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.

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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.

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(E’s first train ride)

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Luxembourg

Have you ever had one of those trips where you have everything planned and you know it is going to be a great trip? Then life suddenly gets in the way and everything gets jumbled. Well our trip to Luxembourg was one of those trips but we made the best of it.

Luxembourg is a small country tucked in among Germany, France and Belgium. Luxembourg City (the capital) is about a 2.5 hour drive from Wiesbaden. It has a small population with lots of open spaces and forests. It has the highest GDP in Europe and is the only Grand Duchy left in the world. It has an interesting history and was the site for major battles during World War II including the Battle of the Bulge. We planned our trip to include hiking and history.

Unfortunately, the day before our trip both of our kiddos came down with a fever. Off to the doctor to find out they were both fending off RSV (again!). Meds, breathing treatments and a follow up visit to the doctor the next day (which is the norm here). Our pediatrician always wants to see our kiddos again within the next day or 2 to make sure everything is going well and the treatment is working. Makes you feel better as a parent too knowing that they are double-checking. This was supposed to be day 1 of our trip but health comes first. After the check-up and the pediatrician encouraging us to go on the trip due to the “fresher air in Luxembourg”, we were off.

Luxembourg is a beautiful country. Rolling green hills, small quaint towns and a true “European” feel. We spent day 2 in the Echternach area. First, we visited Beaufort Castle.

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There is a nice hike leaving from the parking lot that goes around a small pond. You get excellent views of the castle and it is a dog friendly hiking area.

Then we visited Echternach Lake.

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Great time spent outdoors getting some fresh air.

On Day 3 of our trip, I had lots of fun and exciting things planned. However, we weren’t getting much sleep due to one fussy baby so we cut down our plans again and focused on seeing Clervaux Castle in northern Luxembourg. Clervaux Castle is actually the home of 3 museums: a small museum that houses replicas of all the Castles of Luxembourg, The Battle of the Bulge Museum and The Family of Man exhibit. The Family of Man exhibit is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the real star of the show, though it is worth going into all 3 museums as it only cost 11 euros for all 3.

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Clervaux is a pretty town with nice shops and cafes. Worth spending a day here if you have the time.

The final day of our short trip was Memorial Day. We visited the Luxembourg American Cemetery outside Luxembourg City to honor those who have given their lives for our freedom. This cemetery was beautifully maintained and it was a very moving experience. There are over 5,000 soldiers buried here. Among them are 22 sets of brothers and General Patton. All died during the Battle of the Bulge and other small battles in this area during World War II.

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You can’t help but be brought to tears when seeing a place like this in person. It really helps you put things into perspective.

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Our trip didn’t turn out as planned but it was still a great experience. We loved our time in Luxembourg and are already planning another weekend getaway to explore this country a bit more!

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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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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