Our Blog

France (The Short Version)

While we were in France, I was able to have time to do some detailed journaling of our trip.  The document turned out to be 12 pages and I hadn't even written anything about the food (I was waiting to see all the pictures to jog my memory).  Even though, I am really excited to have everything written out (and Connor said he can't wait to read it) I figured most people would not be that enthused to read that much.  I will still be posting it (back dated) but here is the short version (that will mainly just be pictures) for those that want a condensed version.

Saturday:

Before we got on the plane, Connor tried to practice sleeping sitting up.

CIMG0900


Sunday:

Arrived in Paris, checked into our hotel and headed off to the Arc de Triomphe.

CIMG0910
CIMG0912


Next on to the Eiffel Tower!

CIMG0915
CIMG0919
CIMG0924

On top!

CIMG0946
CIMG0945


Monday:

The Louvre

CIMG0949
CIMG0956
CIMG0959

The Mona Lisa!

CIMG0968

Venus de Milo!

CIMG0977


Of course, the Apple store at the Louvre!

CIMG0983


The Seine

CIMG0995
CIMG0997

The Eiffel Tower at night!

CIMG1009


Tuesday:

Notre Dame

CIMG1014
CIMG1018


Musee d'orsay

CIMG1022

This is how I was sitting, resting my feet, giving them a little rub after 3 days of walking when a museum worker came and told me to put my feet down.  No love for the tired, pregnant woman, I guess. 

CIMG1024


Rented our car and drove to Senlis! 

The view from our hotel room!

IMG 1087


Wednesday:

The first day of Connor's conference!  He was excited to learn more about Fan Noise. 

IMG 1089

The street where we ate lunch!  Such a cute French town.

CIMG1038

Wednesday was my resting day and Connor had a full day at the conference so we didn't do too much!

Thursday:

Church of St. Pierre

CIMG1041


Notre Dame of Senlis

CIMG1054
CIMG1060

Musee d' Art et d' Archeologie

We actually just toured the grounds of of the chateau where kings had lived.  There was also a Gallo-Roman wall 4 meters thick built for protection.

CIMG1066
CIMG1067


Then we walked around a park and a working bus station while we waited for the resturant to open.

CIMG1081

 

CIMG1084


After eating delicious dinner and then dessert crepes we went back to the hotel and walked around the beautiful grounds.  They had a little walk/hike that we did.

CIMG1087


CIMG1094

The hotel

CIMG1096

We then went back to our room to get changed so we could try out the pool and spa.  We had the whole place to ourselves.  There were chandeliers above the pool.  It was beautiful!

CIMG1106


Friday (Connor's birthday):

Connor had a half day of conference so after he was done, we headed up to Chantilly to check out the castle there.  

CIMG1118
CIMG1119
CIMG1152
CIMG1169
CIMG1159

After the castle, we went out to dinner at the fancy hotel resturant.  It may have been a little too fancy for our tastes but the food wasn't horrible.  Mine was pretty good, unfortunately Connor's wasn't the best.

IMG 1897
IMG 1894
IMG 1908

Saturday:

We got up early to make our flight home.  My last croissant in France at the airport!

IMG 1910

We had a fabulous time!

IMG 1911


31

IMG 3108

That's the age of my hunky husband!  For a whopping 23 days out of every year, Connor gets to say he is a year older than me.  He likes to say he is so much wiser because of those 23 days and he's probably rights!

Since we were in France for his actual birthday, I wanted to have a little family celebration at home.  And the boys love birthdays now, so it was fun for them.  I wrapped all his presents and put them on the mantle and soon before Connor got home, I heard the wrapping paper rip.  Corbin, the little sneak, was unwrapping the presents.  I wish I would have taken a picture, but I didn't.

Since the boys were so excited for Connor to open the presents, we did that as soon as he got home.

IMG 3097
IMG 3102
IMG 3105
IMG 3107

After we let our dinner settle, we had his favorite butterscotch pie that I had made.  Unfortunately, I was still so jet lagged that I forgot to do candles, sing happy birthday, or take pictures of this.  Oh well  I hope he had a good celebration anyway!

I love my WISE and OLD husband!

France Trip: The Food

The food!!!!  I think French food deserves a post all of it's own.  I had decided just before we got there to take a picture of everything that we ate.  So here’s the rundown of ALL our food.


The very first thing we ate was a chocolate croissant or "pain au chocolate".  And we bought it in a little shop in a train station.  Yum!!!

IMG 1076

We next ate at this cafe near the Eiffel Tower.

CIMG0921

We got a salad.  It was more of a deconstructed salad.  It was good, the dressing was interesting.

CIMG0920


I got some sort of fish dish.  It was very good.

IMG 1849

Connor got a steak.  I can't remember if it was good or not. 

IMG 1850

Oh and desserts we had at this place were so good.  The chocolate mousse was the best we have ever had.  The creme brule was good too.  It was probably the best I've had but I think we have had ones that could be comparable. But I've never had a mousse as good as that one.

IMG 1851


After the Eiffel Tower, we got some hot chocolate.  It was pretty much like all hot choclate I've had, except there was a ton of whipped cream.

CIMG0948


Since we woke up late the next morning, it was really almost lunch time before we got something to eat.  We tried a juice bar that we saw.  I thought both sandwiches were really good.  Connor didn't like it because he was craving breakfast and it was more of a lunch.  We both ordered smoothies which came out more like juice and since Europeans aren't big on ice cold drinks, they weren't the best.  Connor's looked like throw up and he said it tasted like it too.  Mine was actually really good, I just couldn't drink too much of it because it was warm.  (For some reason the picture is missing.)

For lunch we ate at a cafe right near the Louvre.  It was a beautiful day and I was really warm, so I ordered a soda because then I could get something with ice in it.  (I know I could have asked for ice water, but I didn't want to be a high maintenance American.)  I think Connor and I both had two and at 6 Euros each, we spent 24 Euros just on soda.  Crazy, but it was so worth it at the time.  Connor's sandwich was REALLY good, and my salad was good too.  Here they also had the best butter I have ever tasted.  So creamy, and just a little bit cheesey.  

CIMG0992


For dinner we ate another cafe.  Connor got a beef tartar.  But it was cooked.  It tasted like a hamburger.  I got a salmon that was very good.  (The picture is missing here too.)

When we got to the Eiffel Tower later that night, we decided to get some Nutella crepes from the street vendor.  Yum!

CIMG1005

The next morning we asked the hotel receptionist for a reccomendation of a good bakery for breakfast.  Where she pointed us was only a few shops down the street but it seemd more of a bar than a bakery.  They had a cheap breakfast, so we tried it out.  The bakery items were good, but the hot chocolate tasted like instant, so it wasn't the best.

CIMG1011


For lunch, see we were already at the mall doing some shopping, we ate at McDonalds.  Pretty normal McDonalds food.  Just WAY more crowded.

IMG 1084

On our way to the car rental place, we stopped and got some pastries to take with us.  Connor got an apple one that was delicious.

CIMG1025

For dinner that night we ordered room service in the hotel.  We both got a sandwich was okay.

IMG 1088

While in Senlis, we had the hotel breakfast every morning.  It was good, and the bakery basket was worth it!  Chocolate croissants every day! 

CIMG1031


For lunch we found a cafe that had a buffet.  We talked to the owners who had just opened up a week earlier and were really stressed about it.  We thought it was great though!

IMG 1876
IMG 1877
IMG 1878


That night we stopped at a bakery and got a sandwich and a TON of pasties to try.  We also order a salad from room service.

IMG 1880
IMG 1881


The next morning, I forgot to take a picture of our breakfast.  

Lunch, I missed our plates, but got a picture of the buffet table.

CIMG1037


For dinner, we ate at La Chalet de Sylvie.  This was probably my favorite place.  We got dinner crepes and dessert crepes, both were amazing.  My favorite part was the salted carmel ice cream that came on Connor's.  The best thing I've ever tasted!

IMG 1884
IMG 1885


Friday morning, we ordered room service for breakfast.  Pretty good as usual.  I loved the chocolate croissant!  Here's the picture with the food almost all gone.

photo

Lunch, we had McDonalds with our funny drive-thru story.  We also decided to try the wedge cut fries they offered there.  Pretty good.

IMG 1886


We had been told that we needed to try the Chantilly Creme that Chantilly is famous for.  So we had to do that once we arrived to the castle.  We both had thought it was going to be ice cream for some reason, even though we know the word for ice cream is “glace” and not “crème”.  It was basically just a big bowl of whipped cream.  It was good, but whipped cream isn’t normally something that I just eat plain so it was a little strange, also since it wasn't cold.  I didn’t really think it was a whole lot better than other whipped cream I’ve had.

IMG 1892

Now for our fancy dinner at the hotel. (Oh and Connor was very embarrassed that I wanted all these pictures taken.)  I got a juice drink.  It was good!

IMG 1895

Here was a starter they brought us.  Some salmon and truffle thing.  I can't remember.

IMG 1893

I got olive bread!  One of my favorites.

IMG 1896


Connor's bread.

IMG 1901


Then they brought us this cold pea soup thing.  Connor didn't like it, but I thought it was really good.  I felt dumb because I wasn't sure how to eat it.  They brought it with a spoon, but once it got down to the end, I couldn't use the spoon anymore.  Connor said he saw another couple drink it.  Oops.  Oh and the yummy butter is in this picture too.

IMG 1898


Connor's appetizer was pretty gross, at least gross sounding to me.  A creme brule with duck foie gras.  It also had a foie gras macaroon on top.  He didn't like it, but I tried a bite and it wasn't that bad.  I got some sort of lobster starter that was awesome!

IMG 1899

Our main courses.  Connot got some sort of steak or something.  It tasted a little like pot roast.  I'm not going to lie, his was a little strange.  Mine was fish with veggies.  It was so good, I ate every last bite.

IMG 1904
IMG 1903

Dessert.  Connor liked his a lot.  I can't remember exactly what Connor's was.  I think an apple pastry.  Mine was some sort of mint and chocolate and I ate every single bite of this too.

IMG 1905
IMG 1906

Then came the after dessert, dessert.  There were a few little desserts they brought out at the very end.  I forgot to take a picture until we just had one left.  A raspberry on a meringue drop.

IMG 1907


Breakfast our last morning, was the usual room service.

IMG 1909

And the last thing we ate, was a raspberry croissant in the airport.

IMG 1910


The food was definitely memorable!  And I just can't look at croissants in the same way anymore.  

France Trip: Coming Home and Other Thoughts

Saturday:

We got up about 5:30 so that we could get ready and eat breakfast before we made our way to drop off the rental car and head to the airport.  Our last breakfast in the room, we ordered, as usual, the bakery basket and since it was so early it was all freshly baked.  I thought that was as nice way to end our eating in France. 

We found the car rental place with only a few mistakes but luckily it wasn’t that big of a deal because it was a MUCH faster process to drop off the car than it was to pick it up.  We then walked over to check in at the airport.  We were there about 2 hours before our flight left.  We tried to see if there was an upgrade available but there wasn’t one that we wanted to do, so we just stuck to what we had. 

After getting through security, we found a place to use the last of our Euro’s to get some croissants to bring home. 

Our last moments in France.

IMG 1910
IMG 1911

Once we got on the plane, we were stuck on the runway for 40 minutes, which increased the time we spent on the airplane to just under 12 hours total.  I wasn’t sure I was going to make it the whole time, but I did.  I wasn’t as worried about trying to sleep so that probably made it a little better.  I also even dozed for a few minutes, which was nice.  The rest of the time I just watched movies and read.  Then we were home after a GREAT vacation!!!!


Impressions of Paris:

Paris was an amazingly beautiful city that I LOVED.  It was fun and easy to get around.  I know most people say this but Europe has such a better public transportation system than the U.S (especially CA).  The stations and trains were all so very different from each other and it was interesting to check them out.  I wish I would have taken pictures of them all, but I didn’t.  One thing, I didn’t like about Paris was the trash everywhere.  There were especially bad parts with so much trash littering the ground.  I didn’t understand it.  It’s not like there weren’t garbage bags around.  There were a few times we saw people just throwing their trash on the ground even though there were garbage bags close to them. But still the city was amazing.  Also, I know Paris is very into fashion but I was still surprised how many clothing/shoe stores there were.  There were tons!  Also, we were surprised that we could not find many bakeries.  We thought they would be all over the place.  We found a TON of café’s but we really just wanted to find a cute little bakery where we could buy breads and sandwiches.   Here's a video of our Paris highlights.


 

Impressions of the French people:

I had heard mixed things about the people.  One is the stereotype that they are rude.  The other is that they are nice and pleasant and one is that they are nice and pleasant if you at least try to speak some French.  With everyone that we met and talked to (besides on exception) they were all nice and friendly and helpful.  Most would speak English but if they didn’t they didn’t seem annoyed or anything.  I had a woman give me her seat on the train once she saw I was pregnant.  Someone offered to take Connor and my picture.  Another woman let me cut her and a very long line of people at a restroom when she saw I was pregnant.  She actually insisted after I told her it was okay.  The workers at shops were all very nice.  I definitely didn’t understand the stereotype until we went to any of the café’s.  The waiters at the café’s were a little different than everyone else we met.  I wouldn’t say they were rude but they definitely weren’t warm and they definitely weren’t into service the same way American waiters are.  Also, if we were ever crowded around in a big group trying to work our way out of it, people would literally push you forward.  As we were getting off the lift at the Eiffel Tower a guy kept pushing me forward with his hands on my back.  I turned around to look at him and he looked at me and then he did it again with me watching.  This happened several times on different occasions.  That was annoying.  Also, I was surprised how many people would automatically speak French to us.  I thought we looked very American but maybe people were just giving us the benefit of the doubt.  When some would ask where we are from, they seemed surprised when we said the US.  One person asked if we were from London even after she heard us talk.  The other thing I was surprised about was no one ever asked me about my pregnancy.  In the U.S I always get comments or questions about it.  I even learned the world for “girl” in preparation for people asking me about it.  But no one did.  I wondered if it is just considered a personal topic and so it isn’t brought up or if people just aren’t as interested in other people or making small talk like in the U.S. 

 

Impressions of Senlis:

Senlis was beautiful and amazing.  It was so peaceful out in the middle of the Chantilly Forest.  There were cute little French towns all around.  It was especially fun to walk around the streets and shops.  Here there were so many more bakeries than in Paris.  The streets were cobblestone and it really felt like we were in France.  Paris definitely felt French too.  Senlis was just more of a small town feel.  There still was a ton of shops around and I just loved this place.  Also, Connor and I noticed a ton of teenagers all around.  I know there was a school close to the downtown shops but the teenagers were all over the place hanging around.  I think I saw only 2 young kids the whole time, though.  Here's a video of our Senlis highlights.


 

Review of our Paris hotel:

It was a Best Western and I really liked it except for one thing.  Our room was on the street and both nights we were there, people hung out right in front of our window and were VERY loud until at least 3 in the morning.  The walls were also paper-thin so I could hear cell phones ringing in other rooms.  Other than that the location was amazing and it served all our needs very well.

 

Review of our Senlis hotel:

This hotel was beautiful.  I think it was the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in.  The room was large and the bathroom was huge and even had a bathtub.  The view of the Chantilly Forest was exquisite and it was so peaceful.  I never once saw anyone outside our window.  It was definitely quieter than our last hotel.  The only thing I would complain about was the bed.  The pillows were extremely squishy and the bed was as hard as a rock.  If only they had some middle ground somewhere it would have been perfect.  They even had someone come in and turn down the beds for us at night.  The funny part of that was they opened the television hutch.  I guess they figure most people watch TV in the evenings.  The grounds were beautiful.

 

Driving in France (mostly just Senlis):

The car rental we got was a VW Golf.  It was pretty new and nice.  We had to get an automatic since I don’t drive manual and the one of the first things we noticed was when you pressed the brake all the way down, the car would turn off.  It made it feel like you were stalling like in an automatic.  If you didn’t press down the brake all the way then the car stayed on.  That took a little while to get used to.  There was one incident that I really don’t want to talk about that still makes me sick to my stomach when I think of it, but if you really want to know you can ask me.  I just really don’t want to write it down.  The streets were fairly narrow and I wasn’t sure if all the driving etiquette was the same as the U.S but once I got over my nerves about it, I felt pretty comfortable driving.  There was one accident that we luckily avoided that I think had to do with how the French drive.  We were going along the main road and someone came out from a side road.  Sometimes these people don’t stop OR they don’t stop far back enough so I usually slow down to make sure.  Here it seems that if you slow down that means you are letting them go, but I was just slowing down to make sure I wouldn’t hit them.  He just kept right on going and I had to slam on my brakes so I wouldn’t hit him.  That was scary.  Once I got comfortable driving, I decided to try and find something to listen to on the radio.  Connor found a hip-hop station that played half American and half French hip-hop.  I liked the French stuff better probably because the American stuff is not edited and I couldn’t understand what the French were saying.  Changing the radio station was difficult and I didn’t want to mess with it while I was driving so it was kept on that station the whole time.  Also, they have streets and roads with no speed limit and I just wasn’t sure how fast to drive.  Was I driving faster or slower than the normal?  I tried to just stay behind other cars to make sure I wasn’t doing anything other than the norm.  But, just like in the U.S some people drive slowly and some are faster.  Having no speed limit didn’t change that.   Here's some of our drive along with the radio station being played.  I have to say I do miss some of that French rap.  (Watching the video again, I noticed it was during the time when we were getting caught in the traffic from the big truck with a wide load and people were acting crazy.  We had no idea what was going on though.  Funny memory though even though I seemed a little stressed there at the end and I wasn't even the one driving!


This browser cannot play the embedded video file.

France Trip: Friday (Connor's Birthday)

We woke up to breakfast being delivered.  We ate it and then Connor got ready.  Since he had to be at the conference earlier and he was already late, I didn’t have time to get ready.  After he was dropped off, I came back to the hotel to get ready and to start getting packed since we would be leaving very early the next morning.  We had asked the front desk of things we could do since Connor only had a half-day at the conference.  They suggested going to see Chantilly Castle that is only 15 minutes away. 

I went and picked Connor up at lunchtime and he decided he wanted to go to McDonalds for his birthday lunch.  We found one in Senlis and like the ones in Paris they were so crowded.  This one had a drive through and we thought we’d do that instead of go inside.  As we were pulling into it, I started to wonder if that was such a good idea.  How would we order?  Well, I was right.  It didn’t go too well.  Connor asked if they spoke English. “No” was their answer.  He told them that he spoke only a little French and they started speaking really fast.  Connor somehow tried to tell them never mind and we just kept on going, obviously having to wait behind all the cars that were already in line.  I was laughing so hard I was crying because here we are these silly Americans trying to order at a drive through when we don’t even know the language.  When we got to where we pay, I guess they had thought we had ordered something, a small ice cream.  And at this time it was POURING rain.  Connor told them to cancel it and we would go inside.  The inside of the McDonalds have these Easy Order touch screen machines so it makes it a lot easier for English speakers to order.  I have no idea what made us think to try the drive through, other than to have a funny story to tell.  Oh also, I wasn't brave enough to try this: the McBaguette.

CIMG1111


After lunch, we started on the road towards Chantilly.  Chantilly was another cute little French town and when we got to the grounds of the castle, it was huge.  We parked in the most beautiful parking lot I have ever been in.  It was in the middle of the forest and each parking spot was in between big beautiful trees.  

CIMG1114

As soon as we started walking to the castle, it stopped raining.  There were two big buildings, one was the castle and one was the horse stable.  We assumed the bigger of the two buildings was the castle, but we were wrong.  We decided to skip walking around the stables but it was just amazing to me how big that building was and all just for horses.  There was a huge racetrack there as well so the stables were actually still working stables.

CIMG1170

We got our tickets for the castle and the gardens and we started with the gardens first since it had stopped raining.  The grounds were amazing and huge.  It was beautiful.  We saw they had a garden maze and Connor wanted to go check it out.  We made a bathroom stop on the way and while we were in the bathroom it started pouring rain.  Once we got out and were looking at the map to find out the best way to go, it had stopped raining and the sun was even starting to come out.  We found the maze and made our way through the whole thing.  There were 5 stations along the way they had games to play.  

CIMG1118
CIMG1121
CIMG1126
CIMG1148
CIMG1137
CIMG1138


After the gardens, we went to look around the castle.  First we decided to try the famous Chantilly crème. We found the restaurant and even though they were closed and setting up for something they allowed us to come in and order a bowl. 

IMG 1888

After the crème we stopped at the gift shop and got something for the boys and headed up to the castle.  The highlight for me was the huge dining room and table.  (I’m not sure it was original since they allowed us to touch it.)  Also the dining room had these huge lions hanging on the wall.  I guess whoever it was that lived there at the time, hunted and killed them and hung them up.  The castle also had it’s one chapel and there were about a billion sitting rooms.  Then we stopped at the art gallery.  I was trying to imagine what it would be like to actually live in a place like that and I just can’t comprehend it. 

CIMG1159
CIMG1167
CIMG1157
CIMG1169

After the castle, we drove back to the hotel where we had an hour of down time before our dinner reservation at the hotel restaurant.  The restaurant was very fancy and extremely beautiful.  I feel a little sad for Connor that this was his birthday dinner because although it was nice, I think the food was a little fancier than he usually likes.  I did think it was fun to get to try all the new foods and see how formal they are when they bring everything to our table.  It definitely was an experience.  Since the waiters never rushed us, dinner took over 2 hours and by the time we were done, we were pretty tired and knew we had to get up early for our flight home.

IMG 1894
CIMG1172
IMG 1908

We went back to the hotel and got everything packed up and went to sleep.  I slept about 2 hours and even though I tried to go back to sleep, I couldn’t.  Even though I loved the trip I knew I was excited to get back home to see our boys.

France Trip: Thursday

We slept in until 7:40 on this morning even though our breakfast was due to arrive at 8:00.  We quickly ate and got ready and then we headed back to Connor’s conference.  This time no map was needed at all.  Since I hadn’t completely finished getting ready, I went back to the hotel and had some more down time.  Connor was going to be off a lot longer for lunch and we planned to go see some of the sights in Senlis in the afternoon.  When I checked for things to do, most of the sites only listed 1-3 attractions to see, so I figured we could get most of them done during his break. 

I drove back to pick Connor up and we went into town for the same lunch buffet we had the day before.  There were some different foods and it was still delicious.  

CIMG1033

This was a sign on the restroom that I thought was cute.

CIMG1036


Then we stopped at a chocolate shop and got some to try later.  As we were walking to the next site, Connor told me to stay on the sidewalk.  Here it is.

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.


We then walked to St. Pierre Cathedral, which was built in the 12th century.  It definitely looked old.  

CIMG1041
CIMG1043

Close to it was Notre Dame of Senlis Cathedral.  The inside of this one was lighter, brighter and less creepy than the inside of the one in Paris, but the outside definitely felt creepy but it was still really neat to look around.  

CIMG1045
CIMG1054
CIMG1060
CIMG1064


They also had a small garden just outside.  

CIMG1073


The last thing we did was an outside museum called Saint-Maurice’s Priory near the Roman-Gallic wall that apparently Louis IX lived.  The wall was 4 meters (about 12 feet) thick.  It was pretty and nice and old.  

CIMG1066
CIMG1067
CIMG1068


All three of these were close to each other, within a minute walk to each so we were done in no time.  We then needed to go find a place to exchange some money.  Since most shops and banks close for lunchtime until 2pm we had to wait until after that.  I think we tried 3 different banks and none would exchange.  Finally, we found a “big” post office that was able to do it.  Since we are farther out from Paris, not as many people could speak English, so there was definitely a lot of pointing and hand gesturing going on here. 

We then decided to go walk around the streets and shops and I just loved it.  It really felt like I was in France shopping.  

CIMG1076
CIMG1077

We stopped at a children’s clothing store with the cutest clothes and luckily we are having a girl because the majority of the clothing was for girls.  It was a bit pricey, but I did find a cute white dress to use for her blessing.  I thought it would be really special for her to be blessed in a dress we got her in France and hopefully we can pass it down.

When we left and started driving Connor back to the conference, we tried to get back on the main road.  We noticed lots of the cars trying to back up and turn around and it just seemed insane.  When we finally turned, we noticed a police car escorting a HUGE truck with a very wide load of some sort of cargo.  The truck could barely fit down these narrow streets and definitely not with any cars going by so everyone was being forced to find another way around, which was causing all the traffic.  Luckily, Connor was driving and he was able to figure out a way around all the mess.  By the time, I got closer to our hotel, 15 minutes from the conference; there was STILL traffic from that truck.  Just made me think how difficult it would be to deliver something large trying to navigate those narrow streets.

I was able to get back to the hotel to chat with the boys who were doing good and seemed not as interested in talking to me as they had been.  Corbin would sometimes even start to call me “Nana” instead of “mom.”  I guess that is to be expected but it still sent a little pang of sadness to my heart.

Connor didn’t have that much time left of the conference the rest of the day, so I was soon back picking him up so we could enjoy the rest of the evening.  We drove around a bit until the crepe place we wanted to try opened.  

CIMG1081

It was so good!  We were so full and decided to go back to the hotel so we could walk the hotel grounds and try out the pool and spa.  Since it finally wasn’t raining and not dark, we could really enjoy the grounds of the hotel.  They have a little trail and it was just out in the forest.  It was beautiful and Connor’s favorite part was probably the super soft moss covering the ground.  

CIMG1087
CIMG1088
CIMG1095


We then headed to the pool and had the whole place to ourselves and it was definitely a beautiful pool area.  There were chandeliers over the pool!  The spa wasn’t that warm so I was even able to get in.  We got cold pretty fast so we didn’t last too long but it was pretty relaxing while we were there.  

CIMG1106


We headed back to our room to get ready for bed since we had to get up early the next day.  I slept similarly to the night before.  Of course, I just now started to get on France time, as we are about to leave.


France Trip: Wednesday

This was the first day of Connor’s conference and even though I hadn’t slept well (again) I was excited for him to get to do something that would be interesting to him.  

IMG 1089


I was also extremely nervous for myself in having to navigate and drive in a foreign country by myself.  We got up, got ready, and ate breakfast in our room.  Connor knew my worries and fears and had set up my phone with all the addresses I needed and made sure to get me an international data plan for my phone so I could use the maps. 

We took off in enough time to get to the conference and arrived with little problems using the map on my phone.  I dropped Connor off and headed back to the hotel so I could take a nap and rest my aching legs and feet.  I got to the hotel just fine.  It was nice to just have a relaxing morning, writing, and watching some of a movie.  I headed back out to pick up Connor for lunch after a short nap.  I picked up Connor and we headed out to find some lunch.  We found a cute little street and parked in front of a grocery store where we stopped to pick up a few things then went to find lunch.  We found a cute little bakery that was doing a buffet and it was delicious.  (See below for food section)  After lunch, as we were paying, we started chatting with the owners who seemed to be a mother and daughter.  They told us that they had just opened up a week ago and that it had been pretty stressful.  The place seemed fairly busy and the food was great so that was a surprise to us.  They were extremely nice and we planned on going back the next day for lunch as well.

After taking Connor back to the conference, I headed back to the hotel again for some more down time and to chat with the boys.  I headed back to pick Connor up from his conference and by this time barely needed the map telling me how to get there. 

We were debating what to do for dinner since now it was close to 7:30.  We happened to see a bakery that was still open and decided to stop there.  I loved how there were lots of people running in to pick up some baguettes.  It mad me wish we had cute little bakeries like that at home.  We got a sandwich and TONS of pastries.  We wanted to try as much as we could.  The worker didn’t speak any English or at least none that she tried to speak to us and she didn’t quite give us our change back correctly but it was still neat to get to see and experience.  By this time it was POURING rain so we took the food back to our hotel where we ordered a few things off of the room service menu and watched another movie before heading to bed.  Although, I still woke up throughout the night, I slept the best I had since we had been in France and even had a dream, which probably means I slept deeper than I had been.

France Trip: Tuesday

We finally got up around 7am to get ready, to check out and see the last things on our list.  Luckily, the hotel let us keep our luggage there until we were ready to leave Paris.  We wanted to go see Notre Dame and since it was open at 8am we went there first, after stopping to eat some breakfast.  It was another cold and windy day but sometimes you just have to be miserable to do the things you want to do.  Notre Dame was humongous. We both agreed that it was beautiful yet creepy.  It was definitely gothic looking but the stained glass all around was just beautiful.  

CIMG1014
CIMG1018
CIMG1015

We got there just before a mass started so we sat down to listen to some of it.  The weird thing to me was seeing all the people coming in and taking pictures and being so touristy right during the mass.  There were signs saying “Silence” everywhere but not everyone was.  This made me grateful for the way it is when we go to the temple.  I can’t even imagine trying to go there and feel the Spirit if just anyone is able to walk in, look around, and take pictures. 

After Notre Dame we went to Musee de Orsay, which had really good reviews and people said we must go there.  It was a beautiful museum, that is for sure, but by this time my feet were so sore and aching so much that it was hard to do a lot of walking.  We did get to see original Van Gogh’s, my favorite artist, and I thought that was awesome.  

CIMG1020
CIMG1022

This museum though was so strict.  No one was allowed to take any pictures (not like at the Louvre where they just asked you to turn off your flash).  I did take a couple before I knew we weren’t supposed to.  Then there was an area Connor wanted to go to that had lots of stairs and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it.  I sat on a bench to wait for him.  I sat cross-legged on the bench so that I could elevate and soothe my aching feet a little more and one of the workers came over to me and told me I couldn’t sit like that.  And she kept coming and checking on me periodically to make sure.  Seriously, I can’t even sit a certain way?  That turned me off slightly from this museum. 

CIMG1024


We then did a little shopping and Connor said he wanted to eat at McDonalds for lunch.  During lunch, it had started raining but we had to go back to the hotel to pick up our luggage so we could take the train back to the airport and get our rental car to drive to Senlis, the next place we were staying and where Connor’s conference would be held. 

On the train ride to the airport, we were delayed for 20 minutes.  Something must have happened to another train up ahead.  We don’t know since we couldn’t understand what the conductor said over the loudspeaker.  There was supposed to be two stops for the airport but when we got to the first one, the conductor came out and said that was it.  There were still quite a few people on the train and so one of the guys went and tried to get him to continue on.  He was able to, luckily, because that would have been quite the walk and by now my feet were REALLY sore, besides having blisters on the back heels of my feet. 

Now it was pouring rain, but we went to go get our rental car.  Even though everything was paid for, it took FOREVER to get it.  I guess they just can’t hand over a car that quickly but it was a long wait.  We finally got on the road and Connor was able to drive and navigate where we were to go perfectly, well almost perfectly.  We did get a little lost but got to drive down streets with houses and see some of where the people out in the suburbs or country (I’m still not sure which one it is considered) live. 

We got to the hotel and we were able to get settled and finally video chat our boys.  It was so good to see them and hear their little voices after so long.  It was definitely the longest I had ever gone without seeing or talking to them.  They seemed to be happy and Corbin kept telling me he was having fun. 

We ordered room service and watched a movie that I fell asleep to.  Since the bed was so hard, I could not get comfortable and by 2:30 was wide-awake for the rest of the night and into the morning.

France Trip: Monday

I finally fell back asleep at 6:30 and surprisingly woke up at 11am.  Connor had left to the pharmacy for some eye drops and I had thought he had been up for awhile waiting for me.  But he had slept until 10:30.  He got about 12 hours of sleep, which I know he really needed.

This was the day we had planned on seeing all the Museums and it was a good thing too, since Tuesday most of the museums were closed.  (We didn’t plan out anything in advance.  Since we are usually always on a schedule because of the kids, we didn’t want to be on one when it was just us.)  We went and got some breakfast/lunch and headed over to the Louvre.  

CIMG0949
CIMG0953
CIMG0955
CIMG0957
CIMG0959
CIMG0956


There was a line to get in and then a line to buy tickets.  The worst part was in the line to buy tickets inside.  It was right under the big pyramid and the sun was out and baking me in line.  Because I didn’t get the greatest sleep the night before and I ate late and was hot, I started to get nauseous.  I had to sit down for a bit to get feeling better but luckily I was able to rest enough to walk around.  Since the Louvre is huge and it’s impossible to see everything, we decided just to find what we wanted and leave.  I feel like we still got to see quite a bit.  I definitely wanted to see the Mona Lisa because you just have to, right?  It was crazy there and it seemed a bit ridiculous with these crowds of people waiting to get right up close to take a picture of it.  Personally, since I’m not a great photographer, I don’t like taking too many pictures of things without people I know in them because I know I could find much better ones other people took online if I ever wanted to.  

CIMG0967
CIMG0968

We walked around some more and saw the Venus di Milo statue and other really big and cool paintings and statues.  

CIMG0963
CIMG0972
CIMG0977
CIMG0982
CIMG0975


The Louvre was like a maze and I relied on Connor to direct us where to go.  After we left, we had to go to the Louvre Apple store of course.  

CIMG0983
CIMG0985


Then we went to a café right there on the Louvre and had a blocked view of the pyramid and a pretty good view of the Eiffel Tower.  

CIMG0991


This day was really warm.  The sun would go behind the clouds every once in a while and it would get a little chilly but then when it was out it was really warm.  I even got a little sunburned sitting at the café.  After we ate, we wanted to go back to the hotel and take a rest and try and chat with our boys who we hadn’t spoken to since we left.  Our hotel’s internet connection was not good enough to do a video chat or even a Skype phone call and the hotel told us to go to McDonalds or Starbucks to get better/free internet.  So we headed over to the nicest McDonalds I had ever been to and ordered drinks so we could use the Internet.  (McDonalds is ALWAYS crowded in France especially with teenagers.)  We sat down across from some teenagers and tried to get the chat going.  Unfortunately, we could not video chat, but we were able to talk to them for a bit.  The boys weren’t really into talking on the phone that long so we talked to them each for maybe 30 seconds before they were off to do what they wanted.  The funny thing was sitting across from these teenagers.  One was a couple, and they were with a friend.  The tables are also very close to one another and they were all filled.  This couple directly in front of us just started totally making out, while their friend was sitting with them at the table.  It was a full on make out session.  It was pretty hilarious.  I thought about taking a picture but decided that might be inappropriate.  I did take a video without them in it though.

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.


By the time we finished at McDonalds and since we hadn’t planned everything out, the next museums on our list, we found out would be closing soon so we had to scrap those.  One of them was open on Tuesday so we planned to go there the next day. 

We went back to the hotel and took a rest and then got some dinner before heading back to the Eiffel Tower.  We first took a walk by the Siene.

CIMG0995
CIMG0996


Then we stopped on a bridge that had tons of locks all over it.  This was exactly like something we saw in Italy.  Sometimes they are called "Lovelocks" that a couple places on the fence to show their everlasting love to each other.  We thought for sure there would be people selling some locks but there wasn't.  

CIMG0997


Also while we were on the bridge a movie was being filmed.  I think it was a French film because I didn't recognize any of the actors, plus we were able to get pretty close.  Connor got a picure sneakily, but when anyone else tried, the gorkers would put their hands in front of the cameras.  

CIMG0999


We were passing by on the metro when it turned on and for the first 5 minutes on the hour there is a little sparkling light show.  We got there and it was beautiful and romantic and warm and just what I had dreamed.  We got a yummy Nutella crepe and unfortunately I had to go to the bathroom so bad that I was unable to enjoy the view.  We had a long walk all the way down to the base of the tower so I could use the restroom but after that I felt much better.  We sat on a park bench and just enjoyed the view and being with each other.  We started to leave just around 10pm so we were able to see the light show again, this time closer. 

CIMG1009


IMG 1872
IMG 1869


We went back to the hotel and even though we were tired, we stayed up for a bit reading.  We finally got to sleep around 11:30 but we were both woken up around 2:30 by people outside our room. They stayed for a long time and neither of us fell back asleep that night.  

France Trip: Sunday

We arrived at 11:15 that morning and luckily by taking out the insoles of my shoes, I was able to slip on my shoes.  It was nice to be on the ground after such a long flight so I could fully stretch my legs and not be worried about crashing anymore.  We headed over to baggage claim.  The lady we sat next to on the plane told us they are really slow at getting bags off the plane.  She was right.  I thought that once the bags started coming through it would be faster but it was not.  They would put one bag one and there would be a long while before the next bag.  I thought that was sort of strange. 

After we got our bag we headed over to get our train/subway tickets.  I was really impressed with Connor and his ability and willingness to try speaking French to everyone.  He took French in middle school and we all know how well languages are taught in high school/middle school (or is it how well we learn another language at that age?).  Anyways, he was able to purchase our 3-day train pass for the stay we would have while in Paris. 

The ride from the airport to our hotel was about 40 minutes.  I didn’t realize it at the time but our stop near our hotel was huge and very confusing.  I relied solely on Connor to find our way and he did.  All the times after, was much easier navigating that train station that I even knew where to go.  There weren’t many open shops since it was Sunday but we were able to get our first chocolate croissant “pain au chocolat”.  (More about the food later.)

Here's a picture on our way out of the train station.  Our boys love this movie and so we had to get a picture with the French version.

CIMG0902

Our hotel was a block from the Louvre and our stop took us through this huge mall.  Once we got out of the mall, we stopped at a little souvenir shop to buy a map even though our hotel was half a block away (which we didn’t know at the time).  It was FREEZING when we got out of the station.  The wind was so strong. 

We checked into our hotel and we had been told we were upgraded to a bigger room.  Of course, “big” is a relative term.  But we didn’t need much since we were only staying there two nights and would hardly be in the room.  The bed was really comfortable so that was a positive.

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.

After we dropped off our things and both took showers (which was probably one of the best showers of my life, getting to wash all that travel grime off) we headed out to see some of the sights.  I had a list of everything I wanted to see and so we set off to start crossing them off.  We rode the metro to the Arc de Triumph.  It was so much bigger than I had pictured.  It was a really neat landmark.  There had a been a marathon in Paris that morning and by the time we got there it was over, so there was a ton of people in their running clothes covered with ponchos they must have been given after the race.  I could not believe how many runners there were out and about sightseeing after running a marathon.  My legs and feet were already hurting and I hadn’t even done anything.  I noticed that it was more of the older runners that were doing the sightseeing with hardly even seeming phased at all.  There was this young group of guys that could barely walk down the stairs to the metro because they were in so much pain.  Connor guessed they hadn’t trained and the people out sightseeing had.  We didn’t go to the top of the Arc de Triumph but it still felt like I got to experience it.

CIMG0905
CIMG0910
CIMG0913
CIMG0908
CIMG0912


Next we found a cafe to eat lunch/dinner and we were both so tired that we could hardly keep our eyes open.  It was nice to finally sit down and eat some real French food though.  The people who came in and sat next to us were actually from the Bay Area as well and they had brought their 3 kids with them.  Connor and I kept saying over and over how horrible it would be to have brought our kids.  With the long flight, jet lag, the freezing cold weather, trying to maneuver a stroller around especially on the metro, plus trying to find things they would eat, seemed like a nightmare.  We were very glad it was just us. 

After we ate, we headed off to see the number one thing on my list.  The Eiffel Tower.  It’s funny because Connor and I both commented how people would tell us that different landmarks were smaller than expected and I guess that made our expectations for them different.  We both thought things were bigger than we expected.  The Eiffel Tower was just as beautiful as I thought it would be.  But the time we went it was SOOOOO incredibly cold and windy.  We both completely forgot how tired we were because we were so cold.  I had been told different things about whether or not we should go to the top and in the end we decided we would.  Connor didn’t really want to because we had to wait in a very long line and it was freezing but he did it for me.  It turns out it was worth it.  Despite us being cold, the view was incredible.  It was nice to be at the top and see just how big Paris really is.  There was one side of the tower that we could not walk around because it was incredibly windy.  The force was so strong; I don’t think we would have been able to push through it.  I had also really wanted to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night and we found out that the lights don’t come on until 9pm.  We tried to wait and even got hot chocolate to warm us up but we were so cold, miserable and tired that we left around 8pm and decided to try and come back the next night.

CIMG0915
CIMG0919
CIMG0924
CIMG0926
CIMG0928
CIMG0940
CIMG0945
CIMG0946

I fell asleep about 9:30 but woke up around 1:30 and could not go back to sleep.  That’s also when I started hearing people outside our window very loudly until 3am.  


France Trip: The Flight

Connor and I were so lucky to be able to spend a week in France together.  With great parents who were willing to watch the kids, a conference at a perfect time and a job that allowed us a fairly cheap vacation together was just AMAZING.  It was nice to get to reconnect with Connor after such a busy and chaotic several months.  It made me love him even more and it was surprisingly easy to be away from the kids.  I don’t know why this always surprises me.  (Sometimes, I even miss them when they are asleep and I had just been with them all day.)  I guess when I am gone for a longer period of time, I’m no longer in my mother only mode and I can start to feel more like my original self.

Saturday:

Our flight left at 3:45 that afternoon.  We went and got in a pretty long line at Air France even though we had no baggage to check.  We wanted to see what the upgrade options were for our tickets.  One thing I was really worried about was our 10-hour flight.  First, that I wouldn’t be able to sleep well, second, that my legs would swell from not being able to elevate them at all and third, my fear of turbulence.  I hate turbulence because it makes me feel like we are going to crash.  Since we were on a fairly older plane even upgrading to business class (which was not available to do that time) wouldn’t have even allowed to me to elevate my feet.  The lady at the counter made us weigh our carry on bags and since one of the bags was too heavy, she said we had to check it.  It was a little annoying since we already had our boarding passes and we could have just gone through security and wouldn’t have had a problem with it. 

Here's Connor while we are waiting for our plane to board.

 

CIMG0899


CIMG0900

Unfortunately, the flight proved all my worries correct.  My feet were SO swollen by the end that I could not put my shoes on.  Actually they were so swollen throughout the flight (even with my compression socks) that when I had to get up to use the restroom I had to go barefoot. 

Sleeping was AWFUL.  I’m not the best sleeper even when I’m in my own bed.  When I’m pregnant, it’s worse.  The more pregnant I am the worse it gets.  If I can’t even lie down or have my feet somewhat elevated, forget it.  I even took two Benadryl.  It made me sleepy all right but not enough to sleep.  I tried for 2 hours to get comfortable and I think the longest stretch of sleep I had was 10-15 minutes.  

Easter Week

We started off the week with a Family Home Evening lesson on the Resurection.  We used the Gospel Art pictures (which our boys love) and then we made Resurection Rolls.  Most people have probably heard of them before but just in case, here's the "recipe":

(Each ingredient reprenets something used to prepare Christ's body for burial.)

refrigerated crescent rolls, separated into trianges (linen used to wrap Christ's body)
large marshmallows (Christ's body)
melted buter (annointing oil)
cinnamon & sugar (spices used to prepare body)
375 degrees in oven (tomb)
12-15 minutes in oven (3 days)

When the rolls have finished cooking, the marshmallow should have been evaporated to represent the empty tomb.

It was fun to have kids at an age where this is fun and they understand (mostly) what we are telling them.  (When I made just regular crescent rolls on Easter, Cason pointed them out and said "see like Jesus", so I know he was somewhat paying attention.)  We let them assemble the rolls themselves so they were pretty messy and weren't the prettiest looking things but they were still delicious.  

IMG 2882
IMG 2885
IMG 2891
IMG 2895
IMG 2902
IMG 2908
IMG 2910
IMG 2911

Easter morning was our normal, find the Easter baskets the Easter bunny had hidden.  They thought that was pretty fun and they loved that they got treats.  

IMG 2939
IMG 2943
IMG 2953
IMG 2950

While Connor and I were getting ready for chuch, the boys decided to eat some of their Easter candy.  

IMG 2958
IMG 2959


Once we were all ready for church, he headed out back for some Easter pictures.

IMG 2965
IMG 2973
IMG 2984
IMG 2991

After a wonderful church service (with an amazing speaker...Connor) we came home to start preparing for my first all out Easter dinner, complete with ham and everything.  We invited my family and I have to say I think it was a success.  Sadly, I didn't take one picture of the dinner.  

After dinner we had an Easter egg hunt in our back driveway with neighbors.  We had probably close to two hunderd eggs and I thought the kids were going to be there forever because not as many came as we originally thought, but with the 4 kids (3 of who were 4 or under) and the 8 year old who was being very nice and saving the eggs for the little ones, it still only took them probably 10-15 minutes to get them all.  Corbin was the most excited to find a golden egg.  He read a book about a golden egg in preschool and so that just made his night.

IMG 2993
IMG 2992

Here's a "trailer" using the videos we took on Easter.

I am so grateful for Easter and getting to celebrate one of the most joyest aspects of the Gospel, the resurrection.  Here's a great video to watch about this.  He is Risen 

© The Duke Fam 2014