May 16, 2011
[I'm still planning on posting a summary of each place we visited on our recent vacation, but I'm moving kind of slow lately, so it may take me all summer to post the entire trip.]
The third stop on our world tour was Paris. We left London at 5:25am on a high speed train. The train ride only took about two and a half hours, most of which was spent in a tunnel, the "Chunnel" to be exact.
I took French in High School, but when we stepped off the train in France not much came to me as I scanned the signs. After about an hour and a half of wandering from booth to booth asking questions and not getting many answers, we had stored our bags and found 3 day passes for the metro.
Stereotype number one: French people smell bad. This is not true of all French people, but our first ride on the metro proved that it's not exactly a false stereotype either...
Our first stop was Sainte Chapelle. The chapel's 1,134 stained glass windows were flooded with sunlight. We stood in awe and took it all in before deciding we were hungry for brunch.
Stereotype number two: the French are rude. We thought this may ring true after our experience trying to get brunch a mere 2.5 hours after arriving in France.
We walked in a cafe near Notre Dame and were told to find a seat. After sitting down our waiter came and took our drink orders. He promptly returned with our drinks and the check. We tried to explain to him that we wanted food as well. He then rudely replied that his shift was over, and he was leaving, so we needed to pay now. I asked if another server would return to take our order and he said they would. So, I opened my wallet and gave him my credit card, to which he again, with attitude, responded he could not accept. As I opened my wallet to get cash he saw the Pounds I had left from London and yelled "not pounds, Euros!" Flustered I began to dig for the envelope of Euros in my purse while he stormed off impatient, returning with a credit card machine! We paid, he left, and we waited... and waited... no second server. Frustrated, we left hungry and headed for Notre Dame, fearing that France would be a place we regretted visiting.
However, the worst was past us. The French were actually very kind people, you just can't allow a few bad apples to ruin the whole bunch.
Notre Dame was beautiful. We admired the detail of the exterior, walked though the inside of the cathedral, and climbed the bell tower for a spectacular view of Paris and our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower! Following our tour of Notre Dame we finally got some food at another cafe, where we sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather and much better service.
After lunch, we enjoyed the Musee d'Orsay art museum. We saw many famous paintings, including Whistler's Mother, Monet's Blue Waterlilies, and Van Gogh's self-portrait. We were so worn out from getting up so early and walking so much that we only saw the first level before deciding to get our luggage and find our hotel.
Our hotel was not in the usual tourist area, but an area where many Parisians lived. It was nice to get away from the busy tourist areas and see how the people really live. Our hotel was very nice, and our room even had a Mona Lisa theme.
Speaking of Mona Lisa, day two began with a visit to the Louvre Museum. Some of our favorites from the Denon wing included: the Winged Victory, Venus De Milo, and of course the Mona Lisa.
After we had our fill of art, we grabbed our first crepe at a nearby cafe. YUM! I want to learn to make them and have them every morning for breakfast!
Our next stop was the Arc de Triomphe and the Champ-Elyesee, where we mostly window shopped, saving our energy and money for our evening plans; dinner in the Eiffel Tower.
Seeing the Eiffel Tower in person was the highlight of Paris for me. We saw it by day, then took the elevator up to the first level, where we had a window seat at Restaurant 58. The food was the best we had in all of Europe. I had veal, and Gary had fish. Once we were stuffed, we walked off some of the calories, climbing the stairs to the second level, where we watched the sun set over Paris. Finally, we took one last elevator ride to the tippy top for a view of Paris by night, "The City of Lights!" We made it to the bottom just in time to watch the tower flash for the last time that evening. What a night!
Our last day in Paris was spent at the Palace of Versailles. I had no idea how huge this place really was! We started in the gardens. They kept going and going, filled with every kind of flower you can imagine and a large canal built by the king to resemble Venice. Once we gave up on seeing every inch of the gardens, we headed to Marie Antoinette's estate, where we saw her small mansion and her hamlet- a small village of houses and a farm built so she could feel like she was living a simple, common life.
By the time we finished her estate, we didn't even have time to run through the castle. We had to take the hour trip back to Paris on the RER to catch our overnight train to Italy. But, we weren't too upset. It was a warm day and we were both sunburned and tired, and ready to sit down for a while. We made it to the train station in time to say goodbye to Paris and settle in to our cabin on the train... Italy bound!
Labels: europe 2011
May 10, 2011
|The hostesses with Natalie.|
I got to help host the shower along with several other women from our church at Grant and Kim Harrison's home. Several of the girls helping are really creative, so the shower was super cute. I thought I would post a few pictures for anyone who might be looking for baby shower ideas. Enjoy!
May 9, 2011
|Me and my mom in 2008 on the strip in Las Vegas.|
Yesterday we celebrated Mother's Day with my family at our house. I cooked a family favorite: roast, potatoes, carrots and rice smothered in gravy! In attendance: Gary, Dad, John Allen (my brother), Jessica (my sister), Trevor (my cousin), and of course Mom.
I'm so blessed to have a mother like mine. She taught me everything I know, she always encourages me to be anything I want to be, she loves me unconditionally, she listens to me vent then offers wise advice, and she showed me how to be a lady who loves and serves her family. She is not just my mother, she is one of my closest friends, the one I know will be in my corner no matter what. I hope that some day I can be half the mom she was for us.
Labels: mother's day
May 6, 2011
|My huge backpack that kept me in shape while we were in Europe!|
The second (and favorite) stop on our trip was London! Our London experience got off to a rough start when our flight from NYC was delayed 4 hours, changing our arrival time to 1am. Our late arrival meant the train from the airport in to town had stopped running, forcing us to take a cab. This wouldn't have been a big deal except the cab fare from Heathrow to our hotel at 1am cost us $130! It still makes me cringe. Despite the rough start, London was amazing, everything I had hoped it would be and more.
We stayed at the very cute, Jesmond Dene Hotel near King's Cross Station. Our hotel room was the tiniest hotel room I've ever stayed in, but the service and the daily traditional English breakfast made up for the size.
On day one we visited the British Museum where we saw items from all over the world, including the Rosetta Stone and Cleopatra's mummy. In the afternoon we took the Original London Sightseeing Bus around the city hopping off and on at Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and St. Paul's cathedral. It was so much fun seeing all the places I have seen a hundred times in books and movies in person for the first time.
The city was very clean and the people were friendly. But, we were most impressed with London's public transportation, "the tube" (or subway). The tube goes all over the city, and was impressively clean. Coming from New York, we found the tube much easier to navigate and we felt safe even late at night.
The food in London was also a high point for us. Our first dinner was at Porter's, a pub where we enjoyed fish & chips and shepherd's pie. Gary also tried some of their local beer. For lunch we enjoyed several different cafes. Our only gripe would be the lack of ice in our drinks. We quickly learned ice in Europe is hard to come by.
On our second day we visited the Tower of London. Having read "The Other Boleyn Girl", I was particularly excited to see the place where Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded. The tower also houses all of the crown jewels. I was surprised to see how many different crowns they had, including the coronation crown worn by every past King or Queen at their coronation ceremony.
Our afternoon on the second day was spent shopping. I most enjoyed the European fashion at Top Shop and Primark, even picking up a few items for myself. And you can't go to London without a trip to Harrods. I have never seen a department store quite like this one. It even puts the Macy's in New York to shame. Best of all they have a tea room on the top floor, where we partook in afternoon tea!
Dinner our second night was at the Bleeding Heart's Tavern restaurant. It was very quiet and romantic. Restaurants in Europe have a different idea of service than restaurants in the US. Instead of checking on you every few minutes and asking if you are ready for your check, they bring you your food, and let you sit and relax until you ask for the check. When you come to a restaurant in Europe, your table is yours for as long as you would like.
Day three started with an audio guided tour of Westminster Abby. We saw the stage where every king and queen of England were coronated, Princess Diana's funeral took place, and where Will and Kate would stand and say their vows just two weeks later. Westminster houses the tombs of around 3,000 people, including Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scotts, Issac Newton and Charles Darwin. I had no idea the cathedrals in Europe were also burial grounds.
We couldn't resist taking a ride on the London Eye, where we got some beautiful views of the city.
Our final stop in London was the Prince Edward Theater where we saw the London cast of Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I can't say enough good things about this show! The story is interesting and the music is amazing. We were singing the songs the whole trip.
London still had so much more to offer, we did a ton and still only scraped the surface. I guess that means we'll need to make a return trip some day...
May 5, 2011
New York City was the first stop on our vacation last month. We spent two nights in The Big Apple to break up our flight overseas. While we were there we met up with Gary's childhood friend, Stanton, and his wife Erin. Stanton and Erin are both in theater and live in Queens. Our first night in town, they took us to a "speakeasy" in West Village. The building was just a white brick building, covered with graffiti. It had a door and no windows. From the outside it looked like an abandoned business, but when Stanton led us inside and downstairs, a hip bar packed with people emerged.
On our second day Gary and I enjoyed some sightseeing around the city. We took a cruise around the island of Manhattan, visited the New York Public Library, ate lunch at Grand Central Station, rode an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building, and strolled through Central Park.
On our last night in town Stanton and Erin invited us to their apartment for dinner. They cooked an amazing vegetarian chili and we talked about Rob Bell's new book, "Love Wins".
Life in the city is much different than life in Little Rock. We loved seeing how Stanton and Erin live. It's so interesting how every place you go is so unique. We hope to have the opportunity to go back to NYC some day and enjoy more pizza, shopping, and maybe a Broadway show.