Cologne

Spring has sprung! Well…not really. Some flowers have bloomed and we have also had some snow. Winter is still trying to hold on but we are finally turning the corner toward some nicer weather. This weekend there was SUNSHINE!!

Sunshine means time for another quick day trip. We headed north to Cologne.

I knew going into this trip that it was going to be a quick get in and get out kind of trip. The kiddos could rest/nap on the car rides there and back (1.5 hours each way) and we would attempt to see as much as possible as quickly as possible before they crashed. Here is what we managed to accomplish:

Chocolate Museum (Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum)

After we parked our car, we headed straight for the river and toward the Chocolate Museum. As mentioned before it was nice and sunny, so we were able to enjoy a little walk by the river on the way to the Museum.

fullsizeoutput_3f54

The Chocolate Museum is extremely popular. It is always busy and there is always a line. I have heard mixed reviews about the museum itself particularly for small children (though it must be good because it feels like everyone in town is there) so I decided to take a different route.

fullsizeoutput_3f38

I had read that you can go into the gift shop and café without going into the museum itself. So that is exactly what we did. We weaved our way around and through the long winding line inside the museum and at the back of the entrance was a really nice large café. It had stunning views overlooking the river.

fullsizeoutput_3f51

(Apparently there is a nice view behind me. I was distracted)

There was a handful of people in the café itself despite the large crowd outside. We had coffee, cake and a children’s hot chocolate.

IMG_2835

(Good to the last bite)

We didn’t get to enjoy the museum itself but it was a happy compromise for us. O seemed to approve.

fullsizeoutput_3f27

German Sport and Olympic Museum

Right next door to the Chocolate Museum is the German Sport and Olympic Museum. This is the real hidden gem.

fullsizeoutput_3f1f

This museum as the title implies follows the history of German Sports with a focus on Olympic sports. There are lots of wonderful displays with signs in German and English. Most importantly, there are hands-on activities throughout the museum! There was a balance beam, a long jump, gymnastic bars, balance boards, etc. The list goes on and on. O loved it!

fullsizeoutput_3f6f

Then to top it all off, there is a soccer field on the roof of the museum. You can go play a game (or let the kids run wild) with a nice view of the river and city.

IMG_2847

After providing the kids chocolate and a super fun interactive museum, it was my turn to sneak in something I wanted to see.

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral is the icon of the city of Cologne. The cathedral dominates the skyline of the city and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you see it from a distance, you can already tell that it is going to be immense. It still doesn’t prepare you for its colossal size. It is simply massive. (Did I mention it was big?)

IMG_2853

IMG_2858

IMG_2861

(of course I forgot my fancy camera at home. Bummer!)

Despite the cathedral being there in all its glory, O was not impressed.

IMG_2854

Oh the joys of traveling with toddlers! Needless to say we grabbed a quick late lunch (which is most likely the cause of the meltdown) and headed out of town. Attempting to travel around Europe with two small children can be challenging.

fullsizeoutput_3f56

(This is his “I am mad and not talking to you” face)

We don’t get to see the sites as in depth as we would like (and some we skip all together) but we are trying our best to make the most out of this opportunity. Thanks for following along with us!

Burg Eltz

It has been a cold winter here in Germany. There hasn’t been much snow but it has been chilly. We have been struggling to find things to keep us busy while we have been trapped inside. I should mention that at O’s school they have continued to play outside everyday. I have heard this saying from multiple people we have met here “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” We haven’t fully adapted to the idea of being out in all weather but we are slowly getting there. We are starting to emerge from our winter hibernation and we even managed to sneak in a trip to a castle when the sun was shining.

Burg Eltz is a beautiful castle located about 1.5 hours from us, near Wierschem, Germany. We didn’t do much research but just jumped in the car and went for it since the weather was in our favor. When we arrived we found a large parking lot right next to the hiking trail. The trail is a nice packed dirt path that is rather wide. It runs along the edge of a hill with the Eltzbach river winding in the valley below it.

IMG_6738

The hike was not difficult and was beautiful. Since I did not do my research before coming to the castle, I kept looking around all the surrounding hills to see where the castle was located. I was expecting it to be perched up high somewhere. I could not see any sign of it. We rounded a corner and boom! There she was.

IMG_6743

IMG_6745

The castle is sitting in a valley but perched on a natural rock outcropping. The morning fog was still clinging around the edges of the castle giving it a very mystical and medieval feeling.

IMG_6747

IMG_6752

The castle is unique in that: 1) It has been owned by the same family since the time it was built until today and 2) the castle was never destroyed by war or other incidents. Most of the castle is in its original state. It is like a little slice of the past hidden in a stunning green valley in the middle of Germany.

IMG_6753

During the summer months, I have heard the castle is very busy with tourists. There are several restaurants, guided tours and a gift shop inside. Everything was closed for the winter when we were there and only a handful of people had made the hike over to see the castle. It made us feel like we had discovered some unknown gem in the middle of the woods.

IMG_6756

IMG_6767

(Looking for dragons)

After pausing for a snack (because…kids), we decided to follow the road back to the parking lot instead of the trail. We thought this would be the shorter route and the road is only for the shuttle bus, which was not running at the time. However, if you are going to the castle I do not advise this route, particularly if you are going with kids or if the road is wet/icy. The road ended up being rather steep and it switched back on itself 3 different times. On the positive side, there is a nice overlook at the top of the hill that provides an excellent view.

IMG_6771

If we were to do it again I think the best option would be:

From the parking lot take the trail to the castle. The surprise of the castle coming around that bend in the trail is wonderful. I would also take the trail back to the parking lot. Once back to the starting point, I would then walk down the paved road to the overlook. Enjoy the view and head back to the car.

In my opinion, seeing the castle in the winter is the best time. There are fewer people there and it was free! There is a little hut set up at the entrance to the parking lot. It wasn’t open when we were there but I have a feeling they charge for parking in the summer. The down side to the winter is that you are not able to tour the inside of the castle. I have heard fantastic reviews about the castle tour but honestly that is probably something we would have skipped since we have 2 small children.

It was a perfect little day trip. We got to be outside, enjoy the sun and take in a beautiful castle. The sunshine gave us hope that spring is around the corner!

IMG_6765

Tuscany Part 2

Thanks for making your way over to Part 2 of our Turkey Day in Tuscany adventure. Here we go…

Florence

Of course we visited the city of Florence on our trip. We knew that Florence was going to be a bit crazy and crowded so we had a short list of must see attractions. First up, Michelangelo’s David.

IMG_2417

I read online to book your tickets far in advance but since we were traveling in November I thought I wouldn’t need to do this as peak tourist season was over. However, I double-checked online the week before we were set to travel. This is when I discovered that tickets to see David were already sold out for the day we originally planned to go to Florence. Needless to say I booked tickets right then and there and rearranged our travel plans to accommodate the change. Lesson learned: Do book your tickets in advance to see David no matter what time of year you are traveling to Florence. Also note that even though children are “free” to get into the museum, you do have to pay a 4 euro service charge for them so you have to add this to your ticket reservation. On the website it will literally say children free and then next to it you select quantity and it charges the 4 euros each.

There is a lot of beautiful pieces of artwork in this museum. We were trying to take it all in but we have a grabby 1 year old so it keeps you on your toes a bit. This picture says it all…. Don’t touch the artwork E!!

IMG_0232

We then swung by the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (or Il Duomo di Firenze).

IMG_2437

The next destination was the carousel in Piazza della Repubblica.

IMG_2423

This carousel is beyond charming. I also like that it is a bit of a slow mover (more our pace). O got to ride for the first time without daddy holding onto him and E had her very first carousel ride ever! Pretty memorable moment!

IMG_2434

IMG_0234

We are now going to pause this lovely, authentic Italian vacation for a tacky tourist moment. After having fun on the carousel, we decided it was time to eat. There are lots of lovely cafes and restaurants surrounding this Piazza. However, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the Hard Rock. Now if you are visiting Europe for a short amount of time, I highly discourage you from visiting an American chain restaurant. This is particularly true when you are in such an outstanding food location such as Florence. However, the moment I saw that Hard Rock sign I thought: “This Momma could use a Bloody Mary!” The Hard Rock makes a mean Bloody Mary and I haven’t been to a Hard Rock since we lived in Baltimore (over 7 years ago). As a bonus, I knew there would be a baby-changing table in there. I could sense it with my super human mommy powers. Long story short, huge bathrooms with baby-changing table and one delicious Bloody Mary later and I was one happy camper.

Ok back to your regularly scheduled authentic Italian vacation.

Did I mention there is amazing shopping in Florence? There is amazing shopping.

The city itself was easily accessible for us. Stroller and kid-friendly, though I feel like this is an adult city. This is someplace that I would like to come back when the kids are a bit older or better yet an adults-only adventure for just Gav and I. I think then I could appreciate it a little bit more. It is always a good sign of an excellent vacation when you are thinking about when you can come back.

Oh and of course we got gelato on our way out of town.

IMG_2438

We actually stumbled on this quaint gelato shop called La Strega Nocciola on a side street not far from the Duomo. It is true homemade gelato. The type that is tucked away under metal lids not piled high in large containers like in other big gelato shops. Holy cow this was the most AMAZING gelato I have ever had and the best we had during our entire trip. I highly recommend the dark chocolate and the pistachio. And now I want gelato….

Florence American Cemetery

This cemetery is located south of Florence on the route to San Gimignano.

IMG_6654

We have made it a point to visit these places on our journeys, as this is an important part of our history. This is a generation that is being lost to time and I want to make sure that our family does not forget the sacrifice these men and women made for our freedom.

IMG_6660

There are 4,399 soldiers buried here and a memorial with 1,409 names of the missing. These men fought and died during World War II.

Inscribed on the wall are these words:

“Freedom from fear and injustice and oppression is ours only in the measure that men who value such freedom are ready to sustain its possession and defend it against every thrust from within or without.”

IMG_6651

Volterra

On our last full day, we decided to visit 2 smaller towns that were near our rental home. Volterra is a beautiful town on a hill east of San Gimignano.

IMG_6692

Apparently this town has become a more popular tourist town recently due to the Twilight series. I know nothing about Twilight but apparently some of the show is supposed to be set in Volterra (though the actual filming was done in another town south of here). When we were in town there was a movie being filmed here but we never found out the name of it.

This small town is easily done in a day (and stroller friendly). We did a nice stroll, stopped for cappuccino, and visited the Roman baths.

IMG_6679

I rather liked this sleepy little town but Gav was not impressed. I think O liked the town as well because 1) He got to pick out his souvenir.

IMG_6687

2) There was a gigantic red O in the middle of a field on the way up to the town.

IMG_6676

When O saw it he started screaming: “Look!! It is a big O just for me! That is my O!” So here’s another pic just for you kiddo.

IMG_6677

We finished our day at a playground in Colle di Val d’Elsa.

IMG_6702

Italy stole our hearts. We fell in love with the places, the people, the food and all the fun we had. We are already planning our next trip back! Until we meet again il mio amore!

IMG_6671

Tuscany Part 1

We have been in Italy for less than 24 hours and we find ourselves standing outside the Duomo di Siena

.IMG_6644

I am in search of a place to change E’s diaper and feed her (Glamorous life I live I know). I walk into a door that says Tourist Information across from the church entrance. I ask the lovely lady sitting at the desk if she knows of a good spot to change and feed E. She responds that there is a cafeteria down the street but then she pauses for a moment and says “No that is no good. Come with me.” She walks me through a beautiful, antique, wooden door and into this huge room where an ancient fresco is being restored on the walls. There are couches placed throughout the room to allow people to sit and take their time viewing the amazing painting. This wonderful lady then offers me a seat on a couch and tells me that this is part of the art museum but that I am more than welcome to use this area. I could not believe it. I sat there taking in the ancient artwork and looking out the window, which perfectly framed the Duomo.

IMG_6647

And that was it. That was the moment I fell in love with Italy.

We spent the week of Thanksgiving finding our way around the Tuscany region. My father-in-law Larry joined us on this adventure. We stayed in an Airbnb home in Castel San Gimignano. This is a quaint, little town just south of the famous San Gimignano.

Siena

Our first day trip was to the breathtaking town of Siena.

IMG_6610

Piazza del Campo

IMG_6615

O’s favorite activity

IMG_0201

They hold a horse race in this Piazza every year called Il Palio. The seventeen neighborhoods of Siena compete for bragging rights. The Piazza is big but not THAT big. I can’t imagine holding a horse race there. However, the event looks amazing and you should Google Il Palio Siena if you ever get a chance.

Cappella di Piazza and Torre del Mangia

Sitting in Piazza del Campo is this Church and tower. The climb to the top of the tower is supposed to be very steep but has breathtaking views. We have two small children so the view from the bottom was good enough for us.

IMG_6627

Duomo di Siena

IMG_6643

Facciatone

IMG_0196

This was supposed to be an extension onto the existing church but the construction was poorly done and the plague hit town. So now it is a tall wall that you are able to climb up and check out the panoramic view of Siena.

We finished our day with a picnic on the Piazza. IMG_6620

Siena was such a stunning town and a great way to start off our trip.

Cooking Class

When in Italy you must make pasta! We enjoyed a cooking class at Il Vicario, a small B&B located outside San Gimignano. Il Vicario is run by Fulvio along with his niece Katia. They grow almost all of their food on site. E was not feeling well this day so I had to stay at home while the boys learned their way around an Italian kitchen.

IMG_0212

Gavin said the class was great fun but also hard work. Apparently making pasta from scratch isn’t the easiest job in town but the results are worth it!

IMG_0211

Bonus for me: I am not the one with the pasta making skills in the house now.

San Gimignano

We did a quick trip to San Gimignano in the evening as the sun was setting. San Gimignano is a rather small town with only a few attractions so it can easily be done in a few hours (if most of the tourists have gone home for the day).

IMG_2382

While we were strolling along the streets, we noticed a sign that pointed to a scenic viewpoint. We got to it just as the sun was setting and it did not disappoint.

IMG_2388

IMG_2392

Of course we also ran around the piazza:

IMG_2394

Saw the church.

Most importantly, we ate gelato.

IMG_2402

A nice way to end the day.

IMG_2384

Tours Around Tuscany

We hired a private tour guide for a day. My former classmate had highly recommended the company Tours around Tuscany. Gianni, the owner, was our tour guide for the day and it was fantastic. This company focuses on taking you to places off the beaten path. No large tourist areas but more small towns, local points of interest, family owned wineries/restaurants and a few places you may not have even thought to stop at and have a look. For example, Gianni brought us to a crystal factory where they hand make amazing crystal pieces. This is not something we would have scheduled to do on our own but it ended up being a really unique experience. If you are ever in Tuscany, you need to schedule a day with Gianni. It is worth it!

IMG_0219

That’s all for Part 1. Coming up next will be Florence, Volterra and more!

 

 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Fall has been kind to us here in Germany this year. We have had several days of warm (ish) temperatures and sunshine. We decided to take advantage of this weather and make a quick weekend trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

IMG_6592

Rothenburg is one of the iconic towns that people think of when you think of Germany. It is located along the Romantic Road in southern Germany and is a little over a 2 hour drive from Wiesbaden. Rothenburg is a very well preserved medieval town, which can be hard to come by due to World War II bombings throughout the country. When looking at the history of the city, you discover that the US did bomb the town during World War II but the US also understood the importance (and beauty) of the city. So after the initial bombing, the US troops negotiated with the German troops and offered to spare the city from further destruction if the German troops were willing to surrender the city (which they did). Some rebuilding had to be done but most of the town was spared.

IMG_6537

For the Harry Potter fans out there, scenes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1 and 2) were filmed in Rothenburg.

Ok back to our little trip. Lucky for us, my new friend Kate had just been to Rothenburg so she gave us some great info with the very best info being where the playground is located.

IMG_6548

This lovely playground is located next to the P4 parking lot. We were able to let O burn some energy and have a nice picnic lunch before heading into the walled city.

IMG_6544

IMG_6542

The entrance into town is pretty impressive.

IMG_6563

IMG_6566

Once inside, there was a set of very steep steps leading up to a walkway that goes along the wall. There are several sets of stairs dispersed along the wall so you can decide when you want to climb up and when you are ready to head down.

The walkway is sturdy but the handrails are not. E was in the backpack but O was required to hold hands at all times. It is not the most toddler friendly activity in town but still worth the high blood pressure. O of course loved it.

IMG_6580

IMG_6571

IMG_6572

The wall circles most of the city and you can walk the majority of its length. We just walked along a small section until we reached one of the main streets near another entrance point.

IMG_6579

IMG_6582

This town is just absolutely stunning. It has amazing architecture, beautiful colors, and unbelievable charm.

IMG_6593

IMG_6591

IMG_6588

IMG_6587

It is also home to a pretty famous Christmas store (Käthe Wohlfahrt). The store has beautiful Christmas ornaments and decorations for sale but it is also just fun to walk through. There are dancing bears at the entrance, large Christmas trees, and a massive spinning Christmas Pyramid. Unfortunately, they have signs everywhere saying no pictures allowed so you will have to use your imagination. I am a HUGE Christmas decoration fanatic so I absolutely loved the store. The entrance to the Christmas Museum is also located within the store. We didn’t make it to the store until the end of the day so taking the little ones into the museum section wasn’t in the cards for us.

fullsizeoutput_3a32

For our final activity, we picked up some schneeballen for a snack. This is a pastry that is famous in the Rothenburg area. I had read a blog post about them before going and it stated that they were like donuts. No! They are not donuts. They are strips of pastry balled up and deep-fried. I felt like it was similar to fried wonton strips in ball form with toppings. I must say that I was not a fan but they are extremely popular and you can find them in just about every other store in town. This is one of the only places to get them so I say if you are in Rothenburg then just go for it and try it out. Oh and schnapps. They are known for their plum schnapps so get some of that too.

IMG_6597

There are several museums in town that we did not get a chance to see but may be worth it if you are visiting. There is a night watchman’s tour, which I have heard wonderful things about. They do an English version and a German version. We did not stay in Rothenburg for the night so we didn’t make it to this but if we ever come back it is on the top of our to do list. For this trip, we went at the end of October and there were not nearly as many tourists as we had anticipated. During our whole day there, we only saw one guided tour group (with the leader holding up the sign for everyone to follow). There were no crowds and no wait times at any of the main attractions.

Overall, we had a wonderful time in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It is as beautiful and as charming as people describe. If you are in Germany it should be on the top of your list of places to visit.

IMG_6599

Copenhagen

I had been feeling pretty good about how well our little family has been traveling around. We’ve done car trips, train rides and airplane flights with minimal chaos. Of course, there has been some tantrums and blow out diapers but nothing too bad. Then we decided to fly to Copenhagen. I guess our time had come for the major travel meltdown.

The flight from Frankfurt to Copenhagen is about 1hr 15 minutes. O had stayed up late the night before (for no apparent reason) and woke up early. This was the warning for how the day was going to go. Being 3 is hard and he reminded us of this every moment of the day. There was a tantrum about what to wear, another tantrum for getting into the car, a tantrum about having to wait to get on the plane (our flight was delayed) and so on. You get the idea. It was a very rough flight. O had a meltdown starting at take off and didn’t calm down for almost 40 minutes. He wasn’t screaming the whole time but just easily upset and having little fits. The guy in the seat in front of us even tried to bribe him with cookies. On top of all of that, E is now officially mobile and she does not like to stay still for even a minute. She was trying to grab and touch everything (except the toys we brought her). It was absolute utter chaos. I was so happy to land and get off that plane.

We got our bags and headed straight to our Airbnb. After some rest and recovery, we were able to venture out into public again. Here is what we did in Copenhagen, Denmark.

IMG_1913

The Round Tower

IMG_1332

The round tower is home to Europe’s oldest functioning observatory, with the tower being completed in 1642. The real draw for tourists today is the view of the city from the top. Most towers with a view that you find in Europe require climbing up old, steep stairs (not child friendly). What makes the round tower unique is that there is a spiral ramp that wraps around a hollow core (7.5 times to be precise).

IMG_1316

It makes this tower child and stroller friendly (warning: there is one small flight of steep stairs at the very top). We lucked out and had a semi-sunny day.

IMG_1319

As mentioned above, the ramp wraps around a hollow core. For those of you feeling adventurous, you can step out onto a glass plate covering this hollow core. Gavin of course jumped right on. I stayed to the side but got a picture.

IMG_1331

This hollow core also happens to be Denmark’s zero point. This point was used to help make the first accurate map of Denmark. Final interesting fact about this core, it is 85ft from the glass plate to the ground (Yikes!). In 1880, a choir boy was playing hide and seek (a church is attached to the round tower) and fell down the core from the top!! He lay trapped (and unconscious for part of it) for almost a full day before being rescued. He lost a couple teeth but otherwise was unharmed. And now you know….

Rosenborg Slot

After leaving the Round Tower, we decided we needed a place for O to run off some extra energy. We noticed what appeared to be a park a few blocks down so we headed that way.

IMG_1339

What we had found was the King’s Garden (Kongens Have). It was a nice open area with lots of people picnicking. It was a rare sunny day in Copenhagen and everyone was taking advantage of the sunshine. Inside the park is a nice little playground. It has a dragon theme.

IMG_1343

The King’s Garden is here because so is the King’s Castle- Rosenberg Slot.

IMG_1354

We actually had no idea what this was until we got home later and looked it up. Apparently the crown jewels are in there.

On Saturday we ventured to downtown Copenhagen. Our goal was to see Tivoli Gardens but the park doesn’t open until 11am, which means extra morning time that needs to be filled for our busy toddler. We were using the Copenhagen Card (more about that later) so we decided to add a museum to our itinerary.

National Museum of Denmark

The National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet) sits just a few blocks away from Tivoli Gardens. They have a children’s museum section and they open their doors at 10am. This was a nice way to get in an extra activity while enjoying some history. The children’s museum section is lots of hands exhibits.

IMG_1822

If you find yourself at the National Museum with your kiddos let me give you a couple quick pointers. First, you cannot take any bags into the museum (including diaper bags). There are lockers to the right at the entrance where you lock everything up. The baby changing station is also at the entrance. So you can clean up the kiddo and then lock everything up. Second, you are not allowed to bring your stroller into the museum. The museum provides their own strollers that you must use free of charge. I think this has to do with narrow spaces between exhibits. Finally, the children museum section is directly to the left when you enter. The entrance to this area is actually BEFORE the ticket counter. We went all around the museum looking for the children’s section and then as we were about to leave we noticed the entrance.

Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens is a large amusement park and garden in the middle of Copenhagen. It opened in 1843 and is thought to have inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland.

IMG_1860

The park has rides, gardens, concert venues, playgrounds and lots of restaurants. It is an interesting mixture. You can pay a basic entrance fee and then you can buy individual ride tickets or an unlimited ride pass. We opted not to do any rides during our visit but there was a nice variety of options.

fullsizeoutput_3848

There was an amazing playground for the kids. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures. We were too busy having fun. After the playground, we found the pirate ship restaurant and of course we had to try that out.

IMG_1835

We only visited during the day but many reviews of Tivoli state that you should also visit at night as everything lights up and gives the park a whole new dimension.

On Sunday we made the trip out to the National Aquarium and we were not disappointed.

Den Blå Planet

This is Copenhagen’s large and new(er) aquarium. It is nestled on the bay right next to the airport. You can typically see the aquarium when you are flying in and out of the airport and it is supposed to look like a whirlpool from above.

IMG_1862

The aquarium is divided up into 5 parts and you can kind of pick the journey you would like to take. Most things are touch screen and you can select English as the language. I was super impressed by just how clean the entire aquarium is from top to bottom.

IMG_1865

The big draw at the aquarium is this massive tank with sharks, stingrays and other interesting tropical fish.

IMG_1869

You can go and sit right next to the glass and it feels like you are underwater. It was such an amazing experience.

IMG_1873

IMG_1877

As you move out of this section of the aquarium, there is also a water tunnel to walk through. The huge stingrays seemed to have a path that traveled right over the far end of the tunnel.

IMG_1890

IMG_1893

(E is not impressed because she has puffs)

The next section we visited was the rainforest. Again massive fish to be seen here but there were also plants and butterflies. Butterflies were absolutely everywhere and some of them were bigger than my hand.

We also made our way over to the touch and feel tank and O and I met a nice little starfish. There was a whole other section on native fish of Denmark but we got distracted by the outdoor playground. There was a huge water play area as well.

IMG_1901

We then got sidetracked by the play submarine on our way to lunch.

When we made it to the café, one of the main meal options was fish’n’chips. There is something odd about eating fish’n’chips at an aquarium but it was tasty.

IMG_1908

(note the pirate money he is still carrying around from the pirate ship the day before)

After spending the morning at the aquarium, we decided to head back to our rental apartment. However, on the way back we decided to make one final stop.

IMG_1911

Nyhaven

Nyhaven is the place you probably think about when you think Copenhagen.

IMG_1914

It is a beautiful little canal with colorful buildings. It is only a short walk away from the Metro stop so we thought we would check it out. Wow was it busy! It was a nice sunny Sunday afternoon and everyone apparently decided to head to the canal at the same time. We took some quick pictures and headed back to the metro.

If you were going to spend some time here, this is a good spot to pick up the canal tour boats. The Papirøen or Street Food Market is across the water from Nyhaven. There is a little pedestrian bridge that can get you there. We were hoping to do both of these during our visit but sometimes you have to surrender to the idea that you aren’t going to see everything with 2 kids in tow.

That was our quick weekend trip to Copenhagen!

(Oh and in case you were wondering, both kiddos fell asleep at take off and slept the entire flight back to Frankfurt!!)

Travel Details

This is some boring extra stuff that is only useful if you are thinking about heading to Copenhagen. We flew into Copenhagen. The airport is fairly small but is being extensively renovated at this time so it can be a bit confusing. At the airport you don’t go and check in at your airlines desk. You have to look on the sign and it will tell you what area to check in based on your flight. So for example, we had to check in with SAS airlines even though we were flying Lufthansa back to Frankfurt. Yeah it is weird. Also, Copenhagen does not do gate check of any kind. When we flew in from Frankfurt, we had gate checked our stroller but when we arrived in Copenhagen they said we could not get the stroller at the gate and it had something to do with how the gates are designed (not sure if this is going to change with the renovation). So instead what they have done is that the airport provides free strollers for you to use. There are regular black strollers or there are carts (kind of like a mini-shopping cart with the kiddo seat in the front). There are little corrals all over the place where you can pick one up. On the way to baggage claim there is a corral to drop off the stroller before you go down the escalator. Kind of a unique little set up. When we flew back to Frankfurt, we had to check in our stroller with our regular baggage (but no fee). You could take an umbrella stroller to the plane but it had to be the really small ones.

We stayed at an Airbnb in Copenhagen that was close to the Nørreport Station. This station is actually rather big and all the trains stop here, meaning the Metro and the S-train unlike the Central Station where only S trains travel (along with buses of course). Torvehallerne is also near the Nørreport Station. This is a popular food market. We ate here several times during our stay as they have everything from authentic Mexican food to freshly caught fish to fine chocolates. This made it easier for us in regards to finding food for our family of four. By staying close to a public transportation station, we were able to travel to everything by train or by foot. This was really nice for us, as it means no need to lug around car seats for the kiddos.

We used the Copenhagen card during the weekend. You can buy this card ahead of time online or buy it at the airport. We only had to get 2 adult cards and the kids were free. The card allows you unlimited transportation on all modes of public transportation and also gives you entrance into lots of different locations throughout the city. Everything we went to that is listed above was included on the Copenhagen card. We liked the idea of the card as we knew what we were going to spend on entertainment before we ever left for our trip and we didn’t have to worry about constantly getting train tickets while we were there. Anything that makes traveling with kiddos slightly easier is worth every penny to us.

Hope you enjoyed our travel story and hope some of this information helps if you decide to head to Copenhagen.

Barefoot Park

Last weekend we ventured to our first barefoot park (Barfuβpfad). The park was located in Bad Sobernheim, which is about an hour drive from our house. It was such a unique experience with lots of sensory and balance challenges for all.

When we first arrived, we parked in a parking lot of what appeared to be an abandoned building. We assumed we were lost (as usual) but our friend had arrived earlier and instructed us to follow the path to the park. There are white feet spray-painted onto the path to guide you were to go. There is a small fee to enter ( 4 euros per adult and kids under 3 are free). There is an outdoor locker area near the entrance. You can pay a euro to have a locker with key or you can leave your shoes on a shelf free of charge. There are absolutely no shoes allowed in the park.

Ok on to the good stuff. The first “obstacle” on the path was a muddy walking path.

IMG_1774

(walking up to the mud)

Notice O’s yellow shirt. Well that shirt didn’t last. O stepped onto the ramp to enter the muddy water area and slipped straight into the water getting completely soaked. It was a bit cold that morning so the cold water was definitely a shock for him. After some screaming, we made it to the other side of the mud pit and luckily we were prepared with a change of clothes for the kiddo. It was a rough start but after that first slippery mess it was all smooth sailing.

There were tons of balance obstacles like these moving planks. You can also see a balance board in the back.

IMG_1780

More water obstacles.

IMG_1781

Don’t worry we made it safely through this one and there was no mud. The park also did a great job of alternating between high sensory and low sensory items. For example after walking through the water hole that had large, hard river rocks, the next part of the path was soft grass.

IMG_1782

Here’s some wooden poles set up at different angles followed by soft sand as the contrast.

Version 2

IMG_1786

As mentioned before it was a cool morning, so that cool sand felt amazing on your feet after walking over those harder surfaces. It really was a work out for the feet and calves both from a sensation standpoint and an actual muscular workout.

There were some more challenging areas in the park such as this river crossing.

IMG_1787

However, the park was set up so that you could always bypass something if it was too much. There is a bridge just past this river crossing area, which is where we made our crossing with the toddlers. All this talk of river crossing immediately makes me think of Oregon Trail (the computer game). Do you wish to ford the river? Don’t worry no oxen were harmed in the crossing of this river.

The trail through the park is just over 2 miles in length. There was always a different obstacle coming up so the kiddos never got bored along the way. There was also a playground toward the end of the route.

IMG_1799

IMG_1795

The final obstacle was a long rope bridge or a boat that you pulled across using a pulley system. We opted for the rope bridge.

IMG_1801

There are benches and picnic tables throughout the park if you want to stop and have lunch or a snack. You can bring your own food in with you. There is a nice food area at the end, including beer and wine for sale. There was plenty of seating in this area overlooking the river.

Overall, we had a great time at the barefoot park. We are sure we will be visiting here again!

Luzern, Switzerland

July has been a busy month around here. We started off the month with O turning 3. We traveled to Drayton Manor in England to see Thomas Land for O’s big day. It was a little overwhelming for O but we made the best of it.

A few weeks later we turned around and headed to Switzerland to visit our friends from Maryland. They had come to Europe for a family wedding and were making a stop in Luzern (or Lucerne), Switzerland.

Luzern is a 4 hour drive from us. It is a town on the edge of a lake surrounded by the Alps. We stayed at an Airbnb cabin outside of town. It was just us and the cows.

IMG_1594

IMG_1595

To get around, we invested in the Swiss Rail pass. The pass was expensive (as is absolutely everything in Switzerland) but ended up being worth it in the end. The pass included all travel by train, bus, boat and even gondola. The pass also provided entry into most museums for free or at a discounted rate.

IMG_1604

(E’s first train ride)

IMG_1701

(Riding the boat into Luzern)

Of course we visited the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke). It is the most famous spot in Luzern. The bridge was actually partially burned in 1993 after someone tossed a cigarette over the edge, landing in a boat, which in turn caught fire. This bridge has survived since the 17th century until one cigarette took it down. It has been mostly restored but a large portion of the paintings that had adorned the inside of the bridge have been lost.

IMG_1588

We also visited Mt Pilatus. We took the cograilway train up to the top. It claims to be the steepest cograilway in the world at 48% gradient. Great views along the way.

IMG_1608

IMG_1611

You reach the top (2,132m or just shy of 7,000ft) and are greeted by great views of the Alps and also the city of Luzern and the lake. On the way down you can take the train or you can take the aerial tramway and then the gondolas.

IMG_1617

We opted for the tram and gondola option. The aerial tram was a unique experience. It is called the “dragon ride” and is supposed to give you the feeling of flying. I didn’t feel like I was flying but it does move very fast and smooth. The views are absolutely incredible.

IMG_1626

You have to get off the tram about 1/3rd of the way down and switch over to regular gondolas.

At the 2nd stop on the way down is a nice little playground. We have a knack of always finding the playgrounds when we travel.

IMG_1657

IMG_1656

The next day we ventured to the Swiss Transportation Museum (Verkehrshaus). This museum was AMAZING! Super kid friendly, lots of activities and history/ education all mixed in. We spent the entire morning there and could have easily done another day there without repeating any activity. It was fun for kids and adults. If you are in Luzern, you need to go to this museum.

IMG_1677

After a day at the museum, we finished our trip with wandering the streets with our friends from Maryland. There was a festival in town, which means… meat on a stick! What a perfect way to end our quick trip to Switzerland. We hope to be back to Switzerland before our time here in Europe comes to an end.

IMG_1703

P.S. Swiss Chocolate is everything you hoped it to be and more. I wish we bought more.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Part 2

Back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen we go.

Summer Solstice Fires

This one wasn’t a planned event, we just happened to be in the right area at the right time. Every year during the summer solstice, it is a tradition in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area and throughout Austria to light fires on the mountain. The tradition has been going on for centuries and it is absolutely breathtaking to see.

It starts out by you seeing all of these twinkling lights almost dancing along the crests of the mountain. Then suddenly these lighted images appear. There are all different images but a large cross was the one most visible to us. All of this was easily viewed from our cabin porch. We sat there completely stunned. First, shock at what in the world is going on. Then, amazement at what was happening in front of us. You slowly begin to realize that all of those twinkling dancing lights are people up on the crests of the mountains moving along and starting fires.

I am completely failing at describing this scene to you. It was so astounding to watch that I didn’t even think to grab my camera or move until the fires were beginning to fade. In that final moment, I snapped a quick picture with my cell phone.

IMG_1469

Obviously this is a terrible picture but I hope it motivates you to Google summer solstice fires, see some amazing photos and really appreciate this event.

Partnach Gorge

This is another classic place to visit if you are in the Garmisch area. To get to the Gorge you actually have to park in an old ski jump parking lot. How old you ask? Well actually it is the ski jump used in the 1936 winter Olympics that were hosted in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It is still used today but the stadium remains in its original form with some maintenance of course. There is actually a nice little café at the base of the jump which we enjoyed after our little hike.

garmisch 2

You walk through the stadium to get to the road that takes you to the gorge. There are signs in the stadium that lead you to the road and then you just have to follow everyone else up the road. You walk along a nice little stream. Of course there is a horse drawn carriage that can take you all the way to the entrance of the gorge but the walk is nice and not that difficult (though it was VERY hot the day we went with limited shade along the road). The Gorge has become something of a tourist hot spot and it now costs money to enter the gorge. This may sound crazy but check out the view.

Partnach 1

IMG_0045

Unfortunately we didn’t spend too much time here because the kiddo had used up his energy walking in the heat. If we make it back to the Garmisch area, we will return to this Gorge and hopefully be able to enjoy more of the hiking paths in this area.

O’s Favorite things

No trip is complete without checking out some new playgrounds. Even the views from the playground were breathtaking.

IMG_1453

IMG_1437

However, when we asked O what his favorite part of the trip was, the answer was playing in the rain.

IMG_6452

Family Photos

We also got some family photos taken. First time we have had our photos done by a professional photographer since the maternity photos we had done when I was pregnant with O. I can’t give away too much because the photos will be on our Christmas cards this year.

72283826-ELR-31

Despite this long list of adventures, we really only touched the tip of the iceberg in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This is a nice ski area in the winter and there are lots of activities and areas we simply didn’t have time to see on this trip (I’m talking about you Innsbruck, Austria). We had a fantastic time and continue to enjoy our crazy European adventure. Cheers!

IMG_0040

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Part 1

At the end of June, we headed to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany along the Austrian border. It was our first glimpse of the Alps and it was spectacular. There are so many things to do in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area. Here is what we were able to see in our week there. I decided to break this post up into 2 different parts because, honestly, I babble on too much and there are a lot of photos to see!

Zugspitze

The Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain at 2,962 meters (a little over 9,700ft). Now that may not sound like much to our Pikes Peak friends, but let me tell you it is just as breathtaking. It is a sharp, steep mountain that rises from the valley floor. There is a cog railway train that takes you to the top and the view is of the Alps flowing into Austria.

cropped-img_6385.jpg

Of course we had to head to the top and we were not disappointed.

IMG_6389

At the “top of Germany”

Uncle Marcus (official title, kind of a big deal) was able to join us on this adventure.

Eibsee

On the way up to the top of the Zugspitze, we caught a glimpse of this beautiful lake. It was the Eibsee.We spent the next day on its shores. The water is unbelievably clear and an enchanting blue. There are hiking trails throughout this area and at the start of the lake there is a hotel, ice cream shop and a rental place to get a paddleboat, paddleboard, etc. Don’t worry this did not detract from the beauty and overall quietness of the lake. You could spend days here.

IMG_6457

IMG_6508

This is a picture of O up to his waist in the water. You can barely tell he is sitting in water.

IMG_6496

The boys went out on the lake. The 2nd red dot is their paddleboat. Lucky for O, he had Uncle Marcus and Daddy to push him all around that lake. Ha!

IMG_6487

The girls stayed on shore.

IMG_6479

This lake is so special it has made it into our list of top destinations.

Ettal Abbey

This was a quick side trip we did spontaneously one day. It is an active Abbey and school however the big draw seems to be the beer. They brew a variety of beers on site and sell in the gift shop. The place is stunning including the inside of the church.

IMG_1445

IMG_1447

However, I feel that it has turned into a tourist trap. Beautiful scenery, good beer, but don’t know if I would do it again. We went at the very end of the day and were able to avoid the rush as the last tourist bus was loading up as we got there.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle is probably the most famous castle in Germany. It is thought to be the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

IMG_6413

This is another super busy tourist area but if you have the chance you simply have to go. Once you arrive into the parking area (at the bottom of the hill) you have to decide if you are going to walk up or pay for a horse drawn carriage ride. It is a somewhat steep hike but worth it (there is a hiking path and a paved road). Takes 30-45 minutes.

IMG_6404

(view of the castle from the start of the path)

Hiking up to the castle doesn’t actually give you the greatest views. So you have to continue the hike up the hill to Mary’s Bridge. On the way up you will get a great view of Hohendchwangau Castle (try to say that 3 times).

IMG_6417

And views of the valley.

IMG_6421

When you finally make it to Mary’s Bridge you are greeted with this:

IMG_6427

Mary’s Bridge also happens to be a metal bridge with a wood platform. The wood bends and moves with the weight of all these people. I stepped on and NOPE! It totally freaked me out. I was on the bridge for maybe 30 seconds, had Marcus snap a picture and made a run back for solid ground. There is a beautiful waterfall sitting just below the bridge.

IMG_6428

However, everyone is there for this picture.

IMG_6429

Glad we went. Beautiful to see.

There are also tours of the castle that I have heard are fantastic. You must book them far in advance. We have 2 small children so …yeah…outside pics are good for us.

End of Part 1. Part 2 soon to come!