25 June 2011

Travel reflections #1 (Europe)

*the full picasa album of our trip*

a few general reflections of the trip and the countries...

france: not much was new or different from our experience when we lived in rennes. i loved and missed the ease of getting food in your neighborhood and the freshness of marketing every day.

in terms of kids/parenting, we saw tons of kids with pacifiers and often the kids seemed way too old to still be plugged up. we also saw numerous instances of kids having fits in their strollers and parents not really reacting. sometimes the kid would fuss when they were "free" and we saw the parents forcibly strap the kids into their strollers and wheel them around crying. it was kind of disturbing to me. but on a positive note, all old people love kids. X was cooed at on a regular basis.

iceland: the entire population (not surprisingly) is white. it was weird seeing even the "immigrant" type jobs being performed by white people (and i dont mean that to sound derogatory). iceland males seemed to have beards and/or shaved head/mohawks and/or were beefy. icelands women seem to have cringe-worthy style (the only exception were the variety of fun and colorful leggings everyone wore) and/or are somewhat stocky. the people are reserved, yet kind and helpful and there is very low/no crime. virtually every place seemed very kid friendly, which was great. a note on the kids: they sported an interesting variety of hats and bonnets that i had never really seen before. tight little bonnets that looked like water polo hats for babies and kerchief-type hats for older kids.

perturbances included the lack of laundromats and the crappy grocery selection. what do these people eat in their own homes and where do they buy it from? the food at restaurants is TOO expensive to live on. it didnt seem to be easy to be a vegetarian/vegan. also annoying was the lack of black out curtains on our apartment windows...do they just tolerate the light pouring in their bedrooms during the summer months? no thanks.

and i mentioned that the language is unnervingly foreign. the road signage is horrid, or rather, horrid for tourists. but perhaps this is because they hadnt really had an influx of tourists before their economy tanked in 2008. on the roads there is very little advance warning about upcoming parks or attractions. and the roads are rarely totally paved. i also mentioned before that the road construction is a free for all. its very weird to have so much responsibility given to each individual driver. i guess im used to the american roadways where people cannot be trusted to behave in a safe and proper manner while operating their vehicles around construction areas.

X: we have traveled with relative ease on all previous occasions, but this current developmental stage she is in seemed the hardest. she has mastered walking and it no longer keeps her happy to just walk up and down aisles. now she wants to stop and stare at everyone, touch them, rummage in their stuff, pick up trash. this full-on explorer phase is really hard to contain and keep content on long treks. we were able to avoid major meltdowns and keep fellow passengers happy, but it took a lot of work and energy on our part. it was enough to make me remove my hopes of adventure travel until she moves out of this phase a bit. :(

the only other major thing that was hard on the trip was food. she was most content and willing to follow instructions when her belly was full (and i dont blame her). but having to navigate travel without refrigeration, her food sensitivities (of which there are more than i realize when we are just living at home), eating on the go, and having enough variety of food to suit her whims was hard. if it was too hot out, she only wanted certain types of food (non-dense and heavy things, which, again, i dont blame her, but was hard to comply with at times).

other than food, she honestly did great with travel transitions, time changes, sleeping in new places (as long as i laid with her for several minutes after she dozed off). exploring our new surroundings was of course slower because she wanted to walk herself, pick up rocks, and have her own adventures at her own pace. and for the most part i was prepared for that, but sometimes we just really needed to get moving from one place to another and again it took a lot of energy to distract her and keep her happy so we could get to where we needed to go.

so i think for now we wont do any more big trips like this with her until she can talk well and tell us when she needs something and what she needs. it wont be long now, so we will just focus on trips back home to see familiar faces and plan more adventures when we see she is ready for that.

Last looks before returning home

vacation and adventure comes to an end today.

morning: we packed up, checked out, and left our luggage at the front office. then we got breakfast at a nearby cafe called gata. they had great prices and large plates of food. we had oatmeal and a bagel with eggs and bacon. then we went shopping.

we bought exactly nothing in france, for anyone, including ourselves and X. this was a bummer, but is very much like us. we dont budget time for shopping and it doesnt really make or break my trip to have a souvenir, so it often gets forgotten. and we almost missed out on shopping in iceland, but dave encouraged it, so i summoned the strength.

we found a lovely childrens clothing boutique of icelandic designed clothes called igló. i wanted to take everything home, except that we would then be living in a cardboard box due to the credit card debt. so, i chose one powder blue yet dainty little girls dress. i hope X likes it.

we went in to several other kids stores to buy from friends and/or to find more things for X, but nothing else was icelandic designed and it was all just too too expensive. so, sorry dear friends. i love your babies, and you, to pieces but if i want to be able to afford visiting you i cant buy you things from iceland. :(

our next activity was to get out of the rain and do a diaper change in the famous hallgrímskirkja church. it was a beautiful contemporary church. you can pay to ride the elevator to the top of the steeple and view the city. we didnt do that (time got away from us) but we did get to sit and hear the organ being played (i thought of you billiam!). X danced.

afternoon: for lunch, we found another well priced and tasty place called matbúð mömmu steinu. we got a lamb and a beef dish. i put some of the lamb in our snack container for the plane ride. then we went back to babalú cafe for dessert. dave got a scrumptious looking cream filled cookie sandwich and i got a vegan apple crumble. after devouring these treats, we walked around some more in an area of town with some small historic homes. mostly fishermen-type homes, similar to what we saw in sweden.

then it was time for the bus(es) back to airport. we moved through the check-in process and hit a mild bump at security. i had a can of lentils for X that wasnt opened. i had bought it earlier in the trip but was keeping it in case we had some kind of long, long delay(s) somewhere and ended up needing more food for X. they allowed me to have some rice pudding and some rice milk for her, but the lentils got confiscated. whatever.

and then we were back in the food court of the airport. we had stuffed ourselves with food all day (seriously, i think i gained 5 pounds from our time in iceland), but we knew we needed to eat before the flight because there werent good in-flight food options (and nothing complimentary at all). thankfully the place called "kaffitár" in the airport actually has healthy, tasty, and reasonably priced food. once packed to the gills with nourishment, we boarded the plane. we ended up getting a whole row to ourselves which made the final leg of our journey a little more comfortable. our flight also had lots of tiny babies on it, so we knew we were in good company.

evening: X was decent on the flight, she even napped, but then she was restless. i also had a monster tension headache from lugging her around all afternoon. i was SO ready to land and go home. thankfully, we were able to land in rain and dense fog without much issue. welcome home to halifax weather! however...due to our gate being occupied and lightning being spotted in the vicinity, we werent able to get off the plane for another hour! X somehow kept it together on the plane. when we exited the plane, we had to change a diaper, then get through customs, get our luggage and deal with border patrol. that chunk of lamb i had packed away from our lunch (see above) was still hanging around. X had eaten most of it, but there was still a small bit left. it was confiscated, though thankfully we didnt get a ticket. and THEN, only then did we finally meet up with daves friend who had come to pick us up, rajesh (he had also dropped us off at the start of the trip). it was so nice that he had patiently waited for us through the long delay. and he had even made us some dal, curry, and rice, so our bellies could be full before bed even though we had an empty fridge. so thoughtful!

when we pulled in to the driveway, X was already asleep. we put her to bed and i tried to take care of my headache and eat before collapsing into bed. i was so happy to see the darkness of night and the comfort of my bed. we had made it home after a 3 week adventure.

24 June 2011

Achingly beautiful post-apocalyptic landscape...dont hold your breath, we have no pictures

morning: we had a huge buffet breakfast at the farm. it was great and we got to chat with the nice owners and other farm guests. then X got to spend the rest of her morning with all the barnyard animals while i showered and we packed. we hung around the farm until nap time and then jumped in the car.

afternoon: we drove through lunch in selfoss because X feel asleep. but we were rewarded with a spectacular drive along the coast (the highlight of our trip) that could be enjoyed in peace and quiet. we had to navigate some crazy roads that were almost totally void of other cars. we were in the reykjanesfólkvangur park and it was like a martian landscape: dark crumbly rocks with thick blankets of grey lichen, bright green mosses, dark hilly gravely mountains, crystal clear water, a black sand beach. pictures wouldnt even be capable of capturing the awesomeness of the surroundings. and then, almost all of a sudden, we were back on a paved road and nearing reykjavik. it was very bizarre.

(our total driving route: B is flúðir, C is gullfoss, D is selfoss, E is the vatnsholt farm, F is reykjavik)

back in the city, we found our last hotel (our most expensive on the trip, 175 euros per night!) and checked in. then we were on the hunt for food. we had a bakery right across the street, alas, the bakeries here are horribly unimpressive. so we ended up grabbing some soup and sandwiches from a charming upstairs cafe called babalú. they even had a vegan brownie for me. yay!

then dave went to drop off the rental car while X and i attempted to get laundry done at a "drop-off service" place (i just really didnt want to have to fight off a crowd of laundry go-ers at the laundromat cafe). however, both places i tried werent able to take our stuff. what the hell!?

evening: you guessed it...we went to the laundromat cafe! but the machines were available, so it ended up working out great. thankfully. and we ate dinner there, again! i actually found a really well priced chicken dinner that was tasty and fed X and me very happily. dave got the chickenburger and really enjoyed his ($10!) úlfur IPA beer. and while we ate and waited for clothes, X hung out with the kids from this one french family we had kept encountering around reykjavik. bizarre.

23 June 2011

Old mcX had a farm

morning: we woke up and did the hotel breakfast. there was a spread of cold meats and fish that made me shiver. aside from bacon, ive never been able to get into meat in the morning, and fish for breakfast just gives me the willies. i found a few other things to eat thankfully. then we loaded up and hit the road north to see the famous gullfoss waterfall. it was raining on the way there so we sang the "rain rain go away song"; it seemed to work.

the parking lot for gullfoss was in view of the lángjökull glacier, the source of the waterfall. gullfoss has two drops, neither of which are particularly impressive alone, but its the volume of water, width of the river, the setting of the gorge, the mist that gets kicked up, etc. that is really magical. even X seemed mesmerized.


afternoon: we ate lunch at the gulfoss visitors center cafe as there was no other civilization for miles. we each had a bowl of traditional lamb stew. and it was good. then X was ready for a nap, so we drove past the famous geysir (all other geysers in the world are named after this one) which looked steamy but VERY touristy. i was bummed to have skipped it, but it was a necessity for keeping things running smoothly.

we drove through the town of selfoss on our way out to our farm stay in vatnsholt. what a great place. there is a big playground area for kids, the owners are super friendly, and there are friendly animals everywhere. X hung out with the 6 dogs, 1 calf, 3 goats, 1 cat, 1 raven, 1 baby fox, and many chickens, ducks, horses, etc. there were also sticks and rocks to her hearts content, and a trampoline. this place was heaven to her. also, we had a whole living space all to ourselves (normally the bedroom is yours and you would share a communal living room, kitchen, and bathroom). sidenote: if you type in "vatnsholt" to youtube and you can find a few random videos of the animals and owners.

while X met the animals and got acquainted, i went into selfoss for some snacks. the health food store heilsuhúsið had a few good things and i topped off the trip with a grocery stop at bónus. finally a grocery store that was big and stocked well enough to convince me that real people could shop there for their daily food.

evening: dinner at the farm was decent but it wasnt as speedy as i had hoped for with our grumbling tummies. our snacks had bridged the gap but by dinner time we really needed real food, on time. they had made tomato soup, pork schnitzel (i ate this) and fish (dave ate this) and dessert was a warm applesauce-type dish that was loved by all. after dinner we saw the animals again and headed in for bathing and bedtime.

(X on the farm with the playground in the background; hanging with some of the dogs; trampoline bounces!; ambient midnight light from our back porch. a view of the eyjafjallajökull volcano)

the farm was fairly isolated from other buildings or signs of civilization and thus gave great views of the two volcanoes in the distance (last years famous eyjafjallajökull and another active one called hekla; 180 km away was this years famous grímsvötn, which we couldnt see but the owners said the ash plume, even from this distance away, looked like an atomic bomb had gone off), the sky, the land, the hills. everything. a great spot.

22 June 2011

Wondrous wednesday

morning: dave got our rental car while i packed the apartment up. because they didnt give us all the parts to the car seat, we had to use it facing forward. i was semi-comfortable with this because X was at a weight and height limit that was acceptable for this, so it was "safe", but back at home she will still be rear facing for as long as possible.

anyway, in the time it took for dave to go from the rental car into the apartment and check the internet for car seat installation instructions he got a parking ticket. what a great icelandic souvenir. it was a grim start to the morning. also, after packing the car we had to go back to the laundromat cafe to use their dryer. the diapers washed in the hostel the night before werent able to air dry overnight (not surprising). but, at least we got to have a solid breakfast before we hit the road. and X got more play time in. she actually played while we ate. the first peaceful meal weve had in a long time.

leaving reykjavik was a bit unpleasant. we hadnt planned our route (we were driving the famous/touristy "golden circle") out of town in advance, the signage is not so hot in iceland, and X was hating life in the car seat. oh joy. we did maintain enough sanity to get us out of town, but at the first scenic pulloff we NEEDED to stop to restart the energy of this trip. X was able to wander among the alpine lupines and we changed her diaper. she nursed and then finally seemed more capable of driving at this point. thank goodness.

afternoon: X dozed in the car while we drove to laugarvatn for lunch. we ate at the linden. there arent many food options once you leave the city, so these places have you by the balls in terms of pricing, thankfully the food quality was actually worth it in this instance. we got a lamb dish and an artic char sandwich. they were tasty, and filling, and X enjoyed them right along with us (minus the fish). unfortunately, we had to skip their famous chocolate mousse. :(

after food, we drove over to Þingvellir (the "Þ" is pronounced like a "th") national park. it is a world heritage site and is the center of icelands history. its the location of icelands first parliament, back in 930. crazy. its also the fault line where the eurasian/north american tectonic plates are moving apart from each other at a rate of 2mm per year. what a gorgeous place. its weird how the landscape looks impressive in one way while driving, but its totally impressive in more ways when you get out and walk. the green, the moss, the water, the rocks, the calm, the quiet. its peak season and while there were tour buses, it was nothing like tourist season at the american national parks. and lucky for us, the weather held out the whole time we were at the park and we had a great time.

(the beauty of the parks and the rocks; a view of pretty flowers growing among hardened lava flow)

evening: after a diaper change and snack at the car, we drove off to our hotel. X dozed (thankfully) and we navigated the rocky roads. its construction season in iceland too! apparently there are so few people on the roads that they dont bother with detours or flaggers at construction sites. its up to you to determine when to pass a bulldozer, or dump truck, or gravel roller. bizarre. after being bumped and jostled around for what felt like an hour, we arrived at our hotel in flúðir.

after all the rustic roads it was odd to check in to our 3 star hotel. one of the only places to eat in town was at our hotel. the prices were, again, not cheap, but we decided to ignore prices from here on out and do things up vacation style. we were here for fun and relaxation (ha) and adventure, not for budgeting. things cost money here, and as long as we are being reasonable in what we eat/do, we will just happily pay the prices.

so, for dinner dave got the lamb and i got the zucchini dish. both were tasty. this lamb was even better than lunch. icelandic lamb is good! after food, dave went in the hot tub and we met some women from winnipeg there. X was splashing the water (clothed, from outside the tub) and having a fun time being chatted up by the winnipeg ladies. she was also extra rowdy, in general, due to taking two car naps, rather than one real nap. bedtime was a bit of a circus.

(X ate all of our ice cubes as a dinner appetizer. when they got too small to pick up with her hands, she face planted and sucked them up into her mouth; a picture of dave relaxing. a rarity)

21 June 2011

Strolling in the summer solstice sun

overnight: X slept like normal, oddly enough, but the night was weird for me. every time i woke up it was light out. my body didnt know what to do. it always fell back asleep, but it didnt have any cue to help it naturally wake up. i kept thinking we had overslept or something.

morning: we did some laundry at the laundromat cafe. normally, in a new-to-me city, i wouldnt run back to a place ive already been so quickly, but we soon found out there is NO other laundry place in this city! a few places will take your laundry and do it for you, and there are one or two hostels you can ask to let you in to their facilities to use their washer/dryer, but there is are no regular, run-of-the-mill laundromats here. what the hell!?

no bother, X got to play in the play area again and we got a good breakfast. they accommodated our non-dairy needs and we got to enjoy oatmeal, eggs, bread, fruit, muesli, and dave got to gobble up my side of skyr (a thick icelandic yogurt, similar to greek yogurt, apparently).

after food and laundry, we headed home to drop the clothes off. i thought it would be good to let X get used to the apartment so that she wouldnt feel like every part of every day in iceland would be totally new and strange for her. and then we decided on lunch and afternoon plans.

we got takeout from icelandic fish n chips for lunch. dave got fried haddock with potato wedges and i got lime/chili/ginger/pesto marinated haddock with fried veggies. it was pretty tasty, and it was nice that the place was fairly health conscious (well, as much as a place that does fried food can be). however, the fish n chips definitely didnt win out over my all time favorite country for said dish, new zealand.

afternoon: we did the "sea and sculpture walk" along the shore hoping X would nap in the ergo all the way to laugardalur park. she didnt. the sea walk was decent but being near a major road wasnt awesome. the sculptures and water were nice though. we were sweaty by the time we made it to the park and bummed that X hadnt napped much. but, we found our way to the lovely botanical gardens and eventually to the zoo entrance. what a great little zoo, lots of farm animals and a few other native ones thrown in. X loved the seals. and it was there, in front of the seals, where a little boy ran up to her and kissed and hugged her. she cried. lol.

after such a traumatic event we went to get a snack. i got my first (and only) icelandic hot dog. they are made from lamb and are much less salty than any other hot dogs ive had before. i liked them! and the grey icelandic mustard was weird but decent too. after snacks we wandered into the family fun park which is attached to the zoo. there were lots of fun areas for kids, but i was instantly drawn to the jump pillow. we had such a blast on those things whenever we saw them in new zealand (for our honeymoon) that i practically ran over there with X just like i was a little kid again. she seemed to enjoy the pillow as well. we stayed on it for like 40 minutes. and then it was diaper time, and another snack time and nap time? indeed.

(viking boat on the sea and sculpture walk. i think these people were getting wedding pics taken?; dave and another sculpture; X and i in laugardalur park; icelandic horse at the zoo; jumping pillow fun!)

evening: we walked home from the park and X napped. we actually found an organic store on our route and bought a few things. so expensive! we also hit another grocery store and got vegetarian takeout for dinner from a buffet style place (Á næstu grösum). most of their food was "meh" but the veggie bread and apple cinnamon chutney was tasty. X loved it too, shes trying so many new things on this trip.

after dinner, i went down to the nearby hostel and asked if i could use their washer. they approved, thankfully. while we waited for the load to wash, we went for a walk around tjörnin pond. a nice quiet watering hole that shimmers. reykjaviks city hall also overlooks the pond. it was around 9/9:30p when we were around the pond and the light was great.

(view of tjörnin pond and mountains across the harbor from reykjavik; dave getting saucy with a statue by the pond)

as the temperature began to get a little cooler, we made our way home. we got a crappy "snack" of grilled chicken for X because she usually seems to need something dense as her last food before bed, and we'd had veggie stuff for dinner. unfortunately the chicken was salty and not what we were expecting so it didnt work out so well. we collected the diapers and went home to piece together a last snack for her before bed.

today is summer solstice and that is weird here. not only did the sun not set, but it just really felt like we were heading off to a mid-day nap when it was time for bed. these people who live near the poles must have wacky circadian rhythms to their bodies. i wonder if there is research about it. near total darkness in the winter, near total light in the summer. i couldnt function properly, i know that.

(midnight light on our street)

20 June 2011

I-ce land[ed] on the moon

travel: things went smoothly. X napped on the flight. we arrived at the airport at like 9a local time and couldnt check in to our place until like noon so we took our time at the airport. X ran around like a crazy person while we ate brunch/snack (the airport actually has decent food options). then we took the bus(es) to our apartment. X was less than thrilled about being required to sit some more but it went pretty well.

(playing at the reykjavik airport)

first encounters: the drive from the airport for reykjavik (~40 mins) was weird. the land was barren and had the appearance of a post-war zone/apocalypse/moon landing. a very weird landscape. we had seen it from the plane and i thought it was ugly. it just looked foreign as i looked at it from the bus vantage point. im intrigued to see the rest of the country that so many others have described as green, otherworldly, and gorgeous.

after checking in, we walked around the part of downtown reykjavik near our apartment. it was cool and grey and cloudy. the buildings are all pretty low in height and they dont have a particular stand-out style. nothing too old, too contemporary, too bright, too plain. it was hard to figure this city out. and the language (and signage) is overwhelming to me. its almost totally incomprehensible (not so far as some of the asian languages, but its somewhere between german and greek to me, closer to greek though). i cant ever even make a guess as to what the words are in english, let alone how to pronounce it. but people seem friendly so far and are totally fine with speaking english.

explore: in our wanderings we found a place to eat. the laundromat cafe. what a cool spot. cool signage, obama posters, bright happy decor, old books lining the bar area, and a good, reasonably priced menu. as the name suggests, there is even a mini laundromat in the basement, as well as a rad kids play area. i was smitten, as was X. the food turned out to be good too. we only got sandwiches but they were yummy.

(sign at that lured me in to the laundromat cafe; X playing with a boy in the cafes kids area)

after food was nap time! me included. we had gotten up early and i was wiped. once recharged, we went down to the waterfront to take a peek. a new glass concert hall (harpa) had been erected, which was pretty neat to see, but it was quite chilly by the water. we went back toward downtown into arnarholl park to collect our thoughts about what we wanted to do next. X was all over the place with whining, playing, content, fussing. it was getting to be a challenge to see/do anything. we found a store nearby and bought an apple and some dates for her to snack on, which markedly improved her behavior. we needed dinner, clearly. all of us.

(nap time; in front of harpa; arnarholl park; vikings!)

there wasnt much impressive by our apartment and we wanted something to-go. dave had seen that the indian place called shalimar was supposed to be decent. it was fairly pricey (almost $50, converted from icelandic krona, for our food) but turned out to be decently spiced. i didnt need to eat there again, but at least it was fast.

while we waited for the food to be made, we went to two grocery stores nearby. i was struck by the amount of junk food in them, but maybe these were just fast, convenience-type stores rather than a regular store that people shop at for their daily food? i hope so. we did manage to score some blueberries, an apple, a can of beans, baby wipes, and dessert sweets though. it just made me wonder where people who live in this part of town do their food shopping.

after dinner we went out walking a bit more because the sun wasnt down. in fact, it was never going to get dark. we are far north and hovering around the summer solstice. we didnt know what X would do with that and we wanted to take her out and run her around so she would be tired enough to sleep when it wasnt dark out. in fact, she seemed to go to bed with relative ease. another good time change experience. :)

(on our evening walk we came upon landakotskirkja church)

19 June 2011

Frustrating fathers day fail

fathers day. what a bust of a day, poor dave. he deserved a little love from the universe, and us, but it didnt really work out that way. thankfully we eeked out a few small bright spots on this otherwise gloomy day.

morning: we wasted lots of time just figuring out how to manage our time and logistics for the day. we needed to change hotels and wash diapers and i didnt want to leave luggage at our first hotel and get stuck having to backtrack to our second hotel like we did in brooklyn. we finally settled on checking out (and leaving our luggage there) while we did the diaper laundry down the street. while the diapers were going, we looked for an open bakery for breakfast (being sunday, there are only certain bakeries in each neighborhood that are open. the trick is figuring out which one). apparently we chose all the wrong directions to look for an open bakery and finally ended up back at the same bakery as yesterday (moisan). this was fine, except i do like to try new things. the bakery was so busy that i got flustered and ordered the same breads as yesterday. boring. tasty, but boring. we also played around with X at the same playground as yesterday. yawn.

heading back to check on the laundry, we saw a pizza-type cafe with lots of families sitting outside. we thought it would be good for us because they seemed tolerant of children and we wouldnt have to worry about as many things. fail. the food was terrible. i mean truly ick. it was made probably slightly worse because i couldnt get cheese on my pizza but that is no excuse why my ham smelled like feet, my artichokes were spongy, my olives tasted like chemicals, and my mushrooms were limp puddles of mush. i couldnt stomach it. dave ate (read: choked down his food) while i wandered around with X. we picked up the laundry that was now done and i wished we had chosen to try the place across the street called "pendant que les enfants jouent" (while the children play). it seemed to be a place for both kids and their parents to be able to enjoy themselves and eat. what a concept.

afternoon: with fresh diapers in hand, we went back to the hotel to collect our bags, change Xs diaper, and nurse her to sleep. then i put her in the ergo and away we went. we picked up a doner sandwich for me on the way to the metro and took the 50 minute ride(s) out to our hotel near the airport. it went fine, but the trains were packed. thankfully someone gave me their seat and X slept with relative ease the whole way.

our hotel was the premiere class in the parc des expositions. extremely spartan digs. think motor home styling. at least it was clean. we couldnt stay in the room very long, it was too small. thankfully the grounds of the conference/business park were actually perfect for X. large, open, varied, and empty. there were lots of planes soaring overhead (we were near the airport), which she loved, and she got to play for a long time without hearing the word "no". for her it was a win.

(playing with papa)

dinner: being trapped in the business park on a sunday meant we were held hostage by food. we could either do mcdonalds, or the hotel restaurant. the hotel didnt start serving food until 7p. this wouldnt normally be such a problem if we had had a good lunch. but we were starving today. we somehow managed to snack and divert our attention until the restaurant opened though. we were the first ones in the place. our server couldnt have seemed any less pleased to be serving us. our food was crap. my chicken was dry and scarce and daves pasta tasted like it came from a grocery store. the bill was 40 euros to boot. no thanks. at least X finally got some real food in her for the day. that was good i guess.

after dinner we found a gorgeous and serene nature path nearby with varied flowers/plants and a HUGE koi pond area. dave showed X how to spot fish moving in the water and she loved it. she followed so many around and even found one fish herself. she was very proud. it was a nice way to end a crappy day. we are very much looking forward to iceland.

sorry you had a lame fathers day dave, you deserved to be shown our thanks for all that you do. X is a lucky little girl and gets a belly filled with laughs each day because of you. everyone says you two look so much alike, and i really love that. i think shes gotten the best things from you (minus her non-calm demeanor perhaps) and that makes me very happy. youre a great papa, we just didnt seem to get the mothers/fathers day right this year (we didnt even get to see the travoltas in paris). oh well, i think we can do better next year.

18 June 2011

Paris promenading

overnight: we all got a good night sleep. yay. it really was a quiet hotel despite its location.

morning: we were intrigued to explore the neighborhood so we started out in the direction dave had walked with X the night before. we wandered into an organic shop (pimlico) and got a few good snack items for us. then we headed toward the area dave thought he had read was the neighborhood marketing area. it was starting to drizzle so this was a perfect time to duck into a covered saturday market and get the fun food vibes. we even found a beer stand that dave looked longingly at.

after a brief downpour, we followed the trail of people streaming down the street with multiple baguettes under their arms. success. we found the source to be coming from a tasty organic bakery near the market (moisan). dave nabbed a loaf of sliced raisin bread and a warm, crusty baguette. this is what i had been missing in grenoble! we were never able to find a really good, satisfying bakery there. thankfully paris solved that problem.

while we munched on bread we came upon a neighborhood playground for X. it was drizzly, but we let her down to mill around while we snacked. then we scooped her up and found an entry up to the promenade plantée. this is a cool place. an old railway was coverted into a narrow above ground green space. it seemed just past it flower blooming peak, but was still a gorgeous little find. good work dave.

(raisin bread at the playground; walking along the promenade plantée)

**this is where i will insert some advice for paris: if you arent in need of "doing paris" then you can certainly "experience paris" by finding any well-rated hotel in your budget (try booking.com) and booking a room for a week. each arrondissement (there are 20 numbered sections of paris) has multiple neighborhoods. they each have a life and vibrancy all their own. if you wander and find out what your neighborhood has to offer you will inevitably end up living the life of a real french person for a short while: lots of walking, sitting at cafes and people watching, finding out who your neighborhood food vendors are and choosing your favorite nearby bakery to frequent regularly. in this way you will actually absorb the real paris and i would argue are much more affected than any trip to the louvre or elevator ride to the top of the eiffel tower would give you.**

and, back to our story...after the promenade, we picked up some lunchables and came back to the hotel to eat and nap.

(smiles while playing at the hotel window. french windows are awesome and these looked out onto the busy street, which X loved)

afternoon/evening: we walked to the jardin des plantes from our hotel. it began to rain. while it lightly sprinkled, we were sheltered under the dreamy canopy of trees lining our path in the park. our destination was an indoor activity, which was perfect due to the rain. we did the galerie de l'evolution. a nice museum, though not as awesome as billed.

(the second floor had tons of huge mammals lined up in procession. it was neat to be up close to life-sized versions)

as we exited the museum, it was sunny! we walked for a while trying to find a place for dinner and ended up at a random brasserie (le 38) and it was decent! i got veal with fries and dave got a steak with pepper sauce and fries. a good, simple meal. we realized it was our first restaurant outing in france. it went smoothly, but even just one day away from the grenoble apartment with its refrigerator and permanency was causing issues for us with having a good variety and quality of food to offer X at each meal. she did eat the veal with me though.

after dinner we walked the promenade along quai saint bernard all the way up to notre dame. it was way too touristy so we walked back to our hotel along the other side of the seine. the first part of our post-dinner walk had been lovely, but as we entered tourist heaven it just got unpleasant and un-french. plus X barely ate enough at dinner to keep her focus. she was picking up trash and was not in the mood to follow instructions. it wasnt fun. it was a bummer that we werent going to make it to see the eiffel tower glitter at 10p. :(

(walking along the quai next to the seine river; notre dame at around 8:30p)

when we got back to the hotel, i was hungry for vegetables or food, in general. i managed to order veggie cous cous to-go from a place near the hotel. the cous cous was a hard dish to pack to-go so they let me take their plates and cutlery back to the hotel and eat in our room. i then had to bring the plates back. it was weird. but the food was decent and cheap. X ate a few carrots and chickpeas, so that made me happy. and we all managed to get to sleep with fairly full tummies.

17 June 2011

Final france friday

overnight: so i went to bed with tummy aches of my own and guess who followed soon after? X was up writhing all night from antibiotic tummy stuff. thats it! im not taking the last 3 pills. that makes me a wretched patient, but i cant deal with this anymore.

grenoble: we did get out to the park one last time before we packed up and readied to leave grenoble behind for paris, so that made me feel better.

(last time at the park: snacking, dancing, watching the big kids, playing in the dirt)

train: we had a direct train (3 hour ride) from grenoble to paris. it felt long and torturous. X was pretty good but really wanted to be on the move. she found a few friends in other train cars to stop by from time to time. our car was pretty hot so when we were in there we were sweaty. i had a headache and tummy troubles that werent fun in the heat.

paris: got off the train and it was cool outside. thank goodness! unfortunately we then had a LONG and contorted walk to our hotel. the gare de lyon (train station) was under major construction and was extremely crowded, we could not figure out which of the 100 exits was the appropriate one to point us in the direction of our hotel. i was SO tired and hungry and feeling crummy at this point. i stopped and asked for directions and we finally made it to the hotel. we checked in and dave went out to get doner kebab sandwiches. something hot and fast. and they were pretty good too.

hotel: we are staying at the hotel viator (12th arr. near the gare de lyon). we have a good sized room with a window looking out to the sex shop across the street. we are in a decent area though. not at all unsafe feeling. seems like a small area of chinese concentration. we are also right near the gare de lyon, but its surprisingly un-noisy. dave took X out to case the neighborhood after dinner while i stayed in and tried to get rid of my headache. he came back with a glowing report that makes the promise of tomorrow sound good.