Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Month: May 2012

Beach time in The Hague

Daytime on the beach — lovely and hot but full beach.

heat wave

And then in the evening it is nice to sit out and have a drink. Sunset comes very late!

sunset on the north sea

Posted to The Netherlands by KateG on May 29, 2012 8:50 PM


Spent the day in Amsterdam today. The train was easy and fast (35 minutes) but we have to get down to the main station first so probably door to door is about 1:15 minutes. I’d forgotten how crowded the main station area was in Amsterdam and given the construction across the square it was a bit stressful but nevertheless fun. We had a free bus tour included in our Museum passes that we purchased so decided to use that first to get acclimated. It was nice and we were actually able to get on and off in a couple of places so used this to stop at the Van Gogh museum and then back to central. We did have to stop at a diamond “tour” before this, which turned out to be more about trying to sell us jewelry, and quite heavy on the commercial push. I don’t think the tour guide was impressed with Jacob’s question to her about the use of child labor in many countries to harvest diamonds. She got a little defensive!

Anyway we jumped off at the museum area and ate a snack in the park between Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum. There is a wading pool and playground plus big park for picnics. It’s fun and the Littles (and big kids) enjoyed the playground. It always makes me smile at the difference in playgrounds overseas as American ones have become so safety oriented that they are sterile. This one was quite dangerous in comparison but fun!

The museum was nice and not very crowded. I remember before being crammed in but it was very easy to see everything both up close and then to step back and see how the paintings change. The Littles wanted to see the sunflowers and were happy with that and then spotted a few more such as his bedroom painting that they recognized. Max’s favorite was the skull smoking. Gruesome but I used it for a quick anti-smoking lesson!

After the museum we spent an uncomfortable hour walking around looking for a place to eat. It was 4pm and so lunch had finished and dinner not started. We were in a quieter area which was neat but lacked choices of restaurants. Still we eventually found a great Italian place and tucked in. It was after 6 pm on Friday night and the crowds were changing and so I decided it was time to head out. We had a broken train and so had to change but apart from that and the incredible heat on the trains, it was an easy trip home. We were quite glad to be back in our quiet suburban area though. The hustle and bustle of Amsterdam tired us all out.

I forgot my camera so photos coming from Jake soon!


We spent a lovely day in Delft which is pretty close to The Hague and virtually connected. The trams run there so we don’t even need to get on a train and we can use our regular chipkaart for traveling. I think normally it will take about half an hour as we need to go into central area by bus and then change to the tram. We are getting faster and comfortable about which bus or tram goes where but still learning.

Delft town square

Anyway apart from the construction around the main station (everywhere we have been so far in the Netherlands has construction at the main train stations), Delft was lovely and quintessential Holland. Small streets along canals with lovely tall, row houses and ducks swimming by. We followed the spires of the churches and went to the main square as it was market day and so filled with stalls sandwiched between Nieuwe Kerk (new church 1381-1496) and city hall (built between 1300-1600).

old church from new church

We went into New Church which is the main burial place for the royal family and has the tomb of the William the Silent (founder of the country). The Littles were very taken with the dog at his feet – in marble – that supposedly loved him so much it stopped eating after he was assassinated. Max read about the rather gruesome death of William’s assassin (flesh torn off and disemboweled kind of thing) and was quite intrigued. I think they are becoming more interested in history!

delft new church

Then we climbed the tower which has 375 steps even smaller and more winding than Notre Dame. It is the second highest in The Netherlands. Poor Max was not happy but he made it. The views were amazing.

view from new church tower

Inside the church they were setting up for an evening concert and one of the organizers invited us to sit and watch the rehearsal. A famous Dutch pianist was playing with a small group of musicians and it was lovely. Amazing music and the acoustics were incredible. We were lucky to get this free show as the evening’s performance was sold out and looked pricey!

The market was neat and had good prices on fruits and vegetables. We were not prepared for shopping really but it spurred us on to find closer markets or to head back there with our snazzy wheelie cart and load up.

We ate a lovely old restaurant next to the city hall. Salads and sandwiches but notched up a bit (duck breast etc.). It was in a beautiful building and the back wall was from 1300s but the main part was much newer and “only” from the 1600s.

Delft market

I did not purchase any Delft pottery on this trip but will probably have to get a piece or two. I actually saw neat things in the antiques stalls in the market that I will explore more. Anyway Delft is lovely and will be a regular place to go to I think.


Heat Wave in The Hague

We have spent the last few days in a relative heat wave here. It’s been in the high 70s, sunny and dry. Over this weekend the beaches have been packed and it was fun watching hundreds of families on bicycles coming into the area. Five minutes walk around the corner is one entrance to the beach and the bikes pile up there. We also have a little food truck with French fries and ice creams etc. (Max and I love the white chocolate Magnum bars). Then across the dunes and on the beach are restaurants dotted around. They have outside seating with glassed in booths and some have low seating with big squishy pillows. All have children’s play equipment in front and trampolines and slides etc.

in the hague

We went out to watch the sunset on Saturday evening and it finally did around 9:45 pm. There were still lots of families sitting out but younger people came in and live music, disco balls, and dance floors started up. It looked fun although how some of the girls staggered across the sand in hugely high heels was surprising!

The heat is supposed to break this week and we are back to high 50s, low 60s. That will be a bit better for exploring as the buses and trains are not air conditioned and were unpleasant. We were gasping and dripping after a one hour train journey back from Amsterdam – the glass compartments with no air flow were very unpleasant. Still the journeys are short enough here.

Den Haag/The Hague

The house we are staying in for three months is lovely. We are in a suburb one street away from the dunes and beach and all the houses around us have lovely little gardens and the streets are treed and quiet. It’s amazing how much good use the people put their small gardens to use. Eating areas, play areas and gardens are carefully tucked in and highly manicured and neat. Our house is the top two floors with 3 bedrooms, 2 bath rooms and huge windows so the place is full of light and air. We have a balcony and the entire wall next to it is a window and can slide open. I think at night we can hear the ocean across the dunes – a dull roar.


The bus stops about 3 streets away and the tram is near the little shopping area about 6 streets (15 minute walk) away. There is an Aldi and Albert Hein grocery stores plus lots of other specialty shops including a fish shop that has raw and cooked fish relatively cheap – yum.

beach restaurants

Paris and then off

Even nicer weather today. We packed up and left all the suitcases at the hotel and had until 4 pm. We walked through the park right next to us – Buttes Chaumont

It was a really lovely park on a high hill with rivers and cliffs to climb up. I was amazed at the numbers of people jogging/running. People of all ages and shapes were out there in force exercising. Very nice to see.

This area has been fun to stay in because it is a regular neighbourhood and not touristy. It’s nice to see regular stores and people going about normal life.

latin quarte

We hit the Metro again and headed over to our favorite area: The Latin Quarter. I guess that’s expected our group would like this as the Sorbonne and other universities are there and it’s quite lively with college students. The mix of restaurants and people is fun. We went traditional food though and had a late prix fixe (price fixed) lunch of 3 courses. Max really wanted escargot as he loves them but wanted to try ones actually in Paris. The desserts were best to me – crème brulee and chocolate mousse!


We staggered back to the hotel, picked up bags and taxied off to Gare du Nord for the trains to The Hague. We had to change in Rotterdam with 7 minutes to get from one platform, downstairs, upstairs and onto new train. We could not have managed this without amazing help from a couple of Dutch men. Everyone is so nice.

cafe in paris

We arrived at Holland Spoor station, the boys ran across the street to buy some fast food to take home, got in a big taxi and headed to the house. It quickly felt like home.


Paris third day

An earlier start today and warmer! We headed up to Montmartre (more steps) and wandered around Sacre Coeur. Amazing views of the city again and there was a service going on inside so we got to see some of that and hear the nuns singing – pretty. Charlotte wanted to light candles and I can remember always wanting to do similar when I was her age and visiting various cathedrals. I think I got into trouble once lighting about 15 before I was stopped!


We found a neat restaurant and sat in the window consuming moules-frites in big quantities. All the children like these so it was a shuffle on the table to get the huge buckets on. We do pack a big crowd with 5 of us and of course tables and chairs just tend to be smaller and often rickety in many restaurants. But somehow we all manage. Waiters have all been so nice to me and to the children. No Parisian snootiness once on this trip! In fact people have been very friendly and helpful everywhere we go. The children do know a little French and so they are able to say thank you and goodbye types of things, which always makes people we deal with smile.

max and moules

Charlotte wore her pink beret style hat around town because it was chilly but she had also specifically bought it to take to Paris (and by golly she wanted to wear it). She also bought a “real” French one – pink of course. She plans to wear this back at home for art classes and when she paints.

candy floss

So after lunch we went off to the Arc de Triomphe and a walk down the Champs Elysees. The stores and restaurants there are a bit disappointing as they are now chains found all over the place (H&M, C&A,) and tacky burgers and souvenir shops. Every time I go back it seems to be bit lower in style but it’s still fun I guess. Jake shopped a little and then we hit the park where the kids had huge candy floss. More walking past palaces and bridges and through the Place de la Concorde. The history stories my mom used to tell me about guillotines and heads on bridges still remains in my memory and so I shared those with the children – hey have to pass on those things!

charlotte bridge


Then on to the Louvre. We went in about 4pm as it was late closing on Wednesday and is actually half off after 6pm but since the children were all free and only Jake and I had to pay we didn’t wait. We of course made straight for the Mona Lisa as both younger children had this on their must-do lists. It was not that crowded but still full in the room and of course now is behind glass and there are barriers in front to keep the crowds away. Max too one look and said “wow that’s lame,” and Charlotte announced “It looked a lot better in my books.” Isn’t that the joy of traveling – you get to see for yourself what all the hype is about and make your own decisions!


I am always surprised at how some art that is hyped up by the “experts” actually fails to wow me in person and yet other huge or intricate pieces stop me in my tracks and yet I have never heard of the artist.

We made it around the exhibits for about 2 hours but by this time were close to collapsing. Max was the most determined to keep going as he was loose in the Egyptian wing. He loves that and could spend hours looking and examining anything with hieroglyphs on it!

Another dinner of great wine and sandwiches and then collapsed into bed.


Posted to France by KateG on May 16, 2012 9:16 PM

Seeing the Sights Day One

We couldn’t believe it when we woke up at 10a.m after all sleeping about 12 hours solidly. So we quickly set off to see the sights. It was colder and rainier than the previous day and in fact the few storms we ran into also created problems for France’s newly sworn in president as his plane was hit by lightening when he flew out after the ceremony. We did not see the motorcade but heard many sirens while on top of Notre Dame so think that was related.

We purchased 2 day cards for the Metro (expensive!) and quickly became acclimated to jumping on and off trains. The little ones did great and by day 3 were pros at this. I am surprised as neither of them has any real experience with trains and buses before now.

Our first stop as Miss Charlotte demanded was to the Eiffel Tower. It never fails to wow me and the children felt likewise. We huddled together for photos and wandered around a bit but did not go up. One elevator was broken and tickets online were already being sold a month ahead. No one felt any desire to climb stairs in the blustery weather.

eiffel tower

So then since it was raining a bit it was off to take a boat trip on the Seine. Very cheesy but fun for the children (and I always like seeing cities from this angle). Then we went to Notre Dame and even climbed the tower which has 387 very windy steps. Max was very happy that the highest floor was closed because of the weather so I think we only climbed about 200. He did fantastic though and was a real trooper even though climbing stairs is hard for him. The views were worth it.

notre dame

After a nice but expensive Brasserie late lunch, we bought brie and bread and made big sandwiches back at the apartment hotel.

notre dame stormy

Off we go!

After months of thinking about this and then the last minute rush to get everything booked and organized (why do I wait?) we are finally off for our three month European trip. I have Jake (22), Ben (17), Max (9), and Charlotte (6) with me and hopefully Grandma will be over in a few weeks.

We left on US Mother’s Day from Tampa and flew easily over to London. Charlotte was very excited and fun to be flying with. She loved her kid’s meal on the flight especially as she got hers before anyone else did (when you are the youngest of five little things make you happy).


BA flies into Gatwick and out to Europe from Heathrow but I had booked a minivan to take us across the city. For a family of five this was cheaper than taking the bus that is also available. http://www.londongatwicktransport.co.uk/

It was an easy trip of about an hour which wasn’t too bad for a Monday morning at 8am. Drizzling a bit but I still found it hard to be in England but not stay and explore. Hopefully we will be back in a few weeks.

The trip to Paris was short and when we came out we managed to get everyone into quite a large taxi. This was pretty good given we had 4 large suitcases, 2 small ones, 5 backpacks and a computer bag – oh and 5 people! We came out so fast I forgot Euros (duh) but the taxi driver said no problem because I could use my credit card. However once we got across Paris we found out the American credit cards do not work in European push in machines that require a chip. Luckily he took dollars. Still this credit card issue has been something to watch for. Unless the place has the old style of machine where it slides through, cards will not work. Luckily no issues in ATMs. So we have to plan ahead and carry cash.

The hotel we had booked in Paris was located in Buttes Chaumont: The Adagio. http://www.adagio-city.com/gb/home/index.shtml

It was in a side street so we had to walk down to it and located in a non-tourist neighborhood but once in we loved the little apartment. Very clean and relatively room for Paris. We had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and living/dining room. The kitchen was fully set up with all we needed. I could have stayed there for a month or two easily.

We were all a bit exhausted and wandered around the neighborhood, bought a few groceries (hallelujah but the wine is cheap in stores here), and then ate outside at a cute pizza restaurant – it was close and I had hungry children but we did have brie on the pizzas☺

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