Copenhagen With Kids

So; here we are 11 days into this summer’s road trip. We’ve enjoyed 4 nights in Copenhagen, followed by 4 in Osby (aka middle of nowhere #1). Today we are moving on to Stockholm for 4 nights.

Getting to Copenhagen

We took our own car through the Euro tunnel into France, then drove to Belgium and stayed in Bruges for a night. Once we’d found somewhere to park a people carrier with a roof box, we managed to get out of the hotel and explore the cobbled streets and eat dinner in a tourist trap in the main square.

The next day was spent driving through Holland where we looked out for ‘real’ windmills. We don’t even notice the modern ones any more. After the Netherlands, we drove along German motorways and sat in German traffic jams while admiring the road works. That night we stayed in Hamburg, and had a German Hamburger for dinner.

That’s how we got to Copenhagen, where the plan was to spend 4 nights on a house boat.

We booked the boat through AirBnB and waited around on the road beside it for a good half an hour before trying the front door, which proved to be open. The owner turned up to explain things the next morning. So, it’s worth checking that you are actually going to be shown around/ let in or will just be allowed to work things out yourself.

Access to the boat was via a rather wobbly gangway over an algae infested stretch of water. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t imagine falling in every time I used this entrance, and insisted that only one person at a time go over. Once inside, there were 4 bedrooms (7 beds), wifi, a good sized kitchen/dinner but only one bathroom/toilet. We mainly ate out, but it is always useful to be able to cook pasta at the very least.

Our accommodation was a short water-taxi ride to the city centre and the first day, we almost missed the boat, literally. The Danes like to be punctual!

Things We Did

1/ Boat Cruise.
We went on an hour long, very touristy, boat cruise along the canals and around the harbour. Some are more expensive than others, so shop around. Ours left from Nyhaven ; it’s also worth visiting the public toilets there!

The boat cruise had an English part to the commentary and took us out to the infamous Little Mermaid statue, which saved us a trip later because there really isn’t much to see.

We got a good close up view of a big ship, saw a few places we wanted to visit later, went under loads of bridges, waved to loads of strangers and learned a very little bit about the history of Copenhagen.

image

2/ Tivoli Gardens
This has to be done if you are in Copenhagen and we all had a good time. There were enough different rides here for everyone in our family, even DD2 who is our thrill seeker. We spent 9 hours wandering around, going on rides, eating, looking at various stalls and just chilling out. It’s not that expensive if you are used to London theme parks!

People were friendly, the queues weren’t long and ice cream was good. The kids enjoyed the chance to stretch their legs, liked the live performances and enjoyed having dinner on the pirate ship.

Stay until dark if you can, as the gardens are beautiful all lit up. Also buy a multi ride ticket if possible and agree on an allowance that the kids can spend on games before entering the park!

3/ Experimentarium City
This exhibition is situated on the waterfront opposite Newhaven, and is basically a huge science museum. There are hundreds of experiments set up for you and your children to enjoy playing with and you are all virtually guaranteed to come away having learnt something.

Our kids enjoyed trying their hands at the different winter sports, playing with bubbles, racing each other on the stationary bikes and ergonometers, trying their voices at commentating and enjoying various optical illusions.

image

You can buy snacks and drinks here but they also have a picnic area, so you are welcome to bring your own.

There was a street vendor market right next door, so we ate there.

4/ Go For A Walk
We walked from Nyhaven to Tivoli and stopped to look at various buildings, bridges, statues and other temporary works of art.

We especially liked the Happy Wall, where all the kids got to add their very own bit of graffiti.

The only shopping we did was for our traditional fridge magnet but we saw a lot of familiar London high street shop names while wandering around, so it’s safe to assume that you’ll be able to buy pretty much anything you leave behind.

5/ Copenhagen Zoo.
Despite all the bad publicity over the killing of Marius the Giraffe, earlier this year, we decided to visit this zoo anyhow. The kids wanted to see the polar bear as they hadn’t seen one before and although I’m not that keen on zoos in general, I thought it would be okay.

And it was, mainly. But the enclosures didn’t seem very big, or very clean, and the polar bear and big cats were exhibiting that awful stereotypical pacing seen in so many captive animals. I couldn’t help feeling a bit miserable for them.

I’m not sure I’d really recommend it.

6/ Go To The Beach.
If you have the time and your swimming gear, go and visit the beaches south of Copenhagen.
image

There are miles to choose from, with flagged areas, swimming piers and showers and toilet facilities spaced along the dunes.

Places to buy food seemed lacking, so it’s probably worth taking a picnic. The sand was quite fine, but there were a few wasps around as well as lots of seaweed.

7/ Eating And Drinking
As we were self catering, we made a few supermarket trips and maintained a well stocked fridge. But at night we went out to eat. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but if you have fussy kids and want to make sure they eat *something *, then visit Jensens Bøfhus. The steak is good, they do chicken nuggets and offer an all the software icecream you can eat option for dessert.
image

A couple more tips; they are digging up the city atm and creating an underground railway, so there are roadworks every where. If you are driving, a satnav will be very helpful but don’t expect to be able to park anywhere. Car parking is almost impossible, especially if you drive a bigger than normal car.

After getting one ticket while unloading our stuff onto the boat, then failing to find anywhere to park the first time we tried to visit the zoo, we gave up driving and took cabs instead.

We loved Copenhagen and would like to come back, maybe during winter next time?
image

Sleeping Arrangements

image

The first night of our holidays is always the worst.

Apparently expecting kids to actually sleep in unfamiliar rooms, in strange beds and with siblings, who usually sleep in different rooms, is completely unreasonable and unrealistic.

The first night of one of our holidays usually involves tantrums, arguments,  tears and protests against unfair bedtimes and lack of screen time.

Friday night was no exception. On Friday morning, we headed off on our summer holidays and spent the evening in a very nice hotel in Bruges. We weren’t exactly slumming it,  but we had two rooms; and herein lies one of the problems of holidaying with a ‘larger’  family.

When you are a family of 6, it is very rare to be able to find a hotel room that can sleep everyone together. Even interconnecting rooms are quite hard to guarantee. So mostly we end up with 1 room with 2 beds and one with 4, or two bedrooms of 3.

Of course the big question becomes ‘Who is going to sleep with who?’

Someone much cleverer than me must be able to come up with an equation that can answer this question,  taking into account who last fell out with who,  and how long ago, who shared a room/bed ‘last time’ and what is ‘fair’ .

Btw ‘last time’ appears to be one of those things that kids remember
effortlessly even though your last family holiday was 12 months ago and you can barely remember where you went.

On Friday we decided on a girls’ room and a boys’ room. Simples. The 4 beds came in the form of two doubles,  which  proved to be only mildly traumatic for everyone and ended up with 3 of us in one bed for part of the night.

Then on Saturday night we had two rooms of 3; a state of affairs requiring negotiation skills and patience far beyond what I could muster after an 8 hour tour of German motorway roadworks.

So it was with great relief that on Sunday, we arrived in Copenhagen for a 4 night stay on a house boat. Here we have 4 bedrooms,  so two of the kids have to share, but the other two can have some space. Surely this is a good thing?

image

But no, apparently not. The two little ones were happy to sleep in a double room as the beds are built into little houses.

This meant the older two could have their own rooms if they wanted. Of course, they didn’t. They have spent the entire time here sharing a double bed and fighting bitterly about who is on whose side.

And tomorrow, we move somewhere else and the whole thing starts again.

Wish me patience. I’m going to need it.

I Love/Hate The Summer Holidays

It’s Tuesday evening and the first week of the summer holidays is over. The kids have mainly had a good time and the bar has been set high.

We have picked our own fruit, walked the dogs, eaten too many ice creams, had swimming parties, camped in the garden and had a massive sleepover. The school run seems an age ago and the kids have slipped into later bedtimes and lie ins with very little encouragement.

The weather has been lovely; mainly hot and sunny, punctuated by some awesome electrical storms. We have had some truly lazy days of summer so far.

On the downside we’ve also had sibling squabbles, tears, boredom and reluctance to continue with their piano practice.  None of them have much homework to do apart from a bit of reading and writing, but I have learnt not to let them neglect their music. Trying to get children back to regular music practice after a long holiday is not easy; it’s much better to just keep them ticking over if at all possible.

I d0 miss having some ‘me time’ during the holidays. I work part time and am self employed so do very little ‘work’ when the kids are at home demanding food, clean clothes, craft material and the Netflix pin number. Instead I police screen time, referee disagreements, provide entertainment suggestions, ferry children all over the place and try and make sure my offspring don’t develop a nutritional deficiency.

Can I just tell you how much I HATE feeding my children over the summer? At least while they are at school I can be reasonably confident that they get one balanced meal a day. but when they are off school they seem to think that all they need to eat is junk.

I know some of you will be reading this and wondering what on earth I am whining about, especially if you are working and would love to spend the summer with your kids. But hopefully some of you will understand how full on the holidays can be if you have no childcare, and can sympathise with my mixed feelings.

This time next week we will have had two weeks of summer and will be preparing for our Scandinavian road trip. Panic will have set in and I will be pouring over lists and itineraries and worrying if we’ll be able to fit everything in the car, as well as making sure none of the kids kill each other. Next week is going to make this week look like a walk in the park.

I need to stop stressing and make the most of the rest of this week, don’t I?

jumping in

Would You Go Back If You Could?

I’m feeling a bit maudlin this week. This year has flown by, hasn’t it?

DD2 is enjoying her last few days of primary school. Discos, school plays, assemblies and parties instead of lessons and tests.

Y6 disco

I’ve been looking at photos of her starting school, and wondering how much she will change  between now and the end of secondary.

And DD1 has just finished her first year at secondary school.

I worried so much about her going into Y7.  Had we  made the right choice of school? Would she cope with the work? Was the commute going to be too much for her?

It’s all been good. The school is lovely and I feel so lucky that we had it as an option. She’s done really well academically but she has also thrown herself wholeheartedly into all aspects of school life. The commute has been a complete non-issue. I’m anticipating a slightly rockier road with DD2, who is going to the same school, but I remain hopeful that I will be saying similar things about her this time next year.

DD2′s last day at primary isn’t until next Tuesday and while looking at photos of her 7 years ago, I came across this one of her and her sisters on her first day of school.

School starters

DD1 was going into Y1, DD2 was starting reception and DD3 ass about 18 months old but insisted on being in the photo too. I would have been pregnant with DS. Life was mad.

They all look so small, my babies. So cute and dependant on me. These days they are much more independant  and I said goodbye to nappies, daytime naps and buggies a long time ago.

I asked myself if I would go back to those days, if I was miraculously given that chance and decide probably not.  I loved being able to be at home with my kids as babies, toddlers and preschoolers but I really appreciate that they are all at school. I have some me time now.

I’m glad I took loads of photos of them when they were small so I have something to look back on, now life is really complicated, but I’m enjoying my older children at the moment ( most of the time) and never feel broody for the baby days again.

What about you? If you could go back in time to when your children were small, and do it all again. would you?

The Silence Of The Frogs

One of the things you learn to put up with when you have cats is the prey.

Cats are natural predators; they like to catch things , then bring them inside to show you how clever they are. Basically cats consider their owners to be in need of a little hunting practice, so they often maim their victims a bit before presenting it to you and they expect you to finish it off. And if you aren’t home when they bring their spoils through the cat flap, your cat will probably go for the kill itself, then gut or disembowel the poor beast on your kitchen floor.

If you really can’t handle the thought of your pet bring wildlife inside, or taking another creature’s life, then you should consider having a housecat rather than a free-ranging feline.

When you get a new kitten, you have very little idea what kind of hunter your cat will be. There can be some clues; females are often better hunters than males and if the kitten’s mother was a good hunter, and the kittens stayed with her until at least 9 weeks, chances are high your new pet will have gotten some tips from her.

So, some cats grow up to be very efficient hunters, and routinely slaughter dozens of birds and rodents every year. Some just aren’t interested, apart from the odd leaf,  and a few cats ( usually orientals) direct their activity to seemingly inappropriate items such as socks and underwear. And yet others set their sights  low and treat their owners to a stream of insect and frog- shaped presents.

Our cats ( previously referred to as our kittens) fall neatly into this last category. They are frog hunters extraordinaire. Almost every day for the last month or two, they have brought in a frog or two, or three.

They don’t seem to be interested in birds, although we have had one, plus a wing and a load of single feathers, and we’ve had no sign of rodents. Maybe it’s because they are used to rats and hamsters in cages?

But pretty much every time we walk into the house, we find one of these in the lounge.

House frog

Mostly, they are belly up and legs akimbo, but if you pick them up they curl up as small as possible. Most of them are unhurt and I have a special mossy spot out the front where I place them to recover so I’m pretty sure that we are not going to wipe out the area’s entire frog population.

This one actually recovered a bit too quickly and hopped under the sofa before I could rescue it. It was fished out later in the evening by Ginger Cat, and bashed about a bit before I realised what was going on. Hence the cat fur and carpet fibres. I was relieved as I didn’t really fancy having a house-frog.

And of course they aren’t always silent. Some of them scream! I do feel sorry for the poor creatures but prefer the cats bring frogs into the house, rather than birds or mice. And the kids are now excellent frog handlers, which is always a useful life skill, isn’t it?

If you have cats, do they hunt? My biggest fear is that our cats will move onto trickier prey in the future. One of our previous cats used to bring in pigeons and those have a LOT of feathers!

 

 

 

 

We Need A New Car. Maybe.

Say hello to our present car.

Toyota Previa
It’s a 55 Reg Toyota Previa and we love it. It’s got everything we need, whether we are taxiing kids around town or road tripping around Europe, and up until now the ‘Bus’, as we call it, has been pretty reliable.

It’s usually filthy of course; we have two dogs and four kids, and it’s not cleaned or hoovered nearly often enough. But it’s been a great family car.

However, it’s now 9 years old and it’s getting a bit old. Parts are started to need replacing, there has been the odd weird rattle  and we can tell it’s getting a bit tired. Neither DH or I are mechanically minded, and we only have one car, so it’s important that we have a vehicle that isn’t at the mechanics every couple of weeks.

We like to take road trips for our summer holidays and this year plan to drive  to Denmark and Sweden. Last year the Bus got us to Montenegro but we did have a couple of minor incidents where it wouldn’t start or refused to unlock. Being stranded in a foreign country with a misbehaving vehicle is not fun. We did have RAC European cover but you don’t want to have to  be calling them all the time.

So we have been wondering if our Previa is going to behave itself this summer and are now discussing the possibility of a new car.

We know our car is just a machine, but it’s surprisingly easy to get sentimental about them, isn’t it? I actually feel a bit guilty even thinking about looking at new vehicles; like the Bus is an aged relative that we should be caring for in its dotage, rather than selling off because it ‘might’ break down on us.

Ideally, we’d just buy a new Previa. We know they tick all our boxes; but alas, they don’t make Previas in the UK any more, so we need to look at other makes and models.

We have just over a month before we leave on holiday, so I’m all geared up to go out and drive cars.  Our wish list is enough room for at least 6 adults, a decent amount of boot space when all seats are occupied, sliding rear doors, some parking assistance ( rear backing camera preferred) and an in-car SatNav ( negotiable). We are not looking for a new car, but something that is 1-2 years old.

We need some help, otherwise I’m going to throw my hands in the air and put this task in the ‘too hard’ pile and we’ll just take the Bus on holiday with us instead. It’s no drama, unless it all goes wrong, of course.

Does anyone out there drive an MPV that they would recommend I test drive? Any helpful comments below would be very much appreciated.

The Perfect Pet?

Four and a half years ago, when DD1 turned eight, I set a very stupid precedent. I let my eldest get a pet for her birthday, and when the others complained, I said that they could have a pet when they were eight, too.

My only excuse was that my eldest had everything she wanted already, and I was desperate to get her a good birthday present.

We already had dogs and cats, and we’d also had guinea pigs, so she chose rats. I  know a lot of people out there will be squealing with horror but I didn’t mind. I had them myself as a child and DD was delighted. Rats are intelligent and love to explore, but they only live 2-3 years so we did get a replacement pair when the first two died. One of those has now passed away, and DD1 has had over four years of cleaning out rat cages and I think she wants a break.

Rats as pets

When DD2 turned 8, she asked for a hamster. Coming from NZ, I knew very little about these furry little beasts, except that they can bite hard if that way inclined. Thankfully Hammy was not a biter, although he was quite the escape artist.  He died a couple of months ago and now we have an empty cage. DD2 is reluctant to get a new hamster as she just doesn’t think it will be the same.

Hamsters as pet

DD3 turned eight in January and she set her pet sights high. She wanted a dog or cat of her own. We have two dogs, and three cats already, so this wasn’t an option.

She asked for a bird, but neither DH or I are keen on the idea of caged birds. Then she asked for a reptile, something else I know nothing about, as we don’t have snakes or the lizards popular in the UK as pets in NZ.

The debate has gone on for months and then finally one of the school mums told us that her cornsnakes had laid 16 eggs, and 14 of these had hatched. In the end she had 13 baby snakes needing homes. I really wasn’t that keen but the more I looked into it, the more I realised that snakes were actually very little bother.

So we got two. DD3 wanted one and so did DD1 and it seems that it’s usually okay to keep two together. DD3 is freaking everyone out by telling them we have rattlesnakes.

Corn Snakes are calm and tame easily. They only need feeding once a week, and cleaning out once a month. Yes, you have to feed them baby mice ( bleurgh) but so far we’ve been able to do this without too much of  the yuck factor by just placing the snake and the snack in a separate container, and watching while the inevitable happens. The kids are fascinated and grossed out in equal measures.

The only downside is that these tiny serpents are too wiggly for DD3 and so she doesn’t want to hold hers. I can’t really blame her; they are amazingly quick and she’s worried she might drop them. So here’s DD1 with her little beastie.

snakes as kid's pets

baby cornsnake

baby black and white cornsnake
They are pretty, aren’t they? They are only about 20 cm long at the moment but will grow up to 5 foot over about 7 years.

But they can live for 20-25 years!  I know I will be doing a lot of the husbandry until then, but I’ve told the girls that they will be taking their snakes with them when they leave home.