Colmar and Castle

Colmar and Castle

We have come a ways from our holiday in Malta two years ago, during which Tony had to negotiate hard with me for a day or two out of a two-week vacation that did not include hard-core sightseeing. These days I am more or less content to have some relaxing days during a holiday, especially if there is somewhere beautiful nearby for me to explore with Lyra while everyone else plays multiplayer games and watches YouTube blooper videos. But I couldn’t visit Alsace even for the lofty purpose of skiing without spending a day immersed in the history and culture of the region.… Read more

Ski Holiday in Alsace

Ski Holiday in Alsace

The kids have been begging for a ski trip for years; pretty much ever since we moved to Amsterdam and they learned from friends of the existence of ski trips. California girl that I am, skiing has never been much on my radar. I had a brief stint as a snowboarder in college because my roommate was obsessed, but as a highly anxious person, I generally have enough adrenaline in my life without purposely creating more by sliding at breakneck speed down a snowy mountainside.

However, I’ve noticed that parenthood is all about jumping heedlessly into things you’re totally unqualified and madly unprepared for.… Read more

Thanksgiving Far from Home

Thanksgiving Far from Home

What do I love so much about Thanksgiving? I think it’s that there are no traditions to worry about except hanging out together and cooking and eating with people I care about. There’s something so cosy and nice about being warm together inside while it’s cold outside and the smell of turkey and stuffing and pie and everything else taking its turn in the oven wafts in from the kitchen.

It’s the quintessential family holiday, but it’s also a holiday that I have spent many times away from family. Thanksgiving away from family is a puzzle to be solved. Not celebrating is just sad and unthinkable, but since people, preferably lots of people, are a key ingredient to the holiday, celebrating does involve some planning and inviting, which can be more or less challenging depending on the circumstances.… Read more

London Without Kids – The V&A and the Ghost of the Regent Palace Hotel

London Without Kids – The V&A and the Ghost of the Regent Palace Hotel

When I did the obligatory unofficial Facebook poll of what to do in London, the two most recommended must-visits were Camden Market and the V&A. Camden Market will, alas, have to wait until a less grey and drizzly day. But as you know, I am always up for another museum, especially if it involves history or the fine arts. Or both, as the V&A does. It is a wonderful museum, and I heartily add my voice to the recommendations next time you are in London.

The 1899 ceremony in which the foundation stone of the museum’s current building was laid turned out to be Queen Victoria’s last public appearance, and it was then that it officially received its name, the Victoria & Albert Museum.… Read more

Living in Schinkelbuurt

Living in Schinkelbuurt

We are coming up on two years in Amsterdam, which means almost one year at our new house, in our new neighbourhood. Are we still happy with our choice to pick a little house in the city rather than a bigger one with a garden farther out? It’s still a resounding yes! The longer we live here, the more we love it.

Schinkelbuurt is a delightful little neighborhood of Amsterdam that is also somewhat unknown. Possibly because it’s so little. It’s just that red-highlighted triangle with a tail in the bottom left corner.

As a bonus, that screenshot also shows the location of several of the schools we visited, the yoga studio I attend, and several other landmarks I must have Googled at some time or other.… Read more

Weekend in Maastricht – Fort St. Pieter, the Zonneberg Caves, and the Best Bookstore in the World

Weekend in Maastricht – Fort St. Pieter, the Zonneberg Caves, and the Best Bookstore in the World

If you look at a map of the Netherlands (which I should do more often, since I know many of its cities only as final destinations for the trains I take), you see that Maastricht sits in what Wikipedia refers to as an “eccentric location” on a little extra tail that dips down between Belgium and Germany. Of course, as always, there are a variety of strategic historical and military reasons for this, which you can read about in Alexandre Dumas novels and various other places. In more modern times, it was chosen as the location for the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, establishing the European Union, which I hope we can all agree to go ahead and continue to keep intact.… Read more

Malta – Postscript

Malta – Postscript

This is a post for some random interesting stuff from Malta. Such as the language. What Maltese sounded like to me was a mixture of Arabic and Italian. Which in fact it more or less is! It originally descended from the version of Arabic being spoken in Sicily around the turn of the previous millennium (9th to 12th centuries A.D.), and it’s still considered by linguists to be a variety of Arabic, although it’s written in Latin characters (with some lovely funky additions like an H with an extra bar) and only perhaps a third of the current vocabulary descends from Arabic.… Read more

Christmas in Spain – Granada

Christmas in Spain – Granada

You may be surprised to hear that our trip to Spain was virtually unplanned. We bought our plane tickets and booked our house, but other than that the only thing we did was book our tickets to the Alhambra in Granada. The Alhambra is on every list of must-do’s in Spain. It’s perhaps the most well-known remnant of al-Andalus, the name given to Spain during its over 700 years as a Muslim civilization. Tickets to the Alhambra tend to sell out, so I made sure to get ours early. It just so happened that some Amsterdam friends from our children’s school were also in Spain for the holidays, and had booked their Alhambra tickets on the Monday before Christmas as well.… Read more

Christmas in Spain – Madrid

Christmas in Spain – Madrid

After a drizzly few months of autumn and winter in Amsterdam, nothing sounded better than Christmas in Spain. Axa and Raj get a whopping three weeks off of school, so we were able to take advantage of extra cheap plane flights to Madrid. We flew in Tuesday evening, and finally made it to our apartment sometime after one in the morning. Our host, Felix, graciously waited up for us to let us in. After three years of trying to understand Puerto Rican Spanish in Florida, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I’d forgotten the Spanish I learned on my mission to Chile.… Read more

Palaces and Puppet Shows

Palaces and Puppet Shows

One of the things we love about living in Amsterdam is visiting the city centre. While Amsterdam is famous for its multitude of, shall we say, earthly delights, there are also plenty of wonderful family-friendly activities here. Shortly after we arrived, we bought ourselves the Museumkaart, a card that allows you to get into most of Amsterdam’s museums and other historical sites like the Anne Frank House for free.

Our first couple of times using the cards at the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum were somewhat less than successful, due to a combination of crowds, long lines, and insufficient parental ingenuity.… Read more