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18 December 2012

And Now Our Blitz Trip throughout France

Way back in the October and the beginning of November our kids had their Fall Break.  We decided that France needed to be seen.  And not just a little here and there - the entire country.  I seriously think we are crazy!!  But WOW,  I seriously fell in love with France - what an amazing country with amazing food, amazing people, and amazing sites and history to immerse yourself in. 

Just a side note - these are the pictures of my family, with family stories.  For more pictures of the sites we saw and the information involved with the sites check out my other blog.  Sorry for the hassel!!

After half a day in Paris and an entire day in Disneyland Paris for the kids we headed to ...

NORMANDY


We started our visit at the cliffs above Arromanches, France.  There is a pretty good movie - in the 360* Theater - where there are no words, just music to pictures flashing back to June 1944.  It kind of sets the mood of the D-Day sites.  Poor Emi did not like the film and almost didn't see the next film (at the American Cemetery) because she was quite disturbed with the gruesome images of war and the sorrowful stories that always exist wherever war exists.  Fortunately, the other kids were too young to really understand what everything was really about.

It the above picture doesn't sweet Anika look so reverent and solemn in such a hallowed spot?!  She isn't - she is super mad at us for making her join the picture!  In reality, all she wanted to do was climb down the really steep, extremely dangerous, cliff down to the beach so she could look for sea shells.


The family (minus Miles) at the American Cemetery - such a humbling experience!
There are 9,387 white marble crosses and Stars of David representing individuals who gave their lives to free Europe.  Incredible!


Omaha Beach - below the American Cemetery, which is off to the left


My sweet baby sleeping - too tired to make it home after dinner so we could change him into his P.J.'s. Oh, how I love a sleeping baby!

BAYEUX

We had dinner in Bayeux that night, and spent the next morning seeing the Bayeux Tapestry.  The Tapestry is absolutely AMAZING!  If you ever go see the D-Day sites in France PLEASE go to Bayeux and see the Tapestry!!  It was incredible!  It tells the story of William the Conqueror's rise from duke of Normandy to the king of England.  It shows his victory over Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  It was a huge hit with our kids too - they had this great audio guide which told the story in a silly way while pointing out images in the tapestry that correlated with the story.

MONT SAINT MICHEL


Next stop, Mont Saint Michel.  We decided to walk out first and then take the shuttle back.  It was about 1/2 hour walk with a beautiful view.  Paige made bouquets of flowers for Anika the whole time!


I loved this little town!  I loved the side streets and climbing around the city on the ramparts, seeing all the skinny buildings and alleyways.  We don't look like tourists do we?!  Hah!


Anika, happy as she will ever be with her bouquet of flowers from Paige


My silly girls!


Emi standing in the cloisters

AMBOISE

There are several Château's around Amboise.
We chose one to tour: Chenonceau in the city of Chenonceaux
(both pronounced shuh-nohn-soh)


I love how it is built across a river and how it is designed with arches!  So picturesque!




I love this picture of Miles playing with the kids!



Dad with his boys!

SARLAT

We then drove down to the Dordogne Valley to see the caves.  But first Sarlat - a tiny, traffic-free town, with beautiful cobble-stones streets lined with buildings overflowing with character.  This was where I finally started to see France like I always imagined it would be and where I began to fall in love with it!


Check out this street the kids are on!  I love the old buildings and the ivy crawling up the walls!


The kids found some bird seed and instead of waiting for the birds to come and eat the food they each grabbed a handful in hopes to feed some birds along our walk through the city.


Riding the bronze geese - why not?!
Actually the geese represent the "square of the geese", where they are traded on market days.

We then went to see the Cro-Magnon Cave - something I have wanted to do since AP Art History in High School.  We had our heart set on going to the Grotte de Font-de-Gaume but when we drove up to the parking lot it was completely empty.  Seriously?!  This one is the only one left open to the public that is REAL, I mean real prehistoric paintings.  Instead we drove to Lascaux where they are just replica's.  Probably safer since we have 5 children and we didn't want to ruin anything.  The replica's were pretty impressive and pretty much identical to the real deal, so it wasn't too disappointing.

BEYNAC


These pictures DO NOT do this town justice.  PLEASE check out my other blog to see all the neat pictures so you can get a better feel for the city.  I love, love, loved this town!


In-between Beynac and the Aqueduct at Pont du Gard we visited Carsonne and ate dinner in the medieval castle grounds.  We walked around the castle at night and pretended we were all fighting bad guys by shooting our bow and arrows at them from atop the city walls.

PONT du GARD


One of Miles' dreams come true!
This place was fascinating to us!  It was built in 19 B.C.,  was 30 miles long, and dropped one inch every 350 feet!  How in the world did they do that?!  It brought in 9 million gallons of water per day - unbelievable!!   That is around 100 gallons per second.  Really!


One HAS to have a picture like this - look everyone, I'm touching the roman aqueduct!

We also saw a Roman Theater in ORANGE and then headed to ...

LES BAUX


This was a huge surprise to us!  This Castle was built on a super high cliff, out of rocks, in the middle of nowhere, 650 feet above the valley.  It is referred to as the "Dead City", describing what it is now in comparison to what it used to be in the Middle Ages when it controlled 80 towns.  It was destroyed in 1483 by the French King,  rebuilt as a Protestantism center, and then destroyed again (and finally) in 1632 under King Louis VIII.

The kids absolutely LOVED running around, exploring, climbing on and jumping off everything, and giving me a heart attack because I seriously thought they were going to fall off the cliff and die!


Trying out the catapult!


Some poor unfortunate prisoners with their proud, happy captors

ARLES

For all those Art History peeps out there, this is where Vincent Van Gogh is buried and where he got a lot of his inspiration for his paintings.  This city was really neat to wander around, to see sites from Van Gogh's life and also a bunch of Roman ruins, including this Roman Arena ...


Miles has a little obsession with Roman Ruins!  I, too, love Roman Ruins but I absolutely love Art History.  I hope our children get the best of both of us, and are well-rounded.


Our cute little Anika!


Emi and Paige walking down a random street ... can't you just picture Van Gogh painting one of these buildings with all the bright colors?!


AVIGNON

I honestly didn't really know much about Avignon before we came ... once Miles taught me about how there were two Popes at one time and how there was a huge debate I was slightly ashamed that I was so ignorate about the whole thing.  Notice how I say slightly ... was there any art involved? j/k


Oh, French baguette how I love you and how I vow never to buy another American baguette again!  I also have to laugh at this picture because we bought 2 and got the 3rd one free.  The first 2 were so soft and fresh and delicious that we quickly ate them.  The 3rd on the other hand, was hard and not so fresh, and ended up being the one we 'accidentally' saved for Miles.  Sorry, hun!!


This picture is for Evan - he thought it was so funny that this field had so many scarecrows.  He just laughed and laughed about it and made sure I got a picture.  He is such a silly kid!


Dad reading about the history of Avignon ... with Paige SUPER interested


Anika with St. Bénezet Bridge in the background.  It was built between 1171 and 1185 and was the only bridge crossing the mighty Rhône in the Middle Ages.

Paris & Disneyland


Miles and I went to Paris with my parents a while back without our kids.  With this trip we really wanted to just show our kids the BIG highlights of Paris.  It was seriously FREEZING!!  I had ordered nice new winter coats for the kids (in preparation for this trip) but they didn't come in time.  The kids were seriously cold!!  Good thing we only toured Paris for 1/2 a day.  We basically just saw Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and The Arc de Triomphe.



View from the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower!


After climbing to the second floor of the Eifell Tower (it was too cold to wait in line and go up any higher) we came down and ran into a man feeding these cute little birds.  I don't know what language he spoke but we had several conversations with him regardless  :)  He let my kids 'help' him feed the birds - he was so sweet to share his bread crumbs and slowly back away and let them try for a while on their own.  Thank You unknown man, you made our kids trip worth-while and memorable!!  We spent an hour trying to feed them!  The kids LOVED it so much and could have stayed forever.







Honestly, our kids did NOT want to see the Arc de Triomphe - they were just really excited that there was a McDonalds down the street that they spotted as soon as we emerged from the Subway.  Hah!


DISNEYLAND PARIS


Yup, Disneyland was FREEZING too!  But that didn't stop my cute little Snow White from enjoying her special day as a Princess in Disneyland.  I love my little girl!







Happy 1 Year Baby!


This cute little guy turned the big ONE!

I can't believe last year at this time I was finally able to hold him in my arms after a LONG 9 months of pregnancy - he was so little and so cute!  I couldn't get enough of him then and still love cuddling him. Our family would not be the same without this cute little man in our lives.  He is such a character and such a joy to have around!

Here are a few things he has been up to!
* He loves throwing things - even chap-stick during piano lessons
* Whenever someone leaves the gate open this little guy crawls as fast as he can so he can climb the stairs (the scary, dangerous wooden stairs in our home)
* He is already a picky eater (seriously? come on, you're only one)
* He loves his daddy and it's about the cutest thing in the world when he crawls to his dad after work!
* He loves to cuddle, especially at night when getting ready for bed.  Doesn't get any better than that!
* He loves clapping for himself!  Everyone needs someone clapping for them, right?
* He loves performing for his siblings - waving, blowing kisses, giving 'five' and just standing
* He has taken two VERY uncontrolled steps but refuses to do it again
* He gives the BEST hugs!  It makes your whole day when he hugs you!
* His curl at the nap of his neck will probably never be cut because we love it so much.

Happy Birthday Baby!