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Barcelona, Spain has been on my travel list for a long, long time. At the beginning of November, Kyle sat down on the couch after the kids were tucked in bed, and said, “Would you want to go to Barcelona in a week?” Would I? YES! I booked are tickets, packed our bags, gladly accepted the Nuna Pepp Luxx travel stroller from the company for the trip, booked our long-term parking, and loaded up the car – all while Kyle worked like crazy to get things set at work so he could take a week off. His job can be so intense and stressful that when he takes time off he really tries to take the time off.  We set of for Barcelona with our walking shoes and appetites at the ready.

Our first day in Spain we decided to take in La Boqueria Market for some tapas to get us off on the right foot – from a culinary perspective. No offense to British food, but MAN were we ready for some flavor and salt! We dove right in – into glasses of sangria, plates of crackly fried artichokes and yielding croquettes. From there we just wandered. In fact, we spent most of our time in Barcelona just wandering. Kyle, our resident navigator, planned out our general paths for each day, but we veered from them often – especially for good food.

travel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINTowards the end of the first day after we’d walked many, many miles, the outside of my left foot started to ache – by the time we made it back to the apartment in the evening I felt like I could barely walk. Kyle walked to the store for frozen peas to ice my foot and I sat with my foot elevated determined not to let my freakish injury spoil our adventure. The thing is, we love to walk and walk and walk all over the cities we are so fortunate to visit. I’m not a big fan of public transportation, but over the week there we utilized the metro and I literally used Roux’s new stroller as a walker/crutch. I hopped and limped and took too much ibuprofen, but was rewarded along the way with amazing but simple baguette sandwiches with serrano and tomato, churros dipped in chocolate, octopus dusted with , and plenty of jamón ibérico.

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Oh, and also with pan con tomate (which Gigi declared was the best bread in the whole world), incredibly light eggplant with molasses, and patatas bravas from Lolita Taperia (by far the best food we ate on our trip was from this place)!

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Walking and eating go so well together – even if your walking looks more like hobbling, and your eating looks more like over-indulging. We spaced out our time well in Barcelona, with one bigger activity in the morning, and less planned in the afternoon. We got a great tip in the few days before we left to book ahead for the main attractions – The Sagrada Família, Picasso Museum, and Park Guell. It had a couple great benefits: we were able to show up to each place at a set time (9:00am worked great for us); we didn’t have to wait in lines (in fact, often the places would have signs up at 9:00am that said “Next available tickets for 1:30pm”!); by getting to the places early we had more space and time there without it them being crowded; we skipped a lot of the time wasting “what do you wanna do today” conversations since a lot of our activities were planned out ahead; and finally, I felt like a real-deal grownup booking everything in advanced. I think I can speak for our whole family in highly recommending the three places I listed above – and pictured in the mix below.

travel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPINtravel family kids barcelona spainPIN

We absolutely loved exploring Barcelona, interacting with it’s friendly people, and eating the incredible food… and I can’t wait to go back – and explore more of Spain.

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It feels so cliché, and perhaps repetitive, to begin yet another post by reflecting on just how fast time is flying and apologizing for my absence. But with three busy (and always hungry) little ones underfoot, homeschool lessons to check off, and so much laundry it almost makes me dizzy it’s hard to find time to sit down and be still long enough to write. Now the weather has turned icy and I declared today a “pajama day”! We are having a much needed quiet day at home in our cozy clothes – oils and rosemary are diffusing on the stove-top, the girls are listening to the BFG audio-book (again), and I’m here compiling some photos to share from our recent adventures. We made the most of the almost summer-like weather in September, and the stunning fall crossover in October – I haven’t even included anything from November because I’m afraid my computer (and you, my readers) would have called it quits. I’m looking forward more sunny, frigid days at home in pajamas, and to more posts (and some recipes) this winter!

We spent most of September around home, with trips to our favorite parks, and the Jane Austen’s House Museum. Kyle was working like a mad-man the first three weeks of the month so we hardly saw him at all. We did alright on our own, although it’s so much better when he’s around.
fall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINSeptember was winding down and we had visitors – our first friend visit from home. We spent a week bouncing around with our friends and their two kids with a trip to The Cotswolds, and a visit to both Blenheim Palace and Stonehenge, and lunch at our favorite pub, The Beckford Arms.

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Just as our friends headed home, my mom and her partner arrived for a week long visit. It was decidedly quieter than with our previous guests; we spent most of our time puttering around close to home, although we did take them for a visit to the Jane Austen’s House Museum and the Chawton House Library so they could see and experience our favorite places. Their visit was lovely, and restorative after such a long-feeling month.

fall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINAs we headed well into October we took a weekend day trip to Brighton with one of the brewers Kyle works with. It was almost balmy at the beach and the light was beautiful. We didn’t get to spend much time wandering around the city itself, so we are planning another trip back soon.

fall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPINfall autumn in england traveling with kidsPIN

Our final trips of October were to Stratford-upon-Avon, and back to Stourhead Garden, which was just starting to change color – it was absolutely beautiful. Having such a lovely autumn here this year has made me so happy we’ll have another next year before moving back to the States.

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As often as we can, which ends up being about every other week, I load the kids up with a picnic and we head to the Jane Austen’s House Museum in Alton and the Chawton House Library in Chawton (they’re really just down the road from each other). It’s a little bit of a drive to get there so we really make a day of it. I’ve had some requests to share our photos from these wonderful places, and I thought I’d start with the Jane Austen’s House Museum and save the Chawton House Library photos for another post since I’ve taken so many! These are, without a doubt, our two favorite places in England.

We first visited the Jane Austen’s House Museum in early spring and fell completely in love with it. The house, where Jane spent the last eight years of her life, is lovingly curated. It’s small, beautiful, welcoming, and charming. They have small scavenger hunts for the kids which they love, and them having an activity allows me a chance to really read and enjoy things in the museum. Once you go and pay for your ticket (only £8 for adults) your ticket is good for an entire year. Often we find that we spend all of our time in the well-tended garden, eating a picnic, popping into the media center to watch the mini-documentary on Jane’s life, playing lawn games or “board” games that they have set up, doing a bird hunt, or reading a chapter from the provided Jane Austen novels.

On our last visit a couple weeks ago we stumbled upon copies of Jane’s novels left about by a Book Fairy, and we were so delighted that we have since signed up to be book fairies too. Book Fairies or not, this museum has (at least for me) an air of magic and simple pleasure that I can’t get enough of… in fact I think it’s time for another trip…

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We’ve just passed the one year mark of living in England. The summer is winding to a close with surprising warm summer days book-ended by chilly fall mornings, and the sounds of the birds in the morning is changing from enthusiastic to communicative.

As we settle into our second fall here in Great Britain, I am finally finding time to tell you about our summer. I was going to say that it was pretty quiet, which in a way it was, but as I started looking through all of our summer photos I realized we have had quiet an adventurous summer. We spent all of July and August in England – Kyle has been hard at work with long hours and lots of headaches, so I’ve been spending every minute with the kids. Watching Roux grow (far too fast), watching Lulu kick off the last bits of toddler-hood and become a full fledged kid, and watching Gigi learn to read, write in cursive, and ride laps around us on her bike. It’s been a couple months full of little things, which are the best things, really. But we’ve managed to spend nearly every weekend exploring this part of the country and it makes all those long hours and headaches worth it.

By far our favorite things to do here involve our new membership to the National Trust. We joined after being prompted by a few people to do so and for our whole family it cost just £114 for a whole year. It gets us into all kind of amazing gardens, homes, free parking… the benefits are endless and there are so many incredible places we can’t wait to explore. Even if you find yourself just traveling in England for a few weeks with a rental car, it would be worth joining! Next on my list is to join the English Heritage which covers more places! Anyway, as I was saying, our favorite thing to do is to pack up a little picnic and set off to explore some place close by – the pictures really give an abbreviated version of these places as I could talk and write about them forever.

We love skipping rocks on the lake and walking the paths in Tisbury. On this particular trip Kyle was about halfway through reading the first Harry Potter book to Gigi so we collected sticks and set off through the woods casting spells and getting stung by nettles…

expat living in englandPINexpat living in englandPINexpat living in englandPINexpat living in englandPINliving in englandPINliving in englandPINMy friend, Jo, brought her wonderfully silly boys over for a couple of summery picnics at the local church where we love to go for quick, easy, but still marvelously charming outings…

expat living in englandPINWe have passed quite a few lazy hours and days at the local u-pick gather vegetables, playing in the tire swing with paper towel telescopes, and picking/eating our weight in berries…

expat living in englandPINexpat living in englandPINexpat living in englandPINWe spend just about every weekend exploring the incredible curated gardens of England like this one at West Green House. And, even after getting caught in a really stupendous downpour on this trip, we still never remember to pack our raincoats…

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The kids and I visited Basildon Park and House which was used to “play” Netherfield Park in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice. The grounds were huge, with lots of places for the kids to explore, and the house was incredible…

basildon park house national trustPINbasildon park house national trustPINbasildon park house national trustPINWe made a trek out to Stourhead house and gardens and were seriously in awe. We didn’t allow ourselves nearly enough time to fully explore this spectacular place. Part of the grounds and the pantheon were also used in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice. We brought a picnic and ate it in the field behind the house, walked part of the trails, and headed back for a quick tour of the house before we had to leave. We will be back very soon…stourhead park garden national trustPINstourhead park garden national trustPINstourhead park garden national trustPINstourhead park garden national trustPIN

Other than that I’ve just been spending all my time loving these people…

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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.

traveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINtraveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINKyle 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.

traveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINtraveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINtraveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINPINWe 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.

traveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINAfter 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.

traveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINWe 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.

traveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINtraveling with kids amsterdam netherlandsPINAfter 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.

traveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINtraveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINtraveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINtraveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINtraveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINtraveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINtraveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINtraveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINtraveling with kids belgium bruges ghentPINWe 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.

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