Hello from Luxembourg!!! We’re on a pretty epic adventure to Europe with our 3 kids for a month.
Fun fact: my first blog was a travel blog I created when I backpacked through Southeast Asia for 4 months in 2009! I would go to the internet cafes during my downtime and document the entire trip. I’ve continued to blog about my travels throughout the years on THIS blog, even though it’s a running/fitness blog. So if you’re interested, keep reading! 🙂
Home in Exchange in Luxembourg with 3 Kids
We didn’t necessary CHOOSE Luxembourg – it chose us! I knew I wanted to go to Europe this summer and after a lot of research realized that yet again, the best bet for traveling with 3 young kids was to stay in ONE place for a month & bring help. We did this 2 years ago in Costa Rica. We brought my cousin Jaclyn with us to babysit.
Due to very expensive flights to Europe in the summer, I started researching home exchanges to reduce the price of our trip. I found a site I really liked called People Like Us. I asked if anyone on Instagram had done a home exchange and I believe I said something like “or if you live in Europe and want to trade houses with someone in San Diego let me know” .
I had TWO people reach out to me, one of whom was Nicky, who offered their 4 bedroom home in Luxembourg City. I didn’t know much about it, but she sold me with 2 key things.
1) Luxembourg has miles and miles of biking, hiking and running paths and trails. It’s an outdoor mecca but also a beautiful, well preserved European city.
2) Luxembourg is a 45 minute to 2 hour drive or train to 4 other countries: France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. I’m obsessed with seeing new places. Although I have been to France, Germany and Switzerland, I was excited to visit some smaller towns I wouldn’t otherwise see. And of course 2 new stamps on the passport for Lux & Belgium!!
I’ll do a whole separate post on the ins and outs of a home exchange later, but for now I’ll say that I am SO happy we did this. The family we swapped with is so kind and generous and having a home that is set up for a family, including toys and games, has been incredible.
Flying to Europe with 3 Small Kids
Let’s start with the flight. Even though we live in San Diego, we chose (as we usually do for international flights) to leave from Los Angeles instead so we could get a more affordable, direct flight to Paris. From Paris, there is a 2.5 hour direct train to Lux. The flights are by far the most costly part of this entire trip. If you want to reduce your costs, I highly recommend not traveling in the summer when flights are insanely expensive. However, part of our cost was offset by not having to pay for preschool and summer camps for the kids.
Our flight was supposed to leave at 7:45 PM, right around the girls bedtime. But, about 30 minutes into the 2 hour drive to the airport we discovered our flight was delayed by over 3 hours!!! Luckily I grew up in Orange County and still have friends in the area, so we stopped at a friends house for a while, got dinner and then headed to the airport.
One thing we didn’t do was pack light for this trip. If we were traveling around Europe, I would have packed less luggage but knowing we’d have a home base seemed to warrant more luggage. In retrospect, I would have made the twins share a suitcase instead of giving them each their own since they don’t carry their own! My mom also packed a suitcase AND a really heavy carryon bag that she couldn’t carry herself.
The girls LOVED the airport because we had to go up and down many escalators and moving floors to get to our gate. They were so energized that they didn’t seem to notice that they were up 3 hours past their bedtime. When we got on the plane, they went to sleep almost immediately and slept for 8 hours. Mike and I were able to string together a broken 7 hours of sleep ourselves. By the time we woke up, there were only 2.5 hours left in the flight!
When we arrived in Paris, the only issue we had was that my pre-book (and prepaid) shuttle service via Welcome Pick Ups wasn’t there. I contacted them a few times with no response and then found the WhatsApp contact of the driver we were assigned who told us he was not coming and to check my email. I had no email. So we took a taxi, which actually ended up being cheaper. I’m still trying to get my money back from Welcome Pick Ups. Lesson learned: just take a taxi.
Paris With Kids
I chose our hotel in Paris, Hotel DuLevant, for 3 reasons: 1) They had a family suite with 2 connecting rooms and 3 beds. 2) It was in the middle of the Latin district with a ton of restaurants and a metro stop just a couple minutes way away 3) it had air conditioning and free breakfast.
As with most hotels in Europe, the rooms were small but overall we were happy with the rooms. We ended up giving my mom her own room and we crammed in to the larger room which had a queen and a twin bed. 2 of the girls slept on the ground. The good thing was, there was an outside door that locked so if we left, my mom and the kids were locked inside together. We did this on the second night when Mike and I went on a date to dinner.
We intentionally didn’t plan a lot for our 2 full days in Paris because we knew it would be difficult with children. I have been to Paris 2 times so I was fine with this, but was the first time for my mom and Mike. My mom ultimately needed a VERY slow pace, as all the walking was really hard on her, and Mike rented a bike one morning and go to explore the city on his own.
On day 1, we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. We didn’t go up (the Paris Travel Tips Facebook group I’m in was SO HELPFUL and warned that even with a reservation you could wait 1 hour + in line to go up, and that once at the top and that was hard with kids). There are merry go rounds EVERYWHERE in Paris and the girls got to ride the one that has a view of the Eiffel Tower. We walked through the park and then had lunch at a touristy cafe (pretty unavoidable in that neighborhood).
Then we headed to the Louvre – we had gotten my mom, Mike and Siena tickets. I have been to the Louvre 2x so I said I’d stay back with the twins. Near the Louvre is a big park with another carousel and a giant ferris wheel. There also happened to be a carnival happening there. After walking so much, my mom struggled with all the walking and stairs in the Louvre and ended up taking a taxi home. Mike and Siena made it to the Mona Lisa and Siena kept saying it was boring. In retrospect Mike should have just gone alone. Oh well! After that, I took Siena and Rowan (Scarlett was too scared) up the giant ferris wheel which was the highlight of the day for me. The views were spectacular!!
When we got back to the hotel, I went to the grocery store and got a picnic for the kids for dinner (yogurt, bread, fruit, etc) and Mike and I headed out on our date night at Bistrot Instinct!! Our reservation was at 9 PM, but that’s pretty typical for Europe. we took the metro to a new neighborhood that seemed a lot less touristy. Our meal was INCREDIBLE – it was rated the 2nd best restaurant in Paris on yelp and is Michelin Star.
We decided to walk the 30 minutes home and it was one of my favorite things we did in Paris. I love observing the way people live and walking by bustling cafes and bars and shops (yes they were going off at 11 PM!) was really enjoyable. We walked by Notre Dame, which is still closed for restoration after a devastating fire, and it was pretty incredible to see it lit up at night, even if it’s only half finished.
Despite only getting 5 hours of sleep, I woke up at 5:30 AM and couldn’t go back to sleep. I really, really wanted to go for a run down the Seine and I felt that if I didn’t get up, it wasn’t going to happen. So I went for it!! The city was still going to sleep and/or barely waking up, so it felt more like 4 AM on the streets than 6 AM.
The run was incredible – I got to see the Pyramid at the Louvre with NO people in front of it (the day before there were thousands of people waiting in line) and ran past so many other beautiful buildings and sights on the way to the Eiffel Tower. At one point my route was re-routed due to the preparation for the Bastille Day Parade (we didn’t plan to be there on Bastille Day, just worked out). This was a run of a lifetime!
Later that day we took the girls to Luxembourg Gardens where you can rent a little boat to sail across the lake. There was another, smaller carrousel as well and a really epic playground (which you had to pay to enter). The afternoon was low key – lunch, shopping for souvenirs with the girls and ice cream. In the evening we found an authentic Sicilian restaurant and had some incredible pizza for dinner!
Getting to Know Luxembourg
We took the train to Lux the next morning (again regretting bringing so much luggage) and Nicky, the woman who is doing the house swap with us, greeted us. She was incredible from the start – showing us the ins and outs of her house (it’s 4 bedroom, 4 stories, with a basement/garage on bottom, kitchen and living area on level 1, 3 bedrooms/bath on level 2 and our master bedroom with an office and workout space on top level. Nicky had even gotten some groceries for us so we could have lunch!
After we got settled, Nicky took me on a guided run to get a feel for the city. We ran nearly 6 miles and she explained a lot along the way while we also got to know one another. Nicky and I used to have the same run coach and that’s how we got connected online. Just 1/2 mile from our house is a beautiful bike path that literally runs for miles and miles. It takes you into the city center and is surrounded by gorgeous forests and ancient buildings and walls. It’s a dream running here!!
After we got back, Nicky took me to the grocery store. I got enough for dinner and breakfast and she helped me navigate all the differences. She left for a bit (she was heading out the next day and saying with a friend that night) and then came back after dinner and Mike, Nicky and I walked into the city center (25 minute walk) for a drink. We stopped at a brew pub first and then went to a fancy place for cocktails. It was so great getting to know her and I’m so thankful for her hospitality! We’ve continued texting and sharing tips and resources since she left.
On Sunday, we spent some time at home getting settled. The girl who lives here has a ton of doll houses, toys, dress up clothes and games and the girls are in heaven. In the afternoon we took the bus (all public transport is free here and there’s a stop just a block away from our house) into town and took the girls to an epic park that looks like a Pirate ship. We got ice cream and then walked around and the girls loved exploring between the trees and buses and found a bunch of lady bugs and let them crawl all over them. I realized we don’t have any parks like this near us!
The last two days have been catch up mode for Mike with work. Also, Mike caught the terrible head cold I had the week before we left (which I’m still having symptoms of 2 weeks later, it was crazy) so he hasn’t had as much energy for outings. the last 2 mornings I’ve gone for incredible runs (10 miles Monday, 6 miles yesterday) and I’m just blown away by the trail and bike systems here. You could run/bike forever. On Monday I took the girls to the local park and on Tuesday Mike and I drove to a local public pool so the girls could swim. So far I’ve cooked dinner every night we’ve been here.
Ok that’s it for now! I’ll share more about the house exchange and all the differences in the culture, etc later.
I am so glad we did this. There are challenges and lots of new things to get used to for all of us, but I LOVE traveling and putting myself in situations that force me to adapt and think about how I live my own day to day life. The wheels are already turning here and I can’t wait for all the other runs and adventures we’ll have over these next 3 weeks! You can also see way more photos on my instagram page and by following my stories!