Bruges, Belgium: Adventure Day

So we typically like 3 days in a city, anything after that we usually have too much down time. Knowing this, Ty found us cheap train tickets to Bruges, for the day. It’s apparently the “Venice of Belgium” ๐Ÿ™‚ To us, it’s what we think Amsterdam will look like. It was beautiful, everywhere you turned!

We took the morning a bit slow. The boys played some epic Uno, while I got some laundry done, and R has been obsessed with these French Donald Duck comic books that are in the apartment. We left the apartment about 9, and the train took almost 2 hours, which one station change. The odd thing was, at no point did anyone ever check our tickets. Honor system I suppose…

Bruges is a beautiful town. It was fun just to walk around and see the buildings.

Photo overload! We came across another small Christmas Market. Lunch was a few bratwurst, a hamburger, and a hot dog. Before we walked to a playground. I managed to get myself a beer from a local brewery! It was very good, and strong.

Our final sightseeing item was the windmills that used to surround the town. There are now just 4 left. We were all pretty tired by this point. We’d been walking for hours. But we plugged on, and we’re rewarded by watching a barge coming down the canal and a drawbridge lifting up.

European excitement right there!

The windmills were beautiful.

We saw all the windmills and trudged our way back to the train station. It was lovely but our legs were tuckered out!

We were tired and the train was extremely full so we had the kids piled on our laps. But we made it back to Brussels uneventfully. Grabbed some last minute groceries at the market and some burgers and nuggets at the to-go shop. (I’m so ready for some vegetables!) It was a welcome sight to get back to our apartment!

We all walked over 11 miles, and again we are so impressed with how well the kiddos are doing! Everyone earned foot massages with bedtime tonight. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Brussels, Belgium: Adventure Day 2

So we spent a bit of a chilly night in the apartment. I slept in my down vest for part of the night. Ty quickly realized we had no hot water, which is everything for this place! No hot water means, no heat in the radiators. So it was about 30 degrees outside and we had no heat…

I’m sitting at the table, wrapped in a comforter, with my hat on, while having my morning tea. Just a wee bit freezing!!

Ty messaged the host for a bit, also messed with the water heater a bit. But nothing was working. So we bundled up and headed out for adventure for the day. It was also quite cold outside today. A damp, foggy cold.

We took the train to the Atomium museum. It was so foggy we could only see parts of it at a time. Also, strangely enough, it was extremely busy! The line to buy tickets was about 30 minutes long. Then there was another longer line to get into the building. So we weighed, waiting in line for over an hour to have limited visibility, vs. maybe never being back here again. We decided to leave and have waffles instead. ๐Ÿ™‚ But we took a few photos first of course!

The subway system here is very impressive. Clean and for Ty, easy to navigate. I enjoy that almost every stop has some sort of artistic element to it. This stop had these beautiful sculptures along the walls.

We hopped off the subway for a playground lunch stop.

Then we made the best discovery, it was a Christmas Market!!!

We walked through all the streets that had booths set up. We managed to find ourselves a few ornaments. That’s our usual go-to souvenir. Then we came across the carousels. Europe has carousels like no where else we’ve ever seen. They’re usually wooden, creative creations, just incredibly put together, and maintained. The kids finally chose their rides, R wanted the crane, and L wanted the flying man. Both were incredible! I’ll try and post a video, so you can see all the options.

I got myself a hot mulled wine, then the kids enjoyed a teeny, tiny city playground. We then went in search of some ‘real’ food. Pasta, a raclette sandwich, and a hot dog, before we treated ourselves to a churro.

It’d be fabulous to end the post here, however it’s real life. We’re now exhausted, it’s late, and we still have to walk home. Thankfully, the subway stop is right in the Market, so we take off from there. But the walk home from our stop was still about a mile from our apartment. R was toast, she was so exhausted, and her little feet were killing her. L though, is a machine. He has so much energy it is incredible! He was racing around, and playing games, while I was pulling R along. We did manage to walk through some beautiful areas though.

All in all I think we walked about 9 miles. The best part was, when we got back to the apartment, Ty messed with the water heater and he got it back on! So we had heat for the night, and it felt wonderful.

Brussels, Belgium: Adventure Day

Another day of everyone awake by 6am. Oh well, it’s better than when L woke us all up by 2:30am. The nice thing about vacation is we all just take our time getting up. Reading books in bed, snuggling under covers, maybe watching a travel show. I love vacation mornings like this!

Ty is our amazing trip organizer. I did help research places to go in city, however he’s the one that makes that happen. He downloads each city in (this is an amazing app, that doesn’t use data!) then he marks each location we want to visit and then he becomes our navigator extraordinaire. I’m usually in charge of snacks, layers of clothes, and child well-being. We make a good team! ๐Ÿ™‚

This morning we headed out, extremely bundled up because we knew we weren’t really going to be inside today. We had all the layers on (I was wearing 7 layers on my top!) but it made for a comfortable day.

Near the Grand Palace we came across two guys juggling in the crosswalk for money. L loved this idea! He decided he wanted to come up with an act to make some money. So he found himself a stick and started doing some moves with it. Then he convinced R to sing with him. So she was singing Oh Tannenbaum in German while he was tossing this stick around. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was wonderful. However, we were the only people to give him money. He decided it was due to the fact he only had a stick. He was determined to get something more useful when we went back to the apartment. Love this kids entrepreneurial spirit!

We walked through a few beautiful churches, the Notre-Dame du Sablon.

Then we walked to the Notre-Dame de la Chapelle. I don’t have any pictures from there, but they had this wonderful exhibit/find and seek activity for kids. It was just a brochure I grabbed at the front, Bruegel, The Great Escape. Ten characters from the famous Flemish painter, Pieter Bruegel the Elder escaped from his paintings and were scattered around the chapel. They had a sheet of the characters to be located. Then a copy of the painting they escaped from an a description of the artwork. It was such a fun way to explore the church, looking for details. Also, a wonderful way to learn more about Bruegels paintings and to explain to the kids, the characters and why they look like they do. It’s always wonderful when we come across gems like this unexpectedly.

From here we walked to the world famous, Peeing Boy statue. ๐Ÿ™‚ Ty scoffed at me for wanting to see it, but to me it’s like the Mona Lisa. It will be smaller and less impressive than expected, but you still have to go see it. Funny, how these random things become famous!

This was also the first time we hit the tourist district! So many people here. The statue is also surrounded by waffle shops, and tourist trinkets. Therefore we had to partake in both!! These waffles are incredible, taste and cost! But we went all out with fruit, sauce, and fresh cream.

I’ve been talking about finding a new scarf this trip. So my kids decided they needed these scarves. They’re hilarious but so soft. But hey when in Europe why not! L seems to think his is like a stuffed animal, he kept mentioning how he was going to sleep with his. Which he did!

R has been posing in photos since she was little. It continues to crack me up! Meanwhile L’s ‘smile’ face, totally scrunches up his eyes. I LOVE them!

The kids of course got hot, when we did a playground stop, so look who ended up with the scarves. ๐Ÿ˜‰

After binging on super sugary waffles, it make perfect sense to go to the local Chocolate Museum. Why not?! The displays were a bit lacking, and could use some maintenance. However, the demonstration on how they create their famous pralines, was very entertaining, and delicious!

We walked around the Grand Place a bit, while making our way home.

Making several playground stops along the way of course. Big cities have them so often, you just never know when you’ll discover them. Our kiddos even got to play with a few locals. R felt stuck on the teeter-toter because she didn’t know how to tell them to stop. ๐Ÿ™‚

We had walked about 8 miles by this point, it was a long day so we were all moving a bit slow. Ready to be home.

The apartment however, smelled like grey water, and was freezing. We snuggled under blankets, while Ty messaged the host. I think he figured out the grey water smell, but the heat still hasn’t kicked on. We at least found a space heater for the kids room.

Some warm baths/shower then we struggled to get out of the house for dinner. We had been in the restaurant for about 2 minutes before L’s eyes started to close. I took him back to the apartment while R and Ty went in search of a quicker dinner. Burgers and fries again, but it tasted good. We were all happily snug in bed by 9pm. Let’s blame it on jet lag, the extensive walking, and the lack of good sleep for the past week.

Frankfurt, Germany to Brussels, Belgium: Travel Day

We’re off to Brussels! We woke up at 6am so we had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast and packing, while trying to keep our kids voices quiet in the hotel, this morning. We’re all looking forward to having an apartment in Brussels so we can have more room, and not be so noise conscious.

The train was comfortable and had wifi. It did rock quite a bit so we didn’t want anyone reading or watching any shows. I typically have no issues with motion sickness but even that train had me feeling a bit uneasy. So after some card games, and lots of hot wheels playing, the kids settled down to listen to a Laura Ingles audiobook.

We arrived in Brussels around noon, and immediately loved the city. It’s very large, but unlike Frankfurt, there is lots to see, and it’s a beautiful city.

We ate some, not as good as American, bagels sandwiches for lunch. The bagels, were more like bread in texture. However, Belgiums win for toppings, Ty had chicken, with Brie, and apples. I had prosciutto, with lettuce, hard parmesan, and soft sun-dried tomato’s, drizzled in balsamic! ๐Ÿคค

We walked on to our Airbnb rental, where with minimal confusion on how to meet the host, we were let into our apartment. (I swear Airbnb, no matter how wonderful it is to stay in a house vs. a hotel, the initial meet up to get into the rental is never flawless.)

The temperature in Brussels is around mid-30s so we added on the extra layers and headed out to find the Senckenberg Museum, their natural history museum. I hate to say it, but we’re becoming museum snobs. We love a good natural history museum. There’s something for everyone in our family to enjoy. However, this one fell a bit short. The exhibits were a bit sparse, oddly arranged, so the visitors had to clump up, and frankly, the museum smelled. It was an odd mixture of glue/body odor/dust. However, on the bright side, spending a few hours learning and being warm inside a museum, is never a bad thing. We always walk away having learned something new.

We closed the museum down at 6:30 and walked back towards our apartment. There’s this beautiful little square just down the street from us, so we stopped there for dinner and groceries. It was supposed to be this amazing burger place, again we’re spoiled American’s, we know good burgers! These were decent.

Seems like I’ve been complaining a bit on this post, but we’re still having a great trip. I think it’s just worthwhile to point out that every moment of this trip isn’t all sunshine and roses, but thankfully it’s all super minor.

Frankfurt, Germany: Adventure Day 3 Christmas Day

After having L and R awake from 12:30am – 2, we were all a little loopy Christmas morning. But the kids were overjoyed that Santa brought them such a haul. They have complained before that Santa doesn’t bring them any big toys. But we explained Santa knows we only have limited room in our suitcases. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our morning destination was the zoo, since that was guaranteed to be open. It was a cold morning but we bundled up and just enjoyed the walk. Stopping at a playground along the way.

We also passed this beautiful WWII memorial cemetery. It was a good chance to start explaining it a bit to the kids.

They’re always trying to entice the birds to land on them ๐Ÿ™‚

The zoo was neat, a good time filler before our movie in the afternoon.

We managed to find a Middle Eastern restaurant that was open and we had some amazing food for lunch. Then we were off to Mary Poppins Returns.

We walked back to the hotel and relaxed a bit before heading out to a nearby Indian restaurant. Everywhere we’ve eaten has been so delicious.

It was another day where we all walked over 9 miles. Ty and I have been so impressed with the kids. This is our first trip in years not bringing a stroller. We haven’t even needed to use a carrier. The kids are whining about it either! They mention that their feet are sore, but heck so are mine! They’ve definitely exceeded our expectations.

Frankfurt, Germany: Adventure Day 2 Christmas Eve

To recap, we missed the Christmas Markets, it’s Monday and not much is open. We decided to have a nice slow morning at the hotel, and didn’t have any plans till hopefully watching a movie in the afternoon.

We walked to a playground, of course.

Then we went to try and find a Catholic Church for Christmas Eve mass. Well, we tried two different churches and they were both closed for construction. What gives, Catholics in Germany? Are you that rich?! We finally had a very nice German man point us in the direction of one that was open.

It was the Dom, we walked through it, and then decided to climb the tower and enjoy the view.

We walked to the movie theater then, just to find out they had none playing in English. Which isn’t totally surprising, but we figured we’d be clueless if we’d tried to watch something entirely in German. Thankfully, a kind gentleman overheard our conversation, and pointed us in the direction of a larger movie theater. We walked there and found out that of course, they didn’t have any more English speaking movies today, but we did manage to buy tickets for Mary Poppins on Christmas Day, in English!

We rode the subway home, and just took a nap prior to Christmas mass. The bells were all tolling as we walked to church. We arrived right at the start time, which is never a good idea for a holiday mass. We were stuck outside the vestibule, until the processional went in. Then once they went in a bunch of tourists came out. We still only managed to make our way into the chapel, to the back of last pews. We were behind a pillar, and couldn’t see anything. It would have been an amazing experience, if we’d had seats and could watch some of it. However, L was falling asleep, R was exhausted, and they both laid down on the floor.

So we lasted through maybe 15 minutes. Which is a bummer but again, such is the life of traveling with kids.

We consoled ourselves with gelato again. So yummy!

We walked past this travel office a few times and this sign cracked me up every time! Come to the real US, go to North Dakota! ๐Ÿ™‚

We sprinkled our reindeer food out the window so Santa would find us before bed.

Frankfurt, Germany: Adventure Day

Alternate Title: The time we missed the German Christmas Markets…

So jet lag is hitting us hard this time. L woke us up about 2:30 this morning. ๐Ÿ˜ณ We let the kids watch some shows, read, and basically tried to kill time while being as quiet as possible, until 6:30 for breakfast. In case you’re wondering, this is a less than ideal way to start the day!

After breakfast we decided to hit up the Natural History Museum since L is a HUGE dino fan. Along the way, we walked through the Red Light district. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ The kids found a ball to play with, and I found 50 euros! Score!

We motivated ourselves through the museum, finally desperate for food and sleep by 11:30. The only place we found open, was the mall. All the stores were closed except for Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and Chipotle. This is the day before Christmas Eve, what the heck?!

We dragged ourselves back to the hotel and napped for two hours.

After pulling our kids awake, brutally from the depths of sleep. They fussed, and flopped their way outside into the rain. International travel isn’t always glamorous.

But a playground always perks up spirits, even in full rain gear!

We went to the Kids museum and it was a bit of a bust. It was supposed to be super interactive, but 3/4 of it was closed, or for kids 10 years or older. WHY?!

But that killed an hour and half, till we were going to have dinner at the CHRISTMAS MARKET!

(This is where Germany scores 1, and the Hamptons get 0.)

Apparently Germans celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, so everything will be shut down on Monday (tomorrow). Today being Sunday apparently nothing is open, and so the freaking Christmas Market was taken down today!!! ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿคฌ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Someone please explain to me how you can close a Christmas Market prior to Christmas Day?!

So we grabbed a quick dinner at some American burger joint, and got all this scoop from the nice guy working the counter. We also consoled ourselves with some gelato.

(That last photo is what was left of the market. Even the nativity was being taken down?????!!!!)

So now we’re trying to figure out a plan for tomorrow. We shall find out if anything is open past 2pm, or if it all closes, as we’ve been warned. It’s looking like we may try to watch a movie. Fingers crossed it’s not in German!

Not exactly how we envisioned our Christmas time in Germany, but when traveling we’ve learned to roll with the unexpected. The good (50 euros) and the bad (Christmas Market).

Final note, our kids walked 9 miles today!!! No strollers, no carriers, and very minimal fussing. Hey there’s a bright side!

Anchorage, AK to Frankfurt, Germany: Travel Day

So for our 6th Annual Hampton Family International Christmas trip Ty found us some awesome tickets back to Europe. There are so many different countries to explore over here, that this is our third Christmas in a row, and we’re still visiting new locations!

We got a United flight from Anchorage, to Denver. We were able to spend the day in Denver with family. It was an incredible way to break up the long flights. The kids opened presents with cousins, and most of us napped.

We left Denver on a 5:45pm flight to Frankfurt, Germany. Our actual tickets purchased continued on to Reykjavik, Iceland, however when offered the choice between German Christmas markets or Iceland in December, it was a no brainer to hop off early. The key to this, was we didn’t check any luggage. So when we landed in Germany, we just walked off and went through customs.

The flight was only 9 hours. It went as smoothly as we could hope for. R slept on the floor, and L slept across their two seats. The flight attendants didn’t seem to notice/mind. Thank goodness because this allowed us all to get a few good hours of sleep.

Our only speed bump came at the end of the flight. Like has happened before, R got an upset tummy and threw up right as we were landing. Of course our row had zero air sickness bags.

(Please note, Ty’s taking one for the team. Holding a cup of warm vomit. Also after seeing this people around us suddenly produced, air sickness bags!)

L decided his tummy was upset too, but thankfully he never got sick.

Uneventful getting off the plane, and through security. Ty directed us easily through to the train, into Frankfurt Main.

Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we did what all parents do, we found the nearest playground!

Enjoyed some fresh air, and stretching our legs.

We finally get into our room, shower and change clothes which feels amazing after basically 2 days. Then we all lay down for a ‘short’ nap. Ha! That turns into almost 2 hours. And we finally drag the kids out of the hotel about 6pm for a nearby dinner.

Food was good. Being back in Europe feels wonderful. L is currently asleep underneath the pull out couch. His choice! While we wait for R, to get tired. Jet lag is always an experience.

Can’t wait to see what adventures await us tomorrow!