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.

Naples, Italy

Location: Naples, Italy

Time Frame: May/June, 2 nights, 2 days


Type. We had a family room (quad bed) at a hotel near Naples.  We booked with the Hotel Gauro - Pozzuoli through

Cost. We paid $200 for the two night stay.

Amenities.  This room had one double bed and a set of bunk beds.  We requested a baby cot, which was provided free of charge.  Our room had a balcony with a "sea view".  We had a private bathroom, television, air conditioning, and a small "mini-bar" fridge (which we requested be emptied so we could use it).

Other. This hotel was outside of Naples, and outside the Pozzuoli town centre.  It was a nice walk into the train station (we got a great view of the harbour).  The huge downside was that the  Naples area had a garbage strike on at the time so there were huge piles of garbage EVERYWHERE (sometimes blocking the sidewalk).  Our hotel staff was nice, and we had a nice breakfast in the morning.  They were even able to sell us the Campania ArteCard.

The hotel also offered parking in a small garage across the road (somewhat tricky to get too), with a key that allowed us access at pretty much all times (the key had to be checked in and out of the front desk).

Kid Friendly Rating: I would give this hotel three stars (***) for kid friendliness.


Driving.  We drove from our  home in Germany (via Pisa and Rome).  Gas is pretty pricey in Italy, but luckily with our DoD/Nato status, we were able to get discounted gas coupons for use all over Italy.  Driving in Italy is a NIGHTMARE.  I kid you not.  Especially in Naples.  Traffic lights, road markings, and general traffic rules are all very optional to the drivers in southern Italy, and are rarely observed.  People will stop where and when they like, pass you on all sides, and speed.  So be careful when driving. Parking is also difficult to find in Naples.

Public Transportation.  There is a decent enough train system in southern Italy which can take you to the major sites.  There are also buses available, but be sure you know the schedule, and be ready to wait (apparently bus drivers in Naples don't believe in being on time).

Walking. We were able to walk from our hotel to the local train station (a bit of a hike...about a mile), and walking around Naples itself and the local attractions was the best way to see them.  Be aware of drivers as they are not exactly cautious.

Parking. Parking is limited in this area, and is expensive.  Most parking areas are also controlled by "outside interests", which means that you may need to pay extra for protection.  Make sure to always take EVERYTHING out of your car.  Car related crime is apparently very common in this area.


The hotel provided a nice continental style breakfast, which made our day easier to start!  Lunch and dinner were at local restaurants.

Fast Food. There were plenty of fast food places about (including a lot of familiar sights).  The take away pizza places were pretty common.

Sit Down.  There were quite a number of restaurants in the area, most of the Italian food variety, and ranging from casual sit down cafe to fancy uppercrust restaurant.  There was a nice little restaurant across the road from our hotel.


If you are planning on seeing Pompeii and other of the local archeological sites, consider taking the Circumvesuviana, a train that takes you around to the sites.

November - March, every day from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission 3.30 p.m.)
April - October, every day from 8.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. (last admission 6 p.m.)


Single ticket - valid for 1 day
Full price: € 11.00
Half price: € 5.50 (*)
access to 5 sites: Herculaneum, Pompeii, Oplontis, Stabiae, Boscoreale) - valid for 3 days
Full price: € 20.00
Half price : € 10.00 (*)
Free of charge: for EU citizens under 18 or over 65 years old.
(*) Reductions: for EU citizens aged 18-24 and EU permanent school teachers.
Reductions and free tickets can be issued only by showing a valid document (passport, identity card, driving license).
Comments: This was a great visit.  There is plenty to explore in this city.  You can see a variety of the death casts (plaster moulds of what was left of the people trapped), excavated buildings, and the surviving art.  This is not a stroller friendly place, so consider another type of baby carrier if you need one.  Touring the whole site takes a lot of walking so be prepared to make as many stops as your little ones need.  There is a cafe/viewing platform/restrooms in the center of the city.  There are also restrooms at the entrance.  Our big disappointment was that we ended up having to pay for our 5 year old, as we were not EU citizens.  There is a train station just outside of Pompeii's entrance, and plenty of vendors on the walk to get in.  
November - March, every day from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission 3.30 p.m.)
April - October, every day from 8.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. (last admission 6 p.m.)

Single ticket - valid for 1 day
Full price: € 11.00
Half price: € 5.50 (*)
Access to 5 sites: (Herculaneum, Pompeii, Oplontis, Stabiae, Boscoreale) - valid for 3 days
Full price: € 20.00
Half price : € 10.00 (*)
Free of charge: for EU citizens under 18 or over 65 years old.
(*) Reductions: for EU citizens aged 18-24 and EU permanent school teachers.
Reductions and free tickets can be issued only by showing a valid document (passport, identity card, driving license).
Comments: Following along the same lines as Pompeii, you can see what is left of this harbour town (yep, it used to be right on the water line).  You can see how high the volocanic waste piled up, as there has been significant excavation. Marvel at the buildings and art that survived the centuries of burial.  Be careful with strollers in the winding and narrow streets.

Mount Vesuvius
This mountain has it's own national park.  The road up is very winding and narrow.  If you want to see the crater, you can get information for the Gran Cono from the national park service.

OPENING HOURS (Every day including Sundays and public holidays)
January-Febraury-November-December: 09:00 - 15:00
March-October: 09:00 - 16:00
April-May-June-September: 09:00 - 17:00
July-August: 09:00 - 18:00

Since 13/01/2005, only tickets issued by the Vesuvius National Park Authority are valid for access to the path leading to the crater. These are only on sale at the ticket office in the large square at 1000m in Ercolano.

Free entry
  • For accompanied children under 8;
  • For pupils from primary schools in possession of a list of member schools;
  • For guides, tutors, and primary and secondary school teachers;
  • For members and staff of the Vesuvius National Park Authority and the State Forestry Department;
  • For staff of the Vesuvius Observatory on official business.
  • For those in possession of special written authorization from the Park Authority;
  • For the staff of the armed and police forces on official business;
  • For scholars and researchers from Universities and scientific, research or educational Institutes duly authorized by the legal representatives of the institutions and by the Park Authority;
Tickets from 4.50 euros
  • Students and under-18;
  • Organized groups (including independent ones) of at least 10 people, subject to completion of a request form at the ticket office;
  • Groups organized by travel agencies, tour operators or organizations operating in the field of tourism in possession of official membership documentation;
  • University students in possession of appropriate student ID cards;
  • Secondary school students present on lists drawn up by member schools;

Tickets from 6.50 euros: all other visitors.


Motor vehicles € 2.50

Caravans, campers and trailers € 5.00

(only permitted during visits to the crater and not for long stays or refuelling) 

Comments: Feel like hiking?  Take a chance to see the mountain that made Naples famous.  The hike is very steep, and strollers are not allowed.  Once you make it from the parking lot to the gift shop, you'll have to wait until a guide is ready to take you up to the crater.  Take the opportunity to see Naples, Pompeii, and the Med from above!  If the weather cooperates, you can even see the beginnings of a new cone in the still active volcano.  The guides will also tell you about the volcano and it's history.  You can even buy pieces of volcanic rock at the gift shop.  The walk up is very dusty and dirty, so be prepared with closed toed shoes, and some clean socks when you are done!  We used a baby backpack for our smallest child, and traded off carrying the other two for short distances up the trail (and down again).  We even had some of the other visitors help us with the kids.

Archeological Museum - Naples
9.00-20.00 (entrance until 19.00).
Closed: every Tuesday, 1st January, 1st May, 25th December (except when otherwise indicated).

6.50 euro (full price);
3.25 euro (reduced, for citizens of the European Union between 18 and 25 and for teachers);
Free for citizens of the European Union under 18 and over 65.

Comments: Home to some of the treasures recovered from Pompeii and Herculaneum, it is a chance to explore the distant past of Italy.  If you didn't get enough visiting the sites, come and see some more magical pieces.  We didn't visit this particular place, as we preferred spending our time at the actual locales, and getting into downtown Naples was not a pleasant thought. 


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: There were not any laundry facilities near the hotel, but there were a few in the town centre.  The hotels and tourist information sites should have information.

Groceries:  We found a nice little Coop store down the road from our hotel, which we used for milk (for our toddler), drinks, snacks, and treats.  We even picked up some stuff for a lunch on the go at Pompeii.  There were other smaller shops in the town, and Naples proper is home to a variety of shops and supermarkets.


If you can get over the traffic, the garbage, and the culture shock, Naples can be a great place.  We had the distinct impression that what many people would consider the "mob" was in tight control of this area and some of the services.  Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius are worth the trip.

Trip Highlights
- Pompeii
- Mt. Vesuvius
- Herculaneum

Overall Rating

Considering the down sides, I'd give Naples 3 stars.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tip: Travel Cards and Passes

Most major cities in the world (especially in Europe), are prone to have travel cards and passes for tourists.  These cards can combine access to local transportation (such as subways, buses and trains), and free admission to museums and other sites.

While these passes can certainly be handy, be aware of the prices.  Sometimes you may not be planning on visiting all the sites on offer, and there goes the cost savings.

So here are my tips. 
  1. Check to see if your destination has a tourist or travel card.  You can often do this by typing the name of the location plus "pass", "card", or "tourist card" into your search engine.
  2. Check what locations the pass covers, and what transportation access it offers.  Most of the passes have a list on-line of included attractions.
  3. Look at the prices.  These passes tend to come in a variety of time lengths and prices.  Check the number of days it will cover (and whether those days are consecutive, or the pass is good for an entire year) and when the pass becomes valid (some become active on the date of purchase, others on the first day of use).
  4. Find a good travel site, or use Google, and look up the sites you'd like to see at your destination.  This is where I love to use spreadsheets! 
  5. Make a list of the sites you plan to visit and list the price to visit each site.  Total up the price of all the sites.  
  6. It may be helpful to add a check mark by each site that is also included in the tourist pass.
  7. Look up local transportation options (the tourist card sites can be helpful here as they may list the name of the transportation provider, which may either have a direct link, or allow you to use your search engine to find).  You should be able to determine what it would cost you to get around.
  8. Compare your total costs for individual admission and transportation with the total cost for the requisite tourist card.  Make sure you are only comparing sites that are common to both your list and the tourist card.  Include transportation cost in the comparison, if, and only if, the tourist card includes transportation.
  9. Determine what is the cheaper option that makes best use of your time. 
  10. Remember, to keep in mind the amount of time you'll have to visit your destination.  The tourist card may turn out to be cheaper, but if you can't visit all your locations in the allotted time, your going to go "out of pocket" for additional time.

The big lesson: don't just assume because a location is offering a travel card that it is cheaper and more efficient than paying at each location.  Remember these cards cover a wide number of attractions, and generally more than you may have the time or inclination to visit.

In case you are interested, I've included a list of travel cards we've come across in our adventures.

Campania (Naples area of Italy)
Normandy, France
Dublin, Ireland
Luzern, Switerzland
Salzburg, Austria

Venice, Italy

Location: Venice, Italy

Time Frame: June, 3 nights, two days


Type. Venice has a variety of hotels, but for our family size, we chose a holiday apartment.  We booked with Cosy Apartments (through, for the Garibaldi apartment. This apartment had two bedrooms, one bathroom, living area, and a small kitchen.

Cost. Our total cost was 360 euro for three nights.  We also had to pay 30 euro for late arrival (as we didn't arrive in Venice until 11:30 PM...but that is a story for another time).

Amenities. We had a bedroom with a double bed, and space for our baby, and a room with two single beds.  We also had a small dining area/living area, a small kitchen (with fridge, stove, oven, and microwave).  The apartment had air conditioning, a tv in the larger bedroom, but no elevator in the building (so it was two flights of stairs up).

Other. We were required to clean the apartment upon departure (but usually you can pay extra for whomever owns the place to do it).  As driving is not permitted on the islands of Venice, there is no parking for this accommodation.

Kid Friendly Rating: I would give this hotel three stars (***) for kid friendliness.


Driving. We drove from our home in Germany (via Pisa, Rome, and Naples).  You are not allowed to drive in Venice proper (no roads), so  you either have to park on "mainland" side of the Grand Canal area (there are quite a number of parking garages), or park farther away.

Public Transportation. There are a variety of public transport options to get to Venice.  You can take the train or a coach from nearby to Venice.  Venice is also home to the vaporetti (water buses or taxis).  This is usually how you get around Venice.  There are a variety of routes to take you around, and they do offer single trip or day passes (there are also multi-day passes).  There are also the private water taxis and gondolas that are available.

Walking. Venice is definitely a walking city.  This is a great way to see the canals and sights of Venice.  You can either walk to most of the major sights from your acommodation, or you can combine walking and a water taxi.  There are a lot of steps and bridges, so strollers are not very practical here.  We chose to use a baby backpack instead.

Parking. Since driving in Venice is not allowed, if you bring your car you'll have to park it on the mainland.  We found a garage, within walking distance of the main Vaparetto terminal.  It was a secure garage (but we still emptied our vaulables), with monitoring.  The total cost was pretty high (about 84 euro for the the three nights).  You may be able to get a discount on the parking fees from your hotel (we managed to finagle a 10% discount from the manager of our apartment).


Since we had our own kitchen, breakfast was the usual cereal, pastries and juice.  Lunch and dinner were usually out and about.  Don't forget to stop and have some gelatto while you're out.  Food in Venice can be pretty pricey (hey it all has to be shipped in), so check out a few places.  Meal deals can be found, even at sit down places, especially if you are willing to be flexible with your eating times.

Fast Food. Venice has a variety of small take away shops, where you can get some good food on the go.

Sit Down.There were a large variety of sit down restaurants ranging from casual cafes to upper crust fancy places. Many are family friendly and offer a variety of foods (but heavy on Italian).  We ate dinner at these places (one pizza cafe, one pasta restaurant).  Drinks are especially expensive here, and don't expect the free refills Americans are used to.


Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square)
Times: The square is open every day all day.

Costs: There is no admission charge for visiting the square.

Comments: This is a must see stop for any visit to Venice.  Piazza San Marco is the heart of Venice, and takes you right to some of the greatest sites to see in Venice.

One of the greatest things to do here is feed the pigeons (this was our kids FAVORITE thing about Venice).  You can usually buy a bag of feed for 1 euro from vendors on site, but they don't always sell, and there are encroaching restrictions on the sale of the feed (I guess the higher powers don't want the pigeons hanging around).  You can always bring your own stale bread, chips, crackers, or birdseed.  The pigeons will eat right out of your hand!  They'll also land on you.  Since they are used to being fed, they won't fly away, and eventually you can catch them.  My kids had me doing this for about an hour, just so they could hold the pigeons.

If pigeons aren't your thing, there are plenty of gellatto stores, cafes, and restaurants.

Basillica San Marco (St. Mark's Cathedral)
November - March/Aprile (Easter)
Basilica: 9.45 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. - Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. - 4.00 p.m.
St. Mark's Museum: 9.45 a.m. - 4.45 p.m.
Pala d'oro: 9.45 a.m. - 4.00 p.m. - Sunday and holidays: 2.00 - 4.00 p.m. Treasury: 9.45 a.m. - 4.00 p.m. - Sunday and holidays: 2.00 - 4.00 p.m.

March/April (Easter) - November 
Basilica: 9.45 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. - Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m.
St. Mark's Museum: 9.45 a.m. - 4.45 p.m.
Pala d'oro: 9.45 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.- Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m.
Treasury: 9.45 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.- Sunday and holidays: 2.00 p.m.- 5.00 p.m.

Basilica: (entrance free)
St. Mark's Museum: entrance: ticket 4 € , reduced 2 € only for groups with more than 15 people
Pala d'oro: entrance: ticket 2 € , reduced 1 € only for groups with more than 15 people
Treasury: entrance: ticket 3 € , reduced 1,50 € only for groups with more than 15 people

Comments: For those who enjoy architecture or churches, this is a must see.  The trip through the bascillica  proper only takes about 10-15 minutes, and gives you a wonderful view of this grand building.  The lines can be long, so come early.  You can take in the treasury, museum, and other paid attractions if you like, or just do the free tour of the bascillica. 

Campanile di San Marco (St. Mark's Bell Tower)
October: 9.00 a.m. - 7.00 p.m.
November - March/April (Easter): 9.30 a.m. - 3.45 p.m.
March/April (Easter) - June: 9.00 a.m. - 7.00 p.m.
July - September: 9.00 a.m. - 9.00 p.m.

entrance ticket: 8€ , reduced 4€ only for groups with more than 15 people

Comments: If you want a bird's eye view of Venice (and the beautiful Piazza San Marco), this is the place to go.  It is a bit pricey, but luckily there are no stairs!  As this is a more modern reconstruction (the original tower collapsed in the early 20th century), there is an elevator to take you to the top.  If you (or your children) aren't interested in the view, don't worry, Venice is just as beautiful from the ground.  Personally, we decided to skip this little junket, as the cost would have been quite high, and our kids were having  much more fun with the pigeons.

Palazza Ducale (Doge's Palace)
From 1st April to 31th October
8.30am - 6.30pm (ticket office 8.30 - 5.30pm)

From 1st November to 31th March
8.30am - 5.30pm (ticket-office 8.30am - 4.30pm)

Closed on 25th December and 1st January

Entrance to the Doge's Palace is included in the Venice Museum Pass.
Full price: 18,00 euro
Reduced: 12,00 euro 

Comments: Once home to the seat of Venice's government, you can view the apartments of the doge (elected head of Venice), places of government meetings, the seat of justice etc.  Holding some fine treasures of Venice's history, it is a place to behold.  The length of the the tour may be difficult for children, especially if they are young and not interested in the historical nature of the musuem.

Home to glass blowing for centuries, you can stop by this small island to see the art.  Take a vaporetto out for a tour.

Grand Canal
Certainly to be seen by water, the Grand Canal is one of the highlights of Venice.  If you want a cheap tour, take a vaporetto up (or down) the canal.  For a more romantic cultural approach, try a gondola ride. Either way, enjoy the view of the old canal homes, markets, and ritzy hotels.

Gondola Ride
No trip to Venice is complete without a gondola ride.  Vendors can be found up and down the Grand Canal.  Make sure you have a firm price, amount of time, and number of passengers agreed upon before departure.  Some gondoliers are well known for "changing the price" during the ride or on your return.

The Lido
This is Venice's seaside.  The Lido is a small narrow island separating the main Venice lagoon from the Adriatic sea.  The beaches are the spectacular ones you may be looking for, but if you are in for some sunbathing, you can enjoy a day at the Lido.  Vaporetto can take you from Venice proper to the Lido.  There are plenty of hotels and restaurants to keep you happy on your visit.

Rialto Bridge
Times: Open all day, all year.

Costs: Free

Comments: The oldest and most famous bridge spanning the Grand Canal in Venice, the Rialto is the commerical connection.  View the bridge from along the canal, and then take a nice slow walk across.  You can get a nice view of the Grand Canal, and then move on to enjoy the markets of Venice.  From souvenirs to food, you can find what you are looking for.


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: We didn't see any places to do laundry, but we didn't need the facilities.  You can usually get information on these facilities from your hotel or tourist information points.

Groceries: There are plenty of grocery shops (small independents) and some small chain stores (we found a nice Coop store near our apartment).  There are also a few open air markets where you can find fresh produce, fish, and other essentials.


There never seems to be enough time to enjoy Venice.  The two full days we had allowed us to see the main sights, without wearing out the kids.  We loved the water and walking in Venice, most especially the fun of the pigeons in St. Mark's Square.  There is plenty to see and enjoy, from amazing glass, to masquerade masks, to delicious gelatto.  Take your time and relax in Venice

Trip Highlights
- Gelatto (what can I say, we LOVE it)
- Feeding the pigeons in St. Mark's Square.
- Riding the vaporetto.

Overall Rating

Venice is definitely a 5 star must see location.

   Telling the pigeons "we're out of food"!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Foto Friday: Normandy, France

One of the most memorable and moving places our family has visited has to be Normandy, France.  Both my husband and I love history, and to be able to share this passion with our children, and show them a place so important to world history was amazing.

These two photos are some of my favorites.  They aren't of the most sweeping sea views, beautiful monuments, or military relics.  They are two simple headstones.  One is from a German Military Cemetery, the other from the American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach.

While I admit I'm not a very good photographer, I wanted to share them.

The first one is from the German Cemetery.  It is actually a dual headstone.  Private Erwin Kaminski, who was 19, is buried here.  The bottom inscription reads "Ein Deutscher Soldat", this translates to "A German Solider".  The second man laid to rest here is unknown.

The second photo is from the American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach.  The inscription reads, " Here rests in Honored Glory a Comrade in Arms Known but to God."  This is a grave marker for one of the American's unknown soldiers.

What made these two photos so memorable to me, was the fact that they were so much alike despite the fact that they came from opposing sides in the conflict.

Foto Friday

In addition to reviews, advice, and tips, I'd like to share some photos from our travels.  So, every Friday, I'll post a photo (or a couple, if I have a theme) from one of the places we've been, along with a little commentary.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Tip: Diaper Bag

If you are travelling with kids, chances are one of them needs the all important diaper bag.  Like most parents, you probably have the big bag with all the pockets and zippers, that holds everything but the kitchen sink (and let's face it, if you could find a bag that would take the kitchen sink, you'd probably buy that one too).

So, when you are out and about, do you want to be carrying that big giant bag?  Considering what you probably also need to be carrying (snacks, wallet, travel documents, sunglasses, etc), you might want to make all your things as compact as possible.  So what to do about the diaper bag?

Well, here is my tip.  I like to carry all my things in a daypack style backpack (it has three pockets: main, middle (medium sized), and small front pocket).  I have a small satchel that I received at the birth of my third child, with all sorts of little samples.  That has become my portable diaper bag.  It fits in the main pocket, but doesn't take up too much room.  You can probably find a similar item by using a large cosmetics bag, an insulated style lunch bag, or toiletries bag for your luggage.

My bag is large enough to hold several diapers/pull-ups (I carry about 3-5), a travel sized wipe container (which has 16 wipes), a travel sized wet wipes (with about 16 wipes), a travel sized diaper ointment (love those free samples), a travel sized hand sanitizer, and travel sized hand lotion.

I know that sometimes 3-5 diapers might not be enough for the days travels, especially if you have more than one wee one that is using them.  I keep the larger multi-pocket diaper bag under a seat in my car.  It carries a lot more diapers, changes of clothes etc.

If you know that you are going to be out a while, and are worried that those 3-5 diapers might not be enough, or you have two in need, here is another suggestion:  Consider carrying ziploc bags (I use gallon sized), labeled for each child with extra diapers, and possible wipes...even a change of clothes if you need it, in your back pack.  This makes your things more "modular" so your not digging through 500 different things to find the wipes!

You know what your child needs during a day, and when you travel you always want that extra 10%....just in case!  If you plan ahead you can reduce both your carrying weight and your stress.