Before leaving for Thailand we read up on recommend areas to visit. We knew we wanted to organize a boat trip to the Phi Phi Islands but heard the islands were over crowded and to… More
In a small valley, nestled between the French Alps, lies the little town of Valliore. We booked our family New Year’s holiday here. Soon after we had booked our stay, we read it was “The best kept secret…” And sure enough, we may have to agree.
This resort town is located in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France and about a 3 hour drive from Milan or 2 hours from Geneva. We skied over the New Year’s holiday and, apart from the ticket line, the slopes did not feel crowded. Valloire-Galibier Resort has over 150 kilometers of slopes with 33 lifts, which helped make for shorter lines.
A family of 5 can make for an expensive ski holiday, but this resort has very reasonable prices, including a family pass. An adult all day pass runs 50 USD (38.5 Euros), with options for a reduced child rate. For what the resort has to offer the prices can’t be beat.
Think of the smell of baguettes and crepes on the slopes….It really exists in here. A bakery literally sits on the bottom of the slopes and pumps out irresistible smells of deliciousness.
For the past 35 years, this town has had a snow sculpture contest. Really, how amazing is the giant Santa sculpture? You can see some pretty amazing sculptures carved out of snow here.
Much of the lodging provides direct slope access. My advice is to book ahead. We waited until the week before New Years to book, and the town was 95 percent booked. We lucked out and found a Resort lodge only 5 minutes from the slopes, but if had been proactive with booking we would have been able to ski home.
The views from the peak are really breathtaking. There are many cross-country and snow-shoeing trails scattered throughout the resort.
Avalanche control is an issue and signs are posted throughout the resort. Daily controlled avalanche blasts can be heard but are done in order to reduce the risk of avalanches. Just be careful and pay attention to their ski boundaries.
The town was just as quaint as you would imagine a little French village. The streets are lined with pâtisserie and restaurants. There is a giant ice skating rink and plenty of shops. We have heard this town is enjoyed year-round, but if you are looking for a reasonably priced ski holiday in a beautiful town, add Valliore to your list.
One area we enjoy visiting, in the German part of Switzerland, is Engleberg. Hiking trails are scattered throughout Engleberg, but one of our favorites is the Kitzeltrail. You can access the trail by taking the Brunni chairlift to the top of the mountain where you find Lake Härzlisee.
If you are ambitious, you can also hike up from the valley. With younger children, I recommend taking the chairlift. The half-fare and junior cards are accepted, so it makes it a reasonably priced mountain to go up as a family.
The Kitzeltrail is also know as the “tickle path”. The “tickle path” surrounds Lake Härzlisee. The path does not cost and is free to go around as many times as you’d like. You get to experience textures barefoot; from rocks, mud, cold and warm water.
The views from the top are incredible. Mount Titlis is just across the way offering stunning views. There are picnic tables and fire pits making picnicking easy. The trail is open June through October.
There are other fun activities on the mountain including, a play area for the children and a personal favorite, the toboggan (rodelbahn) run.
The hiking season in Engleberg usually is about mid-May through October.
Once hiking season is over you have the winter activities. In the winter you have endless ski options. You can enjoy downhill skiing, snow-shoeing, cross country skiing and even a horse-drawn carriage ride through the mountains.
Have you been to Engleberg? What was your favorite area?
It is hard to believe we have been living abroad for 10 years. Our kids are bilingual, one trilingual, and our life as an American family has been forever changed.
Sometimes it is hard to explain what to expect living life abroad. When reflecting back on our move abroad, there are some things I wish we would have known before moving.
1. It will not feel like a vacation
This should have been obvious to me, but I chose to let the excitement of moving abroad overshadow the reality that this was “real life”and not a vacation.
As much as we would like our vacations to last forever, they don’t. Overseas vacations are often characterized by funny stories about asking for directions or ordering food in another language. Our move abroad had a short honeymoon period, where we felt like we were on vacation, but this ended quickly. For the first few years there’s a constant friction in dealing with a new language and culture that makes everything in life more difficult. We anticipated stumbling through the language for trivial things like ordering food. We didn’t anticipate things like reading and negotiating apartment contracts, interacting with doctors, mechanics, and school teachers, or dealing with issues with service providers like the cable company. Also, we didn’t anticipate the persistent fatigue that comes with not understanding a language. This was most evident for the kids, who had to endure being pushed to comprehend and communicate for many hours every day at school. Our kids came home crying many times because it was difficult for them, or worse because they were ridiculed for not understanding.
2. You may feel like you lose your identity a bit.
In some ways, there is a sense of losing an identity, but do I feel like our life has been enriched by experiencing cultures outside of the one we knew. We still celebrate Thanksgiving and give our kids American traditions, yet, we also celebrate Swiss traditions. Our middle son was once told at school he was not American. To which his response was, “Of, course I am.” We feel a love for both cultures but also feel like we are floating between both. When we return to America to visit we feel somewhat out of place. But likewise, living in a country where we (at least as parents) will always have strong accents when speaking Italian, gives us away as foreigners. The sense for identity gets lost between cultures.
Everything changes. Before we moved abroad, as Americans, we felt as if we coming from one of the best places. Thinking we had the best of everything. The first couple years abroad were characterized by noticing things that we wished were more like they are in America. Now, when visiting America, we notice things we wish were more like Switzerland. There are things we love about both places, and we are able to pick out the things we like and dislike without the cultural biases.
3. Everyone can be a foreigner
I know it may have been naive of me to think this, but for some reason I just thought we would be accepted wherever we went.
Coming from California we felt like we came from a pretty open minded, accepting culture. However, it took living abroad to realize that, unfortunately, there are stereotypes about people from almost every nation, even *gasp* our own. Regardless of where you are from, you are subject to having to deal with those stereotypes.
I remember an experience when we first moved to Zurich. We were confronted by a man on the train that decided he needed to tell us why he didn’t like Americans. It was surprising to us at the time. We were just as surprised when we were turned down from renting an apartment because we were not native Swiss.
The feeling of being a foreigner helps you gain more empathy for those who are foreign in your own home county.
4. It will change your life in many ways
You leave your old life behind. Being immersed in a new culture enriches your life in many ways. The languages you speak, people you interact with, thoughts about your country, your way of thinking changes. You can see both your countries as an outsider looking in. See what you may have once thought was perfect, maybe is not.
When you move abroad the first few years are spent thinking, I wish this was like it is at home. But then a few more years of living abroad, you find yourself returning to visit ‘home’ and find yourself saying I wish it was like (they country you are now living in) Home will never feel the same.
5. Be Flexible
Eat pizza on the beach. Make friends with the locals. Integrate into the new culture. Learn the language and speak it, even when not correct. It is more important to try instead of waiting to be perfect when you speak, it will never happen.
The inability to communicate can feel very isolating. There will be times of loneliness and discouragement, therefore learning the language is very important.
Learn to roll with the punches. You need to be flexible as life abroad brings many things you do not anticipate. The way things work will probably be totally foreign. What might be seen as being rude in your country, such a cutting in line, may be an accepted practice in another country.
What once was just a crazy idea to move abroad has since become a life changing event for us. We wanted our children to grow up and see a world outside the one they knew. A world that would broaden their perspective and open their eyes to new languages and cultures. Moving abroad has forever changed who we are and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We finally got to see a Swiss tradition that we have been wanting to experience for years. In the springtime the cows are taken up the mountains to graze for the summer. Then, at the end of summer, the Swiss farmers bring their cows back down from mountains. It is called the Alpabzug. Not every Swiss town participates, you can check out the Swiss tourism site for participation towns. Usually the Alpabzug takes place in the month of September.
Just near the north entrance of the San Gottardo tunnel, which separates the German from the Italian speaking regions of the country, is a little village called Wassen. We have driven past this village many times but have never stopped. Wassen is such a quaint Swiss Village.
The Alphorns are very traditional and actually used by the farmers to call the cows into the barns at milking time.
Alpabzug celebrations are a big deal in these villages. Typically there is a town market where you can get all the local goodies, including raclette and bratwurst for lunch.
Each cow is adorned with a head piece and giant bell. It really is quite the sight to see.
Switzerland has different cantons, which are like states, each canton has their own flag. Wassen is in Canton Uri, which is represented on the yellow flag.
The blue shirt, worn by this farmer, is a traditional Swiss costume. Each Canton has their own type of costume. Between the 26 Cantons in Switzerland there are over 700 types of tradition Swiss costumes.
The local farmers and their family walk their own herd of cows down the mountain.
We really enjoyed our first experience at the Alpabzug and would highly recommend seeking out one if you are in Switzerland during the month of September.
We have a view of Monte Generoso from our bedroom window and have wanted to hike it for years. Finally, this last weekend we made the climb. Mount Generoso offers breathtaking views of both Switzerland and Italy.
We did a bit of research before climbing the mountain. There are a few options to get you to the top. You can take a train from Riva San Vitale to the top. Four a Family of Four it will cost you 108 Chf. to ride the train up and back.
Monte Generoso has a Swiss and Italian side. There are many different hikes leading you to the top, which you can find here. We decided to hike with our kids and opted for a shorter (4 hour) hike from the Bella Vista parking lot.
You have a few options to arrive at the Bella Vista Station. You can take the train from Riva San Vitale, hike from Mendriso, or drive to the Bella Vista station. We decided to drive to the station as we knew a 4 hour hike would be long enough for our family. Fair warning, the drive up is a bit narrow and windy and parts.
From the station you can park in the parking lot and begin the hike. It is about 2 hours to the top. Part of the path follows along the train tracks, so if you were to get tired you could always hop on the train.
The last few kilometers to the top of the mountain are fairly steep but offer beautiful views of the Swiss and Italian valleys below.
Once you arrive to the top you can see Lake Lugano below. On top there is a famous building designed by Mario Botta “Fiore di pietra” (Stone Flower). You can enjoy a self serve restaurant or a sit down restaurant with 360 degree views below. The building is quite fascinating in itself. You can also access the roof for even more incredible views.
A climb to the top of Monte Generoso will not disappoint. We throughly enjoyed this hike and the views it had to offer. The hike down takes about half the time, which makes it a little under a 4 hour hike roundtrip from the Bella Vista parking lot.
We were very excited to try out our new underwater action camera while vacationing in Maui. What an incredible experience we had.
Before we left on the boat, our youngest was talking about seeing Dolphins. I told her there was a good chance we would not be seeing any Dolphins and was totally proven wrong. About 1o minutes into our boat ride we ran across a pod of dolphins. Honestly, it was one of the most amazing experiences. There seemed to be a hundred dolphins swimming right along our boat. The boat captain slowed the boat and let us sit right next to the dolphins. We put our camera into the water even though we could not see what we were filming. To our surprise, when we got home and watched the video you could actually hear the dolphins communicating with each other, which you can see in a shorter video here.
From the boat we could see dolphins jumping out of the water and one even came out and twirled. It was amazing, a once in a life time for sure.
What an incredible experience to witness these beautiful animals in the wild. To top it off, later while snorkeling we had a turtle swim right up next to us and breathe, that was amazing too. We hope you enjoy our video on our YouTube channel.
We were excited to be a guest blogger for Simple Family Travel. We met Kristin, at Simple Family Travel, through Instagram. Don’t you love Instagram for that? We have been able to connect with other families who share our love for travel.
Simple Family Travel asked us to write a guest post on our favorite swimming pool in Switzerland. Below is our guest post where we share one of our favorite places to swim in Switzerland.
Lido di Locarno
One of our favorite places to swim as a family is the Lido di Locarno. The Lido is absolutely stunning and set right on Lake Maggiore. Not only is the location ideal, the lido has so much to offer: pools, the lake, waterslides, restaurants, giant inflatable place structures, beach front access, a gym, a spa, and so much more.
They offer chairs and umbrellas for rent but during the busy season most are rented before noon. There are a few big trees throughout the lido that offer an ample amount of shade.
The Lido Locarno is open daily from 8.30am till 9pm.
Prices vary depending on what you do:
Adults start from 13 CHF and children (aged 4-15) start from 7 CHF. They offer a family pass for 2 Adults and 2 Kids starting at 37 CHF. If you add on the waterslides the prices increase.
There are many options for parking around the Lido, which makes it quite convenient. If taking public transportation, the number 2 bus from the Locarno main train station will have you at the Lido in 13 minutes.
The location is amazing. Honesty, every visitor we take to the lido is in awe when walking in. The views are stunning on Lake Maggiore. There is fun for all age levels—from a baby pool to water-slides, beach volleyball to a lap pool. When we visit we stay all day long. The kids come home happy and exhausted. Perfect win.
If you are flexible with your holiday planning and destinations you can find some amazing airline deals. Recently my brother introduced us to an email service that emails you incredible airline deals. Sometimes the fares are mistake fares but more than often they are 24-hour promotions.
We had no intentions in flying to the United States this year but when we received an email for flights from Europe to San Franciso for $195 round trip, it was too good to pass up. The website with the incredible deals is called Scott’s cheap flights. For a minimal subscription fee, you can receive weekly deals throughout the world.
We also like to use Skyscanner as it allows you to search any date going to every location, which is convenient. But if you are up for anything and willing to be flexible, we can highly recommend checking out Scott’s cheap flights.
Airlines usually offer a limited amount of seats at discount prices and they get snatched up fast. Some are last minute deals and you need to be flexible with the dates.
|Pizza Napoletana style|
Is it worth all the fuss? I’d have to say….. yes. Naples is the birthplace of Pizza. Literally, you can eat your way through Naples. Besides garbage, the streets are scattered with pizzerias everywhere.
If you want good pizza, look for the Vera Pizza Napolentana sign. Making Pizza is an art in Italy. Years back the Verace Pizza Napoletana was started to help regulate the making of pizza. There are plenty of great places in Naples without the Vera stamp of approval, but you can’t go wrong eating somewhere with it.
To be part of the Vera Pizza Napoletana the pizzeria needs to fulfill a few requirements:
1. Wood Burning Oven around 800 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Fresh natural ingredients from certain Regions in Italy, mozzarella, tomatoes, olive oil, basil.
3. Knead the dough by hand. The requirements go a little more into detail but that is the basic. Pizza is simple in Naples.
We read about Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente being one of the best pizzerias in Naples. So, of course, it was on our list to visit. They changed their name after Bill Clinton visited. (Pictured above the pizza boxes). Marinara pizza (tomato sauce, oregano, garlic, no cheese) was only 1 Euro, for a whole pizza. The Marinara was simple but delicious.
Another pizzeria with raving with reviews from pizza lovers is Di Matteo Pizzeria (off of Via dei Tribunali ). We had to find out for ourselves……and yes, it was worth the time searching through the streets to find. Marinara and Margherita pizzas were priced the same as Il Presidente, 1 and 3 Euros.
If I am going to be a food critic here I’d say the marinara at Il Presidente was a little better but really the differences were so minimal. They were both great.
Whatever the case, we are big fans of Vera Pizza Napolentana. Do you have a favorite pizza place in Naples? We would love to hear from you.
The Frederiksborg Castle is just a short 45-minute drive from Copenhagen and well worth it. Since we were staying in Copenhagen we decided to rent a car and make the drive. There are easy connections with the train but we wanted to continue on up to Kronborg to visit the castle that inspired Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.
I would recommend the self-guided audio tour. To be honest, we really did not know much about the history of Denmark, but the guided tour through the castle gave us quite the insight. A ticket to view the castle is 75 DKK, about 12 USD, which includes the guided tour.
Inside the castle, there was an absolutely breathtaking church. The intricate designs throughout the ceilings and walls were breathtaking.
The Frederiksborg Castle is furnished throughout and gives you a look into Denmark’s fascinating history. The Castle suffered a horrible fire in 1859 but was restored and furnished with original furniture and art from that time period. It was a chilly day when we visited and I was happily surprised that parts of the castles were heated.
The castle features artwork throughout and the Museum of National History of Denmark has many originals on display. Just off the wing of the church was a huge room of art all done by Carl Bloch. An artist who’s work I was familiar with.
The entrance into the castle gardens is free and well worth the walk behind the castle to see. Spring had barely arrived when we visited so I can imagine in the summer the garden is stunning. They have a small cafe open in the summer months where you can sit and take in the views.