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. Oliver 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 Oliver 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.

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.

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.

IMG_6353

IMG_6333

IMG_6338

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.

IMG_1403

IMG_1401

IMG_1397

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.

IMG_6372

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.

IMG_6379

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.

IMG_6377

IMG_6378

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!

IMG_6367

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.

IMG_6248

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.

IMG_6249

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!

IMG_1222

(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.

IMG_6258

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.

IMG_1229

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.

IMG_6285

IMG_6286

IMG_6278

IMG_6274

IMG_6297

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.

IMG_6308

IMG_6302

IMG_6329

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

IMG_1243

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?

IMG_0905

(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