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Nature walk in the Netherlands

As I mentioned on Thursday, we celebrated our 4th on the 5th with some expat friends in the Netherlands. We all had a great time. My son enjoyed playing with the three of The Three Under, and my husband and I enjoyed adult conversation with Farrah, her sister and her husband. We made plans to eat at the pancake house Farrah raves about for lunch on the 6th. What did that mean to us? It meant that we needed to work off both the food we ate on the 5th (delicious bbq chicken and guacamole – oh how I have missed guacamole) plus all the food we were about to consume at the pancake house.

Fortunately our hotel (a last-minute switch when we discovered the hotel we originally booked was over an hour away) was right next to trails. The trails were laid out in a spiderweb design. We started at one of the outer rings, found our way to the center where there was a small open area with a grotto in the middle, and then randomly selected web veins (both wide enough for several people, and less structured veins) to explore. We stopped often to watch bugs, pick up pinecones, get out of the way of the multiple running groups, and wave at the big trains going by. Since we live in a city and more often visit other cities, it’s rare that we get this close to nature. Yes, it was just a small wooded area, but it was just the thing our family needed after the extended winter and rain. Did I mention it was a beautiful, sunny day?

Here are some pictures from the trails:

Our hotel fit in with its surroundings. This is a view from the back.

Our hotel fit in with its surroundings. This is a view from the back.

 

Nature walk in the Netherlands

When we set off on the trails, they were pretty wide.

 

After a short time, we found thinner trails to give us a small sense of adventure. And to keep out of all the joggers way!

After a short time, we found thinner trails to give us a small sense of adventure. And to keep out of all the joggers way!

 

The Grotto marked the center of these trails. We didn't stop for a drink, but many people did.

The Grotto marked the center of these trails. We didn’t stop for a drink, but (contrary to the picture above) many people did.

This popular Dutch bike holds the little ones. This was the only one we saw on the trail, parked while the family enjoyed a snack at the Grotto.

This popular Dutch bike “bakfiet” holds the little ones. This was the only one we saw on the trail, parked while the family enjoyed a snack at the Grotto.

 

Our little one stopped every few seconds to examine some part of mother nature. This time it was for pinecones. I especially want to remember when he spotted a tiny spider, jumped off his bike, and got really close to it. He could have spent the rest of the afternoon watching it.

Our little one stopped every few seconds to examine some part of mother nature. I want to remember how he would see the tiniest detail, jump off his bike, and get on all fours while staring at it. If whatever he was looking at didn’t move, like this pine cone, he’d pick it up. If it moved then it was likely a bug and he would be both disgusted and intrigued at the same time. One bug that especially mesmerized him was a tiny spider. He’s seen big ones before, but this tiny one was almost too much for him. He could have watched it for hours if we didn’t have to check out of our hotel.

 

On one of the benches on the trail, one of the jogging groups left their bottles of water. Since we often saw them running circuits, I'm sure the waters weren't left unattended for too long. And since it was warmer than it has been in a long time, I'm sure those bottles were quickly emptied.

On one of the benches on the trail, one of the jogging groups left their bottles of water. Since we often saw them running circuits, I’m sure the waters weren’t left unattended for too long. And since it was warmer than it has been in a long time, I’m sure those bottles were quickly emptied.

I’m glad our short trip to the Netherlands included this excursion. Although we have never been to Tilburg and could have tried to explore the city, we were happy to be out with the locals enjoying nature. And we found yet another reason to love the Netherlands. The people on the trail were extremely friendly, the trail itself was clean and well-maintained, with plenty of spots to rest. And the pancake house we went to later? Delicious!

Now for some crowd sourcing… what are your favorite hotels that aren’t in major cities, but offer a lot of outdoor activities nearby?macbook pro case neoprenemacbook air 2013 hard shell casePanasonic Alkaline Power LR03 BL4Air Sync PHD07

50 American experiences I want for my kids

Watching fireworks on the 4th of July? One of 50 American experiences this expat for her kids.

Watching fireworks on the 4th of July? One of 50 American experiences this expat for her kids.

It’s tough being an expat during the US-specific holidays. Sure, there are many more holidays here in Germany than in the US (the month of May felt like a big holiday, my husband didn’t have a full week of work that month)! But when people back home are celebrating the traditions I grew up with, without me, it makes me a little homesick.

Fortunately, I’ll be celebrating the 4th on the 5th with another expat family in the Netherlands. As we were planning our 4th on the 5th, it got me thinking. There are some experiences that I really want my kids to have. Here they are.

50 American experiences I want for my kids

In no order:

  1. Celebrate Christmas in New York City: It doesn’t have to be Christmas Day, just the season.
  2. Eat deep dish pizza in Chicago: I didn’t even like deep dish pizza until I had the real stuff on a visit to Chicago.
  3. Road trip across the US, and train trip back: I have a book of great American road trips, so many to choose from, how will I narrow it down?
  4. Visit the Chattanooga area: Rock City, Ruby Falls, the aquarium, I’m there.
  5. Spend at least one day at every Disney Park: The four in Florida, and the two in California
  6. Sit around a bonfire on the beaches of Southern California: I’m not sure if this is something that just happened on The O.C. (don’t call it that), but I want in.
  7. Hike Mt. Rainier: I did this over 10 years ago and I long to go back. I loved seeing billy goats and chipmunks up close.
  8. Watch New Year’s Eve fireworks in Boston: This isn’t a popular NYE destination, but it is a family friendly one and the city has a lot going on.
  9. Camp in as many National Parks as we can: I can’t even specify a few because I want to go to so many.
  10. Hop museums in Washington D.C.: Especially my favorite, the Air and Space Museum
  11. Explore every part of Florida: This is where we called home before we moved and there is too much I want to do here, enough for a whole new post.
  12. Reunite with family on Mackinaw Island: This is a place I’d love to spend time with extended family.
  13. Compare Lobster Rolls and Clam Chowder at restaurants throughout New England: Since my dad’s from this area I would love to compare the many options available.
  14. Look at the boats at Mystic Seaport: I went as a kid and I want to go back with my kids.
  15. Eat at In and Out Burger: Sadly, trying food in different areas of the country is high on my list.
  16. Ski in Vail, CO: Don’t let the active nature of this point fool you. I ate one of the best breakfasts of my life here and I want to go back.
  17. Be weird in Austin: If we’re talking about my kids, they won’t have to try too hard.
  18. Eat fried peanut butter & banana sandwiches in Memphis: And visit Graceland while there. I don’t think they’ll care about Elvis, but I want to take them there.
  19. Have a National Lampoon’s Vacation moment at the Grand Canyon: I don’t imagine our visit there to be any other way.
  20. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway: Taking many stops in Northern California and anywhere a waterfall exists.
  21. Gaze at the Northern Lights in Alaska: Preferably on the shortest day of the year
  22. Learn about the presidents at Mount Rushmore: Then drive all around that area of the US which is just so foreign to me since I’ve never been.
  23. Take surfing lessons in Hawaii: Are the waves too high there for beginners?
  24. Go back to Buffalo during the wing festival: Then head to Niagara Falls afterwards.
  25. Climb up Stone Mountain: Learn a little history of the Deep South.
  26. Stay at a bed and breakfast in Savannah: I’m not much of a B&B fan, but if I did it anywhere it would be Savannah.
  27. Check out the sites in Baltimore: I feel this city is often overlooked.
  28. Attend Space Camp: I’m jealous that my husband did this and I never day.
  29. Sleep in a treehouse hotel: Unless we can build one at our parent’s homes or a friend’s place.
  30. Watch a high school football game: In Texas, in the style of Friday Night Lights.
  31. Find an antique toy while going to the longest yard sale in the world: If they’re going to go to a yard sale, may as well be the biggest one.
  32. Eat a hot dog at a baseball game: I prefer this to be while watching the Red Sox or the Yankees, my husband will want it to be the Tigers
  33. Dance at prom or homecoming: I’m not sure if we’ll live in the states while they’re in high school, but these experiences make me want to.
  34. Volunteer for an organization of their choice: Volunteering isn’t so big here.
  35. Spend spring break visiting colleges: And I’ll try not to be too pushy on the specific choices.
  36. Enjoy an M&M blizzard at DQ: There’s just some things that can’t be replicated outside the original.
  37. Celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of family and friends: The kind of dinner people always complain about.
  38. Watch a movie in a park: And bring some picnic items with us.
  39. Attend a harvest festival: Or two or three.
  40. Go trick or treating: Last year we were there for Halloween, but were still jet lagged. Plus, my daughter was less than 2 months old.
  41. Sing Christmas carols door to door: Or like some friends in Colorado, while sitting in the back of a truck.
  42. Enter something into a state fair: Whether it be a drawing, a poem, or a vegetable they grew.
  43. Vote right after they turn 18: And not via absentee ballot.
  44. Learn, through first hand experience, what their favorite style of BBQ is: I still haven’t figured this one out.
  45. Avoid Black Friday sales: If I had the choice, I’d want them to avoid the sales all together. This might upset my mom.
  46. Sleep outside, in the backyard: Not possible on our tiny patio now.
  47. Go tailgating: And even though I’m not an alum, and this would surprise many of my friends, preferably at the University of Florida.
  48. Take a kid-friendly class at Home Depot: Learn how to do something with their hands.
  49.  Watch a film at a movie theater: Theaters here are just different than in the US and I want them to experience going to the movies with a group of friends.
  50. Spend the 4th of July with family and friends, great BBQ, fireworks and wearing Red, White, and Blue.

Happy Independence Day!

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Review of Sandeman Tours as family

“I’m going to tell you the history of Prague in seven minutes!” We all leaned in to hear her better. Our tour guide went on to tell us how the Czech Bohemians are different from Bohemians, stories of defenestration, atheism, the Holy Roman Church, and how her Czech mother-in-law has lived in 9 different countries yet has never moved once.

I was hooked. We were all hooked.

Beautiful Prague

Beautiful Prague

Why we wanted a free tour

As I mentioned earlier, when we spent Easter weekend in Prague I wasn’t connecting to the city. My husband suggested we take a Sandeman tour. For those who don’t know, Sandeman offers free tours in many European cities. If you are at all like me, then you are thinking what I was thinking, free does not equal good. I first heard of Sandeman in Amsterdam. A random stranger on a canal cruise said she did one and loved it. The second time I heard about it was from one of the professors I worked with. I was helping him plan his study abroad program in Berlin and he insisted on using Sandeman. He even wanted to pay for their service (required for groups over a certain number of people). I objected. A lot. How can students feel they’re getting a quality tour when this service is free? Well, they did see the quality in them. For all the tours we arranged for students, Sandeman was one with the most positive feedback.

So when we saw it was an option in Prague, we signed up.

Flashback: Our first night in Prague and our street food experiences

Our authentic experience.

Our authentic experience.

As we waited for the tour to start, I looked around at the Easter market in Old Town Square and let my mind wander. My husband and I love going to holiday markets in Europe. During the Christmas season we try to go to a new one every weekend. We go for the food. The more authentic the experience, the better. We spent our first night in Prague searching for street food.  We spotted a little side outdoor food stand selling these pastries that were covered with your choice of almonds, cinnamon sugar, and other things. They were called Trdelniks. The process of making it looked really cool. They wrapped dough around a roller pin looking thing, it rotated over an open fire or heat source, then they covered it in whatever you picked. I had to have one. While they finished preparing mine, I read about the history of the snack. During this whole period I was so proud, thinking to myself that I found something really “Czech”. A hidden gem. It was tasty, but nothing spectacular.

Our second street food experience in Prague was that same night for dinner. We ordered something called “Prague Ham”, a dumpling dish mixed with a bit of sauerkraut and bacon, and a Prague sausage. The prices were cheap, too. Or so we thought. When the bill came to about 3 times more than we expected, we found out that the prices shown were per 100 grams. We had enough ham to last several days. At least it was still delicious.

Back to the tour

Our guide snapped me back into the tour as it was about to start. “I’m Kate!”

After a few minutes of explaining how the tour would function, she pointed to one of the Trdelnik stands and asked if we tried one yet. Then she informed us that though they are popular in Prague, they’re actually Hungarian. Well, there goes my hidden gem, truly authentic food experience. Then, as if she knew what I was thinking, she pointed to the stand where we ate ham the first night we were here. “And that, is the most expensive ham in all of the Czech Republic! Don’t worry, I’ll tell you about better options during our tour.” I smiled at my husband.

And then she told us Prague’s history in 7 minutes.

Sandeman Tours are Worth It

We have been on other paid tours. We’ve taken walking tours in many cities before we had kids, and bus tours since having kids. This was definitely one of my better tour experiences. The tour guides are committed to their city. Their enthusiasm keeps everyone interested and wanting more. And they provide more via their themed tours at different price points. Even though they have paid tours that they obviously want to promote, I never felt like their information in our free tour was lacking.

Tips for Sandeman free-tours with kids

Going on a walking tour with kids in tow is not easy. It’s doable, but a lot depends on circumstances. Our kids were young enough that they could sit in a stroller without too much complaint.

  • If you are using a stroller, call in advance to make sure the tour’s path is suitable.
  • These tours aren’t created with kids in mind. Though they might not have age restrictions, there is probably an age range where the tours are not ideal. Doing on a walking tour strongly depends on your kids personality. 
  • Have something for your young kids to do. We brought stickers and snacks to keep our toddler entertained. We got lucky and he napped for the first hour. When the stickers stopped working, my husband and I took turns entertaining him away from the group.
  • Have an exit plan. We were prepared to leave earlier if we had to because we didn’t want to disturb the other guests. Our tour took a break for lunch and we decided not to continue for the second half.
  • Tip well. This is how the guides make their money and I want to keep the best of the best doing it.

Sandeman is currently located in 18 cities in Europe and Israel.

I took the Sandeman tour before I blogged, I was not compensated nor asked to write this review. All opinions are my own. 

This is part of Travel Tip Tuesday with Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels. Check out their sites for more great tips from other blogs!case macbook pro retina displayvibromasseur venteProline

Travel Turtle Road Trip, Summer 2013: Introduction

For some reason, other than an annual trip to Amsterdam which we decided to skip this year, we don’t travel too much over the summer. This year, however, we decided to venture outside of our immediate state and see something new. I wanted to take you along for the adventure. And while I wish I meant that literally, I mean via this blog.

I’m always interested in how people plan their trips. When there are a million options out there, how do people pick one choice over another? So, I thought I’d bring people into my planning process for our Summer 2013 road trip.

This picture has nothing to do with the post, except I like having pictures in my posts...

This picture has nothing to do with the post, except I like having pictures in my posts…

Right now I’m at the beginning stages

Not too much has been confirmed.

What we think we are doing so far

  • Nürburgring Race Track: Back in May I found a post on JDombs Travels. Her husband was a race car driver for the day. I was familiar with this race track because I lived near it in high school, but never thought of driving it. I’m still not going to, but my husband is… I even tweeted about it:
  • Traben-Trarbach: Nurburgring is in the Mosel area of Germany. We’ve stayed in Cochem in the past and in looking for places to stay this time, my initial thought was to go back to Cochem. Then I saw a post on Google+ that changed my mind. The Traveling Canucks suggested 9 European cities worth visiting, and one was Traben-Trarbach. This village is also on the Mosel and will be an ideal place to stop. We’ll either be there while the vines are ripe with grapes or during wine festivals, either way we’re happy. 
  • Zurich, Switzerland: Our good friends have recently moved to Zürich. This will be the final stop for our roadtrip before we turn around and head back home.
  • Rhine Falls: Realizing there’s quite a bit of Europe between Traben-Trarbach and Zürich, I took to social media again. This time, I asked my Facebook followers for any suggestions. Selena from Oh, the Places We will Go! linked me to her posts about Switzerland, but highlighted Rhine Falls. BINGO! I love waterfalls, so this is a must-do.

Our next parts of the planning process

We still have to settle on dates. Once we know when and for how long, we’ll be able to fill in the blanks: figure out our route, learn more about the specific destinations, find activities for kids and adults, and book accommodations, that’s it!

I also want to try some of the great “occupying kids on road trips” pins I’ve seen on pinterest. I’ve been pinnig some of my favorites and will put a lot of those into practice, maybe creating something to cater to our trip.

More about this series

The primary reason I’m doing this series is to show how I plan travel. Not just for you, but for myself. I’m curious to see how much we think we’re going to do (this post), how much we plan for (probably the next post), what we actually do (the third post), and how our family felt about it all (the last posts).

Any tips of places to go or things to do that you want to suggest? I’d love to hear them!where is kilimanjaro located in africavibromasseur achatLed Lenser P7ze binary signals review

Guest post at Wonderful Wanderings

Looking to travel? Sometimes it makes sense to use a travel agent.

Looking to travel? Sometimes it makes sense to use a travel agent.

I was a travel agent for many years, right around the time that people started migrating to the internet to book their travel. I tend to book my personal travel, but some times it makes sense to go to a travel agent. When should you use a travel agent? Visit Wonderful Wanderings to see my tips.click here now