I have always enjoyed traveling, even if it meant sleeping in a tent when I was younger. I prefer hotels and cruise cabins now, but the motivation is the same...an adventure waiting to happen. Sometimes you will find me traveling with my husband and/or family. Sometimes I will travel alone, and sometimes I will travel with friends. I hope you find it entertaining to keep up to date with me as I explore the world around me. Warning...I like to take pictures of food so don't read if you're hungry. More adventures await...see ya soon...Amy.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Paris, France: Our Last Day

This morning we caught the train to Paris! We arrived around lunch time and took a taxi to the hotel. Our room was ready and after leaving our bags we left to find a place for lunch. We ate close by at Au Verre Siffleur. It was delicious! Danny had lamb and I had a nice cut of beef with a peppery cream sauce. After lunch we went back to the hotel to nibble on some of the sweets we have picked up along the way, drink a little espresso and enjoy our balcony. We walked to Montparnasse Tower and went up to the observation deck to see over the city. It is 56 floors up and a great view! We then walked over to Luxembourg Gardens. I have always wanted to watch the little sailboats on the water and today didn't disappoint. From there we found my favorite macaron shop, Pierre Herme. I had to stand in line today but it was worth it! Danny found the crepe stand in front of the St Germain church. We have always wanted to try their crepes and today's crepe sucre (sugar crepe) was delicious!! We then went to stand in line for Relais de l'Entrecote. We got there about 6:45 which is perfect timing for the opening at 7. As usual, it was delicious!!! We took the metro back to our hotel and are all packed up to go home tomorrow. It has been a wonderful and memorable trip!!

Bordeaux, France: After the Wedding

This morning Danny and I slept in a bit after such a late night and had a light breakfast. We were to go back to the winery for "brunch" but their brunch is timed for 12 which we would call lunch. Anna told us that she was told that many wouldn't be at the brunch until 1 or later so we timed our arrival for 1 to allow Anna a few extra minutes of sleep because she didn't get home until 5 a.m. There were a lot of problems securing a taxi. Brunch was delicious with more champagne, chicken, beef, and egg dishes and delicious strawberry and apple tarts. We enjoyed this time visiting with our family members before we all scattered to go back to our homes. We are excited that our cousin, Martin, will come to visit us next year if all goes well. He wants to be a farmer and fortunately we know a lot of people with farms that would like a young, interested worker for awhile in the summer. After brunch we toured the winery before driving back to Bordeaux. Danny dropped us off near the hotel and then took the rental car back to the airport. When he returned we walked some more to see the last Porte we hadn't seen. We met Renee and Anna for dinner but skipped dessert in lieu of Amorino, my favorite gelato stop. We are back in the hotel and preparing to go to Paris on the train on the morning. Until tomorrow....

Bordeaux, France: A Wedding Day

We woke up to a partly cloudy morning. It's a perfect day for the wedding of Laurène to Benjamin! Danny and I ate breakfast and then he left to take a taxi to the airport to pick up the rental car. Anna didn't sleep well so she and Renee were having a slower morning. I went for a walk to see some churches and another Porte (Portal). I walked for about an hour and a half until Danny told me he was back at the hotel. I went back to the hotel and together we walked more in the city taking in the architecture. We went back to the hotel to get dressed for the wedding and to pick up Anna and Renee. We stopped at Paul on the way to the car and grabbed a picnic lunch which we ate in the car. The wedding was located about a half hour from Bordeaux at a little stone church in La Brede. The name of the church was Eglise St. Jean d'Etampes. We arrived around 3 and waited outside with the other guests and our family members. We were still outside when Benjamin and his brother, Valentin, drove up in a vintage Porsche! When Cathy arrived, we all went into the church to await the bride who was driven to the church by her uncle, Christophe. The mothers were escorted into the church and then Laurène was escorted in by her grandfather, Ton Ton Michel. Laurène was beautiful in a custom made gown with a lace bodice, her hair twisted up with little white flowers. Benjamin also looked very handsome. Their son Lucas was attended by Benjamin's sister and behaved very well during the ceremony. We didn't hear a peep out of him! The ceremony was performed in French of course and although we didn't understand the words, we did understand the elements of the ceremony and the tender and emotional moments between Laurène and Benjamin. They are such a precious couple. They asked Danny to sing during the ceremony and he sang Michael W. Smith's Agnus Dei but he sang it in French! Our family said his accent was perfect and he was told by several people and family members, including Laurène and Benjamin, how much they enjoyed his song. After the ceremony, we waited outside the church and threw rose petals at the couple as they exited. They visited with all of their family and friends before getting in the Porsche to leave for the winery where the reception would be held. There was some trouble getting the car to start, but with a little help they were on their way. When we arrived at the winery, the couple were having pictures taken while we began with a cocktail and aperitifs event. There was water with fruit in it and Champagne. Waiters walked around with trays of small bites as we waited for all of the wedding pictures to be completed. The dinner was next and began at 8:30. We were served our first course sometime after 9 but we weren't super hungry because of all of the little bites we had been given. Throughout the meal we were entertained with slideshows first of Benjamin and then later of Laurène. After dessert, which was served around 1 a.m. I think, we watched a compilation of short videos that we had all contributed to. These were of us toasting the couple with wine that we had also gifted to them in lieu of a guest book. By 1:30, it was time for the reception. We watched Laurène dance with her grandfather and then he danced with Cathy. When everyone started dancing, Danny, Renee and I decided that we would like to head back to the hotel. We left Anna to stay at the reception and she was able to get a very late cab back to the hotel. She arrived back about 5 a.m. but I'm pretty sure we were asleep by 3 a.m. It was such a wonderful and perfect wedding day! We were all so happy that we made the trip to be a part of it!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bordeaux, France: Arrival Day

We were up early for a 7:04 train to Bordeaux. We were surprised upon arriving at the train station to find the front of the station completely roped off and military men with oozie rifles keeping people away. This meant that we had to walk around the entire, very large train station and enter from the back. So I guess we got a good start with our exercise for today. I certainly sweated enough! We found a patisserie open for breakfast and purchased a Quiche Lorraine and a Pain au Chocolat for breakfast on the train. The train ride was long but we enjoyed views of little towns and fields of lavender and sunflowers along the way. The Bordeaux train station is a mess right now as construction is happening everywhere. Our train was one hour delayed and when we finally found the taxi line there were no taxis to be found! We ended up taking an uber which worked out just fine. It was 4:00 before we were settled in the hotel and we left to go and find some lunch. The lunch we ate was terrible at least for me. I didn't eat it and instead I ate Amorino ice cream while we were wandering. We went to Eglise Notre Dame Bordeaux and it was beautiful. We stayed long enough for me to try and take a few pictures but it was very dark in the church. We also located the place that Danny will park the car tomorrow when he goes to the airport and rents it. We wandered all over the city and found some of the old city gates. These are HUGE arched openings that are found around the old city. We also toured the Cathedral Saint-Andre also known as the Cathedral Bordeaux. It was intriguing to us that the main entrance is on the side of the church and that the front of the church is just a plain door. It was also very beautiful inside. I've seen so many beautiful Cathedrals and churches that the details all begin to run together, but that doesn't stop me from seeing as many as I can during my travels. We went back to the hotel to change for dinner and met Cathy, Bernard, Guillome and Ton Ton Michel for supper. Renee and Anna also came in from Paris and joined us. We had a delightful supper at Chez Jean nearby and caught up on all of the wedding details. Tomorrow is the wedding day of Laurene and Benjamin. We cannot wait! Until tomorrow....

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lyon, France: A day of discovery

Today we ate breakfast here at the hotel around 8:30. We set out walking in a different direction and found ourselves in the "art district" quite by accident. This was really fun for me because I enjoy looking for street art. I saw one that I recognize from Paris, Space Invader. He does tile mosaics that he applies high on walls. While looking for graffiti, I stepped off of the short curb, twisted my ankle and fell onto my knee. I wasn't injured other than a torn pair of blue jeans and a scraped and bloody knee. I picked myself up, got a big hug from Danny and we went on our way. I will pay more attention to what my feet are doing now! We saw the Hotel de Ville which is their City Hall. We went to the Voisin chocolate shop which is the oldest in Lyon. We think it rivals if not tops Maison du Chocolat! We found another Traboule and climbed stairs to a park named Croix Mousse. We heard a group of little children singing Old McDonald in French. It was adorable! Just like Montmartre in Paris, this area had lots and lots of stairs!! We then wandered and found a very interesting, abandoned church named Eglise Bon Pasteur. It was interesting because it was never used! The front door was 10 feet above the street! There was supposed to be a stairway built to it but it would have involved demolishing the military barracks across the street and the Lyon people would not have that! You would think they would have figured that out before they built the thing! The art school is now in those barracks and the beautiful stone church is completely abandoned. It was completed in the late 1800's. From there we went down more steps and looked out over the ruins  of a Roman Amphitheater said to be the first to use wild animals to martyr Christians. We were quite hungry with all of our walking and settled on pizza for lunch. We sampled some of our chocolates for dessert and determined that they were delicious and that we needed more. We walked back to Voisin and bought chocolates for gifts and ourselves! We then went on a walk across the Rhone River to another part of Lyon to find the Chocolatier, Berthillon. He is a bean to bar chocolatier and I am a fan of his large tablets of chocolate. After visiting his shop, we walked back over the river a different way to go back to the hotel for a rest and to drop off our chocolate so it wouldn't melt! On the way we found a beautiful old church, Eglise Saint Bonaventure. The interior was dark which made the light coming through the stained glass all the more beautiful. We were very impressed with the wall of stone carvings in the chapel for Mary and also the Chapel for Jesus. The organ was behind the altar instead of over the front entrance. It was just beautiful and we are so glad we stopped in. After taking a good rest at the hotel, we walked a different direction to find a sculpture I had read about. We also stopped at Starbucks! We go to Starbucks because we are pretty certain that if we order decaf we will receive that. In French coffee shops there is no decaf so we can't go there, as much as we would like to. We found Place Antonin Placet which is where a Belltower stands that is the only remaining part of the Charity Hospital that was once there. This was also where there is a sculpture of a giant bunch of flowers, and I am serious about giant! This sculpture is created by a Korean artist, Jeong-Hwa-Choi and is named appropriately, The Flower Tree. We wandered our way back to the hotel, always choosing different streets simply out of curiosity. For dinner we went to Le Maison Marie. The owner met us, seated us, discussed the all in French menu with us and served us! She was delightful. Danny had an appetizer of peppers and zucchini purée. He had pork belly for his meal but didn't expect as much fat on his pieces. It was supposed to be slow cooked, but I would have liked it cooked longer. I had a chicken breast with chorizo stuffed under the skin. It was delicious! For dessert we both had the chocolate mousse which was served over a thin praline cookie. The dessert was dark and yummy! We are back at the hotel, packing and preparing for a very early morning. We will catch the 7:00 train for Bordeaux tomorrow as the wedding weekend is about to begin! Until tomorrow...,

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lyon, France: Arrival Day

We had an early train to catch today for Lyon and the hotel was very accommodating to make sure that we received breakfast a full half hour before it was to begin serving. We took the hotel transportation to the airport and arrived at the train station just a few minutes before the train pulled in. We had plenty of time to find our car and seats before the train pulled away from the station. We took a taxi from the train station to our hotel, The Hotel Carlton Lyon. Our room was not ready but we just left our bags and went next door to lunch. Lunch was more expensive than we anticipated, but really good! Danny ate a gourmet cheeseburger and I had Veal Schnitzel and fries. After lunch we walked into the old part of town and toured through a couple of old churches. The first one we happened upon and was named Saint Nizier. The outside of the building was very cool, very large and very asymmetrical.  It was pretty inside as well. There is something about these churches and cathedrals that intrigues me. They are beautiful works of art. The next one we went to was a Roman Catholic Cathedral that is the seat of the Archbishop  in Lyon. Cathedral Saint Jean Baptiste was also quite large and beautiful. It contains a beautiful astronomical clock dating from 1661. We waited along with several other people to hear it chime but discovered that an Iranian man broke it in 2013 by hitting it with an iron bar. He was arrested and claimed that the splendor of the clock prevented him from concentrating on prayer!! After our disappointing wait on the clock, we went to find the Amorino that we had passed. I was the only one who got gelato this time. The girl who dipped it was extra generous considering I bought the tiniest come. We then went up the funiculaire to the church on the hill, La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere. This church was unbelievable inside. It was beautiful with extensive mosaics, carvings, painting and stained glass. It surprised us that it was built with private funds. It is a newer church as it was completed by 1884. After admiring the interior of the church we went back down the hill and found some Traboules. These are hidden passageways that were used by the silk traders to transport silk in bad weather and also by the Resistance against the Germans in WW II. The doors literally look like just and old door that would lead to someone's home but it leads to a corridor. Many of them go through people's private property and all passageways are locked at 7:30 for people's privacy. We hope to find more of them tomorrow. We went back to the hotel to rest a bit before dinner. We ate dinner at Fiston and had a memorable meal. Danny had wanted to try something unique to the area ordered Quenelles which is a dumpling made with diced Pike fish. It is so finely diced that you never get a bite of fish. It is served on a sauce and he said it was delicious! He also ate an appetizer of foie gras with fig chutney. I abstained from both of those, no surprise there. I had my usual piece of steak but this was served with traditional Lyonnaise potatoes. They are stack, thinly sliced potatoes baked between layers of cream (and probably butter too). They were delicious. For dessert I ordered half cooked chocolate cake which was basically a melting cake. Danny had the winner, tiramisu with red fruits. This kind of tiramisu does not have coffee in it. The red fruits gave a unique tart flavor that mixed well with the ladyfingers and sweet cream. We are back at the hotel and anticipating a fun day tomorrow. Until then....

Nice, France: A full day

Today was our last day and the only full day in Nice. We ate breakfast around 8 here at the hotel and made a phone call to check on our luggage. They said the luggage was on a plane from Paris and should arrive in Nice around 9. It would be brought to our hotel by 1. We were excited and I was particularly looking forward to getting some shoes on my feet that didn't hurt me. We walked and climbed a lot of stairs to Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill) which has a beautiful overlook over the coastline and the city. It was the first area of Nice to be inhabited by the Greeks more than two millennia ago. It is now a lovely park that attracts locals and tourists alike. From there we wandered back down into the old town and visited a couple of old Cathedrals. We stopped for lunch at Le Romarin where I had pizza and Danny ate Socca (chickpea crepe) with a chicken Caesar salad. After lunch we ate Fenocchio gelato for dessert! They have tons of flavors making it difficult to choose. We bought incredibly delicious strawberries at the market in Cours Saleya and then went back to the hotel to drop off the strawberries and see if our luggage had arrived. Our luge still wasn't there. We made another phone call and this person said the luggage would arrive in 24-48 hours. We leave tomorrow morning!!!! We went back out to visit the Le Negressco which is a beautiful old 5 star swanky hotel. The elevators have red velvet quilted walls and each floor is decorated with beautiful pieces of art. We rode the elevator up to the top floor and took the stairs back down, stopping to admire the art along the way. Danny was looking everywhere for a crepe shop and we finally found a little place that fired up the crepe maker for him. There was another church we wanted to see that didn't open until the afternoon. We found it but no photography was allowed. It was very much an Italian influenced church with beautiful paintings covering the walls and ceilings. We decided that if our luggage didn't arrive that we would definitely need another shirt or two. We stopped at H & M and discovered that the best way to get your luggage back is to buy more clothes! As soon as we paid for our new clothes we received a phone call that our luggage was at the hotel! We walked back to the hotel and stopped at Amorino gelato along the way. It's one of my favorite gelato shops. They scoop the gelato (as many flavors as you would like) into a flower on a cone. I got chocolate, salted caramel, speculoos, passion fruit, and raspberry. An odd combination but it works! After resting our weary feet and celebrating the return of our luggage (and my shoes!), we walked to dinner at Le Bacchus which was located near the hotel. It was delicious!!! Another tripadvisor recommendation done well. We started our meal with roasted Brie in bread that had been soaked with honey and rosemary. It was so delicious! Danny ate duck breast with goat cheese and pine nuts and I had entrecôte and frites. We skipped dessert in lieu of gelato later in the evening. After dinner we walked back to the sea to listen to the tinkling rocks one last time. We sat and enjoyed the waves coming in and out and watched the ferry boat come into port. We went back to Amorino for another round of gelato before returning to the hotel to pack and turn in for an early night. We have an early train in the morning. So until tomorrow...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Nice, France: Arrival Day

We are excited to make this trip back to France for our French cousins, Laurene and  Benjamin's wedding in Bordeaux on Saturday! Danny and I will visit Nice and Lyon before the wedding and return to Paris after the wedding for our flight home. We arrived at the airport in Jackson to find our flight to Nice delayed by two hours. This would certainly cause a problem with our connecting flight to Nice so Delta got us on the earlier flight that had also been delayed but would now leave at approximately the time our originally scheduled flight would leave. We thought this was wonderful until we showed up in Nice and our suitcases did not. Not only did we not have them, but Air France isn't sure when we will get them! We were somewhat prepared with an extra shirt and underwear in our backpacks, but I had worn a pair of shoes for airport travel that were comfortable but NOT suitable for touring. This is a problem! We took a taxi from the airport for 35 euro and checked into our hotel, Le Meurice. The weather this afternoon is gorgeous and the Mediterranean is the most beautiful shade of blue! Our hotel is located about three blocks from the coast. We left the hotel to wander the old town and find somewhere to eat dinner. We went to Cours Saleya on the advice of the hotel and was assured that it was for tourists and locals alike to find somewhere to eat. There is a HUGE soccer event going on and what we found there were police everywhere and a very touristy environment. Danny got on Tripadvisor and saw that many of the restaurants were poorly rated. We went a block or two over to a side street and found a fabulous restaurant, Le Maquis, that was reasonably priced for a great meal. My Filet of Beef was cooked perfectly with the most delicious tiny courgettes (zucchinis) and potatoes. Danny usually doesn't order fish in France because they like it stinky but we are on the coast so he tried the Cod. It was served in a light lemon broth and was very fresh and flaky. We ended the meal with a wonderful Chocolate Soufflé made with Valhrona chocolate. It was dark and rich and light all at the same time. It was very satisfying. We walked back to the hotel along the coast on a pedestrian walkway. We stepped off briefly to go down to the waters edge and listen to the tinkling of the rock shoreline as the waves came in and out. The sun was setting on the city as we found our way back to the hotel. Tomorrow we will put our traveling clothes back on and explore more of the old town. Thank goodness Air France have us a fresh t-shirt to sleep in! Until tomorrow!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Paris: Our Last Full Day

This morning we woke up to a clouds and drizzle, but thankfully that didn't last all day. We slept a little later today and ate breakfast again here at the hotel. We took the Metro to the Louvre but it wasn't on our lists of "must sees" to go inside. We did do a little shopping at the "mall" underneath the Louvre which kept us out of the rain for awhile. We left the Louvre and took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe. We were able to walk from the Champs-Elysees underneath the road and come up under the Arc de Triomphe. It is a memorial to those who fought in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I is also memorialized there. We walked down the Champs-Elysees a short distance and we stopped at the Nespresso store for me to grab some capsules as they are less expensive here.  We then went back to the hotel to drop off our purchases and have some lunch. We ate at the Bar du Marche which is close to the hotel on Rue de Buci. It was a good lunch, but the waves of cigarette smoke drifting in the door were almost overpowering. In the old days, sitting outside a cafe and watching the world go by was a typical Parisian thing to do. Today, it's the smoking section and if you are unlucky enough to be located by a window or the door inside, you become an extended part of the smoking section which is not pleasant at all! After lunch we boarded the Metro again to go out to a part of the city that I have never been to and probably will never go again.... Belleville. We went there because Maddie likes graffiti art and I had read of a street there that is covered in it. We found the street, Rue Denoyez, and it was indeed covered with graffiti along the entire length of the street. It was awesome! We then decided to go to the Parc de Belleville which rivals Montmartre for the highest point of the city. I knew there was an overlook there that was supposed to be really pretty. Here is where things got a little squirrely. My friend, Sara Beth, talks about her "city radar" and mine was certainly up and attentive on this little jaunt. I was very uncomfortable with the number of young men just standing and congregating and looking our way. I'm sure it was just out of curiosity but the fact that we couldn't understand the language made me very wary. We were never approached so maybe there was no reason to feel uneasy, but we decided not to tarry at the beautiful vantage point and to hurry ourselves back down to the metro station. We arrived back at our hotel in time to rest a little before dinner. Dinner was at Au 35, a tiny little restaurant just steps away from our hotel on Rue Jacob. We went there at the recommendation of our hotel and our meal was yummy. Maddie tried Salmon for the first time and said it was good! Our waiter was especially nice and funny. He seemed to delight in helping us and loved it that I knew that circuma was tumeric so he could tell another couple that spoke English. Our waiter didn't know the translation for the word. That couple should have had the menu translate book that I was referencing! An early dinner meant plenty of time to pack our suitcases for tomorrow. We will receive a taxi at 12:30 at the hotel so there is still plenty of time to wander the neighborhoods before we go. This has been a wonderful trip and one that I hope that Maddie will remember for a very long time because I certainly will.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Paris: Wishing the Rain Away

We woke up this morning to grey skies and the weather forecast looked ominous. We ate breakfast at the hotel and scurried out in our raincoats and umbrellas to make the most of the day before the first raindrops. Our first stop was City Pharma, the pharmacy store that sells cosmetics and skin care at a big discount over what they cost in the States. After shopping we dropped our purchases at the hotel and headed for 59 Rivoli, a building that is nothing but artist's studios. It used to be a squat for the artists to live and work, but now is a legalized operation run by the artists and open to the public. You get to walk through all of their studios free of charge and interact with the artists themselves if they are so inclined. When we arrived they weren't open yet and it wasn't raining so we walked over to Notre Dame. We toured ourselves through the beautiful church, stopping frequently to admire the gorgeous stained glass. After touring the church, it still wasn't raining and we had a little more time to kill so we took advantage of a boat tour of the Seine, compliments of our hotel. It was very interesting, and COLD! The boat tour took about an hour and by the time it finished, we were pretty hungry. I would like to say that we ate at a great place for lunch, but that is not the case. We stopped at the Jess Cafe and it wasn't terrible, but wasn't much to speak about either. But, it filled our bellies and we were able to go back to 59 Rivoli and visit some of the artists. The spiral staircase is completely painted with graffiti and is an art piece in itself. We met an artist on one of the upper floors that was painting with a little girl. I never could figure out if it was his daughter, niece, someone taking a lesson, or just a child that he knew. Regardless, they were painting together. He was super friendly and struck up a conversation with us right away. Before long, he was sketching a little face into a tiny piece of freehand art work that he had. The little face was Maddie's and we were so taken with his quirkiness that Maddie decided she wanted to buy the little piece of art. Maddie disagreed with us about his oddness, but either way we did agree that he was the nicest person we met in the whole building! Upon exiting the building, the rain began to sprinkle. We walked back over to Notre Dame and I did confirm that ALL of the love locks on the bridge behind the Notre Dame have been removed, including the love locks from our family. How sad!! The bridge's railings are being replaced with glass panels now. We wandered in the rain down Ile St. Louis and then walked back to the hotel, stopping occasionally to pop into shops that looked interesting. We made one stop into the Square Rene Viviani to look at the oldest tree in Paris and then moved on toward home. We ate supper tonight at Le Relais de l'Entrecote. Its a favorite of mine and I always try to go there when I am here. The only thing on the menu is steak and frites (and fabulous dessert) and they do it all very well! Debbie and I went for a Starbucks latte before we retired early for the night. It's been a full day but we were thankful that they rain wasn't bad and we didn't get soaked. It was, after all, a 100% chance of rain today. So until tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Paris: Montmartre and Tour Eiffel

We were happy to wake up to sunny skies today because we know the rain is coming! We met for breakfast at 9 here at the hotel. After breakfast we took the Metro to Montmartre to wander. We saw Sacre Couer high up on the hill and climbed the many steps to take a peek inside the large white church. At the base of those steps were the typical gypsies attempting to tie strings on our wrist. They seem more aggressive these days and mock you when you tell them no. There were gypsies peddling their wares on rounds of cloths and we laughed when the police walked through and they jumped up and ran. We went around Sacre Couer to Place du Tertre, the square where the artists are. With such a pretty day today, the square was ringed with artists with varying styles and talents. I'm not sure how many times Debbie and I made our way around admiring, comparing and considering. Maddie had decided that she wanted an artist to draw her portrait and after careful consideration she selected one. Well after sitting for almost an hour it seemed, the picture, although pretty, didn't look too much like her. Lesson learned, don't have yourself drawn at Montmartre! We ate lunch in the square at Chez Eugene where we have eaten before. Apparently I didn't eat the quiche at that time because it was pretty tasteless. It was a great bathroom stop however and an opportunity to rest our feet before we wandered the streets of Montmartre. We walked up and down and around and around and saw so many interesting things. We made note of many of the street artists such as Space Invader (http://space-invaders.com/home/), Gregos (http://www.gourmantic.com/2011/05/03/faces-of-gregos-paris/), Intra Larue (http://undergroundparis.org/intra-larue-installs-her-painted-breast-art-streets-paris#more-5901), Vuille Thoma (http://parisdansmonoeilen.weebly.com/m-chat.html), and Cyklops (http://www.ufunk.net/en/artistes/le-cyklop/).  I truly enjoy hunting for graffiti and interesting street art so the little discoveries while we were wandering were exciting! We saw Moulin Rouge and the two other windmills that have been subjects of french painters for many years. We stopped to get some ice cream from Amorino before making our descent down to Denise Acabo's chocolate shop, A l'Etoile d'Or. It was closed last year after a devastating explosion and noone knew if she would be able to reopen it. Well it reopened late last year and is exactly the same, as far as I can tell, as what it was before! She is an interesting lady in her braids and school girl skirt and she doesn't speak a lick of English. She is still such a personable soul and I was tickled to death to be in her shop while she was there. She even let us take a picture with her after our purchase. I feel like I have a photo with a French celebrity! http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2014/07/update-on-a-letoile-dor-chocolate-shop-denise-acabo/ . We left Montmartre for a visit with the Eiffel Tower which turned out to be quite a memorable one. I had tried to buy tickets online to go up to the top a couple of weeks ago and they weren't available. We decided to brave the lines anyway and buy tickets to go to the tippy top of the Eiffel Tower. This was something that Maddie really wanted to do so up we went. I haven't done this since 1994 and the views are still just as amazing. We left the Eiffel Tower and after some confusion as to where our next metro station was, we decided to stay in the area, eat locally and go back to Trocadero to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle. It sparkles at the top of the hour for 5 minutes beginning right after sunset until 1 a.m. It is magical and was a wonderful way to end this gorgeous day. Tomorrow there is a 100% chance of rain but that won't keep us inside. So until tomorrow....

Monday, May 16, 2016

Paris: Arrival Day and Family

We awoke early this morning to be ready for a cab at 6:30 a.m. to take us to the train station for the Eurostar. Maddie had purchased a pair of jeans yesterday at TopShop and wanted to wear them today.  She put them on only to find out that the HUGE security sensor had not been removed! We don't know how the young man missed it when she was checking out. We had a train to catch so we couldn't return to the store to have it removed. I checked google and found out that TopShop is not located in Paris, however they do have a small section in Galleries Lafayette. We met our taxi on time and grabbed a muffin at the Costa coffee shop when we arrived at the train station. We went through security and waited a short time for the train. Our train travel was uneventful and we all took a nap on the train which made the two hours seem very short. We traveled by metro to the Hotel Millesime as there is a direct line to the stop near the hotel on the 4 line. Unfortunately we had to haul our bags up several steps at the Saint-Germain-des-Pres stop. The first few weren't so bad but we were laughing so hard at ourselves that the remaining steps were rough. We pulled our suitcases to the hotel and only one room was available which was fine. All of the bags went into that room and we immediately left for lunch. Debbie has been talking about French Onion Soup since we started planning this trip so that was what was on the menu today. We ate at a cafe on the corner, Le Pre Aux Clercs. Debbie and I had onion soup and Maddie chose a delicious salad that had greens, pasta, chicken, olives, walnuts, cucumbers and cheese. There was very little left in the plate when she was done. We stopped into Laduree to pick up some Macarons for me and then wandered in the Saint Germain streets. We stopped at Amorino to have some Gelato for dessert. You choose the size cone or cup you want and they make a flower out of the gelato using as many flavors as you would like. Debbie had sorbet and Maddie and I had Gelato. It was delicious and somehow I think we may end up there again. Maddie was carrying her blue jeans and receipt with her because we had planned to go to the TopShop department and see if they could take off the security sensor. I forgot that the TopShop was at Galleries Lafayette and instead took us to Bon Marche where we discovered that indeed there was no TopShop there! So we decided to take the Metro over to Galleries Lafayette and try to find the TopShop department. We had success in finding it, but the sensors they had were not the same. There was a very nice young lady that told us that H&M had very similar sensors and maybe they could take it off. So, we went next door to H&M and after waiting in line for some time and getting permission from a supervisor, we almost jumped for joy when the young lady behind the register put some force into her attempts and popped the sensor off. We scooted back to the hotel in plenty of time to wait for Vincent to pick us up for dinner. We went to Vincent and Sophie's and ate dinner with ALL of the family, including Axelle. They have been on a 3 day holiday and Axelle was home during a break between exams at school. Vincent served us Champagne and some Hors d'oeuvres, with Augustin's special stuffed mushrooms. Sophie prepared a delicious meal of veal cooked in a light sauce, a roasted vegetable medley of eggplant, zucchini, and tomato and also a pan of  tiny little cubes of roasted potatoes. We cleaned our plates and I had seconds on vegetables! Debbie especially liked the grainy mustard (similar to our Creole mustard) with her Veal. We had cheese after dinner of 3 different types of goat cheese, a comte, a gouda with cumin, and one other that I can't remember. Sophie also had a chocolate cake in the shape of a flower, an apple and apricot tart, and some pots de creme. We were so spoiled! Our meal was delicious but the company was what was so special. Debbie and Maddie enjoyed getting to know our French family and they were so gracious to invite us to dinner in their home. After dinner Vincent took Axelle back to school and took us back to our hotel. He made a special effort to drive slowly until the Eiffel Tower put on it's sparkling show and did a u-turn to drive in front of it. It was magical! We are back in our hotel tonight and really hoping the transit strike tomorrow does not affect us too much. So until tomorrow.....

Sunday, May 15, 2016

London: Cramming It Into a Day!

I don't think we could have seen one other thing today if we had tried. Our poor little legs and feet are beat! We started the day around 9:30 with a stop at Starbucks for a quick breakfast. It's located near the hotel and the tube station which made it very convenient. Our hotel does not have a restaurant. We took the tube to a stop near Kensington Gardens with the intention of walking through the park to the Serpentine Gallery, a modern art museum. Something green sitting on a fence caught Maddie's eye and upon closer inspection we found it to be a rather large Parakeet eating an apple. To be specific it was a Ringed Neck Parakeet and as we looked around there were a LOT of them and they were flying around people nearby. We went closer to see them and saw that they were landing on and eating something out of people's hands. A very nice man shared some birdseed with us and next thing we knew, they were eating out of OUR hands. We had a great time giggling and photographing each other with the parakeets. We finally tore ourselves away and continued on to the Serpentine Gallery. Before we got there, we stopped at the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. It was designed to express her spirit and love of children. It is a huge oval ring stone fountain made of granite but looks like a shallow stream bed. People are encouraged to wade in it and we might have if we had come prepared with a towel. We found the Serpentine Gallery which is a small modern art gallery located within the park. It was nice with some interesting artwork but what Maddie was really looking for was the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and we found it a short distance away. This was also a modern art gallery but it was more 3d art instead of 2d art, which Maddie really enjoys and appreciates more. We thoroughly enjoyed this gallery especially a light and music exhibit in the center of it. We left the gallery and went to ride on the London Eye. This is a very very slow ferris wheel looking contraption that brings you slowly up in large, clear, egg shaped rooms. You can see out over most of London and the views are amazing. It takes 30 minutes to make the full round. We were very hungry after our ride and Debbie had been hoping we would have some Fish and Chips. We went to Tattersalls Tavern which is near Harrods for our Fish and Chips. We have eaten there several times before and it has always been really good. Maddie even ate the traditional side dish, green peas! I have been watching the PBS show, Mr. Selfridge, and wanted a peak inside of Selfridges Department Store. It was located on Oxford Street where the big TopShop was. We went one way down Oxford Street to find Selfridges and then the other way to the TopShop where Maddie did a little shopping for herself. It was getting later in the afternoon and we still had a few more stops. We went to Buckingham Palace to see where the Queen lives when she is in London and then walked down the Mall to the next tube station. We then went to the Millennium Bridge so that I could find the artwork of Ben Wilson who paints on chewing gum that is ground into the sidewalk or in this case the treads of the bridge. These are tiny little paintings and we saw a bunch of them! Many of them were commissioned for him to paint or ideas given by special request. This was one of my favorite things we did today! We made one last stop down to Tower Bridge for some quick photos and then wanted to go to dinner at a place that I had planned earlier. We were so tired though and it was late so we just went back to our Earl's Court station and ate a wonderful hamburger at Byron Burger. It was a long day but a full day and Maddie said she had no idea the Underground System was so huge! We have certainly gotten our money's worth out of our day passes. Tomorrow morning early we leave for Paris on the Eurostar. Until then.....

Saturday, May 14, 2016

London: Arrival and Sightseeing

We flew to London today on Delta airlines and this has got to be the most uneventful series of flights I have ever had with Delta! Our flights were on time and our bags arrived with us. Maybe I can take Delta off of my bad list now. We arrived in London Heathrow around 11:20 pm. After making our way through customs and picking up our suitcases, we proceeded to the Underground where I had decided I wanted to try that route to get to the hotel instead of acquiring a taxi. This was a great idea! It took us about 30 minutes to take the Picadilly line straight from the airport (where it dead ends) to the Earl's Court station. We did not even have to change lines! We walked from the train station to our hotel, The Nadler Kensington. This used to be Base2Stay where we have stayed twice before, but now it is under new ownership. Our rooms were ready and after freshening up just a bit, we left to see some sights and get our bodies into the sunlight. The best way to combat jetlag and reset your body clock is NOT to go to sleep when you arrive but to hit the pavement and expose your body to sun. This will affect your natural hormone production in a positive way and help your body adjust well to the new time zone. We had planned to have some lunch, but Westminster was closing earlier than I expected so we decided to skip lunch altogether. We had eaten the plane meals and weren't very hungry anyway. We got on the tube going the wrong way and had to jump off and go back to find the correct ride. This was my fault but I usually make a few errors early on with public transit. We went to Westminster Abbey because I wanted Maddie to see where the new King of England would be crowned. This will happen in her lifetime and it's always kind of cool to say "Hey, I've been there! Westminster Abbey stretches back 1000 years in history and since 1066 it is has been the site of every Royal Coronation except for two, Edward the V and Edward the VIII. It is a very beautiful Gothic style church with such pretty stained glass. Photos inside are not allowed and we were so disappointed. I told Maddie that she would just have to soak it up and sear it into her memory. After leaving Westminster, we walked on a bridge over the river Thames. We took turns taking pictures of each other with Big Ben and Parliament in the background. We then crossed back over the bridge and walked along the river toward the Embankment stop. I was curious about a brightly colored area that I had read about while researching for this trip. Neal's Yard was just something pretty to see but wasn't near as pretty as what I had seen on the internet. I was disappointed! We left there and went to nearby Covent Garden to find some ice cream! We wanted the Thornton's ice cream we had tasted in the past, but it wasn't located there anymore. Instead we ate Venchi gelato which is a company from Italy. Their gelato was amazing and we enjoyed every bit of the tiny scoops. Maddie got 2 little scoops of coffee gelato, Debbie chose milk chocolate and strawberry and I had just one tiny scoop of 72% cocoa dark chocolate. It was very refreshing and we stopped on our way back to the Underground to watch a pair of outdoor jugglers/performers that had drawn a crowd. They were very entertaining! We got back on the tube and stopped to see Piccadilly Circus before going back to the hotel for dinner. This was where I left Debbie and Maddie standing on the side of the platform when the doors closed behind me on the train car before they could get on. Thankfully Maddie had heard me say the name of the stop we were headed to as I smiled and waved goodbye to them. I waited for them at the next stop which was our stop near the hotel, Earl's Court. We went down the street to Zizzi's which is one of my favorite Italian restaurants here. They have several locations. We managed to get through dinner without falling asleep in our plates. After dinner, it was a short walk back to the hotel where we were given little boxes of chocolates in celebration of Maddie's 18th birthday and her graduation. It was a sweet gesture and we are now in our respective rooms preparing for a full whirlwind day tomorrow! Until then.....

It's Maddie's turn for London and France!

Maddie graduates from Destrehan High School

My niece Maddie graduated from High School this year and just as we did for her sister, Brittany, I am taking her on a whirlwind week long trip to London and Paris. We are squeezing it into a week but I'm sure we will be able to see all of the highlights! My sister Debbie, Maddie's mom is also along on this trip and I am thankful that mom and daughter will have a little forced family bonding before Maddie flies out of the nest and stretches her wings. Maddie is a middle child and very independent. She has a strong desire for adventure and would like to see the world. This will be just a baby step in that direction but hopefully a memorable journey.
at the airport in New Orleans waiting for our first flight

Friday, February 26, 2016

Kenya: Hot Air Balloon and Last Safari

We had to get up before dawn this morning for a Hot Air Balloon ride!!! The balloons take off as the sun is rising, I suppose to take advantage of the air currents.

To take off and to land, we were in a sitting position with our back flat against the side. We were actually laying on our back to take off

We survived our Balloon Ride with a pretty big jolt upon landing. The winds were higher than the pilot expected so we came in a little fast. We were picked up by a vehicle that had been following us. We saw more animals as we were driven to where we would have breakfast.

we might not have seen this Cheetah if it had not been spotted by another safari vehicle

We were quite surprised to arrive at our "breakfast" set out in the middle of Massai Mara.

I was super excited to see the "potty tent". There was a little red stool with a hole in it to sit on. When you came out they rubbed your hands with soap, poured water on them and dried them.

We had a first class spread of delicious breakfast food!

This group of Lions had worked hard to take down a hippo.
I loved how the Topi like to stand on mounds of dirt!

When we arrived back to Fig Tree Camp after our Balloon ride and last Safari, I jumped in the shower quickly before we went to lunch. Danny chose not to shower as we expected to take a shower later that evening when we arrived in Nairobi.

Eating lunch before we set out to travel back to Nairobi and then home.

We thought Jonathan did a GREAT job at showing us the safari!
Vance and Cherry had a friend picking us up from the airport and taking us to his house where we could shower and his wife would serve us dinner. Our best laid plans succumbed to traffic woes and by the time we arrived at his house, there was only time to "wash the stinky parts", eat very quickly and then back to the airport for our flight home.