Thursday, May 5, 2011

Paris - Part Deux

Since we are having a slow week at Chateau Leveille due to EOG testing, I thought I would finish up the Paris trip.  First I will have to re-read what I have already posted!

OK, now that I am refreshed, let me continue!

On Saturday, we decided to drive to Versailles.  WOW.  What a palace.  The gates are made of gold (and many other things as well)!  We toured around the inside of the palace that was built by Louis the XIV We saw the hall of mirrors, the gardens, and a whole lot of expensive stuff.  Sorry I can't be more descriptive, I'll have to let the pictures do my talking for me.  After, we had lunch at a little Italian cafe and then headed back to the hotel.

We all needed a nap, due to the pace at which we went the day before.

We decided to head back into Paris that evening to see the one monument we had not yet been to, The Arc de Triomphe.  We took the subway, and even though I had done my research and knew we needed to get off at the Charles de Gaule station, I allowed myself to be doubted and John talked me into getting off at a stop further down the line.  We then had to walk about 8 blocks back to the the Arc.  The Champs E'Lysee was crowed with tourists, it was hot, and we wore ourselves out.  When we made it to the Arc, I looked to my right and directly next to it was the subway station we should have gotten off at.  At this point, I just laughed...We sat down on a bench and took a needed rest.  We were all extremely burnt out at this point.  We walked around a bit and tried to find a place to have dinner but all the restaurants were crowded.  We decided to head back to La Defense and have dinner there.

We had a lovely evening just strolling around our own little part of Paris.  I highly recommend staying a little outside the city.  It's less touristy and much quieter. 

Paris is a very busy place.  We had less crowds on Friday so a trip during the week is probably better if you don't like being stuck in lines and walking through lots of people.  If you would rather stay in Paris center, choose a small, family run hotel.  They really do give the best service and are very helpful.  We have stayed in two such hotels, the one in Paris and one in Venice.  They have been the most memorable.  They are usually older buildings that have been converted into hotels and are very charming.  You don't need to know too much of the language, many Parisiens speak some or very good English.  It is helpful to study the subway system before you go, we did not do this and it is more complicated than the one in London or even New York for that matter.

I will be returning to Paris at some point in my life.  I will take things a lot slower next time and soak in the atmosphere by sitting in sidewalk cafes and watching more than doing!

I hope you enjoy the pics
Cheers or should I say Au'revoir!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I know absolutely no German!  I did ok in France and Italy with the little of the language I knew but Germany was a whole different story.  Luckily, we had wonderful hosts and tour guides that translated for us.  A running joke between the families was the word haifisch which is German for shark.  It is pronounced hi fish.  So, we would greet each other with hi fish and giggle.  It took on it's own life and we even started saying bye fish!

A little background: When Kimberly was 3 and went to preschool, we met a wonderful family from Germany that was living in Raleigh.  Kim and Emma were in the same class and became very good friends.  Our families started spending time together and we formed a wonderful relationship.  After Evie was born, Herman and Sabine had to head back to Germany with their family for Herman's job.  We didn't see them for 7 years though we kept in contact by email and the occasional Christmas card.  Last summer they came back to the states for a visit and they contacted us.  We had a wonderful evening at our home in Apex.  When they left, we really thought it would be many years before we would see them again.  When we found out we were coming to England, we contacted the Schaffers and asked if we could come for a visit.  They graciously accepted and opened their home to us for our visit.  Now that you are caught up, I'll continue with the blog!

We arrived in the small German town of Ettlingen, in the south of Germany, on Thursday evening.  We drove from England and took the Chunnel (the tunnel that goes under the channel) back to France.  We then proceeded to drive through France, Belgium, a little bit of the Netherlands, and Germany.  It was a very long drive for John since he is the only that can drive, the kids and I didn't mind it so much!

On Friday we drove into Stroussburg, which is right over the border of Germany into France.  It is in the Alsace region and the culture is very much German inspired.  We took a tour through the city on a boat to see all of the history and beautiful architecture.   Stroussburg is the home of the European Parliament which was pretty cool, although Parliament was not in session at the time.  We had a cafe au lait in an outdoor cafe and strolled along the cobblestone streets peeking into the shops and tasting the local fare.  After picking up a few souveniers, we headed back to Ettlingen.

Saturday was little more laid back.  We walked into town center to the farmer's market.  We bought fruits and vegetables and a little meat to have for dinner that night.  We feasted on the best pretzels I have ever had, played in the local park, and finished off with an ice cream before heading back.  We spent the afternoon playing games and talking and of course having a beer or two outside on the patio.  Dinner was fantastic.  We each cooked our own little meal over an open stove that was set up outside.  The kids had a great time and I was proud to see them try things they had never had before.  Jack however, made a meal out of bread and strawberries, which is not unusual even in the states!

Sunday was Easter, and the kids had a candy hunt out in the yard.  After breakfast, we headed to the Black Forest for a day out in nature and lots of fun.  We toured some old farm houses that had been homes to locals that had lived in the forest a long time ago.  The houses had all been moved to one location to create sort of a museum.  It was amazing to see how folks lived back then.  After, we headed towards a favorite destination of the Schaffer children, Barefoot Park!  We took off our shoes and proceeded through trails of mulch, stones, pebbles, sand, seashells, a freezing pond, and some mud!

My favorite part of Sunday was dinner!  We stopped at a local restaurant for dinner and I had SCHNITZEL!!!!!!  If you hadn't guessed, I LOVE SCHNITZEL!!!!!!!  It was the perfect way to end our visit to Germany.  I also left with an affinity to certain kinds of beer!

The Schaffer family is heading to Edinburgh in June and we are hoping they will make a detour to the south of England sometime during their trip!  If not, we definitely plan on seeing them again, even if we have to make the sacrifice of traveling back to Germany!

Enjoy the photos, the Schaffer children in order from oldest to youngest are Emma, Karla, and Emile.

Cheers! and Bye Fish!