Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Check Out These Shelves! And Zander rolls over...

When we started planning the nursery, I saw a shelf the had a rod for Zander's quilt...Bryan said he could build it, bought the materials and some new tools and it was finished this week! After all of our shopping on our recent travels, I convinced him we needed some more shelf space and Zander got all of this. They look GREAT!!! What furniture do we need next????

On a side note, Zander rolled over today! I know he is very late doing this but I have blamed it on his HUGE head...that's a lot of weight to roll over! Anyway, we were visiting our friends Beth and Elliot today and Zander rolled from his belly to his back...he was very proud and dad can't wait for Zander to show him what he can do!

Monday, July 25, 2011

European Vacation...Seventh Stop, returning to London before heading home!

We were back in London on Monday, we checked our luggage when we arrived and planned to pick it up that night. We were staying by the airport so we wouldn't have as far to travel the next morning. After checking our luggage, we walked towards the bar where Kristi had left her phone and then we parted ways. The Allen's went to find Kristi's phone, then they were headed to the London Eye, the Palace to see the changing of the Guards, and to Harrods. Bryan and I went to the Tower of London, enjoyed a couple of beers at different pubs to stay out of the rain, and then we all met up for dinner. I loved the Tower of London! We got a Beefeater as a tour guide and he was very entertaining! I learned so much about the history of England and would definitely visit the Tower again if we ever find our way back there...there was just too much to see in one day! It rained like crazy that afternoon and Kristi almost left us as we were at the end of our meeting time window. We were celebrating Skylar's birthday that night as it was the next day and we were traveling. We went to Picadilly Circus and found a great restaurant. We had a birthday cookie and ordered ice cream for dessert. Skylar was very surprised with the cookie and I think it turned out to be a pretty good birthday!

We all headed back to get our luggage and then on to our hotel. The hotel was in a residential district and a little hard to find but it was very cute and we had breakfast the next morning! They even had cereal for Skylars Birthday Breakfast! It took us longer than expected to get to the airport and we were short on time so it turned a little crazy! We all went to the United terminal and the Allen's discovered they were flying Air Canada and out of a different terminal...we wished eachother a very fast good bye and safe travel and set out to catch planes. A couple hours later, we were sitting in the terminal as our plane was delayed and there was Kristi, Jordyn, and Skylar! It seemed there original plane was delayed, they would miss their connection in Toronto and would make it home until the next day so they got on a plane through Washington Dulles. Both of our trips home would have lots more issues....the Allens spent hours and hours in Dulles and didn't get home until 4 am the next morning! We were delayed 3 hours out of London and landed in Chicago at the same time we were suppose to be taking off for Denver. Luckily, weather had delayed everyone for the day and we arrived at our gate just as they were getting ready to load...we were late but were still in our beds that night!

Overall, Zander was a traveling champ and we had a great trip! We now have a few years to save money and come up with ideas for our next Europe trip as an 8 hour plane ride with a toddler just doesn't sound like a good idea...Zander will need to be at least 4 before we attempt this again!

European Vacation...Sixth Stop, a brief visit to Brussels, Belguim

In all our traveling, I think Brussels is not getting a fair shot! 4 years ago when we traveled with our moms, we had about 4 hours in Brussels...we enjoyed it but didn't get to see much or learn much about Brussels. This trip we were there on a Sunday, it rained, and somehow our hotel was in an interesting part of the city....we didn't even know this was something to look out for in Brussels!

When we arrived, Rick, Kristi and the girls were hungry and I convinced them to not eat in the train station because I remembered where we had lunch the last time we were there...there were so many street cafes and it was so much fun...They agreed and we discovered there were two train stations AND we were no where near the cute sidewalk cafes. We found some not so great neighborhoods and I felt bad I steered them wrong. We then decided to take the subway towards our hotel and find food there. The food was ok and we set out to find our hotel...This is where it got interesting. As we walked toward our hotel, there were LOTS of working women everywhere..at first we didn't think much of it but then it was awfully weird to have that many women on corners on a Sunday at 1 in the afternoon! We were definitely in the center of Brussels own Red Light District! We found our hotel and the inside was very nice, our rooms weren't ready but they held our stuff and we set out to discover the square in Brussels. It was beautiful! We had some Belguim beer, enjoyed some waffles, did some shopping and got some beautiful pictures of the square. Then the rain started and we enjoyed a very long dinner to stay dry! We headed back to the hotel that night and we were pleasantly surprised by our room...the Allens weren't so lucky. It seemed that they were working on remodeling but hadn't gotten to the building they were staying in yet, unfortunately. So they really had a bad impression of Brussels but hopefully we will all get back and give it another chance!

On Monday we were up early and on our way to London for our last night in Europe!

European Vacation...Our Fifth Stop, On to Amsterdam!

Amsterdam is still one of my favorite places but the weather sure didn't cooperate! When we arrived on Wednesday, it was cold and rainy! So cold that I put Zander in his pajamas, sweat shirt and wrapped him in two blankets before we headed out to find our apartment. We were suppose to call when we arrived to set up a time to meet someone at the apartment, this was easier said than done as pay phones seem to be non-existent these days! We took the subway (which we didn't know they had in Amsterdam!) to our apartment and found a great restaurant with very friendly people! They found us a place to come in out of the rain and let us use their phone. We had a great lunch and then went to our apartment on the top floor. The elevator even went right to our living room! After settling in, we decided the Hieniken Tour was a good place to start and luckily bought green ponchos for the kids because the rain wasn't letting up! After the tour, we had dinner at Leidplatz...a restaurant that was a steakhouse and italian...a little something for everyone.

The next day, Thursday, the rain never let up! I was so dissapointed because I love Amsterdam and I didn't think everyone else was getting a good feel of this beautiful town! We battled the rain all day, the Allens started with the Ann Frank House, we met them there and headed to lunch at a Coffee House, the Van Gogh Museum, the Amsterdam History Museum, a cute little bar, and we ended with cheese tasting. Bryan and I went out while Zander stayed with Aunt Kristi, Uncle Rick, Jordyn and Skylar...we had a great time but I think I have my sister to thank for the fact that Zander can sure spit peas all over me these days! It seems I taught Jordyn this trick and she still remembers! Bryan and I had a great dinner at the same restaurant we went to the first day and then headed to some Irish pubs...there were plenty to choose from that we remembered from our first trip four years ago.

On Friday, the rain finally went away and we had a beautiful day! We did a bike tour that Bryan and I had done with our Mom's on our last trip to Amsterdam and loved! It was as great as we remembered...we rode out of town to a historical windmill and then on to a cheese farm where they also made wooden shoes. We were gone most of the day and when we returned, we stopped for a snack then decided to take advantage of the nice weather and end the evening with a boat tour of the canals. This is definitely the best way to see Amsterdam! After the boat trip we left Kristi and Rick for thier night out while we took the girls back to the apartment. I think Zander definitely had a better night with Aunt Kristi and Uncle Rick as we took the girls to the laudry mat! They were VERY helpful in getting our laundry done before it closed and they got McDonalds as they had been asking and mom had not caved yet...so maybe that made up for a night doing laundry??? Kristi and Rick had dinner and headed to check out the Red Light District.

Saturday started out nice but then the rains returned! We were going to head to the Rijks Museum but decided to enjoy the sunny weather instead and started the morning at park for the I AMSTERDAM sign pictures. Our big plans for the day were to shop and the boys wanted to do the evening bike tour in the city. It started to sprinkle as we left the park and headed to the Dom Platz for lunch. It was a light sprinkle through lunch and shopping and we parted ways at the flower market where the rain was back in full force. Kristi, Jordyn, Skylar, Zander and I went to find the Hieniken Shop for our free gift while the boys went on the evening bike tour learning about night life in Amsterdam! The rain just kept coming and we headed back to the apartment to try to master packing! With every new purchase, this was becoming more and more challenging! Bryan and Rick went through the Red Light District and visited one of the oldest bars in Amsterdam, Wynand Fockink. Here they tried a traditional cider drink! That night we enjoyed some of the cheese we had found and worked to finish off our beer and wine before we traveled the next day.

Sunday started early and we were on our way to Brussles!

European Vacation....Fourth Stop...Paris

Paris was our longest stop, so be prepared...5 nights and we had a great time! On Friday we left Caen and arrived in Paris. This was our latest train ride and our earliest check-ins so we headed right to the apartment. It was awesome! We we close to a HUGE grocery store, not as common in Europe, and we made full use of it! There was a bottle of wine to enjoy as we arrived and unpacked, little man took a nap, Kristi, Rick, Bryan, and Skylar went to the Carrefour, while Jordyn and I held down the fort! As soon as we were settled, we decided to set our for the Eiffel Tower. Skylar needed to see this to believe we were in Paris! It was huge and beautiful...we were here! We waited in a line to go to the first deck and a line to go to the top and a line to come down...absolutely beautiful sights and absolutely worth it! We found a great restaurant and some souvenir shops nearby before heading back late enough to see the Eiffel Tower lit up! Again, it does not get dark very early in Paris so this would be our only view of the city with lights.

On Saturday, day 2 in Paris, we set out to find the bus tour! We decided to catch it near the Notre Dame (the famous one this time!) When we arrived, the cathedral had just opened and the line was forever! We were anxious to start our day and decided to skip the inside for now. We jumped on the bus and were a bit disappointed with the tour, it was recorded and a little off in timing so we weren't really sure what we were seeing but we saw lots! As we got to the Arc d' Triumph, we were all a little cold, hungry and stir crazy so we decided we would get off here and take a break! It was also a little chilly in Caen and we all discovered there were going to be lots of pictures in the few warm things each of us had...so if it seems like we are wearing all the same clothes in Caen, Paris, and Amsterdam...we did, at least on the cold rainy days! After lunch we walked to the Arc d' Triumph and took the stairs up...285 stairs to be exact! Bryan did them with Zander in the backpack and caused many people to do a double take...Beautiful views and 285 stairs down! After the Arc, we walked over toward the Louvre, we planned to go the next day and wanted to check it out! We took some pictures by the fountains and found another cafe for some wine and cheese...ok, Kristi and I had wine and cheese, the girls dessert, and the guys enjoyed some beer! We then headed back to our place and made a delicious dinner!

Sunday, Day 3 in Paris, started a bit earlier and we headed to the Louvre! Kristi was our tour guide for the day and we hit all the famous pieces of art per her book. The sculpture gardens were my favorite and we stopped there to feed Zander. We continued on through Napoleon's Apartments and made our way to the Mona Lisa. I couldn't believe how many people were in the room to see it! CRAZY! After the Louvre, the girls did a little shopping and Zander had his first melt down of the trip...poor little man was so tired! He took a nap in the mall while we continued to shop then we all headed to the wax museum. Bryan took us on the scenic route to get to the wax museum but we made it eventually and the girls loved it! They took tons of pictures! Afterward we had a drink at Hard Rock Cafe and headed to the boat tour of the Seine. We had dinner close to our apartment, delicious pizza!

On Monday, our 4th day in Paris, we headed to the sewers. We had done an underground tour that was awesome in Edinborough and Bryan wanted to try it out in Paris. Not quite the same...it was a working sewer, with smells and all! Afterward, we walked along the Seine and were slowly headed to the Opera House. The outside of the Opera was beautiful and we missed the only English tour of the day inside so we couldn't go through. We then thought we would head to one more museum, the Museum d'Orsee but on our way discovered it was closed on Mondays. We ended in Concorde Park at an outdoor cafe enjoying some wine, beer, and ice cream. We headed back to the apartment for some tacos and to relax a bit.

Our last day in Paris we planned to take a day trip to Versailles. I had been when I was in high school and remembered the beautiful gardens and palace. Our day started off a little rough...a train had derailed earlier in the morning and all the trains to Versailles were delayed. After a couple of hours of delays we finally got a train with EVERYONE else who was also delayed. I have never been so smooshed in a train! This was Zander's second meltdown but since I was also near tears, I couldn't blame him! Eventually, a family realized I had a baby and gave their seat up to us, Zander got some water, and all was good. We started with the gardens and they were as beautiful as I remembered! Then we decided to brave the crowds and head inside the palace. In the first few minutes, I realized there was no crowd control and no strollers were allowed so I opted out. I had been before and was not up for the mass amount of people! I went to a cafe with Zander while everyone else went through and from the pictures of the people, I think it was a wise decision! After Versailles we headed back to town to finish shopping and pack for our next big travel day. Bryan found a great little neighborhood near the Notre Dame with tons of restaurants and shops! We found lots of souvenirs and fondue for dinner, a great end to a rough day!

On Wednesday we were up early to head to Amsterdam!

European Vacation...Third Stop....Tour de France in Lisieux

The train ride from Caen to Lisieux was about 45 minutes, we had planned on attending The Tour since we started planning our trip but we weren't sure how it would all work out....how many people would be there, how close we would be able to get, if we would get to see it at all???? It all worked out great, and even with the rain, we had a great day!

We arrived about 11 and started our walk into town. From just about anywhere in town, you could see the Basilica of St. Therese and this was definitely going to be a stop during the day! We quickly found the Tour route and followed it up the hill into town. It started to rain and we found a cafe to duck into for a drink...some had coffee, some coke, and some beer! Once the rain let up we continued our walk and found a bakery with the largest meringue any of us had seen! We immediately thought of Grandma and had to try one for her! Next stop, Basilica! It was beautiful and built fairly recently. The mosaics that covered the inside were absoluetely beautiful!

After our tour in the Basilica we continued to follow the Tour route. We got to the 1km mark and Zander was ready for a snack and a nap so Jordyn and I took a break here and everyone else continued on to see the finish line. The crowds definitely picked up at this point but they made their way to the end, got some freebies, saw the podium, and saw the TV crew getting ready for the race.

We then made our way back down the tour route, had lunch and found our spot to watch the race. As some extra excitement, the woman next to us on the lawn passed out on Kristi! Very scary but the paramedics came and she looked to be recovering nicely. THEN the rains came, downpour! We took cover under some trees and the skys cleared just as all the pre-tour parade began! Rick was very good in getting everyones attention and getting lots of free stuff! Candy, hats, can openers, scarfs...it was crazy! Shortly after the bikers came through and we had a great spot to watch. We were at the 2km as they climbed a hill. This was the longest stage of the Tour and we couldn't believe how tired they all looked! As the peleton went by, it was hard to believe we were really there for this...The water from the earlier rain was still coming off all the helmets and they looked ready to be done! We cheered and got some great photos!!

After the racers all passed us, we started to head down the hill and back to the train station. At one point, the police started to move us off the road for a biker who was just coming through...poor guy was a ways behind the rest and when we got home, Bryan looked it up and he was disqualified that day! We made it back to the train and back to Caen. We were all hungry and decided not to risk another Creperie night so we headed back to French restaurant from the first night...delicious!

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