• Leonie Lewis

Retirement time for myself-You must be joking! Mission to take 2 Tweens on a Kosher European Holiday

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

Like retirement and most other major life activities, the importance of planning in advance is critical whilst always allowing for a bit of flexibility. This was my mantra as my hubby and I took our two teenage American grand kids on holiday to Europe .

My grand-kids, are aged 12 and 13 respectively, they are different from one another. My granddaughter likes to be very active, is easy-going and has very little interest in museums, galleries and indeed history.

Her older brother is more interested and has an eclectic body of knowledge, but he has a voice disorder - he doesn't stop talking!

As I mentioned, they are American, and being an American tween is definitely different from being European, at least I think it is. (Perhaps you will let me know?)

What they have in common is having fun, doing slightly wacky things and mooching. Give them a European flea market, Camden Market, Convent Garden or even a Primark and they will browse for hours.

They use their phones to check out prices and everything else.. it appears that their phones are attached to their hands and completely necessary for kids these days.

I’m still uncertain if iPhones, cordless headsets etc are for the betterment of communication, but on 3-5-hour rail journeys, various games and episodes of American teen soaps were viewed on said Iphones; and our tweens were occupied.

I resorted to my books and my husband to his emails.

I didn’t mention that our travel was by rail throughout and it really worked like clockwork and we didn’t even visit Switzerland!! It took me back to my inter-rail days. Trains were very comfortable and had free WIFI, an absolute essential.

Our itinerary began at St. Pancras International where we boarded the train to Amsterdam, for three nights.

We chose hotels that were kosher friendly and in two cases provided really good Kosher breakfasts. The Holiday Inn, South Amsterdam, our first stop, was very user friendly and very near kosher delis and three kosher restaurants, including a pizza cafe. Note if you stay here you need to take trams into the centre. This added to our experience and wasn’t a problem at all.

We of course visited the Anne Frank House, the Jewish Museum, did the obligatory open canal boat and hired bikes in Vondelpark.

I chose a mix of activities throughout our 12 days trying to combine my grand kids interests, and give an introduction and flavour to each place visited. I researched Trip Advisor for tweens in Europe,and found comments very helpful.

An average day saw us walking around 20.000 steps! This became competitive…who did the most steps at close of play each day. In most cities we did two activities per day and interspersed these with strolling around, using trams and finding good places to sit and eat our picnic lunches. Each city was chosen due to its access to kosher stores, so I could buy fresh croissants, rolls etc daily. However, nothing could compete with Maxims patisserie in Paris in the Canal de la Villette district.

We would normally arrange to return to our hotel area around 8.30pm in order to catch supper. I didn’t want to spend more than one Shabbat (Saturday) away as meals could be a little tricky. ( A full itinerary is at the end of the blog)

The Holiday Inn in la Villette, is beautifully situated and does have observant Jews stay. They opened up a cold drink tab and access to their fridge for our meals over the Shabbat. But it didn’t provide Kosher breakfasts. Of course, fresh fruit was in abundance as were hard boiled eggs in shells…here Maxims delicious Brioche, challot, and cakes came into their own.Plus the Canal Grill, a nearby wonderful informal kosher restaurant delivered to the hotel Friday afternoon.

Luckily the situation of the hotel, made up for the slight inconvenience. It is very near synagogues, and on possibly the nicest canal in Paris.This was critical as we were spending one of the longest shabbats in Paris, with Shabbat finishing just after 11pm!!!

The canal offered loads of free activities, so we could play table tennis, table footie, and visit a pop-up louvre.

it was a steamy 35 degrees but free deck chairs on a free beach in the shade added to a Parisienne ambience....Large numbers of Sephardi Jews walked by with their families, they were outwardly Jewish and although we evidenced security around the canal this was nothing to do with anti-Semitism, but rather to ensure everyone in the area was safe.

Three nights in Paris, I forgot to mention, we visited the Eiffel Tower at 10.45pm on Thursday, which I should have booked online: don’t make my mistake, the queues are long even at that time of night!

We left first thing Sunday (having bought our Maxims supplies) and headed to Euro Disney, We booked a Euro Disney hotel and went straight to Warner bros studios.

Euro Disney was a real highlight even for American kids, especially as we bought super-fast passes which meant they were in line no longer than 5 mins per ride!!!

Us adults were less inclined to fork out for these passes and happily did family friendly rides and shows. We took pot noodles and other French breads and cakes with us, as Kosher food is very expensive and not great in the park.The promise of a good meal in Belgium on Monday night sufficed. Plus, the free passes were a boon and worth every penny...well almost.

Our trip finished in Antwerp a great little city, where we did two other highlights

Chocolate Nation an interactive story about Belgium chocolate: Kosher Leonidas & Guylian available too!!! And then the De Ruien Sewer tour. Well, although not a highlight exactly, certainly something they will never forget!! Additionally the Hampton Hotel opposite the station, provided enormous kosher breakfasts!!!

We ate well throughout ...I forgot how much teens eat...all the time. Thanks to Hagen Dazs Ben & Jerrys, Starbucks, Hoffys, Kleinblatts, Maxims, Canal Grill, Ha Carmel, Mouves Deli ( though they were not so friendly!!) for keeping us well stocked with food and meals. Note Hoffys is an amazing experience and is very keen for more Jewish visitors, as around 80% of clients eating there are not Jewish.

Yes it was hot, yes we were often tired, yes we probably got on each other’s nerves, but careful planning and research really paid off.

This is not a cheap experience but how often can grandparents say they inter-railed with their grand kids and created everlasting memories. This is why I retired.

Itinerary with tips and scores

Arrived Amsterdam on Monday afternoon

Booked in advance, open canal boat on Friendship Canal Tours.. Score 9 out of 10

Visited Anne Frank house, Score 8 out of 10 (must book in advance)

Visited Children’s museum, Score 8 out of 10 - hands on interactive

Hired bikes near Vondel park, Score 9 out of 10. Kids needed phones to arrange meeting points and had to be competent bike riders as bike riding in Amsterdam is like formula 1.

Visited Bodies Happiness Exhibition online 7 out of 10..Too little interactivity

Dam Square great live entertainment. Like Covent garden. Visited a new area reached by free ferry where great city views were on offer, plus highest swings in Europe!!

Gassan Diamond Tour Booked online..free Score 9 out of 10 . They loved valuing the diamonds and could touch them.

Left for Paris Thursday

Took pm visit to Eiffel Tower 9 out of 10- Night time there is good light show. BOOK Online

Friday visited Mont Marte. Took the small tour train went up the funicular. Score 9 out of 10..great mooching area and they enjoyed the wacky art. plus had their silhouettes done!!

Shabbat/Saturday Spent in the Canal area 8 out of 10.

Sunday & Monday In Euro Disney Score 10 out of 10

Monday night Brussels, staying in Antwerp

Tuesday in Brussels,sat in the lovely square, visited the Mannequin de Pis and enjoyed chocolates in abundance .Leonidas shops were everywhere and there are at least 6 kosher permitted chocs to eat. Score 8 out of 10, Afternoon spent at the Atomium and Mini Europe 8 out of 10.. Atomium has great sound and tech display They loved walking in the tunnels leading the into the spheres.

Wednesday walked around Antwerp and did sewer tour 8 of 10..good to book in advance, plus Comics Station an indoor comic based Amusement centre.. Score 9 out of 10, in spite of them having only heard of the Smurfs!!

Thursday Chocolate Nation 10 out of 10

HOME Exhausted - at least i was

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