It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well…Thanksgiving is officially over and we are just going to pretend like this is the first time I’m talking about the holidays and that I haven’t been prepping for this month since November 1. It’s finally a “socially acceptable” time to talk about it. You know what I’m referencing…Christmas!! It’s the most wonderful time of the year 🙂

I’m one of those people- who puts their decorations out right after Thanksgiving although this year I started a little bit earlier. Germany doesn’t do Thanksgiving really, and we were traveling anyways so it really didn’t play a role in the whole timeline of decorating. While I’m not quite sure where/what we are doing for Christmas I am planning on doing a lot. This is our first Christmas in Germany- a country that goes ALL OUT. The country seems to come alive again several times through the year, Christmas being one of the biggest.

I’ve already been planning and ordering gifts due to the length of shipping time and I think everyone will be pleased with what they get. I always look forward to the giddy excitement and joy on the boys face as they realize that they have presents and a full day of eating and watching movies and hanging out with Mom and Dad. But this doesn’t even come close to what I am looking forward to.

I think December is one of those months that no matter what gets thrown at you, you still manage to find a little cheer. It’s full of excitement for the holidays, for the new year, for the relief of another year ending, and a fresh start for a new year. This is especially heightened this year as we are heading into a new decade. We are about to go to the 2020’s and that just brings a whole new level. Christmas and New Years is very big here in Europe. Celebrations are taken to a whole new level EVERYWHERE, from the big cities to the small farm towns, it seems like everybody wants to celebrate and have a good time. If there is anything Europe does right (and there actually is a lot), celebrations/markets/festivals is what it does the best.

So, where does that put us for the most wonderful time of the year?

To start with, christmas markets!! I mean is there anything better than strolling through an outdoor market with a hot mug of some drink looking at all the craftsman stalls? I mean, it’s quintessentially Christmas and I have very high (Hallmark Movie esque high) expectations for what this will be like. This year I am planning on attending a total of 4 (this is counted by city, a lot of the cities have multiple markets that we may visit) and I think that that is probably a good number to stick with every year. I’ve got quite a list of how many I would actually like to visit, but I’m trying not to overwhelm us…or spend to much money haha. Honestly though, who knows what the month will bring us, I’ve already got the list out and am comparing schedules and dates to see what can be done and when (yes I am being that serious about it).

I’m also looking forward to our next long trip. I’m not totally sure (as of writing this post) as to where we are going to go, but I am looking forward to getting away and really getting the chance to stretch our legs and truly explore somewhere new. I wouldn’t say that we’ve played it safe entirely, but we have stuck with some “safe” options. This trip we will be venturing somewhere completely new to us that we’ve never really learned about or experienced. I’m incredibly excited about it!

I’m also just looking forward to the general cheer that comes with December. December tends to be a cold and dark (and here – damp) month, so it’s nice to see the cheer that everyone brings out with the season.

Round the Kettle Ep. 20: A Life that Seems Like a Vacation

I’ll be completely honest- I’m writing this on a Friday when I’d rather be reading, snacking on some super healthy snacks called tortilla chips, and hoping for the day to end soon. Ironically, today is the first day that I am feeling like a human again after a rough couple of days. I’ve been dealing with a migraine for the past few days, and while I have been able to manage most of my migraines, this particular one is not one that I can easily prevent.

Thankfully the kids have actually been relatively well behaved over the past week since I’ve been dealing with this migraine and have been going solo with Robert being away. They’ve been like charming little angels, which has been a nice reprieve. I’m hoping that maybe we’ve crossed an imaginary bridge into a different phase of their little lives. One that is calmer, maybe?

I want to talk about something today that I have been seeing and experiencing a little bit recently. I actually spoke about this with a friend earlier today during our children’s playdate and I found that we had pretty similar experiences and thoughts on the subject. I briefly spoke about this on Social Media, but am going to expand now.

We currently live in Europe and have lived here for about 9 months now. Just saying that still feels so surreal I can’t even describe that feeling. We are so blessed and are taking advantage of the time that we have here to do a fair amount of traveling and learn about the culture here.  We love it here, truly, and have made a home out of our house and neighborhood. We’ve made friends, the boys have such a great social life, and we plan on starting up with sports come Spring. We are creating a life for ourselves for the next few years, a semi-permanent existence.

We travel a fair bit over here, trying to do some sort of trip a couple times a month (no more than that though- it’s exhausting, more on that in an upcoming post). Our traveling is what works for us, we travel more than some, less than others.

Honestly, we live a life that almost seems like a vacation.

We always share the good sides, the happy moments, and all the travel that it often seems to paint a picture of pure bliss and constant travels. I have gotten swept up in sharing that as that is what so many want to see. They want to live a life through you since you’ve gotten this incredible opportunity and I won’t begrudge anyone of that.

Here’s the thing though, we are building a life here. We have a home here. My husband works here. Our life is not just one big happy vacation. Sometimes it is weeks and weeks at home, having playdates, reading books, writing posts. Sometimes it is trips to castles, to other beautiful countries, to festivals we had never even dreamed about. Our travels are a dream come true and yet a struggle with two toddlers (because even the most easy-going kids have their moments). We have bad days that aren’t just magically solved because we are in Europe, in fact some struggles are unique to actually being IN Europe. I try to show the good and the bad, what we like and don’t like, and what we’ve learned, but understand that I get swept up in showing only the good just like anyone else. It’s not just a long vacation, even though sometimes it can feel like it, this is our life here.

With that being said, the past couple weeks have been down weeks. We spent the week doing normal things, playgroup, playdates, coffees…laundry and cleaning. I dealt with a migraine. Robert was away for work. Just everyday life. Is it more exciting with a European backdrop? Yes, it certainly can be. Little things can be big adventures that you wouldn’t be able to experience in the states. But we also still have bad times and we don’t get to not feel bad about those bad days just because we are living in Europe. We aren’t able to just spend all our days here traveling and that’s not reasonable at this stage of our life. With two toddlers, traveling presents its own unique travels. And we have pretty easy-going traveling boys.

So, that’s where we are at now. Just a little side tangent. How are you doing? How is your Sunday going?

Making the Most of Long Weekends

It’s happened…Europe has turned us into weekend travelers. I think we’ve traveled 90% of the “long” (3-4 days off, Fri-Mon, Thurs-Sun) weekends. It’s so easy here to hop into the car and just go somewhere new, spend a couple of days and return home. As easy as it is to do, it can seem daunting. There is always so much to do and so much to see that doing it in such a short period of time can seem…overwhelming. I like to think that we’ve got a fairly good system down for how we tackle long weekends and am going to share some of the tips that we’ve picked up over the past months of living here.

Tip#1: Narrow your travel list down to places that are 4-day places (with a realistic total of 2 ½ days of sight seeing) and places where maybe you want to spend a little more time at. This is where people can get stuck the most, because, honestly who wants to feel rushed when traveling? There is also SO MUCH to see and do here that that in itself is overwhelming. Here’s the thing (in my opinion/our perspective)- we are going to be here for three years. We will have numerous long weekends to travel (as opposed to a week or longer) and numerous places to go. If there are spaces that we want to see, but don’t have as much “sight seeing” to do, those are places we can go to on a long weekend. Our first long weekend was to Berlin. Totally doable on a 4 day weekend (in my opinion), our second was to The Netherlands. Both of those fit the 4 day mold fairly perfectly (although there are a couple of spots in The Netherlands I’d like to see one day) as there were sights to see, but we could go, go, go to all those sights.

Tip #2: Pick your top 5. When we decide to go on a long weekend trip we will pick our top 5 before we even leave the house. What are the things that we have to do? What do we absolutely not want to miss if we could not come back here? This lets us narrow down our list of spots to see (so less overwhelming) and when we head back home, we feel like we hit everything we wanted to. 5 is the perfect number and totally doable over a roughly 2 ½ day time period.

**I recognize I keep saying 2 ½ day, that’s what I’ve calculated out as actual sight seeing time on a 4 day weekend. You typically spend a day or so traveling to and from your destination, and then sleep and eating). **

Tip #3: Be ruthless in your packing. (Seems ridiculous to even include this tip) When we have long weekends, I take the bare minimum of what we will need. I grab 4 outfits for each of us, toiletries (that we already have pre packed and travel sized in a suitcase at any given time), and one book (the most important part haha). I pack the day before a trip so being able to just grab and go for a long weekend is super helpful. There have also been a couple weekends where we have literally decided the week before that we wanted to go, so it’s a much faster option to just grab a few outfits and pack the medium suitcase for all of us. Also, it’s a long weekend, you don’t need a lot (I’m talking to all of us women- we tend to overpack).

Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to be flexible. Here’s the thing, travel is all about flexibility. Sometimes you don’t get to everything, sometimes you’re priorities change with having little ones with you. Sometimes the weather impedes. Life happens. It’s more important to enjoy your time and do what you can than stress everything else. Just roll with the punches as they fly. I know that seems different from what I’ve said above, but honestly keep your spirits up and just go with it.

I think, above all, it is important to know what kind of a traveler you are. If you are a go, go, go traveler, long weekends are probably a breeze for you. For reference- we are typically go, go, go travelers, especially on long weekends. We like to see as much as we can with whatever time we have and aren’t keen on sitting around. Our kids have just kind of folded into that mold, being up for whatever we are up for. They nap/eat/live life on the go when we travel and they love being able to see all sorts of different things.

Once you know what kind of traveler you are, and what kind of traveler those with you are, it is easier to figure out what long weekends look for you.

What tips do you have to make the most out of a Long Weekend of travel?

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2019: Calais and Dover

Good morning and happy Friday!! Today marks the start of my many many blog posts about our Summer Holiday. I think this is going to end up breaking down into 5 “what we did” posts and 3 “tips/recommendations” posts. I just have so much that I want to share about our trip, tips for future trip takers, and things that I want to look back in and reflect about. It would just simply be too long to only do one or two posts…SO…

I am going to break it up by “location” or Day. This means that there will be separate posts for London, Edinburgh, and Inverness and then two additional posts about the stops we made WHILE traveling to and from. The individual cities will also have separate recommendation/tips posts, but the travel day posts will just have the tips within the post…

If that makes sense? Hopefully it does because this is going to be a long post and I’ve already blabbered on for 151…152 words.

When we originally planned this trip, I picked out the three cities we wanted to visit, knowing one would be London, one would be in the Highlands, and I wanted to do an “old school” Scotland spot. After quite a bit of back and forth and weighing our options, we ultimately decided that driving would be the best option for our family. When it comes to cost, enjoyment, and ease driving was just what fit for this particular trip. This meant having to cross the Chanel with our vehicle.

There are two ways to cross the channel, the Euro Tunnel or the Ferry. Both options have you drive your car into a train or ferry in Calais and then be whisked across/under the water to Dover on the other side. There are pros and cons to both options, and we weighed both choices for a long time. Ultimately we decided to take the train across. The benefit is that it is quick (about 35 minutes), but you stay with your car and do not have the gorgeous views and café that you get with the Ferry. I am not sure how often the Ferries get “cancelled” or pushed back on the time’s, but that is something else to consider. We had cancellations or delays on both sides of the crossing (this was handled very well though, they have a service spot with a lot of shopping, and they will automatically sort your vehicle into the next available train).

So, once we determined that we would be staying a night in Calais, I started to look around and see what we could experience while we were there. The drive to get to Calais for us is an almost all-day drive, so I knew that there wouldn’t be a lot of energy/time for us to really explore. This was fine as Calais is a port city, which means there is a lot just right on the pier if you don’t want to go far/the time is getting late (and you have little ones like we do). We ended up with a couple of free hours, so we wandered over to the Lighthouse, climbed to the top and looked out at the city below. This was an absolutely beautiful view for us and a lovely way to get our bodies moving after being cramped in the car all day long ha-ha. I’m starting to really love these aerial city shots that we’ve been doing a lot of, it’s nice to see a city from above.

We also decided to walk along the pier of Calais, watch the cars board the ferry’s and watch the water of the channel crash in and out. It may not be the most exciting thing, but watching the sun slowly start to go down while listening to the waves is just so incredibly relaxing.

We actually ended up eating dinner at one of the stand-up shacks right near the pier, choosing burgers, fries and cola’s for dinner. We stayed in a hotel in Calais, choosing the Holiday Inn Calais for our one night there. The hotel is actually right on the water and is a completely fine choice to sleep for the night.

Once we reached England and the other side of the Channel, we decided to take a stop at Dover. I’ve always wanted to see the seaside town of Dover and its beautiful White Cliffs. As soon as I had seen that no matter which choice we made, we would be right near/in Dover I knew that we had to stop there. It was a no brainer for me.

We did two stops in Dover, Dover Castle and The White Cliffs of Dover. Exploring Castles, both intact and ruined, have quickly become one of those “things” we do while traveling. They hold such a wealth of information, history, and can be some of the prettiest spots to walk.

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Dover Castle was no exception to this. Not only is the castle stunning and the displays full of information and objects from the time period (found on the property), but they have a cast of period actors that roam the grounds/are in the buildings as you walk through. It just added such a good touch to the castle, without feeling cheesy or cringeworthy. There were two exhibits that we were not able to see, the underground tours, as the queue’s got to be too long for our two very tired little boys. This isn’t anything that we weren’t aware, when purchasing the tickets, the attendant said that they were expecting a high volume of visitors and those two tend to go quickly. Regardless, I would still recommend a stop to Dover Castle, it’s the perfect stop to stretch your legs and learn a little history.

The cliffs are actually right down the road and you can see it from the overlook point at the castle, so make sure you take a look from the distance before you head over.

Oh, the cliffs, the White Cliffs of Dover… I got to live out every Victorian/English Drama Movie/TV Show I’ve ever seen and stand at the precipice of those cliffs dramatically staring out to the abyss….ok I’m exaggerating just a little bit, but it was a dream spot and a definite must see. Not only are the cliffs themselves incredible, but the water- oh the water- a stunning blue/green combo that makes one swoon at the site. Now, we only had time to go out to the lookout vantage point, BUT you are able to hike out to the cliffs themselves, the lighthouse, and have a lovely afternoon tea at the café near the lighthouse (which I so so so wanted to do). Another perfect  stop if you just want to get out and stretch your legs for a little while.

So that was the first, short leg of our Summer Holiday. I hope that you enjoyed seeing Calais and Dover through our eyes! Let me know if you have any questions, and if you’ve been there, is there anything you would add? What was your favorite spot?