Monday, November 26, 2012

Ryan - crazy hair day

Ryan's school had crazy hair day.  He was a little apprehensive about the whole thing as he is new to all the school activities, but now that he has seen how crazy all of the other kids hair looked I think next year he will be more willing try something a little crazier!  It was pretty fun to see all of the kids and also see Ryan's hair all crazy!  By the end of the day, Ryan's hair had gone flat and quite a bit of the orange was gone! :)

Luxembourg - Sept 22-23

We always seem to push ourselves a bit when it comes to traveling here, but at the same time we feel like our time will go by so fast that we have to try and see as much as we can!  Plus we are definitely trying to see cities and countries that probably wouldn't be our destination when we come back to Europe one day.  So, on Saturday, after Friday at Legoland in Germany, we headed to Luxembourg for the night.  It is about a 3 hour drive from where we are.  Beautiful drive thru Belgium and the kids did really well in the car.  The city of Luxembourg is beautiful!  Lots of rolling hills with parts of the city built at the bottom of the hill and at the top.  So much history here and wealth!  I didn't realize how many countries fought for control of Luxembourg thru history (Romans, French, Dutch, Germans). The old churches, fortress walls, and buildings were beautiful.  It is a pretty easy city to walk, however there is quite a bit of elevation change, so not ideal with small children who are walking.  We didn't go down the hill too far as we knew Ryan would have to walk back up.  I was also a nervous wreck because the walls overlooking the cliffs weren't very tall and the kids kept wanting to peer over!  The old fortress area was a big hit for Ryan.

Our friend had told us about seeing/following the Valley of the 7 castles (in Luxembourg) drive on our way back to the Netherlands.  I didn't do much research before, but we googled it on our way out and tried to go to the first one.  However, this one wasn't easily marked (ie we couldn't find it :) ), so we gave up and just headed home.  These castles look beautiful, though. 

 Ryan admiring the view
 What is in this thing?

 View looking down from part of the fortress walls
 An old watch tower

 Ryan playing

Legoland -Duisburg

Ryan has been really getting into the next size up (small!!) legos and I had heard about this new Legoland Discovery center about an hour away from us in Germany.  Ryan had a Friday off of school, so Troy took the day off and we headed to Duisburg for the day.  This is a pretty small, industrial town, so nothing too exciting here other than legoland.  The kids had a lot of fun playing and building legos, looking at the creations built, and playing in the jungle gym.  It was a pretty small discovery center and Ryan's favorite part was building race cars and then racing them down the tracks.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Kasteel Heeswijk WWII Re-enactment Day (Sept 15)

Upon walking closer to the castle, I felt like we traveled back in time to WWII.  There were WWII vehicles, motorcycles, and lots of soldiers dressed in the uniform used for the war.  During WWII, US paratroopers missed their drop-zone and ended up landing at Kasteel Heeswijk.  The anniversary of this drop-zone date is Sept 17th, so every year the castle organizes a re-enactment to commiserate this event.  The highlight of the day was the paratroopers that were going to jump from a WWII plane.  I read that the paratroopers would come between 2:30-4, so we got to the field at 2:30 and anxiously looked up at the sky waiting...and waiting...and waiting.  The plane didn't arrive until closer to 4, but the kids were so excited when the paratroopers started dropping.  It was neat to see and something we don't get to see in the States. 

Apple Picking Sept 8th

A local fruit orchard opens up apple and pear picking to the public three Saturdays in the month of September.  The orchard also had a pancake house (pannekoeken) with lots of play structures for the kids.  Many other people in Eindhoven had the same idea for this Saturday!  The orchard was very busy!  We met some friends and quickly started to pick.  The apples were delicious right off of the tree!  Ryan and Troy picked a ton of apples!  We are going to be making more apple things to use them up for the next few months!  The pears weren't quite ripe, so we didn't pick as many.  We ended the hard apple picking work with a ham and cheese pannekoeken.  Another beautiful fall day spent with great friends we've made here!

Bachelorette Party for a friend in my mom's group -Sept 1st

A friend, in a mom's group I'm in, is getting married, so another mom organized a day at the spa for her bachelorette party.  The spa was in a town called Geldrop and we were all looking forward to a day of pampering, relaxing, and having some girl time.  I was warned the spas here are nude, but the experience was more than I could have imagined or thought of!  We Americans are just not use to being nude around complete strangers or as couples around complete strangers.  There were no bathing suits aloud in the saunas and aromatherapy pools and it was co-ed!  This was no big deal to my European mom friends, but to my American friends a few joined in, but for most of us, it was just a little bit too much for us.  I was surprised at the amount of couples that came here to relax together nude!  They had a really nice outdoor area with lawn chairs, so many of us just relaxed in the sun in our robes (not nude like most others sitting outside!).  We had a really nice lunch together and many then went and got a massage.  It was a wonderful day to celebrate Arianna and her wedding!  

Kasteel Heeswijk

I had seen another facebook friend post pictures of this beautiful castle near Eindhoven and I had really been wanting to go see it.  It turns out it's only about a 30 minutes drive from our house!  It was built in the 11th century and a few different royalties had control of the castle over the years.  It was also a drop-zone location for American parachuters during WWII.

The day was beautiful, we brought a picnic, and walked around the grounds.  Ryan and Abby had a great time looking at all of the ducks in the water.

Ryan starts school Aug 13th

Ryan is back in school already!  Such a short 6 week summer break here.  He had a little bit of a rough start when he realized his 3 best friends had moved away and he was going to have to make some new friends.  He was very nervous and had a couple of days crying when I left, but he quickly became settled into his new class and became fast friends with 2 new American boys.  The school community is comprised mostly of expats, so at the end of the school year and influx of families move away and a new group moves in.  The sad part about being in an expat community is the amount of people who come and go each year.

Giethoorn, Netherlands August 18th

The August weather in the Netherlands stayed a bit warmer and we seized the opportunity to do something outdoors when we saw this weekend was going to be nice.  We headed up to Giethoorn, Netherlands, which is about 2 hours slightly northeast of Eindhoven.  There was a Starbucks on the way in Arnhem, so I begged Troy to make a bit of detour.  It seems silly that everywhere we go I check to see if a Starbucks is on the way.  The little things that remind you of home. :)

The town's nickname is the "Venice of the Netherlands".  There are no roads into the city, just walking, bike paths, and of course canals.  It was such a cute and quaint town to take a stroll thru.  It was a busy day here, so we couldn't wait the 4+ hours to reserve a boat, so we didn't get on the water.  We walked around, ate a picnic lunch, and fed the ducks.  There were lots of bridges and beautiful gardens along the walk.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Croatia Aug 1 -8, 2012

What a treat for Troy and I! 2 vacations in about 3 weeks!  We returned from Italy on a Thursday and the next Wednesday we were off to Croatia!  The start to the Netherlands summer was not summer at all, but more like a Portland late fall/spring.  Rain, rain, wind, and cool temperatures even into July!  We decided we needed to go south for a family trip to soak up some sunshine.  We also have met a family who have become great friends and they have kids similar ages (same family who also watched our kids while we went to Italy), so we all went to Croatia together.  We stayed at a hotel/resort outside of Zadar.  There are no flights out of Eindhoven to Croatia, so we flew out of another Ryan Airport in Wheeze, Germany.  We kept teasing Ryan that this was his airline and he would have to be the pilot.  The flight into Zadar was beautiful.  Mountains, crystal blue water, and desert like.  The landscape actually reminded me quite a bit of Bend, Oregon.

The week was lots of fun, hot (85-95 F all week), and relaxing for us all.  Everything we were looking for.  The hotel was a family hotel, so there were lots of activities for the kids and really geared for the kids.  They had 2 big pools, a baby pool, indoor pool, and a water slide.  Plus, the hotel was on the beach, so we also played in the ocean a bit.  The coast of Croatia is actually very rocky and small cliffs, so it's not great for children, but some of the hotels have made a sandy beach, which ours did.  If you went off of this sandy beach, though, it was very rocky very quickly.  We did see some little fish close to the shore.  The kids, especially Ryan and Kalean, had a blast swimming.  They were probably in the pool for about 5-6 hours a day.  Abby is just a busy little girl.  Troy and I would take turns, but definitely not a whole lot of lounging on the beach chairs when you have an almost 2 year old running around!  She wants to do everything Ryan is doing, so she'd play in the baby pool for awhile, but then would be looking for Ryan.  It is really cute how much she adores him.  This was Abby's first time in the ocean!
The hotel provided all the meals, so we pretty much stayed at the hotel for most of our stay.  We did go into the city of Zadar one afternoon for some sight-seeing and dinner.  It is a fairly small town, but we saw some ruins and the St. Donat church, the ocean of course, and some yummy gelato next to the St. Donat church.  At the end of the boardwalk is this sea organ, where as the waves crash into the rocks it makes music that sounds like an organ.  It was very peaceful to listen to.  Our other excursion was to the Krka waterfalls in a national park.  Beautiful waterfalls, but we were not warned about the mass amount of tourists that we would find there! You have to take a boat ride to get to the waterfall spot.  It was insane and not a relaxing day as we were hoping.  There is also quite a bit of hiking to other falls, but it was a bit uphill and a very warm day, so it was best for us not to try this adventure with 4 small children.  It was probably around 95-100 degrees. The boys took a dip in the water while the girls stayed on the sand.  
Ryan taking a swimming lesson

 Abby's first time to the beach!