Book mountain: An amazing public library in Spijkenisse

One of our facourite travel planning apps is Atlas Obscura, whenever we plan a roadtrip we check out the site to see if there are any unusual,quirky places along the way. On our trip home from a weekend away in Ghent/Belgium, we found a real gem on Atlas Obscura -The Book Mountain in Spijkenisse. If you are in the area and like books and architecture this award-winning public library is not going to disappoint.  While  Spijkenissen itself is not really a city that we felt was worth a visit, it is a pretty plain suburban town close to Rotterdam, it was great to climb the book mountain (De Boekenberg  in Dutch).

The library was opened in 2012 and seems to be a very popular meeting place for the local community.

Go inside to really experience the book mountain, the outside facade only comes to live in the dark

Photo Credit: MVRDV Architects

Through the glass facade the books are visible from outside, and when looking towards the library from the old market square the library looks like a mountain of books, hence the name.

The book mountain has 5 floors (connected by a lift) of bookshelves. These are connected by more than 480 meters of stairs, pathways and indoor terraces. All is stacked upon another to spiral up to form a pyramid.

 

The inner core of the pyrmid houses the offices, meeting rooms and study rooms.

When we visited on a rainy Monday afternoon, the place was packed with senior citizens meeting up for coffee at the cafe, plenty of students sat  in the alcoves/study areas working away on their computers and families enjoying the  kids  corner, which has a cabinet full of costumes and some child-friendly toys.

HIDDEN FUNCTITONAL DETAILS

The book mountain has no less than 1006 windows, allowing the community to look in and giving the visitors a great view of the city.

Higher book shelves which are out of reach are actually the libraries archive and the easy to reach lower areas are the bookshelves are the books ready to be borrowed.

The entire building is very eco-friendly and sustainability overall is high on the agenda in the day -to-day operations, as well as the design. For example the bookshelves are all made out of recycled flowerpots and the architects worked with a lot of wooden details as a hommage to Spijkenisse’s agricultural past.

The Library has a little cafe, which serves great coffee! If you want to eat lunch we recommend  The Brownies & Downies Cafe, which is about 5 minutes walking from the library. It is a cafe run by people with a handicap and/or Down syndrom. It has a lovely little playarea with books, toys and games to entertain their little guests.

The Library is open 6 days a week and there is a car park adjacent to the library (  Karel Doormansraat 3). The official website of the Book mountain is available in English and has further information about events, opening times and architectural details.

Spijkenisse is very easy to reach from Rotterdam. Also read our blog post about Rotterdam: A vibrant and diverse city.Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

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Vintage Style Pin-Up Makeover in Rotterdam

Mom’s day out- My Vintage Pin-Up Makeover in Rotterdam at Sugarcoated

Guilty! I am guilty of wearing the Mom uniform -Jeans and an easy to wash shirt quiet regularly since my little one was born. I do miss making an effort and going out all dressed up,taking time for doing my make up & co.. When I heard about a vintage pin-up makeover studio in Rotterdam I knew I had to give it a try.  Browsing the Sugarcoated website  I immediately was in awe of all the  over the top and fabulous results of previous makeover participants.

Who is Sugarcoated?

The mastermind behind the Sugarcoated team is no one other than @TheDutchPinup Vivian Kramer.

Vivian embodies the vintage rockability look and her love for pin-up photoshoots is sincere. She lives and breathes the livestyle and it is no wonder she is not only an experienced and internationally renowned stylist, but was also the 2nd runner-up at the Viva Las Vegas Pinup Contest 2017!

With Sugarcoated Vivian is trying to make the distinctive vintage (life)style accessible to others in a down to earth way. But let’s not forget her great team, all the girls are professionals and help to make the makeover experience a truly unique day out. I had the pleasure of getting my hair and make up done by @_bobbyknows  another inspiring lady living the vintage lifestyle to the fullest.

How does it work?

Step 1: GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER

I contacted the Sugarcoated team via their website and  heard back from Vivian within less than 24 hours. I was thrilled and nervous to find out that they had a free slot less than 3 weeks later for my makeover. After confirming the date and paying a downpayment (50% of the total price) I was send a lengthy questionnaire to complete.

The questionnaire is  all about your look, your personality, asking fo your Pin-up style preferences and co.  It was quiet hard to choose which looks I liked the most, as they have 30+ PinUp looks – Sailor, Screen siren, Army, Housewife, Hawaiian Hoola, Singer, Secretary,Gatsby Glamour….and the list goes on. It took me about 30 minutes to complete it all. I also had to attach 2 recent pictures of myself – a close-up and a full-body one. Then the Sugarcoated team worked their magic behind the scenes. A couple of days before the shoot I got an email confirming the styles they thought would work best for my makeover. Then it was time for the actual makeover.

STEP 2: THE MAKEOVER

You will make your way to the Sugarcoated studio, which is within walking distance to Rotterdam Central Station.  It is actually in a side street of the Rotterdam Chinatown area.Parking (paid!) also seems to not be a problem in the neighbourhood.

The second you set a foot into the studio you feel like you are back in a different era. The outfit selection, massive shoe cabinet, the glitzy and glamour jewellery,  the original vintage furniture pieces, the teams outfits. It is all perfectly curated to be part of the overall experience.

As  I mentioned before the Sugarcoated team is very professional, they are all fans of the vintage rockability/Pin-up look and carry it off so well. The second you walk into the quaint studio you feel at ease and want to try on everything. The girls make you feel empowered and body positive, while helping you to get in the mood for your  pin-up and vintage inspired transformation. It took about an hour to do my make up and hair. They then had 2 outfits pre-selected for me in different sizes.

STEP 3: The PHOTOSHOOT

Vivian is the photographer of the team. She will choose a background colour and lead you through a room with all the props into the photo corner where all is set up for your photo session.

She will guide you through the poses and is awesome at making you feel at ease. She will literally tell you that the more over the top your gestures and mimicry are the more likely the photos will be stunning -so stop being shy and let  your inner Pin-Up out!

It is a hard work to be a Pin-Up. Bottom out, chest out, foot flexed, Legs slightly bend, one foot off the ground, arms to the side, shoulders relaxed but active.I felt like I was taking a pilates class while being dressed up in the most amazing vintage clothing. And let’s not forget you will be wearning high heels while doing all of this. The day after the makeover my lower back and calf muscles  hurt, just as much as hitting the gym after a long break.

Then it is time for a break and a make-up touch up before putting on outfit number 2 (I booked the classic package, which meant I got to take pictures in 2 different outfits).

Step 4: WAIT FOR THE PICTURES TO LAND IN YOUR INBOX

I went home by train, and let me tell you I was still wearing the full make-up and my hair was all curly  and I  got plenty of strange looks. Some people were better at hiding their curiosity than others.

I had taken some pictures while at the studio and some selfies for family and friends. Over the next days I often looked at them wondering what the real professional pictures would look like. It felt like having to wait to open my presents on Christmas eve. Within less than a week I got a pre-selection of pictures out of which I could choose the ones I wanted.

STEP 5: LOOK AT THE PICTURES IN UTTER DISBELIEF THAT IT IS ACTUALLY YOU

Vivian and her team told me that once they make their final selection of pictures it takes about an hour per picture to make sure it is all the way they want it to be. Within 2 weeks depending on how many pictures you ordered I got the final pictures. Seriously whenever I look at the pictures I still cannot believe that it is me.

I proudly present to you my Pin-Up self

No introuduction needed the final Pin-up makeover pictures speak for themselves.

 

I had so much fun during my photoshoot and can warmly recommend treating yourself (or your wife/girlfriend/mom) to this special experience. The studio also organizes bachelorette parties , maternity  and couples vintage makeovers.

Thank you Sugarcoated  team !

I am for sure going to be addicted to your Instagram  and Facebook feed for a long time to come.

Also read our blog post about Rotterdam: A vibrant and diverse city.Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

 

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Being a tourist in your own city: Museum Voorlinden with a toddler

We went to Museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar with our toddler and had a great time! You might think we are crazy for taking a toddler to a contemporary modern art museum, but let me tell you it is not as scary as you think.

Visiting museums, not the kid-friendly kind, to see abstract painting or objects is something that we feel is a great way of learning about the world for our little one. It’s all about fostering creativity and seeing the world through his eyes. Our little one builds connections between the things he knows and things he sees in his books.He starts to understand that the concrete and literal world around him can be interpreted differently. That is a great basis for future learning!

Tempted to skip visiting museums and exhibitions until your toddler is older? 

⇓ Find below our 6 golden rules for visiting museums with a toddler ⇓

The Voorlinden Museum

It is a relatively new museum which opened at the end of 2016. The beautiful museum was founded and is privately owned by Joop van Caldenborgh.

It is on the outskirts of Wassenaar on an old estate called Voorlinden.

The museum building is very modern yet fits into its surroundings.

It’s easy to combine your museum or restaurant visit with a relaxing walk through the surrounding woodlands and dunes.

The old English-style manor next to the museum houses the museum’s restaurant. It has a big terrace and overlooks a well-maintained estate. You know the kind of estate that looks rugged, but is anything but. On the grounds of the Voorlinden estate you can also find a  child-friendly hiking trail.

The museum building itself is an architectural  pearl,which has been designed with a focus of “actively contributing to the experience of nature inside the building.” The latter is obvious as of the moment you walk through the revolving doors and enter the museums main hall. 

Upon entering the building our son immediately pointed at the big windows and the ceiling. He loved the ceiling and kept looking up to announce that the ceiling was full of ‘bubbles’. What he saw were a series of 115.000 diagonal ducts arranged over the entire roof.  The ceiling is  made of transparent glass, with additional indirect LED lighting incorporated into it, which means the exhibitions spaces are lit by natural daylight. The interior is divided into three general sections in accordance with the museum program: collection presentations (1), temporary exhibitions (2) and the permanent exhibition (3).

OUR 6 GOLDEN RULES for a museum visit with a toddler

# 1 Keep the visit short: Their attention span is short, most kids start becoming fussy after about 30-45 minutes. We know that we can only visit a museum for max 1 hour before we have to deal with a frustrated toddler. We always tag team and set realistic expectations. Visiting a museum with a toddler means you will be able to get a feel for the exhibition, rather than really having the time to appreciate some of the art pieces on display.

# 2 Set yourself up for success : We make sure we arrive at a museum with a well-rested and fed toddler.Furthermore we always either try to visit museums right when they open in the morning or just before they close in the evening. At Museum Voorlinden we arrived about 1 hour before closing time (5pm), as we assumed that the museum would be rather empty just before closing .We were right, there were +/-10 people in the museum. This allows our lively little one a lot of freedom to explore without disturbing too many other visitors.TIP: Book tickets online to avoid queues at the entrance, often museums have combi tickets and discounts on their website that are not available at the ticket desk.

# 3 Expect your toddler to be excited about the colourful art installations: He did try to explore the art installations, as some admittedly looked like oversized toys waiting to be explored. He did thrown more than  one  tantrum and sat down to cry in frustration when we ( and the guards) crossed his plans to touch the flying kits and pick up the piano keys, but that was to be expected. Don’t panic ,tantrums never lasts long, it is just something he needs to do to voice his frustation and we as parents need to endure. From experience I can assure you the vast majority of people in museums give you a knowing smile and walk on. TIP: Take regular snack breaks. We always after about 30 minutes walk back to the cloakroom for snacktime.

# 4 Make it interesting to a toddler: We knew we had to make the exhibition interesting to him and museum Voorlinden did not have any child-friendly museum guides or games available. So we asked our little one to identify objects he saw. That game kept him occupied for a good 20 minutes. He recently started to use more words and thankfully a lot of the art on display had elements that he could correctly and proudly identify as ‘fish’,’bird’, ‘dog’ and ‘bubbles’.

# 5 Don’t forget to enjoy the museum: Ideally you did your research before you arrive at the museum. i.e. Checked if bags are allowed? Checked if you allowed to bring in food or drinks? Researched if the museum offers kid-friendly guides & co? Does the museum providing strollers or can you bring in your own one? (At Voorlinden we were allowed to bring in our stroller.) Check all this out beforehand so you can plan accordingly. Normally it is easy to find all the info in the ‘plan your visit’ section on the museums website. Once you arrive and hold your entry ticket in your hand, take a deep breath, go with the flow and enjoy your time at the museum.

# 6 Have a plan B: We agreed that since museum Voorlinden has a big park around it, if our little one would not play along, that my hubs would take him to play outside while I was allowed to enjoy the exhibition.  Luckily our plan B was not needed on this occassion, as museums Voorlinden permanent collection is very family friendly.

THE PERMANENT EXHIBITION IS VERY CHILD FRIENDLY

We thouroughly enjoyed the permanent exhibition, as that part of the museum is very child-friendly. The fact that we showed up an hour before closing time meant the museum was virtually empty and we had the entire permanent exhibition space to ourselves! Our 4 favourite exhibits were:

Couple under an Umbrella by Ron Mueck

Open Ended by  Richard Serra ( fun fact: It weighs almost 216 tonnes. The corten steel work is 4 metres high, 18 metres long and 7 metres wide.)

 

Leandro Erlich’s Swimming Pool

 

When we walked up the stairs leaving the swimming pool, we  heard a little elevator ping, and it  was our toddler who discoverd this miniature piece of art. It is by Maurizio Cattelan and called Lift.

( We forgot to take a picture, so credit for this pictures goes to:http://www.elevatorworld.com/blogs/tag/miniature-elevator/)

Good to know

# Strollers are allowed in the museum

# The museums restaurant can also be visited without a museum ticket

# Parking is free of charge. It is easiest to get there by bike or car. There is a bus (Connexxion bus 43 and 44 to stop Wittenburgerweg Wassenaar) that stops in the vicinity which connects you to Den Haag and Leiden Centraal Station both within less than 20 minutes. However the walk from the bus stop to the museum is at least 15-20 minutes through a residential area.

# Entrance for adults is 15 EUR, while kids below the age of 12 are free of charge. 13-18 year olds get a 50% discount on the standard price i.e. pay 7, 50 EUR.

This blog is part of my Staycation project  Being a tourist in your own city -The Hague/The Netherlands, check out our other posts about things to do and see in The Hague on our where we have been page.

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The 2 amazing Transatlantic stopover destinations you should know

First of all let’s clarify what I mean by transatlantic stopover destination.

A stopover is an airfare hack that can double your vacation and is not to be confused with a layover.  Still the word stopover often is met with ” we prefer to fly directly, nothing worse then being stuck in a random airport waiting for your connection”, but that is not what a stopover is about at all. Stopovers allow you to  visit a country, leave the airport to go and explore at no additional airfare costs .Making it a “cheap” double vacation option. Several airlines are offering stopover fares which allow their passengers to enjoy their hub city for a few days at no extra airfare costs to them  before flying on to their final vacation destination. Did you know that en route from Europe to North America there are 2 airlines that offer Transatlantic stopover options? Yes,there are two major international airports en route to Europe ⇔ North America.

THE BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL TRANSATLANTIC STOPOVER DESTINATIONS

I am sure you will easily guess Transatlantic stopover destination number 1. Yes that it is right it is Iceland! Iceland- the land of Ice and Fire. The country that has been on everyones travel wishlist and is popping up on Instagram daily. It is a very unique place with amazing nature, hot springs, plenty of volcanos and glaciers.  And IcelandAir is doing a great job at promoting Iceland as a Transatlantic stopover destination.

Source: Flightradar24.com

But then you scratch your head and think -there is only a lot of water between North America and Europe and there is no other major airport on the way…maybe Bermuda (part of the United Kingdom, about 2 hours flying to New York)…but no, that is not what I am talking about. Have you ever heard of the Hawaii of Europe? Say What? The Hawaii of Europe that is right- The Azores! The Azores are still very much flying under the radar, but trust me once you see pictures you will be visiting the website of AzoresAirlines to book your trip.

On your next journey across the Atlantic, take advantage of the option to stop in Iceland or on the Azores (Island of São Miguel or Terceira Island) for up to 7 nights at no additional airfare.

Iceland vs Azores

Both destinations are breathtakingly beautiful and well worth visiting. Another thing both of these isolated Transatlantic stopover destinations have in common is that they have both been breaking their own tourism records continously since 2016, in that year the Azores started to permit lowcost carrier flights, from airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet.  Iceland, was once a rarely-visited island but has now grown into one of the most popular countries in the entire world for travelers.

Award Winning Destinations

Both are award winning destinations which  offer unspoilt nature, volcanoes, amazing hiking trails, waterfalls, beaches, whale watching and are mainly heated by geothermal energy. The Azores have won” the most beautiful landscapes of Europe by Best Destination”, are continously listed as “one of the Global Top 100 Most Sustainable Destinations” and The Azores were considered “the most beautiful place in the world by Belgian Dutch edition of National Geographic Traveller”.  When googling ‘Iceland the most beautiful place on earth’ google has no less than 1.720.000 results listed. While the beaches of Iceland are cold and stormy, the Azores are more of a beach destination and also when it comes to exquisit food, the Azores beat Iceland hands-down, unless you consider the Icelandic inofficial national dish of  hot dogs and ice cream, haute cuisine.

Some facts about Iceland
  • Foreign overnight visitors to Iceland was around 8 million in 2016, a 40.1% increase from 2015 , compared to less than 500.000 visits in 2010!
  • Population : +/-335.000
  • Currency: Icelandic Krona
  • Language: Icelandic
  • Iceland is an independent country
SOME Facts abot the Azores

I will let the  pictures speak for themselves to show you just how beautiful and unique both Transatlantic stopover destinations are:

    

While all the Iceland images are my own, the ones from the Azores. I got from the VisitAzores Instagram account.

Lets compare the 2 Airlines THAT OFFER THE STOPOVERS

I have been to Iceland and flew Icelandair and have nothing but good things to say about the country and the airline! When looking for reviews on the airline for this article, to confirm my positive experience, I found that the general consensus about Icelandair is that it serves yummie food, has good service on board, a modern fleet (fleetsize: 33) and load of travellers praise them for their outstanding service.

Azores Airlines, formerly known as SATA Internacional, on the other hand seems to be a solid reliable airline  (fleetsize: 7) without much glamour and some growing pains. They are more of a low cost carrier it seems when reading the reviews. We have a flight booked with them in spring 2018 and I will be able to report back on my actual experience them then. Stay tuned.

FLIGHT TIMES & ROUTES

Both Airlines have various international connection options in Europe and North America.

Azores Airlines

 

Icelandair

ONBOARD ENTERTAINMENT

IcelandAir offers complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and free access to a personal in-flight entertainment system in the seat in front of you. A good selection of food and drinks is for sale (with a complimentary meal for children), as well as Wi-Fi access on all flights.

Azores Airlines, seem to have old planes. The in-flight entertainment seems to be some mediocre movies screened on overhead screens. One review I read sums the airline up nicely:” Its a budget airline. Bring your own water, some nibbles and a tablet, try to sleep and remember that the destination [The Azores] is so worth those tiny seats. And you will not mind the short flight.

 

Stopover T & C

For up-to-date Terms & Conditions visit the airlines websites:

                            

AzoresAirlines website                                   Icelandair website

Have you ever been to Iceland or the Azores?

Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

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Rotterdam: A vibrant diverse city

When I first moved to the Netherlands many many years ago,  I initially set up home in Rotterdam. Back then I was a student and liked Rotterdam for it is nightlife and ‘big city’ feel. However I also thought it was industrial, rundown, uninspiring and sometimes I did not feel safe when walking home alone at night. In the last years Rotterdam has gone from strengths to strengths and it is nowadays a very inviting, young and vibrant city, which is well worth a visit. It has really cleaned up its act and our little family enjoys going to Rotterdam on our days off. From The Hague ,where we currently live, it is only about 25 minutes on the train and there is a train ever 15 minutes, while travelling from Amsterdam to Rotterdam by train takes takes about 40 minutes and they also run in 15 minute intervals.

TIP: Train travel in the Netherlands is easy and very well organized. All information is available in English, the trains have Wi-Fi and all ticket machines accept credit cards ( with pin!) and have multiple language options. You can also buy your tickets online. A day return ticket is valid from 00.00 until 04.00 the next morning. You can break your journey, provided you complete your journey on the same day. Children under 4 years travel for free. For children 4-11 years old special Railrunner tickets are available for 2,50 EUR → More information on Dutch NS Rail.

Visiting the Netherlands soon?

When people ask me which cities they should go and see in The Netherlands, I always tell them skip Amsterdam.  It is generally overrated,  expensive and full of tourist traps. The Netherlands is such a charming country and has beautiful cities and villages to explore. The ones that come to mind immediately and can all be reached from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport within less than an hour, by car or train are  Delft, Leiden, Haarlem,The Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam.  And then of course the Netherlands has some  unique countryside to explore, the famous tulip fields in the spring, windmils, dykes and  castles. The Dutch all tend to have an excellent command of the  English language, are great at signposting things  and their public transport system is excellent – so it is hard to get lost in this tiny country.  But let’s for today focus on Rotterdam!

Our 7 Rotterdam highlights when travelling wITH KIDS

Rotterdam has a lot to offer for families, architecture lovers and foodies. These are our 6 highlights that you should not miss out on when visiting Rotterdam.

#1 Blijdorp Zoo

The Rotterdam zoo is big award winning  zoo which has been in operation for more than 160 years.  Diverse animals, plenty of indoor and outdoor playgrounds and a great aquarium are all part of this well-maintained zoo. It  can be enjoyed all year round. It is also one of the top zoos worldwide when it comes breeding programmes for endangered species. TIP: Buying tickets only will give you a discount and allow you to by pass the queues.

# 2 PlaswijckPARK

Plaswijckpark in  Rotterdam  is hard to describe. If I give it a try I would say it is a family park with playgrounds and rides for children (up to age 12), a boat tour, a zoo and petting farm, a rose garden and an outdoor swimming pool all in one. It is like someone decided to mix together all of my kids favourite activites in one park to guarantee a great day out for the entire family. The park is small but big enough to spent an entire day there without getting bored.

#3  Foodie Heavens – Fenix Food Factory and The Markethal

Rotterdam has plenty of great restaurants including some Michelin star ones.  Our two favourite places in Rotterdam to enjoy with the little one are, the Fenix Food Factory and the Markthal. Both are host to an array of market stalls, artisan food shops and restaurants.  From the Fenix Food Factory, which is housed in a former warehouse on a peninsular within easy reach of the city centre, you have a great view over the river and the city skyline. While next to the lovely colourful Markethal you will find one of Rotterdam’s most famous sights -the Cube houses. One of them is accessible to the public, it is a nice stop over if you have time and are interested in architecture.

#4 Maritime Museum

Rotterdam has some really nice museums for all ages. Our little one likes the  Maritime Museum. It is all about shipping, its history, effect on our daily life and it has plenty of vessels, ships and harbour cranes to explore. It is interesting for the parents and fun for  little ones. The museums top floor has a big playground area which we like to spent time at. TIP: If you stay overnight on the SS Rotterdam (see below for hotel recommendations) you can get a watertaxi to drop you off right next to the museum.

#5 Take a watertaxi

In Rotterdam all is about water and the maritime industry, so it should come as no surprise that apart from busses, trams and trains Rotterdam operates watertaxis. They have 2 types, there are black-yellow  speed boats, which cruise along the Maas river at speeds of about 50kph and some old fashioned slower boats, which only operate on 2 set routes. The black-yellow watertaxis have 50 pick/up and drop off locations and are a cheap and fast way to get around the port of Rotterdam and to surrounding villages. You can also book a watertaxi sightseeing tour and book the boats to take you to local tourist attractions, such as the windmills of Kinderdijk.

Photo source: watertaxirotterdam.nl

#6 For adrenaline junkies: Ziplining of the Euromast

By now readers of this blog know that my other half is an adrenaline junkie and loves to challenge himself. Last year for his birthday I gave him a voucher to zipline down the Euromast. He utterly loved it. If you are into climbing over the barrister of a tower about 100 meters  above the ground, while only being attached to a tiny harness, this is what you are looking for. You will fly down the zipline at  100 km per hour on the fastest zip-line of Europe! Within just 15 seconds you will be back on the ground with adrenaline flowing through your veins. During the summer months on every last Sunday of the month the Euromast organize a zipline day (reservations required!). For the non-adrenaline junkie members of the family,  the Euromast has a great restaurant from which you can enjoy the panorama view of the city , there is a big park around the Euromast too, which our little one likes to explore.

#7 Exploring the harbour : Futureland and the Pancakeboat

Rotterdam is known for its massive harbour, which is the largest port in Europe. From 1962 until 2004 it was the world’s busiest port, but Shanghai has since claimed that title. It is impressive to take a harbour tour to experience  the sheer vastness of the port area. There are various port tours organized in Rotterdam and these are easy to find.

The ones we like most with our little one  is a boat tour through the harbour on a pancake boat, so in essence it is a swimming pancake restaurant with ball pit and playground on board. For older kids there is an information centre of the Port of Rotterdam called Futureland, which is all about the Maasvlakte 2 area of the port. The MV2 are is a manmade part of the harbour and houses one of the most modern container terminals in the world, they offer terminal tours by bus, boat and virtual reality- take a  3D trip through the MV2 port area with the FutureFlightExperience.

Picture source: pannenkoekenboot.nl

Rotterdam has so much to offer it will be hard to get bored. If you do want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city we would suggest to head south along the river to visit the city of Dordrecht.

DAYTRIP – Dordrecht

A really great way to combine your trip to Rotterdam with a traditional Dutch town, away from the tourist masses,  is to visit Dordrecht. Dordrecht is Holland’s oldest city and well worth a visit. It has a  lot of charm and a history as an important merchant city. The former wealth of this quintessential Dutch city is clearly visible in it is historic city centre. Parts of Rotterdam feel like Amsterdam with all its bridges and houses, but without the tourist masses.

For a daytrip to Dordrecht we would suggest you take the train from Rotterdam to Dordrecht ( approx 17 min) and then while there visit the Huis van Gijn museum (Huis Van Gijn is a beautiful home museum of an extremely wealthy family. It gives a glimpse how upper class lived in the late 18th and early 19th century)and enjoy a cup of tea in their lovely backyard lunchoom. Afterwards stroll through the old centre along the cathedral and old harbour and head over to the lovely Villa Augustus (a former Watertower, which is now a great hotel/restaurant). Then you can walk along the water to the Waterbus, which is just what the name indicated,  a bus (ferry) which will take you back to Rotterdam within an hour.

Picture source: booking.com

It is a great boattrip and a good way to experience the busy waterways around Rotterdam  and shows how the entire region  is shaped by the maritime industry. The waterbus is used by many commuters and you will see school children get on and off, people with their shopping and plenty of bikes will be rolled on and off the waterbus along its route. If you got yourself an OV Cards (a rechargable public transport card used all over The Netherlands), you can just swipe in using your card.  The Waterbus also has routes from Rotterdam taking you to some beautiful touristic sights, such as Kinderdijk.

Where to sleep in Rotterdam

For a unique location, which is also fun with kids, we highly recommend the SS Rotterdam.  It is a bit out of the city centre at a quiet quay. The hotel is actually a decomissioned former flaghip of the Holland-America Line. Sleeping on a permanently moored cruise ship which has been carefully restored to its former 1950s style glory is a really fun experience. There is a museum on board and you can get to and from the city centre within 10 minuted by car or watertaxi!

Picture source: voordeeluitjes.nl

If you are travelling to Rotterdam without the kids,stay at the NHow overlooking the Erasmus bridge. It is a very modern hotel within the De Rotterdam building (architecture lovers will appreciate the location and building!) with a great rooftop bar and fabulous views; overlooking the river and famous Erasmus bridge. It is within walking distance to the Fenix Food factory and the famous historical landmark/hotels/restaurant Hotel New York. It is from this small island in the Maas river that the emigrant boats started their journey to the West towards Ellis Island.

TIP: Rotterdam-The Hague airport has daily flights to big hubs such as Berlin and London. The airport is small and very easy to navigate and waiting times are  short. It is often easier and hassle free to fly out of Rotterdam-The Hague airport than to fly out of Amsterdam Schiphol airport, which can get very crowded with long waiting times at security.

Have you ever visited Rotterdam? Tell us more about it in the comments.

Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

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Jerusalem with a view – Ramparts Walk

Walking on the old city wall of Jerusalem is quiet a special experience and I would highly recommend it when you visit Jerusalem. It was one of the absolute highlights of our stay in Jerusalem.

It is not that you get the greatest view, there are certainly scenic viewpoints/towers that give you a better view of the city overall. We enjoyed the ramparts walk as it helped us to get a feel for the layout of the old city and it was interesting to compare life within and outside of the old city in all of the distinct quarters of Jerusalem.  The ramparts walk gives you a bird’s eyes view of the landmarks and mundane everyday life in the Arab, Christian, Armenian and Jewish quarters of Jerusalem.

 

Northern vs. Southern Ramparts Walk

The old city wall is not completely complete anymore and therefore there are actually 2 ramparts walks – the North one and the South one.

The access to the ramparts around Temple Mount is closed off for the public, and there is a road at Jaffa Gate that breaks up the walk too. For either of the 2 walks the same can be said- the entrances can be hard to locate, look for these signs and ask the storekeepers for directions.  At the entrance gates you have to pass through narrow turnstiles, which are NOT suitable for strollers. You need to babywear and I would only recommend the walk with an older toddler/pre-schooler. The walk has plenty of steep, uneven steps with few handrail. The ramparts walk sometimes is a narrow passageway and offers plenty of uneven cobbled stones, and some areas are fenced off with barbwire. There are loads of opportunities to sit down to rest and take photos, or simply enjoy the view.

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Part – Arab & Christian Quarter: North side walk is longer than the southern walk. It starts at Jaffa Gate and ends at Lions Gate (close to Dome of the Rock).

Southern Part -Armenian & Jewish Quarter: It begins at the Tower of David (by Jaffa gate) and ends between Zion and Dung Gates (Wailing Wall area). It is the shorter walk.

You will see Jerusalem with different eyes

Before visiting Jerusalem I thought of Jerusalem as a place that is ‘one big open-air museum’ and life happens outside of the old city walls, but the walk opened my eyes, just how normal life is in the Old city.

We saw the famous landmarks of Jerusalem as well as housewife’s hanging up the laundry on rooftops. We saw bullet holes in walls, as Jordanian snippers used the old city wall during one of the many fights surrounding Jerusalem and we saw graffities asking for love & peace.

We saw children at play, shop keepers chatting to their customers and people on their way to prayers. We saw a school and I thought how strange it must be to go to school next to the Dome of the Rocks. Imagine sitting there during an exam and seeing this famous much fought about landmark one of the oldest Islamic monuments that stands today. But then again, if you live somewhere and you see it everyday it becomes less special.

It was a great way to go on a self-guided walk around Jerusalem and I highly recommend the ramparts walk to everyone who visits Jerusalem.

Good to know

  • There is a small entrance fee. If I remember it correctly it was less than 20 shekel. Once you enter the ramparts walk you can exit at various locations, but it is only possible to enter at 2 locations, so be aware of that when you plan your walk!
  • There is hardly any shade and it can get very hot. You must have a hat, enough water & snacks, and sunscreen.

Want to read more about Israel. Check out our blog about why Israel is a great family travel destination. Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

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Kranjska Gora: A family vacation in the Julian Alps

Kranjska Gora is small resort town in the Julian’s Alps (Julijske Alpe in Slovenian) in north west Slovenia, mere 20 minutes driving from beautiful lake Bled. It is surrounded by the mountains and the glacial lakes of the Triglav National Park are within easy reach. It is a rather touristic place that caters to winter sport enthusiast in the winter months and the slops are taken over by hikers and mountain bikers in the summer. Furthermore it is within easy reach of Austria (Villach – 23km, through the Karawanks Tunnel) and Italy (Tarvisio -22km). The Karawanks Tunnel is notorious for its LONG traffic jams during peak season.We were warned about this by our AirBnB hosts in Ljubljana before we headed to Kranjska Gora. We left the highway after Bled and before Jesenice, thank God we did, as we ended up bypassing a 15 km traffic jam.

Kranjska Gora is not a big place by any means, and you should not need more than an hour to explore the village itself. The village is best explored by strolling through its little streets.

river gorge slovenia

Lonely Planet has added the Julian Alps, as one of their Top 10 regions to visit in 2018 , I fully agree with their description of the region:[…] With the natural appeal of Chamonix or Zermatt – but with fewer crowds – the Julian Alps offer mountain bliss in an overlooked corner of Europe. Over two-thirds of the region is protected by the Triglav National Park mandate, a mechanism that not only curbs development along the summits but ensures that improvements to local infrastructure are effected in a slow and studied manner. Once suitable only for the intrepid, the Julian Alps are gently opening the door to every stripe of traveller. […]

our 4 highlights of Kranjska Gora

#1 Driving the Vršič Pass and visiting the wooden Russian Chapel

The Vršič Pass is the highest road pass in the Julian Alps (1,611m /5285ft) and it is has 50 serpentines. It is a fun (especially when you are living in the Netherlands and are used to pancake flat terrains), beautiful and slow drive starting in Kranjska Gora. Altitude wise it made ourears pop, but luckily our little one slept the whole way and seemed to have no issues. There are several mountain cabins along the road where you can stop for a drink and grab a bite to eat. On the Kranjska Gora side of the pass, you will pass by the Russian Chapel. It was built in 1917 as a memorial for all the POWs who died while working on the Vršič Pass road.  The church itself is rarely open for visitors. From what you can see through the windows it has a rather simple interior with a typical orthodox style altar. Legally it belongs to the Russian Orthodox parish in Belgrade.

russian chapel sloveniajulian alps panorama

#2 Nordic Centre Planica

Unlike most tourists we did not visit Planica for the Winter sport Museum. We went there, as my adrenaline junkie had heard about the Planica zipline. In Planica you can zipline down the largest ski flying hill in the world on the steepest zipline in the world in the mecca for the world ski jumping elite. Obviously, he needed to do it…BUT you also need to reserve in advance…and we did not…so we watched other people zip lining instead and shall return one day to go ziplining ourselves.  (Check out the video of the zipline on their website)

#3 Jasna Lake & hiking

Jasna Lake is an easy 15 min uphill walk from the village centre. It is actially 2 interconnected manmade lakes, which are popular with the locals for swimming and recreational purposes. There are 2 little huts serving snacks and drinks and it is great place to just sit back and enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains or to go for a walk. There are 2 streams connected with the lake, which are swarming with fly fishers. We enjoyed a nice afternoon hiking in the vicinity of the lakes with our little one. The road that passed by the lakes is the beginning of the Vršič Pass road.

# 4 Mountain biking in Kranjska Gora

The Bike Park is host to the IXS Downhill cup and hosted the EDC in 2015, as a last-minute substitute for Maribor. It is a park that has become more popular with the downhill mountain bike crowd in the last years. The park has 5 basic trails and of course our downhill mountain bike crazy member of the family needed to check it out. He spent a day riding, while the little one and I explored the town and lakes. Sadly, he was not too impressed with the bike park trails. It seems that at the end of the season (we visited in late August) their bike park maintenance crew had already checked out. But still a day in the saddle is always a good day for him.

 

BONUS : #5 Tromeja

Several other travellers and locals told us about a relatively easy hike starting in a small town very close to Kranjska Gora.  We really wanted to go, but the weather and our little explorers’ mood that day stopped us from going, hence we can only share our Top #4 and not Top #5. We promised ourselves that next time we visit Slovenia we shall be climbing up to Tromeja (aka Peč/Monte Forno/Dreiländereck/Ofen), the European equivalency of the American 4 corners. It is a triple border peak (1508m /4948ft) between Slovenia, Austria and Italy, which is easily accessible from Rateče by bike, foot and car. The views from Tromeja offer a panorama of the Julian Alps, the Gailtal Alps, the Gurktal Alps, the High and Low Tauern and Karavanke mountains.

Recommended by locals

Bad weather activity We were unlucky with the weather on one afternoon of our stay and ended up going for a swim at the Ramada hotels indoor pool. The pool area was very clean,has views of the surrounding mountain range and is kid friendly (separate pool with slide).We had a lovelyy relaxing time there, while waiting for the rain to stop.

Restaurant recommendation We stayed at a Farm stay apartment, which came with a kitchen and we did cook ourselves on the first night. One the second night of our stay the farmer’s wife recommended that we should have dinner at her favourite local restaurant: Gostilna Pri Martinu – we had a meat dish and the trout and it was delicious.

On the evening when  we went for dinner the town hosted a Harley Davidson meeting, which meant that the place was full of bikers and the windows were vibrating from the large groups of Harley’s driving past ever now and then. It put our little one to sleep and allowed us to have a quiet dinner.

The website of Kranjska Gora’s Tourism office: https://www.kranjska-gora.si/en

Read about our holiday in  Slovenia –12 Reasons why Slovenia is the ultimate European family travel destination . 

Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

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Texel the Dutch island getaway you did not know about

Texel is a beautiful island in the North of the Netherlands and it seems it is literally unknown to people outside of the Netherlands and their German neighbours.  Picturesque Texel ( Tes-sel -pronounciation) is a gem off the Dutch coast and it is a great island for family vacations. Located just 3km north of the coast of North Holland stretching little more than 25km from north to south, and 9km from east to west quaint Texel is under the radar for most international tourists, even after being named one of Lonely Planets 2016 Top 10 Destinations to visit.

There are 5 inhabited Wadden islands that line the Dutch North Sea Coast. Texel is the biggest island, and is accessible by ferry, which means you can leave Amsterdam in the morning after breakfast and after a short train ride (70 min) or drive (90 minutes) and a quick 20 min ferry trip you can be enjoying island life.

When to go

The best time to visit starts when the weather warms up in April  until early September, as the island’s main attractions are the almost 30km-long, white sand coastline and the 130 km of bike trails crossing the island. However as is common with Northern European destinations even at the height of summer there is no guarantee of sunshine at beaches in Texel, so the hotels and holiday apartments are always designed for maximum cosiness suitable for all kinds of weather.

We visited Texel with our little one when he was 3.5 months old in late June, the weather was wonderful and the island was just gearning up for the busy summer period.

OUR TOP RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TEXEL WITH A BABY

#1 VISIT THE NATIONAL  PARK

Texel has it is own national park ,The Texel Dunes National Park, and  famous for its refreshing salty sea air, lambs and sense of space. Careful zoning and a large national park area means that most of the island remains untouched, shaped by the forces of wind and sea. It is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts, it offers activities such as windsurfing, cycling, sailing and bird watching or you can just relax, take it easy and marvel at the big skies, green fields  and endless beaches.

#2Visit ECOMARE

Ecomare is the oldest seal sanctuary in Europe and it has porpoises feeding time ‘shows’, all is done  in a very respectful manner, focusing on the wellbeing of the animals.  In the parking lot they  have a  bird box where injured birds can be left if they are discovered outside of Ecomare opening hours. There is also a big interactive museum section, highlighting how the island was created in the Ice Age and an aquarium, which we had a lot of fun exploring. We spent several hours there, had lunch and explored the surrounding area, as is borders on the Dunes National Park.

#3 Bike all across the island

There are more than 130km  of bike trails spanning the island and there are plenty of bike rental places scattered across the island. It is a great and easy way to explore the island, it is a great way to stop at local farms  for lunch or to buy fresh cheese and milk. There are 2 things that can make biking on Texel, which is flat as a pancake, interesting: the wind and sheep blocking the bike path. Texel is known for its great lamb dishes and we were told the island has more than 25000(!) sheep and a general population of about 13000 people.

#4 Explore THE strange history of Texel

Texel has an interesting place in European military history, it is the location of Europe’s last battlefield. During the 2nd World War Texel formed part of the German Atlantic Wall defence line and in the late stages of the war the Germans send in a battalion of Georgian soldiers to secure the Atlantic Wall in the North of the Netherlands. The Georgians has either joined the German army out of choice or were prisoners of war (POW). In April 1945, weeks before the end of the war, the Georgian soldiers together with Dutch resistance groups on the island, revolted against their German commanders and quickly gained control of Texel. However, they were not able to remain control of Texel for long. And this is where this bit of history becomes rather sad and strange. The Germans surrendered and the 2nd World War ‘officially’ ended on 5 May, but the fighting and Texel continued until 20 May, and this is why the Georgian uprising is known as Europe’s last battlefield. What happened between 5-20 May ? The Germans systematically hunted down the Dutch resistance and Georgians rebels and killed them  -565 Georgians, 120 Texel locals and 800 Germans lost their lives in the uprising. There is a big Georgian cemetery and memorial on Texel.The Texel lighthouse in the North of the island was one of the strongholds of the Georgian rebels and was heavily damaged bullets and mortar shells and this compromised its structural integrity. When you visit the lighthouse you will see an interior wall riddled with bullet holes and a new exterior wall. The 2 wall sections are only visible from the inside when you climb up the stairs to the top of the lighthouse.

HOW TO GET THERE AND AROUND

By ferry from Den Helder. It is a 20-minute ferry crossing. The TESO ferry service is quick and a well-oiled machine.  You can either board the ferry with your car (25-37 EUR per car) or do what we did and use public transport (a foot passenger return ticket is 2,50 EUR).Due to how easily accessible Texel is by public transport, bike and car, it is popular with one-day visitors, therefore the ferries can be quite crowded during the summer months.

We travelled by train to Den Helder and then crossed over to Texel by ferry  and relied on public transport during our stay on the island. Upon arriving at Den Helder train station, we boarded bus 33 to the ferry port, which leaves from the bus stop right next to the small easy to navigate train station. The bus schedule aligns with the ferry and train schedule. On the bus you can buy a Texelhopper ticket (3 EUR), which will serve as your bus ticket to the ferry and is valid on Texel island until you have reached your final destination. You can also opt for a day ticket for 7,50 EUR. Once you get off the ferry on Texel there is busses waiting. Public transport on Texel consists of one fixed bus line (Nr. 28) and mini-buses. Bus 28 rides between the ferry, Den Burg and De Koog. The mini-buses take you to and from around 130 stops on the island.We took the mini busses several times, it is very easy, it is just like ordering a taxi. You call the Texelhopper bus company tell them the pick-up point (all bus stops have numbers) and time and that’s it.

WHERE TO STAY

The biggest towns on Texel (the island has only 7 villages) and centres of tourism are De Koog and Den Burg. We decided to stay in De Koog during our visit for 2 reasons; It is directly adjacent to the Texel Dunes National Park and has direct beach access.

We stayed at the Greenside Hotel, a lovely 4-star hotel with spacious rooms, lovely personnel, a big breakfast buffet and a wellness spa area, perfect for new parents in need of a massage and some me-time. The Greenside Hotel is right next to the Texelhopper bus stop connecting to the ferry port, which was important to us, as we relied on public transport for our trip. The hotel is very close to various restaurants, the main supermarket in DeKoog and adjacent to  a playground, a football pitch and plenty of green space for the little ones to run around safely.

The hotel  has a play corner close to the reception/restaurant area and the restaurant staff were awesome and welcoming our little one. We were ambitious and ordered a 3-course menu, while our little 3,5 months old was asleep in his stroller in a quiet corner of the restaurant. All went well, but he woke up just before it was time for dessert, the waiter encouraged us to go for a walk and enjoy the dessert once we came back to the hotel. And as he had assured us, dessert was ready for us once we got back from our little stroll.

Have you ever heard of Texel?

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German Christmas Markets need to be on your bucket list

Our son is  a 3rd culture kid  so we are both keen on introducing him to our home countries Christmas traditions. Mom is German and  Christmas Markets are a big thing in Germany. I truly believe that German Christmas Markets need to be on your bucket list, they are a unique mix of Gemütlichkeit , tradition and bringing light to an otherwise dark season of the year.Each year people from all over the world flock to Germany to visit the famous Christmas markets they heard so much about.

Source: http://www.planetcruise.co.uk/cruise-guides-and-features/christmas-market-cruises

CHristmas markets have become a GLOBAL phenomenon

Currently we live in The Netherlands and even here you will find all major cities hosting  “German style” Christmas markets, the local papers are full of daytrips to Germany to visit one of the big markets close to the border and all my international expat friends and colleagues stop by my desk to ask for ‘the best’ market to visit.  Everyone has their favourite one, personally my family prefers the more local smaller markets.

source: https://tokyocheapo.com/travel/holidays/xmas-winter-markets-in-tokyo/

⇓⇓  Scroll down for an overview of the BEST Christmas markets in Germany and  we will reveal our family’s favourite Christmas Market ⇓⇓

The Setting & LIGHTS

The markets are generally held on traditional town squares, in the courtyards of castles, next to Cathedrals illuminated or decorated for the Christmas season.  The lights and decoration of the city and stalls is putting everyone but the Grinch in a festive Christmas spirit. Most big markets have the traditional stalls selling food, crafts, decorations, hand-made ornaments, candles & co, while also offering funfair like elements and rides such as ice skate rings and merry-go-rounds.

Source: https://www.bavaria.by/christmas-market-in-nuremberg-bavaria

THE TYPICAL FOOD

Show me one German who does not spent at least one day a year strolling over a Christmas market smelling the scents we associate since our childhood with Christmas – mulled wine (Glühwein), potato pancakes ( Kartoffelpuffer), gingerbread, Fruit bread ( Weihnachtsstollen),fresh waffles, candid apples (Paradiesäpfel), champignons with garlic/wine/creme sauce,  Bratwurst, sugared almonds (gebrannte Mandeln) and roasted chestnuts (Kastanien).  These are the food stapels you will find on all markets with some local specialities differing per market

Leave enough space in your suitecase

Most stalls at Christmas markets sells high quality hand-made local products and regional food & beverages. You will find the odd stall with cheap ornaments made in China, but the cities tend to have strict requirements on what can and cannot be sold on Christmas markets and keep those stalls out. It is easy to pick up unique, high quality  products such as leather goods, knitwear, wooden children’s toys, lambskins,  hand-made ornaments, nutcrackers, candles & co.

Source: http://www.frontiermuseum.org/weihnachtsmarkt-2016-traditional-christmas-markets/

THERE ARE SOME PRETTY UNIQUE CHRISTMAS MARKETS

Starting often at the end of November until end of December Germany transforms itself into the Land of Christmas Markets. Every little mid-sized provincial village hosts a Christmas market and the bigger cities all have several ones. The Berlin Tourism board published a list with 40+ Christmas markets that Berlin will host in 2017 Say what? More than 40 Christmas Markets in Berlin alone. Yes that is right, you can find everything from the Dog Christmas Market  to a vegan Christmas Market   in Berlin this year. In Hamburg, on the famous Reeperbahn ( Red Light & Party district), you will be able to visit an Erotic Christmas Market, they call themselves the hottest Christmas market.

last but not least…AVOID THESE 5 BEGINNER MISTAKES

#1 Don’t miss out on your ‘free’ souvenir – each market has its unique mulled wine mug. Normally when you buy  mulled wine you get charged 2-4 Euro as pfand on top of the price for the beverage, you are expected to return the mug and will then get the pfand back. Don’t return it, take the mug home as a souvenir! Fun fact: Pfand  literally means randsom.

#2 Do make sure you check out free classical music concerts at local churches and palaces.

#3 Do dress warm and wear comfy flat(!) boots, as most markets require you to walk over cobblestone streets and it can get really cold. There will hardly be any places to sit and rest, as it is all about strolling around the market and stopping at standing counters to eat and people watch. You will find that to sit down and heat up you need to head to local restaurants and cafes, which  often get very crowded.

#4 Do check if the mulled wine is spiked with shots of rum or schnapps, as is the ‘standard’. Every stall will have non-alcoholic versions and hot chocolate available, but often you need to ask for it.

#5 On the bigger markets it can get very crowded during the weekends. Keep an eye out for emergency exits and  open alleyways between the stalls. 2 years ago, I went to the Christmas market while highly pregnant, and sometimes I really needed to get out quickly, as there was too much pushing and shoving.

OUR PERSONAL FAVOURITE GERMAN CHRISTMAS MARKET IS IN MÜNSTER

It is the Christmas Market in picturesque Münster! This year it will be held from 27 November to 23 December and it is actually 5 Christmas Markets spread out over the city squares, all within easy walking distance from one another.

THE BIGGEST MOST BEAUTIFUL & WELL-KNOWN CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN GERMANY

TIP: Due to Germany’s central location in Europe it is easy to combine a trip to the Christmas market with another popular European location!

2017

Berlin ( various markets)

COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO WARSAW/POLAND

( Direct train connection→ 5,5 hrs)

 

21 November – 26 December ( Schloss Charlottenburg)

27 November -31 December (Kaiser_Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche at Kurfürstendamm)

Cologne ( various markets)

COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO LONDON/UNITED KINGDOM

( Direct train connection → 4 hrs)

27 November – 23 December  ( several Christmas markets all over town)
Dresden Striezelmarkt

COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO PRAGUE /CZECH REPUBLIC

( Direct train connection → 2,5 hours)

29 November – 24 December
Nuremberg Christkindlemarkt  

COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO SALZBURG/AUSTRIA

( Direct train connection → 3 hours)

1 – 24 December
Rothenburg op der Tauber Reiterlesmarkt 1 – 23 December
Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt

COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO BASEL/SWITZERLAND

( Direct train connection → 3 hours)

29 November -23 December
Aachen

COMBINE WITH A TRIP TO BRUSSELS/BEGIUM

(Direct train connection → 1,5 hours)

24 November -23 December

Have you ever been to any of Germany’s famous Christmas markets?

Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

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18 Summers Of Family Vacations Is All We Get

When we became parents it was obvious that our little one would not stop us from travelling the world. We love to travel and it should come as no surprise that our little one has been to 6 countries before his first birthday. We hope that he will become a true global citizen and follow his wanderlust when he grows up.  Recently  we have thought a lot about childhood memories and how to curate them for our little one and we heard about the concept of 18 summers, in an unlikely place – the website of the Idaho Department of Commerce and Tourism Development     ( we were looking at Idaho, as a stop over on our sabbatical).

Source: https://visitidaho.org/18summers/

*Bonus: There is even an 18 Summers rap songs by  dad and rapper Dillon Chase.

The days are long, but the years are short

Mom travelled by herself for the first time internationally when she was 15 years old…and by the time she was 18 she had moved abroad and went on holiday with her friends. Family holidays became a rare occurance. Dad joined the Marine Corps and was seconded abroad and stationed all over the country, so also for him his family barely made the 18 family summer’s count.

Looking back on our life journey’s we would not want to change anything and are happy that our families allowed us to explore the world on our own as of a young age. But being parents ourselves, we now realize that our little one might only spent another SIXTEEN summers with us, before we will hear about his travel stories, but not be part of it anymore. The thought is scary and liberating at the same time – We want to MAKE EACH SUMMER COUNT and live by the credo ” the days are long, but the years are short”.

Our 5promises to our little one FOR OUR 18 SUMMERS TOGETHER

We will always take the triP

We have all been there, hearing about a place or seeing pictures of a place and getting major Fernweh, but then we stall ourselves and time, responsibilities, money & co get in the way. But keeping in mind that we only have 18 summers with you, we will always take the trip! Whether that is to the local playground to ride your little red car around the skatepark , to a local famers market or to see the world during our upcoming family sabbatical. Our 18 summers will be spent seeing them through your eyes ( and often at your pace. Everyone who has ever let a toddler take the lead on a walk will understand that there is an entire amazing universe on a path of less than 20 m, which can take an hour to explore).

WE will always MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A home

We want to show him the world, and make sure that he understands that life in other cities, countries and on other continents is something that is an option for him and that any place can be home. Also travelling to other places and interacting with other  cultures fosters understanding, resilience, takes away the fear of the unknown and creates a strong sense of empathy. Our little one is a 3rd culture kid , a citizen of everwhere and nowhere  .We want to make sure that he has roots! Mom was born in Germany, Dad in the United States, he was born in The Netherlands, and we don’t know where his sibling(s) will be born. But we hope that through travelling and making him see, feel, touch, smell and taste the world we can help him to find his place.

WE WILL CURATE (TRAVEL) MEMORIES FOR YOU

Living an internationall mobile lifestyle, and not having found our family forever home yet, means that our little one will have to be flexible and adapt to new places, people and situations. Mom’s childhood home still has the wooden doorway where you will find all the various family members height being measured. Our little one won’t have such a place, therefore we will make sure to take plenty of pictures and curate (travel) memories of not only our 18 summers, but all our adventures near and far and  mundane daily life ( also see our article:10 Best ideas to curate travel memories for children)

WE WILL PRIORITIZE FAMILY TIME

Family time does not have to be ‘special’ and action packed all the time. Snuggling up on the couch together after a bath and smelling the scent of our little ones fluffy soft baby hair. Being the only person allowed to heal an ouchie.  Dealing with a major tantrum at a supermarket because of not being allowed to bite into all the apples in the fresh fruit section. All this is family time, and as much as sometimes it feels more like a chore than a blessing, we will prioritize it. Why? Because it is going to be short lived that we are the centre of our little ones universe. So we will enjoy the beauty, mess, tears and laughter of our 18 summers.

WE PRIORITIZE MAKING MEMORIES OVER OWNING THINGS

We believe that while toys, are important for developmental purposes and play, we think that it is not toys or clothes or souvenirs that will build memories, but it is the time we spent together to create memories. Therefore we choose making memories over owning thing, and trust that our little one will be ok without  owning the average 238 toys.

Do you find the thought of only having 18 summers scary or liberating?

Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

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