European Vacation Wrap

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The picture perfect canals of Brugge

As the old saying goes, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. Well, indeed it does.

We arrived home from our European vacation almost a week ago now. Nineteen days traipsing through Paris, Brugge, and London. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you may have seen a few of my photos, but really, they don’t do the real thing any justice at all.

I’ve been to various countries in Europe a few times now, but each and every time you appreciate something new. The history is at times mind-blowing, and really makes you realise how ‘young’ Australia is. And every corner you turn is picture post card perfect.

paris collage 1Ah Paris!

It was great taking the kids and teaching them appreciation for other cultures and seeing their faces light up at famous monuments (Miss 10 was so excited to see the Eiffel Tower). It also helps them realise, that although we (Australia), may not have the history or culture of Europe we have something special; freedom and choice. Things not to be taken for granted.

Paris collage 2

Rather than do a day by day recap of our adventures that would highly excite me, but no doubt, bore your eyes out, I’m doing something different. Here goes!

 

The Highlights

I think we all had different highlights. For the girls it was the Eiffel Tower, and Miss 10 couldn’t contain her excitement waiting in line to have her photo taken at Platform 9 and 3/4 at Kings Cross Station in London.

For hubby and I, it was the day trip we took from London to Dover. We hired a car and travelled down to the south coast to Dover which has a rich history stretching back to medieval times, right through to the important role the area played in WWII. We were lucky enough to have absolutely perfect weather for the day; clear blue skies, sunshine and a gentle breeze. The White Cliffs sparkled against the Jade waters and we could see the French coastline off in the distance. Dover Castle was a highlight in itself. On the way back we took the scenic route and ended up in the quaint village of Leeds (not the city which is in Northern England, this is a Parish/area in Kent). We had dinner at the local inn, and then took a few country roads back towards London. Roads that were narrow and lined with hedges for miles. It was a perfect end to our trip and we are already thinking about planning a trip where we just travel the English countryside from village to village, exploring castles. I think we’re showing our age no?

dover collage 1Dover castle and the English countryside

The Lowlights

I’m being really finicky here just so I have something to write, because honestly we were very lucky not to have any real lowlights.

Miss 10 leaving her reading glasses on the Eurostar. Not the end of the world, but not great either!

The weather wasn’t the greatest. It was gray skies most days, a bit of drizzle and quite cool. But having said that, it was much nicer than the 10 degree days had at home while we were away!

Euro 2016 in Paris. The soccer fans were out in force thanks to Euro 2016, especially in Paris. And while they were well behaved and didn’t really impact our time there, the thing that was really disappointing was the ‘Fan Zone’ Paris had set up right in front of the Eiffel Tower. This meant you couldn’t access any of the grassed and garden areas in front of the Tower as it was all barricaded off with fences for the big screen where in the evenings the soccer fans would take over and watch the matches. It was so disappointing that we couldn’t walk the girls up towards the Tower and have that ‘wow’ moment and just sit in awe on the soft grass staring up at the amazing sight.

Weird things I noticed

French women are slim. Not in a too-skinny-model way, but in a healthy way. Maybe there really is something to the ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’ theory.

Athletic wear as daywear isn’t a thing in Europe. The only people I saw in fitness leggings and runners were those actually walking out of gyms or running outdoors. Oh, and a few obvious tourists. Which makes me realise, I don’t think I could live in Europe, there are some days where my leggings and runners are the only things I feel comfortable wearing!

The French are not overly or outwardly friendly. That’s not to say they are unfriendly or rude (some are, but you get that everywhere), but as a culture they are quite reserved. This of course, isn’t a blanket statement, and yes, we were predominantly in tourist areas, but we did find this to be the case. And come to think of it, the Belgians were a little the same which we found odd, as on our last visit we found them much more welcoming. As for the Brits, well, they all treated us like long-lost cousins. All smiles and warmth, even despite the tragedy of Brexit and being kicked out of Euro 2016 early!

The Europeans don’t like window furnishings. Our accommodation during our trip was all AirBnb houses/apartment, and at all of them the window furnishings didn’t really serve their intended purpose. Being summer over there, they are experiencing approximately 17 hours of daylight, meaning that the sun wakes up around 5am and sets around 10pm. The lack of adequate curtains or blinds meant that there was no way keeping the sunrise out! In Brugge, two of the bedrooms didn’t even have anything on the windows! Meaning we had blankets, towels, and even a spare mattress shoved up over the dormer windows!

You can take the control-freak out of the country, but you can’t take the control-freak out of the control-freak. As much as I hate being chief itinerary organiser and map reader, I probably couldn’t have it any other way!

The food in England, particularly London has improved 100%. We were last in London in 2006 and I remember the food being pretty average. This time, it was a different story. Many pubs are serving high quality meals with flair. They’re tasty, healthy and made me look forward to eating each day.

 

Other thoughts

You can go overboard ‘seeing the sights’. Both hubby and I have been to Europe and experienced the Eiffel Towers and Big Bens, but our girls haven’t. So this trip was primarily a ‘see the sights’ tour for the benefit of the kids. But there is so much more to see outside of the big cities and tourist laden areas. We would have loved to hire a car and tour from place to place, but logistically and financially with four kids, it just wasn’t going to happen. So let’s just say, there’s plenty more travel itineraries to add to our future plans.

As much as travelling with kids is amazing for so many reasons, travelling without kids also has so many other benefits. Enough said.

london collage 1Iconic photographs of London because, you know, you have to right?

 

What I missed about home

Travel is something high on our priority list. It’s something we save and make time for, and as much as I love it, there’s always things I miss about home.

Routine. It’s a conundrum. I love routine, but I love the spontaneity of venturing off each day in a new place.

Space. This is coming from my introvert self. As much as I love my family to pieces, I found myself craving alone time and space to just think and be. I guess, the waking up at 5am wasn’t such a bad thing as I’d often get up and read or just sit. I needed it.

Writing. Apart from a few hours on the plane trips, I didn’t really do any writing. There was no time. But that’s not to say I didn’t crave it. Hence, why this blog post is so long! I’m looking forward to getting back to blogging and sinking my teeth back into my manuscript this week.

Cooking. Okay, so it took me about two weeks to miss preparing our own meals. Eating out every lunch and dinner is fantastic, but by the end of the trip I was craving just a normal sized one plate meal of meat and three veg. What did we have the first night home? Roast.

Exercise. Although we walked on average 6-8km per day, it’s not the same as a good hit out on the bike or pounding the pavement. I missed my early morning exercise regime, and with all the food I ate, let’s just say I need to get back to it!

Brugge collage 1Brugge even makes the most awful photographers with iphones look like pros

 

So there you have it. Our European adventure in a nutshell. I’m already planning further trips, in my head anyway. The bank balance is looking quite sad at the moment!

 

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