Camping in the Ardennes- Les Ochays

CAMPING IN THE ARDENNES- LES OCHAYS

Camping in a more “primitive” way has always been my preference. In Belgium (and most of Europe) you can find almost any type of facilities and attractions on offer.

If it’s swimming pools, children’s activities, wellness centers, entertainment, and restaurants you’re seeking, there are plenty of parks ticking these boxes. 

But that was not what we were longing for.

Who is we?

Well, now with the corona restrictions and us, dwellers from the province of Antwerp, we could only really travel with people out of our bubble.

So my bubble was two other mom’s and we all had 5 kids with us, three tents, two cars, and a cute white Swiss shepherd (huge) puppy dog who enjoyed herding us.

Camping in the Ardennes- Les Ochays

This is when Instagram became helpful again.

A friend of mine had posted a picture of one of her sons, eating at a table with a river on the background. Knowing her a bit, I knew that the camping site was probably not going to big the great big recreational type of camping.

So I looked it up, presented it to my friends and we all agreed that this would be it.

The camping site was situated in the Belgian Ardennes and was bout 2 1/2 hours drive from Antwerp. The name: Les Ochays in Mortehan, Ardennes.

We were a bit disappointed that we did not have a spot right next to the river, but instead at the very front, next to the trampoline and the sanitary block. But after our weekend, we all agreed that the spot was actually great for us. The sound of the children playing was not annoying, we could keep a good eye on our children who were on that trampoline constantly.

Even though the idea about being next to a sanitary block might not seem appealing, it was not bothersome at all. There was still a good enough distance between our camping spot and the block, but handy having all these children needing the bathroom often.

We could also get water and do the dishes while still keeping an eye on the kids. No, I think if we would go back, that we would ask for the same spot again.

How we experience the camping Les Ochays

There is no shop there, but there is a fridge at the reception area stocked with life essentials like beer, wine and cava (we ordered the last). Some canned goods were also available and you could order fresh bread for the next day.

One of the appealing things to me about this camping spot is the “NO MUSIC” policy. No playing the radio and things like that.

So it was really peaceful in the evening, even with the children’s laughter in the background and the occasional screaming baby.

Even though our tents were not right next to the River “Le Semois”, it would only take us a minute or two to walk over to it.

The water was low this year. Usually, you could canoe the waters, but that was not possible, but it was great for swimming. Not too deep for the children. They had a hoot, trying to catch fish and frogs. One child even caught a river crab. So we did a great lot of swimming.

I’m not a great fan of it, but for my son, I would do anything, even dip in the slippery rock water. I actually enjoyed it a lot.

Camping in the Ardennes- Les Ochays

A little adventure?

There are a few trails you could do, and some towns to visit near the campsite Les Ochays, but as we were only there for a weekend, we only did a small hike, looking for beaver dams.

We did not actually find the dams (we did find something that looked like one and saw some trees with beaver marks on it) and we probably took the wrong route.

I’m pretty sure we were not supposed to be hiking through the slippery rock river (with 3 women, 5 children under 9 and one dog…)

Not even knowing if there was a hole or something in front of you to then finally have no other option than the send the white shepherd puppy out of the water so he could make a path through the burning thistles and all different types of prickly weeds just to get out. 

Did I mention that I and my half-naked barefoot son got lost for some time? With no phone, no bag, nothing or water in the middle of nowhere?

After my anxiety kicked in and my thoughts dwindle off to us maybe getting kidnapped and murdered by the workers we spotted a way back who were enjoying their lunch, my friend with her dog found us!

So that story ended well.

Finally…

Besides that, we just stayed at our camping spot where the children made new friends, and we got to relax a bit. With some cava. 

And so if you are looking for a great small camping spot, with not too many frills, next to a River and where no music is being played and extremely enchanting then this camping Les Ochays is for you.

Camping in the Ardennes- Les Ochays

Facilities:

  • Clean showers and toilets (clean is a must, there stops the primitivity for me)
  • Laundry room
  • Wash-up area
  • Possibility to buy drinks at the reception area, also some canned goods and fresh bread for the next day. There is a small terras (two tables) across the reception. Cozy!
  • For the kids: Trampoline, table tennis plus bikes and go-carts free to use around the camping. And the River Le Semois of course for swimming, with a little boat.
  • Kayaks (but the river was too low this season)
  • Wifi

And dogs are allowed!

white Swiss sheperd

So there you have it folks. I hope that I enticed you with this post, just writing about it makes me want to go back.

Let me know if you can recommend any similar “no-frills” camping grounds. 

“Sparks of Joy” #2

Sparks of Joy #2

I’m going to share monthly with you what has sparked joy in the past month for me. It will not always be things, but it can be an outing, it can be a craft I did with my son, a new recipe I tried out. It can just be anything.

Here you can read my list of the month of January 2020

Here is my list of things that have sparked some Joy and given me a thrill this past month.

  1. Visiting the train museum “TrainWorld” in Brussels on Wednesday afternoon and simulating an actual train ride at the end.
  2. My new translucent with a touch of glitter, Jimmy Choo glasses. I love them more in their box than on my face though.
  3. YNAB!!! I have been using this budgeting website for a couple of months, but it was only since this month that I can actually see where my money is going to and where I need to make changes. I love this website and so it’s so easy to use. I actually like doing my finances now.
  4. The Museum of Natural Sciences. Must do the museum, again in Brussels. Tip: For children 5 and up there is the PaleoLab experience during the school holidays. My 6-year-old especially liked rebuilding a stegosaurus.
  5. Ash Wednesday. The beginning of the Lent season. I actually love this more than Christmas. Easter is about the completion of God’s plan that begun with Christmas. I have been following Sarah Bessey’s “Simple Practices for Lent”
  6. Last one and another museum. Yes, I love museums, don’t you? Well this one, The Gallo-Roman museum was not in Brussels but in a town called Tongeren where the Gaul Ambiorix is from. Probably my favorite museum up to now. Each level in the building was dedicated to an era, from the Neanderthal to the Gallo-Roman era. Very child-friendly. With a quick touch with of your audioguide on the item of your interest, you can choose between the children or the adult explanation. Tip: The “Super Guide” who is there during the School Holidays from 1:30 pm until 5:30 pm who knows about almost everything in the museum and lets your child, hear, experience and taste the past.
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February was really the month of museums for us.

A post shared by Miriam (@life_by_mim) on

So that was it for the month of February. Many museums, not so many actual things.

Have you tried/done any of the things on my list above? Any comments you would like to share? Would love to hear. Any more museum recommendations?

Life by Mim

2020: year of the driver’s license?

2020: year of the driver's license?

Will 2020 finally by the year that I get my driver’s license?

I’m a pretty independent person. I have always been able to get from A to B by bike or public transport. I have visited cities, all by myself or with one of my children simply by relying on anything else but driving a car myself.

Independent person. But yet at 41 years of age, I still haven’t gotten my driver’s license. My daughter who is 25 years old will have hers before I have mine.

Why?

Well, it started out with me being a single mom at 18. I lived in the city at that time and had other expenses and worries that took priority.

When I moved to the suburbs I got myself a bike. It became a bit more difficult for me to get around, but still not enough for me to want to get a driver’s license just because I couldn’t really afford the driver’s lessons, let alone a car. Even a used one.

First and last try

Then when I got married, my husband encouraged me to get my driver’s license. one summer we 9he) drove to the South of France and that took us 12 hours and my husband had to pull over an hour away from our destination so he could have a nap. How much easier would it be if I too could drive? I started to feel some guilt about him having to drive all of the time.

So in 2013 when I was pregnant I went to take my theoretical exam and I passed the first time. I could already see myself driving our little one to school and being able to get the groceries myself.

But the plan was for my husband to teach me to drive… That did not work out. My husband was impatient, I was pregnant and hormonal…it was just not a good mix and before you knew it, my learners permit expired. *felt like such a failure*

2020?

Fast forward to 2020. I am now, unfortunately, a divorcee, chronically ill and a single mom who lives pretty far from school and the hospital were my doctors are, and after having biked 25 km a day to school and back, (plus having had multiple flat tires for no apparent reason), I am admitting defeat.

I’m studying again. Not so much has changed since 2013 luckily and I remember most things. I will hopefully be able to do the theoretical exam this week.

The next step will then be the driver’s lessons. I will have to take 20 hours of lessons AND THAT’S NOT CHEAP! *praying for the winning lottery ticket*

After the lessons pray some more and try to find an affordable second-hand vehicle and drive on a learner’s permit for 9 months. Then I have to take the practical exam and by the end of 2020 have my driver’s license, if God willing.

Sounds simple enough, eh? But I’m still skeptical. The will is very much there, I long for independence. But nothing seems to come easy to me. I’m sure it won’t be without any (mainly financial) hurdles.

So please tell me I’m not the only 40+ year old without her driver’s license. Can you share with me some positive stories? Prayers are also most welcome, we sure need them. ?

EDIT

I just came across this post from the Bored Panda shared on Facebook, 30 minutes after writing this post! We got this!

40 Wholesome Middle-Age Success Stories

Life by Mim

Traveling around Antwerp (and the rest of Belgium)

Traveling around Antwerp(and the rest of Belgium)

Traveling around Antwerp (and the rest of Belgium)

Taking the train in Antwerp (or the rest of Belgium) is not like taking the Rocky Mountaineer train back home in Canada where you can maybe be lucky to have a chance to see a wild bear or see the beautiful snowy mountaintops. But even if you probably won’t get to see a wild bear here in Belgium, it’s still one of my favorite ways to travel around as I can see the countryside or spot beautiful mansions coming into Antwerp-Berchem station. So diverse.

But there are of course other means of traveling if you don’t have a car during your stay here and so let me share with you what I have figured out about traveling around Belgium, especially Antwerp.

This is based on me living here for more than 20 years now! (wow)

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to follow up quickly. ?

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5LMxr_lOh9/

Transportation

Trains: Being small has its advantages! All cities and villages are very easily accessible in Belgium. Normally you can commute very quickly from one city to another with the NMBS. Compared to other European countries, train tickets are also relatively cheap. For example, from Brussels to Antwerp you pay 15€ return.


A weekend ticket (Friday from 7 pm to Sunday evening) returns and is 50% cheaper than the standard price. 
A Go pass costs € 53 for young people under 26 and lets you choose from which station you go to for only € 5.30 per ride (10 per card), a Go Unlimited Week pass (-26y) costs € 15 / week or € 25 per month. 


Buses and trams: You can count on De Lijn in the Flemish cities. A paper ticket for this means of transport costs € 3 (for one hour) or a pass for 7 €. You can also buy a ticket through the app: m-ticket for 1.80 € or via text message € 2.25. For more info and options click here for De Lijn website.
In Wallonia, the transit company is called TEC. There you pay depending on where you going. buying a ticket on the bus is the most expensive option. You pay € 5 for a day pass. You can also buy tickets in most newspaper shops. For more info follow the TEC link here.

Other means of transport: Belgian cities are really not big. From most Belgian stations you can reach the center within a five-minute walk. Moreover, by walking you will often walk through much nicer streets that are too narrow for buses or cars.

In some major cities like Antwerp, you can also rent bikes, scooters or electrical steps/scooters.

And like any other city in the world, you can always get a taxi.

So getting around in Antwerp (and the rest of Belgium) ain’t that difficult, long or costly.

Will you visit Antwerp anytime soon?

Share your thoughts in the comments about traveling around Antwerp (or/and Belgium).

Life by Mim

The best 5 work-friendly​ coffee shops in Antwerp​

The top 5 work-friendly​ coffee shops in Antwerp​

The best work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp? Why?

Have a big term paper due, studying for exams, or need a change of scenery while working from home? I asked my friends on social media where they love to go and I tried ALL the suggested coffee shops suitable for students and professionals alike. I grabbed some coffee and got down to business to find the top spots for (cold) brews, savory bites, free WiFi, and plenty of outlets. So order a beverage and look at my notes on Antwerp’s best coffee shops for studying or work. After all, espresso and efficiency go hand in hand, especially if your a mom like me, then you just need coffee to be efficiant.

Here are to my honest opinion, the best 5 work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp.

The best 5 work-friendly​ coffee shops in Antwerp​

Viggo’s coffee

This is probably my number 1 favorite place to go to, “Viggo’s coffee”. Not only because it’s near to the Roosevelt Plaats where I take the bus home from but because the owner and staff are a-m-a-z-i-n-g, the coffee (ask to smell the choices) is extraordinary. Pastries are delicious! I used to have a cappuccino there with oat milk, but now I usually order a “Dirty Chai” Yum, yum!

The sitting area is clean, retro and comfy just as I like it, plus there is a long communal table if you feel like chatting with other customers, or you can just go and sit somewhere more private, it’s up to you. Free Wifi of course!

Visit here: Viggo’s coffee

Vitesse

Just behind the Central Station lies the quirky ‘Vitesse coffee shop.” I was drawn to it due to the weird combination of its slogan “coffee & cycling” — two things I LOVE! I was not disappointed. Vitesse is a pretty cool, cozy cafe where you can get some work done, read, do some people-watching, or just spend some quiet time over a cup of coffee. As its name suggests, the place has a cycling theme with some cycling-related gear artfully displayed throughout the shop. Most importantly, of course, is that the baristas here serve some really good coffee!

Visit here: Vitesse

Normo

This place is on my list of the top 5 work-friendly​ coffee shops in Antwerp​ because it serves the BEST coffee e-v-e-r! They roast the coffee beans themselves. That’s just so awesome and so yummy. You can imagine the smell while walking in.

The interior has pretty eclectic mismatched furniture and a shelves covered in coffee paraphernalia. The atmosphere is really cosy inside and out. Plus the staff are so welcoming and great at making you a good coffee.

I’m really a coffee snob and so when I’m craving some good quality coffee, this is the place I go to.

Visit here : Normo

Local Store 2000

Coming it to this place just made me happy. It had again the lovely retro feel to it that I like and that countertop!!! So Belgian, so inviting! A friend did comment that she found the coffee, so,so.

Located a few streets from the main shopping street, Meir, but located in a very nice shopping area also. Fresh, Bio, Local, Good and relaxing! It surely deserves a spot on the best work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp list.

Visit here: Local Store 2000

22b

This place is a beat off track and located outside of the major touristic attractions.
It is mostly visited by locals and visitors from the nearby hospital.
You choose your food from the counter, and up you go. Food is fresh, delicious and healthy, there is plenty of choices, I highly recommend the “chili sin carne”. They have a large selection of coffee, tea and desserts or snacks. 
Finally, there is a nice courtyard out back to sit down and relax in the warm days.
Take care it is closed at 8pm and also on weekends. I would avoid it during lunchtime as it gets packed.

They also have some toys and books to keep little children occupied while eating. Yay!

Visit here : 22b

So these were my top 5 work-friendly​ coffee shops in Antwerp​. I’m a mom, who loves coffee and needs a break from home from time to time and who wants to write somewhere other than her bed.

What other places should I also check-out? Always looking for the newest trendiest and yummiest place to-be. Extra points if they are child friendly (as in healthy children’s menu’s and some toys/books to keep them occupied. Major points if they have a play area.)

The best 5 work-friendly​ coffee shops in Antwerp​

The best summer activities we did so far.

the best summer activities

So bye bye July, what a month you were. The heatwave nearly killed me, thank God that it only lasted about 3-4 days.

EEEEEEEEEEH, I’m a born and bred Canadian. I like my summer’s warm, but not scorching hot. What I really love is the fall, it’s my favorite season but it was the winter that I was dreaming for during that heatwave. I made a promise to God that I would NEVER complain about the rain again and I’m sticking to it.

So for besides those 4 days in hell where you could hardly move, we had a great summer already.

I would not be a mom blogger if I did not share with you another list of must doe’s, just to give you all some inspiration so here are the best summer activities we did so far.

Just a reminder: I’m a Canadian native living in the suburbs of Antwerp Belgium. I’m a mom of three, with two “kids” still living at home. My 25-year-old daughter and my 5-year-old son. We are sometimes accompanied by our two Doxies Toby and Charlie. And we travel mainly by cargo bike or transit.

This is what we have done so far

We also did quite a bit of crafting, lego building, baking and board games. Looking at the upcoming weather forecast for the next week, it looks like we will be doing more of those things in August.

So you don’t need to go on far away exotic trips during the summer, just explore your surroundings.

“Mommy, I have such a fun life”…mister 5 year-old during bedtime.

I must be doing something good.

The best summer activities we did so far.

“Free” things to do with kids in Antwerp this summer.

Free things to do this summer with kids in Antwerp

Looking for free things to do with kids in Antwerp?

The summer is almost halfway done. Some of you are having a blast, others are struggling with keeping their kids occupied. If you are like me, a single mom on a budget, you want to keep the vacation costs low. So here are a few of my favorite places to go in Antwerp with my 5 1/2-year-old son.

So what free things can you do in Antwerp with kids?

SUMMER BARS

"Free" things to do with kids in Antwerp this summer.
Zomerbar -Sloepenweg Antwerpen

One of my favorite things to do with my girlfriends and kids is visiting a child-friendly summer bar. And “Antwerpen” has a lot of them. For all types of people. The family people, the hipsters, the fancy pants …and so on.

We have been to the “Zomerbar” at the Sloepenweg for a few years now, just because my son loves it so much, heck even my 25 year old and her boyfriend love it.

You have an open-air library and there is even a volunteer who will read a story to the children twice a day.

This year they built this awesome a boathouse with slide up in a tree.

And when it is really hot outside, they put out puddle baths for the kiddos to cool off in.

Coming by electrical bike? Great, you can even charge your battery there.

Have some spending money? Book a circus show. Or order some great food from the food trucs there. Believe me, you will love the Zomerbar, or you will find another one that suits your needs better. Give them a try.

Check out this LINK to see if there is a Summer bar near you.

PETTING ZOO’s (kinderboerderijen)

You have many of those here in Belgium. Most of them also have a tavern and/or a playground in the vicinity. For us, in Brasschaat we love going to the Mikerf Farm. It is situated in the ‘De Mik” domain where they also have a real castle and towers. You can picknick at the lake before or after visiting the farm animals. It is a magical place.

You can even order a “fairytale walk” (sprookjespad) for your child’s birthday. Have a look here, and use google translate.

Other farms that we have visited:

PLAYGROUNDS

But you already knew this idea right?

Our favourite playgrounds?

If you are planning a trip to Bokrijk or would not mind driving out a bit further, we highly recommend the playground next to the open-air museum. IT IS HUGE! You can pack a picknick and easily stay there all day. Read about my review of our day trip to Bokrijk HERE.

BAREFOOT TRAILS

"Free" things to do with kids in Antwerp this summer.

They offer the opportunity to walk barefoot for some distance and to feel the natural ground and various materials with bare feet soles.

In addition, visitors can enjoy balancing or climbing and walk through brooks or even rivers. Some barefoot parks include playground sections designed for bare feet. These healthy combinations of barefoot hiking and playing have become popular tourist attractions.

I’m including a few small free ones, but if you don’t mind spending a bit of money on a memorable trail, then I would strongly recommend the barefoot trail in Zutendaal. (google translate if needed).

We absolutely loved it there. We went there when my son was a toddler and I carried him half way on my back in the carrier and will never forget walking through a deep thrench with water up to above my belly button, with a sleeping toddler on my back. Going back with my 5 year old again for payback time. Ha!

LIBRARIES

Some of them have air conditioning, some organize workshops. Ours in Brasschaat even has a play area. So go look online and make a morning of it.

I like going on Monday’s because you also have the weekly market going on and my son loves to then get the waffle on a stick. Yep, it’s a real thing. And delicious.

Most towns have their own library.

PUBLIC FOUNTAINS

Some towns have play fountains. Just check online or ask in your local towns Facebook group .

The ones we have tried out:

ROOFTOP OF THE MAS MUSEUM

What a great piece of architecture and design. The MAS has free admission. There is only an entrance fee for the permanent and tempory exhibitions.

Located in the trendy “Eilandje” neighbourhood this eye popping museum is a must to do. You have to keep in mind that you do need to take the escalator up 8 flights, but the view is totaly worth it.

Keep an eye on their website, they organize many child activities and workshops like treasure hunts. And this during most school holidays for all ages.

Where?

MAS | Museum aan de Stroom

Hanzestedenplaats 1
2000 Antwerp
tel. +32 3 338 44 00
mas@antwerpen.be

BOEKENBERG SWIMMING LAKE

The swimming facility in the Boekenbergpark in Deurne is an ecological swimming pond. Plants purify the water in a natural way, so the pool contains no chemicals. There is a large pond of 73 m long with a depth between 1.80 and 2.50 m. There is also a small play pool with a depth of 50 cm and a large lawn area to sit and lie on.

Yes, also this place is FREE!

What do you need to bring then?

  • Fitted swimsuit, bathingsuit or bikini.
  • An elastic band to tie long hairs together.
  • A 2 euro coin for the lockers.

Where?

Zwemvijver Boekenberg
Van Baurscheitlaan ter hoogte van nr. 68
2100 Deurne
tel. 03 411 19 95 
zwembad.boekenberg@stad.antwerpen.be

PLAYDATES

I’m going to end this post with the cheapest and for me one of the nicest free activities, and those are playdates.

When it comes to playdates, I choose to keep it simple. I am not winning any “hostess of the year” awards—but I am totally okay with that. I keep the food and fanfare minimal these days, but I like to think that both the adult and child guests enjoy themselves while in our home. The kids get to play with other toys (kids love our dress-up rack) and mom’s get to relax, talk and enjoy some good coffee or tea. As simple as that. When you invite, you get invited back, especially useful in the summertime when in need of a pool. 🙂

Am I missing something you LOVE? Just let me know in the comments below.

"Free" things to do with kids in Antwerp this summer.

Bokrijk with kids

Bokrijk day trip with kids

Bokrijk with kids. It is more than just an open-air museum! At the Bokrijk open-air museum, history is brought to life in these traditional buildings thanks to talented craftsmen and actors.

If you love history like me, this place is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! But even if you don’t love history, still this place is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

Bokrijk with kids? What’s it about?

Well, it’s a park and and open-air museum which displays more than 148 historical authentic buildings dating back from the 17th century right up until 1950.

There are three main clusters at the museum:

-The Kempen

-“East and West Flanders”

-“Haspengouw and the Maasland”

There is also an area dedicated to the sixties but we did not have time to do it as we promised the kids that they could play in the wonderful playground before going home.

We went in near the parking number 1 parking lot. We were greeted by this wonderfully recently restored windmill. It pretty much showed us what to expect from the rest of the museum.

We started in the Kempen and spent the first 1,5 hour there. I thought that was it until my companion said that we didn’t even do a third of the parc yet. Oops! We spent so much time there because of the “Speelschuur” translate: “The games barn”. The kids had a hoot trying out all the different types of “olden day games”.

Next time we visit we will not start there as it was hard to get the children to move on. But it was a fun experience. It kind of made me want to do more of the simple game and life stuff.

You can walk back in time along a path that winds its way through the different parts of the museum site and step into historical buildings that line the pathway, see the traditional working farms and even see people (actors) cooking their meals.

We wandered along the pathway past hedgerows, wildflowers and goats grazing on the lush green grass. The Bokrijk Open Air Museum has a quirky charm. But watch out for the herd of sheep that are being led to another field by their shepherd and the sheepdogs. It was quite unexpected thing to see happening on our path.

Top tips for visiting Bokrijk

THE TRADITIONAL GAMES BARN IN THE MOL – ZELM BARN

Stilt walking, shuffleboard, mast climbing, bowling and much more! This is the place to hone your skills on the Flemish folk games of yore, an experience for the whole family that mustn’t be missed! But do not start here otherwise you will have a hard time getting the kids to move on.

WORKSHOPS

Currently, there is a ‘from grain to bread’ workshop route. Along this workshop route different aspects of the production process come into play. Every day museum visitors can become acquainted with bread dough in the Wortel workshop barn.

THE CHURCH AND SCHOOL IN WAASLAND

Visit the little church and hear the pastor preach from the pulpit and you can even attend a class in the tiny schoolhouse and hear about how children lived in those days. When we attended class, it was 1913, the year before the school became compulsory in Belgium for children from 6 to 12 years old. Not many farmers were happy with this new regulation as children were a cheap help force in the home and on the farm.

One of our children even demonstrates a punishment that was given in class besides wearing the donkey ears. She had to sit with her knees into wooden clogs and hold up two bricks. It looked painful but she thought it was cool. I wouldn’t want to go to school in those days and my son was less than impressed, seeking solace in my arms.

THE PLAYGROUND

This was really what my son was looking forward to at the end of the day. I haven’t ever seen a playground like this before to be honest, it’s quite impressive. You could even sit there for the entire day and still the children will not want to go home.

Mega slides, swings, a climbing net, mini-cars, miniature golf and even a real toddler town with a HOPLA corner! The outdoor playground in Bokrijk is not only enormous, but it was also great fun. There is a zone for every age, and it is fully fenced. For children with disabilities, there are special playthings.

The restrooms are not what you would expect from a public playground. They are new, fancy and clean. There is a first aid post for if anything happens to your little one (or yourself). There is also a food and drink stand and picknick tables all around. Shaded under a tent or not.

To see some pictures of the playground go and visit the “Seeing beautiful places” blog.

We will go back!

There’s still so much to explore and so much that we haven’t seen yet. We will definitely be coming back. Bringing my picknick blanket for sure!

Our group?

We were four adults with 5 children between the ages of 8 and 5 years old.

I noticed that this is one of the few museums where you could bring your dog with you, but dogs are NOT allowed in the playground. Just so you know.

Now go on, plan a visit and let me know what you enjoyed most!

For more information on prices and opening hours follow THIS link.

You might also enjoy this day out at the Museum of Natural Science (the Dino museum) in Brussels!

Bokrijk with kids

My 5 favorite things about coming back home

My 5 favorite things about coming back home

Another list, here it is: My 5 favorite things about coming back home.

Home for me is Belgium, it has been for many years even though I am from Canada. I only get to see my mom once a year, my siblings less. Not fun, I wish things were different, but this is our reality. (until I win the lottery, then the reality will be me having a jet)

This year I met up with my mom, auntie and two of their friends in Lucca, Italy and I feel incredibly blessed by this trip, it was pretty awesome.

Today my 5-year-old and I came back home, leaving my mom and co. to finish their trip to Rome. I wish that I could have stayed longer, but I (more specifically my son) was ready to come back home.

I always enjoy coming home after a trip, no matter how long my trip was and no matter how long I’m going to stay. Sometimes one night is enough!

Why?

Toilets

Try explaining to your North American family/friends that what they are looking at is actually a toilet in the floor. In other words a whole in the ground. People living in Europe will know what I’m talking about. It’s not the standard, but you find it here and there, usually in public toilets.

Also traveling with children, you know that even if you made them go to the washroom before leaving your “vacation home”, they will need a toilet at the most inconvenient of times. Like while waiting in an extremely long waiting line for a museum, while sitting in a bus coach for an hour and a half non-stop drive up the mountains or while sitting it the dirtiest train you’ve ever been in. Yep. All happened to us this past week. Mister Teddy is going into the washing machine now. You can imagine why.

My 5 favorite things about coming back home
The public toilet in Barga, Tuscany

Bed

I’m sorry, nothing will ever be as comfy as your bed that has your body imprinted in it, your favorite pillows and your favorite bedding. I always miss my duvet.

My 5 favorite things about coming back home
Our bed in Florence wasn’t too bad

Language

I’m trilingual. Mother tongue is English, went to school in French and learned Flemish. So I’m pretty used to understanding people around me while traveling around Belgium and it’s surrounding countries. But once we go a bit further like Spain or Italy I feel like an illiterate. Then coming home and being able to understand all the conversations around me can be quite overwhelming. And fascinating. I’ve spent a WHOLE week not having a clue what’s going on other than “grazie” and “ciao”, and now I can make out fully-fledged discussions. *insert mind-blowing emoji*

WIFI

Hey, don’t they say “Home is where the WIFI connects automatically”. Thank God for no more having to search for Wifi connections, having to then log on to Facebook (if you even have Facebook) to then agree to some terms and then maybe you will have a (probably poor) WIFI connection. Well, I’m glad that we now have free roaming in Europe, but no way am I letting my son use up all my data to watch “youtube kids”. I need my data for uploading pictures to Instagram. Ha!

via GIPHY

The beautiful beings left behind

One of my dearest friends picked us up from the airport. Even though we had been away for just one week, she greeted us with the most enthusiastic shriek and hugs, it brought a tear to my eye.

Then when we arrived home, my daughter just arrived home from work and that hug, wow, it’s the best of hugs. That was for me the best thing about coming home. I’m taking her on my next trip, no matter what. For my 5 yo son it was getting greeted and licked in the face by our two Dachshunds. Unconditional lover there. Priceless.

So those were my 5 favorite things about coming home from traveling. But when I have to leave my mom, not knowing when we will see each other again, like with this trip, it makes it hard for me to go back home. I would want to stay near her, but this is the life that we live and I am thankful for the chances that we get.

What are you grateful for when you get back home?

My 5 favorite things about coming back home

7 non-obvious things to bring or a trip.

Sustainable travelling with children

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Today I will be packing our bags for a trip to Italy! My (unduly kind) mother has invited my son and I to visit her and my aunt while they are visiting Italy. They fly from Canada, we fly from Belgium, we meet in Lucca. My mom has truly become a globetrotter since my father passed away, I’m pretty proud of her and cannot wait to get to spend some Italian time with her.

When my youngest was barely 4 months old I wanted to visit my parents in Toronto. I can still see parents faces when they saw us arrive with all our luggage. Two big suitcases, two carry-ons, a huge stroller, car seat and backpack. and the baby strapped on to my body in a wrap (plus, he had to wear a monitor in those days). It looked like we were moving in.

Now, five years later and a few more trips wiser, we can call ourselves traveling pro’s! I am planning on just taking one suitcase and two backpacks. My son though is convinced that he is taking his step with him. Would they even allow that on a plane I’m wondering?

Whoever knows me knows that I am a sustainable wannabe, trying as best as I can to at least lower my carbon footprint and it will be the first time that I will be consciously doing this while traveling too. What I’ve come up with is pretty simple, I have already been using most of these items out on day trips, so it’s not only handy for travelling far far away places.

What are we taking for sure:

  1. Reusable straws. They take no space and my son loves to use a straw.
  2. Reusable water bottles. We will not fill them until we are checked into the airport. Most airports have water fountains. We like to use the dopperbottles, they are very light, and my son like to use the cup option. I don’t really. I find ours on the small side, so I am thinking of buying a larger one, that is insulated.
  3. Bentobox. We loveeee our bento boxes. We are not much of “sandwich” eater kind of type; we prefer to graze and so our bentobox are perfect for that. My son takes the Yumbox to school, but on our trips we take our large Goodbyn one. It’s lighter and has larger compartments.
  4. Tote bag, always useful. For when we go grocery shopping or if we come by a pretty market. I kind of collect them, so I probably will get a new one in Florence.
  5. I’m also taking a few small net bags for veg and fruit.
  6. If you have kids, you need wipes. I love our washable wipes, but where we are going, we will not have a washer & dryer and so for this trip, I am taking deposal ones. I have some from YES to, they are 95% natural and compostable. We can both use them.
  7. Child ID bracelet. Mainly for my piece of mind, but I’m pretty sure it would be helpful if he would lost. You can get all types of id bracelet, ranging in all prices. Ours is from a well-known Dutch company called “Goedgemerkt.nl” who mainly make name stickers. These bracelets come in different cool colors and what I like most is the fact that the name is engraved in the bracelet, making it impossible to fade out.

These things that I listed here are things that are not as common as what you would maybe find on other mommy travel blogs where they would mention snacks, extra pair of clothing, tablet…I am taking those things too, just don’t think it’s that netion worthy because most of you would have though about it yourself. I was trying to be original here. Did it work? Was I?

I feel like I am forgetting somethings.

Oh well, will just have to wait and see.

So I kind of made myself a packing list here and made a blogpost. Yay!

7 non-obvious things to bring or a trip.