Lovely Paris in November (Part 3)

January 22, 2015 at 4:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Day 6

It’s good to be the King! Today we spent the whole day at Versailles, the famed palace of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

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Iit was actually the brain-child of Louis XIV, so three kings claimed it as a residence before the bourgeoisie stormed the gates. We toured all of the apartments, marveling at the size and grandeur of the rooms, the ornate furniture and paintings, and the incredible opulence this home provided. Back in St. Denis I felt a pang of sorrow for the unfortunate royal duo…now I was thinking, “Off with their heads!” I mean, seriously, who needs all this stuff? We ended our tour of the chateau in the grand Hall of Mirrors, decked out in gold and, your guessed it, tons of mirrors. We stopped for a selfie. And to admire this adorable gold baby’s butt. Lookit the little dimples! Awwwwww!DSC_0147

Then we spent hours wandering the grounds. We picked the wrong time of year for fountains and flowers – all the statues were covered, the fountains were off, and the flowers were dead. But you still got a sense of the expansive space. We certainly did, at least. Trams are for sissies!

We checked out the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trainon, which were essentially smaller estates for guests and relatives. No less ridiculously opulent. Then we got a little, erm, lost on the way to Marie Antoinette’s Estate. Some other tourists had stopped to ask us for directions earlier, so I know we weren’t the only ones! We had a map and we still lost our way. Who needs this much land for their house?! Off with their heads, I tell ya!

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Finally we made it! Marie Antoinette wasn’t particularly fond of her bizarre hubby, so she spent a lot of her time on her own part of the grounds with her ladies. She had all of these little houses built, sort of like play houses for a very rich, spoiled child.

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Day 7

We slept in until 10:30, a first in 6 years! Not feeling terribly refreshed, we spent an adventurous morning in a French pharmacy trying to procure more cold medicine. They had nothing I could take, and only a powder that James could mix to help with his cough. Only one more day until we headed back for the States, so it had to suffice.

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Of course we couldn’t leave without some souvenirs, this one being the cutest. We got some things for my parents, as well, for watching our precocious munchkin all week while we had ourselves a little babymoon.

We popped into the Crypt at Notre Dame, which had been closed the day we climbed the tower. It detailed all of the history of the Ile De La Cite, dating back to roman times. All very fascinating. 

DSC_0178We spent the rest of the afternoon touring Chateau Vincennes, a medieval castle where Charles V ruled in the 1300s. We pretty much had the place to ourselves, and after all of the opulence of Versailles, it was a nice change of pace to see a more Spartan, utilitarian castle. Seems all that inbreeding started to go to their heads around the 1600s.

Up a flight of stairs and we encountered Charles V’s war room, a stately, quite small room where he planned his battles for the Hundred Years War. A docent inside handed us an iPad, and as we swung it around the room we could see how it had been decorated back in the day. Gotta love technology!

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Then it was across the bridge and into the castle, the only entrance into the fortress. Most of the adornments had been stripped away, but you could still imagine it as a cold, yet spacious residence.

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On the grounds was a chapel with, you guessed it, more stained glass. This was the first sunny day in Paris since we’d arrived on that unusually warm Sunday, so the photos turned out airy and bright for once.

We were too tired and run down to attempt to tour the Arc d’Triomphe, so instead we headed to McDonald’s for dinner, sort of a tradition we have when we travel to Europe. I couldn’t leave without trying a McRoyale with Cheese, like Vince Vega talks about in Pulp Fiction! I should have stuck with my gut – upon perusing the menu I opted for a new sandwich instead, something called L’M, which wasn’t all that good. But, really, when is McDonald’s ever all that good, even in a foreign country? Still, we had to try it.

The next morning we took a dark, foggy shuttle ride to the airport, and while our driver did various pick-ups around town, we passed right by the Arc d’Triomphe. So now we could cross that off our list!

The week before we left, and all while we were in Paris, I was reading My Life in France by Julia Child, which I found utterly delightful. I’d even gone so far as to look up her and her husband’s first apartment on my google maps app, but we didn’t get a chance to see it while we were there. Maybe next time. I’m not much of a cook, but what I found most interesting about Ms. Child was her willingness to whole-heartedly embrace her surroundings. She and her husband lived in France, Germany, and Norway, and each time she would take the time to learn the language, shop the local markets and cook the local cuisine, and see all the sights. I hope I’ll do the same if James gets one of these jobs in Europe.

The plane ride home was almost as bad as the ride up with my continuing cold, and I’m sure it was worse for James, who was in steady decline. So while we had a wonderful time, we were both ready to be home, sleep in our own bed, and give lots of hugs and kisses to our boy.

Lovely Paris in November (Part Deux)

January 15, 2015 at 1:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Day 4

I’d sampled some hot chocolate at the dessert shop near our hotel, but I wanted to try the really authentic French hot chocolate I’d heard so much about, so we headed to Café Flore for a light breakfast. The café is known for its superb hot chocolate…and its lousy service. Viva la France! The hot chocolate was indeed good, like drinking a Hershey bar, and what I thought was an expensive, paltry cup was in fact just enough. When we finally got our snooty waiter’s attention to order food, we asked for croissants, which he said they were out of, then promptly walked away. Getting his attention again, we settled for buttered toast. A whopping 16 Euros for toast and two teacups of hot chocolate!

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IMG_3311Then we were off to the Louvre for the day! The place is so big and overwhelming, we decided to hit the highlights and points of our particular interest first. We started with the ancient stuff, saw the Venice de Milo and some very cool Babylonian sphinxes. We ambled around the marble French sculpture gallery and got scolded by a docent for putting our feet up on the benches. Stupid Americans! Of course we had to see the Mona Lisa, which unsurprisingly drew a large crowd. The painting itself was a bit underwhelming, and it had me contemplating what it is about a painting that makes it priceless? We’d passed hundreds of paintings from the same era, and they were all equally interesting and beautiful. In particular we liked Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (1830).  IMG_3318

For a change of pace we took a tour of Napoleon III’s apartments, which were actually located in the Louvre when he ruled in the 1850s. But I think my favorite came at the end of our long, long museum day: the medieval foundation of the original castle that still stands in the depths of the sub-basement. I love this archeological stuff, seeing how history unfolds in the layers of a building.

Suffering from art overload, we headed out for an evening stroll. It had finally stopped raining, so the streets were wet and glistening, reflecting light and adding beauty. The pyramid at the Louvre was all lit up, and behind us we could see the Eiffel tower all lit up as well. We popped by Notre Dame to see it all lit up for Christmas. A splendid way to end our day.

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For the new baby’s room, no?

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Discovering French cuisine in the museum cafeteria. The Bolognaise wasn’t too bad (tomato and cilatro, I guess?), but the chicken flavored ones I could have done without.

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What a sight!

Day 5

We started the morning with the best French street food ever: crepes. How had I been there five days without trying these! I had mine with Nutella, and they were to die for! After that little pick-me-up for my worsening cold, we boarded the train for a long ride to the Basilica St. Denis. The weather remained damp and dreary, but it set the tone for touring such an ancient Gothic cathedral. No heat that we could detect inside, so we left our coats, hats and scarves on as we toured the chapel.

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St. Denis is where most of the famous royalty is buried. We saw a lot of famous tombs from the Clovis and Bourbon periods. And, of course, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, perhaps the most famous tombs of all. We took a moment to imagine the horror they must have gone through during their untimely demise. Fascinating, and sad.

Our next stop took us someplace a little more modern: Sacre-Coeur.

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Up on the tallest hill in Paris, I took one look at the 300 stairs and said, “Hell, no!” My calves had JUST started to recover from our misadventure at Notre Dame, so I insisted we take the funicular to the top. I also turned down the chance to climb to the top of the dome. Enough climbing already! We spied an Irish pub on the way up, just what the doctor ordered! No beer for me, unfortunately, but the bangers and mash proved to be the perfect comfort food. And a scrumptious hot chocolate, of course, but this time less like a Hershey bar, and with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Then we took a gander through Montemartre, a lovely district full of windmills and ivy-covered apartments. We also thought it a good idea to find the Moulin Rouge, where we’d be coming back later in the evening for a show.

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Oh, the Moulin Rouge! Happy Birthday to me! I was glad we opted for the cheaper tickets without champagne. Even if I wasn’t four months pregnant, I was too sick to enjoy alcohol, even just a sip. We were a bit dubious at first – it seemed like the place was filled with American tourists, and the warm up band was playing cheesy, easy-listening stuff. But then the show started and…wow! It was a two-hour, non-stop, Vegas-style/Broadway musical extravaganza with elaborate costumes, intricate dance numbers, roller skating acrobats, clowns, pythons being wrestled in a giant water tank, Pygmy ponies, and a talking dog, almost entirely in French. And mostly topless. I was entertained to say the least. I think our favorite were the roller skating acrobat couple, who spun like mad inches from the front row. Definitely a night to remember!

Look for the third, and final, part of our trip soon!

Lovely Paris in November (Part 1)

January 14, 2015 at 10:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Oh, Paris, can you believe it’s been almost two months since we parted ways? Normally I’m through our vacation photos and posting all about our trip the week after we get back from vacation. But what with a nasty cold, Christmas shopping and decorating and baking, another nasty cold, Christmas morning, Liam’s birthday, and Liam’s birthday party planning, this little endeavor got shelved until further notice. And now that Liam is finally back to school after getting over yet another nasty cold (will it ever end?), I’ve finally got time to relive our trip. So, without further adieu, here’s how it all went:

Day 1

DSC_0051Seven hours on a plane with a cold while pregnant went…well, just about as you’d expect it to. We survived! And arrived to some beautiful weather, the best we’d have the whole week. After taking care of museum and train passes, checking into our hotel, and freshening up a bit, we decided it was wisest to stay awake as long as we could and take advantage of the warm, sunny late afternoon and evening. Our hotel was in the Latin Quarter, just a stone’s throw away from Notre Dame and the Seine. So we took a lovely stroll along the banks of the river, climbing down the steps and marveling at how cavalier the French are about walkway safety. Not a guard rail in sight! We wended our way to the very tip of the Ile De La Cite, the island in the middle of the Seine where you find Notre Dame, and watched kids play in the park, missing our boy already.

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DSC_0010Day 2

We awoke to dreary rain and much colder temperatures. Undeterred, we headed back to Notre Dame to get a good look at the inside. High ceilings, stained glass, wooden pews…yep, it’s a cathedral alright. Religious apathy aside, I enjoyed poking around, reading signs detailing the history and construction, and admiring the stained glass. Back outside, we noticed the line to climb the tower wasn’t too long, so what the hell? 50,000 steps later (or so it felt), my calves were burning, I was out of breath, and I was seriously questioning our sanity. Who’s idea was this? But it turns out the views from the top were quite lovely, and snapping numerous photos took my mind off the searing leg pain. Despite the dreary day, Paris from above is truly a sight to behold.

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Look at me, grinning through the pain!

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Lookit the Eiffel Tower! Let’s climb that next…it has an elevator.

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More windy stairs down, and I almost kissed the ground when we made it to the bottom. Next up, St. Chappelle and the Conciergerie! Another pretty church with even more stained glass (James can’t get enough of the stuff, insisting I take photos of it all), and what I found even more interesting, Marie Antoinette’s holding cell at the Conciergerie. Compared to the squalor that most prisoners endured, her modest room befitted her status.

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Here’s a view of the back of Notre Dame. On our way we passed a curious sight:

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DSC_0058Those are locks. Tons and tons of padlocks. They’re on several bridges along the Seine, and according to my research, they’re left by tourists to honor their romantic Parisian getaways. Apparently the French abhor the tradition, and it even causes damage to the bridges. So instead I just posed for a baby bump photo. Ugh, you can totally tell I’m sick here. But I powered through!

In lieu of wine, I decided hot chocolate would be my vice of choice, and I’d read about a tea shop nearby that had some of the best in the city. But, alas, they were closed on Mondays. Randomly. So we headed north toward the Pompidou, the modern art museum with the crazy architecture. On the way we stopped at a little café right out of Amelie. We were the only patrons, and while the guys at the bar talked football (presumably, as they were watching it, but they only spoke French), I enjoyed a croque-madame (an open-faced ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top) with pomme frites while people-watching from our window seat. My first taste of actual French food! It was tame. And it was delicious! I also ordered what I thought was lemonade, but was in fact Lemonade, a fizzy, lemon-flavored French soft drink similar to Sprite, but not as sweet. A delightful and delicious surprise.

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Our next stop was the zany-looking Pompidou. All of the duct work is on the outside of the building, color-coded for your pleasure. The escalators and elevators were also along the outside of the building, and afforded more lovely views of the city from above. James has little appreciation for modern art, but he gleefully makes fun of it, so I think he still enjoyed himself. Interesting, and zany, stuff.

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Next stop, the opulent Opera House! This is where the famed Phantom of the Opera was based, and it was just as ornate as I imagined it would be. No tours of the basement canals, and unfortunately we arrived in the middle of rehearsal, so we couldn’t tour the auditorium, either. But there was still much beauty to behold. And stairs. Accursed stairs!!

Hoping to squeeze as much into our itinerary as possible, we ended the day at the Cluny, a museum dedicated to medieval artifacts. It was housed in an actual medieval building with, your guessed it, more stairs. Medieval history is more James’s territory, so I just clomped along and sat wherever I saw a cozy stone bench or chair. I’m sure it was very interesting. You can ask James all about it.

Here, more Opera House photos. Shiny.

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We ended the night at a Vietnamese restaurant near our hotel that got rave reviews on Yelp. Yelp works in Paris, yay! The food was fantastic, especially the soup, which really hit the spot for my congested head. Cold – 0. Paris – 1.

Day 3

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DSC_0099We got up extra early to stand in line at the Eiffel Tower. Back in the summer of ‘99, James says the line to go up wrapped around the base four times. Sheesh! But this time it was raining, and freezing, and we were the 12th ones in line. Sweet! We got to go right up. The elevators were fascinating, bent at an angle to follow the base. We were in for more dreary, foggy views of Paris. But it was still lots of fun. One of the highlights of our trip, for sure. We had to board another elevator to make it all the way to the top. James is normally afraid of heights, but he didn’t show it this time.

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The Arc D’Triomphe! In the foggy distance…

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I don’t know what these guys were doing, but they had harnesses and mountain-climbing gear. Yikes!

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Look at this guy, nerves of steel! At least until we made our way to the first floor. They had a glass floor you could walk on and watch the people down below. James was having NONE of that. But I did, of course.

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We would have stayed up longer, but the wind, rain, and cold were getting to us, so we headed up to the Military History museum to check out Napoleon’s tomb.

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Ugliest. Tomb. Ever.

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But the rest of the place is nice. Apparently Napoleon had an entire building dedicated to his demise. I guess he was a pretty important guy in France. Here’s the outside:

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After poking around a bit, we had to ask where the rest of the museum was. Surely this wasn’t it? And holy cow, there was more. A lot more. Swords, armor, guns, ammo, cannons, uniforms, statues of…you know who. I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of this youngster-size suit of armor…perfect for Liam, no? On the top floor we saw an exhibit of model fortresses from all around France. All very interesting.

Next stop, something a little more my pace, the Musee D’Orsay, which housed paintings and sculptures from 1848 to 1914, notably famous Impressionists like Matisse, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas…the list goes on and on. It was fantastic! Even the building was splendid, a renovated train station. I marveled at the famous works I’d only seen in text books. Very cool!

For dinner we consulted Yelp yet again, and right around the corner from our hotel was a highly-rated burger joint. Day three, and we were ready for some American food! They even had Dr. Pepper, a rare treat in Europe. The burger and fries were fantastic! In France! Ha!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our trip…

The Best Place on Earth

October 29, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Ah, Disney. Ah, Florida. Ah…wait, it’s 91 degrees? The whole week we’re there? Whatever…it’s still the best place on earth.

IMG_2320James and I spent a blessedly kid-free week at Disney, getting some extra mileage out of those season passes, staying at the very posh Dolphin resort, and eating our way around the world at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. And Liam spent a mostly wonderful week with my parents in Kansas City. (Aside from catching a monster cold and infecting the whole tribe, he had a great time.) We drove up from Wichita Tuesday night amid unseasonably cold rain.

IMG_2332I’m not gonna lie. When our plane landed Wednesday night in Orlando, my body did a double take when we stepped outside of the airport. Was it always so humid here? It’s funny how you acclimatize to your surroundings – I remember my mother asking me the same thing when she and my dad came to Florida last February. After a couple of 90-degree days, though, it didn’t feel so abysmally hot and sticky. It also helped that when I checked my weather app while standing in the hot sun, it said freezing drizzle for Wichita. I’ll take hot and sticky any day.

How did we ever survive before apps? On our way to our hotel I consulted my Disney World app and discovered that Epcot was having “Magic Hours” until 11 that night. Normally the park would close at 9, which was just about when we’d be arriving at the hotel. We were going to get a jump start on the food and wine fun! It was all we could talk about in the cab. We hurriedly ditched our stuff in our room on the 18th Floor (resort view, way up in the top of the triangle. Quite nice.) and practically ran to the Epcot gate. But, boo, all the booths for the festival were closed, so we had to console ourselves with Grand Marnier slushies from a regular kiosk in France. We briefly considered riding Soarin’ with its 30 minute wait time, but I was totally beat from flying. Besides, we had plenty of time to ride the big rides. Famous last words…

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Thursday we spent the whole day at Epcot sampling wares from around the lagoon. Our goal: to acquire a stamp from every pavilion in our passport. And at the rate we were going, it wouldn’t take long to fulfill. We had a few duds: the Mango-Habanero Margarita from Mexico was an unsurprisingly odd combination (top photo), and the Singapore Sling left us reeling. Perhaps we should have known when we overheard one of the booth employees describing it as, “Very fruity…and very Ginny.” Gin breath on every sip, yikes! But we did have a few hits. I was partial to Brazil’s frozen Caipirinha, which was a bit like a frozen margarita, but much better than Mexico’s offering. James loved Japan’s Green Tea Colada (middle photo), and I couldn’t help laughing when they put an IMG_2334umbrella in it. James likes such girly drinks! On a lark I tried the Frozen Dragonberry Colada from the Refreshment Port, and it was hands down my favorite drink of the festival. And, of course, we had to sample our perennial favorites, Apple Ice Wine from Canada and Honey Mead from Ireland. Food-wise we think this year was even better than last year. On my list of new favorites were the Grass-Fed Beef Sliders with Monterey Jack and Hot Sweet Pickles from the Florida booth (I ate one almost every night!), the Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard from South Korea, the Griddled Greek Cheese with Pistachio and Honey from Greece, and the Escargot at France. James was all about dessert, going bananas for Australia’s Pavlova, a Meringue with berries and vanilla custard. He had, like, five of them. The lines for Test Track and Soarin’ stayed super long all day and night, so we took a ride through Space Ship Earth. And stupid me thought I’d give Mission Space another go. Even the super easy green level made me queasy. And, of course, we couldn’t leave without posing in silly hats!

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Friday we beat the heat with my friend Calli at Sea World. James and I hadn’t seen the new Antarctica exhibit. It was fun, and freezing! But the penguins were super cute, as always. Calli rode my favorite coaster, Manta, with me while James bided his time with the dolphins. We saw our favorites, the sea turtles and manatees, and enjoyed another blessedly cool exhibit in the Arctic. I tried to talk James into going on the big water ride, but of course he wasn’t havin’ it. I think our very wet ride on the Dudley Doo Right at Universal Studio ruined all water rides for him.

Saturday, with aching feet, we trod to Animal Kingdom in the morning so we could ride the Expedition Everest. James had never been on it, and I was thrilled he actually agreed to ride a coaster with me. Then it was off to Magic Kingdom to ride Space Mountain and Jungle Cruise. And by evening, when it was dark and spooky, we hopped on the Haunted Mansion ride. I’m sure we did more, in fact, I think we even managed to squeeze in a siesta at our hotel room, which we’d been doing every day to avoid the height of the afternoon heat. And we stayed at Magic Kingdom until 11, almost drunkenly staggering back to our room, despite having not had a drink (the only day we didn’t!)

Sunday, suffering from theme-park fatigue, I was grateful that my friend Mandy had agreed to meet me at the pool in the late morning. She brought her daughter Nicole with her, and we had a blast getting bossed around by a pint-size three-year-old. James came down at lunch and ate at the pool-side restaurant with us. Very relaxing. Rejuvenated, after sundown we headed over to Epcot to chip away at the passport. Wait times at Test Track and Soarin’ were still stupidly high, so we got drunk instead. Whee!

IMG_2351Up early on Monday, we took the boat over to Hollywood Studios and raced over to the Toy Story Mania ride for the fast pass. Thirty minutes after opening, they were nearly out. We managed to snag one for 5-6 PM. Sheesh! We killed time doing some of our favorites: The Great Movie Ride, the Backlot Tour, and Star Tours. We stumbled across a history of Disney exhibit that we’d never seen before, and what a hidden gem! All about Walt Disney’s life, his career, and the building of the theme parks. And even though we’d promised ourselves we wouldn’t come home with a bunch of souvenirs, James bought two T-shirts and I left with this awesome (and kinda creepy) Yoda back pack. Initially we bought it for Liam, but it’s way too big. Oh well.

Tuesday morning I got up super early, taking advantage of Epcot’s early morning “Magic Hours”, and raced to the Soarin’ fast pass line. I thought I was being such a good little wifey, getting him a pass while James slept in. But, foiled! I could get a fast pass for me, but not for James, since he hadn’t entered the park with me. Disney and their rules! The wait time for the ride was only 10 minutes, so I went ahead and rode it. And I had just enough time to come back for our much-needed couple’s massages at 10. They were spa-licious! (Though, perhaps not quite as good as we’d expected considering the price. Boo.) And since it was our last day, and since we’d already finished our passport, we stood in a 40 minute line for Test Track and a 70 minute line for Soarin’. Not ideal, but worth it. Oh, and I convinced James to see Captain EO with me. It’s so delightfully cheesy. James thought it was lame. But what does he know? George Lucas, droids, aliens, space travel, AND Michael Jackson in the 80s?! What’s not to love?

And then our vacation came to an end. Despite our excitement about leaving Liam with my parents, we talked about him incessantly every day. Liam seemed to have a nice time there, not once asking when we were coming home until Tuesday. Poor kid came down with a horrible cold/flu on Sunday, and it made the rounds at mom and Jill’s house. But he did manage a trip to Union Station and a Trunk or Treat at Evie’s school, and he got a ton of cousin time. So I don’t feel too guilty leaving him behind. Besides, we fully intend to bring him back when he’s older. And with any luck I’ll be able to coax him on the rides that James is too chicken to ride. Here’s hoping.     

Siesta Key Vacation

April 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I almost chickened out of this mini-vacation when James couldn’t get off work to come with us. But then I figured James hates the beach anyway, so Liam and I might have more fun without him. And fun we had. It was only a relatively short 2 1/2 hour drive down from Orlando to Siesta Key, right outside of Sarasota. Voted best beach and best sand in the US last year, it certainly lived up to my expectations. The sand was a dazzling white, soft, pliable when wet, and not at all hot. The water was a gorgeous turquoise blue, and the waves gently lapped against the shore. I was thrilled to see Liam overcome his fear and stand with me in the surf.

We arrived late Tuesday afternoon to our quaint mom-and-pop resort called Captiva Beach. After unloading our overpacked car, we set off for Big Olaf’s for ice cream and fudge. It was dinner time, but Liam said he wanted ice cream first, and who am I to deny my adorable tike? After picking up some souvenirs, we headed to The Old Salty Dog for their famous deep fried hotdogs and fries. Dinner of champions!

Then we set off to the beach! It was a short walk from our room. People gathered to watch the sunset with their glasses of wine, kids played catch with their dads, honeymooners cuddled under blankets (it was a bit chilly). And Liam threw sand at my butt while I admired my first sunset on the beach. Romantic, right?

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But what could I expect? Liam loved squashing his hands in the sand, and after a little convincing he went with me to “jump the waves.” Except he says, “Jump the wabes.” A-freakin-dorable. A lady and her husband offered to take our photos as we played in the surf.

As I gathered our things, a family we’d seen on our way in stopped and offered to help carry Liam’s chair. The couple was from Wisconsin, and their daughter Stephanie was just a year older than Liam. They were staying just a few rooms down from ours, so after grabbing our beach ball and a bottle of wine, we all met up in the courtyard for a playdate and cocktails. The kids had a blast chasing each other around, and I got some unexpected adult conversation. Sweet!

We called it a night at 10, though Liam was high as a kite on cookies and ice cream. But he eventually settled down, and for some reason couldn’t wait to “sleep in the bed with mommy!” He was out by 11. And then up at 7. Ugh. I brought tea and fruit, and we had a full kitchen in our room, so we were all set for breakfast. Then we headed to the beach early to collect sea shells and get a good spot.

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I’m telling you, this sand was awesome! I’ve never seen anything like it. We got out our sand toys and set to work building a castle. I dug a tunnel through it, and Liam couldn’t stop looking through it. “Mommy, I can seeee you!” Then he wanted me to bury him in the sand. He kept telling me to bury him to his neck, but this is as far as I dared get.

Then it was off to the water to jump the wabes. We ventured a little deeper, just past the break, where the water was up to my waist as the waves rolled in. He stayed safely on my back. He’d scream in delight each time his toes got wet. We watched people on their body boards. We saw some kids in an inflatable raft in the deep water. We saw a handful of people parasailing along the beach. 

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Typically Liam jumped from activity to activity, and once the sand and water became boring, he set his sights on the grass. The sand here was dry, fine, and only a little warm. I played paparazzi while Liam climbed the dunes.

We spent a little downtime in the room before dinner. As awful as potty training has been (except on this trip, where he peed like a champ!), and as annoying as Liam can be with talking too loudly or whining when he doesn’t get his way, I really had a wonderful time being with Liam on this trip. He’s actually quite civil – saying “Excuse me” if he bumps into me, and telling me what he wants instead of crying about it. I could ask him what he wanted for dinner, what he wanted to do with our time, and I feel I can finally relate to him as a little person. I’ll always remember this one moment on the beach where he was climbing all over me, trying to tickle me as I tickled him, and we both fell down in a heap of giggles. We even had a great time goofing around in our hotel room.

Our super tiny bathroom with only a shower stall proved to be a sticky point in our otherwise pleasant afternoon. Liam dutifully got in the shower and let me use the detachable sprayer on him. But when I had to rinse his hair, he was done with that, thankyouverymuch! I was suddenly glad we’d only booked two nights.

For dinner we strolled down the block to Captain Curt’s Crab and Oyster Bar, where I sampled the world-famous clam chowder. It was as delicious as advertised. On the way back Liam took a snooze in the stroller, so I decided to try and find a part of the beach called Point of Rocks. I didn’t have much luck, so I raced back to the room, carried my half-asleep boy to the beach, and just missed the sunset by 4 seconds! Doh! I recovered from my disappointment with more cocktails and play time with our new friends that evening.

We squeezed in a little more time at the beach on Thursday morning, but by then I think Stephanie had had enough of Liam annoyingly filling in her holes in the sand as she dug them. Poor Liam thought it was a delightful game! But he’s not quite as worldly in the ways of preschool play, so we bid adieu to our vacation pals and headed out for brunch at The Village Café. It was fitting that Liam wanted the Mickey Mouse pancake, as we were headed straight back to the land of Disney shortly after.

Oh, Siesta Key! How I loved thee! We will definitely be coming back. This time James might even tag along. You can check out all our vacay pics here. Enjoy!

First vacation!

July 17, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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It was a day of firsts. Liam’s first beach vacation. And Liam’s first earthquake. Yes, our day started bright and early at 5 AM when James and I awoke to find our bedroom vibrating. We sort of squinted at each other, then I said, “Earthquake?”, and James, who spent a good deal of his youth in California, said, “Couldn’t be.” Liam didn’t mind the shaking, thankfully. So then I spent the next couple of hours wondering what could make our room shake like that –- abnormally-low flying aircraft? –- in a futile attempt to go back to sleep. And sure enough, we turned on the news and there was an earthquake in Gaithersburg, just 15 or so miles from our house. I knew it!

The earthquake seemed to set the tone for the day, scrambling my brain so we kept going back to the house to get something I forgot, or make sure all the doors were locked. It wasn’t until we were halfway to Baltimore before we noticed the GPS was taking us the wrong way, which would have turned a two-and-a-half-hour trip into four-and-a-half hours. Toll road avoidance, bad! Thankfully we corrected it before it added too much time to our trip.

We arrived at Bethany Beach just in time for lunch, and according to my research, the crabs at Mickey’s Family Crab House were some of the best in town. James ordered the all-you-can-eat blue crabs, and I ordered the “famous” crab cake sandwich. I practically licked my plate, it was so scrumptious. But James didn’t enjoy the crabs as much as he thought he would – too much work for too little meat. And Liam was getting antsy, so he couldn’t stay and finish his second batch.

We checked into our hotel, conveniently next door and conveniently free with our hotel points (otherwise a whopping $289/night, yowza!), and headed three blocks to the beach. Mmmm, I love the smell of the ocean. Liam was a bit timid at first, but we coaxed out some giggles and splashing in the surf. He and James played in the sand a bit while I rented us a beach umbrella to save Mr. Whitey’s delicate complexion. (That would be James. We’re fairly certain after this trip that Liam has inherited my ability to tan easily.) We took turns taking Liam down to the surf, and each time he seemed to enjoy it more and more. At one point he took off running down the beach, and we got pretty far before I could turn him around. Then it was all I could do to keep him from running headlong into the surf. A couple of planes with banner ads flew by, which warranted enthusiastic points.

After a quick rinse at the hotel, we headed to the boardwalk for another highly-recommended restaurant, Bethany Blues BBQ Pit. Right as we walked in the front door we saw a sign advertising their 5th place win at the American Royal in Kansas City. So we had high hopes. My crab cake and beach fries gorgefest left me a bit full, so I ordered a local brew called Dogfish IPA, and an appetizer of sliders filled with pulled chicken, pulled pork, and brisket. For me, the BBQ is all about he sauce, so I slathered a bit of their sweet and tangy on one, sank my teeth in, and somehow teleported to Kansas City. Damn, that’s good! The spicy sauce was even better, giving my fav Oklahoma Joe’s a run for its money. James ordered pulled pork and pork ribs, which he said made up for his lack-luster lunch. I’m not usually a fan of ribs, but a taste of one from James’ plate, and I picked it clean in no time. Liam loved the corn bread, but just as I was about to enjoy my third slider, he’d run out of patience. We scarfed the rest of our meal and headed outside to enjoy the boardwalk.

Just for fun we stopped in this little pet boutique, and Liam went bananas barking, pointing, saying, “Baaa”, and downright molesting a dog statue. Moving right along, we picked him up some beachwear and our usual fridge magnet, then headed back to our hotel to get Mr. Fussibutt to bed.

We were a little nervous about how this was going to go. Along with his first beach vacation and first earthquake, this was also Liam’s first time staying in a hotel room. They provided a crib, but it was pretty small and metal, and I knew there was no way Liam would sleep quietly in it. So I got his blanket and his puppy, and we cuddled up in the bed and watched TV. He nodded off around 8:30, and I transferred him seamlessly into the crib. All was well…until inexplicably our alarm clock went off at midnight. Desperate to switch it off before Liam woke up, James hit every button on the damn thing to no avail. I had to unplug it. But the damage was done. I took him back to my bed (we ended up with two queens, so James slept separately from us. Lucky.), where he tossed, turned, slept sideways, jabbed me in the ribs, woke up crying, cuddled, jabbed, woke up crying, and so on until I finally turned on the light and turned on the TV again. Normally we’d give him a dose of Tylenol for that last stubborn tooth that I suspect was bothering him, but like so many other things we forgot on this trip, we forgot that, too. I flipped through channels, desperate for a cartoon. But even Tom and Jerry didn’t do the trick. Then, suddenly, I stopped on Puppy Superbowl on Animal Planet. Liam was quiet. And then he was barking, and pointing, and barking! And not crying! And I could lay down behind him and rest my eyes for a bit. Until a commercial. No dogs, no dice, apparently.

I waited an agonizing 45 minutes until breakfast, then took a very wide-eyed toddler down for eggs, cereal, and yogurt. Then he walked and I slept-walked around the hotel while James packed our things up. So many people stopped and remarked how cute Liam was. Obviously they didn’t sleep next door to us. We had initially planned to take a dip in the pool before our 11 AM checkout, then hit another seafood restaurant for lunch. But by 8 AM we knew we were too exhausted to enjoy any of that. I had been afraid that one night at the beach wouldn’t be enough time, but it turns out it was just enough. We’ll likely do this again next year, maybe trying out Virginia Beach or Atlantic City, and we’re hoping Liam will rest easier. Maybe we’ll bring some benedryl.   

Anyhow, while we rest up Sunday on our vacation from our vacation, check out photos from our trip here. And if YouTube gives you trouble, you can also watch the video here.

The Week in Review

April 27, 2008 at 10:18 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ve had a whirlwind of a week…between getting back from Vegas in the middle of the night Saturday, about 15 hours of TV taped on my DVR to catch up on, a freelance gig that needed my immediate attention, and juggling multiple projects at my regular job, I’ve had no time to update my blog. And I’ve had so much to talk about! So, here’s the whole rundown:

Viva Las Vegas. My last day in Vegas was an interesting cultural experience for me. We met my friend Celena’s dad for dim sum. I’ve had dim sum on numerous occasions, but never with actual Chinese people, heh. They mostly spoke in Chinese, translating for me every once in awhile. So wonderfully authentic! I found out what tripe was when her dad ordered a heaping bowl of it. Intestine are not exactly top on my “to try” list. But the rest was very tasty. I finally got all of my pictures uploaded and captioned, so you can see those here.

TV wrap-up.I spent Sunday watching a batch of mediocre episodes, but my disappointment was alleviated this week when Lost made an amazing return — Ben is such a bad ass, and I loved seeing how Sayid got sucked into being his hired hitman — and The Office was hysterical this week. I about fell out of my chair when they mentioned social networking websites, which is a hot issue at my own office. And Dwight making out with the girls basketball team at a NY club…priceless. 30 Rock also improved this week. I love Tina Fey 🙂 Battlestar Galactica has finally started to pick up, so all is right with the world.

Speaking of TV… I mentioned to James last week about using our “economic stimulus” to upgrade our TV. It’s our civic duty and all. Anyway, I thought I’d try and sell our gigantor Sony first, but of course he got all excited, and after mentioning that he got a sizable bonus last month, and I’m expecting a large check from Urban Times next week, and he’s finally getting his big raise in a couple weeks, we decided what the hell? So we moved the giant 30″ Sony Wega into the bedroom (where it’s laughably too big…but HD in the bedroom is pretty sweet), then we purchased this beast of an LCD. (And we even talked them down on the price!) I also have to mention that my Fit is The Bomb. The guys wheeled out this giant box, and were like, “There’s no way that’ll fit.” But it did. Perfectly. I was a afraid we were going to need some butter to grease it back out again. We’ve got it mostly set up now — we just need a stand, which is on the list to buy today. This TV is so glorious, it makes the rest of our house look shabby. Actually, that’s not saying much — we still own a futon.

My fatness gets out of control. So now my fat jeans are getting too tight. Not. Good. I keep saying I’m going to go back to yoga, and I’m going to start riding my bike to work. But I keep getting too busy with freelance work, and it keeps raining everyday this week. I’m hoping the weather and my workload will improve in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’ve resolved to stop eat hamburgers…but because I have no will power, I had to resolve to start today instead of last night. James, Travis and I stopped at Five Guys in Olathe last night for burgers and fries. It’s one of my favorite DC chains, and I was tickled that they’ve expanded to KC. I couldn’t resist.

Speaking of Burgers. I’ve decided to revise my Top 10 Burgers list to include more restaurants. Jackson Hole in NY will make it back on, and the “Hamborger” at the Quark Bar and Grill needs a place on there, as well. Stay tuned for an updated list. Thursday I had dinner with Jill at the new Chef Burger in the Power & Light District, which might also be list-worthy. I was complaining about the sacrifice to my waistline this burger quest has caused, and Jill suggested I start a new list: Top 10 Salads. Not a bad idear.

Evie’s Crawling! After dinner on Thursday, I got to see Evie’s brand new trick. She’s so flippin’ cute. Jill had to put her to bed, but I was like, “No, I want to play some more!” My grandparents are coming to town next weekend, so hopefully I’ll get some good pics then.

Computer Woes. My external hard drive quit working right before I left for Vegas, which reduced me to tears. All my photos, all my MP3s, and no backups. (Regretfully, something I’d been meaning to do, but hadn’t gotten around to.) James’ friend Travis thinks he might be able to fix it, so I’m crossing my fingers he can. If not, I’ll be referring to this as the Great Digital Purge of 2008. Sigh.

On the Strip

April 19, 2008 at 10:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I started Friday morning on The Strip taking pictures of the numerous fountains at the Wynn, getting sucked into a game of craps, and gambling away $6000! Thank God for onsite ATMs, right? But no worries, I’m sure I can turn it around today. Blackjack is really more my game…

Ok, just kidding. I called James last night to check in — I haven’t talked to him since Sunday — and he was like, “Why are you calling? I know what’s going on with you, I read your blog!” I hope that gave him a scare 🙂

Anyway, I really did start my morning at the Wynn, a beautiful new hotel that Celena recommended. She had to work today, so she dropped me off to do some wandering until she could join me in the afternoon. I hit the Venetian, Mirage, Ceasars, Flamingo, Paris, and the Bellagio, where I finally got to see those fountains. Very impressive! I think my favorite was the St. Mark’s mall in the Venetian, which was like a miniature Venice, complete with canals, gondolas, and gelato. I stopped at a sidewalk cafe for some eggplant and wine, and had an amusing hour people-watching — just across from me was a living statue, and tourists just couldn’t get enough of posing with her. You could tell she was not enamored of the creepy old Italian guys, but she was nice to the kids. After lunch, I strolled back to the main square to have some pistachio gelato. There were many fine and contemporary art galleries to peruse, my favorite being the Peter Lik photography exhibit. Absolutely gorgeous landscapes. On my way out, I passed over a replica of the Rialto Bridge, but because here we’re fat, lazy Americans, the entire span was traversed by moving sidewalks, lol.

At the Flamingo I found a wildlife habitat, which had, of course, flamingos, as well as other interesting birds. It was a nice reprieve from the constant din of bling, bling and blooooop, bloooop that greeted me at the entrance to every one of these places. Each casino had it’s own feel — Paris had a replica of the Eiffel tower and the Arc de Triomphe, the Mirage was like an island paradise, and Caesars, probably the most over-the-top, offered a “Colosseum” — but each casino floor was essentially the same.

After resting my achin’ dogs at Celena’s and cooking a yummy pasta dinner, we headed to the Stratosphere, known for it’s thrill rides at the top of the 108-story needle tower. Like everything in Vegas, the price was steep, (they charge you just to ride the elevator up to the top, and then charge you again for each ride, and you only get to ride once!) I opted to just ride the X-scream, which dangles you over the edge. It was pretty thrilling, though not nearly as much as the New York, New York coaster I rode on Monday. Perhaps it was because I took off my glasses — I nearly lost them on the coaster Monday — and all of the skyline lights looked like skyline blurs. The place was not crowded at all, surprising for a Friday night, so I think next time I’ll try riding all three rides. On our way back to the other end of The Strip, we passed by a NASCAR coaster that was pretty close to the Hilton. Perhaps if my boss sends me here again next year, I can talk Craig into going on that one. He’s such a good sport! 🙂

We finished the night at the Bellagio to watch the fountain again — at night I thought it was much more spectacular. From 8PM to 12AM it shows every 15 minutes, and each show is different, so we sat through four. Very pretty!

Today’s my last day, and we’re taking her easy. We’re meeting Celena’s dad for dim sum later, and if we can squeeze it in, we might head over to Red Rock Canyon to take some photos.

Off to the Damn Dam!

April 18, 2008 at 10:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Celena, my gracious hostess, and I embarked on a trip out of sin city and into the desert wildlife this morning…passing over the mountains, along the shores of Lake Mead, and ending at one of the greatest civil engineering feats of the 20th Century, the Hoover Dam. Or as we lovingly refer to it, the Damn Dam. We sprung for the tour, traveling down the elevator to the spillway tunnels, back up to the massive turbines, then up to the observation deck to take some lovely photos. We also saw a very cool 3-D map of the entire Colorado River system, and she pointed out to me her tiny hometown, Page, AZ, which is next to another damn dam, the Glen Canyon Dam.

Some interesting facts I learned: Hoover Dam is 45 feet wide at the top (just enough for two traffic lanes) and 660 feet wide at the base, the size of two football fields. The waterline is very low right now, and water consumption in this area is exceeding the supply. Quite a concern for residents, who like their backyard swimming pools and casino fountains. The dam was built to supply water first, and the electricity harnessed is only a secondary function. Herbert Hoover, as secretary of commerce, proposed the dam idea in the senate in 1920s, and when it finally got passed, he was the one who signed the bill as president. The dam was originally called Boulder Dam, but FDR later changed it to Hoover Dam. I guess that makes sense — when you’re trying to pass legislation for a dam, it’s probably pretty conceited to suggest it get named after you!

After the tour we headed back down to Lake Mead for a picnic, but first stopped to check out a sign we saw advertising helicopter rides for only $29. It sounded too good to be true…and it was. $29 gets you two minutes in the air, and you don’t even go near the dam. Damn dam ripoff!

On the way back to Celena’s, I mentioned I’d wanted to see the King Tut museum at the Luxor, and since traffic was starting to pile up, we decided it was best to wait it out in the casino. I’m sure we’re not the first ones to think of that — but luckily we don’t really gamble. Instead we saw a very cool IMAX movie about prehistoric sea monsters. So fitting, because I’m such a dino/ancient creatures nut. The King Tut exhibit was also pretty cool — all replicas, of course, but a nice set up.

Tomorrow Celena has some work to catch up on, so I’m going to head down to some of the pretty casinos — the Venetian, the Wynn, and some others — stroll around, take some pics, see where the day takes me. I’m going to try to see the Bellagio fountain while I’m down there. Hopefully it’s not too windy this time.

The Fremont Experience

April 17, 2008 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Wednesday night, Craig, Rick and I had the full downtown experience on Fremont Street, home to the original strip. Rick remembers when he was a kid coming down here and seeing all those Rat Pack guys, so it was like a stroll down memory lane. But with a giant jumbo-tron display covering the street like a massive archway, heh. I got to take some photos of the classic cowboy at The Frontier, and bought some tacky souvenirs. Dinner specials greeted us at every casino, so we decided on the Binion Steakhouse, where they were selling sirloins and lobster for $11.99, and filet mignon for $12.99. I opted for the filet…and it was definitely a steak that cost $12.99. Guess I’m spoiled by my KC beef. The ambiance was priceless — I could almost picture Moe Green from the Godfather IIstrutting around the casino floor. Out in the street, live bands played covers from the 50s and 60s, and the guys from Chippendale’s would pose with willing young ladies for a fee. Ahhh, Vegas.

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