Friday, April 20, 2012

Tiptoeing Through the Tulips

We started doing the math and realized we'd be next door to Holland during the bulb blooming season.  It fast became a priority to make the drive there to see the legendary bulbs in bloom in person.  The drive was about 3 hours (one way) from our gite in Belgium, and as we headed out I began to question whether the long drive for a single event was really worth it--especially as the kids were having so much fun with the friends we were staying with.  Let me just say, for the record, it was 100% worth every kilometer we drove (although, technically Ted did the driving through the construction and crowded city traffic, so maybe we should ask him).  We had a lovely day, exploring the Keukenhof Gardens (near Lisse, Holland) on foot.  They claim to plant more than 7,000,000 bulbs every year.

After that, we explored the countryside on bike.  

The tulips hadn't yet peaked, but that was no disappointment, because the hyacinths had, and suffice it to say that the scent was delicious.  Mary Beth and I just drove down the path and inhaled deeply hoping to remember the smell forever.  

We followed a marked path, but got a little turned around at one point.  Our attempt to return to the bike rental shop led us, instead, to the North Sea (the rental guy mentioned that one of the paths would take us there, so we weren't terribly shocked).  Not what we had planned, but it was a great accident.  Now we have a few shells to add to our shell collection from other ocean visits.  

But the real highlight was the tulips and other flowers in the gardens and carpeting the countryside.  It was beautiful.

And now, let's see how smart you are (or how well you google).  This year, Keukenhof was featuring Poland.  So, who is this famous person from Poland.  You probably don't need a hint, but here's one anyway--he's a composer.  

First one to respond wins the prize.  (Note I say "the prize" not "a prize."  My kids win "the prize" sometimes for being the last one up in the morning or for being in the clean plate club,  for example, and I will have to admit, they're always disappointed that "the prize" is just a phrase.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Spring Break brought us to Belgium.  Riley had the opportunity to join her youth group, Club Beyond, at an Adventure Camp in Belgium, and we decided to vacation in the area as well.  That way we could do some things on either end, drive her into camp and enjoy some of spring break together.  Also, it was nice not to be 12 hours away, just in case.  :)

We found a lovely place to stay in Belgium that accommodated us and two other families who we vacationed with.
Just inside the door of the gite was this stone mosaic in the floor.

It was in a small, quiet village with a beautiful park just across the street.  The kids were happy to spend hours there.

Near the park was also this picturesque castle-like building.  We took advantage of the "picturesque" part and took a whole mess of pictures of it.

We didn't do too much big city touring in Belgium--in fact we missed Brussels altogether.  The kids were having such a good time with friends that it was nice to hang out in the gite and stay nearby.  We did, however, go out and about the area geocaching.  One cache, which we have no pictures for, took us on this lovely walk through the literal countryside.  Another cache had the group climbing up a very steep hill to get to a railroad bed at the top where the cache was cleverly hidden.

A third cache took us to this sentry-like tower.

While caching, we drove by the Bocq brewery and decided to head there later in the afternoon for a tour and some beer tasting.  That was not as fun for the kids, but lots of fun for Ted.

We also spent an afternoon walking around Dinant, one of the larger cities in the area that is the home of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of--yep, you guessed it, the saxophone!

There was also this lovely church and a citadel high above.  With the river below it was a pretty sight.

While in Belgium we also took advantage of the bakery down the street and tried loads of awesome pastries, breads and waffles!  The waffles had little chunks of sugar inside, making them super sweet.
The bakery had a vending machine where you could easily purchase loaves of bread.  

Mary was excited to try French fries in Belgium after reading that they were a popular item, served in Friterie stands around the country.  Indeed, the creators of the fries, the Belgiums had friteries all over the place--almost like an ice cream stand.

It was a good few days in a very beautiful place.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Munich, Easter Weekend 2012

On our way to Belgium, we stopped for a few nights in Munich.  We thought we could do some sightseeing and exploring, and break up the 12 hour drive.  

The first night there, after settling into the room at the hostel/hotel we were staying, we walked towards Marienplatz, an old town center with a beautiful building that has a glockenspiel.  It's currently being used as a city government type building.  On our walk there, we got SPLASHED by a car driving through a puddle...bigtime.  

We found a restaurant and had some pretzels, some schnitzel, some frankfurters, some wild boar, some white asparagus soup (white asparagus is a locally grown veggie) and, of course, some beer!  

Here are the photos from around Marienplatz on the first night.

We woke up Sunday morning (Easter) to snow!!  The kids were surprised to find Easter eggs hidden in our little hotel room.  We had brought the Resurrection eggs to hide and seek Sunday morning.  It was a good start to the day--snow and all.  

Afterwards, we headed to the Deutches Museum, a science and technology museum.  There were lots of neat exhibits about everything from flight to textiles (two favorites in this household!)  It was a good place to spend the morning, which was a bit cold and wet.

Lucy, sweet child that she is, had picked up a colorful brochure at the hostel for an aquarium.  More than once she had that thing opened at the Deutches Museum, as though she was looking at it as a map.  Eventually, after we had walked ourselves all over the museum (and yet still hadn't seen it all), we decided to make our way across town for a few hours at the aquarium.  Then, when Lucy figured out what the brochure she was looking at was all about (a shark museum) she got a little scared!  Crazy kid!

The aquarium was near the Munich Olympic Park, so we took a few pictures outside before we got our tickets to the aquarium.  

Unfortunately, I don't have a single good picture from inside the aquarium, but it was a lot of fun for everyone--we saw sharks, turtles, Dory and Nemo, rays, eels, seahorses...and we got to put our hands in a touch tank.  

After that we headed back towards the Marienplatz, where we eventually ended up at the Ratskeller for dinner.  This restaurant is underneath the Marienplatz.  They were hopping Sunday night, and the host led us through a winding path, through multiple sections of the restaurant (all with slightly different motifs) to an open table.  Definitely felt as though we were in a rat cellar at this point!!  Dinner was fantastic.  Riley's choice of the spaetzle with the fried onions on top was the winner for the night.  

Monday is a national holiday in Germany (Easter Monday), so other than restaurants and tourist attractions, very little was open--not even the souvenir shops!  But, we managed to enjoy our day anyway (and maybe saved a euro or two on souvenirs!)  We started the morning with some hot cocoa and cappuccino while we waited for the first of the two ringings of the glockenspiel at the Marienplatz.  The kids remarked that it "was awesome!"  It was like a "giant cuckoo clock" and their favorite was the jousting knights.  

Afterwards we took a quick walk over to the Hofbrauhaus where we enjoyed a beer in the beer hall of one of Munich's oldest breweries.  Although, beer at 11:00 was a little early for us.  :)

Cory did an excellent job taking this picture of us.

And then it was a stop at Hard Rock Cafe--we knew it was an American influenced restaurant when they brought out kids' drinks in plastic cups with straws--the kids very rarely get anything but regular glass cups over here.  At first it made us really nervous, but now we're used to it...and the kids are too.  
From there we headed back to Olympic Park to get a view from the tower and see the 1972 Olympic stadium.  The view from the tower was fantastic--we even caught a glimpse of the Alps after which the stadium is designed.
This direction out of the tower offered a great view of BMW headquarters/museum/plant/showroom.

The kids saw the bungee trampolines from the tower and insisted we take them there.  It brought out a lot of smiles...

Mary and Cory were able to flip while jumping...Riley decided it was safer just to jump.

We headed back into town on the subway--our main mode of transportation for the weekend--and checked Munich off of our to see list!