Out As Travelers/Tourists In Rome

In the “traveler community” that we are now a part of, there are blogs, vlogs, websites, podcasts, Pinterest boards, Facebook pages and more run by fellow travelers.  Each has their particular opinions on everything from how to pack light to what the best route is to take through Laos in the springtime.

As we planned for our trip around the world, these sources became invaluable to us.  Our trip is so much easier because of the many things we learned; however, as we got wrapped up in this world of airline points and Air BNB I have forgotten that everyone doesn’t know all of these things and they typically don’t really care to either.

This was made clear to me when Jeromy was talking to my brother about our packing plans and saying how he chose a pair of pants because of a packing blog he had read.  My brother burst out laughing and said, “You read a blog about what to pack?!”  Oh yes, we read many blogs on what to pack, what credit cards to use, what tech to bring, you name it and there is a probably a blog about it.  Even if the thought of reading any of those may sound as interesting as watching paint dry to you, we spent months reading, listening, and pinning as much as we could.  While doing this has made traveling the world for a year with three kids possible (and fun!), I also realize that this was when we crossed over into “travel nerd” territory.

One topic that inevitably comes up with these “travel experts” is the difference between being a traveler and being a tourist.  Is there a difference you may ask?  Oh yes, just like there is a right way to roll your clothes when packing, there is big difference between a traveler and a tourist.   For those of you who aren’t travel nerds like us, I will use this post about our time in Rome to let you know the difference between them.  In doing this, I would like to point out that on our trip, we spend time in both these categories, and we think it is a little pretentious of our fellow travelers to tell someone how they should travel at all.

Here are some examples to help illustrate the point.  I wish I had been a bit more of a tourist and took more pictures while we were in Rome but I took a very traveler approach and chose to just experience more in the moment, to be remembered only in my (not exceptionally great) memory.

A tourist would eat dinner on the main square by a major historic sight…

The apartment we rented was 1 minute from the Pantheon. Our first night we were tired and hungry and picked the first restaurant on the square we saw.  It was a good solid meal, nothing special, but we had an amazing view!

Dinner looking out at the Pantheon
 A traveler would ask a local their favorite place to eat and go there…

On our taxi ride in from the airport we asked our taxi driver the places he would go to eat and he let us know a neighborhood we should go to try something out of the way.  I don’t have any pictures from the meal because it was the worst meal we had!

Most the time this isn’t the case, but you never really know.  You just have to laugh it off and go get a double portion of gelato to make up for it!  He did give us some great suggestions for gelato places.

Sometimes restaurants are popular because they taste good not just because they are a tourist trap! In saying this, we’ve found some real treasures by asking locals at other times as well.  Do both.  Go to the out of the way treasure a local told you about and eat at the place every other tourist visits as well.  They can both be amazing experiences.

A tourist would get up early and see as many sights as they could before crashing that evening…

We did this the first day and realized pretty quickly that walking the streets of Rome on an August afternoon with three kids is about as pleasant as getting your fingernails ripped out.  It’s hot, uncomfortable and no matter how amazing the sight, all you can think of is sitting in an air conditioned room or dumping a bucket of ice over your head.  Add in three complaining kids and you can imagine how much you would enjoy the experience.

Here we are first thing in the day.  Everyone is getting a little hot, but still excited about all the amazing things we will see.
It was getting pretty hot as we walked towards the Colloseum and Forum so we stopped off in the shade to rest.  We’re fading, but still enthralled by the things we are seeing.  Check out the “bench” we are sitting on.  The top of an ancient Roman column!
Things disintegrated quickly as we walked through The Colloseum.  Parker put his Rick Steve’s audioguide on headphones and went ahead.  Things are going downhill, but they are still able to refrain from bugging their brothers and fake a smile for the camera just to please their sweating and frustrated mother.  They are standing inside The Colosseum and beyond the arch behind them is the Roman Forum.
At this point Parker will not pose for pictures anymore and you can see Luke and Tyler are having a hard time faking their smiles for the camera as they are sweating through their shirts.  There were no more pictures taken this day…
 

Fortunately, they did have really cool water fountains like this one near The Trevi Fountain all over the city.  It allowed us to go a little longer than would have been possible otherwise.
A traveler adopts the schedule of the local community they are visiting…

So for the rest of the time we were there, we adopted the locals schedule.  We got up (not too early) and got our sightseeing done in the morning.  Then we came back to our air conditioned apartment for 3-4 hours in the afternoon when the heat was the worst.  We would head out after the sun went down and get dinner and explore Rome at night.

This is what the Romans do.  If you eat dinner at 8:00 here, it’s considered early. Most Romans eat about 10:00 and the streets were generally still packed when we would head in about midnight.

This was the main room of the apartment we were renting.  2 bedrooms and a kitchen for less than we would pay for one hotel room!  We love Air BNB!  Notice we’ve completely closed off the windows so none of that afternoon sun is reaching us in our cool air conditioned apartment. (We felt like royalty staying here it was decorated so fancy, and the boys are doing their best impressions of royals on their thrones)
Out at night at the Piazza Navona in front of the Fountain of the Four Rivers designed by Lorenzo Bernini.  It represents the four major rivers of the four continents where the papal authority had spread up to that point: the Nile in Africa, the Danube in Europe, the Ganges in Asia, and the Rio de la Plata in the Americas.
Playing with bubbles in Piazza del Popolo.  We saw these bubble people in most squares we were in throughout Europe, but this lady (earning enough money to get from one place in the world to the next) let us join in the fun.  Parker got pretty good!
The boys loved watching these street artists create artwork with only a few tools, spray paint, and stencils, all in record time.  Very impressive!
 

Visiting the Trevi Fountain at night. It was just as crowded, but without the heat of the day pounding down on us we were able to sit for awhile and enjoy the people watching, not to mention the beautiful fountain.  The boys created a battle game using the fountain as a world where their civilizations fought one another.  I didn’t quite get it, but I love the creativity!

I love this picture because Jeromy and Parker are twins again!  Luke and Tyler were playing in the square while Jeromy and Parker read their books.   We don’t have room for hard copies so our books are all digital.  Thank you Overdrive and the public library for making it all free!


A tourist sticks to the main sights and doesn’t venture off the outlined route.  They check sights off their list and move on…

There are some pretty amazing sights in Rome and especially when you are limited on time, it is actually very helpful to have a good guidebook or website that can help you get the most out of your time.  We definitely spent time checking off the major places to see.

The Colloseum ✅
Castel Sant’Angelo ✅
Michelangelo’s Pieta ✅, Located in St. Peters Basilica ✅, in Vatican City ✅.  My favorite statue of all time.
 

The Spanish Steps ✅

A traveler finds local festivals and parties with the locals…

When you have a little more time and get off the beaten path, it can be a lot of fun too!  We were wandering around one night and came upon this fun festival down by the river.

Foosball under the bridge!  So fun, even though Luke and I lost.  When did my boys get to the point where they can legitimately beat me at things?
We don’t drink alcohol, but after a granita we can get a little crazy! 😉
A tourist accidentally sits on ancient statues to get a funny picture. (We weren’t the only ones!)…


A traveler sees what the locals are doing and joins in…

Our last day in Rome we took the Metro out to the Roman Aqueducts.  It was really cool to see this amazing feat of engineering from 2000 years ago that brought water all the way into Rome, and is still sort of standing today.

It was another really hot day and as we were walking back we happened upon some kids and men cooling off in the run off from a current aqueduct.  Since my boy’s underwear cover a lot more than any of the speedos everyone else was wearing, they stripped down and hopped in to cool off.  It made for a memorable afternoon joining in on the local way to cool off.




A tourist takes selfies and pictures in contrived spots or where everyone else is taking pictures…

How can you see some of these things and not take a picture?  I think it makes it fun!


I didn’t even get anything scenic in this, we could be in Washington for all you know!


We threw coins in the Trevi Fountain guaranteeing we would return some day!  It’s worked so far for me!

A traveler takes artistic pictures with no one in them…

Roman aqueducts at Parco degli Acquedotti


The Swiss Gaurd in Vatican City. The smallest country in the world.
The statue of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica. You can see where his foot has been worn down by the faithful who come here to rub or kiss it in honor and prayer to this great man.
The Colloseum

There is one thing any traveler, tourist or local will agree about when you are in Rome.  You must eat lots of gelato!


As you can probably tell, I don’t really like the traveler/tourist distinction.  Depending on where we are, how much time we have there, and how we are feeling that day, we decide what to do.  Sometimes it’s throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain (tourist) and sometimes it’s swimming in the aqueduct runoff with locals (traveler).

As you travel you should definitely try to step out of your comfort zone, but that means something different for every person and I don’t pretend to know what that means for you.  It also doesn’t take traveling across the world to far away places to be a traveler.  You can go out and explore in the area where you live right now.  Even driving a different way home from work, or going to a new park in your own town with your kids.  Jeromy laughs at me because when we get lost or go the wrong way, I’ll often say, “Well at least we got to travel on this new road.”  All of it is being a traveler and experiencing new things, which will inevitably make your life richer.

Out Like A Parisian

While we only stayed in Paris a week, that almost felt like having a home after moving so quickly between places the previous month.  Given that feeling of home we were having, we did our best to live like the local Parisians do!  We attempted to do this by:

Staying in an apartment

We rented a cute little apartment in the 2nd Arrondissement (district) to stay in while we were in Paris.  On our trip we’ve stayed in a variety of places that all have their positives and negatives just like anything.  Hotels are more consistent and come with staff that make it easy to ask questions, find things to do, or get directions.  Apartments are great because there is a kitchen and also there is at least one bedroom which makes it nice to spread out and have some personal space.  Jeromy did a great job on Air BNB picking out our apartment in Paris, wooden beams, shuttered windows looking out on the street below, surrounded by tons of shops and restaurants, and across from the best crepe place in town.  What more could you ask for?!

Jeromy and Luke looking out our windows down to us on the street

Hanging out with friends

One of the highlights of our trip to Paris was meeting up with our good friends Abe and Holly!  They just happened to be traveling there the same time as us and we were able to meet up a few different times.  It seemed unreal to say, “Why don’t we meet in front of the Notre Dame.”  Or “Should we get fondue in the Latin Quarter tonight?”  We never would have thought we would be saying those things to each other when they invited us to their house for dinner 10 years ago in La Center, WA!  We even got to go to church together just like the old days!

Finding a favorite local restaurant

Our first night when we arrived everyone was hungry and it was late.  We quickly checked Yelp and saw that the restaurant across the street, La Crepe Dentelle, was rated really well.  That night we had the best crepes ever!  Homemade caramel sauce, yes!  Nutella, yes!  Whipped cream, yes!  I was curious and looked up what “dentelle” meant in English and it means “lace.”  That is a perfect description of the crepes made there, by an old French man, who spoke almost no English, but was able to communicate his loving and generous spirit to us through his wonderful smile and delicious crepes.  We’ve had a lot of crepes on our trip, and so many have been delicious, but none compare to the lacy goodness of La Crepe Dentelle.

Being concerned about terrorism

Not everything is no worries and sunshine when you are traveling.  One big concern we had about going to Paris was terrorism due to the recent attacks throughout France and other parts of Europe.  I felt a palpable tension in the people while we were there, you couldn’t help it.  There were armed military wandering through tourist areas and metal detectors and pat downs before entering major historic sights.  While it was a bit disconcerting, it was also reassuring to know they were taking the threats very seriously.  In fact, as we arrived at the Eiffel Tower to go up at sunset one night, the whole thing was surrounded by military and closed off.  We hightailed it out of there and decided to go up the Arc de Triomphe instead.  We later learned that the closure was due to a suspicious package.  At times when I was in a crowded place, or especially in the Metro, I was definitely watchful and a bit uneasy.    Fortunately, we were safe while we were there, but we just heard of an attempted attack at the Notre Dame Cathedral and at the train station where we arrived into the city.

This was in the Latin Quarter, but it was a familiar sight throughout Paris

Eating gourmet foods

Ok, we didn’t have a lot of this type of thing…

But we did have a lot of these types of things…

Nutella crepes
Macaroons
Amorino gelato, shaped like flowers!
Fondue and raclette
Eclairs
Luke’s favorite was the Nutella crepes!

Shopping on the Champs-Elysees

I don’t know if local people do this but it was fun for me.  We really don’t do much shopping (except for food) in our travels.  Firstly, because we don’t have any room to take anything with us and secondly, because I have three boys and a husband, none of which like to shop.  However, on this day we had to shop because we found that each of the boys needed one more outfit.  Jeromy and I could last one more day than them before needing to do laundry and we had a little room to spare, so each of the boys got one new outfit and I got to do a little shopping!

Going to a local Parisian’s house

This is a stretch to say a “local person’s house,” but I had to fit the pictures in here somehow!  We went to The Palace of Versailles one afternoon and wandered through the halls of past French Royalty.  We got there too late in the day to go through the gardens but the views from the palace were amazing.  One other interesting thing was that there was a display on how the French Navy helped the United States during the Revolutionary War.  I learned a lot about the important role France played in helping us gain our independence.  It’s always interesting learning about history as told from another country’s perspective.

Hall of Mirrors at The Palace of Versailles
The Gardens

Praying where Parisians pray

Not only were we able to attend church at a local congregation of our own church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), but I had a very profound experience when visiting The Notre Dame Cathedral.   As I sat there in the Notre Dame Cathedral and said a short prayer, as I often do when visiting churches we visit in our travels, the feeling came to me of all the people who, for centuries have sat there praying in that same church.  Mothers praying for their children’s good health, wives praying for their husbands to return to them from war, and the brokenhearted praying for peace in their hearts.  It was a humbling experience for me to think about the generations of faith filled people of all kinds, who came searching for peace then, and the people who are praying for the same things today.

The Notre Dame Cathedral during the day
The Notre Dame Cathedral at night

Joan of Arc was a young peasant who claimed to see visions instructing her to help Charles IV of France in the 100 years war.  She was sent in and is given credit for turning the tide of the war and paving the way for eventual French victory.  On May 23 1430 she was captured, tried, and soon after burned at the stake at only 19 years old.  She later was declared a saint and this statue was placed in Notre Dame in her honor.
The back of The Notre Dame Cathedral at sunset
The Notre Dame Cathedral from a park across the river

Buying fresh baguettes and croissants each morning at the Boulangerie (bakery)

Since learning French people bought their food daily at little shops for each type of food in Mrs. Loubey’s class my sophmore year of high school, I knew I wanted to go to Paris and shop like that!  So it was with great pleasure I went out every morning to buy some fresh fruit, croissants, and baguettes for my family.  I love that the French make an experience out of eating!  Americans are so efficient in everything we do.  At home, I go to Costco and stock up with huge tubs of peanut butter and Nutella, get multiple loaves of bread (planning to freeze some) and stock up on my meat I need for a month.  Living all the way out in La Center I’m not going to change to shopping everyday like this, but it was fun to do for the week while we were in the perfect place to try it out!

Going to the local fair

The Clark County Fair (our local fair) was going on at home while we were in Paris.  This is a highlight of the boy’s summer every year and as I saw all the posts on Facebook, I was sad to be missing it.  But low and behold what do we find in the Jardin des Tuileries but their local summer fair going on!  We had fun riding the rides and having just a little taste of what we were missing at home.

In the picture look beyond the cute park at the HUGE, yellow and white, sledgehammer like ride behind them. Tyler and I went on that and it was intense! I was sick for an hour after but it was pretty fun that in the first view I had of the Eiffel Tower it was upside down!

Feeding pigeons and watching boats in The Tuileries Garden

Visiting local museums

Ok, the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay aren’t exactly “local museums” but we couldn’t leave Paris without going to see at least some of the masterpieces housed there.

Outside the Louvre Museum
This is not a very Parisian thing to do, but Luke sure is cute being a tourist!
Tyler’s favorite thing to see in the Loure was the Mona Lisa!  The Louvre is huge and we couldn’t have seen it all if we had been staying in Paris a month, but we were able to see some pretty fantastic pieces of art, including this beautiful lady.
Inside the Musee d’Orsay which was built inside an old train station.  While it is small in comparison to the Louvre it is my favorite because it is so much more accessible, and I love impressionist art.
A beautiful Degas sculpture
Claude Monet
The boys lasted for awhile, but grew tired of the museum before I did.  Fortunately they were able to sit quietly playing chopsticks, one of our favorite games to pass the time, while I spent more time among some of the most beautiful art in the world.
My boys were so nice to wait for me while I stayed just a little bit longer…
View from inside the Musee d’Orsay

Walking, walking and more walking

Paris is a walking city.  You don’t want to take the Metro too much because around every corner is another beautiful building, neighborhood, or park.  We logged lots of miles while in Paris, our feet hurt at night and Luke was wearing through the first layer of his shoes.  We tracked our steps with an app on Jeromy’s phone and it was fun to see on all our stops how far we went in a day.  The crazy thing was that although we were taking tons of steps according to his phone, that didn’t count all the extra steps the kids took every time we stopped at a playground or park so we could rest our feet and the kids ran around playing!  On our longest day we walked over 11 miles, over 31,000 steps, and we ended that day climbing up the stairs to the Arc de Triomphe at sunset.  We have some pretty amazing children, especially Luke whose little legs probably had to do double the number of steps ours did!

Quite a day!
Luke and I reading “A Walk in Paris” in The Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. The store not only sells new and used books, it functions as a free reading library to the public, and houses aspiring writers and artists in exchange for their helping out around the bookstore.  Since 1951, more than 30,000 people have slept in the beds tucked between the bookshelves.  When you walk in the entrance you pass under the shop’s motto, “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.” 
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Inside Shakespeare and Company Bookstore
Arc de Triomphe
View from the top of the Arc de Triomphe at Sunset
The Eiffel Tower from on top of the Arc de Triomphe.  Once an hour the whole thing sparkles with lights.  It is magical!

Going to EuroDisney?

While this is a pretty touristy thing to do, there weren’t many people there so it felt like we were in on a local secret.  No lines at Disney!  Yes, please!!  While it was a little smaller than the California and Florida ones, there were some rides we haven’t seen before in the Disney Studios Park, and the fact that there were no lines made it our kid’s favorite trip to Disney yet!

Luke when we were on our way to The Tower of Terror…”My stomach is nervous but my face is happy!”

We really enjoyed our week in Paris and doing our best version of living like Parisians!  I think we’ve got a lot to learn, but we sure had fun trying. Au revoir Paris…Ciao Roma!

At the airport in Paris on our way to Rome!

Out in Amsterdam

From Bruges we hopped on the train for a quick train ride up to Amsterdam.  Before leaving on this trip around the world there were things we anticipated would be difficult and things we thought would be easy.  One thing that we assumed would be challenging was the actual traveling (via train, car, airplane, bus, ferry etc.) between all the places.  Surprisingly, our kids love our travel days!  Our days are so busy in cities that our travel days are time for them to rest, play on their ipods, read, play cards, or just do nothing.  In fact, it wasn’t unusual to hear phrases like, “Is it already over!”  And “I wish we could be on the train a little longer.”

So far, our favorite mode of transportation has to be the train.  We bought a Eurail pass for each of us that lasted two months.  This provided us with unlimited train travel through most the countries we were visiting.  There are many great things about trains.  The number one thing is that you do not have to go through cumbersome and time consuming security like at the airport.  We could get to the train station 5 minutes before our train left and be just fine.  Some other great things about riding on the train are:  when you are on the train you can walk around freely, the seats are bigger than on planes, you can go buy food when you are hungry, they have streaming wifi, and they aren’t as crowded so we can often spread out.

Our favorite card games to play were Golf and Crazy Eights
So after a quick ride on the train we arrived in Amsterdam where I immediately understood why it has been dubbed, “The Bicycle City.”   Thousands of bikes stood outside the train station in multilevel bike “parking garages”, some of which were even floating!  Bikes lined every bridge, walkway, and doorstep.  I later learned from my taxi driver that once a year the government comes and takes all the bikes that aren’t claimed and donates them.  So people just leave their old or broken bikes out when they are done with them.  It was apparently almost time for this to happen again when we were there.  It was pretty crazy!

Amsterdam train station

This was a barge next to the train station to provide more bike parking!
There are two types of people who travel to Amsterdam, those who go for the legal drugs, brothels, and strip clubs and those who go for the museums, flowers, and beautiful architecture.  Guess which group we fall into?!  I am sure there are people who also go for all of the above, but we tried to avoid the first list of things as much as possible…with a few close calls.  Once, we used GPS to try to find a good restaurant and it led us right towards the “Red Light District.”  We quickly realized our mistake as we found the need to tell our kids to “look the other direction” too many times.  The other thing was that Luke has been picking out postcards in each city to send home to Grandparents as his “journal” of our trip.  We quickly learned in Amsterdam that you cannot browse through the postcard section even in the good parts of town!

We found one of my favorite travel quotes in a shop window while walking around!

The Pokemon craze made it to Europe too!

Whenever one goes to Holland one must get a picture in oversized wooden shoes. 😉
With a little planning and being aware of your surroundings, Amsterdam is actually a great city for families.  They seemed to have playgrounds on every other corner, which made it lots of fun for the kids.  Also, because I am way behind on writing this blog I can compare my experiences at the museums to those in many other major European cities and I found Amsterdam’s to be the most kid-friendly by far.

Both the Rijks Museum and The Van Gogh Museum had special audio tours specifically for children.  These were entertaining and informative even for me!  Parker and Jeromy opted for the regular audio tours, but they were very happy with those as well.  We were able to spend an hour and a half in each of those museums without any complaining about being bored from any of the kids.  When they completed the audio guides and told the museum gift shop, they even got a prize!

In front of the Rijks Museum

Rembrandt Harmensz Van Rijn, Nightwatch

Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid

I loved this painting because it brought me back to beach days playing with my siblings and the Dyers !

Love…

Before traveling to a new place I always like to read books set in the area we will be traveling.  I had just finished reading “The Miniaturist” and imagine my surprise when I happened upon the actual cabinet owned by Petronella Oortman while wandering through the Rijks Museum!  The book was entirely fictional, but it was fun to see the actual cabinet on which the author based the story.

Luke was so excited to become a “Van Gogh Expert” while at the Van Gogh museum! 

In anticipation of our trip to Amsterdam, we listened to the Audio version of “Diary of A Young Girl” as we drove around Germany.  We also watched a movie adaptation of the book.  This made our trip to Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam much more meaningful for all of us.  What makes Anne Frank’s diary such a powerful thing to read is that it shows you how an average, fairly self absorbed, teenage girl lived in hiding.  It made it personal and more real because she was so real.

I love this quote from John Green from the book “The Fault in Our Stars” because, although it is a tragedy what happened to Anne Frank, there are so many more that suffered the same and much worse during the tragedy of the Holocaust that we need to remember too.  In this quote he is talking about a book that is in the Anne Frank Museum of people who died during the holocaust. He says,

“The book was turned to the page with Anne Frank’s name, but what got me about it was the fact that right beneath her name there were four Aron Franks.  FOUR.  Four Aron Franks without museums, without historical markers, without anyone to mourn them.  I silently resolved to remember and pray for the four Aron Franks as long as I was around.”

It was a very powerful experience.  I don’t have any pictures because none were allowed in the museum.

While we were in Amsterdam we also had one night we were able to go out on a date night with just Jeromy and I.  We went to a great dinner and wandered the city, just the two of us.  I love my kids, but being together 24/7 can be wearing.   It’s one of the blessings of having a child old enough to babysit!  A much needed night out by ourselves every once and awhile.

This is how the boys spent the whole night!  Happy to not be traipsing around a museum or city looking at architecture.  They spent the night focusing on their Minecraft and watching “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Ratatouille” in anticipation of our trip to Paris the next day.

Out in Bruges, Belgium

While we only spent four nights in Bruges, Belgium, you would be amazed at the amount of chocolate and waffles we were able eat in such a short period of time!  Oh, and we squeezed in a little sightseeing as well.

If you are looking for a quintessential European town, Bruges is it.  With a beautiful town square, canals, old buildings, magnificent churches, cobblestone streets, and delicious food, it has everything you could want.  I came to Bruges 18 years ago when I traveled through Europe and couldn’t wait to return.  Jeromy was equally excited because we were engaged when I came here and he remembered how much I loved it then.  I promised to take him here someday and we finally made it!

Upon arrival in Belgium we were able to get waffles before even leaving the train station!  Right away the boys realized they were going to like this place.  For those of you who haven’t had the incomparable experience of having a REAL Belgian waffle and are wondering what all of the fuss is all about, I will let you know a little about how they are eaten here.

  1. Waffles are not a breakfast food here.  They are considered more of a dessert, deservedly so.
  2. There are waffles shops all over and you can even get waffles from vending machines. (They aren’t as good as fresh ones, but still beat an American Belgian waffle any day of the week)
  3. The waffles are more dense with large sugar crystals throughout.  Because of this there is no need for syrup or other topping, although adding Nutella, caramel, or fresh strawberries is always an option, depending on your mood.
  4. They are more dense then our Belgian waffles.
  5. They are infinitely more delicious!


From the train station, we headed to where we stayed in Bruges.  It was a cute little row house right near the center of town.

Looking down from the second story to our courtyard.  While that Koi pond was fun to look at, it was also a breeding ground for mosquitoes that ate us alive the first night we were there.  Jeromy and the boys went on a mosquito hunt that morning ending many a mosquitoes life that day.  After that, no more open windows!
Frosties…The breakfast of champions!

Not only the waffles and chocolate were good in Bruges, but all of the food we had there was amazing!  It is known to be a foodie place, and it definitely delivered.  Even their McDonald’s was fancy!

Canals crisscrossed through the town and we took a boat ride to get our bearings.


Then for some waffles…

With a little help from Tripadvisor, we found that Chez Albert had the best waffles in town.  Here Parker went with Nutella and Tyler got caramel topping.


The Markt (Main square)

Luke loved these buildings because he said they looked like they were just flat pictures and then he was amazed that you could actually go into them!
The boys loved playing with bubbles in the square.
The historic Belfort.  You could climb 366 stairs to the top for a magnificent view.  We opted for more waffles…


We went to a couple concerts…

Luc Vanlaere had a free harp and other stringed instruments concert.  It was only 45 minutes long so the kids stayed interested and he did a great job!  It was fun to see the variety of stringed instruments he played and even created.
There was a concert in Burg square one night.  We stayed for a little while, but I was nervous about being in a crowded concert with the recent terrorist attacks in Europe so we headed out after a short time. 


And ate chocolate…

With diligent internet research as well as personal taste testing we found Dumon Chocolates to be our favorite.  All their chocolates were handmade in Bruges and they were divine!
I had never seen this before, but they had these in all the shops.  Spoons with chocolate on them to stir into the steamed milk to make Belgian Hot Chocolate.  Soooo good!


We saw Michelangelos statue “Madonna and Child”…

The only one of Michelangelo’s statues to cross the Italian border, “Madonna and Child” is on display at The Church of Our Lady that was just 2 minutes from our house.  The statue is a masterpiece, but the rest of the church was stunning as well.


And ate more waffles…


Saw windmills…

Inside a working windmill


Had waffles and chocolate…

The rest of us stayed with the traditional waffles, but Luke loved the Waffle On A Stick!


Found really fun parks to play at...

If you look closely at this picture, you will see Tyler in the air mid flip.


And ate more waffles…

After ogling our delicious waffles (strawberries and whipped cream this time) look behind us at the port-o-potties.  Very efficient, but not very private!  Of course all the boys had to try them out.


To gain a greater understanding of all the delicious chocolate we were eating we went to the chocolate museum.  It was actually very informative and we all learned a lot about chocolate!  Plus, they gave us some for free…

Yes, these look more like the poo emoji than a piece of chocolate, but that’s the only way I got Parker to get in this picture!  It also made it more fun to search for as we went through our tour.


To burn off all that food we rented bikes one day and rode through Flanders fields out to the town of Damme.

Minnewater Lake (also known as Lake of Love)

We had a delicious lunch in Damme at this restaurant
Twins!  We have limited clothes so every so often Parker and Jeromy end up being twins for the day.  Parker of course is horrified but it makes Jeromy feel young!


Yes they are dabbing in this picture.  Jeromy tried to dab with Luke on the tandem bike and Luke went flying!  He was okay, but we decided a good rule of thumb is no dabbing while riding a tandem bike.


And after that long ride we thought we better get some waffles…


Then it was off to the train station to head to Amsterdam…better pick up some chocolate for the train ride…