Things I've Loved About the Past Month:
1. Paris, everything about it including the Burger Royale from McDonalds
2. Watching our courageous kids try out new languages with the locals
3. The Dutch and their lovely country
4. The castles and beautiful drive along the Rhine River in Germany
5. The big hearted German campsite director who yelled at us constantly in hopes that we might understand her better... she was impressed when I counted to 10!
6. Our all day family bike ride through the stunning Holland veld
7. The German immigration center in Bremerhaven
8. Reading the fantastic book "A Little History of the World" with Adele
9. Biting my tongue as my little "Earth Ranger" picks up trash all over the world because if he doesn't he "won't be an earth ranger"
10. Jogging alongside Adele while she rides a bike and keeps saying things like, "are you tired yet?" or "go faster mom".
11. The Hotel Hesselet in Nybourg, Denmark--i especially like it's double sinks, separate bath AND shower:)
Things I'm looking forward to:
1. A decent pedicure
2. Shopping for a fabulous pair of Italian made roman sandals in Milan for Adele and myself
3. Kids cooking camp in Tuscany
4. A call from friends/family telling us they are flying over to meet us somewhere fun
5. Eating Turkish food, staying in a cave hotel and seeing the rock formations at Copadoccia
6. Vinnie eating something other than crackers, bananas or yogurt
7. Adele's next video blog
8. The fjords of Norway
9. Swiss fondue, and the Alps of course
Things I plan to do sooner rather than later:
1. Make my morrocan stew in the HOW, or much less ambitious--just go to Morroco for the real thing
2. Learn a few basic words in Norwegian and Swedish--attempt to teach kids
3. Celebrate the birthdays of my baby boy and my doula and dear friend Michelle, who helped bring him into this world on HER birthday!
4. Get a pair of proper walking shoes, my rubber flip flops just aren't cutting it.
5. Laundry, always doing laundry.....
We spent 5 days camping all throughout Holland and loved it. The countryside was beautiful and filled with sheep and windmills (modern ones). The town of Edam was my favorite, not only for the cheese but for the fantastic 17th century house you can tour that includes a floating cellar that actually floats on the river and is attached to the house.
The Dutch coudn't be nicer and the cheese quite yummy, which leads me to my observations to date:
1) One can live off cheese and bread (we have), oh and wine
2) Not having to pay for a shower is a luxury! (one i miss a great deal)
3) It's impossible to do a perfect load of laundry using instructions in a foreign language
4) Camping is A LOT of work, especially without friends to commiserate with
5) Camping is, by far the best and easiest way (unless you have a personal valet and driver) to see Europe
6) I ask, can one survive 24/7 for 2 months with spouse and kids living in a 100 sq ft house on wheels?
Enough with the crazy camping stories on with our travels....On our drive up/down the Mosel and Rhine rivers in Germany we saw the most amazing castles, some fully in tact, most in ruins . We stopped at the Rheinfels Castle and Fortress and spent a couple of fantastic hours exploring. After reading so many historical fiction and Anne Boleyn books and watching the Tudors it was very easy to imagine yourself living in the 15th century sneaking down a secret passage way for a tryst (not i of course) or handing food thru the bars in the dungeon to some poor, not long for this life soul. Oh I LOVED it and so did the kids and Steve.
We really liked Germany-- It's a beautiful country! I felt quite at home amongst my people (maiden name Ginter) -they are fastidious, industrious, efficient and like most of the places we've been to--very eco conscious--recycling, all automated fixtures in public restrooms, etc.
The moment Steve had been looking forward to with equal doses of excitement and dread (would it be nice, non-smoking, too big/too small) was finally here- the pick-up. All went great initially, but setting up a household takes time--i say a little more than the hour or so i was allotted at the German version of Sam's Club and the sorta familiar Ikea. Sorta familiar because first you've got to figure out what the product is in German, then Swedish and i'm here to say lots get lost in translation, this why I ended up with 2 crib sheets! Then try figuring out what's what for cleaning products and foods you kind of recognize, but don't--needless to say it was mind boggling and exhausting. So we were already behind on the first day and we hadn't even made it to our first site and that is another story in itself that I will not bore you with:).
Suffice it to say the first 3 days were pretty challenging. Clear communication was a luxury of the past, I was given the task of navigating to places we didn't even know we wanted to go to. As we drove the Rhine and Mosel Rivers (absolutely stunning) Steve kept referring to his fishing knowledge and saying we're going UP or DOWN river which apparently gives the direction the river runs, but how that helps me with north/south I don't know! I finally put my foot down and made Steve buy a GPS. I would like to state for the record that the kids were much better behaved during this time than the adults--kudos to my little sweetums.
The coup d'etat was when we thought we had found nirvana--trusting our new GPS to guide us along we ended up on a bucolic country road (see pic below) that was of another world. We thought--now this is what we've been looking for! The facade lasted even as we drove thru check-in past the centuries old building and came to a screeching halt when we heard techno pop blasting from the bathrooms and we slowly drove slack jawed thru row after row of semi-permanent mobile homes. Oh well, at least we had a place to camp!
The next day I either hit a life high point or low point--I will let you determine based on what you know about me. I not only allowed my children to enter what I called "the CessPool", but I too swam in the swampy waters. I do not have words to describe the scene at this pool (but I do have a pic, see below), but want you to know it was hot and the pool was the only relief in sight. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Belgians of every shape and size and age frolicking in the water--truly! some were making out, most were just splashing and accosting their friends. I can only compare the mass of humanity to what we see on our annual sojourn to the LA County Fair--yes it was that bad! We left soon after this misguided dip in the waters.
So, the heading is my opinion alone (although I think Vince would concur). I also must caveat the post by saying any city after Paris is bound to get the raw end of the deal. Steve and Adele hit another "life highlight" in less than 3 weeks--seeing the Tour de France. They had no problem sitting in the sun for 3 hours waiting for a millisecond blur to go by without any identifying human features. That was the Tour?? Vince was melting down and the crowds were smoking, ashing and pushing--not much fun we say.
There is not much to do in Brussels for kids and that is the best measurement for rating a city- if the kids are happy, we are happy. I'm also using city parks as a means to rate a city, and here again Brussels failed miserably. We were there over the weekend and very little was open in terms of museums, galleries.
The best part of the visit was our hour long train trip out to Bruges, a 16th century town that basically stands as it has for centuries. The town is stunningly beautiful, but It was filled with tourists (heaven forbid we're amongst our own). Another cool place is the Atomium, which is made up of many spheres that represent people migrating, yet still being connected. You get a magnificent view of the city and we had a long, leisurely lunch while enjoying the view and each other. Oddly, the kids seem to do better with these long meals than the short, more rushed ones.
Another bright spot, on Sunday Adele and Steve got a much better view of the Tour and got to see actual riders as they left from the city park. More from Steve on this in "Dad's Perspective".
We spent our last days in Paris enjoying some of its' most famous sites: the Louvre, the Rodin and the Arc de Triomphe.
Steve and I enjoyed our 3rd night out on the town, thanks to our great babysitter Bette (highly recommend) and went to the Louvre. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but Steve could have done with a few less 2 story depictions of the Last Supper and I could have spent all day looking at the well built Romans fighting off mythical creatures and rubenesque women all in one fell swoop. Yes, there was the Mona Lisa (yawn!), but the beautiful buildings that showcases all that amazing art took all the kudos.
We met up with our new friends the Suprenants at the Musee Rodin and all enjoyed the sculptures and the Van Goghs.
Steve and Adele continued their quest to climb as many stairs as they can as they went to the top of the Arc de Triumphe, while Vince met his first Italian chica at the park-moulta bouna!
Finally, we are a bit sad to have left la belle paris. We found the people warm and helpful, the city energetic and lively, the buildings stunning and the Village St. Paul welcoming and the perfect home away from home for us. Adieu Paris!
email us for any paris recommendations: we loved our apartment rental agency and all the wonderful services they provided, it was just like being in a hotel (almost:). www.guestapartment.com