Belgium Waffles

(This post is in honor of my Dad!)

After our time in Normandy we decided to drive to Belgium for some good food:  waffles, fries and chocolate!  How could we not?  We live so close… 9 hours away!  Haha! (Belgium was only 4-5 hours from where we were in Normandy.)

When I was younger and our family would go to a restaurant that served breakfast, my Dad would always ask for a Belgium Waffle.  He would then proceed to tell the waitress or waiter that the waffle had to be soft on the inside and hard on the outside.  I always thought it a pain when he would ask for something specific that clearly would not be what would appear on his plate by the looks of the menu or the look on the waitress’s face!  I should have just asked my Dad, when I had the chance, why he wanted a waffle like that. (Mom, please share why?  I am assuming it was because of your time you spent while living in Germany?)

When I was planning our trip, I planned our city visits according to the food we wanted! Waffles in Antwerp, chocolate in Brussels and fries where ever we could find them!  So, our first stop was Antwerp.  I did my research and I can almost guarantee you, we found the BEST Belgium Waffle on the planet in Antwerp!

2014-10-25 02.45.12

The Van Hecke Waffle House!  It is a very small restaurant that has been around since 1905.  It is the real deal!  The gentleman that helped us was so kind and really helped us have a lovely experience!  They only have 5 waffle irons, so it took them a little time to get all the waffles made and brought to us.  Man, oh man!  I hope your mouth waters as you look at these photos, because, honestly, I would get in my car right now and drive 9 hours to wake up to this waffle for breakfast!

2014-10-25 02.14.36 2014-10-25 02.14.28 2014-10-25 02.12.06

Aaron, Austin and I got a waffle with vanilla bean ice cream and their homemade chocolate sauce, that was so rich and delicious!  AJ and Tristan got a waffle with vanilla ice cream and strawberry sauce, plus, whip cream!  Jack and Sophie got a plain one with ice cream. The chocolate sauce was too rich for Austin, but Aaron and I enjoyed every last bite.  Oh, so yummy!  We noticed many waffle shops in Belgium and people would just walk around with a plain waffle in hand as a snack.

2014-10-25 02.05.162014-10-25 02.05.222014-10-25 02.05.332014-10-25 02.10.422014-10-25 02.10.53

You were absolutely right Dad, hard on the outside and soft on the inside!  I thought of you every bite I took and I wish we could have enjoyed it together!

Normandy Beauty

If you were to drive through all the different regions of France you would notice the change in the houses and architecture you see.  In southern France the roofs are terra cotta tile and the houses are usually more of an orange/brown/yellow tone.  A lot of the homes are made with cinder blocks covered in stucco.  Also, in the south, there is the eye catching blue (which I happen to really enjoy)!  Some regions of France have the bordering countries influence.  Normandy, I think, along with Paris, Region is my favorite as far as the architecture of the homes.  As we spent three days in Normandy, I found myself telling Aaron to stop so I could get ANOTHER picture of a beautiful home or farm.  It was gorgeous!  The colors were more greys/whites with slate roofs and a lot more stone.

2014-10-23 04.01.19

Chateau Balleroy

2014-10-23 04.01.30

This is the local school.

2014-10-23 04.01.572014-10-23 04.02.582014-10-24 19.36.282014-10-24 19.36.30

The countryside is beautiful as well.  Large green rolling hills with white cows dotting the countryside.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven!

2014-10-21 22.50.572014-10-24 03.23.172014-10-24 03.02.35

This estate was actually used by the US Army after D-Day landfall.

2014-10-24 02.55.49

I think this home is charming.  It immediately takes me back in time, except for the modern trampoline plopped right in the middle of their courtyard! LOL!

2014-10-24 03.00.53

Pointe du Hoc


In the above photo, if you look close, you can see the large land mass jetting out into the English Channel.  This is the Pointe du Hoc.  This promontory point has a 100 foot cliff that the American Ranger Assault Group scaled on June 6, 1944 (D-Day).  The German army had fortified the area with concrete casements and gun pits.  The American Ranger Group attacked with roughly 225 soldiers and after two days of fighting around 90 remained alive. This is the only area along the Normandy Beaches that one can visually see the effects of the war.  My boys were fascinated by this landmark, as well as myself!  The remains of the concrete casements are still there and you can walk through some of them.  There are huge craters in the ground, probably from grenades and other artillery.2014-10-24 02.04.44 2014-10-24 02.04.26 2014-10-24 02.02.46

We were all envisioning a battleground as we walked on that sacred ground!  In fact, it is a remaining visual witness of what took place.  Fascinating!

2014-10-24 02.07.00 2014-10-24 02.10.02 2014-10-24 02.10.16

I think pictures are the best way to describe what remains on the Pointe du Hoc.  Enjoy! (Again, totally missing Julia and Alexis!  I know they, too, would have been intrigued and fascinated with this place!)

2014-10-24 02.16.15 2014-10-24 02.13.302014-10-24 02.16.212014-10-24 02.18.312014-10-24 02.18.452014-10-24 02.18.482014-10-24 02.20.522014-10-24 02.25.35

One can see the effects of war as rebar was hanging out from structures, heaps of concrete having plunged to the earth, rusted barbed wire tangled up in overgrown brush, and deep concrete cells deserted!

2014-10-24 02.20.54 2014-10-24 02.29.21 2014-10-24 02.30.22 2014-10-24 02.45.48

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Aaron and I traveled to Normandy for a few hours last spring while we were traveling in France.  It was very cold and windy and we were not able to fully appreciate the experience.  I was looking forward to visiting this site as a family.  Aaron and I had a lot of discussions about the events of WWII with the kids and tried to humbly prepare their hearts and minds to what they would witness and learn at this Cemetery and Memorial.  It was a moving experience and I loved that the older boys had so much interest in reading and learning more about this part of world history that is often forgotten.  We spent some time in the Museum and made the walk to the Cemetery.  The grounds are meticulously maintained and everything was beautiful.  The Cemetery is breathtaking, humbling and sacred!

DSC_0746 DSC_0748 DSC_0749DSC_0750 DSC_0751 DSC_0752

The Cemetery has 9,387 beautifully aligned white Lasa marble Latin crosses and Stars of David headstones.  There are 149 Stars of David headstones.  There is also a Garden of the Missing.  It is a large engraved wall or tablets honoring those missing in action.


We made our way down to the beaches.  Incredible views and beauty!  These pictures just don’t capture what you see with your own eyes!

2014-10-24 13.22.24 2014-10-24 13.22.30 2014-10-24 13.24.21 2014-10-24 13.24.23 2014-10-24 13.24.27

On our return home to Sanilhac, Aaron asked the children what their favorite place or thing about our trip was, and more than one responded, “The Cemetery and the Pointe du Hoc”. (For another blog post, Pointe du Hoc.)

Le Clos de Balleroy

Traveling in Europe with a large family is sometimes a challenge.  Hotels are not always accommodating and financially within our budget.  For example, most hotels throughout Europe only allow 4 to a room.  Therefore, we would need two rooms.  The rooms are almost never joining or even on the same floor.  Occasionally we can find a hotel room that accommodates 5-6 people, which literally means you could only get that many in a room. In America, we could always get away with putting someone on a roll away bed, or bring a sleeping bag to sleep on the floor, etc.  Not in Europe!  An average hotel room for 4 would be around 140-160 Euros, and that is on the cheap side.  So, when Aaron and I decided we would try to travel with the kids as much as possible, we knew we would have to be creative and really search for alternative hotel options.

That is what I did with the planning of our trip up to Northern France.  On our first trip to France as a family, in 2009, we discovered a campground near Versailles France, called Huttopia. We stayed in little cabins with bunk beds, a kitchen and a bathroom.  It worked out great because the cabins, which slept 4,  were right next door to each other and at the time it was 8 of us. The price was relatively inexpensive, compared to two hotel rooms in the Paris area.  We tried it and we loved it!  It was very comfortable for us.  So, when I started looking for hotels in the areas we were going to be visiting and coming up short on availability and price, I remembered our Huttopia experience!

This is how Le Clos de Balleroy was found.  It was a small campground with tent areas and “mobile home” rentals.  It is very common in Europe to find campgrounds with structure rentals on site, similar to a KOA in the States.  In fact, during my sleeping accommodation internet searches I came across countless campgrounds with rentals on site.  Some have linens, some don’t, some have bathrooms, some don’t, some have kitchenettes, some don’t, etc.  (Our family has traveled numerous places in the States via camping with a tent or renting little cabins at KOA’s, so this wasn’t really a new concept for us!  It was just interesting to find it so common in Europe.  Yeah!!!)


France divides the school vacation times according to the area in which you live.  So, up in Normandy the kids were not off of school and it was October, so there were very few tourists.  This campground was deserted!  We were the only ones there for a few nights. We stayed three nights and the last night a few “campers” showed up.  The kids had the playground and the ping pong tables to themselves.  It was a great set up for our family!

DSC_0674 DSC_0670

Our “mobile home” had 3 small bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, sofa area and a dining table.  One bedroom had a double bed, and the other two small rooms had cute twin beds with a tiny night stand.  They were perfect for the kids.  The sofa area had a pull out bed so AJ had that all to himself.  We just had to provide the sheets and the blankets and pillows were already there.  It only cost us around 180 Euros for three nights!!!  We felt so lucky we found this campground and with a central location to the sites we wanted to see. It was only an hour drive to Mont Saint-Michel, about a 30-40 minute drive to the Normandy beaches, and 10 km from a great village, Bayeaux. The only drawback was one load of laundry cost me 8 Euros, or $10.  I only did laundry once! :)

DSC_0669 DSC_0668 DSC_0672DSC_0667

We had a great time at this little campground and would definitely stay again if we need a place in that area of France!  Plus, the Normandy Region is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!

le Mont Saint-Michel

Our children get a 2 week vacation from school about every 6-7 weeks.  These past two weeks was their first vacation.  Aaron and I decided that we would try to take advantage of being relatively close to so many new sites and countries, that we would travel as a family when the opportunity would arise.  This was our first long vacation for the kids so we jumped on the idea of going up to Northern France and head over to Belgium and Luxembourg.

Our first stop was Mont Saint-Michel!  This is one place I have always wanted to visit.  I have read about it for so many years and looked at incredible photos, but I never had the opportunity to go.  We made it happen!  Plus, it was only about a 9 hour car drive!  And it did not disappoint!

DSC_0676 DSC_0679 DSC_0680

Wow!  It was incredible to see this beautiful structure out in the “bay”.  The tide was out when we were visiting.  Mont Saint-Michel is an island that had a small church built on the top of the massive rock formation around 600 or 700 AD.  A man by the name of Aubert received a dream, in which the Archangel Micheal appeared to him and told him to build the church.  Over time, it became a great defensive fortress and was once used as prison. It is magnificent.  The Cathedral at the top is massive.  We loved the little village at the bottom and as you make your way up to the Church.  The views were incredible.  It was a cloudy day but we still could see a few miles away.  The kids all thought Mont Saint-Michel was cool!


The public cannot drive out to the island.  We had to park about a kilometer away and they had buses that would take people to the island.  Plus, there was a nice long trail that we walked back on to the parking lot.  This walking trail is above ground level because the tide comes in and one cannot get out to the island.  It looked like work was being done to improve the road/walking trail to get back and forth from the island.  It was a little chilly but not too bad!  We knew we were at the entrance of the village when we walked under the large archways and through large thick wooden doors!

DSC_0683 DSC_0685 DSC_0686 DSC_0688

DSC_0687 DSC_0690

We began to walk up the small winding cobble stoned streets.  It was beautiful!  Small shops and restaurants filled the old stone structures.  We stopped at one and enjoyed a nice lunch!

DSC_0691 DSC_0692

We spent about 3-4 hours exploring the island, the Cathedral and the little shops and, of course, we had to get some ice cream!  Below are more photos of our time at Mont Saint-Michel.  The only thing any of us missed were Julia and Alexis!  Other than that, it was a wonderful and exciting day of discovery!

DSC_0693 DSC_0695 DSC_0698DSC_0699 DSC_0702 DSC_0704

One can get a tour guide that takes you out into the beach/waterway.  You have to wear a bathing suit and the day we were there we saw two groups out walking in the sand.  If it was summer time we would have loved to do this!

DSC_0706 DSC_0711DSC_0714 DSC_0715DSC_0716 DSC_0717DSC_0721 DSC_0727DSC_0729 DSC_0731DSC_0736 DSC_0738