Lunch with a View

I've had a couple of family members visit Paris recently and have eagerly given suggestions, wanted or not.  I don't know if it is because it was the first place in Europe I visited, but Paris is one of my favorite cities.  We travelled there with the kids a few years ago and I was delighted to discover that it is just as enchanting for kids.  Ava says that she wants to live in Paris when she grows up and whenever we ask the kids about locations for upcoming vacations her answer is always "Paris."

In looking up recommendations, I went through all of the photos from our trip and thought I would devote the rest of this week's posts to some of the more successful outings we had during our time there.  

There are lots of places to eat around the Eiffel Tower but they tend to be a.) expensive or b.) touristy or c.) expensive and touristy.  Looking around for something which was d.) none of the above, I found a recommendation for Cafe Carlu, the cafe in the Cite de Architecture museum.  It is about a 5-minute walk from the Tower and you can eat in the cafe without paying admission to the museum.  The food is very good, as all Paris museum cafe food tends to be, but the real reason to come is for the view.  The cafe has a patio with several tables so you can enjoy your meal overlooking this fantastic sight.

The picture below illustrates another benefit of eating here. It is relatively crowd-free so there is always a table on the patio available.  

Even if you don't make it here for a meal it is still a great place to grab a snack and rest up a bit before continuing on your day.  Also nearby is a carousel, fountains to dip your feet into, and Cineaqua, the aquarium of Paris.  

Hiking in the Alps - Day 3 & 4

On our third, and last full, day we decided to tackle two 1/2-day hikes:  one to the start of a glacier and the other a relatively flat walk with views similar to the day before.  As we walked out of Gimmelwald, we descended down and walked along a river, which was fed by the glacier we were hoping to find.  The path was much less populated than the previous day and we saw only a handful of people along the way.  When we reached the hike's terminus, we were the only ones around as far as the eye could see.  We counted waterfalls (14), skipped rocks, built cairns and thoroughly explored this magical place.  The kids loved it and it was a push to get them to leave.

After a quick trip on the cable car up to Murren, we started out on our second hike of the day to Grutschalp.  This route was much more popular and we encountered lots of people out for a quick hike to enjoy the surrounding scenery..  

We caught the train (seen in the picture above) back to Murren and made our way back to our apartment at Esther's to pack up and get ready to leave early the next morning.  Before we left the area, we stopped at Trummelbach Fallslocated in the valley nearby.  The melting snows of the Jungfrau have carved through the stone to create Europe's largest subterranean waterfall.  You take an elevator located inside of the mountain up 6 stories and explore waterfalls 6-10 before making your way down to see waterfalls 1-5.  Truly an awe-inspiring (and chilly) sight!

At the base of the falls, there is a nice cafe with good coffee and snacks on offer.  It's also a great place to get in a game of chopsticks, if you like that kind of thing.

Hiking in the Swiss Alps - Day 1

We spent three days in the Bernese Oberland area of Switzerland in July.  This is a great area to hike with kids as the scenery is spectacular, there are plenty of cows and horses to ogle, and lots of the routes are just challenging enough to keep everyone happy.  We made our base in Gimmelwald, a picturesque little village perched below the Jungfrau mountain range.  It is a car-less town and the only access is via a quick 5-minute trip on a cable car from the valley floor.  There are only a few guesthouses and B&B's to choose from and we opted to stay at Esther's Guesthouse.  Esther's offers many different types of accommodations, including two apartments, each with it's own bathroom and kitchen.  We stayed in one of these and thought it was a great choice for a family.  We had plenty of room to spread out and a balcony with a gorgeous few of the mountains.  Breakfast and lunch are on offer for an added fee but we chose to pick up supplies at the supermarket in nearby Murren.  


There aren't a lot of of dining options in Gimmelwald but luckily what is available is very good.  Our first night we wandered into Pension Gimmelwald, mostly because of their patio and it's spectacular view.  The menu is small but everything we had was delicious and while there is no set kid's menu, they were very accommodating in making something for Ava.  

On our way out of the Pension, we spotted the Honesty Shop.  Both kids were enthralled with the premise - no one worked in the shop so you selected what you liked, wrote the item you were purchasing and cost on the provided envelope, put your money in the envelope, sealed it and placed it in a locked box.  The store had a range of items available from snacks to postcards to small souvenirs.  

Iceland's Golden Circle

We chose to fly Iceland Air this summer because they offer a program that allows you to layover up to 7 days in Iceland without incurring an extra charge on the cost of your flight.  We spent a weekend there on our way home and one day of that traveling Iceland's famed Golden Circle, taking in some of the country's most spectacular natural attractions.  There are tour companies that offer guided bus tours of the Circle but we wanted to go at our own pace so we rented a car for the day.  

The first stop is Pingvellir National Park, the site of Iceland's first Parliament dating to AD 930 and in continual use until 1798.  It is also the point where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and are slowly pulling apart at a rate of 1 to 18mm per year, creating rifts and fissures in the landscape.

I had read several recommendations for Lindin, an adorable little restaurant right on the lake in Laugarvatn.  The food was delicious and Jack enjoyed trying a reindeer burger.  The highlight of the meal though was the house-baked bread which was served with fresh butter.  I think we all could have happily made a meal out of this bread alone.  We would have liked to try the geothermal pool next door at Fontana but were short on time and so put it on the list for next time.

The next site to see is the geothermic area at Haukadalur, which features the geyser Strokkur.  The most famous geyser here, Geysir, which gave it's name to all geysers, is now dormant.  Strokkur erupts every 4-10 minutes shooting hot water 100 feet into the air.  As you explore the area, there are bubbling pots and steaming vents all across the terrain.  Signs warn not to step in any puddles or flowing water as it may be scalding hot.  There is also a large cafeteria and gift shop here, along with a small museum on the formation and history of the geysers.

The final stop for us before heading back to Reykjavik was the waterfall Gullfoss.  It was my favorite of the three sights and was the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen.  You could walk out closer but as we were with the kids we elected to stay back and enjoy the view from afar.  There is a small gift shop and restaurant here and the organic lamb stew comes highly recommended.  We were still full from lunch so we had to pass but it smelled delicious!

The whole trip took us about 8 hours and along the way there is beautiful scenery with lots of sheep and Icelandic horses.  In the summer the sun doesn't set until 11:00 p.m. or later, so need to worry if you decide to linger and take your time.

A River Cruise on the Rhine

We were lucky enough to spend a week cruising the Rhine on a river cruise with my husband's family.  This is the second river cruise we have done with his family and it is a fantastic experience for everyone.  The benefits of river cruising are many:  you get to see many different locales while sleeping in the same bed every night, breakfast and dinner (and some lunches) are taken care of, and there is plenty of time to socialize with family along the way.  

A few of the river cruise companies offer certain weeks as "multi-generational" or family cruises, and that was what we were on this time with Uniglobe and previously a cruise of the Danube with the Tauck cruise line.  This trip began in Basel and ended in Amsterdam with stops along the way in places such as Strasbourg, Koblenz, and Cologne.  At almost every stop there was an extra activity available designed for families, i.e., more interesting for the young ones.  These included a children's museum in Cologne, a transportation museum in Speyer, and a visit to a medieval castle in Marksburg.

The cruise included stops in small, quaint villages in the Alsatian wine region,

a day in Strasbourg,

a stop in the town of Speyer, a visit to a vinegar estate and a local transportation museum,

a walk through the vineyards of Rudesheim,

and a visit to a fortress and a castle, where the kids tried on the latest in medieval fashions.

I can't recommend river cruising enough for families with school-age children and above.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Rhine and the kids are already studying the map to see what other rivers we can cruise in the future!