K and I have a unending bucket list of places we read about in books, see in movies, hear about and dream about -all of which we would love to visit. Our Euro trip this summer was a dream come true for us. I wanted to revisit some places I love with K and also K had his own suggestions-like staying on a farm, walking on cobblestone paths in Italy and long train journeys!
Planning a Euro trip can be a daunting task with so many gorgeous cities, drives, towns, scenic trains, so its best to narrow down your 2-3 biggest priorities and plan it around those. For us they were Scenic train rides, offbeat stays with locals ( a child friendly farm stay in a particular), covering one region of Italy.
We love Europe because even the smallest of places has so much to do -and I mean Outdoors- fountains in the town centres, well planned short hikes, boat rides around lakes, huge parks with obstacle courses-the list is endless!
Though its difficult to choose with so many great memories, here are the highlights of our epic Europe trip:
1) The Food trail- Gruyeré cheese to Canoli and beyond
We absolutely enjoyed the delectable cuisine from the canoli, Arancini, Gelato and wood fired Pizzas in Amalfi to the famed macaroons and chocolate truffles of Sprungli in Zurich. Absolutely loved the decadent cheese toastie in Gruyere, the Sacher Torte in Salzburg and the thick fries and pancakes in Amsterdam. One big question we are asked is how we manage as vegetarians. K is an eggetarian so that makes breakfast easy. However part of K's big learning is to adapt and try out local food wherever we go. Most parents worry about traveling with kids who are fussy eaters. I think traveling without supplies will teach them to adapt. I did travel with those mini electric cookers and K's favourite food until i realised that you do get some form of rice, fruits and vegetables anywhere in the world! As long as you find a way to communicate your food preferences, Vegetarians and even vegans need not worry!
2) Walking aimlessly and getting lost in small towns and the big cities
While we love planning some exciting and offbeat activities wherever we go, what we love best is walking through the cobblestone streets, the cafe lined by-lanes, sitting by the waterfronts. All we take with us is a city map (K enjoys this more than using Googlemaps for sure) and in most cases we get lost. The hidden gems are found in places you least expect them to be and most likely when you have no idea where you are. So we just let our instincts guide us at times and stumble across wonderful people, a local festival, quaint cafés, serene beaches and quirky local shops.
3) The open air playgrounds and children's museums
What we absolutely love about Europe is that there is a garden or a playground almost every everywhere you go. Kids don't need fancy equipment to play with in gardens- K found absolute joy in climbing a tree in Vondelpark, Amsterdam and throwing stones into the lake in Montreux. The playgrounds themselves have such scenic surroundings that looking at K play there was like a picture from storybooks we read. We also found some interesting museums like the Children's museum in Salzburg and the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam that were enriching for K. Though it is slightly "Cheesy" we did do the Chocolate and cheese tour in Switzerland. K enjoyed understanding how Chocolate and Cheese are made are made but it is possible to do both of these yourself rather than take the guided whole day trip. So try not to fall for the tourist traps.
4) A memorable farm stay with a local family
Since K is an animal lover, and we wanted to experience a farm stay with a local, we decided to stay at this lovely heritage farm which was built in the 16th century! It was the best part of the holiday according to K. Extremely kid friendly, it even had a huge playground and a Treehouse, mini tractors, cycles, swings, slides and even a heated swimming pool. They grow their own produce and it was quite the experience to have fresh juice from the apple orchard, their own milk, cheese, jams for breakfast each morning. K even got to pick eggs from the chicken coop! We highly recommend this for the kids!
5) Trains, Boats, Trams, horse carriages....
K enjoyed exploring the different modes of transport in the European cities from trams in Zurich, to horse carriages in Salzburg, the long train rides across Switzerland,boats in the beautiful lakes, and the ferries across the islands in Italy.
We did take the Eurail pass, as we used it extensively to travel between countries, but you need to figure out whether it makes sense for you to choose a rail pass or not based on your itinerary!
What is surprising is that even during our longest train ride of 9 hours, K didn't once ask to watch something on his tablet or to be entertained. The vistas through the full length windows provided more than enough entertainment with the occasional farm animals, the lakes, the mountains-even some snow covered peaks.
6) The Vitaparcour trails in Switzerland
We decided to explore this fitness trail in the forest as a fun morning activity. K totally enjoyed the balance beams, climbing bars and we made up some fun activities of our own as we traversed the fitness trail. We also came across a Forest Kindergarten- these group of kids turn up in outdoors irrespective of the weather- rain, sun, snow and learn all their Kindergarten concepts there!
At the end of the trail, we found a bench with a wonderful view of the city- the perfect spot to rest after an exciting morning.
All in all, Vitaparcours are a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours for both adults and kids!
Don't worry about missing out- you don't have to cover all of Europe in one trip! enjoy an easy pace and let your child understand and explore a country or two at a time!