Czech Republic, check! We bailed on our Brno appartment in the ghetto, and stumbled upon a gem!

We arrived in Brno around 7pm after our lovely day at Devin Castle. We’d had notification from the accommodation that due to roadworks there was no car access to the hotel secure car park, but that we could find street parking nearby. I looked on my trusty google map and found street parking right next to the hotel on a side street. That’ll do, I thought.

On arriving to the street in Brno, we found that that while stretch up street was dug up, so there wasn’t even access to the side street – not from the direction, anyway. So we figured we’d make our way round the other side. Which looked straightforward… But wasn’t. A mix of one way roads and further road works took us quite a long way round to said side street. Which turned out to be the Brno ghetto! It was really quite scary driving through with yelling yobs and shady characters lurking around. I felt very uneasy about leaving the car there overnight with all our stuff in it. So decided to hop out to find out if there was any way to get to the parking. On opening my door I found we’d parked on broken glass – safety glass like from a car window. Gulp. 

To cut a long story short, I bartered with the receptionist who called her manager multiple times. They’d give us a €5 discount for not being able to use the parking. This really wasn’t satisfactory! So after discussing with Mike (who was sat in our car in the ghetto with our kids!), I went back and asked if they’d waive the cancellation fee. Although they had notified us the day before about not being able to park there, we weren’t to know until arriving what a rough area it was! My case was proven by the three drunks sat on a wall opposite the reception enterance! After more to-ing and fro-ing they agreed to waive the cancellation fee, and we drove off into the night! 

Both feeling quite energetic, for a change, we decided to head further north to cut down our traveling time to Wroclaw. We even considered driving all the way there! We felt free again for a little while, but arriving at 1:30am probably wouldn’t have been ideal!  So I found somewhere on booking.com that was literally on route, an Inn about 40 mins north or Brno. Unfortunately, once we got there it was all locked up and not a soul in sight. It said it opened until 10pm on the door, but it was only 9:40pm! Rude. So we continued on our way. I found somewhere else even further north and and it looked really nice, so I booked it and we arrived at 11pm. They were really helpful, which was great – they could have been looking at us like weirdos for booking at 10pm and turning up at 11pm with two small kiddies! But they couldn’t do enough to help. We all got to sleep nicely, Pip on the floor because their child ‘bed’ was a travel cot (they gave us a good discount!). 

It was a great hotel! We enjoyed a scrum my breakfast and there was a play park and some animals (an eagle owl and a South American coati!) out in the yard! All for less than the Brno ghetto appartment would have been. We enjoyed a mooch round the grounds and then headed off for the main event – Wroclaw, Poland, for my cousins wedding! 

Being poorly on holiday – thank you EU! And thank you lovely Hungarian relatives!

Eugh. Being ill on holiday is never nice. I came out on our road trip with a sinusy head cold that has never really shifted and came back full force this weekend with fever and chills etc. Not easy for Mike having do do more than his fair share of stuff. But, you know, we’re grown ups and we plough on. 

But poor Bee got rather poorly before the weekend and ended up with Croup (the one with the barking cough – see vid.. And call Drs immediately if your little one barks like a seal!). Croup can be quite serious and need hospitalisation in some cases.


Luckily this happened while we were staying in Budapest close to Hungarian relatives, so they kindly helped us out getting a appointment (on a Saturday, because these things always happen to us on weekends or bank holidays. No exaggeration). Plus escorting us to said appointment and translating. We were so lucky it happened when it did, as it wouldn’t have been quite as simple using google translate! And it was great that we were somewhere we had a base for a few nights and not on one of our ‘travelling legs’ of the trip. 

waiting in the paediatricians surger

waiting in the pharmacy

Bee was diagnosed with croup and prescribed some drops for the cough and also a steroid pessary (I think) to use that night to help her breathe. If she didn’t improve we’d have had a hospital trip… But luckily the drugs did their job and she bounced back in a couple of days. She still has a cough now, but is sooo much better and able to enjoy the holiday again. 

And for all of this we didn’t have to pay a penny, thanks to her EHIC – European Health Insurance Card. One of the many benefits of currently still being a member of the EU!

Four play parks, a Romantic Road and a Fairy Tale Castle. Our Journey from the Black Forest to Innsbruck via the Romantic Road and Neuschwanstein Castle. (Day 7 of Europe Road Trip)

One of our longest driving days yet was our journey from the central Black Forest to Innsbruck, via part of Germany’s ‘Romantic Road’, and an almost visit to Neuschwanstein Castle. We set off before 9am, and arrived at our Innsbruck hotel about 12 hours later. Don’t worry though, we’re not daft enough to drive for all that time! We took our time and had 3 stops at services with play parks, plus our sort of visit to Neuschwanstein Castle. The services with parks were brilliant – freedom to run around is just what the kids (and hubby) need after being cooped up watching Disney’s Planes on repeat. I think they really enjoyed their day of touring play parks – it went really well! 


The romantic road was very pretty, and worth a little extra travel time to see some of the real Germany, rather than autobahn views.


Also on our itinerary for the day was a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle, an iconic fairytale like castle nestled into the mountainside of the German Alps, not far from the border with Austria. Below, is its Wikipedia image, a shot that you can get by visiting a bridge called Marienbrück. So this was my plan, so I could recreate such photos with the power of my iPhone camera. And also take in this iconic landmark and surroundings. Because I’m a tourist.

Instead, after paying €6 to park 30 minutes (Times by 14 because of slow kids) down hill of said bridge, prepping the children for the walk, an excited Pip ‘flying’ up the the path with his wings out like Dusty Cropperhopper (when he’s saving Bulldog in the scene on Planes that shows an animated version of Neuschwanstein Castle. Obviously.), waiting ten minutes for Bee dawdling around and finally scooping her up despite her protests of “MYSELF! MYSEEEELF!”, we get 15 minutes up the hill to find a big sign saying that the bridge is closed for repairs! 😱😩 OK, 15 minutes for us would have been about 3 minutes for anyone else – but with all that effort for ‘nothing’ we felt very disappointed. 

But plan B had struck us as we drove to aforementioned car park – we could go up on the cable car to the view point at the top of the peaks and see it, and the rest of the world, from there! Hurrah! So off we tootled again. (Of course, this was a further 25 minutes later after the rigmarole of emptying children and inserting them back in the car). At just gone 4pm we arrived at the cable car spot which was 5 minutes down the road. Take two: we gathered our required belongings, plus what had been a despondent Pip (at not being to fly up to the “Big Castle” from Planes) who was now excited again because he was going to fly even higher! So we briefly queued for our tickets and when we got there the lady said “Is It just one way? Because the lift stops at 5pm, so you would only get 10 minutes at the top. And it’s €40.” Erm, no. We are not planning to spent the night in a cable car and pay that for the privilege. We were hoping to eat at the restaurant up there, but with no way down again, Plan B was foiled – so instead our photos of Neuschwanstein Castle are like this…


But at leas we saw it, and it is still very impressive for the valley bottom! Nevertheless, at this point in the day Pip cried 😦 And pretty much so did Daddy, who was very frustrated. Bee chewed a leaflet about mountain biking, so I don’t think she was too bothered. Luckily there was a (yet another) park and various things to do at the bottom of the cable car place. There was even another Rondelbahn… But this was more bobsled like (nothing to stop it flying out!) and the carts didn’t have a seatbelt – so I wasn’t keen on taking the kids on there. Luckily, Pip was more drawn to the park anyway, so he and Bee played. Meanwhile I went off practicing my German again to ask for gluten free food… To be met by a grumpy young lass, whose answer warp simply snap “nein.” No ‘sorry’, or any manners. Miserable moo. Anyway, faced with the possibility of another evening driving round to feed Pip, I talked to him and he agreed to have a picnic of the gluten free stuff from the car while we had bratwurst and currywurst and chips. He was so grown up about it. We try not to feed him any differently, but this this time it was the better of two evils (having learnt our lesson searching for gluten free food between the Nürburgring and Bacharach 1 see relevant post!). I don’t think he minded because we finished off with ice lollies! And they got treated a to a go on the little motor-trike thinks that were a little like dodgems.

The rest of our journey to Innsbruck was pretty uneventful, with the kids watching Planes for the 3745th time that day and eventually sleeping. Pheew!

We’re going on a bear hunt … In the Black Forest! ‘Wolf und Bären Park’ (Day 5 of Europe Road Trip.)

After our first of three nights in the Black Forest, we had a well needed morning of doing nothing. 4 tired bears chilled on front of the telly and played indoor games, while it chucked it down outside. 

Bee matching animal cards in the lounge of our Black Forest Appartment.


I also hand washed all of our laundry so far! Go me!


It brightened up in the afternoon, so we went to the Wolf and Bear park, 20 minutes away. All the Bears and Wolves here have been rescued from circuses and the like, and now have huge natural Black Forest enclosures to wonder around and be bears in. Given some of their pasts, they are not shy of humans and it is easy to get great photos. Which is a bit sad really, but they’re in the best place given they cannot be released in the wild.

The kids absolutely loved it, as did we. They followed the rules of being quiet really well. Which is quite suprising! But Pip has been taught that when animals are frightened, they might attack… So I think he really didn’t want to scare them! The only real noise was Bee squealing ‘awwwwwwww’ every time we saw another bear!  And when we saw one far away she said “Awww, tiny bear!”! Which reminded us of that Father Ted scene where he’s trying to explain to Dougal the small cows and the far away cows! (I writing this on my phone in transit so can’t get a link…Google it, it’s worth it!)

The Wolves were very shy, we caught a glimpse of one at the beginning, but not after that. But there were bees! Because of course bears eat honey 😉

Anyway, here’s a million photos, because BEARS!


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In the evening, the kids actually went to sleep and we got to be grown ups! So we played Pass the Pigs, and Maponimoes, a new game that’s like dominoes but matching up countries and borders etc. it’s really addictive and really good… But someone couldn’t get their head round it at first! “I don’t get it! It’s not intuitive! It’s a stupid game!” Hahaha!

(P.s. It’s taken three days to write this blog because the WordPress app on my phone is so glitchy! Hence lack of photo labels, and surplus of typos)

The Netherlands to Germany. Drielandenpunt und Nürburgring. Plus Bonus Country! (Day 2 of Europe road trip)

We don’t have many days with more than 2-3hrs of driving, but this was one of them. 

We woke early (7am) and had to wake the kids up. Someone was a terror going to sleep again, so was very tired…

Bed head. This little party animals hair was nearly as bad as mine when waking up!


We got ready as quickly as we could while chasing knee high octopuses (octopi? Octopodes?) around the room with underpants and dresses. We had a traditional Dutch breakfast of sprinkles on toast! Very yummy 🙂 And, yet again, our gluten free requirements were catered for superbly.

Our little coeliac enjoying his gluten free traditional Dutch breakfast of sprinkles on toast/bread!

With over 5 hours of driving we decided to take a packed lunch… From the breakfast buffet. We enjoyed this 2:30hrs down the road, where we left Pip in Belgium and Bee in the Netherlands, while we visited Germany! Of course this was at Drielandenpunt, the place where the Dutch, German and Belgian borders meet! 

They didn’t quite stay in the coutries they were asked to! But heres our family in the Netherland, Belgium and Germany all at once! At Drielandenpunt.

Breakfast buffet lunch at Drielandenpunt!


There’s a viewing tower that gives panoramic views across the three countries. Pip wasn’t too keen on it until lead to believe it was the Paw Patrol tower! And then he and Daddy climbed all the way up the outside! 

Paw Patrol Tower! I mean, viewing tower at Drielandenpunt


Bee and I took the lift… Which actually wasn’t much better! It was half glass panelled, and like much of the rest of Drielandenpunt, looked a little neglected. I wonder who maintains it? Perhaps the Dutch think the Germana are and the Geemans think the Beligians are and the Belgians think the Dutch are! 

Germany from the viewing tower at Drielandenpunt.

Belgium for the viewing tower at Drielandenpunt

Netherlands from the viewing tower at Drielandenpunt


Before heading off on our way I wanted a stereotypical tourist photo with 3 limbs in 3 different countries… Well, it’s got to be done!

One body, three countries!



The next stop on our epic travelling day was the Nürburgring! We eventually arrived at 4pm, so ‘only’ had time to go and sit in the grandstand for a while and watch… F1 testing!!! It was just €2 each for adults and kids under 8 were free. Very reasonable. I grew up watching Formula 1 with my late father and this experience bought back so many happy memories and feelings. Actually hearing the NEEEEEEEEE-OOOWWWWWWWMM of the doppler effect as they whizzed by, IN REAL LIFE, was amazing! Das was über gut! I thought of my Dad and wondered whether he’d had that experience? I don’t remember if I was ever told a story of his going to a Grand Prix or anything?

NEEEE-OOOWWWMM! Watching F1 cars at the Nüburgring!


We didn’t manage to stay too long though as the kids were finding it a bit loud (we do have ear defenders with us for the festival… But they are buried under tents and sleeping bags!). 

F1 cars are a bit too loud for mein kinder!


So we headed back in and bough a Nürburgring sticker for the roof box and the cheapest toy cars we could find for the kids!

Racing her mini at the Nürburgring!

Racing his new superfast car at the Nürburgring!


Unfortunately, we then had a rather difficult evening trying to get gluten free food for Pip. We tried two restaurants near the ring – Nope. Another one at a services on the way to our accommodation in Bacharach – Nope. And two restaurants in Bacharach, the latter of which could cater for him (or had at least heard of the condition). I think we probably could have got something suitable at any of these places, but language barrier and our tiredness didn’t help! By the time we sat down to eat it was 7pm, so despite this being an expensive restaurant, we went with it. It was worth it though, the food was A-MAZE-ING! Mike and I had Weiner Schnitzel and fries, and the kids had a gluten free pork schnitzel. Unfortunately the children were Devils because of how long it had taken to find food, so it could have been a much more enjoyable meal (for us and everyone else sat outside). Our waitress was lovely though and great with the kids. She learnt Rory’s name and told him off (in a nice way) which was actually really helpful! 

Schnitzels for tea in Bacarach (Rhineland).


Despite it being 8:30pm when we were finished, the kids were still bouncing, so we decided to try and tire them out by having a walk around Bacharach (I’ll post pics on the next post). Yet again we had a screaming Bee for bed time. Overtired and sharing a room does not work for this little princess! 

Aaand we’re off! Europe Road trip – Day 0: Packing up and catching the overnight ferry (Newcastle to Amsterdam)

After spending ALL of Monday packing, we were pretty confident we could be away on Tuesday morning for our epic adventure. We didn’t dobadly! I got the last bits together and everything was packed for 9am. It was then Mike’s turn to wind down the house: tidying up, locking windows and doors, turning off electrics etc. I took the kids out of the way and went to get gluten free Sarnies etc for tea on the boat. We got back at our planned departure time of 10am. And we managed to set off at 11am… After kids toilet trips, quadruple checking house security, chucking a bag loads of random stuff into the car that we hadn’t packed, and may not need, but it was there and there were spaces to fill! 

Our trusty steed, and roof box, all packed up andbready to roll!

This is us! Yes, i know, i I got a sticker for my blog… I couldnt resist at only £2.50 for two!

We’ve definitely got the passports! I checked them 5 minutes ago!

Pip already managed to nearly break the brand new multi usb charger in the car before we’d even left our drive! But luckily (for him!) it was superficial damage, and we were on our way with smiles on our faces 🙂

Well, most of us had smiles. One of us had the nervous thumb in mouth.
It’s a couple of hours journey to the port at Newcastle, and the journey was pretty uneventful fortunately. The car remained dry on the inside *phew*! We did put Bee in a pull up, but with multiple stops to empty them both, the pull up stayed dry! Hurrah! Most of these stops were, of course, about 5-10 minutes AFTER a planned stop. “I NEED A WEE!” One of them says, quickly repeated by the other, 10 minutes after we leave Scotch Corner services. 

Wild wees occur frequently whe we’re out and about…


We had a late lunch of gluten free fish n chips at Pantrini’s in Whitley Bay. They were brilliant! We rang ahead to verify what we’d read on their website about providing gluten free, and they took our order and got the gluten free fryer fired up so we only had a few minutes wait when we got there 🙂 They were great about cross contamination too, washing hands between handling, and asking about whether we wanted separate bags etc. And above all, they were delicious! Thumbs up from our little coeliac!

Thumbs up for Pantinis gluten free fish n chips in Whitley Bay!

Our ferry booking info said we were to be at the port at least 90 minutes prior to departure. So we got there at 3pm for our 5pm sailing, feeling smug and prepared. 

We promptly got directed to our waiting lane where, for the next hour and a half we moved 5 car lengths while watching all the other lanes board the boat; cursed at all the cars who got there after us but got on the boat first; the kids had two wees each at the side of the car; Pip turned into a whingey teenager: “I want to get on the boat!” (So do we) “Why can’t we get on the boat?!” (We don’t know), “When is it our turn?!” (We don’t know, look, an aeroplane!), “This is booooooring” (Yes. Yes it is. Eye spy with my…); I caught 2 Pokemon (nothing exciting); we face timed grandad; and eventually about ten minutes before the boat pulled away from port, we were let in, as one of the last handful of cars at the back of the boat. *grumpy face*

we were literally right at the back!

The cabin was comfy and cosy, and not actually as small as I imagined.

Our cosy cabin


 We paid a little extra for an outside cabin and scored a view at the front of the boat! Awesome! *que inside version of that Titanic scene*

Our ‘Captains view’!

Once settled in, we headed out on deck to wave goodbye to England for 5 weeks.

Farewell England! Perhaps we’ll seek citizenship elsewhere in the EU… Oh wait.

We then headed to the ‘kids lounge’ so they could burn off some energy. 

The kids lounge. Where the kids play and the adults drink.

Dont anyone EVER let these two know that you can put money in these things !


There is a ball pool, Lego, a film on (Frozen), soft play, crafts (Pip did his usual chop a piece of paper into pieces), and a bunch of other toys. And it was close to a bar, so we had a lovely grown up drink while the kids played…

A ‘nice relaxing drink’. imaging sipping a mohito at soft play. yeah, that.


 Oh wait, that’s right, we have a clingy two year old who wanted in on my mojito action! She did go play eventually though 🙂

Though the cabin was comfy and nice, the night could have gone more smoothly! Two giddy kids does not make for an easy bed time! After half an hour of on and off cmscreaming from Bee, she finally allowed me to cuddle her in her bed. Which is where we both slept through the night… Apart from 3 wees and Pip falling out of bed! 

In the morning we were woken by he the ships wake up call announcement that is played through all rooms. It was actually a nice gently announcement. Which you would believe if you saw Pips reaction! He sprang out of bed, and hurried to about 3 different parts of the room before bashing his head on the top bunk and falling back into his!!! It was like when you let a balloon go without tying it and it whizzes all over, and then comically falls to the ground!

Once Pip had gotten over being rudely awakened by a multilingual omnipotent voice, we went for outer breakfast. There was a fantastic selection, and enough naturally gluten free things for Pip to eat. They also had gluten free gluten vrij bread for our little coeliake, which he enjoyed with choccy spread 🙂

Land ahoy! We arrived at Ijmuidem (Amsterdams port), ready to wave off our boat and start our trek across Europe.

Land Ahoy!

Look, flag!


Random Observation: in the loos there is a special bin for safety pins, needles and umbilical cord clamps.

Bin for safety pins, needles and umbilical cord clamps.

Pokemon Go-ing round Europe!

A recent development in our travel plans (well, at least my plans, I’m the geek) is the arrival of Pokemon Go. 

I LOVED Pokémon when I was younger – playing it got me through some tough times when I was on chemo. And Just last year I replayed the original ‘Red’… Geek. Add to this that I’m a geography, maps, cartography, GIS geek, and Pokemon Go is just a dream!

I’ve enjoyed playing it so far, but haven’t really been able to do too much. Playing Pokemon Go in rural Cumbria be like…


Yup.

So I’m really quite excited about catching Pokemon around Europe when we go on our road trip. I’ve even bought a solar charger for my iPhone! My husband thinks it’s for us both and mostly for when we go to Sziget festival. Ha! I’ll share it, I promise!

I’ll post any interesting catches on Instagram and/or Twitter @madifiedmum 😉