Friday, February 29, 2008

Ahh, Germany!

I was so happy to arrive "home" last night. I even teared up in the kitchen as Anna & Chrisian prepared our yummy German dinner. Our hosts are so gracious, blessing us at every turn. We are so thankful for this opportunity to be with family, we are having such a blessed time! Thank you Anna & Christian for being such a huge part of our family trip! We love you!

Trip Statistics...

So, here’s some statistics from our trip thus far, it’s Thurs. night and we fly home Monday morning…

Countries visited:
Holland / Netherlands

Gelato flavors tried:
Banana – Jaime’s fav
Strawberry - Laura’s & Lucy’s fav
Berries with vanilla
Choc Chip – Jessie’s fav
Mint Choc Chip
Neutella – Jenna’s fav
Cherry – Leah’s fav
Pistachio - Jarod’s fav
Cream & Neutella (Roma & Tonti I think) – John’s fav
Egg Nog

# Of pictures taken up until 7:15pm on Feb. 28th (Germany time)
Approx Kilometers driven (just to get there, not in town):
2893 km
about 28 hours
or, 1751 miles
Anyone ready for a nap???

Paris III

We set out for a French Bakery for breakfast, some of the girls sporting their newly acquired souvenirs.

All packed up and safely in our sweet rental van, it was time for our last Parisian crepe. Seeing the rain that today brought, we were even more thankful for the beautiful day that the Lord gave us yesterday. We didn’t really appreciate the gargoyles spitting on us while we waited for our crepes though!

We tried to see The Thinker through the fence of the Musee Rodin, this is all we got though…

The last order of business before we left Paris was a drive down Champs Elysees and the round-about at Arc de Triumph. Talk about some crazy driving! We saw the magazine stand where we stood watching the last stage of le Tour de France in ’05. It looks pretty much the same! :-)

John was in need of some protein, can’t men live on crepes???, so we stopped for a Big Mac in Belgium; another country to add to our list. You should all be proud, this is only the second time we’ve had Mc Donald’s this trip! We skipped all the Mc Donald’s restaurants in Italy and France! The rest of us shared cheeseburgers, and laughed again about how Steve Martin said hamburger in the movie the other night!

Paris II – Our 15th Anniversary!

Since we could see the sun out our hotel window and no hint of rain, we set out this morning to see the Eiffel tower first. The line stretched forever though so we decided to scrap that and come back later. We snapped a few pics, ok a ton of pics, and then set off to find a metro map. Oops, in the hustle to leave the hotel I forgot our pop-out map! We found a station and gladly took another free metro map! Whew!

We decided to stop in the park and eat our sandwiches that John made, they were fantastic! Next stop, the Louvre! Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and the Mona Lisa, just to name a few! This museum is so overwhelming, we stuck to just one floor and just saw a few of the majors. Our plan was to see the Musee d’ Orsay later to catch Monet and Van Gogh, we ran out of time though and the kids voted it out. We tried to let them dictate this trip as much as possible. It was a good experience for me to not be in control of everything and relinquish the plan to someone else. For instance, we are driving home to Germany as I type this. The kids voted out Normandy, I was very excited about this stop but realized in Rome that this was not going to happen, we were already too tired! There was also a castle that Disney used as inspiration with some of its castles. It’s free ‘till June and just over an hour outside of Paris. That was also voted out. Oh well, no sense touring so much that it’s not fun anymore! It’s good for me to see that the world continues turning even when I don’t get to “see it all”! Ok, moving on!
The Louvre was the start of something that caught John and I by surprise. Maps, multiple maps can provide much distraction and fun for our three younger children. Especially Jarod & Laura. We allowed them to each grab a Louvre map and they were obsessed! Instantly! They made up games, and carried the maps around the rest of the day. Even carrying into our drive back to Germany. We got them each a free map of Paris from the hotel and they just play, and play, and play, and play! It’s crazy! They love seeing the icons of the places they now recognize from Paris on the map. Who knew?

We stopped by Arc de Triumph so I could take a picture of the Arc and the phone booth from the movie French Kiss, with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. We didn’t see one. There is a phone booth but not on the street that it appears to be on in the movie. Oh well, it was still beautiful!

Notre Dame. Even as sore as our feet have been, the kids still wanted to go up in the bell tower. The view from up there is wonderful!

Yea, more steps! The crowds just keep appearing. I waited for a bit to try and take a pic of the steps of Montmartre but alas, there was no break in pedestrian traffic. It’s still beautiful. And, once again, the kids hoofed it up with no complaint!

The kids managed to finish up most of their shopping here,

then we stopped for a look at Sacre Coeur.

We walked down the steps, much nicer than going up!, and set off towards the Eiffel tower. We were being flexible as our plan was to go up during the day but the night came upon us too quickly. We were also delaying our date night. Jess and Lucy were prepared to hold down the fort one night so John and I could go out for our anniversary. We were going to go while in Italy but it never worked out. Going to an Italian restaurant actually ON our anniversary seemed a fine alternative.

The lines were much smaller now, nearly non-existent compared to earlier in the day. While in the elevator going up, someone asked who was going to propose tonight. John of course raised his hand! He jokingly asked me to marry him again on the ride back down the tower. I of course said “yes”!

Any idea who Jessie’s new boyfriend is??? We didn’t notice this guy until I was looking through the pics as I type this blog! We thought you’d enjoy the laugh as well! (Notice BOTH his hands in front; this is why we can laugh instead of hunting him down!)
At the metro station we decided to split up and race back to the hotel. There were two lines close by so we thought we’d live it up our last night is Paris. John took Lucy, Jarod and Jenna while I had Jess, Leah and Laura. There was some mild confusion as the second option was closed for repair work. John ended up beating us back, big time. We were a block away from the hotel when he caught us on the street. His “group” was already up in the room getting jammies on. He was headed to the grocery store to pick up some extra things for dinner. We had a few sandwiches left from lunch but thought they’d like some more. Jess took my “group” up while I went with John. We decided that instead of trying to find the awesome Italian restaurant near Notre Dame that we had loved in ’05, we’d ask the concierge if there was a nice Italian place nearby. We brought the kids their goodies and left the hotel for our anniversary dinner at about 10pm. We had to laugh when the restaurant he directed us to even had Venice in the name! Today, the 27th was also Grandpa Herb’s birthday. He passed away on January 11th so in honor of him John wore the hat of his that Grandma gave us. He used to wear a hat similar to this when we were dating, I still think he looks handsome in hats like this! I might not have used the word “handsome” back then, mighty fine maybe! We completely enjoyed our dinner and leisurely wandered back to the hotel, just the two of us.

Paris I

Once we landed we got on our bus to Paris. John and I used Delilah to try and find our Hotel in Paris but only found one Meridian near the drop off point but not near where I had marked our Hotel on our map. We got off the bus and walked over to the hotel to check our baggage so we could start touring! Upon our arrival however, we were told this was the wrong Meridian, ours was across town! They allowed us to check our baggage anyway and we set off. John took the kids to Arc de Triumph and I set out to pick-up the Paris Visite passes I had purchased online. It gets you around Paris via the Metro, bus, or RER for two days. I paid my 1,50 and got on the metro. Ahh Paris! Now this transportation I can figure out! Now, for anyone traveling anywhere they are unfamiliar with there are two must haves in our opinion. 1. A trusty GPS system pre-loaded with maps for where you are going.
Andy & Michelle, we’ll be shipping Delilah to you for your Germany trip!
2. A handy pop-out map of the city you’ll be traveling around!
Our Paris version (we had Venice, Florence, Rome & Paris for this trip) has the metro map on it, essential to timely use of the metro!
Ok, maybe three things, our radios have proven a handy tool as well!
We met back at the wrong Meridian, gathered our luggage
and headed out to the correct Meridian hotel!

We checked-in, tidied our room and off we went. The weather was rainy but not too cold.
We didn’t mind the drizzle at all, fo’ shizzle! :-) We decided to do the Musee d’ Orsay, but when we got there we had missed the last entrance, 1 hour before closing. Again, be flexible or be broken. We decided go see the Statue of Liberty next. It was a picture of this statue from our, mine and John’s, first trip here in ’05 that grabbed Jarod’s attention. He’s loved the Statue of Liberty ever since!

The Eiffel tower is sooo gorgeous at night! We took the metro there and ended up somewhere John and I hadn’t seen before, it’s a beautiful view of the tower. Our plan was to go up in the Eiffel tower during the day so we headed towards Trocadero to get our first crepe and sit on the steps. John and I did this same thing when we were here. The banana and neutella crepe was just as fabulous as we remembered!

John was much obliging and set up the camera to take this pic of us. I absolutely LOVE it! Once back at the hotel, John ran to the grocery store and bought stuff to make sandwiches for dinner and lunch tomorrow. While eating we watched/snoozed through, The Pink Panther.

Roma III

I typed out all this blog stuff yesterday in the van driving back to A&C's from Paris. Now I am sitting in their computer room loading it all into or blog online. I wish I could add sound to this. John is sitting next to me serenading me with his mandolin playing! :-)
Our final day in Rome was busy; we had a lot left that we wanted to see before we left Italy. We started with the Vatican. St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. The lines weren’t too bad. The bummer was that you walk through tons of Chapels and different rooms before finally coming to the Sistine Chapel. Again, no pictures are allowed but by now,
you know how that goes…

The staircase on the way out is gorgeous!

After that we stopped for pizza and gelato, can you ever have too much of this stuff???
Next stop, the Colloseum! It was fascinating to walk through. We had read a little from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs about Christians that were martyred here in Rome. It’s sobering to realize the numbers of people that died here.

Overlooking the Roman Forum

Walking back to our apartment, we stopped by the Mammertime
Prison where it is said that Paul and Peter were held.

We stopped off at a local market where John picked up supplies for dinner. We decided it was time to go cheap and make it on our own since we had the apartment with stove and pans etc. Boy do we wish we had done this sooner! I think the total cost was about 15 euros. Well below our average dinner cost, even at the cheap street vendors! He met a wonderful man who told him what to get and how to fix it. We had B-something-celli pasta, sauce, bread, and wonderful Italian sausage! We were all excited to taste Dad’s fantastic-o good-bye Italy dinner! This is where the checker gave us the “Mama Mia” exclamation upon realizing all 6 were our own children!

I had three paragraphs typed out about this next bit of drama and decided to simplify. The check we had written for the apartment ended up being to the wrong person. We had used the other check so I had to go with a couple to pay for the apartment. After a few failed suggestions and 45min. down the hill while John made dinner, we ended up paying it with our credit card and paying the 4% fee that they would incur. After being gone for so long, I decided that it was worth it just to be done with the ordeal. I arrived back at the apartment just in time for the wonderful dinner John had prepared.

It was a great ending and just about my favorite part of Rome.

This is Jarod and Laura posing with their medallions from Sunday School, we knew they wouldn’t survive being packed. Jarod, of course, chose English while Laura chose Italian. Jenna helped write them in class. Don’t they look quite chipper for it being about 3:15am? We set our alarm for 3am that morning to walk down the hill and call a taxi from a pay phone. This was the smoothest execution of any of our plans for Rome. We cleaned up, loaded up, and headed down the hill at about 3:30am. We called the two taxis which arrived while I was still on the phone! It was 15 euros each, 30 total euros to get all 8 of us to the Termini train station to catch the bus for Rome Ciampano airport. We arrived there about 4am, got on the bus at 4:15am and headed to the airport. We checked in on time with no problems, boarded our plane and were off to Paris by 6:45am. John and I are continually in awe at how well the kids are doing. There has been very little whining and complaining, just a few moments from Laura but what more can you expect from a 4 year old? All in all, they’ve been fantastico!

Roma II

The next morning we were off to Calvary Chapel Rome. We were very excited to see what it would be like. We left early to allow time to figure out our Roma Passes. A pass that gives you entrance to two museums and free transit in Rome. We saw that we could pick them up near the Trevi Fountain so John and the kids waited there while I set off to pick-up our passes. Unfortunately, the transit in Rome isn’t near the picture of perfect transit in Paris. So, rather than waste our time trying to figure it out, we walked all the way to church. It was across Rome but we made it just in time for worship. They sing the songs once through in Italian and then in English. It was beautiful. As for the study, the pastor preaches a sentence or two and then another man translates it. It took a bit longer than we had expected but it was all good, we enjoyed the study out of John 7.

Afterward, we stopped for some refueling at a little sidewalk café. We had three Italian pizzas, cannelloni and ravioli. It was yummy!

They have these “street performers” all over pretending to be statues. Jarod loved trying to figure out which ones were real. This one is a real person. He shook Jarod’s hand!

Castel & Bridge of Sant’ Angelo

These guys (what are they? Soldiers? Gladiators?) insisted we pose with them outside the Pantheon.

I think this is one of the most impressive churches I’ve seen. The hole in the ceiling is awesome!

I’m completely amazed at the crowds this time of year. I cannot even fathom what this place is like in high tourist season. We made our way to the Spanish Steps where we enjoyed not Gelato, but a grocery store package of drumsticks, the Italian version of course.

We headed out for our 5:30pm reservation at the Borghese Gallery to see Bernini’s David and some other art. We showed up at 5:20, checked our belongings, again no pictures etc., and went to pick up our tickets. Unfortunately, I didn’t double check my cheat sheet. (The cheat sheet has each stop, reservations, opening times, costs etc.) Our reservation was for 5pm and that is the last entrance of the day. And, they are closed on Mondays. So, our decision was made, we weren’t going to the Borghese Gallery after all! :-) Again, be flexible or be broken! At least we didn’t lose any money in the deal, you pay when you pick up your tickets.

Exhausted but pressing ever onward, we stopped by Porta del’ Popolo.

The buildings looked beautiful at dusk!

Waiting for the metro, we thought the Colosseum might be awesome at night…
On the way, Laura found her prince in shining armor!

We stopped and got some dinner on the corner. Italian sandwiches of some sort. We devoured them on the lawn taking in the awesome site!

That night, while trying to fix our cell phone charger we blew the circuit, and our cell phone, oops! Gotta love the 220 here! It’s all good we kept thinking, be flexible or be broken!