A trip to the Loire valley

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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.

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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. 😉

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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.

– Emilie

Cotton chalk books — great for travel

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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. ; )

Courtney x

Keep track of your adventures with Adventure Logs

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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.

Courtney x

In my hand luggage

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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!

– Emilie

Visit Greece! Camping at Serifos

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This is Pepi‘s second post about family friendly destinations in Greece (see her first post about beautiful Sifnos here).

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.

travel_6In this picture: Camping Coralli

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…)

Visit Greece! Sifnos, a wonderful family destination

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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.

sifnos_profitis elias 1000In the picture: Profitis Elias

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…)

Tuesday Tips: Keeping a children’s travel journal

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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.)

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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!

xxx Esther

Tuesday tips: Surviving long car journeys with children

Tuesday Tips car journeys with kidsOK, 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!

xxx Esther

Some news to share

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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.

Courtney x

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

Weekend Getaway: Warsaw

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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!

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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…)

Tuesday Tips: Traveling in Paris with kids

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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!

– Emilie

Tuesday tips: Traveling light (with children)

Tuesday Tips Traveling Light with children

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!

xxx Esther

A weekend at the Opal Coast in France

BoulogneSurMer_kidsWe’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!

(more…)

Stonehenge, inside the circle!

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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!

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friends at Stonehenge
Marlow at Stonehenge
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inner circle Stonehenge
Adamo Family at Stonehenge
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!

Courtney x

Little Trip away: Marrakesh

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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.

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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.

Coco and Atlas

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!

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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!

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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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– Emilie

When the sea calls…

Birling Gap
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Ivy at Beachy Head
walking to the lighthouse
Ivy and Quin

playing cards
Marlow on the beach
This past Saturday, despite the weather being quite cold and windy, we felt the urge to drive out of London and get ourselves to the seaside. Friends laughed at us when we told them we were going to drive two hours only to spend a cold day at the beach, but it turned out to be the medicine we all needed. Even though the English coastline doesn’t really resemble the one where I grew up, I still always feel at home when I’m standing on those rocky beaches with the smell of saltwater in the air.

We bundled ourselves in woollen hats and scarves, we packed a big picnic and brought kites and board games (and blankets!), and we spent the entire day outside in the prettiest setting, tucked away from the wind. Birling Gap in Beachy Head is one of my very favourite spots, and I thought I would mention it in case you’re also in need of a beach day to blow away the cobwebs or planning a trip to the UK and want to see these stunning white cliffs.

After a day at the beach, we always stop at the Tiger Inn for dinner on our way back home. They have several outdoor tables that often catch the evening sun (if it’s out) and a big grassy field where the kids can play while you wait for your food.  We always drive back home feeling re-charged and inspired by a day out of the city. (We’ve also stayed overnight in the nearby Blue Door Barns B&B and it’s really lovely!)

I feel like I’ve just shared a secret with you. It’s such a special spot!

Courtney x

Chateau Vaux le Vicomte

VauxThis 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.

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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?

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Vaux2The 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!

– Emilie

PS. Apologies for the blurry photos, I just snapped these photos on my phone!

So Awesome Wallet cards

So Awesome wallet flash cards so awesome alphabet cards 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. ; )

xxx Esther

 

 

Our visit to Copenhagen, a few favourites

Copenhagen city tips copenhagen city trip tips

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!

Hay House Copenhagen Hay House Copenhagen (more…)

Something I noticed in Copenhagen…

IMG_1103Last 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…

IMG_1102 IMG_1104Even 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.

Copenhagen parenting outdoor play rain suit IMG_1101Another 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!

xxx Esther

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