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Hogmanay for families with young kids

As the official Edinburgh website puts it Hogmanay is, basically, a New Year’s celebration of,

THREE DAYS of spectacular events, incredible bands and amazing crowds from every corner of the globe.

Maybe not the most child-friendly sounding event, but I still think it’s worth a visit.

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Two years ago, our family was lucky to spend New Year’s in Edinburgh and it is something I want to repeat again soon. While we couldn’t (or didn’t want to, at least) attend the crowded concerts and many events, we still did a lot. We took in the city’s sites, visited their Christmas Markets, took a day trip to St. Andrews, and participated in one of the coolest events I’ve ever experienced.

Edinburgh’s Torchlight Procession

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To kick off the three days of “spectacular events”, the city hosts a torchlight procession. It starts in Old Town, winds down the streets and park until turning on to Princes Street, then marches past the shops, restaurants, hotels, and bystanders until it ends at the top of Calton Hill.

There is absolutely nothing as exhilarating as being part of this procession. Last year there were 35,000 participants. That’s a lot of people. Watching the lit torches ahead of and behind us, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, sent shivers down my spine.

My son had just recently turned one when we went. I worried that the crowds would be too much, but decided we could just step away at any moment if they were. It turned out they were never a concern. There wasn’t a mad rush to make it to the end. It was a peaceful walk.

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Once we started the climb to Calton Hill there were electronic signs letting us know event details. We made it to the top, extinguished our fires, grabbed a quick sandwich from the food truck (one of my best meals in Edinburgh), then listened to the live music, bagpipes, and watched the fireworks show over the city.

For most people reading this, it’s probably too late to book tickets for Edinburgh for Hogmanay this year. If you can make it there, the procession is a free event. The torches are available at a low-cost, but advance sales are sold out. There’s limited supply available the day of, so check there on December 30.

I highly recommend it.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE. I’LL SEE YOU IN 2014.

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Thanksgiving abroad, done right

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. As an expat, though, it can be difficult. Work continues as normal, shops are open, and no one seems to care about turkey, black friday, or American traditions. Well, that is everyone except for other expats and some people in the city of Leiden, NL.

For a little background on how Thanksgiving, Leiden, the Travel Turtle family, and the Three Under family decided to hang out together check out my post from last Wednesday, The Most American Thanksgiving.

One thing you might not know reading that post is that I was nervous. Again, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I was really worried that the choices we made for last Thursday were going to leave me homesick for the U.S. I worried things might border on tacky, or exhausting, or a sad combination of both.

I’ve never been so wrong.

Pieterskirk Special Thanksgiving Service

It was like a dream. Here I was, an expat listening to a Thanksgiving service, in English, on Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by other Americans (and, at the very least, others who wanted to acknowledge a foreign holiday on a Thursday afternoon), while in the Netherlands, home of the Pilgrim’s first expat experience was pinch-me perfect. I think Farrah, from the Three Under, used the word camaraderie, and that was exactly what it was.

The kids surprised me. They did great.

For those with young children considering the Thanksgiving service in Leiden in the future, know this: it’s child friendly. It’s full, but it’s not crowded. When my one-year old was tired of sitting quietly, we headed to the very back of the church where she walked around quietly with other small kids.

After the service, the church offered cookies and drinks. Amongst the choices: snickerdoodles! turkey shaped frosted sugar cookies! speculoos!

 

Thanksgiving dinner at the Holiday Inn, Leiden

Most of my 30+ Thanksgiving dinners have been in the comfort of someone’s home. One exception was a trip I took to London in my 20s (so much fun!). Another was the year I visited my grandmother in Massachusetts and she opted to go out to eat instead of cook. That one did not go so well. The restaurant overbooked, we waited and waited, then felt rushed. The food was, well, boring. If you imagine the minimal items you need to make a Thanksgiving dinner, that’s what we had. On top of this, it was crowded and hard to enjoy each other because no one wanted to be there.

My nerves for Thanksgiving day mainly focused on dinner. The Holiday Inn’s Thanksgiving buffet was the only option I saw online for Leiden. (While walking through the city after church I saw at least one other restaurant had a Thanksgiving meal. My internet search prior to the trip found at least two in Amsterdam, which isn’t too far away. For future reference, those were at the Hard Rock Cafe and the American Book Store.)

Back to the Holiday Inn. I wondered, would it be crowded? Would the food be ok? Would it be cheesy? Would it make me homesick because it’s impossible to recreate the feeling of the holiday being far away from home?  How are the kids going to deal with sitting at a restaurant after a day of driving to Leiden, attending a church service, walking all over the city and the museums? Can the Dutch make Thanksgiving not only special to me as I know it to be, but to my kids as well?

My concerns were put to ease immediately.

A friendly host greeted us and walked us past a display of American flags, pumpkins, and other season-appropriate decorations. They brought us to our long table seating 9 people. The first thing I noticed was the space. We weren’t cramped so close to other tables that we had to whisper our conversation. There was a large group of about 18-20 people sitting next to us and we didn’t even notice them.

On the other side of the restaurant there was a small playroom for kids of all ages. In it was a ball pit, an indoor climbing and slide contraptions, and several playstations. Our kids alternated between hanging out at the table and running around in the playroom.

I had low expectations for the food. This particular Holiday Inn has a family buffet night once a week anyway. I worried that it would be a slightly nicer version of that, but still not very good.

I don’t know what their family buffet is like, but this Thanksgiving dinner buffet felt special. Someone took good care in making a bunch of expats feel like they were home. There was an assortment of appetizers (I had the crawfish), soups (clam chowder and pumpkin), a salad bar with a lot of choices (and the best waldorf salad I’ve ever had and can’t believe I didn’t get seconds), as well as all the traditional Thanksgiving fixings, plus sweet and sour chicken, steak, (and who knows what else, I stuck to tradition) and a large variety of Dutch and American desserts (including an ice cream bar).

Everything was delicious. The ham, as always seems to be the case in the Netherlands, was amazing. The only complaint I heard, and agree with, is the stuffing had way too much gizzard and the pieces were way too big.

The buffet started at 6:00 and ended at 9:30. Your table was your table for the night. There was no rush, no lines of people looking in waiting for you to get up so they could sit down. You could do the one thing Thanksgiving is known for – graze. It was, without exaggeration, what Thanksgiving should feel like without all the family drama, loads of dishes, and rush to Target’s Thanksgiving day sales… it was perfect.

Would I do it again? I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Tips

  • If  you’re an American and anywhere near Leiden for Thanksgiving, please go to the service and this dinner. It’s a really nice way to keep traditions alive while abroad and you’ll still get a cultural experience you would not get at home.
  • The doors to the Pieterskirk open at least an hour before the service starts. Obviously, the earlier you get there, the more choice of seating you get.
  • Our GPS was not working properly in Leiden. In a first for us, there were multiple times we were told to turn onto a street that no longer existed. Thus, the city streets then seemed really confusing.
  • Reserve your table for dinner at the Holiday Inn in advance. We booked at least 2 weeks ahead of time and I noticed that all the tables were reserved.
  • Get the pumpkin pie early. I overheard someone say it’s the first dessert to run out every year. I didn’t go back to check if it was there later, but I wouldn’t take any chances with pumpkin pie.
  • Book a night at the Holiday Inn Leiden. It’s a nice place. Then you can relax before and after your meal without having to drive anywhere.
  • Take Friday off. Part of what helps make Thanksgiving feel like Thanksgiving is the three-day work week.
  • There is an American Pilgrim museum in Leiden that we missed. We didn’t want to push our luck with our kid’s patience and it didn’t seem to be too double stroller friendly. If you don’t have those limitations, go.
  • For more tips on what to do during the day, check out the Three Under for their review of Thanksgiving in Leiden and on instagram: #amostAmericanTgiving

This post is part of the Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.car cover porsche 996 4snews release servicesDefender Discovery MS-630 Black-blue

The most American Thanksgiving

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My friend at The Three Under first clued me in on a church in the Netherlands holding a Thanksgiving service several months ago. Before I knew it was in English, before I understood why they held it, and before I could figure out how we could get there, I wanted to go.

So we’re going.

In preparation for this short trip, I spent today, Thanksgiving Eve, reading about why this service is held in Leiden, NL every year.

It turns out, the Pilgrims and I have a lot in common. They were also expats, first moving from England to Leiden. Some succeeded, others suffered. While in Leiden they worried about their cultural identity. Even back in the 1600s the Netherlands was quite the liberal country. The Pilgrim children were adapting to the local culture faster than the Pilgrim Fathers were comfortable with. So, they secured funding, packed up, and moved to the New World.

Tomorrow I’ll learn more about the Pilgrims and their time in Leiden via the church service, American Pilgrim museum, and just getting a feel for the town as we explore. I’m calling it the most American Thanksgiving outside of America.

So even though my son’s preschool mates will still be in preschool, though shops will still be open, and though there will be few pumpkin pies baking in a 4000+ mile vicinity, we’re going to celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a part of our cultural identity. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to learn more about my favorite holiday and eat a Thanksgiving feast with my family and good friends.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

 

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Holy Smithereens

I had the pleasure of meeting Jean from Holy Smithereens over a month ago. We had some odd things in common considering she’s a Filipino living in Australia and I’m an American living in Germany. For starters, our moms are from the same city in the Philippines. We also both worked at the same travel company years ago. And it’s safe to say we both have a healthy obsession with travel.

On her blog, Jean writes about adventurous with a more luxurious twist. So while she’s staying a great hotels and eating at restaurants I probably wouldn’t take my specific kids to (if your kids are well-behaved at restaurants, by all means, take them!), she’s also getting dirty with scenic hikes, deep blue dives, and other activities that might not be too stroller-friendly.

She updates her instagram account with photos of her explorations. That’s what I wanted to introduce you to today.

Don’t be shy to find travel inspiration from non-family-travel sources. I guarantee your wallet will not appreciate all the must-dos you’ll find yourself wanting to do.
Finding fun souvenirs in Belgium

Exploring lava caves in Iceland

Seeing snakes in a Penang Market

Enjoying amazing views in Abu Dhabi

Swimming with the sharks in Tahiti

Roaming with the Buffalos in Montana

Recommending shopping in London

Exploring the some islands in the Philippines

Yes, many activities she does aren’t right for my family right now. It’s ok because it’s inspiration I’m filing for a better time. So, if you’re looking for some fun things around the world, be sure to check out Holy Smithereens’ IG Feed.

Also, my friend Farrah over at The Three Under is getting ready to embark on a mama-only adventure with our friend Ace from Life in Dutch. They’re heading to Malta for a few days and luxxing it up. To say I’m jealous is an understatement. To say they’re going to have a great time is an understatement. To say you should check out Farrah’s IG account and, more specifically, #luxmomsgetaway is obvious. I need other people with me cheering on their trip while quietly (or maybe not so quietly?) wishing they were going, too. Have fun you two!

 This post is part of the Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco Lifestyle, Destination Unknown, Child Mode, Hines Sight Blog, Live.Do.Grow., House of Anaïs, Luxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.lingerie moin chersocial network brandensemble de lingerie pas cherteXet TB-536FL

Bike Races

Every year my little corner of Germany closes its streets for a day. It means one thing – it’s time for a bike race. We’re lucky enough to have front row seats. At 2 years old, I’m pretty sure my son was just trying to figure out how he could get his balance bike to go so fast.

 

 

This post is part of the new Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.accessoires de sexeles robes erotiquesspinterestles godes xxl acheter