Off-beat Europe With Kids

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Summer holidays are a time when you don’t know whether you are better off at home or out vacationing, because a trip with kids can become so much about just the kids that it doesn’t feel like a vacation for you at all! If a trip to Disneyland or yet another beach vacation is beginning to sound like the last 3, consider destinations which are equally exciting for you. Here’s a round up of the places we have been to (during the summer vacations), with kids when they were ages 3 months to 4 years, along with what can make it fun for kids…other than beaches and zoos.

Iceland, Greenland (June 2012):
We tripped for about 12 days across the two. Our trip to Iceland was limited to the southern parts – beautiful waterfalls, majestic mountains and moody landscapes, all in unpredictable weather. I guess it is the combination of the last 2 that leads to the the Icelandic people still believing in mystical creatures such as elves and trolls.
We covered the gorgeous Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss and Gulfoss waterfalls, drove around in the Vatnajokull National Park and the Skaftafell National Park, admired the glacier filled waters at Jokulsarlon and watched the breathtaking geysers at Geysir.
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Peachy was about 9 months old, which is a delightful age to travel at, as long as you can provide space for the baby to explore. We carried her around in a sling which she preferred to the pram so the breaks to make her sleep were minimised, she would just dose off anytime and anywhere. It was also a blessing that she was good with long drives as we drove around to almost everywhere.
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A day in Helsinki, Finland, on our way back to Delhi
While there wasn’t anything specific that we planned for Peachy during the holiday, she did appreciate the variety of animals, so we’d stop by at lakes and farms and trooped specifically to Black sand beach next to Reynisfjall to see the Puffin birds.
The grown-up stuff that we were bold enough to put her through, went fairly well. So apart from the drives, we took her on a skidoo ride (yes!) and to the Blue Lagoon for a swim.
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Skidoo ride with the Peach, we break for refuelling! She actually fell asleep on the ride back.
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 A dip in the Blue Lagoon. The changing areas were not very kid friendly, but did have baby chairs to plonk the little one in, while mommy/daddy changed.
The Greenland trip was limited to Illulissat. Illulissat means Icebergs in the local language and it is not difficult to see why. The ice fjord visible from town is a UNESCO world heritage site, filled with calving icebergs from the Eqi glacier 35km away. The Eqi glacier is the largest source of ice bergs in the northern hemisphere and the berg that took down the Titanic is thought to have originated here. We went at the time of light all night and it was amazing to watch the sun cruise along the horizon at, well, night, rather than dip away. The view of the glaciers was absolutely gorgeous, and Peachy enjoyed the long hikes and boat rides.
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You would think I’m cold, but I’m fun!
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The sun at 245am
Norway (September 2013) 
The Scandinavian side of Europe has always fascinated me. It just feels like there is whole different culture and beauty there that the rest of Europe just does not replicate. In that sense, Norway doesn’t disappoint at all. Even after having seen the ethereal glacier dotted landscapes of Iceland and Greenland, Norway was gorgeous. Mostly it was the Aurora Borealis – the northern lights, that took our breath away, but the fjord tours, the crystal clear still lakes and lovely hiking trails make it a worth a visit.
The Northern Lights were easily the biggest highlight, for which we had trooped all the way to Tromso and stayed for 3 nights since one can’t quite be sure of catching them on a particular day. There are tours, though, that chase The Lights right upto the Finnish border. We took one such tour, left at 10pm and went around for about 3 hours to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon. Staring into the Milky Way literally made me feel like i had come face to face with the universe and creation itself. Few other moments can make one feel like that, here is a list of mine.
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The Aurora Borealis
Then there is Flam. It is one of the most beautiful villages I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. With colourful little houses that reminded me of Toy-town (of Noddy fame), Flam is surrounded by the stillest lakes which make for fantastic photographs. We stayed at a little apartment with gorgeous views.

 

We spent a week across Tromso, Flam, Bergen and the Sognefjorden area because the northern lights were our main agenda. But In a week you could cover Oslo, Bergen, the Fjords and if you have more time, add in Tromso, Loforen Islands and the Atlantic road.

Norway, by far, is one of the most child friendly countries to travel to. There is child friendly infrastructure everywhere, the restaurants are more than happy to serve customised food and the food in general – soups and stews are good for young kids too. Even their trains had special compartment called Family Coupe which had a play area for kids, yes in a train!

We were well supported for Peachy at the northern lights tour, with the tour company providing us with additional blankets, a car seat in the bus and they even watched over the sleeping Peach in the bus, while we stepped out to view the lights. She was impressed with the ‘dancing lights’ too once she woke up, but the big shadows of the mountains scared her a little. The other fun things for two year old Peachy included a bike tour while being seated behind M, paddle boating at Flam, the troll statues all around, the Oslo Viking ship museum (largely because there was enough space for her to run around) and the trip to the Polaria at Tromso, where she got to see arctic seals and other exotic sea life.

 

Expensive as the country is, we saved money and had fun cooking in our apartment. The saved money went into shopping for chocolates and cosmetics, which wonderfully enough, were much cheaper than in India.
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That’s our off-beat Europe,  and you can read about Brazil here and Russia here.

The other places closer home are Singapore and Hong Kong, more on them in another post perhaps.

So take your pick of destination for this summer and happy trippin!

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