We just returned from incredible family travel to Iceland, Paris and Bruges. I adore traveling internationally, and it’s been over 10 years since I’ve been across the pond, and never with the kids. We have been planning a trip to Europe for years, but put it off multiple times for a move, my book and another move!
Once we looked at costs for our original itinerary, though, our plan for Rome, Venice, Florence and Paris altered significantly. After some research, we discovered that we could get a free stop over and cheaper flights if we flew on Iceland Air direct from Denver. As a result, we decided to tour Iceland for four days first. Stops in multiple cities in Europe with a family of five is not very cost effective, so we settled on giving ourselves some real time to tour Paris (almost a week). Finally, we rounded out the trip by adding a couple days in Bruges, which is an easy (and cheap) train ride from Paris.
Iceland was absolutely stunning with gorgeous landscape everywhere we looked. We did not plan any formal tours, but found it pretty easy to get around with a guidebook and car rental. We stopped to see volcanoes, waterfalls, hot gyesirs (they have the original gyesir that all other gyesirs were named after), and the location where the tectonic plates are splitting apart, which was super cool! The kids were in awe that the land is pulling apart little by little every day.
Iceland is home to gorgeous glaciers. In one area, Jokulsarlon, the ice is breaking off of a glacier and heading out to sea through a waterway. The icebergs move and float around due to the current, but are trapped in the lagoon until they, finally, chance upon a current that takes them through the narrow channel to the sea. The Ice Lagoon’s crystalline blue in made us all feel part of a magical hinterland.
We found the spot full of special treasures. We could barely pull ourselves away.
There was a lot of car time and miles, but the traveling could be broken up with fun hikes and explorations. The kids loved just getting out and trekking across the landscape. Below, the kids are walking on a bluff above a storage cave that was built in to the hill side with a doors, an entrance area, and escape hole out the back. The cave wasn’t any official stop in the guide book, but a fabulous place for curious and creative minds.
We explored the island on a boat ride out of Stykkishólmur, eating sushi (scallops and urchins) fresh from the water.
We generally all got along despite tight quarters. I loved seeing the kids’ curiosity and interest in everything around them, especially cultural differences. Their honest and thoughtful conclusions about how we are similar and how we are different than other citizens of the world surprised me with their acuity and perception.
Finally, we spent some time in Reykjavik, the highlight of which was this gorgeous church in the middle of the city. I’m in love with the light and clean lines in this space.
After Iceland, we were off to Paris, where we stayed at an incredible Airbnb. Below, you can see our view. Of course, this also meant a seven-story walk up, but I figure its not Paris without that!
The seven flights also meant we had an adorable little attic garret, where I loved chilling with my knitting surrounded by books in this bright and cozy room.
I didn’t want to share all the usual Paris sights with you, but more give you the feeling and impressions we got being there. Paris is a beautiful city with so, so much to see. Six days didn’t feel like enough, but the kids were pretty saturated by the end. This is the Ferris Wheel by the Tuileries Garden.
One of our favorite things was going on a bike tours both through the city and through the grounds of Versailles. This made us feel so very french! We did our tours through Fat Tire Bike Tours.
There were so many gorgeous cathedrals and chapels and castles. We loved seeing all the artistry, details and lines.
Nestled along Place Dauphine behind Saint Chapelle in front of this adorable little pocket park, we experienced a heavenly lunch.
Groups of people floated around playing Boules. The wind rustled through beautiful silver leaves all around us, while we devoured crepes and cafe cremes.
We had a picture perfect day at the Louvre. My kids loved this view out the Louvre window. You couldn’t get more post-card-y than this.
Of course, my favorite shot was the one of them watching it all go by.
One night we came back to our Airbnb to find this amazing street performance of 12 young cellists from Tubingen, Germany. This event had to be my favorite moment from the trip. The music and the square and the sunshine all combined to make the perfect Parisian scene. These young cellists made some incredible music and the crowd swelled and cheered with excitement!
After Paris, we traveled to Bruges for a few days. The adorable, small city of Bruges seems to have come straight out of the 1700s. The city has canals running through it, so feels a bit like Venice. The cobblestone streets, the window boxes, the horse-drawn carriages, the traveling by boat . . .made me fall in love.
Just when I didn’t think it could get any better, we hit this breakfast, where we had the best hot chocolate ever. The chocolate is served in a cube on a stick. Next, you dip it in the hot milk and it melts like crazy and oh yum!!!
Next, I fell in love with the hand made lace in Bruges. What a stunning hand craft! I was enchanted to see how it was made and the history behind it.
We found amazing information at the Lace Education Center, Kant Centrum, in Bruges. As a result, I must insist that you watch this video of this amazing woman making lace. Have you ever seen something so fast!?? The lace was absolutely stunning.
Finally, you top all of that off with the best french fries I’ve ever had, and the result is my a dream trip. I highly recommend any or every part of it! But, now it’s back to the real world. I have a huge exciting announcement about what’s happening this coming school year, so keep your eyes out for that! In the mean time, the dog days of summer are here for us to enjoy.