Fun activities for kids and parents alike: a busy day in Berlin Charlottenburg

Charlottenburg neighbourhood houses several famous Berlin landmarks: the KuDamm shopping street, KaDeWe -Berlin’s fanciest department store, the Memorial Church and another cool store housing many local design brands: Bikini Berlin. That enough will put it on many people’s list when visiting Germany’s capital. But what about the kids you may ask…what is in it for the kids? As we all know, kids and hours long shopping sprees have very little in common. Unless it’s a toy shop.

Well, for one, the Berlin Zoo.


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New Year family skiing holiday that doesn’t break the bank – Rila Mountains, Bulgaria

Skiing over Christmas and or New Year can be an expensive endeavour. These are peak periods for taking to the slopes, as Europe and many other parts of the World are on holidays. If you add one/two children to the mix, a short week on the slopes can take you back a few thousand Euros if you count accomodation, meals, ski schools, equipment  and passes. Especially if you think at popular destinations like Switzerland or Austria.

Together with Mr, we have been skiing in Austria (Kitzbuhel) in our pre-kid days. I have also been with friends in France (La Plaine). Clearly they are both perfect winter sport destinations, with great infrastructure and plenty of slopes to keep you busy for days. Of course, on both instrances we stayed well clear of Christmas/NYE as well as the February week when European schools take their intersemester break and half of Europe travels to France or Austria. This year however, as we are planning longer holidays in March and May, we decided to book our ski break sooner, already after Cristmas and over New Year. By the time we decided, in late Summer, many popular places in Austria were already booked (especially families travelling from Germany book about one year in advance)  and the remaing spots as well as flights to Vienna were crazy expensive. Asking around in our friends’ circle, we got good feed-back on a destination that was not high on every skiier’s radar but had all the facilites for a snow filled family getaway: the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria.

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Five days in Chianti, Italy – medieval cities hopping with the baby in tow

Italy is always a sure bet with me. If you read my earlier posts, you already know that I have a love-love relationship with this country that started back in 2004, when I did my Erasmus studies there. Now, fast forward to July 2016, when our LO was 8 months and I was in search of a trip to celebrate my husband’s birthday. I looked in particular for a place outside the city, that has its own vineyard in the midst of green scenery. We had a great experience in Apulia with the masseria stays. (you can read about it here) so I was looking for a similar feel in the North of the country. After a few searches on Tripadvisor and local blogs, I found Salvadonica in San Casciano in Val di Pesa. I then booked our flights to Florence.

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Solo travel in Western Balkans – 24h in and around Tirana, Albania

I travelled to Tirana in December 2017 to participate in a work-related conference. The presentations finished already Friday mid -day and I was left with about 24 h to explore a bit of the city and surroundings before my flight back on Saturday PM.

Tirana itself is nothing too spectacular and similar in look with other former communist capitals from the European Eastern block. The architecture is mainly greyish appartment buildings with falling facades. The only notable exception are a few streets surrounding  Skanderbeg Square, now turned a pedestrian zone. In December, a small Christmas market and several carrousels were occupying the square.

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A roadtrip showcasing great wineries, medieval fortresses and the Caucasus

On our third day in Georgia, we had our Guide/driver ( see here how we found him) waiting for us at the hotel and started our tour of the Eastern part of the country.

First on the list was a visit to the David Gareji monastery. It is located in a semi-desert area in the South East of the country and close to the border with Azerbaijan 🇦🇿. The drive from Tiblisi will take about 2h30. We stopped in the way at Telliani Valley (an important exporter of Georgian wines) for a quick tour of their factory and some wine sampling.

We followed the concrete road for about 50 km East of Tiblisi and an unpaved road after that, all the way South. If you self drive, you should get a good map and clear indications as there are not many signs once you leave the main road. Do pack water and some snaks as this is going to be a long day hiking in the border area and other than a toilet, there is limited access to food or water once you get there. It was only us and a National Geographic vehicle when we arrived but in Summer it should be quite popular.

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If you enjoy nature and good wine, you will fall in love with Georgia – first impressions

In Summer 2017, we were looking for a destination that was not yet firmly on the travel radar of Western Europeans to satisfy our thirst for off-the-beaten-track adventure. It was a trip for me and Mr only, so we were ready to step up the physical activites, be less picky about hotel  accomodation as well as cover more ground in a shorter time. As we only had a week of holiday available, we focused the search on the Middle East and Central Asia. Georgia seemed to tick all the right boxes. So, even before we saw Lonely Planet’s list with the top countries to visit in 2018, we had bought plane tickets to Tbilisi.

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A long week-end in the Sun in October: try Montenegro

This was the second long week-end in 2017 spent on a girls trip. The first girls trip of 2017 was in June in Malaga and I loved having the opportunity to visit the Picasso Museum, eat great food and generally have adult conversations with my friends. I hope to share my impressions of Malaga in a future post.

After my return from Malaga, I had a quick look at potential low cost flights from either Brussels or Paris towards another sunny destination that many of my friends recommended: Montenegro. I found Transavia taking off from Paris Orly. I was aiming for an escape in the end September, to avoid the crowds. If you are thinking about going in the same period, keep in mind they only fly directly till Ocotber to Tivat ( part of the Summer schedule). I found a flight for less than 200 Euro and convinced two friends to join in.

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Back in Portugal – 3 days at the beach and a taste of Lisbon

I have been to Portugal a few times already. First, about 8 years ago, I travelled with my best friend to Porto and Lisbon. I have then spend a couple of week- ends in Lisbon with friends. And of course, the Azores in 2011.  But in the August of 2017, looking for possible destinations for a sort jaunt from Brussels, I stumbled on the coastal town of Sesimbra. It is then that Mr happened to mention he was never to Portugal. The decision was made. He received a trip to Portugal as his birthday present.

As Lisbon was my husband’s treat, I kept it for the end. Upon arrival we rented a car and drove down to Sesimbra, about one hour south of Lisbon. Potuguese colleagues recommended it for the nice, wide beach, fresh seafood and being popular with locals mostly. As we were travelling mid-August, there were bound to be people on holidays, so any tips to less travelled places were well appreciated.

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Japan – Kyoto and Kinosaki-onsen (part 2)

With our toddler well accustomed to the train travel, on our 7th day in Japan, we headed to Kyoto. From Takayama we first had to go back to Nagoya for 2h30 min on the Hida express train. We then changed in a hurry (consider that the Shinkansen is usually in another part of the train station compared to the local (slower) trains) and took the Shinkansen for about one hour to Kyoto. We timed the departure at lunch break so that the LO would sleep on the train. This time it worked.

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Hello, Hello Kitty! – 18 days in Japan with a toddler

Japan was long on my list but somehow we never got the chance till this May to jump on a flight to Tokyo. As we traveled with our 18-month year old baby, this trip required a bit more preparation in terms of advance booking of accommodation and itinerary setting. I do plenty of research before almost every trip (to make sure I do get my pick of the nice hotels at affordable prices and book ahead any sights to avoid long queues) but for the trips with the baby, it moves to the next level – control freak level that is!

This trip will be split into at least two different posts as the information is very fresh in my mind and I will probably dwell on the details more than usual. Also, if you plan to take this trip with a toddler (like us), I guess the more info the better. Please note however, we did not choose the itinerary or accommodation to suit the baby but rather tried to ease the baby into our travel pace. Therefore, no all inclusive, baby clubs or  private transfer for us.

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