Tuesday, July 10, 2012

European adventures

Before leaving Europe, we decided to squeeze in a few more last minute adventures. Boys have really become seasoned travellers now but I think we have the Apple company to thank for that (ipod technology). Don't know what we'd do if it weren't for "books on tape" (wow, isn't that an antique phrase?). We can plug them in (the boys, that is) and take them anywhere.

On top of the Arc de Triomphe
Our flat in Paris
We hadn't been to Paris in 12 years (since pregnant with Clark) and I can't say I have wonderful memories from there. I believe it was the first foreign speaking country I ever visited some 21 years ago and I remember my nervousness finding my way around this huge city alone on the metro with not so friendly people or waitstaff so I wasn't sure what it would be like. Either things have changed or my perspective has. Paris is just wonderful for kids, especially in nice weather as the city abounds with enormous parks filled with play areas and ponds, stunning architecture, delicious bakeries, and many fun transportation options, all easy and accessible. 

Boys in Paris

Pack 144 scouts in Paris
We arranged to meet our friends the Maclean's (from Seattle) at the very center of Paris in front of Notre Dame and although about a half hour late (we've become very Spanish), we easily found Brendan, waiting patiently for us. The kids were so excited to see their friends and we spent the day happily moving between famous monuments (Luxembourg Gardens, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tour) until nightfall. Sadly we missed the Eurocup final game (Spain vs. Italy) but were thrilled to hear that España made the win.

Floating the boats in Luxembourg Gardens

Outside the Louvre Museum
The next day we met up at the very crowded Louvre Museum to view the Mona Lisa but the boys much preferred playing outside, trying to scandalously collect coins thrown in to the fountains for good luck. We also bounced on the in-ground trampolines in the Tuileries Gardens nearby and then had a wonderful lunch out followed by a late dinner back near Rue Mouffetard.

Fun on the Bauteaux Mouche

Dining at Le Descartes
More touristy travels the next day, following a lovely Parisian breakfast of café au lait, chocolat chaud et croissants. We walked to the Pantheon and then the Catacombs but the line was too long so we opted to ride the Bateaux Mouche on the Seine while the Macleans headed to Sacre Coeur.

Swiss Alps
Boys hiking the trail
Friendly mountain sheep
Early the next morning both families hopped on corresponding trains to meet up hours later in the Swiss town of Zermatt where Collette had organized an amazing 5 day mountain hike from "hut-to-hut" in the surrounding Swiss Alps. It was beyond memorable with some wonderful (albeit strenuous) hiking and amazing vistas throughout. Highlights included being followed by sheeps and mountain goats, delicious food at the mountain huts and spending time with our Seattle buddies, the Macleans. Boys got along famously which made the trip that much more fun for everyone.  

Opa in the Alps
Opa's view overlooking the Matterhorn
On the third day of our hike we built a big cairn in Opa's honor on a hill near Schonbielhutte with a spectacular view overlooking the Matterhorn. The boys had fun building the tower and we buried some of Opa's ashes inside as well as scattered some on the surrounding hillside. We also picked some local flowers and grasses that he loved so well. It was a powerful memory and one I hope the boys treasure.

We are now happily ensconsed in Amsterdam, Holland where Nat's brother Colin the Elder has lived for the past 25 years. It is an amazing city of canals, bicycles and diversity with plenty of things to see and do. We are also getting a gentle welcome back to rainy weather as the skies have been cloudy and gray with rain bursts as well as sunshine.

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