Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A whole bunch of not much

After all our sightseeing and subway riding on Sunday, we were pretty pooped, so we did what any true-blue, red-blooded American football lovers would do: We had a very brief rest and then stayed up all night to watch the Super Bowl, because the game started at midnight, and we didn't have the ability to record it for later. Not everyone watched the whole game, but everyone definitely needed a day of recovery. So, we just spent Monday around the house, which was fine, because it turned out to be a cold, wet day. Then, yesterday, which was also cold and wet, Ruth was not feeling well, so we had another slow day, though we did go out to a fun little French cafe at lunchtime and consume enough delicious French food to get us through the rest of the day. After all that down time, we needed a playground day in the worst way, so when we saw the sun peeking out this morning, we made a beeline for the nearest playground and spent several fun hours climbing, running, jumping, picnicking, and soaking up some Vitamin D. Now, it's time to pack up so we can move on down the road tomorrow, to the south of France, where we will be skiing during the next week.

We found these cute bears at a shopping
mall near the cafe where we had lunch.

Loving the French food!
Here you can see a shrimp and guacamole crepe, escargot,
creme brulee, chocolate mousse ball, and, of course, French fries.
Not pictured are some other wonderful French specialties we've tried:
French onion soup, chicken and mushroom quiche, coq au vin,
macarons, and an assortment of delicious breads and pastries. 

Sometimes you just need a day at the park!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Free Sunday

The first Sunday of the month is "free Sunday" in Paris, and many of the museums, including The Louvre, offer free admission. We felt like it could be a risk to plan our visit for this day, but we decided to get there just as soon as the museum opened and take our chances. Once again, the crowd was surprisingly thin, and our gamble paid off. We got in very quickly and went straight to see our girl Mona Lisa. The kids have been enamored with the painting for years and have been looking forward to seeing it forever. This was the one thing we were determined to see, and we decided upfront that anything else would be icing. But, because there wasn't a huge crowd, we not only got to see Mona Lisa and snap a few pics of and with her, we also got to enjoy much of the rest of the museum at our leisure. It was a wonderful experience!

After that, we walked over to Luxembourg Gardens, where we enjoyed a lovely picnic and hours of fun at the "most awesome playground in the world." There is a small admittance fee for the playground, which was well worth it, but that was the only place we paid to enter all day! As we were leaving the park, we caught up with another lady we have long admired: The Statue of Liberty. The one that sits in the park is a replica of the model used by Fredric Bartholdi for the larger version which was gifted to the U.S. from France around 1880. The boys have not yet seen the Statue of Liberty in New York, but they were a bit disappointed that this one was so small.

Our last stop of the day was The Pantheon, which is a the final resting place of many of France's most important poets, writers, and scientists, including Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Marie Curie (and her hubby, Pierre), and Louis Braille. It is patterned off of The Pantheon in Rome, which also lends it its name. The building is beautiful and the crypts were fascinating to explore.

The iconic pyramid entrance to The Louvre

Photo bombed by "Mo Leese"

The Louvre is a statue-lover's paradise!
Clay tried to imitate the look of each statue and so refused to have his picture made with
any nude statues, after I told him he had to keep his clothes on.
Another funny statue story is that Max wanted to know why "The Tiber"
(in the upper right) was holding a cricket bat and leaning on an ice cream cone.
It seems like a fair question!

We exited at The Louvre at the inverted pyramid

On our way to the park, we passed one of the "love lock" bridges.
The idea is that lovers write their names on a lock, attach it to the bridge,
and throw the key into the Seine, symbolizing an unbreakable bond.

Picnic at the Palace in Luxembourg Gardens

The most awesome playground in the world

Lady Liberty and her man Clay

The Pantheon 

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Two Days in Paris

I'm behind on my blogging, which is no good, because much has happened in the last few days! We left England on Thursday and finally got to go on the Chunnel train, which was a unique experience. We arrived at our home outside of Paris in the evening of that day and have spent the last two days exploring the city.

I must admit that I have been pleasantly surprised with a couple of things here. First of all, I have always heard that the Parisians can be quite rude, which has not been the case for us at all. People have been friendly and helpful and polite in every possible instance. Not one person has been rude to us, and, in fact, several people have gone out of their way to be extra nice to us. Secondly, our expectations were set for crazy crowds, which, so far, we haven't seen anywhere. We had already told the kids that it was unlikely that we would be able to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, because we had heard that it was almost impossible to get up there without buying tickets way in advance, and their website was showing they were booked up solid until February 20. As it turned out, waited about ten minutes (without advance tickets) and got to explore the entire tower, have lunch and snacks, and take all the pictures we wanted without being jostled or crowded in any way. It was awesome! We have also been using the hop-on, hop-off bus, and have been the only people or almost the only people aboard most of the time. Additionally, we did a Seine River cruise last night, which was was very sparsely populated. It's been amazing!

So, yesterday, we visited the Eiffel Tower, did two different bus routes, and took the evening cruise on the Seine. Then, we stopped at an all-crepe restaurant for dinner, which was a fun end to the day. Today, we saw Notre Dame up close and tracked down the museum displaying the statue of The Thinker. We also visited a neat chocolate museum, where we learned a great deal about chocolate's history, watched a cool chocolate-making demonstration, and tasted many wonderful things.

We have been looking forward to visiting the
Eiffel Tower since we first started planning our trip.

One of the many amazing views from the top of the Eiffel Tower

There are many "Places to Kiss" marked off in the tower.
We tried to hit them all!

This is how the kids measure up to the tower

Braving the glass floor in the tower

Clay was "actually being the tower."

We love the hop-on, hop-off bus!

Moulin Rouge

The Louvre

Napoleon's Triumphal Arch

The French were so pleased that the U.S. won
the Revolutionary War, they erected a statue
of George Washington to celebrate.

All lit up

The end of our first day in Paris

Notre Dame

We just read about Charlemagne in History,
so everyone was excited to see him outside of Notre Dame,
though none more so than Clay!

We tracked down the museum where "The Thinker" sits thinking big thoughts.
We loved that we could see him without having to pay for the privilege.

Later, we came across a replica of The Thinker in a subway station.

Not a bad place for a picnic!

Fun at the chocolate museum

A tasty treat at the chocolate museum

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Last Day of School

Before we left on our trip, we sat down with the kids and talked about our travel school schedule. We presented several options and listened carefully to the kids' feedback to come up with a system everyone would be happy with. Together we decided to do things a little differently this year (which is saying something when you are already homeschooling and doing things in an out-of-the-box sort of way). We decided to break our school year up into sessions and to do school when it made sense to do school and to take off when there were other things we wanted to do. Everyone agreed that it would be great to finish all our school sessions before we got on the Russian train. So, we had our first day of school in June, and we have been working hard to accomplish our goals. Today, we finished everything we had assigned ourselves to finish this school year (including an addition of the SAT test for Ruth*, which we hadn't originally planned on), and we all feel good about what we accomplished. We will, of course, still be learning through life, as always, and we will have weekly mini-sessions, to make sure we don't forget anything over the long summer break. But, other than that, we will purely be focusing on enjoying the last bit of our big RTW adventure. Serendipitously, we received our passports back today with our Russian and Chinese visas, which means everything is in order for our upcoming train trip. It was a great punctuation mark for our last day of school, since that was the carrot we had dangled for ourselves from the beginning. We celebrated our last day by throwing all of our school papers away, hosting a tea party for our neighbors/landlords, and going out for dinner.

School's Out!

Last Day of School Tea Party

*If you're curious, Ruth did fantastic on her SAT. She scored 1970 and qualified for a special summer camp, which she will attend in Saratoga Springs, NY, at Skidmore College, from June 26 to July15. We are so proud of her and excited about this opportunity!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Day in Deal

We spent the day enjoying Deal. Ruth did a trail ride with a local stable this morning, even though it was a bit wet. Meanwhile the rest of us were unable to resist the siren song of the bookstore, all the more as we were looking for a dry place to wait on Ruth. As usual, we left with all kinds of goodies. By the time we picked Ruth up, the rain had mostly cleared out, so we decided to have lunch at Jasin's Restaurant, out on the pier. Afterwards, we had ice cream and coffee at the Deal Beach Parlour. We then walked down to the castle and then ended up playing on the beach for a while before heading back to our house. We wrapped up the day with a lovely visit with our landlords, who live upstairs. It was such a wonderful and relaxing day, and we enjoyed ourselves very much!

The pier, with Jasin's Restaurant at the end

Looking back at Deal from the pier

Walking along the pier

You know we had to stop and take a photo with the giant statue!

Ice cream on a cold day

Deal Castle




The rocky beach is fun for everyone!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What's the Deal?

We arrived at our new home in Deal, England, late Monday afternoon, just as the sun was preparing to call it a day, so we didn't really have a chance to look around. During the night, crazy rain, wind and fog set in, literally cutting off our view of our surroundings. It only let up this morning, so we were finally able to take a good look around and get the lay of the land. Deal is an adorable little sea town, and our house sits just across the street from the rocky beach and the English Channel. This afternoon, we drove over to St. Margaret's at Cliffe for tea. We also got to visit a lovely garden and walk a coastal path up to a lighthouse, which offered us nice views of the white cliffs of Dover, the Channel, and France. When we got home, Weston made a spectacular steak dinner for us, which was the perfect end to the day.

We only occupy the bottom floor on the left side of this townhouse,
but with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a large well-equipped kitchen,
it feels like a mansion compared to the last several places before this. 

This sits about ten paces from our front door!

One advantage of having the same address for more than a week
is the ability to have packages delivered.
It was like Christmas around here when our Amazon package
containing our Russian train entertainment arrived!

We had tea at the tea room on the right this afternoon.
You can see the white cliffs on the left. 

We enjoyed a day of sun, taking in some beautiful sights!

I was taking a picture of the Winston Churchill statue,
but when Clay saw me with my camera, he stopped to pose.

Simple Beauty

If you look closely, you can see France in the distance.

We enjoyed a wonderful walk along the White Cliffs of Dover.

South Foreland Lighthouse