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Beach cleanup

A walk on the beach in the Netherlands always makes me happy. It clears your head and the surroundings are beautiful. The kids can run in the wind, jump off the dunes and they can play the ‘does the wave wet my shoes or not game’. But still, to make them contribute to a beach cleanup gives them a whole other level of understanding, and if you do a cleanup every once in a while, when you walk in nature, it may just teach them to be responsible themselves later on.

They will transform it into a treasure hunt, and they may oblige you to finally bring a treasure or two home with you (we are the proud owners of a very rusty boat propellor), but it does really teach them something valuable, and they do realize it is ridiculous what people leave in nature… Straws, bottles, plastic bags, bags with dog poo (seriously if you clean up your dog’s poo, and put it in a plastic bag, why do you leave it on the beach afterwards?). We also found a whole box of medicines, and finally, a lost Iphone that we brought back to the beach bar hoping it would then be reunited with its owner.

The children seemed a bit more aware of the trash problem and I think that in summer, when we spend even more time on the beach, they will run after their empty cookie wrapping in case the wind picks it up. Or at least, I hope so!

Fréjus – the broken dam of Malpasset

Fréjus, Cote d’Azur, France

An incredible walk through nature and history.

Have you ever heard of the broken dam of Malpasset?

I hadn’t before I went there, but it is quite an impressive site.

The area of the ‘Site de Malpasset’ is a beautiful, natural site, but which unfortunately has a sad history. On one evening, in December 1959 the Malpasset dam, which was built to supply water in the Var area, broke due to the heavy rainfall in the days before. What happened next is known as one of the biggest disasters of the 20th century in France. The water behind the dam created powerful floodings and a wave of water carried big cement blocks of the dam with it for more than one kilometer. You can still see the big cement blocks lying around while you walk towards the remains of the dam.

The water went as far as the town of Fréjus and even derailed a train. Of course, there have been many victims at the time, and that is why the ‘Site de Malpasset’ is a place of respect, a monument. The remains of the dam are quite impressive to see and make you realize what a disaster the break of it must have been.

 

The surrounding nature is very beautiful and that is why nowadays, the ‘Site de Malpasset’ is mainly used by cyclists and pedestrians. The walk from the small parking lot towards the dam can easily be done with the entire family. We were there in spring and beautiful wild flowers were in bloom and the nice smells that are so typical of the vegetation of the South of France was all around.

Our children like family hikes and love exploring around and searching for treasures. They have found beautiful rocks, one of which heart shaped, and they liked to play next to the water. They too were quite impressed by the ruins of the dam.

Besides the sad history, the ‘Site de Malpasset’ really is a beautiful environment to walk around in.

 

Where? Right next to the highway exit Fréjus / Saint-Raphael, follow the signs: Site de Malpasset.

Frejus

Would you like to know what else you can do in Fréjus? Have a look here.

 

 

 

 

Cote d'azur

Would you like to read my full article on what to do for families in the Cote d’Azur, you can read about that here.

 

 

 

A day in Fréjus – Cote d’Azur

Fréjus is a beautiful town in the South of France, near Saint-Raphaёl. The old town with its colored houses is very much worth a visit, as well as the roman ruins, and walks in nature around it.

When you are driving there, you will probably pass by the impressive roman ruins, and see the well-preserved amphitheater. The amphitheater can be visited and hosts some big events in summer.

On Saturday’s, the old town center of Fréjus has a really nice market which is lively all year round. It is located around the main square, which has a lot of terraces, restaurants, a creperie, a smoothie bar, and other shops. In summer time, the market is even bigger and the stalls go all the way from the main square to the bigger streets of the town center. A wide variety of products can be bought at the market: typical food from the Mediterranean area such as olives, tapenade and dried tomatoes, but also non-food products, such as the famous soap ‘Savon de Marseille’, clothes, and products like kitchen towels or table cloths with a ‘Provencal design’ on it.

When you are at the market, you can easily visit the Cloisters, the cathedral and see the baptistery since they all are located on the square where the market is held. The Cloisters are very beautiful and a peaceful place. The wooden ceiling is quite unique in France and has hand painted images of imaginary animals and scenes of daily life on it.

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Cloisters

Baptistery

the baptistery

We like walking around in the old town of Fréjus, looking at the colored houses with the nice decorated balconies and colored shutters that are so typical of the south.

Parking: as in summer all towns in the south of France can get a bit crowded, we would recommend you to follow the signs of the Parking Aubenas. We actually have always found a spot there!

Once you have visited the the city center of Fréjus, there is still much to explore in the  surroundings of the town.

Winery: You can for instance taste some wine at the winery ‘Clos des Roses’ outside of Fréjus, which not only sells wine, but also has a very nice restaurant with a beautiful terrace and good food! Clos des Roses is located on a beautiful property with plenty of modern art pieces in its garden. Have a look at their website.

 

Malpasset Dam

Hike: If you like hiking and history, have a look at our blog post on a walk towards the: Broken Dam of Malpasset.

 

 

 

Cote d'azur

If you would like to read all my recommendations on what to do for families in the Cote d’Azur area, click HERE to see the entire article.

 

 

 

France

And how about it if you would get the taste of the Provence at home to get in the mood for the trip and learn an easy to make recipe of a local? If you like cooking, then read how to make Denise’s ‘Poulet Provençal au citron de Menton’ here.

 

New York: Brooklyn Street Art with Kids!

We love street art and Brooklyn is one of the best NY neighborhoods to find these beautiful treasures that color up buildings and walls and make you feel as if you are walking around in a wonderful outdoor museum of modern art. Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Bushwick neighborhoods have been famous for street art for years! Even though other areas of New York, such as Harlem and the Bronx also have a lot of cool spots to visit, we decided to mainly hunt for the treasures of this form of art in Brooklyn.

Williamsburg

When walking through Williamsburg we used the smartphone app Brooklyn Street art that we had downloaded in advance. It allows you to navigate easily on a Google maps sort of plan and it gives you the information on the mural and the artist. Very easy to use!

Eduardo Kobra: It actually was my 10-year-old that told me about this incredible artist. They had spoken about him in school in arts class. We therefore decided to visit his most famous New York piece of street art during our stay. The art work in Brooklyn, #Fight for Street Art, is a portrait of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat by Kobra.

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Address: Bedford avenue and Notrh 9th Street in Williamsburg.

Jorit Agoch and Leticia Mandragora wall on North 10th Street:

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Several murals on North 10th Street in direction of Union Avenue:

Mural of three rats by ROA on Havemeyer Street:

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Murals on Roebling Street:

From Williamsburg, we took the subway L line to Bushwick and got off at the station Montrose avenue.

Bushwick

We had lunch in a nice vegan diner called Champs Diner where they serve really tasty and healthy bowls. Address: 197, Meserole Street.

For Bushwick, we took a really cool guided street art tour with the company New York Off Road as they offer tours in French, which is the first language of our children. The tour was excellent and we finished it off by making our own street art guided by a local NY street artist! She explained us how to spray and helped us make a real cool painting which is now our favorite NY family trip souvenir that we brought home with us.

Bushwick is really incredible when it comes to the number of art works per square meter 😊. It has an industrial area where the factories that still operate from there allow the artists to paint the walls, which results in beautiful art works all around you. We didn’t know where to look since there were so many! There were even beautiful art works on the trucks passing by.

Our tour guide explained us a lot about the different signatures of different artists like for instance one of the artists always portrays figures with specific decorated eyes etc. Really amazing!

In Bushwick we have seen art works of many artists, amongst others: DonRmix, Calangoss, Marka27, Never, Dasic Fernandez, Iena Cruz, Kermen, Lexi Bella, Danielle, Mastrion, Fin Dac, Phetus88, Jerkface, Jorit Agoch and Resa Piece.

Have a look to get an idea:

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New York: sports games with kids!

Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden

During our recent trip to NY we decided to take our kids see some sports games. Sports take up a big place in American culture and they make a whole show out of every game.

I had myself been to the Madison Square Garden to see a NY Rangers game when I was younger, and I had good memories of that, so for me it was for sure that I wanted to take my kids there as well to soak up the atmosphere during a game. This time, it would be basketball in the Garden, and Ice hockey at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

NY Islanders game at Barclays Center in Brooklyn:

 

The Barclays Center is a very well organized beautiful stadium. There are restaurants everywhere and before the game, you can choose whether you would like to eat hotdogs, hamburgers, tacos and so on. We took not so expensive tickets to see an NHL ice hockey game. We paid 20 dollars per ticket, and were seated quite high up, but still with a very good view of the playing field! If you have small children with sensitive ears, remember to bring them plugs as the music and sound of the commercial breaks and animation are quite loud. Our children had never seen an ice-hockey game before and they liked it! For us, it was the game of the NY Islanders against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and one thing we noticed is that the Islander fans and the Maple Leafs fans are just seated next to each other and encourage their favorite team without anyone arguing. In Europe during soccer games for instance the fans are often in separated sections to avoid problems. Here, this did not seem necessary at all and there was a nice atmosphere during the whole game!

Once you get back out there is a taxi stand right across the street if you wanted to go home by cab.

NY Knicks game at Madison Square Garden:

 

Madison Square Garden is centrally located in Manhattan. We took relatively expensive tickets to be sure the kids would be able to see, but in the end, I realized we could have taken a bit less expensive, because we felt like we had VIP seats. The kids were all happy about that of course 😊. We were seated quite high up, but right in front so the view was really good. The website of Ticketmaster allows you to look at the view you will have of the game beforehand which is quite convenient if you don’t know the stadium that well. I just didn’t realize we would have sort of VIP seats with screens and everything 😉. Once you are there, remember not to wait too long to buy your food if you want to eat there, since it can sell out quickly.

We saw the Knicks vs Orlando, and it was a good game! However, I guess we didn’t bring luck for the NY sports teams when we were there as both the Islanders, and the Knicks lost. Better luck next time I hope!

Skiing with kids

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During our holiday in the snow this year, I saw all the cute little kids moving around on their skis and I realized we had come a long way. Our children are now 10 and 8, and both love to ski, but this hasn’t been the case right from the beginning 😊.

We were those parents too, that carried around all the equipment and the small child at the same time. We have been to locations where the meeting point was quite far from our apartment and waking up the kids, preparing them, getting all their stuff together and motivating them to go out in the cold wasn’t always a piece of cake.

We have had them in classes where everyone spoke another language than theirs. We have had our little one finally explaining us after 2 days of skiing that his shoes were actually too small. We have had our five-year-old skiing down the slope by himself, leaving his ski class behind to search for his parents (luckily the teacher caught up with him!) and we have had our little one ‘forgotten’ by the teacher in a restaurant until another restaurant client decided to call his parents… And no, the sun doesn’t always shine… Group ski class is every day, also when it snows and also when temperatures drop to minus 10.  And those photos will not end up on Facebook and Instagram… Everyone only posts the photos of the sunny days.

I remember that plenty of times when I had left them at their little beginner ski class, and I finally got back to get my own skis, ready to hit the first slope of the day, the teacher called me to say my child was crying and I had to take all the equipment off again, to go and collect him.

But, keep your hopes up 😊 They eventually grow out of all of that and become more independent. They will prepare themselves in the morning, and not necessarily wave at you when they pass you on the slopes.

This year, I was watching those cute little 3-year olds following their teacher in a queue, while I was waiting for my eldest son to get back from his off-track class with the ski school. He was skiing off-track for 2 hours and they ended up getting back by bus. Awesome! He said 😊.

When we go skiing now, they all have to wait for me. I’m the worst skier in my family, but I know why… I was so busy getting them on skis that I kind of didn’t have the time to learn it properly myself… I can ski, but they have definitely out-skied me by now…

Chronological order of my son’s ‘skiing career’ 😊:

Skiing through the years

Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval

Have you ever looked at travel lists on the internet? Top 10 must see places, top 100 of places to see in your life, most extraordinary places in the world?

Well, there is one that I visited, twice!

It is the ‘Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval’ and it is located in Hauterives in the Drome area in the South of France.

Palais ideal

Facteur Cheval was a postman. He actually never left his town and never went on holiday. But he did create a palace, in his backyard, inspired by travels around the world! The result is absolutely amazing, as well as his story. Facteur Cheval was in fact inspired by other people that travelled and learned about the entire world by the postcards and magazines he delivered to people’s mailboxes. A Swiss Chalet, an Indian Palace. He saw all the images and was able to re-create them in his backyard with the stones he picked up during his daily post round in the area.

The result of 33 years of building is incredible!

He was considered an idiot by his neighbours and he was laughed at. But now, years later, Facteur Cheval is booming business to a small town in the Drome. They are currently even making a movie about him with French actors Jacques Gamblin and Laetitia Casta, who will be playing the role of Ms Cheval!

To see it is to believe it. I don’t think I realized how big this construction was until I first got there. Back then, we were a couple without kids, and years later we decided to take them there. There are stairs to get on top of the building, pass ways to get inside and benches around the construction to contemplate the work of art.

It is quite amazing because we travel to create memories and to learn things, but in the end, Facteur Cheval never went anywhere but was already a world traveler back in 1912 when he finished his piece of art.

Facteur Cheval teaches you and your children a lot of things.

  1. Dream Big
  2. Believe in yourself! Even when others don’t.
  3. The world has a lot of extraordinary places, if you can’t visit them, imagine them!