Lauterbrunnen

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We spent the most days in Lauterbrunnen.  It was the only AirBnB we reserved, and it ended up amazingly well.
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The chateau was hundreds of years old — with low ceilings (almost too low for Micah), but it was awesome.  It was located in Lauterbrunnen, which is at the base of the Alps (and Murren & Jungfrau), and right above Interlaken.  Basically it was in the perfect spot!
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Our chateau was next to a running stream, steps away from a waterfall, among meadows filled with wildflowers, had a swing set that entertained the kids for hours, had the perfect amount of beds for our crew (even though they preferred to cuddle up), had a perfect dining nook for all of us to enjoy Micah’s gourmet dinners, had really nice neighbors who loved our kids and their shenanigans, had a mini tramp that the kids were obsessed with, had a crazy steep cable-hike up the side of an Alp, and was a short drive from every single cool thing around!  I could have easily stayed for another week without even flinching!  It was awesome.
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There is no doubt that the highlight of the kid’s trip was paragliding over Interlaken.  They were all completely willing and ready to go — without any sort of hesitation.  Micah and I went too, and it was awesome.  When I went to Interlaken many years ago, I called to see if I could paraglide.  We ended up having to leave to Germany too quickly, so I have always wanted to return to go. Dream fulfilled!  Our only regret, is that we didn’t have Pippi and my mom go.  Both said they would have after we asked.  Bummer!
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Another highlight was going back to Murren — where I had stayed years before.  We had to take two gondolas up to the no-car city.  When we got there, the scenery was spectacular, my kids drank from every fountain, and Pippi continually found wild moss for me!  (I love wild moss…pretty cute she knows that!)
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Above Murren, we took the funicular to “Flower Park”.  It was an incredibly cute park, that the kids were obsessed with.  But I was obsessed with the “happy cows” who were just roaming the mountainside with their cowbells ringing.  It was an experience you can’t create.  It was awesome.  The best, was Scout kept putting grass in the side of his hat, and the cows kept licking it out.  When they call these cows happy, I really think they are.  With their views, and their constant green grass to gaze on…what a life!
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The only bust day was when we went to Junfrau.  It was supposedly a must-do, but by the time we got to “The Top of Europe”, everything (skiing, sledding, zip lines) was closing down.  So Scout was rad, and put a bag on himself, and did his own sledding!  He is rad!  And Navy took Pippi down the way to some pretty soft snow, and made a snowman with Pips.  Navy is rad!  The ice caves were pretty awesome.  Especially when Pippi spotted the frozen guy from Ice Age! So even though it was a bust — we had a great time.
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And how rad is Nonnie, who played SlapJack on the way up and down with the kids!
And how awesome is it, when you get Lindt chocolate passed out from the conductor!
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Obviously we didn’t leave Switzerland without some fondue.
I LOVED it — especially the cheese.
The kids LOVED the chocolate.
And finally…
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I promised Navy many months ago, to take her to a chocolate making class.  It was way more fun than we even thought it would be.  We learned a ton, and both got to make three chocolate bars.  It was so fun to take two hours away from everybody, and have a special date with my cutest girl!
Switzerland…I am so glad we spent the most time with you.  you are a sight for sore eyes…and you delivered on all of my promises (I made to the kids!).

Zurich, Switzerland

I think out of all the places we were going to visit on this trip, Switzerland was at the top of all of our lists.  I came after 8th grade, and have wanted to come back ever since.  There is nothing like Switzerland — where every single angle could be a picture on the front of a postcard.  It is gorgeous!  Everywhere you look, it is green, and the water is the color of a blue jewel.  Our first stop was Zurich for a few days.  But our road trip to Zurich was a fun day in and of itself!
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I don’t think I have ever seen a cute ice cream shop like this ANYWHERE in the U.S.  How freaking cute is it?!  So cute…I just HAD to stop!
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Check out the fruit and muffins we got at a cute shop on the side of some road we took.  Picture perfect berries, and yummy treats!
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And don’t get me started on the flowers everywhere!  Here are some gigantic Teddy Bear sunflowers, I immediately became obsessed with!
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Our first stop in Switzerland was a gas station with what appeard to be a small park attached.  Of course my kids ran to the park, and there was more than met the eye.  The two-story slide was the ultimate hit!  the kids got going so fast, it was actually a little sketchy.  Micah went all out on the basket swing (yes, I looked away), and Pippi took a horse ride, with the most amazing scenery behind her!  Yep — a postcard at every turn!  And did I say this was a gas station!
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We were all oohing and aahing at the color of the water and all of the waterfalls, so I pulled over at a turnout.  We walked down some stairs, and wouldn’t you know it…a swan! Of course…because it is Switzerland!
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Of course we hit up a few parks.  This was a favorite…it was kind of trampoline style, and Micah was “skying” all of the kids at once.
My kids favorite thing about Switzerland, is that you can drink from any water feature…and this is the first place we tried it.  And yes…it was cold and delicious.  Why?  Because it is Switzerland!
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One of our favorite things we did, was rent boats on Lake Zurich.  They were paddle boats, and we divided the girls and boys up.  After a bit, the kids really wanted to jump in, so we told them to strip down (because that’s how they do it in Europe) and hop in.  Dash was naked, and Scout and Navy were in their unders…and they went back and forth between our boats in the freezing cold water.  Then Micah braved it across the lake to the spouting water — and they took a ride under it!
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After the cold, we set up shop on the grass area to have a picnic.  Micah made amazing sandwiches of local bread, local cheese, salami and all sorts of jams and honeys we have bought over here.
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After — we hit up our 800th ice cream cart.  And Micah broke up a variety of Swiss chocolate for us to taste test.  Micah’s taste tests became so fun in each country!  He would make us blindly taste the chocolates, and judge our favorite.  He was trying to get the best chocolate narrowed down, so we could bring back chocolate bars for everyone.
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And of course, we hit up church just outside of Zurich.   Pippi must have been too tired to be reverent, because I had to take her out for her to stand in the corner twice!  Poor little traveler girl was maybe on fumes?  During Sacrament, we sat right behind a family that reminded us a ton of our friends, the Nichols.  After we started talking, and they had lived abroad in several places — including China…with the NICHOLS!  Isn’t that crazy!  I am always amazed to have common ground with people — even all the way in Switzerland!
Our time in Zurich was awesome!  Our Hyatt was incredible, the weather was amazing, the city was vibrant, and our activities suited us perfectly.  So far, Switzerland is just how I remember it.  Perfect.

Munich, Germany

We spent two day sin Munich.  The first, we spent at Dacchau — a must see.  The concentration camp has come a long way since the last time I saw it.  In fact, there have been new discoveries since I was there 25 years ago.  And this time, we didn’t get everything stolen out of our car when we toured it.  Dacchau is an emotional day, and I am glad Micah got to see it.  He and my mom both spent a few hours walking through it.  I spent an hour and a half, but the kids were getting restless. So in an attempt to keep the grounds sacred, I took my kids away.
When we left, I took Navy to about the coolest place an imagination can create!
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Next to a flower field, there is a drop box to leave money…and a knife to CUT YOUR OWN FLOWERS!!!
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I dropped in a few Euros, and Navy scoured the flowers for some she loved that were all different.
We talked about it, and it was literally our dream come true!
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The next day, it was rainy, so we spent our day at The Deutsches Museum.
It is the world’s largest museum of science and technology, and it was cool.
Very, very cool.
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Afterwards, we tried to hit up the famous Munich Glockenspiel.  Too bad we missed it just minutes.  But no worries — we saw a street band that had Pippi dancing for three straight songs!  The only street band that has ever rivaled these guys, was the street band Micah and I saw in New Orleans.  Both should have had a record deal.
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Clearly, the dancing wiped her out!
BUT STOP THE PRESSES!!!!
We saw and did some amazing things in Munich, but the most amazing thing we all witnessed…..
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Scout ate REAL pizza with red sauce!
He even dipped it in olive oil and balsamic!
Scout is ten years old, and has refused pizza all of these years…until now!
Hallelujah!
And lucky us….that isn’t the only new thing he has tried.  He has had numerous cheeses, salami, sashimi, california rolls, and plenty of other things that he would have never touched two weeks ago!
It’s literally a European miracle!

Rothenburg, Germany AKA The Christmas City

My mom had one request for the entire trip.
She wanted to visit Rothenburg, Germany.
Done.
She nailed it.
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I think Rothenburg is the most picturesque town I have ever visited.
Every single street was charming…every single one!
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Rothernburg is also the place where Pippi got the “German Dress”.
My mom insisted she have it, and it became the only thing she wanted to wear the rest of the trip.
I’ll have to admit — it was about the cutest dress up I’ve ever seen.
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Rothernburg has incredible Christmas stores everywhere.  And these weren’t cheesy little stores.  They were, in Scout’s words “Legit”.
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Becuase this is a touristy city, the kids loved all of the shops with things to buy.  Probably because most of them revolved around Christmas, or Knight’s fighting equipment.
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Scout and Dash were in the fighting mood all day.
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We loved this city with cobblestone streets.
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They featured the greatest food truck I could ever imagine — a cheese truck, with fresh cheese from all over the region.
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By the end of the day, we were tired…and a lucky few cuddled up to each other, as the last purchases were made.
Nice call Nonnie.

Mainz, Germany

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We had a quick overnight in Mainz, Germany.  We didn’t get to explore much, but we headed outside our hotel at dusk.
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This may have been Pippi’s favorite hotel, because Rapunzel’s tower was just outside our window.  Before she woke up in the morning, we kept saying…”Oh..I saw her!”  Then when Pippi would look, she unfortunately had just gone out of sight.  She was getting so frustrated, but it was actually pretty hilarious.  So when we were in the room, her permanent spot was on the ground, next to the window to hopefully catch a glimpse of the princess!
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The kids were obsessed with the bath in the hotel.  They had it set up, so that the shower was really big, and inside the big shower, was the tub.  So our kids closed the shower door, and had the biggest splash fight in the highest tub they have ever had!  And probably will ever have.
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We stayed on the Rhine river, so once again, my morning run was incredible.
I loved that every run was a little different, but the runs along the water were my favorite.

Cologne, Germany

Cologne, Germany was a hidden gem.  We only stopped in Cologne, because we had Hyatt points, and there happened to be a Hyatt there.  We got there in the dark, and it was magnificent.  But I think the daylight made it even better.  I got up early to run, and when I walked out of the hotel, this was our view.
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We were on the other side of one of the few cathedrals that made it unscathed through World War II, because it apparently housed soldiers.  That being said, I got up and ran across LoveLock bridge to then run around the cathedral and neighboring streets.  And I was in luck, because the neighboring streets were filled with amazing cafes and shops.  So basically, I scouted out the best places to return to.
We all spent the day perusing the streets, and this is where Micah found the world’s best grocery store — REWE!  We literally went through the whole store aisle by aisle.  And after we bought stuff and ate it, we headed back for more!  After the grocery store, Nonnie and I parted ways from the troops.  We went shopping, and they apparently went to one of the best parks they have ever been to.
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We had a lock for LoveLock bridge, but never were together to all put it up.
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So Navy and I went on a special date, and she picked the place to solidify our love, before we left Cologne.
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On our way out, we got lost (on purpose) in the back country of the German countryside.  When we saw this strawberry field…the kids made me stop for “just one little sample”.
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Oops.
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Then we drove on to a random freeway exit.  Like every single exit in Europe, there are treasures everywhere!  This exit took us to a rad park, where Dash found his personal #5 (for being 5 years old).
And…
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Only the most insane view of the Rhine river we have seen thus far!
Yep…that’s just a castle across the way.

Oud Reemst

On our way out of The Netherlands, we were road tripping.
I know that is a bad word to other families, but we literally enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
I have to give it to my family — all are rad travelers…especially my mom!
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We check out our surroundings.
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We get out at all things cool, like this field of wild sunflowers.
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And some of the kids go sans seatbelts to create an in-car hammock.
That is, until they got caught.
But pretty ingenious and creative, kids.
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On our way out, Micah directed us to the Oud Reemst national park.
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We paid a small fee to get in, and then they had tons of bikes available to ride all throughout the huge park.
It was an absolute blast.
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We all got bikes to fit, and went adventuring.
The kids were singing as we rode, and we were like the scene out of “The Sound of Music”.
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Until….Scout had a fit that none of the bikes fit him well.
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We quickly solved that problem, by grabbing a bike that had a wheelbarrow front.
It was perfect too, because Nonnie was just going to stay and read in the car.
When I discovered this bike, I insisted!
I got quite the quad work out, but everyone seemed to be happy.
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Micah took over after a while, and he took my unsuspecting mom 4×4ing!
It was hilarious.
It turned out that my mom said, “I really didn’t want to go out on the bikes, but that was so fun!”
My mom is such a trooper to go along with our great ideas, that when she really loves something, it is especially awesome.
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The national park also had the coolest Swiss Family Robinson style jungle gym.  The kids played with Micah on that for quite a long time.  There was only one mishap - when Dash fell from a very tall place.  Thank goodness he was alright!
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As we continued driving, Micah had one more stop for us.  Only the world’s largest “walking roller coaster”.
What?
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Here you see it.
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And we all walked it!
Nice find babe!
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And we ended the night with a little frog catching.
(One side note of today’s drive was when I got pulled over by a German policeman.  He was really nice, but made sure I knew “Red es STOP…Red es STOP!” in his thick German accent.  As he was only warning us, I told him how good looking he was.  I think we ended up friends.

Efteling

When we were in Amsterdam, we found out that our second day was going to be a huge city parade and party.
It was the best excuse to do something on our list of “want to do’s”, but we weren’t sure where to fit it in.
While researching, we came across a fairy-tail-themed theme park.  I knew the kids would love it, and I was pretty sure we as adults would love it too.  According to what I had read, it was a local favorite, and had not become a real tourist attraction, because it was too far out of the way from big tourist cities.  Sounded perfect.
Our drive there was awesome.  We got to see more of the amazing countryside, and even stopped off the freeway to a random town.  That random town turned out to have the best bakery we found in Europe.  Not to mention, they were having a little local festival that night, and the whole place was decorated with whimsical flowers everywhere.  The bakery just had a few locals in and out of it, and they didn’t speak much English, but they were sooo nice and kind.  they were so happy we stopped by, and they thought the children were so cute.  The baked goods were so delicious, that after we drove the town (possibly one square mile in total), we stopped at the bakery again on our way out for more treats.  It was heavenly!
As we drove to Efteling, the dark clouds started congregating, and creating what looked like a rain storm.  The moment we parked, it started to downpour like a monsoon had hit.  We were cracking up, and even my mom braved running in to the covered gift shop to wait it out.
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Good thing that gift shop sold rain covers, because we bought them, and moved on.
For the first bit, it rained off and on.
But our covers were hearty, and completely protected us.
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The whole first area featured different fairy tales.  There was a slight synopsis, and then if you touched a button, stood on a certain spot, or opened a gate, the fairy tale would come to life.  We were cracking up, because there was a slight darkness to these fairy tales.  But Pippi was entranced.  Especially for Rapunzel, who after hitting the mark, let down her hair.  After seeing this, Pippi looked for Rapunzel in every tower in Europe!
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Just to get an idea of how whimsical and cool this place was, check out their trashcans! You put the trash in this boy’s mouth, and he had some funny Dutch response.
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Check out the “strollers” for the babies.  Pippi kept swiping them to go for rides!
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It also featured pink, green, and blue pigeons!  We stayed at these pigeons for an hour.  Navy was obsessed with feeding them.  And every time a new color showed up, we would get more and more excited.  Micah and I tried to figure out how they were those colors, and it definitely wasn’t any sort of topical color.  It must be something they eat.  Or…Efteling really is magical!
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The rides were a blast.  They were kind of crazy, because they just don’t have the scare of lawsuits.  So Pippi was literally hanging off of the carousel that was probably three times faster than our carousels in the U.S.  They had awesome roller coasters, and Micah, Scout and Navy ran to a few just minutes before closing to get in their last rides.
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Like usual, Pippi made friends with stangers.  She had several handfulls of their popcorn, and they were thrilled to share with her.  It’s amazing how she gets people to like her…even across the language barrier.
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And finally…the food was awesome.  My kid’s favorite were the mini pancakes that were fresh off of the griddle.  My mom’s favorite was the Chinese food that Micah found in Amsterdam that my mom enjoyed in a chopctisk-fed fashion!  By the way — Micah has a talent of finding good food wherever we go.  And the fact that he feeds me, the kids, and my mom off of his same utensils is a testament to how rad he is!
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I honestly think that Efteling will be a forever memory for all of us.
It was a last minute change, and it was the funnest day.

Amsterdam

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I have heard a lot of people loving Amsterdam over the years.  I’ll admit that it is a pretty awesome city.  I think the coolest part, is that it is a city built around waterways…and most everyone travels via bicycles.  There are thousands and thousands of bikes everywhere.  My favorite part of many of my European days, was when I got up extra early, and ran a few miles.  But out of all of my runs, I think I liked running in Amsterdam the best.  Between the canals, the boats, the bikers, the flowers everywhere and the friendly people, my runs seemed the easiest in Amsterdam.  (And let’s be honest — easy-feeling runs are the best runs in my book.)
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One day, we spent the whole day just walking the city.  We found the best berry stand, that my kids insisted we revisit on our way back to the car.  Micah always does a rad job of researching all of the good stuff.  On our walk, he took us to floating flower shops, famous canals, and the best part….great shopping.
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Not only does he take my mom and me to the best kid shops…he waits patiently outside with the kids — or takes them to parks to play!
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Speaking of parks — have I ever mentioned that Europe has the best parks in the world!
We literally stopped at dozens of them along our route, and each one was better than the last!
My kids especially loved the basket swings..where their daddy pushed them so high, I had to look away at times!
(Remember Micah, Scout and the swing?)
But the best playground of them all in Amsterdam, was the cool Amsterdam sign!
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My kids crawled around that sign for an hour.
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Throughout our stay, we stayed in a ton of Hyatt hotels.  They were all so nice, we couldn’t believe it.  Some nights we all had beds, and other nights, a kid or two were on the ground in a makeshift bed.  Dash and Pippi got the ground this night, and they were so hyped up it was crazy.  I finally got up to see what the heck was keeping them awake, and they conveniently were “asleep”.  When I was getting Dash up to switch places with Scout, I saw what was happening.
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It was Pippi’s new mode of defense….her nails!
Needless to say, those things were cut off first thing the next morning.
I was appalled (as my memories of my sister Ashley’s nails came flooding back)…but just like when I was little, Dash said, “Mom, it doesn’t hurt..and it is kind of funny.” I used to think teasing with a fingernail response was funny too.  I still changed them out, and all was well.
I really did like Amsterdam a lot… but when we use the word LOVE, I’ll save it for the countryside!
I think driving around the Netherlands was one of the best vacation days I have ever had.
The beauty was insane!  I stopped so many times just to look at the flowers and fields.  Everything was straight out of a storybook.  Just driving around, and stopping at any of our whims was magical.
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The houses were straight out of magazine.
This was one of the dozens we stopped to look at.
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The fields and livestock were so amazing.
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How about a homemade apple “Fruit Automaat” AKA vending machine.  The farmer told us that the apples were picked that morning, and to join him and his family for a look around the orchard.  We were crushed that we were heading somewhere, and didn’t have an extra hour.
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Of course Navy and I stopped regularly to pick the wildflowers.
Pippi is starting to enjoy our wildflowers as much as we do.
Navy always put together a little bouquet for me to have in my front cup holder.
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I know the Netherlands (Holland) is known for their flowers…and rightfully so!  They were everywhere, and they were amazing.  And we were in the off season of their famous flowers!
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What about this cute little town we happened to drive through.  My idea of the best vacation, is to go to Europe, rent a car, and get lost in the countryside.  I’ll take the Netherlands, Italy, France, England, Ireland…what am I saying!  I’ll take any European country!
Netherlands…mark my words…I’ll be back!

The Netherlands

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As iconic as windmills in the Netherlands/Holland are…pictures can’t even begin to do them justice.  We hit the most beautiful day to see the windmills.  They were literally amazing!
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If you will notice, Micah had his favorite hat on when we got there.  But we learned that windmills run off of wind — and one of the stronger gusts took his hat off, and sent it straight into one of the waterways.
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Poor sap!
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Micah and the kids tried to find and retrieve the hat for a while, but Micah gave up.  The kids kept on trying — and actually got yelled at by one of the homeowners of the windmill.  (Yes, they are actually homes that people live in.)  He was really gruff — REALLY GRUFF!  but I pulled up my big girl pants to explain that we were looking for my husband’s lost hat.  Once he heard that we weren’t just fooling around, he was nice.
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He showed up with a big stick to try to help.  The kids watched on, but we never found the hat.  But because the guy liked us, as we walked back towards his home, he ended up showing us around, and giving us a legit up-close-and-personal tour of his windmill house.
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He probably spent 30 minutes explaining to us the inner working of Windmills, how he got his, the pros and cons, and the history of these things.  He was awesome, and then the coolest thing happened!  He excused himself for a minute, and then came out with a new hat from the company he works for — and gave it to Micah!  It was the nicest gesture, and we were all beaming from ear to ear.  He went from gruff to awesome in an hour’s time.  It was a really great day.
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The windmills were amazing!
But our personal tour of them, was top notch!
Clearly, Navy agreed!