Kids In Rural Southern Sweden

After we left our houseboat in Copenhagen, we headed south for an afternoon at the beach.

We ended up somewhere near Ishøj and parked near the art museum. We found toilets/ changing rooms, sandy beaches, lifeguards and a pier to trip-trap along and climb down into.

Ishøj beach

There was a bit of seaweed around, but plenty of sand and the kids decided it was too cold to swim ( others did though) but they paddled and made sand castles for an hour or two.

Finally, hunger drove us off the beach. We expected to find somewhere nearby selling food but there was nothing, so we got on the motorway east and before we knew it, we were driving across the Øresund Bridge (The Bridge!) into Sweden. Another new country for us!

 Driving across Øresund Bridge

By now the kids were ravenous and we pulled in at the next Burger King.  Luckily our car fitted under the drive thru height restriction AND they understood our order and we just sat in the car and wolfed down our lunch.

Our accommodation for the next four nights was a rural farmhouse near Visseltofta, in southern Sweden. We found the house on Airbnb and rented it as it was available on the dates we needed and was en route to Stockholm. We had quite an adventure trying to find it and once we did, we realised how very rural it was; despite being only 11 minutes drive to the nearest supermarket, it took us an hour to find the place!

But this wasn’t a problem, we had our car with us, and we used Google maps and Trip Advisor to investigate any places of interest nearby. Sweden was a bit end-of-seasonish, especially in the rural areas, but we managed to find stuff to do for the 4 nights we were there.

So in case you find yourself looking for things to do in Northern Skane county in Sweden, these are our recommendations.

DDs 1 and 3 wanted to go horse riding, so we rang the closest stables we could find, Stall Stingson. They spoke English and offered the girls a supervised hack through mossy woodland while the rest of us drove to Osby in search of a supermarket. Both the girls had a super exciting time as they’ve only every ridden in arenas before and they got to tack their ponies up and groom them afterwards. The owners were happy to talk to us about their stables and had a yard full of friendly cats and dogs. They also recommended we check out the next place, when we asked if they knew of anywhere to eat.

Ponies at Stall Stingson
We ended up at Denningarums gård ( farm) for lunch. They did a fantastic, and reasonably priced, smorgasbord and even super-fussy DS found something to eat. But the best bit about this place is that just across the very quiet lane, they have a kids play area with adventure playgrounds, a sandpit, trampolines and animals to feed. So we sat and ate lingonberry waffles in peace, while the kids squabbled cheerfully far enough away not to bother us.

Denningarums gard

Discovering new places like this are the reason we take road trips, and we came back here for lunch every day for three days as it was so relaxing.

According to TripAdvisor just 15 minutes away from our accommodation was an Elk Safari, so we had to see that. You can drive through the enclosure yourself, but we took the ‘train’ ( wagons pulled by a tractor) . Our children seemed to be the only ones who weren’t blond!

Elk Safari Train
We were handed branches of a tree to feed the Elk (or Moose) when we came across them, so the whole thing looked like some sort of jungle camouflage vehicle.

Elk food
Elk are big and keen on their food and basically come sprinting out of the woods to yank the offered branches out of your hands. I was surprised about how enthusiastic they were about it but most people had a stroke of them while they were eating and no one got hurt.

feeding elk in sweden
We also saw some bison, who were much less enthusiastic about being hand fed than the elk, and there was also a separate, smaller goat pen where two-legged kids can mix with the four-legged variety.

Mostly, the weather was kind to us but we had one rainy day while staying near Visseltofta. On that day we visited the nearby Brio museum. This place was a bit like the Tardis; bigger on the inside!

DH and I enjoyed looking at the display of toys from over the years and the kids appreciated the toys put out for playing. DS especially loved the enormous train track. It was glued down and he had stiff competition from several other boys of around the same age.

Brio Museum train track
The museum also had a Christmas-themed ‘elves’ workshop’ basement with a huge Brio Builder table and a couple of railway carriages next door containing a model railway, a few old sega games, some board games and a display of Barbies and Kens. There was enough there to keep us out of the rain for a couple of hours at least.

Toy horses brio museum
We found 4 nights/ 3 days was the perfect amount of time to spend in the area at this time of the year. We visited in the last couple of weeks of August which is no longer high season, so things were starting to wind down and some attractions were no longer open.

Despite our stay in Visseltofta acting as a stopover on our way to Stockholm, we enjoyed our time here and would recommend it as an area full of things for families to do, if you just happen to be driving around southern Sweden.

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I’m a few days late to The Gallery this week; my excuse is we are still on holiday.

We have been staying in Stockholm for the last few days and we loved it.

Stockholm is a fantastic city to visit with children. The public transport is clean, varied and efficient, and the kids especially like the trams. The museums are plentiful and are all pretty child friendly and there is ice cream every where.

We tried to do as much as possible in the three days we were in Stockholm as our next 4 days will be spent in rural Sweden, 20 minutes from the nearest shop, apparently. We should be able to find something to do but it’s much easier to tire kids out when activities are close at hand.

The photo above is a tour boat we spotted sailing into the harbour at Stockholm. We were actually in the market for a boat tour, but had been eyeing up more conventional vessels. Of course, once the kids saw this boat, that was it.

Our first boat ride around the harbour was spent wearing horned helmets and trying to get ‘landlubbers’ to wave at us!

This has been a real adventure of a holiday, with discoveries at every turn. Holidays should be about exploring new places and trying new things, and none of us have ever sailed around Stockholm in a viking ship before!

This post is part of this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.

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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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