Tulip Tour

We had conquered flying as a family of four. The next logical step was our first road trip as a family of four. Destination: Netherlands.

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We decided to head up north to see the tulips in bloom. It is about a 4 ½ hour drive that only took us 10 hours. I am not kidding. We left the house at 9am and got to our Airbnb place at 7pm. That was due in part to a lengthy lunch break that included eating, playing at the playground and walking the dog. Oh yeah, we brought the dog too because when you are in this deep why not. We also got stuck in some traffic in the Rotterdam area and we decided to stop at Kinderdijk.

Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located outside of Rotterdam. It is a collection of the iconic windmills that have become a trademark of the Netherlands.

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We got there in late afternoon (later than planned) and Holy Tourist! That place was packed. There were tour buses everywhere. Tulip time is prime time in these parts. The funny thing is that most of the tourists were Americans. Gavin even stated: “It is almost refreshing to hear a Southern accent. Haven’t heard that in a while.” Ha!

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(We weren’t being tourist at all. Ha!)

The site was lovely but we did a quick tour version as A) too many tourists B) we were approaching the witching hour (aka toddler meltdown time). I would highly recommend going during the off-season but still worth a trip.

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When we finally did make it to our Airbnb we were happy to find a nice little studio apartment located directly on a canal in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn. O loved looking out the window and watching the boats go by.

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The next day we made it out to the tulip fields. The most popular route is between the towns of Lisse and Haarlem. There is also the popular Kuekenhof Gardens in Lisse, which is known world-wide. However, we had been warned that it is insanely crowded during this time of year so we opted not to go. When we drove by the gardens at 9am there were already at least 100 buses in the parking lot with a long line waiting to get in to park and the rest of the parking lot looked 75% full. Instead, we opted to drive around the small towns and make our own route. We were able to find some great spots but only got pictures of a few fields.

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For the rest of the weekend, we spent our time exploring different areas close to our rental home. The seashore was not too far so Gavin made a request for a quick trip to see the North Sea.

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Netherlands is a really unique and beautiful place. We plan to visit again.

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Luisenpark

Spring has sprung here in Germany and it is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. It feels like every single plant in Germany flowers and the green of the grass is like from a fairy tale. Now that the sun is shining and the flowers are in bloom we have started to make our way to some new parks. Last week we visited Luisenpark.

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Luisenpark is in Mannheim. Mannheim is close to Heidelberg and about 50 minutes from our house. I read an article that suggested going there for the gardens but after doing some research I realized this park was going to be so much more than just the gardens and it didn’t disappoint.

First, this park is absolutely massive. One section is free and open to the public and the other section you must pay to enter ( 6 EUR for adults, 3 EUR kids 6-15 years, Under 6 are free). We went to the paid section only and let me tell you it is worth every penny. When you first walk in you are greeted by a beautiful flower garden.

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As you make your way through this section, if you head to the right you find yourself near the “zoo” section. Not really a zoo but there are some animals to see. There is a section with birds including penguins. There is also a farm section with sheep, cows, ponies, etc. There is also a fun playground here for smaller children (toddler). The whole playground is sand with little log houses spread throughout with some small slides. On one end of this playground is also a water play area, which is always popular here.

There is a lake in the middle of the park and little boats that cruise along it. The boats are called gondolettas and they actually move along a rope system in the water. We had too much baby stuff with us this round (We are still snapping E’s car seat into the stroller) so we didn’t get a chance to ride. However, it looked so relaxing and it is my top priority next time around.

As you make your way around the loop, you find yourself in this beautiful open area.

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There are chairs and loungers sprinkled around the grass. People are having picnics and playing soccer. It is just a wonderful scene. We also found this playground.

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I don’t know who built this playground but they made O’s dreams come true. He is absolutely obsessed with running up and down ramps. This playground is literally just a bunch of wooden ramps with 2 slides. He played on it for 40 minutes straight!

The next section of the park is the Chinese gardens. There is a teahouse that is open for lunch only. This is towards the back of the park and was very peaceful despite the ever-increasing Sunday crowd.

By the time we had reached the back of the park, O was getting tired and E was asleep so we didn’t get to play with the next section, which was disappointing for me. The next section was a sensory area (my physical therapist brain was loving it). There was a barefoot walking bath that had all different materials along the way. A balance bridge that rocked as you walked across it. O did do this part. I was worried he was going to be scared but he absolutely loved it and it really challenged his balance (which of course I loved). There was also a small creek running through the area and kids were encouraged to play in it (barefoot of course!). They had a “sound garden” area where different music was played. They also had instruments made from wood for the children to play with. The motto for this section of the park from the Luisenpark website is “eyes open, ears open, and feelers out”. It was a child’s paradise and a physical therapist’s dream.

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( not the sensory section but you get the idea)

These are just the areas we were able to get to during our time at this amazing park. They also have a massive indoor playground, which I hear is very popular during the winter months. They had a gigantic bounce house. Though it was in a permanent structure so no fear of it flying off! There was also another water play area, a castle themed playground that was more suited for older kids (above toddler age), a small aquarium, a butterfly house, and multiple restaurants including a wine cellar/beer garden.

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If you are ever in the area I highly recommend Luisenpark. Check out their website for details: www.luisenpark.de Tip: If you use Google Chrome as your browser it will automatically translate the page to English for you non-German speakers (like me).

Traveling as a Family of Four

The time had come. Time for us to dive in to flying with two kiddos under 3. Here’s how it went down.

Our first flight as a family of 4 was to London to see Gavin’s cousin get married. Quick trip and only 1 hour and 15 min flight. What could go wrong?

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(Umm… we are just going for a long weekend right??)

We got to the airport with no trouble. We have a fancy new stroller (Chicco’s Bravo for 2 stroller) that holds both kiddos so no one is running around dangerously as we maneuver through parking lots and crowds. We get to Lufthansa’s check-in desk. Everything is going smoothly so far.

Lufthansa actually has a family check-in desk at the Frankfurt airport, which is nice in theory. However, when we got in line we got to stand and witness the slowest moving person I have ever seen. Have you seen the movie Zootopia? You know the sloth that works at the DMV? This check-in lady was the real life version of that sloth. I wasn’t even mad (we had plenty of time). I was more amazed by her dazzlingly slow movements. Words fail me in describing the scene.

We finally get checked in and head to security and this is where things started to head south. The nice security people let us skip to the front of the line with our kiddos. We get all of our stuff up on the belt to go through the X-ray. Last step is to get E out of her car seat so it can go through. I pick her up and I instantly feel wetness on my hand. Oh. No. Say it isn’t so. We are ushered over to the metal detector. At this point, O has decided that all of the security staff are scary and starts screaming. The security guard then asks me to hand E to my husband so I can go through the detector first and then the kids can go through. Poor Gavin! Like a champ he is holding O in one arm (mid-tantrum) and is holding wet from unknown causes E in the other arm. I wish I could have taken a picture. I go through, I get handed wet baby and then they decide to pat us down. Luckily for the security lady she was wearing gloves because E was sharing that wet grossness with everything she touched.

O then comes through (still screaming) and they pat him down, causing even louder screams. At this time, we are officially making a scene. You must remember that German children never make any noise in public. Seriously…never. It is like the Loch Ness monster. You have heard stories and maybe seen a blurry photo or 2 but no one has actually seen in real life a German child throwing a fit in public. It is simply not done. We are not German though. We are Americans and we are experts at tantrum throwing in public. EXPERTS!

We survive the security point and make it out with all of our belongings and most of our pride. Next up was a mad dash to the nearest bathroom to fix the massive blow out from E. Please refer back to my traveling with toddler blog as my Ziploc bag obsession and a stashed additional outfit saved the day.

The Frankfurt airport is actually very family friendly and there are family bathrooms everywhere. The one I stepped into had a changing area, a seat for breastfeeding, adult and child height sinks and a stall that had 2 toilets in it (one adult and one child size). I felt like it was well thought out.

The flight for the most part was uneventful. A couple crying episodes with take off, ears popping and landing but overall a smooth flight. The flight attendants gave O a puzzle and E a small stuffed animal. They also gave us a booklet documenting all the info of E’s first flight. Lufthansa did a great job and I am glad we used them for our first flight with E.

We had a great time visiting family in London and the return trip went much smoother. The travel gods must have thought we had enough the first round.

Nothing left to do now except book our next flight