A Travellerspoint blog

Don, and Denmark!

rain 50 °F

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Lots happening! We finished off a relaxing week in Rotterdam on Saturday, headed to Amsterdam for one last serving of fries and caught an overnight train to Copenhagen, where we finally met up with Don.

Rotterdam was great and I'll miss Barbara and her endless hospitality as we move on with our trip. On Friday night we had a pizza par and my kids finally went to sleep without incident, letting Barbara, Mark and me stay up and chat. A rainy send off at the Rotterdam train station left Coco, Henry and I with a long day of travel in front of us. When we got to Amsterdam, the rain had subsided enough for us to ant to walk a few blocks with our suitcases and backpacks for some fries. Just as we were finishing up, the rain came back full force. We returned to the station, wet. I eventually figured out that our family Eurail pass gives us access to the first class lounge, where we took warm refuge until our 7pm train.
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We were on the 7pm Borealis, from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, for a whopping 15 hours, including a one hour delay. We had a sleeper, a little cabin with three bunks, a sliver of a wash basin and not real space for what had become our huge suitcases. Henry took the top bunk, Coco the middle and I had the lowest bunk. Only Henry could sit up straight in his bunk. The kids watched a movie (Mirror, Mirror) from the top bunk while I stretched out below. I could lie on my bed and press my palms on both side walls of our cabin at the same time. A tight fit for sure but the ladder giving access to the upper bunks provided plenty of unsafe entertainment.  

I was tired both the movie was still going and I let us all stay up late. I had seen a photo of a cathedral you can see as the train approaches the Cologne, Germany station. As luck would have it, the large window in the corridor faced the right direction and we saw it. It looked like a building you make in the beach by dripping wet sand on top of wet, dripped sand. Beautiful. We slept all night, soundly and snug. We woke up about 7:30, much later than I thought we'd sleep. Around 8:30 the attendant for our car came around and flipped our two lowest beds up and,poof, gave us three seats, muffins and ... coffee! Between then and noon I had a few more cups of coffee....  We walked the cars a bit, biding time. Organized luggage and backpacks and talked about finally seeing Don!

We managed to figure out how to take a local train to the airport from the downtown train station. Then, we waited but not for long.our pre-arranged meeting spot actually worked and, poof! We were together! So wonderful to see him. Yes, I cried a few happy tears. Yes I did. The kids jumped all over him. Yippee!

We boarded a 20 minute bus tour little Danish home, in a town called Dragor on the Baltic Sea. The house is as picturesque as it could be, with a partly thatched roof, in a pedestrian only historic area of cobblestone pathways just more than a block from the harbor and all of its fishing boats and pretty boats. When we got of the bus with our myriad suitcase and backpacks and four scruffy people who hadn't really cleaned up in 36 hours, we were left at a seemingly deserted corner. A stranger passed and she used her phone to direct us to our destination, just a few clocks away. So glad we had her help! 

Don is dealing with some jet lag but he's always quick to fall asleep when he stops running around.so, hard to tell if it's jet lag or just a little vacation napping. We'll enjoy this week together, knowing he'll return in a few weeks.
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It rained all morning today. We had school today and went for three walks, one of them long enough for us to see how pretty this little town really is. To the grocery store. Tomorrow, into Copenhagen for a day of exploring. 

Most people speak English, which is awesome since my Danish consists of being able to say hello and thank you. But, the signs are all in Danish so you really have to be determined to figure out what the heck is going on! The grocery store is quite the adventure! And, the Danes don't use Eros so the pricing system is totally whacked. Should I pay 60 Danish krone for olive oil?? PG Poolios would be happy as there is an astounding assortment of canned beer here.  
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Our little house here has a courtyard and plenty of room for us to spread out. It's chilly, maybe in the high 40s / low 50s during the day. We have heated floors, giving nice even warmth. And, we have all four of us together: ultimate warmth

Posted by Lindacdc 13:35 Archived in Denmark Comments (1)

Holland!

all seasons in one day

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We have been in Holland, aka the Netherlands, aka where people speak Dutch and better English than I do, since Monday. We took the train from Paris, unexpectedly and mistakingly in first class. We had wifi, lunch and yummy snacks. I refrained from the unlimited wine consumption that our across-the-aisle neighbors took advantage of so casually and so extensively. We were picked up by our Rotterdam Hostess Extraordinaire, one of my friends from college, Barbara, who I have not seen since the late 1980s. Thanks to Facebook, we've kept in touch. She lives in Rotterdam now with her husband Mark and two beautiful boys, Sabastian and Alexander.

On Tuesday, Barb took us to Kinderdijk, a place so scenic you think "this is why people come to Holland!" Nineteen windmills near enough to each other to be a part of the same water management system. We rented bikes to tool around the windmills, take pictures, and experience Henry's particularities with bike gears, brakes, tipping potential and comfort. 

The sun broke through the low morning clouds when we were there. So serene. One of the windmills is open for tourists, the rest are occupied as homes. 
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OK, but I had no idea that the purpose of these old Dutch windmills was to move water! These first ones were not involved in energy production at all. Rather, they work with the lock system to lift water out from underground and move it to where it could be more useful, namely where people do not want to build or farm. Much of Holland could be underwater in three weeks if all the power went out today. This is not the news Barb wants to hear! Three weeks? No wonder this country is so fixated on water management! 

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On our first night, Barbara treated us to a wonderful feast where a two level cooker was placed mid table. On the top, she grilled veggie items, squash, mushrooms, pineapple. Underneath bubbled small potatoes and cheese in individual pans. These come to your plate with a dozen sauces to choose from for dipping, and also wonderful cheeses and bread and wine. What an amazing, beautiful and memorable meal! Another night Barb made us traditional pancakes with yummy cheese in them, again with lots of toppings to choose from. Delicious. 
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Experienced the first rough bout of home sickness by the kids this week. I don't know if it was exhaustion, being in a Barbara and Mark's HOME, or being overtired. But, it hit hard. As soon as Coco's sobbing subsided, Henry's ramped up. They finally calmed down enough to fall asleep. I'll say it again: we all are so excited to have Don come! 

We went to Amsterdam for a day trip yesterday, leaving Rotterdam in the morning and returning on. 7:30 train. About an our's ride. We took an hour long boat ride, which was a little hokey but gave us a great over view of the entire central Amsterdam lay-out. Then, we walked. And walked. And walked. We stood in front of the Anne Frank house and talked about her. After a direct question, I had to tell the kids that Anne did not survive the camps and was indeed killed. We stood for a while in front of a statue of her, one that so clearly shows she was just a little girl. 

I liked a lot about Amsterdam. The canals. The boats. The bridges.  The tiny streets.  Some things were just not for me or, for that matter, for the kids.  That's fine, just not for me. The kids don't know what marijuana smells like (at least I don't think they do!). I smelled a lot of it, unsurprisingly. At one point, Henry said, "mom, people don't smoke as much here as they do in Paris, do they?". Ummm, well, no they do not seem to smoke cigarettes as much as Parisians do...

Armed with a snack bag from heaven, we had French fries smothered in mayonnaise from paper cones for lunch. A late afternoon snack of apple pie with whipped cream held us over (and coffee and hot chocolate) until we came home. Our train went out of service just as it was about to leave Amsterdam so a local had us follow hi,pm to the next train. Once in Amsterdam, we then waited for a tram going in the wring direction and then had to wait again for the correct one. So, got home a bit later than planned.  We had a good, long day.

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Te kids love being here with Sabastian and Alexander. Playmates! Hide and seek! An awesome back yard! Great playgrounds. Lots of laughter. I know we've disrupted the family routines, and I really appreciate what a big deal this is, especially during a school week. The kids are so happy to be here, and so am I.

The number of bikers is quite impressive! I knew there'd be a lot of bikers, but wow. Thousands of bikes are parked outside old train stations, hundreds here and there. And the Dutch don't just park them, they ride them! So smart.

Posted by Lindacdc 02:23 Archived in Netherlands Comments (1)

One Month

sunny 66 °F

Coco and Henry often play very well together. But, sometimes they don't. There are mini power struggles that pepper our days. Who will be on which side of me (when we can walk three or two abreast down the street). Who will chose where we have dinner or lunch if we're not eating at the apartment. Whether one will let the other connect to a mine craft stint. Can I have the pillow you're using? /No. / Come on, I want that one, it's not a big deal! / If it's not a big deal then why do you want it so badly?... It's exasperating. And then it passes. 

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Henry's birthday yesterday was a lot of fun but it was a looping day. Excited, Henry was up early. Excited, Henry woke me up early to join in his excitement! We took a meandering walk to the "trampoline playground" (the Tuilleries gardens). We went through a covered passageway, stopping to play with each toy in its toy store. We walked though the Palais-Royal's gardens, stopping for a while to pet some dogs and blow plastic bubbles through hard plastic straws. Remember those bubbles? They have them here and, now, so do we.... 

By the time we got near the trampoline park the kids were desperate for a bathroom. Dues ex machina style, a slew of port-a-johnnies appeared across from the Comedie Francaise. By the time our 30 minute walk to the playground turned into a 120 minute walk, it was raining. Two turns on the trampolines regardless (birthday boy and all).  Man, kids love those trampolines. 

Henry got to pick out his cake on the way home. We walked in the rain to make sure we went by some pastry shops. He chose a strawberry, cream, and pistachio cake contraption. It was as delicious as it was pretty. It rained the rest of the day. We stayed home, packed and cleaned up a bit, played cards and played pick-up-sticks. It may be a series of fluke sightings on our part, but we have come to 100% believe that playing pik up sticks is very popular here. Almost as popular as ping pong. Each stick has a pattern on it, with each pattern giving different points. Who knew!!

Our time in Paris has been at times adventurous, beautiful, educational, chaotic and tasty. To say that I am grateful and glad that we chose to spend a month here are understatements. The biggest downside is that Don has not been with us yet. That has made many parts of the adventure incomplete. We have a list, one that got longer over these last few days, of things we want to do with Don when we are all here together. 

Today was our last full day in Paris until late November.  A beautiful, sunny day. We had a different list of things we wanted to do these last few days. One item, standing on the "center" of Paris, a star embedded in the plaza in front of Notre Dame, was checked off today. This also meant we could visit the tiny but supercharged playground behind the Notre Dame cathedral. Street sandwiches for lunch and a short walk to our most frequented playground.

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We made it a point to go through the plaza in front of Centre Pompidou, to check out the street artists. We joined a huge crowd watching a very high-up unicyclist juggling, cracking jokes (in English no less). Still no mime but we all enjoyed the show.

Came home and packed up for the next leg of our trip: the Netherlands! Staying with an old friend, much more on her and her family later! Henry said he was glad it was getting dark outside, because then we're closer to going to Rotterdam and our next adventure.

Posted by Lindacdc 13:49 Archived in France Comments (4)

What is this, a carnival?

semi-overcast

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balloonist, centre pomidou plaza

I hope to always take advantage of any bathroom opportunity on this trip. The need for one of the kids to use the bathroom does not slowly develop over a half hour or so. When the need is first expressed it is at full-throttle proportion. All must be immediately assessed - options, pros and ons of leaving where we are, etc. Kids never need a bathroom when we're eating in a restaurant (with a bathroom!) but, rather, wherever we happen to be 20 minutes later, after they've unequivocally declared they do not have to go. Part of me does not blame them, some of the bathrooms here are real puzzlers. Where's the flush mechanism? How do you turn the water on? Why is there no seat? Why is there no toilet paper (again)? What are those long white cloth towels people seem to be pulling out as if there is an endless roll of them in there to dry your hands? Most restaurants have co-ed sink areas. Fine by me, but the men's room seems so often very exposed to the sink area! We've also paid a fee a few times to use a bathroom, at a downtown mall, in a park. Sure, I'll pay a few cents to have a rim on my seat, toilet paper and soap! 

I also profess to enjoy the city's street performers, who seem to come in all varieties of entertainment. Painters, sketch artists, jugglers, musicians galore. We remain in search of a mime, that we've yet to see one is very puzzling to Coco. 

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Today, we spent about 30 minutes with a very kind balloon artist, who made Coco a bouquet of flowers and Henry, for his 9th birthday tomorrow, a motorcycle. The balloonist (?!) frequently interrupted his craft to play little jokes on the kids, very silly stuff that we all enjoyed (and, thus, the 30 minutes for two balloons).

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Ste. Chappelle

On Wednesday morning we went to St. Chappelle, a most delicate, sweet church very close to Notre Dame. The stained glass was amazing and seemed to envelop us. Ironically, you can get a discount ticket to see both Sainte Chappelle and La Conciergerie, which are next door to each other. Quite unlike the church, La Conciergerie was a jail, where people like Marie Antoinette were kept until their heads were lopped off. There were jails with life size prisoner dummies. Very strange. 

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inside view - Galaries Lafayette

We also went to Galleries Lafayette on Wednesday, a big fancy department store. We all had the salad bar, which had some welcomed lentils. We also went on the rooftop, which was great. Mostly cloudy but still the views were great and the building not so high as to freak me out! A big open space of hard plastic sofas and chairs, AstroTurf and pretty views of the grey sky, greyer buildings. It was pouring by the time left; we took the metro home the three stops. 

We returned to the Holocaust memorial today, a day when its neighborhood, Le Marais, seemed packed with Orthodox Jews and stacks of challah in all the bakery windows. We went into some of the exhibit rooms, Henry with a thousand questions and Coco just wanting to get out. it is a beautiful memorial and all the emoticons I described last week came back. We searched the walls for last names that were familiar to us, looked at the little stones people left as offerings. More than 70,000 Jews were taken from France to camps between 1942 and 1944; only about 2500 of them survived. 

We hit the books pretty solidly this week. Next week brings travel for us, a new city and country, and playmates for the kids (and me!). kids are doing well with homeschooling and take it pretty seriously. Except for morning stretching! We do morning stretching each day, rotating who leads the stretching. Coco would make us stretch for 45 minutes if she could. We have to remind her let us switch positions, and eventually to end the session. When Henry is the leader, he mostly wants to be on the floor (quel surprise!) and he puts as little effort into actually stretching as possible. I told him he was going to fail PE and he argued with me that stretching has nothing to do with PE! He just likes to roll around the floor!

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Hotel du Sully, Place des Vosges

Tomorrow is Henry's birthday and this boy is about to burst. Before I go to bed tonight, I'll decorate with some garland and streamers (he's always the first up). We'll open presents at breakfast (so he does not indeed burst) and then have our little treasure hunt around the apartment. The rest of the day will depend on both the weather and Henry's wishes. Maybe we'll come across a mime. 

Posted by Lindacdc 13:12 Archived in France Comments (1)

Modern Art

semi-overcast 68 °F

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Our last week in Paris is a mix of school, museums, churches, and attention to Henry's birthday on Saturday. Tonight we played hide and seek in the apartment. Kids squealing with laughter. One time out for a bathroom emergency (no, not for me!). Those kids are both more than happy to squeeze themselves into small, dark spaces! I resisted playing at first but we had FUN. 

We took a break from the protractor today to get my hair cut and colored. Don't know yet that it looks any different than Helen's $16 cut at the Hair Cuttery but they did color it for me, something I don't think I could have logistically pulled off in our tiny and/or awkwardly placed sinks.

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Yesterday afternoon we went to the Centre Pompidou, a modern art museum a short walk from our apartment. I sucked it up and we took the escalator up the side of the building, to a wide view. The art was all new for the kids. Coco was really into it, describing what each piece might mean, and Henry very picky. That is, picking apart the pieces that made up the work. There were a few installations that grabbed us all - so cool to be jointly transfixed by color, graphics, lines. 

Most all of the museum art we've seen has been very directed, it's pretty clear what we're expected to glean from it. But, the Centre Pompidou's works are mostly for each person to decipher on his/her own. I think this caught the kids off guard. What is that??? After a few rooms of me saying, "well, what do you think it is?", they were off, no longer questioning everything (out loud).

I like the photo where Henry's sitting next to the modern chairs. Henry takes most any opportunity to take a break, sit, stretch. He'll sit on the filthiest floor or ledge. Yuk!

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Tomorrow we go on a field trip to one of the big train stations (woo hoo! - trying to make the errand as exciting as possible!) so I can purchase tickets for future legs of our trip. I am anxious about this. I have some fear that I've made some big trip planning mistake that will be exposed by the Gare du Nord Eurail office. Then, I relax, telling myself any mistake can be fixed! And then I get anxious....

Posted by Lindacdc 10:58 Archived in France Comments (0)

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