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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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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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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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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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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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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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!
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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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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 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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As the leaves on the trees here in Paris are slowly turning red, yellow and brown and summer is becoming a bit of a distant memory, I wanted to quickly jot down some notes about an area of France we discovered and completely fell in love with this summer. It is the Atlantic coast of the South West of France, just south of Arcachon. A group of friends and us decided to go camping in an amazing campsite set in the middle of a pine forest with a view of the sea and Europe’s biggest sand dune, la Dune du Pyla. It was so beautiful and simple. I am not an avid camper and our little tent without any accessories looked a bit ridiculous compared to most people’s set up, but it was so much fun, no one cared (we often used the car as an extra room, picnic area and extra seating area).
I picked up one of these little gas stoves and pots and we came up with some of quite successful one pot meals.
(The grown ups did sometimes go pick up a little tray of oysters and a cheeky little bottle of cold rosé to enjoy after the kids had passed out, so we were not really roughing it).
Here are a few of the things we did: We stayed at the camping Panorama du Pyla, which is great with the most amazing view of the sand dune and the Atlantic. The bathrooms are spotless and there are a lovely couple of swimming pools and a little water slide. It is all very low key.
We took a little boat over the water to the seaside resort of Cap Ferret and explored the Atlantic beaches and the still waters of the basin. We paddled around on these amazing little inflatable body boards we picked up at the local sports store.
Finally we braved the big, though mellow waves down the road in Biscarosse and had some surf lessons with a nice guy called Paul. Even the youngest kids loved it. They looked so cute and felt like super heroes in their little wetsuits!
PS. my top tip for camping? Bring an eye mask! I think it made the difference between me being a very grumpy maman to someone waking up with a smile on my face!
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This weekend we went for a little adventure around Paris — the sun was out and it was the perfect day to discover Montmartre. It is ironic how, when you live in a city, you sometimes know less about it than all the tourists who visit!
We were delighted when Context Travel invited us for a tour around Montmartre, one of my favourite parts of Paris. The tour was tailormade for children, full of entertaining scary stories and legends. Our personal tour guide, Anais, was lovely, bi-lingual and could answer every single question that we asked her and, believe me, she was asked a LOT of questions!
We followed the path that St Denis (patron saint of Paris) walked after he, unfortunately, had his head cut off by the Romans. The legend says he walked from the bottom of the hill right to the very top, holding his severed head in his hands. The Sacrée Coeur was built on top of his final resting place (I do hope I have remembered this correctly!).
Following the path of St Denis we discovered the houses that Picasso and Van Gogh lived in and and got a glimpse of what Montmartre was like in the late 1800s (there were a LOT of cafés, cabarets and drinking establishments as Coco noticed). We saw the vineyards, the cobbled streets that are so different from the rest of Paris, and the hidden gardens and artist lofts. We walked up and down hill for 2.5 hours and could have easily continued!
At the end of the trip we sat on the steps of the Sacrée Coeur and drew pictures of all the things we had seen on our walk. On the steps we also had an amazing view of Paris and of a street artist dribbling a football whilst hanging off a lamp post (nothing unusual in that).
We did finish off the journey with a little ride in the Funicular which is part of the Paris metro. It is such a cute, random little train, that it is well worth the metro ticket it costs to use it.
Such a fun way to discover Paris, I highly recommend it!
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I love Italy! To be honest, who doesn’t? The landscape, the architecture, the history, the food and the people — a beautiful holiday is guaranteed whatever corner of Italy you decide to explore. Milan always struck me as the most “sensible” city of Italy, known more as a business and fashion capital than as a tourist destination. But I have completely changed my mind since Paola, who runs her own PR agency and blog in Milan, put together of list of must-see things in Milan. Now Milan has jumped up a few places on my top 10 list of cities to visit! Introducing Paula…
I’m a communication consultant in Milan and mom of four-year-old Leonardo. I moved to the city a long time ago and am now living with my family in the Navigli neighborhood… it’s a very charming and interesting place: I love walking Leonardo to school, which is just in front of the canal, and sipping my cappuccino in one of the several bars of the area before starting my workday. I hope you enjoy my recommendations!
Museo del Novecento Housed in Palazzo dell’Arengario, in the heart of Milan, just opposite the Duomo cathedral, this gallery displays a wide variety of twentieth-century works of art. You can admire paintings and sculptures from different art periods, such as Futurism and Transavantgarde, that can enchant and surprise even children, as some sculptures by Boccioni. An educational programme dedicated to schools and children is also available.
Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia ‘Leonardo da Vinci’: With its 40,000 m² in total, it is the largest scientific-technical museum in Italy and owns the worldwide largest collection of machine models manufactured from drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. A real paradise for children, where they can discover the different pavilions, from the transport pavilions to the rail pavilion – which houses last century’s first locomotives. You can also board the Toti submarine, or even make a stop in the area dedicated to laboratories, where you can participate at activities organised around the museum.
Duomo In Milan, a visit to the Duomo cathedral and its terraces, from which you can admire a truly breath-taking panorama, is a must! The church is an artistic monument of incredible importance, and its spires, recently renovated along with the entire facade, a real treasure of the city: Those who are athletic and patient can climb the 201 steps on foot, while those who prefer a comfortable ascent can easily take advantage of the lift.
Navigli Designed and built to connect the Lombardy capital with Lakes Maggiore and Como as well as the river Ticino, the Milan historic canals represent today a very lively district and an epicentre of culture, events and nightlife. Take a pleasant walk through the small, typical artisan shops, the cosy cafes and restaurants, or even a nice boat trip. And if you are in the area on the last Sunday of the month, a tour of the traditional antiques market cannot be missed.
MUBA The Museo dei Bambini was inaugurated in early 2014 at the Rotonda della Besana, one of the most representative architectural buildings of the eighteenth century in Milan. It is a permanent centre of cultural and artistic projects dedicated to childhood, a place open to innovation that combines the excellence of national and international culture, education, science and arts, to promote the development of creativity and creative design thinking. The museum has an excellent bistro, an interesting bookshop and a beautiful garden to play at.
Parco Sempione Sempione Park is the green lung of the city, where you can walk, drink coffee, or simply sit on a bench reading a book. Of course, there is also a large play area for the little ones, with slides, swings, merry-go-rounds, a small train…
Giardini Indro Montanelli It is a park located in the heart of Milan, in Via Palestro, where every day many generations of young citizens spend the afternoon, enjoying a tour on the historic small train or having a classic ride on a pony. There are three play areas and an entertainment space with merry-go-rounds and ponds with ducks and swans. Within the gardens there is also the Civico Planetario (Civic Planetarium), the largest in Italy, and the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale (Civic Museum of Natural History), that are definitely worth a visit, especially if you are travelling with astronomy or zoology enthusiasts!
Isa e Vane A delicious bistro with a warm homely feel and definitely kid-friendly, where you can enjoy delicious and genuine foods even in the courtyard … The owners, Isabella and Vanessa, know the art of hospitality and make you feel as if you were in your own living room!
Al Fresco Another ‘newcomer’ in the city catering business, Al Fresco is defined as ‘a meeting place with a kitchen’… High quality ingredients combined with a relaxed, informal atmosphere make this restaurant an event to share with the little ones. In this case, it is worth booking a table outside, in the lovely garden.
California Bakery If you do not want to give up an American coffee or a burger, you should definitely stop at one of the shops of this famous Milan bakery chain. But the main reason why I am pointing out this address is its unmistakable Picnic Brunch. As a matter of fact, during summer, in the store in Piazza Sant’Eustorgio, you can buy a fabulous basket for adults or children: tablecloths, pillows and baskets full of overseas cult food, are ready to be enjoyed in the open air park plaza, relaxing in the sunshine, in the best tradition of New York.
Aromando Bistrot If, like me, you love the retro style, you will literally fall in love with this restaurant, completely furnished with authentic vintage items that create a unique shabby atmosphere. Authentic is also the cuisine, based on traditional dishes, like a cold cuts and pickles starter, Cappelletti in broth and apple pie with eggnog sauce … Is your mouth watering yet?
L’Elefante con le Ghette Born from the passion of three friends, Erika, Federica and Serena, this is the meeting place for those looking for style and comfort, a mix of Italian and northern Europe niche brands, but also clothes and accessories hand made by craftsmen-artists. In addition to a selection of more than 300 books for young readers, there is also a full schedule of events including workshops, meetings with authors and games.
Il Bianconiglio Here you will find everything for the baby, from clothing to games, up to strollers and baby changing tables, especially second-hand ones, but in excellent condition… The vintage style is becoming trendy even for the smallest ones (ah, for moms a mandatory stop is Cavalli e Nastri, the kingdom of the Milan retro style)!
Mezzanotte An address in Milan that every mother should know. Originality, attention to detail and search for a unique style are the features underlying the selection of brands constantly made by Barbara Mezzanotte. And there are not only small dresses and T-shirts, but also many designer items, home accessories, items for baby parties and mums.
Il Gufo This boutique in the heart of Milan’s fashion district, at a stone’s throw from Via Montenapoleone, is one of the best known brands in the Made-in-Italy scenery dedicated to children. A brand born in the eighties, on the initiative of a mother who turned her passion for sewing clothes for her children into a job. Even today Il Gufo products are made with natural fibres and carefully selected fabrics, ensuring its customers the utmost control and safety.
To experience a piece of the ‘Milanese life’, try one of the amazing apartments at Airbnb like most people are doing lately… you can choose among loft, cozy flat or romantic attic!
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When we stay in our house in France, we always make sure to make the trip to the local market which takes place in Maurs, every Thursday morning. The ride by itself is worth it — the beautiful hills with the fog still hanging over the valleys…
The market is a ‘farmers market’ in the true sense of the word — there still are farmers who will come to town, display their wares on the grounds in front of the medieval church and sell their beautiful products like eggs, vegetables, flowers and tools made from wicker or carved out of wood.
Produce are fresh and abundant, and local. We love all the different cheeses and sausages, the artisanal bread, the wonderful fruit and vegetables… There’s even a woman with a giant water bucket full of trouts — she will catch the one of your liking and, uhm, clean it on the spot (the kids find this especially intriguing)!
PS Yummy Puy lentil salad