April 28th, 6:20 PST
The journey begins!
*Here I sit on the crowded airplane. I seem to always forget that they are ALWAYS crowded…and uncomfortable….and make your bum sore (ouch!). We made the “Marin exchange” with my mother in the Newark airport, and she is off for a fun filled 10 days with grandma and grandpa. I have left my little girl to traipse about on another continent…and how does that make me feel, you ask? My heart of hearts feels so much motherly guilt, and did I cry, you ask? I walked away with my husband’s arm around my waist and some difficult-to-hold-in tears finding their way down my cheeks. I am a mother now, and my heart will always yearn to be with my little girl. She will be fine, of course, and so will I.
*I am so looking forward to our journey these next 10 days, the sights, the sounds, the smells of a beautiful and romantic city. We will be having a very low-key first day in the city, seeing as how we arrive at 8am local time. Our advice was to sleep as much as possible on the plane, but stay awake once we get to the city, and we should be fine for the rest of our trip. And after eating horrible airline mush…a fresh local baguette will be my very first hi-light!
*Before we left, I endured a grueling 4 days stretch at work to get my hours in….I feel like I barely survived! Not only do I feel super fat after not having been able to go to the gym on those days, I feel like a total zombie. I had Tuesday to pack and go to a doctor’s appointment and then be up 5 today to fly away. But, tomorrow will be full of fun, and new adventures, and of course…..pictures! No WAY you all can miss out on those. I am signing out to stretch my legs and nuzzle with my hubby, good night!
April 30th, 2010, 0743 AM
*Welcome to Paris! OMG, all I have to say is these women out here have style! All day yesterday I kept looking at the people around me and was just amazed at how fashionable they were. And it was so different from American fashion. American fashion is ….synthetic and “patched up”, French fashion is so natural and simple, yet elegant, so much like their language. I felt so different in my brightly colored top, blue eyes, and blonde hair pulled back out of my face. All the French women have light brown wavy hair that is neatly tousled and pulled into a messy bun or left framing their olive toned faces. Haha, I felt like such an outsider!
*So how did our day go yesterday? Well…..we were all so tired, I can barely remember! I tried to sleep on the plane, I think I got about an hour of rest before we landed and were on our way. We had a bit of a rocky start on our first Metro ride to our hotel…initially an accordion playing young man and his friend boarded and started playing….I unknowingly asked if I could take their picture (bad idea), and of course they asked for my money when they were finished. I didn’t know how to tell them I had no currency for them, and needless to say one was a little perturbed…he called us something (omitted!) in French, but our awesome French speaking friend surprised him by telling him ….ahem….what he could go and do. Ahhh, our first French encounter! We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and headed out to keep ourselves awake for the rest of the day (so we could stay on Paris time).
*We went to Notre Dam first and as beautiful as it was on the outside….it was even creepier inside! I hope I don’t offend any Catholic readers, but man! Keeping the tombs of dead bodies inside a church is just weird, isn’t that what graveyards are for? The architecture was admittedly stunning, but we were all starving so we headed to a bistro for a French meal. When in Paris, do as the Parisians do, no? I ordered a pate sandwich and salad…sooo good! Where has pate been all my life, it is just delicious! And the bread, well, there is no comparison, the baguette is just what I had hoped and dream a French baguette would be like, crispy on the outside, chewy and delicious on the inside, ah, so wonderful.
*We headed over to Sacre Couer, a huge basilica located on the top of a huge hill overlooking Paris, and the view was amazing! All of Paris spread right before our very eyes. Once again, as gorgeous as the basilica was….creepy! I really hope I don’t offend anyone…..Anyway, by the time that was done, we were soooo tired. I could barely keep my eyes open and my feet realllly were sore (just from no sleep), so we headed back to the hotel for a quick nap, which, made me realize how tired I actually was. I wanted to sleep all through the night! But, we got up, bought some fresh baguettes, salami, smoked salmon, grape tomatoes, fresh cheeses and drinkage and ate it in a beautiful old Roman Parthenon-esque park on the stone steps. It was wonderful, and the weather out was perfect. And, I will be saying this often in my journal, the food out here is INCREDIBLE! So natural, so fresh, so delicious, no artificial crap here….and it makes a huge difference. The food tastes so perfect! I remember my sister in law telling me that when she was out in Eurpoe for 6 weeks a few years ago, she lost 10 pounds because the food was so natural and wasn’t full of steroids and artificial flavorings and colorings. Nice! I already feel thinner…..
*And today….well, today is my birthday! I am 26 today and in disbelief that I am as old as I am. I know you old fogies are laughing at me, but I have never been 26 before! It isn’t too bad, but I am starting to feel my age creeping up on me. I have realized that I need to pull my fashion act together, the French mommies are no less fashionable than the single ladies out here! Anyway, what will we be doing today? We are headed to Versailles and the Eiffel Twoer for sure and after that, it’s anybodys game. Those wer the two things I wanted to do on my birthday, sadly it’s quite a bit colder today then it was yesterday, so no fun summer dress for me!
*We didn’t get a chance to chat with Marin last night, our internet connection was too sketchy, but hopefully soon, I am missing my baby! So wish me a happy birthday and fun times today, we are off to have fun in the city of love!
Saturday, May 01, 2010
****Yesterday***** was my birthday, and an incredible birthday it was! My hubby woke me up with a kiss and a gorgeous necklace and breakfast of a croissant and some fruit. We then headed off to Versailles, one of the most famous palaces in France. If you have never heard of Versailles, well, where have you been living? Versailles is where, most famously, Marie Antoinette and her husband King Louis the ummm, 17th (I think), were dragged from into the heart of Paris and guillotined. They were innately famous for taxing the souls out of the people of France and spending it on their incredibly lavish lifestyle. Versailles is HUGE! As big as you think it is, it is like….3 times bigger, just enormous! We walked the grounds first, and they are of course beautiful, and they just keep on going and going and going. Just when you think you have reached the very end, you look down the pathway to see another gi-normous fountain and more landscaping and trees beyond that. It really is grandiose. The palace itself is nothing short of extravagant, room after room of ornate ceiling paintings, moldings, furniture and windows. The grand ballroom is facing the grounds and runs an entire length of the backside of the house, all lined with giant windows, and considering how expensive windows were back then, it must have cost a pretty penny! The opposite side of the wall is lined with mirrors to reflect the light. Marie Antoinette would throw lavish, lavish parties that would continue for DAYS on end in this ballroom, all while the people of France starved. We even were able to peek into one of the secret chambers in Marie’s bedroom that she escaped through the morning the angry crowds rushed the palace.
*After our Versailles tour, we had a quick lunch (at 4:30, timing is so different here!) and headed to the Eiffel Tower. Once again, MUCH bigger than I thought it was going to be. See, in Las Vegas, we have a small replica Eiffel Tower as part of one of the casino’s, and the real Eiffel Tower just dwarfs that one! A ride to the top with some beautiful views of the whole city, and a little Eiffel Tower souvenir for moi, and we were done! Such a cool experience. I changed into some high heels and my Paris dress and we had an incredible meal down the street at a local bistro. SOOOO delicious, oh my goodness! I had an amazing gnocchi gratin, salad and Ile Flottants for dessert, just delicious. Kris had duck breast (also amazing) and ratatouille and crème brulle for dessert. It was by far one of the best meals I have had, such good food here.
*After we had finished dinner, it was midnight, and we needed to say hello to our little Marin! We were able to get some very poor internet connection at the McDonalds across the street from our hotel, so there we sat and Skyped with my parents and Marin for about 20 minutes. She is so sweet and I truly miss her smile and kisses and hugs. Paris is amazing, but my baby is my life now and I will be happy to be home with her again.
***Today**** was another busy day! It is a holiday here in France today, labor day, so much of the city is closed down. I was super tired this morning, so I slept in while Kris and BJ got breakfast across the street. We went to the Arc De Triomphe and the infamous Champs E’lysees (kind of like…Rodeo Drive) and had umm, ok-ish chicken Grecs, not my favorite, well heck, after eating amazing authentic French food, what more can you expect, eh? Then we went to the Luxembourg Palace which is used for senate meetings now, so no tour, but still pretty, and we walked around the lovely public gardens. Because it’s a holiday, there were lots of people there, but it was beautiful with trees and flowers and grass and a large pond with a fountain that children push little boats around in.
*We went to a Mosquee (an Islamic church), where you can do a little tour, but there wasn’t much to see and you had to pay to get in, so we skipped that. Not a big deal, I was able to snap a picture of the little inside garden anyway! Another yummy dinner at a different bistro tonight, and I think we will try and get to bed early tonight after we call our little Marin. Tomorrow will be lots of walking….we are going to the Louvre and the surrounding Tuileries (the Louvres’ garden).
*I have noticed that as much fun as it is here, it’s different than I thought it would be. I always thought Paris would be like my second home, but I feel almost as though I stick out like a sore thumb! The beautiful French ladies here have light brown, perfectly tousled hair, brown eyes, olive skin and are about 5’4” to 5’6”. I have blond hair, blue eyes, pale skin, and am 5’7”, by no means a giant, but I certainly feel a little out of place! The culture has been fantastic for my soul, I have just been soaking up the language and fashion and history of this amazing city. It truly emanates a different feel than America. America is big and loud and rude and must-always-be-showing/doing/making-more kind of place, and Paris….well…Paris is a soft-elegant-gentle-natural-mysterious city that makes you want to discover their secrets and dress in their simple and fashionable clothes. I am picking up some great hints
Check out half of our pics, right here! If you want to see the pics in a larger slideshow, just clikc on the slideshow, it will take youto my Picasa Web page. Some of them have subtitles, so don't miss those!
Monday May 3, 2010
Our time here in Paris is coming to an end sadly…we will be leaving in the morning! Already! Fortunately, we are heading to visit some family in Norway and Sweden, which will be so wonderful and relaxing (I am guessing). Let me do a quick recap on our last two days here in Paris:
*****Sunday****** was just amazing, We started the morning by heading to an incredible farmers market just one street over from our hotel. I LOVE farmers markets anyway, but a farmers market in Paris is like being in heaven. They have some of the most beautiful fruits and vegetables I have ever seen, strawberries completely jewel red and gorgeous, radishes, heirloom tomatoes, everything! They had fromageries and boulangeries and patisseries and charcuteries and chocolatiers (translation: cheese shops, bread shops, pastry shops, deli shops, chocolate shops.). They had handmade kitchen utensils, baskets, scarves, they had rotisserie chicken with new potatoes sitting below just soaking up the chicken fat drippings which…if you must know, smelled AMAZING. Oh, if only I had a kitchen in Paris I would have purchased goods to my little heart’s content and cooked an incredible meal that night….and maybe snacked on rotisserie chicken for lunch. After our farmers market experience, we headed to The Louvre. Now, after reading my little “Guide to Paris” book, I picked up a nice little tip that on the first Sunday of the month, admission to the Louvre is free. Perfect! I thought to myself, we would save ourselves 18 Euro’s! …….HA! We arrived at the Louvre at approximately 11:30, and the line to get into snaked around the entire first courtyard, through the archway and around the second courtyard. Estimated waiting time per Louvre attendants? Three and a half hours. What?! We could not believe it! There was no way we were going to spend our Sunday waiting in line. We resolved to go do something else and come back the next day and just pay our way in. On our way out one side exit from the courtyard, we noticed an attendant ushering people through a gate into security and the building, we asked if we could go through and were told to just keep walking without knowing where we were headed. Past security and down one elevator and we were inside the Louvre! I couldn’t believe it! We had skipped past a three and half hour wait and were inside! I was chuckling about this one ALL DAY LONG! WE headed to the Mona Lisa first, let me say, she is not as small as some people make her out to be…she’s pretty much a regular sized painting, but oh is she popular, the room to see her was busting at the seams, and they had 6 museum attendants just for the demure lady herself. Then we saw gobs and gobs of Italian artwork and French artwork and we headed to the Egyptian section where we saw sculpture after sculpture, sarcophagus’s still stained with oils from the body’s they used to house, jewelry, etc.. I am telling you, as fascinating as it all was, it all starts to blend together after a while! We left the Louvre and were hoping to get a chance to walk the catacombs of Paris, an underground collection of old re-buried bodies from long ago. They had been exhumed and relocated to make way for new buildings, and they reside in the well known catacombs. Sadly, as it was a Sunday night, we missed the last entrance by about 20 minutes. So we had some dinner with delicious crème brulee and hot chocolate for dessert and chatted it up for a while in true French style and called it a day.
Tuesday May 4th
****Monday**** was our last full day in Paris, and I am surely a sad, sad lady! Paris has been a dream and so different from what I expected. Today we took it easy and spent the day meandering the streets and picking up our little treasures to bring home. We thought momentarily about going to the catacombs, but BJ informed us they were closed on Monday, as many shops in Paris are. So it was a perfect cold, blustery day to snuggle up and find some lovely Parisian trinkets to bring home. I will have to post some pictures of those. We did snag a deal on a suit for my hubby so he will be bringing home a well deserved Parisian suit. My man is such a find, he works so hard for our family, boy do I love him! Some of the other things we are bringing home from our travels are two beautiful street paintings, some local chocolates, delicious nutella crepes (oh, wait, we ate those!), a little Eiffel Tower and a million memories….well, those are mostly for me, eh ;) We took a well earned nap and had our last dinner in the city of love, and went to bed early for a morning train ride to Stockholm.
Here is the second half of our pictures! There are more than the first batch, so get comfy and pull up a chair my friends, Europe awaits you ;)
Tuesday May 4th
We left Paris this morning and boarded a train that would take us through Frankfurt, Germany and to Berlin where we would then catch a night train to Stockholm. We had a 5 hour “layover” so to speak, in Berlin, and we walked the streets hoping to find some memories to take home with us…..ummmmm, well, sorry to say, Berlin is just about the most depressing place I think can ever exist, next to the Las Vegas zoo. We wandered around and kept walking and walking and walking, and the streets are lined with questionable shops, and empty restaurants with owners pleading for you to come in and eat their food. Let’s just say we were happy to board the train. AND… we had our first experience on the night train! It’s not as romantic as you think it is, lest you excite yourself…the cabin holds 6 bunks, and ours had all 6 bunks full. One single stoned lady in her 50’s and a couple from Sweden that woke up at 3am to buy and drink beer. Hmmmm, how did I sleep? Not well you might say. The night train took us over the Baltic Sea on a barge, the whole train was packed up on the barge and in the morning we were ashore! We boarded a second train that would take us into the city, and that train was wonderful! So comfy and cushy, I napped and read and readied myself the whole way to Stockholm.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Stockholm! I am here in the land of people that look like me! What a joy! Today has been wonderful, we have enjoyed family and great food and the ocean. Kris’s aunt Bente met us at the train station and we drove around the local area for a bit before having an amazing lunch on the docks. Swedish BBQ chicken, mashed potato and parsnip puree, and a bean salad, just delicious! After lunch we headed to a famous Swedish museum that housed a 1600’s battle ship that, ahem, tipped over in the harbor. It is actually a very funny/sad story. The Swedes had spent years and loads of money to build this elaborate and seaworthy ship that was slathered in expensive paint and covered with carvings. On it’s maiden voyage, it was released into the harbor where it promptly tipped over and sank! Ooops? Haha, I shouldn’t laugh, but someone really goofed up there, no? They had mis-estimated to counterweight the ships top weight by 120 tons! That’s no small amount of mistake my friends. Ahhh, well, it is an impressive ship with lots of cool artifacts to look at, we had a great time. That evening we had a wonderful dinner with Aunt Mette, her husband and children. They are all so sweet and wonderful and we had great dinnertime conversation. Afterwards, we went back to Bente’s to relax on the couch and watch Avatar….I must say, pretty impressive for an animated film, not totally my style, but a very good movie.
Thursday, May 6th: Today we had just enough time for a lunch out with the family before we had to be at the train station yet again. Can I just say, at this stage in our vacation….train rides are sooo overrated! I finished my book, and the computer battery was dead, so no journal writing, so I had nothing to do for 4 of the 7 hours. Next time, we fly. Our journey will conclude here in Oslo, Norway and tonight we stay with Kristoffer’s Uncle Dag and his family. They have been so kind and have shared their home and food and floor space and showers with us, it has been wonderful to be treated so warmly! We got in pretty late from the train station, so we had just enough time to eat a snack, chat and hit the sack.
Friday, May 07, 2010: Today Uncle Dag took us out to see some sights. We found a Viking Ship museum and read all about the ruthless Viking warriors back in the day. Can I just say, I would NOT want to run into one of those guys….they were brutal! Oh, the history my hubby brings to the table with his Scandinavian genes, it’s so cool After the Viking museum, we headed to a beautiful and very famous park, well known for its’ numerous nude statues. It may seem a bit strange and possibly shocking to walk into a park and see that all of the statues are sans clothing, but they are all very tasteful and each one paints a very poignant picture. Some are beautiful moments between lovers, others are moments of grief when an old man loses his wife in death, some are young playful children, or lovely young maidens. Each is so different from the other. I guess deep down, underneath all that clothing and pesky skin, we are all emotionally connected to one another, and the only thing that changes is our perception. Well, anyway, it was a wonderful place to go! We had a delicious lunch at a ski resort, and then went back home, where I fell asleep and Kris and BJ played basketball with the kids. This evening, Uncle Dag took us out into the Fjord on his boat and we leaned over the boat with the chilly breeze taking our breath away. I told my husband he needs to buy a boat someday, I don’t think he needed much convincing with that one. After dinner, we sat around on the couches and listened as some of the musically inclined among us took turns playing piano and guitar and/or sang. MMMM, my my, what a beautiful day it has been too, sunny and bright! And, I have to say, up here in Scandinavia, at least at this time of year, it is light until almost 10:30! They actually are far enough North where the sun doesn’t fully set at night in the summertime. Tomorrow is the last full day of our vacation! I am in shock! This has been an amazing vacation and I have loved every minute of it. I feel so alive knowing the world is a tangible visit-able place. I am so excited to see my little Marin monkey, oh how I have missed her sweet, sweet hugs and kisses! I have been getting pretty antsy these last few days for my baby, I love her so much. But, life awaits us! Tomorrow we will be spending our last few bits of time with Uncle Stein and his family and he will take us to the airport Sunday morning. Then begins the real fun! I have oh-so-much editing on this journal to do before I can post it, and I need to download, organize and label all of my pictures, I haven’t counted yet, but there an impressive amount of photos thanks to my trigger happy index finger.
Sunday May 9th, 2010: Mothers Day!
The last couple of days have been such a blur, it has all happened so quickly! Yesterday we traveled to Moss, Norway, about an hour or so away from Oslo, to stay with Kristoffer’s Uncle Stein and his wife. She made us a lovely dinner and we sat and chatted the night away until bedtime. We were able to swap how-we-met stories and stories about what it was like growing up in Norway. It was a wonderful evening. Norway is a beautiful place, if I could describe it in one word, it would be….camping. It is quiet, serene, and steady, a country full of patriotic, orderly authentic Norwegians with ice blue eyes (like my hubbys!). In contrast, for comparison purposes, Sweden reminds me of…..girls camp. In a wonderful way, (I LOVED girls camp). Lively, fun, happy and young, down to earth and family oriented. Both countries have such a wonderful earthy vibe to them that is refreshing and open. I can just about taste the lightly salted water of the Baltic Sea blowing in from the Fjords when I am there. But, being with family members I have never met before has been priceless, I will always remember their kindness! Oh, and lest I forget, we have some new members to our family! Haha, don’t be fooled, let me explain; in Kris’s Norwegian family, they have a fun tradition of representing each family member with a crystal polar bear. There is a special shop in Norway that sells them, and since Kristoffer was given his ‘daddy’ bear by his mother, we were actually given the ‘mommy’ bear by Uncle Stein, and we picked up two little ‘baby’ bears (one for the future!) to bring home. What a fun tradition that I am so proud to have in my family now also. Uncle Stein was commenting how funny it was that the family had this tradition, considering there were no real polar bears living in Norway, ha!
And now, here I sit on Mother’s Day just less than an hour from holding my sweet little girl. I cannot wait! Oh how I have missed missed missed her! She has been sick with another respiratory illness while at my parents’ house and I have not been there to cuddle with here and make it all better. I know she has been getting top notch TLC with my mom and dad though, she has been wanting for nothing I am sure! I will be glad to get off of this plane! I think it’s been even longer than the flight to Paris, we have had to make a big arc around Iceland to avoid the lingering volcanic ash. Phew! 3952 miles down, 113 to go….at least to Newark, we still have to make it to Las Vegas! Soon though I will be writing up my vacation recap and editing my journal to post on my blog!
***I hope you have all enjoyed reading about my adventure in Europe, it has been a dream to fly across the vast ocean and set foot in rich history and savory culture. Would I recommend Europe? Heck YA! And this is how you do it: BUY THE TICKETS! That is what will get you there. You can wait and wait and wait until you think you are ready to go, but life gets in the way and you WILL put it off, guaranteed. So to make sure you go, even if you think you're not ready, just buy the tickets. Save money as you wait, but once the takeoff date comes, you will on that plane, instead of sitting at home waiting for life to be ready. Take the dive and let some history get under your skin, it gives you a glow and a culture better than any foundation ;)