Thursday, October 14, 2010

Paris Finale: Here’s to Clichés

On our final day in Paris we had just one goal... to get a picture of the Munchkin in front of the Eiffel Tower.

But I didn't want just any picture. I wanted an iconic picture. I didn't care how clichéd or staged, I wanted Madeline wearing a black and white stripped shirt and a beret.

We took about a MILLION pictures, but I think we definitely got some AWESOME shots!

And my personal favorite...

Pretty good, non?

After we finished our mini photo session, we made our way over to the Jardin du Luxembourg. A beautiful park in the middle of Paris, it was a great place to have a picnic lunch and watch the ducks swim around the fountain.

It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend!

So that was the end of our time in Paris, but not in Europe.

More on those adventures soon,


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


It's 4:30 am.

My Dad will be in to wake me in about 15 minutes.

I've been awake for about 20 minutes now.

My body knows it's time to go, and just wants to get the whole thing over with.

Yes, I know I have not finished tellling the tales of Miss M and my adventures over here, but those will have to wait until I get home.

Cause today's the day.

God I hate departure day!

Even though I am excited to get home and see my hubby, who I miss and I know misses me terribly...

Even though I know it's definately not the last visit we'll make...

Even though I'm looking forward to getting back to our routine and my own bed...

Jeez, I hate departure day!

I start to dread it a couple days before.

My stomach starts to tie up in knots, cause I know the inevitable is coming.

It used to be hard to say goodbye, knowing I wouldn't see my parents until...

But now it's worse...

I have an international family.

We are spread all over kingdom come.

I've always kinda loved that.

All the potential vacation destinations!

But now...

I have a friend whose family lives in England, and she said something to me that has really started to sink in as departure day has drawn nearer.

We were talking about how after having children, you really start to miss your family more then ever.

You really start to wish they lived nearer so they could be there to be apart of all the fun and important stuff happening as your child grows.

But, the hardest part she told me were the goodbyes.

"As the children get older" she said, "They start to be aware of saying goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa and then the whole thing just becomes harder."

Aw jeez, I've always hated departure days...

But if it's possible, I think I hate them even more now!!

Had a fantastic time, but the party's over.

Here's to web conferencing!!



Monday, October 11, 2010

Paris Part III – I Couldn’t Stop Smiling!

On my first trip to Paris our group visited Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, located at the summit of Montmartre. Of all the amazing sights I saw on my first trip to Europe, this spot definitely stuck in mind. It has got to be the most amazing European basilica I’ve ever seen. It sits atop the mountain and practically glows in the sunlight, offering breathtaking views of the city below, and an overwhelming feeling of magic and wonder.

Being over 10 years ago and seriously brief, as our teachers quickly redirected us to our next educational experience, I’ve always felt my first visit was somewhat lacking. So I really wanted to go back, see the cathedral again and explore the area properly.

After a morning filled with light and beauty at the Musee D’Orsay I was more then ready for an encore. So we jumped on the nearest Metro line and made our way to the base of Montmartre.

Miracle of miracles, we even managed not to get lost this time!

Exiting our train we found a stairway on our left and an elevator on our right. Now, although we had Madeline in her stroller, we had gotten really good at hefting her up and down the steep stairs, stroller and all, on our many trips through the Metro system (FYI to all my readers with small children, the Paris Metro system is NOT stroller friendly!)

So when faced with a choice between the stairs or having to wait in line for the elevator, we thought, “Ah, no problem, we’ve got this!” I guess more accurately I should say my parents took on the challenge, or at least that is what it turned into. With my Dad carrying the front and Michelle carrying the back we began to climb.

And climb and climb and climb…

This was one SERIOUS set of stairs. It just kept going and going in a never ending spiral. My Dad just kept saying, “One more flight… Ooops, okay… this is the last one… Or maybe not… We’re almost there… Errrrr, or… OKAY THIS IS THE LAST ONE…. oops….”

YIKES! Poor Michelle, she really had the hard part as she had to hold approximately 40 pounds slightly above her head for the entire climb. Good thing she is one fit lady!

FINALLY, we could hear the sounds of the street and see daylight and so with a sign of relief my parents finally put Miss M down and we made our way to the funicular (think cable car/mini railway up the mountain). I mean after climbing from the subway hauling the Munchkin and all her stuff, we had absolutely ZERO intention of climbing up the hundreds of steps to Sacré-Cœur.

Here are Madeline and I in the Funicular car,

She had a lot to “tell” me and point at as our car moved up the hill.

We exited the funicular, walked about 50 steps and TA DA!!

Was I right, or was I right? Every time I look at this picture I get goose bumps and it instantly takes my breath away. It’s just so darn beautiful!

We enjoyed the sights and sounds on the steps of the basilica, including getting a picture of Madeline and I in front of the beautiful view,

and then made our way around behind the church where the Artist’s market was. This is what I was REALLY looking forward to.

As I walked into the square, I wanted to jump up and down like a little kid on Christmas morning. Stationed around the square were about 50 artists displaying their original works. All different styles and colours schemes I felt like a kid in a candy store. I knew I wanted to buy something, but the prices were a bit scary, and there were so many choices it was overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting things to be cheap, after all these are pieces of art lovingly completed by passionate artists, but YIKES! I must have walked around the square three times before I sat down at one of the surrounding cafes to think things over.

While I pondered what I wanted to do I enjoyed a delicious glass of red wine. Here’s the whole fam, soaking up the ambiance.

Ready to get out there again, I got up and made a few more circuits. When I was finished this time I had narrowed it down to three choices, but I still felt undecided and unsure I could afford what I really wanted. Returning again to where Michelle, Dad and Madeline were camped out I sat down with a sigh. Michelle leaned over and asked me what I was thinking. I told her I still wasn’t sure. The paintings were more then I really wanted to spend, and I just couldn’t make up my mind as to which one I was willing to make that kind of investment on.

That’s when my parents dropped the biggest surprise of the whole weekend on me. An announcement that left me smiling for hours and days afterwards.

Michelle told me that she and my Dad had a choice for me. They could either give me some money for my birthday to spend however I wanted, or they would buy me a painting.

Ummm, hard decision right?!?!

So to commemorate the big 3-0 I have coming up Michelle helped me choose the most absolutely gorgeous painting ever.

Here is the man who painted it. His name is George.

Could he look any more like the stereotypical Parisian Artist? He was so sweet I just wanted to squeeze him. I felt shy about taking his picture, so Michelle came with me to ask :)

Here I am holding my treasure. All I wanted to do was sit there and stare at it, but I really had to keep it wrapped up to protect it til I got it home.

But, of course, I wouldn’t dream of closing this post without a picture so you can all enjoy its beauty to. So here it is,

My AWESOME painting of Montmartre.


I can hardly wait to get home and have it framed.

Feeling seriously spoiled!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Paris Part II – Degas, Van Gough and Pissarro, Oh My!

Not to sound snooty, but this mini holiday was actually my third visit to the French capital.

I had my first taste of Paris when I was 17. I scrimped and saved and begged my relatives and friends to give me only money for every conceivable gift giving occasion. All this and some serious help from my parents and grandparents and I was able to go on a ten day March Break trip to Paris and Venice with my school’s travel club. It was a lot of fun and it officially kindled by devotion to all things Europe, but it was definitely a whirlwind trip. We saw all the important sights in record time and the result was I only sort of remembered the experience.

Then the summer I was 20, I was living with my family in Germany, and I met my now husband. At the end of our romantic summer courtship it was time for me to go back to complete my third year of university in Canada. Dreading the looming separation we decided to spend a long weekend in Paris. Again we saw a bunch of the important and interesting sights, while also adding a few neither of us had ever seen before. It was wonderful and romantic and full of laughter.

But at the end of it, there were still a few things I had never done, that I really wanted to do.

So when my Dad sent me an email, before Madeline and I arrived, asking if there was anywhere that I really wanted to go while I was in Europe, my mind kept coming around again and again to those missed opportunities in Paris.

So, it was thanks to my fantastic parents that I found myself in line to enter the Musee D’Orsay at 11:30 in the morning on our first full day. Here I am,

Not only did they make it possible for me to visit this temple of awesomeness, but they also took the Munchkin for some Grandparents Time so I could enjoy the work of the masters to the fullest without interruptions of “Mama? Mama? Mama?” every few minutes.

Parents of the year? I think so!!!!

So I’m waiting in line to enter the Musee. Here was the line,

Ummm, this wasn’t exactly part of the plan. In fact it was a line like this that had kept me from my artistic Mecca in the past. Remember my comment in “Paris Part I” about getting lost?

So, the plan was to get up and get to the museum when it opened at 9:30 am. I’d spend the morning soaking up the colour and brilliance. We’d meet for lunch and then head on to our next fun filled destination.

We started by waking up at 9:00 a.m. By the time we were washed, dressed and had some food in our bellies it was about 10:00 a.m. We were already behind the eight ball, but hey we were in Paris, so whatever, right?

Heading into Gare du Nord, I asked my parents if they knew which subway line we were going to take. “Yup!” my Dad replied, “Got it all mapped out!”


An hour and a half later… after carrying Madeline up and down various stairways… second guessing and stumbling along… consulting and re-consulting maps and signs… ending up on the right train, but going the wrong direction… then find ourselves sitting on the wrong platform, waiting to go the right direction… finally running to the right platform and missing our train by seconds… cursing quietly under our breath while trying to keep our smiles firmly fastened…. we made it to the Musee D’Orsay.

Leaving me in line with a time set to meet, my parents took Madeline off for some Parisian fun of their own.

Luckily for me the line moved really quickly and I was inside the museum in about 20 minutes. Photography and videography are strictly prohibited inside, so unfortunately I can not share the full beauty that is the Musee D’Orsay, but suffice to say that for as amazing as I imagined it would be… it was… and more.

On each of my previous visits to Paris, I’d been on a mission to see the works of my favorite artists. Van Gough, Degas, Monet. Also I was eager to experience the works of artists I had only heard in passing, Pissarro, Cezanne, Toulouse-Letrac. I have a serious love for impressionistic art. The colours, the imagination, the techniques, the genius! It was my assumption that such fabulous works would be housed in the Louvre, but after two visits without ever seeing the masters I was looking for, I figured out that I was looking in the wrong place. Although the Louvre is stuffed to overflowing with many phenomenal works, the pieces I was lusting after were housed elsewhere.

As I entered the museum I was struck by the beauty of the building itself. Housed in an old train station the Musee D’Orsay is GOURGEOUS! The domed ceiling is BREATHTAKING! After taking a few moments to appreciate the architecture, I made a beeline for the impressionist wing.

Not to sound like a teenager but… O.M.G.!!!

Standing inches from pure genius I was utterly giddy. I seriously could not wipe the smile from my face. So much of the brilliance and subtlety of these works just does not translate when you view photos and prints. The work done by Degas has not in the past been my favorite, but in person… I can not even describe the brilliance adequately. The majority of the pieces I saw were done with pastels. I had no idea that that kind of vivid richness could even be achieved using pastels. And the techniques he used?!?! The slightest of scribbles here, a bit of shading there, a combination of colours I would not even dream of to achieve a realism… in the end you have…. well… a masterpiece!

There was just so much to take in!

My three hours spent roaming through the great works was time I will always remember. Discovering new artists I was not previously familiar with. Sitting in front of a marble statue so perfectly carved that the folds of fabric look REAL. Soaking up the quiet beauty and culture, all I can say is that ultimately my long awaited trip to this Paris hotspot was good for my soul. I left feeling inspired, humbled and honestly wanting to take some art classes!

And how was Miss M fairing on her own “Adventures Francais” you might ask? Well…

A visit to a beautiful park in order to enjoy the great weather and pose with Grandpapa for a picture.

Then on to the Louvre for a little education in the classics,

with a quick stopover at the fountain for a little fun with Grandmaman.

Quickly followed by a light lunch, which she kindly shared with the local wildlife.

With a final stop at another beautiful, historic, and fun fountain.

The result, one serious wore out little girl.

The fact that she is sleeping in her stroller is a first and I'm told resulted in an exultant Grandparents high five once achieved.

Our first morning in Paris may have been a bit frustrating and chaotic, bit it was quickly overshadowed, and the evening to come replaced any memory of it completely!

I’ll tell you all about that bit of unbelievable next time, but suffice to say it pretty much ROCKED MY SOCKS!!!

Still dreaming dreams full of colour and beauty,


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Paris Part I – Frappé La Rue

Preface: When my Dad first got together with Michelle, he worked really hard at improving his French. Michelle is French Canadian and so Dad really wanted to improve for when he went home to meet her family. Through hard work and perseverance my Dad’s French improved dramatically, and now he is pretty darn good. However, when learning any language, there are times when a common phrase just doesn’t translate. The title of this post is born from just such an instance.

We were heading out on the long trip to Quebec to see Michelle’s family. Everyone had used the washroom, double checked that they had everything and was safely belted into the car. My Dad looked back at all us kids and said,

“Ready? Alright! Let’s frappé la rue!”

His declaration was met with blank stares and then a burst of laughter from the French speakers in the car. See, “frappé” could translate to “hit”, and “la rue” to “the road”. So my Dad thought he was saying, “Let’s hit the road!”…

Ever heard the saying “Lost in Translation”? Yup…

That day an inside joke was born. So that whenever we are about to embark on a trip as a family, someone will announce, “Alright, let’s frappé la rue!”

Therefore, it is only appropriate that I start this post with the same declaration. Because, “frappé la rue” is exactly what we did. On Friday at noon we picked Michelle up from work, made a quick stop at home and then hit the road, direction Paris.

See, the signs we whizzed by on the high speed European highways confirmed it…

All in all the drive went very smoothly. My pint sized travelling superstar did amazingly.

Four hours on the road, including a traffic-jam right at the end as we drove into the Paris city center, and still smiling! My Dad declared that Madeline was welcome to travel with him anytime. She didn’t start to fuss until the very end, when quite frankly, we were all ready to start whining and crying.

After fighting our way through the CRAZY Parisian traffic, I mean honestly the traffic was terrifying at times, we arrived at our hotel.

The New Hotel.

Umm…. I can’t say it was new, or really anything close to new, but the location was IDEAL. Here is the view from our room.

This is Gare du Nord. One of the main metro/train stations in Paris. So it was a piece of cake to get to our desired locations all weekend.

Well, mostly a piece of cake.

Oh, what the hell. I know my siblings are reading this and shaking their heads. You guys know full well we got lost more then once. It’s not a family vacation unless we get lost!

I’ll be sure to fill you in with the complete details of that adventure and our first day in Paris in my next post.

Enjoying every minute!