Friday, March 4, 2011

Foto Friday: Reichstag Berlin

My husband and I had a chance to tour the Reichstag in Berlin.  It is a beautiful building, and has seen its share of history pass by.  It was nearly destroyed during the Second World War, and for along while was empty.  It now houses the German Parliament (since reunification).

Luzern (Lucerne), Switzerland

Location: Luzern (Lucerne), Switzerland

Time Frame: April, 3 nights, 2 days


Type. We stayed at a holiday park, which included tent camping, caravan/motorhome facilities, and static caravans (think mobile homes).  The park's name was Camping International Lido - Luzern.  We stayed in one of the static caravans, called a Holly Cab.

Cost. We paid 300 CHF (Swiss Francs) for our stay, which is about $322.

Amenities.  The Holly Cab had one double bed, and a set of bunk beds.  We brought our own baby cot.  They also provided a table and chairs, a small kitchenette which had an electric cooktop, fridge, and dishes.  There was supposed to be a bathroom (which it didn't) but did have a shower.

Other. We had a really hard time getting a reservation here.  Took forever for the staff to respond to our repeated requests.  The Holly Cab was advertised as having a shower and WC (toilet).  It had only a shower, which didn't work, as our Holly Cab didn't have hot running water (something the staff refused to fix and basically told us was our problem).  We eventually received a 30 euro credit for the lack of hot water.  We had to use the camping facilities for toilets and showers.  We had also arranged for bedding and towels, which were not in our Holly Cab when we arrived.  It took some wrangling and convincing to get the towels and bedding.

This facility was conveniently located along the shores of Lake Luzern, had parking (at our cabin), and did have bathroom facilities for the site.  They provided us with a welcome brochure, which include a map and some coupons for discounts in the area.

Even with all of it's problems, this facility was really the only affordable option in the city.  Hotels were vastly expensive in this area.

Kid Friendly Rating: This wasn't a terribly kid friendly facility (especially with the mis-advertised existence of a toilet and shower in our accommodations).


Driving.  We drove to Luzern from our home in Germany (during a longer trip through other parts of Europe).  Driving in the city wasn't too bad. 

Public Transportation.  There were buses available throughout Salzburg.

Walking. We were able to walk to most locations we wanted to see.  It was a lot of walking, but doable.  There was a nice path along the lake and into the city.  Part of the central downtown was pedestrianized.

Parking. Parking was available at our camping site.  Parking was similar to other European cities, essentially paid parking by the hour in the city.


There was a variety of restaurants in the area.  Luzern is a very cosmopolitan city.  We had breakfast in our cabin, and dinner as well.  Lunch was had out in town. 

Fast Food. There were many of the well known restaurants in the area.  We ate at McDonalds one day.  Many of these types of restaurants were located around the train station and associated underground shopping centre.

Sit DownThere were several more formal restaurants and cafes.  A variety of cuisines were covered.  Most restaurants were located in the center of the city.


Lucerne has a beautiful location along the banks of the lake bearing it's name.  Surrounded by mountains, and bearing the old world charm of the old city, you can relax and take life slow for a little while.  Lucerne is a great location.  You can check out the main tourist information website for Lucerne.

Lake Lucerne

Times: The lake is "open" at all times.

Costs: Viewing the lake itself has no cost. 

Comments:  You can take a cruise on the lake (here is more information on Lucerne cruises.) If boats aren't your style, consider a walk along the shores of the lake.  There is a Lido, beach, which is pay to use.  During the off season (outside May - September) the area is open (for free) but you can't swim.  There is a nice playground and places to sit and eat (if you are in the mood for a picnic).  There are also a few food vendors.

Mount Pilatus

Times:  See the timetable here.

Costs:   See the price list here.

Comments: Close to Lucerne, easy to reach by public transport, Mount Pilatus has 2 aerial cableways, 2 hotels, 7 restaurants, the world's steepest cogwheel railway and Central Switzerland's biggest suspension rope park. You can hike, climb, toboggan sledge, bike and sledge (6 km sledge run).  There are a variety of events as well.

Dying Lion of Lucerne

Times:  Open until dusk.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments: One of the most famous sites in Lucerne, take a look at this amazing sculpture in the Glacier Garden.  It has a nice pond/lake area, and surrounding trees and green space.

Chapel Bridge

Times: Open at all times.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments: Perhaps the most famous bridge in all of Switzerland, and the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, take a stroll across this historical bridge.  It houses nearly 100 priceless painted panels, many reconstructed after a fire in the mid 1990's.  Some of the original (slightly damaged) paintings are still there.  There are a few steps at either end of the bridge, but it is navigable with a stroller.

City Walls

Times: 8 am to 8 pm.  Towers may only be open to visitors between May and October.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments:  Part of the original wall built in the 14th century, it gives you an idea of the protections offered in the middle ages.  You can climb the steps to three of the remaining 9 towers, and get a great panoramic view of the city.  Stay to hear the tower clock chime the hour. 

It is a steep hike up (and down) to the city wall, so you'll need to be prepared.  The steps up to the towers are steep and difficult to climb, so bringing a stroller can be cumbersome (you may end up carrying the stroller and the children), and little legs will have a hard time with the steep narrow steps.  You'll get great views, but keep on eye on your little travellers to be sure they stay safe!

Mount Rigi

Times: See the timetable for access here.

Costs: Fares range based on season.  See a fare table here.

Comments: Mt. Rigi is a place of recreation near Lucerne. It had breathtaking views of the lake and the Alps.  If walking and hiking are your forte, it offers over a hundred kilometers of paths.  You can have a picnic in one of the designated picnic areas, or the kids can have a break at one of their playgrounds.  There are also steam trains available if you get a bit nostalgic. During the season, skiing, sledding, tobagonning, and other snow sports are available.

Mill Bridge

Times: Open 24 hours.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments:  Originally built in 1408 (and still the original structure), the zig zag form of the bridge offers another way to cross the Reuss river.  The bridge is decorated with several paintings by Caspar Meglinger, which depict the "Dance of Death".  With a few steps at either end, the bridge is easily navigable with stroller.

Cathedral of St. Leodegar

Times: Open all day.  See church for times of services or contact the tourism bureau.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments: With a beautiful facade, and easy location (not far from the Dying Lion of Lucerne), it is worth a stop at this cathedral.  Rebuilt in the 17th century, it houses Mary's altar and the souls altar.  Considered to be the most important Reneissance church in Switzerland, it is  a must see.  Take a minute to look around, light a prayer candle (our kids love doing this), and take a moment of reflection in this historic house of worship.  There are a lot of steps to the front of the church, so be prepared to haul your stroller up, and the church has fairly narrow aisles (so don't think you can get any big double strollers in there).

Old Town Lucerne

Times: Open 24 hours.  Shops, museums, and churches open at various times.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments: The best way to see the old town is on foot.  Take time to walk through the various squares and plazas.  Marvel at the fountains, churches, and browse the shops and cafes.  Stop by the Weinmarkt, where Lucerne signed a federal oath with the other Swiss Cantons.  See the old town hall in the Kornmarkt square, or explore the Hirschenplatz, named after an inn from the middle ages.  There are plenty of places to see, and plenty of places to stop for a bite, or a drink.  This area also houses some more modern boutiques and stores, and is home to some conveniences you might want such as banks and grocery stores.  The walks are paved, but some with cobblestone, so make sure  you have a sturdy stroller.

Swiss Transport Museum

Times: Open 365 days a year.
Summertime 10:00 - 18:00
Wintertime 10:00 - 17:00

Prices (CHF) VerkehrshausMuseum+Filmtheatre Museum FilmtheatreDaytime programme Filmtheatre
Evening programme
2D 3D
Adults 38.- 28.- 18.- 19.- 22.-
Youth (<16) 24.- 14.- 14.- 16.- 19.-

Comments: Planes, trains and automobiles!  Located along the banks of the lake, the museum houses a variety of exhibits covering the major modes of transportation.  The focus is on the effect of this transportation on the history and development of Switzerland.  If your kids (or spouse) enjoy machines, take some time to look around and have fun!

Victorinox Factory

Times:  Open from about 10 am - 4 pm (check the store itself for exact times).  Was closed on most Christian holidays (such as Easter, Good Friday, Christmas, etc) as Switzerland is very Catholic.

Costs:  Free entry, but be careful, there is a lot on offer for purchase, and they aren't cheap.

Comments:  Who hasn't heard of Swiss Army Knives?  Well, if you have ever wondered where they are made, head over to the Victorinox factory in Ibach-Schwyz.  It is about 44 km from Lucerne.  You can't tour the factory any more, but they have a shop open to the public, where you can view a variety of their products (and buy to your little heart's content).  If you have a Victorinox product (and a few days to spare), you can even drop it off for repairs or even just a tune up, all for free as the products come with a lifetime guarantee.  My husband was able to have his knife's scissors repaired on site in a few minutes (he could have sent the whole kit and caboodle in to be polished and sharpened, but we weren't going to be there long enough)Be careful with your wallet though, we ended up buying a lot of stuff (though well worth it), and you may be too dazzled to help yourself.


When you travel with little ones, bathrooms are an important thing to be able to find. Europeans are generally not big on public restrooms.

Availability: Public restrooms can be found, but are scattered and not always easy to find. Your best bet is to make sure to make use of restrooms offered in the restaurants, museums, and other attractions that you visit. Most of the major attractions have restrooms.

Public/Private: Most available restrooms are actually going to be in some type of business, whether it is a restaurant or attraction.

Cost: Costs for restrooms can run from free to around 1 euro per person. Occassionally bathroom attendants will allow an adult to take a child into the restroom and only charge for one person (I did this with my kids, and even when I took both potty trained children, I usually only had to pay for me).

Nearby Amenities

Laundry: The campsite offered a paid laundry room, but other facilities were located throughout the town.  Ask at your hotel or the tourist bureau where some are located near you.

Groceries: There were a variety of grocery stores located throughout the town.  There was a store in the train station which was open 7 days a week (most on the town are not, closed on Sundays).  There are a few chain grocery stores in the Old Town as well.


Switzerland is not a cheap place to visit.  In fact, we found it to be the most expensive place we stopped in all of Europe.  Lucerne makes up for some of the costs with the stunning beauty of its surroundings.  A great amount of time can simply be spent along the lakeside.  Most of the main attractions (bridges, churches, etc) are free, so that can help with the cost savings.  Restaurants (even McDonalds) are well above prices you may be used to, so consider acommodations that include the ability to make your own meals.

If your hotel or campsite gives you a tourist brochure, check it out for deals and savings.  we found a coupon for free chocolate at one of the local Chocolatiers (which we used to bribe our children).  You can also found restaurant discounts.

Trip Highlights
- City walls.
- Chapel Bridge
- Playing on the lakeside.

Overall Rating

If you have the time (and more importantly the money) I would say Lucerne is worth the stop.  I'd give it 4 stars.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Foto Friday: Triberg Waterfalls

Triberg is located in the heart of the Black Forest in Germany.  I have been lucky to visit twice (once when my mother came to visit, and once with my husband and children). 

Triberg is home to the highest waterfalls in Germany, and you can hike up along the falls (all the way to the top).  You can see some very friendly squirrels (let's just say that the squirrels have learned people have food), and enjoy the great outdoors.

The falls are gorgeous, and when your done admiring nature, there are plenty of places to enjoy a slice of real Black Forest cake, check out some original "cuckoo clocks", and have a spot of lunch.

Here are a few shots of the falls from our hike.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Foto Friday: Paris Garnier Opera

Ever read Phantom of the Opera?  Well, visit Paris, and you can stop at the Paris Garnier Opera and see the place it is set.

While we didn't get to see the infamous underworld of the opera, the building is beautiful.

The outside of the building (excuse the construction).

The grand staircase.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Foto Friday: The Woods of Foy

 Part of our family adventures has always been travelling to historical sites.  Being in Europe afforded us the chance to visit quite a few battlefields from both World Wars.

We (like many people) watched the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers, and were fascinated by the story.  Already interested in WW II history, we took the opportunity to visit some of the sites of Easy Company's battles.  One of the most humbling experiences was to stop in Bastogne and Foy (Belgium).

Easy Company (and many others) spent a horrible and cold winter here.  Most of the woods are gone now, replaced by fields.  You can still find some of the stands of trees, and amongst them the remnants of fox holes (and likely artillery hits).

Most of the scars of war are gone, but to stand in the woods and remember those who fought there was humbling.  War has been replaced by peace.

What is left of the war.

 A view of the woods near Foy, Belgium.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Foto Friday: Driving Through Switzerland

On our way to Italy, we drove through some of the most beautiful scenery in Switzerland.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Foto Friday: Feeding the Pigeons in St. Mark's Square, Venice, Italy

This has to be one of the most fun experiences we've had in our travels with our kids.  They  love birds (especially their favourite sport of pigeon chasing), and the chance to be surrounded by a huge flock of "friendly" and eager winged friends was too much to pass up.

 All out of food, but they just won't leave!

 My 3 year old have fun holding out the food to her new friends.

 My son, proudly holding the pigeon Mommy caught for him.
(note the pigeon is also trying to eat food out of Daddy's hand at the same time)

 The baby's philosophy: when you run out of food, just sit down!

Taking the time to hand feed a pigeon!
They landed there on their own, seriously.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Foto Friday: Notre Dame at Christmas

This is a picture of Notre Dame Cathedral on Christmas Day.  We did go back the next day to tour the cathedral (and climb to the famous bell tower).  It was a lot of fun to sit and people watch, enjoy the tree in the square, and listen to the beautiful music from the church.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Salzburg, Austria

Location: Salzburg, Austria

Time Frame: April, 2 nights, 2 days


Type. We booked a 2-room family suite at the Hotel Wolf-Dietrich in Salzburg.  The booking was made through

Cost. We paid $442.94 for the two nights.

Amenities.  The room had two floors. A top floor loft with a queen bed, television, en-suite bathroom, and desk.  The lower floor had a sofa bed (double size), a roll away twin bed, full bathroom, television, coat closet, and chair and tables.  We also had a DVD player, which we could use to play DVD's which the hotel checked out to guests (free of charge).  The hotel provided fresh apples everyday in our suite.  All linens, maid service, and towels were included.

Other. This hotel had two buildings, one which held the suites, and one which housed the main hotel rooms and reception.  The hotel had a pool, kids play room, reception lobby, and restaurant.  The hotel offered a full breakfast every morning, and tea/coffee and snacks in the afternoon.  We also had access to free Wi-fi internet in the hotel. 

Our location was right in the pedestrianized zone of downtown Salzburg.  The hotel also rented us a parking space in a nearby underground garage for 15 euro a day.  The big downside to our suite was that it was on the 4th floor, and there was no elevator (so a lot of stairs with suitcases, small children, and a pregnant Mom = not fun), but the suite, the location, and the amenities were worth it.

Kid Friendly Rating: This was a very family friendly hotel.  I would give it 5 stars.


Driving.  We drove to Salzburg from our home in Germany (via, Munich).  We were lucky to get a parking space through our hotel (about 15 euro a day), though there were very limited number of on street parking spaces in the general area. Driving in Salzburg was a little complicated, with a lot of one way streets and heavy traffic.

Public Transportation.  There were buses available throughout Salzburg.

Walking. We were able to walk to most locations we wanted to see.  It was a lot of walking, but doable.

Parking. Parking was arranged through our hotel, at a local underground garage for 15 euro a night.  Most on-street parking was permitted parking, but there was some pay and display parking several blocks away.


The hotel provided a very nice full breakfast (cooked and cold foods), every morning.  We were able to eat well and pack a snack to go (usually a piece of fruit or a croissant).

We bought lunch from street vendors (kebabs one day, and giant pretzels another), and usually ate dinner at local sit down restaurants.  We found a great Italian restaurant down the street from our hotel that offered a great meal deal for our family.

Fast Food. There were several fast food options available, ranging from McDonalds to local cheap eateries.

Sit Down. In the quarter where our hotel was located, there were plenty of sit down restaurants ranging in cuisines and prices.  There were some fancy more expensive type restaurants and quite a few cafe style restaurants.


Salzburg offers a tourist card, called the Salzburg Card, which can be a way to combine access to all the sights in Salzburg. 

Salzburg Cathedral
January, February, November:
Monday-Saturday 8am - 5pm, Sunday & holiday 1pm - 5pm
March, April, October, December:
Monday-Saturday 8am - 6pm, Sunday & holiday 1pm - 6pm
May, June, July, September:
Monday-Saturday 8am - 7pm, Sunday & holiday 1pm - 7pm
Monday-Saturday 8am - 8pm, Sunday & holiday 1pm - 8pm
Guided tours free of charge:
July+August: Monday-Friday 2pm (rest of the year: on request)
No visit during masses.

Costs: Admission is free, donation suggested.

Comments:  This is a magnificent cathedral which is home to the place where Mozart was baptized.  Enjoy the stunning stained glass windows, light a prayer candle, or simply tour the grand architecture of the church.

Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Palace: Mon, Wed, Thu: 8 am - 4 pm, Tues + Fri: 1 - 4 pm. No visit in case of special occasions. Free entrance.
Angel Staircase (staircase in baroque style): open daily approx. 8 am-6 pm.
Mirabell Gardens: open all year round, daily approx. 6 am until dusk. Dwarves garden and Hedge Theatre closed during winter months.
Orangerie: open all year round, daily 9 am-4 pm.

Costs: Free Admission.

Comments: This is a wonderful place to enjoy the sun, the trees, and the flowers.  Take time to enjoy a picnic in the beautiful gardens, feed the ducks in the magnificent fountain, or tour the incredible baroque features of the palace.  If you kids are tired of touring, this is a fun place to take some time off.  There is plenty of space to run, enjoy nature, and have a spot of refreshment.

Salzburg Castle: Festung Hohensalzburg

January to April and October to December
9.30 - 17.00*
May to September
9.00 - 19.00*
Advent weekends and Easter 9.00 - 18.00
* Final admissions 30 minutes earlier.



Fortress card* incl. funicular) 


€ 10,50

€   9,60
Children (6 – 14 years)

€   6,00
Groups – children/youths

€   5,50

€ 24,30
Special prices for events

Festungscard*  incl. foothpath

€  7,40
€  6,60
Children (6 – 14 years)
€  4,20
Groups – children/youths
€  3,90
€ 16,90

Comments: It may be a long way up, but it is an impressive way to see Salzburg.  The fortress has a short tour (audio guide included), which shows you the major interior points and gives you a great view from an outside platform.  You can walk along the inside streets, peer down at the city, and get a feel for what life must have been like centuries ago.  Take the funicular down for a fun experience.  We enjoyed the walk up, which also allowed us to visit the Nonnberg Nunnery. It is a long steep walk up, but is a great view of the city.  We even had a fun time stopping to have an ice cream in the fortress.  The kids had fun running around and look out at all the viewpoints.

Getreidgasse Lane
Times: Street open daily, see individual shops for business hours.

Costs: Free Admission to the street.

Comments:  If you want to see how the other half lives, this street will give you a taste. Home to one fancy uppercrust store after another, you can window shop for hours.

Motzartplatz Square
Times: Open Daily.

Costs: Free Admission.

Comments: A wide open space to tour in Salzburg, it is also home to a memorial to the compozer Mozart. 

Residenz Palace Salzburg
Every day from January to December 
10.00 – 17.00*
* Final admissions 30 minutes earlier.
Residenz gallery: Closed on Mondays. Open every day during the Salzburg Festival.
It is not possible to tour the stately rooms when events are being held in the Residenz palace.

Prices: Combi-ticket – stately rooms & gallery:


€ 8,50

€   6,50
Children ( 6 – 14 years)

€   2,70

€ 24,30

Comments: This was once the home of Salzburg's prince bishops.  Oppulently decorated and outfitted, it can give you a taste of what wealth once bought you. Take a peek at the chandiliers, Bohemian glass, tiled oven, and Venetian mirrors.

Hellbrunn Palace
April, October, November      9:00-16:30
May, June, September            9:00-17:30
July, August                            9:00-21:00
*Season opens on 1 April and closes 1 November

Adults:   9.50 euro
Groups (20+):  7.50 euro p.p
Students (16-26):  6.50 euro
Children (4-18): 4.50 euro
Family (2a+2c): 24.00 euro
-additional child: 2.00 euro

Comments: The summer palace and pleasure grounds, the Hellbrunn Palace is home to Baroque style and the fun "trick fountains".  Referred to as a "Baroque Disneyland", Hellbrunn's pleasure grounds house the fountains, ponds, grottos, and plenty of sculptures.  Why not take some time out to enjoy the water?

Nonnberg Nunnery
Fall-spring: daily 7-5; summer: daily 7-7

Costs: Free Admission.

Comments: If you are making the trek up to the Festung, why not stop off at the Nunnery?  Famed for it's relationship with the Von Trapp family, the Nunnery holds a commanding view of Salzburg and the surrounding countryside.  Take a quiet moment in the chapel, and listen the sisters sing.  Have a quiet walk among the gravestones and grounds.
Sound of Music Tour

Salzburg is perhaps most famous as home of the Von Trapp family, depicted in the hit musical "The Sound of Music".  While in Salzburg why not take a tour of the major sights of this amazing story.  You have a few options for tours.  Each tour operator will have slightly different itineraries and prices.  If you fancy a ride around in a tour bus, why not try it?

Panorama Tours
Salzburg Sightseeing Tours - Gray Line


When you travel with little ones, bathrooms are an important thing to be able to find. Europeans are generally not big on public restrooms.

Availability: Public restrooms can be found, but are scattered and not always easy to find. Your best bet is to make sure to make use of restrooms offered in the restaurants, museums, and other attractions that you visit. Most of the major attractions have restrooms.

Public/Private: Most available restrooms are actually going to be in some type of business, whether it is a restaurant or attraction.

Cost: Costs for restrooms can run from free to around 1 euro per person. Occassionally bathroom attendants will allow an adult to take a child into the restroom and only charge for one person (I did this with my kids, and even when I took both potty trained children, I usually only had to pay for me).

Nearby Amenities

Laundry: The hotel offered a laundry service, but there were no machines available to guests.  We did not see any facilities near the hotel, but be sure to ask your hotel reception or a tourist info centre.

Groceries: There were many small shops throughout the town.


Salzburg was a pleasant surprise.  The town was very walkable and offered a great deal of things to see, and places to take a break.  Food was plentiful and easy to find (even to meet the picky tastes of our little ones).  We got plenty of exercise, between the hotel stairs and the walk to the Festung.  If you are looking for a beautiful quiet place to spend a few days, I would recommend Salzburg.

Trip Highlights
-Salzburg Fortress
-Mirabell Palace and Gardens
-Salzburg Cathedral

Overall Rating

Salzburg was a quaint and lovely city, I'd give it 5 stars.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Advice: Hoof It or Push It

When you travel with children, especially small ones, you have to consider transportation when those little legs wear out.  How to cart the kids around is even more important when you have little ones who can't walk on their own.

Most of us pack around a stroller of some kind for our kids, and at least on our trips, it gets used quite often.  However, in some locations, a stroller may not be allowed or not practicable.

If you need some way to get your children around, consider where you are going.  Some places may be stroller accessible (usually if they can accommodate disabled patrons you can get a stroller through) and others might lend themselves to a baby carrier like a backpack or a Baby Bjorn.  Think about the following things when considering what to bring:

1.  Try and find out what type of pedestrian access is available.  Are you going to a place with lots of sidewalks or paths?  Are there pedestrianized zones?

2.  What type of road surface is there?  A lot of places in Europe have cobblestoned streets and pavements which are murder on stroller wheels (especially the smaller hard plastic ones). It may be better in these situation to use a baby carrier, or a stroller with larger rubber (bicycle style) wheels.

3.  How long are you going to be out?  If you are planning a lot of walking, having to carry a heavy baby may not be such a fun idea.

4.  What type of transportation are you going to be accessing?  Some public transportation is not stroller friendly.

5.  Are you going to have to store your mode of child transport?  Some places, like museums and churches, will not allow strollers or big bags (including baby backpacks), so consider how easy it will be to store your chosen mode.

6.  Are there going to be a lot of stairs?  You may be surprised how many attractions, museums, and locations make use of stairs, with no alternative (such as an elevator or disabled lift).  No one wants to carry a baby and a stroller up flights of stairs.

7.  What is going to fit in your car/airplane?  How you are planning and travelling to your destination can dictate what type of transport you can bring.

In the end, you know what you like or need when out and about with your kids, just make sure you can adjust your plans to make sure you get the most out of your trip.