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Help with planning European vacation for foodie with kids

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Jul 16th, 2012, 11:43 AM
  #1
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Help with planning European vacation for foodie with kids

Hi,

We are planning a vacation to Europe with our two kids next summer but we're looking for some suggestions from other families on where/what might work. By the time we go our kids will be almost 12 and almost 9. I am a (healthy) foodie who likes to travel around finding great places to eat and going to food markets, art museums/kid-friendly museums (though we're not big on religious art/churches... more of impressionism, expressionism, through to modern art), local artisan shops (of both artists and artisan food producers), open squares, bicycling, light hikes, perhaps a wine tasting, maybe some light canoeing (if my little one can take the paddling, we may need to build him up for this! LOL!). My husband loves history. We're not quite sure of where to go. We had the opportunity to travel with my husband on business two years ago to London, Florence, and Rome. We don't necessarily need to do Rome or Florence again as we've seen much of the major sites there. We were in London at a time when it didn't rain the entire time we were there so we just strolled around Portobello Market (where I had to go eat at Ottolenghi) and walked along the Thames and didn't go into one single museum. I'm sure there'd be plenty for us to see if we went back and it would be easy to get to Paris from London if we wanted to spend one week in there; one in Paris (though my hubby said he will stay in France for a week, tops and then he's out, hence then need to pair it with another country if Paris or somewhere in France is our pick).

We'll have about 2 weeks traveling from the East Coast of the US. I'd personally love to go to Italy for the entire time but it's up to me to sell my family on it. There's so much that I haven't seen there and I adore Italian food and we had such a good time when we went last. I would love to visit Bologna, the foodie capital of Italy, and the hill towns of Tuscany but I don't know if it's feasible to do with kids (or if I'm imagining a vacation that I'd be better off taking with just my husband and me when the kids are older and on their own(!?!). Is there enough to do without all the must-see touristy things that kids tend to love?

Other thoughts are spending the entire two weeks Spain (though I heard mixed reviews on whether this is hard to do if you're vegetarian, as I am. Though 1/2 of my family is omnivorous.)

Would it make more sense to try to get an apartment so that we all have some space and have a place to bring food home or prepare some meals? I don't want to be packing up every night or two, to move on to other accommodations and would prefer to have "a place to call home" that has enough room for us so that the kids can sleep in one room and we can sleep in the other.

Any thoughts on where to go and possible itineraries are appreciated.

Thank you in advance!!
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Jul 16th, 2012, 11:48 AM
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Rent a place in the Dordogne for two weeks. It has everything you're interested in, and a lot more.
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Jul 16th, 2012, 12:54 PM
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Thank you StCirq for the recommendation. My husband doesn't want to go to France for the whole time so if we do France we have one week at the most.
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Jul 16th, 2012, 01:59 PM
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Look at the area roughly between Colmar and Strasbourg (alsace), this valley (the Rhine) is sort of ex-Germany, is next to Germany and just up from Switzerland. Some fine museums, access to lovely wines, good bike riding, you could rent a gite in one or two villages and do all the things you like to do.
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Jul 16th, 2012, 02:09 PM
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You could probably find something similar in Champagne leading up to Belgium but this area is a bit duller and villages have less happening compared to Alsace. I'd also suggest the Mosel but the museums are less interesting.

StCirq's idea is one I would share, but it is in France.

Veggie in France is easy and even more so in Germany. It is possible in Spain but can go wrong (too often does the little bit of pig fat end up in a pastry)
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Jul 17th, 2012, 07:04 PM
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Thank you!! I will look into these and see what I convince the family of.
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Jul 17th, 2012, 07:10 PM
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I don't know we usually eat our children separately.
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Jul 17th, 2012, 07:20 PM
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Having gotten to the point where we like to spend lots of time in one place, we did a month in SW France in November 2010, and two weeks in Umbria (tiny town outside of Spoleto) last September (it was part of a longer stay in Italy). The two weeks in Umbria were heavenly. You can daytrip to the beaches on the Adriatic, as well as check out many wonderful little towns.

We were surprised at the lack of "markets" in Italy vs. France. In France the markets travel within the region, and we totally enjoyed stocking up on special cheeses, fresh veggies and fruit, etc in the markets, filling in with staples from the "super markets." (sigh, it IS a real world and no one lives market to market anymore). In Italy, we found we did most of our grocery shopping at the super markets, although we liked getting breads and pastries from small bakeries. And the wines...well, you buy your wines at wineries, little local vinotecas, and totally enjoy.

With kids along, the Dordogne is very attractive because of the boating/canoes, caves, castles, etc. I also know a family that rented a canal boat and traveled on that for a week.

I'd do two weeks in either the Dordogne or Umbria in a flash.
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Jul 18th, 2012, 05:15 AM
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Take a look at San Sebastián, the culinary capital of Spain if not all of Europe, some of the finest city beaches on the continent, beautiful landscapes and European Capital of Culture in 2016. Very close to the French border. http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/08/07...tin-spain.html

Acciording to Ferran Adrià, the world's leading chef of the past decade, San Sebastián is the best place to eat in the world "in terms of the average quality of the food, in terms of what you can get at any place you happen to walk into".
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandsty...rink.shopping2
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Jul 18th, 2012, 05:28 AM
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Since you would like to spend the entire time in Italy and your husband, for some reason, doesn't seem to love France, why not spend the two weeks in Italy? However, with kids the age of yours, I wouldn't spend all of your time in Bologna and Tuscany - they'd likely be a bit bored.

Your description of the things you are looking for brings Italy immediately to mind. Consider Tusscany for biking and hiking, Rome, and either the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre. Find a nice agritourism in Tuscany with a pool - it's hot in the summer.
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Jul 18th, 2012, 05:35 AM
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...and San Sebastián is excellent for kids. Three fabulous city beaches, several parks, and kids are all around playing in the parks and squares long into the night. There is an old fashioned fun fair up at Monte Igueldo with spectacular views of the city. The funicular going up and down here is an attraction in itself: http://www.monteigueldo.es/indexIN.html

A great Aquarium in the harbour: http://www.aquariumss.com/

San Sebastián is also a major football (soccer), cycling, watersports and horse racing city. The city pride Real Sociedad plays in Primera Division together with Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sport is everywhere, among all the fabulous food and wine...
http://www.spanishabroad.com/prog_te...seb_sports.htm
http://www.whatsansebastian.com/san-...tersports.html
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Jul 18th, 2012, 10:28 AM
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More great suggestions!!! THANK YOU so very much! When the kids are in camp next week I'll be able to get to work and check out these places a bit more! I can't thank you enough! It's so wonderful to be able to get such great ideas from people that are more well-travelled than we are.

I love the idea of taking cooking classes wherever we go so one of the articles on San Sebastian that mentioned a cooking school headed by Adria himself looked great! I only wish I could have gone to Spain when El Bulli was still open.
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Jul 18th, 2012, 11:40 AM
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You will not miss El Bulli when in San Sebastián, three 3 Michelin star restaurants in town (Arzak, Akelarre, Martin Berasategui), and many think Mugaritz - with "only" two stars - is the best of them all. Currently ranked no. 3 in the world. 16 Michelin stars in San Sebastián, and any place serving less than great food is out of business in two weeks. http://www.hlondres.com/en/concierge...-san-sebastian

Elena Arzak of the restaurant with the same name was recently voted the world's best female chef. She's fourth generation Arzak running this San Sebastián classic: http://www.theworlds50best.com/awards/best-female-chef/
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Jul 18th, 2012, 01:16 PM
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That's great to know! Thank you kimhe! Are these places you would be able to take a ~12 and ~9 year old or is this more for adults? Spending 110€ for each child (who likely won't appreciate or want a fancy prix fixe dinner) is way more than we wanted to spend. :/ Eeeek!
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Jul 18th, 2012, 01:17 PM
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These sound great to put on my list of places to go back to when it's just my hubby!!! Yummm!!
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Jul 18th, 2012, 01:18 PM
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I meant to say... when it's just my hubby and ME.
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Jul 18th, 2012, 02:55 PM
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Your trip header sounds like something I would have written, except our kids are now 13 and 17.

Re the vegetarian aspect, we recently traveled to Europe for the first time with our DS since he became vegetarian.

I would say that if you're a foodie, and want to eat at nicer or semi-nice places in France, finding vegetarian dishes can be a challenge. We didn't want to eat at the type of places that had tourist menus, which are more likely to have vegetarian main dishes. And I didn't want to just assume that we could find enough to eat at a restaurant choice from the appetizer and side dishes portions of the menu. So really consider whether France would be the best choice. If it weren't for the vegetarian thing, I would recommend a weekn in the Dordogne, as well. Beautiful, very interesting medieval castles, amazing prehistoric sites, and the food is fantastic. To me, however, it's fantastic for foie gras and duck, and potatoes sauteed in duck fat. You get the picture. If you go to Paris, though, I can give you the names of the great places that we did eat at.

The same with Spain. We loved Spain, and very much enjoyed the food and the tapas culture. And I'm sure you could find enough to eat and enjoy, but again, not the first place I would suggest for a vegetarian. Another geat thing about Spain is that our DD, being a rather small person, doesn't always eat a huge amount. So we all liked being able to order dishes of all different sizes (tapas, half-portions and regular main course size) and sharing them, so we could try many different items. This was true at many restaurants, not just at tapas bars.

Italy, as you know, is the perfect place for a vegetarian. I don't think I've seen a menu there that didn't have several good options for vegetarians.

The UK, veggie was easy, most places had at least one veggie main course, as well as appetizers and side dishes. And often local foods, like pies (pasties) had non-meat choices.

On taking kids to places, we have taken both kids to all sorts of restaurants in Europe, including starred Michelin places, starting when they were 10. It's up to you to decide if your kids are ready for it, and if they would enjoy the experience. Both my kids did, though we limited ourselves to one or two of those high-end places each trip. Our kids are both adventurous, so we never had difficulty finding food they would eat, and when they were younger, the waiters seemed tickled to see an American kid digging into pigeon, or ordering foie gras for lunch, or whatever. And we've never had an issue, either, with either of them ordering just one course at a meal. Nobody ever seemed dismayed when we walked into a restaurant with kids; perhaps it's expected that they behave as well as the other restaurant patrons.

On the specific Tuscany question, we haven't taken our kids there. DH and I have been a number of times; it just doesn't seem the sort of place that kids would like to hang out and relax, like adults do in Tuscany. Our DD (DS didn't go that trip) loved Rome, Venice and Florence, though.
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Jul 18th, 2012, 03:00 PM
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At least Arzak is perfectly laid-back, and they would for sure warmly welcome your kids and make something special for them. Haven't been to any of the other Michelin restaurants, there are so many other fabulous places to choose from. San Sebastián is full of excellent restaurants from innovative and fancy to traditional and no fuzz which are in a totally different price category and where kids eat all the time.

Two suggestions in the Parte vieja/Old town:
If you're in the gourmet mood, I can recommend La Muralla: http://www.restaurantelamuralla.com/
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...e_Country.html

For no fuzz, traditional food, I very much like affordable and friendly La Cueva: http://www.restaurantelacueva.org/index_ingles.htm

In general, the choices of great places to eat are endless in food-crazy San Sebastián.

And then you have the pintxos of course. No more fun and affordable way to have a truly gastronomical experience, hopping from bar to bar with fantastic bite-sized portions of all kinds of goodies. http://www.todopintxos.com/home/home.php?lang=en
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Jul 19th, 2012, 03:51 AM
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Our kids loved Italy. We have toured through Tuscany, Umbria and Northern Italy with them. We usually rent a villa with a pool and use the mornings for touring and lunches out. We return to the villa for late afternoon swims, drinks and often eat in. Our kids (now 13 and 14) like this style of travel. Italy has more michelin starred restaurants than any other country and they have always welcomed the children. We do try to incorporate hiking (generally through geocaching) along the way. I haven´t done the South of France but this type of travel would work well.

If you don´t want to stay the whole 2 weeks in Italy, you could concentrate on Northern Italy and add in Slovenia which is a paradise for kids. You could try canyoning, rafting and kayaking in the Soca River Valley. The goriska brdo is perfect for wine tasting, and the kids would like the caves at Postojna and/or Skocjan. The Lippizaner farms at Lipica are also interesting, esp. if you like horses. Piran, Bled and Ljubljana are quite nice for children. There are some excellent restaurants (esp. Hisa Franka in Kobarid), but the veg gourmet wouldn´t be as sure of a thing as in Italy.
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