The Antrim Coast

IMG_2919

Every hour we spent in Northern Ireland was full of breathtaking sights. Views, outlooks, hikes, and adventures that literally took my breath away. It’s views that you see in movies and television right there up close and in person. Absolutely stunning.

DSC09316

I think this photo of my parents and Flora about to climb back over the Carrick a rede bridge is one of my favorites of the entire trip. The emerald green water, sea breeze, sunshine, death defying heights! Northern Ireland is so lush and fresh, thousands of grazing sheep walking the hillsides, splashes of bright blues and greens everywhere you look, and enormous cliff sides. The landscape is quite dramatic, which made for some very cautious and nerve wracking hikes with Mr. T.

DSC09314

b52693b6-1bf6-4deb-b494-a1ad1a0e1a0d

The only time I have ever seen him nervous was walking over the rope bridge. There was a steady cautious walk happening while I held both his hands over the cross. I think the experience humbled him a little bit.

a1053ec7-1a02-4dd6-86fa-d5ba18c573af

It was a once in a lifetime experience. Although, I thought the descent down onto the bridge was more scary than walking the bridge itself.

DSC09401

Our entire week in this northern region of Ireland was just nature hikes, coastal drives, and a few playgrounds here and there. I see now that it was not exactly the trip that Flora was hoping for. It was chilly and not a ton of activities that children find extremely interesting, but it was an experiment for us. Since I thought she loved Ireland so much the first time, I just assumed it would be the same this time around. Nonetheless, I loved the trip and I know that my parents found it to be very special.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Advertisements

A Rondje in Stevensweert

IMG_2575

We had a fantastic day yesterday and discovered a new gem in Zuid Limburg. I LOVE exploring new nature walks. We went with my friend Laura and her family. These kids walked 5,8 kilometres! After the first 1.5 hours of consistent complaining, things went well!

I read about this Rondje Molenplas┬áin our quarterly Natuurmonumenten magazine. Not far from Thorn around a little lake in Stevensweert. It looks like OERR and Natuurmonumenten sponsor the building of the “Speelnatuur” playground outside the brasserie.

IMG_2584

The hike was beautiful. Lots of horses and cows along the way, ducks and swans on the little pebble “beach” on the far side of the lake. Crossing the pond over big boulders and nice lookout points all along. The sun was shining (Thibault was very content and Flora was pretty happy). They both waked a long way and I was super proud of them. 5,8 kilometres is quite the stretch for young children, but we were rewarded nicely with a great play area complete with water pump and sand. I think we could have stayed there another 2 hours!

IMG_2557

Sunshine at St. Gerlach

IMG_2298

We just got back from a refreshing morning outside at St. Gerlach. We spent our time walking the grounds, enjoying the scenery, and taking in the beautiful landscape and sculptures. What an aesthetically pleasing place to visit.

IMG_2294

It feels like spring here. Lots of the sunshine and warmer temps this week. This is climate change I suppose. I’m happy with cold weather in February, but I’ll take the sunshine!

My friend Laura suggested coming here this weekend. So we met up, walked around with the kids, got to see some horses and huge furry cows up close, sat outside in the sun for a couple of hours, and just enjoyed the peace and serenity of this place. We were talking about the joy of doing family activities that don’t involve large, screaming playgrounds. This is fun for the kids, but also nice for us.

IMG_2319

IMG_2305

IMG_2306

And of course— our little outing had to end with some coffee, vlaai, and some lavender madeleine cookies for myself. A lovely Sunday outing with good friends.

 

Snow Play

img_1944

A little time with my man in the snow. A winter walk just the two of us, trip to the playground, and a ride on the sleigh while Jaap was at home recovering from being sick and Flora was watching a movie.

I love the snow (even if it’s only an inch or two and last just a few days). It was still beautiful and so refreshing to be out there in the cold. Shoveling, playing, just breathing. Ahhh. I love it.

img_1949

img_1941

Our Barefoot Walk

IMG_0409

A couple weeks ago we went on the Barefoot Walk in Zutendaal, Belgium. I had done it twice before (years ago with work), so I knew Flora would be able to do it. Jaap and I were both shocked that we finished it within the estimated time the park suggested. I was impressed with how much of the trail Thibault was able to walk. He’s a sporty fellow. It was the perfect family activity for one of our last weekends of summer together. We had so much fun. I was so proud of my brave little hikers and nature lovers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Acadia, Maine— Echo Lake

DSC08925

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.

DSC08920

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.

DSC08911

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!

DSC08933

Family Travel: Cliffs of Moher & Tin Whistles in Doolin

IMG_8809

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.

IMG_8797IMG_8794

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.

IMG_8830

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.

IMG_8840-2

 

IMG_8832-2

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!