Tuesday, October 28, 2014

7: Celebrating Hannah

Today our sweet, imaginative, funny, all-American girl turns 7.

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We celebrated last week by spending the afternoon at Jardin des Papillons, (The Butterfly Garden) per Hannah’s request.

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It was nothing fancy, really.
Just some homemade cupcakes…

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…a few friends and some sparkly antennae headbands.

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The kids got a tour of the indoor garden with René, who taught them about the life cycle of a butterfly.

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We saw some really beautiful things.

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It was hot and humid in there, just like a tropical oasis.
But these kids didn’t seem to mind.

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Finn was there, too, and he loved the butterflies.
(But not as much as the cupcakes.)

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All the schools are on the half term holiday this week, so today we had lunch at Hannah’s favorite restaurant in Luxembourg: Vapiano’s.  She ordered her favorite: Caesar salad and a piece of chocolate cake.  Although I have no idea why she loves the cake so much.  It’s the kind that’s made with 85% cocoa and isn’t sweet at all.  But she loves it.

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Happy Birthday to our sweet girl. 
She makes us laugh and she makes us so proud.

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I should also mention that today officially marks three years that we’ve been living in Luxembourg.  And even after three years, my French is embarrassing and I still have moments in which I’m overwhelmed with homesickness.
But I love it here.
And I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

Friday, October 24, 2014

When In Rome…

Ok.
So, back to the places we went while Shawn’s parents were here.
After we got back from Cologne, we hung out in Luxembourg for a few days and then packed our bags again and headed off to The Eternal City.

Barbie came with us, too.  She even wore her fluffy blue skirt.

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Once we collected our luggage, we took a taxi to our hotel, got settled in and then went out in search of lunch. 

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Doesn’t Hannah look absolutely thrilled to be in Rome?  By this point, we were all starving.

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This cheered her right up.  So good.

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Ya know, it always amazes me when I see women walking around big cities in this manner of footwear.  I made a similar mistake once in Vegas.  In my defense, I was in my early 20’s but, oh, did I learn my lesson.  NEVER AGAIN.  It was also hot as blazes in Rome that day and I just cannot imagine being sweltering and walking around in high heels.  No thank you. 

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Anyway, shoes and temperatures aside, here are some of the things we did and saw.

Il Colosseo.
This was my second time in Rome and I was shocked to learn that it only took the Romans eight years to build this thing.  That’s right.  EIGHT YEARS.  They were some mighty efficient folks, those Romans.

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Clearly my kids were interested in everything but my camera.

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Shawn explained to Hannah how there were trap doors in the floor that the gladiators used. 

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The inside of The Coliseum is full of holes like this because during troubled times the Romans dug out the metal pins to make tools.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.

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The Arch of Constantine.
Way back in ye olden days, there was a fountain in front of the arch, but Constantine had it removed because apparently it got in the way of his grand entrance through the center of the arch. 
What a creep.

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Shawn took the kids back to the hotel to play for a while, have lunch and take a rest while his parents and I pressed on and toured The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus.  

I’d been telling Hannah all about the Trevi Fountain and showing her pictures of it online.  We made specific plans to toss in a coin over our shoulders, which is just what you do at the Trevi Fountain.  Well, when we arrived, this is what we found. 
The entire thing was under renovation.

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All was not lost, because we found the best gelato place just across the street.  I think we ate gelato twice a day while we were in Rome.

We got a family photo on Via dei Fori Imperiali, the street that leads from The Coliseum to the Piazza Venezia.  Way back, this area was full of ancient ruins, but in the 1920’s and 30’s Mussolini swept through and had a road built, demolishing ancient and Renaissance structures.  What a creep.

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We walked past the ruins of Torre Argentina where Hannah found her favorite thing: cats.

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And Finn found his favorite thing near the Pantheon: water.

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It took us a few shots to get everyone to look at the camera.
Besides Finn doing a backbend trying to get into the fountain, my favorite part of this picture is the chick in the white dress having a leisurely conversation on her mobile.

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This is the best we could do.

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Later on, we found ourselves at The Vatican.  Okay, that’s not necessarily true because one doesn’t just find themselves at The Vatican and The Sistine Chapel.  The truth is that we walked for ages, knowing that we really only had time to quickly make our way through the different museums to The Sistine Chapel to see the famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo. 

I had shown Hannah pictures of what we were about to see and told her about the time that Shawn and I went to The Sistine Chapel before she was born and how I had broken the rules and taken a picture.

How cheeky of me. 

“Mom?  Are we almost to the Sixteenth Chapel?” she asked.
Let it be known that this may possibly be one of my favorite things she has ever said.

Of course, there are no pictures (Or talking. Or breathing, for that matter) inside the Sixteenth Chapel, so here we are at the entrance to the Vatican Museum.

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Hannah: Hey, Mom?  We should take a picture of this one cuz it looks like Finn.

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Our final stop was St. Peter’s Basilica and by this time the wind was blowing and it was starting to rain.  Let it also be known that this is my least favorite weather condition for flying because TURBULANCE. 
Anyway, we had just time for a few quick pictures outside because the line to get inside was quite long and we had a flight to catch.

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This is what most pictures of both kids look like these days.  We get them both settled and then Finn takes off running.  I can’t wait to show this picture to them when they’re grown.

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And that’s pretty much it for Rome.  There’s so much more to see and do, but with two kids in tow, we’re lucky we saw all that we did.  We caught our flight home, unpacked, did a few loads of laundry, packed our bags again and headed off to our third adventure with Shawn’s parents.

To Be Continued…

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sunday Apple Pickin’

I know that I’m behind on posting about the places we went while Shawn’s parents were here, but I just haven’t sorted through all the pictures yet.  More on that later.

Anyway, we had a pretty great weekend.  Friday afternoon the kids and I met some friends at the park and Saturday night I went to a girls night out birthday dinner party for one of my friends.  The food was fantastic and I was the only American there, so some of the jokes and references were lost on me. But someone did ask me about the differences between Virginia and West Virginia, so there’s that.

On Sunday we went to Steinsel, which is a village North of Luxembourg City.  For the last three years, we’ve gone to the Fête aux Pommes, the apple festival. 

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Last year, Finn was only 6 months old, so he just observed.  This year, he thought we were there just to play with bulldozers.

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We weighed our bag of apples, ate grilled sausages and Shawn bought some Viz, which is a fermented apple cider.  (You can read more about my observations of the Viz making process here.)
Then we called it a day.

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And what a great day it was.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Vianden and Cologne

So, like I mentioned before, Shawn’s parents were here in Luxembourg with us, and we did some relaxing, some traveling, and the kids had a great time with their grandparents.

The first place we took them was Vianden, because, well, we take all our visitors to Vianden.
I just don’t feel right about sending anyone back to America without seeing it.

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We also took them to The Chocolate House for treats.
I definitely wouldn’t feel right about sending anyone back to America without going to The Chocolate House for chocospoons.

After a few days of rest and recovering from the jet lag, we packed our overnight bags, hired (because in Europe, you don’t rent, you hire) a van and drove to Cologne, Germany.  I’ve never been to Cologne before and it sort of reminded me of Trier, except the big attraction is Der Kölner Dom, instead of Porta Nigra.

They call it the Mount Everest of cathedrals and I learned that it’s Germany’s most visited tourist site.
See why?

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It was cold and rainy the first day we were there, but the rest of our visit was beautiful.

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We hopped on (and off) the Hop On Hop Off bus all over the city and went to the Schokoladenmuseum, the Chocolate Museum.  I’ll admit, at first I was a little bored but then we got to the part where you get to see actual chocolate being mixed and poured and I was all THIS IS JUST LIKE WILLY WONKA.

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I never imagined that I’d be posting pictures of industrial machines on the blog, but it was kind of mesmerizing to watch all the gooey chocolate get poured into molds, stamped, wrapped and dropped into boxes.
It smelled amazing.
Then we got samples.
I know I’ve admitted before that European chocolate isn’t my favorite, but it is growing on me.

Finley slept in his stroller through nearly the entire thing but woke up when we got back on the Hop On Hop Off bus.  He was all smiles.  He has no idea what he just missed.

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Shawn had to take a work phone call so while he was on, the rest of us found a beautiful park to take a walk.  This was the best big sister/little brother picture I got.  I’m thinking of using it as our Christmas card photo this year.

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We finished the day with dinner at Hofbräu Früh, which, I’ve been told by a Cologne native, is the place you must eat when visiting.

We had a family style platter of sausages, potatoes prepared all kinds of ways and some type of noodles that were covered in butter and cheese. 
Oh, and those big warm pretzels.
And beer.
It was all so very delicious.
And healthy.  I kid.

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We said auf weidersehen, tschüs and bis später to Cologne and returned to Luxembourg, where we hung out at home for a few days, unpacked our bags, did some laundry and packed our bags again.

Then we headed off for our next adventure.
To Be Continued…