More than a week later, and I can say that the laundry from the trip has finally been folded and put away, jet lag seems to have dissipated, and the backpacks have been entirely emptied.
If you're thinking "oh, maybe they took their kids camping/to the beach/to visit family in New England" - you'd be wrong :) With the convergence of several events and facts overseas, we
I spent months in preparation, culminating in a pink soft-covered binder with every known piece of documentation for our trip, determined to get both the most affordable prices for every bit of travel and places to stay, while also somewhat convenient or at least well-thought-out. Here is our trip by the numbers:
3: Flights taken with 3 seats for 4 people
5: Trains missed
1: Wallet stolen
7: Somewhat terrifying hours driving/riding in a small car in the UK
6: Cousins or cousins' children played with over the 10 days
2: Chateaux (castles) visited in France
5: Parisian pastries eaten in place of a meal
22: Ducks, or canards, fed
4: Ducks eaten for a delicious family dinner one evening in France
1: Crazy taxi ride to the airport
8: train/metro rides
4: tram/bus rides in Amsterdam
1: Boat ride through Amsterdam canals and under teeny little bridges
2: little-boy hats I'm so glad I brought, because even in the 50s it was very windy
1: stroller left on a train
23: Extended and wonderful family members we got to visit
It was certainly an adventure. The first day, after the overnight, red-eye flight (both kids slept on all plain rides, so we can't complain), we took a train, losing our stroller in transit, to Southampton. We
then walked a bit to the rental car and Tim managed to navigate the mirrored driving, reverse manual shifting, and the 45-minute drive to Tim's aunt and uncle's house. As always, they are wonderful hosts, providing rest, relaxation, toys, and of course, tea :)
We spent the next few days playing in the garden (yard) in beautiful British sunshine, napping, and visiting family. We spend one evening eating copious amounts of fish and chips for Adam's birthday, played catch, visited a local county park with wonderful playgrounds and a walking trail punctuated by wooden animals to play on. I managed to finish one of the three novels I brought for the trip (in my mind, vacation is synonymous with "read all the things!" We visited Tim's Grammy in her new digs, which has a beautiful balcony that Theo happily walked to and fro on for most of the time we were there. Saturday, we headed to a different cousin named Adam's wedding, which was lovely, if a bit rainy. The kids made it about ten minutes into the ceremony, which is OK because they are adorable, ha. Then they ran around the adjacent hall sneaking juice in advance of the coffee hour. Theo managed to snag three entire chocolate biscuits and eat them before we caught
him. After naptime, we headed back out for the...after-reception party, it might be called? A wonderful Frank Sinatra cover band played, switching on and off occasionally with a DJ, and Levi made good use of the candy bar while Theo kept walking up to the lead singer and bopping along to the music.
The next day dawned, and with it, the beginning of the next phase of our adventure: Amsterdam. We made great time headed back to Southampton, and Tim dropped the kids, most of the luggage, and I off about an hour before we needed to catch our train. Ahead of the schedule! With the kids and all of our luggage (including a replacement stroller from wonderful Auntie Ann). And so begins the first time on this trip that I cried.
But upon arrival, everything was OK. I might have cried harder for a moment, thinking, wow, we're
After crashing, we woke up the next morning and headed to an equally charming coffee house, where we had cappuccino, croissants, and yogurt. Some trams and moseying later, we boarded a boat with walls and a ceiling of windows, big enough to stand up, but small enough to fit through some very tight bridges. We learned all about the architecture of different areas of the city, history, historical sites, etc. And, you know, the boys got to ride on a boat - Theo added the word to his slim vocabulary within a few
The rest of Amsterdam we walked, sampled some of the famous local pancakes, and visited a street market. Then it was time to head to the central train station for our high-speed train to Paris. Unfortunately, it was at this point of the day that both kids were overtired from not napping, we were all hungry, and a little bit frazzled. The perfect target for a pick-pocket, the one time I didn't put my wallet where I usually keep it when traveling, and instead, stuck it obviously in my back pocket while dashing from a small grocer's to the train platform. I realized it about 19 seconds later when I was checking that we had
everything before boarding the train. Dumb traveling mistake - apparently the dozen countries I've been to internationally doesn't mean I've learned Constant Vigilance! The good news is that we
We took it easy the next morning, and then hit up a couple of sites in Paris! First, of course, we stopped at a boulangerie. We bought pain au chocolate, dougnut holes, doughnuts, muffins, and a chocolate chip baguette. We took the metro to the other side of the city, came around a corner, and voila! The Eiffel tower! And then even better -
After a stop in a "birdhouse" on the way out (so-called by Levi, but we're pretty sure it was an historic outhouse, I was determined to see at least one more sight while we were there, and Notre Dame was closest on the map. Which meant that a good hour of walking (downhill, at least) later, we stopped momentarily at the Pont des Arts, then trekked over to the cathedral while the kids mostly napped or just chilled. Such a beautiful city,
Then it was time to head to the final portion of our trip - visiting Krista, Jesse, Josiah, and William in their small town in France! We picked up a car outside of the city, which luckily came with GPS because it was a four-hour drive, and we were off!
The drive (unlike in the UK) was easy as pie. And then we were getting lost in a small historic French town, with streets that looked too small for cars and we weren't sure which ones were one-way and which ones would drive us off the side of a cliff. And then we were climbing the beautiful old stairs and seeing the stone walls, French doors, and enormous windows of their home
|Feeding the ducks!|
They are living in the Loire Valley, in the town of Thouars, which is on Le Thouet River. We spent the next two days relaxing, walking around the parts of the town that date back to medieval times, walking along the river, and playing baseball in the park :) Krista made us a picnic one day, and we went to visit Saumur and its chateaux, picnicking on some tables that are always somewhere nearby in France. We sampled some local cheese, wine, Madeleines, and Krista made us crepes one night. I kind of want to go back and eat all that food right now...
The last day we were in France, Krista volunteered to watch the kids during/after naps so we could go off on our own for a bit. We headed to another chateaux, at Montreiul--Bellay, a small town nearby.
Homemade pizza, crepes, a walk about town and some good conversation later, and we tucked in for our last night abroad.
The next day was supposed to contain about 23 hours of travel (Thouars to Paris to London to New York to Lancaster). It was somehow both rushed and elongated. Our GPS underestimated the drive time to Paris by about 45 minutes, which was fine
I've used up all my words for the next several days. And if anyone's made it this far, kudos. Give yourself a high-five :)
|Inside the "birdhouse"|
|Krista and Jesse's beautiful house! That first window |
above was our room for the duration!
|The medieval house down the block from their house|