I’ll tell you what’s up with the random posts that came infrequently to The Urban Daddy during the month of August.
I had a bunch of posts in my draft folder, and I scheduled them to come out while we were away on vacation. Unfortunately, I still have about 77 more of them to get through…
As for the vacation, all 5 of us filled our backpacks up and headed out for a 19-day adventure which saw us leave Toronto and arrive in Iceland, then on to The Netherlands, Belgium and Paris, France before heading back to Toronto via Iceland. The trip was fantastic, the kids were amazing and my wife is the world’s best travel planner. Seriously. She did not miss a single detail and I learned how to plan a vacation right down to places to eat, foods to buy, where to buy them and what souvenirs to seek out. She’s amazing at this.
Without getting into too much detail about the trip, I can say that we loved Iceland a lot! We rented a car, drove the Golden Circle and embraced the culture as much as we could. Icelandic people are beautiful and friendly and food is expensive, unique and tasty!
We saw waterfalls – especially the incredible Gulfoss waterfall – geysirs, hot springs and every now and then the sun would set so the kids could fall asleep. Instead of going to the Blue Lagoon, we went to a small hot spring at the base of a mountain, just past a church and peeled off our clothes, changed into bathing suits and hopped in with a couple from Denmark. It was very hot and very bubbly, like nothing we had ever seen before, and getting out of the water into the very cool air, we barely noticed the cold as we changed back into our clothes and walked back to the car.
We swam at night in the public pool near our rented house with the locals and warmed up in the hot pools where temperatures ranged from 37 degrees to 44 degrees. On the food side, we all tried the famous Icelandic hot dog (only I liked them) and Boo and myself were the only brave ones to try eating whale (which I thought was delicious and a bit gamey) but she did not like at all (insert face here). Stewie and I walked down to the bottom of the Kerið volcanic crater lake to touch the very cold blue-green water and to see there was a park bench in the water for people to sit on. I guess volcanos, lava and waterfalls are common for the locals. :)
From Iceland we flew to The Netherlands and spent 5 days in and around Amsterdam taking in the sites and sounds of this beautiful country packed with tourists. We toured the Jordaan district, the Jewish district (my wife and eldest son visited Anne Frank’s house) while me and the other 2 explored our neighbourhood. We took a day trip to beautiful Zaanse Schans to see and tour the windmills and we visited the medieval town of Bruges.
From our apartment backing onto the Vondelpark, we were close enough to pretty much everything we wanted to see, and in those 5 days, we mastered pretty much every possible method of transportation there except cycling – and we managed to not get run over or step in front of a bike on the dedicated bike paths. We took an all you can eat (Dutch) pancake boat ride plus a canal cruise, and we lucked into being there for the Pride parade on the water, which was packed and a lot of fun.
From the Netherlands, we took the train to Brussels for 5 fun days spent eating Belgium waffles, frites, chocolates and drinking the wonderful fruity beers (less than 3% alcohol).
Our apartment was close to the incredible Grand Place and we walked by the Manneqin Pis a couple of times to see what he little guy was wearing. We visited the comic book museum, saw the Smurfs, Tin Tin and Asterix and Oblix and had a nice meal out with the kids where I had, mussels, of course (I kept thinking about the Muscles from Brussels – Jean Clause Van Dam’s line from some movie where he said “How does it feel to be hunted!!”
I was disappointed with Brussels, but once I got past the site and smells of urine, vomit and litter, an insane non-functional transit system and a ton of graffiti on buildings and statues from the 1600′s, I realized how much Brussels had to offer if it could get it’s act in gear.
We took days trips to Bruges, the medieval town of Ghent and we found these areas to be beautiful and awesome for the kids.
From Brussels we took the high-speed train to Paris where we stayed in the Marais quarter for just under a week. Having spent 5-weeks in France for our honeymoon, we had high hopes for our time in Paris, hoping to show the kids the must-see sites. We saw, but did not go up the Eiffel Tower, we did walk up the Arc De Triomphe, walked the Champs-Elysées in the rain, visited the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and stood in the middle of Paris. We ate crepes, the kids played with boats in the Jardin du Luxembourg a we took a boat tour on the Seine.
We searched high and low for Berthillon ice cream (luxury ice cream and sorbet) only to find it closed in the month of August?!? Actually a lot of things were closed in August, and on August 15th the Assumption long weekend, there was very little open outside of the major tourist areas.
The weather in Paris was average and fluctuated between cold and rainy and hot and sunny which meant my backpack carried sweaters and umbrellas every day, plus snacks and water to keep the kids moving. We made the most of the weather, jumping into the Pompidou Centre and the Orsay Gallery when it rained, and walking around the streets when it was nice outside.
My wife managed to get a babysitter for one night in Paris so her and I went out for a lovely dinner and a stroll towards the Eiffel Tower until it started to rain and we realized that after 11pm we were getting tired, so we headed back on the Metro to our rented apartment. Getting away from the children was a much-needed break – if even for 4 hours – and the adult conversation was much appreciated.
On our last day we took the Metro to the airport, flew back to Reykjavik, then after a 2 hour layover, headed back home to TO.
The trip was awesome, the kids were fantastic, and neither my wife nor myself thought there was a chance that our 4-year-old daughter was going to be able to walk as much as we walked over 19 days, up and down stairs, in and out of museums, and without needing to be carried, but she surprised us all. She was awesome! She even learned words in Icelandic, Dutch and French.
We all came out of this vacation closer as a family, with a greater appreciation of what we have and thinner from all the exercise.
With school around the corner, I hope my kids will be able to recall some of what they saw and share with their teachers and their classmates. I can say that one week after our trip, my oldest son is watching the volcanic activity in Iceland, while my middle child has been working on a Powerpoint presentation with his pictures in it.
The break from work and school was great but it’s back to the grind come September.