Disney California Adventure

We did California Adventure on Tuesday. We weren’t feeling all that great after all the junk food we ate our first day so we decided to forgo the cold breakfast at the hotel and go to Denny’s for a nice hot breakfast. We got there the same time because of the main reason for our visit to this park. Radiator Springs Racers. The lines get up to several hours long, so we wanted to be close to first in line. There’s technique involved in riding without a long wait.

I have one word for the crowds waiting for the Cars ride: Insane. They have several employees that have to walk in front of the crowd with a rope as the park opens so that no one gets trampled. They eventually get everyone down to a single file line as you make your way to the ride entrance. We probably waited ten minutes to get on. The ride was awesome! So much fun. You get in your car and then take a leisurely ride with the music playing in your car. You go past the waterfall just like the scene in the movie and then you go through Radiator Springs where all the cars talk to you. You go tractor tipping with Mater and then get ready for your race by either getting a new paint job from Ramone or new tires from Luigi. Then you end up on a track next to another car and you race them to the end. The whole race is outdoors and looks just like the movie. We were pumped that our car won.

As soon as we got off, Chris took the kids to meet Mater while I grabbed FPs to ride it again. It’s such a popular ride that our time was several hours out. They run out of FPs by mid morning.

We then rode the other two rides in Cars Land, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Flying Tires.

Bikes in front of Monsters University dorm

There was almost no one in this area of the park and we got right on the Monsters Inc. ride. At the end, there’s a big Roz, the slug-like character from the movie. Our car stopped and she said, “I like your hair young man; it looks like you’ve seen a monster.” We just kind of looked around, like, is she talking to us? Then she said, “I like your glasses too. Do you want to trade?” Ha!

Next up was the Muppet Vision 3D show. It was fun and had some really fun effects both in the show and on the televisions as you waited to go into the theater.

We went through the Redwood Creek Wilderness Challenge area where the kids complete different challenges to earn their wilderness badges, like Russell from the movie Up.

Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

We went on Cars again when our FP time came up and went straight up to the front. We asked a guy how long he had been waiting in the normal line and he said two hours!  I’m so glad we planned it right and got two rides in with minimal wait time. We had just as much fun the second time and we won again!

We happened to be sitting near the pier when Goofy walked up to direct the symphony. It was a water show set to music and of course Goofy messed everything up pretty good. It was a funny little show.

We went on a flight simulator ride called Soarin’ Over California, where it feels like you’re flying all over the state. We all really liked it. We also saw the 3D show, “It’s Tough to be a Bug” in a Bugs Land. Chris and I saw it at Disney World back in 2007. Clara flipped out a couple of times. She did not like when we got sprayed with “bug spray”. She really thought they were dousing the entire theater with a cloud of toxic bug spray. She did not like getting poked in the back by stingers (although she thought it was Chris poking her). At the end, it feels like bugs are scurrying past you under your bottom and she freaked out at that too. She couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Ha!

We pressed on all afternoon so that we could stay until the Pixar parade at 5:15. We watched a Disney Jr. live show, rode the Golden Zephyr and Goofy’s Flight School before having an early dinner and finding a spot to sit for the parade.

We were all ready for a rest at this point. I really wanted to go to the other Disneyland show, Fantasmic, but we decided it was probably best to take it easy that night. We napped until almost 8:30. The kids didn’t want to get up, but I was fairly certain they wouldn’t sleep through the night. We got them up and went down to the pool for a bit. The water was cold, so we sat in the hot tub. Robert was not a fan of the hot tub. He was freezing cold, but the water was just too hot for him. He eventually warmed up and took a short dip. I think the hot tub worked wonders on Chris and me both. We slept amazingly well and both woke the next morning without a bit of soreness.

California Vacation!

We got back late last night from our first ever big family vacation and boy are we pooped! We spent a week at Disneyland, Legoland and the beach. In anticipation of our trip, Clara got some of her friends ready for Disneyland. Here is Amarilla dressed as Captain Hook, Magic is Sleeping Beauty, and Coconut is Cinderella. She also made one of Robert’s cars into Buzz Lightyear. I thought it was so sweet. I got into the fun and became a rockstar mom the morning we left when I showed her my Willow Tree mother daughter figurine with Mickey ears that I taped on.

We’re lucky to get to hang out in the United Club because of Daddy’s preferred status. We got a light breakfast and comfy chairs to sit in for an hour or so before boarding our flight. The kids hadn’t flown since their trip to Albuquerque when Chris and I went to Europe so Robert didn’t remember it. They were both really good and played video games the whole time.

We got to LA a little before lunch time and went to a nearby mall to eat lunch and grab some snacks at Target. As we got close to our hotel and started seeing Disney stuff, I was downright giddy I was so excited. Chris thought I was pretty ridiculous. Our hotel was right across the street from the entrance to Disneyland, so we went over to Downtown Disney that evening for dinner and let the spoiling begin. When Daddy and Robert spotted a store called Ridemakerz, which is essentially a Build a Bear for cars, they had to go back and make a car for Robert. I thought for sure he’d want to make Lightning McQueen or Francesco, but he fell in love with the shiny silver racecar and made it r/c. He was able to totally customize it and then go over to the “garage” and use a tool to put some of the pieces on it. And Clara eventually settled on the My Little Pony Pinkie Pie and dressed her as Ariel.

We got to bed early that night so we could be up bright and early for our first day at the happiest place on Earth. I apologize for the insane number of picture here :)

We got to the gate about 7:15 and were close to the front. It was so much fun as they countdown to opening the gates. I told Chris “See, I’m not the only one who gets excited about Disneyland.” They open the gates to Main Street about 20-30 minutes before the official park opening, so we leisurely strolled to the area we wanted to go after 8:00.

We headed through Sleeping Beauty’s castle first. Clara begged to do the castle walk-through from the first moment she saw it. We put it off though. I had read that we should do everything we wanted in Fantasyland first thing before it got busy, so that’s what we did. Our first ride was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. We hopped right into a car with no line. Clara was terrified. I had tried so had to prepare her for the rides. I told her some would be dark, but that everything was pretend and that nothing would fall on her or touch her. My poor girl is just so innocent and scares so easily that she was terrified on most rides. No amount of talking her through it helped her cope the rides that took us through the dark.

Snow White’s Grotto and Wishing Well

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Next up was the teacups. Chris opted to just take pictures for this one.

I should have sat it out too. I don’t do too well with spinny rides.

Still no lines as we rode Alice in Wonderland. A minute or so in and the ride stopped and light came on. It was probably a good thing because as we waited for someone to come let us out, we showed Clara all the little details of the ride. She could see how everything worked, how stuff is just painted, plugs in the wall, walkways and stairs to get out, etc. I think it helped her understand that it wasn’t real. We were stuck for about minutes and never did make it back on.

We were going to get a Fastpass for Autopia, but the line wasn’t very long so we went ahead and waited to ride it. I was with Robert, so I had a very bumpy ride. I controlled the gas, but he had us hitting the track the whole way. He was in heaven of course.

We HAD to do It’s a Small World. As much as I knew we shouldn’t do it, we had to. Longest 10 minutes of my life :) Nah, it’s not that bad. If anything, you have to appreciate the artistry of all of the dolls and backgrounds. It is huge and just keeps going and going. There is so much detail and I was just in awe thinking about the amount of work that must have gone into it.

We rode the Casey Jr. Circus train next and it was the first line we had to wait in that was more than five minutes I think. We went and grabbed Fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I usually left Chris with the kids while I ran to get Fastpasses so they could rest for a few minutes. While we waited for our time, we did  Pirates of the Caribbean next and Clara didn’t like it. AT. ALL. At one point, there is a projection of Davy Jones, with his long, tentacled beard, on what looks to be a waterfall that your boat is heading straight for. As we started going under the waterfall, which was just an illusion, she freaked out. She was screaming, crying and grabbing hold of me for dear life. Then our boat went fast down a pitch black tunnel. Oh my goodness, she was hysterical. She could not get off that boat fast enough. I eventually realized her fear was of tunnels. Later in the trip, we went through a very innocent, not scary at all tunnel and she scooted over and grabbed my arm. There’s a lot of tunnels in a theme park so you can see why she was conflicted.

I grabbed Splash Mountain FPs, then we bypassed a very long line to get onto Big Thunder Mountain. That was our first Fastpass experience and it was lovely. I cannot imagine waiting in those lines. Clara was a little nervous but we convinced her to go on. We tried to push her a little, but not too much. We wanted her to have fun but also wanted her to face some of her fears. This was her first roller coaster. She was pretty scared and let out a few good screams but there were no tears. She was still on the fence about it when we got off, but later decided she liked it! She even wanted to go on it again and we did on Wednesday. Robert was just like his Daddy on the big rides. He enjoyed them, but there was zero expression on his face. No screaming, no smiling, no nothing. Just straight faced on everything.

We went on the Winnie the Pooh ride and then Splash Mountain. I was in the front and ended up soaked! They both loved it. It was time for lunch at this point, so we had lunch overlooking the Rivers of America. If anyone is concerned that we scarred our daughter for life on this trip, you can see that she was still all smiles.

Mark Twain Riverboat

Splash Mountain

We went over to Mickey’s Toontown after lunch, but didn’t stay for long. The line to see Mickey was an hour long, so we were not up for that. We just walked through and the kids played with the cartoon-y things like this barbell and Robert had a grand time playing Goofy’s piano. Every key made a different silly noise.

It was getting really hot and really crowded at this point, so we went back to the hotel for naps. We went back in the evening for the parade. Before picking a spot to sit, we watched Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. I wasn’t sure what to expect but Chris said it was really good. I’m not the most patriotic individual, but even I choked up a little watching the Mr. Lincoln robot giving a speech. He was so incredibly lifelike. He stood up from his chair. He looked down at his notes as he spoke. It was quite impressive. The hostess said he is so lifelike that people have asked him for his autograph.  I was glad we went. We grabbed a treat and sat and waited for the parade.

The lines were terrible at this point, but I really wanted to stay for the fireworks. Chris obliged although he wasn’t just thrilled about it. We did Astro Blasters, which ended up being one of my favorites. You and one other person sit in a pod and shoot at targets. You get to see your score as you go. Chris wooped us all of course. It was so much fun! This big animatronic Buzz was giving instructions on his etch a sketch just before getting on the ride.

We went over to Adventureland afterwards and stood in a looooooong line for the Jungle Cruise. Our captain was hilarious. He asked one little girl if she like zebras. Then he said, “Lions like zebras too, actually they love them. They’re like bffs”, right as we came upon a group of lions with a dead zebra they were eating on. Oh my goodness, I was rolling.

We explored Tarzan’s treehouse and then went over to get a snack and find somewhere to stand for the fireworks. The crowds were insane! Poor Chris; he so didn’t want to be there. We watched for a while but the kids were tired and ready to go, so we headed back to the entrance. It was packed solid all the way down Main Street. I couldn’t believe the sheer number of people that were packed into that space.

It was 10:00 when we got back to the hotel and we couldn’t get in bed fast enough.

Trip out West

I had initially decided against making a trip to Pecos this summer. Momma and Myrt Myrt had been traveling around Texas for two weeks in July, the next week was Art Camp and I wanted to potty train Robert the week after that. I fully expected his potty training to take forever, so I didn’t think that would leave enough time for a trip.
Since he trained in a day, I decided to go ahead and do it before school started. So we left for Pecos on Aug. 7th, one short week after potty training. I asked Linda if she’d like to join us for the drive and visit her mom in Carlsbad and she agreed to. She had planned on taking a trip the next week anyway.
So the kids and I left about 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, stopping first in Temple to switch to Grandma’s car. We left there around 10:00 and Grandma unloaded us in Pecos a little after 5:00 before finishing the drive to Carlsbad. The drive went very quickly having someone else to talk to and the kids were perfectly behaved, glued to the DVD player we brought. Robert even managed to stay dry the whole day! That kid amazes me.
On Thursday, my mom and dad drove us to Carlsbad so we could see Nanny for a few hours. Robert could not sit still and ran around like a crazy child the entire time.  

A rare photo op with Grandma and Bia.

On Friday we went to Wink to hang out with Linsey and the boys and play at the splash pad. Brody came back to Pecos with us. That night, Clara and Brody got popsicles after dinner.

Robert refused to eat dinner, so he didn’t get one. I had to keep an eye on Bia to make sure she didn’t sneak him a bite. He was not pleased with me, so right after I took this picture, he charged at me, knocking my camera into my face. It busted my lip and knocked me onto the ground. I was not a happy Mommy.

It took Robert a while, but he finally warmed up to Brody and ended up having a fun time with him. Robert watched a video called “Potty Power” when I was potty training him, so I got him to put his arms up and say “I have Potty Power!” He does it over and over and it is beyond cute. Brody joined right in on the chant that weekend. Cooper even chimed in on Sunday and was all excited to be a big boy and try to pee on the potty.

Linsey came back on Sunday for church and we hung out at the house the rest of the day. Linda came back by on Monday morning to pick us up and head home. The kids were a little more ornery on the drive back, which is standard fare, but they still did great. We spent the night in Temple that night and finished the drive home first thing Tuesday morning. We had to get home in plenty of time to rest before heading out to meet Robert’s new teacher that night.


I loaded up the kids last Thursday morning and headed to Abilene for my cousin Nathan’s wedding. The wedding was Friday night, so I decided to go a day early since I didn’t think it very nice to make the kids sit in the car all day and then expect them to sit through a wedding.
Robert did pretty well on the drive. He got a good nap in and he was interested in the movies that were playing, so that definitely helped the trip go more smoothly. We stopped at a rest stop and Clara showed him how to blow dandelions. He thought that was pretty neato.

We got to Abilene around 6:00 and got checked in to our hotel. I went to pay for gas when I realized my check card wasn’t in my purse. It wasn’t in my pocket either. I frantically looked everywhere for it and then decided to use a credit card. We went to Denny’s for some dinner and I dug through my purse again and then decided to go ahead and cancel it. I was sure I had used it for lunch earlier in the day.
It took some time, but I finally found the phone number and cancelled it. Thankfully, no charges had been made. (The next day I figured out why no charges had been made; I remembered it was in the back pocket of the shorts I had worn the night before.)
My parents and Linsey weren’t getting to town until right before the wedding, so I decided to take the kids to the zoo on Friday morning. Abilene got some much needed rain for a few hours that morning and then the skies cleared and it was nice and cool when we got to the zoo around 10:00. We got in free with our Houston Zoo membership.
Clara is pretending to be a flamingo in this picture.
This peacock strutted around with his feathers up the entire time we were there. Robert was fascinated by him, but Clara found him to be a bit intimidating and wouldn’t let me take a picture of her near him.

The wedding was beautiful (what I saw of it anyway). Robert was just about as wiggly as he could possibly be. I saw the procession and Katie walk down the aisle and then I quickly escorted Robert out. Linsey got there a few minutes later, so the boys played outside while the wedding took place. Clara got to stay and watch with Bia and Pawpaw.
The reception took place at the new performing arts center at ACU and everything was beautifully done. My dad has 6 siblings and they were all there along with several of my cousins, so it was fun catching up with everyone. The only problem was my darlings were acting crazy! I was sweaty from wrestling with Robert the entire time. Clara spilled her drink, it was late, I couldn’t let Robert down without him bolting, so we left before it was over. Surprisingly, once in the car, they completely mellowed out. And they fell asleep fairly quickly after a full day. I took zero pictures that night because my hands were full.
Linsey wanted to go to the zoo too, so we all went back on Saturday morning. I was able to get all of us in free with my membership. The great thing about going back was that now I could get some pictures with me in them. He wasn’t strutting his stuff on Saturday so Clara reluctantly consented to a picture with the peacock since I was right there with her and he wasn’t 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall.
The giraffes were out on Saturday and we went across the bridge to see them up close and personal.
It took Brody awhile to warm up to the animals. This was his first visit to the zoo and he was freaking out at all of them for about the first half hour. Linsey let him out of the stroller and he finally loosened up and enjoyed looking at all of the animals.
After the zoo, we went over to Uncle Howard and Aunt Jacki’s house with all of the family. We had lunch and dinner there, the kids played in the backyard and everyone enjoyed holding babies and watching the little ones play. They were so sweet to have such a large, loud crowd hanging around all day. I think there were twelve second cousins there, Clara being the oldest. So there were a few fits and fights that afternoon.
Lindsey holding Ashton.
Here’s my dad playing guitar and three of his siblings.
A few of the cousins stood still long enough to snap this next picture. Clara, Clara, Laney and Benton.
Gracie and Clara swinging with Aunt Sally.

My parents stayed in our hotel room Friday night and they spent Saturday night at Howard and Jacki’s house, so Linsey stayed in the hotel with us that night. It was fun trying to get all four kids to sleep and Brody coughed a lot the first part of the night but we eventually all got a good night’s sleep and woke ready to make the long drive home.
Linsey and I left our luggage at the front desk and told them we were going to put the kids in their carseats and then pull around to load our luggage. (We both wondered how on earth single parents of young children handle hotel stays. What a pain!) We said our goodbyes in the parking lot, Linsey turned her car on with the remote, got the kids buckled in, and shut the door. The second the door shut she realized she had locked the keys in. Oops!
Thankfully the a/c was on and she has Onstar. Only problem was her phone was dead and the phone number was on a sticker on the windshield that she just had replaced. I stayed outside with the kids while she took my phone and went back inside to find the phone number. She talked with them for a couple of minutes and then Voila! The doors magically unlocked. I have to admit, that was pretty darn cool.
Other than that, it was a fun trip and I love getting to see family, meet new family members and introduce my kids to their Great Aunts and Uncles. Can’t wait for the next get-together!

Day 9- London to Houston to Albuquerque

I can sum up day 9 in two words.

Very long
I’ll write more about the rest of the trip later, but for now I will move on to more pleasant topics than puking, jet lag, colds, recovering toddler with antibiotic induced diarrhea, screaming toddler minutes before boarding plane, tummy bugs and emergency rooms.
Oh come on now, you know you’re dying to hear all about it.

Day 8- London

We were both pooped when we woke Tuesday morning. Had we been staying longer, I’m pretty sure this would have been a ‘do nothing’ day. We had eaten the breakfast buffet at the hotel the two previous mornings, but I wasn’t all that impressed with it so I talked Chris into eating breakfast at a charming little shop near our hotel called The Muffin Man. It turned out to be a nice little spot. Unfortunately they didn’t take credit cards and we were almost out of cash, so we had to scrape together all of our change to pay the bill.

We went on over to the British Museum and although it’s a great museum, we just weren’t into it again. We walked through several rooms and then encountered mass chaos as we entered the room with the Egyptian mummies. Oh my goodness, we were waist-high in school children. There were hundreds of them packed into that room peering in at all of the mummies. We couldn’t even get near most of the cases. I’m not sure if it’s that packed every weekday, but it was nuts. We had to get out of there. I did get near enough to snap a picture of this unfortunate fellow who seemed especially gruesome to me.

And then some teacher decided that the doorway leading out to the main atrium would be the perfect place to regroup and count heads. There were maybe 50 6th or 7 th graders all converged in the doorway and were not moving. We eventually had to resort to nudging the little dears to get them to stop gabbing long enough to step aside and allow us to pass. We had both been looking forward to looking through that area and were a bit disappointed that it was that chaotic. I was a little surprised they would let that many school groups in at the same time.
We were both a little put off at this point and like I mentioned earlier, probably just a bit cranky and tired, so we decided to forgo an afternoon excursion. We had thought about going to the maritime museum, the Tower of London or St. Paul’s Cathedral. So they’re on our list for our next trip :)
The whole time we were in London, we had been on the lookout for a certain brand of very expensive scotch a friend asked us to bring back and hadn’t had any luck locating it. The concierge said to try Harrod’s, which is a massive store filled with just about anything you might possibly need, so we spent a couple of hours browsing there. No luck, though we did find several souvenirs to bring back and had lunch there.
This Steiff display was in the toy section and was very large. All of the animals moved around, so I guess a video would have been a bit more impressive.
After Harrod’s, it was back to the hotel to get packed up to fly back to reality the next morning.

Day 6- London

Each day in London, we purchased unlimited transportation passes that were good for one day and cost 6 pounds. The only drawback was you couldn’t use it until 9:30, but that didn’t effect us at all. It was a considerable savings over the normal price of 4 pounds per ticket.

Our fist stop was Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards. We got there a little early, so we toured the Royal Mews first. It is the palace stables and it houses all of the historical carriages and the queen’s vehicles. They don’t usually keep the horses on display though; only a few of them were there. This carriage was a gift from Australia, hence the kangaroo and emu on the side.
This is the Gold State Coach and it is huge, weighing 4 tons. It has been used for every coronation since it was built in the 1760’s at a cost of 6,000 pounds.
There was a big collection of children’s carriages that were made to be pulled by ponies, donkeys and one was even labeled as a goat carriage. Wouldn’t it be the cutest thing ever to see a little prince or princess being pulled along in this little carriage?
After the tour, we headed on over to the front of the palace because the ceremony was getting close to starting. It starts at 11:30 and when we got there a little after 11:00, people were already starting to gather. As it got nearer to time, outside the palace was jam packed with people sitting around waiting. 11:30 came and went and still nothing. We eventually walked away around 11:45 with most people still waiting.
I checked their website for dates before leaving on our trip so I guess it was canceled at the last minute or something. When I checked the site later, that day was not on the calendar. I really wish I knew if everyone there was also under the impression that it was going to take place that day. I hope so, otherwise it would seem that I am quickly going crazy.

We had lunch after walking through Green Park and then rode the subway over to Trafalgar Square. One of the great things about London is all of the free museums and galleries. The National Gallery is located at Trafalgar Square, and although we weren’t just dying to go there, hey, it’s free. Why not? We only stayed a few minutes because both Chris and I felt horrible in there. It felt as though my sinuses were about to explode. You know the momentary painful feeling you get just before you sneeze when your face is all scrunched up and your eyes are watering? It felt like that, only it wouldn’t go away. We quickly browsed through two or three rooms and then found a couple of the works that we would recognize, Van Gogh’s sunflowers and a Monet (he’s my favorite), and called it good.
And here’s a mailbox.
And a garden growing up the wall of this hotel.
We walked up Regent Street making sure to stop in Hamley’s Toy Store, which is 250 years old and encompasses seven floors. It was impressive and was filled with employees playing with all of the toys and showing the kids how they work. I’m not sure I would’ve wanted to go in there with the kids. There would have been much kicking and screaming at the mere mention of leaving.
We picked Robert up some die cast cars. He got a double decker bus, a black taxi and a mini and they’ve been a hit. I found a hard cover copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Clara as well as a Paddington book. We’ve started reading Paddinton and he’s a hit. She’s even letting me read with a British accent! She wouldn’t let me when I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or Alice in Wonderland, so I’m pumped. I don’t do it in front of Chris though; he’s not very encouraging.

Day 5- Brussels to London

I was sure to have Chris double check the time on our train tickets to London. I can’t be trusted. Then we had an amazing breakfast buffet at the hotel (with an amazing price tag to match). I’m not sure we would have enjoyed breakfast there had we known how expensive it would be.

We got on the train and wouldn’t you know it, they served us breakfast. It would’ve been nice to know that ahead of time. We were seated in a row with forward and backward facing seats with a table in between. Across the aisle was an older couple that were returning to London from a 2.5 week trip through Europe, having visited nine different countries I think. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The set up of the row we were in was perfect to have a nice conversation with them. We talked so much that we had been in the tunnel under the English channel for about 15 minutes before Chris even noticed. We learned that Will and Kate will be having a fruit cake for the wedding cake, which is the traditional wedding cake in England. We told them that in the U.S., fruit cake is kind of a joke and made fun of and they weren’t aware of that. Mary explained how to properly make a fruit cake, which includes lots of ingredients that I have never heard of and it also requires that you poke holes in the bottom, pour brandy or whiskey on it, wrap it up and do it over and over again for several weeks I believe. It’s called ‘feeding’ the fruit cake. Still not sold on the idea of fruit cake. She said she would think of us every time she makes a fruit cake from now on.

Once we got to London, we grabbed a taxi. They are so nice. There is no seat next to the driver, so you can put your luggage up front. Also, in the back, there are fold down seats on the back of the front seat, so there is a ton of room if you don’t need those extra seats. There’s a glass window behind the driver, so you have to push a button to talk to him. I only had one problem with our particular taxi; our driver opted to take us on the scenic route to our hotel.

We were in an older hotel, but not old as in quaint, charming old. Just old. I think Chris was allergic to something in the hotel because he seemed to have breathing problems when we were there. Just around the corner was an Underground station, so that was nice. There was also a coffee shop nearby, so we spent time there every day.

We had lunch in a pub; steak and ale pie for Chris and fish and chips for me. We walked down a street near our hotel that was lined with lots of shops, browsing through a couple of them. Later that night, we went to the coffee shop and didn’t do much else that day. I know, pretty boring.

Day 4- Paris to Brussels

We had tickets to ride the train to Brussels on Friday morning. Our train wasn’t supposed to leave until around 11:30, so we leisurely had breakfast and took a taxi to the station, getting there fairly early since neither of us knew what we were doing.

We didn’t know if we were supposed to check our luggage or what, so we got into a line that looked promising. When the employee looked at our tickets, she said, “You’ve missed your train, it left about 5 minutes ago.” What!?!?! Um, yeah, someone might have possibly been looking at the wrong time on the ticket. 11:30 was our arrival time in Brussels. My bad. So we got into a longer line to get new tickets. Of course, ours were non-refundable so we had to buy new ones. I beat myself up about that one for a very long time. It wouldn’t be so bad except that this would actually be the second time I’ve done this exact thing. I am such an idiot.

Our train left about an hour later, at 11:30. We both really enjoyed traveling by train and were served a nice lunch. It was about a 15 minute taxi ride to the Sheraton where we spent the night. We only had one night in Brussels so I have to be honest, I had done no research at all on what there is to do in Brussels. We went to the concierge and told him we just got there and were leaving in the morning and asked what we should do.

We got really lucky and our hotel was really close to some cool stuff. He pulled out a map, and marked a few spots of interest that were just down the street from us. We walked across the street to a shopping mall where we spent a few minutes walking around. Then we strolled down the streets for a couple of hours. We grabbed a waffle from a shop and I had to splurge on one dripping with warm chocolate syrup.

We peeked into a church and then walked to the Grand Place, which is a big square surrounded by huge, beautiful buildings.

We went into several lace and chocolate shops and then kept walking towards something the concierge had pointed out on the map. He had told us to be sure to go see “our little boy”. We weren’t sure what he meant but knew we were getting close when we saw a large group of people up ahead snapping pictures. This is the “little boy” they seem to be so proud of. Click on the picture if you can’t tell what he’s doing.

Then we got a little lost on the way back to the hotel and came across this massive church.

We made it back to the hotel and were really tired from all the walking on cobblestone and uneven surfaces. After a rest, we had a late dinner at a cafe around the corner. Chris had a second waffle for dessert. It was covered in whipped cream, strawberries, ice cream and strawberry sauce. It was quite yummy. One thing’s for sure, they sure know how to make a good Belgium waffle in Belgium. Neither of us knew what to expect in Brussels so we were both pleasantly surprised and glad that we decided to stop there for a day.

Day 3- Paris

We only had two full days in Paris, so going to the Eiffel Tower was the only other thing we wanted to make sure we did. Thursday came and it was rainy in the morning, so we decided to browse a huge department store called Galeries Lafayette. No purchases were made since the merchandise was largely designer stuff. I believe one entire floor was devoted to women’s shoes.

After a short time there, it had cleared up a little and there were just light intermittent showers, so we walked around the area looking for a toy store that I had discovered online. I had us walking in the wrong direction for a few blocks, so we got turned around the right way and after several blocks and a few glances at the map, we finally found the store. We walked up to the door and it was closed or had moved or something. Oops. Wasted about an hour on that one.

We hopped on the subway and had lunch at Hard Rock and then walked to a passage nearby. We saw several of these passages. They’re like pedestrian alleyways lined with shops. It would be a lot of fun to hit a bunch of the passages if you had the time (and if your significant other enjoyed shopping). We went into a couple of small toy stores and found some unique toys to bring back for the kids. Now this is a toy store. Look how charming this store front is. So much more character than Toys R Us or Wal-Mart.

The rain had passed through so it was clear enough to do the Eiffel Tower. That thing is massive. We opted for the elevator, but for a cheaper price you can take the stairs. The Eiffel Tower is basically a whole lot of waiting. You wait to buy tickets, then wait to get on the elevator going to the first level. Then you get off and look around, take some pictures, buy some souvenirs, then wait to get on another elevator going to the top, look around some more and then wait to get on the elevator to go back down. And this was during the week on a chilly, overcast day. I can’t imagine what the wait must be at the height of tourist season.

In this first picture, you can see the Arc de Triomphe. Such a tiny thing from way up there. It got chillier and windier the higher up we went. The wind was ridiculous up at the very top.

Oh, I have a quick story I need to tell about my encounter with a subway turnstile. In the Paris subway, you feed your ticket into the slot and then proceed through a turnstile and a small gate. The gate is a little hard to push. Well, I got through the turnstile and pushed on the gate but I guess I didn’t push hard enough and it locked back. So I was stuck in the tiny area between the turnstile and the gate. At this point, we weren’t sure if the ticket was valid for only one trip or if it was good for a length of time. So I climb halfway over, reach way back and with one leg sticking over the turnstile, I try to stick the ticket in again. Nope. Only good for one trip. So there I sat with a leg hiked up over the waist high turnstile. I eventually had to climb over a waist high section next to the gate. My husband loves me. There is no photographic evidence of the aforementioned scene. He did, however, have a look on his face that said, “Really, Kelsey? Are you really stuck in a subway turnstile?”