Summer 2018: Amsterdam and South of France

Part 1: Amsterdam

This year, hubby volunteered to do the difficult part: taking the three kids to Paris, handing them to grandparent and flying over to Amsterdam to join me. This was our second trip to the city, so by now, we already ticked off all the museums and sightseeing. This trip would be all about food. We were not kidding.

On our first night, we had a wonderful dinner at La Stage a very cozy restaurant in a small unassuming basement – we couldn’t have guessed its one-Michelin star. Every dish was a piece of art.

The days were spent walking aimlessly around the city. What a huge deviation from our daily life with kids where every trip had to have a purpose (grocery store, school, work, doctor office, you name it). We dropped by Cafe Winkel 43 for its famous apple pie (it was just okay), Ivy and Bros for a trendy and laid-back lunch and catching up with a friend, Puccini Espresso Bar for an afternoon snack and a boost of caffeine (there was a very nice chocolate bar right next door, so double score!). I also insisted on standing in a long line just to get one warm chewy chocolate cookie from Van Stapele Koekmakerij – it was addictive. When in Amsterdam, I just had to have one meal at my favorite The Seafood Bar. The food was amazingly fresh, and the restaurant decor was super trendy.

Our trip was rounded up with a dinner at Ron Gastrobars, a restaurant that was a bit corporate-like with hundreds of seating and a total opposite of La Stage. The food was interesting (for example, low-key potatoes paired with exotic caviar). Chef Ron certainly deserved his Michelin star. But personally, both hubby and I preferred the intimacy of La Stage.

Part 2: Saint Cyr sur Mer

Our kids, grandparents, and us, off we went to Saint Cyr sur Mer where we spent every day of the next three weeks on the beach. It was the first time on a TGV (a high-speed train) for the kids, so they were super excited.

Lots of vitamin Sea, indeed! We were very lucky to get a house within five-minute walking distance to the beach. Our morning routine was very simple: the kids packed some chips, books, and toys; the adults packed towels, umbrella, and water. We were ready.

We also explored other beaches nearby just for a change. La Calanque de Figuerolles was our next favorite.

In the afternoon when the sun was a tad hot, we ventured out to nearby wineries, villages and cities: Toulon, Marseilles with its famous old port and La Panier. The kids had so many ice-cream that we lost count of. But who counted when we were on vacation?

There were many cute villages such as Le Castellet pictured here. The kids also had their first “retraite aux flambeaux” where we jointed a lantern parade along the beach in Bandol. Our youngest burned down her lantern within five minutes into the parade and almost had a melt down. Luckily, the organizers had plenty of back-up supplies. We also celebrated Bastille day with amazing fireworks on the beach and bottomless ice-cream and drinks. The kids were at awe. Fireworks on the beach!

We signed up the kids to a week-long sailing school at Ecole de Voile La Nautique. They enjoyed it a ton. But then we made a mistake: we took them to Aqualand, an artificial water park with swimming pool and slides. And that was it! This was the highlight of their entire summer and they remembered nothing else. Nothing. Not the pristine beaches. Not the crystal blue ocean. Not the traditional hundreds-year-old villages. Oh well.

This summer, France was doing really well at the World Cup. We filled the day with so many outdoor activities and spent the night screaming at the TV at one of our neighbors’. There were plenty of French flag, champagne, and of course soccer-enthusiasts.

It was the first time that the kids really followed a soccer competition and France won the World Cup! What a journey chocked with excitement (oh, besides Aqualand, of course).

We drove to Bandol that night to celebrate. It was super cool with lots of music, dancing, and singing. The kids were very excited. It was also our last night in St. Cyr sur Mer.

Part 3: Paris

Our first morning in the city, I told the kids to watch out for dogs’ poops. Big mistake! They happily spent the next half an hour finding and counting poops. I really should have introduced Paris to them a bit differently.

Getting around: Metro and Batobus (a nice hop-in hop-off cruise version that takes you to all key sightseeing). We got 48-hour passes with Batobus and the kids had lots of fun.

What to see: The kids had their own list of excursion: Eiffel Tower (because mommy planned so in advance that we only got the ticket to second floor. Kiddos didn’t complain though), Notre Dame de Paris, Jardin des Plantes where they had a special exhibition of dinosaurs, Musee de Louvre (kiddos didn’t get what the fuss about Mona Lisa was all about).

We divided the kids among auntie and grandparents, and took off for a weekend-getaway with friends in a farm house in Boullare. We spent lots of time shooting, and this was when we realized complementarity didn’t always work in a team: the guy who saw the bird couldn’t shoot, and the guy who could shoot didn’t see the bird. Oh well, no dinner for us then.

Back to Paris, aunties were so in love with the kids that one auntie offered to babysit. She didn’t know what she got herself into! Hubby and I went to have a romantic dinner and played goofy along the way.

Before we knew it, summer was almost over. Time to go back to school, and work. We hoped next summer, aunties and grandparents would still volunteer to babysit the kids 😉