Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Paris March 2015

A few weeks ago I had this intense craving to get out and travel. I threw around a few ideas in my head, but I just couldn't seem to quash my Paris-lust. I called Nathan, just knowing he would say, "You are nuts because we are going to Australia in June!" but to my delight, instead he said, "Well, go ahead and book the trip. Paris it is!" So, I went ahead and booked it. As the days leading up to the trip kept passing, I began questioning our sanity and decision making skills. Who the heck takes FOUR kids to Paris, all under the age of 8, and one only 3 months old. Yep, we had lost it! The day of reckoning came quickly and before I knew it, it was 2:30am in Denver and we were waking the kids up to head on over to the airport. I hadn't slept hardly at all that night because my flying fear was kicking in big time. In fact, I spend a good 3-4 hours reading up on articles spouting safe flying stats and how to conquer your fear of flying. Of course, it didn't work, but somehow I managed to get on that airplane, once again. 
Our flight from DEN to ORD was quite possibly the smoothest easiest flight I have ever experienced. Quincy and the baby slept the entire time, there was virtually zero turbulence, it was just awesome. We arrived bright and early in the Windy City and headed straight for the AA lounge. I just want to say that I don't know how we would have survived our 8.5 hour layover at that airport without lounge access. We had an entire family room to ourselves, besides about 20 minutes where a woman and her small daughter stayed and at the last 15 minutes two more kids came in. The room had computers with tons of kids games on them, a tv with every Disney and Nick station that has ever existed, and parental controls for the rest. A closet full of giant legos, cookies, fruit, a light breakfast, light lunch, etc. I even got a quick little nap in curled up in one of the chairs! The layover went incredibly quick and before I knew it, it was time to fly to PARIS! 
Our flight from ORD-CDG was possibly the second smoothest flight of my life. There was virtually zero turbulence for the entire 7 hour flight. It was dreamy. The flight was also pretty empty and even though there were FIVE babies on board, you would have never known. Our babies didn't sleep much, but they weren't naughty either,  and Grant, who got the spoiled treatment from the flight attendants, slept like a baby snuggled up in the entire row of empty seats just for himself! The flight attendants made him a cozy little bed, buckled him in, and for the next six hours he watched the back of his eye lids! A little aside about Grant. That boy does not need sleep. He can stay awake for ages and it doesn't phase him. He had woken up with us at 2:30am in DEN and didn't fall asleep again until a good hour in to our flight, which left ORD late, like 8 or 9 pm, if I remember correctly. 
We landed in Paris bright and early. Before 7am! Nathan and I were started to feel the fatigue time at this point. Another side now: Our plane was old and only had a few tv's with one movie playing. I was super bugged about it, but my kids still managed to find ways to stay entertained, so it all worked out. 
Okay, so land in Paris, load up our giant double stroller with luggage and children and head towards the train to take us to Versailles. For the first time ever, I wasn't completely lost in that concrete monstrosity and we got to where we needed to be within a few minutes. Of course nothing can't go so perfectly for so long. Sure enough, when we got to the kiosk to get our tickets, the machine asked for our PIN # and it dawned on me that I had completely forgotten to set one up! I was able to call Barclay and talk to a representative who sent me to another line to set up the PIN. Problem number two became immediately apparent when we couldn't set the pin up because we only had Nathan's card, and he was just an authorized user, which apparently the PIN is only a feature for the account owner. Luckily we had more cards, but unfortunately those cards were from Citi bank. I called Citi to set up the PIN and lo and behold, they don't offer PIN numbers for chip credit cards. Shoot! At around that time I wanted sit in the middle of the floor and throw a big temper tantrum, a worked came up to me and said that I could use my Citi card at the customer service desk! Thank you, Sweet Moses!
I head over to the desk and there is a big long line! I really hate waiting in lines. I walked to the back because I had no other option, obviously, and the next thing I know, the only worker at the desk is waving her finger at me telling me to come up there. Did I mention I had Lynden with me? So, I walked up all confused and yeah, she had just seen me holding my fussy baby so she had me come to the front of the line! It was fantastic and I wanted to hug her. This was just the first of several times we were shown kindness while we stayed in France. 
Finally, we had our tickets! We came across our first fun situation where we had maneuver our gigantic stroller through the small control area and down stairs. Nathan ended up just having to fold it and lift it over the access gate because he couldn't get through! Good times. We got some seriously good workouts in during our stay with that stroller!
The boys thought all the metro/train stations were pretty awesome. They were especially thrilled when we hopped on our second train and it was a double decker! Of course they had to go straight fo the top! Next stop: Versailles.

Lynden freaked pretty much every time we stuck her in the stroller, so she got big time spoiled and was held ALL THE TIME since we didn't want her screaming on the entire train ride.
We arrived in Versailles and didn't get too terribly lost! It was quite the walk from the train station to our hotel, though! Poor Grant and Carter were pretty pooped by the time we arrived!

Our hotel was located right up against the gardens of Versailles. There was a gate to the right that led right in to the gardens. It was seriously paradise. Also, it was possibly the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed in!

Once we got to the hotel, Nathan and I took a quick, okay, like 3 hour nap, with the babies while the two older boys watched cartoons in French. They didn't seem to mind at all! So now that Nathan and I are all rested, we decide to go walk around Versailles and try to find something to eat. We were pretty hungry by now. It was late afternoon, probably around 4, and we hadn't eaten since super early breakfast on the plane. We start walking around and find a restaurant nearby. Even though we have been to Europe several times, this fact always seems to slip my mind. People eat dinner LATE there. I mean, really late. Versailles was probably the worst I have ever experienced, though. The restaurant didn't start serving food until 9:30 PM, ON A WEEKDAY! That was the same situation with each place we stopped at. We finally decided to head back to the hotel to see if they had any recommendations on where to find dinner. Of course they referred us to their hotel restaurant, which just so happens to be a Gordon Ramsey place! They told us they were serving "snacks," so I got sucked in and headed over. They precede to hand us the "snack" menu and I about choked on my water. $35 for a burger. No way in H.E. Double hockey sticks am I buying my kids a $5 burger let alone $35! I decide to order just one that we can all share because I'm not ashamed of being a cheap skate, and send Nathan out to find a grocery store to pick up some baguettes or something for us to eat. It takes them seriously like 30 minutes to get the burger out, and during that insanely long wait, Grant and Carter just conk out in their chairs. I mean, they are dead to the world! I tried to wake them up, but they didn't stir, so naturally, I ate the burger. It was probably the best burger I have ever had!
After waiting for over an hour for Nathan to get back, I finally decided to wake my kids up and go upstairs to wait for him instead. Okay, when I say my kids were dead to the world, I am not kidding. Two of the waitresses came over and we were trying everything to get these boys to wake up and they would not budge. The waitresses were the cutest things ever and were so gentle and quiet, trying to wake them up all nice and serene like! I was like, "BOYS! Wake up! Let's GO!" Nothing. Finally, after no joke, like 15 minutes, I just pulled them out of their chairs, they start bawling, and I practically drag them, along with the baby, back to the room.
So Nathan FINALLY gets back and all he has with him is some cheese, some prosciutto and a small bag of gummy candy! My kids are ready to go all zombie on my face from the hunger. Apparently, there were really no grocery stores anywhere nearby and the small places he did find had virtually nothing to eat. We chowed down on the little bit we had and then just went to bed hungry. This seemed to be a continuous trend throughout our trip! We just had such a hard time finding food, for some reason!
The next morning we woke up early-ish and decided to go get some croissants and jam for breakfast. We started walking all over and ran in to the same situation. No one served breakfast and lunch wasn't until like TWO! We basically just walked around super hungry that first half of the morning until we came upon a tiny little grocery like store that had a few croissants sitting out in the open in a basket for sale. I thought for sure they would be awful, but after eating them, I am convinced that it is just not possible to find bad croissants in France! 
After we chowed down on croissants, we decided to head back towards the hotel and enter into the gardens of Versailles! The boys had a blast just running and jumping around and climbing and exploring while we walked through the gardens! This day was honestly the perfect day. I could relive it every single day for the rest of my life and die a happy person! Just watching my boys run and play in this amazing garden, so carefree, and being with my hubby and just walking with him! Ahhhh! I miss it!

After a few hours of exploring the gardens, and deciding not to go into the palace with all the kids because they wouldn't let us take our carriers or anything, we decided to head back to the hotel, pick up our stuff and start our trip back to Paris! Our walk was a long one, but we made it to the station, got a little bit confused but not too badly, and made our way back. The ride was a fun one. We met a sweet couple from New Orleans and chatted with them the entire ride. My boys are NOT shy at all and conversed with the couple more than I did! Ha ha! We got to our stop, hopped on the metro, which was loads of fun with a our huge stroller, and then finally made it to our destination. The hotel was incredibly easy to find since it's this massive skyscraper towering over the city!
We checked in and made our way up to the 31st floor where we had a plate of macarons and a beautiful fruit basket waiting for us! We initially had two connecting rooms booked. The manager greeted us at check-in and informed us that he would upgrade us to their presidential suite for the remaining three nights, he just didn't have it available for the first night. Are you kidding me? I love Hyatt more than anything in this world!
Our view from the room. After we checked in, we decided to just kind of hang out in the room and rest. We were pretty pooped. At some point we headed down stairs to the lounge and snacked on some little appetizer things for dinner. We then went back to the room and I must have been pretty darn tired because I think I just conked right out!
The next day we hit up breakfast in the lounge, got ready for the day, and headed out to explore Paris! We hopped on some type of public transport system, either the metro or RER, can't remember, and made out way to the Eiffel Tower! The kids loved it right away and were so excited to be there. We wanted to go to the top, but the line was huge and it was incredibly cold and windy. Instead, we opted for a river "cruise" on the Seine. The ride was alright. About an hour long and it was fun to see some sites that I have never had the opportunity to stop at and go see. The boys had a great time taking pictures on my camera, see picture below this paragraph!

After the cruise, we started walking. I think our initial goal was to walk over to Notre Dame, but we got incredibly sidetracked thanks to me. I just see something poking out of the skyrise and have to see what exactly it is. We walked by some old cathedrals, which were closed, and then found ourselves right over by the Champs Elysees. We continued walking for like ages and managed to go right past the Place de la Concorde and through the Tulieries gardens. We finally let Quincy out of his carrier when we hit the park. That boy was like a kid on Christmas morning. He ran and jumped and was just so happy to be free.

We risked life and limb for this photo. You can't tell but it was an inanely busy intersection.

My baby boy running wild and free!

We make our way all the way over to the Louvre, wait in the line to get through security, only to find out it was closing in just a few minutes. We were pretty much starving so we headed over to the cafeteria and bought the last few sandwiches we had left. They were super mediocre. The cafeteria basically kicked us out and we left the Louvre. I think this time around we decided to just hop on the train and head back to the hotel. We had done A LOT of walking earlier and the kids were getting pretty tired!

The next day, which got started way later than we wanted to, which is kind of a recurring theme for us, we decided to go back to the Louvre and check it out this time! We took the train right to the entrance of the Louvre. That was super cool. I've been to Paris 3 times now and had no idea there was a metro station basically connected to the building. We made our way over to the gigantic line and got ready to wait for hours on end to purchase our tickets. Once again, just reaffirming how much French people love children, the security guard noticed us standing in the massive line waiting for tickets and told me to follow her. We walked ALL THE WAY to the very front and were able to go right in. It was amazing! I'm not even exaggerating when I say that we would have waited at least two hours to get through security. I was incredibly grateful that we did not have to wait. I think we probably would have given up after 30 minutes, to be honest. Once inside and once our tickets were purchased, we made our way right over to the Mona Lisa. I carried Lynden in her carrier and Nathan used the stroller the Louvre loaned us for Q dog! After the Mona Lisa, we kind of just wandered through the museum with no plan or idea of what we wanted to see or where we were going. It was stroller "friendly" but still a lot of work to use anything with wheels. We took about a million elevators, it seemed like. After wandering aimlessly for several hours, and somehow managing to basically get kicked out again because it was closing time, again, we left. We were all starving, as usual, but the cafeterias were already closed. We figured we would just head to the Eiffel Tower and eat there or somewhere on our walk over. We happened upon a McDonalds and the kids could not have been any more excited. They thought it was pretty awesome that there was an upsairs, as well! The boys and I found a small table in the upper part of the restaurant, which was awesome because that place was insanely busy, while Nathan ordered the boys Happy Meals. So, how did McDonalds in Paris compare to McDonalds in the US. They were the exact same nasty chicken nuggets and french fries we all know and love. After the boys had some food in their bellies, we began our walk over to the Eiffel Tower. It was really chilly and somewhat windy that evening. The kids were pretty beat, as well, and pretty much begging us to get to the tower so they could sit down and relax. By the time we got there, I think all of us would have been okay forgoing the trip to the top and heading back to the hotel instead. In fact, Quincy asked us like a million times if we could go back to the hotel. I sat out by the entrance with the kids while Nathan waited in line to get the tickets. It was soooo dang cold and all the dudes selling illegal souvenirs were bombarding us! "Jus 1 Euro! 1 Euro! 1 Euro!" "Sorry, I don't have any euros! No Euros!" My kids made it worse because they got all caught up in their sales antics, i.e., shining stupid flashing Eiffel towers in our faces and making it all look exciting! After like 30 minutes of it, I decided I would rather stand in line with Nathan for who knows how long rather than try to explain to those guys that I literally had not a single Euro on me!
After waiting what seemed like forever and having a totally confusing conversation with the security guard that we still can't figure out what he was talking about. Something about Nathan's soda bottle in the bag, but the guard wouldn't let him throw it away either....yeah! I don't know. Anyway, we headed up! The boys were super excited to get to ride in the big 'ol elevator all the way to the very top! I was excited because I finally got my kiss, actually, 5 of them, at the top of the Eiffel Tower! We hung out for only a little bit because it was just so darn cold, late, and we, Nathan and I, were starving! We made it down to the next level, stopped for a bathroom break where I had to change Lynden's diaper and a young girl asked if she could take her picture, which was cool and all, except I was changing her diaper. So, yeah....Back to the line to wait for the elevator. We went down one more level and hopped off to go eat at the restaurant. I hadn't even stopped at this level on my prior trips. It was so cool over there. There is this whole entire restaurant and other things just right there in the Eiffel Tower. Luckily we were able to get a seat. I think it was almost 10pm at this point! The food ended up being super good, but insanely expensive. What do you expect, though. It's Paris and the Eiffel Tower. Our waiter was also super fun and nice! It was really a great experience and one that I highly recommend!
We finally made it back to the hotel super late and all just conked out!

This picture was on our walk from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower!

At the top of the tower!
On our last full day in Paris, we ended up heading over to the Champs Elysees for two reasons: 1. We needed a bank to get some Euros and 2. I wanted to try LaDuree's macarons! I had been dreaming of these babies for ages. We walked around the street for a while. Somehow we kept walking right past the macaron shop but eventually it finally jumped out at us and I went in and endulged in some delicious macs. The strawberry marshmallow ones were my favorites. I have dreams about them still. To be honest, though, those were the only ones I loved. I wasn't crazy about any of the other flavors.
I really wanted Nathan to see Montmartre because it's just so pretty and has the best views in Paris, in my opinion. We hopped on the train and headed up. It was pretty crazy busy over there. As we were walking we came upon a "park" with tons of kids playing. The boys couldn't wait to join in. They found a group of kids about Grant's age and played soccer, hide n seek, and all sorts of fun games together. Even though they couldn't communicate through words whatsoever, they all had blast. I absolutely loved watching my kids interact with these other children! It was the best moment of the entire trip.

The next morning we packed up, called a "cab," which was actually a huge van because we have so many kids and even more junk, and began the drive to Disneyland Paris! The boys were so excited to finally go to Disneyland.
We checked into our new hotel, and if I remember correctly, headed straight over to the park. We didn't realize that it closed so early, like 6 or 7, but we made the best of our time anyway. The first ride we went on was Indiana Jones. This ride was NOTHING like the one in California. It was an outdoor roller coaster and that was about it.
It just so happened to be Saint Patrick's Day and unbeknownst to us, Disneyland Paris goes all out for the holiday. The parades and decorations were so much fun.

The best part was the fireworks show! Holy cow! I have never seen anything like it in my entire life. Right before the park closed, we ran to Pirates of the Carribean for one last ride. Carter hated it with a mad passion, but we made him go anyway. It was so much fun because we were the only people on the entire ride!
The next day we hit up the other park, Walt Disney adventure or something like that. I wasn't expecting a lot from it but it ended up being so much better than I could have imagined! We went to the Ratatouille area first. I can't remember why, but for some reason Nathan had to run to the other park, or all the way back to the hotel, or something, but I ended up waiting with the kids for like 2 hours! It was nuts. I let Grant go on the Ratatouille ride by himself like 10 times while we waited for Nathan. He loved it. When the hubs finally got back, I took a turn on it. It was such a fun ride. One of my favorites!

At the Toy Story area. Grant, Carter, and I took a ride on the Parachute Men ride thingy. Another awesome ride that was soooo much fun! My most favorite ride was the Hollywood Tower Hotel, though! Seriously, best ride ever! I took Grant on it with me, and even though we saw some giant rats the size of my shitzu running around outside in the grass, we had a blast. Actually, Grant didn't love it but I thought it was the best. When I got done I told Nathan he had to ride it. He agreed that it was the best ride at the park!

We had made reservations earlier to eat at the Blue Bayou restaurant, the one by the Pirates of the Carribean ride. The service was super...meh and the food was okay. It was also insanely expensive, but we had a good time and it was a neat experience.

We finished up and headed back to the hotel! That night we saw a street vendor dude get caught by the police. All over Paris there are people standing at the really touristy dense areas, Disneyland is not an exception, selling all sorts of cheap souvenirs. Apparently it's illegal because when the police come, these sellers pull a rope, which pulls all of their junk into a bundle and they take off running.
We made it to the airport bright and early the next morning and headed out! After about 9 hours we landed in Washington D.C. I don't remember much about it except being soooo hungry and even more tired. We grabbed some not good Chinese food and then found an empty area in the airport, after we had taken the train all the way over to another part of the terminal because the airport worked dude told us there was a lounge with a children's area there, but there wasn't, and then headed all the way back to our terminal. Our 6 hour layover finally ended and we hopped on our last plane back to Denver!