Paris can get pretty wet and cold in the winter and sometimes it is nice to be able to seek refuge inside. One of our favourite city adventures in the winter time is a visit to the Jardin des Plantes. It is one of Paris’ largest parks (which does not mean a lot ;)) and also one of its oldest, as it has been around for more than 400 years. It houses the botanical gardens and green houses, a little zoo (la Menagerie), the Palaeontology Museum and the Natural History Museum (Galerie de l’Evolution). I have been told it also has one of the best merry-go-rounds in Paris as you get to ride on the back of a Dodo, an Ostrich and a Gorilla. It means that there is always something to do and visit, no matter the weather.
The buildings themselves are steeped in history and I always feel like I am on a film set when we wander around the large galleries full of exotic objects, plants and bones.
We often grab a pen and a pad and try to sketch some of the animals, which we are not particularly good at but it is kind of fun. ; )
Now try as I might, I have not found an English version of the Jardin des Plantes website (with is quite astonishing in 2016) so do feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions!
Oh and one more thing — in the winter the park and the museums close at 5pm so the last entry is around 4pm. Good to know when planning your outing.
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I’m so behind on posting about our travels (I’m blaming slow wifi — it’s been the one major headache of our travels!). I have so much I want to share with you from the past couple months, starting with Casa Zinc, a wonderful little boutique hotel in Uruguay that we loved so, so much.
We discovered Casa Zinc on the i-escape site last spring when we were doing research on where to stay in South America. While we knew we would mostly be renting homes, not hotels, there was something about Casa Zinc that really appealed to us, and we figured it would be nice to stay in a hotel for our first few days in Uruguay to get acquainted with the area. We’re so glad we did! Staying in Casa Zinc and becoming friends with the super charming owner, Aaron Hojman, paved the way for a memorable month in Uruguay. It was thanks to Aaron that we received many great recommendations, met so many interesting people, made wonderful friends, and had some of our favourite experiences in South America.
But let me tell you more about this special place…
Aaron, an antique collector and design guru, built this hotel just seven years ago (only seven!) using vintage and reclaimed materials. Everything from the floorboards to the bathroom taps! The result is a cosy, charming hotel that looks and feels like it’s been there forever. (Even the giant olive tree in the courtyard was trucked in on a lorry to feature prominently in that pretty space.)
We stayed in two connecting rooms, a standard room for Michael and me (and Marlow), and the ‘back to school’ room with three single beds for the other kids. It was perfect. The kids loved the big chalkboard and maps on the walls in their room.
After a delicious breakfast in the dining room each morning, we did homeschooling in the charming courtyard for a few hours before hitting the beach. In the evenings, we would return to the hotel to play bocce ball (often with Aaron’s son Milos) before going out for dinner in one of the local restaurants. We loved the relaxed atmosphere and the cosy interiors. It truly made us feel right at home and welcomed in beautiful Uruguay.
Uruguay is such a gem of a country, like a hidden secret sandwiched in between its much bigger neighbours, Brazil and Argentina, which often receive more hype. It’s safe, it’s beautiful, the people are extremely warm and friendly, and there are so many charming beach towns along the coast, all within easy driving distance. We loved it so much and definitely recommend visiting if you get the chance. You can read more about Casa Zinc and view availability on the i-escape site.
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Living in continental Europe has the distinct advantage that our next adventure is probably only a few hours away by train. I love picking up a magazine and a coffee, waiting for our train to arrive, settling into my seat with a good book and seeing the French countryside flash by.
Marseille, France’s second largest city is about three hours away from Paris. It is such an easy journey right from the centre of Paris and when you step out of the train, you truly are on holiday. Now, Marseille used to have a bit of a bad rep which is quickly disappearing and for good reason: it is a seriously amazing place to visit.
We went at the very end of October and still got to swim in the sea! The nature around Marseille is stunning and we did not even hire a car, we explored everything with the local buses.
So here is a little list of the things we loved about Marseille:
On arrival we walked straight into the Tourist Office (something I do every time on arriving in a new city). I explained what we wanted to do and was given all the information we needed – I love, love French Tourist Offices.
We stayed with friends close to la Plage des Catalans, a local beach which is in walking distance from the city centre. It is by no means the most beautiful beach I have ever been to, but the kids jumped straight into the water. If you can imagine that they had come straight off a train from rainy, cold Paris – it was paradise to them. The restaurant on the beach serves descent pasta and pizza and a cheeky glass of rosé.
The next day we packed a picnic and took 2 local buses out of Marseille to hike over to one of the Calanques, the bus ride took about 20 minutes. It was a beautiful trip – a great hike through a forest and hills and then the reward of a beautiful inlet with crystal blue water.
The last day we explored the city. Marseille’s old harbour has recently been redone. There is an amazing new museum called the MuCEM, specialising in Mediterranean culture right on the water front that you access via the old castle walls. We spent a whole afternoon there, exploring the grounds and the exhibits and the nearby cathedral – the setting is phenomenal.
We bought fresh seafood off the fishermen in the old port to cook at home and also went for a final swim as it was impossible to keep the kids out of the water for the very last time before the start of winter.
It was so simple and easy and fun! I really recommend it to anyone needing a break (can I point out that a lot of the above photos were taken on the 1st of November!!).
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The team at i-escape recently reached out to share an exciting promotion they’re running on a selection of their favourite family-friendly properties in their Kids Collection. They’ve teamed up with Family Traveller magazine to offer exclusive discounts on 36 of their properties, including stylish apartments, boutique B&Bs, family-oriented safari lodges and far-flung beach retreats. We are thrilled to share with you!
We always love browsing the selection of holiday destinations on the i-escape site — it’s like looking through a stylish travel magazine to find inspiration for a future holiday — and of course it’s even better when discounts are involved! : )
What I love about i-escape is that they personally visit each of their hotels and offer descriptions in refreshingly honest detail – with lots of photos and personal tips about which rooms to book, how to get there, and lots of information on which age ranges suit each property, etc. You know exactly what to expect from each of their hotels.
The discounts are valid as long as you book by the 31st of December, and you can view the full list of properties and discounts here. Happy browsing!
This post was sponsored by i-escape, a company we have personally used for many years and one which we are so happy to support here.
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I loved Esther’s post last year about an Advent Activity Calendar! We have done a similar idea for a few years now (unfortunately not so beautifully designed!). I bought a Maileg Advent garland (a little bit like this one) and in every pocket the children find a sweet treat and an Advent activity for us to do. Lots of our activities are similar to Esther’s – designed to enjoy this preparation time leading up to Christmas: gathering pine-cones, sticking cloves into oranges, baking, making decorations, thinking of those less fortunate, making (and eating) gingerbread, watching a Christmas movie together, etc. But I also try and book a couple of seasonal activities to enjoy with the kids during these days. For some of them you need to book early (in October!) but some you can still do – most are in or around London.
- The National Trust: The National Trust usually have great festive activities at their sites leading up to Christmas – We’ve been to see Father Christmas and the Christmas animals at Hatchlands Park, we’ve listened to Christmas Jazz at Ham House, we’ve done Christmas trails, Christmas crafts and visited Christmas markets and fairs – all of which have left us with that warm festive glow. This year we’re planning to visit a Georgian Christmas at Osterley House & Park.
- Christmas at Kew: We’re fortunate enough to live close to Kew and so have always made sure we visit – it gets better and better each year – especially as now there is the Christmas illuminations trail and market. The lights lighting up the magnificent trees and plants around the garden is spectacular – the walk takes about 45 minutes but there are stopping points throughout to warm up with a hot chocolate or mulled wine.
- Christmas theatre: I always look out for a Christmas show to go and see with the kids – I particularly like small theatre productions – We saw a wonderful adaption of Father Christmas (Raymond Briggs) last year at The Lyric in Hammersmith (which is back this year if you are nearby) and I always check the children’s theatres for their Christmas program: The Polka in Wimbledon and The Unicorn on Southbank. We have also watched the fabulous adaption of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Stickman (which is back on stage this year at The Leicester Square Theatre). This year we are going to see Slava’s Snow Show – which sounds pretty fab.
- Christmas Carols: My absolute favourite place for singing carols is Hampton Court – the singers meet at the door to the palace at 6pm and then walk around the courtyards stopping to sing along with a brass band – it is literally my favourite Christmas Activity – we have done it for the last 6 years and every year it gets better organised; now there is a stopping point for a mince pie and a mulled wine (I think you are getting an impression of what good organisation means to me – food and drink!!). But despite having the ticket-opening date in my diary I missed tickets this year – you really need to book as soon as they go on sale. So I’m looking for a fun Christmas Caroling event, do you know any? We will take the kids to the family carol service at St. Paul’s, which is also lovely (but no mince pies or mulled wine …)
I’d love to know what Christmas activities you try and fit in during Advent time.
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Last spring when we sat down to plan our year of travel we decided to favour small towns over cities and to spend about three weeks in each destination. We thought this would keep the pace a bit slower and allow us to really get to know each place beyond the usual touristy way. One thing we couldn’t manage to avoid, however, was flying into cities or brief stays in between available flights. So when the option came up to stay in Rio for a few days before flying down to Uruguay, we took it, and we’re so happy we did.
Rio is one of the most stunning cities I’ve ever seen. Verdant green mountains jut out of tropical blue seas in every direction and skyscrapers meet lush rain forests beyond them. Rio may have its share of big city problems, but beauty is not one of them. I’m so glad the kids got to experience it too, especially after seeing shots of Rio during last year’s World Cup, and also knowing it will be the host city for next summer’s Olympic games.
We stayed three days and managed to squeeze in many highlights. Here is a recap from our time with the Cariocas.
- We were invited by i-escape to test out their Ipanema Penthouse and report back on the property as well as kid-friendly things to do in the area — a task I was excited to accept. The apartment was really spacious, in a nice building and in a perfect location, just blocks from the beach and metro. I would not, however, recommend it for families with young children. The roof terrace has some worrisome hazards and the décor is more adult than family. If you are traveling with kids there are many other Rio properties on the i-escape site and I always appreciate their stylish selection and honest assessments of their properties.
- Take the Corcovado Train up to see the famous Cristo Redentor statue. You can see the statue from all sorts of different angles around the city (we first spotted it from the airplane and you should have seen how excited the kids were!), but to see it up close is really breathtaking. And the train ride up through lush tropical trees is fun for the kids too.
- We signed up for a walking food tour with Eat Rio, and it was the highlight of our visit. We spent the day walking around Rio’s centre, trying new foods and juices (Suco de Cupuaçú!), perusing the food markets and dropping into some its most traditional restaurants. We ate crazy fruits we’ve never heard of before (one took a hammer to open), we ate a traditional Amazonian soup called Tacacá, and finished off with a big meal of ‘Carne seca com abobora e feijão de corda’. We can’t recommend this enough for food lovers.
- We took a taxi over to the Lapa neighbourhood to start our food tour, and the Escadaria Selarón was one of the first sites we visited on the tour. We loved hearing the story of the Chilean artist, Jorge Selarón, and how he covered the 250 stairs in colourful tiles collected from more than 60 countries. It was such a site to see!
- We also loved seeing all the street art and graffiti in the Lapa neighbourhood. It was nice to have our food tour guide food explain the background on some of the graffiti artists and their work.
- On Sundays, there is an amazing ‘Feira Hippie‘ (or hippie market) just one block from the apartment. There were so many great stalls and handmade products. (We bought lots of bracelets for the kids and for their friends back in London.)
- The beach! We never had a perfectly sunny day, but we still made sure to experience the famous Rio beaches with all the action and bikini-clad Brazilians (the kids still talk about the shots of the crowded beaches they saw during the World Cup last year and it was fun to experience it in person).
- Juice bars! There are many different juice bars scattered around the city offering delicious juices from a choice of tropical fruits (many fruits we had never even heard of before). Did you know you can drink cacao juice? It’s made from the white pulp surrounding the individual cocoa beans inside the cacao pod. So cool!
- We ate breakfast at Cafeína, a charming cafe with delicious breakfast treats and coffee.
- On our second day we ate breakfast at Terzetto Café, which was just one block from our apartment and served good food with lots of Brazilian specialities.
- We ate feijoada on Sunday at Bar do Beto, which was super family-friendly. We aren’t feijoada experts, but we thought the food was good and the staff was super nice.
- Our kids were tired in the evenings after exploring the city, so one night we ordered sushi to be delivered to our apartment. Locals had recommended the iFood app for food delivery, and it worked perfectly! Sushi is very popular in Brazil, due to the large Japanese Brazilian population (we were told that Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan!).
Because of rainy weather, we didn’t get to do everything we had hoped to do, but it was still a jam-packed few days. Please feel free to leave additional tips and recommendations in the comments section below. It’s always helpful for people who are looking for inspiration for future travels. Thank you!
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Our London ShopUp opens a month from today on 10 December! The event runs both the 10th (Thursday) and 11th (Friday) at Chelsea Old Town Hall. This year, we have asked our well-connected friends at The Mamahood to organise some fun and festive workshops for you, and they look amazing! You can read more on The Mamahood website, but here is a quick look at what is on offer (click the pictures to read more!):
Wreath making with Bloom and Wild:
Gingerbread making and decorating with Primrose Bakery (who will also be selling baked goods in our cafe!):
Modern Calligraphy with Quill London:
Availability is limited, so we would recommend signing up as soon as possible if you want to join in the fun. Head over to The Mamahood to see detailed information on each workshop; signing up is easy via their (super cute) website!
We have also arranged to have a customisable letter press station with Prickel Press on Thursday and a hand painted customisable card station on Friday with Betty Etiquette in the cafe. (You can sign up for these when you arrive.) They will be conveniently located next to our charity, mothers2mothers who will be running our wrapping station to help raise money for their incredible organisation.
Lastly, we are so very excited to announce that Santa himself will be visiting the ShopUp this year! He is bringing a listening ear, a Polaroid camera for photo ops, and sweet little toys for good boys and girls! Find more info on Santa’s visit here.
This year’s event is shaping up to be our best yet (we always say that, but it is always true!). Please sign up on our Facebook event page if you’ll be joining us! We’ll be posting more updates there! xx
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To celebrate Coco’s ninth birthday I had promised her a trip to London, just her and me, for a little weekend. Considering her birthday was last December and we are now in October, it was high time I made good on my promise and so we jumped on the train and away we went to London, the city she was born in.
It was so much fun, not only to show her the city, but also to appreciate some moments together. The main aim was to go to the Harry Potter studios (we are dealing here with a hard core Harry Potter fan) but we managed to pack so much more into our two-day trip.
Here is what we got up to:
We arrived on a Friday evening and went straight to China Town to my favourite restaurant, to meet up with some friends. By chance there was a lampion festival going on so London’s tiny China town look magical (and I forgot to take photos ooops!).
The next morning, we went straight to the Tower of London, to see the fortress, the crown jewels, the beef eaters and the guards. From there we had the most amazing view of Tower Bridge. Randomly some elderly gentlemen where reenacting a little battle on the lawn in front of the tower, so that got us straight in the mood.
From that we jumped straight onto a public boat and travelled down the Thames to jump onto a tube, a train and a bus straight to the Harry Potter Studios. Now I am not a big fan of entertainment parks to say the least, but the Harry Potter Studios are actually great (even for me)! You can see the making of the films from the tiniest to the hugest set, costumes and maquettes.
At the end of the day we were so tired we practically fell into our beds and started snoring! 😉
On Sunday we headed off to the Science Museum and the V&A, where we had a hot chocolate and scone in the lovely courtyard. We had a walk around Hyde Park and finally headed back to the station on a double decker bus. We actually tried to cram in as much iconic British things as possible from black cabs and red buses to a fry-up and a Flake ice cream!
It was such a wonderful weekend and a such a special treat to have my big girl all to myself (I think she also quite appreciated having her mom to herself too).
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Today I’m so happy to introduce you to my friend Lara Brehm, who is sharing a wonderful place in Paris with you (together with beautiful, inspiring photos and gorgeous bookplates/gift-tags that she especially designed for us!) xxx Esther
Hello friends, I’m Lara, a German graphic designer based in Paris, France. I met Esther by pure coincidence, walking into her at a groceries store in Le Marais here in Paris. While exchanging a few e-mails afterwards she suggested I could contribute to Babyccino Kids Blog with an article of my choice, I felt very honored and today I’m happy to be writing a few lines for this blog I love.
I would like to share a little part of my city with you: the greenhouses located in the South of the 16th arrondissement and their park. Called “Les Serres d’Auteuil” in French (the greenhouses of Auteuil), it is a truly special place for me, very dear to my heart.
I grew up in the district of Auteuil so since I was little I have walked many times through the alleys of the greenhouses and their gardens making it a childhood memory but also a place I still love to get lost in.
No matter from which entrance you arrive from, as soon as you set foot in the gardens you will spot the biggest greenhouse in the middle of the park and you will be probably be quite impressed by it’s huge turquoise cast iron construction.
Once you enter it, you will immediately feel like you’re on a tropical island: the heat, the humidity, the huge variety of tropical plants and the twittering and singing of all kind of birds take you far far away from Paris… If you are passionate about botanicals, you will find the name of each and every plant written on small labels beside them. They are impossible to remember for me though as they are quite complex! But wether being a connoisseur or not, it really is an amazing place for everyone.
My husband and I often take a walk there on our weekends and each time it brings me endless inspiration for my illustration projects. In this greenhouse you will find a few white iron tables and chairs dispatched along the way where you can sit down to read, write, draw or just rest and it is delightful to take in the environment and feel like being part of this dreamy magic.
You will also find a beautiful big white birdhouse and a river-like fishpond in it, adding a little interest to the place for your little ones.
As we usually arrive to the gardens from the back entrance we start our visit with the big greenhouse and continue with the gardens but if you arrive through the main entrance you will walk through the gardens first, enjoying the beautifully arranged flowers, lawns and trees. There are also a lot of benches around where you can stop for a while or enjoy a good book on a sunny day.
On each side of the main lawn there are several alleys with quite a few other smaller greenhouses – not all of which are open to the public but some of them are real highlights like the cacti greenhouse for example. Be sure to look out for it!
If you plan a visit to Paris soon you should definitely stop by Les Serres d’Auteuil, even if it is located a bit far away from the center of the city and the main attractions, it is truly worth a visit. Another positive point if you come with your children is the rather reasonable size of the gardens, making the walk shorter and leaving you more time to enjoy the inside of the greenhouses. Your kids will be kept entertained and won’t get tired too quickly.
Right now there are intense discussions going on here in Paris because the city agreed on giving a part of the place away to extend the Rolland Garros tennis courts. Nobody really knows how exactly this issue will be handled but I truly hope that even if they have to take away a part of it — which would be sad enough already — they keep the wide airy lawns and their flowers and all the beautiful constructions, statues and greenhouses.
My pictures reflect my personal inspiration during my last walk through the Serres d’Auteuil but I left a lot of amazing details out of my selection so you still have some beautiful surprises when you go! Have a wonderful visit and maybe we’ll walk into each other over there!
I told you every visit gets my creative energies flowing and this time was no different from my other walks in the park: I have designed a few bookplates inspired by the greenhouses for you to download, print out and paste into your favorite books. I hope you like them and that they make you dream of your next visit to Paris and to the Serres d’Auteuil!
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As I mentioned in an earlier post, we spent a week in LA back in September and stayed in the beautiful home owned by Peter James and Marisa Vitale. Marisa is a talented family photographer and offered to snap some photos of our family while we were in town. I jumped at the chance to get a rare photo of all six of us and to document the start of our family’s adventure, all of us so full of excitement… and admittedly a few jitters. We met Marisa at Temescal Gateway Park fresh from an afternoon at the beach (notice Ivy’s hair is still wet!), and went for a short walk under the big oak trees while she snapped photos. I’m so happy to have these photos and thought I would share some favourites here with you. My kids, especially the boys, are getting so big. It’s funny how sometimes you don’t notice until you see it in photos.
Also, a few of you have asked for LA tips so I thought I would share some of the things we did while we were in LA (mostly Venice beach). We spent a lot of time with Michael’s family in Pasadena so we didn’t have as much time to explore the city as tourists, and we were also on a budget so we didn’t eat out as often as we wanted to. : ) But in any case, here are the highlights:
- Temescal Gateway Park (where photos above were taken): A pretty park with lots of paths to explore. Just off Sunset Blvd.
- The beach! We spent a lot of time at nearby Venice Beach because it was within walking distance of our house. We also went to the beach near Temescal Canyon and Sunset Blvd which was less crowded.
- Boogie Boarding: you can rent boards from the beach-front vendors on the boardwalk. My kids loved this!
- Venice boardwalk: we spent an afternoon watching the skateboarders and street dancers. It was quite a scene with all the music and people!
- We also walked down Abbott Kinney Blvd just to check out how much it’s changed since we last lived in LA. We have a policy of not taking our children into shops if we can avoid it, so we didn’t go into any of the shops, but it was fun to see so many great new shops there. (Burro looked really cute from the outside, and there’s even now an Aesop on Abbott Kinney!) Speaking of shopping, I kept hoping to have the opportunity to sneak into General Store for a little peak around but I never made it in. It looks SO cute (and oh my goodness, the website! dangerous!!).
- We didn’t make it here, but Marisa suggested we check out Tonga Park in Santa Monica with cool native plants, water features, benches, etc. There’s also the nearby Santa Monica solar-panelled LED ferris wheel within walking distance.
- While I was in LA for the ShopUp, Michael took the kids to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles (which they loved) and the Arboretum (which, despite the heat, they found very interesting to see all the different plants and trees).
- Superba Food & Bread: This is located (dangerously) around the corner from the house we rented. Great for picking up bread and croissants (and coffee) in the morning, but they also have a wonderful menu for lunch and dinner.
- Whole Foods Market on Lincoln Blvd: We did most of our grocery shopping here. Just behind the store is Ozone park with two different playgrounds (for big and little kids) on opposite sides.
- Groundworks Coffee on Rose Ave: Great spot for coffee in a charming little spot.
- Cafe Gratitude: Unfortunately we never made it to this restaurant but I had so many friends tell me to eat here. It’s a well-known restaurant amongst those seeking organic, vegan and locally-sourced foods. Looks so good!
- We got a babysitter one evening and met Michael’s family downtown LA to celebrate his sister’s birthday at The Factory Kitchen for delicious Italian food.
That’s all I can remember, but please feel free to add more tips in the comments below. I’m sure families travelling to LA would appreciate all the recommendations!
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Last month, when we all got together in New York for the ShopUp event, we filmed a little YouTube video. We all turned up from long-haul flights and were talking about what we like to take with us into the cabin to be as cozy as can be in a little seat for seven hours. We thought it would be fun to share all of our little tips with you!
Now the results are not very fancy, but we did have a lot of fun filming it. A big shout out goes to our friend Belinda who graciously gave up her Saturday night to wrangle and film 3 very giggly and jet-lagged girls!
Here are a couple of links to some of our favourite items: The leather tote, the lip balm, the hand wash, the little leather pouch, the eye mask and neck pillow. Both Esther and I were reading the A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, which we both loved and it was the perfect read on a trans Atlantic flight.
You can join us on YouTube here.
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There’s a new stroller in the land — have you heard of the Greentom Upp yet? Designed here in the Netherlands, it is cool, hip and functional, but also very innovative: it is completely, 100% green.
Casper and I have spent the last month or so test-riding the Greentom Upp Classic, and I’m impressed. It is a really comfortable-to-ride pushchair: it’s super light and easy to manoeuvre. It is also very strong: I asked Pim (8) to assemble the pushchair when it arrived here in parts, and he did that so quickly — I was upstairs doing laundry, and when I came downstairs 20 minutes later he was sitting in it himself and racing through our living room with it!
I love how basic the stroller is, eliminating all the unnecessary little tidbits and bringing it back to the essence of stroller design. I also love that the Greentom is so sustainable — it is entirely made out of recycled parts! The frame is made of 100% recycled polypropene and bioplastic, and the fabrics are entirely made out of recycled drinking bottles (for example, there are 58 PET-bottles used for the fabric of the Upp Classic that we have). Assembly takes place all over the world, limiting the impact of shipping and stimulating local economies. And, as I read on the website: when your children start asking for skate boards, the products can be returned to Greentom who will re-use or recycle all of the parts. How cool is that?
There are three varieties for different stages — the carrycot for newborns, the reversible for bigger babies, and the classic for pre-schoolers (which we have). You can purchase all the different parts separately, or as a set, and I think that for a stroller of such quality the prices are very reasonable.
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We recently spent a sunny week in Los Angeles to mark the start of our year-long adventure. We had moved from LA to London twelve years ago, so it was nice to go back and spend some time exploring the city again, to spend time with friends and family and to get a feel for what it’s like to live there as a family.
After speaking with friends who live in LA, we decided to stay in the family-friendly neighbourhood of Venice beach, which was definitely the right decision. The neighbourhood has changed so much in the past 12 years, with so many great new restaurants and shops, but it still has a very artsy, laid-back bohemian vibe which we loved. It was great to be able to walk to shops and cafes, but more than anything it was so nice to be so close to the beach. My kids fell in love with boogie boarding and are now hoping to learn how to surf!
We rented the Superba Avenue Residence through Kid & Coe and it was the perfect place to stay. It’s such a cosy family home, filled with colourful knick-knacks and loads of fun toys and books in every corner. The kids loved the outside playroom with rope swings hanging from the rafters and spent so much time playing in the gated gardens surrounding the house. They even had a slide on the front porch! The kids never wanted to leave the house!
What is so nice about renting a home through Kid & Coe is that you can feel at home straight away and your children have all the comforts (toys, highchairs, beds, step stools) to feel settled immediately. I also love getting a glimpse of what it’s really like to live in the city you’re visiting, like stepping into another family’s shoes for a bit. After spending a week in Venice beach, I’m now dreaming of moving our family to LA!
It was also lovely to meet with the owner of the home, Marisa, who is a talented photographer. She offered to take some photos of our family to mark the start of our adventure and I quickly jumped at the opportunity. I am so happy with the photos she took and I’ll share some with you soon.
Kid & Coe offered us a press discount in return for coverage of our stay. Kid & Coe is a company I have used before and is a concept I really love. All views expressed are my own, and I’m happy to be able to support this growing company.
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As I mentioned before, we met up with Esther and her family in the Loire valley for a little family get together this summer. As you can imagine, we had a fabulous time – what can go wrong with France, friends, summer, countryside and being surrounded by vineyards and chateaux?
The Loire valley is an area I’ve never truly explored before, even though it is only about a 2-hour drive from Paris. The main attractions are the amazing chateaux, most of them built around the time of Louis XIV, who did have quite a high opinion of himself and liked to demand grand chateaux to stay in. Now there are about 90 of them all along the Loire that are open to visitors.
We rented two little cabins on a campsite next to each other. They were nothing fancy, but exactly what we needed as the kids roamed freely all over the campsite and made friends wherever they went. We were based in the lovely medieval town of Saumur, where we got to visit the caves of the Veuve Amiot, vineyards, one of many caves built into the rocks in Saumur, and the horses of the Cadre Noir. We visited the underground network caves of the castle of Brézé, the castle of Ussé (which is rumored to be the castle Sleeping Beauty was based on). My personal highlight were the beautiful gardens of Villandry.
It was such a great little holiday and I wanted to note down some of the things I recommend when you are visiting France:
Tourism Offices: Most little towns have one, and every time I visit a new place, my first stop is always the tourism office – the internet just cannot replace them. The staff is normally super knowledgable and will be able to recommend a ton of things, also events happening in the area that you would not normally know about. They are also very used to English speaking visitors. 😉
Night Markets: Night/evening markets are popping up all over the place in France (you can find out where they are happening at the tourism office). Local food sellers come and sell their products. The local town then sets up barbecues so that you can have your food cooked on the spot. There is normally a band, trestle tables and old ladies preparing fries. It is always easy going and fun and no one cares if kids are running around.
Chateaux: the Loire Valley is full of them, but pretty much anywhere you go in France you will find a few local chateaux stepped in history. They are a great place to escape the midday heat and I do not know a single child who does not like to run around a castle and hear about kings and queens and knights and ladies.
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Just before we left London, with the impending 9-hour flight to Seattle on my mind, I discovered these cool chalk books from one of our newest shops, Little Goldie. The ‘Chalk & Talk‘ books are great for travel because they fold or roll up easily into your carry-on bag (or daily tote) and can be pulled out whenever you need the perfect form of entertainment.
The books are screen-printed with chalkboard ink and include 4 chalks tucked in the back of the book. You can wipe the books clean with a damp cloth when you want to draw again – or simply pop them in the washing machine.
We’ll be taking this little book with us on our upcoming travels — handy to have on planes, trains and automobiles (camper vans, ahem), but also great for keeping little ones entertained in restaurants or whenever you need a bit of calm and quiet. ; )
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You might remember these adventure log books from my recent round-up post of gifts to buy your ten-year-old, but I wanted to give them an additional special mention because we’ve been having so much fun with them this summer. The kids each have their own adventure log and I’ve been encouraging them to spend some time every evening jotting down their favourite activity of the day. I think it will be such a fun way to record their summer holiday and all the wonderful things they’ve done, but I’m also happy that it gives them a reason to sit down every night to reflect and write. It’s a good ritual we’re hoping to continue throughout the next year.
The Adventure Logs come in packs of three and are available in black or yellow. I bought some black ones for this summer and another (yellow) set for our upcoming travel adventures.
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I have been on the road so often lately that my suitcase is just sitting open on the floor and gets emptied and refilled again on a regular basis. I also never have the patience for waiting for suitcases at airports, so I have been honing my talents of traveling not only with a capsule wardrobe but also with a little transparent bag instead of a sponge bag.
I thought it could be fun to share with you my little “capsule” transparent bag, so here is a list of some of my favourite things I always travel with:
- Uriage facial wipes because they are the best: efficient, great for sensitive skin and one wipe is enough to get your face squeaky clean.
- I actually am now French enough that I feel like I am missing something if I leave the house without perfume. Esther gave me this perfume stick recently and I am addicted, it is teeny and is not classified as a fluid and it also smells heavenly.
- Klorane Dry Shampoo: This stuff is genius, especially if you have to get up early, jump on plane and then go straight to a meeting.
- I actually often do not take a foundation when I travel but only a tinted moisturizer. This Caudalie one is great, as it makes my skin look fresh and natural and also moisturises very well which basically makes it a two-in-one.
- This Burt’s Bees lip balm is actually not available in France so I scoop it up every time I am in the UK or the US. I get very dry lips when I travel, so I love the fact that it moisturises and also adds a little colour to my lips.
- I always have an eye mask with me as I like to sleep in the dark and I never know where I might pitch up for the night. Especially in Northern European countries in the summer I hate getting woken up when the sun is rising! This eye mask from Muji is super soft and machine washable.
Do let me know if you have any tips, I would love to hear!
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By the time you have children, your priorities, and therefore the criteria you choose your travel destinations change. And although each family’s choices and preferences may be different, there are some basic facts such the children’s amusement, comfort and of course safety that you cannot really ignore as a parent.
Since we had a baby, we try not to give up our favorite destinations like the Cyclades but always seek for new places or why not some different vacation mode such as camping for our holidays. So if you are planning summer family vacations and you need stunning weather, magical beaches, healthy and tasty food, and most of all welcoming people then Cyclades is a great destination.
Especially now after the Greece’s Economic Drama that peaked the last 3 weeks, travelling to Greece is more vital for us the greek people than ever. The yearning for stability, in monetary and emotional terms is essential. And tourism is liquidity. And although Banks were out of function for 3 whole weeks after the Capital Controls were reinforced, now we are almost back to normal since they are open and ready to service the customers – which means that ATM will not be queued.
People are even more welcoming and more grateful than ever. And prices are significantly cheaper BUT the places and the smiles, remain as wonderful as always.
For relaxation: Camping Coral – Serifos
Serifos has a very friendly and a very well equipped camping, ideal for families – the CORALI. Only five minutes away the port on the famous beach of Livadakia. Coralli camping caters to even the most demanding camper, offering a combination of nature at its best and top notch camping facilities. Plenty of shade is provided by the tamarisk trees and the atmosphere around is really laid – back.
Your kids will be close to nature, at a safe environment so that you can also have some time to relax.
For accommodation you can choose between Bungalow and Apartments, which, however, I recommend you to avoid as they are farther from the center of the camping and sea and their interior is not the most suitable especially for young children. (more…)
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Our friend Pepi from Athens is the driving force behind one of the biggest online children’s boutiques in Greece, Alice on Board. She’s a wonderful mama and sweet friend, and we were super happy when she offered to write up some family friendly destinations in her beautiful country. Greece is one of my favourite travel destinations, I love the amazing culture, the friendliness of the people, the yummy food… but I’ve never been with my family. After reading what Pepi wrote though, I was investigating flights to Greece immediately. : ) Here’s Pepi’s introduction of the beautiful island of Sifnos, and there will be another post following about camping at Serifos too. Thanks so much, Pepi! xxx
If you are looking for summer family vacations and you need stunning weather, magical beaches, healthy and tasty food, and most of all welcoming people, then Cyclades is a destination I suggest you should consider. Especially now after the Greek economic drama that peaked the last 3 weeks, travelling to Greece is more vital for us Greek people than ever. The yearning for stability, in monetary and emotional terms is essential. And tourism is liquidity. And although banks were out of function for 3 whole weeks after the capital controls were reinforced, now we are almost back to normal since they are open and ready to service the customers – which means that ATM will not be queued.
People are even more welcoming and more grateful than ever. And prices are significantly cheaper BUT the places and the smiles, remain as wonderful as always!
For the Cyclades lovers – Sifnos
We initially visited Sifnos in our earliest year (no kids) and although it may initially seems as an ideal island for bachelors, trust me this is a myth. What we actually adore in Sifnos is the variety offered in terms of activities, if of course you are not one of those that only need a beach to stay all day long.
WHERE TO STAY:
Every time we visit Sifnos we prefer to stay in Ag. Marina in a nice hotel close to the sea, Alkyonis Villas, which offers spacious rooms, especially for big families, terrace overlooking the sea – very important since in the evening you can enjoy and a glass of wine by yourself. (more…)
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When I was in Paris last weekend, Emilie and I each bought travel journals for our kids in her local art store. Travel journals are such a fun and educational way to encourage children to contemplate what they have experienced whilst traveling. They’re also great for their language skills and artistic development — when working in their journals, kids are stimulated to express themselves in a creative way: they practise their creative writing, their drawing, they can try techniques like collage, etc. (Courtney’s children are going to keep travel journals on their big trip as an essential part of their homeschooling that year. She’s told me that she’s going to share some bits and pieces every now and then with us — I can’t wait!)
The travel journals we bought are just plain notebooks (I prefer my children to create their own content as opposed to the ‘pre filled’ travel journals). At home, we assembled a pencil case with good quality coloured pencils, a few waterproof black pens , masking tape, a small pair of scissors, glue and a small box of watercolours . This way they can write, draw and paint, they can stick or glue (entrance tickets of museums, sugar bags, clipped mementos, postcards, stamps, pressed flowers, feathers, etc.), they can make collages, etc.
In the back of the book, we wrote down a list with inspirational questions, helping them to contemplate and write about their day. (They don’t need to answer these questions, but the idea is that these questions help them come up with ideas for their travel journal content.)
Here’s the list we wrote down:
- The date today. The location of today.
- People I was with, or new friends I met today.
- Where did we stay today?
- What did we do today? Where did we go?
- My favourite and least favourite part of the day.
- What did we eat today? Did I taste or smell anything special?
- What was the weather like today?
- Special plants, people, animals or architecture I saw today.
- Something I learned today.
- Something I laughed about today, something that made me sad today.
- Special souvenirs that we found or bought today.
- A nice book I’m reading, or cool music I’ve listened to.
Once we set off for France next week, I will copy a map of the area we’re traveling in, so they can have a sense of where we are, and where we are heading to. They can mark the roads we’re driving on, and mark our destinations. (This will also help them to get an understanding of the length of the journey, as Andrea suggested in the comments of our latest Tuesday Tips post.)
Also, and this is of course a totally redundant gadget but I thought it would be fun to give it a try — I invested in a tiny portable printer. I never really print photos anymore, and I thought it would be so fun to use a photo as a story starter in their journal every now and then. I think I will let them print a special photo every few days (of a beautiful building, special tiles, beach treasures, of fun friends… whatever they think is most special).
I have shown my children some examples of travel journals on the internet (the image above was found here), showing them how mixing different techniques can give great results. They’re super inspired and are already sitting down a few times every day to work in their books. In fact, I have just bought a travel journal for myself too, as I am now totally inspired myself as well!