Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Louvre

Our last stop of the day was the Louvre! I was SO excited because Trek agreed to stay with the kids so I could take Opa inside & be his tour guide. I couldn't wait to show him the Venus DeMilo, Madonna on the Rocks, & the Mona Lisa. I couldn't wait to come off the subway & walk straight into the inverted glass pyramid at the entrance to the museum. But as we came out of the subway, we found ourselves above ground (not below like we had previously done) looking at the Louvre from the outside walls. We wandered around wondering why we had come out where we had & we remembered that the last time we were here, they were doing massive construction at the subway stops. After trying to figure out how to get down we realized that they had redone everything so you couldn't get down to the inverted pyramid until you were entering the entrance of the museum. No problem right? We'll just see it as we go in. As we walked through the side wall & entered the courtyard with the upright glass pyramid, I noticed a line of people going down an escalator that I had never noticed before. We got to the big glass pyramid & took a few pics & let the girls play in the water a little bit. Trek & I decided on meeting points in a little over an hour. Then Dad & I took off for art adventure!! I wanted to take him down the glass elevator in the pyramid to go down to get the tickets & go in, but there was a HUGE line waiting for the elevator. We wanted to avoid that so we went back the way we came in to go down that escalator we saw coming in. We got in the line & stood in it for about 15 minutes when a man approached us & asked to see our tickets. Oops! Wrong line I guess. Everything was so strange to me. Both times we went before, we came off the subway straight into the Louvre entrance underground, got tickets in 2 minutes flat, & walked right in. This was so weird. We asked the man where we get tickets & he told us the line was by the big pyramid. Ugh. We saw that line! Now we had wasted 15 minutes of our Louvre time to find out that was the line we should have been in. So we went back to the courtyard & went to the front of the glass pyramid to get in line . . . but we couldn't find where the line ended. We started walking around the line so we could find the end. 10 minutes later, we were still walking around the perimeter of the Louvre trying to find the end. This line wrapped around the ENTIRE MUSEUM!!

(Here's a pic of Opa [hands outstretched] showing just one piece of the line to get to the ticket line. It was incredible how busy it was!)

We found an information guy & dad asked him how long this would take. The guy told us "1 hour & 30 minutes . . . maybe 2 hours." We sighed. Then dad asked "To get into the museum?" "No, no! To get to the line to the ticket counter. The line to get tickets is about 45 minutes." So it was going to take us 3 hours just to get in. Then there's a line for Venus DeMilo & a HUGE line for Mona Lisa. There was no way we could leave Trek there alone with all 4 kids for at least 4 hours. It would just be miserable for him & I love him too much to do that to him. I was devastated. Dad didn't seem to care at all. He obviously isn't a "line" person. I was SO sad he didn't get to go inside, but he was happy to go touch the glass pyramid. So I'm glad he was happy with everything. I love the Louvre! Just being in the courtyard is fun. The girls love it & so do Trek & I. It's just beautiful.

After the Louvre, we piled back into the subway & said farewell for the very last time to Paris, France!! sniff sniff. We will miss it for sure.

We rode the subway back to Disneyland & got back right around 5:00 pm. We had made great time the entire day & didn't get a drop of rain. We ran back to the Christmas Market & bought some more chocolate slabs & a brat & potatoes for dad (which I ended up eating most of. . . man they were SO good!). Then Trek took me back to the Disney store & bought me 10 Mickey Mouse glasses for the house. We've been without drinking glasses for quite some time now & it's time to get some new ones & now I have 10 adorable Mickey Mouse glasses that I love! What a sweet hubby I have. I love him so much. As we were buying the Mickey glasses, Lorien comes running in doing the "potty dance" & Trek grabbed her & took off running. When I got outside with my new glasses all wrapped up, Lorien was crying hysterically & Trek looked at me & shook his head. The poor baby didn't make it & peed her pants. Poor thing. We took her to the van & I got some extra clothes out & changed her into them. Then we piled back in the Pottermobile & drove the 4 hours home. As soon as we got on the Autobahn it started pouring cats & dogs! We were SO lucky to have not had a drop of rain the entire day we were in Paris. We got home around 9:30 that night & went to bed. What a perfect 2 days if I do say so myself!

The Arch de Triomphe

After lunch we hopped on the wonderful subway again (after going up & down several steps with our double decker stroller) & rode it all the way to the Arch de Triomphe. Opa was excited about this one. He likes anything that has to do with war history. Napoleon marched his troops through this very arch. Under the arch is the tomb of the unknown soldier. On top of the tomb is a "eternal flame." I guess the Kennedy's visited the Arch when he was President & when President Kennedy died, Jacqueline remembered the flame & asked that one be put on top of her husband's grave. So that's where they got the idea for the eternal flame. I couldn't believe how packed Paris was. This was our 3rd visit here & we've never run into so many people. The other 2 times we visited the arch, there were maybe 5 other people there when we were, but holy cow!! The tunnel underneath the traffic circle that you have to go in to get to the arch was massively packed with people. We were all going to go up to the top of the arch to over look Paris, but decided not to because: #1 - Another HUGE line to get tickets, #2 - they wanted 10 Euro a person to go up, & #3 - NO ELEVATORS. . . 284 steps up to the top. Opa's back wasn't feeling very well & we didn't want to risk the steps up. So we kept our feet on solid ground & enjoyed the arch from below. The girls had a blast running around chasing each other. We love the arch because it's just a large area to run around on. The girls were loving it. We all loved it!

Bon Appetit'

Everything had gone so smoothly so far that it was time that SOMETHING came up. Lorien had to go potty & if you've ever been to Europe you know how hard it is to find & use a bathroom. We were running in & out of every shop we could find asking for a bathroom. Nobody would let us use the shop bathrooms, but they kept telling us about a public toilette on a corner. I grabbed both her & Cadence & sprinted towards the corner. It's one thing when Lorien says "I have to go potty." It's a whole other ball game when she starts doing "the dance!" She was going to pee her pants & it would ruin our entire day, I just knew it. Sure enough, there was a public bathroom porta-potty thing on the corner. I started pushing buttons, looking for money slots, everything to get the door open. Nothing. I started grabbing French people & tourists around me & in my horrible French asked them how to use it. FINALLY somebody spoke a little bit of English & said to me "Out of Order." Lorien was jumping up & down at this point. I found Trek & explained & he took off running carrying her towards the Eiffel Tower. The rest of us waited next to a souvenir stand. After a while they showed up again & everyone looked happy. "You made it then?" I asked. "She peed on the Eiffel Tower!" "WHAT???" They couldn't find a working bathroom & Lorien was to the point of peeing her pants when Trek whipped her pants off & held her over some bushes next to one of the legs of the Eiffel Tower. I was mortified! He thought it was hilarious. It is kind of funny though. Poor girl. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

After that ordeal we were all very hungry. We found the cutest little diner called "Snack Take Way." It had some great stuff. Dad got some French Onion Soup ("in Paris, France"), I had a nutella & banana crepe, Trek had a french sandwich on a baguette, & the girls shared a pizza. Everything was fabulous. We were all sharing with each other because we wanted to try everything. I thought for sure I'd like my crepe the best, but Dad's French onion soup was better than I could have ever imagined it could be. It was amazing. And the best part of all? Since we bought lunch there, they let us all use their bathroom for free!! Whoo hoo!!!

This is the guy who made the crepes. He was awesome!! They were SO good!

The Eiffel Tower

After visiting Notre Dame, we hopped back on a few more subway lines & found ourselves at one of the most famous landmarks in the entire world:
("in Paris, France")

It is always so beautiful. It really is one of my very favorite places in the world. We still hadn't had a drop of rain, so we were loving life! The lines to go to the top were awful. 2 of the towers weren't working & the other 2 only offered the stairs. No elevators were running. We had already decided before we got there that we weren't going to fight the crowd to go up. Opa was totally fine with that. He just wanted to be there & see it & touch it.

We took him straight under it. It was SO fun. He got to see straight up to the top from the ground standing in the direct center of it. It's such an amazing work of architecture. There's nothing like it in the whole world. We had so much fun taking pictures of everyone.

As we left, I looked at Trek & he looked at me & we both had a little tear in our eyes. This would be the last time we would be seeing the Eiffel Tower. We have been so blessed to visit it 3 times since we've been here in Europe. We love it there. It was a lot harder than I thought to say good-bye this last time!

Notre Dame Cathedral

So, the first stop on our Paris tour: Notre Dame Cathedral! We actually arrived at Notre Dame right about 9 am. It was perfect. . . nice & early. . . just the way I like it. It was beautiful. We were SO worried about rain, but there wasn't any at all. It was a cool day, but not freezing. Perfect for walking around.

On our way inside, there was a street performer dressed as King Tut. We gave the girls some change & when they put it in the little cup, the King Tut bowed to them & posed for pictures. The girls love talking to the street performers. They're so cute!

After playing around outside, we headed inside to show Opa how beautiful European architecture really is. I love Notre Dame. It's huge inside. I love the vaulted ceilings. Opa took me & Taya (she was hanging all over me for some reason) to the treasury museum there. There were all sorts of interesting things on the tour. I have no idea what most of them were because it was all in French, but they were sure pretty to look at! I think most everything in there belonged to popes & archbishops. There were robes & hats, rings, cups, & TONS of gold with diamonds & jewels!! It was beautiful!

One thing that really interested us were 2 treasure box type things with human bones inside. The bone looked like it maybe belonged to an arm & it was engraved & painted on the top (in french). It was very interesting. I don't know whose bones they were, but it was cool to see.

There were crowns with jewels, cups made of solid gold, & all sorts of glittery diamond incrusted things.

After visiting the treasury we continued to explore the massive church & found a beautiful nativity on one side of the building. It was very nice.

Opa loved every minute of it. He was SO happy to be in "Paris, France!" He's so funny. He'd never say just the word "Paris!" It was always "Paris, France!" We had so much fun.

Come on, we're going for a train ride. . . .

After breakfast, we packed everything up & checked out of our hotel. We piled into the Pottermobile & headed out for the train station. We parked the van in a teeny parking spot in a teeny parking garage & were on our way to Paris. My little family LOVES traveling by train. We do it all the time & we just love it! This was Opa's first time on a European train/subway so it was very exciting for him as well. It's about a 40 minute train ride from Disneyland to downtown Paris, so we just sat back & relaxed the whole way in.

Once we made it into the big city, we had to make a train change so we could make it out to Notre Dame. It was during that change that Trek & I remembered how "FUN" it is to carry that double stroller of ours up & down the thousands of subway stairs in Paris. Opa was great & carried the front & Trek carried the back. All day long they were going up & down & up & down. I miss America & it's convenient elevators & escalators!

French Breakfast. . . . . ooh la la!

Wednesday morning, we woke up bright & early (5:30 to be exact) & got ready for the hotel's French breakfast at 7:00 am. The breakfast was fantastic! It was served buffet style & we all loved everything about it. There was cereal, yogurt, TONS of fruit, croissants & rolls, ham, cheese, salad, hot cocoa, juice, & tons of other stuff. Lorien was addicted to the cheese & Cadence was in love with the fresh melon. I'm a sucker for chocolate croissants & Taya loves applesauce. It was fantastic!

Downtown Disney!

I love anything & everything that has to do with Disney. So since we weren't going to Disneyland, Downtown Disney was a must for me. The shuttle bus drops you off right at the entrance (right at the train station). The first thing we saw was a little Christmas market selling all sorts of fun things. They had hats & scarves, crepes, candies, hot cocoa, slabs of chocolate, brats, bratkartoffeln, cotton candy, magic tricks, etc. It was SO MUCH FUN!! We loved watching the guy making the hard candy. He would put it on a metal hook & let it stretch it's way down to the counter (almost like pulling taffy) & then he would grab it, twist it, & put it back up on the hook. Opa & I watched him for a little bit. It was fascinating.

After we looked at all the booths, we walked down the Disney Village & saw what they had there. They had TONS of fun restaurants (very expensive restaurants) & LOTS of different Disney Stores: toys, clothing, home decor, art. It was COOL! We ended up eating at good old McDonalds & it was great. The kids loved it & so did we. It was cheap & it was good.

After dinner we walked through each of the Disney Stores & looked around. The girls couldn't understand why they couldn't have everything in the store for themselves. Poor things thought I was the meanest mom in the whole world. However, I found some awesome mickey plates, cups, & bowls that I would have LOVED to have. But I was good & just "looked" too.

After shopping we went back to the Christmas market & everybody got something for dessert. The girls got some yummy hot cocoa, Trek & Opa got slabs of almond chocolate, & I had some chocolate crepes. All of it was fantastic! Then we all caught the bus back to the hotel & went to bed.

Cadence, Lorien, & Taya (we moved one of the mattresses from one of the beds into the extra room for Taya) slept in the extra room while Trek & I had the double bed & Opa had a single. We had the baby next to us on the floor, but he was getting restless at every sound he heard. Opa was extra tired & fell asleep super fast & since he was so tired, he made a few snoring sounds which Bladen wasn't too happy about, so we ended up making him a bed on the bathroom floor so we could shut the door & he couldn't hear anything. He slept great after that. Taya didn't sleep very well so I ended up sleeping half the night with her in her little bed. She had her arms wrapped around my neck as tight as they could & then she had her face rested on my cheek. It was very sweet & VERY uncomfortable at the same time. But I stayed there until she was fast asleep. I finally went to sleep in my own bed around 1am. It was a super fun day & we couldn't wait for Paris in the morning.

Explorers Hotel near Disneyland Paris

Paris here we come!!! For Christmas, we gave Opa a little coupon that said "Good for one trip to Paris, France!" He was SO excited. Driving to Paris from our house in Germany is no big deal. It's only 4 hours (like driving to Vegas from UT or CA). We woke up bright & early & drove to Explorers Hotel near Disneyland Paris. We loved that hotel when we took Oma to Paris last May, so we booked a room there again. Before we left we checked the weather for the 2 days we'd be there & found out that there was a 40% chance of rain the 1st day & a 70% chance of rain the 2nd day. SO SAD!! We were hoping it wouldn't be so overcast that we couldn't see the Eiffel Tower. We packed 5 umbrellas & TONS of clothes to layer so we wouldn't freeze on the streets of Paris.

The plan for Tuesday was to make it to the hotel, hang out & play, & then go to dinner at downtown Disney. After driving through strong winds, horrible rain, & dense fog for 4 hours, we made it safe & sound at our hotel right around 11:00 am. We made great time! We grabbed our lunches that Opa packed for us that morning & went inside to check in. I guess you can't check in until sometime between 1 & 3 pm. So we were kind of stuck there for a while before we could get into our room. But Explorers is a fun hotel, so we took the kids to the giant pirate ship play area. They loved that. They climbed the giant squid, played in the caves of the lower deck, & climbed to the upper deck to steer the ship. The girls love to play hide & seek so they were playing that for over an hour. Even Taya is getting good at hiding. They're so cute.

Right next to the pirate ship was a bunch of little ride on toys & Taya & Bladen were having a blast on those while we waited as well. Bladen was SO cute buckled into the little car ride. He's getting so big!

After playing for a little while, the kids started getting hungry so we broke out the food. We had made a simple lunch: PB&J sandwiches, juice boxes, chips, & some snack foods leftover from Christmas. As we ate, Bladen got cranky (like usual). He always gets fussy when we eat. He wants to eat what we're eating & he gets frustrated that he can't have it. But we did give him his own apple juice to see if he could drink from the little straw. . . AND HE COULD!! Once he figured it out, he was downing that juice box! It was so funny. He would kick his hands & feet & start panting like a little puppy until Trek would give him some more. Such a cutie pie!

After lunch, we let the kids play some more on the pirate ship & in the playroom just around from the tables. The playroom was a big room with jungle gym & lots of balls to jump around in. The kids loved it. Cadence & Lorien were all over the jungle gym & Taya stayed on the pirate ship. They played until about 1 o'clock & then they were done!

Now when a kid is done. . . . they're DONE! They all started whining & crying that they were tired, or that they wanted to swim in the pool. We were planning on taking them to the pool, but we kind of wanted to get in our room first so we could go through our suitcases to get the swimming suits & get things situated first. We kept encouraging them to play, but they really were done. Opa went to check on the room again & they told him it still wasn't ready yet & that it wouldn't be ready until around 3:00. The kids had done well for a full 2 hours, but how were we going to keep them happy for an additional 2 hours? We had to give in with the swim thing. Trek ran back to the van & scrounged through our suitcase & found all the swim gear. Opa stayed with Bladen in the lobby area & Trek & I took the kids to the pool. Of course, as soon as we walked up to the entrance there was a huge sign that said CLOSED until 2:00. (You've got to love the European "lunch" periods. Out here everything shuts down from noon until 2.) I wanted to DIE! It was only 1:30. The kids were crying & mad at us thinking it was all our fault. So we took them back to the lobby & sat listening to them whine for another 30 minutes. We were first in line when it opened again at 2:00. It took us 20 minutes & 3 full lockers later, we were all in our swim suits & had our floaties & towels ready. We walked to the pool & got in. Can you say
Oh my goodness! It was the coldest pool I've ever been in . . . & it was indoors!! I'm not a big swimming pool fan as it is & this just about did me in. But we HAD to swim until 3 otherwise we'd be stuck without a room with 4 very bored kids. Trek & I were laughing the whole time because our teeth were chattering. The kids had a blast though. There were a few water slides a few other fun things to play with. Trek would occasionally peek out at Opa & the baby & the baby was getting restless. I was first to volunteer to get out of the ice pool to get the baby. I got dressed again & ran out to get Bladen. I would hold him up next to the window & let him wave to his sisters. They all loved that. Taya kept giving him window kisses. It was so sweet. At 3:00 Trek waved for me to come & help him get the kids dressed. I gave Bladen to Opa & ran in to help Trek. It took us FOREVER to get those girls out of their swimming suits & into their normal clothes again. You should have seen the swim diaper we took off of Taya. I never knew a diaper could hold so much water! ha ha ha. By the time we got them out, the room was ready. We got a 6 person room & it was great. At first we were worried because there were only 3 beds in the room, but after we talked to the front desk, they unlocked the "secret door" in our room which led to the 2nd bedroom with the bunk beds for Cadence & Lorien. It was perfect. We all laid down & rested for a little bit & let the kids watch The Land Before Time in French. Then we took off for dinner at downtown Disney. But first we took some cute pictures with some of the statues at the hotel. We had to hop on a shuttle bus to get to Downtown Disney which is always fun when you have 4 kiddos. Half the people on the bus are annoyed because of the space the strollers take up & half just stare at the kids & mumble "4 kids!" to everyone else! Yes I have 4 kids & I love every single one of them thank you very much! The kids love bus & train rides so they were in heaven!

Cake in a Mug

Tonight we did the funnest thing as a family! Opa brought a recipe from Oma for how to make a little cake inside a hot cocoa mug. It was a lot of fun & was easy enough for each of the girls to make their own. If you do try this, a word of advice. We used 3 different mugs & the one that worked best was a mug that had straight up & down sides (not getting bigger towards the top). When you put it in the microwave it raises REALLY high over the top of the mug & it's scary. The straight sided mug worked great, the angled ones spilled a little bit. The cake is good, a little heavy (not light & fluffy), but it's good. And it's just fun to do.

Here's the recipe if you want a fun Family Home Evening activity & treat:

4 Tablespoons Flour
4 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Tablespoons Cocoa
1 Egg
3 Tablespoons Milk
3 Tablespoons Oil
3 Tablespoons Chocolate Chips
Small Splash of Vanilla

Add dry ingredients to the mug & mix well. Add the egg & mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk & oil & mix well. Add the chocolate chips & vanilla & mix again. Put your mug in the microwave & cook for 3 minutes on high. The cake WILL raise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed. Allow to cool a little & eat!

Trier, Germany with Opa

Monday (the 28th) we took Opa to our favorite nearby city, Trier. Trier is the oldest city in Germany & is also where our sweet little Taya was born. We couldn't wait to show him around. Trier is so beautiful!

Our first stop was the Karl Marx house. Karl Marx started Marxism. He wasn't the best guy in the world, but it's interesting to see the house he was born in & know that we live so close to it.

Next we walked towards the main city center & passed the girls' favorite fountain in Trier. Every time we pass it, the girls love to play hide & seek around it's massive base. Usually they have little fountains of water behind it that kids can play in, but because it's winter & FREEZING here, those weren't turned on. But they still enjoyed their little game of hide & seek, & then posed for pics with their Opa.

The kids looked ADORABLE. They got some new hats & gloves in their stockings & then new coats from Nancy & they just look so stylish & cute. It was lunch time when we got there, so we picked up some little pizzas & fresh pretzels from a vendor on our way into the main city center.

The city center was gorgeous as always. Trier literally looks like a bunch of colorful gingerbread houses. Pictures just don't do it justice. It's such a beautiful city. The city center is breathtaking & they still had all their Christmas decorations up. Dad found a vendor selling chestnuts that were roasted over an open fire. He had to try them! So we bought a bag & all of us tried them. All of us pretty much wanted to gag after one bite, but it was fun to try. We were cracking up after that. Anytime there was a lull in our conversations, dad would bring up: "Well, I think I'll eat another chestnut roasted on an open fire!" And then we'd all laugh hysterically again. It was one of those once in a lifetime things, but I probably will never eat one again. (They're icky)

Dad also found a little fresh made waffle shop on our way to the Dom Cathedral. (Dad wanted to eat anything & everything he could get his hands on so he could say "I ate that in Europe!" They didn't have any waffle dough made up, so we took a rain check & walked on until they had some dough ready. We went to the cathedral (which dad loved) that was built about 190 AD. We walked through the entire thing (until the kids couldn't take it anymore) & then went on our way towards the Porta Nigra.

On our way to the Porta Nigra, dad found a brat stand. . . ."I've got to eat that!" So from that stand we bought 2 German sandwiches (with biershinken [ham] & cheese), 3 pieces of apfelkuchen (apple cake), & a big ole bratwurst! He loved all three! He said the brat was the best thing he had eaten so far! Of course at this point he was starting to feel a little sick from eating so much stuff! But it's all SO SO SO good.

The Porta Nigra is the gate to the city of Trier. It was built about 186 AD. I can't believe it's still standing. It's very dirty now, but it's still such a majestic thing to see in Trier. My girls love posing in front of it like a bunch of statues.

After visiting the Porta Nigra we headed back towards that waffle shop. But we had to stop at the Italian Ice Cream shop since it was open. Opa tried the mandeln (almond) ice cream & loved it. The girls had strawberry & chocolate. Of course we only ate about 3 bites before we decided it was too freezing to be eating ice cream outside. Trek stopped by the electronic store to look for some ink for our computer. He found some, but because this was the first shopping day after Christmas, the lines were awful. We ended up waiting forever for him to come back. When we finally met up again, we stopped at the marketplace where the girls picked out some flowers for me. Then we got Opa's fresh waffle (which was more than AWESOME!! I'm going back for more for sure!), & then we left for home. It was a fun day! I love Trier!