Snapshots: Girls Weekend in Antwerpen

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Rewind to several weeks ago…girls weekend in Antwerpen! Here are just a few snapshots from my night away with the Mama friends. It was 36+ hours full of girl chat, shopping, coffee, wine & cocktails!!!, and relaxation. I’m so thankful for their friendship, my husband’s ability to watch our kids while I enjoy some “me” time, and for living so close to such beautiful places. I was so impressed by Antwerpen and we didn’t even get to see that much. It’s a very beautiful city. I’m looking forward to exploring it more with the family.

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Dinant, Belgium with Family

 

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Hugging the mermaid saxophone in Dinant

Dinant is the perfect weekend getaway from Maastricht. I have wanted to travel here for a long time. I always thought we would make it a day trip, but with two little ones, it’s too far from Maastricht because there are so many great activities and sights to see.

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So, in no particular order– here are my top 10 favorite memories in Dinant.

1. Saxophones on Charles-de-Gaulle Bridge. 

Flora and I both agreed. The best saxophone on this bridge was the mermaid sax from Denmark. What a unique and modern twist to this city. Very nice to stroll and look at all the saxophones from different countries. And also cool to be in the birthplace of the saxophone.

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2. Dinner by the water on Rue Adolphe Sax

A friend of mine gave us a recommendation for a “cheap and cheerful” pizzeria on the main street next to the water. Yummy eats and rosé wine! We were happy customers and the view was great.

3. Cable car ride up to the Citadel 

Just one of the many reasons I thought this city was child friendly—the cable car. It was a family hit and the views are really stunning. The top of the cathedral is so unique. This was special. It reminded Jaap and I of the Roosevelt Island days in NYC.

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4. Beer & a Speeltuin at the Citadel

We walked around the Citadel a little bit. You have to take a guided tour (which is included in the cable car ride price) to see most of the Citadel, but sometimes when traveling with little tots—the guided tours are just not possible. So we walked around parts of the Citadel, learned a little bit more about Dinant’s history during WWI, and headed to the speeltuin. Of course, this was the highlight. And what better way to enjoy a playground than drinking a beer and watching your kids play. The Leffe Abbey & brewery is right in Dinant, so we were drinking local. 🙂

5. Marsedsous Brewery

Another great place to go with kids. We took a stroll through the church, enjoyed their large playground, sat outside for a bit, and enjoyed dinner and a beer flight at the cafeteria. Ordering our meal was a nightmare (nobody spoke Dutch or English), but we still had a good meal. Another beer and speeltuin recommendation!

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6. Learning about Adolphe Sax

Dinant has a free, one room museum about Adolphe Sax and how he invented a new family of instruments. A museum that only takes 5 minutes to see. Another win for small children!

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7. Côte Sax Tea Room 

This cute little tea room was a great place for us to grab a cup of coffee, some ice cream, and an late afternoon snack. We enjoyed some yummy crêpes and they were very welcoming with children. And everyone was fluent in Dutch and English.

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8. Railbikes in Warnant

This was my favorite part of the trip! This was a huge family hit. We did an 8K route from Warnant, which was only 10 minutes from our house. The weather was perfect, the views were beautiful, and everyone had a great time. After our coffee break at the turn around point, Thibault fell asleep on Mom all the way back. It was hilarious. Cycling there Jaap and I didn’t realize we were on a small incline because on the way back, we pretty much coasted the whole way.

9. Dinant Cathedral

The top of this cathedral is quite unique. Of course, we had to light a candle. 🙂

10. Château de Frëyr and a picnic lunch

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Jaap’s favorite meal of the trip was our lunch at Château de Frëyr. Bread and Nutella is the way to this man’s heart. There is no food on site, but the cashier suggested us making a picnic lunch. Perfect. This was a fun place for us to walk around the grounds. The large hedges were fun to walk through. Another bonus were the rock climbers across the river leading up to the castle. It was fun to try and find them on the rocks.

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Another successful family trip. I absolutely fell in love with this little city and continue to fall more in love with Belgium. What a beautiful and delicious country! I just felt so happy the entire weekend. Maybe it was the beer, being with all my favorite people, I’m not sure. Whatever it was— I will always have great memories of this trip to Dinant.

 

The Goat Whisperer

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Thibault is an animal lover. His new favorite book is First 100 Animals, which has just taken over Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? He just loves pictures of animals and making animal sounds. Just recently (within the last few days) he has started making more than one animal sound. I just love how enthusiastic he is when he is around animals. My father-in-law told me we should buy a dog because he walked around our neighbourhood playground following  a dog for about 30 minutes last week. 🙂

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We took my mom to the Gaia Zoo two weeks ago. I knew she would love it as much as the kids. It was a great day. Thibault has no fear, which is scary as hell. He tried to jump into the Reindeer and monkey quarters just to get a closer look. I love his spirit and “anything is possible” attitude. I have to remind myself to live more like Thibault everyday. A little less dangerous, but without second guessing anything.

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Family Travel: Dublin Days

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Blue skies at Trinity College! We had a great time exploring Dublin and one of it’s surround neighbourhoods, Monkstown. We rented an Airbnb near Dun Laoghaire and I can’t recommend this neighbourhood enough. Some nice walks down by the water, outdoor playgrounds, easy access to the DART, and some great restaurants. We ate at Cinnamon twice. We highly recommend it!

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Flora and Thibault were beyond excited to be playing on a playground. It was quite funny. A few days out in the Irish countryside, they were ready for some traditional playground equipment.

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Our time in Dublin was spent exploring just a  few of the major sites. A walk through the Temple Bar neighbourhood, a visit to the Dublinia museum (good one about Vikings for kids!), and lunch at a pub with Guinness, of course. Day two started off at the EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. This was very interesting and Flora really enjoyed stamping her passport in all the rooms. There was an outdoor monument of statues honouring the Potato Famine in the neighbourhood and it was hard for Flora to understand why the statues looked so sick. We talked a little bit about the Potato Famine and why people died. She called it the potato story and was curious about it, but obviously did not grasp the severity of it. Still— it was a nice mini lesson in Irish history.

And for the grand finale, a stroll through Trinity College, Grafton Street, some great outdoor play at St. Stephen’s Green and a fractured arm!

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Flora and Thibault had a blast at the playground at St. Stephen’s Green. It was such a beautiful day. Beautiful grounds, flowers, and walking paths. It was a great park to spend the morning in. Things were a little too perfect. Flora took a fall off the monkey bars and had a rough landing. We knew pretty quickly that something was wrong. So, for the rest of the day Jaap and I went to the hospital with her, while Thibault and my parents enjoyed some more of Dublin. So if you’re wondering, Irish healthcare is great. We received some great care from the doctor and nurses and I’m grateful for the EU healthcare system. I was shocked that we didn’t have to pay anything and the doctor said, “Well, that’s why you pay taxes.”

As for Flora, she was a champ. I’m so proud of her. She was an excellent patient. Despite the broken arm, I’m proud of her for climbing those monkey bars. Seeing her fall was the worst thing, but I was so impressed by her. My little climber is almost back in shape. I was afraid this fall might make her scared, but it seems to have had no effect on her. 🙂

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Family Travel: Rainy day in Galway

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After two days with beautiful weather, it was time for us to experience the real Ireland. Our last day in the Burren region was a rainy one. We dodged the rain with some lunch in Galway, a visit to the aquarium, and a quick stroll around the inner city.

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Here’s Thibault enjoying his carrot soup. My fish chowder was the best of the trip. I was so impressed by Irish cuisine. It’s really just comfort food, but it was delicious.

I was pretty underwhelmed by the aquarium in Galway, but for a rainy day activity it kept us entertained for 45 minutes. 🙂

Family Travel: Cliffs of Moher & Tin Whistles in Doolin

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More “luck of the Irish” at the Cliffs of Moher! Blue skies and sunshine. It was an Irish miracle. Our day at the Cliffs of Moher was powerful. To quote my father, “I’m having a Grand Canyon experience.” My father was praising Jesus a lot that day and how can you not. Look at these views. Pop took a long hike along the cliffs and I’m happy he got to experience it alone. He said it was a spiritual experience and I think that statement makes this whole trip worth while.

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The stars aligned for us that day. The weather was perfect, the kids were happy, and we spent most of our day admiring the natural beauty of Ireland. I’m so happy we got there early in the morning because by mid-afternoon the place was very crowded.

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I love this photo. It appears that we’re hanging off this cliff, but we were safe behind the large barriers they have put up. And below are some shots of Thibault experiencing the Cliffs. He loved the hike and he walked quite far. We had a break near the tower and he just started rolling around on the steps giggling at himself with the sun beating down. It was so cute.

It seems that a trip to Doolin and a visit to the Cliffs go together. We stopped at Gus O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin for some beer and tin whistle playing. We bought some Irish tin whistles and it kept us entertained all day. Here’s Jaap entertaining us with some “Irish” tunes.

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How beautiful is this?

 

As if the day couldn’t get any better, the evening ended for Jaap and I (and Pop) with a traditional Irish music session at Linnanes Pub back in Kilfenora. The music festival was still going on and I can’t thank my mother enough for staying home to babysit while we ate apple pie, drank some Guinness, and listened to some traditional music. It was a memorable experience!

Family Travel: Ireland

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Poulnabrone Doulmen

We just got back from an 8 day adventure with the kids and grandparents in Ireland. What an amazing country. It took me by surprise how much I fell in love with this country, the natural beauty, friendly Irish hospitality, and unique culture. What a beautiful country.

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Jaap & Thibault hiking The Burren

We were expecting rain everyday, but it only rained once. Our first two days exploring the Burren region were full of sunshine. I felt like we had already achieved more than expected! Plus the fact that we survived a 12 hour day of travel to get to Schipol, then Dublin Airport, then a 3 hour trip to Kilfenora. That in itself was an accomplishment. If anything, my children learned patience that day.

We stayed on a farm in a tiny town called Kilfenora and we just so happened to be there on the weekend of their annual music festival. It was meant to be. I had read this particular region (near Doolin) was famous for their traditional Irish music scene and the fact that we could experience it in the community where we were staying was just perfect. Set dancing, the Kilfenora ceili band, sunshine, exploring the moonscape of the Burren, and happy kids all created the perfect first day. Throw in some Guinness and being able to hear traditional Irish music and watch the locals break out the set dancing— I was in heaven.

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