Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Feels so good to be home! 
We were welcomed by sweet notes 

and reminders of our friends who stayed at our home while we were gone...

What a lovely way to be welcomed!
(Plus they picked up all the apricots that had fallen to the ground!!)
I will miss you Matesen family!! 
Please start your blog again, Julie! (hint, hint!!)

Chris had two days home and then it was time for scout camp!

Nick was so excited to light fireworks!

Marty got busy earning extra money demo'ing garage cabinets 
 in preparation for new cabinets and flooring.

Courtney made this video:

Dan went to New York for business.

I have done a little of this, a little of that,
and some laundry,
some planting,
some organizing,
and some packing for the next adventure!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pioneer Children

We feel like Pioneer Children who have walked and walked and walked and walked. Albeit pioneer children who also ate dinner at nice restaurants, slept in comfy hotels, and ate ice cream every day.

Today was our last day of travel. Everyone is worn out. Everyone has had a positive attitude about walking so much. Everyone has gotten along. Everyone has been good sports about sightseeing even when some of the sites were not that exciting (although most were awesome). Everyone has tried new foods. Everyone has learned new things. Everyone has learned to say "thank you" in 3 different languages.

We are back in our hotel room resting, blogging, instagramming, surfing the Internet, cleaning up, listening to Taylor Swift, choosing Psych episodes for the night. Our evening ritual. I really wish every night at home we could have some family time like this each day.

Today we went to Pompidou to look for hats that aren't your typical hats but the cleverest, whimsical handmade hats any Columbian ever made. Unfortunately the Columbian hat seller wasn't there.

We tried the Thursday outdoor market at the Bastille. There were lots of fresh fruit, vegetable, meat, cheese and fish vendors. But also cheap clothes, underclothes and cheap leather bags. However Marty found a wallet he was excited about.

The trek to the train for our trip to Versailles was long and slow and hot. From subway to bus to train. But we made it.

Our outdoor market we liked so much before is only open on Tuesdays and Sundays. We were sad to miss the excitement of the market, but we found sandwiches at a boulangerie and fruit at a shop, so with picnic ready, we went to search for bikes.

Our first bike stand was closed so we had a picnic on the far grounds near Marie Antoinette's great, great, great sheep grandchildren.

After lunch we walked to the Grand Canal and found bikes there. They even had bikes for Nick's size. Yay! We rode over to Grand Trianon and around the canal. Felt so good to ride!

An hour later we turned in the bikes and walked up through the Palace grounds and back to the train station to head home.

We are talking about dinner plans for tonight. We are debating just sitting in our room and not going out. Or sitting on the hotel terrace which is lovely but there are a lot of smokers as well.

I just had Dan, Courtney, Chris and Nick guess If I could eat anywhere tonight that we've eaten on this trip, where would it be? "The French Onion Soup place?" "Taco Libre?" "Crepes?" "The sausage place?" "The place we ate at midnight after the Vespa rides?"

Dan guessed it: The piazza in Rome that we ate at our very first night of the trip. People walking around but not too crowded. Kids playing with the glowy shooter things and running around while we waited for our dinner. The street vendors selling their chintzy yet-so-eye-catching-for-8-year-olds goods. Warm with a breeze.

So after we rest and shower and get geared up for another outing, we are going out to the Champs for dinner. Yes, I doubt the many restaurants are high quality. But tonight isn't about the food. It's about the atmosphere and being together for the last night. Oh, now that makes me think that soon we will be home and soon the summer will end and soon our oldest child will be going off to college and it might literally be our last dinner together for a long time. I would cry if I wasn't surrounded by my family. So maybe I'll be grateful instead that right here, right now I AM surrounded by my entire family after the trip of a lifetime. I am grateful.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We Are All Walked Out

We made it to the top of the Eiffel Tower!!

No, we did not get up early. A relaxing morning was just too good to pass up. After a late brunch at Cafe Carette in Trocadero again we walked down to the Tower. The line for tickets to walk up the stairs was pretty short--about 15 min.

We climbed the 670 stairs in about 20 minutes. At the second level we couldn't find a ticket kiosk open for the elevator to the top. We were thinking, we'd have to skip the top.

But the kids were super disappointed so we set out to find more information. Found that the kiosks close when too many people are at the top. And open once it clears out. So we waited in a very short line that got very long behind us. Sure enough, 30 min. later the kiosk opened and we got tickets and headed up the elevator to the top--no additional waiting needed.

From the top we took the elevator back down to level 2 and then ran down the stairs to the bottom. Legs felt like jello at the bottom.

We were thrilled once we made it to the subway and could sit a minute. Super long elevator to the platform -- at least 2 stories -- and no kidding, the minute I stepped on it stopped dead. We had to walk up. Seriously have gotten lots of stair exercise.

We visited a monument to the Bastille and then walked over to Ile de St Louis for lunch. We love this quaint, quiet area just south of the Notre Dame. Cute shops, sidewalk restaurants facing the Notre Dame, lots of creperies and ice cream shops.

Also one of my favorite shops that I wanted to buy a vase at last time but didn't and then regretted it. They didn't have vases this time, but I bought an Eiffel Tower that I'm super happy about.

It's amazing how lunch gives everyone a good pick-me-up and energy to continue sightseeing. We chose to just enjoy the Notre Dame with its flying buttresses and gargoyles from the outside. Even Nick didn't want to climb the stairs to the top.

Enjoyed the booksellers along the Seine, the lovers bridge with all their locks of love, and a movie filming in the works.

We could have enjoyed the outside of the Louvre a bit more, but Nick was in dire need of a WC so we ran in to the glass pyramid (bypassing the lines with our Museum Pass) and straight to the facilities.

At the Mona Lisa, Marty wondered about the guy who spent his life painting this mural with only one or two people interested.

And then across the room Da Vinci's painting that he whipped out in an hour gets all the lookers.

Kind of reminds me of a Reflections project he got first place in for a five-minute project painting a baseboard 4 blocks of colors and the 3rd grader with a sculpture masterpiece got overlooked.

We are back at our hotel now. The little boys and Dan are swimming again. Courtney and I are laying on my bed blogging and listening to music. Marty is having some quality alone time. Is 8:30 and although I was worried about having fun activities to do in the evening, everyone wants to just hang out at home and relax. Sounds great to all of us. Especially my feet.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Today was a whirlwind. We were up to 1:00 last night all watching Psych. Seriously, we're addicted. Have to end every night with at least 1 or 2 episodes. So we slept in which actually helped everyone enjoy the long day. Worked out great.

We took it easy this morning and the boys played a modified game of one-room hide and seek (including shooting the person when you found them. Because they are boys. And that's what they do.)

We started at the Arc de Triomphe by climbing the 274 stairs to the top for the great view of the city.

Next we walked down Champs Elysées and turned right at the Grand and Petit Palais to walk over the Pont Alexandre Bridge.

We walked around the entire Les Invalides so we could see Napoleons tomb. Les Invalides is huge and by the time we saw the tomb, everyone was more interested in sitting and resting in a building with a/c.

We convinced all that seeing all the Impressionist paintings in the Orsay was not to be missed. And even if they didn't know any impressionist painters or paintings now, they would in the future. Plus the conversion of the old train station into a museum is really cool.

Hiked up 5 flights of stairs to get to Monet. Realizing we had a lot of stairs to climb today.

At Monet's bridge, both Chris and Marty recognized it as something they had learned about in 1st grade and even painted themselves. Aaaahhh! Learning meets real life!! All of them also knew Van Gogh's Starry Night too. So well that when Dan pointed it out, they were quick to say, "that's not it." This one in the Orsay was of a blue night and twinkling stars over a river. Starry Night Over the Rhone. They were familiar with the swirling background--currently housed in the MOMA in New York.

We were ready for lunch and a break so walked over to Cafe Flore where Hemmingway and Fitzgerald used to hang out. It's a true Parisian feeling with wide open windows and seats outside all facing the sidewalk.


We had a delicious lunch followed by hot chocolate for dessert that is the best in Paris. Our waiter thought we were crazy to order it on such a hot day. But it's the cholcolatiest there is and can't be passed up. Dan and I loved it. The kids said they preferred Swiss Miss. Those dehydrated marshmallows are pretty good, its true.

Renewed and refreshed after a long lunch, we headed to Montmartre with the promise of the subway instead of walking. Well received. Interestingly, I counted over 160 stairs we climbed on a spiral staircase coming out of the subway. There has got to be a story behind that staircase or we are in some alternate reality staircase world. Escher? Is he Parisian?

We came home to rest for a couple of hours before going out to dinner and got the subway home with cute fabric on the seats and the recorded lady announcing each stop. Love hearing her pronounce the stops in French!

The little boys and Dan went swimming and the rest of us watched Psych and blogged.

We are adjusted to the 8:30 dinner time of the Europeans. But we wanted to climb the Eiffel Tower first. Unfortunately we realized that sunset was a very popular time for people to go up the tower. Go figure. We didn't want to wait in the long line so decided to try again tomorrow. We hit a 10:00 dinner at one of mine and Dan's favorite restaurants from our last trip--Cafe Trocadero--and ate French Onion Soup.

Are trying for the Eiffel Tower first thing tomorrow. Opens at 9:00 and they say that's the least crowded time.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Switzerland to France

Our train to Paris wasn't until the afternoon so we had time to take a tram up to Pfingstegg and ride the rodelbahn, otherwise known as the Alpine Slide.
One fun thing about Europe is they trust you to govern yourself (is it possible they're not so worried about getting sued, like in our country?)
After buying a five-pack of tickets, we just walked over to the line of slides, got in and rode. At the end we hopped off and ran back to the beginning to ride again!
When you got to the end of the slide at the bottom of the hill, the slide attached itself to a rope tow and towed you to the top where you rode a little farther and then jumped off to go again.
It would have been a beautiful hike down, but I was wearing my flip flops so we opted for the tram ride down again.
There were three trams in the area and you could see all three from one spot. Wildflowers were in bloom everywhere. And everything was green and grassy. The air was cool. It was perfect.
We said our goodbyes to Grindelwald, drove to Interlaken and boarded a train to Paris. We had a six-hour train ride through beautiful Swiss and French countryside.
The train is super comfortable. Such a great way to travel. Comfy seats, lots of leg room. Easy on, easy off and no need to show up early, check baggage or go through security.
After arriving in Paris our driver pulled over at 10:00 so we could watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle.
After getting our bags to our room we caught a subway to Trocadero to see the Eiffel Tower up close. Unfortunately it was closed for climbing. We had crepes instead.