Chicago

In Chicago we hit the ground running with a family bike tour along the lakefront trail when we first arrived. We drove down to Navy Pier and then back to Millennium park. After the bike ride we did a walking tour of the park and saw some cool sculptures as well as the mandatory Cloud Gate. It was a pretty hot day again so we were happy to finally rest our feet in a nice hotel and take a break before doing a bit more exploring downtown. We found a nice Thai restaurant that was not too busy and had a great dinner. The next day we packed up and headed to the museum of Science and Industry which had some unique exhibits. The favourite was the mind control game where you had to push a ball using the alpha waves generated by your brain. Theoretically these waves should be generated when you are in a relaxed state so the winner would be the person who could relax the most. After a few rounds the undisputed champion was Elliot who beat all of us with not one loss. After the museum we continued our road trip as we headed back towards Canada.

Wisconsin

Since we had all our camping gear with us we decided to try out another couple nights of camping in a Wisconsin state park. Along the way to the park we took a driving break in Madison (capital city of Wisconsin) to visit the Henry Vilas zoo (which is one of the few free admission zoos in the US). After the zoo we continued to the campsite which was about a 40 minute drive outside of Milwaukee. The next day we took a day trip to Milwaukee to visit a water park and afterwards we went downtown to do a tour of the city. We sampled some of the historic areas by the riverfront, visiting an iconic cheese store and a spice store. After a long day of playing in the water and sightseeing we drove back to the campsite for our last night before our next destination.

Minnesota

After another day of driving, another night at a hotel, and another morning of driving, we arrived at Brooke’s house in White Bear, Minnesota (Brooke is my amazing friend/roommate from NYC, she is married to Joe and they have a 3-year old son named Hawkins). We arrived just in time for the July 4th pool party and I was happy to learn that Zach, another old friend from our time in NYC, was also among the guests. Brooke is an amazing hostess and she made sure that everyone had plenty of great food and drinks throughout the day. Other than taking the time to eat, not a minute on dry land was wasted by the kids.  They were in the pool for the most part of 2 days and Sienna broke a record for being in the pool for 6 hours straight. While we were in Minnesota, we stayed at Brooke’s parents house in Forest Lake. Every morning we woke up to a a feast, as Brooke’s mom was whipping up all kinds of yummy Minnesotan breakfast classics for us (thanks again for having us and for all the delicious food, Debbie and Mike). On our last day in Minnesota, we took a trip to White Bear lake and rented a pontoon boat. The weather was great as we toured around in the boat and had a picnic lunch. The kids were really excited to get some fishing in and they had more than they could ask for catching over 20 fish! After the pontoon boat, there was even more swimming, and then we went to a summer street festival with Brooke, Joe, and Hawkins to get some dinner. After 3 sun- and fun-filled days we were ready to head towards our next destination.

The Science Center in Sudbury

During our long drive we planned to make some strategic stops along the way to break up the trip. Since we were driving through Sudbury, we took a couple hours and visited the science center (we thought it was funny that it was located on 100 Ramsey Lake Road). The science center had a lot of cool stuff including some giant bugs from Malaysia which we got to hold. After the science museum we drove by the big nickel and snapped some touristic photos. Then it was a couple more hours driving. Midway between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie there is a city called Elliot Lake and while Elliot would have loved to make a pit stop here, we decided not to. It was too far off our route so instead, we hit a motel in a place called Blind River.

Visiting Gump

A visit to the Aylmer area would not be complete without a visit to the kids’ most active Canadian mail buddy. A visit to Gump’s house is like a trip to a Southwestern Ontario botanical garden, and we got the full summer tour. We also managed to sneak in a load of laundry while doing the tour and chasing some chickens. Thanks again! It’s always fun seeing you!

Copenhagen

While camping we also did some visiting with Farmor in Copenhagen (i.e. the very little village in Ontario, Canada, not the capital city of Denmark). Farmor puts the kids to work painting concrete and they let their creativity loose making some unique paint jobs like Elliot turning an owl into a penguin, and Sienna painting a rainbow serpent (not featured). When they got tired of painting the cousins hung around inside, playing games and relaxing by the TV.

Port Burwell Provincial Park

Our first attempt at family tent camping was in Port Burwell with Angela, Pete, Kenzy, and Logan. Our first night Farmor and Penguin (aunt Suzy) came to visit and hang out by the campfire while Crystal, Derek, Kyle and Owen came to visit on another night. Although the weather was a bit on the cool side, the kids still braved the water and got in a nice day at the beach. We also tried to catch fish along the rocks next to the pier, but the water was too murky and the fish were not biting. To make up for the missing fish the kids toasted a lot of marshmallows and we took turns at telling spooky stories by the campfire. All in all a very successful time where everybody had fun. We are already looking forward to next year!

Milton

Our first stop in Canada was to Jane and Oliver’s place in Milton. We had a lot of fun with Vanessa who was the star of the show. She was very engaged playing with Sienna and Elliot and there was never a dull moment when she was around. We had some fun times at the park and goofing around the house. We also took an afternoon to visit Pakizah, Adam, Ethan, and Cayden. We met at a trampoline park in Toronto and after a lot of jumping we sat down for a nice dinner where the kids had a lively discussion around who their favorite youtuber was. After another night in Milton the weekend was over and we were off to Port Burwell for our first camping adventure.

The 2017 Road Trip

A couple of years ago we started doing yearly road trips and it turns out that this is a way of travelling that the entire family really enjoys. This year we first flew to Toronto and got some time in with the family before we headed north to the Georgian Bay, drove through Saul St. Marie to visit friends in Minnesota and then explored a bit of Wisconsin and Chicago as we headed back east towards Toronto again. We put more than 5,000 km (3,100 miles) of mileage on the car during our trip and in between visiting friends and family we got to see and experience a bunch of new things. Fishing, kayaking, and pontoon boating were all previously untried activities for most of us, and on the “never-seen-before” list we added a giant nickel, a real ass, lots of inukshuks, some poison ivy, and a black bear in the wild … or at least a wild black bear near the highway. All in all it was yet another very successful trip for the diary. What is extraordinary about this trip, though, is that I managed to keep somewhat on top of all the picture taking/sorting along the way. Hence, I am practically done going through the 2,145 pictures I took and I will be posting the approximately 275 which made the cut in the days to come (For those who have been looking in vain for the pictures from our last Canada/US trip in 2016, they have now been posted. Click here and scroll down).

 

St. Croix

In December we took an early Christmas vacation to the US Virgin island of St. Croix.  About 100 years ago St. Croix used to be part of Denmark so on top of the sun and sand we got a bit of a historical and cultural experience as well. Left over from Danish colonial times were a couple of forts in the two main cities, Christiansted and Frederiksted. These are fairly well preserved and we took tours of both and got a glimpse of what it was like to be stationed on the islands as a soldier.  We also visited an old sugar plantation turned into museum where the history of the slave trade and life was told. We stayed at a hotel on a small island in the Christiansted harbour which had a pretty quiet beach where we could snorkel and explore for sea creatures. We also visited some of the other beaches on the island and had a lot of fun jumping in the waves. Between dips in the pool and dips in the ocean we enjoyed checking out some of the historical areas of the city as well, and had a very relaxing time soaking up the sun and strolling along the pier going to our favourite restaurant.

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The Museum of Natural History, Vienna

The Museum of Natural History in Vienna is home to some unique and world-famous objects. For instance, the largest meteorite collection in the world and a very extensive precious stones and mineral collection. The collection of artifacts begun over 250 years ago and with over 30 million objects you will need quite a bit of time to see everything. We got started a bit late in the afternoon and decided to focus on the extensive and fascinating rock and crystal collection which itself took about an hour to get through. After a few dinosaur bones we headed out for a quick exploration of downtown Vienna.

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The Schönbrunn Palace and Garden

Right next to the Zoo was the Schönbrunn palace and garden which we visited next. The palace is a former imperial summer residence that holds 1,441 rooms. The palace is surrounded by a beautiful sculpted garden called the Great Parterre. In addition to this there is a number of other attractions, such as the Neptune Fountain, the Gloriette above the fountain, and an enormous Palm house.

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Tiergarten Schönbrunn / Vienna Zoo

Another city, another Zoo! Vienna boasts Europe’s oldest Zoo founded in 1752. There were a number of preserved buildings from the baroque era, which gave the place a nice and unique atmosphere. We saw many of the classic Zoo animals, and got a good close up look at a cheetah, and a funky type of chicken that we had never seen before. The Zoo also had pandas, but they were all sleeping when we were there. We were excited to see that one of the Koalas was up and moving about. Considering that they sleep more than 20 hours a day, it is rare that you get to see them awake. After having covered most of the Zoo’s grounds, we took a break from the heat and had lunch in the shade at a zoo restaurant. Before leaving the Zoo we passed some funny monkeys that we couldn’t really see, but that we could definitely hear. They were yelling in a very funny way.

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Ljubljana

After the zoo we headed to the old town of Ljubljana.  We had lunch at a restaurant beside the river and afterwards walked around the local outdoor marketplace.  We visited the castle on the hill and climbed really high, 131 steps from the bottom of the tower to the top to get some spectacular views.  Then on the way back to the car we came across a love-lock bridge where the kids became fascinated with all the locks attached to the bridge.

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Vintgar Gorge

After swimming in Lake Bled, we visited Vintgar Gorge – a very picturesque area with waterfalls, tidal pools, and white rapids.  A path composed of wooden observation walkways and bridges allowed us to walk along the gorge and see some really great scenery.  After traversing the gorge path, we had dinner at a local restaurant where they served fish caught right out of the river.

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Lake Bled and Bled Castle

Next up we drove out to the glacial Lake Bled in the Julian Alps (north western Slovenia).  We visited the old castle above the lake and were greeted by spectacular views of the lake and surrounding area.  From our high vantage point the kids spotted a swimming area down on the lakeshore which we visited next.  It was a great day to cool down and just enjoy the surroundings.

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