Category Archives: In Aarhus

Ten tips for travelling with kids

Although I have travelled many times to conferences and for work, my trip with Oliver to Europe was the first time one of my children accompanied me. Now that Oliver and I are well and truly home, here are my top tips for a great work or holiday travel experience with a kid (with the caveat that I travelled with just one kid; a pretty easy going 8-year-old kid at that). These things worked for us:

1. Maintain bedtime

In England, Denmark and the Netherlands, the sun didn't go down until very late; after 9pm. In fact, we travelled just before and after the summer solstice, so during the longest days of the year. It was tempting to make use of these long days. But on the advice of my friend Jennie (who recently travelled to London with her similarly aged daughter), I mostly maintained Oliver's usual bedtime; around 7-8pm with only a few exceptions. When we first arrived in London, jet lag meant Oliver was ready for bed even earlier. But after he was mostly over his jet lag, I still tried to stick with early nights. This became difficult in Rotterdam where conference activities finished late and everyone then headed to dinner. We stayed out late our first night in Rotterdam (bed at 10.30pm) but on subsequent nights we skipped these dinners and ordered room service. In return, Oliver was fairly well rested for the busy days and the cumulative stress and exhaustion of travelling. Lights out at 8 o'clock was a little boring for me once I was over the jet lag, but I just wrote our blog or watched TV on my iPad (Season 1 of House of Cards!).

 

2. Let the kid decide

Whenever possible I let Oliver decide what we would do and see. In London there were a couple of things I definitely wanted to do, such as the Tower of London. But otherwise, I suggested options to Oliver and let him choose. For instance, in London we went to the London Zoo two afternoons in a row. Oliver loved it and wanted to go back. Once in the zoo, he cycled over and over between visits to the gorillas, monkeys, and meerkats, with a little of the tigers, african hunting dogs, aquarium, and reptiles. This is what he wanted to do and I let him, rather than pressure him to go to new places I thought he would like. He's still talking about the meerkats! A similar thing happened in Rotterdam. One morning he went with Nina, John and Doris to an architecture museum. The next morning when I had free time he didn't want to go somewhere else, but back to the same museum to show me what he had seen.

 

3. Don't crowd the days

When travelling to new places it is tempting to squeeze in lots of sights and activities; after all, how soon will we be back in Denmark? But a string of long days wears everyone out. We tried not to do too many things in one day and tried not to feel obligated to stay at any one place. For example, one morning in London Oliver and I visited the British Museum. You could spend days there. But Oliver was ready to leave after 90 minutes; so we left. We missed things, but when I abandoned any idea of a list of “must do” sights, it didn't matter. Given this is what worked best for us, next time I wouldn't buy the London Pass. It's really only value for money when you do a number of things each day.

 

4. Allow plans to change

Some days I made plans in my head of our likely itinerary. But then it didn't pan out. In London we abandoned our plan to go to Legoland Windsor after I read terrible reviews on TripAdvisor. Another day we planned to go to the Tower of London but my day pass for the train was off peak, meaning I couldn't use it until after 9.30am. So instead we wandered to Buckingham Palace and got sidetracked by Churchill's War Rooms. We also planned to take a tour of Chelsea Football Stadium, but then Oliver realised the football season was over and a tour meant just seeing the stadium not the team. Our plans changed again. I realised that as long as we were having fun it didn't matter if we missed some things I originally planned.

A somewhat related issue was money spent on unfamiliar food or drinks. In Aarhus, for instance, Oliver and I took a break in a cafe and ordered a skim milk hot chocolate and a smoothie (or so we thought). But things are made and taste differently in different countries and Oliver didn't like his drink. He tried it but didn't want to finish it. I learned not to sweat money “wasted” on such things (see point 9 below).

 

5. Remember “trival” things can be just as fun

Amidst our busy travel and conference schedule, Oliver enjoyed many simple things. One morning in London he asked to go feed the ducks in Hyde Park. All this cost us was a half a loaf of bread we didn't plan to eat anyway. In return Oliver spent a wonderful hour in the park. He also enjoyed learning the London Underground, meeting and patting people's dogs in the various parks, kicking a cobblestone around the streets of Aarhus, and sitting in cafe windows and watching people go by (noticing differences between them and people at home). Unplanned, seemingly trivial activities often were just as fun as the big outings and sights. They certainly were a lot cheaper.

 

6. Your company and attention are worth as much as the sights you will see

Oliver was four when his sister, Louisa, was born. Since she was born he has fought to focus some attention away from her — she has been quite demanding — and back to him. To my mind, one of the very best parts of our trip was the one-on-one time that Oliver and I spent together. I know he enjoyed almost everything we saw and did together but I'm pretty sure he enjoyed as much the fact that he had (almost) my undivided attention. I loved when he said to me after our trip to the Natural History Museum in London that his favourite part of the day was spending it with me!

 

7. Schedule a rest day

I think it is really important to schedule down time. In London, between morning and afternoon activities we often went back to the hotel for an hour or so rest. I find travelling exhausting and I've travelled a great deal. It must be incredibly overwhelming and tiring for kids. In Aarhus we spent an entire day — the Sunday — doing almost nothing. This allowed us to recharge before we raced off the next day to Legoland and then on to Rotterdam for our last, hectic leg of the trip.

 

8. Watch for signs of jet lag meltdown (tired, hungry)

Both from Sydney to London and from Rotterdam to Sydney, we travelled approximately 30 hours door to door and crossed many, many time zones. This is hard enough on an adult, let alone on a kid. During the trip I was vigilant for signs of “jet lag meltdown”. Sometimes Oliver didn't realise that he was hungry or tired because his body clock was so out of whack (although he slept brillantly). He just felt unhappy. So we made a pact to be patient with one another when we were feeling a bit cranky; I made sure Oliver got as much sleep as possible; and I encouraged him to eat when he might be hungry. For breakfasts, I bought simple food from the corner store to eat when he first woke up (which in London was quite early) then we had a second, later breakfast when we were out and about. So my advice is to plan for the hunger and tiredness and count to ten!

 

9. Find familiar foods

Oliver was happy to try new foods. He especially enjoyed the Dutch pancakes that the breakfast chef (who took a bit of a shine to Oliver) made for him in Rotterdam. But he also appreciated familiar foods, particularly since his eating schedule was thrown entirely off kilter by jetlag. In London, in Marks and Spencer, Boots or Pret a Manger, we easily found ham and cheese sandwiches and apples (two favourites), which helped his transition to the new time and environment.

 

10. Choose hotels with wi-fi (and bring a device or two)

We spent a lot of time in transit and Oliver spent a lot of time in conference venues. He maintained his good humour in part by listening to music, reading on, or playing on his iPad mini. Occasionally he wanted to download new things or to play online. In Aarhus, he was lucky to find another boy at the conference and they played side by side on their iPads while I was giving my talk. So I was pleased and mildly surprised to find that every hotel we stayed in and the conference venues all had free wi-fi for an unlimited number of devices. This contrasts with my most recent stay in the US, where wi-fi cost me $16 a day for one device. Free wi-fi also made my blogging much easier. Many European hotels include free wi-fi. It is worth looking out for it when booking accommodation.

 

So those are my top tips. What are your best tips for a great trip with kids?

 

Legoland! Part 4: Star Wars

In this final post in our series on Legoland Denmark, we share photos of the Star Wars display in MiniLand.

Being an “old school” Star Wars fan (B.J.J.B; that is, I liked it before JarJar Binks appeared), I recognised the scenes from Episodes IV to VI (Star Wars: A New Hope; The Empire Strikes Back; Return of the Jedi). Oliver knew the others and hopefully I have put the photos roughly in the right order. Perhaps in the comments you can identify the scene and the movie for each picture? Just type in the picture number and what movie it is from and what is happening and I will add it to the caption for each photo plus a credit to you!

1

 

2

 

3

 

4-6

 

7

 

8-11

 

12

 

13

 

14

 

Pretty amazing! My only regret: no Death Star!! Oliver has the Death Star Lego kit at home, but wouldn't it be cool if they made one to the scale of these other scenes? Time for some friendly customer feedback!

So! What do you think? Where are these scenes from? Over to you!

That's it from Legoland. We are off to Rotterdam in a few hours and now up to date on this blog. Catch you soon.

Amanda and Oliver.

 

Legoland! Part 3: Miniland

At Legoland Denmark, Miniland has models of cities and towns from across Denmark, Europe and the world. The level of detail is amazing. Most models have working parts, such as airplanes, cars, buses, trucks, or boats driving around each scene.

You can ride on a Lego train around Miniland …

Riding the Lego train around Miniland

 

Or you can walk around the huge area. There are scenes of airports …

The Lego Miniland Airport

 

Scenes of towns …

Fantastic models, beautifully landscaped

 

More towns …

Notice Gamera the radioactive duck come to wreck havoc!

 

Towns by the sea …

So much detail!

 

Castles, famous buildings and movie sets …

The Danish Palace in Copenhagen (top), Mann's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles (middle), and a film set (bottom)

 

And scenes of hikers high up mountains (one of Oliver's favourites) …

High on a hill is a lonely goat ...

 

There is lots more including Lego models of the wonders of the ancient and modern world and life size Lego models of animals on a safari.

It was all so amazing you couldn't help but just sit and stare in wonder …

 

Amsterdam, bikes, feeling at home and Crumpler

We interrupt our Legoland posts for a quick travel update!

Today Oliver and I travelled from Aarhus to Amsterdam via Copenhagen. This involved one bus ride, two flights and one train ride. It took about 6.5 hours. Oliver is becoming quite the seasoned traveller and, so long as I tell him each of the travel elements to expect for the day, he does not complain (although he is not looking forward to the long flights back to Sydney on Sunday).

Amsterdam seems crazy busy after the peaceful lane ways of Aarhus. The streets here are a profusion of trams and cars and motorbikes and bikes and pedestrians. So. Many. Bikes!!! I thought Aarhus had a lot of bike riders but Amsterdam is Aarhus X 1000. Bikes going everywhere. It makes total sense for the environment but it makes walking the streets precarious. And no one wears helmets. Not even little kids biked around by their parents. I love bike riding but I suspect riding here in Amsterdam would give me a heart attack! No photos unfortunately because I feared being run over if we stopped to click.

Oliver and I emerged this afternoon from our comfy hotel room (check out tomorrow is at noon; bliss!) for a quick scout around. Amsterdam reminds me of London during my first one or two visits; when I didn't know or understand the city; couldn't find my way around; didn't know its secrets. I think it takes a local to help you feel comfortable in cities like London, Amsterdam and perhaps Sydney. I really love London. I'm not intimidated by it. But Amsterdam felt intimidating this afternoon, not knowing where to go or what to see. And so crowded. We needed a local or a visiting “old hand”.

Instead we followed a map on my iPhone to the Amsterdam Crumpler Store. I planned this visit before we left Sydney! As some of you know, I love Crumpler bags and they sell entirely different ones here in Europe. I found out this afternoon that this is because Australian Crumpler sold their European business to a German company. The German company has kept the same logo, general styling and design philosophy but produced a different range of bags. Awesome!

The man in the store was super friendly and gave me a couple of sample cases (apparently they've been celebrating their birthday) and some Crumpler shopping bags. I picked up a few gifts for friends, a cool silver carry on bag for me (since Oliver and my bags are pretty full) and a funky little Crumpler man key ring. The store had so many wonderful bags, cases, notebooks and other stuff to chose from.

If you get the chance, go visit:

Crumpler Shop Amsterdam

Haarlemmerdijk 31

1031 KA Amsterdam

Telephone: +31 (0)20 620 24 54

amsterdam@crumpler.nl

http://www.crumpler.nl

Amsterdam Crumpler Store

 

Or read their blog: http://blog.crumpler.eu/en/

Tomorrow we catch the train to Rotterdam for the start of three and a half intensive days of conferencing, starting at 2.30pm with one of my three remaining spoken talks (the 5 minute one). Onwards!!

My new Crumpler bag!

 

Legoland! Part 2: Around the Park

Legoland Billund Resort in Denmark is laid out in themed areas.

The Legoland Park Map

 

When you enter, you first walk into Miniland, a huge collection of city scenes and famous buildings from around the world all built out of Lego and landscaped beautifully. We will post pictures in Parts 3 and 4 of our Legoland Blog Extravaganza!

We next visited Pirate Lagoon. The main feature here is a huge lagoon with pirate ships you can ride in. There are water cannons both on the ships and “on land”, beside the Lagoon. So people riding the pirate ships and people standing around the Lagoon can have water battles. Lots of fun, but you end up very wet. Luckily they have drying machines; put in 30 DK and stand in a booth while hot air blasts you and your wet clothes.

Legoland Pirate Lagoon

 

Getting dry and hanging with pirates at Legoland Pirate Lagoon

 

Our next stop was Knights Kingdom, with its giant castle and Dragen roller coaster. The roller coaster winds through the bottom of the castle, past huge Lego tableaux from the Knights of the Round Table and an enormous Lego dragon guarding piles of treasure. Then it climbs to the top of the castle and flings you down and around for a while. Lots of fun. We rode this 3 or 4 times.

Dragen roller coaster at Legoland Knights Kingdom

 

We also visited Legoredo Town, a Western town with cowboys and Indians. There were giant Lego replicas of some American icons and an Indian village …

Legoland's Legoredo Town

 

We rode a Lego log ride around Legoredo and a Danish woman who sat beside us said it must be strange for us to find a Western town in Denmark. “I guess”, I replied, but then we worked out she thought our accents were American not Australian! By the way, I have no idea how to pronounce Legoredo!

My favourite part of the park was The Temple; an Egyptian themed area with a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” style of ride. You climb into cars and use laser guns to shoot at coloured treasure through a maze inside a pyramid. We rode this one maybe 8 times as Oliver perfected his shooting style and got more points each time.

Legoland's The Temple

 

One embarrassing part of the park is that during each ride they take photos of you with strategically positioned cameras. Then they try to sell you your “action shot” after you get off. Our photos inevitably were a fright, with hair and mouths going in all directions!

These are just a few snapshots of a very busy day. We also saw a new 4D Chima movie at Lego Studios; the 4D means they throw water over you, for instance, when the characters on screen fly through a waterfall! We also visited Polar Land, Adventure Land, and Duplo Land. And we wandered past a pretty cool mock up of the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. This was part of Miniland, which we will cover in detail in Part 3 of our blog on Legoland. But I just want to say how cool these models are. Many of them have cars and trucks and boats tootling around. The Space one had the rocket counting down and then igniting. It was really amazing!

 

Oliver's favourite parts of Legoland were:

1. Legoredo Town

2. Pirate Lagoon

3. Dragen roller coaster

 

Mine were:

1. The Temple

2. Lego shops

3. Miniland

 

More on Miniland in Part 3 of our Lego Adventure!

 

Legoland! Part 1: Billund Resort, Denmark

This morning we caught intercity train 18 from Aarhus to Vejle. This train went on to Copehangen but we got off at Vejle after 45 mins.

We then caught bus no 143 from Vejle train station to Billund and a stop right outside Legoland. This ride took 35 mins. So the whole journey from Aarhus to Legoland took about 1.5 hours (and about the same time returning, although a little slower because of a wait between the bus and the train).

On the train to Legoland

 

We booked our tickets at Aarhus train station yesterday and the guides helpfully gave us details of train and bus numbers and connections, as well as calculated the best train and bus times so we arrived around 10am when Legoland opened and returned to Aarhus around 8pm for a reasonable bed time. Very helpful!

For Oliver and I, our all-in-one train and bus fare was 316 kroner (DK), although I think Ollie was free (up to 12 years). This is about $60 AUS. Not cheap but then I don't think much in Denmark is cheap. But the train and bus were cheaper and easier than hiring a car and driving ourselves (they drive on the “wrong” side of the road here in Denmark!!).

As an aside, I suspect we've spent way too much money in Denmark because the exchange rate is tricky. 1 DK is about AUS 20 cents. And AUS $1 is 5 DK. This seems harder maths when out and about (e.g., converting 359 DK to Australian dollars) than converting pounds to dollars (I usually just multiple pounds by about 1.5, but actually that underestimates the cost in Australia dollars, so I'm clearly not doing very well budget wise). I also wasn't able to put DK onto my Travelex cash passport. I found the cash passport super helpful in London for managing our spending and didn't use my credit card much. But for Denmark, I underestimated how much DK we would need when I exchanged money at Heathrow, and so have charged more expenses to my credit card, which means extra fees. I'll be back using the cash passport when we get to the Netherlands and euros tomorrow.

Tickets into Legoland cost 578 DK or AUS $110 for 1 adult and 1 child. I think this compares favorably with the cost of the Gold Coast theme parks. Entry into Legoland would have been 20% cheaper if we booked a week or more ahead but we didn't know which day we were going.

The entrance to Legoland Billund Resort, Denmark

 

So AUS $170 for transport and park entry. But once in, almost all rides and attractions are free (apart from two or three things we skipped).

We rode lots of rides in the 6-7 hours we were there; probably 12 different rides, some a few times. The wait in line never was more than 5-10 minutes. In comparison, I read on Trip Advisor that the wait for rides at Legoland Windsor typically is 40-60+ minutes! We skipped a few rides that looked busy and I also avoided most of the rides where you get soaked.

At Billund, most of the lines are under cover, which is great for the changeable weather (it showered on and off most days we were in Denmark, including our day at Legoland). And many of the areas set aside for queues are decorated with Lego displays to occupy you while waiting.

One of the Lego displays along the queue into the Dragen roller coaster

 

Legoland is super impressive. Apparently 60 million Lego bricks are used throughout the resort. The resort itself is immaculately clean and beautifully maintained. Even the garbage bins are shaped like Lego. The food is okay but very expensive, so I would recommend packing your own.

Lego garbage!

 

The resort is set out in themed areas, much like Seaworld or Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, but everywhere there are life size Lego figures, which make it especially charming and fun. We will post separately about the different areas, but for now, here are some photos of the figures around the park.

 

 

As you'd expect, there are many, many Lego outlets throughout the park, with Lego stuff not available in Australia. We enjoyed browsing and picked up a few small things.

Lego mini figure key rings. 3 for 99.95 DK!

 

In Part 2 we will write about and post pictures from different parts of the park. In Part 3 we will post pictures from Miniland, a huge highlight of our visit. And in Part 4 we will post pictures for Star Wars fans!

 

Sunday in Aarhus: Our Wimbledon rest day

The Wimbledon Championships at the All England Club, which start tomorrow, run over two weeks in June and July each year. Two weeks. Almost exactly the same length as our trip. At Wimbledon, the middle Sunday — the Sunday after the first full week of play — traditionally is a rest day. So too for us. Today we are having an easy day. Resting our legs and feet and preparing for our busy second week of travelling.

 

Tomorrow we are booked for a full day at Legoland Denmark. We need to be on a train just after 8am and then won't return to our hotel until after 8pm. On Tuesday we have two flights: Aarhus to Copenhagen and Copenhagen to Amsterdam. So another long day of travelling. On Wednesday we are catching a train to Rotterdam and launching straight into three and a half days of conferencing. My first talk is Wednesday afternoon. Then we fly home next Sunday.

 

So today is our Wimbledon rest day. It is quieter here in Aarhus than yesterday, Saturday. Perhaps everyone else is resting as well?

Oliver slept late this morning and we took our time heading to breakfast and then out and about. We considered visiting the ARoS Art Museum (ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum in Danish) or the Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisk Museum in Danish) at the University of Aarhus. But instead we agreed on a slow day.

We crossed the street to browse Salling, a department store much like Myers in Sydney. Oliver bought some “Lone Ranger” Lego and I bought Louisa a cool, purple winter jacket (on sale since it is summer here). We then walked to the train station to buy our train tickets to Legoland for tomorrow.

Salling Department Store and Louisa's new jacket

 

Right now we are set up in a cosy corner of the lobby of our hotel (since our room is pretty compact). Oliver is building his Lego in between playing on a hotel computer and the foosball table. We have drinks and snacks and books and iPads and a plan to chill out until it's time for an early dinner.

Cozy in the hotel lobby

 

There is so much in Aarhus we could be seeing, but like the tennis players who make it through the first week at Wimbledon, we need to regroup and recharge. I think we will enjoy the days and sights to come if we stop rushing for one day and just breathe in and out for a while.

So more soon from us. Meanwhile, enjoy the tennis!