My Top Ten European Destinations (so far)

This is not a travel blog and I am by no means a travel guru, but a little while ago a friend requested that I share the favourite places I have visited in Europe and I thought I would oblige her request, because perhaps my other readers may be interested too.

The Husby and I have travelled far less in recent years since becoming parents, simply because we now live on one income and have little ones to factor in our travel plans. However, we still enjoy traveling when we can and my ultimate travel goal would be to visit every country in Europe. Ambitious I know, I’ve made it to 20 European countries so far, but admit I have only visited some of these countries very briefly.

Before revealing my list let me state that I’m pretty sure that cities like Rome and Barcelona would be on my list if only I had actually visited them. Most of my European travels have been in the Central and Northern European countries and I have yet to tick off a lot of Eastern Europe. But for now my top 10 places in Europe, in the order in which we visited them are;

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Snapshots of Riga

 

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For our 10th wedding anniversary we decided to go on a short city break to Riga in Latvia. Having visited many European cities we wanted to go somewhere new to us, not too hot and preferably somewhere with an old town and Riga fit the bill perfectly.

I was both nervous and excited about this trip. Nervous because it was the first time we were leaving the girls with their grandparents for the weekend and excited because I hadn’t been off the island in 2 years, not since our trip to Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands in 2014.

Well the girls were practically angels for their grandparents and Riga did not disappoint! It turned out to be the perfect choice for a charming weekend getaway filled with cobbled streets, medieval buildings and pretty autumnal gardens. My favourite city moment was strolling hand in hand through the many central parks that Riga has to offer, it’s a wonderfully chilled city and incredibly family friendly.

Latvian culture really intrigues me and I definitely want to return and explore this country more fully, next time with my kiddies.

Have you visited any of the Baltic States?

Malawi Flashbacks

I can hardly believe that today marks ten years since we first visited the country of Malawi in southern Africa. Malawi was such a huge part of our lives and dreams for so many years that I can’t help but take this opportunity to look back and reflect on our time in the country and what we learnt from our experiences.

2006:

Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
Lilongwe Market a burst of vibrant colour.
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
A very obliging model in Dedza with his load of sugar cane.
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
Picture perfect Salima on Lake Malawi.
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
The older baby room at The Crisis Nursery in capital city, Lilongwe.
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
The moment Malawi captured my heart.

Heading out to southern Africa at 19 years old with my then fiance, just four months before we got married was thought to be crazy to most people. However, it turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made as it was during this trip that we confirmed our call to serve in some form of full-time ministry. We had a heart for mission (both at home and overseas) and Malawi definitely tugged on our heart strings.

2007:

Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
Fresh water.
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
Full tummies at the feeding centre in Mgona.
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
Learning through play.
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Joining in the fun.
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It’s at moments like these that I loved being an OT Assistant!

Our first visit left us wanting to learn more so a year later we returned to stay with a missionary family who had been living and working in the country for many years. We learnt so much about life in Malawi and the benefits of living simply so that others can simply live. I loved putting my occupational therapy assistant skills to use and we could really picture our futures being here.

2009: 

Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
With smiles like this you can see why we kept returning!
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
Bathtime Malawi style!
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
Quite possibly the happiest little girl in the world!
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Cafe culture in Malawi is pretty sweet!
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
A sweet face I’ll never forget.

This third visit challenged me in many ways and saw me stepping outside of my comfort zone on quite a few occasions. Ultimately I learnt that serving God would at times break my heart and that I would need resilience to work in the areas I felt most called.

2011:

Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
Beautiful chitenje fabric in the market of Bvumbwe.
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
Football camps are popular in Malawi.
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
Malawian made footballs.
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
Playing OT Assistant again at COBT.
Flashbacks and reflections of our trips to Malawi | The Open Home
This mother kindly let us take a family photo of her with her daughter and newborn twin boys, Crispin and Christopher, on the maternity ward in Bvumbwe.

This was to be our final visit to the country as we hoped to move out to serve full-time the following year. After this trip we left the country feeling confident about where we felt we could best serve – The Husby with the local church and me, amongst orphans and street kids.

Five years on from that final visit and no, we are not living in Malawi, but we are working with the local church here in Guernsey and continue to have a vision and a passion for orphans and children in care.

Life is sometimes unexpected and in time we learnt that our calling to serve God was not restricted to the context of Malawi.

Malawi will always hold a very dear place in our hearts as we wouldn’t be who we are or where we are today without the country being part of our story. I now look forward to the day that I can return to Malawi, this time introducing my girls to the country that captured my heart.

Is there a country that has captured your heart?

Snapshots of the Scottish Highlands

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We tag a few days in Fort William on to our time in Edinburgh so that we could enjoy the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, a place The Husby

The highlights for me were the road trips to Fort William via Loch Lomond, the quality time spent with our friends, exploring Fort William with our sleeping babe and finally getting up close with the infamous “heelun coo!”

The Scottish Highlands are a wonderful choice for a rejuvenating family holiday.

Where have you travelled to recently?

Snapshots of Edinburgh

Snapshots of Edinburgh, Scotland | The Open HomeThe Open Home 083

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For our first ever family holiday we headed up to north to Edinburgh to visit with friends and tick off another country from our wish list. Edinburgh very quickly became one of my all time favourite cities and Scotland one of my all time favourite countries.

Highlights for me include our road trips through East Lothian and the discovery of pretty Portobello, strolling through Princes Street gardens, choosing our very own tartan for the Girard clan and Blossom mastering the art of walking!

I definitely want to return to Edinburgh to explore the castle further and would love to climb Arthur’s seat. However, I must admit I’m also tempted to relocate here so maybe one day I’ll just do these things once I’m living in Scotland!

 

Where have you travelled to recently?

Snapshots of Prague

Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open HomeSnapshots of Prague, Czech Republic | The Open Home

Last month we managed to squeeze in a little city break to the Czech Republic, one final one just the two of us before baby arrives in the spring. Well my goodness wasn’t Prague cold! To be honest it was actually quite hard to see the place when the snow was falling fast and the roads were so icy we were trying not to slip!

We spent most of our time walking from coffee shop to coffee shop via some city sight and then spent out afternoons chilling in the hotel to warm up. I think I will have to return one day when it is not freezing cold so that I can explore the city with more ease but my favourite city moment was strolling around Charles Bridge with it’s gothic statues and pretty side streets.

Have you been away yet this year?