Our Disney Cruise- The Ship

I have been debating how to break down writing about our amazing Disney cruise. There is so much to tell you guys about! I think I will start by just talking about the ship and everything that goes with it.

We did a 7 night Mediterranean Cruise on the ship the Disney Magic. We left Barcelona, Spain and finished in Rome, Italy with stops in Marseille, Villefranche-sur-mer, Genoa, Livorno and Naples.

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Our Room

We opted to stay in a room with a porthole window. We were debating about getting a balcony and then we remembered we have 2 small children who love to climb. Soooo….we’ll take a room with a window only please. Plus look at the fun pictures.

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The rooms are pretty much like a typical hotel room except that the couch becomes a single bed and a second bed can drop down from the ceiling. The room hostess does this for you before bedtime each night so you don’t have to worry about managing any of this alone. The nice thing about this is that you have access to a “living room” during the day and then it converts just for sleeping at night. We needed the extra space for activities.

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Another nice feature of the room is that the bathroom is split. In one side is a toilet and sink with mirror and in the other side is the tub/shower combo and a sink with mirror. First, having a tub is so nice with the little ones. Second, it makes getting ready easier when there are 2 sink and mirror options.

There is a ton of storage in the room with dressers, closets and drawers everywhere. Our large suitcases were able to fit under the bed and E’s car seat fit in the closet.

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Overall, we felt very comfortable in the room as a family of four. We stayed on Deck 7, which was only 2 floors down from the pool deck (where lots of food and drink options were available) and only 2 floors up from the Kids club area. This made everything easy and convenient for us to reach and we could take the stairs instead of waiting for the elevators.

Dining Options

There were 3 main dining rooms on our ship: Animator’s Palate, Rapunzel’s Royal Table and Lumiere’s. On the Disney ships, you have an assigned table number and dinner-time but where you have dinner changes every night (there is an assigned rotation you get at check-in). You have the same servers every night (they rotate with you) but the scenery changes.

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Spoiler Alert!

At Animator’s Palate during one night of the cruise, you will start your dinner by drawing a character onto a provided piece of paper (with instructions). Then by the end of the meal they make your characters come to life and the characters dance and do different things while placed in iconic Disney movie scenes. Super fun! Though O didn’t make it to see his character come alive.

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At Rapunzel’s Royal Table, this is like a dinner with a show. We are all preparing for Rapunzel’s birthday party. The Snuggly Duckling characters are there and Rapunzel arrives. After they do their performance, Rapunzel comes around to each table to greet the guests. O was very shy when the Snuggly Duckling characters came around but they were so nice to him and he absolutely loved it!

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Lumiere’s is a great dining room with excellent food. The theme is based off of Beauty and the Beast, though this is the only dining room that could easily be on any ship. The Disney stuff is kept to a minimum and this dining room is more focused on the food (in my opinion).

Beyond the main dining rooms, there are lots of food options available. You will never go hungry. Disney is unique in that room service is included (though you do need to tip the person who delivers and some food items are extra, like alcohol, etc.). The buffet is Cabana’s at the back of the ship. They always had excellent options there, but we ate most of our dinners in the main dining rooms. There was also Daisy’s De-lites, which was a little food area next to the kids’ splash pad area. This was our go to place. They had quick and easy to grab breakfast items in the morning. They also always had fresh cut fruit, salads and sandwiches. We had watermelon every day after swimming.

Of course there was free ice cream

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Basically, there were a million options for food. There is a reason you gain weight on a cruise.

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Don’t worry it is only milk!

Entertainment

There was always some activity going on throughout the day on the ship. Every night you would get a “navigator” placed on your bed. It was a piece of paper that laid out the next day events. Everything was listed from kids’ club activities to movies to dance parties to the theater shows. Disney Cruise Line also has an app now that provides all of this information. We used the app but I also loved having that piece of paper in hand to highlight things and figure out what we wanted to do. I also thought it helped me visualize better how things would overlap.

Movies:

The Disney Magic does have a movie theater as most ships do these days. We were lucky in that The Incredibles 2 movie had just come out to theaters the day before our cruise departed. O loves the original Incredibles movie so it was an extra special treat that he got to go to his first move theater on “Mickey’s ship” (as he preferred to call it) and see Incredibles 2 only a few days after it came to theaters (and at no additional cost!)

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Gavin and I took turns with the kids (and with the assistance of the kids club and nursery) so that we could sneak in a couple of movies as well. In addition to the movie theater, the TV in the room had access to the “Disney Vault”, meaning you had access to watch any Disney movie you desired.

Character Meetings:

This is a Disney ship so of course there was plenty of opportunities to meet with some of our favorite characters.

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O was so excited to see the characters but didn’t know what to think about them once they got a little closer.

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Notice Gavin’s arm. Ha!

But by the end of the cruise, O was actively seeking out characters to make sure he could get a picture with them.

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E was more than happy to meet everyone

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The one exception to all of this was the Princess Gathering. All of the Princesses get together at one time and you get a chance to meet all of them in one go. Perfect! I signed us up and got our tickets (they are free) with our designated time. I get E all dressed up in her Snow White outfit. We get there and everything is going smooth. It is our turn to meet the Princesses. O becomes super shy and hides behind me and E starts screaming. Like top of her lungs, cannot be calmed, SCREAMING. We exited stage left and didn’t even attempt a photo with those poor startled Princesses. Ah the joys of littles!

Dance Parties!

Dance parties are our thing. Well Gav and I have no dance skills. I look something like Elaine from Seinfeld attempting to get my groove on. But for some unknown reason, our children LOVE to dance and we support this passion. So we hit up ALL the dance parties. It started with the Sail Away party.

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Through Pirate Night and including the Princess and Pirates Dance Party

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And even randomly dancing on the decks. They love to dance and the cruise ship was more than happy to give them plenty of opportunities.

Kids Club

Obviously, Disney Cruise Lines is very focused on families and particularly on kids. They do not disappoint with their kids club and nursery. The Kids Club is for kids 3 and older who are potty-trained. O was able to hang out here and he had a fantastic time. I think the fact that there was a Toy Story room with a slinky the dog slide helped. Kids Club was included free of charge. E stayed in the nursery but only during our dinner time. The meals took 1.5-2 hours due to the shows and it wasn’t possible for E to sit that long at a table. She seemed happy with the nursery. If we do another Disney cruise, we plan to wait until E is old enough to be in the Kids Club with O just for convenience and I think they will both be happier to be together.

Pools

There were several pools and splash areas on the ship. Children in swim diapers could only play in the small splash area and were not allowed in any of the pools (due to some health regulation). So E and I hung out in the little splash area while the boys enjoyed the rest of the pools.

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There was a small very shallow pool with a larger splash pad area. This is where O spent the majority of his time until he discovered that they play Disney Movies on the big screen over the other pool. Ha!! The ship provided swim vests/ flotation devices in all different sizes and that was very convenient for us. The pools were rather small but the only day they felt crowded was the day at sea.

There is also an adults only pool (in the adults only area). This pool looked very nice. It seemed larger than the other pools with 2 hot tubs, beautiful blue tile and nice lounge chairs surrounding it. At least that is what I could tell as I looked longingly at the pool while I quickly ushered my 2 kiddos through the area after realizing we had stumbled into the kid free zone with ours. There is a full bar at the pool and the Cove Café is tucked in this area as well.

Random Details

We didn’t bring our stroller with us and instead we brought the backpack carrier. However, we didn’t have a plan to get E asleep for her nap. So we ended up renting a stroller from the front desk at no extra cost. We used it to push E around Deck 4, which is the shuffle board/running track deck where it is quiet and usually no one around. It worked well.

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We did have to get the stroller right away on the first day as it is first come first serve. We also had to keep it in our room but it fit under the bed with our 2 suitcases just fine.

Ok that is it for the ship. Coming up next will be where we stopped and what we saw!!

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Berlin Part 2

On to part 2. We are going to start out with a tourist trap but it will get better!

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie is a tourist trap. I’m sorry but there is no other way to describe it.

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If you get a little closer there is a booth with some old looking sand bags around it and you can get your picture taken with folks dressed up in WWII era uniforms. I honestly would say just skip this stop. However, if you don’t go toward Checkpoint Charlie then you won’t be able to hit our next stop.

Currywurst Museum

Only 2 blocks from Checkpoint Charlie is this adorable gem of a museum.

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We are big fans of currywurst, which is sliced sausage with this amazing sauce that is also sprinkled with curry powder and served with fries. It is served absolutely everywhere.

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Here’s your order now.

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The museum was small but very interactive. There were video games, gigantic pillow fries (to go with the ketchup dripping off the ceiling), and even a currywurst cart where you can pretend to serve up some sausages.

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At the end of the tour you can also get different currywurst samples at the food stand (different ticket options give you 1-3 samples at the end of your visit).

I don’t think this museum is for everyone but we absolutely had a blast during our visit. We even had to get a little currywurst souvenir.

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Ritter Sport

Once you leave the Currywurst Museum, I would recommend heading over to the Ritter Sport Café. It is about 6 blocks from the museum. You can hop on the U-bahn (underground train) and take it one stop down or you can just walk. I recommend the walk because you will get to walk right past the Deutscher Dome and the French Cathedral.

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When we got to Ritter Sport (popular German chocolate brand) the store and café were actually not very busy. This place is usually packed as it has become famous for the place to make your own chocolate bar. The kids were getting tired though so we opted to buy some prepackaged chocolate and head out. I did get in line to make my own bar but the wait was 30-45 minutes and that was with only 1 family (of 4) in line in front of me. I am assuming the wait is much longer on busy days so be prepared. I think the majority of the wait is for allowing the chocolate to set properly. In case you are wondering, I was going to order a dark chocolate bar with cornflakes and marshmallows.

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Computerspielemuseum (Computer Video Game Museum)

While looking up some fun spots to visit while in Berlin, I came across this not so well known museum. The moment I saw video game museum I knew we would have to go for my techie husband. It seriously did not disappoint. It had all the old school video games you could imagine (which you are allowed to play!!). They also had the games set up in little display areas that resembled 80s bedrooms or a 90s dorm room (you get the idea).

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The museum is not huge so easily managed in under a couple hours (unless you really get into a game). It is also only a block away from the U-bahn stop so getting there is a breeze.

Weberweise Station

After leaving the Computerspielemuseum, we headed back to the U-bahn station that is just a block away. That station is Weberweise. As we were standing on the platform we noticed a sign posted on the wall.

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The sign reads “On February 26, 1945, shortly before the end of World War II, this U-Bahn station was hit by three bombs during a heavy air bombardment. Of the hundreds of people seeking shelter here on the platform or in the two stationary trains here, many more perished than the 108 victims who could later be identified.”

It was chilling to read. And here we stood with our little family in that very same spot.

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It just amazes me how much history there is all around us and we would have never noticed if we didn’t take the time to stop and read the sign.

Museum of Technology

We hadn’t originally planned to visit the Museum of Technology. However, E started feeling sick during our trip. The hard part when traveling is that if one kiddo is sick that means that other one has double the energy and that there is no where to escape in a hotel room. So the boys headed to the Museum of Technology, which was just a few blocks away from our hotel, and E and I stayed in the hotel room to give her some rest.

From the boys’ account of the museum, it was a really fun, interactive museum. It is absolutely massive in size and the boys spent 3.5 hours there, which might be a new 3 year-old attention span record.

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There is also a playground and beer garden (biergarten) at the Museum (German standard). Unfortunately for Gavin the biergarten was closed as it was Sunday. This for sure is a museum that you could spend a whole day enjoying.

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Overall we really enjoyed our time in Berlin. It was a fun, active and vibrant city. The public transportation was insanely easy even with a baby and a toddler in tow. Despite the long list of stuff we were able to visit during our trip, we feel like we have just scratched the surface of what this city has to offer. Berlin would be worth another trip.

Random Trip Info

If you are thinking about heading to Berlin here is some detail about how we stayed and traveled with 2 kids. First, we stayed at the Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz hotel. This hotel is very kid/family-friendly and has multiple room options that are accommodating to families (such as rooms with bunk-beds). This hotel is also 1 block away from a U-bahn stop.

Getting around Berlin is extremely easy. Their public transportation is excellent. We did purchase the Berlin Welcome Card, which allowed us unlimited public transportation and discounts at certain museum and tourist hotspots. We bought 2 adult tickets but the kids were free. For us we didn’t really save by using the card but we didn’t have to bother getting tickets every time we got on a bus or train. With the discounts to the museums we just broke even, which was fine with us. The convenience of the Welcome Card made it worth it to us. If you are going to be able to enjoy more of the museums then the Welcome Card is the way to go for sure (particularly if your kids are older). If you are just using it for public transport then there are better options.

English is very commonly spoken in Berlin. Everywhere you go things are posted in German and English. You will have absolutely no problem managing even if you don’t speak a word of German.

The whole city and public transport are stroller-friendly. Sometimes you have to do a little bit of searching for the elevators but they are there somewhere.

There is usually a grocery store in the shopping malls if you are looking for one. Staying close to an Aldi or Lidl (discount grocery store) is always a bonus. Remember that pharmacies are not usually open on Sundays but there is usually one open at the main train stations. You have to go to a pharmacy to get any kind of medicine like Tylenol, Advil, etc. We may have had to use this on our trip. Typically in Germany everything closes down on Sunday but I didn’t feel this way in Berlin. Lots of stores were closed but most museums and tourist attractions were open. Restaurants were probably 50/50 on being open.

Have fun and safe travels!

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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.

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The Round Tower

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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(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.

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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.

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(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.

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Nyhaven

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

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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.

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(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.

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More water obstacles.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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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