast, even when it feels like you have no plans at all. Our summer started off with big adventures to Austria, and then to Belgium and Amsterdam! Since returning from our big adventures we’ve spent the last month just puttering around England. Saving our pennies, or pence as it were, for more big adventures down the road. So here I am, finally sharing some photos, probably too many photos, from our trip to Belgium and Amsterdam.
We opted to drive to Amsterdam, where Kyle had work for a week, rather than flying or taking the train and I’m so glad we did. I’m a big fan of any road trip, and especially one that traverses three fantastic European countries. We set off from the ferry docks in Dover, waved goodbye to the White Cliffs, and watched the green sea water turn to deep blue as we headed for Calais, France. After disembarking from the ferry, we drove north into Belgium, stopping along the coast and making it to our final stop just outside of Bruges around bedtime.
Kyle and I first visited Bruges several years ago when we backpacked around Europe and we couldn’t wait to return. It is an incredibly charming, if slightly over-crowded little city. Our first stop was getting the Belgian waffles for breakfast, which had the girls declaring that it was “the best day, ever” before 10am. We spent the day wandering around before ending the day with cups full of gelato which, if the waffles hadn’t done it, fixed it as the best day ever in their books. They still compare our days to that day, as in, “Well, it’s still not as good as the waffle and gelato day….”. Fair enough.
We spent the following day exploring Ghent, which came highly recommended by a few friends, and I’m so glad we did because we absolutely loved it. It was similar to Bruges with it’s charming canals, waffles, and gelato, but it was much quieter and possibly even more lovely. We wandered the streets, toured the castle, ate sandwiches and sipped beer. So, if you were to ask me rather than the kids, I might call that the best day ever.
After a long, hot, wonderful day in Ghent we climbed into the car and drove north past Antwerp, past Amsterdam, and into the northern part of Holland. We stopped and slept at an AirBnB (well, technically we stopped at the one we had booked and it was truly awful and somehow we managed to get another one at 9:30pm close by – which was a miracle as we were in the middle of nowhere). In the morning we got up early, had breakfast with our host, and headed to explore Kolhorn – a quiet, little town on the water. It was Fathers’ Day so we stopped and had the most delicious apple pie that was really more like apple-almond cake before driving slowly down to Amsterdam.
We spent a whole week in Amsterdam staying with a friend from childhood and her family. They graciously invited our little tribe into their gorgeous home in the middle of the city and we got busy exploring in the big heat wave that took over Europe that week. We walked and walked and walked all over Amsterdam; we ate and ate and ate all over Amsterdam. The cities sidewalks were in full bloom with hollyhocks and roses, the parks were teaming with people to observe, and the café tables were begging to be filled with cold beer, rosé, and fries. Kyle spent most of the week working, so the kids and I found our own rhythm which mostly went: breakfast, park to people watch and paint, lunch, getlato, park to people watch and paint, bed.
After a wonderful week in Amsterdam we decided, somewhat at the last minute, to spend another day, and a night, in Ghent before ferrying back home to England. We spent the day taking a canal tour, getting lost, having lunch, and exploring before driving to Dunkirk, where we spent a short night before catching the ferry back to England. This trip, full of picnics and sunshine and hours in the car with the windows down felt longer than it’s ten days.
We were happy to get home, and it’s felt so much like fall ever since; so all of summer 2017 for me will be forever wrapped up in that one European road trip.
We spent a week in Austria at the end of May, and now as we are packing up for a week in Belgium and the Netherlands, I thought I’d share a few photos from our trip to Salzburg. Our close friends from Oregon were camped out in Salzburg for over a month so it gave us the perfect excuse to hop on a short flight to visit them. It was wonderful to see “old” friends.
Kyle and I spent a few days in Salzburg in our early twenties, but I hardly remembered just how magical a city it is. It was a wonderful place to be with the kids. It’s a small enough city that you can cover it easily by foot and there were great park tucked all over the city… plus having kids gave me an excuse to belt out tunes from The Sound of Music all over town.
We spent one big morning taking the cable car up to Untersberg and then hiking the last bit to the top of the mountaintop for a seriously spectacular panoramic view. The kids were all a bit grumpy by the time we made it to the top, but some gummy bear bribery helped. I didn’t take too many photos at the top since we were busy making sure no tiny people tried to ski down from the top.
While we were in Austria, Lulu turned four! We loaded up for her birthday day and took the train to Hallstatt. To get to Hallstatt from Salzburg involved taking a train to a boat to get across the lake to the beautiful little town of Hallstatt. It’s picturesque from the boat, but once you’re in the (adorable) little town you can barely move as their are so many tourists! Kyle and I both hate being in crowds like that, so we made our way out to the edge of town, called a cab, and escaped around the bend to Obertraun. Obertraun was quiet as can be, we had a whole cafe to ourselves with a view of a park. The girls played on the playground and came back for bites of birthday cake now and then. It was a long, lovely day.
We had a few more days to explore Salzburg, including a visit to the Hohensalzburg Castle, and a couple visits to the Augustiner Bräu (brewery), and a few key Sound of Music tourism spots along the way. A week was the perfect amount of time for our trip, although I wouldn’t have argued about staying another week there.
We have four pages filled with places we’d like to see in England alone. There is so much to do and so much to see. We are countryside people, and our adventures tend to take us further out away from London and into the lush green countryside. It’s so picturesque that I can hardly stop myself from gasping and grabbing for my camera; the soft rolling hills, the bleating sheep and lambs that speckle them, the yellow flowers that cover vast areas of farmland creating a bright ochre blanket that spans for miles. We always take backroads and find that adding ten minutes to our drive frequently results in magical views and “pull the car over!” moments.
Mostly we’ve been traveling close by where we are living in Berkshire. We spent one Saturday exploring Tisbury and Shaftesbury, including a wonderful countryside walk (my favorite thing about England), and an incredibly lunch at The Beckford Arms. Country walks on public footpaths take you through fields of sheep, into bright green woods, and across little bridges. Every place we go, I don’t want to leave. I find myself looking wistfully in the review mirror as we drive away, longing to go back.
The following weekend, after our trip to Tisbury and Shaftesbury, we loaded up for another day trip to the Cotswolds. This time we knew to call ahead to book a table at a popular pub called The Fox at Oddington, and we headed straight there to eat before we explored Upper and Lower Slaughter. The two small villages are connected by a walking path that was perfect for the kids.
A few weeks ago we piled into our little car and drove to The Cotswolds. We’d planned to leave early in the morning, adding half an hour to our estimated leaving time because newborns somehow add at least that to your estimated leaving/arrival time. We also planned to head home early as to get the kids home in time for dinner and normal bedtime. Neither of those things happened. But, because we had to stop and change diapers and nurse, and because our pub lunch took so much longer than we thought it would, and because we’re learning that for every hour the directions allot for you actually need one and a half, we got to really relax into our day in The Cotswolds. Sometimes it’s a gift when things don’t go according to plan, and schedule and structure have to take a back seat to spontaneity.
It was freezing cold, but sunny and it felt wonderful get get some fresh air in our lungs and sun on our faces. We tucked Roux into his cozy Solly Wrap and Lulu into our new Nuna Ivvi Savi stroller – loading the base of the stroller with extra layers of clothes, water bottles and snacks for the kids, and all of Roux’s diapering supplies and burp cloths, etc., and we… strolled. I put a lot of thought into before choosing the Ivvi Savi stroller which is a big luxury stroller vs. the Nuna Pepp Luxx which is a sort of luxury umbrella stroller.
Our main complaint when we are traveling is that we feel bogged down by stuff, which is honestly a bit claustrophobic and cumbersome. It seems we are always carrying a few bags, plus my purse, my camera, a kid or two. So, we opted for this stroller because it’s heavy enough to hang bags on, and the basket underneath is large enough for all the things we need to be out and about as a family of five. If our kids were older and needing less stuff like diapers, back up clothes, and the like, we would have opted for the more lightweight stroller. The Ivvi Savi stroller is also great for “off-roading”. It has substantial tires, and a base that’s high off the ground which makes it great for muddy footpaths or bumpy cobblestones.
Anyway, as I was saying, we mostly just wandered through the streets in Stow-on-the-Wold, meandering through fleece alleys, narrow passages designed for counting sheep as they paraded by on their way to Sheep Street (the site of a medieval sheep market), popping into a couple shops, an art gallery, and a St. Edward’s Church.
We paused for a bit letting Kyle nerd out about this door on the backside of the church which Tolkien fans (which I am not) believe is the inspiration of some Hobbit-y place called “the entrance to Moria”… again, I’m not a fan myself, and I feel that watching Lord of the Rings is a form of torture, but the door is very old and very beautiful, and that was impressive enough for me.
After meandering through the little town, we got in the car and headed to find a pub for lunch. One thing we are learning with quite a few disappointments under our belts, is that you really should make a reservation at pubs especially if it’s a Sunday, and especially if it’s within a week of a holiday. We were very kindly turned away from The Fox Inn, but quickly found ourselves seated by a cozy, crackling fire at The Horse and Groom. Kyle ordered the Sunday Roast and I got Fish and Chips; I seem to have a hard time straying from this pub classic. A nice glass of red wine, a warm fire, people coming in with their dogs and their boots caked in mud, and a baby snuggled up on my lap? That’s a pretty great way to spend an afternoon.
Afternoon gave way to an early winter evening and we loaded ourselves back up for the drive home. We headed out at golden hour and the landscape was incredibly magical. At one point Baby Roux was crying, so Kyle pulled the car over and I got out to nurse him on the side of a side road. I stood for a bit nursing him next to a field of sheep.
The light was gold and lavender and I felt that if I was wearing a long dress and my hair in a bun and walked far enough out into the field that I might happen upon Mr. Darcy. I knew better than to wander out into the field pretending to be Elizabeth Bennet on her way to Netherfield Park from a lesson I learned once when I was feeling very much like Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face being photographed by Fred Astaire, and I fell on the marble staircase in the Louvre. So, I just stood by the field, imagining for a moment what it would be like to live in the little cottage down the lane, and then we buckled back up and made our way home.
We’ve spent that last few weekends at home, chipping away at making our rental house more comfortable and home-like, but we’re getting antsy to explore more of England in the coming months, particularly the coasts, countrysides, and National Parks. Any suggestions are welcome!
We’ve spent these past couple of weeks being really quiet, embracing the chilly weather, then embracing the strange balmy weather, and now embracing the pouring rain. I’ve spent a fair amount of time sipping tea and editing photos from our trip to France. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that we got to have this trip as a family. One of the main reasons that we took this leap abroad was that it would allow us the proximity to travel; to take our kids to some of our favorite places, and to discover new places together. France is most certainly high on our list of favorite places – not to mention favorite people and favorite food! Perhaps it has something to do with it being the first place that either Kyle or I ever set foot in Europe. It holds such a special place for the two of us… now for the four (soon to be five) of us.
We began our trip on the coast of France. We took the train from London to Paris, met my cousin, and spent the night at his home before loading into the car for a (surprisingly relaxing) five hour drive to their vacation home in Meschers-sur-Gironde. When my cousin had sent me a note the week before our trip telling me to make sure and pack the girls’ swimsuits and sandals I thought he must be confused since my only beach experiences in October and November required multiple layers of wool socks and long underwear!
As we drove Southwest from Paris the chilly, foggy grey gave way to sunshine, and by the time we found ourselves meandering down country lanes we had the windows cracked and were marveling at the greenery and gardens along the lanes. Within moments of having parked the car at the beach, the girls had embraced their cousins, had their pants rolled up (or ditched completely), and had hopped straight into the surf!
The morning after we arrived, we walked down to the market in town where we bought fish, vegetables, fruit, cheeses, and salted butter. The produce was just beautiful: dirt-encrusted mushrooms, translucent grapes, verdant spinach, fragrant clementines! The girls and I each got an apple and we walked, eating our apples, to the local bakery for baguettes, and, of course, a daily selection of croissants. We spent the rest of that first day at the beach, soaking in the sunshine, the crisp air, and the wonderful sound of the waves and the kids playing in the water.
The following day was spent exploring a nearby beach, and I made every effort to take it all in, hoping that I could absorb enough sunshine and butter to get me through the grey winter that I knew was just around the corner. Gigi and Lulu ran around non-stop with their cousins, they climbed to the top of the lighthouse in Coubre with Kyle and my cousin while I trekked alone over the dunes to the beach – since climbing to the top of a two hundred foot tall lighthouse didn’t seem advisable at all for this stage of pregnancy. A while later, they all joined me for sandcastle building and playing in the water. Kyle and walked along the beach as the sun set and everything felt so good, so positive.
October gave way to November and we spent the first day of the month picnicking on the hilltops and exploring the bunkers of Pointe de Suzac. In the afternoon my cousin took his kids to see their Grandmother, so we were on our own. We loaded up a small bag with beach toys, and walked through the crunchy leaves, down the path to the Plage de Nonnes. I mostly just sat on the towel feeling very pregnant and very happy while Kyle and Gigi worked away at the most elaborate sandcastle. I had no idea Kyle had these sandcastle building skills, but now that I know I imagine they will be called upon again and again on future beach adventures.
The following morning we shook as much sand as we could from our clothes and shoes, and loaded up the car to drive back to the city. We’d decided to venture into the heart of Paris to stay at the apartment of another wonderful friend, Cécile, who is like an Aunt to us. We hadn’t been planning on staying in the city, but we couldn’t resist taking the girls in to experience it.
I remember hearing an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow where she talked about her Dad taking her to Paris for the first time because he wanted her first trip to Paris to be with the one man who is going to love her for the rest of her life. I was lucky enough to visit and see Paris for the first time with my Dad, and that trip and time with him is one of my greatest treasures. We emerged from the metro and onto the dark street, and hurried towards the Champ de Mars. We made it around the corner and into place just in time to see the tower light up and glitter. I felt so overwhelmed that my daughters were getting to see Paris through our eyes, holding our hands, held close and loved so deeply by their Dad, just the way I had gotten to on my first trip.
We headed straight from the Eiffel Tower to Cécile’s apartment, and the moment we walked in I felt a wave of comfort, familiarity, and warmth. The girls and I made ourselves at home while Kyle popped down to the Rue Cler for a rotisserie chicken, a baguette and some cheese, and a few vegetables that would make up our dinner. Once the kids were asleep, Kyle and I mapped out our next few days in our favorite city.
We started our first day with a visit to the Marché Bastille, which has to be one of the most inviting and fun things to do in Paris. We sampled everything: tart passionfruit, sweet proscuitto, subtle persimmons, piping hot Nutella crêpes, spicy radishes, bitter espresso, crunchy cherry tomatoes. We could have spent the entire day their eating everything in sight, but we already had lunch mapped out, so we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from the market and made our way on foot deeper into Le Marais, by way of the Place des Vosges, to L’As du Fallafel where we placed our order, and hopped eagerly in line to wait for our food. Once we had our falafels and frites in hand, we walked back down the street the way we’d come and popped into a small park, quickly found ourselves benches to sit on, and proceeded to tuck into the overabundance of food we’d just purchased. After lunch we made our way to and through Notre Dame by way of Berthillon, and then over to the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore. Then it was home to the apartment for a simple dinner of bread, cheese, and all the goodies we’d bought at the market.
The following morning was the first and only day of rain during our whole trip, we bundled up in our layers, caught raindrops on our tongues, and then warmed up inside the Musée d’Orsay with Cécile, strolling somewhat quickly through the various exhibits in order to see what we could see while the kids were still enjoying it. We had every intention of spending the day on the go again, so after the museum we parted ways with Cécile and began to make our way towards the Louvre. We made it as far and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. We stopped under it for shelter from the freezing rain, and ate sandwiches we’d brought with us. We saw the buses heading back towards the apartment driving by every ten minutes, and decided that going back to warm up would be wiser than dragging our shivering selves all over the city.
After a nice midday rest, the afternoon turned a bit warmer so we rallied and walked to Eiffel Tower with the kids, stopping for a hot chocolate along the way. We began to make our way towards the metro with the kids to take a train out to my Aunt and Unlce’s house, but by that point it was raining again, and the kids were in full melt-down mode. We stood on the train platform, already having bought tickets, and decided that we needed to just go home and get them in bed. We walked home by the lit up Eiffel Tower, gave the kids a quick, warm bath, and had them sleeping soundly by 7:30pm.
The following day was our last lovely day in the city before we would be heading back to England. We started the day with a walk across my favorite bridge, Pont Alexandre III, where the girls and I each made a wish and tossed a cent into Seine, and I told them about the time during our honeymoon when I’d made a wish for a family to love in that very spot on that very bridge. We strolled through Jardin des Tuileries, past the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel that had kept us dry the day before, and admired the Louvre from the outside (cause, honestly, the idea of taking kids into that museum sounds like a nightmare). We walked and had a “make up” brunch with my Aunt and Unlce at Le Pain de Quotideien before taking the girls to buy macarons, which we ate in the sunshine while watching kids push their boats around at the Jardin du Luxembourg.
After an evening spent with Cécile and her partner, Jean-Marie, we climbed into bed in the apartment for the last time on this special trip. “I want to stay in this cozy apartment for twenty more days!”, Lulu declared, and we all agreed with her. We made our way home the following morning, sad that the wonderful vacation was over, excited to cozy up for the winter and get ready to welcome our baby, and incredibly grateful for the whole experience.