Month: November 2015

The way back home

The last leg of our Toussaint holiday brought us back to northern France, for a quick stop in Lille. We wanted to break up the long car trip, and while Lille isn’t terribly far from Bruges, it gave us the opportunity to see some sights. Derek really wanted to go to Vimy, but since it was a little out of our reach for that day, we decided instead to go to the Saint Julien Canadian War Memorial known as the Brooding Soldier. This memorial marks the loss of Canadian soldiers in the second battle of Ypres, and the first German gas attack. It was a beautiful day, and was so nice to visit and pay our respects to the fallen soldiers, just a couple weeks before Remembrance Day. Since we’d decided to stop in Lille for the night, we had a look at what was going on. Lo-and-behold, we found a circus in town! Circuses are a big thing here in France, it seems that they’re everywhere during the summer, pulling into towns with their huge trucks and trailers, or …

Bruges

Our last stop in Belgium was in the fairytale city of Bruges. I have been hearing about Bruges for many years, as it is among my parents top favourite European cities. They are lucky to have travelled quite a lot throughout western Europe, and they always talk about Bruges with stars in their eyes. So naturally I was pretty excited to see what the hype was all about. We arrived late afternoon, and after dropping into our AirBnB just outside town we made our way into the centre. We were charmed rather quickly by the gorgeous stone and brick buildings (nope, not tired of the ancient European beauty just yet!) and we wandered around for a while until dinner time, taking it all in. After a delicious dinner in a lively Irish pub, we made our way back through town towards the canals. I have to admit, upon first glimpse of those tranquil waterways, I gasped! Even though we had just been in Amsterdam, there was a different quality to the canals here. It could be that it was now after dark, …

Rijksmuseum

As I mentioned in my other Amsterdam post, we didn’t have a big plan set out for our time in this amazing city. We wanted to be pretty free to wander and explore, and not feel like we had to squeeze in visits to certain museums or landmarks. However, once we found out that there was a special Dick Bruna exhibit at the Rijksmuseum, we knew we had to go. Miffy was one of my absolute childhood favourites. I adore that little bunny! Danica loves her too, and so we planned a quick tour of the Rijksmuseum around our family love of Miffy, or Nijntje in Dutch. This year marks 60 years of Miffy! Learning about Dick Bruna’s process for his Miffy artwork was really interesting. Once he settled on a final sketch, he would trace over it onto thick paper, leaving a groove in the paper which he would then trace over with a uniform line of black paint. He would then transfer this onto a transparency. From there he would place the colour layer, made from …

Amsterdam

I have been waiting a very very long time to visit Amsterdam. For as long as I can remember, it’s been right near the top of my list of places to visit. When we decided to make this trip during the kids’ fall holiday, we planned four nights in Amsterdam, knowing it wouldn’t be enough but that we’d get a good taste. We had a great AirBnB apartment just outside of centre, in a lovely quiet neighbourhood, and it was so easy to get all over town by tram. Unsurprisingly, we all fell in love with Amsterdam. The city has such a strong happy vibe, everyone is so nice, and it’s impossible not to love it! Something about the bikes, the canals, the trees, and the gorgeous brick row houses. It just leaps into your heart somehow. I so wish we’d had more time to explore, but we did what we could with our time there. We didn’t over-schedule our days, we just wanted to feel free to wander and enjoy. The kids especially loved the …

Kinderdijk

We left Brussels early in the morning to start our journey to Amsterdam. We were pretty excited to make our way to Holland, and we had a fun stop planned on our way. Danica’s friend’s mom told us that we absolutely had to stop in Kinderdijk on our way north. Are we ever glad she did! Among lush green fields, 19 old windmills are set in rows at the water’s edge. It’s almost if they were plucked straight from a dutch fairytale. I think there was an audible collective family gasp as we caught sight of the whimsical windmills. I won’t say much more, except to share a few of my photos from our afternoon in Kinderdijk. I think the misty grey weather made it seem even more magical somehow. Next time you’re in the Netherlands, you simply must make time for a visit.

Comic Strip Centre

When you have a ten-year-old comic-loving boy and a husband who’s a comic-loving artist and little boy at heart, a trip to the Comic Strip Centre is at the top of your list on your trip to Brussels. Turns out, it was the favourite stop for all of us in Brussels, and we had a lot of fun checking it out. They main attractions are the permanent Hergé (Tintin!) and Peyo (Smurfs!) exhibits, where we spent most of our time. The building itself was designed by Belgian art nouveau architect Victor Horta, and some of the interior details were really incredible. Sadly my photos of the beautiful art nouveau glass work inside the ceiling didn’t really turn out, as I forgot my dslr at the apartment for the whole day. Thank goodness for iPhones! In any case, the details were really cool. You can just catch a glimpse of the glass in the top of the photo below. The kids especially loved all the large-scale models of some of their favourite characters. Oliver really got into his poses for the photos, what a funny kid! …

Brussels

There are a lot of school holidays here in France, the first of which was a two-week break for the Toussaint (All Saints) at the end of October. We decided to go on a big road trip up to Belgium and Holland and do a little exploring while the kids were on holiday. We were a bit limited by Derek’s work schedule as well as an appointment with the French Immigration Office to finalize our visas with the Titre de Séjour (mission: accomplished! Yay!). But we still managed to carve out 9 days, and we had a great trip. Our first stop was in Brussels for a quick two nights, and for us it wound up being just the right amount of time. We had a great AirBnB in Ixelles, just south of downtown Brussels in a fairly swanky shopping area, and it took just a quick metro to get to the centre of town. Our only solid plan for our one full day in Brussels was to go to the Comic Strip Museum (which I’ll save for another post). Other than that, we …