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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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?
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Sleeping Arrangements

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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?

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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.

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 Gallery: Detail

About 6 years ago, when our youngest was only 12 weeks old, we flew everyone ( DH and I, The Nanny plus four kids, 6 and under) half way around the world to introduce our younger two to my NZ family.

What were we thinking? It was fun, but chaotic, and is not a trip we are likely to make again.

I was going through the photos the other day, and found this one of a 2 year DD3.

2 year old blonde hair
She was just so cute, with big green eyes and blonde curls. We stopped over in Hong Kong for a couple of days and we were mobbed by the locals. People took photos of her and DS all the time; it was travelling with a celebrity!

As she’s got older, her eyes have stayed the same colour but her hair is now brown and straight. She’s still pretty cute for a smart-mouthed eight year old, but there is only a slight resemblance to that chubby cheeked toddler.

 

girl and cat

I am face blind, so facial details mean nothing to me. Can you tell these two photos are of the same child?

If so, what details look the same?

For more detailed posts, check out this weeks Gallery over on Sticky Fingers.

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The Gallery: A Photo I’m Proud Of

Sunset at Swakopmund
In August 2012 our summer holiday took us to Namibia and South Africa, where we  hired a car and drove around on deserted gravel roads for 3 weeks.

It was quite an adventure and I had many great photo opportunities, but I think this is my favourite photo. I’ve posted it before but I still get a kick out of looking at it.

We were staying Swakopmund, a small city on the East Coast of the African Continent, for a few days.  It was a winter there, and because it’s surrounded by desert on three sides, you get this sea mist that rolls in off the Atlantic ocean most mornings but usually clears up later in the day. The temperature often started off in the mornings at around 10C, which was quite chilly after the warmer days we’d gotten used to. We were pleased we’d  bothered to pack our fleeces after all.

In the evening we wandered down to the beach front and watched the sun go down. It always looked enormous  and there was a concrete viewing platform that allowed a good view. One night the kids were in the playground, and I was on the beach watching the sunset, when a lone figure wandered out onto the platform. I quickly moved along the sand a little, so the figure looked like they were standing right in the middle of the sun and took a few different shots.

I liked this one especially, because of the mural/graffiti on the wall by the platform and newly lit streetlamp to the left of the picture.

After I took the photo, the figure walked down past the playground and proved to be a teenage girl. I approached her and gave her my email, and said I would send her a copy of the photos if she contacted me, but she never has.

To see more photos that make people proud, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.

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The Gallery: Adventure

I don’t feel very adventurous at the moment.

I suppose I could post a photo of my kids and write something trite about parenting being the biggest adventure ever, but I’ve just gone a couple of rounds with a 12 year old and feel parenting is more a misadventure right now.

So I’m going to go back a couple of years and blog about our summer holiday in 2012, which was a real adventure. As a family it gave us a taste for independent travel and road trips; this is something I hope our children will take with them as they become adults.

We went to Namibia and South Africa for three weeks and it was amazing.

We flew to Johannesburg, then jumped on a smaller plane to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Despite being in the Southern Hemisphere, Namibia is only an hour ahead of the UK in winter. This is great when travelling with children as it really does minimise jetlag.

We stayed a night in Windhoek, collected our vehicle and the next morning we hit the road.

We generally drove for most of a day from place to place and then stayed in one place for 2-3 nights. The driving was an adventure in itself. There are very few shops and petrol stations, so you stop and fill up whenever you see one.

There was plenty to see while driving. The scenery was incredible and changed constantly. We often saw wild animals and were able to stop off whenever we saw something interesting.

kids on the tropic of capricorn
The roads in Namibia are not like the roads in the UK. They are generally in good condition but are  surfaced with gravel and are mainly empty. We sometimes drove for hours without seeing another vehicle. You don’t want to go too fast as there are unexpected potholes and rocks dotted here and there. At one point we saw a car ahead of us burst a tyre and go hurtling off the road into a fence; thankfully no one was hurt.

On the road Namibia

During our holiday we climbed huge sand dunes,

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wandered across deserts in search of long-dead forests,

Dead Vlei Namibia
watched the sun set on deserted beaches,

Swakopmund sunset

 

And had many close encounters with wildlife, some big

Shade for the baby

And some small.

biting lizard

It was mad, wild, exhausting three weeks of driving and sight seeing and we literally never knew what would be around the next corner.

And that’s what a real adventure is all about, isn’t it?

warning sign for penguins

For more adventurous photos, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.

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The Gallery: A Younger Me

It’s July 2000.  We are on our honeymoon and are travelling by train to Italy. Look at me, I’m so excited!

Baguette on a train
We took the Eurostar to Paris, then took a sleeper to Sienna to start our Italian adventure.

My French is pitiful, but luckily DH’s is better so he noticed a sign at the train station saying that the cleaning and catering staff were on strike. We stocked up on baguettes, water and chocolate. An American family in the compartment next to us weren’t so observant and spent the entire trip hungry and complaining about the state of the loos.

Sienna
During the two weeks we were away, we travelled from Sienna, to Florence, to Rome and finally to Venice. DH took most of the photos  in those days so there are a lot of me and not so many of him. I am pulling some really stupid tourist faces. It didn’t matter because in the summer, Italy is full of tourists.

I look so young because I was. In some of these photos I’m only 29 as I turned 30 while we were in Venice. We went out for a gondolier ride for my birthday and there was a photo taken but I don’t seem to have it on my computer. Here’s one of me with a gondolier in the background instead.

Venice

I’m glad I have these photos of me.  I don’t look at them often but it’s nice to remember DH and I had a life before we had children.

My only regret is that we didn’t make more of the the time we had before kids. We  should have travelled more.

Cheers!

This week The Gallery is full of photos of younger bloggers. To take a look at what we got up to, check out  This week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.

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