Cultured Child

The Cultured Child

By: Jennifer McMillen

So this is not an adventure type article.  This is something that I have been wanting to write  for awhile… so here it goes.  We live in a world with many cultures, languages, food types and many of us are willing to give those a try.  For us, me especially, we have taken the world into our hands.  Growing up and living in the USA for majority of my life I feel like I have been blinded.  Even though I believe that I am a cultured child.  Yes I may not know the language but I have the other aspects of the “cultured child”. I do not know 2 full languages only one.  Of course I know bits and pieces of other languages such as Spanish, German and French, but other than that I could never have a full on conversation.  Though if you think about it– have you looked to see how large the USA is?  It is massive! With the land mass of Europe you could physically fit about 2-4 US states to fill in Europe.  Europe is a “wholenother” ballgame.  We could be in 4 countries in 1 day and be exposed to 4 different languages.  Though if you drive just 10 hours in the states ,say Texas, you are still in Texas.  Nothing against my home state of course, but it just comes with a perspective.

Culture

I will tell you a bit about myself.  I have travelled to 27 countries in my lifetime.  Yes I know many other that have done a ton more countries that I have.  In two years, my family and I have gone to 14 of those.  Only 3 of those was when I was in the US Navy. The rest were before I was even 5 years old.  How amazing is that?  Anyways back to culture.  Culture gives our children first hand experience.  It sometimes even takes you back in time. Culture is everything: language, architecture, food, people, basically all the institutions in Sociology.  By the way, if you have not noticed, Sociology is actually what my degree is in. 🙂 Culture and travel go so far in depth with each other.  Hence why the military lifestyle is amazing! Although sometimes it is hard, but something you get used to.  The great thing is if you don’t like it where are stationed now.. wait a few years and you will be somewhere else anyways.  What a great way to see the world… right?

Language

So like I said language plays a part in a being a cultured child. Yes we may know our native language, but how many other languages do you know?  When you go to the US, yes, believe it or not there are many cultures and customs in every single area.  Honestly… just like any country in the world.  One end of the country is not going to be the same as it is in the north, south, east or west.  Think of Switzerland, in the western part; people speak French, the south speaks Italian and the north and east speak German.  Same for the states.  Since living overseas, it has really opened up my eyes.  I am making it mandatory for all three of my children to learn an additional language.  Of course it will be a language that I will also learn.

Travel travel travel

Yes we know it can be hard to travel with kids.  It is a lot more expensive. BUT if you have the chance to do it even in the US– do it! Like I said culture, language is different everywhere. Since we moved to Germany, my family and I   have seen MORE of the world than probably 70% (I am just throwing out a number) of American children.  This number is just going to keep on going as long as we are in Europe.  I am giving my children a history lesson that they can keep sharing for the rest of their lives.  Just like their momma! Get out those travel planners and go!

Move to Another Country?

Has this ever crossed your mind?  It has  ALWAYS crossed my mind several times before we even moved here.  Watching House Hunters International doesn’t seem to help.  Everytime we go to a nice we always say “We could totally live here!”  I knew that I wanted to show my children the world.  Give it to them all wrapped in a box with bows and frilly paper.  Though moving to another country has had its ups and downs.  Moving somewhere where you do not know anyone, but that could be a good thing.  You can start over fresh. The schooling part, my children attend an American school.  Which of course has helped them all make friends very quickly.  The only downside is that the school only teaches Spanish and German 1x per week for about 45 minutes.  They need more.  I want them to know more.  But of course that is the Cultured Child in me!

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your business schedule to read my article! Are you a Cultured Child? Do you have Cultured Children? Tell us about your and your children’s experience below!

 

Our Escape to Holland

Holland is one of the most beautiful countries that we have visited since we have moved to Europe.  The houses are so charming.  Residents are very open there.  Their windows are drawn open and you can see right through them.  Not like we were standing there being “Peeping Toms” of course, but as we drove through we felt “welcomed”.  Our drive to Camping Duinrell was about 4 1/2 hours from Kaiserslautern, Germany.  The great thing about this time of year is that the sun is still up until about 9:30 to 10:00pm.  So therefore we were not having to drive in the dark, which is awesome.

Our Accommodations 

We arrived pretty late to Camping Duinrell (10:30pm), and since we arrived so late Canvas Holidays gave our cabin key to the security office.  Check in was a breeze and we were into accomodations very quickly.  We booked the 2 bedroom 1 1/2 bathroom cabin via Canvas Holidays.  Keep in mind that there are several other companies you can book through there such as EuroCamp, Koko, the campsite itself and Al Fresco.  For three nights (Friday to Monday) the cost was 119€ or 135 USD (approx).  Although we paid for Sunday night we actually did not stay overnight. We just used it as a late check out instead.

When “glamping” you can save money by bringing your own linens and towels (which we do).  Do not forget to bring dish cleaning supplies (i.e. soap, scrub brush and towels).  They also don’t have “kid friendly” dishes.  So I also recommend bringing plastics.  We always bring a wine bottle opener just in case we bring/buy a bottle of wine.  If you choose not to bring your food or maybe forget to bring some items, the campsite actually has a HUGE grocery store in site.  The also have restaurants, bars, an indoor pool (which we went to), an amusement park (which we didn’t go to) and they have rentals (bikes!) and more!

 

Keukenhof- The Largest Garden in the World!

The main reason for us to come to Holland was actually to go to Keukenhof! This past weekend was for me since it was Mother’s Day weekend.  I thought “What a great way to celebrate me”.  So why not?  The season runs from March to about mid-May and I recommend buying your tickets via online before you go.  We arrived at Keukenhof at around 10:00 am.  We found parking right away (parking is 6€) in the front.  The lines can get long, but when we were there they were pretty decent.  Since we had bought our tickets we went right on it.  If you forgot to print out your tickets (like I did oops!) you can pick up your tickets at the information center on the right side of the Kasse (cashier).  The park is VERY stroller and wheelchair accessible.  You can EASILY “lose” yourself in the park with the beautiful.  Luckily we were at the garden on the Romantic weekend.  They had two concert areas with classical music being played as well as women and men dressed up in 1700s/1800s costumes.  For the kids in mind, there is a large playground, petting zoo and a maze which has a tower to climb with a view of a tulip field!  There are a few restaurants in the park, but you can bring your own picnic (which we did).  We sat by a stream and had our lunch.  If you are looking at bringing your furry friends, they are also welcome to the park!

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Tiki Bad: Duinrell’s indoor pool!

Looking for a pool to cool off (or more like stay warm)? Tiki Bad at Duinrell is the perfect place! My family and I had an amazing time! For the 5 of us for 3 hours it was 25€! There is a wave pool, a lazy river, SEVERAL slides, and a baby pool area.  Strollers are not allowed into the pool area, but if your arms are restless they have playpens to put your little ones into.  If you are feeling hungry there is a restaurant upstairs as well.

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Delft- BEAUTIFUL pottery! Oh and cheese.

We heard about Delft from a friend of ours that TOLD us we had to go check out the village and the pottery… so we did. We parked in the Market parking lot (for about 2 hours it was about 5€).  The walk took about 10 minutes to get to the main square.  It was absolutely beautiful! My husband gathered the kids and let me browse the store.. I think I could have spent a lot of money in there, but I didn’t. Haha! For my husband’s wallet I held back. I ended up buying a “I love Delft” coffee mug for my coffee-loving husband, a necklace for my daughter, a small candle holder, a windmill for our “attraction” collection, a puppy and owl ornaments for my daughter (she is obviously very spoiled) and a salt and pepper shakers shaped like turtles (my daughter picked them out since my son, Dane, loves turtles).  Then we had ice cream at a shop across the way.  Then 2 doors down there was a cheese shop and of course you can’t leave Holland without and cheese.  My son, Dane, decided he wanted to sample every kind of cheese they had available.  He settled on herbs and garlic and I bought my husband some red chili pepper.  I also bought some delicious flavored-mustards (cranberry, honey, balsamic and wasabi).  After Delft we headed to…..

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THE BEACH!

We have found our new summertime beach trips! We LOVED it! The kids did too.  My husband didn’t realize that the beach was only about 10 minutes from Duinrell so of course we took advantage of it! The boardwalk is amazing! Now keep in mind the beach that we went to was in Scheveningen.  From what I have heard other beaches in Holland are nude and this one is certain not.  Though you will see topless women, but hey when in “Rome”. It didn’t bother us and it didn’t bother my children as well.  I think they are pretty used to it now. Note: The distance from the water to the boardwalk is FAR! It is certainly not a hop and skip away.  When we arrived the time was pretty far out, but it did start coming in pretty quickly.  There are lots of restaurants, bars and there was a shopping center.

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Overall, Holland will be forever on our list as a destination especially to the beach!  Thank you so much for reading our review about our trip to Holland! We really did have an amazing time with our children! Please feel free to comment below, ask questions and say hello!

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Mannheimer Volksfest

Yesterday we decided to check out the Mannheimer Volksfest, which is the largest Volkfest in the Region!  We did arrive a hour too early, but that is ok! We were able to walk around the fair a few times to see what we all wanted to do.  We even enjoyed some adult drinks (beer for the guys and wine schorle for the ladies)!  The weather was quite crazy yesterday: sun, snow (yes SNOW), sun, snow etc.  So we made sure we took advantage of the sunshine that we did have.

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One thing that we HAD to do was the inflated balls in the water. So we paid 15€ for the kids to go.  It was absolutely hilarious.  Though my 6 year old son did get scared so we had to pull him out early.  This is certainly a way to drain out their energy.  In fact, within maybe 10 minutes of us leaving they fell asleep on the way home.

We did go there with another travel blogger family Submerged Oaks on our adventure.  It is always nice to go to any sort of amusement park with another family since you can take turns riding rides.  Meghan and I rode a few rides. We parked nearby the Wasserturm (a beautiful water tower) in the Rosengarten parking garage.  The parking was just over 13€.  Do NOT pull what we did… we ran out of euro.  So I gave someone $5 USD and they gave me 3 euro, but you know what we needed to get out of there and I am glad I was about to get some euro from someone.  Luckily they even spoke English! Whew!

Tips: I highly recommend if you are going to a festival, go on Family Days (Familientag) since rides will be cheaper.  I also recommend getting euro out of the ATM (Geldautomat) BEFORE you head to festivals as sometimes there are not any.

More Information:

English: https://www.facebook.com/events/865777100186978/

German: http://relaunch.gmm.de/web/cms/front_content.php?idcat=61 (To View in English. In Chrome right click on your mouse and click on “Translate to English”

Address:

Mannheimer Messe

68169 Mannheim, Germany

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to read about our adventures! Have a question, comment, thank you?  Please comment below and please share with your family and friends!

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French Riviera: Nice, Cannes & Monaco

If you are looking for grace and beauty in Europe, I very much recommend heading to the French Riviera (also known as Côte d’Azur).  This region which is bubbling to the brim with elegance; is one of the most visited areas of France other than of course Paris.  We really enjoyed our time in the French Riviera.  Majority of our time was spent in my favorite city of Nice, but before boast about our time there I will discuss other aspects of our trip as well as our day trips to Cannes and Monaco.  I have included hyperlinks to some of the attractions in which we visited.

Getting There

We drove to the French Riviera from Germany which would take about 10 hours straight (if we did drive, but we stayed at Château de Burnand for a few days). There are a few airports in the area as well.

Our Accommodations

We stayed at the Camping La Baume campsite in Fréjus which is about a 30 minute drive to Cannes, 45 minutes to Nice and 90 minutes to Monte Carlo.

Driving Around

I highly recommend having lots of Euro change for tolls.  If you chose not to drive on the Autoroute, I do recommend taking the coastal highway.  It is a remarkable drive with views of the Mediterranean Sea. We rode this route several times and made several stops along the way!  Although if you don’t want to drive you can also take the train.

Monte Carlo, Monaco

I think the only reason why we really went to Monaco was just to say that we had been there.  We walked around the gorgeous marina dreaming that maybe one day in our next lifetime we would possibly own a yacht.  Wishful thinking? Absolutely! We had lunch at a little cafe right off the strip and let the kids play at a small playground.  My souvenir from Monaco?  A very expensive cake pan.  Guh! What was I thinking? I needed a cake pan of course. 🙂 And guess what?  3 weeks later.. I still have not used it.  Sigh.

Cannes, France

After Monte Carlo, we took the scenic route along the coast, which of course is strikingly beautiful and highly recommended.  If you are looking for a sandy beach, Cannes, is certainly a location for that.  We spent a few hours soaking in the sun and playing in the water before heading back to Fréjus.

Nice, France

I have to say that Nice was by far my favorite.  Of course it was nice seeing Cannes and going to Monte Carlo.  I just really enjoyed the ambiance of the city.  I am really looking forward to our next visit to the French Riviera and I am going to be adding Nice to it again.  There is so much to this city to see and I highly recommend a few days to really soak in everything there is to offer!  We did spend two days in Nice.  Our first day we walked around the Parc Pheonix and we rode the train tour.  Which is perfect for the kids! They absolutely loved it. The next day we rented two lounge chairs at the beach and the kids played ALL day long.  It was super relaxing and I sipped on a pina colada. I could totally get used to that! Nice, France was my FAVORITE place to go.

Overall, HEAD TO THE FRENCH RIVIERA! Especially if you want sun and sea! 🙂

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Parfumerie Galimard

Are looking for something unique to do while you are in the French Riviera?  Ever wondered how perfume is made?  Have you ever wanted to create your own? … I highly recommend taking a perfume making class! It was the perfect amount of time to get some alone time and really put my creativity juices to action.  Plus the kids were able to spend some time with daddy alone. The perfume-making-action happens in Grasse, France which is only roughly 20 minutes from Grasse.  There are a few companies in the Grasse area to make one.  I chose Galimard.  The cost to make a perfume in their class is 50€.  They do speak English! .  The

Did you know that perfume originated from tanning animal hides? It has only been around since the 1700s! 

The Class

The class for me took 1 hour and 30 minutes since I was the only person there that spoke English.  There were maybe about 30 other “students” there, but they all spoke French.  I learned plenty about how to make perfume! There were three steps: the base, the middle and the top.  They will explain which each part means and how it contributes to your perfume.  I highly recommend taking breaks occasionally to let your nose “reset” as you will be smelling about 100+ oils.  It can be quite overwhelming.  If you do get headaches from strong smells I highly recommend NOT taking the class as the oils are pretty strong.

Did you know that Grasse is one of the largest producers of perfumes in the world?

Overall Review

I absolutely LOVED it! I really enjoyed making my own creation.  The staff was very helpful and asked any questions I had.  I did upgrade to a nicer bottle for my creation.  For Your Information: Your perfume will not be technically “ready” until 2 weeks after you make it… you do take it with you! I absolutely love mine and I will be going back.. possibly with friend in tow!  Thank you Galimard!

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Where is Galimard?

73 Route de Cannes, 06130 Grasse, France

Reservations are Required

+33 4 93 09 20 00

Website: www.galimard.com

 

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Thank you so much for taking your time out of your busy day to read this post! Please feel free to comment below and share with your friends and family!

Camping La Baume

We really enjoyed our stay at Camping La Baume! It is an absolutely beautiful campsite.  Enjoy our review!

Booking

We booked our stay via EuroCamp, BUT you can book through many companies such as Canvas Holidays, La Baume (directly), and more! The total cost of our accommodations for this portion was 240€ (so only 40 per night!). Please keep in mind that we booked back in September and we received a good discount for early booking!  While at the accommodation we did extend a day (that reflected in the price previously posted)

Accommodations & Campsite

I selected the 2 bedroom and 2 bathroom mobile home and I certainly felt it had PLENTY of room for us to spread out.  The accommodation actually can accommodate up to 7 people. Having an extra bathroom was certainly essential and needed for our family of 5. The accommodations included the kitchenware (dishes, pots/pans, silverware, glasses, dish drying rack) and cleaning supplies (broom, dustpan, and mop/bucket), but it did NOT include linen, towels, dish soap and sponges). Campsites in Europe are mini resorts with amenities such as Olympic-sized pools, playgrounds, bars, restaurants, kid clubs and much more.  Although some campsites do not have all of those amenities so certainly be sure to check out the campsites before booking if you are wanting more out of your stay. Now  I have to say that if you do not intend to stay at your lodging (like we did) you can certainly book a smaller campsite.

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Surrounding Area

Although La Baume had plenty to offer we didn’t come to the French Riviera just for the campsite! We of course wanted to explore the area! Fréjus (fray-jew) has many ancient Roman ruins you should certainly check out! There is an ancient viaduct and a classic Roman amphitheater (in which we didn’t get to see up close, but we did see it).  I am sure there is much more in the area, but we did not search for them.  St. Raphael is another city nearby that is absolutely gorgeous.  The city boasts a beautiful city center with tons of shopping!  We really enjoyed the ice cream shops on the waterfront strip!  Other than the ruins and cities I highly recommend the beaches in BOTH nearby cities.  We spent HOURS hanging out and enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.

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Day trips

La Baume is a great place to stay for day trips.  Our longest drive time was going to Monte Carlo (Monaco) which was about a hour and 45 minutes.  Nice is a little over a hour and Cannes is 45 minutes.  We also went to Grasse for a day trip.  We did a few local day trips to St. Raphael and Frejus (amazing beaches!).

Overall Recommendations

The campsite was amazing.  The staff was helpful.

WiFi is NOT free.  For 7 days it was 30€ for 7 days for 3 devices.

They DO have washer and dryers.  The cost is 5€ to wash per load and 1€  for 10 minutes of drying time.

I recommend bringing lots of Euro coins for tolls.  Tolls going to Monaco were about 10€.  Going to Cannes and Nice it was about 5.70€ each way.

To save €, I highly recommend taking the coastal highway. (1) Beautiful views of the Sea, (2) beautiful beaches and plus (3) saving that money.

Thank you so much for reading our review of La Baume and the information! Most appreciated! Feel free to comment below with any questions! Please share with your friends and family!

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Read about our relaxing pitstop at Chateau de Burnand! CLICK HERE

Chateau de Burnand

Back in September, my husband and I were discussing as to where we wanted to go for Spring Break in 2016 and we decided on the French Riviera.  From where we live in Germany it is about a 10 hour drive so we wanted to spend a few days somewhere in between which would be in Côte-d’Or and the surrounding area.  I knew I wanted to stay in a castle, but either (1) they were not available for our dates, (2) they were WAY out of our budget or (3) we would have to stay in multiple rooms.  A couple of months ago, I received an email from AirBnB with a list of castles to stay in and I found Chateau de Burnand (unfortunately I can not find the link).  I contacted them right away so we could make the reservation.  We reserved the Rose Room for 204€ per night and it included a Continental breakfast.  Of course I was hesitant due to the price, but we went ahead and reserved since … well we are staying in a castle!

The drive through the villages to the castle were breathtakingly beautiful! We drove through medieval villages that dated back thousands of years full of life and color.  When we finally arrived at Chateau de Burnand, Jeane, the owner greeted us.  She gave us a tour of the castle and to our room and helped us settle in.  The Rose Room is PERFECT for a family of 5 and possibly even more.  I do have to say the beds were a bit uncomfortable.  So if you have a bad back before to bring some extra cushioning, but other than that no other complaints.

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Surrounding the castle is tranquil with rolling hills, flowers and beautiful old buildings.  The castle is said to be built on ancient ruins!  Our children had an amazing time exploring the grounds as they pleased; while my husband and I spent time chatting with other guests of the castle and Jeane.  It was very international! One couple were from Worms, Germany (right by us), another from Switzerland, another from the UK and the other from the Netherlands.  We didn’t have very much of a language barrier either! It was absolutely fantastic and relaxing.

Jeane was the PERFECT host.  Every morning she would let us know what was going on in the area.  She recommended the market in Cluny.  So we packed up the kids for just a short 30 minute trip there.  It is a GORGEOUS village.  Lots of goodies in every nook and cranny. Bought some delicious strawberries, some dessert spreads, baguettes, a beautiful basket to carry all of the goodies in and more.  After we hit up Cluny, we went to Acrobath parc, a zipline park.  The kids had a wonderful time! We ate some lunch (they have picnic areas!) and the guys hit the lines! Unfortunately our daughter was not able to do the lines as kids have to be 6 years old to go, BUT they do have a “treasure hunt” for the little ones.

 

Tips:

France does have tolls, but in this region there were not many of them.

Take the backroads! Beautiful!

 

Castle Information:

Chateau de Burnand

Website: www.chateaudeburnand.net

 

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog! Please feel free to comment below and share with your friends and family.  If you have ANY questions please feel free to ask.

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Would you like to read more about our Spring Break trip? CLICK HERE! (link coming soon!)

Guest Writer: Easter in Salzburg

Our Favorite Cities – Salzburg

By: Laura Falk

Salzburg…the birthplace of Mozart and filming location of The Sound of Music. I’m not a big classical music fan, but I am a huge fan of The Sound Of Music, which is basically why my family went to Salzburg. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and left late on Sunday. Doesn’t seem like a lot of time, right? Wrong! Salzburg is a very compact city and a weekend is plenty of time to enjoy Salzburg. Seriously, trust me! We had our 3 year old son with us, so I know it can be done without being rushed. Plus, if you say in the Old Town, you can stay right in the middle of the sights.

There are two main parts of the city: The Old Town and The New Town, which are separated by the River Salzach. But don’t worry, there are a couple different bridges that you can use to walk across. Walking the city is incredibly easy! There are public busses that you can use, but walking is more enjoyable. Many of the sights are located very close to one another. Majority of the historical sights, and Sound of Music sights, are located in the Old Town. There were several websites that I utilized to find out the different filming locations. Or, you can use The Sound of Music Hop On Hop Off bus. We didn’t use that as we went on the Salzburg Panorama Tours, which I highly recommend. Not only does this tour show you the Sound of Music filming locations around Old Town Salzburg, but it also takes you outside of town and up into the Lake District so you can see St. Gilgen and Monsee, as well as the Leopoldskorn and Hellbrunn Palaces. Here is the website for the Original Sound of Music Tour offered by Panorama Tours. We really enjoyed this tour, as did our 3 year old son who even got caught up in singing. Yes, there is singing on the tour bus.

As mentioned before, the city is broken into 2 parts, Old Town and New Town. The only real major sight in the New Town is the Mirabell Gardens, which is a definite must. There you can see the Pegasus fountain in which the Von Trapp children and Maria marched around, frolick through the vine maze, and hop on the stairs made famous at the end of “Do – Re – Mi”. It is a beautifully landscaped garden which offers a great view of the Hohensalzburg Fortress in the background. If there is one thing to check out in the New Town, it is definitely the Mirabell Gardens.

In the old town, the major sights include: Fortress Hohensalzburg, Sift Nonnberg, Saint Peter Cemetery, Residenzplatz, Mozartplatz, and Mozart’s Geburtshaus (Mozart’s birthplace). All of these sights are very close to one another and are very easy to walk to. Fortress Hohensalzburg is on the top of the cliff above Salzburg, but you don’t have to walk all the way up there….there’s a tram that will take you! The sight is beautiful from Fortress Hohensalzburg, so please make the trek up there. Our family walked down after we were done because I really wanted to see the Sift Nonnberg (Abbey where Maria actually lived and is featured in The Sound of Music). You cannot go inside of the Abbey, but you can take photos on both sides of the gate as pictured in the movie. I will warn you, the walk down from Fortress Hohensalzburg was STEEP, so please be careful!

As I said earlier, Salzburg can definitely be a weekend trip. It’s very compact and easy to walk. Most everyone speaks English, but German is the official language spoken. Bonus, the airport is only 15 mins away from the Old Town and will cost no more than 20 Euro. Now go enjoy Salzburg!

 

European Road Trips 2016

Join us on our ROAD TRIPS (plural).  So as a family of 4-5 we have decided to make two road trips. We are very excited about travelling all over Europe! And I am excited about sharing our itinerary below!

Here is our first itinerary:

1stItinerary

 

Drive from Germany to the Burgundy region in France.  We will stay in a beautiful castle for two nights! I am very excited about being in this region as it is a huge wine area! Yes! We will be taking our children on a wine tour!  Why not?

After two days of living as royals we will make our way to the French Riviera other known as the Cote d’Azur region of France.  We will spend 5 days exploring Monaco, Nice, Cannes and other areas.  Of course we will be enjoying the sunshine and the beach! Have any recommendations?  Please put in the comments!

After leaving Cote d’Azur we will head to Portofino in Italy and then make our way back to Germany.  We may even make a little trip to Valle Verzasca in Switzerland!

 

Our second itinerary (update):

2nd

As you noticed in the beginning, the “4” as it will only be my children and I.  We have had a change to our itinerary from our original. Majority of our trip will be the same except we are squeezing in Split, Croatia before our trip on the ferry to Italy.  We will be taking our trip to Portofino and  Valle Verzasca with our first trip above.  Instead of Valle Verzasca will be going somewhere else (I have not figured where we are going instead, but it will be in Switzerland or may go to Lichtenstein instead). I would LOVE to go to Venice, but we are going there for our cruise in 2017.

Guest Writer: Our Favorite Cities – Warsaw and Krakow Poland

Our Favorite Cities – Warsaw and Krakow Poland

By: Laura Falk

Getting to and around Poland was surprisingly easy and inexpensive. Using Ryanair, our family flew from Eindhoven, NL to Krakow, took the train from Krakow to Warsaw, then flew home from Warsaw back to Eindhoven, NL. Before you go to Poland, make sure you have Zloty (Polish currency) as the Euro is not widely used. However, English is widely spoken and used by nearly everyone. The Polish people were very friendly and helpful.

In Krakow, we stayed at Apartmenty Grodzka 21.  The rooms were large, bright, and airy. On the website, you can see each room type. Breakfast is included at the small traditional Polish restaurant next door and was a buffet/self-serve style. They’ll make you eggs, pancakes, or waffles if you’d like, but we found the buffet selection very good. If you have an early morning the next day, you can show up and pack a breakfast to go. The hotel/apartments are located along the Royal Route and a five minute walk (if that) to the Main Market Square (dating back to the 13th century), home to St. Mary’s Basilica and the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice). You can sign up online in advance or simply show up to one of the many free walking tours of Krakow. You’ll see the signs/umbrellas all around the Main Market Square. The sight of the Krakow Ghetto is sadly unimpressive; it is simply a flat paved area marked with large, empty chairs. You can visit the building that served as a pharmacy (now turned museum) in the ghetto. Look for ‘Plac Bohaterow Getta’. Also on that side of the Vistula River is Oskar Schindler’s factory (located at Lipowa 4, 30-702 Kraków). This was a pleasantly surprising visit…the former factory is turned into a museum which details the events in Krakow during the Nazi occupation and Holocaust.

Be sure to visit the Wawel Royal Castle….its rumored a dragon used to live there! We did visit Auschwitz and we did bring out 3 year old. A lot of people have mixed opinions regarding bringing children. It is definitely a solemn place and not the place for children to run and scream/laugh. Our son was very well behaved. We didn’t allow him to run and we brought snacks to keep him occupied just in case. I say, if you’re in Poland and you want to go to Auschwitz, then you should go. Just be sure that your children are well behaved or else you will get disapproving looks and possibly snide remarks in a language you don’t understand. We hired an amazing driver who brought us to and from Auschwitz, brought us to the front desk to make sure we got in ok, and even stayed and waited for us while we toured Auschwitz. We thought he would just take us and drop us off, but he took very good care of us. He spoke great English and pointed out interesting sights along the way. Driving from Krakow to Auschwitz is about an hour, but you get to see neat countryside along the way. His name is Andrzej Drozd his email is biuro@tuje.krakow.pl and his phone number is +48 604 315 028. If we end up in Krakow again, this is the man we will call.

In Warsaw, we stayed at Duval Serviced Apartments. It was a true hidden gem! The location was super safe…in order to get into the building, you had to have a special key card. Then, you had to scan the card to enter the stairwell that lead to the various apartments. Then, you had to scan the card to enter your specific apartment. So basically you had to have the special key card and scan it three times in order to access your apartment. No one could access the apartments from the street. We felt very secure at Duval. There are four different themed apartments, but we chose the Polish Chamber because we wanted a more traditional type of room. We requested a cot/rollaway bed for our 3 year old son and they provided a cute little bed that was absolutely perfect for him. The hotel/apartments were within 5 minutes walking distance to the Old Town Market Place. It has been completely rebuilt because it was destroyed during WWII, but it is beautiful and full of restaurants and gift shops.

Places to visit that we highly recommend are the Copernicus Science Center and the Warsaw Uprising Museum. The Copernicus Science Center is VERY hands on for kids, and there is a specific area for kiddos with a neat water feature. Our son did not want to leave! The Warsaw Uprising Museum is impressive and informative. Around the city of Warsaw, especially in the Old Town, you can see many plaques displaying information about events that happened at that spot during WWII or the Warsaw Uprising. It is sobering to stand in spots where Jews were executed or know that historical heroic acts were performed in these spots. There is a beautiful park called Ogrod Saski…you can walk around multiple paved paths and see various water fountains. There is also a playground in the park. At the far end of the park, there is a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame and Polish guards.

Overall, we loved Poland. The food and people were amazing, as was the history. My husband and I both agreed that we felt a little bit like we were walking around Soviet Russia, especially in downtown Warsaw where many of the buildings were a drab cement grey. We felt very safe and we ate very well. Be sure to bring your walking shoes!