Last summer, my son Gage participated in an exchange program in Düsseldorf, Germany. This was the perfect reason (read: excuse) to make it a family affair and plan a getaway for my husband Chris and me, too. We need to spend as much time with the kid as we can before he heads off to college and we only see him on holidays or when we’re dying.
So, a couple days before Gage’s program wrapped up, Chris and I flew into Germany and spent a day in Düsseldorf. We caught the train to Amsterdam and spent several days there before Gage joined us. From there, we all went to Brussels, London, and Paris before returning to Düsseldorf and finally back to Georgia.
We had a great time and there are so many moments from our little hopscotch across Europe that will stay with me forever. Here’s a few highlights:
Our accommodations in Düsseldorf were absolutely divine. The Medici Hotel was built in 1619 and feels like a castle, but with all the modern must-haves. Over the centuries it’s been home to a town hall, a monastery, a museum… After WWII, it was turned into a hotel and began housing kings, queens, and now me!
Amsterdam might have been my favorite stop. I loved the canals and how incredibly easy it was to navigate the city. The food was delicious. The pancakes. Oh my, the pancakes.
Vondel Park was amazing. The private boat ride through the city canals was incredible. We took the Leemstar boat with Arnut, the owner, and managed to get a private trip. We brought champagne and tapas foods for our little journey and were in heaven! It was definitely like something out of a storybook… except for the massive rainstorm. Thankfully, I wandered into the most beautiful little shop owned by a young designer. She works independently and does all of the work for her business herself. We stopped inside to get out of the rain, and get this– the only thing she sold was raincoats. While I was shopping and talking, I got a sense for how passionate she was about her work, and got to take home a souvenir that is, honestly, the best raincoat I have ever owned.
Chris and I wanted to see the old Dutch windmills so we went to Zaance Schans, which is just a little outside of Amsterdam. The windmills were mind blowing by the way. While there we wandered into a small chocolate lab called Zaans Gedaan CacaoLab. Everyone who knows me knows I have a sweet tooth, so this was my idea of heaven, and the staff there were like a fresh batch of knowledgeable chocolate angels. Everything there was certainly a chocolate lovers delight. They even have a hot chocolate buffet —what’s not to love about that?
From Amsterdam we took the EuroRail over to Brussels and stayed there for a few days. It was cool, with a very lively nightlife. Gage’s favorite part was an amazing Virtual Reality Room, Virtual Room Brussels. It was so real it was crazy. We all enjoyed it though, not just Gage. We even went back and did a different room.
Next we hopped the Eurorail to London. I got to ride through the CHUNNEELLLLLL!! It was crazy. We did a ton while there, boat rides, the Eye, and lots of walking!
After London we popped over Paris. There we stayed at the lovely Astotel Hotel. It was in a great location and we could walk to a lot of the things we wanted to see and do. Paris is huge so it’s best to plan out what you would like to do and see and stay in the area accordingly. Paris is definitely a maximalist’s dream. The architecture there is really amazing.
We went to the Louvre and spent hours. Gage finally bailed on us after we saw the Mona Lisa. He had had his fill with museums and church tours. Chris and I stayed for several more hours and we still didn’t see everything. We also spent an afternoon visiting the Eiffel Tower. The tower is interesting but the views were absolutely incredible.
One oddball/cool thing we did while there was took simulated flight lessons with Flight Experience. It was very cool. The lessons are done on the Boeing 737 simulators that actual trained pilots learn on and the sessions are taught by pilots. Can I just brag here for one quick second? My landing was perfect. Smooth and steady, even through a storm. My husband killed us all. You can fly into any major airport in the world and you get to set the weather. It was a lot of fun but very intense.
After Paris, it was back to Düsseldorf where Gage became our tour guide. Since he had already spent two weeks there, he knew his way around and had a couple of favorite restaurants. It was fun to hear the history of the city from him. He actually listened!
Jumping around Europe is totally easy. The Eurorail is a dream. You can hop on a train to just about anywhere with no problem. I do recommend that you get first class seats for all the journeys if you are on a schedule. On most trips, the First Class is the only reserved seating. Others are based on first come first serve basis. (Plus, in first class, they feed you.)
When you’re doing that much traveling, it’s important to make sure you’re packed as efficiently as you can be. I loved the SmithHönig Wanderer Tote I took with me. It kept me organized and looked so stylish!
When we designed our SmithHönig travel bags, we did it with trips like these in mind. They’re durable, easy to lug around an airport, and perfect whether you’re going cross-country or cross-continent. We also made sure to use only vegan leather– no animals harmed in the making of these fabulous travel accessories!
I’m so grateful to have had one more amazing trip with my whole family before Gage flies the coop, and I’m glad I get to do it with products that take the stress out of travel.
From weekend carry-alls to everyday totes, we’ve got all your adventures covered.