The whirlwind celebration year continues.

We’ve just returned from nine days overseas, mostly spent biking in Holland and Belgium. I know, I disappear for two weeks from your inbox and that’s what I’m up to? Remember when you used to worry that blog lapses meant we were stuck in the hospital, out of computer range?  No, nothing so serious these days; just our first ever Family Backroads trip, accompanied by my parents and a group of 26 intrepid travelers, cycling from Amsterdam to Bruges.

I know when you think “bike trip,” you picture roughing it: bedraggled travelers lugging everything they own on their bikes, sleeping in tents exposed to the elements, nothing but ride, ride, ride. But Backroads is far from it, trust me.  There’s always a support van, for one thing, should you decide the distance or the rain are too much for you. Plus they carry all your luggage from fancy hotel to fancy hotel, leaving you with nothing but a day pack filled with snacks, camera and hopefully (but not in our case) rain gear.  And there’s so much wine, cheese and chocolate that even if you do ride 190 miles in six days, you might pack on a few pounds. But most importantly, they make traveling with kids feel like an actual vacation.

We would bike together in the morning, Braedan on his own (logging in a total of 120 miles!) and Austin on a piccolo attached to Mark’s bike.  Morning rides were usually about 20 miles long, on entirely flat bike paths along canals or cow pastures, passing many a windmill. Then we’d gather in a town or park for lunch, followed by an additional (much faster) ride for the grown-ups while the small set was whisked off on some perfectly executed kid adventure, including a trip to the beach, canoeing, and the highly anticipated Kid Olympics. One afternoon the adults got a tour of a 15th century brewery while the kids went on a chocolate scavenger hunt. And yes, if you so desired, all were welcome to go scavenging for chocolate; Mark and I opted for Belgian beer instead. Even the dinners, which took place at restaurants much too fancy for my picky eaters and which lasted much too long for my antsy boys, were made enjoyable by the ever-present Kids’ Table.

Braedan does AmsterdamOn the ferry

The boys in Gouda

The view from atop the brewery

The other view from atop the brewery

Lots of cheese

Lots of bikes

Lots of windmills

Austin picnicking with Grampy

The view from my hotel window in Bruges

The super cyclist

When the kids are happy…

the grown-ups are happy.

 

We polished off our adventure with a quick trip to London to stay with friends for two nights.  It was a little hectic and a lot crowded but nice to catch up with my dear college friend after ten years. And the kids were beyond thrilled to ride the London Eye, a definite trip highlight, and to make yet another set of new friends. I think it’s time to set Braedan up with his own email account so he can keep in touch with all his new besties.

“Look kids, …” (you know what that is, right?)

Now it’s home for laundry, more laundry and back-to-school shopping. Oh and parents, if you’re ever looking for a quick way to shift your kids from their late-night summer schedules to a more school-friendly early bedtime, I’ve found the magic bullet: just drag them along on an eight-hour overseas flight with a six-hour time change. Piece of cake.

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