Haarlem Girls Weekend

At Easter, Flora and I had a girls weekend trip to Haarlem. It was so beautiful and so much fun to spend quality time with this girl. She is the easiest, happy traveler. I really love her so much, it’s hard to put into words.

We finally visited the Corrie ten Boom huis. I think this was more fun for myself, but weeks later when we were reading about her with Thibault in the Rebel Girls’ Book, I could see that she was really proud that she had been there and knew who this person was.

Haarlem was beautiful. Tulips blooming, sun was shining, and lunch outdoors. We had dinner one night at a sushi restaurant. Flora was so cute and happy. She thought the place was so modern. These are little things that make kids excited about life and me too. But, the highlight was the kermis. Flora loves a kermis! She’s a kid who cannot get enough of this stuff. She was so happy that we could go on the rides and see Haarlem from high up.

It was a beautiful weekend. I love that this tradition is returning. It really was a spectacular weekend together.

Libin, Boullion, Grotten van Han & La Roche-en-Ardenne

We invited Jan and Trees to join us in the Ardennes for a post Carnival vacation. Four nights in Libin, beautiful sunshine, walks in Libin and Boullion, and finally a trip to Grottes van Han. These caves and wild park have been on my Belgian bucket list for a long time now. It was a great day out. Nice walk and tour through the caves, long safari ride to see some animals. A bit too long, but still beautiful.

Lots of beautiful sunshine, beers outside, and some good quality family time.

Our Covid Christmas

Well, it finally happened. Our Christmas trip to New York turned into a great (but very anxious), fun ten days, followed by ten days of quarantine (and stress!) and a flight home. It was so weird, but I do not regret the trip. I realized how essential it was for me to travel to my home country, see my family, my extended family, friends, and speak my language in my country. It just filled my soul up. It felt so good. I will never forget sitting in Vivian’s kitchen, drinking coffee with her, and chatting. It just felt so good.

I feel so much better now that I am no longer running from Covid. I feel sometimes that I should be more cautious, but it feels so good to having already had it and see how my body reacted. I will post more pictures from our trip (for the memories) on my next post. For now, some great family highlights.

  • The views ice skating at Central Park. Flora being so excited to ice skate and me realizing that—I really can’t do this again unless I have had lessons.
  • Family time in Queens. The kids feeling completely at home there.
  • Seeing Lee, hugging each other and saying we love each other.
  • Our three days in NYC– Botanical Gardens, ice skating in Central Park, the tree!!! at night, the lights on 5th Avenue, eating hot nuts on the street, Thibault enjoying the bagel in queens
  • Bryant Park’s Winter village dinner outside next to the rink
  • Roosevelt Island! It felt amazing to return there. The tram ride, sushi at Fuji East. Seeing the lights of Manhattan at night from over the river. Watching how much the kids loved the tram ride. It really felt like life came full circle.
  • Time with my parents: Mills Mansion, dinner at Fosters!, walking around Rhinebeck,
  • Surviving Covid
  • My parents. They saved us. Took care of us, risked their own health and safety. They are amazing and special people.

Herfst in the Veluwe

Sculpture garden at the Kröller-Müller Museum

Finally–we were reunited with my parents. First Mom, then Pop. It was an emotional reunion. I cried when Mom and I first embraced at the airport. If this pandemic life has taught me anything, it’s that life is precious and time together is special. I am so happy that we were able to have this long visit again. My parents enjoyed Limburg life, a trip with us in the Veluwe, and also a week in France and Belgium together.

Some highlights that I hope the kids remember dearly:

Seeing a wild boar and deer in the morning from our vacation house. Old house, but in a beautiful location.

Biking in the Hoge Veluwe to the Kröller-Müller Museum, hunting lodge, and tea house. Gramps falling of his bike and Flora having a little chuckle once she realized he was okay.

Dinner at this great restaurant in Epe. Date night dinner out with Jaap.

Day trip to Deventer. The kids scooting all around the city. Hot chocolate, coffee, and peperkoek on the big square in Deventer.

The leaves changing color in the Hoge Veluwe. What a beautiful time.

A great castle visit— I can’t even remember the name of it. Picking up leaves all along the way.

Audio book with Deacon King Kong

The Openlucht Museum. We got to see most of it this time. It was a glorious day.

Our good life on Lago di Garda & Pistoia

My favorite beach: Baia del Vento

They say Paris is always a good idea. Italy is always a good idea, 100%! I always struggle with— is it too touristy, too crowded, too hot? The answer: No! I love to do, see, and visit on vacations. I see that my family is less in that mode. So when it’s too hot to do anything, but swim at the pool, go to a beach, stop for a cool drink somewhere, well that’s just perfect.

I completely understand why Lago di Garda can be busy in the summer. The temperatures are hot, you’re near the mountains, the lake is warm enough to swim in. It’s a perfect storm. Moniga del Garda was a good fit for us. I think if we had gone any further south, it would have been too busy. Dining al fresco options, beautiful lake views from the apartment, pristine pool, and close to some beautiful beaches.

Some of the highlights for me were the physical activities. Flora absolutely loved the rope course and climbing. She wanted to go higher, higher, higher. It was only because of the height restrictions — she had to stop. One day at Baia del Vento, we rented a paddle boat complete with slide. It was fantastic! Amazing mountain views, Thibault having no fear swimming with his arm baandjes, and perfect temps. It was really magical for me.

I can’t forget Pistoia. We stayed at a very rustic B&B right outside of hot Pistoia. We went to Pisa one day, saw the tower. It was more beautiful than we imagined. Had some relaxing days by the pool and beautiful cool evenings exploring Lucca by night. We biked on top of the city walls one night, dined al fresco both nights, and enjoyed Luchese cuisine! I just love Italy. Forever grateful for this beautiful holiday.

Italian Summer: A wedding in Tuscany

Farm stay in Cortona

Our Italian holiday was incredible. They say Paris is always a good idea, but I believe the same is true for Italy. The entire place just oozes of happiness. We stayed at some pretty magical places. This farm stay in Cortona was gorgeous. Our quick stop for lunch in Switzerland could not have been more picturesque. The wedding was magical. My friend Elaine was so brave to plan a wedding in the middle of a pandemic. Her courage and hopefulness inspired me. I’m so happy the children got to go to a wedding and experience how much fun it could be. I was floating on a wedding high for three days afterwards!

My children loved Italy. The weather was too hot to do anything and I loved it. Watching Flora read books poolside is a dream come true. Thibault learning how to become more comfortable in the water, trying new foods, and loving the language. It was such a magical time our first few nights in Cortona.

Zeeland

Throwback to the May break: This was my first trip to Zeeland. I have been living in the Netherlands for 11 years and this was the first time I made it to this province. The views were breathtaking in Domburg. We survived a rainy three night stay at a run down Roompot there with our friends. The kids loved being all together.

The first half day it rained hard. We camped out at a lovely hotel cafe for 2+ hours. The kids were fine. You could feel the simple joy of being at cafe. People were happy just to be out and about. Eating at a restaurant now is like a luxury. The evenings blessed us with beautiful sunsets and dry weather. We would order dinner (complete with a bottle of white wine) and eat at the beach, eat, and watch the kids run in and out of the waves.

Flora was untamed. She was wild on the beach. Running in and out of the waves with her clothes on and then her underwear. Dancing in the sand with her friends. Just watching you run up and down the beach shouting with joy was the best moment of this trip. It’s amazing the power that nature can bring. Some fresh sea air, the sand in your toes, and sunshine is so therapeutic. It was a great trip.

Chilling in Amsterdam

Three days and nights in a quiet Amsterdam. We spent six nights away for a week of the May break. The original camping plan got canceled due to crappy weather. We opted for a little city time in my favorite place in the Netherlands. Amsterdam did not feel the same. There was this relaxed, chill, quiet vibe throughout the neighborhoods and parks we explored. No tourists, no crowds, museums are closed, and not much to do, but sit on a terras and enjoy a good lunch or a beer. We had a fabulous time.

Flora is a strong biker. Thibault the artist who creates these amazing works while we sit at a terras. It was heavenly. I hope that business life, financial success, arts and culture return to this beautiful place. For now, I will cherish these quiet moments with my family exploring the Haarlemmerdijk neighborhood (my new favorite place to stay), Westerpark, scones at the Bakkerswinkel, morning runs, towering canal houses, beers on tap in the sunshine, and relaxed parks. What a great three nights together.

Sallandse Heuvelrug & Deventer 2020

I just love this view. This is the Dutch landscape. Overijssel and the Sallandse Heuvelrug is my new favorite area. This national park has so many beautiful spots. Our Landal park was cute. We made the best of it. Rented some bikes, drank gluhwein on the playground while the kids played, the kids got to roast some marshmallows at the tipi, and hiked. I’m happy we decided to go ahead with the trip. Even though the pool was closed, it was good to have a change of scenery.

We took an evening walk in Deventer. It was actually my favorite day of the trip. A refreshing walk in nature in the national park (preceeded by a lot of complaining and crying–of course), cold fresh air, beautiful scenery, a cozy movie afternoon by the fire with coffee, followed by this evening stroll in Deventer, and a late dinner. It was such a fantastic day. I loved it. I have wanted to go to Deventer for some time now. Such a beautiful place. Lots of independent shops (two bookstores!), little eateries and tea rooms, tiny, quiet streets. It was beautiful. We will return sometime when life goes back to normal.

Some moments of our evening walk with all the Kerst lampjes.

Camping in Overijssel & Hoge Veluwe

 

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de Lemeler Esch campground in Lemele

Since the pandemic has cancelled our summer plans for traveling in the U.S. (camping in Maine, going to Canada, and seeing family and friends) we decided to explore the Netherlands instead. Staying safe, traveling responsibly, and keeping in line with the recommendations from the Dutch government was important to us. After looking at tons of different vacations in NL we decided to take two separate breaks. We just came back from our first “vacay” with eight nights camping in a tent. It reminded me of my childhood summers with my family.

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We spent the first four nights in de Lemeler Esch at a beautiful “natuur camping” in Overijssel. We had some sun, some rain, fun in the pool, local ice cream from a dairy farm, hikes in the woods, many hours at the multiple playgrounds, and tons of fun! We all took on some nicknames during this trip. The Jaap (the Kampeer Meneer) held everything together taking care of us along the way, Thibault (the Camp Champ), Flora (the Early Girl), and for lack of creativity myself (the Kampeer Mevrouw).

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I will fondly remember this beautiful hike to the thee huisje in de Lemelerberg where we came upon this incredible speelbos. Huge pine trees, hammocks, tree houses, ropes, etc. It was a beautiful playground in nature. Since it took the kids almost two hours to walk there, we decided one of use should go and pick up the car. I had a 30 minute walk in the woods by myself. It was heavenly!

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We swam in the “heated” pool, ate ice cream every day, got dirty, survived the rain, and had a blast. My absolute favorite quote of the entire trip was when Thibault woke up on the second day (after a long night’s sleep), unzipped the tent, poked his head out and said, “I love this place.” Thibault was the Camp Champ. He was born to spend the majority of his life outdoors, picking flowers, and sleeping in nature. Sitting in sand, picking leaves off branches in the campsite, picking flowers and making stunning bouquets. This is his life and he was in his element.

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At the Landal Park in the Hoge Veluwe life got a little bit easier. We met up with friends, everyone had a playmate, the campground had a lot of built in activities, a good market to shop at, and it felt a little bit more luxurious. Our site was a lot bigger and we were pleasantly surprised with the campground. We had lots of trees and more space. I can’t say that the whole campground was the same, but I thought our section was again, the best in the campground.

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I kept hearing the words of my father throughout the entire week. I can remember these things he would say while we were camping and his spirit was everywhere. Memories of my sister and I fetching the water, making sure we are all properly dressed, applying bug spray, tips for the rain, how to keep things dry in the tent, breakfast at the campground, etc. It makes me a little sad writing this because I miss him so much and it’s hard to think about when the next time I will see my parents. At the same time, I kept thinking how grateful I am that my parents took us camping. All children should be so lucky. There’s something so satisfying about being outdoors for an entire week. Sleeping outside made me physically feel so good. I also felt like Jaap and I were fulfilling a family tradition that’s important to me, so it was just a feel good trip.

DSC00197The thrill of roasting marshmallows (even if it has to be on a gas stove) is ageless. Who doesn’t love roasting marshmallows? Well, the tradition lives. Camping is a part of our family now for a few summers. I hope we can keep it going. My kids are nature lovers and I hope we can celebrate that every summer.

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More fun at the Openlucht Museum in Arnhem. What a great museum. I think we need two days to explore this place. We were only able to see half of it. The highlight for me was the live music session with traditional instruments from NL, Syria, and Europe. Thibault sat attentively the entire time. It was a great moment.

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