Archive for the 'Holidays' Category

10
Apr
16

Northwestern France during Easter holiday

During Easter holiday we took the camper to the Northwestern part of France, called Brittany. After almost two days of driving avoiding main tollways (in France campers pay three times the price of a normal car which makes it unaffordable), we arrived on the brand new parking lot / campersite at Mont-Saint-Michel. It is difficult not to be impressed with your first sightings of the massive Gothic abbey on the island, the ramparts and the extraordinary tides in the bay (difference between high and low tide of 15 meters). We spent the entire afternoon and evening exploring the medieval town and Mont.

The next day we followed the coastline studded with lighthouses and viewpoints on the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, towards the walled city of Saint-Malo. Walking on the ramparts with views on the rocky outcrops filled with fortresses and fortifications, was fun for the kids as well as us.

We then continued westward towards Cap Frehel, where an enormous lighthouse guides the boats away from the traitorous and dangerous coasts. On a cool municipal campsite 200 meter from a beautiful beach, we spent the next two days exploring the area, building stone and sand castles and walking along the coast.

Our next stop was the area of Ploumanac’h and Cap Squewel, the so called Pink Granite Coast. We followed the Sentier des Douaniers, a spectacular 5 km coastal walk through a wilderness of massive pink granite boulders and outcrops.

We then went straight south to the Southern part of Brittany, where we went to the Gulf of Morbihan, an inner sea. We started by spending some time on the Peninsula near Quiberon, where the Atlantic Coast is dubbed the Wild Coast. Spending time going out on the beaches when the tide was low, was fun and the kids collected a bunch of shells. We then made our way to the area of Carnac, where the world’s highest concentration of megalithic sites can be found. Walking through the ‘Alignements’ or lines of megaliths was something special and unique.

After spending another day on a beach looking at people collecting clams, mussels and oysters was enough for this trip and we made our way back to Belgium after visiting this unique part of France. See some pictures here.

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15
Aug
15

California and the National Parks in the West

Once again we went to the USA for the summer, visiting Shadae’s mother and family in California. The days were filled with trips to different playgrounds, city, county and state parks, and Southern California beaches. The big house in Encinitas also provided plenty of opportunities to have games, to go in the pool and jacuzzi and to have outdoor BBQs and grill evenings with smores. The views on the lagoons of Encinitas and the setting sun on the Pacific were amazing.

This time, we also decided to rent a big Class camper, as Shadae’s uncle from Connecticut decided to come visit. It is interesting that in the US, unlike Europe, you can drive a camper up to 40 ft (13 m) just with your normal driver’s license.

We originally rented a 37 ft camper, but when we arrived at the rental place there were some problems with it that could not be fixed on a Sunday. So they gave us a 40 ft bigger camper with three instead of two slide outs. We drove back to the house and packed all evening and the following morning. As we were heading out the next day however, the ‘Check Engine’ light came on, and after heading back to the rental agency, it turned out the Turbo was broken and unfixable. So, they were able to fix the original Winnebago camper we wanted and late in the afternoon we headed out to Las Vegas.

After a night on the strip – only campground on the strip is the Circus Circus – we drove to a small State Park just before Zion National Park, Quail Creek. Running late because it was the first time camping for 4 family members, we were lucky the ranger opened the gate again to let us in. As a result, it was pitch dark by the time we were set up and it took a long time to BBQ the chicken. The next morning however, we saw the nice lake with warm water we were camped at, and after enjoying it a little bit, we headed out to Zion National Park. The kids liked the water pouring out of the rocks at aptly called Weeping Rocks, and the adults preferred the towering canyon walls at the entry of the Narrows section at the end of the canyon.

The next day we drove to Bryce Canyon, on one of the most scenic drives in Utah. We had to get a special permit as two way traffic in the one mile tunnel had to be closed so we could right in the middle and fit with our huge bus. The drive through the wonder world of rock formations was amazing. After having a late lunch and stopping for groceries, we headed to our campground near Bryce Canyon. While the kids enjoyed the outdoor swimming pool, a nice dinner was prepared. Afterwards, we drove to the Rim of the Canyon to enjoy sunset. By the time we arrived, the sun had already set but the colors in the sky and the wondrous rock formations were a nice end to the evening.

The night was cold at this 8500 ft altitude, but everything heated up fast in the morning as we went with the shuttle bus to several viewpoints and then did the 2 mile Queens Garden Trail amidst the hoodoos and fantastic yellow, ochre and orange colored rocks, spread out like a city in the canyon amphitheater. Solidly impressed by this awesome park, we then drove on Highway 12 Scenic Byway where we went from Mars like landscapes to high altitude plains (over 9300 ft) towards Torrey, the gateway to little known Capitol Creek National Park. In the nice campsite with views on awkward rock formations, we had an evening around the campfire with smores and marshmallows.

Capitol Reef National Park is not as well-known as the other parks, but the strange rock formations and castle-like towering rocks provide fantastic sceneries. Most of the park is inaccessible for normal cars, let alone a long camper bus. After reaching our furthest point away from San Diego, we turned back south and went to one of the most fantastic viewpoints in the whole of Utah: Dead Horse Point State Park. The views on the surrounding parks, the Colorado and the mountains in the distance, are just awesome. The idea was to also visit the Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands National Park, but a huge thunderstorm and the late time made that impossible. So we went straight to our campsite with a spot that had a viewpoint on Arches National Park. Despite the drizzle it was quite warm, and we had a great BBQ and nice evening in this great spot.

The next day we spent the entire day discovering one of the best parks (besides Bryce Canyon) in the entire West: Arches National Park, with the highest amount of natural arches in the world. Time after time we were amazed by the scale, size and differences between all the different sections of this park. Especially the walks near the North and South Window, Double Arch and the late afternoon hike to Landscape Arch were memorable. This surely is a park to come back to and to spend a lot more time when the kids are older.

Driving all the way south to the border with Colorado allowed us to spend a night with views on Monument Valley, an iconic place. The next day we headed out through the desert and majestic landscapes to Grand Canyon, one of the deepest canyons on the planet. Following the South Rim and stopping at different viewpoints while slowly the afternoon sun colored everything in warm hues, was a great way to spend the day – despite the automatic step of the camper breaking down. Our campsite was a basic one in the beautiful National Forests surrounding the Grand Canyon, although we had problems stabilizing the camper. A nice campfire in the chilly evening and views on the galaxy and Milky Way, made the experience complete.

The next day, we made sure to leave on time to a nice little State Park on the shores of Lake Havasu, Cattail Cove State Park. The sand of the little beach was white as any Caribbean beach, and the waters were so warm. We spent the entire afternoon and evening in the waters, as the outside temperatures were stifling hot.

After a visit to Joshua Tree National Park, a unique place in the middle of the desert, and Palm Springs, we headed back to San Diego, where we unloaded the camper and returned it the next day.

The final week of our stay in California was filled with local walks, shopping to all stores to get clothes, shoes and all kind of things you can only find in the US. We had a big birthday party at Shadae’s uncle’s place with great foods, company and presents. To top it all off, we had another fantastic day at the Disneyland Resort, this time the California Adventure part. Thanks to Susie, Shadae’s sister, we were able to once again get free entrance tickets for our family and the two sisters. Great!

Fitting everything in 4 huge suitcases and 4 big carry-ons provided a big mission, but fully loaded we flew back to Belgium.

Look at some cool pictures of our trip and the Western National Parks here.

 

11
Jul
14

Europe Trip – Southern California Part 1

USA PICASA PHOTO ALBUM (82 PICTURES)

Well, we are not actually travelling in Europe anymore, but spending time with the American side of the family in Southern California. The weather is nice and sunny every day all day, which makes spending time in the swimming pool, at the beach or at playgrounds, very pleasurable. Exactly what we needed to recover from 8 months traveling.

Here are some pictures of our first month in perpetual summer weather.

 

13
Oct
13

San Diego Family Visit

On 15th of September, the rent of the house was up. Packing everything accumulated with two young children in the span of a few years, took a lot of time and effort. Two days afterwards, Shadae took a 19-hour flight to San Diego, to visit her mother.

During their trip there they enjoyed the warm California weather, and had great times in the pool and Jacuzzi, the local playgrounds and the nearby beaches. Shadae visited Amu Khazem and had old friends come visit as well.

The last two weeks, auntie Caroline as well as Daee Mansur and his wife Mimi, flew in from the East Coast and got to know Kyra and Kyle and their characters better. Trips to Disneyland and SeaWorld were the icing on the cake.

The pictures of the highlights of the trip can be found here.

06
Apr
13

To England to visit family and friends

In march, we took the ferry from Dunkirk to Dover. We then drove to Southampton to spend some time with one of the uncles of Shadae. Afterwards, we continued westward to visit old friends Katia and Peter in Plymouth and spend the Easter days at their house. Finally, we returned to London to spend a few more days at another uncles place.

It was a great trip full of wonderful memories and good family quality time. Here are some highlights.

28
Sep
12

France & Northern Spain in 6 weeks

With a fully loaded caravan and 2 small kids, we headed south in search of sun. Our first stop was Château Chenonceau in the Loire Valley. Having arrived on the hottest day of the year, the kids crying and the castle jammed packed with tourists, we couldn’t wait to get out of there. It was then that we realized unless the activities were kid friendly, we could never enjoy the outing. Thus we headed west to the French Atlantic coast. The flat French Island of Ile de Ré was a perfect family friendly destination with numerous beaches, traditional white-washed houses with green shutters and 17th century citadels. Following the coast heading south, we visited Dune de Pyla, Sanguinet Lake, passed through Bordeaux and entered French Basque country. Located at the foothills of the Pyrenees, the region is profoundly different than the rest of France. St-Jean de Luz was a beautiful Basque beach resort with whitewashed houses, timber framed and shuttered in oxblood red.

Continuing to follow the Atlantic coast, we entered northern Spain at San Sebastian. The Basque city has one of the best city beaches in Europe (Playa de la Concha) and a wonderful old town full of Basque tapas bars. Further west we visited Santillana del Mar, a medieval jewel of a town perfectly preserved with its bright cobblestone streets, tanned stone buildings and ancient churches. Comillas further west was another tiny fishing port with a broad golden beach. The nearby Altamira Caves were interesting containing prehistoric three dimensional rock paintings of animals. At Llanes, we visited our dear friends whom we met while traveling in Africa. We were treated to delicious homemade Spanish meals and drank lots of Asturian Cider which made speaking Spanish much easier.

Continuing west along the lush and green Spanish northern Atlantic coast, the town of Oviedo had a rich conglomeration of pre-Romanesque buildings and a famous cathedral built in the 13th century. Cudillero was the most picturesque fishing village along the whole coast. The pastel painted houses cascaded down the mountainside to the tiny port on a narrow inlet. Most of the narrow steep streets were accessible by stairs only and completely stroller unfriendly, but the view from the lookouts high above the village were magnificent. Nearby Playa de Silencio backed by a rock amphitheater was beautiful yet inaccessible for strollers. Pushing further west into Galicia province, the coastline became much wilder and strung with high windswept sea cliffs. The most spectacular beach was Praia As Catedrais where gothic looking rock arches and hidden sea caves appear along the beach only at low tide. At Garita de Herbeira lookout we had a majestic view of the sea from southern Europe’s highest sea cliffs.  Finally we reached the most western beaches of Spain at Carnota, a 7km long sweeping sandy beach facing the open Atlantic.

Leaving the Spanish coast, we headed a little inland to Santiago de Compostela, the third holiest city in Catholicism after the Vatican and Jerusalem. The heart of the city is the Cathedra built between 1075 & 1211 with a mixture of Romanesque, baroque and Gothic architecture and the main destinations for pilgrims walking the Santiago de Compostela trail from Northern France. Having reached our final destination, we headed back east along the coast, getting in a few more beach days  before entering southern France through the Pyrenees.

The walled Pyrenean French town of St-Jean Pied de Port was a gem with its white washed houses, cobblestoned paths, flower filled balconies and Roman Bridge. Fortunately having arrived in the Pyrenees on a rare clear period, we got to explore two valleys that cut through the western part of the mountain chain, Vallée d’Aspe & Vallée d’Ossau. Heading further north in France, we spent almost a week in Dordogne, a region rich in prehistoric cave paintings, hilltop chateaux’s and fortified villages. We explored the cliff top fortified village of St-Cirq Lapopie, the walled village of Monpazier, the trapezoid shaped walled village of Domme, the medieval & Renaissance town of Sarlat-la-Canéda, the cliff top castles of Castelnaud & Beynac, the medieval village of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, and finally the village of Collonges-la-Rouge built entirely of bright red sandstone.

It was a fabulous trip with the kids enjoying warm summer weather.  You will find a selection of photos here. And you can watch some videos of the trip:

Kyle’s first beach, France, Ile de Ré

Dimi & Kids at Ile de Ré Beach, France

“I hate seaweed mom”, Ile de Ré, France

Kids in the car seat at Llanes Campsite, Spain

Viewpoint over Cudillero, Spain

In the car at Praia Davadero, Spain

Sea Cliffs and caves of Praia os Catedrais, Spain

Carnota Beach, Spain

Kyra the Sand Mummy, Spain

Driving through a village in the French Pyrenées

Monpazier in Dordogne – France

10
May
11

New England on the go

Another long flight for Kyra, this time in western direction, as we flew to Boston. There we first spent some time with old friends Kim and Patrick and their kids and enjoyed the nice late springtime in the Boston area. After a high school reunion, some BBQs and visits to Kims family, we headed south to go on a friends tour of New England: Tyler, Negar, Kate, and finally Jeff & Juan were visited to end the tour at Shadaes uncle’s place in Hartford. There we spent some quality time exploring the area and celebrating the wedding together with the extended family, flown in from all over the world.

It was an awesome trip filled with fun and great memories, as well for us as for Kyra. Look at the things we have seen.




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