Round the Kettle Ep 13: All Over the Board with Updates and Chats

Good afternoon and Happy Sunday! I’m curious…are you having a productive get all the things done Sunday or a laid back/full of adventure Sunday Fun day? I am currently writing this post on a Wednesday (no shame in my prep game) as we are out of town…or rather driving back from out of town on this Sunday. BUT, I balance back and forth between the two. I definitely appreciate a really productive, prep for the week Sunday, but there is also something to be said about spending it outside, with family, doing something absolutely crazy or fun.

Tell me below which camp you fall into, Productive Sunday or Funday Sunday…

For us, we’ve spent this past weekend exploring somewhere new, somewhere exciting, and just getting away for a little while. We will be doing the same next weekend, going somewhere new and exploring. We’ve done a lot of traveling just in the few months that we’ve been here, but things are going to start settling down a little bit more as we head into Autumn. My husbands schedule will once again start to pick up, we will be in our home/be a little more settled, and the long weekends away will go down to probably just once a month, which honestly is more than we could have even asked for!

So, the second half of May is going to be an exciting travel filled one, so to balance that out we are going to be spending June with a couple of day trips (maybe an overnight one, not sure), but mostly close to home as we will be getting our home towards the end of the month! You read that right, we are going to FINALLY be moving out of the hotel and into a house the end of June. We’ve been jumping for joy as we are beyond ready to have our own home and all of our household goods. It’s been an experience living in a one bedroom hotel room and has given me a whole new respect for families that have to live in cramped quarters on a regular basis (it’s also reminded me just how blessed we are).

I want to share one more little tidbit, food for thought type of deal, within this Round the Kettle post. This past week I worked with a photographer to get some new professional photos done for the blog/social media/etc. and we had quite the conversations while we were shooting. First off, such a fun fun session (I can’t wait to see the final photo’s – keep an eye out as they start to hit Social Media)! We just clicked on so many levels and it was nice to chat with someone that just…”got me”. If that makes sense? She was super cool and laidback and we definitely plan on getting together another time. Friends are everywhere, just waiting to be met. BUT all that aside (I’m getting off topic over here), we talked about a couple things that I want to mention, but will probably do full blog posts on another day for.

The first being the topic of being introverted vs. extroverted and how that comes across. A lot of times people are quite surprised to hear that I am very introverted because I will socialize, I will talk with others, I enjoy hanging out with friends, etc. What you don’t typically see from me is that after that, after I’ve hung out with friends or anything social/noisy/talking/etc. I have to come back home and have some quiet time to myself. I have to be able to recharge myself in my own home on my own terms. THAT is what introversion is. It is all about how you get drained and how you recharge.

This is also something that I was briefly speaking about with another mom at our little playgroup at it really applies in parenting and intimate relationships. It actually leads to quite an interesting conversation with others as well, so…

Tell me, are you introverted or extroverted?

And finally, the last thing was the idea of Self Confidence. We were talking about how we became much more confident in who we were and what the catalysts were for that. I definitely have a blog post on this coming (way beyond the little tidbit that I am going to leave here), but in the moment I just simply said, “I’ve got two kids, I don’t really have time to sit and worry about what others think of me”. While that is VERY TRUE, it is not the only reason I’ve become so much more confident over the past few years. I’ve kind of hit a point in my life where I recognize who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. I’ve realized that I’m not everyone’s “cup of tea” and I’m not going to make everyone happy. I’ve realized that that is OK. It doesn’t reflect poorly on me and you know what? Not everyone has to like me. Life isn’t a popularity contest. I’d much rather spend my time happy, in the moment with my husband and children, than worrying about what this person thinks or what that person said. Like I said, I’ll talk more on this on another post…

So, now that I’ve rambled on for approximately 874 words, I’d love to know what you’re up to on this Sunday afternoon! Leave me a comment down below 🙂

Frankische Schweiz and Pottenstein – A Day Trip

***As a note before we begin, some of these photo’s (in particular the cave one’s) were taken with my cellphone, not my nice, good camera. Between the cellphone camera and the dark nature of the cave, the photos did not turn out in the best way that I would normally feature on my blog. My apologies***

This past Sunday we decided to do a very special Sunday Funday trip and take a Steam Train Ride and explore a cave in a region somewhat near us. Our local post has an Outdoor Recreation Office that organizes a variety of trips for the residents assigned to the post. Sometimes it can be a little more cost effective to go through them for the trips they offer and sometimes they will offer up experiences that you hadn’t otherwise planned or thought about doing. A lot of times they are organized for group numbers and can therefore be offered at a lower price point than if you were to book it on your own.

This was not the case with this trip (I think our pricing was just standard pricing as if we had gone to get tickets ourselves), but they organized the whole day from start to finish. It did mean a very early start to our day (alarms set for 5 AM, to make sure we were ready, with a leave time of 7AM), but it was so incredibly worth it. A real dream come true. If you have the option to go through a group travel or through your own Outdoor Recreation office, you should totally do it! We love to travel on our own but doing it in a group was really fun as well.

So, we started our morning off with a beautiful, scenic drive to Frankische Schweiz area to a little train station (you can view the website for the train HERE, but you’ll want to use a google translate as it is only in German). We did end up blowing a tire not far from the station (thankfully it was that close, and we were moving at a slow speed so no real loss of control or anything like that), but it gave us a fun memory to go along with the experience. Our guide from the day was very informative, talking us through not only the day, but cool spots to come back to in the future.

Once at the station we got to take a look at the train itself, watch them bring the steam engine up and connect it all before boarding the train. Our boys LOVED  being able to watch the steam engine pull forward, backwards, and hook up to the train car. It wasn’t too long after we boarded that we were slowly starting to move. The Steam Train itself is from the 1930’s and still runs really well. The full ride was an hour, or two long and we got to lean out the windows, which the boys loved, and get out at the halfway point to watch them move the engine car to the other end. And, of course, they sounded the whistle anytime we were coming through a station or crossing.

If you get a chance to take a steam train ride, wherever you are, I would highly recommend it. Not only do you get that nostalgic feeling of a time gone by, but it is also just such a slower, prettier, more relaxed way to see the countryside. The steam trains can only go so fast, so you really get a chance to take in the towns and landscapes around you.

We then stopped for lunch at a little restaurant along the Wiesent River where three families with 4 toddlers and 2 infants managed to have a full calm no fuss meal. It’s a miracle! The restaurant was called Bruckla and I had a lovely tomato soup and a sneaky little slice of cake. (No pictures this time though!).

Once we finished lunch we boarded back on to the bus to head over to Teufelshohle Pottentstein (Devil’s Cave). This is a naturally formed limestone cave that features several different formations and can be trekked about a mile through. You climb about 400 steps during the course of the tour. It was discovered in 1922 and was extended/ dug through for the following 10 years. It is the longest cave in Germany (sitting at just under/around one mile) and the largest in Franconian Switzerland. You can read about the Cave/Visit the Site HERE, but again it will be listed in German so Google Translate will be a good option.

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There are several “landmarks” of the cave, the first being Devil’s Hole. This is the first hall and features some of the equipment used to dig through after a cave in and some natural formations on the ceiling. Walking past here we can see several natural limestone formations before reaching the next “landmark”, Bears Grotto. This features a complete skeleton of a cave bear. Per the cave the bear was approximately 900 pounds and stood at 12 ft high. There are also some pretty cool formations staggered around the hall.

One of the other “landmarks” that we saw within the cave was a large cavern that was covered in stalagmites and stalactites. Called the “Colossal Hall” It is 42 ft high and features the two oldest limestones of Devil’s Cave. These two formations are suspected of being over 300,000 years old. Then finally we saw the Candle Hall and headed through some very (and I mean VERY) tight quarters to find our way to the exit.

IMG_0831Upon exiting the cave, you come out to this beautiful rock formation and a lite gorge hike to reach the exit of the park. When we walked into the cave we had some light cloud cover, but when we stepped out it was full sunshine and a blue sky. What a wonderful way to come back to ground!

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Overall, this was one of our most memorable Sunday Funday’s and a day trip that I am not likely to forget anytime soon. If you have the chance to do a group travel through your own Outdoor Recreation program I highly recommend it. It was a great way to get to know a couple other families (we knew one of the other families) and you get to experience these things together which is always a fun addition.

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Sunset at the end of Sunday Funday

 

Things You Should Do and Tips For: The Netherlands and Amsterdam

Good morning! We recently spent a long weekend away in The Netherlands, which you can read all about HERE, and this morning I am going to talk about some of the tips/tricks that we learned and what I would recommend you do as well as maybe some things that are maybe a little over hyped.

As always, this will heavily depend on your own interest, how you are traveling, and the time of year that you are going. This is the first (and only) time that we have been to The Netherlands and we went to see two spots, Amsterdam and the Tulip Gardens. We were only there for 3 nights total, so we didn’t get to see everything that we had wanted to. We also traveled with our two young children, which as with Berlin, factored into what we did and didn’t do. I am going to do these as two separate sections, one for Amsterdam and one for everything else, that way if you are only interested in Amsterdam you can only read that part or if you are only interested in the Tulips you can only read that part. It is also too much and too different to try and consolidate into one long recommendations and tips section.

Recommendations for Amsterdam

It may seem overly touristy but take advantage of the boat rides along the canals. To be completely honest this is one of the best ways to get an overall look at the city, the canals, the different “high points”, but without all of the tourists. You aren’t fighting a crowd to look at a church or tower. It also gives you a unique point of view from what it would have been like in history.  If you take the train in, you can find plenty of options all along the exit of the station, as well as options all throughout the canals. Depending on what you are more interested in, you’ll find a boat tour that will meet those needs (we saw everything from a romantic cruise, to all about the alcohol, to a standard hear the history and nothing more). We didn’t originally plan on doing a boat ride, but our older son insisted, and it didn’t look too bad when we got out there.

I would also recommend heading over to Dam Square. This is the main town square and there is usually always something going on. From here you can get a good view of the exterior of The Royal Palace, see The National Monument, and the Nieuwe Kerk Church. There are also a couple other spots right off the square if you’re interested, Madame Tussauds and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. We did not go in either of those, but we did go inside the Royal Palace. I’ll be honest, The Royal Palace tour is not a necessity to a trip to Amsterdam. If you are interested you can certainly do it, but it is not like a “must see”. I really enjoyed it, but I am a royal fan and think that seeing different palace’s and other type of government buildings is really interesting.

A couple of the spots that I wish we could have gone to, that were on our list but didn’t end up being an option, were: The Anne Frank House, Foodhallen, and The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. I’ll get into The Anne Frank House in my tips/tricks, the Foodhallen is a food court that came highly highly recommended to us, and the Rijksmuseum as a lot of Dutch history that we wanted to learn about.

I’ll touch on one more spot as I feel like I need to make a note on this because to be honest, not a lot of people talk about Amsterdam without talking about The Red Light District OR the booming cannabis market/options. We walked through the Red Light District and I found it to be just like a regular stroll (in a weird way). Here’s the thing, first off you cannot take video or pictures in the District. This is to protect the workers that are there, and I can completely understand. These are regular people who are doing what it is that they do. Just because it is not something that we see every day, or something that may not be as popular or destigmatized in our area of the world, does not mean that they need to put in a spotlight situation. If you choose to stroll along the District, do not leer, do not linger, just be respectful. These are people just as we are, and they are doing what they choose and want to do.

 Tips for Amsterdam:

Tip #1: Bikes have the right of way and they will exercise that right of way whether you are aware of that or not. Amsterdam (and The Netherlands in general) has a huge biking community, it’s how the majority of their population gets around. Most places will have designated bike lanes, so don’t hover in those lanes and make sure that you are aware of where they are when there are no designated lanes.

If you want the true experience, there are so many different bike rental spots!

Tip #2: Make it an Adult Only or Girls Trip. This one is going to be a little bit hard to explain, or maybe it won’t, but I think Amsterdam would be so much different if it was just adults. I don’t say this for any “content” warning for what is in Amsterdam or for any lack of enjoyment reason. We loved (and do still love) taking our kids out throughout the world, exposing them to new cultures, places, people that they would not otherwise get to experience. HOWEVER, Amsterdam is so packed with people that you are spending a good amount of your time just shuffling along with the crowds and worrying about being separate from those you are with, until you get out of the main area. I think I worried a little bit more than normal with having our kids there.

Tip #3: Look at staying outside of the City Limits and taking the train in. Amsterdam is quite expensive and staying in a hotel in the city is very expensive. It is also, once again, full of people and traffic. We stayed outside the city in a little town and took the train in to Central Amsterdam. We were able to book a little cottage on AirBnB for a very reasonable price and it gave us a little breathing room. We didn’t have to worry about fighting traffic in a car or finding parking for the day. I am already a really big believer in public transportation, and this weekend away really confirmed that for me.

Recommendations for Tulips/Flower Season

As for how I would recommend you approach the tulip season that is going to depend on what you actually want to see. If you want to see just the Tulip Fields, there are a couple of different farms that you can go to. Lisse is the most popular spot and has the largest amount of options to see Tulips. MAKE SURE that you check my Tips out though, because there are some rules you will want to be available of. You can also see the Tulips just driving along the road and throughout train rides. I believe you can also see them from the sky, but I couldn’t confirm that.

We went to Keukenhof Tulip Garden, which is one of the more famous well-known spots for the Tulips. I knew that I wanted to see a bit of both the Tulip Fields AND the more manicured growing plots. Keukenhof has the best of both worlds for that. They boast about 7 Million Bulbs are planted and grown in their garden and I would believe it. Plus, believe me when I say there is something for everyone here. They have a kid’s area in the center where there is a playground, petting zoo, and park to eat at. There is also a maze for the kids to run through. There is a windmill that gives you a view over the fields, water, and gardens as well as two other overlook spots. Finally, you also have the indoor flower shows that follow along with themes for the year (one changes weekly). They have a unique planting and growing system that allows them to have blooms for eight weeks, so you have plenty of time to check them out.

My other recommendation would be to bike through the countryside. This is an excellent way to not only see the beautiful countryside of The Netherlands, but also see the Tulip Fields, the windmills, and be true to how the people get around. It is such a fun way to get around and see the country.

Tips for Tulips/Flower Season

Tip #1 (Possibly the Most Important One): DO NOT just go traipsing through the tulip fields all willy nilly to try and get the perfect picture or see them better. The Tulips are not only part of The Netherlands and the culture, but it is also a HUGE business for them. They work incredibly hard to grow and maintain the tulips and walking through the actual field itself ruins the flowers and the field. Only do this at the land owners permission (and if you’ve paid for it).

Tip #2:Go as early in the day as possible. No matter when you go or how you choose to see the Tulips it is going to be crowded. We went the peak weekend for the blooms, which also happened to be Easter Weekend and I didn’t feel like we were fighting the crowds until the very end of our time in the park. We went shortly after they opened and a few hours later everyone else seemed to start coming in. So, go early!

Tip #3:Just enjoy the beauty around you. I am a big one for documenting everything, taking all of the pictures, capturing every bloom and even I had to take a step back and just enjoy the sheer beauty around you. This is such a special place and time and honestly, not to get hokey, just take a step back from the camera/phone and enjoy the moment.

And on that note…

Those are all of my Things You Should Do and Tips for Amsterdam/The Netherlands! We do hope to go back and see some other area’s in the country one day, but this was one of the best trips we’ve taken. If you have any specific questions I will try to answer them in the comments below and if you have any of your own tips, please leave them below!

What I Wore – May 2019

Good morning! The weather is changing, kind of and I figured I would do a little wrap up of some of the outfits I’ve worn recently. This What I Wore is going to be a little bit different than my previous one’s as there will be some outfits that I’ve worn in the past week, but I am also going to include some of the other outfits that I’ve started to put together for the warmer weather. The past week it has gone back to the chilly/rainy weather, so I’ll be alternating between current outfits and a couple of the new spring outfits that I have put together the past couple weeks.

I’ve definitely had to purchase a couple of things due to the amount of time we’ve been in a hotel, but I’m so pleased with what I’ve found and the shopping here in Europe is incredible.

So, without further ado, let’s break down some of my recent outfits…

I’ll start with the three outfits I have from last week. We’ve had a cool blast come through so all the cute spring things that I’ve picked out have fallen to the wayside and my sweaters have come back into play. Don’t worry, I’ll still show you those cute pretty things as well. I’m hoping that this cold spell will pass quickly and I’ll be back in dresses, skirts, and shorts soon.

-6908760636432529806_IMG_2317.jpg Outfit 1: Right back to what my standard winter outfit is haha. I will say, I’ve been loving the skinny jeans this past week…which is odd for me.

Top: Calia by Carrie Underwood

Bottoms: Wallflower Jeans

Shoes: Madden Girl

 

 

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Outfit #2: Another pair of skinny jeans and my favorite sweater. I purchased this sweater here in Germany and have gotten A LOT of use out of it. It just suits me, if I do say so myself.

Top: Street One

Bottoms: Wallflower Jeans

Shoes: CL by Laundry

 

 

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Outfit #3: The final outfit from this past week. The weather was a little bit warmer, so I tried to put a little “spring” in my step with a pair of Sperry’s and a much lighter 3/4 sleeve sweater.

Top: Vero Moda

Bottoms: Wallflower Jeans

Shoes: Sperry

 

 

Now, onto some of the spring outfits that I’ve been wearing when the weather allows it. I’ve picked up a couple other things as well and I just can’t wait to start pairing some new outfits together!

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Spring Outfit #1: This dress was a spur of the moment buy. It definitely needs a slip underneath, but I love that it can be a good transition piece with a long cardigan and the deeper colors.

Dress: Wallflower

Cardigan: Wallflower

Shoes: Madden Girl

 

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Spring Outfit #2: You’ll be seeing a lot of this skirt come warmer weather. It is a tie wrap skirt, with a stripe pattern and I am just in love. I haven’t had a denim skirt in ages and I am glad that I found one that just works for me! I felt so Easter/Spring on this day 🙂

Top: Local Store

Skirt: Review

Shoes: Sperry

 

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Spring Outfit #3: You are going to see this dress at the very least once a week on me. I am in LOVE. It falls just so perfectly and I quite honestly think it could work on almost any body shape. It is THAT good.

Dress: Review

Shoes: Local Store

Sunglasses: Ray Ban

 

 

So that wraps up this month’s What I Wore. What did you think? Are you seeing spring weather yet, with the dresses and shorts that come along with it? Let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Plan With Me – May 2019

May is upon us and with it Spring is coming. We’ve got some mighty travel plans in May, I’ve got a short readathon, and with the weather changing we are planning a couple of outdoor adventures. Since the month is turning out to be a busy one, and since my planning style has ever so slightly changed, I figured I would do a little Plan With Me.

I’ve talked about my own personal planning style before which is using a physical planner. I prefer to be able to write things out and see them in a physical format in front of me, rather than using an electronic calendar or notebook.

I always find it fun to see how others plan out their time, be it monthly or daily, and I find it gives me new ideas to apply to my own planning. The last time I did a planning post, I was using the Day Designer planner that had a monthly and daily layout. I still really like the Day Designer as a system, but I wanted something a little more “freestyle” for my planning. Somewhere that I could just write notes throughout the day without lines and such.

I did a little searching and found the Hobonichi planners. This is a Japanese company and they offer many different styles. The style that I used is the Hobonichi cousin and I have two notebooks, one for January to June and the second from July to December. I like that this planning system is similar to bullet journaling, but I don’t have to fill out any monthly/weekly/daily options.

So, on to my current planning set up…

Here’s the monthly view:

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Within the month I use colored highlighters (Mildliner) to highlight my posting schedule. I use Blue for A Cuppa Cosy and Orange for my other blog, The Cosy Book Shoppe. Then I use various highlighters to indicate when my husband is off of work or will be gone, or if we are planning an adventure. I like the highlighter look as it gives it a bit of a “cleaner” look to my monthly layout. As someone who wants to quickly look at a month and see what is going on on a specific day within seconds, the highlighters have been a lifesaver. Within the highlighted line I will write in black pen (Pentel EnerGel Needle Tip – .3) what specifically the post, or the trip, or the notation is. Below that I’ll write any appts, important dates, or things to note. I use the sidebar to track my reading through the month, and the bottom sections to track travel and spending.

This planner does come with a weekly outlook, which I like to use for meal planning and as a good breakdown for our week. I mark out my days and times and track my walking and daily reading. This gives me a good chance to look at my week, see where my time is going, and fit in any adventures we want to take during the week. I continue my color coordination in my weekly layout as well using the Pigma Micron Pens.

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Then we get to the day layout. This is a day on one page and has a spot for a time breakdown, a small to do list, and a large area to write on. I do a time breakdown, a water/tea tracker, I extend the to do list a couple more boxes, and use the free space to mind map/brain dump throughout my day. I’ve included a glimpse at some of the past days that give a pretty good look at these spaces. Some days are filled up, others are still pretty empty. I don’t always need to use the daily page and some days I’ll use it as a memory device to remind myself of what we did for a later journal entry or blog post (this is very typical when we travel long weekends).

So, that is my planning set up currently! I’ve been really enjoying the Hobonichi and I think it is what I’ll continue on with for the rest of this year and maybe even next year. Do you use a paper planner? How do you plan?

Round The Kettle Ep. 12: A Piece of Life Advice

Happy May and welcome back to Round The Kettle. I took a little bit off of Round the Kettle during April as the end of the month ended up getting much busier and much more tiring. I also had a bit of a moment in April and I really just needed to step away for a minute. I always want to transparent and honest, show the bad alongside all the good, but I felt like I wasn’t really in a good space to do that without it becoming…too much, so I just stepped back. Sometimes that is the better option.

So, how are you? Did you have a good April? Are you ready for May?

I do want to touch on one aspect that I want to share about. There were a couple days in April (before our weekend trip to Amsterdam) that I was just struggling. Struggling with being in a hotel with, at the time, no end date in sight, both boys starting to act up out of sheer boredom and me just getting frustrated with EVERYTHING. It wasn’t that I needed a break, or we needed to get out more, or anything, I just needed to vent. I just needed to unload all of the things that were building up in my head, in my body, all the tension that I was holding on to…all while trying to just stay as positive as I could. There is so much good that outways the little bit that’s bad. It’s tough to face that inner turmoil of wanting to focus on the positive, of needing to focus on that, but getting bogged down when the one thing that you can’t do much about is the bad bit.

Have you ever had that conflict? Where you felt like you shouldn’t complain because there is so much good, so much to be thankful for, but sometimes you just need to?

Finally, I broke down to my nearest and dearest friend. I said all the things that I was feeling and then I cried. I cried for a long time. I wanted to feel better, to get back to that positive mindset that I have, to look at all the good and be thankful for what we had, instead of focusing on everything that was driving me nuts.

You know what she said to me?

Its OK sometimes to say to yourself this sucks. Its not the same as wallowing in it but its good to let yourself have the right to those feelings sometimes..PNG

She followed that up with a couple other gems, but what stood out to me was this one:

“Just let yourself have a moment of, this (right here) sucks, but this (over here) is good”

And something about both of these things really just connected with me. Something clicked and while I still took a little bit in the afternoon and took a minute to just cry and be in that “this sucks” headspace for a little longer, I felt a lot better. I was able to get through the rest of that week, get to our weekend getaway and come back feeling so refreshed.

So, let my nearest and dearest’s advice to me, be advice to you as well (she’s amazing).

And now, I’m ready to conquer May AND conquer the rest of our hotel stay (more on that much much later in the month hopefully).

May is going to be one of those busy in the best kind of ways months for us. We’ve got a lot of travel planned and not a lot of rest and relaxation planned. I can’t wait to share all of our travel with you for the latter end of the month, as well as some planning and fashion posts as well. I’ve also been trying to “future plan” as we are coming up on the end of another quarter, the mid year point, and realistically just an overall very busy time for us.

I want to take a moment to ask you, what do you like reading? What posts have you enjoyed? Are there any posts that you would like to see in the coming months? What do you like that I talk about the most? This will help me pare down some of the posts and ideas that I have in mind and really have posts that you enjoy.

Amsterdam – A Long Weekend

Good morning! I’ve got another long weekend travel post for you today of one of my favorite vacation spots that we’ve been so far. We just recently spent a long weekend in The Netherlands and it was one of the most beautiful trips that we have taken. Fun fact: Holland is the informal name for The Netherlands and you hear the residents refer to it both ways. I am going to handle this trip the same way I did with our Berlin weekend, today’s post will breakdown everything that we did and I will do a separate post with all of my tips/recommendations! So, without further ado, let’s talk about our weekend!

I want to start by saying that we got incredibly lucky with the weather being as amazing as it was. The temperatures were in the 70’s and everyday was a clear sky. We couldn’t have asked for anything better!

Our trip started off a little rough with the drive over to our final location being a bit longer than anticipated. It was Easter weekend, and that meant cars on the road, but we also had a couple of situations come up for the kids as well. HOWEVER, even with the problems, the drive was absolutely beautiful and we got a chance to see the Tulip Fields on our drive in. It was nice to get a litte view of what we were in for. To say that we were happy/relieved/ready to be done when we arrived at our final location was putting it mildly. With the drive out of the way, we were free to explore the area.

We had decided that we did not want to stay in Amsterdam. Not only is the cost very expensive, but the traffic, population count, and 24 hr atmosphere is quite a lot to take in. We wanted something a little bit slower for our weekend. We picked out a little AirBnB in a little town called Noordwijkaan Zee. This is a beach town that is absolutely perfect in location being about 30-45 minutes by train from Amsterdam and about 15 minutes by car from the Tulip Gardens we planned to visit, AS WELL AS being about a 10 minute walk from the beach.

We spent our first late afternoon/evening walking through the town and the beachfront. I am not a big beach person, but I really enjoyed the time that we did spend on the beach. It was not very crowded and was very well…maintained (by this I mean there wasn’t any trash, the people were very nice, etc.). We had a dinner outdoors at ‘T Elfde Gebod and our food was delicious. For me, I chose a sandwich of Salmon, Avocado, Tomato, Pine Nuts, and Dressing on a Sesame Seed Bun. What a way to kick off our weekend!

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We had already decided to spend one day in Amsterdam and to try and do as much as we could within the city in that time frame. For me, I mostly just wanted to walk throughout the city and if something looked interesting, we would pop in. There were a couple of museums, and The Anne Frank House, that I wanted to visit, but we didn’t get to. There was also a food spot that I wanted to try, but had to pass as well. Those are things I will hold on to for another trip in the future.

Even though we didn’t get to cross everything off our list, we did end up doing quite a bit. We started out in a boat on the canal…

The boat tour was one thing that our oldest son requested (he’s 3…as soon as he saw the canal boats he asked right away) and we actually really enjoyed it. Not only is it a way to go along the actual canals, we received a fair amount of information about the history of Amsterdam and the current information as the city is now. It gave us a really good overview of Amsterdam, as well as let us see some sights without fighting the crowds (because Amsterdam is crowded). IMG_8536After the Boat tour we decided to grab a quick bite to eat (it was already lunchtime) and let the boys eat their snacks as well. We stopped at Bistro Berlage where we enjoyed sandwiches and coffee before heading out.

The afternoon we decided to just walk through the city, hitting up the spots that we wanted to at least see and then experience everything thing else. Once you get out of the “immediate” area of Amsterdam, aka the train station hub, the crowds start to thin out ever so slightly and while you are still fighting a sea of people and bikes, it isn’t as bad. We started out at The Red Light District and worked our way away from there. I will say, The Red Light District isn’t as…mind blowing as many people make it out to be. Yes, it is the brothel area. Yes, there are women in windows attracting passerby’s and selling themselves. BUT, it is not as seedy or as wild as it is put out to be. These are just people going about their business, doing what they do. Once we walked through there, we headed back in the direction of Dam Square and the Royal Palace. 5205528369492211466_IMG_1875Dam Square is their central town square and it was packed full of people. There was some sort of a party/music/event going on and we only got to slightly see the full square before having to hurry along.

Right off of the square is the Royal Palace. The Netherlands does have a monarchy and the monarch is part of the government. The Royal Palace has rooms that are open to the public as long as there is not an event coinciding with your visit. It is one of three palace’s in The Netherlands, and while it isn’t used as a residence, it still has a very prominent role in both history and present day. It started as a Town Hall and was later turned in to a Royal Palace. It was very interesting to see the inside of the palace itself and we were able to see several different rooms, bedrooms, and the balcony. The audio tour not only gives the current relevance of the room, but also gives a historical perspective. Most of the palace had close ties in design to Bonaparte, which was interesting. It was a really beautiful interior, with the  Central Hall taking the cake of beautiful interior.

We finished our day by walking over to the exterior of the Anne Frank House (we couldn’t get tickets to the tour, which I will touch on in my Tips/Tricks/Recommendations post) and then walking along the various canal streets as we headed back to the train station. Even though we couldn’t go inside the Anne Frank House, it was still impactful to see the exterior and put a place to something that we have all heard about. Our day ended with a train ride home and dinner in a town called Leiden at Oudt Leyden. It was a truly wonderful day.

Easter Sunday dawned the prettiest of the four days of our weekend. Lucky for us as Easter Sunday was our day to spend with the flowers. One of the things The Netherlands is known for is their Tulips. If you do a google search you will see aerial and ground shots of just fields and fields of tulips. It is a sight to see just in that search, let alone in person. One of the biggest reasons (in fact the main reason) we decided to The Netherlands at this time was because it was supposed to be the peak weekend for the blooms. There are several different ways to see the Tulips, a flower garden, biking through the fields, or driving along the road. -5581938934245434523_IMG_2009We decided to go to the Keukenhof gardens in Lisse. This is one of the more popular and well known spots (aside from Amsterdam) in The Netherlands. Let me tell you, if you can make it here, do it. It will not be a disappointment and is well worth the time and price. This year was it’s 70thyear of exhibitions and this year boasted 7 million flower bulbs. There is something to be said for the sheer beauty of the garden as you walk through not only a variety of colors, but a variety of tulips. There were tulips I didn’t even know existed on display! Have no fear, it is not only Tulips (although that is the main flower), they also have hyacinth and other flowers on display. We spent a few hours just walking through the center stopping to see different flowers and to walk across the water as well.

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Every year they have a theme to the main exhibit and this year’s was a really fun one, Flower Power. The main floral part of that exhibition had a women in flowers with the headband, peace sign, flower, and a butterfly.  The main exhibition pavilion and outdoor display touched on that 60/70’s hippie free love feeling.

The best part about Keukenhof is that not only do you get the best of the growers fields, but you can also see just plain tulip fields, a full windmill, a petting zoo and playground for kids, and 3 pavillions of floral exhibitions. There is something for everyone involved! Which means that even my husband enjoyed walking through the different plots and gardens within the center. It was a wonderful few hours spent soaking up sun, flowers, and the sheer beauty that is The Netherlands.

We ended our day (and our weekend), back on the beach. This time we decided to do a long walk with both boys and dip our toys in the water and sand.

The boys struggled with the sand at the beginning, but quickly started to enjoy running along the beach. Andrew was especially captivated by the waves from the water, while Colton wanted nothing to do with the water. Either way, they both really enjoyed soaking up the sun in the afternoon after short little naps and we enjoyed walking along the water (and soaking up the sun). We had one last delicious dinner at Malegij’s, which was delicious (as was all the rest of the food that we ate this weekend) and headed back to the cottage to pack and sleep.

And with that, our time in The Netherlands had come to an end! While we didn’t do AS MUCH as we wanted, we still managed to hit every spot that we really wanted to and had the best time exploring a new area. The weather was incredible and everywhere we looked was just so incredibly beautiful. The people were so welcoming and we enjoyed every minute we had there.

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I hope that you enjoyed seeing just a small glimpse into The Netherlands through our eyes.  My tips/tricks/recommendations will be up in about a week or so.