Keatings on Tour

Partake in Court & Karl's Excellent (Amsterdam) Adventure…

Once in a lifetime..

Or, if we’re lucky, hopefully 1st of our lifetime and more to come down the road. We finally made it to Greece! Greece was on our list for ages and ages, but frankly, it can be an overwhelming trip to coordinate. There are so many islands and so many opinions on what’s good and what’s not, it made it challenging to narrow down where we should spend our time (I know, total first world problems). Although nothing was confirmed at this point – we were planning on our time in Europe to come to an end, and we COULDN’T leave without visiting this famous place. Plus, I was nearing the end of my maternity leave, and needed to go out with a bang.

We landed on Athens, Naxos and Santorini as our best bet for variety and manageable logistics with two young kids in tow (our longest ferry ride was about 8 hours). Here is a quick re-cap of our stay in each place and of course a summary video from our family videographer.

Athens: Poor Athens gets a bad rap. Everyone says it’s not worth it. However, we really felt you couldn’t go to Greece without visiting this Capital with so much history. Sure, you don’t need to stay for days but we had a great time exploring the ruins and had our first taste of some delicious greek food while there.

Naxos: Naxos had been recommended by a few friends, and mainly because of the hotel that they raved about. We’ve never really been big on where we stay (apartments, hotels, etc. we just look for the best deal and good reviews), but our friends sold this place like heaven on earth so we decided to give it a try. I will say, Villa Marandi  was one of the most amazing places we’ve ever stayed. From the unforgettable breakfast, to the pool view, to the ability to let the kids sleep around the corner while we enjoyed the outdoor bar, this place was pure paradise.

Santorini: Despite the relatively long and crazy busy ferry ride (8 hrs from Athens, 5 on the speed boat) Santorini is truly magical. The views themselves are worth the trip. We couldn’t believe how busy the port was and we were only there at the start of the season – it would have been absolute madness being there in July or Aug. We had a relaxing time enjoying the island, from beers while the kids slept in their ergos (we got a lot of stares and comments about traveling with the little ones on this trip – especially during this time!) to driving around to the various wineries, to walking around the small cobblestone streets, to our sunset dinner,  this will be somewhere we’ll never forget.

Check out our video and pics below. I am going to watch myself and dream of our return.

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Top of the Acrop

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Naxos Road Trip

 

Coen’s B Day on Naxos:

Coen’s Explorations:

Santorini Vibes:

The money shot:

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Shalom Y’all

In the Spring, we had a feeling that our time in Europe may be coming to a close.  Although back then we aren’t exactly sure when we will be moving, the thought of leaving expanded our must-do list and inspired us to check off some must see locations. A soak in the dead sea and the opportunity to see some of the world’s most historical sites was high on our list – and our annual 4 day weekend over Easter was when we decided to make the trip. This time we were back to traveling with friends: Brad and Audra and their 1 1/2 year old – Joey were up for the adventure to visit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

We had a packed agenda as there is so much to see and do in Israel – in fact, we probably should have stayed a few more days as there was a lot we couldn’t see in our extended weekend – Bethlehem and Petra were logistically too challenging with 3 kids in tow.  Also, for better or worse, we actually visited in a year when Easter and Passover coincided, making for a very, very busy weekend. This meant that despite two strenuous attempts to get into the old city, unfortunately we missed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – where Jesus is buried. Despite a few bumps such as these, and some hiccups due to language barriers with the locals – overall, we saw a TON, experienced some amazingly cultural experiences – an underground tour of the Western Wall, a hike up Masada National Park, a dip in the Dead Sea, and exploring up and coming neighborhoods in tel aviv.

Our advice: Go, see, explore – it’s a one of a kind place.

Our moviemaker K2 documented the weekend – take a look below:

 

 

 

 

 

And we’re BATH….

I mean, we’reeee BACK! Back to Euro travel that is – by March, it was time to get back on the travel bandwagon, now as a family of 4!! Of course, our little one had already traveled – at 3 weeks old going down to Germany for a day/night at the Christmas markets, and at 3 months ,a three week/trans Atlantic trip to Florida in Feb. But with Karl’s good friends making their way to England, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to try our hand at a short weekend holiday (kind of like the good old days).

Some highlights from our weekend away in Bath:

Time with Friends – there is nothing better than connecting with good friends who you don’t often see, especially getting the chance to meet up with them on the other side of the world!

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Erin+Doug+Baby Bridget in the UK (Coen is asleep nearby!)

The weather – we were extremely lucky to have a very sunny and pleasant weekend in England, it doesn’t get its reputation for rain for nothing, so we soaked up the rays and were thankful to be able to sit outside and walk around the city without getting drenched.

The hills – Little bit of a travel mishap on my part – we certainly got our experience in the rolling hills of Bath (we are wimps now living in flat Holland). The Bed & Breakfast I had booked did have reviews saying it was a bit of a walk uphill, but it was really a walk uphill, especially with bags, strollers, etc. We could have taken cabs but it’s a bit difficult to get all of the kids in one, so, we generally walked up and down quite a few times to get into the city center.

A Rugby Match – so very British/Irish – Karl and Doug got to attend a local Rugby Match.

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The Spa – So, perhaps a little gender stereotypical that Karl and Doug saw Rugby and Erin and I went to the Spa, but hey, I am convinced we got the better end of the deal. With the Dads on kid duty, Erin and I had a good couple of hours away at one of the world’s most famous thermal bath SPAs. (I am not kidding about it being famous, there was a crazy line-up already at 9 am to get in the door, thankfully Erin had been smart and we had booked a few months in advance). There was a hot springs bath on the roof! I had a facial, massage and a scrub! It was magical.

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I wasn’t allowed to bring my phone to take a photo – but look at this place! I was in a rooftop spa with a castle in the background!!

The Baths – We took a tour as a fam of the Ancient Roman Baths – Coen enjoyed the guys and gals dressed up as old Romans and we enjoyed the history.

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Taking our Tour

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Tales from the Adriatic

A road trip. hmmm… Not my preferred method of travel if I am completely honest. Maybe it’s my bad memories of getting car sick back when I was a kid, or, the fact that you can’t sit back and read and relax like you can while training or plane-ing. But, it was time to put my big girl pants on and act like a true Dutchwoman – the Dutch love their road trips and often travel by car all over Europe, usually with their bikes and/or caravans in tow. In fact, the August Saturday we had planned to leave for our 2 week Adriatic Holiday – we found out shortly before leaving that it was coined “Black Saturday” due to all of the Dutch people who were planning to hit the road for their summer holidays. Nonetheless, we were ready to go – a car trip was really the best way for us to travel for a long holiday – we wanted to see a variety of cities and sights, plus, now that Coen was over 2, we are paying for 3 plane tickets now – yikes.

Our trip was a solid 2 weeks long, visiting 7 different cities, 5 countries and countless rest areas along they way. The great part about our trip was once the long drive south was out of the way (about 8-10 hrs), all of our destinations were only a couple hours from one another, so we could easily hop in the car during Coen’s nap and reach our destination in time for the afternoon. The itinerary (planned almost entirely by Karl who did a fantastic job) is now being copied by different friends who want to experience Europe “off the beaten path.”

Below are some pictures and favorite moments of the trip, but the best way to see the action is through the summer blockbuster: Tales from the Adriatic, starring Karl, Court & Coen:

Stop 1: Nuremberg with Friends – our first stop found us in Germany where our great friends, Michelle and Jesse, have been living since moving from Amsterdam almost three years ago. After a long day of driving, it was perfect to be in the comfort of good friends. We walked the streets of Nuremberg, took some time in the park, ate traditional schnitzel and chilled.

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Stop 2: Lake Bled, Slovenia – Wow, all we can say is this place is magical. The town itself is small and most of the action is down by the lake. It’s about 4 miles around the lake, and everyone can enjoy walking, biking or eating around it, or, you can also take a boat trip to an island in the middle, complete with a beautiful church and ice cream stand. About 2km outside of town, you can hike, bike or take a tour van up to the Gorge – a scenic hiking area with a waterfall and streaming river. Crazy as it sounds, we decided to be the adventurous ones and rented bikes to go up. Although it was uphill, it wasn’t too bad – even with my pregnant belly! The trip was rounded out by a trip to Bled Castle, overlooking the lake – so wonderful!

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Boat ride to the Island

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Time for a Swim!

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Bike ride to the Gorge! Uphill there and downhill back

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Castle views

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Stop 3: Ljubljana, Slovenia – This place is a hipster’s paradise. As it’s a university town, there is plenty to do, a young vibe and great restaurants that have popped up in recent years. We only had a day but enjoyed strolling along the river, checking out the local pubs and playing in the fountains.

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Stop In between – Europe’s largest cave !!

Once in a blue moon, you realize there are sometimes benefits to kids not sleeping in. One of which is that we got to the Potojana caves bright and early before the disney-land sized crowds poured in later in the day. It was actually a rainy day so it was a perfect day to spend underground. Unfortunately I wasn’t very smart and didn’t pack anything other than the summer clothes we are wearing – well, turns out it’s next to freezing in the caves. But, they’ve got overpriced fleeces for sale that solved our worries. The tour of the caves included a long train ride in and an hour long walk among the stalactites and stalagmites. Coen was a trooper and we when we emerged back to earth, we realized just how crazy busy this place is, and quickly escaped the crowds back to our car for the trip to Trieste.

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Our filmographer

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A seriously old ancient cave wall

Stop 4: Trieste, Italy – the wonderful thing about Italy – it NEVER gets old and every city has it’s own charm and character. Our favorite things in Trieste – sipping coffees in the historic cafes (Trieste is known for coffee drinking and production) and spending the morning at a local “beach” (all rocks) where we could play by the water and Coen made friends with the local Italian day-care kids who were there on a field trip. We also took the cable car up to the top of the city, where you could overlook the water and Coen got to practice his exercises with the locals. Finally, we couldn’t leave without visiting the local castle (who doesn’t love a good castle)?

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Rocky Beach Day

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Up up we go

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Time for a stretch

Stop 5: Rovinj, Croatia – Um, just when we thought this trip couldn’t get any better, we landed in Rovinj. This place is AMAZING. We really felt like we were on holiday here, we would wake up early and take turns getting pastries with Coen, go swimming at the different watering holes, eat like locals (truffles!) and enjoy night walks along the harbor, often with a concert somewhere nearby.

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Sleeping child means a date right on the water!

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Not usually one for food photos – but, I didn’t ever want to forget this truffle ravioli strawberry wonder

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Morning walk through town

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Stop 6: Zagreb, Croatia- We wanted to check off another “big”city while on our trip, and felt we couldn’t miss the capital of Croatia while we were so close to it.. it was however, the longest drive of our trip as it is about 3 hours in-land from the coast. We spent just over a day exploring, and although it was a cool town, historically it doesn’t compete with the other capitals we have visited. Perhaps as it was coming to the end of our trip, it’s difficult to remember all that we did there. Here are a couple of pics to prove we stopped in the city:

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Stop 7: Salzburg, Austria – the HILLS are ALIVE….. So, the main reason we stopped in Salzburg was due to my forever love of the Sound of Music. I had dreams of a day long tour with the Von-Trapp family. Alas, it turns out you need 8+ hrs for the tour and I didn’t think a 2 year old would fair to well on a bus all day. So, I settled for the gorgeous views (we stayed outside of the city in a cabin-like hotel in the hills), a visit to 1 or 2 sites, and, probably driving Karl crazy listening to the Sound of Music soundtrack over and over.

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“I go to the hills….”

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A visit to the Mirabell Gardens

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Do a Deer, a Female Deer

And finally, back home! It was a memorable and unique trip that will stay in our hearts for years to come. We are extremely thankful to all of the European rest stops that include child playgrounds, they are what made this trip possible!

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Gorgeous Geneva

Ok, so the creativity required for the title of this post was pretty minimal, but, once you see the photos you’ll see there wasn’t really another option.

We were extremely lucky on our 4 day weekend in Geneva last May – the spring weather was in full force and in typical European fashion the Swiss were even sun bathing and swimming in the freezing lake (I mean, it was nice, but mayybeeee 65 degrees F, not really warm enough for swimming in my opinion, but fun to see nonetheless).

We didn’t really know what to expect in Geneva, but it turned out to be a really busy holiday with a TON to do. We went on a tour of the UN, visited the Red Cross Museum (de la Croix Rouge), adventured to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne (a gorgeous town on the lake) – all this with some time for walks around the lake and picnics in the park left us very happy with our weekend getaway.

We also ate some delicious fondue and there was a marathon that weekend with tons of activities for kids – so, we weren’t short of stuff to do.   Most European cities we visit have a ton to keep you busy in terms of museums, culture, history, etc. but what we liked about Geneva is that everything we visited was connected to areas we are interested in – UN – world events, Red Cross – WWII , and of course – The Olympic Museum – Sports!

And yes, it WAS expensive, but once you got over that it wasn’t all so bad, plus some grocery store picnic food helped to lessen the blow. Our conclusion – go to this gorgeous place!

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Hello Gorgeous

Trip to the United Nations:

Trip to Lausanne (about 1hr by train from Geneva – Karl was panicked for about 15 minutes that I had put us on a train to Lucerene – 3hrs from Geneva, haha) :

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Highlights from the Museum

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Wow

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Seriously….

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Enjoying the City:

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Park Life = Best Life

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Boat ride across the lake

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YYZ aka The 6

Yikes. I am almost an entire year behind on blogging. Clearly not a money maker for us :-), but certainly something I am determined to keep up. I can’t wait to look back on our travels when we are old and grey. So, it’s time to do some catching up. Since our last travels in March to Madrid, we had Easter weekend upon us. Easter is always a memorable time for us, as it’s such a long weekend (we get the Friday and Monday off work), we always manage to make the most of it and get out of town. This time, we extended it to a week and decided to head back to North America.

Since we’ve been in Amsterdam, Toronto has been renamed The 6 and has produced some of the hottest artists around and it’s been fun for us to see how Toronto is getting more and more attention (Drake, The Wknd – I mean cmon! – and those crazy Jays Playoff games!).  We didn’t go back for the rap music or baseball, but rather to see family and friends – we hadn’t been in far too long, 4 years!, and Coen needed to experience where his dad is from!

Despite being freezing the entire week (I know, I know – get over it), the week was otherwise amazing – as we got to spend time with all of our loved ones, family and friends alike. We visited Niagara on the Lake, where Karl’s parents now live, Coen got meet his new cousins Jack and Max, and hunt easter eggs with all of his new TO toddler friends.

We explored Toronto – kind of like locals, but also a bit like tourists too, hitting up one of the highest rated thai places on Trip Adviser that did not disappoint, going to St. Lawrence Market (being almost Europeans we will never pass up a solid market) and to the Toronto Aquarium.  We also went to one of THE BEST sports bars‘ I’ve ever been to (hello 40 foot TV! better than Vegas in my opinion) and got to watch some NCAA march madness games before heading to my first Maple Leaf game.

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World Traveler – Has everything he needs right here

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Uni buddies reunited

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The gangs all here

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Stopping for a chocolate egg

Day out at the Toronto Aquarium:

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Beautiful, crisp day at the Lake

Coen with all of his new friends:

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Real Sports – Seriously impressive 

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It’s hockey night, tonight!

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I think we’ve got a Blue Jays fan for life 

March in Madrid

It was finally time to get away for another travel adventure. Madrid was a city on our wish list, and my birthday month was a perfect time to make it happen. We also knew it would be a bit sunnier down south, so away we went!

Madrid, Spain’s capital, is big (3 mil people to Barca’s 1 1/2) also, it has a ton of history and is known for its’ art scene, so, we knew there wouldn’t be a shortage of things to do to keep us busy (plus of course – food in Spain is always top of the list of things to do while there).

With no real agenda for the weekend, we did as we always do, enjoyed and explored the city and did A LOT of walking (our 36 hour bible says “Once again, Mardid has become a city for walkers”). We did a walking tour on Saturday to get our bearings (unfortunately losing Coen’s favorite stuffed animal along the way – tragic! – luckily we found one online later!) and after that, really just continued on throughout the weekend, exploring what we could in the short time we were there.

Highlights of the weekend were: the Sunshine!, the parks! – we literally didn’t walk for more than 10 minutes without stumbling upon a kids park where Coen could hop out of the stroller and go down a slide. Usually, these parks were surrounded by cafes and bars, so the parents could enjoy a beverage and their kids could happily play – genius really. Hitting up Mercado San Miguel – the local food market for some Pinxtos and finally, although we aren’t the biggest fans of art museums, and exploring them with a toddler is nearly impossible – we felt we couldn’t leave one of the best art cities in the world without visiting the Prado, Spain’s most famous museum and home to many famous artworks that of course we  already forget the names of.

Here are some pics of our weekend getaway:

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Friday Afternoon in the Square – This family loves vacation!

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Stop at Park One of Many – So smart

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At the Market – Calamari Option Overload

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Hello!

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Abandoning the walking tour to say hola

 

 

 

 

London Calling (Again)

After returning home from the Canary Islands – we had one more trip on the books to round out the Christmas season.

We were off to London for a few nights to see Dave, experience a Boxing day retail experience, and our absolute favorite thing to do in London – see a SHOW!

We arrived on the 26th and after a bit of a debacle getting into the city (the normal commuter train from the airport was under construction – unbeknownst to us, this meant a normal 45 min commute was estimated at 3 hours!!).

Once we were finally in, we took a nice walk – but something felt off, the city was super quiet (not normal for London).  We figured people were still out of town with their families – but, as we got closer to Oxford Street, things became a bit more buzzing – turns out everyone was of course, shopping on boxing day. We popped in to all of the hot spots, but didn’t do much shopping, getting through the streets with a stroller and the thousands of people meant we only lasted a short while. It was fun to get a little Christmas cheer in (even if it was a day late).

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WICKED EVENING
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After securing a nanny to come to the hotel (I won’t even mention the price we paid – but let’s just say it was basically enough to pay for Mary Poppins herself) – Karl and I were off on a much needed date night. We had a delicious Italian meal and to both of our enjoyment, WICKED was an AMAZING show (I had tried to read the book a really long time ago, so was a bit hesitant about the show – but with all of the hype, I figured it had to be good). And of course, it didn’t disappoint, the music, the story-line, everything was amazing.

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The Land of OZ

SUNDAY – A NEW LONDON SCENE

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Our travel bible (e.g. 36 Hours) has not 1, not 2, …. 4 different 36 hour itineraries for London. This time, we wanted to take advantage and see a new side of the city. So we set our plans for East London – primarily the infamous Brick Lane and the Sunday market scene. It didn’t disappoint, from the food stalls to the vintage, craft and flow markets, to our final stop at a pub in the ‘hood for a cider beer – all while getting to hang with Dave, it was easy to see why the East side is all the rage with the hipsters these days. 3rd times a charm for our trip to Londontown. (see our previous adventures here and here)

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On our way to the tube

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A Christmas (Vlog) Story

A sunny Christmas… sure, it seems unnatural, but we’ve come to love and realize we really need it for a break in the sun to get us through the long dark winters of Amdam. 2013 brought Thailand, 2014 was Florida… this year, we wanted to stay a little bit closer. Only challenge with that, there aren’t so many places on the continent of Europe that are actually warm in the winter time. Except for – the Canary Islands! (Spanish islands off the coast of Africa). The weather can be a bit hit or miss, but we were more than lucky, it was pretty hot and perfect pool weather. We chose Gran Canaria over the somewhat more well known Tenerife, mainly because it was further south so we figured the chance of guaranteed sunshine was a bit higher.

We had an amazing week+; mainly relaxing and enjoying the sun, checking out the local water park, playing a bit of mini golf, taking a boat ride to explore other parts of the island,  and Karl’s fave: making movies with his new GoPro.

Check out our “VLOG” (aka movie preview) as well as some pics below.

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Loungin

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Munich

We had been to Munich before… but let’s be honest, when it’s Oktoberfest, you’re not really in Munich, you’re in the beer tents dressed in Lederhosen all day and all night. We were excited to get back to really experience the city, and as an added bonus, we have great friends in Nuremberg (a bit of a drive, but close enough for a quick visit) and friends actually from Munich – our old friend Sebastian and his wife Sina from our MBA days. So, on a random weekend in November, we booked our flights and headed down.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and took a walk through the city center, and what did we immediately find? A beer garden! – well, not really, but a nice place outside with lots of picnic tables and beer being served, it seemed like most of the city had called it a day and were relaxing with a cold one in hand. One thing we love about Europe is that Europeans do not take for granted good weather – even if it’s cold, if it’s dry – they are outside. Our friend Sebastian came to join us for a beer, and afterward, we took a stroll through the cute market nearby, picking up some traditional cheese and snacks for our apartment.

On Saturday, our old friends from our Amsterdamily; Jesse and Michelle (from Nuremberg) were nice enough to come down for the day to hang out. We met them for brunch, met up with Sebastian, Sina and their little gal Lara, and had a great day walking about, checking out the SURFERS (?!) in the middle of the city, popping into pubs here and there, and enjoying watching Coen play in the fall leaves.

On Sunday we had some time to spare, so took a short train ride to Sebastian and Sina’s house – where they served a very traditional and delicious German “brunch”- basically bread and sausage – so good!

It was a great weekend exploring a magnificent city.

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Coen enjoying the Beer Garden

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Back with our Amsterdamily – drinking our favorite gluhwein!

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Coen on the autoban

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Such joy going at full speed

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I was serious when I said Surfers – what a site to see in the middle of November!

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Ignore the Crane, otherwise a beautiful historic square 

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Just your average beer pub

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Old friends 

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New friends

 

And a little vid to make you smile:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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