Warm Spring Sun in Troyes

There are few places I enjoyed on our trip more than the medieval town of Troyes. We didn’t spent a lot of time there but we really enjoyed getting out of Paris and into a smaller town. The old town of Troyes is home to many half-timbered structures which are a joy to take in, photograph, walk in, and drive through. We found a place to sit down and eat both savory and sweet crepes and these were probably the best crepes we had on the whole trip.
This day and the prior day were important as they marked the huge transition from city (NYC and Paris) to the countryside and small towns. This transition, along with the warm spring sun, felt like stripping the stress of the large cities off like an oppressive winter coat at the advent of spring.
We scrambled to get our clothes dried (see the story about our stay in Troyes here) while eating and exploring the city. I was walking back through the Place Marechal Foch on rue Urbain IV to pickup our car when I took this photo in front of this restaurant.
What struck me at this moment was the light on the facade of the buildings, the people waiting to eat, and that dude in the tan leather suit.

Warm Spring Sun in Troyes
Warm Spring Sun in Troyes

Warm Spring Sun was taken handheld on May 9th 2017 near the Place Marechal Foch in Troyes, France using the Fuji X-T10 and the Fuji 18–55mm lens at 26mm, 1/400s, f/9, and ISO 200. Editing was performed in Lightroom to square the architecture and make the light a little more uniform.

Walking Among Trees

Among my favorite things are the many trees in Paris. After grabbing a few pastries from an eclectic pastry shop, we walked into the gardens from the Rue Auguste Comte (from the south) through these large rows of squared Horse Chestnut Trees (at least that is what I think they are). These trees are so full and green. It is wonderful to walk along them. It was pretty rainy during our visit so this little glimpse of blue sky was welcome.

Walking Among Trees
Walking Among Trees

Walking Among Trees was taken handheld on May 5th 2017 at the South Entrance to Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France using the Fuji X-T10 and the Fuji 18–55mm lens at 18mm, 1/420s, f/5.6, and ISO 200. Editing was performed in Lightroom to darken the sky slightly and lighten the shadows of the tress just a little.

Europe: Where We Walked and Walked and Walked

Rob and I love to walk on our vacations. Our kids don’t but they learned to do it anyway.

Rob tracked it and we walked a total of 85.6 miles over those 19 days (avg 4.5 miles per day). Not bad for little legs!

Walking is the best way to see and experience all the new sights. Plus, we had to work off all the dozens of pastries we devoured.

Other than a couple of cities, we really wanted this trip to highlight the natural landscapes of each country. Of course, those parts turned out to be some of our very favorite places. We just love the feeling of freedom and wholeness that comes from spending time in God’s incredible creation.

Caroline walked about half as much as everyone else. She really enjoyed the view from up top!

New York

 

France – It rained on us a lot here.

 

This area outside of Fontainebleau was such a nice respite after the craziness of NYC and Paris.




Luxembourg

We climbed a TON of stairs in each country. We climbed 214 flights of stairs total but one day alone was 48 flights (hiking in luxembourg).

We all LOVED our hiking day in the Echternach area of Luxembourg!

We found ourselves among trolls.

And a troll bridge.

This area is called Wolf Cove. The story goes that when people settled here, there were many wolves in the area that would eat the farm animals. To solve the problem, the people lured the wolves into this canyon, trapped them, and then stood on top and threw boulders down at them, killing every last one of them.

Caroline found this story fascinating and had me tell it to her over and over again while we were walking…Strange girl.

 

Germany

I’m not sure why this is a go-to pose for this man. It always has been and I have a sneaky suspicion he’ll be 85 years old one day doing the same thing.

We were dumped on for a few minutes in Germany while walking the hills above a hamlet.

 

Netherlands







 

Our kids loved this beach. They could just dip their hands in the edge of the water and pick up handfuls and handfuls of shells.

 

Belgium

 

Well, everyone…we did it! Not only did we get through Europe…but we got through posting about it. Ha!

Looking at these pictures is such motivation for me to keep writing and slowly, slowly saving up for  another trip someday.

After Hours in Barbizon France

After scrambling over rocks and moss and wandering around the forests of the French countryside, which is another post altogether, we found ourselves in the quaint village of Barbizon, France. Unfortunately, all the restaurants were closed for the evening but don’t despair; at least we found some fun things to photograph before heading back to Fountainebleu for dinner.

Driving through this part of the French countryside was a reward unto itself. Everywhere we looked we enjoyed both a rustic and quaint treat for our eyes.

After Hours in Barbizon taken handheld on May 8th 2017 in the village of Barbizon, France using the Fuji X-T10 and the Fuji 18–55mm lens at 23mm, 1/250s, f/6.4, and ISO 2500. Editing was performed in Lightroom for color balance and to bring some detail back to the sky.

After Hours in Barbizon taken handheld on May 8th 2017 in the village of Barbizon, France using the Fuji X-T10 and the Fuji 18–55mm lens at 23mm, 1/250s, f/6.4, and ISO 2500. Editing was performed in Lightroom for color balance and to bring some detail back to the sky.

Europe 2017: Eating, Drinking, Sleeping, and Bathrooming

Since we are human, there was a lot of eating, drinking, sleeping, and bathrooming on this trip.

A. Lot.

Eating

One of the things Rob and I were looking forward to the most on our trip was eating! Duh! But traveling with three little pickies was trickies.

Leading up to leaving we tried to prepare and warn our kids that good little European children sit quietly for long periods of time at the table and eat everything placed in front of them.  I told them that the French are not afraid to kick naughty, snotty American children out of their revered eating establishments. (I warned them about this many times at the dinner table, mostly so they would behave and eat better. Striking fear in their hearts was a slightly successful strategy.)

I had decided well ahead of time that we wouldn’t be eating at any frou-frou places and not many sit-down places. The upscale tastes, time commitment, and high prices were enough to dampen my dreams of dining on eclectic European fare.

My plans were these:

  • Focus on quality (aka fabulously awesome) snacks rather than big meals.
  • Eat as often as possible at outdoor carts and take-away counters.
  • Plan satisfactory eateries ahead of time to coincide with areas of interest that we will be visiting.
  • Always keep a McDonalds or Pizza Hut in the corner of my eye.
  •  

    I’d say it went as smoothly as can possibly be expected, judging from their 100% genuine smiles.

     

    Other than pastries, pastries, and more pastries, the kids survived on strawberries, yoghurt, waffles, ice cream, pizza, frites, 20 baguettes, and 100 chicken nuggets. This is exactly what I meant by the above mentioned “quality snacks” and nobody complained!!

    One morning we even had candy for breakfast. Cara’s dream come true!

    Proffetrjes are a wonderful treat!


    Sadly, this hot dog looked a lot better than it tasted.
     

    We are all still mourning our loss of incredible baked goods but I’d say Madeleine is the most heartbroken about not being able to find a decent baguette back in America.

    I mean, bread in bed…that’s really all a girl wants in life.

    Drinking

    Finding potable water was a challenge. Whenever we asked for water in France, we were pointed toward the faucet in the disgusting bathroom. But the lack of l’eau explains the lack of les toilets, no?

    We ended up spending a fortune on bottled water.

    A couple of times we made the mistake of ordering water in a restaurant and were presented with $10 of non-potable sparkling water. Bleh!

    This brand of boxed water that we only found at all the Burger King’s in Germany was the best water in around. I stocked up while I could.

    Sleeping

    I’m a sleepy person by nature so one of my worries pre trip was feeling extreme jet lag. I’m happy to report that because of our stops in JFK and our convenient flight times, it wasn’t that bad! There were, however, a few moments of undeniable drowsiness.
    This is during our car ride after landing in Paris.

     
    Here we are intensely meditating on Monet’s Water Lilies. Gorgeous, by the way.


    Through credit card points, our 3 nights of hotel at JFK, our 5 nights of hotel in Paris (with two rooms and a surprise view of Miss Eiffel!), and about half of our other hotel/airbnb nights were
    F-R-E-E!

    We wanted to stay in some fun places so I booked us in a camping cabin (mobile home) in Heiderscheid (Luxembourg), a houseboat in Utrecht (The Netherlands), and a swanky hotel in Dordrecht (The Netherlands). The other airbnbs were quaint little homes in Troyes (France), Glees (Germany), and Bruges (Belgium). All the other accommodations were typical European hotel rooms.

     

    When it came to laundry, it was a bit of a struggle. We packed a week’s worth of clothes because that’s how long it would take us to get to a house with a washing machine (I was trying to avoid having to do the whole laundromat routine). Well, our first house did have the advertised washing machine…the size of a toaster…and no dryer.

    We stayed up late and got up early trying to get our week’s worth of clothes clean (to get us to our next house with a washing machine) but they were never going to dry. We laid them out on the back patio…but then it rained. We laid everything out all over the kitchen, but we were wasting daylight. I finally used the blowdryer to get each of us an outfit to a wearable-but-still-damp condition. Finally, we packed all our wet clothes up in our suitcases and dragged them to a giant commercial dryer. 

    The houseboat also advertised available laundry but it turned out that there was one tiny washing machine and dryer set for the entire marina and there was a long line of users. So again, we shuffled our dirty laundry to a laundromat, this time in Antwerp. There was still a wait but at least here they had lunch and wi-fi and it was downtown in the middle of sightseeing.

    We didn’t have another opportunity to do laundry until we got home, so by the time we hit NYC again (after plane rides and sweaty weather), we were scraping the bottom of the barrel as far as clothes wearability goes.


    Bathrooming

    Ugh. This part was frustrating.
    So many small bladders require many bathroom stops and I’ll tell ya, I won’t ever take public restrooms for granted again! There’s just something magical about walking into building and finding a clean place to sit. You know?
    In NYC, the bathrooms were filthy but plentiful. 
    In Paris, the bathrooms were FILTHY. That is, IF you could ever find one. Even the sidewalk-side pay toilets were few and nasty. Also, apparently the French never have to use the restroom on Sundays or holidays…because every single one of them is closed.

    Germany, by far, had the best digestive system accommodations and plenty of them. You just had to find the tiny signs that pointed WC and we were okay. The Germans also win for the biggest wall-mounted flushes (the size of iPad pros) and the scariest (hello, guillotine!)

    This was the cutest little German bathroom, even if it took me three whole minutes to figure out how to get the soap out of the pink wall-mounted bottles (they swing upside down and soap pours out of a pin-sized hole in the brown nubbin).

    Belgium had the most open-air urinals and Nate made a point to visit most them.

    Phew. That was a lot of details you didn’t really need to know about but Rob convinced me that some day I’ll be glad that I wrote them all down. 
    In the end, despite all the little inconveniences and strangenesses, I will never hesitate to go back and experience them all again!

    Europe 2017: Castles and Cathedrals

    Europe is so fun with its hundreds of castles and cathedrals in such a small area. I can’t even think of one authentic castle or ancient cathedral in our neck of the woods. Too bad. They sure are breathtaking!

    Notre Dame was up first. The kids had way more fun outside than inside. Seriously.

    Rob and I have been to Versailles and I’ve always wanted to visit Fountainebleu and it did NOT disappoint! It is fabulously gaudy and garish in all the right ways!

    The girls had a grand time playing on the palace steps. They were pretending to be princess sisters (one fancy and one who really wasn’t into being fancy…) whose father, the king, was forcing them to go to the ball. The princesses didn’t want to go to the ball, especially the un-fancy one, but if they didn’t go, he would kill them…!

     

    We drove part of the Fairytale Road along the banks of the Rhine River in Germany. I’ve also wanted to do this for a long time but I was a little disappointed. Not that it wasn’t really cool, just that I was expecting green rolling hills instead of highways and train tracks. Perhaps we just didn’t hit the right area. We still enjoyed viewing all of the castles.

     

    Charlemagne’s Cathedral in Aachen was overwhelmingly beautiful. Rob and I both liked it quite a bit more than Notre Dame. I’m so glad we made this stop.

    The cathedral bell towers in Antwerp and Bruges were so tall, I have no idea how they were built back in the day!

    In Ghent we walked around at night to enjoy the town all lit up. Beautiful.

    The next day we toured Gravensteen Castle. Almost all of us thought this was so cool!

    Poor Caroline was “cweeped out” by the entire thing. She still talks about her lingering fear of the weapons she saw on display. Her mood finally turned around at the end when we told her she is a distant relative of some French princess. Ten points for family history, eh?

    She asked us questions about it for days but the one that she asked over and over again was, “If I am related to a princess then why am I not one now?” I wasn’t sure what to answer, so on the fly I told her that a long time ago the princess fell in love with a commoner and decided she didn’t want to marry a prince, which ended the royalty in our family… She was satisfied with that answer.

    Here are some other random, everyday, ho-hum, boring old castles and cathedrals. Just kidding, they were all wonderful. Everywhere we turned there was another one!

    And I couldn’t justify visiting all these incredible churches and cathedrals without visiting our very own, brand new LDS temple outside of Paris. It wasn’t at all gaudy or overwhelming but was simply stunning and comforting. We are so happy for the members in France!