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Travelogue: Days 13 & 14. From Croatia to London

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We left my great-grandmother’s village early Sunday Morning, July 1st, and headed for the ferry. It was officially the summer season for Croatia, and the day before we saw how crowded and crazy the line for the ferry gets, so we wanted to be sure we didn’t get left behind.

We got there at a good time, and had enough time, in fact, to eat some delicious pastries and one last Brač cappuccino for me. (Scratch that – I had one last cappuccino on the ferry!)

We drove around Split for awhile, looking for parking so that I could get some souvenirs. We couldn’t find parking, sadly, so we never did go back into Diocletian’s Palace. On one of our passes by the marina made one of the kids realize they’d left their sweater on the ferry. There’s a whole story about how I ran onto the ferry while my husband drove around, imagining the ferry took off with me still on it. Suffice it to say, we got lucky, because the sweater had been folded up and put away for us, and the ferry was on some sort of break, which is very unusual.

The Split airport was crazy. My husband dropped us off in the parking lot before heading to turn in the rental car. The kids and I took our luggage up to the main building and started to get in line, when my husband texted me, asking if I had the “paperwork” for the car. Panicked, I yanked the kids out of line so that we could wait for him, and hoping they’d figure out where this “paperwork” went to. About 15 minutes later, he called and said they found it (it fell between the seats), and he ran to the line as time was ticking away and we needed to get through security. (We also had to take things out of our suitcases, as they were too heavy. Thankfully, a nice guy behind us had a shopping bag he offered up!)

Of course, all that rushing was for nothing, as our flight was canceled.

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When your flight is canceled at a very small airport, this is what it looks like.

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Luckily, I brought my knitting

Once we were called, we were all crammed into a shuttle.

And finally got onto the plane.

A short flight to Prague, where we had a layover long enough to go through Customs, “Transfers,” have dinner, and shop. We were supposed to land at 9pm in London, but had yet another delay that got us to the UK well after 10. After going through Customs (the lengthiest process we’ve encountered thus far), getting our luggage, riding a train, getting off the train and onto another one because, “We’re sorry. We’re not going to stop there tonight,” and getting a taxi, we finally got to our flat and collapsed at around midnight.

Our first full day in London started with breakfast at Terry’s. I ordered something I thought would be very British – eggs, toast, and “bubble and squeak” – and really enjoyed it.

The girls had a spot of tea, but I just needed that cappuccino to get me going…

First stop – getting our Oyster Cards and heading to Kings Cross Station.

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Kings Cross Station is quite lovely.

We found Platform 9 3/4. There was a great shop.

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I adored this shop! (I may have bought myself a Platform 9 3/4 sweatshirt and purse).

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There was a LONG line to take your photo with the trolley. Next time I’ll get one.

Next up – The British Museum!

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The museum was quite beautiful inside.

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Easter Island figure

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The boys LOVED the mummies! The girls were kind of creeped out.

We also saw the Rosetta Stone. It was difficult to get a good picture, but it was something else!

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This was an exhibit that represented all the medications one person might take in a LIFETIME.

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Trains! Trains! Trains!

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Obligatory Phone Booth pic

We ended the day with dinner in a nearby pub. The kids each tried a new drink.

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Ordering dinner at the bar

It was cool to be in a neighborhood pub. Not super crowded, but filled with what appeared to be locals after work. At 7:30, there was a trivia game going on. We tried to listen to the questions to see how we would do, and because it was mostly British references, we would not have done well.

I will say that everyone we met that first day was very friendly, and it was comforting to be in a place where everyone spoke a language we easily understood.

Up Next – The Tower of London, Borough Market, Westminster Abbey, and a bus tour around London.

~Genevieve

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Travelogue: Days 11-12 Croatia- Krka Falls, Sea Organ, and more!

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After the late night adventure my son and I had the day before, we ventured back to the mainland to visit some places that were on our list of “to-dos.”

The first thing we did was look for a place to eat breakfast. We were unsuccessful, so we ended up driving to two malls and finally ending up with McDonalds because we were hungry and time was slipping away from us. After eating, we finally headed to Krka Falls. We bought tickets and boarded a bus tat took us on a windy, steep road down to the falls. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but we were rewarded with beauty.

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The path through the falls was so green!

There were a lot of people and sometimes it was difficult to navigate around everyone – or have patience while they walked slower than I’d have liked, but it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. These photos do NOT do it justice.

 

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Once we got to a certain point, there was an area where people could swim. We didn’t bring our bathing suits, but it didn’t matter. It was still beautiful.IMG_0120IMG_0121IMG_0129img_0132.jpg

After walking the full circle of the falls, we headed up to the Sea Organ in Zadar. My son had read about it and was really interested in seeing it.

Here’s a link to an article about it and a video. I’ve got video, but it was very windy and the sound of the wind distracts from the sound of the organ.

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Tall ship in the distance – piano/organ themed bench in the foreground

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Thumbs up! What a relaxing place to sit and listen to the organ and the waves.

After enjoying the sounds of the sea and the organ for awhile, we headed back to the car. There were a lot of vendors along the seaside, including one who sold fritule (Croatian donuts). My son made these for his project, so we bought some. They were really good!

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Enjoying fritule in Zadar. Not a bad day.

There were also Roman ruins that had been placed along a lawn. You don’t see that everyday.

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We drove the 2 hours back to Split, and had about 30 minutes to grab dinner before the Ferry left. Having had to run to a ferry just a few days ago, and then failing to get OFF a ferry the night before, we knew we didn’t want to take any chances. We found a pasta place that was able to get us in and out quickly. I have to say – it was really good. Fun fact: they use pumpkin oil in some of their salad dressings in Croatia. Seeing as pumpkin is one of the only foods I’m allergic to, I was a little nervous to order salad in Split.

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They serve cappuccinos on the ferry in real cups and saucers!

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We’re all a bit tired after a full day exploring Croatia.

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One of my favorite ads on the ferry

The next day, my husband and son left early to head back to the mainland and see a fortress. The girls and I were content to stay back and hang out at the villa.

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My son at the Klis Fortress

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Looking out the window to the city down below

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View out the window

They decided to check out a cave not far away. My husband LOVES caves. We’ve been to many caves on our vacations to National Parks.

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I’m not 100% sure, but I think it’s Vranjaca Cave.

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Inside the cave

While they were spelunking, we were kayaking.

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The girls and I and my brother Matt, kayaking near the villa

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She was a pro, and really enjoyed being out on the water.

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There were only 3 kayaks, so we shared.

 

That night was the last night all 12 of us were together. The next day Matt & Tere and Jeff & Candice left for the next part of their vacation – the former to sail for the next week or so and the latter to Split for a few days. We hung out with my parents and my brother Terry. We tried to get to a town called Pučišća, where my great-grandfather grew up. (We were staying in Milna, where my great-grandmother grew up.) Unfortunately the traffic to get to the ferry was so bad that we couldn’t get past it, so we turned around, had a nice lunch by the water, did some more kayaking, and had dinner. The next day the 8 of us would head off to London.

We had lunch at a resort in Supetar.

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We walked past a really fun looking resort!

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Doesn’t that look fun?

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Note: Beach Massage

IMG_5916IMG_5917 These drinks are local favorites. The one on the right was an “herbal” cola. The one on the left was a citrus drink. Pipi was much more enjoyable than Cockta.

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Not a bad view for lunch!

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My kids’ dad and my own dad

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Terry & Me – the oldest of the siblings

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My son and my mom

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The boys got their chance to kayak.

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Walking to dinner in Milna

Next up – Our trip out of Croatia to the UK, and first day(s) in London.

~Genevieve

Travelogue: Day 10. The Longest Day Ever (aka Stranded in Split)

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About a month before we left for our trip, my son asked if we were going to Dubrovnik. When we told him we were staying about 3-4 hours away from it, and on an island, he wasn’t very happy about it. He had done a report on Croatia and really wanted to visit this old city. After all, he said, “When are we going to be in Croatia again?”

Well, we found a ferry that would take us there. The ferry would leave at 8am and after stopping at 3 other islands, we would arrive in Dubrovnik at 12. We’d have about 4 hours in the city and then would take the ferry back to Milna. My brother Terry and my brother Jeff and his wife Candice decided to go as well, so we headed out for a full day of boat travel. (My husband and daughters stayed behind, having no desire to be on a boat for that long.)

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Our route from Milna on Brač to Dubrovnik

The ferry was late getting to us, but once we got on, we settled in. I knit for a good chunk of the trip.

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Candice, Jeff, and my son on the ferry

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Terry, preparing fo one of the classes he’s teaching this fall

We finally got to Dubrovnik, after some really rocky seas. It was raining and windy. Luckily it wasn’t horrible, but there was definitely some pitching back and forth and anyone susceptible to seasickness may have had a hard time. We had a quick lunch and headed to the city. We only had so much time!

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View of the entrance of the old city from our restaurant

My parents went to Croatia a few years ago. When they visited Dubrovnik, they were getting ready to film some scenes of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Nothing that exciting was happening this day, but there were lots of people there.

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This fountain was redressed with lights for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

We had been told by many friends that walking the walls of the city was a must do. So, we bought our tickets and headed up.

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View of the fountain and the square from the steps going up to the wall

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Following my brothers up the steps to walk on the outer wall surrounding the whole city

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Not a bad view

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Me & my boy ❤

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A view of the fortress outside the city walls. Sadly, it took us too long to figure out how to get there

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Parts of the old city are crumbling, and the steps of the city wall climb quite a bit

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The views from the wall were pretty great.

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Inside the city walls lived a LOT of cats.

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Jeff, me, Terry, and my son. 4 Croatians with the Croatian flag.

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My sister-in-law Candice stopped to pet one of the cats. Jeff snaps a pic.

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Not a real guillotine

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This reminded me of Piazza San Marco a little bit.

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Pretty distraction

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Apparently this staircase is famous in Game of Thrones

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We had a great time exploring the city. The only thing we didn’t get to do was visit the fortress. We tried, but by the time we found the way to get there, there were only minutes before we had to leave, so we had to take photos outside it.

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We can’t resist gelato!

Finally, we grabbed a taxi and headed back to the ferry. We settled in and enjoyed the long trip back. At most stops, there were several clues that we were stopping. First, there was an announcement. Secondly, lots of people started heading toward the back of the ferry. Third, we just felt that we had stopped. Most stops were about 5-10 minutes. Somehow, however, our stop wasn’t announced, and no one headed to the back. We were all in conversation and none of us noticed we’d stopped. We knew our stop was coming up, but somehow didn’t get up and start heading toward the door. Suddenly, Candice started yelling, “Are we moving? Did we miss our stop?”

And sure enough, we had. We were only feet from the shore, but they wouldn’t stop, and told us we had to ride to Split – another 45 minutes to an hour away. There was a 9pm ferry back to Supetar, but the likelihood of us making it was almost zero. Plus, we had no way of getting back from Supetar to Milna. The next ferry wasn’t until midnight. My dad was trying to convince us to find a place to stay in Split, but none of us wanted that. Candice was the only one with a working phone, so she was the one keeping everyone abreast of our situation. After some arguments of how we were getting home and who was going to pick us up, Terry finally called for a water taxi. We knew this would be expensive, but it was our best bet. Once we got to Milna, a taxi would pick us up and take us back to the hotel and the villa.

First up- finding a place to get some food (and use the restroom).

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My son was really stressing out, until he got some food in his belly.

Next  – finding where we were supposed to meet the water taxi. When we relaxed a bit, we were able to do two things: 1) laugh and 2) look at how pretty our surroundings were.

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Split, at night.

The taxi driver sent Terry a “pin” on the map for us to follow, and he’d pick us up. We walked to the only real place there was no boat already docked. It took a few minutes, but our savior arrived in short order. Just as it started to rain again.

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Yay! We’re on our way back!

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It was a little cold, and we were very tired.

The water taxi was a speed boat, basically, and we were going pretty fast. Because he was taking us straight to Milna instead of Supetar, where the other ferry drops off, it took us about 45 minutes. After the taxi dropped them off at the villa, I think we got home at around 11pm. My son went to bed and I ate some of the food Wayne had picked up for our dinner (that we missed), and I tried to explain just how we managed to miss our stop. We were exhausted, but glad to be home. We knew we had a story to tell friends when we got back.

Coming up: Krka Falls, The Sea Organ, and last days in Croatia.

~Genevieve

Travelogue: Day 7, 8 & 9: Croatia

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On Day 6, we flew from Paris to Prague and then onto Split, Croatia.

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The Split airport is small enough that all passengers exit the plane like this.

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The exterior of the airport is quite pretty.

We got our rental car, then headed to the ferry, which we became very familiar with.

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We finally made it to the hotel, and this was our view at dinner. We ate at the hotel restaurant.IMG_5668

Shortly after dinner, we collapsed. Something about traveling on airplanes makes you really tired.

Day 7 – The Villa.

My parents, 3 brothers & 2 wives rented a villa together not far from our hotel. (It was actually only about 10 minutes away, but we had to go a longer route and it took us closer to 20 each way.) We decided to stay in a hotel, rather than the villa, because we are the only ones with kids and thought it would just be the easiest option. The villa was pretty nice, though, and we spent a good amount of time there!

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Not a bad view!

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My brother, Terry, and my husband, catching up

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Me, my brother Matt, and 2/3 of my kiddos (yes, that’s our laundry in the background)

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Me & my middle child

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The kids, enjoying the pool

That night, we celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday with pizza and cocktails.

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The next day, we wanted to go to Split , but we had a family dinner that night at the villa. Unfortunately, the ferry schedule is such that you either get on the 2:15 or the 4:45. Considering that 2 of us needed to shower and it takes a bit to drive from the ferry to the hotel and then onto the villa, we decided the 2:15 would be the best option. (Honestly, a 3:00 would have been perfect, but there is no 3:00.)

We basically saw Diocletian’s Palace and had lunch. Our visit was short and sweet.

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Diocletian’s Palace was built in the 4th century AD. Next to the Coliseum in Rome, this is the oldest building I’ve seen in my life.IMG_9781IMG_9836

Underneath the Palace, there’s a marketplace. We heard a tour guide saying that it used to be a storage area for grains and other goods.

 

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In Europe, the kids tried lots of new and different foods. In Paris, they all tried Escargots. In Croatia, there was octopus.

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G’s lunch

We had to RUN to make our ferry. It’s a shame that we didn’t have goPro footage of us running. (Though I think my husband got it one of the other times we were running for the ferry. We were always running for the ferry.)

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The kids were constantly keeping themselves busy on the ferry rides.

 

We had a catered meal that night. There was SO MUCH food. The main course was a Croatian dish called Peka.

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S & my parents

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Jeff, Candice, Tere

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Wayne, me, Matt, Terry

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Another picture of the water down below the villa. SO beautiful!

 

 

Next up – Dubrovnik, Krka Falls, and the Sea Organ of Zadar.

~Genevieve

Travelogue: Paris Days 5 & 6. L’Arc De Triomphe, Musée D’Orsay, Sacre Coeur, More Eiffel Tower, & Pompidou

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Disney was a long day. After a good night’s sleep, the next day we saw L’Arc de Triomphe, The Musé d’Orsay, and a boat ride on the Seine. We managed to pack in a LOT on Day 4.

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We can see the Arc up ahead, but have to go down a tunnel to get close.

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going through the tunnel

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L’Arc Selfie

The Arc is much bigger than I remember. It’s so impressive, but difficult to capture all of it in a single photo. We walked around (and through) and looked at it from every angle.

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We headed to the Orsay Museum next.

The building of the Musée D’Orsay is quite beautiful. It used to be a train station.

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I feel you, honey!

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It’s rare to see a sculpture in a museum that isn’t all white.

There was SO much to see at the Orsay. That’s a teeny taste. It was beautiful and impressive.

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There’s nothing like enjoying a sandwich on great bread while in Paris.

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It must be Paris water. I have never had bread this good in the states.

One thing on our list was a boat ride down the Seine. Check!

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This was a hop-on, hop-off boat, but we just enjoyed the ride.

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A different view of Notre Dame

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After having some dessert, we headed back to our neighborhood and took in the view, Sacre Coeur, and the gendarme. We also rode the Funnicular, but sadly I have no photos.

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Each Metro station has its own personality. I loved this one in particular.

We realized that just up the street in our neighborhood was a stunning old church – Sacre Coeur. We hiked up the hill and were met with this impressive sight.

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People gathered to look at the beautiful sunset over the city, and the gendarme came to watch over everyone.

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This is the Metro stop by our hotel. I love the look of the old Metro signs!

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On Day 5, we split up. The boys went to the catacombs and the girls went to get some photos of the Eiffel Tower. When we were on the second level, we were able to see two places we thought we’d get a good view. The first one was a park.

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The park was filled with people, and a great backdrop.

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The second place was on the opposite side of the tower.

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This photo was taken right before the fountains behind me went on.

We spent way too much time trying to get wifi so I could contact my husband and figure out where to meet. Finally, we grabbed a very Parisian sandwich and headed to the  Pompidou.

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This was a huge screen playing ones and zeros, basically.

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An essay on cosumerism?

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This guy was part of an exhibit. He moved very slowly on the floor.

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A piece from the Marc Chagall exhibit I really liked

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I think this was the next guy on his shift.

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Old and new, juxtaposed

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Stravinsky Fountain

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We had the BEST Italian dinner in Paris that night, eating outside in Montmartre, and our server was a wonderful woman who had a great sense of humor. It was a great last night in Paris. We had to get home and pack, because we were leaving for the airport at 6am the next day.

I hope to be back someday.

Coming soon: Flying to the Island of Brač, Croatia.

~Genevieve

Travelogue: Disneyland Paris!

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One thing we decided to do in Paris was visit Disneyland. Yes, I know we live less than an hour away from the Original Disneyland, but how can we NOT go? We love Disneyland, and we wanted to see what was different and the same in this 4th iteration of the park. We had to take not only the Metro, but also the RER out to the edge of town – the far right of the Metro map.

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Security check on the way in

The first thing we did was head to Phantom Manor – their version of the Haunted Mansion. The Haunted Mansion is one of our favorite rides, both in California and Florida, which we visited in 2012.

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California Haunted Mansion, decorated for the holidays

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Florida Haunted Mansion

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To our dismay, Phantom Manor was closed for refurbishment. 😦

Next stop? Another favorite of ours, Pirates. Sadly, it was also closed for refurbishment. We were 0 for 2. This was a bummer right out of the gate. That whole area, however, was quite pretty.

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Part of Adventureland

We were also disappointed that the Jungle Boat Cruise was not a ride in Adventureland.

We headed over to Discoveryland (their version of Tomorrowland).

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The girls do not approve of this alternate name of Tomorrowland

We managed to find some old favorites – Buzz Lightyear, Star Tours, and Autopia.

We headed over to their second park, Disney Hollywood Studios, after lunch to check out the Ratatouille ride. It was FANTASTIC! That was definitely something we don’t have in California!

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If you look closely you can see the rats holding up the bottles

We did a few more things in DHS, including a mini tram tour and a special effects show. Back at Disneyland, we spent some time in Fantasyland, including Pinnochio, Snow White, Peter Pan, and It’s a Small World. Right away, I noticed the difference between the castle and ours.

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It’s A Small World, Paris

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It’s a Small World, Florida

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It’s a Small World, California

They did a great job, and the America section was really, really big and included the Old West and California.

If you’re not familiar with Disney parks, one building serves as somewhat of a centerpiece of the park is the castle.

In Florida, it’s Cinderella’s Castle.

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In California, it’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.IMG_5819

And in Paris, it’s also Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, which is imagined very differently, but gorgeous!

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We spent ALL day at the parks and headed back late. The kids (and parents) were exhausted by the end of our day.

Even though a few of our favorite rides were closed, we had a great time! I’m so glad we decided to go. Maybe someday we can go back when those rides are up and running!

Coming Up: The Orsay, Sacre Coeur, more Eiffel Tower, and Pompidou!

 

~Genevieve

Travelogue: European Vacation Day 1-3. Paris!

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Our family took a European vacation and had lots of adventures and made many memories. We started with a flight to Paris from L.A. at 8pm.

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LAX always reminded me of The Jetsons.

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Neck pillows – check! Ready (or not) for 10 hours in the air.

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Girls in row 18, boys in row 19.

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Trying to sleep was very challenging, but we all managed at least a few minutes.

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After we checked into our hotel, we went looking for SIM cards for our phones, and were hungry. I simply LOVE this kind of meal – wine, salami, olives… so good!

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Lots of interesting wall art along the streets of Montmartre.

We stayed in Montmartre… a really cool, bohemian little part of the city.

 

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Marché aux fruits

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That night, we met up with some friends of my husband and ate our first French meal. Lots of seafood. It was late, and the kids were tired, but it was fun.IMG_5088

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We never found out what the cat led to…

Day 3 (Day 2 in France, but since we traveled over a day, we call this Day 3), we went to the Louvre.

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Winged Victory

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Venus

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Taking in the sights on our guided tour. Lots of people at the Louvre that day!

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Getting a glimpse of the Mona Lisa

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Taking a peek at a room that wasn’t open that day.

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After eating a lovely lunch at Angelina’s in The Louvre, we headed out to Notre Dame on foot, enjoying the Seine and all the booksellers along the way.

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The last time I saw Notre Dame, she was covered in scaffolding. It was good to see her in all her glory.

And, let’s take a look at the Eiffel Tower. Wayne and Sean wanted to go all the way to the top.

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The girls and I settled for the second level.IMG_9471IMG_9481

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More wall art (and graffiti)

We had an EXCELLENT meal at a local place in Montmartre, and ended the night walking home at sunset at 10pm.

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Not a bad first few days of vacation! Next up: Disneyland Paris

~Genevieve