venerdì 18 luglio 2014

You might be a toddler

Watching a toddler learn and play is amazing.  Living in Italy is amazing.  Put the two together and you have a pretty interesting adventure!

You know you are a toddler in Italy when:

  • “Ciao, bella!!” is a phrase you hear every time you leave the house
  • You wash your hands in the bidet
  • You know what a bidet is and how to use it
  • You know how to eat olives…”not the pit, mommy”
  • Your favorite foods are mozzarella di bufala, salami, pasta, and prosciutto and of course pizza
  • You say “ciao” to people you pass in the grocery store
  • You think it’s funny to say “look kids, Vesuvius” (this may not be all toddlers, just ones whose parents like National Lampoons!)
  • You pretend to flush the toilet by pushing on the wall
  • You cannot reach the flusher on the toilet without climbing on the toilet
  • You receive gifts from strangers all of the time: food off their plate, candy, stuffed animals, soccer balls,
  • You have an espresso set to go with your tea set
  •  You take your Elmo phone to the back door to get better reception
  • You sleep through LOUD fireworks outside your window at any hour of the day
  • You can count in English and Italian but sometimes confuse the two “mommy, count in English: uno, due, tre, quarto, cinque!”
  • The Italian word for tantrum and your favorite pizza are the same

mercoledì 24 aprile 2013

Torino Torino

After a little winter hibernation, we finally decided to get back on the horse!  Our last plane flight to Germany for the Christmas markets was very tough for the baby.  She had trouble popping her ears and screamed bloody murder for the entire descent.  We did everything you are supposed to do to help babies and nothing worked so we were very hesitant to put her through that again. We decided we would take a direct flight somewhere and then take the train back so we could test her ears and use the trains for the first time.  We picked a location based on the flights and train schedule from a short list (Nice, Verona, & Torino).  I even researched things to do in Torino before we left!!  We asked four or five doctors for suggestions on helping the baby.  We asked FB for suggestions and had a long list of ideas. We picked the things we thought were appropriate for our child (I am not giving my 18 month old bubble gum, gummy bears, or lollipops!) and felt that we were as prepared as we could be!

The flight was in the morning so we had to get the baby up early so we could get to the airport 2 hours in advance (yes, I am a travel nerd).  She was super excited to pack her suitcase with stuffed animals and blankets!  We had packed all three of us in one suitcase! My carry-on was packed with all the different things to try for the baby’s ears. 

We had a wonderfully smooth experience in the airport.  We had no trouble getting checked in and no line at Alitalia (very rare!) and got to use the express security line. We had time for a cappuccino and muffin and for the baby to run up and down a ramp a thousand times! 
When we boarded the plane, Matt asked the flights attendants (at least two different  ones) if they would be able to notify us a few minutes before the descent so we could make sure the baby was doing one of the many things we had up our sleeves!  She was excited to be climbing back and forth between our laps and looking at all the people on the plane.  Right before take-off, we had to put her seatbelt on which she was not excited about but she almost immediately fell asleep on her daddy’s chest!  She slept through take-off (which has never been an issue for her) and she slept the ENTIRE flight!  Matt kept trying to get her to clear her ears while she was sleeping and put in the special earplugs a friend found us.  But she slept through it all.  He kept pulling on her pacifier to get her to continue to suck and she still continued to sleep!  The flight attendants let us know a few minutes before descent and we had the special treats ready. But she slept through it!  When we landed, she woke up!  Matt declared the trip a success because she didn’t scream bloody murder.  I felt that we were lucky but that we didn’t figure out what would work if she got upset during the next landing.  I guess the results are the same…we can try to fly again!

We arrived early enough to explore the city after we settled into our apartment.  The weather was supposed to be terrible the entire weekend (rainy and cold) but it was beautiful the day we arrived.  We loaded the baby in the stroller and took off exploring.  Torino has miles and miles of archways, tons of piazzas, beautiful churches, and beautiful views almost everywhere.  The first day, we walked around experiencing everything.   We got some lunch and had a picnic in the park, where the baby convinced her daddy to buy her a mini soccer ball. After our lunch, we continued to wander around but I got a terrible headache so Matt walked me back so I could rest.  On the way back, we found a wonderful park for the baby to play.  We played for about an hour.  She found a friend with toys; he had one exactly like her puppy!! She did not quite understand that it was not her toy!  When we got back, Matt played with the baby while I took a little nap and then we decided to venture back out to find food.  Tips for any travelers-Torino does not caterer to tourists.  None of the restaurants open until 7:30 for dinner and 12:30 for lunch.  This is tough for us with a toddler that goes to bed at 7:00.  Finding food was a continuous struggle for us during the trip. 

On Friday, we went to local market.  Matt bought all the meat, cheese, wine, and bread he could carry! Instead of eating our wonderful meat and cheese (since I can’t eat salami!) we decided we would have a big lunch since we knew we would never have a big dinner! We went to the piazza with all the archways and tried to go to a restaurant that got great reviews online.  The restaurant didn’t open for about thirty minutes so we went to a café to have coffee.  We ended up eating at the little café instead of going to the first restaurant.  After lunch, we walked to the castle and palace.  We walked into the castle to find out it was an art museum.  Instead of going to this museum, we decided to go to the Egyptian museum.  It was AWESOME.  We saw a 1500 BC mummy and lots of other really cool things.  The baby enjoyed walking around the museum and looking at all the different things.  After the museum, it was finally raining, so we decided to wander back towards the house. And get gelato!  As we got to the gelato place, the baby fell asleep.  In an attempt to wake her up (we were three minutes from home and wanted to keep her up so she could go to sleep in her bed!!), I stuck a spoonful of gelato into her mouth.  She barely even woke up to lick her lips!!  The people in the store thought I was nuts trying to wake her up!

The next morning, the baby got up early but decided after a few hours that she wanted to take a nap.  She took a really good long nap.  Saturday we decided to have the big lunch we didn’t have on Friday.  It was an awful experience.  The baby was not in the mood to sit in the weird Italian high chair, she didn’t want to eat any of the snacks we brought, and she didn’t want to sit with either of us.  She doesn’t have a lot of experience in restaurants since they always are closed!  After tag teaming, we finished our lunch.  Mine was not satisfying but Matt enjoyed his.  It was rainy and cold so we bundled up the baby and started to walk to the Mole.  It was the tallest building for a while and currently the tallest building in Italy.  It was originally meant to be a synagogue but now is the Cinema Museum and has an elevator up to the spire.  We decided to not go to the museum since we don’t know much about Italian cinema!  We waited for an hour and a half to ride the elevator up!  My fear of heights has definitely improved since Matt keeps making me go up tall tall buildings and cliffs! The baby LOVED it!!  She was looking over the edge and screaming her name.  I was terrified! The building is featured on the back of the 2 cents coin. 

After the museum, I had a special surprise for Matt.  I looked up a wine tasting room and double checked all the hours so that we could go to the tasting.  He really wanted to get some wine from this region.  We walked for a while to find the place and when we got there, IT WAS CLOSED!! I was so upset.  In typical Italian fashion, the website was wrong!  We ended up right next to a church which we explored and on the same street as the museum with the shroud of Christ.  We decided to go to the museum.  Two museums in one day!! We were like real tourists!  After the second museum, we started to walk back towards the house and dinner at the Irish pub.  Dinner was slightly better than lunch because we were able to block off an area for her to run around but still be very close (there were no high chairs!)  We also had a nice family sitting with us that she loved!  After dinner, we got gelato again (I think it was the four trip and really the best gelato we have had!).  We got home and put the baby to bed.  

We spent the night packing up so that we could leave in the morning for the train.  We had to walk to the metro and get a train to the station we wanted.  This was our first real train trip so we did not know how much time you needed to allow.  We were at least an hour early…and this was not necessary.  You can arrive 15 minutes before if you want!  You can’t actually board the train until 5 minutes before departure.  The train arrives 5 minutes before departure!!  The baby LOVED the trains.  She was watching each train leave, saying “choo-choo!”  One of conductors did the whistle for the baby!  The train ride was 5 hours and she loved every minute!!  She looked out the window watching for the trains.  She kept saying “choo-choo, more choo-choo!” Finally with 45 minutes left, she passed out! 

We had a wonderful successful trip!  One of the smoothest trips we have had in a long time!!  

lunedì 15 aprile 2013

Consider me Miles Davis

Please read this entry with a sense of humor.  Otherwise you might want to cry in embarrassment for me.  Some people may be able to relate and I am really not sure I should share such an embarrassing event with the world but I am pretty sure I am not alone!  Sorry mom.

As you know, Matt and I enjoy hiking.  And as you know Matt and I have ridiculous stories from our hiking experiences.  It seems like we are amateurs even though we have hiked all over the world.  There is a well preserved hike of the Amalfi Coast which used to be a communication trail (  We have wanted to hike this trail for a while and decided that this weekend was the time!  The weather is perfect for hiking, not too hot, not too cold, and not raining! Matt discussed our upcoming adventure with friends from work and found several other people who were interested in coming too!  We were going to have a great day outdoors with friends and even make a few new friends in the process.

I was a bit nervous about going with so many other people because I am still way overweight with all the baby weight from my first baby.  I am slow and out of shape from being lazy.  I recently sprained my ankle.  And I am 4.5 months pregnant with my second baby.  I told Matt I didn’t want to be the person to slow everyone down, which is typically the case even if I am in good shape!

So thankful for the hiking pack from my sister Cynthia and brother in law Jack!

Friday night, Matt and I did all the preparation for the hike, packing snacks for the baby, for us, for Lucy, filling the CamelBak and packing the backpacks with sunscreen, diapers, snacks, hiking poles, toys to entertain the baby, first aid kit with ice pack and ace bandage, knife, rain jacket, hats, sunglasses, in other words, everything we thought we would possibly need for a Saturday hike. Saturday morning arrived after a very wakeful Friday night.  The baby did not want to sleep; she must have been so excited about hiking! As soon as she saw her hiking backpack in the living room, she wanted to climb in and get the party started!!  The morning went rather smoothly (or so I thought) until we pulled out of the garage and realized our dog was not in the truck but in our neighbor’s garage gorging on cat food.  This should have been a red flag of things to come but instead we laughed about how we almost left Lucy. 

The group was meeting up at the base and leaving from there at 9:30.  We arrived at 9:31 and realized we had missed everyone but Matt’s BFF Kato and two of his kids, who were later than us!  The other group had some people who had done the trail before so they knew where to park etc so when I realized we were not going to be with them, I braced myself for an adventure!  I have gotten a lot better about traveling and doing unfamiliar things since living in Europe.  I am not what you would call an adventure seeker (like my husband and his brother!) but I am getting better at going with the flow and realizing that even though we might end up doing something much different than expected/planned, it will be okay and fun (if I let it be!)  My husband would never let anything happen to us.  While we were waiting for Kato and the kids, the baby rubbed sunscreen in her eye which caused a lot of screaming, pain, and rubbing of the eye.  Trying to explain to a one year old not to rub her eye which hurts was tough.  I was able to wipe her eye with a wet towel (she is surprisingly easy going about things like medicine, wiping eyes, putting on lotion etc, I am so lucky!!).   Eventually we had everything organized, the GPS set, the baby’s eye was flushed out, kids had used the bathroom, and we were off to the Amalfi Coast!  The GPS coordinates were surprisingly accurate and easy to follow, even though Matt did miss a turn at the end.  We were able to find the trailhead without too much drama.  According to the sign, the trail would take 180 minutes and is approximately 7km.  I added an hour to our estimate because we are slow hikers (I am slow and Matt loves to look at the views!) and I also knew the scenery would be breathtaking.  This is about when I realized I forgot to make the sandwiches for us as a snack since we planned on eating a big Italian lunch when we got to the end of the trail. 

We started the trail right before noon. The view was amazing and the trail was not too difficult.  The website stated that it was an EASY hike, which I disagree with, although it is mainly downhill.  It is rocky in some areas and a lot of the cliff side is open (this is important to me because I am afraid of heights, especially tumbling off the side of a cliff).  There is a decent amount of shade from trees (or the clouds!)  There are lots of picnic benches throughout the hike for breaks and lunch if you remember to bring your sandwiches!  The trail is well marked and well maintained.  At the end of the hike there are stairs to Positano which might possibly be the hardest part and makes me want to never start at the other end of the trail!! 

Most of the hike was wonderful.  The girls (almost 9 and 7) did an awesome job.  My slowness helped them a lot!  They would rush ahead of us on the trail and then stop and wait for the slowpokes to catch up.  The views were breathtaking the whole time.  We passed a waterfall, lots of neat caves, houses built into the mountain, and there was an incredible ocean view the whole time!  You could see the clouds forming around us because of our elevation (REALLY COOL!!)  The girls were excited about everything they saw which was really fun to watch.  Lucy was able to be off the leash and the baby LOVED being in her backpack.  She kept pulling Matt’s head closer to her so she could kiss him.  And I could do the hike pretty well.  I was not fast but mainly because I was trying to be careful on the rocky terrain since I have a tendency of slipping and falling while hiking.  Or walking.  Or climbing stairs.  Matt makes me use poles, especially when I am pregnant. 

About the 2 mile mark (halfway), Lucy found a special treat left by other hikers.  (nothing disgusting…a huge pile of dog food.)  This of course slowed us down because she wanted to eat all of the food and needed to search the whole area around to make sure she found it all.  After our hike of Vesuvius (I lost her on the volcano), I was hesitate to go too far ahead of her so I was waiting and trying to convince her to leave the rest of the food.  Eventually, I had to climb back up the rocky part (of course she got stopped on one of the rocky parts) to get her and on my way back down, I sprained my ankle.  Yep…halfway through the hike I twisted my ankle.  Of course Matt was prepared and had ice pack and an ace bandage for Ice and Compression (thank you AFN for teaching us all about RICE) but I am stubborn and did not want to slow the hike down any more by making everyone wait while I iced my ankle.  And I thought that if I took it out of my shoe, it would swell and make it harder to put the shoe back on.   This means, I hiked remainder of the trail with a hurt ankle.  This made me slower but I did not need to stop much because I wasn’t walking fast enough to need breaks! And it hurt more to stop than to keep moving. 

At this point I am slightly annoyed with myself since I was stupid and forgot my brace.  And I fell on yet another hiking trip (seriously how many times do you have to fall before you figure out how to walk properly?!?) And I really had to pee.  So we are walking past some of the most beautiful things and I am trying to not pee, walk without falling, project my twisted ankle, and not worry about my dog or my baby/husband combo falling off the mountain side.  And then I sneeze.  If you have given birth and/or been pregnant, you might understand why a distracted sneeze is a bad thing.  Matt who is walking ahead of me turns around for one of his periodic checks to make sure I am still vertical and notices that I sneezed.  He asked me if I sneezed and I burst out crying because since he could tell, I knew it was much worse than I thought!  And unfortunately my pants were not quick dry!  What an awkward, embarrassing, and uncomfortable half a hike! 

We reached a town called Nocelle which is where the trail ends and the stairs begin.  It is a deceiving moment because you think the trail is finished and you just have to walk a little bit farther to find food and a bus.   But that is not true.  You have to walk 1700 stairs.  And they are the awkward size stairs where you can’t quite step one foot on each step but they are not quite big enough for two normal steps. I think this town was AMAZING though.  The whole town is built into the mountain and there are no roads.  Every bit of space is used for houses.  There is very little grass and every bit you see is used for farming.  Everything is old stone.  We saw a man delivering something.  He had to carry this box up however many stairs just to turn around and go back down!!  The town was so beautiful in a very different way and something that I could never have imagined before living here.  You would never find anything like this in the United States.  Getting to experience this kind of town (even for only a couple hours) is one of the things that make living overseas so special. 

The baby loved the Camelbak.

Lucy at this point of the hike is so tired that she stops at the top of every flight of steps, lays down, waits until we got to the bottom of the flight and then runs down to catch us.  When we finally got to the bottom of the stairs, we had to figure out where to catch the bus and how to get back to the car.  Luckily there was a very nice Italian man who helped us figure out where to get the bus (literally you get off the trail and the bus stop is right there) and explained which bus to take, where to transfer buses, and what our end destination should be.  All while saying he didn’t speak English!! 

At the end of the trail in Nocelle

So we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  We waited on the side of the road on the Amalfi coast.  This is probably one of the most dangerous things I have ever done!  The road on the Amalfi coast is narrow (wide enough for two European size cars) with cars parked all along one side making the road a very tight squeeze.  And then it is curvy.  Very very curvy.  And the drivers drive like Italians, fast and like they are the only one on the road.  At one point while we were waiting, we watched a motorcycle pop a wheelie while passing a car in a blind curve.  We waited for 45 minutes or so (during which Lucy fell asleep under a car in the ditch before we saw a bus.  All the people waiting with us, mainly Italians were super excited for the bus to finally appear and the bus was RESERVED! So we waited some more.  At this point, we are almost completely out of food for the baby and she is ready to be out of her backpack.  Finally the bus arrives and we cram on.  We all end up standing but I somehow ended up backwards.  Imagine standing on a crowded bus.  Now imagine the curviest road you know.  Imagine trying to stand on a bus with an Italian bus driver on the craziest curvy road while not to falling over on the people around you.  Imagine Matt standing on a crowded bus with a giant baby backpack.  And imagine pregnant me standing backwards on a bus driving on the Amalfi coast with a dog in between my legs, desperately trying not to get car sick.  And imagine all this with a baby who is tired, hungry, and ready to get out of her backpack.  Matt and I made our public singing debut (much to the other passengers chagrin!) although our terrible singing is better than a screaming toddler.  At one point, all the passengers who are facing forward gasp (everyone but me!!).  I turn around just in time to see our bus almost collide with another bus in one of the sharp curves.  Thank goodness I was backwards and didn’t actually witness the full almost crash!  Finally we reach the town of Amalfi, where we will transfer buses to get to Bomerano.  We get off the bus and go to the first bar we see (in Italy a bar is a coffee bar not alcohol bar) which of course means it is going to be ridiculously expensive.  We sit down, get water, café, gelato for the girls, use the bathroom, beers for the men, coronetto and fruit for the baby, and the baby gets to finally use her legs while we get to rest ours (well one person has to follow the baby!!!).  Our wait for the next bus is about 45 minutes.  We have totally missed lunch and it is too early to get dinner (plus 45 minutes is not enough time to get a dinner in Italy) so we decide to wait until the next town to find dinner.  The bus is loading to leave and we gather all our belongings and convince the dog to get on another bus.  Luckily we find seats in the very back of the bus.  When the bus goes through the first curve, the dog goes sliding across the width of the bus.  So again I end up with a dog wedged between my legs on a crazy curvy road.  The baby is wiggly and wants to climb over everyone until finally daddy does his magic and gets her to sleep.  After about 20 minutes or so, we arrive in the town we need.  (We were watching the other Americans who actually knew what they were doing to make sure we got off in the right spot!!)  We gathered all our stuff…Matt with a sleeping baby. Me with a backpack, a baby backpack, a dog, hiking poles.  Matt and I successfully put the sleeping baby in the backpack and get out the GPS to try to find our way to the car.  The satellite signal is not great so the men decide to ask for directions and we find two Italian women who don’t speak English who are able to help us.  Instead of pointing us in the right direction, or trying to tell us in Italian, they turn around and walk us to the right road.  It was about a kilometer from the bus stop to the cars.  

A little taste of Nocelle but doesn't really show what a neat town

Our hike was 4 hours.  Our journey to the car was 3.5 hours.  When we reached the car, Kato and the girls had to leave to go home because they were about 5 hours later than they thought they would be.  Matt and I attempted to get a sleeping baby out of the backpack unsuccessfully.  I changed her into her pajamas and then she had a mini meltdown.  After about twenty minutes of screaming and crying, I got her to calm down with a bit of granola bar (chocolate covered granola bar…she is MY baby!!) and she agreed to get in her car seat.  She ate the rest of the granola bar and the very last applesauce.  We hit the road and decided to just head home because the baby was happy in her seat and it was well past her bedtime.  During the drive home, we practiced popping our ears (she thought I was so funny!) and about 45 minutes into the drive home she fell asleep.  We pulled into our driveway around 9:15 and decided that we were not going to go out for food.  All day long I was looking forward to bruschetta and pasta and ended up with a very tasty peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead.


Despite all the craziness, this was by far one of my favorite hikes.  The hike was so beautiful, well maintained, and not too difficult.  Of course, I made it difficult by just being me!  I know Matt was nervous that I was going to have another breakdown or be mad at him (pregnancy hormones!!) but we laughed about all the stuff on the way home and talked about how awesome it was.  After driving the Amalfi coast several times (and getting sick every time) and walking it once, my preferred method of experience the Amalfi coast is by foot.  For the next trip, I want to make sure to bring twice as much food as we did this time, wear my brace, and find time to stop more.  I regret that I was stubborn and focusing too much on doing the hike instead of sitting and enjoying the beauty.  I forgot that sitting and watching the view does not mean I am weak, it means I am alive!!

The Amalfi coast is as amazing as everyone says.

Reading a book before the hike starts!

domenica 27 gennaio 2013

Stray Honeymooners

I think every family has the story of the child that brings home all the stray animals to rescue!  I know my brother and sister saved our dog from being drowned because she was the runt.  I even brought home the stray dog that was running across a five lane road at the school (probably the best dog ever!!)  I am not sure in my husband’s family which child brought home all the strays (probably his sister) but my husband brings home something different- stray people!

One day in May, the baby and I went to the airport to pick up Matt after one of his many many many work trips (can you tell I do not enjoy his work trips?).  When I drove up he is chatting with a couple and I just assume that he worked with the man (military haircuts are easy to spot!!)  Instead, I find out that it was a couple he met on the airplane and it was their honeymoon.  The guy was getting ready to go to basic training as a Marine and the girl was studying psychology (Matt’s favorite!). The honeymoon was for a month in Ischia, Rome, and Ireland.  The couple had a friend who gave them a house to stay in on Ischia as a wedding present! Matt and I were “pretending” to know our way around town and take them to the pier but of course we got lost along the way.  We got to the pier and decided that we should explore downtown and get lunch before we sent them on their way to Ischia.  We took them out to get a Napoli pizza (the best in the world!) and wandered the streets of downtown Napoli.  We showed them the Galleria Umberto (pretty much a shopping mall) and walked to one of the castles.  During the lunch, we made plans to go to Ischia on Saturday to explore the island.

Saturday morning was a bit hectic since we were doing something we had never done before.  On the way to the ferry, we got stopped by the lollipop guild because Matt drove down a lane of traffic which apparently was only for buses and taxis. When we got to the ferry, we still had not decided if we were going to bring the car with us.  After figuring out that we were not in the right place for car ferry, that the car ferry was not frequent, and we were not sure how much the car would cost, we decided to leave the car.   We weren’t exactly sure where to park for the day and the line was INSANE.  So Matt parked the car and figured out which line we needed to get in.  Then I switched with him and stood in line with the baby and the dog (pushing through ridiculous crowds) while he ventured to find a place to park.  The ferry to Ischia was at 9:40 and we were there at 8:45.  Although the lines were insane, I didn’t think this would be a big issue.  We had to get on the ferry because we were meeting our friends and had no way to communicate with them.  After waiting for 30 minutes, I finally got to the front of the line to find out the ferry was sold out!!!  There was another ferry about ten minutes later but to a different part of the island or an hour later to the meeting place.  We decided we would take the later one since we didn’t know how difficult it would be to get between the different ports. 

I am a rule follower.

Matt wanted to try to get on the 9:40 ferry with our tickets and just play like the silly Americans (although we had our dog so we couldn’t pretend we were tourists!!) After a little convincing, and partly because we were meeting people, I figured I would let him try. Unfortunately, it did not work.  Oh well, I guess there was no harm in trying.

We boarded the 10:30 ferry with a squirming baby, a nervous puppy, a boat lover, and a motion sick maniac!  Of course the baby didn’t want to sit still and wanted to sit with the motion sick mama.  The ferry ride was about 45 minutes so we arrived just in time for lunch!  Luckily, our friends figured out that we were not just standing them up but that we probably missed the first ferry so they were there waiting for us!  And this time, they were experts! 

We had a wonderful lunch of calamari sitting in the marina and decided we were going to go hiking on Monte Epomeo.  Our plan was to rent a car and drive up to the starting point.  It was surprisingly easy to rent a car.  You just need an ID.  I am not even sure that they looked at my husband’s driver’s license.  The four door rental is not the most common and we had to specifically request one. When you get the car, the gas tank is almost completely empty.  This is a bit worrisome when you can only use on particular gas station and you are not sure where they are located!!  Luckily we had enough gas to get to the new gas station The Island of Ischia is not very large so we were able to see most of it as we drove to the parking spot (3 euro to park!!).  The hike was only 1KM but it was steep.  I had to stop a few times and all the other in shape people humored me and didn’t make me feel like the lazy out of shape person I actually am.  About half way up the mountain, we were interviewed by the Stars and Stripe (the military newspaper).  When we reached the top of the mountain, even though I am afraid of heights, I went and looked over the edge and it was AMAZING!! 

 After looking at the islands, the ocean, and Napoli, we went to the restaurant on top of the Monte and had bruschetta and wine.  It was probably the best bruschetta I have had in Italy. After a wonderful, refreshing snack, we hiked back down the mountain where the baby finally fell asleep.  Unfortunately our time was short because of the baby and after the hike, we had to return the car and get tickets for the ferry.  We had time to get a gelato and café.  Matt learned the baby has a much longer reach than he thought and some special skill to spill a cappuccino all over daddy but none on her (thank goodness!) 

One thing that I will never really get used to is how aggressive Italians get with lines.  There is really no line and everyone pushes to be the first.  People will shove me while I am holding the baby.  I am not aggressive and do not like crazy pushing crowds.  We finally got on the ferry and we were able to find a row of seats with no one in front of us.  There were three seats in the row and we of course took two (Lucy was on the floor) but surprisingly no Italians wanted to sit next to the Americans with a dog and squirmy baby! Another special treat was the plumber’s crack we got to see on the Italian man who was commando.  Yup.  Pretty much a full moon

Although it doesn’t sound like we did much, we were tried when we got home.  But the adventures were not over.  On the drive home (through bumpy and narrow roads downtown), we saw a moped double date.  Two couples riding next to each other and having a detailed conversation.  This caused some crazy driving!  We also saw a family of three riding a moped and a car almost hitting two different scooters.  What a crazy trip!!

giovedì 29 novembre 2012


 Our First Last Trip to Paris

French is a beautiful language which I started studying in third grade and continuing through college. I even got a 1 on my AP exam (I am sure my mom is glad I shared that with the world!) My husband also studied the language for many years.  This was one of the places I definitely wanted to visit while living overseas.  When the opportunity arose for Matt to go for work, the baby and I decided we would tag along.  It was all her idea!! We were SO excited to go to Paris and practice the language and see the many wonderful things that Paris has to offer and see who was better at the language!  What? Aren’t all married couples competitive about foreign languages? 
Matt’s conference was Tuesday and Wednesday so we got an early flight on Monday so we would have time to explore the city together.  Matt checked in 24 hours prior to departure but could not get the baby or I checked in.  He wanted to call the airline in Germany to find out the problem but I told him it was not necessary.  So, we got up at 4:00 AM so we could leave at 4:30 to make our 6:40 flight. (We are that amazing; we got all three of us ready in 30 minutes!)  I got the baby undressed, and changed her diaper before she even woke up!  This will probably never happen again!

As we were driving the airport and discussing how lucky we are because we live in Italy and are going to Paris, it started to rain.  This changes the game plan a little bit because we now have to drop the luggage and the baby off at the airport before parking the car on base.  The final plan was that Matt would run into the airport and check in quickly, while I watched the car, then he would go park the car and run back to the airport while I watched the bags.  Plans. They never work like you think.  Because it was so early and raining, there was no security so the car was not a big issue. This does not mean that I worry less about “breaking the rules.” Matt walked the baby and me into the airport and then went to get the bags.  Then he went to stand in the long line to check in while I stood and watched the car.  When he finally got to speak with an agent, we learned that there was a problem with the tickets and we could not be checked it.  Matt was going to have to speak with the ticketing counter (a different counter on the other side of the airport) but he couldn’t leave his bags at the desk and they couldn’t be tagged and checked in because of the issue.  And we still had the car.  So, Matt finally agreed to let me park the car (he is a TRUE gentlemen) while he dealt with the tickets.  On the way back from the parking garage, I was trying to keep the umbrella from blowing inside out, trying to hurry, and trying not to get wet, which meant of course that I slipped and almost feel twice!  For your knowledge, cross walks in the rain are VERY slippery! I finally got back to the airport and go to the counter where all our bags are left unattended!!  Matt is not in view but I figured he is still at the ticketing counter.  The Lufthansa agent gave me a speech about how with a baby we really must arrive 2 hours prior to the flight and that they were doing everything they could for us but if we had gotten there 2 hours before the flight, there would be more they could do.  While I am nervously waiting for this situation to be resolved by my husband, I am watching all the other “late” travels.  One couple comes in at 6:20 for a 6:40 flight but they don’t get a lecture about arriving 2 hours prior to the flight!  Then another man tries to check in a UM 20 minutes before the flight departs.  I am standing there trying to figure out what a UM is and listening to the ticketing agent yell about how much paperwork a UM requires and it is not possible to check on in 20 minutes before the flight when the man drops to his knees and puts his hands in a praying position and literally begs this woman to let him do it. (This is when I figure out a UM is an unaccompanied minor).  As this man is on his knees begging, the agent just says “No. Stop it.”   After watching this spectacle, I decided I wanted to find Matt and find out what was happening.  I left our bags unattended and headed towards the other side of the airport to find the ticketing counter. When I got the Matt said “These ladies are working very hard to figure this out but bottom line, Expedia sucks. Will you go back and wait with the bags?”  In a couple of minutes, he comes rushing over with boarding passes, the agents quickly print bag tags and then send us running to the gate.  We get to go through the “fast track” of security, which of course with a baby and a stroller is only so fast!  We then continue our run, me carrying the baby in my arms as she laughs hysterically.  We get to the gate and make the last shuttle to the plane.  Phew!  Then I get the story.

Matt called both Expedia and Lufthansa on Friday before our Monday flight to confirm the baby was ticketed and ready to go.  He was told her ticket cost 21 euro and everything was taken care of.   This was a big lie.  Expedia put the baby on the reservation but never issued a ticket so Matt had to buy a ticket the day of the flight which was 145 euro. Yep.  The baby cost $189 to sit in our laps.  And she didn’t even earn miles!  We should have seen this as a bad sign for the rest of the trip.

The baby required a lot more attention on this flight than on the trip to Venezia but she eventually fell asleep for about 30 minutes.  When we landed in Munich, we had to go to the Lufthansa counter to get a boarding pass printed for me (flashbacks to our trip over from America!).  While we were there, we tried to see if there was anything these agents could do to help us since we weren’t rushing for a flight.  Of course the first lady was super kind and helpful and seemed like the kind of person who would figure out a way to give us our money back but didn’t work in the right department to help us.  The second lady was not nice and pretty much told us we were stupid.  And out $189. 

We were surprisingly in good spirits still, laughing about how much this sucked but still excited about our trip to Paris.  We had enough time before our next flight to go and get a nice German breakfast (omelet for me and white sausage for Matt).  The second flight was uneventful (thank goodness!) and the baby did better than the first one even though she didn’t sleep.  Matt asked the flight attendant for a piece of bread and a cup; between those two things she was entertained the entire flight!

We landed in Paris and started practicing our French!  The airport in France is ridiculous!!  We were on the way to baggage claim and we came to an escalator and stairs so we started looking for the elevator and couldn’t find out.  After looking around for a few minutes, clueless, there was someone to ask and he looked at us like we were stupid!  Apparently, what we thought was an escalator was in fact a “rolling carpet” or people mover!!  So we got on the first of several different rolling carpets.  At one point we were on one and looked up to see 8 more going in all different directions, like a major city freeway!!  Baggage claim was uneventful (thank goodness!) so it was on to car rental.

Now, you might think, why are they renting a car in Paris??  Because of the business trip, Matt gets a rental car to provide transportation to and from the airport and as needed during the trip. He was told that he should get the rental car by others who had made the trip before.  The rental car is booked by the Navy travel agents.  First problem, they have the dates of the entire trip, not just the portion of business.  Matt tries to explain we only want it to the 17th and not the 19th.  The lady says no problem.  Then they do not have the size car that is reserved so she has to put us in an upgrade.  Matt emphasizes that we cannot pay for the upgrade and the Hertz lady says no problem.  Then she says we have to wait 30-45 minutes for the car to get here.  Finally, the car is here and the Hertz lady assures Matt we can return the car on the 17th and we will not pay for the upgrade.  She gives us the information to find the car and get out of the parking deck.  The parking garage is very well planned with each spot labeled, each rental car company clearly marked, so finding the car should be simple.  For whatever reason, the identifying information we are given is the license plate, not the parking spot! So after a few minutes of wandering around and not finding the appropriate labels, we realize we are looking for the wrong thing!  We find the car, which is a very nice car with a FULL moon roof (baby loved this), navigation system, satellite radio, and a bunch of other things we do not need! 
We get to the hotel and park in the parking garage next door (58 euro a day).  We go and check in and ask for a crib.  He has cribs available but he does not think it will fit in our room.  We tell him we will make it work.  Being the prepared mommy, I brought a pack and play sheet thinking pack and plays are pretty standard.  Ironically enough, they are not.  And surprisingly, the European pack and plays are significantly larger than the American ones!  Everything else is smaller in Europe but the portable cribs! 

After all the drama it took to get here, we are finally in our hotel room in Paris!  We load up the baby in the stroller and decide to go stroll the streets of Paris and find a bite to eat.  We walked for 30-45 minutes enjoying the stroll, the sites, and people watching, and just being together.  Finally we decide to pick a little sidewalk café and get a bite to eat.  I am SUPER excited because I have seen lots of people eating salads.  I am talking real salads, not lettuce.  I know what I am ordering before we even find a place to eat.  We find a place and get tables moved out of the way to make room for the stroller and get situated before I looked at the menu prices!  WHOA! Paris is expensive. Matt says we can just keep looking but I feel guilty because we made such as scene about getting seated and I think it would be rude to just leave after all that. Silly I know.  So we order two waters and a salad to share.  After our 25ml waters are gone (in pretty much one sip!), we see the table has a big one and we ask for that.  And Matt orders a glass of wine.  Our bill was 42 euro.  WHAT!! Our salad was 16 euro, one of the small bottles of water was 4,80.  We spent 18,60 on water alone!  At this point, we were not shocked that yet another thing did not go our way.  Later, we learned that it is okay to drink the tap water in Paris.  After living in Italy for six months where the water was not safe to drink, I just assumed!
After our snack, we “window shopped” some more and eventually went back to the hotel to let the baby have a little time out of the stroller.  Matt’s co-worker was arriving that evening as well so we made plans to go to dinner with him.  When it was time to go to dinner, we loaded the baby back into the stroller and met our dinner companion.  Of course, no one wanted to pick the restaurant or the type of food so we asked the front desk and the recommended a restaurant around the corner, which had meals starting at 27 euro…we passed!  Next door to this fancy restaurant was a Subway (I seriously wonder which has more locations, Subway or Starbucks?) and a sushi restaurant.  I of course want sushi because I have been craving it for 17 months!  It is definitely different than American sushi, still good but different.  There was no crab in any of the rolls and there was no seaweed salad.  Also, no spicy tuna.  So I finally got sushi but it made me miss American style sushi even more.  After dinner, we walked back to the hotel so we could put the baby to bed and Matt could make sure everything in ready for his meeting the next day. 

We have shared a hotel room with the baby a lot but now that she is a little older she doesn’t seem to think she needs to go to bed until we do!  She was so tired (we got up at 4 AM, she napped for 20 minutes on the first flight, and maybe an hour in the car/stroller) but she would not settle down.  Eventually she fell asleep next to me in the bed while Matt was ironing (cool press thing) and emailing.

The first full day in Paris!! It has to be better than the trip getting here, right??  Matt had arranged for free breakfast to be brought to the room (breads, jam, yogurt, coffee, and juice) but of course it was late and he didn’t get any before his meeting.  He also decided that he would return the rental car during his lunch break.  Oh, it was raining as well.  Right after Matt leaves for his meeting, breakfast is delivered and the baby and I enjoy fresh squeezed orange juice (I do not usually like juice!) and croissants.  And café.  It was quite pleasant.  She took her morning nap while I showered and checked my email.  And guess what, more bad news!! Monday was just a crummy day for Matt, the baby, and I and I found out on Tuesday, that Monday was crummy for Lucy and our friends who were dog sitting!  The two dogs had a squabble of food and Lucy was able to protect her food from the other dog but not her face!  So she had to go to the emergency vet and get stitches.  That dog is mine first baby.  She is so spoiled (by me and EVERYONE else) and just the most awesome dog ever.  So when she is hurt, I am a mess.  When she tore her first ACL, I think I probably cried more over that then the fact that Matt was leaving for deployment (sorry honey!).  When she tore her second ACL, I was really worried because I wasn’t going to be able to carry her to the bathroom or sleep on the floor next to her since I was pregnant.  Seriously, she is spoiled and I love her.  Most people probably think that I would freak out when something like this happens to my dog (I was not a happy camper when a stranger’s dog at the dog park bit her for NO reason and then the lady took her dog and left without checking on my dog or giving me any of her information to sue her!!).  I did not freak out.  My friend sent me about five emails updating me on every detail.  First when it happened, then that they were going to take her to the vet, then how the vet trip went, then a picture, then how the wound was infected, the second set of stitches, etc.  I was very relieved to know that the dog was being well cared for and I was being kept informed!  (In case you were wondering, after the initial injury, Lucy still managed to eat all her food while her face was bleeding and the dogs acted like nothing had happened the rest of the week!)  So Tuesday was not looking much better than Monday for the Langley Clan. 

After the baby woke up, I bundled her up in all her warm clothes, loaded the stroller and set out to explore the city.  Big round of applause!!!  Despite what you may think since I moved to Italy with a newborn, I am not an outgoing and adventurous person.  I lived in North Carolina my whole life, until I was engaged to Matt.  I actually went to college in the same town I grew up and after college moved two hours away.  Vacations (before Matt) were trips to Litchfield beach and they were awesome.  Unfamiliar things make me nervous.  I always think of what could go wrong.  I like doing and seeing new things but I like to have other people with me.  It would not have surprised anyone if I found some reason to just sit in the hotel and wait until Matt came home instead of wandering around France.  But I did it!  I walked out of the hotel and it started to rain…great.  I decided I would still walk and find a little café for lunch and people watching.  I put the rain cover on the stroller which is the most awesome thing (Thanks Suzy and Doug!!) and got the umbrella out of my diaper bag.  Of course I didn’t wander too far because of the rain.  I found a very cute little café with lots of different delicious treats!  I even used my French to order!! Mrs. Caviness would be so proud!  I had a Quiche Lorraine, l’eau, la salade, et crème brulee!  The value meals in France are way better than America (burger, fries, and soda…I mean in France combo meals come with dessert!)  After my delicious lunch, I decided I would go back to the hotel and see if Matt was there and let the baby nap.  She was a mess after the day of travel and really needed to sleep, plus it was raining.  And my mommy code decided that to wander around in the rain was a bit selfish.  Matt had been in the room, I got a nice little love letter from him, but he was on his way to return the rental car. 

The rental car return should be easy right?  We are returning it early and should just pay for 1.5 days.  I do not think I can truly explain what happened and maybe I can convince Matt to write the story for the blog but I will give you a brief overview.  Matt asked the hotel for a Hertz rental car location and he was given directions to les Champs Elysees, near the Louvre.  After driving around for 20-30 minutes where Hertz should be, in traffic for the new President’s speech, he returned to the hotel to get better directions or a different location.  He had to pay 4 euro just to park the car to find the new location…which was 200 meters down the road.  Yep, he spent an hour or so driving to the other location to find out there was one literally down the street.  As you can imagine, it just gets worse.  Apparently the Hertz agent was not able to work the computers.  And he didn’t know how to return a car early.  And he insisted the tax payers must pay for the entire reservation (if you remember we explained at the airport that we only wanted it to the 17th not the 19th and we wanted the basic car), and that we must pay the upgrade.  After several hours, yep HOURS, of trying to find someone who could work the computers, explaining why we didn’t want the upgrade and therefore should not be charged for it, and why would shouldn’t pay for the days we were not using the car, he finally gave up.  At this point he just wanted a receipt saying when he returned the car (which was surprisingly still too difficult for the agent) and that he paid 458 euro for a ride from the airport and to get out of that stupid place!  As you can imagine, we are not very impressed with Paris yet.  And Matt learned that for travel, Paris is a place you take the metro, not rent a car.   After all that crap, he missed the entire afternoon of meetings. 

He got home from Hertz Rental Car and found me in the lobby.  He shared the story over a glass of wine and tried to get all his frustration out.  Then he had to go and call the Navy travel agency to give them a heads up about what happened to see if they could fix it and to make sure we didn’t have to pay. And then I had to tell him about our dog.  Tuesday was terrible too!

We decided we would salvage Tuesday by strolling on les Champs Elysees and getting a nice dinner.  I got to see le Place de Concorde, l’Arc de Triomphe, and le tour Eiffel (from a distance of course!), and le Louvre.  We stopped for a chocolate and banana crepe before going into the Jardin des Tuileries.  I loved walking through all the different little gardens.  They were very beautiful and very well maintained.  People would literally sit in the garden and have a picnic lunch, read a book, drink a glass of wine, or sketch.  I would say the French really know how to slow down and enjoy things.  And relax.  But I guess they need stress relievers since they people who work in all forms of travel seem to just be a big pain in the rump!  In the garden, we saw some sculptures that I thought were beautiful and the baby had her first carousel ride.  Our mood was improving.  We continued our stroll and ended up at the smaller l’Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre.  Then we started to walk over then Seine, which was really really windy to find something to eat.  Things started to deteriorate quickly (which happens with food and me!!).  We were trying to find something to eat but it was all too expensive for me.  I went from needing to eat, to starving, to grumpy witch; to I just wanted to go home.  Fun for Matt, huh?  So we started walking back towards our hotel and finally found a place to eat.  I had a bowl of French onion soup (YUMMERS!!), an escargot (not yummers), and a steak with French fries (yum-I like French fries here way better.  Maybe this means I will not want to eat fries when I come home and I will magically be skinny and no longer have to work at my weight-a girl can dream!).  Matt had salmon and a really good glass of wine and the rest of the snails!  The baby had baguettes!  We had a nice dinner and returned home. 

Wednesday was the last day of Matt’s meetings and much better weather day.  We both had free breakfast in the room and Matt said he would be home around 4.  After the baby’s morning nap, we set out to explore the streets of Paris again.  I found a place to eat (it was not memorable), and I got my husband a baguette, an éclair, and I got meringue.  We explored for three hours or so and I think I saw 6 Starbucks, got asked for directions, found a really cool park that had something to do with Marie Antoinette, got lost once, and found the largest mall ever.  I am not a shopper but after passing the 17th entrance for this mall that took up a very long block, I decided I would go in.  All the stores were high end (Prada, Chanel, Coach, Louis Vuitton, may others that I had never heard of because I am not high end!).  But they weren’t really stores.  It was more like a bunch of counters and alcoves like a department store but each was a different retailer.  The mall was also 8 floors.  And had a fancy restaurant in the middle.

After “shopping” I decided to head back to the hotel to let the baby have a nap and check email.  Matt actually got home early from his meeting which was AWESOME!! See, something awesome did happen while we were in Paris.  When we were planning the trip, I decided I wanted to do the L’Arc de Triomphe at night and the Eiffel Tour during the day so we could see the different views and get to see what Paris looked like at night.  This did not happen because it does not get dark until 9:45.  Instead we went to the L’Arc on Wednesday.  We strolled down the street and watched all the street performers.  We saw the world’s biggest Louis Vuitton store and went in so my friend Anna didn’t defriend me!  

To get to the L’Arc, you go under the street (just like how you get to Groves Stadium for the Wake Forest football games!!).  The ticket counter is underground and then you emerge by the l’Arc.  Which is pretty amazing.  The Tomb of the Unknown Solider is under the L’arc and details are just unreal.  The elevator was broken (which we were not going to take anyway!) so we climbed the spiral stairs.  NOTHING like the spiral stairs of Pisa.  I was a little nervous about how it would be on the top with my fear of heights and after my mild meltdown on the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  But there was a nice big safe fence and it was perfectly level and the views were AMAZING!  We probably spent an hour looking at Paris from every angle.  The city is enormous.  I don’t think you could see open space at all, just city followed by more city.  When we came down, the French Army was setting up for some kind of assembly.  So of course we stuck around to see it.  We waited and watched.  And waited some more.  It finally started and we couldn’t really hear, or understand what was happening so we decided to find something to eat.  Repeat every other night, we wandered and I said no to most restaurants because they were outrageously priced until I was too hungry to care.   After dinner, we went back to the hotel to put the baby to bed and pack our stuff since we were doing the suitcase shuffle the next day!

Since the meetings were over, we had to pay for the hotel ourselves we were moving to something cheaper.  While we were checking out, we found out that the free breakfast in our room was actually 14 euro (times 5 breakfasts, 70 euro for bread and coffee).  Matt explained that one of the employees told him it was free, even told them which person it was, and that we would not have ordered it every day (it was 14 euro to eat in the dining room with a MUCH better selection).  The one agent literally just said “no, it was not free, it was 14 euro.”  Finally Matt found another hotel employee who agreed to split the price since we were given false information (the girl apparently was telling us it was free to bring it to the room).  I have experienced that in Europe, if you are told wrong information or something bad happens, the company does not really care.  You are still required to pay what they think you should pay, not what you were told or what you think.

 Our new hotel was the French Officer’s Club which has discounted rates for military.  The hotel was very nice and beautiful and we had the exact same room number!!  This hotel room was much larger and had the crib already set up (pillow and blanket and all!) but our bed was tiny.  In this room, we had a view of the Eiffel Tower.  Thursday was our day to go to the Eiffel Tower.  After getting all the bags and stuff settled in the cloak room, we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower.  The baby was in the ERGO, which was a good thing because there was only one lift working.  And there were SOO many people.  The lines were out of control and wrapped back and forth under the tower.  I stood in line while Matt went to figure out what I was actually standing in line for, how much it would cost, and about the stairs.  Now, I am not in good shape but I am the type to take the stairs instead of the elevator (before strollers) or park farther away.  I had told Matt that I wanted to walk the l’arc but use the elevator in the Eiffel Tower before we got off the plane.  I thought the heights plus the stairs would be too scary for me (plus it’s a lot of stairs).  After accessing the situation, Matt discovered that the shortest line by approximately 800 people was the one for the stairs.  You can only take the stairs for the first two levels, to the top you must take an elevator.  So of course, I choose the stairs.  I changed lines and Matt went to find food.  After 1 hour and 15 minutes, we finally were ready to start the climb.  For the first half, I carried the baby.  For the second set of stairs, Matt carried the baby. Now, I know I am out of shape and overweight but I get so frustrated at things like this.  I was seriously the only person who was huffing and puffing at all.  And even if I was not overweight (there was a time!) I would have still been huffing and puffing.  I get so mad at myself because of this and I just can’t seem to understand why things are always more difficult for me.  I do feel a sense of accomplishment for climbing the 669 stairs. (No, I did not count, they were numbered every ten steps and the last step said 669!). I just wish I didn’t feel like the only person who gets out of breath. 
At every level we stopped and took a picture or two and I actually looked over the edge!  So after exploring the second level (and catching my breath) we got in line for the lift.  At the top of the Eiffel Tower, there is a little wax museum which was a little apartment that was used for entertaining during the World’s Fair.  When the tower was first built there were 10,000+ stairs.  And they had many major cities and how many kilometers to the city.  It was really very neat…but also very windy and cold! 

After we finished with the Eiffel Tower, it was time to eat.  We of course tried to find something that was reasonably priced, which was another fail!  Eventually we found a cute café .  While we were waiting to order, I started to feel a little ill.  I got a hot chocolate to warm up and ordered a “French” chicken sandwich.  I decided to be brave and try something that was a bit more local and therefore more scary and weird.  It was a chicken club sandwich but it had egg on it.  And it was not good.  Matt got another sandwich and I think his was better than mine.  
After we left the café, we wandered a little bit but I was feeling ill and needed to go back to the hotel.  When we got to the hotel, I was going to sleep and hopefully wake up feeling rested.  Which of course, I was not able to sleep.  After a few hours, Matt decided to run to the grocery store to get some water and other snacks while I got the baby settled for the evening and hopefully fell asleep.  And Matt came back to the hotel with the best meal of the trip.  He apparently got a sandwich from some street vendor or something like that.  It was some kind of meat and had a good spice to it.  And delicious french fries!  We split this sandwich and made plans to find this sandwich shop again!
Friday was the day the weather was supposed to be the worst so it was the day we planned to go to the Louvre. We took the metro, which has a stop that is the Louvre.  The underneath part of the museum is UNREAL!  There was a mall and guess what else, Hertz Rental Car!  Yep, the hotel guy sent Matt to find a Hertz that was underground with no car access. Seriously.  Also in the underground shopping area, there were three Starbucks.  You read that correctly, three!  There is also an entrance to the museum.
 I know the Louvre was large, but I had NO IDEA!! This thing is enormous.  My mother-in-law sent us a DVD of the Louvre and told us we needed to map out what we wanted to see so we would be able to manage.  I of course never had time to look at the DVD and didn’t really know what was in the Louvre besides the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.  My art history teacher would be mortified! I wish I had done more research to see what things were in the museum so I could have made a plan of attack.  Matt and I both felt overwhelmed with the size and quantity of art in this museum…oh and the stairs!  I thought we were planning ahead to bring the stroller because it was a museum and you could stroll between artwork casually.  I didn’t realize that there were tons of stairs and very little lifts.  We actually brought the Ergo as well and part of the time I ended up carrying her in the Ergo and Matt carrying the stroller.  This was after about 10 sets of stairs of Matt carrying the front end of the stroller and me the back end up endless marble stairs.  So-if you are going to the Louvre with a small child, use your baby carrier and leave the stroller at home.
Matt and I spent at least 5 hours in the Louvre and probably saw 1/10 of it.  We saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.  We saw lots of other different art and got lost a lot.  The most memorable thing we saw was the apartments of Napoleon.  There was a set of magnificent stairs and lots of beautiful furniture.  He had these really cool sofas that were like two chairs together but joined at the arms with the chairs facing the opposite direction.  You could sit next to a person and not have to turn to see them.  Other memorable things from the Louvre, the café is expensive, there was a HUGE dust bunny on the floor in one of the atrium type things, there were thousands of people, the map is vague and unhelpful, the docents are helpful, the Venus de Milo was cool, I would never want to take a class on a field trip here, the people around the Mona Lisa are selfish and rude, it is easy to get lost, and you could easily spend days in this museum.  If we were bigger lovers of art, I think we would have been disappointed that we left at 5 PM. 


While waiting to get tickets to the Louvre, we realized that if we could do it all again *highly unlikely* that we would buy the three day museum pass.  It allows access into any and all of the museums and costs about the same as going to three museums.  There is no waiting in lines (which we waited an hour or more at each spot). So tip to all those traveling to Paris, buy the pass!

After the museum, we wandered around the streets and tried to find the Metro. Instead, we found Thomas Jefferson.  Matt, a lover of all things UVA, was excited to see his man TJ.  We even had the baby’s UVA blanket with us so we took a picture to submit to the UVA alum magazine (this is the second picture!). 
Walking a bit further, we found a Metro and were going to go to the Latin Quarter.  Matt was told this was the cheaper section of Paris and had really good food.  When we got in the Metro and studied the map and then asked some one for help, we realized it was two stops down the Metro so we would walk it.  Of course two stops on the Metro is not necessarily two blocks, it was two miles.  It was a good walk but I was a little hungry and therefore grumpy. We found a cute café which was in front of a fountain which I think was part of the Sorbonne.  My brother studied abroad at the Sorbonne so we took a picture of the baby and I in front of the fountain and then the camera died!!  For dinner, I had another “French” meal.  I had a coquette, which is an open faced turkey and cheese melt.  And French onion soup.  We started talking to the table next to us and this couple traveled every year.  Typically they go to Naples (every year, WHY??) and actually stayed in the town we live (Pozzuoli).  They recommended a restaurant and if we ever get to go out to dinner, we are going to try it!

Saturday was our last day in Paris.  We packed everything and got ready for the day.  After checking out and putting our stuff in the cloak room, we decided to wander.  We had to be back by 1:30 to head to the airport for our 5:30 flight (yes, 4 hours ahead of time).  So we explored the church across the street from our hotel.  And then we wandered back towards the Latin Quarter so we could see the Jardin de Luxembourg.  We stopped and bought some meat, cheese, and a baguette and had a picnic in the park.  There was soo much cool stuff in this park.  There were sailboats to race in the fountain, there were pony rides, there were big wheel race tracks, playgrounds, tennis courts, and great people watching!  We hung out for a couple of hours and then had to head back.  I definitely enjoyed the jardin.
Channeling my inner Clark
The journey home, I did not enjoy so much.  Getting here was a big pain in the tush and we did not want to have the same issues getting home.  We allowed four hours to get to the airport and get checked in.  The train ride took about an hour.  I had the baby in the Ergo for the train ride and I was carrying the stroller and diaper bag.  Matt was carrying both suitcases and the backpack.  The train station was supposed to be a block away.  Unfortunately, it was more than a block and there was construction making the sidewalk very narrow.  This makes rolling two suitcases very difficult so we backtracked and crossed the street.  Also, one of the bags has a broken handle.  We finally get to the station and have to go down escalators and through several different turnstiles.  Luckily, there is a special turnstile with a luggage space right next to it.  And there was a lift down to the actual train.  It was a very large train station with some many different trains and levels it was a bit overwhelming.  The track we were supposed to use actually had at least 5 different trains running on it.  Luckily a man on the bench told us the first train was not the one we wanted because instinct was to jump on it!!  After the first train left, we realized how to read the sign and actually got on the right train!  Problem was, we didn’t get off on the right stop!  There are two stops for the airport but no signs on the train to tell you which airlines are at which stop.  Matt’s instinct was to get off on the first one and some stupid man on the train told us to get off on the second one.  So then we had to figure out how to get from terminal two back to terminal one.  So we got back on a tram and took about 20 minutes to get to the other terminal.  I am getting nervous since things are not going smoothly but we allowed lots of extra time.  Time to check into our flight and guess what??  It is STILL messed up.  The agent is not able to print a boarding pass for me (shocker) and we have to go to the ticketing counter.   This agent is not able to print the boarding passes for the baby and I even though we have the ticket and the boarding passes from our first flights.  She calls her supervisor who can’t get it to work.  Apparently the agents in Naples did something incorrectly which was messing up the system.  I literally looked at Matt and said “I am going to sit on the floor.”  I am surprised to say I did not cry.  I still have it together.  The supervisor comes back and actually has boarding passes and is going to help us get our bags checked.  We are moved to the front of the line and given to the world’s most annoying and hard-headed agent.  We told her we wanted to make sure our seats were together (which they were because Matt moved them the night before) and to check the car seat.  She told us we had to take the car seat on the plane.  We tried to explain that we did not purchase a seat for the baby and therefore would not have room for a car seat.  She insisted.  Matt and I just bit our tongue.  She also gave us a ten minute speech on ‘gate checking’ our stroller.  She gave us the slip of paper and said we must give this to the flight attendant and a bunch other stupid directions.  Finally, she did give us the gate checking slip for the car seat as well as the stroller, but we would have to bring the car seat to the gate, she would not allow us to check it all the way through.  At this point, I don’t care.  Give me boarding passes and send me to the gate.  This airport almost had individual security, the security screening we went to covered about 8 gates.  We were those slow people with lots of stuff because we had the car seat, the stroller, and two carry ons.  And the French TSA agents do things a little differently.  We apparently we supposed to show our IDs again and our boarding passes.  So I go through the metal detector and the lady tells me to “Stand Here.”  Then Matt goes through he they tell him to stand next to me.  Then they just stand there for a minute looking at us, getting mad.  Apparently, the directions of “stand here” meant “I need to search you and I need you to stand here until your husband is through the metal detector so he can hold your baby while I make sure you are not a terrorist carrying weapons in your bra or your pants.”  The stupid Americans did not understand.  So after I was cleared by security, we get to our gate.  I put myself back together and find a bathroom to change the baby.  Then Matt goes to the bathroom.  Then we get a sandwich to bring on the plane and then the plane boards.  Yep, we got to the gate about 20 minutes before boarding, even though we allowed 4 hours!! 

We get on the plane and find out our seats are the very last row.  This is the last straw for Matt and the flight attendant asks him how his day is going and he tells her the whole saga and how much the traveling has really stunk (he was not rude and did not curse-mainly complained that we went from row 9 to row 35 because of the stupidity).  The one guy is speechless and starts trying to look busy in the back of the plane.  The lady tells us that we should contact customer service and she is very kind about the whole situation.  And she starts flirting with the baby. We fly to Frankfurt and alternate trying to entertain a tired baby who wants to move.  In Frankfurt, we have an actual frankfurter!!  And a pretzel.  And I have about 8 mini cups of hot chocolate because they are “free” and since we have gotten screwed on every other part of the travel, I want to get my money’s worth.  The baby has her peaches and a few bites of pretzel (which she loved) and we decided to get her in her pajamas so that when we get home around 10, she will be ready to get in the crib. 
All that separates us from home is one two hour flight.  The plane starts boarding and we go to our seat all the way in the back.  Luckily the flight is not full so we have an entire row to ourselves.  We get settled in and the baby is snuggling with me.  I look out of the window and see a few raindrops and I think nothing of it.  Matt looks out of the window and sees lightning.  He tells me that we will be delayed at least 30 minutes if we can’t take off in the next five.  And guess what, he was right.  The plane seems like it is going to take off but we are just going to the parking lot.  And then the storm is rolling in and we are told we will be delayed for an undetermined amount of time.  The flight attendants start serving beverages (wine) to the passengers.  The baby is still snuggled up and finally sleeping on my chest.  And we wait.  And wait.  And wait.  At 10:40 Matt tells me that this airport has a curfew and that no planes can take off after 11.  At this point, I start crying.  I just want to get home.  I don’t want to spend the night in Frankfurt.  Apparently, if your flight gets cancelled for weather, the policies are not the same as in the US.  All I know is I want to get to my home in Naples.  Matt starts texting with his brother and tells him to start searching for hotels near the airport.  At 10:50, the pilot comes on the air and tells us the soccer scores.  At 10:55, the baby wakes up and I trying to soothe her.  And soothe myself.  And then it is 11:00 and we are still on the ground.  The flight attendant tells the people in front of us that this airport is really strict about the curfew because of political issues but he thinks there is a chance they will let us go.  And THANK GOODNESS HE WAS RIGHT!  We finally were approved for take-off 3.5  hours after our original time.  I have never been in a weather delay where you have to just sit on the plane for hours and hours waiting with no idea if you will get to leave.  And the first time I get to experience this lovely event is with a tired 8 month old.  I will say, I must have done something right because I have the world’s greatest baby who slept through most of the rain delay and then slept most of the flight, I even got to take a little nap.  While we are waiting for our luggage I am thinking that it would not surprise me if our bags were lost.  They finally both come out and we gather all our stuff and start walking back to the base to our truck.

At 2 AM, we get home and this horrible trip is over.