Context Travel – Tours around Paris

Sacrée Coeur

This weekend we went for a little adventure around Paris — the sun was out and it was the perfect day to discover Montmartre. It is ironic how, when you live in a city, you sometimes know less about it than all the tourists who visit!

We were delighted when Context Travel invited us for a tour around Montmartre, one of my favourite parts of Paris. The tour was tailormade for children, full of entertaining scary stories and legends. Our personal tour guide, Anais, was lovely, bi-lingual and could answer every single question that we asked her and, believe me, she was asked a LOT of questions!

We followed the path that St Denis (patron saint of Paris) walked after he, unfortunately, had his head cut off by the Romans. The legend says he walked from the bottom of the hill right to the very top, holding his severed head in his hands. The Sacrée Coeur was built on top of his final resting place (I do hope I have remembered this correctly!).

rue de l'abavoir

Following the path of St Denis we discovered the houses that Picasso and Van Gogh lived in and and got a glimpse of what Montmartre was like in the late 1800s (there were a LOT of cafés, cabarets and drinking establishments as Coco noticed). We saw the vineyards, the cobbled streets that are so different from the rest of Paris, and the hidden gardens and artist lofts. We walked up and down hill for 2.5 hours and could have easily continued!

vineyard

At the end of the trip we sat on the steps of the Sacrée Coeur and drew pictures of all the things we had seen on our walk. On the steps we also had an amazing view of Paris and of a street artist dribbling a football whilst hanging off a lamp post (nothing unusual in that).

Sacréé Coeur View

We did finish off the journey with a little ride in the Funicular which is part of the Paris metro. It is such a cute, random little train, that it is well worth the metro ticket it costs to use it.

Funicular

Such a fun way to discover Paris, I highly recommend it!

- Emilie

 

A day trip from Paris – Versailles

Louis14

Living in this lovely city of Paris is great… but it is easy to forget all the great things to do and visit just outside the city. A couple of weekends ago we jumped with some friends on a commuter train (the RER B) and within 40 minutes we had arrived in front of the stunning chateau of Versailles, known for its beauty and also the over the top extravagance of the Kings and Queens of France who lived there.

The children were amazed by the opulence of their surroundings and how crazy it was that this whole chateau was built just for one man and his entourage to live in! Good old Louis the 14th sure knew how to live it up!

Versaillesfront

The main palace is amazing to visit, but with a whole gaggle of children in tow, we opted for a visit of the gardens surrounding the palace and a visit to the smaller Trianon Palace together with Marie-Antoinette’s domaine, which has been restored very recently.

It was a lovely day: we picnicked, played hide and seek between the manicured hedges, strolled through the different gardens, and had a good look around Marie-Antoinette’s retreat.
kidsVersaillesGarden
neptun
We finished the trip with a boat ride on the Grand Canal, just like Marie Antoinette would have done, I am sure.

rowboat
These kind of day trips make me realise how lucky we are to have so much history right at our doorstep! Visiting Versailles is so easy, even if you are just visiting Paris for a week!

- Emilie

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! We hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend!!

xxx Courtney, Emilie and Esther

PS Ava is wearing the cute bunny ears from last week’s The Little Things download.

Valentines craft — love birds

Happy Valentines Day! Our kids woke us up with the sweetest handmade Valentines cards this morning… But I had nothing prepared! So I quickly made these ‘lovebirds’, by folding a piece of paper in half and cutting it in a heart shape. A piece of masking tape keeps it closed and forms the beak. Inside I wrote little love message and poems. So when the kids come home from school they will have a little surprise waiting for them!

xxx Esther

Sweet and girly Valentines gifts from Fantaserini

It’s Valentines day soon! Here in the Netherlands it’s not a traditional holiday, but we’ve adopted it over the years — after all, who can resist a day dedicated to LOVE?

These cute necklaces and hairpins, from the gorgeous and stylish online shop Fantaserini, make the perfect little Valentines presents for girls. The necklaces from Twiggy and Lou are beautiful, handmade out of tiny, real glass beads, pretty brass charms and a little pink pompom. (There’s an adult version too! So pretty!)

I also love the hair clips from Atsuyo et Akiko. They are just so sweet. I actually got both the necklace and the bow clip for Ava and I just know she’s going to love them.

xxx Esther

Heart Origami notepaper from Lollipop


As a young child, growing up in America, we would hand out Valentine cards to every child in our class. We used to create our own Valentine’s Day letterboxes and tape them to our desks and everyone would go around sticking the Valentine cards into them. I remember taking home all of my Valentines cards and reading them at home (and eating the candy too!).  I was talking to my husband about this and he also used to do this in class, so I’m assuming it’s an American thing? Children here in the UK (or at least in my children’s school) don’t do this. In fact, I don’t think my kids have ever gotten a Valentine’s Day card from one of their classmates?!

When I saw these Heart Origami Notes from Lollipop it reminded me all about this. And I think it’s a fun tradition to bring back for my kids. Maybe not to all their classmates at school, but to special friends or family members they might want to send some hearts to!

xx Courtney

Happy Holidays from us to you!

We took advantage of Maud Fontein‘s photobooth set-up at The ShopUp and got a sneaky photo of the three of us so we could send you our very own holiday card! : )

Happy Holidays from the three of us! We hope you have a joyful and relaxing holiday season. We’ll be taking a bit of a blogging break, hoping for some rest and some cosy family time (including lots of cookie baking!) … but we’ll be back in January with gusto!

Lots of love to you all,

xx Courtney, Esther & Emilie

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to all of you! We wish you a cosy and warm time together with your friends and family.

Love,
Courtney, Emilie and Esther

PS The talented Sarah Betz from Little Cube designed this Happy Holiday card for us, and she kindly made a matching postcard and gift tags for you to download for free here (for personal use only). Aren’t they just adorable? Thank you so much, Sarah!

Last minute DIY Christmas tree

Christmas is around the corner! I can’t believe it!  This past weekend we made a recycled and diy Christmas tree. It is easy and very fun to do with kids.

We are so happy with our tree. I think the next step will be to do some more, but little. And make a forest!!!. It will be fun.

Hope you like them and give it a try! And hope you have a very merry Christmas!!!

x Maria

P.S. To read more from Maria, visit her crafty and inspirational blog here.

Inspiring holiday ideas from Sweet Paul!

You probably have heard of the talented Paul Lowe Einlyng, better known to most people as ‘Sweet Paul‘. His blog and quarterly magazine are an accumulation of wonderful craft projects, yummy recipes and creative decor ideas, all photographed in the most stunning and inspiring way. I’m a big fan of Sweet Paul!

Sweet Paul is sharing some ideas below that were published in his 2013 Sweet Paul Holiday Kids issue. I’m pretty sure they will inspire you to do something crafty with your kids the coming weeks! (Or if not, you can just gaze at the pretty pictures.) The entire magazine, full to the brim with inspiring activities like the sneak peeks below, is available as a PDF download here (for iPad click here). And it’s beautiful!

xxx Esther

Cheese Sticks
These are amazing when served with eggs.

Makes 20 sticks
1 sheet puff pastry (I love to
use Dafour)
½ cup grated cheese of your choice

1. Preheat then oven to 375°F.
2. Cut the puff pastry into half-inch strips.
3. Twist them gently and place in a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
4. Sprinkle with cheese.
5. Bake until golden. This will take about 10 minutes.

Mister Rabbit and Miss Cat
These are very simple toys to make. You can make fabric scraps, make sure they are a natural fiber so that you can watch them.

You need:
fabric
pen
needle and thread
cotton stuffing
sewing Maschine
1.Start by drawing your animal on the fabric.
2.Emboyder it using small stitches.
3.Cut around the animal so that it follows its shape, you need a front and a back.
4.Sew them together right side against right side, turn inside out and stuff with stuffing.
5.Sew up the hole.

And here are the instructions for the adorable Peanut Snowman at the top.

Peanut snowmen
This is a great kids project. Looks awesome on a small tree.

You need:
whole peanuts
white craft paint
marker
wool string
hot glue gun
acorn tops
1.Start by painting the peanuts white.
2.Once dry use a marker and make eyes and mouth.
3.Hot glue a acorn top to the top of the peanut and fasten a piece of wool string around the neck.

Thank you Sweet Paul!

The Little Things… Gift (un)wrapping!

I love gift giving — there is something so wonderful about planning the perfect gift for someone special, wrapping it in the nicest possible way, the actual excitement of giving it, and finally seeing the joy on the face of the receiver…

This week for The Little Things, we’ve created simple holiday wrapping paper by stamping triangles on craft paper. It makes such a happy house to pile some presents in a corner of your house… And Casper and his little friend Mees had a ball opening the presents and playing with the awesome toys inside (all kindly lent to us by A Day with Kate).

It’s easy to create this simple holiday wrapping paper. Just make a triangular stamp by cutting a corner of a regular eraser. We made one bigger and one smaller stamp. The kids can help to stamp the paper!

Sara Musch made wonderful matching gift tags (just download for free here), and the ‘Pretty Things Inside‘ tape is also from A Day with Kate.

xxx Esther

PS –  This is the fifth post in a series which is called ‘The Little Things’. Thank you again Maud Fontein for taking beautiful photos in your awesome house, and Sara Musch for the cool download. All the toys are from Janod via wonderful webshop A Day with Kate, and the boys’ outfits are from Gray Label, also via A Day with Kate.

XL angels by Jurianne Matter

Jurianne Matter is a Dutch designer and I’m a big fan of her work. The clever ways she uses paper and patterns is just wonderful! These XL angels are new in her collection and are such a lovely way to decorate your house for the holidays.

If you don’t know Jurianne’s work yet, check out the rest of her designs here — the pop up posters are so beautiful, and many of her other products make cute little gifts to pop in the mail for far away friends… (All available through Bijzonder Mooi.)

xxx Esther

Christmas crackers from Toast

Our Christmas is a bit of a cultural melting pot. One of my brothers lives in Germany, the other in Ireland, my parents are based in Italy and we arrive from France. Of course we all like to bring along some traditions from all of our countries, so we have these hilarious meals where we start off with foie gras which we drink with German Sekt (sparkling wine) and finish up with mince pies and panatone topped off with a good port. The stilton lands on the cheese plate beside the parmesan and there are furious debates about whether Scottish oatcakes taste like sawdust and should never be eaten with gorgonzola or if this is the best fusion food ever.

One of the traditions I do miss from my time in London are Christmas crackers, which are really hard to get in France, not to mention Germany or Italy. They are so much fun to pop! Thanks to the wonderful world wide web, I have started ordering them online form the UK. This year I have decided on the Toast Christmas Crackers which come filled with a little hat, an old recipe and a little gift. Don’t they look lovely?

- Emilie

Maud Fontein’s Happy Holiday Shoot — at the ShopUp!

Last week I took my four kids over to Maud Fontein to get them photographed at her newest creative idea, the Happy Holidays Shoot. With just a sledge and a black and white background (Elizabeth Dunker‘s wonderful Spruce wallpaper for Photowall!), she created a wonderfully festive and modern setting for her shoot. And she managed to take a few really cute photos of my troops in no longer than ten minutes time! (Chapeau!)

I also picked up a box of the gorgeous cards that Vivian Dony from Donydesign designed in cooperation with Maud Fontein to house the photos of the Happy Holidays Shoot. Each box contains 20 very pretty cards, black envelopes and matching envelope seal stickers, cool masking tape and a white pen. Everything to make it super easy to create our own, personalised holiday cards with the contents of the box and the prints from Maud’s shoot. And I’m super pleased with the results! The cards look so cool and crafty and original.

If you’re coming to our ShopUp event in London this Sunday or Monday (we hope so!), do bring your kids! Maud will be there with her Happy Holidays setup, and Vivian will be selling the cool boxed card sets as well. The perfect opportunity to get cute family photos, and everything you need to make these cool holiday cards!! (And in case you’re not interested in specific holiday photos, Maud will also bring a more generic background, like the one you can see here.) It will be such fun!

xxx Esther

Raise the curtains for the 2013 Babyccino Kids Holiday Gift Guides!

We can’t believe it’s this time of year already! The days are getting shorter, the evenings are getting darker, and the holidays are approaching rapidly. Time to get ourselves organised — to make our houses cosy and festive, and organise the gift giving. (Let’s try to be in time this year!)

We have tried to make your holiday preparations a little bit easier by creating four wonderful Gift Guides, with a selection of our favourite gifts for boys, some wonderful gifts for girls and darling ideas for babies as well. And of course there is a Stocking Stuffer guide too!

There are so many cool ideas in the guides that our kids and their little friends will love! (Of course our first holiday purchases were made when preparing the guides…) We hope you will enjoy them as much as we do!

xxx Courtney, Emilie and Esther

PS Tip: send a link to the Babyccino Gift Guides to grandparents or aunts & uncles who are stuck for gift ideas!

Exciting new spaces in Paris

For once I am giving the urban planners of Paris a cautious thumbs up: this summer not one, but two new public, urban spaces opened! And, to boot, they are great for the whole family.

On the right bank, after being a massive building site for a long while, the new Place de La Republique is finally ready. It is hated by all taxi drivers, who get stuck at the red lights, but it is loved in the neighbourhood. Some of the top attractions are the toy library, where you can borrow for free anything from chess to stilts to baby toys. There is also a great little water park for children right beside a lovely café/restaurant. The new trees are still small and their could be more play areas, but in general this space has some great potential.

Over on the left bank a much bigger project is slowly coming together: a long stretch of the banks of the Seine (from the Musée d’Orsay to the Pont d’Alma) has been closed down to traffic and now is solely pedestrian. It is not quite finished yet, but there are already amazing play areas and great restaurants on barges and along the banks. It is such a treat to have access to the river, something that was really lacking in Paris.

It is so nice to see an old city like Paris still constantly evolving and adapting to its population!

- Emilie

Our Summer holiday in Middle France


Summer Holidays rock everywhere I reckon, but we just had one of our best holidays ever, so I wanted to jot down a few of my memories!

I need to preface this with the mention that we had one of the worst springs in history (my history at least). So everyone was longing for sun, warmth and the big outdoors! Also we ended up spending much of spring in Paris and I for one was going a bit stir crazy!

So our first stop was the Haute-Vienne part of the Limousin, which is the area my family comes from. It is not especially well known, but I have been going there my whole life and it has developed incredibly over the years. We also have a very simple little farmhouse down there (photo above), which is very rustic but very charming; it feels like home.

We went to the bustling market on a Wednesday in the little town of Piegut, where we picked up some amazing tomatoes, confit de canard, plums and cheeses.  There is a lovely café there and a cute little ice cream shop.

We went climbing in trees around the lac de la Haute Charente, which is a huge amount of fun, especially when you zip line across a lake!

We went to some of the evening markets all around the region where the locals butchers sell their meat which is great in front of you. There is also normally a cheesy cover band playing and locals and tourist alike get to join in the fun.


(Above Coco dancing to an Bob Marley cover band at a fête du village, the lovely plums from Piegut market and Coco and Vi hanging out by our local swimming lake)

We then rented a VW camper van and drove around the amazing Dordogne. We discovered the lovely village of Limeuil and visited the Aquarium and old style village of Bournat, which the girls loved. We discovered a troglodyte village and the Lascaud caves. We swam in the Dordogne river and ate amazing food.

(Above the bridge over the Dordogne in the lovely village of Limeuil and a baker baking bread the old fashioned way in Le Brounat.)

The next stop was the lovely little village of Carcans-Plage (also known as Carcans-Ocean). It actually is not really a village but more a bunch of beach shacks, with world class surf. It is tiny, though a lot of people turn up for the day and is surrounded by pine forests. We cycled for hours along the bike paths in the pine forests without seeing cars and jumped around the waves. I even took some surf classes! I especially loved the lovely wooden beach shack rentals, which the local town built; perfect for families.

(The beach, the local pine forest and Vi ready to hit the surf.)

Finally we returned back to the Limousin for more BBQs, family, friends, sun and fun! I still wish it had never finished and I was still hanging out in my hammock!

- Emilie


(Photo taken by Coco of Vi and me enjoying the sunset in the Limousin!)

The VW Combi summer trip


We have just come back from holiday and it was one of the best ever! There was no internet and no TV and lots of books and adventures. It is such a treat to get out of the big city and out into nature and have some time to roam…

I will share our adventures in the next few days but I wanted to give you a sneak peek of our trip of one of the things we did: we rented a VW combi from the ’70s for a week! We named it Orangina and it was simply so much fun. The camper had a bed in the roof you could open so the girls slept upstairs, I slept downstairs and we were free to roam and park up for the night where we wanted. The freedom was incredible! We mostly spent our time in the Dordogne, which is the perfect place for this type of holiday. The camper does not go very fast, so it is worth being in an area where there are a lot of things close to each other. It is such a cool feeling driving around in such an old car, you get used to the slow rhythm pretty quickly and other drivers wave and honk their horns!

I rented the van from a company called WeDubYou and it came totally stocked with everything we could have needed and I absolutely recommend them!

- Emilie

PS Important tip, if you ever want to go on a roadtrip in a VW combi, bring as little as you can, a pair of shorts and a couple of T-shirts for everyone is more than enough!

TA DA at the Centre Pompidou


Last weekend Esther and co were in town, which was a serious amount of fun! It was so great catching up, though at the end of the weekend we did start wondering what we should do, as it was literally pouring with rain the whole time. That being said, finding things to do in Paris is not very hard…. We all wrapped up and headed over to the Pompidou Centre, specifically the Children’s Gallery, which is hosting a brilliant, interactive exhibition: Ta-Da!

The artist Navid Nuur wants kids to learn again about how to play and create with everyday objects and see the beauty in them. It is really well done — I think everyone’s favourite was the 3 columns filled with play dough or the machine that made medals out of a 5 cent piece.

The Centre Pompidou is, by the way, one of my favourite places to take visitors. It has such a great view over Paris, the permanent exhibition is amazing, as are more of the temporary ones, and, not to forget, the gift and book shop are full of beautiful bits and pieces. (I do love a good museum shop!)

- Emilie

The photo is of little Ava arriving into the Centre, complete with rain coat and umbrella.

Holiday get-away: Tarifa, Spain

Coco and her friend overlooking the sea and the coast of Marocco on Paloma beach

I have just been away on an amazing break with the kids, and I would love to tell you about it. (To put it into context, we Europeans have been having one of the worst winters I can remember and all we wanted to to was to shed the jumpers and socks and shoes and put on the flip flops and skirts.)

Tarifa is a beautiful little town on the most southern tip of Spain — it is so close to Africa you can see the Maroccan coast most days, a mere 20 km away. The town itself is lovely — it is an old walled city. But it is the surrounding beaches around Tarifa that make this place amazing — the beaches are empty, clean and beautiful, the food is incredible and cheap and everyone loves kids. It is super relaxed and the whole area has a bit of a hippy, surfer vibe to it, just what you need to let go and have a good time. I could have stayed on and on, and a week felt like 2 days, so here is just a little list of the few places I discovered (if anyone has any other tips, please do share!):

STAY:

We actually rented a house, as I went with a friend and her two children which was lovely and had everything we needed. But we did also discover some hotels, which looked really nice.

The Hurricane Hotel is a great little boutique hotel with a chilled out vibe. It has an amazing pool, a great restaurant and is right on the beach. Basically the perfect combination. It is about a 6 km drive out of Tarifa town.

Hotel Dos Mares is close to the Hurricane Hotel and maybe even a bit more child-friendly. For example, the pool has a nice, shallow paddling area. You can rent little bugalows that line up along the beach.

Camping Torres de la Pena is a nice budget option and if you don’t fancy camping, they also rent out some bungalows. The beach bar is super relaxed and literally on the beach, so kids can play while parents drink a good café con leche.

I- Escape has a few listing in and around Tarifa. I did not see any of them, but I-Escape is always a good bet. I really like the look of these natural energy powered bungalows.

The kids hanging out at the Hurricane Hotel pool.

Do:

Tarifa is a seriously sport location, all day long you can see wind- and kit- surfers sitting on top of their VW buses watching the wind for the perfect moment to take off. The place we were recommended was the Club Mistral,which gives lessons to older kids. They also rent out boards for windsurfing, kitesurfing and plain old normal surfing. You can pick up cheap body boards for kids pretty much anywhere and they are a serious amount of fun as there are little, non scary waves most of the time.

Hurrican Hipica: Horses are everywhere and there is nothing more peaceful than going for a ride on the beach. We loved the Hurricane Hipica, run by a group of super efficient girls, one of the best maintained stables I have ever seen. Violette, who has just turned 5, had her first riding lesson there and it was possibly the most exciting thing ever.

Firmm Dolphin and Whale Watching: One of our big, major highlights was a boat trip out into the straights of Gibraltar to see dolphins. We thought it was going to be a tourist trap, but it was the opposite. We were surrounded by dolphins doing summersaults all around us. It put the biggest smiles on all of our faces. It is also not unusual to see whales. The Firmm boat trips are great as they are part of a research organisation, which uses the trip to collect data and makes sure that the trips are respectful to the animals.

Since coming back and doing a bit of research for this post, I have found out that there is a lot of rock climbing to be done in and around Tarifa. There are even little rocks which could be a lot of fun to explore with older kids. I didn’t really find a website, just different blogs talking about it!

It is also very easy to jump on a boat and go on a day trip to Marocco which is a mere 20 boat ride away. It is something we sadly ran out of time to do…

Not the best photos of the kids on horses on the beach. Note the surfers in the water behind them.

Play:

Beaches, beaches, beaches, what more can one want? We stayed close to Bolonia Beach and it is very easy to understand why the Romans decided to build a town on this beach. It is so beautiful. The beach is incredibly clean and has a massive sand dune at one end that is a huge amount of fun to climb and run down.

We also visited Zahara Beach on a recommendation of an Instagram friend and did not regret it, we spend a whole morning body boarding on little waves and then had some tapas in the town itself.

Another beach between Tarifa and Bolonia is called Paloma Beach and one of the most amazing things to see is the wind picking up and the kite from the kite surfs flying up in the air  - Actually really beautiful, though I suspect I would be ripped of my surf board and fly off into the air with the kite, it looks like such a hard thing to hold on to.

Little orange tree on a square in Tarifa town.

Anyway, a lovely holiday and so close and yet a world away from the rest of Europe.

- Emilie

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