Sunday, December 26, 2010

Skype, saving sanity one Christmas at a time!

I needed to share at least one photo - one of the most important photos taken this Christmas. 

Thanks to the wonder of Skype, we were able to spend Christmas Eve "with" Christopher - and thanks to his smiling face, it was a happy christmas, once again.

Merry Christmas, Boy Wonder...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Delayed Honeymoon: Oui Oui, Husband & Me

ack, cheesiest title ever, but humor me please! The creative juices are flowing, so I'm going to truck out these Honeymoon posts and have fun remembering the silly, funny moments of our trip!

Day 4 was to begin with Notre Dame and you'd better believe there was quite the agenda planned! Sneakers were a must, and it was time to tackle the metro! First things first, out of the hotel and into John & Stacy's apartment.  This was one of the most wonderful experiences, as their apartment was like a home away from home, with a great guest room and puppy! Oh, and there were trees! The middle of Paris, and we were walking through gardens and trees!

Notre Dame is free to visit, so the line is quite long - we got there about 9am, which was when it opened.  Thank goodness it was a nice day out, as we waited in line for about 30 minutes.  Actually, that is not entirely accurate.  Kevin waited in line, and I took pictures.

Once inside, we caught the beginning of services, which run about every 90 minutes through the tourist season. The amount of history in one building, in addition to the number of people inside, was astounding! More than a dozen stained glass windows allow plenty of light into the church, and attract your eye from all sides! My attempt at an "artsy" photo didn't turn out quite as well as I wanted <----, but, I think I like it! Plans to climb to the top of the church were dashed by the multiple hour long line, and the 10 Euros per person.

Instead, we walked around outside and hopped back on the Yellow line to Invalides!  I couldn't help but think of Christopher for most of the 3 hours we spent at L'Hôtel national des Invalides - it was history geek central! The quantity and beauty of the cannons, tanks, uniforms, and general memorbilia was astounding! And when you were done with the contents of the buildings, the gardens, courtyard, and general construction was beautiful!

Oh, and we weren't done yet! After a quick lunch, we had the afternoon to spend at the Louvre! Even with map in hand, we were hopelessly lost for the better part of an hour.  But what a beautiful place to be lost! We mostly did the "highlights" tour - Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, Wedding Feast at Cana, Winged Victory, and Slave by Michelangelo. I had heard before that the Mona Lisa was a bit anti-climactic, and I was very sorry to see that those opinions were correct.  While it is beautiful, the amount of glass and surrounding material takes away from the beauty, and being 5 feet away makes it hard to really enjoy.  I must admit that Winged Victory was my favorite, and you're able to get so close!

...but the day isn't over yet!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Delayed Honeymoon: End of Le Tour & Day 3

The stools, as suggested by John & Stacy, were worth their weight in gold by the time the racers came through! Even 3, 4, 5 deep on the sidewalks, there was plenty of opportunity for wonderful photos when you were 2 feet above everyone else's heads! We took turns standing on the stool each lap - and it was worth it!

 After lap 6, we left our spot on the sidewalk and jog/walked to the low end of the Champs for a better vantage point for the final ceremonies! The stage faces one direction, and there is a very very large screen which faces the opposite direction for spectators.  Again, thanks to the stools, I was able to take some photos and really see what was going on!

A wonderful, long day - goodbyes to John & Stacy until the next morning, and Kevin and I were headed back to the hotel! We showered in the odd triangle shower, used the most awful smelling soap, and were starving!!! Dressed up for dinner, we headed back to the Champs to dine outside in Paris.  Nothing more romantic than that, right?

Well... almost.  Romantic to watch the sun set behind the Arc, but the hustle and bustle of the Champs isn't exactly what I had anticipated! Great food, wine, & company more than made up for it though!

Goodnight to Day 3, tomorrow we move to John & Stacy's apartment and start the two days of jam packed sight seeing!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Delayed Honeymoon: Tour de France

Good Morning Paris! Waking up in this beautiful, bustling city, was so exciting! A short walk to John & Stacy's Apartment was a great way to see a few blocks of the city and wake-up after our late night at the Arc! Oh, and we may have also walked past several team vehicles on our way...

Happy hubby and Team RadioShack's Bus
John & Stacy did Le Tour last year, and were great experienced tour guides.  I never would have imagined that we needed to be on the Champs by 10am, with towels, stools, reading material, and food! Thank goodness for friends, right? We rotated back and forth with John & Stacy, taking turns walking, shopping, getting food for the few hours while there wasn't any action.  Then, about 1pm, the sponsors parade comes through! Sponsors from the teams, best young rider sponsor, king of the mountains, etc all had multiple vehicles come through! I'm sure it's just more exposure for the sponsors, but it was great fun for the spectators as well!

Team Livestrong

Spectators on the Champs Elysees - 2 hours before race time

The racers do 7 laps on the Champs, and we were on the downhill side - about 2 feet from the riders! Oh yes, this was going to be an exciting afternoon.

<3 J

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Delayed Honeymoon: To Paris!

A busy and event filled day in Amsterdam was a wonderful prelude to a relaxing train ride to Paris. We decided to take the TGV because it was fastest means of transportation, and also didn't require us figuring out how to rent a car in Europe. 

We loaded up on the TGV, said goodbye to Anneke and Peter, and enjoyed First Class seats.  Believe me, I wouldn't spring for First Class on a regular basis, but this was our honeymoon!

Anneke, Peter, KG, Me
It's only about a 3 hour trip from Amsterdam Central to Paris Nord, and we were charged up and ready to go by the time we got off the train! The only problem was, I wasn't so keen on using the bathroom on the moving train, and once we got to Paris, it was going to cost me a Euro.  It really wasn't how much it cost, it was just a matter that I needed to pay for it! So, you'd better believe I was going to take a picture of it.

Welcome to Paris, here's the bathroom in the train station.  Yep, my husband thought I was crazy.  Oh well, he was bound to find out my secrets, sometime, right? Onward and more exciting - finding our way out of the train station, and to a taxi.  Absolutely overpaid for the taxi to our hotel, which was directly across the street from Starbucks.  Right, we're in Paris and so far all I've seen is a bathroom and Starbucks, really?

I am admittedly a hotel snob, and the Renaissance in Amsterdam was great, so 123 Elysees had a lot to live up to.  An itty bitty elevator and/or 4 flights of circular stairs stood between us and our room.  Yep, the pink room.
 Quick luggage drop, an awesome map from the concierge, and a two block walk.  Wait, we're two blocks from the Champs, man I did good! And at 11 o'clock at night, there was no shortage of people walking, eating, shopping, getting pepper sprayed (I'll come back to this). 

The good news is, the city of Paris installed some wonderful stairs and tunnels to access the Arc de Triomphe, so people don't need to run across 8 lanes of traffic.  Although, you'd just get a ticket, if you even survived the crossing.  A quick chat with another couple, an exchange of cameras, and the Arc!

We needed a good night's sleep before we moved on to the rest of the agenda on honeymoon day 3.

<3 J