A Travellerspoint blog

Reykjavik, Iceland Stopover

Sideways rain, wind, and a little chill didn't stop us!

July 1 - Reykjavik in 24 hours

After two lovely nights in Seattle visiting family, we began our 5 1/2 week journey to Europe! This time, we chose Icelandair mainly because of cheaper rates. The airline offers free stopovers in Iceland so we decided to stay one night and give it a try,

The seven hour flight from Seattle was easy. Kids were happy with their individual screens and free kid meals. The adults managed with snacks. Icelandair is cheap because it's no frills. No one slept on the flight (Well, DH always manages a nap. Lucky guy.) so I knew jet lag would be interesting.
The look of jet lag:

Upon landing, I was first struck by the smell of sulfer in the air. Iceland is known for its geothermal power beneath the surface. We took the flybus into Reykjavik - about 45 minutes. We were dropped off at our small guesthouse - Summerday. The room was not supposed to be ready until 2pm and we were there around 9am with very tired kids. The guesthouse earned HUGE points when they checked us in upon arrival. We all promptly crashed and napped just a bit.
DD#1 and I wandered to a nearby store to find breakfast. Prices are steep in Iceland but much better at a grocery store. We found pastries and the famous skyr yogurty specialty that comes in liquid and more spoonable forms. Pretty good.
The guesthouse earned even more points when they offered to drive us to a local thermal pool - Laugardalslaug. This was the best way to beat jet lag. The pool was fantastic! There were 3 different waterslides, several hot-pots ranging in temperature. One was empty because it was so hot. DH managed in that one for a bit. The kids particularly loved the ropes course over the water. Entrance to the pool was reasonable - I think around $13 for the family. We opted for this experience over the expensive Blue Lagoon. The kids loved it and I know that will be their fond memory of Iceland. They did not allow pictures in the pool so I'm including one I found online.


We ate Icelandic hot dogs for an after pool snack just outside the pool. Word is that they eat a lot of hot dogs around here! We hopped on a city bus back to the guesthouse to change. Did I mention how terrible the weather was the entire time? It rained, and rained, and rained some more. We were very cold in the brisk wind despite wearing rain coats and a few layers underneath.
Some random sights around the city:
Neat sink had high speed hand dryers attached:
We quickly regrouped after swimming and took a bus to the downtown area. We were lucky to catch a great organist practicing in the famous Hallgrimskirkja church. The kids were quite content watching him play for a while. We took the elevator to the viewing platform at the top of the church tower. Very windy up there! We wandered around some of the more touristy parts of Reykjavik. After popping in a few shops, we ate dinner at Icelandic Fish & Chips. Not a cheap meal but tasty and filling. We enjoyed hearing Icelandic being spoken. The language both sounds and looks very Scandinavian. The signs made me think of IKEA.
We did not try the krap:

We made it back for beverages at our hotel. I thought I had purchased two beers but one of them was a nasty non-alcoholic malt drink. Must be an acquired taste. It was easy to crash for the night to prepare for our 4am flybus pick up time.

July 2 - Flight to Frankfurt

Flybus back to the airport was easy. The flight to Frankfurt was no problem - just three hours. We took the train from busy Frankfurt to Dornheim to stay with family. We were all tired again but revived to see familiar faces who made us feel at home. The kids played with the fish, settled in to their own room, and we finally unpacked a bit for the first time. Showers never felt so good!

We went out for a special Greek dinner right along the Rhine River. A lovely location to watch the boats and view the vineyards across the river. The weather was perfect and quite the welcome change from Iceland! The kids were managing themselves really well at this point. I was shocked that they hadn't napped and were staying happy. Maybe the stopover in Iceland had helped with jet lag. It's only day three so one can hope!
After dinner, we walked down to the banks of the Rhine where the kids spent around 30 minutes finding special rocks and climbing around. They could have stayed for much longer but we knew they needed sleep!
Dinner was delicious and we really enjoyed catching up with family. We stayed up a bit getting advice for the rest of our stay in the Frankfurt area.

Posted by familyineurope 23:29 Archived in Iceland Comments (2)

We are headed back to Europe Summer 2014!

Our family is headed to Iceland, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Now our kids are 7 and 9. We can hardly wait!


Here we go again. Back to Europe for another adventure! It's been three years since our seven week adventure through Germany, France, and Belgium. Our itinerary for summer 2014 hits a few favorites but will mostly focus on new destinations. Our daughters are now seven and nine. We are excited to travel with kids who can read, have longer attention spans, and are easier to reason with (usually).

This trip excites us for many reasons. We are visiting family and friends for nearly half the trip, we are focused on fun and local culture (not as many museums), and family time together without our hectic schedules.

I have spent loads of time planning the trip using online forums, guide books, and family conversations. We are budget travelers who average less than 100 Euro per night for accommodations, eat simple meals, and enjoy local sights such as pools, parks, and beer gardens! Our accommodations are booked and the basic itinerary is set. Now we're counting the days until liftoff!

Here is the itinerary:

Seattle - depart on Icelandair.

Reykjavik, Iceland - (will I ever be able to spell this city without looking it up?) - one night stopover. We intend to visit a local geothermal pool with waterslides, ride a boat around the harbor, and check out the city.

Dornheim, Germany (near Frankfurt) - stay with family for three nights. Visit sights along the Rhine and acclimate to Europe time. I plan to run in a local race, ride bikes, visit family, and rejoice that we are back in Europe!

Munich, Germany - We will take the ICE train to Munich where we will stay three nights. At the end of our stay, we will collect our new BMW that we will lease for three years through the European Delivery Program. We did this three years ago and LOVED the experience, and the car.

Reisbach, Germany
- We are staying at a small inn for two nights with the goal to visit Bayern Amusement Park. I might be more excited than the kids to visit a mid-sized local amusement park!

Prague, Czech Republic - We are staying five nights right below the Charles Bridge in an apartment. DH and I have spent time in Prague and are eager to explore the city more than a decade later. We will probably take a side trip or two and enjoy some sights off the tourist track.

Warsaw, Poland - We will spend 4 nights in Warsaw staying with dear friends. We have never been to Warsaw. I look forward to seeing how this city is rebuilding and changing.

Gdansk, Poland - Our friends will travel with us to Gdansk where we will stay in an apartment for three nights. It will be interesting to explore the Baltic Sea.

Berlin, Germany
- We have never been to Berlin and look forward to seeing another city that continues to reinvent itself alongside its rich history.

Adelsdorf, Germany - This town is not far from Bamberg, Germany. The Bamberg area has more breweries per capita than any place on the planet! There are also luge opportunities, amusement parks, and the historic city of Bamberg nearby. Did I mention we are staying at a small brewery hotel?

Bruges, Belgium - Seven nights. We are returning to the same farm we stayed at three years ago. Our kids are especially excited for this part of the trip. Our friends from Poland will join us for the week.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- We will stay three nights in an apartment just outside the city center. I have been to Amsterdam but the rest of the family has not. Hopefully we will ride bikes like the locals! We will fly home from Amsterdam.

Posted by familyineurope 19:13 Comments (1)

Mosel River, Frankfurt, and Home!


We're back in the USA where I'm working on finishing the blog. We did not have Internet during our last stay.

July 31 - Drive to Longuich, Germany.

We reluctantly awoke early and left our wonderful little farmhouse outside of Brugge, Belgium. We had a three-hour drive to our next destination - Longuich, Germany. It's a little wine village just outside of Trier. Trier is the oldest town in Germany and has some amazing Roman ruins.

DH and I both enjoyed some fast driving on the Autobahn.

We arrived at one of the many weinguts that are throughout the Mosel River Valley. The small town of Longuich must have had a dozen weinguts. We rented a spotless apartment for three nights. The balcony was a perfect place to enjoy a glass of white Mosel wine.

Our balcony is on the top left:
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There is a fridge with local wine at the bottom of the stairs. You can help yourself to wine on an honor system basis.

We arrived for lunch in Longuich. DH had big plans for the day - the Nürburgring Nordschleife! He had arranged for a BMW Ring-Taxi. A professional track driver took him on a wild M3 ride around what is probably the most challenging track in the world. After the taxi tour, DH took a lap around in the new car. Yikes! One lap amongst many other track drivers and motorcyles was enough. I was never so happy to have him return to the sleepy Mosel River in one piece!

Here is the taxi just outside of the BMW Pavilion at the 'Ring.
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Someone caught a picture of DH driving our car around the 'Ring.

Meanwhile, the kids and I were enjoying a quiet day in Longuich. We were able to walk the entire town and found a few parks along the way.

We were lucky to stumble across a festival in the town. There was a live Germany oom-pah band! Naturally we stopped for a beverage and snack.
The band was pretty good!

We were all safely reunited after having very different afternoons! We had dinner just up the road and started to settle in to the relaxed Mosel River pace.
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August 1st - Trier!

I started the day with a great run along the river. The bike/running path is really beautiful! I made a stop at the local bakery on the way back. We will REALLY miss the high-quality bakeries we have found all across Europe. Yum!

Today was all about exploring the nearby town of Trier. Here's the Porta Nigra gate. The best-preserved Roman city gate anywhere!

The city was much bigger and vibrant than I expected. I love how you can stop in the middle of the pedestrian area for a glass of wine.
It was a lovely summer day and we enjoyed walking around and exploring.

The girls bought these cute bandanas with tooth fairy money.

This is the oldest Christian church in Europe.

We found a popular fast stop for giant bratwurst. Yum! We all ate every single bite.
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After all this sight-seeing, we found a playground and a great public pool with a waterslide, once again!
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Just love how you can get a beer - anywhere!

We stopped for groceries on the way home. I'm already missing the double-sided row of yogurt products so common in European grocery stores.

August 2 - Mosel River Villages

Today was spent meandering along the beautiful Mosel River just stopping wherever we felt the need and desire. It was a hot day - probably near 90 degrees. The first stop was at one of the plentiful playgrounds that we learned to appreciate in Germany. We love those zip-lines!

We drove up to a castle overlooking the town of Bernkastel. Beautiful!

Next stop was the town of Zell. I had read about their Black Cat wine. Since I love cats, I knew we had to sample the wine!
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Our last stop was in the pretty little town of Beilstein. DD#2 fell asleep while the rest of us enjoyed a refreshing drink. We also had an early dinner before returning to our little Longuich apartment.
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I almost forgot about our pit-stop just outside of Cochem. Cochem is the most touristy of the Mosel villages. We stayed in Cochem for a night about nine years ago and had this same picture taken. We had our kids recreate the shot!
Now the kids have the same picture as well.

Tonight was packing night in Longuich. It was quite a process figuring out how to cart home 6 1/2 weeks of stuff! Luckily, it wasn't as bad as expected and bringing that empty duffel bag was a terrific idea.

August 3 - Frankfurt, Car Drop-Off, and Family Dinner

We had an uneventful drive to Frankfurt today. DH and I were feeling a little melancholy about leaving and eager to go home all at the same time. We enjoyed the Autobahn and our lovely new car for the last time for a while. The BMW was checked into Frankfurt (after a wash) and will take around eight weeks to make it to Oregon.

4898 miles on the odometer after 42 days with the car.

DD#2 and I stayed at an airport hotel and played games while DH and DD#1 returned the car. Afterward, we took the train to Dornheim to visit family. My step-siblings live in this Frankfurt suburb.

Sadly, I have no pictures to show from this amazing dinner of German goulash, dumplings, salad, etc... We were so excited to see familiar faces and catch up with family that we completely forgot about taking pictures. The kids were relaxed in their home and made a mess of yarn and who knows what else! We were so thankful to relax in a home and were definitely getting out of vacation mode and back to normalcy. We can't thank our family enough for taking us in and making us feel welcome! They even drove us back to our airport hotel after a long and leisurely meal and visit.

Despite having one bed in a very small hotel room, we slept soundly and were eager to get on the plane to Oregon!

August 4 - Our Journey Home!

We flew Lufthansa home on their largest plane, an Airbus A380. What a beast! We'd never seen such a huge plane. We were all thrilled with our own TV/movie screens and got into the travel groove easily. DH was the only one among us who napped on this 11 hour flight. I watched three feature-length movies!
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Poor DD#2 was out in the SFO airport. We were stuck there for nearly six hours due to delays.

We were more than thankful to land at home around 9:00pm. My dad and stepmom were there to pick us up in a newly cleaned and serviced car along with grocery staples. What a welcome!

This blog is nearly complete. I've been compiling a list of last thoughts, things I'd do differently next time, favorites, and thank yous (especially to all you blog readers). I will complete that last post in a few days once I fully collect my thoughts and recover completely from jet-lag. In a nutshell, it's WONDERFUL to be home among family and friends. However, I'm already missing a few things about Europe and find myself thinking of our next trip across the pond.

Posted by familyineurope 19:41 Comments (0)

Brugge Farm Stay Continued


July 27 - Divide and Conquer!

DH and I decided to give each other the gift of time alone in Brugge. Today was his day and tomorrow would be mine. We began with yet another rainy day in Belgium. My only complaint has been the lack of summer weather here! We headed for more groceries and I finally snapped a couple pictures in a Carrefour. Nothing too exciting really.
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We really meant to do more but instead came back to the farm to spend the day. We rode bikes, went swimming, and played with animals while DH took a look around Brugge at his own pace. Here are a few of his pictures.

Check out all the bikes! It seems like everyone rides a bike around here. It's just the way of life.

Back at the ranch, the kids were having a great time with their friends from Scotland.
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Another donkey ride for good measure.

I made some chicken and rice for dinner and we said goodnight to all the animals and called it a day.

July 28 - My day in Brugge and dinner in Gent

After a leisurely morning, I headed off to Brugge by myself! First thing I did was buy a nice warm caramel waffle and didn't share a bite with anyone. It's the little things I tell ya!

I wandered and shopped to my heart's content. I snapped a few more pictures of lovely Brugge.
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I found a tiny pub called De Garre down a VERY narrow alley. It took me forever to find it! I had their house tripel beer. Mmmmmmm!
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After more wandering - I probably walked 5-6 miles - I headed back to the farm. We gathered our things and drove to Gent. It was a surprisingly short 30 minute drive. Another beautiful city!

Well hello there castle right in the middle of the city.

We had a typical Flemish dinner. I tried the Gent specialty waterzooi - a chicken stew. DH had a yummy scampi salad.
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We headed home, cracked a Belgian brew and called it a night.

July 29 - The Belgian Coast

After a quick bakery stop, we made the 30 minute drive to the Belgian coast. Everything is so close here! Check out these delicious baked concoctions:

We made our way to the resort town of Blankenberge. The small coastline in Belgium was built-up in the '60s and '70s with high-rise condos and tacky shops. I found it fascinating especially compared to the vast and virtually empty Oregon coast. Those little white shacks are owned by people. We saw a few for sale.

The kids rode carts around a velodrome. They especially liked the refueling stations, telephones, and ATMs!
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Some major container ships make their way down the channel.

For lunch, we checked out one of the many frite/snack shops all over Belgium. We tried bitterballen which are kind of like fried gravy balls. No kidding!
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After our "healthy" lunch, we stopped at a random beach bar. They had a play-area so the kids ran off some steam while DH and I enjoyed a beer. I'm amazed at how many restaurants offer play-areas. I'm envious!
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We got away from the condos and highrises for a more traditional beach experience.

We stopped at another grocery store and made dinner back at the farm. Sausages and zucchini this time. Just another day in Belgium!

July 30 - Beer Pilgrimage Day!

Today was the big day to visit two beer sights - Westvleteren (St. Sixtus) & De Dolle Brewery. First stop was that yummy bakery again for another treat.

Westvleteren was about an hour away. This is true Trappist beer and the brewery itself cannot be visited. We stopped at the adjacent cafe for lunch. The cafe is also the place to taste this exceptional beer. Some beer lists rate Westvleteren 12 as the best beer in the world!
Here's a pic of the infamous Westvleteren 12:

Next was a visit to the De Dolle brewery. We had a 3:00 tour time that we had reserved. The guide was this sharp and funny woman who had been present at the brewery's beginnings. She was quite a character!
I even bought posters from the guy who designs all the artwork and labels.
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We came home where the kids swam once again and played with their new friends from next door.
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Of course the big news is that DD#1 finally lost her first tooth! She was so so so excited and can't wait for the tooth fairy to come to Belgium.

We are sad to be leaving this special place in the morning. I have a feeling we will return someday! There will be many goodbyes in the morning - both to animals and new friends.
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Tomorrow is back to Germany and the Mosel River. DH will be taking a ring taxi around the Nurburgring! I'm not sure what the internet situation will be so it might be a few days before I can update. Best wishes everyone!

Posted by familyineurope 12:49 Comments (0)

Farm Stay Near Brugge, Belgium

First off - a couple highlights from the farm. We're here for the week.

July 24th - A long driving day.

We had around 6 hours of driving today to go from Mont St. Michel to Brugge, Belgium. We had a quick fast-food stop along the way. (I know, fast-food. We had to bribe & exercise the kids in the play area.) The drive was relatively fast and painless. The kids seemed worn out and didn't mind relaxing in the car. Angry Birds is our new travel friend.

We arrived at our farm gite just outside of Brugge around 6pm. The owner spent nearly an hour showing us around and giving travel tips. He is very kind and generous with his time and tips. He seems to really enjoy showing people a good time! I can't say enough great things about this place. We're already talking about coming back. The two-bedroom apartment is in a restored barn. It's clean, roomy, and very homey.
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Here's the view from our outside deck.
There are chickens, rabbits, pigeons (we saw 2-day old pigeons today), donkeys, cows, horses, sheep, cats, and more. There are flowers growing everywhere and kids play equipment. The girls are beyond happy here and we've had a hard time getting them to go anywhere!
This looks like our old cat Gabi:

For you animal lovers, here are a few of my favorites.
Hello big guy:
Some long-legged cows!
According to the owner, this breed of cows are born only by C-Section. A vet is called in for each birth. The babies are just too big or something.
Lulu the horse actually is a working horse! She hauls carriages full of tourists in nearby Brugge. She's currently taking a break on the farm. I'm tempted to take her out for a ride. It's just been too long since I've been on a horse!

There is only one other apartment here and it's occupied by a Scottish family with three kids - ages 4, 7, 10. The ten year old girl loves playing with our DDs. She even painted their nails! There's an indoor play-area for the kids too.

After we settled in, we had a typical Flemish dinner in the nearby village of Oedelem.
Here's one local specialty - eel! It was pretty good.
DD#1's smiley sausage with carrot hair.
DH's mussels and frites. Fries are the bread in Belgium. They come with everything in massive portions. There are fry shops all over! There are two just in our tiny nearby village!
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Goodnight from our little farm!

July 25 - Hanging out at the farm

We pretty much spent the entire day enjoying and appreciating this great place. I got out for a run. It is blissfully flat country here! I also drove to the nearby store to stock up on groceries. DH and I are big fans of Belgian beer. I nearly fainted in the store when I began pricing some of our favorite bottles. Bottles of Trappist beer that go for $4-6 at home are around 1.50 Euros. Woohoo!

One of the best features here at the farm is the massive supply of bikes! Hours and hours of entertainment!
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These go-cart contraptions are a hit!

DH even had a chance to wash and vacuum the car. It needed it!

After lots of bike riding - DD#1 and I went off for over six miles - we finally got ourselves together and headed to Brugge for dinner. We parked outside of town and took a short bus ride in - another tip from the owner. The town really is lovely.
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We had dinner at a place with over 400 beers on the menu. The menu was an overwhelming BOOK! I had a Flemish beef stew and DH had a fish stew. The kids also shared the Flemish stew. It was really tasty! The vat of fries were there but didn't make the picture.
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After a very filling meal, we got home and rolled into bed.

July 26 - More Brugge

After a little bike riding, we drug the kids into the car back to Brugge. We had barely gotten a taste of the city yesterday! Check out how DD#1 felt about being forced to leave the farm:

First off was climbing the famous belfry. Some might remember this tower from the grisly movie "In Bruges". There were 366 steps and a nice view at the top.
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Check out the huge modern windmills in the distance.

After all those steps, we rewarded ourselves with a box of chocolates. I visited this same shop around nine years ago. Mmmmm!

We wandered around taking in the sights. We stopped for waffles with whipped cream. Hey, you gotta have waffles in Belgium!

Next, we took a canal tour in a little boat. DH and I found it very interesting. DD#2 fell fast asleep.
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We came back home and the wonderful owner was here offering up donkey rides. The kids were ecstatic!
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In addition, we ran into another local farmer who invited us to see his dairy farm. They had tiny kittens...
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A calf that was born earlier in the day as well as other tiny calves.
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Hello there milk mamas!

We had easy pasta dinner at our place, did more bike riding, and called it a day. I didn't mention that the farm is located at the end of a mile-long road. There is almost no traffic on the road so the kids can ride up and down safely. They love the independence. We all do!

Hopefully four more happy days in Belgium will follow. Stay tuned!

Posted by familyineurope 12:25 Archived in Belgium Comments (3)

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