Friday, November 28, 2014

24 Hours in Paris (And More Visitors!)

Two weeks ago, Hannah and I took the Train à Grande Vitesse, the high speed train from Luxembourg to Paris because Shawn’s aunt and uncle and two of their close friends were going to be there for the week and were then coming to Luxembourg to see us.

Hannah has been asking for ages to see the Mona Lisa, and when Shawn suggested we meet his family in Paris and then ride back with them, I thought, “Pourquoi pas?”

Okay, I didn’t really think porquoi pas, I thought, “Why not?”
But if my inner dialogue spoke French, I totally would have thought porquoi pas.

We left Friday morning on the 10:09 train and arrived in the City of Lights at lunchtime.  I was a little nervous because I’ve never been away from Finley for more than a few hours, but it turns out that he and Shawn had a great time together, just the boys.

I let Hannah skip school.
Her school does not approve of this type of thing.
But I do think that spending the day in Paris is quite educational, and she did do her math and spelling homework on the train, so there’s that.

We took a cab from the train station to the hotel, checked in, met up with our family that we hadn’t seen since August, had a leisurely lunch and headed to the Eiffel Tower, stopping to look at things along the way.

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By the time we got our tickets and made our way to the top, it was dark.

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After some pushing/shoving/crowding and general rudeness by some other tourists, we got on the elevator back to the bottom. 

Our next stop was Le Musee du Louvre.

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We’d been reading about and discussing the Mona Lisa, or La Joconde, as she’s called in French.
Hannah loves all the stories about how the famous painting was stolen, had acid thrown on it, had a coffee mug thrown at it by a Russian woman who was denied French citizenship, and was once on display in America.  Her favorite story, however, is the first time I saw the Mona Lisa.  This was long before smart phones, at a time when taking photos of La Joconde was strictly prohibited.  The room was packed with people and a guard stood just to the right of the painting.  A man tried to be sneaky and took a picture and got caught by the guard.
”NO PHOTO MONA LISA!” the officer shouted, all militant-like.
Embarrassed, the man laughed and tucked his camera away.
”NO SMILING AT MONA LISA!” the guard yelled.

When you go to The Louvre on a Friday night, you practically have the place to yourself.
For a while, it was just us and Mona.

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After all the hype and excitement, I thought she’d be disappointed by La Joconde’s small size, but she didn’t mind.

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Since it was nearly closing time, we hurried to see Venus de Milo. 
“But where are her arms?” Hannah asked.
”Well, that’s part of her mystery,” I told her.
She was ready to move on pretty quickly but I insisted on a photo because YOU’LL APPRECIATE THIS SOMEDAY.

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I din’t imagine that we’d close The Louvre, but we SHUT THE PLACE DOWN.  We stayed right until the last minute and were literally walked to the exit by the museum curators.  We hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so we went to a cozy little place called Chez Papa for a real, honest to goodness French meal. 

I’m a fan of neither canard (duck) nor foie gras, which is the greasy, fatty liver of the duck, so I played it safe with a tasty tuna steak served alongside some veggies.  I think we provided entertainment for our waitress and other customers as we fumbled our way through.  Hannah fell asleep right at the table, before our food even arrived.  I may or may not have also eaten her omelet. 
Now, listen.  I don’t claim to know a lot about French cuisine, but there’s one thing I do know and it’s this: Don’t order steak in France.  Just don’t.  Shawn’s been saying it since we moved here and our friend Michele can now personally confirm it.

The next morning we headed over to Notre Dame.
Poor Paul.  Bless him.  He carried Hannah all over Paris like this.

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I remember reading a few months back about the lock bridge in Paris collapsing under the weight of all of the locks and thinking, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” 
Apparently that didn’t stop them.  And also, how perfect is it that Hannah stood on the lock love bridge wearing a shirt that says LOVE?

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Our time in Paris was coming to an end, so we boarded our train and all headed back to Luxembourg.  Hannah was so excited to show everyone her school and our house.
We ran into what you might call a logistical problem at the Luxembourg train station and decided that it was a fine idea for some of our party, WHO’D NEVER BEEN TO OUR HOUSE to take the bus to our house. When all attempts to get help from the bus driver resulted in a shrug of the shoulders and a, “neh,” they got off the bus.  Luckily Shawn was able to track them down and found them like this, luggage and all.

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And of course, no trip to visit our family in Luxembourg is complete without a trip to Vapiano’s…

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…Or a trip to Vianden.

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Thank you, Karen, Paul, John and Michele.  You were wonderful guests!  Thank you for playing with, feeding, bathing, and loving our kids.  Thank you for your company and laughter.  I love that so many of our family and friends have been here to visit us.  There’s a certain comfort in being able to talk about our lives in Luxembourg and having you know exactly what I mean because you’ve been here.  We love you all and can’t wait to see you at Christmas!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving

Today’s just another Thursday in Luxembourg, and no matter how long I live here, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.  It’s business as usual and everyone is going about their day to work, school, the grocery store, and whatnot. 

Today when I was walking Hannah to school, I kind of felt like don’t you people know?  We should be at home watching the parade and putting the turkey in the oven!
Hannah’s teacher and many of our friends here wished us a Happy Thanksgiving, which was so, so kind.

We had originally planned on going to Fakesgiving, like we did last year, but Shawn traveled last week, this week and is leaving again on Monday morning.  Three of the four of us have also had a stomach bug this week, so we decided that we need a quiet day at home together on Saturday. 

As for today, Shawn is in Bled, Slovenia (returning home tonight) and I’m hanging with these two turkeys:

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Oh, and I also worked out this morning.  I joined a gym about six weeks ago and I’ve been working out with a personal trainer.  I’ve never used a personal trainer before and I’m seeing results really fast because he sets up all the workouts and nutrition that are just right for me.  He’s far more fit than I (duh) and younger, and if I’m being honest here, I sometimes wonder if the other gym goers think I’m some kind of a cougar or something. 

So that’s pretty much how we spent the actual day of Thanksgiving this year.  Although I would’ve loved to be in the US with our families, I feel so thankful for where we are, who we have in our lives and what we’ve been blessed with. 

And with that, I guess it’s time to officially kick of the Christmas season, which will include some trips to the Christmas Markets here in Europe and our big trip home to the US in a few weeks.

Oh, and endless text messages and Facebook wall posts containing quotes from Clark W. Griswold.
(If you’re my sister or one of my best friends from college.)