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5 best beaches near Saint-Raphaёl

Are you on a holiday near Saint-Raphaёl on the Côte d’Azur and would you like to know which beach to go to? Here’s our selection of 5 best beaches for you to try out!

1. Calanque du Petit Canereit, Antheor

A beautiful, natural spot away from the crowds, without facilities. This beach is located between Agay and Théoule-sur-Mer, just after passing Antheor Plage and the train bridge. You will see a small parking lot on the right side of the scenic road. Come early in the morning to have a parking spot, and if you are really lucky, to have the beach all to yourself like we had one morning. Steep stairs lead you down to the beach, do-able with children, bring water, your water shoes, and your picnic! Snorkeling gear is also really good to bring as it is a beach with stones and a lot of fish can be seen! The second time we were there, at around 13 o’clock, at boat stopped to sell drinks and ice-cream, just in time for our dessert after the picnic! The captain of the boat said he came there every day, so do bring some money just in case. This beach is definitely one of our preferred spots!

2. Plage du Débarquement, Saint-Raphaёl

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This beach is our top spot for snorkeling! An amazing amount of fish can be seen, even very close to the beach. It’s certainly because this beach has no sand but big rocks, so bring your water shoes and your snorkeling gear! We had never seen so many fish in one place in the Mediterranean before! You will see a lot of people walk around with the Decathlon snorkeling masks that have become so popular 😊. There are lifeguards on this beach, public toilets, and there is a restaurant. The view on the famous landmark of Saint-Raphaёl, l’Ile d’Or, is best from this beach, and we like to bring our stand-up paddles and paddle around the island. Paddling around the island and back to the beach takes about 35 minutes and my husband has done it with our 10 year old. The island is private property, so you cannot go on the island.

3. Tiki plage, or Plage de Camp Long, Agay

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This beach, located between Agay and Saint-Raphaёl, is also known as the ‘Plage de Camp Long’. It is a creek with a nice beach with a mixture of sand and small stones. You can walk around the creek on a small foot path carved into the typical red rocks of the Estérel mountains that end up in the sea. The parking lot is relatively big compared to smaller creeks located along the well-known ‘Route de la Corniche d’Or’. The beach has a restaurant, a snack corner, a small shop, showers, public toilets, and rental of stand-up paddles, kayaks and pedal boats. Children are at ease to swim here as the water does not go steep down immediately. They can of course also search for crabs along the rocks around the creek. Tiki plage is definitely one of our preferred beaches!

4. Calanque des Anglais, Agay

Another beautiful, small beach, with typical red stones from the red rocks of the Estérel mountains. If you go all the way to the ‘official sign’ indicating the ‘Calanque des Anglais’, access to the beach is a bit more difficult then when you park at the stairs just before. From those stairs, the beach is accessible with children as well. Like all the ‘calanques’ beaches, come early and don’t forget water shoes and snorkeling gear!

5. Saint-Aygulf

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This wide beach is our best spot for real sand and building sand castles! It is also the perfect beach with small children as the water is very shallow for a long while. There are parking lots along the road on both sides (payed parking). Since it is quite a long beach, there are several different beach bars and restaurants. What we like to do after a couple of hours on the beach, is go to the beach front where there are several restaurants and bars right on the beach. Some have really nice terraces! The little center also has a big shop with everything you would need for the beach, inflatable toys, beach towels, they have everything! Just don’t go to the beach near the center, as it tends to get too crowded at the end of the day. The beach is long enough to pick a spot before the town center.

Would you like to see some of the beaches as seen from above? Check out our drone video of the beautiful coast line:

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!

Winter activities near Geneva for non-skiers!

Yes, you can totally enjoy being active in the outdoors in the mountains when you are not a big fan of downhill skiing! Or maybe you do enjoy skiing, but would also like to do some other things for a change! There are many alternative things to do while enjoying winter wonderland near Geneva, and a lot of them are less expensive than a day skiing!

Read all about snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, winter walks, curling, and other activities near Geneva!

Here are 7 alternatives to skiing to explore winter wonderland:

Snowshoeing in the Jura

I guess this is the cheapest winter sports and a very nice one! In the peace and calmth of nature, with just the sound of your snowshoes. Will you spot traces of animals, or just enjoy the view from above?

You can either rent snowshoes, or buy a pair for yourself. Most ski resorts have a map of snowshoe hikes, and the good thing is, everyone can do it! Snowshoes, or ‘raquettes à neige’ in French, are easily attached to your own winter walking or hiking shoes and will prevent you to sink in the snow. This way, you will be able to get to the most beautiful places and enjoy a forest in the snow where you would normally not be able to walk through. Hikes in most resorts are well signposted, and you could aim for a nice restaurant for lunch.

Areas: the Jura mountains is very nice area for snowshoeing, and close to Geneva. Saint-Cergue, La Givrine, or La Vattay. You can also go to Villars, Les Mosses, and many other ski resorts.

Showshoeing off the beaten track with a guide

If you would like to get the most out of your snowshoeing activity, it could be a good idea to get a professional mountain guide! They know the mountains well and can take you to beautiful alternative routes. A guide can also adapt the hike to the level of your group and give you a lot of information on the mountains, animal traces, geology and more!

We tested out an excellent mountain guide: Mountful Hikes! Famke and her dog Olle are guides with a lot of experience and Famke takes groups, or families with children, on a snowshoeing adventure. Mountful Hikes has many more activities, like summer hikes, wild camping, and much more. She has also developed a fun game which can learn you all about the animals who live in the mountains, and their traces.

For more information on Mountful hikes, check out her website: https://famkevanderelst.com/

Showshoe and Cheese fondue

Woohoo, this is a great combination isn’t it? In Saint-Cergue they have a winter offer for this. For CHF 35 francs you will get the showshoes and poles for rent, a map of the showshoeing possibilities, and a cheese fondue in one of the participating restaurants.

More info on their website: https://www.lacote-tourisme.ch/en/P10240/snowshoes-and-fondue-package

Cross-Country skiing in the Jura

Even though it is skiing, cross-country skiing is a perfect alternative to the faster downhill skiing, and one the whole family can enjoy!

Close to Geneva, we are lucky to have quite a big area for this. La Vattay, Centre Nordique is located in the Jura, on the French side, when you drive up the Col de la Faucille from Gex. You will leave the busy parking lot of the Faucille behind you and continue towards La Vattay. There are different slopes here, and you can try either the classic or the skating version of Cross-Country skiing, and the easiest slope is a green one, which you could do with kids!

No excuses on trying this out as in La Vattay it is really made easy. You can rent the skis and (comfortable) shoes right on the spot! There is a small restaurant on site as well and if you prefer, you could reserve a cross-country skiing lesson at the ski school. We went ahead without a lesson, and we managed ok. We may take a lesson in the future for the technique of the skating. The easiest slope takes you about 1 hour.

Of course, there are other places for Cross-Country skiing, and it could be good to find a village who has both, in case some family members would like alpine skiing, and others cross-country skiing.

Sledging

Sledging can be serious business. I’ve made a mistake here in the past, thinking all sledging slopes would be easy with kids, but we had a bit of an adventure once and since then, I check twice before I go!

The longest run closest to Geneva would be the run on Diablerets.

For easy sledging (not a slope) with small kids, you could go to La Givrine in the Jura.

There is a good restaurant here to warm up with a hot chocolate! It may get busy on weekends, so make sure you reserve in advance. Restaurant: http://latrelasse.ch/1264-StCergue-Suisse/

Website of Diablerets sledging run: https://www.villars-diablerets.ch/en/V1331/sledging-in-les-diablerets

Snow Tubing

Snow Tubing can be done in Leysin, close to Col des Mosses. Great fun for the kids and you can combine it with snowshoeing on the Col des Mosses, and then some adrenaline on the snow tubing slope. Closer to Geneva, you will also find a smaller tubing run in La Givrine: http://ess-latrelasse.ch/luges-bouees/

Winter Walks

A lot of areas are just beautiful to explore in winter, and no need to ski! Think of a day trip to Chamonix from Geneva, and, even though Zermatt is a lot further away and maybe more suitable for a weekend escape, I do really want to mention it, because it did show us that a winter hike is also fun! You can of course for yourself choose any winter hike closer to Geneva, as besides snowshoeing trails, many resorts also have winter walking trails with your regular boots. We went on a family winter walk in Zermatt and really enjoyed winter wonderland without our skis on!

         

Ice skating on Lac Lamoura

The most known place for ice skating in the open air known to us is the Lac de Joux. However, this seems to be a bit of a warm winter, so at the moment, I have not yet heard of the lake to be frozen.

In the Jura, close to Les Rousses, you have the smaller lake of Lac Lamoura. Of course this freezes up quicker and people have already been ice skating here this winter.

More information: https://www.montagnes-du-jura.fr/activites/a-la-neige/patinage-sur-lac-gele/ You may want to call the tourism office in advance to know whether the lake is indeed frozen!

Test your Swiss skills with curling!

Curling is another alternative winter fun activity. No need to try with small kids as it’s quite heavy! With bigger kids you can give it a go. You can go curling in some Swiss ski resorts like we did in Saas-Fee, but there is also a place in Geneva to try this out. This said, it does seem less expensive in ski resorts, but in Geneva, it could be a fun outing for a bigger group.

Their website: http://www.curling-geneve.ch/initiations.html

What are your favorite winter activities besides skiing?

 

 

 

 

Rotterdam with Kids!

What a surprising and beautiful city! We went on a city trip to Rotterdam with our kids during our holiday in Holland, and we all loved it! Rotterdam, also known as ‘Manhattan on the Maas River’ is a very modern city with an impressive skyline. The city has suffered severe bombings during the Second World War and almost the entire city center was destroyed. Since then, Rotterdam has been rebuilt with lots of modern architecture and unusual buildings. Our kids totally loved Rotterdam, because of the look of the city with quite tall buildings compared to other cities in the Netherlands, and the river with its fast water taxis.

Here are 10 Things to do on a City Trip to Rotterdam with Kids! We’re sure you’ll love it too!

  1. Boat trip in Rotterdam to the big Port

A must-do when in Rotterdam, and definitely a trip where the kids can learn a lot too. The Port of Rotterdam is so big you can easily recognize it when you fly over the Netherlands by plane. From almost in the center of the city, completely towards the North Sea. The Port of Rotterdam is the biggest sea port of Europe and the 10th of the world. When you buy your tickets for the departure of the boat trip, located right by the Erasmus bridge, you can ask for a kids coloring book. This booklet is not only for colouring but also has lots of information about the boats, the way the Port works, and the skyline of Rotterdam. We brought our binoculars to observe the work in the port, which was quite a success with our kids.

The boat trip lasts for 75 minutes.

You can check the time table for this Harbor Boat trip here:  https://www.spido.nl/en/tochten-cruises/rotterdam-havenrondvaart

  1. Having Lunch in the Sky on the Euromast tower

After our Harbor Cruise, we went by foot to the Euromast Tower. The Euromast offers the best view over the city. An elevator takes you up and you will find a restaurant serving café style food. We highly recommend to have lunch at this height to fully enjoy the skyline of Rotterdam! If you would like to go even higher up, you can still take the Euroscoop to the next level while enjoying a 360 degree view. The Euromast tower is 185 meters high and is the highest building in the Netherlands!

To reserve your lunch: https://euromast.nl/en/wining-dining/

  1. Going to the ‘Markthallen’ food market to snack around

The modern building of the food hall in Rotterdam is definitely worth a visit too, and you will love tasting all the food available. From smoothies, to poffertjes (small Dutch pancakes), or the famous Dutch ‘stroopwafel’ cookies, everything is available here!

Address: Jan Scharpstraat 298, Rotterdam

  1. Visiting the famous Cube Houses

Right in front of the food hall, you will already see another curious spot in the city, very much loved by architecture and photography lovers, the famous Cube Houses. One of the Cube Houses, the ‘Kijk Kubus’ can be visited for 3 euros, so you can get an idea of what it would be like to live in one of those cubes. The opinion in our family was divided, but I think our kids totally imagined living in a Cube House.

  1. Going to the Maritime Museum and getting your Offshore Employee Certificate

A very cool museum with lots to do and touch for kids! You can start your experience with a safety explanation of what it is like to work offshore. You then put on your safety helmets in order to experience life offshore yourselves by fulfilling a few tests, like, how to land a helicopter on the platform in the sea. Cool experience! In another part our kids also liked peeking inside of a cruise ship where you can play games or be part of the evening show by singing songs. Highly recommended museum to visit in Rotterdam with kids!

  1. Crossing the Erasmus Bridge

Since our comparison with Manhattan was there because of the skyline, and because of the departure point of Rotterdam for many immigrants by boat in the 1900’s, we decided to walk over the Erasmus bridge like we had walked over the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. The Erasmus bridge is a very iconic bridge in the Netherlands and its nickname is ‘The Swan’.

  1. Hotel New York, and High Tea

On the other side of the bridge you can walk onwards to Hotel New York, the former offices of the Holland America Line and departure point of many searching for a new life in New York. Countless numbers of boats left from here towards Ellis Island. It was interesting for us as we had also visited Ellis Island with our kids, so after the arrival point in New York, it was also interesting to see the point of departure for many.

Hotel New York is a hotel now, and a very iconic place to stay in Rotterdam. It also has a restaurant, and you can go here for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or their famous high tea.

  1. SS Rotterdam, visiting a cruise ship

Very close to the Hotel you will see the SS Rotterdam. You will already have passed by this ship during your Harbor Cruise. The SS Rotterdam was one of the boats used on the Holland America Line, and which can now be visited. You can book a tour, or with bigger kids, try their escape room… SS Rotterdam is also a hotel and restaurant.

More information on a visit to SS Rotterdam: https://ssrotterdam.com/discover/

  1. Crossing the river with tired legs, Water Taxi or Water Bus

What is cool about a city on the water is the transportation crossing the river. We took a Water Bus (one of the stops is at the SS Rotterdam), but we also took the fast Water Taxi ride. The kids really loved that one! The Water Bus is part of the public transport system and tickets were very cheap (1 euro each for our ride), the Water Taxi costs like a regular taxi but goes fast.

  1. Walking the streets of Rotterdam, in the old part and the ‘new’.

Of course a city is best explored on foot! We have walked through the new part, with cool city streets like the Witte de Withstraat, and we have also been to the old part of the city, a small part which was not destroyed by the bombings in WWII, the area called Delfshaven, where you all of the sudden saw a bit of similar architecture as you would see in Amsterdam.

Where to stay in Rotterdam?

We loved our hotel in the Center of Rotterdam and had an amazing view from our room on the skyline! They have a few connecting double rooms for families as well. The hotel is conveniently located by the Erasmus Bridge and the public parking, and it has a cool heated pool which is very good to relax after all those city explorations!

If you liked this article, then maybe our other articles on the Netherlands could also be of interest to you:

    

   

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If you would like to stay updated on our family travels as we go, then make sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook page.

 

 

 

Houseboat Holiday in Holland with Kids!

About an adventurous boating holiday… Itinerary in the Netherlands.

Have you ever dreamed of spending your family holidays on the water? On a Houseboat holiday, getting off the grid, experiencing some adventure, waking up at different marinas every day, or simply taking it slowly in nature? Then this article is for you!

So last summer, we stepped out of our comfort zone! We decided to go on an adventure with friends to discover the Netherlands from the water on a houseboat holiday! I am originally from the Netherlands and know my country very well, but by boat is quite different. The life on the water, the conversations with other people on the boats, the adventure, and sometimes not knowing exactly how it works! There are sunny days when the kids would jump off the boat into the water, and there are rainy days, where they would just draw or play games while we navigated. If you are up for something different a boating holiday like this could be a good idea!

Our houseboat holiday itinerary

The most difficult part of the trip is planning the itinerary. We started off in Loosdrecht, which is about a 20 minutes’ drive from Amsterdam Airport. You can choose whether you take a northern or a southern route. We wanted to combine bits and pieces to see cities, but also enjoy nature. The downside of the ready-made route suggestions, was the navigation time per day. We had rented bikes and of course our children wanted to stop at lots of places and just cycle around. But whatever you plan, you may have to change your plans according to the weather, or waiting times at locks or bridges that may have been longer than you thought.

Our 1 week boating itinerary in the Netherlands:

  • Day 1: from Loosdrecht to Weesp, night at Weesp
  • Day 2: from Weesp to Muiden, and then on to Amsterdam, night at Amsterdam Marina
  • Day 3: day exploring Amsterdam, night at Amsterdam Marina
  • Day 4: from Amsterdam, down on the Amstel river to Nes aan de Amstel, night in nature, but you can also continue towards the Marina of Uithoorn.
  • Day 5: navigating from Nes aan de Amstel to Boskoop, rainy day, so we changed plans and navigated more. Night at the marina of Boskoop.
  • Day 6: navigating from Boskoop to Ijsselstein, just before Utrecht
  • Day 7: Navigating through the center of beautiful Utrecht with an adventurous curved tunnel to pass, 1 night on an inhabited island in the middle of the Loosdrechtse plassen

Note: We changed our itinerary during the week due to the weather, the first few days we wanted to navigate less, and explore and swim more since the weather was really nice. At the end of the week we had a bit of rain and we navigated longer. To explore, we had rented bikes for our boat, and we brought our stand up paddles!

Day 1, from Loosdrecht to Weesp:

Loosdrecht boating base is only a short taxi ride from Amsterdam airport. You will wait until your houseboat is ready, and get some explanations on how the boat works. You do not need a licence to steer these kind of boats, as they are intended for slow travel, and they really do not go very fast. However, when you have reserved your boating holiday, it is requested, and recommended, to read the captains manual before you arrive. They explain you about traffic signs, bridges and locks.

Ready to set off…

After a small test navigation, and boat mooring, you will be ready to set off! You can immediately go through the first lock called ‘Mijndensesluis’. You will see that there is always a lot going on at the locks, terraces and cafés are installed by locks where people watch the boats passing by, have a friendly chat with you, or laugh a bit at your ‘not yet so professional boating skills’. You pay for passing through each lock, and also for some bridges. Sometimes the person just has a wallet, but at some other bridges, they will lower a traditional Dutch clog where you will have to put the bridge money in while you are navigating, so make sure you carry cash and coins. Kids usually like participating by being on ‘clog duty’.

After this first lock, you will follow the gentle river towards the town of Weesp which has beautiful windmills and a cute town center. There is a marina right before the town center on the left where you can spend the night. This is a good place to stay and get acquainted with all the features of your boat.

How does entering a marina work?

Ha, for total beginners this can really be a good question! Do we just moor the boat? Do we have to call someone? It was not always clear. At some marinas you can just moor, get off the boat and find the marina staff to pay for the night. Some marinas request you to find the harbor master first. But at most places really, people are already on the lookout for boats arriving and you just sort of wave with your hand and they will guide and help you. In the guide of marinas in your boat you will see which facilities each marina has (like shower, washing machines etc).

Where else can you sleep?

In case you do not want to go to a marina, there are also campsites with some mooring spots for boats, signs along the water indicate this. You can also try to moore in nature, or dock at the 24H spots on the docks which are indicated on your navigation map. These 24H spots are sometimes right in the city center, like was the case in the center of Weesp. Of course, this means there is no shower, nor facility to fill up your water tank.

Day 2 : from Weesp to Muiden, and onwards to Amsterdam

From Weesp you can cruise to Amsterdam, but we wanted to show our friends (who had their own boat) the village of Muiden, a beautiful medieval village with a castle, Muiderslot. Once you get through the big lock of Muiden, you can start looking for a spot to moor your boat on the right-hand side. In one of the big boats, you will find the harbor master of this section in case you have questions about it. There is a marina a bit further down, but they only take boats for the night as Muiden is a popular place to visit. We recommend you to arrive early to find a spot in Muiden! Life on the water is very popular in the Netherlands in summer! Once you are settled, you can visit this beautiful village and its castle which is really highly recommended. You can also cycle away a bit in the countryside!

Onwards to Amsterdam:

We left Muiden to navigate towards Amsterdam. Unfortunately, a small gentle river was closed in our week, and we had to take the big-boating-highway, the Amsterdam Rijn Canal, where cargo ships navigate. Yikes! This was a bit of a rocky ride, but fortunately not so long. Just navigate calmly on the right-hand side.

Once you arrive in Amsterdam, another adventure is on the lookout as you will have to cross the IJ, where again bigger boats navigate, and also the Amsterdam ferry boats which go on and off from the center to the northern parts of the city. Ferry boats have priority, so sometimes you have to wait and calculate your passing. Do not stop, and try to cross the IJ as quick as you can 😊.

Amsterdam Marina:

Amsterdam has more than one marina. We had called in advance to reserve in Amsterdam Marina and so we had secluded our spot. We loved this Marina! On the north side of the city, close to the ferry which takes you to the Central Station in only 10 minutes, and with all the facilities and shops close by. In the marina, one of our favorite restaurants in Amsterdam is located: Loetje! Loetje has several spots, and this one is ‘Loetje aan het IJ’ which has a beautiful view on the city! At Loetje you eat a delicious steak in their homemade special sauce.

At walking distance of the marina you will also find a Hema shop, where you can buy all your essentials, or even easy meals for lunch.

We stayed 2 nights in Amsterdam Marina, to show our friends the city. For all our tips on what to do and see in Amsterdam, check out our article on Amsterdam.

Day 3: Full day in Amsterdam

Day 4: from Amsterdam to Nes aan de Amstel

We left Amsterdam early in the morning, navigating right through the city center while the city was waking up. Amsterdam is so beautiful as seen from the water. Even as a local, I can never get enough of our canals and architecture! We navigated calmly on the Amstel river and stopped in nature, close to a beautiful windmill ‘Riekermolen’ just outside of the city for some swimming and stand up paddling. Close to the windmill is a nice restaurant by the water called: Klein Kalfje.

We then navigated onwards to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, where we parked close to the supermarket for some groceries, and went on a bike ride towards the Ouderkerkse Plassen for a swim in the lake, which has a sand (!) beach. In Ouderkerk, there is also a Loetje restaurant, and it is the one we usually go to. You can dock right in front of the restaurant.

At the end of the day we continued on the Amstel river to Nes aan de Amstel, where we found a spot in nature to moor our 2 boats. We even had a terrace to ourselves and prepared dinner while the kids were swimming and stand up paddling on the river. The nightfall at this place was so beautiful and I think we will remember that forever!

Day 5: from Nes aan de Amstel to Boskoop

Rain, rain, rain. We decided to navigate the whole day since we were a bit behind on our schedule to make the full loop back to Loosdrecht. If the weather would have stayed nice, we would have taken a shortcut to allow time for swimming and exploring. But now that the weather changed, we decided we didn’t want to miss out on Utrecht in our itinerary. Towards Boskoop a mix of busier rivers, and very narrow rivers in the middle of nature. Very beautiful, even with rain.

Just a view while cycling through Boskoop

The marina in Boskoop was led by a very friendly guy. You had to call in advance for them to open the bridge as he would then leave the marina by bike to come and open it for you. In the marina, all the facilities were there, and we cycled through Boskoop a bit and stocked up on groceries.

Day 6: from Boskoop to Ijsselstein, just before Utrecht

Another navigation day took us through beautiful villages, the countryside and nature, and we decided to stay the night at yet another wonderful marina, Jachthaven Marnemoende, where the kids could stand up paddle and admire the beautiful black swans who live in the marina. Beside the navigation time, we just enjoyed our ‘apéro’ on the deck of our boats, but there is also a restaurant on-site, a small playground for kids, and plenty of cycle paths in the surrounding area.

Day 7: from the busy city center of Utrecht, towards an inhabited island

On the last day of our boating adventure, we gently followed the river to the beautiful city of Utrecht. Utrecht is a cool student town where the life on the canals can easily be experienced by boat as the canal streets are lower than in Amsterdam, and you will navigate right in front of the shops and restaurants. Since it is a busy city center, we sometimes had to jump off the boat, to keep the boat on the side to let other boats pass, and so you can easily have a chat with the locals and restaurant owners.

There is one specific tunnel in Utrecht which you will have to pass, which was quite adventurous, as it is only large enough for one boat to pass, and it goes in a curve which makes it impossible to see if there is a boat on the other side. All you can do is honk your horn for several times before you enter the tunnel under the city hall, and if there is no response from the other side, well, then you just go and hope you will not have to back up half way 😊.

After Utrecht, we continued towards the first lock we took at the beginning of our week in Loosdrecht and we navigated towards the big lake ‘Loosdrechtse Plassen’.

We decided to spend our last night on the boat Robinson Crusoe style, on an inhabited island. There are several islands to choose from on the Loosdrechtse plassen and we chose to head to the island ‘Markus Pos’ which has a small playground. There was a bit of a storm on our last night, so we all watched the spectacular clouds before going to sleep.

We loved our Houseboat Holiday! It can sometimes get a bit adventurous, especially if you cannot find the way to open a bridge (traffic lights, or a button to push to open). You may also have to adjust plans according to weather, traffic, or try to dock in unusual places because it is busy at a certain lock. All of this brings you closer together though, and will guarantee some good laughs afterwards!

We rented our houseboats at Locaboat Holidays. They are in several countries. You can navigate in France, in Ireland, and more, or in the Netherlands like we did!

If you would like to stay updated on our family travels as we go, then make sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook page.

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Swiss Christmas Markets!

Baby, it’s cold outside! It’s time for the festive season! So light up your candles, turn on the music, and start thinking of shopping for gifts. Would you like to know where to go in Switzerland to get in the mood for Christmas? Where to buy handmade gifts and drink some mulled wine or hot chocolate while listening to music? Here are top spots in the country to experience some Swiss Christmas Magic, shared by several blogging families in Switzerland! From the Zurich Christmas Market, to Montreux Christmas, and from a typical winter recipe, to other end of the year traditions in Zug. Read all you need to know on where to find some Christmas Magic in Switzerland!

Montreux Christmas Market, and Santa’s House

Do you know Santa lives in Switzerland? He divides his time between Finland and Rochers-de-Naye, a mountain top overlooking Montreux and Lake Geneva!

Montreux transforms in total Christmas magic every year at the end of November! Montreux Christmas Market, or Montreux Noёl in French, is a big Christmas Market beautifully set by the lake. There are plenty of wooden cabin stalls filled with inspiration for special Christmas gifts and there is  food from several countries. Montreux Christmas has Santa flying over the lake at set times, and he stops to sing a song!

Children will love the big ferris wheel or the stand where they can decorate their own chocolate Christmas tree. Of course, for families, a visit to Rocher-de-Naye will also make Christmas time very special. A beautiful panoramic train ride on the Goldenpass line, takes you up the mountain. The train ride takes about 45 minutes, but the views along the ride are beautiful! On top of Rochers-de-Naye, you can immediately go to Santa’s Grotto, where you can meet Santa himself, have your photo taken, and the kids will receive an official certificate from Santa! By showing this certificate in Santa’s Office, your children will receive a gift.

After visiting Santa, you can still walk around on the mountain and enjoy the beautiful view! Make sure you wear good shoes and dress warm, as there can be snow up there!

How long for a visit to Santa Claus on Rochers-de-Naye?

We have spent 3 hours in total with the train up and down. We were lucky there was not a big line to meet Santa, and since it gets busy on weekends, you should calculate a half day for this.

How to get to Santa’s House?

The train leaves directly from Montreux Train Station. Tickets to Santa’s House can be bought here:  http://www.goldenpass.ch/en/goldenpass/

Make sure to get them well in advance, as weekends tend to sell out fast!

Dates for Montreux Christmas Market: until 24 December

Their website: https://www.montreuxnoel.com/en-1-homepage.html

Writing Santa letters from Switzerland

Do you know the Elves really respond to your letter to Santa in Switzerland? Yes, in Switzerland you can write a letter to Santa and expect a real reply! For years already, the special Christmas team from Swiss Post kindly takes care of replying to all the letters. In some years, over 20.000 letters were received by Swiss Post, and 96% of the letters were answered! We love this initiative to keep the Christmas magic alive!

Address: Anything goes really: Father Christmas, North Pole, or Rochers-de-Naye, in English, German, Italian or French. Don’t forget to mention your return address!

Zürich, a tram which looks like a Christmas card!

Shared by Tanya from Swiss Family Fun

One of the beloved Christmas traditions for Zürich kids is taking a festive tram ride around the city with Samichlaus and his helper angels who tell stories during the 20 min ride. Children from age 4 to 10 may participate, unaccompanied by their parents. After the ride, we like to take the kids across the street to the beautiful Zürich Wienachtsdorf Christmas market, where we can get special treats and even go ice skating if the kids are still up for it.

In 2019, the Märlitram runs most every day from 22 November to 24 December, on Mon-Fri from 13:25 to 18:50 and on Sat-Sun from 12:10 to 18:50. Tickets cost CHF 8 and can be purchased at the Jemoli department store or by phone. The tram ride starts and ends at the Bellevue tram stop.

More details can be found on Swiss Family Fun: https://swissfamilyfun.com/marlitram/

Zürich, more Christmas Markets!

Recommended by Vanda from The Yogi Wanderer

Christmas season is the most magical time of the year in Zurich. Switzerland’s largest city puts up not one but three big Christmas markets, as well as enchanted Christmas lights and decorations. This means everywhere you look you can’t help but get into the Christmas spirit!

Every year, on the third Thursday of November, the switching on of the famous “Lucy” Christmas lights at Bahnhofstrasse and the opening of the Christmas markets marks the official beginning of the season.

Zurich’s biggest Christmas market, and one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Europe, is held at the main train station. The market’s top attraction is its huge Christmas tree decorated with 6’000 sparkling Swarovski crystals.

In the old town, you can find Zurich’s oldest Christmas market, while a Christmas Village is built every year at Sechseläutenplatz, one of the city’s main squares.

But my favorite place to enjoy a glass of mulled wine during the Christmas season is the tiny market hidden at Werdmühleplatz with a unique attraction: a Singing Christmas Tree where children and adult choirs spread joy with their carols.

If you would like to know what else you can do in Zurich, then check out this post on the Yogi Wanderer: Zurich.

Bern Christmas markets

Shared with us by Hanka from Our Swiss Experience

There are two different Christmas markets in Bern. The first one, Berner Münster Weihnachtsmarkt, takes place, as the name suggests, on the square directly in front of the Münster Cathedral in Bern. In this small market, you can find many local arts and crafts products. The market opens its doors from November 30 to December 24, 2019.

The second Market, much bigger, is the Berner Sternenmarket, ie. “Star market”. In a magical world full of shining stars on the Kleine Schanze near the Parliament building you can find stands with goods from local designers. In the middle of the design stalls, you will find small marketplaces with delicacies not only from Switzerland (fondue chalet cannot be missed) but from the whole world. During the duration of the market, there are various performances for children and adults. This market opens its premises on November 28 and it takes place till December 29, 2019.

To see more Christmas recommendations, you may want to check out this post on Our Swiss Experience: 10 tips for the best Christmas markets in Switzerland

Zug, home of many end of the year traditions

Shared by Kristin from Swiss Family Travel

You know it is the beginning of the holiday season in the city of Zug when you find a puppet show in a bank and fairies telling stories in the violin store – it’s time for Märlisunntig! The annual fairytale Sunday (this year on the 8th December) kicks off just after lunch with shows for all ages dotted around the city. You may even spot Samichlaus and Schmutzli too, giving out treats to all the kids passing by. As darkness falls, look out for groups ringing large bells called “Trycheln”, large lanterns carried on heads called “Iffelen” and listen out for the sound of cracking whips called “Geisselchlöpfern”. These are all part of the central Swiss traditions centred around the festival of St. Niklaus, which some villages call Chlausjagen.  Finish off the afternoon by watching the fireworks by the lake at 17:30 alongside Samichlaus, Schmutzli and their fairytale friends.

To read all about Märlisunntig: https://swissfamilytravel.com/blog/maerlisunntig-zug

What is Chlausjagen?: https://swissfamilytravel.com/blog/klausjagen

Every year I look forward to the Christmas themed posts on Kristins website! Go check it out on Swiss Family Travel!

Grittibänze Recipe

Typical Swiss if you ask us! These cute little fellows can be found all over the shops or bakeries at the end of the year! Tamara from Parttime working Hockey Mom shares here Grittibänze recipe with us!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups flour – all purpose flour is fine, if you can find anything finer ground, even better, I like to use “Zopfmehl”
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk, warm
  • 8 teaspoons liquid yeast or equivalent dry yeast

Directions:

  • Mix, knead well, cover with a cloth and let rise for 60 – 90 minutes.
  • Form little guys (“freestyle” or roll out your dough and use a gingerbread man cookie cutter) and decorate with chocolate chips, nuts or raisins.
  • Let rise for another 30 minutes, coat with egg yolk or egg wash.
  • Bake at 350°F for 20 – 25 minutes.

We will definitely try those out soon! 

More Christmas Markets in Switzerland:

Geneva

This year will be the second edition of Geneva’s own Christmas Market, located in the Parc des Bastions. Handcrafted items, a fondue chalet, and the parc’s ice-skating rink will make for a great outing to get a bit of the Christmas vibe!

Dates: from 4 – 31 December. Their Website : https://www.noelauxbastions.ch/

Carouge

Part of Geneva, Carouge has its own Christmas Market which takes place on set dates. We haven’t been to the market yet, but maybe we soon will! This years dates: 13, 14 and 15 December.

And you, what are your favorite Christmas Markets in Switzerland?

If you would like to stay updated on our family travels as we go, then make sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook page.

 

 

Ticino: Ascona – Locarno – Valle Verzasca

A perfect Ticino Holiday: Ascona – Locarno – Valle Verzasca

We love the Ticino region in the south of Switzerland! We had already been to the area of Lugano, and this time we decided to discover the area of Ascona, Locarno and Valle Verzasca! We are so happy we did! Picturesque towns, impressive nature, good food and the Dolce Vita atmosphere are the ingredients of a Ticino holiday! We also discovered the most beautiful valleys with countless waterfalls, and cute, remote towns with traditional houses and without electricity that make you feel you have travelled back in time. Those valleys and villages showed us another aspect of Switzerland, in architecture, in lifestyle, and in taste!  Read all about why you should definitely go on a Ticino holiday!

Ascona

Ascona is a small town on the Lago Maggiore. Ascona’s colorful houses, boutique shops, narrow alleys and lake side with view on the Brissago Islands will leave every visitor at awe. The small town has plenty of good restaurants, from typical Grottos, to Pizzerias and Gelaterias for dessert. Ascona also has a Museum of Modern Art.

Locarno

Locarno is equally beautiful, almost attached to Ascona and on the same lake, Lago Maggiore. We liked walking around the main Piazza, and we loved visiting Madonna del Sasso. Madonna del Sasso is a sanctuary built on the hill above the city, offering you an incredible view on the lake. Just next to Madonna del Sasso is a good Grotto restaurant, Restaurant Funicolare Orselina, serving local specialties on a terrace with a panoramic view. Madonna del Sasso can easily be reached from central Locarno by taking the cute funicular up the hill.

Valle Verzasca, the Verzasca Valley

The Verzasca Valley is so gorgeous, and was one of the main reasons for our trip. Kids will definitely like hiking and climbing on the rocks of the adventurous trails in this valley. Traditional village after village, waterfall after waterfall, there is a ‘wow-factor’ around every corner. Driving up from Locarno, you will first pass by the big Verzasca Dam which is famous for a scene in the Golden Eye James Bond movie, where 007 jumps off the dam.

Restaurant tip! Shortly after passing the Verzasca Dam, on the right hand side, you will see Osteria Paradiso, which is a very good restaurant with a cool terrace. Highly recommended! Their website: http://www.rustici-verzasca.ch/en/osteria/

Corippo

Then, driving up in the valley, your first stop should be the tiny village of Corippo. Corippo is the smallest town of Switzerland, with only 13 permanent inhabitants. Corippo is on a list of protected traditional villages in Switzerland. The alleys are not even paved, and exploring the village between the small stone houses already feels like an adventure. If you go to Corippo by foot from the Postbus stop, just note that the road going up is quite steep.

Lavertezzo

The most famous village of the valley, due to the Ponte dei Salti, a bridge people jump of off in summer to swim in the river. You can cross the bridge and climb on the stones. Of course, wear good shoes and always be careful, but the site is so beautiful! The waterfall at the entrance of the town is also worth to check out.

The parking lots at Lavertezzo are not very big and we did wonder how this would be in summer or during a heat wave. We think the Postbus would really be the best option to head to Lavertezzo. We were there in Autumn, a bit at the end of the season, so we could just park close to the bridge.

Sonogno

Sonogno is a really good stop, for 2 reasons. First of all there is the interesting Museum of Valle Verzasca in the town center, explaining life in the valley through times and seasons. They have a new addition in an adjacent building which is a bit interactive and shows you a map with the touristic sites of the region, but also where people live according to the season.

Secondly, you can leave the village center for a 25 minutes walk and enjoy the views of a very big waterfall from close by, the Froda waterfall. This really is an impressive waterfall and a must-do in the region if you ask us!

Just before reaching the waterfall, there is a cute Grotto restaurant with a beautiful terrace called Grotto Efra.

Website of the Grotto: https://grottoefra.ch/

Transport in the Verzasca Valley, and how to explore

If you go by car, you should know that you need to buy a parking card for the day. They are on sale at local infopoints, restaurants, kiosks, camping grounds and hotels. With this card you can park in the green parking zones. Without the card, you risk a fine. Another way of transport in the Verzasca Valley is the Swiss Postauto bus system which really never fails you. It also allows you to walk from one village to another, and continue, or go back, with a Postbus.

More information on the Postauto in Valle Verzasca: https://www.postauto.ch/en/excursion-tips/verzasca-valley

Monte Tamaro and fun thermal baths

Monte Tamaro is a mountain filled with fun! You can take the cable car up to go for a cool mountain sledge run, an adventure park, or just walk and enjoy the view. There is also a real cool warm water pool with great slides for some thrills with the kids! At Splash e Spa, children of ages 6 and up can enjoy the cool slides. One slide is for 6 and up, the others as of 8 years old or 1m40 in height. The slides are called ‘the washing machine’, the ‘horror tube’, or ‘black night’, which pretty much says it all. The Mania slide for the youngest is also really cool! For smaller kids there is a water playground pool, there are warm water baths inside and out, and you can order a unicorn milkshake and other drinks at a pool bar while staying in the warm water. You can’t go wrong here!

Centovalli Express Panoramic Trains

Switzerland has plenty of panoramic train routes, and the Centovalli line is one of them, connecting Locarno to Domodossola in Italy. The Centovalli Express is 52 kilometers long, and gently takes you over 83 bridges and through 34 tunnels the Centovalli region in Switzerland and the Val Vigezzo region in Italy while you enjoy the view on countless waterfalls from your train window. There are stops to choose from on both ways. If you would like to take this panoramic train, then check out our blog post on this train trip through the valley between Locarno in Switzerland, and Domodossola in Italy.

Bavona Valley and the waterfall of Foroglio

This was the most beautiful valley with fairytale like villages! When you drive to the Bavona Valley from the direction of Ponte Brolla towards the village of Foroglio, you will probably pull over your car at several spots. We loved the village called Sabbione, which was almost surreal with the small houses built under or around enormous rocks! People who live in the Bavona Valley still practice ‘Transhumance’ which means that they move according to the season. In most towns people only live in the summer season. As in many villages there is no electricity, but only solar power, the amount of daylight in winter is not enough.

Foroglio is another cute village with the typical stone houses who are traditional in the Ticino region. The village has a very impressive waterfall dropping with all its force down from the mountain. The point where the water hits the cliff is quite spectacular! You can wander through the village and visit the only store of the small town which sells handmade items. There is one restaurant in Foroglio, which has a view on the waterfall and serves delicious traditional dishes.

Website of Restaurant ‘La Froda’ in Foroglio:  http://www.lafroda.ch/

Brissago, Osteria Borei

We were told that the restaurant Osteria Borei would have the best view over Lago Maggiore, and so we decided to check it out. The winding and narrow road up was a bit of an adventure! At several spots the road was too narrow for two cars to pass, and so we had to back up in quite some difficult locations. That said, I would definitely go again tomorrow if I had the chance, because Osteria Borei really is in a breathtaking location!

Website of Osteria Borei: https://www.osteriaborei.ch/

Where to stay?

Accomodation in the Verzasca Valley

This holiday home is located in Lavertezzo in the heart of the Verzasca Valley in a charming traditional style house.

 

 

Hotel in Ascona

Since Ascona is one of the most picturesque towns on the Lago Maggiore, it also makes for a perfect base to stay. This hotel is particilarly child friendly and with lots of activities, and possibilities for parents to relax!

From the Ticino region, you can easily make a day trip to Milan in Italy! Check out our post on a day trip to Milan with kids here:

And if you would like to explore the region of Lugano, then this article could be of interest to you:

Our article has some affiliate links, which help us to run this blog.

If you would like to stay updated on our family travels as we go, then make sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook page.

 

Centovalli Express – panoramic train

Centovalli Express – a Panoramic Train connecting Locarno in Switzerland and Domodossola in Italy!

The Centovalli Express connects the towns of Locarno on the Lago Maggiore with the Italian town Domodossola in the Piedmont region. The Centovalli railway is a spectacular panoramic train ride which takes you in two hours from the lake, through forests, alongside rivers and past countless waterfalls. The railway takes you over beautiful bridges and through peaceful vineyards. In Autumn, since the Fall Foliage is spectacular in this region, the ‘Treno del Foliage’, a special Fall Foliage train with large windows, runs on the rail of the Centovalli Express during one month.

The Centovalli railway is 52 kilometers long, and gently takes you over 83 bridges and through 34 tunnels in the Centovalli region in Switzerland and the Val Vigezzo region in Italy. There are stops to choose from on both ways, and both Locarno and Domodossola are beautiful cities to visit.

Possible Stops on the Centovalli Express train

When you reserve your ticket online and choose a seat reservation, the system also lets you choose one stop in both directions. You may also choose to stay the night at one of the stops, as your ticket can be valid for two days.

Locarno

Locarno is a beautiful city on the shores of the Lago Maggiore. Take a stroll along the lake side, or take the funicular up to the spectacular Madonna del Sasso. A sanctuary built on the hill above the city, offering you an incredible view on the lake. Just next to Madonna del Sasso is a good restaurant, Restaurant Funicolare Orselina, serving local specialties on a terrace with a panoramic view. The funicular to go up to Madonna del Sasso is located very close to the Locarno train station.

Ponte Brolla

Ponte Brolla is worth a short stop to walk along the river and admire the natural beauty. There is a typical regional Grotto restaurant in Ponte Brolla called ‘Grotto America’ which has a nice terrace close to the river.

Re in Valle Vigezzo

Re in Valle Vigezzo is a very small town, but with a big cathedral, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sangue. The cathedral is built on a place where a smaller church was, because of the bloodshed from a fresco which is said to have been observed here in 1494. The story goes that while playing, a young boy threw a stone on a fresco representing Madonna. The following morning the fresco of the Madonna started to bleed, which is said to have lasted for days. The sanctuary therefore is a place of pilgrimage.

Intragna

In Intragna you can visit a church, a bell tower, and the regional museum of Centovalli and Pedemonte.

Domodossola

Domodossola is a cute Italian town with a nice historic center with narrow alleys. We were in Domodossola around lunch time and had a delicious lunch at restaurant ‘La Torre’ where the staff was super nice and the food super good. It is a restaurant serving specialties from Sardinia, as well as pizzas.

Address of restaurant La Torre: Via Briona 18.

When you wander around the historic center of Domodossola, signs will explain you a bit of the history of the old town. Domodossola is also famous for its weekly market which is held on Saturdays, between 8:00 and 12:00.

What you should know is that if you are there around lunch time, shops are sometimes closed for quite a while. In Italy, this can be between noon and 15:00, or even 16:00.

Gelato in Domodossola

We decided to skip dessert at the restaurant and try out one of the gelato shops in the city. The Gelateria Voglia di Gelato & More shop was very nice and the kids were happy with their selection of ice-creams and single cups of gelato decorated with candy.

Address of Voglia di Gelato & More: Piazza Chiossi, Domodossola.

On the main square we also saw a Vegan restaurant, we somehow didn’t expect to find a vegan restaurant in Domodossola.

Our stop in Domodossola, including lunch, was for 3 hours and that was perfect for us. In case you visit on a market day, you may want to stay a bit longer.

More information and Centovalli Express tickets:

The Centovalli Express runs year round. The Fall Foliage train runs from mid October until mid November. On the Centovalli railway line, you can also download an audioguide with a map to follow your journey.

Their website: http://centovalli.ch/en/

 

Milan with kids

A day in Milan with kids

We decided to go to Milan with our kids for a day while on holiday in the Ticino region in Switzerland. We have been to several places in Italy, but never in Milan, so it was about time for a visit! What is easy about visiting Milan with kids, is the proximity of the main sites in the center. No need to cross the entire city by bus or tram, all is mostly at walking distance!

Milan has a lot of museums and some beautiful sites to visit. Of course, you can not do everything in one day, but here are some ideas to choose from:

The Duomo of Milan

We started at the Duomo, Milan’s cathedral and without a doubt its most famous landmark. The Duomo is really very big, and it actually is one of the biggest churches in the world! Photos of the Duomo don’t do the building justice as it really appears bigger when you are standing in front of it. You can visit the Duomo and even take the elevator to the roof top.

Tickets for the Duomo are available at the ticket office right next to the building, or, you can buy them online from the official website of the Duomo. In most big cities we recommend buying tickets online for the main sites to avoid waiting in long lines with kids.

If you would like to see the Duomo from another angle and from slightly higher up, you could visit the Museum del Novecento which is an art museum located right next to the Duomo and while you visit the art works of Italian artists, and international works of amongst others Picasso, Kandinsky or Paul Klee, the Museum will also give you another view on the Duomo through the windows.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The entrance to the impressive covered street, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, is also on the Piazza del Duomo, so there you have 2 of the most famous sites of the city right next to each other. A stroll through the Galleria is a must-do and make sure to look up to the frescos and ornaments, and down to observe the mosaic floor.  The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is Italy’s oldest shopping mall. We didn’t come for shopping though, but mainly to admire the beautiful architecture.

When you walk out of the Galleria, straight on to the other side, on the side of the Piazza della Scala, you will see the exhibition ‘The World of Leonardo’. It is a temporary exhibition, but it was really nice to visit and gave us a view of the Galleria from above through the window.

The World of Leonardo with kids

The World of Leonardo, or Leonardo3,  is a temporary museum on Leonardo da Vinci and his works. It is a really cool and interactive exhibition which lasts until 31 December 2019. The exhibition shows his main inventions, flying machines, mechanics and paintings. There is a digitalized version of the famous painting ‘The Last Supper’. Kids will love the fact that they can visit the space where Leonardo painted the Last Supper with a virtual reality mask, and try to construct things themselves, like a self-supporting bridge.

Milan Science and Technology Museum, Leonardo da Vinci

A part from the temporary exhibition above, Milan also has a Science and Technology museum, where kids can also learn quite a lot about Leonardo da Vinci’s works and where even special Leonardo themed weekends are organized, so if the World of Leonardo exhibition is over during your visit, you will still find all you need for an interactive and educational visit here. It’s a bit further from the Duomo, about 20 minutes by foot. As we already visited The World of Leonardo, we did not visit the Science Museum, but it may be on our list for a next visit to Milan.

Lunch and Gelato, a good restaurant near the Duomo in Milan

We found a very nice and not too expensive restaurant close to the Duomo called Al Cantinone. The food was delicious there, and a lot of dishes were seasonal. In a fashion and shopping city like Milan, it may not always be easy to find a good and reasonable priced restaurant. Al Cantinone is family friendly, with good food, and for a good price, so highly recommended! We tried the classical dishes like a Risotto Milanese, Ossobuco, and a steak with truffle sauce. There can be a short wait at the counter when you arrive.

Their address: Via Agnello 19. www.alcantinone.it

We did not eat our dessert in the restaurant as we heard of Milan’s favorite ice cream shop called Cioccolati Italiani. They have several locations in the city and one of them is at two steps from Al Cantinone restaurant. What is special about their ice-creams is that they build them up with add-ons, and add-ins. First, you choose your warm chocolate in the bottom of your cone (milk chocolate, or white or pink chocolate which flows from taps behind the counter), then you choose your ice-cream flavors, and then the add-ons like a biscuit, candy, or an upside-down cone. Yum!

Theatro della Scala

Again, just around the corner of the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, is Milan’s famous Theatro della Scala, which can also be visited as the theatre has a museum with the most important collections of the Opera world. There are often theatre shows recommended for children, so do check out if there is one when you plan to visit. Children under 18 apparently pay a symbolic price of 1 euro.

If you have time left in Milan, the city still has plenty of other sites worth discovering, and since Milan is also the city of design, architecture lovers definitely have more things to explore here, like the Bosco Verticole buildings. Cool apartment buildings covered with plants from the outside.

One site we regret we didn’t visit, as we were in Milan on a Monday and it was closed, is the Pirelli HangarBicocca. The Hangar is located in a former industrial plant and offers free exhibitions and permanent collections of contemporary art work. Looks like we still have more reasons to come back to Milan!

You may also like some of our other articles on visiting Italy with kids, like the articles on Bologna, Verona, Turin, or Rome!

               

If you would like to stay updated on our family travels as we go, then make sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook page.

 

Haarlem, the Netherlands

Haarlem, a beautiful and family friendly city at only 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam! If you are planning to visit Amsterdam with kids, you should definitely consider to stay in Haarlem, as this beautiful walkable city has it all! Haarlem has plenty of shops, restaurants, museums and even a windmill right in the city center! Haarlem is also very close to the beach, so if you were hoping on a bike ride with kids in the Netherlands, Haarlem would be a better place to do that than in the center of Amsterdam. In about a half an hour on cycle paths, you will be at the beach, or in a beautiful National Park with dunes. Letting the kids run around at the beach in between some days of museum visits in a big city like Amsterdam is always a good idea!

Things to do in Haarlem

Haarlem is a small city with a village feel. It has quite a few good museums, beautiful historical buildings, and all the restaurants and shops you would need.

Corrie ten Boom House, the Hiding Place

The Corrie ten Boom House is a very interesting museum. It tells the history of the Ten Boom family, who lived in the center of Haarlem during World War II and who helped Jewish families and members of the Resistance to hide. The tour and entrance to the museum is free, and you just wait outside until the next tour starts. There are time slots for tours in Dutch and tours in English and a tour lasts for about one hour. Only 20 people can go in at the same time, since the house is not so big. You will be able to see the entrance to the hiding place in Corrie ten Boom’s bedroom closet. There have been several books and films about Corrie ten Boom and her family.

Address of the Corrie ten Boom House: Barteljorisstraat 19, Haarlem. Check out times and opening hours before your visit. Tours are held from 10:00 – 15:30.

Teylers Museum, Museum of Wonder

Teylers Museum in Haarlem is located on the Spaarne river in the center of town and is a very family friendly museum of art and science. They also have a good collection of fossils and often temporary exhibitions. Museum website: https://www.teylersmuseum.nl/en/

Windmill De Adriaan

A lovely windmill in the centre of Haarlem! Windmill De Adriaan is a mill built in 1778. The mill can be visited, but make sure to check the opening hours before you go: https://www.molenadriaan.nl/en/.

Frans Hals Museum

The Frans Hals Museum is one museum in two different buildings at 7 minutes walking distance from each other. There is a collection of the Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals who used to live in Haarlem, but there are many other art works from other artists on display as well.

Website: https://www.franshalsmuseum.nl/en/

Beer Tasting in an Old Church

Haarlem has its locally brewed beer called Jopen. Adults may appreciate to taste some beers in a beautiful former church building transformed into a brewery, the Jopen Church!

Shopping

Haarlem is known as a good city to go shopping and it has plenty of small boutique shops. Clothes, home decor shops, you will definitely find something in Haarlem.

Bike rent in Haarlem

We rented bikes at Green Bikes Rent which is located right next to Haarlem Central train station. They had all kinds of bikes, like kids bikes, and also a cargo bike to be able to put a small child in front.

Cycling to the beach or the dunes National Park

It took us about a half an hour to cycle on the cycle paths to the beach. We chose to go to Bloemendaal aan Zee as this is a beach town I like a lot, but you could also go to Zandvoort. The road towards the beach will also have you passing by the entrance of a National Dune Park called ‘Kennemerduinen’ which is also worth it to explore! You can  go through the National Park to cycle towards a beach restaurant called ‘Parnassia’ where you can have lunch, or walk through the beautiful dunes.

If you go straight on to Bloemendaal aan Zee, you will have a lot of choices in restaurants on the beach, all with different styles and menus. The beaches in the Netherlands are quite wide and kids love to run around in the wind here!

How to get from Haarlem to Amsterdam

This is very easy and that is what makes Haarlem a great place to stay for families. Haarlem is only at 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam Central Station.

Haarlem Amsterdam by train: just buy your tickets at the vending machine right outside the train station, or at the ticket counter.

Train fare Haarlem Amsterdam: about 9 euros for a round trip for an adult.

Amsterdam tips!

Since our family lives in Amsterdam, we visit Amsterdam with our kids at least twice a year. You can find all our tips on things to do in Amsterdam with kids here:

Hotel Haarlem:

There are beautiful hotels right in the center of Haarlem, which makes it easy for families to get out in the evening to one of the many restaurants in the city center.

Hotel Tip! This hotel is right in the center:

An apartment in a historic monumental building that dates from 1625!

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If you would like to stay updated on our family travels as we go, then make sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook page.

 

 

Eze Village on the French Riviera

 

Eze is a beautiful village on top of a hill with possibly the best views over the French Riviera! Walk around on the narrow pedestrian streets and visit the art galleries and the beautiful botanical gardens. The small town is located between Nice and Monaco and is easily accessible from both cities by bus. Don’t forget your camera!

What to do in Eze:

 

Eze is a small, car-free town with very narrow, cute streets often decorated with plants and flowers. A visit to Eze is all about taking in the views! There are a few things to visit, but most people really come for the beauty of the views. Depending on your interests, you will probably spend a half a day and you can therefore combine your visit to Eze with the beach or other nearby towns.

If you come to Eze by car, you will have to park in a parking lot and shuttle busses will take you to the entrance of the town. Right where the town begins, you will see perfumeries. Parfumerie Galimard and Parfumerie Fragonard are both located at the town entrance of Eze and can be visited.  Learn all about the process and history of perfume making in their factory, and about a job they call ‘Nose’. Both factories are open for visits every day.

 

In the center of Eze, you will find small shops with local products, and many art galleries. The main site to visit in Eze for most people are the Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Gardens offer you a stunning view over the Cote d’Azur coastline!

 

Where to eat in Eze:

Eze has something for every budget. There are a few small restaurants in Eze with terraces outside, and there is a small pancake restaurant on top just before entering the center of the village. The most famous restaurant however, is a more expensive and Michelin starred one, but eating there is an experience you will not soon forget and perfect for special celebrations. La Chèvre d’Or is a famous gastronomic restaurant, and hotel, and occupies a large part of the small town, with terraces with views over the sea. We had our lunch at the Chevre d’Or in the ‘Café du Jardin’ part, and we can highly recommend it!

 

Their website: https://www.chevredor.com/restaurants-bars/le-cafe-du-jardin/

How to get to Eze:

Eze Village is in easy reach by public transport for a day trip from Nice or Monaco!

Eze – Nice: From Nice to Eze you should take bus 82 or bus 112 to Eze Village.

Eze – Monaco: From Monaco to Eze, you should take bus 112.

If you are interested in other daytrips on the French Rivièra, then this article might be of interest to you:

 

 

 

Harry Potter trip to London

Expelliarmus! A Harry Potter trip to London!

“It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” ― Albus Dumbledore

Are your kids Harry Potter fans? Did they see the Harry Potter movies or read J.K. Rowling’s books? Then they will love a Harry Potter themed trip to London! Not only can you see the real movie set with the Great Hall, the class rooms and Gringotts Wizarding Bank, but you can also fly your own broomstick and have a Butter Beer at the Warner Bros Studio Tour, or visit some Harry Potter film locations in central London.

All aboard on the Hogwarts Express!

London is a great city to take the kids to. When we decided to go on a Harry Potter themed weekend to London, it was our third trip to London with kids, so we had done most of the city’s highlights. However, it is still cool to walk around in London and cross the Tower Bridge, or eat an English Breakfast at Borough Market. We walked around London to find some of the Harry Potter film locations, and that took us to a beautiful place in London that we hadn’t visited on previous trips at all.

Leadenhall market – Diagon Alley in London

Leadenhall market in London is a beautiful Victorian covered market where some of the scenes of Diagon Alley were filmed. What a gorgeous place! You can immediately see why Diagon Alley was inspired by this location with all the colorful shops. The pub ‘the Leaky Cauldron’ can also be found here (42 Bull’s Head Passage), although apparently later on it was also filmed at Borough Market. We saw some other Potter fans in Leadenhall market and it made us feel like we were walking on the movie set.

Borough Market

We tried to find the second Leaky Cauldron in the Borough Market area, but that was not easy and not so recognizable anymore. The Borough Market is a great area to explore anyway so that did not matter. We had our English Breakfast in the known market café called Maria’s Market Café And then wandered around. The address of the Leaky Cauldron is supposed to be: Stoney Street number 7. We saw a restaurant at that location (see photo below). Apparently, this was used for the entrance to the pub in the Harry Potter film. The beautiful Pub on the angle of the street the ‘Market Porter Pub’ was also used in one of the films.

Platform 9 ¾

You will find Platform 9 ¾ at London’s Kings Cross Station where you can take your picture while you try to run through the wall to head to the Hogwarts Express. Sometimes there is a line for this photo opportunity and if you were planning to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour anyway, please note you can also take this photo there.

“I solemnly swear I am up to no good.” ― Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter Walking Tour London

We just walked around to find the locations for ourselves, but many Harry Potter walking tours can be taken in London, so if you prefer and would not like to miss any of the locations this could be an option for you.

Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour London

This was so much fun!!!

Alohomora! Open the door to Harry Potters World and the real film sets!

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Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio is located outside of London, at about an hour by public transport. You can either take a train to Watford and then the special Harry Potter Bus, or, you can pre reserve a coach which leaves from Victoria Coach Station or Baker Street in Central London. The last option was what we did and we thought it was just perfect. During the trip a Harry Potter movie is shown on the bus to get in the mood for the world of magic. We reserved our bus at Golden Tours as that one was recommended on the Warner Bros website.

Harry Potter entrance tickets

When you have bought your Harry Potter Studio Tour entrance tickets, you will have chosen an entrance time. Allow at least 3 hours for the full visit of the studios, and prepare to spend a lot of time in the shop.

The visit starts with the Great Hall of Hogwarts and that’s also where the feeling of magic starts! As you continue to move in the studio you will get to a cool broomstick flight simulation. You will get on a broomstick and the staff shows you the moves. If you are willing to buy the video for 20 pounds, you will have a video of yourself flying though London, over the train tracks and arriving at Hogwarts.

You can also try to lift up a broomstick, learn all about Quidditch, see the classroom sets, Professor Dumbledore’s Office, and the Gryffindor boys’ dormitory. Kids can search for Golden Snitches in the Harry Potter Passport you get at the entrance, but we actually forgot we had those when we walked through the magic wizarding world.

New at the Harry Potter Studio Tour was the part with Gringotts Wizarding Bank and a cool part with special effects with the dragon.

About half way through the tour, do take your time to taste a real Butter Beer! Yum! It was actually not bad! Right after the restaurant you will get to Pivet Drive where you can see Harry’s family’s house and his room underneath the stairs.

If you continue you will get to the Howarts Express and Platform 9 ¾ with its photo opportunity.

We enjoyed this day a lot and it is really recommended for all Harry Potter fans!

Family friendly hotel in London

Since you will probably not only go to the studios in Watford, it is still best to stay in central London! We can recommend two good family friendly places. One hotel has a view on the Tower of London, which is one of our preferred places to visit in London with small kids:

And the other hotel is close to Borough Market, and at walking distance from Leadenhall Market (Diagon Alley) as well. To see this hotel recommendation, click here.

Would you like to do other things in London as well, then check out our article on visiting London with kids!