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!
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OK, the title of this Tuesday Tips might be slightly exaggerated, but really — I’m not the biggest fan of long car journeys. And especially not with children! I feel like a snack service, entertainment centre and traffic control centre all in one, and that for a very. long. time.
Soon we’ll have another lengthy car journey ahead of us — we’ll be driving to the Loire Valley in France for a fun week of camping with Emilie and her girls, and afterwards we’ll continue our trip to the Cantal as usual. So not a bad time to pen down some tips to make long car journeys with children as pleasurable as possible! (And of course, I’m hoping for your added tips and tricks to make our journey easier…) Here goes!
- With smaller children, it’s a good idea to plan (part of) your journey during their nap time.
- Bring baby wipes for sticky hands and faces etc (preferably non-scented ones if you’re sensitive to smells with regards to car sickness)
- Bring some plastic bags for trash.
- Bring plenty of water in refillable bottles. I like to give each of my kids their own bottle.
- Bring enough snacks (nuts, easy-to-eat fruits like grapes, and a few little sandwiches).
- Bring audio books on Ipods with headphones. My kids are happily entertained for hours with these. You can also think about making a playlist for the whole family to enjoy — we love sing-alongs to kill the time in our car!
- Bring (chapter) books for who reads, but only if they don’t get car sick (my kids are ok to read on straight highways)
- Bring notebooks with pens, or a travel journal to work in on the road. These are great too.
- Bring neck pillows and thin sheets — great to use as blankets or as a sun shade.
- For the last few hours, you can maybe play a fun film on an Ipad or car video set (with headphones).
- For my own entertainment during the hours I’m not driving myself, I like to bring some crochet or knitting.
That’s it!! Wish me luck for in a few weeks… ; ) And as always, all tips and tricks are very, very welcome!
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For the past few months, despite lots of big changes and careful planning, I’ve kept uncharacteristically quiet about some things. When we sold our house back in February, I managed to skirt all the why and where questions, and to be honest, it’s been a bit of an uncomfortable secret to keep (it turns out I’m not very good at keeping my own secrets. haha!). But… I knew that we first had to tell some important people (family, jobs, schools, etc.) and get everything lined up first before I could spill the beans.
And now finally, I get to share!
Michael and I have decided to make a really big dream a reality. We’ve decided to push pause on our busy lives here in London and take a year out to spend time with our children. We’ve managed to sell our house and lots of our belongings, we’ve dropped lots of stuff at charity shops and have pawned off our beloved house plants and treasures to friends. We’ll be storing some of the remaining stuff in a storage unit, and in two weeks we’ll be heading off on a big adventure around the world.
We’ll be spending the summer with friends and family in the US, and then come September we’ll head down to South America to explore countries like Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Peru. Our journey will then take us to Australia, New Zealand and a couple countries in Asia before returning to explore more of Europe next summer. A family trip around the world: a dream I’ve had since I was a young child.
We look forward to immersing ourselves in the culture and language of each place we visit. We hope to experience how the locals live, what they eat, how they cook it, how they work, how they learn, how they play, and how they love as families. I want to discover and teach our children the history, theology, and geography of each place, but more than that, I want to discover a deeper part of myself and gain an understanding of the values that matter most to us. For as much as we want to experience the amazing things this world has to offer, we are more interested in slowing down our days, enjoying time as a family, being more present, listening, really listening, to each other, and emerging with a happiness and fulfillment that will hopefully influence the rest of our lives. Because life is so short, and our kids grow up too quickly. Because Easton is ten years old, and it won’t be long before he won’t be excited about an adventure like this. Because now is the time.
I’ve written about our upcoming trip and the reasons behind our decision in a piece for The Telegraph which has gone online today and which will come out in the Telegraph’s weekend supplement this Saturday (my first ever published piece in a national newspaper! eeek!). Please pop over and have a read, or pick up the paper this weekend.
Thank you for all of your support (and patience) with me.
p.s. I will, of course, still be blogging here over the coming year.
The photo above was taken by Andrew Crowley for The Telegraph. You can see more of his photos in the article here.
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I visited Warsaw once a very, very long time ago on a school exchange trip. It was in the mid ’90s and it was a fascinating place – full of Soviet-era architecture, but already buzzing with potential. Now 20-odd years later I am sure that potential has been fulfilled and I would love to go back and discover the city with my kids. Kristina, one of our lovely readers, lives in Warsaw with her family and was kind enough to put together a list of things to do, see and experience in Warsaw with kids!
Kristina was born in a small, little town in between the Alps and the Adriatic sea in the North East of Italy. With a Czech–Bulgarian mother and Italian dad, she soon developed an interest in studying languages, cross cultural relations, travelling and different foods. After living in Paris, Prague, the English countryside and London, Kristina, her Anglo-Scottish husband and their two (soon to be three!!) children enjoy life in Warsaw. (more…)
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Summer here and I thought it was high time to write down some random tips of what to do in my lovely city with kids. Paris is such a great place to visit and so easy to get around that it is a great destination with children, even young ones. But there are a couple of things that might be good to know:
- Hilariously my very first tip actually has very little to do with kids and has everything to do with coffee and bars! Basically if you want to save a cent or two always order and drink a coffee at the bar in a Parisian café, not on the terrace. The price on a terrace can be more that double than the one if you sit by the bar. The same goes for most drinks. (By the way: a café is an espresso, a noisette is a macchiato and a crème is a cappuccino roughly speaking).
- All neighbourhoods in Paris have little squares with play equipment (like place des Vosges on the photo above). They are simple, easy going and a nice way to get away from the crowds. If you are looking for a real park, go a bit further afield and head over to the Buttes de Chaumont, which is super French and has grassy areas, so a good place to go and kick a ball around.
- My favourite Parisian street food is good old-fashioned crepes, and you can still find a lot of little hole-in-the-wall crepes stands that will throw together a “jambon-fromage-champions” (my personal favourite). My kids absolutely love them.
- In restaurants do ask for a kids menu, even if it is not advertised. Especially less touristy places will often happily make a smaller plate for kids.
- If you have the time to teach your kids just a few words in French, it is totally worth it. I have seen the sternest French waiter melt when he had been addressed in French by a little foreign tourist. Even “Bonjour”, “Merci” and “S’il vous plait” is enough.
- When you ask for anything, be it a baguette in a boulangerie or directions on the street, start with “Bonjour” not “Excuse me”. It just the way we start a conversation over here. If not you might finish with your questions just to have a pointed “Bonjour” thrown back at you.
- For me the best way to get around Paris, if you have a bit of time, is by bus. They use the same tickets as the metro, but are so much more pleasant and such a great way to see the city. The free public transport app is unfortunately only in French at the moment, but it is so easy to use that I think you could use it with even the smallest knowledge of French.
- If you have even more time then the very, very best way of getting around Paris is to walk! Paris is much smaller than London and New York so it is actually easy to walk from one attraction to the next. On the left bank of the Seine a lot of the quays are closed to cars and are a lovely way to discover Paris. On Sundays the right bank of the Seine is also closed to cars.
- As we now all know, French Kids don’t throw food 😉 which is actually only partly correct of course. But it is true that people expect children to behave in restaurants and will ask the waiter to ask you to be a bit quieter. Do not take it personally as it happens to French parents as much as it does to foreigners. I try to smile and apologise and that normally does the trick.
As I mentioned, this is a bit of a random list, but these are some of my top tips to visiting Paris. If you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them!
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Summer vacations are around the corner for us and we have lots of exciting travels coming up that we’ll be sharing with you soon. In the meantime, we have been thinking about packing tips — isn’t packing suitcases for a family the biggest job ever? Personally, when I’m packing, I prefer my kids to be out of the house, so I can prepare in total focus and with ultimate concentration. It usually takes me almost a full day to pack — and then I’m not even counting the prep work of washing, folding, and sorting beforehand!
The biggest challenge when I’m packing, is to pack as little as possible. We mostly travel by car, and with the 6 of us stowed in the car already there is not a lot of room for luggage. Or, if we fly, we usually try to pack in small, carry-on suitcases. So here are some tips for packing practical and light — please do share your tips as well (I need them)!!
Layering: I like bringing some cardigans or hoodies to layer over t-shirts and summer dresses. A few pairs of knee socks keep feet and lower legs warm. Leggings are great layering pieces as well.
Footwear: Saltwater sandals, Crocs or Natives are waterproof, easily cleaned, and can be worn over above mentioned knee socks if necessary. Flip flops are so easy and small to pack. (I try to avoid taking wellies but for some trips they’re mandatory…)
Pac-a-mac foldable raincoats: the kind of raincoat that fold up inside a pocket and can be strapped around your middle. We have one for each member of the family, and they keep us warm and dry when needed. We take no other coats than these. (Added bonus — we have bright coloured macs in one colour — great to keep an eye on the kids in busy places!) You can find them here, here or here, for example.
Turkish towels: so much smaller to pack and quicker to dry than terry towels. They double up perfectly as picnic blankets or sheets, by the way. (Available here.)
Personal backpack: each child carries a small backpack with a notebook and a pencil-case, a sunhat, sunglasses, a thin and royal sized square scarf (doubles as a blanket, play mat or sun screen), one favourite doll or stuffed animal, a little pouch with some tiny toys for imaginary play (like Schleich animals, Playmobil characters, cars or trains), and some small games (a deck of cards, Uno, Dobble or memory are good examples and fun to play as a family).
A small umbrella stroller (and/or small carrier): even though for city living I prefer a bigger, more comfortable stroller, for traveling we prefer the lighter, smaller type of buggy. (We have an old MacLaren Volo for this purpose. I recently saw the Babyzen YoYo on a trade fair and it also looked really cool, and small!) If your child is big enough, you could think of taking a Micro Scooter instead of a stroller (ok, this is maybe not packing ultra light, but they’re great to take if you can!).
Argan oil and Shea Butter: I love argan oil when I’m traveling — I put it on my face, body, and hair. One bottle for everything — less is more! Shea butter is also lovely for face, lips, hands, dry patches of skin, hair even.
Shampoo and samples: a little bottle of shampoo doesn’t just wash hair, body and hands, it’s also great to use as laundry detergent — to quickly hand-wash some underwear or t-shirts when on the road. Also, I was just talking to Courtney, and she mentioned taking samples for toiletries instead of the big bottles — so save up the little sample bags that are given to you in the beauty department!
That’s what I came up with… Again — please share your tips for light packing. I can use them, I promise!
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We’ve discovered that the Côte d’Opale (Opal Coast) in the upper North-west corner of France is aptly located for a Babyccino Kids meet-up — it’s only a few hours drive from Paris and Antwerp (where my dad lives), and it’s also just a 20 minute drive from Calais, where the channel tunnel connects France directly to the UK. So it’s pretty much on the doorstep from London as well!
A few weekends ago Emilie and I got to spend some quality time together and discover this pretty region of coastal France with our families in tow. A visit of only two days but absolutely jam-packed with activities!
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Last weekend our little family, along with 24 friends, made a special visit to Stonehenge. We’ve been to Stonehenge once before and we’ve driven past it several times, but this visit was an entirely different experience, one that none of us will ever forget.
My friend Lesley organised a private group tour for 30 people which meant that we got to go into the inner circle after it was closed to the public, without any barriers surrounding the stones. We had an hour to stand/run/play amongst the stones, soaking up the mystery and magic of this incredible site while the sun was setting on the horizon. I think we all sat there pinching ourselves!
Stonehenge is just a two-hour drive outside of London, located in pretty Wiltshire. We stayed in the area and made a weekend out of it, but you can also drive out there for a day trip (most of our friends drove to Stonehenge and back to London that day). It’s pretty incredible that, in the middle of the rolling hills and pastures of the English countryside — just two hours out of London, sits a site that is more than 5,000 years old (built at the same time as the great pyramids in Egypt)! We listened to a podcast about Stonehenge in the car on our drive out there, and what I found most incredible was that the site was created in several construction phases taking more than 1,000 years!
Visiting Stonehenge the normal way is still quite amazing, but if you’re able to plan in advance and book private entry it’s something I so highly recommend doing. Lesley booked our trip back in January and even then the availability was really limited for the summer months, so it’s something you really have to plan. But totally worth it!
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France has a funny school break at the end of April. It can be absolutely gorgeous or it can be dismal weather over here, so if you want some guaranteed good weather, you need to go South. Coco, who is nine now, and I skipped and hopped onto a plane and went to Marrakesh for a short break, and (not very surprisingly) it was amazing and just what the doctor ordered. Marrakesh is only 2.5 hours away from Paris by plane, so it is an easy escape.
I was not able to take much time off work and yet wanted a real break with sun, so I did something I have hardly ever done before and booked us into nice hotel. (You know one of those things where they cook for you and you don’t have to plan anything?). We stayed at the Beldi Country Club which worked out awesomely. It was about 15 minutes away from the airport, but a world away from our everyday life – we instantly felt on holiday.
We spent some time exploring the hotel and its gardens, did some pottery and swimming and Coco instantly became friends with the whole gaggle of kids running round. In fact, one of my lasting memories will be the sound of a horde of sandals chasing each other around the gardens.
We went for a full day horse ride around the foothills of the Atlas mountains, through villages and little creeks and hills – it was absolutely stunning and such a great way to explore the area.
We also visited Marrakesh, its souk, where we had lunch in the lovely Café des Epices, the palaces and the beautiful Majorelle gardens. We strolled around Jemaa el-Fnaa square, but I have to admit the people, the snakes and the heat suddenly got too much for Coco, so I picked her up and we jumped into a horse drawn carriage to take us around the old city, which worked out as the perfect way of discovering the sites. I get quite into bartering so the Souk was perfect for me and, though we only got tat, it was a lot of fun!
It was absolutely amazing to pop out of our daily routine and suddenly be in a completely different place, with completely different sounds, smells, temperature, nature and architecture. We absolutely loved it!
It was also very special to have a bit of time with Coco on my own as I realised how big 9 years is and how much she has grown and developed. So nice to stop, even for a short while, and be able to take in the important things in life!
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This weekend, there were a lot more smiles in Paris than usual – spring has finally arrived! The trees are starting to look just a little bit greener and the thermometer is slowly reaching 21 degrees – the magic number when it is possibly to sit outside in a T-shirt.
The terraces of all the cafés in Paris were packed this weekend, so we decided to venture a little bit further afield and jumped on the train for a day trip to one of the lesser known chateaux close to Paris, Vaux-le-Vicomte.
True, it is not the easiest chateau to get to. If you are taking the train, you need to jump on a commuter train to Melun (about 50 minutes outside of Paris) and then either take a shuttle bus or a taxi. But the trip is absolutely worth it.
Vaux-le-Vicomte was build slightly before Versailles and the gardens were landscaped by the same landscape architect, Le Notre. Rumour has it that, when Louis XIV visited Vaux-le-Vicomte, he was so jealous of the beautiful chateau, he promptly threw the owner, his finance minister Le Fouquet, into jail (arrested by no other than D’Artagnan, head of the Musketeers). Le Fouquet was then kept in prison for the rest of his life together with the Man with the Iron Mask. All pretty exciting stuff, don’t you think?
The grounds are very easy to explore and the highlight of the trip is the visit to the chateau, where you can rent period costumes for children. We just went up to the reception desk and rented the costumes for 4 euros each. There is truly nothing better than dressing up as a Musketeer or a Renaissance Lady whilst exploring a chateau.
It is a much more accessible chateau for families than Versailles is; it is so much smaller and there aren’t really any crowds. I really do recommend it, especially if you need to get away from the bustle of Paris!
PS. Apologies for the blurry photos, I just snapped these photos on my phone!
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These So Awesome wallet cards don’t just looks beautiful, they’re also super practical. A selection of cards the size of a credit card, made from durable, easy-to-clean, biodegradable and kid-safe (non-toxic, food-safe) plastic, are kept together by a re-closable ring. The size makes them super easy to throw in your handbag or nappy bag. They can be kept together and read as a book, or they can also be played with individually. So fun! I have found them especially handy when we’re traveling, or in restaurants. Casper and I like to play with the Color and Shape cards — I ask, what colour, and he says ‘blue’. For all the colours. ; )
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The last weekend of February, Tamar and I (without our kids!) spent a few days in Copenhagen, the beautiful capital of Denmark, and we loved discovering this wonderful city. There’s just so much to appreciate — the beautiful architecture, slightly austere and with deep, beautiful colours. The very kind and handsome people. The amount of bikes! The food culture (no surprise that the best restaurant in the world is located right here). The sea, right there. And, of course, the design, apparent in each and every detail of society.
Here are a few of our favourite discoveries. I definitely recommend visiting Copenhagen — we definitely want to go back soon with our kids!
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Last weekend, Tamar (my husband) and I spent a few great days together in the wonderful capital of Denmark, Copenhagen. We really enjoyed our stay (albeit we had quite some rain!), and I’ll definitely share some of our favourite discoveries here very soon. In the meantime, I wanted to post about something fascinating I noticed in Copenhagen…
Even though it rains a lot in Denmark, and it can also be quite cold in winter, the Danes believe it is super healthy for their children to spend most of their day outside. Every time a baby or young child naps during daytime, it sleeps outside. For this purpose, there are special prams that are much bigger than the practical pushchairs we tend to use here in the Netherlands (f.e. the Bugaboo). I was chatting to a mum and she told me that Scandinavian children consistently sleep in their prams for daytime naps until they are at least three years old! It is generally believed this is healthier for the children, and also that they sleep much better outside. Amazing!
Even when it rains, the babies sleep in their prams. They all have a huge (black) cover that completely covers and protects the sleeping child. When out and about, and a child wakes up and wants to sit, there are are special banana shaped pillows to support it in the back. Also, prams (with the sleeping baby inside!) are often left outside of shops or cafés, while the parents shop, sip their coffees or have lunch inside.
Another thing I noticed, is that children of walking age all own a special one-piece ‘outdoor suit’. It’s like a thick, warm rain / snowsuit that is worn on top of the ‘indoor clothes’. I’m told that often, the ‘indoor clothes’ are very easy-to-wear: often these are leggings and long-sleeved tops or all-in-one jumpsuits, made out of cosy cotton jersey or thin wool knits. When the child goes outside, the ‘outdoor suit’ is simply put on on top of the cosy (and easy-to-layer) indoor wear. So practical! Even when it’s raining or snowing, Scandinavian children spend most of their day outside.
Tamar and I were so inspired by all of this. We pledged to take our children outside even more, and definitely be bothered less by ‘bad weather’. (We even went to a department store to check out the ‘outdoor suits’!) Because as the Scandinavian say — there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!
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Last night, as the end of a long day drew to an end, I had the need to jot down a couple of thoughts about the events in Paris since Wednesday. It has been terrifying, horrific, violent, senseless on the one hand… and beautiful, peaceful and full of hope on the other hand. It is very hard to describe what has been going on in this beautiful city of ours over the last few days, so apologies if I ramble. ; )
I wanted to start off by explaining to the non-French contingent the importance of Charlie Hebdo and how much it symbolizes so much of French culture. Here in France, illustrated stories and cartoons are a huge part of our culture. Adults as much as children devour illustrated novels. (One of my 9-year-old’s after school activities is a cartoon class.) My generation grew up on the cartoon books by Wolinski and Cabu, so these guys were not just people working for a small satirical magazine that sometimes found itself on the fine line between offensive and provocative, they were illustrators that have formed the rebellious spirit of a whole generation.
The French are, on the whole, cynical, critical and irreverent (I mean this as a compliment). They are also, compared to all the countries I have lived in, the most politically aware and politically engaged. This is why the attack of Charlie Hebdo was so significant: it represents an attack on something us French hold the most dear: our freedom of expression. A quote by Voltaire has been repeated again and again this week: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to death your right to say it.” People here feel strongly that provocation by cartoonist are incredibly important, as the irreverence and humour is such a historic way in France to mock the government and society in general.
For most of Wednesday and Thursday, Charlie Hebdo was our main focus – Friday’s attacks irreversibly changed the scale of the attacks. “Je Suis Charlie” suddenly became so much bigger than it had been. It came to represent all groups targeted in the attack. “Je Suis Charlie” suddenly came to mean: I am a journalist, I am Jewish, I am the Police. The slogan became bigger than just France, it started to represent all the people targeted senselessly by terrorists.
On Wednesday late afternoon, after letting sink in the terror of what had happened in my neighbourhood and in my city, I took the kids over to Place de la Republique. A spontaneous gathering was taking place and I felt like it was important to show the children (and myself) how a tiny little group of people can commit a senseless crime and how in the face of that, thousands of people gathered together peacefully to stand up against violence. The atmosphere on the square was so calm and strong and it was incredible to see how everyone needed to unite together and gain strength from likeminded people. I think, hopefully, that showing the children what was going on (both the good and the bad) was the best way for them to deal with the tragedies. The Charlie Hebdo shooting and the shooting of the first police man happened so close to us that ignoring it and protecting them from the events was not a possibility. But I do hope that by participating in the demonstration today and laying flowers down for the victims will give them an understanding of what happened and how important it is to stand up for our basic rights.
P.S. For anyone living in France or whose children read French, I really liked the gesture by Le Petit Quotidien, a children’s daily newspaper who have made a version dedicated to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks downloadable free of charge.
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Our new Amsterdam team-member Nina just sent me some photos of her visit to the Christmas markets in Berlin, and I just had to share them with you here! I’ve never been to a German Christmas market, but now that I saw these photos I just know we’ll have to go next year. Aren’t they just amazing? Such an atmosphere, and I love the artisanal products, and the old-fashioned candy and nuts and traditional smoked fish. Thanks Nina, for sharing!
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I don’t think I know a scooter-riding child who wouldn’t love one of these Scoot Baskets on their scooter! My girls each have one and they love filling their baskets with little nature finds on our walks in the park (lately they’ve been collecting pretty leaves, nuts, and sticks).
The Scoot Basket easily attaches to any scooter with two velcro straps and stays in place perfectly. It also looks quite cute on their little scooters, don’t you think? Available from Scoot ‘n Pull, which also sells the Scoot ‘n Pull strap.
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As you might have noticed we do love travelling over here at Babyccino. Being based in Europe, especially Paris, makes it particularly easy to jump on a train, into a car or even a plane and discover new cities and countries. I try to take full advantage of this, but travelling is definitely not cheap, especially accommodation for a whole family. We’re lucky enough to have a lot of friends spread over Europe that we can stay with, but not every city in Europe has a friendly bed for us to crash in. So I have gone back to my roots and re-discovered youth hostels. Turns out that they are ideal places to pack in a group of children and grown-ups.
Now, I have to admit that the youth hostels I have discovered are very different from the ones I stayed in during my days of Inter-railing across Europe. Gone is the flaky paint on the walls, the nasty neon lights and the horrendously uncomfortable mattresses. There is now a new breed of youth hostel — let’s call them “boutique” hostels — that have sprung up all over Europe and they are the perfect solution for traveling in a larger group.
Last year we stayed in lovely Casa Gracia in Barcelona (pictured above). We were travelling with friends so we had a big room with a bathroom all to ourselves. It had all the advantages of a hotel (a great breakfast, a good inexpensive evening meal and a excellent tourist service) with addition to a kitchen that all guests were free to use. It was, of course, a lot cheaper than a hotel could have been (I believe it was around 27 euros per night per person).
This year we went to Venice and stayed at the Generator Hostel. Again we had a big room and bathroom that we shared between kids and friends. The view from the room is across the lagoon over St Mark’s square, which is quite a breathtaking thing to see first thing in the morning. Again it was super child friendly, with a laundry room, inexpensive food and an excellent laid back bar and common area, great to relax and play in after a long day of sightseeing.
Have you ever stayed in a youth hostel with your family? Do you have any places to recommend? I would love to hear as I cannot wait to get our bags packed up again!
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Founded by Zoie Kingsbery Coe a few years ago, Kid&Coe is a booking service that lets families rent out their house when they are away, so that other families can have the convenience of traveling to interesting places while staying in a local family home. Instead of going though the trouble of booking an expensive hotel room, or (if you have several children) facing the difficulty of finding hotel rooms with connecting doors, Kid&Coe offers you the opportunity to stay in a family house with children’s beds, toys, books, a kitchen filled with everything a family needs, highchairs, washing machines, etc. It’s SO much more fun to stay in a family house than in an impersonal hotel room, and it is SO much more practical as well!
We’ve written about Kid&Coe before here at Babyccino Kids, but I wanted to tell you how great it is to list your house there too. Our previous home was listed on the Kid&Coe website, and last May we had an inquiry from a family from Singapore who came to visit Amsterdam and was interested in renting our house during the spring break. We decided to rent out our house and make a little trip to Germany for those days, to visit our friends from Macarons and some other cool destinations along the way. It was a really great trip and we discovered so many wonderful places. And… the best thing — the money we made from renting out our house paid for our little holiday! When we came back, it was so nice to find a sweet letter from the family who stayed in our house, telling us how much they had enjoyed our house and how their little girl had loved playing with Ava’s toys.
Listing your property on the Kid&Coe website is super easy to do. The application process is straight forward, and the Kid&Coe team is so great to work with. They write great things about your house, and make sure the photos look fantastic.
Because we just moved house our current place is not listed on the website, but this is the flat we always visit in Antwerp when we go there for a very important work weekend ; ). I really recommend listing your house with Kid&Coe — it’s so easy to do, and so worth it!
PS The first five people to list their property on the Kid&Coe website though Babyccino Kids will get FREE professional photography!!
PPS We’re excited for Kid&Coe to be the main sponsor of our ShopUp event in London this December — we look forward to seeing you there and if you have any questions about listing your property on the Kid&Coe website, their team will be happy to answer any questions you might have.