BRUGES WITH A TODDLER

Bruges, a small town about an hour outside of Brussels, is the perfect destination for families with young kids. We took our little toddler to spend the winter holidays and we had the most amazing time. It is impossible someone not to have seen at least a photo of the town as it is one of the most photographed places in Europe. The famous old bridge on the river is the most popular spot and seeing it from close it is unreal with all that charm.

I cannot say enough about the beauty of Bruges. All the buildings look like gingerbread houses and there is a smell of chocolate and baked dough everywhere you go. 80% of the stores must be chocolate or waffle shops and I was feeling so guilty the whole trip due to the embarrassing amounts of sugar I had consumed.

We visited Bruges during the Christmas period, so the town was at its best. Very beautifully decorated and the Christmas markets were creating a warm and cozy atmosphere. Even though the town is quite small, it is full of life too. Groups of people were drinking beer and talking in the streets till the later hours of the evening. You could see so many families and couples. The place is every romantic’s dream. One man even proposed to his girlfriend in the central square in front of hundrends of people. She said yes, in case you wonder.

Walking around is pretty easy. It is impossible to get lost, because anywhere you go, you get back to the center. We tried to go for a long walk but we ended up to a familiar place again. Everything is very close and walkable, supermarkets, restaurants, museums, hotels, etc.

The paved ground is great for babies in strollers, because it puts them to sleep in a moment and parents can enjoy some time for themselves. In December, as everywhere in Europe it was very cold. Dressing in layers is the key, because inside the restaurants and cafes are hot, so you have to take off some clothes. Most restaurants have baby chairs and kids’ meal, such as spaghetti with meat and small pieces of veggies, that children won’t even notice (for those who don’t like vegetables). However, we found it difficult to take the stroller inside the restaurants, as the spaces are pretty narrow. Astrid Park is a big park with with palyground and a lake with ducks swimming in it. It has tunels for kids to play in and only five minutes away from the town center.

There are also many toy stores around the town, but what is an absolutely must to see is the Friet Museum. Is there even a child who doesn’t like fries? Bonus, the special area for pretend play, where they can “cook” the potatoes and then “sell” them. We spend here more than an hour and she was saying all the time Mr.Potato! Mr.Potato!

Choco – Story is interesting too, but don’t take the stroller because the isles are really narrow and difficult to walk through with all the tourists and the elevator is never available.

We stayed at Hotel De Castillon which is perfect for families, just in the town center with delicious homemade breakfast. The rooms were huge with stunning decor, and the staff was very friendly and helpful.

Bruges or Brugge is one of the most charming places I have been and an easy escape for families as it offers a combination of amazing beauty, good food, nice hotels and many activities for young children.

WHAT TO DO IN 24 HOURS IN BRUSSELS

Grand Place

Brussels, the capital of Belgium and European Union since is the house of European Parliament, European Commission and Counsil of the European Union, is a good choice to visit especially if you love food and chocolate. We stayed in Brussels for two days, but since our girl got a flu, we had to stay in the hotel the second day. So, I will give you an idea of what you can do in Brussels in only 24 hours.

You cannot start your day in this city without visiting the Grande Place. It is the central square and the most stunning one in Europe. The great buildings of 15th Century are majestic and completely breathtaking; prepare yourself as you’ll want to take as many photos as possible. There are many cafes and restaurants around this area. Oh, and lots of chocolate houses and waffles. Every other store is a Chocolatier or waffle house and of course you have to try them. 

My personal favorite is the Leonidas, Manon Café Blanc chocolate. Please try it! It is so good. There are also two types of waffles, Brussels and Liege, and you can find them with cream, chocolate, fruits and hundreds of other toppings. 

As you walk around the Grande Place you will come across to this little guy…

There are many legends behind Manneken Pis statue, and even if it is quite small, it is one of the main attractions of Brussels with many tourists around him.  You will also notice the numerous graffiti, all very artistic that give an interesting touch in the city. Street art is very lively here and it is really an art because they create incredible things.

Next thing you must see is the Atomium, which represents an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times and offers a 360o view over Brussels. You can walk through the spheres and the tubes, while enjoying the exhibition about the building’s history.

Next stop Mini Europe. Just under the Atomium, the park has reproductions of all the legendary monuments in the EU, at a 1:25 scale. It is worth visiting it because you can spend a couple of fun hours there. Children will love it even more and will learn some new things. 

For dinner I would suggest the ‘Midtown Grill’ restaurant, as it has the best meat dishes in town and excellent food overall. It is only five minutes walk from Grand Place.  Fries are very popular, you can find them at every corner and they usually pair them with mussels, which is another popular dish. To my opinion they are not the best fries I’ve ever had, but everybody eats them so they must have something special even if I couldn’t see what.  Brussels is not known for its nightlife, but ‘Delirium Café’ is the place for every beer lover, with more than 2,400 types of beers from all over the world. I had a strawberry one.

We visited the city during Christmas period and it was so crowed but also very pretty.  It is a small city and in two or three days you can see it all. Don’t forget to try the chocolate, waffles, fries and beer. Only then you can say you’ve really experienced Brussels.

TIPS FOR FLYING WITH A BABY

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Holiday season is almost here and people from all around the world will travel for vacations or to their relatives to spend the most beautiful time of the year. However, one thing that worries families with little kids is how to survive the flight and if is even worth it at all. Honestly, sometimes it is not easy, but nothing is impossible. The younger the child the easier the flight, because a four month old baby will stay still and stare the new enviroment, but a one year old baby will want to touch everything and move all around. I have some tips I implement to my family that have helped us and hope you find them useful too.

  1. Patience. This is the number one tool you will need. It might be challenging, you probably will have to walk the isle more times than you expected and be vigilant the whole time. These are what you really should be questioning yourself if you can undertake. Having in mind the worst case scenario will mentally prepare you for the challenge. However, things usually are not that serious. Kids are kids and you already know how to handle them. Personally I never had a bad flight with my daughter. There were times she wanted to play or explore but this is what I do with her everyday.
  2. Toys and books. I don’t recommend bringing too many toys and books with you. Babies don’t play for too long with anything. One or two toys and new books are more than enough. When they have less options they tend to be more interested and play for longer. Also, a little bit of screen time won’t hurt when things get tough. So, having a few videos with music or movies or whatever your child prefers will save you when you are out of energy.
  3. Snacks. Kids under the age of one shouldn’t eat any sugar, but that is not the case for toddlers. I keep cookies and sweet snacks for such occassions and will keep her calm for a few minutes. A piece of chocolate does wonders with Amelia and is something I know she never refuses. Cheerios, dried fruits, baby cookies or whatever your child loves are options for the under one babies. It is easier to handle such a little baby because they are curious about anything you give to them.
  4. Don’t bring everything at once. Let the child explore all the fascinating things in the plane. Opening and closing the window, pushing the buttons, playing with the table, reading the safety instructions are all interesting activities that will keep them entertained for quite a time.  After you have tried these then snacks and toys may follow.
  5. Let them play with the passengers.  If they are friendly of course. When we traveled to Crete Amelia was full of energy and i was feeling so tired. Luckily, next to us was seating a girl who loved her and she played with her the entire time. She was a new person to my doughter, that means an interesting one. She even held her for a while and I can’t thank her enough for that. I hope you understand that I don’t just give my child to strangers, it was a one time thing. What I want to say is that most of the passengers love babies and are happy to play peekaboo, smile or wave to them and you should take advantage of it.
  6. Buy a separate seat for the kid. For a long flight and if you can afford it I would definitely suggest buying one more seat for your baby to sleep in. On our night flight from Malaga to Athens I held her all the way from 1 am till the morning. Both me and her were exhausted the next day. Had I known better I would have taken another seat.
  7. Fly smart. Plan your trip during nap time. That way you have more chances the baby to sleep, also don’t forget to ask the flight attendant a pillow, it makes everything more comfortable, plus in case of turbulences it is an extra safety for baby’s head when sleeping.
  8. Hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes. Hygiene is important, specially with very young babies and washing hands is not an easy task with when in an airplane. Moreover, you might want to disinfect everything that may end up in kid’s mouth.

Do you have any other smart tip? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anna

PRAGUE WITH A BABY

I feel like Prague is on the bucket list of most travelers. It was on my list too, so this October we visited it. We stayed for three days and as always Amelia came with us. The hotel was in the city center and very close to the Old Town Square. Considering that this city is located in the Northern region of Europe and already being in the fall season I expected to be cold, but to my surprise it was still summer and we didn’t have the chance to wear all the outwear we had taken for the trip, however it was the perfect weather for kids. Sightseeing was what we mostly did, because you can’t get enough watching this place. The Central Square was so atmospheric with large buildings of various architectural styles, full of people waiting for the oldest astronomical clock in the world to strike the hour and the Twelve Apostles to set in motion. In the Old Town there are many worth visiting museums such as Madame Tussauds, Fraz Kafka Museum, Choco – Story Chocolate Museum and what we couldn’t visit because of the baby, Torture Museum. They are pretty small museums, yet a nice choice to spend a few hours, since they are all close to each other. Getting inside a Marionette shop is a must. All kinds of characters from witches, princesses, kings and animals will amaze kids and adults.

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I never drink any beverage in general, but I enjoyed an alcohol – free beer. There are so many pubs and restaurants all around the city offering delicious and filling Chezch dishes and all kinds of beers, so forget about your diet when you come here. Seriously it is impossible not to try their comfort food such as Gulas and the Moravsky vrabec. Dimitri couldn’t believe his eyes when I ordered in the middle of the day the Pork Knuckle, because I don’t like eating meat, let alone to pick it myself in a restaurant, but it looked so tempting in the menu. And, how could someone possibly resist to Trdelnik, a rolled dough in snake shape with sugar and cinnamon topping, filled with pastry cream or ice cream? Definitely not us.

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Walking along the river side we arrived to the stunning Charles Bridge, which is very large and the view from the Old Town and Mala Strana is unbelievable. It is always very crowed and makes it difficult to walk it through, especially with kids, that is why the best hour to visit it is in the early morning. For some good luck touch the plaque of St. John of Nepomuk Statue, but only with your left hand. After crossing the bridge towards Mala Strana, there is a small riverside beach where children can have fun feeding the ducks and then playing in the Vojanovy Sady park, while the adults may relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or a Trdelnik (!) in the beautiful nature away from the crowds.LRM_EXPORT_295126696463347_20181120_003817555LRM_EXPORT_295452653665268_20181120_004343512

At this point you probably have already noticed the Petrin Hill Tower which looks like a smaller Eiffel Tower. Petrin Hill is the perfect place to see the view of the colorful Prague and especially for the children to play with the ponies and the maze. You can take the 30 minutes walk to get up there, but if you have little babies it is preferable to take the lift for an extra fee. On our way down we stopped at a cute café – restaurant, where to all of the Outlander’s fans I swear the waiter was the lost twin brother of Frank. I hope he didn’t think I am some weirdo, because of how long I was staring at him, but I’ve never in my life seen such a similarity between two people. Heading down to one of the most beautiful streets in Prague, Nerudova Street is a great experience, with all the cute suvenir and gift shops. Don’t miss the Gingerbread museum, which looks like Hansel and Gretel’s house, to take photos and buy some cookies.LRM_EXPORT_294984993807526_20181120_003555853LRM_EXPORT_295246404584723_20181120_004017263

Public transport system in Prague is easy and efficient. Going around city with metro, buses and tram is cheap and is the best way to take long distances but, every street and spot is very charming so don’t be afraid to walk as much as you can and get lost into. To sum up, Prague is for sure one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and a great destination for families. All restaurants and cafes have baby chairs and kid meals are available almost everywhere. Prepare to take many photos as this city has come out of a fairytale.  LRM_EXPORT_295573779525220_20181120_004544638

 

 

Anna

7 MOST INCREDIBLE PLACES IN GREECE

Every time my friends ask me which is the most beautiful place I’ve seen, I say Greece. It is the absolute true, considering that it is full of tourists at any season. Greece is unique, eccentric and attractive, just as its zodiac sign, Aquarius.

I had the chance to travel in many places in Greece, but would take a lifetime to see all the  islands and villages. Below I will present you some summer and winter destinations that really impressed me.

Santorini. First time I went in Santorini in January 2015, for work with my husband, so logically not the perfect period to be on a Greek island. When we arrived in our hotel, in Oia village I was fascinated with all that beauty around me. We all have heard about Santorini’s view and sunset, but nothing can prepare you for what you come across. The volcano right next to you and the sea just under the cliff is unreal. I haven’t been everywhere, but I hardly think I’ll ever see something similar to Oia.  If possible you should stay in Caldera and enjoy the most romantic sunset in the world. Every corner of the island is beautiful and you should visit the cute villages and beautiful beaches. Summertime is very crowed with tourists, that is why spring and the beginning of fall is a good period to visit it.

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Mykonos. One of the most famous places in the world could not be out of my list. I have to be honest with you, I didn’t expect much from Mykonos. Even though I love parties, the idea of drunk and half naked people around kept me away from the island all these years. End of this August found me in Mykonos I found out what makes it so special. First of all, the crystal blue beaches. You need at least a week to see every single one. Secondly is the aesthetic the island has to offer. Everywhere you go in Mykonos the design and décor of the hotels, cafes and restaurants is just stunning. So fresh, chic and modern with wood and white colors, it will certainly inspire you. Lastly, to my surprise partying was not that crazy. You need to go to specific areas to experience the party and clubbing. Mykonos offers a variety for any taste, beaches with loud music and people dancing, quite and private beaches, unique restaurants with amazing views, great cuisine, etc. I can keep writing of all the things I loved about this place, but what really fascinates the visitor is that the place completely feeds your spirit. Somehow I left happier and more optimistic. Maybe it was the sun or maybe the happy people, but I definitely look forward to going back again next year.

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Kefalonia. Is the largest of the Ionian islands and the perfect place for couples and families. We went there before we have a baby and I cherish those moments deep in my heart. The best way to explore the island is by renting a car and you need at least five days to see most of it. It truly is a paradise on earth. The stunning green nature and the blue beaches will make you want to stay there all summer long. The distances are quite long but the views make them worth it. The place is very photogenic, you will  make a stop and take photos every five minutes. For families with little children, I would suggest the red beach. Myrtos, which every year figures in the best beaches in the world, is definitely worth visiting it. If you are brave enough, go for paragliding. It is one of the most exciting extreme sports one can do. Don’t miss the picturesque village of Assos. Before heading to the beach make a stop at the Melissani Cave, to see the rays of sun shinning through the blue water. It is so romantic and beautiful!

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Alonissos. This is my personal favorite island. Not so well-known as Mykonos and Santorini but equally beautiful and special. It is part of the Sporades and probably the most charming one. There is no better place for quite and relaxing vacations. Having a car is necessary here too. What Alonissos lacks in sightseeing and nightlife, makes up in amazing little beaches, food and relaxation. Agios Dimitrios is no doubt the best beach. We stayed at Votsi village, which is built on a hill and has a very cute little port. Chora offers a sea view at any corner. If you go to Chayati café you will enjoy the best desserts and try the famous chocolate waffles. There are lots of pizza restaurants but traditional food is what everyone should go for. LRM_EXPORT_46144125401597_20181108_160045795LRM_EXPORT_119152926197544_20181111_001351630

Crete. It is the largest island in Greece and there is so much to see and to do there. Three years ago, in summer we went in Crete and we were driving all day long crazy distances, so that we could see as much as possible. I can say we came home more tired than we left, but totally worth it. This is what you do when you don’t have kids. We stayed in Elounda, a little fishing village in Agios Nicholaos. It is such a lovely place that we went back this year with the baby. Only one hour away from the Heraklion airport, it is the appropriate place for those looking for an all inclusive resort, especially for families with young kids. Definitely take a boat tour to the island of Spinaloga that was used as a leper colony in the 20th century. It is so atmospheric and touching if you think of what these people had to go through. Anywhere you decide to stay in Crete you will have unforgettable vacations.Balos and Elafonisi are pink sandy beaches that you can’t find elsewhere in the world so keep them on your mind. Great food, nightlife, huge sandy beaches, watersports, beautiful scenery, friendly people and amazing hospitality is what makes this island so popular.LRM_EXPORT_119715041299911_20181111_002313745

Metsovo. This is a winter destination in the mountains of Pindos, in Ioannina. Even though Greece is mostly known for the islands, it is a perfect destination for winter too. Metsovo is a breathtaking town with small houses and red roofs that has so much to offer to the visitor. Coziness is what can describe the feeling this places gives you. Hot chocolate in front of the fireplace and snow outside is what dreams are made of. If you are looking for a five star accommodation there is a great hotel a little higher on the mountain with spa, huge traditional breakfast and playground for kids. You can do shopping in the little stores and buy homemade pasta and goodies for home. Nice coffee shops and tavernas are everywhere. You can go to Metsovo by the Ioannina’s airport and then hire a car or taxi service to take you up there.  It is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, so I totally suggest you put it on your list.LRM_EXPORT_129306923955281_20181111_100355651

Hilly streets of Metsovo, Greece

Monemvasia. Last fall we went in Monemvasia with our six month old Amelia. I had heard about it and we decided to go for a weekend. It is located in the east coast of the Peloponnese and it is actually built on an island. Little old houses and cafes, historic churches and narrow streets on a hill just above the sea will truly leave you speechless. Fall and winter make the perfect cozy atmosphere, but coming in spring and summer is great too. You should stay in the old town for the real experience, but if you are coming with a baby, avoid to take a stroller with you because of the many stairs and the paved streets. The area around is beautiful too with nice people and restaurants on the beach so a trip on the near towns is recommended. LRM_EXPORT_71888259943566_20181109_092920324

Aerial view of the ancient hillside town of Monemvasia located i

Anna

MALTA WITH A BABY

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The end of August 2017 found us looking for a new trip destination. It would be the first time abroad with the baby so we wanted something that we would be there within a two hours flight.The baby didn’t cry not even once during the whole trip. She was sitting in her stroller all the time and was very happy. Malta is very easy to get around and neither us or the kid got tired at all. I have to say that traveling with a four month old baby is not as challenging as you might think, as long as their needs are met they are happy and calm.

Malta had been on my mind for awhile, but for some reason I had never visited it. Mostly because when I asked people that had been there if they liked it, they said that it was similar to the island of Rhodes. Personally I did not find any similarities except of the fact that they are both islands. I have so many sweet memories from Malta! Amelia was only four months old and it was a whole new experience for us.

We stayed in Valletta which is the capital and is such a beautiful city. It kind of takes you back in time with the old streets and the port. As it was the beginning of September it was very hot and humid. I thought that summer vacations were over but we had the chance to enjoy the beach one more time.LRM_EXPORT_423085757334158_20181030_132742757

With Amelia in her stroller and amazed by all the new things she was seeing for the first time (she did not cry even once in the whole trip), we started our exploration with the Popeye Village. It is a bit far from Valletta but totally worth it. That day was raining so many activities were cancelled. However the park is so pretty and the sea has the most amazing green color I have probably ever seen. Amelia laughed for the first time there and I cried and laughed too when I heard her. It was such a special moment!

The second day we visited the Blue Lagoon and Mdina. You have to take the ferry boat to get you to Blue Lagoon. We thought it would be a big secure ship but when we saw the little boat called as ‘ferry’ we were pretty hesitant because of the baby. They reassured us that it was secure and eventually we trusted them. For our surprise, there were many babies in the Lagoon, all alive! The place was so crowed and the beach was dirty. It is one of the main touristic attractions so is normal. The place is really small and people were having so much fun dancing with the loud music and drinking cocktails. I am very glad we went there because of the island’s natural beauty, which was stunning. You cannot skip this trip if you go to Malta.

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Mdina is the old town and the perfect place to get lost in. So many narrow streets with flowers everywhere and cute restaurants, you just wanna stay there all day long. Just make sure to make a reservation for dinner earlier because is quite difficult to find a table.LRM_EXPORT_423721136544817_20181030_133837542

Overall, I can say that Malta has a lot to offer, history, beauty, beaches, interesting sights and nice hotels. It is a small island, 4- 5 days are perfect to see everything, but I wish I could had stayed longer to get a full experience of this gorgeous country.

 

Anna

DUBROVNIK WITH A BABY

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We went in Dubrovnik this April. It had never been on my list, but Dimitri suggested it because he wanted to visit the castle from ‘Game of Thrones’.  It was a great choice. This city is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I didn’t thought I would like it so much, but honestly it was stunning! When we arrived there, I was so amazed and told to him that I couldn’t believe we were so lucky to live such moments. The sun was so shiny and made the place look even more beautiful. I remember in the afternoons, when we were in the hotel for the baby to nap and everyone was sleeping I was looking from the window the whole time, because I didn’t want to miss a moment from all that beauty.

We stayed just outside the Old Town, at Ploce area, which had a great view of the city and the sea. The beaches were very pretty.  The beginning and the end of summer is the best period to visit Dubrovnik, because the weather is still warm and there are not so many tourists as in July.

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It is a perfect place for families. The Old Town is small and easy to walk. The locals are so friendly with kids. In a restaurant they even offered to keep Amelia until we finish our dinner and in another one they played ‘Johny Johny Yes Papa’ in the piano for her.  If you want you can visit the near countries too, such as Montenegro which is about an hour away. Don’t forget to try the local food and specially seafood, which is delicious.

Getting lost in the narrow streets of the Old City is the main thing to do, there are restaurants and cafes at every corner.  Also walking the City Walls is a must. It is the most amazing experience and the view is just breathtaking.  Remember to bring the baby carrier with you cause using a stroller up there is impossible.

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Overall, 4-6 days are enough to see and do everything. We had a baby so we were limited to the main attraction and a more relaxed vacation.

Have you ever been to Dubrovnik? Did you like it as much as I did? Feel free to ask me any questions.