Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Day 6: Disneyland Paris

  We weren't sure what we were going to do when we got up this morning but I was LONGING to go to the gates, yes just the gates, of Disneyland Paris. How could I be that close and not go?  Everyone else was going to be headed into town and I was afraid of getting lost. Our tour guide marched me yp to the desk and called a taxi for Clay, Galen and I to take us to the train! She said the train dead ends at the gates of Disneyland, I had no excuse. What she didn't know was that I was more worried about getting the 3 of us back to town in time to catch the train to Florence!
   So, we 3 hopped in the taxi, he wasn't the most chipper of cabbies. He was angry that we didn't speak enough French. Once he dropped us off at the train station we bought our round trip train tickets and hopped on.  We had been warned about the pickpockets here so we paid close attention to our belongings.
    Once we got to the gates and snapped a few photos, we decided we may never be there again and that we had several hours to spend so we did it, we bought tickets and went in!
The gates of Disneyland Paris

   We decided to just do one park (there are 2 at DLP) and we grabbed our maps and headed in. As any die hard Disney fan does when they walk into a Disney park, I teared up a little. It was so different than my home park of Walt Disney World in Orlando!
Mickey Garden inside the gates
I wanted to experience some of my favorite rides to see how they compared to WDW so we went directly towards Phantom Manor, known as Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World.
Mr. Phantom
Queue for Phantom Manor
It was completely different! The soundtrack of the attraction was different and of course everything was in French but at least we knew (I think) what they were saying. Next we headed on to Pirates of the Caribbean. This is my favorite Magic Kingdom attraction so I had to compare.  I really liked the Disneyland Paris version better. There were more and bigger drops. It was mission some of the scenes that you see at WDW but all in all the ride was more fun.
Part of the exterior for Pirates of the Caribbean
One of the scenes inside the POC attraction

   If we wanted to grab something to eat and do some souvenir shopping, we only had time for one more attraction.  We decided to check out Star Tours. I was a little disappointed in the attraction.  There were no 3-D glasses and the scenes were different.  Not as fun, in my opinion.
Outside of Star Tours
   Next on the agenda was some food. Since we weren't planning on even coming through the gates, we had to be budget conscious. We found a quick service restaurant and I grabbed a kids meal with a chicken sandwich, fries and a small drink in a cute little lunchbox (my excuse was that it was part of my souvenir). The food was reasonably priced and tasted great too.
My cute little lunchbox
We didn't have much time left so we decided to check out a few shops and grab some souvenirs before catching the train in to town to meet everyone else. All in all, this was my favorite day of the trip. I may not have had much time to spend there or take in the whole park, but at least it is something I can say that I have done and mark it off my bucket list! Stay tuned next time for the rest of day 6 when we head into town and grab a night train to Florence, Italy.
Part of the exterior of It's a Small World
I couldn't convince them to ride this one!

WALL-E and Eve

Friday, October 3, 2014

Day 5: Paris Sightseeing

   Finally after a few health issues, I am back on track to writing this blog about our amazing summer trip to Europe.
   This day started out a little "hairy", to say the least!  After showering and soaking the floor because of the weird angle of the shower door, I began the task of primping for the day. Plugged up my curling iron, using my power converter and waited for it to get hot. DID IT EVER!!  After singeing my bangs and them falling off and down into the sink, I realized that the convertor for London and the converter for Paris are different! After the shock wore off, I fixed my hair, grabbed some croissants with Nutella and headed to the bus for downtown Paris. Today I sat with one of the teens, Wesley, on the bus. I think Clay ended up sitting with Galen. Figured it was time we make some new friends.
    We made a couple of stops for photo ops, including the Eiffel Tower.
Our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower
Then we headed to the famous art museum The Louvre. Clay and I shared a sandwich at a little cafe in the Louvre then he, Galen and I headed to discover the arts. It was really amazing to see the real Mona Lisa, the Venus Statue and so many other famous works of art. One whole floor of the museum was dedicated to Egyptian art.
The original Mona Lisa

The Venus Statue
 As we were leaving the museum, we were blocked by a demonstration. It is legal to hold civil demonstrations as long as advanced notice is given. We also found out that the trains in Paris had gone on strike. Hoping they came to an agreement the next day because we needed a train to get to our next destination!
    Flam's for supper!  We were treated to side salads, various types of Flammekueches and sweet Flammekueches of chocolate and apple.  These were a little different than pizzas we get at home but they were great!
    After supper, we headed to the Eiffel Tower. Scared of heights as I am, I knew I had to do it because I may never get another chance. Yes, I went 1000 feet up to the top of the Eiffel Tower! It wasn't near as bad as I expected and the view was indescribably  gorgeous. It was freezing at the top though.
View from atop the Eiffel Tower
    Packing in as much of the sightseeing opportunities as we could, after the Eiffel Tower climb, we took an evening cruise on the Seine River. Seeing all of the parisian architecture from that view was really amazing.  Being on the river, however, we froze to death again!
    It had been an extremely long day and we were ready to go back to the hotel. On the way we did pass through the tunnel where Princess Dianna and her boyfriend were killed.  that was a neat surprise that our wonderful tour guide added in. Stay tuned for day 6 when we venture off alone to Disneyland!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Day 4 in Europe: Headed to Paris

    After a quick hotel breakfast, we loaded our tour bus with our luggage and headed to the Eurostar. There was a little time at the station for us to spend the rest of our British currency or have it exchanged to Euros. I bought a few snacks for the train. We had to go through customs and security before we headed to the boarding area.
   When we were seated backward, I got a little nervous, as Clay and I both have been known to get carsick.  I also didn't realize that going through underground tunnels would make your ears pop worse than going up in a plain! I had to get out some gum for us to chew and it still didn't help all that much. There wasn't much of a view on the train ride but we arrived quickly.
   After arriving in Paris, we loaded another bus and drove through the town for a bit of sight seeing. We were given a bit of free time so Clay and I bought a few souvenirs, checked out Notre Dame and it's gardens.
Beautiful stained glass windows inside Notre Dame

The grounds outside Notre' Dame
The magestic Notre Dame Cathedral

We also found the bridge of love locks. The story goes that you and your love put a lock on the bridge and throw the key in the river and nothing can ever separate you.  There are so many locks on the bridge that it is starting to lean and break.  It was a really neat sight to see.

    After our free time, we loaded the bus and were treated to an organ concert by Humpus Lindwall at the Saint Esprit Cathedral.
Inside the Saint Esprit Cathedral 

    Supper was GREAT! We had turkey with mushroom sauce and potatoes, then apple tart for dessert while dining at Cafe de' New York. 

Turkey with mushroom sauce and potatoes
Apple Tart

  After another quick sightseeing tour via bus, we headed towards our hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Novo. This was upscale and modern compared to where we stayed before. There was free wi-fi and  a Kinect in the lobby.
The rooms were good size with a queen bed and a queen pull out sofa.  The shower was different.  I had a hard time figuring it out and accidentally sprayed water all out into the bathroom floor! Finally made it to bed around 2:30 AM to prep for a long day in Paris. Stay tuned to see the visits to the Louvre, Eiffle Tower and our cruise on the Seine River.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Trek out West Day 4

Crazy? Courageous? Or Both! Day 4
     Arizona gave us much more to see on our Trip day 4! We walked around the Route 66 town of Williams, AZ first. Hit up a souvenir shop called "Get your Gifts on Route 66"! I couldn't resist that shop. It had all the expected souvenirs, as well as metal signs, button up skirts, license plates! Next door is the Cruisers Café, all decorated from decades ago. Some old trains, Life-size Elvis, and an awesome town clock all make this town so worth the 2 mile detour off the interstate. It also has the train a lot of people take for the day trip to the Grand Canyon. At this point we have been driving for about 26 hours.
     As we head west, Joel's Wikipedia App tells him about a town called Seligman, AZ just west of Williams. This is the town Radiator Springs from the movie Cars was based off of! Right from the start, we can tell. The hotel with separate cabins, the car repair garage, even the little town jail! There are replicas of Mater, Fillmore, and Sheriff! This town has found a way to stay profitable along Route 66!
     After an hour of more desert-like driving, we head north towards Boulder City and Las Vegas!! The rocky hills surrounding Lake Mead and The Hoover Dam, keep the views of the Colorado River to a minimum, but several Scenic Views give us a taste of what is to come! We cross over  the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge above the Hoover Dam. We decided not to stop off today, but wait till our oldest Daughter meets up with us. The power lines are crisp crossing everywhere, and traveling off far into the distance, all fed from the Hoover Dam under us. The tall metal power lines are even fascinating- built on angles up the sides of the hills, in symmetrical lines taking the energy from the Dam across the states.
     Once we cross into Nevada, we map out our first stop- In-n-Out Burger! All along the way, we see signs for animal crossings- Deer, Elk, and Big Horn Sheep. We have been watching the hills, and plains for signs of wildlife. As we drive through Boulder City, near the white stucco houses, and St Jude's Ranch, we see 2 Big Horn Sheep running across the 4 lane road! We tried to get a picture, but in our surprise, we just watched for a little first. As we get into Las Vegas, we find an In-n-Out along the way, and it was Oh So Good!!! It's a simple menu, but the burgers don't leave you wanting for anything else!
     We head to the Las Vegas airport to pick up our first-born. She stayed behind for a youth group event and flew out by herself. The airport was full of bachelorette party goers, slot-machines, and big TV screens advertising the shows on the Vegas Strip. Thought I would see a celebrity or two, but not today. After safely gathering our daughter, we head to the Wyndham Grand Desert, our condo for the week. It is part of a time-share we have through my husband's company. It was really nice, and the people were super friendly! Yes, we signed up for a presentation, but we knew it would be low pressure since we already own. As we waited for our room, we head to the local grocery store to get some food for the week. We try to eat simple for 2 meals each day, and eat out the other to save money. We did a good job, not buying everything we wanted, since we always seem to have so much left over at the end of the week. Ice Cream is good, but not so great when we are forced to eat it on the last day of vacation for breakfast just so we don't throw it away!
     Once we are able to get into our room, we are super impressed! Caitie loved the view of the pool!! It was a 2 bedroom that sleeps 8 so we all had plenty of room to spread out, and enjoy the 3 TVs! Since it was our first day in Vegas, we clean up and head to the strip! My husband has been here before, so he takes us to the Venetian Hotel. This place is so giant, there is a mall inside! We wander through the Italian decorated, elaborate, clouds on the ceiling walkways. We forgot how hungry we were as we are amazed at what we are looking at. Gondola rides, waterfalls, elaborate statues! There is a branch of Carlo's Bakery here! But, it is as popular as the original, and instead of getting a cupcake, we pose for several pictures in front of the shop. Next we wander through Caesar's Palace's mall area. We are met first with a 3 layer-curved escalator! Unfortunately, they didn't do a great job with store directories and we end up traveling up on the escalators too far! Several other tourists were lost along with us, and we ended up finding our way down the side of some stores and on the way to Cheesecake Factory! We got a bunch of restaurant gift certificates from credit card points before the trip so we were able to eat out guilt free! The restaurant is all the way at the end of the mall area, but the wait was shorter than at home and we enjoyed the aquarium out front. The statues on top of the mini-aquarium moved and gave a show- The Lost City of Atlantis. The kids real enjoyed it, fire effects and all!
     After a wonderful free dinner, we head through Caesar's Palace to see the Fountain Show! Every 15-20 minutes, the famous fountain show goes on. There is a schedule of songs, and the fountains and lights in front of the Bellagio give a wonderful show. When we came out the door, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by The Beatles was playing. That was great. I wish we were there 2 minutes earlier to see all of it! The crowd dispersed, so we found a spot in the middle and waited for the next show. A man from the street came by and Joel bought me a rose made out of palm leaves :)
    Caitie loved all the people and the water, and really loved the fountain show! The schedule isn't exact, so we waited for at least 20 minutes. As the crowd filled in, the notes begin, and a few other women and I cheer, knowing it is Céline Dion!!! How exciting! Joel is less than thrilled... Anyway, the fountain show was simply wonderful! The lights, and water, even the ducks were great to watch! Caitie would tap the lady on the shoulder next to us and then point to the fountains, to be sure she saw it! I must say, I am glad the show didn't start any later, it was dark not much longer after it ended and we really wanted to get the kids off the street. I wasn't worried about safety because of anything I saw, just in a different city with sooooo many people, and not all like us country folk! We dropped exhausted after another busy and wonderful day!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Trek Out West- Day 3

Crazy, Courageous or Both - Day 3!

     Wednesday was day 3, from Amarillo Texas to Williams Arizona. We had a bit more time to stop at sights, and more interesting places to see! After a decent breakfast at the creepy hotel (the Taco Bell in 15 feet from our room door didn’t serve breakfast :( ), we set off west again. Caitie slept well in her suitcase-bed by the way! Our first stop was Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo (exit 60 off Interstate 40... you can see it from the highway on Route 66) The story is- a billionaire named Stanley Marsh wanted to mess with the minds of the locals, and had the 10 Cadillacs brought in and buried nose down, so show off the tail fins. So, as tourists, we park along the side of the road, and walk into the field. There are cans of spray paint everywhere, so no need to buy your own to bring. We found a few colors and the kids went crazy with their graffiti. There was so much paint on the cars over the years, it was deep enough to carve into. We left our marks, took some pictures and set off again.

     Hubby has a new app from Wikipedia on his phone that tells him interesting things in the areas 
around you. That found us a few cool towns along the way. Historic Route 66 follows along Interstate 40, so in Adrian, Texas we pull off and find the Midpoint Café. As the name says, it is the midpoint between the Chicago and Los Angeles along Route 66…1139 miles both ways. There was a great little souvenir shop there, and some wonderful homemade pie! We got a few more state magnets to add to our map at home. The café has changed hands over the years, but is currently owned by a Tennessee native!

     Side note… wherever you are out west, always know how much gas you have! There are many areas that do not have working gas stations for miles! We are Almost speaking from experience here!

     After we crossed into New Mexico, the ground gets much more…. Brown…. Smaller plants… much less of the green we are used to. Oh and a speed limit of 75! Nothing personal New Mexico, but we were just passing through!

    Arizona had a big spot we were looking forward to- The Petrified Forest! Not long after crossing the state line is this National Park in the middle of the Painted Desert. Quick stop at the visitor center for the stamp in our National Park Passport book, then off we go. It is a drive through park, with several beautiful stops along the road. The colors are exquisite! The reds layered with the white rock, green desert plants, against the clean clear blue sky was just Awesome! Truly a reflection of God’s Love for us to provide such beauty for us to enjoy! The petrified forest stops were fun with walkways through piles of stumps… doesn’t that sound exciting! They are stone now, probably turned that way from the heavy heat bearing down on us! Yes, a dry heat, but still HEAT!! Hubby decided to go for a jog around the path, quickly realizing the heat and elevation are tough competitors to mental and physical will.  

     Then, it rained! Not sure, but I don’t think that happens a whole lot out here! They sky was beautiful with the passing storms. The flat terrain lets us see the clouds passing and the rain bands falling for miles away, and then the rainbows shining through! Just past Flagstaff, we spent the night in Williams, Arizona at Ramada Inn (much less creepy!)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 3- We Saw the Queen! And Other Famous London Attractions

    After a good nights sleep, we were up early to a breakfast of cereal, yogurt and assorted pastries and off again to see more sites of London.  Who took a quick bus tour to see Tower Bridge (while standing on London Bridge)

then we were in for a special treat! It was a day for Trouping of the Colours. This is a celebration of the Queen's birthday. She and the rest of the Royal family come out of Buckingham Palace in a parade. There were horses, soldiers and carriages. Our tour guide was on top of things and got us a great spot. We also experienced changing of the guards, saw Henry VIII's home, the London Eye, Big Ben and visited Westminster Abbey.

    Lunch.....Clay decided he wanted to try different things, we stepped inside a little deli called EAT and he chose a Peking duck wrap. Neither one of us liked it so we ate a bag of kettle cooked chips! We had free time until the evening so we trekked off to the Natural History Museum. This place was amazing and we didn't have near enough time to see it all. Clay is really into dinosaurs so that is the area we concentrated on.

All museums in London have free admission.

    It was soon time to meet up with the others. We were proud that we were learning to maneuver the Underground all by ourselves! We caught up with everyone else and went on an evening tour of Jack the Ripper history.

    On our way to supper, we got to walk through the area where Harry Potter's Diagon Alley was filmed! For supper we dined at Fuller's Ale and Pie House. The meal was authentic fish and chips with smashed peas and chocolate cake with cream for dessert. The fish and chips, as well as the cake, were great but I was not a fan of  the peas.

    We were treated to a short ride on double decker bus and got to see another Harry Potter scene spot, Platform 9 3/4.

Pretty neat, even if you're not a fan. After that, we had that oh so long trek back to the hotel and finally got to sleep around 2 AM.
  Stay tuned for the next article as we head off to Paris!