As we get ready to embark on our mini road trip through Europe this summer see rookie road trip, I started reminiscing on our many past travels in Europe, and the first time we did such a road trip- Four years ago now when Shahaar was five and Shama two and half. We had already known the kids were good with travelling, they have taken several long haul flights to Bangladesh and USA, long 8 hour bus journeys in Bangladesh and several road trips within UK – Wales, Norwich, Lake District, Scotland and Cornwall. And more times to London than we can count!
The 2011 Europe road trip was particularly exciting as the kids were old enough to look forward to random things they have been learning about these new countries – Manneken Pis in Belgium, Black Forest, and Swiss and Belgium chocolate! They shared in the excitement of the preparation which was great. We took the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk (first ferry across Europe for all of us).
We visited Brussels and Bruges in Belgium and what the kids most remember about it is the sweet shops there!
Brussels was lovely, even though the hotel we stayed in was more oriented for business people and not for families. We enjoyed the main square, Belgium Beer, the architecture, and discovered out that Shama had an eclectic taste in cuisine – she thoroughly enjoy her moule and frites! We really enjoyed Bruges with its many canals, cobblestoned streets and historical buildings, it was much more child friendly with less cars and people cycling everywhere.
We continued onto our next destination Germany(via France). Somewhere along the way we managed to drive in and out of Luxemburg,(I admit until that trip I didn’t know that country existed.) We stopped for a long lunch at a lovely village in France. We were all looking forwarded to Black Forest in Germany. For Ashique and I, this was something special from our childhood in Bangladesh. Back when we were young, you didn’t have too many foreign desserts (We had our own share of sweets to choose from!) but black forest cake was one of them. Over there, we stayed in a beautiful guesthouse, overlooking fruit orchards and hills, we went on lovely walks and Shahaar discovered his new favourite food- Schnitzels! We went on our first proper hike, did 7k while learning all about orienteering. Both kids walked most of the way themselves(with some whining and generous bribes of candy).
After Germany we headed for Switzerland and spent 10 wonderful days, first with Ashique’s family, then with friends. This was our 3rd trip to Zimmerboden, Zweizemen and each time we find it just as beautiful with its magestic mountains, green pastures and the picture perfect postcard views of every building. Switzerland is super expensive, and it is only because of our friends lovely parents, that we are able to enjoy its beauty without putting a huge dent in the bank account! First part of the trip we did some sightseeing, cable car rides up to one mountain and hiked down another, castles, and Shahaar did his first aerial adventure
I even managed to run (which I found super hard on mountain roads) and did Yoga few times – nothing beats doing Yoga with such beautiful mountain views! Once the family left, our friends Liz and Rubai arrived, along with my godson Dylan who I met for the first time, making the trip all the more special! Our last 5 days in the Swiss Alps was aptly called ‘crazy paradise’ with 7 children, who had very little(or no) common language between them (German, Bangla, English and Tripura tribe hill tract dialect) yet the moment they met, all you saw were kids interacting, splashing about in the stream, laughing, playing, communicating so freely with no restrictions, as mostly children can!
I think for us, one of the reasons it has been possible to travel so much, is because we reach out to friends across the world, stay in touch, open our home to them as they do to us when we travel. As much as we love exploring new places and meeting new people, it is important for us to remain connected with people we love, and hence we always tend to combine our journeys with visiting friends/family. Makes the trip slightly cheaper and we are able to enjoy old and new friendships.
It strikes me that we have started travelling around as a family unit, in the most expensive parts of the world, mainly Europe and America (Ashique and did lots of travelling in Asia before the kids) Can you imagine how cheap -and how long we would be able to do this- once we have moved back to Bangladesh? All of Asia will be our backyard to explore 🙂