We had a brilliant – if busy – first week in Europe back in May. We packed 4 countries into a week, landing in Paris and spending 2 nights there, then we picked up our lease car and headed over the channel to the UK.
We had 4 fun nights seeing the sights of London and Kent and catching up with friends before heading back over to Belgium where we stayed for a couple of nights in a gorgeous apartment just outside of Bruges. We briefly caught up with more friends in the Netherlands (right by the Belgium border), the it was the long drive through France down to our new home in the Dordogne region of the south west.
Here’s a little pictorial show and tell of what we got up to on our roadtrip:
It’s probably our favourite city in the world, we were very happy to be back in Paris even if it was only for 2 nights (can’t afford to stay any longer on our budget!) We were all jetlagged from 2 nights worth of travel so chose a couple of things to see and do.
Day two we ventured to the Musée D’Orsay, the famous art museum that’s filled with all kinds of treasures, but we wanted to show the kids some of the impressionist pieces we’d told them about. Sometimes I think we qualify for the world’s most boring parents…. 😉
Then it was time for lunch, so we headed over to St-Germain-des-Prés, one of our favourite neighbourhoods for lunch at a lovely little bistro that we discovered when we were here two years ago.
In contrast to what you might think of sniffy Parisian waiters, they have been lovely and accommodating to the kids both times we have been there 🙂
For a little bit of a sweet treat we visited one of the famous Laudurée pâtisserie stores to goggle at the amazing treats and buy some macarons.
We had a lovely time wandering through the streets until we reached the Champ des Mars and the Eiffel Tower. By then the grey sky had cleared so the kids had a fun time playing in the park while we enjoyed our little macaron picnic.
And that was our Paris whirlwind visit. The next morning we got a taxi back out to the airport to pick up our trusty 208 Peugeot lease car, which we’ve got for the next 4 months. Squeezing everything and everyone in, we headed north.
We drove up to Dunkerque to take the ferry across the English Channel. We parked ourselves by the kids play area for the 2 hour crossing which they loved.
And just like that we were back in good old Blighty, this time with our offspring, and it was fish and chips with mushy peas at the pub for tea!
The next couple of days we hit London and the sights. First up was the Natural History Museum….
Next up was the Tower of London.
We swung by to say hi to Liz
Then it was time for Big Ben and Westminster
We then jumped on a double decker bus that we had to ourselves (?!) and the kids LOVED it. We headed over to Regent Street.
Then it was time for the biggest treat of all – visiting Hamley’s Toy Store, all 5 floors of it. The kids were in absolute awe. They were allowed to choose something small each – Sophie chose a glitter tattoo kit and Jack a 100-piece superhero jigsaw puzzle.
On our last day of our fleeting visit we headed down to Kent and visited Sissinghurst Castle Garden. It was SO pretty driving through the countryside and the gardens were absolutely beautiful. We had a lovely picnic in the grounds before we went into the gardens themselves and explored for a couple of hours.
Just a note on interpretive signage and trails aimed at kids for all the attractions we went to – it was done so well. Every place had a kids trail/quiz/activity sheet to do and Sophie loved it. Sissinghurst was no exception with a great garden trail/quiz sheet to do as we walked around.
And that was England, done for the time being. It was so great to go back and show our kids where we used to live and we genuinely enjoyed being tourists there again.
The next day it was time to get back onto the ferry and over to France…
But only for about half an hour because we were heading to Belgium!
We stayed for a couple of nights in the pretty city of Bruges. Mike and I had been here about 15 years ago right before Christmas, and it was so cold that the water had frozen in the fountain in the main square! So it was nice to come back and see it when it was a bit warmer.
We stayed at a very cool AirBNB apartment that we booked last minute, but it was fantastic. It was set in the forest on the outskirts of Bruges in beautiful grounds, complete with some deer which the kids loved.
We were quite taken with the architecture of the area, it was super chic with a mixture of brick and wood and immaculate landscaping everywhere you looked. If anyone knows a Belgian architect in Auckland please let us know 😉
We briefly went to the Netherlands for the day to visit some friends, and went to a very cool playground set in the forest so the kids could play.
Then it was time to head south back into France towards our little house in the Dordogne where we will be for 10 weeks.
We *just happened* (small detour anyway) to be driving past the Le Creuset factory which is a bit of a holy grail for an enthusiastic cook like me. It’s in a tiny little town called Fresnoy-Le-Grande which is about an hour and a half north of Paris.
Unfortunately you can’t really see much of the factory where they still manufacture all of their product, but there is a super cute little factory shop next door which sells a whole bunch of stuff around 30% cheaper than the shops.
I got a crêpe pan which I’ve been coveting for ages (highly practical for carting around Europe – not – but needs must). It would have been sooo easy to go crazy in there!
Our stopover that night was in the cathedral city of Chartres. We got caught in Friday night Paris traffic so didn’t get there until around 7pm and the kids were starving, so we headed straight to dinner. Then when we came out it was dark, so I’m afraid no photo of the beautiful cathedral there. But it’s very cool.
I did manage to get a snap of Jack’s feet next to the pilgrims route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Doing some of that is on the bucket list one day as well 🙂
In celebration of my new pan we co-incidentally had crêpes for dinner and they were ace. A savoury crêpe is called a galette which is a brown colour because it’s made with buckwheat flour. It’s then filled with all kinds of delicious savoury fillings – there were about 30 options to choose from at the restaurant we went to.
And the dessert crêpes were to die for…….
Then it was the final day of our roadtrip. The French fuel workers were on strike, so we were a bit anxious to see if we could fill the car up or not! But luckily the pumps in Chartres didn’t seem to be affected so we set off on the last leg down to the Dordogne.
We arrived early that evening, nearly 2,000km later. The kids were little troopers as per usual, squished in the backseat between one of our bags they hardly complained – especially as we had our secret weapon – a DVD player – to keep them entertained 🙂 They are allowed to watch it on trips longer than an hour.
We’re so happy to be down in the Dordogne and slowing the pace right down for the next 10 weeks. We’ve done a little bit of exploring but that’s for the next blog post……