Tuesday, June 26, 2012

European Vacation, part I

Get ready for a LONG one!

We've known for a few years that Grant would be one of two chaperons for the MUS in Europe program, where he'd be teaching upcoming seniors about art and photography. The option always existed for me to attend, but when I got pregnant we started to reconsider our plans and decided to make the final decision once Elliot arrived. It wasn't too long after she was born that we decided to make it a family event and I am so happy we did!

 I'll have to admit, the preparation for this trip was fairly intimidating and slightly exhausting. Packing for a weekend trip with an infant is hard enough, but 3 whole weeks?! I thought it would be impossible. As usual, I procrastinated with packing and even agreed to go out of town the weekend before we left for a girls getaway. (I'm sure glad I did though, because we had a great time relaxing on the lake and something I desperately needed!). We did our best to pack as light as possible (even for Elliot!) and here's what we ended up with:

1 checked rolling suitcase for Grant,
1 checked hiking backpack for me
1 more checked rolling bag that we had to pay extra for which held all the teaching supplies,
1 carry-on each (Elliot was allowed a 20lb-er)
Diaper bag with purse stuffed inside :)
*For a grand total of 7 bags. Not bad, right?

Grant would like for you to think that he carried them all the whole time, but oh no-no buddy. Momma carried her weight, too. And here's proof.

We're in the Paris train station here, waiting to board the night train to Florence. What followed after this picture was deemed my breaking point of the trip. And I'll tell you about that later :).
When traveling from city to city, I was responsible for this cutie, my hiking bag (better believe that thing was to the 50lb limit!), Elliot's carry-on and her diaper bag. After 3 weeks, I was begging for yoga!

The flight to Amsterdam and then on to Paris went quite smoothly. In fact, much better than I expected. Elliot slept for a little over half of the 9 hour flight to Amsterdam, thanks to this little bassinet. And a little Benadryl :). 

 We reached Paris in the early afternoon after about 15 hours of traveling. We boarded a charter bus headed to La Tourlandry. And what was supposed to be a 2-3 hour drive took roughly 6 hours to reach the chateau. There was one pit stop, no air conditioning, no ability to open the windows and yes, we were lost. By this time, all three of us had lost our minds and our patience. Elliot was exhausted, hot and needed food. And I thought everyone was going to kill us with how much she screamed the last hour of that ride!

But, we finally made it to our resting place and I was pleasantly surprised when we pulled through the iron gates and caught a glimpse of this place. I had a feeling it would be nice, but this was just unbelievable.

Since we arrived at dusk, I had no idea exactly how beautiful the chateau was until we woke the next morning and walked downstairs to the breakfast room. Each morning, we enjoyed french bread delivered from a local bakery straight to the front door, along with fresh fruit and yogurt. And since we were up way before the boys each morning, we were able to enjoy breakfast as a family. What I wouldn't give for this view at our house right now!

Elliot would scream each morning as we walked downstairs because she knew that bread was waiting on her!


Special Mother's Day bread as they celebrated June 3 this year and this was my favorite

She and I spent a lot of our days playing outside while the boys were inside having class. It was a bit of a challenge to keep her busy with just a handful of toys and a new environment, but we settled into a routine of events and I would try to switch them around each day.

We took strolls 

with and without the stroller

took pictures with Daddy

Played several games of petanque. Grant had been playing all week and this was my first game. Beat him. Fair and square. We're pretty competitive with each other and I think he was a little shocked after he talked a big game to the guys before I showed up :).

And we took more pictures!

I'm giving it my best shot here to try and make this girl laugh and this is what she came with. Ha!

This was "our" little chair. She'd get all her bottles in this room, in this chair. One of my favorite spots in the whole house. You could see outside in both directions and the best spot for getting the internet to work :)

We spent the first 5 nights (+ naps) like this. We thought jet-lag was the culprit in the beginning and I'm sure it partially was. But by day 6, we knew something else was going on. We opened the antibiotics we brought with us and once we started them, she was back to normal-sleeping all night. I thought she might have a small ear infection based on other symptoms and we're so glad we had that on hand. Because little did we know, we'd need those last few restful nights before heading off to other cities!

We went on several day trips throughout our 9 days at the chateau, usually leaving in the morning and getting home before dinner. Elliot and I went on all but one of these trips and loved every city. The first was Gerande. It reminds me a lot of a small town in Italy- San Gimignano. A little less medieval but equally as pretty. They're known for their fleur de sel and I'm kicking myself for not getting any!

Can you believe this face? Where does she come up with this?!

La Boule is about an hour from Gerande and we stopped here next so the boys could have a little beach time. It started out pretty hot and I was nervous Elliot was going to be so burned. But was relieved to see the clouds roll in because there were no opportunities for shade and the bus wasn't coming to get us for another couple hours. This is my kind of beach weather! Elliot didn't seem to enjoy it as much as we hoped she would.

I fell in love with this candy and pastry shop
Another day we stopped in Amboise to see where Leonardo DaVinci was buried. Elliot slept through most of this tour :)

And near the end of our time in La Tourlandry, we walked a few miles up the road to the local chocolate factory, Cesbron. Oh my. Now, I love chocolate, but mainly as an ingredient for other things- chocolate cake, pie, whatever. Eating a piece of chocolate just doesn't do it for me. But this was like nothing I've ever tasted. And we tasted so many, we were sick after our visit! Better believe we brought some home, too.

Day one, I thought I'd be ready for something new after nine days of the same place. But it was just the opposite. I wanted just one more day to sit on the grass, enjoy coffee in the breakfast room and watch this cutie enjoy her new environment.

This portion of the trip may go down as my absolute favorite for the entire 3 weeks. I hope we get the chance to return one day.

Next up... we take our adventures on the road. First stop, Paris!


  1. Great post! I love these photos. Elliot is just the cutest! Her expressions are priceless

  2. I love everything about this post and am totally jealous!!!