Donegal & Northern Ireland

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I’ve been thinking about writing these posts for about two months now. I can’t even remember what I was going to write. Only that we had a breathtaking trip in Donegal (Ireland) and Northern Ireland. I could return there a million times and still feel like we are discovering new beauties. To quote a good Irish friend, “It’s God’s country.” Truly an amazing place. Here are my favorite parts of our Donegal leg of the trip.

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Hiking Glenveagh National Park My parents are nature lovers and it’s probably the greatest love they instilled in us as children. They were so happy here exploring this park. Flora was wandering why we hiked 4 kilometers when we could have taken the bus. Smart girl. 🙂

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Dunfanaghy & Horn Head More breathtaking views driving the coast and some scary narrow roads up at Horn Head right outside Dunfanaghy. We walked the beach, had a delicious lunch, and finally a Guinness on day 2.

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A live session at Patsy Dan’s

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Rick Steves does it again! My father can make fun of me all he wants, but thanks to Rick Steves and his travel books we have had some memorable moments all over Europe. The live Monday night session in Dunfanaghy at Patsy Dan’s was thanks to his tip. We’re lucky we could catch a live session at 18:00. The kids loved it and I will never forget the accordion player. Top notch. We were able to enjoy a full hour of music and beer before the kids made us leave.

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An incredible find on Airbnb in Gortahork

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If you’re traveling to Donegal, stay in this place. A steal at about 100 euros per night! A beautiful new house, TONS of space, lots of comfort, and great views. I loved the communal atmosphere of the kitchen and cooking pancakes while the kids ate breakfast at the kitchen island. Little things like this make the trip great.

Donegal was a rugged and relaxed place to start our northern tour. More about Northern Ireland, Game of Thrones highlights, and exhilarating hikes on the next post.

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Snapshots: Autumn Break 2018

Here’s a quick look back at our Autumn break. I love October stay-cations. It gives us time to relax, refuel, and find fun things to do not far from home.

First off, a Lunch date with Flora in Maastricht and a trip to the Natural History Museum. We’re getting good use out of our Museum cards this year!

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Photo shoot in the city centre.IMG_0960The Valkenier was still open. A nice day in the sun with friends.IMG_0965

Brussels for the day trip! We sat in traffic for 1.5 hours while some EU diplomats were making their way into the city. Surprisingly, the kids were in really good spirits. It’s possible we saw Angela Merkel in her motorcade whizzing by. haha.

Despite the delay and some obnoxiously loud pre-teens at the playground, our Brussels day trip was fab. Lunch in the Sablon neighbourhood while Thibault took a nap and a visit to my favorite little spot the Petit Sablon garden. Of course— there was plenty of beer and chocolate to keep the spirits high for Mom and kids. 🙂

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Neuhaus chocolates

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Friday was a hike in the woods with friends. It was the perfect fall day for a stroll in the forest. Lunch at the Higend Hert and no meltdowns. Happy kids and parents!

Acadia, Maine— Echo Lake

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I think my favorite day of the entire trip was our time spent at Echo Lake. It was a warm, sunny day, the sun was shining and we had the most beautiful setting for our swimming day at the lake. A huge lake surrounds by rocky mountains, soaring birds, nesting loons, and peace. Surprisingly it was not very busy and the swimming conditions were just right for our little ones. Flora had the greatest time hanging out with her cousin (and idol) Elin. They splashed around in the water together all afternoon. My cousin Tish came were her two year old son and it was the perfect time for us to catch up.

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All the little cousins got to play together. Thibault loved playing in the sand, but also exploring the water with us. There was a raft of nesting loons roped off near the swimming area. I couldn’t believe. It was like seeing a rare species up close! The Mama and Papa protecting the little raft and nest the National Park created for them. It was truly an amazing thing to see.

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The day ended with dinner at Jordan Pond. Popovers were a must, of course. And for the grand finale— wild blueberry crisp with Jordan Pond vanilla ice cream. Definitely the best tasting thing I ate on this entire vacation! Maine blueberries have such a unique taste. I savored every second of that dessert. Delicious!

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Family Camping Trip, Maine & Acadia

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As jetlag improves and we are settling back into the time zone and our house again, I want to write down some of our most memorable moments from our trip to Maine before I forget. I feel like I have waited my whole life for this trip and I’m so happy Jaap was finally introduced to the beauty of Maine. I know this won’t be the last time we travel to Maine and Acadia. I want to return when the children are old enough to bike and hike longer. But for now, it was the perfect Maine camping vacation.

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Jaap and I ventured north with my niece Elin joining the first leg of the trip. My parents came a day later, but we knew Thibault would kill us, if he had to be in a car for 9 hours. We barely survived the first leg, but Elin was an incredible help and we were so lucky to have her in the car with us. And the hotel had a pool! Yippee and thank God! It kept us busy until dinner time and we survived the first part of the journey.

Dinner at Chilis, corn on the cob, and some happy kids. Maine was off to a good start!

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: 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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