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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!

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!

 

 

 

Bruges city break with kids!

Bruges in Belgium is the perfect European city break to enjoy with kids! Bruges, or Brugge in Flemish, is a small city and the center has some car free zones which allows families to easily explore the picturesque center by foot. A boat ride on the lovely canals of Bruges will surely be to the liking of all family members and the city is filled with beautiful architecture and historic buildings. Belgium has a lot of food specialties everyone will like: waffles, chocolate, and fries are probably the most famous ones.

What to do in Bruges?

The center of Bruges is very easy to explore by foot, and there are many incredible buildings and sites very close together. We thought the beauty of the buildings, the number of churches, and the variety in architecture was amazing! From the Markt, the main square of Bruges with the Belfort tower, which you can visit and get to the top, to the picturesque little canals and the romantic bridges. Bruges is one of the cities which is also called the ‘Venice of the North’ and therefore a short boat trip on the canals of  Bruges cannot be missed. We took the boat on the Rozenhoedkaai and the trip lasted for about a half an hour. Definitely a must-do!

There is a particularly beautiful bridge called the ‘Bonifaciusbrug’ which is a scenery for many local wedding shoots. The bridge is also known as ‘the bridge of love’.

Confirming the comparison of Bruges with Venice, we did spot the Bruges version of the Bridge of Sighs, and it may just be the more sophisticated version of it as this one is covered with golden ornaments. You can find it in the Blinde Ezelstraat.

We were generally amazed by the number of churches and cathedrals or other religious buildings. Amazing to see such rich history and architecture on so few square meters. Bruges must have had a prosperous past!

Bruges Fries Museum

Totally kids approved! Learn all about the history of the potato, and fries of course, whose origin can be disputed but according to the museum, no fries like Belgian fries. The secret seems to be found in the frying process which should be done twice. Kids will like the play area, where they can manage their own small fries stand! Also, where else would be best to taste some fries than here? At the bottom floor you can order your fries which come in the traditional triangle shaped paper bag, and we must admit: they were very good!

Chocolate Museum Bruges

Competitor of Swiss chocolate. Personally, we think taste may differ as backgrounds differ. My Swiss husband thinks Swiss chocolate tastes best, and I am from the Netherlands and the taste of Belgian chocolate is somewhat closer to home for me and the taste of it more ‘familiar’. In Bruges you can visit the chocolate museum, Choco-Story, which has real good reviews. We decided to taste Belgian chocolate in one of the many shops and take some home with us.

What to eat in Belgium?

Fries, chocolate, and waffles of course. Waffles come in all sorts! Waffles with chocolate, with strawberries, with whipped cream, and the list goes on! Our kids wanted to taste it all! Other typical Belgian dishes to order in restaurants: Mussels and fries, Beef stew (cooked in Belgian beer), ‘Waterzooi’, a soup with vegetables and chicken, and Shrimp Croquettes. In Bruges, some beer tasting for the adults at local breweries can be done. We like brewery De Halve Maan, which is also a museum and a good place to have lunch.

Where to stay in Bruges

We loved our hotel in the center of Bruges! There is no better way to enjoy Bruges with kids, than when you stay right in the center. Our hotel was located on a street behind the Belfort tower and the Markt with its many terraces. It allows you to rest a bit at the end of the afternoon, and go back out right in the center at night for dinner. The rooms were good, and the hotel is quite modern.

Brussels to Bruges

If you are coming from Brussels to Bruges, it will only take you an hour and a half by car. It is also easy to get from Brussels to Bruges by public transport by taking a train which will take about an hour and ten minutes.

Once in Bruges, do you know you are only 2 hours by car from one of the oldest amusement parks in the world? Yes, the Efteling Park in the Netherlands is in easy reach by car and makes for a great trip with kids! Read all about the Efteling here.

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

 

Hikes on the French Rivièra

Hikes on the French Rivièra, near Saint-Raphael

There are many reasons why we love the Cote d’Azur. One of them is because of the hiking possibilities. Part of our family loves the mountains, and part of our family loves the sea. On the French Rivièra, and particularly near Saint-Raphael, these two are combined in a breathtaking way!

Every time we go, we do at least one hike on the Esterel mountains near Saint-Raphael, which are also called the ‘Red Rocks’. It’s a beautiful scenery with the contrast between the red color of the mountains and the deep blue sea. From high above the mountains, you will have a view on the scenic coastal road called ‘la route de la corniche d’or’. We usually head up on the Massif de l’Esterel right before reaching Agay and walk on the ‘Sentier des  Senteurs’, which is not a round loop hike but filled with lovely smells of the south and views of the coast.

There are three other hikes we recommend to do during your French Rivièra holidays: the Lakes of Villepey in Saint-Aygulf, the Sentier du Littoral along the coastline in Saint-Raphael, and the hike towards the ‘Pont des Tuves’ the Pays de Fayence countryside!

Les Etangs de Villepey

 

Just behind the beach of Saint-Aygulf is the protected nature reserve of the lakes called ‘Etangs de Villepey’. It’s like a laguna which results of the encounter of the salt water of the sea and the pure water coming from inland. It often feels as if people don’t see it’s just there when they park to go to the popular beaches of Saint-Aygulf, but the nature reserve lies just behind the beach parking lot. A beautiful wooden bridge and observatory is constructed, but you can also walk along the small paths in nature to explore the lakes further around.

Le Sentier du Littoral

The coastline walking trail, or Sentier du Littoral, is a breathtaking hike! The same color of red of the Esterel mountains continue right by the sea, and you can walk for quite a long while next to the coast. We started our hike at the beach ‘Plage du Camp Long’, also known as ‘Tiki Plage’ and headed towards the Cap Dramont. We continued along the coast and hiked up to the Dramont and then back in a round loop to the parking lot. Lots of beautiful plants and rock formations can be seen along the way! Wear good shoes!

We hiked for about 2 hours which is a shorter version of the total hike which goes from Port Santa Lucia in Saint-Raphael, all the way to Agay (total 11 km) with some points described as ‘difficult’.

Pont des Tuves hike

This is quite a steep hike, but one you will not regret! We did this hike with our 9-year-old, and it took us 2.5 hours total. The difficulty is to hike back up.

Starting point: Montauroux, on the parking lot of the Stade du Défens and the rope adventure park.

The road towards the starting point will lead you to the hilltop villages of the countryside of the Pays de Fayence region. You will pass the cute village of Montauroux, and you will be close to the town of Callian which is picturesque and worth a stop.

The hike leads you through a forest and so lots of shade on hot days. It is very well sign-posted so you cannot miss it. The Pont des Tuves is a bridge dating from 1802, which crosses the Siagne river, from Montauroux towards the village of Saint-Cézaire. You will have a view on Saint-Cézaire during the hike at several points. People swim in the Siagne river although the water is very cold. You will see people jumping off the bridge and there is a small waterfall for an adventurous shower on the other side of the bridge. If you would like to swim but not jump, or, if you took the hike with small kids, there is a small beach area to your left, at about 50 meters from the bridge while staying on the same side of the water. After the hike, we did swim despite the cold water and it was nice and refreshing! One of the most beautiful hikes we did on the Cote d’Azur!

In case you would like to explore more hikes, the nature around and hike towards the Broken Dam of Malpasset in Fréjus is really interesting as well. The history of the site is sad, but nature blooms around it. To see this hike, check out our article on the Broken Dam of Malpasset:

For our top 5 of Best Beaches around Saint-Raphael, check out this article:

 

Camargue Holidays With Kids

Camargue, the Wild West of the South of France.

The Camargue is a great place to spend your holidays. It feels less explored and lies between the Cote d’Azur and the Languedoc-Roussillon regions. The Camargue is a very interesting region to visit with kids, as there is a lot to learn. On nature, on the pink Flamingo birds that have their home here, to spot wild horses and bulls and to see the remarkable pink colored salt ponds or green rice fields. But there is more. You can combine your visit to the Camargue with fun at the beach, and by visiting the town of Arles, with its art scene and incredible remains of Roman times.

Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is the capital of the Camargue region and easiest to choose as a base to explore the surroundings. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is also the town which hosts the pilgrimage of gypsies once a year on May 24th, when gypsies come to celebrate their culture and honor their patron Saint Sara. In summer, when tourists come to the small seaside town, you will still find a lot of the typical Flamenco guitar music of gypsies in the restaurants to animate summer dinners.

You can climb on top of the Cathedral of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, and enjoy the panoramic view over the town and the Camargue region.

Restaurant recommandations in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer:

We have been to two very good restaurants Les-Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, which we would highly recommend:

  • La Maison de Jeanne, this restaurant is on the small square right in front of the Cathedral. Good regional cuisine using fresh products. Make sure you reserve before as we have seen they had to turn people away.
  • Le Chante Clair, a bit more expensive, but very very good!
  • Bistrot Fanneu – simple, but good and a relax and fun atmosphere. For drinks or a light lunch.

Aigues-Mortes

Aigues-Mortes is a medieval walled town which is very beautiful to visit. It is car-free, so there are big parking lots outside of the town. Since it was warm and crowded, we decided to go in the evening, which is very nice. You can also decide to go early and on market day. The market, which is held around the walls, is on Sundays and Wednesdays. Near Aigues-Mortes you can visit the salt ponds, but we decided to go to the ponds in Salin-de-Giraud.

Restaurant tip in Aigues-Mortes: Restaurant Piou, reserve in advance!

Camargue Salt Ponds, Salin-de-Giraud

The town itself didn’t appeal so much to us, but we stopped at the viewpoint of the pink salt ponds and were amazed by that view which seems to change into different shades of pink with the light. Our children liked walking around and looking at the salt crystals that form on the side of the water. Interesting to learn is that the water turns pink because of a micro algae bacterium which is then eaten by shrimps, and the shrimps eaten by the Flamingo birds. In the end, this is what gives the Flamingo its pink color! We never knew this! You can request for a guided tour, or visit the salt ponds by bike.

Camargue Natural Regional Park and the Camargue Flamingo bird

The Bird Park Pont de Grau is a beautiful place to observe Flamingos and other animals from close by! You can walk for as long as you want, unless you forgot your mosquito repellent, then you will be out sooner than you may have wished for 😊. The Camargue Natural Regional Park consists of protected wetlands which allows you to observe so many birds here. It is also why there are mosquitoes. Signs are there to explain why they do not treat against mosquitoes, and again, we were fine. The Flamingos, who always come back here, are totally free. A sign says that a Flamingo who leaves the Camargue at 15h00, could be spotted on the Italian island Sardinia the next day at 10h00. Our hotel advised us to go just before 19h00, in order to see the Flamingos come back. We did that but didn’t see any bird flying. They were already there. 19h00 is the last entrance time to the park, but you are free to exit whenever you would like.

Camargue Wild Horses

The White Camargue Horse are wild horses because they live in freedom. All the horses apparently do have owners though, but you will see them walking around freely in the swamps of the Camargue. At a lot of places you can book a horseback riding trip through nature or on the beach. We did not do this activity, so no particular recommendation on where to go.

Visiting Arles

We loved Arles! It is a cultural city where important times of history come together. Arles has some of the most important Roman ruins and they are very well preserved. There’s the Arena, the Roman Amphitheatre, the baths, and the crypto portico, an underground forum.

Arles through the eyes of Van Gogh

Apart from Roman sites, we also very much liked all the references to places where the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh went and created his work. Van Gogh lived in Arles in 1888 for a year and created numerous paintings here. We first visited the Van Gogh Bridge, also known as Pont de Langlois, just outside of Arles. The surrounding area was less beautiful and rural than in Van Gogh’s time, but still nice to go to the approximate place where he sat to paint.

The bridge on the river is not the actual bridge, which was unfortunately destroyed but an old bridge of the same type was placed here.

In the center of Arles, we also went to the Café Van Gogh, which was the decor of Van Gogh’s painting ‘Terrace of a Café by Night’. Really cool to talk with our children about art and culture at exactly those spots where the painter has been. It makes the history come to live for them.

The Van Gogh Foundation in Arles is also worth a visit, but not to see many of Van Gogh’s paintings. There are only 5 of them to be seen here. However, the Foundation has exhibitions of contemporary artists that they compare to Van Gogh.

Center of Arles

Arles is a typical Provencal town with its beautiful color of houses with the window shutters. Near the Roman Arena there are narrow streets and we love to wander around on those. We saw a lot of posters stuck to the walls of the old town, most of them for photo exhibitions. We personally like to see the posters, or sometimes streetart, which gives you a good feeling of what’s happening in a city.

We loved Arles!!

Camargue Beaches

To get to beautiful, or even lonely beaches, you would have to get a bit away from Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. We recommend the following beaches, depending on what you like.

  1. Farniente Plage, a beach club near Saintes-Maries, where you could rent beds and eat on site.
  2. Plage de Piémanson, continue the road after the salt ponds of Salin-en-Giraud you will drive on a beautiful road in the middle of nature, with water on both sides of the road. You will end up at a big parking lot, with only a first aid spot and then a very, very large beach… Walk a bit towards the right to make sure you get a bit away from crowds.
  3. Plage de Beauduc, if you walk even further you will get to this kitesurfing beach. No facilities, so make sure you bring all you need.

Where to stay in the Camargue:

Our hotel was a little slice of heaven! Nice family rooms, a big swimming pool, kind staff, and a jacuzzi. It was an easy stroll to the center and the restaurants.

 

If you prefer camping or glamping in the Camargue, we saw this campsite which was cool and had lunch there. The staff was really nice there as well!

 

 

 

 

Antibes with kids

Antibes is located between Cannes and Nice on the French Riviera. While the best beaches can be found in the area of Juan les Pins, the streets of the old town of Antibes are nice to stroll around in. When visiting Antibes with kids, make sure to take them to the Picasso museum, located by the sea in the Grimaldi castle.

Picasso Museum

The art work of Picasso and other artists represented is a type of art children can often relate to. It is colorful and some art works have the same animals or creatures coming back in several paintings which they will be able to recognize. The museum is free for children and you can download an app which will guide you through the museum and gives you the explanations.

Before arriving at the museum, we had seen a small house by the sea on top of the wall around Antibes, where Nicolas de Stael had lived. A lot of his art works are also represented in the Picasso museum.

Walking on the walls around Antibes

We liked walking on the walls around Antibes, from the Picasso Museum towards its big port ‘Port Vauban’, where you can see all the big boats, the ferris wheel, the square fort, and on the other side the sea and some small beaches, and art works. The big art work by the sea is made by artist Jaume Plensa and is called ‘Nomade’.

Old Town and Marché Provencal

Our kids like going to the market! We always do that while on holiday and they like to choose olives, tapenades, cheese, sausages and soap. The Marché Provencal in Antibes is a really nice one. We only saw small producers there, no big stalls selling everything which made us feel it was really local products. You will also see people cleaning fish on the spot to sell it. The covered market is on a street with restaurants and terraces which makes that a good spot to sit and watch the markets lively scene.

Address of the Marché Provencal in Antibes: Cours Masséna. Open daily from 6:00 – 13:00.

The Old Town streets of Antibes have a pedestrian only zone with little boutique shops with local products. There was one shop we couldn’t resist entering, La Belle Iloise. A shop filled with small and colorful canned tin boxes of sardines and other small fish in different mixtures; with olives, tomato, whole fish or in spreadable form. The nice lady in the shop explained it has been a family business for over 80 years. We chose our own colorful canned fish and were very happy with the discovery of this cute shop!

Address of La Belle Iloise in Antibes: 28 Rue de la République

When you are done discovering the town of Antibes, your kids will probably be happy to head to the beach! There is a small beach behind the wall, but you can also head towards Juan les Pins!

Other articles that may interest you if you are heading to the French Riviera:

                  

A visit to Gruyères in Switzerland

Gruyères is a beautiful medieval town located on top of a hill in the Fribourg region of Switzerland. It is part of the Grand Tour of Switzerland of must see places, famous for its cheese making and locally known for its ‘double crème de Gruyère’, a thick cream that one eats on meringues. Gruyères is a popular escape for a day trip, but the surroundings have more to offer than just for one day. Check out all we like to do when we visit Gruyères.

Gruyères Town

Gruyères is a small, medieval, and car-free town. The main square of the walled town is filled with restaurants serving the local specialties, and shops. The houses are beautifully decorated with flowers, wall paintings and other small details. The castle of Gruyères is one of the famous Swiss castles, but what one would less expect is that Gruyères is also home to the HR Giger Museum. HR Giger is the Swiss artist who created creatures like Alien. The artist liked Gruyères and decided to open his museum here. In front of the museum you will see the Giger Bar with an impressive ceiling and extraordinary chairs.

Castle

We like visiting castles, and the medieval castle of Gruyères is definitely a beautiful one. The castle and its collection gives you a very good impression of what life in the middle ages must have been like in Gruyères. There is the knights room, the historic kitchen, beautiful gardens, and views on the surrounding mountains from every angle. The castle also has a small chapel on the outside.

One surprising item on display in the castle is the ‘chopped off hand’. People had been wondering about this hand for years and stories went from the hand of a thief, to something brought back from fights, but recent discoveries showed it is actually the hand of an Egyptian mummy bought by the wealthy family who lived in Gruyères castle.

To see other Castles to visit in Switzerland, check out our article on Swiss castles:

Cheese

Gruyère cheese must be the most famous Swiss cheese. Before reaching the town of Gruyères, you will pass by the ‘Maison de la Gruyère’ cheese factory where you can learn about cheese making, and buy cheese directly in the big shop. Since tourist buses also stop here, it can sometimes be a bit busy.

Website of Maison de la Gruyère : https://www.lamaisondugruyere.ch/homepage-en/

Chocolate

Even though you could also buy chocolate in the ‘Maison de la Gruyère’ a visit to a chocolate factory is much more fun. Near Gruyères, you can visit Maison Cailler in Broc. You can make this experience even more fun by following a chocolate workshop or by doing the Cailler escape game.

Website of the Cailler chocolate factory: https://cailler.ch/en/maison-cailler

What to eat in Gruyères?

Gruyères has plenty of restaurants to choose from and most of them serve typical local dishes, often containing cheese. Cheese crusts (croute au fromage), fondue and raclette are on almost every restaurants menu as is the famous dessert. No visit to the town of Gruyères is complete without a ‘Meringue à la double crème’ in one of the towns restaurants!

Hiking and fun near Gruyères

If you are finished visiting Gruyères, exploring the beautiful surroundings for a hike, or for some summer fun can be a good idea. We usually head to Moléson-sur-Gruyères. This is a fantastic place for the entire family and offers a view on Lake Gruyères from above.

Moléson combines nature and fun! You have two choices, either to take the small funicular up, or walk up. On top, several hikes can be done, or you can also just go down again for some more family fun! At Moléson there are bouncy castles for kids in summer, a summer coaster, minigolf, and other activities. We usually eat at the Fromagerie d’Alpage (https://www.moleson.ch/en/cheese-dairy-1100-m/).

Thermal Baths

The Bains de la Gruyère, or Bains de Charmey are modern thermal baths at a short driving distance. A really nice place with an outdoor and indoor area and beautiful views on the surrounding mountains.

Their website: http://www.bainsdelagruyere.ch/

Hotel near Gruyères

Right in front of the thermal baths is a nice hotel in typical Swiss style which has their own access tunnel to the baths. Check out this hotel recommendation here.

How to get to Gruyères

By car: travelling by car is the easiest since it will then get you from Gruyères to the cheese factory and onwards to Moléson or to Charmey. From Geneva to Gruyères will take you approximately an hour and a half.

To Gruyères by public transport: You can get to Gruyères by Public transport by taking a train and then a bus. More information on public transport to Gruyères can be found on the website of the Swiss railway: https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html

Other beautiful places to visit near Gruyères:

About 45 minutes by car from Gruyères is the famous resort town Gstaad Saanen. If you would like to hike and enjoy a cheese fondue in a big fondue pot in the outdoors, then check out our blog post on Gstaad. Typical Swiss experience guaranteed!

 

 

 

Gstaad in summer

Picture this: amazing hikes, a cheese fondue in the outdoors with the most impressive scenery, an arty pop-up hotel, and iconic Swiss wooden buildings. Gstaad Saanen is a great place to spend a few days in summer in the mountains!

Gstaad Saanen lies in the Bernese Oberland region in Switzerland and really has a lot to offer for everyone. The village has had famous visitors over the years but has managed to keep its authentic Swiss village feel. The picturesque wooden chalet style houses in both Gstaad and Saanen village are often covered with flowers in summer.

Things to do in Gstaad:

From hiking, to a scooter bike trail, or learning all about traditional cheese making, there are a lot of summer activities to do in Gstaad and Saanen.

Hiking in Gstaad:

There are many hiking trails to choose from. A very scenic hiking trail is the one that leaves from the top of the Wispile cable car (1911m) towards the scenic mountain lake Lauenensee.

Lauenensee

The hike to Lauenensee from Wispile takes about 3 hours and has some steep parts. A very beautiful hike! Two beautiful waterfalls can be seen on the way. There is a restaurant at the starting point at Wispile, which also has a playground for kids, and also one at the end at Lauenensee. You can opt for the hike towards the village of Lauenen which will cut your hike for about an hour shorter, but then you will miss the mountain lake. Both at Lauenen and at Lauenensee, there is a bus stop which will take you back to Gstaad. The bus ticket is included in your cable car ticket. Make sure to check out the time table of the bus beforehand. We had the last bus of the day to take us back.

Website for more information: https://www.gstaad.ch/en/summer/hiking/hikes/detail/wispile-chrine-lauenensee.html

And for the bus timetable, you just enter Lauenensee on the Swiss Postbus website: https://www.postauto.ch/en/timetable

Alternatives:

From the top of the Wispile cable car, you can also do the cheese trail instead of the Lauenensee hike. The cheese trail is about 2 km long and you can learn about the traditional way of cheese making from information panels on the way.

From the middle station of the Wispile cable car, you can also take a fun scooter bike to get back down! This activity is recommended for children as of 12 years old.

Cheese fondue in style

It actually doesn’t get any better than this! Fondueland Gstaad is a great concept which allows you to pick up a Swiss style ‘ready to go’ cheese fondue backpack at several participating dairy shops in Gstaad or Saanen. All you have to add is your favorite drink and check out which of the fondue pot picknick tables or huts you would like to head for. There are two huts and three fondue pots on different hikes. A fondue pot can seat about 8 people. The huts are suitable when the weather is uncertain. In case the fondue pot or hut is occupied, just find yourself a good spot in nature to enjoy the fondue. We went to the fondue pot on the Lauenensee trail, which is about 40 minutes from the Wispile cable car.

Saanen:

The village of Saanen is just as beautiful as Gstaad with its wooden chalet buildings. There is a museum about the region, there are toy cars on the main square, and some restaurants. We had our dinner in restaurant 16th which serves burgers and Thai food and also does take-away! Website: https://www.16eme.ch/

Where to stay in Gstaad Saanen?

Pop-up hotel in Saanen

On top of the hill in Saanen, with beautiful views over Gstaad, lies a pop-up hotel with a bit of an arty decoration style. The pop-up hotel will only be in use for 1 year, as after that it will be transformed into a 5-star hotel. So if you would like to seize the opportunity to stay at a 5-star location for a better price, then here is your chance. The hotel also rents out e-bikes, has a good breakfast, a selfie room for some fun, and at night you can serve yourself to eat something which you will pay later with the hotel bill.

                       

Family friendly hotel in Gstaad:

This hotel is known to be family friendly and has an indoor swimming pool, 2 restaurants and a fondue chalet.

Do you prefer another typical Swiss dish than cheese fondue to accompany you on your hike? Prepare your own Birchermuesli and take that with you like we did in Blatten near the Aletsch Glacier.

Would you like to discover more of the Bernese Oberland region? Check out our article on Blausee and Oeschinensee in the Kander Valley.

Verona with kids

Verona with kids!

Verona, the City of Love, is in the Veneto region in Italy. It is most known as the setting of Shakespeare’s tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet, but there is much more to explore in Verona! Walking the beautiful pedestrian streets of Verona’s old town, with its colorful houses, amazed us by the different styles in architecture of the buildings. Yes, Verona has more beautiful balconies than the one on ‘Juliet’s house’. Whether you would like to stay overnight, or if you are spending only a day on a trip from Garda or Venice, it is the small size of the city which makes it easy to explore Verona with kids.

Things to do in Verona

Arena

Head to the Citta Antica, the Old Town of Verona. Once you have passed the gate of the old city, you will almost immediately be on Piazza Bra where the Arena of Verona is located. This Arena is the 3rd largest amphitheater in Italy and is famous for the Opera shows being held here.

We had a good pizza near the Arena in a restaurant called: Le Cantine de l’Arena.

Romeo and Juliet

After the Arena, we headed towards ‘Juliets house’. Juliets house, and the balcony, is one of the most known places to visit for romantic tourism. Juliets balcony is a fantasy setting though, made after Shakespeare’s famous play. The beautiful balcony is located on an old building in which some people recognized the Capulets family house, but most people say the balcony was only added much later.

Even though the place is not real, it still is beautiful to visit a place where people declare love. Writings of love can be found scribbled on the walls surrounding Juliets house, and little love letters are tucked in the holes in the wall.

The balcony

Below the balcony, you will see a statue of Juliet. The story goes that singles should rub the statues’ right breast for good luck in love, in case you were wondering why you see people doing that.

Romeo and Juliet, an Immersive Experience

We went to the Romeo and Juliet Immersive Experience in Verona which is well done and a fun activity! You follow the story, told by actors on screens, and you move from room to room as the story goes by. They also compare Romeo and Juliet with similar love stories from around the world like the story of Pyramus and Thisbe. The last part of the experience is with virtual reality glasses (of a bit less quality, but ok). Since this is the tragic part of the story, think in advance if you think your children are up for it, or at least make sure to tell them in advance. The visit of the immersive experience takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

 

If the kids are getting hungry they will probably like the different shops where you can buy fruit and have warm chocolate poured over it. This one is from Venchi Verona on Via Giuseppe Mazzini 44.

 

The colorful streets of Verona’s Old Town.

Piazza delle Erbe

Not far from Juliets house, you will find a beautiful Piazza called Piazza delle Erbe with its terraces and market stalls. This Piazza is located on the same spot where the Forum of Verona used to be located. Make sure to look up to see the beautiful frescos on some of the buildings!

Duomo

The Duomo di Verona, or ‘Cattedrale di Santa Maria Matricolare’ has a big angel statue standing outside of the cathedral, and is also worth peeking in to.

Ponte Pietra

The Old Town of Verona is surrounded by the Adige river, so our walk through the city got us to a part where we walked along the river and crossed a beautiful old bridge (100 BC) called Ponte Pietra. The bridge has a long history of collapses by floodings, and has also been destroyed by bombs during WWII, but has since then been rebuilt using original materials.

San Pietro Castle

On the other side of the bridge you will be able to take a funicular up towards the castle. You can also reach the castle by foot, by taking the stairs next to the Roman Theatre.

Where to stay in Verona?

Family Friendly Hotel near Verona Arena:

We were very happy with our hotel very close to the Old City and the Arena. The hotel has a parking lot, and large apartments for families. They had free bikes for the guests to use as well, but depending on the crowds could be less useful in the old town on busy days. The staff was really helpful. Restaurants and cafés are just around the corner of the hotel, amongst others a Eataly Hamburger restaurant.

 

 

 

Visiting Bologna with kids

Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, is often overlooked as a city to explore in Italy! A lot of people head to Tuscan cities, or to Venice and Rome. But Bologna is an authentic and very interesting city to visit with kids and is still untouched by mass tourism. The red city, La Rossa, as Bologna is often referred to because of the terracotta color of its buildings, is an important student town and home to the oldest university in the world. It has a lively urban scene of street musicians and artists, long and beautiful porticoes, medieval towers, and delicious food! Bologna’s city center has a limited traffic zone which makes walking around the city center with kids a lot easier!

Top things to do in Bologna with kids:

Walking the porticoes

Bologna really has a lot of beautiful porticoes, in total, you could walk 38 kilometers of porticoes in the city! Perfect when it rains, but they also protect you from the sun on hot days. We loved walking around under the many porticoes where you will find little shops, bars and cafés, or little bakeries where our kids love to choose their breakfast. Bologna’s porticoes have been nominated a UNESCO World heritage site.

Medieval Towers

There used to be around 100 towers in Bologna, a sort of Manhattan of the Middle Ages. Most of them did not survive through the centuries, but there are still a few in Bologna. Two towers, ‘Le Due Torri’, still proudly stand right in the center of the city and make for the most recognizable landmark of the city. The tallest of the two towers is the Asinelli Tower which is 97.2 meters high. The Asinelli tower can be visited if your kids are up to the climb of the 498 steps. It definitely is one of the highlights of visiting Bologna with kids as the view over the Red City from above is absolutely beautiful! The stairs that go up are at some point a bit steep, so keep that in mind depending on your kids’ age, but it is really worth it! The smaller sister of the Asinelli tower is the Garisendi tower which stands right next to it. Although both towers are leaning, this is really clearly visible when you look at the Garisendi tower.

Ticket price to visit the Asinelli Tower: 5 euros for adults, 3 euros for kids. You can buy your tickets for the Asinelli tower at the Bologna Welcome Center, but it is often quite busy there, so if you would like to avoid to stand in line, you can order your tickets in advance on: www.duetorribologna.com.

Piazza Maggiore

For most people, this central square is the starting point of a visit to Bologna.  The square has some major administrative buildings on it, the Clock Tower, and the San Petronio Cathedral, the Duomo of Bologna. The Duomo of Bologna is most known for its unfinished façade.

Fontana del Nettuno

Adjacent to the Piazza Maggiore is the Piazza Nettuno with its Fontana del Nettuno. When we were there, the fountain was unfortunately under construction.

Food, and the streets behind the Piazza Maggiore

From Piazza Maggiore you can walk through the narrow streets of an area called ‘La Quadrilatero’ where the old medieval market used to be. Those lively and odorous streets are filled with little shops selling the most delicious foods, and with restaurants where you can eat while watching people pass by. We had a declicous Tagliere for lunch at La Baita, Vecchia Malga (Via Pescherie Vecchie 3A). A Tagliere is a big platter with local hams and cheeses to share, often served with bread and mozzarella. We also had delicious artichokes on the side.

Little Train to San Luca or Hop on Hop off Red Bus

In case the kids are tired of walking. From the same Piazza Maggiore, you can take the little train ‘San Luca Express’, to go to the Basilica di San Luca which lies just a bit outside of town and which is one of Bologna’s must-sees. The road to the Basilica will lead you next to the city’s longest portico!

Another way to explore Bologna if your kids are tired of walking is of course on one of the Hop on Hop off Red Busses.

Street performers and the medieval towers in the background.

Gelato

Not in the city, but close by is the Carpigiani Gelato Museum. Learn all about the history, the culture and the process of making a Gelato here. They offer different tours and cooking classes suitable with kids! We didn’t take a gelato class here this time, as we had recently done a Gelato class in Rome, but it is definitely on our list for our next visit to Bologna! More information about this museum: https://www.gelatomuseum.com/en

FICO Eataly World Bologna

FICO Eataly World is a park where you can learn all about the culture and traditions of Italian food and agriculture. You can learn all about different regional specialties, reserve tours or experiences, watch shows of Italian food being made right in front of you, visit the animals, take cooking classes, and, since the site is quite big, you can either hop on a park train, or on special three wheeled bikes equipped with a fridge to explore FICO Eataly Food and agriculture park!

You can check their calendar of experiences or activities and plan your visit through their website: https://www.eatalyworld.it/en/what-is-fico

 

Museums and playgrounds in Bologna

The Bologna Welcome Center has a cool map for visiting Bologna with kids, which includes a playground in the Margherita Gardens, and museums like the Museum of History of Bologna or the Museum of Zoology.

You can download this map here from their website.

What to eat in Bologna

Bologna, and the region of Emilia Romagna, has a very important and well-known food culture, as a lot of typical Italian delicacies have their origin here. From Bologna, or close to Bologna are: Mortadella Ham (baloney), Parmigiano Cheese (from Parma), Grana Padano cheese (often made in the area of Piacenza), Parma Ham, Piadina flat bread sandwiches from the region Emilia Romagna, Balsamico vinegar from Modena, and more of these local delicacies. Bolognese sauce is known worldwide and often a favorite pasta dish for kids, but in Italy, the sauce is known as ‘ragù’ and looks slightly different. In Bologna, they hardly ever come with spaghetti, but more often with Tagliatelle.

Parking close to the center if you visit Bologna only a day:

If you come by car and you would like to park near the city center, we were lucky to find a small parking in the street Viacole San Damiano where they park the car for you and you can then easily walk around in the city.

Day trips from Bologna:

  • Ravenna, the beautiful town itself, or to go to the beach and see the authentic fishing huts on the Pier.
  • Verona, City of Love and of Opera. Stroll the colorful streets of Verona and admire the different styles in architecture. Visit the fantasy setting of the house of Juliet of Romeo and Juliet. Check out what we loved to do there in our article on Verona:

  • Ferrari museum Modena, visit the old, small city of Modena and the close-by Ferrari Museum.
  • San Marino, micro-state, visit the principality of San Marino with its well-maintained buildings, views over the hilly country side.

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