Monday, December 31, 2012

Sylvester in Switzerland

Fireworks over Adelboden valley in Switzerland last year.

New Year's Eve is called Sylvester in the German speaking countries of Europe (as well as in the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to Wikipedia) in honor of the saint and Pope Sylvester I whose feast day is December 31st.  

Europeans generally purchase fireworks to celebrate at midnight, and last year on New Year's Eve we were in Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland.

Fireworks for sale in Adelboden.

We went out to dinner at a Pizzeria Trattoria Alfredo that evening and then returned to Our Chalet for some festivities.

There was dancing:

And games:

 And food:

And Glühwein by a snow campfire.

Good times.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Photo Friday: The Artisan's Market in Granada

In a narrow little alleyway right near the Cathedral in Granada is the colorful and historical Mercado de Artisanía, or Artisan's Market.  Any kitschy little Spanish souvenir you might like will probably be at its lowest price here, but you'll also find some very unique Moroccan-inspired gifts such as textiles, lamps, tea sets, rugs, and even hookahs:

Don't worry, your kids won't know what these are.

Tea for sale.

I love this picture of my daughter in this bright shop!

Veer off the main alley to see shady little squares where local Granadans live in their beautifully tiled buildings:

The Mercado de Artesanía was an old Moorish silk market for centuries, where the Moors were granted permission to make and sell silks even after the fall of Granada in the 15th century.  In 1843, however, the market was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt to its present state.

"Which one would you choose?" my daughter asks my son.

This is my Photo Friday link-up post to

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Travel Gifts for My Travel Gal

Just look at my travel gal on Christmas morning!  Wearing her new Paris-themed pajamas (from Target), holding her new destination pillows (from PB Teen) and our new Around the World board game (from Barnes & Noble).

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Teach Travel With Toys

How cool is this?  Nanoblocks for kids that build Neuschwanstein Castle, Mont Saint-Michel, and Sagrada Familia!  I love the many toys on the market this time of year that inspire young people to learn about our world.  The LEGO® Architecture line of products is another great 3D construction toy and features many of the world's iconic buildings and monuments.

We had a talking globe when the kids were little and they played with it all time.  These usually teach geography with spoken clues and fun quizzes to reinforce learning.  You can never go wrong with a jumbo puzzle either.

I especially like geography board games, and this one, "Around the World" was new to me this season so it's currently wrapped and under our tree.  We'll probably find time to play it next week over Christmas break.

Here are some other great gifts for Christmas.  I found them all at Barnes & Noble:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Photo Friday: The Flavors of Italy

Colorful and inspiring, the food markets in Italy are a such a delight to browse.

This is my Photo Friday link-up post to

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Louvre With Kids

I am not a huge art museum buff so I can hardly expect my kids to be.  My husband has more patience for museums than I do, and my daughter has the patience of a saint in all things.  My son, besides being a restless growing boy, probably gets his interest in art museums from me, but even he knows that when you're in Paris you don't miss the Louvre.

My son was 11 and my daughter was 14 the first time we visited Paris as a family, so we didn't have the concerns one might have visiting the Louvre with younger children such as losing them, tantrums, or touching the exhibits.  But really, I wouldn't worry much about those things even if you are visiting with little ones - the Louvre is loud, so tantrums would go virtually unnoticed.  The galleries and passageways are mostly very large and spacious so there's no worries about bumping into any precious art.

Touring the Louvre on a full stomach is definitely a good idea since there's so much ground to cover, so we grabbed some McDonalds (what? in Paris? that's a crime!) and sat in the Tuileries Garden in front of the museum to eat.  There is a reasonably priced food court inside the Louvre (in the Galerie du Carrousel) if you prefer, but we wanted to enjoy the beautiful garden a bit.

We had previously purchased the Paris Museum Pass (currently 39€ per adult for a 2-day pass) which is exceptionally invaluable for the reason that it permits the holder to skip lines.  The lines for admission to the Louvre can be horrendous, so do consider the pass.  A regular ticket to the Louvre is 11€ per adult, free to all under 18.  (We made sure to get our money's worth for the Museum Pass by later visiting St. Chapelle, the Notre Dame archeological crypt, and the Musée d'Orsay.)

There are several entrances into the Louvre museum:  the main one through the famous glass pyramid (always the most crowded although you can skip the line with a Paris Museum Pass), the Galerie du Carrousel entrance, the Porte des Lions (closed on Fridays), and Passage Richelieu only if you have a pass.  Entering through the Galerie du Carrousel is interesting for kids:

A fantastic exhibit inside the museum for younger people, I think, is the Egyptian collection because the objets d'art are mostly very large, 3D, and include mummies (even a mummified cat), which always fascinate kids.  The Egyptian antiquities are located on the ground floor as well as the 2nd floor (known as the 1st floor in Europe).

Very small children will obviously not enjoy intricate displays in glass enclosures which they are not even tall enough to see, nor will they have too much appreciation for oil paintings and such, but you might engage them with a scavenger hunt - "find all the horses in this room" - or by letting them draw or color things they see (be prepared by bringing drawing paper and crayons).  The Louvre offers a guided treasure hunt tour for families called Paris Muse Clues:  A Family Tour for Young Treasure Hunters, but it's very expensive (290€ for a family of 4 for two hours!)

The Louvre does not prohibit photography so another idea to keep your child interested is to give them the camera to shoot things they like.  You can then look at the photographs later together and perhaps provoke some art discussion.

My kids stopped at several works of art and exclaimed, "Hey!  I think I've seen this one somewhere before!" which can momentarily make a mom real proud until you realize it was probably in a cartoon or video game.

My son thought he'd seen Da Vinci's
La Belle Ferronnière somewhere before.

Seeing the Mona Lisa was a big moment for them, because every child recognizes her.  It's hard to get a good photo because there are always large crowds and because the bullet-proof glass is reflective:

You can't get very close to Mona Lisa.

Be sure you and your family look up once in awhile because the museum ceilings can be exquisite.

All in all I think families with kids of any age have something to enjoy and learn by visiting the Louvre.

Stunning sculpture gallery in the Louvre.

It's important to know that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays and least crowded on Wednesday and Friday evenings.  Admission is discounted every evening after 6:00 p.m.  The museum is free on the first Sunday of every month and on July 14.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Renting an Apartment in Tarifa, Spain

It's usually my job to research and reserve our vacation hotels and apartments, but since it was my husband's idea to windsurf in Tarifa, Spain, and I wasn't sure exactly where he wanted to be located for this adventure, I left this booking up to him.  And he did a very fine job!  Our large, sunny apartment right on the beach was terrific.

View from our balcony in Tarifa.

An apartment, rather than a hotel, was exactly what we needed in Tarifa because having a kitchen after a tiring day of activity means being able to quietly cook and eat a large pot of spaghetti for dinner on the balcony, instead of heading out again to sit at a restaurant.  The large and always busy Supermercado right in town is convenient for just about everything one needs in Tarifa.

The kitchen in our Tarifa apartment.

Enjoying meals on our balcony.

The teeny bedroom with bunk beds is perfect for the kids, and the separate bedroom for parents is nice.

The living room leads out to the balcony, from which we enjoyed beautiful sunsets every evening.

The apartment units surround a small (unheated) swimming pool with toilet facilities and a well-kept grassy lawn.  The Costa de la Luz beach in front of the complex is sandy and wide; a paved walking promenade heads all the way into the center of town, a little over a mile away.

Notice the washing machine in the kitchen photo?  A washing machine is a necessity when you're spending four days in the sun and sand, but do you know what is an even greater necessity?  Electrical power to operate the washing machine.  Yes, as you travel deeper into southern Mediterranean lands, you do tend to encounter dysfunctional public infrastructure more and more frequently.  In Tarifa it began at sundown, when residents turned on their lights and electric cooking stoves and I turned on the washing machine whilst simultaneously attempting to boil a pot of water.  It was the first night, and as the wash cycle began and the front-loading washer door locked, the power went out for the rest of the night and an entire load of whites sat soaking in its own dirty water for 12 hours.  When power returned  the next morning, the undergarments and t-shirts now in various unattractive shades of gray enlightened us to the wisdom of running the washing machine during daylight hours only.

We paid 105€ per night for our apartment and thought it well worth it.  Hubby had booked it on-line through, a private holiday accommodation rental service with an office in downtown Tarifa.  When we picked up the apartment key there the staff was extremely helpful and spoke English well.  I highly recommend their website and service.  Just be sure to bring a flashlight to their rentals in Tarifa.

Can you see us on our balcony?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...