Saturday, April 6, 2013

All Grown Up!

For his 9th birthday Mattson wanted nothing more than to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Sweden.  After some intense planning, some very generous grandparents, a very generous father and very nervous mother, Mattson was booked on his first SOLO, international flight.  I did have a wake-up call while waiting for the flight I needed to run to the restroom in the Coffee shop.  I turned to make Matts come with me and realized that I was about to put him on a 2 1/2 hour flight by himself, so he just may  be able to handle sitting by himself until I got back.  
Waiting for his flight
Needless to say, he had a fantastic time, was completely indulged and is already saving his money to buy another ticket.  Luckily, as he points out, it just needs to be one-way because, he's not sure when (if) he'll want to come home again.  

Normandy and all things wonderful

When planning a trip to France we knew that we had to stop in Normandy.  Our boys love all things army/navy/war related and D-Day is, perhaps, the epitome of bravery, selflessness and all things admirable about the armed forces.  In addition, as a child traveling in Europe, The American Cemetery is one of my clearest memories.  I remember, the feeling, the layout and the impact of those white crosses.  By way of logistics was took the Eurostar to Calais and then rented a car to drive to Normandy and on to Paris.  
Of course, we had to make a few stops on the way.  

William the Conqueror's Chateau in Caen.
At the Bayeaux Tapestry.
 We studied William the Conqueror and the Tapestry in school, so it was really, really cool to see it in person.  It is actually G's new favorite conversation starter.  "Hey, I've seen the Bayeaux's really long and made with thread and about a battle.  Have you seen it?'
 (G's currently learning to sew and's a battle scene).
Pont du Hoc

At the point.  It's crazy to look down the cliff and think how incredibly brave those Rangers were to scale it in the midst of heavy enemy fire.

Inside the bunkers.  The walls are riddled with bullet holes as the Rangers had to fight for every last inch  and position.

Someone may have broken a glass at lunch.  In his defense,  it was a fairly delicate goblet.   However, we do call him maniac for a reason :)

Tommy Boy

Even though our trip was delayed due to a crazy snow storm that shut down the Eurostar, we were still able to catch Uncle Thomas in Paris (barely, he was transferred the week after we visited).  With the approval of his mission president, we arranged to take Elder Newell and Elder Gibson out for a dinner appointment.  The boys were thrilled and I don't think Grayson stopped talking the entire time.  

Elder Newell!

Don't worry Mom, we took him out for Steak-frites for his birthday dinner.  
Perhaps my favorite part of the evening was as we perused the aisle of the local Carrefour to stock their pantry.  Thomas asked what I thought of Reed's work; if he enjoyed it, if it was good for our family, etc.  After I finished answering, Thomas nodded and responded with,
 "Well, I've decided it's that or seminary teacher." 
Oh, how I love missionaries! 

Jardin du Luxembourg

One of our favorite places was Jardin du Luxembourg.  It was beautiful, fenced and the perfect way to let loose after touring the museums and sites.  We ended up spending an entire afternoon there and it may have been the best afternoon of our trip!

Ready to stretch their legs.
This Maniac laughed at the smaller playground and went straight for the 8+playground.

He also jumped on the zipline.
Ching-Ching mid air

Little C snuck off for a pony ride around the park

Paris- Avec Des Enfants

Paris with kiddos is a completely different experience.  We prioritized the highlights and planned our museum trips so that we'd have plenty of Park time in between. It was definitely a highlights trip, but between the paintings, strolling the river Seine, enjoying too many crepes to count and being awed by the building, I think we all got a good "taste" of Paris.  

Playing in the Park before opening

At the TOP! Some loving it, some a little nervous.

See, we made it to Notre Dame.  Unfortunately, the kiddos were more interested in the  roundabout in the playground than going inside.
At the recommendation of one of Reed's colleagues we stopped at Sainte-Chapelle.  It was amazing, different and just the right size for the kiddos.  There are 15 stained glass windows on the top floor and with the SUN shining through it was stunning.

After a long day, sometimes you just need some brother time.

A cheeky monkey strolling the Seine in Paris

Cruising the Seine

Silly Boys

The Louvre.  Yes, Christian slept through the entire thing.  The big boys were surprisingly enthusiastic after we mentioned the monetary worth and fame of the Mona Lisa.  Amazing how "that" influence is already being felt.  
To break up a long day Reed offered the boys 50p for every smile and wave they collected.  G went right to work (see above) and had to be cut off 15 minutes and 13pounds later.

At D'Orsay.
The boys actually quite like the impressionists. They say they like to "feel" the paintings and they think it's pretty cool that something that looks like a mess can become beautiful with just a few steps. Plus, we just read The Invention of Hugo Cabret so they loved the renovated train station and ginormous clocks.  

Happy Place

The weather may have been cold, gloomy and downright rotten, but over the past few months I've found my happy places in London.

Pure food nirvana.  I never leave in anything less than a blissful food coma.  From pastries to cheeses and fresh pressed olive oil to smoothies and a plethora of sandwiches.  There is true happiness to be found in eating  raclette covered potatoes followed by the perfect almond croissant
Little C enjoying a smoothie

Even G found something he loved.

Definitely, "How have I not been here until now?" place.  But, after spending 2+hours there with Ariel and following it up with 3 trips in a month I think I've made up for lost time.  There is something truly magical about seeing masterpieces (both musical and literary) written in the hand our their creators. 

The Mysterious Mystery Exhibit

Just a few of King George III's books.