A Berlin Christmas market

ChristmasMarket_Star ChristmasMarket_Smoked_Salomon ChristmasMarket_Candy ChristmasMarket_Nutcracker ChristmasMarket_Roasted_Almonds ChristmasMarket_Angels ChristmasMarket_WoodWorks ChristmasMarket_Toasted_Almonds2 ChristmasMarket_NativitySceneOur 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!

xxx Esther

Context Travel – Tours around Paris

Sacrée Coeur

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

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

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

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

vineyard

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

Sacréé Coeur View

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

Funicular

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

– Emilie

 

Weekend Getaway: Milan

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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…

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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!

SEE:

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.

PLAY:

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!

EAT:

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?  

SHOP:

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.

SLEEP:

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!

La Mercerie Parisienne

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One of my favourite shops in Paris is not a shoe shop or a fancy food shop (though there are many). It is actually a beautiful, little haberdashery shop in the Marais: L’Entrée des Fournisseurs is full of ribbons, buttons, fabrics and wool, just like in the good old days. It also stocks some of my favourite sewing patterns by Citronille. The shop just launched a new website making it even easier to get hold of all the bits and pieces I think I actually need.

If you ever are in the neighbourhood, a browse around the shop is very worth it, but the website is a close second.

– Emilie

PS I order my children’s name tags from this place and they are the cutest!

A day trip from Paris – Versailles

Louis14

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

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

Versaillesfront

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

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

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

– Emilie

Emily Ulmer photography

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Our friend and talented photographer, Emily Ulmer, is in town from Los Angeles and came over on Sunday for a little visit and impromptu photoshoot. We walked over to the park and she snapped some photos of my crazy brood running wild and climbing trees. I never would have thoughts she would have gotten good photos of them — Marlow had just woken from a much-too-short nap and was cranky and tired, and the others would not sit still for a single second.

But…. she got some really cute ones!! I think it’s a testament to her photo-taking skills that she managed to get these shots, and I thought I would share some of my favourites with you…

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Ivy and Marlow_small

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Aren’t they fun?! I love that she managed to get a photo of all of my kids up in a tree!

Emily will be spending the summer in Europe, mostly in London and Paris (but happy to travel for jobs!). If you’re interested in booking her for your own family photoshoot, please email her to make an appointment. I think she takes such beautiful, natural photos.

x Courtney

I’m speaking at Blogtacular!

I’m sure, by now, you’ve heard of Blogtacular — the super cool blogging conference taking place in London next weekend?! With talented and inspiring speakers like Joy ChoNatalie Lue and many others, it’s shaping up to be a really informative, inspiring and FUN event. I’m really looking forward to it!

I am also thrilled to announce that I will be speaking alongside other successful bloggers (Joy Cho, Allison Sadler and Annabelle Beeforth), discussing the ins and outs of the blogging business. I am beyond excited to meet these women, and feel so honoured to share a panel with them! We’re speaking on the Saturday at 1:30 (you can see the full Blogtacular schedule here) and would love for you to come!

Tickets for the conference are still available if you haven’t signed up yet. The event takes place next Friday and Saturday the 9th and 10th at the Royal Institution of Great Britain.  I would love to see you there! (Let me know in the comments below if you’re coming so we can try to meet up!)

xx Courtney

Motion Factory

If you happen to be in Paris in the next few months and if you happen to like animation, do have a quick peek at the lovely little exhibition on at La Gaîté Lyrique, one of Paris’ newest museums.

La Gaîté Lyrique is the museum of digital art, but in this case, the exhibition is actually about the very opposite: hand made animation. It is a showing how stop frame animation is made and created in really cool way. I love it because it showcases the craftiness behind it all.

It is a perfect family outing, especially if your little offspring is a budding animator!

– Emilie

Paris for Teenagers

It is so nice receiving mails from readers with questions about Paris, as it gets me to discover new things about my city. It is soo easy to fall in a rut! I was recently contacted by a reader who is a German school teacher travelling to Paris with teenagers. Not at all my area of expertise! But it was fun trying to figure out what might interest teenagers in Paris, so here is the list I came up with. (I might be totally off the mark by the way, so do feel free to tell me if I am!):

The Batobus is run by the city of Paris and goes down the Seine and stops at all the important places. I like it as it is not as expensive as the rest of the tourist boats and you can get off at the major sites, walk a bit and jump on again at the next stop.

The Science Museum and the Music Museum are both in the Parc de la Villette. The Music Museum has a great exhibition on at the moment about black music and it’s history. The Parc de la Villette also has this great old 50’s submarine in it, which is fun to explore.

I love Monet’s water lily’s in the Orangerie; it is not too overwhelming and busy, like some of the Museums in Paris are. Alternatively there are also the Army Museum and the Catacombes. A walk around Montmartre is beautiful and shows a different side of Paris than the centre. The Pompidou is an amazing building and museum for any age group.

The left bank of the Seine is now closed down from the Eiffel Tower to the Musée d’Orsay, which is a great way to walk around Paris.

Just on the outskirts of Paris there is the chateau de Vincennes, a medieval fortress.

Or perhaps a fun day trip to see Versailles and Giverny, Monet’s home where he painted the famous waterlilies.

– Emilie

The above picture I found on a blog called Style Is Born. It made me laugh as this is exactly how I imagined a Parisian teenager would look like.

The tulip fields

The tulips are in full bloom here in the Netherlands, and last week we went on a little tour with the children to take a look at them. Such an amazing view! The kids loved running through the endless beds of flowers. And the smell!!

Have you ever been to the tulip fields? I’ve heard nowadays a lot of the tulips are grown in Africa. And there are also beautiful fields in the US, near Seattle — Courtney’s dad owns one of them!

Of course we couldn’t leave without picking a bunch to take home. (Picking is only allowed from special flower picking fields!)

xxx Esther

My Favourite Things at Baby&Me Magazine

We’re really excited to announce a new partnership with Baby&Me magazine which has us contributing a little column in their magazine each month and rounding up a selection of cute products to fit our topic. Baby&Me is a super stylish, monthly glossy which keeps London parents updated on all the latest news, fashion, design and other interesting lifestyle topics. We are thrilled to be contributing each month and thought it would be fun to share our selection here with you as well.

In this month’s issue I wrote about getting out in our garden with the kids, sowing vegetable seeds and enjoying the onset of spring. I also rounded up some cute fruit & veg products I’m loving right now. Here they are:

You can read the digital version of this month’s issue here. You can also download the Baby&Me app from iTunes here. And lastly, you can now buy the magazine at newsagents around town.

I’m already excited for next month’s contribution! Stay tuned…

x Courtney

New York, New York!


We’re back from New York! And while we are processing the million impressions we got — from discovering great brands at the Playtime fair (recap to come, of course!), to meeting wonderful friends, to talking loads about new business ideas we’ve got — we thought it would be fun to share some snapshots we took while walking around this inspiring and buzzing city.


Beautiful Brooklyn! And yes, the sky was that blue and the shadows that sharp. This was the first warm and sunny weekend in New York in months!

The meatpacking, the Village, SoHo… we walked all the way!

Williamsburg! So cool. And so lovely to cuddle with Lindsay‘s baby Jack in the hip Wythe Hotel!

We squeezed in a bit of shopping, of course. These beautiful towels were hard to resist… (We did!)

We had so much fun — our throats are still hurting from laughing so much. We ? NY!

Courtney and Esther

The new Elias & Grace website!

Have you seen the shiny new Elias & Grace website?! They’ve given themselves an entirely new look and lots of great new features. You can now narrow down your search by category, gender and by child’s size (which is such a handy feature I think). You can shop new arrivals and see different trends (currently stripes and blue!). And of course, it goes without saying, that everything in store is so effortlessly stylish!

Elias & Grace is my go-to shop in London. They do such a great job of buying and always have the most stylish selection of brands. It’s always fun to stop in at the beginning of every season to see the latest trends and pick up some new pieces for the kids. It’s impossible for me to resist!

x Courtney

PS – Elias & Grace is now offering a £100 gift voucher in our BIG giveaway! So if you haven’t done so already, go enter to win!! Today is the last day!

Photos from Paris

We have just come back from a fun weekend together in Paris! We went for Playtime Paris, but also managed to squeeze in some meetings, visit some museums, walk from one end of Paris to the other, and laugh so hard our bellies are still sore. We’ll be sharing our re-cap of Playtime soon, but in the meantime wanted to share some photos from the rest of our weekend…


Esther and I stumbled upon the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature and it was incredible! We weren’t going to go in but then a lady passed us on the street and told us we really must not walk past without seeing inside. It’s a museum of hunting and animals and nature, but done in the most beautiful way.  The lady said to us ‘I’m a vegetarian, been one my whole life, and I’m against hunting… and even still I think it’s a beautiful museum.” What a recommendation!  I’m so happy she persuaded us because we were so impressed with it and are hoping to go back with the kids soon.


Emilie having a meeting with the wonderfully talented Lalé. We’re working on an exciting project with her and can’t wait to tell you about it!


We decided to be tourists on Saturday, so Esther and I walked the whole of Paris from one end to the next. We walked through beautiful gardens, along the river, to the Louvre, over the bridge and all the way to the Eiffel Tower and back. Here we are outside the Louvre.

Even on a grey day Paris is beautiful. I love this photo Esther took of the Louvre Pyramid, which she says reminds her of her mum.

There I am, standing beneath the Eiffel Tower. I showed this photo to my kids and they were so impressed with how big the tower is, how small I look compared to it.

Esther and I were such tourists, asking random strangers to take our photo in front of the Eiffel Tower! (We walked all the way there, so we weren’t leaving without a photo, of course!)

Here’s a photo of the three of us on the metro after a long day at Playtime. Exhausted but still laughing to tears!

Vanessa Berberian, London photographer

Remember last week when I told you about our little family photo session in the park with Vanessa Berberian? And how I was so worried she wouldn’t get any cute photos because my children wouldn’t cooperate/sit still/smile/behave… etc.  Well, she just sent over the photos and I’m so so impressed with her! She managed to do it! And she also snuck in some really cute candid photos when we weren’t paying attention.  My heart literally bursts when I see the photos of Marlow giving me kisses! Oh, I could just eat her up. I’m so happy to have this sweet phase of hers captured. And I love the photos of my husband with the children. And… she even managed to get a photo of all six of us looking at the camera, all mostly smiling! Miracle I’m telling you.

Vanessa is a super experienced photographer who has worked in all areas of photography, from environmental portraiture to travel and food.  She is now focusing her work on intimate documentary portraiture and family photography in and around the London area. (You can read more about her here.) If you’re also looking for family portraits or photos of your children, I highly recommend getting in touch with her. Her website is also super easy to use — she will upload your photos onto a gallery on her site and you’ll be able to download them easily onto your computer to use and to print. So handy!

Thank you Vanessa for taking these sweet photos!

xx Courtney

A weekend trip to Barcelona

We just came back from a (long) weekend break in Barcelona, and I really wanted to jot down a few notes about our trip  – it was so great!

We took the night train from the centre of Paris down to the Spanish border and did one switch onto a train direct into the centre of Barcelona. It was cool – imagine falling asleep in Paris and waking up to the view of the Med. The train was certainly not the Orient Express – but it was a real adventure. l loved lying in my little berth listening to the train whistle through the night!

We stayed at possibly the best place in Barcelona to stay with kids – a boutique youth hostel. Casa Gracia is right in the centre of Barcelona, we were able to walk everywhere. It is beautifully decorated, the rooms have up to 6 beds which is perfect for a family and there is a kitchen if you feel like you want to quickly cook some pasta. If you don’t feel like cooking, you can join in on the evening buffet meal. A huge breakfast is included in the price of the room. It was so relaxed and easy!

We took the kids to the Parc Guell which was an instant hit. I had brought along some water colours so we spent the afternoon painting the view, the mosaics or whatever we felt like painting. The next day we spent the day wondering La Rambla and getting lost in the Bari Gothic with its tiny medieval streets. On the 3rd day we walked as fast as we could to the beach and soaked up the sun, the sand and the water. Wearing a bathing suit on a beach in Europe at the beginning of November is pretty special! We had a late lunch at a cute restaurant overlooking the beach, and then we picked up our bags, jumped on a train, had dinner in the very cute and sleepy town of Cerbère on the French/ Spanish boarder, jumped on another train and woke up in Paris again!

– Emilie

PS. I just found out there is a night train that goes directly from Paris to Venice, so there might be another trip soon on the cards…

PPS The photos above are: the view over Barcelona from the Parc Guell/ a house designed by Gaudi/ Violette concentrating very hard on a water colour in the Parc Guell/ jumping in the waves in Barcelonetta.

The ShopUp in London – the countdown begins!

The countdown has started! Our live shopping event will take place just one month from now!! Have you marked your diaries? Told all your friends? We can’t wait to see you there!

p.s. To see a list of all the fabulous shops & brands participating, click here.

Bonnetapompon, a lovely Spanish brand

Oh! I just love to find spanish brands like Bonnet à Pompon! It is so sweet!. Clothes made with exquisite taste and care.

With very delicate colours, their shops are also an amazing experience. It is all like a fairy tale!!

Very happy to find this brand made in Spain and hope you like it. And, if you happen to be in Madrid, it is well worth a visit to their shops.

- Maria

To read more from Maria, visit her wonderful blog, escarabajos bichos y mariposas.

The ShopUp… is shaping up!

Whoop whoop!! We’re SO excited about all of these fabulous shops and brands that are joining us at the ShopUp! (For those of you who missed the announcement — we’re organising our first ever live shopping event in London at the beginning of December!) In addition to the great shopping, we’ll have superb entertainment to keep the little ones busy… mini family photo-shoots… little bits to eat and drink… and there’s a raffle with a fantastic prize!  It will be a such a fun day out, and such a perfectly easy way to buy sweet presents for all of the little lovelies in your life!

We can’t wait to go shopping at the ShopUp ourselves!! So… mark your diaries, tell your friends, invite your family, and we look forward to seeing you all there!!

xxx Courtney and Esther

Exciting new spaces in Paris

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

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

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

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

– Emilie

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